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HIS FAITH IN GOD, TRUTH, AND THE REDEMPTION OF MAN.
His Foreknowledge of his Death.—Solitariness—Never himself disappointed.—Truth, a Provision for Wants, Cure for Evils of World.—Attributes of God.—Expressions and Proofs of Christ’s &ate of blind.—Institution of the Supper.—Interpretation of Facts.
IT is one of the marvelous facts in Christ’s history that he distinctly foreboded the calamities which were to befall him. Evil did not come upon him unawares; its pressure and its bitterness were aggravated by anticipation. No explanation is here offered of this fact, and nothing will be built upon it in the way of argument, but it stands with great distinctness in the narrative. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples how that he must go unto Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders, and chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”116116 Matthew, xvi. 21. In harmony with this he forewarned his disciples: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.”117117 Matthew, x. 22. “They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”118118 John, xvi. 2. In the garden of Gethsemane, he said to those who were with him, “Behold, the hour cometh, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold he is at hand that cloth betray me.”119119 Matthew, xxvi, 45, 46. When Judas with the band of soldiers drew near, “Jesus knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he.”120120 John, xviii. 4, 5. If Christ was gifted, whether naturally or supernaturally, with any thing of the insight into the future which these passages suppose, at least no one will doubt that its effect must have been to render the burden of calamity many times more crushing. But, leaving this debated ground, we must repeat the fact already referred to for a different purpose—that Christ was literally alone in his sufferings, unsupported by a single human mind. Courage and faith are not unusual, when the principles that call them forth have been adopted by others, and have received this decisive proof of their adaptation and their truth. That which is true, indeed, is not more true by being understood and admitted, and what a man believes is not really more worthy of his belief than before, when it is accepted by others as well as himself. But mind leans on mind, nevertheless, and the enlightened convictions of one impart increased stability and strength to the enlightened convictions of another. What we could not effect or endure alone, we can effect and endure when supported by other kindred souls. Jesus knew no such support as this. He was followed indeed by multitudes, but it was not because they understood and embraced his principles; and hence when these principles were more fully disclosed, “many went back and walked no more with him.”121121 John, vi. 66. Even his own relatives had no intelligent faith in him, and his chosen disciples gave to him their affections rather than their judgments. They devotedly loved his personal character, they believed in his greatness, but they did not comprehend it; the new principles struggled in their minds with the old faith, but they never succeeded, while he lived, in completely displacing it. Hence, when he died, the disciples at the first spoke as if their hopes were overthrown forever. The plain fact is, that Jesus at the last disappointed his disciples, disappointed his own relations, disappointed the masses of the people, disappointed every one except himself. He was never disappointed, from the first to the last moment of his course. Without a single complete example of success while he lived, amid constant discouragement and apparent discomfiture, he calmly believed in the omnipotence of spiritual truth and in the divinity of his own mission.
Speedy triumph he did not and could not anticipate. With that profound and calm wisdom which we have already seen distinguished him, he could not fail to know, when he thought of the insidious and mysterious working of sin, and its almost indestructible force, that it must be long before it could be forever extirpated. When he saw human nature fallen from God, and darkened and diseased, he could not fail to know that its restoration, purification, education for immortality, and complete cure, must be a slow and protracted process. When he looked upon the vast empire of evil, the growth of thousands of years, its foundations strong and deep, and its ramifications innumerable, he could not fail to know that its entire and final overthrow must be the work of ages. Tremendous conflicts must precede such a triumph as he anticipated; centuries of darkness and struggle must intervene. But he knew, at the same time, and was calmly assured of the perfect adaptation of spiritual truth to the spiritual condition of the world; and he saw in that truth, if the only, yet the sure provision for all the wants of men, if the only, yet the infallible, remedy for all the evils that preyed upon them.
