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CONCLUSION.

Incarnation of Jesus throws light on all the wonders of his history.—Supernatural Birth.—Resurrection and Ascension.—His Miracles.—Spiritual meaning.—Typical character.—Sophistry of Strauss.—Extraordinary tokens of Divinity demanded.—The Voice of God.—World summoned to listen and believe.

THE argument which it was proposed to construct, is completed.. We have found, first, that the public ministry of Christ, and second, that his spiritual character is incapable of being reconciled, on any natural and known principles, with the outer conditions of his life. In the one case and in the other, and much more when the two are taken together, there is no escape from the conclusion, that the secret of harmony here is altogether preternatural, and is nothing less than the union of Divinity with humanity, in his sacred person. The argument, by means of which this conclusion is reached, we have sought to show is based on an ample, a relevant, and an impartial induction of facts.

The doctrine of Incarnation is simply true. It is the darkness, but it is also the glory of the spiritual 254history of mankind. It is the central fact in the scheme of moral providence, its unity, harmony, and fountain of power. It is the realization of the highest purposes of God, the discovery of the depth. of his wisdom, love, and might. “Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in flesh.”133133   1 Tim. iii. 16.The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”134134   John, i. 14.The Life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested unto us.”135135   1 John, i. 2.

Having reached this conclusion a flood of light is reflected back on the Christian records; and many of their announcements, before scarcely credible, become luminous and consistent. These records are separated at once and forever from all mythologies, whether of Egypt, India, Greece, or Rome. Their foundation is not fable, but fact—a fact, profoundly mysterious, indeed, but also incomparably glorious. The combination of mystery and glory at the very basis, and on the very threshold of the Gospels, not only prepares the mind for all the peculiarities of their structure, but demands, and even necessitates, discoveries in harmony with this primal characteristic.

If Jesus be the Incarnation of Divinity, it is no 255longer hard to believe that both his entrance into the world and his departure from it were supernatural. So far from being anomalous, this is altogether necessary and natural. Any thing else would not have been in keeping with the history. His virgin-mother is a beautiful and simple reality. It would have been incongruous, even offensive, had he not been thus physically separated from all of human kind. His resurrection also, and his ascension to heaven, are transparencies as pure as his miraculous birth. It was most meet that, having lain in the grave and “tasted death for every man,” he should rise again and pass into the skies. Thus has he become a glorious prophecy and type of the destiny of all good, which, though struggling hard with evil, and often seemingly overborne, shall ultimately exhibit and assert its indestructible vitality—a prophecy and type of the destiny of all the good, who, though despised, persecuted, and slain, shall rise again unhurt, emancipated and glorified, to immortal life.

Again, such an entrance into the world, and such a departure from it, could comport only with a life-course full of testimonies and tokens of Divinity. The miracles of Jesus are in strict harmony with the commencement and the close of his career, and, like them, have their ground in the unexampled constitution of his personality. They are indeed essential to that mysterious existence of his, in 256which both human and Divine perfections had their place. Without them, the beautiful proportions of a unique biography, the undesigned but very manifest symmetry of a Divine life on earth, would be destroyed. Nor must the character of the miracles of Jesus be overlooked. With him they were chiefly a method of teaching. Every one of them contained a wide and deep spiritual meaning; and the whole together were an exposition, in a most intelligible and impressive form, of the nature and design of his mission. They were not mere signs of power, but lessons of wisdom and acts of mercy; they were not simply attestations of a Divine Presence, but subduing expressions and expositions of the Divine character. The bountiful and loving God, in the form of man, came to bless the world; the incarnate one—then how truly godlike—is seen giving bread to the poor, sight to the blind, health to the diseased, life to the dead! And how significant, how eloquent, were these material types of his higher spiritual powers and gifts. He was the bread of life to the world, he came to do for the soul what he thus did for the body; came to supply spiritual wants as he had supplied natural wants, to provide a remedy for spiritual evils as he had cured physical evils; came to abolish death, to put away sin, and to reveal and bestow eternal life! Literally and spiritually alike, he could apply to himself the words of the ancient 257oracle—“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord path annointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he bath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison doors to them that are bound.”136136   Isaiah, lxi. 1.

Strauss, in one of his minor pieces, argues against the value of miracles in some such manner as this (without quoting the express words, we give the spirit of his argument):—“Jesus is said on one occasion to have fed five thousand persons miraculously; but God, every day, supplies the wants of unnumbered myriads. Jesus is said to have given sight to the blind and even life to the dead; but sensation and vitality are the daily gifts of God to the world in cases past all reckoning. Which is the greater wonder? and what wisdom can there be in placing a lesser miracle before those who will not be moved by the greater miracle?” We admit the principle and maintain it against him. His argument is a palpable, we are tempted to say a paltry and wicked, because known, sophism. The question is not, whether the laws of nature and their constant operation be or be not more truly wonderful than any special departure from them; the question is not whether there be or be not really more of God, in the one than in the other. But the question is this, whether, as a matter of simple 258fact, men are or are not more impressed by the ordinary operation of natural laws, than by a sudden deviation from it. To this question, all experience, all observation, and all history return a decisive reply. Men who never recognize God in his universal and constant agency within and around them, are immediately arrested and forced to admit the thought that there is a God, even by a seeming, and still more by a real and startling, deviation from the course of nature.

We return to the position, that, since Jesus was verily an Incarnation of the Godhead, miraculous works in his life were only becoming and natural. This does not in the least exclude the application of the severest criticism, to the historical accounts of the Christian miracles. But the unbroken course of nature, in the presence of a fact so stupendous as Incarnation, had been of all things unnatural and incredible. The Divinity within Jesus must have flashed forth through many outlets; and, on the other hand, the world could not but thrill responsively, when it felt the very touch of God. Necessarily, there must have been at such a time extraordinary appearances and movements. It was only reasonable, indeed inevitable, that an age in which the profoundest mystery of all time was unvailed, and in which Divine religion was to reach its full development, should be distinguished by unwonted signs from heaven. It was only reasonable, indeed 259inevitable, that such an age should be pre-eminently creative, as of new powers, so of novel and astonishing facts; and that there should be an almighty influence among men, not invisible and mental only, but palpable, and embodied in material forms. Still further, is it not plain that a mystery so inscrutable as Incarnation, and a religion based on this mystery, and claiming to be alone Divine, a religion which professed to rise to the grandest truths of God, and to pierce to the deepest secrets of the human bosom—both needed the fullest confirmation, and merited the glory of supernatural signs? The world, so often deceived by counterfeits of Divinity, was entitled to have the amplest assurance given to it, that at last, in very deed, God had descended upon it. The world in the midst of its corruptions, its false religions, and its darkness, needed extraordinary means for awakening and sustaining its attention, for arousing its slumbering intellect, and summoning its torpid conscience to life and power. At such a crisis, it was meet, it was indispensable, that the hand of God should be made bare, and that the voice of God should be uttered, as it had never been before.

In nature, its scenery, processes, productions, and very silence, God speaks to his rational offspring, and speaks intelligibly and impressively. In spiritual providence, its operations, ordinary and extraordinary, its history and its laws, God speaks. In 260man, the products of his intellect, his imagination and his taste, in the achievements of science and art, in the creations of human genius, and in all the utterances of human wisdom and piety, God speaks!

But once, only once, in all time, the Godhead tabernacled in flesh, and from within this marvelous vail gave forth its holy and grand announcements. The first, the lowest, but yet also the last and highest, duty of the world, is to listen and believe. The command to all ages and to all men is, listen and believe. That command was given of old in Palestine, from the opened sky, beneath which Jesus of Nazareth stood—“This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.”

THE END.


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