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“There has seldom been an age more irreligious than ours, yet it will be difficult to find one in which religious questions have been more profoundly discussed.”—Hartmann.
“In the history of systems an inexorable logic rids them of their halfness and hesitancies, and drives them straight to their inevitable goal.”—Martineau.
“Conjecture of the worker by the work:
THE CHISTIAN VIEW AND ITS ALERNATIVES
It is the fundamental assumption of these Lectures that the central point in the Christian view of God and the world is the acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as a truly Divine Person—the Son of God made flesh. How is this assumption to be vindicated? I do not conceal from myself that the issues involved in such an assertion are very stupendous. The belief in Jesus as the Son of God is not one to be lightly taken up, but when it is taken up, it practically determines, as has already been said, a man’s views on everything else in Christianity. No one will dispute that, if Jesus Christ is what the creeds declare Him to be—an Incarnation of the Divine—His Person is necessarily central in His own religion, nay, in the universe. Christianity, on this assumption, is correctly described as the religion of the Incarnation.
On the other hand, this is precisely the view of the Person of Christ which, we are told, the modern view of the world compels us to reject. No doctrine stumbles the modern mind so completely as this. It is flatly pronounced incredible and absurd. That Jesus was the holiest of men—the Divinest of the race, the most perfect exhibition of the god-like in humanity—may well be conceded; but of literal Incarnation it is not permitted to the modern intelligence to speak. Science has to investigate the origin of the dogma; to show how it arose from the powerful impression made by Jesus on His followers; how it was shaped by Hebrew and Hellenic modes of thought; but it cannot for a moment entertain the possibility that the idea which it represents is true. As strenuously is our right resisted to speak of this doctrine as an essential and integral part of Christianity. Short of this conception, it is said, there are many grades of belief in40
Christ, and we are not entitled to unchristianise any of them To identify the essence of Christianity with the Incarnation is, it is held, to make a particular dogmatic interpretation of Christianity equivalent to Christianity itself. It is not, indeed, among the extremer sceptics that we find any difficulty in getting the acknowledgment that the Incarnation is central in Christianity. “It is,” says Strauss, “certainly the central dogma in Christianity. Here the Founder is at the same time the most prominent object of worship; the system based on Him loses its support as soon as He is shown to be lacking in the qualities appropriate to an object of religious worship.”5656Der alte und der neue Glaube, pp. 43, 44. “In Him alone,” says Feuerbach, “is concentrated the Christian religion.”5757Das Wesen des Christenthums, p. 147 (Eng. trans.). Quite logically, from his point of view, Strauss draws the conclusion that, since the Incarnation is untenable, Christianity falls to the ground with it. But others will not go thus far. They distinguish between Christianity and its accidents, and put this doctrine in the category of the accidents. Nay, it is ostensibly in the interests of what is supposed to be a purer and more primitive form of Christianity that in many quarters the demand for the surrender of this doctrine is made. The cry is, “ Back from Christianity to Christ”—back from the Christianity of the creeds, from the Christianity even of Paul and John—to the Christ of the simple Galilean gospel, who never dreamt of making himself God. As Lessing, in a famous passage, distinguishes between “ the religion of Christ” and “the Christian religion,” meaning by the former the religion which Christ Himself professed and practised, and by the latter the superstructure of dogma subsequently reared on this,5858Cf. Pfleiderer, Religionsphilosophie, i. p. 141 (Eng. trans.). so an analogous distinction is drawn between the Pauline and Johannine Christ, with His halo of supernatural attributes, and the meek and lowly Jesus, so intensely human, of the Synoptic Gospels.
Nevertheless, the ablest theology of the century will sustain me in the general assertion, that the central principle of Christianity is the Person of its Founder. Whatever may be thought of the great speculative movement in the beginning 41of the century, connected with the names of Fichte and Schelling and Hegel, it cannot be denied that at least it rendered an essential service to theology in overcoming the shallow rationalism of the preceding period, and in restoring to its place of honour in the Christian system the doctrine of Christ’s Person, which it had become customary to put in the background. Still more influential in this direction was the powerful impulse given to theology by Schleiermacher. Since that time all the best theology in Germany may be said to be Christological. That Christ sustains a different relation to His religion from that of ordinary founders of religion to the faiths they have founded; that in Him there was a peculiar union of the Divine and human; that His appearance and work were of decisive importance for the Church and for humanity—these are thoughts which may be said to be common to all the greater systems, irrespective of schools. They are found among theologians as widely separated in dogmatic standpoint tendency as Rothe and Dorner, Biedermann and Lipsius, Beyschlag and Ritschl, Luthardt and Frank. It is only outside the circles of really influential theology that we find a reversion to the loose deistic conception of Christ as simply a Prophet or moral Teacher, like Moses or Confucius or Buddha.5959See Note A.—The Central Place of Christ in His Religion. It is indeed a powerful proof of the view that the Person of Christ is of unique importance in His religion, that whenever a new breath of life passes over theology, and an attempt is made to gain a profounder apprehension of Christianity, there is a recurrence to this idea, and the necessity is felt of doing justice to it; thus testifying to the truth of Dorner’s remark, “A Christian system which is unable to make Christology an integral part of itself, has pronounced its own judgment; it has really given up the claim to the title of Christian.”6060Doct. of Person of Christ, v. p. 49 (Eng. trans.).
At the same time, this acknowledgment of the central and unique place of time Founder of Christianity in His religion does not settle the question of the precise estimate we are to take of His Person. Is He merely human, or is He Divine as well? Or if Divine, in what sense do we attach this predicate to Him? Is it, as with the Hegelians, the mere expression of a metaphysical idea—of that identity of the 42 Divine and the human which is as true of all men as it is of Christ, only that it came first to clear consciousness in Him? Or is it, as with Ritschl, the mere expression of a value judgment of the believer—a predicate denoting the worth which Christ has for the believing soul as the supreme Revealer of God’s character and purpose? Or is it, as with others, an ethical Divinity that is ascribed to Christ—such participation in the Divine nature and life of Sonship as may be experienced also by the believer?6161Thus, e.g., Wendt in his Inhalt der Lehre Jesu. Or shall we hold, in agreement with the general faith of the Church, that Christ is more than all this—that in Him the Divine pre-existing Word truly and personally became incarnate, and made our nature His own—that therefore He is the Son of God, not simply as we are, but in a high and transcendental sense, in which we cannot compare ourselves with Him? This question, in the present state of controversy, is not so easily settled as might at first sight appear. It is vain, of course, to appeal to the great ecclesiastical creeds, for it is they which are in dispute. It is vain also, at this stage, to attempt to settle the question by the simple method of citation of proof texts. The facts of Christ’s self-revelation, and His witness to His own Person, must indeed, in the last resort, be the ground on which our faith in Him rests, and it will be necessary at a later stage to examine this self-witness of Christ, as well as the apostolic doctrine, with considerable care.6262Cf. Lecture VI. But at the outset this method is attended by obvious disadvantages. It is easy to say—the original documents of Christianity are before us; let us examine them. But, for one thing, some of these documents—the Fourth Gospel, e.g., and some of the Pauline epistles—are themselves in dispute among our opponents; and, even if genuine, their authority is not accepted as decisive. In the next place, there is the question, whether there are not traces of development in the doctrine of the Person of Christ even within the New Testament—whether all the sacred writers teach the same view. There are many, as I have already said, who will admit that Christ’s Divinity is taught by Paul and John, who would deny that it is taught by Christ Himself. These are difficulties which cannot be satisfactorily met by mere assertion, and the 43question recurs, whether—as a provisional expedient at least—any other course is open to us?
There is another method which I propose to apply in this Lecture, one which appears to me to have the advantage of dealing with all these issues at once, and at the same time deals with issues of a wider character. It is the method of appeal to history. The individual judgment may err in the opinions it forms, and in the conclusions it deduces from them. It is not given to any man to see all the consequences that follow from his own thinking. He may quite conceivably hold in the scheme of his beliefs propositions that are inconsistent with each other, and, if logically carried out, would destroy each other, and not be aware of the fact. In history things get beaten out to their true issues. The strands of thought that are incompatible with each other get separated; conflicting tendencies, at first unperceived, are brought to light; opposite one-sidednesses correct each other; and the true consequences of theories reveal themselves with inexorable necessity. As Socrates, in Plato’s Republic,6363Book ii. investigating the nature of Justice, proposes to study it first as “writ large” in the collective magnitude of the State, that thereafter he may return with better knowledge to the study of it in the individual, so the movements of thought are best studied on the broad scale in which they present themselves over large periods of time. It is to this test I propose to bring the great question of Christianity—the same that was proposed by Jesus to the Pharisees eighteen hundred years ago—“What think ye of Christ? Whose Son is He?”6464Matt. xxii. I shall ask what aid history affords us in determining the true estimate to be put upon the Person of Christ, and the place held in the Christian system by the doctrine of the Incarnation.
It is one advantage of this method, that, as I have said, it brings all the issues into court at once. The verdict of history is at once a judgment on the answers which have been given to the theological question; on their agreement with the sum-total of the facts of Christianity; on the methods of exegesis and New Testament criticism by which they have been supported; on their power to maintain themselves against 44rival views; on how far the existence of Christianity is dependent on them, or bound up with them.
I. History a series of alternatives—the downward movement.
I. History, then, as it seems to me, presents us with a series of alternatives of a deeply interesting character, by studying which we may find our bearings on this question, “What think ye of Christ?” as we can in no other way.
1. First alternative—A Divine Christ or humanitarianism.
1. The first essential service which history has rendered us has been in the elimination of intermediate views—in making it clear as a first alternative that the real issue on this question is between a truly Divine Christ and pure humanitarianism. Intermediate views on Christ’s Person have from time to time arisen, and still go on arising, in the Church; but, like the intermediate species of plants and animals Mr. Darwin tells us of, which are invariably driven to the wall in the struggle for existence, they have never been able to survive. There is, e.g., the Arian view, which has appeared again and again in the history of the Church in times of spiritual decadence. To find a place for the high attributes ascribed to Christ in Scripture, a lofty supernatural dignity is in this view assigned to Him. He was a sort of supreme angel, God’s First-born, His instrument in the creation of the world, etc. But He was not eternal; He was not of Divine essence. It is safe to say that this view is now practically extinct. It would be a shallow reading of history to attribute the defeat of Arianism in the early Church to the anathemas of councils, the influence of court favour, or any other accidental circumstances. It perished through its own inherent weakness.6565See Note B.—The Defeat of Arianism. Dorner says “Not merely did it tend back to Ebionitism; not merely was it unable, with its Docetism and its doctrine of a created higher spirit, to allow even the possibility of an Incarnation; but, by putting a fantastical under-God between God and man, it separated the two quite as much as it appeared to unite them.”—Person of Christ, ii. p. 261 (Eng. trans.). If the Arians admit all they profess to do about Christ—that He was pre-existent, God’s agent in the creation of the world, etc.—there need be little difficulty in admitting the rest. On the other hand, if they stop short of the higher view to which the Scriptures seem to point, they entangle themselves in difficulties and contradictions, exegetical and other, which make it impossible for them to 45remain where they are. In reality, these high-sounding attributes which they ascribe to Christ are an excrescence on the system; for on this theory no work remains for Christ to do which could not have been accomplished equally well by a highly endowed man. Historically, therefore, Arianism has always tended to work round to the Socinian or strictly Unitarian view of Christ, where it has not gone upwards, through semi-Arianism, to the recognition of His full Divinity.
But this Socinian or Unitarian view of the Person of Christ—I refer to the older Unitarianism of the Priestley and Channing type—is another of those intermediate views which history also may now be said to have eliminated. Christ, on this view, is the greatest of inspired teachers, a true Prophet. He had a divine mission; He wrought miracles in confirmation of His doctrine; He rose from the dead on the third day; He is expected to return to judge the world. Here also there is a great deal of the halo of the supernatural about Christ. He is supernatural in history, if not in nature, and men saw again that they must either believe more or believe less. The rationalistic leaven, which was already working in the rejection of the higher aspects of Christ’s Person and work, made itself increasingly felt. As the miraculous adjuncts were retained only in deference to the representations of Scripture, they were readily abandoned when criticism professed to show how they might be stripped off without detriment to Christ’s moral image. Be the cause what it may, it is undeniable that Unitarianism of this kind has not been able to maintain itself. It has constantly tended to purge itself of the remaining supernatural features in the portrait of Christ, and to descend to the level of simple humanitarianism, i.e., to the belief in Christ as simply a great man, a religious genius of the first rank, one in whom the light which shines in all men shone in an eminent degree—but still a mere man, without anything supernatural in His origin, nature, or history.6666See Note C.—Modern Unitarianism.
