THERE is no subject more important than that of the Deity of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is not God manifest in the flesh, then Christians are idolaters, for Christians worship Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ is God, then all who do not acknowledge Him as such and accept Him as their Divine Saviour and surrender absolutely to Him as their Divine Lord, and worship Him as God, are guilty of the awful sin of rejecting a Divine person and robbing Him of the honour due to His name. It is then of the highest importance that each of us know whether Jesus Christ is God or not. I am to give you to-night some of the reasons why I believe that He is the Son of God in an entirely unique sense, the Son of God in a sense in which no other person is or ever was the Son of God, the Son of God in such a sense that all the attributes and perfections and glory of God dwelt in Him. There was a time when I doubted it; very seriously and very earnestly and very honestly doubted it. I doubt it no longer and will tell you why not.
I. I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST is THE SON OF GOD IN AN ALTOGETHER UNIQUE SENSE, THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD, THE SON OF GOD IN SUCH A SENSE THAT GOD THE FATHER DWELT IN HIM IN ALL THE FULNESS OF HIS ATTRIBUTES AND GLORY, BECAUSE OF His OWN CLAIM TO BE THE SON OF GOD AND THE WAY IN WHICH HE SUBSTANTIATED THAT CLAIM.
There can be no honest doubt in the mind of any man who will study the subject candidly and carefully that Jesus Christ claimed to be the Son of God in a sense in which no other was the Son of God. In the twelfth chapter of Mark He speaks of all the prophets that had gone before Him, even the greatest of them, as servants of God, and of Himself as the only Son of God (v. 6. K. V.). In the third chapter of John, the sixteenth verse, He speaks of Himself as the only begotten Son of God. In John 5 : 23 He claims all men should honour Him "even as they honour the Father." In John 8: 24 He says, "If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins." During His last hours before His crucifixion the Jewish high priest said to Him, "I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God," and Jesus replied, "Thou hast said." This was the strongest form of affirmation, and He went on to emphasize what He had said by adding, "I say unto you, Henceforth ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Now throughout the Old Testament the only one who made the clouds His chariot was Jehovah, and Jesus here affirms in the most striking way under oath that He is a Divine person, that He is Jehovah. In John 14 : 9 He went so far as to say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." From these and from many other utterances of our Lord, it is perfectly plain that the Lord Jesus claimed to be the Son of God in a sense that no other was the Son of God, in the sense that in attributes and authority and worthiness of worship He was on an equality with God the Father. HE CLAIMED TO BE DIVINE. But a claim to be Divine does not prove one to be Divine. Men rightly demand that such a claim be substantiated, and I do not believe that Jesus Christ is Divine simply because He claimed to be, but because of the way in which He substantiated the claim.
CHRIST'S CLAIM TO BE DIVINE IS SUBSTANTIATED.
1. First of all by His character. The beauty and strength and nobility of the character of Jesus Christ is well-nigh universally admitted. The Jew admits it, both Rousseau and Renan, the great French sceptics, insisted upon it, even Colonel Ingersoll spoke most beautifully of it. On one of his last visits to the city of Chicago he repeated what he had often said before, "I wish to say once for all that to that great and serene man I pay, I gladly pay, the homage of my admiration and my tears." But here is this man whom all admit to have been a good man, a man of honour, humility, truth, and nobility, claiming to be Divine. IF HE WAS NOT DIVINE HE WAS THE BOLDEST BLASPHEMER AND MOST ARRANT IMPOSTOR THIS WORLD HAS EVER SEEN. Can any honest man who has ever read the story of Jesus Christ with any attention and candour believe He was a blasphemer and impostor? That is the only alternative: you must either admit the lofty claims He made about His Deity, or hold Him to have been a blasphemer and an impostor. Every one who denies the Deity of Christ practically lays at His door the charge of blasphemy and imposture. Men sometimes say to me, "I do not believe that Jesus was Divine, but I believe He was a good man." I reply, "No, if He was not Divine, He was not a good man." If Jesus was not Divine He was rightfully put to death according to Jewish law. The manner of His trial was illegal, the mode of death by which He was executed was not that prescribed, but the death penalty was the right penalty according to Jewish law. The one who denies the Divinity of Christ justifies His killing.
