« PreviousContinue »
ly understood, it leaves no pretext on this ground for the existence of unbelief.
Man may be considered either as an individual, or as a part of an organization. These two poles have determined the two great currents of human thought. Both views are right; but held each exclusive of the other, or with their mutual relation inverted, they have been the source of perpetual error. The one, merging the individual in the race, has produced a theology destructive of human accountability and freedom, and even of personality; it has opened the way for reducing all the history of man and of the natural creation to a blind development by law; it has given us a church, through which all blessings descend from God by virtue of its organization; through which rules one all-pervading spiritual despotism, and by which, and for which, every member, like the limb of a body, exists. It gives despotism in the State; and a social condition, stag. nant and corrupting. The other, carried out with equal exclusiveness, gives us a theology in which dependence on God is depreciated, and not only the personality, and indi. viduality, but the sufficiency of man is taught; in which morality is substituted for piety, ethics for theology, and ability for redemption; and which, through its exaggeration of individual personality and sufficiency, prepares the way for the rejection of revelation as needless to the all-competency of man, and in a cold rationalism, having completed the circuit, meets and coincides with scepticism which had come round to the same extreme in the opposite direction. It gives us Munzerism in the church, or at best, a church not distinguished from a school or a voluntary association; it gives us Jacobinism in the State ; and in society violent convul. sions and revolutions, instead of a healthy progress.
But both views must be accepted, if we are to escape error. The one, which recognizes the individuality of man, is the principle of reform ; the other, which recognizes him as part of an organization, is the principle of conservatism; the one is the element of progress, the other of stability; the one carries society forward and develops its resources, the other
binds it, through all its agitations, in unity, order, and law. Without the former, progress is impossible, and society stands, like Niobe, desolate in stony immobility; without the latter, reform is destructive, like the daughters of Pelias, easily tearing society in pieces, but incapable of restoring it to the unity of an organic life. But
as, in the order of nature, man is an individual before he is a species, the recognition of man's individuality takes precedence of the recognition of his organic relations. The former is primary in its influence, the latter secondary; the former must create before the latter can organize.
This order must be recognized, alike, in every practical effort and every speculative theory pertaining to human advancement. It is not the life of the organization that determines the life of the individual; but it is the life of individuals which flows into, determines, and in fact constitutes, the life of the organization.
A distinguished living writer,' worthy to be called a scientific philosopher, and not merely a man of science, remarks that, in the Divine working, the order of development is from homogeneousness to diversity, and from diversity to organic unity. In an egg is, first, a homogeneous fluid; next, its diversification into rudimental organs; next, the union of these diversified organs in a living organization. In the creation was, first, the homogeneousness of chaos; next, its diversification — the light, the separation of the waters from the waters, the land, the air; and next, its combination in that complete order which justifies the name of kóguos given, by the Greeks, to the creation. The same law (itself a beautiful exemplification of the unity of plan which pervades all departments of God's works) seems applicable to social progress: first, the homogeneousness of barbarism; next, its diversification by the elevation of individuals ; and last, the organic unity of a civilized state.
This is precisely the method of Christianity. It finds men in the homogeneousness of a common depravity; all the organic influences of the family, of society, of the State, and
1 Prof. Guyot.
of the race, have been seized by evil, and help to crush the man in ruin ; Christianity comes to men, one by one, to lift them from this state of evil, and to inspire them with a power to resist it. Its instrumentality is individualizing: “ Preach the gospel to every creature." Its agency and method are individualizing, the Spirit of God renewing men one by one. In the natural propagation of the race, each child derives life from its parents ; thus the life of each generation is, in an important sense, the development of the life of the first man and of the race. In this view, the common comparison of the development of the human race from Adam to the devel. opment of oaks from the primitive acorn, indicates a complete resemblance, because both are the development of natural life. Christ is also the source of spiritual life to his spiritual seed; and, in this respect, the Scriptures recognize an important analogy between the first and the second Adam. But there is this fundamental difference, that, while the development of the race from Adam participates in the natu. ral, the development of the spiritual life from Christ belongs entirely to the sphere of the Spirit.' The very corruption of the race in which the human will is enthralled, is, in the Scriptures, represented as a corruption “ by nature.” Christianity, according to its essential idea, is the approach of spiritual forces to man, to rescue him from this ruin. Therefore its entire method of procedure is characterized, not by the law of nature, but by the law of the Spirit; not by necessity and blind development, but by intelligence, will, and freedom. Therefore, the analogy of the development of the spiritual seed from Christ to the development of the race from
1 The church has its visible ordinances and organization; it also avails itself of the family relation. But the benefit of these is obtained, not by a natural connection of cause and effect, but by virtue of the spirit acting through them. The organic is subordinate to the individual. A contrary theory of organic urity and development, is essentially, however disguised, a theory of natural unity and development. It necessarily implies that there is a natural virtue in the sacraments and in ordination, independent of the work of the Spirit in connection with them on each recipient. It places the ordinance above the Spirit, and not the Spirit above the ordinance. And it allows logically no stopping-place short of the atheistic system of the development of all things by law, which throughout thc universe recognizes nature alone.
