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Oh! brethren, may we each learn all that the Saviour and his servant can teach us, and by that learning, by chastening discipline, by sorrow and joy, and by the help of our Father's Spirit, may we, in our humble measure, be prepared to enter into that Presence hereafter where Jesus and his faithful herald rejoice together for evermore !
JESUS THE SAVIOUR OF THE WORLD.
BY REV. J. R. BEARD, D.D.
I John iv. 14 :
“We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the
Saviour of the world.”
Such is the testimony which the primitive church bore to Christ. The testimony is a summary of its faith respecting Christ and the object of his mission. As a summary it contains the substance of the earliest view of Christ. In these words the apostle utters the great thought with which his heart was filled, and in which he found the good he needed, and the good he did his part to communicate to others. It was obviously a good the amplest and the most precious.
The title “Saviour" is a designation of power. applied in ancient times, and must always be applied, to great and successful benefactors. Among the Israelites, those were called Saviours who redeemed the nation from the hands of its enemies. The name was not thought unworthy even of God himself (Ps. cvi. 20).
The title is also one of endearment. In one aspect it implies bondage and trouble ; in another, deliverance, freedom and prosperity. Obligation and gratitude, therefore, are involved in the title ; for the service which it supposes is of the highest kind, and the claim which it prefers appeals to the
inmost affections of our nature. Special and altogether peculiar is the sense which the term bears in connection with the gospel ; for the salvation which the gospel proclaims and offers is of a moral and spiritual nature, and so, transcending all material and social deliverances, confers the largest and richest good which God can give or man receive. The subject presented for consideration in the text invites attention to, 1, the nature of this good—Jesus is “the Saviour;" 2, the means or channel of its bestowment- “the Father sent the Son;" 3, its recipients - "the world;" and, 4, the evidence of its enjoyment—“we have seen and do testify."
1. The nature of the good is to be learnt from the general tenor of the New Testament. The mission of Jesus was a
He came to save his people from their sins (Matt. i. 21). Sin is man's great enemy. Sin, as hostile to God, is contrary to man. Sin is contrary to man's nature. Man was made, not for sin, but for holiness. Consequently, sin is unnatural. As unnatural, sin brings disorder, weakness, trouble
Even in the partial prevalence of sin there is unrest. Peace of heart is incompatible with sin. So long as men serve sin, they are in bondage. Only by deliverance from sin can men become their own masters, and so acquire the power to consecrate themselves to God. Sin, when finished, issues in moral and spiritual death. The death of the soul is the inevitable consequence of sin. Were sin destroyed, death would be no more, and the world would be happy in the consciousness of inmost union with God. One great end of the mission of Jesus was to destroy sin, and Jesus is the Saviour of the world because he will eventually put an end to sin.
Jesus came not merely to remove an evil, but also to confer a positive good. “I am come,” he declares, “ that ye might have life, and that ye might have it exceeding abundantly” (John x. 10). The life which Jesus came to bestow
is spiritual, and as spiritual so eternal life. Here our mind is directed to the great and permanent object of the Divine government. The one aim of God in relation to man is the communication of his own qualities. Having created man in his own image, and so in a special sense made man his own child, God undertakes the education of his child, in order to make his child, after a measure, like himself. Accordingly, the Saviour said, “Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." The allusion is to the merciful goodness of God (Matt. v. 48; Luke vi. 36). “God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John iv. 16). God's image is perfected in man when man in love resembles God. To effect that result was the object of Christ. Christ came to make man loving like himself. This is a work of education. Now all education is impulse, discipline, development and growth. Christ, then, saves men by quickening, fostering, strengthening, refining and expanding their natural affections, so that they may grow up into the full stature of spiritual perfection (Ephes. iv. 13). But even love is not the ultimate principle of goodness. Love is sometimes as unwise and injurious as it is intense. God's love is rooted in holiness. Holiness is the essence of God. As God is holy, so is Christ holy; for the Father "sanctified” as well as sent the Son (John x. 36). Perfect in holiness, God is perfect in love. As the universal Father is holy, so does he will that his children should be holy. It is only when men are holy that they are one with God in such a sense as to enjoy perfect peace in the full expansion and harmonious working of their whole nature. Now while holiness is an essential attribute of God, it is with us a possibility. possibility, holiness is within our reach. But that which is within our reach we cannot obtain without effort and struggle. Holiness in man, then, is a growth. God is holy; men become holy. And the specific work of Christ is to aid men to become
holy, that, being holy, they may fulfil the purpose of their existence and partake of the Divine nature (2 Pet. i. 4). The change involves a process, and every moral process is educational Christ, then, educates his disciples with a view to make them holy. Christ is the great spiritual Educator of the world. Christ saves men by pouring into them the kindling elements of a new life. Working in the line of all our natural sentiments and impulses, he trains them, enriches them, directs them, elevates them and perfects them. There is no affection, aptitude or tendency in our nature that is bad in itself. Radical evil exists only in the creeds and the schools. Radical evil is an impossibility in God's creation. That creation—the whole and every part of that creation—God himself pronounced good when first it proceeded from his hands; and though individual men have defiled their hearts and marred the divine image they bear, yet every new-born child is as good when now it comes from the Creator's bosom, as was the first child of the first mother. The good in its earliest condition is good merely in relation to that condition ; but even in the sensuous infant there lies an infinite capability of good ; and the good which lies there in the germ, Christ came to develop, refine and perfect. In accomplishing that divine work, he is the Saviour of the world. The nature and the measure of that good is Christ himself. Christ is the pattern of his own salvation. If you wish to know what Christian salvation involves, look to Jesus. Holy and loving himself, Jesus came to make men holy and loving. Only when men are holy and loving like Jesus, are they saved with the true Christian salvation. The salvation which is in Jesus Christ is obedience to the will of God like the obedience of Christ; is “love unfeigned" like Christ's; is sympathy with human suffering as tender and practical as Christ's ; is active beneficence as impartial, pitying, generous and constant as Christ's; is a heart as large as his; a mind as wise as his; a trust as