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“This earth too small
For Love Divine? Is God not Infinite?
If so, His Love is Infinite. Too small!
One famished babe meets pity oft from man
More than an army slain! Too small for Love I
Was earth too small to he of God created?
Why then too small to he redeemed?”
Aubrey De Vere.
“And so beside the silent sea
I wait the muffled oar:
No harm from Him can come to me
On ocean or on shore.
“I know not where His islands lift
Their fronded palms in air,
I only know I cannot drift
Beyond His love and care.”
“The last enemy that shall be abolished is death.”—Paul
THE INCARNATION AND HUMAN DESTINY.
Every view of the world has its eschatology. It cannot help raising the question of the whither, as well as of the what and the whence? “O my Lord,” said Daniel to the angel, “what shall be the end of these things?”764764Dan. xii. 8. What is the end, the final destiny, of the individual? Does he perish at death, or does he enter into another state of being; and under what conditions of happiness or woe does he exist there? What is the end, the final aim, of the great whole; that far-off Divine event to which the whole creation moves? It is vain to tell man not to ask these questions. He will ask them, and must ask them. He will pore over every scrap of fact, or trace of law, which seems to give any indication of an answer. He will try from the experience of the past, and the knowledge of the present, to deduce what the future shall be. He will peer as far as he can into the unseen; and, where knowledge fails, will weave from his hopes and trusts pictures and conjectures. It is not religions only, but philosophy and science also, which have their eschatologies. The Stoics had their conceptions of world-cycles, when everything, reabsorbed in the primal fire, was produced anew exactly as before. The Buddhists had their kalpas, or world-ages, periods of destruction and restoration, “during which (as in Brahmanism) constant universes are supposed to appear, disappear, and reappear”;765765Buddhism, by Professor Monier-Williams, p. 120. Cf. p. 118. new worlds, phoenix-like, incessantly rising out of the ruins of the old. The pessimist Hartmann has his eschatology as truly as the New Testament has its.766766On Hartmann’s “Cosmic Suicide,” see Caro’s Le Pessimisme, chap. viii. Kant speculated, in his Theory of the Heavens, on the birth and death of worlds; 322and Strauss compares the cosmos to one of those tropical trees on which, simultaneously, here a blossom bursts into flower, there a ripe fruit drops from the bough.767767Der alte und der neue Glaube, p. 152. How is the science of to-day seen peering on into the future, trying to make out what shall be the end of these things; whither the changes, and transformations, and integrations, and dissolutions of the physical universe all tend; and what fate is in store for the earth, and for the physical system as a whole! Mr. Spencer has his eschatology, and speculates on a boundless space, holding here and there extinct suns, fated to remain thus for ever; though he clings to the hope that, in some way he knows not, out of the ashes of this old universe a new universe will arise.768768First Principles, pp. 529, 537. The authors of The Unseen Universe say, “What happens to our system will happen likewise to the whole visible universe, which will, if finite, become in time a lifeless mass, if indeed it be not doomed to utter desolation. In fine, it will become old and effete, no less truly than the individual,—it is a glorious garment this visible universe, but not an immortal one—we must look elsewhere, if we are to be clothed with immortality as with a garment.”769769Unseen Universe, 5th ed. p. 196. Cf. pp. 165, 166.
The Christian view of the world, also, has its eschatology—one too, in its physical issues, not very different from that just described. The Christian view, however, is positive, where that of science is negative; ethical, where it is material; human, where it is cosmogonic; ending in personal immortality, where this ends in extinction and death. The eschatology of Christianity springs from its character as a teleological religion. The highest type of “Weltanschauung” is that which seeks to grasp the unity of the world through the conception of an end or aim. It is only through a conception of the world that is itself unified that man can give a true unity to his life—only in reference to an aim or end that he can organise his life to a consistent whole. On the cycle hypothesis, no satisfactory view of life is possible. All is vanity and vexation of spirit. A truly purposeful view of life is only possible on the basis of a world-view which gathers itself up to a highest definite aim. As giving this, Christianity 323is the teleological religion par excellence. It is, says Dorner, the only absolute teleological religion.770770System of Doctrine, iv. p. 376 (Eng. trans.). Cf. Martensen, Dogmatics, pp. 465, 466 (Eng. trans.). In one other respect Christianity agrees with the higher speculation—scientific and other—and that is in its breadth and scope, extending in its issues far beyond this little spot called earth, and touching in its influence the remotest regions of creation.
I. Before entering directly on eschatological questions, it may be worth our while, in connection with the fact just mentioned, to glance at the objection sometimes raised to Christianity from the enlargement of our knowledge of the physical universe through modern discoveries—chiefly through astronomy. The enormous expansion of our ideas in regard to the extent of the physical universe brought about through the telescope, and the corresponding sense of the insignificance of our planet, awakened by comparison with the gigantic whole, is supposed by many to be fatal to belief in Christianity. Strauss boldly affirms that the Copernican system gave the death-blow to the Christian view of the world.771771Is fatal even to belief in a personal God. Cf. his Der alte und der neue Glaube, pp. 108–110. So long as the earth was believed to be the centre of the universe, and the only inhabited spot in it, so long was it possible to maintain that God had a peculiar love to the inhabitants of our world, and had sent His Son for their Redemption. But when the true relation of the earth to the sun, and to the other planets of the system, was discovered—when, beyond this, the infinite depths of the heavens were laid bare, with their innumerable suns, galaxies, and constellations, to which our own sun, with its attendant planets, is but as a drop in the immeasurable ocean—then the idea that this little globe of ours—this insignificant speck—should become the scene of so stupendous a Divine drama as the Christian religion represents; should be the peculiar object of God’s favours, and the recipient of His revelations; that, above all, the Son of God should become incarnate on its surface,—seemed nothing less than incredible. In a universe teeming with worlds, presumably inhabited by intelligences of every order and degree, it is thought preposterous to connect the 324Deity in this peculiar and transcendent way with one of the very smallest of them.
