Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

is the Apostle of Faith, and St. John the Apostle of Charity. He is eager for “the inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away;" for “the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time;" for “the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Like all his race, His eye is on the Future, not on the Past ; and to him the gospel seems rather a promise than a history. But with all this, the sufferings of Christ are never forgotten. The sins which exiled us from God, Christ “bare in His own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness; and the glory which will fulfil the new hope which has come to us through Christ's resurrection is inseparably and eternally associated with His Death on the cross.

Throughout the history of the Church no other theory of the Death of Christ than that which represents it as an expiation for the sins of the world has ever given it the same supreme place in the religious thought and life of Christian men. It is among those, and only among those, who have accepted this theory, that we find the apostolic feeling about the Death of Christ. It is reasonable to infer that, substantially, they inherit the apostolic faith.

LECTURE V.

THE FACT OF THE ATONEMENT: THE TESTIMONY OF ST. JOHN AND ST. JAMES.

LECTURE V.

THE FACT OF THE ATONEMENT: THE TESTIMONY OF

ST. JOHN AND ST. JAMES.

N St. Paul's account of his memorable conference

I

his first great missionary journey, he appears to divide the work of evangelising the world between St. Peter and himself. He and St. Peter are, at least, the acknowledged leaders and representatives of the whole movement. For St. John, “the disciple whom Jesus

' loved," who, in the energy of his moral nature and in the depth of his devotion to his Lord, equalled, if he did not surpass, all his brethren, there seems to be left only a subordinate place.

But if St. Peter was the Apostle of the circumcision, and St. Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles, St. John may, perhaps, be justly called the Apostle of the Christian Church. Apart from the very uncertain tradition that he preached the gospel among the Parthians, there is no reason to suppose that any considerable part of his life was devoted to the conversion either of Gentiles or of Jews. The contrast between the Fourth Gospel and the

I“When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed to me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter.-Gal, ii. 7.

1

first three suggests the true character of his work. The Gospels of St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke appear to preserve those discourses and parables of our Lord, and those passages of His history, which were perpetually repeated by the early Christian preachers when addressing persons who had not yet acknowledged His authority, or who, having submitted to baptism and entered the Church, required further instruction in the elementary facts and principles of the Christian faith. It is quite clear that the Gospel of St. John was written for those who had long been Christians. His catholic epistle has the same character. The readers for whom it was written must either have been born of Christian parents, or if they were heathens or Jews by birth, must have lived so long in the atmosphere of the Church, as to have lost almost all traces of their earlier habits of life and thought. It was not necessary to confirm them in their renunciation of Judaism, or to warn them against continuing in the practice of those coarse vices into which converts from heathenism were in constant danger of relapsing.

Nor was the strength of St. John given, like St. Paul's, to the vindication of Christian truth against heresies which were possible only in the earliest days of the Church, and which were soon to become obsolete. Here and there we may detect the expression of St. John's antagonism to speculations — vague and chaotic in his time-which, in the next century, were developed into Gnosticism ; but commonly his mind moves in calm and lofty regions of truth, remote from

« FöregåendeFortsätt »