Page images

and his work. When one came to him and said :

6 Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Jesus, detecting something in his tone, attitude, or look, which would indicate an undue worship of himself, lastened to put it aside by saying: “Why callest thou me good ? there is none good but one. Keep his commandments.” It is true, past all cavil, that he always disclaimed any power, or authority, except what had been given him by the Father.

2. The undoubted teaching of the Scripture is that Jesus is the Son of God. This is the corner-stone of our religion, the rock upon which the church is built. There is no denying that Jesus accepted this title and made it a rule of faith with his followers. But it is noticeable that though he always speaks of God as his Father, he speaks of himself in most cases as the Son of Man. It is noticeable also that though his disciples believed him to be the Son of God, they looked upon him and spoke of him as a man. “ The Jews were taught by their prophets to expect a Messiah who was to be descended from the tribe of Judah, and the family of David ; a person in whioin themselves and all the nations of the earth should be blessed; but none of their prophets gave them an idea of any other than a man like themselves in that illustrious character. No other did they ever expect, or do they expect to this day. Jesus Christ, whose whole history answers to the description given of the Messiah by the prophets, made no other pretensions; and it is most evident that the Apostles, and all those who conversed with our Lord, before and after his resurrection, considered him in no other light than a man approved of God. They lived with him in intimate fellowship as a man like themselves. They saw him arrested, crucified, dead and buried as a man. Nothing was further from their thoughts than that he would rise again, or that they should ever see him again alive. When they went to the sepulchre and found him gone, their only thought was that the Jews had taken the body. They mouried him as one dead until his appearance to them after his l'estirrection. In all their intercourse with him, they uever allude to any

miraculous birth. He never alludes to it, or claims it, or presumes upon it in his teaching. In the early ministry of the Apostles, though they speak often and powerfully upon his death and resurrection, they make no claim for him because of his supernatural birth. Even after the descent of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, Peter speaks of him as “a man approved of God by signs and wonders which God did by him.” Acts ii : 22. Paul, giving what may be called the Christian Creed, says : “ There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” I Tim. ii : 5. Again, he says: “ As by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead." I Cor. xv: 21. (See also Romans v; 15.) The question with us has been to reconcile these two titles and claims: the Man, Christ Jesus, and Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God.

It is a significant fact that the Jews used the words, birth, life, death, as freely — and in our Scriptures they are used perhaps as often — in a moral or spiritual sense, as they are in a natural sense. Being converted from Paganism to Judaism was called being born again. Coming into Christianity from Judaism was called “coming to life.” Being brought into a full knowledge of Christ as the Messiah, and into faith in his Gospel, was called “passing from death unto lise,” or “coming out of a grave.” It was said of others beside Christ that they were born of God. St. Johın says, I Epistle v:1: " Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” Again he says, 1 Epistle iii : 9: “ Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin.” St. Paul speaks of those that live in the flesh, and those that live in the spirit. By which metaphor we suppose hiin to speak of belierers and unbelievers. Jesus instructed Nicodemus in the mystery of this spiritual birtlı: “ Except a man be born of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." John iïi : 5. Being born then does not always mean a natural birth into this earthly life. It quite as often means a spiritual birth into the life and knowledge of truth.

Furthermore, to be the son of any person, or thing, is not

to be born of it naturally as children are born of parents. In Exodus iv: 2, Jehovah is represented as saying: “Israel is my son.” The Jews as a nation are called the “ Sons of Jacob.” In the marginal reading of Job v: 7, we have“ sons of coal." In like manner in Sam. ïïi : 13, arrows are called “sons of the quiver.” In Mark iïi : 17, James and John are called “ sons of thunder.” Isaiah compares the King of Babylon to “ Lucifer, the son of the morning.” In Luke x: 6, we read of the “son of peace.” In Acts iv: 36, Barnabas is translated " son of consolation." In II Thess. ii: 3, we have the phrase, “ son of perdition.” These examples are abundant to show that the phrase “son of" did not always mean born of, as a child from its parents. They are abundant to show that they have a figurative meaning, indicating mental quality or moral bias, rather than descont. Paul says: “As many as are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Rom. viii : 14.

