BY WILLIAM G. MOOREHEAD, D. D., President Of Xenia Theological Seminary, Xenia, Ohio
The glories of the Lord Jesus Christ are threefold: Essential, official and moral. His essential glory is that which pertains to Him as the Son of God, the equal of the Father. His official glory is that which belongs to Him as the Mediator. It is the reward conferred on Him, the august promotion He received when He had brought His great work to a final and triumphant conclusion. His moral glory consists of the perfections which marked His earthly life and ministry; perfections which attached to every relation He sustained, and to every circumstance in which He was found. His essential and official glories were commonly veiled during His earthly sojourn. His moral glory could not be hid; He could not be less than perfect in everything; it belonged to Him; it was Himself. This moral glory now illumines every page of the four Gospels, as once it did every path He trod.
The thesis which we undertake to illustrate and establish is this: That the moral glory of Jesus Christ as set forth in the four Gospels cannot be the product of the unaided human intellect, that only the Spirit of God is competent to execute this matchless portrait of the Son of Man. The discussion of the theme falls into two parts:
- A brief survey of Christ’s moral glory as exhibited in the Gospels.
- The application of the argument.
CHRIST’S MORAL GLORY THE HUMANITY OF JESUS
- The moral glory of Jesus appears in His development as Son of Man. The nature which He assumed was our nature, sin and sinful propensities only excepted. His was a real and a true humanity, one which must pass through the various stages of growth like any other member of the race. From infancy to youth, from youth to manhood, there was steady increase both of His bodily powers and mental faculties; but the progress was orderly. “No unhealthy precocity marked the holiest of infancies.” He was first a child, and afterwards a man, not a man in child’s years. As Son of Man He was compassed about with all the sinless infirmities that belong to our nature. He has needs common to all; need of food, of rest, of human sympathy and of divine assistance. He is subject to Joseph and Mary, He is a worshiper in the synagogue and the Temple; He weeps over the guilty and hardened city, and at the grave of a loved one; He expresses His dependence on God by prayer.
Nothing is more certain than that the Gospel narratives present the Lord Jesus as a true man, a veritable member of our race. But we no sooner recognize this truth than we are confronted by another which sets these records alone and unapproachable in the field of literature. This second fact is this: At every stage of His development, in every relation of life, in every part of His service He is absolutely perfect. To no part of His life does a mistake attach, over no part of it does a cloud rest, nowhere is there defect. Nothing is more striking, more unexampled, than the profound contrast between Jesus and the conflict and discord around Him, that between Him and those who stood nearest Him, the disciples, John Baptist, and the mother, Mary. All fall immeasurably below Him.
THE PATTERN MAN
- The Gospels exalt our Lord infinitely above all other men as the representative, the ideal, the pattern man. Nothing in the judgment of historians stands out so sharply distinct as race, national character — nothing is more ineffaceable. The very greatest men are unable to free themselves from the influences amid which they have been born and educated. Peculiarities of race and the spirit of the age leave in their characters traces that are imperishable. To the last fiber of his being Luther was German, Calvin was French, Knox was Scotch; Augustine bears the unmistakable impress of the Roman, and Chrysostom is as certainly Greek. Paul, with all his large heartedness and sympathies is a Jew, always a Jew. Jesus Christ is the only One who is justly entitled to be called the Catholic Man. Nothing local, transient, individualizing, national, or sectarian dwarfs the proportions of His wondrous character.
“He rises above the parentage, the blood, the narrow horizon which bounded, as it seemed, His life; for He is the archetypal man in whose presence distinctions of race, intervals of ages, types of civilization and degrees of mental culture are as nothing” (Liddon).
He belongs to all ages, He is related to all men, whether they shiver amid the snows of the arctic circle, or pant beneath the burning heat of the equator; for He is the Son of Man, the Son of mankind, the genuine offspring of the race.
UNSELFISHNESS AND DIGNITY
- The Lord’s moral glory appears in His unselfishness and personal dignity. The entire absence of selfishness in any form from the character of the Lord Jesus is another remarkable feature of the Gospels. He had frequent and fair opportunities of gratifying ambition had His nature been tainted with that passion. But “even Christ pleased not himself;” He “sought not his own glory;” He came not “to do his own will.” His body and His soul with all the faculties and activities of each were devoted to the supreme aims of His mission. His self-sacrifice included the whole range of His human thought and affection and action; it lasted throughout His life;its highest expression was His ignominious death on the cross of Calvary.
