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e.g., is revealed to me by my two spiritual senses of conscience and heart; by the one I apprehend Him as a God of holiness, by the other as a God of love. Mankind have always believed in the existence of God because of faith in this testimony of the spiritual senses. But intellectual theories concerning the nature of God, and His action in the world, have been many and diverse ; one may say that systems of theology are almost as numerous as theologians. We know that God is; but we are not permitted to comprehend Him as He is.
Take, again, the case of Jesus Christ. He is presented to me; I enter into communication with Him. He gives my conscience the impression of absolute holiness; my heart that of love in its perfection; and as these qualities exist in Him without measure, I recognize Him as God, and at a single bound my conscience submits to His law, and my heart yields itself up to Him. From being a deist I become a Christian. However, the impressions which I receive from Jesus Christ furnish material for reason to act upon. I recognized God as a spiritual being, whom my material senses could not apprehend; but I perceive Jesus Christ as belonging to the two spheres, of the material and of the spiritual. What is the nature of this being, who is at once God and man? I cannot refrain from asking the question; my reason desires to penetrate the mystery, and at this point I enter the field of theology. Unfortunately, if I have the evidence of my senses for affirming, without the faintest hesitation, that Jesus Christ is the Divine realization of humanity and the human incarnation of divinity, and if, in consequence of this evidence, I can say, “I know in whom I have believed,” I am debarred from speaking with the same assurance of the idea which I form of the nature of Christ. Because, if the truth is in Him, it is not in me, and because my reason is subject to error. From Arius to Anselm the distance is great ; the theological opinions which connect these two extreme points are very various; it could scarcely be otherwise. But, at the same time, from Arius to Anselm there is not a theologian who does not recognize in Christ the human ideal realized, and the fulness of the Divine elements of holiness and love. All have, in the same manner, apprehended Him through the testimony of conscience and heart; yet their theology has been as diverse as their individuality. Some have attributed to Him omnipotence, omniscience, &c.—in a word, what are called the metaphysical attributes of divinity. Why this diversity? The reply is not far to seek, though no one, it seems to me, has thought of it. The metaphysical attributes of divinity are not perceptible to conscience or heart; they are qualities which, in consequence of a course of reflection, our reason attributes to God: they are ideas we have concerning God. In this domain, evidence, where it exists, is only mediate—it is intellectual evidence, matter of opinion. This is why divergences arise; this is why of two theologians, who both believe in the divinity of their Saviour, one will tell you that He was possessed of omnipotence during His earthly life, the other that He was not. The two opinions are the one as legitimate as the other.
If faith be, as, we have defined it, confidence in the testimony of our senses, whether material or spiritual, we see that a dogma cannot properly be said to be the subject of it. A dogma appeals to the judgment, and not to the conscience or heart. The Gospel teaches us that the death of Christ has a redemptive power. We can believe this doctrine on the testimony of the Apostles if we have confidence in the experience which they have had of it. That would be faith at secondhand. But if you have had in your own person experience of that redemptive power, you will have in the testimony of your own spiritual senses evidence properly so-called. But observe that reason does not enter into this faith. This faith is rather direct intuition—the result of the impression produced on the moral sense by the death of Christ. Reason neither produces nor can invalidate it. On the other hand, theologians have constructed the theory of this redemptive power of the death of Christ; they have sought to elucidate the matter, and to formulate in exact terms their opinion concerning it. If this theory, this dogma, commends itself to your reason, you are at liberty to accept it; but that is an act of judgment, and not of faith.
There are two dogmas which have recently drawn the attention of the religious public—the one relating to the pre-existence of Christ, and the other to His resurrection. Let us see how the distinction we have endeavoured to draw applies to them.
