FIFTY YEARS OF THEOLOGY1
This occasion is a memorable one. We celebrate the completion of a half-century of service. To be a teacher for fifty years; to be a teacher of Christian doctrine; to be a teacher of the teachers of Christian doctrine; and so to teach as to form and guide the public opinion of thousands of churches, to dissuade them from unscriptural extremes, to preserve their denominational unity, to keep them true to their ancient faith and true to Christ, their Lawgiver and Lord—this is a great gift of God to any man, and it is this great gift of God which we recognize to-night.
It is impossible to sever official from personal influence. President Hovey's public work is inseparable from his mental traits and his private character. It is his accuracy and insight, his calmness and candor, his just judgment and Christian spirit, that have made him revered as an instructor, trusted as a counselor, and beloved as a friend. The institution of which he has been so many years the head has had many illustrious names on its roll of professors, but it is he, more than any other, that has given it its fame. In popular esteem Newton and he are identified, and in this case we are confident that the voice of the people is the voice of God.
1 An Address at the Fiftieth Anniversary of Doctor Hovey's connection with Newton Theological Institution as professor, June 7, 1899.
Doctor Hovey is identified not only with Newton,, but with his time. The period during which he has lived and done his work has influenced him as he has influenced it. His spirit and the spirit of the age have been alike eirenical. While he has contended earnestly for essential truth, his methods have not been polemic. He has spoken the truth in love; he has followed after things that make for peace. I read that
Fifty years after the death of Melancthon, Leonhard Hutter, his successor in the chair of Theology at Wittenberg, on an occasion when the authority of Melancthon was appealed to, tore down from the wall the portrait of the great Reformer, and in the presence of the assemblage trampled it under foot.
This fury of controversy now seems barbaric and ludicrous. We have learned that he who is not against us is for us. We emphasize the things we hold in common more than the things in which we differ. The theological war drums throb no longer, and he whom we honor to-night has done his full share in quieting them. If any of our modern saints are to inherit the title of Thomas Aquinas let it be he, and let us call him our " Doctor Angelicus."
With this change in spirit there has come also a change in the apprehension of Christian truth. We recognize elements of good in systems with which on the whole we differ. We absorb the new instead of throwing it out. We hold fast all that which is good, while we are ready to grant that there are more things in heaven and earth than have yet been dreamed of in our philosophy. One of the best qualities of our respected leader is his open-mindedness, his hospitality ALL SCIENCE IS PROGRESSIVE
to new ideas, his willingness to modify his views with the new light which conies to him from science and exegesis. While he holds stoutly to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, he believes that our statements of doctrine not only may improve, but ought to improve, with the process of the suns.
Here too, he represents his age. It is an age that holds to the possibility and the duty of progress in religious thought. When Wordsworth, in his sublime "Ode to Duty," wrote
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
And the most ancient heavens through thee are firm and strong,
he did not doubt that astronomy was capable of improvement. The laws of nature do not change, but man's knowledge of them certainly advances. The nature of God and the nature of man are the same that they were when Paul wrote his Epistles, but our understanding of Paul, and so our understanding of God and of man, is more complete than that of our fathers was. Theology is a science, and like all other sciences it reflects the present attainment of the human mind. It is never complete or finished; it is not to-day precisely what it was yesterday, nor can we prevent its progress in the future any more than we can sweep back the tides with a broom.
Our honored father and friend will not then regard it as incongruous with this semi-centennial occasion if I take for my subject: Fifty Years Of Theology. As I attempt to describe the changes and improvements which these last fifty years have wrought, he will be able to say at every step: Quorum magnaque pars fui. I shall have occasion to note in this last half-century some lapses from the truth as well as some enlarged apprehensions of it. But for these lapses it will be very plain that Doctor Hovey is not responsible. Let me first, however, try to indicate where theology was when he began to teach. A rapid survey of the preceding doctrinal development will prepare us better to appreciate what has been done in our own time.
The history of theology, like all other history, is the progressive summing up of all things in Christ. For he is the center of all, and without him no philosophy of history is possible. Schopenhauer had no Christ, and so admitted no philosophy of history,—to him history was the mere fortuitous play of individual caprice. A critic stood before one of Turner's pictures. It seemed all mist and cloud—hazy, formless, and incomprehensible. As the critic was about to turn away perplexed and discomfited, Turner himself stepped forward, and with his brush added a single dot of scarlet to the picture. That brought all the other parts into proper relation to one another, suggested the proper point of view, made the whole work intelligible. So Christ's coming and Christ's blood make history intelligible. He through whom and unto whom all things were created carries in his girdle the key to all the mysteries of the world. Only the Lamb that was slain can execute and so make known the decrees of God, because only he can prevail to open the book of God's decrees and to loose the seals thereof.
