The Testimony of Christ

John 8:46  •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Now, before going further, I would remark that that to which Mr. N. objects here carries the moral evidence of its justice in itself in the simplest and plainest manner. If the moral excellence took effect on the conscience, so much the better. It ought to have done so: man was in an evil state if it did not. But then, with such miracles as Christ did, men were left without excuse in not receiving such a doctrine. Thus Christ says, "Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me, or else believe me for the very works' sake." What can be simpler? Again, "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but now they have no cloak for their sin." " If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin; but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father."
Mr. N. has, however, stated a question which, as to the matter in hand, is perfectly absurd and irrelevant. Is he to believe miracles on account of morality, or doctrine on account of miracles? Neither. No doubt immorality of doctrine would tend to discredit a miracle, and if the miracle were certain, it would not accredit what was certainly wrong; and purity of doctrine helps to accredit a miracle, as a miracle confirms the authority of a teacher. But we are not called on to believe a doctrine because of a miracle, or a miracle because of a doctrine; we are called on to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, because He offered both these proofs together; so that all Mr. N.'s abstract reasoning on the difficulty of arriving at truth, or the grounds of truth, is an irrelevant question of his own mind. Christ appeals to both kinds of proof as evidence of who He was, and of the truth of what He said: "Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me?" Again, "I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me." Mr. Ν. then is astray as to the whole matter in hand.
But there is another thing which Mr. Ν. of course keeps entirely out of sight; he continues, after what I already quoted, "Now this is intelligible, if blind external obedience is the end of religion, and not truth and inward righteousness, an ambitious and unscrupulous Church that desires by fair means or foul to make men's minds bow down to her, may say, Only believe; and all is right. The end being gained-obedience to us-we do not care about your reasons. But God cannot speak thus to man.... It peculiarly vexed me to find so total a deficiency of clear and sound instruction in the New Testament, and eminently in the gospel of John, on so vital a question. The more I considered it, the more it appeared as if Jesus was solely anxious to have people believe in Him without caring on what grounds they believed, although that is obviously the main point." (Phases, p. 146.) Indeed! Is the logic, which is to govern their principles of reasoning about it, the main point, when God is there? For we are supposing (Mr. Ν. as well as myself) the case to be that of God speaking to man, and our inquiry is, How is He to speak? He is mainly (says Mr. Ν.) to explain to them the logical grounds on which they ought to go! This is quite worthy of Mr. N.; but I avow I know not of whom else. The Lord does give them clear grounds of faith. (See the close of John.) John Baptist's testimony-the Father's testimony-His works' testimony-the scripture's testimony. But as to teaching them logic, I must leave it to infidels to count it the worthy occupation of God teaching in the world. Yet why He should teach this is hardly apparent on Mr. N.'s showing, for "a question of logic, such as I have had before me, was peculiarly one in which the propagator of a new religion could not be allowed to dictate." (Phases, p. 147.) But a man's reasoning cannot rise above what is in his mind. Think of God being in the world to give "clear views" on "a question of logic," which is yet so the province of man's mind that He "could not be allowed to dictate!"-and this man is to tell us the just grounds of faith!
Now I leave to every honest-minded reader, how much the life and words of the blessed Jesus resembled the conduct of "an ambitious and unscrupulous Church." It is a great thing, when we have to do with the vaporous reasonings of infidels, to get at things as they are-man as he ís-history as we have it- Jesus as He was. They cannot bear facts; and if an "unscrupulous Church" is not to be trusted, I avow (and Mr. N.'s book has not enfeebled my conviction) scrupulosity is not the burden that weighs down an infidel.
But I say, that if God do come into the world, or if He send even a revelation into the world other than a claim of law, His great end must be to reveal Himself. He has to do so because men have departed from Him, or (for whatever reason) are ignorant of Him; were it not so, there would not be place for the revelation. Now He is the source of all blessing. He knows it; He would make man happy by it. The knowledge of Him, as the Lord states it, and of Jesus whom He has sent, is eternal life. But He will have this, of course, real, moral, in the soul-hence by faith. lie is not thus revealed as God exacting, though He will judge all, but acting for us so as to take away every obstacle, while maintaining fully the highest standard of conscience-existing, in order to bless us in Himself, for He is love. Thus, believing in Him, I have perfect peace and living joy in Himself. Now, if lie thus come to bless, and by such a knowledge of Him, what can He do but engage men to believe in Him? His words and ways are the revelation of His so coming. In mercy to men He appeals to them; and, seeing how many obstacles there are to the simple perception of what is good and the embracing of it, we can understand that goodness adding sensible proofs by the exercise of power to overcome those obstacles and to show by that power who it is that is really come. No doubt men ought to see the grace and truth in itself. So the Lord says; but He adds condescendingly external proofs to confirm the testimony and help man's mind. On the other hand, if the conviction as to the glory of the messenger and truth of the message be produced merely by the miracles, the Lord rejects such faith because there is merely a conviction of the mind; the moral perception is wanting, which really recognizes His person and receives the power of the truth. "When he was in Jerusalem... many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them... for he knew what was in man." (John 2:23-2523Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. (John 2:23‑25).)
In fine, the ground Mr. N. takes is this, that the question is, Are we to believe miracles for doctrine's sake, or doctrine for miracles' sake?
I say that Christ calls us to believe in His person and revelation by reason of both; and that the question Mr. N. puts on the matter is absurd. The doctrine and works confirm each other. Which of these two statements is according to fact? For it is a question of fact.