תמונות בעמוד

of all finite being.

247 terrible law of the permanence of evil and its productiveness. We may not forget that. But at least this divine prospect is one on which we shall do well to linger. It is not sharp enough for dogmatism, but it is luminous enough for hope. It reveals to us, if through a glass and in a riddle, how the varied developments of lives fragmentary and marred, of powers misused or wasted, as far as we can trace their action, are in the vision of the Apostle crowned with their divine fulfilment. In this recognition of the permanent connexion of man with nature, and of the consequences which flow from it, we have once again an example of those anticipations in the Bible of later thoughts which bring home to us the conception of its Inspiration. It is not too much to say that the language of St Paul could not have been understood, as we can understand it, till our own generation. In the slow advance of experience great questionings are shaped, and then in due time we find that we can read the answer to them in the apostolic interpretation of facts which are felt to be fuller and richer in their applications as our knowledge of the conditions of our being becomes more complete.

Christianity, which reaches in this way to

245 The Gospel for all time. all finite being, claims also to be a final Revelation, to endure through all time and to 'be' beyond time. There can be no addition to that which is implicitly included in the facts of the Gospel. We can conceive nothing beyond the unity which they imply. The facts contain in themselves all that is slowly wrought out in thought and act until the consummation. In one sense all has been done: in another sense much remains to be done. But from first to last One sovereign Person is present, who came and comes and will come, the beginning and the end (Apoc. xxii. 13; Matt. xxviii. 20; Acts i. 11).

It must be evident from this rapid summary that the claims of Christianity as an absolute religion are unique. It claims to bring the perfection no less than the redemption of finite being. It claims to bring a perfect unity of the whole sum without destroying the personality of each man.

It claims to deal with all that is external as well as with all that is internal, with matter as well as with spirit, with the physical universe as well as with the moral universe. It claims to realise a re-creation coextensive with creation. It claims to present Him who was the Maker of the world as the Heir of all things, and entering on His inheritance (Hebr. i. 2). It claims Partial views of the Gospel. 249 to complete the circle of existence, and shew how all things came from God and go to God (Rom. xi. 36; 1 Cor. xv. 28).

And it is of great importance to observe that essentially these claims of Christianity are in a large degree independent of the intrusion of sin into the universe. Even if there had been no separation of man from GOD, no disorder in the physical universe, man, as far as we can see, could not have attained his possible consummation, nor the dispersed creation its final unity, without some such manifestation of Divine love as the Gospel announces.

There are now, as there always have been, partial interpretations of Christianity which gain currency according as they meet individual or local or temporal peculiarities. According to some the essence of Christianity lies in the fact that it is the supreme moral law. According to others its essence is to be found in true doctrine, or more specially in the scheme of redemption, or in the means of the union of man with GOD. Christianity does in fact include Law, and Doctrine, and Redemption, and Union, but it combines them all in a still wider idea. It establishes the principle of a Law, which is internal and not external, which includes an adequate motive for 250 The consummation of finite being obedience and coincides with the realisation of freedom (James i. 25). It is the expression of the Truth, but this Truth is not finally presented in thoughts but in facts, not in abstract propositions but in a living Person. It is a scheme of Redemption, but it has relations also to man as he was created and not only to man fallen. It is a power of Union, but this Union transcends the range of humanity, and opens before the believer visions of glory which his thought cannot adequately coordinate or define.

In this then lies the main idea of Christianity, that it presents the redemption, the perfection, the consummation of all finite being in union with God. No doubt such a conception is too vast for man to keep constantly before him in a practical shape, but it is necessary both for strength and for progress that he should dwell upon it, and not acquiesce in any partial interpretation of the scope of the Gospel.

And though the contemplation of it may be 'without the range of the personal teaching of

Christianity which commonly limits our religious 'thought, yet it is a duty to strive, as occasion 'may arise, to grasp the full proportions of the hope which it brings to man and to the world. 'It is not always enough that each should feel in

in union with God.


his own heart the power of the Gospel to meet 'individual wants. We must claim for it also to 'be recognised as a wisdom revealed and realised ‘only in the advance of time, and embracing in ‘one Infinite Fact all that men have aspired to for 'themselves and for the transitory order in which 'they are placed.'

It is only in this way that we can intelligently follow and understand the course of Christian history: it is only in this way that we can observe proportion in dealing with the problems of our own time.

For as the idea of Christianity is unique and absolute, so also is the fact in which the idea is presented. The announcement that the Word became fesh (ó lóyos odpš éryéveto) is wholly unapproached in earlier religious speculations or mythologies. When a recent writer says: 'It is quite true that a decided step beyond the doc*trine of Philo is made when the Logos is repre'sented as odpg éyéveto in the person of Jesus, 'but this argument is equally applicable to the *Jewish doctrine of wisdom, and that step had 'already been taken before the composition of the '[Fourth] Gospel,' he seems to me to miss the whole meaning of the Incarnation. There is, as

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