It is sometimes said that Christianity is in debt to modern science. It is far more true that modern science is in debt to Christianity. The guiding thought CHRIST GIVES THE SENSE OF UNITY 185
of modern science is that of unity. This sense of unity Christ virtually gave to man when he died for him upon the cross. The feeling of personality existed indeed before, but it was weak; and since the idea of unity is derived from no other source than our own self-consciousness, man could not see unity outside of him until he saw himself as a single person. When he realized that the Son of God had given up all to save him, he could no longer regard himself as a mere congeries of impressions or as the mere victim of circumstance. There arose within him the ineradicable conviction of the singleness, the dignity, and the worth of his own being. Christ's cry from the cross, "It is finished !" was a trumpet call to the human will to believe in its unity and to assert its freedom. Just as men before Christ suspected that death did not end all, and hoped for a life beyond the grave, but reached assurance only when Christ by his resurrection from the dead brought life and immortality to light, so before Christ the belief in personality was weak, and even philosophers like Plato and Aristotle saw no clear dividing line between man and nature ; but since Christ died and rose again belief in the unity of the soul, its immeasurable superiority to nature, its infinite worth, and its immortal destiny, has become an unwavering conviction, no longer shrouded in obscurity but standing forth in the clear daylight of recognized reality.
With belief in the unity of man's being came belief in the unity of God. No longer could men rid themselves of the notion of responsibility to one moral Lawgiver and Judge by dividing up his manifestations and attributing them to separate wills. Milton well represents the birth of Jesus as signalizing the downfall of polytheism:
Peor and Baalim
Forsake their temples dim .
Nor all the gods beside
Longer dare abide,
when once the God of gods and Lord of lords has come. But while it has been noted that Christ's coming gave final and convincing proof of the unity of God, it has not been noted that his coming was also the first demonstration of the unity of nature. Humboldt, in his "Cosmos," points out that the unity and creative agency of the heavenly Father have given unity to the order of nature, and so have furnished the modern impulse to physical science. But let us recognize the equally important fact that this is the work of Christ. It is only he who has revealed the unity and creative agency of the heavenly Father, only he who has shown heaven and earth to be one, and so only he has made it possible to speak of a "universe."
The unity of the soul, the unity of God, the unity of nature,—these three are discoveries of Christ. They had no scientific precision, they had no universal acceptance, before his advent. As logical implications of his teaching, his work, his divinity, they have gradually taken possession of the world. But still the soul, nature, and God have been kept apart from each other, and have been regarded at times as mutually independent. An instance of this is found in the philosophy of fifty years ago. Subjective idealism invaded our schools of learning. It despised the external world, and regarded the body as having no essential part or THE IMMANENCE OF GOD
lot in man's being. And a yet more marked illustration is found in the theology of our fathers. Deism had unconsciously infected it, and many Christian thinkers had come to look on the universe as a house built indeed by God, but from which the Builder had shut himself out, locking the door behind him, and then tying his own hands so that he could not even use the key.
The last half-century of theology has been, in its innermost substance and meaning, a profound reaction against deism. It has been a practical rediscovery of God in the universe and in the soul. I am proposing to describe this movement of our time by indicating in order some of the elements which compose it. And the first which I shall notice is the great truth of the immanence of God. We differ from our fathers by interpreting nature not mechanically but dynamically. To us her symbol is no longer that of Paley's watch, but that of Darwin's flower. God does not create a universe which goes of itself without his presence or control, but the universe is full of his life and is the constant expression of his mind and will.
We speak of the book of nature; but nature is not so much a book as a voice, or, to use Bishop Berkeley's noble words, "God's ceaseless conversation with his creatures." The Scriptures do not content themselves with past tenses; the heavens declare the glory of God and the God of glory thundereth,—nature, in other words, is the manifestation of a present God. Herschell said that the force of gravitation seems like that of a universal will. We may go further and say that it not only seems like will, but that it is will. And this is only Augustine's doctrine: Dei voluntas est rerum natura. What we call nature's laws are nothing but God's generic volitions, his regular, and, as it were, automatic activities,—no less free because they are regular and no less regular because they are free.
