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able fact; remarkable on many grounds, but especially on this, that the character of Christ is altogether unique, nothing before or since ever having approached it within an infinite distance; and is not only supernatural, but truly and properly miraculous. For that there should arise a being having the nature of man, and yet not only perfectly free from all actual sin, but free also from the hereditary taint and bias towards sin, while every other individual of the race was a victim to the power of sin, this surely is a true miracle in the most proper sense of that word. Here was an interruption to the natural course of human nature; a suspension of the ordinary laws of human character; and yet men who flout the idea of a miracle in the natural world, who ridicule inspiration as involving a miracle in the intellectual world, have accepted this miracle of a sinless life without hesitation.
It will be interesting for us to inquire, what there was in the character of Christ which has now for him the supreme place he occupies as the Holy One; and then to make some attempt to ascertain what there was in his nature to account for his exemption from the ordinary corruption of human life.
Before Christ appeared the purest moralists of antiquity had never conceived the idea of such a life and character as his; and now that he has been here, we find it impossible to describe or paint the divine beauty of what he did and said. Painters have striven to put on canvas the countenance of the Saviour; yet we have never seen one to satisfy us, as expressing what must have been in that face. They have given intellectual faces, faces filled with love and meekness, agonized with suffering, faces of feminine beauty, but we cast them all away from us as tantalizing failures, with the feeling that the great original was beyond all the efforts of art and genius. A similar failure waits upon the attempt to describe in poetry or prose that sublime mind and character. We fall back from our highest conceptions, and own that such knowledge is too wonderful for us; it is high, we cannot attain unto it. A full and perfect sympathy with Christ would alone enable us to present a satisfying portraiture of him; but the depth and range of his sympathies were such as to preclude us from fully understanding his nature. If a hero should write the life of a hero, an artist the life of an artist, a politician the life of a politician, a sinless man alone would describe, in the dialect of a world free from sin, the thoughts and deeds of Christ.
The Gospels are but fragmentary sketches; that is all they claim to be; only one or two incidents of his life up to the age of thirty are mentioned. What a longing have we often felt that we could lift the veil of the daily life at Nazareth during all those years he spent there; that we could see him as a child with other children; whether he mingled as a boy with other boys, and how; and when he became a young man, what were his ways, and habits, and speech, with those around him-parents, brethren, and neighbours. The unwritten life of Christ affords to some minds subjects of absorbing meditation, just because the written life is so full of the grandest interest.
The first words spoken of him and by him in the Gospels, inspire us with a sense of his greatness; yet not distinctively intellectual greatness; for though that was an element of all his utterances and deeds, we feel that it was but the fitting medium to reveal the grandeur of his moral and religious nature. “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business,' was his calm answer to his mother when she found him in the temple disputing with the doctors. An ordinary youth of great intellectual endowments would have come away from such a contest flushed with the sense of victory over his superiors ; but though but little more than a child at the time, he had already apprehended his vocation, and felt the Father's business' was the great work of life. The religious, and not the intellectual, interest of the incident was uppermost in his mind.
We shall not attempt to prove that Christ was perfectly sinless ; we shall assume that, and simply say that he claimed sinlessness in the challenge he gave to his adversaries — Which of you convinceth me of sin ? '—and that he produced the conviction that he was sinless on those who had the most intimate knowledge of him. “He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners. He was tempted in all points, like as we are, yet without sin.' The sting of his betrayer's sin was, that he had traitorously sold innocent blood. We wish to call attention to some characteristics of his holy life.
1. It was not asceticism. • He came eating and drinking.' John the Baptist lived in the desert, had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins, and his food was locusts and wild honey. He only came among men to preach repentance and righteousness, and then vanished from them into the wilderness, to be alone with his own solitary thoughts. But Christ lived among men and women on the freest terms, and sought no fictitious sanctity by shrouding himself in mystery and solitude. He went to a marriage feast; he promoted the festivity of the occasion by making wine when there was no more left. He went to the tables of the reputable and the disreputable; feasted with Simon, and fared with Zaccheus. He formed friendships with the little family of Bethany, and often retired thither at the close of the day. He did not disdain the grateful attentious of Mary Magdalene, even at the house of a rich man. Yet, in all these situations, how easily and beautifully does he blend the life of heaven with the circumstances of earth, and show the way to act on common as well as on great occasions. He was never dazzled by the splendours of the rich, nor repelled by the miseries of the poor, but was able always to separate man from the dress of circumstances, and to serve him, by speech or deed, as a divine, sinful, immortal creature. Purity and righteousness men usually stand in awe of; and great sinners will not face a man who has the reputation of great sanctity; but Christ, who in all his purity was so pitiful and condescending, was a magnet to the wretched, and drew to himself, by an irresistible charm, all whom the world passed by or cast out.
