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Free Books » Meyer, Frederick Brotherton » The Gospel of the King

Chapter 2 - The Gospel of the King The Gospel of the King by Meyer, Frederick Brotherton

Index

THE GOSPEL OF THE KING

 

"Surely He cometh, and a thousand voices

Call to the saints and to the deaf are dumb;

Surely he cometh, and the earth rejoices

Glad in His coming, who hath sworn, I come.

 

This hath He done and shall we not adore Him?

This shall He do, and can we still despair?

Come, let us quickly fling ourselves before Him,

Cast at His feet the burthen of our care,

 

Flash from our eyes the glow of our thanksgiving,

Glad and regretful, confident and calm,

Then thro' all life and what is after living

Thrill to the tireless music of a psalm.

 

Yea, thro' life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning,

He shall suffice me, for He hath suffice;

Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,

Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ."

F. W. H. MYERS

 

 

 

THE GOSPEL OF THE KING

"The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham."-MATT. i. 1.

THE attention of men is increasingly attracted towards, and centered in, Christ. They may be turning away from our Churches, but they are not turning away from Jesus Christ. As well might magnetised filings leap away from the magnet.

Repeatedly we find biographies of Jesus Christ issuing from the Press, attaining at a leap an immense circulation, and even our greatest novelists realize that their stories will not be the less attractive to their crowds of readers because their theme is Christianity. To-day, as of old, Jesus Christ sits upon the mountain, and men gather around Him until they tread each upon the other. And what think you is the attraction? It is not because of the supernatural and the miraculous element in His life, nor is it so much because of His life-giving words, or the tenderness of His sympathy, but because of the incomparable splendour and transcendent beauty of His moral character-that character that stands amongst the children of men like some snow-clad Alp above its lowland valleys. He was so wonderful in His sufferings and yet so patient. He had such transcendent glory, but was so conspicuous in His humility and meekness. How thought­ful He was for others, and how careless for Himself; and though He of all men was without sin, yet who better than He has understood and helped the sinner! Who is there amongst us who does not say in longing, "0 Father! make us like Him, for He has presented to all the race of men the true ideal of mankind to which we all aspire"? The transcendent glory of the character of Christ is the charm of our religion.

As we turn to the four Gospels which contain the record of His birth, words, life, and death, there is no just reason for questioning their accuracy or truth. There is abundant and conclusive evidence that Christians of the years 100 to 150 in the beginning and middle of the second century, had these Gospels in exactly the same form as that in which we possess them, attributed them to the same authors, and placed them on the level of the Scriptures of the Old Testament. And it must be remembered that these Christians had abun­dant opportunity of verifying the truth of the gospel story, for men like Irenaeus and Polycarp had had almost direct contact with the Apostles, and they might easily have been cross-questioned as to the verity of the Christian faith, and their answers must have been given in the face of merciless criticism.

The testimony given to the gospel narratives in those early days was testimony of the most valid description, which would stand the test of any court of law to-day; and the result of the criticism through which they passed was so satisfactory that the Four Gospels were selected from a number of other spurious and apocryphal gospels, which challenged the allegiance of the Church, as being unique in their character. The others have passed away into compara­tive oblivion, but these have remained the one permanent and incontestable evidence of the truth of Jesus Christ. They were placed, as we have seen, upon a level with the Old Testament, and they were deemed authoritative, and so widely quoted that it has been proved that if the Gospels themselves had been destroyed, yet the quotations from them which were found in the early decades of the Church were so numerous and so full, that we could recover the whole of the Gospels from the Christian apologists and preachers.

We have not followed cunningly devised fables when we have rested the whole of our hopes for this world and the next upon the certain testimony that these four Gospels give to Jesus Christ our Lord.

As we turn to the four Gospels themselves we notice first a contrast between the Fourth Gospel and the other three-that stands alone in its unapproachable sublimity; these have many points of similarity in description, phraseology, and choice of incident. This has led men to speak of them as the Synoptic Gospels.

