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The new power they seemed to acquire was the power of a new life. Not they, but the new life arrested men's attention, moved men's hearts, changed their dispositions, commanded their assent, and made them new creatures. The power of Jesus to live and die for man as man, of the Apostles to endure hardships, and perils, and death, in the cause of Humanity, was the moving power, the creator of that mighty change in the face of the moral world effected by preaching the Gospel
This is the view which all the New Testament writers seem to me to take of Christianity. They never, if I rightly recollect, represent the Gospel as a proposition for the intellect to grapple with. They always propound it to the heart; never, I believe, to the understanding. It is the faith indeed, but the faith of the heart, not of the head. It is a life. It is spirit and an influence. Contrasted with Judaism, which the New Testament writers frequently designate as the flesh and as the world, it is spirit, the power of God, and the kingdom or reign of God. It is the spirit of power, of love, and a sound mind; God dwelling in the soul, presiding over the inner man, and guarding all the issues of life. It is the word of God, but not a mere doctrinal proposition which God reveals, for it is “quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The same view is taken by Paul, when he says to the Corinthians,“ We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling-block and unto the Greeks foolishness. But unto them who are called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Jesus speaks of himself as a way, and as the life. “ I am the way and the truth — the resurrection and the life.” “ He that believeth on me shall never die,” and “the dead, who hear my voice, shall live.” “ That,” says John, “which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our
eyes and looked upon, which our hands have handled of the word of life, that declare we unto you; for the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and do bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father and which was manifested unto us.
Now it is evident from the whole tenor of this first Epistle of John, that this “word of life,” this “ life," this “eternal life, which was with the Father," is not an intellectual but a spiritual life. John did not call Christianity a life, because by believing it one would be entitled to life and immortality in the world to come, but because it was life in itself, an endless life, the only life acceptable and well pleasing to God the Father.
We are exhorted to come to Jesus. " Come unto me,” says Jesus, “all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
“ Ye will not come to me that ye may have life.” In order to be what God requires us to be, we must “receive the Son," “ believe on the Son,”. eat his flesh and drink his blood ;” and we are assured that if we do not, we have “no life in us," –"have not eternal life," dead,” — “condemned,” — with the “wrath of God abiding on us." Paul teaches us the same thing by the phrases, being in Christ, and Christ in us, which he so frequently uses. “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.”. any man be in Christ Jesus he is a new creature.” – “If a man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of his.” — “ If Christ be in you the body is dead.”. “ Christ liveth in me.”. " Of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.” — “ That Christ may dwell in your hearts.” —“Christ who is our life.” Now all this, and much more like it, is explained to my understanding, by the exhortation, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
We are taught by it, that in order to be a Christian; to have true, spiritual, eternal life; to be a saint; to be saved; accepted with God; one must have that mind in him, which was in Jesus, be filled with the spirit with which
he was filled ; in a word, be what he was, a son of God, as he was a son of God, a joint-heir with him of the kingdom of heaven. That, by virtue of which one becomes a true Christian, must of course be Christianity; and nothing is more certain than that one becomes a true Christian according to the New Testament, by living and only by living the life which Jesus lived, not by believing what he may have taught, but by being what he was, righteous as he was righteous.
Now nothing is more evident, than that the life which Jesus lived was the life of pure, disinterested love, manifesting itself, on the one hand, in warm and unaffected piety towards God, and, on the other hand, in an abiding and all-enduring friendship for man a friendship which led him to taste death on the cross for the human race. All his divine worth and exalted virtues are integrated in pure, disinterested love. He therefore is able to sum up all his commands in that simple declaration, “ Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” Or more simply still in that new commandment he gave to his disciples, that “they should love one another as he had loved them.” They who observed this commandment were his disciples, and by observing it they were to be known as such. The simple fact, of loving one another as Jesus loved them, was to be a proof unto all men of their discipleship. “ By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one towards another."
If this be accepted, and I see not how it can be avoided, it is certain that Christianity is not a system of theological doctrines, a set of propositions propounded to the understanding, but a life, the life of pure, disinterested love. This conclusion to which I have arrived, if duly considered, will carry us much further, and perhaps help us to solve several important and oftentimes troublesome problems.
The possession of the love which Jesus manifested proves one to be a true disciple. A true disciple is unquestionably a true Christian, one who has true, spiritual, eternal life, and is a subject of the kingdom of God. By possessing this love, then, one becomes precisely what he would be, by coming to Christ, receiving the Son, possessing the Son, by being in Christ, or by having Christ in him. The Christ, the Son, and love, then, are identical. The Christ which sanctifies, the Son which gives life, and the love which proves discipleship are, then, one and the same thing; and the three terms are only so many different terms for expressing the same spirit, power, influence, state, or disposition of the inner or spiritual man.
Now this fact implies a distinction which is sometimes overlooked, a distinction between Jesus and the Christ. Jesus, it is true, is called Christ, the Christ, but I apprehend only by that figure of speech by which the attribute is put for the subject, the character, office, or endowment for the individual. The term Christ was applied to Jesus, because it was supposed that he answered to the Jewish prophecies of a Messiah. But the Jewish Messiah, in strictness, was not a person, but an impersonation of an idea, principle, or power. This I think will readily appear to all who will study the Jewish prophets carefully and without prejudice.
The Jewish prophets were dissatisfied with the state in which they found their nation and the world. In their view, the earth was abandoned to tyranny and oppression, to ignorance and gross idolatry. Darkness covered the land, and gross darkness the people. The nations sat in the region and shadow of death. Justice and judgment were not executed ; truth and holiness had no dominion, and peace no dwelling-place. Men knew not God, and loved not one another. But this could not last forever. By the Holy Spirit with which they were inspired, they foresaw that the period must come round when this state of things would cease to exist. They saw in that distant Future into which God gave them to look, and from which they derived wherewithal to cheer their drooping spirits, that there was an unattained good in reserve for poor, suffering, struggling, downtrodden Humanity ; that the night would run out, a glorious morning dawn, a new sun arise with healing in his beams, to dispel the darkness and dry up pollution; that the sword and spear would be broken, the tyrant overthrown, the captive set free, wrongs and oppressions ended, the true God universally known and worshipped, and the whole earth filled with love
But how is this God-sent vision to be realized ? The movement towards its realization, whether it be of the Jewish or Gentile world, will need a leader, some one who may guide it to the end desired. Hence the conception of the Messiah, of a personage one day to appear, God-anointed, consecrated, commissioned to achieve the universal Palingenesia of man and society. The Messiah of the prophets was a Deliverer, a Renovator, the Father of the age, the new order of things, which they foresaw, would in its appointed time be introduced. At one time they regard him as a prince of the line of David, far surpassing his renowned ancestor, a wise and judicious king reigning in righteousness, the father of his people, caring for the poor and needy; at another time, as a conquering hero, taking vengeance on the enemies of the Jewish nation, breaking the rod of the oppressor, and subjecting the heathen by his might in battle to the Jewish dominion; then again, as a priest, a prophet, an inspired teacher of truth and righteousness, converting the world by moral and spiritual means to the worship of the true God. But these are only the different forms which their fancy, their wants, or prejudices, as individuals or as Jews, necessarily led them to give, if I may be allowed the expression, to the Messianic Idea. Divested of these forms, which are accidental and not necessary to the Idea, the real Messiah of the prophets was the spirit, power, or agency by which the new order of things, in which they believed, was to be introduced and established. VOL. I. NO. 1.