Was he mistaken? Neither his immediate posterity, nor the course of subsequent history, has decided against him. It is not as a mere factor that he is connected with the Gospel; he was its personal realization and its strength, and this he is felt to he still. Fire is kindled only by fire; personal life only by personal forces. Let us rid ourselves of all dogmatic sophistry, and leave others to pass verdicts of exclusion. The Gospel nowhere says that God’s mercy is limited to Jesus’ mission. But history shows us that he is the one who brings the weary and heavy laden to God; and, again, that he it was who raised mankind to the new level; and his teaching is still the touchstone, in that it brings men to bliss and brings them to judgment.
The sentence “I am the Son of God” was not inserted in the Gospel by Jesus himself, and to put that sentence there side by side with the others is to make an addition to the Gospel. But no one who accepts the Gospel, and tries to understand him who gave it to us, can fail to affirm that here the divine appeared in as pure a form as it can appear on earth, and to feel that for those who followed him Jesus was himself the strength of the Gospel. What they experienced, however, and came to know in and through him, they have told the world; and their message is still a living force.
(6) The Gospel and doctrine, or the question of creed.
We need not dwell long on this question, as on the essential points—everything that it is necessary to say has already been said in the course of our previous observations.
The Gospel is no theoretical system of doctrine or philosophy of the universe; it is doctrine only in so far as it proclaims the reality of God the Father. It is a glad message assuring us of life eternal, and telling us what the things and the forces with which we have to do are worth. By treating of life eternal it teaches us how to lead our lives aright. It tells us of the value of the human soul, of humility, of mercy, of purity, of the cross, and the worthlessness of worldly goods and anxiety for the things of which earthly life consists. And it gives the assurance that in spite of every struggle, peace, certainty, and something within that can never be destroyed, will be the crown of a life rightly led. What else can “the confession of a creed” mean under these conditions but to do the will of God, in the certainty that He is the Father and the one who will recompense? Jesus never spoke of any other kind of “creed.” Even when he says:—” Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in Heaven,” he is thinking of people doing as he did; he means the confession which shows itself in feeling and action. How great a departure from what he thought and enjoined is involved in putting a “Christological” creed in the forefront of the Gospel, and in teaching that before a man can approach it he must learn to think rightly about Christ. That is putting the cart before the horse. A man can think and teach rightly about Christ only if, and in so far as, he has already begun to live according to Christ’s Gospel. There is no forecourt to his message through which a man must pass; no yoke which he must first of all take upon himself. The thoughts and assurances which the Gospel provides are the first thing and the last thing, and every soul is directly arraigned before them.