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The Teaching of Jesus by George Jackson

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"_Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of
Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the
same hath both the Father and the Son._"--2 JOHN IX (R.V.).


* * * * *


* * * * *


The following chapters are the outcome of an attempt to set before a
large Sunday evening congregation--composed for the most part of working
men and women--the teaching of our Lord on certain great selected
themes. The reader will know, therefore, what to look for in these
pages. If he be a trained Biblical scholar he need go no further, for he
will find nothing here with which he is not already thoroughly familiar.
On the other hand, the book will not be wholly without value even to
some of my brother-ministers if it serve to convince them that a man may
preach freely on the greatest themes of the gospel, and yet be sure that
the common people will hear him gladly, if only he will state his
message at once seriously and simply, and with the glow that comes of
personal conviction. Indeed, one may well doubt if there is any other
kind of preaching that they really care for.

My indebtedness to other workers in the same field is manifold. As far
as possible detailed acknowledgement is made in the footnotes. Wendt's
_Teaching of Jesus_ and Beyschlag's _New Testament Theology_ have been
always at my elbow, though not nearly in such continual use as Stevens'
_Theology of the New Testament_, a work of which it is impossible to
speak too highly. Brace's _Kingdom of God_, Stalker's _Christology of
Jesus_, Harnack's _What is Christianity?_ Horton's _Teaching of Jesus_,
Watson's _Mind of the Master_, Selby's _Ministry of the Lord Jesus_, and
Robertson's _Our Lord's Teaching_ (a truly marvellous sixpenny worth),
have all been laid under contribution, not the less freely because I
have been compelled to dissent from some of their conclusions. Like many
another busy minister, I am a daily debtor to Dr. Hastings and his great
_Dictionary of the Bible_. And, finally, I gladly avail myself of this
opportunity of expressing once more my unceasing obligations to the Rev.
Professor James Denney, of Glasgow. Now that Dr. Dale has gone from us,
there is no one to whom we may more confidently look for a reasonable
evangelical theology which can be both verified and preached.

It only remains to add that in these pages critical questions are for
the most part ignored, not because the pressure of the problems which
they create is unfelt, but because as yet they have no place among the
certainties which are the sole business of the preacher when he passes
from his study to his pulpit.



* * * * *




Luke xxiv. 19. "_A prophet mighty in word before God and all
the people._"

John iii. 2. "_A teacher come from God._"



John xvii. 11. "_Holy Father._"



Matthew xvi. 15. "_Who say ye that I am?_"



Mark x. 45. "_The Son of Man came ... to give His life a
ransom for many._"



John xiv. 16. "_I will pray the Father, and He shall give you
another Comforter, that He may be with you for ever, even the
Spirit of truth._"

John xvi. 7. "_It is expedient for you that I go away: for if
I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I
go away, I will send Him unto you._"



Matthew vi. 10. "_Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in
heaven, so on earth._"



Luke xv. 10. "_There is joy in the presence of the angels of
God over one sinner that repenteth._"



Luke xi. 2, 4. "_When ye pray, say,... Forgive us our sins._"



Matthew vi. 33. "_Seek ye first ... His righteousness._"



Matthew vii. 9-11. "_What man is there of you, who, if his son
shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he
shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent? If ye then,
being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children,
how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good
things to them that ask Him?_"



Matthew xviii. 21, 22. "_Then came Peter, and said to Him,
Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive
him? until seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto
thee, until seven times; but, until seventy times seven._"



Matthew vi. 25, 31, 34. "_Be not anxious for your life ... nor
yet for your body. ... Be not anxious, saying, What shall we
eat? or, What shall we drink? ... Be not anxious for the



Luke xviii. 24, 25. "_How hardly shall they that have riches
enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to
enter in through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter
into the kingdom of God._"



Matthew xxiv. 30, 36. "_They shall see the Son of Man coming
on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.... Of that
day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven,
neither the Son, but the Father only._"



Matthew xxv. 31-33. "_When the Son of Man shall come in His
glory, and all the angels with Him, then shall He sit on the
throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all the
nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as the
shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: and He shall set
the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left._"



Matthew vi. 20. "_Where neither moth nor rust doth consume,
and where thieves do not break through nor steal._"

Mark ix. 48. "_Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not

* * * * *


"O Lord and Master of us all!
Whate'er our name or sign,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call,
We test our lives by Thine.

We faintly hear, we dimly see,
In differing phrase we pray;
But, dim or clear, we own in Thee
The Light, the Truth, the Way."

* * * * *



"_A prophet mighty in word before God and all the people._"--LUKE xxiv.

"_A teacher come from God._"--JOHN iii. 2.

In speaking of the teaching of Jesus it is scarcely possible at the
present day to avoid at least a reference to two other closely-related
topics, viz. the relation of Christ's teaching to the rest of the New
Testament, and the trustworthiness of the Gospels in which that teaching
is recorded. Adequate discussion of either of these questions here and
now is not possible; it must suffice to indicate very briefly the
direction in which, as it appears to the writer, the truth may be found.

First, then, as to the relation of the teaching of Jesus to the rest of
the New Testament, and especially to the Epistles of St. Paul. There can
be no doubt, largely, I suppose, through the influence of the Reformers,
that the words of Jesus have not always received the attention that has
been given to the writings of Paul. Nor is this apparent misplacing of
the accent the wholly unreasonable thing which at first sight it may
seem. After all, the most important thing in the New Testament--that
which saves--is not anything that Jesus said, but what He did; not His
teaching, but His death. This, the Gospels themselves being witness, is
the culmination and crown of Revelation; and it is this which, in the
Epistles, and pre-eminently the Epistles of Paul, fills so large a
place. Moreover, it ought plainly to be said that the Church has never
been guilty of ignoring the words of her Lord in the wholesale fashion
suggested by some popular religious writers of our day. Really, the
Gospels are not a discovery of yesterday, nor even of the day before
yesterday. They have been in the hands of the Church from the beginning,
and, though she has not always valued them according to their true and
priceless worth, she has never failed to number them with the choicest
jewels in the casket of Holy Scripture. Nevertheless, it may be freely
granted that the teaching of Jesus has not always received its due at
the Church's hands. "Theology," one orthodox and Evangelical divine
justly complains, "has done no sort of justice to the Ethics of
Jesus."[1] But in our endeavour to rectify one error on the one side,
let us see to it that we do not stumble into another and worse on the
other side. The doctrines of Paul are not so much theological baggage,
of which the Church would do well straightway to disencumber itself.
After all that the young science of Biblical Theology has done to reveal
the manifold variety of New Testament doctrine, the book still remains a
unity; and the attempt to play off one part of it against another--the
Gospels against the Epistles, or the Epistles against the Gospels--is to
be sternly resented and resisted. To St. Paul himself any such rivalry
would have been impossible, and, indeed, unthinkable. There was no claim
which he made with more passionate vehemence than that the message which
he delivered was not his, but Christ's. "As touching the gospel which
was preached by me," he says, "neither did I receive it from man, nor
was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ."
The Spirit who spoke through him and his brother apostles was not an
alien spirit, but the Spirit of Christ, given according to the promise
of Christ, to make known the things of Christ; so that there is a very
true sense in which their words may be called "the final testimony of
Jesus to Himself." "We have the mind of Christ," Paul said, and both in
the Epistles and the Gospels we may seek and find the teaching of

It is, however, with the teaching of Jesus as it is recorded in the
Gospels that, in these chapters, we are mainly concerned. We come,
therefore to our second question: Can we trust the Four Gospels? And
this question must be answered in even fewer words than were given to
the last. As to the external evidence, let us hear the judgment of the
great German scholar, Harnack. Harnack is a critic who is ready to give
to the winds with both hands many things which are dear to us as life
itself; yet this is how he writes in one of his most recent works:
"Sixty years ago David Friedrich Strauss thought that he had almost
entirely destroyed the historical credibility, not only of the fourth,
but also of the first three Gospels as well. The historical criticism of
two generations has succeeded in restoring that credibility in its main
outlines."[3] When, from the external, we turn to the internal evidence,
we are on incontestable ground. The words of Jesus need no credentials,
they carry their own credentials; they authenticate themselves.
Christian men and women reading, _e.g._, the fourteenth of St. John's
Gospel say within themselves that if these are not the words of Jesus, a
greater than Jesus is here; and they are right. The oft-quoted challenge
of John Stuart Mill is as unanswerable to-day as ever it was. "It is of
no use to say," he declares, "that Christ, as exhibited in the Gospels,
is not historical, and that we know not how much of what is admirable
has been super-added by the traditions of His followers.... Who among
His disciples, or among their proselytes, was capable of inventing the
sayings ascribed to Jesus, or of imagining the life and character
revealed in the Gospels?"[4]


Assuming, therefore, without further discussion, the essential
trustworthiness of the Gospel records, let us pass on to consider in
this introductory chapter some general characteristics of Christ's
teaching as a whole.

Mark at the outset Christ's own estimate of His words: "The words that I
have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life;" "If a man keep My word
he shall never see death;" "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My
words shall not pass away;" "Every one which heareth these words of Mine
and doeth them "--with him Christ said it should be well; but "every one
that heareth these words of Mine and doeth them not"--upon him ruin
should come to the uttermost. Sayings like these are very remarkable,
for this is not the way in which human teachers are wont to speak of
their own words; or, if they do so speak, this wise world of ours knows
better than to take them at their own valuation. But the astonishing
fact in the case of Jesus is that the world has admitted His claim. Men
who refuse utterly to share our faith concerning Him and the
significance of His life and death, readily give to Him a place apart
among the great teachers of mankind. I have already quoted the judgment
of John Stuart Mill. "Jesus," says Matthew Arnold, "as He appears in the
Gospels ... is in the jargon of modern philosophy an absolute"[5]--we
cannot get beyond Him. Such, likewise, is the verdict of Goethe: "Let
intellectual and spiritual culture progress, and the human mind expand,
as much as it will; beyond the grandeur and the moral elevation of
Christianity, as it sparkles and shines in the Gospels, the human mind
will not advance."[6] It would be easy to multiply testimonies, but it
is needless, since practically all whose judgment is of any account are
of one mind.

