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THE APOSTLE'S KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST. 21 accounts of His words and deeds, which are trustworthy. These we prize now; these we may transmit to the men who come after us and teach them to prize. But will not " that be very different from hearing a living voice? Will
reading a book be ever a substitute for that? And may there not be false reports which are handed down along with the true ones? Have not lying accounts of our Lord's deeds and words been put together already, which · His Apostles have told us not to care for? Who will
give these warnings to our descendants ? Who will help them to discern between the honest record and the counterfeit one ?'
I cannot doubt that such things were said at this time, because, in some form of language or other, people have been saying them ever since. They have fancied that each age was less likely to be right than the last, because it was further from the age of the Apostles. They have supposed that our knowledge of Christ can only be second-hand, or third-hand, or fourth-hand knowledge. They have disputed whether we are dependent on oral traditions or whether a written book is sufficient without them. They have asked who is to determine between the false reports and the true reports. They have debated these questions backwards and forwards, and are debating them still.
Now, St. John's words, it seems to me, meet these confusions, and answer them as no others can. He begins with speaking of that which he saw and heard and handled. · Those who read his letter could have no doubt that he was referring to the time when he saw the face of Jesus Christ, when he heard His discourses, when he grasped His hand, when he leaned upon His breast. There might be some
still upon earth who had been in Jerusalem at that time, who had even been disciples of Christ. There would not be any of them upon the earth long. And there was none of them who would have thought he had as much right to use these expressions as the son of Zebedee had. Here, then, he claims for himself the full dignity of an Apostle. Whatever advantage there was in this kind of intercourse with Jesus, he could say, 'It was mine.'
Yet there is something peculiar in his mode of speaking. Why does he not say, "He whom we saw and heard and handled ?' St. John certainly meant this. Would it not have been more simple and natural to adopt that form of language? Before we decide, let us hear what he does say: · That which we have seen with our eyes, and our ears have heard, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life.' The preposition of, which our translators have adopted, does not exactly answer to the one which St. John uses. I do not know whether I wish that they had rendered it' about,' though that certainly would have been more literal. That would be nearly as unintelligible as of,' if we do not exercise our minds upon the passage; if we do, either may be intelligible. Think of the friend whom you have known best and loved best. Let each ask himself, . What is it that I have known and loved in him ?' Suppose he is gone away. You will recollect his look, the tones of his voice, the pressure of his hand. But you would not call these himself. You would not say these were your friend. You would say these were of him or about him. You would say that what you could not see or hear or handle was much more that which attached you to itself, that which you rested in. You would say—would not you ?
THE LIFE AND THE FRAME.
There was a life in him, which took hold of me. It was in that I found the difference between him and other people. It was with that I could converse. It was that · which conversed with me. The goodness, the wisdom, • the power which I recognised, were in that. The hearing, " the seeing, the handling would have been nothing without
that. They brought me in contact with the outside of the man,—an outside that was dear to me because of that ' which it expressed,—but he was within.
Now, St. John says exactly this about that Lord and Master who called him from mending his nets, only he says something more than this. He says that that face of His which he saw, that voice of His which he heard, those hands of His which he handled were about the WORD of Life. A life was there within that body, just as there is a life within the body of each man whom we converse with. A life revealed itself or was manifested through those outward organs of His, just as a life is manifested through the outward organs of every person who speaks to us, who looks at us, who approaches us. But St. John says that this life which was in Him was not merely a life, but the Life; the life from which all the life that is in us and in the other creatures is derived. That there must be such a Life, such a central fountain of life as this, we all, I believe, feel more or less strongly. It is what men have been asking for in every country and every age. I showed you last Sunday how one who is seeking a ground for his own moral life is led to perceive the necessity of it. Aud I observed then how the thought of this life in man associated itself with the thought of God; how men had dreamed that the true standard and ultimate source of their life must be in Him. To that conviction, also, St. John does justice; the phrase · Word of Life' intimates that the life which was in this Person was, in very deed, the expression or utterance of that which is in God. Just as the word I speak contains the thought that is in me and that I put into it; so this life with which: St. John had held converse, was, he says, the Word of Life; the expression of the whole Mind and Nature of Him from whom all things have proceeded. We say sometimes of a speech which strikes us as very sincere and very powerful, “The speaker threw his whole soul into it.' We mean that that speech showed or expressed to us very much of what we think was in the man who delivered it. But we know that no man can tell us all that is in him, by a speech. We must compare one thing that he says with another, we must be acquainted with his acts as well as with his sayings; both together help us to understand his mind and purpose. And there is so much in us that is variable and contradictory, that one act or one word may not represent the same mind and purpose with another. You may say to-day, 'I fancied that person was one of
the gentlest of human beings; now I have seen him 'in a passion, I find another kind of man in him; I
cannot tell what to think of him.' But supposing there were a being with nothing variable or contradictory in his nature, whose purpose was always the same, who was himself always the same; the sayings which he spoke and the acts which he did would be always in accordance; each one would tell the truth about him, each one would tell us of himself. And his acts, and his sayings together, would represent one life. Supposing, then, that you could
THE WORD OF LIFE.
25 ever say of the life of a man, “This life perfectly ex• presses the mind and purpose of God, this life per• fectly shows the life that is in Him'—then you would say, This is the Word of God. In him God speaks
out Himself. In him God manifests Himself.' You would not mean merely that something which he spoke proceeded from God, and declared what He intended or willed. You would mean that he, the whole person, was and is the Word of God.
You will think perhaps that I am in a hurry to put this meaning upon St. John, when perhaps his expressions can be explained in another way. There is nothing that I wish less than that any one should take my interpretation for granted. There is nothing that I wish more than that they should compare St. John's different writings together, and see whether this is not the kind of thing that he is telling us in all of them. I say the kind of thing; for I am sure that what he is telling us is much better, and deeper, and larger than I have been able to express in my language. Perhaps one of the first discoveries to which such an examination would lead you, is the feebleness, the poverty, the circumlocution of my phrases, as contrasted with the strength, and the richness, and the directness of his. This, however, you may ascertain for yourselves. The meaning of these expressions Word of God,' Word of Life,' has not been left by the Apostle for other interpreters to bring out. His whole Gospel is an elucidation of it. There is not one narrative in that Gospel which does not help to present it in some new aspect. In doing so, I think-indeed, I have endeavoured elsewhere to prove—that he has made the force