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II. THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ANTITHESIS: UNFOLDING OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF GRACE ( 86-169)
While the consciousness of sin is a personal experience, it relates not merely to the individual but embraces the collective life of mankind. It is as a member of the body of humanity, as a participant in its common life, that he is conscious of sin and unblessedness. To this universal condition testify the confessions, offerings, purifications, and penances in all religions. While these are usually aimed at the avoidance of punishment rather than the extinction of sin their inevitable failure to remove unhappiness amounts to an expression of an inclination toward Christianity as that religion in which is found a Redeemer in whom appears the substance instead of the shadow. Moral development of the peoples tends in the same direction, because with moral progress there is a sharpening and intensification of the dissatisfaction connected with moral failure. And although for the distinctively Christian consciousness there is an acknowledgment of the unavoidability of sin and an assurance of its gradual disappearance, these convictions are the outcome of the growing power of the God-consciousness and are consequently accompanied by a more painful sense of the need of redemption and of the hopelessness of its removal by the personal efforts of men, because these efforts must partake of the sinful character of that common life of humanity from which they issue. Hence in 195Christianity the pre-eminent worth of redemption and the supreme place of the Redeemer.
The Christian experience of a growing dominancy of the God-consciousness and, in the same degree, of a growing blessedness, is not owing to any definite form of activity or of conditions, such as devout meditation or ascetic practices (for these have content of happiness only in so far as they contribute to the performance of those activities which one’s vocation calls for), but it is owing to participation in a new community which springs from the divine operation. That is to say, the Kingdom of God has come and the collective life of this new community constitutes it. This new life in men is by faith referred to Jesus Christ as its author, which is the same as to say that in him the kingdom of God appears. This Christian experience has indeed its source in Christ, but it never exists apart from the Christian community. The acceptance of the former with a denial of the latter involves separatism and fanaticism and is destructive of the essence of Christianity, because, in supposing that an individual could have, as it were, Christ for himself alone, it annuls the definite historical continuity of Christianity and renders an actual propagation of the activity of Christ impossible. The reverse attitude, i.e., the acceptance of the communal character of Christianity, with a denial of the necessity of a reference to Christ personally, makes his historical appearance only a link in a chain of prophets, supposes that the new community could arise out of the old 196 sinful collective life of humanity, and involves a denial of the universality of sin. It is to say, as does the Roman Catholic church in effect, that Christ is Redeemer because the church has constituted him such.
If we ask: In what way specifically is the redemption wrought by Christ? the answer is: By an impartation of his sinless perfection through the communion founded by him. The affirmation that Jesus possessed sinless perfection does not admit of proof in the ordinary sense. The Scripture proof fails because, uncertainties of meaning aside, all it can show is that this was the original form of Christian faith. The proof by reference to miracles and prophecies fails because it could only show how the primitive Christian faith arose and, besides, it is purely external. Our proposition is not to be understood as equivalent to an assertion that at a time when the consciousness of sin both as personal and collective was powerful in many men, all that was necessary was that a moral pre-eminence should fitly exhibit itself in a public life in order to bring about an ascription to such an. individual of the desired sinless perfection as the only possible succor of men. For this is as if it were said that faith had constituted Jesus the Redeemer. It would involve a gradual diminution of the certainty of his value as we become farther removed from the original impression of his person, and it would make room for the expectation of another to whom that perfection might be ascribed more worthily. But our meaning is that the acknowledgment of that perfection 197is the work of Jesus himself and that out of that acknowledgment arises the new collective life which is therefore founded by Jesus; the action of this new communion reproduces the same faith and is itself therefore just the operation within the communion of that personal perfection of Jesus. If it be objected that an impartation of sinless perfection through a body, in every member of which there are manifestations of the universal sinfulness, is impossible, the answer is: these manifestations are the still remaining expression of that collective life which was controlled by sin before the new life appeared in the midst of it, and the impartation of the absolutely powerful God-consciousness in Christ (in the historical Christian communion) is as yet inner experience received by an impression from without. In regard to this experience there are two statements to be made: (1) from the image of Christ, which subsists in that Christian society with which the individual comes into contact, as its collective act and its collective possession, he receives an impression of the sinless perfection of Christ which, on the one hand, gives rise to a perfect consciousness of sin in himself, and, on the other hand, removes his unblessedness; (2) within this Christian society, in spite of all its errors and sinful manifestations, there is an ever-working inner impulse toward the true and good; this is from Christ, and in spite of all reactions will ever increasingly manifest itself outwardly. These two elements constitute a true impartation of the perfection of Christ.198
The existence of this illimitable power of the God-consciousness in Christ and its operation within the human race may be regarded as supernatural or as natural, according to the point of view taken. In view of the human race constituting a collective life which naturally propagates sin, this communication coming from a power without it is a supernatural work. But in relation to the Redeemer himself the existence of this new collective life is no miracle but the normal working of that supernatural power in its assumption of natural ethical forms and in its appropriation to itself of the material surrounding it. Similarly of the individual’s transition from the old collective life into the new; in relation to his former life the change is of supernatural origin, because it arises from a source beyond that old life; but in respect to the new life it is a natural event because it is its normal mode of activity. In the initiative divine activity is the supernatural, but by virtue of the living human receptivity the supernatural takes on historical, natural form. But the perfect connection between the old stage of human existence and the new stage brought in by the advent of the Redeemer lies only in the unity of the divine thought.
Now sin, in and for itself, is non-existent for God and no object of his counsel; so also a redemption merely in reference to sin can be no object of the divine counsel. But since sin consists in the inability to realize the God-consciousness, therefore the sin-consciousness199 (which has been shown already to be one with sin) as a necessary condition of the receptivity of the God-consciousness is a good in relation to the highest development of human nature. Without it there would have been no living receptivity for the impartation of Jesus gift. Without it that full development of man which appears in the perfect ascendancy of the God-consciousness in the self-consciousness would not take place; and hence, redemption from sin may be designated as the completion of the creation of human nature. But this means that Christ, by virtue of that absolutely powerful God-consciousness which is his original endowment, enters with creative power into the course of human history to stimulate human nature to a perfect consciousness of its sinfulness and to an assimilation of his own perfection. With the bringing of his activity under the law of human development there is assured its gradual extension over the whole race. And since to the religious consciousness creation and preservation are at bottom equivalents, we conclude that the whole race of man has been ordered and preserved with reference to the impartation of the sinless perfection of Christ--the whole race from the beginning has a relation to the Redeemer.
The unfolding of the consciousness of grace in the same framework as was used for the unfolding of the consciousness of sin will accordingly complete the dogmatic (§§ 86-90).200
Section I. The State of the Christian so Far as He Is Conscious of Divine Grace (§§ 91-112)
In all the various forms of Christianity the fundamental element of every Christian’s consciousness of grace is that of fellowship with God only in a life-fellowship with Christ of such a sort that in our need of redemption we are freely receptive to his free self-originated activity in the communication of his absolutely sinless perfection and blessedness. These two elements, Christ’s activity and our receptivity thereto, will yield for us a discussion of the manner in which the Redeemer and the redeemed appear in the Christian consciousness of grace, in two divisions. In the first division will appear those propositions concerning Christ which are immediate expressions of this consciousness of grace; and in the second, those propositions which describe the relation between grace and the state of sin in the human soul, as that relation is mediated by Christ.
FIRST DIVISION: DOCTRINE OF CHRIST (§§ 92-105)
In the doctrine of Christ we may take our starting-point either from his person or from his activity. These are inseparable and each finds in the other its full expression. It is in respect of his work that we treat him as Redeemer; we set him over against all other men in such a way that their conscious blessed relation to God is ascribed solely to him as the author of it and not in any degree to themselves or others. But this is to ascribe an exclusive 201and absolute dignity to his person. Or, if we regard him as the one in whom the creation of human nature is perfected, we then ascribe to him a quality which is not the product of his environment, or which he owes to the developed insight of those who so regard him, but which, on the contrary, is itself the secret of their personal development. But this is to assign an absolute and exclusive value to his activity. Thus his person and his work correspond in value. We are not to conceive of a dignity of his person which is not fully exhibited in his activity, nor of an exhibition of activity which has its spring in any degree outside of himself. However, in deference to current ecclesiastical formulae, we may treat of his person and of his work separately. Our method will be to exhibit these, first, as related to the individual, and then, as related to the church, which must be the perfect revelation of the worth of the Redeemer, just as the universe is a perfect revelation of the attributes of God.
1. The Person of Christ
The Christian communion as a union of men produced through participation in a common religious life, as a union moreover into which all other religious associations are destined to pass, finds that life entirely in Christ, and owes the exercise of all its activities to him as their source. Accordingly the worth of the Redeemer must be so conceived as to account for this effect. This religious energy, i.e., the power of the God-consciousness, must have existed in him in a 202 perfect archetypal form and must have determined the character of all the activities of his life, none of them being destitute of it or possessing it imperfectly, and thus the communion-forming activity of Christ is manifested, not in special acts, but in the entire course of his career. Since it is in the Christian communion the activity of Christ is exercised, that communion must be a perfect embodiment of the energy resident in him.
If it be objected that in the Christian communion the religious condition is never absolutely perfect, but is ever in need of development, and that, therefore, it is not necessary to attribute to the Redeemer such an archetypal character, but only such a character as served for the prefiguration of the end which the communion ever strives to attain; and hence that such ascriptions of dignity to Christ are only the hyperbole of believers, we reply: If this were the case, with the widening of the personal self-consciousness to a race-consciousness, i.e., so as to include the whole race, there must arise a hope and expectation of some time surpassing Christ, at least in the case of the noblest of its members; but as a matter of fact such a hope never has arisen and never could arise without destroying that very communion whose development is sup posed to produce the hope; and further, if this absolutely perfect religious energy did not exist in Christ, it would be impossible to account for the possession of such an archetype by the Christian communion. It can have arisen within the religious 203consciousness in no other way than through the exhibition of it in a historical, personal life.
If it be further objected that the imperfect human conditions, the unperfected state of language, of science, etc., in which Christ’s life was lived, rendered the appearing of such an archetype impossible and that he must constitute only a link, though an important one, in that gradual, continuous religious evolution which can be traced from early Jewish life, we may reply; At that rate Christ would be only a more or less original and revolutionary reformer of Jewish law and such a new communion as has actually arisen would be impossible; and further, since in such a case his life could only have been the product of that general sinful life of which men universally partake, the experience of redemption through him could never have occurred and the claim of Christianity finally to draw all other religions to itself and to develop out of itself ever-increasing perfection and blessedness could never have arisen.
The only possible explanation of the appearing of Christ in the sphere of human life is that it was a miraculous manifestation; his personal spiritual life sprang by a creative divine act from the universal fountain of spiritual life, so that the idea of man, as the subject of the God-consciousness found in him historically an absolute realization. Or to state it differently: From his birth onward, along with the gradual unfolding of his natural powers, the God-consciousness possessed absolute control over the energies 204 of his being. On the one hand, this makes it impossible that there should ever have arisen within him the slightest trace of a sin-consciousness or an inner moral conflict or uncertainty. On the other hand, his physical and mental equipment must have been conditioned by the age and the environment, otherwise we must attribute to him an empirical omniscience and omnipotence which would be fatal to the historical character of his life. Hence the appearing of Christ in the world was both absolutely miraculous and perfectly natural.
The Redeemer, then, possessed sameness of nature with all other men. His freedom from sin does not annul his perfect identity with the race, since, as we have seen, sin does not pertain to the essence (Wesen) of man, but is rather a destruction of his nature, as is implied in the very consciousness of sin as guilt. Yet his activity, or the peculiar personal worth which conditioned it, is not thereby compromised or made attributable to other men. Faith in Christ implies that he held such a relation to the human race as none other could have, i.e., owing to the absolute power of the God-consciousness in him, his person was archetypal, which is the same as to say that God was present in him as a person.
We cannot speak with truth of the presence of God in any individual thing or in man but only of his presence in the world. Not in any individual thing, for this would imply division in God. Not in man, for neither man’s activity nor his rational thought in 205its attempts to present a pure and true conception of God, is free from sensuousness. Consequently we are not able to sec in unconscious nature or conscious rational life a revelation of God unless we have first seen it in Christ, in whom the God-consciousness was present as his own personal being and innermost self. And since it is only through him that the God-consciousness comes to possess others, and since, further, it is only in reference to man that the world can be said to contain a revelation of God, we can say that all revelation of God in man and in the world is mediated through Christ.
But if, on the other hand, he shared in common with us the whole process of natural human development, yet without being involved in human sin, the beginning of his life must be regarded as an original act of human nature, i.e., an act of human nature as not affected by sin. And thence onward to the completion of his life there must have been such a filling of his nature with the God-consciousness as completely exhausted human receptivity. Therefore we may regard the beginning of Christ’s life as the perfected creation of human nature. As the creation of the first Adam constituted the self-propagating physical nature of man, so the appearing of the second Adam constituted for the same human nature its new self-propagating spiritual life. Both rest on one indivisible, eternal, divine decree, and they form in the higher sense one and the same (though beyond the grasp of our thought) coherent unitary Nature.206
Proceeding from this standpoint, the current doctrinal formulae, which in large measure have arisen from speculative, apologetic, and polemic interests, may be subjected to critical treatment and restatement.
