« ÎnapoiContinuă »
tooth, and personal retaliation, which had in it the deadly taint of hatred and revenge. Words alone cannot reveal God, simply because all human speech has its roots in human experiences and passions, and therefore has the taint of our human imperfection and depravity. The missionary goes among savage nations. He tries to translate the Divine Law into the savage dialects, and finds they have not scope of meaning enough to take it in. The Christian ideas of forgiveness, love, mercy, compassion, have no equivalent where there has been no corresponding experience; and so they float in the air without any roots to be engrafted on, and to give them a resting-place. Pile up the words as you may, and string out the adjectives to any length you please, in descriptions of the Divine attributes, you cannot make them redolent of the Divine charms and glories, because the words can reach no height above the human nature in which they have their root, and out of which they draw up all their meaning and inspiration. Therefore, language alone, gathered from all the dialects of the earth, could not yield to human thought the immaculate conception of the Godhead. No, nor could any angel from Heaven do it. An angel might have descended, and proclaimed the gospel from the tops of the mountains, and the beautiful vision would have floated in air; but how could it get down to the earth as a fixed and historic reality? What language could the angel have spoken that the earth could understand? What words in which to translate his ideas, and give them complete body and clothing, could he have found in our dialects down here in the flesh and in the dark? His gospel message would have floated over us as a strain of music, and then died away; hovering above the earth like a song, but having no such articulation and form as to give it an abiding-place among our gross and palpable realities. Words again, angelic words; but words untranslatable into our human speech, because they have no roots in our human experience and history. Indeed, angels did come in this way, all along the ages and through all the Old Testament history, giving men dreams of a better state, and prophecies of a more glorious future. And the dreams and the prophecies sank down straightway into carnal conceptions of a temporal Messiah. Never were these conceptions dissipated, and our human thought lifted up to the Divine Idea, until, at last, the angel song floated over Bethlehem, and the star
stood still over the Heavenly Babe lying in a manger. And then the Word was indeed made flesh. Not a humanity corrupt and sinful, and which had tainted the very language of human intercourse, but a humanity without any spot on its disk, became the resplendent image of the Divinity. The Divine Word was made flesh. He not only spake, but He assumed human relations, wants, sufferings, temptations, affections, and joys; wrapped the garment of our infancy about Him, as well as that of our childhood and manhood; put on our mortality, and put it off again, in order to show death as the inverse side of resurrection and eternal life. All those goodly words whereby we describe the Divine attributes,-justice, mercy, forgiveness, and love,—He has filled out with new meaning, lifting up our low and sensuous vocabularies into the Divine Light, and breathing the Divine Life into them. They have the taint of our selfishness taken clean out of them; and humanity, in Christ made perfect and Divine, becomes the complete representation and transparency of the Godhead. And so the historic Christ, standing in the midst of the ages, is a twofold revelation. He is the revelation alike of perfect Divinity and perfect humanity; for one is the image of the other, copied down to us out of heaven. He shows us the God we ought to worship, and brings Him nigh, in order that His attributes, though in finite degree, may be formed in us, and we be made partakers of the Divine Nature, and the image of the Divine Perfections.'
APPENDIX No. II.
THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE INCARNATION.
I DESIRE to present, in as condensed a form as is consistent with intelligibility, an argument, or rather a series of arguments, in favour of the New Testament doctrine of the Incarnation of the Son of God, in the doing of which it will be my aim to show that there is nothing in the doctrine itself which is not susceptible of a rational defence, if the existence of a personal God, the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth, and the general trustworthiness of the New Testament narratives, are conceded. It may be said that the concessions I now ask for should be first of all proved rather than assumed; to which I reply that we must start somewhere,-even the mathematician has to do that, and that my contention just now is not with the Atheist, the Pantheist, the Agnostic, or the Secularist, but with those thoughtful and religiously-minded persons who would never dream of questioning the three points which I ask may be conceded.
By the word Incarnation I mean what the 'Apostles' Creed' and the Nicene Creed' mean when they say: 'And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary' (Apostles' Creed); and, 'And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of light, Very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary, and was made man' (Nicene Creed).
