« Prev § 81. Founding of the Church.—Its Objects. Next »

§ 81. Founding of the Church.—Its Objects.

CLOSELY connected with the questions just discussed is that of the founding of the Church; for the Apostles were the organs through whom the religious community which originated in Christ was to be handed down to after ages, the connecting links that were to unite it with its Founder. A clear conception of the idea of the Church, in comparison with what we have said of the plan of Christ, will make it obvious that he intended to establish the Church, and himself laid its foundation.

By the Church we understand a union of men arising from the fellowship (communion) of religious life; a union essentially independent of, and different from, all other forms of human association. It was a fundamental element of the formation of this union, that religion was no longer to be inseparably bound up, either as principal or subordinate, with the political and national relations of men, but that it should develop itself, by its own inherent energy, as a principle of culture and union; superior, in its very essence, to all human powers. This involved both the power and the duty to create an independent community, and that community is the Church.

And Christianity is proved to be the aim and object of all human progress, not only by the craving for redemption, which no man can deny, in human nature, but also by the very idea of such a community as the Church, which overthrows all natural barriers, and binds mankind together by a union founded on the common alliance of their nature to God. The spirit of humanity, feeling itself confined by the limits which the opposing interests of nations impose upon it, demands a communion that shall overleap these barriers, and lay its foundations only in the consciousness, common to all men, of their relation to the Highest—a relation transcending the world and nature. Apart from Christianity, indeed, we could not conceive the idea of such a communion; but now that Christianity has freed Reason from the old-world bonds that hindered its developement, and unfolded for it a higher self-consciousness, there can be no science of human nature that does not reckon this communion as the aim of human progress, that does not assign to the Church its proper place in the universal moral organism of humanity. Schleiermacher has done this in his “Philosophical Ethics,” and has thus found, in the Church, the point of departure for Christian morals. And so every system of ethics must do which 123is not willing to fall in the rear of human progress, and to be guilty of cruelly mutilating the nature of man. Nay, the minds of the sages who sought to break through the limits of the ancient world yearned for this idea long before its realization in Christianity. Zeno,187187   In his work, περὶ πολιτείας. the founder of the Stoa, proclaimed it as the highest of human aims, that “men should not be separated by cities, states, and laws, but that all should be considered fellow-citizens, and partakers of one life, and that the whole world, like a united flock, should be governed by one common law.”188188   Ἵνα μὴ κατὰ πόλεις, μηδὲ κατὰ δήμους οἰκῶμεν, ἰδιόις ἕκαστοι διωρισμένοι δικαίοις, ἀλλὰ πάντας ἀνθρώπους ἡγώμεθα δημότας καὶ πολίτας, εἶς δὲ βίος ᾖ καὶ κόσμος ὥσπερ ἀγέλης συννόμου νομῷ κοινῷ συντρεφομένης. Plut. in Alex., i., c. vi. Plutarch, who quotes these words, was probably right in saying that “Zeno had some phantom of a dream before him when he wrote;”189189   Τοῦτο Ζήνων μὲν ἔγραψεν ὥστερ ὄναρ ἢ εἲδωλον ευνομίας φιλοσόφου καὶ πολιτείας ἀνατυπωσάμενος for how could an idea, so far transcending the spirit of antiquity, be realized in its sphere? Such a communion could only be brought about, at that time, by the destruction of the separate organization of nations, to the detriment of their natural and individual progress; and the very event in which Plutarch thought he saw its fulfilment, viz., the commingling of the nations by Alexander’s190190   To whom he applies what can only be said of Christ: κοινὸς ἥκειν θεόθεν ἀρμοστὴς καὶ διαλλακτὴς τῶν ὅλων νομίζων. conquests, carried the germ of self-destruction within it. A total revolution of the ancient world necessarily had to precede the realizing of this idea. Mankind had to be freed from the power of sin, and the disjunctive and repulsive agency of sin, before there could be any place for this Divine communion of life, which overleaps, without destroying, the natural divisions of nations. And this is the realization of the idea of the Church.

Now as this revolution could only be brought about by Him who was at once Son of God and Son of Man, so He, when he recognized himself as the Saviour and King bestowed upon mankind, was fully conscious, also, of his power to realize this idea. It is clear, from what we have said of the Plan of Christ, that the results which were to flow in after ages from the indwelling power of the Word proclaimed and sent forth by him to regenerate and unite mankind, lay fully revealed before his all-surveying glance. He knew that it contained the elements of a spiritual community that would burst asunder the confining forms of the Jewish Theocracy, and take all mankind into its wide embrace.

« Prev § 81. Founding of the Church.—Its Objects. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection