From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 18-29
Christian and Catholic
Transcribed by Dr. Elizabeth G. Melillo
The revelation of Himself which God primarily makes in nature and man, He has given more fully to the race through philosophers, poets, seers, in all lands and times, unfolding more and more His divine purpose, mans destiny and His Love. Soaring above their fellows like great mountain tops, these chiefs among men first caught the rays of the coming day.
It has been a gradual and progressive revelation adapted to the races childhood, maturity, needs. God gave to different nations their separate work in the progress of humanity. He overruled their antagonisms and their successions in power. He gave to each a special mission. He made Israel the worlds religious lighthouse. He made the Hebrew prophets the organs of the revelation of His Oneness. There were not, as pagans held, gods of the rivers and of the mountains and of the plains. The Olympian deities of mans creation had no existence. "The Lord thy God is one God." This was Israels message. It was something more. The childish idea of God is a God of power, a God Almighty. In apprehension the quantitative precedes the qualitative. The earlier man-created deities were thus gods of force. The hurled vast mountains together, forged fatal armour, ruled the bellowing clouds, and on bent shoulders upheld the world. But Israels God was not only the Almighty One. He was the God of Truth and Righteousness. The Indian Law of Karma, the Greek Nemesis, issued from his judgement seat. He punished the guilty. He watched over the oppressed. But He ordered all to ends beyond any individuals rights or needs, for He was for all and over all. He was the God for all time and of all people. The mark of limitation, showing its transitory character, rested on all pagan worship. It was so bound up with certain nationalities that it could never have a universal application. But the revelation of Israel not only declared the Oneness of Gold but foretold its own development. It enshrined the great prophecy of a Teacher to whom all nations would come. A light was to break forth as the sun from the clouds and illumine the world. With mans advancing preparation, the daylight gradually increased, and at last that fuller light came in the person of Jesus Christ.
Before, however, considering Him we must recognise the fact that religion, being an element of our nature, presents itself in several forms besides that of Christianity.
We can but pause here to remark how its revelation of God, mans destiny, and the aids it brings, denotes its superiority. It has elevated and enriched mankind more than any other religion. It has been an invigorating force in mans progressive elevation. Under its benign influence slavery has been abolished, the horrors of war have been mitigated, woman has risen in position and dignified companionship. Multiform philanthropies have extended their alleviating blessings into every byway of human misery. It has enriched mans intellect and been the mother of art. It has left an ennobling impress on the character of every Christian nation in Europe. It has tended to the unity of the human family, and made man more considerate of the rights of his brother man. In its principles are to be found the only solution for the destructive contests between labour and capital. Christ was not, as some modern socialists have declared, a failure. He was not a mere ideal philanthropist preaching an impractical religion. He set in motion an agency for the benefit of mankind which has achieved a permanent success, and is extending itself with a self-productive energy. He has revealed and made possible an elevation of man in a final union with God beyond aught that any other religion has conceived. Christianity offers an end to man, beyond that of any scheme of human progress, an end worthy of God and most ennobling to man.
It presents us with the noblest conception of God, as not only an Almighty and Omnipresent Being, but as Wisdom, Goodness, Love, Beauty itself. It represents Him not as a merely ever-existing Ancient of Days, but as Eternal Youth. It condemns Him not to the misery of an eternal solitude, but reveals Him as having, in the self-consciousness of each of His necessary eternal activities, of Being, Knowing, Loving, a triple personality, so that He has ever an adequate object and return to His own Infinite Love. It solves best the purpose of creation by the revelation of its destined progress to the evolution of a new heaven and earth from which all evil and sin shall be forever banished. It explains best the permission of temptation with its consequent evils in this preparatory stage, as necessary to the development of the character of a nature endowed with free will. It offers the highest conceivable end to man in the attainment of such a further union with God, as, without destroying his personality, will secure him in permanent righteousness and consequently everlasting bliss. It comes to him with a free offer of pardon for all his errors and sins, a blotting out of the guilty past, an elevation and transformation of his nature, fitting it for eternal glory. It sets all this before him, in and through union with Christ.
And so we come to a question it behoves us to seriously consider. It was a question once put to the great Master Himself. "What think ye of Christ?" If you think at all favourably about Christianity, what do you think of its Founder? Nothing is more certain that that Jesus Christ lived in Palestine and was publicly put to death there by the Roman governor. It is as certain as the life and death of any recorded in history, as that of Socrates or Julian Cūsar or Abraham Lincoln. "Not to be interested in the life of Jesus Christ is to be, " said Liddon, "I do not say irreligious, but unintelligent. It is to be insensible to the nature and claim of the most powerful force that has ever moulded the thought and swayed the destinies of civilised man. Listening, at Saint Helena, to the bells that called to church attendance on Sunday, Napoleon said he recognised in Christ a power greater than he or any of the worlds conquerors possessed. A modern French orator, speaking of the motive forces of late centuries, how liberty had been the watchword of the eighteenth century and progress that of the nineteenth, exclaimed, "But, gentlemen, Jesus Christ is Progress." By the acclaim which all nations have accorded Him, He stands as a religious teacher, matchless and supreme. If we accept this in any fair degree, we may well ask ourselves, what has given Him this pre-eminence, and what are His credentials for it?
