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to myself: “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?" As leading to that, I wish to call your attention to what you all know; but sometimes we know these things without making the application, and so do not see their force. I want to call your attention to the revolution wrought in the modern world by the revelation of God that has come through science. We are in another universe from that in which these old speculations found their original and legitimate play. In this world that has come to be what it is through the process of evolution let us see where God is.
God is the power in and through all things. God was in the fire-mist. God was in the material that globed itself at last as our planet. God was the creative power in the primeval waters. God, as much of him as it can hold and manifest, is in the stone; as much of him as it can hold and manifest is in the grass-blade; as much as it can hold and manifest is in the fish; as much as it can hold and manifest is in the reptilian order of life; as much as it can hold and manifest is in the birds that fly between the earth and the heavens; as much as they can hold and manifest of God is in the animal world before man appears. God, working through all these, at last blossoms out into man; and in the first men, savage, barbaric, ignorant, cruel, as much of God as they could hold and manifest is there. And so through every grade of life as you climb until you get up at last to Jesus.
“What think ye of Christ?” As much of God as he could hold and manifest was in Christ. As much of God as we can hold and manifest is in us; and there is no line of de marcation or distinction except one of degree. We believe in a larger, grander advent,-a larger, grander incarnation than the world has ever dreamed of before. God did not need to come to the world eighteen hundred years ago : he has never been absent from the world. It is one, age-long advent from the beginning until now. We do not believe in Jesus as appeasing the divine anger, because we do not believe in a divine anger that needs to be appeased. We do not
believe in Jesus as the satisfaction of God's justice, so that he might be able to forgive, because man has never been in this fallen and ruined condition, and God's government has never received a shock that needed to be adjusted by any such supernatural scheme. We do not believe in Jesus as a bridge, half-human, half-divine, to span some supposed gulf that separates God from his world, because there is not and never has been any gulf of separation to be spanned. God has been closer to the world than the very breath of life from the beginning. Jesus stands at last on the crown and summit of his age by no supernatural process, but only as the natural outflowering of the divine in his age and time. And a like advent has been outflowering in every age of the world, blossoming into justice and truth and love and nobility and beauty and self-sacrifice in all his souls under every sky and in every epoch of the world.
It seems to me that the old conception of Christ empties his life of all wonder, of all beauty, of all significance, of all power. Had he been God, and so able to work a miracle, there would have been nothing very wonderful in any process by which he might have come into the world, because all things are supposed to be possible to the Omnipotent. If he was God, there was nothing very wonderful about his having uttered some remarkable sayings, having taught some spiritual truths that were above the level of the old ideas and thoughts of the world. What would you expect of God walking about in a human body but that he should say some things that ordinary men would not have thought of? If he were God, there was no great amount of self-sacrifice in his not having where to lay his head for a little time. It seems to me, if he were God, that there was nothing marvellous about his being able to face death, even the death on the cross, when it was only brief pain, with the throne of the universe clearly in sight. O friends, it seems to me that this whole conception of a being who is neither God nor man, God on one side and man on the other side, on the one side ignorant as a man, knowing everything as a God,
capable of suffering as a man, not capable of suffering as a God,- this conception turns him into a monstrosity that is neither one thing nor the other, and puts him out of all tender and sympathetic relation with our poor human life.
But suppose him human. Such a man in such an age was, indeed, wonderful and divine. That such a man for his truth should be willing to sacrifice home and wander in the streets and the fields of Galilee without where to lay his head, shows, indeed, consecration to his convictions of truth. If he was man, to give up popularity, to face the anger, the hate, of the leaders of his people, is heroic.
If he was man, to face the garden scene in Gethsemane, to sweat great drops of blood in agony and fear, and yet neither shrink nor flee from his purpose, is divine. If he was man, that scene on the cross was one of the most magnificent in all the history of the world. A man fainting in pain between the earth and the heavens, begging for the forgiveness of the howling mob at his feet, tenderly saying,
Father, forgive them ; for they know not what they do"; for a man to have it sweep over him, even for a moment, that he might have made a mistake, that perhaps he was flinging his life away for nothing, that perhaps God was not behind him as he had believed, that perhaps, however eagerly he stretched out his hand, he might not be able to reach the hand of his Father; the cry that shows that he thought for a moment that he might have been forsaken of God himself ; if he was man, and yet did not shrink, but stood faithful to his truth till he swooned into the arms of the Unseen,then, I say, there is nothing more magnificent in the history of the world than that. If he was not man, then it is a cheap and tawdry spectacle, with no meaning in it.
What think ye of Christ, then ? I believe he was God's son, as we all are. I believe he was my brother and your brother. I believe he was one of the most heroic souls that ever lived. I believe he is capable of being the spiritual leader of the world, an inspiration to all those who can catch the meaning of his attitude, the significance of his life.
"Mere man"! There is no such thing as mere man. Are you mere man? Am I a mere man? These words have no meaning. That which is spirit and life in us is of God; and we are all God's children, as he was. And there comes to us the call as it came to him. He accepted it. Let us see that we accept it, too, and be divine, because we are children of the Highest.
Let me here read to you a remarkable sonnet by Matthew Arnold. The negative side of the sonnet is extreme. cannot accept it. But note the force and power with which the poet speaks from the point of view of that great and cold. negation.
Long fed on boundless hopes, O race of man,
We live no more, when we have done our span?
So answerest thou; but why not rather say:
More strictly, then, the inward judge obey!
I do not believe, as you well know, that this life is all. I do not believe that there is "no judge in heaven, our sin to see." But I do believe that Christ was son of God and son of man in no sense that may not be true of any one of us. But, being such, our brother, our friend, let us claim him. He belongs to us; for he was the great radical leader of his age. Let us claim him, take him with all his inspiration, all the beauty of his life, all his self-sacrifice, all his nobleness, all his devotion to truth. Let us take him as the
promise of what the world may be, and what we can help make it be some day.
Father, we thank Thee that we can believe in Jesus as Thy son, our friend, our brother, and can believe that all the spiritual inspiration of his life is not too high for us, but that we can live as he did, as Thy children, even here and