|« Prev||Sec. 1.—The Human Nature of Jesus.||Next »|
Sec. 1.—The Human Nature of Jesus.
As we have seen at an earlier stage of our inquiry, although sin has its true home, its central abode in the will, yet it is not limited to this sphere of our being. On the contrary, the whole spiritual and physical life of man, though in varying 183proportions, is ever found in sympathy therewith. The same thing may be affirmed of sinlessness, only in an opposite direction. Wherever sinlessness is realized, it cannot at all be conceived merely as a quality of our volitions and actions alone, but must ever be regarded as inseparably co-existent with the perfect purity and full development of all the powers of our nature.
This applies first to intellectual knowledge in matters which concern religion and morality. Such knowledge is not indeed the sole, nay, not even the highest and most prolific, element in the religious life; and yet it forms so essential a component thereof, that the existence of perfect religion in general is inconceivable apart from it. On the other hand, if the sinless perfection of any one person is proved, this will be the most valid and direct guarantee that he is possessed also of perfect and complete knowledge in the spheres of religion and morality.
In this sense, above all, does Jesus express Himself. Even when speaking in general terms, He ever combines the knowledge of Divine truth with the moral condition. It is in the Sermon on the Mount230230 Matt. v. 8. that we hear from His lips that great saying—‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’—which lays down purity of heart as the fundamental condition of the highest, i.e. the intuitive knowledge of God, and, at the same time, regards the latter as the blessed effect of the former. Elsewhere He makes veracity of doctrine, and consequently that knowledge which must be its foundation, dependent upon the seeking not our own glory, but the glory of God;231231 John vii. 18. and, consequently, upon a full surrender of ourselves to God. Again, He points out as the surest way of being convinced that His own doctrine was indeed from God, an earnest desire to do the will of God.232232 John vii. 17. In other words, He says plainly enough, that in religion it is not he 184 who desires only to know who will attain this end, but he alone who actually does the will of God as far as he yet knows it, and thus proves the moral sincerity of his efforts. Moreover, Christ makes the most direct application to His own case of that which has been here advanced. This He does rather more obscurely, when He declares the reason of His teaching by the Father, and of His continual abiding with the Father, to be, that He does ‘always those things that please Him.’233233 John viii. 28, 29. He does this, however, in the very plainest manner, in that chief passage in which He chiefly testifies to His own sinlessness,234234 John viii. 46.—‘Which of you convinceth me of sin?’—by immediately adding to these words, ‘And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?’ He here, with a certainty which leaves nothing to be desired, makes His sinlessness the pledge of the truth of His doctrine. Nay, we cannot but say, that to prove His doctrine to be truth, is, properly speaking, the very aim of His discourse; for He bears testimony to His sinlessness, not so much for the sake of this testimony itself, as for the purpose of thus authenticating Himself as the announcer of Divine truth. There would be no need, He seems to say, for your believing a sinner in things Divine; but you must of necessity acknowledge that one who can confidently appeal before God and man to the sinless purity of his life and character, cannot but be also a trustworthy and infallible witness.235235 Compare the discussions of this subject in Stier’s Reden Jesu, Pt. iv. pp. 427, 310; and Gess’s Lehre von der Person Chr. pp. 364-372.
The infallibility which the Lord Jesus thus simply claims in this concise but forcible manner, follows also from the very nature of the mental faculties. The human mind, however psychology may divide its powers and activities, is not really separated into different departments. It is absolutely one mind, though manifesting itself in various manners, and exerting 185itself in different directions. The threads of our whole intellectual` life are so subtly and inextricably interwoven, that ‘every stroke (on one) strikes a thousand connected therewith;’ that every influence from without affects the whole mind; and that in every action from within, each power of the mind in its measure participates. The man as thinking cannot be separated from the man as willing, nor the man as willing from the man as knowing. It is this indivisible unity of the mind which makes it inconceivable, that the same person should, with regard to religion and morality, be perfect as to volitions and acts, and defective as to knowledge. It is indeed very possible that the special talents belonging to some one department of life may, by a vigorous but one-sided cultivation, attain to a degree of development which is lacking to all the other mental powers. But it cannot hence be inferred that in the general department of the highest relations of human life, the practice may reach the degree of perfection, while knowledge remains in a state of imperfection. As sin here exercises a darkening influence on the reason, so, on the other hand, does purity of life secure purity of knowledge, while the latter is also the condition of the former. In fact, in this region there cannot be said to be a truth which belongs merely to one side. Whatever deserves the name, whatever is so called in holy. Scripture, is in reality life-truth,—truth in which the knowledge of God, and the desire to do His will, are by mutual interpenetration combined into a perfect unity. This being the case, the very existence of sinless perfection presupposes an infallibility of knowledge in things religious and moral, and therefore a freedom from all error.236236 Hase defines ‘infallibility’ as the other side of religious perfection, with respect to the possession and communication of knowledge (Leben Jesu, § 32). Comp. Schleiermacher’s Dogmatik, ii. 223, and his fourth Festpredigt. Hence we are 186justified both in inferring the former from the latter, and in regarding sinlessness in purpose and action as a pledge of the absence of all error in knowledge and doctrine;—to which must indeed be added, that this can, in fact, be fully applied to none but Him who, alone of the whole human race, has made good the claim to absolute perfection.