The first characteristic concerning Him, and that differentiates Him from all other of the worlds renowned religious teachers, is that He came as the fulfilment of prophecy. In this He in unique. Modern critical research may show us how the Bible grew into its present shape. It may show us how many were its writers or redactors. How, as it intimates, in its composition they used ancient myths and legends. How they made selections from various sources. How they rewrote history. The Bible ends in a revelation of the wonderful mystery of grace and glory, just as it begins with an inspired allegory which sets forth the mystery of Creation. But all the way through there is from the beginning to the end of the Old Testament the promise of a Messiah who shall enlighten and redeem Mankind.
In the light of that wonderful revelation wherein we first learn of mans relation to His Maker and the dire results of separating himself from God, we read also of mans promised Deliverer. One would come who should "bruise the serpents head." God put man outside of the garden where he had access to the Tree of Life, to teach him that sin separates from God. Separation indeed from Gods power man cannot accomplish, for that were to annihilate himself; and annihilation would be an act of omnipotence equal to creation itself. Man can, however, separate himself from the Grace of God, and to do this is to bring upon himself spiritual death. Of this God lovingly forewarned him. "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." Given the possibility, to pass after trail into a state of secured sinlessness and so bliss, man lost the special grace by which alone that supernatural end could be secured. This grace being a superadded gift to his nature, when forfeited, man could not regain the prize he had lost. A supernatural end cannot be attained by natural effort. The flaming Cherubim of Righteousness and Justice stood guard over the sacred way. But a Deliverer came for man and as man, could retrieve mans defeat, and for human nature, win its re-entrance into paradise and its renewed union with God.
"O loving wisdom of our God!
When all was sin and shame
A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came.
O Wisest love! That flesh and blood
Which did in Adam fail
Should strive afresh against the foe,
Should strive and should prevail."
The promise that a Deliverer should come is next narrowed by promise that he shall be of a particular race. He shall be of the seed of Abraham. "In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." This Saint Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost as applicable to Christ, whom Saint Matthew tells us was descended from Abraham. The same promise was renewed to Jacob, who by like authority is recorded as the ancestor of Christ. Subsequently it was further narrowed to a tribe. He was to come of the tribe of Judah. Then as God in guarded wisdom revealed His purpose, a special family was designated. The Messiah was to be a rod out of the stem of Jesse. The Lord also declared to David that He would "establish his throne for ever"; and this promise the Angel Gabriel quoted to the Blessed Virgin concerning her offspring, saying, "The Lord God shall give unto Him the Throne of His father David: and of His Kingdom there shall be no end."
His threefold offices also were prophetically set forth; slowly God drew the portrait of the coming One. He was to be a prophet like unto Moses, the great leader of Israel out of bondage: "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet like unto me, unto whom ye shall hearken." Of this special prophet, unlike all others and for whom the nation looked, the Pharisees made inquiry of John Baptist, "Was he that prophet?" To this promise Saint Peter and Saint Stephen both appealed, and claimed that Jesus was that prophet that should come into the world. He was no mere teacher revealing truths, but a mighty leader like unto Moses. So He came to the Jewish sheepfold and led His people out from Judaism into the broader Christian pastures and from the brighter day.
It was also prophesied that the Great Deliverer should wear the vestment and character of a priest. He should be a high priest forever after the order of Melchisedek. The order of Melchisedek was a priesthood unlike that of Aaron, in that it had an assigned supernatural descent. The person of Melchisedek appears as a mysterious figure upon the stage of history. He was as if a supernatural being without father, without mother. The writer of Genesis omits, perhaps by ignorance or forgetfulness, his genealogy. It is an interesting and instructive instance of how God makes use even of the ignorance and imperfection of His creatures to declare His message. He was to come not only after the order of Aaron and offer a bloody sacrifice, but like Melchisedek to bring forth an offering of Bread and Wine. In the upper chamber Christ fulfilled this type. On the Cross and at the Institution we recognise Christ as our High Priest.
He was also to be a King. The Jewish heart beat wild with delight as they dwelt on this element of the promised Deliverer. He was to occupy the throne of His father David, and of His kingdom there was to be no end. The Kingdom he founded was indeed unlike the worldly one they expected; nevertheless it was a Kingdom. It was so heralded, and the gospel He preached was "the gospel of the Kingdom." Asked by Pilate if He was a King, He declared He was, Thou sayest it that I am a King.