Now when these same writers say that Jesus was the Son of God, we submit that they may mean to 118e the words in this figurative sense, of expressing likeness in spirit and character. They may mean what he meant when he said, I and my Father are one.” It is true Jesus spoke of God always as liis Father. It is true also that he has taught us to do the same; that he has taught us, saint and sinner, reverently to say, “ Our Father, who art in heaven." Though these words may liave a peculiar spiritual significance in his case, which they have not in ours, the nature of the relationship is the

St. John savs, I Ep. iii : 1-2, “ Behold what manner of love the Father liath bestrwed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.”

With Jesus this sonship, this spiritual birth and life were always and ever perfect and entire. In principle, purpose, and character, be was the Son of God, at one with the Father, more Godlike than manlike ; more divine than human ; more of heaven than of earth. And whatever may be said of h being the only begotten Son of God, it can be explained only


upon the hypothesis, that, for his own purposes, and in fulfilment of a plan which had been with him from the foundation of the world, God did bring those holy influences to bear upon Jesus, from the hour of his conception to the hour of his crucifixion, which made him what he was, and kept him what he was, tempted in all things yet without sin. It is by and through these holy influences that we account for his excep tional life.

3. This has led to a study of what the Bible does actually teach with reference to the birth of Christ. Mark and John do not mention his birth ; beginning, each, his narrative with an account of his baptism and the conscious influx of the Messianic power. Luke does not claim any positive knowledge of what he wrote, either from inspiration or otherwise. He says that others having taken it in hand, to set forth the things which were believed among them ; even as they were told to them by eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, so it seemed right for him to do so also. This would make it appear that there were many narratives of the lile of our Lord current at that early time, and that he compiled his work from them. If we take the same ground with Prof. Norton, and reject the first two chapters of Matthew's Gospel2 then this narrative will begin with the baptism like Mark and Jolm. If we treat these as genuine, Matthew says: “When his inother, Mary, was espoused to Josephı, before they came to together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” Matt. i: 18. Luke says: “ The Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, with the salutation, · Hail, highly favored; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thon among women.' And Mary was troubled, and cast about in her mind what this salutation should mean. And the angel answered, the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, and that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.'” Luke i: 26, 28, 35.

The fact upon which these two Gospels agree is, that it was the power of the Holy Ghost over his mother during his pre1 Smith's Dictionary of the Bible in loco. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.

natal life, that wrought the miracle of the exceptional life which we find in Christ Jesus.

Now let us call to mind the fact that the Holy Ghost to these disciples was not a person, but a principle, the power of truth and love, and then when we are told that the Holy Ghost was upon Mary,it may mean simply that it was this same divine power, the spirit of truth and love, which overshadowed her, holding her in its holy and mighty embrace, during the months of her time up to their fulfilment. We cannot help wishing we knew more about this Hebrew mother. Legend, as might hare been expected, was early busy with her story. We are told that she was the daughter of Joachim and Anna, born after twenty years of childless wedlock. Before her birth, which was announced to her father and mother by an angel of the Lord, the mother bad made a vow to dedicate her child to the Lord. In fulfilment of this vow her parents took her to the Temple when she was three years old, and it is said of lier, that the Lord gave unto her grace, and all the house of Israel loved her. She remained here under religious instruction and pious influence until she was twelve years of age. Now it is impossible that this early training should not have had much weight in shaping her character and toning her thought. Froin her infancy she had been educated into the deep religious consciousness of her people, and was entirely familiar with the popular hope of the redemption of Israel. No one can fail to be impressed with the conviction that the purity of her life, and the loftiness of thought habitual with her, must have had a happy and powerful influence over her child.

“ We greatly need a study of the inner realities of things and of the inner lile of man." " A knowledge of psychologi. cal laws and powers is necessary to the finer comprehension of these interior and all-sustaining realities." If we knew more of these it might not seem so miraculous to us that this simple Hebrew maiden should be the mother of this wonder

8 The Apochryphal Gospels give her age as fourteen at the time of her espousal to Joseph.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »