|« Prev||Preface||Next »|
TO those who really hunger and thirst after righteousness; and who therefore long to know what righteousness is, that they may copy it: To those who long to be freed, not merely from the punishment of sin after they die, but from sin itself while they live on earth; and who therefore wish to know what sin is, that they may avoid it: To those who wish to be really justified by faith, by being made just persons by faith; and who cannot satisfy either their consciences or reasons by fancying that God looks on them as right, when they know themselves to be wrong, or that the God of truth will stoop to fictions (miscalled forensic) which would be considered false and unjust in any human court of law: To those who cannot help trusting that union with Christ must be something real and substantial, and not merely a metaphor, and a flower of rhetoric: To those, lastly, who cannot help seeing that the doctrine of Christ in every man, as the Indwelling Word of God, The Light who lights every one who comes into the world, is no peculiar tenet of the Quakers, but one which runs through the whole of the Old and New Testaments, and without which they would both be unintelligible, just as the same doctrine runs through the whole history of the Early Church for the first two centuries, and is the only explanation of them;
To all these this noble little book will recommend itself; and may God bless the reading of it to them, and to all others no less.
As for its orthodoxy; to “evangelical” Christians Martin Luther’s own words ought to be sufficient warrant. For he has said that he owed more to this, than to any other book, saving the Bible and Saint Augustine. Those, on the other hand, to whom Luther’s name does not seem a sufficient guarantee, must recollect, that the Author of this book was a knight of the Teutonic order; one who considered himself, and was considered, as far as we know, by his contemporaries, an orthodox member of the Latin Church; that his friends and disciples were principally monks exercising a great influence in the Catholic Church of their days; that one of their leaders was appointed by Pope John XXII. Nuncio and overseer of the Dominican order in Germany; and that during the hundred and seventy years which elapsed between the writing of this book and the Reformation, it incurred no ecclesiastical censure whatsoever, in generations which were but too fond of making men offenders for a word.
Not that I agree with all which is to be found in this book. It is for its noble views of righteousness and of sin that I honour it, and rejoice at seeing it published in English, now for the first time from an edition based on the perfect manuscript. But even in those points in which I should like to see it altered, I am well aware that there are strong authorities against me. The very expression, for instance, which most startles me, “vergottet,” deified or made divine, is used, word for word, both by Saint Athanase and Saint Augustine, the former of whom has said: “He became man, that we might be made God;”11 Αὐτὸς ἐπηνθρώπησεν ἵνα ἡμεῖς θεοποιηθῶμεν .—Athan. Orat. de Incarn. Verbi, tom. I. page. 108. and the latter, “He called men Gods, as being deified by His grace, not as born of His substance.”22 “Homines dixit Deos, ex gradia sua deificatos; non de substantia sua natos,”—Aug. in Psalm xlix. (Ed. Bened. tom. iv. page 414.) There are many passages, moreover, in the Epistles of the Apostles, which, if we paraphrase them at all, we can hardly paraphrase in weaker words. It seems to me safer and wiser to cling to the letter of Scripture: but God forbid that I should wish to make such a man as the Author of the Theologia Germanica an offender for a word!
One point more may be worthy of remark. In many obscure passages of this book, words are used, both by the Author and by the Translator, in their strict, original, and scientific meaning, as they are used in the Creeds, and not in that meaning which has of late crept into our very pulpits, under the influence of Locke’s philosophy. When, for instance, it is said that God is the Substance of all things; this expression, in the vulgar Lockite sense of substance, would mean that God is the matter or stuff of which all things are made; which would be the grossest Pantheism: but “Substance” in the true and ancient meaning of the word, as it appears in the Athanasian Creed, signifies the very opposite; namely, that which stands under the appearance and the matter; that by virtue of which a thing has its form, its life, its real existence, as far as it may have any; and thus in asserting that God is the substance of all things, this book means that everything (except sin, which is no thing, but the disease and fall of a thing) is a thought of God.
So again with Eternity. It will be found in this book to mean not merely some future endless duration, but that ever‑present moral world, governed by ever-living and absolutely necessary laws, in which we and all spirits are now; and in which we should be equally, whether time and space, extension and duration, and the whole material universe to which they belong, became nothing this moment, or lasted endlessly.
I think it necessary to give these cautions, because by the light of Locke’s philosophy, little or nothing will be discerned in this book, and what little is discerned will probably be utterly misunderstood. If any man wishes to see clearly what is herein written, let him try to forget all popular modern dogmas and systems, all popular philosophies (falsely so called), and be true to the letter of his Bible, and to the instincts which the Indwelling Word of God was wont to awaken in his heart, while he was yet a little unsophisticated child; and then let him be sure that he will find in this book germs of wider and deeper wisdom than its good author ever dreamed of; and that those great spiritual laws, which the Author only applies, and that often inconsistently, to an ascetic and passively contemplative life, will hold just as good in the family, in the market, in the senate, in the study, ay, in the battlefield itself; and teach him the way to lead, in whatsoever station of life he may be placed, a truly manlike, because a truly Christlike and Godlike, life.
|« Prev||Preface||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version