Even within the last twenty-five years there has been a notable change in the spirit and temper of scientific men, and this change has inured to the benefit of theology- Just a quarter of a century ago John Tyndall, in his opening address as President of the British Association at Belfast, declared that in matter was to be found the promise and potency of every form of life. But only last year Sir William Crookes, in his address at Birmingham as President of that same British Association, reversed the apothegm and declared that in life he saw the promise and potency of every form of matter. The days of materialism indeed are numbered. The old materialism has given place to materialistic idealism, and that in turn to a conception of matter so ethereal that it can no longer be distinguished from spirit. Martineau has well said that matter, as scientific men of late describe it, "but for the spelling of its name, does not seem to differ appreciably from our old friends, Mind and God." More and more it is seen that nature is the constant manifestation of an infinite intelligence and life, and that this intelligence and life can be none other than those of the immanent God.
Our generation is coming to recognize God's immanence in the soul, as well as in nature. As nature is throbbing with life because God is in the molecular as well as in the molar masses of the universe, so humanity is throbbing with life because humanity lives, moves, GOD IMMANENT IN THE SOUL 189
and has its being in God. The germs of this conception are found in all great Christian thinkers. How impossible it is to regard Augustine as ignorant of the immanent God when we hear him crying: "I could not be, O my God, could not be at all, wert thou not in me; rather, were not I in thee, of whom are all things, by whom are all things, in whom are all things." Here is a natural union with God which is irrespective of human choice, and which is antecedent to the moral and spiritual union which is mediated by faith and of which Augustine speaks in that other more familiar utterance: "O God, thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it find rest in thee." Luther's friends wrote despairingly of the negotiations connected with the Diet of Worms. But the great Reformer wrote back from Coburg that he had been looking up at the night sky, spangled and studded with stars. He had found no pillars to hold them up, yet they did not fall. God needed no props for his planets and suns, but hung them upon nothing. So Luther concluded that the unseen is prop enough for the seen, and that behind all the decisions of men are the will and power and life of God.
The theology of fifty years ago did not so much deny God's immanence as it forgot God's immanence. It emphasized the other side of the truth and let this side go by default. It was individualistic and ignored the fact of solidarity. Similarly we think of the continents and islands of our globe as disjoined from one another. The dissociable sea is regarded as an absolute barrier between them. But if the ocean could be dried, we should see that all the while there had been submarine connections, and the hidden unity of all lands would appear. So the individuality of human beings, real as it is, is not the only reality. There is a profounder fact of common life. Even the great mountainpeaks of personality are superficial distinctions, compared with the organic oneness in which they are rooted, into which they all dip down, and from which, like volcanoes, they receive at times quick and overflowing impulses of insight, emotion, and energy.
I have said that our half-century has, first of all, rediscovered the immanent God. Now, secondly, I would say it has discovered that this immanent God is Christ. We have become familiar with the phrase, "the larger Christ." I wish to avail myself of the phrase without adopting any of the doctrinal connotations which have so often accompanied it. I wish simply to point out that our later theology has, as never before since the times of the apostles, identified the Christ of the incarnation with the Logos of God, through whom and unto whom all things were made and in whom all things consist. A recent writer has said that Christ is "the frankness of God." But this is only a faint echo of of the Scripture: "No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him." Modern theology sees in Christ not merely the Man of sorrows who lived and died and rose again in Palestine, but also the one and only principle of divine expression, the one outgoing and revealing agency in the nature of God. In other words, while the transcendent and unknowable God is the Father, the immanent and revealed God is Christ.
We owe to what has been called "the new theology" in this country, in spite of its wrong applications of the principle, a conception of Christ's larger relations, to which both the main divisions of recent German theology are strangers. And as a valuable side-light is thrown upon our subject from across the sea, let me briefly refer to the views of Christ held by Ritschl and by Pfleiderer respectively, the two leaders of German theological thought,—the one living and the other dead. Pfleiderer bases his theology upon the philosophy of Hegel. Like Strauss and Baur, Beidermann and Lipsius, he emphasizes the ideal Christ; he declares that historical facts cannot be the ground of faith; he denies miracle; his Christ is a phantom in the air; only the conception of a perfect humanity is needful to save. While Pfleiderer emphasizes the ideal Christ, Ritschl emphasizes the historical Christ. But this historical Christ is only historical. As Matthew Arnold said, so Ritschl might say of Christ:
Now he is dead! Far hence he lies
In the lorn Syrian town;
And on his grave, with shining eyes,
The Syrian stars look down.