The strange beauty of His unselfishness as it is displayed in the Gospel narratives appears in this, that it never seeks to draw attention to itself, it deprecates publicity. In His humility He seems as one naturally contented with obscurity; as wanting the restless desire for eminence which is common to really great men; as eager and careful that even His miracles should not add to His reputation. But amid all His self-sacrificing humility He never loses His personal dignity nor the self-respect that becomes Him.
He receives ministry from the lowly and the lofty; He is sometimes hungry, yet feeds the multitudes in desert places; He has no money, yet He never begs, and He provides the coin for tribute to the government from a fish’s mouth. He may ask for a cup of water at the well, but it is that He may save a soul. He never flies from enemies; He quietly withdraws or passes by unseen. Hostility neither excites nor exasperates Him. He is always calm, serene. He seems to care little for Himself, for His own ease or comfort or safety, but everything for the honor and the glory of the Father.
If multitudes, eager and expectant, press upon Him, shouting, “Hosanna to the son of David,” He is not elated; if all fall away, stunned by His words of power, He is not cast down. He sought not a place among men, He was calmly content to be the Lord’s Servant, the obedient and the humble One. It was invariably true of Him that “He pleased not Himself.” And yet through all His amazing self-renunciation, there glances ever and anon something of the infinite majesty and supreme dignity which belong to Him because He is the Son of God. The words of Van Oosterzee are as true as they are beautiful and significant: “It is the same King’s Son who today dwells in the palace of His Father, and tomorrow, out of love to His rebellious subjects in a remote corner of the Kingdom, renouncing His princely glory, comes to dwell amongst them in the form of a servant *** and is known only by the dignity of His look, and the star of royalty on His breast, when the mean cloak is opened for a moment, apparently by accident.”
SUPERIORITY TO HUMAN JUDGMENT AND INTERCESSION
- The Gospels exhibit the Lord Jesus as superior to the judgment and the intercession of men. When challenged by the disciples and by enemies, as He often was, Jesus never apologizes, never excuses Himself, never confesses to a mistake. When the disciples, terrified by the storm on the lake, awoke Him saying, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”, He did not vindicate His sleep, nor defend His apparent indifference to their fears. Martha and Mary, each in turn, with profound grief, say, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” There is not a minister of the gospel the world over who would not in similar circumstances explain or try to explain why he could not at once repair to the house of mourning when summoned thither. But Jesus does not excuse His not being there, nor His delay of two days in the place where He was when the urgent message of the sisters reached Him. In the consciousness of the perfect rectitude of His ways, He only replies, “Thy brother shall rise again.” Peter once tried to admonish Him, saying, “This be far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee.” But Peter had to learn that it was Satan that prompted the admonition. Nor does He recall a word when the Jews rightly inferred from His language that He “being man made Himself God” (John 10:30-36). He pointed out the application of the name Elohim (God) to judges under the theocracy; and yet He irresistibly implies that His title to Divinity is higher than, and distinct in kind from, that of the Jewish magistrates. He thus arrives a second time at the assertion which had given so great offense, by announcing His identity with the Father, which involves His own proper Deity. The Jews understood Him. He did not retract what they accounted blasphemy, and they again sought His life. He is never mistaken, and never retracts.
So likewise He is superior to human intercession. He never asks even His disciples nor His nearest friends, and certainly never His mother Mary, to pray for Him. In Gethsemane He asked the three, to watch with Him, He did not ask them to pray for Him. He bade them pray that they might not enter into temptation, but He did not ask them to pray that He should not, nor that He should be delivered out of it. Paul wrote again and again, “Brethren; pray for us” — “pray for me.” But such was not the language of Jesus. It is worthy of note that the Lord does not place His own people on a level with Himself in His prayers. He maintains the distance of His own personal dignity and supremacy between Himself and them. In His intercession He never uses plural personal pronouns in His petitions, lie always says, “I” and “me,” “these” and “them that thou hast given me;” never “we” and “us,” as we speak and should speak in our prayers.