That Jesus was fully conscious of possessing such infallible knowledge of things religious and moral, is obvious from the very manner of His teaching. We read in the Gospels that ‘He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes;237237 Matt. vii. 49. that the people were astonished at His teaching;238238 Matt. xiii. 54, xxii. 33. that the officers sent by the priests and Pharisees to apprehend Him testified, ‘Never man spake like this man;’239239 John vii. 46. and that the Apostle Peter exclaimed in the name of his fellow apostles, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.’240240 John vi. 68. Is it asked in what did the power of His words consist? We reply, not in the force, beauty, or perfection of diction, which may in other cases make human eloquence powerful and influential; for, however appropriate even the very words of Christ, in all their abundant variety, may be, artistic effect is the very last thing to be thought of in this connection. On the contrary, their power lay entirely in the fact that they were in perfect unison with His personality, and that this personality was of a nature which made His words incomparably important as to their matter, and powerfully affecting as to their form.
The teaching of Jesus was no delivery of lectures on the general truths of religion and morality, but the living testimony of facts and realities. The fact that the kingdom of God had already come, its nature, constitution, and future prospects, and, above all, His own position therein as its Head and King, as He in whom the Father was to be glorified, and 187the human race to find redemption,—such was the main purport of His teaching. Its manner, however, was that of self-testimony and self-manifestation. This is the reason that it exhibits nothing of sudden and violent exultation, no unexpected bursts of enthusiasm, but always that same peace, and that same undisturbed tranquillity, by which His actions were also pervaded. There is, however, another feature, which may be regarded as its most distinctive mark; and this is, its absolute elevation above all that is uncertain and problematical,—its utter exclusion of all doubt or hesitation, On the contrary, it claims a supreme authority, and is supported by a certainty and confidence on the part of Him who imparts it, which we meet with in no other teacher. There is in it a tone of Divine demonstration which, notwithstanding the humility of the speaker, declares that that which He advances is perfectly unanswerable. When the external effect of such a manner of teaching is considered, we are constrained to acknowledge that, viewed in conjunction with the indwelling truth and saving power of His announcements, it must have given to the words of Jesus the greatest possible emphasis, and have secured for them the most abundant results. When regarded, however, with respect to the teacher Himself; such a mode of instruction could only be justified and explained in the case of one in immediate and secure possession of that which He announced,—of One who spoke that which He knew, and testified that which He had seen.241241 John iii. 11, compared with Matt. xi. 27. Some excellent remarks on this feature of Christ’s teaching will be found in Young’s Christ of History. None but one perfectly sinless could thus have spoken. Teaching of this kind, whether we consider its matter or manner, would, in the mouth of a man that was a sinner, have been the grossest presumption. But from the lips of Him whose life was one uninterrupted communion 188with God, it was both the natural and necessary expression of His inmost nature, of His entire personality. If testimony, powerful in itself, and capable of resounding through the whole world, was to be given concerning a higher state of things, this could have been done only as Jesus did it; but, on the other hand, none could have so given it, but One who, in virtue of His sinless perfection, was an unerring witness in things pertaining to God.
