§ 67. What is here to be understood by Principium
When theology abandoned its proper and original character, it also ceased to speak of a principium of its own; and gradually we have become so estranged from the earlier theological life, that it is scarcely any longer understood what our old theologians meant by the principium theologiae. This principium of theology is not infrequently taken as synonymous with fons theologiae, i.e. with the fountain from which the science of theology draws its knowledge. Why is this wrong? When I speak of the fountains of a science, I understand thereby a certain group out of the sum of phenomena, from which a separate whole of science is distilled by me. For the Zoologist these fountains lie in the animal world, for the Botanist in the world of plants, for the Historian in many-sided tradition, etc. But however much in each of these domains of science the fountains may differ, the principium of knowing (cognoscendi), from which knowledge comes to us with these several groups of phenomena, is ever one and the same. It is, in a word, the natural man who by his reason draws this knowledge from his object, and that object is subjected to him as the thinking subject. If now I proceed in like manner on theological ground, formaliter at least, then my principium of knowing remains here entirely the same that it is for the botanist or zoologist, and the difference consists only in the difference of the object. Whether I seek that object in God Himself, or in the Christian religion, or in religious phenomena makes no fundamental difference. With all these it is still the thinking man who subjects these objects to himself, and by virtue of his general principium of knowing draws knowledge from them. For, and I speak reverently, even when I posit God Himself as the object of theology, this God is then placed on trial by the theologian, and it is the theologian who does not cast himself down in worship before Him, saying, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth," but of his own right (suo jure) investigates Him. The result, indeed, has shown that he who has taken this attitude, has either entirely revolutionary reversed the order of things and placed himself as critic above his God, or has falsified the object of theology and substituted for it religious phenomena; a method which seemed more innocent, but which actually led to a like result, since from this standpoint "knowledge of God" remained wanting, and want of knowledge of God is little else than intellectual atheism.
The propounding of a special principium in the theological sphere (even though we grant that this was not always done correctly), viewed in itself, was little else than the necessary result of the peculiar character of theology. If the object of theology had stood coordinate with the objects of the other sciences, then together with those sciences theology would have been obliged to employ a common principium of knowing. Since, on the other hand, the object of theology excluded every idea of coordination, and thinking man, who asked after the knowledge of God, stood in a radically different relation to that God than to the several kingdoms of created things, there had to be a difference in the principium of knowing. With every other object it was the thinking subject that took knowledge; here it was the object itself that gave knowledge. And this antithesis is least of all set aside by the remark, that the flower also provides the botanist with knowledge concerning itself. This replaces a real manner of speech by a metaphorical one. The flower indeed does nothing, and the whole plant, on which the flower blooms, is passive. Even though it is maintained that the flower exhibits color and form, this is by no means yet the knowledge of the flower, but merely so many data, from which this knowledge is gathered by the botanist. Hence our speaking, with reference to theology, of a special principium of knowing of its own, is the result of the entirely peculiar position, in which here the knowing subject stands over against God as the object to be known. Theology, taken in its original and only real meaning, as "knowledge of God," or as "the science of the knowledge of God," cannot go to work like the other sciences, but must take a way of its own; which not merely in its bends and turns, but in its entire extent, is to be distinguished from the ordinary way of obtaining knowledge (via cognitionis), and therefore assumes a principium of knowing of its own as its point of departure.
Even if the fact of sin were left out of account, and the special revelation were not considered, formaliter a principium of its own must still be claimed for theology. This claim may be more sharply accentuated by these two facts, but it may never be represented as though the necessity of a source of its own were only born formaliter from sin. This necessity does not merely lie in the abnormal, but in the normal as well, and must ever find its ground in this fact, that God is God, and that consequently the Eternal Being cannot become the object of creaturely knowledge, as coordinate with the creature. Let it be supposed that the development of our race had taken place without sin; man would nevertheless have known the things that may be known of God, from the world of his heart and the world round about him, but not as the fruit of empiricism and the conclusions based thereon. From the finite no conclusion can be drawn to the infinite, neither can a Divine reality be known from external or internal phenomena, unless that real God reveals Himself in my consciousness to my ego; reveals Himself as God; and thereby moves and impels me to see in these finite phenomena a brightness of His glory. Formaliter, neither observation nor reasoning would ever have rendered service here as the principium of knowing. Without sin, this self-revelation of the Divine Ego to my personal ego would never have been, even in part, the fruit of Theophany, or of incarnation, but would have taken place normally in my personal being, and in such a way that even then the way by which knowledge is obtained would have divided itself into two, one leading to the knowledge of those objects which, being passive, I subject to myself, the other leading to the knowledge of that one Object, to which I myself am passively subjected. That "faith" assumes its peculiar office here, and that, as belonging to our human nature, it may turn into unfaith, but can never fall away, has been remarked before. In this place it is enough to note the distinction, that formaliter the thinking subject can obtain his knowledge from a twofold principium: either from himself, by going to work actively, or, if he must remain passive, not from himself but from a principium, the impulse of which proceeds from the object, in casu from God, and only thus operates in him.
From this it already appears that the proposition of the old theology, — Principium theologiae est Sacra Scriptura, i.e. the Sacred Scripture is the Principium of Theology,— has nothing in common with the representation of a few remaining supranaturalists, who still grant that the Scripture spreads light upon much that otherwise would be dark to us. The very word principium indeed, which may never be mistaken for fons or phenomenon, claims, that by nature this principium stands in organic connection with the real nature of theology. But, as was observed above, the peculiar character of theology, and therefore also the special nature of its principium, is accentuated still more by sin. Under its power it continued not merely a fact that the thinking subject stood passively over against God as object; but in addition to this, the normal means, for receiving in the passive sense this knowledge of God, could no longer operate accurately, and therefore failed of the desired effect. By nature man could not take knowledge of God actively, and as sinner he could no longer let himself even passively be given this knowledge of God by God. This modification in man and in his relation to God could issue only in one or the other result, viz. that either the sinner should live on without "knowledge of God," or that from the side of God there should proceed an activity to impart this knowledge to sinful man, in keeping with his need as sinner. The latter then, however, took place outside of the life that sprang of itself from the creation principium and the knowledge connected with it; it was a special principle (proprium quid), which only stepped in between provisionally, and was destined to disappear again, as soon as the normal development of our race had reached its final end. In this way this self-revelation of God to the sinner was also materialiter an action from a special principium in God; from this principium in God this action went out to the world and to the sinner; and as soon as man thus operated upon began to give an account to himself of the common phenomena of, and of this abnormal process in, hi.s life, from the nature of the case the principium of all the rest would lie in creation, while the principium of this entirely special action is found in a re-creative act of God. It made no difference that, along with this action, existing elements from creation were employed. Such elements were then assimilated by the active principium and rendered serviceable to it, just like the chisel in the hands of the sculptor, or as a board sawn from a tree, which serves for the hull of a ship. If in theology, therefore, as such formaliter, there lay the claim that it springs out of a principium of knowing of its own, this principium of Theology is distinguished, by and in consequence of sin, from the principium of knowing in the domain of the other sciences materialiter also, and hence concerns both the formal and the material principium.
In part it may even be maintained, that the principium of being (essendi) is also included here. That self-revelation of God to the sinner is possible even without a preceding regeneration, is shown in the case of Balaam; but this exception does not make the rule; the general rule is, that regeneration precedes spiritual illumination. The "enlightened" of Heb. vi. 4 do not stand in the same line with the "enlightened" of Eph. i. 18. The latter only are "spiritual" and "have received the things of the Spirit of God." This regeneration is not an element in knowing (cognoscere), but in being (esse), and if account is taken of the fact that the whole revelation of God, though directed by the Logos, nevertheless proceeds through an entire series of events and wonders, and finally culminates in the essential incarnation and all it carries with it, then it is evident that the distinction between theology and the other sciences not only formally touches the principium of faith, and materially the "good word of God" (KaXbv Oeov pfjfia), but also penetrates into our real being (esse). This exjilains the fact that the Theosophists, and in part the Mystics in the tracks of the former, have sought to obtain the knowledge of God along this way of being (via essendi). And this difference in the real being (esse) must indeed be taken into account, at least so far as it concerns its modality. He who neglects to do this, annuls regeneration, and thereby undermines all faith in miracles. Meanwhile it must not be lost from sight that the distinction in the essential forms no fundamental antithesis. Sin is no essence (esse), but a modality of it (td esse); and consequently regeneration, which annuls and conquers sin, can create no other essence, but can merely reestablish from its perverted modality the original real being (esse) into its ideal modality. He who deems that this touches the essentia itself, and not its modus simply, becomes a Maniclnean. And if it be said that we must take account of "the powers of the world to come," etc., we answer, that from the beginning there has been an organic connection between the creature in his present and eternal condition. Even with the most radical metamorphosis there could never be a change of the essence. If, then, it is beyond doubt, that, on account of regeneration and miracles, real being (esse) must also be considered, no two principles of being stand over against each other; in the realm of nature, as well as in the realm of grace, it is and remains the original principium of being, even though this principium operates in the two in different ways. Very properly, therefore, Theosophy has been dismissed, and the full emphasis has been put on Theology as such.