THE SINLESSNESS OF JESUS
- The sinlessness of the Saviour witnesses to His moral glory. The Gospels present us with one solitary and unique fact of human history — an absolutely sinless Man! In His birth immaculate, in His childhood, youth and manhood, in public and private, in death and in life, He was faultless.
Hear some witnesses. There is the testimony of His enemies. For three, long years the Pharisees were watching their victim. As another writes, “There was the Pharisee mingling in every crowd, hiding behind every tree. They examined His disciples, they cross-questioned all around Him. They looked into His ministerial life, into His domestic privacy, into His hours of retirement. They came forward with the sole accusation they could muster — that He had shown disrespect to Caesar. The Roman judge who ought to know, pronounced it void.” There was another spy — Judas. Had there been one failure in the Redeemer’s career, in his awful agony Judas would have remembered it for his comfort; but the bitterness of his despair, that which made his life intolerable, was, “I have betrayed the innocent blood.” There is the testimony of His friends. His disciples affirm that during their intercourse with Him His life was unsullied. Had there been a single blemish they would have detected it, and, honest historians as they were, they would have recorded it, just as they did their own shortcomings and blunders. The purest and most austere man that lived in that day, John the Baptist, shrank from baptizing the Holy One, and in conscious unworthiness he said, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” Nor is His own testimony to be overlooked. Jesus never once confesses sin. He never once asks for pardon. Yet is it not He who so sharply rebukes the self-righteousness of the Pharisees? Does He not, in His teaching, seem to ignore all human piety that is not based upon a broken heart? But yet He never lets fall a hint, He never breathes a prayer which implies the slightest trace of blameworthiness. He paints the doom of incorrigible and unrepentent sinners in the most dreadful colors found in the entire Bible, but He Himself feels no apprehension, He expresses no dread of the penal future; His peace of mind, His fellowship with Almighty God is never disturbed nor interrupted. If He urge sorrow upon others and tears of penitence, it is for their sins; if He groan in agony, it is not for sins of His own, it is for others’. He challenges His bitterest enemies to convict Him of Sin (John 8:46). Nor is this all. “The soul,” it has been said, “like the body has its pores,” and the pores are always open. “Instinctively, unconsciously, and whether a man will or not, the insignificance or the greatness of the inner life always reveals itself.” From its very center and essence the moral nature is everthrowing out about itself circles of influence, encompasses itself with an atmosphere of self-disclosure. In Jesus Christ this self-revelation was not involuntary, nor accidental, nor forced: it was in the highest degree deliberate. There is about Him an air of superior holiness, of aloofness from the world and its ways, a separation from evil in every form and of every grade, such as no other that has ever lived has displayed. Although descended from an impure ancestry, He brought no taint of sin into the world with Him; and though He mingled with sinful men and was assailed by fierce temptations, He contracted no guilt, lie was touched by no stain. He was not merely undefiled, but He was undefilable. He was like a ray of light which parting from the fountain of light can pass through the foulest medium and still be unstained and untouched. He came down into all the circumstances of actual humanity in its sin and misery, and yet He kept the infinite purity of heaven with Him. In the annals of our race there is none next to or like Him.