Here, first, since the objection is made in the name of science, it might fairly be asked how far the premiss on which it rests—the assumption of innumerable spheres peopled with such intelligences as we have in man (I do not refer to angelic intelligences, for the Christian view has always admitted these, without our thoughts of the greatness of the Christian Redemption being thereby lessened, but corporeal inhabitants of other planets and worlds)—how far this assumption is scientifically established, or is even matter of plausible conjecture. Kant declared that he would not hesitate to stake his all on the truth of the proposition—if there were any way of bringing it to the test of experience—that at least some one of the planets which we see is inhabited;772772Kritik d. r. Ver. p. 561, Erdmann’s ed. (Eng. trans. p. 500). but others may not be prepared to share his confidence. Of direct scientific evidence, of course, there is none, and the argument from analogy is weakened rather than strengthened by the progress of modern discovery. If astronomy has been extending our views of the universe in space, geology has been extending our views of our own world backwards in time, and it has been pointed out that, though preparation was being made through the millions of years of that long past, it is only in quite recent times that man appeared upon its surface, and then under conditions which we have no reason to suppose exist in any other planet of our system.773773This is the point specially made in Whewell’s The Plurality of Worlds. Are there not worlds in the making, as well as worlds already made? Certain it is, that of the seven hundred and fifty-one parts, or thereabouts, into which our solar system774774Sun and planets. can be divided, life, such as we know it, or can conceive of it, is not found in seven hundred and fifty of them, for the sun monopolises that enormous proportion of the whole for himself; and of the remaining one part, it is only an insignificant fraction in which the physical conditions exist which render any of the higher conditions of life possible.775775In Mars, and even here, Professor Ball doubts the possibility—Story of the Heavens, p. 190. If the same proportion prevails through the 325universe, the area reserved for rational life will be correspondingly restricted. But, in truth, we know nothing of planets in other parts of the heavens at all, or even whether—except in one or two problematical instances—such bodies exist.776776Professor Ball says: “It may be that, as the other stars are suns, so they too may have other planets circulating round them; but of this we know nothing. Of the stars we can only say that they are points of light, and if they had hosts of planets these planets must for ever remain invisible to us, even if they were many times as large as Jupiter.”—Story of the Heavens, p. 95. What if, after all, our little planet should be the Eden of the planetary system—the only spot on which a place has been prepared for rational life, or in which the conditions favourable to its blossoming forth have been found?777777“The earth is perhaps at this hour the only inhabited globe in the midst of almost boundless space.”—Renan, Dialogues, p. 61. It is a singular circumstance that the objection here urged against Christianity is not exclusively applicable to it, but bears as strongly against all those speculative systems—Hegelianism, Schopenhauerism, Hartmannism, etc.—which have been hatched in the full light of the nineteenth century. Here, too, it is assumed that our planet stands alone as the place in which the Absolute has come to consciousness of himself (or itself), and where the great drama of his historical evolution is unfolded—where, in Hegelian phrase, God is incarnate in man!778778Cf. Renan: “For my part I think there is not in the universe any intelligence superior to that of man, so that the greatest genius of our planet is truly the priest of the world, since he is the highest reflection of it.”—Dialogues, p. 283. See on Renan’s extraordinary eschatology— Note A.
Apart from such considerations, however, the real reply to this objection to the Christian view of the world is that it is merely a quantitative one. Be the physical magnitude of the universe what it may, it remains the fact that, on this little planet, life has effloresced into reason; that we have here a race of rational beings who bear God’s image, and are capable of knowing, loving, and obeying Him. This is a fact against which it is absurd to put into comparison any mere quantities of inanimate matter—any number of suns, nebulae, and planets. Even suppose that there were other inhabited worlds, or any number of them, this does not detract from the soul’s value in this world. Mind, if it has the powers we know it has, is not less great because other 326minds may exist elsewhere. Man is not less great, because he is not alone great. If he is a spiritual being,—if he has a soul of infinite worth, which is the Christian assumption,—that fact is not affected though there were a whole universeful of other spiritual beings, as indeed the Christian Church has always believed there is. The truth is, what we have underlying this objection is that very anthropomorphism in thinking about God against which the objection is directed. It is thought that, while it might be worthy of God to care for man if he existed alone, it is derogatory to God’s greatness to think of him when there are so many other objects in the universe. Or it is thought that God is a Being so exalted that He will lose sight of the individual in the crowd. Those who think thus must have very unworthy ideas of the Being whom they wish to exalt; must forget, too, that the universe can only exist on the condition that God is present in the little as in the great; that His knowledge, power, and care extend, not to things in the mass, but to each atom of matter separately, to each tiniest blade of grass, to each insect on the wing, and animalcule in the drop of water. It is the Bible which gives the true philosophy, when it teaches that the same God who cares for stars cares also for souls; that the very hairs of our head are all numbered; that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without our heavenly Father.779779Ps. cxlvii. 3, 4; Matt. x. 29-31.
But the question still remains, even if all these bright worlds were inhabited—which they are not,—inhabited by rational beings like to man himself,—are they sinful? Sin retains its awful significance in the universe, no matter how many worlds there may be. If this world alone is sinful, then it is worthy of God to redeem it. Have men’s hearts not recognised the Divineness of that parable of Christ about the lost sheep? Is it not the Divinest thing that God can do to seek and to save the lost? Suppose that this universe were as full of intelligent life as the objection represents, but that this world is the one lost sheep of the Divine flock, would it not be worthy of the Good Shepherd to seek it out and save it? Shall its size prevent? Then is the worth of the soul a thing to be weighed in scales? 327Mr. Spencer, in one passage of his writings, thinks he has destroyed the case for Revelation, when he asks us if we can believe that “the Cause to which we can put no limits in space or time, and of which our entire solar system is a relatively infinitesimal product, took the disguise of a man for the purpose of covenanting with a shepherd-chief in Syria.”780780Eccles. Institutions, p. 704. He first defines God in terms which put Him infinitely far away from us, and then asks us to combine with this a conception which seems to contradict it. But what if God is not only the “Cause” of all things—the infinitely great Creator of stars and systems—but, as Mr. Spencer a own principles might lead him to hold, One also infinitely near to us—
and, beyond this, infinite goodness and love as well,—is it then so strange that He should draw a Syrian shepherd to His side, and should establish a covenant with him which had for its ultimate aim, not that shepherd’s personal aggrandisement, but the blessing, through him, of all mankind?