2. Jesus Christ's claim to be Divine is substantiated by the miracles which He performed. Herculean efforts have been put forth to discredit the gospel stories of His miracles, but these efforts have all failed. It was first attempted to prove that these recorded miracles were simply natural events, but this attempt failed. It was then attempted to prove that the reports were fabrications, pious frauds, of Christ's disciples, but this attempt likewise failed. It was then attempted to prove that the gospels did not belong to the time of Christ's disciples, but were written at a later period and palmed off as the productions of men who did not really write them. This last attempt was made in a most skilful, laborious and scholarly way. For a time it almost seemed as if the attempt might succeed, but at the last it broke down utterly. The argument for the early date and historical accuracy of the gospel stories in the ultimate outcome was only brought out the more clearly by the attacks made upon them, and the argument is absolutely unanswerable. It is an interesting fact that the final and decisive blow in favour of the authenticity of the most important of the four gospels, the gospel of John, was struck by a Unitarian, Dr. Ezra Abbott. Dr. Ezra Abbott's demonstration of the Johannean authorship of the fourth gospel was written many years ago, but all attempts to answer it have failed utterly. The miracles then attributed to Jesus Christ He actually performed. But these substantiate His claim to be Divine. Not that the mere performance of miracle proves one to be Divine, but when one claims to be Divine and then performs miracles of the character that Christ performed, not merely healing the sick, but stilling the wind, calming the waves of the sea, raising the dead, casting out demons, by His mere word, these works taken in connection with His character and His teaching and His claims prove Him to be Divine.
3. Christ's claim to be Divine is substantiated in the third place by His influence on the history of the world. It needs no argument to prove that Christ's influence upon the history of the world has been beneficial immeasurably beyond that of any other who has ever lived. His influence upon domestic life, His influence upon social life, His influence upon in dustrial life, His influence upon political life. It would be foolish to compare that of any other man, or that of all other men together, with His. Other men have had as many or more followers than He, but what is the quality of the influence of these men? Go to Turkey and note the influence of Mohammed; go to India and Ceylon and Japan and note the boasted influence of Buddha; go to China and note the influence of Confucius. No, Christ has had an incomparably Divine influence upon men of all succeeding generations. Now, as already seen, if Jesus Christ was not Divine He was a blasphemer and an impostor. Is it conceivable that an arch impostor should have such an incomparable influence over men in all the relations of life? The question needs no answer, it answers itself.
4. Christ's claim to be Divine is substantiated, in the fourth place, ly His resurrection from the dead. We have not time to-night to go at length into the argument for the truthfulness of the gospel stories of Christ's resurrection from the dead, but the argument is clear and conclusive. In my book, The Bible and Its Christ, I have taken up the argument for Christ's resurrection and shown how it is impossible for any honest man to study the argument for Christ's resurrection and come to any other conclusion than that Jesus really rose from the dead as is recorded in the four gospels. Now the mere fact that one rose from the dead would not necessarily prove him to be Divine, but when one claims to be Divine and is put to death for making the claim, and before dying asserts that God will raise Him from the dead and thus endorse His claim, if then God actually does raise Him from the dead at the appointed time, certainly God does by that act in a most unmistakable way set His seal to the claim, and in this way God has in fact set His seal to Jesus claim to be Divine. As Paul puts it in the Epistle to the Romans, Jesus Christ was "declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom. 1:4). All these things taken together are my first reason for believing Jesus Christ to be Divine, because of Eis own claim to be, and the way in which He substantiated this claim, by His character, His miracles, His influence, and His resurrection. The argument is a compound one, composed of several strong strands, and when these strands are woven together there results an argument that it is absolutely impossible to break.