But now if, with these facts in our minds, and knowing nothing else
about the teaching of Jesus, we could suppose ourselves turning for the
first time to the simple record of the Gospels, probably our first
feeling would be one of surprise that Jesus the Teacher had won for
Himself such an ascendency over the minds and hearts of men. For
consider some of the facts which the Gospels reveal to us. To begin
with, this Teacher, unlike most other teachers who have influenced
mankind, contented Himself from first to last with merely oral
instruction: He left no book; He never wrote, save in the dust of the
ground. Not only so, but the words of Jesus that have been preserved by
the evangelists are, comparatively speaking, extremely few. Put them all
together, they are less by one-half or two-thirds than the words which
it will be necessary for me to use in order to set forth His teaching in
this little book. And further, the little we have is, for the most part,
so casual, so unpremeditated, so unsystematic in its character. Once and
again, it is true, we get from the Evangelists something approaching
what may be called a set discourse; but more often what they give us is
reports of conversations--conversations with His disciples, with chance
acquaintances, or with His enemies. Sometimes we find Him speaking in
the synagogues; but He is quite as ready to teach reclining at the
dinner-table; and, best of all, He loved to speak in the open air, by
the wayside, or the lake shore. Once, as He stood by the lake of
Gennesaret, the multitude was so great that it pressed upon Him. Near at
hand were two little fishing-boats drawn up upon the beach, for the
fishermen had gone out of them, and were washing their nets. "And He
entered into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put
out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes
out of the boat." It is all so different from what we should have
expected; there is about it such an air of artless, homely simplicity.
Finally, we cannot forget that Jesus was a Jew speaking to Jews. Son of
God though He was, He was the son of a Jewish mother, trained in a
Jewish home, in all things the child of His own time and race. Whatever
else His message may have been, it was, first of all, a message to the
men of His own day; therefore, of necessity, it was their language He
used, it was to their needs He ministered, it was their sins He
condemned. The mould, the tone, the colouring of His teaching were all
largely determined by the life of His country and His time.

Yet this is He concerning whom all ages cry aloud, "Never man spake like
this man." This is He before whom the greatest and the wisest bow down,
saying, "Lord" and "Master." How are we to explain it? Much of the
explanation lies outside of the scope of our present subject; but if we
will turn back to the Gospels again we may find at least a partial
answer to our question.


(I) I said just now that Christ's teaching was addressed in the first
place to the Jews of His own day. Yet the note of universality is as
unmistakable as are the local tone and colouring. Christ may speak as
the moment suggests, but His words are never for the moment only, but
for all time. He refused almost sternly to go unto any save unto the
lost sheep of the house of Israel; yet the Gospels make it abundantly
plain that in His own thoughts His mission was never limited to the tiny
stage within which, during His earthly years, He confined Himself. "I am
the light of the world," He said; and in His last great commission to
His disciples He bade them carry that light unto the uttermost parts of
the earth. In the great High-Priestly prayer He intercedes not only for
His disciples, but for those who through their word should believe on
Him. "I will build My church," He declared, "and the gates of Hades
shall not prevail against it."

(2) So, again, too, in regard to the form of Christ's sayings; to speak
of their artlessness and homely simplicity is to tell only a small part
of the truth concerning them. They are, indeed and especially those
spoken in Galilee, and reported for the most part in the Synoptists, the
perfection of popular speech. How the short, pithy, sententious sayings
cling to the memory like burs! Let almost any of them be commenced, and
as Dr. Stalker says, the ordinary hearer can without difficulty finish
the sentence. Christ was not afraid of a paradox. When, _e.g._, He said,
"Whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also,"
He was ready to risk the possibility of being misunderstood by some
prosaic hearer, that He might the more effectually arouse men to a
neglected duty. His language was concrete, not abstract; He taught by
example and illustration; He thought, and taught others to think, in
pictures. How often is the phrase, "The kingdom of heaven is like
unto----" on His lips! Moreover, His illustrations were always such as
common folk could best appreciate. The birds of the air, the lilies of
the field, the lamp on the lamp-stand, the hen with her chickens under
her wings, the servant following the plough, the shepherd tending his
sheep, the fisherman drawing his net, the sower casting his seed into
the furrow, the housewife baking her bread or sweeping her house,--it
was through panes of common window-glass like these that Christ let in
the light upon the heaped-up treasures of the kingdom of God. No wonder
"the common people heard Him gladly"; no wonder they "all hung upon Him
listening"; or that they "came early in the morning to Him in the temple
to hear Him"! Yet, even in the eyes of the multitude the plain homespun
of Christ's speech was shot with gleams of more than earthly lustre.
There mingled--to use another figure--with the sweet music of those
simple sayings a new deep note their ears had never heard before: "the
multitudes were astonished at His teaching; for He taught them as one
having authority, and not as their scribes." It was not the authority of
powerful reasoning over the intellect, reasoning which we cannot choose
but obey; it was the authority of perfect spiritual intuition. Christ
never speaks as one giving the results of long and painful gropings
after truth, but rather as one who is at home in the world to which God
and the things of the spirit belong. He asserts that which He knows, He
declares that which He has seen.

(3) Another quality of Christ's words which helps us to understand their
world-wide influence is their winnowedness, their freedom from the chaff
which, in the words of others, mingles with the wholesome grain. The
attempt is sometimes made to destroy, or, at least, to weaken, our claim
for Christ as the supreme teacher by placing a few selected sayings of
His side by side with the words of some other ancient thinker or
teacher. And if they who make such comparisons would put into their
parallel columns all the words of Jesus and all the words of those with
whom the comparison is made, we should have neither right to complain
nor reason to fear. Wellhausen puts the truth very neatly when he says,
"The Jewish scholars say, 'All that Jesus said is also to be found in
the Talmud.' Yes, all, and a great deal besides."[7] The late Professor
G.J. Romanes has pointed out the contrast in two respects between Christ
and Plato. He speaks of Plato as "the greatest representative of human
reason in the direction of spirituality"; yet he says "Plato is nowhere
in this respect as compared with Christ." While in Plato there are
errors of all kinds, "reaching even to absurdity in respect of reason,
and to sayings shocking to the moral sense," there is, he declares, in
literal truth no reason why any of Christ's words should ever pass away
in the sense of becoming obsolete. And it is this absence from the
biography of Christ of any doctrines which the subsequent growth of
human knowledge--whether in natural science, ethics, political economy,
or elsewhere--has had to discount which seems to him one of the
strongest arguments in favour of Christianity.[8]

(4) One other quality of Christ's words, which specially caught the
attention of His hearers in the synagogue at Nazareth, should not be
overlooked: "All bare Him witness, and wondered at the words of grace
which proceeded out of His mouth." The reference is, as Dr. Bruce
says,[9] rather to the substance of the discourse than to the manner.
That there was a peculiar charm in the Teacher's manner is undoubted,
but it was what He said, rather than the way in which He said it--the
message of grace, rather than the graciousness of the Messenger--which
caused the eyes of all in the synagogue to be fastened on Him. He had
just read the great passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor.
He hath sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty them that are bruised,
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

Then, when the reading was finished, and He had given back the roll to
the attendant, and was sat down, He began to say unto them, "To-day hath
this Scripture been fulfilled in your ears." This was His own programme;
this was what He had come into the world to do--to bear the burden of
the weary and the heavy-laden, to give rest unto all who would learn of

This, then, is the Teacher whose words we are to study together in these
pages. He Himself is saying to us again, "He that hath ears to hear let
him hear." See that ye refuse not Him that speaketh. And again He says,
"Take heed how ye hear." Gracious as He is, this Teacher can be also
very stern. "If any man," He says, "hear My sayings and keep them not, I
judge him not. ... He that receiveth not My sayings hath one that
judgeth him; the word that I speak, the same shall judge him in the last
day." We read of some to whom "good tidings" were preached, whom the
word did not profit. Let us pray that to writer and readers alike it may
prove the word of eternal life.

* * * * *


"Our Father, who art in Heaven.
_What meaneth these words_?

God lovingly inviteth us, in this little preface, truly to
believe in Him, that He is our true Father, and that we are
truly His children; so that full of confidence we may more
boldly call upon His name, even as we see children with a kind
of confidence ask anything of their parents."--LUTHER'S

* * * * *



_"Holy Father."_--JOHN xvii. 11.

It is natural and fitting in an attempt to understand the teaching of
Jesus that we should begin with His doctrine of God. For a man's idea of
God is fundamental, regulative of all his religious thinking. As is his
God, so will his religion be. Given the arc we can complete the circle;
given a man's conception of God, from that we can construct the main
outlines of his creed. What, then, was the teaching of Jesus concerning


In harmony with what has been already said in the previous chapter,
concerning Christ's manner and method as a teacher, we shall find little
or nothing defined, formal, systematic in Christ's teaching on this
subject. In those theological handbooks which piloted some of us through
the troublous waters of our early theological thinking, one chapter is
always occupied with proofs, more or less elaborate, of the existence of
God, and another with a discussion of what are termed the Divine
"attributes." And for the purposes of a theological handbook doubtless
this is the right course to take. But this was not Christ's way. Search
the four Gospels through, and probably not one verse can be found which
by itself would serve as a suitable definition for any religious
catechism or theological textbook. Christ, we must remember, did not, in
His teaching, begin _de novo_. He never forgot that He was speaking to a
people whose were the law and the prophets and the fathers; throughout
He assumed and built upon the accepted truths of Old Testament
revelation. To have addressed elaborate arguments in proof of the
existence of God to the Jews would have been a mere waste of words; for
that faith was the very foundation of their national life. Nor did
Christ speak about the "attributes" of God. Again that was not His way.
He chose to speak in the concrete rather than in the abstract, and,
therefore, instead of defining God, He shows us how He acts. In parable,
in story, and in His own life He sets God before us, that so we may
learn what He is, and how He feels toward us.

Christ, I say, built upon the foundation of the Old Testament. To
understand, therefore, the true significance of His teaching about God,
we must first of all put ourselves at the point of view of a devout Jew
of His day, and see how far he had been brought by that earlier
revelation which Christ took up and carried to completion. What, then,
did the Jews know of God before Christ came?

They knew that God is One, Only, Sovereign: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord
our God is one God." It had been a hard lesson for Israel to learn.
Centuries had passed before the nation had been purged of its
idolatries. But the cleansing fires had done their work at last, and
perhaps the world has never seen sterner monotheists than were the
Pharisees of the time of Christ.[10] And He whom thus they worshipped as
Sovereign they knew also to be holy: "The Holy One of Israel," "exalted
in righteousness." True, Pharisaism had degraded the lofty conceptions
of the great Hebrew prophets; it had taught men to think of God as
caring more for the tithing of mint, and anise, and cumin than for the
weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith, making
morality merely an affair of ceremonies, instead of the concern of the
heart and the life. But, however Jewish teachers might blind themselves
and deceive their disciples, the Jewish Scriptures still remained to
testify of God and righteousness, and of the claims which a righteous
God makes upon His people: "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil
of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do
well." Nor, accustomed though we are to think of the God of the Old
Testament as stern rather than kind, were the tenderer elements wanting
from the Jewish conception of Deity. Illustration is not now possible,
but a very little thought will remind us that it is to the Hebrew
psalmists and prophets that we owe some of the most gracious and tender
imagery of the Divine love with which the language of devotion has ever
been enriched.

