Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

THE NEW CREATION IN CHRIST. There are many valuable thoughts in the article of Prof. Schaff, though some of his declarations seem to us to savor of the transcendental. The affirmation he makes that “the Lord is perpetually born anew in the hearts of believers,” sounds strangely to our ears. That his image is created there is indeed true, but that the Lord is born there, is not the teaching of the Bible. Again: “The commencement,he says, "of Church History, is strictly the incarnation of the Son of God, or the entrance of the new principle of light and life into humanity.” The incarnation of the Son of God is plain enough, but what is this "new principle of light and life?" And what “new principle” has there been in humanity since the incarnation, that was not in it before that event.-N. Y. Observer, Sept. 8, 1848.

This paragraph occurs in a short notice of the Bibliotheca Sacra for August, the first article of which is a masterly Introduction to Church History from Prof. Schaff. It is significantly characteristic of the system of thinking it represents, and furnishes fit occasion, in such view, for a few remarks.

Here is some approach to a determination of what we are to understand by that most ambiguous term “transcendentalism," in the popular vocabulary. It savors of the transcendental, we are told, to say that “the Lord is perpetually born anew in the hearts of believers," or that the mystery of the incarnation inVOL. II.--N0. I.

volves the entrance of a new principle of light and life into humanity.” Very well. Let us now look a little into the matter.

The first expression, says the critic, sounds strangely in our ears. The image of Christ is created in the hearts of believers, but not the Lord himself, according to the Bible. The image of Christ, then, as formed in believers, is something quite distinct, in the mind of the critic, from the living substance of Christ himself. It bears merely an outward resemblance to him, under a wholly independent form of being; it is the picture morally of his holy mind and character, but carries in it no participation whatever in his very nature. It is related to him, not as the branch to the vine, but only as a mechanical transcript or copy to the original object it is employed to represent. Christ stands in the world solitary and alone. He has made it possible, however, for men to obtain forgiveness with God, and then to be formed by the Holy Ghost and their own endeavors into a new religious life, the type of which is set before them in his person as an outward model. This process involves a new creation; for it is wrought in part, at least, by the creative fiat of God's Spirit; but in the end, it is a new creation that belongs in an immediate and exclusive way, to each single believer for himself. It is no reproduction in him of the new creation already at hand in Christ; the Spirit calls into being within him, not the force of what is in Christ himself fontally for the salvation of the world, but the image or picture of this, simply under another form. This, we say, seems to be the meaning which underlies the criticism here in view. The opposite idea, which makes the new life in believers to hold in organic continuity with Christ's life, is set down as 'transcendentalism. To make it an abstraction, a thing of sheer thought, an abruptly miraculous image, is counted to be common sense; and the Bible, we are gravely assured, teaches no other view.

Thus it is that the school here represented, is ever ready to run away with the Bible, in a wholesale way, as though it must of necessity be all on their side, just because with their preconceived system of thought it carries to themselves such sense and no other. Multitudes, in all ages, have read the sense of the Bible differently; but that weighs nothing with this school; no judgment is allowed to be of any force, in the case, against its own. “This is not the teaching of ihe Bible,” cries the infallible critic; as though his dictum in such style must end the matter; and there it is made to stop. We should have been glad to see some. thing more, in this line of argument, a true appeal to the sacred oracles themselves. The subject is certainly deserving of such attention. It goes to the very foundation of Christianity. Is it a doctrine only or a fact? Is it a new creation in Christ, or is it a divinely wrought image of that only out of Christ The question is worthy of something more than a magisterial wave of the hand, after the summary fashion of the criticism here in view.

