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Discussion Forum : Articles and Sermons : "The Religion of Jesus and the Gospel of Christ II" -P.T. Forsyth

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 "The Religion of Jesus and the Gospel of Christ II" -P.T. Forsyth

A few weeks ago I posted a section from this "sermon" of P.T. Forsyth. Here is another section of that sermon. Thoughts in parenthesis are my notes to help understand some of his statements.

When I read this, I was so halted in my tracks, here is a notion and thought which is as gold harvested from much work. I have rarely, if ever, in my life read and re-read something other than scripture. There is much here for consideration and meditation. Again, the reason I post these things from Forsyth is due to the fact that I heard Art Katz quote him a number of times. From what little research I have done about him, he was a liberal theologian who "got saved." Which is a rather rare situation. The following is the text to consider. The first two paragraphs describe the problem, and the remaining paragraphs present the solution in Christ.

"It has been lightly said that there is no sin against God but the sin we commit against our brother; which seems to imply that for the soul there is no relation with God, and no practical duty owed Him by the soul and refused, except that of the love or service of man. It is surely forgotten what is the first table of the Christian Law. 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and soul, and will, and mind.' That is the greatest of acts. And the love of our neighbor is but the second thing. Have there been no cases where God was defrauded of his first claim on man, while the second was even more than met? Have there been no men-are there none-who have loved, served, and helped man with the devotion of a lifetime, while they never were fired or lost in the love of God, and never gathered strength from reposing in a complete trust in Him, and leaving men in His hands? Is our first duty to humanity not to commit it to God? Are there not to-day, blameless in all the service of their kind, for whom there can be waiting nothing but condemnation in respect of the love and communion they denied to a God Who sought that above all else, and Who had the first right to both trust and worship?

There is a devotion to God, and to God in Christ, which calls for the spikenard of our secret souls at the cost even of some oblivion of the obvious poor. And to refuse that claim, if the claim be good, is surely no light sin; for it defrauds God of the first of His rights over us, and of our response to His personal and private love. There is a life within the life of service, (here I assume that Forsyth is implying the service of the ministry to people) and within the fellowship of humanity, which is in the long run the condition of all the best human service and the most patient human pity. Without it the enthusiasm of humanity dies. Christianity becomes a fine and fading positivism; and positivism is unable to bear the strain of the world's grief and guilt. The fierce impatience of many who love men not wisely but too well, because they love them more than God, is proof how little the soul can be stayed upon public service, or its spiritual ritual exhausted in beneficence.

(With the problem presented, which can be summarized by re-writing the first commandment in this way, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor with thy whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and thou shalt love the Lord thy God as thyself." We could also tack on a rewriting of the second commandment here. "Thou shalt have no other gods before thee than thy neighbors, thou shalt make no graven images of them." Forsyth then does not leave us without a solution, he presents the counter-argument which is always discovered in the person of Christ himself, for He is the brightness of the image of the Father.)

So also within the soul of Jesus at its center, and throughout his whole life, there was an obedience and a communion which was a charge on him, and a joy, prior to all the blessing he shed on men. His first and inmost relation was to his Holy Father whose name he had to hallow before all else. That holiness in its love was his supreme revelation. So much so that the one and only thing he could do at last, even for the men who refused him, was the hallowing of that name, and the perfect honoring and atoning of that supreme sanctity in his steadfast experience even unto death. Nothing he did ON man could do so much FOR man at last as his hallowing and satisfying, AS man, of God's holy soul. (Emphasis in caps was in italics in the article)

But about the whole region Christ was almost entirely silent. We have it but indirectly. He said as much as lets us know it was there, and supremely there. And it is so easy, therefore, for those who come to these records with but the critical or the humanitarian tact, to miss it; and to declare with great plausibility that it was not there, and was only imported by apostles who fixed it upon their master in a way that, had he lived, he would have lived to repel. THE secret of the Father was with the Son alone. No man knew why the Father had chosen Jesus of Nazareth. And Jesus believed in his sonship for reasons entirely between his Father and himself, for reasons quite past us. We believe in the Father because of Christ; why he believed in the Father he has not told us. We are here at an ultimate. We may gauged the meaning of his public Messiaship as we can never pierce the sonship that underlay that expression of it. For that sonship there was an inner condition in his nature, a native and unique unity with God, which all Christology is but an imperfect attempt to pierce. He knew the Father's love, and he was himself pure love, without the alienation, the self-will, the sin, that not only removes us far from God but severs us. For the peculiar revelation of his Father's love there was in Christ a peculiar being. But two things here are greatly dark. We cannot trace either the steps by which the Son became incarnate, or those by which Jesus arrived at the consciousness of his unique sonship, and reached that perfect certainty and clarity of it which shines in all he said and did. Neither history nor psychology gives us the means of sounding such mysteries. The analogy of our own religious experience fails us here; and scientific inquiry is arrested for want of objective material. But when we consider what he is to our practical faith; when we reflect on his Church's experience of him, and feel how far it is beyond either our analogy or our induction; when we remember, indeed, how far faith is from having a parallel in any other experience or process of the soul whatever; we are driven to conclude that that sense of himself, as one who could be neither paralleled or repeated, had a superhuman foundation. The last roots of his unique experience lay in a nature as unique; from which it grew in an organic way, with the kind of free necessity which belongs to that spiritual region of things." -P.T. Forsyth, "The Person and Place of Jesus Christ," pp 38-41, Congregational Union of England and Wales, Memorial Hall, E.C. and Hodder Stoughton 1909

Jeremiah Dusenberry

 2012/8/4 14:55Profile

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