ASSEMBLAGE AND CORRELATION OF VIRTUES
- The exquisite assemblage and correlation of virtues and excellencies in the Lord Jesus form another remarkable feature of the Gospel narratives. There have been those who have displayed distinguished traits of character; those who by reason of extraordinary gifts have risen to heights which are inaccessible to the great mass of men. But who among the mightiest of men has shown himself to be evenly balanced and rightly poised in all his faculties and powers? In the very greatest and best, inequality and disproportion are encountered. Generally, the failings and vices of men are in the inverse ratio of their virtues and their powers. “The tallest bodies cast the longest shadows.” In Jesus Christ there is no unevenness. In Him there is no preponderance of the imagination over the feeling, of the intellect over the imagination, of the will over the intellect. There is in Him an uninterrupted harmony of all the powers of body and soul, in which that serves which should serve, and that rules which ought to rule, and all works together to one adorable end. In Him every grace is in its perfect ness, none in excess, none out of place, and none wanting. His justice and His mercy, His peerless love and His truth, His holiness and His freest pardon never clash; one never clouds the other. His firmness never degenerates into obstinacy, or His calmness into indifference. His gentleness never becomes weakness, nor His elevation of soul forgetfulness of others. In His best servants virtues and graces are uneven and often clash. Paul had hours of weakness and even of petulance. He seems to have regretted that he called himself a Pharisee in the Jewish Sanhedrin and appealed to that party for help, for in his address before the proconsul Felix he said, “Or let these same here say, if they found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the Council, except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day.” John the Apostle of love even wished to call down fire from heaven to consume the inhospitable Samaritans. And the Virgin mother must learn that even she cannot dictate to Him as to what He shall do or not do. In Jesus there is the most perfect balance, the most amazing equipoise of every faculty and grace and duty and power. In His whole life one day’s walk never contradicts another, one hour’s service never clashes with another. While He shows lie is master of nature’s tremendous forces, and the Lord of the unseen world, He turns aside and lays His glory by to take little children in His arms and to bless them. While He must walk amid the snares His foes have privily spread for His feet, He is equal to every occasion, is in harmony with the requirements of every moment. “He never speaks where it would be better to keep silence, He never keeps silence where it would be better to speak; and He always leaves the arena of controversy a victor.” His unaffected majesty, so wonderfully depicted in the Gospels, runs through His whole life, and is as manifest in the midst of poverty and scorn, at Gethsemane and Calvary, as on the Mount Of Transfiguration and in the resurrection from the grave.
OMNIPOTENCE AND OMNISCIENCE
- The evangelists do not shrink from ascribing to the Lord Jesus divine attributes, particularly Omnipotence and Omniscience. They do so as a mere matter of fact, as what might and should be expected from so exalted a personage as the Lord Jesus was. How amazing the power is which He wields when it pleases Him to do so! It extends to the forces of nature. At His word the storm is hushed into a calm, and the raging of the sea ceases. At His pleasure He walks on the water as on dry land. It extends to the world of evil spirits. At His presence demons cry out in fear and quit their hold on their victims. His power extends into the realm of disease. Every form of sickness departs at His command, and He cures the sick both when He is beside them and at a distance from them. Death likewise, thatinexorable tyrant that wealth has never bribed, nor tears softened, nor human power arrested, yielded instantly his prey when the voice of the Son of God bade him.
But Jesus equally as certainly and as fully possessed a superhuman range of knowledge as well as a superhuman power. He knew men; knew them as God knows them. Thus He saw into the depths of Nathaniel’s heart when he was under the fig tree; He saw into the depths of the sea, and the exact coin in the mouth of a particu lar fish; He read the whole past life of the woman at the well, although He had never before met with her.
John tells us that “He needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:25). He knew the world of evil spirits. He was perfectly acquainted with the movements of Satan and of demons. He said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan asked to have you that he might sift you as wheat: I made supplication for thee that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31,32).
He often spoke directly to the evil spirits that had control of people, ordering them to hold their peace, to come out and to enter no more into their victims. He knew the Father as no mere creature could possibly know Him. “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).
A difficulty will be felt when we attempt to reconcile this infinite knowledge of men, of the unseen world, and of God Himself, which the Son of God possessed, with the statement in Mark that He did not know the day nor the hour of His Second Advent. But the difficulty is no greater than that other in John, where we are told that His face was wet with human tears while the almighty voice was crying, “Lazarus, come forth.” In both cases the divine and the human are seen intermingling, and yet they are perfectly distinct.
Such are some of the beams of Christ’s moral glories as they shine everywhere on the pages of the Four Gospels. A very few of them are here gathered together. Nevertheless, what a stupendous picture do they form! In the annals of our race there is nothing like it. Here is One presented to us who is a true and genuine man, and yet He is the ideal, the representative, the pattern man, claiming kindred in the universality of His manhood with all men; sinless, yet full of tenderness and pity; higher than the highest, yet stooping to the lowest and to the most needy; perfect in all His words and ways, in His life and in His death!
Who taught the evangelists to draw this matchless portrait? The pen which traced these glories of Jesus — could it have been other than an inspired pen? This question leads us to the second part of our task, which can soon be disposed of.
