The scheme of Baur, to which allusion is made in this sermon, is set plainly in his 'Kritische Untersuchungen über die Kanonischen Evangelien.' The part especially relating to St. John is contained between pages 79 and 389. In the First Part he maintains that there is a leading thought, a Hauptidee, in the Gospel. He traces this out, beginning from the prologue; notices the testimony of the Baptist, the comparison of Jesus with John, the first coming of Jesus into Jerusalem, the conflict between belief and unbelief in its different forms, the signs and works of Christ, the argumentative conflict with the unbelief of the Jews, the raising of Lazarus, the transition to the history of the passion and death, the final crisis of the nation's unbelief, the discourses of Jesus with His disciples and the sacerdotal prayer, the history of the death and resurrection, — as different points and instances in the development of this idea. He then goes on, in the Second Part, to consider the relation of this Gospel to the synoptical Gospels; maintaining the absence of any leading idea in them, and the consequent evidence that, in spite of the historical confusions which he supposes to be in them, there is more mixture in them of simple facts related without a purpose. Next he enters upon the internal probability of the history in St. John. Then he considers the relation of the Gospel to the consciousness of the time. Finally, he maintains the identity of the Apostle with the author of the Apocalypse; dwelling especially upon his sympathies with the feelings of the Christians in Asia Minor respecting the keeping of Easter; and regarding the Apocalypse as the work of a Jew passionately attached to the traditions of his fathers, and vehemently opposed to the spiritual doctrines of St. Paul.
Perhaps I may be allowed to explain in what relation the view I have taken of the Gospels in these Sermons stands to that of this learned Tübingen Professor.
1st. I have maintained, as he has done, that there is a leading idea which may be traced through the whole of the Gospel; that what is called the prologue is not an idle introduction to a narrative with which it has no connection, but is the key to the meaning of every part of it. 'This leading idea' I have further maintained to be the leading idea of the whole Bible, to be unfolding itself through all the Law and the Prophets, to be that which makes the history of the Jews a coherent history, to be that which makes that history the exposition of all histories. Supposing it entirely absent from the mind of any people on the face of the earth, I hold that people not to be a nation, but a mere herd of animals, and its records a mere collection of fragments, with nothing to bind them together. In proportion as any people has been possessed with this idea, in that proportion has it been a nation great in itself, one which could interpret the conditions and destinies of other nations. That the Jewish people were brought to know that they were under the guidance of a Divine Word — their ever-present Teacher, and King, and Judge — is what I mean when I speak of God calling out that nation, of God ruling it and educating it, of God making it a blessing to all the families of the earth.
2d. Next, with reference to the synoptical Gospels. It follows, from what I have said, that if I did not trace any of this 'Hauptidee' in them, I should regard them not as histories, not as Gospels, but as that collection of fragments, partly mythical, partly historical, which Baur and his school suppose them to be. I have contended, in a book on 'The Unity of the New Testament,' that there is a 'Hauptidee' in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; that they are not biographies of a certain Man called Jesus of Nazareth, whom His disciples supposed to be endued with supernatural powers, or to be actually divine; but that they are the history of the way in which that King, whom the Jewish prophets had been declaring as the invisible Ruler over them, manifested Himself visibly to His subjects, and claimed their obedience. By a careful examination of all the passages which these Evangelists have in common, by an equally careful examination of their differences, I have endeavoured to show that they were all setting forth this King of men, that each was setting Him forth under a distinct aspect. There may be very little of what is called the higher criticism in such an examination as this. To that I do not aspire. We English may be content to work on in the stupid old Baconian method, trying to find out the meaning of facts, and not quite indifferent to this fact, that these Gospels have exercised an influence over eighteen centuries of human beings in different lands, which it is not very easy to understand how they could have exercised, if they had contained a few doubtful records of journeys between Nazareth and Capernaum, of miracles imagined by superstitious wonder-hunters, of discourses some tenth part of which may possibly have proceeded from a Nazarene Prophet. If they set plainly a Person who has been, and is now, and will be for ever, the King over men, there is at least an explanation of the secret of their power; whether it is the right one may be at least worth some consideration.
3d. In the book to which I referred, I carefully abstained from any comparison of the three Gospels with the fourth. I have, throughout that book and this, admitted that they are widely different, and that it confuses our impressions of all four to blend them together as the Harmonists attempt to do. I have maintained, indeed, that the first three Gospels assert, as distinctly as the fourth, that the King of men whom they are proclaiming was the Son of God. I have maintained that they would not have proved themselves to be the Jews that they were, if they had begun with the records of the life of a Man, seeing that every book of the Old Testament begins with God, and treats of men only as they testify of God or are related to Him. But I have said that in the commencement of the three Gospels, in their incidents, in their whole framework, there is a marked and characteristic difference from the fourth, which no faithful expositor can overlook or try to explain away. There can be no doubt about the nature of the difference. The prologue, as Baur truly says, at once denotes it. St. Mark speaks of Jesus as the Son of God in his opening sentence. The use of the name Word of God, as identical with Son of God, is found in St. John, and perhaps in St. John only. That name belongs, the Tübingen Professor tells us, to the consciousness of the next age. Of course, we are liable to make mistakes about the meaning of that phrase. It is not a native or natural phrase to us; and some of us are not eager to import it, seeing that our home manufacture of cant is quite prolific enough. But if the consciousness of an age is what I take it to be, I have maintained that the first century, even from its very commencement, was the age which showed itself peculiarly conscious of the truth which is denoted by the expressions 'Word,' 'Life,' 'Light,' and all the others which characterise this Gospel. The evidence of this fact is so notorious, that nothing but an elaborate theory could force a man of Baur's extraordinary learning to cast it aside. Supposing all he says of the absence of Gnosticism in the Christian Church in the first century were as true as I apprehend it to be unfounded, would that prove that no such man as Philo ever existed; that chronologers have been mistaken by a hundred years about the date of his birth and his teaching; or that he was a solitary phenomenon, a person who exercised no influence, and indicated no consciousness in the country and period to which he belonged?