Jesus Christ has affirmed His pre-existence: that is a fact which none of us dream of denying. We are bound, if we profess to be Christians, to believe in His pre-existence. If the matter rested there on the ground of religious faith—there would be no difference of opinion among us. But the question as to the nature of that pre-existence divides theologians. Some have described it as an ideal and unconscious pre-existence, others as a personal, conscious pre-existence. Is it a question that Scripture will decide ? Both parties profess to interpret Scripture. If I were to follow the guidance of my own feelings in the matter, I should be on the side of the orthodox, probably because I was brought up in orthodoxy. But sentiment has no weight in the domain of knowledge. I have therefore sought to weigh the arguments of the two parties, and have not been able to give entire acceptance to either. It is so difficult to form an exact idea upon the subject—to represent to ourselves what Jesus Christ was, before He was Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, whom we know. He is called the Word in His pre-existent state ; but a word is not a personal and conscious being. And then, on the other hand, an existence that is not conscious can scarcely be called intelligent; and how can we ascribe it to the eternal Son of God? Does even the term “ eternal Son of God” convey any definite meaning to an intelligent mind ? How can we disconnect from the idea of sonship subordination in time as well as in rank ? Assuredly, on the authority of Jesus Christ, I believe in the preexistence of the Son of God, but I believe it without being able to comprehend in what it consisted. The orthodox say that in the great prayer of intercession (John xvii.) there are reminiscences of a pre-existent state. But nothing in the attitude and words of the Lord authorizes this assertion. All that He says of His pre-historic career is general in character, from which we can conclude that He knew of it only by revelations received in the course of His earthly life. If He had had á personal recollection of His action in the world before His incarnation, of the part He had taken as the eternal Word in the creation of man, and the shaping of the destinies of Israel, it seems to me that He would have spoken quite differently. One would have discerned something of this historical knowledge in His utterance. On the contrary, when He speaks of the creation of man, it is to ascribe it in a general manner to God; and He does not appear to know the history of the chosen people from any other source than the writings of the Old Testament. For my own part, I believe in the pre-existence of the Son of God in the terms which He Himself has employed in speaking of it. He has never defined it, and I do not wish to attempt to do so. Theologians may attempt the task, but I think I have shown that none of them have succeeded in giving a dogmatic statement on the point that is intelligible.
We pass to the dogma of the resurrection. Before the dogma, we have the teaching of Jesus Christ, and the statements of witnesses who saw Him after His resurrection. It is on this doctrine that the Church has been founded, and on it that it rests: it would never have existed if Jesus Christ had remained in the
sepulchre. In our churches there is no dissension on this point; we all believe that Jesus Christ has risen, and that He has been exalted to the right hand of God. But as theologians have wished to construct a theory of the resurrection, two parties have been formed, the one of which affirms that the resurrection was corporeal, while the other maintains that it was spiritual. The former declare, besides, that in their opinion their opponents virtually deny the fact of the resurrection. Before they issue so grave an accusation, however, the orthodox should explain to us what they mean by corporeal resurrection. They seem to mean by it a material resurrection. But as they know that neither flesh nor blood can enter into the kingdom of heaven they explain that those material elements were transformed—the material body becoming a spiritual body. And yet they repudiate a resurrection which is purely spiritual! Is the explanation intelligible? Not to me.
On the other hand, the partisans of the new theology fasten upon the conception of St. Paul, who speaks of a spiritual body, that is to say, an organism in which the material element and the spirit are in different relations from those which now obtain among us." For them Christ is now living, and living in a spiritual body; He is not pure spirit. But who can understand such statements as to relations of matter and spirit which are utterly inconceivable to us? The only conclusion we can draw is that both schools of theologians, while agreeing on the fact of the resurrection, give an explanation of it which explains nothing at all. It would be much better for them to cease striving with each other, since both have the same end in view—that of bringing us into the presence of Christ, who has risen from the dead, and who lives for evermore and has all power in heaven and earth.
A great step towards reconciliation would be made if every one understood that the same distinction must be made between doctrine and dogma as between faith and knowledge. We are constantly hearing of the dogmatic authority of Jesus Christ and of His Apostles, when what is meant is their doctrinal authority. I do not deny that the Apostles have sometimes made theological statements, as when St. Paul formulates the dogma of justification by faith. But this is exceptional. In a general way one may say that the Scriptures contain only doctrines, that is to say, affirmations of certain facts and teaching as to the religious value of those facts. Neither Jesus Christ nor His Apostles have constructed theories or reduced doctrines to their rational elements in order to build them up into an intellectual system. To hold firmly the doctrine of the Apostles, that is to say, their teaching, and only to accept on their own merits the dogmas of theologians, is therefore the duty of the Christian.