Now this was the difficulty--to mingle with the throng of men and earthly passions; to
affect no sanctimonious airs; to disdain no innocent joys ; to be susceptible to all thoroughly human influences; and yet remain, in every circumstance, faithful to God, loyal to truth, pure in thought and speech, and firm to all the purposes of a noble life. And such, according to the Gospel narrative, was Jesus Christ.
2. It was not negative. Negative virtue is much esteemed in the world. If a man is pious, honest, truthful, temperate, self-reliant, the world will not condemn him for the want of love, magnanimity, and selfdeuial. The man who passes through the world comfortably, stocked with the prudent virtues—the virtues that never bring a man into antagonism with the vested interests of unrighteousness, falsehood, and injustice that man skall have a monument to his memory, as a model of wisdom and virtue. This is the virtue of selfishness. But in the character of Christ there was not only freedom from sin, but positive holiness. There was a bright conjunction of virtues and excellences that seem only remotely connected with one another. No slanderer ever dared to breathe upon his unsullied purity; and yet his pity for the fallen was deeper and tenderer than ever beat in the bosom of the gentlest woman. His courage could dare everything in the cause of truth; could brand the rich hypocrite or sanctimonious Pharisee to his face; could dare death itself; it was the most manly, the most heroic the world ever saw; yet his fortitude and patience were as conspicuous as his courage—he could bear in silence and calm what would have driven other men into indignation and madness. There was indescribable majesty in all he did, not only when he calmed the storm, or raised Lazarus from the dead, but in his simplest word or act; and the world has never seen such childlike meekness and humility. Because there was such magnanimity, joined to such meekness and lowliness of heart, he has been the refuge of the guilty and penitent, and the attraction of the broken-hearted, in every age of the world since. Justice was in the arms of love, righteousness in the embrace of selfdenial, in such wise in him that the world, as it grows, will honour him as summing up in himself all greatness and all goodness. And these various attributes were so evenly balanced, and so harmoniously blended, as to present before our eyes the model of a perfect man. His self-reliance was equal to every emergency; but who can separate it, even in thought, for a moment from that implicit dependence npon his Father, which he always openly acknowledged ? So perfect is the adjustment and fulness of his whole character.
3. It was progressive. 'He grew in wisdom, and in stature, and in favour with God and man. He grew and waxed strong in spirit.' . Though he were a son, yet learned he obedience by the things that he suffered.' In treating of a life so completely perfect as his, we are in constant danger of forgetting that, while it was divine, it was thoroughly, perfectly human. And, because human, it was necessarily progressive. “But growth and increase do not necessarily involve transition from a state of greater to one of less deficiency–do not presuppose an inner antagonism of sin, or an overcoming of the moral and
- religious error connected therewith—all that they really imply is successive development, development according to time. And surely we are able to conceive of a perfect development, in thoroughly natural conditions, as being the free unfolding of healthful energies, whose native fulness constitutes them self-sufficient. We need not, and must not, however, suppose that anything sinful attached to him on the ground of his human finiteness, and of the kind of development which, according to the divine order, is inseparable from it; provided only, that he was perfectly what the nature of that state required him to be; provided that that which he was potentially became actual in him, in its own proper time and in a normal way. . . . . An orderly, faultless development, we must remember, is proper to nature, when interfered with by no inward or outward restraint. At its origin in God, nature is purity itself. We should be on our guard, therefore, against introducing anything unnatural into the spiritual culture of Jesus, by representing him as premature as a child, and ascribing to him, as a boy, the knowledge of truth—the moral earnestness and the depth of a man. That would be a miracle unworthy of God, monstrous and unnatural. At every period of his existence he realised just that measure of intellectual culture and moral life of which human nature is at that point capable, and no more. In a word, he was exactly and fully what a man can be at each successive step of his life. As he was a perfect man, so was he also a perfect boy and youth ; and, of a certainty, no stranger to the modes of thought and observation which are peculiar to childhood and youth, yet all was characterised by a holy simplicity and beauty. His progress was like that of a beautiful flower, to whose free growth there is no hindrance; we should never dream of requiring from it that, whilst in the germ, it should bud, and, whilst budding, possess the glory of perfect bloom : but only that at each step in its development, it be then what in every step it should be.'