4th. The question, I am aware, when once Philo is mentioned, is how far so learned and accomplished a man could have affected, by his thoughts, humble fishermen like the Apostle John? The question is raised and answered by two different classes of people. One set is eager to maintain that what they call the Logos-idea must have been derived from a great mystical speculator, and cannot have presented itself naturally to an ignorant man. The other is utterly scandalized that an inspired Apostle should be supposed to have anything to do with that which was passing in the minds of his uninspired contemporaries. On the question of simplicity I have spoken at considerable length. Whether the writer of the fourth Gospel was simple or not, whether his doctrine respecting the Word affected his simplicity, must be ascertained from the book itself, and cannot be learnt from any theories of mine or of any one else. But if I am right in thinking that this (so-called) Logos-idea is that which gave simplicity and clearness to the lives of prophets and patriarchs, because they did not think of it as an idea at all, but believed that they were ploughing, and keeping sheep, and eating and drinking, under the eye of a living Person, then it was surely not an unnatural thing that an Apostle should be taught to bring out that truth in its simplicity which had been mixed with conceits and phantasies. If it is inconsistent with our notion of the teaching of the Spirit of God that He should enable a Jewish Apostle — living in a heathen city, amidst Jews and Heathens who were both confused with thoughts upon this very subject, among Christians who did not know how to connect their thoughts of Jesus with the Divine Word — to bring forth a Gospel which should have this special object; I cannot find that it is inconsistent with the promise of the Comforter which our Lord Himself gives us, or that that promise could have been more perfectly fulfilled to His own generation than by such an illumination of an Apostle's mind and memory. And for those who do not believe that that promise is withdrawn, who think that the Spirit which was given to dwell in the Church dwells in it still, I do not know that there can be a more cheering thought than this, that His revelations of Himself were gradual to His own Apostles; that He taught those who were nearest to the time of His ascension to present Him as the risen Son of God; that He taught His disciples who lived at the end of the age to see in that Son also the living and eternal Word who was before all worlds, who would be manifested as the Centre of all society, as the final Conqueror of all enemies. For there surely may be a gradual unveiling, in the later times also, of Him who has been with us from the beginning; and it may be given to these later ages, when kingdoms are falling down, and ecclesiastical systems are wearing out, and scholars are finding nothing solid remaining in heaven and earth except their own criticisms and their own conceptions, to see the Word of God coming forth in His living power and majesty as the King of kings and Lord of lords, the foundation of that heaven and earth wherein dwells righteousness.
5th. I have touched, in these last words, on Baur's doctrine respecting the identity of the Apostle with the author of the Apocalypse, and the essential differences between the Apocalypse and the Gospel.
It is notorious that many in the Alexandrian Church agreed with Baur in separating the author of the Apocalypse from the author of the Gospel; but that they gave the Gospel to St. John, and the Apocalypse to some other author. I am quite willing, with the German Professor, to consider the Apostle as first of all the 'Apocalyptiker;' to believe that he was regarded specially in that character by the Churches of Asia Minor; and to take the vision of the Son of Man, in the first chapter, as the explanation of that confused tradition respecting John which represents him as in some manner keeping alive the office of the high-priest after its representative in Jerusalem had disappeared. I am most willing, also, to admit that the author of the Apocalypse does regard himself as a true Jew, in contradistinction from those who called themselves Jews, but did lie and were of the synagogue of Satan. What I contend is, that the writer of the fourth Gospel is an 'Apocalyptiker,' in the strictest sense of the word; that the unveiling of the Son of God and the Son of Man is the subject of one book as well as of the other; that the meaning which is given to revelation or unveiling, in both, is not at variance with the meaning which it bears in St. Paul's Epistles, but is the expansion and illustration of that meaning; that the Jews who do lie in the Apocalypse, as well as in the Gospel, were those who were content with a visible high-priest, and were not asking as their high-priest for Him whose eyes were as a flame of fire, who died and was alive; that as the Epistle of the Hebrews, whether written by St. Paul or not, explains the very ground of all St. Paul's Epistles and their unity, so the fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse show what is the underground of the doctrine of that Epistle, viz. that the High-Priest of the universe is that Word of God who was with the Father before all worlds, in whom men may ascend to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. I have expressed, in this Sermon, a hope that the Apocalypse may some day be proved to be a revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and not of certain dates and mystical numbers, because I believe that its radical and essential harmony with the Gospel will be more and more discovered to those who read it, and because the two books and the Epistle will then, I think, explain to us all the former books of the Bible — how they are related to each other, how they are related to Him in whom alone God is unveiled to man. I have spoken of the Gospel as a book of theology, the Apocalypse as a book of politics, not because I believe that these artificial distinctions of ours can represent satisfactorily their different objects, but because I am convinced that theology will be a mere hortus siccus for schoolmen to entertain themselves with, till it becomes associated once more with the Life of nations and humanity; that politics will be a mere ground on which despots and democrats, and the tools of both, play with the morality and happiness of their fellow-beings, till we seek again for the ground of them in the nature and purposes of the eternal God.
I have not seen my way to adopt the punctuation of the 3d and 4th verses of the 1st chapter, (Χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. Ὅ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν,) which many of the Fathers approve, which Lachmann has introduced into his text, and which Mr. Bunsen appears to regard as of very high importance. On the question of a various reading, I might have deferred to these authorities; on a question of pointing, their judgment is merely that of ordinary students. The simplicity of the Apostle's style, it seems to me, is violated by the change. Nor am I yet aware what we gain by it. Is it the pleonasm in the 1st verse which is objected to? Surely we must strike out half the verses in the Psalms, if we complain of such pleonasms. I believe we shall find, when we have done so, that the force of that which we have retained has not been increased, but weakened. Or is it that the words, 'in Him was life,' are regarded as a mere commonplace? God give us such commonplaces in exchange for all the rarities and refinements that wise men can present us with! I do not mean that the difference between 'being' and 'becoming' is not involved in all the doctrine of these verses. No one can read them thoughtfully without perceiving it. But need it be thrust upon us in the very terms of school philosophy? Does it not come out much more naturally and truly in the old simple Hebraic forms? Those who suppose these forms to be obsolete for us, cannot suppose them to have been obsolete for the writer of the fourth Gospel, unless they accept Baur's theory concerning him.
I have also not been induced to depart from our version of the words, Ἠν τὸ φῶϛ τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον, in spite of the many objections which have, in modern times and in old times, been raised against it. I do not think that I have what is called a theological interest in defending it. If the light is said to lighten every man, I can ask no more. Give what force you will to the coming into the world, connect it with what clause of the sentence you will, that assertion remains good, perhaps even less qualified than it is in our translation. Moreover, a single text would be a very poor ground on which to rest such a doctrine. A person who finds it in every line of St. John — no, implied in the whole Bible — can afford to make a present of one passage to those who find it inconvenient. I contend for the fidelity of our version upon a different ground. If we construe the words, 'The light which lightens every man was coming into the world,' we destroy the order of the Apostle's discourse, and we go near to make him contradict himself. He declares that the Word was in the world, and that the world knew Him not. The coming into it, in the sense of being made flesh, is reserved for the 14th verse. My great object in this Sermon has been to assert this order, and to show how much we mistake the purpose of the Evangelist when we substitute another of our own. Until some rendering of the passage is suggested which does not involve that great mischief, I must adhere to the one with which we are all familiar.
The notion of St. John as the teacher who possesses a higher lore than the other writers of the New Testament, which I have considered in this Sermon, may be traced especially to Origen. If the reader is at the pains to consider the opening of his Commentary upon St. John, he will discover in what sense this Gospel seemed to him a kind of quintessence of all the previous revelations of God. His own emblem is drawn from the first-fruits of a sacrifice; a better comparison in itself, but one which does not make its meaning at once evident to the modern reader. I cannot have any wish to speak disrespectfully or disparagingly of Origen, with whose mysticism some will accuse me of having only too much sympathy. Yet I cannot help thinking that his attempt to distinguish between the spiritual and the sensible Gospel, has been the source of infinite confusions in the study of the Evangelist. Its other evil consequences — as cultivating a morbid ingenuity in seeking for distant analogies, and in destroying the force of plain narratives — have been often dwelt upon. I allude to it in connection with what I have said, in this Sermon and in the eighth, of our Lord's forerunner.
Even the most earnest seekers after truth are continually perplexed by the question how John the Baptist could have been a guide into what Origen and his school have taught them to consider the most esoteric part of the Christian faith. 'If the least in the kingdom of heaven,' they say, 'was greater than he, how can he have been possessed of a doctrine which even some of the great in the kingdom of heaven seem very imperfectly to have apprehended?' The answer to this question, I believe, will come to such persons gradually, — at last decisively. What is called the doctrine of the Logos — the idea of the Logos — may have been seized and possessed by one here and one there, at different periods of the Church. The best of these, like Clemens of Alexandria, may have been driven to it by the necessities of their position, by their conflict with the false Gnosticism, by the impossibility of preaching the Gospel to Heathens without the belief in a universal Teacher. They may have been often dazzled with their own light — often tempted, if not to glorify themselves upon the possession of it, yet to denounce others as carnal or earthly who were without it. I cannot, indeed, say that I trace as much scorn of others and exaltation of their own wisdom in the Alexandrian school, as in that which was most opposed to it, in the hard dogmatist of Carthage. But they were tempted to make distinctions which interfere, it seems to me, most grievously with all that is truest in their teaching. If the Word is the Teacher and Light of men, as they represented Him to be, the vulgarest men must have been under His teaching; the commonest facts, the most simple forms of nature, must be instruments through which His learning is communicated. If the Word has been, as they say, made flesh, fleshly things cannot be despicable, but must contain those spiritual truths which the wise and prudent who despise them, and exult in their own intellectual superiority, cannot find. Therefore the simplest men, the preachers of repentance, those who have brought a message to the poor, — whether they have talked of the living Word or not, — have borne the best and fullest witness of Him. It is so now; it has been so always. The prophets of old spoke of a Word because they were preachers of repentance. I contend that John the Baptist spoke of Him just as they did, only with more clearness, with a stronger apprehension of His personality. But if John was the messenger of a Word made flesh, if the Incarnation is the beginning of a new world, the opening of a new heaven, it must needs be that the least of those who are born into that world, who are permitted to ascend into that heaven, is greater than John. If, indeed, he forgets the answer which was given to the disciples when they asked, 'Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' if he begins to exult in his knowledge or in his privileges; if he scorns the world which Christ has redeemed; if he denies that Christ is the Light of the world; he not only puts himself below John the Baptist, but below every Jew, Mahometan, worshipper of Juggernaut; he more openly sets Christ at nothing than they do. The Christian world may come to this utter denial of its Master; then will come a preacher of repentance, — a preacher of the living Word to publicans and sinners, — an Elias to witness of judgments upon Scribes and Pharisees, who will make it evident that the deepest lore is also the simplest; that that which is most divine has most power over those who have been most given up to the world, the flesh, and the devil.
To return for a moment to the Alexandrian divines. I cannot acquit Clemens of having given encouragement to that esoterical doctrine which led Origen, it appears to me, into such dangerous refinements. But the spirit of his 'Pædagogue' is so personal and so practical, that many of the tendencies to which his pupil yielded were counteracted, if not wholly overcome, in him. Above all, there is one passage of Origen's Commentary which shows him to have utterly departed from the principle which goes through all the books of Clemens. He considers (tom. i. c. 23) why the name Logos should have been especially chosen as a title of the Saviour. He has been extensively followed by persons who would not like to acknowledge that they have learnt anything from him, in this mode of speaking. But it is surely fatal to the humble study of St. John. We do not suffer him to tell us of the Word, and then to tell us how the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among men, and manifested forth His glory. We start from an assumption and speculation of our own; we chain the Apostle, as if he were a Proteus, that we may compel him to give forth, not his own oracles, but those which we have put into his mouth. If I could induce but one student of divinity to abandon this perilous and irreverent course, I should believe that God had permitted me to be an instrument of some good to His Church.
Mr. Alford has given it as his opinion that the sentence, 'Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,' does not refer at all to the Paschal feast, but to the words in the 53d chapter of Isaiah. He raises the natural objection, of which I have spoken in this Discourse, that the scape-goat bears away sins, but that no such association is connected with the Lamb except in the words, 'Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.' I do not venture to affirm that the words of Isaiah were not in the Baptist's mind when he uttered this sentence, or that they did not suggest themselves to the minds of the disciples who heard him speak, and who followed Jesus. But supposing that to be the case, why did the Prophet connect the lamb that was led to the slaughter, and the sheep that was dumb before his shearers, with the exclamation in the fourth verse? Why did Isaiah, as well as John, think of a lamb instead of a goat? We are all agreed that the scape-goat was the most obvious image, one specially suggested, to a preacher in the wilderness. Why was it not the one to which that preacher in the wilderness resorted? Why did he industriously choose another image, which no tradition except that of one passage in a prophet seemed to justify? Why has all Christendom accepted and ratified that selection, the other being thrown quite into the background, only furnishing an occasional simile to divines, being scarcely brought within the range of our sympathies even by the earnestness and genius of an adventurous and devout painter of our own day, while the lamb has been the favourite subject of Christian art in all ages? Surely these questions require to be considered. The Passover, I admit, does not suggest the thought of a sin-bearer. That thought is suggested to the conscience by the sense of sin, or rather is that sense. But did not the Passover suggest to those who had that thought deeply fixed in their own minds and consciences, the sense of a deliverer? May not John have felt — may not all Christendom have felt — that the sin-bearer must, as I have expressed it in this Discourse, go into the presence of God to deliver us from our burden and bondage, not into a land uninhabited?
The intolerable burden which Luther had felt on his conscience leads him to speak of this verse with intense delight and satisfaction. (See Werke, b. vii. p. 1637, u. s. w. Walch.) Starting from his inward experience, he takes it for granted that Isaiah's words were the exposition to the Jew of the inadequacy of the legal lamb offered day by day, or at the annual feast, to take away sin. St. John's words, in that sense, become, for him, the interpretation of Isaiah's words, 'Surely the Lamb that was dumb before his shearers has carried our sins.' 'Behold that Lamb of God!' But it never occurs to him that the Jew could have separated the lamb at the feast from the consciousness of evil, or that it could have suggested any thoughts which did not point to a deliverer from the evil. On many subjects older writers or modern writers may see further than he does; on this no one, I think, is so entitled to bear witness.