A further example of the difficulty of maintaining an intermediate position on the doctrine of the Person of Christ, may be taken from the long series of intermediate views which have sprung up on the soil of Germany as the result 46 of the great intellectual and theological movement inaugurated by Hegel and Schleiermacher in the beginning of the century. Passing by the speculative Christologies—in which, when the veil was stripped off, it was found that the idea was every thing, the historical Christ nothing—I may refer here to the Christology of Schleiermacher and his school. Schleiermacher recognises to the full “a peculiar being of God in Christ.”6767Der christ. Glaube. sect. 94. He affirms Christ’s perfect sinlessness, and the unique significance of His Personality for the Church and for the race. He is the Head, Archetype, Representative, and Redeemer of mankind. Only through Him is redemption from sin and fellowship of life with God possible. But when we come to inquire wherein consists this “peculiar being of God” in Christ, it proves, after all, to be only an exceptionally constant and energetic form of that God-consciousness which exists germinally in all men, and indeed lies at the root of religious experience generally. The difference between Christ and other men is thus in degree, not in kind. In Him this Divine element had the ascendency, in us it has not. He is a miracle, in so far as the Divine dwelt in Him in this unique and exceptional fulness and power, constituting Him the Redeemer and second Adam of the race; but there is no entrance of God into humanity such as we associate with the idea of Incarnation. When, further, we investigate the nature of Christ’s saving activity, we find that the exalted, high-priestly functions which Schleiermacher ascribes to Christ shrink, on inspection, into very meagre dimensions. Christ’s continued saving activity in His Church is presupposed, but it is not the activity of One who still lives and reigns on high, but rather the perpetuation of a posthumous influence, through the preservation of His image in the Gospels, and the fellowship of the Christian society.6868Thus also Ritschl. Ultimately, therefore, Christ’s saving activity is reduced to example and teaching; at most, to the spiritual influence of a great and unique historic Personality.6969On Schleiermacher’s Christology, cf. Dorner, Person of Christ, pp. 174–213. “When we have got this length, we are clearly back on the road to simple humanitarianism. Accordingly, none of Schleiermacher’s followers have been able to stop exactly where he did. They have felt 47the inexorable compulsion of the less or more; and while some have gone back to rationalism, the great majority, as Rothe acknowledges,7070He says: “Since Schleiermacher’s death, the school proceeding from him has generally gone back into the way of the Church doctrine.”—Dogmatik, ii. p. 162. have pressed on to more positive views, and have come into substantial harmony with confessional orthodoxy. A new wave of mediating theology has recently arisen in the school of Ritschl; but the fundamental principle of this school—the denial of the right of the theoretic reason to have anything to do with religion or theology—is not one that can permanently be approved of, and would, if followed out, end in boundless subjectivity. In this school also, accordingly, the necessity of less or more is asserting itself. Already the members of the school have begun to move off on different and irreconcilable lines—some in a more negative, the greater number in a more positive direction. The attempt of Ritschl to bar off all inquiry into the nature of Christ’s Person, by resolving His “Godhead” into a mere value-judgment of the believer, is felt not to be satisfactory; and the admission is increasingly made that consistency of Christian thinking demands the acknowledgment of a transcendental basis.7171See Note D.—Concessions of Ritschlians on the Person of Christ.
The general verdict of history, therefore, is clearly against the permanence of these attempts at a middle view of Christ’s Person, and warns us whither they tend. The liberal school in Germany, Holland, and France are clearly right in saying that the only alternative to Christ’s true Divinity is pure humanitarianism; and that, if the former doctrine is rejected, the supernatural view of His Person must be altogether given up. This is a clear issue, and I think it is well to have matters brought to it without shrinking or disguise. I desire now to show that this first alternative soon hands us in a second.
2. Second alternative—A Divine Christ or Agnosticism.
2. The first alternative is between a Divine Christ and a purely human one—the second is between a Divine Christ and pure Agnosticism. Many of those who take the humanitarian view of Christ’s Person are very far from wishing to deny that a great deal of what Christ taught was true. They do not wish to deny the existence of God, or the fact of a future life, or the essentials of Christian morality. In not a few cases they strongly uphold these truths—maintain them to be the true 48 natural religion, in opposition to revealed. They account it Christ’s greatest glory that He saw so clearly, and announced so unambiguously, the Fatherhood of God, the dignity of the soul, the certainty of immortality, and the dependence of happiness here and hereafter on virtue. It is a plausible view to take, for it seems to secure to those who hold it all that they take to be essential in Christianity, while at the same time it leaves them unbounded liberty to accept or reject what they like in modern “advanced” views—to get rid of miracles, go in with progressive theories of science, accept the newest criticism of the Gospels, etc. It is a plausible view, but it is an illusive one; for if there is one thing more than another which the logic of events makes evident, it is, that with the humanitarian view of Christ we cannot stop at simple, abstract Theism, but must go on to pure Agnosticism. This is indeed what the larger number of the more logical minds which leave rejected supernatural Christianity in our own day are doing. Nor is the process which heads to this result difficult to follow. The Deism of the last century rejected Christianity, and sought to establish in its place what it called “Natural Religion,” i.e. a belief in God, in the future life, in a state of rewards and punishments, etc., based on reason alone. But however congruous with reason these doctrines may be in the place which they hold in the religion of Jesus, it was not really reason which had discovered them, or which gave assurance about them; nor did it follow that reason could successfully vindicate them, when torn from their context, and presented in the meagre, abstract form in which they appeared in the writings of the deists. What the deists did was to pick these doctrines out of the New Testament, separating them from the rest of the doctrines with which they were associated, and denuding them of everything which could make them real and vital to the minds and consciences of men; then to baptise this caput mortuum with the name of “Natural Religion.” They were doctrines that had their roots in the Christian system, and the arguments from reason with which they were sup ported wore not the real grounds of belief in them. In the present century men are not so easily satisfied.7272See Note E.—The Weakness of Deism. They see clearly enough that all the objections which have been levelled 49against the God of Revelation tell just as powerfully against the God of nature; that to admit Christ’s doctrine of a Heavenly Father, of a soul made in God’s image, of a special providence, of prayer, of forgiveness of sins, of a future life of happiness and misery, is already to have crossed the line which separates a merely natural from a supernatural view of things; and that to reject Christ’s doctrines on these great questions makes it difficult to retain a Theism of any kind.7373This is where not only Deism, but also the so-called Liberal Protestantism, fails, in rejecting supernatural Christianity, See Note F.—Weakness of Modern Liberal Protestantism. This is not because a theistic view of tine world is ion itself less reasonable than a non-theistic view—to admit this would be to give up the whole case on behalf of Christianity. But it is because the kind of Theism that remains after the Christian element has been removed out of it, is not one fitted to satisfy either the reason or the heart. It is a pale, emasculated conception, which, finding no support in the facts or experiences of the spiritual life, can never stand against the assaults made on it from without. It is here that Pantheism has its advantage over Deism. It is indeed more reasonable to believe in a living personal God, who created and who controls the universe, than in the “One and All” of the pantheist; but it does not follow that it is more reasonable to believe in an abstract Deity—a mere figment of the intellect—who stands in separation from the world, and yields no satisfaction to the religious life. Theism is a reasonable view of the universe, but it must be a living Theism, not a barren and notional one.