This has made it customary to seek the proper principium of theology immediately in the Holy Scripture, by which was meant of course simply the material principium of knowing (principium cognoscendi materiale). The knowledge of God, which God Himself had communicated by numerous facts and revelations, and which under his guidance was embodied in the Holy Scripture, was the gold which theology was to delve from the mine of the Holy Scripture. Meanwhile this could not be intended otherwise than as an abbreviated manner of speech. A principium is a living agent, hence a principium of knowledge must be an agent from which of necessity knowledge flows. And this of course the Bible as such is not. The principium of knowledge existed before knowledge had emerged from this principium, and consequently before the first page of Scripture was written. When, nevertheless, the Sacred Scripture is called the sole principium of theology (principium unicum theologiae), then the Scripture here is taken as a plant, whose germ has sprouted and budded, and has unfolded those buds. It is not, therefore, the naked principium, but the principium together with what it has brought forth. Speaking more accurately, we should say that the material principium is the self-revelation of God to the sinner, from which principium the data have come forth in the Holy Scriptures, from which theology must be built up. Since, however, theology can only begin when Revelation is completed, we may readily proceed from the ultimate cause (principium remotum) to the proximate (proximum), and say that theology sprang from the completed revelation, i.e. from the Scriptures, as the proximate cause, while that revelation itself originated from the ultimate cause of the self-revelation of God.
It is unfortunate, however, that in olden time so little attention was paid to the formal principium. For now it seemed altogether as though the still darkened understanding was to investigate the Scripture as its object, in an entirely similar way to that in which this same understanding threw itself on plant and animal as its object. At first this compelled the understanding to adapt and accommodate itself to the authority of the Holy Scripture, which then still maintained a high position. But, in the long run, roles were to be exchanged, and the neglect of the formal principium was to bring about a revision of the Scripture in the sense of our darkened understanding, as has now actually taken place. For if faith was considered under Soteriology, and in connection with faith the "illumination," what help was this, as long as theology itself was abandoned to the rational subject, in which rational subject, from the hour of his creation, no proper and separate principium of knowing God had been allowed to assert itself?
§ 68. Different Representations concerning the Operation of this Principium
In the first section of this chapter, it has been shown that the possession of a special principium of knowing is indispensable to theology, for the reason that God is never a passive phenomenon, so that all knowledge of God must ever be the fruit of self-revelation on His side. Hence it is the distinct nature of the object of theology which renders a special principium of knowing necessary. This is essentially agreed upon, without distinction, by all who still hold fast to theology in its original sense. Not by those who, though they have adopted an entirely different object for their science, still call themselves theologians; but by the theologians of all churches and tendencies, who, in whatever else they may differ from each other, are still agreed in this, that theology is bent upon the knowledge of the living God, and that from God Himself alone this knowledge can come to us. Among all these, there is no difference of view concerning this ultimate cause (principium remotum).
It is different, on the other hand, when it is further investigated in what ivay this principium of God's selfrevelation has operated or still operates. The confession is still almost universal that this self-revelation lies at our disposal in the Holy Scripture; but while one group affirms: In the Holy Scripture and nothing else, another group asserts that the apocryphal books as well, and tradition, yea, the papal inspiration also, claim our attention; those who are mystically inclined tend to supersede the Scriptures by personal inspiration; and minds that wander off yet farther point you to a Word of God in nature, in history, in the conscience, or in the ideal disposition of your heart. Two things must be carefully distinguished. There is, on the one hand, the question whether by sin the self-revelation of God is compelled to take a temporary side-road, in order, when sin shall have been entirely overcome, to resume again its original way, or whether in the sinner, also, the internal address of God is still heard in sufficiently clear accents. This touches the relation of natural theology to specially revealed theology, and can pass into the question whether natural theology is not sufficient for the sinner; a matter which in turn is connected with the doctrine of sin. If the reality of sin is finally denied, by dissolving its antithetic character and by viewing it as a stage in a continuous process of development, then it is evident that there is no longer any question of the darkening of our knowledge of God by sin. This, however, is not the point that is in order in this section. Here we assume, therefore, that the reality of sin is acknowledged, that the darkening of our knowledge of God by sin is confessed, so that without a special revelation no sufficient knowledge of God for the sinner is deemed obtainable. If this is accepted, then we come to face an entirely different question: viz. how this special revelation is to be conceived.
The most general conception under which these representations can be grasped is that of inspiration, i.e. of an inworking of the Spirit of God upon the mind and heart of the sinner, by which God makes Himself known to him, and communicates His will or His thoughts. For the present we pass by the quantitive element in this inspiration; we take it now only qualitatively; in which case it is clear that fundamentally it is one and the same conception, whether I speak of theopneusty in the prophets and apostles, of an internal light in the mysticism of the emotions, or of a papal infallibility. The prophet, the mystic, and the bishop of Rome are all sinners, and of each of these three it is affirmed, not that they conceive or imagine something concerning God of themselves, but that there has gone out or goes out upon them an operation of the Holy Spirit, which eo ipso, as wrought by God, bears the divine mark of genuineness. In the application only do these inspiration, internal light and infallibility differ. The most general conception of this inspiration is that of the mysticus. He is the individualist; takes, therefore, every sinner by himself; and now thinks that God, being desirous to reveal Himself to sinners, could scarcely do this in any other way than by communicating Himself separately to every sinner, and thus make Himself known by each. This representation is both the most primitive and simple. Entirely aphoristically God makes Himself known first to A and then to B. That they should know of each other is not necessary. Every one spiritually sick sits as it were in a cell of his own, and in this separated cell receives the visit of the heavenly Physician. Thus it goes on from year to year, and from age to age. This inspiration repeats itself in land upon land. In the main it is always the same, and can only vary according to age, sex, nationality, needs of the soul, etc. With all these variations the type of this inspiration remains unchangeable. It is ever God Almighty turning Himself to the individual sinner, and making Himself known in His eternal mercies. The truth of this mysticism lies naturally in the high estimate of the personal element in religion, and in preaching that not only every individual person must come to his God, but also, that God must reveal Himself to every individual, so that the secret walk with God may be found by every one for his own soul. As a fundamental principle of theology (principium theologicum), on the other hand, this representation of the internal light (lumen internum) is of no use whatever, simply because it rests on fiction. If it were true, if the Lord our God did give to each one personally not merely a disposition, an emotion, a perception, but a real knowledge of God, then he who has been thus mystically inspired should be able to speak just like the prophets of old, and the witness of one should confirm the witness of another. Such, however, is not the case. You never receive from these mystics a clear communication of what has been revealed in this way to enrich our knowledge of God. For the most part they even avoid clear language, and hide themselves behind indefinite expressions of feeling and sounds without rational sense. And where they go a little further and come to the communication of definite representations, you always notice one of two things: either they borrow the content of their communications from the Holy Scriptures, or fall back entirely into natural theology, and treat you to philosophemes well known from other quarters. From this it appears that the pretended communication of knowledge of God, which they claim to receive, is the fruit of selfdeception. The Holy Spirit simply does not work along this individual way, at least not now, after the Scriptures are completed. 'What the Holy Spirit personally does, is to direct faith to the revealed knowledge of God, to explain and apply this revealed knowledge of God to the heart according to its particular need, and also to quicken in the soul a lively sense of truth; but along this individual way He does not impart an increase of content.
With a clear understanding of this, the best known mystics have modified this monotonous-individual conception of inspiration. This conception was not interesting enough, therefore they have inclined to perpetuate the prophets' mantle. Not every child of God has received such an inspiration, but only a few. As in former times among the twelve tribes there were no twelve prophets of influence at once, but generally a single "man of God" appeared in a given period, so the work of God is carried on now. Hence there are present-day prophets; not many, but a few; now here, then there. These men of God receive special inspirations, which do not tend so much to enrich our knowledge of God, but rather serve to make prophecies concerning coming disasters, to establish the claim that all God's people shall subject themselves to such a mystical prophet, and to regulate life and religion according to his orders. This, then, is no longer the theory of an individual, internal light in every child of God, but the representation that prophetic inspiration, as an extraordinary instrument, was not merely temporal and local, but is ever continuous. With this conception the Holy Scriptures are always assumed as existent; from those Scriptures material is drawn; and only the temporal and local application of what was revealed in those Scriptures is vindicated for the mystical fanatic. The tendency reveals itself indeed again and again to soar paracletically above the revelation of the Scriptures, and Montanistically to wander off; but this is almost always the sure sign of approaching dissolution. As soon as the break with the Scripture is entire, the spiritual authority of what was mystically inspired is ended.
