Great Texts of the Bible
The Incarnation of the Word
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.—John 1:14.
1. “The Word.” Thrice elsewhere (John 1:1; 1 John 1:1; Revelation 19:13) is this term used to designate the same Person. It is used in the first verse of this Gospel without apology, and without definition, as if the readers were acquainted with it, as indeed they were, for it had a large circulation among both Greek and Jewish thinkers. It is one of the most pregnant words used in the New Testament. In John 1:18 we are told why the term is so used—“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” As thus used the term is one of great significance. By our words we make our wills known to others. By our words we issue our prohibitions or commands, and give effect to our intentions. Our words, then, give expression to our will. And, similarly, the Word of God is God’s will expressing itself. It is the God of Heaven coming into relation with created things and revealing Himself.
2. Who is this Word? He is one who existed in the beginning, and is in perfect union with God, being the expression of God’s thought and purpose and energy. He is Himself the Creator of all things, of bird and flower, of mountain and sea, of sun and star. He is the Creator of man; and all the light of truth and goodness that has ever arisen in man’s heart came only from Him. Who, then, is this mysterious Person, this Eternal Word of God? We must turn to this fourteenth verse. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” The “Word became flesh, and dwelt among us! This august and mysterious Word of God, Himself became a man. Then we know who He is. He must be Jesus, that Jesus of Nazareth who was born in Bethlehem.
3. Far away down the years, at the close of the first century, an old man sits brooding over the things that he had seen and heard in the cities of Judah and in the fields of Galilee. Forty, fifty, sixty years, and more perhaps, now lie between him and the scenes which he records. Sixty years—and such years!—years of revolution—years of judgment—years in which the old order perished in doom, and the New World rose into victory under the breath of the Spirit of God. He had himself, long ago, it may be, laid up in the Book of the Revelation the visions in which the tremendous drama of those momentous years moved towards its final and critical act. Yet, now, his look is not forward into the silences that delay the trumpet-blasts of Divine action. His eyes turn ever back, overleaping the crowded interval; back to those wonderful days when he walked behind the feet of the Master—the days when he saw, and heard, and handled. Still his whole being hangs upon those sealed memories. Still he ponders, and weighs, and wonders, and broods. For we are listening, in these first verses of St. John, to an old man’s broodings. No one can mistake their tone, or be insensible to their atmosphere, as the verses fall on the ear with their solemn weight of measured monotony, serious as a winter’s eve, in which the stars silently offer themselves to our eyes, one by one, in seemly order and in noiseless ease. So the great words detach themselves from his lips, single, slow, deliberate, unhasting. Round and round the story his spirit has searched and laboured, and waited, until word could set itself to word, and phrase to phrase. No time could be too long in which to collect into one brief passage the sum and substance of all that revelation which was made known to him in the Name of Jesus Christ.1 [Note: H. Scott Holland, Creed and Character, 3.]
The belief in the Divinity of Christ is waning among us. They who hold it have petrified it into a theological dogma without life or warmth, and thoughtful men are more and more beginning to put it aside. How are we then to get back this belief in the Son of God—by authority or by the old way of persecution? The time for these has passed. The other way is to begin at the beginning. Begin as the Bible begins, with Christ the Son of Man. Begin with Him as God’s character revealed under the limitations of humanity. Lay the foundations of a higher faith deeply in a belief of His Humanity. See Him as He was. Breathe His spirit. After that, try to comprehend His Life. Enter into His Childhood. Feel with Him when He looked round about Him in anger, when He vindicated the crushed woman from the powerless venom of her ferocious accusers;—when He stood alone in the solitary Majesty of Truth in Pilate’s judgment-hall; when the light of the Roman soldiers’ torches flashed on Kedron in the dark night, and He knew that watching was too late; when His heart-strings gave way upon the Cross. Walk with Him through the Marriage Feast. See how the sick and weary came to Him instinctively; how men, when they saw Him, felt their sin, they knew not why, and fell at His feet; how guilt unconsciously revealed itself, and all that was good in men was drawn out, and they became higher than themselves in His presence. Realize this. Live with Him till He becomes a living thought—ever present—and you will find a reverence growing up which compares with nothing else in human feeling. You will feel that a slighting word spoken of Him wounds with a dart more sharp than personal insult. You will feel that to bow at the name of Jesus is no form at will of others, but a relief and welcome. And if it should ever chance that, finding yourself thrown upon your own self, and cut off from sects—suspected, in quest of a truth which no man gives,—then that wondrous sense of strength and friendship comes, the being alone with Christ, with the strength of a manlier independence. Slowly then, this almost insensibly merges into adoration. For what is it to adore Christ? To call Him God; to say Lord, Lord? No. Adoration is the mightiest love the soul can give—call it by what name you will.1 [Note: F. W. Robertson, in Life and Letters, 417.]
4. The one supremely significant fact in the universe is, to quote Dr. Peabody’s fine paraphrase, “the transformation of language into life.” We see this transformation in three different moments. There was the creation at the beginning, when great vitalizing words of God took form in created beings. Again there is the same transformation in all human work and morality to the end, when man is hearing words of God within him and is transforming them into deeds and finished products. But between these two there stands the stupendous fact of Christ, interpreting the first and inspiring the second.
(1) Creation.—It is matter of general consent that the universe as we know it had a beginning. As thought travels backward into the great silence before that beginning, it must needs discover a moment when the eternal thought found expression, and the universe began. The word became flesh. God spoke, and the thing spoken stood out as a created fact. “The universe is God’s language.” The unspoken word is all that might be; the spoken word is all that is. This is the meaning of those wonderful stories of Genesis, in which we see all things coming forth in their mighty evolution in answer to the words of God.
That is the Christian view of nature and the universe. It is not an eternally grinding machine, nor is it a dream-picture woven of mist. It is a real universe, in which God’s language is transformed into life. The great words were spoken, and there are the mountains and the fields and the seas, and the ships upon the seas and the cities of men. It makes all the difference in the world whether as we stand in the midst of all these things we hear only a jangle of meaningless sounds, or whether we hear the word of the Lord. Listen to that word in the summer fields and sunshine, in the winter storms and the voice of the tossing seas. Listen, too, in the crowded streets, the throb of machinery and traffic, the bustle and the gentle speech of homes. In new thought and adventurous policy, in great loyalties to ancient institutions; in the voices of teachers in schools, of preachers in pulpits, of business men in offices, of shopkeepers in shops; in the heart-beatings of the lonely and the sobs of the penitent—everywhere creation is the word become flesh.
(2) Jesus Christ.—The word had been spoken in an unknown tongue. We heard it, and saw its incarnate forms, but we did not understand. Science was patiently deciphering it, retranslating it back from life to language; endeavouring from the manifest facts of the universe to spell out the meaning of the Word of God. But science finds it difficult, and conscience and love find it far more difficult to understand. The Divine Word has seemed to change and suffer in the process of becoming flesh. Its meaning is obscure, and it seems to have been mingled with much other speech that is not Divine.
Many had tried to interpret it into human speech. Psalmists, prophets, philosophers had tried; but their words died away, leaving fainter and fainter echoes in man’s conscience. They had written their interpretation, but God’s word can never find full expression in a book. Language must be transformed into life—and not, this time, the general life of the universe, but our human life—that we may understand. So “the Word became flesh.” The meaning of life, the purpose of God in creation, became intelligible in Jesus Christ. His whole speech and conduct and being interpreted the world. When men saw Him they said, Life ought to be like that: God is like that.
Take three of the words of God, and let us see their transformation into life in Christ:—
(a) Holiness.—The word was familiar, for there was abundance of ethical speculation and of conscience too. But holiness was dead and buried in formal rules of conduct, paralysed by man’s universal failure, and hopelessly unattainable. But here was holiness splendidly alive, spontaneous, free, and natural. Here it was not merely attainable but actually attained. Jesus Christ—that was what God had meant by conscience, what conscience had tried to say; that was what ethical science had seen afar off, but never reached.
(b) Love—the most fascinating and yet the most elusive word of God. Men heard it in their own hearts and homes, but it was uncertain or sinister, and always precarious, being threatened both by life and by death. That was human love, and the Divine love was but a remote and dim whisper of possible goodwill, if things turned out to be as one sometimes almost dared to hope. But here was love at once stronger than death and simple as the laughter of a child. Men saw its patience, its responsiveness, its facility. They felt its tenderness, its understanding, its healing power. Here is God’s heart, seen in the heart of a man. Here is what all true love actually means. The word Love had become flesh.
(c) Death—that last sad word. Every death before had been recognized as a Word of God, but how unfriendly and how harsh! Since Jesus died, men have known what God means by His great word Death, for the death of Jesus has interpreted the whole of life. In the light of its love and sacrifice we look with new eyes upon sin, despair, forgiveness, restoration. And that death has reinterpreted death itself, giving to it surprisingly rich and blessed meaning. All the wonder of the eternal life—its rest, its renewal, its reward, its higher service—all these were included in the meaning of the word death, when in Christ language was translated into life. Truly man may say to the spectre, at the grave of Jesus—
Thou hast stolen a jewel, Death,
Shall light thy dark up like a star.