If, to avoid this bankruptcy, the attempt is made to deal in earnest with the conception of a personal God, and to reclothe the Deity with the warm, gracious attributes which belong to the Father-God of Christ, then we have indeed a Being whom the soul can love, trust, and hold communion with, but the difficulty recurs of believing Him to be a God who remains self-enclosed, impassive, uncommunicative, towards creatures whom He has dowered with a share of His own rational and moral excellences, who has so shut Himself out by natural law from direct contact with the spirits that seek Him, that He can neither speak to them, answer their prayers, help them in trouble nor or even reach them by inward succours—a silent God, 50 who can no more enter into personal relations with His creatures than if He were impersonal. Such a conception is self-contradictory, and cannot maintain itself. One feels this incongruity very powerfully in dealing with the Theism of such writers as the late Mr. Rathbone Greg, or Dr. Martineau, or the authoress of Robert Elsmere. None of these writers will admit the possibility of miracle; logically, therefore, they shut out the possibility of direct communication between God and man. Yet none of them can rest with the cold abstract God of Deism; or with the immanent impersonal spirit of Pantheism; or with the comfortless negation of Agnosticism. God is with them a personal Being; His will is ethical; communion with Him is longed after and believed in. Let Mr. Greg’s own pathetic words tell how insecure is the Theism thus cut off from positive Revelation. “My own conception,” he says, “perhaps from early mental habit, perhaps from incurable and very conscious metaphysical inaptitude, approaches far nearer to the old current image of a personal God than to any of the sublimated substitutes of modern thought. Strauss’s Universum, Comte’s Humanity, even Mr. Arnold’s Stream of Tendency that makes for Righteousness, excite in me no enthusiasm, command from me no worship. I cannot pray to the ‘Immensities’ and the ‘Eternities’ of Carlyle; they proffer me no help; they vouchsafe me no sympathy; they suggest no comfort. It may be that such a personal God is a mere anthropomorphic creation. It may be—as philosophers with far finer instruments of thought than mine affirm—that the conception of such a Being, duly analysed, is demonstrably a self-contradictory one. But, at least in resting in it, I rest in something I almost seem to realise; at least, I share the view which Jesus indisputably held of the Father whom He obeyed, communed with, and worshipped.”7474Creed of Christendom, Introd., 3rd. ed., pp. 90, 91. Surely it need hardly be said that a view which, even while holding it, one doubts may be only a result of “early mental habit,” “a mere anthropomorphic creation,” a “self-contradictory” conception, cannot long stand as a basis for life; nor will the trust which Jesus had help much, when one has already rejected as delusion His doctrine of prayer, of special providence, of forgiveness of sins, and His own Messianic claims and expectations. Already we tremble on 51the verge of Agnosticism, if we have not actually passed its bound.
I think, accordingly, I am justified in saying that when the ground of Divine Revelation is once left behind, we have no logical halting-place short of Agnosticism; not because a theistic view of the world is unreasonable, but because a living Theism requires as its complement belief in Revelation. We have these alternatives: either to revivify our Theism till it approaches in the humane and loving attributes it ascribes to God, the Christian conception of the Heavenly Father—in which case we are back to a supernatural view of the universe; or, if this is thought baseless, to dispense with the idea of God altogether, and try to explain the world without reason, without final cause, without spiritual assumptions of any kind.
3. Third alternative—A Divine Christ or Pessimism.
3. Agnosticism is, however, far from representing the end of this road along which we had begun to travel in rejecting the Divine in Christ. The final alternative—one which we may trust the world at large will never be called upon to face—is a Divine Christ or Pessimism. Agnosticism is not a state in which the mind of an intelligent being can permanently rest. It is essentially a condition of suspense—a confession of ignorance—an abdication of thought on the highest subjects.7575Generally, however, under the surface of professed Agnosticism, there will he found some more or less positive opinions about the origin and nature of things all of them agreeing in this, that they negate the belief in God. It is not, in the nature of things, possible for the mind to remain persistently in this neutral, passive attitude. It will press on perforce to one or other of the views which present themselves as alternatives—either to Theism, or to Materialism and dogmatic Atheism.7676On the continent there are fewer agnostics, but more atheists and materialists, than with us. “In Germany,” says Karl Peters, “things are come to such a pass that one is obliged. to ask a sort of absolution if one does not swim with the prevailing atheistic-monistic stream.”—Willenswelt und Weltwille, p. 350. I do not speak, of course, of the individual mind, but of the general historical development. But even Agnosticism has brought with it a train of baleful results. With the loss of certainty on the highest questions of existence there comes inevitably a lowering of the pulse of human endeavour all round—a loosening of certainty about morals, for why should these remain unaffected when every thing else is going?—and as we see to-day, in much of the 52 speculative thought of France and Germany, a hopelessness about the future. For, obviously, when this point is reached, the rational ground is taken away even from belief in progress.7777See Note G.—Christianity and the Idea of Progress. When the idea of God, which is equivalent to the idea of a reason at the foundation of things, is surrendered—whether in Agnosticism, or in some form of dogmatic denial, makes little difference—it becomes a wholly unwarranted assumption that things must certainly go on from better to better. The opposite may quite as well be the case, and progress, now that a given height is reached, may rather be from better to worse. The analogy of nature shows that this is the law in regard to natural life. The plant blooms, reaches its acme, and dies. So, it may be plausibly argued, it will be with humanity. The fact that some progress has been made in the past does not guarantee that this progress will go on indefinitely; rather, the spur to this progress consisted in what we are now told are illusions, and when these are exploded the motives to progress are gone. A more highly evolved society may lead to an increase of misery rather than of happiness; the growth of enlightenment, instead of adding to men’s enjoyments, may result in stripping them successively of the illusions that remain, and may leave them at last sad, weary, disappointed, with an intolerable consciousness of the burden and wretchedness of existence.7878Pessimism reverses Pascal’s saying that the greatness of man consists in thought. thought, according to Pessimism, is the fatal gift. “Well for those,” Schopenhauer thinks, ‘who have no consciousness of existence. The life of the animal is more to be envied than that of man; the life of the plant is better than that of the fish in the water, or even of the oyster on the rock. Non-being is better than being, and unconsciousness is the blessedness of what does exist. The best would be if all existence were annihilated. “Cf. Luthardt, Die mod. Welt. p. 150. The height of misery is not that of being man; it is, being man, to despise oneself sufficiently to regret that one is not an animal.”—CARO, Le Pessimisme, p. 135. All this is not fancy. The despairing, pessimistic spirit I am speaking of has already taken hold of extensive sections of society, and is giving startling evidences of its presence. For the first time on European soil we see large and influential systems springing up, and gaining for themselves wide popularity and acceptance, which have for their root-idea exactly this conception of the inherent irrationality and misery of existence. There have always been individual thinkers with a tendency to take a prejudiced 53and hopeless view of life, but their reveries have not been much regarded. But here, strange to say, under the very shadow of this boasted progress of the nineteenth century—in the very midst of its enlightenment and civilisation and wealth—we see Pessimism raising its head as a serious, carefully thought-out philosophy of existence, and, instead of being scouted and laughed at as an idle dream, it meets with passionate acceptance from multitudes.7979See Note H.—The Prevalence of Pessimism The same spirit will be found reflected by those who care to note its symptoms in much of our current literature, in the serious raising and discussion, for example, of the question already familiar to us—Is life worth living? Specially noticeable is the tone of sadness which pervades much of the nobler sceptical thinking of the present day—the tone of men who do not think lightly of parting with religion, but feel that with it has gone the hope and gladness of earlier days. This Pessimism of scepticism is to me one of the saddest and most significant phenomena of modern times.8080See Appendix to Lecture.—The Pessimism of Scepticism. And, granting the premises it starts from, what other conclusion is possible? Deprive the world of God, and everything becomes an insoluble mystery, history a scene of wrecked illusions, belief in a superstition, and life in general “A tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”8181“Macbeth,” act v. scene 5.
