« PredošláPokračovať »
PECULIAR ATTRACTION OF JOHN'S GOSPEL.
(Translated from Schaff's Kirchenfreund.) Every one of the Gospels possesses a leading characteristic, that for this reason constitutes its peculiar worth. Only by combining the outlines as drawn by all, can we form a complete image of Christ. A landscape presents different scenes according as it is viewed from different points of observation, and thus furnishes material for a variety of paintings; but these nevertheless correspond in the main, and complete the whole view reciprocally. Soerates was a man of so profound and rich a mind, ihat the labor of Plato and Xenophon, two men of entirely different mental habits, were necessary in order to unfold a full idea of his genius. With how much more force must not this principle hold true of Him, who was not only the archetype of human nature, and of all that is beautiful, noble and grand, but in whom besides all the fullness of the eternal Godhead dwelt in bodily form! Surely, to have but such a delineation drawn of himself, as would be a mere approximation to the full reality, the God-man, Jesus Christ, needed the service of more than a single mind.
Of all others, the peculiar character of the fourth Gospel s:ands out with greatest clearness. Although Matthew, Mark and Luke differ decidedly, and each one contributes his part to the living portrait of the Redeemer independently of the other; yet, they are intimately connected and together form a class, as soon as we institute a comparison between them and the Gospel according to John.
We are naturally led to expect from this favorite disciple the most penetrating and profound exhibition of the divine human character of our Lord. Lying on his Master's bosom, he listened to the softest notes of ihe music of heavenly love. Pure, confiding and susceptible, bis whole being fitted him to receive a most accurate impress of Christ, the living image of divine lifs. Throughout the whole of this Gospel, therefore, we perceive the gentle respirations of Jesus' bosom, the peaceful, refreshing breathing3 of Heaven. Every page discloses the delightful joyousness of the Evangelist, feasting his soul as he holds a communion of life with the Son of God. But with it are blended tones of sadness and sacred grief, in view of the spiritual obtuseness and ingratitude of unbelieving men. This “son of thunder," on the one hand, carries us along in adoring adıniration, as, borne on the pinions of profound reflection, he ascends the heights of uncreated glory, which the eternal Son had with the Father before the foundation of the world. Like a royal eagle, that, attracted by the glory of the sun, is lost in delight while he flaps his athletic wings and describes his grand circles in the air, he sails on majestically towards the fountain of light. To follow the evangelist when he draws the sublime but simple outlines of his views of absolute truth and beauty, even the boldest and strongest thinker needs to collect all the energies of his genius. But, on the other hand, the utmost simplicity and the loveliest child-like spirit, are coupled with this daring flight of thought and this depth of reflection; our hearts are reached and he wins our entire confidence. Although his exhibition of divine truth is unfathomable, to a certain extent it is nevertheless adapted to the comprehension of a child. In this respect he resembles a quiet lake, so deep that men can not sound its abyss, yet so clear and transparent that its waters reflect the bright face of the full-orbed sun, and we cast our eyes over the gilded surface in rapture.
No wonder then, that from the beginning of its history, this Gospel has always attracted the most spiritual and profound theologians of every age with irresistible force. Origen calls it the main Gospel, which those only can comprehend who lie on the bosom of Jesus, and there imbibe the spirit that imbued John, just as he did the spirit of Christ. Chrysostom extols ils celestial tones with all the ardor of his eloquence; it is a voice of thunder reverberating through the whole earth ; notwithstanding its all-conquering power it does not utter a harsh sound, but is more lovely, bewiiching and elevating in its influence than all the harmonies of music. Besides, it awakens the awe-inspiring consciousness, that it is big with the most precious gifts of grace, which elevate those who appropriate them to themselves above the earthly pursuits of this life, constitute them citizens of Heaven and heirs of the blessedness of angels. Augustine says: “Of the four Gospels, or rather the four books of but one Gogpel, the one according to John, who may justly be compared to a soaring eagle as regards spiritual apprehension, is more elevated and sublime in its tone ihan the other three; and as he rises in his upward flight he seeks to carry us along with him. The first three evangelists say but little of the divine nature of our Lord, but associate with him as he appeared upon earth in the likeness of sinful flesh. But John, as if wearied with beholding the sojourn of Christ among men, rises in the very introduction to his Gospel not only above earth, air, and the spangled vault of heaven, but goes beyond the angelic host and all the orders of invisible powers, and, fixing his eye on Him by whom all things were created, commences: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. From beginning to end the whole Gospel corresponds with the sublimity of this introduction. As he speaks of the divine personality of Jesus, none other does. He did but pour forth the water of life, which himself had drunk in. For he does not relate the fact without good reason, that at the last supper the beloved disciple lay his head on the Lord's bosom. From this bosom his soul drank in living streams. Then he revealed this secret cummunion to the world, that the world might become a partaker of his joy."