1. “In Jesus Christ the divine nature and human nature were united in one person.” The aim of those passages in the historic creeds which so describe the Redeemer is doubtless to inculcate the possibility of a communion between him and us in the new common life which he originated, and at the same time to express the being of God in him; from which follows that in our relation to him unlimited veneration for him and brotherly fellowship with him are combined. But the terms of the creedal statement are open to criticism: First, the name Jesus Christ is used to designate not only the subject of the union of the two natures but also the divine nature of the Redeemer before its union with the human; so that the union appears no longer as a moment (potency) constituting the person Jesus Christ, but rather as the act of this person himself. Whereas, in the New Testament the name Jesus Christ is used only of the subject of this union. Second, the use of the term nature in reference to both the divine and the human is confusing. Besides, the terms God and nature represent opposite conceptions in our thought. Nature properly denotes the sum of finite existences, the manifold phenomenal world in contrast with the unconditional and the absolutely simple. We cannot use the term natural properly of God. The creeds betray here the play of heathen ideas. Third, 207the creedal statement implies a relation between nature and person opposed to general usage. For while usage allows the ascription of the same nature to several individuals or persons, here one person has two entirely different natures. Now person properly denotes a life-unity and nature the general content of his modes of action, or the law of the interaction of the conditions of life within a definite realm. But how can there be a unity of life with a duality of natures, especially since one has a large sphere and the other a small? Between them the self-identical ego is lost. It is impossible for the mind to construe the figure of such a person. The outcome is either the melting of the two natures into a third, which is neither divine nor human, for the sake of maintaining the unity of the person; or the separation of the natures at the cost of neglecting the person; or the subordination of one nature to the other. The history of the subject exhibits all these results. Fourth, the question whether Christ had two wills is inevitably raised. If he had only the human will, then the divine nature is abbreviated, or if only the divine, then the human nature is abbreviated. But if he had two wills, the unity of the person would be unreal; and, further, since understanding and will cannot be conceived as independent, the question of the duality of the under standing is involved. Fifth, the formula quoted does not harmonize with the same creedal statement of the doctrine of the Trinity which abandons the unity of person for the sake of unity of “essence.” And when 208 we ask how the divine “nature” in Christ relates itself to the divine “essence,” no answer is possible.
It is evident that the creedal statement carries us far away from the religious interest into hair-splitting and speculation. Its practical use in the church is small indeed. There is here offered as a substitute for it the following: The Redeemer is like all men in the possession of the same human nature, but distinguished from all men through the absolute power of the God-consciousness which constituted a personal existence of God in him. In him the human was the perfect organ for the reception and presentation of the divine. All that was human in him came forth from the divine. In this sense may be justified the statement: In the Redeemer God became man.
2. “In the uniting of the divine nature with the human, the divine alone was active or self-communicative and the human only passive or receptive, but during the continuance of the union every activity was common to both.” The object in making special mention of a beginning of Christ’s existence was to exclude the idea of a something subsequently added to him--which would be an injury to faith in his person. But since we are not immediately affected by the beginning of his existence the formula involves a work of supererogation. Further, the beginning and the continuance of Christ’s existence constitute a unity. The beginning of his personal existence is the beginning of his activity and every moment (potency) in his activity, so far as it can be regarded apart, is at 209the same time a new becoming of his peculiar personality.
The idea that the divine nature took up the human into the unity of its person is objectionable, not only because of the impropriety of the expression, “divine nature,” but particularly because it makes the personality of Christ entirely independent of the personality of the second person of the Trinity, with which it is nevertheless regarded as identical. The view is not distinct from Sabellianism, and it is unfair to all those views which approach Sabellianism to connect this formula with the doctrine of three persons in one essence. Historically a knowledge of the doctrine of the Trinity had no connection with that original impression of the personality of Christ which produced the first disciples faith or with their apprehension of him in thought. Moreover, since human nature can become a person only in the same sense in which persons exist in the Trinity, then the three persons in the divine essence must be, like human persons, separate self-existences, or else the human personality of Christ becomes unreal. The Docetism of the formula also appears in the putting of the human into a passive condition in the beginning of Christ’s personal existence, which is yet not the case with the beginning of any other personal existence. But if he was a perfect human person, the formation of this person must have been an act of human nature. The contradictions inherent in this formula have given rise to the scholastic doctrine of the impersonality of 210the human nature of Christ previous to its union with the divine, and the doctrine of the supernatural generation of Christ. The former, while aimed at refuting the view of those who held that the Word was united with Christ after he had become a human personality, is guilty of making the human in Christ less perfect than it is in us. The latter is entangled in the difficulties arising from the varying representations in the New Testament Scriptures and falls back upon a doctrine of the Scriptures. Its dogmatic value could be only in relation to the question of hereditary sin and the implanting of the divine in human nature. Christ’s freedom from the universal state of sin would not be secured by the exclusion of the male from the act of procreation; it would also necessitate absolute purity in all the woman’s progenitors, and so annul the universal sinfulness. The doctrine is connected with asceticism.
That part of the creedal statement .which draws a distinction between the divine activity in the act of union and the subsequent divine activities treats divine activity as temporal and so brings God into the sphere of antithesis. All that is meant to be gained in the above statement and in the doctrine that the union was personal is secured by our statement that the person of Christ was the product of an original divine creative act the separate momenta of which appeared in his human development. In Christ the creation of humanity was perfected.
3. “Christ was distinct from all other men through 211his essential sinlessness and his absolute perfection.” By essential is to be understood that which has its ground in the inner character of his personality, namely, the conjunction of the divine and the human in his person. Inasmuch as liability to temptation and error seems to be hereby denied, it is difficult to construe the statement in relation to his feelings and thoughts without annulling his sameness of nature with us. With this doctrine the idea of the natural immortality of Christ is connected; it is not, however, embodied in any of the symbols of the faith or grounded in any biblical passage, but it rests upon the opinion that death is the penalty of sin. But, in accordance with the view of evil already presented, we can accept this idea no farther than to say that for Christ death was no evil. His immortality is given him in his resurrection. Natural inability to die denies natural capacity to suffer. If this doctrine is meant to conserve the view of Christ’s death as proceeding from his own free will, it necessitates a miracle on Christ’s part so as to make himself mortal in order to be killed, and so virtually makes him a suicide. The predicate of absolute perfection adds nothing which may not be referred to the union of the divine with human nature. We may say only this, that just as the Redeemer could appear first only at a certain time and only from a certain people; so also the divine activity would not have laid hold on human nature to constitute a human personality by any such act as could involve in any way a malformation. In regard 212 to his body all that can be posited is that it must have been a suitable organ of that union of the divine and the human.
The events of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, as well as the promise of his return to judgment, are to be excluded from forming a part of the doctrine of his person, because they do not come into direct relation to faith in him nor could such visible events have any connection with his elevation to spiritual lordship or with his redeeming power; but they depend upon a doctrine of the records. Therefore they cannot be an expression of the religious consciousness of redemption or represented as constitutive of his redeeming activity. Christ’s promised continual presence and his continuous influence upon his disciples are not mediated by these events, for their faith in him was prior to any expectation of such occurrences; so also with many Christians since. The ascension served only contingently for the accomplishment of the seating at God’s right hand, and this, again, is only an expression of the peculiar and incomparable worth of Christ; and the promise of the return served in like manner for the satisfaction of the longing to be united with Christ. But the important point is: Faith in Jesus has not arisen from particular statements about Christ or acts of his, but from the total impression of his person; from which follows only this, that no individual events appear which could prevent that faith (§§ 93-99).213
2. The Work of Christ
It has been pointed out that the dignity of the person of Christ and the value of his work are religiously equivalents. The worth of his person consists in the absolute power of the God-consciousness in him, as an original possession. However, it possesses that worth for us, not as a mere object of our contemplation, but because this consciousness is self-communicating, and so passes to us. The expression and impartation of this God-consciousness is rendered possible by the original perfection of man and of the world. His work, then, is summed up in his self-communication, and it may be regarded either from the point of view of the Redeemer’s activity, or from that of the experience (reception) of it by the redeemed. The latter will be dealt with in the section which treats of the manner in which communion with the Redeemer is expressed in the soul of the individual. The former will be treated here.
A. The possession by Christ of the God-consciousness to the degree that it had absolute control of all his energies involves his sinless perfection and blessedness. By the impartation of that God-consciousness to men, they obtain a communion with him in that perfection and blessedness. That is to say, they obtain redemption and reconciliation.
1) Redemption.--The personal consciousness of the individual is a consciousness of sin and imperfection, and all his activities bear that stamp; but when through our relation to Christ we have a participation 214 in his consciousness, sin is regarded by us, just as it was by him in his sympathy with us, not as constituting our fundamental character, but as an alien element to be overcome. Thus Christ has taken us up into a participation in his activity which constitutes the state of grace, and henceforward all our activities are to be regarded as his activity in us. Or, to state it conversely, the advancement of our higher life is the act of the Redeemer, now become our personal act. This expresses the Christian consciousness- of grace. The impartation of his God-consciousness to us is an act of self-revelation, and our conscious need and acceptance thereof is effected in us by his working upon us. Now, if the personality of the Redeemer is owing to an original creative act of God, so that we may say that God was personally present in him and that all his activities proceeded from the being of God in him, then the penetration of our nature by the activity of the Redeemer must likewise constitute the being of Christ in us and form us into a new personality (cf. Gal. 2:20; Rom. 8:10; John 17:23; II Cor. 13:6; Rom. 6:2, 6, 11; I Pet. 2:24; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:22, 24). Thenceforth all impressions upon us are received differently, our personal self-consciousness is new, the man is a new man. And though the new man may still be conscious of imperfection and sin, these no longer pertain to his inner personality, which has become one with Christ; but they pertain to the outer relations of his being, so that he counts them alien and opposed to his nature.215
And further, since the divine creation had reference, not to individuals as such, but to a world and only to individuals as related, constituent parts of the whole, then the activity of the Redeemer must be world-forming, and its object human nature universally, and not individuals as such. Thus the whole act of Christ in redemption consists in the implanting of the governing God-consciousness, in the propagation of the creative divine activity, as a new principle of life, in the whole of human nature, and all the energies of human nature become the organs for the propagation of the God-consciousness in those who come into spiritual contact with the communion in which that consciousness is operating, i.e., with the new organism which Christ has formed for himself. The calling of Christ is his work of bringing individuals to an acceptance of this new life- fellowship with himself through the activity of the communion in which it now dwells; and his animating activity refers to his relation to the common life as the cause of its continuance in the church and in the individual. This mystical apprehension of redemption stands mid-way between two other modes of representing the Redeemer’s work, which may be designated as the magical, and the empirical The first is that which attributes to Christ a redeeming activity independently of the founding of the Christian communion as the means of its propagation--some say, through the medium of the written word, others say, without it; and the second attributes all to his example and doctrine, and thus renders his 2i6 personal appearing in the world unnecessary. But the proof of the superiority of our view is found only in experience.
2) Reconciliation.--If God was in Christ in such a way that the God-consciousness was his whole personal consciousness, perfect blessedness as well as sin less perfection is involved; that is to say, nothing in the world, in human existence, or in his own experience, became an evil to him through repressing or limiting that inner life, but rather a means for its exercise. Therefore his self-revelation to men as an act of self-communication brings them into the communion of that blessedness. Thus his reconciling work comes to expression as the result of his redemption. Hence, for the believer as for Christ, evil is excluded. Pain, sickness, sorrow, death are no longer evils to him; they do not limit his religious life, but serve rather for its guidance and progress. Through the possession of a common life with Christ the connection between sin and evil ceases for him. The old man has ceased to be. Sin is forgiven, punishment is ended. This is the common consciousness of all believers.
As in redemption, so in reconciliation, this mystical apprehension stands in contrast to the prevailing magi cal and empirical views, the former annulling the naturalness of Christ’s continuous efficacy, and the latter its supernatural beginning and distinctive peculiarity. For the former makes the communication of Christ’s blessedness independent of our reception into a life-communion with him, by making the forgiveness 217of sins an external and arbitrary result of Christ’s sufferings, and blessedness a reward externally and arbitrarily conferred on account of these sufferings. On this supposition there would be no more assurance of blessedness within the Christian communion than without it. The latter, by making our blessedness dependent upon our wavering development in religious life, fails to establish a constant assurance in the heart and places Christ in the same relation to us as it places other men.
While our view of redemption and reconciliation does not accord to the sufferings of Christ themselves a primary relation to our salvation, this is justifiable on the ground that the opposite view would exclude a perfect acceptance into life-fellowship with Christ prior to his death. His sufferings constitute an element of the second rank, immediately in relation to reconciliation and only mediately in relation to redemption. As concerns redemption: the perfection of Christ’s saving activity could be manifested only in case it yielded to no opposition, not even to that involving his death. This perfection does not He in his sufferings but in his submission to them. But when leaving out of sight the founding of the new communion, the climax of his career is isolated from the rest of his life and his submission to sufferings for the sake of those sufferings themselves is looked upon as the sum of his redemptive activity, we have a magical view, a caricature of the doctrine of redemption. As concerns reconciliation: reception 218into the fellowship of Christ’s blessedness depends on a longing for it on the part of those who, conscious of their unblest state, have received an impression of the blessedness of Christ. The blessedness of Christ could perfectly appear only as it proved itself superior to the fulness of sufferings, and so much the more as these sufferings resulted from the opposition of sin. Here the Redeemer’s sympathy for the unblest enters on its highest phase. On this side, then, it is not his submission to sufferings but the sufferings themselves which become the highest sanction of faith in his blessedness. But surely that view is a caricature which, entirely overlooking the necessity for immovable blessedness in Christ and isolating a single element in his activity (and that too sometimes, his physical sufferings) as the ground of salvation, posits the reconciling power of his sufferings directly in this, that he freely gave up his own blessedness and actually, even if only temporarily, became unblest.
Our view, on the contrary, keeps in mind that salvation for men is found in their reception into a life-fellowship with Christ; that such is nothing else than a continuation of that creative divine act whose manifestation in time began in the constitution of the person of Christ; that every intensive exaltation of this new life in its relation to the disappearance of the collective life of sin is itself a continuation of that divine activity, and that in this new life is attained the original destiny of humanity, beyond which for a 219nature like ours there is nothing to be conceived or to strive for.