II. The upward movement from Pessimism to Christ.
II. The descent from faith in Christ has landed us in the abyss of Pessimism. But just at this lowest point, where the light of religious faith might seem utterly extinguished, a return movement is felt to be inevitable. For Pessimism, no more than Theism, can escape the necessity laid upon it of giving to itself some account of things as they are—of constructing a “Weltanschauung”; and the movement it attempts to do this, making naked the principle on which it rests, its own insufficiency as a philosophy of existence and of life stands glaring and confessed. Possibly the attempt to work out Pessimism as a system will never be made with much more thoroughness, or with better chances of success, than has 54already been done in the monumental works of Schopenhauer and Hartmann. But the very thoroughgoingness of the attempt is the demonstration of its futility. Of all theories, that which explains the origin of the universe by a mistake—which accounts for it by the blind rushing into existence of an irrational force, call it “Will” or what we please—is surely the most incredible.8282These Pessimistic theories are not without their roots in the philosophies of Fichte. Schelling, and Hegel. Cf. Fichte’s view of the Absolute as “Will” and Sehelling’s “irrational” ground of the Divine nature (after Bohme). in his Philosophie und Religion (1801), Schelling boldly describes the creation as the result of an “Abfall”—the original assertion by the Ego of its independence. “This inexplicable and timeless act is the original sin or primal fall of the spirit, which we expiate in the circles of time existence” (cf. Professor Seth’s From Kant to Hegel, p. 65). Hegel also, in his own way, speaks of creation as an “Abfall.” It is in the Son,” he says, “in the determination of distinction, that progressive determination proceeds to further distinction. . . . This transition in the moment of the Son is thus expressed by Jacob Bohme—that the first-born was Lucifer, the light-hearer the bright, the clear one; but he turned in upon himself in imagination; i.e. he made himself independent, passed over into being, and so fell.”—Phil. d. Rel. ii. p. 251 (Werke, vol. xii.). How came this irrational will-force to be there? What moved it to this insensate decision? In what state was it before it committed this enormous blunder of rushing into existence? How came it to be possessed of that potential wealth of ideas which now are realised in the world? Of what use were they if they were never intended to be called into existence? What I am at present concerned with, however, is not to refute Pessimism, but rather to show how, as a first step in an upward movement back to Christ, by its own immanent dialectic it refutes itself—inverts, in fact, its own starting-point, and works itself round into a species of Theism.
Schopenhauer and Hartmann both recognise that there is in the universe not only “Will,” but “Idea,” and the manner in which they deal wish this element of “Ideal” is one of the most curious examples of the inversion of an original starting-point in the history of philosophy. For, in the course of its development, Pessimism has actually adopted as its leading principle the thought of a rational teleology in the universe, and as a consequence, as above remarked, has worked itself back to Theism. How this comes about it is not difficult to show. The crucial point for all systems of Pessimism is the presence of reason in the universe. How, if the basis of the universe is irrational, does reason come to find a place in it at all? For, manifestly, account for it as we may, there is 55reason in the universe now. The universe itself is a law-connected whole; there is order and plan, organisation and system, utility and beauty, means and ends. Above all, in man himself, if nowhere else, there is conscious reason—the very instrument by which this irrationality of the universe is discovered. There is evidently more here than blind, purposeless will. How is its existence to be explained? Schopenhauer postulates “Idea.” In accounting for nature, he has to suppose that in this blind, purposeless will there lies potentially a whole world of ideas, representing all the stages and kingdoms through which nature advances in the course of its history.8383Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, i. pp. 1 85. 206 (Eng. trans. pp. 203, 219 ff.). Karl Peters remarks: “If the Will alone bears in itself the stages of the World-All as eternal ideas—how can Schopenhauer call it an absolutely irrational Will? And if he conceives of it as a radically blind Will as an insane and altogether groundless ‘Drang,’ how can he vindicate for it these eternal ideas?”—Willenswelt, p. 129. Hartmann unites “Will” and “Idea” yet more closely, regarding them as co-ordinate attributes of the Absolute, though still, somehow, the will is supposed to be in itself a purely irrational force. It is only when the will has made the mistake of rushing into existence that it lays hold on the “Idea” as a means of delivering itself from the unblessedness of its new condition. To this end the universe is represented as ordered with the highest wisdom, the goal of its development being the production of the conscious agent, man, through whom the Redemption of the world-spirit is to be accomplished. I do not pursue these “metaphysics of wonderland” further. I only notice the extraordinary contradictions in which Hartmann involves himself in his conception of the Absolute—“the Unconscious,” as he prefers to term it—and the extraordinary transformation it undergoes in his hands. The absolute is unconscious, and needs to create for itself an organ of consciousness in man before it can attain deliverance from its unblessedness. Yet it knows, plans, contrives, orders everything with consummate wisdom, works out its designs with a precision that is unerring, etc.8484“The Unconscious wills in one act all the terms of a process, means and end, etc., not before, beside, or beyond, but in the result itself.”—Phil. d. Unbewussten, ii. p. 60 (Eng. trans.). The contradiction here is too patent. For, if unconscious, how can we speak of this Absolute as 56unblessed? Or how can we think of it as knowing and planning? Hartmann therefore changes his ground, and speaks in other places of his Absolute rather as supra-conscious;8585The Unconscious, it now appears, has after all a kind of consciousness—is “a transcendent supra-mundane consciousness any thing but blind , rather far-seeing and clairvoyant,” “superior to all consciousness, at once conscious and supra-conscious” (!), its “mode of thinking is, in truth, above consciousness.”—Phil. d. Unbewussten, pp. 246, 247, 258 etc. (Eng. trans.). elsewhere, again, in terms akin to those of Mr. Spencer, as an “Unknowable”—incapable of being represented in forms of our intelligence.8686Phil. d. Unbewussten, pp. 49, 223, 246, etc. (Eng. trans.). Schopenhauer also declares his “Will” to be in itself, i.e. apart from its phenomenal manifestations, an Unknowable, possibly possessing ways of existing, determinations, qualities, which are absolutely unknowable and incomprehensible to us, and which remain ever as its nature when it has abrogated its phenomenal character, and for our knowledge has passed into empty nothingness.