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(b) The inner revelation of the holy will of God in the rational consciousness of man is not a mere instinctive impulse, as this is the characteristic of irrational nature-creatures, nor is it a mere feeling, inasmuch as this, so far as relating to spiritual things, always presupposes a knowledge, a consciousness, but it is a real consciousness, which, however, is at first only obscure and indefinite, and receives more definite contents only through educative revelation, whereby it is developed into full clearness. The inner and the objective revelations, though differing from each other as to the order of their taking-place and as to their form, do not differ in their essential contents, nor indeed as to their certainty; and the objective revelation is no more rendered superfluous by the inner one, than is the latter by the former; each mutually calls for the other.
Just as the educative influencing of the child does not render superfluous its own active moral self-development, but in fact calls for the same as its end, and as the latter without the former is not possible, so is it also with the twofold revelation. If the historical revelation did not lead to a knowledge of the moral law as immanent in the reason itself, man 97would remain in perpetual nonage,—would not come to a consciousness of his rationality; in fact this revelation has its own withdrawal into the back-ground as its ultimate end,—as indeed since the accomplishment of redemption it has actually, in a large degree, so withdrawn.—By inner revelation, here, is not to be understood a real inspiration as in the case of the prophets, for this would in fact be supernatural and extraordinary; it is simply the gradual coming forward of the divine image in man,—the rational spirit’s becoming-conscious of itself as such image. This becoming-conscious on the part of one’s own rational nature is properly called a revelation, for the reason that this God-likeness is not conditioned by man himself but is created by God in the state of a germ, and is by the free activity of man, simply developed. The positive revelation is the light whereby this divine image, hidden in man’s inner nature, becomes visible to his understanding, or more properly, it is the warming sunlight under whose influence the germ of rationality unfolds itself out of secrecy into day. The inner revelation is neither in antagonism to, nor is it identical with, the objective; it is no more in antagonism therewith than is man’s own active self-development to moral maturity in antagonism with his training received from others; nor is it so nearly identical therewith as to amount to a repetition of the same thing. Their respective difference of origin continues to hold good also for the morally mature; even for the regenerated Christian, though he possesses the law of the Spirit as a living power within him, the historical revelation continues to serve as a permanent unvarying basis for the development of his moral consciousness, and as a sure criterion for testing the truth of the light within him; Christ came not to destroy the law.—As in their origin, so also in their form, they are different; the positive revelation bears a thoroughly historical character; the inner, a psychological. The former assumes the form of positive laws given at particular times, and through particular personal instrumentalities; the latter is continuous in every individual throughout his life.
On this inner revelation through the God-likeness of the rational spirit the Scriptures lay some stress, notwithstanding that they speak of it simply in connection with man as perverted 98by sin, in whom the natural consciousness of God and of his will is seriously obscured and in need of special illumination,—for which reason the natural inner, and the supernatural inner, revelations are not strictly and formally distinguished. In allusion to moral wisdom, it is said: “It is the spirit in man, the breath of the Most High, that gives him understanding” [Job xxxii, 8; comp. Prov. xx, 27]; and it is prophesied of the new Covenant: “I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts” [Jer. xxxi, 33],—as in contrast to the Old Covenant under which the law was predominantly objective and in sharp antagonism to the sin-blinded heart. But what is true of the New Covenant is likewise true of the unfallen state. This prophecy refers, it is true, to the working of the Holy Spirit, but unfallen man was per se already filled with this Spirit. Paul speaks of a natural consciousness of God and of the moral, even in the heathen [Rom. i, 19 sqq.]; by how much more must this be true of man as unfallen. This natural God-consciousness is the general manifestation of that “life” which was the light of men [John i, 4].
It is a favorite manner with some to speak of a moral “feeling,” and even of a moral instinctive “impulse,” as the primitive germ which subsequently develops itself into a moral consciousness. If by such feeling or impulse so much is meant as a knowledge as yet indistinct—a presentiment rather than a comprehension,—we can readily admit it, though in any case the expressions are very inappropriate, and serve only to confusion. Understood in their proper sense, we must emphatically reject them; for feeling is simply an immediate becoming-conscious of a state occasioned in the subject by an impression, and is hence always of a merely subjective and strictly individual nature, whereas the moral law is per se necessarily objective and universal—an idea; an idea cannot be felt, but must be known, though indeed this knowledge may be primarily as yet indistinct. A direct feeling can be occasioned only by a sensuous impression; of spiritual things I can have a feeling properly so-called, only after they have become an object of my cognizing consciousness; every feeling presupposes either a sensuous impression or an idea, a conception. To consider feeling, in the sphere of the 99religiously-moral, as the fundamental antecedent condition before all knowledge, is simply to confound an, as yet indistinct, anticipatory consciousness with feeling proper, and poorly serves to the attainment of scientific clearness. Still less can we speak of a moral impulse; in the strict sense of the word, as the primitive antecedent; an impulse that does not rest on a moral consciousness belongs not to the sphere of the moral but to that of the merely natural, and in the exact proportion that we attribute power to some such pretended impulse, we violate the freedom of the will. If an unconscious impulse toward the good is the primitive antecedent in man, then is a choice of the evil utterly impossible. If, however, we should assume, as the primitive condition, that there were in man contradictory impulses, the one toward the good, the other toward the evil, still we would not, by this anarchical duality, safeguard the freedom of the will, if we did not assume as above these mutually conflicting impulses, also a higher moral consciousness,—whereby in fact the hypothesis itself would be destroyed.
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