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It had already been foretold: “God Himself will come and will save you” (Is. xxxv. 4), and Isaias said that the Child Who was to be born for the redemption of men was God Himself (Is. ix. 6). The heretic Arms denied Christ’s Godhead; his heresy was condemned at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325, and it was expressly denned that Jesus Christ was of the same nature as God and therefore Himself God. Our whole position rests on this doctrine, hence its great importance. When the rich disciple addressed Christ as “good master,” Our Lord answered at once, “Why dost thou call Me good? None is good but God alone” (Luke xviii. 19); He would thereby teach U8 that we must before all things recognize Him as God.
1. That Jesus Christ is God we learn from His own words and from those of His apostles.
When ascending into heaven He said: “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. xxviii. 18); and again: “I and the Father are one” (John x. 30). These last words were treated by the Jews as blasphemy, and they threatened to stone Our Lord for them (John x. 33). Christ claimed in a special manner attributes and works such as belong to God alone. He proclaimed His eternity when He said: “Glorify Thou Me, O Father, with Thyself with the glory which I had before the world was, with Thee” (John xvii. 5). And again: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John viii. 58). He claimed the power of forgiving sins as in the case of Magdalen (Luke vii. 48), and the man sick of the palsy (Matt. ix. 2). He laid claim to awaken the dead (John v. 28), to judge the world (Matt.xxv. 31), to be the Author of life (John xi. 25). On another occasion He said: “If any man keep My word, he shall not see death forever” (John viii. 51). The apostles believed and solemnly proclaimed that Christ was God, St. Thomas for instance, in the words: “My Lord and my God!” In St. Paul’s epistles we read: “In Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead corporally” (Col. ii. 9), and “In Him were created all things . . . and He is before all, and by .Him all things consist” (Col. i. 16, 17).
2. That Jesus Christ is God we conclude from His miracles and prophecies.
The numerous miracles which Christ wrought in His own name testify to His almighty power.
The miracles may be divided into five classes. (1). Those performed on inanimate substances, such as the changing of the water into wine, the calming of the storm, etc. (2). The healing of the sick, the blind, and the lame (Matt. xi. 3-5). (3). The raising of the dead to life, for example, in the case of the daughter of Jairus, of the son of the widow of Nairn, of Lazarus. (4). The expelling of devils from possessed persons. (5). The miracles on His own person, as the transfiguration and the ascension. Moreover Christ proved that He had power over all creation as no other had. Others did miracles in the name of God, as, for example, when St. Peter and St. John cured the man at the gate of the Temple. Christ did not appeal in God’s name. He said simply: “Young man, I say to thee, arise!” (Luke vii. 14.) “I will. Be thou made clean” (Matt. viii. 3); “Peace, be still.” Benedict XIV. is careful to tell us that if Christ prayed to the Father it was to dispel the notion that His miracles were from the devil. The miracles attributed to the founders of false religions are often very absurd and childish; that Buddha rode on a sunbeam, that Mohammed caused the moon to pass through his sleeve, that Apollonius of Tyana raised a storm in a barrel, etc. So different from the majesty displayed by Christ!
The prophecies of Christ with respect to His own fate, the treachery of Judas, and the denial of St. Peter, the death of St. John and St. Peter, the destruction of Jerusalem, the fate of the Jews, and the career of the Church, all show His omniscience.
Christ foretold that He would be put to death in Jerusalem (Luke xiii. 32), that He would be scourged and crucified, and would rise again after three days (Matt. xx. 17-19). At the Last Supper He foretold the treachery of Judas (John xiii. 26), and that Peter would deny Him thrice before the cock would crow (Matt. xxvi. 34). After His resurrection He prophesied to Peter his death on the cross, and to John that he should die a natural death (John xxi. 18-22). After His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke xix. 41, 44), and during His discourse on the Last Judgment on the Mount of Olives (Matt. xxiv.) He foretold how Jerusalem should be surrounded by her enemies and destroyed. He also knew that the Jews should be scattered among the nations (Luke xxi. 24), that His Church should spread rapidly among the nations of the earth (John x. 16; Matt. xiii. 31) in spite of the persecution of His apostles (John xvi. 2).
3. That Jesus Christ is God we conclude from the elevation of His teaching and His character.
The teaching of Christ surpasses that of the wisest who have ever lived on earth, and is far removed from the teaching of all other religions.