—Die Welt als Wille (Eng. trans.), ii. p. 408. But if the Absolute is supra-conscious, i.e. exists in a state higher than the ordinary consciousness, why should it need the latter to help it out of its misery? The climax is reached when, in a later work—while still holding to the view that the Absolute is not a self-conscious Personality—Hartmann invests it with most of the attributes characteristic of Deity, sees in it, e.g., the ground, not only of a natural, but of a moral order, makes it the object of religious worship, attributes to it, not simply omnipotence and wisdom, but righteousness and holiness, views it as a source of Revelation and grace, expressly names it God!8787Religionsphilosophie: Part II., Phil. des Geistes, pp. 74–89. We are here far enough from the original assumption of a primitive, irrational will—in fact, what we see is Pessimism passing over in all but the name into Theism. It remained only that this transition should be explicitly made, and this has been done by a disciple of the school, Karl Peters, whose work, Willenswelt und Weltwille is one of the acutest criticisms of previous Pessimism I know. With him we finally leave the ground of the philosophy of the “Unconscious,” and come round to a Theism in which we have the full recognition of God as a self conscious, wise, good, holy Personality, whose providence is over all, and whose ends all things subserve.8888See Note I.—Transition from Pessimism to Theism—Hartmann and Karl Peters.
The theories of Schopenhauer and Hartmann, though 57pessimistic, might with equal propriety have been classed in the family of pantheistic systems. When dealing at an earlier stage with than downward movement from faith in Christ, through Agnosticism to Pessimism, I purposely reserved this alternative of Pantheism. This was not because the subject is in itself unimportant, but because it comes at last to the old dilemma, and can best be treated in its higher aspect as a stage in the upward advance to Theism. Pantheism shares the fate of every incomplete system, in being compelled to pass judgment on itself, and either to sink to something lower, or to pass up to something higher. I refer for proof to Germany, which has given birth to some of its noblest forms, but where also history shows how possible it is to descend at one step from the loftiest heights of overstrained Idealism to gross Materialism. Fichte and Schelling and Hegel were followed by Strauss and Feuerbach.8989See Note J.—Materialism in Germany. The logic of the process is again not difficult to trace. If universal reason is the all, and the finite in comparison with it nothing, in another point of view it is the finite that is all, and reason that is nothing, seeing that in the finite only it attains to actual existence. Concede the premiss, the Absolute has reality only in the universe, and it is but a short step to the conclusion, the universe only is real.9090“If,” says Dorner. “God be once defined as the essence of the world, it is of subject and predicate logically allowable when Feuerbach, the idea seriously, counted the essence of the world to be a part of the world, made the world the subject, and reduced God to a mere predicate of the world. The transition was thus made to Anthropologism, the forerunner of Materialism.”—Person of Christ, v. p. 160. Interpret the universe now, in accordance with the “modern” conception, in terms of matter and motion, and Feuerbach’s dictum is reached—“Man is what he eats.” The goal of this is the old plunge into Nihilism and Pessimism, in which we have just seen that the mind cannot remain.
The other alternative is, however, possible to Pantheism, by holding fast to the rational element contained in it, to correct and purify itself by a return to Theism; and this is the movement we see taking place in the latter forms of the philosophies Fichte and Schelling and in the speculative Theism of the later Hegelians, In judging of these systems, we must not be misled by too narrow a use of the word “Theism.” The Theism of the writers I refer to is in many respects imperfect, 58and bears throughout the marks of its speculative origin. Yet, in principle, the line between Pantheism and Theism is crossed whenever God is conceived of no longer as an impersonal Force or Idea, but as a spiritual, self-conscious principle at the basis of the universe—as a knowing, willing Being, with whom man can sustain, not only natural, but moral and spiritual relations. There may be difficulties at this stage as to whether the term “personal” is a suitable term to apply to the Divine; but it is, nevertheless, a theistic conception of God which is shaping itself, and the purgation of the system from remaining pantheistic elements is only a question of time. What for instance, but an approximation to Theism is implied in such words as Fichte’s in his fine apostrophe—“Sublime and Living Will! named by no name, compassed by no thought! I may well raise my soul to Thee, for Thou and I are not divided! Thy voice sounds within me, mine resounds in Thee; and all my thoughts, if they be but good and true, live in Thee also. . . . Thou art best known to the childlike, devoted, simple mind. To it Thou art the searcher of hearts, who seest its inmost depths; the ever-present witness of its truth, who knowest through all the world know it not. Thou art the Father whoever desirest its good, who rulest all things for the best. . . . How Thou art, I may not know. But let me be what I ought to be, and Thy relations to me—the mortal—and to all mortals, lie open before my eyes, and surround me more clearly than the consciousness of my own existence. Thou workest in me the knowledge of my duty, of my vocation in the world of reasonable beings:—how, I know not, nor need I to know. Thou knowest what I think and what I will:—how Thou canst know, through what act Thou bringest about that consciousness, I cannot understand. . . . Thou willest that my free obedience shall bring with it eternal consequences:—the act of Thy will I cannot comprehend, I only know thief it is not like mine. Thou doest, and Thy will itself is the deed: but the way of Thy working is not as my ways—I cannot trace it.”9191“The Vocation of Man” (Die Bestimmung des Menschen) in Fichte’s “Popular Works,” p. 365 (Eng. trans.). If this is Pantheism, are we not all pantheists? If this is Agnosticism, is it not an Agnosticism in which we must all share? The moment in spiritual Pantheism which impels to this 59development is of course the recognition of the fact that the universe has its ground in reason. If this position is to be safeguarded against the lapse into Materialism, it must free itself from the internal contradiction of supposing that there can be thought without a thinker;9292“In spite of Fichte’s imperious tone,” says Professor Seth, “and his warning that we are merely setting the seal to our own philosophic incompetency, we must summon up all our hardihood, and openly confess that to speak of thought as self-existent, without any conscious Being whose the thought is, conveys no meaning to our minds. Thought exists only as the thought of a thinker: it must be centred somewhere.”—Hegelianism and Personality, p. 73. He had formerly expressed himself differently.—From Kant to Hegel, p. 76. reason without a subject to which the reason belongs; rational ends posited and executed without intelligent and self-conscious purpose; moral order without amoral will. In the case of Fichte and Schelling, this revolution in their philosophies is seen taking place within their lifetime; in the case of Hegel, it is seen in the development of his philosophy, in the hands of his disciples, into a speculative Theism. In Vatke and Biedermann—two prominent representatives—the Theism is still very shadowy and incomplete; in I. H. Fichte and Pfleiderer of Berlin, it attains to full and explicit recognition. The latter writer, in particular, takes strong ground, and from his own point of view may be regarded as one of the ablest defenders of theistic positions in recent times. In our own country we have the Neo-Hegelian movement, best represented by the late Mr. Green of Oxford, and in him also the speculative spirit is seen allying itself very closely with the spirit of religion, with the result that his philosophy almost inevitably passes over into Theism. On the metaphysical side, God is already to Mr. Green an “Eternal Self-Consciousness”9393Prolegomena to Ethics, passim.—the author and sustainer of the system of relations which we call the universe. But, on the religious side, He is thought of much more positively as a conscious Being who is in eternal perfection all that man has it in him to come to be—“a Being of perfect understanding and perfect love “—an infinite Spirit, present to the soul, but other than itself, towards whom “the attitude of man at his highest and completest could still only be that which we have described as self-abasement before an ideal of holiness.”9494Pp. 93, 142 of “Memoir” by Nettleship, in Green’s Works, vol. iii. Prof. Green’s profound Christian feeling, with his ideological views of Christianity, are well brought out in the same “Memoir,” and accompanying works. The metaphysical contradictions which still 60inhere in the Neo-Hegelian theory have been well pointed out by one—formerly an ardent Hegelian—who has himself lived through the theory he criticises Prof. Seth of Edinburgh. In him, in the line of this development, we reach at length a perfectly unambiguous position. “It must not be forgotten,” he says, “that if we are to keep the name of God at all, or any equivalent term, subjectivity—an existence of God for Himself, analogous to our own personal existence, though doubtless transcending it infinitely in innumerable ways—is an essential element of the conception. . . . God may be, must be, infinitely more—we are at least certain that He cannot be less—than we know ourselves to be.”9595Hegelianism and Personality, pp. 222–224. Mr. Green’s theory is discussed more fully in Professor Veitch’s Knowing and Being, which touches many vital points.
The Theism we have thus gained embraces the two notions of God as self-conscious
reason, and God as moral will. Once, however, this ground of Theism is reached,
we are compelled, in order to secure it, to advance a step further, viz. to
the thought of God as self-revealing. We have already seen that Theism
can only be secured if God is thought of as standing in a living relation to
mankind—that is, as interesting Himself in their welfare, and capable of entering
into moral and spiritual fellowship with them. How can one earnestly believe
in a living, personal God, and, on the other hand, in man as a being constituted
for moral ends, and not also believe that it is the will of God that man should
know Him, and be guided by Him to the fulfilment of his destiny? It is, accordingly,
a most noteworthy fact, that in all the higher theology of the time— even rationalistic
theology—the attempt is made to come to a right understanding with this concept
of Revelation. Strange as it may sound to many, there is no proposition on which
theologians of all schools at the present day are more willing to agree than
this—that all knowledge of God, and consequently all religion, rests on Revelation;
and that, if the true idea of God is to be maintained, He must be thought of
as self-revealing. This truth is emphasised, not in the orthodox systems alone,
but in the theologies, e.g., of Biedermann, of Lipsius of Pfleiderer, of Ritschl—even,
as I said before, of the Pessimist
61irony, his chapters on Faith and Revelation. The point
of difference arises when we inquire into the nature of Revelation, and specially
when we pass from the sphere of natural to that of supernatural Revelation Supernatural
Revelation the theologians of the liberal school—Pfleiderer, Lipsius, etc.—will
not allow us to speak of; or rather, natural and supernatural are with them
but different sides of the same process. That which, on the Divine side, is
viewed as Revelation, is, on the human side, simply the natural development
of man’s moral and religious consciousness, and vice versa. In the same way,
every truly original moment in the life of a man every birth-moment of a new
truth in his man, every flash of insight into some new secret or law of nature,
is a Revelation. This, which is the subtlest view of Revelation at present in
the field, is not to be set aside without an attempt to do justice to what is
true in it.9696Cf. on this
theory Biedermann, Christ. Dogmatik, i. pp. 264–288; Lipsicis, Dogmatik,
pp. 41–68; Pfleiderer, Religionsphilosophie, iv. pp. 46–94, specialty
pp. 64–75 (Eng. translation, and Grundriss pp. 17–22. H. Schmidt has
a good statement and criticism of this theory in his article on The Ethical
Oppositions in the Present Conflict of the Biblical and the Modern Theological
View of the World,” in the Studien und Kritiken for 1876 (3rd part).
“The God whom the Scripture from beginning to end preaches,” he says, “is a
God of supernational Revelation, who makes Himself known directly, in distinction
from the everyday ordering of our lives; the God of rationalism is a God who,
if He still as realty communicates Himself, yet always remains hidden behind
the laws of nature, as behind the natural course of the development of the human
spirit, who never manifestly represents Himself to the eye of man in His exaltation
over the world.” I am, for my part, not concerned to deny that there is a side of truths, and
a very important one, in this theory. If it sounds deistical to say, “Revelation
is only through the natural activities of mind”; it may, on the other hand,
be a wholesome corrective to a deistic view to say that God is immanent in these
activities, and that through them He mediates His Revelation to the human spirit—that
what we call the “natural “development of mind involves, when rightly understood,
a factor of Revelation. Nor can the line ever be drawn so finely between natural
and supernatural Revelation as to enable us to say, “Here precisely the natural
ends and the supernatural begins.” Time theory in question, therefore, I would
be disposed to call inadequate, rather than false; or false only as it professes
to cover the whole field of Revelation. For in the latter, it must be contended
that we have more than can be accounted for by mere natural development. Taken
even on its own ground,
62this theory involves the valuable admission that it is
the will of God to make Himself known to man, and that He has provided in the
constitution of things for giving him the knowledge that is necessary for him.
The only criticism I shall make at present upon this theory is—and I think
it is one which goes to the heart of the matter—that in some sense the end
of the theory is the refutation of the beginning of it. The point from which
we start is, that God can be known only through the natural activities of the
mind. He is present in these activities as He is present in all the other functions
of our mental, moral, and even physical being; and He is present in no other
way. But the peculiarity of this theory is that it ends in a view of God which
affirms the possibility of that with the denial of which it set out—the possibility
of direct communion between God and the soul. It is not disputed by any of the
advocates of these views that the highest point in this self-revelation of God
is the Revelation given to men Christ through Jesus But the God and Father of
our Lord Jesus Christ is not a Being who communicates with man only in the indirect
way which this theory supposes He is a Being who Himself draws near to man,
and seeks fellowship with him; whose relations with the spirits He has made
are free and personal; who is as lovingly communicative as man, on his part,
is expected to be trustfully receptive; to whom man can speak, and He answers.
The simply natural is here transcended, and we are in the region of direct intercourse
of spirit with spirit. And this view of God is not disputed by the writers I
am here referring to, who deny supernatural Revelation. Dr. Martineau says,
in words of deep wisdom, “How should related spirits, joined by a common creative
aim, intent on whatever things are pure and good, live in presence of each other,
the one the bestower, the other the recipient of a sacred trust, and exchange
no thought and give no sign of the love which subsists between them?”9797 Study of
Religion ii. p. 48. Cf. the following sentences from his Hours of Thought:—“Whatever
else may be included in the truth that ‘God is a Spirit,’ this at least is implied,
that He is free to modify His relations to all dependent minds in exact conformity
with their changes of disposition and of need, and let the lights and shadows
of His look move us swiftly as the undulating wills on which they fall.”—ii.
“Passing by this poor mockery I would be understood to speak of a direct and natural communion of spirit with spirit, between ourselves and God, in which He receives our affection and gives a responsive breathing of His inspiration. Such communion appears to me as certain of reality as the daily intercourse between man and man; resting upon evidence as positive, and declaring itself by results as marked. The disposition to throw doubt on the testimony of those who affirm that they know this, is a groundless prejudice, an illusion on the negative side as complete as the most positive dreams of enthusiasm.”—P. 224. Pfleiderer again says, “And why should it be less 63possible for God to enter into a loving fellowship with us, than for men to do so with each other? I should be inclined to think that He is even more capable of doing so. For as no man can altogether read the soul of another, so no man can altogether live in the soul of another; hence all our human love is and remains imperfect. But if we are shut off from one another by the limits of individuality, in relation to God it is not so; to Him our hearts are as open as each man’s own heart is to himself; He sees through and through them, and He desires to live in them, and to fill them with His own sacred energy and blessedness.”9898Religionsphilosophie, iii. p. 305 (Eng. trans.). See Note K.—The Reasonableness of Revelation. True, why not? But if this is admitted, what becomes of the theory that the action of God in Revelation is necessarily bound up within the limits of strict natural law? If the gates of intercourse are thus open between the human soul and God, is it either natural or probable that God will not enter in at them, and that, instead of leaving men simply to feel after Him if haply they may find Him, He will not at some point give them what supernatural light and aid they need to bring them to the true knowledge of Himself, and fit them for the attainment of the highest ends of their, existence? Certainly, in light of the above admissions, no a priori objection can be raised to the principle of supernatural Revelation
The legitimate outcome of this theory is, that in addition to general Revelation through reason, conscience, and nature, there is to be expected some special Revelation; and even this, in a certain way, is admitted, for it is conceded by nearly all the writers I have named that in the providential plan of the world a peculiar function was assigned to Israel; that, as the different nations of the world have their several providential tasks (Greece—art, culture, philosophy; Rome—law, government, etc.), to Israel was given the task of developing the idea 64of God to its highest perfection in ethical Monotheism.9999Thus, e.g., Kuenen, Wellhausen, Pfleiderer, Martineau (Seat of Authority, pp. 116–122). And, finally, it is conceded that this self-revelation of God reaches its culmination in Jesus Christ, whose Person has world-historical significance, as bearing in it the principle of the perfect relation between God and men—of the absolute religious relation.100100This is the general position of the higher class of theologians, of whatever schools. The line between natural and supernatural Revelation is here, surely, becoming very thin; and it is therefore, perhaps, not greatly to be wondered at that the latest school in German theology—that of Ritschl—should take the short remaining step, and be marked by precisely this tendency to lay stress on the need and reality of positive Revelation. The general position of this school may be fairly summed up by saying that God can only be truly known to us by personal, positive Revelation, in which He actually enters into historical relations with mankind; and that this Revelation has been given in the Person of His Son Jesus Christ. Through this Revelation alone, but in it perfectly, we have the true knowledge of God’s character, of His world-aim in the establishing of a kingdom of God on earth, and of His gracious will of forgiveness and love.101101See Note L.—The Ritschlian Doctrine of Revelation. Whatever theory of Revelation we adopt, Jesus Christ must be pronounced to be the highest organ of it. On this point all deep and serious thinkers of our age may be held to be agreed. Thus, then, we are brought back to Christ, are led to recognise in Him the medium of a true Revelation; and it only remains to ask, What do the facts of this Revelation, and of Christ’s own self-testimony, properly construed, imply? We have already seen what the verdict of history is on this point, to what alternatives it shuts us up in our treatment of this subject. We shall afterwards see by examination of the facts themselves how this verdict is justified.
To sum up, we have seen that two movements are to be discerned in history: the one a downward movement leading away from Christ, and resulting from the denial of, or tampering with, His full Divinity; the other, an upward movement, retracting the stages of the earlier descent, and bringing us back to the confession of Thomas, “My Lord and my 65God.”102102John xx. 28. The former movement ends in the gulf of Nihilism and Pessimism; the latter begins from the impossibility of the mind abiding permanently in the denial of a rational basis for the universe. But here, as in the downward movement, the logic of history asserts itself. Belief in a rational basis of the universe can only secure itself through return to Theism; a living Theism can only secure itself through belief in God as self-revealing; belief in Revelation leads historically to the recognition of Christ as the highest organ of God’s self-revelation to mankind; belief in Christ as Revealer can only secure itself through belief in His Divinity. “Ye believe in God,” said Jesus; “believe also in Me.”103103John xiv. 1. Belief in God—theistic belief—presses on to belief in Christ, and can only secure itself through it. On the other hand, belief in Christ has for its legitimate outcome belief in God. The two beliefs, as history demonstrates, stand or fall together.66
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