Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

The Promise and Faith

THE PROMISE AND FAITH.
Sec. V.

Although shame and fear, the effects and expressions of conscience, do not constitute any real atonement, yet it is not to be denied that fallen men, by the immediate self-evidence of God the Judge and the Redeemer, very soon enter upon a position truly prepared for atonement. How comes it now, that God's grace did not make that which had happened, in

1 According to Scripture, Ho more can be said; for that God's Spirit is inborn into man as the ideal principle of divine fellowship, without nevertheless being able to manifest it of itself, and that the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of the incarnate Son of God, as the real principle of the divine fellowship— was the first that brought the actual personal unity of man with God into operation (Schoberl. Jahrbilcher, 1861, p. 59), is a view irreconcilable with the unity of God's Spirit. Scripture knows nothing of an immanence of God's Spirit in man, as such, even fallen. The Spirit of God, in passages of Scripture such as Gen. vi. 3 (see my Comm.), is the Spirit in virtue of which humanity has its origin from God, in a manner exalted over all earthly creatures, and can say, We are His offspring (Acts, I.c.).

such a way not to have happened, that the history of mankind, placed hack at its creatively established and good commencement, might have begun anew? Why was there needed, in order that the loving relation of God and men should be restored, such a fact influencing the Godhead in its own proper nature, and operating from eternity npon time, as the incarnation of the Son? Wherefore did God permit, that, from the fall of the first man downwards, sin and grace, without the extirpation of the former by means of the latter, should propagate themselves in an historical course of thousands of years? and wherefore did He ordain, that not till the middle,—as it were, in the fulness,—of these long periods, should the Restorer appear, who would perfectly retrieve the good beginning that had been lost? To these questions the general answer is, that the work of restoration was a work of free divine love, but that, if it were to be effected, it could only be effected thus, and no otherwise. The reasons of the kind and manner of its accomplishment lay in God's nature, and in the God-appointed nature of man. On the one hand, it was in the constitution of freedom that the sin of men, as their free action, could not become undone, without at the same time annihilating men themselves, together with this beginning of free self-demonstration; and it was in the constitution of spiritual-corporeity, in virtue of which men are not only independent persons, but also a self-propagating species organically linked together, that the determination against God of the first created ones must become of decisive consequences for the whole humanity established together in them, and developing itself forth from them. On the other side, it was in the constitution of the divine holiness, that God cannot abrogate the self-punishment which sin bears in itself, and propagates out from itself, without atonement offered; and that He cannot love the sinners, without the sin—which rejects Him, and which He rejects—being made perfectly sound again. These answers to the above questions are right in outline, but they do not become convincing, until we apprehend that the ethical consequences of sin are at the same time physical. No human pains of repentance were sufficient to give to men again an internal and external form conformed to the holiness of God; for sin had disordered their likeness to God, and there needed a new creative restoration of this, that God might again recognise Himself in men, and love them. Further, wrath and love are not merely the several modes of God's feeling; but two principles, distinct as fire and light, of the everlasting glorious revelation of His nature. God is love, but He is so in everlasting, absolutely cloudless, bright, triumph over the ground of fire which, in historical revelation of God, is called opyrj, and according to which God Himself is called irvp KaravaXlaKov. The spirit of man dwelt in God's love, and his soul was the copy of that triumph of light. But when man swerved from God's love, he sank down into the fire-ground of his nature, which originated in the fire-ground of the divine. Man was now a tpvaei reKvov opyrj<; (Eph. ii. 3)—one that had incurred wrath. He was no more Koivwvo< ; deia<; <pvaew; (2 Pet. i. 4); and if he were to become so again, not only was a change of disposition in God necessary, but an act of divine love to lift him up out of the depth of wrath again to the altitude of the light. This act of divine love is the everlastingly decreed and temporally fulfilled redemption of men from wrath through the Son of love, who betook Himself down into the depth of the Godhead's wrath, clothed the humanity, which had forfeited the divine likeness, with His own absolute divine likeness, took the wrath upon Himself, and annihilated it in Himself,—and thus brought back the creature that had fallen from love, again to the principle into which it had been created. It will be objected that these are words of fancy, and not of understanding—pictures, and not ideas. But of such mysteries we can only effectually stammer in shadows; and your abstract conceptions,—we appeal to the objectors,—are nothing but a perforated sieve for these most intensely real of all realities. Scripture says, moreover (Gal. iii. 13), that Christ must first become Kardpa, that the promised ev\oyia might be brought forth: Kardpa is the manifestation of the anger, and evKoyia the manifestation of the love. The Ka.Tapa of the Sinaitic law which He, as the crucified, Vfl, set forth in Himself, is only an historical expression of the opyrj, which abideth on all those who despise the act of reconciliation (John iii. 36), which therefore humanity had incurred (Eph. ii. 3), and subject to the penalty of which, without Christ, it would have remained.