All this, and far more than this, is included in the meaning of “the word became flesh.” Flesh, the tempted and tempting thing, weak and suffering, subject to all contingencies and liable to all risks—flesh was used to express adequately and for ever the meaning of God’s word of creation.
(3) The third stage of this incarnation has yet to be considered. The text is a command that the word shall become flesh again in every Christian life. The translation of language into life is the great act of religion.
We are familiar with the idea of the incarnation being perpetuated in the Bible, the Church, and the Sacraments. But besides these, each life around us is a Word of God, a special purpose and design realized in flesh in its degree. This thought surely gives new meaning to our intercourse with those who do business with us or live beside us. “There is but one temple in the world,” says Novalis, “and that temple is the Body of Man.… We touch heaven when we lay our hands on a human body.” Another has said: “The body of a child is as the body of the Lord; I am not worthy of either.” How reverently, gently, purely, should we treat one another if this is indeed so.
But most especially in ourselves must language be transformed into life. We all hear many words of God. The worship of the Church, its songs and prayers, its readings and thoughts, and the inward response to these is desire, aspiration, and resolve; these words are to become flesh in us when we return from our worship to our daily life. And also there are other words which our spirits hear from day to day. What has life been saying to you? What has your experience meant? What lessons has God been trying to make you understand? Some of it we cannot understand, and all that is required of us is that we shall walk among these unknown voices of life, erect and brave and self-respecting and gentle. But there is much that we understand quite well. It is the Word of God, spoken clearly and in familiar language by the voice of life.
But that Word has yet to become flesh. There are countless words of God in the knowledge and conviction of us all which are as yet no more than words. These are waiting for their incarnation in our character and influence, in our daily work and service of man and God. The works of our hands are God’s word fulfilled in us. We who can work are born that certain great words we have heard in our secret souls may become flesh in deeds. Rise then and do the work that thy hands find to do. In this living fashion speak out what is in thee. So shalt thou also be a Word of God incarnate, an expression of His mind in living flesh.1 [Note: J. Kelman.]
The Incarnation of God in the terms of the Christ is not finished yet. Still as “the Christ within” He has to be born again in the hearts of men, and not only yesterday, but to-day and for ever, has Jesus to be received by His own. If the redemption of the world is to be wrought out and completed, that spirit which dwelt in Jesus, that grace and truth, that complete merging of the individual will in the Divine, that passionate love of men, that reverence for all things as belonging to the Father, that consciousness of unity with Him—all these have to become our common inheritance and possession. The Christian is not called upon to go out of his ordinary world to find his God, but by his very loyalty to Christ he must look first of all for his God in terms of the human life he knows so well. Having once God in Christ he must go on to look for and to find “the Christ as every man.” The Incarnation must not be for him historical, a past phenomenon merely, but a continually recurring process and experience. The Christ who was born once in Jewry has to be born again in the hearts of all who would attain their true manhood. Not in nothingness and non-entity, then, but in living, breathing, feeling power does the God who is Spirit still reveal Himself and carry forward His purpose. To every generation He manifests Himself afresh, Love making for itself new channels to meet the new needs. Still the God of Love clothes Himself in the garment of form, and still He becomes flesh and dwells among men.2 [Note: M. C. Albright, The Common Heritage, 144.]
Lo! this one preached with fervent tongue;
The world went forth to hear;
Upon his burning words they hung,
Intent, with ravished ear.
Like other lives the life he led,
Men spake no word of blame;
And yet, unblest, unprofited,
The world went on the same.
Another came, and lived, and wrought,
His heart all drawn above;
By deeds, and not by words, he taught
No eager crowds his preaching drew;
Yet one by one they came;
The secret of his power they knew,
And caught the sacred flame.
And all around, as morning light
Steals on with silent wing,
The world became more pure and bright
And life a holier thing.
Ah! Pastor, is thy heart full sore
At all this sin and strife?
Feed with the Word, but ah! far more
Feed with a holy life.1 [Note: W. Walsham How.]
5. There is a difficulty in the construction of this passage, which our English Versions endeavour to clear up by putting the middle portion of the verse in a parenthesis. Some of the best commentators give their sanction to the course which our translators have adopted; and we may therefore, perhaps, safely regard the Evangelist as in the text announcing the doctrine that “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth,” and throwing in at the same time the parenthetical remark, “We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.”
Thus we have—
I. The Divine Life entering upon a Human Life.
“And the Word became flesh.”
II. The Character of the Human Life.
“And dwelt among us—full of grace and truth.”
III. The Divine discovered in the Human.
“And we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.”
The Divine entering the Human
“And the Word became flesh.”
This is called the Incarnation. What does the word “Incarnation” mean? We know that carnal means fleshly, and carnivorous means flesh-eating, and carnation means a flesh-coloured flower. Incarnate, then, means to clothe in flesh; and the Incarnation is the “becoming clothed in flesh,” or the “assumption of flesh.” So that when we speak of the Incarnation we are using an abbreviated phrase; it must mean the Incarnation of something; and when it stands in this way, alone with the definite article, it refers to the Incarnation of the Son of God. The subject before us, then, is the clothing of the Son of God in flesh, or the Son of God assuming human nature.
Two things therefore have to be understood: First, that before assuming human nature He previously existed as Son of God; Second, that when He assumed human nature He really and truly became a man. When these two things are understood we must consider why the Son of God became Son of man.
i. His Pre-existence
1. Who is it of whom St. John says that He became flesh? The Word, he says. And who was the Word? Was it some prophet, a voice from God, bringing His word to man? It was more than that. Was it some Being, more than man, created on purpose to be the messenger of God to His creatures, and to declare His will with more authority than any human being could declare it? If we believe anything at all about Him, it was more than that. Was it some great angel, a dweller in the secret place where thought of man never approaches, seated near God’s throne, ever beholding the face of God?—was it such a one, who was sent to clothe himself with man’s form and flesh? Was it Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God? Was it Michael, the Prince of Angels? Was it one of the Seraphim, who day and night cry aloud, “Holy, holy, holy”? It was more than that—more, infinitely more than that—one to whom highest angels were but messengers and servants. Was it some heavenly Person, greater, higher, more ancient than the archangels, created almost from all eternity, to be the companion of the solitude of the Godhead on the eternal throne, to be His minister in all creation, the revealer and utterer of the mind of God, the sharer with Him in the worship of heaven and earth—all but God? Again, if we hold the faith of St. Paul and St. James, if we believe Him of whom we are speaking, it was more than this. The gulf is infinite, the gulf is impassable, between such a supposed being and the reality declared in Scripture—between God and the highest of His creatures. Who was the Word? St. John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.” “The Word was God.” This is He of whom it is said, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” This is that Jesus Christ, of whom it is written, that “She brought forth her firstborn son; and she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” The Son of God, only begotten, equal to the Father, ever with the Father, by whom also He made the worlds; “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God”; “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power.” “The firstborn of every creature, for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist”;—not to be named with the angels, for the angels were made by Him, and Him do the angels worship—“Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.” Only He knew the secret of God, for He was one with God. Only He had seen God, for He was the Son of God, “in glory with God before the world was.” “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son (himself God), which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” And from the “glory” and “bosom” of the Father He came, to be a little child, born in Bethlehem of Judæa, the city of David; and He who came, was God.
Such a relation as we believe our Saviour now bears to the Father could not have arisen at a point of time. It could not have been created by His earthly life. The power to exercise God’s prerogative of forgiveness, judgment, and redemption could never have been acquired by the moral excellence or religious achievement of any created being, however endowed by the Spirit of God. I confess (if I may descend so far) I had long this difficulty, which lowered the roof of my faith, and arrested the flight of devotion. And I am afraid, from the state of our public worship, I was not alone in that difficulty. I could not get the plenitude of New Testament worship or Catholic faith out of the mere self-sacrifice of the human Christ even unto death. Nor could I rise to it from that level. I was too little moved by His earthly renunciations to rise to the dimensions of the Church’s faith, for I am not speaking of its creed, which was my own. The cross of such a Christ, who was the mere martyr of His revelation, or the paragon of self-sacrifice, was not adequate to produce the absolute devotion which made a proud Pharisee, yea a proud Apostle, glory in being Christ’s entire slave, and which drove the whole Church to call Christ Lord and God, in a devotion the most magnificent the soul has ever known. Such worship seemed too large a response to anything which Jesus, with all His unique greatness, did or determined in the course of His earthly life alone. The Synoptic record alone would not account for the Christian religion, nor produce the plerophory of Christian faith. Christ’s earthly humiliation had to have its foundation laid in Heaven, and to be viewed but as the working out of a renunciation before the world was.1 [Note: P. T. Forsyth, The Person and Place of Jesus Christ, 269.]
