|« Prev||Conclusion||Next »|
THE results at which we have now arrived are not only important in a theoretical, but also in a practical, point of view and it is on this latter aspect of our subject that we now propose to add a few remarks.
When the Apostle Peter declares to the Gentile Cornelius320320 Acts x. 36. that, in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him, this assertion implies, as the context plainly shows, not that every kind of worship and righteousness can in themselves render a man acceptable in the sight of God, but that it pleases God to receive into His kingdom, and into the fellowship of Christ, without respect to their former faith—whether they are Jews or Gentiles—all men in whom are found the necessary religious and moral conditions. St. Peter, like the other apostles, makes salvation depend, not on anything that man can offer by way of worship or righteousness, but upon Christ alone. This is unanswerably shown by his immediately following discourse, as well as by his other most express declaration, that ‘there is salvation in none other, and none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.’321321 Acts iv. 12. In these very words is given the summary of all that our previous arguments are designed to prove.
If, then, the Person of Christ has this all-deciding importance with respect to the salvation both of the individual 249and the whole race, it is obvious that everything will depend upon the position occupied with respect to His Person. Evidently this position cannot be merely a matter of knowledge; it must, on the contrary, be a matter of the heart, the will, and the conscience, because that which concerns our supreme relation, our relation to God, claims not only our intellect, but our entire personality, and especially its moral centre.
To occupy no position at all with respect to the Person of Jesus, when once we have become acquainted with it, is simply impossible; for there is in the holy a power which can never be utterly inoperative; and man, even in his present sinful condition, is a moral being possessing an ineradicable tendency towards the Divine. As such, he is so constituted that he is incapable of remaining absolutely indifferent to that which is holy when he actually meets with it, or when it is powerfully brought to his knowledge. He can avert, or forcibly close, his spiritual eye; yet if but a ray of holy light penetrates his soul, he cannot possibly conduct himself as if there were no such thing in existence, but must necessarily take up some position with respect thereto.
And this position cannot, at least for a continuance, be a neutral or an undecided one. The Lord, indeed, when He says, ‘He that is not against us, is on our side,’322322 Matt. ix. 40. seems to assert the opposite, viz. that conduct which just stops short of being inimical, deserves a certain amount of approbation. This saying, however, refers solely to the external following of Christ in combination with His disciples,—to the relation maintained to Christianity viewed in its corporate aspect. Where, however, the far more important and internal relation of the individual to the Person of Christ is concerned, that testing and severing saying, ‘He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not 250with me scattereth abroad,’323323 Matt. xii. 30; Luke xi. 23. On the mutual relation of these seemingly contradictory sayings, see my article in the deutschen Zeitschrift, 1851, Nos. III, and IV., especially p. 29, etc. applies. The very nature of the case makes it impossible that it should be otherwise. In presence of the holy and the Divine, the human soul has no other alternative than for or against, affection or dislike; a joyful acceptance of the benefits therein offered, or a repellent withdrawal into itself, followed by an ever-increasing aversion, which at last becomes open enmity. Thus did the manifestation of Jesus, even during His earthly career, act with a dividing effect upon all hearts and minds, and reveal their inmost thoughts and dispositions; thus, to this very day, does it, wherever it is faithfully testified to, irresistibly compel a decision. This decision may indeed be delayed or postponed; the soul of man may hesitate between the Holy One of God and the world; but a decision must at last take place; and if it is not made by an express resolution of the will, a continuance of not being with Christ is in itself a being against Him, and must inevitably manifest itself to be such with more and more distinctness.
