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Title: Orthodoxy: Its Truths And Errors
Author: Clarke, James Freeman, 1810-1888
Language: English
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                          Its Truths And Errors


                           James Freeman Clarke

“Soleo enim in allena castra transire, non tanquam transfuga, sed tanquam
                   explorator.”—SENECA, _Epistolæ_, 2.

  “Fiat lux. Cupio refelli, ubi aberrarim; nihil majus, nihil aliud quam
            veritatem efflagito.”—THOMAS BURNET, _Arch. Phil._

                           Fourteenth Edition.


                     American Unitarian Association.



Chapter I. Introduction.
   § 1. Object and Character of this Book.
   § 2. Progress requires that we should look back as well as forward.
   § 3. Orthodoxy as Right Belief.
   § 4. Orthodoxy as the Doctrine of the Majority. Objections.
   § 5. Orthodoxy as the Oldest Doctrine. Objections.
   § 6. Orthodoxy as the Doctrine held by all.
   § 7. Orthodoxy, as a Formula, not to be found.
   § 8. Orthodoxy as Convictions underlying Opinions.
   § 9. Substantial Truth and Formal Error in all great Doctrinal Systems.
   § 10. Importance of this Distinction.
   § 11. The Orthodox and Liberal Parties in New England.
Chapter II. The Principle And Idea Of Orthodoxy Stated And Examined.
   § 1. The Principle of Orthodoxy defined.
   § 2. Logical Genesis of the Principle of Orthodoxy.
   § 3. Orthodoxy assumed to be the Belief of the Majority.
   § 4. Heterodoxy thus becomes sinful.
   § 5. The Doctrine of Essentials and Non-essentials leads to Rome.
   § 6. Fallacy in this Orthodox Argument.
   § 7. The three Tendencies in the Church.
   § 8. The Party of Works.
   § 9. The Party of Emotion in Christianity.
   § 10. The Faith Party in Religion.
   § 11. Truth in the Orthodox Idea.
   § 12. Error in the Orthodox Principle.
   § 13. Faith, Knowledge, Belief, Opinion.
Chapter III. The Orthodox Idea Of Natural And Revealed Religion; Or,
Naturalism And Supernaturalism.
   § 1. Meaning of Natural and Supernatural.
   § 2. The Creation Supernatural.
   § 3. The Question stated.
   § 4. Argument of the Supernaturalist from successive Geologic
   § 5. Supernatural Argument from Human Freedom.
   § 6. Supernatural Events not necessarily Violations of Law.
   § 7. Life and History contain Supernatural Events.
   § 8. The Error of Orthodox Supernaturalism.
   § 9. No Conflict between Naturalism and Supernaturalism.
   § 10. Further Errors of Orthodox Supernaturalism—Gulf between
   Christianity and all other Religions.
   § 11. Christianity considered unnatural, as well as supernatural by
   being made hostile to the Nature of Man.
Chapter IV. Truths And Errors As Regards Miracles.
   § 1. The Subject stated. Four Questions concerning Miracles.
   § 2. The Definition of a Miracle.
   § 3. The different Explanations of the Miracles of the Bible.
   § 4. Criticism on these Different Views of Miracles.
   § 5. Miracles no Proof of Christianity.
   § 6. But Orthodoxy is right in maintaining their Reality as Historic
   § 7. Analogy with other Similar Events recorded in History.
   § 8. Miracle of the Resurrection. Sceptical Objections.
   § 9. Final Result of this Examination.
Chapter V. Orthodox Idea Of The Inspiration And Authority Of The Bible.
   § 1. Subject of this Chapter. Three Views concerning the Bible.
   § 2. The Difficulty. Antiquity of the World, and Age of Mankind.
   § 3. Basis of the Orthodox Theory of Inspiration.
   § 4. Inspiration in general, or Natural Inspiration.
   § 5. Christian or Supernatural Inspiration.
   § 6. Inspiration of the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament
   § 7. Authority of the Scriptures.
   § 8. The Christian Prepossession.
   § 9. Conclusion.
Chapter VI. Orthodox Idea Of Sin, As Depravity And As Guilt.
   § 1. The Question stated.
   § 2. The four Moments or Characters of Evil. The Fall, Natural
   Depravity, Total Depravity, Inability.
   § 3. Orthodox and Liberal View of Man, as morally diseased or
   § 4. Sin as Disease.
   § 5. Doctrine of the Fall in Adam, and Natural Depravity. Their Truth
   and Error.
   § 6. Examination of Romans, 5:12-21.
   § 7. Orthodox View of Total Depravity and Inability.
   § 8. Proof Texts.
   § 9. Truth in the Doctrine of Total Depravity.
   § 10. Ability and Inability.
   § 11. Orthodox Doctrine of Inability.
   § 12. Some further Features of Orthodox Theology concerning Human
Chapter VII. Conversion And Regeneration.
   § 1. Orthodoxy recognizes only two Conditions in which Man can be
   § 2. Crisis and Development.
   § 3. Nature of the Change.
   § 4. Its Reality and Importance.
   § 5. Is it the Work of God, or of the Man himself? Orthodox Difficulty.
   § 6. Solved by the Distinction between Conversion and Regeneration.
   § 7. Men may be divided, religiously, into three Classes, not two.
   § 8. Difference between Conversion and Regeneration.
   § 9. Unsatisfactory Attitude of the Orthodox Church.
   § 10. The Essential Thing for Man is to repent and be converted; that
   is, to make it his Purpose to obey God in all Things.
   § 11. Regeneration is God’s Work in the Soul. Examination of the
   Classical Passage, or conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus.
   § 12. Evidences of Regeneration.
Chapter VIII. The Orthodox Idea Of The Son Of God.
   § 1. Orthodox Doctrine stated.
   § 2. This Doctrine gradually developed.
   § 3. Unitarian Objections.
   § 4. Substantial Truth in this Doctrine.
   § 5. Formal Error of the Orthodox Statement.
   § 6. Errors of Arianism and Naturalism.
Chapter IX. Justification By Faith.
   § 1. This Doctrine of Paul not obsolete.
   § 2. Its Meaning and Importance.
   § 3. Need of Justification for the Conscience.
   § 4. Reaction of Sin on the Soul.
   § 5. Different Methods of obtaining Forgiveness.
   § 6. Method in Christianity.
   § 7. Result.
   § 8. Its History in the Church.
   § 9. Orthodox Errors, at the present Time, in Regard to Justification
   by Faith.
   § 10. Errors of Liberal Christians.
Chapter X. Orthodox Idea Of The Atonement.
   § 1. Confusion in the Orthodox Statement.
   § 2. Great Importance attributed to this Doctrine.
   § 3. Stress laid on the Death of Jesus in the Scripture.
   § 4. Difficulty in interpreting these Scripture Passages.
   § 5. Theological Theories based on the Figurative Language of the New
   § 6. The three principal Views of the Atonement—warlike, legal, and
   § 7. Impression made by Christ’s Death on the Minds of his Disciples.
   First Theory on the Subject in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
   § 8. Value of Suffering as a Means of Education.
   § 9. The Human Conscience suggests the Need of some Satisfaction in
   order to our Forgiveness.
   § 10. How the Death of Jesus brings Men to God.
   § 11. This Law of Vicarious Suffering universal.
   § 12. This Law illustrated from History—in the Death of Socrates, Joan
   of Arc, Savonarola, and Abraham Lincoln.
   § 13. Dr. Bushnell’s View of the Atonement.
   § 14. Results of this Discussion.
Chapter XI. Calling, Election, And Reprobation.
   § 1. Orthodox Doctrine.
   § 2. Scripture Basis for this Doctrine.
   § 3. Relation of the Divine Decree to Human Freedom.
   § 4. History of the Doctrine of Election and Predestination.
   § 5. Election is to Work and Opportunity here, not to Heaven hereafter.
   How Jacob was elected, and how the Jews were a Chosen People.
   § 6. How other Nations were elected and called.
   § 7. How different Denominations are elected.
   § 8. How Individuals are elected.
   § 9. How Jesus was elected to be the Christ.
   § 10. Other Illustrations of Individual Calling and Election.
Chapter XII. Immortality And The Resurrection.
   § 1. Orthodox Doctrine.
   § 2. The Doctrine of Immortality as taught by Reason, the Instinctive
   Consciousness, and Scripture.
   § 3. The Three Principal Views of Death—the Pagan, Jewish, and
   § 4. Eternal Life, as taught in the New Testament, not endless Future
   Existence, but present Spiritual Life.
   § 5. Resurrection, and its real Meaning, as a Rising up, and not a
   Rising again.
   § 6. Resurrection of the Body, as taught in the New Testament, not a
   Rising again of the same Body, but the Ascent into a higher Body.
Chapter XIII. Christ’s Coming, Usually Called The “Second Coming,” And
Christ The Judge Of The World.
   § 1. The Coming of Christ is not wholly future, not wholly outward, not
   local, nor material.
   § 2. No Second Coming of Christ is mentioned in Scripture.
   § 3. Were the Apostles mistaken in expecting a speedy Coming of Christ?
   § 4. Examination of the Account of Christ’s Coming given by Jesus in
   Matthew (chapters 24-26).
   § 5. Coming of Christ in Human History at different Times.
   § 6. Relation of the Parable of the Virgins, and of the Talents, to
   Christ’s Coming.
   § 7. Relation of the Account of the Judgment by the Messiah, in Matt.
   ch. 25, to his Coming.
   § 8. How Christ is, and how he is not, to judge the World.
   § 9. When Christ’s Judgment takes Place.
   § 10. Paul’s View of the Judgment by Christ.
   § 11. Final Result.
Chapter XIV. Eternal Punishment, Annihilation, Universal Restoration.
   § 1. Different Views concerning the Condition of the Impenitent
   § 2. The Doctrine of Everlasting Punishment, as held by the Orthodox at
   the Present Time.
   § 3. Apparent Contradictions, both in Scripture and Reason, in Regard
   to this Doctrine.
   § 4. Everlasting Punishment limits the Sovereignty of God.
   § 5. Everlasting Punishment contradicts the Fatherly Love of God.
   § 6. Attempts to modify and soften the Doctrine of Everlasting
   § 7. The meaning of Eternal Punishment in Scripture.
   § 8. How Judgment by Christ is connected with Punishment.
   § 9. The Doctrine of Annihilation.
   § 10. The Doctrine of Universal Restoration.
Chapter XV. The Christian Church.
   § 1. The Question stated.
   § 2. Orthodox Doctrine of the Church—Roman Catholic and High Church.
   § 3. The Protestant Orthodox Idea of the Church.
   § 4. Christ’s Idea of a Church, or the Kingdom of Heaven.
   § 5. Church of the Leaven, or the Invisible Church.
   § 6. The Church of the Mustard-seed.
   § 7. Primitive and Apostolic Church, or Church as it was.
   § 8. The Actual Church, or the Church as it is.
   § 9. The Church Ideal, or Church as it ought to be.
   § 10. The Church Possible, or Church as it can be.
Chapter XVI. The Trinity.
   § 1. Definition of the Church Doctrine.
   § 2. History of the Doctrine.
   § 3. Errors in the Church Doctrine of the Trinity.
   § 4. The Trinity of Manifestations founded in the Truth of Things.
   § 5. It is in Harmony with Scripture.
   § 6. Practical value of the Trinity, when rightly understood.
Appendix. Critical Notices.
   § 1. On the Defence of Nescience in Theology, by Herbert Spencer and
   Henry L. Mansel.
   § 2. On the Defence of Verbal Inspiration by Gaussen.
   § 3. Defence of the Doctrine that Sin is a Nature, by Professor Shedd.
   § 4. Defence of Everlasting Punishment, by Dr. Nehemiah Adams and Dr.
   J. P. Thompson.
   § 5. Defence of the Trinity, by Frederick D. Huntington, D. D.


The Protestant Reformation has its Principle and its Method. Its Principle
is Salvation by Faith, not by Sacraments. Its Method is Private Judgment,
not Church Authority. But private judgment generates authority; authority,
first legitimate, that of knowledge, grows into the illegitimate authority
of prescription, calling itself Orthodoxy. Then Private Judgment comes
forth again to criticise and reform. It thus becomes the duty of each
individual to judge the Church; and out of innumerable individual
judgments the insight of the Church is kept living and progressive. We
contribute one such private judgment; not, we trust, in conceit, but in
the hope of provoking other minds to further examinations.


§ 1. Object and Character of this Book.

The peculiarity of the book now offered to the religious public by the
government of the American Unitarian Association, is this—that it is an
honest attempt to find and state the truth contained in the doctrines of
their opponents. It is, perhaps, something new for an association
established to defend certain theological opinions, and baptized with a
special theological name, to publish a work intended to do justice to
hostile theories. The too usual course of each sect has been, through all
its organs, to attack, denounce, undervalue, and vilify the positions
taken by its antagonists. This has been considered as only an honest zeal
for truth. The consequence has been, that no department of literature has
been so unchristian in its tone and temper as that of sectarian
controversy. Political journals heap abuse on their opponents, in the
interest of their party. But though more noisy than the theological
partisans, they are by no means so cold, hard, or unrelenting. Party
spirit, compared with sectarian spirit, seems rather mild.(1)

It is true that theologians do not now use in controversy the epithets
which were formerly universal. We have grown more civil in our language
than were our fathers. It is also true that we often meet with theological
discussions conducted in a spirit of justice towards one’s opponents.(2)
But to say, “Fas est ab hoste _doceri_,” is a step as yet beyond the
ability of most controversialists. To admit that your antagonist may have
seen some truth not visible to yourself, and to read his work in this
sense,—in order to learn, and not merely to confute,—is not yet common.

This we are about to undertake in the present treatise. We stand in the
Unitarian position, but shall endeavor to see if there be not some truths
in Orthodoxy which Unitarians have not yet adequately recognized. To use
the language of our motto—we come “not as deserters, but as explorers”
into the camp of Orthodoxy. We are satisfied with our Unitarian position,
as a stand-point from which to survey that of others. And especially are
we grateful to it, since it encourages us by all its traditions, by all
its ideas and principles, to look _after_ as well as before—to see if
there be no truth behind us which we have dropped in our hasty advance, as
well as truth beyond us to which we have not yet attained.

§ 2. Progress requires that we should look back as well as forward.

Such a study as this may be undertaken in the interest of true progress,
as well as that of honest inquiry. For what so frequently checks progress,
causes its advocates to falter, and produces what we call a reaction
towards the old doctrines, as something shallow in the reform itself?
Christians have relapsed into Judaism, Protestants into Romanism,
Unitarians into Orthodoxy—because something true and good in the old
system had dropped out of the new, and attracted the converts back to
their old home. All true progress is expressed in the saying of Jesus, “I
have not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” The old system cannot pass away
until all its truths are _fulfilled_, by being taken up into the new
system in a higher form. Judaism will not pass away till it is fulfilled
in Christianity—the Roman Catholic Church will not pass away till it is
fulfilled in Protestantism—Orthodoxy will not pass away till it is
fulfilled by Rational Christianity. Judaism continues as a standing
protest, on behalf of the unity of God, against Trinitarianism.

And yet we believe that, in the religious progress of the race,
Christianity is an advance on Judaism, Protestant Christianity an advance
on Roman Catholic Christianity, and Liberal and Rational Christianity an
advance on Church Orthodoxy. But all such advances are subject to reaction
and relapse. Reaction differs from relapse in this, that it is an
oscillation, not a fall. Reaction is the backward swing of the wave, which
will presently return, going farther forward than before. Relapse is the
fall of the tide, which leaves the ships aground, and the beach uncovered.
Reaction is going back to recover some substantial truth, left behind in a
too hasty advance. Relapse is falling back into the old forms, an entire
apostasy from the higher stand-point to the lower, from want of strength
to maintain one’s self in the advance.

The Epistle to the Hebrews deserves especial study by those who desire to
understand the philosophy of intellectual and spiritual progress. It was
written to counteract a tendency among the Jewish Christians to relapse
into Judaism. These Christians missed the antiquity, the ceremony, the
authority of the old ritual. Their state of mind resembled that of the
extreme High Church party in the Church of England, who are usually called
Puseyites. They were not apostates or renegades, but backsliders. They
were always lamenting the inferiority of Christianity to Judaism, in the
absence of a priesthood, festival, sacrifices. It hardly seemed to them a
church at all. The Galatians, to whom Paul wrote, had actually gone over
and accepted Jewish Christianity in the place of Christianity in its
simplicity and purity. The Hebrews had not gone over, but were looking
that way. Therefore the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews endeavors to
show them that all which was really good in the Jewish priesthood, temple,
ritual, was represented in Christianity in a higher form. It had been
fulfilled in the New Covenant. Nothing real and good can pass away till it
is fulfilled in something better. Thus the Roman Catholic Church stands,
as a constant proof that Protestant Christianity yet lacks some important
Christian element which Romanism possesses. Orthodoxy, confuted, as we
suppose, over and over again, by the most logical arguments, stands firm,
and goes forward.

Let us, then, reëxamine the positions of our antagonists—not now merely in
order to find the weak places in their line of battle, but to discover the
strong ones. Let us see if there be any essential, substantial truth in
this venerable system, to which we have as yet not done justice. If there
be, justice and progress will both be served by finding and declaring it.

We ask, What are the substantial truths, and what the formal errors, of
Orthodoxy? But what do we mean by these terms?

§ 3. Orthodoxy as Right Belief.

By Orthodoxy in general is meant the right system of belief. This is the
dictionary definition. But as the world and the Church differ as to
_which_ is the right system of belief—as there are a vast multitude of
systems—and as all sects and parties, and all men, believe the system they
themselves hold to be the right belief—Orthodoxy, in this sense of right
belief, means nothing. In this sense there are as many orthodoxies as
there are believers, for no two men, even in the same Church, think
exactly alike. Unless, therefore, we have some _further_ test, by which to
find out _which_ orthodoxy, among all these orthodoxies, is the true
orthodoxy—we accomplish little by giving to any one system that name.

Here, for instance, in New England, we have a system of belief which goes
by the name of Orthodoxy; which, however, is considered very heterodox
_out_ of New England. The man who is thought sound by Andover is
considered very unsound by Princeton. The General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church, in 1837, cut off four synods, containing some forty
thousand members, because they were supposed not to be sound in doctrinal
belief. But these excommunicated synods formed a New School Presbyterian
Church, having its own orthodoxy. Andover considers itself more orthodox
than Cambridge; but the New School Presbyterians think themselves more
orthodox than Andover—the Old School Presbyterians think themselves more
orthodox than the New School. But the most orthodox Protestant is called a
heretic by the Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics, again, are called
heretics by the Greek Church. So that orthodoxy, in this sense, seems an
impossible thing—something which, if it exists, can never be certainly

Whenever a body of believers assumes the name of Orthodox, intending
thereby that they are right, and their opponents wrong, they evidently
assume the very point in dispute. They commit the fallacy called in logic
a _petitio principii_. They beg the question, instead of discussing it.
They put will in the place of reason. They say, in the very title page of
their book, in the first step of their argument, that their book is
satisfactory and their argument conclusive. It would be more modest to
wait till the discussion is concluded before they proceed thus to state
what the conclusion is. This is an arrogance like that which the Church of
Rome commits, in calling itself Catholic or Universal, while excluding
more than half of Christendom from its communion.(3)

A political party does not offer such an affront to its opponents. It may
name itself Democratic, Republican, Federal; it may call itself the
Conservative party, or that of Reform. By these titles it indicates its
leading idea—it signifies that it bears the standard of reform, or that it
stands by the old institutions of the country. But no political party ever
takes a name signifying that it is all right and its opponents all wrong.
This assumption was left to religious sects, and to those who consider
humility the foundation of all the virtues.

The term “Evangelical” is, perhaps, not as objectionable as Orthodox,
though it carries with it a similar slur on those of other beliefs. It
says, “We are they who believe the gospel of Christ; those who differ from
us do not believe it.” It is like the assumption by some of the
Corinthians of the exclusive name of Christians. “We are of Christ,” said
they—meaning that the followers of Paul and Apollos were not so.

Probably the better part of those who take the name of Orthodox, or
Evangelical, intend no such arrogance. All they want is some word by which
to distinguish themselves from Unitarians, Universalists, &c. They might
say, “We have as good a right to complain of your calling yourselves
‘Rational Christians’ or ‘Liberal Christians’—assuming thereby that others
are not rational or liberal. You mean no such assumption, perhaps; neither
do we when we call ourselves ‘Orthodox’ or ‘Evangelical.’ When we can find
another term, better than these, by which to express the difference
between us, we will use it. We do not intend by using these words to
foreclose argument or to beg the question. We do not mean by Orthodoxy,
right belief; but only a certain well-known form of doctrine.”

This is all well. Yet not quite well—since we have had occasion to notice
the surprise and disgust felt by those who had called themselves “The
Orthodox,” in finding themselves in a community where others had assumed
that title, and refused to them any share in it. Therefore it is well to
emphasize the declaration that Orthodoxy in the sense of “right belief” is
an unmeaning expression, signifying nothing.

§ 4. Orthodoxy as the Doctrine of the Majority. Objections.

The majority, in any particular place, is apt to call itself orthodox, and
to call its opponents heretics. But the majority in one place may be the
minority in another. The majority in Massachusetts is the minority in
Virginia. The majority in England is the minority in Rome or
Constantinople. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primate of all England,
gave Mr. Carzon a letter of introduction to the Patriarch of
Constantinople, the head of the Greek Church. But the Patriarch had never
heard of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and inquired, “Who is he?”

Nevertheless, it is a very common argument that such and such a doctrine,
being held by the great majority of Christians, must necessarily be true.
Thus it is said that since the great majority of Christians believe the
doctrine of the Trinity, that doctrine must be true. “Is it possible,” it
is said, “that the great majority of Christian believers should be now,
and have been so long, left in error on such a fundamental doctrine as
this?” Even so intelligent a man as Dr. Huntington seems to have been
greatly influenced by this argument in becoming a Trinitarian. The same
argument has carried many Protestants into the Roman Catholic Church. And,
no doubt, there is a truth in the argument—a truth, indeed, which is
implied all through the present work—that doctrines thus held by great
multitudes during long periods cannot be wholly false. But it by no means
proves them to be wholly true. Otherwise, truth would change as the
majorities change. In one century the Arians had the majority; and
Arianism, therefore, in that century would have been true. Moreover, most
of those who adhere to a doctrine have not examined it, and do not have
any defined opinion concerning it. They accept it, as it is taught them,
without reflection. And again, most truths are, at first, in a minority of
one. Christianity, in the first century, was in a very small minority.
Protestantism, in the time of Luther, was all in the brain and heart of
one man. To assume, therefore, that Orthodoxy, or the true belief, is that
of the majority, is to forbid all progress, to denounce all new truth, and
to resist the revelation and inspiration of God, until it has conquered
for itself the support of the majority of mankind. According to this
principle, as Christianity is still in a minority as compared with
paganism, we ought all to become followers of Boodh. Such a view cannot
bear a moment’s serious examination. Every prophet, sage, martyr, and
heroic champion of truth has spent his life and won the admiration and
grateful love of the world by opposing the majority in behalf of some
neglected or unpopular truth.

§ 5. Orthodoxy as the Oldest Doctrine. Objections.

Some people think that Orthodoxy means the _oldest_ doctrine, and that if
they can only find out what doctrine was believed by the Church in the
first century, they shall have the true orthodox doctrine. But the early
Church held some opinions which all now believe to be false. They
believed, for instance, that Jesus was to return visibly, in that age, and
set up his church in person, and reign in the world in outward form—a
thing which did not take place. They therefore believed in the early
church something which was not true—consequently what _they_ believed
cannot be a certain test of Orthodoxy.

The High Church party in the Church of England, in defending themselves
against the Roman Catholic argument from antiquity, have appealed to a
higher antiquity, and established themselves on the supposed faith of the
first three centuries. But Isaac Taylor, in his “Ancient Christianity,”
has sufficiently shown that during no period in those early centuries was
anything like modern orthodoxy satisfactorily established.(4) The Church
doctrine was developed gradually during a long period of debate and
controversy. The Christology of the Church was elaborated amid the fierce
conflicts of Arians and Athanasians, Monothelites and Monophysites,
Nestorians and Eutychians. The anthropology of the Church was hammered and
beaten into shape by the powerful arm of Augustine and his successors, on
the anvils of the fifth century, amid the fiery disputes of Pelagians,
Semi-Pelagians, and their opponents.

Many doctrines generally believed in the early church are universally
rejected now. The doctrine of chiliasm, or the millennial reign of Christ
on earth; the doctrine of the under world, or Hades, where all souls went
after death; the doctrine of the atonement made by Christ to the
devil,—such were some of the prevailing views held in the early ages of
the Church. The oldest doctrine is not certainly the truest; or, as
Theodore Parker once said to a priest in Rome, who told him that the
primacy of Peter was asserted in the second century, “A lie is no better
because it is an old one.”

§ 6. Orthodoxy as the Doctrine held by all.

But, it may be said, if Orthodoxy does not mean the absolutely right
system of belief, nor the system held by the majority, nor the oldest
doctrine of the Church, it may, nevertheless, mean the _essential_ truths
held in all Christian Churches, in all ages and times; in short, according
to the ancient formula—that which has been believed always, by all
persons, and everywhere—“_quod semper, quod ab omnibus, quod ubique_.”

In this sense no one would object to Orthodoxy. Only make your Catholicity
large enough to include every one, and who would not be a Catholic? But
this famous definition, if it be strictly taken, seems as much too large
as the others are too narrow. If you only admit to be orthodox what all
Christian persons have believed, then the Trinity ceases to be orthodox;
for many, in all ages, have disbelieved it. Eternal punishment is not
orthodox, for that, too, has often been denied in the Church. Sacraments
are not orthodox, for the Quakers have rejected them. The resurrection is
not orthodox, for there were some Christians in the Church at Corinth who
said there was no resurrection of the dead.

§ 7. Orthodoxy, as a Formula, not to be found.

Any attempt, therefore, rigidly to define Orthodoxy, destroys it. Regarded
as a precise statement, in a fixed or definite form, it is an
impossibility. There is no such thing, and never has been. No creed ever
made satisfied even the majority. How, indeed, can any statement
proceeding from the human brain be an adequate and permanent expression of
eternal truth? Even the apostle says, “I know in part, and I prophesy in
part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part
shall be done away.” The apostle declares that his sight of truth is only
partial, and that everything partial is imperfect, and that everything
imperfect must pass away; so that our present knowledge of truth is
transient. “Whether there be knowledge, it shall pass away.” If the
apostle Paul declared that he had not the power of making a perfect and
permanent statement of truth, how can we believe that any one else can
ever do it?

§ 8. Orthodoxy as Convictions underlying Opinions.

If, therefore, every doctrinal statement is changeable and changing; if
the history of opinions shows the rise and fall of creeds,—one after the
other becoming dominant, and then passing away; if no formula has ever
gained the universal assent of Christendom; if the oldest creeds contained
errors now universally rejected,—what then remains as Orthodoxy? We
answer, no one statement, but something underlying all statements—no one
system of theology, but certain convictions, perhaps, pervading all the
ruling systems. Man’s mind, capable of insight, sees with the inward eye
the same great spiritual realities, just as with his outward eye he sees
the same landscape, sky, ocean. According to the purity and force of his
insight, and the depth of his experience, he sees the same truth. There is
one truth, but many ways of stating it—one spirit, but many forms.

    “The one remains, the many change and pass;
    Heaven’s light forever shines, earth’s shadows fly.”

Are there any such great convictions underlying and informing all the
creeds? I think there are. I think, for example, it has always been
believed in the Church that in some sense man is a sinner, and in some
sense Christ is a Saviour from sin; that Christianity is in some way a
supernatural revelation of the divine will and love; that Scripture is
somehow an inspired book, and has authority over our belief and life; that
there is a Church, composed of disciples of Jesus, whose work in the world
is to aid him in saving the lost and helping the fallen and wretched; that
somehow man needs to be changed from his natural state into a higher
state, and to begin a new life, in order to see God; that there is such a
thing as heaven, and such a thing as hell; that those who love God and man
belong to heaven, and that the selfish and sensual belong to hell. These
ideas have been the essential ideas of the Church, and constitute the
essence of its Orthodoxy.

Orthodoxy, then, is not any definite creed, or statement of truth. It is
not of the letter, but of the spirit. The letter kills. Consequently those
who cling to the letter of Orthodoxy kill its spirit. The greatest enemy
of Orthodoxy is dead Orthodoxy. The old statements retained after their
life is gone,—the old phrases made Shibboleths by which truth is to be
forever tested,—these gradually make the whole system seem false to the
advancing intellect of the human race. Then heresies come up, just as
providential, and just as necessary, as Orthodoxy, to compel the Church to
make restatements of the eternal truth. Heresies, in this sense, are as
true as Orthodoxy, and make part, indeed, of a higher Orthodoxy.

By Orthodoxy, therefore, we do not mean the opinions held by any
particular denomination in New England or elsewhere. We do not mean the
opinions of New England Calvinists or of Southern Presbyterians; not the
creed of Andover, of New Haven, or of Princeton: but we mean that great
system of belief which gradually took form in the Christian Church, in the
course of centuries, as its standard theology. The pivotal points of this
system are sin and salvation. In it man appears as a sinner, and Christ as
a Saviour. Man is saved by an inward change of heart, resulting in an
outward change of life, and produced by the sight of the two facts of sin
and salvation. The sight of his sin and its consequences leads him to
repentance; the sight of salvation leads him to faith, hope, and love; and
the sight of both results in regeneration, or a new life. This system also
asserts the divinity of Christ, the triune nature of God, the divine
decrees, the plenary inspiration of Scripture, eternal punishment, and
eternal life.

§ 9. Substantial Truth and Formal Error in all great Doctrinal Systems.

Within the last twenty-five years, a new department of theological
literature has arisen in Germany, which treats of the history of
doctrines. The object of this is to trace the doctrinal opinions held in
the Church in all ages. By this course of study, two facts are
apparent—first, that the same great views have been substantially held by
the majority of Christians in all ages; and, secondly, that the forms of
doctrine have been very different. The truths themselves have been
received by Christians, as their strength, their hope, and their joy, in
all time; but the formal statement of these truths has been wrought out
differently by individual intellects. The universal body of Christians has
taken care of Christian truth; while the Church Fathers, or doctors, have
held in their hands the task of defining it doctrinally for the intellect.

By substantial truth we mean this—that in all the great systems of opinion
which have had a deep hold on the human mind, over broad spaces and
through long periods, there is something suited to man’s nature, and
corresponding with the facts of the case. The mind of man was made for
truth, and not for error. Error is transient: truth only is permanent. Men
do not love error for its own sake, but for the sake of something with
which it is connected. After a while, errors are eliminated, and the
substance retained. The great, universal, abiding convictions of men must,
therefore, contain truth. If it were not so, we might well despair; for,
if the mind of the race could fall into unmixed error, the only remedy by
which the heart can be cured, and the life redeemed from evil, would be
taken away. But it is not so. God has made the mind for truth, as he has
adapted the taste to its appropriate food. In the main, and in the long
run, what men believe _is the truth_; and all catholic beliefs are valid
beliefs. Opinions held by all men, everywhere and at all times, must be
substantially true.

But error certainly exists, and always has existed. If the human mind is
made for truth, how does it fall into error? There never has been any
important question upon which men have not taken two sides; and, where
they take two sides, one side must be in error. Sometimes these two
parties are equally balanced, and that for long periods. With which has
the truth been? Is God always with the majority? If so, we must at once
renounce our Unitarian belief for the Trinity, as an immense majority of
votes are given in its favor. But, then, we must also renounce
Protestantism; for Protestantism has only eighty or ninety millions
against a hundred and forty millions who are Catholics. And, still
further, we must renounce Christianity in favor of Heathenism; since all
the different Christian sects and churches united make up but three
hundred millions, while the Buddhists alone probably exceed that number.
Moreover, truth is always in a minority at first,—usually in a minority of
one; and, if men ought to wait until it has a majority on its side before
they accept it, it never will have a majority on its side.

These objections lead us to the only possible answer, which consists in
distinguishing between the substance and the form. When we assert that all
creeds, widely held and long retained, have truth, we mean substantial
truth. We do not mean that they are true in their formal statement, which
may be an erroneous statement, but that they are true as to their
contents. The substance of the belief is the fact inwardly beheld by the
mind; the form is the verbal statement which the mind makes of what it has
seen. It has seen something real; but, when it attempts to describe what
it has seen, it may easily commit errors. Thus there may be, in the same
creed, substantial truth and formal error; and all great and
widely-extended beliefs, as we assert, must contain substantial truth and
formal error. Without substantial truth, there would be nothing in them to
feed the mind, and they would not be retained; and, if they were not more
or less erroneous in form, it would imply infallibility on the part of
those who give them their form.

§ 10. Importance of this Distinction.

This distinction is one of immense importance; because, being properly
apprehended, it would, by destroying dogmatism, destroy bigotry also.
Dogmatism consists in assuming that the essence of truth lies in its
formal statement. Correctly assuming that the life of the soul comes from
the sight of truth, it falsely infers that the essence of truth is in the
verbal formula. Consequently, this formula must necessarily seem of
supreme importance, and the very salvation of the soul to depend on
holding the correct opinion. With this conviction, one _must and ought_ to
be bigoted; he ought to cling to the minutest syllable of his creed as the
drowning man clings to the floating plank. Holding this view, we cannot
blame men for being bigoted: it is their duty to be bigoted. But, when the
distinction is recognized, they will cling to the substance, knowing that
the vital truth lies there. It is the sight of the fact which is the
source of our life, and not the statement which we make, in words, as to
what we have seen. Then the sight becomes the thing of immense importance;
the creed in which it is expressed, of comparative unimportance.

This distinction would tend to bring the Church to a true unity—the unity
of the spirit. All would strive for the same insight, all tolerate variety
of expression. Instead of assenting outwardly to the same creed, every man
ought, in fact, to make his own creed; and there should be as many
different creeds as there are different men. Nor should my creed of to-day
be the same as that of yesterday; for, instead of resting on a past
experience, I should continually endeavor to obtain new sights of the one
unchangeable truth. Seeing more of it to-day than I did yesterday, my
yesterday’s creed would seem inadequate, and I should wish to make a new

Substantial truth means the truth which we see—the inward sight, the
radical experience. Formal truth is the verbal statement, and consists in
accuracy of expression. And so of error. Substantial error means error in
regard to the substance, and is necessarily inadequacy of inward
experience. Strictly speaking, there cannot be substantial error; for
error, in regard to the substance of truth, is purely negative. It is
not-seeing. It is failing to perceive the truth, either from want of
opportunity, weakness of vision, or neglect in looking. But formal error
is not merely defect: it may also be mistake. We may misstate the truth,
and say what is radically false. From this source come contradictions;
and, where two statements are contradictory, both cannot be true.
Falsehood, therefore, originates with the statement. The errors of insight
are merely defects; but the errors of statement may be positive

This leads us to take a special view of theological controversies. In all
great controversies, in the conflicts of ages, where the good and wise
have stood opposed to each other, century after century, it is probable
that there are truth and error on both sides.

Each side may hold some truth which the other has not seen. There is,
therefore, also substantial error on both sides; for each may have failed
to see some phase of truth which the other has recognized. But there may
be formal error, or error of statement, even where there is substantial
truth; for the truth may be overstated, or understated, or misstated, and
a false expression given to a true observation.

What, then, is the duty of those who stand opposed to each other in these
controversies—of Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Deists,
Orthodox and Unitarians? They have plainly a twofold duty to themselves as
well as to their opponents. They ought to increase their insight, and to
improve their statements; to deepen and widen their hold of the substance;
to correct and improve their expression of the form. The first is the work
of religion; the second, that of theology.

The first is infinitely the most important, because the life of the soul
depends on the sight of truth. This is its food, without which it will
starve and die. But it is also important that it should improve its
theology, because a correct theology is a help to insight, and a ground of
mental communion.

§ 11. The Orthodox and Liberal Parties in New England.

The Liberal party in New England have carried on a theological controversy
for some forty years with the Orthodox. This controversy was inevitable.
Calvinism had neglected important truths which the human soul needed, and
without which it would starve. Unitarianism came to assert and vindicate
those truths. At first, it was inevitable that the statements on either
side should be narrow and mutually exclusive. But, as a battle goes on,
the position of the opposing armies changes. The points of attack and
defence alter. Old positions are abandoned, and new ones occupied. Seldom
does it happen to either army to sleep on the field of battle. Nor has it
so happened to us. Neither the Unitarians nor the Trinitarians have gained
a complete victory: each has taken some important position, and yielded
some other. We have a book called “Concessions of Trinitarians:” another
might be written containing the “Concessions of Unitarians.” Neither side
has conceded, or ought to concede, any real truth of experience or of
statement; but it is honorable to each to concede its own partial and
inadequate statements.

We intend, in this volume, to endeavor, from our own point of view, to
gain what sight we can of the radical, vital truth underlying each great
Orthodox doctrine. At the same time, we shall freely criticise the forms,
especially the more recent ones, in which Orthodox doctrines have been

We assume, at the outset, that each doctrine _does_ cover some truth of
experience, some real solid fact, which is as important to us as to our
opponents. We assume, that, though the doctrines may be false, there may
be an experience behind them which is true. We have satisfied ourselves of
the formal error of their statements. We consider it impossible for a
sound Unitarian intellect to accept the Orthodox theology as a whole,
without being untrue to itself; but there is no reason why we should not
break this shell of doctrine, and find the vital truths which it contains.
And if it be said, “Who made you a judge or a divider on these subjects?”
we reply, that only by contributions from all quarters can a final
judgment be reached. Meantime, it is the right and duty of every serious
thinker to add his own opinion to the common stock; willing to be refuted
when wrong,—glad, if right, to be helpful in any degree towards the
ultimate result.

This is the object of the present work, which, though written by a
Unitarian, and from a Unitarian stand-point, and though published by the
American Unitarian Association, will, we trust, be sufficiently


§ 1. The Principle of Orthodoxy defined.

The principle of Orthodoxy is, that there is one true system of Christian
doctrine, and that all others are false; that this system can be, and has
been, so stated in words as to distinguish it from all the false systems
or heresies; and that this true system of doctrine is the one which is now
held, and always has been held, by the majority of Christians; and,
finally, that the belief of this system is, as a rule, essential to
salvation—so that those who may be saved, while not accepting it, will be
saved (if at all) by way of exception, and not according to rule.

§ 2. Logical Genesis of the Principle of Orthodoxy.

The principle of Orthodoxy seems to have arisen, and to have maintained
itself in the Church, in some such way as this. Jesus Christ, it is
assumed, came to save the soul from sin and evil. He saves the soul by the
word of truth. In order that this truth shall become saving truth, it must
be believed, and so strongly believed as to have a practical influence on
life and action. We are therefore saved by believing the truth taught by
Christ. But in order to be believed, it must be expressed in some definite
statement, or in what we call Christian doctrine. But truth is one, and
therefore the doctrine which expresses it must also be one.

Therefore there must be one system of Christian doctrine, containing in
itself the substance of Christian truth, and constituting the object of
Christian faith. This system, though it may vary in its unessential parts,
must in its essence be unchangeable. In proportion as any system of belief
varies from it, such system is heterodox and dangerous, while this system
alone is orthodox and safe.

Another form of this argument would be as follows: Christ came to _reveal_
something to men. If revealed, it must be made known. If made known, it
must be capable of being so expressed that there can be no reasonable
doubt concerning it. Otherwise, Christianity would not be a revelation.
But if expressed so as to enter the human mind, it must be expressed in
human language. A verbal revelation, therefore, is essential for the
purposes of Christianity. Such a revelation is nothing else than a system
of doctrine, or that which can be systematized into doctrine. And this
system must be one and the same from age to age, or it is not a permanent
divine revelation, but only a transient human seeking for such a

§ 3. Orthodoxy assumed to be the Belief of the Majority.

The natural test of Orthodoxy is assumed to be the belief of the majority
of Christians; for if Christianity be a revelation of truth, its essential
contents must be easy to apprehend, and when apprehended, they must be
generally accepted. The revelations of God in nature are seen and accepted
by the human intellect, and so become matters of science. Orthodox science
is that which the great majority of scientific men have accepted as such;
and Orthodox _Christianity_, in like manner, must be that which the
majority of Christian believers accept as such. Hence it is taken for
granted, as regards Orthodox doctrine, that it meets the test, “_Quod
semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus_.”

§ 4. Heterodoxy thus becomes sinful.

But if the essential truth of Christianity be thus plain, those who do not
receive it must be either stupid or wilful. Its rejection argues a want of
intellect or a bad heart. Heretics, therefore, ought logically to become
to the Orthodox objects either of contempt or hatred. If they cannot see
what is so plain, they must be intellectually imbecile. If they will not
see it, they must be morally depraved. Therefore intelligent people who
accept and teach heresies ought to be considered wicked people by logical
Orthodox minds. Moreover, they are the most dangerous persons in the
community, because, by denying that truth by which the soul is to be
saved, they endanger not merely the temporal, but also the eternal,
welfare of those whom they seduce. And if we have a right to abate a
nuisance which only interferes with the earthly comfort and peace of
society, how much more one which attacks its spiritual peace and eternal
welfare! Have not the majority a right to protect themselves, their
children, and society from that which they not merely believe, but know,
to be evil? For Orthodoxy assumes to be not merely opinion, but knowledge.
Hence Orthodoxy legitimates persecution.(5) Persecution is only the
judicious repression of criminal attempts to pervert and injure society.
Moreover, Orthodoxy, according to its principle, ought to discourage
inquiry in relation to its own fundamental principles. For why continue to
discuss and debate about that which is known? Progress consists in
advancing from the known to the unknown. The unknown, and not the known,
is the proper subject for inquiry. The system of Orthodoxy, therefore,
according to its own principle, should be withdrawn from further
examination. Intellectual advance requires us to take for granted
something—to forget that which is behind in order to press forward to that
which is before. The doctrines of Orthodoxy therefore, when once
established, should afterwards be assumed, and need not be proved. We do
not call a scientific man a bigot because he refuses to discuss
fundamental principles. If Orthodoxy be science, why accuse it of bigotry
when it follows the same course?

§ 5. The Doctrine of Essentials and Non-essentials leads to Rome.

If Orthodoxy consists in a statement of opinions the belief of which is
essential to salvation, the question arises, Are _all_ these opinions
essential, or only a part? It is generally admitted that the great system
called Orthodoxy contains some things not essential to salvation. How
shall these be distinguished? Moreover, some variation of statement is
judged allowable. No Orthodox creed is assumed to be inspired as to its
language. The same essential truth may be expressed in different terms.
How, then, are we to define the limits of expression so as to know what
error of opinion is venial, and what vital? Orthodoxy assures us that our
salvation depends on accepting its statements. In which particular form,
then, must we accept them? In so important a matter as this, where
salvation is assumed to depend on accepting the right form of doctrine,
one surely ought to be able to know which the right form is. Now, the rule
of Orthodoxy, as given above, is, that nothing is Orthodox, as essential
doctrine, which has not been believed “always, everywhere, and by all.”
But this raises an historical question, and one of no little difficulty.
For since heresies have always existed, and some one has always been found
somewhere to deny the most essential doctrines of Orthodoxy, the question
is somewhat intricate who these “all” are who have never disbelieved the
Orthodox system. It is plain that the majority of Christians have neither
time nor ability for these investigations. The historical inquiry must be
conducted for them by others. And here seems to come in the law of Church
authority as against private judgment. And so the principle of Orthodoxy,
carried out to its legitimate results, appears to land us at last in the
Roman Catholic Church, to set aside the right of private judgment, and to
justify intolerance and the forcible suppression of heresy. But as these
results are not accepted by those who yet accept the principles of
Orthodoxy, it is necessary to see if there is a fallacy anywhere in our
course of thought, and at what precise point the fallacy has come in.

§ 6. Fallacy in this Orthodox Argument.

The fallacy in all this argument lies here—that faith is confounded with
belief; knowledge with opinion; the sight of truth with its intellectual
statement in the form of doctrine. Undoubtedly there is only one faith,
but there may be many ways of stating it in the form of opinion. Moreover,
no man, no church, no age, sees the whole of truth. Truth is multilateral,
but men’s minds are unilateral. They are mirrors which reflect, and that
imperfectly, the side of the object which is towards them. Therefore even
knowledge in any finite mind is partial, consequently imperfect; and
consequently needs other knowledge to complete it.

This, apparently, is what the apostle Paul means (1 Cor. 13:8-12) in his
statement concerning the relation between knowledge and love. Knowledge
(Gnosis) “shall pass away.” The word here used is elsewhere translated by
“destroyed,” “brought to nought,” “abolished,” “made of none effect.”
“Knowledge” here probably refers to definite and systematic statements of
real insights. It is something more than opinion, but something less than
faith. Faith abides, but knowledge passes away. Faith abides, because it
is a positive sight of truth. It is an experience of the soul, by which it
opens itself in trust, and becomes receptive of spiritual influence.
Faith, therefore, remains, and its results are permanent in the soul. They
make the substance of our knowledge as regards the spiritual world. This
substance becomes a part of the soul itself, and constitutes a basis of
self-consciousness as real as is its experience of the external world. But
_Gnosis_ is this faith, translated by the intellect into systematic form.
Such systems embody real experience, and are necessary for mental and
moral progress. They are the bodies of thought. But all bodies must die,
sooner or later; and so all systems of knowledge must pass away. The body,
at first, helps the growth of thought, helps the growth of the soul; but
afterwards it hinders it. The new wine must be put into new bottles.
Therefore the apostle Paul, the great teacher of doctrinal theology in the
Christian Church, distinctly recognizes here, that every system of
doctrine, no matter how much truth it contains, is partial, and therefore
transient. He makes no exception in favor even of inspired statements—he
does not except his own. All bodies must die; all forms are fugitive;
nothing continues but the substance of knowledge, which is faith; the
inward sight of God’s goodness producing that endless expectation which is
called hope; and the large spiritual communion with God and his creatures,
here called Agape, or love. The apostle speaks in the first person when he
says that knowledge passes away—“_We_ know in part, and _we_ prophesy [or
teach] in part.” He speaks for himself and his fellow-apostles.

We see, therefore, that the great master and head of Orthodoxy in the
Church has himself declared every form of Orthodoxy to be transient.

We conclude, therefore, that the apostle Paul, in this famous passage,
overturns the whole principle of verbal Orthodoxy. He takes away its
foundation. Not denying the reality and permanence of religious
experience, not denying the saving power of truth, he declares that no
expressed system of truth is permanent. The basis of doctrinal Orthodoxy
is the assumption that its own particular form of belief is essential to
salvation. But the apostle declares that _all_ forms are transient, and,
therefore, _none_ essential. All statement is a limitation, and the moment
that we make a definition, we say something which is incomplete. When Paul
says, “We know in part,” he says the same thing which is said by Kant, by
Sir William Hamilton, by Auguste Comte, by Mr. Mansell, and most modern
thinkers, when they declare the relativity of knowledge. All thinking is
limitation. “To think,” says Sir William Hamilton, “is to condition.” We
only know a thing, says this school, by its being different from something
else. The school of Kant declares all knowledge to be phenomenal, and that
all phenomenal knowledge consists of two parts—the part given by the
thing, and the part added by the mind. Herbert Spencer (in “First
Principles”) insists on the certainty of the existence of things in
themselves, but also on their absolute and eternal unknowableness.
According to John Stuart Mill, the same view of the unknowableness of
Noumena is taken by M. Auguste Comte.

These modern philosophers, it will be seen, go much farther than Paul, and
lay down positions which inaugurate a universal scepticism. According to
them there is nothing certain and nothing fixed. Mr. Mansell virtually
teaches us that we cannot know anything of God, duty, or immortality; and
that faith means, taking for granted on some outward authority. To use a
striking expression of President James Walker, “We are not to believe, but
to make believe.” That is, we are not to believe with our intellect, but
with our will. Or, in other words, we are to believe not what is true, but
what is expedient. This he calls regulative truth, as opposed to
speculative truth.

But this is by no means the doctrine of the apostle Paul. He teaches the
certainty of substantive knowledge, but the fallibility of formal
knowledge. He thus avoids the two extremes of dogmatism on the one side,
and scepticism on the other. The substance of Gnosis, which is the sight
of truth, is a reality, and, like all that is real, has its root in God,
and shares his eternity. The form of Gnosis is subjective, relative, and
transient. Everything which is seen is temporal; only that which is not
seen is eternal. All that takes outward, visible form, comes under the law
of change; the roots of our knowledge, fixed in God, are unchangeable.

§ 7. The three Tendencies in the Church.

The human soul, a unit, indivisible, and without parts, nevertheless acts
in three directions—of will, affection, intellect. These are
distinguishable, though not divisible. Every one knows the difference
between an _act_; an _emotion_ of anger, pity, sorrow, love; and a process
of logic, or an intellectual argument. These are the three primary states
of the mind, evidently distinct. It is impossible to mistake either for
the other. I may direct my mind towards action, towards thought, or
towards emotion. The first of these, action, is the most within my own
power, depends chiefly on myself, lies nearest the will. _Will_ passes
instantaneously into action. I will to lift my arm, and it is done. On the
other hand, feeling or emotion lies the farthest from this centre of will,
depends least of all on my own choice, and in it I am most passive. But
the sphere of intellect is intermediate. I am more free when I think than
when I feel; less free than when I act. In the domain of will, I act upon
external things; in the domain of feeling, I am acted upon by external
things; in the domain of intellect, I neither act nor am acted upon, but I
_see_ them. In all thinking, in proportion as it is pure thought, both
will and emotion are excluded. We are neither actors nor sufferers, but
spectators. Things seen pass into our life through the intellect, and
become sources of emotion and action. Love of truth causes us to desire to
know it; this desire leads us to put our mind in the presence of truth,
but when there, the functions of emotion and will cease, and all we have
to do is to look.

Now, there have always been in the Church three parties, or at least three
tendencies, in regard to the basis of religion. One of these makes the
basis of the religious life to consist in thought, one posits it in
feeling, the third in action. With one, the intellect must take the
initiative; with the second, the heart; with the third, the will, or power
of determination. The three parties in the Church, based on these three
tendencies, may be characterized as the Orthodoxists, the Emotionalists,
and the party of Works. The first says, “We are saved by faith;” the
second says, “We are saved by love;” the third says, “We are saved by
obedience.” The first assumes that the sight of truth must take the lead
in all Christian experience; the second believes that love for goodness is
the true basis in religion; the third maintains that the first thing to be
done, in order to become a religious man, is to obey the law of duty. It
is evidently very important to decide which of these answers is the true
one. What are we to do first, if we wish to become Christian men or women?
Are we to study, read, reflect, in order to know the truth? Are we to go
to church and listen to sermons, join Bible classes and study the
Scriptures, read compends of doctrine and books of Christian evidence? Or
are we to seek for emotion, to pray for a change of heart, to put
ourselves under exciting influences, to go where a revival is in progress,
to attend protracted meetings, to be influenced through sympathy till we
are filled full of emotions of anxiety, fear, remorse, followed by
emotions of hope, trust, gratitude, pardon, peace, joy? Or are we to do
neither of these things, but to begin by obedience, trying to _do_ right
in order to _be_ right, beginning by the performance of the humblest
duties, the nearest duties, letting fidelity in the least open the way to
more? Shall we _know_ the truth in order to love it and do it? Or shall we
_love_ the truth in order to see it and do it? Or shall we _do_ right in
order to know it and love it?

Large numbers in the Church have followed each of these three methods, and
made each the basis of its action. One has said, “We are saved by works;”
a second, “We are saved by faith;” a third, “We are saved by love.”

§ 8. The Party of Works.

Two tendencies have joined in teaching salvation by works, or, more
strictly, in teaching _the initiative of the will in religion_. These are
the Church-tendency and the Moral-tendency in Christianity. The Church
party in Christianity teaches that the first duty towards a child is to
make it a member of the Christian Church by baptism, and that the first
duty of every baptized person is to obey the commands of the Church. The
Church thus becomes a school, in which baptized persons are educated as
Christians. The Church of Rome, and the High Church party in the Church of
England and in the Episcopal Church of the United States, teach this
doctrine of salvation by works. This system by no means dispenses with
Christian belief or Christian feeling, but makes them both subordinate.
The Church says to its faithful, We do not require you to believe or to
feel, but to obey. If we said, “Believe,” or “Feel,” you might justly
reply, “We cannot believe or feel when we choose, and you have therefore
no right to ask us to do so.” Therefore the Church only demands obedience,
which it is in the power of all to render. It, indeed, requires an assent
to its creed, and forbids heresy. But this only means, “Receive the creed
as true until you are able to see _how_ it is true.” The Church also
insists greatly on love, and its saints have been filled with the highest
raptures of piety. But it never _requires_ feeling. It says, “Use the
means we put into your hands, and feeling will come. Pray, as we command
you to do, whether you feel deeply or not. Feeling will come by and by.”
Discipline, therefore, and not illumination, has been the method of the
Church of Rome, and is also the method of all other Churches, so far as
they are ecclesiastical Churches. All such Churches teach that by a
faithful conformity to their ritual, methods, sacraments, services,
discipline, the Christian life will surely come. The one thing needful and
primary with them all is obedience, and the result of obedience is
knowledge and love.

Essentially the same view is taken by the Ethical party, or Moralists, in
Christianity. Their statement, also, of the foundation of religion is,
that it lies in obedience. They differ only from the Church party as
regards the authority to be obeyed. With them it is not the Church, but
the Moral Law, as made known to men in revelation, or in the natural
instincts of conscience. The foundation of all goodness and religion is
right doing. This leads to right thinking and right feeling; or, when it
does not lead to these, it is still sufficient, and is satisfactory to
God. “What doth the Lord require of thee,” say they, “but to do justly,
and love mercy, and walk humbly with thy God?” At this point the extremes
meet, and the Roman Catholic Church, or the extreme right, offers its hand
to the Liberal Christians, or the extreme left. This is the point of
contact between the two, which sometimes, also, becomes a bridge by which
proselytes pass either way, from one to the other. But the practical
question is, Is this answer sound? _Does_ the will lead the way in
religion? Is obedience the first step to be taken at every point of the
way? Is the initiative in the religious life always an action? Are we
saved by works?

The objection to this view is, that a religious action, without a
religious thought and a religious affection behind it, is not in any sense
religious. It has in it nothing of the essence of religion. Religion,
regarded merely as obedience to God, implies the knowledge of God. We must
know God in order to obey him; we must know God in order to love him.
Knowledge, therefore, must precede obedience, and not the contrary.
Otherwise obedience is an empty form, having no religious character.
Unless we see the truth and justice of obedience, we are only yielding to
human persuasion, to human authority, and not to the authority of God. It
may be well, or it may be ill, to yield to such human authority; but there
is no religion in it, or only a religion of dead works.

§ 9. The Party of Emotion in Christianity.

There are those, and always have been those, who have placed the substance
of religion in love, in which they have, perhaps, not been mistaken. But
they have often taken another step, by degrading love into mere emotion.
They have considered that feeling was the basis of religion; not thought,
nor action. They too have texts to quote in support of their view. They
say that “with the _heart_ men believe unto righteousness;” that we must
“be rooted and grounded in _love_;” that the _first_ commandment is to
“_love_ God with all the heart.” As with them religious emotion
constitutes the essence of religion, they make use of all means of
producing it, and especially the excitement which comes from sympathy. The
Methodist Church has, perhaps, gone farther than any other towards making
this a principle. This great and noble body has done its vast work for
Christianity by making prominent the love-principle in all its operations.
If the Church party stands at one extreme, Methodism, in all its forms,
stands at the other. The Roman Catholic Church sums up all the
inspirations of the past, collects in its large _repertoire_ all ancient
liturgies, all saintly lives, all sacred customs, and so brings an
imposing authority, a reverend antiquity, made up of the best history of
man. Methodism drops the past, and finds God in the present—in present
inspirations, in the newly-converted soul, born out of darkness into
light, by the immediate coming of the Spirit of God. According to the
Catholic Church the Christian life commences with an outward act,—that of
baptism,—and is carried on by outward sacraments; according to Methodism,
the Christian life begins with an inward emotional experience,—the
spiritual new birth,—and is carried on by successive emotions of
penitence, faith, hope, joy, and pious devotion. According to Catholicism,
the one thing needful is the outward sacramental union with the Church;
according to Methodism, the one thing needful is the inward emotional
union with the Holy Spirit.

§ 10. The Faith Party in Religion.

If Churchism and Moralism place the essence of Christianity in action, and
Emotionalism puts it in feeling, Orthodoxy places it in something
intellectual, which it calls faith. All the sects of Christendom do,
indeed, place faith at the root of the Christian life; but some make it
essentially an intellectual act, others essentially affectionate, and
others an act of will. Orthodoxy makes it, in substance, a sight of faith,
or an act of looking at spiritual realities. Sometimes it is called a
realizing sense of spiritual things. But, at all events, the sight of
truth is considered the beginning and root of religion by the Orthodox
party in the Church. We are saved by the word of truth; and the Saviour
himself is called “the Word,”—belief in whom constitutes eternal life.
Rationally, it is argued that the essential difference between the
Christian and the unbeliever, or the unchristian, must lie in seeing
Christ or not seeing him. The first step in the religious life always
consists in looking at the truth.

§ 11. Truth in the Orthodox Idea.

Admitting, then, what all these systems and parties in the Church unite in
asserting,—that an act of faith is always at the foundation of every
Christian state and of all Christian experience,—we ask, Which is the most
essential element in faith—will, intellect, or affection? Is an act of
faith chiefly an act of the will, a determination, or is it a loving
desire, or a state of knowledge, a looking at truth? Suppose we call it a
state of love, for this reason, that in order to be good, the first thing
requisite is to wish to be good. A longing for goodness, it may be said,
must precede everything else. But what makes us long for goodness, if we
_do_ desire it? What shall produce that longing, if it does not exist? The
only answer must be, The sight of truth. The sight of God’s holiness and
of God’s tenderness, the sight of law and gospel, whatever shows us the
beauty of goodness and the meanness of sin, must come first to awaken this
desire. Or suppose it be said that the essential thing in faith is the
active element, because it is submitting to God’s law, trusting in his
help, coming to the truth, opening the heart to the Holy Spirit,—all of
which are determinations of the will. We must reply, True; but these
determinations will never be taken unless we first _see_ the will of God
to which we submit, see the salvation of God on which we lean, know that
there is a truth to which we may come, know that there is a Holy Spirit,
in order to ask for it.

So that, on the whole, we may say that Orthodoxy is right in making the
sight of truth the beginning of the Christian life, and the beginning of
every Christian state, act, or experience. All human goodness is the
reflection of God’s goodness; it all has its source in the sight of a
divine holiness, truth, beauty. This is the fundamental idea of Orthodoxy,
and in this Orthodoxy is right.

It is no answer to this to say that man has an instinctive longing for
goodness, which causes him to feel after God before he finds him. For what
are these instincts themselves, as soon as they begin to act, but the
voice of God speaking in the soul, showing it some glimpses of a divine
truth? The longing in the soul must be aroused by the sight or knowledge
of something better than that which one has or is. Consequently, we say
again, that the sight of truth is that which saves the soul, and first
creates in it a better life.

If we make Christianity to be essentially obedience, we make of it, at
last, an oppressive form. If we consider it as essentially an emotional
experience, we destroy its moral character; for emotion is both passive
and blind, while the definition of morality is the freely choosing what we
see to be right. Ecclesiasticism and Emotionalism both tend to demoralize
Christianity. They remove from it the element of moral freedom in the
interest either of Church authority or of mystical piety. Then
Christianity must come anew, in the form of truth, to purify the air, and
renew the moral life of society.

Protestantism arose in this way, to salt the corrupting Church.
Ecclesiasticism, in its well-meant efforts at training men, by a complete
discipline, to a perfect virtue, had suppressed the individual love of
truth to such an extent, that religion had become a mere surface, without
substance. Jesuitism abolished the distinction between things right and
wrong in themselves, and made right to consist solely in the intention;
that is, made it wholly subjective. The Lutheran reformation was the
revival of the intellect in regard to religion—the demand for conviction
instead of assent; for the sight of God in place of obedience to the
Church. It repeated, with an emphasis adapted to the needs of the
sixteenth century, the words of Jesus, “This is life eternal, to _know_
thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” In these
words is the sufficient defence of Protestantism. It was the cry of the
soul to _know_ God, and not merely to assent to what the Church taught
concerning him; it was the longing to _know_ Christ, and not to repeat by
rote the creeds of the first centuries, and the definitions of mediæval
doctors in regard to him. In a subsequent chapter we shall consider the
truth and error in the Protestant principle of justification by faith. Our
purpose here is to show that the truth in Orthodoxy is identical with the
truth in Protestantism. Both place, as the root of all religion, an
individual personal sight of God and truth. To this, freedom of thought is
an essential means. Right thinking involves free thinking. If to know the
truth makes us free, freedom, again, is the condition of knowing the
truth. Protestantism and Orthodoxy have often attempted to limit the
application of this principle. Protestants, as well as Catholics, have
persecuted heretics. But while Catholics, in doing this, have been
faithful to their own idea, and have therefore made of persecution a
system, Protestants have been vacillating and undecided persecutors. They
have been drawn in opposite directions by antagonist principles.
Fundamentally, Protestantism, as such, claims for all the rights of
private judgment, and is, therefore, in its whole stress and influence,
opposed to persecution, and in favor of religious liberty. It has
conquered the Catholic Church on this point so far as to compel it to
renounce the practice of persecution, if it has not relinquished the
theory. During three centuries Protestantism has been, more and more,
emancipating the human mind—making it the duty, and consequently the
right, of every human being to see truth for himself. It has been drawn
into inconsistencies by its belief in the saving power of certain
doctrines, and the supreme importance of believing them. On one hand it
has claimed, with a trumpet voice, the freedom of conscience and opinion
for all, and then has cried out against those who freely came to opinions
differing from its own.

But, notwithstanding these inconsistencies, Protestantism has steadily
given freedom of spirit to mankind. And with the awakened and emancipated
intellect all the elements of progress have shown themselves in Protestant
lands. In 1517, when Luther nailed his theses to the church door, Italy,
Spain, and Portugal were far in advance of Northern Europe in
civilization. In commerce, art, and literature, Italy was the queen of
Europe. In military force, extent of possessions, and unbounded wealth,
Spain was the leading power of the world. The Portuguese mariners had
ransacked every sea, and discovered new continents and islands in every
zone. How insignificant, in comparison with these great nations, were
England, Holland, and Germany! But England, Holland, and Germany became
Protestant; Italy, Spain, and Portugal remained Catholic; while France and
Austria adopted a half-way Catholicism.

The result has been, in the course of three centuries, a complete reversal
of the position. The last have become first, and the first last. What now
has become of the terrible power of Spain, the enterprise of Portugal, the
art and literature of Italy? When the element of Protestantism was crushed
out of these nations by the Inquisition, the principle of national
progress was also destroyed. But the northern powers who accepted the
Lutheran reform received with it the germs of progress. Holland, Denmark,
Norway, Sweden, Prussia, Saxony, England, and Scotland, have, by a steady
progress in civilization, wealth, knowledge, and morality, conclusively
demonstrated the impulse of progress contained in the Protestant idea.

So far, therefore, as this great experiment, continued during three
hundred years, can prove anything, it proves the truth of the central idea
of Protestantism and Orthodoxy, namely, that saving faith is essentially
not emotional nor volitional, but intellectual.

§ 12. Error in the Orthodox Principle.

We are well aware of the reply which might be made, from the stand-point
of Ecclesiasticism, to the historical argument just given. The Roman
Catholic might answer thus: “We admit that the tree must be known by its
fruits; but the tree of true Christianity is known by bearing the fruits
of Christianity, not those of worldly civilization. Suppose that England
is to-day richer than Italy, more powerful than Spain; is she _better_?
Are there more piety and more morality in Protestant than in Catholic
countries? In which communities do you find the most humility, simplicity,
religious faith, reverence for religious institutions, fear of God? In
which do you find most of sympathy, kindliness, good will from man to man?
The fierce civilization of Protestantism is hard, cold, and cruel. It
tramples under its feet the weak. It accumulates wealth and power; but are
these Christianity? Is London or Rome the best model of a Christian city?
Is it London, with its terrible contrasts of enormous wealth and naked
want, its proud aristocracy and brutalized mob, its empty churches and
illuminated gin-shops? or is it not rather Rome, poorer in material wealth
and luxury, but rich in grace—Rome, with its odor of sanctity about it;
its numerous churches, on which art has lavished her resources to make
them worthy to be the temples of God—Rome, with its priests and monks; its
religious houses, the centres of the great religious orders, whose
missions have been known in the four quarters of the earth? Protestant
countries may have a higher worldly civilization, more education and
intelligence, more manufactures and commerce; but Catholic countries have
more humility and reverence, a more habitual piety, more gentle manners.
If Protestants have more _knowledge_, Catholics have more _love_.”

And we, though Protestants of the Protestants, must admit that there is
some truth in this. The discipline of Romanism has repressed some amount
of evil which the liberty of Protestant lands has allowed to appear. But
repressed evil is none the less evil, and often works a greater inward
corruption than when it is allowed to show itself as it is. We may also
admit that while in Protestantism there is more of TRUTH, and all the
virtues which go therewith,—such as honesty, manliness, self-respect,
conscientiousness,—in Catholic countries there is more of LOVE, and all
the virtues which follow it,—as kindly, genial manners, ready sympathy
with suffering, a spirit of dependence and trust. Still, this does not
prove that there is more real Christianity among Catholics; for love which
does not grow out of the sight of truth is not genuine nor healthy. Its
life is weak. Protestant Christianity is an immature fruit, harsh because
not quite ripe. Catholic Christianity is a fruit over-ripe, and so rotten.

Therefore we still contend that Protestantism and Orthodoxy are right in
making the free and independent sight of truth the root of all religion.
But the mistake of Orthodoxy has been in confounding truth with
doctrine—the sight of the thing with the theory about that sight. From
hence come the hardness and coldness of Orthodoxy. Pure thought is always
cold, and ought to be. The sight of spiritual things is truth and love in
one; but when we begin to reflect on that sight, the love drops out, and
the truth becomes cold.

The defect of the Orthodox principle, therefore, is the confusion of truth
with belief. Out of this mistake come dogmatism, bigotry, and all their
natural consequences. It is therefore well, before going farther, to
explain more fully this distinction and its importance.

§ 13. Faith, Knowledge, Belief, Opinion.

Religion originates at every moment, from looking at truth. Now, there are
four kinds of looking; _faith_, which is intuitive looking; _knowledge_,
which is the intuition itself looked at by reflection, and so brought to
consciousness; third, _belief_, which arranges the products of knowledge
in systematic form, and makes them congruous with each other; and lastly
comes _opinion_, which does not deal at all with things, but only with
thoughts about things. By faith we see God; by knowledge we become
conscious that we see God; by belief we arrange in order what we see; and
by opinion we feel and grope among our thoughts, seeking what we may find
of his works and ways. Every act of faith brings us into the presence of
God himself, and makes us partakers of the divine nature. Thus faith is
strictly and literally the substance of things hoped for, or the substance
of hope.(6) Substance here has its etymological sense, and is the same
word in Greek and English, meaning basis, foundation, support, or
substruction. It is the inward experience by which we come in contact with
invisible things, as perception is the experience by which we come in
contact with visible things.

These steps of intellectual activity may be called by other names than
these. What we (with Jacobi) call faith,(7) may be denominated “intuition”
(with the transcendentalists), reason (with Coleridge), God-consciousness
(with Schleiermacher), or anschauungs-vermögen (with Schelling and
others). But, by whatever name we call this power, we say there _is_ a
power in man by which he can see spiritual facts, as with his earthly
senses he can perceive sensible facts. If he has no such power, he is
incapable of knowing God, but can only have an opinion that there is a
God. But if he can know God, this knowledge rests on something back of
reasoning or reflection; it must rest on an intuition or spiritual
perception. And this, for our present purpose, we call faith. By means of
it we know the spiritual world, just as we know the material world through
sight, touch, and hearing. The senses are the organs by which we perceive
material things; intuition, or faith, the organ by which we perceive
spiritual things. He who denies the existence of such a power in man,
falls necessarily into dogmatism on the one hand, or rationalism on the
other. But as these words also take a very different sense on different
lips, we explain ourselves by saying that he puts either a theory or an
inference in the place of God. If orthodox, he puts a theory; if
sceptical, an inference. Mr. Mansell does the first, Herbert Spencer the
other. Neither of them believes that we can _know_ God’s existence. So
dogmatism and scepticism join hands. All the consequences described in the
beginning of this chapter follow as a matter of course when an opinion or
theory is put in the place of truth. Then come the inflexible narrowness
of bigotry, the hot zeal of the persecutor, the sectarian strife which has
torn the Church in twain. The remedy and prevention for these are to
recognize that the basis of religion is in faith, in a living sight of
God, the soul, duty, immortality, which are always and forever the same.

The best definitions of faith, by theologians of all schools, include the
notion of insight, will, and affection. It is an act of the soul by which
it looks at truth. But this act implies a desire to see and know the
truth. Now, such an act as this lies at the root of all our knowledge,
both of the material and spiritual world. How do I know the outward world?
The passive exercise of sensation would never give such knowledge. The
sights which enter the passive eye, the sounds which fill the passive ear,
the feelings which affect the passive sense, give no real knowledge of
outward things. That comes, not from sensation merely, but from sensation
changed into experience by a voluntary activity. We must not only see, but
_look_; not only hear, but _listen_; not only feel, but _touch_, in order
to know. _Life_, therefore, the constant synthesis of these three
elements,—life which, in every act, at once thinks, feels, and does,—alone
gives us knowledge. Divorce _thought_ from affection and will, and let it
act by itself, and it does not give knowledge; it only gives belief or
opinion. Knowledge comes only from experience—and experience means
communion. Communion with Nature by thought, desire, and action gives us
the knowledge of Nature; communion with God by thought, desire, and act,
gives us the knowledge of God. The organ by which we commune with God is
faith; it includes the desire of knowing God, and the act of looking to
him in order to know him.

KNOWLEDGE of God, of immortality, and of spiritual things does not come
from any process of reasoning on the one hand, nor from any single
intuition of reason. Just so we do not know the material world by a
process of reasoning on the one hand, or any single sensible perception on
the other. _All knowledge comes from life_; or, as the apostle John
expresses it, “Life is the light of man.” We become acquainted with
outward nature by living processes—by repeated acts of sight, hearing,
touch, taste. So we become acquainted with the spiritual world by repeated
spiritual acts; by repeated processes of faith; by continued steps of
devotion, submission, obedience, trust, love, prayer. In this way we come
to _know_ God just as certainly, and just in the same way, as we know
things visible or things audible.

But knowledge is not belief. Knowledge is the rooted conviction of the
reality of certain facts or persons, derived from communing with those
facts or persons. Belief is the intellectual assent to a proposition—a
proposition formed by analytic and synthetic methods. We analyze our
notion concerning any subject, and then arrange the results of this
analysis in order, and deduce from them a proposition, a law. This we call
our belief, or creed, concerning it. The substance of this belief is given
us in life; the form of it comes from thinking or reasoning. But it is
evident that such a belief differs in each individual according to his
experience, and according to his habits of reasoning, and even according
to his facility in expression. Moreover, knowledge and belief differ also
in this, that knowledge places us in the presence of the reality, belief
only in the presence of a proposition concerning it.

Thus John and James are friends. John _knows_ James through a long
intercourse. He is just as certain in regard to the essential character of
James as he is about his own. But if he tries to express this knowledge of
James in the form of belief, he may evidently express it badly. He may
fail from a defective analysis, or from imperfect powers of language.

On the other hand John may not know James at all. He may never have seen
him. But he has heard about him from a mutual friend, in whose judgment he
trusts, or from several persons, and so he has formed a very decided
belief in regard to James. He has a creed about him, though he has never
known him.

In the same way those who _know_ God truly and well, by the experience of
obedience and prayer, may have a very erroneous belief concerning him.
Those who do not know him at all, by any personal experience, may have a
very correct belief concerning him. But which saves the soul? Which
governs the life? Which affects the heart? Evidently not the belief, but
the knowledge.

We are not saved by any belief whatsoever concerning God or Christ,
concerning sin or salvation, concerning duty or destiny. Belief brings us
into contact with the images of things, not the things themselves. Belief
has no saving power. But knowledge has. “This is life eternal, to KNOW
thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

It is therefore a great mistake when Orthodoxy or Rationalism reverses the
axiom of John, and instead of saying, “Life is the light of man,” tells us
that “Light is the life of man.” Knowledge comes from life. Belief comes
from knowledge, and not the contrary.

The PRINCIPLE of Orthodoxy, as stated at the commencement of this chapter
(in § 1), is, that there is one true system of Christian doctrine, and
that all others are false. The IDEA of Orthodoxy, as stated in § 10 of
this chapter, is, that the soul is saved by the sight of truth. The idea
of Orthodoxy is true—its principle is false. The sight of truth—that is,
of the great spiritual realities—saves us, for only by that sight are we
lifted above our feeble and imperfect selves, and enabled to partake of
the nature of God. But while truth is ever one and the same, doctrine
varies from age to age, varies from man to man. Each man’s statement is
limited by his position, his mode of thought, his power of speech. Nor can
any council, assembly, conference, synod escape from similar limitations.

Let the distinction be once clearly recognized between truth as seen and
truth as stated,—between knowledge and belief,—and we see the end of
dogmatism, bigotry, intolerance, and superstition. We shall then see that
religion is one thing and theology quite another, and that the test and
evidence of a sound religious experience are not what a man says, but what
he is. The sight of truth remains, as always, the source of our moral and
spiritual life, but this sight of truth must pass into knowledge, by means
of life, in order to renew the soul. FAITH, or the act by which the soul,
desirous of good, puts itself in the presence of truth, is always the
beginning of each spiritual state. KNOWLEDGE, born of this faith, through
repeated acts of conscience, love, obedience, prayer, is the next step,
and that which fixes the truth in the soul. BELIEF comes afterwards,
resulting from the knowledge thus obtained, analyzed, and arranged by the
systematizing intellect. And theory, or opinion, goes forward, like the
skirmishers before an army, examining the route and opening the way, but
incapable of resisting any attack, or holding permanently any position.


§ 1. Meaning of Natural and Supernatural.

Orthodox Christianity claims that Christianity is a supernatural
revelation, consisting of truths revealed by God, not according to the
method of nature, but outside of it. But not merely the orthodox, the
heterodox too, Unitarians, Universalists, Quakers, Swedenborgians, all
hold to Christianity as a supernatural faith. What do they mean by this,
and why do they insist on it so strongly? This is our first question, and
the next will be, “What do those who hold to naturalism mean by _it_, and
why do they insist on their view?”

The distinction between the two seems to be this: The naturalists in
theology assert that God comes to man through nature, and nature _only_;
the supernaturalist declares that God comes to man, not only through
nature, but also by other methods outside of nature, or above nature.
There is no question between them as to natural religion. Both admit that;
supernaturalists believe all that naturalists believe, only they believe
something more.

But how is _nature_ to be defined? What is meant by nature? Various
definitions are given; but we wish for one now which shall really express
the issue taken in this controversy. So we may define nature as law. All
the nexus or web of existing substances and forces which are under law
belong to nature. All that happens outside of these laws is either
preternatural, unnatural, subternatural, or supernatural. If it is
something _outside of law_, but _not violating_ it, _nor coming_ from a
higher source, we call it _preter_natural; like magic, ghosts, sorcery,
fairies, genii, and the like. What _violates_ law is _un_natural. What is
so low down that it lies below law, as chaos before creation; or nebulous
matter not yet beginning to obey the law of gravitation; or intelligences,
like Mephistopheles or Satan, who have sunk so low in sin as to have lost
the perception of right and wrong, is _subternatural_, _below_ nature.
What belongs to a religion above the laws of time and space, above the
finite, is supernatural.

Thus brutes, and men like brutes, who are below the moral law, are
_subter_natural as regards that law. We do not call it a sin in a tiger to
kill a man, for he is _below_ law as regards sin. He is _below_ the moral
law. Again, we can conceive of angels so high up as to be above the moral
law, in part of its domain, not capable either of common virtue or of
common sin, according to _our_ standards of morality, though perhaps under
some higher code of ethics. They are supernatural beings as regards _that_
law—the moral law of this world. As regards some parts of the moral law,
there are, no doubt, multitudes of human beings above it even in this
world. There are many persons quite incapable of swearing, lying,
stealing, getting drunk, flying into a passion, and to whom, therefore, it
is no virtue to avoid these vices. They are simply _above_ that part of
the moral law. They are _super_natural beings as respects that part of
human character.

After these illustrations, we can see what is meant by _supernaturalism_.
If there is anything in this world which comes from above the world, and
not from the existing laws of being, _that_ is supernatural.

§ 2. The Creation Supernatural.

In this sense, all but atheists must admit the supernatural. If, for
example, you admit the _creation of the world_ by God, that was a
supernatural act; _that_ did not come from the existing laws of the world,
because it created those laws. All the order and beauty of the world, its
variety and harmony, its infinite adaptation of part to part, and each to
all,—these existed in God’s mind before they existed in nature. They were
supernatural, as ideas, before they appeared in nature as facts. And if,
as most geologists suppose, the crust of the earth denotes a long series
of creations, successive epochs, at the close of each of which new forms
of vegetable and animal life appeared, then each of these was a new
creation; that is, a new supernatural act of the Almighty.

The physical world, therefore, shows a power above itself. The natural
testifies to the supernatural, the all to the over-all. The existing web
of laws gives evidence of MIND, outside of itself, above itself, arranging
and governing it.

§ 3. The Question stated.

This being granted, the question between naturalism and supernaturalism
is, whether this superintending mind, which came from above the world into
it by acts of creation, when the world was made, has or has not come into
it subsequently. We have a series of creations down to the time that man
arrived on the earth. When _he_ came, he was a supernatural being, and his
coming a supernatural event. Unless we assume that he was developed, by
existing laws, out of some ape, gorilla, or chimpanzee, his coming was
supernatural. Now, did supernatural events cease then, and since that time
has the world gone on of itself? or have there been subsequent incursions
from a higher sphere—a new influx from above, from time to time, adding
something new to nature? Naturalism says no; supernaturalism says yes.

§ 4. Argument of the Supernaturalist from successive Geologic Creations.

The supernaturalist says, God comes to us in both ways—through nature;
that is, through the order of things already established; and also by new
creative impulses, coming in, from time to time, from above. He contends
that such a new creative impulse came into the world through Jesus Christ,
adding a new substance and new forms to those already existing—a new life
not before in the world, proceeding according to new laws. This new
creation, as the Scriptures themselves term it, is Christianity. This is
also said to be in analogy with the course of events. For, if there has
been a series of creations before, bringing animals into the world, and
higher forms of physical life,—if these have been created by new
supernatural impulses coming in at intervals of hundreds of thousands of
years,—why deny that another impulse may have come in four thousand years,
or forty thousand years, after man was created, to add a new form of
spiritual life to society?

In the world, as it was at first, there was not a living plant or animal;
after thousands of years, or millions of years, there came into the broad
seas of the lower Silurian epoch, some of the lowest kinds of animals and
seaweeds, a few trilobites and mollusks, but no plants save fucoids. Next
came, after a long time, a few cartilaginous fishes and corals. A long
time passed—thousands of years rolled by: then came real fishes and land
plants in what is called the Devonian period, or the old red sandstone.
After a great while came the period to which belongs all the coal
formation; and in that carboniferous epoch first appears a whole vegetable
world of trees and plants, to the number of nine hundred and thirty-four
species. Some insects arrived at this time, as beetles, crickets, and
cockroaches, which are, therefore, much more venerable than man. More
thousands of years go by: then the earth receives a new creation in the
form of gigantic frogs, enormous reptiles, and strange fishes. But as yet
no mammal has come—not a bird nor a quadruped has been seen on the earth.
Then, after another long period, these appear, in what is called the
_tertiary_ period; until, at last, some remains of man are found, in the
diluvium, or gravel. Geology thus, once thought to be atheistic, gives its
testimony to a long series of supernatural facts; that is, to the
successive creation, after long intervals, of entirely new genera and
species of vegetables and animals. As you turn these great stone leaves of
that majestic manuscript roll written by God’s hand, which we call the
earth, you and he has been writing new things on each page, new facts and
laws, not on any former leaf. New types of life, not prepared for by any
previous one,—by no slow evolution, but by a sudden step,—break in. On the
previous rocky page is to be found not one of their species, genus, order,
or even class, to point back to any possible progenitor. So that the globe
itself says, from these eternal monuments of rock, “Behold the history of
supernatural events written on me.” Each creation is higher than the last:
finally man is created. But still from above, from outside the world, the
creative life is ready to be poured in. Only the next creation is to be
moral and spiritual, not physical. No new physical forms are now added,
but a new moral life is poured into man, making _him_ a new creation of
God. “For if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.” The analogy was
so striking, that the apostles noticed it, and constantly speak of Christ
as the medium of a new creation.

§ 5. Supernatural Argument from Human Freedom.

But there is another example of the supernatural element in the world. Dr.
Bushnell, in his book called “Nature and the Supernatural,” contends that
man is capable of supernatural acts; that, in fact, every really _free_
act is, and must be, a supernatural act. To those who hold the doctrine of
necessity, this is, of course, no argument. But they who believe, in the
testimony of their own consciousness, that they are free beings; who feel
that they are not dragged helplessly by the strongest motive, but can
resist it or yield to it; who, therefore, feel themselves responsible for
what they do, or omit to do, they can see that in a real sense they create
new influences. Their actions are not results of previous causes, but are
new causes, not before in the world. Some supernatural power dwells in
man’s will just as far as it is made free by reason and choice. Man stands
between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error, with the power of
choosing either one or the other. If he chooses one, he sends a power into
society, life, humanity, to help it forward; if the other, he sends in a
power to hold it back. This power is not from man’s nature, but from
something in him outside his nature. When he acts from habit, impulse,
passion, and not from choice, he is simply a natural being; when he acts
from choice, he is not a natural being, but either a _super_natural or a
_subter_natural being, according as he chooses good or evil. When he
chooses good, he rises above the natural man into the sphere of angels;
when he chooses evil, he sinks below the natural man into the sphere of
brutes or demons.

§ 6. Supernatural Events not necessarily Violations of Law.

Now, says the supernaturalist, if we have all this evidence to show that
God not only acts through nature, by carrying on existing forces and laws,
but also has repeatedly come into nature with new creations, not there
before,—and if even man himself has a certain limited but strictly
supernatural power, so as to be able to stand outside of the nexus of law,
and act upon it,—why deny, as incredible, that God should have made a new
moral creation in Christianity? should have created a new class, order,
genus, and species of spiritual beings, not represented before by any
existing congeners? And why question that what we call miracles—that is,
physical interferences with natural laws—should have attended this sudden
influx of spiritual life? We do not claim, says the judicious
supernaturalist (like Dr. Bushnell, for example), that miracles are
suspensions or violations of natural laws; but that they are the natural
modification of the agency of such laws by a new and powerful influence.
Of this, too, there is ample analogy in nature. The mineral kingdom, for
example, is passively subject to mechanical and chemical laws, which are
resisted and modified by plants and animals. A stone obeys passively the
law of gravitation; a plant resists it, rises into the air in opposition
to it. Such a proceeding on the part of a plant must seem to a stone a
pure miracle. If a piece of granite should write a book of theology, it
would probably say that the plant, in growing up, had violated or
suspended a law of nature. But it has not. The force of gravitation has
worked on according to its own law; it has been dragging the plant
downward all the time, only the vital power in the plant has overcome its
force, and modified the result. And, again, a tree, seeing a dog run to
and fro, might call that a miracle. The tree, unable to move from its
place, could not conceive of the possibility of voluntary motion. But no
law of nature is violated; only a higher power comes in—the power of
animal life.

To a dog, again, the proceedings of a _man_ are strictly miraculous. To
plant corn, reap it, thresh it, grind it, and bake bread out of it, is
exactly as much a miracle to the dog, as the multiplication of loaves, or
turning water into wine, by Christ, is a miracle to us. But no law of
nature was violated in either case. Reason in the one case, some
profounder spiritual power in the other, may have modified the usual
operation of law, and produced these results.

The Orthodox supernaturalist therefore contends that the supernatural is a
constant element of life. Higher natures are all supernatural to lower
natures, but natural in themselves, because obedient to the laws of their
own nature. Nature, without this supernatural element, is only a machine,
of which God, standing outside, turns the handle. This is a low conception
both of nature and of God. As Goethe says, in one of his immortal lyrics,—

    “Not so, outside, doth the Creator linger,
    Nor let the all of things run round his finger,
    But moves its centre, not its outer rim;
    Comes down to nature, draws it up to him;
    Moving within, inspiring from above,
    With currents ever new of light and love.”

§ 7. Life and History contain Supernatural Events.

And besides all this, says the supernaturalist, we have continued and
constant evidences, in all history and in all human experience, of the
existence of this supernatural element. Only a small minority of mankind
have ever doubted it; and those are men so immersed in physical science,
or so hampered by some logical manacles, or so steeped in purely worldly
affairs, as to be incapable of seeing the supernatural facts which are
recurrent evermore. Christianity itself has been an uninterrupted series
of supernatural events. The physical miracles of Christ are nothing to the
spiritual miracles which Christianity is always working. Bad men are made
good, weak men strong, cowardly men brave, ignorant and foolish men wise,
by a supernatural influence given in answer to prayer, poured down into
hearts and minds which open themselves to receive it. The conversion of a
bad man by the power of Christianity is a miracle. The power of faith,
hope, love, which every Christian has experienced, coming into him, not
through any operation of his nature, but simply poured into his soul from
some higher sphere,—this makes all argument unnecessary to one who has had
ever so little Christian experience.

This is the substance of Orthodox supernaturalism; and this seems to me to
be its truth, separated from its errors.

The naturalism of the present time we conceive to be partly directed
against a false supernaturalism, and partly to be a mistake arising from a
too exclusive attention to the _order_ of the universe, as expressed in

§ 8. The Error of Orthodox Supernaturalism.

Supernaturalism has generally disregarded God in nature, and only sees him
in revelation. It has allowed a sort of natural religion, but only in the
way of an argument to prove the existence of God by what he did a long
time ago. But it has not gone habitually to nature to _see_ God there,
incarnate in sun, moon, and stars; incorporate in spring, summer, autumn,
and winter; in day and night; in the human soul, reason, love, will. God
has been all around us, never far from us; but theology has only been
willing to see him in Jewish history, in sacred books, or on Sundays in
church. Let us see him there all we can, but see him also in every
rippling brook, in every tender flower, in all beauty, all sublimity, all
arrangement and adaptation of this world. No wonder that naturalism should
come to do what the Church has left undone—to find its God and Father in
this great and wonderful world which he has made for us. The creed says,
“God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost;” that is, God the
_Creator_, seen in Nature and Providence; God the _Redeemer_, seen in
Christianity; and God the _Sanctifier_, seen in every righteous and holy
soul. But the Church has neglected its own creed, and omitted _God the
Creator_, often also God the Sanctifier, and has only seen God in
_Christianity_, in its history, its Church, its doctrines, its
ceremonies.(8) Against this, naturalism comes as a great and needed
protest, and calls us to see God also in nature and life.

Then the Church has been too apt to teach a miraculous revelation, in
which the miracles are violations of law. But as God is confessedly the
author of law, it has made the Deity violate his own laws; that is, has
made him inconsistent, arbitrary, irregular, and wilful. Deep in the human
mind God has himself rooted a firm faith in the immutability of law; so
that when miracles are thus defined, naturalism justly objects to them.

§ 9. No Conflict between Naturalism and Supernaturalism.

But between true naturalism and true supernaturalism we do not think there
need be any war. We know that there are many men so rooted in their faith
in nature, that they cannot see anything outside of it, or beyond it. To
them God is law, and law only. Even creation is repugnant to them, because
they see that creation is really a supernatural thing. Hence come the
theories of development; the “Vestiges of Creation;” the nebular
hypothesis; the Darwinian theory of formation of species by natural
selection; the notion of man coming out of an ape; pantheistic notions of
a God so immersed in nature as to be not its intelligent guide, but only
its unconscious soul; the whole universe proceeding according to an order
which is just as much above God’s knowledge as above ours. Now, the best
geologists assure us that there is no evidence in support of the
transmutation of species. Mr. Darwin’s theory of the formation of species
by natural selection is this: In the struggle for life, the strongest and
best adapted animal lives, the rest die. This animal transmits to its
offspring its own superior qualities; so a higher animal is gradually
developed. For example, the giraffe was not made by God with a long neck
in order that it might browse on the leaves of high trees. But when leaves
were scarce, the animal who happened to have a neck a little longer than
the rest was able to get leaves. So he lived, and the rest died. His
children had longer necks by the law of hereditary transmission. So, in
the course of ages, animals were gradually found with very long necks.
Thus the walrus has a curved horn growing downwards from his lower jaw, by
which he climbs on to the floating ice. We must not suppose, however, that
God gave him the tusk for that purpose; but the walrus, or seal, who
happened to have a little horny bone under his chin, could climb on the
ice and get his food more easily, and so he lived, while the rest died;
and his descendants in the course of a few hundreds of thousands of years
came, by repeating this process, to have horns, and so this species of
phoca arrived.

It is certainly possible to believe this theory. But in believing it we
have to suppose two things; first, a happy accident, and then a law of
transmission of hereditary qualities. Now, the theory substitutes this law
of transmission and these happy accidents for the creative design. Is
anything gained thereby? The domain of law is extended a little. But
extend it as much as you will, you must at last come to something above
law. Suppose these laws by which walrus and giraffe came, were all in the
original nebula, so that no Creator has been needed since, and nothing
supernatural—nature has done it all since. But who put the laws there to
begin with? You have to take the supernatural at last, or else suppose an
accident to begin with. Accidentally, all these wonderful laws happened to
be in a particular nebula. He who shrinks from this supposition accepts
the supernatural, all at once, at the beginning, instead of the
supernatural all the way along, “What does he gain by it?” He gains merely
this, that he puts the Creator out of sight; or rather, puts himself out
of sight of the Creator. He worships the great god _Development_ instead.

Equally satisfactory to the intellect, to say the least, and much more
satisfactory to the best human instincts, is the view of God which sees
him coming evermore into nature from above nature. This view says, “God is
not only order, but also freedom. He is not only law, but also love. He is
in the world as law and order, but he is above the world as thought and
love; as Providence, as the heavenly Father. He comes to us to meet our
exigencies, to inspire our doubting hearts, to lift us into life and
light. He does not set a grand machine going, and then look on and see it
work; but he is in the world, and with us always. The supernatural dwells
by the side of the natural. Just as a wise and good father has rules and
laws by which to govern his children—rewarding and punishing them as they
obey or disobey; but besides that, does a thousand things for them, taking
the initiative himself; so God governs us by law, but also often takes the
initiative, giving us what we never asked for, and knew nothing of.”

§ 10. Further Errors of Orthodox Supernaturalism—Gulf between Christianity
and all other Religions.

Orthodoxy has erred, as it would seem, in placing too great a gulf between
Christianity and all other religions. Christianity is sufficiently
distinguished from all other religions by being regarded as the perfect,
and therefore universal, religion of mankind. It is to all preceding
religions what man is to all previous races. These are separated from man
by various indelible characters; yet they are his fellow-creatures,
proceeding from the same creative mind, according to one creative plan. So
the previous religions of our race—Fetichism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, the
religion of Confucius, of Zoroaster, of Egypt, of Scandinavia, of Judea,
of Greece and Rome—are distinguished from Christianity by indelible
characters; but they, too, proceeded from the same creative mind,
according to one creative plan. Christianity should regard these humanely,
as its fellow-creatures. The other animals prepared man’s way on the
earth, and since man’s arrival we have seen no subsequent creation. So the
ethnic religions prepared the way for Christianity, and since Christianity
came no new religion has appeared; for Mohammedanism is only a _mélange_
drawn from the Old and New Testaments, and may therefore be considered as
an outlying Christian sect. So, too, the gigantic abstractions of
Gnosticism were hybrid systems, formed of the union between Oriental
thought and Christian life. The analogy may be traced still farther. Man
is the only animal who possesses the whole earth. Every other race has its
habitat in some geographical centre, from which it may emigrate, indeed,
to some extent, but where only it thrives. To man, only, the whole earth
belongs. So the primitive religions are all _ethnic_; that is, religions
of races. The religion of Confucius belongs to China, that of Brahmanism
to India, that of Zoroaster to the Persians; the religion of Egypt is only
for the Egyptians. Exceptions to this law (like that of Buddhism, for
example) are only apparent. The rule is invariable. Christianity alone is
a cosmic or universal religion. It only has passed the boundaries of race,
so inflexible to all other religions. Born a Semitic religion, it soon
took possession of the Indo-European races, converting Romans, Greeks,
Teutons, Kelts, and Sclaves. It finds the African mind docile to its
influence. Its missionaries have made believers from among the races of
America, India, China, and the Pacific Islands. It is evidently destined
to be the religion of humanity.

But, if so, why should it be put into antagonism with the religions which
preceded it? These are also creations of God, not the work of man.
Theologians have found multitudes of types of Christ in Jewish books and
Jewish history. But they might also find types of Christianity in the
so-called heathen religions. For as coming events cast their shadows
before, so coming revelations are seen beforehand in shadowy preludes and
homologons. The lofty spiritualism of the Brahmanical books, the moral
devotion of the Zendavesta, the law of the soul’s progress in
Buddhism,—these are all types of what was to appear in a greater fulness
and higher development in Christianity. First the natural, afterwards that
which is spiritual. But these foregleams of Christian truth, irradiating
the night-side of history, are all touching proofs that God never leaves
himself without a witness in the world or in human hearts.

Instead, therefore, of placing an impassable gulf between Christianity and
other human religions, we should consider these are preparations and
stepping-stones to something higher. Nor will they pass away until
Christianity has purified itself from the errors which still cling to it.
Judaism was not to pass till it was fulfilled in Christianity; and neither
will the other religions of the world pass away till they also are
fulfilled in Christianity.

Now, the common teaching in our churches and religious books and
newspapers tends to depreciate all natural religion in the interest of
revealed religion. It is commonly said that the light of nature helps us a
very little way in the knowledge of God. “Look at the heathen,” it is
said; “see their religious ignorance, their awful superstitions, their
degrading worship of idols, and their subjection to priestcraft. This is
your boasted light of nature, and these are its results—the Fetichism of
Africa, the devil-worship of the North American Indians, the cannibalism
of the Feejee Islands, the human sacrifices of Mexico and of the ancient
Phœnicia.” “Then,” it is continued, “look at the observations of the
wisest intellects apart from revelation! How little they knew with
certainty! Their views of the Deity varied from pantheism to idolatry;
their views of immortality were wholly vague and indistinct; their ideas
of duty confused and false.”

To which we might reply, “Is not the same thing true among Christians? Are
there no superstitions among them? Were not witches hanged and burned
during sixteen centuries in Christendom? If the heathen are ignorant, what
multitudes in Catholic countries also do not read the Bible! How many are
there even in Protestant churches who can give a reason for their belief?
If the heathen worship degrades mankind because it is a superstition, with
fear for its motive, how large a part of Christian preaching consists also
of an appeal to terror! Is not the fear of everlasting torment in hell the
motive power of much which is called Christianity? Consider Catholics
eating their God: is that the worship of the Father in spirit and truth?
Think of the religious wars, of the religious persecutions: did natural
religion ever do anything as bad as this? We cry out against Nero, who
covered Christians with pitch, and burned them as torches in the
amphitheatre. But how many were thus tortured? Perhaps ten, perhaps
twenty, or let us say a hundred. But, according to Llorente, the Holy
Office of the Inquisition, in Spain, burned alive, under Torquemada, 8800:
under Deza, 1669; under Ximenes, 2536; in all, from 1483 to 1498,—that is,
in fifteen years,—it burned alive 31,912 persons for heresy, and subjected
to rigorous pains and penalties 291,450 persons.”

It is not right to judge of any doctrine by the corrupt practices which
have taken place under it, unless it can be shown that these are its
legitimate fruits. We maintain that Christianity is not fairly responsible
for these persecutions; but let us make the same allowance for the
religions which prepared its way.

§ 11. Christianity considered unnatural, as well as supernatural by being
made hostile to the Nature of Man.

If the nature of man be regarded as wholly evil, then Christianity is not
merely a supernatural religion, but an unnatural one. This has been very
commonly taught. Man’s nature has been declared so totally corrupt and
alien from all good, as to be radically opposite to the love of God and
man. Christianity, therefore, comes, not to help him attain that which he
is seeking after, but to change his whole purpose and aim—to give him a
wholly new nature. This is the result of the doctrine of total depravity,
so long taught in the Church as Orthodoxy. It has taught that all natural
tendencies and desires in man were wholly evil, and to be rooted out. It
has thus made Christianity unattractive, and has driven men away from it.
But of this it is not necessary to speak here, as we shall discuss this
doctrine and its influence hereafter.


§ 1. The Subject stated. Four Questions concerning Miracles.

In considering the truth and error in the Orthodox doctrine concerning
miracles, we must, _first_, find out what this doctrine is; _secondly_,
see what objections have been urged against it; and so, lastly, we may
come to some conclusion as to where the truth or the error lies. There
are, however, four distinct questions in regard to miracles, each of which
may be considered separately. There is the philosophic question, or
definition of a miracle, which asks, What is a miracle? Then there is the
historical question, which asks, Did such facts actually occur? Next is
the theological question, What are the value and weight of these facts in
determining our Christian belief? And lastly comes the religious question,
What are the spiritual meaning of miracles, and their influence on the
heart and life?

§ 2. The Definition of a Miracle.

As the creeds give no authoritative definition of a miracle, we must
examine individual statements, in order to get the Orthodox idea.

To answer the question, _What is a miracle?_ is not as easy as it would
seem, as will appear from considering the different definitions given by
different authorities, taking first those of the dictionary.

    JOHNSON. “_Miracle._ A wonder—something above human power. (In
    theology.) An effect above human or natural power, performed in
    attestation of some truth.”

    WEBSTER. “_Miracle._ (In theology.) An event or effect contrary to
    the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation
    from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event.”

    ROBINSON’S BIBLE DICTIONARY. “_Miracle._ A sign, wonder, prodigy.
    These terms are commonly used in Scripture to denote an action,
    event, or effect, superior (or contrary) to the general and
    established laws of nature. And they are given, not only to true
    miracles, wrought by saints or prophets sent by God, but also to
    the false miracles of impostors, and to wonders wrought by the
    wicked, by false prophets or by devils.” After giving examples of
    this from the Scriptures, Robinson adds, “Miracles and prodigies,
    therefore, are not always sure signs of the sanctity of those who
    perform them, nor proofs of the truth of the doctrine they
    deliver, nor certain testimonies of their divine mission.”

    AMERICAN ENCYCLOPŒDIA. _Miracle._ “It is usually defined to be a
    deviation from the course of nature. But this definition seems to
    omit one of the elements of a miracle, viz., that it is an event
    produced by the interposition of an intelligent power for moral
    purposes; for, otherwise, we must consider every strange
    phenomenon, which our knowledge will not permit us to explain, as
    a miraculous event. A revelation is itself a miracle. If one
    claims to be a teacher from God, he asserts a miraculous
    communication with God; this communication, however, cannot be
    visible, and visible miracles may therefore be necessary to give
    credibility to his pretensions. The use, then, of a miraculous
    interposition in changing the usual course of nature is to prove
    the moral government of God, and to explain the character of it.”

    THEODORE PARKER. “A miracle is one of three things.

    “1. It is a transgression of all law which God has made; or,

    “2. A transgression of all known laws, or obedience to a law which
    we may yet discover; or,

    “3. A transgression of all law known or knowable by man, but yet
    in conformity with some law out of our reach.”

    He says that a miracle, according to the first definition, is
    impossible; according to the second it is no miracle at all; but
    that there is no antecedent objection to a miracle according to
    the third hypothesis.

    PASCAL. “A miracle is an effect which exceeds the natural force of
    the means employed to bring it about.”

    HUME. “A miracle is a violation of a law of nature.”

    DR. THOMAS BROWN. “A miracle is as little contrary to any law of
    nature as any other phenomenon. It is only an extraordinary event,
    the result of extraordinary circumstances; an effect that
    indicates a power of a higher order than those we are accustomed
    to trace in phenomena more familiar to us, but whose existence
    only the atheist denies. It is a new consequent of a new

    an effect or event _different from the established constitution or
    course of things_, or a _sign obvious to the senses that God has
    interposed this power to control the established powers of nature_
    (commonly termed the laws of nature), which effect or sign is
    wrought either by _the immediate act_, or by the assistance, or by
    the permission, _of God_, and accompanied with a _previous notice_
    or _declaration_ that it is performed according to the purpose and
    by the power of God, _for the proof or evidence_ of some
    particular doctrine, or in attestation of the authority or divine
    mission of some particular person.”—Vol. I. p. 203.

    “Since, as we already have had occasion to observe, the proper
    effect of a miracle is _clearly_ to mark the divine interposition,
    it must therefore have characters proper to indicate such
    interposition; and these _criteria_ are six in number.

    “1. It is required, then, in the first place, that a fact or event
    which is stated to be miraculous should have an important end,
    worthy of its author.

    “2. It must be instantaneously and publicly performed.

    “3. It must be sensible (that is, obvious to the senses) and easy
    to be observed; in other words, the fact or event must be such
    that the senses of mankind can clearly and fully judge of it.

    “4. It must be independent of second causes.

    “5. Not only public monuments must be kept up, but some outward
    actions must be constantly performed in memory of the fact thus
    publicly wrought.

    “6. And such monuments must be set up, and such actions and
    observances be instituted, at the very time when those events took
    place, and afterwards be continued without interruption.”—Vol. I.
    p. 214 and 215.

From these examples we may see what different definitions have been given
of miracles, and that the definition is not so easy a thing as one might
at first suppose. All depends on the point of view which we take. If we
look only at the outward fact, a miracle is a wonderful event, a portent,
something out of the common course of nature, and unparalleled in common
human experience. But if we look at it as regards the character of him who
works the miracle, it then becomes a supernatural work, or a preternatural
work, having a divine or a demoniac origin.

But, on the whole, the Orthodox doctrine of a miracle seems to be
this—that it is a wonderful work, contrary to the laws of nature, wrought
by the direct agency of God, in proof of the divine commission of him by
whom it is done. The two essential points of the definition are, that a
miracle is _contrary to the laws of nature_; and that it is _the only
logical proof of the divine authority of the miracle-worker_. We call this
the orthodox definition, although we must admit that no one in modern
times has presented this view more forcibly and decidedly than the
Unitarian Andrews Norton, and though many Orthodox men have taken a
different view.

§ 3. The different Explanations of the Miracles of the Bible.

The four explanations of the miracles of the New Testament (to which we
now confine ourselves) are these:—

I. _The Natural Explanation._—According to this, the miraculous facts of
the New Testament are to be explained as resulting from natural causes.
They are on the plane of our common human life. They are such events as
might easily happen anywhere at the present time. Christ himself was but a
natural genius of a high order. His miracles were merely the natural
results of his intellect and strength of will, or they were mistakes on
the part of the observers and narrators, or myths which have grown up
subsequently in the Church. Great ingenuity has been used in attempting to
show how each miracle may be explained so as to be nothing very
extraordinary, after all. But these explanations are often very forced.
Some events which are at first sight seemingly miraculous, are often
explained as natural events by the majority of commentators. Thus the
account of the angel who went down into the pool and troubled the water is
usually interpreted as a natural phenomenon, and no real miracle. Modern
travellers have noticed that this pool of Bethesda is an intermittent
spring, which may have possessed medicinal qualities.

The old-fashioned naturalism, however, has mostly gone by. Its
explanations were too forced and unnatural to continue long. The more
common account at present is that which assumes that the narrators were
mistaken in the stories which they have given us. Mr. Parker thinks that
there is not sufficient evidence of the miracles. If there were more he
would believe them. He gives no explanation of their origin farther than
this. But Strauss attempts an explanation based upon an unconscious action
of the fancy and feelings on the part of the New Testament writers,
causing them to create these incidents out of some trifling basis of fact
or of history. Renan follows in the same general direction.

II. _The Unnatural Explanation._—A miracle is a violation or a suspension
of a law of nature.

This, until recently, has been the favorite view of miracles among
theologians, and is the view of miracles against which the arguments of
those who reject them have been chiefly directed.

The arguments in favor of this view are these:—

1. The miracles of the New Testament _seem_ to be violations of laws of
nature. For example: the turning water into wine; healing by a word or
touch; stilling the tempest; feeding five thousand; walking on the sea;
transfiguration; raising of Lazarus; Christ’s own resurrection. The law of
gravitation seems to have been suspended when he walked on the sea, &c.

2. Miracles are appealed to by Christ and his apostles in proof that God
was with him. But, unless these miracles had suspended the laws of nature,
they would not be proofs of this.

These are the two principal reasons for this view of miracles.

_Objections._—On the other hand, it is objected,—

1. That apparent violations may not be real violations of the laws of
nature. Examples: The Arab emir in “The Talisman” who was told that water
sometimes became solid, so as to support a man on horseback; a steamboat
sailing against wind and current; the telegraph; the daguerrotype. In all
such cases the laws of nature are not violated or suspended, but new
powers come in.

2. Christ appeals to the moral character of his miracles, and not merely
to their supernatural character. They are miracles of benevolence.

3. If the proof of Christ’s mission depends on this view of miracles, it
can never be proved. We can never be sure that the event is a violation of
a law of nature.

4. On this view the sceptic’s objections to miracles are unanswerable.

So says Dr. Thomas Brown, in an article reprinted by Dr. Noyes, of
Cambridge, in the “Theological Essays” published by the American Unitarian
Association. He admits the principle of Hume’s Essay on Miracles, but says
that his error lies in the false definition of the miracle as a violation
of the laws of nature. False, because,—

(_a._) On the principle of continued uniformity of sequence our whole
belief of causation, and consequently of the divine Being, is founded.

(_b._) Gives an air of inconsistency, and almost of absurdity, to a

(_c._) Laws of nature are not violated when a new antecedent is followed
by a new consequent, but when, the antecedent being exactly the same, a
different consequent is the result.

(_d._) No testimony could prove such a miracle. Suppose testimony so
strong that its falsehood would be an absolute miracle; then we should
have to believe, in either case, that a law of nature has been violated.
No ground of preference between them.

5. A miracle may be supernatural, or above nature, without being
unnatural, or against nature.

6. The greatest church teachers have maintained that miracles were not
against law or without law, but above common law. Hahn, after mentioning
the view of a miracle as a suspension of law, and calling it one neither
scriptural nor conceivable, proceeds to quote Augustine and other writers,
who held that miracles were by no means opposed to law.(9)

III. _The Preternatural View of Miracles._—This view admits the reality of
the phenomena, but explains them as resulting from mysterious forces,
which are neither divine on the one hand, nor human on the other, but
which are outside of nature. This is the demoniacal view, or that which
supposes that evil spirits, departed souls, or spirits neither good nor
bad, surround the earth, and can be reached by magic, witchcraft, sorcery,
magnetism, or what is now called Spiritualism. This theory supposes that
the works of Jesus were performed by the aid of spiritual beings. The
objections to this view are,—

1. If it is supposed, as it was by the Jews, that Jesus had the aid of
evil spirits, the sufficient answer is, that his works were _good_ works.

2. If it is argued that he performed his miracles by the aid of departed
spirits who were good spirits, the answer is, that he himself never took
this view, but always declared, “My Father, who dwelleth in me, he doeth
the works.” Moreover, the whole character of the miracles of Jesus differs
not only from everything ever done by magnetism or spiritualism, but from
everything ever claimed to be done.

IV. _The Supernatural View of Miracles._—This view asserts that the
miracles were performed by higher forces, which came into this world from
a higher world than this. It asserts that besides the forces which are at
work regularly in the world, there are other forces outside of the world,
which may from time to time come into it. We call them higher forces not
only because they are more powerful than the forces before at work in the
world, by overcoming which they produce the extraordinary outward
phenomena, but because they always tend to elevate the world nearer to
God. They are thus proved to come from a world which is nearer to God than
this. The reasons in support of this view are, as before suggested.—

1. Geology teaches it. The rocks show not only an original creation of the
world, but successive creations of vegetable and animal life.

2. The creation of the world teaches it. Creation was a miracle in this
sense of the word.

3. There seems to be in the constitution of man a faculty provided for
recognizing the supernatural element. Phrenologists call it the organ of
marvellousness. Such a faculty would argue the existence of an appropriate
object on which it might be exercised.

4. The whole life and character of Jesus were supernatural and miraculous
in this sense. They cannot be satisfactorily explained as the result of
anything existing in the world before.

§ 4. Criticism on these Different Views of Miracles.

In attempting to discover the truths and errors contained in these
statements it is a great satisfaction to feel that our faith in Christ and
Christianity is not depending on them. If we believed with those who
consider miracles the only or the principal proof of Christianity, we
could hardly hope to be candid and just in examining the arguments of
those who deny the marvellous facts of the New Testament. There is no
doubt that the number of religious and Christian men who have relinquished
all belief in the marvellous part of the Bible has largely increased
within a few years. At the present time there is a strong tendency to
disbelieve and deny all miracles as incredible and impossible. Renan, in
his “Life of Jesus,” says, “Miracles never happen except among people
disposed to believe them. We banish miracles from history in the name of a
constant experience. No miracle has, as yet, been proved.” Renan adds,
that “if a commission of men of science should decide that a man had been
raised from the dead he would believe it.” “Till then,” he says, “it is
the duty of the historian not to admit a supernatural fact, but to find,
if he can, what part credulity and imposition have had in it.”
Accordingly, Renan writes his “Life of Jesus” in this sense, discarding
most of the miracles, or explaining them away, and trying to put together
into some kind of shape the fragments which remain. But Renan does not go
far enough to satisfy some others. Gerritt Smith, for example, in a recent
lecture which he has published, called “Be Natural,” says, “Jesus neither
performed nor attempted to perform miracles. His wisdom and sincerity
forbid the supposition. Am I an unbeliever in the historical Jesus because
I hold him innocent of the absurdities which superstition and folly tax
him with? No more than I should disbelieve in Shakespeare, by denying that
he walked on the Avon, or changed its waters into wine. M. Renan ought to
have made no account of these stories of miracles. He should have dropped
them entirely, as did Rammohun Roy in his Hindoo translation of the New
Testament. Let the credulous feed on these creations of superstition, but
let men of sense turn away from them.”

The reason why so many intelligent men find it impossible to believe the
miracles of the New Testament, while they find it very easy to believe the
religious and moral teaching of Jesus is partly due to the spirit of the
age. The intellect of this age is more and more scientific. Now, science
is the knowledge of facts and laws. A miracle is opposed to all usual
observation of facts, and is often called by theologians a violation of
the laws of nature. It is not therefore strange that men imbued with the
spirit of science should dislike the notion of miracles.

§ 5. Miracles no Proof of Christianity.

Now, we should have little objection, on purely theological grounds, to
give up the miracles of the New Testament. Theologians have built up the
proof of Christianity on miracles. They have declared them the chief
evidence of Christianity. They have said, “A miracle is a violation of a
law of nature. Now, no one but God can violate a law of nature. If Jesus
violated a law of nature, it proved that God was with him. But that he did
so we know from the New Testament. That it tells the truth we know,
because it was written, by eye-witnesses, who could not have been
mistaken, because they saw the miracles with their own eyes, and were not
liars, because they laid down their lives in testimony of the truth of
what they asserted.” Therefore, it is argued, “Christ worked miracles;
therefore he had God’s help and power; therefore he has God’s authority to
teach the religion of the New Testament.”

Now, for those who hold this view of Christianity, if they renounce
miracles, it is evident that the foundation of faith is gone. No wonder,
therefore, that they bitterly oppose all attacks of miracles. In defending
miracles, they are fighting for their lives.

But we need not hold this view of the foundation of Christianity.
Christianity does not rest necessarily on the physical miracles of Christ,
but on his moral miracles, which no one has ever doubted, or can doubt.
Christianity proceeded from Jesus, and was transmitted by him, not as a
philosophy, but as a power, a life, which renewed the old world, and
created a new dispensation. This is the great miracle. We do not really
believe Christianity on the ground of miracles, but we believe miracles on
the ground of Christianity.

Let us explain this. If miracles had been asserted to be wrought by God in
order to prove the truth of a doctrine irrational, self-contradictory,
odious to the conscience and to the heart,—to prove, for example, the
justice of the Spanish Inquisition, the lawfulness of slavery, or that God
loves some of his children and hates the rest,—then all the outward
evidence in the world would not have convinced us that God had taught such
a doctrine and confirmed it by miracles. If we had seen with our own eyes
a dead man raised to life, or if M. Renan’s committee of scientific men
had testified that they had seen it, we should either say they were
deceived, or we should say, with the Jews, “It is done by some devilish
power, not by a divine power. It is not supernatural, it is
preternatural.” But Christianity itself is the great miracle of human
history. It is more marvellous than raising a dead man, for it was the
_resurrection of a dead world_—of a dead humanity. Read Gibbon. He is an
infidel writer, but he is a perfect historian. He shows you Christianity,
as a living force, coming into history, pouring a tide of life into the
decaying civilization of Rome, overflowing upon the German tribes, and
changing their whole character, so as to make out of those savage warriors
merciful and reverential soldiers, who knew how to pardon and how to
spare. Now, there seems something quite as supernatural in this as in the
coming of new trees and plants into the world in the carboniferous epoch,
or the coming in of mammalia, a hundred thousand years or so after. It
seems as if God came near the world, and touched it in Jesus Christ; for
the power of one man was wholly inadequate to such results as followed his
coming. I believe Christianity a divine religion, a religion from God,
because it lifts the soul nearer to God—because it has lifted mankind
nearer to God, and enabled men to believe God a friend—not a tyrant, not a
stern king—but a father. Christianity is divine, because its truth and
love are divine—because it purifies, consoles, and elevates human hearts;
because the life of Jesus is, by the testimony of such men as Theodore
Parker, Rousseau, and Renan, infinitely superior to all other lives ever
lived in this world. Now, believing in Christianity and Christ on such
grounds, we may look with much more deference and respect upon the stories
of miracles which are intertwined in his life. We should not attend to
them at all if we found them told about only common men; but told about
Jesus, we are led to examine them more critically, and ask whether it is,
or is not, possible for them to have been, in the main, real facts.

The Orthodox doctrine has been, and still is, that Christianity rests on
miracles. Our view is, that miracles rest on Christianity. But we close
this section with extracts from Luther, Channing, Trench, and Walker, to
show that the view for which we contend is not without able supporters in
all parts of the Church.

Martin Luther says,—

    “People cry it up as a great miracle, that Christ made the blind
    see, the deaf hear, and the lepers clean; and it is true such
    works are miraculous signs; but Christ regards his influence on
    the soul as far more important than that on the body; for as the
    soul excels the body, so do the miracles wrought on the former
    excel those wrought on the latter....

    “The miracles which Christ wrought on the body are small and
    almost childish, compared with the high and true miracles which he
    constantly performs in the Christian world by his divine, almighty
    power; for instance, that Christianity is preserved on the earth;
    that the word of God and faith in him can yet hold out; yea, that
    a Christian can survive on earth against the devil and all his
    angels; also against so many tyrants and factions; yea, against
    our own flesh and blood. The fact that the gospel remains and
    improves the human heart,—this is indeed to cast out the devil,
    and tread on serpents, and speak with tongues; for those visible
    miracles were merely signs for the ignorant, unbelieving crowd,
    and for those who were yet to be brought in; but for us, who know
    and believe, what need is there of them? For the heathen, indeed,
    Christ must needs give external signs, which they could see and
    take hold of; but Christians must needs have far higher signs,
    compared with which the former are earthly. It was necessary to
    bring over the ignorant with external miracles, and to throw out
    such apples and pears to them as children; but we, on the
    contrary, should boast of the great miracles which Christ daily
    performs in his church.”

In the “Christian Examiner,” Dr. James Walker says,—

    “Christianity embodies a collection of moral and vital truths, and
    _these truths_, apart from _all history_ or philosophy, constitute
    Christianity itself. Instead, therefore, of perplexing and
    confounding the young with what are called the evidences of
    Christianity, give them Christianity itself. Begin by giving them
    Christianity itself, as exhibited in the life and character of the
    Lord Jesus, as illustrated by his simple, beautiful and touching
    parables, and as it breathes through all his discourses. They will
    _feel it to be true_. Depend upon it, paradoxical as it may sound,
    children will be much more likely to believe Christianity without
    what are called the evidences, than with them; and the remark
    applies to some who are not children.

    “Why talk to one about the argument from prophecy, or the argument
    from miracles, when these are the very points, and the only
    points, on which his mind, from some peculiarity in its original
    constitution, or from limited information, chiefly labors. Give
    him Christianity itself, by which we mean the body of moral and
    vital truths which constitute Christianity. Observe it when you
    will, you will find that the doubts and difficulties suggested by
    children relate almost exclusively to the _history_ of
    Christianity, or to what are called the _external_ evidences of
    Christianity, and not to the _truth_ of Christianity itself. Give
    them Christianity itself: for if they believe in that, it is
    enough. Nothing can be more injudicious than to persist in urging
    the argument from miracles on a mind, that, from any cause, has
    thus become indifferent, and perhaps impatient of it. How idle to
    think to convince a person of Christianity by miracles, when it is
    these very miracles, and not Christianity, that he doubts! The
    instances, we suspect, are not rare, even of adults, who are
    _first converted to Christianity itself_, and afterwards, through
    the moral and spiritual change which Christianity induces, are
    brought to believe entirely and devoutly in its _miraculous origin
    and history_.”

Dr. Channing says,—

    “There is another evidence of Christianity still more _internal_
    than any on which I have yet dwelt; an evidence to be _felt_
    rather than described, but not less _real_ because founded on
    feeling. I refer to that conviction of the divine original of our
    religion which springs up and continually gains strength in those
    who apply it habitually to their tempers and lives, and who imbibe
    its spirit and hopes. In such men there is a consciousness of the
    adaptation of Christianity to their noblest faculties; a
    consciousness of its exalting and consoling influences, of its
    power to confer the true happiness of human nature, to give that
    peace which the world cannot give; which assures them that it is
    not of earthly origin, but a ray from the everlasting Light, a
    stream from the fountain of heavenly Wisdom and Love. This is the
    evidence which sustains the faith of thousands, who never read and
    cannot understand the learned books of Christian apologists, who
    want, perhaps, words to explain the ground of their belief, but
    whose faith is of adamantine firmness, who hold the gospel with a
    conviction more intimate and unwavering than mere arguments ever

And here is an extract from another writer:—

    “Doubtless Christ’s spiritual glory is in itself as
    distinguishing, and as plainly showing his divinity, as his
    outward glory, and a great deal more; for his spiritual glory is
    that wherein his divinity consists, and the outward glory of his
    transfiguration showed him to be divine only as it was a
    remarkable image or representation of that spiritual glory.
    Doubtless, therefore, he that has had a clear sight of the
    spiritual glory of Christ may say, ‘I have not followed cunningly
    devised fables, but have been an eye-witness of his majesty,’ upon
    as good grounds as the apostle, when he had respect to the outward
    glory of Christ that he had seen. A true sense of the divine
    excellency of the things of God’s Word doth more directly and
    immediately convince of the truth of them; and that because the
    excellency of these things is so superlative. There is a beauty in
    them that is so divine and godlike, that is greatly and evidently
    distinguishing of them from things merely human, or that men are
    the authors and inventors of,—a glory that is so high and great,
    that when clearly seen, commands assent to their divinity and
    reality. The evidence which they who are spiritually enlightened
    have of the truth of the things of religion, is a kind of
    intuition and immediate evidence. They believe the doctrines of
    God’s Word to be divine, because they see divinity in them. That
    is, they see a divine, and transcendent, and most evidently
    distinguishing glory in them; such a glory as, if clearly seen,
    does not leave room to doubt of their being of God, and not of

Trench, also, denies that the miracle can have absolute authority, since
Satanic powers may work evil too. This convinces us, he says, that
miracles cannot be appealed to in proof of the doctrine or of the divine
mission of him who brings it to pass. The doctrine must first commend
itself to the conscience as being good; then the miracle shows it to be a
new word from God. But when the mind and conscience reject the doctrine,
the miracle must be rejected too. The great act of faith is to believe, in
despite of all miracles, what God has revealed to the soul of the holy and
the true; not to believe another gospel, though an angel from heaven
should bring it. Instead of compelling assent, miracles are _then_ rather
warnings to us that we keep aloof; for they tell us not merely that lies
are here, but that he who utters them is an instrument of Satan.

False miracles, or lying wonders, are distinguished from the true, not by
the intellect, but by the moral sense, which finds in them something
immoral, or ostentatious, or futile, leading to nothing. Origen says the
miracles of Moses issued in a Jewish polity; those of our Lord in a
Christian Church. But what fruits have the miracles of Apollonius or
Æsculapius to show?

The miracles of Christ are redemptive. Modern writers of evidences make a
dangerous omission when they fail to say that the doctrine is to try the
miracle, as well as the miracle to seal the doctrine. To teach men to
believe in Christ on no other grounds than his wonderful works is to pave
the way of Antichrist. Those books of Christian evidences are utterly
maimed and imperfect, fraught with the most perilous consequences, which
reverence in the miracle only its power.(10)

§ 6. But Orthodoxy is right in maintaining their Reality as Historic

The first thing we notice about the miracles of Jesus is, that they are
intertwined inextricably with the whole narrative. It is almost impossible
to disentangle them, and to leave any solid historic residuum. There is a
story in Goethe of a statue of iron and silver, with veins of gold. The
flames licked out the gold veins of the colossus, and it remained standing
a little while; but when at last the tenderest filaments had been licked
out, the image crashed together, and fell in a shapeless, miserable heap.
So when the tongue of criticism shall have eaten out the supernatural
elements of the gospel narrative, the heroic figure will fall, as it has
already in Renan’s construction, into an amorphous mass of unhistoric

Then we see that most of these miracles are miracles of healing, which
have their analogues in many similar events scattered through history.
Many such facts might be collected to show that there is in man a latent
power of overcoming disease, in himself and others, by a great exertion of
will. If in common men there is such a power, latent, and as yet
undeveloped, why should it be an unnatural thing that one so full of a
superhuman life as Jesus should be raised to a position where, by his very
word or touch, he could cure disease, and that even at a distance?

We see such wonderful discoveries made every day of latent powers in
nature, and secrets hidden till now from all men, that we do not know
where to put limits to the possibility of the wonderful. To go into a
telegraphic office in Boston, and speak to a man in New York or
Washington, and have an answer in five minutes; to have your portrait
painted in a moment by the rays of the sun,—such things as these would
have seemed miracles to us a few years ago. To be able to tell what metals
there are in the sun’s atmosphere, and what not there; to say, “In the
atmosphere of the sun there is silver, but not gold; there are iron, and
antimony, and lead, and aluminum, but no copper nor zinc,”—does not this
seem incredible? But we know that we _can_ now tell just that.

When we read the Gospels, we find everything in them so simple, so
unpretending, so little of an attempt at making out a consistent story,
such a harmony in the character of the works attributed to Jesus (with one
or two exceptions), that we are irresistibly inclined to say, “These
stories must be simple facts. Delusion never spoke in this tone,—so clear,
so luminous,—in language so honest and sincere.”

I do not deny that some mistakes or misapprehensions may have crept into
the records. Occasionally we can see signs of something being mistaken for
a miracle which was really not one. For example, the finding of a piece of
money in the fish’s mouth may have been the mistake of a proverbial
expression, common among fishermen, and used by Matthew in his original
Hebrew Gospel, but which the Greek translator, ignorant of the popular
phrase, considered to be meant for a miracle.

The most natural supposition is, that a wonderful power dwelt in Jesus,
which enabled him to heal the sick, cure the insane, and sometimes even
bring back life to the dead. What do we know about death? The last breath
has been drawn. The heart has ceased to beat, the lungs to move. We say,
“He is dead.” But people have lain two or three days in this state,
declared dead by the physicians, and then have come to life again by
natural causes. A drowned man has all the marks of death; but after lying
in this state half an hour, he is brought to life again. What, then, might
not have been done by that supernatural power of life which, as history
shows, dwelt in Jesus of Nazareth?

§ 7. Analogy with other Similar Events recorded in History.

It may very properly be asked whether miracles have occurred since the
Bible record was closed; and if not, why not. Since we have regarded the
miracles of the New Testament as no violations of law, but the coming in
of higher laws or forces than those usually at work in the world, why may
they not have taken place in our own time? If Christ’s miracles differ
only from other miracles in being higher and more perfect, what are the
miracles of a lower class? Can we point out any events belonging to the
same class of phenomena which have happened during the last thousand

In reply to this question, we will proceed to mention certain phenomena
which seem to belong to the same order as the works of Jesus. The
_distinction_ between the miracles of Christ and all those portents will
be pointed out hereafter.

In the “Atlantic Monthly” for February and March, 1864, there appeared an
account (written, we believe, by R. Dale Owen), of the Convulsionists of
St. Médard. The facts therein stated _seem_ to contradict all the known
laws of physiology. The lower side of miracles, namely, their apparent
violation of physical laws, here appears as fully developed and as fully
attested as the most careful sceptic could desire. If, therefore, any one
objects to believing the miracles of Jesus on the ground that they _seem_
to be violations of physical laws, we ask what they mean to do with these
facts, so extraordinary, and yet so fully attested. If believed, there is
no reason, based on the abnormal character of Christ’s works, for
rejecting those. But if disbelieved, it can be done only by setting aside
all the ordinary rules of evidence, and all the laws of belief, in favor
of a negative prepossession of a purely empirical character. Phenomena
somewhat similar to these have occurred elsewhere, among Protestants as
well as Catholics, during periods of great religious excitement. The
beginnings of most religious systems—Methodism, Quakerism, &c.—have
stories like these of supernatural influences. They have usually been
disbelieved because their friends have claimed too much: they have claimed
that such phenomena were divine attestations to the truth of the doctrine
preached. What _is_ proved by them is the simple fact that the soul of man
is capable, under high excitement, of suspending, or rather overcoming,
all common physiological laws. We have seen similar results follow often
from such causes, only in ordinary ways. A sick person is made well in a
moment by some moral influence; a weak and sickly mother will nurse a sick
child, night after night, without rest or sleep, and keep well, where a
strong man would break down. Mesmerism brings forward multitudes of like
facts. There are, for example, the well-attested facts concerning the
transfer of the senses: that people under the influence of animal
magnetism can read with their forehead, the pit of their stomach, or the
back of their head. We have seen a weak boy, some thirteen years old, when
magnetized, lift a chair with three heavy men standing on it.
Clairvoyance, or seeing things at a distance, though not so well proved,
is confirmed by a vast number of facts. We come, then, to our final
statement concerning miracles, which is this:—

I. There is in man a power, as yet undeveloped, and only occasionally seen
in exceptional conditions, of overcoming the common laws of nature by
force of will; and this is sometimes voluntary, and sometimes involuntary.

II. This phenomenon takes these forms:—

A. _Power of the soul over the body (a.) to resist pain_, as in the case
of martyrs, who are burned alive without any appearance of suffering;
_(b.) to resist physical injury_, as in the case of the Convulsionists;
_(c.) to dispense with the usual service of the senses_, as in the case of
the girl at Worcester Insane Asylum, Massachusetts, under the care of Dr.
Woodward, who could read a book in a perfectly dark room and with bandaged
eyes; _(d.) to give a preternatural energy and strength to the body_.

B. _Preternatural knowledge_—such cases as that narrated by Dr. Bushnell,
of Yonnt, in California; or _knowledge through dreams_, waking
presentiments; cases of _foresight_, or prophecy; of _insight_, or
knowledge of what is passing in other minds; of _clairvoyance_, or
knowledge of what is happening at a distance, of which multitudes of facts
are narrated in such books as the “Seeress of Provorst,” Mrs. Crowe’s
“Night Side of Nature,” Robert Dale Owen’s “Footfalls from the Boundary of
the Unseen World,” which, after being sifted by a fair criticism, will
leave a large residuum of irresolvable facts.

C. Higher than these is a preternatural elevation of the whole character,
as in such cases as that of JOAN OF ARC, where a young girl, ignorant, a
peasant, destitute of all common means of influencing any one, by the
simple power of faith, because she believed herself inspired and
commissioned, succeeded in gaining the command of the armies of France,
and then of achieving a series of victories, equal, on the whole, as mere
military exploits, to those of the first captains of the world.

In all these cases we see manifestations of a power in the soul over
nature, body, men, and the laws of time and space. So we say, _secondly_,—

III. This power was possessed in the highest degree known in this world by
Jesus of Nazareth, and it differed in him from these other cases in these

1. It was always voluntary in its exercise, never involuntary. He was not
possessed by it, he possessed it. He used it just when and where he chose
to use it. It was always at his command; he never appears to have tried to
work a miracle, and failed. So,—

2. It was in him constant, and not occasional. In other cases where the
miraculous element appears, it seems to come and go; but to Jesus the
spirit was not given by measure. He had it always.

3. This power in him was total, and not partial. It was therefore
harmonious—in harmony with all his other qualities. He had power over
diseases of the body, and also those of the soul. He knew what was in man,
and what was in nature—in the present, and in the future. There was
nothing ecstatic, enthusiastic, nothing of excitement, about him; but
everything denoted a fulness, a PLEROMA, of this spiritual life.

4. The exercise of this power in Christ was always eminently moral, never
wilful. The one or two seeming exceptions, as, for example, the cursing
the fig tree, and the causing the evil spirits to go into the swine, ought
to be explained in harmony with the vast majority of his actions, which
always are guided by love, and justice, and a holy sense of what is true
and good.

5thly, and lastly. The miracle power of Jesus reached a higher point of
development than in any one else. The raising of the dead to life, and the
mysterious power over nature indicated by the turning of water into wine,
by the miracle of the loaves and fishes, calming the storm, if facts, are
facts unparalleled in any other biography, but seem possible, however
unintelligible, when considered as emanating from such a masterly and
commanding spirit as that of Jesus.

And this finally brings us to the miracle of the resurrection, concerning
which we will first quote from an article in a late number of the
“Westminster Review,” to show the most recent ideas of the critical and
negative school on this point.

§ 8. Miracle of the Resurrection. Sceptical Objections.

In an article in the “Westminster Review,” in “The Life of Christ, by
Strauss,” occurs the following passage:—

    “For of the two alternatives open to free inquiry, that if Jesus
    died he never reappeared, or if he reappeared he never died,
    Strauss considers the former not only preferable, but the only
    tenable one; for he cannot persuade himself that a feeble
    sufferer, who at first had scarcely strength to leave the tomb,
    and in the end succumbed to death, could have contrived to inspire
    his followers with the conviction that he was the Prince of life,
    the Conqueror of the grave. Strauss thus admits that faith in the
    supernatural revival of the buried Nazarene was undoubtedly the
    profession of the Christian Church, the unconditional antecedent
    without which Christianity could have had no existence. If, then,
    we refuse to assume the resurrection to be an historical fact, we
    have to explain the origin of the Church’s belief in it. The
    solution which satisfies Strauss, and which seems to us also an
    adequate interpretation of the problem, is dependent on the two
    following positions: 1. The appearance of Jesus was literally an
    appearance, an hallucination, a psychological phenomenon. 2. It
    was also a sort of practical fallacy of confusion, a case of
    mistaken identity.

    “But it will be said that this natural solution of the problem
    implies a foregone conclusion—the rejection of the Orthodox or
    supernatural solution. Of course it does; and accordingly Strauss
    has been accused of dogmatical or unphilosophical assumption. But
    the rejection of the theological solution is not the result of
    ignorant prejudice, but of enlightened investigation.
    Anti-supernaturalism is the final irreversible sentence of
    scientific philosophy, and the real dogmatist and hypothesis-maker
    is the theologian. That the world is governed by uniform laws is
    the first article in the creed of science, and to disbelieve
    whatever is at variance with those uniform laws, whatever
    contradicts a complete induction, is an imperative, intellectual
    duty. A particular miracle is credible to him alone who already
    believes in supernatural agency. Its credibility rests on an
    assumption—the existence of such agency. But our most
    comprehensive scientific experience has detected no such agency.
    There is no miracle in nature; there is no evidence of any
    miracle-working energy in nature; there is no fact in nature to
    justify the expectation of miracle. Rightly has it been said by an
    English _savant_ and divine, that testimony is a second-hand
    assurance, a blind guide, that can avail nothing against reason;
    and that to have any evidence of a Deity working miracles, we must
    go out of nature and beyond reason.

    “Strauss’s prepossession, therefore, is justifiable. It is the
    prepossession of the rational theist, who does not believe in a
    God who changes his mind and improves with practice—the prentice
    maker of the world; it is the prepossession of the pantheist, in
    whose theory of the perfect government of an immanent God, miracle
    is an extravagance and absurdity; it is the prepossession of the
    philosophical naturalist, whose experience of the operations of
    nature recognizes no extra-mundane interventionalism.”

We have quoted this passage as containing the most distinct statement of
an extreme anti-supernaturalism. Admitting the death of Jesus as a fact,
it denies his resurrection as a fact, and that on doctrinal and theoretic
grounds. Declaring anti-supernaturalism to be the final irreversible
sentence of scientific philosophy, it assumes supernaturalism to be a
denial that the world is governed by uniform laws. It assumes the
resurrection of Christ to be at variance with those uniform laws. It
denies the existence of any supernatural agency in the affairs of this
world. It denies that there ever has been a miracle in nature, or any
extra-mundane intervention in the history of nature or man.

This is what claims to be science, at the present time. We deny that it is
science, and assert it to be pure dogmatism and theory, contradicted by
numerous facts. It is pure theory to assume the resurrection of Jesus to
be a violation of law. It is pure theory to define a miracle to be
something opposed to law. It is pure theory to assume that the miraculous
facts ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels must have been, if they occurred,
violations of law. It is an assumption, contradicted by geology, that
there is nothing in the experience of the naturalist of the operations of
nature to show any extra-mundane intervention.

We have admitted, indeed, that these same assumptions have been made by
Orthodox theology. Orthodox theologians have also assumed the miracles of
Christ to be violations of the laws of nature. But some of the most
distinguished theologians, in all ages of the Church, have not so defined
them. And there is no reason why the man of science should deny the
possibility of fact because an unscientific explanation has been given of
that fact by others. This writer virtually says, “I will not believe that
Christ appeared after his death, on any amount of testimony, because some
persons have defined such appearances as being opposed to the laws of
nature.” It is certainly true that we cannot fully believe in the reality
of any phenomenon which seems to us to be a violation of law. It is also
true that the reported facts concerning the appearances of Jesus _seem_
like a violation of law. But the scientific course is neither to deny the
facts, nor to explain them away, but to study them, in order to see
whether, after all, they may not lead us to some new laws, before unknown.

The resurrection of Jesus deserves this study, since, according to the
confession of science itself, the Christian Church rests upon that belief.
Strauss admits that Christianity could not have existed without it. But,
hastily assuming that the real appearance of Jesus himself would be a
violation of a law of nature, he supposes this immense fact of Christendom
to rest on an hallucination and a case of mistaken identity.

But perhaps, after all, the resurrection may have been an example of a
universal law. Like other miracles, which are sporadic instances, in this
world, of laws which may be the nature of other worlds, so the
resurrection may have been as natural an event as any other in the life of
Jesus. Perhaps it is a law of nature that all souls shall become
disengaged from the earthly body on the third day after death. Perhaps
they all rise in a spiritual body, substantial and real, but not usually
perceptible by the senses. Perhaps, in the case of Jesus, that same
superior command of miraculous force, which appeared during his life,
enabled him to show himself easily and freely whenever he would. What
became of the earthly body we do not know; it may have been removed by the
priests or soldiers to prevent the disciples from getting possession of
it. The body in which Christ appeared differed evidently from the earthly
body in various ways. It came and went mysteriously; it was sometimes
recognized, and sometimes not; and it ascended into the spiritual world
instead of passing again to death and the grave. Perhaps, therefore, it
may be a universal law that souls rise out of the material body into a
higher state, clothed in another body, substantial and real, but not
material. The essence of the resurrection is this: Resurrection is not
coming to life again with the same body, but ascent into a higher life
with a new body.

It may be said that all this is only a _perhaps_. Very well; it _is_ only
a _perhaps_, but that is all we want in order to refute the logic of the
article just quoted. The scientific sceptic says, “I will not believe that
Jesus was really seen after death, because that would be a violation of a
law of nature.” We reply, “No, not necessarily. It might _perhaps_ have
been thus and so.” That will do; for if we can show that it is not
_necessarily_ a violation of a law of nature, we wholly remove the

But we may go farther, and assert that such a supposition as we have made
not only accords with the story in the Gospels, but also with the whole
spirit of Christianity, and with all the analogies of nature. The
resurrection of Jesus, so regarded, becomes the most _natural_ thing in
the world. If souls live after death, as even natural instinct teaches,
they live somewhere. As by the analogy of nature we see an ascending scale
of bodily existence up to man, whose body is superior to that of all other
animals, because fitted for the very highest uses, so if man is to live
hereafter and elsewhere, and not in this earthly body, analogy would
anticipate that he should live in a body still, but in a higher form. If
Jesus, therefore, rose in this higher body, and appeared to his disciples,
it was to lift them above fear of death by showing that this corruptible
must put on incorruption. So his resurrection was not merely coming to
life again in the same body, but rising up into a higher body and a higher
state, to show us how we are to be, to give us a glimpse of the hereafter,
to bridge over the gulf between this life and that to come.

§ 9. Final Result of this Examination.

We have thus examined, as thoroughly as our limited space will allow, the
questions at issue, on the subject of miracles, between the old Orthodox
and recent heterodox views; and the result to which we have arrived may be
thus stated:—

1. We may believe, on the testimony of history, that through Jesus of
Nazareth there entered the world a great impulse of creative moral life,
which has been, and is now, renewing society. This new impulse of life may
be regarded as miraculous or supernatural.

2. We may believe, though perhaps less strongly, but still decidedly, that
during the stay of Jesus on earth many extraordinary phenomena took place,
such as the sudden healing of the sick, the raising of the dead to life, a
display of miraculous insight and foresight, or knowledge of the present
and the future, and some influence over organic and material life, and
over the lifeless forces of nature. The precise limits of this we do not
know, and need not pretend to define. We need not think it essential to
fix the boundary. It may be interesting as speculation, but it is not
important as religion.

3. For, in the third place, we may say that these miracles of Jesus have
very little direct bearing on our _religion_. As they illustrate his
character, they are valuable, and also as they help us to believe that the
laws of nature are not stiff and rigid, like the movement of a machine,
but that there is force above force, a vortex of living powers, in the
universe, rising higher and higher towards the fountain of all force and
life in God. All portents and wonders are useful, as they shake us out of
the mechanical view of things, and show that even the outward, sensible
world is full of spiritual power.

4. We may also believe the miracles of Jesus to be _natural_ in this
sense—that under the same conditions they could have been done by others,
and that they are probably prophetic of a time in which they _shall_ be
done by others. Looked at as mere _signs_ or _portents_, he himself
discouraged any attention being paid to them. Looked at as logical proofs
to convince an unbeliever, he never brought them forward. His object in
miracles, as stated by Mr. Furness, was simply to express his character.
Some, indeed, were symbolical, as the cursing of the fig tree. It is the
custom in the East for teachers to speak in symbolic language.

Miracles were at first believed, on low grounds, as violations of law by a
God outside of the world. Now they are disbelieved on scientific grounds.
They may possibly be believed again on grounds of philosophy and historic
evidence, not as portents, not as violations of law, not as the basis of a
logical argument, but as the natural effluence and outcome of a soul like
that of Jesus, into which a supernatural influx of light and life had
descended. They are not more wonderful than nature; they are not _so_
wonderful as the change of heart by which a bad man becomes a good man.
But they will find their proper place as evidence how plastic the lower
laws are to the influence of a higher life.


§ 1. Subject of this Chapter. Three Views concerning the Bible.

The subject of this chapter is the Orthodox idea concerning the
inspiration and authority of the Bible. We shall consider the conflict of
opinion between those who believe in the full inspiration of every word of
Scripture, and those who treat it like a common book, and endeavor to see
how far we ought to believe a fact or a doctrine, because it is asserted,
or seems to be asserted, by some writer in the Bible.

Such questions are certainly of great importance to us all at the present
time, when opinions on these subjects are unsettled, and few people know
exactly what to believe. Especially in regard to the Old Testament, not
many persons have any distinct notions. They do not know what is its
inspiration or its authority; they do not know whether they are to believe
the account of the creation and of the deluge in the book of Genesis, in
opposition to the geologists, or believe the geologists, in opposition to
Genesis. Certainly it is desirable, if we can, to have some clear and
distinct opinions on these points.

And, first, in regard to Inspiration: there are three main and leading
views of the inspiration of the Bible. There cannot be a fourth. There may
be modifications of these, but nothing essentially different. These three
views are,—

(_a._) _Plenary Inspiration._—That is, that everything in the Bible is the
word of God. All the canonical books are inspired by God, so as to make
them infallible guides to faith and practice. Every word which really
belongs to these books is God’s truth, and to be received without question
as truth, no matter how much it may seem opposed to reason, to the facts
of nature, to common sense, and common morality.

This is _the Orthodox theory_ even at the present time. Any variation from
this is considered a deviation into heresy. No doubt, in practice it _is_
deviated from, by very Orthodox people; but all Protestant sects, claiming
to be Orthodox, profess to hold to the plenary inspiration of the Bible.

(_b._) _The Rationalist or Naturalistic View of the Bible._—The Bible is
not inspired at all, or at least in no way differing from any other book.
Its authors were inspired, perhaps, just as Homer, or Thucydides, or
Cicero were inspired, but not differently. It has no _authority_,
therefore, over any other book, and is just as liable to be in error as
any other. If you should bind in one volume the histories of Herodotus,
Tacitus, Gibbon, and Mr. Bancroft, the poems of Horace, Hafiz, and Dante,
and the letters of Cicero and Horace Walpole, this collection would have
to the Naturalist just as much authority as the Bible.

(_c._) The _mediatorial_ view of the Bible, or the view which _mediates_
between the others. This view endeavors to _reconcile_ the others, by
accepting the truths in each, and eliminating their errors or defects.

To this third division of opinions belong those of a large class, who are
not prepared to accept either the first or the second. They cannot believe
every word in the Bible to be the word of God, for they find things in it
contradicting the evidence of history and the intuitions of reason, and
also contradicting other teachings of the same book. They cannot see why,
as Christians, they should believe everything in the Jewish Scriptures. As
Christians, they go to the New Testament as a main source of faith and
practice, but do not see why they should go to the Old Testament for
Christian truth. On the other hand, they cannot look upon the Bible as a
common book. They remember that it has been a light to the world for
thousands of years, that it has been the means of awakening the human
intellect and heart, of reforming society, and purifying life. Even in the
Old Testament they find the noblest truth and the tenderest piety. The
Bible has been the litany, prayer-book, inspirer, comforter of nations and
centuries. They cannot and would not emancipate themselves from the
traditions in which they were born, nor cut off history behind them. The
Christian Church is their mother; she has taught them out of this book to
know God, and out of this book to pray to him, and they cannot regard it
without a certain prepossession.

To this third class I myself belong. I would not be unjust to the past or
to the future. I would be loyal to truth, and not shut my eyes to what God
reveals which is new; and I would not be unfaithful to what has already
been taught me, or ungrateful for the love which has taught the world by
the mouths of past prophets and apostles.

§ 2. The Difficulty. Antiquity of the World, and Age of Mankind.

Let us then see, first, what the problem before us is; and this can
perhaps be best understood by means of an example.

The common opinion among Christians is, that the world was made four
thousand and four years before Christ, and that all mankind are descended
from Adam and Eve. These opinions are derived from the book of Genesis,
which tells us that after God had made the world and other things in five
days, on the sixth day he made man in his own image; and that, when the
first man, Adam, was a hundred and thirty years old, he had a son, named
Seth; and from Seth, according to Genesis, are descended, by a genealogy
given in the fifth chapter of Genesis, Noah and his sons; and the ages
being given from Adam down to Abraham, and from Abraham to Christ, the age
of the world and the age of the human race have been computed.

As long as there was no reason for supposing any different period for the
antiquity of the world, these numbers were quietly accepted. But various
new facts have been noticed, and new sciences have arisen, within the past
fifty years, which have thrown doubt upon this chronology. In the first
place the great science of geology has examined the rocky leaves which
envelop the surface of the earth, and has found written upon them proofs
of an immense antiquity. It is found that the earth, instead of being
created four thousand years ago, must have existed for myriads of years,
in order to have given time for the changes which have taken place in its
structure. This evidence was long doubted and resisted by theologians, as
they supposed in the interest of Scripture; but the evidence was too
strong to be denied, and no intelligent theologian, however Orthodox, now
believes the world to have been made in six days, or to have been created
only six thousand years ago. With some, the six days stand for immense
periods of time; with others, the whole story is considered a vision, or a
symbolical account of geological events; but no one takes it literally.
This result has come from the overwhelming amount of evidence for the
antiquity of the earth, derived mainly from the fossil rocks. Of these
fossiliferous rocks there are over thirty distinct strata, lying
superimposed, in a regular series, each filled with the remains of
distinct varieties of animals or of plants. These rocks must each have
been an immense period of time in being formed, for the shells which they
contain, although very delicate, are unbroken, and could only be slowly
deposited in the quiet depths of a great ocean. There are also evidences
that after those strata were formed, violent and sudden upheavals took
place, throwing them into new positions, then slow uprisings of the bottom
of the sea, or slow subsidings of the land. At one time the northern parts
of Europe and America were covered with ice. Great glaciers extended over
the whole of Switzerland, and icebergs floated from the mountains of
Berkshire in Massachusetts upon a sea which filled the valley of the
Connecticut River, dropping erratic blocks of stone, taken from those
mountains, in straight lines, parallel with each other, half way across
the valley, where they still lie. Similar icebergs floated from Snowdon,
in Wales, and Ben Lomond, in Scotland, over the submerged islands of Great
Britain. At one time the whole surface of the earth, instead of being
covered with icy glaciers, was filled with a hot, damp atmosphere, laden
with carbonic gas, which no creature could breathe, but in which grew
great forests of a strange tropical vegetation. Then came another period,
in which all these forests were submerged and buried, and at last turned
into coal. Long after this hot period had passed, and long after the cold,
glacial period, which followed it, had departed, came a time when the
elephant, the rhinoceros, and the hippopotamus covered the whole of
Europe, and the mammoth roamed in North America. Such facts as these,
incontestably established by the amplest evidence, have made it impossible
for any reasonable man to believe that the earth was made in six days, or
that it was made only six thousand years ago.

But this question being thus disposed of, other questions arise in their
turn. Are all mankind descended from one pair, or from many? Has the human
race existed on the earth only six thousand years, or during a longer
period? Was the deluge of Noah a real event? and if so, was it universal
or partial? Did the sun stand still at the command of Joshua? or is that
only a poetic image taken from an ancient book of poems—the book of
Jasher? Is there any truth in the story of the passage of the Red Sea by
the Israelites? of the passage of the Jordan? of the walls of Jericho
falling when the trumpets were blown? of the story of Samson? If we once
begin to doubt and disbelieve the accounts in the Bible, where shall we
stop? What rule shall we have by which to distinguish the true from the
false? Is it safe to begin to question and deny? Is it not safer to accept
the whole book as the word of God, and to let everything in it stand

No! “It is never safe,” said Luther, “to do anything against the truth!”
Truth alone is safe; and his soul only is safe who loves and honors truth
more than human approbation—more than ease, comfort, or life. It is not
safe to pretend to believe what we do not. And in this instance, half of
the infidelity of the age and country has come from the teaching that
everything in the Bible is the word of God. Sincere men have been
disgusted when told they must believe things contrary to their common
sense and reason.

Another question, which is now being investigated, is the age of
mankind—the antiquity of the human race. The Bible gives the list of
generations from Adam to Abraham; and the length of each, and other data,
given in Scripture, make six thousand years for the life of man on this
earth. Greek history only goes back some twenty-three hundred years; the
Egyptian monuments go back fifteen hundred or two thousand years
earlier—to 2000 B.C., or 3000 B.C. The “Vedas,” in India, may have been
written 1500 B.C.; the “Kings,” in China, before that. But recently we
have been carried back to a yet earlier period,—to a time when man existed
on the earth, before any written monument or sculptured stone which now
exists. _Two_ different sources have been discovered within a few
years,—one of them by philology, the other by geology.

It has been found that the languages spoken by Europeans, in their airy
sounds, are more permanent monuments than granite or enduring brass.
Stamped on these light, imponderable words are marks of a gray antiquity
going back to times before Herodotus, before Moses and the book of
Genesis, before the Vedas in India, before the Zendavesta in Persia. It
has been proved, first, that nearly all the languages of Europe belong to
one linguistic family, and therefore that those who speak them were
originally of one race. These different languages—seven sister languages,
daughters of a language now wholly gone—are the Sanscrit or ancient
Hindoo, the Zend or ancient Persian, the Greek, the Latin, the Keltic, the
German, and the Slavic languages. By a comparison of these, it has been
found that originally there lived, east of the Caspian, a race of
shepherds and hunters, calling themselves _Aryan_; that one branch
descended into India at least five thousand years ago, and drove out the
aboriginal inhabitants, a second branch went into Persia, a third into
Italy, a fourth into Greece, a fifth vast immigration filled Northern
Europe with the Kelts, a sixth with Scandinavians and Germans, and a
seventh with the Slaves. But long ago as this immigration was,—before all
history,—it found aboriginal inhabitants everywhere, whose descendants
remain. The Lapps and Finns in Northern, Europe, the Basques in Spain, and
Magyars in Hungary, are probably descended from this earlier European
race. It is difficult to suppose mankind only six thousand years old, when
we find such great movements taking place four or five thousand years ago.

But now come the geologists, and tell us that they find evidence of three
different races existing in Europe in three distinct periods of
civilization, some of which probably preceded the immigration of these
Indo-European races. These three belong to what they call the Stone, the
Bronze, and the Iron Age. In the gravel and drift, from ten to twenty feet
below the surface, along with the bones of the elephant and the
rhinoceros, and other animals long since extinct, are found hundreds of
flint instruments, axes, arrow-heads, and tools, indicating that men lived
in Europe in great numbers, contemporaries with these extinct animals. If
this should be proved, we should then be brought to admit, with respect to
the antiquity of man, what we have already admitted with regard to the
antiquity of the world, that the account in Genesis is not to be
understood as theologians have hitherto taught; that is, that we must not
go to Genesis, but to philology and geology, for our knowledge of the most
ancient history.

In this case, then, it will be evident that the old notion of a literal
inspiration cannot be maintained. God certainly did not inspire men to
teach anything about the creation which was adapted to mislead and deceive
men for two thousand years. We shall be obliged to say, then, that Moses
was not inspired to teach geology or history; that what he taught on these
subjects he taught from such sources as were available to him, and that he
was liable to error.

The old Orthodox theory of plenary inspiration has received very damaging
blows from such scientific researches as these which we have been
describing. The letter of the Bible seems, in such cases, to be at war
with the facts of nature.

§ 3. Basis of the Orthodox Theory of Inspiration.

Why, then, should the Orthodox doctrine be so stoutly maintained? What are
the reasons used in its defence? What its arguments? What is its basis? On
what does it rest? Do the writers of the Bible say that they were inspired
by God to write these books? Not at all. Do they claim infallibility?
Nowhere. Do they lay down any doctrine of plenary, verbal, literal
inspiration? No. We do not even know who wrote many of these books. We do
not know who collected them, or why just these books were put into the
collection, and no others. The Orthodox theory rests on few facts, but is
mainly an assumption. It seemed necessary that there should be _authority_
somewhere; and when Protestants rejected the authority of the Church, they
took the Bible in its place. The doctrine of inspiration, therefore, was
adopted as a basis for the authority of the Bible.

The principal reason given by those who believe in the plenary inspiration
of the Bible, for holding to this doctrine, is the necessity of _some_
authority. The argument is this: Unless every part of the Bible is
believed to be fully inspired, some part of it may be believed to be
erroneous; and if we admit error in any part, the Bible loses its
authority, and we do not know what to believe. The doctrine of literal and
plenary inspiration rests, therefore, in the last analysis, on no basis of
fact, but on a purely _a priori_ argument. Let us therefore examine this
argument, and see what is its force.

Revelation, it is said, is a communication of truth with authority. It is
truth shown to us by God, not truth reasoned out by man. Its value is,
that we can rely upon it entirely, live by it, die by it, without doubt or
hesitation. We do not want speculation, opinion, probability; we want
certainty; otherwise religion ceases to be a power, and becomes a mere
intellectual amusement.

The only religion, it is added, which is of any real value, is that which
carries with it this authority. The outward world, with its influences and
its temptations, is so strong, that we shall be swept away by it unless we
can oppose to it some inward conviction as solid and real. Amid the
temptations of the senses, the allurements of pleasure, the deceitfulness
of riches, will it enable a man to hold fast to honesty, temperance,
purity, generosity—to believe that in all probability these things are
right, and that there is something to be said in favor of the opinion that
God approves of them?

Will it help him, to think that unless the writer of the Gospel is
mistaken, or his words mistranslated, Christ may have said that goodness
leads to heaven, and sin to hell? No. We need authority in order to have
certainty; and we need certainty in our convictions in order that they
should influence us deeply and permanently.

This is the chief argument in favor of the plenary inspiration(11) of the
Bible. We see it amounts to this—that it is very desirable, for practical
purposes, that we should believe everything in the Bible to be true.(12)

In reply to this, we ought first to say, that the question in all these
cases is not, What is desirable? but, What is true? We should begin by
investigating the facts. We should ask, Does the Bible anywhere say of
itself that it is inspired in this sense? Do any of the writers of the
Bible declare themselves to be thus inspired, so that all that they say is
absolutely true in every particular? Does Christ say that those who are to
write the Gospels or the Epistles of the New Testament shall be thus
guarded against every possible error? Or is there any evidence in the
books themselves that the writers were thus protected? Do they never
contradict each other or themselves? Do they never contradict facts of
nature or facts of history?

Now, to all these questions, we are obliged to say, No. The Bible claims
no such absolute inspiration for itself. It says that “holy men of old
spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” but it does not say that the
Holy Spirit made them infallible. It says, “All Scripture is given by
inspiration, and is profitable for doctrine,” but it does not say what are
the limits of Scripture; and to be profitable or useful for doctrine is
surely not the same thing as to have infallible authority over belief.
Besides, if those who wrote certain Scriptures were infallibly inspired,
those who collected the present books of the Old and New Testament, and
made our canon, were _not_ so inspired. Those who transcribed their
autographic manuscripts were not inspired. The manuscripts of the Gospels
and Epistles, written by their authors, have long since perished. There
were no autograph collectors in ancient times. There was no such reverence
then paid to the letter of religion, to cause the original manuscript of
an apostle to be kept in a church as a sacred relic. We have plenty of
pieces of wood claiming to be parts of the true cross, but not a
manuscript claiming to be the original writing of an apostle. The earliest
manuscript goes only to the fourth century, and that contains the Epistle
of Barnabas. If, then, the writers of the New Testament were inspired,
those who collected their writings were not inspired, and may have left
out the right books, and put in the wrong ones. Those who copied their
manuscripts were not inspired, and may have left out the right words, and
put in wrong ones. Those who translated their manuscripts were not
inspired, and may have made mistakes in their translating. So that, after
all, the plenary inspiration of the apostles does not bestow that
infallibility upon our English Bible which this theory demands in order to
give it authority.

And yet we admit the importance of having some authority. Truth which does
not come with authority is _not_ truth; it is only speculation; it cannot
influence life. Revelation and philosophy differ in this, that philosophy
tells us what men think about God, revelation what God thinks about men.
Revelation is the drawing aside of the veil which hides God, duty,
immortality. It does not give us speculations about them, but shows us the
things themselves.

If, therefore, we can show that the Bible can be authority _without being_
plenarily inspired, very possibly Orthodoxy would no longer cling to this
doctrine with such remarkable tenacity. This point of authority we shall
consider in another section of this chapter, and so we will say no more
about it now. We shall try to show, then, that the Bible may be, and is
authority, without being inspired as regards every page and word, and that
inspiration is one thing and infallibility another. At present we desire
to see the truth there is in the Orthodox doctrine of inspiration.

§ 4. Inspiration in general, or Natural Inspiration.

There is a foundation for inspiration in human nature, a capacity for
inspiration which all possess. Were it not so, Christian inspiration would
be something unnatural, and not in the order of providence. Moreover, we
commonly speak of the inspiration of the poet, the painter, the inventor,
the man of genius. The man of genius is he who has more of this capacity
for inspiration than other men. But all men have it in a greater or a less
degree. All men have their hours or moments of inspiration. By these
experiences of their own, they understand the larger inspirations of
genius. If we distribute the thoughts we possess according to their
source, we shall find that we have obtained them all, either _from other
persons_, or by means of _mental effort_, or by _inspiration_. The largest
part of our thoughts and opinions we have taken in ready made, and
reproduced them just as we received them. We suppose ourselves thinking,
when we utter them, but we are only remembering. A much smaller proportion
of our thoughts we have obtained reflectively, by personal efforts of the
active intellect. Another part are those which have come to us in some
happy moments, when the inner eye was unclouded, and when we seem to see
at a glance truth and beauty. These inspired moments give us the most
solid knowledge we have. They are mental experiences, which are the master
lights of all our being. They give direction and unity to all our other
thoughts and opinions. They constitute mental originality. The peculiarity
of inspiration, in this general sense, does not lie in the subjects of the
thoughts, but in the manner of their coming. Ideas and thoughts of very
different kinds may all be inspired thoughts. The poet, the artist, have
their inspirations. But the scholar, the thinker, has his also. The man
who invents a machine often has the idea come to him by an inspiration.
The man who discovers a continent has seen it in idea before he sees it in
reality. If Shakespeare was an inspired man, so was Newton, so was
Columbus, so was Lord Bacon, so was Faust when he discovered printing,
Watt when he improved the steam engine, and Daguerre when he found out
photographic pictures; for, in all great discoveries and inventions, and
in small ones too, the original idea is an inspiration, though it has to
be worked out mechanically by hard thinking.

It will be seen, then, what we understand by inspiration, in this general
sense. It is a mental sight, corresponding as nearly as anything can to
physical sight. It seems, in the inspired moment, as if we looked into
another world, and saw new truths and facts there. We do not bring them up
out of our memory; we see them in all their own fresh life and reality. We
do not think them out by an effort of the will; we stand still and see
them. All that our will has to do with it is negative rather than
positive. It is to keep off disturbing influences of memory and sense, to
hold the mind still, attentive, receptive, and ready. If we believe in
these inspirations, we can thus prepare the way for them, but nothing
more. We can wait and look, till the vision is presented, and then we
shall see it; but this is all. The man of genius is he who believes in
these inspirations, and so looks for them. _What_ he shall see will depend
on what he looks for. The man whose taste is in the world of imagination
looks for forms of poetic or artistic beauty, and so sees these. Every man
looks for that which he is most interested in, whether he be metaphysician
or mechanic. The world of ideal beauty and truth, which overhangs ours,
has a thousand portals, and we can pass in through one or another, and see
that which suits our various tastes and desires. Memory, reflection, and
sight,—these are the three sources of our thoughts. The inspired man is a
seer—he has insight and foresight; and these objects of mental sight are
to him more real and certain than any others. But he is unable to prove
their reality or justify them to the sceptic. And hence his fate is often
that of Cassandra,—to be a true prophet, but not to be believed, until by
and by the strength of his own conviction wins its way, and produces faith
in others.

There are, therefore, two principal intellectual states of the mind—the
one receptive, the other plastic; the one by which it takes in truth, the
other by which it works it up into shape. By the one it obtains the
substance of thought, by the other the form of thought. The one may be
called the perceptive state, the other the reflective state. Thus, too, we
see that the perceptive faculty may be exercised in two directions,
outwardly and inwardly. It is the same intellectual faculty which, through
the senses, looks at and perceives the outward material universe, and
through the mind itself, the inward world of thought. It is this power of
looking inward which gives us all that we call inspiration. We have, thus,
outsight and insight.

There is, then, a _universal inspiration_, on which the special
inspiration of the Old and New Testament rests. There are inspired men and
uninspired men. There are inspired writings and uninspired writings. There
is a general inspiration, out of which the particular inspiration of Bible
writers grew. Universal inspiration is a genus, of which this is a
species. We cannot understand the inspiration of the writers of the Bible
till we understand this universal inspiration on which it rests. We can
best explain the special inspiration of Scripture by first knowing the
general inspirations of mankind.

Mr. Emerson, in one of his poems, called the “Problem,” describes this
universal inspiration. He describes Phidias as being inspired to make his
Jupiter, as well as the prophets to write their burdens. He says the
architect that made St. Peter’s was guided by some divine instinct in his
heart—he wrought in a sad sincerity. He says we cannot tell how such
buildings as the Parthenon and St. Peter’s were built, any more than how
the bird builds its nest; they were formed by a natural architecture; they
grew as the grass grows; they came out of thought’s interior sphere, just
as the pine tree adds a myriad of new leaves to its old arms every year.

    “The passive master lent his hand
    To the vast soul that o’er him planned;
    And the same power that reared the shrine
    Bestrode the tribes that knelt within.”

§ 5. Christian or Supernatural Inspiration.

Having thus spoken of inspiration in general, we proceed to speak of
Christian inspiration in particular.

Christian inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart. It is
that influence which came to the apostles, and to all Christians after
Jesus had left the earth, to unite them inwardly with Christ, and to show
them the true Christ. It is that of which Paul speaks, when he says, It
pleased God to reveal his Son in me. All Christians were baptized with the
Holy Ghost; had the spirit of Christ dwelling in them; were led by the
spirit of God; received the spirit of adoption, which bore witness that
they were the sons of God; which helped their infirmities; helped them to
pray; enabled them to mortify the deeds of the body, and produced many
gifts and graces. It is quite certain that all Christians were expected to
partake of this Christian inspiration. This enabled them inwardly to see
and know Christ—the true Christ. And only thus could they become truly

Now, the Christian inspiration, so necessary at first, is equally
necessary now, for its object is, as it was then, to turn nominal
Christians into living Christians; to turn historical Christianity into
vital Christianity; to enable those who already know Christ after the
flesh, also to know him after the spirit. What is it which we need for
comfort, improvement, usefulness? We need a living, practical faith in
God’s truth and love. We need to see it as we now see the outward world.
We believe in the inevitable retribution of God’s laws. We need to see
this; to see that selfishness is death, and generosity life; to see that
humility is exaltation, and that pride is abasement. Having seen law, we
need also to see grace, the reality of forgiveness, the reality of a
Father’s love. We need to see immortality and eternity, while we are yet
surrounded with the world of sense and time; to see that the two worlds
are not two, but one, all temporal things having their roots in spiritual
things. This is what we need for comfort, for no hardship would seem hard
while we were thus looking at the things which are eternal, and knowing
that every light affliction works out an eternal weight of glory. This is
what we need for improvement. For no efforts at improvement can accomplish
that which this inward inspiration can do. It is a tide which bears us on.
It takes from us the weight of years. It is the sap which rises into every
branch, penetrates every twig, swells the buds, expands the leaves, opens
the blossoms, ripens the fruit, and causes universal growth. And it is
what we need for usefulness. For how mechanical and lifeless are efforts
at usefulness which proceed merely from the sense of duty! How blessed are
those which proceed from a heart filled with love and peace!

Christian inspiration, then, reveals inwardly the spirit of Christ, and so
gives us a new heart, and makes of us new creatures. It is the most
essential and vital part of Christianity, yet it is that part of
Christianity which is the least known and prized. How many dogmatists
there are fighting for doctrines; how many ceremonialists earnest about
forms; how many conscientious Christians trying hard to do their
duties;—to one spiritual Christian, whose Christianity consists in living
in the spirit, that he may walk in the spirit!

One reason for this seems to be the prevalence of false views concerning
the nature of Christian inspiration. It has been regarded as wholly
different in its laws from other inspiration, as an arbitrary influence
without laws or conditions. Now, in fact, the inspiration of the
Christian, while it differs in its subject from that of the poet, rests on
the same mental faculty, and has analogous conditions. The condition of
the poet’s inspiration is, that loving the outward beauty of the natural
world, and faithfully studying its truth, he should then hold himself
ready, in strong desire, to see, inwardly, ideal truth and ideal beauty.
And so the Christian, believing in the outward Christ, and loving him,
holds himself expectant of an inward revelation of that same Jesus in his
glorified and higher influence. All inspiration has its conditions and
laws. The poet’s eye, in its fine frenzy, must look from heaven to earth,
and from earth to heaven. His inward inspiration is in strict accordance
with his outward occupation and his outward fidelity. Every man is
inwardly inspired, according to the nature of his outward work.
Shakespeare cannot discover America, nor Columbus write Hamlet. And it is
only he who believes in Christ, and so endeavors to obey and serve him,
who receives an inward sight of his essential spirit. Christian
inspiration is not arbitrary, is not unnatural, is not limited. It is the
life of Christ, flowing steadily and constantly into all hearts which are
prepared for it, which long for it, and which hold themselves ready to
receive it.

We are thus prepared to state more distinctly the difference between
inspiration in general and Christian inspiration in particular.

(_a._) These two inspirations _resemble_ each other in resulting from the
exercise of the same mental faculties, since the state of mind in both
cases is not that of reflection, but perception; and the perception is
inward perception. Newton fixes his mind steadily upon the confused
mathematical thought within till it becomes clear. Milton fixes his mind
upon the inward image of ideal truth and beauty till it grows so distinct
that he can put it into corresponding words. Columbus meditates upon the
thought of a Western Continent till it seems so plain to him that he is
ready to set sail for it. And so Paul and John look steadily at the Christ
formed within them till they see clearly what is Christ’s thought
concerning every question, every subject.

(_b._) The two inspirations also are alike in this, that the truth seen is
in both cases, as to its substance, given to us by God. For the truths
seen by Newton, Milton, Descartes, and Columbus were not inventions of
theirs, but divine realities shown to them by God.

(_c._) In both cases the form of the truth seen comes from the exercise of
the human faculties of each individual upon the substance thus given. For
Paul and John, no less than Newton and Milton, worked up in their own
minds the truth seen. This is evident from the fact, that, while their
writings agree in contents and substance with each other, they differ from
each other in form and style. Each writer of the New Testament has his own
distinctly marked style, not only of expression, but also of thought.

(_d._) They are alike also in combining truth of substance with
fallibility of statement. The substance of every inspired man’s thought is
truth, because it is the reality shown to him by God. The form in which he
expresses it varies more or less from this truth, because that comes from
the exercise of his own finite faculties. Newton and Milton looked at
God’s truths, and uttered them as well as they were able. So did Paul and
John. That these last were liable to err in matters of statement appears
from the fact that they did err in some matters, as, for example, in
regard to the speedy coming of Christ.

These being the resemblances between natural and supernatural inspiration,
what are _differences_?

(_a._) The first difference is in the _kind of truths seen_. The truths
seen by Newton and Milton belong to the natural world, those seen by Paul
and John to the supernatural world. The substance of the inspiration in
the one case is nature, in the other case it is Christ. Intercourse with
nature had fed the minds of Newton and Milton with the truth, forming the
material upon which their inspiration could work. Intercourse with Christ,
in the flesh and in the spirit, had filled the minds of Paul and John with
the material on which their inspiration could be exercised. Christ had
come to them outwardly and inwardly, and this was the substance of their

(_b._) The inspiration of Newton and Milton implies genius; that is, a
special faculty in each individual. This possession of genius, or special
faculty, is a condition _sine qua non_, of natural inspiration. It is
solitary, it is individual. But the inspiration of the writers of the New
Testament does not imply genius. Of the eight writers of the New
Testament, only one, viz., Paul, appears to have been a man of natural
genius. He was great by endowment, the others were made great by their
inspiration. In the one case the uncommon man finds wonderful things in
the common world; in the other case the uncommon world shows wonderful
things to the common man.

(_c._) Natural and supernatural inspiration differ also in their occasion.
A miraculous event, namely, the coming of Christ inwardly to their souls
on the day of Pentecost, was the occasion of the apostolic inspiration.
This coming of the Holy Ghost was the second of the two supernatural
events of Christianity, of which the other was the birth of Christ. The
miraculous events in the life of Jesus may have been the natural results
of the coming of such a being into the world. The miracles of Christ’s
life, including his resurrection, may have been natural to a supernatural
being. They are the evidence of a break in the series of causation in the
outward world. In like manner the inward coming of Christ to the hearts of
his disciples in what is called the influence of the Holy Spirit, is
another supernatural event, the natural result of which is the founding of
the Church, the writing of the New Testament, and the newly created life
in individual souls.

These two inspirations, therefore, differ in their substance, source, and
method. The substance of one consists of truths of the natural order, the
other of the supernatural order. The source of one is the world of nature,
the source of the other is the inward Christ. And the method of the one is
that of individual genius, which is solitary, while the method of the
other is that of love or communion.

§ 6. Inspiration of the Scriptures, especially of the New Testament

We now pass on to ask, What is the inspiration of the New Testament, or of
its writers?

The writers of the New Testament had no different inspiration from that of
all other Christians. We nowhere hear of any one receiving an inspiration
to enable him to write a Gospel or an Epistle. They distinctly repel the
idea of any such special or distinct inspiration. “By one spirit we have
all been baptized into one body, and have been all made to drink into one
spirit.” Gifts are different, but the spirit is one and the same in all.
But even among these diversities of gifts, nothing is said of any gift for
writing Gospels or Epistles. Probably, therefore, the inspiration by which
these were written was precisely the same as that by which they preached
to the Gentiles or taught in the Church. It was an inward sight of Christ,
an inward sight of his truth and love, which enabled them to speak and
write with authority—the authority of those who saw what they said, and
knew it to be true. “We speak what we know, and testify what we have
seen.” Hence it is that we find in their writings so much substance, so
much comprehensiveness, so much insight. They are in constant communion
with an invisible world of truth. They describe what is before their eyes.

A book given by inspiration is not a book made perfect by miracle, but a
book, the writer of which was in a state open to influences from a higher
sphere. All books which the human race has accepted as inspired—Vedas,
Koran, Zendavesta—are sacred scriptures; all that _lasts_ is inspired.
Perpetuity, not infallibility, is the sign of inspiration.

    “The word unto the prophet spoken
    Was writ on tables yet unbroken;
    The word by seers or sibyls told
    In groves of oak or fanes of gold
    Still floats upon the morning wind,
    Still whispers to the willing mind.
    One accent of the Holy Ghost
    The heedless world has never lost.”

The famous proof-text on this subject is that in the Second Epistle of
Paul to Timothy: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is
profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in
righteousness.” To what Scripture did Paul refer? Some say to the Jewish
Scripture. Some say to the Jewish and Christian writings. But the
Christian writings were not then all written, and were not collected into
what we call the New Testament. The apostle does not limit himself to
these. He says, “_All_ Scripture is inspired”—not merely Jewish or
Christian Scripture, but all sacred writing. All the writings of every age
which are looked upon as Scripture, which men from age to age reverence
and honor as such, were _not_ of man’s invention, not of man’s device, but
came from some irrepressible influence acting on the soul from within. The
poet before quoted says truly,—

    “Out from the heart of nature rolled
    The burdens of the Bible old.
    The litanies of nations came,
    Like the volcano’s tongue of flame,
    Up from the burning cone below,
    The canticles of love and woe.
    The hand that rounded Peter’s dome,
    And groined the aisles of Christian Rome,
    Wrought in a sad sincerity.
    Himself from God he could not free;
    He builded better than he knew;
    The conscious stone to beauty grew.”

There is a truth in this—a profound truth. The Bible is not an exceptional
book in this, that it has no parallels in nature to its method of
production. It is true that Phidias was inspired to make his statue and to
build the Parthenon.

    “Such and so grew those holy piles,
    While love and terror laid the tiles.
    Earth proudly wears the Parthenon
    As the best gem upon her zone,
    And morning opes in haste her lids
    To gaze upon the Pyramids;
    O’er England’s abbeys bends the sky
    As on its friends with kindred eye;
    For out of thought’s interior sphere
    These wonders rose to upper air.”

When Mr. Emerson and Theodore Parker compare in this way the Bible with
the Vedas or the Parthenon, we often feel that it degrades the Bible, and
takes away its special sanctity. But this is not necessarily the case.
There may be a wide gulf between the inspiration of the Bible and that of
the Vedas, or of Homer or Plato; and yet they may all belong to the same
class of works. There is a wide gulf between _man_ and the highest of the
inferior animals; and yet we put man into the class MAMMALIA, along with
oxen, whales, and cats, and into the same Order with apes and bats. We do
not think that man is degraded by being thus classified. He occupies a
distinct species in this order and class. So the New Testament and Old
Testament constitute two distinct species, of which they are the sole
representatives of one genus of inspired books; but that _genus_ belongs
to the same _order_ as the Vedas, Edda, Zendavesta, and Koran, and that
order belongs to the same _class_ as the poems of Homer and Dante, the
architecture of the Parthenon and the Strasburg Minster, the discovery of
America by Columbus, and of the law of gravitation by Newton.

The _class_ of works which we call inspired comprehends, as we have before
said, all which come to man by a certain influx into his soul—not by
looking out of himself, but by looking into himself. Sometimes we go and
search and find thoughts; sometimes thoughts come and find us. “They flash
upon our inner eye;” they haunt us, and pursue us, and take possession of
us. So Columbus was haunted by the idea of a continent in the west; so
Newton was haunted by his discovery long before he made it; so the
“Paradise Lost” pursued Milton long before it was written. Every really
great work must have in it more or less of this element which we call

But while the great works of genius belong to the class of inspired works,
we make a distinct order out of the great religious works which have been
the sacred Scriptures of races of men. They evidently came from a higher
inspiration than the works of science and the works of art. They have
ruled men’s souls for thousands of years. These, then, we place in an
_Order_ by themselves, and it is no discredit to the Bible to be ranked
with the works of Confucius, which have kept the Chinese orderly,
peaceful, industrious, and happy for almost twenty-six centuries.

But still, among these sacred books the Bible may be said to constitute a
distinct _genus_, because it differs from all the rest in two ways—in
teaching the holiness of God and the unity of God. The writer has been a
careful reader of all these sacred books for twenty years; he has read
them with respect; in no captious spirit; wishing to find in them all the
truth he could. He has found in them much truth—much in accordance with
Christianity. But he sees a wide difference between them all and the
Bible. They are all _profitable_ for doctrine, for reproof, for
instruction; but they are not Holy Scriptures in the sense in which we
ascribe that word to the Bible. The Old Testament, though having in it
many harsh and hard features, belonging to the Jewish mind, has strains
which rise into a higher region than anything in the Vedas or the
Zendavesta. The Proverbs of Solomon are about on a level with the books of
Confucius. But nowhere in all these Ethnic Scriptures are strains like
some of the Psalms—like passages in Isaiah and Jeremiah. The laws of Menu
are low compared with the Pentateuch.

But if the Old and New Testament make a genus by themselves, they divide
again into two species. There is a specific difference between the New
Testament and the Old. The New Testament inspiration is of a far deeper,
higher, and broader character than the other. In fact, we ought, perhaps,
to make a special order by itself from the New Testament writings. They
are so full of life, light, and love—they are so strong yet so tender—so
pure yet so free! They have no cant of piety, no formalism, but breathe
throughout a heavenly atmosphere. Their inspiration is of the highest kind
of all.

But what is this Holy Spirit? What does it teach? Scientific truth? No.
Scientific truth has been taught the world by other channels. Bacon and
Newton, La Place and Cuvier, Linnæus and De Candolle, have been inspired
to teach science. Their knowledge came, not only by observation, not only
by study, but by patiently opening their minds to receive impressions from
above. Were the writers of the Bible inspired to teach history? We think
not. There are histories of the Jews in the Bible, and they are likely to
be as authentic, as histories, as are those of Herodotus and Livy, and
other painstaking and sincere historians. But the special inspiration of
the Bible does not appear in the historic books.

But are not _all_ parts of the Bible equally inspired by this Holy Spirit?
By no means. We can easily see that they are not. It is evident that there
is nothing spiritually edifying in a large part of the history of the Old
Testament—the account of Samson, the story of Gideon, large parts of the
books of Judges and Chronicles, the Song of Solomon, the book of Esther.
The book of Ecclesiastes is full, throughout, of a dark and terrible
scepticism. Now, all these books are valuable, exceedingly so, as history,
but not as proceeding from the Holy Spirit.

But it may be said, “If the history of the Bible is not inspired, it may
be erroneous.” Certainly it may. We have seen that the account of creation
in the book of Genesis is probably erroneous. It contains one great faith,
luminous throughout—namely, that there is one God, Creator of all worlds
and of mankind. But as to the _order_ of creation,—the six days, the
garden of Eden,—all we can say is, that there may be some way by which
Moses could, in vision, have seen these things, represented in picture, as
they happened long before. There may be such a kind of unveiling of the
past before the inner eye of the soul. We do not deny it, for it is not
wise to deny where we know nothing. But we can assert that Christianity
does not require us to believe those chapters of Genesis to contain
historic truth. It may be allegorical truth. It may be a parable,
representing how every little child comes into an Eden of innocence, and
is tempted by that wily serpent, the sophistical understanding, and is
betrayed by desire, his Eve, and goes out of his garden of childhood,
where all life proceeds spontaneously and by impulse, into a world of work
and labor. If it be such an allegory as that, it teaches us quite as much
as if it were history.

§ 7. Authority of the Scriptures.

We have seen that the Bible, though inspired, is not infallible. But, it
is said, unless the Bible is infallible it has no authority. This we deny.
Inspiration is not infallibility, but inspiration _is_ authority. The
inspired man is always an authority. Phidias and Michael Angelo are
authorities in sculpture; Titian and Rafaelle are authorities in painting;
Mozart and Beethoven in music; and Paul, John, Peter, in religion.

Authority without infallibility is the problem before us. It is evident
that authority is desirable; it is equally evident that infallibility is
impossible. Can there, therefore, be the one without the other? Can God
reveal himself to man through a fallible medium? Can the writers of the
New Testament be so inspired as to be able to communicate truth, and yet
so inspired as not to be infallible? To all these questions we answer,
_Yes_; and will try to show it to be so.

Suppose that you are going through a forest in company with others. You
have lost your way. No one knows which way to go; dangers are around
you—dangers from cold, hunger, wild beasts, enemies. If you go the wrong
way, you may all perish; if you go the right way, you will reach your
destination and be safe. Under these circumstances, one of the party
climbs a tree, and when he has reached the top he cries out with joy, “I
see the way we ought to go. We must go to the right. I see the ocean in
that direction, and the spires of the city to which we are bound.” You all
immediately go the way that he directs. He has become an authority to you.
You follow his guidance implicitly, and put your lives into his hands,
depending upon the truth of what he says. Why? Because he has been where
you have not been, and has seen what you have not seen, and you believe
him honest and true. He has no motive to deceive you. This is his

But is it equivalent to infallibility? By no means. No one supposes him to
be infallible. If, after following his direction for a while, you see no
signs to show that you are in the right way, you begin to think that he
may have been mistaken, and some one else climbs a tree to verify his
judgment, or to correct it. But if, instead, signs begin to appear to show
that you are in the right way, your faith in your guide is confirmed, and
his authority is practically increased.

What gives a man authority as a guide, teacher, counsellor, is not our
belief in his infallibility, but our belief in his knowledge; if we
believe that he knows something we do not know, he becomes thereby an
authority to us. If he has been where we have not been, and seen what we
have not seen, he is an authority. A man who has just come from Europe or
from California, who has been in the midst of a great battle, who has
studied a subject which others have not studied, and made himself familiar
with it, such a man is an authority to others. Observe men listening to
him. All defer to him while he is speaking on this subject. He may be much
more ignorant than they are in regard to other things, but, if he has had
superior opportunities in regard to this subject, he is an authority. Yet
they do not believe him infallible; for if, in the course of his
conversation, he says anything which seems contradictory, incredible,
absurd, they begin to withdraw their confidence, and may withdraw it
wholly. But if, on the other hand, what he says is clear, consistent,
solid with information, his authority is increased continually, and his
bearers defer to him more and more.

Now, the authority of the writers of the New Testament is exactly of this
kind. The authority of inspiration everywhere is of this kind. An inspired
man is one who is believed to have been where we have not been, and to
have seen what we have not seen.

In Cooper’s novels there is a character whom he calls Leatherstocking,
familiar with the woods, knowing all their signs, acquainted with the
habits of bird, beast, and Indian. He guides the travellers through the
wilderness, and, by his superior knowledge, saves them from the Indian
ambush and the pursuing savage. They commit themselves implicitly to his
guidance, trust their lives to him. Why? Because they confide in his
knowledge of woodcraft and in his fidelity. As regards all matters
pertaining to the forest, he is an authority; their teacher if they want
information, their guide if they are ignorant of the way, their saviour in
imminent peril from savage beasts and savage men. He is an authority to
them, a perfect authority; for they confide in him entirely, without a
shade of doubt. But no one thinks him infallible, nor supposes it
necessary to believe him infallible, in order to trust him entirely.

Just so a ship on a lee shore, in the midst of a driving storm, throws up
signal rockets or fires a gun for a pilot. A white sail emerges from the
mist; it is the pilot-boat. A man climbs on board, and the captain gives
to him the command of the ship. All his orders are obeyed implicitly. The
ship, laden with a precious cargo and hundreds of lives, is confided to a
rough-looking man whom no one ever saw before, who is to guide them
through a narrow channel, where to vary a few fathoms to the right or left
will be utter destruction. The pilot is invested with absolute authority
as regards bringing the vessel into port.

When Columbus came back from his first voyage, and reported the discovery
of America, was he not an _authority_? Did not men throng around him, to
hear of what he had seen and done? Yet who believed him infallible. He who
has been where I have not been, and seen what I have not seen, is an
_authority_ to me. If I believe him honest, and no impostor, then I learn
from him, and depend on his testimony. Now, the writers of the New
Testament have been where we have not been. They have ascended heights,
and sounded depths in the spiritual world unknown to us. So they are
authorities to us, provided we have enough of their spirit in us to enable
us to see and know their inspiration. For, unless I have some musical
spirit in me, I cannot discern the inspiration of Mozart; unless I have
some mathematical spirit in me, I cannot discern the mathematical
inspiration of Newton and Kepler. So the natural man (the man who has
nothing in him corresponding to the Christian inspiration) cannot discern
the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, for they
are spiritually discerned or judged. He lives in external things, as babes
do. The authority of the Spirit in the Bible is that it awakens and
appeals to whatever spiritual element exists in our soul, and compels it
to feel and admit its truth.

Jesus, it is said, in giving the Sermon on the Mount, taught as one having
authority, and not as the Scribes. What was his authority, then? Not
official authority, for he was not yet known to be the Christ, hardly yet
known to be a prophet. Not merely the _authority_ coming from an imposing
manner; not an authoritative air, or tone, or manner, certainly. That was
precisely the tone and manner which the Scribes _did_ have in _their_
teaching. But the authority is in the Sermon itself. Its truths are so
wonderfully distinct and self-evident, they carry conviction with them.
Jesus sees so plainly all that he says—there is no hesitation, no
obscurity, no perhapses in his language. He is like one describing what is
before his eyes, what he knows to be true because he sees it while he is
saying it. It is, in short, the authority which always attends knowledge.
He who knows anything, and can speak with certainty, carries conviction
with him, though we do not suppose him to be infallible, nor is it thought
necessary to believe him so, in order to give to him this authority.

By such examples, we see that in earthly matters of the very highest
importance we ascribe authority without supposing infallibility. Now, if
we analyze the source of this authority, we shall find that it comes,
first, from the testimony of others, and, secondly, from our own
experience. Leatherstocking comes recommended to the travellers as a
skilful and faithful guide, and they trust him, at first, on the simple
ground of that recommendation. But they do not trust him entirely or fully
on that ground. They watch him while they trust him,—perhaps we ought
rather to say, they _try_ him, than that they _trust_ him. But, after they
have tried him day by day, week by week, and find him always skilful,
always faithful, they come to place a more and more implicit trust in his
guidance; he becomes more and more an authority.

So the pilot comes at first recommended only by his office. His office
implies the testimony of those who ought to know that he is able to guide
the vessel into the harbor. But if, besides this, there is some one on
board who knows his ability and fidelity by previous experience, and says,
“We are all safe now; this is the famous John Smith or William Brown, the
best pilot in the harbor,” then everybody is ready to trust him more

Knowledge and fidelity, _not_ infallibility, these make a man an authority
to others in things pertaining to this life—knowledge and fidelity,
evidenced to us, first by the testimony of others, and secondly by our own
experience. Testimony leads us to _try_ a man and trust him partially,
trust him, but watch him. Add to this our own experience of his knowledge
and fidelity, and we trust him wholly.

There are two worlds of knowledge—outward and inward. Knowledge of the
outward world comes to us through the senses, by observation; knowledge of
the inward world comes to us through the consciousness, by insight or
inspiration. Every man’s knowledge has come to him by both of these
methods. The soul has a perceptive power with which it can look either
way. It looks outward through the senses, and perceives an external world;
it looks inward through the consciousness, and perceives an internal
world. It looks outward, and perceives forms, hears sounds, becomes
acquainted with external nature. It looks inward, and becomes acquainted
with justice, holiness, love, freedom, duty, sin, immortality, the
infinite, the eternal, God.

But just as it depends on various conditions as to what a man shall see
through the senses in time and space, so it depends on other conditions as
to what a man shall see beyond time and space in the spiritual world. The
conditions in the first instance are, good perceptive organs, a genius for
observation, educated powers for observation, knowledge of what to
observe, and finally opportunities for observation, or being able to go
where the things are which are to be seen. A blind man standing in front
of the Parthenon would be no authority to us as to its architecture;
neither would the most sharp-sighted person who should happen in be in
America, instead of Greece. So an Indian, with the finest perceptive
faculty, and standing directly in front of this majestic temple, would
give a very poor account of it, from want of previous knowledge. He, only,
would be an authority to us in regard to such a building, who should
combine with good perceptive organs, and some knowledge of the subject, an
opportunity for looking at it.

When we speak of inspiration, we mean, in regard to the inward world,
exactly the same thing. We mean that a man has his spiritual organs in a
healthy condition, that he has some knowledge of spiritual things, and
that he has been placed by divine Providence where he is able to see them.
Some men are lifted into a world of spiritual perception, when they see
things not seen by other men. They become prophets, apostles, lawgivers to
the human race. They are invested with authority. Men believe what they
say, and do what they command, and put their souls into their hands, just
as they trust their bodies to the guide of the pilot.

These are the inspired men—the men to whom revelations have been made.
They have authority, because they have been where we have not been, and
seen what we have not seen. But they have not infallibility, because, as
the apostle says, they have this treasure in earthen vessels. This divine
knowledge is contained in a finite, and therefore fallible mind. But we
see by means of our former illustrations that to grant their fallibility
does not detract at all from their authority.

And again, their authority is certified to us exactly as in the other
instances. They come recommended by external testimony, and on the
strength of that testimony we confide in them and try them. If we find
that they are not able to teach us, they cease to be authorities to us.
But if we find that they are full of truth, they become our guides and
teachers, and their authority is more and more confirmed; that they are
good and true guides, is evidenced by their being able to guide us. They
lead us into deeper depths of truth and love. They become the teachers of
their race. The centuries which pass add more and more weight to their
authority. They inspire us, therefore they are themselves inspired. It is
no more necessary, after this, to prove their inspiration, in the sense
which I have given, than to prove that the sun shines.

One remarkable illustration of this process, by which the test of
Scripture, as inspired, is that it should be profitable for doctrine,
reproof, and instruction, is to be found in the Epistle of Barnabas.
Barnabas introduced Paul to the apostles at Jerusalem, and is called, in
the book of Acts, a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost. He was sent on a
mission to Antioch by the apostles; afterwards was specially pointed out
by the Holy Ghost to go with Paul on his mission. (Acts 13:2.) He is
styled a prophet in this place, and we read that the Holy Spirit said,
“Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.”

During this mission Barnabas seems to have been the more important of the
two, for at Lystra the people called _him_ Jupiter, and Paul Mercury.
Barnabas and Paul appeared before the first council at Jerusalem; and the
apostles, in their letter, say, “Our beloved Barnabas, and a man that has
hazarded his life for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Now, this Barnabas,
called an apostle in the book of Acts, companion of Paul, sent on a
mission by the Holy Spirit, and commended by the apostles at Jerusalem,
was believed by the early Church to have written an Epistle. It is quoted
as his, seven times by Clement of Alexandria, in the second century, three
times by Origen, and by other writers.

Accordingly, it was originally included in the New Testament, and for
nearly four hundred years made a part of it. The oldest manuscript of the
New Testament in the world, supposed to have been written in the fourth
century, contains the Epistle of Barnabas; and one reason for believing
the manuscript so old, is that it _does_ contain it. This manuscript was
found by the celebrated German critic Tischendorf, in 1859, in the convent
of St. Catharine, at Mount Sinai. Why, then, is not this Epistle of
Barnabas printed in our New Testament? Whoever reads it will easily see
the reason. It is because it does not deserve to be there; it does not
have the marks of a high inspiration; it is made up in a great degree of
quotations from the Old Testament, of imitations of St. Paul, and of
allegories. It evidently dropped out of the Bible by its own weight. It
had every opportunity offered it to become a part of sacred Scripture; but
being tried by Paul’s test, it was found not to be profitable for
doctrine, reproof, or anything else, and so the copyists saved their time,
labor, and vellum by leaving it out. It was received on testimony, and
discarded after experience. It had authority at first, because of its
supposed author; it lost it afterwards, by means of its empty self.

This, then, is the authority of the writers of the Bible. It is the
authority of inspired men—men who have been into spiritual regions where
most men have not gone, and seen what most men have not seen. It is not
infallibility. They are capable of mistakes and error. Their being in the
Bible is only so far a proof that they are inspired, as it gives the
testimony of the Church that it has found the proofs of inspiration in
their writings. The Christian community has followed the apostolic
direction, and tried the spirits whether they were of God or not, and has
come to the conclusion that these New Testament writers have the marks of
inspiration. For you will observe that the present code of the New
Testament was gradually formed, and that not by the votes of councils or
the decisions of bishops, but by the feelings of the Christian community.
An inward instinct, and no external authority, presided over the
collection of the Scriptures, gradually dropping out some books (like
Barnabas, Hermas, and the Revelation of Peter), and taking in others.

So the Christian Church says to us, of the New Testament, “Here is a book
concerning which we testify that the writings in it are profitable for
doctrine; that its writers have superior knowledge in regard to spiritual
things; that they are inspired men, who have been taken up into a region
where most men have never gone, and seen what most men have never seen,
and therefore _know_ more than most of us about spiritual truth.”

But you may say, “If inspiration gives _knowledge_, and these writers are
inspired, then they do more than believe or think what they say about God,
duty, and immortality. They _know_; and if they _know_, does not that mean
that they are infallible?” No, knowledge is not infallibility. It is true
that inspiration gives knowledge, while speculation only gives opinion.
This is the reason why inspired men speak with authority, and philosophers
without it. But knowledge, though it gives authority, does not give

A Frenchman _knows_ the French language; still he may make mistakes in
speaking it. The man from California knows that country, but he may be
mistaken about it. Thus, if these writers are not infallible, they may
make mistakes; and if so, how are we to distinguish between their truth
and their error? This is a fair question: let us try to answer it.

Let us return to our former comparison of travellers and their guide. How
are you to distinguish between your guide’s knowledge and his errors?

Probably, when your guide begins to be uncertain as to the way, he will
show his uncertainty in his behavior. He will become doubtful, hesitating,
undecided; he will, by and by, supposing him honest, begin to express his
uncertainty, and say, “I am not quite sure of this path.”

It is just so with inspired writers. While their inspiration runs in a
full tide, they speak confidently; they are distinct in their statements.

Again, if your guide begins to speak of things outside of his province, he
does not carry much authority. If Leatherstocking discusses Shakespeare,
or the pilot begins to talk about politics, his opinions carry no weight
except what is inherent to them.

So when the writers of the Bible, leaving themes of religion and morals,
describe natural objects, as the leviathan or behemoth, we give no more
credit to their descriptions than we should to those of any other writer
of their day.

A question would arise here whether history was a subject of inspiration
or not; that is, whether an inspired writer, when he comes to speak of
historic facts, has any more authority than another. There may be some way
by which past events might be presented by inspiration to the mind of one
caught up by the spirit into another world. But the writers of the Old and
New Testament are careless about dates and numbers, and do not seem to be
made accurate by any special gift. I should, therefore, incline to the
opinion that the historic books of the Bible have no authority except that
of their reasonableness and conformity to what we might believe on other
grounds. As fragments of history, coming from so remote a past, they are
invaluable, when we treat them as simple, honest records of what was then
believed or known.

Take, for instance, the story of the deluge, and compare it with similar
stories in other mythologies. We find it so corroborated by these, that we
may believe that there is a basis of reality in it.

§ 8. The Christian Prepossession.

It is a great thing to read a book with expectation instead of distrust.
Expectation opens the mind to light, and makes it easy to see. Distrust
closes it. If I have read Shakespeare till I feel sure of his poetic
inspiration, then I read with expectation all he writes; I am looking for
truth and beauty, and so I find it. If I had never read Shakespeare, nor
heard of him, and Hamlet were put into my hand, I should probably be
displeased with something or other, and throw it aside, and so lose the
deepness and loveliness of that wonderful creation. How much we find in
the words of Jesus and Paul, because we read them with expectation and
hope! because we read them always looking for what is deep and high!

Nevertheless many persons recommend a contrary course. They say that we
ought to forget all that has been told us about the Book, and read it as
if we had never seen it before. But this method is neither practicable nor
desirable. It is impossible to look at the Bible as though it were an
unknown book; impossible to forget that it is the text book of
Christianity; regarded as sacred by millions of our fellow-men; the source
of spiritual and moral life to the world for the last fifteen hundred
years; that our parents and friends have found in it strength for duty,
comfort in trial, hope in the hour of death. You might as well tell the
child who begins to study geography to forget that he lives in America, or
when he studies the history of the United States, to forget that it is the
history of his own land. Nor would it be desirable to study the New
Testament thus. For it is this grand belief concerning it which makes us
desire to study it at all. Were it not for this belief it might be
occasionally read by a student in the interest of science, but never by
the mass of the community. Faith in its divine origin and divine purpose,
causes it to be read in families, schools, churches, to be used as a
manual of prayer in the closet, and to grow familiar in every home. The
Book is surrounded by a traditional halo of wonder, reverence, and hope,
and this gives us motive and power with which to read it. If a cold
criticism, a sceptical spirit, shall ever succeed in causing the New
Testament to be regarded as a common book, on the natural plane of human
thought, full of errors and imperfections, inspired only as Plato is
inspired, then it will be read as Plato is read, that is, by one man in a
million. It is not desirable to lose the reverence which causes us to
expect extraordinary truth and good in certain books, men, and
institutions; for so we lose the best motive power of the soul; so life
becomes tame, the day empty, and events unmeaning.

It is, therefore, perfectly right for the Church to surround Christ and
Christianity with this divine aureola of reverence and wonder, not
exaggerating it, but neither understating it. For this wonder and
reverence, when legitimate, is a great treasure of spiritual life,
animating and elevating, which the Church possesses in order that it may
communicate it. It is continually proclaiming its good news; constantly
asserting that through Christ God has given it a divine peace; that in
Christ there is a marvellous truth and beauty; and that the Gospels and
Epistles, which contain his life and truth, have a strange power of
raising us above ourselves, and bringing us into communion with an eternal
world. When this is said, not by rote, or as a mere form, but from sincere
conviction, the spirit of faith creates faith, and faith is the great
motive which leads to action.

As it is the duty of the Church to excite our interest in the New
Testament, by declaring its own love and respect for it, so it is right
for the student of the New Testament to give a certain preliminary weight
to this testimony of the Church in commencing his study. This is what we
call the Christian prepossession. And it regards the New Testament exactly
as when a friend whose judgment we respect earnestly recommends to us some
book which he has read, and which has done him good. He recommends it to
us as a good book, and he recommends it with enthusiasm. His enthusiasm
produces in us a desire to become acquainted with the book, and a certain
hope that we shall find in it what our friend has found. This hope leads
on towards fruition, and is one of its conditions. It ought not,
therefore, to be relinquished; but neither should it lead us to accept
blindly everything which we are told. We must look with our own eyes,
think with our own mind, feel with our own heart.

To wish to come to the study of the Bible without prepossession in its
favor is, therefore, a foolish wish; for, without prepossession in its
favor, we should have little motive for studying it at all. It is our
faith in the Bible that leads us to read it; and faith here, as
everywhere, is the motive power which reason has only to guide and
restrain. Faith is the brave steed which carries us forward, full of fire
and full of pride. Reason is the bridle by which he is guided, supported,
and restrained. There is a story of a thief so skilful that he could steal
a man’s horse from under him without his knowing it, and so leave him
holding the bridle in his hand, and supposing himself to be still on
horseback. So are those deceived who think to live by reason without
faith. The motive power of their life has been taken away from them, and
they do not know it; they suppose that they can ride with a bridle and
saddle, without a horse.

To read the New Testament to any purpose, we must, therefore, read with
the faith that there is some great good to be got from it. But what is the
true foundation of this faith? Is it legitimate, or is it an illusion? The
basis of this faith is to be found in the fact that the Bible has done so
much, and is doing so much, for the world—a fact which cannot be stated
better than in these words of one who is not commonly supposed to have too
high a reverence for the Bible:—

    “This collection of books has taken such a hold on the world as no
    other. The literature of Greece, which goes up like incense from
    that land of temples and heroic deeds, has not half the influence
    of this book from a nation alike despised in ancient and modern
    times. It is read of a Sabbath in all the ten thousand pulpits of
    our land. In all the temples of Christendom is its voice lifted up
    week by week. The sun never sets on its gleaming page. It goes
    equally to the cottage of the plain man and the palace of the
    king. It is woven into the literature of the scholar, and colors
    the talk of the street. The bark of the merchant cannot sail the
    sea without it, no ship of war go to the conflict but the Bible is
    there. It enters men’s closets; mingles in all the grief and
    cheerfulness of life. The affianced maiden prays God in Scripture
    for strength in her new duties; men are married by Scripture. The
    Bible attends them in their sickness; when the fever of the world
    is on them. The aching head finds a softer pillow when the Bible
    lies underneath. The mariner, escaping from shipwreck, clutches
    this first of his treasures, and keeps it sacred to God. It goes
    with the pedler in his crowded pack; cheers him at eventide, when
    he sits down dusty and fatigued; brightens the freshness of his
    morning face. It blesses us when we are born; gives names to half
    Christendom; rejoices with us; has sympathy for our mourning;
    tempers our grief to finer issues. It is the better part of our
    sermons. It lifts man above himself; our best of uttered prayers
    are in its storied speech, wherewith our fathers and the
    patriarchs prayed. The timid man, about awaking from this dream of
    life, looks through the glass of Scripture, and his eye grows
    bright; he does not fear to stand alone, to tread the way unknown
    and distant, to take the death-angel by the hand, and bid farewell
    to wife, and babes, and home. Men rest on this their dearest
    hopes. It tells them of God, and of his blessed Son; of earthly
    duties and of heavenly rest. Foolish men find it the source of
    Plato’s wisdom, and the science of Newton, and the art of Raphael.
    Men who believe nothing else that is spiritual believe the Bible
    all through; without this they would not confess, say they, even
    that there was a God.”—_Theodore Parker, Discourse of Religion._

A book which exercises this great influence over our fellow-men ought to
be approached with reverence. It is for the same reason that we approach
with faith and expectation the writings of Shakespeare and Milton. We read
them expecting to find in them great truths, and this expectation enables
us to find them. “Seek and ye shall find” is the law. How often we should
have been disappointed and dissatisfied with such books, and have thrown
them aside impatiently, had we not remembered the great universal
testimony to their surpassing excellence!

This Christian prepossession is, however, only a general confidence that
there is something exceedingly good in the New Testament; that it is a
book containing in some way a divine revelation, in some way or other
inspired, in some way likely to be a great help and comfort to our
spiritual nature, and the best guide we can have for this life and towards
the next. It is an expectation of all this, an expectation based on the
testimony of mankind. So far it is a reasonable expectation. So far it is
right and just to entertain it. It is the natural inheritance to which we
were born, by being born Christians. To throw it away, or to try to throw
it away, would be as though one should try to throw away the habits of
civilization which he inherits by being born in a civilized community, and
try to go back and start as a savage. It is neither more futile nor more
foolish in the one case than in the other.

But, though this Christian prepossession is a perfectly legitimate one
with which to begin, it is not a legitimate one in which to remain. It is
our business, by the free action of our intellect, to change this general
and vague expectation into a distinct opinion of one kind or another.
Protestantism allows us to take our faith in the Bible from the Church,
but not to take from the Church our opinions about the Bible. Faith may,
and ought to be, received, but opinions are to be formed. An opinion or
belief received from another man is his opinion, and not ours.

With regard to any other book this would be self-evident. For example,
suppose that I have never read the play of Hamlet. I hear it universally
spoken of as one of the greatest works of the human intellect. That
naturally and properly creates in my mind the expectation of finding it
so. It produces the general belief that it is a great work of genius. But
suppose that, besides this general expectation, I should also accept from
my neighbors their particular opinions concerning the play. I hear them
say that it is more philosophical, but less dramatic, than Macbeth; that
the character of Hamlet is overcharged with intellect, and the like. If,
now, I adopt and repeat these opinions, without having read the play, it
is evident that I am only a parrot or an echo. It is evident that they are
not _my_ opinions at all, and that they indeed interfere with my having
any opinions. Fifty thousand echoes of a voice leave us only one voice and
fifty thousand echoes.

This distinction between faith and opinion, which we have already spoken
of, is of the utmost practical importance. We may add here that, for want
of it, intellectual people try to go to the study of the Bible without
faith in the Bible, and religious people think they must accept all their
opinions from others, and take them in ready made. It is not absolutely
essential to have opinions; but if we do have them, they ought to be our
own. Faith must be received, opinions must be formed.

All persons, therefore, ought to form opinions for themselves about the
New Testament. They may bring to the work a faith in the New Testament, as
being in some sense or other a revelation, as being written in some way or
other by inspired men, as being somehow or other a holy book, the
legitimate source of spiritual life, moral goodness, and inward peace.

§ 9. Conclusion.

If the views given in this chapter are reasonable, we shall conclude that
Orthodoxy is right in maintaining the supreme excellence and value of the
Christian Scriptures, but wrong in claiming for them infallible accuracy.
It is right in saying that they are written by inspired men, but wrong in
considering this inspiration a guarantee against all possible error or
mistake. It is right in calling the Bible “The Holy Scripture,” but wrong
in denying to the scriptures of other religious some divine influx and
some religious life. It is right in asking that the Bible be read with
faith and expectation; wrong in demanding for it unreasoning, uncritical
submission. Let reverence for its spirit and criticism of its letter go
hand in hand; for reverence and criticism, faith and reason, docility to
great masters and freedom in seeking for ourselves, are antagonist,
indeed, but not contradictory. They are not hostile, but helpful, though
acting in opposite directions—like the opposition of the thumb and fingers
in the human hand, which makes of it such a wonderful servant of the
thought. They belong to the group of sisterly powers which the Creator has
placed in the human soul—varied, complex, like and unlike.

                      “Facies non omnibus una,
    Nec diversa tamen, qualis decet esse sororum.”


§ 1. The Question stated.

We now approach the orthodoxy of Orthodoxy—the system of sin and
redemption, which constitutes its most essential character. The questions
hitherto treated—the natural and supernatural, miracles, the
Scriptures—belong to universal religion. On these points heretics and the
Orthodox may agree. But the essence of heresy, in the eyes of an Orthodox
man, is to vary from the standards of belief in regard to sin and

We commence with the subject of human sinfulness; in other words, with the
character of man in relation to Orthodoxy. The theology of the East asked,
“What is God?” and entered on its course from the specially theological
side. It began with ontology, and proceeded to psychology. In this,
Oriental theology followed in the path of Oriental philosophy. But
Occidental theology, originating strictly with Augustine, followed the
practical and experimental method of European thought, and, instead of
asking, “What is God?” asked, instead, “What is man?”

We begin, therefore, with the great question, “What is man?” This is the
radical question in practical, experimental theology, as the question,
“What is God?” is the radical question in speculative theology. But we are
now concerned in the theology of experience and of life. We are seeking
for human wants. Knowing what man is, we can next ask what he needs.

§ 2. The four Moments or Characters of Evil. The Fall, Natural Depravity,
Total Depravity, Inability.

Orthodoxy answers the question, “What is man?” by saying, “Man is a
sinner;” and this answer has these four moments:—

1. Man was created at first righteous and good.

2. Man fell, in and with Adam, and became a sinner.

3. All now born are born totally corrupt and evil;—

4. And are utterly disabled to all good, so as not to have the power of
repenting, or even of wishing to repent.

These four ideas are,—

First, that of THE FALL, or INHERITED EVIL.



Fourth, of INABILITY.

These points are fully stated in the following passage from the
“Assembly’s Confession of Faith,” chap. 6:—

    “1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and
    temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This
    their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel,
    to permit; having purposed to order it to his own glory.

    “2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness, and
    communion with God; and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled
    in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

    “3. They being the root of all mankind, the _guilt_ of this sin
    was IMPUTED, and the same _death in sin, and corrupted nature_,
    CONVEYED, to all their posterity, descending from them by ordinary

    “4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly
    indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly
    inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

    “5. This corruption of nature during this life doth remain in
    those that are regenerated; and although it be, through Christ,
    pardoned and mortified, yet both itself and all the motions
    thereof are truly and properly sin.

    “6. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of
    the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth in its own
    nature bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to
    the wrath of God and curse of the law, and so made subject to
    death, with all miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal.”(13)

We assume the “Assembly’s Catechism” as almost _the_ standard of
Orthodoxy. It was prepared with the concurrence of the best minds in
England, in an age when theological discussion had sharpened all wits in
that direction. Thoroughly Calvinistic, it is also a wonderfully clear and
precise statement of Calvinism. Framed after long controversies, it had
the advantage of all the distinctions which are made only during
controversy. It is a fortress made defensible at all points, because it
has been attacked so often that all its weak places have been seen and
marked. It is a masterpiece of statement.

Now, it is very easy, and what has often been done, _to stand on the
outside_ and show the actual error and logical absurdity of this creed; to
show that men are not by nature totally depraved, and that, if they were,
this would not be guilt; that, if they have no power to repent, they are
not to blame for not repenting; and that God, as a God of justice even (to
say nothing of mercy, of love, of a heavenly Father), cannot condemn and
punish us for a depraved nature inherited from Adam.

It is easy to say all this. But it has often been said; and with what
result? Unitarians have been, by such arguments, confirmed in their
Unitarianism; but the Orthodox have not, by such arguments, been convinced
of the falsity of their creed. Let us see, then, if we cannot find some
truth in this system,—some vital, experimental truth,—for the sake of
which the Orthodox cling to these immense and incredible inconsistencies.
Let us take an _inside_ view of Orthodoxy, and see why, being
unreasonable, it yet commends itself to so many minds of the highest order
of reason.

§ 3. Orthodox and Liberal View of Man, as morally diseased or otherwise.

Let us begin with the substance of Orthodoxy (neglecting, at present, its
form), and say, in general, that it regards human nature as being in an
abnormal or diseased condition. The first thing to be done with man,
according to Calvinism, is to cure him. Many systems, differing from each
other in name, agree in this—that they do not believe in any such diseased
condition of man. According to them, he is not to be cured, but to be
educated. The Church is not a hospital, but an academy. Man needs, mainly,
instruction. His purposes, in the main, are right; but he errs as to what
he has to do. What he requires is precept and example.

As Orthodoxy believes man to be diseased, its object is twofold, and the
truths which it employs are of two kinds. First, it seeks to convince man
that he really has a dangerous disease; and then to convince him, that, by
using the right means, he can be cured. It therefore constantly dwells
upon two classes of truths: first, those which reveal man’s sinfulness and
his ruined condition; and, secondly, those which reveal the plan of saving
him from this condition—a plan which has been devised by the Almighty, and
which is accomplished in Christianity. Orthodoxy dwells upon sin and
salvation: these are its two pivotal doctrines.

On the other hand, all the systems which may be associated under the term
“Liberal Christianity” regard man, not as in a state of disease, and
needing medicine, but as in a state of health, needing diet, exercise, and
favorable circumstances, in order that he may grow up a well-developed
individual. It regards sin, not as a radical disease with which all are
born, but as a temporary malady to which all are liable. It does not,
therefore, mainly dwell on sin and salvation, but on duty and improvement.
Man’s nature it regards, not as radically evil, but as radically good; and
even as divine, because made by God.

Here, then, in the doctrine of evil, lies the essential distinction
between the two great schools of thought which have divided the Church.
What is evil? and how is it to be regarded? This is, perhaps, the most
radical question in Christian theology. Is evil positive, or only
negative? Is it a reality, or only a form? What is it? Whence comes it?
Until these questions are exhaustively discussed, there is little hope of
union in theology.

§ 4. Sin as Disease.

We regard Orthodoxy as substantially right in its views of sin as being a
deep and radical disease. Our Saviour says, “I came not to call the
righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” “The Son of man came to seek and
to save that which is lost.”

But the question recurs, Is there only one kind of sin,—namely, voluntary
and conscious transgression of God’s law, originating with the individual
himself, and in the moment of committing it, by means of his free will,
which is its only seat? or is there sin which is a tendency in man’s
nature, something permanent, involuntary, of which he is not conscious,
and which has its seat not merely in the will, but in the desires and
affections. To this question Liberal Christianity has commonly said, “No,”
and Orthodoxy has said, “Yes.”

And on this point I concur with Orthodoxy. Besides the sin which consists
in free choice, and which is essentially transient, there is also the sin
which consists in wrong desire, and which is essentially permanent,
because it is a habit of the mind. If it were not so, there could be no
such thing as a bad character, and no such thing as a vicious habit.

If we attempt to analyze evil, we shall find that it may be conveniently
distributed into these divisions:—


(_a._) Pain.
(_b._) Weakness.
(_c._) Physical disease.


(_a._) Ignorance.
(_b._) Error, or mistake.
(_c._) Sophism, or falsehood.


(_a._) Ignorant and accidental, or transgression.
(_b._) Habitual disobedience, or vice.
(_c._) Wilful violation of human law; crime.
(_d._) Diseased moral state, as selfishness, bad temper, &c.


(_a._) Wilful alienation from God, or perverse choice.
(_b._) Spiritual inability.

Now, we see that in all these divisions of evil,—physical, intellectual,
moral, and spiritual,—it is found in the two forms of active and passive
evil. In the latter form it is disease, and independent of the will.

Returning, then, to the Orthodox view of evil, which it is our business to
examine, we find already that it has the advantage of the Liberal theology
in recognizing this passive side of evil, which we may call _disease_. It
is true that Orthodoxy has not yet succeeded in coming to any clearness on
this question, and has not yet any firm, intellectual hold of the main
points of its argument. Examples of this confusion are quite common. Not
to go back to the Calvinistic and Arminian controversies, which were but a
revival of the Augustinian and Pelagian dispute; not to recur even to the
Hopkinsian and Edwardian discussions,—we have only to refer to the
differences between new and old school theology in the Presbyterian
Church; to the trial of Dr. Beecher; to the book of his son Edward; to the
divergence of Andover from New Haven, and Princeton from Andover.
Unsettled, because superficial, views of evil are at the roots of all
these controversies.

§ 5. Doctrine of the Fall in Adam, and Natural Depravity. Their Truth and

The first point of the doctrine of evil regards the Fall, including the
doctrine of depravity.

Modern French philosophers have dwelt much on what they call the
solidarity of the human race. By this they mean that two individuals are
not independent of each other, like two trees standing side by side, but
like two buds on the same tree or bough. There is a common life-sap
flowing through them all. Let the life of the tree be attacked
anywhere,—in its roots, its trunk, its limbs,—and all these individual
buds feel it. Yet each bud has also a life of its own, and develops its
own stalk, leaves, blossom, fruit. It can be taken from its own tree, and
put into another tree, and grow. So it is with separate men grafted into
the great tree of mankind. No one lives to himself, nor dies to himself.
If one suffers, all suffer. The life of mankind, becoming diseased, pours
disease into all individual men.

Now, is there not something in this doctrine to which our instincts
assent? Do not we feel it true that we inherit not our own life merely,
but that of our race? and is not this the essential truth in the doctrine
of the fall?

It is true that we fell in Adam. It is also true that we fell in every act
of sin, in every weakness and folly, of any subsequent child of Adam. We
are all drawn downward by every sin; we are lifted upward, too, by every
act of heroic virtue, not by example only, but also by that mysterious
influence, that subtile contagion, finer than anything visible,
ponderable, or tangible,—that effluence from eye, voice, tone, manner,
which, according to the character which is behind, communicates an impulse
of faith and courage, or an impulse of cowardice and untruth; which may be
transmitted onward, forward, on every side, like the widening circles in a
disturbed lake,—circles which meet and cross each other without
disturbance, and whose influence may be strictly illimitable and infinite.

No doubt, sin began with the historical Adam—the first man who lived. “By
one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin.” But still more true
is it that we fell in the typical Adam—Adam who stands for innocent,
ignorant human nature before temptation; truest of all, that we _fall_ in
Adam, because we are, each of us, at first an Adam.

We are all in the garden; we are at first placed in paradise; and each has
in himself all the four _dramatis personæ_—Adam, Eve, the Serpent, and the
Voice of God. Adam is the will, the power of choice, the masculine
element, in man; Eve is the affection, the desire, the feminine element,
in man; the Voice of God is the higher reason in the soul, through which
infinite truth commands,—i.e., the higher law; and the Serpent, the lower
reason in the soul, the cunning element, the sophistical understanding,
which can put evil for good, and good for evil. The garden is our early
innocence, where there is no struggle, no remorse, no anxiety; where
goodness is not labor, but impulse. But, when we go out of the garden, we
enter a life of trial, till we reach the higher paradise, the kingdom of
heaven; and then joy and duty become one again. Then—

    “Love is an unerring light,
    And joy its own security.”

From paradise, through the world, to heaven; from Egypt, through the
wilderness, to Canaan; from innocence, through temptation, sin,
repentance, faith, to regeneration,—such is the progress of man.

To me, the belief that I fell in Adam is not an opinion fraught only with
sadness. This tide of life which comes pouring through me comes from ten
thousand ancestors. All _their_ sorrows and joys, temptations and
struggles, sins and virtues, have helped to make it what it is. I am a
member of a great body. I am willing to be so—to bear the fortunes and
misfortunes of my race.

It is true that I find evil tendencies in me, which I did not cause; but I
know, that, for whatever part I am not the cause, I am not accountable.
For this part of my life I do not dread the wrath, but rather claim the
pity, of my God. My nature I find to be diseased—not well; needing cure,
and not merely food and exercise. I can, therefore, the more easily
believe that God has sent me a physician, and that I shall be cured by
him. I can believe in a future emancipation from these tendencies to
vanity, sensuality, indolence, anger, wilfulness, impatience,
obstinacy—tendencies which are, in me, not crime, but disease; and I can
see how to say with Paul, “Now, then, it is no more _I_ that do it, but

If, now, we return to the consideration of the Orthodox doctrine of the
fall, as set forth by the Westminster Assembly, we shall find it to be
half true and half false. It states _truly_ (chap. 6, § 1) that our first
parents sinned, and also (§ 2) that by this sin they fell from their
original righteousness; for this only means that the first conscious act
of disobedience by man produced alienation from God, and degeneracy of
nature. This was no arbitrary punishment, but the natural consequence. The
creed also says _truly_ (§ 3) that this corrupted nature was conveyed to
all their posterity; for this only means, that, by the laws of descent,
good and evil qualities are transmitted; which all wise observers of human
nature knew to be the fact. It is also _true_ (§ 5) that this corrupt
nature does remain (to some extent at least), even in the regenerate, in
this life.

So far, so true. Sin, as disease, began with the first man, in his first
sin, and has been transmitted, by physical, moral, and spiritual
influences, from him to us all.

But now we find complicated with these truths other statements, which we
must need regard as falsehoods. Tried either by reason or Scripture, they
are palpably untrue, and are very dangerous errors.

The first error of Orthodoxy is in declaring transmitted or inherited evil
to be total. It declares that our first parents “were _wholly_ defiled in
all faculties and parts of soul and body,” and that _we_, in consequence,
“are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and
wholly inclined to all evil.” This statement is indefensible. But we shall
consider this in another section on “Total Depravity,” and only allude to
it now in passing.

Another error, however, and a very important one, is to attribute the
_guilt_ of Adam and Eve to their descendants. This is the famous doctrine
of _imputation_, which is now rejected by all the leading schools of
modern Orthodoxy. That we can be _guilty_ of Adam’s sin, either by
imputation or in any other way, seems too absurd and immoral a statement
to be now received.

But though many intelligent Orthodox teachers and believers do now reject
the imputation of Adam’s sin, they admit what is just as false and just as
immoral a doctrine. They make us _guilty_ for that part of sin which is
_depravity_, as well as for that which is _wilful_.

Whatever, either of moral good or moral evil, proceeds from our nature,
and not from our will, has no character of merit or demerit. The reason is
evident, and is stated by the apostle Paul. We are only guilty for what we
do ourselves, we are only meritorious for what we do ourselves: but what
our nature does, we do not do. “Now, then, it is no more _I_ that do it,
but sin that dwelleth in me.”

Professor Shedd, late of Andover, some years ago published a very able
essay in the “Christian Review,” the title of which was, “Sin a Nature,
and that Nature Guilt.” This title is a sufficient refutation of the
essay. A man could not utter a more palpable contradiction, if he said,
“The sun solid, and that solid fluid,” or, “The earth black, and that
black white.”(14)

There are two kinds of moral good and two kinds of moral evil, which are
essentially different. The two kinds of moral good may be named _moral
virtue_ and _moral beauty_; the two kinds of moral evil may be named
_guilt_ and _depravity_. Now, so far as goodness proceeds from a beautiful
nature, it is not virtuous, and so far as sin proceeds from a depraved
nature, it is not guilty. We can conceive of an angelic nature with no
capacity of virtue, because incapable of guilt.

We can also conceive of a nature so depraved as to be incapable of guilt,
because incapable of virtue.

§ 6. Examination of Romans, 5:12-21.

The famous passage in Paul (Rom. 5:12-21), which is the direct scriptural
foundation claimed for the doctrine of Adam’s fall producing guilt in his
posterity, is in reality a support of our view. The only other passage (1
Cor. 15:22) where Adam is referred to, declares that we all _die_ in him,
but by no means asserts that we _sin_ in him.

The passage referred to runs thus (Rom. 5:12-18):—

Verse 12: “As by one man sin entered into the world,”—

(Paul here refers to the fact that sin BEGAN with the first man.)

“And death by sin;”—

(By means of the sin of one man, _death_ entered.)

“And so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”

(Rather “death _came upon_ all men, _because_ all have sinned.” The
Vulgate has here _in quo_, “in whom;” that is, in Adam. So Augustine. But
even those who, like Olshausen, contend for Augustine’s views, admit that
ἐφ᾽ ῷ here is a conjunction, equivalent to _because_, and not a relative.)

The next five verses (13, 14, 15, 16, 17) constitute a parenthesis, and
refer to an objection which is not stated. Some one might say, “How could
all sin, from Adam to Moses, when there was no law till Moses? and you,
Paul, have said (Rom. 4:15), that ‘where there is no law there is no
transgression.’ ”

Paul replies that “sin is not _imputed_ without law;” that is, as I think
evident, it is not regarded as _guilt_. A man who sins ignorantly is not
_guilty_; but he _suffers_ the consequences of his sin, which are
depravity of his nature, or moral death. “Sin is not imputed,” says Paul;
“but death reigns.” Those who do not sin “after the similitude of Adam’s
transgression,”—that is, who do not violate a positive
command,—nevertheless are depraved morally, and are dead spiritually. The
Hottentots and Fejee Islanders violate no positive law given them by God,
and consequently are not guilty of that; but because they violate (even
ignorantly) the laws of their moral nature, they are depraved morally.

We see, then, that Paul distinctly recognizes the distinction made above
between _sin as guilt_ and _sin as depravity_.

He distinguishes between sin as sinfulness, or unconscious transgression
(ἡ ἁμαρτία), and sin as conscious transgression of a known command

The consequence of the first is death, or moral and spiritual depravity;
the consequence of the second is condemnation, or a sense of guilt.

Sinfulness, bringing with it depravity (the general demoralization of
human nature), began with Adam. All became involved in sinfulness, and
consequently all partook of the depravity which belongs to it as its

It should, however, be observed that it is not the purpose of Paul to
teach anything about Adam. His intention is to teach something about
Christ. He refers to Adam’s case as something they all are acquainted
with; he compares Christ’s case with it both by contrast and resemblance.
But his object is not to instruct us about Adam, but about Christ. He uses
Adam as an example to enforce his doctrine about Christ. Through Christ,
goodness and happiness were to come into the world. He illustrated this
fact, and made it appear probable, by the fact which they already
knew—that through Adam sin and death had entered the world. If it seemed
strange, in an age in which men were so disunited, that one man should be
the medium of communicating goodness to the whole human race, they might
remember that Adam also had been the medium of introducing sin to the
whole human race. If the Jews wondered that Christ should bring salvation
to those who were not under the law, they might remember that Adam had
brought death to those not under the law, and who did not sin as he did.
If they doubted how Christ’s goodness could help to make men righteous,
they might remember that in some way Adam’s transgression had helped to
make men sinners. Yet, after all, the main fact which he states is in the
twelfth verse, chapter five—“that by one man sin _entered into_ the world,
and death by sin.” This amounts to saying that sin _began_ with Adam. Then
he adds, in the same verse, “that death has passed upon all men, _because
all have sinned_.” He therefore distinctly declares that every man is
punished for his own sin, and not for the sin of Adam.

In the other passage (1 Cor. 15:22), Paul says, “As in Adam all die, even
so, in Christ, shall all be made alive.” He does not say here, either that
“all sinned in Adam,” or that “all fell in Adam,” or that “all died in
Adam.” It is the present tense, “all die in Adam.”

What he means by this, he explains himself afterwards. He tells us that as
“souls” descended from Adam, we are liable to death; as spirits quickened
by Christ, we are filled with spiritual and immortal life.

In the forty-fourth verse he gives the explanation. The body “is _sown_ a
natural body” (σῶμα ψυχικὸν)—literally a soul-body, a body vitalized by
the soul. “It is raised a spiritual body”—literally spirit-body (σῶμα
πνευματικὸν), a body vitalized by the spirit. “There is a soul-body, and
there in a spirit-body.” “And so it is written, The first man, Adam, was
made a living soul” (which is a quotation from Genesis 2:7—“and man became
a living soul”), “but the last Adam,” says Paul (meaning Christ), “became
a life-making spirit.” But, continues Paul, the soul-man (psychical man)
comes first; the spiritual-man afterwards, according to a regular order.
“The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second is the Lord from
heaven.” And then he adds,—and this is the key to the whole passage,—“_As
we have borne the __ image of the earthy_, we shall also bear the image of
_the heavenly_.” The doctrine, then, is plainly this: that we have two
natures—a soul-nature, which we derive from Adam, and share with all
mankind, which nature is liable to weakness, sin, and death; and a
spirit-nature, which we derive from God, which Christ comes to quicken and
vitalize, and the life of which constitutes our true immortality.

The apostle Paul, therefore, does not by any means teach Calvinism. The
Catechism says that “our first parents being the root of all mankind, the
guilt of their sin was imputed to all their posterity.” But Paul says, “So
death passed upon all men, because all have sinned.” The Catechism says
that “this same death in sin, and corrupted nature, being conveyed to
their posterity, makes us utterly indisposed and opposite to all good,”
and that “from this original corruption do proceed all actual

But if this is so, there has been no such thing in the world as guilt
since Adam fell. If all actual transgressions proceed from original
corruption, and original corruption comes from the first transgression of
Adam, it logically follows that there has been but one sin committed in
the world since it was made, namely, the sin of Adam. All other sins have
been pure misfortunes; his alone was guilt. His transgression alone came
from a free choice; all others have come from an involuntary necessity of

Nothing can be more certain from reason and Scripture than this—that
transgressions which come from a corrupt nature are just so far done in
us, and not done by us. This the apostle distinctly affirms when he says
(7:17), “Now, then, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in
me.” No man is responsible for disease, when he has not brought that
disease on himself, but inherited it from his ancestors. The disease may
make him very odious, very disagreeable, but cannot make him blamable.
Therefore, when Calvin says that hereditary depravity “renders us
obnoxious to the divine wrath,” he utters an absurdity. This confusion of
ideas runs through all Orthodox statements on the subject, and the only
cure is, that we should learn how to make this distinction between natural
evil and moral evil, or the evil which proceeds from a corrupt nature and
the evil which comes from a free will.

If we were to sum up the doctrine of the apostle Paul on this subject, it
would be thus:—

1. The first man, Adam, consisted, as we all consist, of nature and will.
His nature consisted of innocent tendencies and appetites. None were
excessive; all were well balanced. His nature inclined him no more to evil
than to good, but each faculty was in proper poise. The first sin,
therefore, could not have been a gross one; it was a simple transgression;
but its effect was to introduce what the apostle calls _death_; that is, a
diseased or corrupt nature. The process is this: With the first conscious
and free transgression there arises a sense of guilt. This sense of guilt
leads the soul away from God. Adam and Eve hide in the garden. Every act
of sin tends to create a habit, and so destroys the moral equipoise. There
hence arises a tendency _towards_ evil, and _from_ good; and this is
called death, because it takes us away from God, who is the source of

2. A tendency towards evil is thus introduced into the world by the
transgression of the first man. His descendants are now born with a nature
which is not in equipoise, but which leans more towards evil than towards
good. Their will remains free as before; but they cannot perform the same
amount of good as before. These corrupt tendencies tempt to greater sin
than the pure tendencies did, and, whenever yielded to, bring a greater
amount of moral evil into the race.

3. Things, therefore, are thus growing worse continually; for every new
act of sin makes it easier to sin again. And this tendency to death, or
estrangement from God, must go on increasing, unless some antagonist
principle can be communicated to the race. This is actually done by Jesus
Christ. The principle of life which Christ introduces consists in
reconciliation to God. Sin separates us from God, and therefore tends to
death. Christ reconciles us to God, and so gives life. The way in which
Christ reconciles us to God is by manifesting God’s pardoning and saving
love to the sinful soul. In his own life, but especially by his death, he
communicates this pardoning love, and so produces the atonement. This is
the central, Pauline view of the relation of Adam and Christ to the race.
Adam introduces death into the world: Christ introduces life. He does not
speak at all of _imputation_, or transfer of guilt; but he speaks of an
_actual communication_ of death and life. Adam and Christ both stand in
actual, and not merely ideal, connection with the whole race of man. Adam
is a living soul; Christ, a life-giving spirit. By inheritance, we receive
a depraved life of the soul from Adam; by communion, we receive an eternal
or spiritual life from Christ. And, in regard to both of these acts, the
notion of blame or merit is entirely excluded. We are not to blame for our
inherited depravity derived from Adam. We deserve no credit for the
salvation which comes to us from Christ. The compensation for the
misfortune of inherited evil is the free gift of divine goodness in Jesus.

We have thus considered the truth and the error contained in the Orthodox
doctrine of the fall. The truth of it is in its assertion of a depravity
of nature, to which we are liable in consequence of ancestral sins: the
error is in imputing guilt to us in consequence of them.

§ 7. Orthodox View of Total Depravity and Inability.

In speaking of the fall of man, we necessarily anticipated somewhat the
doctrine of total depravity. Still, we must say something further on this
doctrine, because it is so important in the Church system: it is, indeed,
at its foundation. Those who accept, in its strictness, the doctrine of
total depravity cannot avoid any point of the severest Calvinism.
Schleiermacher has shown, in his “Essay on Election,” that this latter
doctrine necessarily follows the doctrine of total depravity; for, if man
is wholly depraved, he has no power to do anything for his own conversion;
therefore God must do it. And if some are converted, and not others, it
must be because God chooses to convert some, and does not choose to
convert others.

Let us look, then, at what Orthodoxy says of the _extent_ of human
depravity. In all the principal creeds, this is stated to be unlimited.
Man’s sin is total and entire. There is nothing good in him. The
Westminster Confession and the Confession of the New England
Congregational churches describe him as “dead in sin, and wholly defiled
in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.” Other creeds use similar

In considering this theory, we are struck at first by the circumstance,
that the Bible gives it very little support. The Bible continually speaks
of man as a sinner; but there are very few texts which can, without
straining, be made to _seem_ to teach that he is totally depraved. Let us
examine a few of them.

§ 8. Proof Texts.

1. A text often cited is Genesis 6:5,—the reason given for destroying the
human race, in the time of Noah, by the deluge: “And God saw that the
wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of
the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” But this seems to be
a description of the state of the world at that particular time, not of
its character in all ages. It is not a description of man’s natural
condition, but of an extremely degenerate condition. If the state of the
world here described was its natural state, it would rather be a reason
for not having created the race at first; or, if it was a reason for
destroying it, it would, at best, seem to be as strong a one against
creating it again. If a man plants a tree in his garden, whose nature he
knows is to produce a certain kind of fruit, it would seem hardly a good
reason for cutting it down, that it produced that kind of fruit: certainly
it would not be a good reason for cutting it down, and planting another of
precisely the same kind in its place. The reason why the race of men was
destroyed was, that it had _degenerated_. But there were some good even
then; for in the ninth verse we are told that “Noah was a just man, and
perfect in his generation, and walked with God.”

2. There is another passage, in the fourteenth Psalm which is quoted by
Paul in Rom. 3: “There is none righteous; no, not one: there is none that
understandeth, none that seeketh after God. They have all gone out of the
way, they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good;
no, not one. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

This passage is relied on to prove total depravity. But we may reply,

This also is a degenerate condition, not a natural one. It was a condition
into which men had fallen, not one in which they were born. “They have all
_gone_ out of the way; they are together _become_ unprofitable.” It does
not, therefore, apply to men _universally_, but to men in those particular

It was not true of _all_, even at that particular time. It was not true of
David himself, that he did not seek after God, or have the fear of God
before his eyes; or else other passages in the same book are not true, in
which he says the contrary. “O God! early will I seek thee: my soul
thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee.” He also frequently speaks
of and to those who fear the Lord, and says, “I am a companion to all
those that fear thee.”

The “all” is not to be taken strictly. It means people generally at that
time. Just so it is said, “There went out to him Jerusalem and _all_
Judea, and _all_ the region round about Jordan;” which does not imply that
_no one_ staid at home.

“But,” it may be said, “does not Paul teach that this is to be taken
universally, when he quotes it, and adds, ‘Now we know that what the law
saith, it saith to those under the law, that every mouth be stopped, and
all the world guilty before God’ ”? We think he means to say, that, as
this is said to Jews, it proves that _Jews_, as well as Gentiles, are very
guilty. He is addressing the Jews, who boasted of their knowledge of the
law. Chap. 2: “Behold, thou art called a Jew,” &c.

3. Jer. 17:9. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately

If we suppose that we are to take this as an unlimited expression, and not
merely a strong declaration of the wickedness of the Jews, it still does
not prove total depravity of the nature, but merely that of the
affections, or “the heart.” Man’s nature has other things besides desire:
it has conscience, reason, and will; and it does not follow that these are
also depraved.

4. Rom. 8:7. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.”

This does not intend that the mind of man, in its _natural_ state, is
enmity, but in its _carnal_ state; that is, when subject to fleshly
desires. Nearly the same phrase is used in the verse before, and is
translated, “To be carnally minded is death.”

5. There is one famous passage, however, which seems to say that God is
angry with us on account of our nature. This is a passage very much
quoted, and we hear it so often that it seems as if the Bible was full of
such texts. It is in Eph. 2:3. “We were by nature _children of wrath_,
even as others.” This is quoted to prove that God is angry with men for
their natures, and hates them for being born evil—just as we may hate a
snake, a scorpion, or spider, for its nature. But, as it happens, the very
next verses show that this is impossible, unless God can be hating one of
his creatures and loving it at the very same moment.

For, in the next verse Paul says that God loved us with a great love _when
we were dead in trespasses and sins_, and children _of wrath_. It is
therefore evident that “_children of wrath_” must mean something else. It
may mean that men outside of Christianity—Jews and Gentiles—were afraid of
God; living under a constant sense of his displeasure; that God seemed to
them a terrible being, always disposed to punish them with severity. This
was the fact. Jews and Gentiles were afraid of their gods, before Christ
came, and so were “children of wrath.” Or it may mean that men are exposed
to the consequences of sin; for, in Scripture language,—

    “God’s wrathful said to be, when he doth do
    That _without wrath_ which wrath doth force us to.”

Moreover, “nature,” in Scripture usage, does not necessarily mean, “as
human beings.” It often intends external position, origin, and race. So
(in Gal. 2:15) we read, “Jews by nature;” and so (in Rom. 2:27)
“uncircumcision, which is by nature.”

The same word is used twice in James 3:7, and is translated _kind_. “Every
_kind_ of beasts, birds, serpents, things in the sea, is tamed of
man-_kind_:” literally, “the whole animal _race_ is tamed by the human

If φυσις here meant “constitutional depravity,” the same word in Rom. 2:14
must mean _constitutional goodness_, where we are told that some “do _by
nature_ the things contained in the law.” So, too, we read of the olive
tree, wild by nature, in Rom. 11:24.

“By nature,” here, plainly means the original condition, not the original
constitution. Just so we say that wild animals are in a state of nature,
and call savages the children of nature.

These five texts are the strongest in the Bible to support the doctrine of
total depravity, and, as such, are constantly quoted. They have very
little weight, and not one of them is from the words of Jesus.

On the other hand, there are many passages which seem to declare that
there is something good in man in his unconverted or natural state, and
that even in that state he may turn towards the light, and struggle
against evil.

John 3:20, 21. “Every one that doeth truth cometh to the light.”

Matt. 26:41. “... The spirit is willing, the flesh is weak.”

Rom. 2:24. “Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things
contained in the law, and show the work of that law which is written in
the heart.”

Acts 10:35. “In every nation, he that feareth God, and worketh
righteousness, is accepted of him.”

But the passage most strikingly and thoroughly opposed to the doctrine of
total depravity, is the description, in the seventh chapter of Romans, of
the conflict between the law in the members and the law of the mind. Paul,
speaking evidently from his own experience in his unconverted state,
describes the condition of one morally depraved, who is trying to do
right, but is prevented by evil habits which have become a part of
himself. He describes this as moral death, but _not_ guilt. He says, “It
is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.” He describes
himself as morally impotent—_wishing_ to do right, but unable to do it. He
says _he delights in the law of God after the inner man_. The inmost is
right, but outside of that are evil habits, in the body, which drag down
the soul and enslave it. Paul therefore distinctly says that a man in such
a condition is not himself a sinner, because he does not commit the sin.
Thus he makes clear and strong the distinction we referred to above,
between depravity and guilt—between _natural evil_ and _moral evil_.

Paul teaches that man is not totally depraved, but that even in the carnal
man there is a good principle, only that it is conquered by the evil. If
the mind delights in the law of God, and the will to do right is present
with us, we evidently are not _totally_ depraved; but the total depravity,
if anywhere, is in the flesh only, as Paul plainly says: “I know that in
me (that is, in _my flesh_) dwelleth no good thing;” that is, the
depravity is physical, not moral. But physical depravity is not guilt, but
only disease.

§ 9. Truth in the Doctrine of Total Depravity.

Nevertheless there is a sense in which man may be said to be often totally
sinful; but this is only in a total alienation of the will from God. It is
not a total depravity, but a total alienation. There is a natural
depravity, but it is not total. But the choice may be totally perverted,
when it chooses darkness instead of light, evil instead of good.

Let us see what there is of this in man.

The gospel of Christ, as we understand it, undertakes to effect an entire
change, a radical reformation, in human character. It proposes to reform
the life by changing the heart, by giving new aims, new affections, new
aspirations, new objects of love and pursuit. Jesus does not endeavor to
alter and improve, a little here and a little there, on the outside of the
character, to improve a little our modes of action in this and the other
particular; but he alters the conduct and character by altering the
fundamental ideas, and inspiring an inward life. This wonderful change,
which takes place in the profoundest depth of our nature, under the
influence of the Gospel,—this great event of life, which forms the
turning-point of our being and history,—is called in the New Testament
“the new birth,” “regeneration,” “to be born again,” “conversion,” “a new
creation,” “to be born of God,” “to be baptized with the Holy Ghost and
with fire,” “to put off the old man,” “to have Christ formed within us.”
It is a very superficial view which explains away the meaning of all these
profound expressions, and supposes that they only signify a little outward
improvement and reformation. We need just such a change as is here
described—a radical one, not a superficial one. All need it. Those who are
the most pure in heart and most blameless in character (spotless children,
as they seem to us, of a heavenly world) feel their own need of this
change no less than do the profligate and openly vicious. Parents and
friends say, “We have no fault to find with them.” They do not say they
have no fault to find with themselves. They feel they have all kinds of
fault to find with themselves, and nothing is so painful to them as this
commendation. They say, “Outwardly we may seem innocent, but we feel an
inward want that weighs on our heart like a frost.”

“This is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners.” It is because we are sinners that we
need to experience this great change. We do not wish to exaggerate the
amount of human sinfulness. Theologians have carried their attacks on
human nature quite too far, and the result has often been that men have
looked on sin as a sort of theological matter, which has nothing to do
with actual life. They have cheerfully admitted that they were totally
depraved by nature, and could not think or will a good thing, and then
have thought no worse of themselves than before. We know that there is
something good in man, something which God loves, some pure aspiration
even in the natural heart, some throbs of generosity, some warnings of
conscience, some pure love, some courageous virtue, in the humblest, the
most depraved, the most abandoned. There are some flowers of sweetest
perfume which spring up in the uncultivated soil of the natural heart on
which God and his angels smile, for the seeds of those flowers God himself
planted. We have seen harebells, graceful and lovely as the sweetest
greenhouse plant, growing out of a sand-heap; and we have seen some
disinterested, generous benevolence in the mind of a hardened profligate.
It is not, therefore, because there is nothing good in man that he needs a
change of heart, but because he is destitute of a deep-rooted and living
goodness till this change has taken place.

Look at the _actual sins_ of men. The majority of men, in a civilized
community like ours, do not commit great crimes, or fall into flagrant
vices, because they have little to attract them to such a course, and much
to deter them from it. They are aiming at those objects which they need
the countenance, aid, and good opinion of their fellow-men to obtain, to
be glaringly vicious would make it impossible. Also, there is a certain
amount of conscience which restrains them—the influence of good education
and good habits which preserves a certain uprightness and purity of
character. But is it a deep principle? If so, why do the vast majority of
men allow themselves in many small violations of the same laws which they
would not break on a large scale? They would not steal; yet they commit
every day some slight acts not perfectly honest; they take advantage of
others in little things. They would not lie; yet they exaggerate, and
conceal part of the truth, and color their statements to produce an
effect. They would not kill; but they are willing to injure one who has
interfered with their interests. With these tendencies and feelings, why
would they not, under different influences, commit greater crimes? How
often do we feel, in talking with the criminal and abandoned, that, in
their circumstances and with their temptations, we might have been as bad
as they!

Does not all this show that there is a deep and hidden fountain of evil
within our hearts which is restrained by external influences, by checks
and barriers with which God has kindly surrounded us? and if these were
taken away, it would break out into something far worse than now appears.
How much there is of evil under the smooth surface of refined society! How
many thoughts of sin pass to and fro in the heart while the countenance
seems pure and calm! Who ever looked into the interior depths of our most
moral community, and saw all the secret sins and pollutions which are
hidden there? Every now and then there occurs in the midst of the most
refined classes some startling revelation of long-concealed wickedness
which makes men look each other in the face and draw a long breath, as
though they should say, “Which of us will next fall?” So in the midst of a
fruitful country, of lakes, and valleys, and vine-clad hills, the earth
will sometimes open, and a river of melted lava pour forth, desolating all
around. We hear of this with wonder, and do not think that right beneath
our own feet, a few miles down, under these smooth fields and gentle
plains, that same fiery ocean is rolling its red billows. God has laid his
hand upon our heart, and restrains its lawless passions as he restrains
the tornadoes, and earthquakes, and volcanic fires; else they might easily
hurry us to swift destruction.

Still, if this were all, no radical change might be necessary. It might be
enough that by effort, and self-discipline, and direction of the thoughts,
we gradually overcome our evil habits and tendencies; but when we resolve
to do so, and make the effort, we meet with an unexpected resistance. “The
spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” “I find a law in my members
warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the
law of sin in my members.” The Church has long asserted the doctrine of an
hereditary depravity; and we have seen that there is more truth in it than
we have sometimes supposed. It is not total, but it is real. Besides the
sins of our own committing, there are the sins which our ancestors have
committed, which have made themselves part of our bone and flesh. We are
not exactly balanced in our natural state; there is a preponderating
tendency towards evil in one or another direction.

This forms too fearful an alliance with circumstances, the moment they
become powerful to draw us away from good. A friend of ours, some years
since, was making a trip up the Lakes, late in the season. As they entered
Lake Huron from the River St. Clair in the noble steamer, the skies were
serene, and she ploughed her way on towards the north, so that by night
the land had sunk almost out of sight. But then the wind began to freshen,
the sea rose, and as the night advanced, and the wind blew harder and
harder, the boat strained and staggered along, occasionally struck hard by
a heavier sea, till at last one of her wheels was carried away, and the
fires were put out by the water. How long and anxious was that night! How
many prayed then who never prayed before! When morning came, the boat was
found to be drifting before the wind and waves, directly upon a rocky
shore on the south-east side of the lake. There was no help in man; but a
gracious Providence all at once caused the storm to lull, so that a fire
could be built, and with one wheel the boat got into a harbor. Man seems a
powerful being when he is surrounded by favorable circumstances, and is
going with a fair wind and fair weather; but let the wind change, and his
weakness becomes apparent. He who just now breasted the tide, is now
drifting helplessly before it.

But there is a difficulty far worse than any we have mentioned. We might
conquer the sin which most easily besets us, we might conquer our inherent
evil tendencies, and outgrow them, if we really wished to do so; but the
deepest of all evils is a want of love for God and for goodness. We know
that we ought to love and obey God; but our heart is alienated from him.
The great mass of men are living away from God. They are not conscious of
his presence, though they know that he is near to them. Though they know
that his eye is upon them, it does not restrain them from sin. Though they
know that their heavenly Father and best Friend is close at hand, how
seldom do they pray! how seldom look up with gratitude for all their
mercies and joys! This shows a terrible estrangement of soul from God. The
veil is on their _hearts_, not on their minds.

The question is sometimes asked, “whether sin is a positive or merely a
negative evil.” Now, whatever may be the case with other kinds of sin,
this alienation of the heart seems to us a very positive evil; for it is
an antagonism, and resistance of goodness. If the supreme goodness of God
does not attract us, does not excite our affection, does not irresistibly
draw us to him, then it repels us; it makes the thought of his presence a
restraint and burden; it makes us wish to go away from God. The goodness
of God is so very positive a thing, that we cannot be indifferent to it;
we cannot be neutral in regard to it. If we do not love it, it is
disagreeable, and we are uncomfortable in the thought of it. Swedenborg
relates that certain wicked persons were allowed to enter heaven on a
certain occasion; but they immediately became almost lifeless, and, from
the torment and pain in their head and body, prostrated themselves on the
ground, and writhed like worms; but, being taken and carried into hell,
became comparatively comfortable. What can be more terrible than the idea
thus conveyed of our aversion to goodness, which makes heaven intolerable,
and the presence of God insufferable torture! Can anything express, more
than this, the need of a change of heart?

Jesus, we think, asserts a similar view when he says, “He that is not with
me is against me.” “No man can serve two masters; for he will either love
the first and hate the last, or love the last and hate the first.” He will
not be indifferent to either, if their characters and commands are of an
opposite kind.

We do not mean to say that we _hate_ God; but we mean that there is
something within us, while our hearts are not wholly his, which makes it
unpleasant and burdensome to think of God and pray to him. We feel a
certain repugnance to a familiar and happy intercourse with our heavenly
Father. Our prayers, if we pray, are formal and cold; our hearts are hard,
and their affections do not flow easily upward.

Now, if there be such a thing as a change of heart, which will make it a
pleasure to pray, a joy to think of God; which will make it natural to us
to approach him, and dwell on the thought of his goodness; which will
enable us to see him in the majesty and sweetness of nature, in the rise
of empires or the death of an infant, in the coming of Christ, and in
every good thought which swells in our souls,—then it is evident that this
is what we need. Let us dig deep, and build our house upon a rock.

We shall see in another section that there is such a change of heart as we
have described. Jesus saves sinners by taking away the heart of stone, and
giving a heart of flesh. He saw the whole depth and extent of the disease
which he came to cure. There are some preachers who do not know how great
an evil sin is, and would not know what to do for a penitent and anxious
soul which really saw the greatness of its needs. Thus, when George Fox
went to the rector of his church to ask advice for the distress of his
soul, he was told to amuse himself and divert his mind. But Jesus saw all
the extent of sin, and yet was ready to encourage and help the sinner. He
knew that his remedy was equal to the emergency. The gospel of Christ can
give to us love to God and love to man; can soften our hearts in humility,
can enable us to fight with and conquer even the hereditary evil of our
organization; can ultimately redeem us from all evil. This is the
depravity we are to conquer; not of nature, but of will, and aim, and

§ 10. Ability and Inability.

One of the pivotal points in the Orthodox theory of evil is that of _moral
inability_. Indeed, the doctrine of total depravity seems to be taught for
the sake of this. Total depravity resolves itself, in the mind of the
Orthodox teacher, into total inability, and means that man, unable to do
right by any power in himself, must throw himself wholly and absolutely on
the divine grace. The secret motive of the whole Orthodox doctrine of evil
is to lead through a sense of sin to humility, and at last to dependence.
Orthodoxy here becomes intelligible, so soon as we perceive that its
purpose is not speculative, but practical. As religion consists so greatly
in the sentiment of dependence, it is a leading purpose in the Orthodox
system to produce this sense of dependence. That group of
graces—reverence, humility, submission, trust, prayer—which lend such an
ineffable charm to the moral nature, which purify and refine it to its
inmost depths,—these spring almost wholly from the sense of dependence on
a higher and better being than ourselves. These being absent, the
elevating principle is wanting; the man cannot rise above himself. There
may be truth, courage, conscience, purity, but they are all stoical and
self-relying. It is only he who relies on a higher power, clings to a
higher being, and draws his moral life from above, who can ascend. He who
humbles himself, and he only, shall be exalted. But humility does not
consist in looking down, but in looking up. It does not come from looking
at our own meanness, but at something higher and better than ourselves.
The sense of sin is only elevating when connected with the sight of a
higher beauty and holiness.

It is, therefore, in order to produce a conviction of absolute dependence
that Orthodoxy urges so strongly the doctrines of total depravity and
total inability. A man will not pray, says the Orthodox system, till he
feels himself helpless. He will not seek a Saviour so long as he hopes to
save himself. He must see that he can do nothing more for himself; and
then, for the first time, he exercises a real faith in God, and casts
himself on the divine mercy.

Reasoning in this way, consciously or unconsciously, Orthodoxy has built
up its doctrine of human inability, which we will proceed to state,—first,
however, indicating the scriptural view of this subject.

Scripture teaches that man is able to choose the right, but not always
able to perform it. He is free in his spirit, but bound by circumstances
of position, and by bodily organization. He is free to choose, but not
free to do. His freedom is in effort, not necessarily in accomplishment.
He can always try; he cannot always effect what he tries.

Thus Jesus says (Matt. 26:41), “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into
temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And so
Paul says, in the passage on this subject before referred to (Rom. 7:18),
“To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I will, I find

Without attempting here to enter into the tormented question of fate and
freedom, of necessity so irrefragably demonstrated by the logic of Edwards
and others,—of free-will perpetually reasserted by the intuitive reason in
the soul,—we may say this: Whether there be such a thing as metaphysical
freedom or not, there is such a thing as moral freedom. In proportion as
man sinks into the domain of nature, he is bound by irresistible laws. In
proportion as he rises into the sphere of reason, justice, truth, love, he
is emancipated, and can direct his own course. “Ye shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.” “If the Son, therefore, shall make you
free, ye shall be free indeed.” (John 8:32, 36.) “Stand fast in the
liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” (Gal. 5:1.) It is therefore
true that only as we direct our course by eternal laws, we rise above the
controlling influence of habit, prejudice, public opinion, inherited and
original tendencies of the blood and brain. According to Paul (Rom.
6:16-22), man must be either the servant of sin or the servant of God. He
must serve, willingly or unwillingly. He must be the degraded slave of
desire and selfishness, or the willing, loyal subject of truth and right.
Paradoxically enough, however, he only feels free in these two cases. For
in these two states he is doing what he chooses to do. When he is blindly
and willingly following his lower instincts he feels free. When he is
rationally and freely choosing right, and doing it, he also feels free.
But when half way between these two states, when his conscience is pulling
one way and his desires drawing him the other, when he is choosing right
and doing wrong, he feels himself a slave.

There are therefore these three conditions of the will, corresponding to
the Pauline division of man into spirit, soul, and body (1 Tim. 5:23)—a
view of man which was held throughout antiquity. The carnal man (σαρκικος)
is one in whom the earthly appetites are supreme, and the soul, (ψυχη) and
spirit (πνευμα) subordinate. The natural man (ψυχικος ανθρωπος, 1 Cor.
2:14) is one in whom the soul, or central principle, the finite will, is
supreme. The spiritual man (πνευματικος, 1 Cor. 2:15) is he in whom the
infinite principle, the sense of eternal truth and right, is supreme. In
the first condition—that of the carnal man—one is the slave of sin, but
without knowing it, because there is no wish to become anything different.
In the second state—that of the natural man (or psychical man)—the soul
chooses the good, but is drawn down by the evil. The law of the mind is
warring against the law of the members, and the man is torn asunder by
this conflict. He tries to do right, and does wrong. He now first feels
himself a slave; yet he is in reality _less_ a slave than before, for now
he is endeavoring to escape. His _will_ is emancipated, though his habits
of conduct, his habits of thought, his habits of feeling, still bind him
fast. In the third condition, that of the spiritual man, he has broken
these chains. He not only wills to do right, but does it. His body shares
in the new life of his soul. He now is made free by the truth and the
spirit from the service of evil, and shares in “the glorious liberty of
the children of God.”