That which has been advanced is not, however, important with regard only to the intellectual side, but is equally applicable to the emotional and imaginative powers, nay, even to the physical basis of life, to the whole man in general. In all these respects, sin, on the one hand, proceeds from a spurious excitement which both disturbs and destroys the true unity of life, and, on the other, begets such an excitement in an aggravated form. With sinlessness, on the contrary, an entirely opposite process takes place. We cannot conceive of sinlessness otherwise than in conjunction with a simple and harmonious movement of the feelings, with a pure and spotless activity of the imagination, and with a condition of physical life in which the spirit that rules the whole man finds its appropriate expression, and a well-ordered and sufficient instrument, for the execution of its higher aims and purposes. It will. be, moreover, wherever it exists, the foundation for an undisturbed and healthy development of the life in all these aspects. Sinless perfection can only grow from a life whose whole condition, and all whose functions are in every respect pure. Of such a life it is the noblest fruit. And while it is thus the natural result of such a state, it becomes again, in its turn, the power which maintains the entire life in health and purity.
It was precisely this which was exemplified in the historical manifestation of Him whom we know as the only 189sinless man. Jesus participated in every human feeling, from the most powerful to the tenderest, and appreciated such feelings in others in the most open and delicate manner. At the grave of Lazarus He wept with them that wept, and at Cana He rejoiced with them that rejoiced. His indignation overflowed against the Pharisees and the desecrators of the temple, while He ever manifested the tenderest compassion towards all who were in need of His help. He exhibited in presence of His enemies a heroic readiness for conflict, and to His friends a love willing to lay down life for their sake. In all His sorrow, however, as in all His joy, there was no worldly element, but that deep and Divine seriousness which gave to every emotion its due proportion. His indignant zeal never degenerated into violence, because it was aroused for the honour of God, and His pity never sank to weakness, because it aimed at the real good of those who craved His assistance. And as even on the cross He had thoughts of peace for His bitterest foes, so, when truth demanded it, He had words of sharp rebuke for His nearest friends. His every emotion and every frame of mind, Moreover, bore the impress of holy purity, while peace, which was the distinctive mark of His whole nature, was shed forth over all.
Such, too, was the case with respect to everything belonging to the sphere of the imagination. We perceive from His discourses how truly and clearly He had stored up in His mind the phenomena of nature, and the various conditions of human life and how all these were at His command for the freest and most varied use.242242 Comp. Keim, menschl. Entwickelung Jesu, p. 13. It is, moreover, from the very use He makes of these in figures, parables, etc., that we perceive how pure must have been the springs of that soul in which all was thus reflected, and then formed into the aptest vehicle for the conveyance of eternal truths. If the material 190is derived from nature, it is always those simple, every-day objects most familiar to men’s senses which serve as the foundation, while their treatment manifests the utmost originality, and the finest and most genuine feeling for what is natural. If, on the other hand, it is taken from human life, it is always its great and ever-recurring events which are invoked, and all is so represented that these appear in their actual and genuine nature, and are called by their right names; so that in the very figure, apart from its application, we already find a purifying and enlightening power. Nowhere do we recognise anything far-fetched, distorted, or variable; on the contrary, we everywhere feel that nature and human life have been viewed with a divinely correct and single eye, which has derived from them whatever seemed adapted for expressing and conveying Divine truth. And when this truth is thus popularized, and in the noblest sense embellished, we are at the same time fully impressed with the fact, that the reason why it was thus expressed was not to polish or beautify it, but to bring it to bear with the most striking effect and the greatest power upon those who heard it.243243 Weisse, the author of the Reden über die Zukeruft der evang. Kirche, p. 220, strikingly remarks, that ‘to the moral sinlessness of the Saviour there is a correspondent equally inborn aesthetic spotlessness in His manifestation; and the moral greatness of His nature is reflected in the exalted beauty both of the thoughts He uttered, and of the expressions He employed, to convey the fulness of His meaning,—expressions which seemed on every occasion, and with ever equal force, to be always at His command.’