A dead Christ, and a Christ far away; a Christ who influences us by his remembered teachings and example, just as other great men of the past rule us from their urns—this is the historical Christ whom Ritschl presents for our acceptance. Between the historical Christ of Ritschl and the ideal Christ of Pfleiderer there is not much to choose, for they both ignore the living Christ who is present in every believer.
How far beyond all this is the conception of our later English and American theology! This adoringly acknowledges that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; that he is with his people alway even unto the end of the world ; that he is in them, the hope of glory and the power of an endless life. It recognizes in him the eternal Word, who not only was before Abraham, but in the beginning was with God and was God, the personal object of the Father's love before the foundation of the world. He was the pillar of cloud that led Israel through the sea; his voice thundered forth the law on Mt. Sinai; he was the spiritual rock that followed his people in the desert. There was a pre-incarnate activity of Christ even among the heathen; nowhere did he leave himself without a witness; he is the Light that lighteth every man. And even now, in history, art, science, literature, the seeing eye can discern the inner movement of the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Christ, bringing life and order out of warring and dead humanity even as at the beginning his creative Spirit brooded upon chaos and brought forth forms of life and beauty.
I can only hint in passing at the immense practical advantage of this revived New Testament doctrine, that Christ is the immanent God. The suffering of the cross has new meaning when we realize that the life that was there poured forth for our salvation was the same Life that ebbs and flows in mighty tides on the far shores of the universe; and the power of Christ to save the individual sinner and to accomplish the world's redemption is newly apprehended when we see that he who sends forth laborers to the harvest is the same Christ's Method Is Evolution
Being whose will is the inmost force of nature and of history.
But I must hasten to add to these two truths, that God is immanent and that this immanent God is Christ, a third truth which the theology of our half-century has rescued from neglect, this namely, that Christ's method is the method of evolution. Evolution has ceased to have terrors for us since it has been seen to be not an agent but a method, and to be the method of the immanent Christ. As gravitation, or God's rule in space, yielded up its sceptre to Christ, so evolution, or God's rule in time, has yielded up its sceptre also to him. The passion for reality which inspires our generation is no longer content with legal fictions and arbitrary interventions and phenomenal manifestations. It wants consistency and law, at the same time that it has personality and freedom. All this it has when it recognizes the method of the immanent Christ to be the method of growth, the starting from the lowest round of the ladder in order to reach the highest, the beginning with a mere germ, but a germ capable of endless unfolding. Evolution does not exclude design when we once see in it the method by which the Son of God has been imparting his own life and so manifesting the Father.
Law is only the method of freedom, the regular operation of personal life. It not only does not imply necessity, but it implies its opposite. I may choose to do a thing repeatedly, but my choice so to do is no less free. Kant well compared the liberty of determinism to the liberty of a turn-spit which revolves of itself only when it is wound up. But if every operation of nature
is due to a supernatural Will, there is no longer any lack of power to work miracle or to push forward the history of life. Not natural law in the spiritual world, but spiritual law in the natural world, is true formula. And so the long struggle between science and faith is ended,—they are but opposite sides or aspects of the same thing. To use the words of Beidermann: "Everything is miracle,—therefore faith sees God everywhere; nothing is miracle,—therefore science sees God nowhere."
It is possible to interpret the universe in terms of naturalism, because science looks only at events and their sequences. But it is also not only possible but necessary to interpret the universe in terms of spiritualism, because faith sees in each event and sequence the manifestation of an all-wise mind and an all-powerful will. And this all-wise mind and this all-powerful will are the mind and will of Christ. Evolution is only his going forth from everlasting. Creation is simply the differentiation of his energy and its transformation into force. We no longer look upon the successive species as products of a fiat from without,—we regard them as results of an operation from within. Man himself is developed from lower forms of life, but the lower forms do not produce the higher or in any way account for the man who caps the climax of them all. Both the lower and the higher derive their being from Christ, and animal forms are only Christ's preparation for the man who succeeds them. Man has come, not from blind and dead matter, but from the immanent Christ whose life pulsates through the universe and who has reinforced that life from his own infinite fountain.