THE APPLICATION OF THE ARGUMENT
Nothing is more obvious than the very commonplace axiom, that every effect requires an adequate cause. Given a piece of machinery, complex, delicate, exact in all its movements, we know that it must be the Product of a competent mechanic. Given a work of consummate art, we know it must be the product of a consummate artist. None but a sculptor with the genius of an Angelo could carve the “Moses.” None but a painter with the hand, the eye, and the brain of a Raphael could paint the “Transfiguration.” None but a poet with the gifts of a Milton could write “Paradise Lost.” Here are four brief records of our Lord’s earthly life. They deal almost
exclusively with His public ministry; they do not profess even to relate all that He did in His official work (cf. John 21:25). The authors of these memorials were men whose names are as household words the world over; but beyond their names we know little more. The first was tax collector under the Roman government; the second was, it is generally believed, that John Mark who for a time served as an attendant on Paul and Barnabas, and who afterward became the companion and fellow-laborer of Peter; the third was a physician and the devoted friend and co-worker of Paul; and the fourth was a fisherman. Two of them, Matthew and John, were disciples of Jesus; whether the others, Mark and Luke, ever saw Him during His earthly sojourn cannot be determined.
These four men, unpracticed in the art of writing, unacquainted with the ideals of antiquity, write the memorials of Jesus’ life. Three of them traverse substantially the same ground, record the same incidents, discourses and miracles. While they are penetrated with the profoundest admiration for their Master, they never once dilate on His great qualities.
All that they do is to record His actions and His discourses with scarcely a remark. One of them indeed, John, intermingles reflective commentary with the narrative; but in doing this John carefully abstains from eulogy and panegyric. He pauses in His narrative only to explain some reference, to open some deep saying of the Lord, or to press some vital truth. Yet, despite this absence of the smallest attempt to delineate a character, these four men have accomplished what no others have done or can do — they have presented the world with the portrait of a Divine Man, a Glorious Saviour. Matthew describes Him as the promised Messiah, the glory of Israel, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham; the One in whom the covenants and the promises find their ample fulfillment; the One who accomplishes all righteousness. Mark exhibits Him as the mighty Servant of Jehovah who does man’s neglected duty, and meets the need of all around. Luke depicts Him as the Friend of man, whose love is so intense and comprehensive, whose pity is so divine, that His saving power goes forth to Jew and Gentile, to the lowliest and the loftiest, to the publican, the Samaritan, the ragged prodigal, the harlot, the thief, as well as to the cultivated, the moral, the great. John presents Him as the Son of God, the Word made flesh; as Light for a dark world, as Bread for a starving world, as Life for a dead world. Matthew writes for the Jew, Mark for the Roman,
Luke for the Greek, and John for the Christian; and all of them write for every kindred, and tribe, and tongue and people of the entire globe, and for all time! What the philosopher, the poet, the scholar, the artist could not do; what men of the greatest mind, the most stupendous genius have failed to do, these four unpracticed men have done — they have presented to the world the Son of Man and the Son of God in all His perfections and glories.
A FACT TO BE EXPLAINED
How comes it to pass that these unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13) have so thoroughly accomplished so great a task? Let us hold fast our commonplace axiom, every effect must have an adequate cause. What explanation shall we give of this marvelous effect? Shall we ascribe their work to genius? But multitudes of men both before and since their day have possessed genius of the very highest order; and these gifted men have labored in fields akin to this of our four evangelists. The mightiest minds of the race — men of Chaldea, of Egypt, of India, of China, and of Greece — have tried to draw a perfect character, have expended all their might to paint a god-like man. And with what result? Either he is invested with the passions and the brutalities of fallen men, or he is a pitiless and impassive spectator of the world’s sorrows and woes. In either case, the character is one which may command the fear but not the love and confidence of men.
Again, we ask, How did the evangelists solve this mighty problem of humanity with such perfect Originality and precision? Only two answers are rationally possible:
- They had before them the personal and historical Christ. Men could no more invent the God-man of the Gospels than they could create a world. The almost irreverent words of Theodore Parker are grounded in absolute truth: “It would have taken a Jesus to forge a Jesus.”
