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But while reason and Scripture thus unite in negativing the idea that any perfect or even adequate revelation of God's nature and character can by possibility be made to man, they are at the same time equally in accord in affirming that a partial revelation, nay, many such, may be, and in point of fact have been, vouchsafed to us. "God," says the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "having of old times spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions, and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in His Son, whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, through whom also He made the ages (Heb. i. 1, Revised Version.) Something of God may be made known to us, though all cannot be; even as a single ray of sunlight can enter a darkened chamber, though the aperture through which it steals is too narrow to admit the full radiance of the noontide that waits without; and such revelations of Himself-unspeakably precious, however incomplete-God has not withheld from us, His children.
Something, for instance, of God is revealed to us in Nature; for, as St. Paul affirms, "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead" (Rom. i. 20). The awful figure in which John Henry Newman compares the search for God in Nature to a man looking in a mirror for the reflection of his own countenance, and seeing nothing; the terrible indictment against Nature's callous indifference and reckless cruelty which John Stuart Mill has drawn up, and the despairing conclusion of Tennyson's would-be suicide, that God is not to be found upon earth, "this earth is a fatherless hell;" though they embody a well-merited rebuke to the complacent optimism in which "natural theologians," as they are called, have been wont to indulge, are, nevertheless, grave exaggerations of the darker aspect of Nature. There is, let who will deny, another side to the picture; and in the starry splendour of the tropic sky, and the solemn grandeur of the mountain, as it lifts its snow-capped peak to heaven, and the brightness of the summer day, and the affluence of the golden harvest, and the song of the careless birds, and the laughter of happy children, we have assuredly a revelation of God, which finds only fitting expression in Coleridge's" Address to Mont Blanc," and Bryant's "Song of Creation," and Addison's stately hymn, and the Hallelujah chorus of the 148th Psalm.
True, the revelation of God which is afforded in Nature is not only limited in its extent, but is mainly confined to what we may, perhaps, be permitted to designate as the outer circle of the Divine attributes. Power, in overwhelming, if not infinite manifestation, is there; Wisdom, too, is manifested, not only in the building of the heavens, but in ten thousand nice adaptations and recondite provisions; and even Love, like bright sunbursts on a cloudy day, interruptedly illuminates the gloom of a creation which confessedly "groaneth and travaileth in pain. together," and whose countenance is ever darkened by the shadow of death.
Again; something of God is revealed to us,-something far more deep and essential than Nature can in anywise furnish,-in the history of His dealings with the Jewish people, as recorded for our instruction in their Sacred Books. For, even if we should be prepared to regard
those writings,-accepting the canons of the "newer criticism,"-as essentially only a human literature, it must, at least, be conceded that it is a literature absolutely unique in character, and instructive above all others that of Christianity alone excepted-which the history of the world supplies. In this revelation of Himself God brings us, so to speak, into the presence of an inner circle of His attributes. We have no longer to do mainly with the more mechanical attributes, if in merely comparative depreciation we dare so to call them, of power and skill, as manifested in Nature, but with the nobler attributes of righteousness, truth and justice. The grand object of the Jewish dispensation, morally considered, was to certify to men the existence of a Divine administration with its solemn sanctions of reward and punishment; which latter may be regarded, if so we please, as but the illusive forms under which the reign of Law in a moral region is made known to the immature human intelligence. And not only in the whole history of Israel, as an elect and typical people, but in the individual lives of its most illustrious saints and heroes, such as Abraham, Moses, and David, the truth that sin and suffering, righteousness and happiness, are inseparably connected, is pressed upon us with a diversity of exemplification and a persistency of testimony, which has made their history one of the main factors in the world's moral progress, and must constrain the unprejudiced student as he peruses the venerable documents aglow with the fire of a still unspent inspiration, once and again to exclaim with the Psalmist, "Verily, there is a reward for the righteous; verily, there is a God that judgeth the earth" (Ps. lviii. 11).
Nevertheless, this revelation, again, even in its noblest aspects and its deepest teaching, is both partial and obscure; for it not only leaves undrawn the mystic veil which hides the inner sanctuary of the Divine Nature, but it allows so many perplexing problems to remain unsolved; the Divine and human elements are so inextricably interwoven, God so constantly seems to hide Himself and condescend to human infirmity, if not to sanction human sin, that, after all, the light does but serve to render the darkness visible, and enable us to hold fast the conviction that, "though clouds and darkness are round about Him, righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne " (Ps. xcvii. 2).
