Never Man Spake Like This Man
When the officers who had been sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to take the Lord Jesus into custody returned without Him, they gave a most extraordinary reason for their failure to carry out their orders. For, in reply to the demand, "Why have ye not brought Him?" they gave the strange answer, "Never man spake like this man." This reply is the more surprising because it came from the lips of men whose very occupation tends to deaden all the sensibilities that are natural to human beings.
The record does not state just what were the words
which so impressed their hearts that they dared not touch the One who
uttered them; but it may be gathered from the context that the sayings
of Christ recorded in this chapter (John 7:33-38) were part at least of
what they heard. Those sayings made a great impression upon others
also; for we read that some, when they heard them, said, "Of a truth
this is the Prophet"; while others said, "This is the Christ" (vv. 40,
The statement made by those constables contains a truth
far more profound, doubtless, than they had any conception of. It is a
statement of fact. Hence it is either true or false, and is open to
proof or disproof. Moreover, it invites a comparison between the words
spoken by Jesus Christ and the sayings of the world's greatest
teachers, philosophers, sages, moralists and scientists. What would
such a comparison show? Would it show that Jesus Christ did indeed
speak as never man spake? God had foretold by Moses the coming of One
concerning whom He said, "I will put My words into His mouth" (Deut.
18:18). Is Jesus Christ that Prophet? Did He indeed speak the very
words of God? Is it true, as declared at the beginning of the Epistle
to the Hebrews, that God Himself has, in these last days, spoken unto
us in the Person of the Son? Here is a question which manifestly is of
the highest importance; yet it is one which persons of ordinary
intelligence are quite competent to decide; and these pages are written
for the purpose of presenting to our readers the materials which will
enable them to decide it.
What we assert then, and purpose herein to show, is that there are qualities in the sayings of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the four Gospels, which distinguish them in a marked and radical way from all human utterances. And we further assert that the superhuman qualities whereof we speak are so conspicuously manifest in the recorded sayings of Christ (in contrast with their conspicuous absence from the utterances of the most famous men of earth) that they can be clearly recognized by anyone of normal intelligence who will give serious attention to the matter.
When Christ was here among men He frequently made appeal to the works done by Him as proof that the Father had sent Him (Mat. 11:4-6; John 5:36; 10:24, 25; 15:24). But skeptics of our day can evade the force of that witness by denying that the accounts of the miracles of Christ, found in the Gospels, are true. They cannot, however, thus set aside the witness of His words For obviously, if those words are of such a nature, and have in them such qualities, as are not to be found in the utterances of other men (and this is what we now undertake to prove) then there can be no escape from the conclusion that He from Whom they proceeded, whether it was Jesus Himself, or another who put words into His mouth, was more than a man. For if those sayings have superhuman qualities, then it is manifestly just as impossible for men to have invented them, and put them into His mouth, as for a man to have uttered them.
Let it be carefully noted then that the proof of the origin of the sayings attributed to Christ lies in those sayings themselves. This must needs be so; for if indeed His words are, as He Himself said, "spirit and life" it is simply impossible that those qualities should not be discernible in them. The words which are reported to us by the Gospel-writers as the words of Christ are still with us. They speak for themselves. If Divine, they will clearly exhibit qualities which God alone could impart to them; and if human, they will plainly display the infirmities, imperfections, and limitations, which characterize all human utterances. And not only so but the marks of origin, whether Divine or human, will be such that anyone of ordinary intelligence can distinguish them upon examination.
These internal evidences, which lie in and are part of the words themselves, constitute proofs of origin of the most conclusive character. For just as the inimitable lustre, the brilliancy, the hardness, and other distinguishing properties of the diamond, which are inherent in it and inseparable from it, bear testimony of the most unimpeachable sort to its genuineness, even so the words of Christ have inherent qualities, not to be found in the sayings of any other, which declare with absolute certainty their unique character and origin. One might indeed, and many do through lack of such proper care and attention as the importance of the matter demands, fail to distinguish between the genuine diamond and a sparkling bit of glass, and so are deceived to their great loss. Nevertheless, it needs only careful observation to enable one to tell, with infallible certainty, the one from the other; and it is even so with respect to the great and vital matter into which we are now inquiring.
Let it then be borne in mind (for this preliminary point must needs be established and clearly recognized) that the sayings attributed to Christ in the Gospels were either actually spoken by Him, as the writers of our Gospels declare, or else they were invented by them. But if those sayings are such as never man spake, then it is impossible that man could have invented them. And the impossibility is the greater (if we may so speak) because the Gospel writers were men occupying a humble station in life, men who were notoriously "unlearned and ignorant" (Acts 4:13). The question "Whence hath this Man this wisdom?" would apply with tenfold force to them. Finally, we have to consider in this connection that there are four Gospels by different writers, each of which contains sayings attributed to Christ, and each of which contains sayings purporting to be His which are not found in the others. If, therefore, the words attributed to Christ, whether taken from one Gospel or another, are found to possess the same distinguishing qualities, then we must either believe that the words are really His, or else that there were four men, all endowed with supernatural ability, and all at the same time so dishonest as to attribute their own supernatural utterances to another person. This is, and for more reasons than one, simply unthinkable.
Everything, therefore, depends upon one simple issue of fact, namely, is the statement made by those officers true? This issue of fact is not only clear and definite, but it is, we repeat, one which ordinary persons are fully qualified to decide. For everything which God has made, down to the tiniest feather on the wing of a moth, can be readily distinguished from the finest specimen of human workmanship; and one need not be an expert in order to determine whether a thing was fabricated by God or man. All that is required is that he examine attentively the object whose authorship he wishes to determine; and that is all that is required to decide the question we are now considering. For our familiarity with the characteristics of human utterances which enable us with absolute certainty to distinguish therefrom "the words of God" (if any such there be) by qualities which the former do not possess. If, however, the words, which have been reported to us as the words of Jesus Christ, are similar in their qualities to the sayings of distinguished men÷philosophers, statesmen, moralists, and others who have won the admiration of their fellow-mortals÷then the statement made by those constables may properly be dismissed as a mere exaggeration.
A SUPREMELY IMPORTANT QUESTION
The question we now propose to examine is, of all questions, the most vital to every human being; for the claims made by Jesus Christ, or on His behalf by those whom He sent forth into the world, are such that to err in regard thereto would be disastrous. If those claims be true, then to reject them means eternal ruin; whereas if they be false, then the millions who have accepted them as the very words of God were, and are, the most deluded of men. Because of this we will now examine some of the characteristic sayings of Christ in order to determine whether they are of the same sort as have been, or such as might have been, spoken by mere human beings; or whether, on the contrary, they have qualities which compel us to say that they could not have been uttered by even the greatest, the wisest, or the best of men.
1. HOW CHRIST SPOKE OF HIMSELF IN RELATION TO MANKIND
It is most certain, as will be clearly seen upon examination of the records, that Jesus Christ spake of His personal relation to the human race as never man spake. The difference in this respect between His words and those of any other with whom He could be compared is incalculably great. Take as an example the words of John 7:37, 38, which apparently the officers heard: "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his inmost being shall flow rivers of living water." Certainly none of the great ones of earth ever spake like that, or could conceivably have so spoken. If we try to think of some prominent personage, whether of the past or present, into whose lips we could put those words, the impossibility of so doing will be evident at once. The boastfulness, the self-confidence, the pretentiousness of man have indeed gone to extravagant lengths; but none ever did or ever could claim to be, to his fellow mortals, or to do for them, what Jesus Christ habitually and consistently claimed to be, and to do. Moreover, had any mere man, however illustrious, claimed to be, to all mankind, what Christ's words claim for Him, he would have evoked only scorn and derision. Yet none who read the Gospels are aware of the slightest incongruity in such sayings on the lips of Jesus Christ; for they are in perfect keeping with the Personality there revealed. It follows that the only way whereby the sayings attributed to Him can be accounted for is by assuming that the One pictured in the Gospels was a real Personality, and was truly the Son of God.
In John 6 we have the account of the miraculous feeding of the multitude with the five loaves and two fishes; and there we read that Christ spake of Himself to the crowds who had witnessed and benefited by that miracle, as the bread of life, saying, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst"; and again, "I am the living bread which came down from Heaven; if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever"; and again, "Verily, verily I say unto you, except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you" (John 6:35,51,53).
Here again are words such as never man spake, either before or since. For these sayings are not only radically different from all others whereof we have a record, but they make a claim so stupendous that we cannot even imagine a mere man giving utterance to it.
Again, in the eighth chapter of this same Gospel is found a saying of Christ wherein He speaks of still another relation which He claims to sustain to all mankind. He there says, "I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Thus, in three successive chapters of John's Gospel, the Lord Jesus Christ announces Himself as the Bread of life, as the Water of life, and as the Light of life. These are relationships which are so impossible for a man to occupy towards his fellowmen that we cannot conceive of a mere human being claiming the power to fulfill them. Moreover, Christ presents Himself in those relationships not only to men of His own day and nation, but to men of all nations and all generations. Assuredly then we can say, and without fear of contradiction, that never man so spake since the world began.
No saying has ever spread so widely, or has moved so many hearts, as that of Christ in Matthew 11:28-30: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." This one saying, if we had no other, would fully justify the statement of the officers. It has all the sublimity of an utterance of God, yet it comes from the lips of a man. Here is One who, though meek and lowly in heart, yet calmly and confidently offers to revive all the weary and heavy-laden ones of earth, even as many as will "come" to Him. It is the saying of One Who is conscious that He has at His disposal the resources of omnipotence. But more than that, it calls upon all men to submit to His authority, and to put themselves under His instruction. He thus presents Himself as the Lord and Teacher of all, making, at the same time, the stupendous promise that He will afford "rest" for every soul. Most assuredly we can say it is simply impossible that any man should so speak.
Another saying which is worthy of special attention is that spoken at the grave of Lazarus: "I AM the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die" (John 11:25, 26). In the majesty of its form and the sublimity of its thought this saying is manifestly Divine. No man could conceive such an idea as this÷which indeed is the basic truth of Christianity÷namely, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead carries with it the resurrection also of all His believing people. And no man could have expressed that idea in words of such majestic simplicity and power. With all possible emphasis and conviction we set to our seal that never man so spake.
It would require many pages to set forth and to comment upon all the sayings of Jesus Christ in which He has spoken of the relation in which He stands to all the world. He speaks of Himself as "the Way, the Truth, and the Life"; as "the Good Shepherd," come to lay down His life for the sheep; as the One who has power on earth to forgive sins; as the One to whom all authority is given in Heaven and on earth; as the One who will return in power and glory to judge all nations and all men; as coming from the Father, and returning to the Father; and as being One with the Father.
No man ever so spake, even in the moments of greatest
self-exaltation, or in the wildest flights of imagination. But to Jesus
Christ, on the contrary, such sayings were habitual, and they are
perfectly consistent with all His words and actions. Hence we have, in
this class of sayings alone, quite enough to force every candid mind to
the conclusion that what those constables declared concerning Him was
In this connection we cannot refrain from pointing out (though it carries us beyond the scope and purpose of this branch of our argument), that if any mortal man could conceivably have said of himself, and of his relations to other men, the things which Jesus Christ habitually asserted of Himself, he would have become an object of ridicule, or would have been regarded as a victim of insanity. In the case of any mere man the utter falsity of such pretensions would be quickly and clearly apparent to all. In the case, however, of Jesus Christ, not only were those sayings accepted by the men of His own day and generation as being in perfect harmony with His personality, but the history of nineteen centuries bears testimony to the convincing fact that men of all nations and languages, and of all ranks and degrees of intelligence and learning, have received those utterances as the literal and exact truth, and always with the result of unspeakable benefit to themselves, and of good to the communities among which they have lived.
2. CHRIST SPAKE AS HAVING SUPREME AUTHORITY
Another distinguishing characteristic of the utterances of Christ is the absolute authority with which He always spoke. In this respect again (and the characteristic is exceedingly important for our present purposes) He spake as never man spake.