SUNDAY IN CHURCH,
THE MORNING LESSONS.
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
telligence which is the secret and the source of His boundless strength. His knowledge extends to
I. THE MATERIAL UNIVERSE. There is nothing in any part of this universe which comes not beneath His glance. He must have an absolute knowledge of all material elements, and of all their actual and possible combinations, and of the duration of all things animate and inanimate. Our imagination
fails us as we try to think what is included in the few words of encouragement or discouragethe knowledge of God in the wide sphere of ment, which are the product of our own soul, the physical creation.
and which tell, for good or evil, on the hearts II. ALL
We and lives of others. (3) All thoughts, feelings, should conclude from the exercise of our and determinations are the actions of the soul. reason, and Scripture fully confirms the belief The spirit of man is constantly at work when (see Coloss. i. 16), that beside and above our no sound is heard and no deed is witnessed. own, are many grades of spiritual intelligences We ourselves "act” when we admit thoughts peopling the vast spaces of the heavens. The to our mind, when we cherish feelings in our all-embracing wisdom of God must include heart, when we determine to oppose or to a perfect knowledge of these — of their yield, to give or to withhold, to accept or to nature, of their capacities, of their habits, of refuse. For these inward actions we are the their life. And here, again, our mind is more responsible inasmuch as in regard to baffled as we vainly strive to follow this them we are absolutely free. We may go so thought in all its depth and breadth. But far as to say that human action includes (4) let us rather pursue that which practically our fixed attitude of soul-especially that concerns us, our Father's knowledge of His which we deliberately take toward the Father human children. God knew from the beginning and the Saviour of our spirit. -1. The possibilities of our nature ; how high 2. Weights in the Divine balance. By what we could rise and how far we might sink, how does God determine the worth or the guilt of much we could enjoy and how much we could an action ? (1) By the purity or impurity of endure, to what worth and wisdom we might our motive (see Matt. vi. 1, 5, 16 ; xxiii. 15; attain, and to what ignorance and folly we 1 Cor. xiii. 1). (2) By the measure of difficulty might stoop. 2. The course of human history. to be mastered. God “knows our frame ; He He saw what use and what misuse of his great remembers that we are dust.” He requires of opportunity man would make, how he would us “according to that we have, and not be overcome in the day of trial, and what long according to that we have not." The Master and dark course of sin and suffering he would excuses His disciples when the weakness of the pursue. 3. Our capacity to rise. God knew flesh overcomes the willingness of the spirit. that far as man would wander from His like- He accounts the mites of the widow to be ness, and deep as his decline would be, he greater than the substantial offerings of the would never go beyond the reach of Divine wealthy. (3) By the presence or absence of restoration, and that he might be redeemed privilege. Far more was expected from those by a Divine Saviour. Hence His resolve even who had “the law" than from those who had “from the foundation of the world” to inter- it not (see Matt. v. 46, 47; Rom. ii. 12). What, pose and save him (see Rev, xiii. 8).
then, does God not expect from us, "what III. THE WORTH AND THE UNWORTHINESS manner of persons should we be," to whom all OF HUMAN LIFE AND ACTION. By the God the priceless privileges of the Gospel have of knowledge “ actions are weighed.”
