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§ 261. Christ’s Struggles of Soul, and Submission to the Divine Will.—The Voice from Heaven. (John, xii., 27-29.)

At the same time that the great creation to proceed from his sufferings was expanding before his eyes, the struggles of soul to which we have before alluded were renewed within him. The life of God in him did not exclude the uprising of human feelings, in view of the sufferings and death that lay before him, but only kept them in their proper limits. Not by unhumanizing himself, but by subordinating the human to the Divine, was he to realize the ideal of pure human virtue; he was to be a perfect example for men, even in the struggles of human weakness.

Now is my soul troubled!” But, sorely as the terrors of his dying struggle pressed upon him, they could not shake his will, strong in God, or disturb the steadfast calmness of his mind. He does not, in obedience to the voice of nature, pray to be exempted from the dying hour: “I cannot say, Father, save me from this hour; for this cause have I been brought to this hour, not to escape, but to suffer it.”695695   John, xii., 27. Cf. Kling, Stud. u. Krit., 1836, iii., 676. In full consciousness he had looked forward to it from the beginning, as essential to the fulfilment of his work. Therefore all his feelings and wishes are concentrated upon the one central aim of his whole life, that God may be glorified in mankind by his sufferings: “Father glorify thy name!

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As he uttered this fervent prayer, the very breathing of unselfish holiness. there came a voice696696   Some interpret this account as a mythus, founded upon the Jewish idea of the Bath-Col. But the difficulties in the account are not of a nature to justify this view, or to impeach the veracity of the narrator. On the contrary, the very point on which the mythical theory seizes, viz., that in this case a natural phenomenon conveyed a special import to the religious consciousness, and the very difficulty itself of defining the relation between the subjective and the objective, tend to confirm the narrative as a statement of fact. Would the writer have said that the multitude heard only the thunder, and not the words, if he meant to describe a voice sounding in majesty amid the thunder, or a voice sounding with a noise like thunder? Certainly he would have represented it as heard by all, and thus have avoided the possible interpretation that the whole phenomenon was merely subjective. Only on the supposition that it was a real fact, related by an eye-witness, can we account for the clear distinction made by the writer between his own experience in the case and that of others, difficult as it may be for us to discover the common ground of these diverse experiences.
   It is supposed by some that the Bath-Col was nothing else but a subjective interpretation of the Divine voice in thunder, considered as an omen or Divine sign of answer to prayer. Even if this theory be correct, it is clear that John did not mean to record such an omen and interpretation; he really heard the words, and the natural phenomenon must have only been a connecting link for the actual apprehension in his religious consciousness. The matter would have to be thus conceived: The impression made upon John by Christ’s words, and the natural phenomena that attended them, conspired so to affect the susceptible by-standers, that the word of God within them re-echoed the words of Christ. They were assured that His prayer was answered; receiving, in fact, the same impression as that reported in the narrative, though in a different form. And, as the natural phenomenon coincided with the inward operation of the Divine Spirit—a word from the Omnipresent God, who works alike in nature and in spirit—so Christ, who knew that His work was the Father’s, and always recognized God’s omnipresent working, both in nature and in the hearts of men, allowed it to be interpreted as a voice from Heaven.

   But the conception of the Bath-Col, on which this whole interpretation is founded, cannot be sustained. In the Rabbinical passages collected by Meuschen and Vitringa there are no traces of it: they interpret the Bath-Col as a real voice, accompanied by thunder. In the Old Testament, thunder often appears as a sign, indeed, but as a sign of God’s anger or majesty, not of his grace. Still there are difficulties in the way of supposing that in the case before us this voice was audible simply to the senses. In every place in the New Testament in which such a voice is mentioned, it can be traced back to an inward fact and, in the case in question, the voice was heard only by a part, the susceptible minds The hearing, then, depended upon the spiritual condition of the hearer.

   Two points are clearly obvious: (1) there was thunder, and this alone was heard by the unsusceptible multitude; (2) there was a voice from God, heard by the susceptible; and these last, again, lost to outward and sensible impressions, did not hear the thunder.

   In my view of this event, I agree for the most part (and gladly) with my worthy friend Kling; and I agree with him, also, that it is better to acknowledge the existence of inexplicable difficulties, than to twist the text and history, in order to carry out some theory which may suit our own notions (Stud. u. Krit., loc. cit., 676, 677).
from heaven, heard by the believing souls who stood by as witnesses, saying, “I have both glorified my name in thee, and will continue to glorify it.” All his previous life, in which human nature had been made the organ of the perfect manifestation of God in the glory of His holy law, had glorified the name of God; and now his sufferings, and their results, were more and more to glorify that Name, in the establishment of His kingdom among men. The Saviour himself, however, needed no assurance697697   Cf. p. 342. that his prayer was accepted: “This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes.”

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He interpreted the voice, and showed them how God was to be glorified in him: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” His sufferings are his triumph. He finishes his work in them; and they form the sentence of condemnation to the ungodly world. The baselessness of Satan’s kingdom is laid bare. The Evil One is cast down from his throne among men. And Christ’s triumph will still go forward; the power of evil will be more and more diminished; and the Glorified One will not only free his followers from that evil power, but will exalt them to communion with himself in heaven.


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