They who seek the proximate cause (principium proximum) exclusively in the Holy Scriptures, do not deny the mystical inworkings of the Holy Spirit upon individuals, but maintain that this mystical inworking as such never leads to knowledge of God, and therefore can only be added by way of explanation and application to the knowledge of God obtained elsewhere. With this they do not deny, that an inspiration which brings knowledge of God is possible, but they assert that this is not general but exceptional, and is not primarily for the benefit of individuals but organically for the good of the whole. It remains to them therefore an open question, whether God the Lord could have followed the mystic individual way of communicating the knowledge of Himself; but it is certain that God did not take this way, and that His not taking this atomistic way is in close harmony with the entire method of knowledge in our human race. Our race does not know by adding together what is known by A + B + C, but knows organically. There is a process in this knowledge. This knowledge developing itself in process is the common property of all, and each one takes part in this treasure according to the measure of his susceptibility. This organic conception of our human knowledge lies, therefore, in the very creation of our race, and it does not surprise us that God the Lord has also revealed His divine knowledge for the sinner in an organic way. Hence inspiration is no inshining of God's Spirit in the human spirit that endlessly repeats itself, but an action from the side of God which is limited to a definite period and bound to definite conditions. That which is revealed of the knowledge of God within this given period of time and in connection with those conditions forms one whole; not by the addition of one revelation to the other, but in virtue of the fact that the one rich thought of God develops itself ever more richly from one germ. And since now this process has been ended, so that this revealed knowledge of God has been brought within the reach of our race, there can of course be no more real inspiration, and the individual and organic working of the Holy Spirit which follows after, can have no other tendency than to lead and to enlighten the Church in the spiritual labor which it must expend upon this revelation. This organic interpretation, then, brings with it that whatever you confess concerning the Holy Scriptures is only valid when they are completed, so that during the ages which intervened between Paradise and Patmos, the self-revelation of God to His people bore in part a different character. From this point of view distinction is made between the first period in which the tree begins its growth, and that other period, when }rear by year the tree casts its fruit into your lap. Thus inspiration appears as a temporal activity, which effects a result, organic in nature, and of an organic significance for our entire race. It has had a beginning, and also an ending; and the benefit we derive is no longer a continuous inspiration, but the fruit of the finished inspiration. Not as though this fruit is simply cast at the sinner's feet, for him to do with as he pleases. On the contrary, there are operations of the Holy Spirit, by which He renders the use of this fruit possible for the sinner. Illumination, the witness of the Hoty Spirit, the sacred office, the leadership of the Church, etc., all exert an influence on this. In the sphere of the new life all these operations of the Holy Spirit are no longer abnormal, but normal, and therefore may never be placed in a line with the ever abnormal inspiration. Inspiration, therefore, is here taken in connection with all sorts of other operations of the Holy Spirit, as an abnormal, temporal, organic process, the fruit of which lies before us in the Holy Scripture. The desire to draw the boundary lines sharply here between the normal and the abnormal, expressed itself most clearly in the rejection of the apocrypha.
The third point of view, that of the Romish Church, does not differ essentially from this. Rome also rejects the mystic-atomistic character of inspiration, and interprets it organically. Rome also affirms a difference, though in a weaker form, between the first growth and the later life of this plant. The abnormal character of inspiration is equally certain to Rome as to us. About the authority, therefore, of the Holy Scripture, you will not readily come in controversy with Rome. But the point of view held by Rome differs entirely from ours, when Rome does not bring special inspiration to a close with Patmos, but continues it till the present day in the Church, even in the bishop of Rome e cathedra loquente. This exerts a twofold influence. First, as far as it adds to the content of the Holy Scriptures, and again, in so much as the Church absolutely interprets the Scripture. Since the prophets and apostles are no more among the living, but the Church always is, it is evident that neither prophets nor apostles can exercise any compulsory authority in the Church, while by its official interpretation the Church has it always in her power to interpret the utterances of prophets and apostles as she likes. It should be observed, not only that from this view-point inspiration is always continuous, but also that the inspiration of the past becomes of secondary significance, compared to the inspiration of later times. And this is what Rome has come to, by weakening the difference between the normal and the abnormal. The operations of the Holy Spirit in the sphere of the new life through the ordained ministry and the councils of ecclesiastics are placed on one line with the inspiration of Moses, David or Isaiah; the apocrypha share the authority of the canonical books; and on the other side, the applying and expository operations of the Holy Spirit are withdrawn from the individual life and concentrated in that which is official.
We pass by the small differences from each of these three points of view which occur in Greek, Lutheran, and Baptist Theology. In this section it was our only purpose, where the ultimate cause (principium remotum) is fixed, to distinguish the conceptions which had been formed of the manner in which the Divine energy, in revealing itself to sinners, had reached its result. This process has been represented either as mystic-atomistic or as organic. The first has been done by all fanatics, the latter by all churches. But though all the churches have agreed in the organic interpretation of Revelation, they have separated in this: namely, one group has conceived inspiration not merely as organic, but temporal as well, and consequently as completed; while Rome still thinks that inspiration is continuous in the organism of the Church.
§ 69. The Relation between this Principium and our Consciousness
For the present, we leave the further study of the different conceptions that are formed of the working of this principium, in order to go back to the more weighty question of the connection between this principium and our consciousness — a question the answer to which lies for us in the qualification of this connection as immediate. There is no third something, that guarantees to our consciousness the reality of this principium. The working of this principium upon our consciousness is direct. This is really self-evident, since every principium finds its peculiar character in this, that it is itself ground, and therefore allows no ground under itself; but in the case of the principium of theology ideas have been so confused, that a separate study of it cannot be omitted. For the sake of clearness we start from the ultimate cause, i.e. from special inspiration. God from His own mind breathes (inspirat) into the mind of man, more particularly into the mind of sinful man, and that, too, in a special manner. This, and nothing else, is the principium, from which knowledge of God comes to us sinners, and from which also theology as a science draws its vital power. That besides this inspiration there is also manifestation, and that both inspiration and manifestation are related to what, thanks to common grace, has remained in and about us of natural theology, is neither denied by this nor lost from sight, and will appear later on. To prevent misunderstanding, however, the principium must here be taken as simply as possible; and then this principium lies in God, in so far as He from his Divine consciousness inspires something into the consciousness of the sinner. Imagine this act of God away; say that it does not exist; deny this agency, which goes out from God; and no theology remains. All that remains is poetry, conjecture, supposition; but you have no more theology. It will not do to say "est Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo," for this is nothing but an emotion in your feelings, a vibration of a Divine power in your inner life, a something that can very well take place, repeat itself and continue, without effecting any knowledge of God in you. For this very reason this inspiration of God into the human mind, as often as it takes place, is sufficient unto itself. Who on earth can know what takes place between God and my heart, but myself; and how can I know that that which works in me goes out from God to me, except God Himself gives me the certainty of conviction concerning this? The sense of this stands entirely in line with every other primordial sense, such as with the sense of our ego, of our existence, of our life, of our calling, of our continuance, of our laws of thought, etc. All that God gives me in the natural way, to constitute my sense as a human being, I not merely receive from Him, but by Him alone is it guaranteed to me. When this sense of certainty becomes weak, I become sceptical, I lose my higher energy of life, and end in madness, and no human reasoning can restore to me the lost certainty of my human starting-point. The only difference here is, that the general principles of my consciousness are common to me with almost all men, while with the inspiration of God into the mind of the sinner, one has it and the other has it not, so that these two stand over against each other. He who has it not, must deny it; and he who has it, is often shocked by the contradiction of him who has it not. This, however, is not the case with inspiration only. In many other domains one knows an inner impulse, which is foreign to another. Think of the poet, the virtuoso, the hero, and the adventurer. The want of general consent is no proof of want of foundation, and often works the effect, that conviction becomes the more firmly founded. Contradiction can weaken, but it can also strengthen. The question only is, whether there is sufficient ground for the fact of its being present in one and absent in the other. Therefore, the Reformed theologians have ever considered theology also to rest upon the election. If one reasons that all men are entitled to the same thing, and that every sinner has the right to equal gifts of grace, then the fact "that all men have not faith" (2 Thess. iii. 2) is an "offence " to us; and this weakens our sense of what God works upon and in our soul. Hence there is nothing to be done about it, that one man is more deeply sensible of this than another, and that even this sense of God's inspiration appears much more clearly in one age than in another. Human supports avail nothing here. When the fogs are too dense, the sun cannot penetrate to us in its full splendor; as soon as they lift or lessen, the light of itself shines again more brightly in oureyes; and the law remains intact: in thy light shall we see light. The conflict concerning the reality of inspiration may safely, therefore, be ended. Because it is primordial, it cannot be demonstrated; and because it is sufficient unto itself and admits of no proof, it cannot be harmed by counterproof. And it was seen by our fathers entirely correctly, in so far as they founded their confession of the Scripture ultimately upon no other testimony than the witness of the Holy Spirit. All that you add to this may serve as a support to the side-wall, but is never, either wholly or in part, the foundation for the building. If, therefore, our knowledge of God is only derived from the self-communication of God, i.e. is the fruit of inspiration, then God as inspirer (Deus inspirans) must be the principium, the first agent in our knowledge of God; and the finding of a something back of this principium, from which it should follow or flow, is simply inconceivable.
