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66 Whom say ye
peace and harmony of the church in all ages. The Apostles were witnesses to what to his life and character, to his doctrines, his miracles, his resurrection and ascension. All these things had a bearing not on his nature, but on his office. They proved him to be the Messiah, a divinely authenticated messenger from God. Further than this, the evidence does not go. This was precisely the point, which they considered to be established by the evidence they had daily before their eyes. This was the substance of Peter's confession, after having been in the immediate society of Jesus, and heard his doctrines, and seen his miracles, and witnessed his spotless life.
that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That the title, “Son of the living God,” was merely a synonyme for Christ or Messiah, we have sufficient evidence in the fact that it is omitted altogether by Mark and Luke. Mark reports that he said, “ Thou art the Christ.” Luke, “ Thou art the Christ of God.” Besides, what the Apostles had witnessed, had a direct bearing on his office, but no relation whatever to his nature.
In the book of the Acts of the Apostles we have the record of their preaching for thirty years, and the testimony which they bear to the world, you will find, has reference to the office and not the nature of Jesus. Peter, in his first speech, says, “ Ye men of
Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and signs, and wonders, which God did by him in the midst of you. This Jesus God hath raised up, whereof we are witnesses.” Paul, when he was at Antioch in Pisidia, addressed a synagogue of the Jews nearly to the same effect: " Of the seed of David hath God raised up unto Israel a Saviour, Jesus. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. But God raised him from the dead, and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses unto the people.”
Such is the testimony of those twelve witnesses on whose evidence the faith of the Christian church has rested from the beginning. And nothing can be plainer than that their testimony, being founded on what they saw and heard, goes no further than the life, the doctrines, the miracles and the resurrection of their Master, and these all bear upon his office, what he was made by God the instrument of effecting. They have no bearing on his nature whatever.
If the Christian church had been contented with this, what boundless miseries might have been saved, what useless controversies, what unspeakable malice and uncharitableness! Arians and Trinitarians, Sa
bellians and Athanasians, might have met in peace around the table of their common Lord. That men should have differed in their opinions of the metaphysical rank and nature of Christ was natural, and perhaps unavoidable. The Messianic and Oriental phraseology of the New Testament was necessarily liable to misinterpretation in remote nations and ages. There is no possibility, except by perpetual miracle, of restraining the human imagination. It was natural, particularly among the converts from Paganism, into whose hands the Gospel soon fell, that they should have placed him in every rank, from that of simple humanity to supreme divinity. But the misfortune was, that they should not have had the discernment to see that these opinions had nothing to do with Christianity, they must therefore be left open, and suffered to cause no alienation of feeling between those who entertained them. The ground of these questions is not covered by the Apostles' testimony. Their testimony goes to this extent and no farther, that Jesus lived, and taught, and wrought miracles, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven. Now this is equally true, and equally the foundation of Christianity, whatever hypothesis we adopt as to the metaphysical rank and nature of Christ. And now, after eighteen centuries of controversy, the only way which peace can be restored to the torn and bleeding church, is to return to the simplicity of the Apostolic
testimony. There always has been, and there probably always will be, the widest differences of opinion as to the metaphysical rank and nature of Christ. This will do no harm so long as they are held merely as matters of opinion. But they become the cause of unspeakable mischief, as soon as one attempts to force his own opinions upon another. The question which is vital to Christianity is, not what Christ was metaphysically, but whether God did or did not send him to enlighten and save the world. The Apostolic testimony, the facts to which they bear witness to all ages, go to this extent and no further.
Just so it is with the doctrine of the Trinity. On this point, as a doctrine of Christianity, I can have no dispute with any man. To me it is a matter of abstract spéculation. It has nothing to do, except incidentally, with Christianity. A man tells me, that he believes that Jesus of Nazareth was the Infinite Jehovah. I do not reproach him, I do not blame him, I merely tell him, that to my apprehension, his belief goes beyond the facts of the Apostolic testimony. I go back to the record of Peter's testimony after having been with him during his whole ministry, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all manner of sickness, for God was with him.” I ask him in turn, if he believes that that God sent Jesus of Nazareth to be the Saviour of
the world? If he answers in the affirmative, I welcome him as a Christian, 1 give him the right hand of fellowship, because he believes the very proposition which the twelve witnesses, whom Jesus summoned about him, were sent to testify to the world. I could not do otherwise as a conscientious man, whatever might be my private opinion, which ever of the thousand hypotheses I might adopt of the rank and nature of Christ. For I read in the second chapter of Acts, of the admission of three thousand into the church for their assent to a discourse of Peter, in which not one word was said of the nature of Jesus, other than that he was “a man approved of God by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by him," and that “God hath made that same Jesus whom
have crucified both Lord and Christ.” After this, I dare not propose any conditions of admission into the Christian church, which should involve any hypothesis as to Christ's nature.
Thus you perceive that the deeper we investigate the records of our faith, the more solid and substantial ground we find for Christian union, the more needless and unkind the divisions and alienations which have taken place in the church. There is but one thing necessary to bring them back into one fold, the adoption of the simple Apostolic testimony, and the requirement of that which they made the ground of their preaching to the world. “Ye men of Israel,