« AnteriorContinuar »
with the liberal Christian, to some considerable extent. Educated in more cheerful and rational views, he regards the Scriptures in the light of these, and they appear to him in beautiful harmony with every thing which he can perceive or know of God, as exhibited in his works and ways around us. True, he may encounter an occasional difficulty in the interpretation of the sacred text. A few passages may seem comparatively obscure to him, but in the light of what he knows to be God's infinite goodness, he cannot allow these to throw a cloud over the bright vision which his faith reveals to him.
5. In the fifth place, it should be borne in mind, when considering the difficulties which lie in the way of a proper understanding of the Holy Scriptures, that the truths which they reveal have infinite bearings and relations, while our powers of analysis and comprehension are weak and finite.
Probably the clearest view which could possibly be given to us of the divine economy now, would have its mysteries which we could not fathom. We might be able to grasp some of its leading principles, perhaps, and see with tolerable clearness their operations in some few things around us; but in the midst of its more complicated and subtle processes, many of which stretch off into the profounder depths of immensity, the mind would become lost and bewildered in the attempt to trace them, and the utmost powers of the reason would falter and finally sink from utter exhaustion. Such has been the experience of sages and philosophers; the greatest and the wisest which the world has ever known. The divine word involves the highest problems of existence. There are no questions of which the human mind can conceive, which open into more mysterious and inscrutable regions than some of those involved in the Bible; and to demand of it a clear and comprehensible view of all these such a view as the common mind can take in and fully understand in every part—is to ask what human language cannot possibly give us, and what we could not comprehend even if it did. Is it said, then, that the Bible is no revelation to us, and that we might, in this case, be about as well off without it? I answer : It is a revelation to us just as far as we can understand it; of course, no farther. And in putting into our hands a treatise on the divine science of religion, that in some of its features transcends our present powers of thought, God has only treated us very much as we find it necessary to treat our children. We give them, perhaps, a work on Astronomy. We know that they cannot comprehend it at once, and entirely; but we give it to them for study, for investigation; confident that they will not only come soon to see and enjoy its simple rudiments, but that as their powers are unfolded they will attain to higher planes of thought, and be able finally to grasp its more extensive revealings of order, harmony and beauty. Such seems to have been essentially the plan adopted by our heavenly Father.
The divine instruction of the world is not a single act, but a process. It has been going on ever since the first human existence, and will doubtless continue until the end of time. The revealings of truth are gradual, as the trees grow, and the flowers bloom, and the harvests ripen. We cannot attain its sublime heights except through toil and patience. We climb first the slighter acclivities that surround its base. Even these may seem to us the highest, at starting, because they hide the loftier summits which lie beyond. But these, when once surmounted, show us still other points rising before us in grandeur ; and these attained, exhibit others still ; “ Alps on Alps” forever.
The fountain of truth is not easily exhausted; and while the divine word opens to us the infinite realms of God's dominions, we must not hope, with our finite abilities, to explore the entire field in a moment. In a work like this, we must expect to encounter many difficulties, and meet with many things that, for the present, seem involved in obscurity
6. Finally: is not our ability to understand the divine word, after all, fully equal to our most pressing wants ? We may not be fully competent to decide this question. We may fancy that we need what a higher wisdom perceives that it would not be good for us to know. I cannot but think, that if we study our own souls carefully, and are equally diligent in the investigation of divine truth, we shall find enough to satisfy all reasonable demands of either faith, obedience, or comfort.
Those strong figures which liken the gospel to " a feast of fat things," and to a." fountain of living waters,” are not merely poetic imagery ; indeed, they are not extravagant. There is a fulness in Christ which is quite equal to our deepest necessities. The light of his truth is doubtless adapted to our minds very much as the light of the sun is to our natural eyes. A greater brilliancy might only dazzle and blind us. And as he has taught us to pray only for “ daily bread," may we not draw a spiritual lesson from it, and ask for truth to-day only as the wants of to-day require it?
