Christ a Reality (2)

Jesus, while upon earth, said, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” These words appeal to a need most felt by those who are most alive in an intellectual sense: men who discern in the starry immensities around them the sphere of immeasurable aspiration – the potentiality of unutterable heights of faculty and glorious life – who, looking into themselves and out upon the face of the fair earth which they tread, with its multitudinous manifestation of life, with some latent intuition of the high meaning of things, have their hearts drawn out into infinite longings which nothing in human life, as it now is, can satisfy. All men experience the vanity of life as it now is upon earth, but none so keenly as these. They labour and are heavy laden: labour in the futile effort to grasp the reason of things: are heavy laden in the mental oppression which the immensity and the inscrutability of things brings upon their spirits. If Christ is what he alleged he was, there is peace for this intellectual perturbation which cannot elsewhere be found. In the light of his existence and mission, creation is delivered from the gloom in which it appears to merely natural eyes. If unbelievers say there is no gloom in creation for them, it is the mere repartee of intellectual resentment, or the utterance of a crude experience which has not yet learnt the sadness of life as it now is – the sadness that inevitably waits when the effervescence of young blood has subsided, when the poetic ardours of fresh life have expended themselves, when business has lost its aim and its interest, and when mortal energy wanes, and man is forced to recognise in the encroachments of feebleness and the disappearance of friends in the universal grave, the sad tokens of the truth that comes home at last, however long ignored in pride or silenced in the din of folly – that man is subject to vanity, and that human life is in darkness.

There are plausible theories much current and popular among even Christian professors of our time, which logically undermine the position of Christ. They either bring Christ down to men, or level men up to him, which has the same practical effect. Almost all public teachers in our day incline to this habit, which must be held an offence against reason if the Christ of the apostolic narrative is to be accepted.

The Christ of apostolic narrative differs from all so-called great men that have ever arisen among men, in that he has both dynamical relation to the universe, and an indefeasible title to possession, according to the strictest methods of legal construction. We are leaving out of account for the moment the disparity between Christ and other men as to character. Even supposing it could be made out for a moment that their characters were equal, the difference here is an immeasurable gulf.

The brightest human intellect that ever dazzled mankind is but a burning taper in the wind, or, if you will, a glowing electric light on a spire-top. It is a thing of conditions. Take away the conditions, and the light is gone: and over the conditions, the light has no control. William Shakespeare has a brain of certain organisation: this brain has to be fed with the vital force which digestion extracts from food. Properly supplied thus, it has impressions and the power of representing them in terse words. It is no more than any other human brain, except in the larger development of specific departments of the brain. He cannot control or alter the laws that govern being, either for himself or others. His friends die and he cannot help them; he himself grows old and he cannot prevent it. The power he possesses is only such as exists in the imaginations of his admirers. The Marquis of Hertford sinks; the Queen can only send a message of sympathy. The Queen would feel mocked if the Marquis were to say, “Speak the word and thy servant shall be healed.”

With Christ, how different! if we are to accept the evidence which remains un-dissipated after the utmost alchemy of “higher criticism,” or any other effort to bring Christ within the category of mere men. By the testimony of Christ and the apostles, supported by works of superhuman power, the eternal and fundamental force of the universe (the Spirit of God) is in his hand. “Power over all flesh” is the Father’s gift to him – “all power in heaven and in earth.” What he can do in the exercise of this power has been illustrated. He can stop a storm: he can produce bread from the abstract elements, without the circuitous process of agriculture. He can discern the secrets of the human mind at any distance: he can make the dead alive again. All this he did when upon earth. Greater marvels wait, as his attested promise declares.

That a subject so unutterably sublime and so imperatively practical should be treated so indifferently is one of the saddest facts of an age in many respects the saddest, though the brightest, in human annals. It has more explanations than one. One is a lack of faith in the claims of Christ, in a large measure due to a lack of acquaintance with the true facts of his wonderful case. We propose the simple exhibition of these facts, as the best corrective of unbelief, with just that amount of attention to contested points which reason demands as they arise.