What If Christ Were Not?
by Batsell Barrett Baxter
via The Sower, Vol. 54, No. 6, Nov/Dec, 2009.
Henry Rogers, a brilliant lawyer of a few years ago, wrote a book entitled The Eclipse of Faith, in which he imagined that some powerful hand had wiped the influence of Christ out of our civilization, as a hand wipes the chalk writing from a blackboard in a classroom. He imagined himself going into his library to discover that every vestige of Christ's life and work had wholly disappeared. He opened his law books upon the legal safeguards protecting children, the poor, and the innocent only to find that these laws had disappeared.
He turned to his histories of art and there found that some of the world's greatest masterpieces, such as Leonardo da Vinci's"The Last Supper," Raphael's "The Sistine Madonna," Van Dyck's "Christ and the Tribute Money," Rembrandt's "The Prodigal Son," and hundreds of others, had vanished. Only the frames remained for the canvases had ceased to exist. In like manner he turned to his books of literature. There he found blank pages where formerly there had been the great writings of Dante, Milton, Goethe, Browning, Tennyson, Wordsworth, Longfellow, Whittier, and many others. Stories like Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol" were lost completely.
Next he turned to the world of music and there found that the great
hymns of the church had vanished. Among these were were stirring hymns such
as the seventeenth century
German hymn, "Fairest Lord Jesus," Isaac Watt's "Joy to the World," Charles Wesley's "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," Katherine Hanky's "Tell Me the Old Old Story," George Mattheson's "Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go," and, of course the Negro spirituals such as "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?"
Then it was that Rogers realized that if Christ were not, the schools, the hospitals, the orphanages, the missions, and many other of our twentieth century benevolent institutions would all perish, and this lawyer cried out that he would not want to live at all in a world where Christ is not.
The Influence Of Jesus
In her anthology, Christ and the Fine Arts, Cynthia Maus quotes the following beautiful tribute to the Lord:
"Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, and that a despised one. He worked in a carpenter's shop for thirty years, and then for three years he was intenerate preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put his foot inside a really big city. He never traveled, except in his infancy, more than two hundred miles from the place were he was born. He had no credentials but himself.
"While still a young man the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them betrayed him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed on a cross between two thieves. His executors gambled for the only piece of property he had on earth, his seamless robe. When he was dead, he was taken down from the cross and laid in a borrowed grave through the courtesy of a friend. Nineteen wide centuries have come and gone, and today Jesus is the centerpiece of the human race, and the leader of all progress.
"I am well within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that have ever ruled together have have never affected the life of man upon this earth like this one solitary personality.
"All time dates from his birth and it is impossible to understand or interpret the progress of human civilization in any nation on earth apart from his influence. Slowly through the ages man is coming to realize that the greatest necessity in the world is not water, iron, gold, food or clothing ... but rather Christ enshrined in human hearts, thoughts and motives."
Most Important Of All
While it is true that Christ has had a tremendous impact upon our civilization in its laws, in its art, in its literature, and in its general pattern of life, it is far more important that Christ has brought to the world a conception of eternal truth which will save men's souls. Here are a few of the things which Jesus taught us:
The Sacredness Of Human Life
Jesus respected the poor and healed the sick in an age when the poor and the sick were despised and neglected. It was the teaching of Jesus that eventually led to the overthrow of slavery and put an end to such practices as the exposure of unwanted infants.
The Value Of A Soul
Jesus said, "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12:15). He pointed out that spiritual matters are more important than physical concerns when he said, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal..." (Matthew 6:19-21).
The Nobility Of Womanhood
Until Jesus came woman had been mere chattel to be used and abused but never exalted as a creature equal with man in the sight of God.
The Brotherhood Of Man
When Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan He was saying, in effect, that the lowly Samaritans were sometimes more noble than the exalted Jews. The same message is found in the opening words of Peter's discourse to the household of Cornelius: "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to Him" (Acts 10:34,35).
The Fatherhood Of God
In the story of the prodigal son Christ clearly pictures Jehovah as a loving Father yearning for the return of wayward mankind. (Luke 15).
A Perfect Standard To Live By
The pattern of Christian living as set forth in the sermon on the mount and in many other passages is the finest standard the world has every known or is likely to know. Jesus said, "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
A Perfect Example To Follow
The Hebrew writer said, "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with
the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). Without Christ men would be like sheep without a shepherd, but with Christ we have only to follow in His steps if we would reach perfection itself.
The Forgiveness Of Sins
The prophet Isaiah said, "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities ; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on Him the iniquities of us all" (Isaiah 53:5,6).
Freedom From The Fear Of Death
In the words of the apostle Paul, "Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is they victory? O death, where is thy sting?" (I Corinthians 15:54,55).
The Promise Of Eternal Life
There is no more beautiful passage of hope in the entire Bible than the words of Jesus, "Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also" (John 14:1-3).
Without Christ man could not be saved, but not only that, man would slip back into paganism and barbarism. Christ has opened to mankind the door of heaven and has not only made salvation possible, but has made this world bearable. It is indeed terrible to contemplate "What If Christ Were Not"?