For the sake of comparison, we would bring to mind that among all who preceded Him none had spoken with authority surpassing that of Moses. But Moses always gave his commands as preceding not from himself but from God, his invariable formula being, "Thus saith the Lord." In the most marked and significant contrast to this are the words of Christ, as for example, in His Sermon on the Mount, where He quietly assumes the power and authority to modify, repeal, and add to, the legislation of Moses, giving as the only and all-sufficient warrant therefor His "But I say unto you." In this it is manifest that Jesus Christ puts Himself before men as none other than He who gave the law to Moses. No wonder then that they who heard Him were astonished because "He taught them as having authority" (Matt. 7:28,29).
This remarkable characteristic of speaking as with absolute and supreme authority may be discerned in all the recorded utterances of Christ. Never is the note of authority lacking, as often it would be if He were other than "the Lord of all"; for no pretender could possibly keep his sayings on the superlatively high level that would be necessary in order to support such a claim. But in His case, whether He spoke to the leper, or to the paralytic, or to the blind, or to the lame, or the deaf, or the dead, or to winds and waves, or to the fig-tree, or to the demons, or to His servants when He sent them upon a mission, it was ever as the One whose very word compels obedience, as the One who in the beginning said "Light be," and instantly light was. In a word, every utterance of His is in perfect keeping with His own statement, "All authority is given unto Me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore" (Mat. 28:18-20). It is simply an impossibility (and who can fail to recognize it?) that any man could impart to his every word this Divine quality of "having authority," or that men could have invented such a character, and put into his mouth utterances which, no matter under what circumstances they were spoken, are found to be, when closely scrutinized, impregnated with the consciousness of having supreme and absolute authority. But one conclusion is possible from these facts, namely, that Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh.
3. THE LAW OF CHRIST
We have already pointed out that Jesus Christ, in giving commands to men, spoke as having in Himself the authority to exact obedience from all, and that in this respect He spake as never man spake. But besides that, when we examine the laws themselves which He gave, we find them to be in the greatest possible contrast with all codes of human law, by whomsoever enacted: The basic principle of the legislation (or "doctrine") of Christ is set forth in these words: "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). One word of four letters embraces the whole law of Christ, LOVE; for "love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom.13:10). Most positively we can say that never man so spake.
This point cannot be stated too strongly. For in
marked contrast with the law of Christ is the sad truth that men are,
by nature, "hateful and hating one another." It is in the heart of man,
in order to gain some advantage for himself, to do harm to others, even
to the extent of taking life; and all legislation must needs take
cognizance of this fundamental trait of human nature. But Jesus Christ
announces on earth a sphere of government÷a
kingdom÷whereof the organic law is directly contrary to the
rules which universally govern human conduct, a law which no man can
keep until a new heart is created in him (Rom. 8:7). We do not stop to
discuss the questions which are sometimes raised as to the application
of the Sermon on the Mount; for we are at present undertaking only to
point out that in promulgating the law of His Kingdom, Jesus Christ
spake as never man spake.
And this brings us to another distinguishing characteristic of the law of Christ. Every law has what are called its "sanctions," that is to say, those provisions or accompaniments of the law which are relied upon to secure its enforcement. But whereas, in all human legislation, we find that the sanctions are in the nature of pains and penalties, to be visited upon those who fail to keep the law, here we find as the constraining motive merely this: "That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt. 5:45). And He adds, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect," a saying which none other ever spake or could have spoken. Mr. William J. Bryan, speaking of the law of Christ as given in the Sermon on the Mount, well and truly says, "This code in itself would be sufficient to set Christ apart from mankind and put the stamp of Deity upon Him."
4. CHRIST SPOKE WITH PERFECT ASSURANCE
The limits of human attainment in all branches of knowledge are very restricted. For though a man of relatively great capacity should specialize all his lifetime upon a single subject, his knowledge thereof would be, in the end, but partial and imperfect. And not only so, but such a man, even when speaking on the subject to which he had devoted a lifetime, would betray uncertainty as to some points, and complete ignorance as to others. Moreover, when the views of any specialist are committed to writing, they are always found to require correction by those coming after them.
But in Jesus Christ we have an exception. In all His recorded utterances, and on whatever subject, there can be found no suggestion of a limit to his knowledge and not the slightest trace of uncertainty. There was indeed one matter (the precise time of His coming again, Matt. 24:36; Acts 1:7) concerning which He said that it was known only to the Father. But this seeming exception does but make His assumption of absolute and complete knowledge of all things the more marked and impressive. And it must be remembered that Jesus Christ spoke not on one subject only, as a man of learning might speak concerning some topic upon which he has concentrated the efforts of a lifetime, but on a great variety of subjects. He spake of things past and things to come, of things in heaven and things in hell, of the hidden depth of the human heart, and of the unuttered thoughts of those around Him; yet He ever spake as having perfect knowledge of all things. No utterances of His betrays the slightest uncertainty as to that whereof He was speaking, or indicates on His part the consciousness of any bounds to His knowledge; nor has any statement of His been found to admit of correction. Truly in this we must say, and with peculiar emphasis, "Never man spake like this Man."
5. CONCERNING HIS MISSION AND ITS FULFILMENT
Jesus Christ repeatedly declared that God the Father had sent Him into the world for the salvation of sinners. His whole life—all that He did and all that He said÷was in perfect harmony with that declaration; and indeed, from His first recorded words, "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father's business," to the triumphant cry upon the cross, "It is finished," we find Him ever in the consciousness of having come into the world for one definite purpose, the salvation of men. But under this heading we wish to direct attention to the way whereby, according to His own words, He was to accomplish the work of redemption. When we examine what He said on this subject from time to time we find that the cross was ever before Him. Thus, upon His first visit to Jerusalem after the anointing for His public ministry, He said, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up," speaking of "the Temple of His body" (John 2:19-21). To Nicodemus He said that He must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, in order that those who believe on Him should not perish (John 3:14-16). In His first commission to the twelve He spoke of those who would follow Him, taking up the cross (Matt. 10:38, 39). To His disciples He spoke again and again of the "needs be" that He should be crucified, and should rise from the dead the third day (Matt. 16:21; 17:22, 23; 20:17-19). Words fail to describe how radically different all this is to the sayings, or to the thoughts, of any mere man. It is manifestly beyond the range of possibility that any man should have conceived of such a thing as that God Himself, the Creator and Judge of men, should come unto His own creation "in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin," "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself," and that "He by death might destroy him that had the power of death, that is the devil" (ROM 8:3; Heb. 9:26; 2:14). But the wonder to which we are here directing attention goes beyond even this. For the Gospels present to us, in Jesus Christ, One Who, from the very first, revealed by His words the consciousness that the mission for which He had come, as a Man among perishing men, was to be accomplished, and could be accomplished only, by His own sufferings and death; and Who even' spoke, definitely and repeatedly, of the very death He was to die, and of the time He was to lie in the grave. And all this is the more impressive because even His own disciples understood not those sayings of His until after His resurrection (see John 2:22; Mk. 9:32, &c). These facts give truly immense significance to the declaration of the officers, "Never man spake like this Man."
6. JESUS CHRIST, IN HIS UTTERANCES, BETRAYED NO CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIN OR LIKE HUMAN INFIRMITY
Here we have another remarkable characteristic of the sayings of Christ, one which is sufficient in itself to set them apart from all other sayings. We ask that the closest attention be given to this point; for it is our deep conviction that the quality we are here considering should, without reference to any others, carry every candid mind to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was indeed God manifest in the flesh. To the Jews who were disputing with Him He could fearlessly say, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin?" (John 8:46). No mere man ever spake like that. This challenging question followed the incident of the woman whom the scribes and Pharisees brought before Him, and concerning whom He said, "He that is without sin among you let him first cast a stone at her" (v.7). That simple remark was enough to convict every one of them of sin, notwithstanding their professed righteousness. But none could convict Him of sin.
