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Gospel may be true all the time and you responsible for rejecting it. How can ye believe, with your worldly lives, and ambitious projects, and covetous practices. How can ye believe, whose only idea of glory is that which sinning and dying men like yourselves may give and take away as it pleases them ; who have no heart and no thought for the glory which the only God gives to those who seek Him, to those who feel that His favour is life, and that at His right hand there are pleasures for ever.
“ How can ye believe ?" Lord, by Thy grace convince us of the shame, of the folly, and the wickedness of this earth bounded, time bounded, sight bounded existence; this miserable creature worship, world worship, self worship; and draw up our thoughts to that clearer sky, that brighter heaven, that more glorious presence in which angels that have not sinned, and spirits washed white in the blood of the Lamb, worship Thee with a holy worship, and are made full of joy with Thy countenance !
Topiqal Outlines for the Qonit.
SUNDAYS AFTER TRINITY-SEVENTEENTH TO TWENTIETH.
Water-Marks of the Divine Life.
I TIMOTHY iii. 15, 16. “ The pillar and ground of the truth, And without controversy great, is the mystery of godliness, He who was manifested in the flesh.”
We have here, perhaps, the clauses of the first Christian creed ever formulated—the form of sound words which infants were taught to lisp, and which martyrs proclaimed from the bloody amphitheatre or the cross or stake. It is the confession of Evangelical truth and history maintained in the first ages, and reiterated boldly amid persecution and apostacy. Or, considering its parallelisms and measured periods, it may have been one of the earliest Christian Hymns which believers sang to Christ as God and Lord—a song which gladdened their hearts and raised their hopes and soothed their troubles-one with which they made nights in prison vocal, and which they boldly rung out in their last hours when they refused to accept deliverance by the denial of their Saviour.
I cannot accept the punctuation of the text as it stands, in either the authorised version or the revised. It cannot be that the Church, the congregation of believers, can either be a pillar or foundation of Essential Truth. The Church has already been described as the house of God; the addition of the new metaphors weakens the force of its completeness. They are implied in the description already. The idea of the Church being this lies at the root of all ecclesiastical pretension and error. It has made the school of disciples a tribunal, and changed a footstool into a tyrant's throne. It has warranted persecution and saturated the earth with blood. The Church is not the pillar and ground of the Truth, but the Truth—“I am the Truth” is the pillar and ground of the Church.
In the Authorised Version, the reading was God was manifest in the flesh, In the Revised Version it is He Who was manifest. The reading of all the great MSS. and early versions, is certainly Who, or Which, some adopting the masculine and some the neuter pronoun. The difference between the sign for Who and for God is simply a single stroke drawn through the letter. If the word had been God the designation would have been explicit and direct. But as it is Who, it is not the less clearly implied, and an implicit declaration is often stronger and not weaker than one explicit, because it is wrought into the texture of the speech, and cannot be separated from it. But more than this : “ The Mystery"—that is, that which was formerly unknown-is He Who was manifested in the flesh. The word “manifested means to bring within the range of human vision—to make apparent. The light from some stars has been travelling towards the earth at the rate of 192,000 miles in a second ever since the creation. It falls at last upon human sight, and we say a new planet has been discovered.” What we mean is that now, at last, that which existed always has come to light, has been manifested. So the word used here does not describe mere birth, coming into being, but it implies, and necessarily implies, pre-existence. He was; and then, long after, He was seen of men. He appeared among men. He was manifested in the flesh. The words imply and express the idea that He was much more than man; and this was the faith of Paul and the early Church, who sang hymns of praise to Christ as God.
We trace in the Gospels the perfect manhood of the Lord, and become conscious of the unity of the portraiture presented by the four Evangelists of the Immaculate Life. He is the Son of man, and in Him man is exalted to nearness of communion with God. He was the most Godlike of all the heroes of earth and time. He is the bridge from manhood up to Divinity, from human up to Divine Life! But is this all ? Is this enough ? Does this satisfy human necessity? Does this exhaust the representation of the Evangelists and of the Apostle Paul ? The answer is, no. Man is not only to climb up to God, God is to come down to men. The great wonder and manifestation of the New Tes. tament is God in the appearance and likeness of a man-God become man that He may reveal Himself fully and clearly and tenderly to man. Jesus Christ is the man who is God, and the God who is man. He is more than the ideal of humanity, He is the Revelation and Presence of God Himself. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. The thought recurs again and again. It is wrought into the very tissue of the revelation. You cannot separate it from it anyhow. The forms in which it appears are endless. He is the Word - the absolute Revelation of God Himself as an object of Thought. He is the Life—the Nature of the Creating God disclosed. He is the Lightthe Truth and Holiness of God made manifest. He is the Way—the medium of knowledge and communion, the point at which earth and heaven meet. He says in the sublime grandeur of His Divine Consciousness : “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” In Jesus Christ the Eternal Love has descended into the society of fallen men, enclosed its power within the limits of an earthly human existence ; and having accomplished the work of human redemption, it ascends up from lowness to loftiness, and out from narrowness into the breadth of a world-embracing power and efficiency. This is a portion at least of the teaching of the Evangelists and Apostles in relation to Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and of the history of His Divine Sonship.