B. The common division of Christ’s activity into the prophetic, the priestly, and the kingly is not arbitrary, but corresponds to the three factors operating in the development of the theocracy among the Jews. It was therefore a natural form of early Christian teaching in which a comparison with Judaism necessarily appeared, and in which there was ascribed to Christ a relation to God and men that exhausted the sphere of the divine economy of salvation.
1) The prophetic activity of Christ, as of the Jewish prophets, appeared in doctrine, prophecy, and miracle. The source of his doctrine was the pure original revelation of God in him, and, so far as the inner production of his thought is concerned, it was independent of the Jewish law. The essential content of it was his self-presentation, the setting forth in discourse of the creative God-consciousness as it stamped itself on his mental faculties so as to bring men into communion with himself. It may be divided into three inseparable portions: (1) the doctrine of his person which again on its outer side is (2) the doctrine of his calling or of the impartation of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, and on its inner side is (3) the doctrine of his own relation to God as the Father to be revealed through him. His doctrine is therefore summed up in the presentation of his person as the original revelation of God. The sufficiency 220and inexhaustibleness of this renders Christ the climax and end of all prophecy.
His prophecies, as did the Jewish (we refer not to special and hypothetical predictions but to their broad universal character), referred to the consummation of the Kingdom of God. Since this is given in himself, all prediction is completed and ended in him. We are speaking not of isolated predictions, but of the one all-embracing prediction of the historical unfolding of the revelation of God in himself, involving, of course, a foretelling of the downfall of the temporary, and, at the time, opposing, Jewish theocracy. Apostolic predictions are to be received as an exposition or an echo of Christ. All supposed predictions or anticipations of future events falling outside this field are to be subjected to natural psychic research.
His miracles at the time of their performance possessed value for those who beheld in them an exhibition of his person, but in themselves no longer possess validity for our consciousness because of our separation from these occurrences in time and space. They are subjects for scientific investigation and pass beyond the range of dogmatics. In place of them we have today the knowledge of the quality, range, and continuance of the spiritual workings of Christ. For us all miracles are comprehended and therefore ended in the one great spiritual miracle of his appearing. The miracles pertained to his prophetic office because they were a setting forth of the being of God in him.221
2) The high-priestly office of Christ is not so suitable a description of his work because of the many contrasts between him and the Jewish high priest. As self-presentative, his priestly work is prophetic; and as supplying his people’s needs, his intercession is a kingly office. Yet the prophetic and priestly offices may be distinguished thus: In his prophetic work Christ’s self-presentation regards men as in antithesis to himself, and aims at making them receptive of union with him, which union is ever incomplete; his high-priestly work accepts our union with him as consummated in that, by a life-communion with him by which we participate in his perfection, his pure will to fulfil God’s will is actively present in us, if not in performance, at least as motive. Though our manifestation of this oneness with him is ever incomplete, it is acknowledged by God as absolute and eternal, and is so posited in our faith. Accordingly it may be said that he represents us as the principle of our new life, that his righteousness is reckoned to us, and that we become objects of the divine good pleasure--not in any external sense, but as one with him in inner life. But we cannot ascribe to him a fulfilment of the law for us nor a fulfilment of God’s will in our behalf in any other sense.
Turning now to what is commonly designated as the passive obedience of Christ in contrast with his active obedience, which has just been discussed (though we must remember that these are merely distinctions of convenience), we may describe it as follows: Christ 222 suffered for our sins, not as punishment, but by his coming into contact with human sin and misery. But for him nothing, not even death, was evil, and hence could be no punishment for sin. Similarly also for the redeemed; because the consciousness of guilt is removed by our union with him, the connection between evil and our sins, i.e., punishment, ceases for us. Herein, then, we see the redemptive value of Christ’s sufferings: In his suffering unto death there is manifested to us an absolutely self-denying love, and thus is presented in perfect clearness the manner in which God was in Christ to reconcile the world to himself. In his sufferings perfect holiness and perfect blessedness stand before us. Just as the active obedience of Christ has its high-priestly worth pre-eminently in this, that God sees us in Christ as associates in his obedience; so the high-priestly worth of his passive obedience consists pre-eminently in this, that we see God in Christ and Christ as the most immediate participant in the eternal love which sent and equipped him.
From this point of view we may correct two prevailing misinterpretations of his death. The first is the almost antiquated so-called “wounds-theology,” which thinks to find the worth of Christ’s sufferings in an emotional contemplation of them in detail. But this doctrine of salvation by contemplation annuls Christ’s activity and destroys his priesthood. The second of these misinterpretations is that view which understands the doctrine that Christ’s death 223removes our punishment, in the sense that he bore in his death as the sum of all evils that measure of punishment demanded by the sins of the human race and thereby satisfied the divine righteousness. But apart from the implication that the divine nature must have participated in the sufferings of Christ, the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction wrongly makes God the arbitrary author of Christ’s sufferings, removes punishment from its natural connection with the morally bad, and so ignores the unity of nature. So far as Christ’s work is satisfying--i.e., in that through the one entire act of his life, he became the eternally inexhaustible source of all life that is spiritual and blessed--in that respect it is not vicarious; because we are still under the necessity of exhibiting that same activity of life in communion with him. And in the respect in which he is our representative--i.e., in his feeling the sinfulness of others badness just in that respect he did not offer satisfaction, because those not yet in communion with him must feel their own unblessedness before they can enter into his communion, and because they will afterward share his sympathy for others. But he is our satisfying representative in that he presents human nature in perfection by the manifestation of his archetypal worth in his redemptive activity, so that God regards in him the totality of believers and sees in his free devotion to death such a perfection of redeeming power as is sufficient to bring the whole race within his communion.
Finally, Christ’s intercession refers, not to single 224 petitions for individual men, but to his relation to the totality of the redeemed in such a way that in our prayers to God his co-operation appears in the purified and perfect God-consciousness of the Christian communion. In this sense it is only through him that our prayers are well-pleasing to God and efficacious.
Thus Christ is the climax of all priesthood, because he exhausts its significance, and he is the end of all priesthood because he is the perfect mediator between God and the human race for all time. At the same time, his priesthood has passed over to the communion of believers in that his whole redeeming activity is exhibited in them. They stand toward the rest of humanity in a similar relation to that of the Jewish priesthood toward the people. This annuls all special priesthood and the meritoriousness of all individual actions or sufferings.
3) The kingly office of Christ relates to his living union with believers in a communion; it refers not to a special relation to individuals but only to them as members of his community. Since the communion arises out of the impartation of his consciousness, he is the continuous and inexhaustible source of supply for all its needs; the kingdom of God begins, subsists, and is perfected in his person. He is the animating principle of that communion, the power that draws men into it, the source of all legislation in it, and hence absolutely and exclusively lord over it. His personal consciousness produces the laws of its life, and these are accordingly eternal; all legislation proceeding from another source is alien to his kingdom.225
The question may be propounded: How does this kingdom stand related to the universal divine government? This question proceeds on theoretical grounds and produces only a theoretical difficulty. Faith is directed to Christ simply as source of grace and of the spiritual power and glory which flow from it, and when anything is said of his possession of a power over the natural world, as if he shared the lordship over it with God (which is contradicted by his prayers to God), this leads us beyond the sphere of faith. In the sphere in which Christ’s power is exercised it is of course infinite, but that sphere is the communion founded by him, and therefore he has power over the world only in the sense that through the communion of believers--by their presentation of his person in word and deed--his redeeming activity is exerted upon men in drawing them to himself.
Accordingly also Christ is the climax and end of all spiritual kingship. All other sorts of spiritual authority, as that of the teacher over his scholars, the exemplar over his imitators, the legislator over his subjects, are only partial and belong to a lower and subordinate grade. In this respect he stands contrasted with all other founders of religions. All other kinds of kingship end in his because they are only an imitation of his. This involves a separation of his kingdom from all political and civil powers, which effectuate their decrees through the use of material force. Christianity is neither a political religion nor a religious state or theocracy. By the purely spiritual authority of his God-consciousness he puts an end to 226 both. The farther his reign is extended and established the more clearly will church and state be separated and therefore the more harmoniously will they co-exist.
NOTE.--Christ’s humiliation and exaltation: These expressions must be excluded from a doctrinal statement of Christ’s person and work, since the conditions so designated have no bearing on his person in itself or his work in itself, or the relation of his person to his work. The supposition of an earlier condition of Christ’s which was higher than his earthly, or of a later higher condition, is inconsistent with the unity of his person and militates against faith in his person as he was manifested on earth. It implies also impossible changes in the divine nature, as that to the absolutely extreme and eternal, and, there fore, self-identical, a humiliation may be ascribed; or self-contradictory conceptions of the relations of the divine and human in him, as that the attributes of one or another are alternately subject to limitation or quiescence. It is contradicted by Christ’s own statements concerning his own relations to the Father while on earth, which do not regard his sitting at God’s right hand as an exaltation (cf. John 1:51; 4:34; 5:17, 20 ff.; 6:57; 8:29; 10:30, 36). The idea has arisen from Phil. 2:6-9, a rhetorical passage of an ascetical character, which has been interpreted didactically. The whole doctrine destroys the unity of Christ’s person and the reality of his earthly life, and is fatal to faith in his redemption (§§ 100-105).
SECOND DIVISION: THE MANNER IN WHICH COMMUNION WITH THE PERFECTION AND BLESSEDNESS OF THE REDEEMER IS EXPRESSED IN THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL (§§ 106-12)
The personal self-consciousness, properly under stood, is a race-consciousness, from which the consciousness of sin is inseparable. The individual 227identifies himself with a collective life which is sinful, and that collective sinful life is expressed in the soul of the individual as personal guilt and ill-desert. The experience of a repression of the God-consciousness is connected with external events in such a way. that they become evils, i.e., punishment of our sins, which is the experience of unblessedness. In this state of the individual previous to his entering into a life-communion with Christ the God-consciousness is not constant and dominant, but appears only in intermittent flashes.
But by the working of Christ, through the word and the activities of the communion which has its life-source in him, this relation of the individual states and activities to the God-consciousness is changed, for these are now continuously controlled by it as the governing force of the personal life. Or, as otherwise stated, the self-consciousness of the individual is fundamentally altered because it is identified with a new collective life which originates in the God-consciousness of Christ. But the man, though a new personality, is still, as regards the unity of his psychical life, the same. The new state is grafted on the old, as it were. The change forms a turning-point from which onward the new life is in a condition of becoming. This turning-point is regeneration, and the progressive development of the life there from is sanctification.
These terms have a reference to the race. The entrance of Christ into the sphere of human existence 228 was potentially a new creation of the entire race. The beginning; of that new creation of the race is its regeneration; the gradual extension of that creative act throughout all the members of the race is its sanctification. The relation of the person of Christ to the rest of humanity is in analogy to the relation between the divine in him and his human nature; only that in the latter case at the very first a pure personality arose and the extension of the God-consciousness in his human nature was uninterrupted, whereas in the former case, on account of the identity of the subject in the old and the new states, elements from the old state of sinfulness interfere with the regularity of the development. Now, the regeneration of the race actually appears only in the regeneration of the individuals; and since the communion of believers consists of the totality of the sanctified energies of all who have been received into a fellowship of life with Christ, so also the sanctification of the individual involves in itself the operation of all those forces by which the communion is formed, held together, and extended.
Regeneration may be regarded in two ways: (1) Reception into communion with Christ may be regarded as a settled permanent relation of man to God; formerly his relation to the divine holiness and righteousness appeared in the consciousness of guilt and desert of punishment, but with entrance into communion with Christ that disappears. (2) Reception 229into this communion may be regarded as a change in the form of life: in all the energies of life the will was formerly controlled by sensuousness and those impulses which sprang from the God-consciousness only coursed through the life without determining it, but now the relation is reversed. That is, in the first of these aspects regeneration is justification; in the second it is conversion. These are inseparably held together in the experience of fellowship, a fellowship which involves both a participation in Christ’s perfection and a participation in his blessedness.
1) Conversion.--In the beginning of the new life of communion with Christ there are for the individual experience two elements--repentance and faith. Both are the outcome in the individual of Christ’s self-presenting (prophetic), self-communicating (kingly) activity as exercised in that communion with which he comes into contact, by word and deed. Repentance is related to the past life in its totality (and not to separate acts merely, as it would be if produced through the law), and manifests itself in the form of regret for the sinfulness of the past and a change of mind as to the aim and purpose of life. It is a transition from activity in the old life to a subjection to the energy of the new; accordingly it implies faith. Faith is an act receptive of the Redeemer as presented in the Christian communion. It is no mere static condition, for human life is essentially active, and Christian piety is teleological. Even in its receptivity of the divine grace human nature is active. 230And if we go back from effectual divine grace which actually brings a man into communion with Christ, to that prevenient grace which shows itself, according to the laws of our nature, in the indistinct, often fitful, longing for redemption, we shall find that this is that original divine impartation which was bestowed at the creation of the race and which constitutes human nature, and that this impartation itself was bestowed in relation to the full redemptive activity of Christ which was yet to appear, so that a man’s co-operation in his own conversion is not independent of grace. Here appears the parallel between the divine redemption of the race as it is actualized in the individuals comprising the race, and that divine creative act which consisted in the formation of Christ’s person and the permeating of his being with the God-consciousness.
The contention of many teachers both in the English and in the German church that children born in the bosom of the Christian church are to be received as children into its fellowship because they are already members of the body of Christ and have already been regenerated in their baptism, is to be rejected. For in all, whether born in the church or out of it, those forces which cause the rise of sin are at work and in all there is the tendency to degrade the divine to the sensuous. Infant baptism does not affect this power of sin in them, so that all are equally in need of conversion. The only actual distinction is that those who are born in the church stand in a natural and ordered connection with the operations of divine grace 231and are therefore already subjects of the gospel call, while the others stand in a contingent relation to that call. Indeed, our creeds connect only the original baptism of adults and those who ask for it with the new birth and extend it to infant baptism only, as it were, by permission. They mean to say no more than Calvin when he said that “the seeds of repentance and faith” were in these children. To bind together the sacrament of baptism and the new birth is to fall into a view of them as magical. Faith and conversion must ever and everywhere arise in the same way as with the first disciples, namely, through the whole prophetic activity of Christ; only that now the self-presentation of Christ is mediated through those who preach him, who are the organs of his activity.
But to say, that to some Christ is immediately and inwardly revealed without the word, is to make the redemption flow from the bare idea of the Redeemer and renders the actual appearing of Christ unnecessary. And to leave the operations of divine grace in conversion without actual historical connection with the personal efficacious work of Christ is to abandon all certainty of the identity of this inner Christ with the historical. If now, on the contrary, the true view is that all that operation upon the mind from the first impression of the preaching of Christ up to its establishment in converting faith is to be ascribed to the activity of Christ, then all these operations of divine grace are supernatural; but since they are in |a natural historical connection with the personal life 232 of Jesus and continue it historically they are also natural.
2) Justification.--Justification implies forgiveness of sins and acknowledgment of sonship with God, and it depends upon faith in the Redeemer, as has just been shown. The divine act of justification is not to be sundered from the working of Christ in conversion. Justification for the self-consciousness which rests in contemplation is the same as is conversion for the consciousness which passes over into stimulus of the will. Corresponding with the two sides of conversion, repentance finds its issue in the forgiveness of sins, just as faith becomes for thought the consciousness of sonship with God as that which is the same as the consciousness of fellowship with Christ. Not that forgiveness precedes faith, but that it declares the end of the old state just as does repentance, and sonship with God expresses the character of the new state just as does faith. Both depend on the whole activity of Christ just as in the case of conversion, but immediately and in themselves they denote only that relation of man to God which supervenes upon the consciousness of guilt and desert of punishment.
Justification and conversion are synchronous. The converted man is a new man. For in this new life-fellowship with Christ sin is no longer active, but it is an afterworking or reaction of the old man. He no longer appropriates it to himself but reacts against it as an alien force, and accordingly the consciousness of guilt is removed. In him the consciousness of 233sin always becomes, on account of faith, the consciousness of forgiveness of sins.
But justification is not an isolated act or pronouncement dependent upon some empirical activity or event, for this is to make the divine activity temporal and dependent in its nature, which would destroy the feeling of absolute dependence on God. Rather, there is one eternal and universal decree to justify men for Christ’s sake. This decree, again, is one with the decree to send Christ; were it not so the sending of Christ might be without effect. And the decree to send Christ is one with that for the creation of the human race so far as human nature is first perfected in Christ. And since in God thought and will, will and deed are inseparable, therefore all these constitute one divine act for the alteration of our relation to God. The manifestation in time of the divine act takes its beginning in the incarnation of Christ, from which the total new creation of mankind proceeds, and it continues in the union of individual men with Christ. We have therefore to assume only one divine act of justification gradually realizing itself in time (§§ 106-9).
The idea of holiness in men has been brought over into the New Testament from the Old, where it is apprehended as an attribute of God. But for Christians, not holiness, but sanctification, i.e., movement toward holiness, is the appropriate term because of their increasing separation from the pre-regenerate 234 state and their gradual approach to that of Christ. The state of sanctification is, accordingly, not to be compared with the state in which the man was governed by sin but with that state in which he came under the power of prevenient grace. That grace affected him from without by stimulating thoughts and feelings which tend toward repentance and faith and also by prompting to actions which by repetition become habits. Such actions while they do not spring from individual regeneration are to be viewed as specifically the actions of the Christian collective life which exercises a power over the individuals who come within the sphere of its operations, like that of native citizens over the foreigners resident among them. The state of regeneration is to be distinguished from the new birth, not by the number of individual actions or a whole series of them, but by this, that the will to be no longer in that former sin-producing collective life has become a power of repulsion of sin, which power is itself an outflow from the submission to Christ’s operation and becomes established as a steady willingness to be controlled by Christ. In the new collective life within which the regenerate man has fellowship with Christ, his natural powers are taken up and appropriated by Christ’s activity, whereas formerly they were exercised entirely within the sinful collective life. The regenerate man’s life possesses therefore an affinity to Christ’s in respect to both sides of it, his sinless perfection and his blessedness. Since the activities of the regenerate are now exercised within this new 235collective life, their energies are exerted reciprocally, producing in each member of this new body a gradual religious development.
The development must be gradual. For since the God-consciousness has come into a relation of control over the energies of human life only through a direct communication, after being regularly repressed by the sin-consciousness, it must be regarded as sustaining continually the opposition of this lower principle now gradually disappearing. Though this development is gradual, it is not perfectly regular for experience, because it occurs in the midst of a conflict, and there are times when the power of sin is exhibited in actions which obscure for the time the presence of the new spiritual power, just as in the former condition of life there occurred at times actions proceeding from the prevenient grace of God which obscured for a little while the presence of sin. In this respect Christ’s development onward from his birth and the development of the regenerate are not strictly parallel. Yet the occasional recurrence of the consciousness of sin does not annul the connection with Christ so as to negative regeneration as a divine act of union with human nature, or sanctification as the state of that union.
To express the same in another manner: In the activities of the regenerate there are two elements, the permanent and the variable. The permanent element is that ever self-renewing will (power) of the kingdom of God which wrought in Christ, and this 236 is that participation in the sinless perfection and blessedness of Christ already spoken of; for all the power of good is within the kingdom of God and all the power of sin lies without it. The variable element appears in the isolated acts of sin which burst out in the life of the regenerate producing pain and unhappiness.
The sins of the regenerate are not destructive of the state of grace because such never occur without the forth-putting on their part of effort (though in sufficient) against sin; likewise the good deeds of the regenerate are never unopposed by sinful tendencies or untainted with sin. The conflict with sin exists always; the difference in the character of the acts in the two cases is one of degree. The sinful deed proceeds from the old sinful collective life from which he has been personally separated and consequently no new form of sin arises in the regenerate man, and, so soon as he acknowledges the act as his own (i.e., repents), with the return of his consciousness of identification with the new collective life the consciousness of forgiveness arises. Hence we may say the sins of the regenerate are always accompanied by forgiveness.
The good deeds of the regenerate are objects of the divine good pleasure, not as isolated empirical deeds of the individual concerned, for no single act is unmixed with sin, but in so far as they are the product of the new collective life with which he now identifies himself. That is to say, the good deeds of the regenerate are the product of their union with 237Christ, and the merit they possess is Christ’s, so that, strictly speaking, it is only the person and that too only as God sees him in Christ--that is the object of the divine good pleasure, and his works only for the sake of the person. Consequently the regenerate claim no personal reward (§§ 110-12).
Section 2. The Nature of the World in Relation to Redemption. Doctrine of the Church (§§ 113-63)
The redemptive energy of Christ originally lay simply in himself. In the exercise of it he created a new spiritual organism through which it is historically propagated in the world. All the redemptive energy of Christ is accordingly comprehended within this new body, which is the communion of believers in him. Now, the consciousness of redemption involves a consciousness of participation in the communion of the regenerate, for this communion has not first to be established by an act of the regenerate, but in regeneration they already find themselves within it, and they trace the workings of grace through which they become participators in the redemption, to its activity.
This activity was exerted upon them prior to their consciousness of redemption, their felt need of redemption being an effect of it. Consequently, there is no absolute leap out of one sphere into the other, else conversion would be an unhistorical occurrence, effected by some incomprehensible influence operating 238 outside the universe of causes and effects. But just as there already existed prior to the advent of Christ, through the work of prevenient grace, a circle of individuals prepared to receive the redemption as it was to be ministered by the personal work of Christ himself, so now also there is in the world an outer circle of individuals upon whom the activity of the inner circle which consists of the communion of believers is exerted; and since in regeneration there is a consciousness of being already within that communion outside of which no redeeming activity is exerted, these people must have been already before regeneration within the outer circle of that communion. The world, then, as the field in which the church’s work is to be done, stands in an antithetical relation to the church, but on the other hand is destined to pass over into it. Here we find the explanation of the Christian’s conscious sympathetic relation to all things human. For while the world, notwithstanding its original perfection, is for men, apart from the redemption, the locus of sin and evil, through the advent of Christ a new element has entered into it, namely, Christ’s own self-imparting perfection and blessedness. Through him, then, the world becomes to us the locus of perfection and blessing.
We perceive, then, that the law of self-organization, as it appears in the naturalization of the super natural in Christ, finds its parallel in the communion founded by him. For the incarnation of Christ in relation to human nature in general corresponds to 239the regeneration of the individual in relation to the whole nature of the individual; so also to sanctification, as the progressive appropriation by Christ of individual functions, corresponds the work of the Christian communion as an organic body which progressively organizes itself and appropriates to itself the mass (i.e., the world) which lies over against it. Three stages in this process may be defined: (1) the origin of the church, or the manner in which the church is builded out of the world; (2) the present existence of the church in antithesis to the world; (3) the removal of this antithesis in the perfection of the church. Though the second is alone present immediately to experience, and therefore constitutes the kernel of this whole section, it will be better to discuss these stages in the historical order.
FIRST DIVISION: THE ORIGIN OF THE CHURCH (§§ 115-25)
The character common to all the regenerate is the governing will of the kingdom of God. That will is exerted in two forms, (1) in gaining other individuals and receiving them into the kingdom, (2) in the process of perfecting the work of the kingdom in ourselves and the other members by mutual and complementary activity. But this spatial extension of the kingdom and this co-operative and mutual influence are subject to those circumstances of time and place in which the members of the kingdom find themselves placed. Accordingly, on the one hand, the origin of the church must be viewed in its relation to the 240divine world-government, because the individuals composing the church are called out of the world; and on the other hand, in relation to the moving, unifying principle which constitutes all the members of the church one moral person. These will be treated under the titles Election, and Communication of the Holy Spirit.
The consciousness of redemption in Christ is so related to the consciousness of unity with the race, that the incarnation of Christ is viewed as potentially the regeneration of the human race. Hence the desire to communicate the gospel to the world. The actual spread of the gospel is gradual--from the individual to the mass, from nation to nation, and from generation to generation--being subject to these conditions which determine all human activity. That is to say, participation in redemption is subjected to the laws of the divine world-government. This must be true in reference even to the mysterious fact of the rejection of the gospel by some and its acceptance by others. Just as in Christ the supernatural becomes natural, so the church as the possessor of that super natural which was in Christ appears in its course in the world as a natural historical phenomenon.
The final ground of the divine government of the world is the divine good-pleasure, and in the last analysis it is to this we must refer the facts of the gospel’s earlier and later reception in different places, its acceptance and rejection by different individuals 241while living, and its failure to reach the ears of others before they die. We have, therefore, to face the problem of defining this divine will with clearness and without inner contradiction. Now, it is not an offense to Christian sympathy that some are received earlier than others into the communion of redemption, nor is it ever supposed that the sum of final blessedness is thereby lessened. It is as vain to hold the opposite view, that it would have been better if the regeneration of the individual had occurred earlier, as to contend that it would have been better for the totality of mankind if Christ had come before he did, or to lament the fact that the world was not created earlier. But when it is supposed that those who die without participation in the redemption are forever excluded from it, there is created, on the contrary, a discord in Christian sympathy with the race. Not only is it a violation of the unity of the race, but it imparts arbitrariness and particularism into the divine will. To reply by saying that these opposite destinies are ordained for the sake of manifesting in the one case the divine mercy and in the other case the divine righteousness is to overlook the truth that the divine righteousness is adequately exhibited in the reward given to Christ and the punishment of men as long as they adhere to the old life of sin, And further, to separate in this manner the divine attributes is to describe God as an unlimited being with limited attributes and to overlook the mutual inclusiveness of all his attributes. The antithesis between the church and the world must 242 be regarded, therefore, not as final, but as temporary; not as absolute, but as relative, and as destined to disappear by the ultimate absorption of all into the church. The gradual progress of sanctification in the individual and the gradual transition of those who are in the outer circle of the workings of grace into the inner circle are analogous. This is simply the natural form which the divine activity necessarily assumes in its historical manifestation, the inevitable condition of all temporal effectiveness of the word that “became flesh.”
1. The doctrine of fore-ordination is a consequence. The self-consciousness of the regenerate and the feeling of absolute dependence are one, since our activity in the kingdom of God is referred by consciousness to the sending of Christ and is recognized as dependent on our place in human relations; so that the order in which the redemption is actualized in each man is one with the carrying out of the divine world-order in relation to him. Thus the time and manner of the individual’s entrance into the communion of Christ are only a result of the determination of the manifestation of the justifying divine activity by the universal order of the world, and they are a part of the same. Hence the kingdom of grace, or the kingdom of the Son, is absolutely one with the kingdom of the Omniscient Omnipotent One, or of the Father; and to say that the state of those to whom grace has been given is a work of that divine grace which was 243in Christ is one and the same thing as to say that it is a result of the divine foreordination.
And further, since the Christian consciousness recognizes only one foreordination--namely, that to participation in the blessedness of Christ--the unity of the race-consciousness and the universality of the world-order can be in harmony with the Christian consciousness of redemption only by the acknowledgment of the foreordination of all mankind to an ultimate reception into the kingdom of grace.