Among geographers there have sometimes been disputes as to the identity of a river. They have debated, for instance, whether the Quorra were the same as the Niger; but when a boat, launched on the Niger, after a few weeks made its appearance floating on the Quorra, there was an end of the argument: the names might be two, but the streams were demonstrably the one the continuation of the other. And sometimes a critic, indignant at an anonymous author, has shown how much better a well-known writer would have handled the self-same subject—when it turns out that the nameless and the well-known personages are in this instance identical. In the 102nd Psalm, eternity and unchangeableness are ascribed to the Great Creator; and there is no opponent of the Saviour’s divinity who would not sing that psalm as a fitting ascription to the Most High God: when behold! the Epistle to the Hebrews informs us that it is a hymn of praise to Jesus Christ!1 [Note: James Hamilton, Works, iii. 257.]
2. The doctrine of the Incarnation involves the pre-existence of Christ, not in an ideal, mystic sense, but as a personal Being. The preposition “with” in the second clause of John 1:1—“the Word was with God”—is one which implies mutual association in a striking way. It suggests the intercourse of those who are standing face to face—“The Word was directed to God, moving toward God.” The same idea appears in a more tender form in John 1:18—“No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Christ asserts His personal pre-existence in the majestic words of John 8:58 : “Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” It is implied in the saying so frequently upon His lips about His coming into the world, coming with a purpose which it was His constant effort to fulfil. It has its loftiest expression in His solemn words of prayer, “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
In ordinary biographies, a birth is the beginning. It was in the year 1483 that the mind to which we owe the Reformation commenced its existence; for it was then that Martin Luther was born. It was in London that the career began to which England is indebted for its great epic poem, and that other from which science received its mightiest modern impulse; for it was there that Milton and Bacon first saw the light of life. Having told us this, the biographer feels that he has begun at the beginning; and with this statement coincides the consciousness of the individual himself. For, whatever the old philosophy may have dreamed about the pre-existence of spirit and the transmigration of souls, no man could ever seriously say that he had led another life before he was born; no man could ever tell incidents and experiences which had occurred to him in a state of existence anterior to the present. With us, to all intents, our birth is our beginning. In the whole history of our species there has been only one exception.1 [Note: James Hamilton, Works, iii. 249.]
3. The Apostle Paul draws practical appeals from the same truth. When he would urge the Corinthians to “prove the sincerity of their love,” he gives them this touching reminder—“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich.” The sacrifice which ended in the Cross began when Jesus left “the bosom of the Father.” “Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted not the being equal with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, then he humbled himself, becoming obedient as far as unto death, even the death of the cross.”
The doctrine of the pre-existence of Jesus is not confined to St. John. Writing to the Corinthian Church St. Paul reminds them in one passage of the history of Israel of old, and then he adds the remarkable words, “They drank of a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ”—that is, Christ was with God’s ancient people in their wanderings in the wilderness some fourteen or fifteen hundred years before He was born (1 Corinthians 10:4). So, too, in the great passage on the resurrection of the dead in the same Epistle, he says, “The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47); and in the Second Epistle to the same Church at Corinth he reminds them of “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might become rich”—words which have no possible meaning unless Jesus had lived a heavenly life before His incarnation. Perhaps the strongest assertion of the pre-incarnate Being of Christ in all the writings of St. Paul is the following passage in the Epistle to the Philippians (John 2:6-7): “Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the cross.”
So, too, St. Peter declares that long before Jesus came into the world, the Spirit of Jesus was moving and working in the prophets of the Hebrew people: “Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them” (1 Peter 1:10-11).1 [Note: G. S. Barrett, The Earliest Christian Hymn, 32.]
ii. His Humanity
1. Very early in the history of the Christian Church, and even before all the original Apostles had passed away, there were persons who had received Christian baptism and professed to be Christians to whom it seemed incredible that our Lord was really man—that according to the vigorous statement of St. John in the text, He “became flesh.” The form in which St. John affirms the truth was, no doubt, suggested by the heresies which denied it. There was a very common belief in the ancient world that human sin has its origin and roots in the flesh and blood of the body, and that all matter is necessarily evil; to disengage and separate the higher and spiritual life of man from his physical nature was therefore supposed to be the true discipline of moral and spiritual perfection. There were teachers in the Church, claiming to speak in the power of the Spirit of God, who taught this doctrine, and to whom it was inconceivable that our Lord could have had a body like our own. St. John was thinking of these teachers when he said in his Epistle, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit which confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist.”
Earnest belief in Christ’s divinity has a difficulty in allowing His real humanity. The idea, for example, of Christ’s growing, as a man, in wisdom as well as in stature, is repugnant to some minds; and, despite the teaching of Scripture, there are those who refuse to think of His being subject to any ordinary human limitations, whether of power or of knowledge. This idea of Christ, too common among believers in His divinity, finds expression in Shelley’s fine but misleading figure—
A mortal shape to him
Was like the vapour dim,
Which the orient planet animates with light.
The same poet makes Him tread the thorns of death and shame, like a triumphal path, of which He never truly felt the sharpness. One of our hymns falls into this heresy when it speaks of the “seeming infant of a day.” This is exactly to reduce His humanity to a mere appearance. He was not the “seeming infant,” but the real “infant of a day.” I have myself met people to whom Christ’s patience and suffering, for example, could offer no consolation, because they said, “He was God all the time, and it was easy for Him.”1 [Note: A. Halliday Douglas.]
“I believe,” cries Irving with the deepest emotion, “that my Lord did come down and toil, and sweat, and travail, in exceeding great sorrow, in this mass of temptation, with which I and every sinful man am oppressed; did bring His Divine presence into death-possessed humanity, into the one substance of manhood created in Adam, and by the Fall brought into a state of resistance and alienation from God, of condemnation and proclivity to evil, of subjection to the devil; and bearing it all upon His shoulders in that very state into which God put it after Adam had sinned, did suffer its sorrows and pains, and swimming anguish, its darkness, wasteness, disconsolateness, and hiddenness from the countenance of God; and by His faith and patience did win for Himself the name of the Man of Sorrows and the author and finisher of our faith.”
This was the very essence of his belief. And when from unexpected quarters, everywhere round him, he discovered that other men, that his fathers and brethren in his own Church, disowned this central truth which gave life and reality to the gospel, it went to his heart like a personal affliction. It was not that they differed with him on a controverted subject; the matter was different to his grieved and wondering perception. To him it appeared that they denied the Lord. The deepest heart of Divine grace and pity, the real unspeakable redemption, seemed to Irving overlooked and despised when this wonderful identity of nature was disputed. He stood wondering and sorrowful, always in the midst of his argument turning back again to simple statement, as if, like his Lord, he would have asked, “Do ye now believe?”1 [Note: Mrs. Oliphant, Life of Edward Irving, ii. 109.]
2. The faith of the Church in our Lord’s humanity rests primarily on experience—the experience of those who knew Him during His earthly life. And their experience must also determine our whole conception of the Incarnation. Our theory must be governed by the facts; we shall go far astray if we attempt first to construct a theory and then to force the facts into agreement with it. What, then, are the facts?
Mary, His mother, was the friend of the original apostles and disciples of our Lord, and after His crucifixion, she lived with the Apostle John. She would tell our Lord’s friends how He grew from infancy to childhood, and childhood to youth, increasing in wisdom as well as in height and strength with His increasing years,—a child and a youth to attract the favour of both God and man. Nor was it Mary alone who could tell them of our Lord’s childhood, youth, and manhood. James and Jude, to whom two Epistles, bearing their names, are attributed in the New Testament, but who do not appear to have become His disciples till after His resurrection, were His “brothers.” Salome, the wife of Zebedee, was, in all probability, the sister of Mary His mother, and was therefore His aunt. Her sons, the two Apostles James and John, were His cousins; and it was this relationship, as well as the special confidence with which our Lord had treated them, that, perhaps, suggested the request that they might sit, one on His right hand and one on His left hand, in His Kingdom. All these relatives of His, who were well known to the first generation of Christians, could recall our Lord’s life in Nazareth before His public ministry began; and it is certain that they never doubted that He was really man. Nor were there any signs during His public ministry that our Lord had lost any of the characteristics of humanity or had been liberated from any of its limitations.
Man has always found it easier to see a Divine element in the strange and awful and supernatural, and to picture his Deity as living above him in the high mountains, or the unknown depth of sky, than to find Him in the near and the accustomed. Now in the fulness of time he has been called upon to see Him in the “Word made flesh,” dwelling among men “in fashion as a man,” not taking upon Him the nature of angels, but the nature of suffering humanity. The Greeks might indeed conceive of their gods, their Apollo or Athena, taking some part in the affairs of men, and jealously watching the interests of their worshippers; the Egyptian might picture Horus or Osiris, experiencing like men the triumph of victory or the ignominy of defeat; but the Christian has a more difficult, but a far more glorious, conception to which he may rise. He may see his God as manifested in terms of his own life, becoming his Comrade in temptation, and his Example in humility. Here is one who undertook, not to govern the world from afar, but to overcome it from within, who calls Himself not high and lifted up, but meek and lowly, the servant of all. As a shepherd He goes before His sheep to make the crooked paths straight, and the rough places smooth, and in His own experience He conquers death and triumphs over the grave.1 [Note: M. C. Albright, The Common Heritage, 113.]