In all these conditions the human being has some freedom, but differing in
degree in each. In the lowest state he has freedom of action, for he does
what he wishes to do; but he has not freedom of choice, for he does not
choose at all. He acts not by intelligent choice, but by blind instinct,
habit or custom. In the middle state he has freedom of choice, but not of
action. He chooses the good, but performs the evil. This is the condition
described by Ovid, and other profane writers, before Paul described it in
the seventh chapter of Romans.(15) But in the highest state—a spiritual
condition—he has both freedoms; he can both choose and perform. The carnal
man seems to be free, but is most thoroughly enslaved of all. The
psychical man seems to himself to be enslaved, but has begun to be free.
The spiritual man both seems to be free and is so. The apparent freedom of
the carnal man differs from the real freedom of the spiritual man in
this—the spiritual man could do wrong if he chose to do so, but chooses to
do right. But the carnal man could not do right if he should choose. A
good man, if he chose to do so, might lie, and steal, and drink, and be
profane; but a bad man could not, by choosing, become temperate, pure,
truthful, and honest.

Scripture and experience give, therefore, the same account of human
ability and inability. In the lowest state man is the servant of sense,
and can neither will nor do right. In the higher condition he can will,
but cannot perform; for his ideal aim is above his actual power. In the
highest, or regenerate, state he can both will and do. Body, as well as
soul, serve the spirit.


These are the truths which lie at the basis of the Orthodox doctrine of
inability. But Orthodoxy, in its desire to awaken a sense of dependence,
has pushed them to an unreasonable extreme. It asserts that man, in his
natural state, before he is regenerated, has _no_ power to will or to do
right. It is evident, however, that all men have power to will and to do
_many_ right things. Even in the lowest condition, a man wills and does
much that is right. Though the governing principle be the lowest one, he
can yet perform many good actions. In the second condition also, the
psychical man, though not able _always_ to do right, _often_ succeeds in
doing so. And in this state the apostle declares that _he_ does not do the
evil, but “sin that dwells in him.” So long as his _purpose_ is right, he
is right.

§ 11. Orthodox Doctrine of Inability.

Let us see what Orthodoxy says of the inability of the unregenerate man.
The Assembly’s Confession declares (chap. 6, § 4), that by our corrupt
nature “we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all
good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” In chap. 9, § 3, it says that
“man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of
will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation.”

This seems plain enough. It would justify the charge made by Dr. Cox, that
there are those who teach that “a man has no ability to do his duty,”(16)
and “that, where the means of grace are abundantly vouchsafed, a man can
do nothing for, but can only counteract, his own salvation.” It would also
seem to lay a fit foundation for that kind of Calvinistic preaching which,
according to Professor Finney, of Oberlin (see “Revival Lectures”),
virtually amounts to saying,

    “You can, and you can’t;
    You shall, and you shan’t;
    You will, and you won’t;
    You’ll be damned if you don’t.”

These charges, it must be noticed, are brought against Calvinism, not by
us, but by Presbyterian divines, themselves holding to this same
Westminster Confession.

But let us look at some of the expositions given to this doctrine of
inability by modern Orthodox authorities.

(_a._) _The Old School Presbyterians._—As stated by one of their own
number (Professor Atwater, of Princeton College, Bibliotheca Sacra,
January, 1864), they hold an inability “moral, sinful, and real,”
“irremovable by the sinner’s own power.” He sets aside the objection that
we are not bound to do what we are unable to do, by saying that this
applies to actions only, not to sinful dispositions. He illustrates this
by saying that an irrepressible disposition to slander would be only so
much more culpable. But in this he is evidently wrong. Such a habit has
become a disease, and the unfortunate victim is no longer accountable for
what he does.

(_b._) _The New School Presbyterians._—(Rev. George Duffield, in
Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1863.) Although Dr. Duffield objects to the
language of the Old School Presbyterians in denying “free agency,” and
regarding man “as destitute of ability as a block of marble,” he yet
declares that the New School, as well as the Old, believe that in the
unconverted state “man can do nothing morally good.” Still, he adds, men
can accept the offers of salvation made by Jesus Christ. But he positively
denies that “man, in his natural state, independent of the gospel and
Spirit of Christ, has ability _perfectly_ to obey _all_ the commandments
of God.” We suppose that most persons would agree with him in this

(_c._) _The Old School in New England Theology._—(Bibliotheca Sacra,
April, 1863. Article by Professor Lawrence, East Windsor, Connecticut.)
This writer contends that human inability is moral, and not natural—a
distinction much dwelt upon by the Hopkinsians, but rejected by the Old
School Presbyterians. This system differs from the Arminian or Methodist
view in insisting that man has power enough to sin, though not enough to

(_d._) _Hopkinsianism._—(Bibliotheca Sacra, July, 1862.) The Hopkinsians
profess to contend for free agency, in order to save responsibility. They
adopt the ideas of Edwards on free agency. But freedom, with them,
consists only in choice. Whatever we choose, we choose freely. The carnal
man is as free in choosing evil as the spiritual man in choosing good. All
real freedom in this system disappears in a juggle of words.

The result of this examination will show that the great body of the
Orthodox, of all schools, continues to deny any real ability in the
unregenerate man to do the will of God. They do not _say_ that “man has no
power to do his duty,” but that is the impression left by their teaching.
The distinction between natural and moral inability is insufficient; for
it is as absurd to say that a man is unable not to sin, when you only mean
that he chooses to sin, as it would he to say, when invited to eat your
dinner, “I am unable to eat,” meaning only that you were unwilling.
Besides, if inability is moral, it is in the will, and not in the nature,
and so is not natural depravity at all. It is also making God unjust to
teach that he considers us guilty for a misfortune. If we derive a
corrupted nature from Adam, that is our misfortune, and not our fault, and
God owes us not anger, but pity. Instead of punishing us, he should
compensate us for this disaster.

Therefore the unreason, the want of logic, and the absence of any just
view of God, appear, more or less, throughout these statements. For where
there is no ability, there can be no guilt. Just as soon as man ceases to
have the power to do right, he ceases to have the power to do wrong.
Inability and guilt, which are connected by all these creeds, logically
exclude each other. If our nature is incapable of doing good, then it is
incapable of committing sin. One or the other must be given up. Keep which
you will, but you cannot keep both. We may be totally depraved by our
nature; but then we cease to be sinners, and cease to be guilty. Or we may
be going wholly wrong, and so be sinful, but then we have the power of
going right.

This is the inconsistency in almost all Orthodox systems. By dwelling so
much on human weakness, they destroy at last the sense of responsibility.

§ 12. Some further Features of Orthodox Theology concerning Human

In the article in the Bibliotheca Sacra before referred to (April, 1863),
by Edward A. Lawrence, D. D., Professor at East Windsor, Connecticut, on
“The Old School in New England Theology,” the writer gives the following
account of the doctrines of this body concerning sin:—

“God created man a holy being. He was not merely innocent, as not having
committed sin, not merely pure, as not inheriting any derived evil, but
was positively holy in his very being.” This, we suppose, must mean that
he was inclined by nature to do right, rather than wrong. It was as
natural for him to love God as for a fish to swim or a bird to fly.
Nothing less than this, certainly, would deserve to be called “holiness of

“The first man,” says Professor Lawrence, “was the federal head of this
race, representatively and by covenant, as no other father has been or can
be with his children.” This is illustrated by the fact of a legal
corporation, whose members are responsible in law for the actions of their

Professor Lawrence explains the belief of the Old School in the imputation
of Adam’s sin thus: It was not the personal guilt of Adam which was
imputed to his descendants, but “certain disastrous consequences.” They,
as well as he, became “subject to temporal and eternal death.” The next
consequence of Adam’s sin we must give in Professor Lawrence’s own
language, in order not to misrepresent him. “The first evil disposition
which led to the evil choice was not only confirmed in him as an
individual, but also as a quality of human nature, and it reappears,
successively, in each one of them.” Imputation, therefore, means not the
transfer of guilt, but of a corrupt nature. “It is not a sin to be born
sinful; but the sin with which men are born is nevertheless sinful.” Then
follows this statement: “We are strictly guilty only for our own sin; but
the sinfulness with which we are born is as really ours as if it
originated in our own act.”

This, again, is explained by defining guilt as liability to punishment on
account of the acts of another, “as when the members of a corporation
suffer from the ill management of its agent.” This he calls corporate

The Old School doctrine, according to this writer, concerning sin, makes
it a state rather than an act. It is not merely the act of disobedience,
but the wrong bias of the will, out of which the act proceeds. He thinks
it wrong to call “sin a nature,” for neither the substance of the soul,
nor its faculties, are sinful. The depravity of nature is not choice, so
much as tendency which leads to choice. It is hereditary, being
transmitted from father to son.

The old theology, therefore, predicates sinfulness of human nature;
affirms sin to be a wrong state or bias of will; considers it to be
hereditary; regards new-born infants as depraved, but thinks that those of
them who die in infancy, before actual transgression, are renewed and
saved by the blood of Christ; and considers temporal death as a part of
the penalty of sin.

Upon this statement of the Old School doctrine, the following criticisms
naturally occur:—

First. If original righteousness was holiness of nature, and not mere
innocence; if it was a positive tendency to good, and not merely a state
of indifference between good and evil; then, we ask, What produced the
fall? What motive led to the commission of the first sin? If the nature of
the first man was holy, there was nothing in it which could lead him to
sin, and any external temptation addressed to such a nature must fall
powerless before it. It would be like trying to tempt a fish to fly in the
air, or like tempting a bird to go into the water. Even if the first man
could have been induced by any deception or external influence to commit a
wrong act, this would not be sinful, because there would be no sinful
motive behind it. A wrong act proceeding from a holy nature is either an
impossibility or a mere innocent mistake. Our first criticism, therefore,
on the Old School doctrine of sin, is, that it makes Adam’s fall an

Second. As regards Adam’s federal headship and the illustration of a
corporation, we say, that the members of a corporation are not considered
guilty in consequence of the acts of their agent, although they may suffer
in consequence of these acts. If he commits forgery they may lose money
thereby, but no one would think of calling them forgers. The sin of a
parent may be visited upon his children to the third or fourth generation,
but in their case it is neither punishment nor guilt, but only misfortune.
When Professor Lawrence, therefore, says, that “we are guilty for the
sinfulness with which we are born, because it is really ours,” he utters a
moral absurdity, and strikes at the root of all moral distinctions. He
says, “The sinfulness with which we are born is really ours;” but in what
sense ours? Only as any congenital disease may be called _ours_. If a man
is born with a tendency to consumption, blindness, lameness, he may say,
“my lameness, my near-sightedness.” But no one would suppose that he meant
thereby to hold himself responsible for them, or to consider himself
guilty because of them. It is absurd to speak of “corporate guilt.” The
corporate guilt, for example, of the stockholders of a bank, because of
the crime of an absconding teller!

The natural objection to this illustration of a corporation is, that those
who enter into a corporation do it by a free act, and make themselves
voluntarily responsible. But _we_ did not consent that Adam should be our
agent. We did not agree that if Adam should commit a single act of
disobedience we should be born totally depraved, and liable to everlasting
torments in consequence. Professor Lawrence replies, that it would have
been impossible for God to ask our consent, and therefore, apparently he
supposes that God took for granted that we would consent. This seems to be
no answer to the objection. If it was impossible for God to obtain our
consent, before we were born, to incur this awful danger, he was not
compelled to expose us to it. It is an insult to the justice of the
Almighty to assume that he could have done so.

Third. Professor Lawrence does not think it correct to say that “sin is a
nature.” But why not, if it be a universal and constant element, an
original and permanent state of the soul? To say that human nature is
sinful, but deny that sin is a nature, seems to be making a distinction
without a difference. It is a disposition to sin born with the child. Now,
say what we will, such a disposition to sin thus born with us is not guilt
but misfortune. A just God will not hold us responsible for it, but will
hold himself responsible to help us out of it. As a faithful Creator, he
is bound to do so, and will do so.

It is common for theologians to deny all such assertions as these last.
They hold it irreverent to say that God owes anything to his creatures.
They accumulate responsibility upon man, but deny responsibility to God.
But in doing this they take from the Almighty all moral character.
Calvinism, especially, makes of the Deity infinite power and infinite
will. But no blasphemy is worse than that which, though with the best
intentions, virtually destroys the moral character of the Almighty,
reducing him to an infinite will: that is, making of him an infinite
tyrant. For the essence of tyranny is the union of power and will in a
ruler, who recognizes no obligations towards his subjects.

The book of Job seems to have been written partly to refute this sort of
Calvinism. The friends of Job were Calvinists in this sense. The sum of
their argument was that, since God was all-powerful, therefore whatever he
did must be right; and, since he punished Job, Job must be a sinner, and
ought to confess his sin whether he saw it or not. This has been, in all
ages, the substance of Calvinism—Jewish Calvinism, Mohammedan Calvinism,
Christian Calvinism. It declares that we are bound to submit to God, not
because he is good, but because he is powerful. But the answer of Job to
his friends is a rebuke to the same spirit wherever shown. He asks them
“if they will speak with unfairness for God,” and “speak deceitfully for
him,” and “accept his person.” He declares that if he could find God he
would go before his throne and defend his own cause. “Would he contend
with me with his mighty power? No! he would have regard unto me.”

This is the sin of Calvinism, that it “accepts the person of the
Almighty,” assuming that he has a right to do as he pleases with his
creatures, and that they have no rights which he is bound to respect,
except that of being punished. Thus it destroys the moral character of the

Fourth. Professor Lawrence says, “It is the general belief of the Old
School that those who die in infancy before actual transgression, are
renewed and saved by the blood of Christ.”

The power of infancy is wonderful. It can even break down the logic of
Calvinism. Wordsworth was right in calling the infant—

    “Mighty prophet! Seer blest!
    On whom those truths do rest
    Which we are toiling all our lives to find.”

Every kind of theology, however savage and bitter it may be against adult
sinners, sending them into an eternal hell without the least hesitation or
remorse, hesitates and stammers when it comes to speak of little children.
Even the idolatrous Jews, sacrificing their children to Moloch in the
valley of Hinnom, beat drums to drown their cries, which they could not
bear to hear. Both schools of theology, Old and New, hasten to say that
infants are not to be damned. But _why_ not, if they are born with a
depraved nature, and die without being converted? Both the great schools
of Presbyterian theology hold to the doctrine of the Assembly’s Catechism,
which declares (chap. 6, § 6), that “every sin, both original and actual,
being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto,
doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound
over to the wrath of God.” Therefore the infant who dies before he has
exercised repentance and faith in Christ, is under the wrath of God.
Orthodoxy does not allow of repentance in the other life: how, then, can
infants be saved according to Orthodoxy? Professor Lawrence can only
reply, that it is _a general belief_ that they will be saved. The
Catechism declares, less decidedly, that “elect infants” will be saved.
Dr. Whedon (Bibliotheca Sacra, April, 1862), on behalf of the Methodists,
says, “That the dying infant is saved, and saved by the atonement, all
agree.” But _how_ he is saved, or what reason they have to think him
saved, except their wish to believe it, no one can tell. Death, in fact,
becomes to the infant a saving sacrament. As long as he lives he is
believed unregenerate and unconverted. As soon as he dies he is considered
ready for heaven. But he cannot be ready for heaven until he is
regenerate; and after death there is no such thing as obtaining a new
heart, and no opportunity for repentance. Logically, therefore, the infant
is converted by the mere act of dying. We presume that no Orthodox
theologians would assert this; and yet we really do not see how they can
avoid the conclusion.

But why is it any worse for children to be damned in consequence of Adam’s
sin than for adults to be damned? Orthodoxy assures us that in consequence
of Adam’s sin we are born depraved. Dr. Duffield, stating and defending
the doctrines of the New School Presbyterian Church (Bibliotheca Sacra,
July, 1863), says that Adam subjected his posterity to such a loss that
they are born without any righteousness, are exposed to the consequences
of his transgression, and all become sinners as soon as they are capable
of it. He quotes with approbation from a protest of the New School
minority, in the General Assembly of 1837 (which he calls a document of
great historic value), an assertion that “by reason of the sin of Adam,
the race are treated as if they had sinned;” and from another document of
the same school which says, that “we are all born with a tendency to sin,
which makes it morally certain that we shall do so.” Now, we do not see
why it is any worse to send infants to hell because of this depraved
nature, than to send grown persons there who have sinned in consequence of
possessing such a depraved nature. If it be said that adults have had an
opportunity to repent, and have not accepted it, we reply, that to the
mass of mankind no such opportunity is offered; that, where it is offered,
no one has the power to accept it, except he be one of the elect; and that
at all events, since infants are sure to be saved, and a very large
proportion of adults are very likely to be lost, _death in infancy is the
most desirable thing possible_. According to this doctrine, child-murder
becomes almost a virtue.

The radical difficulty in all these theories consists in refusing to apply
to God the same rules of justice which we apply to man. To do so implies
no irreverence, but the highest reverence. There is nothing more honorable
to the Almighty than to believe him to be actuated by the same great
principles of right which he has written in our conscience and heart.
Those laws of eternal justice, so deeply engraven on the fleshly tables of
the heart, are a revelation of the character of God himself. If we think
to honor him by rejecting these intuitions of the reason, and by
substituting for this divine idea of a God of justice that of a being of
arbitrary will, who is under no obligations to his creatures, we deeply
dishonor the Almighty and fatally injure our own character. From this
perverted view of God comes a cynical view of man. When we make _will_
supreme in God, we legitimate all tyranny and contempt from man to man.
Then comes the state of things described by Shakespeare:—

    “Force should be right, or, rather, right and wrong
    (Between whose endless jar justice resides)
    Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
    Then everything includes itself in power,
    Power into will, will into appetite;
    And appetite, a universal wolf,
    So doubly seconded with will and power,
    Must make perforce a universal prey,
    And, last, eat up himself.”

            _Shakespeare_, Troilus and Cressida.


§ 1. Orthodoxy recognizes only two Conditions in which Man can be found.

Orthodoxy knows only two states in which man can be found. Man is either
in the natural state, and then he is totally depraved; or he is in the
supernatural state, in which the chain of sin has been broken. He is
either impenitent or penitent, either unregenerated or regenerate,
unconverted or converted, a sinner or a saint.

There is no gradation, no shading off, no twilight between this midnight
gloom and midday splendor. To the common eye, and in the judgment of their
friends and neighbors, the people who enter a church seem of all degrees
of goodness; and every one has good and bad qualities mixed up together in
his character. But, as the Orthodox minister looks at them from the
pulpit, they instantly fall into two classes, and become “my impenitent
hearers,” and “my penitent hearers.”

Moreover, it is assumed that the distinction between these two classes is
so marked and plain, that it can be recognized by any one who will.
Orthodox people inquire, “_Is he pious?_” just as they would ask, “_Is he

Again, the change from one state to the other is assumed to be so distinct
and marked, that he who runs can read. One may say to another, “_Where
were you converted?_” just as they may say, “_Where did you go to
college?_” “Where were you born?” said an English bishop to Summerfield,
the Methodist preacher. “In Dublin and Liverpool,” he answered. “Were you
born in _two_ places?” said the bishop. “ ‘Art thou a master in Israel,
and knowest not these things?’ ” replied Summerfield.

On the other hand, it is quite common among Liberal Christians to doubt
the reality, or deny the importance, of such changes altogether. With them
the Christian life consists, not in change, but in progress. In the
Christian source, Orthodoxy lays the main stress on the commencement;
Liberal Christianity, on the progress. The one wishes you to begin the
journey, without seeming to care whether you go forward: the other urges
you to go forward, without inquiring whether you have begun to go.
According to one, Christianity is nothing but a CRISIS; according to the
other, nothing but a DEVELOPMENT.

§ 2. Crisis and Development.

Is there any truth in this Orthodox view of man? anything essential,
substantial, vital? And is there any formal error? If there is, what is
it? Is Christianity crisis or development, or both?

Common sense and the analogies of common life must answer, “Both.” If
Christianity is a life, it must begin with a birth; if a journey, it
cannot be taken except we set out; if an education, we must determine to
commence the education; if labor in God’s vineyard, we must go into the
vineyard, and begin. There are only two classes—those who are alive, and
those who are not alive; those who are taking the journey, and those who
have not yet set out; those who are studying, and those who have not yet
begun to study; those who are at work for God, and those who are standing
idle. The distinction into two classes seems, therefore, substantial and
real. It does not follow, to be sure, that these two classes can be
distinguished so easily by the eye of man; but they certainly can be by
the eye of God. Nor does this primary distinction interfere with other
distinctions and many degrees of difference—greater or less differences
and degrees of progress, usefulness, goodness. Nor does it follow that
those who are now on the right side may not change again to the wrong, and
again to the right. There may be conversion, and _re_-conversion; but
that, at any moment, every person must be either endeavoring to do right,
or not so endeavoring, is evident. This view is confirmed by the New
Testament: “No man can serve two masters.”

That in the religious life there should be both crisis and development,
accords with the analogies of nature. The seed lies in the ground in a
dormant state, perhaps for a long period. After a time comes a crisis;
thrills of life vibrate through it; the germ is stirred; it sends its
roots downward; its stalk pierces the mould, moving upward into light and
air. After this great change, there comes a period of progress and
development. The plant grows; its roots multiply; its stalk ascends, and
divides into leaves. Then there comes a second crisis. The plant blossoms.
In the course of a few hours, after weeks of growth, the bud bursts into
beautiful petals, surrounding the delicate stamens and precious pistil.
Then there comes a second long period of slow development. The petals
fall, and the fruit slowly swells through many weeks of growth. At last
there comes a day when the fruit is ripe. Yesterday it was not ripe;
to-day it is. This is the third crisis. And so, in human life, long
periods of development terminate in critical hours—the seeds of another
long growth. So it is in other things; so also in religion.

§ 3. Nature of the Change.

The next position of Orthodoxy is, that man, in the second or regenerate
state, is a new creature. It asserts the change to be entire and radical,
and the difference immense. Not only the whole direction of the life is
changed, but the motive power is different, and the spirit different.
Instead of ambition, there is content; in the place of sensitive vanity,
there comes humility; instead of anxiety, trust in God. The burden of sin
is taken away; the sense of our unworthiness no longer torments us: for
God has forgiven our sins. Duty no longer seems arduous and difficult; for
there is joy in doing anything for the sake of God. The law is written in
the heart. We are born into a new life, the principle of which is faith.
“The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.”
This faith enables us to see God as he is, not as a stern King, or a
distant Power, or an abstract Law, but as a Friend, Father, watchful
Providence, surrounding Love, inflowing Life; Source from which we are
always coming, and towards which we are always tending. This life of faith
makes all things new. Old things have passed away, and the outward world
is fresh as on the first morning of creation. Our inward and outward life
are both new. We have new convictions, new affections, new aims, new
hopes, new joys. Nature is new, life is new, the Bible is new, the future
world is new. Such and so great is the change which Orthodoxy assumes as
the result of conversion.

§ 4. Its Reality and Importance.

And the experience of the whole Church, the biographies of the saints in
every denomination, assure us of the substantial truth of this
description. Even in churches which are not Orthodox,—churches like our
own, which insist more upon development than upon crisis,—observation
verifies this description. Even those who do not expect such a change, nor
believe in it, often come to it unexpectedly. In the course of each one’s
experience as a Christian minister, though he may never have insisted on
the importance of sudden changes, and though he may be no revival
preacher, he must have known numerous instances of those who seem to have
passed from death to life in the course of a day or an hour. And is not
this change, either sudden or gradual, that which makes Christianity a
gospel? It is the good news, not of a future and distant heaven, but of a
present heaven,—a heaven not outward, but inward; a present salvation from
the power of sin; a present relief from the sense of guilt; a present joy
and peace in believing; happiness in serving God; sympathy and good-will
to man, instead of envy and uncharitableness; peace with God, with man,
with ourselves, with our condition and circumstances.

That such a state is possible for every human being who desires it, is the
good news which Christ brings; and the experience of ten thousand times
ten thousand grateful hearts declares that it is a reality.

§ 5. Is it the Work of God, or of the Man himself? Orthodox Difficulty.

But now comes a difficulty in the Orthodox statement. Orthodoxy declares
that this regenerate state is the result of faith, not of works; and that
faith is the gift of God; and herein Orthodoxy follows the Scripture. Yet
Orthodoxy calls upon us to repent and be converted, that our sins may be
blotted out; and herein likewise Orthodoxy follows the Scripture. Is,
then, conversion an experience, or is it an action? Is it something God
gives, or something which he commands? Is it a duty to be done, or a gift
to be received? Is it submission to his will, or joy in his love? a new
life of obedience, or a new heart of faith? If it is submission, then we
can all change our hearts at once, and make ourselves love God and love
man. But who can love by an effort of the will? Yet, if the new life is a
gift, then we have no power to procure it, and can only wait till God sees
fit to send it; and how, then, can we be called upon to be converted?

Here is a difficulty which it seems to us Orthodoxy does not solve; and
yet we think that a solution is to be found in a very simple distinction,
which, like all other true and real distinctions, throws light on many
other difficulties.

§ 6. Solved by the Distinction between Conversion and Regeneration.

The distinction of which we speak is between repentance or conversion on
the one side, and regeneration or a new life on the other side. Repentance
or conversion consists in renouncing all sin, and resolving to forsake it;
in turning to God, with the purpose of submitting to his will and obeying
his law. This conversion or repentance is an act proceeding from the will,
and in obedience to the conscience. This is what God commands, and what we
can and ought to do. Every conscientious person, every person who is
endeavoring to do right and is ready to act up to his light, is a
converted person. Every one who hates his sins, resists temptation,
watches and prays against it, is a penitent person. This is the great,
broad distinction between man and man. This divides all men into two
classes—those who, in their will and purpose, are for God, truth, and
right; and those who, because they are not _for_ God, are really _against_

But, besides this broad distinction, there is another secondary
distinction—a distinction among those who are conscientiously endeavoring
to do God’s will. Among the _converted_ there are two classes—the
regenerate and the unregenerate. A man may be converted, and not be
regenerate; for a man may repent of his sin and turn towards God, and yet
not have the life of love and joy which we have described.

He is under law, not under grace. He is struggling to do right, but is not
borne forward on a joyful tide-wave of love.

§ 7. Men may be divided, religiously, into three Classes, not two.

If this be so, we may divide men into three classes, and not into two. The
first class is of those who are neither converted nor regenerate; the
second, who are converted, but not regenerate; the third, who are
converted, and also regenerate. The first are like the prodigal in the
parable,—living without God; the second, like the hired servants in the
same story,—serving God for wages; the third are sons, serving from love,
ever with their Father, and all that he has is theirs. The motive of the
first class is selfish will, selfish pleasure; the motive of the second is
duty; that of the third, love. The first are without law, the second under
law, the third under grace. And so we might multiply distinctions. But is
it not clear to common observation, that this threefold classification
meets the facts of life better than the other? There are three degrees of
character. There is the worldly man, who is just as good or bad as society
around him leads him to be; whose virtues result merely from a happy
organization, or fortunate influences, but who has no principle of
goodness, no purpose of righteousness, no serious aim in life. Then there
is the conscientious man, who means to live, and does live, by a standard
of morality; who has a serious aim, but who is not yet deeply and joyfully
religious; whose religion, at any rate, is hard work, not confiding,
child-like faith. And then there is the Christian believer, who has begun
to live from faith; who begins to feel a higher life pouring into his
heart from on high; who has help and strength from above. From his heart
the burden has been lifted, and he has become again as a little child. He
knows how to pray the prayer of faith. He may not be so very much better
than the other in outward character; but he has the principle within him
which will make all things new, sooner or later.

The New Testament confirms this view of a threefold division. We saw, in
our last chapter, that the apostle Paul, who considers human nature to
consist of three elements,—spirit, soul, and body,—divides mankind into
the carnal man, the natural (psychical or soulish) man, and the spiritual
man. The carnal man is he in whom the bodily instincts and appetites are
supreme. “He is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” The
natural man is he in whom the _soul_ is supreme: he is neither carnal on
one side, nor spiritual on the other. “He cannot receive the things of the
Spirit of God;” yet he is not in opposition and hostility to them, like
the carnal man, whose mind is enmity against God.

Still more plainly does the apostle indicate the distinction when speaking
of those who are without law, those who are under law, and those who are
free from law and above it. The first state he describes in such words as
these: “I was alive without the law once”—the glad, natural life and
freedom before conscience is developed. But conscience does awake in all:
“The commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” When man sees that he
ought to serve God, yet continues to serve the flesh and the world, he is
spoken of as dead in sin; for all the principle of progress ceases. But if
he does endeavor to do right, then Paul speaks of him as _under law_, and
on his way to a higher state. That higher state he speaks of as being
“delivered from the law, to serve in newness of spirit, and not in oldness
of letter.”

Thus we see that all religious experiences coincide. The experience of the
apostle Paul is exactly the same, in its essentials, with that of every
soul, however humble, that begins and goes forward in the Christian life.

If this distinction between conversion and regeneration be correct, it
removes the difficulty in the Orthodox statement.

§ 8. Difference between Conversion and Regeneration.

Conversion is an act, regeneration an experience. “Turn ye, turn ye; for
why will ye die?” is the command of the Old Testament. “Repent, and be
converted, that your sins may be blotted out;” “Repent, and be baptized,
and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost,” is the command of the
New Testament. It is a duty to repent; but to become regenerate is not a
duty: _that_ is a gift, to be received afterwards. God commands
conversion: he bestows regeneration. Submission is an act of our own:
faith is the gift of God. A change of outward life and conduct we can
accomplish ourselves; at least, we can endeavor to accomplish it; but the
change of heart God himself will bestow.

Conversion, a turning round, is necessarily instantaneous: it is a change.
But regeneration, or reception of divine Love, is a state, not sudden, but
passing by gradations into a deeper and deeper life of faith and joy.

So, too, conversion may be repeated: we may often find that we have again
turned round, and are going the wrong way. But the inflow of life, when
begun, cannot be begun again. When God has touched the heart with his
love, it is forever lifted by that divine experience beyond the region of
mere law. We can never forget it. These are the:

          “Truths which wake
          To perish never;
    Which neither listlessness nor mad endeavor,
          Nor man nor boy,
    Nor aught that is at enmity with joy,
    Can utterly abolish or destroy.”

And herein lies the basis of the truth in the doctrine of the
“perseverance of saints.”

§ 9. Unsatisfactory Attitude of the Orthodox Church.

We cannot but think the attitude of Orthodoxy towards this part of
Christianity to be singularly unsatisfactory and inefficient. The work of
the Church, all admit, is to convert the world to God, and so save it from
the power and evil of sin. But if this is a work which the Church has to
do, it ought surely to have some fixed method or rule by which to act. It
should not be a matter of accident whether it can do its work or not. It
should not be in doubt, every day, as to the success to come from its
efforts. If its work is to make men Christians, it ought to know how to do
it, be able to do it, and know when it is done. Such is the case with all
other work. If a man is to build a house, he does not bring together his
materials, hire his carpenters and masons, and, when all are on the
ground, sit down with them, and wait for some emotion or interior change
by which they will be enabled to go on and do their work. If we are
mechanics, merchants, lawyers, physicians, teachers, we do not wait for a
revival before we can properly fulfil our engagements. It is only in the
work of converting the world to God—the greatest and most important of
all—that such a strange system is adopted. We are told to put ourselves in
the proper place, namely, the Church; collect our materials, that is, the
means of grace; and then we are to wait until, somehow or other, we may be
able _to get religion_. Religion is made a spasm, a struggle, an agony—not
a regular work, not a steady growth. Everything about it is uncertain and
tentative. No one knows when he will become a Christian, but hopes, some
time or other, that he shall be made one. The common thought, produced by
the common Orthodox system of preaching, was expressed once in a public
meeting by Henry Clay. “I am not,” he said, “a Christian. I am sorry I am
not. I wish I were. I hope that, some day, I shall be.” He did not mean by
this to say that he was an unbeliever; but he had adopted the helpless,
passive system by which he was taught that he had nothing to do but wait
till some great change should take place in his soul.

Out of this way of thought comes the revival system, which is a curious
blending of machinery and expectation, of adroit and careful management
with reliance on some great inspiration. Crisis and development are to be
expected, no doubt; but we do not set a trap to catch the Spring. It is
ours to plant and to water, but it is God’s to give the increase. That,
therefore, should be left to him.

The revival system is Arminianism grafted on Calvinism. It is an attempt
to unite the belief that man is wholly passive in conversion, and is not
able to prepare himself thereunto, with the opposite doctrine that by a
use of means he can become a Christian. It is an attempt to unite the
Calvinistic article that God, when he chooses, calls those he has
predestined to eternal life, with the attempt to make him choose our time
and way. Such a system, disjointed at its centre, must necessarily work
badly, and result in an alternation of feverish heats and aguish chills.
To carry on the work of the Church by revivals is as unreasonable as it
would be to carry on a school, or a cotton factory, by a revival
system—alternations of violent study and work, followed by relapses into
indolence and sloth.

The Church of Rome has a great advantage over Protestant Orthodoxy in this
respect. It, too, admits revivals, and has its periods of extraordinary
attention to religion. But there is this great difference. It does not
depend on them for creating Christianity in the soul; it uses them only
for increasing its warmth and power. In the Roman Church every baptized
person is a Christian so long as he does not continue in mortal sin, but
by the regular use of the sacraments preserves his Christian life. The
essential work of the Church is done by its regular methods—by baptism,
confession, and its ritual service. In the Church of Rome, all connected
with it are Christians, and in the way of salvation. In Protestant
Orthodox churches, if any of those born and brought up in it are
Christians, it is, so far as they are concerned, a happy accident.

All this shows something wrong in the common theory of conversion. Every
one in a Christian community who desires to be a Christian ought to be
able to become one. Christianity is a gospel, because it opens the kingdom
of heaven to all. The call of the Church at the beginning was to _follow
Christ_. Any one who was willing to follow Christ was baptized at once,
and became a Christian. No one waited till he should experience some
remarkable interior change, or some influence of the Holy Ghost. The
promise at first was, that whosoever became a Christian _should_ receive
the Holy Ghost afterwards. Spiritual influences were not the condition of
Christianity, but the result of Christianity.

One bad consequence of the Orthodox idea is discouragement on the one
side, and spiritual pride on the other. Those who are not converted are
discouraged, and deprived of the comforts of Christian faith. Those who
think they have been converted are satisfied with this past experience,
and believe themselves Christians on the strength of it. Because some
spiritual commotion took place in their souls at a certain time and place,
they consider themselves children of God and heirs of his favor, though in
their daily lives they may show little proof of practical Christianity.
And the result of this, again, is a professed distrust, by the majority of
sensible men, of such conversions. Men of the world do not find that
professed Christians are better than themselves. Often, indeed, church
members are not so just, honest, manly, or truthful as those who make no
claim to religion. And the reason is simply this—that they have been
taught to believe that the essence of Christianity does not consist in
righteousness, but in certain religious experiences.

§ 10. The Essential Thing for Man is to repent and be converted; that is,
to make it his Purpose to obey God in all Things.

As far as man is concerned, repentance is the one thing needful. But by
repentance we do not mean sorrow or contrition, but simply turning round
whenever we are going wrong, and beginning at once to go right. This is
something in every man’s power, and this makes him a Christian; this gives
him a claim to all the promises and hopes of the gospel here and
hereafter. It would seem that there need be no doubt as to the nature of
repentance while the parable of the prodigal son stands in the Bible. That
divine story gives us the whole theory of repentance and
regeneration—repentance being that which comes from man, regeneration that
which is given by God. When the prodigal son was aware of his sin and
sorrow, and said, “I will arise, and go to my father;” and when he arose,
and went to his father, and confessed his sin and need, then he had
repented. It was simply going to his father with the purpose of obedience.
And when the father received him, not with reproach, but with pardon and
joy, then he was born again, introduced into a new life, into the peace,
and love, and freedom of his own home.

“One thing is needful,” said Jesus; that is, to sit at the feet of the
Master, to follow him, to become his disciple. That is all we have to do;
then we are safe. We can trust God to do his part if we do ours. He will
give us his Holy Spirit; he will give us a new heart; he will put his
peace and strength into our souls. It is not necessary to be anxious, or
to be inspecting our feelings to see if we are feeling right. All such
introspection is unnecessary if we have faith in God and his promises. We
are Christians just as long as we are obeying God and following Christ.
When we find ourselves disobedient, selfish, going wrong, then the one
thing needful is to repent and be converted. We are to come back to our

The general impression in Orthodox churches, resulting from the preaching,
is, that not much is gained by doing one’s duty unless one is regenerate.
Doing our duty does not make us Christians, does not save the soul; so,
why be particular in doing more than others, or being better than others?
Orthodox congregations believe in the new life, but not in obedience as
its necessary antecedent.

Unitarians, on the other hand, believe in obedience, but have little faith
in a higher life as attainable here. Hence a Unitarian congregation
usually consists of intelligent, virtuous, well-meaning people, but
destitute of enthusiasm, and with little confidence in the new birth or
religious life.

Unitarians believe in obedience as the one thing needful; and in this they
are right. But they are wrong in not expecting the influences which God is
always ready to give, which change the heart, and fill it with a peace
passing understanding, which make duties easy, which fill life with joy,
and take the sting from death. The Orthodox believe in all these higher
emotions and states of the soul, but unfortunately do not believe in
obedience as the one thing needful. They think that some emotional
transaction in the soul is the one thing needful.

§ 11. Regeneration is God’s Work in the Soul. Examination of the Classical
Passage, or conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus.

In the third chapter of John we have the conversation which has been made
the basis of the doctrine of the new birth.

In this conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus we have the old argument,
which is always being renewed, between the letter and the spirit, between
knowledge and insight, between routine and genius, ceremony and
inspiration, the past and the future, the goodness of habit and the
holiness born out of the living vision of good. In fact this little
dialogue may be considered as a renewal, on a higher plane, of the picture
given us by Luke of the boy Jesus in the temple talking with the doctors.

The common doctrine of the Orthodox churches about this chapter is, that
Jesus teaches here that no man can be a Christian or a good man unless he
passes through some mysterious experience, usually sudden, of which he
must be conscious, which gives him a certain definite series of very deep
feelings. First, he must feel very deeply that he is a sinner; then that
he cannot by any effort of his own become different; thirdly, that, unless
God makes him different, he never can be saved; and, lastly, he must feel
that God will change his heart, and save him. Having passed through this
kind of experience, it is assumed that he is “born again;” that he is a
Christian; that he is a new creature; that he has a new heart; that if he
dies now he will go to heaven; whereas, if he had died before, he would
have gone to hell. It is also Orthodox to believe that a man can do
nothing himself to produce this change of heart, or facilitate it.

A very interesting book was published not long ago, written by Miss
Catherine Beecher, in which she describes the sufferings caused in her own
experience by this theory of regeneration. Her father fully believed in
it, and thought it necessary to carry all his children through it somehow
or other. Their conversions, to be sure, were not all quite in rule;
especially that of Henry seems to have been a little abnormal, if we may
trust an account given by himself in an article on the dissolution of the
Bowdoin Street Church and congregation, Boston, of which his father was
the first minister. The description is so suggestive that we will quote
the passage:—

“If somebody will look in the old records of Hanover Street Church about
1829, they will find a name there of a boy about fifteen years old, who
was brought into the Church on a sympathetic wave, and who well remembers
how cold and almost paralyzed he felt while the committee questioned him
about his ‘hope’ and ‘evidences,’ which upon review amounted to this—that
the son of such a father ought to be a good and pious boy. Being
tender-hearted and quick to respond to moral sympathy, he had been caught
and inflamed in a school excitement, but was just getting over it when
summoned to Boston to join the church! On the morning of _the_ day, he
went to church without seeing anything he looked at. He heard his name
called from the pulpit among many others, and trembled; rose up with every
emotion petrified; counted the spots on the carpet; looked piteously up at
the cornice; heard the fans creak in the pews near him; felt thankful to a
fly that lit on his face, as if something familiar at last had come to
break an awful trance; heard faintly a reading of the articles of faith;
wondered whether he should be struck dead for not feeling more—whether he
should go to hell for touching the bread and wine that he did not dare to
take nor to refuse; spent the morning service uncertain whether dreaming,
or out of the body, or in a trance; and at last walked home crying, and
wishing he knew what, now that he was a Christian, he should do, and how
he was to do it. Ah, well; there is a world of things in children’s minds
that grown-up people do not imagine, though they, too, once were young!”

Now, if his state of mind, thus described, had been at that time exposed
and told, it would not have been thought a very sound Orthodox experience.
But in reality the boy was at that very time as good a Christian for a boy
as he is now for a man. But Miss Beecher, in the book referred to, tells
us that when one of her other brothers was striving in prayer for this
change of heart, with groans and struggles, the house was like a tomb. The
poor young man was in his chamber alone, and his groans and cries were
heard through the whole house. All the other members of the family staid
in their own rooms in silence, until at last, by some natural reaction of
feeling, there came a sense of rest and peace to his mind, which they
believed to be the new birth. She also describes the way in which Dr.
Payson, of Portland, tortured his little daughter, three years old, by a
torture as well meant, as conscientious, and more terrible than that of
the Holy Inquisition. He told his little daughter that she hated God; that
she must have a change of heart, but that she could not get it for
herself; and that even her prayers, until she was converted, were only
making her worse. The poor little girl denied that she hated God; she said
she was sure she loved him. Then the misguided father brought up all her
little childish faults as a proof that she hated God; for if she loved him
she would never do wrong. And so, from three years of age till she was
thirteen, this poor, infatuated parent tormented this little child by
keeping her on this spiritual rack—all because of a false view of the
passages concerning regeneration in the Bible. And when we think of the
twenty thousand pulpits which to-day are teaching in this country this
same sort of belief, it is evident that it is our duty to see what the
Master really meant to teach us by this passage.

Nicodemus is the type of a class of men common in all times. We have seen
Nicodemus very often. He is a good man whose goodness has no life in it.
His goodness is a sort of an automaton—all machinery and no soul. He is so
thoroughly right in all he does; everything about him is so proper; he is
so perfectly _en règle_ in his own eyes,—that we sometimes wish that he
might be betrayed into some impropriety, commit some not too great folly,
have some _escapade_ of rash enthusiasm. You respect him so much, you
wonder why you do not love him more. It is because he is not open to
influence. His goodness is so rigid, his opinions so declared, his
character so pronounced, that there is no crack anywhere by which God or
man can reach him. He has a whole armor of opinions all round him, and you
cannot get through it. He has narrowed himself, and shut himself in, so
that he feels no influence of sympathy coming from the wide ocean of
humanity around, no influence of love from the deep heaven of God above.
He is a sort of good rhinoceros, with a skin so thick that nothing can
pierce it.

Nicodemus was such a man, and he came to Jesus with all his opinions cut
and dried, ready for an argument. He begins in a very formal and precise
way. “Rabbi, we know thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do
these miracles that thou doest except God be with him.” He observes all
proprieties; he calls Jesus Doctor,—“Rabbi,”—but takes good care _not_ to
call him Christ. He gives his reason for thinking Jesus a teacher come
from God, namely, his miracles. Not his holiness, not his inspiration, not
his supreme sweetness, not that he is a channel through which God’s
tenderness runs down into our hearts. No; he sees no such spiritual proof
as this, but a merely logical one, expressed almost in the form of a
syllogism. Major proposition—“No man can work miracles without God’s
help.” Minor proposition—“Jesus works miracles.” Conclusion—“Therefore
Jesus has God’s help.”

Now, what does Jesus reply? Evidently much of the conversation has been
omitted. We have only the substance of it here. “You believe in the
kingdom of heaven, Nicodemus.” “Certainly.” “How do you expect to know it
when you see it?” “By some great outward signs; something which shall
shake heaven and earth; the Messiah coming in the sky, with angels.”
“Nicodemus, you cannot even see the kingdom when it is here, if you look
for it so; you must be born again yourself; you must be changed, and
become as a little child, in order to enter the kingdom.” We remember that
Peter, who was probably not half as good as Nicodemus, an impulsive soul,
was nevertheless enough of a little child, in openness of heart, to see
that this was the kingdom of heaven,—this teaching and life of Jesus,—and
that Jesus was the Messiah.

But Nicodemus says, “No. A Gentile, a heathen, ought, no doubt, to begin
at the beginning, give up all his old opinions, and be born of water by
being baptized. He should begin by a recantation. I suppose that is what
you mean by being born again. But _I_ ought not, for I am a Jew, grown up
in the true knowledge of God, learned from Moses and the prophets. So I
need not begin _my_ life again.”

Jesus then replies, “The form is nothing. You must be born not only of
water, but of the Spirit, in order to enter the kingdom of God. You need
not only to wash off all your old opinions and conduct, as the Gentiles
must do; but also you must be made a little child by laying your heart
open to God’s Spirit, and letting it lead your thoughts into new ways,
your heart into new love, and your life into new action. You must be
willing to follow me, not by night only, but in the day. If they turn you
out of the Sanhedrim, you must not mind that; you must find your happiness
in getting good and doing good; receiving God’s love into your soul, and
letting it go out again. You must give yourself up to this divine

Then Nicodemus says, “_How_ can these things be?” He wishes to see the
way, to have it all marked out; to have a creed with all its articles of
belief fixed; a programme of what he is to do arranged. The spirit he does
not quite understand. Give it to him in the letter, and he can do it. He
wants a map of the operations of the Holy Spirit.

“Are you a teacher of Israel, and do not know this?” replies Jesus. “The
whole Old Testament is full of this inspiration; full of the Spirit of God
coming and going, in a thousand ways, and not by any special rule or
method; going as the wind comes and goes in the sky, we do not know whence
or how.” It is well that some things cannot be arranged beforehand—well
that no almanac can tell if the wind to-morrow is to be east or west,
north or south.

I sit in the sweet autumn woods. I see the squirrel leap from branch to
branch. I hear the woodpecker tapping the trunk with sagacious beak,
watching when the sound shall indicate that a worm has hidden himself
below the bark. All else is calm and still. I look up and see the white
clouds drifting through the deep ocean of blue above. Then there comes a
sudden shiver through the tree-tops, a sprinkling of dry leaves on the
grass, a whisper, a rush of air; and now every tree is swinging its
branches in the breeze.

So is every one that is born of the Spirit! God comes to us all in these
uncalculated, incalculable ways. He moves our conscience by the light of
loyalty and fidelity in another soul. There comes through all the land a
fresh breeze of justice and right, and all at once we feel that we ought
to lead better lives, more manly, more true. There comes a revival of
honesty, as well as of piety. Yesterday you did not care for it; now you
do. God’s holy air of truth and right is sweeping through the land. We all
arise and say, “No matter what our fathers consented to; no matter what we
have consented to in past times; we will have no more compromises with
evil and sin, no more concessions to tyranny and cruelty.” When this
spirit comes to a nation, or to a community, it is as much a revival sent
by God, as the reformation of Luther, or the reformation of Wesley.

Jesus means to teach us here that the Spirit of God comes in a great many
different ways, comes unexpected and unforeseen, comes unapparent as the
invisible air. So came the reformation of Luther. Luther did not mean to
make a reformation, or to build a new Church.(17)

All recollect the story of the Quaker, George Fox, how he went from Church
to Church, and got no good, and at last opened his soul to God, and was
led by the Spirit into new and strange thoughts and purposes, and became a
reformer, and founder of a denomination, unintentionally. And so the
Quaker movement came—the most radical reform which ever sprang up in the
Christian Church. It abolished the ministry and sacraments, baptism, and
the Lord’s supper. It reformed the theology of Christendom, putting the
inner light above the written words. It reformed life, opposing war,
oaths, slavery, and fashion. And as it came, so is it passing away, having
done its work. As the breeze dies softly, and the leaves cease to glitter
in the sunlight, and the red leaf on the top-most twig, far up in the sky,
leaves off its airy dance, and at last hangs motionless, so the wild air
which stirred in the depths of all hearts dies away in silence, and old
opinions and old customs resume their places, yet all purified and
changed. Only those which were so wholly dead that the wind blew them
entirely away, are gone forever.

So are the changes which come in human hearts, we know not whence or how.
It is a great mistake in the Church to have a stereotyped experience, to
which all must conform. Procrustes only lopped the limbs to suit the
measure of his bed; but these rules and moulds for the spiritual life, cut
down the new man, who is made by God’s Spirit, to the earthly standard of
some narrow stunted experience of other times. This it is “to grieve the
Spirit,” and to “quench the Spirit.” For God’s Spirit goes everywhere, and
where it goes it produces the best evidence of Christianity in sweet,
holy, Christian lives. It is the wind which blows where it will, which
does not run on a railroad through the sky, or stop at any particular
stations in the clouds, or go by any time-table. God’s Spirit comes and
goes not according to any rules of ours. The publicans and sinners have
it, and show it, sometimes, instead of the Scribes and Pharisees. For so
the apostle declares that there are “differences of operation, but the
same Spirit.”

Sometimes you see a hard man, a man of the world, who has been fighting
his way through life, till he has come to rely wholly on himself, and
feels like some of those rocky reefs which stand out in the sea on our New
England coast, and have borne the onset of a thousand storms. Yet at last
he is softened. We see it, we feel it. There is a strange softness in his
tone, a gentleness in his manner, a suspicion of moisture in his eye. The
good God has been moving in his heart; perhaps it was by some trial or
disappointment, or the loss of some curly-headed darling, who went up to
heaven, and left the doors open behind, so that the joyful music which
welcomed her came down to his ears and touched his soul.

When men see that, they say, “Well, there is something in religion, after
all, if it can touch such a heart as his.”

Sometimes we see a Christian who is at first all conscience, all work.
Religion means to him, doing his duty. He intends to be a Christian, and
wishes others to be so. But it is a piece of hard work. His Christianity
reminds one of the poor woman who thought it “a chore to live.” But after
a while, we see a change—very gradual, but still very certain. He is
beginning to get acquainted with the gospel side of Christianity. He
learns to forgive himself his own sins, and so he can forgive others. His
face begins to reflect more and more of heaven. It is the change which
comes to the grapes in October. Perhaps you have some Catawba grapes on
the south side of your house, and they grow very nicely all through the
summer. They are good, large grapes well formed, good clusters, but very
sour. But by and by there comes the final change; the juice grows sweet
within the berry. There is but a very little difference in its appearance,
but a very great change _within_.

When we see this alteration in a man, we say, “There is surely something
in Christianity to produce such a change. Why, what a very sweet Christian
he has grown to be!” It took all the summer and part of the fall to do the
work; but no matter. God is not in a hurry. Some fruit ripens sooner, and
some later; that is all.

I looked up from my table as I wrote these words, and saw from my window a
tulip tree and a maple, each dressed in its royal robes of beauty—the gift
of the declining year; the green leaves of the one touched with gold, and
the other with its crimson and scarlet glories. They were full of
sunlight, and made the whole landscape glad and gay. No Tyrian loom could
rival the purple splendors and deep crimson of these trees. Why does God
give all this varied beauty to the October woods, so that Solomon in all
his glory was not arrayed like one of these oaks or maples? Is not this
also to touch our hearts with a sense of his love? An autumn ride is also
a means of grace; quite as much so, perhaps, as a tract or sermon. If we
see God in nature, then nature may also be the source of a new birth to

    “One impulse from the autumn wood
      May teach us more of man,
    Of moral evil and of good,
      Than all the sages can.”

What I understand Jesus, then, to teach in this passage, is, that we must
become as little children, in order to see heavenly things; that, like
new-born babes, we must receive meekly the milk of the word of God; that
spiritual influences are all around us, invisible—incalculable: that not
by the regular outward means of religion alone, but by a thousand other
ways, God comes to us. He means that we should believe in the presence and
nearness of God’s Spirit always; that we should open our hearts and minds
to be led by it into truth and love. He meant the very opposite of what he
has been made to mean. He did not mean that all souls must pass through
one and the same religions experience, but that, as the wind blows a
thousand ways, so God’s Spirit comes to the heart by a thousand ways. So
coming, it makes the hard heart tender, the rude will gentle, the selfish
soul generous, gives the reckless a new sense of responsibility. Jesus
means that we should not be discouraged because we find it hard to correct
our faults, or to enter into God’s love. God’s Spirit comes to us when we
cannot go to find it. God’s love comes into our hearts when we long for
it, look for it, wait for it.

Look up, then, poor trembling heart; look up, and see God near. Look up,
hard heart, and feel the soft showers of divine grace coming down to make
everything tender. Look up, and be made new creatures, become as little
children, be born anew, every day, into a fresh inspiration, faith, and
hope; and so enter every day the kingdom of heaven!

§ 12. Evidences of Regeneration.

The common Orthodox method is to require and expect evidence of the
Christian change. As we have already said, a Christian is expected to know
and to be able to tell when, where, and under what circumstances he
entered into the new life.

But, perhaps, the preliminary question is, Ought we to have, and can we
have, any evidence at all of the new life? And to this question many reply
in the negative, and with very good reason.

The new life is a hidden life; a “life hid with Christ in God.” Its
essence is love, and love is an inward sentiment, not an outward act.
Conviction demands utterance; actions speak louder than words; but love is
accustomed to hide itself away in the heart, and to be known only to its
object, and that indirectly. _Evidences of love!_ What should we think of
asking of young people coming to be married, the evidences that they loved
each other; obliging them to give an account of their experience; to say
when, where, and how they began first to care for each other; and then, if
the evidence was satisfactory, allowing them to be married! Why, then, ask
of the soul wishing to be united with God and Christ in a Christian
covenant, to tear open the folded bud of this tender affection, analyze it
metaphysically, measure it mathematically, and cross-examine it as a
witness suspected of falsehood is questioned by lawyers before a jury?

What do we know of this new life? what can we tell of it? Almost always it
comes to us gradually and unconsciously. It is veiled in shadows, misty
lights, and neutral tints. The second life comes like the first. The child
is born, and knows not of the awful change from not being to being—the
immense event of passage from unconscious existence to conscious life. For
consciousness dawns slowly, imperceptibly. The infant is long immersed in
outward things. Years pass before it becomes aware of the fact that it
exists, before it begins to look in and see itself in the mirror of
reflection. So, probably, will it also be, when we pass from this life
into the next. We shall, perhaps, awaken very gradually, in the future
life, to the knowledge that we are in another state. As the little child
becomes quite at home in this world before he thinks to ask how he came
here, so probably in the other world we shall become quite at home with
the angels, before we shall begin to say, “I am in heaven.”

All the births of time partake of this quality. They do not reflect on
themselves, are not surprised at themselves, but come as a matter of
course. Years after, when the early heat of the new life has grown cold,
the historians and biographers arrive to examine it in the crucible of
their painful analysis, and to tell us how wonderful it is.

How can any man _prove that he is alive_? Why _should_ he prove it? Let
his life show itself, but not try to prove itself. Let its light shine,
and those who see its good and joy will glorify the Father in heaven who
has sent it.

The mistake here, as before, is in confounding conversion and

Including in the terms “conversion” and “repentance” the whole activity of
the will, the religious purpose, the aim of life, it is, no doubt, of the
utmost importance to see, continually, what it is. “Know thyself” is a
heaven-descended maxim, if we understand by it that we are to watch
ourselves always, and see whither we are going. We need continually to
know the direction of our life, whether it is _to_ God or _from_ him;
whether it is upward or downward; whether we are following truth, and
justice, and love, or following our own selfish desires and will. In this
sense self-examination is both possible and necessary.

When the great ocean steamer is in the midst of the mighty Atlantic, it is
necessary to watch continually its direction, and keep it always heading
the right way. Day and night, therefore, the man stands sleepless at the
helm, his eye always turning from the compass to the ship’s head, with
unfailing vigilance. But it is not thought necessary to inspect the
interior of the boilers, or to examine the quality of the fire. If steam
enough is made, and the wheels revolve, that is enough.

The new life into which we enter by the new birth has this one
character—that it gives us for a motive, not fear, but hope; not law, but
love; not constraint, but joy. Prayer is not a duty, but the spontaneous
impulse of the child, to seek and find its father. Work is not drudgery
but satisfaction, when the motive is to serve the great cause of Christ.
The only real evidence, therefore, that we are born of God, is, that we
have the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, and peace. The tree is known by
its fruits, and these are the appropriate fruits of the new life. When we
find them, let us gladly receive them; but if we do not find them, let us
at least be glad that if not yet new-born, we are, nevertheless,
converted; if not sons, at least servants. We have the one thing needful
when we have the right purpose; sooner or later, we shall also have the
happy life. When we do right, we sow to the Spirit, and we shall, in due
season, reap life everlasting.

As regards the evidence of the new life, too much stress, we think, has
been laid on outward profession, ceremonies, religious language, religious
acts. Because a man professes religion, it is no evidence that he is
religious. Because he partakes of the Lord’s supper, or prays openly, or
speaks in the habitual religious language of his sect, it is no evidence
of his religious life. Many persons are quite comforted if one who has led
an immoral life says on his death-bed that he “trusts in the atoning blood
of Christ.” But this may be a mere word.

All ceremonies and prayers are means, but none of them are evidence, of a
state. The only evidences are the fruits of the Spirit. “The tree is known
by its fruits.” “The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace,
long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

Let us remember that though a man may be converted, and not as yet be
regenerate, he cannot be regenerate unless he is converted; that is, there
can be no true piety, no love, no faith, no spiritual religion, except
there be a sincere and determined purpose of righteousness beneath it.
There may be true morality without piety, but there cannot be a true piety
without a true morality. The law must precede the gospel.
Conscientiousness must go before love, to prepare its way. “That is not
first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and _afterwards_ that
which is spiritual.”

The _first_ question, therefore, to ask ourselves, is not, “Do I love
God?” but, “Do I obey God?” Every man’s own soul, if sincere, can answer
that question. “If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart.”
“If our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God.”

But if we are obeying God, then let us believe in a higher life which God
has to bestow, and believing, seek for it. It is not earned, it is not a
reward, it is not by works; but it is very nigh and close at hand; it is
ready to be given to those who believe in it and look for it.

So, if the question be asked, “Is man active or passive in this process?”
the answer is, that he is active in conversion, receptive in regeneration.

So in regard to faith and works. “We are justified by faith;” but
justification is the sense of God’s forgiving love which is received into
an open heart. Justification is not salvation; it is only a step in that
direction, and a preparation for it.

And now we ask, “Why is it, if this new life is a gift, do not all good
men receive it?” The answer is, “There are conditions. All good men do not
believe in it. Some believe that duty is every thing; that Christianity
consists _wholly_ in obedience. They know nothing higher, and therefore
seek for nothing higher. Regeneration they hear of, but think it something
mystical, miraculous, unnatural, and, to say the truth, not very
attractive. If they believed in a life of love and trust, a life free from
the burden of anxiety, they would surely desire it.”

Those also who believe in it do not always believe it is for themselves.
They think it not meant for common people in the midst of common life, but
for some special saintship. They do not believe in this divine life
flowing into every heart and soul, high and low, wise and ignorant, be it
only sincere, honest, and believing.

Yet it is like the life of nature, which in the abounding spring-time
comes down from the skies, and flows not only into the majestic tree,
swelling at once its myriad buds, but also into every seed, and root, and
weed, awakening them all.

This is what we need for peace, for real progress, for present comfort,
for future joy.

It is communion with God, it is receiving his love, it is accepting his
forgiveness, and living day by day as his beloved children.


§ 1. Orthodox Doctrine stated.

Having considered the Orthodox idea of man in his natural state, and of
man in his supernatural state, we next pass to consider the Orthodox idea
of Christ’s person and of Christ’s work. In this chapter we shall consider
the Orthodox view of the person of Christ, and ask what is its substantial
truth, and what its formal error.

The Orthodox opinion concerning Christ is thus stated in the Assembly’s
Confession of Faith: “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity,
being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father,
did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with
all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without
sin; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures—the Godhead and the
Manhood—were inseparably joined together in one person, which person is
very God and very Man.”

Christ, therefore, was perfectly God and perfectly man. The formula is,
“_two natures, but one person_.” The Orthodox doctrine is not of God
dwelling in a human body as its soul (which seems to be the view of
Swedenborg), but it is of God united with a human soul and body as one
person or one consciousness.

§ 2. This Doctrine gradually developed.

This idea of Christ, as we know, was gradually formed in the Christian
Church, and did not become Orthodox until after many struggles. First came
the question whether the Deity of Christ was equal or subordinate to that
of the Father. Hardly had the Orthodox doctrine triumphed over that of
subordination, against those who denied the equal Deity, than it was
obliged to turn round and contend against those on the other side, who
denied the humanity of Christ altogether. The Ebionites considered Jesus
as a mere man. Theodotus, in the year 200, taught the same, with Artemon
and Praxeas. In the next century the Arians and Sabellians opposed
Orthodoxy from opposite sides,—the one confounding the persons of the
Godhead, and the other dividing the substance. So for several centuries
the pendulum of opinion swung from one side to the other before it rested
in the golden mean of Orthodoxy.

The Nestorians separated the two natures of Christ, and maintained that
his Divinity consisted only in the indwelling of God. But scarcely had
Nestorius been banished for separating the two natures than Eutyches
plunged into heresy on the other side, by confounding them together. This
was the Monophysite heresy; and no sooner was this overthrown, and it was
decided to be wrong to say that Christ had only one nature, than others
began to contend that he had only one will. These were the Monothelites.
But through all these controversies, the main doctrine of Orthodoxy
continues to shine out luminous and distinct, asserting that Christ
combines the fulness of Deity and the fulness of Humanity.

§ 3. Unitarian Objections.

As this view of the Deity of Christ has been stated, it seems, in its
doctrinal form, contradictory to Scripture as well as to reason. That the
infinite God, who fills the universe, and sustains it; present in the
smallest insect; present in the most distant nebula, whose light just
arriving at our eye has been a million of years on its journey,—that this
infinite Being should have been born in Palestine, seems to confute itself
by its very statement. Who took care of the universe when God was an
infant in the arms of the Virgin Mary? Jesus was born, and died; but God
cannot be born, and cannot die. Jesus suffered from hunger, fatigue, and
pain; but God cannot suffer. Jesus was seen by human eyes, and touched by
human hands; but no man hath seen God at any time. Jesus had a finite
body; but God is Spirit. Jesus was tempted; but God cannot be tempted with
evil. Jesus prayed; but God cannot pray. Jesus said, “My Father is greater
than I;” but God has no one greater than himself. Jesus said, “I can of
mine own self do nothing;” but God can of his own self do everything.
Jesus said “that he came down from heaven not to do his own will;” but God
always does his own will. Jesus said that there were some things he did
not know; but God knows everything. He declared that all power was _given_
to him in heaven and earth; but God’s power cannot be given to him.
Scripture, therefore, as well as common sense, seems to deny the Orthodox
doctrine of the Deity of Christ.

The common Trinitarian answer to these texts is, that Christ is speaking
in his human nature when he asserts these limitations. But this answer, as
Dr. Bushnell has well shown, is no answer; for, as he says, “it not only
does an affront to the plain language of Scripture, but virtually denies
any real unity between the human and the divine.” Jesus does not say, “All
power in heaven and earth is given _to my human nature_,” but “to _me_;”
and when the Trinitarian himself declares that in Christ, with two
natures, there is but _one person_, the question is concerning that one
person, whether _that_ is finite or infinite, absolute or dependent,
omniscient or not so, omnipresent or not so, omnipotent or not so. The
question does not concern his nature, but himself. The one person must be
either finite or infinite: it cannot be both.

§ 4. Substantial Truth in this Doctrine.

But now we ask, What substantial truth underlies this formal error? What
truth of life underlies this error of doctrine? Let us remember how empty
the world was of God at the time of Christ’s coming. The wisest men could
speak thus with Pliny: “All religion is the offspring of necessity,
weakness, and fear. What God is,—if in truth he be anything distinct from
the world,—it is beyond the power of man’s understanding to know.” All
intelligent men agreed that if God existed he could not possibly take any
interest in the affairs of the world or of individuals. Phariseeism on the
one hand, and Sadduceeism on the other,—a religion hardened into forms,
and an empty scepticism, cold and dead,—divided the world between them.
But men cannot live without God, and be satisfied. They were feeling after
him, if haply they might find him, who is not far from any one of us.

Then Christ came; and in all that he said and did, he spoke from the
knowledge of God; he acted from the life of God. Here was one, then, at
last, to whom God was not an opinion, but a reality; through whose life
flowed the life of God in a steady current. We see that all sincere souls
who came near Jesus received from him the same sight of God which he
possessed; for faith in a living and present God is so congenial to the
nature of man, that it carries conviction with it wherever it is not a
mere opinion, but a state of the soul.

Those, therefore, who could find God nowhere else, found him in Christ.
Those who saw _him_, saw the Father. As when through a window we behold
the heavens, as when in a mirror we see an image of the sun, we do not
speak of the window or the mirror, but say that we see the sun and the
heavens, so those who looked at Christ said that they saw God.

The apostle said that God was in Christ; and this was wholly true.
Christians afterwards said that Christ was God; and they thought they were
only saying the same thing. They said that Christ had a divine nature as
well as a human nature; and in this also there was no essential falsehood,
for when we speak of our nature, we intend merely by it those elements of
character which are original and permanent, which are not acquired, do not
alter, and are never lost. God dwelt in the soul of Christ thus
constantly, thus permanently. The Word thus “became flesh, and dwelt among
us.” The word of the Lord _came_ to the prophets, but it _dwelt_ in
Christ. He and his Father were one. The vital truth of all this was that
men were now able to see God manifested in man as a living, present
reality. “_Here_,” they said, “is God. We have found God. He is in Christ.
We can see him there.”

Is it any wonder that men should have called Jesus God? that they should
call him so still? In him truly “dwelt the fulness of the Godhead bodily;”
and this indwelling Spirit expressed itself in what he said and what he
did. When Jesus speaks, it is as if God speaks. When Jesus does anything,
it is as if we saw God do it. It becomes to us an expression of the divine
character. When Jesus says to the sinner, “Go and sin no more,” we see in
this a manifestation not merely of his own compassion, but of God’s
forgiving love; and when he dies, although God cannot die, yet he dies
according to the divine will, and thus expresses God’s willingness to
suffer for the redemption of the world.

§ 5. Formal Error of the Orthodox Statement.

When we look at Christ’s Divinity from this point of view, the distinction
between the Trinitarian and Unitarian seems almost to disappear. Still the
question remains, Is it right to call him God? The distinction remains
between saying, “God was in Christ,” and saying, “Christ was God.” In
short, was the _person_ of Christ human or divine? We agree with the
Orthodox in saying that Christ had two natures—a divine nature and a human
nature. We also maintain with them that he had one person. But the
question comes, Was that one person divine or human, finite or infinite,
dependent or absolute? The consciousness of the one person is a single
consciousness. Christ could not at the same time have been conscious of
knowing all things and of not knowing all things, of having all power and
of not having it, of depending on God for all things and of not depending
for anything. One of two things alone is possible. Either Christ was God
united with a human soul, or he was a human soul united with God. When
Christ uses the personal pronoun “I,” he must mean by that “_I_” either
the finite man or the infinite God. I believe the Unitarian is right in
saying that this personal pronoun “I” always refers to the finite being
and consciousness, and not to the infinite Being. For example: “_I am not
alone, but I and the Father that sent me._” “_I proceeded forth and came
from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me._” God cannot proceed
from God; God cannot send God. Again: “If I honor myself, my honor is
nothing; it is my Father that honoreth me.” This cannot mean, “If God
honors God, his honor is nothing; but it is God that honors him.” It must
mean that the human being, Christ, receives his honor from the divine
Being. This view—that the person of Christ is human, but is intimately
united and in perfect union with the indwelling God—makes all Scripture
intelligible. Any other view is either unintelligible or contradictory.
This view of the divine nature of Christ united with the human person, of
God dwelling in the flesh, does not confound the mind like the common
Trinitarian view, and yet has a value for the heart of paramount
importance. If Christ is really a man like ourselves, made in all respects
like his brethren, and yet is thus at one with God, thus full of God, it
shows us that sin and separation from God are accidental things, and not
anything necessary. If Jesus is truly a man, he redeems and exalts
humanity. What he has been is a type of what all men may be. Thus the
apostle Paul speaks when he says that all things were created in Christ,
who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that he might go
before us, or be our leader in all things; which is a much higher view
than the common understanding of the passage, which merely supposes him to
have been God’s instrument in creating the physical universe. He is the
image of the invisible God—the first-born of the whole creation. This
creation is the new creation—that which is intended in Revelation (3:14),
where Christ is spoken of as the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the
Beginning of the creation of God, and that which Paul means when he says
that in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is worth
anything, “but the new creation.”

All such passages refer, as it seems to us, not to a past natural
creation, but to a supernatural creation—a creation of life eternal,
which, beginning in Christ, is to embrace the whole of humanity.

§ 6. Errors of Arianism and Naturalism.

And we cannot but think this doctrine far truer, as well as more Orthodox,
than the Arianism which so long struggled in the Church for supremacy.
That view which supposed that Christ was neither truly man nor truly God,
but some high, preëxisting being between the two, appears to us to be the
falsest and most unsatisfactory of all the doctrines concerning Christ’s
person. It separates him more entirely from our sympathies than either of
the others. It destroys both his divinity and his humanity, and, by giving
us something intermediate, gives us really nothing. It makes his apparent
human life a delusion, his temptation unreal, his human sympathies and
sorrows deceptive. We think, therefore, that the Church was right in
rejecting the Arian doctrine.

We think it was also right in rejecting the Humanitarian doctrine, or that
of mere Naturalism. Christ was something more than mere man,—something
more than Moses and Elijah,—something more than a man of great religious
genius. The peculiarity of Christ was, that he was chosen by God’s wisdom,
and prepared by God’s providence, to be the typical man of the race,—the
God-man, in whom the divine Spirit and human soul become one in a perfect
union. He was, perhaps, placed, by an exceptional birth, where the first
Adam stood,—rescued from inherited depravity, made in the image of God.
Then the Spirit was given him without measure. The word of God _dwelt_ in
him, and did not merely come to him as a transient influence for a special
purpose. Add to this a freely chosen aim of life, and a fidelity which was
always about his Father’s business, and aiming to finish the work which
was given him to do, and we have a being in whom we can see either a
manifestation of God or a manifestation of man. The Spirit in Christ was
one with God; the soul and body were human.


§ 1. This Doctrine of Paul not obsolete.

That portion of the New Testament which speaks so earnestly of
justification by faith is by many supposed to have become obsolete for all
useful purposes at the present time. The doctrine that “we are justified
by faith, and not by works,” it is supposed, was intended for the benefit
of the Jews alone, and to amount to this—that admittance to the privileges
of the gospel is to be obtained, not by practising the ceremonies and
external ritual of the Jewish law, but by a simple belief in Jesus Christ.
Accordingly, as no one nowadays endeavors to become a Christian by
practising the Jewish ceremonies, we suppose that there is no present need
of this doctrine; and when we come upon it in the Scripture, we turn over
the pages in search of something more practical and profitable. As, in the
book of Acts, we read, that, “when Paul was about to open his mouth,
Gallio said unto the Jews, If it were a matter of wrong or wicked
lewdness, O Jews, reason would that I should bear with you; but if it be a
question of words and names, and of your law, look ye to it; for I will be
no judge of such matters,” so we, when Paul is about to open his mouth to
speak to us of this doctrine, think it a mere question of words and names,
and of the Jewish law, and interrupt him to ask him for something
_practical_. If he has anything to say to us of wrong-doing or wicked
conduct, it would be reasonable to hear him; but we will be no judge of
such matters as this.

There are also many persons, who, while they can understand the Gospels
and enjoy them, find it difficult to understand and enjoy the writings of
the apostle Paul. Among these writings, the most difficult is the Epistle
to the Romans, and especially that part of it which treats of this
doctrine of justification by faith. Anything which can be done to remove
this difficulty will do good; for the writings of Paul are so intimately
connected with the rest of the New Testament, that it is not easy to
reject them, and yet to believe the rest. It can be done, no doubt; but it
is done with difficulty. It is as if one part of the foundation of the
house had given way: perhaps the house will not fall; but it has become
unsafe. It is as if a part of the wall of a city had been battered down:
the breach may be defensible from within; but it is also practicable from
without. At all events, we miss the satisfaction of a complete faith,
perfect and entire, round and full.

Besides, may there not be something important for us to know in this part
of the New Testament? Are we quite sure we do not need these very
doctrines, and that they will do us good?

We have said that it is sometimes thought that the questions discussed by
Paul were only Jewish questions,—not human questions; that they belonged
only to that time, not to all time. But, though the form which they
assumed was temporary and local, there is reason to believe that the
substance of the question is one belonging to human nature in every age;
that it is the question of the spirit and the letter, the substance and
the form, the root and the branches, the inside of religion and the
outside. While contending against a particular Jewish error, the apostle
unfolded principles by which similar errors may be opposed and refuted in
every age.

At all events, it is a matter of fact, that there seldom has been in the
Church any great religious movement which has not immediately gone back to
the apostle Paul, and planted itself on his doctrine of justification by
faith. This was the watchword of Luther, and the soul of the reformation.
Luther and his companions armed themselves with this doctrine to contend
against the great power of the Papacy and the Romish Church.

Let us, then, endeavor to see what we can of the truth there may be in
this doctrine.

§ 2. Its Meaning and Importance.

And, first, let us see what the doctrine does not mean, and what it does

To be justified by faith does not mean that we are to be saved by our
opinions. To say that a man can be saved by holding certain opinions,
instead of certain other opinions, is to say what is contradicted by all
experience; for experience shows us that there are good men holding every
variety of opinion, and bad men holding every variety of opinion. But God
saves men by making them good: therefore men are not saved by their
opinions. Let us suppose that men are to be saved by the opinion that
Jesus is the Christ: then we ought to find that all men holding that
opinion are on the way of salvation; that is, are becoming good men. But
this is far from being the case. In fact, the connection between mere
opinion of any kind, and goodness, is very distant and indirect. No doubt,
in the long run, opinion affects character; but it is only in the long run
that it does so. And, at all events, the doctrine of the New Testament is
very distinct and decided, that men may hold very sound opinions, and yet
not be in the way of salvation. The Scribes and Pharisees held very sound
opinions; and Jesus told his disciples to do whatever they said, but not
to imitate their works; for their doctrine was much better than their

Nor does the apostle mean to say that one can be saved without morality.
He certainly does not mean to undervalue goodness; for, in that case, he
would contradict his own teachings, which uniformly declare, as all the
rest of the Bible declares, that without holiness no man can see the Lord.
It is certainly a very superficial view which is satisfied with supposing
that an earnest man, as the apostle certainly was, devoting his life, as
he certainly did, to the teaching of Christianity, with such a grand
intellect as he certainly possessed, could assert with so much energy a
doctrine plainly contradicting common sense, daily observation, the plain
teachings of Jesus, and his own uniform doctrine elsewhere.

Some persons have a short method of getting over the difficulty by saying
that Paul did not himself know what he meant. They assume that he was
talking at random. It would be about as wise, when we open Newton’s
“Principia,” and cannot understand it, to say that Newton was talking at
random; or, when we cannot understand Plato or some other profound
metaphysician, to declare directly that he did not himself know what he
was talking about. No doubt, this is the shortest and easiest way of
getting out of such difficulties, but perhaps not the most modest, nor the
most wise.

When an earnest man, a profound man, a man in the highest degree
practical, a man who has done the greatest work for Christianity which has
been done since its foundation, sums up his doctrine in a comprehensive
maxim like this, it is, perhaps, wise to admit, at once, that he had a
meaning, and probably an important one.

“No doubt he _had_ a meaning,” it may be said; “but has he any meaning
_now_? His formula meant something for the Jews; but does it mean anything
for us? Is not this merely a Jewish question, with which we have nothing
to do?”

This is another easy way of getting over difficulties. In reading the New
Testament, when we come to a place where we are stopped by something which
looks deep and is dark, we are often told, “That darkness is not depth: it
is the shadow of a Jewish error which lies across the path.”

Have we not often felt dissatisfied, when, approaching some great saying
of Christ and his apostles from which we hoped to gain new insight, we
have been told, “That has nothing to do with _us_. The Jews had such and
such an opinion, and this was meant to show them their mistake”? So the
great and earnest words of the Bible, which we thought to be full of
spirit and life, are found to be only fossil remains of old opinions, of
opinions long since passed away—good for nothing but to be put into the
museums of antiquaries, and paraded by scholastic pedants.

But, after all, take it on the lowest ground, were not the Jews men? Did
they not, as a race, represent some element, common, in a less degree, to
the rest of mankind? and therefore is there not in each of us something of
that Jewish element? Are not we also sometimes Jews, therefore liable to
Jewish errors, and needing to have them corrected? The Jews did not live
in vain: their struggles, errors, hopes, were for the benefit of humanity.
We were to learn something by their mistakes, and to be taught something
by their experience.

Another way of treating such a passage is to translate it into some
trivial, insignificant commonplace. Thus, we are told, our doctrine only
means that “_God does not approve a man merely for going through a routine
of outward, formal ceremonies, but for a thoroughly religious life._” This
explanation assumes that the apostle is here talking to simpletons, and
that what he says is no more worth listening to by us than the prattle of
a nurse to her infant.

There are, therefore, four ways of explaining this passage, none of which
are satisfactory. These are, that Paul,—

1. Was teaching a self-evident absurdity;

2. Was teaching a self-evident truism;

3. Was teaching nothing, and only talking at random;

4. Was correcting a Jewish error, which only the Jews ever had, or are
ever likely to have.

If these views are not satisfactory to us, the simplest way would seem to
be, first, to endeavor to understand precisely what the Jewish error was,
and then to see if there is anything like it in ourselves, and if there be
anything which we can learn from this old argument which will be, not old,
but new for our time and for all time, because a part of the tendencies of
man. Let us translate these old terms—_justification_, _faith_,
_works_—into their modern equivalents, and see what they mean for us at
the present time.

We have shown that we may be mistaken in supposing this Orthodox doctrine
of justification to be of merely local and temporary interest, having no
permanent value. It is not likely that a man like Paul, of so large, so
deep, so philosophic a mind, should have devoted himself so earnestly, and
returned so fondly, to a theme involving no universal and eternal
principles, whose interest was to perish with the hour. It is not probable
that, in this small volume of writings of the new covenant,—this precious
gift of God to the world in all ages and in every nation,—so large a
portion should be devoted to a wholly temporary argument; and, more than
all, it is a most remarkable fact, that whenever there arises a man
uniting a deeper spirit of piety with a larger sense of liberty than other
men,—a man commissioned by God to give a new religious impulse to his age,
and to help Christianity to shake itself free from the cumbrous mass of
human forms and traditions which have crushed it, and to go forth in its
native grace and loveliness again,—some profound instinct should always
lead him to this doctrine as to a weapon effectual for pulling down the
strongholds of bigotry, scepticism, and spiritual death. Sir James
Mackintosh somewhere says, that the great movement which shook Christendom
to its centre, and did more to change and reform society than the
political revolutions and wars of a thousand years, originated with an
obscure Augustinian monk preaching the doctrine of justification by faith.
This acute Scotchman saw, what all must see who read Luther’s writings
with any attention, that it was no accident, no temporal interest, which
led him to lay such stress on this doctrine. It was the soul of his
preaching, the essence of his doctrine, the secret of his strength, the
life of his life. And so, when Wesley and the early Methodists were called
upon to pour new religious life into the English Church, they fell back on
this doctrine—this ancient sword of the Spirit. And so we may believe that
it has a value for all ages; that it did not relate merely to Jewish
usages, but is a principle of vital and everlasting application.

No doubt that if by faith we understand intellectual belief, or the assent
to opinions, and if by works we understand true obedience, and by
justification final salvation or actual goodness, there can scarcely be a
greater absurdity than to say that a man is justified by faith, and not by
works. To say that goodness, in the sight of God, consists in receiving
certain opinions, rather than in true obedience, is a most unscriptural
and irrational doctrine.

But none of the great reformers of whom I have spoken, and no profound
theologians of any sect or school, have ever held the doctrines of
justification by faith in this way. Neither Luther nor Wesley ever made
faith synonymous with intellectual belief or opinion. “What is faith?”
said Wesley. “Not an opinion, nor any number of opinions put together, be
they ever so true. A string of opinions is no more Christian faith than a
string of beads is Christian holiness. It is not an assent to any opinion,
or any number of opinions. A man may assent to three or three and twenty
creeds, he may assent to all the Old and New Testament, and yet have no
Christian faith at all.”

But what is the true doctrine of justification by faith, as taught in the
Scriptures, and as inspiring these great reformers? This is naturally our
next inquiry.

§ 3. Need of Justification for the Conscience.

There is nothing in the nature of man more paradoxical than conscience. It
is that which lifts him to God; and yet it is that which makes him capable
of sin, and without which he could not be a sinner. It gives him the sense
of right, but at the same time makes him conscious of wrong. It makes him
capable of duty, but thereby also capable of disobedience. It shows us
what we ought to do, without giving us the least strength wherewith to do
it. It condemns us for not doing right, even when we have no power to do
anything but what is wrong. It shows us a great ideal of goodness to which
we ought to aspire, and discourages us by the very loftiness of the
standard. It tells us in the same breath that we are sinners, and that we
ought to be angels. It seems at the same time to elevate and degrade us.
It elevates us by giving a great object to life, and making it serious and
earnest; but it degrades us by making us constantly ashamed of ourselves,
and keeping us in a perpetual state of humiliation. Now, one of the chief
peculiarities of the conscience is, that beyond a certain point, the more
we try to obey it, the less satisfaction we have. We know that this is not
the usual theory. We are commonly told that the conscientious man is
always contented and happy,—satisfied with himself, and at peace with God.
But facts contradict this theory. The conscientious man is apt to be very
much dissatisfied with himself,—much, more so than the man whose
conscience is torpid and indifferent. There is comfort in faithful work;
no doubt there is great content in the steady performance of regular
duties; but here conscience is subordinate to work. It is _work_ which
gives contentment; but CONSCIENCE, when thoroughly roused by the strong
meat of a divine law, is the source of much self-dissatisfaction. How can
it be otherwise? It shows us that we ought to _love God and love man with
all our heart, soul, mind, strength_. Which of us does it? Do you? Do I?
How large a part of our life have we given to the service of God? how
large a part to the service of our neighbor? How often do we thank God for
his goodness? How often do we pray to him? how often _think_ of him? If we
do not think of him, of course we do not love him.

Love makes us very thoughtful of another’s wishes. When people love each
other, they joy in thinking of each other; they treasure souvenirs of each
other; they like to make each other presents of things they think will
please; they steal an hour from daily cares or nightly rest to write
letters to each other. Our heavenly Father’s arms are around us all
day,—his infinite bounty blessing us, his careful providence making for us
home, friends, all; yet we do not think of him, or wish to do anything to
please him.

Conscience tells us that our heart is hard and cold to our best Friend;
and that is by no means a pleasant piece of information.

Moreover, it is evident that this condition of self-dissatisfaction is not
a good one. _Self-reproach may be a wholesome medicine, but it is a bad
food._ We cannot do our work while we are finding fault with ourselves.
The man whose conscience is always tormenting him is in a morbid state. He
is a spiritually sick man,—sick of too much medicine. What must be done?
He is always looking at his sins, and that disqualifies him for doing his
duties. What shall he do?

This question in its Jewish form is stated thus: HOW SHALL HE BE JUSTIFIED
BEFORE GOD? If God can excuse him, he can excuse himself. How, then, can
he know that God looks at him not as a sinner, but as a just man, so that
he can look on himself not as a sinner, but as a just man? This is the
problem. What are its solutions?

In the Jewish mind, the Jewish law had brought the conscience into an
extremely irritable state. The same effect, in a less degree, is produced
by the Catholic confessional.

§ 4. Reaction of Sin on the Soul.

Now, the consequences of sin are these: First, every act of sin brings
after it natural evil consequences. It weakens the strength of the soul,
it darkens the spiritual eye, it hardens the heart, it adds a new link to
the chain of evil habit. By a result as inevitable as the law of
gravitation, every act of sin pollutes, darkens, weakens the spiritual
principle in man. “He who sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap
corruption.” We may call these results the _external_ consequences of sin,
because they change our spiritual relation and position in God’s external
universe. But there is another more awful and as inevitable consequence of
sin. It alienates us from God himself. It turns our face from the Source
of life and love. It makes us at war with him. It fills us with the sense
of his displeasure, and burdens us with the consciousness of guilt. To
escape the dreadful sense of his anger, we hide ourselves from him, as
Adam did. It is a law of the human mind that we dread the sight of any one
whom we have wronged, because it condemns us. Perhaps he may be perfectly
willing to forgive us; perhaps he does not even know that we have wronged
him; but we cannot bear to see him, notwithstanding. It was a profound
feeling of this law which led an ancient historian to say, “He hated him
because he had injured him.” Thus an active conscience, if it does not
make a man better, will make him worse: to escape its torture he will
plunge into new crimes. Some of the darkest crimes which stain the page of
history may be traced to this source,—to the operation of a conscience
strong enough to produce the sense of guilt, but not strong enough to
produce the determination to reform. It is related that when the mother of
Charles IX. of France and his uncles were urging the young king to consent
to the execution of some of the principal Protestants to whom he was
strongly attached, after a long resistance, when he at last gave way, it
was with these remarkable words: “I consent, then, but only on one
condition,—that you do not leave a Huguenot in France to reproach me with
it.”(18) And hence the Bartholomew Massacre, which its authors had
intended before only to include a few individuals. So sin takes occasion
by the law, and the commandment ordained for life becomes death.

The same principle operates with respect to God. We have broken his law.
We feel that he must be displeased with us; we therefore hide ourselves
from him, turn away from him, avoid the thought of him, are alienated from
him. This is the greatest evil of sin, and this we may call the inward
consequence of sin, because it affects our inward relation to God rather
than our outward relation to the universe.

And now, how are we to be reconciled to God? How are we to be freed from
this sense of guilt which falls on us in his presence, and makes us fear
and shun him?

§ 5. Different Methods of obtaining Forgiveness.

There are two ways in which, when we have injured our brother, and so have
become estranged from him, we may become reconciled again, and freed from
a sense of shame in his presence. One is by endeavoring to atone for the
evil we have done by acts of kindness, by expressions of penitence. So at
last we may feel that we have done him far more good than evil; and though
he may not forgive us or be reconciled to _us_, we, on our part, may feel
freed from any shame in his presence, and be reconciled to _him_. The
other way is by _his_ coming to _us_, and _proving_ to us, by his conduct
and words, that he is not estranged from us by our bad conduct; that he
loves us as ever. So he will overcome our evil by his good, and reconcile
us to him.

The pagan nations in all ages and lands have taken the first way of being
reconciled to God. Oppressed by a guilty fear of their terrible idols,
they have brought as gifts to their altars what they had most valuable;
they have hung their gold, their jewels, in the temple; they have slain
their cattle on the shrine. Still unable to pacify their trembling hearts,
they have gone farther, and sought to prove the sincerity at least of
their repentance by self-inflicted tortures, and by giving even their
children’s lives to the bloody power whom they worshipped. Hence
sacrifices: they originated in the very same feeling which induces a man
to give a present to one whom he has wronged, to appease him.

Pagan religions are founded, therefore, wholly on the first mode of
reconciliation. The offending party comes to him whom he has injured, and
does something to pacify him. But these religions never brought peace to
the heart of the worshipper. After the wretched mother had dropped her
infant into the burning arms of Moloch, she still had no evidence that his
wrath was turned away.

In the religion of Moses, the first mode of reconciliation was united with
the second. Pitying the weakness of man, the law allowed him to bring his
sacrifice of birds or beasts or the fruits of the soil, and place it on
God’s altar as an expiation and atoning offering for his sin; and then,
the suppliant, having faith in the permanent presence of God in the holy
of holies, was received again to favor and assured of pardon. The Jew, who
had broken any of the laws of Jehovah, knew exactly what to do in order to
be reconciled to his national God and King. God had pointed out the way
which he would accept. By certain acts of sacrifice and restitution, the
Jew became once more worthy of living under the protecting care of

This mode of reconciliation under the law was far superior to that in
pagan religions. It gave temporary peace to the conscience, though not
permanent. It prevented the sinner from going farther from God, though it
did not unite him with God in unbroken union. It kept the conscience
awake, and prevented it from being hardened. It was a schoolmaster to
bring the Jews to Christ. It was a preparation for a more excellent way.
In the Epistle to the Hebrews, the writer declares that the law was but
the shadow of that which was to come; that it could not, “by the
sacrifices offered year by year, make the comers thereunto perfect; for
then would they have ceased to have been offered, because the worshippers,
once purged, would have had no more conscience of sin.” The sacrifice made
no revelation of God’s character and love, planted no root of piety in the
heart: it relieved the conscience only for this once, only with respect to
this one sin; and there its influence ended. And therefore was a new
covenant necessary, and promised by the prophets, and looked forward to by
holy men, when they should be reconciled not by works, but by faith.

We have seen that there are two modes by which alienation may be removed:
first, by the offending party doing something to atone for his offence;
second, by the injured one showing that he has forgiven the offence, and
is ready to be reconciled without an atonement. The first mode is the way
of reconciliation in pagan religions; the first and second are united in
the Jewish religion; the second is the mode in the Christian religion.

§ 6. Method in Christianity.

In Christianity, in the gospel of grace, God offers pardon freely to those
who are willing to accept it. He is ready now to receive those who are
ready to come to him. It is only necessary to believe this in order to be
reconciled. We are, therefore, reconciled by faith.

But we are said to be reconciled by the death and blood of Christ. How is
this? We have seen the source of our alienation: it lay not in God, but in
ourselves. God had not gone away from _us_; we went away from him. He had
not ceased to love us; but by a terrible reaction from our sinfulness, we
had ceased to believe in his love. “God’s hand,” says the prophet (Isa.
59:2), “is not shortened, that he cannot save, nor is _his_ ear grown
dull, that he cannot hear; but _your_ iniquities have separated you from
your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you, that he doth not
hear.” By an immutable law of our mind, God’s wrath abides on us, and we
cannot believe in his love. Here is the source of our alienation. Now,
merely to be told that God is merciful does not wholly help the matter.
True, we say, He _is_ merciful, but not to _us_; we have sinned too long
and deeply. Something must be done, then, to _convince_ us that God is
ready to forgive and receive us freely. The death of Christ is the fact
which produces this conviction. The death of Christ, therefore, is not
merely an _emblem_ of God’s love, but an _act_ of God’s love. It draws us
to him. It changes our hearts. It melts our doubt, our distrust. It
reveals to us our Father’s love. The blood of Christ makes those who were
afar off nigh. This all experience teaches as a _matter of fact_. It is
the cross of Christ, borne by the simple missionary, preached by the
devout Moravian, which, amid the ice of Greenland or beneath the burning
sun of the tropic, reconciles the sinner to God.

And if one asks _how_ the death of Christ does this, we will briefly
indicate what we believe to be the way in which it operates. We look at
Christ, and see the brightness of God’s glory and express image of his
person. We see a holiness pure and perfect, a character infinitely
beautiful and lovely. We see how dear and near such a one must have been
to God; and we hear God say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well
pleased;” and we hear him say of God, “My Father has not left me alone;
for I do _always_ the things which please him.”

And now we look at the world, and see it “lying in wickedness;” we see men
trampling on God’s law, polluting his image, cruelly oppressing each
other, and boldly defying and mocking at the Almighty. What does he then?
For the sake of these miserable, weak, and wretched sinners, who seem
scarcely worth the saving, he sends his holy child among them; he sends
this pure being to have his heart rent with the sight and knowledge of
human sin; he sends him to be cruelly and shamefully killed by a death of
agony, in order that _we_, sinful and miserable, may be reconciled. We
say, in the view of all this, “He who spared not his own Son, but
delivered him up for us, how shall he not _with_ him freely give us all
things?” We say, “God commended his love towards us, in that, while we
were sinners, Christ died for us.” “Herein is love; not that we loved God,
but that he loved us.” Christ, “being lifted up, draws all men unto him.”
Thus, in the midst of the gloom of that horrible scene on Calvary, when
the power of darkness was at its height,—that crisis of the world, when
human sin stood at the flood,—the heavens were opened, and a new ray of
divine love poured into the world.

§ 7. Result.

Let us sum up, then, the doctrine of justification by faith, as we have
now explained it.

1. JUSTIFICATION is not the doing away with all the consequences of sin,
but only the consequence which consists in present alienation from God. It
is objectively, as a divine act, what _forgiveness_ is subjectively, as a
human experience. It relates to _present_ acceptance with God; it is not
the cancelling of the results of our past sins on the character, nor is it
the hope of future salvation. It relates to the _present_.

The following passages show that justification is equivalent to
reconciliation or forgiveness. Rom. 5:8-10: “But God commendeth his love
toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much
more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath
through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by
the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by
his life.” Rom. 4:6-8: “David also describeth the blessedness of the man
unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works; saying, Blessed are
they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is
the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”

2. FAITH is not mere intellectual belief or opinion; nor is it mere
feeling, nor a mystical emotion in which we are wholly passive; but a
sentiment, in which belief, feeling, and determination are blended
together. The belief is that Christ is the Son of God; the feeling is
trust and joy in the love of God seen in him; and the determination is to
rely on him as a Mediator and Saviour.

That faith is not a mere intellectual belief, but involves also a feeling
of trust, appears from such passages as these: “If thou believe in thy
heart;” “An evil _heart_ of unbelief.”

That faith is not a mere emotion, in which we are wholly passive, appears
from such cases as those where men are exhorted to believe, as a thing in
their own power.

3. WORKS, in this doctrine, include every effort to reconcile God by
offering him anything in expiation of our sin, whether sacrifices,
sacraments, the assent to creeds, the struggle after feelings and
experiences, or reformation of character.

And the whole doctrine of justification by faith may be thus expressed:—

If you are burdened with a sense of unworthiness and guilt; if something
seems to separate your heart from God; if you want confidence to come to
him boldly in prayer,—do not try to remove this difficulty by any effort
to do something different, or become something different; but simply look
at Jesus in his sufferings and death, and see your heavenly Father calling
you to him _now_ to be forgiven. Go at once to God through Christ. Repose
on that love that will cleanse you, that will save you; and nevermore
doubt, even in your darkest hour, that your Father is ready to hear, to
forgive, and bless you.

§ 8. Its History in the Church.

We have seen the origin, nature, and value of this doctrine. Let us now
look at its history.

The apostolic Church was founded on the simple doctrine of faith in
Christ. It was not founded on any theory or speculation _about_ Christ, or
about his plan of salvation, but on _Christ himself_ as the Saviour. All
that the first Christians professed was faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
They had been reconciled to God by him; they were at peace with God; they
were washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they were happy. A deep and
wonderful joy brooded over the early church. A hurricane of persecution
and war raged around them: within the Church, all was security and peace.
How beautiful are the expressions by which the apostles describe the
serenity and joy of the Church! “They ate their meat in gladness and
singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.”
New converts “gladly received the word, and were baptized” by thousands,
in the face of the bitterest persecution. “The multitude of them that
believed were of one heart and one soul; neither said any of them, that
aught of the things that he possessed was his own.” Whence came all this
peace and union in the early Church? Was it because they had attained to
such clear views of truth, and all held the same opinions? So far from it,
some had not heard that there was a Holy Ghost; others did not believe in
a resurrection of the dead; and many thought the whole Jewish ritual
essential to salvation. Was it that they had become suddenly pure in
heart, and holy in life, and freed from sin? So far from it, we find the
apostles exhorting them against very great vices,—against murder, theft,
and licentiousness,—and condemning them for having practised gross
immoralities. It came from the simplicity of their faith. They looked to
Jesus, and their faces were lightened. They _saw_ the love of God in him;
they felt it in their hearts; they reposed on it undoubtingly. In
quietness and confidence was their strength. O, happy days! in which men’s
minds had not yet been harassed by thousands of vain controversies and
empty verbal disputes; by questions, and strifes of words; by most
profound theological discussions, ending in nothing but weariness; but
were satisfied, that, if men would go to Christ, they would find truth. O,
happy time! in which men had not learned to dissect their own hearts, and
pry curiously into their feelings, and torture themselves by anxious
efforts to _feel_ right, and tormenting doubts as to whether their inward
experiences were as they ought to be, but believed that all good feelings
would come in their own time out of Christian faith. O, happy, golden
hour! when love, and joy, and duty were all one; when men did not
prescribe for themselves and others a task-work, an outward routine of
duties; but had confidence, that, if they lived in the Spirit, they would
also walk in the Spirit.

That hour of simple, child-like faith passed away. Its decay appeared in a
return to the old mode of justification. Instead of simply relying on what
God had done, men must do something themselves to atone for their sins;
they must do penance, and have priests, and sacraments, and masses, and
countless ceremonies to come between them and God; they must pile up a
cumbrous fabric of religious and moral works, by which to climb up to God;
until, at last, though the doctrine of justification by faith was never
given up, it was made of none effect by the rubbish of human ceremonies
heaped before it. And then came Luther, armed with the old doctrine, to
sweep these all away, and call men back to the simple faith in the
Saviour. The pure word of faith went forth through all lands, conquering
and to conquer.

But there is a continual tendency to fall back again from faith upon
works. Ever as the life of religion weakens, ever as the strength of holy
confidence decays, men betake themselves to some outward forms or efforts.
When they cease to lean on the love of God, they begin to lean on
sacraments and ceremonies, on opinions and doctrines, on feelings and
experiences, on morality and works of duty. Ever, as the cold winter of
worldliness and sin causes the stream of holy faith to shrink back into
its channel, the ice of forms accumulates along its shores; and then, as
the inevitable consequence and sign of the decay of faith, we find the
Church becoming anxious and troubled, confidence giving way to anxiety,
cheerfulness to gloom, hope to fear. Everything terrifies the unbelieving
Church; new opinions terrify it; new measures terrify it. It has ashes
instead of beauty, mourning for joy, the spirit of heaviness instead of
the garment of praise.

§ 9. Orthodox Errors, at the present Time, in Regard to Justification by

We have said that there is a constant tendency to fall back from faith to
works of some kind or other. The important question comes, How is it with
us _now_? Does this tendency show itself in our present churches? And the
answer we am compelled to make is, that _it does_, certainly to some
extent, and in all the churches. Orthodox churches have fallen away, more
or less, from the doctrine of justification by faith. They have fallen
back from the central point of Christianity, faith in Jesus, in different
directions, and seek to be justified by a law,—some upon a law of belief,
and others on a law of emotion.

Do not understand us as saying that any of the churches have denied, or
that they do not constantly teach, the doctrine of justification by faith.
This is not the point. The Romish Church never denied, nor ceased to
teach, this doctrine; but she virtually abolished it, and made it of none
effect by teaching other things also. Is not this, to some degree, the
case now?

Are there not many Orthodox Christians, at the present time, who seek to
make their peace with God, not by relying on Jesus himself, but on some
theory with respect to his nature or person; not on his death, but on some
speculation _about_ his death,—some theory, scheme, or plan? Is it not the
idea of many, that they are to be brought to God, not by faith in Jesus
and his death, but by assenting to the correct doctrine about it? and
accordingly they anxiously labor, and make it a WORK, to believe in the
true theory, in order that they may be brought to God. We do not say that
correct opinions on these points are unimportant; but we say that the
faith in Christ which justifies us does not come from believing right
opinions, but that right opinions come from the justifying faith. Are
religious teachers now willing to do as Paul did, and say simply,
“_Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ_”? or do they not rather find it
necessary to say, “Believe this, that, and the other thing, about Jesus

And again: is it not thought by Orthodox people, that, in order to be
justified and have peace with God through Jesus Christ, it is necessary
that a person should experience certain feelings, beginning with a sense
of guilt, a fear of punishment, and passing into a state of hope and
assurance? And, accordingly, men make it a WORK, and labor, to have these
feelings in the precise order and manner, and, until they can experience
these feelings, believe that they can have no access to God. As before, we
do not mean that these feelings are unimportant, but only that we should
not try to work ourselves up into certain feelings in order to be just
before God. It is faith in Jesus which is the _source_, not the _result_,
of piety as well as of holiness. It is faith in God’s love to us which
enables us to love him. The sense of pardon produces both the feeling of
gratitude and of unworthiness. God does not forgive us because we have had
the right feelings, but that we may have them. Those love much to whom
much is forgiven; but to whom little is forgiven, the same love little.

Were we ever struck with the remarkable contrast between the conversions
to God in the apostolic time and those which we hear of now? How much more
_simple_ they were! A man is riding in a chariot, reading his Bible, and
trying in vain to comprehend it. An apostle comes, and explains to him the
prophecy, and applies it to Jesus. Presently they come to water, and he
says, “See, here is water;” he is baptized, and goes on his way rejoicing.
We fear there are not many churches now who would receive that Ethiopian
as a member, if he could give no further account of his religious
experience than is recorded in the book of Acts.

But is it not, we say again, remarkable, that not only in this case, but
in all the cases of conversion recorded and described in the Acts, there
should be nothing of the descriptions which we read every week in our
religious newspapers? In the case of the three thousand baptized on the
day of Pentecost, we only read that they were cut to the heart; said,
“What shall we do?” were told to repent and be baptized; joyfully received
the word, and were baptized. Even the remarkable conversion of Paul was
nothing like what we now have. How is this—that now we are not willing to
trust to a simple act of faith in Jesus Christ, and in turning to God; but
we have a scale and rule of religious experience—a work which all must go
through in order to be justified?

And what is the result of thus substituting for justification by faith,
justification by belief in opinions, and by processes of feeling? Look at
the churches where this has been carried farthest, and see the result.
Religion becomes gloomy, anxious, and austere; it ceases to breathe
cheerfulness and joy around; the gentler graces die before it; fear treads
fast in the footsteps of hope; a stiff formality introduces cant in the
place of what is natural and artless; the heart is stretched on a rack of
self-torturing doubts and anxieties. The biographies and private journals
of many eminent saints show us how little happiness they had in their
religion,—how they were tortured by spiritual doubts, perplexities, and
anxieties. The reason is, that they rely on their _own_ feelings, instead
of relying on Christ.

And with the reliance placed on theory and opinion vanishes the union of
the Church. There are five sects in this country, all holding to the
Assembly’s Catechism—a large and minute compendium of opinions,—and yet
which often do not allow each other to commune at the Lord’s table. The
New School Presbyterians might permit the others to commune with _them_,
but are themselves excluded. The Old School Presbyterians would commune
with all but the New, but are not permitted. Nay, the Associate Reformed,
the Covenanters, and the Seceders carry it so far as to discipline and
excommunicate their members for what is called _occasional hearing_; i.e.,
attending worship at other churches than their own. There was in the State
of Indiana an Old School preacher, and president of a college, who refused
to allow a Unitarian to give a literary address which the students had
asked him to give, and which he had gone to deliver, and, in defending
himself for this, called him a “public propagator of infidelity;” and
within a mile or two of his college there was a society of Seceders, or
Covenanters, holding, like himself, the Assembly’s Confession, who would
excommunicate any of their members who should go to hear him preach.

There is, then, a tendency among the Orthodox to rely on their own opinion
and their own feelings, rather than on Jesus Christ.

§ 10. Errors of Liberal Christians.

Liberal Christians have fallen into error of a different sort. They seek
to be justified, not by opinion nor by feeling, but by action; by works of
righteousness, honesty, charity; by the faithful performance of social
duties; by an active obedience to the law of God. Looking at the
Scriptures, and seeing in how many places we are plainly taught that we
are to work out our own salvation; to be rewarded and punished according
to our active goodness; to be judged by our works,—they say that a man is
forgiven when he has corrected his fault, and not before; that repentance
and reformation are the only means of atonement with God; that, if we wish
to be forgiven, we must reform our conduct and change our character.
Accordingly, they lay great stress on DUTY, and are continually exhorting
men to the performance of their duties in order to be forgiven.

But there is a mistake here also, which arises from confounding two very
different things; namely, justification and final salvation. We have seen
that the consequences of sin are twofold—external and internal. The inward
consequence of sin is separation from God; the external is the weakening
and debasing of the soul. The first consequence is removed by faith; the
second, by obedience. Every act of sin pollutes, darkens, and ruins the
soul; every act of obedience strengthens, elevates, and saves it.
Obedience, persevered in to the end, insures the salvation of the soul.
But, in order that we may obey, we must first be justified; for what is to
give us the strength and the heart to obey, except the pardoning love of
God? It is this sense of reconciliation,—it is this spirit of adoption,
whereby we cry, “Abba, Father,”—which gives us the power to obey. We do
not obey God to be forgiven; but we are forgiven that we may obey. Have we
read the Gospels, and have we forgotten all the instances in which Jesus
said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” before there had been any change of
conduct, or reform of character? and have we forgotten the memorable
passage in which he explains to the captious Pharisee why he does this
(Luke 7:36-50),—on the principle that the one to whom the most is forgiven
will love the most?

To point out to men their duties, and tell them to do them, does not
enable them to do them; but the sight of God’s love in Jesus Christ _does_
create in them new strength. That true follower of Jesus, the first of our
Ministers at Large, Dr. Tuckerman, did not say to the poor victim of sin,
that when he reformed his conduct, he would be his friend. No: like his
Master, he showed himself his friend while he was yet a sinner, and so
gave him hope and courage to break away from his sin. He has left on
record one of the most touching instances of the power of love to melt
down the impenitent heart, in the case of a convict whom he persisted in
visiting, though he was perfectly hardened, and filled with bitterness and
rage. He persisted in patient attempts to soften his heart, till he
succeeded, by the irresistible power of love, in making him humble as a
little child. Suppose he had sent him word, that if he repented, and
showed the proper spirit, he would come and visit him. He had not so
learned God or Christ. He knew that he must overcome evil with good.
Exactly so does God overcome our evil with good.

To tell men to do their duties that they may be forgiven, is to tell them
to do what they have no power to do. A confident reliance on God’s love,
and steadfast communion with him, are the only source of real improvement.
When we feel these, we are one with God; when we can go to him
confidently, as children to a father; when we can betake ourselves to his
love in every emergency of life,—we have a source of real strength, and
growth, and improvement within us. But, without this feeling of peace with
God, the effort to do our duties only harasses and irritates our
conscience: it produces weariness of heart, a constant feeling of
unworthiness and failure, a constant sense of obligations and
responsibilities which we do not and cannot fulfil. Duty is a weary task,
a heavy burden; and our life is crushed down by constant anxiety and care.
But if we begin right, and come to God first, and lean on his love, and
rely on his promise, then we are filled with hope and joyful assurance,
and failure does not dismay us, for we say, “God’s truth is pledged for
our success; and if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by
the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by
his life.”

It may be objected that it is dangerous to religion to admit that we can
be justified before we have believed certain important doctrines or
experienced certain peculiar feelings. It may also be objected, on the
other hand, that it is dangerous to morality to suppose that pardon can
precede reformation. But the more we read the Scriptures, the more we look
into our own heart, and the more we become acquainted with our fellow-men,
the deeper is our conviction, that there is but one source of true piety
and sound morality—a heart reconciled to God, and at peace with him. We do
not undervalue correct belief, deep feeling, or active obedience; but we
place them where they belong. They are the fruit of the tree, not the root
of the tree. The root and source and beginning of all piety and holiness
is simple faith in God through Christ. We must ask ourselves, therefore,
first of all, “Are we reconciled to God, or are we not? Are we living in
filial communion with him, or living without him in the world?” If
unreconciled, we must not think to work ourselves up into a degree of
goodness or pious feeling without God. There is no strength where there is
no confidence, where there is nothing to lean on, where there is
hollowness within. We ought to come at once to God. We ought to lift our
hearts to him, not saying, “Who shall go up to heaven for us, to bring him
to us? Who shall go over the sea for us?” For his word is very nigh, in
our mouth and heart.

The above discussion will show what we consider to be the truths, and what
the errors, in the Orthodox view of justification by faith.


§ 1. Confusion in the Orthodox Statement.

The subject of this chapter is the Orthodox doctrine of the work of
Christ, and especially of the atonement.

No doctrine of Orthodoxy is more difficult to state to the satisfaction of
the Orthodox than this. The reason is, that there is no doctrine
concerning which the Orthodox differ so much among themselves. There is no
difficulty in stating the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity; for this is
the same, or nearly the same, in the symbols of all the Orthodox sects.
The Roman Catholic doctrine of the Trinity is essentially the same with
that of the Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, and Episcopal Churches. But
not so with the doctrine of Christ’s reconciling and atoning work. This
has taken every form in past history, and is altogether unsettled at the
present time. Usually, many views are mingled together in modern
Orthodoxy; and while all Orthodox teachers use the same language, speaking
of the death of Christ as “atonement,” “expiation,” “vicarious sacrifice,”
“sin-offering,” “substitution,” “satisfaction,” yet they connect with
these words very different ideas. Such is the testimony of an eminent
Orthodox divine, who speaks thus:—

“There is a general concurrence in the words _vicarious_, _expiation_,
_offering_, _substitute_, and the like, but no agreement as to the manner
in which they are to get their meaning. Sometimes the analogy of criminal
law is taken; and then our sins are spoken of as being transferred to
Christ, or he as having accepted them to bear their penalty. Sometimes the
civil or commercial law furnishes the analogy; and then, our sins being
taken as a debt, Christ offers himself as a ransom for us. Or the analogy
of the ceremonial law is accepted; and then Christ is set forth as a
propitiatory or expiatory offering to obtain remission of sins for us.
Regarding Christ as suffering for us in one or another of these Scripture
forms or figures taken as the literal dogmatic truth, we have as many
distinct theories. Then, again, different as these figures are from each
other, they will yet be used interchangeably, all in the sense of one or
another of them. And then, again, to double the confusion yet once more,
we have two sets of representations produced under each, accordingly as
Christ is conceived to offer himself to Jehovah’s justice, or as Jehovah
is conceived himself to prepare the offering out of his own mercy.

“On the whole, I know of no definite and fixed point on which the Orthodox
view, so called, may be said to hang, unless it be this, viz., that Christ
suffers evil as evil, or in direct and simple substitution for evil that
was to be suffered by us; so that God accepts one evil in place of the
other, and, being satisfied in this manner, is able to justify or pardon.

“As to the measure of this evil, there are different opinions. Calvin
maintained the truly horrible doctrine, that Christ descended into hell
when crucified, and suffered the pains of the damned for three days. A
very great number of the Christian teachers, even at this day, maintain
that Christ suffered exactly as much pain as all the redeemed would have
suffered under the penalties of eternal justice. But this penal view of
Christ’s death has been gradually giving way, till now, under its most
modern, most mitigated, and least objectionable form, he is only said to
have suffered under a law of _expression_.

“Thus God would have expressed a certain abhorrence of sin by the
punishment of the world. Christ now suffers only as much pain as will
express the same amount of abhorrence. And considering the dignity of the
Sufferer, and his relations to the Father, there was no need of suffering
the same, or even any proximate amount of pain, to make an expression of
abhorrence to sin, that is, of justice, equal to that produced by the
literal punishment of the race. Still, it will be seen to be a part of
this more mitigated view, that Christ suffers evil as evil; which evil
suffered is accepted as a compensative expression of God’s indignation
against sin. Accordingly, in the agony of Gethsemane, and when the Saviour
exclaims in his passion, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ it
will be taken for literal truth, that the frown of God, or divine justice,
rested on his soul.

“It will probably be right, then, to distribute the views of those who are
accepted now as Orthodox teachers, into two classes—one who consider the
death of Christ as availing by what it _is_; the other, by force of what
it _expresses_; the former holding it as a literal substitution of evil
endured for evil that was to be endured; the latter holding it as an
expression of abhorrence to sin, made, through the suffering of one, in
place of the same expression that was to be made by the suffering of many.

“As regards the former class of representations, we may say,
comprehensively, that they are capable, one and all, of no light in which
they do not even offend some right moral sentiment of our being. Indeed,
they raise up moral objections with such marvellous fecundity, that we can
hardly state them as fast as they occur to us.”(19)

§ 2. Great Importance attributed to this Doctrine.

But, notwithstanding the fact that there is such confusion in the minds of
the Orthodox about this doctrine, there is, nevertheless, no doctrine the
belief in which is regarded as so important. With respect to other
doctrines,—the Trinity, for example,—dogmatic Christianity declares our
salvation to depend upon our belief of it; but in regard to the atonement,
it goes farther, and makes our salvation depend on using the phraseology
of the doctrine. Other doctrines will save us, on the condition of
believing them; this, on the condition of using the language. If a man
shall lead a life of purity and goodness, but expresses doubts concerning
this doctrine, his Orthodox friends will have scarcely any hope of his
salvation; but if the most depraved criminal, after a life steeped in
wickedness, shall merely say on his death-bed, that he hopes “to be saved
by the atoning blood of Christ,” he is thought immediately to be on the
fair way to heaven. No matter how good a man is, if he does not accept the
Orthodox language on this point, his friends _fear_ for him: no matter how
bad he is, if he does accept it, they _hope_ for him. There is a sort of
magical power attributed to the very words. They are almost supposed to
act like a talisman or a charm.

Now, while we reject all such superstitious views of the power of mere
words, while we reject all false meaning and all no meaning, it is proper
to think that there may be some substantial truth in these Orthodox
opinions concerning the atonement. Let us endeavor to find what this vital
truth really is, and why this doctrine is so dear to the heart of

§ 3. Stress laid on the Death of Jesus in the Scripture.

Consider the stress laid on the sufferings of Jesus in the New Testament.
Notice what our Saviour says himself: “This is my blood of the New
Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” “The bread
that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the
world.” “For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so
must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should
not perish, but have eternal life.” “I am the good shepherd: the good
shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”

Consider, again, what is said on this subject in the Epistles. “Jesus
Christ, whom God hath set forth as a mercy seat through faith in his
blood.” “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of
his Son.” “He died for our sins.” “He is sacrificed for us.” “He gave
himself for our sins.” “We have redemption through his blood, even the
forgiveness of sin.” “Having made peace through the blood of his cross.”
“He gave himself a ransom for all.” “He washed us from our sins through
his blood.” “By whose stripes we are healed.” “Though he were a Son, yet
learned he obedience by the things which he suffered, and being made
perfect, became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey
him.” Again: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the
angels, for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that he,
by the grace of God, should taste death for every man. For it became him,
for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons
unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through
sufferings.” “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto
his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in
things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the
people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to
succor them that are tempted.”

These are some of the passages which connect the sufferings of Jesus
Christ with sin on the one hand, and salvation on the other.

§ 4. Difficulty in interpreting these Scripture Passages.

There is a difficulty, however, in understanding the meaning and feeling
the force of such texts as these. This difficulty consists in the fact
that these passages are constantly quoted as proof texts. From our
childhood up we have heard them brought forward to prove the truth of some
particular doctrine or theory of atonement, and when we read these verses,
we immediately associate them with some doctrine which we like or dislike.
Our feelings and prejudices are involved in interpreting the passage one
way or the other, so that we are unable to look at it fairly. In order to
overcome this difficulty, we must make this obvious distinction. We must
distinguish between the statement of a fact and the theory concerning it.
The fact which the Bible states is simply this—that the sins of man were
the occasion of Christ’s death, and that by his death he saves us from our
sin. This is the fact which the Scriptures assert. The way in which he
saves us is a matter of theory. Why it was that human sin made it
necessary for Christ to die, how it is that his death reconciles us to
God,—this belongs to the theory.

Now, while the Scriptures say a great deal about the fact that Christ’s
sufferings save us from our sins, they say very little as regards the way
in which they save us from our sins.

§ 5. Theological Theories based on the Figurative Language of the New

The Scriptures state the fact; the theologians have supplied the
explanations. Innumerable have been the theories devised by theology to
show in what way the sufferings of Christ have availed for the salvation
of men—theories of imputation, theories of substitution, theories of
satisfaction. He was punished in our place; he paid our debt; he was our
federal head and representative; he satisfied the justice of God; he
appeased the wrath of God. But especially are the figures and metaphors of
the New Testament pressed into the service of theology, and made the basis
of grave theories. Thus are metaphors turned into metaphysics, and
rhetoric changed to logic. The images of the New Testament were naturally
taken from familiar objects and transactions, especially from war, from
slavery, and from the Jewish ritual. Sin is our enemy, who has conquered
us in battle, and made us his prisoners. Christ redeems us from this
captivity, and pays our ransom. Sin is a cruel master, and we are his
slaves. He is about to torture us with the rod. Christ comes and takes our
punishment on himself. He bears our stripes. According to the Jewish
ritual the paschal feast was a commemoration of God’s mercy. It was to the
Jews what Thanksgiving Day is to the people of New England. So the
Christians said Christ is our Passover. In the Jewish ritual God was
believed to manifest himself over the mercy seat in the inner sanctuary of
the temple. The Christians said, Christ is our mercy seat. All this was
natural; but these images have been turned into elaborate theories by the
theologians who have argued that Christ’s death was a literal ransom, a
literal mercy seat, and a literal passover.

These theories have mostly passed by. The common Orthodox theory in New
England now is much more reasonable, but unfortunately much less
scriptural. It is founded on the analogy of human government. God is
compared to a wise and kind ruler, who governs by law, and who wishes to
pardon the penitent criminal, but fears that if he does so, he will impair
the respect felt for his law, and therefore thinks it necessary to do
something to show the evil of disobedience before he can pardon. Christ is
willing to die in order to make this impression on the minds of men. And
this he accordingly does. But unfortunately, as we said, there is nothing
in the Scripture, not even a metaphorical expression, to support this
theory. The apostles did not have recourse for their figures and images to
such usage of government, and that for the simple reason that no such
usage or necessity then existed. The governments were all despotic, and no
despot, wishing to pardon, had any difficulty on the ground that the
sanctity of his laws might be impaired.

War, slavery, and the Jewish ritual, and household usages existed. Their
images were taken from these. They spoke of ransom, of stripes, of the
passover, and the mercy seat, of washing and healing, but not of
governments and laws.

Sin is our conqueror, and Christ redeems us. Sin is a slavery, and Christ
ransoms us. Sin is defilement, and Christ washes us. Sin is a disease, and
Christ heals us. All this occurs again and again, but nothing occurs about
constitutional governments, or conflicts between the claims of justice and

§ 6. The three principal Views of the Atonement—warlike, legal, and

Three principal views on this subject have prevailed in the Christian
Church as Orthodox. The first may be called the _warlike_ view of Christ’s
work, the second may be called the _legal_ view, and the third the
_governmental_ view. The first was the prevailing Orthodox view from the
earliest times till the middle ages, and is based on the idea of a
conflict or war between Christ and the Devil for the soul of man. The
Devil had gained possession of the human race in consequence of its sin.
The right of the Devil over men was fully admitted. Augustine considered
it as the right of property, Leo the Great as the right of a conqueror.
Christ gave his own life to the Devil as a ransom, which was adequate to
redeem the whole race. This theory rested on the literal interpretation of
the words “ransom” and “redemption.” If Christ’s death was a _ransom_, if
he came “to give his life a ransom for many,” the question naturally
arose, “_From_ whose power were men redeemed, and to whom was the ransom
paid?” Certainly, men were not redeemed from the power of God. The ransom
could not have been paid to God, but to some enemy who held us as his
prisoners. The only possible answer, therefore, is, that the ransom was
paid to the Devil. The Devil was the cruel tyrant who had enslaved us. He
had a right to do so; for we had become his slaves through our sin. But he
had no right over Christ, for Christ had committed no sin; so that the
death of Christ was a free offering to the Devil to redeem the race.
According to this view, therefore, the atonement was made to the Devil.

But in the middle ages another view of the atonement became Orthodox,
founded not upon the idea of a ransom, but on that of a _debt_. According
to this view the divine law requires that the debt which man owes to God,
which is perfect obedience, shall be paid, either by himself or by some
one else. Anselm, the founder of this theory, defined sin “as not giving
to God his due.” Man cannot pay this debt himself, and therefore Christ
pays it for him. This is the legal view of the atonement, or perhaps we
might rather call it the commercial view.

But this theory, after having endured as Orthodox for some five hundred
years, gave place to a third, based not on the idea of a ransom or of a
debt, but of a state necessity. It would not do for God, as a moral
Governor, to forgive sin, unless by some great example an impression could
be made of the evil of sin. This impression is produced by the death of
Christ, who therefore died not to atone for past sin, but to prevent
future sin, or, in other words, to make a moral impression on the human
mind. This is the popular theory of the atonement held by the Orthodox at
the present time. But it is very much mixed up with the others. The
different views held by modern Orthodoxy range all the way from the old
Calvinism of Princeton, through the various shades of New England
theology, to the latest form expressed by Dr. Horace Bushnell in his
recent work on “Vicarious Sacrifice.”

§ 7. Impression made by Christ’s Death on the Minds of his Disciples.
First Theory on the Subject in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The sufferings of Jesus produced a wonderful impression on the minds of
his disciples. This impression was compounded of astonishment, tenderness,
and gratitude. That a man so divine in character, in wisdom, in a command
over nature, should submit willingly to such labor, ignominy, and anguish,
was a wonder to them. But there was a mystery of sorrow beneath the
visible sorrow, a pain within the pain, a depth of grief felt not for
himself, but for others, an anguish on account of the sin of the world,
which especially awed and touched them. Christ plunged into the midst of
sin to save souls, as a hero rushes into the midst of burning flames to
save lives. No man like Jesus had ever felt such anguish and horror at the
sight of sin; but instead of flying from it, he came into the midst of it
to save the sinner. This was the secret of his agony, the bitterness of
his cup. Martyrs at the stake are borne up by their own triumphant
self-approval. But Jesus, in his anguish, did not think of his own
triumph, but the sin and sorrow of those who afflicted him. “Daughters of
Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and your children.”
“Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” This is the secret of
Christ’s anguish—this infinite horror of sin joined to an infinite love
for the sinner.

Through this depth of sorrow there came to the minds of the apostles a
revelation of the evil of sin and the infinite compassion of God, which
produced penitence, hope, and love. The dying Christ reconciled them to
God. This they felt and declared; they did not attempt to explain how, but
by images and metaphors drawn from all familiar objects, they declared
that Christ’s sorrows more than his glory, his patience rather than his
power, his death more than his life, had withdrawn their hearts from sin,
and given them peace with God.

One writer alone in the New Testament attempts an explanation of this
influence. It is only an attempt, a mere hint, the germ of a theology: it
is found in the Epistle to the Hebrews.(20)

According to these passages Christ suffered,—1. To learn obedience; 2.
That he might thus become perfect; 3. By an entire cultivation of his
sympathies with the tempted; 4. So as to become to them the author of
eternal salvation by reconciling them to God.

This, we may observe, so far as it goes, is really a theory of atonement,
and not a mere statement of the fact. Moreover, it seems to us to contain
the germ of a far nobler and deeper theory than any in which the Church
has hitherto believed. It is more human, more rational, connected more
with real experience and the solid facts of life.

§ 8. Value of Suffering as a Means of Education.

The sufferings of Christ were necessary for his own perfection, and
suffering in some form or other is necessary for all perfection. It is
often said that suffering in this world is casual, an accidental thing,
arising from human mistakes, and that the time will come in which man will
grow up into perfection without suffering. A perpetual sunlight is thought
to be the best condition for the human plant. Pain and want stunt its
growth, winter storms arrest its development; and so it is supposed that
if we can get rid of this element of suffering, human beings will soon
become all they ought to be. But the poet speaks more wisely who says,—

    “To each their sufferings: all are men
    Condemned alike to groan;
    The feeling for another’s woe,
    The unfeeling for his own.”

For suppose that we could remove from the world all outward evil—get rid
of sickness, pain, poverty, death. Would not the worst part of evil still
remain? Would not discontent, selfishness, envy, wilfulness, cruelty,
self-indulgence continue? All these exist—perhaps exist most
frequently—where there is the least of outward evil; and the outward evil
is the bitter medicine which comes by and by as a cure.

§ 9. The Human Conscience suggests the Need of some Satisfaction in order
to our Forgiveness.

The central idea of the atonement is, that Christ has done something which
enables God to forgive us our sin; and the reason why this doctrine of
atonement seems so precious is, that we feel that there is a real
difficulty in the way of forgiveness,—as if something else were necessary
besides repentance,—as if some compensation or reparation should be made
somehow to the offended law of God, or to the aggrieved holiness of God.
We do not say that this feeling is a true feeling: that question we must
consider afterwards. But it is, at any rate, a natural feeling, whether it
be founded on our knowledge of God or our ignorance of God. It is hard to
believe that a _man_ whom we have injured will forgive us that injury
merely because we ask him to do so, and are sorry for what we have done.
We feel that we must make some reparation before he can or ought to
forgive us. Unquestionably, the conscience is the source of this feeling.
It led Zaccheus to say, “If I have done any man wrong, I restore him
four-fold.” A full reparation for an injury, accompanied with sorrow for
having done it, the expression of which sorrow is confession, satisfies
the conscience. Having done this, we feel that we have a right to be

But it is very seldom that such full reparation can be made. The
consequences of our wrong acts cannot usually be removed or effaced.
Wrong-doing is like the gate of hell—easy to open, but difficult, if not
impossible, to close again. “She opened, _but to shut_ excelled her
power.” Instead of reparation, therefore, the conscience substitutes
retribution—either reparation or the penalty; and the natural form of the
penalty is an equivalent. Natural justice says, “An eye for an eye, a
tooth for a tooth.” This the conscience thinks right; this is justice. All
less than this is mercy; all more than this is revenge.

We think that if we analyze the feeling which the conscience gives us
concerning the consequences of wrong-doing, it is this: First, conscience
demands reparation to the injured party; second, it demands punishment as
a satisfaction to be made to the law of right, and this suffering to be
accepted as just by the guilty party; and thirdly, it declares that guilt
should produce an alienation or separation between the guilty party and
those who are not guilty.