By the 'Philosophy of the Incarnation,' I mean those truths or principles which relate to God on the one hand and man on the
other, and of which the Incarnation of the Son of God is the only ' adequate embodiment and expression.
Many who 'profess and call themselves Christians' disbelieve the Incarnation, while modern science and all the anti-Christian isms simply laugh at the doctrine as unproved and unprovable. Let us see what can be said about it by way of exposition and defence.
1. The knowledge most of all needed by man, and especially man considered as a sinner, is the knowledge of what God is. Is God a person or a force? are there more gods than one? what is the essential nature of God? He is our Creator, Proprietor, Sustainer, Judge, Law-giver, and the Supreme Arbiter of our destiny. Why did He create us? what kind of being is He to whom we belong by the absolute right of creation? why does He sustain us in existence? what kind of Judge, Law-giver, and Arbiter is He? My conscience, too, tells me that I have sinned against Him, and I want to know how, in spite of that fact, He feels towards me, what elements my sin has introduced into the relations between myself and Him, and what means are needed to make and keep those relations what they should be, considering what I am and what He is. I find, too, that God and man are both related to the system of nature,—He as independent and I as dependent, and I ask to be told of the grounds upon which I may repose trust in Him as the Lord of nature, and what the appropriate feelings are which I may cherish not alone towards nature, but also towards nature's Lord. I have another difficulty, and yet another. Looking over the world's history, as far as that history can be known, I find indications of what men have called 'Providence,' in the individual, the nation, and the race ; I see, also, that the religious consciousness is, practically, universal, and supremely strong, but distractingly variant in its phenomena, and I am therefore driven to the conclusion that if God is to be known, He must, in some way or ways, reveal Himself, and do so in modes apprehensible by His creatures.
2. We want to know not only THAT God is, but WHAT He is. And the moment we have pronounced the word 'God,' and tried to form reasonable and satisfying conceptions of Him, we are obliged to confess, if we are modest, devout, and truthful, that we are moving in a centre the circumference of which is 'a darkness that may be felt.' For we are trying to understand the nature of a Being who,
from the very necessities of the case, is a self-existent, eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, all-wise, perfect, infinite, and unseen Spirit. There are familiar, and, I might truly say, flippant ways of talking about God, as if He were not only easily apprehensible, but even tolerably easily comprehensible,-ways which are irreverent and fatally misleading. What are called 'unbelievers' are not the only blasphemers in the world. To hear some men, in the pulpit as well as out of it, talk of God, you might suppose that the problem of God's character was as easy of solution as some trifling problem in Euclid. But it is not so by a very long way. Man is one who derives his existence from a source outside of himself, who began to be within the limits of time, who is limited in power, and knowledge, and wisdom, and resources, who is finite every way, and who lives in a material body, and has only a relative power of disposition over himself and his concerns. What can he, and such as he, know of God? And yet he wants, yea, for ages he has been striving to bridge over the chasm which yawns between the uncreated and the created, to interpret his own nature, to solve the mystery of human life, the mystery of material nature, and to know and not merely conjecture what the moral and spiritual relations between himself and God should be.
3. How is the needed knowledge to be obtained? With the increase of secular knowledge comes the felt deepening of the problem that asks for solution, and we must beware that we do not cheat ourselves or allow others to cheat us. We do not know God because we confess His name, or make formal statements about Him, or wield our weapons of logic strongly and skilfully. No, we know Him as, and only as He is pleased to reveal Himself. This is true of man. If I wish you to know my thought, feeling, desire,—-to know me, and not that you should confine your knowledge of me to my body,-I must do something, say something, the 'subjective' or inward must become 'objective' or outward, the unseen must become the seen, the hidden must be revealed. When you see my bodily structure, you do not see me; indeed, it is absolutely true that only as you can get behind and interpret rightly my words and actions, can you be said to understand and know me. Now, if this be true speaking of man, it must be still more true when speaking of God. But I go farther, and say that the revelation which one being makes of him