Nevertheless, with every desire to do justice to a faith which has not
always received its due, even at Christian hands, it is impossible for
us, looking back from our loftier vantage-ground, to ignore its serious
defects and limitations. It was an exclusive faith. It magnified the
privileges of the Jews, but it shut out the Gentiles. God might be a
Father to Israel, but to no other nation under heaven did He stand in
any such relation. It was the refusal of Christ to recognize the
barriers which the pride of race had set up which more than anything
else brought Him into conflict with the authorities at Jerusalem. And
when once from the mind and heart of the Early Church the irrevocable
word had gone forth, "God is no respecter of persons; but in every
nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to
Him," the final breach was made; no longer could the new faith live with
the old. And even within the privileged circle of Judaism itself men's
best thoughts of God and of His relation to them were maimed and
imperfect. He was the God of the nation, not of the individual. Here and
there elect souls like the psalmists climbed the heights whereon man
holds fellowship with God, and spake with Him face to face, as a man
with his friend. But with the people as a whole, even as with their
greatest prophets, not the individual, but the nation, was the religious

Such was the Old Testament idea of God. Now let us return to the
teaching of Jesus. And at once we discover that Christ let go nothing of
that earlier doctrine which was of real and abiding worth. The God of
Jesus Christ is as holy, as sovereign--or, to use the modern term--as
transcendent as the God of the psalmists and the prophets. Their
favourite name for God was "King," and Christ spake much of the "kingdom
of God." To them God's people were His servants, owing to Him allegiance
and service to the uttermost; we also, Christ says, are the servants of
God, to every one of whom He has appointed his task, and with whom one
day He will make a reckoning. But if nothing is lost, how much is
gained! It is not merely that in Christ's teaching we have the Old
Testament of God over again with a _plus_, the new which is added has so
transformed and transfigured the old that all is become new. To Jesus
Christ, and to us through Him, God is "the Father."

It is, of course, well known that Christ was not the first to apply this
name to God. There is no religion, says Max Mueller,[11] which is
sufficiently recorded to be understood that does not, in some sense or
other, apply the term Father to its Deity. Yet this need not concern us,
for though the name be the same the meaning is wholly different. There
is no true comparison even between the occasional use of the word in the
Old Testament and its use by Christ. For, though in the Old Testament
God is spoken of as the Father of Israel, it is as the Father of the
nation, not of the individual, and of that nation only. Even in a great
saying like that of the Psalmist:

"Like as a father pitieth his children,
So the Lord pitieth them that fear Him,"

it is still only Israel that the writer has in view, though we rightly
give to the words a wider application. But there is no need of argument.
Every reader of the Old Testament knows that its central, ruling idea of
God is not Fatherhood, but Kingship: "The Lord reigneth." Even in the
Psalms, in which the religious aspiration and worship of the ages before
Christ find their finest and noblest expression, never once is God
addressed as Father. But when we turn to the Gospels, how great is the
contrast! Though not even a single psalmist dare look up and say,
"Father," in St. Matthew's Gospel alone the name is used of God more
than forty times. Fatherhood now is no longer one attribute among many;
it is the central, determining idea in whose revealing light all other
names of God--Creator, Sovereign, Judge--must be read and interpreted.
And the God of Jesus Christ is the Father, not of one race only, but of
mankind; not of mankind only, but of men.


It was indeed a great and wonderful gospel which Christ proclaimed--so
great and wonderful that all our poor words tremble and sink down under
the weight of the truth they vainly seek to express. By what means has
Christ put us into possession of such a truth? How have we come to the
full assurance of faith concerning the Divine Fatherhood? In two ways:
by His teaching and by His life; by what He said and by what He did. And
once more a paragraph must perforce do, as best it can, the work of an

To the ear and heart of Christ all nature spoke of the love and care of
God. "Behold the birds of the heaven," He said; "they sow not, neither
do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth
them. Are not ye of much more value than they?" And again He said,
"Consider the lilies of the field"--not the pale, delicate blossom we
know so well, but "the scarlet martagon" which "decks herself in red and
gold to meet the step of summer"--"Consider the lilies of the field, how
they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you that
even Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed like one of these. But
if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and
to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye
of little faith?" Or, He bade men look into their own hearts and learn.
"God's possible is taught by His world's loving;" from what is best
within ourselves we may learn what God Himself is like. Once Christ
spoke to shepherds: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, and having
lost one of them"--how the faces in the little crowd would light up, and
their ears drink in the gracious argument! You care for your sheep, but
how much better is a man than a sheep? If you would do so much for them,
will God do less for you? And once the word went deeper still, as He
spoke to fathers: "What man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask
him for a loaf, will give him a stone; or if he shall ask for a fish
will give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good
gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in
heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" Why, Christ asks, why do
you not let your own hearts teach you? If love will not let you mock
your child, think you, will God be less good than you yourselves are?

But more even than by His words did Christ by His life reveal to us the
Father. "He that hath seen Me," He said to Philip, "hath seen the
Father." In what He was and did, in His life and in His death, we read
what God is. We follow Him from Bethlehem to Nazareth, from Nazareth to
Gennesaret, from Gennesaret to Jerusalem, to the Upper Room, to
Gethsemane, and to Calvary, and at every step of the way He says to us,
"He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." We are with Him at the
marriage feast at Cana of Galilee, and in the midst of the mourners by
the city gate at Nain; we see Him as He takes the little children into
His arms and lays His hands upon them and blesses them; we hear His word
to her that was a sinner in the house of Simon the Pharisee; we stand
with John and with Mary under the shadow of the Cross; and still, always
and everywhere, He is saying to us, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the
Father; if ye had known Me ye should have known my Father also." Within
the sweep of this great word the whole life of Jesus lies; there is
nothing that He said or did that does not more fully declare Him whom no
man hath seen at any time. To read "that sweet story of old" is to put
our hand on the heart of God; it is to know the Father.


"Yes," says some one, "it is a beautiful creed--if only one could
believe it." Christ took the birds and the flowers for His text, and
preached of the love of God for man, but is that the only sermon the
birds and flowers preach to us? Does not "nature, red in tooth and claw
with ravine," shriek against our creed? And when we turn to human life
the tragedy deepens. Why, if Love be law, is the world so full of pain?
Why do the innocent suffer? Why are our hearts made to sicken every day
when we take up our morning paper? Why does not God end the haunting
horror of our social ills? They are old-world questions which no man can
answer. Yet will I not give up my faith, and I will tell you why. "I
cannot see," Huxley once wrote to Charles Kingsley, "one shadow or
tittle of evidence that the great unknown underlying the phenomena of
the universe, stands to us in the relation of a Father--loves us, and
cares for us as Christianity asserts." And, perhaps, if I looked for
evidence only where Huxley looked, I should say the same; but I have
seen Jesus, and that has made all the difference. It is He, and He
alone, who has made me sure of God. He felt, as I have never felt, the
horrid jangle and discord of this world's life; sin and suffering tore
His soul as no soul of man was ever torn; He both saw suffering
innocence and Himself suffered being innocent, and yet to the end He
knew that love was through all and over all, and died with the name
"Father" upon His lips. And, therefore, though the griefs and graves of
men must often make me dumb, I will still dare to believe with Jesus
that God is good and "Love creation's final law."

But while thus, on the one hand, we use Christ's doctrine of God to our
comfort, let us take care lest, on the other hand, we abuse it to our
hurt and undoing. There has scarcely ever been a time when the Church
has not suffered through "disproportioned thoughts" of God. To-day our
peril is lest, in emphasizing the Divine Fatherhood, we ignore the
Divine Sovereignty, and make of God a weak, indulgent Eli, without
either purpose or power to chastise His wilful and disobedient children.
"God is good; God is love; why then should we fear? Will He not deal
tenderly with us and with all men, forgiving us even unto seventy times
seven?" The argument is true--and it is false. As an assurance to the
penitent and to the broken in heart, it is true, blessedly true; in any
other sense it is false as hell. He whom Christ called, and taught us to
call "Father," He also called "Holy Father" and "Righteous Father." Have
we forgotten Peter's warning--we do not need to ask at whose lips he
learned it--"If ye call on Him as Father ... pass the time of your
sojourning in fear." This is no contradiction of the doctrine of
Fatherhood; strictly speaking, it is not even a modification of it;
rather is it an essential part of any true and complete statement of it.
Peter does not mean God is a Father, and He is also to be feared; that
is to miss the whole point of his words; what he means is, God is a
Father, and, therefore, He is to be feared; the fear follows necessarily
on the true idea of Fatherhood. Ah, brethren, if we understood Peter and
Peter's Lord aright, we should be not the less, but the more anxious
about our sins, because we have learnt to call God "Father." "Evil," it
has been well said, "is a more terrible thing to the family than to the
state."[12] Acts which the law takes no cognizance of a father dare not,
and cannot, pass by; what the magistrate may dismiss with light censure
he must search out to its depths. The judgment of a father--there is no
judgment like that. And if it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands
of the living God, for him who all his life through has set himself
against the Divine law and love, it is a still more fearful thing
because those hands are the hands of a Father.

