« PreviousContinue »
These words express perfect sharing of life and its contents; yet if "mine" is " thine," there is still a "me and "thee "'; individuality is not lost. And so " I in thee and thou in me," perfect communion, but the "I" and "thou" preserved. And again, “ I in them, and thou in me," perfect communion extended in the disciples, but personalities retained, the" I " and " thou" and "they."
My glory which thou hast given me";-here the thought of Christ's glory would seem to refer to manifestations of his nature, untouched by space and time; this glory was in Christ from the Father, a self-imparting unto self-fulfilment of the Godhead's eternal love; "for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world."
"O righteous Father, the world knew thee not, but I knew thee; and these knew that thou didst send me; and I made known unto them thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them, and I in them." Love is the final mode of life. These-whom my Father giveth me-know that Christ came from God, and unto them Christ makes known the Father, and will never cease from making them know God, the Father that he is, the source of life, the power of love. In those who thus know God and love him with the love that knowledge of his nature brings, in those shall be the fulness of that love divine with which the Father loved the Son; and in them shall be Christ-life absolute, and love, desire realizing itself and fulfilled unto eternal joy.
NASMUCH as Christianity-the life and teachings of Jesus Christ-compasses the full possibility of human life, no age can show a complete application of it, or offer a final interpretation. The apostolic age was no exception, though it included men to whom companionship with Jesus had been inspiration, and men on whom, in years following the crucifixion, there The Gospels had come large measure of his spirit.
and the Rest of the New Testa
As records of Christ's life and teaching, and as speaking from the standpoint of Jesus alive on earth, the Gospels are essentially prior to all other writings of the New Testament. From the first reunion after the crucifixion, all apostolic teaching was based on Christ, on his life and death and resurrection, on his teachings, on some apprehension of his nature, his mission, his relationship to man and God. This early apostolic teaching was not based on our present Gospels, which were not yet written, but it was based on the data which the four Gospels contain; and knowledge of these data is presupposed by all other New Testament writings. There is no epistle which does not voice the writer's conception of Christ, none which may not be regarded as the writer's inference from his knowledge of Christ's life and teaching, death and resurrection-the data of the Gospels. Paul had not known Jesus, and in his preaching the Lord's death and resurrection chiefly held his heart and mind. But knowledge of Jesus' life appears in
Paul's epistles; and the blind reading they would make to any one who had no Gospel knowledge of Christ is further proof that Paul had such knowledge, and assumed it in those to whom he wrote.
The Gospel and first epistle of John afford apt illustration of this general principle of Gospel priority. Few question that these two writings are from the same author, though great is the controversy as to who he was. Which of the two was first written is not known; but the Gospel is essentially prior, being the author's presentation of Christ's life and teaching; while the epistle is a statement of moral and religious inferences from the data of the author's Gospel.
The New Testament writings, which are logically subsequent to the Gospels, are a record of the first reception of Christianity among men, and a restatement of it in terms which do not profess to be the words of Christ. Christ spoke inevitable truth. These followers of his, filled with his spirit though they were, failed sometimes in the statement of truth absolute and universal. In their writings may be found: statements of moral and religious precepts deflected from the uncompromising height and universality of truth which never fails the utterances of Christ; statements of religious truth in modes of reasoning no longer valid; and general inferences drawn perhaps too close to contain the verity of Christ. On the other hand, these men unfolded Christ, setting forth much that was implicit in his life and teaching. In modes of intense appropriation of his truth, they developed conceptions of faith and love to explicit correspondence with needs of human intelligence and conditions of human life.
There was power of devotion and clearness of religious and moral insight in the men who had been companions of Jesus, or members of that circle which had experienced the power of Christ risen from the grave. Any judgment of that early age, which does not find in apostolic circles a unifying and all-mastering devotion to Christ, contra
venes known facts as well as à priori probabilities. Acute differences of opinion there were. Such had to arise among personalities of less or greater range of mind and feeling. But Christ had been devotion and incarnate love. His commandment to his disciples had been to love one another. And it was the spirit of love and devotion to Christ, and to mankind for whom Christ died, that was to conquer the world. It is out of reason to suppose that these men-brothers, as they soon came to call themselves-could convince the world in the power of love divine and human, unless they had that love among themselves. James may have been narrow; Peter may have vacillated; Paul was earnest to the verge of passion. But nothing is known of James contrary to the sainted character which he was to hold in Christian memory; Peter was a great heart of love; and as for Paul, he who was ready to be anathema for Israel's sake, whose were the words, "Love suffereth long and is kind," who knew and felt that, without love, no giving up of goods, no offering of body to the fire, could profit aught, whose life was a passion of devoted love to Christ,-why, leave out love, and there were no Paul, though possibly a certain bitter, unconverted Saul.
from the Universal
ity of Christ; James.
Although New Testament writings, following the Gospels, express Christian principles with a depth and reach and fervor separating them from all other literature, the writers sometimes speak from the Deflections platform of their own circumstances, or fail to view a social institution in the light of its possibilities of good. An instance is the epistle of James, an early writing, but one as to whose authorship there was not complete agreement in the early church. The writer feels the unreality of all religious faith that has not in it the need to work in love's service; his is the spirit of love manifesting itself in works: 66 Be ye doers of the word "; If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue but
deceiveth his heart, that man's religion is vain”; “ Pure religious service and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Then, emphasizing the value of practical religion, and the vanity of those who say they have faith' while they live barren lives, he states the value of works in a way which nearly loses sight of the necessary efficacy of faith that is real. These passages in James do not intend to set value on works as such apart from faith; but in laying stress on one side of the matter, they leave the other out of view. Likewise Paul seems at times to ignore works in emphasizing faith. In such a way as this, Christ's precepts in the Gospels are never one-sided, though they may refer to a single aspect of life.
Again, James seems to speak from the standpoint of one who sets value on poverty for its own sake, and who regards the rich almost with class animosity. His tone is different from that of Jesus pointing out the difficulty of a rich man entering heaven. Yet these are but small and questionable points of failing in a writing which is sweetly religious and sturdily ethical. Outside of the Gospels, the universality of Christ is to be sought in the rest of the New Testament writings, as they supplement each other. Certain of Paul's statements as to marriage offer an illustration of a New Testament writer looking upon a social institution from the level of his time,
Paul's and failing to see all the good which ChristianMarriage. ity was to call forth in it. Paul knew that marriage might hinder entire devotion to God's service: He that is unmarried mindeth the things of the Lord; he that is married, the things of his wife. On the other hand, perhaps he recognized that married life might
1 James ii, 14.
But that Paul's faith looks for works from believers, see Gal. vi, 7-10.
4 Cor. vii, 32-34.