In deep spiritual temptations nothing has helped me better, with nothing have I heartened myself and driven away the devil better, than with this, that Christ, the true Eternal Son of God, is “bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh”; and that He sits on the right hand of God, and pleads for us. When I can grasp this shield of faith, I have already chased away the evil one with his fiery darts.2 [Note: Luther.]
3. Why do we insist upon the humanity of Christ?
(1) First, there is the sense of our loss should the doctrine be obscured. Such comfortable words as these—“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”: “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin”—would lose their meaning.
(2) And, secondly, we should fall back into the old error about the character of God. It was because men thought it degrading to the Son of God to have become flesh that they denied it. St. John knew that humiliation is not degradation; pride degrades. The imperfect soars or stands aloof. “The blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords,” can only reveal Himself by stooping. We shall never know by our experience the glory and the bliss of immeasurable condescension, for He came to lift us into participation with Himself. But we can adore the man Christ Jesus, and the Father whom He reveals, as we could not have adored a God shrouded from us in His own perfections.
Save through the flesh Thou wouldst not come to me—
The flesh, wherein Thy strength my weakness found,
A weight to bow Thy Godhead to the ground,
And lift to heaven a lost humanity.1 [Note: John Bannister Tabb.]
4. Christ was not only truly man, with body, soul, and spirit, in each of which He suffered, by hunger and weariness and pain, by grief and anger, by desolation: He also was and is perfectly man, and He was and is representatively man.
(1) Christ was and is perfectly man.—For us humanity is broken up into fragments by sex, by race, by time, by circumstance. From the beginning its endowments were not unequally divided between man and woman, whose differences are essential to the true idea of the whole. And we can see that countless nations and ages have not yet exhausted the manifold capacities of manhood and womanhood under the varied disciplines and inspirations of life. Again and again even in our own experience some new flash of courage or wisdom or patience or tenderness goes to brighten the picture of man’s completed and real self. But in Christ there are no broken or imperfect lights. In Him everything which is shown to us of right and good and lovely in the history of the whole world is gathered up once for all. Nothing limits His humanity, but the limits proper to humanity itself. Whatever there is in man of strength, of justice, of wisdom: whatever there is in woman of sensibility, of purity, of insight, is in Christ without the conditions which hinder among us the development of contrasted virtues in one person. Christ belongs peculiarly to no one people, to no one time. And conversely, if there be aught that is noble in the achievements or in the aspirations of any people or of any time, it finds a place in His sympathy, and strength from His example.
(2) Christ was and is also representatively man.—Seeing that He unites in Himself all that is truly manly and truly womanly, stripped of the accidental forms which belong to some one country, or to some one period, every one therefore can find in Him for his own work union with the eternal. He is, in the language of St. Paul, “the last Adam,” “a life-giving spirit.” For Him, consciously or unconsciously, all men were looking: to Him all history tended: in Him a higher life had its beginning and its pledge. “Ye shall see,” He said Himself in answer to the first confession of faith, “the heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” And for us the promise has found accomplishment. In Him we are enabled to perceive that the broken unity of earth and heaven has been restored; in Him we are enabled to recognize that the earlier intercourse between the seen and the unseen worlds has been brought to an absolute fulfilment. Christ the Son of man has bestowed on all men the gifts which belonged to Him as the Son of God.
iii. Why did He become flesh?
The purpose of the Incarnation has been abundantly discussed in the history of Christendom, from the Alexandrine Fathers onward. Anselm, in his “Cur Deus Homo,” asks and answers the question by saying that God became incarnate to provide a remedy for human sin; and two great mediæval schools, the Thomists and Scotists, took opposite sides on this point. The controversy is not even yet over; some maintain that God would have become incarnate whether man had sinned or not, and others assert that human sin is the predisposing cause of the humiliation of Deity. Perhaps a reconciliation might be effected between both extremes if it were recognized that moral evil is here by the good purpose of God, and hence that one main and necessary object of the Incarnation must, in the foreknowledge of God, have been the salvation of men from their sins and sorrows. It is not to the purpose to discuss whether Christ would have been born into the world had man never sinned, for in creating man God must have foreknown that he would sin. On the other hand, however, we may say that it was fitting that in the fulness of time God should send forth His Son, so that men might recognize and obey the very Self of God. God being what He is, it is clear that as soon as humanity was able to receive a revelation so complete as the fact of the Incarnation provides, such a revelation was just what we might expect. Had there been no Christ of history men to-day would have been wistfully longing for just such an expression of God as Christ brought into the world. We may therefore say that God became man for three reasons: (1) in order that He might realize Himself; (2) in order that He might give to the world a fuller revelation of God; and (3) in order that He might make atonement for sin.
1. He became man in order that He might realize Himself. This point we must touch reverently, yet firmly. It has a certain significance. God shares in every experience of the race and lives His life in every individual. The Hegelian philosophy declares that creation is the result of a process in which the Deity realizes Himself. To say less would be to affirm that man purchases in the school of pain an experience of which God is in possession without pain. A nobler thought is that which represents humanity as living its life with God, in God, and for God; and God as living His life in company with men, through men, and by men. That God has a deeper life than humanity can ever touch is certainly the case, but that the life of humanity has immediate value for the life of God is also an indispensable truth. God is the Universal Consciousness within whom are many separate centres of consciousness. God is immediately conscious of all that enters into our individual consciousness; He is, indeed, more conscious of us than we are of ourselves. Yet something more is needed even for Deity than this general consciousness of the flux of creation. God knows being in general; He needs to know human nature in particular. Here, perhaps, is a key to the purpose of the Incarnation. It was fitting that the Captain of our salvation should be made perfect through sufferings. God thus knows Himself through incarnation in a human life, and returns to Himself through humanity.
Previous to His Incarnation, Christ knew, as a Divine person, what was the condition of man on earth—not only knew it, but regarded it with tender interest. The sad music of humanity entered His ear and touched His compassion. It was because of the pitying love He felt for us, that He visited and redeemed us. But it is one thing to look on suffering, and another thing to suffer; and when Christ not only pitied the miserable, but came down and took up His abode among them, clothed Himself with their nature, lived among them, felt with them, wept with them, suffered with them, was made in all points like them, sin excepted, He acquired a new experience, which suffused the infinite compassion of His Godhead with the glow of a human tenderness. Then He knew the state of man as a sinner by making it His own, and through this personal acquaintance with evil He qualified Himself to be a merciful and faithful High Priest.
Thus, instead of jarring against our idea of God, the Incarnation seems not only natural but delightful to conceive. How often have we ourselves, when affection for the lower creation has been kindled in us, desired in idea to enter into their life for a time, and then to return into ourselves again with a new consciousness of a lower life than our own, and with increased ability and desire to help. And if we have felt this towards a nature not kindred to our own, how much more may God have felt it towards a nature in direct kinship with Himself? It is a noble thought: it ought to commend itself to all who have ever loved purely and passionately, and desired to become at one with the being of those they loved.
Macaulay never wrote more truly than when he said, “It was before Deity embodied in a human form, walking among men, partaking of their infirmities, leaning on their bosoms, weeping over their graves, slumbering in the manger, bleeding on the cross, that the prejudices of the synagogue, and the doubts of the academy, and the fasces of the lictor, and the swords of thirty legions were humbled in the dust.” By His very gentleness the incarnate Son does make men great, and he who seeks for purest sympathy and richest solace must betake himself to Christ.1 [Note: W. M. Taylor, The Limitations of Life, 28.]
There was once a chaplain to a prison who thought that the prisoners were treated cruelly—more severely than their judges intended them to be; so he determined to live as they lived, to be punished as they were punished, although he had not committed any crime. This is almost exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ did.2 [Note: J. Robinson Gregory.]
2. He became man in order that He might give to the world a fuller revelation of God. Nature has in all ages and in all lands spoken of God and taught men to worship Him, but nature has never been able to get beyond a mere declaration of the existence of a Supreme Being, and her disciples must, perforce, erect their altars to the Unknown God, and worship Him in ignorance and through the medium of symbols. Nature is powerless to expound the attributes of Deity. She cannot even, in the face of so much sorrow and suffering on every hand, go so far as to assert His unchanging and unchangeable goodness. She proclaims to us, with her ten thousand voices echoing through earth and sea and sky, that there is a God, but she can tell us no more. Here, then, is the province of revelation. From a world sitting in darkness there is borne upwards a cry whose burden is, “More light! more light!” And the cry is heard, the petition is granted, and through the deep gloom of the shadow-wrapped land a voice resounds, “Arise, shine, for thy light is come!”
When Christ came, He, and He first, taught us that we, with our sin-stained lips, might call upon God as “Our Father which art in heaven.” Thus a new relationship altogether was (not established but) revealed between the Creator and the creature, and that connection which David faintly foreshadowed when he said, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him,” was shown by our Saviour to be not a semblance but a reality.