To illustrate all this, let us suppose a case. A man, hitherto respected
and trusted by society commits some great breach of trust, and robs the
community. What does the conscience in such a case demand? First, that he
should give up his property, and make, if he can, full restitution;
second, that he should endure some suffering—that he should not continue
to enjoy, as before, all his accustomed privileges; and third, that he
should not retain his standing in society, and receive, as before, the
countenance and esteem of honorable persons. Conscience requires that he
should make atonement to those he has injured by restitution; to the law
of right, which he has offended, by suffering some punishment; and to
honorable men by keeping out of their way.

This, which the conscience teaches of an injury done to man, it also
teaches of an injury done to God. The offence against man is _a crime_;
the offence against God is _a sin_. For a crime, the conscience requires
restitution, punishment with confession, and alienation from the good,
which is shame. For a sin, the conscience requires, in like manner,
restitution, punishment, and alienation. It merely transfers to God’s
justice the ideas of atonement which human justice has given to it.

But God’s justice is not like man’s. The ideas of atonement so abstracted
are essentially false; and to convince us of their falsehood is one of the
objects of Christ’s death. It is to show us that God does _not_ demand
this full restitution, does _not_ intend to inflict this punishment, and
is _not_ alienated from the penitent sinner. The death of Christ has done

§ 10. How the Death of Jesus brings Men to God.

As a matter of fact, the death of Christ has enabled men to come to God.
“They who were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” As a matter
of fact, it has lifted men above the fear of God into the love of God. And
this must be a divine work. Not the mere death of the human being could
have done this; but the God who dwelt in him has uttered his tender love,
his forgiving grace, from the cross. “God was in Christ, reconciling the
world unto himself.” The death of Christ is an expression of God’s free
grace. If we regard Christ, in his life and character, as a manifestation
of God’s will, then his pathetic and tender death reveals to us that God
loves us even when we are sinners, before reparation or repentance; “for,
while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

There is, however, a difficulty in _believing_ that we can be forgiven.
This difficulty is in the conscience; and,—

(_a._) To say _there is no difficulty_, will not remove it.

(_b._) To say that _repentance and good works_ are enough, will not remove

(_c._) To say that _God is merciful_, will not remove it; for the
difficulty lies in the _conscience_, which declares that every sin is,—

1. An injury done to God.

2. An injury to the moral universe; inasmuch as it is an example of evil,
and a defiance of right.

3. An injury to ourselves, by putting us away from God, the source of
life, and alienating us from him.

Now, it is true that the New Testament says, “Repent, and be converted,
and your sins shall be blotted out;” “Believe, and be saved.” It is true
that if we will believe ourselves forgiven, we shall be forgiven. But how
can we believe it, when the inward voice of conscience is always saying
that God ought not to forgive us without some reparation made for the
injury done to himself, to the universe, and to ourselves?

We need something to believe in—some manifestation, some object. Something
we need done by God to assure us that he is in earnest in desiring us to
come and be reconciled to him.

Now, the _sufferings and death_ of Christ seem to be this object: they
enable us to believe in forgiveness, and so to be forgiven; they meet the
difficulty of the conscience, and relieve it of its threefold
embarrassment. For, in regard to the injury done to God, Christ’s
sufferings are substitution, or vicarious suffering. I do not say
vicarious _punishment_. The innocent cannot be _punished_ in the place of
the guilty; but he can suffer, and constantly _does_ suffer, in the place
of the guilty. These two laws are announced in the Old Testament: “The
soul that sinneth, it shall die;” “The wickedness of parents shall be on
the children.” If a man is alone, he must bear _all_ the consequences of
his sins; but if he have friends and children, they will relieve him of
some by their self-sacrificing kindness: their _sufferings_ take the place
of his _punishment_. How often a wife does this!—interposing her
sufferings between her husband’s sins and their penalty. And what a
profound impression is made by it of the evil of sin! It torments innocent
women and children; it shipwrecks the peace of a family. What an effect is
produced on the man himself! What a reproach and tender rebuke to him is
this! The sufferings of Christ are _substituted_ in this way for ours,
according to this law; and this divine substitution is continued in the
sacrifices of Christians. Missionaries and martyrs, by their zeal,
patience, and generosity, carry out the sacrifice of Christ. This is God
in Christ working in us and in the Church, and working for sinners.

Then, as to the _injury to the world_ by the contempt sin does to the law,
the sufferings of Christ are _satisfaction_: they satisfy the divine law;
they make an impression of the importance of the law. But here, again, it
is not merely Christ alone who does it, but God in Christ, and Christ in
the Church, who honor the divine law by the respect produced for it. They
bring us to repentance; they make us feel the sinfulness of sin; show us
the misery it causes to those who love us,—how it pains God, pains Christ,
pains the good, and pains our friends. So we feel it, and show it by true
penitence, and so honor the law. The law is _satisfied_ when the
sufferings of Christ and his followers, caused by sin, lead men to abhor
sin, and love righteousness.

As to the injury which _sin does to a man himself_ by separating him from
God’s love, and making him at enmity with God, and God’s wrath on him, the
sufferings of Christ are _reconciliation_. “God was in Christ, reconciling
the world to himself.” Why was God alienated from man? Because he is holy.
How can an unholy person be at one with a holy God? The answer is this:
God comes into his heart by Christ, to form Christ within him, and to make
him holy as Christ was holy. He sees that when united with Christ his
sinfulness is killed in its roots, and a seed of perfect purity is planted
in his soul; and so God is able to be at one with him through his union
with Christ: “I in them, and thou in me, that we may be perfectly at one.”
A love for Christ in the heart forms Christ within us. He is our life, our
motive power, our aim; and so he casts out the root of our sin, and brings
us to God.

Thus we see that, even though we should reject all the Orthodox theories
about atonement, we may accept the fact. We can believe that God in Christ
_does_ reconcile the world to himself,—_does_ create a sense of pardoned
sin,—_does_ remove the weight of transgression,—_does_ take away the
obstacle in our conscience,—_does_ help us into a living faith, hope,
peace, and joy.

Moreover, Christ is really a sacrifice for sin—a real and true
sin-offering. For what were the sin-offerings under the law? How did they
remove sin? Not by themselves (it was impossible for the blood of bulls
and goats to remove sin), but because they were an appointment of God, and
so showed God’s disposition. They showed that his holiness was displeased
with evil; they showed that he loved the sinner, and wished to make him
holy. So the death of Christ is a true sacrifice in exactly the same way,
but in a higher degree, convincing us of the evil of sin and the love of

The experience of the whole Church teaches the power of this faith to
create in our souls a new life of love. Seeing God coming to us in Christ
to reconcile us to himself, and freely forgiving our sins, removes from
our hearts doubt, anxiety, and the burden of hard responsibility, and
fills the soul with a deep peace and joy in believing. So felt the apostle
Peter when the Master forgave him his denial. From the fountain of that
forgiveness flowed forth a river of devotion. So felt Paul when forgiven
by Jesus; so felt Augustine, so Ambrose, so Luther, so Wesley: because
they had been forgiven much, they loved much; for to whom little is
forgiven, the same loveth little.

The practical conclusion is, that it is less important to speculate as to
the _how_, than to endeavor to see the fact. What we need is faith in
God’s pardoning, redeeming, saving love in Christ Jesus—faith that our
sins are blotted out; that we can come at once to our Father; that we can
come boldly to the throne of grace; that the infinite Father looks at us
with love when we are a great way off, and says, “This my son was dead,
and is alive again; was lost, and is found.”

We may therefore, when we are conscious of going wrong and of doing wrong,
instead of trying to reform ourselves alone by our own strength, go first
to God, and be forgiven through faith in the great sacrifice of Christ:
“When God hath set forth to be a propitiation (or mercy seat), through
faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins
that are past, through the forbearance of God, that he might be just, and
the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

§ 11. This Law of Vicarious Suffering universal.

Orthodoxy, in all its theories concerning the influence of the death of
Jesus, has supposed his case exceptional and his work peculiar. It would
be very shocking to most Orthodox minds to suppose that the same law of
vicarious sacrifice applies to others; that the sufferings and death of
the good, in all ages, have helped to atone for evil; have enabled sinners
to obtain pardon. But such, we believe, is the fact.

Jesus Christ came, providentially, as the typical and perfect man—the one
who was sent by God, in his providence, to illustrate what humanity is to
be and to do. If this is so, then Christ did essentially nothing but that
which is finally to be done by _all_, in some degree, or some way. He is a
channel, a mediator, through whom God’s life flows into ours; but then he
makes us also mediators, by whom _his_ life shall flow to others. He is
the image of God; but every true Christian is, again, the image of Christ.
For what Christ did, and was, was no afterthought, no exception, but a
part of the plan of the universe. He was “foreordained before the
foundation of the world, but manifest in these last times.” He was the
“Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world.” That is, his
coming, his character, his death, his resurrection, his miracles, were all
a part of a divine law. And all God’s laws are the same “yesterday,
to-day, and forever.”

If this were not so, we could not understand Christ, nor sympathize with
him. His life would be, not only supernatural, which it is, but unnatural,
which it is not. His miracles would be, not what they truly are,—God’s
higher life flowing into nature, and the Spirit overcoming the material
resistance of things,—but they would be magical; they would be like
sorcery and enchantment—violations of the course of events.

All of Christ’s life, then, is typical of our future lives, in this world
or in some other world. It would be easy to prove this out of Scripture.
Everything asserted of Christ is, somewhere and in some way, asserted also
of his disciples, and of all Christians. Is he said to be one with God? “I
and my Father are one.” They also are said to be one with God: “That they
all may be one, as we are one; I in them, and thou in me. As thou, Father,
art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”

Was Christ said to know all things? It is also said of his disciples, “Ye
have an unction from the Holy Ghost, and know all things.”

Did Christ work miracles? He says to his disciples, “Greater works than
these shall ye do?”

Did God give to Christ glory which he had before the world was? He himself
says of his disciples, “The glory thou gavest me I have given them.”

Did Christ rise from the dead into a higher life? We shall do the same.
“As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image
of the heavenly.”

Christ, in his high and perfect life, may be regarded as a prophecy of
what man is to become: we may look on him as a revelation of the higher
laws of human nature, as a type of all humanity.

As regards his atoning death, his reconciling sufferings, the same thing
is true. As he died for man, so must we die for each other. Thus says the
apostle John: “Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved
us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God
so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” And again, “Because he
laid down his life for us, we ought also to lay down our lives for the

And Paul, after having spoken of “Christ’s having made peace by the blood
of the cross,” says of himself that he rejoices in his own sufferings for
their sake—rejoices to “fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of
Christ;” that is, make up any deficiency in Christ’s sufferings for them.
“Christ’s sufferings,” he says elsewhere, “abound in us,” his disciples.
“We are partakers of his sufferings,” says the apostle Peter. If he
thought Christ’s sufferings entirely different in their nature and meaning
from all other sufferings, he would scarcely have said that he “partook”
of them.

§ 12. This Law illustrated from History—in the Death of Socrates, Joan of
Arc, Savonarola, and Abraham Lincoln.

The death of Jesus, therefore, manifested in a higher degree the same law
which is illustrated in the deaths of all good and great souls, martyrs to
a principle, or to an idea. In proportion to the greatness and
universality of the idea, and the greatness and holiness of the martyr, is
the impression profound. We will give a few instances of this from
history, to see that the death of Jesus was not something wholly outside
of law, wholly exceptional, but the highest example of the great effect
produced by one who walks straight into death for a great idea.

The first instance we take shall be that of Socrates. When we think of
Socrates, we think of his death. He, like Jesus, spent the time before his
death conversing with his friends concerning the highest themes. He talked
of immortality through the long summer day. He showed the superiority of
the soul to the body in which it dwelt; and he had lost all fear of dying.
He had silenced what Plato calls “the child within us, who trembles before
death.” In fact, the whole tone of his defence before the judges shows
that he did not care to save his life. The verdict of guilty was
pronounced by a majority of five or six, in a vote of five hundred and
fifty-seven dicasts. He made no preparation for his defence, and said that
a blameless life was the best defence. When he came to speak before those
whose vote was to decide on his life or death, his speech seems a sort of
confidential clearing of his breast of all his opinions. He declares he
has been the greatest benefactor of Athens. He tells them they ought not
to be offended at the resolute tone of his defence, since it would be
unmanly for him to beg and plead for life; for his duty was to instruct
them, but not to supplicate. It was strange that so small a majority was
cast against him after such a speech. Then the custom required him to say
himself what punishment he should suffer. His accuser had called for
death. If he had named something less severe, as exile, fine,
imprisonment, no doubt his life had been saved. Instead, he said, “I
propose that I be rewarded as a public benefactor, by being supported at
the public expense, as a teacher of the people. Still, as my friends wish
me to name a fine, I will say thirty _minæ_.” They took this as an insult,
and sentenced him to death. Then he spent his hours in those immortal
conversations which will be remembered when all the rest of the glory and
beauty of Greek literature and art has passed away. Every moment of his
last hours has been carefully recorded; and the death of Socrates gave a
power to his life, and his life an influence to his death, which placed
him among the names which will never perish from human memory and

There is another name, which comes out of the darkness and cruelty of the
middle ages, with a sweet, serene, and noble beauty—a pure life glorified
by a death of martyrdom. I mean that of Joan of Arc—the Maid of Orleans.
On her trial, the readiness and beauty of her answers astonished her
prejudiced judges. The poor girl, only nineteen years old, a prisoner in
chains, before these doctors and lawyers, showed as much courage as on the
field of battle.

They asked why she let the people kiss her feet and garments. She
answered, “The poor people came to me because I did them no wrong, and
helped them when I could.” “Was it well to attack Paris on Our Lady’s
day?” “It is well to keep the festivals of Our Lady always.” “Do your
saints love the English?” “They love what God loves, and hate what he
hates.” “Does God hate the English?” “As to his love or hate for their
souls I know nothing; but I know he will drive them from France.” “Can you
tell whether you will escape death?” “That I leave in God’s hands.” When
she went to death, her purity and truth had so touched men’s hearts that a
great tide of remorse and pity began to swell up against her persecutors.
A priest, who had played the part of Judas, and betrayed her, repented
like Judas, and flung himself down before her, accusing himself of his
treachery. The soldiers who stood by were melted. They said, “We have
burned a saint.” The executioner declared that God would never forgive
him. From the day of her death, all men began to believe in her holiness
and truth.

Come down to the end of the same century, and take another instance in
Savonarola, the Florentine friar—the man who was at once the patriot,
leading the minds of the people of Florence to republican institutions;
the reformer, seeking to root out the abuses of the Church; and the
prophetic teacher, preacher, religious inspirer. He also climbed to the
height of his glory on his funeral pile. As Athens was glorified by the
death of Socrates, as the Maid of Orleans has been a vision of beauty in
the square of Rouen, so the place in Florence where Savonarola was
murdered, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, is memorable as the scene of
virtue triumphing over its enemies and over evil, when it seemed to be
conquered. That day, also, will never be forgotten, when he and his two
companions walked through the furious rabble to their death, calm as if to
a marriage feast. Savonarola was so absorbed in the thought of the life to
come, says his biographer, that he appeared already to have left the
earth. He was put to death by the order of Alexander Sixth, the worst pope
and worst man of modern times; but in twenty years Rafaelle was painting
the monk’s portrait on the walls of the Vatican by order of another pope.

So it is that death glorifies life. If John Brown had escaped from his
prison, and gone to Canada, what would have been his influence? He would
only have been remembered as a crazy fanatic. But now there remains in all
minds the picture of the old man going quietly and peacefully to die,
kissing the little negro child on the way, looking up at the surrounding
hills, and admiring the beauty of the scenery. Death set its seal on his
life, and so his soul became the leader of the armies of the Union, going
before them to victory.

And how much, also, was Abraham Lincoln glorified by his martyr death! How
he rose at once into a great figure in history—a monumental form before
which enmity was silenced! All men forgot their hostility, their
criticisms, their sneers—forgot that they had ever done anything but honor
him. The assassin, who thought to revenge the wrongs of the southern
slaveholders on Lincoln, gave to him a lasting niche in the temple of

Now, we are not by any means _comparing_ the work of these persons with
that of our great Master, Jesus Christ. Such is not our object. We are
only pointing out the law by which a person who has devoted himself to a
great cause, when he comes to die in its service, gives to that cause an
immense help, and seems to sanctify and glorify the cause and himself.
There is a mystery about it which we do not fully understand,—which is not
accounted for by saying that death proves a man’s sincerity, and makes him
a more competent witness, or that death conciliates his enemies, and puts
an end to personal dislike. No; there is something more than this. When
men live for a cause outside of themselves, when they labor for public
objects, they are not _seen_ while they live. Those whose interests are
interfered with by their action, misrepresent them, and surround them with
a cloud of suspicion, jealousy, and slander. When they go to death for
their cause, all these slanderous voices are hushed, and they emerge from
this cloud of prejudice, and are seen as they are. They are glorified then
in their cause, and their cause is glorified in them. The cause for which
Socrates lived was the education of the people of Athens to truth and
justice. All the Sophists were his enemies. Aristophanes ridiculed him as
no other reformer has ever been ridiculed, holding him up, by his
inimitable wit, to the scorn of the crowded theatre. When he died, and
died in the faith, all this ended. Socrates and his great cause of justice
rose at once, and drew all men to them. So Savonarola, who lived only with
the purpose of helping on the triumph of pure religion in the Church, and
pure liberty in the state, was mocked and abused in his life; but his
death made him an undying power, and being dead, he spoke across the rapid
years to Martin Luther and the reformers who came after. John Brown lived
and died for universal freedom; Abraham Lincoln lived and died for the
existence and deliverance of the nation. Of them, exactly as of Christ, we
may say that when they died the hour came for them to be glorified. They
died, and they rose again. The resurrection, in these instances, came
close after the crucifixion; not seen in their cases, as is that of Jesus,
by the visible eye, but essentially the same thing inwardly as his. They
and their cause went _up_, instead of going down, by their death. When
they were lifted up, they drew all men to them. In all such deaths, also,
there is a certain atoning, reconciling influence. Death brings together,
in harmony, conflicting interests; it silences hatreds, and breaks down
many a partition wall of separation.(21)

The difference between Christ’s death and all of these is, that Christ
lived and died not merely for popular education, for patriotism, for
philanthropy, but to be the power of God for the salvation of the world;
to found a universal religion of love to God and man; to reveal God as a
Father, not a King; to show man to man as brother. But the effect of his
death, as in all these other cases, was simply to glorify his life and his
cause. The same law worked in his case and in theirs, only on a higher
plane, and for a vastly greater object.

We may observe that most of the passages concerning the effect of Christ’s
death are from the apostle Paul. They are written thirty years after that
death by one who probably had never seen him, at least never knew him. But
Paul had seen the actual effect of the death of Jesus on the minds and
hearts of the people. It was a reconciling effect; it did away with their
hatred to his religion, and enabled them to see it, and be led by it to
God. It made “those who were afar off, nigh.” It made peace between man
and God,—between man and man. When Jesus died, men’s eyes seemed at once
to open, and they saw for the first time the beauty and holiness of his
life. His death, therefore, did what his life had not done. We, misled by
a false theology, imagine Paul to be speaking of some transcendental
transaction in the spiritual world by which the death of Jesus acted on
God’s mind to make him placable; whereas, in truth, he is speaking of the
simple historic fact that the death of Christ did draw men to his
religion, and so to God; did, therefore, bring them to see God’s forgiving
love; did unite them with each other. So Paul says that he “is not ashamed
of the cross of Christ,”—not ashamed of the fact that Christ was hanged as
a malefactor, since that very death was the power of God to bring man to
salvation. It made men just, and kind, and true, and so was the power of

§ 13. Dr. Bushnell’s View of the Atonement.

In his book, lately published, Dr. Bushnell teaches that the vicarious
sacrifice of Jesus consists in his sympathy with sinners. He suffers with
them and for them, as a friend suffers for a friend, or a mother for a
child,—in the same way, and in no exceptional or uncommon way. He did not
die officially, but naturally. He did not come here to die, but he died
because he was here.

We are persuaded that this is the right view. We are sure that one day we
shall all see that Christ’s sufferings and death, and their influence, are
as simple, as natural, as wholly in accordance with human nature, as that
of any other saint or martyr; that the difference is of degree, not of
kind; and Christ will go before the world, its great Redeemer and Leader,
all the more certainly because one of us,—educated, as we are, by trial
and sorrow; tempted as we are, but without sin; crying out, as we do, from
the depths of our despair, “My God! why hast thou forsaken me?” and
rising, as we do, through death to a higher life, through sorrow to a
completer joy, through the pains of earth to the glories of heaven. “For
it became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in
bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation
perfect through suffering; wherefore in all things it behooved him to be
made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful High Priest; for
in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able also to succor
those who are tempted. For we have not a High Priest who cannot be touched
with the feeling of our infirmities, BUT WAS IN ALL POINTS TEMPTED AS WE
ARE, yet without sin; who can have compassion on the ignorant, as he also
himself is compassed with infirmity, and though a Son, yet learned
obedience by the things he suffered.”

§ 14. Results of this Discussion.

The Orthodox doctrine of the atonement contains a fact and a theory which
ought to be carefully discriminated. _The fact_ asserted by Orthodoxy is,
that Jesus Christ has done something by means of which we obtain God’s
forgiveness for our sins. _The theory_ attempts to explain what is the
difficulty in the way of our forgiveness, and how Christ removes it. Thus
Orthodoxy attempts to answer three questions: “What?” “Why?” and “How?”
The first of these regards the fact. “_What_ has Christ done?” And the
answer is, that he has brought to man forgiveness of sin. The second and
third questions regard the theory. “_Why_ was it necessary for Christ to
do and suffer what he did?” and, “_How_ did he accomplish his work?”

Now, as concerns the matter of fact, Orthodoxy is in full accordance with
the Scriptures, which everywhere teach that through Christ we have
redemption, through his blood, even the forgiveness of our sins. But the
Scriptures are perfectly silent concerning the theory. They do not tell us
_why_ it was necessary for Jesus to die, nor _how_ his death procured
forgiveness. The only exception is, as we have seen, in the statement, in
the Epistle to the Hebrews, that the sufferings of Christ were necessary
to make him perfect, and to enable him to be touched with a feeling of our

Of the three theories which in turn have been regarded as Orthodox in the
Church, two have completely broken down, and the third rests on such an
insecure foundation that we may be very sure that it will follow the
others as soon as any better one comes to take its place. The warlike
theory and the legal theory of the atonement have gone to their place, and
are no more believed by men. The governmental theory must soon follow.

Nevertheless, in each of these three theories there is one constant
element. And it is due to Orthodoxy to state it. This element is, that the
necessity of the death of Christ lay in the divine attribute of justice.
According to the first theory, Christ died to satisfy what was due by God
to the Devil; according to the second, he died to satisfy what was due by
God to himself; according to the third, he died to satisfy what was due by
God to the moral universe. Divine justice, in the first theory, owed a
ransom to the Devil, which Christ paid; in the second, it owed a debt to
the divine honor, which Christ paid; in the third, it owed protection to
the universe from the danger of evil example.

The difficulty to be removed before God can forgive sin, lay, according to
all of these theories, in the divine justice. Christ died to reconcile
justice and mercy, so as to make justice merciful, and mercy just.

But, in opposition to this view, the Unitarian argument is so formidable
as to seem quite unanswerable. On grounds of reason, the Unitarian
maintains that there can be no such conflict among the divine attributes,
waiting till an event should occur in human history by which they should
be reconciled. That God’s justice and mercy should have been in a state of
antagonism down to A.M. 4034, when Jesus died, is an incredible
supposition. No event taking place in time and space can be the condition
_sine quâ non_ of divine perfection. And any struggle or conflict like
that supposed implies imperfection.

Moreover, the Unitarian truly maintains that the Orthodox theory that men
cannot be forgiven on the simple condition of repentance, is wholly
unscriptural. The Scriptures plainly teach that forgiveness follows
repentance. In the classic passage of the Old Testament (Ezek. 18:20-32),
the Jews were taught, unequivocally, that the death which is the wages of
sin, is always removed by the simple act of repentance. If the modern
doctrine of Orthodoxy be true, that in order to be saved it is necessary
not only to repent, but also to believe in the atoning sacrifice, the Jews
were fatally misled by this teaching of the prophet.

And so in the New Testament, the parable of the prodigal son teaches us
plainly that when we repent and return to God, we shall be received, and
that without any reference to belief in the atonement.

Moreover, the Unitarians are fully justified in saying that the New
Testament nowhere asserts that the primary and immediate influence of the
death of Jesus is upon the divine attributes. In every instance Christ is
said to reconcile us to God, never to reconcile God to us. (See Rom. 5:10,
11; 11:15. 2 Cor. 5:18, 19, 20. Eph. 2:13, 16. Coloss. 1:20, 21. 1 Peter
3:18.) It is we “who were afar off, and have been made nigh, by the blood
of Christ.” It is _we_, “who, when we were enemies, were reconciled to God
by the death of his Son;” not God, who was afar off, who has been brought
nigh to us; not God, who has been reconciled to us. It is “_we_, who have
received the atonement.” Christ has suffered for sins, “to bring _us_ to
God,” not to bring God to us. All this is plain, positive, and

And yet, notwithstanding that the Old and New Testaments declare the
forgiveness of sin to the penitent, we nevertheless find a difficulty in
believing it. It seems as if God _ought_ not to forgive us our sins on so
simple a condition. And it is on this very feeling that the whole Orthodox
theory of the atonement rests.

The explanation of this is, that man is obliged to understand God by
himself. Since man was made in the image of God, he can know God only by
understanding the moral and spiritual laws of his own soul. Now, in
himself, he finds the constant antagonism of truth and love, justice and
mercy, conscience and desire. From this essential original antagonism of
truth and love spring all the moral conflicts which make cases of
conscience. Whenever we see before us a divided duty, on being analyzed,
it resolves itself into this conflict between truth and love. We
naturally, and almost necessarily, transfer this same conflict to the mind
of God. Whenever we wish to forgive an offender, but feel as if we ought
not to do so, we teach ourselves to regard God as feeling the same
difficulty. Conscience tells us that we are not fit to be forgiven, that
it would be wrong for God to forgive us. Orthodoxy plants itself on this
instinct, and elaborates its various theories, which men accept for a time
as a sufficient explanation of their difficulty, and then reject when
their inconsistencies appear. The deep-lying difficulty is the sense of
our want of holiness, and the instinctive feeling of the eternal mutual
repulsion of good and evil. Since God is good, and we are evil, how can he
forgive us? If forgiveness merely meant the remitting of penalty, it might
be done after sufficient expiation. If forgiveness meant laying aside of
anger, we can well believe that God cannot retain wrath against his
children. But forgiveness means communion, the mutual love of father and
child, the being always in the presence of God. And for this, even after
we have repented, and are endeavoring to do right, we do not feel
ourselves qualified.

This is the real difficulty. Christ did not die to pay a debt to God, or
to appease his wrath, but “to bring us to God,” and to put the Spirit into
our heart by which we can say, “Abba, Father!” The atonement is made to
the divine justice—but not to distributive justice, which rewards and
punishes, but to divine justice in its highest form, as holiness. And this
consists in making us fit to appear before God, notwithstanding our
sinfulness, because we have received a principle of holiness which will
ultimately cast out all our sin. When we have faith in Christ, we have
Christ formed within us, the hope of glory. God, looking on us, sees us
not as we are now, but as we shall be when we are changed into that same
image from glory to greater glory.

This suggests the theory which may replace the rest, and reconcile all
those who believe in Christ as the Saviour and Redeemer of men. Christ
saves us by pouring into us his own life, which is love. When Christian
love is formed within us, it has killed the roots of sin in the soul, and
fitted us to be forgiven, and to enter the presence of God.

In conclusion, we may say that Orthodoxy is right in maintaining that
Jesus has by his sufferings and death brought forgiveness to mankind—not
by propitiating God or appeasing his anger, not by paying our debt or
removing a difficulty in the divine mind, but by helping us to see that
the love of God is able to lift us out of our sin, and present us spotless
in the presence of his glory with exceeding joy. The way in which his
death produces this result is the sympathy with human sinfulness and
sorrow, which finds in it its highest expression. Those whom men cannot
forgive, and who cannot forgive themselves, see that God, speaking through
the sufferings of Jesus, is able to forgive them. So the love of God
brings them to repentance, and those who were afar off are made nigh by
the blood of Christ.


§ 1. Orthodox Doctrine.

The Assembly’s Catechism, with its usual frankness, states this doctrine
thus:—(chap. 3).

I. “God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his
own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever cometh to pass, yet so
that neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will
of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken
away, but rather established.

II. “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all
supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw
it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

III. “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men
and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others
foreordained to everlasting death.

IV. “These angels and men, thus predestinated and foreordained, are
particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number is so certain and
definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished.

V. “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the
foundation of the world was laid, according to his eternal and immutable
purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of his will, hath chosen
in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of his mere free grace and love,
without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of
them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions or causes moving
him thereunto, and all to the praise of his glorious grace.

VI. “As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the
eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means
thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are
redeemed by Christ; are effectually called unto faith in Christ, by his
Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept
by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed
by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved,
but the elect only.

VII. “The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable
counsel of his own will, whereby he extendeth or withholdeth mercy as he
pleaseth, for the glory of his sovereign power over his creatures, to pass
by, and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise
of his glorious justice.”

This statement is contained in the creed of more than three thousand
churches in the United States. So far as it is believed by those who
profess it, it conveys the idea of a God who is pure will—a God, in short,
who does as he pleases, saving some of his creatures and damning others,
without reason or justice. He does not reward virtue nor punish sin, but
scatters the joys of heaven and the torments of hell out of a mere
caprice, as an Eastern despot gives a man a purse of gold, or inflicts the
bastinado, without reason, simply to gratify his sense of power. The
essential character of such a Being is arbitrary will, and this creed of
Calvinism places an infinite caprice on the throne of the universe,
instead of the Being whom the Gospels call “Our Father.”

Let us see how far this view of God is mitigated by modern explanations.

The Old School Presbyterianism, or Princeton Orthodoxy, accepts it in its
entireness. They simply deny the consequences supposed to be drawn from
it. They deny that it makes God the author of sin, or that sinful
dispositions are created by God. They deny that this doctrine interferes
with freedom of will in man. But they are obliged to admit that, according
to their creed, God decrees things which he forbids; for, “inasmuch as
many things occur contrary to his commands, while yet he foreordains all
things, it must be that in these cases he purposes one thing and commands
another.”(22) In other words, God sends his prophets, and apostles, and
Son, to command men to do justly and love mercy, when he has already
determined that they shall commit sin. This school rejects the Arminian
doctrine that God’s decree is founded on his foreknowledge, and asserts
that his foreknowledge is based on his decree.

The Old School in New England do not go quite so far as Princeton. They
say, decidedly, that God foreordains sin only by permitting it. Still,
they reject, as stoutly as their sterner _confrères_, the Arminian view,
and insist that God’s decrees are not based on his foreknowledge.(23)

According to Dr. Duffield, of Detroit, the New School Presbyterians escape
the pinch of this conflict by taking refuge in their ignorance. They are
not “Ultra-Calvinists,” and they are not “Arminians,” and especially they
“do not wish to be wise above what is written.”(24) Dr. D. asserts that
the Old School makes the decree in election to be wholly arbitrary, while
the New School believes that it has a reason, though one wholly unknown.
But the Hopkinsians(25) say that “the sovereignty of God belongs to him as
the Supreme Disposer, and consists in his perfect right and perfect
ability to do us he pleases.” Of course, having made the will of God
wholly arbitrary, they proceed to deny that it is arbitrary, or that
wilfulness in God can possibly be wilful. But all this is using “words of
wind for the Almighty,” and “accepting his person.”

Methodism, on the contrary, denies that God foreordains whatsoever comes
to pass, holding foreordination to be a causative act.(26) It also denies
that man is guilty for inherited sin, or is any way responsible for his
depraved nature. He only becomes responsible when he begins to act freely.
He may suffer for inherited evil, but cannot justly be punished for it.
Thus Methodism avoids the rude injustice of the Calvinistic system. And
yet, as Schleiermacher has shown,(27) if it accepts total depravity, it
must also consistently accept the Calvinistic doctrine of election. For if
man is totally depraved, he cannot take a single step towards his own
salvation. God must, in every case, take the initiative, and begin the
conversion of each man who is converted. Therefore, if we ask why one man
is converted, and another not, the only answer possible is this—that God
chose to convert one, and not the other. Schleiermacher accepts and
defends the doctrine of election, but by connecting it with that of
universal restoration, which reduces it to the statement that God saves
all, but in a certain order, which order is determined by himself, without
regard to any foresight of merit or demerit in man.

§ 2. Scripture Basis for this Doctrine.

The principal passages relied upon for the doctrine of absolute decrees
are found in Rom. 8:30, and 9:8-24. In these passages, Paul is, no doubt,
speaking of an unconditional election. In the first, he declares that the
gift of Christianity to those who received it was no accident. God had
known them long ago as individuals, known them before they were born,
known the character they were to have. He had foreordained them to become
Christians, to be made into the likeness of Christ. He had called them to
be Christians by his providence; he had forgiven them their sins; he had
glorified them, filling them with the glory of the new life of faith and
love. In the other passage, Paul shows the Jews that God selects races and
families, not according to any merit of theirs, but for reasons of his
own, to do his work. Ishmael as well as Isaac was a child of Abraham, but
Isaac was selected. Esau as well as Jacob was a child of Isaac, but Jacob
was selected. It is no merit of the man which causes him to be chosen, no
fault which causes him to be rejected, but that one is made for the work,
and the other not. One is influenced to obey and serve; one is allowed to
resist God’s will; and yet both of them—he who obeys and he who
resists—serve the divine purpose. The Jewish Christians, therefore, may
believe that their nation, in resisting Christ, is blindly serving the
providential designs of God, and making way for the Gentiles to come in;
and then, the Gentiles, in turn, will help _them_ to come in, “and so all
Israel shall be saved.” But in neither of these passages is any reference
to final salvation or damnation. All that is spoken of is the predestined
and divinely arranged order, the providential method, in which gifts are
bestowed and opportunities offered. In fact, in Rom. 11:28, election is
formally opposed to the gospel. As regards the GOSPEL, or the reception of
Christianity, the Jews are _enemies_; that is, are left out of the circle
of God’s gifts, in order that the Gentiles may come in. But as regards the
ELECTION, they are still the chosen people, inheriting all the qualities,
powers, position, which their fathers had before them, since God never
takes back his gifts.(28) So also in Ephesians 1:5, 11, Paul says that we,
Christians, have been chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world,
and predestined to be adopted as children, and obtained an inheritance in
Christianity. But neither here is anything intended concerning final
salvation. It all refers to their having received the gift of Christian
faith, in the plan of God, by a wise providence of his, and not by
accident. So also, in Timothy (2 Tim. 1:9), Paul says that God hath saved
us out of the world, and called us to be Christians, not because of any
merit of ours, but simply according to a gracious purpose which he always
had, that the Gentiles should come into his kingdom with the Jews. In none
of these passages is any final doom or destiny hereafter intended: _all of
them_ refer to the gift of Christianity in this world. The apostle softens
the exultation of the Gentiles, and consoles the sorrow of the Jewish
Christians, by telling them that the acceptance of the Gentiles and
rejection of the majority of the Jews is part of a great plan of
Providence, which will finally redound to the good of both.

§ 3. Relation of the Divine Decree to Human Freedom.

In order that God shall be the Ruler of the world, and its providence, he
must know the course of events, and determine them. In order that man
shall be responsible, and a moral being, he must be free to choose, at
every moment, between right and wrong, good and evil. In part of his
nature and life, man is a creature of destiny; in part, he is the creator
of destiny. Every man’s character is the result of three
factors—organization, education, and freedom. The character he has now has
come to him, partly from the organization with which he was born, partly
from the influences by which he has been educated, and partly from what he
has done or omitted to do at every moment of his life. Now, the two first
of these factors are out of his power. A man born in Africa, or descended
from Chinese parents, cannot, by any choice or effort, become what a man
born of French or German parents may become. A man born among the Turks or
Arabs, and educated by the circumstances surrounding him there, _must_ be
a wholly different man from one born in New England. Man’s freedom,
therefore, may be likened to the power of the helmsman to direct a vessel.
He cannot determine what sort of a vessel he shall be in, nor what sort of
weather or currents shall come: all he can do at any moment is to steer it
to the right or left. If, now, in steering, he guides himself by a compass
turning to a fixed point, and by a chart giving the true position of
continents and islands, then this power enables him, in spite of storms
and calms, to take the vessel round the world, to the harbor he seeks. But
if he has no chart and compass, but steers as he chooses from moment to
moment, he goes nowhere. His vessel will then drift before the steady
winds and constant currents. So is human freedom a great power when it
guides itself by eternal truths and fixed laws. But if it does not, then
it is not freedom, but only wilfulness, and it accomplishes nothing. Man’s
freedom is thus surrounded by divine providence. God determines the
original organization of every human being; God determines the
circumstances which educate him; and God has fixed the laws by which he
must guide himself in order to become really free. He cannot therefore
resist the divine will, except temporarily. He can postpone the _time_
when God’s kingdom shall come, and his will be done; but that is all.

§ 4. History of the Doctrine of Election and Predestination.

Before Augustine, all the Greek and Latin Fathers of the Church taught the
concurrence of free will and grace in human conversion. They taught that
man must begin the work, and that God would aid him. God and man must work

Then came the controversy between Augustine and Pelagius. The latter,
being at Rome, heard this sentence read from the writings of the former:
“_Da quod jubes, et jube quod vis_”—Give what thou commandest, and command
what thou willest. Pelagius objected to this formula. He said, “Since man
ought to be without sin, he can be without sin.” “There is,” said he, “in
man, a ‘_Can Do_,’ a ‘_Will Do_,’ and a ‘_Do_.’ ” The first is from God;
in the others God and man unite.

Augustine objected that God worked in us both to will and to do. He had
first taught that God sends motives which we can obey or resist; but he
saw that if God works in us to will, he must also conquer our resistance,
and work the power by which we consent.

But to this Pelagius replied, “Then there is no freedom in man.”

Augustine answered, “God does not move us as we move a stone, but
rationally; he makes us _will_ what is good, and does not force us against
our will. He frees the will from its proclivity to evil, by ‘preparing
grace,’ and determines it to good by ‘effecting grace.’ That some do not
yield to this, is not because of their greater resistance, but because God
does not choose to conquer their resistance.”

This is the point where grace passes into predestination.

The Old Church had maintained that God predestined to life those whom he
_foresaw_ would repent and obey him. His foreknowledge did not cause this
to happen, but he foreknew it because it would happen. It did not take
place because he foresaw it, but he foresaw it because it would take

Election, according to the early Fathers, was nothing arbitrary. It
depended on man to be saved or lost. So taught Justin Martyr, Origen,
Basil, Hilary.

Basil said, “God hardened Pharaoh’s heart by his judgments, which were
sent to show how hard it was, because he saw he would not repent.”

Origen adds, “Like a wise physician, God did not cure Pharaoh too soon,
for fear of a relapse. He let him drink the cup of sin to the bottom in
this life, so as to cure him more thoroughly hereafter.”

Pelagius (and Augustine at first) took the same view. They said that God
foresees and permits evil, and decrees the consequence of it.

Augustine said, “God has chosen some men in Christ, not because he foresaw
they would be good, but because he determined to make them so.” The reason
of this choice, therefore, lay not in man, but in God’s arbitrary will.

Pelagius said, “This is fatalism, under the name of grace, and is saying
that God accepts the persons of men.”

Augustine answered, “All men in Adam are in ruin. God saves some of them.
If he let _all_ die, we could not blame him: how much less for saving

But why does he _not_ save all? The answer is,—

Because the elect see in the fate of the non-elect what they have escaped,
and God’s justice is revealed with his goodness.

None of the elect perish, though they may die unbaptized, and be ever so
bad in their lives; but they will be all converted before they die.

The non-elect may be often better men than the elect; but they will not be

The only place where Augustine allows freedom is in Adam, who might have
turned either way.

Semi-Pelagianism consists essentially in saying, “Man begins the work; God
aids him.”

Augustine’s view was carried out afterwards thus: “If God does all, it is
no use to preach, exhort, or read Scripture, or use any means of grace.”

Augustine had said that reprobation was not a decree to sin, but to

But Gottschalk, his follower, said it was a decree to _sin_. The Church
rejected this statement, and softened the doctrine. Thomas Aquinas revived
it again.

Luther and Calvin both maintained that there is no good in man after the
fall. Flacius said that original sin is the substance of human nature, and
human nature now bears the image of the devil.

Luther made freedom of the will to consist in doing evil with pleasure,
and not by constraint.

Calvin denied that there is any free will. “Why give it such a lofty
title?” he said. He seemed to think that all the power left to men is so
much taken from God.

When God says, “Do this and live,” it is, says Luther, merely irony on his
part, as though he had said, “See if you can do it! Try it.”

Luther actually taught that God’s will in revealed Scripture was, that all
should be saved, but his real and secret will was, that _not all_ should
be saved.

Melancthon said, “Man has no power by himself to do right; but when grace
is offered, he can receive it or reject it.”

Calvin went beyond Augustine. He taught that,—

1. The decree of predestination was not merely a decree to punishment, but
to sin. He rejects with scorn the distinction between permitting and
causing, between foreknowledge and predestination. He says it is improper
to have God’s decree waiting on men’s choice.

2. He taught that Adam’s sin was decreed by God. The Infralapsarian taught
that God foresaw that Adam would sin, and so decreed some men to life, and
others to death. The Supralapsarian taught that God determined to reveal
his majesty, and mercy, and justice. He created men, and made them
miserable to show his mercy, and made them sinful to show his justice.

3. If men complain that God has so created them, Calvin answers, God has
the same right that the potter has over the clay. If they complain that
God has chosen some, and not others, to life, he replies, that so oxen,
horses, and sheep might complain that they were not men.

4. God causes the sin which he forbids. This is not a contradiction in
him, for his nature is different from ours.

God created all for his own glory, and sinners to glorify his justice.

Finally, Calvin himself admits that this is “a horrible decree.”

§ 5. Election is to Work and Opportunity here, not to Heaven hereafter.
How Jacob was elected, and how the Jews were a Chosen People.

This _reductio ad absurdum_ disproves the common idea of election. If a
man were elected by God to heaven, and so could not help going to heaven,
it would not be worth his while to give diligence to make his calling and
election sure. It is sure already, without any diligence.

The common Orthodox idea of election is, therefore, a false one. God does
not elect, or choose us, for passive enjoyment, but for active duty. He
elects us to opportunities. He elects, or, as we may say, selects, us for
certain special work, gives us certain special privileges, and holds us to
an accountability for the use of them.

In the parable of the talents, God elected, or selected, one man to the
possession of five talents, another to the possession of two, and another
one. Each was elected; but each was elected to opportunities, and each to
a different opportunity; but they all had to give diligence to make their
calling and election sure.

The word “elect” was first applied to the Jews. They were an elect or
chosen people. They were selected from among all nations for a great duty
and opportunity. They were taught the _unity of God_ and his _holiness_.
They were a city set on a hill, a light shining in the darkness of the
world, to proclaim these truths. That was their opportunity. It was not
happiness, or heaven, or even goodness, that they were chosen for, but
WORK. As long as they continued to do this work, they continued to be
God’s chosen or selected people. But when they hardened into the bigotry
of Phariseeism, and froze into the scepticism of Sadduceeism, when they
ceased to do the work, then they ceased to be the elect people. While they
were diligent to make their election sure, they were the elect, but no

God selected Jacob and rejected Esau. “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I
hated.” But how did God love Jacob? He loved him by giving him
opportunity. And why? Not because he was better than Esau, but because he
was different. Jacob was selected to be father of the chosen people
because he had the qualities required for his work. Esau was wild,
reckless, martial. Jacob was industrious, money-making, fond of small
trade; pastoral, rather than warlike; tenacious of his ideas even to
obstinacy. These were the qualities required in a people who were so few
that if they had been warlike they would have been swept from the earth.
They never fought for the pleasure of fighting, but only when they could
not help it, or when a political necessity compelled it. Though surrounded
by nations much more powerful than themselves,—the Assyrians on the
north-east at Nineveh, the Egyptians on the south-west, the Babylonians on
the east, the Tyrians on the west, and the Greeks on the north-west,—they
saw the fall of all these great nations and empires, but they continued.
Many waves of war swept over their Syrian hills, and left them still
there, peaceful, industrious, worshipping Jehovah in their sacred city,
offering no motive for conquest, too poor to tempt invasion, too far from
the sea to grow rich by commerce, like the Phœnicians. Their obscurity,
poverty, and unheroic qualities were their salvation, and these they
derived apparently from Jacob, their ancestor.

Thus we see that the Jews were a chosen people, and we see what they were
chosen for, and also that they were chosen not because of superior virtue,
but for superior capacity.

§ 6. How other Nations were elected and called.

Other nations were chosen, too, for other purposes. The Greeks also were a
chosen people—chosen to develop the idea of beauty, as the Jews that of
religion. Their mission was beauty in art and in literature. It was no
accident that they came as they did from confluent races, flowing together
from India and Phœnicia, and settling in that sweet climate and romantic
land, where the lovely Ægean, tossing its soft blue waters on the
resounding shore, tempted them to navigation, and awakened their intellect
by the sight of many lands. There they did their work. They made their
calling and election sure. Greek architecture—one birth of beauty after
another—was born. Athens was crowned with marvellous temples, whose
exquisite proportions amaze and charm us to-day—inimitable creations of
beauty. Homer came, and then epic poetry was born. Æschylus and tragedy
came; Pindar and the lyric song; Theophrastus and pastoral music; Anacreon
and the strain which bears his special name. And so Phidias and his
companions created sculpture, Herodotus history, Demosthenes oratory,
Plato and Aristotle philosophy, Zeuxis painting, and Pericles
statesmanship. This was their election, and they made it sure.

The Romans also had their chosen work. They were elected to develop the
idea of LAW. A prosaic people, but filled with notions of justice, they
developed jurisprudence. To show that a nation can be governed not by
despotic will, nor by popular will, but by law,—this was the office of
Rome. As long as it did this work it prospered; when it ceased to do it,
it fell. All other races, no doubt, have their special calling too. Some
make it sure; others seem to fail of making it sure, and so disappear.
Thus the election of the Jews shows a principle of God’s government, and
is not an exceptional case.

That which is true of nations and races is also true of religions and of
Christian denominations. All Christians are a chosen people. They are
chosen for the work of teaching to the human race the great doctrines of
the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Other religions were
sent to men too. Mohammed had his mission—to convert the idolatrous Arabs
to Monotheism. The religions of Asia were intended to prepare the way for
Christianity by teaching the elementary ideas of religion and morality.

§ 7. How different Denominations are elected.

Every great denomination, and small ones, too, are chosen to unfold some
one Christian idea. The Catholic Church was chosen to carry forward the
great central idea of unity—one Lord, one faith, one baptism. But the
Catholic Church is not catholic enough: it has turned itself into a sect
by excluding those who could not accept all its statements and methods,
though they accepted Christ. The Jewish Church committed the same mistake.
When it became narrow, bigoted, exclusive, it left its first love; it then
ceased to enlarge itself, and was obliged to disappear. The Jewish
religion, and all positive religions, are like vases in which a plant is
growing. While the plants are young, they hold them easily; but as the
plants grow, the vases, incapable of expansion, are shivered by the
enlarging roots. So that, unless the Roman Catholic Church can be
liberalized and enlarged, it must break to pieces.

Whatever is said of Jews as the chosen and elect people is intended to
show us a principle which must be applied to others. It is a principle
very visible in their case, but not confined to them. It is the law of
divine Providence. By what we see of its working in their case, we are
able to see it in other cases, where it is less distinct and less

§ 8. How Individuals are elected.

And now let us apply the doctrine of election to individuals. When one is
elected he is always elected to some special opportunity, which he can
improve or not, and for which he is held accountable.

When God sends into the world a great and original genius, like Columbus,
Sir Isaac Newton, Dante, Shakespeare, Mozart, Michael Angelo, Franklin,
Washington, Byron, Napoleon, it is very plain that they are sent, provided
with certain qualities, to do a certain work. It is evident that God meant
Columbus to discover America, and Dante to write a poem. If Columbus had
tried to write the “Inferno,” and Dante had devoted himself to inventing a
steam-engine, if Franklin had written sonnets and pastorals, and Isaac
Newton had gone into trade, if Washington had composed symphonies, and
Beethoven had travelled to discover the source of the Nile, they would not
have made their calling and election sure. But such men (with an
occasional exception, like that of Napoleon and Byron) were all faithful
to their own inspiration, and each chose to abide in the calling in which
he was called; and so each did the work God gave him to do in the world.
Napoleon and Byron did their work only partially, for they allowed their
egotism to blind them, so as to lose sight of their mission after a while.
God sent Napoleon to bind together and organize the institutions of a new
time—to organize liberty. He did it for a season, and then sought,
egotistically, only to build up himself and his dynasty; then his work
came to a sudden end. For it is vanity and egotism which make us fail. We
wish for some calling finer or nobler than the calling God gives us; so we
come to nothing.

In these great and shining examples we are taught how God elects men, how
he elects all men, and how he elects all to work. These are not the
exceptional cases, as we are apt to suppose, but they are the
illustrations of a universal rule.

Every human being has his own gift and opportunity from God; some after
this fashion, and others after that. If faithful, he can see what it is.
If his eye is single, his whole body is full of light. If he is true to
the light within his soul, it grows more and more clear to him what God
wants him to do. Not every man’s business is to do great works in the
world; but every one is sent to do something and to be something—something
which shall bring him nearer to God—something which shall make him more
useful to man. At first he is confused; he cannot tell what his calling
is. But each day, if he be faithful to each day’s call, causes the whole
calling of his life to become more luminous and clear. So we see that
conscientious and faithful people, as they continue to live, grow more and
more into specialty of work, and have more and more of a special place and
duty. Thus we see that all God’s callings are special, and none vague or
general. “Every man has his proper gift from the Lord; one after this
fashion, and another after that.” Perhaps it is not a shining gift, it
will not make him famous, but it is always a good one—always useful and
noble. If we follow God’s leadings, we shall always come out right. “Let
every man,” says the apostle, “abide in the calling in which he is
called.” Let him not be impatient of his own gift, nor covetous of
another’s; let him not be uneasy in his place, nor straining for something
beyond his reach. But if faithful every day to his own gift, he may be
sure that it will grow at last into something truly good, satisfactory,
and sufficient.

§ 9. How Jesus was elected to be the Christ.

Perhaps we can now better understand how Christ was “the chosen one of
God.” If Columbus was chosen and sent to discover a world, if Dante was
sent to be a great poet, if Mozart, Rafaelle, had each his mission, can we
doubt that Jesus also was specially selected and endowed for the work
which he has actually done, to be the leader of the human race in religion
and goodness—to lead it up to God? Yet those who will admit the mission in
all other cases, question it in his case. But what was true in them was
much more so in him. He was conscious from the first that he was selected.
“Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?” “To this end I
was born, that I might bear witness to the truth.” “God sent not his Son
into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through him,
might be saved.” “For this cause came I to this hour.” “I have finished
the work given me to do.”

Jesus, by his nature and organization, by his education, by the very time
of his birth, by the inspiration and influence of the Holy Spirit, was
elected and called. And he fulfilled his part perfectly; and so, the two
conditions being met, he became Saviour of the world, and perpetual Ruler
of the moral and spiritual nature of man.

§ 10. Other Illustrations of Individual Calling and Election.

But it is not merely great men, and men of genius, who are thus
providentially chosen and sent. _Every_ man is chosen for something, and
that something not vague and general, but special and distinct.

You go into some country village of New England. You find there some plain
farmer, of no great education, perhaps, but endowed with admirable insight
and sagacity, and of a kind and benevolent nature. He has come to be the
counsellor and adviser of the whole community. He has no title; he is not
even a “squire.” He has no office; he is not even a justice of the peace.
But he fulfils the mission of peace-maker and of sagacious counsellor. He
is judge without a seat on the bench; he is spiritual guide without being
called “reverend;” he is the stay, the centre, the most essential person
in the place. He has had an evident calling from God, not from man, and he
has made it sure by his diligence and fidelity in his work.

And perhaps in the same village is a woman, poor, old, and uneducated. But
she, too, has a calling from God. She is always sent for in the hour of
trial. If any accident happens, she is there. Her sagacity and experience
help her to do what is needed. She has no medical diploma, but she is the
good physician of the place. God gave to her native sagacity, gave to her
benevolence, gave her acute observation and a good memory, and she has
made her election sure by her own fidelity.

Some persons are called to love and teach little children: that is _their_
work. They are happy with children, and children are happy with them. Some
are called to sympathize; their natures overflow with sympathy; they enter
readily into all trials and into the troubles of every soul, and they pour
oil and wine into the wounds of the heart. God called them to be his good
Samaritans, and they hear the call and obey.

“A place for everything, and everything in its place,” says the prudent
housekeeper. “A place for every man, and every man in his place,” says the
divine Housekeeper, who has so many mansions in his house, and whose Son
said he went to prepare a place for us there in the other world—a working
place, probably, and a sphere of labor there as here. But in this world,
too, what a delight it is to see any one in his right place!

There are different ways in which God calls us, and different kinds of
callings. But every calling of God is good and noble. He calls us to work;
he calls us to Christian goodness; he calls us to heavenly joy, to glory,
honor, and immortality. These are the three great callings of
man—Christian work first, Christian goodness next, Christian glory last.
Since God made every one of us, he made every one of us for something; he
has appointed a destiny for each one, and he calls us to it. If we do not
hear the gentle call, the whisper of his grace, he calls us by trial, by
disaster, by disappointment. He chastens us for our profit. He prunes our
too luxuriant branches that we may bring forth more fruit.

So this doctrine of election, in its other form, as usually taught by
Orthodoxy, so harsh and terrible,—“_horrible decretum_,”—so dishonorable
to God, so destructive to morality, so palsying to effort, grows lovely
and encouraging when looked at aright.

As one grows old, and looks back over his past life, he sees the working
of this divine decree—working where he concurred with it, working where he
resisted it. He sees more and more clearly what his election was, and how
he has fulfilled it, how far failed. He sees himself as a youth, fiery and
ardent, striving for one thing, educated by God for another. He sees how
he was partly led and partly driven into his true work; how he has been
made an instrument by God for good he never dreamed of to God’s other
children. He says, “It is no doing of mine. It is the Lord’s doing. He
chose me for it before the foundation of the world. I builded better than
I knew. I have failed in a thousand plans of my own, but I have ignorantly
fulfilled God’s plans. I am like Saul, the son of Kish, who went out to
seek his father’s asses, and found a kingdom. I am like Schiller’s
explorer, who went to sea with a thousand vessels, and came to shore saved
in a single boat, yet having in that boat the best result of the whole


§ 1. Orthodox Doctrine.

The Orthodox doctrine of the future life is thus stated in the Assembly’s
Catechism, chapter 32:—

“I. The bodies of men, after death, return to dust, and see corruption;
but their souls (which neither die nor sleep) having an immortal
subsistence, immediately return to God who gave them. The souls of the
righteous, being then made perfect in holiness, are received into the
highest heavens, where they behold the face of God, in light and glory,
waiting for the full redemption of their bodies. And the souls of the
wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter
darkness, reserved to the judgment of the great day. Besides these two
places for souls separated from their bodies, the Scripture acknowledged

“II. At the last day, such as are found alive shall not die, but be
changed; and all the dead shall be raised up with the selfsame bodies, and
none other, although with different qualities, which shall be united again
with their souls forever.

“III. The bodies of the unjust shall, by the power of Christ, be raised to
dishonor; the bodies of the just by his Spirit unto honor, and be made
conformable to his own glorious body.”

The views here given may be considered, on the whole, the Orthodox notions
on this subject, although Orthodoxy is by no means rigorous on these
points. Considerable diversity of opinion is here allowed. The nature of
the life between death and the resurrection, and the nature of the
resurrection body, are differently apprehended, without any discredit to
the Orthodoxy of the belief. But, on the whole, we may say that the
Orthodox views on these topics include the following heads:—

1. Man consists of soul and body.

2. The soul of man is naturally immortal.

3. The only satisfactory proof of this immortality is the resurrection of

4. Christ’s resurrection consisted in his return to earth in the same body
as that with which he died, though glorified.

5. Our resurrection will consist in our taking again the same bodies which
we have now, glorified if we are Christians, but degraded if we are not.


On the other hand, those views which incline towards rationalism and
spiritualism agree in part with these statements, and in part differ;

1. They usually agree with Orthodoxy in believing man to consist of soul
and body.

2. They also agree in believing the soul of man naturally immortal.

3. They differ from Orthodoxy in thinking the proof of immortality to be
found in human consciousness, not at all in the resurrection of Jesus.

We will therefore examine these two points of immortality and the
resurrection, to see what the true doctrine of Scripture is concerning

§ 2. The Doctrine of Immortality as taught by Reason, the Instinctive
Consciousness, and Scripture.

The first class of proofs usually adduced for immortality are the rational
proofs, which are such as these:—

THE METAPHYSICAL PROOF.—This is based on the distinction of soul and body.
The existence of the soul is proved exactly as we prove the existence of
the body. If we can prove the one, we can equally prove the other. If any
one asks, How do we know there is such a thing as body? we reply that we
know it by the senses; we can touch, taste, smell, and see it. But to this
the answer is, that the senses only give us sensations, and that these
sensations are in the mind, not out of it. We have a sensation of
resistance, of color, of perfume, and the like; but how do we know that
there is anything outside of the mind corresponding to them? The answer to
this is, that by a necessary law of the reason, when we have a sensation,
we _infer_ some external substance from which it proceeds. We look at a
book, for example. We have a sensation of shape and color; we infer
something outside of our mind from which it proceeds. In other words, we
perceive qualities and infer substance. This inference is a spontaneous
and inevitable act of the mind. Now, we are conscious of another group of
feelings which are not sensations, which do not come from without, but
from within. These are mental and moral. But they, too, are qualities;
and, as in the other case, perceiving qualities, we infer a substance in
which they inhere. This latter substance we name soul, and we know it
exactly as we know body. It is known by us as a simple substance, having
personal unity. The personality, the “I,” is a fundamental idea. Now, as
soon as we perceive the existence of soul, it becomes evident that soul
_cannot_ die. It may be annihilated, but it cannot die. For what is
_death_ when applied to the body? Dissolution or separation of the parts,
but not destruction of the simple elements. Death is decomposition of
these elements, and their resolution into new combinations. Now, the soul,
being known by us as a simple substance, is incapable of dissolution.

This is the metaphysical proof of immortality. Then comes the TELEOLOGIC
proof, or that from final causes. Man’s end is not reached in this life.
We see everything in this world made for an end. The body is made for an
end, and attains it, and then decays and is dissolved. The soul, with all
its great powers, goes on and on, but the body dies before the soul is
ever perfected. Every human life is like an unfinished tale in a magazine,
with “to be continued” written at its close, to show that it is not yet

And besides these proofs of immortality, there is the THEOLOGICAL proof,
founded on the attributes of God; and the MORAL proof, based on the
conflict between conscience and self-love; and the ANALOGICAL proof, based
on the law of progress in nature; and the COSMIC proof, founded on the
relation of the soul to the universe; and the HISTORIC proof, resting on
the universal belief in immortality; and lastly, the PSYCHOLOGIC proof, or
the instinct of life in man, which carries with it its own evidence of

But after all these proofs have been considered, the final result is
probability. Only the last gives more, and this acts not as an argument,
but as conviction. And the strength of this conviction depends on the
strength in any individual of this instinct. Some have more of the
instinct of life, others less.(29) Those who have much are easily
convinced by these various arguments. But those who have less, feel as
Cicero did after reading the Phædo of Plato.(30)

This instinct of life appears not only to be different from the fear of
death, but its exact opposite. When we have most of the one, we have the
least of the other. Any great excitement lifts us temporarily above the
fear of death by giving us more life. So a man will plunge into the sea,
and risk his own life to save that of another. So whole armies go to die
cheerfully in the great rage of battle. But this instinct receives a
permanent strength by all that elevates the soul. All greatness of aim,
all devotion to duty, all generous love, take away the fear of death by
adding to the quantum of life in the soul.(31)

If it be asked what the Scriptures teach concerning immortality, it must
be admitted that they have not much to say. They speak of life and of
eternal life; but this, as we shall discover, is quite another thing from
continued existence. It refers to the quality and quantity of being, and
not merely to its duration.

§ 3. The Three Principal Views of Death—the Pagan, Jewish, and Christian.

There are three principal views of death—the Pagan view, the Jewish view,
and the Christian view.

PAGANISM, in all its various forms, is chiefly distinguished by its
transferring to the other life the tastes, feelings, habits of this life.
The other world is this one, shaded off and toned down. It is gray in its
hue, wanting the color of this world; and is really inferior to it, and
only its pale reflection. To the gods of Olympus the doings of men are
matters of chief interest. Tartarus and the Elysian Fields are occupied by
lymphatic ghosts, misty spectres, unsubstantial and unoccupied. When a
living man enters, like Ulysses, Æneas, or Dante, they throng around him,
delighted to have something in which they can take a real interest.
“Better be a plough-boy on earth than a king among the ghosts.” This
expresses the Pagan idea of the other world. This world is more _real_
than the other, to the Pagan.

JUDAISM, in its view of hereafter, is much more positive. It began with no
idea of a hereafter. Nothing is taught concerning a future life by Moses,
and little is to be found concerning it even in the prophets. The
explanation is simple. Men hard at work in the present do not think much
of the future; and the work of the Jews was to be servants of Jehovah and
doers of his law here. However, all men must think a little of the region
beyond death. When the Jews thought of it, they projected their LAW upon
its blank spaces. It was a place where Jehovah would vindicate his
law—where the just should be happy, the unjust miserable. The perplexity
which tormented Job, David, and Elijah—namely, that bad men should succeed
in this world and good men fail—was to find its solution there. Judgment
was the Jewish idea of hereafter—a judgment to come. “I have a hope toward
God, as they themselves also allow,” said Paul, speaking of the Pharisees,
“that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, of the just, and also of
the unjust.”

The CHRISTIAN view of death is, that it is abolished—it has ceased to be
anything. The New Testament distinctly says, “who has _abolished_ death,
and brought life and immortality to light.”(32) Death, to a Christian, is
but a point on the line of advancing being; a door through which we pass;
a momentary sleep between two days. In the same sense the Saviour says,
“He that liveth and believeth on me shall never die.”

So also he spoke of Lazarus as being only asleep, and said of the daughter
of Jairus, “She is not dead, but sleepeth.”

Certainly Jesus could not have spoken of death in this way if he regarded
it as the awful and solemn thing which most believers consider it. If it
is the moment that decides our eternal destiny, which shuts the gate of
probation, which terminates for the sinner all opportunity of repentance
and conversion, for the saint all danger of relapse and fall,—then death
is surely something, and something of the most immense importance.

