Page images

most nature. The conversion of the world in the same way is 10 be expected, not just from the multiplication of individual converts to the christian faith, till it shall become thus of one measure with the earth, but as the result rather of an actual taking up at the same time of the living economy of the world more and more into the christian sphere. The imagination ihat the outward mission here may be carried through first, and the inner mission lest behind as a work for future leisure, is completely preposterous. The problems then which fall to this last have a direct and most important bearing always, on the successful prosecution also of the object proposed to the first

. To make the reign of Christ more deep and inward for the life of the world, is at the same time to prepare the way correspondingly for its becoming inore broad and wide. The proper solution of a great theoretic question, lying at the foundation of the christian life, and drawing after it consequences that reach over nations and centuries, may be of more account for the ultimate issues of history, than the present evangelization of a whole continent like Africa. Al this very time it is of more account sar, that the power of christianity should be wrought intensively into the whole civilization of this country, (the weight of which prospectively no one can fully estimate); that it should bave in it not merely an outward and nominal sovereignty, but be brought also fully to actuate and inform its interior collective life, filling its institutions as their very soul, and leavening them throughout into its own divine complexion; that it should solve the problem of Church and State in a really christian way, so as to bind them into one with free inward reconciliation, instead of throwing them hopelessly apart ; that it should take possession truly of the art and literature of the country, its commerce and science and philosophy as well as iis politics, passing by vo tract of humanity as profane and yet acknowledging no tract as legitimate on the outside of its own sphere and sway: all this, we say, is an object far more near to the final redemption of the world, and of far more need at this time, (if it might be accomplished,) for the bringing in of the millenium, than the conversion of all India or China. The life of the Church is the salvation of the world.

From the whole subject we draw in conclusion the following reflections:

1. From the view now taken of the proper catholicism or wholeness of christianity, we may see at once that it by no means implies the necessary salvation of all men. This false conclusion is drawn by Universalists, only by confounding tho FOL. III.-NO. 1.

idea of tho whole with the notion of all; whereas in truth they are of altogether different force and sense. As hundreds of blossoms may fall and perish from a tree, without impairing the true idea of its whole life as this is reached finally in the fruit towards which all tends from the beginning, so may we conceive also of multitudes of men born into the world, the natural posterity of Adam, and coming short of the proper sense of their own nature as this is completed in Christ, without any diminution whatever of its true universalness under such form. Even in the case of our natural humanity, the whole in which it consists is by no means of one measure merely with the number of persons included in it; it is potentially far more than this, being determined to its actual extent by manifold limitations that have no necessity in itself; for there might be thousands besides born into the world, which are never born into it in fact. Why then should it be thought that the higher form of this same humanity which is reached by Christ, and without which the other must always fall short of its own destination, in order to be full and universal in its own character must take up into itself literally all men? Why may not thousands fail to be born permanently into this higher power of our universal nature, just as thousands fail of a full birth also into its first natural power, without any excluding limitation in the character of the power itself? Those who thus fail in the case of the second creation fail at the same time of course of the true end of their own being, and so may be said to perish more really iban those who fall short of an actual human life in the first form ; yet it by no means follows from this again that such failure must involve annihilation or a return to non-existence. It may be a continuation of existence; but of existence under a curse, morally crippled and crushed, and hopelessly debarred from the sphere in which it was required to become complete. To be thus out of Christ is for the subjects of such failure indeed an exclusion from the true and full idea of humanity, the glorious orb of man's life in its last and only absolute and eternally perfect form ; but for this life itself it involves no limitation or defect. The orb is at all points round and full.

2. As the wholeness in question is not one with the numerical all of the natural posterity of Adam, so neither may it be taken again as answerable simply to any less given number, selected out of the other all for the purpose of salvation. This idea of an abstract election, underlying the whole plan of redemption, and circumscribing consequently the real virtue of all its provisions by such mechanical limitation, is in all material

respects the exact counterpart of that scheme of universal salvation which has just been noticed. Iư amounts to noihing, so far as the nature of the redemption is concerned, ihut it is made to be for all men in one case and only for a certain part of them in the other. In both cases a mere notional all, a fixed finite abstraction, is substituted for the idea of an infinite concrete whole, and the result is a mechanical ab extra salvation, ins:ead of a true organic redemption unfolding itself as the power of a new life from within. The proper wholeness of christianity is more a great deal than any arithmetical sum, previously made up under another form, for its comprehension and use. It im. plies parts of course, and in this way at last definite number and ineasure, and so in the case of its subjects also a veritable election of grace;” but it makes all the difference in the world, whether the parts are taken to be the factoral making up of the whole, or come into view as its product and growih, whether their number and measure be settled by an outward election or determined by an election that springs from within. A tree has a definite number of branches and leaves-so many, and not more nor less; but who would think of looking for the ground of this beyond the nature of the tree itself, and the conditions that rule the actual development of its life? The law of determination here is something very different, from the law that de termines the imitation of a tree in wax or the composition of a watch. So the election of grace in the case of the new creation holds in Christ, and not in any view taken of humanity aside from his person.