II. I BELIEVE JESUS CHRIST TO BE DIVINE BECAUSE OP THE OTHER TEACHINGS OP THE BIBLE BESIDE HIS OWN.
The Bible is the Word of God. I have given on many occasions my reasons for believing the Bible to be the Word of God. (See book, The Bible and Its Christ.) The argument for the Divine origin of the Bible is unanswerable. The Bible is the Word of God and therefore true. Whatever the Bible says about Jesus Christ is the truth about Jesus Christ. But the Bible in the most unmistakable terms declares Him to be Divine. The Bible ascribes Divine attributes to Jesus Christ, it attributes Divine works to Him, in the New Testament it applies passages to Jesus which in the Old Testament are spoken of Jehovah, it couples the name of the Lord Jesus with the name of God the Father in a way in which it would be impossible to couple that of any finite being with that of the Deity, and it demands for Him Divine homage and worship. John tells us that his whole purpose in writing his Gospel was that men might "believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God; and that believing" they might "have life in His name." Paul tells us "that in the name of Jesus every knee" shall bow, "of things in heaven and things on earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue" shall "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. " He is quoting here a statement made in the Old Testament of Jehovah (Isa. 45:21-23). In Rom. 9:5 Paul unhesitatingly declares that Christ "is over all, God blessed forever," and the author of the epistle to the Hebrews says, "When he bringeth in the first begotten (that of course is the Lord Jesus, as the context clearly shows) into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship Him." The Bible then, in the clearest, most definite and most decisive terms teaches the true Deity of Christ, and therefore I believe Him to be God in human form.
III. I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS DIVINE, GOD MANIFEST IN HUMAN FORM, BECAUSE OP THE DIVINE POWER HE POSSESSES AND EXERCISES TO-DAY.
It is not necessary to go back to the miracles of Christ when upon earth to prove He has Divine power. He exercises that power to-day and anyone can test it.
1. He has power to forgive sins. He claimed this power when here on earth and the scribes accused Him of blasphemy for making the claim, and if He had not been Divine they would have been right in accusing Him of blasphemy, but He silenced them by demonstrating the claim (Mark 2: 5-12). He has the same power to-day. Thousands can testify that they came to Christ burdened with an awful sense of guilt and that Christ has actually given their guilty conscience peace, absolute peace.
2. He has the power to-day to set Satan's victims free. He sets the one chained by drink free from the power of drink; the one chained by opium or other drugs, free from the power of drugs. He sets the slave of lust free from the power of lust. You may say that Keeley sets the one chained by drink or the power of drugs free, but the cases are not at all parallel. Keeley uses drugs, Christ merely spoke a word. Thousands and thousands have been set free from the power of drink and transformed into noble men and women of God by the simple word of Jesus Christ. Christ sets free not merely from drunkenness and other vices, but from sin. He makes the impure man and woman pure. He makes the selfish man unselfish. He makes the devilish man and woman Christ-like. I believe Jesus Christ is Divine because of the Divine power I see Him exercising in the lives of many men and women. I know Jesus is Divine because of the Divine work that He and He alone has wrought in my own life.
IV. I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS DIVINE, GOD MANIFEST IN HUMAN FORM, BECAUSE OF THE CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO ACCEPT HIM AS DIVINE.
Those who accept Jesus Christ as the Son of God are those who live nearest God, in most intimate communion with God, and who know God best. Those who know God best and live nearest to God have no doubts whatever that Jesus Christ is His Son. The cry, "I do not believe Jesus to be the Son of God," never comes from those who are living nearest God and know God best. It comes most often from those who are living farthest from God and know God least. Those who once believed Jesus Christ to be the Son of God as they drift away from God into worldliness, selfishness and sin often find themselves questioning the Deity of Christ. On the other hand, those who once questioned the Deity of Christ when they come nearer to God, when they turn their backs upon sin and selfishness and give themselves up more wholly to find and do His will, find their doubts about the Deity of Christ rapidly vanishing.