But finally, and this is the complete answer to the objection, if the Christian view is true, the scope of God’s purpose is not confined to this little planet, but embraces all the realms of creation.782782This is the argument developed in Chalmers’s celebrated Astronomical Discourses. See Note B.—The Gospel and the Vastness of Creation. The Incarnation is not a fact the significance of which is confined to earth. The Scriptures do not so represent it, but seek rather to impress us with the thought of how wide this purpose of God is, how extensive in its sweep, how far-reaching in its issues. The objection to the Christian scheme with many, I fancy, will rather be, that with its base on earth it rises too high; that when it speaks to us of the bearing of the gospel on different parts of creation, of angels desiring to look into it, of principalities and powers in the heavenly places being instructed by it in the many-sided wisdom of God,—above all, of all things in heaven and in earth being gathered up in Christ,7837831 Pet. i. 12; Eph. ii. 10, i. 10, etc.—it presents us with a plan the magnitude of which soars beyond our powers of belief. But if the Divine plan is on a scale of this grandeur, why complain because its 328startingpoint is this physically small globe? The answer to this objection, as to the similar one drawn from the earthly lowliness of Christ, must be, Respice finem—Look to the end!
II. In proceeding now to deal directly with the eschatological relations of the Christian view, it is to be remembered that it stands differently with lines of prophecy projected into the future from what it does with facts already past. In dealing with the history of God’s past Revelations—with the ages before the Advent, with the earthly life and Revelation of Jesus Christ, with the subsequent course of God’s Providence in His Church—we are dealing with that which has already been. It stands in concrete reality before us, and we can reason from it as a thing known in its totality and its details. But when the subject of Revelation is that which is yet to be, especially that which is yet to be under forms and conditions of which we have no direct experience, the case is widely altered. Here it is at most outlines we can look for; and even these outlines will be largely clothed in figure and symbol; the spiritual kernel will seek material investiture to body itself forth; the conditions of the future will require to be presented largely in forms borrowed from known relations.784784Cf. Fairbairn’s Prophecy, chap. iv. sec. 4. The outstanding thoughts will be sufficiently apparent, but the forms in which these thoughts are cast will partake of metaphor and image.
Examples of undue literalism in the interpretation of prophetic language will occur to every one; as an example on the other side, I may instance Ritschl, who, because of the figurative character of the language employed, sweeps the whole of the New Testament eschatology on one side, and simply takes no account of it. This is a drastic method, which makes us wonder why, if these representations convey no intelligible representations to the mind, use was made of them at all. With Ritschl, the sole thing of value is the idea of the kingdom of God, for the realisation of which we are to labour in this world. The form which the kingdom of God will assume beyond this life we cannot know, and need not concern ourselves about. The recoil from this one-sided position of Ritschl is seen in the further development of his school, particularly in Kaftan, who precisely reverses Ritschl’s standpoint, and transports 329the good of the kingdom of God entirely into the life beyond. “The certainty of an eternal life in a kingdom of God,” he says, “which is above the world, which lies to us as yet in the beyond, is the very nerve of our Christian piety.”785785This sentence is quoted from Pfleiderer, Religionsphilosophie, ii. p. 206 (Eng. trans.). Cf. Kaftan, Wesen, pp. 67, 71, 171, 173, 214, 213, etc.; Wahrheit, p. 547, etc. This is an exaggeration on the other side, in opposition to which the truth of Ritschl’s view has to be contended for, that there is a kingdom of God to be striven for even in this world. What did Christ come for, if not to impart a new life to humanity, which, working from within outwards, is destined to transform all human relations—all family and social life, all industry and commerce, all art and literature, all government and relations among peoples—till the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ?786786Rev. xi. 15. Whether more slowly or more rapidly, whether peacefully or, as Scripture seems to indicate, by a succession of crises, surely this grand result of a kingdom of God will be brought about; and it is our duty and privilege to pray and labour for it. What is the reproach which is sometimes brought against Christianity by its enemies, but that of “other-worldliness”—of exclusive devotion to a good beyond this life, to the neglect of interests lying immediately to hand? And what is the remedy for this reproach, but to show that Christianity is a power also for temporal and social salvation, a leaven which is to permeate the whole lump of humanity? It is on this side that a great and fruitful field opens itself up for Christian effort in the present day; on this side that Christianity finds itself in touch with some of the most characteristic movements of the time. The ideals of the day are pre-eminently social; the key-word of Positivism is “Altruism”—the organisation of humanity for social efforts; the call is to a “service of humanity”;787787Cf. Cotter Morison’s The Service of Man. “The worship of deities has passed .into The Service of Man.’ Instead of Theolatry, we have Anthropolatry; the divine service has become human service.”—P. 265. As if the truest service of God did not carry in it the service of humanity. the air is full of ideas, schemes, Utopias, theories of social reform; and we who believe that Christianity is the motive power which alone Can effectually attain what these systems of men are striving after, are surely bound to put 330our faith to the proof, and show to men that in deed and in truth, and not in word only, the kingdom of God has come nigh to them. We know something of what Christianity did in the Roman Empire as a power of social purification and reform;788788Cf. Loring Brace’s Gesta Christi; Schmidt’s Social Results of Early Christianity (Eng. trans.); Uhlhorn’s Christian Charity in the Early Church; Lecky’s History of European Morals, etc. of what it did in the Middle Ages in the Christianising and disciplining of barbarous nations; of the power it has been in modern times as the inspiration of the great moral and philanthropic movements of the century;789789Note Mr. Stead, himself an enthusiast in social work, says: “Most good work is done by Christians. Mrs. Besant herself expressed to me that they did very little indeed, and those who did were only those who, like herself, had been brought up Christians.”—Church of the Future, p. 9. and this power of Christianity is likely to be yet greater in the future than in the past. There is yet vast work to be accomplished ere the kingdom of God is fully come.790790Note See Appendix on “The Idea of the Kingdom of God.”
This, therefore, may be said to be the nearer aim of Christianity—the coming of the kingdom of God on earth; but beyond this there is, as certainly, another end. Even on earth the kingdom of God does not consist supremely, or even peculiarly, in the possession of outward good, but in the inward life of the Spirit, in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.791791Rom. xiv. 17. History, too, moves onward to its goal, which is not simply a transformed society, but a winding-up of all terrestrial affairs, and the transition from a world of time to a new order of things in eternity, in which the good of the kingdom of God will be perfectly realised. In dealing with the eschatology proper of the Christian view, it will be of advantage to turn our attention first to those aspects of it which stand out distinct and clear. I have said that a truly purposeful life is only possible on the basis of a world-view which has a definite aim. What that aim is in the Christian view, as respects its positive and bright side, is seen in the light of the Incarnation. There are three points here which seem to stand out free from all uncertainty.
