For to us a child is born, to us a son is given: and the government shall be on his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful…
That is a question to which no man dares to be indifferent save at the peril of his soul. The great Unitarian minister, W.E. Channing, said, "Love to Jesus Christ depends very little on our conception of His rank in the scale of being." I believe that remark to he profoundly wrong. On our views of the Person of Christ depend not only our love to Christ, but also our conception of Christianity. Christ is Christianity, and without clear views of His character and person our religious and moral he must be vague, unstable, like a house that is built upon the sand. Consider —
I. HIS WISDOM AS A TEACHER.
1. His originality. He never went to college. He had no learned tutors to instruct Him. Yet at the early age of thirty He taught the world the sublimest truths that man has ever heard. He belonged to none of the sects of His day. He had no great intellectual friends from whom He might gain flashes of suggestive thought. From the depths of mental and social obscurity, He went forth to proclaim a worldwide kingdom, and today, in the most cultivated nations, Christ ranks first of all the world. He did not teach by human methods. All others have had to prove the words they spoke. Christ simply and directly uttered truths, and His hearers saw that there was no contradicting Him. He did not speculate about God. He simply revealed the Father, and men felt that His words were true. Others had taught virtue before Christ. But how different was their teaching! Note especially Christ's dealings with the poor. Christ was the first poor man's philosopher. And now, after eighteen centuries of weary strife and struggle, we are just beginning to see the transcendent wisdom of such a course of action.
2. His boldness in teaching. His mission was worldwide. Having never seen a map of this earth, He comes forth from the carpenter's shop to inaugurate a kingdom more extensive than the sway of Alexander, more lasting than the firmament itself. And history is showing its success. He was the greatest reformer that ever lived. But He never started wild theories for facts to make sad havoc with. He laid down those principles of love, of doing to others as we would have them do to us, of righteousness, purity, truth, and justice, the same for rich and poor, those principles which alone can heal the wounds of society in the future as alone they have healed them in the past. Observe, too, the calmness of Jesus, under all circumstances. He was always calm, because He knew that in the long run He would succeed.
3. The consistency of His life with His doctrine. To preach a low standard of morality and live up to it is easy. But Christ's standard is the very highest. Yet He lived up to it. All other teachers confess their shortcomings. Christ never does. Observe, too, the harmony of His character. All virtues unite in Him, and none in excess. Is not His name wonderful?
II. HIS INNOCENCE AND SINFULNESS. Most marvellous is His character in this respect. All our goodness begins with repentance. Not so His. He puts before us the highest form of morality, "Be ye therefore perfect." But He never hints that He has need of penitence for shortcomings. Further, Jesus claims to be sinless, though He is full of sincerity and meekness. Now, no man could sham perfect holiness. No faulty man could claim to be faultless without soon displaying faults that would cover him with derision. Piety without an ounce of repentance, without any confession of sin, without one tear! Let any man try that sort of piety, and see how soon his assumed righteousness will appear most impudent conceit. When we think of His sinlessness, we must say, "His name is Wonderful."
III. HIS INFLUENCE OVER OTHER MEN.
1. His influence as a Teacher is wonderful. We see in ethics far more than Socrates did. We see further in theology than Luther. Mathematicians have gone far beyond Euclid. Our children will see further than we do. But eighteen centuries have passed since the sun of humanity rose to its zenith in Jesus Christ; and what man, or what body of men, has mastered His thought and come up to His teachings, far less gone in advance of Him?
2. Observe the total change in the moral life of those who have accepted this Teacher. And His influence came from Himself. He was not supported by the authority of the Rabbis. He was in opposition to all the religious prejudices of His day. From a most sectarian nation, He was most unsectarian, proposing to found a universal kingdom embracing all nations, a religion for all the earth.
3. The influence of His Church. Villainous misdeeds have been done in the name of His Church. But the true Church never did these things, and her influence has been most beautiful. The world has never been the same since the holy steps of Jesus trod the soil of Palestine, and His sacred tears bedewed Mount Olivet. The hospital is an invention of Christian philanthropy. The degradation of woman, of which the pagan world was full, has been exchanged for a position of peculiar honour. The sensualism which paganism mistook for love has been put under the ban of true Christian feeling, and the chivalrous respect which all good men have for pure women, and the poetry of holy love, have come from the teachings of Jesus and His apostles. The old and universal sentiment of bitter hostility between races and nations is denounced in the severest terms, and has been largely toned down by Christianity. Look again at the enthusiasm which this wonderful Teacher instilled into the early Christians. Jesus Christ Himself is a greater miracle than the raising of Lazarus from the dead. We have not yet assumed the truth of His miracles. Yet is it not idle to deny these? How can we separate Christ from His miracles? And this Divine Jesus, whose name is Wonderful, who has been the support of our fathers in the days of old, is with us still. We need this marvellous Being in the strife of Christian duty.
(F. W. Aveling, M. A. , B. Sc.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.