He was to be certified to the world by a special herald. A special messenger, a second Elijah, was to precede Him. "I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me." "I will send you Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord." Speaking of John Baptist, Christ said this is Elias which was for to come. Moreover, the place was designated where he was to be born. He was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. To this the priests and scribes bear witness, quoting the prophecy, "and thou, Bethlehem," etc. He was to come, so Isaiah foretold, preaching good tidings, healing the broken-hearted, bringing deliverance to captives, recovering of sight to the blind. This He claimed to have done, and to it every account of His life bears witness. His manner and His method were pre-announced and so also was His rejection. The incidents of the final tragedy are by different prophets most minutely foretold. We could gather its history from the prophets alone. They give a connected story from His entry into Jerusalem, "Behold my King cometh unto thee," to the "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" He will be betrayed by a friend and for thirty pieces of silver, and abandoned by His disciples. "Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered." He is to be treated as a criminal, "numbered with the transgressors," and He is to be despised and rejected of men. False witnesses are to rise up against Him and He is to be oppressed and afflicted, yet opens not His mouth. He will be grievously insulted and scourged. He will not hide His face from shame and spitting, and He will give His back to the smiters. He shall be put to a most cruel death of crucifixion. "They pierced my hands and my feet," and "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced." The scene on Calvary is minutely described. "They part my garments among them and cast lots upon my vesture." "They shall stand jeering upon me." "They gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink." These and other details are given by the prophets. Daniel declares that the expected "Monarch shall be cast off." Isaiah sees Him as One who was wounded for our transgressions. "He was bruised for our iniquities. He was oppressed and afflicted. He was cast off out of the land of the living, and He made His grave with the wicked and with the rich in His death."
Nor by these alone, but by a series of connected types, and by the whole Jewish ceremonial law, its worship and sacrifices, was the coming Deliverer and His offices and work proclaimed. We may not accept the application of all these many and sometimes mystical references to Christ, but a Mind other than the writers evidently moved them, age after age, to depict with increasing particularity the Person of Christ, His advent, character, life, and death. The critical spirit of our day in its rigid demand for proof rejects the spiritual exegetical methods of the fathers. But enough and more than enough remains, in a broad view of Jewish history, to justify the contention, that Israel looked forward to a great Deliverer. He was to be anointed from on high, and Gods purpose to bless mankind through Israel was to find its fulfilment through Him. Any reasonable view of the life of our Lord so conforms to these multiform predictions to show that Christ was He.
And not alone did Hebrew prophets proclaim His advent, but aided by that divine light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world, heathen poets and philosophers saw, in their better moments of inspiration and through their tears over the falling fortunes of mankind, the coming of One who should restore its lost nobility and usher in a brighter day. So through the haze of hopes and fears Plato and Virgil and others, kindling with aspirations for humanitys betterment, discerned a shadowy outline of a heaven-sent Ideal and to the pagan world foretold of Christ. Ancient prophecy thus becomes focussed on Him. As has been well said, "Prophecy takes off its crown and lays it at the feet of One who is to be." Thus Christ stands out on the luminous background of prophecy, peerless and supreme, among the worlds religious teachers. He alone comes authenticated by the cumulative evidence of a series of converging lines of prophecy. It is then a fair and reasonable conclusion, believing that there is a God, that Christ is a Teacher sent by Him. Not merely like those not so authenticated, but with the transcendent authority of One, specially certificated to be the Prophet and Light of the world.
Is it then wise, O man, not to think of the future, and to grope thy way alone? Sphinx-like thy destiny confronts thee and by natural powers thou canst not solve the riddle. Does the idea of the unknowable rise up like an adamantine barrier and baffle thee? It may appal but need not lead thee to sit down in contented unbelief. In philosophy and religion truths polarise. There are truths and counter-truths. Wisdom lays hold of each. Man can apprehend he cannot wholly comprehend. To his aid God has, we have seen, sent a Teacher. All sensible persons accept gladly the assistance of those wiser than themselves. In religious matters, the intellectual more than others, need it. It is spiritual suicide to reject the Great Teachers help. Shall we be like logs drifting on the stream of life ignorant of our origin, careless of our destiny? When a light is seen shining out on the waters, is it the dictate of prudence or common sense for the shipwrecked to ignore it? Shall we be like the fools who say, "if God made me, He will take care of me," when we neglect the means which His care and Love has provided? How long shall we persist in saying we cannot believe when we really do not want to, and do not try?
Belief lies largely in the power of our predisposition and our will. If we are willing to believe, God will give the light. It is as clear as the shining of the sun that Christ is the most truth-unfolding teacher the world has ever known. If we do not mean to throw our souls hopelessly away, if we have gotten any control over our brutish passions, if there is any spark of unworldly and divine aspiration in us, if we have any conception of our eternal and royal destiny, we shall willingly accept from the Great Teacher the help He proffers. We shall let His words be a light to our path, and His Spirit direct our conduct. Unlike all other Teachers He extends His aid most generously. Why refuse it? Why stand apart in the vanity of our self-conceit, criticising and accepting and rejecting this or that portion of His teaching? Why not be a real and loyal disciple, humbly sitting at His feet as learners? If He is a Teacher sent from our Heavenly Father, why not trust Him as a child trusts the wider wisdom of his parents? If we do this He will then be our Companion, a Friend, a more than Lover. He will be to thee a shield and castle and a sure defence. He will be thy comfort in life, thy support in death, thy reward in Eternity.