Thoughts Suggested by John 1:14.

1892 85 It is well to be jealous of any mere intellectual appreciation of the word of God. For undoubtedly, even in the case of those who are truly converted, there is a danger of mind and fancy being gratified at the expense of heart and conscience. It is admitted of course that the intelligence must play a necessary part in the apprehension of any statement, secular or sacred, as it is also true that the poetic temperament will not blind the soul to heavenly glories, where sin is judged and Christ is paramount. Only let us realise that the Bible is God's voice to us, "quick and powerful," and "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. iv. 12). Then indeed shall we be slow to indulge an uncontrolled fancy; and, on the other hand, distrusting self, we shall not miss the needed blessing and refreshment.

Now it is hardly necessary to say we are not concerned with those who take merely a literary interest in the Bible. There are those we know, who do indeed discover a moving and pathetic story in such a history as that of Joseph, but nothing beyond; as they see merely a tale of sweet and inimitable naturalness in that of Ruth. Clearly no spirituality is necessary for this, as in fact those who see no more in these histories are in general infidel. This is not the danger to which believers, as a rule, are exposed. The latter are well aware that these Old Testament narratives are not of any "private interpretation," any more than prophecy is, but that they point with undeviating constancy to our Lord Jesus Christ. Our danger, on the contrary, is to rest too much in our apprehension of the admirable variety and fulness of these precious types, and in our possibly keen appreciation of them, without much practical result as to our ways. It is the same with the material symbols of the Levitical economy as with those of a personal character. It is one thing, for instance, to note with what exquisite precision the Holy Spirit enjoins the blue, and the scarlet, and the purple, according as heavenly character, earthly grandeur, or royal dignity were to be symbolised by the coverings. of the mystic furniture of the Tabernacle; it is quite another to be formed and moulded by the varied teaching of these different scriptures.

But the dangers attending the study of the New Testament are somewhat different. As the "very image of the things" is there unfolded with divine clearness and exactitude, there is a directness of statement which leaves less room for ingenious and far-fetched interpretations, and there is less risk perhaps of the imagination running wild. Doubtless there are snares of another kind, more purely intellectual as with the Gnostics of old, and more subtle. Witness too some recent vagaries, not confined to one quarter, with regard to our Lord's Person. The fact is that there are snares for imaginative and intellectual alike, and both can find material in either division of the Book of God. Yet, while we should judge self unsparingly, it is becoming to cherish simplicity, equally free from legal bondage and from self-confidence. Indeed they are not wise who are always analysing their feelings — an occupation as unhealthy in spiritual as in physical matters. Hence it is enough to have pointed out a danger before turning to a verse than which there is none sublimer or more majestic even in the fourth Gospel — so simple in its language, so profound in its significance.

Simple language, profound meaning — do not these words sum up the characteristic features of St. John's Gospel, as of his Epistles? Whether his aim were to enforce the great truth that Jesus is the Christ, as in the Gospel, or that the Christ is Jesus, (Whom they had seen and handled) as in the first Epistle, clearly no complicated arguments were necessary in order to "declare what he had seen and heard." We know that there are arguments, and indignant ones, though most suitable in their season, in the writings of the apostle Paul. Burning words and sharp remonstrance were necessary at times from one who had the "care of all the churches," and who was jealous with a godly jealousy for the honour of Christ. But in the Gospel of John how different it all is. And yet he was a "son of thunder;" nor is the remark of Augustine inapt that St. John begins his Gospel with a peal of spiritual thunder. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." But all is calm and reposeful in the manner; the thunder is not in the collision of earth-born clouds, but in the majesty of the revelation. He who declared the eternal life that was with the Father, speaks in accents that breathe the calmness of the Son's own divine dignity and glory. The Word was (en) God; but we read further that the Word was made (egeneto) flesh. Already a touch of pathos in the announcement of His Incarnation; no exemption from human vicissitudes, though wholly apart from sin. And so He "tabernacled" here for some three and thirty years, most of which, as we know, were spent in holy seclusion, whence God has not thought fit to withdraw the veil, but of which more may be known (who can tell?) in the coming day. We are permitted one or two glimpses of exquisite loveliness (Luke ii); and then the silence of almost twenty unrecorded years. But even of the three years of that wonderful ministry, only some of the miracles and some of the sayings are told us; there are the "many other signs," and the "many other things" that "are not written in this book." So He displayed His glory, not only those moral perfections that could not be hidden, but each miracle, as the one in Cana of Galilee, manifested the majesty of His Person to such as had eyes to see.

But there is more. It is glory as of an Only-begotten with a Father. And indeed, though doubtless the apostles raised the dead, and did other miracles — not to speak of the greater (spiritual) miracles they wrought after Christ had gone to the Father — yet in truth there was a stamp of peculiar dignity in our Lord's own works and words. For He alone could and did touch the leper without being defiled, as on the same occasion, with full consciousness of His divinity, He said, "I will" — fitting words for One, Who could say "I am." He answered the governor nothing, so that Pilate marvelled. The people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, saluted Him, when He had just come down from the Holy Mount; the glory still lingered that had been so dazzling at the transfiguration. And so we might recall many an incident situation described in the Gospels, where the splendour of His divine Sonship seemed to pierce the veil.

Yet surely are we, who by grace rest in Him, not less, but more, favoured than those who had His bodily presence. R. B. Junr.