It is not difficult to explain why there are so many points of similarity between Matthew, Mark, and Luke, for after the Lord Jesus Christ had ascended to heaven, and before the dispersion of the Church from Jerusalem, during the six or seven years that intervened, we can easily understand how in the precincts of the Temple, or in the Upper Room, groups of new-made converts would gather around the Apostles to hear again and again from their lips the story of our Saviour's works and death. "Tell us the old, old story" would be their constant request, and again Peter, James, or John would tell the familiar story in much the same words, and these words being often repeated would be carefully remembered, and by many of the more earnest ones com­mitted to writing to send to friends and Churches at a distance. The result was that there would be a great body of oral and written tradition which was in vogue among the early Churches and the early Christians, and to this St. Luke refers when he says, "Many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of the things most surely believed amongst us."

Jesus Christ is the King, the Servant, the Man, the Son of God. Where in all the world could have been found one mind which could embrace the whole of His wondrous personality? Was it not necessary that there should be different men who should study Him, each from the stand­point of his own idiosyncrasy, and present to men the full-­orbed glory of His beauty? There are mountain ranges which no single traveller can apprehend. On the one side they are clad with vineyards, as they face the sunny south; on the other side they are covered with inaccessible glaciers. It is necessary for four explorers at least to meet on the top of Snowdon if you would properly describe it from its various sides. So with Jesus Christ. It is blessed to have Matthew's impression, and Mark's, and Luke's from another standpoint, and John's, that thus the whole beauty of Christ may stand forth before men.

This view of the four Gospels has been a commonplace with the Church of all ages, and the early Christians were accustomed to compare them to the four living creatures with the faces of the lion, the ox, the man, and the eagle.

The lion has always been the emblem of the Gospel of Matthew, because it sets forth the lion of the tribe of Judah, and is specially the Gospel of the Messiah, the King. That is why the Gospel of Matthew stands first in the New Testament-because he is the apostle of fulfilment, the evangelist of the King. His endeavour is to show how all the anticipations and prophecy of the Messiah have been realised perfectly in Jesus the Son of Mary. Luke traces the genealogy of Joseph to Adam; Matthew to Abraham. Only in this Gospel are we told of the visit of the magi, who brought their gifts to the King; only here that Jesus was born "King of the Jews"; only here is the prediction quoted that a Governor should come out of Bethlehem who should rule God's people Israel. Luke tells us that John the Baptist came preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; whilst Matthew tells us that he cried, "Repent, for the king­dom of heaven is at hand!" That word kingdom of heaven occurs about thirty-three times in this Gospel; it is, in fact, its characteristic word. Then, also, Matthew never wearies of telling us of the people who spoke to Jesus as "the Son of David." In Luke the parables begin thus: "A certain man had a vineyard," "A certain man had two sons"; but in Matthew thus: "The kingdom of heaven is like unto--"

It would well repay us to go through the Gospel of Matthew and underline all the references to two words-­first, the word fulfilment, which occurs many times, because the new fulfils the old; and second, the word King or king­dom. Matthew seems to go before Jesus saying, "Rejoice, rejoice greatly, thy King cometh, having salvation!" The kingship of Christ is the basis of all His work, for until you have made Jesus the King you will not know Him as Saviour.

If we take, then, this first chapter of Matthew we notice it divides clearly into two parts. The first (1-17) is merely a list of Jewish names, extracted from some old genealogy, ending in Joseph, to whom Mary was espoused; the other (18,&c.) is a description of our Lord's birth. Put the name Jesus-here mentioned for the first time-in contrast with all those other names, and what a marvellous contrast! His scale far outweighs the other, which contains the race.

First, the men and women mentioned in that list were transient; Jesus is permanent. How light their tread upon the sands of time! You cannot trace it; they have gone-­gone like the wind. Even though David and Solomon are mentioned, they are little more to us than the builders of the Pyramids; and as for Abraham, he lives away back in the mist of centuries. They have passed like last autumn's leaves; but Jesus Christ is our contemporary. You say, he lived; no, but He lives. You say, He spoke; no, He speaks. You say, He did miracles; ah! but He does miracles. You say, He died; yes, but He is always bearing the sins of men in an eternal passion. You say, He rose; yes, but He rose this morning. Christ is permanent.