- They wrote by inspiration of the Spirit of God. It cannot be otherwise. It is not enough to say that the Divine Model was before them: they must have had something more, else they never could have succeeded.
Let it be assumed that these four men, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, were personally attendant on the ministry of Jesus that they saw Him, heard Him, companied with Him for three years. Yet on their own showing they did not understand Him. They testify that the disciples, the Apostles among the number, got but the slenderest conceptions of His person and His mission from His very explicit teachings. They tell us of a wonderful incapacity and weakness in all their apprehensions of Him The Sun of righteousness was shining on them and around them, and they could see only the less! He told them repeatedly of His approaching death, and of His resurrection, but they did not understand Him; they even questioned among themselves what the rising from the dead should mean (Mark 9:10) poor men! And yet these men, once so blind and ignorant, write four little pieces about the person and the work Of the Lord Jesus which the study and the research of Christendom for eighteen hundred years have not exhausted, and which the keenest and most hostile criticism has utterly failed to discredit.
But this is not all. Others have tried their hand at composing the Life and Deeds of Jesus. Compare some of these with our Four Gospels.
The Gospel narrative observes an almost unbroken silence as to the long abode of Jesus at Nazareth. Of the void thus left the church became early impatient. During the first four centuries many attempts were made to fill it up. Some of these apocryphal gospels are still extant, notably that which deals with the infancy and youth of the Redeemer; and it is instructive to notice how those succeeded who tried to lift the veil which covers the earlier years of Christ. Let another state the contrast between the New Testament records and the spurious gospels: “The case stands thus: our Gospels present us with a glorious picture of a mighty Saviour, the mythic gospels with that of a contemptible one. In our Gospels He exhibits a superhuman wisdom; in the mythic ones a nearly equal superhuman absurdity. In our Gospels He is arrayed in all the beauty of holiness; in the mythic ones this aspect of character is entirely wanting. In our Gospels not one stain of sinfulness defiles His character; in the mythic ones the Boy Jesus is both pettish and malicious. Our Gospels exhibit to us a sublime morality; not one ray of it shines in those of the mythologists. The miracles of the one and of the other stand contrasted on every point.” (Row).
These spurious gospels were written by men who lived not long after the apostolic age; by Christians who wished to honor the Saviour in all they said about Him; by men who had the portraiture of Him before them which the Gospels supply. And yet these men, many of them better taught than the Apostles, with the advantage of two or three centuries of Christian thought and study, could not produce a fancy sketch of the Child Jesus without violating our sense of propriety, and shocking our moral sense. The distance between the Gospels of the New Testament and the pseudo gospels is measured by the distance between the product of the Spirit of God, and that of the fallen human mind.
UNINSPIRED “LIVES OF CHRIST”
Let us take another illustration. The nineteenth century has been very fruitful in the production of what are commonly called “Lives of Christ.” Contrast with the Gospels four such “Lives,” perhaps the completest and the best, taken altogether, of those written by English-speaking people — Andrews’, Geikie’s, Hanna’s and Edersheim’s. The authors of our Gospels had no models on which to frame their work. The path they trod had never before been pressed by human feet. The authors of the “Lives” have not only these incomparable narratives as their pattern and the chief source of all their material, but numberless other such “Lives” suggestive as to form and construction, and the culture and the research of eighteen centuries lying behind them. But would any one venture for a moment to set forth these “Lives” as rivals of our Gospels? Much information and helpfulness are to be derived from the labors of these Christian scholars, and others who have toiled in the same field; but how far they all fall below the New Testament record it is needless to show. Indeed, all such writings are largely antiquated and scarcely read, though they are quite young in years, so soon does man’s work decay and die.
Let the contrast be noted as to size or bulk. Andrews’ book contains 615 pages; Geikie’s over 1,200; Hanna’s over 2,100; Edersheim’s, 1,500 pages. The four combined have no less than 5,490 pages, enough in these busy days to require months of reading to go but once through their contents. Bagster prints the Four Gospels in 82 pages; the Oxford, in 104; Amer. Rev., 120. In the Bagster, Matthew has but 23; Mark, 13; Luke, 25; and John, 21. Less than one hundred pages of the Four Gospels against more than five thousand four hundred of the four “Lives.”