1. The aim of God as regards believers is summed up in the simple phrase—conformity to the image of the Son. “Whom He foreknew, He also foreordained to be conformed to the image 331of His Son, that He might be the First-born among many brethren.”792792Rom. viii. 29 (R.V.). This is the one absolute light-point in the eternal future. The mists and shadows which rest on other parts of the eschatological problem do not affect us here. We see not yet all things put under humanity, “but we behold Him who hath been made a little lower than the angels, even Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour,”793793Heb. ii. 5, 9 (R.V.). and we know that our destiny is to be made like Him. This is conformity to type in the highest degree. By what processes the result is to be brought about we may not know, but the end itself is clear—the assimilation begun on earth shall be perfected above.
2. This conformity to Christ includes not only moral and spiritual likeness to Christ, but likeness to Him also in His glorious body; that is, the Redemption of the body, life in a glorified corporeity. Difficulties rise here of course in great numbers, and the question will be put, “How are the dead raised, and with what manner of body do they come?”7947941 Cor. xv. 35 (R.V.). But, first, I would say that there are certain things here also which stand out clear.
(1) First of all, this doctrine of the Redemption of the body is needful for the completion of the Christian view. It is not an accident, but an essential and integral part of it. It is essential to a complete Redemption, as we saw in speaking of immortality, that not the soul only, but man in his whole complex personality, body and soul together, should be redeemed. In the disembodied state, the believer indeed is with Christ, rests in the blessedness of unbroken fellowship with Him, but it is the resurrection which is the perfection of his life.795795The idealistic school, on the other hand, speak slightingly of life in the body. “A renewed embodiment,” says Mr. Green, “if it means anything, would be but a return to that condition in which we are but parts of nature, a condition from which the moral life is already a partial deliverance.”—Works, iii. p. 206. Was Plotinus then right when he blushed that he had a body?
(2) I say, next, that this doctrine of the Resurrection of the body is not exposed to some of the objections often made to it. How, it is asked, can the same body be raised, when it is utterly decayed, and the particles of which it was composed are scattered to the winds of heaven, or perhaps taken up into other bodies? But the doctrine of the Resurrection does not 332involve any such belief. The solution lies, I think, in a right conception of what This which constitutes identity. Wherein, let us ask, does the identity even of our present bodies consist? Not, certainly, in the mere identity of the particles of matter of which our bodies are composed, for this is continually changing, is in constant process of flux. The principle of identity lies rather in that which holds the particles together, which vitally organises and constructs them, which impresses on them their form and shape, and maintains them in unity with the soul to serve as its instrument and medium of expression. It lies, if we may so say, in the organic, constructive principle, which in its own nature is spiritual and immaterial, and adheres to the side of the soul At death, the body perishes. It is resolved into its elements; but this vital, immaterial principle endures, prepared, when God wills, to give form to a new and grander, because more spiritual, corporeity. The existence of mystery here I grant: we cannot understand the resurrection from natural causes, but only, as Christ teaches us, from the power of God.796796Matt. xxii. 29. It is a miracle, and the crowning act of an economy of miracles. But we need not make the mystery greater than it is by insisting on a material identity between the new body and the old, which is no part of the doctrine of Scripture—indeed, is expressly contradicted by the words of the apostle, touching on this very point. “Thou foolish one,” says Paul, “that which thou thyself sowest is not quickened, except it die; and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body which shall be, but a bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other kind; but God giveth it a body even as it pleaseth Him, and to each seed a body of its own.”7977971 Cor. xv. 36-38 (R.V.). Cf. Origen, De Principiis, ii. 6: For him the resurrection is not the reproduction of any particular organism, but the preservation of complete identity of person, an identity maintained under new conditions, which he presents under the apostolic figure of the growth of the plant from the seed: the seed is committed to the earth, perishes, and yet the vital power which it contains gathers a new frame answering to its proper nature.”—Westcott in Dictionary of Christian Biography, iv. p. 121. In the case supposed, we see very clearly, first, that the identity consists only in a very minute degree, if at all—and then only. accidentally—in identity of material particles; and, second, that the real bond lies in the active, vital principle which connects the two bodies.333
(3) A third point is, that the resurrection contemplated is not a resurrection at death, but a future event connected with the consummation of all things. The opposite view is one which has had many modern advocates,—among them the authors of The Unseen Universe;798798Unseen Universe, pp. 200–211, and on Swedenborg’s views, pp. 63, 64. Thus also Munger in his Freedoms of Faith: “This change necessarily takes place at death. A disembodied state, or state of torpid existence between death and some far-off day of resurrection, an under-world where the soul waits for the reanimation of its body: these are old-world notions that survive only through chance contact with the Christian system.”—P. 309. Then, were Hymenaeus and Philetus not right who said that “the resurrection is past already,” and in Paul’s view overthrew the faith of some (2 Tim. ii. 18.) Cf. Newman Smyth’s Old Faiths in New Lights, chap. viii. but, though it professes to stay itself on the expressions, “a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,” “clothed upon with our habitation which is from heaven,”7997992 Cor. v. 1, 2 (R.V.). I do not think that this view accords with the general representations of Scripture, which always contemplate the resurrection as future, and regard the believer’s state as, till that time, one of being “unclothed.” What Scripture does seem to teach is, that meanwhile a preparation for this spiritual body is going on, a spiritual basis for it is being laid, through the possession and working of Christ’s Spirit.800800The Scriptures mention also a resurrection of the wicked (John v. 29; Acts xxiv. 15; Rev. xx. 12), likewise, we cannot doubt, connected with Christ’s appearance in our nature, but, beyond describing it as a resurrection of condemnation, they throw little light upon its nature.
3. The doctrine of the Christian consummation carries with it, further, the idea that, together with the perfecting of the believer, or of the sons of God, there will be a perfecting or glorification even of outward nature. This is implied in the possession of a corporeity of any kind, for that stands in relation to an environment, to a general system of things. A new heaven and earth there must be, if there is to be glorified corporeity. Scripture, accordingly, makes clear that nature also, the creation also, will be delivered from the bondage of vanity and corruption under which it is at present held.801801Rom. viii. 21; 2 Pet. iii. 13. It is needless for us to attempt to anticipate what changes this may imply; how it is to be brought about, or how it stands related to the changes in the material universe predicted by science. The day alone will declare it.