2. From the above doctrine of election may be deduced also the doctrine of the determining grounds of election.
Of free existences, why are some chosen and others not? The peculiar condition of each individual in the human race is due to his place in the development of the divine world-government. If, then, we seek the determining grounds of the election of an individual absolutely in the beginning of all things, we shall find these in the divine good-pleasure; but if we seek the grounds of election in the final results attained in the end, we posit the divine foreknowledge. Divine good-pleasure and divine foreknowledge are one and the same principle viewed from opposite standpoints.
If, therefore, regeneration be viewed as the actualization of the union of the divine and human nature, and the justifying divine grace as the temporal and individual continuation of that universal act of union which began in the incarnation of Christ, then the 244 rule of the divine procedure must be the same in both cases. That is, the time and place which was chosen must have been absolutely the best and the results must have reached the maximum of efficiency. That moment in the life of the individual must have been the time when he would exercise faith. From this point of view therefore the election of the individual is grounded in his foreseen faith. But this again is itself determined by the divine causality operating in the world’s course, which causality rests in the divine good-pleasure, which is concerned with no individual in and for himself, but with the world-whole.
NOTE.--But if while we trace the origin of the Christian church to the divine good-pleasure, we admit that a part of the human race is forever lost, the contemplation of that good-pleasure affects our race-consciousness and our personal consciousness in opposite ways, one painfully and the other pleasurably, and hence admits of no pure impartation of the blessedness of Christ to us. It becomes necessary therefore that we conceive the divine foreordination to salvation as embracing ultimately the whole human race (§§ 117-20).
2. The Communication of the Spirit
All those who are in the state of sanctification are conscious of participation in the perfection and blessedness of Christ, which is dependent on the indwelling of God in him. This possession of the perfection and blessedness that were in Christ belongs to the believer in the form of that absolutely constant will of the kingdom of God as the inner impulse of life. It is not as isolated individuals standing in independent 245personal relation to Christ that Christians are conscious of this possession, but only in their relation to the Christian communion as members of it. This spirit, which constitutes the will of the kingdom of God, is the common spirit of the Christian communion. It is this spirit that furnishes the life-unity of the communion, and makes the members of the communion a moral person. The impulse felt by all the members of the communion to assemble together, to combine in an effort for the extension of the kingdom among those who are not yet consciously within it, and to effect that mutual working which produces the harmonious development of all their various, but now unified, energies, is just the expression of the life of that one spirit dwelling in them all. This is the indwelling of the divine in the church, conditioned by the indwelling of the divine in Christ.
This common spirit of all the sanctified is thus the Spirit of Christ, which is the Spirit of God, and the bestowal of that Spirit by Christ is what is meant by the Communication of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is therefore just the common spirit of all those who are sanctified, who together form one moral person, having the one aim, common to all, of furthering the whole, and possessing peculiar love to one another. If it be objected that our use of the term does not coincide with common usage, we may reply that it is in harmony with the New Testament where the Holy Spirit is not regarded as our individual enduement apart from his connection with the totality 246 of believers, or as a peculiar quality of separate personalities, but as the unitary possession of them all (cf. John 16:7 ff.; Acts 1:4, 5; John 20:22, 23; Acts 2:4; I Cor. 12:4; Rom. 8:9; Acts 10:47; 19:2; 2:38). On this point the expression of the Christian consciousness may be treated as twofold. First, in analogy with that unity which constitutes a nation, where the common and self-same national character inheres in each citizen but is modified by his original disposition, the Christian church is one through this common spirit, but its activity in each individual is conditioned by the state in which the new birth found him. Second, this common spirit is one because in all it is from one and the same source, namely, Christ, since the communication of it coincides with the rise of faith in him and the recognition of that faith in others.
It may be said further in objection: If, as has been stated, all peoples are destined to pass over into the Christian communion by virtue of the unity of the race, then, since there cannot be two life-unities for one and the same whole, the common spirit of the Christian church is simply the common spirit of the human race. The answer is: It is just in the possession and communication of the Holy Spirit that the unity of the members of the human family--now, alas! torn asunder by mutual jealousies and animosities--becomes an accomplished fact. Through Christ as Founder there is realized a union which by faith and in love embraces all men, so that the race-consciousness 247and the God-consciousness become one and inseparable. But on this very account we can say that the Holy. Spirit is no natural principle developing itself in man outside of Christ.
The believer is conscious of possessing this spirit with the act of faith in Christ, which arises through that representation of Christ which is given in the preaching of him. But this gift is no longer received direct from Christ personally, as was the case with his first disciples. Up to the time of Christ’s separation from them they were only in the state of a developing receptivity in relation to his spirit. The transition from receptivity to self-activity took place for them in the days of the resurrection. Up to the time of Christ’s separation from them, their relation to him was that of a household to its head or of a school to its teacher--upon the death of the leader dissolution was the result. But with the separation of Christ from his disciples they became conscious of their possession of his Spirit as their common spirit; they ceased to be a school and became a church; they ceased to be merely receptive of his teachings and nature, and became spontaneous and communicative in relation thereto. The Holy Spirit was thus communicated to them as their common possession, and was thenceforth communicated by them to those who were in the stage of preparatory grace in which they themselves had once been. Whenever these also, apprehending Christ by faith, are transformed from a merely receptive to an active condition in their place within 248 this new collective life founded by Christ, it may he said that they have received the Holy Spirit.
Consequently, the life and activity of the church proceeds historically--not in some secret, magical, or mysterious way--from Christ. His incarnation was the naturalization of the supernatural, the union of the divine with human nature. So the communication of the Holy Spirit constitutes the union of the Divine Being with human nature in the form of a common spirit animating the collective life of believers which Christ founded. The operations of the Holy Spirit are not to be found in something outside the Christian church or in some superhuman nature or in some divine power affecting human nature from without; but the Holy Spirit is an actual spiritual force in the souls of believers and must be conceived of as united with the human nature in them, so as to become one with it. Each believer participates in this common spirit, not in his personal self-consciousness regarded by itself alone, but only in so far as he is conscious of his existence in this whole, personal peculiarities being no element in this common consciousness. If then we regard the union of the divine with Christ’s human personality as an endowment of human nature in its collective capacity, participation in the Holy Spirit and fellowship of life with Christ are one and the same, reversely contemplated. The Christian church animated by the Holy Spirit is in its purity and perfection the perfect image of the Redeemer, and every regenerated individual is a complementary constituent 249part of this communion, That is to say that in the Christian church as a collective life, as a moral person, the modes of apprehension and of action are the same as those of the Redeemer because the same human powers are united with the same divine principle. This image, however, appears in its perfection only when we view the human race (with which the church is destined to be identical) apart from sin, and is to be progressively realized. Accordingly, if we contemplate the church’s gradual realization of its ideal according to the divine order of its extension and development in the world, we shall see that in its entirety it is at every instant at v the highest stage of perfection possible to it and carries in itself the ground of a highest perfection yet to be attained. This, however, is apprehensible only to faith and is not demonstrable by experience (§§ 121-25).
SECOND DIVISION: THE CHURCH IN ITS COEXISTENCE WITH THE WORLD (§§ 126-59)
The church is the creation by the Spirit of Christ, out of individuals in the world, of a communion whose common spirit is the same Holy Spirit. Its state of existence in the world must, then, be in analogy with that of the person of Christ. In him the supernatural, the divine, as the abiding self-identical element of his person, united to itself the natural, the human, which was the variable element of his person. So also in its common spirit the church possesses an ever self-identical element, which makes its appearance in 250a variable element, the world. The church and the world are not to be described as two mutually exclusive entities, as if it sufficed to say that just as the world is not the church, so the church is not the world. Such a view tends to separation and legal righteousness. A better and more adequate statement would be the following: The world is excluded from participation in the church because in itself it is mere nullity and negation--not a self-contained unity, but a manifold of elements temporarily, oppositely, and contingently related. That alone which is permanent in the world is the feeling of the need of help which itself is a product of the Holy Spirit’s self-exertion upon the world and is the basis of the church’s title to the world.
Since the aim of the church is ever the same, namely, the realization within itself of the image of Christ, the mode of the existence of the divine in the human must remain the same as it was in him. The variable element in the church, as in Christ, is due to the human nature in and through which the Holy Spirit works. Now, human nature as undetermined by the Holy Spirit is the world, and therefore all that is variable in the church is due, not to its common spirit, but to the world, and the manner of the Spirit’s work among men depends on peculiarities of temperament and circumstances of individuals and, on a larger scale, of nations.
All in the church which is not wrought by the Holy Spirit is of the world and constitutes its attack upon 251the church. To this pertain the sins of the regenerate and all error and perversion, which are destined to disappear from the church and yet re-enter into it with each new convert. The differences within a Christian society arise from the same causes.
All this discussion amounts to saying that Christianity is a power developing itself historically in the world. A treatment of it as such involves a discussion of its permanent, self-identical elements and its variable elements (§ 126).
1. The Essential and Permanent Features of the Church (§§ 127-47)
If our Christianity is to be the same as that of the first disciples, it must arise like theirs from the influence of Christ. But since his influence is no longer an immediate, personal one, we are in need of a demonstration of the identity of our Christianity with that which appears in their presentation of the personality of Christ. For this we are dependent on the Scriptures of the New Testament. They show that from the influence of Christ himself and from his disciples testimony about him there actually proceeded the church-forming activity promised by him. They also complement the immediate utterances of Christ, because we can refer the ordinances and acts of his first disciples to the teachings and expressed will of Christ as their source. They are thus the work of the Spirit of Christ which is the common spirit of the church. With the loss of the original oral testimony 252 the Scriptures remain the only original authority. But they would become a dead inheritance, did we possess these only and were the ever self-renewing activity of the church wanting. Thus the living testimony of the church and the Scriptures are the two elements indispensable for the historical identity and the truth of faith. Moreover, since the immediate personal influence of Christ is wanting, the institution and renewal of life-fellowship with Christ must issue from the church and be referred to its acts--that is, such acts as can be referred to Christ himself. For, on the one hand, the church is his organism and all her essential activities are the image of Christ’s activities, and, on the other hand, all that is effected by them is the progressive actualization of redemption in the world, and therefore her activities are just the continuation of the activities of Christ.
It is true that there are many Christian churches mutually opposed in varying degrees. Their differences concern not the reality of a common life-fellowship with Christ, but the relations between the outer forms which represent it and the inner fellowship implied in them. The most important question as to all these differences is, whether they are grounded in these spatial and temporal differences which appear in the spiritual nature of men and are therefore unavoidable, or whether they are grounded in the world’s attack upon the church and are therefore defects. But amid all the divisions of the Christian communion its universal self-identity appears in a triple manner: 253the testimony of Christ, the formation and preservation of life-fellowship with Christ, and the reciprocal relation of influence between the individual and the whole. The first of these is exhibited in the Scriptures and the ministry of the Divine Word, and these, as constituting the church’s immediate presentation of Christ, are an image of his prophetic activity. The second is furnished in baptism and the Supper, and these represent his high-priestly activity. The third appears in the office of the keys and in prayer in the name of Jesus, and these represent Christ’s kingly activity (§ 127).
1. Holy Scripture.--The Scripture of the New Testament is a work of the Holy Spirit as the common spirit of the church, and forms only a particular instance of the universal testimony of the church in its presentation of the image of Christ to men. The written word possesses, however, a superiority over the original word which was merely spoken, not in its higher authoritativeness, but in that it furnished a means of testing our present testimony of Christ by that which was originally given. Yet this word is to be viewed as no dead possession (legal conception), but as an ever self-renewing activity of the church in its work of awakening faith in Christ by its presentation of him to the world.
It is faith in Christ which gives rise to reverence for the Scriptures, and not the converse. For, if faith in Christ is to be made to repose on the authority of the Scriptures, then that authority itself can be established 254 only by an appeal to the reason common to all men. That is to say, faith is made dependent on a scientific demonstration of the authenticity, accuracy, and truth of the Scriptures, and those who are in capable of making the necessary investigation are dependent on external authority. Faith is subordinated and proportioned to intelligence or ability. Believers are graded in two classes as in the Romish church. Moreover, on these terms a man might become a Christian without a felt need of redemption--without repentance and a change of mind. Such a faith could never issue in a life- fellowship with Christ. Even the apostles proceeded not from the interpretation of the Old Testament to faith in Christ, but first, stimulated by the Baptist’s testimony, rose to faith in Christ by witnessing his words and deeds and then proceeded to interpret the Old Testament in this new light. Accordingly, while it is proper to refer to the Scriptures for the sake of showing that an article of faith is an original element of Christian piety, yet a doctrine does not necessarily pertain to Christianity because it is taught in the New Testament, but rather owes its place in the New Testament to its relation to Christianity. The opposite view would make dogmatic theology a collection of individual propositions without inner connection. Herein lies the justification of our bringing forward a doctrine of the Scriptures at this point.
It is Christ’s Spirit as the common spirit of the communion which gives utterance to itself in the historical and epistolary writings of the New Testament, 255and each one of these writings is an utterance of that Spirit, so far as it represents the common spirit in which all the writers participated. Thus it comes that the Spirit of Christ as a living presence in the Christian communion is the source of a decision between canonical and apocryphal works and is also the ground for a continuous and never-ending adjudication upon the character of the various contents of these same works. At the same time these Scriptures, as the first members of the series of presentations of Christ, are the norm of all subsequent presentations of him, inasmuch as they stand as the presentation of the person of Christ by those who, of all those whose writings we possess, stood nearest to Christ, and who were thus protected by the purifying influence of the living remembrance of the whole church from those dangers to their faith which arose out of their earlier Jewish forms of thought and life. But the peculiar spiritual endowment which came in this way to these apostolic men does not involve a distinction between the spiritual quality of their acts and that of their writings, as if they were animated and impelled by the Spirit in a lesser degree in the one case than in the other. Neither are the sacred books to be regarded, on account of the apostolic endowment, as demanding an exegetical and critical treatment peculiar to themselves. For just as in the doctrine of the person of Christ, so also in regard to the Scriptures, the activity of that spirit which operates in the church exhibits itself as an inner (the divine) 256 expressing itself organically through an outer (the human). Similarly the narrative and epistolary portions of the Scriptures stand in a common relation to the apostolic office.