THIS EVOLUTION IS ETHICAL
I now come to a fourth characteristic of our modern theology,—its recognition that evolution is predominantly ethical. By this I mean that the world is not simply a lost world given over to the evil one, but that moral forces are at work in it, and the immanent Christ is progressively transforming it. Even prehistoric and palaeontological life presents dim foreshadowings of the moral truths that emerge in the life of man and that reach their full manifestation in the drama of redemption. As Doctor Harris, of Andover, has so nobly shown, the struggle for existence is not simply a selfish and internecine warfare,—it is each creature's standing for its rights. Self-preservation in the animal creation is an adumbration of that principle in man which leads him to maintain his integrity and to vindicate his freedom. Without the perception of rights there would be no perception of duties, and Christ prepares for the ethical career of humanity by giving even to the beast below him the instinct to defend itself and to guard its own.
As there is an evolutionary preparation for righteousness, so there is an evolutionary preparation for love. Henry Drummond's best teaching was this. In the impulse of reproduction and in the care for offspring there is already an incipient altruism. The tigress that suckles her young and the eagle that starves herself to give her eaglets food show a self-sacrifice which in its higher and human developments becomes truly ethical. And why should we stop with the animal creation? Is there not a generosity which belongs to many ungodly men? Is there not a conjugal and paternal and filial affection which cannot be credited to fallen human nature, but which must have a divine origin? Let us not attribute these things to man, but rather to the Christ of God, whose original grace is counteracting the effects of original sin, and who is thus preparing the way for the publication and reception of his finished redemption.
Mr. Kidd has brought out most vividly the fact that there is a social evolution which works upward in spite of the downward direction of the individual will. I recognize in this social evolution the operation of the immanent and omnipresent Christ, whose method is the method of law and of growth, and whose movements have their material and natural as well as their supernatural and spiritual aspect. It is not true that this world is merely a City of Destruction, as John Bunyan and the theology of fifty years ago painted it,—a City of Destruction from which Christ has departed and from which we are only to flee. No, the Lord is here, and we may enjoy his presence along our Christian pilgrimage without waiting, as the pilgrim did, until we reach the shining streets of the New Jerusalem. Even now Christ is leavening society with his Spirit, and we are to better the world instead of leaving it. The governments and institutions of our time are slowly but surely becoming moral, not because of any atheistic law of progress or because of any inherent tendency of things, but because the immanent Christ impresses his own ethical character upon the whole evolutionary process.
There is a fifth truth to which the last half-century has attained,—a truth more important than all that have preceded, simply because it includes them all. It is this: The ethical meaning of the universe is summed SUMMED UP IN THE HISTORICAL JESUS 197
up in the historical Jesus. It has been sometimes said that Christianity is the crown of the evolution of the whole universe. But this does not express the whole truth. Christianity is nothing but Christ, and Christ is not simply the crown of evolution; he is the animating spirit of it, the inner force that moves all its wheels, the mind and heart and will that expresses itself in all its processes; and when he becomes incarnate, and teaches, suffers, dies, all the rays of previous divine impartation throughout the universe come to their focus. The historical Jesus is not only God manifest in the flesh, in whom is all the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form and manifestation, but he is also the gathering up and disclosure of all the ethical meaning of the creation. In other words, Jesus is the immanent Christ of evolution, coming out like a painter from behind his own picture and interpreting to us his own work.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews it is declared that the Mosaic tabernacle and its sacrifices were only the shadows of the heavenly, and that Moses made the earthly after the pattern of those that were shown him in the mount. The whole historical life and work of Jesus were in like manner the temporal and finite shadowing forth of eternal and infinite realities. His own human growth in wisdom and knowledge and in favor with God and men is but the mirror which reflects in miniature the process of evolution by which the universe has come to be what it is, and by which the larger Christ has progressively revealed the transcendent God. But specially is the historical Jesus the moral and spiritual fullness of the Godhead. "He that hath seen me," our Lord can say, "hath seen the Father," —the Father's righteousness and the Father's love. His cross is a window into heaven, through which we can discern the purpose of all existence, and we can understand the whole creation that groaneth and travaileth in pain together only when we see the same heart that animates it breaking in agony on Calvary.