The objection, indeed, may be raised, that in this way two principles, entirely separated from each other, operate in our consciousness: on one side God as Creator (Deus creans), and on the other God as inspirer (Deus inspirans), and more particularly in a special manner (modo speciali). And this we readily grant. This is, indeed, unnatural, and, in a sense, does violence to our consciousness. A twofold source of knowledge in our consciousness is not in accord with the original demand of our consciousness; and he who lives and thinks strongly, can never cease from the effort to make those two one, or to cause one of those two to disappear. Indeed, this duality of principium is no slight obstacle in the way of the assurance of faith, with reference to the special principium. Almost all doubt arises from this dualism. Furthermore, the result must be, that finally this duality shall fall away again, and that the unity of principium shall be restored in our consciousness. Such, indeed, it shall be in the state of glory. In the status gloriae there shall be "no more temple in the city," but also no more Bible in the oratory. A Bible in the oratory is a sign that you yourself are still a sinner in a sinful world. Sinner or no sinner, therefore, is the question which here, too, is decisive; in him who is still sinless or who is no longer a sinner, no conflict, no duality in his consciousness can operate from the side of his God; and in him, therefore, no second principium of Divine knowledge can be added to the original natural principium. But if you reckon with sin, then, of course, it is not sufficient that you recognize the incompleteness of our human conditions; or acknowledge that a great distance still separates your ideal of love and holiness from your actual nature; neither is it sufficient that you heap all sorts of reproaches upon yourself, and whet the sword against sin. All this does not touch the principium of the knowledge of God. This is only touched, when you yourself know that a breach has taken place; and that sin has so broken you, that the channels, through which the knowledge of God flowed to you in virtue of your creation, have been stopped up and otherwise injured, and that thus it is an assured fact to you, that from this natural principium, however good in itself, because once broken and injured, no real knowledge of God can any more come to you. Then only will your consciousness be disposed to look upon a second, a different, a temporarily auxiliary, principium as natural; and with this disposition only will your consciousness be able to grasp the guarantee of the Divine witness in this witness itself. On the other hand, it is equally true that this deep sense of sin, by which you learn to know your state as broken before God, does not come to you from the natural principium, but only from this special principium. There is an interaction here. The more powerful your conviction of sin is, the more readily you grasp the special principium, as suited to your condition; and also, the more decided you are in your acceptance of the knowledge of God from this special principium, the deeper the sense of being a sinner before God will strike root in you. Later on it will be shown, how this witness of the Holy Spirit in its structure is also ethical in its nature. Here, however, let it be said, that this witness of the Holy Spirit always roots in the conviction of sin, and in degree of certainty runs parallel with the certainty of your sense of guilt.
What is said above would not lightly rouse contradiction, if this inspiration of God into the mind of the sinner took place individually. Even those who stand outside of this inspiration would then acknowledge that they can deny the reality of it for themselves, but not for others. But, and this is the difficulty, this principium does not work in this way. To speak plainly, there is no inspiration which goes out directly from God to the soul's consciousness of every one of the elect separately, and offers the same content to all, one by one; on the contrary, there is one central revelation given for all, and it is from this central revelation that every elect one is to draw for himself his knowledge of God. Public charity may provide each poor man a sum of money with which to buy provisions for himself, or may spread in a hall a common table from which all poor people may be fed. And thus it might be conceived that God should give to every sinner whom He chose a special light in the soul, an individual inspiration in his consciousness, and that every one should have enough of this for himself. This is what the mystics of every sort affirm. But such has not been the will of God. God the Lord has spread one table for His entire Church, has given one organically connected revelation for all, and it is from this one revelation designed for all, and which neither repeats nor continues itself, that the churches of all places and times, and in those churches every child of God, has to draw his knowledge of the Eternal Being. And the witness of this one central revelation which neither repeats nor continues itself, lies for us in the Holy Scripture. Not, of course, as though that Bible, by itself, were sufficient to give, to every one who reads it, the true knowledge of God. We positively reject such a mechanical explanation; and by their teaching of the witness of the Holy Spirit as absolutely indispensable for all conviction concerning the Scripture, by their requirement of illumination for the right understanding of the Scripture, and by their high esteem of the ministry of the Word for the application of the Scripture, our fathers have sufficiently shown that such a mechanical explanation cannot be ascribed to them. That they nevertheless took the Holy Scripture, and nothing else, as principium of the knowledge of God, yea, as the sole principium, had its ground in the circumstance that in the witness of the Holy Spirit, in the enlightening and in the application by the ministry of the Word, there is a recognition of what happens to or in the subject, in order that what has been revealed may be appropriated by him; but by these the knowledge of God itself is not increased nor changed. That knowledge of God as such does not come to the sinner from a mystical inworking of the Holy Spirit, neither from the illumination of the regenerate, nor from what the preacher adds to the Scripture, but simply from what he takes from the Scripture. Viewed from whatever point, the Holy Scripture always remains the real principium which brings about the knowledge of God. How this expression principium, applied to the Holy Scripture, is to be understood, can only be explained later on; it is enough that here we translate the individualistic-mystical conception of inspiration into the organically general one. When we viewed inspiration in relation to individual man, we said: In the sinner, so far as pertains to the knowledge of God, the natural principium has been maimed, so that no more new or sufficient knowledge of God comes to man through this channel. This is remedied by a second principium which as principium speciale is provisionally added to the first. This principium also is, if you please, God Himself, or goes out from God. He it is who inspires knowledge of Himself in a special manner into the mind of the sinner (in mentem hominis peccatoris modo speciali sui cognitionem inspirat); and consequently He alone can give assurance concerning His revelation. It concerns here a principium in the proper sense under or back of which therefore there can lie none other. Applying this to the central Revelation, we now say: Our human race, once fallen in sin, can have no more supply of pure or sufficient knowledge of God from the natural principium. Consequently God effects an auxiliary revelation for our human race, which, from a special principium of its own and under the necessary conditions, places a knowledge of God within the reach of the sinner which is suited to his condition. It took many centuries to accomplish this central Revelation, until it reached its completion. The description of this action of God, i.e. the providing of this central Revelation for our human race, is contained in the Holy Scripture. He who would know this central Revelation, must seek it therefore in the Holy Scripture. And in that sense the question, where the special principium with the central Revelation to our race as its fruit is now to be found, must be answered without hesitation as follows: In the Holy Scripture and in the Holy Scripture alone.
If, however, this is taken as if the knowledge of God hidden in the Bible, but not the Bible itself, has come to the sinner from God, then a link in the chain is cracked, and the chain breaks. For then indeed the Bible as such is nothing but an accidental, human annotation, and we have first to decide which parts of it do or do not hold firm. As criterium for this we have no individual inspiration; if we had, the whole conception of a central-organic revelation would again fall away. Hence we have no other criterium at our disposal than our natural principium. And thus the outcome of it must be, that from this untenable view-point you not only ravel out the Scripture by historic criticism, but also annul the content of the central Revelation and reduce it to the natural principium, in order finally to deny every special principium, and after the completed round of the circle to return to the nothing with which you began. Thus indeed it has actually taken place. Having stripped the whole Scripture of its leaves, having peeled and shelled it, we come back, after a struggle of eighteen centuries, by way of Origen, to the Greek philosophers, and the choice remains: Aristotle or Plato. This could not be otherwise, as soon as once the Scripture was placed outside the Revelation, and it was for the sake of protection against this that our fathers emphasized so strongly the Divine authorship of the Scripture as such. Even as your person, by an optical process, photographs itself and produces its own image upon the collodion plate, so it is likewise the Revelation itself which has given its own image in the Holy Scripture. The Scripture as the document of the central Revelation is therefore organically connected with that Revelation itself. The ice in which, in summer, cold is condensed and conserved for you, is organically one with the cold which it brings you. It was cold which caused the water to congeal, and from the ice the cool breath is refreshingly wafted to you. Therefore in olden times it was ever emphasized that the content and form of the Holy Scripture were most intimately and organically connected, and that not merely its content but also its form sprang from the principium speciale, i.e. from that special action which has gone out from God to our sinful race, in order to discover Himself to the sinner. The distinction of course between these two actions of the Holy Spirit must ever be kept in view; even more sharply than our fathers were accustomed to do this. For by their summary exposition they gave some occasion for the idea, that it were almost indifferent whether in earlier ages a real revelation had ever taken place, so long as we but had the Scripture. With a too high estimate of the chart which was drawn of the country, the country itself at times seemed a superfluity. In this way spiritual intellectualism was fed, and oftentimes the reality of history was sacrificed to a barren abstraction. The representation of a Bible dictated word for word did not originate from it, but was materially advanced by it: an error which of course cannot be overcome, except first the inspiration that operated in the revelation itself be separately considered, and then a proper representation be given of the inspiration that operated in and with the compilation of the canon of the Holy Scripture. But however strongly we emphasize that the real inspiration of the Scripture must be carefully distinguished from the inspiration of the revelation as entirely dissimilar, yet this may never be taken as though the one action of the Spirit stood in no organic relation to the other. Both, indeed, are expressions of the one will of God, to grant to our race, lost in sin, a central Revelation, and to bring this central Revelation within the reach of all ages and people.