3. The catholic or universal character of the Church thus, we may easily see farther, does not depend at any time upon its merely numerical extent, whether this be large or small. An organic whole continues the same, (the mustard seed for instance,) through all stages of its development, though for a long time its actual volume and form may fall far short of what they are destined to be in the end, and must be too in order to fulfil completely its inward sense. So the whole fact of christianity gathers itself up fundamentally into the single person of Christ, and is found to grow forth froin this literally as its root. The mystery of the incarnation involves in itself potentially a new order of existence for the world, which is as universal in its own nature as the idea of humanity, and by which only it is possible for this to be advanced finally to its own full and perfect realization. Those who affect to find this unintelligibly mystical and transcendental, would do well to consider that every higher order of existence, even in the sphere of nature itself, carries in

it a precisely similar relation to the mass of matter, surrounding it under a lower form, which it is appointed to take up and transform by asimilation into its own superior type. The Second Adam is the root of the full tree of humanity in a far profounder sense than the First; and it is only as the material of it naturally considered comes to be incorporated into this, that it can be said to be raised into the same sphere at all; its relation to it previously being at best but that of the unleavened meal to the new power at work in its bosom, or that of the unassimilated element to the buried grain which is destined by means of it to wax into the proportions of a great plant or tree.

So too from the root upwards, from the fountain onwards, the new order of life which we call the Churc or the Kingdom of God remains throughout one and catholic. It owns no co-ordination with the idea of man’s life under any different form. It is the ultimale universal sense of man's nature, the entire sphere of its perfection, the whole and only law of its final consummation. Wish this character however, the Church cau never be content to rest in a merely partial revelation of its power among men, but is urged continually by its very nature to take actual possession of all the world, as we have already seen, both extensively and intensively. Here we have of course the idea of a process, as something involved in the very conception itself which we have in hand. As an article of faith, the catholicity of the Church expresses a present attribute in all ages; it is not drawn simp y fiow the future, as a proleptical declaration of what is to be irue hereafter, though it be not true now; the whole presence of the new creation is lodged in its constitution from the start, and through all centuries. But who will pretend that this has ever yet had its proper actualization in the living world? The catholic quality and force of christianity go always along with it; but innumerable hindrances are at hand to obstruct and oppose iis action; and its full victory in this view accordingly, as well as in the view of its other attributes, is to be expected only hereaf er. To believe in the Church as universal or catholic, it is not necessary that we should see it in full actual possession of the whole world; for when has that been the case yet, and what less would it be than the presence of the millenium in the most ab-olme sense? It is to believe however that the whole power by which this is to be reached is already at work in its constitution, and that its action looks and strives always towards such end, as the only result that can fairly express its necessary inwarid ineaning and truth. 4. The catholicity of the Church, as now described, involves of course the idea also of its unity and exclusiveness. As being the true whole of humanity, it can admit no rival or co-ordinate form of life, (much less any more deep and so more compre!

thensive than itself,) and it must necessarily exclude thus as false and contrary to humanity itself all that may affect to represent this beyond its own range and sphere.

5. No other order of human life can have the same character. It is not of the nature of the civil stale or commonwealth, to be thus catholic; and still less does it belong to any single constituent sphere of such political organization, separately liken. Even religion, which claims to be the last sense of man's life from the start, and which is therefore in consistency bound and urged under all forms to assert some sort of whole or universal title in its own favor, is found to be in truth unequal always to this high pretension, till it comes to its own proper and only sufficient completion in Christ. No system of Paganism of course could ever be catholic. So a catholic Mohammedanism is a contradiction in terms. More than this, it never lay in the nature of Judaism itself, with all its truth, to take up into itself the whole life of the world. To do so, it must pass into a higher form, and so lose its own distinctive character, in Christianty. No faith could say truly : “ I believe in a holy catholic Judaism”-even if all nations were brought to submit to circumcision before its eyes; for it is not in the power of Judaism as such to possess and represent in full harmony the whole idea of humanity; and what is thus not in itself possible, and so not true, can never be the object really of faith in its true form. Judaism is not the deepest power of man's life in the forin of religion, and for this reason alone it must be found in the end a comparatively partial and relative power; leaving room for a different consciousness over against itself, with a certain amount of legitimacy and right too in the face of its narrow claims, under the general forni of Gentilism. This contradiction is brought to an end in Christ, (the true Peace of the world, as we have i. Eph. ii : 14-18.) in and by whom religion, the inmost fact of man's nature, is carried at once to its last and most perfect significance, and so to the lowest profound of this nature at the same time; with power thus to take up the entire truth of it into its own universally comprehensive law; healing its disorders, restoring its barmony, and raising it finally to immortality and glory. Only what is in this way deeper than all besides, can be at the same time truly catholic, of one measure with the whole compass and contenis of our uni. versal life.

6. As no other form of religion can be catholic, so it lies in

« PreviousContinue »