Page images
PDF
EPUB

already in possession, of the great things to come, whereof it knew that the seeds and germs were laid so deeply in its own bosom? We may say of Judaism, that it bore in its womb the Messiah, as the man-child whom it should one day give birth to, and only in the forming and bearing of whom it found its true meaning. This was its function, and according to the counsel of God it should have been saved through this child-bearing; though by its own sin it did itself expire in giving birth to Him who was intended to have been not its death but its life.':-P. 86–87.

10. All religion culminates in Christianity, as the absolute truth which is in various ways relatively and partially signified in its lower manifestations.

Religion, universally taken, is not a matter of mere outward contrivance and authority joined to man's life, but roots itself in the constitution of human nature itself, as a necessary part of it, without which it must cease to be human altogether. With such common ground and necessity, all religions must have to some extent a common character, must look towards the same ultimate point, must work themselves out into more or less simiJar and analogous results. The relation of the absolutely true religion then to religions that are false, the various forms for instance of heathenism, is not one of abrupt and total difference; as though all were a lie outright on the outside of this perfect truth, and it could stand in no sort of correspondence whatever with anything beyond itself pretending to be religion. But it is this rather, that the inmost power which is at work in these false religions, the want or need of man's nature from which they spring and in virtue of which only he is capable of religion, whether true or false, finds at last its full satisfaction in Christianity, the end towards which it has been everywhere else strug. gling and striving, and comes in this way to such a solution of its own sense, (the true burden of the riddle of humanity,) as could never be reached in any other way. Thus it is, that even Heathenisnı becomes on a large scale an unconscious prophecy of Christianity, the proclamation on the four winds of heaven of its glorious advent, and a grand standing argument and testimony to its truth through all ages.

11. The analogies and resemblances then that appear in false religions to the doctrines and facts of that which is true, form no ground for skeptical hesitation in regard to the last, (as some affect to think,) but go powerfully rather to corroborate its claims to confidence and trust. We need not stumble at their presence; but would have reason far more to wonder and be in doubt, if they were altogether wanting.

“These resemblances disturb us not at all, they are rather most welcome ; for we do not believe the peculiar glory of what in Christ we possess to consist in this, that it is unlike every thing else, 'the cold denial and contradiction of all that men have been dreaming of through the different ages of the world, but rather the sweet reconciliation and exquisite harmony of all past thoughts, anticipations, revelations.' Its prerogative is, that all whereof men had a troubled dream before, did in Him become a waking reality; that what men were devising, and most inadequately, for themselves, God has perfectly given us in his Son; that in the room of shifting cloud-palaces, with their mockery of temple and tower, stands for us a city, which-hath come down from heaven, but whose foundations rest upon this earth of ours;—that we have divine facts

- facts no doubt which are ideal, in that they are the vehicle of everlasting truths; history indeed which is far more than history, for it embodies the largest and most continually recurring thoughts which have stirred the bosom of humanity from the beginning. We say that the divine ideas which had wandered up and down the world, till oftentimes they had well nigh forgotten themselves and their own origin, did at length clothe themselves in flesh and blood; they became incarnate with the Incarnation of the Son of God. In his life and person the idea and the fact at length kissed each other, and were henceforward wedded for evermore."

- The Church-we behold it as.sitting upon many waters, upon the great ocean of truth, from whence every stream that has at all or at any time refreshed the earth was originally drawn, and to which it duteously brings its waters again. We may contemplate that Church as having, in that it has the Word and Spirit of its Lord, the measure of all partial truth in itself; receiving the homage of all human systems, meekly, and yet, like a queen, as her right; understanding them far better than they ever understood themselves ; disallowing their false, and what of true they have, setting her seal upon that true, and issuing it with a brighter image, and a sharper outline, and a more paramount authority, from her own mint."-P. 179-180.

12. This sort of analogical testimony must fall in especially at last on the person of Christ himself, as the centre of the Christian revelation, and the full answer to the inmost and deepest want of the world.

The second series of these Hulsean Lectures is particularly taken up with the object of showing Christ to have been thus the “Desire of all Nations," as fulfilling in a real way the dreams and expectations that have entered most widely into the mind of the race under the character of religion. The hope of the Messiah is no foreign thought forced on men from without; it

has its reason and seat in their own nature; it belongs to the natural history of their life itself, in its general or universal form. “ As the earth in its long polar night seeks to supply the absence of the day by the generation of the northern lights, so does each people in the long night of its heathen darkness bring forth in its yearning after the life of Christ, a faint and glimmering substitute for the same. From these dreamy longings after the break of day have proceeded oracles, priests, sacrifices, lawgivers, and the like.”