The cross is the revelation of God's eternal suffering for sin. To this great conclusion the theology of the last fifty years has been leading us. In the boyhood of some of us, New England theology explained the atonement by the necessities of government. Nathaniel W. Taylor's system of theology was entitled "Moral Government," and Charles G. Finney's treatise on moral government was entitled " Systematic Theology." Both of these theologians maintained that Christ suffered to demonstrate God's regard for his law. But why God should have such regard for his law was not entirely clear, for law was conceived of as something arbitrary and external instead of being the necessary expression of his holiness, an expedient for the happiness of his creatures instead of being the transcript of his own moral nature. The result has been that law, having no proper foundation in God's being, has lost its significance, and the very conception of government has dropped out of New England theology.
The idea of moral influence took the place of moral government. But the influence was not moral, because the morality was utilitarian, and happiness instead of righteousness was regarded as the end of creation. The word righteousness indeed has of late years been falling into desuetude as the word government did before it, and schemes of the atonement have been devised in THE SUPREMACY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS 199
which its whole purpose has been represented to be a subjective change in man, while the necessity of any atonement to the divine holiness has been either ignored or denied. It is interesting to find such men as Pfleiderer declaring these schemes to be direct contradictions of the doctrine of the New Testament, where the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of Christ as through the eternal Spirit offering himself without spot to God, and where the Epistle to the Romans represents him as being set forth to be a propitiation through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness, that he might be just, while he justifies the believer. While other scriptures assure us that love provides the atonement, these passages make it equally plain that the atonement is made to righteousness, and that it is righteousness that requires it.
I regard the last half-century as having led the way, by the new discoveries of Christ's world-relations and by the demonstrated insufficiency of all mediating theories, to a larger and profounder conception of that redeeming work of which the whole universe is but the theatre and the illustration. And so I suggest, as the sixth truth to which theology has been gravitating, the supremacy of righteousness in the nature of God. The ethics of the cross is the ethics of the universe, and the cross and the universe alike declare that not love but righteousness is the fundamental attribute of God. Bishop Butler, in his "Analogy," wrote long ago as follows: "Perhaps divine goodness, with which, if I mistake not, we make very free in our speculations, may not be a bare single disposition to produce happiness so much as a disposition to make the good, the faithful, the honest happy." If it be replied that even this righteousness is a form of love,—God's love for himself,—it still remains to be considered that this self-love, which is righteousness, conditions all other love, and that God cannot make the universe happy except by first making it holy. The immanent Christ is a suffering God. Love for his sinning creatures makes possible his suffering. But only his holiness makes that suffering necessary. If God were not supremely righteous, even love's sharing of the sinner's life and the sinner's lot would involve no suffering and no atonement.
No quia voluit then can explain God's suffering for human sin. It is a fact of life and a revelation of the fundamental attribute of his nature. God cannot be God unless he is righteous and maintains that righteousness intact, for righteousness, though it is not a utilitarian self-love, is God's instinct of self-respect and self-preservation. When sin assails this attribute it assails God himself. The immanent God suffers, and must suffer, so long as there is sin. The reproaches of those that reproach God fall upon Christ, whose life is the inmost principle of their being. He suffers because of his holiness what they because of their unholiness cannot suffer. His suffering takes the place of theirs and becomes remedial. For those who appreciate and accept it, this sharing of their guilt and penalty becomes a veritable substitution. The believer sees that Christ has done for him what he could never do for himself, that the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all, that by his stripes we are healed. But even to those who do not understand its meaning, Christ's sacrifice brings blessing. Because his suffering vindicates God's righteousness, the whole race can live under a CONSCIENCE REFLECTS GOD'S HOLINESS 201
dispensation of grace. So the atonement is an ethical fact of universal significance. While the cross is the manifestation of suffering love, it reveals the holiness of God as the reason why that suffering must be endured.
There are evidences of a return to this Pauline doctrine in D. W. Simon's acknowledgment that God as well as man needs to be reconciled, and in J. M. Whiton's concession that atonement is made to the immanent God in conscience. But when it is maintained that only conscience is propitiated, John's declaration is forgotten: "If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things." We are made in the image of God, and that which is highest in us best shows us what God is. The subjective demand of conscience for reparation is only the reflection of the objective righteousness of God which requires satisfaction if the sinner is to be saved. The immanent God who reveals discloses to us the nature of the transcendent God who is revealed. And as the conscience of man in the progress of the centuries becomes increasingly sensitive, it becomes more and more evident that holiness is not only an independent attribute, but is the supreme attribute in the divine nature. As conscience is supreme in the moral constitution of man, so holiness is supreme in the moral constitution of God. As I am bound to love my neighbor only as myself, so God makes regard for his own purity and honor the standard by which all outgoing of affection for his creatures is to be tried and limited. Even love must put itself under the control of righteousness. Only as God is true to himself will he have anything to give to others. The atonement was necessary in order that God "might be just," and not only death and hell, but also the cross, declares that "righteousness and judgment are the foundation of his throne."