The selection of the individual books for the Canon is to be regarded as proceeding analogously with the selection and combination of the historical elements. We are not to conceive of a definite and final decision given by apostolic authority, but of the gradual adjudication upon extant works, professedly Christian, by the Spirit which was common to the whole church. While, therefore, the Scriptures are to be subject to the freest investigation, the self-recognizing activity of the Holy Spirit in the church warrants the statement that the various books of the New Testament were given by that Spirit, and the collection of the same has been made under his guidance.
The Scriptures of the Old Testament cannot be allowed to claim the same dignity. The spirit of the Old Testament is not the spirit of the New, because it is the spirit of law. Its place in our Bible and the customary use of it in Christian teaching are owing partly to the manner in which Christ and his apostles and the early Christians in general made reference to it when as yet the Canon of the New Testament had not been formed, and partly to the historical connection between the Christian church and the Jewish synagogue (§§ 128-32).
2. The ministry of the Divine Word.--The preaching 257of Christ was a presentation of himself. The preaching of the Christian communion is the presentation of Christ. But since this communion is the image of Christ, its preaching is also self-presentation. Self-presentation is self-communication to those who are receptive of it, and therefore we may say that the common spirit of the communion, which is just that which constitutes it a communion, communicates itself as the Spirit of Christ to those who assume a receptive attitude toward it. This Spirit which Christ him self communicated is the Holy Spirit which gave the Scriptures, and thus the self-communication of the Christian communion is a supplying of the Divine Word and must always submit to the test of conformity with the Scriptures.
Now each member of the communion, in his participation, to some degree, in this work of self-communication, seeks to present only that in himself which is of Christ, and to that degree he is an organ of the divine word. The influence of the members is mutually exercised and it is exerted through all the various activities of life without any definite plan or conscious arrangement. But owing to difference of temperament, talent, outer circumstances, and breadth of Christian experience, these activities of the members, both upon one another and upon the world, vary in degree and extent, some members being prevailingly active and others prevailingly receptive. And inasmuch as the common spirit of the communion must find expression in the orderly public assembly and 258 the organized work of the Christian society, it becomes necessary, so as to secure an orderly and regular ministry, to set some individuals formally apart to the public service of the Divine Word. They can perform this only when they represent the communion as organs of its common spirit. And therefore they are to be designated to their office by the act of each several communion in which they inhere. Yet, of course, the occupants of church offices are not to be considered as exhausting its spiritual activities so as to preclude the spontaneous exercise of his gift on the part of each member of the formation of religious associations within the church. If the whole of the Christian communion could express itself in the doctrines and rules which the church sets forth and which these ministers as organs of its spirit declare, then these doctrines and rules and the public preaching of them would be free from error. But spatial and temporal relations render this impossible. Hence the necessity of binding the public ministry of the word to the Holy Scriptures (§§ 133-35).
3. Baptism.--Baptism is an act of the church by which it signifies its will to receive an individual into its communion. The common spirit of the communion being Christ’s spirit, its act of reception succeeds upon, and takes the place of, Christ’s personal act of choosing individuals for his fellowship during his ministry, and it occurs as an act of faith in his promise, which is attached to the baptismal act. Therefore, since communion with Christ, regeneration, and justification 259are fundamentally one, the act of baptism is to be regarded as indicating the exercise of God’s justifying .activity upon the individual baptized and as conveying the assurance of this possession. Were the whole church present and represented in the act, because of the activity of the Holy Spirit in all its fulness within the church, the highest canonical authority would attach to its decree: the baptismal act and the new birth would absolutely coincide. This, of course, is not demonstrably the case, and therefore there is no absolute coincidence between the administration of baptism and the extension of Christian fellowship.
The act of baptism has an inner and an outer side. The inner side is the spiritual intention to receive the baptized into the communion from which issue all the operations of the Spirit which effect the new birth, and the outer side is the physical act through which the intention is conveyed. Hence it is not correct to say that the baptism is conditioned by the new birth, because that is to presuppose an activity in the church prior to being received in it, which is ab surd. On the contrary, then, we must say that the new birth is conditioned by baptism, that is, when baptism is taken to be the final act in that series in which the church expresses its will to extend itself, which it can do only by receiving new members. Accordingly it is through baptism rather than through the fluctuating experience of sanctification that we become personally assured of possessing the new birth. But of course this assertion is to be understood not in 260reference to the mere external act but the motives which underlie it. This assertion of the validity of the act in view of the intention is not to be understood as referring to the definite consciousness of the administrator, but as referring to the church, whose act it is. Hence its validity for the entire church, even though it be administered by one of the relatively opposed societies into which the church is divided. For in all of these the ordinance is referred back to Christ’s own institution (Matt. 28:19, 20; Mark 16:16). The baptized accepts the church’s intention, and hence his faith is necessary to the fulfilment of that intention. His faith is the individual act of self-appropriation of the perfection of Christ, but with it there is also the appropriation of the blessedness of Christ which is enjoyed only in the communion of believers. He who believes will enter this fellowship. This is done in baptism, which is properly called the seal of divine grace. Yet the absence of faith at the time on the part of the person baptized does not in validate the act or render necessary the repetition of it on the rise of faith; but the reception into the communion remains incomplete, just as it does also when faith exists but baptism has not been performed. In the former case the baptism looks forward to a faith yet to be exercised; in the latter case it looks back. Therefore it is true, in both cases, that baptism as the act of receiving the individual into the communion conveys the title to participation in the perfection and 261blessedness of Christ which is the essence of the Christian communion.
Thus infant baptism is valid, but only when respect is had to a confession of faith, to be made consequent upon perfected instruction, as the final act pertaining to that instruction. Though there are no traces of infant baptism in the New Testament, it is justifiable on the grounds of the necessities of the church and the demands of the parental feelings of those who are members thereof (§§ 136-38).
4. The Supper.--Beginning with a baptism properly administered the Christian has an experience of blessedness in Christ. But the development of this consciousness is not steady and uninterrupted; hence arises the necessity that our consciousness of blessedness should be confirmed and strengthened. Christian blessedness, outwardly regarded, is a communion with other believers; inwardly regarded, it is a communion with Christ, a personal (individual) attitude toward him. These are coincident and reciprocally operative. Against both of these two sides of the Christian life, the repressive influence of the world is continually at work. Hence arises the necessity for private meditation on the one hand--for hereby the believer excludes the influences of the world by presenting Christ to himself out of the Scriptures--and for public divine service on the other for the mutual fellowship of believers is strengthened and stimulated by the exhibition of a common Christian love. And this at the same time both expresses and comprises the fellowship of 262 each one of them with Christ. To this latter, the public divine service, the Supper belongs.
Christians do experience in the Supper a peculiar strengthening of their spiritual life, and have done so ever since the time of its institution by Christ. In it Christ is presented to them. In the public gathering of the church as such, he supplies a participation in his flesh and blood. In this connection two questions arise: (1) How does the Supper as a supplying of the flesh and blood of Christ relate itself to that purely spiritual participation which he himself declared to be necessary? (2) How docs the Supper as a constituent part of public divine service distinguish itself from other parts of the same?
To begin with the latter: The Supper is distinguished from all other kinds of public worship in that, while in other forms of worship the degree in which the different members of the communion are actively or receptively related to one another varies according to their gifts and their place in the communion, in the Supper all the members are similarly placed in a receptive relation to the blessedness of Christ. The administrator is nothing more than the organ of Christ’s institution. The inworking of this blessedness in the case of each believer proceeds solely and immediately from Christ himself, through the word of institution in which the redeeming and communion-forming love of Christ is presented and ever operates as a stimulus to piety. The peculiarity of the Supper is this individual and exclusive immediacy 263of presentation of Christ, this independence, in its working, of all changing personal conditions and relations.
In regard to the former question: In that discourse of Christ where he speaks of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking his blood he had neither the Supper nor another definite action in mind, but he referred to the periodic renewal of our fellowship with him. The Supper lends itself naturally to such a description, In the Supper each member is conscious of a sympathy with all the others, so that as he knows that the others more closely unite themselves to Christ in it, he feels that he also is more closely united there by to them all. Thus each member represents to the others the whole society, and indeed the whole Christian communion. But this spiritual benefit is dependent on the definite observance of the rite which has been blessed and sanctified through the word of Christ. In and for itself there is nothing incomprehensible in the ordinance.
Consequently the teaching of the Roman Catholic church is false when it affirms both that the union of the elements with the body and blood of Christ is accomplished and that the spiritual benefit is attached to the elements of the Supper through contemplation and veneration of them, apart from the act of participation; for this is to make its effect of a magical character. Those sacramentarians are also in error who see in the elements only a representative image of spiritual participation. We hold, on the contrary, 264 that the response to Christ’s invitation to spiritual eating and drinking of himself is so actualized in the Supper through the word of institution, that believers find spiritual participation assured to them in the sacramental act which, when rightly administered, is an unfailing means of access to it. Similarly we reject the view of those who deny the connection between the Supper and spiritual participation in Christ and regard it as a command of Christ to be observed for all time in the church, simply as a testimony or confession. For in the first place this view robs the Supper of its pre-eminence as a public service; and in the next place it destroys its identity at all times. For in its original institution there were none present to whom the disciples could give their testimony, and there have always been other means by which the members of the church recognize their mutual faith. Any view of the Supper is defective which fails to see in it a renewal of the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, that is, of fellowship with Christ, which is subject to interruptions by the consciousness of sin. Thus as baptism by uniting us with the body of Christ introduces the consciousness of regeneration (the certainty of forgiveness), so this repeated presentation of Christ in the Supper by the whole society of believers confirms the certainty of forgiveness by strengthening and restoring the interrupted consciousness of regeneration. This is ministered in the Supper by the assembled community of faith, for union with 265Christ (which is forgiveness) is not to be thought of apart from the union with believers (§§ 139-42).
5. The office of the keys.--If the church were a perfect whole with nothing of the world in it, so that every individual within it would be a perfect organ of the common spirit, then the will of the whole church would be the will of every individual member. But since this is not the case, and since there arises in every individual some opposition to the will of the common spirit of Christ, that will comes to him as law. Where the individual member is definitely not subjected to it, then the church counts him as not truly a member. This legislative and judicial activity of the church is simply the perpetuation of the legislative and administrative power of Christ, which inheres in the church by virtue of its possession of his spirit; it is an exhibition of his kingly activity.
Every new subjection of an individual life to this activity of the church is a new acquisition achieved by its common spirit. Then the church, by extending to the individual the God-consciousness which is to supply to him the law of his spiritual life, first affords to him an entrance into the communion and afterward as signs to him his definite and proper place within it.
The church, then, according to Christ’s own utterances, has the power of binding: that is, it deter mines through command and prohibition what may or may not be done; and of loosing: that is, of leaving certain matters to be determined by the individual. The limit of this power of the church is assigned by 266 the necessity of preserving the common mind or feeling; as when, for example, some individual member does that which, if left unreproved, would damage the well-being of the others, or when some individual places the persons of others in contempt by setting himself above them so as to try to make his personal act or thought the will of the common spirit.
But just because this kingly activity of Christ in the church is living and abiding, there can be no decree which is final and valid for all time, but these must ever be subject to amendment. Hence also, there can be no ban of final exclusion from the church or abandonment of effort to bring the individual within its communion (§§ 144, 145).
6. Prayer in the name of Jesus.--The church’s historical progress in the world is opposed by obstacles without and within: without, by the opposition of that part of the world which the church has not yet taken possession of and assimilated; within, by the worldly elements remaining in each of its members. Hence the church’s common consciousness is of its imperfection. Now the longing to realize the aim of Christ’s mission being a living and abiding element of the church’s life, this, conjoined with the consciousness of imperfection, implies on the one side a sense of need and on the other side a presentiment of what is necessary to the fulfilment of that aim. All progress in this direction is ascribed through the God-consciousness to the divine world-government, and is expressed in thankfulness or resignation according 267as it is realized in some particular or not. But so far as the matter appears undecided it is expressed in prayer, i.e., an inner connection between the God-consciousness and the wish directed toward the best end.
It is inevitable that the thinking subject should outline in many forms the manner in which the fulfilment of its aim appears possible. Hence the particular petitions in prayer. The judgment of each individual as to what particular occurrences would contribute to the end in view is, of course, defective and of uncertain value. Those of them who possess a gift analogous to the prophetic are therefore adapted to exercise a special influence on the whole body in the direction of its petitions. Beginning with Christ himself there have appeared from the earliest times individuals in whom the personal motives have been excluded and who possessed that foresight which qualified them in an eminent degree as organs of the common will of the church in respect to prayer.
True prayer, which is always united to an interest in the kingdom of God as the church’s end, is the expression of the common spirit of the church in respect to its needs; i.e., it is an activity of the Holy Spirit in the form of anticipation and desire.
To pray in the name of Jesus is to pray in the matters which concern him (Angelegenheiten), or (which is the sane) in his mind or spirit. That prayer is therefore a prayer in the name of Jesus in which those who pray occupy his relation to the kingdom of 268 God, i.e., they pray in accordance with his government of his church. The whole church being a perfect reflection of Christ, that only is a prayer in the name of Jesus which has underlying it the total consciousness of the church, i.e., a prayer whose content has reference to the whole state of the church. This is the common prayer of the church on all occasions. Such prayer is always heard. This is the prayer of faith--not a separate faith that the prayer will be heard--but faith in the permanence and supreme worth of the kingdom of God which Christ founded. Every particular petition is heard so far as it agrees with this norm.