V. I BELIEVE JESUS CHRIST TO BE DIVINE BECAUSE OF THE RESULTS OP ACCEPTING HIS DEITY.
The religion that accepts God the Father but rejects Jesus Christ as His Son has no such deep and lasting moral power as the religion that accepts Jesus Christ as Divine. Unitarianism has always proved to be impotent. Unitarianism does not save the fallen. Wherever you find a rescue mission that is doing a real and permanent work in lifting up the fallen, you will always find it manned and womaned by persons who believe in Christ as the Son of God. Unitarianism can do philanthropic work, it can build hospitals and operate soup kitchens and various kinds of clubs for helping the needy, but it does not save. I do not mean merely that it does not save from hell hereafter, it does not save from sin here and now. It is the gospel of the Son of God that does this. Unitarianism never begets a missionary spirit. With all its members and wealth by a mighty effort it induced one man to go as a foreign missionary for a little while, but even that poor lone missionary soon returned. Faith in Jesus as Divine makes mission aries and martyrs and produces men of prayer and faith, it produces consecrated living. The denial of the Deity of Christ tends to prayerlessness, religious carelessness, unbelief, worldliness, selfishness, and easy-going living. There is a power in the prayers of those who approach God in the name of Christ that there is not in the prayers of those who reject His Deity. While Mr. Moody was still in business, before he had taken up Christian work as his exclusive occupation, he often went out holding meetings. One time he was holding meetings in one of the smaller towns in Illinois, the wife of the district judge came to Mr. Moody and asked him to speak to her husband. He replied, "I cannot speak to your husband. Your husband is a book infidel and I am nothing but an uneducated boot clerk from Chicago." But the wife was so insistent that Mr. Moody finally called upon the judge. As he passed through the outer office the law clerks tittered to themselves as they thought how the learned judge would make mincemeat of the uneducated boot clerk from Chicago. Mr. Moody said to the judge in the inner office, "Judge, I cannot talk with you, you are an educated man; I am nothing but an uneducated boot clerk, but I just want to ask you one thing. When you are converted will you let me know?" "Yes," the judge replied banteringly, "when I am converted I will let you know."
And then he raised his voice louder and said, "Yes, young man, when I am converted I will let you know. Good-morning." As Mr. Moody passed into the outer office the judge raised his voice still louder so all the law clerks could hear, "Yes, young man, when I am converted I will let you know." And the law clerks tittered louder than ever. But the judge was converted within a year. Mr. Moody revisited the town and called upon the judge. He said, "Judge, will you tell me how you were converted?" "Yes," the judge replied, "one night my wife went to prayer meeting as usual, but I as usual stayed at home and read the evening paper. I began to get very uneasy and miserable, and before my wife returned from the prayer meeting I was so miserable I was afraid to face her and retired for the night. On her return, finding me in bed she came to the door and asked if I were sick. No, I replied, I am not sick, only I was not feeling very well. Good-night. I had a miserable night and was so miserable in the morning that I dared not face my wife at the breakfast table, and I simply looked in the door and said, "Wife, I am not feeling very well this morning, I will not eat any breakfast. I went to my office and told the clerks they could take a holiday. I locked the outside door and then went into my inner office and locked the door to that. I sat down, getting more and more miserable all the time. At last, in my misery and in my overwhelming sense of sin I knelt down and cried, Oh, God, forgive my sins. But there was no answer. Again I cried, Oh, God, for give my sins. But still no answer. I would not say, Oh, God, for Christ's sake forgive my sins, because I was a Unitarian and did not believe in the Divinity of Christ. Again I cried, Oh, God, forgive my sins, but still there was no answer. At last in desperation I cried, Oh, God, for Jesus Christ's sake forgive my sins! and instantly I found peace." By their fruits ye shall know them. There is a Divine power in a faith that accepts Jesus Christ as the Son of God that there is not in a faith that denies His Deity.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is Divine. He is God in human form. His own claims substantiated by His character, by His miracles, by His influence upon the history of the world, by His resurrection from the dead, prove it. The teachings of the Word of God prove it. The character of those who accept Him as Divine proves it. The results of accepting Him as Divine prove it. The Divine power He possesses and exercises to-day proves it. Jesus Christ is Divine, He is God in human form. And now some one will say, well what of it? Everything of it. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and if you reject Him you are rejecting the Son of God. That is the awful sin that lies at the door of every man and every woman in this audience, out of Christ, REJECTING THE SON OF GOD! If your hearts were not hardened and blinded by sin you would tremble at that indictment (Acts 2:36, 37). In the light of the clear proof of the Deity of Christ I call upon you to-night to accept Him as your Divine Saviour. I call upon you to surrender to Him as your Divine Lord. I call upon you to submit your life to Him as your rightful sovereign, and to manfully confess Him before the world as your Divine Lord.