But this is not the note on which to close a sermon on the Fatherhood of
God. Let us go back to a chapter from which, though I have only once
quoted its words, we have never been far away--the fifteenth of St.
Luke, with its three-fold revelation of the seeking love of God. The
parables of the chapter are companion pictures, and should be studied
together in the light of the circumstances which were their common
origin. "The Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, This man
receiveth sinners and eateth with them." These parables are Christ's
answer. Mark how He justifies Himself. He might have pleaded the need of
those whom the Pharisees and scribes had left alone in their
wretchedness and sin, but of this He says nothing; His thoughts are all
of the need of God. The central thought in each parable is not what man
loses by his sin, but what God loses. As the shepherd misses his lost
sheep, and the woman her lost coin, and the father his lost son, so,
Christ says, we are all missed by God until, with our heart's love, we
satisfy the hunger of His. The genius of a prose poet shall tell us the
rest. We have all read of Lachlan Campbell and his daughter Flora, how
she went into the far country, and what brought her home again. "It iss
weary to be in London"--this was Flora's story as she told it to Marget
Howe when she was back again in the glen--"it iss weary to be in London
and no one to speak a kind word to you, and I will be looking at the
crowd that is always passing, and I will not see one kent face, and when
I looked in at the lighted windows the people were all sitting round the
table, but there was no place for me. Millions and millions of people,
and not one to say 'Flora,' and not one sore heart if I died that
night." Then one night she crept into a church as the people were
singing. "The sermon wass on the Prodigal Son, but there is only one
word I remember. 'You are not forgotten or cast off,' the preacher said:
'you are missed.' Sometimes he will say, 'If you had a plant, and you
had taken great care of it, and it was stolen, would you not miss it?'
And I will be thinking of my geraniums, and saying 'Yes' in my heart.
And then he will go on, 'If a shepherd wass counting his sheep, and
there wass one short, does he not go out to the hill to seek for it?'
and I will see my father coming back with that lamb that lost its
mother. My heart wass melting within me, but he will still be pleading,
'If a father had a child, and she left her home and lost herself in the
wicked city, she will still be remembered in the old house, and her
chair will be there,' and I will be seeing my father all alone with the
Bible before him, and the dogs will lay their heads on his knee, but
there iss no Flora. So I slipped out into the darkness and cried,
'Father,' but I could not go back, and I knew not what to do. But this
wass ever in my ear, 'missed,'"--and this was the word that brought her
back to home and God.[13]

* * * * *


"Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was
Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is
no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable."

JOHN DUNCAN, _Colloquia

* * * * *



"_Who say ye that I am_?"--MATT. xvi. 15.


This was our Lord's question to His first disciples; and this, by the
mouth of Simon Peter, was their answer: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of
the living God." And in all ages this has been the answer of the Holy
Catholic Church throughout all the world. In the days of New Testament
Christianity no other answer was known or heard. The Church of the
apostles had its controversies, as we know, controversies in which the
very life of the Church was at stake. Division crept in even among the
apostles themselves. But concerning Christ they spoke with one voice,
they proclaimed one faith. The early centuries of the Christian era were
centuries of keen discussion concerning the Person of our Lord; but the
discussions sprang for the most part from the difficulty of rightly
defining the true relations of the Divine and the human in the one
Person, rather than from the denial of His Divinity; and, as Mr.
Gladstone once pointed out, since the fourth century the Christian
conception of Christ has remained practically unchanged. Amid the fierce
and almost ceaseless controversies which have divided and sometimes
desolated Christendom, and which, alas! still continue to divide it, the
Church's testimony concerning Christ has never wavered. The Greek
Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the various Protestant Churches,
Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists,
Christian men and women out of every tribe and tongue and people and
nation,--all unite to confess the glory of Christ in the words of the
ancient Creed: "I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten
Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light
of Light, Very God of very God."

This, beyond all doubt, has been and is the Christian way of thinking
about Christ. But now the question arises, Was this Christ's way of
thinking about Himself? Did He Himself claim to be one with God? or, is
it only we, His adoring disciples, who have crowned Him with glory and
honour, and given Him a name that is above every name? To those of us
who have been familiar with the New Testament ever since we could read,
the question may appear so simple as to be almost superfluous.
Half-a-dozen texts leap to our lips in a moment by way of answer. Did He
not claim to be the Messiah in whom Old Testament history and prophecy
found their fulfilment and consummation? Did He not call Himself the Son
of God, saying, "The Father hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all
may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father"? Did He not declare,
"I and My Father are one"? and again, "All things have been delivered
unto Me of My Father: and no one knoweth the Son, save the Father;
neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the
Son willeth to reveal Him"? And when one of the Twelve bowed down before
Him, saying, "My Lord and my God," did He not accept the homage as
though it were His by right? What further need, then, have we of
witnesses? Is it not manifest that the explanation of all that has been
claimed for Christ, from the days of the apostles until now, is to be
found in what Christ claimed for Himself?

This is true; nevertheless it may be well to remind ourselves that
Christ Himself did not thrust the evidence on His disciples in quite
this wholesale, summary fashion. It is an easy thing for us to scour the
New Testament for "proof-texts," and then, when they are heaped together
at our feet like a load of bricks, to begin to build our theological
systems. But Peter and Thomas and the other disciples could not do this.
The revelation which we possess in its completeness was given to them
little by little as they were able to receive it. And the moment we
begin to study the life of Jesus, not in isolated texts, but as day by
day it passed before the eyes of the Twelve, we cannot fail to observe
the remarkable reserve which, during the greater part of His ministry,
He exercised concerning Himself. When first His disciples heard His call
and followed Him, He was to them but a humble peasant teacher, who had
flung about their lives a wondrous spell which they could no more
explain than they could resist. Indeed, there is good reason to believe,
as Dr. Dale has pointed out,[14] that the full discovery of Christ's
Divinity only came to the apostles after His Resurrection from the dead.
At first, and for long, Christ was content to leave them with their
poor, imperfect thoughts. He never sought to carry their reason by
storm; rather He set Himself to win them--mind, heart, and will--by slow
siege. He lived before them and with them, saying little directly about
Himself, and yet always revealing Himself, day by day training them,
often perhaps unconsciously to themselves, "to trust Him with the sort
of trust which can be legitimately given to God only."[15] And when at
last the truth was clear, and they knew that it was the incarnate Son of
God who had companied with them, their faith was the result not of this
or that high claim which He had made for Himself, but rather of "the
sum-total of all His words and works, the united and accumulated
impression of all He was and did" upon their sincere and receptive

Are there not many of us to-day who would do well to seek the same goal
by the same path? We have listened, perhaps, to other men's arguments
concerning the Divinity of our Lord, conscious the while how little they
were doing for us. Let us listen to Christ Himself. Let us put ourselves
to school with Him, as these first disciples did, and suffer Him to make
His own impression upon us. And if ours be sincere and receptive souls
as were theirs, from us also He shall win the adoring cry, "My Lord and
my God." Let us note, then, some of the many ways in which Christ bears
witness concerning Himself. In a very true sense all His sayings are
"self-portraitures." Be the subject of His teaching what it may, He
cannot speak of it without, in some measure at least, revealing His
thoughts concerning Himself; and it is this indirect testimony whose
significance I wish now carefully to consider.


Observe, in the first place, how Christ speaks of God and of His own
relation to Him. He called Himself, as we have already noted, "the Son
of God." Now, there is a sense in which all men are the sons of God, for
it is to God that all men owe their life. And there is, further, as the
New Testament has taught us, another and deeper sense in which men who
are not may "become" the sons of God, through faith in Christ. But
Christ's consciousness of Sonship is distinct from both of these, and
cannot be explained in terms of either. He is not "_a_ son of God"--one
among many---He is "_the_ son of God," standing to God in a relationship
which is His alone. Hence we find--and we shall do well to mark the
marvellous accuracy and self-consistency of the Gospels in this
matter--that while Jesus sometimes speaks of "_the_ Father," and
sometimes of "_My_ Father," and sometimes, again, in addressing His
disciples, of "_your_ Father," never does He link Himself with them so
as to call God "_our_ Father." Nowhere does the distinction, always
present to the mind of Christ, find more striking expression than in
that touching scene in the garden in which the Risen Lord bids Mary go
unto His brethren and say unto them, "I ascend unto My Father and your
Father, and My God and your God."

This sense of separateness is emphasized when we turn to the prayers of
Christ. And in this connection it is worthy of note that though Christ
has much to say concerning the duty and blessedness of prayer, and
Himself spent much time in prayer, yet never, so far as we know, did He
ask for the prayers of others. "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to
have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for
thee, that thy faith fail not." So did Jesus pray for His disciples; but
we never read that they prayed for Him, or that He asked for Himself a
place in their prayers. How significant the silence is we learn when we
turn to the Epistles of St. Paul and to the experience of the saints.
"Brethren, pray for us"--this is the token in almost every Epistle. In
the long, lone fight of life even the apostle's heart would have failed
him had not the prayers of unknown friends upheld him as with unseen
hands. There is no stronger instinct of the Christian heart than the
plea for remembrance at the throne of God. "Pray for me, will you?" we
cry, when man's best aid seems as a rope too short to help, yet long
enough to mock imprisoned miners in their living tomb. But the cry which
is so often ours was never Christ's.

It has further been remarked that, intimate as was Christ's intercourse
with His disciples, He never joined in prayer with them.[17] He prayed
in their presence, He prayed for them, but never with them. "It came to
pass, as He was praying in a certain place, that when He ceased, one of
His disciples said unto Him, Lord, teach us to pray, even as John also
taught his disciples. And He said unto them, When ye pray, say----."
Then follows what we call "The Lord's Prayer." But, properly speaking,
this was not the Lord's prayer; it was the disciples' prayer: "When _ye_
pray, say------." And when we read the prayer again, we see why it could
not be His. How could He who knew no sin pray, saying, "Forgive us our
sins"? The true "Lord's Prayer" is to be found in the seventeenth
chapter of St. John's Gospel. And throughout that prayer the holy
Suppliant has nothing to confess, nothing to regret. He knows that the
end is nigh, but there are no shadows in His retrospect; of all that is
done there is nothing He could wish undone or done otherwise. "I
glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou
hast given Me to do." It is so when He comes to die. Among the Seven
Words from the Cross we are struck by one significant omission: the
dying Sufferer utters a cry of physical weakness--"I thirst"--but He
makes no acknowledgement of sin; He prays for the forgiveness of
others--"Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do"--He asks
none for Himself. The great Augustine died with the penitential Psalms
hung round his bed. Fifty or sixty times, it is said, did sweet St.
Catharine of Siena cry upon her deathbed, _Peccavi, Domine miserere
mei_, "Lord, I have sinned: have mercy on me." But in all the prayers of
Jesus, whether in life or in death, He has no pardon to ask, no sins to

We are thus brought to the fact upon which of recent years so much
emphasis has been justly laid, namely, that nowhere throughout the
Gospels does Christ betray any consciousness of sin. "Which of you," He
said, "convicteth Me of sin?" And no man was able, nor is any man now
able, to answer Him a word. But the all-important fact is not so much
that they could not convict Him of sin; _He could not convict Himself._
Yet it could not be that He was self-deceived. "He knew what was in
man;" He read the hearts of others till, like the Samaritan woman, they
felt as though He knew all things that ever they had done. Was it
possible, then, that He did not know Himself? Not only so, but the law
by which He judged Himself was not theirs, but His. And what that was,
how high, how searching, how different from the low, conventional
standards which satisfied them, we who have read His words and His
judgments know full well. Nevertheless, He knew nothing against Himself;
as no man could condemn Him neither could He condemn Himself. Looking up
to heaven, He could say, "I do always the things that are pleasing to
Him."[18] This is not the language of sinful men; it is not the language
of even the best and holiest of men. Christ is as separate from "saints"
as He is from "sinners." The greatest of Hebrew prophets cries, "Woe is
me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in
the midst of a people of unclean lips." The greatest of Christian
apostles laments, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of
the body of this death?" Even the holy John confesses, "If we say that
we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." It is
one of the commonplaces of Christian experience that the holier men
become the more intense and poignant becomes the sense of personal
shortcoming. "We have done those things which we ought not to have done;
we have left undone those things which we ought to have done:" among all
the sons of men there is none, who truly knows himself, who dare be
silent when the great confession is made--none save the Son of Man; for
He, it has well been said, was _not_ the one thing which we all are; He
was _not_ a sinner.