Connected with these views and anticipations of the consummation, 334 are certain pictorial and scenic elements in the Christian eschatology, to which attention must now be given. Such are the descriptions of the second Advent and of the general Judgement. Here belong the eschatological discourses and sayings of Christ and His apostles, in regard to which, again, the question is, How are they to be interpreted? Taking, first, those which relate to Christ’s personal return to the world, I might quote Beyschlag as a typical example of how these pictorial and scenic elements are treated by many who are indisposed to take a literal view of their import. “Jesus,” he says, “grasps up together in the sensible image of His coming again on the clouds of heaven all that which lay beyond His death—the whole glorious reversal of His earthly life and the death on the cross, from His resurrection on till the perfecting of His kingdom at the last day; and the more we keep in view the genuinely prophetic nature of this comprehensive sense-image, and how it shares the essential limits of all prophecy, the more is a solution found of the at first apparently insoluble difficulty of this prophetic part of His doctrine.”802802Leben Jesu, i. p. 356. Now, I think a careful study of the passages will compel us to agree with this writer on one main point, namely, that Jesus does not always speak of His coming in the same sense; that it is to Him rather a process in which many elements flow together in a single image, than a single definite event, always looked at in the same light.803803That Jesus did not anticipate His immediate return, but contemplated a slow and progressive development of His kingdom, is shown by many indications in the Gospels. Cf. on this subject. Beyschlag, Leben Jesu, i. pp. 354–356; Reuss, Hist. of Christ. Theol. i. pp. 217, 218; Bruce’s Kingdom of God, chap. xii. Thus, He says to the high priest, with obvious reference to the prophecy in Daniel, “Henceforth,” that is, from this time on, “ye shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”804804Matt. xxvi. 64 (R.V.). Cf. Dan. vii. 13, 14. In Daniel’s vision the “one like unto a son of man” comes with the clouds of heaven to receive a kingdom from the Ancient of Days, not to judge the world. He came again to His disciples after the resurrection; lie came in the mission of the Comforter; He came in the power and spread of His kingdom, especially after the removal of the limitations created by the existing Jewish polity, which seems to be the meaning in the passage, “There 335be some of them that stand here which shall in no wise taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom”;805805Matt. xvi. 28 (R.V.). Mark has “till they see the kingdom of God come with power” (ix. 1); Luke simply, “till they see the kingdom of God” (ix. 27). He has come in every great day of the Lord in the history of His Church; He will come yet more conspicuously in the events of the future. Yet I cannot agree with Beyschlag when, on these grounds, he would exclude altogether a final, personal advent of Jesus, a visible return in power and glory to the world. It seems to me that Christ’s words on this subject, repeated by His apostles, are altogether too explicit and of too solemn an import to be explained away into mere metaphor. I would agree, therefore, with the Church catholic in its confession, “From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead” In Beyschlag’s case it seems the more arbitrary to deny this, as he fully admits the reality of Christ’s resurrection, and, if not of His visible ascent, at least of His actual bodily reception into heaven. His words are, “What then was the original thought of the ascension? What else can it have been than that of the elevation of Jesus above the limits of the earthly life, of His translation into another, supra-mundane, Divine form of existence—in a word, of His exaltation or glorification?”806806Leben Jesu, i. p. 448. If this be so, there is surely no incongruity in the thought that He who thus went away shall again appear in manifested glory.
It is not otherwise with the pictures we have of a final act of Judgment as the accompaniment of this reappearance of the Lord. Here, also, it is correct to speak of a continuous judgment of the world. The history of the world, as we often hear, is the judgment of the world. Yet the representations which Christ Himself gives us of a gradual ripening of both good and evil to the harvest, then of a final and decisive separation807807Matt. xiii. 30, 49, etc.—joined with the similar representations of the apostles808808Acts xvii 31; Rom. ii. 16; 2 Cor. v. 10, etc.—compel us, it seems to me, to speak of a day of reckoning, when God shall judge the secrets of men by Christ Jesus; which shall be at once a vindication of God’s action in the government of the world, and a decision upon the issues of the individual life. From a teleological view of the world, also, as well as 336from a survey of its existing imperfections, it is felt that there is an inherent fitness, if not a moral necessity, in the supposition of such a last judgment which shall form, as it were, the denouement of the great drama of universal history.809809Cf. Martensen, Dorner, Van Oosterzee, Luthardt, for illustrations of this thought. It is manifest, on the other hand, that all the descriptions and pictures which we have of this dread event are so charged with figurative and parabolic elements that we can infer nothing from them beyond the great principles on which the judgment will proceed.
III. By these steps we are led up, in the consideration of the last things, to that which is for us the question of supreme concern, on this subject—the question of individual destiny. I have spoken of this already as regards the believer. But what of the shadow alongside of the light? What of the judgment of condemnation alongside of the judgment of life? What of the wrath of God abiding on the unbeliever, alongside of the blessedness of those who are saved? These questions are not arbitrarily raised, but are forced upon us by the plain statements of Scripture, by the fears and forebodings of the guilty conscience, and by the anxiety and perplexity they are causing to many hearts. To the questions thus raised, three main answers have been given, and are given.
1. The first is that of dogmatic Universalism. This was the view of Origen in the early Church,810810De Principiis, i. 6. and is the view of Schleiermacher, expressed in the words, “that through the power of Redemption there will result in the future a general restoration of all human souls”;811811Der christl. Glaube, ii. p. 505. the view expressed yet more dogmatically by Dr. Samuel Cox, “While our brethren hold the Redemption of Christ to extend only to the life that now is, and to take effect only on some men, we maintain, on the contrary, that it extends to the life to come, and must take effect on all men at the last”;812812Salvator Mundi, 11th ed. p. 225. the view breathed as a wish by Tennyson—
It is a view which, I am sure, we would all be glad to hold, if the Scriptures gave us light enough to assure us that it was true.
2. The second answer is that of the theory of Annihilation, or, as it is sometimes called, Conditional Immortality. This is the direct opposite of the universalistic view, inasmuch as it assumes that the wicked will be absolutely destroyed, or put out of existence. Rothe and others have held this view among Continental theologians;814814Dogmatik, iii. p. 108. Ritschl, too, teaches that if there are any who oppose themselves absolutely to the realisation of the Divine plan, their fate would be annihilation—Recht. und Ver. ii. pp. 129, 140–142. But the case is purely hypothetical, iii. p. 363. in this country it is best known through the writings of Mr. Edward White. A kindred view is that of Bushnell, who, reasoning “from the known effects of wicked feeling and practice in the reprobate characters,” expects “that the staple of being and capacity in such will be gradually diminished, and the possibility is thus suggested that, at some remote period, they may be quite wasted away, or extirpated.”815815Forgiveness and Law, p. 147. The service which this theory has rendered is as a corrective to Universalism, in laying stress on those passages in Scripture which appear to teach a final ruin of the wicked.