For the simple believer it is, therefore, by no means necessary to consider this distinction, provided he makes no dogma of his own thoughtless representation, and with this dogma, formulated on his own authority, resists the accurate representation. How the central Revelation has come, concerns the believer only in so far as it must be to him the fruit of the grace of God — of God, and of that God in His grace. It is quite enough if the Holy Scripture is but the Word of God's grace, by which he may live and die. The Heidelberg Catechism requires, therefore, no theory concerning the Scripture, but merely asks that one believe, and believe in such a way, "that one hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in his word" (answer 21). The Scripture, and all the historic content of which that Scripture bears witness, is therefore not something by itself, which inserts itself with a certain independence between our consciousness and God, as the principium of revelation; but is as the wave of ether, upon which the beam of light from the source of light moves itself directly to our eye. To him who does not feel that, at the moment when he opens the Holy Scripture, God comes by and in it and touches his very soul, the Scripture is not yet the Word of God, or has ceased to be this; or it is this in his spiritual moments, but not at other times, as when the veil lies again on his heart, while again it is truly such when the veil is taken away. With the Holy Scripture it can never be a God afar off, and the Scripture a something God sends from afar. The telephone rather supplies an illustration that interprets this reality. God is, indeed, a God afar off; but He approaches you by and in the Scripture; unveils His presence to you; and speaks to you as though you were standing right by Him, and He drew you close beneath His wings. The action on God's side is not ended when the Scripture is completed for all nations. The revealing activity is then, indeed, completed and decided to the end, in so far as the central instrument is concerned, and nothing will ever be added to it; but this is not all. This central instrument of revelation is not placed in the midst of the world, in order that God may now look on and see what man will do with it. On the contrary, now follows that entirely distinct action of preserving the Scripture, of interpreting and of applying the Scripture, and — still more specially — of bringing the Scripture to individual souls, of preparing those souls for its reception, and bringing them in contact with it, and thus finally, by what our Reformed Theologians called providentia specialissima, of rendering this Scripture a special revelation for this and that given person. The confession of all those who have possessed the Scripture most fully and enjoyed it most richly, has ever been that it was God who brought them to the Scripture and the Scripture to them; that He opened their eyes, so that they might understand the Scripture; and that only by the light which shone on them from the Scripture, light has appeared in their own person and the life round about them.
At no single point of the way is there place, therefore, for a support derived from demonstration or reasoning. There is no man that seeks, and seeking finds the Scripture, and with its help turns himself to his God. But rather from beginning to end it is one ceaselessly continued action which goes out from God to man, and operates upon him, even as the light of the sun operates upon the grain of corn that lies hidden in the ground, and draws it to the surface, and causes it to grow into a stalk. In God, therefore, is the principium from which this entire action proceeds. This principium of grace in God brings it to pass that a central Revelation is established in and for our sinful race. That same principium is the agent by which the image of that Revelation is reflected in the Scripture. And it is again that same principium of grace, the motive power of which goes out to the soul of the sinner, that by the Scripture it may bind him personally to that Revelation, and by that Revelation back again to his God. From this it follows of itself that with each one personally you must distinguish between his experimental (netto) and purely intellectual (bruto) faith in the Scripture, i.e. between that in the Scripture which has been personally assured to his heart by the living God, and all the rest, which still lies outside of the life of his soul, and only bears a holy character for the sake of its connection with the first, though it is as yet unknown to him. The proportions of these experimental and intellectual faiths will be different with every individual according to the depth of his inner life and the flight of his wings. It will be constantly modified with each person whose life of faith advances, so that the experimental and intellectual faith will proportionately decrease and increase. But however this purely intellectual (bruto) faith may diminish, it is not conceivable that there has ever been one single believer to whom the entire Scripture has been the possession of his heart. This may even be maintained of those who have literally covered the entire Bible, and have served the Church of God with an exposition of its entire contents. Just because the Divine character of the Scripture rests for us exclusively on faith, the richest exposition can never constitute anything for us a Word of God. The distinction must clearly be maintained. What God Himself does not bear witness to in your soul personally (not mystic-absolutely, but through the Scriptures) can never be known and con. fessed by you as Divine. Finite reasoning can never obtain the infinite as its result. If God then withdraws Himself, if in the soul of men He bear no more witness to the truth of His Word, men can no longer believe, and no apologetics, however brilliant, will ever be able to restore the blessing of faith in the Scripture. Faith, quickened by God Himself, is invincible ; pseudo-faith, which rests merely upon reasoning, is devoid of all spiritual reality, so that it bursts like a soapbubble as soon as the thread of your reasoning breaks.
The relation between the principium of Theology and our consciousness can therefore be nothing else than immediate. Not immediate in the sense that God could not be pleased to make use of all kinds of transmissions, arrangements and processes, by which to reach man's inmost soul; but such that at no single point of the line the natural principium can come in between to fill up the void, which might remain open in the going out of the principium of grace to our heart. The principium gratiae operates from the side of God right through the periods of Revelation, the Scripture, the mystical union, etc., till our heart has been reached and touched; and our heart gives itself captive, not because critically it allows and approves the approach of God; but because it can offer no resistance, and must give itself captive to the operation which goes out from God.
All faith in the Scripture quickened by God, and in God quickened by the Scripture, which does not bear this immediate character, and would borrow its assurance from any course of reasoning, is therefore absurd. For you must accept one of two things, either that each one personally must reason this out for himself, or that only a few are able to do this, so that the others must depend upon these few. The first is impossible, for the simple reason that not one-tenth per cent. of the children of men are capable of entering upon the required investigation; and the second is equally impossible, since then you would substitute faith on human authority in the place of faith in God. Moreover, faith is not a demand that belongs to the more advanced periods of life, but it must be exercised from youth up; how, then, would you have faith be born as the result of a study, of which the best are not capable until the years of mid-life? It should also be observed, how in this way the faith of one would continually be shocked by the mistakes in the investigation of another. What would it profit you, if you had reached a sufficient and satisfactory result for yourself? Tomorrow a book appears with new objections, and then everything with you must remain unsettled, so long as you cannot successfully unnerve all those new objections. Scarcely, however, has this been accomplished, when still another advances new difficulties, and thus you are engulfed in an endless whirl between doubt and faith. Worse still: after a study of more than twelve centuries spent on the Scriptures, there is yet no faintest outlook that these studies will ever lead to a satisfactory result. The conflict concerning the Holy Scriptures will most likely be continued till the final return of the Lord. How, then, can faith ever rest on the result of these studies as foundation, when its presence has been a necessity from the beginning, and when in those early times, in which there was no question of these studies, faith was most vital and powerful? For no single moment, therefore, may we entertain the admission that argument may be the ground of conviction. This would be a "passing into another kind," which is logically condemned. Faith gives highest assurance, where in our own consciousness it rests immediately on the testimony of God; but without this support, everything that announces itself as faith is merely a weaker form of opinion based on probability, which capitulates the moment a surer knowledge supersedes your defective evidence.
And as regards the objection, that all this is very excellent, provided it does not include the Scriptures, and no other thought is entertained than of the mystical communion with the eternal Being, simple reference to what was explained in § 46 sq. would suffice; but even without this reference, we might say that, as a matter of fact, such faith has only shown itself where it concerned the Holy Scriptures. In other circles many different emotions have likewise been experienced, brilliant exhibitions of ethical heroism been seen, and many sorts of religious expressions observed, both aesthetic and otherwise; but here we treat of the "Knowledge of God " (Cognitio Dei) and of the principia from which this knowledge of God flows. And that faith, which leads individuals and whole circles to conscious worship, not of the "Unknown God" at Athens, but of the known Father who is in heaven, is not found, except where the Scriptures have been the Divine instrument, in God's hand, of that knowledge.
§ 70. Relation between this Principium and the Natural Principium
The acknowledgment of the Holy Scriptures as the principium of theology gives rise to an antithesis between this principium and the common principium of our knowledge. From this antithesis a certain relation between the two is born, and this relation also must be investigated. We speak here only of theology in the narrower sense as knowledge of God (cognitio Dei), and in so far we might limit ourselves to the relation between natural and revealed theology (theologia naturalis and revelata), which is virtually the contents of this section. But this we will not do. First, because the formal action of our thinking is also involved, and secondly, because with natural theology one thinks more of the content, while here we are interested almost exclusively with the principium from which this content flows.