This consciousness of separateness runs through all that the evangelists
have told us concerning Christ. When _e.g._ He is preaching He never
associates Himself, as other preachers do, with His hearers; He never
assumes, as other preachers must, that His words are applicable to
Himself equally with them. We exhort; He commands. We say, like the
writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Let us go on unto perfection"; He
says, "Ye shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." We
speak as sinful men to sinful men, standing by their side; He speaks as
from a height, as one who has already attained and is already made
perfect. Or, the contrast may be pointed in another way. We all know
what it is to be haunted by misgivings as to the wisdom of some course
which, under certain trying circumstances, we have taken. We had some
difficult task to perform--to withstand (let us say) a fellow-Christian
to his face, as Paul withstood Peter at Antioch; and we did the
unpleasant duty as best we knew how, honestly striving not only to speak
the truth but to speak it in love. And yet when all was over we could
not get rid of the fear that we had not been as firm or as kindly as we
should have been, that, if only something had been which was not, our
brother might have been won. There is a verse in Paul's second letter to
the Church at Corinth which illustrates exactly this familiar kind of
internal conflict. Referring to the former letter which he had sent to
the Corinthians, and in which he had sharply rebuked them for their
wrong-doing, he says, "Though I made you sorry with my epistle, I do not
regret it, though I did regret"--a simple, human touch we can all
understand. Yes; but when did Jesus hesitate and, as it were, go back
upon Himself after this fashion? He passed judgment upon men and their
ways with the utmost freedom and confidence; some, such as the
Pharisees, He condemned with a severity which almost startles us;
towards others, such as she "that was a sinner," He was all love and
tenderness. Yet never does He speak as one who fears lest either in His
tenderness or His severity He has gone too far. His path is always
clear; He enters upon it without doubt; He looks back upon it without

This contrast between Christ and all other men, as it presented itself
to His own consciousness, may be illustrated almost indefinitely. His
forerunners the prophets were the servants of God; He is His Son. All
other men are weary and in need of rest; He has rest and can give it.
All others are lost; He is not lost, He is the shepherd sent to seek the
lost. All others are sick; He is not sick, He is the physician sent to
heal the sick. All others will one day stand at the bar of God; but He
will be on the throne to be their Judge. All others are sinners--this is
the great, final distinction into which all others run up--He is the
Saviour. When at the Last Supper He said, "This is My blood of the
covenant which is shed for many unto remission of sins"; and again, when
He said, "The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many," He
set Himself over against all others, the one sinless sacrifice for a
sinful world.

There is in Edinburgh a Unitarian church which bears carved on its front
these words of St. Paul. "There is one God, and one mediator between God
and man, the man Christ Jesus." I say nothing as to the fitness of any
of Paul's words for such a place--perhaps we can imagine what he would
have said; I pass over any questions of interpretation that might very
justly be raised; I have only one question to ask: Why was the quotation
not finished? Paul only put a comma where they have put a full stop; the
next words are: _"Who gave Himself a ransom for all."_ But how could He
do that if He was only "the _man_ Christ Jesus"?

"No man can save his brother's soul,
Nor pay his brother's debt,"

and how could He, how dare He, think of His life as the ransom for our
forfeited lives, if He were only one like unto ourselves? There is but
one explanation which does really explain all that Christ thought and
taught concerning Himself; it is that given by the first disciples and
re-echoed by every succeeding generation of Christians--


* * * * *


"While there is life in thee, in this death alone place thy
trust, confide in nothing else besides; to this death commit
thyself altogether; with this shelter thy whole self; with
this death array thyself from head to foot. And if the Lord
thy God will judge thee, say, Lord, between Thy judgment and
me I cast the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; no otherwise can
I contend with Thee. And if He say to thee, Thou art a sinner,
say, Lord, I stretch forth the death of our Lord Jesus Christ
between my sins and Thee. If He say, Thou art worthy of
condemnation, say, Lord, I set the death of our Lord Jesus
Christ between my evil deserts and Thee, and His merits I
offer for those merits which I ought to have, but have not of
my own. If He say that He is wroth with thee, say, Lord, I
lift up the death of our Lord Jesus Christ between Thy wrath
and me."--ANSELM.

* * * * *



_"The Son of Man came ... to give His life a ransom for
many."_--MARK X. 45.

The death of Jesus Christ has always held the foremost place in the
thought and teaching of the Church. When St. Paul writes to the
Corinthians, "I delivered unto you first of all that which also I
received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the
Scriptures," he is the spokesman of every Christian preacher and
teacher, of the missionary of the twentieth century no less than of the
first. It is with some surprise, therefore, we discover when we turn to
the teaching of Jesus Himself, that He had so little to say concerning a
subject of which His disciples have said so much. It is true that the
Gospels, without exception, relate the story of Christ's death with a
fullness and detail which, in any other biography, would be judged
absurdly out of proportion. But this, it is said, reveals the mind of
the evangelists rather than the mind of Christ. And those who love that
false comparison between the Gospels and the Epistles of which so much
is heard to-day, have not been slow to seize upon this apparent
discrepancy as another example of the way in which the Church has
misunderstood and misinterpreted the simple message of the Galilean

But, in the first place, as I will show in a moment, the contrast
between the Gospels and Epistles in this matter is by no means so
sharply defined as is often supposed. And further, granting that there
is a contrast--that what in the Gospels is only a hint or suggestion,
becomes in the Epistles a definite and formal statement--it is one which
admits of a simple and immediate explanation. Christ--this was Dr.
Dale's way of putting it--did not come to preach the gospel; He came
that there might be a gospel to preach. This must not be pressed so far
as to imply that it is only the death and not also the life of Christ
that has any significance for us to-day; but if that death had any
significance in it at all, if it was anything more to Him than death is
to us, if it stood in any sort of relation to us men and our salvation,
manifestly the teaching which should make this plain would more
fittingly follow than precede the death. And they at least who accept
Christ's words, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot
bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall
guide you into all truth"--they, I say, who accept these words can find
no difficulty in believing that part of the revelation which it was the
good pleasure of the Father to give to us in His Son, came through the
lips of men who spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Moreover,
when we turn to the Gospels we see at once that the interpretation of
Christ's death was just one of those things which the disciples as yet
were unable to bear. The point is so important that it is worth while
dwelling upon it for a moment. So far were the Twelve from being able to
understand their Lord's death, that they would not even believe that He
was going to die. "Be it far from Thee, Lord," cried Peter, when Christ
first distinctly foretold His approaching end; "this shall never be unto
Thee." When, at another time, He said unto His disciples, "Let these
words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man shall be delivered up into
the hands of men," St. Luke adds, "But they understood not this saying."
And again, after another and similar prophecy, the evangelist writes
with significant reiteration, "They understood none of these things; and
this saying was hid from them, and they perceived not the things that
were said." So was it all through those last months of our Lord's life.
His thoughts were not their thoughts, neither were His ways their ways.
They followed Him as He pressed along the highway, His face steadfastly
set to go up to Jerusalem, but they could not understand Him. Why, if as
He had said, death waited Him there, did He go to seek it? Think what
utter powerlessness to enter even a little way into His thoughts is
revealed in a scene like this: Two of His disciples, James and John,
came to Him to ask Him that they might sit, one on His right hand, and
one on His left hand, in His glory. Jesus said unto them, "Ye know not
what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I drink? or to be
baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" And they said unto
Him, "We are able." What could Jesus do with ignorance like
this--ignorance that knew not its own ignorance? He could be "sorry for
their childishness"; but how could He show them the mystery of His
Passion? What could He do but wait until the Cross, and the empty grave,
and the gift of Pentecost had done their revealing and enlightening

At the same time, as I have already pointed out, it is altogether a
mistake to suppose that Christ has left us on this subject wholly to the
guidance of others. From the very beginning of His ministry the end was
before Him, and as it drew nearer He spoke of it continually. At first
He was content to refer to it in language purposely vague and
mysterious. Just as a mother who knows herself smitten with a sickness
which is unto death, will sometimes try by shadowed hints to prepare her
children for what is coming, while yet she veils its naked horror from
their eyes, so did Jesus with His disciples. "Can the sons of the
bride-chamber fast," He asked once, "while the bridegroom is with them?
... But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from
them, and then will they fast in that day." But from the time of Peter's
great confession at Caesarea Philippi all reserve was laid aside, and
Christ told His disciples plainly of the things which were to come to
pass: "From that time began Jesus to show unto His disciples, how that
He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and
chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised
up." And if we will turn to any one of the first three Gospels, we shall
find, as Dr. Denney says, that that which "characterized the last months
of our Lord's life was a deliberate and thrice-repeated attempt to teach
His disciples something about His death."[19] Let me try, very briefly,
to set forth some of the things which He said.


First of all, then, _Christ died as a faithful witness to the truth._
Like the prophets and the Baptist before Him, whose work and whose end
were so often in His thoughts, He preached righteousness to an
unrighteous world, and paid with His life the penalty of His daring.
That is the very lowest view which can be taken of His death. No
Unitarian, no unbeliever, will deny that Jesus died as a good man,
choosing rather the shame of the Cross than the deeper shame of treason
to the truth. And thus far Christ is an example to all who follow Him.
In one sense His cross-bearing was all His own, a mystery of suffering
and death into which no man can enter. But in another sense, as St.
Peter tells us, He has left us by His sufferings an example that we
should follow His steps. It is surely a significant fact that the words
which immediately follow Christ's first distinct declaration of His
death are these, "If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross and follow Me." His death was the supreme
illustration of a law which binds us, the servants, even as it bound
Him, the Master. In the path of every true man there stands the cross
which he must bear, or be true no more. Let no one grow impatient and
say this is no more than the fringe of Christ's thoughts about His
death; even the fringe is part of the robe, and if, as the words I have
quoted seem clearly to indicate, Christ thought of His death as in any
sense at all a pattern for us, let us not miss this, the first and
simplest lesson of the Cross.