Luther speaks of the Gospel of John as being : "the only real Gospel, the leading, living one, that should be preferred by far to the others. John records mainly the discourses of Christ in his own words, from which we learn truth and life as taught by himself. The rest dwell at length upon bis works.” Calvin designates it as the key that opens the way to a right understanding of the other three. This Gospel reveals the soul of Christ; the others seek rather to describe his body. In a work on idolatry, Lessing pronounces it, without qualification, to be the most important portion of the New Testament. Ernesti calls it :“ T'he heart of Christ.” Herder, in ecstacies, exclaims: “Written by the hand of an angel.” In his work, entitled “ Weihnachtsfeier” (celebration of Christmas) that extraordinary genius, Schleiermacher, expresses his own preference for John's Gospel in the language of Edward, the third speaker at the festival : “More mystical than any one of the four, communicates but little information about particular events, and does not even relate the actual birth of Christ, but eternal, child-like christmas-joys pervade its soul.” Commentators of later date, such as Luecke, Olshausen and Tholuck share the same preference. The latter applies to it, in an elevated sense, the language of Hamann in reference to Claudius : “Thy harp sends forth light ethereal sounds that float gently in the air, and fill our hearts with tender sadness, even after its strings have ceased to vibrate.” Profound philosophers have been particularly fascinated by the Introduction, (ch. i: 1–18), which may be regarded as a compendium of speculative wisdom. Fichte, during the latter and more religious period of his life, and Schelling, regard John as the typical representation of the perfect ideal church of the future.
Poets, too, have lavished their praises on this mysterious and wonderful production of the Apostolic age. Claudius, of “Wandsbeck," one of the most inoffensive, upright, sincere
and heartfelt popular writers of his time, has given a description of it, composed in the simple style of John himself, thai has really become classic. He
6 Above all do I like to read the Gospel of John. There is something truly wonderful in it: twilight and night; and athwart flashes the vivid lightning. A calm evening sky, and on the back ground, see the large, full moon in very deed! Something sad, sublime, that fills my soul with longing! One never becomes satisfied! Every time I read John, it seems as if I could see him before me lying on the bosom of his Master at the last supper—as if his angel were standing by my side with a lamp in his hand, and, when I come to particular passages, would clasp me in his arms and whisper a word in my ear. There is a great deal that I do not understand when I read; but I often feel as if John's meaning were floating before me at a distance; even when my eye lights on a dark place, I have nevertheless a presentiment of a sense, sublime and glorious, that I shall some day understand. On this account I grasp eagerly at every new exposition of John's Gospel. But, alas, the most of them are only delighted with the evening sky, whilst the bright moon awakens very little admiration." Cincinnati, o.
E. V. G.
LIEBNER'S CHRISTOLOGY. Christologie oder die christologische Einheit des dogmatischen
Systems, dargestellt von Dr. Th. A. Liebner. Erste Abtheilung. Göttingen, 1849.
This volume is introductory to a system of dogmatic theology, which it is proposed to construct from the christological principle. The author assumes that the true heart and core of all religion is the great fact of the incarnation, the living person of Jesus Christ, through which the life of man is restored to harmony with the life of God, and so redeemed at the same time from the curse of sin. To understand and represent properly then the glorious economy of the gospel, it is necessary to start with the idea of the incarnation, to make this the principle or foundation of the whole scheme of thought it is found to embrace. The doctrine of man on the one side, a sound and sufficient anthropology, and the doctrine of God on the other, a sound and sufficient theology, must both be conditioned in the nature of the case by a sound and sufficient chris
tology, rightly setting forth the conjunction of these two forms of existence in the awful and mysterious personality of Him, who is at once both God and man. If this conjunction be at all natural and normal, and not a fantastical abnormity violently forced on the nature of man to serve a purpose, it must follow that the full sense of humanity is brought out finally only by its means; and that this becomes fully intelligible of course only as the survey of its parts and proportions is made to begin here, and is carried forward subsequently with continual reference throughout to the fundamental or principal fact, which is found to underlie thus at last the universal truth of man's life. And so we may say in like manner, that if the mystery of the incarnation be in real harmony with the nature of God, and not a mere docetic vision on this side as pretended by the old Gnostics, it must follow that the full sense of God's relations to the world -not of course his essential being, but the manifestation of what he is in the process of creation—is also reached at last only in this mystery, and becomes fully intelligible accordingly only by its means. That must ever be a false and mutilated view of the nature and history of man, which rests not on a firm apprehension of his true relationship to God, as this comes out ultimately in the constitution of the Messiah. That must ever be a false and defective view of the nature of God, as related to the world, which stops short of the theanthropy, as the true and necessary central sun that serves to irradiate and complete all other revelations by which he is known.
The system of theology to which we are here introduced by Dr. Liebner, is governed throughout, he tells us in his preface, by the thought, that Christianity is the absolutely last and highest form of religion, the system of all systems, the full and real end which all other forms of religion only reach after in the way of nisus or endeavor, and in which alone accordingly is to be found their proper truth. “ This thought is one that is nec. essary to the Church, and one cannot partake truly in her life without coming under its power. For just as certainly as the Church carries in herself the consciousness of possessing the highest and richest life, even the holy and blessed life of Christ himself, and feels that the one thing needful is the full communication of this life through all the veins of the body of which he is the head; the very same assurance niust she have intellectually, that she is in possession also of the absolutely highest, all comprehending and all controlling truth, or of the entire fulness of reason, to which all that may claiin to be reason besides can stand related at best but as a fragmentary preparation."