There is, in our opinion, no quality of the words of Christ more distinctive, or of greater evidential value, than the entire absence therefrom of all consciousness of sin, failure, shortcoming, mistake, or other like infirmity, common to man and conspicuous in the character and conduct of all men. This is the more impressive because He did not obtrude upon others the fact of His sinlessness. The quality we now speak of appears only upon a close scrutiny of His words; but it is clearly and invariably inherent in His utterances. When He spoke of sin as He often did, it was always as of a thing foreign to Himself. To the woman in this chapter (John 8), He said, "Go, and sin no more"; and so also He said to the impotent man in John 5:14. Again to the Jews in chapter 8, He said, "Whosoever committeth sin is the bond slave of sin," and then immediately referring to Himself, as by way of contrast, He added, "If the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (v.34-36). In these words He not only implies strongly that sin had no hold upon or place in Him, but He also declares His power even to set others free from its servitude. This strong implication of His own freedom from and mastery of sin is more convincing for our present purposes than even the direct assertion of His sinlessness.
Much more might be added upon this point, but we
cannot now dwell upon it. If, however, the reader will review all of
the Lord's recorded sayings on the subject of the sins and evil deeds
of men (see for example Mk. 7:21-23) he cannot fail to be forcibly
impressed with the fact that these are not the words of a mere man, and
are not words which could possibly have been spoken by one who had the
consciousness of sin, infirmity and failure in himself. So also, it
will be apparent that they could not possibly have been invented by
sinful men, and put into the lips of another. It far transcends the
ability of man to create an imaginary character, and to cause him to
speak on all occasions and under all circumstances in such words as
exclude all suggestion of the sinful infirmities that are common to
mankind. Only in one way can the utterances of Christ be accounted for,
and that is by regarding them as the real sayings of One Who, though He
was in all points tempted like as we are, was yet "without sin" (Heb.
4:15). For never man so spake.
7. CHRIST'S MESSAGE WAS FOR THE POOR, THE SINFUL, THE LOST
Here we have indeed a striking feature of the public utterances of Jesus Christ, and one which is sufficient in itself to distinguish them from all others. For although He came expressly to announce and to set up a kingdom, yet He did not seek to attract to Himself the influential, the rich, the leaders and teachers, the men of rank and station. His kingdom was for "the poor in spirit," and His message and ministry were for the sinful, the afflicted, the outcast. From the very beginning He declared He had come "to preach glad tidings to the poor" (Lu. 4:18). Very distinctly and with emphasis He said, "I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Matt. 9:13); and again, "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Lu. 19:10). With the utmost assurance we can say that never man so spake, and that no one could have conceived of a man so speaking, or coming upon such a mission.
This remarkable characteristic of the message of Christ was made the main ground of the famous attack upon Christianity by the infidel philosopher Celsus, early in the third century. His strong objection was that the appeal of the Gospel of Christ is to the sinful and the lost, which was proof to his mind that the gospel was spurious. This attack by Celsus tends further to show how impossible it is that the message attributed to Jesus Christ could have originated in the mind of a mere man.
"In our mysteries," said Celsus, "those are invited to come nigh who are of clean hands and pure speech, who are unstained by crime, who have a good conscience toward God, who have done justly and lived uprightly. But the Christians say, `Come to us, ye who are sinners, ye who are fools or children, ye who are miserable, and ye shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven.' Christ, say they, was sent to save sinners. Was he not sent to help those who have kept themselves from sin? They pretend that God will save the unrighteous man if he repents and humbles himself," and so on.
Such is indeed the thought of the natural heart, and is the corner stone of all systems of religion; for the word of the Cross, with its message of salvation to the worst of sinners, is to the wise of this world utter foolishness. Such also was the dogmatic teaching of the Jewish Rabbis of Christ's day, for, according to their doctrine, there is nothing but the curses of the law for the sinner until, by works and merits of his own, he ceases to be a sinner, and attains unto "the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees." The only ground of acceptance with God that they recognized is what is implied in the words of the typical Pharisee, "I am not as other men are, or even as this publican," to which he added, for God's information and approbation, a recital of his own righteous deeds (Lu. 18:11, 12).