There are few more impressive scenes in the history of the Christian
pulpit than that in which Robertson of Brighton, preaching the Assize
Sermon at Lewes, turned as he closed to the judges, and counsel, and
jury, and bade them remember, by "the trial hour of Christ," by "the
Cross of the Son of God," the sacred claims of truth: "The first lesson
of the Christian life is this, Be true; and the second this, Be true;
and the third this, Be true."


But though this be our starting-point, it is no more than a starting-point.
If Jesus was only a brave man, paying with His life the penalty
of His bravery in the streets of Jerusalem, it is wasting words to call
Him "the Saviour of the world." If His death were only a martyrdom,
then, though we may honour Him as we honour Socrates, and many another
name in the long roll of "the noble army of martyrs," yet He can no more
be our Redeemer than can any one of them. But it was not so that Christ
thought of His death. The martyr dies because he must; Christ died
because He would. The strong hands of violent men snatch away the
martyr's life from him; but no man had power to take away Christ's life
from Him: "I lay it down of Myself," He said. The Son of Man _gave_ His
life. He was not dragged as an unwilling victim to the sacrifice and
bound upon the altar. He was both Priest and Victim; as the apostle puts
it, "He gave Himself up." True, the element of necessity was there--"the
Son of Man _must_ be lifted up"; but it was the "must" of His own love,
not of another's constraint. Not Roman nails or Roman thongs held Him to
the Cross, but His own loving will. It is important to emphasize this
fact of the _voluntariness_ of our Lord's death, because at once it sets
the Cross in a clearer light. It changes martyrdom into sacrifice; and
Christ's death, instead of being merely a fate which He suffered,
becomes now, as Principal Fairbairn says, a work which He
achieved--_the_ work which He came into the world to do: "The Son of Man
came ... to give His life."[20]


Again, Christ taught us that His death was _the crowning revelation of
the love of God for man._ And it is well to remind ourselves of our need
of such a revelation. We speak sometimes as though the love of God was a
self-evident truth altogether independent of the facts of New Testament
history. "God is love"--of course, we say; this at least we are sure of,
whatever becomes of the history. But this jaunty assurance will not bear
looking into. The truth is that, apart from Christ, we have no certainty
of the love of God. A man may cry aloud in our ears, "God is love, God
is love"; but if he have no more to say than that, the most emphatic
reiteration will avail us nothing. But if he can say, "God is love, and
He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son"; if, that is
to say, he can point us to the Divine love made manifest in life, then
he is proclaiming a gospel indeed. But let us not deceive ourselves and
imagine that we can have Christ's gospel apart from Christ.

Now, according to the teaching of the Gospels, all Christ's life--all He
was and said and did--is a revelation of the love of God. But the crown
of the revelation was given in His death. It is the Cross which was, in
a special and peculiar sense, as Christ Himself declared,[21] the glory
both of the Father and the Son. And the apostles, with a unanimity which
can only be explained as the result of His own teaching, always
associate God's love with Christ's death in a way in which they never
associate God's love with Christ's life. "God," says St. Paul,
"commendeth His own love toward us, in that ... Christ died for us."

Christ's death, then, we say, establishes the love of God. But how does
this come to pass? How does the death of one prove the love of another?
If--to use a very simple illustration--I am in danger of drowning, and
another man, at the cost of his own life, saves mine, his act
undoubtedly proves his own love; but how does it prove anything
concerning God's love? If the apostle had said, "_Christ_ commendeth His
own love towards us, in that He died for us," we could have understood
him; but how, I ask again, does Christ's death prove _God's_ love? The
question is answerable, as indeed the whole of the New Testament is
intelligible, only on the assumption of the Trinitarian doctrine of
Christ. If Christ were indeed the Son of God, standing to God in such a
relation that what He did was likewise the doing of God the Father, we
can understand the apostle's meaning. On any other hypothesis his
language is a riddle of which the key has been lost. A further question
still remains to be answered. I said just now that if St. Paul had
written, "_Christ_ commendeth His own love towards us, in that He died
for us," we could have understood Him. But here, also, something is
implicit which requires to be made explicit. How does Christ in His
death prove His love for us? Obviously, only in one way: by bearing
responsibilities which must otherwise have fallen upon us. There must
be, as Dr. Denney rightly argues, some rational relation between our
necessities and what Christ has done before we can speak of His act as a
proof of His love. If, to borrow the same writer's illustration, a man
lose his own life in saving me from drowning, this is love to the
uttermost; but if, when I was in no peril, he had thrown himself into
the water and got drowned "to prove his love for me," the deed and its
explanation would be alike unintelligible. We must take care when we
speak of the death of Christ that we do not make it equally meaningless.
How Christ Himself thought of it as related to the necessities of sinful
men, the next and last division of this chapter will, I hope, make


_"The Son of Man came to give His life a ransom for many;" "This is My
blood of the covenant which is shed for many unto remission of sins."_
These are the two great texts which reveal to us the mind of Christ
concerning the significance of His death. There has been much discussion
of their meaning into which it is impossible here to enter. But whatever
questions modern scholarship may raise, there can be little doubt as to
the sense in which Christ's words were understood by the first
disciples. "His own self," said Peter, "bare our sins in His body upon
the tree." "Herein is love," said John, "not that we loved God, but that
He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." He
"loved me," said Paul, "and gave Himself for me." It is open, doubtless,
to question the legitimacy of these apostolic deductions, and to fall
back upon Matthew Arnold's _Aberglaube;_ but who, it has been well said,
"are most likely to have correctly apprehended the significance which
Jesus attached to His death, men like John and Peter and Paul, or an
equal number of scholars in our time, however discerning and candid, who
undertake to reconstruct the thoughts of Jesus, and to disentangle them
from the supposed subjective reflections of His disciples? Where is the
subjectivity likely to be the greatest--in the interpretations of the
eye and ear witness, or in the reconstructions of the moderns?"[22]

Christ gave His life "a ransom for many." The truth cannot be put too
simply: "God forgives our sins because Christ died for them;" "in that
death of Christ our condemnation came upon Him, that for us there might
be condemnation no more;" "the forfeiting of His free life has freed our
forfeited lives."[23]

"Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood;
Alleluia! what a Saviour!"

If this is true, the New Testament has a meaning, and, what is more, we
sinful men have a gospel. If it is not true, it is difficult to know why
the New Testament was written, and still more difficult to know what we
must do to be saved. It does not help to point us to the parable of the
Prodigal Son, and tell us that there is a story of salvation without an
atonement. The whole gospel cannot be put into a parable, not even into
such a parable as this. Besides, if the argument proves anything, it
proves too much. The parable is not only a story of salvation without an
atonement, it is a story of salvation without Christ; and if no more is
needed than what is given here, Christ Himself is no part of His own
gospel, forgiveness can be had with no reference to Him. But it is not
so the redeemed have learned Christ; it is not thus they have received
forgiveness. They _know_ that it is "in Him" they have their redemption,
through His blood; and apart from Him there is no salvation and no

It is time to bring our reasonings to an end. We are under the shadow of
the Cross; let us worship and adore. When Christ died on the tree
nineteen hundred years ago, there were some that mocked, and some that
watched and yet saw nothing--nothing but a miserable criminal's
miserable end; a few there were that wept, and one there was who cried,
with lips already white with death, "Jesus, remember me when Thou comest
in Thy kingdom." And still does that Cross divide men. Where is our
place, and with whom are we? Not, I think, with them that mock; for
these to-day are a broken and discredited few. We choose rather the
centurion's cry, "Certainly this was a righteous man." But is this all
we have to say? He who gave His life-blood for us, shall He have no more
than this--the little penny-pieces of our respect? If we owe Him aught
we owe Him all; and if we give Him aught let us give Him all--not our
thanks but our souls. "He loved _me_, and gave Himself up for _me_"--
there is the secret of the Cross which no man knows save he who cannot
speak of it without the personal pronouns. Until then we are but as
blind watchers that look and see not. "Jesus, remember me"--this is the
word that becomes us best. Let us cry unto Him now, and He who heard the
robber's prayer on the Cross will hear and save us.

* * * * *


"Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,
And lighten with celestial fire;
Thou the Anointing Spirit art,
Who dost Thy sevenfold gifts impart.
Thy blessed unction from above
Is comfort, life, and fire of love:
Enable with perpetual light
The dullness of our blinded sight;
Anoint and cheer our soiled face
With the abundance of Thy grace;
Keep far our foes; give peace at home;
Where Thou art guide no ill can come;
Teach us to know the Father, Son,
And Thee of Both, to be but One:
That, through the ages all along,
This, this may be our endless song,
'Praise to Thy eternal merit,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!'"

* * * * *



_"I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another
Comforter, that He may be with you for ever, even the Spirit
of truth."_--JOHN xiv. 16.

_"It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not
away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I
will send Him unto you."_--JOHN xvi. 7.

It was the night in which He was betrayed. Jesus and His disciples were
spending their last hours together before His death. For Him the morrow
could bring with it no surprise. He knew that His hour was come--the
hour to which all other hours of His past had pointed; and He was ready.
Before He left that Upper Room, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and
said, "Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son." But to the disciples
that night was a night of darkness, and terror, and confusion. They
remembered how He had told them He must die; they knew the bloodhounds
in Jerusalem were on His track; they could see the shadow's black edge
creeping nearer and nearer; and yet they could do nothing; they could
not even persuade Him that anything needed to be done. Nay, it almost
seemed as if He were taking part with His enemies against them. "It is
expedient for you," He said, "that I go away"--veiling in His pity the
horror of His going. "Expedient" for them? How could He speak like that?
Was He not everything to them? If He went away, what was to befall them?
They would be as sheep in the midst of wolves, as orphans in an unkindly
world. Is it any wonder that sorrow filled their hearts?

And not only to these His first disciples, but to many of His followers
in later days, this word of Jesus has proved a hard saying. If only, we
think, He were with us as He was with Peter and James and John; if only
we could hear Him teach in our streets, or in our church, as once He
taught in the streets of Jerusalem and the synagogue at Nazareth; if
only He could enter our homes, as once He entered the home at Bethany,
how easy it would be to believe! But, now He is no longer here, the air
is filled with doubting voices, and faith is very hard.