Those who maintain that it is dangerous to attempt any revision of our present translation of the Scriptures are fond of two arguments especially. One is, that the language which would be substituted, in almost every case, for that of the divines in King James's reign would be less simple and popular than theirs; the other is, that no vital or fundamental doctrine of our faith is affected by any errors or inadvertencies into which they may have fallen.
These arguments have been illustrated by a large amount of eulogistic and vituperative rhetoric; but plain readers would rather that they were brought to some practical test. Here is one. I have urged that we should put Signs in nearly all those verses of St. John in which we now find 'Miracles.' Is this change likely to affect the simplicity of our version, to make its 'language not understanded by the people?' Is 'miracle' one of their ordinary, homely, Saxon expressions? Would it be exceedingly difficult for a preacher to make his humble parishioners understand the use and purpose of 'Signs?'
But there is the cui bono objection: — 'You unsettle a mode of speech to which we are accustomed. To what end? Is there anything "vital" in the difference?' Vital means, I suppose, if it is rendered into our vernacular speech, that which affects life — the life of individuals or of societies. I venture to think that this change is important to the life of both. The habit of looking for wonderments, as the decisive and overpowering witnesses of Christ, has, it seems to me, been most mischievous to the life of the Church, is affecting the life of each one of us. Those who wish to think and speak of Him as not only born at a certain time into the world, but as living before the world, and as the founder of it, find themselves perpetually embarrassed by the notion which has worked itself into the minds of our people and of ourselves, that He established His claim to be an extraordinary person by doing extraordinary acts in the towns of Galilee and the city of Jerusalem, instead of showing by signs what He is and always has been. The Catholic doctrine is more undermined than we are at all aware by the feeling which this deviation from the original has sanctioned and promoted. We assume Christ's simple humanity as the ground of our thoughts, and then add on to it an indefinite notion of divinity. The truth which was so dear to the earnest Evangelical teachers of the last century, that Christ is to be proclaimed as the Emmanuel, 'God with us,' that the whole Gospel is concerning a living Christ, suffers scarcely less from the same cause. And how much the whole argument of Protestants with Romanists about their miracles is weakened, and its practical effect destroyed, by the use of an expression which (such is the curious Nemesis upon those who, for any cause whatever, trifle with language) we have derived, not from the Vulgate, but from Theodore Beza, I fancy some of our professional anti-Romanist orators might discover, if they spent some of the time in studying the controversy and the history of the Church which they spend in constructing denunciations against the superstitions and apostasy of their opponents.
I offer these as proofs that in one instance, at all events, 'vital' benefits may be gained by an earnest and sober consideration of our existing translation, and that even deadly mischiefs may be averted by it. And I am inclined to think that it is a fair instance. Among those divines who are most earnest for a revision, and would be most competent to take part in it, there is not one, so far as I am aware, who would not watch with the greatest jealousy over the Saxon character of our version, who would wish to substitute for a single venerable phrase a nineteenth century equivalent, who would not sacrifice anything excepting truth to the preservation of that which is popular and human, who would not expect, as the reward of a resolute and enduring adherence to truth, that the book would become more a book for the English people, and less a book for the schools. And I am satisfied that these honest and learned men may look for another — even, if possible, a higher — reward for their serious devotion to the book which they love and reverence most. Many delusions like that of which I have spoken are perpetuated, I am persuaded, through phrases which crept into our version from carelessness, — which have been repeated and turned into arguments by pulpit rhetoricians, — which often lead honest Englishmen to doubt the truth of the Bible. They will be, in the best sense, defenders of the faith if they rescue the words which the Psalmist speaks of as purified seven times in the fire from any earthly dross, and if they spoil the trade of those who wish it to be mingled with the genuine ore.
I will add one word in conclusion. Much is said in our day about verbal inspiration. Some accuse their brethren of superstition for maintaining it; some accuse their brethren of secularism for not maintaining it. I suspect that a common name may cover the most opposite feelings and convictions. A believer in verbal inspiration, like Mr. Tregelles — who lives laborious days that he may discover the purest text, so that none of the inspired words may fall to the ground or be perverted — is one of the noblest witnesses for truth I can conceive of. May God give us more and more of such men, and hearts to honour them for their works' sake! On the other hand, those who say they believe in verbal inspiration, whenever they wish to direct the wrath of their disciples or of a religious mob against men that are more righteous than themselves, and who then show that they are afraid of trying God's words, and freeing them from insincere mixtures, lest the minds of the people should be disturbed, are not exactly those whom one can think of as 'Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile.'
My attention has been called by a friend to a very interesting interpretation of the dialogue between Jesus and the Virgin, which is given by Gregory of Nyssa, Tom. ii. p. 9, B. c. He makes, it will be seen, the words of our Lord interrogative: 'Is not my hour yet come?' —
Τὴν γὰρ μητρῴαν συμβουλὴν, ὡς οὐκέτι κατὰ καιρὸν αὐτῷ προσαγομένην ἀπεποιήσατο, εἰπών⋅ τί ἐμοὶ μαί σοι γύναι; μὴ καὶ ταύτης μου τῆς ἡλικίας ἐπιστατεῖν ἐθέλεις; οὔπω ἥκει μου ἡ ὥρα ἡ τὸ αὐτοκρατὲς περιεχομένη τῇ ἡλικίᾳ καὶ αὐτεξούσιον;
I have spoken in this Sermon on two subjects, of which I have spoken at some length in my Theological Essays; the 'Resurrection' and the 'Judgment.' I am not the least anxious to correct any impressions which my remarks in that book may have made on the minds of religious critics. If they have misunderstood me, nothing which I could say would make me intelligible to them. If they have misinterpreted me without misunderstanding me, I am not the sufferer. But I shall be very glad if what I have said here should remove any difficulty from the minds of earnest and thoughtful men, some of whom have written their complaints to me in a most kind and friendly spirit, evidently regarding me as a fellow-inquirer after truth, and wishing that we should help each other in the pursuit of it.
I think they will perceive, from what I have said on the words — 'Those that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live,' — that I am not less zealous than they are to assert the absolute identity of the body of humiliation with the body of glory. That truth cannot be asserted in stronger language than it is asserted by St. Paul in the 15th chapter of the 1st Corinthians, and by our own Burial Service. God forbid that any one should make it weaker! What I affirm is, that we do not gain the least strength for this conviction by setting aside St. Paul's assertion, that corruption shall not inherit incorruption; and that the Burial Service nowhere gives the slightest hint that what is committed as earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, shall be reunited to constitute that body which we have a sure and certain hope will be raised, and will be made like to Christ's glorious body. This attempt to identify the corruption of the body with the body, the effects of death with the substance which death is unable to destroy, I know has the sanction of great and venerable names. Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation have also the sanction of names which are most dear to the Church. But if Bonaventura and Thomas à Kempis cannot bind us to the one, or Luther to the other; if we have a right to feel that we partake with them of the sacrament of Christ's risen and glorified body most completely when we forget the theories by which here on earth they limited it; we are surely not bound by the rhetoric of Donne or of Jeremy Taylor, however much we may reverence them both, to adopt what seems to us merely an earthly and sensual explanation of a glorious reality, directly interfering with the scriptural account of it, and with many of the most practical and consolatory truths which flow from it. I do not wish to get rid of any passage in the New Testament upon the subject, or to give it a forced construction. I do wish that we may look straight at all the passages in it, and not allow a conception which we have formed, — a very natural, but it seems to me a very low and grovelling conception, — to interfere with the full understanding and reception of them. I would not wish a better argument against the popular theory than the eloquent sermon of Donne in the support and elucidation of it. Let any one see how utterly unrestrained the fancy of a devout and excellent man becomes when it enters into this speculation, how entirely it loses sight of all scriptural guidance, how it revels among the images of the charnel-house. And then let any one ask himself whether this is the doctrine of that divine passage in St. Paul, which reaches indeed from earth to heaven, which is not afraid of the lowest objects when it is in contact with the highest; yet in which all is clear and awful, as if he knew that he was speaking of death and life, of God and man, and as if the Spirit who was guiding him abhorred all conceits and trifling. Only imagine Donne's Sermon substituted for the 15th of Corinthians, when we meet in the church around the coffin of a friend! It is a very simple test; but I think any one who applies it fairly will know what is the worth of the additions which the fancy, even if it is not ordinarily a vulgar fancy, makes to the divine testimony.
Precisely on the same ground do I protest against the exercises of this same fancy respecting what is called, by a phrase which I have not met with anywhere in Scripture, the intermediate state of disembodied spirits. I am told by a gentleman, who seems to know, that they are placed in the moon, or in one of the fixed stars. Any one who can find consolation in such an opinion, I should be very sorry to deprive of it. But I must say plainly, that we are in a world of life and death; and that if we have nothing better than these dreams to sustain each other with, we had better hold our peace. In the words of our Lord in the 5th chapter of St. John, in the comment upon these words at the tomb of Lazarus, I find what I want, and what I believe every one wants, and more than we shall ever get to the bottom of, if we meditate upon them from this day till the consummation of all things. While I have them I will not, for my part, build up a world of fantasies which, seeing that it has no foundation in the nature of things or in the word of God, any physical discovery, any application of ordinary logic, may throw down in a moment. Da nuces puero. The boyhood of the Church, as of individuals, may have innocently occupied itself in cracking nuts, and eating the poor kernel in the inside. Our faith perishes in such experiments. Let us put away childish things, and try that we may know those blessed things which are freely given us of God.
That the declarations respecting a general resurrection at the last day are to me of infinite worth, and that they do not at all clash in my mind with the belief which our Lord's words in this chapter appear very distinctly to justify, — that men, at all times and in all ages, who have been in their graves, have heard the voice of the Son of Man and have lived; that in their bodies, and not in their spirits only, they have awakened at His call; I think will be evident from what I have said on the resurrection of Lazarus. And this general resurrection I connect, as I think all men connect it, with a judgment-day. The only question is, whether we are to follow strictly the assertions of the Evangelists, and call that day an unveiling of the Son of Man — a discovery to all, wherever they are, in one part of the universe or another, quick or dead, of Him who is, and always has been, their King and their Judge, so that every eye shall see Him, and the secrets of all hearts shall be discovered; or whether we shall substitute for this notion of His advent to judgment, one which supposes a gathering together, in some certain space, of multitudes that never could be gathered together in any space, — one that reproduces all the pomp and solemnities of earthly courts of justice, — one that supposes Christ not to be the Searcher of hearts, not to be the Light of men, but the mere image and pattern of an earthly magistrate. What I call for, is the strict interpretation of the words of Scripture. What I denounce, is an attempt to substitute the forms and conceptions of our own carnal understandings for that which speaks to a faculty within us which is higher than our understandings, and which belongs to us all alike. Far from agreeing with those writers, immeasurably superior to me I own in learning and insight, who think that the words of Scripture do not fit the conditions of modern times, and that we need to adapt them to our stage of civilization, or else to cast them aside, I expect no deliverance from the superstitions by which we are tied and bound, from the confusions which a corrupt and money-getting civilization has introduced into our thoughts on the meanest and on the highest subjects, but in a return to the more accurate study of those Scriptural phrases which we use most familiarly, but in the attempt to bring our theology to the higher and simpler standard which they set before us. Earnestly would I implore those friends who have so kindly told me that they would gladly agree with me, in my views respecting the Resurrection and the Judgment, but that they find it impossible — not to trouble themselves about my views at all; to be sure that they can only be of use to them, that I can only be of use to them, just so far as I can help them to clear their minds of mists which hinder them from seeing that light which must throw all my opinions and those of far wiser men into the shade.
DISCOURSES XVI. AND XVII.
A friend, who has kindly looked over the sheets of these Discourses, has intimated to me that though I may have said enough on the simple and childlike character of St. John's narrative, I have not directly encountered an impression which he believes to be very general, — that the discourses of our Lord which are contained in this Gospel, are essentially and radically unlike those in the other three. He thinks that this impression may not be felt by the most humble and devout readers of the Gospel; but that it is far from being confined to those who have any knowledge of Baur's opinions, or have even the slightest acquaintance with German theology. It forces itself upon every one who is only beginning to exercise his faculties of comparison and criticism upon the Scriptures; it is especially likely to affect those who have derived their impressions of them from our ordinary English commentators and pulpit teachers.
My own experience corroborates this opinion. Earnest men feel this difficulty more than indifferent men. It is, therefore, one which no teacher ought to leave unconsidered. But every reader must feel how hard it is for one man to put himself exactly in another's point of view, and to discern what the inconsistencies are which seem to him most glaring. To speak about tones and habits of writing, so as to make oneself intelligible, so as not to assume canons of criticism which the objector does not recognise, is possible, but certainly far from easy. I believe that I can only fulfil my friend's wishes on this subject, with any satisfaction, if I take some special discourse from one of the first three Gospels, — some one which shall be admitted to exhibit their characteristical manner, — and another from St. John, which shall be admitted to exhibit his manner. For many reasons, I think that the former specimen ought to be taken from St. Matthew. Nor can I have much doubt on which passage of St. Matthew the reader would wish me to fix. All would say, 'The Sermon on the Mount exhibits that purely ethical tone which we trace in the earlier Gospels. There Christ speaks with authority, no doubt, as a king and a lawgiver; but it is to proclaim blessings upon the poor in spirit, the merciful, the pure in heart. There is little of what in modern times we call doctrine. There is no formal theology. It is a code which saint, savage, and sage, may all recognise as divine, whether they conform to it or no.'
What shall we choose as the parallel discourse to this in St. John? It would be difficult to find any contrast so marked and striking as that which the 8th chapter offers. The discourse there is argumentative, not hortatory. It is addressed to disputers in Jerusalem, not to crowds about a mountain. Those who hear it do not confess its authority, but canvass every word of it. No passage in St. John is more strictly theological. Here, then, if anywhere, we may expect to find the radical essential dissimilitude which is spoken of. Let us see whether it is there, — whether the opposition which is so manifest upon the surface does, or does not, penetrate to the heart's core of the two records.
We may amuse ourselves for ever with the words ethical, theological, doctrinal. They are evidently mere artificial helps to our conceptions. We can never arrive through them at any safe apprehension of human thoughts or divine. But it is not difficult, I think, for any earnest reader to ascertain what is the cardinal idea, — at all events the cardinal word in the Sermon on the Mount. Let us take a few passages of it, that we may be clear on this point. 'Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.' 'I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.' 'Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.' 'Listen and pay attention that you do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.' 'But when you do alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand does: that your alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret Himself shall reward you openly.' 'But you, when you prayest, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.' 'Be not you therefore like to them: for your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask Him. After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which art in heaven, Holy be your name.' 'For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.' 'But you, when you fastest, anoint your head, and wash your face; that you appear not to men to fast, but to your Father which is in secret: and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.' 'Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are you not much better than they?' 'Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things.' 'If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?' 'Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.'
I am sure I need not remark that we have not here the mere repetition of a name. All the precepts that answer most to the description that is given of the Sermon on the Mount, when it is praised for its ethical qualities, for its beautiful morality, are here made to depend upon the fact that those whom He was addressing had a Father in heaven, who knew them and desired them to be what He was. This is the thread which binds all these precepts together. Take it away, and they lose not only their cohesion, but all their practical force; they become a set of cold, dead, formal letters in a book, which we may admire if we like them, but which have no power over us, which do not concern human beings at all. This is not only a truth, but it is the truth which exercises all the charm over those who feel that there is any charm in the Sermon on the Mount, however they may account for it, or represent it to themselves. A person who has been reading the old Hebrew Scriptures asks himself, — 'What is the change that I experience in passing from them to this document? St. Matthew was a Hebrew; perhaps he wrote in Hebrew. He says the law is not to pass away; but that every jot and tittle of it is to be fulfilled. Why, then, do I call his book a Gospel? Why does it transport me into a world altogether different from that in which I have been dwelling, — from that in which I have had such wonderful revelations of God? Christ speaks to me of a Father; Christ reveals a Father. All other differences are contained in that. This is the new revelation.'
Having made this discovery, let us turn to the 8th chapter of St. John. What is that about? I am afraid of repeating myself; but I will repeat St. John without fear.
'And yet if I judge, my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.' 'I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me. Then said they to Him, Where is your Father? Jesus answered, You neither know me, nor my Father: if you had known me, you should have known my Father also?' 'They understood not that He spoke to them of the Father.' 'And He that sent me is with me: the Father has not left me alone; for I do always those things that please Him.' 'I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and you do that which you have seen with your father.' 'Jesus answered, I have not a devil; but I honour my Father, and you do dishonour me.' 'Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honors me; of whom you say, that He is your God.'
These passages I think I have shown are the cardinal passages here, as the others are the cardinal passages there. May I entreat the reader, who thinks there is a radical difference between St. Matthew and St. John, seriously to meditate upon them? They will show him that there is a difference, a very great difference, between these Evangelists. I think they will show him that the difference is of the kind which I have endeavoured to indicate in these Sermons, between one whose function it was to declare to men that they had a Father, and one whose function it was to show them how it was possible they should have a Father, by unfolding the unity of the Father and the Son.
A book has recently been published by Mr. John McLeod Campbell 'On the Nature of the Atonement.' I cannot feel too thankful to the pious and excellent writer for the light which he has thrown upon this subject; for his exemplary charity to those with whom he is at variance; for his successful effort to reclaim the doctrine from the region of hard scholasticism to the region of practical life and holiness; above all, for his vindication of the character of God as a Father, and for his determination to assert, that likeness to His character, and communion with Him, are the ends which God is seeking for us, and which we are to seek from Him. In every one of these respects, I wish to be a learner from Mr. Campbell. Others may criticise him who feel that they know more than he does. I cannot read his book without perceiving how little I do know of the truths which seem to me the most vital and cardinal, and how impossible it is to know more, except by having more of the spirit of love, which is the Spirit of God.
In a book written expressly for Scotland — though admirably fitted to enlarge and deepen the thoughts of Englishmen — I cannot wish that he should have followed any other method than that which he has followed. He knows what books are popular among the religious people of his own land; and of these he has spoken with singular candour and wisdom. I might, indeed, wish that Calvinists knew something of Calvin as well as of Edwards, and that Scotchmen cared more for the broad, bold statements of Knox, than for the modifications of much feebler men in this country. I can say for myself that I have read, with infinite delight, Knox's book on Predestination; finding there the fullest and most vehement assertions of God as an absolutely righteous Being, and the greatest indignation against his opponents for daring to say that a believer in predestination must think of Him chiefly as a Sovereign. Knox would evidently have died rather than have adopted phraseology which his descendants think that it is heretical to complain of. He would have rejoiced not to limit God's grace in any way; only he could not see how the acknowledgment of it as universal was compatible with the attributing of every good thing to God and nothing to man. As an assertor, as a resistor of Arminian denials, we may embrace him and go all lengths with him. And I apprehend that even when he was upon earth, at all events that now, he would prefer this sympathy to that of men who fritter away his positions, and only accept his negations.
Neither Edwards, however, nor Dr. Williams, nor Knox, nor Calvin, have much influence upon the mind of England in the present day — at all events on the minds of English Episcopalians. Luther, to whose Commentary on the Galatians Mr. Campbell has done justice, commands our sympathy more. It is the man who speaks to us more than his books. I believe if we knew them better, we should find such a man speaking in them that we should be scarcely able to make the distinction. He whom we suppose to be the assertor of Justification by Faith, is really the poor stricken monk, overwhelmed by the sense and burden of sin; grasping the assurance of forgiveness which comes to him from the old Creed; believing that assurance as given by the God who is the subject of the Creed; certain that it cannot mean indulgence for sin, that it must mean deliverance from sin; discovering that it involves the actual possession of righteousness; discovering that he cannot have that righteousness in himself, and must have it in Christ; learning gradually from St. Paul how Christ is made to us righteousness and is the righteousness of God; knocking down every obstacle which stood in the way of the apprehension of this righteousness; preaching the Gospel to men that it is theirs as well as his; anathematizing Popes, Councils, Kings, Doctors, Reformers, whoever seem to him to intercept the dialogue between the sinner and his Lord. With such a man — in his strength and in his weakness, in his gentleness and in his rage — Englishmen, so far as they are enabled to make his acquaintance, feel a cordial interest; they are sure that he was fighting a good fight, even when the smoke of the cannon, or his own single-handed rashness, conceal him from their sight, and make his intentions perplexing to them. And those who have had any fights in themselves, and who therefore know that his descriptions are real and not imaginary, will heartily approve of Mr. Campbell's judgment in putting him foremost among those who have started from the sense of evil in themselves, and have been led to believe in an atonement as the only emancipation from it.
It must not, however, be concealed, that the following of Luther has had an effect in cramping men's study of St. Paul. In another book I have endeavoured to explain how it seems to me that this effect has been produced. The doctrine of Justification by Faith has been assumed to be the Pauline doctrine. Luther said that it was so; and Luther surely entered into St. Paul as no one else has done. Persons who followed the course of Luther's experience thought that the Epistle to the Romans must begin from the sense of sin, as Luther and as they began. If it did not appear to do so, then the two first chapters must be treated as prologue, and it must begin with the third. All questions about the relation of Jews and Gentiles must be treated as accidental or subordinate to the primary thesis; whatever does not concern that, in the final chapters, must be resolved into practical exhortations, introduced, after the manner of a modern sermon, when the doctrinal statement has been concluded. Those who, without this experience, merely desired to elucidate the formal doctrine, of course subjected the Epistle to still more formal treatment. Its human character disappeared; and the divinity which was to compensate for that disappearance was of a very dry, hungry, uninspired character indeed. Both parties agreed to regard the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians as the specially Pauline Epistles, because there were most allusions in them to justification by faith; other Epistles were to be interpreted mainly by reference to these. Ultimately, Baur, who wrote a triumphant vindication of the Lutheran doctrine against Möhler's 'Symbolik,' has discovered that only four of the thirteen Epistles can be genuine, because the Pauline diagnostic is wanting in the rest; and that there was a deadly antipathy between St. Paul and the other apostles, because he was asserting that spiritual doctrine which they were setting at nothing.
The time, therefore, it seemed to me, had come for re-examining this question about the subject-matter of St. Paul's Epistles, and seeing whether we have a right to limit them as some German Evangelicals have been inclined to limit them. I contended, in 'The Unity of the New Testament,' that the words 'It pleased God to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles,' — words that occur in the Epistle which was dearest to Luther, in the Epistle on which Baur grounds his great argument for an opposition between St. Paul and the other apostles; words that contain St. Paul's own account of his conversion, and therefore begin from what Lutherans must admit to be the right starting-point of his history, — are the key to the meaning of his life and the object of his mission. I attempted to show that, if we used this key, the Epistle to the Romans might be read as a whole letter, not be cut into fragments to meet a certain hypothesis; and that all the Epistles which Baur would reject become the varied and harmonious expositions of a great and divine purpose. Using that key, also, it seemed to me that a most close and intimate relation would appear between the Epistle to the Hebrews and those which bear St. Paul's name on the face of them; and that — whether the old tradition or the suspicion of critics respecting that Epistle has the strongest foundation, whether or not it actually proceeded from the hand of St. Paul — it does illustrate and fulfil his intention, and is a transition point between him and the other Apostles, especially between him and the Apostle St. John.
Why do I refer to these points here? Because it seems to me that the doctrine of Justification by Faith, either in the practical form in which it presented itself to Luther, or in the merely dogmatical form which it assumes in some of his successors, has determined the thoughts of a number of Germans, Englishmen, and Scotchmen on the subject of the Atonement; so that their thoughts of the one unconsciously and inevitably govern their thoughts of the other. They start from evil, from the conscience of evil in themselves, and then either each man asks himself, — 'How can I be free from this oppression which is sitting so heavily upon me?' or the schoolman asks, 'What divine arrangement would meet the necessities of this case?' Of course, the results of these two inquiries are very different; and Mr. Campbell has done an immense service to Christian faith and life by bringing forth the former into prominence, and throwing the other into the shade. His book may be read as a great protest of the individual conscience against the utter inadequacy of the scholastic arrangements to satisfy it; as a solemn assertion, — 'This arrangement of yours will not take away my sin; and I must have my sin taken away; this arrangement of yours does not bring me into fellowship with a righteous and loving God; and I must have that fellowship, or perish.' This is admirable; but if what I have said is true, there is another way of contemplating the subject. We need not begin with the sinner; we may begin with God. And so beginning, that which speaks most comfort to the individual man may not be first of all contrived for his justification. God may have reconciled the world to Himself; God may have atoned Himself with mankind; and the declaration of this atonement, the setting forth the nature and grounds of it, and all the different aspects of it, may be the real subjects of those Epistles, in which the individual man has found the secret of his own blessing, of his own restoration; but which he mangles and well-nearly destroys when he reconstructs them upon the basis of his individual necessities, and makes them utter a message which has been first suggested by them.
The subject belongs to this place, because the words, 'Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold,' have led me to speak in this Discourse of the calling in of the Gentiles as part of that mystery of atonement, the great act of which was the Son of Man's laying down His life that He might take it again, the ground of which was the unity of the Father and the Son. Here St. Paul and St. John wonderfully coincide. That which must be thrown into the background by those who merely connect the atonement with individual salvation, becomes most prominent for both Apostles; for the one who believed that He was an ambassador from God to men, telling them that He had reconciled the world to Himself, and urgently imploring them to be reconciled to Him; for the other who taught that 'God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.' If it be asked, then, whether there is no difference between the tent-maker of Tarsus and the old man of Ephesus, I should answer — this; that while St. Paul's main work was to set plainly the fact of atonement, laying its groundwork always in the righteousness of God manifested in Christ, and ascending, in the Epistle to the Ephesians especially, to the purpose which He purposed in Christ before the worlds were; St. John's calling was to trace this last idea to its source in God Himself; to exhibit the original constitution of man in the Divine Word; to set plainly atonement as the vindication of that constitution, and the vindication of the right of all men to enter into it; to set plainly the union of the Father with the Son in one Spirit, as the ground of the reconciliation of man, and of his restoration to the image of his Creator.
To those, then, who ask me whether I hold the doctrine of the Atonement in some unusual and unnatural sense, or do not wish to thrust it into a corner, as if the Bible had other more important subjects to treat of, I answer, — My great complaint of the oracles of the English religious world is, that they do give a most unusual and unnatural sense to the word Atonement; that they give it a most contracted signification; that they lead their disciples to form a poor opinion of its effects; that they do not follow Apostles and Evangelists, in connecting it with the whole revelation of God and the whole mystery of man. I answer again, — that they connect it with their own faith and their own salvation, not with that cross on which Christ was lifted up that He might draw all men to Him. On many points I believe I could adopt forms of language usual among Calvinistical divines, to which Mr. Campbell, looking at them from his point of view, rightly objects as involving fictions; but I would rather be suspected of rejecting all popular modes of speech on the subject, even when I see in them a good and wholesome meaning, than yield for one instant to those representations of the character and will of God which must end with us, as they did with the Jews, in the identification of the Father of lights with the Spirit of lies.
DISCOURSES XXII. XXIII. and XXIV.
I have dwelt much in these Sermons upon the fact that our Lord treated His disciples as a body, and as a holy body. Many persons, as soon as they hear remarks of this kind, exclaim — 'Oh, yes; we have often heard that doctrine of corporate holiness set plainly before. But it seems to us the very destruction of personal holiness. It involves every ecclesiastical fiction; Romanism is at the bottom of it.'
When statements of this kind are made honestly and earnestly, I am glad to hear them. Abhorrence of fictions we should take all pains to cultivate in others and in ourselves. Whatever tends to the weakening of personal holiness, let it have what logical consistency it may, must be false. And that there is a doctrine about corporate Christianity, corporate faith, corporate righteousness, which is open to these charges, I, at least, can have no doubt. I should not say that Romanism was at the bottom of it; but rather that it is at the bottom of Romanism, in so far as Romanism is an immoral system, and one that deposes Christ from His rightful dignity.
1. Let me explain myself upon each of these points. To suppose a society — call it a Church or what you will — constituted holy by an arbitrary decree of God, its members remaining unholy, I hold to be a most dangerous fiction; one which we cannot too vehemently repudiate, as alike condemned by experience, by reason, and by Scripture. Experience testifies that when a nation or a Church claims a holiness or a righteousness of its own, it becomes practically most unholy and unrighteous in all its acts and purposes. Reason declares that it must be so, because righteousness is predicable only of voluntary beings, and that to be made righteous by an arrangement is impossible in the nature of things. Scripture declares that it must be so, because God is holy; and the holiness of man is only possible by the participation of His nature. But is it the same thing to assert that God has constituted man holy in His Son; that all unholiness is the result of the selfish desire of men to have something of their own, and not to abide in God's order; that a Church is the witness of the true constitution of man in Christ; that every Churchman, therefore, by his position and calling, is bound to say that he is only holy as a member of a body, and holy in its Head; that every Churchman who does not say this, who thinks that it is his individual holiness which helps to make up the Church, is setting up himself, and imitating the sin for which our Lord denounced the Pharisee? Does experience, does reason, does Scripture, protest against this doctrine? Is not experience in favour of it, inasmuch as it testifies that every true patriot has lived and died for his nation, and has renounced himself; that every true Churchman has lived to claim his own blessings for all men, to declare that he himself, as an individual, was worthy of none of them? Is not reason in favour of this doctrine, seeing that it affirms a voluntary creature to be a mere curse to himself till he confesses a law which is above himself, and gives up his self-will that he may have a free-will? Is not Scripture affirming, in every line, that God has chosen families, nations, Churches; and that these are holy because He is holy; and that those who go about to establish a holiness or righteousness of their own have not submitted to His righteousness?
2. I have anticipated the answer to the second question. Personal holiness is weakened, no, is destroyed, by everything that could lead a man to think that it was fictitious in him, or that God was sanctioning a fiction. And therefore it is greatly imperilled by any notions which speak of the individual man having a righteousness imputed to him, in consequence of his faith, which is not truly and actually his. But this fiction is not the consequence of maintaining the doctrine I am asserting; it becomes inevitable when we deny that doctrine. If by the very law and constitution of His universe God contemplates us as members of a body in His Son, we are bound to contemplate ourselves in the same way. We have a righteousness and holiness in Christ. We have no right to deny it; our unrighteousness is the very effect of denying it. Imputation of righteousness then becomes no fiction. It means only that God beholds us as we are, as we have not learnt or do not choose to behold ourselves. The fiction has arisen because the truth has been denied.
3. When I speak of a Church, St. Paul tells me to speak of a body. He pursues the analogy, we all know, into its details; he speaks of head, and feet, and hands, of functions assigned to each, of sufferings passing from one to another, of a life circulating through the whole. Everything here is living and real. You turn the body into a corporation, a certain thing created by enactment, without parts, functions, life; you attribute to the dead thing what is true of the living thing — to the decapitated trunk what was true of that which derives all its strength and virtue from its head; then, indeed, you are involved in a series of falsehoods, each more monstrous than the last; or, to speak more modern and courteous language, in a series of developments, each preserving a family likeness to its ancestor, the very last and most prodigious being able to prove its descent from the notion out of which they all started. Once suppose it possible for the Church to exist out of Christ, and for humanity to exist out of Christ, and a Church which thinks this may impose anything it pleases upon those who belong to it. Nothing would be restrained from it which it had imagined to do, if its first maxim were not a falsehood, if Christ did not reign in spite of the determination of His subjects to set up another ruler.
4. I have given an outline of what I believe to be the Romish system; and surely it is a system which may obtain a hold over England, as well as over any country in the world. No, must it not obtain a hold if we have nothing to set up against it but the notion of a Church, compounded of a number of men believing themselves to be holy, and despising others? Romanism is the fearful parody of Christian Unity. This is the absolute denial that any such Unity exists or is possible. When the Son of God and the Son of Man is manifested, the parody and the denial will perish together.
A friend has suggested to me a punctuation of the 2d verse of the 17th chapter, which would enable us to translate it: 'That He should give to them all which You have given Him, (even) eternal life.' This version seems to me at least worthy of serious consideration.
R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR,
BREAD STREET HILL, E.C.
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 There could be few, if any, such left in the century to which the Gospel is assigned by those who deny it to St. John.
Variations in spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been retained except in obvious cases of typographical error.
From the Gospel of St. John by FREDERICK DENISON MAURICE, M.A, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Combridge. Published by MACMILLAN AND CO in 1882; Produced by Charlene Taylor, Julia Neufeld and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net. Lightly updated to the language of the 21st century by D. N. Pham. (c) 2012.
Reach for the Calling Creator
Gospel of St. John - F.D. Maurice
ON THE BOOK SHELF
May your calling be the best.