In deciding as to whether we have light enough within our reach at present, it may help us very much if we will but make a diligent and faithful application of what we really possess. When we are true to the light which we enjoy, we can better determine the want of more. Fortunately the precepts and example of Christ, so far as these form a rule for daily life, appear to be sufficiently plain and simple for most minds. And are not these, after all, the most essential ? If we can learn to live as Christ lived, and to walk in his spirit always, the more abstruse questions in theology will cease to perplex us very seriously. They may come in for a share of thought in our leisure hours, perhaps, but still we can well postpone their entire solution to that promised era, when, in the brilliant light of a more glorious day, we “shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known." M. B.
Christ the Instrument of Redemption.
We may regard the point as established, that Christ came to us with a mission of love “ from the Father.” He came " to bear witness to," not to create the truth" that can make the soul free; to manifest the mercy of God that, in various degrees, has been manifested since the creation of man. “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” The world, through Christ, was to have a fuller manifestation of Deity.
Whatever view, then, we may entertain of Christ's essential being, our reasoning in regard to the object of his mission must be the same. We may consider him as a mere human being, through whom God revealed himself in an extraordinary manner to the world; as a mixture of the human and divine; an interfusion of the spirit of Jehovah and the spirit of man; as a literal incarnation of the spirit of God; as God himself. In either case, there is a manifestation of the Father to us; a new revelation of the saving power of the Omnipotent; a giving to the world of the quickening spirit of life. If Christ was a man, through him God gave himself as a principle of life to humanity; if he was a mixture of the divine and human, it was only the divine that was thus infused into the world ; if he was an incarnation of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of God was thus poured from a living fountain into the bosom of humanity; if he was God himself, then man has talked face to face with Deity, and from the Infinite has received the life everlasting. The soul wants God, only God. However we may regard the person of Christ, through him God is revealed, brought home to the sin-stricken heart; giving power to conquer self, passion, appetite,-power to commune in spirit with the great Father of all.
Now, what can the truth, to which Christ came to bear witness, do for the soul? How can it better the soul's condition ? In what manner does it work a change in the soul? “God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself," but what is there added to, or taken from the soul, that it may live nearer God? These are the questions that every serious man is in soleinn earnest to answer for himself.
1 The various notions that have been held in the church, in regard to Christ's essential being, may be reduced to four, which, without an enumeration, we have stated above. The question concerning the personality of Christ is certainly important, but subordinate to that concerning his mission: unless we accept the vicarious atonement, when, of course, the value of the sacrifice depends upon the worth of the being offered.
What is true of one, is true of all: "all is in all." Each one, like Paul, “ with the mind serves the law of God; but with the earthly nature, the law of sin.” With the Apostle each one might say: " The good that I would, I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do. I find, then, a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." Here is a clear statement of the natural, condition of the being that is the object of redeeming love; of the creature upon whom the Creator is to operate, thus to speak, through Christ.
Man's nature is double ; he is composed of soul and body; in him are reason and appetite, religious sentiment and passion. His spiritual nature must derive its life and light from God; his earthly nature finds its means of gratification in the earthly things to which it is united. The spiritual nature, before it has acquired strength for resistance, is overpowered by the earthly. Sin is thus
2 We recognize the freedom of the will, in this discussion, for one of the premises in the argumentation is man's moral accountability. Man is not accountable if he is not free. Necessity leaves no room for choice, consequently no room for sin. Destroy will, and you destroy individuality and conscious identity. “It is a fact,” says M. Cousin, " that in the midst of the movements which external agents determine in us, in spite of us, we have the power of taking the first step of a different movement, first of conceiving it, then of deliberating whether we will execute it; finally, that of resolving and passing to the execution of it, of accomplishing or arresting it, and always of being master of it. The fact is certain, and what is not less certain is, that the movement executed on these conditions takes in our eyes a new character; we impute it to ourselves, we refer it as an effect to ourselves, considering then ourselves as the cause of it. This is for us the origin of the notion of cause, not of an abstract cause, but of a personal cause, of ourselves. The proper character of the me is causality or will, since we refer to ourselves, and impute only to ourselves, that which we cause, and that we cause only what we will. . . . . We must not confound the will or the internal causality which produces, at first, effects that are internal as well as their cause, with the external instruments of this causality, which, as instruments, appear also to produce effects, but without being the true cause of them. When I strike one ball against another, it is not the ball which really causes the movement which it impresses, for this movement has been impressed upon it by the muscles, which, in our organization, are at the service of the
VOL. X. 13