3. The third answer is that which has been the prevailing one in the Protestant Church, the theory of an eternal punishment of the wicked in a state of conscious suffering; a theory, also, with which, in the form in which it has been commonly presented, a strong feeling of dissatisfaction at present exists. A modification of this theory is that which supposes the ultimate fate of the wicked—or of those who are the wicked here—to consist in the punishment of loss, rather than in that of eternal suffering.
Such are the views that are held; what attitude are we to. take up towards them? I shall best consult my own feelings and sense of duty by speaking frankly what I think upon the subject. Here, in the first place, I would like to lay down one or two fundamental positions which seem to me of the nature of certainties.
1. I would lay down, as the first and great fundamental certitude, the truth enunciated by the prophet, “Say ye of the righteous, that it shall be well with him; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill 338with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given him”;816816Isa. iii. 10, 11 (R.V.). in other words, the great and fundamental principle of certain retribution for sin. This is a principle we cannot hold too clearly or too strongly. Whatever tends to tamper with this principle, or to weaken its hold upon the conscience, is alien to the true Christian view. By unalterable laws impressed upon the nature of man and on the universe, righteousness is life, and sin is inevitable misery and death.817817Mr. Greg also has his doctrine of future retribution. Must not a future world in itself—the condition of ‘spiritual corporeity’ alone—bring with it dreadful retribution to the wicked, the selfish, and the weak? In the mere fact of their cleared perceptions, in the realisation of their low position, in seeing themselves at length as they really are, in feeling that all their work is yet to do, in beholding all those they loved and venerated far before them, away from them, fading in the bright distance, may lie, must lie, a torture, a purifying fire, in comparison with which the representations of Dante and Milton shrivel into baseness and inadequacy”—Creed of Christendom, p. 280. Omnipotence itself could not reverse this law, that so long as the sinner continues in his sin he must suffer. On the other hand, where this principle is firmly grasped, there ought, I think, to be much room left for difference of views on points which, from the nature of the case, are obscure and tentative.
2. I think, in the next place, a strong distinction ought to be drawn between those things which Scripture expressly teaches, and those things on which it simply gives no light, in regard to which it neither affirms nor denies, but is simply silent. Here our wisdom is to imitate its caution, and refrain from dogmatism. I confess I marvel sometimes at the confidence with which people pronounce on that which must and shall be through the eternities and eternities—the ages and ages—of God’s unending life, during which also the soul of man is to exist; and this in respect of so appalling a subject as the future fate of the lost. There is room here for a wise Agnosticism. I prefer to say that, so far as my light goes, I see no end, and there to stop.
3. I hold it for a certainty that, to deal with all the sides and relations of this difficult subject, we would require a much larger calculus than with our present light we possess. What chiefly weighs with many in creating dissatisfaction with the current Church view is not so much special texts of Scripture, as rather the general impression produced on the mind by the whole spirit and scope of the gospel Revelation. Starting with 339the character of God as Christ reveals it; with the fact of the Incarnation; with the reality and breadth of the Atonement; with the glimpses given into the issues of Christ’s work,—the feeling is produced in every thoughtful mind, that the sweep of this great scheme of Incarnation and Redemption cannot be exhausted in the comparatively meagre results which we see springing from it here,—meagre, I mean, in comparison with the whole compass of the race or even of those who are brought outwardly within the range of its influence. What, men are asking with a constantly heavier sense of the burden of the difficulty, of the untold millions who have never heard of Christ at all, of the millions and millions who have never even had the chance of hearing of Him? What, even within the limits of Christendom, of the multitudes, as they must be reckoned, in comparison with the really Christ-like in our midst, who give no evidence of true regeneration, vast numbers of whom are living openly worldly and godless lives? We feel instinctively that the last word has not been—cannot be—spoken by us here. It may be said, and with much truth, that for -those who have the light, there is no excuse. Salvation has been put within their reach, and they have deliberately rejected it. But even here, are there not elements we dare not overlook? Men are responsible for the use they make of light, but how much here also is not due to the individual will, which is crossed by influences from heredity, from environment, from up-bringing, from pressure of events! God alone can disentangle the threads of freedom in the web of character and action, and say how much is a man’s individual responsibility in the result, as distinguished from his share in the common guilt of the race.818818Maudsley says: “When we reflect how much time and what a multitude of divers experiences have gone to the formation of a character, what a complex product it is, and what an inconceivably intricate interworking of intimate energies, active and inhibitive, any display of it in feeling and will means, it must appear a gross absurdity for anyone to aspire to estimate or appraise all the component motives of a particular act of will. . . . To dissect any act of will accurately, and then to recompose it, would be to dissect and recompose humanity.”—Body and Will, p. 29. But see below. It is certain, from Christ’s own statement, that, in the judgment of Omniscience, all these things are taken into account, and that even in the administration of punishment there are gradations of penalty, proportionate to men s knowledge and opportunities; that, as Paul says, there is a 340distinction made between those who have “sinned without law,” and those who have “sinned under law.”819819Rom. ii. 12 (R.V.).
These principles being laid down, I proceed to offer a few remarks on the various theories which have been submitted.
1. And, first, I cannot accept the view of dogmatic Universalism. There is undoubtedly no clear and certain scripture which affirms that all men will be saved; on the other hand, there are many passages which look in another direction, which seem to put the stamp of finality on the sinner’s state in eternity. Even Archdeacon Farrar, so strong an advocate of this theory, admits that some souls may ultimately be lost;820820“I cannot tell whether some souls may not resist God for ever, and therefore may not be for ever shut out from His presence, and I believe that to be without God is ‘hell’; and that in this sense there is a hell beyond the grave; and that for any soul to fall even for a time into this condition, though it be through its own hardened impenitence and resistance of God’s grace, is a very awful and terrible prospect; and that in this sense there maybe for some souls an endless hell.”—Mercy and Judgment, p. 485. and it is to be observed that, if even one soul is lost finally, the principle is admitted on which the chief difficulty turns. I am convinced that the light and airy assertions one sometimes meets with of dogmatic Universalism are not characterised by a due sense of the gravity of the evil of sin, or of the awful possibilities of resistance to goodness that lie within the human will. It seems to me plain that deliberate rejection of Christ here means, at the very least, awful and irreparable loss in eternity; that to go from the judgment-seat condemned is to exclude oneself in perpetuity from the privilege and glory which belong to Gods sons. Even the texts, some of them formerly quoted, which at first sight might seem to favour Universalism, are admitted by the most impartial expositors not to bear this weight of meaning. We read, e.g., of “a restoration of all things”—the same that Christ calls the παλιγγενεσία—but in the same breath we are told of those who will not hearken, and will be destroyed.821821Matt. xix. 28; Acts iii. 21, 23 (R.V.). We read of Christ drawing all men unto Him;822822John x. 32. but we are not less clearly told that at His coming Christ will pronounce on some a tremendous condemnation.823823Matt. vi. 23, xxv. 41. We read of all things being gathered, or summed up, in Christ, of Christ subduing all things to Himself, etc.; but representative exegetes like Meyer and Weiss show that it is far from Paul’s view to teach 341an ultimate conversion or annihilation of the kingdom of evil.824824See Note C.—Alleged Pauline Universalism. I confess, however, that the strain of these last passages does seem to point in the direction of some ultimate unity, be it through subjugation, or in some other way, in which active opposition to God’s kingdom is no longer to be reckoned with.