Coming as did the Son of God in the end of time, it lay in the necessity of things that these signs and symbols, with indeed much that lay yet nearer to the heart of the truth, should have been in a measure pre-occupied by others, that what was truly given in Him -the glory which, in all its fulness, arrayed his person, and centred in it should have been in some small measure actually lent, or should have been imagined to have been lent, to others that went before Him. Thus to take but a single, yet an illustrious example. The heathen religions boasted of their virgin-born, as of Buddha and Zoroaster, as of Pythagoras and Plato. It much concerns us. to determine in what relation and connexion we will put their legend and our history; whether we will use the truth to show that the falsehood was not all falsehood, and for the detecting the golden grains of a true anticipation which lay concealed amid all its dross; or whether we will suffer the falsehoods to cast a slight and suspicion upon the truih, as though that was but the crowning falsehood of them all. In the present position of the controversy with infidelity we cannot let these parallels alone if we would, -even if we were willing to forego the precious witness for the glory and truth of the Christian Faith which they contain. We cannot ignore them; if they are not for us, they will be used against us. But they are for us; since we may justly ask,—and it is no playing with imperfect analogies, for the question may be transferred from the natural to the spiritual world, - Are the.parhelia, however numerous, to be accepted as evidence that all is optical illusion, that there is no such true body of light as the sun after all; or rather, does not the very fact of their delusively painting the horizon, tell of and announce a sun, which is surely travelling up from behind ?"-Star of the Wise Men, p. 27–28.

13. It lies in the true conception of Christ, as the living centre of the world's living history, that his salvation should hold primarily in the form of life, and root itself thus in the very mystery of the incarnation itself, rather than in any word or work merely brought to pass by its means.

All sound christology runs back irresistibly to this conclusion. Religions which are at best only relatively true-which do but point to the truth under another form-fall short of course necessarily of the substance they thus represent. But if there be any religion which is absolutely the truth itself, and not its mere dream or shadow, it must for this very reason difference itself from all such relative religions, not by going before them simply in their own character of adumbration, but by being in full all that they indirectly signify and proclaim. So in Christianity, the law is turned into " grace and truth ;" the letter into spirit; the doctrine into life; and the beginning of all is the Word made flesh, the actual entrance of the divine life into the sphere of our general humanity by the mystery of the incarnation. “ The Life became the Light of men." Doctrine followed of course; and work also ; especially the great work of atonement, involving Christ's death and resurrection. But these grow forth from the constitution of his person itself, and stand in it continually as their living ground, and when sundered from it lose all their meaning and force.

“It has not merely been heroic men, men who triumphed over all, even death itself, but divine men, for whom the world has been craving; in whom it has felt deeply that its help must liema most true voice of man's spirit ever telling him that only from heaven the true deliverance the earth could proceed. We shall see how men have been ever cherishing the conviction of a real fellowship between earth and heaven, and that not merely an outward one, but an inward; a conviction that the two worlds truly met, not by external contact only, but in the deeps of personal life, in persons that most really belonged and held on to both worlds. We shall see how the world, with all its discords, has had also its preludes to the great harmonies of redemption; has had its incarnations-sons of God, that have come down to live a human life, to undertake human toils, to die a human death: its ascensions—sons of men, that have been lifted up to heaven, and made partakers of divine attributes: we shall see how men have never conceived of this world around us as totally dissevered from that world above us, with an impassable gulf between them, but always as in living intercommunion the one with the other."Hul. Lect., p. 202–203.

“It is possible that we may learn a lesson which we need, or at least remind ourselves of truths which we are in danger of suffering to fall too far back in our minds, by the contemplation of those, who, amid all their errors and darkness and confusion and evil, had yet a sense so deeply imprinted, a faith so lively, that man was from God, as well as to God; capable of the divine, only because himself of a divine race. Oftentimes it would seem as if our the. ology of the present day had almost lost sight of this, or at least

[ocr errors]

held it with only too feeble a grasp ; beginning, as it so often does, from the fall, from the corruption of human nature, instead of beginning a step higher up-beginning with man a liar, when it ought to have begun with man the true image and the glory of God.

“ And then, as a consequence, the dignity of Christ's Incarnation, of his taking of humanity, is only imperfectly apprehended. That is considered in the main as a make-shift for bringing God in contact with man; and not to have been grounded on the perfect fitness of man, as the image of God, of man's organs, his affections, his life, to be the utterers and exponents of all the life, yea, of all the heart of God. It is oftentimes considered the chief purpose of Christ's Incarnation, that it made his death possible, that it provided him a body in which to do that which merely as God he could not do, namely to suffer and to die ; while some of the profoundest teachers of the past, so far from contemplating the Incarnation in this light, have rather affirmed that the Son of God would equally have taken man's nature, though of course under very different conditions, even if he had not fallen--that it lay in the everlasting purposes of God, quite irrespective of the fall, that the stem and stalk of humanity should at length bear its perfect flower in Him, who should thus at once be its root and its crown. But the Incarnation being thus slighted, it follows of necessity, that man as man is thought meanly of, though indeed it is only man as fallen man, as separated by a wilful act of his own from God, to whom this shame and dishonour belong. In his first perfection, in the truth of his nature, he is the glory of God, the image of his Son, as the Son is the image of the Father, declaring the Son as the Son declared the Father :-surely a thought, brethren, which if we duly lay to heart, will make us strive that our lives may be holy, that our lives may be noble, worthy of Him who made us after his image, and when we had marred that and defaced it, renewed us after the same in his Son.”—P. 217-219.

We might pursue our method farther. But we have gone as far as our limits allow, and far enough for our present purpose ; which has been to illustrate and exemplify the spirit of the author before us, with a direct contribution at the same time, under the shadow of his popular and excellent name, to the cause of what we conceive to be the true living theology that is needed for the wants of this age. If God permit, we hope to take up the whole subject again in connection with Liebner's Christology, an important German work, the first part of which has lately come into our hands.

J. W. N.

« PreviousContinue »