History offers but very little in the shape of fact, to enable us to say anything definite concerning the physical condition and appearance of Jesus. Hence arose the possibility that very different, and indeed opposite, views could be entertained on the subject at an early period of Church history. One of these views maintained the perfect beauty of His external 191appearance; the other asserted that He was deficient of all beauty, and even unsightly. These views being, however, supported only by inadmissible applications of passages from the Old Testament,244244 The former by Ps. xlv. 8; the latter by Isa. liii. 2. are of no special importance. Yet, even in this respect, we are not without grounds for more tenable conclusions, especially if we take into consideration the inseparable connection between the external and the internal. Sound natural sense will always take for granted that the intrinsic dignity of the Lord Jesus was expressed in His external appearance; and that though it might seem incongruous to attribute to Him a dazzling beauty, yet we may well picture Him to ourselves as possessing a comely and dignified exterior, calculated both to inspire reverence and to awaken confidence. In fact, it is self-evident that a mind of so unique a character must have set its mark, as such, even upon His countenance; and equally so, that the office undertaken by our Lord justifies the supposition that His body was in all respects an instrument perfectly adapted for its accomplishment. In this aspect, we have also a right to insist especially upon a perfectly pure and moral physical development as an element of decided importance with respect to our subject. If there ever existed a personality of whom it might be said that the integrity and well-being of even the bodily organization were preserved by the power of the moral element, and that the corporeal itself was transfigured by the spiritual, it was in the case of Him who was sinlessly perfect. His body was indeed, and in the fullest sense of the term, the temple of the Holy Ghost;245245 1 Cor. vi. 19. and we cannot possibly conceive that which so justly deserves to be called a temple of God as aught else than a form of majesty and dignity. Besides, certain undeniable facts testify that we do not err in drawing such a conclusion. On the one 192hand, there is the powerful impression ever made upon all kinds of people, and under every variety of circumstances, by the mere appearance and presence of the Lord Jesus. On the other hand, there is the manner in which He indisputably did accomplish His mission, with all its self-denial, exertions, and conflicts,—a fact utterly incomprehensible, even in its physical point of view, without a corresponding amount of bodily health and vigour.
Thus in Jesus, the sinless One, we have, in every respect, the model of a perfect man. And that designation, ‘Son of Man,’ which He so often applied to Himself, though used chiefly in another sense and with reference to His Messianic office, may yet most rightly be bestowed upon Jesus, as expressing also, that in Him all that was truly human was as clearly impressed as was necessary, if the Divine favour were to rest upon Him, and if a type and example of the true position of man with respect to God were to be given. The sinless and perfect Jesus was the Son of Man, bearing every feature of humanity, but imparting thereto a Divine glory; enduring every human sorrow, but rising superior to all; entering into the very depths of human weakness, yet elevating human nature to a height far surpassing its native powers.
Besides these general features of His human nature, there is another and special feature inseparable from His whole agency and manifestation, which we must not omit to bring forward. This characteristic is one which is not only of the greatest importance in a general point of view, but which, when contemplated from that of His sinless perfection, becomes specially significant, and has much light thrown upon it. We mean the miraculous element in the manifestation of Jesus, upon which we now propose to add a few words.
The miraculous feature running through the whole manifestation 193of Jesus Christ, stands in very close connection with His sinless perfection. To be convinced of this, we have only to take a just view of the relation existing between them. We might entertain some scruples—especially in an argument intended for the present times—in making the miracles which Jesus performed, or which were accomplished in Him, the foundation of our faith in His mission and Person. But the case is different when, from reasons found in Himself and His actions, we recognise Him of whom so much that is miraculous is related, to be absolutely holy. Then miracles appear as only a further consequence of that peculiarity already involved in His personality as such they are but the expression of the same fact in a physical, which sinlessness is in a moral sense. And far from being either a stumbling-block or offence, their absence, in the case of such a Being, would, on the contrary, be regarded as a deficiency. But we must more closely explain our meaning.
