At a time when the theological winds of his day were denying the deity of Jesus, B. B. Warfield wanted to affirm from the Bible the foundational doctrine of his humanity, that this doctrine should not be lost in the fog of controversy. This he has done well. Jesus the God-Man took upon himself the fullness of human nature that he should be a true substitute for his people. Warfield has made the case for Christ’s humanity by showing his emotional life from the Scripture. It’s a book to be commended, or as Sinclair Ferguson has noted, “It is the hidden jewel of his writings”
Here is a brief read from Crossway’s Short Classics series. Originally written in 1912, the essay itself covers only 83 pages which can be read without much time or effort. Still, the reward of doing so is significant. It begins with a forward written by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson in which he sets the stage for the essay. This is followed by a very brief biography of the author, Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield. Warfield occupied the Charles Hodge Chair at Princeton Theological Seminary and enjoyed a world-wide influence. He taught during the period of theological upheaval in the late 19th into the early 20th centuries as a stalwart defender of biblical orthodoxy. The liberal neo-orthodox denial of Scriptural Christology makes the essay especially relevant for its time but also for our day as well. The repercussions of such liberalism still remain in many churches.
After a brief introduction, the study is divided into three sections each of which addresses an emotional category within the life of Jesus. The first has to do with compassion which is presented as “the emotion that is most frequently attributed to Him” (p. 33). Love was foundational to his compassion, taking the form of pity that moved him to action. It was his love for the Father to do his will. It was love in pity for the blind, the leprous, the hungry and the widowed that caused him to act. It was love for the sinner that brought him to self-sacrifice. “Love lies at the bottom of compassion” (p. 41).
In the second section Warfield spends the majority of the essay on Jesus’ anger. Most of what he writes is straightforward for any student of the Bible but one area of Christ’s sense of anger may prove surprising. It’s commonly known about the Lord’s righteous indignation with the money changers at the temple in Jerusalem, but the author doesn’t dwell on this incident. He’s more interested in other, less well-known expressions of Christ’s vexation. Jesus was indignant at the cold-heartedness of the Jewish leaders, annoyed when the disciples tried to keep children from him, he raged against death at the tomb of Lazarus, and resented his opponents using terms like the following to describe them: hypocrites, blind guides, white-washed tombs, that fox, brood of vipers, etc.
But he chided those he healed: Jesus often met the need of those with physical challenges by healing them out of his compassion but would then ”charge” them, “rebuke” them, to tell no one what he had done. Surprisingly, Warfield defines this as “a show of anger or displeasure directed to this end” (p. 70). On at least two occasions, he moves quickly, even seamlessly, between expressing displeasure while exhorting silence from the healed to anger toward the source behind the physical need, i.e., an evil spirit or the fallenness of nature. This point is a bit unexpected and confusing. Nevertheless, Warfield is careful to ascribe the Lord’s anger to his righteous nature. He states, “…it is the righteous reaction of this moral sense in the presence of evil” (p. 76).
In the last section the author presents the joy and sorrow of “the man of sorrows.” To be sure, Jesus “exulted in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21) as the conqueror of men’s souls yet it is pointed out that the Bible never states that Jesus laughed or smiled and only once relates that he was glad. It must be assumed that he experienced joy and happiness in his life, but it did not please the Spirit to record much of it in the Scriptures. But sorrow? That’s another matter.
The Lord in his humanity maintained his holiness and utter perfection. These were constantly assaulted by the fallenness of man. Sinful behavior and its natural repercussions assailed Jesus at every turn in the form of human suffering, stubborn unbelief, the general characteristics of inhumanity, and the great enemy of death. Thus, he is said to weep over Jerusalem, to sigh deeply (Mark 8:12) and experience pain of heart (Mark 3:5). Surely his greatest sorrow was that of being forsaken by the Father on the cross, an incomprehensible agony that has brought to the believer in him the joy of eternal life.
At a time when the theological winds of his day were denying the deity of Jesus, B. B. Warfield wanted to affirm from the Bible the foundational doctrine of his humanity, that this doctrine should not be lost in the fog of controversy. This he has done well. Jesus the God-Man took upon himself the fullness of human nature that he should be a true substitute for his people. Warfield has made the case for Christ’s humanity by showing his emotional life from the Scripture. It’s a book to be commended, or as Sinclair Ferguson has noted, “It is the hidden jewel of his writings” (p. 10).
Randy Steele is a Minister in the Bible Presbyterian Church and is Pastor of Providence BPC in Albuquerque, NM.