If a friend visits you, you like to show him your most valued possessions. If you are a gardener you take him to see the loveliest flower in your conservatory. If you are an artist you lead him to your studio and show him your best picture. If you are an author you place your favourite volume in his hand. Now God wishes man to know what He glories in, what He deems His best possession, what affords Him more joy than anything else. He wishes to give us the knowledge of His glory. What does He glory in? What does He wish us to know above everything else?
Does He wish us to know His power? Certainly not. That might impress some. But He placed our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Great loveliness was there, but no special manifestation of power. I notice that when kings and other potentates visit one another they are taken to see the arsenal, or the army, or the fleet. The host is very anxious to give the guests a great idea of his power. This is one of the many particulars in which the King of kings is essentially different from all other kings. He put our first parents in the Garden of Eden where there was no great display of power. He might have placed them on some solitary island, around which great oceans leaped and rolled. But He has never gone out of His way to impress men with His power. Neither has He ever sought to overwhelm them with His wisdom. It is only lately that He has begun to unfold to us, on a large scale, the marvels of His knowledge. The physical sciences are exceedingly modern. It is only in our own lifetime that God has permitted us, by the use of such modern inventions as the microscope, the telescope, and the spectroscope, to find out the wonders of His skill. He was in no hurry to impress us with that. Nothing can be more absurd, or wicked, or degraded, than the idolatrous worship of mere cleverness. We may be as clever or as powerful as Satan himself, and yet as odious and degraded. God does not glory either in power or in wisdom.
But what God does glory in, what He has been trying to reveal to us from the beginning, what He wishes us to know more than anything else, is that His nature is love! He wishes to persuade us that He attaches an immeasurably higher value to love than to power or to wisdom. Where shall we find words to describe the rapture of man when he discovers that “God is love”? One of the most delightful passages in human biography is in the life of Henry Ward Beecher. He was brought up in a narrow, hard, Calvinistic school. For a long time he groped in darkness and misery. The name of God was to him a name of terror. But with glowing eloquence and delight he tells us how on one memorable day it dawned upon him that God is love. At once the whole universe was radiant with new beauty. Everything was changed. He was changed. He passed from hell to heaven, and the light of that rapturous moment never passed away. But neither to him nor to us could that vivid and full knowledge of the love of God ever have come except in the face of Jesus Christ. All previous revelations are summed up, supplemented, and completed in Christ. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). There is “life for a look” at that face.1 [Note: H. Price Hughes, Essential Christianity, 50.]
3. But the grand reason why God became man in Christ, the New Testament tells us, was that He might make propitiation or atonement for sin. This is the great reason which Anselm discusses in his own way in his book. The law had something to say in Court, as it were, with regard to the bestowment of an absolutely gratuitous pardon, and the right to claim that its principles and requirements should be duly conserved and satisfied. Now the Incarnation of the Son of God and His perfect obedience to the law, thus “magnifying the law and maintaining its honour,” fully met the case. He fully met all the requirements which the law might put forth with a view to securing a free pardon, and He did it as man’s Head and Representative. Accordingly, when the penitent sinner accepts Christ in His incarnate fulness—His law-satisfying life and death—Christ’s law-satisfying life and death practically and substantially become the sinner’s own, and count for his salvation. Thus it follows that while pardon is freely given, the law is duly honoured, maintained, and even fulfilled. Christ Himself declares that He came “to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). As St. John puts it, God “loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
And this brings new life into the world. Christ is the propitiation for His people through whom they recover their lost place in the Divine favour. But besides this, He is their life, and is made to them a quickening spirit. To Him they are indebted for their new existence; in His likeness they are renewed; on Him they depend; and in Him they find their unity. His own favourite image of the relation is that of a tree: “I am the vine; ye are the branches.” The branches spring from the tree; they are nourished by it; they are in union with it; and so believers have their being from Christ; they live in Him; they are one with Him.
The Incarnation of the Son of God has not left human nature where it was, but imported into it a new Divine splendour. Wonderful as man was in his created likeness to God, the entrance of the Son of God into the vital body of humanity has raised human nature to a higher point than it ever attained before. This, like the Incarnation itself, is as difficult to define as it is clearly a fact. When “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among men,” the measurements of humanity had to be taken from a new height, even from the glory of the Son of Man 1:1 [Note: J. Thomas, The Mysteries of Grace, 24.]
So the Lord of all things,
Caring for His own,
Even for the small things
Left His golden throne.
Down the mystic stairway,
To the bourne of earth,
Of the womb of Mary,
By a human birth,
Came the Sun of Healing
Above human ken,
All His might concealing
From the sons of men.
That He might precede them,
Out of pain and strife,
Head them, join them, teach them, lead them
Into fuller life.
For the life diurnal
Waxeth old and dim;
Love and life eternal
Rest alone in Him!
All is in the story
How the Christ brought good
In a costly crimson glory
Of His Brotherhood.1 [Note: John W. Taylor, The Doorkeeper, 5.]
The Human Life
“And dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.”
The Nativity was but the beginning of a long work. The Son of God not only came as man, but He grew as man grows. He passed through the stages of human development, “tempted in all points” even as we are. He consecrated not our nature only, but our life. “He dwelt among us.” He shared the transitory joys and griefs—the spirit of righteous anger and the spirit of thankful exultation—which belong to us. “He tabernacled among us,”—to preserve the idea of the original, which carries us back to the time when the people of Israel wandered as pilgrims in the wilderness, and the visible glory of the Lord rested when they should rest and guided their forward path, the sign and type of God’s abiding presence. Even so it was with Christ. He tabernacled with us, and the faithful beheld His glory. He marked out the path of life. He hallowed each resting-place upon the way. The material splendour of the fiery pillar was changed into a spiritual beacon; but it was still clear with the light of heaven—clear to the loving. But even here, as of old time, that which is the light of the Christian is the thick gloom which enwraps the unbelieving—the thick gloom or even the consuming fire.
We know, we feel, we value all that He gave up. We know how He passed through that life of man on earth, which He accepted from its beginning to its close. We know that there is nothing so pinched and hard and trying in man’s condition that it was not His will to go through. We know that there is nothing so mean and scorned, so rough and dangerous in what the poor of this world have to put up with that did not fall to His lot when He came among men. That we might not feel Him to be in lot and condition above any of us, He chose to be below most of us—on a level with the meanest and the most helpless. He asked for no privilege as the Son of God; He refused nothing appointed to man to go through; He desired not to be spared any burden of our mortal state. As each thing came in the course of years, He accepted it. He hurried nothing; He waited till the years should change the babe into the child, and the child into the boy, and the boy into the man. For He came to be among us, not a passing vision, or a strange spectacle, but actually and in earnest to be man with men, to be “flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone,” to bind us to Himself in life, and in death, and in resurrection. He came that we might see and know that, being what He was, He had made Himself one of ourselves, living our very life, feeling, suffering, buffeted, tempted like man, but without man’s sin.
What must it be, only to be a man, when you think what He did to save and to bless mankind? What must it be, only to be a man, when you think that it is to be what Jesus Christ was once—and is now at the Father’s right hand? Let it be enough, to be of that nature which God cared for so wonderfully, for which He has opened such a road to perfection, for which He has provided such wondrous hopes. It cannot be a small thing to be a man—to be what our God and Maker was pleased to become, that He might be more closely joined to us. It cannot be a small thing to be man, with man’s destiny; to be man, with the honour put on man by God.1 [Note: Dean Church, The Message of Peace, 170.]
1. The Word “dwelt among us.” There can be little doubt that the author had in mind the Shekinah of the temple of the old dispensation. Biblical history tells us that after the erection of the tabernacle in the wilderness, the glory of God descended with the pillar of cloud and took possession of the Holy of Holies, and abode there upon the cherubic throne. So in the temple, the God of Israel was enthroned in theophanic glory in the Holy of Holies, on the outstretched wings of the cherubim. The tabernacle and the temple, its historic successor, continued, until the destruction of Jerusalem at the Babylonian exile, to be the dwelling-place of God enthroned upon the cherubim. Just as the temple was the abiding presence of the theophanic God in the old dispensation, just so the Word of God tabernacled in the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.
All that was glorious in the conception of the Shekinah and the temple of the old dispensation became still more glorious in Jesus Christ; only that glory was veiled and hidden in His flesh, as the Shekinah had been hidden in the innermost throne-room of the temple. But this veiling of the glory of the Word was only a temporary veiling, during His earthly life; when the veil of the temple of Jerusalem was rent by an earthquake, the veil of the flesh of the Son of God was also rent, and when His body arose from the tomb, the body of the risen Lord no longer veiled the glory, but transmitted it in Christophanies to His disciples.
The process of the Incarnation St. John describes very simply. The Jews were familiar with the idea of God dwelling with His people. By the word St. John here uses he links the body of Christ to the ancient dwelling of God round which the tents of Israel had clustered. God now dwelt among men in the humanity of Jesus Christ. The tabernacle was human, the indwelling Person was Divine. In Christ is realized the actual presence of God among His people, the actual entrance into and personal participation in human history which was hinted at in the tabernacle and the temple.2 [Note: M. Dods, Footsteps in the Path of Life, 19.]
