The Divine Human Christ
( Originally Published 1895 )
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth. "—John i. 14.
CHRIST is here called "the Word." Perhaps no other name given to our Savior in the Bible is more puzzling to the superficial observer, or the careless reader, but it is full of most blessed significance when we study to know its meaning. A word is the visible, definite, outward expression of the soul's inner thought or emotion. The psalmist said, " I believed, therefore have I spoken." In that case his word stood for his faith. Wordsworth says that "language is the incarnation of thought." Very likely the reverent poet got that fine saying from this chapter which we are studying, and from this name of our Savior. Christ on earth was the outward expression, which men could behold, of the thought, the heart, the love of God; hence it was said of him that he was God manifest in the flesh. As one has well said, a word is a very different thing from a sound, because it is the expression of intelligence and affection. Mere sound may be soulless, but a word is the voice of the inner being.
This is a marvelously tender way of putting the incarnation of Christ. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." I think only John, the beloved disciple, could have put it in just that way. Why, at the very words, a home rises up before you, with the bright fireside in the evening, around which are all the loved faces, and with them, most beloved of all, is the Son of man. " He dwelt among us," literally in the old language it meant, he pitched his tent among us, lived with us just as one of us. No other word could be used that would mean more than that word "dwell." Where a man dwells he makes himself known. He may wear a mask when he is traveling, or when he appears before the public, or when 'he transacts business, even when he is visiting; but where a. man dwells, people know him, and his real self comes out in his home.
So Christ, leaving all the glory he had with the Father before the world was, leaving the home of many mansions with its riches unbounded, came down to our earth, and was born among us, among the average people, among the everyday common folks. He might have been born in a palace. He might have come in the full glory of manhood, leading legions of angels in his train, but he chose to be born in the manger at Bethlehem, in the home of humble toilers. How close this brings Christ to us! Thank God that, as the writer of Hebrews expresses it, in the scripture lesson which I read, "he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Where-fore in all things it behoved him. to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself bath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." I like that little touch where he says that he sought " to be made like unto his brethren." That comes close to my heart. That he wanted to be like me, so that he could understand my troubles and my weakness.
This is the most marvelous thing in all the world, that he who had infinite riches, for our sakes became poor; that he who had all power in heaven and in earth, retaining his divine power, came down and was born in Bethlehem as the child of a poor carpenter; became a part and a parcel of our humanity, just as completely wearing our humanity as the little child that sleeps in its crib in your home tonight. He who was God became a little babe and was subject to his parents, and grew in wisdom and stature, and toiled day after day in a carpenter shop, and went about with Joseph carrying his rude tools to repair the houses of their neighbors, in that little town of Nazareth. He grew weary and tired. He became hungry and thirsty. He made friends. He loved and hoped and rejoiced. He bore pain and heart-ache and loneliness, and died. He did everything that we do except to sin,—oh, how close this brings the Savior to us! Once on the mount of transfiguration, when the inner glory of the Godhead shone through the veil of the flesh, the disciples fell to the ground before him. Again on the resurrection morn those rude soldiers from Gaul, who feared neither man nor devil, fell like dead men on every side. And yet for three-and-thirty years he dwelt among us. He talked with us. He opened his heart to us. He shared all our trials. He who was God over all became tenderest brother to rich and poor, ruler and peasant, high and low, the good and the bad. His was not the kind of goodness that frightened bad people away from him. How can we ever thank God enough for the condescension of the Lord Jesus!
Brother, this is the Christ I bring to you tonight. One who had all riches and yet came and shared your poverty. Have you had a hard year? Have you been out of employment? Have you scarcely known how you would make both ends meet? I bring to you the Savior tonight who made all the gold in the mountain fastnesses, and came down from heaven where the streets are paved with gold,- and took upon himself such poverty that he was able to say of himself, with all truth, " The foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head."
Do you have weariness? Are your burdens too heavy for you to carry? Do you come to the end of your day's work tired and worn out? I bring to you the blessed Savior who, possessing all power in heaven and in earth, came and took upon him-self our weakness, came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and wore out his life, in all humility of love, that he might know how to sympathize with every tired soul through all time. How much it means when the Savior stands before you in your weariness, knowing himself what it means to be tired out, and nervous, and sleepless, and says with inexpressible tenderness, which it is impossible for my voice even to suggest to you, " Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Are you in the midst of temptation? Has the devil seemed to make a very set at your soul? Does he lure you with his lying fascination and fiendish persistence day after day? I bring to you the Christ who was tempted in all points like as you are, and who endured the agony of it on purpose that he might know how to succor you in your temptations. I bring to you that loving, gentle Savior who was hungry and faint, and beset by the devil, in the wilderness; on the pinnacle of the temple; on the mountain-top, and in the garden of Gethsemane, where the great drops of bloody sweat stood out on his forehead in the convulsive agony of trial. He it is that comes to you and says with all love, " Lo, I am with you, even unto the end of the world." "Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid; ye believe in God, believe also in me."
But it is not only that the Lord Jesus came and dwelt among us in the flesh for three-and-thirty years; but ever since that time he has been coming in a new incarnation to multitudes of human souls all around the world. One has said there are two Christmas days to every Christian, the day when Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the day when Jesus was born anew in his heart. No Christian can ever forget that glorious second Christmas dawn.
The supreme evidence of the divinity of Jesus Christ rests not merely on the historical fact that Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, and did live the life recorded in the gospels, with its miracles of mercy and love, and was raised from the dead in mighty power, though there is nothing in history that has been substantiated so perfectly as that.
