|« Prev||Appendix to Lecture I. Sketch of the Christian…||Next »|
APPENDIX TO LECTURE I.
SKETCH OF THE CHRISTIAN VIEW.
It may conduce to clearness if, having indicated the general scope and purport of these Lectures, I now give in this Appendix a brief statement, in propositional form, of what I consider the Christian view of the world to be, and sketch on the basis of this the course to be pursued in the succeeding Lectures.
I. First, then, the Christian view affirms the existence of a Personal, Ethical, Self-Revealing God. It is thus at the out set a system of Theism, and as such is opposed to all systems of Atheism, Agnosticism, Pantheism, or mere Deism.
II. The Christian view affirms the creation of the world by God, His immanent presence in it, His transcendence over it, and His holy and wise government of it for moral ends.
III. The Christian view affirms the spiritual nature and dignity of man—his creation in the Divine image, and destination to bear the likeness of God in a perfected relation of sonship.
IV. The Christian view affirms the fact of the sin and disorder of the world, not as something belonging to the Divine idea of it, and inhering in it by necessity, but as something which has entered it by the voluntary turning aside of man from his allegiance to his Creator, and from the path of his normal development. The Christian view of the world, in other words, involves a Fall as the presupposition of its doctrine of Redemption; whereas the “modern” view of the world affirms that the so-called Fall was in reality a rise, and denies 33by consequence the need of Redemption in the scriptural sense.
V. The Christian view affirms the historical Self-Revelation of God to the patriarchs and in the line of Israel, and, as brought to light by this, a gracious purpose of God for the salvation of the world, centring in Jesus Christ, His Son, and the new Head of humanity.
VI. The Christian view affirms that Jesus Christ was not mere man, but the eternal Son of God—a truly Divine Person—who in the fulness of time took upon Him our humanity, and who, on the ground that in Him as man there dwells the fulness of the Godhead bodily, is to be honoured, worshipped, and trusted, even as God is. This is the transcendent “mystery of godliness”52521 Tim. iii. 16. —the central and amazing assertion of the Christian view—by reference to which our relation is determined to every thing else which it contains.
Pausing for a moment on this truth of the Incarnation, we have to notice its central place in the Christian system, and through its light every other doctrine is illuminated and transformed.
1. The Incarnation sheds new light on the nature of God, and, in conjunction with the work of the Spirit, reveals Him as triune —Father, Son, and Spirit—one God.
2. The Incarnation sheds new light on the doctrine of creation—all things being now seen to be created by Christ as well as for Him.
3. The Incarnation sheds new light on the nature of man, alike as respects its capacity for union with the Divine, its possibilities of perfection, and the high destinies awaiting it in the future.
4. The Incarnation sheds new light on the purpose of God in the creation and Redemption of men—that end being, in the words of Paul, “in the dispensation of the fulness of times to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him.”5353Eph. i. 10.
5 The Incarnation sheds new light on the permission of sin by showing the possibility of Redemption from it, and how, 34through the Revelation of the Divine purposes of mercy, a far grander discovery is made of the Divine character, and far higher prospects are opened up for humanity.
VII. The Christian view affirms the Redemption of the world through a great act of Atonement—this Atonement to be appropriated by faith, and availing for all who do not wilfully withstand and reject its grace.
VIII. The Christian view affirms that the historical aim of Christ’s work was the founding of a Kingdom of God on earth, which includes not only the spiritual salvation of individuals, but a new order of society, the result of the action of the spiritual forces set in motion through Christ.
IX. Finally, the Christian view affirms that history has a goal, and that the present order of things will be terminated by the appearance of the Son of Man for judgment, the resurrection of the dead, and the final separation of righteous and wicked,—final, so far as the Scriptures afford any light, or entitle us to hold out any hope.
Beyond this are the eternal ages, on whose depths only stray lights fall, as in that remarkable passage—“Then cometh the end, when He shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father: . . . then shall the Son also Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him, that God may be all in all”5454Cor. xv. 24-28.—and on the mysterious blessedness or sorrow of which, as the case may be, it is needless to speculate.
I have for clearness’ sake exhibited this outline of the Christian view in a series of propositions, but I need hardly say that it is not my intention to attempt to exhaust this out line, or anything like it, in this brief course of Lectures. In the actual treatment of my subject I shall be guided very much by the way in which the main positions of the Christian view are related to current theories and negations.
1. It is plain that the Christian view of the world is Theistic, and as such is opposed, as already said, to all the views 35which deny a living personal God, and also to Deism, which denies Revelation.
2. The Christian views of nature and man come into conflict with many current theories. They involve, for example, the ideas of creation, and of the spirituality, freedom, and immortal destiny of man—all of which the thoroughgoing “modern” view of the world opposes.
3. The Christian view of sin is irreconcilable with modern theories, which represent sin as a necessity of development, and nullify its true conception by starting man off at a stage but little removed from that of the brutes. At least I take this to be the case, and shall endeavour to give reasons for my opinion.
The above denials, if logically carried out, involve the rejection of the Christian view as a whole. We reject the Christian view in toto if we deny the existence of God, the spiritual nature and immortality of man, or destroy the idea of sin. In what follows we are rather in the region of Christian heresy; at least the total rejection of the Christian view is not necessarily implied, though in its mutilation it is found that neither can that which is preserved be permanently maintained.
4. The assertion of the Incarnation may be met by a lower estimate of Christ’s Person than the full Christian doctrine implies; or by the complete denial of the supernatural dignity of His Person.
5. The Christian view may be met by the denial of the need or the reality of Atonement, or by inadequate or unscriptural representations of that great doctrine.
6. There may be unscriptural denials, as well as unwarrantable dogmatisms, in the matter of eschatology.
My course, then, in view of the various antitheses, will shape itself as follows:—
First, keeping in mind that it is the Incarnation which is the central point in the Christian view, I shall look in the second Lecture at the alternatives which are historically presented to us if this doctrine is rejected.
Next, in the third, fourth, and fifth Lectures, I shall consider in order the three postulates of the Christian view—God, Nature and Man, and Sin.
The sixth Lecture will be devoted to the Incarnation itself, 36and the seventh to the consideration of some related topics—the higher Christian concept of God, and the relation of the Incarnation to the plan of the world.
The eighth Lecture will treat of the Incarnation and Redemption from sin; and the concluding Lecture will treat of the Incarnation and human destiny.5555The original plan embraced a Lecture between Lecture VIII. and what is now IX.—on “The Incarnation and New Life of Humanity: the Kingdom of God.” The subject is touched on in Lecture IX., and dealt with more fully in an Appendix.38
|« Prev||Appendix to Lecture I. Sketch of the Christian…||Next »|