2. Neither can I accept the doctrine of the Annihilation of the Wicked. In itself considered, and divested of some of the features with which Mr. White clothes it in his Life in Christ, this may be admitted to be an abstractly possible hypothesis, and as such has received the assent, as before stated, of Rothe and others who are not materialistically disposed. There is a certain sense in which everyone will admit that a man has not a necessary or inherent immortality, that he depends for his continued existence, therefore for his immortality, solely on the will and power of God. Man can never rise above the limits of his creaturehood. As created, he is, and must remain, a dependent being. It is, therefore, a possible supposition—one not a priori to be rejected—that though originally made and destined for immortality, man might have this destiny cancelled. There is force, too, in what is said, that it is difficult to see the utility of keeping a being in existence merely to sin and suffer. Yet, when the theory is brought to the test of Scripture proof, it is found to fail in evidence.
(1) Stress is laid on those passages which speak of the destruction of the wicked, of their perishing,825825Matt. vii. 13; 2 Thess. i. 9; 2 Cor. ii. 15; 2 Pet. ii. 12, etc. of their being consumed in fire, as chaff, tares, branches, etc.826826Matt. iii. 12, xiii. 30, 50; John xv. 6, etc. So far as the last class of passages is concerned, they are plainly metaphorical, and, iii face of other evidence, it is difficult to put on any of them the meaning that is asked. For this destruction comes on the ungodly at the day of judgment, at the day of the Lord. “Sudden destruction,” an apostle calls it;8278271 Thess. v. 3. yet it is part of this theory that the wicked are not annihilated at the day of judgment, but live on in suffering for an indefinitely prolonged time, as a punishment for their offences, the greatest sinners suffering most. In this respect the theory approximates to the ordinary view, for it makes the real punishment of the sinner lie in the period of his conscious existence, and the annihilation which 342comes after is rather a merciful termination of his sufferings than the crowning of his woe. If Mr. White’s theory is to be made consistent with itself, it ought to provide for the immediate annihilation of the wicked at death, or at least at the judgment. In reality, however, the “destruction” comes at the judgment, and the “annihilation” not till long after; so that, on his own principles, we cannot argue from the mere word to the fact of annihilation.
(2) Another thing which suggests itself in regard to this theory is that, taken strictly, it seems to shut out all gradations of punishment; the end of all being “death,” i.e. “annihilation.” If, to escape this, reference is made to the longer or shorter period of the suffering before annihilation, this shows, as before, that it is in the conscious sufferings, not in the annihilation, that the real punishment is supposed to lie.
(3) But the crowning objection to this theory—so far as proof from Scripture is concerned—is that in its use of the words “life” and “death,” it misses the true significance of these Bible terms. Life is not, in Scripture usage, simple existence; death is not simple non-existence, but separation from true and complete life. This theory itself being witness, the soul survives in the state of natural death. It passes into the intermediate condition, and there awaits judgment. Life, in short, is, in its Scripture sense, a word with a moral and spiritual connotation; a person may not possess it, and yet continue to exist. “He that obeyeth not the Son,” we are told, “shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”828828John iii. 36 (R.V.). But so long as the wrath of God abides (μένει) on him, he must abide. So far as Scripture goes, therefore, this theory is not proved. It must remain a mere speculation, and one which cuts the knot rather than unties it.
It is interesting to mark that Mr. White himself seems little satisfied with his theory, and does his best to relieve it of its harsher features. If the thought is terrible of the countless multitudes who leave this world without having heard of Christ, or without deliberate acceptance of Him, being doomed to endless suffering, it is scarcely less appalling to think of these myriads, after longer or shorter terms of suffering, being swept from existence by the fiat of Omnipotence. Mr. White 343feels the weight of this difficulty, and tries to alleviate it by the thought of a prolonged probation in Hades.829829Life in Christ, chap. xxii. Here, he thinks, we find the solution of the problem of the heathen; and of many more whose opportunities have not been sufficiently great to bring them to clear decision. I have no doubt that Mr. White cherishes in his heart the hope that by far the greater proportion of mankind will thus be saved; that, in consequence, the finally lost will be comparatively few. In other words, just as in the admission of prolonged periods of penal suffering his theory was seen approximating to that of eternal punishment, so here we see it stretching out hands, as it were, on the other side, towards “the larger hope” of Universalism. It is certainly a curious result that a theory which begins by denying to man any natural immortality—which takes away the natural grounds of belief in a future state—should end by transferring the great bulk of the evangelising and converting work of the gospel over to that future state; for, assuredly, what is accomplished there must be immense as compared with what, in his view, is done on earth. This brings me—
3. To speak of the ordinary doctrine, and as a proposed alleviation of this, of the theory of a Future Probation, a theory which we have just seen is held also by Mr. Edward White. By future probation is meant here probation, not after the judgment, but intermediately between death and judgment. This is a theory which, as is well known, has found wide acceptance among believing theologians on the Continent, and also in America, and is advanced by its adherents as a solution of the difficulties which arise from supposing that all who leave this world without having heard of Christ or having definitely accepted Him necessarily perish. It is the theory held, e.g., by Dorner, Van Oosterzee, Martensen, Godet, Gretillat, and very many others. No one, it is said, will be lost without being brought to a knowledge of Christ, and having the opportunity given him of accepting His salvation. Every man must be brought to a definite acceptance or rejection of Christ, if not here, then hereafter. The theory is believed to be supported by the well-known passages in the First Epistle of Peter which speak of a preaching by Christ to the spirits in prison, and of the gospel being preached to the dead.8308301 Pet. iii. 18-20, iv. 6.344
Yet, when all is said, this theory must be admitted to be based more on general principles than on definite scriptural information. Our own Church is not committed on the subject; indeed, as I have occasion to remember, in framing its Declaratory Act, it expressly rejected an amendment designed to bind it to the position that probation in every case is limited to time. The Synod acted wisely, I think, in rejecting that amendment. All the same, I wish now to say that I do not much like this phrase, “Future Probation.” Least of all am I disposed with some to make a dogma of it. There are three facts in regard to the scriptural aspect of this theory which ought, I think, to make us cautious.