Countless volumes, great and small, in the form of commentary, exposition, notes, harmony and history are written on these brief records. How happens it that such stores of wisdom and knowledge He garnered in these short pieces? Who taught the evangelists this superhuman power of expansion and contraction, of combination and separation, of revelation in the words and more revelation below the words? Who taught them so to describe the person and work of the Lord Jesus as that the description satisfies the most illiterate and the most learned, is adapted to minds of the most limited capacity, and to those of the widest grasp? Whence did they derive the infinite skill they display in grouping together events, discourses, and actions in such fashion that vividly before us is the deathless beauty of a perfect Life? There is but one answer to these questions, there can be no other. The Spirit of the living God filled their minds with His unerring wisdom and controlled their human speech. To that creative Spirit who has peopled the world with living organisms so minute that only the microscope can reveal their presence, it is not hard to give us in so brief a compass the sublime portrait of the Son of Man. To men it is impossible.
INSPIRATION EXTENDS THROUGHOUT THE BIBLE
Now if it be conceded that the Four Gospels are inspired, we are compelled by every rule of right reason to concede the inspiration of the rest of the New Testament. For all the later communications contained in the Acts, the Epistles, and the Revelation, are already in germ form in the Gospels, just as the Pentateuch holds in germ the rest of the Old Testament.
If the Holy Spirit is the author of the Four Gospels He is none the less the author of the entire New Testament. If He creates the germ, it is He also that must unfold it into mature fruit. If He makes the seed He must likewise give the increase. To this fundamental truth the writers of the later communications bear the most explicit testimony. Paul, John, James, Peter and Jude severally intimate that what they have to impart is from Christ by His Spirit.
Furthermore, if we admit the inspiration of the New Testament we must also admit that of the Old. For, if any one thing has been established by the devout and profound study and research of evangelical scholarship it is this, that the Scriptures of the Old Testament hold in germ the revelation contained in the New. The Latin Father spoke as profoundly as truly when he said, “The New Testament lies hid in the Old, and the Old stands revealed in the New.” Ancient Judaism had one supreme voice for the chosen people, and its voice was prophetic. Its voice was the significant word, Wait. As if it kept reminding Israel that the Mosaic Institutions were only temporary and typical, that something infinitely better and holier was to take their place; and so it said, Wait. Wait, and the true Priest will come, the Priest greater than Aaron, greater than Melchizedek — the Priest of whom these were but thin shadows, dim pictures. Wait, and the true Prophet, like unto Moses, greater than Moses, will appear. Wait, and the real sacrifice, that of which all other offerings were but feeble images, will be made and sin be put away. If any man deny the inspiration of the Old Testament, sooner or later he will deny that of the New. For the two are inseparably bound up together. If the one fall, so will the other.
Already the disastrous consequences of such a course of procedure are apparent in Christendom. For years the conflict has raged about the trustworthiness, the integrity and the authority of the Old Testament. Not long since one who is identified with the attacking party arrayed against that Scripture announced that the victory is won, and nothing now remains save to determine the amount of the indemnity. It is very noteworthy that the struggle has indeed measurably subsided as to the Old Testament, although there are no signs of weakening faith in it on the part of God’s faithful children, and the fight now turns with increasing vigor on the New
Testament, and pre-eminently about the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Men who are Christians at least in name, who occupy influential seats in great Universities and even Theological Schools, do not shrink from impeaching the New Testament record touching the Virgin Birth of the Lord Jesus, His resurrection from the dead, and His promise of one day returning to this earth in majesty and power. One cannot renounce the Scriptures of the Old Testament without relaxing his hold, sooner or later, on the New.
Christ is the center of all Scripture, as He is the center of all God’s purposes and counsels. The four evangelists take up the life and the moral glory of the Son of Man, and they place it alongside of the picture of the Messiah as sketched by the prophets, the historical by the side of the prophetic, and they show how exactly the two match. So long as the Four Gospels remain unmutilated and trusted by the people of God, so long is the doctrine of the Bible’s supreme authority assured.
God spoke to the fathers in the prophets: He now speaks to us in His Son whom He hath made Heir of all things. In either case, whether by the prophets or by the Son, the Speaker is God.