So sometimes we speak. But, have we noticed, this is never the language
of the New Testament. To begin with, it is not the language of Christ.
There is an unmistakable emphasis in His words: "Because I have spoken
these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless, I
tell you the truth: it is expedient for you that I go away." When Paul
was a prisoner in Rome, he wrote to the Philippians, saying, "I am in a
strait betwixt the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ;
for it is very far better; yet to abide in the flesh is more needful for
your sake." That is how a good man, in the prospect of death, naturally
feels towards those who are in any way dependent on him. But Christ's
language is the very opposite of this; He says, not that it is needful
to abide, but that it is expedient to depart. And in every reference to
Christ by the apostles after His Ascension, the same note is struck. It
is hardly too much to say, as one writer does, "that no apostle, no New
Testament writer, ever _remembered_ Christ."[24] They thought of Him as
belonging, not to the past, but to the present; He was the object, not
of memory, but of faith. Never do they wish Him back in their midst;
never do they mourn for Him as for a friend whom they have lost. On the
contrary, they felt that Christ was with them now in a sense in which He
had never been. There is no hint that any even of the Twelve would have
gone back to the old days had it been possible. They had lost, but they
had also gained, and their gain was greater than their loss. "Even
though we have known Christ after the flesh," they also would have said,
"yet now we know Him so no more." Read over again St. Luke's account of
our Lord's Ascension: "He led them out until they were over against
Bethany; and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to
pass, while He blessed them, He parted from them, and was carried up
into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with
great joy; and were continually in the temple, blessing God." Christ had
gone from them a second time, no more to return as before He had
returned from the tomb; yet now it is not despair but joy which fills
their hearts: "They returned to Jerusalem with great joy." When in the
Upper Room, Christ had said, "It is expedient for you that I go away,"
sorrow had filled their hearts; but, now that He is gone, their sorrow
is turned into joy. How shall we explain this strange reversal?


It is to be explained in part, of course, by the Resurrection of Christ
from the dead, but mainly--and this is the fact with which just now we
are concerned--by the gift of the Holy Spirit whom Christ had promised
to His disciples to abide with them for ever. But now, what do we mean
when we speak of the gift of the Holy Spirit? What is the Holy Spirit,
and what is it that He does for us? Many of us, I think, must have felt
how extremely unreal, and therefore unsatisfying, the discussions of
this great subject often are. The doctrine somehow fails to find a place
among the proved realities of our Christian experience. It remains, so
to speak, outside of us, a foreign substance which life has not
assimilated. And hence it has come to pass that there is no small danger
to-day lest New Testament phrases about being filled with the Spirit,
baptized with the Spirit, and so forth, become the mere jargon of a
school which wholly fails to interpret the mind of Christ. Doubtless
there are faults on both sides, the faults of neglect and the faults of
false emphasis, and for both the true remedy is a more careful study of
the teaching of Jesus.

What, then, is the Holy Spirit, and what is it He does for us? "I will
pray the Father," Christ said, "and He shall give you another
Comforter," or "another Paraclete." The word translated "Comforter,"
which occurs so often in this discourse of our Lord, is found nowhere
else in the New Testament except in the First Epistle of St. John, where
it is rendered "Advocate"; "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous." And this, without doubt, is a more
faithful rendering of the word which Christ used than the more familiar
"Comforter." An advocate is one who is called to our side to be our
friend and helper, more especially to plead our cause in a court of
justice; and this also is the meaning of the word "Paraclete." Perhaps,
however, the word "Comforter" may be retained without loss, if only we
remember to give it its full and original meaning. To "comfort" is not
primarily and originally to console, but to strengthen, to _fort_ify;
and the "Comforter" whom Christ promised to His disciples was not only
one who should soothe them in their sorrows, but should stand by them in
all their conflicts, their unfailing friend and helper.

Further, Christ said God "shall give you _another_ Comforter." That is
to say, Christ Himself was a Comforter, and all that He had been to His
disciples the Holy Spirit should be also. And, if we examine the three
chapters of this Gospel which contain this great discourse of our Lord,
we shall find this idea taken up, and repeated, and developed in passage
after passage. The Holy Spirit was to come in Christ's name, as Christ's
representative and interpreter. "He shall not speak from Himself,"
Christ said; "He shall bear witness of Me. He shall glorify Me; for He
shall take of Mine, and shall declare it unto you." In the presence of
the Spirit Christ Himself would be present: "I will not leave you
desolate," He said; "I come unto you;" "I will see you again, and your
heart shall rejoice." And, for the sake of such a presence, a presence
which was to be not for a little while but for ever, it was best for His
friends that He should leave them.[25]

It is in these words, I believe, that we have the key to the New
Testament doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Spirit of
Christ; He is sent by Christ; He comes to continue the work of Christ.
He is, as one writer has it, Christ's _alter ego_, or, as it was said
long ago, Christ's "Vicar," or substitute, on the earth.[26] When,
therefore, we speak of the presence of the Spirit, what we mean, or what
we ought to mean, is the spiritual presence of Christ. In the Holy
Spirit Christ Himself is present, wherever, as He said, two or three are
gathered together in His name. In the Holy Spirit, given to be with us
for ever, He makes good to His disciples the great word of His promise,
"Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." This is the
fact continually to be kept in mind--the Spirit is the Spirit of Christ;
for, if this be forgotten, then, as all experience shows, either the
doctrine is wholly ignored, or it is made the subject of that vague,
unreal way of speaking, which, alas! is so often the bane of spiritual

At the same time, what has been said must not be interpreted so as to
suggest that the Holy Spirit is merely an impersonal influence. On the
contrary, the words of our Lord quoted above distinctly imply what we
call "personality," and a personality separate from His own. If all that
Jesus really meant to teach was that He would manifest His own invisible
presence to His disciples by spiritual influences, we can only conclude
that His words have been tampered with; as they stand, it is impossible
that this should exhaust their meaning. To teach, to bear witness, to
guide, to bring to remembrance, to declare the things that are to
come,--these are the acts, not of a Power, but of a Person; and all
these things, Christ said, the Holy Spirit should do. Indeed, it is not
easy to see how language could have been framed to set forth the idea of
a Divine Person, separate alike from the Father and the Son, more
explicitly than we find it in these chapters.[27]


We turn now to the second part of our question: What is it that the Holy
Spirit does for us? Christ's teaching on the work of the Spirit may be
gathered up under two heads: (1) His work in the Church; (2) His work in
the world.

(1) When we speak of the Spirit's work in the Church, it must be
understood that the reference is to no particular ecclesiastical
organization, but to the people of Christ generally, "the men and women
in whom the spiritual work of Christ is going forward." And among these
the Holy Spirit works in two ways.

(_a_) He is the Spirit of truth, the Divine Remembrancer: "He shall
guide you into all the truth;" "He shall take of Mine, and shall declare
it unto you;" "He shall teach you all things, and bring to your
remembrance all that I said unto you." It is not, it will be observed,
all truth, but all the truth of Christ, with which the Spirit deals--the
truth concerning Him, and the truth which He taught. Nor is it a new
revelation which the Spirit gives, but rather a more perfect
understanding of that which has been already given in Christ. Here,
then, is the test by which to try all that claims the authority of
spiritual truth. Does it "glorify" Christ? Does it lead us into a fuller
knowledge of Him "in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
hidden"? "Whosoever goeth onward," says St. John, in a remarkable
passage, for which English readers are indebted to the Revised Version,
"and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God." In other
words, no true progress is possible except as we abide in Christ. If He
be ignored and left behind, though we still keep the name and boast
ourselves "progressives," we have lost the reality. On the other hand,
every new discovery, every movement in the life of men, every
intellectual and spiritual awakening which serves to make manifest the
glory of Christ as Creator, or Revealer, or Redeemer, is a fresh
fulfilment of His promise concerning the guiding Spirit of truth.
Perhaps our best commentary is the history of the Church. In the New
Testament itself we have the first-fruits of the Spirit's work. There we
may see, in Gospels and Epistles, how the Spirit took of the things of
Christ and showed them unto His disciples. And all through the varied
history of the Church's long past, that same Divine Remembrancer has
been at work, calling us through the lips of an Augustine, a Luther, or
a Wesley, into the fullness of the inheritance of truth which is ours in
Christ Jesus.

(_b_) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of power. "Behold," said the
ascending Christ, "I send forth the promise of My Father upon you; but
tarry ye in the city until ye be clothed with power from on high." And,
again, "Ye shall receive power, when the Holy Ghost is come upon you."
Of Jesus Himself it was said by one of His disciples "that God anointed
Him with the Holy Ghost and with power"; and of His disciples Jesus
said: "He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall He do also;
and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father."
Here, again, our best commentary is the history of the Church, and
especially the first chapter of that history as it is written in the
Acts of the Apostles. This was the promise, "Ye shall receive power,"
and this, in brief, the story of its fulfilment, "With great power gave
the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." Let
any one read the early chapters of St. Luke's narrative; let him mark
the utter disparity between the "acts" and the "apostles"--between the
things done and the men by whom they were done--and then let him ask if
there is any explanation which does really bridge the gulf short of
this, that behind Peter and John and the rest there stood Another,
speaking through their lips, working through their hands, Himself the
real Doer in all those wondrous "acts"? When D.L. Moody was holding in
Birmingham one of those remarkable series of meetings which so deeply
stirred our country in the early 'seventies, Dr. Dale, who followed the
work with the keenest sympathy, and yet not without a feeling akin to
stupefaction at the amazing results which it produced, once told Moody
that the work was most plainly of God, for he could see no real relation
between him and what he had done. Is not this disparity the very
sign-manual of the Holy Spirit's presence? "Why," asked Peter, when the
multitude were filled with wonder and amazement at the healing of the
lame man, "Why fasten ye your eyes on us as though by our own power or
godliness we had made him to walk?" Work that is really of God can never
be accounted for in that fashion. There is always a something in the
effects which cannot be traced back to a human cause. Let "our own power
and godliness" be what they may--and they can never be too great--they
are all vain and helpless apart from the power of God. "I planted,
Apollos watered; God gave the increase." Wherefore let the Church trust
neither in him that planteth nor in him that watereth, but in God who
giveth the increase.