As stated above, the natural principium not only may not be ignored, but is even permanent and lasting, while the special principium falls away as soon as its task is ended. Only with this reservation can we speak of a twofold principium. A twofold principium of knowledge is thinkable with reference to different objects, as, for instance, God and the cosmos; but not, as in this case, with reference to God alone. In both cases indeed, in natural and in revealed theology, we speak of knowledge of God, of knowledge, therefore, of the same God, and of knowledge of the same God to be obtained by the same subject, i.e. man, or more correctly, humanity. No doubt a temporary inability in man may render the knowledge of God no more sufficiently possible for him in the normal way, and thus it must be supplied in an abnormal way; but this does not modify the fundamental plan, and the outcome must ever be, that the knowledge of God is imparted to humanity in the normal, and hence in only one way. At present nature stands temporarily over against grace; but in the end, in glorified nature, there will be no more question of grace. All that the Holy Scripture teaches concerning the knowledge of God in its consummation, aims, indeed, at a condition in which the abnormality of the ordinance of redemption falls entirely away, and whatever was grounded in creation returns, but carried up to its end (WXo?). In part it even seems as though Christ then effaces Himself, in order that it may be "God all in all." Even as Christ before His death pointed His disciples away from Himself to the Father, saying: "I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loveth you."
This implies at the same time, that the eternally enduring knowledge of God, possessed by the redeemed, shall not be after the nature of the special, but according to the nature of the natural principium. However rich the dispensation of grace may be, it ever remains a bandage applied to the injured part of the body, and is never that vital part itself. When a wound of the throat prevents the taking of food in the common way, it may be brought into the stomach artificially. The purpose of this, however, is always to save life, by the vitality thus saved to bring on healing, so that finally food may again enter the stomach in the normal way through the throat. The scaffolding placed before a dilapidated gable may be the only enclosure about the house for a long time, and may render it quite invisible, but the purpose in view is, that presently the scaffold shall disappear, and the house itself be seen again, and remain in its normal condition. In a similar sense it must be confessed of the original principium of knowledge, that by sin it has become temporarily insufficient and has been rendered incapable; that consequently the temporary aid of another principium has become indispensable; but that the tendency of this can be no other than to restore the natural principium, i.e. the principium grounded in our nature to its normal activity; and as soon as this has been realized, to dismiss the special principium, which renders merely a temporary service. Let no misunderstanding, however, enter here. We by no means assert that the purpose of extraordinary revelation is to restore us to the knowledge of God which Adam had. All knowledge we possess in this earthly dispensation shall pass away, and in place of this defective knowledge there is to come the "seeing face to face." Even now the form of our consciousness differs by day and by night; ecstasy and vision affect us differently from common fancy and sober reasoning. But this effects no change in our psychic constitution. Even if you imagine sin never to have entered, so that no ruin of our nature had taken place, and there would consequently have been no question of a special revelation, the knowledge, nevertheless, which Adam had as connate, would sometime have passed into the "seeing face to face." The butterfly exhibits an entirely different form from the caterpillar, and yet that butterfly came forth from the natural conditions of the caterpillar, without any assistance in the transition from an abnormal something. Call the knowledge which Adam had in paradise the caterpillar, and the "knowing face to face" the beautiful butterfly, and you perceive how this higher and to be completed knowledge belongs, nevertheless, to the sphere of the natural and not to the sphere of the special principium.
This, however, has been heretofore too much overlooked by orthodox theology. Losing itself almost entirely in the content of the special revelation, it has taken this too much for the essential one, and has scarcely been able to represent it otherwise than that this special revelation is to be permanent. The insight, that of course the Scripture ceases its use to us with our dying, that after death no sacrament is any more conceivable, and that in the realm of glory the Christological period, if we may so express it, shall disappear, in order that the triune God may again be "all in all " has not been given its place even dogmatically. Rome, by the action of the church on earth in behalf of the dead, had concentrated eschatology entirely into the period preceding the Judgment-day; the Reformation neglected eschatology sorely; what from the side of modern orthodoxy has been supplied in our times to make us think of a church with a soteriologic ministry beyond the grave, has occasioned mere confusion; when the state of the blest was considered, it was more a mystical fanaticism than the sober putting of the question of the consciousness of the redeemed: it is not strange, therefore, that the question, from what "principium of knowledge" the redeemed will think, was not even formulated. Light on the subject, however, was not wanting. "Prophecies, tongues, knowledge," everything that constitutes our riches here, will disappear, according to the word of the apostle. Special revelation is called a "glass," which renders temporary aid, to receive for us the image and reflect it back again; but that glass also shall sometime belong to the past. And then there comes an entirely different knowing, even as we are known, which includes of itself, that this knowledge will come to us entirely by the data provided in creation. Not of course so as to lose anything of what was revealed in the rich revelation of the mercy of God in an uncommon way, but, and herein lies the mystery, in order to take up this rich gain into our normal existence; which mystery finds its explanation in the dogma de Christo. It is revealed to us, that the Mediator shall make surrender of the kingdom to God, even the Father, but in such a way, that He Himself remains eternally the Head of His mystical body (corpus mysticum). The Christ will not disappear, in order that Adam may again take his place as head of our race. On the contrary, Adam never resumes the place of honor lost by sin ; but the mystery is this,—that Christ shall sometime be no longer the interposed Mediator, but the natural Head of the human race in glory. This, however, may not detain us now. But the suggestion of the dogmatic relation between the question in hand in this section, and the questions of eschatology and Christology, was necessary. And provisionally our purpose is accomplished, if it is clear, why the whole dispensation of special grace passes away, and how in consequence the special principium of knowledge, from which theology draws its life, is destined sometime to disappear into the natural principium.
This, however, does not explain the mutual relation of the two, though this indeed is most necessary, if we hope to escape the false representations abroad, especially concerning natural theology (theologia naturalis). If at first the Reformation fostered more accurate ideas, soon the temptation appeared too strong, to place natural theology as a separate theology alongside of special theology (theologia specialis). The two were then placed mechanically side by side. To natural theology we owed the knowledge of God's Being, of the Divine attributes, of His works, providence, moral law, the last judgment, etc., and although special theology made us know a great deal of sin and grace, in fact it enriched the real knowledge of God only with the knowledge of His "Grace" and of His "Threefold Being "; at least, in so far as real clearness is concerned; for the fundamental feature of this mystery too was soon thought to be also found among the Heathen. With this division it became apparent, that the real Theology as knowledge of God gave the lion's share to natural theology, and that the theology of grace, while it occupied itself with many and exalted mys-\ teries, in reality abandoned the foundation of all knowledge
of God, and therefore the heart of the matter, to its twin sister. This furnished natural theology the occasion to unfold its wings ever more broadly; to expand itself and lessen the importance of special theology; until finally it has succeeded in stepping forth as a monarch and in contesting all right of utterance to special theology. And this could not be otherwise, and will repeat itself again and again, so long as the error is committed of representing special theology as sufficient in itself, and of making natural theology do service as Martha by the side of Mary. It is, therefore, of the greatest importance, to see clearly, that special theology may not be considered a moment without natural theology, and that on the other hand natural theology of itself is unable to supply any pure knowledge of God.