A story is told of Lépaux, a member of the French Directory, that with much thought and study he had invented a new religion to be called " Theophilanthropy, but was disappointed that it made no headway, and complained to Talleyrand, the great statesman and wit, of the difficulty he found in introducing it.
"I am not surprised," said Talleyrand, "at the difficulty you find in your effort. t is no easy matter to introduce a new religion. But there is one thing I would advise you to do, and then perhaps you might succeed."
" What is it? what is it? asked the other with eagerness.
" It is this," said Talleyrand ; " go and be crucified, and then be buried, and then rise again on the third day, and then go on working miracles, raising the dead, and healing all manner of diseases and casting out devils, and then it is possible that you might accomplish your end!" and the philosopher, crestfallen and confounded, went away silent.
This incident shows in a very striking way the impregnable foundation on which Christianity rests. One of the most distinguished jurists of the world has said that if human evidence has proved, or ever can prove, anything, then the life and miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ have been proven beyond the shadow of a doubt.
But, convincing as all that is, it does not compare, to my mind, with the great fact that Christ has been born in my glad heart. That he came knocking at the door of my heart when I was a sinner, and when with trembling faith I opened the door, he came in to dwell there. Ah, that is the mightiest evidence that could ever be adduced ! The incarnate Christ in men and women, living his life of grace and truth there; lifting them out of anger, and hate, and lust, and sin of every kind, and making them live anew the gracious life of the self-denying Christ on earth,—that is an evidence which no man can ever refute.
When Mr. B. Fay Mills was holding meetings in Philadelphia, a man came in one evening wounded and bleeding. He was one of the roughest of the rough, who a few minutes before had been in a saloon fight and was so horribly beaten that he fled to the meeting-house to save his life. He was one of those men who had lived his whole life, from his very babyhood, in rough and wicked associations. He had never in his life opened a Bible. And while in this place of refuge he listend to the truth, the Holy Spirit touched his heart, and in the agony of his conviction for sin he began to cry out in the anguish of his soul, " God have mercy upon me, a sinner!" That night the Savior's pardoning love was manifested to him, and the peace of God turned his agony for sin into thanksgiving for forgiveness. He left the house a new man in Christ Jesus. And now comes that divine wonder of wonders that has been repeated so often. This man, restored to his right mind, and rejoicing in the pardoning grace of Christ, began at once to work for the Savior. All his hatred toward the men who had beaten him was gone. And he went straight back to them to tell them of his new-found hope and joy. They listened in amazement, and sixteen of the roughest men in Philadelphia within a few weeks were through his instrumentality brought to Christ. No mere man could do that. It was the ever-living Son of God born anew in that man's heart.
Mark Guy Pearse, the great English preacher, tells of a Cornish fisherman named Moses, who had found the Lord Jesus Christ and was constantly alive to every opportunity to do something for him. One day he was out herring-fishing, and another boat got foul of his nets, and the man in the other boat began hacking away at the nets, swearing horribly. Moses said calmly, " Don't swear, it hurts me to hear you ;" but the man went on worse than ever. Not long after, one day when the swearer was drinking in the saloon, or public house, as it is called over there, there was a heavy sea on, and his fishing-boat got loose. Moses happened to see the boat drifting about, so he put out at the cost of a good deal of hard work to himself, and brought her in, and put her safe. When the owner came out and realized what had been done, he said to Moses, " What did you save my boat for?" "'Cause I couldn't help it." " W hat do you mean? I cut your nets to pieces, and now you save my boat." " Aye, I'd do anything for you." " What do you call yourself?" said the swearer. " I call myself a Christian," said Moses. "I never saw one before; what is that?" "That is a man that can love his neighbor as himself." " What, you love me? you have broken my heart," and flinging his arms around Moses's neck he burst out crying. And after that there was not a better man sailing out of that harbor than that man who had been a drunken, swearing bully.
Mr. Pearse relates the story of still another of these Cornish saints, which beautifully illustrates the power of the divine Christ incarnate in us. A man named Anthony had been converted, and his wife was very bitter about it. To use the man's own words," When I found the Savior, she said to herself, `I will set to and see how much that man can bear,' and when I saw what she was about, I said, `Lord, I will set myself to show her how much thy grace can do.' She went oil bit by bit, till she became what you might call aggravating. I used to get up and light the fire, and I said, `Lord, let the fire burn with thy love;' that would preach her a sermon. Then I used to clean her boots, and I said, `Lord, let the boots shine with thy grace.' Then I turned to fill the pitchers at the well, and said I, `Lord, let 'em brim over with thy love.' I thought, that will preach her a sermon—there's firstly, secondly, and thirdly. Then I went out and filled the kettle, and I used to say, `Lord, let it boil over with thy love.' That went on for some months, and one Sunday evening I was praying for people at the service, and be-fore I got home it was eleven o'clock at night. When I came home my door was shut, bolted, and barred, and the wife was gone to bed. She would not let me in. I felt at first like having that door down, but I looked up to the elements, and went to the hedge by the churchyard, and there it seemed the Lord came and stood by me. I seemed to be talking to the Lord all the time, and I waited and waited, and at half past two my wife came out sobbing and said, `Anthony, can you forgive me?' I said, `My dear, I have nothing to forgive.' She said, `Don't say that; kick me, do anything to me.' I took her, by the hand, and we went home and knelt down in our kitchen, and the Lord put his grace in my, wife's heart, and we have been very comfortable ever since."
No mere man could do that. But it is just like our Christ to help poor tried souls to do things like that. It is this glorious Christ, divine yet human, God over all, yet brother forevermore, that I preach to you tonight.