The appearance of one sinlessly perfect in the midst of a sinful race is itself a miracle. For thus the continuity of that sin which is everywhere perceptible is broken through, and a new beginning, a perfectly original creation, introduced. And if the essence of a miracle be the appearance, in the ordinary course of nature or history, of something totally new, which can only be referred to a Divine causality, such a feature is found in this instance in its full completeness. Nay, we may even call this appearance the supreme miracle—the miracle of miracles.246246 The poet V. Zedlitz is said a short time before his death to have uttered these significant words: ‘One might have thought that the miracle of miracles was to have created the world, such as it is; yet it is a far greater miracle to lead a perfectly pure life therein.’ At all events, one perfectly sinless is as great a miracle in the moral, as one risen from the dead is in the physical world. Comp. Orelli, Kampf des .Rationalismus mit dem Supernaturalismus, p. 26. For while other miracles are wont to recur, this moral miracle appears but once in 194history. Nor is it merely a miracle of power, but a miracle of holy love; and hence, not accomplished by one single transaction, but only through the sacrifice of an entire life passed till its very last breath in a manner well-pleasing to God. With this prime and fundamental miracle, moreover, the principle of ate miraculous in general is combined with the Person and life of Jesus Christ; and we cannot but expect unique and extraordinary acts and events in the case of One who was Himself thus unique and extraordinary. And first, this is true of the Person of Jesus, independently considered. The connection ordained by God between sin and sorrow, and especially between sin and death, had no application to Him, for the very reason that in Him was no sin. Death could not have had the same significance for Him as for those who are subject thereto, because they are sinners. If He then suffered death, He could not suffer it as the wages of sin; nor could it have the same power over Him as over sinners. In this sense, His resurrection stands in the very closest connection with His freedom from sin.247247 See a further discussion by Doedes, Dissert. de Jesu in vitam reditu, Utrecht 1841, p. 192. Comp. also Reich, die Auferstehung des Herrn ale Heilsthatsache, Darmstadt 1845; especially pp. 208-270. And if this miracle, on which so much depends, is certainly regarded in Scripture as pre-eminently the work, of God in Jesus, we shall be constrained, at the same time, to acknowledge that this very act of Divine power has its hidden cause in the Person of Jesus Himself,—namely, in the fact that He was in truth the Holy One of God,248248 Acts ii. 27. and that, as such, He already possessed perfect life in Himself.249249 John x. 18.
But what has been said applies also to the miracles which Jesus performed on others. Sinless holiness naturally presupposes a freedom and power of will, a purity and fulness of vital energy, in virtue of which we should infer in Him 195in whom it was found, a power of reacting upon His own physical nature, and of exercising an influence upon the nature of other men, and of the world around Him, such as we could not believe possible in the case of those whose minds and wills were enslaved by sin.250250 Comp. my letter to Strauss in my work, Historisch oder Mythisch? pp. 135, etc. At the same time, it is a self-evident notion to every one who seriously believes in the existence of a personal God, ever carrying on His operations in the world and in mankind, that this God will communicate Himself with infinitely greater fulness and abundance where constant intercourse with Himself is found, and vital fellowship with Himself is undisturbed by any kind of sin, than where sin has separated between Him and His creature. Such communication, moreover, will not consist merely of gifts for the benefit of the inner life, but also of powers, by the employment of which it may be shown how the Omnipotent manifests Himself—not only in His moral perfections, but in His control over nature—in His perfect image on earth.
The sinless nature of Jesus was at the same time the source of His perfectly consistent use of miraculous power. In this respect, also, it was holy love which ever determined Him; and this quality is so clearly impressed upon His miracles, that even if no other tokens thereof were bestowed upon us, we might in these alone recognise its distinctive characteristics. Here, too, as everywhere, Jesus was the merciful, condescending, and self-sacrificing Saviour, untiring in His offices of love to the meanest and most wretched, even when of ten that were healed, one only showed any gratitude.251251 Luke xvii. 12-19. Yet, even when He stooped the lowest, all that He did ever kept the highest aim in view,—all was directed towards the glory of God and the salvation of man. He 196ever turned attention from Himself to the Father who had given Him such works to do and even when He bestowed bodily healing or temporal benefits, the higher and eternal blessing was ever His special and ultimate aim. It was this which formed the background, so to speak, both of each separate miracle, and of all His miracles viewed as a whole, the purpose of which was to secure and support the introduction, and furnish the foundation of the whole work of salvation.
These are the chief points in which the sinlessness of Jesus affects His personality, viewed on its human side. In this aspect He shows Himself to be, in all respects, and especially in His position towards God, a perfect man, who being in His ow% inner nature a miracle, is also surrounded by the miraculous, whether in the deeds which He wrought, or in the lot which He submitted to. But it is this perfect man, thus gifted with miraculous powers, who, in the most decided manner, directs us to something beyond Himself—something still higher in His own Person: hence this Jesus cannot be the perfect Son of Man, unless He is also, what He declares Himself to be, the Son of God. It is in this sense that we now proceed to consider the sinlessness of Jesus with respect to His Divine nature.
|« Prev||Sec. 1.—The Human Nature of Jesus.||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version