The Bible as we read it, and as it has been read by millions of God's saints from the beginning, and we will add 100, according to the most profoundly scientific exegesis of the present time, does teach broadly and clearly the very mystery which this critic proclaims to be transcendentalism, sounding strangely to his ears. The charge of disregarding it falls of right on himself and his widely influential school, and not on Professor Schaff. Has he never read the Gospel of St. John, in which, according to the judgment of the universal Church, the inmost and deepest sense of Christianity is revealed, and by which, accordingly, all the other Gospels are to be explained and made complete ? Could it well be more explicitly affirmed, than it is here affirmed in fact, in the very beginning of this Gospel, that it is the Life of the Word which is the source of light and salvation to men, and that the Word became flesh to make room for its actual entrance into our fallen nature, as the fountain of a new creation? “Of his fullness have all we received” (John i. 16). We become sons of God, by union with him in a supernatural way. Let Christ be apprehended as the central bearer of the new creation, whose universal fullness is inade to reach over in the form of grace and truth, (not law but life,) into the souls of his people, and the sublime representation of St. John is simple and clear. Resolve the Christian salvation into an outward image only of Christ, wrought either with or without God's help, and the representation is blind as chaos. The beginning of the Gospel, too, is only in harmony with the idea that fills it throughout. It is not only a text or two, here and there, that admits the sense now urged, by violent and doubtful construction. Such men as Olshausen and Tholuck, find this sense in every chapter; and it is only by the most forced and unnatural exegesis, that commentators of the Rationalistic school have been able at all to keep it out of sight. Everywhere Christ speaks of himself, or is regarded by the sacred writer, as the living fountain of the salvation he reveals. He is the resurrection and the life. To have the Son, is to have life. The sixth chapter is as strong as words can make it, in asserting the real participation of believers in the life of Christ. Except we eat his flesh, and drink his blood, we have no life; this involves eternal life, and a resurrection at the last day; it is to dwell in Christ, and have him dwell in us; to live by him, as he lives by or from the Father (John vi. 53–58.) Is this simply to have his image formed in us, as something in no organic connection with his person? And what shall we say of his own beautiful emblem of the vine and its branches, em ployed John xv. 1-8, to represent this mystical union? Is the life of the vine not also the life of its branch? Is the last only like the first, a picture of it under a wholly separate form? Could any representation more forcibly show, that “ihe Lord is perpetually born anew in the hearts of believers," that his life is reproduced in their life, that their formation into his image involves an inward adunation also into the very substance of his mediatorial person? We might refer also to the startling language employed on this subject in his last prayer, John xvii. 21-23; but we forbear.

Nor is this view of the new life confined to St. John. It comes before us also in the more dialectical thinking of St. Paul. No idea is more familiar with him, than that by which Christ and his people are regarded as being joined together in the power of a common life; which, as such, of course, starts from him as its source, and is carried over 10 them by real organic derivation. He is the head, and they are the members, of the same mystical body. This image is ever at hand in his mind, to express their union. Can it possibly mean less than an actual participation of one side, in the living substance of the other? In this character of Christ's body, the Church is declared to be “the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. i. 23); which plainly signifies something far more than an outward merely moral relationship, however strict and close. Everywhere again, and under all varieties of expression, believers are spoken of as being in Christ. One or two instances of such language might bear, possibly, to be resolved into a strong figure of speech ; although we should feel it a strange hyperbole, indeed, to speak even twice or once of the patriots of the American Revolution, as being in General Washington. But in the case before us, the instances are not one or two only; we meet them on every page; the

very frequency and familiarity of their occurrence, serves to blind us us to the true and proper force of the phraseology. The foundation of the phraseology with St. Paul, and the sacred writers generally, is beyond all doubt the sense of such a union between Christ and his people, as actually inserts them spiritually into the substance of his life. They are a new creation (xa cun xrious, II. Cor. v. 17,) in Christ Jesus; not a new creation out of him and beyond him, by the fiat of omnipotence, bearing some resemblance to him in a wholly different sphere; but a new creation, whose original seat and fountain is Christ's own person, and which conveys over to them, accordingly, with true reproductive force, the vitality which belongs to it in this form. This does not imply that the believer can be all that Christ is; much less

« PreviousContinue »