4. The sinlessness of Christ was maintained in opposition to great temptation. As a man, “He was tempted in all points, like as we
He suffered being tempted.' He suffered temptation of various kinds in the wilderness; he suffered temptation when Peter suggested escape from threatening death ; he suffered temptation in the garden in the immediate prospect of death. Now, here are two things-real temptation and pain in the achievement of victory.
In order to understand this, we must repeat that the human nature of Christ was real and complete. That is, he had all the passions and desires that belong to man as man. He was really and truly 'made like unto his brethren. He had the love of life; he felt the passion of anger at injustice; he was susceptible to physical pain; he felt hunger when left without food. Sin, therefore, does not consist in having the natural passions and impulses, nor in feeling pain when these passions and impulses are denied their gratification. But when the will aban
Ullman's • Sinlessness of Jesus.' A safe German work for any one wishing to see this subject rigorously and evangelically treated.
dons the guidance of the desires, and they are gratified under forbidden circumstances, then sin has commenced, and the desires have become sinful. Let it be granted that Christ had this truly human nature, then there can be no doubt that he was really tempted" like as we are: And they were great temptations; i. e., a strong appeal from without was made to the inward principles of his nature. The temptations in the wilderness were of this kind. We do not trouble ourselves here to arbitrate between the different theories that have been maintained in explanation of that remarkable passage of our Lord's experience. Most of these theories admit that in some way suggestions were offered to him from without, which called forth successive acts of resistance from his will. But the temptation in the garden must have been the climax of all his other temptations. But here again was that prompt reference to the divine will, to which he always yielded instantaneous submission. Not as I will, but as thou wilt.'
But the Scriptures affirm that he endured pain, that he suffered in obtaining the conquest. Is it meant that this pain sprang from the difficulty of the struggle; from any secret inclination towards evil coming into conflict with the stern decision of the will, which held his mind in suspense, and made it difficult for him to decide? This thought is not to be tolerated for an instant; that would imply a sinful bias utterly inconsistent with the perfect sinlessness of his nature. In supplying what we consider to be the true answer to the question, we cannot get out of our mind a passage in one of Robertson's sermons, and therefore we quote it:
* There were in him all the natural appetites of mind and body. Relaxation and friendship were dear to him-so were sunlight and life. Hunger-paindeath—he could feel all, and shrunk from them. Conceive, then, a case in which the gratification of any one of these inclinations was inconsistent with his Father's will. At one moment it was unlawful to eat though hungry, and without one tendency to disobey, did fasting cease to be severe? It was demanded that he should endure anguish; and willingly as he endured himself, did pain cease to be pain? Could the spirit of obedience reverse every feeling in human nature? When the brave man gives his shattered arm to the surgeon's knife, will may prevent even the quiver of an eyelid; but no will and no courage can reverse his sensations, or prevent the operation from inflicting pain.
So that in every one of ihese cases-not by the reluctancy of a sinful sensation, but by the quivering and the anguish of natural feeling when it is trampled apon by losty will-Jesus suffered being tempted. He was “tempted like as we are.” Remember this. For the way in which some speak of the sinlessness of Jesus, reduces all his suffering to physical pain, destroys the reality of temptation, reduces that glorious heart to a pretence, and converts the whole of his history into a mere fictitious drama, in which scenes of trial were represented, not felt.'
How are we to account for the character of Christ,—to what must we look for an explanation of the sinlessness of his nature and the holiness of his life? To two things mainly—to his uncorrupted human nature, and to the wonderful constitution of his person.
1. To his uncorrupted human nature. Universal man, with this single exception, has come into the world with a moral nature diseased at its very birth-biassed or bent towards evil in such a degree, that