2. “Full of grace and truth.” St. John had a special form of the manifestation of grace and truth before his mind when he wrote these words. He was thinking of the covenant God, who proclaimed Himself to Moses on the mount when He descended in the cloud as “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God full of compassion, and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy and truth.” He was thinking of David’s prayer, “O prepare loving-kindness and truth”; and his heart burned within him as he saw them now prepared. It was the thought of Christ’s redeeming work that filled his mind, and that led him to sum up the revelation of the Incarnation in the revelation of grace and truth. Therefore he says, not “love,” but “grace”—undeserved love to sinners. And in “truth” he is thinking chiefly of Christ’s “faithfulness.” The Divine glory that rested as a nimbus on the Lord’s head was compounded before all else of His ineffable love for the unlovely, of His changeless faithfulness to the unfaithful. For in Christ, God commended His love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Nevertheless, it would be a serious error to confine the words as here used to this single reference. This is rather the culmination and climax of their meaning than the whole extent and meaning of it. Christ is not only love as manifested in grace, but as the God of love manifest in the flesh He is love itself in all its height and breadth. Not only the loftiest reaches of love, love for the undeserving, find their model in Him, but all the love that is in the world finds its source and must seek its support in Him. His was the love that wept at the grave of a friend and over the earthly sorrows of Jerusalem, that yearned with the bereaved mother at Nain, and took the little children into His arms to bless them; as well as the love that availed to offer Himself a sacrifice for sin. In like manner, that St. John has especially in mind here the highest manifestations of truth—our Lord’s trustiness in the great work of salvation—in no way empties the word of its lower contents. He is still the true Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world; and all the truth that is in the world comes from Him and must seek its strength in Him. “We beheld his glory,” says the Apostle, “full”—complete, perfect—“of grace and truth.” And perfection of love and truth avails for all their manifestations. This man, the man Christ Jesus, could not act in any relation otherwise than lovingly, could not speak on any subject otherwise than truly. He is the pure fountain of love and truth.
(1) Grace and truth are spoken of in the concrete. The Apostle says that the only begotten is “full of grace and truth.” He did not come to tell us about grace, but actually to bring us grace. He is not full of the news of grace and truth, but of grace and truth themselves. Others had been messengers of gracious tidings, but He came to bring grace. Others teach us truth, but Jesus is the truth. He is that grace and truth whereof others spake.
(2) The grace and truth are blended. The “and” between the two words is more than a common conjunction. The two rivers unite in one fulness—“Full of grace and truth”: that is to say, the grace is truthful grace, grace not in fiction or in fancy, grace not to be hoped for and to be dreamed of, but grace every atom of which is fact; redemption which does redeem, pardon which does blot out sin, renewal which actually regenerates, salvation which completely saves. We have not here blessings which charm the ear and cheat the soul; but real, substantial favours from God that cannot lie. Then blend these things the other way. “Grace and truth”: the Lord has come to bring us truth, but it is not the kind of truth which censures, condemns, and punishes; it is gracious truth, truth steeped in love, truth saturated with mercy. The truth which Jesus brings to His people comes not from the judgment-seat, but from the mercy-seat; it has a gracious drift and aim about it, and ever tends to salvation. His light is the life of men. The grace is all true, and the truth is all gracious.
There are souls which easily bestow grace, which find it not hard to forgive, but they have often a dim perception of the majesty of that truth which has been violated. There are souls which have a clear perception of the majesty of truth and a deep sense of the sin that swerves from it, but they are often inexorable in their justice and unable to pardon; they have more truth than grace. Here there is a perfect blending of extremes—fulness of grace united to fulness of truth. There is a forgiveness which is valueless because there is no sense of wrong; there is a sense of wrong which is forbidding because there is no power of forgiveness. Here perfect forgiveness is joined with perfect perception. The glory of Christ’s love is that it comes not from darkness but from light; He forgave the sinner because He bore the sin.1 [Note: G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, 221.]
I was eight years old, I believe, when another boy, a little older than myself, told me that we owed the Christmas gifts to our parents, that they did not come from heaven. This gave me such a shock that I fell with both my fists upon the boy, pommelling him with all my might; but I got the worst of the battle, almost the only one I fought in my life, and came home crying to ask for confirmation of the dreadful tale. My dear mother had to give it, but did it in such a delicate way that, although I felt the mysterious poetry of that night was gone, my love for my parents was increased.2 [Note: Life and Letters of Sir Charles Hallé, 20.]
Men who had been accustomed to hear of religion solely as stereotyped tradition or condemning law, “wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth,” so full was He of the revealed mercy of God to sinners. That was the general impression made by His life and ministry. And it is the impression made to-day by the record of it. We see Him still across the distance of ages, as that Divine head rises above the corn-fields through which He walked; we see Him under the trees at eventide, or sitting on Jacob’s well at noon, or in the boat at the edge of Tiberias, or standing in the meadows above Bethsaida. Everywhere the impression made concerning Him is the same. It is Divine Love in earnest, seeking and saving that which was lost. We here look, not upon a speculative teacher, or a great analyst of the mystery of human life, or a disputatious theologue pouring forth doctrines and articles of belief, or a mighty intellect addressing the human understanding so as to found a school, but on a living practical love, descending into the midst of men’s sufferings and sins; and earnestly labouring to relieve them.
Grace is power. That power whereby God works in nature is called power. That power whereby He works in the wills of His reasonable creatures is called grace.3 [Note: J. B. Mozley, On Predestination, 302.]
Grace is a force in the spiritual order, not simply God’s unmerited kindness in the abstract, but such kindness in action as a movement of His Spirit within the soul, resulting from the Incarnation, and imparting to the will and the affections a new capacity of obedience and love.1 [Note: W. Bright, Anti-Pelagian Treatises of St. Augustine, x.]
Grace is not simply kindly feeling on the part of God, but a positive boon conferred on man. Grace is a real and active force: it is “the power that worketh in us,” illuminating the intellect, warming the heart, strengthening the will of redeemed humanity. It is the might of the Everlasting Spirit, renovating man by uniting him, whether immediately or through the Sacraments, to the Sacred Manhood of the Word Incarnate.2 [Note: H. P. Liddon, University Sermons, i. 44.]
1. Grace is a revelation of the will of God now. A child knows something of the mind and will of the parent from personal contact with that parent, but not from the rules, or only to a very slender degree from the rules, which are laid down for its guidance. But when we turn from Law to Grace, then we see at once that we are now dealing with a revelation of the mind and the will of Him from whom the grace proceeds. Each act of favour which a parent bestows upon his child, or which a sovereign bestows upon his subject, is a revelation, so far as it goes, of the mind and will of the parent towards that particular child, or of the sovereign towards that particular subject, as the case may be. And even so every act of grace which we receive from God is a revelation, so far as it goes, of the mind and will of God towards us who are affected by the act. And if it be so with each of these acts of favour, obviously grace as a whole must be regarded as nothing less than a complete manifestation of the mind and will of God Himself towards us, that is to say, so far as any manifestation of the Infinite to finite intelligence can be complete.
2. The words “full of grace” not only comprise the supply of all that sinners need on earth, they include heaven itself in reversion. These sunbeams fly over an eternal future. Other rays of light are lost in distance, swallowed up at last in darkness, absorbed in the bosom of eternal night; but these go forward, bright as at first, into the profound, and reveal along the surface of that shoreless ocean the isles of the blessed stretching onward to an horizon beyond which no eye but One can direct a space-penetrating beam. “He seeth under the whole heaven”; and that which He sees is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
The living Word, the voice of God walking among men, was “full of truth,” as well as of grace. The expressions of the Evangelist, being prompted by a very real inspiration of Him who is Light, resemble sun-rays. They contain more than a single element of meaning, they fly in complex glory through the ages. If St. John had been asked what he meant by his phrase “full of truth,” he would doubtless have said, I mean that He was full of reality, full of sincerity, full of instruction. There is no sense in which you can employ the word Truth without making it describe Him, who was the “Amen,” “the faithful and true witness.” Let us think, then, of Jesus Christ under each aspect. Let the three rays, the violet, the crimson, the gold, as they pass through the prism of our analysis, fall in succession upon the sacred head of this Prince of the Kings of the Earth.
1. He was full of Reality.—We know what we mean when we say that we have met with a real man. This is a world of false appearances, of poverty striving to set up and maintain a respectable exterior, of cheap materials set forth so as to look rich and fine; a world of paint, varnish, stucco, and veneer. So is it in character; a world much more than half filled with people trying to pass themselves off for something greater and better than the reality, for wiser, richer, more learned, and more beautiful than they actually are. The experience of life deepens the persuasion that the majority will not bear a close examination of the “inward parts.” The religious public is in the same condemnation. In Christ’s time religious society was one complicated pretence. But look at the Christ! He is real, genuine, solid to the centre. He is at the heart what He is at the surface. We shall never find Him different from that which we see Him now. The zeal of God burns in an inextinguishable flame in the deepest recesses of His spirit. He means all that He says. His acts are exactly parallel with His words. His passions move by the same rule as His thoughts. We never know any man thoroughly until we see him under excitement. Jesus when excited is animated by the same inspiration as in repose. “The zeal of God’s house” is the fiery cloak which enfolds Him.