Consequently, prayer is not the exercise of an influence upon God. Such a view of prayer postulates a reciprocation between the creature and the Creator, represents its effect as empirical (akin to magical), and contradicts the fundamental thesis of this work. Prayer and its fulfilment have a common basis in the character of the kingdom of God. For prayer is that Christian anticipation which is developed out of the whole activity of the divine spirit, and its fulfilment is an expression of the governing activity of Christ in relation to the same object. In this sense we may say that neither one can be without the other, for both grow out of the same divinely ordered conditions. Thus true piety and true prayer always go together (§§ 146,147).269
2. The Variable Elements of the Church Owing to Its Coexistence with the World (§§ 148-56)
If everyone who receives the spirit of Christianity retained no longer any of the characteristics of his former life, but became receptive solely of the common spirit of the church, then the separation between church and world would be absolute and their influence be merely that of reciprocal opposition and enmity. But though the true ego of the regenerate man is that of delight in the divine will, his new birth is no instantaneous transformation of his whole being. Worldly elements inhere in all those who constitute the church; so that church and world are not spatially and temporally separated. At every empirical manifestation of human life both appear. Where faith and a communion in faith are found, there also are sin and a communion in universal sin fulness. Only by abstraction can the church be isolated. The workings of the church, which consist in the union of the Holy Spirit with human nature, constitute a coherent and co-operative whole, but Invisible, because never in empirical separation from the world. The totality of the connected operations of the Spirit constitutes the Invisible Church. These same operations as connected with reactionary elements of sin which appear in the lives of the regenerate constitute the Visible Church. Within the visible church, church and world coexist.
Hence, while the whole truth of redemption be comes the believer’s possession through the communication 270of Christ’s perfection to him, and while a present guidance into the truth is assured by the consciousness of sonship with God in a life- fellowship with Christ, the reaction of his former state affects his conceptions of life and his activity of will, so that there is, on the one hand, only a gradual transformation of his ideas, and this involves inevitably a degree of falsity in all external expressions of this inner truth; and, on the other hand, only a gradual change in the direction of his life-energies occurs, and this involves a certain degree of impurity of motive. This, of course, pertains to the communion as well as to the individual. Hence the twofold contrast between the invisible church arid its empirical manifestation in the visible church, the contrast in thought and in action: to wit (to mention these features in the reverse order), while the invisible church is one, the visible church is divided: and while the invisible church is infallible, the visible church is subject to error. The invisible church must be one, for the spirit is one, and since the communion of the Spirit is just the self-recognition of the Spirit, the invisible church must be wherever this self-same Spirit is, i.e., throughout all Christendom. The universal impulse to externalize the common consciousness in determinate forms results in variety, difference, and separation, as a consequence of the antitheses antecedently existent among men, such as arise from difference of speech, nationality, political and geographical relations, civilization, and many other inner and outer conditions. In this way arise different 271church societies (communions). But these in no wise involve a destruction of communion with other Christians. Particular separations may arise through the workings of the Spirit as they lead to a perception and rejection of worldly elements which appear in the church, or they may arise from the opposite cause. In the former case the separations are only apparent. For the Spirit is always a principle of unity. It is the mind of the flesh that separates in reality.
But at the same time, owing to the unlimited power of attraction possessed by the love of Christ in those persons in whom the Spirit dwells, there can never arise in one communion the desire that another communion may be annihilated; but there must ever arise efforts to express the oneness of spirit in attempted unions. There is always the implicit acknowledgment that all these separated communions form, potentially, according to divine arrangement, a larger communion capable of including all Christians when the necessary conditions are present. If two professedly Christian communions have nothing in common, then one or both is un-Christian. But such a total annulling of this communion is impossible so long as both hold to their historical connection with the revelation proclaimed in the Gospel and no other revelation is acknowledged as the basis of their origin. Hence even heretics are in the church after all. Present differences and divisions in the Christian church are only relative and destined to disappear in the final realization of unity.272
The invisible church is infallible, but the visible church is liable to error. Here we consider truth and error only in the religious sphere. In the activity of the pious consciousness truth and error are always mingled, because the persistence of sensuousness renders our conception of the aim of the church and our relation to it more or less impure and false. Every one finds the source of error in himself, and therefore believes it is always present in some degree in all. But, on the other hand, with the confession of Christ the truth is ever present. Hence there can be no church-communion which is entirely destitute of it.
The same must have been true of the early church and of the apostles as individuals; but the whole church and the whole truth being in the common spirit, the false tendencies of the individuals naturally annul one another, and hence the church invisible possesses the whole truth and is infallible. This allows, how ever, that every partial-church can err even in its official presentations. Nor would an individual church at any one point of time possess the whole truth, for every period has its one-sidedness, which a later time corrects. Therefore no doctrinal statements, even if unanimously offered, would express final and perfect truth. Everyone must test them for himself and acknowledge them as Christian in so far as they harmonize with his personal religious consciousness or with Scripture. The improvement of public doctrine becomes not only a personal duty but also a right in the exercise of which he is to suffer no limitation.273
The gradual improvement of the church’s doctrine will be a consequence.
Now the error existing in every part of the church being an error in relation to the truth which it possesses, the degree of error must be gradually diminished, the more the Holy Spirit in the church appropriates the organism of thought in its members. This is wrought out through the influence of the whole church upon the individual members in its public services, and through the influence of all those who are specially endowed with a clear Christian consciousness. We may conclude, therefore, that all error is finally to be banished.
THIRD DIVISION: THE PERFECTING OF THE CHURCH (§§ 157-63)
The sufficient ground of the perfecting of the church lies in the Holy Spirit as its common life-principle. That perfection implies, on the one hand, the expansion of Christianity over the whole earth and the disappearance of all other religious communions with their opposing and contaminating influences; and, on the other hand, it implies that the church ceases to take the world into itself. That is to say, that the present increasing conflict with sin which is characteristic of the church militant--owing to the consciousness of sin which is continuously being renewed by the propagation of the race--gives place to that condition in which the church has assimilated the world, that is, the church triumphant.
But our Christian consciousness is unable to set 274 forth as its immediate self-expression the condition of the perfected church because it is without analogy in our experience and would exist under conditions entirely unknown to us. Strictly speaking, therefore, there can be no doctrine of that state. Yet the biblical prefigurations of the future life have received so much attention in the church that we are under the necessity of inquiring as to their source. None of the New Testament utterances on this subject can become to us articles of faith to be received on authoritative testimony because, surpassing our powers of apprehension, they constitute no description of our actual self-consciousness, and consequently they may have a place in a doctrinal system (Glaubenslehre) only in so far as they concern the person of the Redeemer and our relation to him.
Now, although faith in the persistence of the human personality after death, or, to use the common expression, in the immortality of the soul, is found universally and prevailed in the time of Christ and his apostles, it is not on that account entitled to a place in Christian doctrine. How, then, came this faith to be united with our Christian religious conscience? There are two possible ways: either it was discovered by intellectual processes and became objective truth, or it was originally given in and with the immediate self-consciousness with or without connection with the fundamental God-consciousness. If in the former way, then the doctrine pertains to the sphere of the higher natural science and depends on 275scientific investigation. But scientific study on the contrary often gives rise to opposition to the belief in immortality, The so-called rational proofs of immortality are nothing more than attempts to relate this belief to the body of scientific knowledge. To give these arguments a place in our Christian doctrine is to base dogmatics on philosophy. As to the other possibility, while there is a denial of immortality which is connected with atheism, on the other hand there may be a renunciation of personal continuance which springs from a view of Spirit as creative and self-expressive. On this view individual souls may be a product of the transitory action of Spirit and there fore themselves transitory. This is quite compatible with the supremacy of the God-consciousness, the purest ethics, and the highest spirituality. Conversely, immortality may be postulated out of a selfish interest in the sensuous life where morality and religion are only a means to enjoyment. It is evident therefore that faith in personal continuance is not essentially connected with the God-consciousness.
The true Christian ground of the assurance of immortality lies in faith in the Redeemer himself. His confidence in his own personal continuance is seen in his promises of a reunion with his followers. He could say these things only as a human person, and on account of the sameness of human nature in him and in us the same confidence is valid in our case. Faith in the Redeemer demands the immutability of our connection with him. In that life-union with 276 him lies the true Christian assurance of personal continuance. In this way we see that he became the mediator of immortality, not only to those who believe in him, but to all without exception. For if immortality had not pertained to human nature, then a union of the divine being with human nature constituting such a personality as that of the Redeemer would not have been possible.
Faith in the continuance of our personality is naturally accompanied by an effort to represent that state in some of the forms of the imagination. The attempted solution of the problem how to represent the church in its perfection and at the same time the state of the souls of men in the future life, appears in the ecclesiastical doctrine of “last things.” But it is impossible to combine the two in one harmonious representation. The perfection of the church, i.e., an end of development (which comports with the idea of retribution), supposes a state of the individual soul entirely unlike the present; on the other hand, the supposition of a state of the individual soul like the present, i.e., a state of progressive development (which harmonizes with the idea of personal continuance), annuls the perfection of the church.
Accordingly, the doctrines relating to this point are of less value as dogmatic than those already treated. They rest upon our power of anticipation, which is incompetent to construct a harmonious representation of the future state. On that account we cannot ascribe to the confessional articles on this question the same 277dignity as to those already treated. They may be designated Prophetical Articles. Continuance of personal existence as the abolition of death appears under the representation of the resurrection of the body. The perfection of the church, as conditioned on the one hand by the exclusion of the unbelieving from further influence upon the church, appears under the representation of the final judgment, separation of believers and unbelievers. As contrasted on the other hand with the “church militant,” and implying the exclusion of imperfection in believers, it is presented as eternal blessedness. The condemnation of unbelievers not being a matter of Christian experience is no separate article of faith. Finally the comprehension and necessary condition of the whole is presented under the representation of Christ’s return (§§ 157-59).
FIRST PROPHETICAL ARTICLE: CHRIST’S RETURN
The Synoptists report sayings of Christ before his death to the effect that he will come again at the fall of Jerusalem. Though he is not represented as repeating such promises personally to his disciples in his resurrection communications with them, they were unable to conceive that those promises had been fulfilled. Similarly, after the destruction of the city the literal interpretation of his words was inconsistently retained, and even though in later times Chiliasm has been mostly abandoned, still the view that he will return in person at the end of the present condition 278 of the earth has continued almost universal to the present time. Apart from this literal interpretation we have no biblical guarantee of his personal return or of a universal separation of the good and the bad; and yet no representation of these events is possible, for every attempted definite image of the event dissolves, and in lieu of a physical presence we are able to retain only his powerful activity in relation to world-affairs.
It is evident, then, that the Christian consciousness of union with Christ is not satisfied with his spiritual presence in the church in the midst of our present condition of growth and change. In order to the realization of our personal continuance in union with him and, at the same time, of the perfection of the church, there is predicated an exercise of the sovereign power of Christ that puts an end to the propagation of the race and to the mingling of the good and the bad, so that by one sudden leap the church, heretofore subject to a wavering growth, becomes perfect. Accordingly the second coming of Christ is conceived as a return to judgment, and the permanence of the union of the divine essence with human nature in Christ becomes the guarantee that this nature will not be subject to that dissolution which would result from cosmic forces. Thus the imagery of the doctrine results from the interest in personal continuance, but its certainty rests on the perfection of the church (§ 160).279
SECOND PROPHETICAL ARTICLE: THE RESURRECTION
OF THE BODY
The consciousness of the union of the body and soul in our personality renders it impossible for us to represent to ourselves the immortality of the soul apart from a bodily existence, without giving up the identity of our personal life before death and after. The continuity of self-consciousness seems impossible apart from memory, which, like other mental functions, appears dependent on bodily relations, so that the existence of the soul under entirely different physical relations would be inconsistent with its continuous self-identity. But the conception of the similarity of the present and the future life is, on the other hand, inconsistent with the perfection of the church. So that on this ground we are under the opposite necessity of conceiving the nature of the future world as different from the present, the body being conceived as immortal and sexual distinctions as lost; other wise the conflict between flesh and spirit, and there fore sin fulness, would remain.
The incompatibility of the representation of future personal continuance with the representation of the perfected church further appears in the abortive at tempts to offer a representation of the intermediate state and to adjust its relation to the resurrection state and to the general judgment. We conclude that it is impossible to present a definite and consistent representation of the connection between the present and the future life.280
There remains as the essential content of this article: (1) the ascension of the risen Redeemer is only possible if there lies before all human individuals in the future life a renewal of organic life connected with our present state; (2) the unfolding of a future state is conditioned on the divine power of Christ and on cosmical changes effected through the universal divine world-government, though the representation of these changes is a problem never perfectly to be solved by men (§ 161).
THIRD PROPHETICAL ARTICLE: THE FINAL JUDGMENT
The fundamental idea underlying Christ’s representation of the Final Judgment is the total separation of the church from the world so far as the perfection of the former excludes all influence of the latter. But to suppose that this means a total separation between believers and unbelievers is to conceive wrongly the distinction of the visible and the invisible church, inasmuch as it overlooks the fact that the influence of the world upon the church consists mainly in the fleshly character which inheres in believers even till death. Besides, a sanctification effected by such a sudden deliverance destroys the continuous nature of personal consciousness and introduces a magical element into sanctification, thereby compromising the value of life-fellowship with Christ. Further, such a separation of believers from unbelievers seems intended to secure the happiness of believers rather than their perfection, inasmuch as it is only by the contact of believers with 281unbelievers that many perfections of the former come to manifestation. Yet even that happiness would be destroyed by the pain which arises from sympathy with the lost. Finally, the contemplation of the righteousness of God, as exhibited in the final rejection of unbelievers, could afford no counterbalancing satisfaction, because the element of arbitrariness is thereby introduced into the idea of God.