That special revelation (revelatio specialis) is not conceivable without the hypothesis of natural theology, is simply because grace never creates one single new reality. This does not even take place in miracles. In no miracle does anything originate which is to be added as a new element to the existing cosmos. The very possibility of this is inconceivable and would destroy the organic character of the cosmos. In regeneration no new component part, which in creation lay outside of our being, is added to man. And even in the incarnation it is no new " Divine-human nature," which as something new (novum quid) is added to what exists, but our own human nature that becomes the revelation of that same God, who stood over against Adam in the creation. That in heaven no new reality has originated, needs no assertion. But since neither in heaven nor on earth any new reality is created by grace, how can special revelation stand on a root of its own? If you go outside of reality, then, it is a fiction with which you cannot deal. If, on the other hand, as the Church confesses, it lays hold upon the reality of heaven and earth, then it can be no other than the existing reality, and in order to be true, it cannot borrow its strength from any but that existing reality. All that the Scriptures teach, therefore, concerning "the making of all things new," the "new creature" and the works in Christ," views at no time anything but new relations, new methods of existence, new forms, and never puts us face to face with a newly originated element. As far as the substance is concerned, God remains unchangeable, the being of man is now what it was before the fall, and the cosmos is indeed impaired, but always the identical world of Gen. i. 1. In man also no new capacities are created, for even faith (as was shown above) roots in our nature, as created by God in Paradise. In what domain then can the reality be found, in which a special grace, outside of natural life, could soar on wings of its own? Where would be the spot to offer it a resting-place for the sole of its foot? This entire representation, therefore, as though grace had produced a knowledge of God of its own, which as competitor runs by the side of natural theology, must be most decidedly rejected. There can be no such special theology; it is simply unthinkable. When Calvin, therefore, speaks of the "seed of religion" which is present in every sinner, and our Confessio JBelgica teaches in Art. 2, "that we know God by two means, Nature and the Scriptures," this may not be taken in the sense of the later rationalistic supranaturalists, for there lies in it only the simple confession, that without the basis of natural theology there is no special theology. "God has given to all," says Calvin, " some apprehension of his existence, the memory of which he frequently and insensibly renews" (Inst. Mel. Chr. I. 3. i.). "So that the sense of the Divinity can never be entirely lost" (Ibidem). And it is upon the canvas of this natural knowledge of God itself that the special revelation is embroidered. He expresses it so accurately and beautifully: "the Scripture, collecting in our minds the otherwise confused notions of Deity, dispels the darkness, and gives us a clear view of the true God" (Inst. I. 6. i.). It is, therefore, beside the truth when the separate mention of Nature and the Scripture in the Reformed confessions is taken as an indication of our principium of knowledge, by way of juxtaposition or coordination. Later dogmatici may have taught this, but it is not in accord with the spirit of Calvin or of the Reformed type of doctrine. His metaphor, that the Bible is a pair of spectacles which enables us to read the Divine writing in nature, may be insufficient as an explanation of the problem in hand; in any case it cuts off absolutely every representation that the idea of natural and special theology as two concurrent magnitudes is derived from Calvin.
If we might choose another metaphor to explain the relation between the two, entirely in the spirit of Calvin but more fully, the figure of the grafted tree pleases us most. He who grafts, plants no new tree, but applies himself to one that exists. That tree is alive, it draws its sap from the roots, but this vital sap is wild, in consequence of which the tree can bear no fruit that is desired. And now the grafter comes, and inserts a nobler graft, and thereby brings it to pass that this vital sap of the wild tree is changed, so that the desired fruit now ripens on the branches. This new graft does not stand by the side of the wild tree, but is in it; and if the grafting is a success, it may equally well be said that the true graft lives by the old tree, as that the uncultivated tree is of use solely because of the new graft. And such, indeed, is the case here. The wild tree is the sinner, in whose nature works the natural principium of the knowledge of God as an inborn impelling power. If you leave this natural principium to itself, you will never have anything else than wild wood, and the fruit of knowledge does not come. But when the Lord our God introduces from without, and thus from another principium, a shoot of a true plant, even the principle of a pure knowledge into this wild tree, i.e. into this natural man, then there is not a man by the side of a man, no knowledge by the side of a knowledge, but the wild energy remains active in this human nature, i.e. incomplete knowledge; while the ingrafted new principium brings it to pass, that this impelling power is changed and produces the fruit of true knowledge. The special knowledge is, indeed, a new and proper principium, but this principium joins itself to the vital powers of our nature with its natural principium; compels this principium to let its life-sap flow through another channel; and in this way cultivates ripe fruit of knowledge from what otherwise would have produced only wood fit for fire.
If now we investigate the meaning of this figure, entirely clear by itself, it appears at once that the grafting of true upon wild wood is only possible because both, however different in quality, are one, nevertheless, in disposition of nature. Grafting succeeds the better in proportion to the closeness of correspondence between the two kinds of wood, and if all relationship were wanting between wild and true wood, grafting would simply be impossible. For the subject in hand, this means that natural and special theology possess a higher unity, are allied to one another, and, by virtue of this unity and relationship, are capable of affecting each other. This higher unity lies (1) in God, (2) in man, and (3) in the purpose for which the life of grace, and consequently the special knowledge, comes forward. In God, because the principium of natural, as well as of special, knowledge lies in Him; because He remains the object of both kinds of knowledge; and because the revelation of His grace is revelation of grace in Him who created natural life for the glory of His name. Secondly, in man, since it is the same ego that draws knowledge from both principia; since in this ego it is one and the same consciousness in which this knowledge of God is taken up; and since it is no other kind of man, but the very man who fell, who as sinner needs the knowledge of this grace. And, finally, in the purpose of the special knowledge, which consists not in a cutting off of our natural life, but in the restoration of that same life, which is ours by nature, into a normal state guaranteed against a new fall. Special revelation does not begin, therefore, by ignoring what has already been effected by natural revelation, but unites itself to this in so positive a sense, that without these sparks (scintillae) or remnants (rudera) it were itself unthinkable; and for this reason Reformed Theology has ever resisted the Lutheran representation as though the sinner were merely "a stock or block." If the "seed of religion" did not operate in the sinner, he would not be susceptible to special revelation. Whatever still remains in the sinner of this seed of religion and the knowledge of God connected with this, is, therefore, adopted by special revelation, as the indispensable instrument by which it operates. Without this, it neither reaches nor touches man, remains an abstraction, and misses its form of existence. How can there be a sense of sin without the sense of God, or susceptibility for grace without the consciousness of guilt? The Holy Bible is, therefore, neither a law-book nor a catechism, but the documentation of a part of human life, and in that human life of a divine process. Of the Apocalyptic vision only, it can be said that it misses this quality in part; but because of this very antithesis with the Apocalypse, one perceives at once the real human character of all the other parts of the revelationlife. Nowhere in the Scriptures do you find, therefore, an attempt to divide into certain compartments what is severally supplied by natural and special knowledge; but, throughout, you find the special revelation grafted upon the natural. Natural knowledge is not only assumed by the special, but only in this does it fully assert itself. Knowledge is the pinnacle which is not placed on the ground alongside of the steeple, but is supported by the body of the steeple and is lifted up on high. You may not say, therefore: This is my natural revelation, in addition to which comes the special. For as a result, you obtain but one "knowledge of God," the content of which has flowed to you from both sources, whose waters have mingled themselves.
And if for this reason an exhibition of the special knowledge without the natural is inconceivable, the representation is equally absurd that the natural knowledge of God, without enrichment by the special, could ever effect a satisfying result. The outcome has shown that this natural knowledge, as soon as it threw off the bridle of paradise tradition, led the masses to idolatry and brutalization, and the finer minds to false philosophies and equally false morals. Paul indicates one of these two phases by the remark, that there was first a condition in which the natural knowledge of God allowed "that which may be known of God" (Rom. i. 19) to be manifest, but that this was followed by the period in which God gave the sinner up (irapeBa>Ke). Not to speak now of that first period, it is clear that at least after that the natural knowledge of God could lead to no result; not even in philosophy, of which the same apostle testifies that the "wisdom of the world is made foolish" (1 Cor. i. 20). Hence it is only by the special knowledge that the natural knowledge becomes serviceable. By the light of the Scripture the sinner becomes able to give himself an account of the "seed of religion" in his heart and of the " divine things" visible in the cosmos; but, where this light hides itself even upon the Areopagus I advance no farther than to the Unknown God.
If therefore this entire juxtaposition, as though a special knowledge of God stood side by side with a natural knowledge of God, falls away, the way is cleared thereby to view more accurately the relation between the two principia of this knowledge thus distinguished. Both principia are one in God, and the beam of this light is only broken when the soundness of our human heart is broken by sin. The knowledge-bringing impulse goes out from God to us; the active element, the first mover (primum movens), as the ultimate cause (principium remotissimum), lies in the Divine Being. This impulse of self-communication to man attains its end completely in creation by the whole instrumentation for the natural knowledge. And where, after sin, this Divine impulse encounters an evil cataract, which prevents the entrance of light, this impulse seeks and finds another and more sure way by special revelation. Hence it is the same God, and in that God the same impulse, by which both principia appear in action. That in the origin of all things, or, more particularly, in God's eternal counsel, both these stood in this unity before God, cannot detain us here, since this belongs to the domain of dogmatics; but here it must be indicated that the natural principium lays the foundation of all knowledge, and that the special principium either fails of its purpose or must adapt itself entirely to the provisions that are original in the creation. Even the miracles, whose character cannot be considered closely here, link no new element into the sum of things, but, so far as their origin is concerned, they are entirely identical with the wondrous power which became manifest in the creation itself. The same is true of the several means, which God has employed, to introduce the special revelation into our human consciousness. In the interests of this also you see no new or other capacities appear in man; but merely the application in a peculiar manner of what was given in the creation. Before the fall God speaks with Adam, God causes a deep sleep to come upon Adam, and, by an encroaching act of God, Eve enters upon existence. God has entrance to our heart by nature, and not first by grace; He is able to rule the human spirit by His Spirit; and able to communicate to man what He will. The communication of the test-commandment is an immediate communication of a conscious thought, which could not rise from Adam's own consciousness. Actually, therefore, in special revelation no single means is used which was not already present by nature in or about man. No new structure is provided for human consciousness. All that has taken place is, that God the Lord has restored a few broken strings of the instrument, tuned these restored strings in a different way, and by this immediate modification He has evoked such a tone from the instrument as, being without significance to sinless man, had become indispensable to the sinner. Hence there would have been no question of a second principium, if there were not this act of God, by which He has accommodated Himself to the sinner. It is with this, as it is with you, when for the sake of making yourself understood by a member of the family who has become deaf, you no longer choose his ear as a vehicle for your thoughts, but make him read with his eyes the words from your lips. Thus, when we became deaf to God, He has employed a different means by which to make Himself knowable to us; and in so far as with a deaf person the hearing of sound and the reading of lips might be called a different "principium of knowledge," there is here also the mention of such different principles, but only in so far. There has gone out an act from God to reveal Himself to the sinner, however deaf this one had become; for this God has availed Himself of the means that were present in the creation, but which were now applied in a different way; and it is by this abnormal act of God, brought about by the modified application of present means, that special revelation was established; and in this, i.e. in this abnormal act of God, brought about by means applied in a different way, lies the special principium for the knowledge of God as All-Merciful to sinners. When croup prevents the breathing in of air, the heroic operation in the throat is sometimes undertaken, in order in this way to obtain a new opening for the supply of fresh air; but they are still the same lungs for which the air is intended, and it is the same atmosphere from which the air is drawn; only another entrance has been unlocked temporarily, and in so far a different principium of respiration has been established. In this sense it can be said, that the normal entrance, which in creation God had unlocked for Himself to our heart, had become inaccessible by sin, and that for this reason, by an act of heroic grace, God has temporarily opened for Himself another entrance to our heart, to reveal Himself as the same God to the same creature, only now with the aid of a different principium of revelation.