This indeed is the view that would everywhere prevail were it not that the Gospel of Christ has presented to the world a totally different view of God's way of dealing with sinful men for their deliverance and cleansing from sin. It matters not at all for our present purpose that the great mass of men refuse to obey the gospel, and reject that "so great salvation which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord." For our point is that Jesus Christ spake as never man spake when He sent forth into the world a message of salvation for sinners, rebels, and enemies of God, including the complete and immediate forgiveness of all sins, and the free gift of eternal life to all who hear and believe His message.
That message of Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Lu. 24:46, 47) has forced its way, by its own inherent and Divine power, against all the religious powers of the world and the prejudices of the human heart. And it has, moreover, maintained itself as a vital force and a purifying influence in the world to this day. "The words that I speak unto you," He said, "they are Spirit and they are life"; and again, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away"; and again, "He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." No man ever spake like this, claiming that his words were imperishable, and of eternal validity; and yet, after nineteen centuries, it must be conceded, even by His enemies, that His words have not passed away, and that to this very hour they show no sign of age or decay.
8. CHRIST CALLED HIS PEOPLE TO A LIFE OF SUFFERING AND LOSS IN THIS WORLD, AND TO FOLLOW HIM OUT OF IT.
Surely never did a leader of men, or one who sought a following, put before his hearers such a prospect as Jesus Christ has offered to those who would be His disciples. What He promises them in this world is tribulation, persecution, reproach and loss. He plainly declared that to be unknown, despised, and hated of all men for His Name's sake, would be their portion. "In the world," He said, "ye shall have tribulation." "If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me." History records how completely His words as to the sufferings of His faithful disciples were fulfilled; and yet none other has ever had followers so devoted, so willing to endure the greatest sufferings and hardships, so willing to give even their very lives for His Name's sake. Other leaders of men have gained their following by offers of earthly gain and advantage; but the kingdoms they established have sooner or later tumbled into ruins. Did any other ever lay down such a rule of discipleship as this, "And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be my disciple"? Did ever man so speak? Most certainly not. And if any other had uttered such words, would he thereby have gained a single follower? No, not one. But Jesus Christ spake these words because He was what He was, and is. His words are indeed the very expression of Himself (John 8:25 Greek).
Such are the words of One Who spake as never man spake, and whose words
have not passed away. Still they are with us, and still they affect the
human heart as the words of none other affect it, or ever have. To all
who receive them in an humble and contrite heart they are "the words of
eternal life" indeed, as millions living even in our day of increasing
apostasy can testify. But apart from their effect and influence upon
the individual believer, it is a fact which anyone can verify for
himself, that the words of Jesus Christ are in a class by themselves;
and that from every point of view, and by every possible test, they
manifest characteristics radically different from all human utterances.
Therefore, by each and all the foregoing qualities, easily and clearly
to be discerned in the sayings of Jesus Christ, and by others doubtless
that a more searching scrutiny might discover in them, we are
constrained to the conclusion that what those rude, uncultured
constables said was profoundly true; and is as true today as it was
then: "Never man spake like this Man."
But to those who would follow Him He speaks not only of tribulation and sufferings as their portion in this life, but also of glory and honor and eternal blessedness in the life to come; and in this too He spake as never man spake. We recall, for example, those words which have encouraged the hearts and sustained the faith of countless thousands: "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1, 2). Did ever man so speak? Never.
9. CHRIST SPOKE OF HIS COMING AGAIN
Continuing the quotation above we have the words, "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:3) Jesus Christ repeatedly spoke of His coming again, which second advent will be in power and glory, with His mighty angels, and He bade His followers to be living at all times in expectancy of that transcendent event. Upon this striking and prominent feature of His doctrine we do not now dwell. It is enough just to mention it, in order to press upon our readers that no man ever so spake, nor can it be conceived that any man would so speak.
10. THE PARABLES OF CHRIST
It would be pertinent to refer also to the Parables of Christ, which constitute a body of doctrinal sayings radically different from anything that is to be found even in the Bible itself. But a description of the Parables would add unduly to the length of this paper. Therefore, as to this exceedingly important class of the sayings of Christ, we must be content merely to make this general reference to them, and to say that no other ever spake the like.