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THE PROPOSITION “ THAT CHRIST IS GOD,” PROVED TO BE FALSE
FROM THE JEWISH AND THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES
BY REV. JAMES MARTINEAU
" FOR THOUGH THERE BE THAT ARE CALLED GODS, WHETHER IN HEAVEN
OR IN EARTH (AS THERE BE GODS MANY, AND LORDS MANY), BUT
SCARCELY had Christ retired from our world, before his influence began to be felt by mankind in two different ways. He transformed their Worship, and purified their interpretation of Duty. They have ever since adored a holier God, and obeyed a more exalted rule of right. Looking upward. they have discerned in heaven a Providence more true and tender than they had believed ; looking around, they have seen on earth a service allotted to their conscience, nobler and more responsible than they had thought before. Watched from above by an object of infinite trust and veneration, they have found below a work of life most sacred, to be performed by obedient wills beneath his sight. Faith has flown to its rest there, and conscience has toiled in its task here, with a tranquil energy never seen in a world not yet evangelized.
To suppose that a set of moral precepts, however wise and
authoritative, could ever have produced, in either of these respects, the effects which have flowed from Christianity, seems to me altogether unreasonable. Had Christ done no more than leave in the world a sound code of ethics, his work would probably have expired in a few centuries, and have been very imperfect while it endured. A few prudential and dispassionate minds would have profited by its excellence; but never would it have trained the affections of childhood, or overawed the energy of guilt, or refined the rugged heart of ignorance, or consecrated the vigils of grief.
The power of Christ's religion is not in his precepts, but in his person ; not in the memory of his maxims, but in the image of Himself. He is his own system; and, apart from him, his teachings do but take their place with the sublimest efforts of speculation, to be admired and forgotten with the colloquies of Socrates, and the meditations of Plato. Himself first, and his lessons afterwards, have the hearts of the people ever loved : his doctrines, indeed, have been obscured, his sayings perverted, his commands neglected, the distinctive features of his instructions obliterated, but he himself has been venerated still; his unmistakeable spirit has corrected the ill-construed letter of the Gospel; and preserved some unity of life amid the various, and even opposing developments of Christian civilization.
The person of Christ may be contemplated as an object of religious reverence, or as an object of moral imitation. He may appear to our minds as the representative of Deity, or as the model of humanity ; teaching us, in the one case, what we should believe, and trust, and adore in heaven; in the other, what we should do on earth :the rule of faith in the one relation, the rule of life in the other.
Did his office extend only to the latter, were he simply an example to us, displaying to us merely what manhood ought to be, he might indeed constitute the centre of our morality; but he would not properly belong to our religion : he would
be the object of affections equal and social, not devout; he would take a place among things human, not divine; would be the symbol of visible and definite duties, not of unseen and everlasting realities. A Christianity which should reduce him to this relation, would indeed be a step removed above the mere cold preceptive system, which depresses him into a law-giver ; but it would no more be entitled to the name of a religion, than the Ethics of Aristotle, or the Offices of Cicero.
It is then as the type of God, the human image of the everlasting Mind, that Christ becomes an object of our Faith. Once did a dark and doubting world cry, like Philip on the evening of Gethsemane, “ Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us:" but now has Christ “ been so long with us” that we, “who have seen him, have seen the Father.” This I conceive to have been the peculiar office of Jesus ; to show us, not to tell us, the spirit of that Being who spreads round us in Infinitude, and leads us through Eternity. The universe had prepared before us the scale of Deity; Christ has filled it with his own spirit; and we worship now, not the cold intellectual deity of natural religion; not the distant majesty, the bleak immensity, the mechanical omnipotence, the immutable stillness, of the speculative Theist's God: but One far nearer to our worn and wearied hearts; One whose likeness is seen in Jesus of Nazareth, and whose portraiture, suffused with the tints of that soul, is impressed upon creation; One, therefore, who concerns himself with our humblest humanities, and views our world with a domestic eye, Whose sanctity pierces the guilty mind with repentance, and then shelters the penitent from rebuke; who hath mercy for the victims of infirmity, and a recall for the sleepers in the grave. Let Messiah's mind pass forth to fill all time and space; and you behold the Father, to whom we render a
In order to fulfil this office of revealing, in his own per
son, the character of the Father, Christ possessed and manifested all the moral attributes of Deity. His absolute holiness; his ineffable perceptions of right; his majestic rebuke of sin ; his profound insight into the corrupt core of worldly and hypocritical natures, and to the central point of life in the affectionate and genuine soul ; his well-proportioned mercies and disinterested love, fill the whole meaning of the word Divine : God can have no other, and no more, perfection of character intelligible to us.
These moral attributes of God, we conceive to have been compressed, in Christ, within the physical and intellectual limits of humanity; to have been unfolded and displayed amid the infirmities of a suffering and tempted nature; and, during the brevity of a mortal life, swiftly hurried to its close. And this immersion of divine perfection in the darkness of weakness and sorrow, so far from forfeiting our appreciation of him, incalculably deepens it. The addition of infinite force, mechanical or mental, would contribute no new ingredient to our veneration, since force is not an object of reverence; and it would take away the wonder and grandeur of his soul, by rendering temptation impossible, and conflict a pretence. Since God cannot be pious, or submissive to his own providence, or cast down in doubt of his own future, or agonized by the insults of his own creatures, such a combination seems to confuse and destroy all the grounds of veneration, and to cause the perfection of Christ to pass in unreality away.
To this view, however, of the person of Christ, Trinitarians object as defective; and proceed to add one other ingredient to the conception, viz., that he possessed the physical an intellectual attributes of Deity ;-that he is to be esteemed no less eternal, omnipotent and omnipresent, than the Ir nite Father; the actual creator of the visible universe, of the very world into which he was born and of the mother who bare him, of the disciples who followed and of the enemics