(2) We come now to the Holy Spirit's work in the world. And, just as in
speaking of the "Church" it was not any visible organization which we
had in mind, so now by the "world" is not meant merely the persons who
are outside all such organizations. There is, as we are often reminded
nowadays, a Church outside the Churches; and, on the other hand, not a
little of what Christ meant by the "world" is often to be found inside
what we mean by the "Church." The "world," then, is simply the mass of
men, wherever they are to be found, who are living apart from God. Now,
of this world Christ said it "cannot receive" the Spirit of truth; "it
beholdeth Him not, neither knoweth Him." If, therefore, there is a
ministry of the Spirit in the world, it must be wholly different in kind
from that spoken of above. And this is what we learn from Christ's
teaching: "He, when He is come, will convict the world in respect of
sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment." There is a ring of judicial
sternness in the words; they call up to our minds the solemnities of a
court of justice--the indictment, the conviction, the condemnation. And
yet one can well believe that there were hours in the after life of the
apostles when, of all the comforting, reassuring words which Christ had
spoken to them in that Upper Room, there were none more helpful than
these. For they knew now that, when they stood up to bear their witness
before a hostile world, they had a fellow-witness in men's hearts. They
could go nowhere--in Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, or the uttermost parts
of the earth--where the gracious ministries of the Spirit had not
preceded them. He, the Paraclete, was not only with them, their
"strong-siding Champion," He was in the world also, in the hearts even
of them who set themselves most stoutly against the Lord and against His
Anointed, subduing their rebelliousness and reconciling them to God. We
who teach and preach to-day, do we think of these things as we ought?
Does not our message sometimes win a response which is at once a
surprise and a rebuke to us? We knew that the seed which we cast into
the ground was the word of God; but the soil seemed so poor and thin we
scarce had looked for any harvest; yet the seed sprang up and grew, we
knew not how. We had forgotten that over all that wide field which is
the world the Divine Husbandman is ever at work, at work while men
sleep, breaking up the fallow ground, and making ready the soil for the
seed. We need to learn to count more on God, to grasp more fully the
glorious breadth of promise which He has given us in His Spirit, to
remember that, not only in the Church, but in the world--which is His
world--that Spirit is always present to testify of God, to convict men
of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment.

And yet, while we encourage ourselves with thoughts like these, we dare
not forget that men may resist, they may grieve, they may quench the
Holy Spirit. He is grieved whensoever He is resisted; He may be resisted
until He is quenched. It was Christ Himself who spoke of a sin against
the Holy Spirit which "hath never forgiveness." Is there any more
painful, perplexing, and yet more certain fact in life than this, that
man can resist God? Is there any that has bound up with it more terrible
and inevitable issues? "Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and
ears," cried the martyr Stephen to his judges, "ye do always resist the
Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye." And the end for their
fathers and for them we know. Wherefore the Holy Spirit saith: "To-day,
if ye shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts."

* * * * *


"The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but
righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."--ST. PAUL.

* * * * *



"_Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on
earth._"--MATT. vi. 10.


One of the most obvious features of the teaching of Jesus is the
prominence which it gives to what is called "the kingdom of heaven," or,
"the kingdom of God." And this prominence becomes the more striking when
we turn from the Gospels to the Epistles where the phrase is only rarely
to be found. With Jesus the kingdom was a kind of watchword which was
continually on His lips. Thus, _e.g._, St. Mark begins his account of
the preaching of Jesus in these words: "After that John was delivered
up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God and saying, The
time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and
believe in the Gospel." In like manner, St. Matthew tells us that "Jesus
went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching
the gospel of the kingdom." Parable after parable opens with the formula
"The kingdom of heaven is like unto--," or, "So is the kingdom of God as
if--," or, "How shall we liken the kingdom of God?" When Christ sent
forth the Twelve, this was His command, "Go ... and as ye go, preach,
saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Again, when He sent forth the
Seventy, He said, "Into whatsoever city ye enter ... say unto them, The
kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." And in the great Forty Days,
before He was received up, it was still of "the things concerning the
kingdom of God" that He spake unto His disciples. Every time a little
child is baptized we call to mind His words, "For of such is the kingdom
of God." Every time we repeat the prayer He taught His disciples to pray
we say, "Thy kingdom come." In all, it is said, there are no less than
one hundred and twelve references to the kingdom to be found in the

When, however, we turn to the Epistles what do we find? In the whole of
St. Paul's Epistles the kingdom is not named as often as in the briefest
of the four Gospels. It is mentioned only once by St. Peter, once by St.
James, once by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and not at all
in the three Epistles of St. John. Not only so, but at least until quite
recent times, the Church of Christ has in the main followed the lead of
the apostles, and has said but little of the kingdom of God. How is this
to be explained? Does it mean that the whole Church of Christ, including
the Church of the apostles, has failed to understand the mind of the
Master, and has let slip an essential element of His teaching? So some
recent writers do not hesitate to declare. Burke once said that he did
not know how to draw up an indictment against a whole people; but these,
apparently, have no difficulty in drawing up an indictment against the
whole Church. "With all respect to the great Apostle," writes one of
them, "one may be allowed to express his regret that St. Paul has not
said less about the Church and more about the Kingdom."[28] To which I
hope one may be forgiven if he is tempted to retort that the great
apostle probably knew what he was about as well as his modern critic can
tell him. We shall do well to pause, and pause again, before we accept
any interpretation of the facts of the New Testament which implies that
we to-day have a better understanding of the mind of Christ than the
apostles had. For my own part, whenever I come across any writer who
tries to correct Paul by Jesus, I find it safest to assume that he has
misread Paul, or Jesus, or both. Moreover, though we need make no claim
of infallibility for the Church, yet, if we believe in a Holy Spirit
given to guide the disciples of Christ into all the truth of Christ, we
shall find it difficult to believe at the same time that the whole
Church has from the beginning missed the right way, and in a matter so
important as this, failed to apprehend the thought of Christ.

We are not, however, shut up to any such unworthy conclusions. There is
another and sufficient explanation of the facts to which reference has
been made. It was natural that Jesus, speaking in the first instance to
Jews, should move as far as possible within the circle of ideas with
which they were already familiar. Now, no phrase had a more thoroughly
familiar sound to Jewish ears than this of the kingdom of God. It
needed, of course, to be purified and enlarged before it could be made
the vehicle of the loftier ideas of Jesus. Still, the idea was there, "a
point of attachment," as one writer says, in the minds of his hearers to
which Jesus could fasten what He wished to say. But after our Lord's
Resurrection and Ascension, and especially after the fall of Jerusalem,
the whole condition of things was changed. A phrase which in the
synagogues of the Jews proved helpful and illumining, might easily
become, among the populations of Asia Minor, of Greece, and of Italy, to
whom the gospel was now preached, useless, and even misleading. Is it
any wonder, therefore, if the first Christian missionaries quietly
dropped the old phrase and found others to take its place? Men who knew
themselves guided by the Spirit of Jesus would not feel compelled to
quote the words of Jesus, if, under altered circumstances, other words
more fittingly expressed His thoughts.[29]


What did Jesus mean when He spoke of the kingdom of God? The idea as set
forth in the Gospels is so complex, the phrase is used to cover so many
and different conceptions, that it is practically impossible to frame a
definition within which all the sayings of Jesus concerning the kingdom
can be included. The nearest approach to a definition which it is
necessary to attempt is suggested by the two petitions in the Lord's
Prayer which are quoted above. The second petition explains the first:
the kingdom comes in proportion as men do on earth the will of God. For
our present purpose, therefore, we may think of the kingdom as a
spiritual commonwealth embracing all who do God's will. To much that
Christ taught concerning the kingdom--its Head, its numbers, its growth
and development--it is impossible, in one brief discourse, even to
refer. Here again, it must suffice to single out one or two points for
special emphasis:

(1) In the doctrine of the kingdom of God, we have set before us the
social aspect of Christ's teaching; it reminds us of what we owe, not
only to Him who is its King, but to those who are our fellow-subjects.
Of particular duties it is impossible to speak, though these, as we
know, fill a large place in the teaching of Jesus. But let us at least
bring home to ourselves the thought of obligation, obligation involved
in and springing out of our common relationship as members of the
kingdom of God. The obligation is writ large on every page of the New
Testament--in the Gospels, in the doctrine of the kingdom; in the
Epistles, in the corresponding doctrine of the Church. It can hardly be
said too often, that, according to the New Testament ideal, there are no
unattached Christians. The apostles never conceive of religion as merely
a private matter between the soul and God. All true religion, as John
Wesley used to say, is not solitary but social. Its starting-point is
the individual, but its goal is a kingdom. Christ came to save men and
women in order that through them He might build up a redeemed society in
which the will of God should be done. We do, indeed, often hear of
Christians whose religion begins and ends with getting their own souls
saved. This simply means that so far as it is true they are not yet
Christian. To think only of oneself is to deny one of the first
principles of the kingdom. Wesley taught the early Methodists to sing--

"A charge to keep I have.
A God to glorify;
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky;"

and some of his followers, both early and later, seem to have thought
that this was the whole of the hymn; but the verse goes on without a
full stop--

"To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfil;
O may it all my powers engage
To do my Master's will!"

And until we who profess and call ourselves Christians have learned this
lesson of service, and have entered into Christ's thought of the
kingdom, with its interlacing network of obligations, we have still need
that some one teach us again the rudiments of the first principles of
the oracles of God.

(2) Again, the kingdom of God, Christ taught, is _present_; it is not
of, but it is in, this world, set up in the midst of the existing order
of things. There are, it is true, passages in which Christ speaks of the
kingdom as in the future, and to come. Thus, _e.g._, He speaks of a time
when men "shall come from the east and west, and from the north and
south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God"; when "the righteous
shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father"; when they
shall "inherit the kingdom prepared for" them "from the foundation of
the world"; and so forth. But there is no real contradiction between
this and what has been already said. The kingdom is a growth, a movement
working itself out in history, and therefore it may be said to be past,
present, or future, according to our point of view. In the sense that it
has not yet fully come, that its final consummation is still waited for,
it is future; and so sometimes Christ speaks of it. But it is simply
impossible to do justice to all His sayings and deny that in His thought
the kingdom is also present. Its consummation may belong to the future,
its beginnings are here already. When Christ calls it the kingdom of
_heaven_, it is rather its origin and character that are suggested than
the sphere of its realization. In parable after parable He speaks of it
as a secret silent energy already at work in the world. He called on men
here and now to seek it, and to enter it. So eagerly were the lost and
the perishing pressing into it that once He declared that from the days
of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven suffered violence. Not in some
future heaven but here "on earth" He bade His disciples pray that God's
will might be done. "When Jesus said the kingdom of heaven, be sure He
did not mean an unseen refuge, whither a handful might one day escape,
like persecuted and disheartened Puritans fleeing from a hopeless

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