Once more, something-much-in one sense everything of God is revealed to us in Christ. For not only is He in Himself " the effulgence of God's glory, and the very image of His substance " (Heb. i. 3, Revised Version); but he could say that though "no man hath seen God at any time," yet the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John i. 18). And again, " He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (John xiv. 9). In Christ, then, the revelation of God becomes central, if not complete. It is as though, passing through the outer court of creative power and wisdom, as manifested in Nature, and even the holy place of the Divine moral government as exemplified in the history of the Jewish people, we were permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, and behold the very heart of God revealed in Jesus. Or as if, like the sublime vision of Ezekiel, the mighty storm-cloud of natural forces, borne on the whirlwind of infinite power, were to disclose its inner core of consuming fire in a purity too intense, a righteousness too inflexible, and a justice too inexorable for
human frailty to endure, till within it again a vision of shadowing wings, and faces aglow with human tenderness, and the consciousness of a Father's presence disclosed itself, carrying courage and consolation to the overwhelmed beholder, and revealing the gracious secret of the whole.
The Father! Yes, this is for man the crowning revelation of God; the revelation in the light of which alone all other revelations become luminous; the key, it may with truth be said, without which the mystic scrolls of Nature and Providence were hardly to be deciphered. Yet even this revelation of God is not absolutely perfect; it does not disprove the axiom that God can only be imperfectly known by man; it touches the infinite, but it does not comprehend it. For if, on the one hand, Christ could say, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father," He did not, on the other, withhold the admission, My Father is greater than I" (John xiv. 28); and while He challenged His enemies to "convict Him of sin," and proclaimed Himself" the Good Shepherd, who gave His life for the sheep" (John viii. 46; x. 11); He, nevertheless, asserted that in the absolute sense and meaning of the word "there is none good but One, that is God" (Matt. xix. 17). Here, then, we have, at least, on the plane of manifestation, a divine antinomy, and hence, we are brought to the conclusion that even in Christ there is only a partial revelation of God,-a veiling as well as a disclosure of the Divine Glory.
But it may be asked, and the inquiry is one of profoundest interest, if all revelations of God are thus partial and imperfect, where, in the nature of things, must the line be drawn? within what limits is it possible for God to make Himself known to man? A little consideration will suggest the answer to this question, and that answer once suggested, we shall find ourselves constrained to accept. God can only be revealed to man within the limits of humanity; in and by man alone can we see God. It is common enough to hear "anthropomorphic conceptions of God" spoken of with supercilious scorn, but in point of fact all our conceptions of God must necessarily be anthropomorphic, inasmuch as it is obvious that man cannot transcend his own nature. There is, however, both a false and a true anthropomorphism. In the former it may be said that we project the shadow of man upon the sun-disc of the Divine Nature, and call that shadow God; but in the latter we hold up, as it were, the darkened glass of our finite intelligence to the sun, and accept the small dim image of the solar orb which it transmits to us as all that our mortal vision can endure. In the one case the attempt is to see man in God; in the other to see God in man.
Hence, it comes to pass that even as the sun itself is only a shadow of God, but we are able to behold merely a shadow of that shadow: so, in like manner, in every revelation of God, though in itself essentially imperfect, there is far more than we are able to receive; nor is the overplus wasted; on the contrary, inasmuch as it suggests the infinite, it serves to attest to us that that which we do receive is a revelation of God. Prof. Max Müller, in his brilliant Hibbert Lectures, finds the natural foundation of religion in this sense of the infinite. "Man sees," he says, "he sees to a certain point, and there his eyesight breaks down. But exactly where his eyesight breaks down, there presses upon him,
whether he likes it or not, the perception of the unlimited or the infinite. It may be said that this is not perception, in the ordinary sense of the word. No more it is, but still less is it mere reasoning. In perceiving the infinite, we neither count, nor measure, nor compare, nor name. We know not what it is, but we know that it is, and we know it, because we actually feel it, and are brought in contact with it. If it seems too bold to say that man actually sees the invisible, let us say that he suffers from the invisible, and this invisible is only a special name for the infinite. Therefore, as far as mere distance or extension is concerned, it would seem difficult to deny that the eye, by the very same act by which it apprehends the finite, apprehends also the infinite. The more we advance, the wider, no doubt, grows our horizon; but there never is, or can be, to our senses, a horizon, unless as standing between the visible and finite on the one side, and the invisible and infinite on the other. The infinite, therefore, instead of being merely a late abstraction, is really implied in the earliest manifestations of our sensuous knowledge. Theology begins with anthropology.'"*
Thus, for example, there is more of God revealed in Nature than we are, any of us, able to apprehend. Even as between man and man there is no small difference in this respect. How much more does the artist, the poet, and the seer find in Nature than is perceptible to ordinary individuals. "To you," says the Christian mystic, William Blake, to quote from memory- "the sunrise is but the appearance of a copper-coloured ball, about the size of a crown piece; to me it is a great quire of angels praising God." To the simple rustic "a primrose on the river's brim was a primrose, and nothing more; but to the poet it suggested "thoughts too deep for tears." But in reference to all men, even the most gifted, the revelation of God in Nature is limited to that which our five senses enable us to apprehend. Hence, while on the one hand, the man born blind can find much less, and therefore much less of God, in Nature than one who possesses the regal sense of sight; so, on the other hand, if we can suppose ourselves endowed with ten senses instead of five-and there is no reason in the nature of things why we should not be-it seems obvious that the domain of Nature would be practically doubled to us, and the revelation of God therein enlarged and brightened in a corresponding ratio.
