« PreviousContinue »
sive life. The mission of christianity is, not to denounce and reject any order of life belonging to primitive humanity as intrinsically hostile to God, (that would be a species of Manichean fanaticism); nor yet to acknowledge it simply as a different and foreign jurisdiction ; but plainly to appropriate every order to itself, by so mastering its inmost sense as to set it in full harmdny with the deeper and broader law of its own presence. Art, science, commerce, politics, for instance, as they enter essentially into the idea of man, must all come within ihe range of this mission; and so far as it falls short of their full occupation at any given time with the power of its own divine principle, it must be regarded as a work still in 'process only towards its proper end; just as really as the work of outward missions is thus in process also, and short of its end, so long as any part of the world remains shrouded in pagan darkness. It is full as needful for the complete and final triumph of the gospel among men, that it should subdue the arts, music, painting, sculpture, poetry, &c., to its sceptre, and fill them with its spirit as that it should conquer in similar style the tribes of Africa or the islands of the South Sea. Every region of science, as it belongs to man's nature, belongs also to the empire of Christ; and this can never be complete, as long as any such region may remain unoccupied by its power. Philosophy too, whose province and need it is to bring all the sciences io unity and thus to fathon their deepest and last sense, falls of right under the same view. Some indeed pretend, that christianity and philosophy have properly nothing to do with each other; that the first puts contempt on the second ; that the second in truth is a mere ignis fatuus at most, which all good christians are bound to abhor and avoid. But if so, it must be considered against huinanity lo speculate at all in this way; whereas the whole history of the world proves the contrary; and it lies also in the very idea of science, that knowledge in this form should be sought as the necessary completion of it under o her forms. To pronounce philosophy against humanity, is virtually to place science universally under the like condemnation. And so to treat it as profane or impertinent for the kingdom of God, is in truth to set all science in similar relation ; the very result, to which fanaticism has often shown itself prone to run.
But what can be well more monstrous than that; or more certainly fatal in the end to the cause of christianity ? Philosophy, like science and art in other forms, is of one birth with man's nature itself; and if christianity be the last true and full sense of this nature, it is not possible that it should be either willing or able to shut it out from its realm. We might as soon dream of a like exclusion towards the empire of China; for it is hard to see surely how the idea of bumanily would suffer a more serious truncation by this, than by being doomed to fall short of its own proper actualization the other way. The world without China would be quite as near perfection, we think, as the world without philosophy. Its full redemption and salvation, the grand object of the gospel and so the necessary work and mission of christianity among men, includes it is plain both interests, and we have no right to magnify the one ever at the cost of the other.
Such being the general nature of this missionary work intensively taken,
we may see at once how far it is still from its own proper end even in the case of the nominally christian world itself. It is melancholy to think, that after nearly two thousand years which have passed since Christ came, so large a part of ihe human race should still be found beyond the line of christianity outwardly considered. But it is not always properly laid to heart, that the short-coming in the other view, the distance between idea and fact within this line, is to say the least no less serious and great. If when we think of the millions of Africa, India, and China, we must feel that the gospel thus far has been only in progress towards its full triumphant manifestation in the world; this feeling must prevail no less, when we direct our attention to the moral, scientific, and political fields, which all around us appear in like barbarous estrangement from its inward Jaw. In this view, even more emphatically than in the other, may we not adopt the language, Heb. ij : 8: “ We see not yet all things put in subjection under bim”_hough nothing less than such universal subjection be needed to carry out the first sense of man's life, (Gen. i: 26, Ps. viii: 6-8) and so nothing less can satisfy the enterprise of his redemption? Alas, how quite the reverse of this are we made to behold in every
direc. tion. Not alone do the wild powers of nature refuse to obey at once the will of the saints, but it is only a most partial dominion at best also that the christian principle has yet won for itself even in the moral world. Whole territories and spheres of human life here, have never yet been brought to any true inward reconciliation and union with the life of ibe Church.
