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Sec. 3.—The Holy Jesus as the Founder of the True Fellowship of Men.
Men being by their very nature disposed to associate one with another, we find that all the chief activities of human life, as well as its fundamental arrangements, are calculated to bring about such association. Everywhere we meet with a reciprocal giving and taking, an acting and producing on the part of some, a being acted upon and a receiving on the part of others, a drawing together of the congenial, and an excluding of the uncongenial; and they who would entirely withdraw from the mutual interaction thus arising, cannot but be regarded as individuals of unsound and incomplete development. Hence there necessarily arises upon the foundation of the family, as the primitive and typical association, civil, political, and national associations; and those associations for the purposes of art, of science, and of intercourse in the various spheres of intellectual pursuits, which are partly restricted to the former, and partly of far greater 233relative extent. But all these fellowships, great and important as they are, have yet their strict and definite limits. They are either confined within certain local boundaries, or are inseparably connected with some special kind of nationality or endowment, and often even with a certain degree of culture or social position. Hence, by their very nature, they involve, to a certain extent, a principle of separation, as well as of association. They do not unite men as such, but only men of certain definite peculiarities, and thus exclude all those who are not thus distinguished.,
There is, however, a task allotted to all men, without exception, and for which all, as beings made in God’s image, possess the requisite endowments: and this is the recovery of the right relation to the holy and living God, and to every human being. This task, besides being universal, is absolutely the highest that can be engaged in; and if co-operation and association are requisite for the accomplishment of any human undertaking, they are so in this instance. For it is only upon the soil of society that piety and morality can display a healthy and vital energy, only from such a soil that they can derive the nutriment necessary to their growth and perfection. In their case isolation would be synonymous with deformity, degeneracy, annihilation. If in these respects that which is true and excellent is to be obtained, there must of necessity exist a fellowship which, transcending all existing limitations, is by its very nature calculated to embrace all men without distinction, and to promote the attainment of that eternal destination which is alike set before all. Not till such a fellowship exists will the true foundation be laid for every other kind of association among mankind. Not before, will a possibility exist of preventing those distinctions which naturally divide men, from effecting a hostile separation. Not before, will communities and individuals, nay, different nations, recognise the fact that they are made, not for themselves 234alone, but for each other,—that they are destined mutually to aid and supplement each other,—that thus, by the reciprocal action and reaction of the better gifts of all, humanity may be fashioned into a true and living unity.
Now, a fellowship of this supreme and universal kind can be founded only upon that union between man and God which is effected by faith or religion. Hence its very existence is an impossibility so long as religion cannot be found in a state of purity and independence, but only in combination with other and particular elements, by which it also is placed in a position of specialty and particularity. This was the case in the præ-Christian world, and is still so in nations beyond the pale of Christianity. In these we everywhere find a religion so indissolubly connected with the special constitution of a country, with peculiarities of nationality, with the degrees of culture and political institutions of certain nations, that it cannot be separated therefrom. We find religions in which nature, religions in which art, is deified,—state religions, and religious states but we do not find a religion free from all admixture with foreign elements, and keeping within its own proper territory,—a religion which is entirely itself, and will be nothing else but itself, which makes that, and that only, which is its special province—even the eternal salvation of its professors—its chief concern. Such a religion is not found previously to the appearance of Christianity, and is found in Christianity alone. Here religion is brought back entirely to its own special province, and thus offers that firm and self-supporting point whence the whole circle of human life may be worked upon, and gathered into one harmonious whole.
But this could be effected only by a person whose whole and sole task it should be to exhibit in perfect purity the Divine image in man, and to make that image comprehensible to all,—by One who actually did accomplish this task, and 235that in such wise, that none who were susceptible of such an emotion could fail of being touched thereby. The sinless Jesus was such a Person. By manifesting religion not only in its perfection, but also in its unmingled purity and entire independence, He at the same time laid the foundation of a fellowship which, being restricted by no kind of external condition, was capable of including the whole human race,—a fellowship which, while remaining faithful to its original purpose, may exercise a free and real influence upon every department of social life, upon art and science, upon legislation and politics, without intermeddling directly with these things, much less putting itself in their place.
In the foundation of such a community, Jesus Himself recognised an essential element of His mission. He invites all who need redemption; that is, all men.293293 Matt. xi. 28. He wills that all should be one in Him, as He is one with the Father; and it is by this very union through Him, and in Him, that the world is to know that the Father has sent Him.294294 John xvii. 21. He proclaims the kingdom of God as at hand, as having already, come,295295 Luke x. 9, xvii. 21. as His kingdom. It is not, however, to be a kingdom of this world, but a kingdom of heaven,296296 John xiii. 36. to be developed indeed in the world, but to be pervaded by heavenly powers, and to attain maturity in a future and heavenly period. For its earthly development—during the course of which He particularly distinguishes between what is God’s and what is Cæsar’s, and thus points out the propriety of separating the spiritual from the secular297297 Matt. xxii. 21.—He would have a Church, to be gathered from all nations, from the whole human race.298298 Matt. xxviii. 19. To effect this, He sent forth His apostles, and endowed them with His Spirit. For the regular continuance of the Church which they were to found, and which, consequently, was to be a manifest and visible one, He made special preparations, 236by instituting holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and by laying down rules as to how those who were disobedient in the Church were to be treated.299299 Matt. xviii. 15-18. And in all this He was so sure of success, that He not only promised to the Church which He called His an imperishable existence, against which no power should prevail,300300 Matt. xvi. 18. but He already beheld with a glance which surveyed and comprised the whole process of the world’s development, the whole redeemed human race as one flock, under Himself, the one Shepherd.301301 John x. 16.
Jesus, however, not merely purposed to institute such a community, He not merely announced such a purpose, but possessed in Himself the power to form and to maintain it. An all-embracing fellowship of personal spirits, united by a common faith and a common love, presupposes a personal head. And He, the holy Son of God and Son of Man, who lived entirely for men, and gave Himself a sacrifice for them, was, from His very nature, this Head. For the Head must be so constituted, that the Spirit by which the community is to be pervaded and governed, may continually flow forth therefrom in pure and inexhaustible fulness. And this is the qualification which is offered in. Him in most abundant measure.
Men, sinful and limited as they are, do not possess, in and of themselves, the power of forming themselves into a lasting fellowship of the highest kind. They must find the living point of union for such a purpose in a holy Being exalted above themselves, and capable of lifting them up above self, in One who, by uniting them to Himself, at the same time brings them into vital union with each other. But when One thus holy and thus exalted has once really laid hold of the hearts of men, this union will be the inevitable result. For there is in the Divine, when vividly presented in life, a 237magnetic power which draws minds out of their isolation, and unites them with an unseen but powerful bond. This life-magnet, this infinite force of attraction, is introduced among mankind, in the Person of that Divine and Holy One who sacrificed Himself in holy love for the sinful race. By Him must every one who is susceptible of its influence be drawn out of his own narrow self. But it is not only out of self that those who feel the powers of Christ are attracted, through that faith which He calls forth within them. They are also drawn into His life, made one with Him, and thus made one among themselves. This kind of union is at once the most perfect and the most lasting, for it is the work of the Highest: through it, man is raised above himself; and by it, that selfishness which otherwise obstructs all true fellowship, is, in its very essence, destroyed.302302 It may be said that, in this respect also, Jesus has a substitutionary significance. The higher kind of fellowship of which we have been speaking is as much an ethical requirement, as those more limited associations which we designate as civil and political. But though a participation in such a fellowship is at once the duty and the need of all, none would have been able to found one, unless Christ, with His personal power and authority, had done this for all men.
It is true that all this applies immediately to those only who have actually laid hold of Christ by faith. But then these are the salt of the earth, the leaven which is destined gradually to leaven the mass. They are to introduce an ever-extending, and at length an all-comprehending union. The moving spring of this union is love,—that pitying, seeking, saving love which was brought into the world by the holy Jesus of the gospel. This love sees in every one who needs its aid, not only the possessor of a common nature, but rather Him who said, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.’303303 Matt. xxv. 40. This love sees in the sinner, not merely a guilty and condemned man; in one sitting in the darkness of 238spiritual death, not an uninteresting, or perhaps a repulsive object;—it sees in both, one made for redemption and adoption into God’s family, one who is to be brought by it into the kingdom of God. This love, flowing forth in boundless fulness from Christ, has not a human but a Divine source. It therefore contains in it a guarantee that the kingdom of God will come forth victorious from all its conflicts, and will in the end succeed in effecting a union of the whole race.
Thus we see that there dwells in the Person of the holy Christ, a power of uniting men, which effects its purpose from an inward necessity,—a power which first, indeed, brings together those who are His by faith, but which afterwards impels these to spread on all sides that salvation which they have themselves experienced, that all may be saved by Christ, and all brought into the same fellowship. It is a fellowship which exists only for the sake of satisfying the deepest, the universal needs of men: it is the kingdom of God, for it is even this which is visibly manifested in the Church of the Redeemed, so far as it is ordered according to His will and word. And where else do we find anything equal or even similar to this? The very idea of forming a society which should embrace the whole human family, never entered the mind of the greatest sages, or lawgivers, or founders of empires, before Christ.304304 This idea is enlarged upon by Reinhard in his celebrated work, Ueber den Plan welchen der Stifter der christlichen Religion zum Besten der Menschenentwatf, fifth edition, with additions by Heubner, Wittenburg 1830. And if the thought had occurred to any of these, which of them could have realized it? The Holy One of God, and He alone, could do this, because in Him alone was the true uniting power, and because the kingdom of God was contained in Him, and had only to develope itself from Him. Regarded in this light, Christ is presented to us as the centre of the world’s history. 239He is this, not merely in that more ideal sense, according to which the whole spiritual life of mankind before His appearance was one continual aspiration and longing after Him, while all the spiritual life which has been found among men since His coming exhibits decided marks that He is its author; but in that far more real aspect in which He is beheld as the true point of union for the race, the life of humanity, the pulsating heart and quickening spirit, by means of which humanity is formed into an organic whole, into a body animated by the power of God, and consisting of many members. And it is a fact of very deep significance, that Christ makes it a ground of faith in His Divine mission,305305 John xvii. 21 that by union with Himself and with God He brings men into union among themselves; because a work such as this, the most noble which the human mind can conceive, could have proceeded from none but God.
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