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§ 3. This presupposed Truth and the Historical Accounts mutually confirm and illustrate each other.

But as man’s higher nature can only reach its true destiny in Christian consciousness, from which the great First Truth just mentioned is inseparable, it is necessary that this first truth should be shown to be essential also to the general consciousness of man. That it is so can be proved from its harmony with the universal and essential prepossessions of human nature; but the exhibition of this proof belongs more properly to the department of Apologetics. It is shown to be a necessary and not a voluntary prepossession; first, because it satisfies a fundamental want of human nature, a want created by history, and foreshadowing its own fulfilment; and, secondly, because this view of Christ’s person arose from the direct impression which his appearance among men made upon the eye-witnesses, and, through them, upon the whole human race. This image of Christ, which has always propagated itself in the consciousness of the Christian Church, originated in, and ever points back to, the revelation of Christ himself, without which, indeed, it could never have arisen. As man’s limited intellect could never, without the aid of revelation, have originated the idea of God, so the image of CHRIST, of which we have spoken, could never have sprung from the consciousness of sinful humanity, but must be regarded as the reflection of the actual life of such a CHRIST. It is Christ’s self-revelation, made, through all generations, in the fragments of his history that remain, and in the workings of his Spirit which inspires 4these fragments, and enables us to recognize in them one complete whole.2626   Strauss, in his “Leben Jesu” (part ii., p. 719), has drawn a just distinction between the abstract idea of human perfection which is involved in our consciousness of sinfulness, and seems inseparable from our natural tendency to the idea of God, and the “actual (concrete) working out of the picture, with the traits of individual reality.” In relation to this last he says, “Such a faultless picture could not be exhibited by a sinful man in a sinful age; but,” adds he, “such an age, itself not free from these defects, would not be conscious of them; and if the picture is only sketched, and stands in need of much illustration, it may, even in a later and more clear-sighted age, willing to afford favorable illustrations, be regarded as faultless.” In opposition to this, we have to say that the picture of the Life of Christ which has been handed down to us does not exhibit the spirit of that age, but a far higher Spirit, which, manifesting itself in the lineaments of the picture, exerted a regenerating influence not only in that age, but on all succeeding generations. The image of human perfection, concretely presented in the Life of Christ, stands in manifold contradiction to the tendencies of humanity in that period; no one of them, no combination of them, dead, as they were, could account for it. Whence, then, in that impure age, came such a picture (a picture which the age itself could not completely understand, of which the age could only now and then seize a congenial trait to make a caricature of), the contemplating of which raised the human race of that and following ages to a new developement of spiritual life? The study of this picture has given a new view of the destiny of humanity; a new conception of what the ideal of human virtue should be, and a new theory of morals: all which vanish, however, when we withdraw our gaze from its lineaments. The spirit of ethics, which had taken to itself only certain features of the picture broken from their connexion with the whole, and was corrupted by foreign elements that had bound themselves up with the Christian consciousness, was purified again in contemplating the unmutilated historical Prototype in the days of the Reformation. And whenever the spirit of the age cuts itself loose, either in the popular turn of thought or in the schools of philosophy, from this historical relation, it estranges itself also from the ethics of Christianity, and sets up a new and different ideal of perfection from that which the revelation of Christ has grounded in the consciousness of man.
   So much for what Strauss, l. c., and Baur (Gnosis, p. 655), have said against Schleiermacher.
It is a stream of the Divine Life which has spread abroad through all ages since the establishment of the Christian Church. And the peculiar mark of this Divine Life is precisely this, that it is grounded in a consciousness of absolute dependence upon Christ; that it is nothing else but a constant renewing after the image of Christ. But as we often find this stream darkened and troubled, we are necessarily led back to HIM, the well-spring from whom the full-flowing fountain of Divine Life gushes forth in all its purity; the Son of God, and the Redeemer of men. He who could with Divine confidence present himself as such to mankind, and call all men to come unto him to satisfy the cravings of their higher nature, must have had within himself the authority of an infallible consciousness.

Now if we can show that the Life of Christ, without the aid of the First Truth which forms the ground of our conception of it, must be unintelligible, while, on the contrary, with its assistance, we can frame the Life into a harmonious whole, then its claims will be established even in the exposition of the Life itself.2727   Τὰς ὑποθέσεις ποιούμενος οὐκ ἀρχὰς, ἀλλὰ τῷ ὄντι ὑποθέσεις, οἷον ἐπιθάσεις τε καὶ ὁρμάς, as Plato says, in a different connexion, at the end of the sixth book of the Republic. Nay, the idea of Christ 5which has come down to us through Christian consciousness (the chief element of which is the impression which He himself left upon the souls of the Apostles) will, by comparison with the living manifestation (i. e., of Christ in his life), be more and more distinctly defined and developed in its separate features, and more and more freed from foreign elements.

So it is in considering the life of any man who has materially and beneficially affected the progress of the race, especially if the results of his labours have touched upon our own interests. We form in advance some idea of such a man, and are not disposed, from any doubtful acts of his that may be laid before us, to change our preconceived notion for an opposite one.

But while this preconceived idea may be our guide in studying the life of such a man, the study itself will contribute to enlarge and rectify the individual lineaments of the picture. But we must not lose sight of one important difference. In all other men there is a contrast between the ideal and the phenomenal. While in many of their traits we may discern the Divine principle which forms their individuality, the archetype of their manifestation in time, in others we see opposing elements, which go to make a mere caricature of that principle. We can obtain no clear view of the aim of the life of such men, unless we can seize upon the higher element which forms the individual character; just as an artist might depict accurately a man’s organic features, and, for want of the peculiar intellectual expression, fail completely in giving the entire living physiognomy. But without a conception of the living whole we could not detect the separate features which mar the harmony of the picture. On the other side, again, if we contemplate the whole apart from the individual features, we shall only form an arbitrary ideal, not at all corresponding to the reality.

In CHRIST, however, the ideal and the phenomenal never contradict each other. All depends upon our viewing rightly together the separate features in their connexion with the higher unity of the whole. We presuppose this view of the whole, in order to a just conception of the parts, and to avoid regarding any necessary feature in the light of a caricature. This can the more easily be done, as the phenomena which we are here to contemplate stand alone, and can be compared with no other. And as, even in studying the life of an eminent man, we must commune with his spirit in order to obtain a complete view of his being, so we must yield ourselves up to the Spirit of Christ whom we acknowledge and adore as exalted above us, that He him self may show us his Divine image in the mirror of his Life, and teach us how to distinguish all prejudices of our own creating from the necessary laws of our being.

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