Professor Huxley was no model man, but his son describes some characteristics that ought to be felt to be model when he sets forth “that passion for veracity which was perhaps his strongest characteristic, an uncompromising passion for truth in thought, which would admit no particle of self-deception, no assertion beyond what could be verified; for truth in act, perfect straightforwardness and sincerity, with complete disregard of personal consequences for uttering unpalatable fact. Truthfulness in his eyes was the cardinal virtue, without which no stable society can exist.… The lie from interested motives was only more hateful to him than the lie from self-delusion or foggy thinking.… In his mind, no compromise was possible between truth and untruth.”1 [Note: R. E. Speer, The Marks of a Man, 24.]
2. He was full of Sincerity.—This is one of the chief impressions made on all readers of the Gospels, that Jesus of Nazareth was perfectly honest, that He was not a conscious impostor, that He spoke with a strength and depth of sincerity which raised Him far above the level of ordinary witnesses. The frank and penetrating beam of His holy eye rests on every one who contemplates Him in the mirror of the gospel history. The goodness of His nature was a pledge of His honesty.
Perhaps no warmer encomium was ever passed upon faulty man than this of Mrs. Hutchinson upon her husband, who was Governor of Nottingham Castle during the English Civil War: “He never professed the thing he intended not, nor promised what he believed out of his power, nor failed in the performance of anything that was in his power to fulfil.”
3. He was full of truth in being full of Instruction.—He made human nature appear to be what it is, a grand and solemn thing. He made human life in its moral aspects seem an arena where issues of infinite importance are at stake. He made the soul of man seem an awfully real existence within him. He made right and wrong seem as distinct as noon and midnight. He made the Almighty appear a Being real and near, overshadowing the earth with His excellent glory. His countenance blazed like the sun with the splendour of God. Aforetime the Deity had been faintly revealed in events, in descriptions, in institutions, in nature; but in Him God became visible. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” He caused the invisible world to appear to the soul as real as the visible. He was in manifest communion with the unseen. He opened the Scriptures, and the world of the present, and the realms of the dead, and the future eternity, and compelled men to feel that these bursts of supreme inspiration were but the first outbreakings of a fountain which would flow through eternity.1 [Note: E. White, The Mystery of Growth, 91.]
Truth lives and thrives in her fair house of Learned Theory. But its grand, pillared front is too high, its wide doors too rich and ponderous; her form as she moves within is too fair and proud and queenly for common men to dare to come and enter her great gates and ask to learn of God and Nature and their own humanity from her lips. Rather will they stand without for ever, looking from far away upon the towers of her wondrous home and see the great Mistress walking with a few bold scholars through the greenness of her trees, deeming it all a thing in which there is no part for them. So then, fair Truth, that she may claim her right to govern from her readiness to help all men, lays by her gorgeous robes, takes the plain white mantle of most simple faith, comes down from her great house, and goes along the crowded street and close lanes of poor men’s homes, with a lesson and a smile for each, a soothing touch for the sick child’s forehead, a helping word for the poor working woman, a passing look that makes the strong man’s heart more strong and happy, long after she has passed back to her house.2 [Note: Phillips Brooks, 73.]
This inner admonition which compels us to the thought of God, to the thirst for Him, to the search after Him, comes to us from the source of all Truth. It is the sun which shines within our souls. It is the truth which we divine when, our eyes being too feeble, or too suddenly opened, we are afraid to look it in the face. It is none other than God Himself, in His changeless perfection. So long as we persist in seeking to satisfy our thirst elsewhere than at this fountain, we must admit that we have not attained our proper goal, and therefore, though God be for us, we are neither wise nor happy. Complete satisfaction of soul, the truly happy life, is to know purely and fully what Truth itself is, what conducts in the search after it, and by what relations it connects us with the supreme perfection. These three demonstrate to purified souls the one only God, the one only Reality, in distinction from the self-contradicting fables of superstition.3 [Note: St. Augustine, Soliloquies, xxxvi.]
Despised! Rejected by the priest-led roar
Of the multitude! The imperial purple flung
About the form the hissing scourge had stung,
Witnessing naked to the truth it bore!
True Son of Father true, I Thee adore,
Even the mocking purple truthful hung
On Thy true shoulders, bleeding its folds among,
For Thou wast king, art king for evermore!
I know the Father: he knows me the truth.
Truth-witness, therefore the one essential king,
With Thee I die, with Thee live worshipping!
O human God, O brother, eldest born,
Never but Thee was there a man in sooth,
Never a true crown but Thy crown of thorn!1 [Note: George MacDonald, Poetical Works, i. 259.]
Divinity discovered in Humanity
“We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.”
The New Testament embodies this unique Apostolic experience. There are critical considerations which give a graduated value to its materials. Some portions are more near the centre than others. Some passages and sections are relegated to the fringe. Some may have a doubtful claim. There is a certain variance in tone: a certain growth: a certain personal element. All this can be allowed for, and rationally examined and classified and estimated. But the main bulk is there, as the record of the impression which was made on those who came within that incomparable and authoritative experience. This is what they said who saw and touched and handled and proved the living Presence of the Christ. This is what it came to. This is the thing that happened to them, and this is the language in which they came to express it. They could not say what they had passed through in any other way. They could not find any other type of terms that would adequately convey to themselves or to others the fact which experience had pressed home upon their innermost being.
And how would they express it? What are the words in which they present it? Well, they could not stop short of an ultimate verdict, which became quite inevitable to all those who came under the supreme experience. They might tremble to say it; or wonder how it came to be so inevitable; or brood over it before they said it; or find it break from them in a single outburst of irresistible inspiration. But one and all come to it. One and all say it. One and all feel that nothing short of it will adequately signalize their inward conviction. It was impossible to be inside that experience of living with Jesus, or of seeing Him in His Risen Reality, without letting their belief culminate and crystallize in a simple victorious expression. The Word had been made Flesh. It was “the Word of God” in human flesh. God had sent forth His Son. “Truly, this was the Christ, the Son of the Highest.” “God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son,” “the express image of his Person.” “We beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father.” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son … in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh.” It must come to that. That is the heart and core of the whole matter. That is the joy and the fellowship into which believers are invited by those to whom the Life was manifested—the Eternal Life which was with the Father. “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you.” “We know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ.” “This is the true God, and Eternal Life.”
I know what beauty is, for Thou
Hast set the world within my heart;
Of me Thou madest it a part;
I never loved it more than now.
I know the Sabbath afternoons;
The light asleep upon the graves;
Against the sky the poplar waves;
The river murmurs organ tunes.
I know the spring with bud and bell;
The hush in summer woods at night;
Autumn, when leaves let in more light;
Fantastic winter’s lovely spell.
I know the rapture music gives,
Its mystery of ordered tones:
Dream-muffled soul, it loves and moans,
And, half-alive, comes in and lives.
And verse I know, whose concord high
Of thought and music lifts the soul
Where many a glimmering starry shoal
Glides through the Godhead’s living sky.
Yea, Beauty’s regnant All I know—
The imperial head, the thoughtful eyes;
The God-imprisoned harmonies
That out in gracious motions go.
But I leave all, O Son of man,
Put off my shoes, and come to Thee,
Most lovely Thou of all I see,
Most potent Thou of all that can!
As child forsakes his favourite toy,
His sisters’ sport, his new-found nest,
And, climbing to his mother’s breast,
Enjoys yet more his late-left joy—
I lose to find. On fair-browed bride
Fair pearls their fairest light afford;
So, gathered round Thy glory, Lord,
All glory else is glorified.1 [Note: George MacDonald.]
1. “We beheld his glory.” St. John is telling us what of his own immediate knowledge he knows—testifying what he had heard, what he had seen with his eyes, what he had beheld and his hands had handled. An eye-witness to Christ’s majesty, he had seen His glory and bears his willing witness to it. Nor must we fancy that he gives us merely a subjective opinion of his own, as if he were telling us only that the man Jesus was so full of grace and truth in His daily walk that he, looking upon Him admiringly, had been led to conjecture that He was more than man. He testifies not to subjective opinion but to objective fact. And precisely what St. John witnesses is that the Word did become flesh, and dwelt among men, full of grace and truth, and that the blaze of His glory was manifest to every seeing eye that looked upon Him.
2. There would be several facts which would stand out with peculiar prominence before St. John’s mind when he thought of the glory of the Divine Word as manifested in the human life of Jesus Christ.
