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same side of human nature, and of equally direct connection with the relations we sustain to one another and to our Maker and King. We should lightly esteem the electrician who refused the conclusions of the chemist and the astronomer because he could neither measure nor prove them by the operations of electricity. And we can have no higher esteem for the physiologist who refuses to accept the unquestionable phenomena of the spiritual life because he cannot measure them by the pulsations of the brain, which pulsations he is, after all, unable to observe. Much more can no purely physical fact modify nor contradict a spiritual fact. It will be seen that we assert no new principle, but simply ask that the rule which is applied in all the other sciences should be applied in this also.
Pursuing the course already indicated, we contend that the incarnation of the Son of God, and His consequent death, has not only a vicarious influence, by which the whole race is put into a more favourable relation to the Divine person and government than the original one, but that it has established a vital individual union of the God-man with the whole race. But we must remember, that it is a
union with a race, every member of which has the power of spontaneous thought, emotion, and action; and therefore, although the influence be recovering and improving, it cannot be coercive, because the nature can only be recovered and improved in harmony with itself; and therefore, in the measure in which it is improved, the spontaneity or freedom of volition will be increased likewise. Thus, while the law will be more and more fully obeyed, even in its outward commandments, yet the action will be more spontaneous-it will be a free choice; because the whole law, both that which is written in the nature, and that which is imposed from above the nature, is 'the perfect law of liberty.' This comes from the fact that the whole law is natural, required by, and tending to the improvement of the individual and the community. To this law the spiritual life conforms the nature, and therefore, as the power of that life increases, the writing within, which in the lower stages of the life was scarcely legible, now stands forth in brilliant clearness, and as a consequence obedience is rendered as the most natural, pleasant, and unfettered action.
In the stage above indicated, there is little
fear of failure, but in the earlier stages great difficulty occurs in bringing the soul under this saving rule. In accordance with the general order of the world, man begins his life in helpless infancy, and only gradually learns his own individual powers by their exercise. In the normal condition, this period of pre-personal recognition is passed in a state of absolute subjection to rule, and so is suited to the beginning of a life which, by necessity of nature, is under the rule of law for ever. If, therefore, the rule of the infant were uniform and complete, and, moreover, were always exercised in avowed and real subordination to the supreme authority, we might expect, that as conscious individuality dawned and brightened into a full recognition of its powers and obligations, there would be a gradual progress into a full acknowledgment of the supreme authority, and submission to it.
This, however, is a condition of things which we seldom or never witness. infantile rule is imperfect in all its parts; its exercise is fitful, arbitrary, often only personal, and therefore in its assumed supremacy it leads away from the true supreme, while not unfrequently its influence is wholly opposed to
the natural law. And as the first exercises of conscious action are assertions of individuality, which this imperfect rule arbitrarily suppresses, so the newly conscious man, in his first conscious contact with the supreme Ruler, is inclined to resist His rule as suppressive and not fostering. In many cases the infancy is passed without rule, so that the only part of the nature which has development is its individuality. But as our life in this world is not only individual, but social also, by this abnormal development man finds himself opposed to his conditions from the beginning of his full life. Thus the influence which tends to the development of the true and full life is contrary to the self already formed, which with the full power of habit follows its own selfishness. The existence of habits opposed to the tendency of the quickening light, before its full power is felt in the mature man, renders that first appearance a crisis in his life, bringing him fully under the Divine inward rule, or causing him deliberately to follow his own way, afterwards, or never, to be recovered to God. Such a crisis is the common experience of men at the first consciousness of responsibility to the supreme King.
All through the period of immaturity the incipient restraint and prompting of the Divine quickening is felt; consciously, when the human teaching has called attention to its operation, and declared its source, but not the less really, when a knowledge of its design has not existed. The evidence of this early influence and operation of the life-giving Redeemer we have, not only in the examples of early piety, which have been coeval with the opening of life, and have given beauty and power to its whole course; in the readiness with which the infantile mind receives all its teaching and influence; but also, in the memory of such influence in multitudes who did not till after years follow the drawings of the Heavenly Father.
The above describes the incipient stages of the spiritual life, or, more properly, the Divine means of begetting it within us. But it is evident that in order to see the full influence of the Incarnation, we must look at cases in which the operation, at any rate, approaches maturity. The New Testament is our most complete historic record of the spiritual life, in its origin, nature, modes, and results, and here the influence of the Incarnation is represented as conscious, constant, and thorough.