Romanism bas pretended indeed to bring them into subjection ; but so far as the pretension has yet been made good, it has been ever in a more or less outward and violent way only; whereas the problem from its very nature requires that the relation should be one of free loving harmony and not one of force. Protestantism seeing this, has in large measure openly surrendered the
whole point; falling over thus to the opposite extreme; carrying the doctrine of freedom so far, that it is made not only to allow, but even to justify in many cases, a full dissociation of certain spheres of humanity from the rightful sovereignty of religion." In our own time especially there is a fearful tendency at work under this form, which rests throughout on the rationalistic assumption that christianity has no right to the universal lordship of man's life, and which aims at nothing less accordingly than the emancipation of all secular interests from its jurisdiction. It has becoine a widely settled maxim, we may say, that whole vast regions of humanity lie naturally and of right on the outside of the kingdom of God, strictly taken, and that it must ever be wrong to think of stretching its authority over them in any real form. Hence we find the arts and sciences to a great extent sundered from the idea of the Church as such ; and more particularly politics and religion are taken to be totally separate spheres. It is coming to seem indeed a sort of moral truism, too plain for even children or fools to call in question, that the total disruption of Church and State, involving the full independence of all political interests over against the authority of the new constitution of things brought to pass in Christ, is the only order that can at all deserve to be respected as rational, or that may be taken as at all answerable to man's nature and God's will. And yet what a conception is that of christianity, which excludes from jis organic jurisdiction the broad vast conception of the Commonwealth or State! We may say, if we please, that such dissociation is wise and necessary for the time being, and as an interimistic transitional stadium in a process that looks towards a far different ulterior end; but surely we are bound to pronounce it always in its own nature wrong, and false to the true idea of the gospel; something therefore which marks not the perfection, but the serious imperfection rather, of the actual state of the world. The imagination that the last answer to the great question of the right relation of the Church to the State, is to be found in any theory by which the one is set completely on the outside of the other must be counted essentially antichristian. Christianity owns the proper freedom of man's nature under its common secular aspects, and can never be satisfied with the violent subjugation of it in a merely outward way ; but it requires at the same time that this shall be brought 10 bow to its authority without force; and it can never acknowledge any freedom as legitimate and true; that may affect to hold under a different form. So far short then as its actual reign in the world is found to fall of this universal supremacy over all
the interests of life, it must be regarded as not having yet reached its proper end, as being still in the midst of an unfulfilled mission.
Of the two parables setting forth the progressive character of the kingdom of God, Matth. xiii : 31-33, it is not unnatural to understand the first, that of the mustard seed namely, as referring mainly to its extensive growth, while the other, that of the leaven hid in three measures of meal, is taken to have respect rather to this intensive growth, by which the new divine nature of christianity is required to penetrate and pervade always more and more the substance of our general human life itself, with a necessity that can never stop till the whole mass be wrought in. 10 the same complexion. It is certain at all events, that the parables together refer to both forms of increase ; for the mere iaking of volume outwardly is just as little sufficient of itself to complete the conception of organic growth in the world of grace, as it is notoriously to complete the same conception in the world of nature. The taking of volume must be joined in either case with a parallel progressive taking of answerable inward form. The growth of the nustard seed itself involves this two-fold process; for it consists not simply in the accumulation of size, but in the assumption at the same time of a certain type of vegetable life throughout the entire compass of its leaves and bran ches. It is however more particularly the image of leaven, that serves to bring out this last side of the subject in all its force, and that might seein accordingly to be specially designed for this purpose,
in distinction from all regard to the other more outward view. The parallel, as in the case of all the N. T. parables, is no mere fancy or conceit, but rests on a real analogy, by which a lower truth or fact in the sphere of nature is found to foreshadow and as it were anticipate a higher one in the sphere of the spirit. Leaven is a new force introduced into the mass of meal, different from it, and yet having with it such inward affinity that it cannot fail to become one with it, and in doing so to raise it at the same time into its own higher nature. This however comes 10 pass, not abruptly nor violently, but silently and gradually, and in such a way ihat the action of the meal itself is made to assist and carry forward the work of the leaven towards its proper end. The work thus is a process, the grow- . ing of the new principle continually more and more into the nature of the meal, till the whole is leavened. And so it is with the new order of life revealed through the gospel. Involving as it does from the start a higher form of existence for humanity as a whole, (new and yet of kindred relation to the old,) it is
still not at once the transformation of it, in a whole and sudden way, into such higher state. It must grow itself progressively into our nature, taking this up by degrees into its own sphere and bringing out thus at the same time its own full significance and power, in order to take possession of our nature at all in any real way. In the case of the single believer accordingly it is like leaven, a power commensurate from the first with ihe entire mass of his being, but needing always time and development for its full actual occupation; and so also in the case of our human life as a social or moral whole. Christianity is from the very outset potentially the reconstruction or new creation of man's universal nature, including all spheres and tracts of existence which of right belong to this idea,) just as really as a deposit of leaven carries in it from the first the power of transformation for the whole mass of meal in which it has been hid; but it is like leaven again also in this respect, that the force which it has potentially needs a continuous process of inward action to gain in a real way finally its own end. There is an inner mission in its way here, which grows with as much necessity out of its relation to the world, as the mission it has to overshadow the whole earth with its branches, and which it is urged too with just as much necessity, we may add, to carry forward and fulfil. The prayer, l'hy kingdom come, has regard to the one object quite as much as to the other. This comes by the depth of its entrance into the substance of humanity, as well as by the length and breadth of it, as a process of intensification no less than a process of diffusion.
And it deserves to be well considered, that these two process are not just two different necessities, sei one by the side of the other in an external way; that they are to be viewed rather as different sides only of one and the same necessity; since each enters as a condition into the fulfilment of the other, and neither can be rightly regarded without a due regard to both. The power of christianity in particular to take possession of the world extensively, depends at last on the entrance it has gained into the life of the world intensively, so far as it may have already come to prevail. And it may well be doubted, whether it can ever complete iis outward mission, in the reduction of all nations to the obedience of the gospel, without at least a somewhat parallel accomplishment of its inward mission, in the actual christianization of the organic substance of humanity, to an extent far beyond all that is now presented within the bounds of the outward Church. The leaven masters the volume of the meal in which it is set, only by working itself fully into its in