(1) The first is the intense concentration of every ray of exhortation and appeal into the present. “Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”8318312 Cor. vi. 2 (R.V.). This is the strain of Scripture throughout. Everything which would weaken the force of this appeal, or lead men to throw over into a possible future what ought to be done now, is a distinct evil.
(2) The second is the fact that, in Scripture, judgment is invariably represented as proceeding on the matter of this life, on The “deeds done in the body.”832832E.g. Matt. xxv. 31-46; 2 Cor. v 10; Rev. xx. 12. The state after death is expressly described, in contrast with the present life, as one of “judgment.”833833Heb. ix. 27. In every description of the judgment, or allusion to it, it is constantly what a man has been, or has done, in this life, which is represented as the basis on which the determination of his final state depends. There is not a word, or hint, to indicate that a man who would be found on the left hand of the King, or who would pass under condemnation, on the basis of his earthly record, may possibly be found on the other side, and be accepted, on the ground of some transaction in the state between death and judgment. Surely this does not agree well with a “future probation” theory, but would rather require us to suppose that, in principle at least, man is presumed to decide his destiny here.
(3) There is, as the converse of these facts, the silence of Scripture on the subject of probation beyond; for the passages in 1 Peter, even accepting the interpretation which makes 345them refer to a work of Christ in the state of the dead, form surely a slender foundation on which to build so vast a structure. The suggestions they offer are not to be neglected. But neither do they speak of general probation, if of probation at all; nor give information as to the special character of this preaching to the dead, or its results in conversion; least of all do they show that what may apply to the heathen or others similarly situated, applies to those whose opportunities have been ample. I have spoken of the influences of heredity, etc., as an element to be taken account of in judgment; but we must beware, even here, of forgetting how much responsibility remains. Will is at work here also; personal volition is interweaving itself with the warp of natural circumstance and of hereditary predisposition. In the sphere of heathenism itself—even apart from the direct preaching of the gospel—there is room for moral decision wider than is sometimes apprehended, and a type of will is being formed on which eternal issues may depend.
I recognise, however, in the light of what I have stated about the need of a larger calculus, that the issues of this life must prolong themselves into the unseen, and, in some way unknown to us, be brought to a bearing there. All I plead for is, that we should not set up a definite theory where, in the nature of things, we have not the light to enable us to do so. This again is a reason for refusing to acquiesce in many of the dogmatic affirmations which are advanced in the name of a doctrine of eternal punishment. Suffering and loss beyond expression I cannot but conceive of as following from definite rejection of Christ; nor do I see anything in Scripture to lead me to believe that this loss can ever be repaired. How this will relate itself to conditions of existence in eternity I do not know, and beyond this I decline to speculate.
The conclusion I arrive at is, that we have not the elements of a complete solution, and we ought not to attempt it. What visions beyond there may he, what larger hopes, what ultimate harmonies, if such there are in store, will come in God’s good time; it is not ours to anticipate them, or lift the veil where God has left it drawn! What Scripture wishes us to realise is the fact of probation now, of responsibility 346here. We should keep this in view, and, concentrating all our exhortations and entreaty into the present, should refuse to sanction hopes which Scripture does not support; striving, rather, to bring men to live under the impression, “How shall. we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb. ii. 3).
Here I bring these Lectures to a conclusion. No one is more conscious than myself of the imperfection of the outlines I have sought to trace; of the thoughts I have brought before you in the wide and important field over which we have had to travel. Only, in a closing word, would I. state the deepened, strengthened conviction which has come to myself out of the study, often prolonged and anxious enough, which the duties of this Lectureship have entailed on me: the deepened and strengthened conviction of the reality and certainty of God’s supernatural Revelation to the world,—of His great purpose of love and grace, centring in the manifestation of His Son, but stretching out in its issues through all worlds, and into all eternities,—of a Redemption adequate to human sin and need, the blessings of which it is our highest privilege to share, and to make known to others. With this has gone the feeling—one of thankfulness and hope—of the breadth of the range of the influence of this new power which has gone out from Christ: not confined, as we might be apt to think, to those who make the full confession of His name, but touching society, and the world of modern thought and action, on all its sides—influencing its life and moulding its ideals; and in circles where the truth, as we conceive it, is mutilated, and even in important parts eclipsed, begetting a personal devotion to Christ, a recognition of His unique and peerless position in history, and a faith in the spread and ultimate triumph of His kingdom, which is full of significance and comfort. I hail these omens; this widespread influence of the name of Jesus. It tells us that, despite of appearances which seem adverse, there is a true kingdom of God on earth, and that a day of gathering up in Christ Jesus is yet to come. I do not believe that the modern world has ceased to need the Christian view, or that in spirit its back is turned against it. The “isms” of the day 347are numerous, and the denials from many quarters are fierce and vehement. But in the very unbelief of the time there is a serious feeling such as never existed before; and there is not one of these systems but, with all its negations, has its side of light turned towards Christ and His religion. Christ is the centre towards which their broken lights converge, and, as lifted up, He will yet draw them unto Him. I do not, therefore, believe that the Christian view is obsolete; that it is doomed to go down like a faded constellation in the west of the sky of humanity. I do not believe that, in order to preserve it, one single truth we have been accustomed to see shining in that constellation will require to be withdrawn, or that the world at heart desires it to he withdrawn. The world needs them all, and will one day acknowledge it. It is not with a sense of failure, therefore, but with a sense of triumph, that I see the progress of the battle between faith and unbelief. I have no fear that the conflict will issue in defeat. Like the ark above the waters, Christ’s religion will ride in safety the waves of present-day unbelief, as it has ridden the waves of unbelief in days gone by, bearing in it the hopes of the future of humanity.
I thank the Principal and Professors, I thank the students, for their unfailing courtesy, and for their generous reception of myself and of my Lectures.351
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