(1) He might probably have in mind, for example, that vision which was granted to St. Peter, St. James, and himself, when the Lord was transfigured on the Mount. He who had been taken apart by Christ, and had seen the fashion of his Lord’s visage changed, so as to shine bright as the light, and His raiment to become white and glistering,—that visage, which was so marred more than any man, made for the while fairer than the fairest, and those poor garments changed for the vesture of angels,—he who had witnessed (whether in the body, or out of the body) such a transfiguration as this might well say that even in the midst of His humiliation the glory of the Incarnate Word had been seen by him.
(2) Or again, the Evangelist might have in his thoughts those works of wonder, and at the same time of mercy, whereby the Lord had given evidence from time to time of the advent of a new power in the world. He might remember how the blind had received their sight, how the deaf had been made to hear, how the sick had been healed, and the lepers cleansed, nay, how the dead had risen up as if from sleep when bid to do so by the voice of Christ; he who had witnessed for the space of three years and more such works as these must have been blind indeed if the veil of human flesh had quite prevented him from recognizing the glory which was ever manifesting itself forth in acts of Divine goodness and power.
(3) Or still further, it may be that in using such language as that of the text, St. John had reference to those two great events to which the mind of any disciple who was taunted with worshipping a crucified Lord would instinctively turn, namely, the Resurrection and the Ascension. We can easily understand how the patent fact of the crucifixion should have appeared, to those who knew no more of Christ, to have reduced His claims to an absurdity, how the Cross should have proved a stumbling-block to one class of minds and folly to another,—there is nothing to surprise us in this,—but the death of their Master would imply to His disciples no destruction of the faith, because they knew that He who was dead and buried rose again from the dead, and ascended into Heaven. And how could St. John above all, who had been first of the disciples at the empty sepulchre, and had been one of the company from whose presence the Lord was taken up,—how could he fail to testify that, however much the weakness of human flesh, the acknowledged truth that Jesus Christ had died, might seem to Jews and Greeks a fatal obstacle to the faith, it was very different with those who had beheld the glory of Christ, declared to be the only begotten Son by the Resurrection from the dead and the Ascension to the right hand of God?
3. “We beheld his glory.” That is the Apostle’s deliberate answer; that is his description of the process which gained them conviction. “We beheld.” They used the help both of eyes and of mind; for the word suggests that they saw as men see when they let their minds follow their eyes—when they watch and think and learn as they look. The Apostles had had no brief and unsteady sight of the Master. They had had time given them to rest their gaze upon Him, and to continue looking, as He moved, as He spoke, as He went up and down with them. In many moods and varied scenes, in hope and in fear, in exaltation and in depression, by day and by night, alone and in a crowd, as a Prophet in the glare of the public sun, as a Friend in the secrecy of confidence, in a thousand incidents unforeseen and surprising—in all they had been close, very close, to Him, and had looked with all their eyes, and had hung upon Him with all their souls, and had meditated over all that they saw, and had pondered and had brooded, and had done this slowly, by degrees, habitually, moving forward step by step to this great conclusion. So they had seen; in this sure and tested study of Him, they had lived and walked; and what was it they found by so looking?
4. Of one thing they were convinced. That which they found in Him was something that had not been in the world at all before Jesus came. It was not merely a higher form of that which had been already in others, even in the highest—in the Baptist, or in Moses. As they had known all that the Baptist could do, so, too, they had felt all that Moses could bring them. He had brought them a great gift. He had given them a law from God. But this peculiar grace and life which they now had received came into the world in Jesus Christ, and in Him only. So strange, so new, so marvellous, so incomparable was this deep secret on which they had found themselves gazing. And what was it, then, this secret? How could it be told, this discovery? “Well,” the Apostle says, “it was nothing short of the supreme vision of all visions. It was (and we, as we waited and watched, became more and more certain of it)—it was the disclosure, the unveiling of God Himself. It was in character, in substance, in reality, God’s own glory. Whatever men have found God to be, whatever our fathers of old time felt God to be, as He shone in upon their hearts through the splendour of the Shekinah in the Tabernacle of Moses, that same thing Jesus showed Himself to be to us who so closely studied and loved Him. We saw Him, saw Him long, saw Him very near, saw Him very carefully; and what we saw in Him was the glory of God—the glory as of the only begotten Son of the Almighty Father.”
That human character, what was it? Was it simply one character among many? Was it a superlatively good man side by side with whom there were the Caiaphases and the Pilates, the weak men and the desperately wicked men? Was it simply one out of many? No, it had dawned upon them more and more that here He had not only one human character, He had something which drew from deeper depths than that, and covered an infinitely wider area. True, He was very Man, the Word was indeed made flesh, but that which they saw here in the reality of human nature was nothing less than the Divine Being, no other than the Eternal Son. The Word, the Son of God, had been made flesh; this human character was God’s character; this human love, this human justice, this human severity, this human compassion, are the Divine love, the eternal love, the eternal justice, the eternal severity, the eternal compassion. Verily, it is God made man! And here in the intelligible form of a human character we have disclosed to us the great secret of God. No man has seen God at any time, but the only begotten Son—God only begotten—He declared it.
In the rays of the sun, the topaz surpasses in splendour all precious stones; and even so does the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ excel in glory and in majesty all the saints and all the angels because of His union with the eternal Father. And in this union the reflection of the Divine Sun is so clear and glorious that it attracts and reflects in its clearness all the eyes of saints and angels in immediate vision, and those also of just men to whom its splendour is revealed. So likewise does the topaz attract and reflect in itself the eyes of those who behold it, because of its great clearness. But if you were to cut the topaz it would darken, while if you leave it in its natural state it will remain clear. And so, too, if you examine and try to penetrate the splendour of the eternal Word, that splendour will darken and you will lose it. But leave it as it is, and follow it with earnest gaze, and with self-abnegation, and it will give you light.1 [Note: M. Maeterlinck, Ruysbroeck and The Mystics, 61.]
5. The doctrine of the Incarnation involves the reality of the Divine Sonship of Jesus. “The Word was God.” We have here a substantive used as an adjective. The Word was Divine in essential being. And this essentially Divine Being “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The man Christ Jesus was the Son of God. Translate the term “Word” into the language of personality, it becomes “Son.” Such was the faith to which the Apostles bore witness, into which many who had seen Jesus of Nazareth, and heard His voice, and followed Him, grew. It was a faith which had power to propagate itself; it knows not how to die.
The first preachers of the gospel were aware how the language they used about Jesus would strike the ear, how it would startle men to be told that Jesus had come from heaven to earth; that the Father had singled Him out from all others, had watched and guarded and glorified Him as the Son of His begetting and His love. They were Jews, with the first commandment ringing in their ears, followed by the second and the third, which fence about the Divine Name from intrusive curiosity and undisciplined fancy and too fervent speech. They knew what their words meant; how the faith they aimed at awakening would draw men’s thoughts more and more to Jesus; how worshippers would no longer seek to scale the distant heavens, but would let affection settle, and the heart’s worship centre, in a human life. They knew that a passionate loyalty would be kindled toward Christ; that tragedies of devotion would result from it; that when once that faith was rooted in the soul it would mean a
Toiling up new Calvaries ever,
With the Cross that turns not back.
And they could not but speak the things which they had seen and known; this was their deepest faith, their clearest knowledge, their surest certainty, and it must be spoken. And the generations which have followed them have felt the same necessity. The same solemn constraint of faith and confession is upon us.1 [Note: A. Mackennal, The Eternal Son of God and The Human Sonship, 18.]
The Incarnation of the Word
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Briggs (C. A.), The Incarnation of the Lord, 190.
Brooke (S. A.), Christ in Modern Life, 63, 75.
Campbell (R. J.), A Faith for To-day, 197.
Church (R. W.), The Message of Peace, 159.
Dale (R. W.), Christian Doctrine, 45.
Dods (M.), Footsteps in the Path of Life, 19.
Douglas (A. H.), Sermons, 249.
Goodwin (H.), Hulsean Lectures for 1856, 1.
Gregory (J. R.), Scripture Truths made Simple, 41.
Holland (H. S.), Creed and Character, 3.
Holland (H. S.), Fibres of Faith, 92.
Hughes (H. P.), Essential Christianity, 44.
Kelman (J.), Ephemera Eternitatis, 306.
Mackennal (A.), The Eternal Son of God and the Human Sonship, 9.
Macleod (D.), Christ and Society, 141.
Matheson (G.), Moments on the Mount, 221.
Maurice (F. D.), Christmas Day, 1.
Murphy (J. B. C.), The Service of the Master, 36.
Ramage (W.), Sermons, 1.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxxi. (1885), No. 1862.
Taylor (W. M.), The Limitations of Life, 15.
Thomas (J.), The Mysteries of Grace, 16.
Warfield (B. B.), in Princeton Sermons, 94.
Westcott (B. F.), The Historic Faith, 43, 58.
Westcott (B. F.), Village Sermons, 33.
White (E.), The Mystery of Growth, 79.
Christian World Pulpit, xx. 198 (Haynes); lii. 371 (Storey); liii. 24 (Gore); lv. 236 (Lynch).
Churchman’s Pulpit: Christmas Day: ii. 208 (Scott), 223 (Swanson).
Homiletic Review, lvi. 45 (Mair).