I can but believe that a new conviction of the ethical import of Christianity is taking possession of the church. I believe also that this is a reflection of the ethical element in the atonement of Christ. The apprehension of natural law and of its fixity has helped the apprehension of the solemnities of moral law. Heredity is but original sin in a new guise. Sociology declares the solidarity of the race. And even monism in its Christian form furnishes a basis for the inculcation of brotherhood and of obligation. The new sense of community which has made us feel the sorrows of Armenians and of Cubans and of Filipinos as if they were our own is the fruit of Christ's cross and its demonstration that humanity is worth saving because it has kinship with the divine. He who is made priest, not according to the law of a carnal commandment but according to the power of an endless life, is the mighty prophet also, and he has taken our humanity into an eternal school. We are dull pupils, and it will take the great Teacher many generations before he can fully convince us that we are the offspring of God and are therefore of one blood with the Hottentot and the outcast, the grimy factoryworker and the child in the slums. But the cross has emancipated woman and the slave; it will yet do away with war and subdue the greed of capital; it will reform municipal and national politics and give us a righteous State. For all these things are corollaries of the one great truth that the suffering Saviour is the EVOLUTION OF SCRIPTURE
condensation into terms of space and time of the whole ethical process of the ages, that his humanity is true divinity, and that love to him can be shown only by loving our fellow-men, his brethren. The evolution of religion is inseparable from the evolution of morality, for they are but obverse sides of one whole, religion being simply morality toward God, while morality is religion toward man.
The incarnate Word has subjected himself to a process of evolution, reaching results not at a bound, but slowly and by steps of natural and rational advance, and he has thus imaged to us the history of creation. Should we not expect to find the same process repeated in the written word, which conveys the knowledge of Christ to men? A seventh and last step of progress in our recent theology is its application of the principle of development to Holy Scripture. We see, as our fathers did not, that the recording of revelation like the giving of it was no single act, but multiplex, and that God spake to the fathers through the prophets in many parts and in many ways. The Spirit of Christ which was in them was the Spirit of the immanent Christ working after his common evolutionary fashion. It was not the sudden impact of a power from without but the movement of a power from within, which only in thought was distinguishable from the activity of their own minds and hearts and wills. And inspiration was like grace; it was not infallible nor impeccable. The first covenant was not faultless, and for the hardness of their hearts God gave his people statutes that were not good. The light of truth and of duty came to them gradually: it was first starlight, then dawn, finally day.
No particular theory of inspiration is essential to Christianity, for Christianity existed in full vigor when no New Testament book had been composed. The genuineness and credibility of our Gospels might be successfully argued just as we argue the genuineness and credibility of Thucydides, even though they had never been inspired. The Holy Spirit can use all methods of composition which men properly and truthfully use in the communication of truth. Does Robert Browning impersonate Give or Fra Lippo Lippi, reanimating some dead hero and causing him to tell out to us the secret of his life? Then the Holy Spirit might conceivably inspire some godly writer of after times to impersonate King Solomon and disclose in the book of Ecclesiastes the skepticism and pessimism of his wanderings from God. If John Bunyan could properly construct an allegory like The Pilgrim's Progress, the book of Jonah might conceivably be an apologue and still be inspired, and whether it is an apologue or a history is a mere question of interpretation which every Christian is free to decide for himself without prejudice to his faith in inspiration whatever his conclusion may be.
Not only methods of composition but methods of collection are subject to this rule. A book may go by the name of its chief writer, and Isaiah or Zechariah may have a double authorship. The Pentateuch may be Mosaic only for substance; the laws of Leviticus may be later additions in the spirit of what Moses wrote; the speeches in Deuteronomy may be representations by one of Moses' successors on the west of Jordan of instructions by the great lawgiver on the east of Jordan which had been traditionally handed down.