Secondly, they were evidently sinful. Some of the worst people on the pages of history are mentioned in that cata­logue--Rahab, Bathsheba, Tamar, and Amon, who broke each of the commands of the decalogue. But Jesus Christ is peerless in His beauty. He of all men can challenge the world, and say, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" He has been carefully searched, and no sin found in Him. Even Judas certified that.

Thirdly, they were of the earth, earthy; Jesus Christ was from heaven. Their horizon was limited; the scope of their lives confined. Jesus Christ comes with a great programme-­that He may save His people from their sins. He is the one Man who has stepped into our world knowing what He came to do; not dying because He happened to be born, but born that He might die, and that He might become the second Adam, undoing the ruin of the first.

Fourthly, they were Jews. The type of the Jew is evident upon their faces. You would recognise their physiognomy as you would of any Jews from Houndsditch or Highbury. But Jesus Christ, though born of Jewish ancestors, towers above all that is Jewish, local and national, and is the Son of Man.

Notice these points. They are transient, He is permanent; they are sinful, He is without sin; they are local, earthly, living in a narrow scope and horizon, He is from heaven with a great programme; they are Jews, and He is the Son of Man.

It is impossible to account for Christ by any human ante­cedents or conditions. Ransack that list, you will find nothing to warrant the thought that one so peerless and transcendent should arise from the Jewish race. There is only the Divine way of accounting for Christ. "He that is conceived in thee is of the Holy Ghost." Here is the miracle of the immaculate conception, here the mystery of the virgin birth-"The Holy Spirit shall overshadow thee, and therefore that which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Has not the miracle of the incarnation been repeated in ourselves? How came the new life in your soul? Is it not that Jesus Christ has been born there? How could it have entered except you had been overshadowed by the Holy Ghost? How could the Holy Thing have been wrought in you except by a supernatural and Divine power. Your religious life is the child of the Eternal. Cease to wonder, then, that the Eternal should have overshadowed Mary, and that the Christ was born of her, when the Eternal has overshadowed you and the Christ has been born in you.

Like Joseph, we are liable to make great mistakes. Poor Joseph! he was puzzled, like you are; greatly perplexed, like you are; face to face with an insoluble problem, like you are; unable to understand the movings of God because he was a limited, narrow soul, and therefore he was minded to put Mary away privily.

So with you. You cannot understand the mysteries of God, and you are prepared to put Christianity away privily; but to do so is to put away the one hope of your race and of yourself. No. You had much better, like the good Joseph, sleep and let God come to you in your dreams, for it is when the busy superficial part of our nature is quiescent that our deepest nature is most sensitive to the unseen. Live up to the light you have, be reverent, be devout, obey, and you will find, as Joseph did, that the Spirit of God will lead you into the full understanding of all things from the very first.

Take up those Gospels again, bathe your soul in them; open your heart to the Spirit of God. Say, "Spirit of God, overshadow me, and in me may the Son of God be formed, and henceforth may my life become a gospel, unfolding in mercy and good works, even though it should consummate in a Calvary, because beyond that again, for me also, in union with Christ, there shall be an ascension and a reigning in the realms of everlasting day."

It has been truly said that elect spirits specially endowed and stationed near the outer edge of the visible, are ever bringing fresh news of the unseen, which surrounds our human homes like an atmosphere. In this manner they act as channels for its mystic powers, and become receptive of the Divine. The religious man is a perpetual absorbent, though he lives in this world; he is sure of his highest relationships. He is ever drinking in inspirations as the flower drinks in sunshine, and exhaling subtle fragrances from the summer land which he knows. Surely, this atmosphere can only be absorbed by those who bathe their spirits perpetually in these wonderful Gospels.

Many are intensely anxious to read the books of the hour, but coldly indifferent about reading the Bible. "It is old," they say with supercilious scorn; "men have thumbed it until it has forfeited its message for to-day." But those statements are baseless; the Bible is as old as the hills, and yet new as the morning light; and the message that it bears is as young as the angel that sat in the grave of the Risen Christ.