In God, who is and always will be Himself the principium of all being (essentia) and all knowing (cognitio), nothing else is conceivable than the unity of principium. But when from His eternal being our becoming is born, there is majesty in this eternal being to maintain His divine identity over against every abnormal process in our becoming; and this takes place by the appearance of the special principium. which actually is nothing else but the maintenance of God's holiness over against our sin, of God's truth over against our falsehood, and of God's counsel over against the demoniacal design of Satan.
§ 71. Is the Natural Principium able to summon the Special Principium before its Tribunal?
Having freed ourselves, in the preceding section, of all dualism, which is so often inserted between the two principia of Divine knowledge, we now face the no less important question, whether the natural principium, either formally or materially, is to sit in judgment upon the special principium. This is the frequent claim. They who oppose us, and do not recognize another principium alongside of the natural data, continually demand, that we demonstrate the reality and the reliability of the special principium at the bar of human reason. And to a certain extent this demand is fair, at least over against Methodism, and, in fact, over against every dualistic tendency, which, in the sense we disapprove, places special revelation as a new unit alongside of the natural principium, as though the latter were under sentence of death, and the special principium could furnish the guarantee of eternal permanency. Over against every representation of this character our conviction remains dominant that our life, as originally given in the Creation, is the substratum of our real existence ; that as such it is and remains for us the real; and that, therefore, whatever special revelation may supply, must be taken up into this and, for us personally, can only thus obtain its reality. From this, however, it does not follow that the natural principium should be qualified to judge the special revelation. If special revelation assumes that in consequence of sin the normal activity of the natural principium is disturbed, this implies of itself that the natural principium has lost its competency to judge. He who considers it possessed of this competency declares thereby eo ipso that it is still normal, and thus removes all sufficient reason for a special revelation. You must either deny it the right of judgment, or, if you grant it this right, the object disappears upon which judgment shall be passed. The psychiater, who treats the maniac, cannot render his method of treatment dependent upon the judgment of his patient. Equally little can you attribute this right of judgment over the special principium to the natural principium, if you consider the character of a principium. As soon as you grant that special revelation falls under the judgment of your natural principium, it is hereby denied eo ipso that it has proceeded from a principium of its own. No other judgment except death unqualified ("la mort sans phrase") is here possible for the special principium, simply because a judgment, derived from the natural principium deeming itself normal, cannot posit a second principium. A principium in its own sphere is exclusive. In order to subject the principium of theology to the judgment of another principium, you must first confess that it is no real principium. For a thing is either no principium, or it must be autonomous and sufficient unto itself.
This is of the more force, in this instance, insomuch as the natural principium, taking its stand in judgment over against us, presents itself as unimpaired, and pretends to be normal. If it recognized the reality of another principium, it would at the same time imply the confession, that it itself has become disabled, and is consequently in need of the corrective or of the supplement of another principium. Hence this question also has a moral side. If self-knowledge, quickened by the inshining of a higher light, leads to the recognition that the natural principium has become imperfect, then it is most natural (1) to grant the necessity of a corrective principium, and at the same time (2) to recognize that our darkened natural principium is incompetent to pass judgment. If, on the other hand, I stand in the high-spirited conviction that the natural principium is in good order, that nothing is wanting in it, and that consequently it has the right of supremacy, then it follows that every corrective must seem insulting, upon all of which alike I must pass the sentence of death, and that I cannot rest until each corrective lies executed under the dissecting knife of criticism. The outcome, indeed, has shown that this standpoint has never been taken and maintained with any degree of consistency, without the whole of special revelation being always and inexorably declared to be the product of delusion or of self-deception. Grace has been granted only to those component parts of this revelation which allowed themselves to be brought over to the natural principium. Every effort to defend the good right of your position is therefore entirely vain, over against a man of thought, who holds the natural principium to be unimpaired, and who has not himself come under the overwhelming power of the special principium. Being as he is, he can do nothing else than dispute your special revelation every right of existence; to move him to a different judgment you should not reason with him, but change him in his consciousness; and since this is the fruit of regeneration, it does not lie with you, but with God.
From this, again, it does not follow that you may now accept everything that comes into your mind, and that thus you may be unreasonable with yourself. Reformed Theology has always antagonized this caprice, and in imitation of the Cur Deus homo? of Anselm it has, with reference also to special revelation, first of all instituted an investigation into the necessitous Sacrae Scripturae. He who, thanks to the inshining of higher light, has perceived the darkening of the natural principium, and has given himself captive to the special principium, cannot on this account abandon his reason, but is bound to try to understand these two facts in their mutual relation and in relation to the reality in which he finds himself. This is both demanded and rendered possible by what we found in the last section concerning the relation of the special principium to our creaturely capacities; even in the sense, that one is able to see for himself the reasonableness of his conviction and confession; is able to prove this to those who start out from similar premises; and can place them before the opponent in such a light that, with the assumption of our premises, he can accept our conclusions.
The argument may even then be continued concerning those premises themselves, more particularly with reference to the question, whether our reason is in a condition of soundness or of darkening; but suppose that the unsoundness or abnormality of our reason be granted on both sides, this would by no means compel the opponent to accept the special principium which we defend. From the coincidence of the facts, that one of your children is lost and that I have found a lost child, it does not in the least follow, that the child I have found is your child. Even though it were frankly granted that something is lacking in our reason, that our reason by itself is insufficient, — yes, that it calls for a complement, — the conclusion can never be logically drawn from this that the Sacra Scriptura, or, better still, the special principium lying back of this, either is or offers this complement. Even though you compel the opponent to recognize, that your special principium fits into the imperfection of your natural principium as a piece of china into a broken dish, this would not prove the reality of this natural principium. For it could still be answered, that the defect would surely be supplemented, if indeed a revelation, such as you pretend, were at our disposal; but that this is the very thing in which you are mistaken; that your special principium, with its supposed fruit in the Sacra Scriptura, is nothing but the shadow cast upon the wall by the existing defect; is the product of your own imagination; the minus balance of your account changed into plus. In a word, there would always be defence ready against the proof that this special principium is real, and this proof is not possible of any principium. Could this be furnished, it would eo ipso cease to be a principium.
But this will not be reached. For though you succeed in showing that your reason founders upon antinomies, that it finds itself shut up within limits which cannot be made to agree with the impulse after knowledge that works in it, and that it leaves the higher aspirations of our nature unsatisfied, this has no compelling force with him who has an interest in not accepting your special principium. For he can make good his escape by the way of agnosticism, which accepts the incomplete character of our knowledge as an iron necessity; or make the side-leap to the pantheistic process, which calculates that from the incomplete the complete of itself will gradually come forth. Moreover, though he evade you in this manner, you may not question the honesty of your opponent. From your own point of view you acknowledge that he who stands outside of spiritual illumination does not perceive, and cannot perceive, the real condition of his own being, nor of his reason. In a religiousethical sense you may indeed say, that the impulse of his opposition is enmity against God; but this does not make him dishonest as a man of science, within the domain of logic. He takes his premises, as they actually present themselves to him, and so far acknowledges with you, that in the natural principium there is something that does not satisfy us; but he disputes that, for the present at least, it needs to satisfy us, and more still, that the satisfaction, of which you boast, is anything more than appearance.