MODERN VIEW OF INSPIRATION
Does this application of evolutionary principles to Scripture disprove its inspiration? Nay, it only makes its inspiration more plain. It requires less musical genius and organizing ability to train a single violinist to execute a solo than it does to make forty instruments play one great symphony. The more composite the authorship of Scripture, the stronger is the proof of one superintending divine Mind that combines the scattered biblia into one Bible. The modern view of inspiration delivers us indeed from some older conceptions of Scripture as a sort of ready reckoner, an oracle each of whose utterances apart from its connections is divine, a mechanical whole which accomplishes its purpose without our care or thought. The modern view sees in Scripture a grander inspiration than this,—an inspiration which, while it does not guarantee the inerrancy of Scripture in every historical and scientific detail, does yet make it, when taken together and when rightly interpreted, infallible for its purpose of communicating moral and religious truth, and able to make us wise unto salvation. And if ever a question arises whether the earlier teachings as to divorce or war or slavery represented the highest moral standard, we may judge them as parts of a progressively unfolding system whose key and culmination we find in Jesus Christ. "Moses said unto you" is followed by "But I say unto you." And yet Christ fulfills the law and the prophets by embodying in his life and teachings the essential spirit of the whole Old Testament revelation. He is the ripe fruit of which it was the seed and germ.
I have sometimes seen a charming view on the stereoptic screen interrupted by the gigantic shadow of the hand of an inexpert manipulator. So fifty years ago God's great series of Scripture views, awe-inspiring as it was, lost a portion of its impressiveness by the intervention of some man-made theories of inspiration. Our generation distrusts the conclusions of many of the higher critics. But the higher criticism has achieved some positive results, and there can be no reasonable doubt that the principle of growth solves many of the previous difficulties of Holy Scripture. The same immanent Christ who moved in Hebrew history presided also over the history of inspiration. We have no need to doubt the supernatural element either in the world or in the Bible, so long as he is recognized as the animating and controlling force in both. Our modern theology has immensely gained in candor and insight by acknowledging that the same method of human growth which was adopted by the incarnate Word was also adopted in the production of the written word, and that both these manifestations of the immanent Christ consist with and throw light upon one another.
I have attempted in this hasty sketch to show the new advances toward scientific clearness and unity which theology has made during the past fifty years. I am well aware that some who have listened to me may regard my doctrine as more new than true. Further reflection will, I trust, convince them that what seem to be novelties of belief are after all only old truths of Scripture which the intense rays of modern science and philosophy have brought out from obscurity and have made visible. I have found these newly apprehended or newly emphasized truths to be: first, that God is immanent in his universe; secondly, that SERVE A PACIFIC PURPOSE
this immanent God is none other than Christ; thirdly, that Christ's method is that of evolution; fourthly, that this evolution is characteristically and predominantly ethical; fifthly, that the ethical meaning of the universe is summed up in the historical Jesus; sixthly, that the central principle of this ethical system is the supremacy of righteousness in the nature of God; and, seventhly, that this principle of ethical development is to be applied to the understanding and interpretation of Holy Scripture.
I have hoped that this statement of the gains of the last half-century might answer a pacific purpose and might show us that some of the divisions of the past were needless and might now be healed. Let me quote to you a great utterance of the great Dollinger, the man who ventured greatly when he broke with the Roman Church and with all the traditions of the past in order to follow Christ and his convictions of Christ's truth. His words are these: "Theology must become a science not, as heretofore, for making war, but for making peace, and thus bring about that reconciliation of churches for which the whole civilized world is longing." That Dollinger did not regard this reconciliation as attainable by mere outward union is plain from his founding of a new church. His exhortation is to the cultivation of a spirit rather than to the acceptance of a creed. Yet the spirit will lead to the creed. When we are ready to take truth even from heretics or from heathen, the bars will begin to fall and the churches will begin to see eye to eye. The new Free Church Catechism is proof that on all the great essentials our evangelical churches are already one. I seem to see already the first beams of the dawn. In its recognition of the universal presence and lordship of Christ our half-century has done much to hasten the answer to his prayer "that they all may be one." By his teachings and especially by his candid and gracious spirit, President Alvah Hovey has done his full share in promoting that unity. For our sakes may he be late in going into heaven! May his mantle fall on his successor in the presidential chair! May all we who teach catch something of his spirit! And may Christ our Lord, whose favor has so attended his servant, lead us also on, till we all attain "unto the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ "!