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fair to stand here admired for generations to come, till age has darkened its walls, and deeply furrowed every granite door-sill. And yet most humble and common, when compared with the nobleness of the idea it seeks to realize. In its Gallery of Paintings, it proclaims the legitimacy of Art; in its Library, the worth of Knowledge; in this grave and lofty room, with its glowing windows and its starry roof, it proclaims the dignity of a rapt and reverent Communion with God. These, too, in their proper order; Prayer seeking palpable enforcement, in the very architecture of the building itself, as the central and the grandest thing. Thus we represent the trinal nature of man. Thus we represent its triple discipline. and thus, especially, do we emphasize Religion as at once the crowning grace, and the crowning wisdom, of our culture.
But we do not stand here to-day on the ground of mere Naturalism. There is another and more commanding revelation of God, than the one he has made of himself in the soul of man. It is the Christian Revelation, the record of which is before us in the Scriptures. Commencing with man in Paradise, dimly outlined to the ancient Patriarchs, made more distinct to Judaism, but not rounded out to its completeness, nor clothed with the fulness of its power, till Prophecy was hushed by the birth of the Babe of Bethlehem, and Sacrifice expired in his death upon the Cross.
This Revelation, to which we now turn, has an historic credibility no longer fairly questionable. If we have reason to believe, that Julius Cæsar is the name of a real man, who once led Roman armies into Gaul, and died by the hand of Brutus, in the Senate House, on the Ides of March, then have we equal, if not stronger reasons for believing what is related of Jesus of Nazareth, in the narratives of the Four Evangelists. There is to-day a Christendom, and for eighteen hundred years there has been a Christendom, of which Christ himself, as a real historic personage, is the only rational solution,
And who is Christ? The Son of Mary, certainly; but also the Son of God. Before Abraham was, he is: Angel, Shekinah, Shiloh, Messiah, Logos, all in one. God manifest in the flesh : the Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. The one only medium, through which the Absolute and Eternal Jehovah has conversed with men. And besides all this, he is also an offering for sin: saluted on earth, and adored in heaven, as the Lamb of God.
What, then, is Christianity? Plainly, a remedial system; presupposing the ruin, and undertaking the recovery, of a fallen race. Like the Spirit of God, which once brooded over the waters, it finds a chaos, and would make a world. And its method is, not by lessons and examples, not by visions and theophanies, which must all be feeble and transient; but by a permanent, historical
incarnation of God in Christ. Or, as the Scriptures have tersely expressed it for us, "God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself." Such is the Gospel.
It is of this Christ, as revealed and working in this Gospel, rightly called the mystery of God, that the Apostle Paul is speaking in our text. Verbally, the passage is a perplexed one in the manuscripts; the older editors of the New Testament making the relative in the text refer to Christ: "in whom are hid:" while Tischendorf, the most recent of the editors, makes it refer to the mystery of the gospel: "in which are hid." But these variant readings do not in the least disturb the prevailing sense. In either case, it is the Divine Plan of Redemption, which is set before us, whether we regard the Plan itself, or the Person of its Agent. For all practical purposes, it is allowable to say, that Christ is Christianity, and Christianity is Christ; in whom, and in which, are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. "Knowledge" here is the Greek rrots, which denotes a full and clear perception of what is true in itself and in its relations. "Wisdom" is the Greek Zopía, which is a word of far profounder meaning, denoting a deep insight into truth, with the further idea of a practical illustration and realization of it.
These are what the old teachers of philosophy promised always to their disciples: the power to discover noble truth; and the power to realize it in a noble conduct. It was this lordly promise which had bewitched the Colossians, as thousands in our day, and in all days, have suffered a similar bewitchment. And with a similar result in all cases. Science, divorced from the great underlying ideas and principles of the Christian scheme, either fully developed or in embryo, no matter what may be its pretensions, is science falsely so called. It cannot go to the bottom of any question. It cannot impart to society either its needed momentum, or its needed guidance. Christianity furnishes the only true knowledge; the only true wisdom. It alone can clear the tangled web of human speculation, solve our mysteries, and give us good assurance of a Millennium.
The departments of our inquiry as students are three: God, Nature, Man. It is proposed, on the present occasion, to look at each of these, for a few moments, from the stand-point of the Christian Revelation.
I. Our Doctrine of God. The idea of the Infinite, if not innate in the sense contested by Locke and his followers, is doubtless potentially present in the human mind. It slumbers there awaiting only its arousing occasion. As the mind itself is stirred and developed, this idea also is developed, as the necessary antithesis of the finite. If there be Time, there must be Eternity. If there be an Atom, there must be a Universe. If there be a Finite Man, there must be an Infinite God. And if these be not intui
tions, they are at least deductions hardly less rapid and irresistible. Belief in the Divine existence has consequently been universal, or very nearly so, as even the Pagan Sages most stoutly maintained.
And yet the human mind has always reeled under this great thought in its Atlantean vastness and weight. The sense of shrinking and littleness which is thus awakened, is well expressed in the anecdote related of Simonides, who, when asked by Hiero, tyrant of Syracuse, to tell him what God is in his being and attributes, begged a day to consider the question; at the end of which time, he desired two days more; and then four days; each time doubling the number, and giving as a reason for it, that "the more he meditated upon the subject, the more obscure it appeared to him.”
It is not merely the intense holiness of God, flashing terror upon a guilty vision; it is not merely those awful scales of justice, whose beam hangs and trembles amongst the stars; there is something unspeakably appaling in the thought of sheer spirit pervading this immeasurable Universe, with a force that nothing can resist, or weaken, striking its steady pulses, age on age, from world to world; and yet a Person, clothed with attributes as distinct and real as our own, with a heart to feel, and a mind to think, and a will to choose. Such is God; the God of reason and of conscience: an Infinite reality, overwhelming our astonished spirits. No wonder, mankind sought refuge early in idolatry. No wonder, the Persian worshipped the rising Sun. No wonder, the Greek peopled sky and earth and sea with a regiment of gods and heroes. No wonder, the Egyptian adored his bounteous Nile. No wonder, the savage Hun said prayers to his naked scimetar. A sin it was, no doubt, and a weakness, and a shame; but most easy to be explained. It was the Adam in them all, fallen and affrighted, seeking an escape from God.
Apart from guilt, there appears to be something in the constitution of the human mind, which will not let it rest quietly in the thought of absolute unity. The Hindoo Theology, for example, begun with Brahm, the Absolute Intelligence, the Essential Light; but presently gave way to Brahma, the Irradiating Light, Creator of worlds and men. Then came Vishnoo, the Preserver. And then again Siva, the Destroyer. While idols without number thronged the Pantheon. Such, at this moment, is the Religion of seventy or eighty millions of our race.
Buddhism, which also had its origin, no doubt, in Hindostan, was a rebellion against this Hindoo Trinity, with its multitude of inferior Divinities. It was a grand attempt to bring back the Oriental mind to its faith in the Unity of God. But the dark abyss of Atheism was soon found yawning at its very feet; and it started back in alarm. Presently, it invented another Trinity. Budha, the Pure Intelligence, takes Dharma, the principle of
Matter, to be partner of his throne. But as the two could not work together without a Mediator, Sanga is added. And then the slope was easy down to Pantheism.
Thus have we touched the two extremes of a bald and sterile Unity on the one side, and a gorgeous Pantheism on the other. And each has its roots within us. It cannot be driven from the mind, that God is One; nor can it be driven from the heart, that we must have him near us in his works, near us in our weakness and our sin. Finite feebleness pleads not merely for an arm of Infinite Power to bear it up; it pleads for a Father's arm. Finite apostasy pleads not merely for a Father's mercy; but pleads also for a Brother's love. Finite waywardness, sobbing over its frequent wanderings, pleads not merely for outward encouragement, but pleads also for an inward comforting and help.
Such are the cravings of our nature. And there is no response to them, but in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Herein do we learn that God is One, but a God of grace, teaching us to call him. Father; revealing himself in the redeeming Christ, in whom dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily; and now working, through the Spirit to sanctify our hearts, and regenerate a disordered world.
Here stands our Christian Theology. It gives us, on the one hand, no stern Allah of Mohammed; nor, on the other hand, does it mock us with the Pantheistic mist of a universally diffused Intelligence; but it gives us our God in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, and each to all.
II. Our Doctrine of Nature. Here, all around us, is a material Universe apparently entirely antipodal to Spirit. Matter and Spirit seem, indeed, to stand in a sharp antagonism, dividing the Universe between them. What, now, are the relations subsisting between these two? What has God to do with Nature? Or Nature with God? These are questions, as I need not tell you, which have always perplexed the Philosophers. Did Nature beget God, or did God beget Nature? Or, still again, have they co-existed from Eternity in an eternal rivalry? To answer the first of these inquiries in the affirmative, would give us Pantheism. To answer the last in the affirmative, would give us Dualism. While it has been difficult to answer the second in the affirmative, declaring Nature to be of God, without doing some violence to our faith in the Divine Benevolence.
Natural Theology in our day, with its Bridgewater Treatises, is very confident of its ability to reason out the Existence, Power, Wisdom, and Goodness of God from the works of Nature. But one of its positions, which it has to take, is a virtual confession of lameness in the argument. It is not in every instance, but only in "a vast plurality of instances," that the Divine Goodness is affirmed to be clearly visible. Some evils are admitted to exist.
What shall be done with them? Paley says, they have only to be voted down. The voices of gladness, it is argued, are against the voices of wailing as a hundred to one. And so we settle the question with a pencil upon our slates.
But ages ago there came this verdict from Lucretian: "I dare affirm that the present economy of things was not divinely ordered, since there is so much of evil in it." And, sweeping as it is, this conclusion of the old philosopher has yet something of reason in it. The evils complained of, are manifest and grievous; and more in number, too, than Paley is quite willing to admit. Three-fourths of the surface of our globe is surrendered to the sterile, devouring sea. Swamps and deserts deform the land. Tempests and lightnings torture and tear the sky. War is the law of the animal kingdom, from the top to the bottom of the scale. Each species lives by preying upon the species next under it. Man also is subject to disease, and suffering, and death. It may be urged that happiness is in the ascendant. No doubt it is. But why so much of misery? Why any misery at all, in a world created and managed by a Being of boundless Benevolence and Power?
It used to be said, that God at first made the world, as he made man perfect; and that the present disordered state of it has been brought about since the Fall, and in consequence of the Fall. But modern science has utterly exploded this clumsy theory. Death was in the world, as declared by Fossil Geology, ages before man made his appearance here. Death, with all its attendant fears and sufferings. And the presumption is a very fair one, that, in every respect, the present economy of things about us in the world, is very nearly what it was in the beginning, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy. There has been, accordingly, no Fall of Nature; only a Fall of Man.
As to the disorders observed in Nature, Christianity looks down upon them with entire composure from a lofty height. The solution is simply this, that the world was left imperfect in anticipation of its moral history. It was preconfigured to its career of sin. The Drama required a fitting Theatre. Sin needed its shadows and echoes in an eclipsed and discordant economy. But sin is not alone here. Redemption is wrestling mightily against it. The world, then, is not a prison, but a school-room; not a grave-yard, but a battle field. We are here for conflict, and for discipline. Christ is at once our Captain, and our Example. Voices from Heaven cheer us on. Angels of God whisper courage and patience. The evils and miseries appointed us, are only spurs and stimulants to virtue.
Such is our Christian Philosophy of Nature. It denies no facts, and glosses none. It admits all the jangling and friction. It bends in meekness and reverence to hear the sighs and the