Adam, necessarily leads to fatal error, if, in carrying it out, the essential distinction is forgotten, that, while the latter participates in the natural, the former is entirely spiritual. It leads to a theory of organic unity which subjects the spiritual itself to the necessity of natural law, and thus destroys its distinctive characteristic as spiritual. Accordingly, while the human race is propagated from parent to child, the spiritual seed are not born of any human parentage. They are not propagated, from generation to generation, by the church. Their life is not the life of Christ, flowing into them through the church and its sacraments, as the life of Adam flows into his posterity by natural generation. But every renewed man is born immediately of God; his life comes to him directly from the divine Spirit; and the Christian, born of God to-day, sustains a relation to God just as direct as the first convert of the Christian faith. When Christ preached, his doctrine was new to the Jews. When the apostles preached Christ to all nations, the doctrine was new to their generation. But it is just as new to every generation, and to every individual, coming into this world of sin equally ignorant of its truths and equally without experience of its divine power. Regeneration is, in all ages, a new birth. In each individual case, it implies a spiritual act originating a new spiritual life.
In the love and purpose of God, Christianity originates eternally; but in the soul of man, it originates ever
It is not the fire burning evermore on the altar of the church; but it is the fire coming down from heaven to light, afresh, the altar of every Christian heart. It is not the life of the church developed into the life of successive generations
1 I can attach no precise meaning to the doctrine of the believer's life-union with Christ, except as it recognizes the fact that the Holy Spirit, ever proceeding from the Son, originates in the believer a new and spiritual life specifically the same with the life of Christ. Christ lives in us only as we have the spirit of Christ. This doctrine of the Holy Spirit must determine the meaning of the doctrine of the life-union. I see no possibility of determining it otherwise, without elevating the organic above the individual, and thus coming to a position of thought from which the Romish doctrine of salvation through the church is logically inevitable.
of saints; but it is the life of God coming down, ever new, into the souls of men. And no contrary doctrine can be maintained without destroying the significance of personal regeneration by the Holy Spirit. There is, indeed, in the advancement of the church, a unity; but it is found, not in the church, but in the eternal love of God, declared in the purpose of the Father, manifested in the person and work of the Son, and evermore evolved in the work of the Holy Ghost.
Thus beginning with the individual, Christianity proceeds to the organic, and subordinates all its influences to herself. Christ, coming to a world sunk in sin, with all its individual and its organic forces alike against him, approached men, one by one, and called them to himself. At his death, the church was little more than eleven disciples and five hundred brethren, without organic force. The apostles and brethren continued to approach men and win them, individually, to Christ; and, gradually, the church assumed an organic unity and acquired an organic force of its own; and, as it advanced, it laid hold on the organic forces of the family, of society, and, lastly, of the State. Through the same process Christianity must always toil, in making its way among a heathen people. Among us, Christianity is not upheld merely by our individual exertions ; it is itself, now, an organic force, working through its churches; and it has penetrated all the organic forces of society, which work for Christianity when we sleep, compel its enemies to serve it, and, if the life of Christianity should decline, would long preserve its forms and many of its influences. And the time is coming when it will lay hold on the organic force in the unity of the race. This is hostile as yet, and will always be hostile, so far as the unity of the race is merely natural. But when mankind become one in the love and life of Christ, this spiritual unity will produce organic influences antagonistic to man's natural corruption and helpful to Christianity.
So in every attempt to advance it, or any moral reformation incidental to its progress : while we begin with individuals, we must, as rapidly as possible, lay hold on the or