This change of the divine wrath into love through the selfsurrender of the Son of God to and for fallen humanity, is an eternal fact; for God's will of love and counsel of lore, in respect of humanity, in eternal prevision of its fall, are everlasting. When, therefore, the fall of man had canned itself historically into effect, then began also immediately, rooted in the eternal fact of reconciliation before God, the historical selfmanifestation of the divine loving will, and the historical selffulfilment of the divine counsel of love. The judicial sentences upon the serpent, the woman, the man, are expressions of the divine wrath; but the will of wrath becomes at once manifest as a loving will of wrath, i.e. not absolute, but a will of wrath, subdued and enclosed by love; for the extreme of the curse upon the serpent, the bruising of its head by the seed of the woman, is blessing for humanity. At first it is only a ray of light, which breaks through the gloom of the alienation of men from God,—only a gleam of light, which shines out in the midst of the fire of wrath. It is a word which speaks of a future One; for, because God has become remote from men, their salvation also now comes from afar. And because men have externalized themselves by sin, this word of promise points thus externally to victory over the serpent. What the divine love means, remains concealed, as behind an emblematical form of enigma. And yet the whole gospel is contained in this Protevangelium. The nt?x int, the Kin, fundamentally understood, is no other than Jesus, the Son of God, and the son of Mary. Yea, this is He who, in and with this word, establishes the foundation of His coming in humanity; for from this word inwardly, and from this word outwardly, He advances through the Old Testament to the purpose of His incarnation, and through the New Testament to the purpose of His mission. But that the self-demonstration of the divine love, that the self-proclamation of His coming, should subsist in such dim, and more or less external, words of a future person, is the result of the remoteness of humanity from God.

Salvation moves towards humanity from the distance; and by what means does it become near to it? By faith. Scripture appropriates the activities of faith and conditions of faith, as well to the spirit (e.g. Ps. cxliii. 7, lxxviii. 8, li. 12) as to the soul (e.g. hope, wait, trust on God, depend on God, rest in God, Ps. cxvL 7, exxxi. 2). But Scripture nowhere says, the spirit believes, or the soul believes; because faith (iriarevetv, FoKn.) is an operation of the human Ego, which is distinguished from spirit, soul, and body. It says, indeed, that with the heart it is believed, KapSiq iriareverai (Rom. x. 10), because faith is a central, yea, the most central human operation;1 but, moreover, it distinguishes from the heart itself that which is itself believing in us: for the peculiar nature of faith scarcely anywhere expresses itself more plainly than Ps. lxxiii. 26, where Asaph says, " My flesh and my heart faileth; but Elohim is the rock of my heart, and my portion for ever." His Ego remains trusting in God, even although the body, and even the heart— thus the spirit- and soul-life, or his external and internal man2— decayed: even then he held fast to God, as to the rock which abides when everything is wavering, and to the possession which must remain to him when all else is lost. He held fast to him for ever, himself imperishable, because associated with the imperishable. This recourse, breaking through all inward and outward contradictions—through sin, sorrows, death, and hell— to God the Redeemer; this longing after God's free, merciful love, as His own word declares it,—a longing, reaching forth, and grasping it; this naked, unselfish craving, feeling itself satisfied with nothing else than God's promised grace; this eagerness, absorbing every ray of light that proceeds from God's reconciled love; this convinced and safety-craving appropriation and clinging to the word of grace;—this is faith. According to its nature, it is the pure receptive correlative of the word of promise; a means of approaching again to God, which, as the word itself, is appointed through the distance of God in consequence of sin: for faith has to confide in the word, in spite of all want of comprehension, want of sight, want of experience. No experimental actus reflexi belong' to the nature of faith. It is, according to its nature, actio directa, to wit, fiducia supplex?

1 Thomasius, Dogm. iv. 158.

2 Thus is removed the doubt of Oehler in Herzog's R.E. vi. 20, that "heart" in connection with " flesh" seems to indicate the bodily heart: it indicates that which is within the body, and generally that which is within. Comp. also my Commentary on the Psalms, in loco.

3 Nowhere is this discussed more instructively, or with more profound experience, than in Ehrich Pontoppidan's (author of the Menoza) Clear Mirror of Faith, Copenhagen and Leipz. 1726, 1768; vid. the Appendix .to this division.

While now from the God of love—the remote God—the word of promise comes to meet man, and man as Ego, with all the powers of his spirit and his soul, reaches forward to meet it faithfully, the primitive relation of love renews itself once more as in its budding commencement. This incipient form is retained, moreover, through the entire history of salvation here below, although the revelation of salvation progresses, and the difference' of the two testaments is considerable. For even after Jesus had historically appeared, and had completed the redemption, it is the word which with all its clearness is still eaonrpov iv alvi^fuvri (1 Cor. xiii. 12), and the faith, which no otherwise apprehends it than in the word, which encloses all other means of grace. Our natural life remains subjected to wrath, and finally succumbs to the attack of death; but in the midst of this wrath we live, who believe, with our Ego, with our innermost man delivered from wrath, in the principle of divine love; and all the wrath which we experience is of no avail any more to us according to our true Being, but to the disintegrating of the .Natural, from which we are ever longing to become delivered. Our likeness to God, our doxa, is lost; but in Christ, whom we have apprehended in faith on His word, we have it again. He is our divine image, and our doxa, till the time when all wrath, not merely in the way of imputation, but also actually, shall be extinguished for us, and our whole natural condition shall be transformed into the image and the glory of Christ.

We return to the psychological elucidation of these facts of the redemption in the concluding divisions. The strictness of the systematic method would have properly bidden us to be silent on the subject as yet; but we could not deny ourselves this precursory glance, since the ground of our natural condition established by the creation, which the section that now follows will determine, is already, from the first historical moving of the solution of the enigma of redemption, pervaded by grace, and only remains in existence because it has this for A background.