" The mystery is confessedly and without controversy great; ” but He was “ mani. fested in the flesh."
Our age is busying itself with theories of causation and the development of higher forms of life out of lower. Nature cannot be tampered with ; everything must be a result of purely natural causes which may be sought and found. We are to trace presently, the ascent of a primitive form of life into a mature man. But here is a fact. There are men who have become Christian men. Is that a natural process of self-development or is itthe great power of God? They are Christians, not so much through “ their belief in a muscle of the throat; in the arch of the foot; in the angle at which the great toe is planted”-as by virtue of their belief in the Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ as the means, and power of their personal redemption. Men may explain consciousness, sensation, the mechanism of the joints—the relation of the arch of the foot and the ball of the thumb to the size and texture of the brain-but this will not go one step towards explaining and accounting for Jesus Christ and the new life of men Him. There is no theory of development which can produce the mystery of godliness and the world's worship of the Divine Personality when it was manifested. We are told that men are products of the forces around them—their parents, education, climate, and food ; that the hope and pride of every creature is to succeed, to maintain itself, to trample upon others, to assert itself over their ruins, to live in spite of them. But if so, how does it happen, how is it to be accounted for, that in the world's worst hour—when art, poetry, culture, sculpture, and song were in chains at the feet of a despot; when paganism was adoring impartially Cats and Cæsars as divine; when the gladiator was more enviable and the lost more pure than the ruler of the world ; and when its inheritance was merely accumulated traditions of blood, and lust, and selfishness; there arose a new Life, altogether opposed in its principles, and ongoings, and activities, to the life of the age and the ages; turning the virtues the world applauded, upside down ; setting loyalty to duty above self-interest ; proclaiming and manifesting the sublime grandeur of self-sacrifice; dethroning pride, ambition, worldly wisdom-crowning the attributes which sages branded—lowliness of mind, meekness, pity and helpfulness of the fallen, forgiveness of injuries, and condescension even to the death of the Cross ? Christ is a New Fact in human history; and He cannot be accounted for on any principle of human development. He cannot be classified with ordinary men or great saints and heroes, so vastly does He outstrip them all. There is only one way of account. ing for Him. It is found in the Apostolic declaration. “ The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." The pillar and ground of the Truth is the mystery of Godliness-confessedly great. “God was manifest in the flesh.”
Christ cannot be classified with ordinary men, or the world's saints and heroes. There is not a page of the New Testament in which He does not appear, while arrayed in human garb, as more than man. He is styled “God blessed for ever.” “To be equal with God was not a thing or prize He needed to snatch at." “ In Him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The humanity is regarded in such places as unnecessary to Him who has assumed it. He is “the man Christ Jesus,” but also, “ God our Saviour.” “ David's root and offspring,” He is yet “David's Lord.” Then, attributes of infinity and limitation are assigned to Him. “ He came down from heaven” but is “the Son of man in heaven.” He is “a man of sorrows” but “ Jehovah of Hosts ”_" « Не
is the Lord from heaven” as well as “the second man.” His doings are on the scale and by the power of the Omnipotent: “My Father worketh hitherto and I work." Then, He is dependent, but also self-sufficient. His goings forth were from old from Everlasting. He is a Saviour-Christ, the Lord, or Jehovah. He has power to lay down His life and take it again. He has “ Life in Himself.” He sanctifies Himself. He is the good—there is only one good. “I and my Father are one. His is “ Divine Power.” He receives the homage of all worlds. He bows his head and dies. He is “the Brightness of the Father's glory and the express image" or representation of His Essence. He is in the form of God. The form is that which is essential to the existence of a thing. The form of a table is the table. But it may have many shapes. It may be made of many substances. The form of God in which He was found is the Essence of God, without which He could not be. Christ is, therefore, Embodied Divinity. We derive our knowledge of it from Him. He is its only representation. “The light of the knowledge of the Glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.”
This Divine Power and Sonship of the Lord Jesus are not afterthoughts-new pieces sewn upon the old garments of a career which, however admirable, was yet after all only human. If it had been so we should have been able to detect the patchwork and the seam. Instead of this, the Divine elements are the watermarks in the paper of this publication; the threads woven into all the texture of warp and woof; and it is inseparable from the finished product of the Gospel loom. You cannot have the Christ if you do not take Him in His Divine-Human character and relations—for in the attempt to dissever them you destroy Him ; mangle His character; and break down utterly and sweep away His moral beauty, grandeur, and nobility. He becomes less than man if He be not the One-God manifest in the flesh.
Christ was the subject of His own teaching. The setting forth of His Divine Personality was the truth. He placed morality on a new basis—but one which could not bear it up if He were not Supreme and Divine-one indeed which could only be regarded as the insanity of egotism if He were but man. My sake.” That is the supreme motive power of the world's regenerated life. “For My sake.” He established a Kingdom on the basis of love to Himself. The love of Christ is with Him humanity's highest law. It is clearly impossible on these grounds to classify Jesus as a mere man. If He were nothing more, the arrogance would repel from Him; and yet we feel that these extreme claims are neither forced nor unnatural. Here the story of Jesus parts company with every other creation of human genius. He claims the control and rule of all worlds. He claims the exclusive Divine secret. “ All things are delivered unto Me of My Father; and no man knoweth the Son but the Father ; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him.” The world's weary and heavy laden have only to come to Him, and they shall find rest. His field is the world. He will raise up men at the last day. He is Judge of the quick and the dead. If this be Egotism it is so stupendous that it destroys moral virtue and all claim to be regarded with the heart's trust. Regard Him as merely human, and these facts are not only inexplicable, they render the Gospel as we have it unworthy a sacred, spiritual trust. Regard Him as God manifest in the flesh, and every
thing is congruous, harmonious, natural—what we need—what satisfies the cravings of the heart both of men and sinners.
Great is the Mystery of Godliness. is a greatness perfect, unparalleled, Divine. It is a greatness worthy of God and one which glorifies Him-declares His perfections. It vindicates the plan and wonder of creation. It vindicates all the course and order of the Divine government of the world. Everything leads up to it, or points back to its occurrence. It is so great that Time might have seen none other event and history recorded none other tale.
Great is the Mystery of Godliness. It solves religious difficulties. It is a grand Interpretation. It is a key to cyphers. It is the substance of shadows. It is the fulfilment of hopes and visions. It gives light and meaning to all “ dark sayings of old."
Great is the Mystery of Godliness. It is the centre of the Redemptive system. Revelation, sacrifice, sin-offering, justification of the ungodly, sanctification, eternal glory-all hinge upon the Divinity of Him set forth as the Propitiation and Redeemer. A human helper cannot save a guilty humanity.
Great is the Mystery of Godliness. It commands and exerts the most powerful influence. No unreal person and no merely human person could wield a power like the power of Jesus. The Myths of India cover like a veil the sleeping and impassive face of Asia ; but when the voice of Europe penetrates her slumber, her first uneasy movements to shake them off begins. But why? “ Because it is Jesus who leads the West in her wakeful quest for Truth, fires her energies, developes her originality, directs her culture, inspires her exploits, peoples the ocean with her colonies.” He is not only a living soul but a Lifegiving Spirit. To-day there is scarcely an unbaptized race which enjoys liberty or even sighs for it. There is not a Christian people to whom liberty is not dearer than life. There is not a nation of the reformed Faith in whose ears her voice is not full and clear as the wind among the mountain pines. As it was foretold of the Divine Son that He would make us free indeed, so the face of the world teaches all men that where the Spirit of the Divine Lord is, there is Liberty.
The religions of old Egypt, Babylon, and Tyre are dead-dead as though they had never existed. The bright and romantic religions of Greece and Rome have shared the same fate. The sweetest poetry could only embalm the dead remains. We may see the old face ; but there is no throb of life, no voice to answer us. “ 'Tis Greece, but living Greece no more.” The religions of the East are now bed-ridden in their decrepitude. But the religion of God manifest in the flesh is to-day saving men who believe, meeting their deepest necessities, and satisfying their utmost cravings. The eleven first disciples have become hundreds of millions. The temples of the worship of Jesus Christ overtop our proudest palaces. The name of this Incarnate Lord is the name above every name. In spite of hatred, obloquy, and reproach, when the skies blacken, and the darkness thickens, and the mortal reels and faints, and through the midnight comes the prayer of the dying, “ Lord, Remember Me!” He comes in Divine Power ; and the foes of the Spirit are disarmed; and its fears are quelled, and the eternal peace enters in, because the spirit knows whom it has believed, and feels that He is able to save it to the uttermost.
If He were