Christ’s doctrine answers all the needs of the human heart, and is adapted to all, whatever be their station, age, sex, or nation; the greatest philosophers, even men like St. Augustine, found in it the peace they longed for. Christ’s doctrine is a perfect revelation of the highest end of man and of the creation, besides inculcating the loftiest virtues: such as love of one’s neighbor, humility, gentleness, patience, love of one’s enemies, poverty, which up to the time of Christ had been quite unknown. Kant confesses that reason would not, even at the present day, have discovered the universal moral law unless Christianity had taught it. Christ’s teaching, besides being lofty, was so simple, and announced with such clearness, that the people marveled to hear Him (Matt. vii. 28). Even Strauss does not hesitate to declare that to surpass the teaching of Jesus is an impossible task for all time. There is absolutely nothing in the Christian religion that is opposed to sound reason, or can lower the true dignity of man. Of how many of the other forms of religion can that be said? Mohammedanism teaches fatalism and is propagated by the sword. Even the Talmud contains a large mixture of very imperfect doctrine.
Christ was free from all sin, and was so conspicuous for virtue that for all time He must remain the model for all men.
The traitor Judas confessed that he had shed “innocent blood” (Matt. xxxvii. 4); Pilate could find no cause in Christ (John xviii. 38); Christ Himself challenged the Jews: “Which of you shall convince Me of sin?” and none of them dared reply (John viii. 46). He was quite free from all prejudices and narrow-mindedness, which are the result of surroundings and nationality. We see this in His relations to the Samaritans and Romans, more especially in the beautiful parable of the Good Samaritan (Matt. x. 30-37). The following virtues were most conspicuous: His love of His neighbor: “He went about doing good” (Acts x. 38) and laid down His life for others; His humility, which was seen in His associating with the most despised among the people; His gentleness in His forbearance with His enemies and even with the disciple who betrayed Him; His patience in suffering the greatest tortures; His clemency in His conduct towards sinners; His love of His enemies in His praying for them on the cross; His love of prayer in spending whole nights praying to the Father. His whole character is one of the wonders of history. His greatest enemies even felt awe in His presence; no one, for instance, dared resist Him when He drove the buyers and sellers out of the Temple (Matt. xxi. 12). When the Pharisees wished to stone Him for claiming to be God, He went through their midst and they made way for Him (John x. 39). The soldiers in the garden fell to the ground at a word from His lips (John xviii. 6).
4. That Jesus Christ is God we conclude from the rapid spread of His teaching and from the miracles which accompanied this teaching throughout the world.
His teaching was propagated in spite of the greatest obstacles, and by the simplest of means.
The obstacles among the heathen were: The laws condemning to death or banishment those who professed a new religion. Calumnies the grossest were uttered against the Christians, accusing them of being godless, of cannibalism, attributing to them various misfortunes such as wars, pestilence, and famine. All this led to a persecution extending over some three hundred years; up to the edict of Constantine the Great there are reckoned about ten persecutions. The doctrines of the Christians afforded another series of obstacles; the reverence paid to One Who had suffered the death of the cross was accounted a folly, added to which this doctrine was introduced by Jews, a sect held in the lowest esteem by the Romans. No less repulsive to the sensual and pleasure-loving heathen were the restraint and self-denial inculcated by the Christian religion. The means employed for converting the world were twelve poor fishermen, un-equipped with eloquence to persuade, or with the countenance of the great ones of the earth to support their mission. They did indeed work miracles, but, as St. Augustine says, the spread of Christianity without miracles would have been the greatest miracle of any. On Pentecost five thousand were baptized; two thousand more after the miracle at the gate of the Temple, and in the year A.D. 100 Christianity had extended over the whole Roman world. Pliny, the Governor of Bithynia, reported to the Emperor Trajan that the heathen temples were left empty because all were becoming Christians in the towns and villages. St. Justinus, the philosopher, wrote in A.D. 150: “There is not a nation where prayers are not offered to the heavenly Father in the name of the Crucified.”
The effect of Christ’s teaching was that idolatry with its horrible abuses disappeared, and that the whole life of man was reformed and ennobled.
The sacrifice of human victims was abolished, and the bloody spectacles of the gladiatorial shows. All kinds of charitable institutions arose for the blind, the poor, the sick, etc., owing their existence to the teaching of Christian mercy. Polygamy died out, and woman regained her dignity. Order was established in the family life by the Christian doctrine of the indissolubility of the marriage tie. Slavery was gradually abolished, for every man saw in his neighbor the image of God. The cruel laws against malefactors became milder, and wars became less frequent. Trade, science, and art were cultivated more, and labor acquired a new dignity. Even Julian the Apostate counseled the heathen to imitate the Christians in the generosity and purity of their lives. A religion which produces so much good must be from God. It is sometimes urged that Christ’s teaching has been the cause of many religious wars and schisms. The answer to this objection is that it is not Christ’s teaching but man’s perversity in not following that teaching, or wresting it to his own destruction, which causes so much evil.
This article, Jesus Christ is God Himself is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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