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THE HEADSHIP OF THE SON OF MAN.
REV. NATHANIEL MORREN, A. M.,
MINISTER OF THE FIRST CHARGE, BRECHIN.
JOHN v. 27. “ And hath given him authority to execute judgment also,
because he is the Son of Man.”
We are informed at the beginning of the chapter, that there was at this time " a feast of the Jews,”-one of the three great annual festivals at which the adult males of the nation were expected to present themselves; and Jesus, that he might fulfil all righteousness, had come up to Jerusalem to keep the feast. But combining, as his manner ever was, - merey with " sacrifice”— acts of beneficence with works of piety-he went about the city - doing good.” Whererer the wretched were likely to be found, thither the compassionate Redeemer alwars directed his steps; and repairing accordingly to the pool of Bethesda, he found its five porches crowded as a lazar-house, with a great multitude of impotent folk- of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.” Selecting the most wretched and helpless of the crowd—a man who had had an infirmity for the long period of thirty-eight years, and who had long frequented Bethesda's pool, but daily coming friendless, was daily doomed to return unhealed, Jesus said to him, and said with immediate effect, “ Rise, take up thy bed and walk.” But the day of this miraculous cure happened to be the sabbath-day. The Jews therefore said to him that was healed—“This is the Sabbath-day; it is not lawful for thee to carry thy couch.” The poor man, though a stranger as yet to Him who had been his great physician, answered them with all the native simplicity and force of truth,—“He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up thy bed and walk.” He at once felt the conclusiveness of the demonstration, that the person who had performed on him so notable and gracious a miracle could not possibly be an irreligious or a wicked man — that the supernatural skill which had healed his body could not but be a sure and safe guide for the direction of his soul-yea, that He who had shown himself invested with such power over nature and nature's works, must be Lord “even of the sabbath day."
The Jews, however, were not satisfied with this reasoning, but assailed Jesus himself on the subject, and it was in the course of his remarkable vindication of himself from their aspersions, that he gave utterance to the words of the text. Clearly asserting his equality with the Father, (for so the Jews understood him, and he acquiesced in the interpretation they put upon his words,) and maintaining his consequent ability and right to do the Father's works, he had said, “ My Father worketh hitherto, and I also work. What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” And then, passing on to a statement of his attributes and prerogatives as Mediator—being at once the Son of God and the Son of Man-he declares with emphatic solemnity: “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, the hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of Man."
It is always with reluctance that we advert to any thing like an error or defect in our excellent authorised version of the Scriptures ; nor can we do so at present without rendering a humble testimony to its general fidelity and beauty, which have never yet been surpassed. As to the words of the text, however,—“he hath given him authority to execute judgment,”—it must be admitted that they convey an imperfect, not to say an incorrect notion of the comprehensive meaning of the original. To be nothing more than an executioner of the decrees of divine justice, is not necessarily a distinction which confers honour. That is an authority which God has often committed to fallen angels ; nay, he has sometimes employed in the execution of “ his work, his strange work, judgment,” the basest and most worthless of men. “ O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger ! the staff in whose hand is that of my wrath.” “ Deliver my soul from the wicked who are thy sword; from men who are thy hand, O Lord.” But the authority which the Father hath given to the Son in reference to judgment, is something more than that; it includes far more than merely appointing him to be the official minister of his vengeance; and, indeed, the expression * here plainly bears, that unto Jesus as Messiah, God has given “ even the judicial authority," that is, the right to exercise and pronounce judgment as well as to execute it,-in short, has entrusted and committed to him all authority throughout the universe, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come. This view is confirmed by the similar declaration which Christ had made a little before, (v. 22,) “ For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment, (viz. all right and power to judge,) unto the Son.” And at the thirtieth verse he adds,—" As I hear I judge, and my judgment is just.”
The text, then, as thus explained, will lead our devout contemplations—First, to the Judicial Authority which Christ exercises ; and, Secondly, to the Reason for this arrangement in the Divine economy," because he is the Son of Man.” I invite you to consider,
* Kpíow torsiv; literally, “ to do judgment,” viz., to judge.
I. The Judicial Authority which the Lord Jesus Christ, as Mediator, is here said to exercise by the appointment of God, the Father.
Now by Christ, as Mediator, receiving from the Father judicial authority, we simply understand his being placed at the head of the government of all things, according to his own declaration made to his Apostles immediately before his ascension to glory ; “ all power is given unto me,”—all authority is committed to me “ in heaven and on earth.” Is judgment exercised in correctly framing laws for the regulation of society ? The Son of Man is the all-wise lawgiver. Is judgment exercised in the steady, vigorous, and effective administration of the laws? The Son of Man is the great interpreter, the supreme administrator of the statutes of his own kingdom. Are laws infringed, and must their sanctions and penalties be enforced? And is judgment exercised in enforcing them in an equitable and impartial manner? The Son of Man, (to use a term borrowed from human affairs,) is the chief magistrate of the universe ; and as he now forms in his wisdom, so he will at last pronounce in his majesty, and execute by his might, the respective judgments on the acquitted and the condemned.
That we may, therefore, take a comprehensive view of the royal prerogatives of our exalted King, let us consider his judicial authority, both as present and future.
And in adverting to the former point, (upon which we mean chiefly to dwell,) viz., Christ's kingly power as presently exercised; observe 1st, That the Father hath given to the Son all judicial authority over the affairs of this