“The spiritual nature within man, the spiritual world around and over him, the Uncreated Father of all, pardon of sin, ere long to receive all the elucidation and all the evidence of the cross, the regeneration of the soul. and its reconciliation to God.”—These were the living, holy truths which Jesus announced; and in these, in their adaptation, their mighty force, and their certain triumph, his confidence was unmovable. But higher even than this he was able to ascend. From spiritual truth he rose to its author and fountain, God. He believed that his mission was of God, the purpose which he was unfolding and executing was God’s, and the infinite resources of God were pledged to its realization. He looked to that universal providence which includes mind as well as matter, and to all its mighty combinations and agencies; he looked to the ever-flowing and inexhaustible fountain of spiritual influences, and to him whose knowledge, wisdom, and power are illimitable, and his confidence was untroubled and serene. In his whole life, no indication of doubt, even for a moment, can be discovered. Not a word of hesitation ever escaped his lips. When his last hour was approaching, his voice to his disciples was the voice of calm assurance. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”122122 John, xvi. 33. “Ye now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”123123 John, xvi. 22. “The world seeth me no more: but ye see me; because I live, ye shall live also. In that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and you in me, and I in you.”124124 Ib. xiv. 19, 20. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”125125 Ib. xiv. 27. With respect to the infallible success of his own mission, this was his language, “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”126126 Ib. xii. 32. “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations.”127127 Matt. xxiv. 14. At the Last Supper, when Judas Iscariot had gone out to confer with the Pharisees and Scribes, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and will straightway glorify him.”128128 John, xiii. 31, 32. When he stood before the council which condemned him, and when the high priest adjured him to tell if he were the Christ, he answered, “Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”129129 Mark, xiv. 62. At that awful moment his faith was unconquered, unconquerable.
This, then, is the state of the case, as a mere matter of history:—A young man destitute of resources, of patronage, and of influence, commits himself to an enterprise which, so long as he lives, is not appreciated or even understood. He is persecuted and scorned, deserted by his friends, betrayed by one of his disciples, falsely accused and condemned to a disgraceful and torturing death. But, alone, with death before him, and without one earthly support, he calmly believes that the enterprise shall triumph, and that he shall reign in the minds and hearts of men!
Can this have been only human? Was there ever a manifestation of mere humanity like to this. Can any thing short of the union of divinity with this humanity account for the acts and states of Christ’s mind?
This is not all; the narrative offers some additional facts. At the Last Supper Jesus told his disciples, as they sat around him, that the time of his death was near at hand. Were his confidence and courage shaken by the prospect? Did no fear disturb him—fear of the effect which his death might produce on the opinion of the world? Did no feeling of uneasiness rise within him as if after all he might fail? At all events, was he not anxious that the ignominious termination of his course might be concealed after he was gone? No, he was not; but, with perfect composure, he made provision that not only his death itself, but all its agony and its shame should never be forgotten while the world lasted. “He took bread and gave it to his disciples, saying, this is my body broken for you this do in remembrance of me. In like manner he took the cup, saying, this is my blood shed for you; this do in remembrance of me.”130130 Matthew, xxvi; Mark, xiv; Luke, xxii.
Was ever serenity like this? Can any thing more touching, more sublime than this be conceived? Was it ever heard of, before or since, that a person, in the position of a malefactor, took pains to preserve the memory of his disgraceful death? Jesus Christ, about to be crucified as a felon and a slave, commanded and provided that the fact should be remembered to the end of time—did so in the full confidence that he should at last triumph. And the fact has been remembered. This is the mystery—if he be not all that he claimed to be—this is truly more miraculous than any thing ever so called, more inexplicable on all natural principles. The fact has been remembered for eighteen hundred years it is remembered at this day; and it has been and is remembered, not as a form, a time-honored custom, but minds have been won to Christ—human hearts have been and are inviolably attached to him.
Christ’s assurance of triumph is a historical fact; his actual triumph for nearly two thousand years is no less historically certain: the two combined lead to one conclusion only. It is this—he was, as he claimed to be, divine: his religion is divine, the only religion which contains the indubitable proof, and presents to the world a real incarnation of divinity—God in man.
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