That which is of value in the idea of the final judgment is: (1) that perfect fellowship with Christ renders all evil non-existent for us, even in the presence of wickedness; (2) that if we are to conceive of the church as perfect while a portion of the human race remains excluded from the workings of its spirit, this is because that portion of the race is proof against it and consequently continues out of all contact with it (§ 162).
FOURTH PROPHETICAL ARTICLE: ETERNAL BLESSEDNESS
The condition of believers after their restoration to life may be conceived under two forms: (1) a sudden, but unchanging possession of the Most High; (2) a gradual elevation to the Most High but, like the development of Christ, without retrogression or conflict. But the attempt to give a representation of the two states introduces peculiar difficulties. The former annuls the connection with the present life and implies, in the equally perfect state of all believers, the want of that mutual influence which is 282 involved in a perfect life and necessary to its externalization. The second would involve disharmonies and waverings with the consequent dissatisfaction and consciousness of imperfection, which in a free existence is consciousness of guilt. Indeed the outcome is a view of the future life as in all essential features a repetition of the present. The problem therefore remains unsolved.
What, then, is that which we receive in that future life? The common answer is, that eternal life consists in the vision of God. But wherein does that consciousness of God differ from the present? In its immediacy in contrast with the mediate character of the present? But this is hardly consistent with the preservation of the personality. So that, from which ever side the problem is approached, it seems that we must remain uncertain as to the manner in which the state which is the highest perfection of the church can be obtained and possessed by an immortal personality (§ 163).
APPENDIX: ETERNAL CONDEMNATION
It has usually been assumed that the figurative discourses of Christ which are supposed to refer to those who die out of fellowship with him represent them as in a state of permanent unhappiness. (See Matt. 25:46; Mark 9:44; John 5:29. ) But an examination of the connections (Matt. 24:30-34; John 5:24, 25) and of passages with an opposite representation (I Cor. 15:25, 26) throws doubt upon this view. Moreover, 283eternal condemnation cannot be conceived apart from such a condition as either implies spiritual progress on the part of the damned or unhappiness on the part of the blessed. Accordingly, the milder doctrine that through the power of the redemption at some time there will be a universal restoration of all human souls possesses an equal right.
NOTE.--All attempts to develop the idea of the individual future life and its relations to the present life out of the idea of the perfection of the church and its relation to the unperfected church, or to make a place for the perfected church by means of the idea of the future life, turn to myths, i.e., a historical presentation of the super-historical, or to visions, i.e., an earthly presentation of the super-earthly. “These were every where the forms of the prophetical, which in its higher meaning made no claim to produce a knowledge in the proper sense, but is only determined to shape principles already acknowledged into motives of action.”
Section 3. Those Attributes of God Which Are Related to Redemption (§§ 164-69)
For the Christian consciousness everything in the universe is viewed in relation to the redemption, either as organic to the self-expression of the awakened God-consciousness, or as material to be manipulated by it. From this same point of view the divine world-government requires to be described. But we are here to be on our guard against falling into the error of treating this divine government of the world as supervening upon the creation in the way of something additional or supplementary. They are at bottom the 284 same thing. The Christian faith that all things were made with a view to the self-revelation of God in the flesh and the establishment of the kingdom of God by the extension of that revelation to the whole range of human nature, requires therefore that the divine world-government consist in no mere isolated acts of influence upon a world which pursues its own course in general independently of such interference; but rather the divine world-government and the course of Nature, the natural world and the kingdom of grace, fill the same sphere. That is to say, the whole ordering of Nature from the beginning would have been other than it is had not the redemption through Christ been determined for the sinning race. As for intelligences other than human, we have no such knowledge of their relation to us as would enable us to include more than our own human world--that realm in which redemption is effected--in our survey of the divine government.
Since, as has been already shown (§ 46, note), that element of our self-consciousness which we call the consciousness of sin cannot be referred immediately to the divine causality, but mediately only through the consciousness of grace, the latter element must be the determining one. We may say, then, that the nature of things and all the complexity of their relations have come to be what they are on account of the revelation of God in Christ which redeems men, or develops the human spirit to perfection. Consequently the whole course of human affairs and of natural events would have been other than it is, had 285not God decreed the union of the divine essence with human nature in Christ and with the communion of believers through the Holy Spirit.
Accordingly from the unity of the divine causality it follows that the church or the kingdom of God, in its whole extension and in the full effect of its development, is the one object of the divine world-government, and every individual object of the divine government is such only in relation to this one object and for this alone. Hence the absurdity of a division of God’s providence into general and special, and the inconsistency of eternal damnation with the divine world-government.
A distinction of attributes can appear in the divine world-government only by viewing the divine causality from human standpoints. As in our apprehension of human causality we distinguish inner intention from the mode of its execution, so also divine causality on its inner side as a unity may be described as will; but on its outer side in relation to its object as a manifold, it may be regarded as understanding. The redemption and the founding of the kingdom of God, in which there is a union of the divine essence with human nature, being the focal point of the divine world-government, the inner thought (disposition) exhibited in this is divine love, which is just the will to unite with and dwell in another. And the skill by which the totality of existences is subjected to this end of realizing the divine love is divine wisdom, which is just the perfect correspondence of processes with the 286 end conceived in all its relations. But while in man will and understanding never perfectly correspond, in God they are one,
1. The Divine Love
The divine love, as the attribute by virtue of which the divine nature communicates itself, is made known in the work of redemption. If it be objected, on the one hand, that this view is mystical and overlooks the love of God in those courses of Nature and of human affairs that conserve and elevate the life; and, on the other hand, that it is too narrow because it fails to recognize that all spiritual development depends on the possession of reason which is the image of God in man, it may be replied to the first objection, that the highest elevation of life is in the God-consciousness, which is suppressed outside the sphere of the Christian redemption; and to the second, that while all men have the capacity for the God-consciousness, yet fear and not love pervades their minds before receiving Christ’s redemption, and no human good of any kind which is not brought into connection with the God-consciousness can relate itself properly to the divine love.
When we assert that “God is love,” meaning there by that love is the sole attribute which can be equated with the being or essence of God, we are not to be understood as accepting any conception of God which has been obtained in a speculative way, but we have only to show why this attribute of God is thus differentiated 287from the others which have been presented already.
While, as has been said already, the divine omnipotence is that attribute by virtue of which all finite things exist, this entire divine act is thereby posited without motive. The same is true of the other divine attributes treated above. None of these can be by themselves original expressions of the divine essence. Righteousness and holiness imply the antithesis between Good and Bad which cannot exist for God in himself. These attributes act in a limited sphere and they are subordinate to love and wisdom, that is, in the work of redemption they are to be reckoned as preparatory.
Again, while both love and wisdom express the very essence of God, we cannot say that God is wisdom as we say that God is love, because we have the immediate consciousness of love only in the consciousness of redemption and it is the ground of the representation of all the other divine attributes. It is when we extend our personal and our race-consciousness to the whole complex of forces in the universe that we see that wisdom is the perfection of love. Where almighty love is, there must absolute wisdom be (§§ 166, 167).
2. The Divine Wisdom
According to our position in an earlier portion of this work, wisdom and omniscience in God are the same, only the former corresponds to the antecedent view of his operations and the latter to the consequent 288 view. Wisdom is the divine work regarded as producing such a world as if it were an absolutely coherent divine work of art; that is, such a work as, after the analogy of the human, constitutes a simple and originally perfect self-presentation or, rather, communication of the Supreme Being. The development of our consciousness of the wisdom of God consists in this, that this communication in its temporal progress becomes to us ever increasingly a perfect presentation of the almighty love of God.
We do not thereby admit the antithesis of end and means in the world, except in the sense that the means is embraced in the end, as a part in the whole.
To the Christian the redemption is the key to the understanding of the divine wisdom, and the whole divine economy is interpreted in the light of the revelation of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit. But this by no means implies a desire to find in individual occurrences a particular relation to the kingdom of God. This would degenerate into an opposition to scientific investigation. Nay, such occurrences as, presumably, are unconnected with the world-system and yet can not be separated from human concerns, must turn to the damage of the progress of the redemption and must also be excluded from the provisions of the divine wisdom. All things in the world that can be ascribed to the divine wisdom must also be referable to the redeeming new-creating revelation of God. Thus the peculiar work of the wisdom of God is just the extension of the redemption. This means, of 289course, that the most minute investigation of the facts of nature and the effort to penetrate into the hidden depths of the divine purpose are to be commended (§§ 168, 169).
Conclusion: The Divine Trinity (§§ 170-72)
Our whole apprehension of Christianity stands or falls with the union of the Divine Being with human nature, This union appears first in the person of Christ, and by virtue of it the idea of redemption is concentrated in his person. It appears also in the common spirit of the church, and by virtue of this, the church bears and propagates the redemption through Christ. These are the essential elements of the church doctrine of the Trinity. The defense of the doctrine has been moved by the religious interest--the concern to conserve the absolute character of the redemption by rejecting the idea of subordinate divinities in Christ and the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed by the fact that those parties in the church which have denied the Trinity have held an entirely different view of the redemption on all sides of it.
The doctrine of the Trinity is the keystone of the whole structure of Christian doctrine with respect to this essential point: the equivalence of the divine nature in Christ and in the spirit of the church with the divine nature in itself.
But to the further elaboration of this dogma in the creeds and confessions the same value cannot be as signed. In these the union of the divine with the human 290in Christ and in the Spirit of the church is referred back to an eternal separation within the Supreme Being in dependently of these two acts of union. Then the member of this separated Being who was designated to the union with Jesus is named Son; and the same process taking place in reference to the Holy Spirit, the other member is called Father. In this way arose the description of God as a unity of essence with a trio- of persons. But such a separation within the Supreme Being is no expression of a religious consciousness and never could be.
Such a doctrine of the Trinity cannot be made to rest upon the Logos-doctrine of John’s Gospel, for this logology has seemed to afford support to the Arian and Athanasian formulae alike, and its interpretation is not settled. If such a doctrine was in John’s mind, why did he not set forth a similar statement concerning the Holy Spirit, especially since he mentions the Spirit so frequently in his gospel, and why did he offer no caution against polyolatry?
Nor can this doctrine be framed from the statements of Christ and his apostles as a combination of authoritative testimonies concerning a supersensuous fact. That would be just as little a doctrine of faith (Glaubenslehre) in the original and proper sense of the word as are the doctrines of the resurrection and the ascension. Moreover this supposedly transcendental fact does not affect our faith in Christ or our fellowship with him.291
NOTE.--A doctrine of the Trinity derived from universal conceptions, or a priori, could have no place in Christian doctrine, even if there were a verbal coincidence, and could render no service to it. Such a doctrine in itself would not be of a religious character for its source is different.
The difficulty of conceiving each of three persons as equal to two others and to the divine essence is beyond the compass of thought. If the Godhead of all three DC less than the one supreme Essence, then our life-fellowship with Christ and our participation in the Holy Spirit are no fellowship with God, and all that is most valuable in Christianity is altered. If each be equal to the others, the difficulty is to find the rule for the distinction of the persons without the introduction of some elements that involves inequality. This is manifest in the Catholic statements of the doctrine. Similar contradictions appear in the canons which have been offered for the representation of the relation of the triplicity of persons to the unity of the Essence. If we assume triplicity we do not reach the unity, and if we assume the unity there is no room for triplicity. We possess no analogies whereon to base such a representation. The ecclesiastical doctrine, therefore, can furnish no support to the fundamental truth of Christianity.
The same difficulty arises when we attempt to relate each and all of the three persons to the divine causality. The dogmaticians have felt this, for they all assume the divinity of the Father and attempt to prove that of the Son and the Spirit, which shows that notwithstanding 292 formal orthodoxy they actually follow Origen in holding that the Father alone is absolutely God and that Son and Spirit are God only by participation.
The traditional trinitarian formulae come to us from a time when the great mass of Christians were recently recruited from heathenism. It was a very easy matter for echoes of heathen thought to steal in when the question of plurality or distinction in God was discussed, and it is just as natural to find that the definitions presented in those earlier times should be quite unsuited to later times when a mingling of heathen elements is no longer to be feared. If the value of the doctrine lies in the affirmation that God is in Christ and in the common spirit of the church, then there arises the problem how to relate the peculiar existence of God in another to his existence in and for himself and in relation to the world in general. But there is no prospect of obtaining a formula which will be sufficient for all time inasmuch as, since we have to do only with that God-consciousness which is given in our self-consciousness and with the world-consciousness, we have no available formula for the expression of the existence of God in himself as distinct from his existence in the world, and we are driven to borrow the desired formula from speculation; but that is to be untrue to the nature of dogmatics. And inasmuch as all our dogmatical expressions for the relation of God to the world are unavoidably anthropomorphic, how can we expect to 293avoid the same defect when we approach the complicated problem of distinguishing the peculiar (personal) existence of God in Christ as an individual and his existence in the church as a historical whole from the omnipotent presence of God in the world in general, of which the other two are yet only parts?
It is evident that the solution of the problem of the Trinity can be only approximate and progressive. Interest in it must rise ever afresh. We can expect no final statement. It will remain a problem. The customary placing of the doctrine of the Trinity at the head of the dogmatical system gives the misleading impression which, nevertheless, the history of the church contradicts, that the acceptance of this doctrine is the indispensable condition of faith in the redemption and in the founding of the kingdom of God in Christ and in the Holy Spirit. Such a procedure results in making speculation rather than the Christian consciousness the basis of Christian doctrine.294295
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