Again, it may with equal truth be said, though the fact cannot with equal facility be illustrated, that there is much more of God revealed in the Divine Government alike of the world at large, of the elect nation of Israel, and even in our own lives, than our purblind moral sense would enable us to understand, even if our perverted will did not oftentimes lead us voluntarily to ignore it. The machinery of Providence is so complex, and the pattern of the fabric which the Divine loom produces so intricate, and as yet incomplete, that we can neither follow all the movements of the one, or appreciate the beauty of the other, from the small portion of the unfinished work which alone comes under our eye in this world. God in the world's history, God in the history of Israel, God in our own life; all this we may see if we have the will, but how much of God we shall never know till the finished fabric is taken from
"Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion," pp. 27, 38.
the loom, and the perfection of the work is revealed in the light of eternity.
But pre-eminently may it be said that in Christ the revelation of God stretches far beyond the range of our spiritual vision, even in the infinities and eternities. "In Him," indeed, "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; " but how small a portion of these treasures are even those of us in whom the Divine life is most developed, able to appropriate. Concerning the power of God, as revealed in Christ, Paul prays that the saints at Ephesus may know something of "the exceeding greatness." Of the love of Christ, that is of the Father as manifested in the Son, He declares that it "passeth knowledge." While of His fulness he says that it is "the fulness of Him who filleth all in all" (Eph. i. 19, 20; iii. 19; i. 23). How much is there of God in the Divine mysteries of the incarnation, the sufferings, the death, and the resurrection of Christ, which even the greatest and holiest of saints has never penetrated. And what a new apocalpyse of the Divine glory awaits His Second Advent, and all the wondrous events which are associated with that crowning epoch of man's earthly history. How emphatically, above all, is this truth that the revelation of God in Christ far exceeds all our present capacities of reception, made known to us in our Lord's own profound and pregnant words: "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (Matt. xi. 27). Implying not only that there is a sense in which the knowledge of the Son cannot be attained by us; but, furthermore, that there is a sense in which the Father is revealed in the Son, to which there exists no parallel revelation of the Son in the Father. And the echo of these Divine words may surely be caught in those of the Apostle John: "It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as is" (1 John iii. 2).
"It doth not yet appear-it is not yet manifested—what we shall be." How bright a hope for the future life do these words hold, as it were, in solution! It doth not yet appear," but this implies that it shall appear. It is not yet manifested, because He is not yet manifested. "We shall be like Him," and when we "see Him as He is," we shall know all that that means. But these last words are mysterious, they seem to hide a secret not yet revealed. "We shall see Him as He is." This cannot mean that our knowledge shall then become co-extensive with His nature; in other words, that the finite shall comprehend the infinite; but rather that the as yet unrevealed mystery of the sonship,-for "no man knoweth the Son but the Father,"-will be disclosed and in the Son we shall learn what our sonship really is. For the rest, the revelation of God in the great future, as in the little present, must needs be partial though ever progressive; and progressive in a ratio which, as compared with the present, may be as the rush of an eagle through the air, to the crawling of a worm upon the ground. With indefinitely developed faculties alike of body, soul and spirit,-and surely the development of faculties as yet only latent in us is one of the most delightful anticipations of the life to come, we shall from age to age be increasing in the knowledge and therefore in the love of God. Ever approaching to the Divine light, but