been granted ! Surely the Divine standard is 1. What is included in human action? We high when He judges us who have such must not take a restricted view of those restraints as we possess, such an example as is “actions" which are weighed and apprised by before our eyes, such inducements to purity the Judge of all. They include(1) All and unselfishness and holy service as are in visible movement, all overt deeds; the things Christ Jesus and in His salvation. which our hands execute, the paths which our feet tread, the activities of the busy world,
FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER the discharge of household duties, our indul
TRINITY gences, our studies, our devotions. But they include very much more than this; they
GOD'S QUIET WORK. embrace (2) all utterance, both premeditated Whose heart the Lord opened. — Acts xvi. and casual. The distinction between words
14. and deeds is only true in part. It is often the The passage to which these words belong is case that speaking is the finest and noblest studded with practical lessons. Of these we action. And it is not only the well-prepared may mention two. 1. Do at once the known sermon or the eloquent oration, it is the art. will of God. "Immediately we endeavoured less conversation, the incidental utterance, to go into Macedonia we came with a
straight course to Samothracia.” No interval It is God's quiet work in the human soul. between knowing and doing ; no time lost in We may enter a house or a room by shattering getting to the sphere of labour. This is the the wall with an explosive, or we may enter, way of wisdom. How much is lost by linger- as we prefer to do, by gently and noiselessly ing, by giving opportunity to temptation to opening the door. God may enter our hearts enter in and do its evil work. 2. Act up to by the earthquake (see ver. 26), or He may your light, and God will add to your enlighten. prefer to come to us in a more quiet way. ment. Lydia knew what the Lord taught her ; Quietness is His chosen method of working. and, knowing this, she went to worship God. Quietly of old He built up the rocks and laid She sought to render homage and to gain an down the soil in the valleys ; quietly the sun ordinary Divine blessing; but she found much shines upon the sea, drawing up the vapour, more than she sought. She went home with and upon the land, giving light and warmth a new faith in her mind, a new joy and hope and life to all things that dwell upon it ; in her heart, a new song in her mouth. Let quietly the flowers open in our gardens, and us act in accordance with the truth we have the grass grows upon the hills, and the fruit gained, and though we may be troubled ripens in the orchards ; quietly the little because we are craving clearer and fuller child grows up into stalwart strength, and the light, we shall find that with us, as with her, infant mind expands into the soul of wisdom “to him that hath is given," and God will and knowledge. And it is in quietness that reveal His will to us more perfectly. But God lays His hand upon us, awakens our the interest of the passage culminates in the thought, calls forth our feeling, renews us in truth suggested by the text—God's quiet work the spirit of our mind, “opens our heart," in the human soul.
and leads us into His blessed kingdom. I. THE ACCEPTABLE SPIRITUAL FACT. It III. THE PERSONAL, PRACTICAL CONCLUis indeed an indubitable fact that God some
1. Let us recognize the hand of God times works suddenly and mightily upon the when we feel it. There are many earnest heart. Yesterday a man was at variance with souls whose hearts God has opened, who are Him, and to-day he is living in His fear and wondering when God is to visit them. They in His favour. God broke down his enmity imagine that He will come to them in the with overwhelming power. But that is not same way in which they have heard or read of the only fact; it can hardly be said to be His coming to others ; and because their own the principal feature of God's working within experience has not corresponded with theirs, and upon us. All around us and in every they think that they have still to wait for Christian land are those who, for a while, His appearing. This is a serious mistake. live the life in which pleasure or ambition What is that inquiry, that solicitude, that plays a leading part, in which the human readiness to love and serve, which is in their rather than the Divine is the predominating souls? It is the plain mark of God's own force ; but they came under sacred influences, hand. It is the proof that the Divine Spirit under the restraining and constraining power has done His work within, and has opened of the truth of God. Not knowing what is the heart that faith and love and joy may taking place within them or whither they are enter also. 2. Let us avail ourselves at once being led (1) they become sensible of their of His presence and power. If Lydia had not unworthiness and desirous of Divine inercy ; "continued in the grace of God,” that opened or (2) their thought and their love are drawn heart of hers would have closed again. But away, are lifted up from the human father she did, she went on in the way of wisdom or friend to the Father, to the Friend that is and of life. When God opens our heart there Divine ; or (3) they become deeply dissatisfied is before us then the supreme opportunity of with the seen and the temporal, and they our life. Everything then at stake. To begin to pursue the unseen and the eternal. neglect that golden chance is to "judge ourGradually and quietly a great and vital change selves unworthy of eternal life,” it is to leave is wrought in their spirit, in their aim, in unread, unused, the title-deeds to a heavenly their character. With silent strength the inheritance, it is to make the great failure. higher forces have done their gracious work ; We must not thus rob and wrong ourselves. their “heart has been opened."
When God thus blesses us with His presence II. THE TRUE ACCOUNT OF IT. There is and lis power, we must instantly and eagerly but one thing which ultimately explains it. respond ; must not only "attend to the things