But in what does being with and for Him really consist? Not in a merely esthetic approbation of His character, but in a hearty love of His Person. If this is indeed lin us, we shall be willing, first of all, to allow ourselves to be convinced of, and thoroughly humbled for, our sins by Him, the Holy One, and shall then surrender ourselves in perfect confidence to Him who is also the Son, full of grace and truth, and willingly and thankfully accept at His hands the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, which He offers without our merits or deservings. But this is nothing else than what is called believing in Him. And thus the only rightful position which we can occupy towards Christ, the position all-decisive with respect to our own salvation, is that of 251faith. But faith thus understood can be none other than a living faith, fruitful in all good works. For when a man thus wholly surrenders himself to Christ, Christ really imparts Himself to him: such a one receives the life of Christ into himself, and lets himself be ruled by Christ’s Spirit. And where the Spirit of Christ is, His love is shed abroad in the heart; and the works of this love naturally follow. From such a faith there is no need to require good works: ‘Neither does it inquire whether good works are to be done; but before they are asked for, it has done, and is ever doing them.’324324 The well-known words of Luther, in the excellent passage on faith, in his Preface to the Epistle to the Romans.
Let him who refuses this faith clearly understand what such refusal involves. There is, as we have seen, no neutral ground to which he can retire. In his, as in every case, there will at last arise the necessity of deciding for or against. He, too, will be compelled either to open his heart, by trustful self-surrender and humility, to the Holy One of God, or to close it against Him; and having turned away from Him, to seek salvation—if indeed he still feels himself in need of it—in ways of his own devising. If, however, he decides for the latter, he should do so with a clear knowledge of the full significance of his choice. Perhaps he may think it possible to give up Christ, the Son of God and Redeemer of the world, and to retain the pure and holy Son of Man as an example. This, however, is not possible; for it is the pure and perfect Son of Man who testifies of Himself that He is the Son of God, the Mediator, the alone source of salvation. Besides, it is precisely His pure and perfect manhood which leads, by an inward necessity, to His Divine dignity, and to the truth and reality of His redeeming work, and which involves and furnishes the surest guarantee of both. In short, we cannot have the one without the other. For 252when we have set aside the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world, there is no longer a place for the holy Son of Man. Then the only perfectly pure specimen of humanity is taken out of its midst, and its whole process of development lacks that central point after which it is ever striving, and from which, when it is once obtained, it receives its deepest, its creative impulse. Then all previous hopes and aspirations that a true man, a man as God had willed him, would one day really appear, have been but an empty delusion; all faith that such a one has really appeared—a faith which has made men strong in life, and joyful in death—has been childish folly. Then the heart of man may look in vain in the midst of its sorrows for a Divine, a holy, but also a truly human heart, which it can entirely trust, to which it can unreservedly surrender itself, and from which it may receive full comfort and perfect peace, in life and in death.
Of him who, on the contrary, inclines to this faith, it demands that he should embrace it with his whole heart, and in the full extent of its requirements. The Redeemer will not be satisfied with a divided heart. He who gave Himself wholly to us, desires that we also should give ourselves wholly to Him. He who receives Him, must do so in a manner suited to His sacred dignity,—must accept from Him that which He is willing to bestow. For He is not here to be fashioned and formed according to the desires and fancies of those who need His salvation, but they must let themselves be formed and fashioned, or rather transformed and refashioned, in their inmost nature and being, by Him, and thus become recipients of the true basis of all true and exalted human progress. Neither is it His will that faith should be timidly concealed in the inner sanctuary of the heart. He would have it gladly confessed before men, and shining forth like a bright light from the whole walk and 253conversation.325325 Matt. x. 32, and v. 16. He, moreover, who is with Christ, must also ‘gather’ with Him; that is, he must diligently promote the interests of His kingdom, and lend his aid to propagate more and more widely the saving and cleansing virtue which proceeds from Christ. Not one special class alone is called to this work. All believers must, after the example of the one High Priest, offer spiritual sacrifices, both in their actions and persons, and show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvellous light.326326 1 Pet. ii. 5, 9. Only in proportion as this general Christian duty is fulfilled, in addition to the regular agency of those who are officially called to spread the knowledge of Christ, will the whole fellowship continue to grow up into Him who is the Head; only thus will be laid the foundation of a faith realized and perfected in Him, and the life of the sinless and Holy One be, by means of this faith, increasingly imparted to mankind.254
|« Prev||Conclusion||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version