But Christ has really destroyed death both in the Pagan and in the Jewish
feeling concerning it. He destroys the Pagan idea of death as a plunge
downward from something into nothing, a descent into non-entity or
half-entity, a diminution of our being, a passage from the substantial to
the shadowy and unreal.

For, according to Christianity, we do not descend in death; we ascend into
more of reality, into higher life. Death is a passage onward and upward.

The proof of this we find in the Christian doctrine of the RESURRECTION.

The meaning of the resurrection of Christ is not, as has been often
supposed, that after death he came to life _again_, but that at death he
rose; that his death was rising up, ascent. This we shall show in a future
section of this chapter.

One power of Christ’s resurrection was to abolish the _fear of death_. It
brought life and immortality to _light_. It showed men their immortality.

The fear of death is natural to all men, but it is easily removed. The
smallest and lowest power of the resurrection is shown in removing it.

The fear of death is natural. It consists in this—that we are, in a great
part of our nature, immersed in the finite and perishing. “When we look at
the things which are seen,” which “are temporal,” we have an inward
feeling of instability—nothing substantial. Therefore it is said, “In Adam
all die,” for the Adam, the first man in all of us, is the animal soul.
“The first man is of the earth, earthy.” The law of our life is, that it
comes from our love. When we love the finite, our life is finite. But
besides the finite element in man, the animal soul, or Adam, is the
spiritual element, or Christ, the life flowing from things unseen, but

Christ has abolished death. There is now to the Christian no such thing as
death, in the common sense of the term. The only death is the sense of
death, the fear of death, which insnares and enslaves. Jesus delivers us
from this by inspiring us with faith. We rise with him when we look with
him at the things unseen. Faith in eternal things brings into the soul a
sense of eternity. Death is only a sleep: outward death is the sleep of
the bodily life; inward death is the sleep of the higher life. We awake
and rise from the dead when Christ gives us life; and when he, who is our
life, shall appear, we shall also appear with him.

The philosopher Lessing says, “Thus was Christ the first _practical_
teacher of the immortality of the soul. For it is one thing to conjecture,
to wish, to hope for, to believe in immortality as a philosophical
speculation—another thing to arrange all our plans and purposes, all our
inward and our outward life, in accordance to it.”

Jesus also destroys the Jewish idea of death, as a passage from a world
where the good suffer and the bad triumph, to a world where this state of
things is reversed. The kingdom of heaven, with him, begins here, in this
world. Judgment is here as well as hereafter. The Jew lived, and all
Judaizing Christians live, under a fearful looking for of judgment after
death. The Christian sees that judgment is always taking place; that
Christ is always judging the world; that God’s moral laws and their
retributions are not kept in a state of suspense till we die—that they
operate now daily. The Christian knows that heaven and hell are both here,
and he expects to find them hereafter, because he finds them here. He
believes in law, but not in law only. He believes in something higher than
law, namely, love—the love of a present, helpful Father, of a friend near
at hand, of an inspiration from on high, of a God who forgives all sins
when they are repented of, and saves all who trust in him. He is not under
law, but under grace.

When he looks forward to the other world, it is not as to a place where he
goes to be sentenced by a stern and absolute judge, but where judgment and
mercy go hand in hand, where law remains, but is fulfilled by love.

This is what Paul means when he says, “The sting of death is sin, and the
strength of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who hath given us the
victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The only real death is the fear of death—the Pagan fear of death, which is
a dread of loss, change, degradation of being, to follow the dissolution
of the body; and the Jewish fear of death, which is a fearful looking for
of judgment, and the sting of which is sin. Christ abolishes both of these
fears in every believing heart. He abolishes them in two ways—by the life
and the resurrection. He is both resurrection and life: by inspiring us
with spiritual or eternal life, he abolishes all fear of dissolution; and
by showing us that he has ascended into a higher state by his
resurrection, he gives us the belief that death is not going down, but
going up. For, though “it doth not yet appear what we shall be, yet we
know this, that when _he_ shall appear, we shall be like him.”

But, unfortunately, Christians are still subject to the fear of death.
This fear has been aggravated by the current teaching in pulpits
professedly Christian. The fear of that “something after death” has been
made use of to palsy the will; and conscience, as instructed by Christian
teachers, has made cowards of us all; so that few persons can really say,
“Thanks be to God, who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus

It is very certain that the Pagan view of death and the Jewish view of
death still linger in the Church, and are encouraged by Christian
teachers. Death is made terrible by false doctrine and false teaching in
the Church. Christ has _not_ abolished death to the majority of
Christians. Christians are almost as much afraid of death as the
heathen—sometimes more so.

Actual Christianity is a very different thing from ideal Christianity.
Ideal Christianity is Christianity as seen and lived by Jesus; the gospel
which he saw and spoke; the word of God made flesh in him. But actual
Christianity is an amalgam; a portion of real Christianity mixed with a
portion of the belief and habits of feeling existing in men’s minds before
they became Christians. The Jews took a large quantity of Judaism into
Christianity; the Pagans a large quantity of Paganism. The Christian
Church from the very beginning Judaized and Paganized. Paul contended
against its Judaism on the one hand and its Paganism on the other. But
Judaism and Paganism have always stuck to the Christian Church. She has
never risen above them wholly to this day. They mingle with all her
doctrines, ceremonies, and habits of life. The Romish Church has more of
the Pagan element, the Protestant more of the Jewish. The mediatorial
system of Rome is essentially Pagan. Its ascending series of deacons,
sub-deacons, priests, bishops, archbishops, patriarchs, cardinals, and
pope in the Church below; and beatified and sanctified spirits, angels,
and archangels in the Church above; its processions, pilgrimages, dresses,
its monastic institutions, its rosaries, relics, daily sacrifice, votive
offerings—everything peculiar to the Roman Church, existed before,
somewhere, in Paganism. So Protestantism has taken from the Jews its
Sabbath, its idea of God as King and Judge, its exclusion from God’s favor
of all but the elect, its view of the divine sovereignty, its doctrine of
predestination, day of judgment, resurrection of the body, material heaven
and material hell.

I do not mean to say that there is no truth in these things. There is,
because there is some truth in Paganism and in Judaism. We are all Pagans
and Jews before we become Christians. The Jewish and Pagan element is in
every human soul, and in all _constants_ in man there is truth. But the
Pagan and Jewish truths are but stepping-stones to the higher Christian
truth. The law and Paganism are school-masters to bring us to Christ. The
evil is, that Christianity has not been kept supreme; it has often been
sunk and lost in the earlier elements. As the foolish Galatians were
bewitched, and relapsed from the gospel to the law,—turning again to weak
and beggarly elements, desiring to be in bondage to them again, going back
to their minority under tutors and governors,—so the Church has been
relapsing, going back to weak and beggarly elements, not keeping
Christianity supreme in thought, heart, and life, but letting Paganism or
Judaism get the upper hand.

So it has been in regard to this subject. We Paganize and Judaize in our
view of death. We reëstablish again what Christ has abolished. We make
death something where Christ made it nothing. It is made the great duty of
life to “prepare for death.” No such duty is pointed out in the New
Testament. Our duty is to prepare every day _to live_; then, when we die,
we shall be taken care of by God. We can safely leave the other world and
its interests to Him who has shown himself so capable of taking care of us

The gloom of death has been heightened by artificial means. Mourning
dresses, solemn faces, funeral addresses, the grave,—all have had an
unnatural depth of awe added to the natural sense of bereavement. The
Orthodox Church has deliberately and systematically Paganized and Judaized
in what it has said and done about death. Its object has been always to
make use of the great lever of fear of a hereafter in order to enforce
Christian belief and action. Hence Death has been made the king of
terrors, the close of probation, the beginning of judgment, the awful
entrance to the final decision of an endless doom. All this is wholly
unchristian, unknown to apostolic times, a relapse towards Paganism. It is
utterly opposed to the great declaration that “CHRIST HAS ABOLISHED DEATH,

What is called faith in immortality, therefore, is of two kinds: it is an
instinct, and it is a belief. In the New Testament these are plainly
distinguished. In the passage just quoted, it is said that Jesus “brought
life AND immortality to light.” Jesus himself says, “I am the resurrection
AND the life.” “He that believeth in me hath eternal life abiding in him,
AND I will raise him up at the last day.”

Life is a matter of consciousness. It is a present possession, something
abiding in us now.

Immortality, or the resurrection, is an object of intellectual belief. It
is something future. We _feel_ life; we believe in the resurrection.

We will pass on, in the next sections, to consider each of these.

§ 4. Eternal Life, as taught in the New Testament, not endless Future
Existence, but present Spiritual Life.

It is only necessary carefully to examine the passages in the New
Testament where the phrase “eternal life” (ζωή αἰώνιος) occurs, to see
that it does not refer to the duration, but to the quality, of existence.
_Temporal life_ is that life of the soul which through the body is subject
to the vicissitudes of time. _Eternal_ (or everlasting) _life_ is that
life of the spirit which is independent of change, and is apart from
duration. God’s being was regarded by the Semitic races as outside of time
and space, as a perpetual Now, without before or after. (“I am the _I
Am_.” Exod. 3:14.) Man, made in the image of God, becomes a “partaker of
the divine nature” (2 Peter 2:4) by the gift of eternal life.

That “eternal life” is not an endless temporal existence appears,—

(_a._) From the passages in which it is spoken of as something to be
obtained by one’s own efforts, as (Matt. 19:16) when the young man asks of
Jesus what good thing he shall do that he may have eternal life, and Jesus
replies that he must keep the commandments, give his possessions to the
poor, and come and follow him. Certainly that was not the method to obtain
an endless existence, but it was the true preparation for receiving
spiritual good. So Jesus tells Peter (Mark 10:30) that those who make
sacrifices for the sake of truth shall receive temporal rewards “in this
time;” and “in the coming age eternal life” (“ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τῷ ἐρχομένῳ ζωὴν
αἰώνιον”). The coming age is the age of the Messiah, when the gift of the
Holy Ghost should be bestowed.

(_b._) Passages in which eternal life is spoken of as a present
possession, not a future expectation. (John 3:36.) “He that believeth on
the Son _hath_ (ἔχει) eternal life.” So John 6:47, 54, &c.

(_c._) Passages in which eternal life is defined expressly as a state of
the soul. (John 17:3.) “This is life eternal, that they may know thee the
only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent,” &c.

So (Gal. 6:8) it is represented as the natural result of “sowing to the
Spirit;” (Rom. 2:7) of “patient continuance in well-doing;” as “the gift
of God” (Rom. 6:23); as something which we “lay hold of” (1 Tim. 6:12,

This view of “eternal life” is taken by all the best critics. Professor
Hovey thus sums up their testimony:—(33)

    “On a certain occasion, Christ pronounced it necessary for the Son
    of Man to be lifted up, ‘that whosoever believeth in him should
    not perish, but _have eternal life_’ (John 3:15)—ἔχῃ ζωήν αἰώνιον.
    Ζωὴν αἰώνιον, says Meyer, who is, perhaps, the best commentator on
    the New Testament, of modern times, ‘signifies the eternal
    Messianic life, which, however, the believer already
    possesses—ἔχῃ—in this αἰὼν, that is, in the temporal development
    of that moral and blessed life which is independent of death, and
    which will culminate in perfection and glory at the coming of
    Christ.’ And Lücke, whose commentary on the Gospel of John is one
    of the most thorough and attractive in the German language, says
    that the ζωὴ αἰώνιος, which is the exact opposite of ἀπώλεια
    (destruction), or θάνατος (death), is the sum of Messianic
    blessedness. It is plain, we think, that the life here spoken of
    as the present possession of every believer in Christ is more than
    endless existence; it is life in the fullest and highest sense of
    the word, the free, holy, and blessed action of the whole man,
    that is to say, the proper, normal living of a rational and moral
    being. The germ, the principle of this life, exists in the heart
    of every believer; it is a present possession. ‘Whosoever,’ says
    Christ, ‘drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never
    thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a
    fountain—πηγὴ—of water, springing up into everlasting life.’ (John
    4:14.) In another place our Saviour utters these words: ‘He that
    heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, _hath eternal
    life_, and shall not come into condemnation, _but has passed from
    death into life_’ (John 5:24)—μεταβέβηκεν ἐκ τοῦ θανάτου εἰς τὴν
    ζωήν. Here, again, the believer is said to _have_ eternal life,
    even now; for he has passed from death into life. _Ingens saltus_,
    remarks Bengel, with his customary brevity and graphic power. We
    translate a part of Lücke’s ample and instructive note on this
    important verse.

    “ ‘The words, “Has passed from death into life” determine that
    ἔχει (_hath_) must be taken as a strict present. For the verb
    μεταβέβηκεν (_has passed_) affirms that the transition from death
    into life took place with the hearing and believing. Only if an
    impossible thought were thus expressed, could we consent, as in a
    case of extreme necessity, to understand the present ἔχει and the
    present perfect μεταβέβηκεν as futures. And then we should be
    compelled to say that John had expressed himself very strangely.
    But if a higher kind of life, a resurrection process prior to
    bodily death, is represented by “hath,” and “hath passed,” then
    ζωὴ and ζωὴ αἰώνιος are not to be understood of a life commencing
    after bodily death, but of the true and eternal Messianic life or
    salvation, beginning even here. This life does not, to be sure,
    exclude natural death, but neither does it first begin after this
    death. (Cf. 5:40.) Even so θάνατος cannot be understood of bodily,
    but only of spiritual death, of lying in the darkness of the
    world. This interpretation would be justified here, even if
    θάνατος elsewhere in the New Testament denoted uniformly nothing
    but bodily death. But the metaphorical idea of death stands out
    clearly in 1 John 3:14; 5:16, 17; John 8:51, 52; 2 Cor. 2:16;
    7:10. Similar, also, is the use of the words θανατοῦν (Rom. 7:4;
    8:13), and νεκρός, νεκροῦν, ἀποθνήσκειν (Matt. 8:22; Eph. 5:14;
    Heb. 6:1; Col. 3:5; Gal. 2:19).’

    “With the passage now examined may be compared a statement of the
    apostle John to the same effect, namely: ‘We know that we have
    passed from death into life, because we love the brethren; he that
    loveth not abideth in death.’ (1 John 3:14.) This language,
    explained with a due regard to the preceding context, speaks,
    evidently, of spiritual death and life, of a passing from one
    moral condition into another and opposite one. To say that this
    new moral condition and blessed state is to endure and improve
    forever, may doubtless be to utter an important truth, but one
    which does not conflict in the slightest degree with its present
    existence. It begins in this life; it continues forever and ever.

    “Again: we find our Saviour saying, ‘He that believeth on me hath
    everlasting life;’ ‘Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and
    drink his blood, ye have no life in you;’ and, ‘The words that I
    speak unto you are spirit, and are life.’ (John 6:47, 53, 63.) By
    these verses we are taught once more, that the Greek terms which
    denote life and death, living and dying, were applied by Christ to
    opposite moral states of the soul. For, observe, (1.) he more than
    intimates that his words, his doctrines, are the source of present
    life to those who receive them, and that, by eating his flesh and
    drinking his blood, he signifies a reception of his words, and so
    of himself as the Lamb of God. And, (2.) he declares that one who
    believes _has_ eternal life; that one who eats of the true bread
    shall not die, but shall live forever; and that one who does not
    eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man _hath not
    life_ in himself.

    “Is it not plain that the words _life_ and _death_, as well as the
    words _bread_, _flesh_, and _blood_, _eating_ and _drinking_, are
    here used in a spiritual sense? Is it not plain that Jesus here
    speaks of something in the believer’s soul which is nourished by
    Christian truth, and which is at the same time called _life_? But
    it is the function of truth to quicken thought and feeling, to
    determine the modes of conscious life, the character or moral
    condition of the human soul; and hence the rejection of it may
    involve the utter want of certain spiritual _qualities_ and
    blessed _emotions_, but not the want of personal existence. In
    still another place we read, ‘Jesus said unto her, I am the
    resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were
    dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me
    shall never die.’ (John 11:25, 26.) Christ here affirms that every
    believer is exempted from death. And it matters not for our
    present purpose whether the word ζῶν, translated in our version
    ‘liveth,’ refers in this passage to physical or to moral life. If
    it refers to physical life, then our Saviour pronounces the
    Christian to be already, in time, delivered from the power of
    death, and in possession of a true and immortal life. But if it
    refers to moral life, Christ declares that whoever possesses this
    life, whether in the body or out of the body, is delivered from
    the power of death; that is, his union with God and delight in
    him, which alone constitute the normal living of the soul, shall
    never be interrupted: οὐ μὴ ἀποθάνῃ εἰς τὸν αἰώνα—_he shall never

    “ ‘And this is life eternal,’ says the Great Teacher, ‘that they
    should know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou
    hast sent.’ (John 17:3.) The best ancient and modern interpreters
    hold this verse to be a definition by Christ himself of the
    expression ‘life eternal,’ so often used by him, according to the
    record of John. De Wette says, ‘_And this is_ (therein consists)
    _the life eternal_; not, this is the means of the eternal life;
    for the vital knowledge of God and Christ is itself the eternal
    life, which begins even here, and penetrates the whole life of the
    human spirit.’ Meyer translates thus: ‘_Therein consists the
    eternal life_,’ and says, ‘This knowledge, willed of God, is the
    “eternal life,” inasmuch as it is the essential subjective
    principle of the latter, its enduring, eternally unfolding germ
    and fountain, both now, in the temporal development of the eternal
    life, and hereafter, when the kingdom is set up, in which faith,
    hope, and charity abide, whose essence is that knowledge.’(34) The
    same view, substantially, is presented by Olshausen, Lücke,
    Bengel, Alford, and many others.”

Eternal life is the gift of God to the soul through Jesus Christ. It is
God’s life communicated to man—the life of God in the soul of man. This is
distinctly stated in the First Epistle of John (chap. 1:1), as the life
which was from the beginning, the eternal life which was with the Father,
but is manifested to us, giving us fellowship with the Father and with his

The root of this eternal life is in every human being. It is what we call
“the spirit” in man, as distinguished from the soul and body. It is the
side of each person which touches the infinite and eternal.

Fichte, the most spiritual of German philosophers, says, “Love is life.
Where I love, I live. What I love, I live from that.”(35) When we love
earthly things, our life is earthly, that is, temporal; when we love the
true, the right, the good, our life is spiritual and eternal. Then we have
eternal life abiding in us. Then all fear of death departs. The great gift
of God through Christ was to make the right and true also lovely, so that
loving them, we could draw our life from them. When God becomes lovely to
us, by being shown to us as Jesus shows him, then by loving God we live
from God, and so have eternal life abiding in us.

The natural instinct of immortality is the spirit, or sense of the
infinite and eternal. But it needs to be reënforced by the influence of
Christian conviction, hope, and experience, in order completely to conquer
the sense of death. It is not by logical arguments in proof of a future
existence that immortality becomes clear to us, but by living an immortal
life. Dr. Channing says truly, “Immortality must begin here.” And so Hase
(Dogmatic, § 92) says, “Any proof which should demonstrate, with
mathematical certainty, to the understanding, or to the senses, the
blessings or terrors of our future immortality, would destroy morality in
its very roots. The belief in immortality is therefore at first only a
wish, and a belief on the authority of others; but the more that any one
assures to himself his spiritual life by his own free efforts and a pure
love for goodness, the more certain also does eternity become, not merely
as something future, but as something already begun.”(36)

Whenever Jesus is said to give eternal life, or to be the life of the
world; whenever the apostles declare Christ to be their life, or say that
as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive; when Paul says,
“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the
law of sin and death;” “to be spiritually minded is life and peace;” “the
life of Jesus is manifested in our dying (mortal) flesh;” when John says,
“He that hath the Son hath life;” when in Revelation we read of the book
of life, and water of life, and tree of life,—the meaning is always the
same. It refers to the spiritual vitality added to the soul by the
influence of Jesus, who communicates God’s love, and so enables us to LOVE
God, instead of merely fearing him or obeying him. Love casts out all
fear, the fear of death included. He who looks at the things unseen and
eternal, partakes of their eternal nature, and though his outward human
nature perishes, his inward spiritual nature is renewed day by day.

§ 5. Resurrection, and its real Meaning, as a Rising up, and not a Rising

One part of the Christian doctrine of immortality is conveyed in the term
“eternal life;” the other part in the other term, usually associated with
it—“the resurrection.” The common Orthodox doctrine of the resurrection,
is that the dead shall rise with the same bodies as those laid in earth;
and this identity is usually made to consist in identity of matter, though
Paul expressly says, “Thou sowest _not_ that body that shall be.” On the
other hand, many liberal thinkers of the Spiritual School deny any
resurrection, and think the whole doctrine of the resurrection a Jewish
error, believing in a purely spiritual existence hereafter. Others, like
Swedenborg, teach that the soul hereafter dwells in a body, though of a
more refined and sublimated character; and in this we think they approach
more nearly the teaching of the New Testament.

It is a remarkable fact that the Greek words indicating the rising of men
should have been translated, in our English Bible, by terms signifying
something wholly different, and conveying another sense than that in the
original. It is equally extraordinary that this change of meaning should
seldom or never be alluded to by theological writers.

These words, translated “resurrection,” “rise again,” and the like, all
have, in the Greek, the sense of rising UP, not of rising AGAIN. They
signify not return, but ascent; not coming back to this life, but going
forward to a higher. The difference in meaning is apparent and very
important. It is one thing to say, that at death we go down into Hades, or
into dissolution, and at the resurrection we come back to conscious
existence, or to the same life we had before, and quite a different thing
to say that what we call death is _nothing_; but that we rise _up_, and go
forward when we seem to die. This last is the doctrine of the New
Testament, though the former is the one usually believed to be taught in

The immense stress laid, in the New Testament, on the resurrection of
Jesus is by no means explained by supposing that after his death he came
to life again, and so proved that there is a life after death. What he
showed his disciples was, that death was not going down, but going up; not
descent into the grave, or Hades, but ascent to a higher world. This is
the evident sense of such passages as these. We have not room to go over
all the passages which should be noticed in a critical examination, but
select a few of the most prominent.

1. Ἀνάστασις, commonly translated “resurrection,” or “rising again,” but
which literally means “rising up.” (So Bretschneider, “Lexicon Man. in
lib. Nov. Test.” defines it as “resurrectio, _rectius_ surrectio.”)(37)

This word occurs forty-two times in the New Testament. In _none_ of them
(unless there be a single exception, which we shall presently consider)
does it necessarily mean _a rising again_, or coming back to the same
level of life as before. In a large number of instances the word _can
only_ mean a _rising up_, or ascent to a higher state. Of these cases we
will cite a few examples.

Ten of the passages in which the word ἀνάστασις occurs, are in the account
by the Synoptics of the discussion between Jesus and the Sadducees
concerning the case of the woman married to seven brothers. After stating
the case, they say, “Therefore, _in the resurrection_, whose wife of them
is she?” It is plain that the word “resurrection” here is equivalent to
“the future state,” and cannot be limited to a return to life. This
becomes more apparent in the answer of Jesus, as given, somewhat varied,
by the three Synoptics: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are
given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30.)
Mark, instead of “the resurrection,” has the corresponding verb, “when
they shall rise from the dead.” This certainly means, not rising again,
but rising up, ascending to a higher state. And Luke adds another element,
showing that the “resurrection” is a state to which all may not attain,
but which is dependent on character; evidently therefore a higher state.
“They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world (τοῦ αιῶνος
ἐχείνου), and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given
in marriage; neither can they die any more, for they are equal unto the
angels” (or rather “are like the angels”) “and are children of God, being
_children of the resurrection_.” (Luke 20:35, 36.) This last phrase,
“children of the resurrection,” is very significant, and intends a
character corresponding to this higher state. There seems, indeed, to be a
contradiction between this passage, which makes the resurrection
conditional, and those which declare it universal. (See John 5:29, and 1
Cor. ch. 15.) But perhaps the reconciliation can be found in the apostolic
statement (1 Cor. 15:23) “every one in his order.” All shall ascend into
the higher state, called “the resurrection,” but only as they become
prepared for it. All are not now prepared to hear the voice of the Son of
man (or of divine truth), which shall causes them to rise to the
resurrection of life and of judgment; but, in due season, all shall come
forth from their graves, and hear it.

Another passage in which this word occurs is in Luke 2:34, where Simon
says, “This child is set for the fall and _rising again_ (ἀνάστασιν) of
many in Israel.” A moral fall and rising are here evident; and only if the
reduplication be dropped, and we read “for the fall and the rising up,” do
we get the true idea. It is not meant that Jesus comes to degrade us
morally, and then lift us up again morally. Rather it means that he comes
to test the state of the hearts of men: some cannot bear the test, and
fall before it; others, better prepared, rise higher. Here, also,
ἀνάστασις means rising up, and not rising again.

The most remarkable use of this word, however, is in that famous passage
where the common meaning is wholly unintelligible, in the story of
Lazarus. (John 11:24, 25.) Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the
life.” If resurrection means coming back to life after death, in what
sense can Jesus be “the resurrection and the life”? Then Jesus said that
he was “the coming back to life,” which is unintelligible. But if the
resurrection means the ascent to a higher state, then Jesus declares that
he is the way of _ascent to a higher state_, just as he says elsewhere, “I
am the way;” “I am the door.” It is the power of Christ within the soul,
the power of his spirit of faith, hope, and love, which enables us to go
forward and upward. Christ is not the principle of resuscitation to an
earthly existence, or a merely human immortality. He does not bring us to
life again, but he lifts us up. So he adds, “He who believeth in me,
though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Not, shall come to life again;
no, but, shall rise out of death into life, ascend into a higher condition
of being. Then he adds that to one who has faith in him, who has adopted
his ideas, there is no longer any such thing as death. Death has
disappeared—is abolished. “He who liveth and believeth in me shall never

But, it may be objected, if spiritual death and life are here spoken
of,—if the passage means that he who believeth in Christ shall have inward
religious spiritual life, a heavenly and celestial life,—then how could
that comfort Martha, or apply to her case, who was mourning, not the
spiritual, but the natural, death of her brother?

Christ is essentially a manifestation of the truth and love of God. To
believe in him is therefore to believe in God’s truth and love. But belief
in this fills the soul with life. And the soul full of life cannot die.
What seems death is only change, and a change from a lower to a higher
state, therefore rising up, or resurrection. Christ, then, the love and
truth of God in the soul, is the life and the resurrection. He fills the
soul with that life which causes it to rise with every change, to go up
and on evermore to a higher state. That which seems death is nothing; the
only real death is the immersion of the soul in sense and evil, the
turning away from truth and God.

Now, Martha believed, as most of us believe, in a _future_ resurrection.
She believed that, after lying a long time in the grave, one would come
out of it at last, on a great day of judgment, and somehow the soul and
body be reunited. She believed this, for it was the general belief of the
Jews in her day. It is the general belief of Christians now. The majority
of Christians have not got very far beyond that. They talk of the
resurrection, as though it were merely the return of the soul into the old
body; and when you comfort them over their dead by saying, “Your dead will
rise,” reply, “I know it—at the resurrection, at the last day.” But Jesus
tells Martha, and all the Martha Christians of the present time, that he
_is_ the resurrection and the life. Your brother is not to sleep in the
dust till the last day, and then rise. He does not die at all. He rises
with Christ here, and in whatever other world. His nature is to go _up_,
not down, when he is Christianized. Now or then, to-day or at the last
day, if he has the living faith of a son of God, he will be raised by that
Christ within him, who is his life.

This, it seems to us, is the only adequate explanation of this passage,
and shows conclusively that resurrection must mean, in this place, a
rising up to a higher existence, and not a mere return to this life.

It appears, from 1 Cor. ch. 15, that there were some in the Christian
church who said there was no resurrection of the dead (ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν,)
or that it was past already. (2 Tim. 2:18.) These Christians did not deny
the doctrine of immortality, or a future life. It is difficult to imagine
the motive which could induce any one, in those days, to join the
Christian church, if he denied a future life. Probably, therefore, they
assumed that the only real resurrection takes place in the soul when we
rise with Christ. They said, “If we are to rise into a higher life after
this, _how_ shall we rise, and with what bodies?” (1 Cor. 15:35.) They
professed to believe in a simple immortality of the soul, but not an
ascent of the personal being, soul and body together, to the presence of
God. They did not question a future life, but a higher life to which soul
and body should go up together.

To these doubting Christians, who could not gather strength to believe in
such a great progress as this, Paul says that if man does not rise, if it
is contrary to his nature to rise, then Jesus, being a man, has not risen,
but gone down to Hades with other souls. Then he is not _above_ us, with
God, sending down strength and inspiration from our work. This faith of
ours, which has been our great support, is an illusion. We have all been
deceived—deceived in preaching forgiveness of sins through Christ from
God; deceived in preaching a higher life above us, into which Christ has
gone, and where he is waiting to receive us. But we have not been
deceived—Christ _has_ risen, and risen as the first fruits of humanity. He
leads the way up, and in proportion as we share his life, we also have in
ourselves the principle of ascent, and shall go up too. He goes first;
then all who are like him follow and finally, in due order, all mankind.
Death and Hades have been conquered by this new influx of life in Christ.
Instead of remaining pale ghosts, naked souls, we shall rise into a
fuller, richer, larger life, of soul and body.

There is one passage, however, where there seems a difficulty in
considering ἀνάστασις, or resurrection, as implying an ascent of
condition. It is in John 5:28, 29. Our common translation reads thus: “The
hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice
(that is, the voice of the Son of man), and shall come forth, they that
have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil
unto the resurrection of damnation.” At first sight it certainly seems
that the “resurrection of damnation” (ἀνάστασιν χρίσεως) could hardly be
considered a higher state. All depends, however, on the meaning of the
word, here translated “damnation.” The word, in the Greek, is the genitive
of χρίσις. Now, by turning to the Concordance, we find that this word
χρίσις occurs some forty-eight times in the New Testament. In these

It is translated 3 times by “damnation.”
It is translated 2 times by “condemnation.”
It is translated 2 times by “accusation.”
It is translated 41 times by “judgment.”

It is evident, therefore, that our translators considered _judgment_ to be
the primary and usual meaning of the word. Why, then, did they not
translate it here, “rising to judgment,” or “resurrection of judgment”? It
must have been because they believed either that (1.) “judgment” would
make no sense here; (2.) that “damnation” would make better sense; or,
(3.) that “damnation” was more in accordance with the analogy of faith.
But we can decide these points for ourselves. “Judgment” is the better
word here, for it accords with the doctrine of the New Testament, that in
proportion as man goes wrong, he dulls his moral sense, and needs a
revelation of truth to show him what he is. A true man, who has lived
according to the truth here, has judged himself, and will not need to be
judged hereafter. (1 Cor. 11:31.) He rises into the resurrection of life.
But those who follow falsehood here, need to see the truth; and they rise
into the resurrection of judgment. The truth judges and condemns them. But
this is really an ascent to them also. It is going up higher, to see the
truth, even when it condemns them. This passage, then, is no exception to
the principle that wherever “resurrection” (ἀνάστασις) occurs in the New
Testament, it implies going up into a higher state.

All the other places where the word occurs either evidently have this
meaning, or can bear it as easily as the other. Thus (Luke 14:14), “Thou
shalt be recompensed in the higher state of the just.” (20:27), the
Sadducees “deny a higher state.” (Acts 1:21), “he is to be a witness with
us of the ascended state of Jesus.” (Acts 4:2), “preached, through Jesus,
the higher state of the dead.” (17:18), “preached to them Jesus and the
higher state.” (20:23), that Christ “should be the first to rise into the
higher state.” (Lazarus and others had returned to life again before
Jesus, so that in this sense he was _not_ the first fruits.) (Rom. 6:5),
“planted in the likeness of his resurrection.” This can only mean as
Christ passed through the grave into a higher state, so we pass through
baptism into a higher state.

The only text which presents any real difficulty is Heb. 11:35,
translated, “women received their dead raised to life again,” literally,
“women received from the resurrection their dead” (ἐξ ἀναστάσεως), which
may refer to a return to this life, as in the case of the child of the
widow of Sarepta (1 Kings 17:17), and of the Shunamite (2 Kings 4:17).(38)
But in the same verse, the other and “better” resurrection is spoken of,
for the sake of which these martyrs refused to return to this life. The
case referred to is probably that of the record of the seven brothers put
to death by Antiochus (2 Macc. 7:9), who refused life offered on condition
of eating swine’s flesh, and said, when dying, “The King of the world
shall raise us up, who have died for his laws, unto everlasting life” (εἰς
αἰώνιον ἀναβίωσιν ζωῆς ἀνατήσει ἡμας), literally, “to an eternal renewal
of our life.”(39) This verse shows, therefore, that though ἀνάστασις may
mean a return to this life, yet that the other sense of a higher life is
expressly contrasted with it, even here.

Our conclusion, therefore, with regard to this term ἀνάστασις, is, that
its meaning, in New Testament usage, is not “rising again,” but “rising
up,” or “ascent.”

2. Ἀνίστημι. This word is the root of the former. It is used one hundred
and twelve times in the New Testament. It is translated with _again_ (as,
“he must rise again from the dead”) fifteen times. It is translated
thirty-six times “rise up” or “raise _up_” (as, “I will raise him up at
the last day”), and ninety-six times without the “again.” It is rendered
“he _arose_,” “shall _rise_,” “stood up,” “raise up,” “arise,” and in
similar ways.

3. Ἐγείρω. This word is also frequently used in relation to the
resurrection, and is translated “to awaken,” “arouse,” “animate,”
“revive.” The natural and usual meaning is ascent to a higher state, and
not merely a “rising again.”


From these considerations we see that the primitive and central meaning of
the terms used to express the resurrection is that of ASCENT. It is GOING
UP. This is the essential Christian idea. But it soon became implicated
with the Pagan idea of immortality, or continued existence of the soul,
and the Jewish idea of a bodily resurrection at the last day. But though
there is a truth in each of these beliefs, the Christian doctrine is
neither one nor the other. The gospel _assumes_, but does not teach, a
continued existence of the soul. Since the greater includes the less, in
teaching that the MAN rises at death into a higher life, it necessarily
implies that he continues to live. And in teaching that he is to exist as
man, with soul and body, in a higher condition of development, it teaches
necessarily the bodily resurrection of the Jews. Christ, who came “not to
destroy, but to fulfil,” FULFILS both Pagan and Jewish ideas of the future
state in this doctrine of an ASCENSION at death.

The principal points of the teaching of Jesus concerning the life which
follows the dissolution of the body are these: _First._ As against the
Sadducees, he argues that the dead are living (Matt. 22:31, and the
parallel passages), from the simple fact that God calls them _his_. If God
thinks of them as _his_, that is enough. His thinking of them makes them
alive. No one can perish while God is thinking of him with love. Such an
argument, carrying no weight to the mere understanding, is convincing in
proportion as one is filled with a spiritual conception of God.
_Secondly._ Jesus abolishes death by teaching that there is no such thing
to the soul which shares his ideas concerning God and the universe. This
is implied in the phrases, “He that liveth and believeth in me shall never
die.” (John 11:26.) “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (John
6:47.) “I am the living bread, whereof if a man eat, he shall live
forever.” (John 6:51.) “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath
eternal life.” (John 6:54.) “If a man keep my saying, he shall never see
death.” Here, “eating Christ’s flesh, and drinking his blood,” is plainly
equivalent to “keeping his saying,” and “believing on him.” As “food which
we eat and drink changes itself so as to become a part of our own body by
assimilation,” so Christ intends that his truth shall not be merely taken
into the memory, and reproduced in words, but shall be taken into the
life, and reproduced in character. _Thirdly._ He teaches that as feeding
on his truth changes our natural life into spiritual life, and lifts
temporal existence into eternal being, so it will also place us outwardly
in a higher state and higher relations, to which state he applies the
familiar term the “resurrection” or “ascent,” the “going up.” “I will
raise him up at the last day.” The “last day,” in Jewish and New Testament
usage, means the Messianic times, as appears from such passages as Acts
2:17, where the term is used of the day of Pentecost; Heb. 1:2, “hath in
these last days spoken unto us by his Son;” 1 John 2:18, “Little children,
it is the last time.” Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to the
Father (John 14:15), in whose house are many mansions, where he is to
prepare a place for his disciples. (John 14:2.)

That “resurrection” was understood to mean a present higher state, and not
a future return to life, appears also from its use by the apostles.
Christians are spoken of as having already “risen with Christ” (Col. 3:1);
“risen with him in baptism” (Col. 3:1); walking “in the likeness of his
resurrection” (Rom. 6:5). And, no doubt, it was by making this idea of a
present resurrection too exclusive, that some Christians maintained that
it was wholly a present resurrection, and not at all future—that “it was
past already.”

This Christian faith in “resurrection” as ascent to a higher condition of
being at death is practically borne witness to by such common expressions
concerning departed friends as these: “He has gone to a better world;” “He
is in a higher world than this;” “We ought not to grieve for him—he is
better off than he was.” The practical sense of Christendom has taken this
faith from the Gospels, though the Creeds do not authorize it. The Creeds
teach that the souls of the good either sleep till a future resurrection,
or are absorbed into God until then, while the souls of the impenitent
descend to a lower sphere. Christ teaches that at death _all_ rise to a
higher state—of life and love to the loving, or judgment by the sight of
truth to the selfish; but _higher_ to all. Paul declares that “as in Adam
ALL die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive,” making the rise
equivalent in extent to the fall.

The great change in the faith of the apostles, in consequence of the
resurrection or ascent of Christ, was this: They before believed that at
death all went to Hades, to the gloomy underworld of shadows, there to
remain till the final resurrection. But the belief that Christ, instead of
going down, had gone up, and had assured them that all who had faith in
him had the principle of ascent in their souls, and were already
spiritually risen,—this took the victory from Hades and the sting from

To Christians, at least, Hades is no more anything; all who have a living
faith rise with Christ; and sooner or later, each in his order, _all_
shall rise. This was the “power of the resurrection” of Jesus to destroy
the fear of death, to enable them “to attain” _now_ “to the resurrection
of the dead” (Phil. 3:10), teaching that “if the Spirit of Him who raised
up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Jesus from the dead
shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you.”
“For it is Christ that died, _yea, rather, that is risen_, who is even at
the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” It was,
therefore, the duty of all Christians, since they were risen in Christ,
“to seek the things which are above.”

§ 6. Resurrection of the Body, as taught in the New Testament, not a
Rising again of the same Body, but the Ascent into a higher Body.

It is remarkable that those who profess to believe in the literal
inspiration of the New Testament should nevertheless very generally teach
that the future body is _materially_ the same as this. We often hear
labored arguments to show how the identical chemical particles which
compose the body at death may be re-collected from all quarters at the
resurrection. Yet the only place where any account is given of the future
body, declares explicitly that it is different from the present, just as
the stalk which comes out of the ground differs from the seed planted. “We
sow _not_ the body which shall be, but bare grain, and God giveth it a
body as pleaseth him.”

Many persons, however, take an opposite view, and have no belief in any
future bodily existence. They speak much more frequently of the
_immortality of the soul_. But the resurrection of the body is
unquestionably a doctrine of the New Testament, while the immortality of
the soul is not. The New Testament knows nothing of a purely spiritual
existence hereafter, nothing of an abstract disembodied immortality. The
reaction from materialism to idealism has caused us now to undervalue
bodily existence. So it did among the Corinthians to whom Paul wrote, “How
say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?” These
Corinthians were not Sadducees, nor Epicureans. There is no evidence that
these sects had any influence on the Christian Church. They did not deny a
_future existence_, but they denied a rising up and a _future bodily
existence_. They believed, like us, in an immortality of the soul, denying
the possibility (probably on philosophical grounds) of the resurrection of
the body. So Paul proceeds, in the fifteenth chapter of Corinthians, first
to prove the fact, and then to explain the nature of a bodily

Let us consider, first, what is meant by a resurrection of the body.

This word _resurrection_ tends to mislead us by suggesting the rising from
the grave of the material body there deposited; and accordingly we have
the theory which makes the future body the mere revival of the same
particles of matter composing the present body. But the Greek word, as we
have fully shown, means not merely rising out of the grave, but rising to
a higher state of existence. The _anastasis_ of the body is its elevation
and spiritualizalion. By the resurrection of the body, we mean that in the
future life of man, he shall not exist in the same material and fleshly
envelope as now, nor yet as a purely disembodied spirit. The true doctrine
avoids both extremes—the extreme of pure idealism on the one hand, and of
pure materialism on the other. It asserts three things: first, that we
have a real body hereafter; second, that this will be identical with our
_true_ body now; third, that it will be this true body in a higher state
of development than at present, a spiritual instead of a natural body.

First, it will be a real body. A real body is an organization with which
the soul is connected, and by means of which it comes into connection with
the material universe, and under the laws of space and time. This
organization may be more or less refined and subtle; it may not come under
the cognizance of our present senses; but if it is an organization by
means of which we may commune with the physical universe, it is
essentially a _body_.

Again, the future body is identical with the present true body of man. For
what is our _true body_? Not the particles of flesh and blood, but the
principle of its organization. The identity of our body does not consist
in the identity of its material particles, for these come and go, are in
constant flux, and are wholly changed, it is said, every seven years. But,
notwithstanding this change, the body of the man is the same with that of
the child. The same features, figure, temperament, morbid and passional
tendencies, are reproduced year after year. These flying particles,
gathered from earth and air, are manufactured into brain, bone, blood,
according to an unvarying law, and then given back again to air and earth.
There is, therefore, a hidden mysterious principle of organization working
on during the whole seventy years of our earthly existence, which makes
the body of the infant and the child identical with that of the man and
the old man. This is the true body; and this, extricated at death from its
present envelope, and clothed upon with a higher spiritual and immortal
form, will constitute the future body.

But again, it will be a _higher development of the body_. Paul plainly
teaches this. He uses the analogy of the seed, showing that the future
body is related to this; and differenced from this, as the plant is
related to the seed, and yet different from it. “Thou sowest _not_ that
body _that shall be_, but bare grain.” You do not sow the stalk, but the
kernel; you do not sow the oak, but the acorn. Yet the oak is contained
potentially in the acorn, and so the future body is contained potentially
in the present. The condition of the germination of the acorn is its
dissolution; then the germ is able to separate itself from the rest of the
seed, and start forward in a new career of development. In like manner the
spiritual body cannot be developed until the present organization is

Paul goes on to say that “there is a natural body and there is a
spiritual.” This body is the natural body; the future will be the
spiritual. Two things may be implied in this distinction. As by the
natural body we come into communion with the natural world, the world of
phenomena, so by the spiritual we commune with the spiritual world, the
world of essential being and cause. _Here_ and _now_ we see things through
a glass, darkly, _then_ face to face. _Here_ we look at things on the
outside only; but how often a longing seizes us to know the essences, to
penetrate to their interior life! That longing is an instinctive prophecy
of its own fulfilment hereafter. The spiritual body must also _manifest
the spirit_ hereafter, as the natural or soul body now manifests the soul.
For while the present body expresses adequately enough present wishes and
emotions, it fails of expressing the spiritual emotions, and fails of
being a true servant of the higher life.

This, then, constitutes the future body. First, it is an organization
connecting us with the outward universe of space and time. Second, it is
identical with the present true body. Third, it is a development and
advance of this into a higher organization. Let us now inquire what are
the evidences and proofs of _this future body_. How do we know, or why do
we think, that we shall have any such body?

The first proof of a future bodily existence is its reasonableness. There
is a law of gradation in the universe by which the seed unfolds gradually
into the stalk, the bud into the flower, the flower into the fruit. We see
a gradual progress of vegetable life into animal, and a gradual transition
from the lower forms of animal existence to the higher. The transition is
so gradual that it is very difficult to say where vegetables end and where
animals begin. Radiated animals ascend towards the mollusks, the mollusks
towards the articulata, the articulata towards the vertebrata. And through
this last class we see a steady ascent from one form of organization to
another; from fishes to reptiles, from reptiles to birds, from birds to
mammalia, until by steady rise we reach the human body, in delicacy,
beauty, and faculty the crown of all. Why should we suppose this the end
of bodily existence? Why not rather that this is to pass into a still more
noble and beautiful type of organization? After this gradual development,
why suppose the enormous change to a purely spiritual existence? Is it not
more reasonable to suppose, instead, a higher order of bodily life?

If we may look at the question for a moment from a metaphysical point of
view, we shall find it hard to comprehend the possibility of personal
existence hereafter apart from bodily organization. Everything which is,
must be either somewhere, or everywhere, or nowhere; that is, it must be
present in some particular point of space, or omnipresent through all
space, or wholly out of space. But to be wholly out of space is to lose
that which distinguishes one thing from another, for all distinctions
which we can conceive of are distinctions in space and time. To be
everywhere is to be omnipresent, which is an attribute belonging to God
and not to finite being, and would imply absorption into the divine
nature. Therefore personal existence is existence somewhere in space, but
locality in space is an attribute of body, not of spirit, and implies
bodily existence.

Moreover, shall we suppose that after death we are to have no more
communion with the material universe, no more knowledge of this vast order
and beauty, which is a perpetual manifestation of God, the garment which
he wears, one of his grand methods of revelation? These myriads of suns
and worlds, these constellations of stars peopling space, this city of God
full of wonder and infinite variety, are they to be nothing to us after
the few years of mortal life are over? We cannot believe it. If, then, we
are still to perceive the material universe, the faculties by which we
perceive it will be more intense bodily faculties. If spiritual things are
spiritually discerned, bodily things are discerned in a bodily manner.

Such considerations as these show that a future bodily existence is
reasonable; but the proof of it must come, if at all, either from
revelation or experience. Let us see, then, what bearing the resurrection
of Jesus has upon this question.

According to the Gospels, Jesus rose from the dead in bodily form. This
body resembled his former one, so as to be recognized by his disciples; it
had the marks of the spear and nails; it could be touched, and was capable
of eating food. In all these respects it seems exactly the same body he
had before. This, too, is confirmed by the fact that he came from the tomb
where his body had been placed, and that this had disappeared. But, on the
other hand, many peculiarities indicate a difference; such as his not
being recognized at once by Mary in the garden, nor by the disciples
during the whole walk to Emmaus; his appearing and disappearing suddenly;
his coming through the closed doors. Again, if the body of Jesus was
exactly like that which he had before death, it is evident that he would
have to lay it aside again before ascending into the spiritual world, for
flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. But if he was to lay it
aside again, this would be equivalent to dying a second time, which would
destroy the whole meaning and value of his resurrection, making it nothing
but a mere revival, or coming to life again, like that of a person who has
been apparently drowned. Such a revival would have produced no results,
and the faith of the Church which has come from the resurrection of Jesus
would never have taken place.

Accordingly, we must conclude that Jesus rose with a higher spiritual
body. And this gives to the ascension its meaning. For otherwise, the
ascension would be only a disappearance; whereas, in this view, the
disciples saw him pass away in the shape and form he was to continue to
wear in the other world. Then the gulf was bridged over, in their minds,
and they had looked into heaven.

This was what the resurrection of Jesus did for the apostles. It changed
doubt and despair into faith and hope; changed theoretical belief into
practical assurance; imparted that commanding energy of conviction and
utterance which only comes from life. Animated thus themselves, they were
enabled to animate others. And so the resurrection of Christ was the
resurrection of Christianity, the resurrection of a Christian faith and
hope infinitely deeper and stronger than had before existed in the minds
of the disciples.

We do not like the usual method of regarding the resurrection of Jesus as
a great exceptional event, and an astounding violation of the laws of
nature. Its power seems rather to have consisted in this, that it was a
glorious confirmation of those everlasting laws announced by Jesus—laws
boundless as the universe. The very essence of the gospel is the
declaration that good is not only better than evil, which we all knew
before, but stronger than evil, which we weakly doubt.

The gospel assures us that love is stronger than hatred, peace than war,
holiness than evil, truth than error. It is the marriage of the goodness
of motive and the goodness of attainment; goodness in the soul and
goodness in outward life; heaven hereafter and heaven here. It asserts
that the good man is always in reality successful; that he who humbles
himself _is_ exalted, he who forgives _is_ forgiven, he who gives to
others receives again himself, he who hungers after righteousness is
filled. This was the faith which Christ expressed, in which and out of
which he lived and acted; it was this faith which made him Christ the
King, King of human minds and hearts. Was it then all false? Did his death
prove it so? Was that the end, the earthly end, of his efforts for man?
Were truth and love struck down then by the power of darkness? That was
the question which his resurrection answered; it showed him passing
through death to higher life, through an apparent overthrow to a real
triumph; it gave one visible illustration to laws usually invisible in
their operation, and set God’s seal to their truth. Through that death
which seemed the destruction of all hope, Jesus went up to be the Christ,
the King.

In this point of view we see the value and importance of the resurrection
of Jesus, and why Easter Sunday should be the chief festival of
Christianity. It was the great triumph of life over death, of good over
evil. It was the apt symbol and illustration of the whole gospel.

If, then, the resurrection of Christ means that Christ ascended through
death to a higher state; if our resurrection means that we pass up through
death, and not down; not into the grave, but into a condition of higher
life; if the resurrection of the body does not mean the raising again out
of the earth the material particles deposited there, but the soul clothing
itself with a higher and more perfect organization; if it is, then, the
raising of the body to a more perfect condition of development,—then is
there not good reason why such stress should be laid upon this great fact?

All the proof rests on the historic fact of the resurrection. Was Christ
seen in this higher spiritual and bodily state, or was he not? If he was,
then we have a fact of history and experience to rely upon to show us that
the future life involves an ascent both spiritual and bodily. And this is
the reason why such stress has been laid on the resurrection.

This raising of man, through the power of Christ’s life, to a higher
state, is not a mere matter of speculation, then, not an opinion, not
something pleasant to think of and hope for, but it is a fundamental fact
of Christian faith. Because Christ has arisen and passed up, we must all
arise and pass up, too, with him. He is the first fruits of those who
sleep. In proportion as the Spirit of Christ is in us, in that proportion
is the power in us which shall carry us upward towards him. He wishes that
those who believe in him shall be where he is. We shall belong to him and
to his higher world, not arbitrarily, but naturally; not by any positive
decree of God, but by the nature of things.

The essential fact in the resurrection is, that Christ rose, through
death, to a higher state. The essential doctrine of the resurrection is,
that death is the transition from a lower to a higher condition in all who
have the life which makes them capable of it.


§ 1. The Coming of Christ is not wholly future, not wholly outward, not
local, nor material.

It is a curious fact that, in direct contradiction to Christ’s own
explanations concerning his coming, this should frequently be considered
by the Orthodox, (1.) as wholly future; (2.) as wholly outward; (3.) as
local; (4.) as bodily and material.

It cannot be wholly future, for if it were, Jesus was mistaken in saying
of the signs of his coming, “This generation shall not pass away until all
these things be fulfilled.” (Mark 13:30.)

Nor can it be wholly outward, for if it were, Jesus was mistaken when he
declared of the signs of his coming, “The kingdom of God cometh not with
observation” (Luke 17:20); “The kingdom of God is within you ” (Luke
17:21); “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). See also Mark
4:26,27, and Matt. 13:33, where his kingdom is compared with seed
sprouting and leaven working secretly.

Nor is Christ’s coming local, that is, in a certain place, for if it were,
Jesus was mistaken in telling his disciples not to believe those who said,
“Lo, here!” or “Lo, there!” not to go into the desert when men say,
“Behold, he is there,” and not to believe those who declare that he is
hidden somewhere in the city, for that the coming of the Son of man should
be like that of the lightning, which shines all round the sky, and seems
to be everywhere at once. (Matt. 24:26.)

And if not local, neither can it be a bodily coming; for all bodily coming
must be in some one place. Since, therefore, Jesus distinctly denies that
his coming is to be “here” or “there,”—that is, local,—it must be a
spiritual coming, a coming in spirit and in power. All the material images
connected with it—the clouds, the trumpet, &c.—are to be considered
symbolical. The “clouds of heaven” may symbolize spiritual movements and
influences; the “trumpet,” the awakening power of new truth.(40)

§ 2. No Second Coming of Christ is mentioned in Scripture.

It is also a remarkable fact that only one coming of Christ is mentioned
in the New Testament. Orthodoxy speaks continually of Christ’s _second_
coming, but without any warrant. It assumes that the manifestation of
Jesus in the flesh was his first coming as the Christ, and that
consequently the predictions (in Matt. ch. 24, and the parallels) _must_
refer to a second coming. Hence the phrase “second coming” has been
introduced, and naturalized in theology. But, in truth, the life of Jesus
on earth was not regarded as his coming as the Messiah.(41) What the
disciples expected was his manifestation or investiture as the Messiah,
which evidently had not taken place at the time of their conversation. And
this was to be, not “at the end of the world,” but _at the end of the
age_. They, like other Jews, divided time into two periods, “the present
age,” or times previous to the Messiah, and “the coming age,” or times of
the Messiah’s reign. When, therefore, Jesus was with them, only teaching
and healing, they did not at all consider him _to have come_ as the
Messiah. But when he spoke of the destruction of the Temple, as _that_
indicated the end of the existing economy, they understood it to be
synchronous with his coming as the Christ. So they said, “What shall be
the sign of thy COMING, and of the END OF THE AGE?” And so through the
Epistles, when the “coming of Christ” is spoken of, is meant his
manifestation in the world as the Messiah. This was a single event, to
take place once, not to be repeated. Such a thing as “Christ’s _second_
coming” is unknown to the Scriptures.(42)

§ 3. Were the Apostles mistaken in expecting a speedy Coming of Christ?

It is often said that the apostles themselves were mistaken in expecting a
speedy coming of Christ. No doubt they did expect his speedy coming, and
with reason; for he himself had told them that the existing generation
should not pass away till all those things were fulfilled. Therefore they
were justified in looking for a near coming of Jesus as the Christ. We
admit that they expected his speedy coming; but we think they were not
mistaken, for he did come. He came, though not perhaps in the manner they
anticipated. Possibly they interpreted too literally what he said
concerning his coming.

For though Christ spoke so much in symbols and parables, literal people
took him literally. And so they do still. When he said that except men ate
his flesh and drank his blood they could not be his, the literalists said,
“_How_ can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And so many persons still
think that somehow Christ’s actual body is to be eaten in the Lord’s
supper. So, when he said that the Son of man should be seen “coming in the
clouds of heaven with power and great glory, and send his angels with the
sound of a trumpet, and gather his elect from the four winds,” they took
it literally. His apostles, even, may have supposed that he was to be seen
up in the air in physical form,(43) and that a material trumpet was to be
blown. But all this was the flesh, the garb of his thought. The spirit of
his thought only is of value; the flesh profits nothing. The apostles were
wrong in supposing—if they did suppose it—that Christ was to come in their
day in the air, in an outward physical fashion, with an outward noise,
making a great demonstration to the senses of sight and hearing. Christ
never came so, and he never will come so. The only coming of Christ
possible is spiritual coming, for Christ is spirit. He did come,
therefore, in the days of the apostles, in the great access of faith and
power in their own souls, and in the souls of those whom they converted.
He came in power and great glory, when his truth came to human minds, and
his love to human hearts. He sent his angels then, and gathered his elect
from the four quarters of the heavens. When Paul was converted, Christ
came to him; when the negro chamberlain of the Queen of Ethiopia was
converted, Christ came to him; when the people of Ephesus and Corinth,
Philippi and Rome, were converted, Christ came to them. The trumpet
sounded, but it was in their souls that it sounded; the angels summoned
the elect, but these angels were the convictions sent into their reason,
and the longings awakened in their hearts.

Materialists and Literalists are always the same. The apostles soon rose
out of their literalism, and soon spoke of Christ as being revealed
_within_ them, not outside of them; dwelling, not in the air, but in their
hearts. But literalists, down to this day, have always imagined the coming
of Christ to be to the senses, rather than to the soul. They do not see
that a great noise in the air is not so glorious a thing as a voice heard
in the depths of the heart, and a great outward conflagration somehow
seems to them more imposing than the burning up of falsehood and sin in
the world. So we are always hearing people predict that Christ is to come
in 1846, or 1856, or 1866, meaning thereby that they expect some great
outward event then, visible to eyes and ears. “Fools, and slow of heart,”
not to see that the only possible coming of Him who is spirit and love is
a coming in the soul, and that he has come, and is coming, and is to come
more and more abundantly, from day to day. So they read about the heavens
and earth being burned up, and of a new heavens and earth; and they
imagine that the sky is somehow to be burned with material fire, and the
surface of the earth to sink into the flaming abyss beneath us. But if
this should happen, _that_ would have nothing to do with the coming of
Christ. The heavens and earth which he consumes with the breath of his
mouth, and destroys with the brightness of his coming, are the religions
and moralities, the institutions and works, of men. And the new heavens
and new earth which take their place are the higher, nobler, purer
religions and moralities which flow out of the Spirit of Christ.

§ 4. Examination of the Account of Christ’s Coming given by Jesus in
Matthew (chapters 24-26).

A great difficulty in regard to the coming of Christ is to combine in one
view the different notions given in Scripture concerning it. Many of these
ideas indicate that the coming of Christ took place at the destruction of
Jerusalem, as, for example, the description of wars, destruction of the
Temple, and especially the declaration that “this generation shall not
pass away till all these things be fulfilled.” On the other hand, the
coming of Christ is expressly connected, in our translation, with “the end
of the world,” and with the general judgment. Hence a difficulty in
interpreting these passages, some persons thinking that the coming of
Christ took place at the destruction of Jerusalem; others thinking that it
is yet to take place at the end of the world; others, again, maintaining
two or more comings of Christ; and others spiritualizing the whole of it,
and making it mean the spread of the spirit of Christianity.

Let us, therefore, examine the passage in which Christ’s coming is spoken
of, and endeavor to find its natural and obvious meaning, and so see how
far the common Orthodox conception is correct.

The subject is not unimportant. Several chapters in the Gospel of Matthew
(24-26) are devoted to the description of this event. All of the Epistles
contain frequent allusions to it. The apostles unquestionably expected
Christ’s coming in their day, and they had a right to do so, inasmuch as
Jesus himself had distinctly said that their generation would not pass
away till all was fulfilled. And in the main fact they were not mistaken,
however they may have been deceived, as we have before said, in taking too
outward a view of the attending circumstances. For if Christ’s coming did
not take place in their day, not only were they themselves mistaken on a
most important point, but Jesus was mistaken likewise.

Some of the other points in the description of this event are these:
Christ’s coming was to be like that of the thief in the night—that is, it
was to be unexpected, and to take men unprepared. It was to be preceded by
wars, commotions, and misery in every form; preceded also by the preaching
of the truth in many lands. It was to be as difficult to locate Christ at
his coming, as to fix the lightning, which comes out of the east and
shines to the west. It was to be attended with great spiritual darkness,
even in the minds of the wise and good. The sun, and moon, and stars of
the moral world were to be darkened, and the powers of the heavens to be
shaken; and of ten virgins, all going together to meet the bridegroom,
half would be found spiritually asleep when he came. Christ’s coming would
be especially judgment and punishment. He would part the sheep from the
goats. He would consume with the brightness of his coming the man of sin.
Such are some of the traits with which the coming of Jesus is described by
himself and by his apostles. How are these to be reconciled with the
facts, and what was his coming?

The best way to get at the facts is to begin at the beginning, and ask
_what the disciples meant_ when they asked for the signs of Christ’s
coming. They were sitting with Jesus on the Mount of Olives, looking
across the valley between, at the Temple. They saw and admired the
gorgeous magnificence of this vast edifice towering before them, white
with marble and yellow with gold, against the deep blue sky of that sunny
land, and as they admired it, Jesus told them that every stone of that
divine structure should be cast down. And then they asked, “_When_ shall
these things be? and what shall be the signs of thy coming, and of the end
of the world?” What was the connection, in their minds, between the three
events? Why should they have at once inferred that the destruction of the
Temple was to take place at the coming of Christ, and that the coming of
Christ was to take place at the end of the world? There was no connection
at all, according to the common notions on this subject. If the coming of
Christ was to be a great outward manifestation in the sky, to take place
long after his death, after the lapse of thousands of years, and at the
destruction of the visible universe, what had that to do with the Jewish
Temple? or, indeed, what had that to do with any of their ideas concerning
their Master? But the notion in their minds, when they asked the question,
was something very different; not the present Christian idea, but the
usual Jewish idea. They spoke as Jews, out of the notions of their day.
Christ answered what was in their minds, not what is in ours. If we wish
to know what he meant, we must place ourselves on their stand-point, look
out of their eyes, and listen with their ears.

The coming of Christ had a very distinct meaning to the Jewish mind. It
meant the manifestation of the Messiah, _as such_. It meant his coming to
reign as king. It meant his manifestation in Judea, in Jerusalem, as the
great Son of David, and the submission of the Jews, and Gentiles with
them, to his authority. The disciples of Jesus, believing him to be the
Christ, believed that he was to come as such. He had come as Prophet, as
Teacher, as a worker of beneficent miracles, but he had not yet come as
Christ, as King. They were not asking about any second coming after his
death and resurrection, for they did not believe that he was to die. They
were asking for his present triumphant manifestation and investiture as
the Messiah.

Nor were they asking—as our translators make them ask—for “the end of the
world.” But they were asking for the _end of the age_—that is, of the
first age. We have said that the Jews divided all time into two great
periods; one the age preceding the Messiah, the other the age of the
Messiah. The first was called this age, or the present age; the other the
coming age. The end of the first period and beginning of the second were
called the ends of the age; as where Paul says, “These are written for our
admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come;” and where he says
that Christ has “now once appeared in the end of the world to put away
sin.” These were the ideas of the Jews, as we know from history. When,
therefore, Christ spoke of the overthrow of the Temple, they inferred that
he was speaking of the beginning of the Messianic age; since the Temple
would not be overthrown while the Jewish theocratic and Levitical
government continued. Now, as the Jewish age did come to an end at the
destruction of Jerusalem, and Christianity, as the universal religion,
took the place of Judaism in the education of the human race, this really
was the coming of the Messiah and the end of the age.

We understand, therefore, Christ to have been really speaking of his
coming, as an event soon to take place, and which did soon take place,
when, at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians were
scattered through the world, and Christianity took its place as a
universal religion.(44) If this exhausted the meaning of the idea, it
would be of very little interest to us. But the contents of the passage
are more rich and full; and, like most of Christ’s sayings, besides its
present and immediate application, it has more universal and far-reaching
meanings. The principles of Christianity which were manifested then,
continue to be manifested in other forms to-day. Jesus said on one
occasion, “The hour is coming, and now is, when all that are in their
graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man.” And on another occasion,
“The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship
the Father.” The hour had come in its first manifestation, but was to come
again in other and richer manifestations of the same principle. So Christ
himself came as King at the taking of Jerusalem, but has come since, again
and again, more plainly and fully, in other triumphs of his truth, in
other manifestations of his power. We believe that the coming of Christ
took place at the destruction of Jerusalem. We believe that it has taken
place since, in other historical events. We believe that it is to take
place more fully hereafter, in this life and in the other life.

Let us look and consider how this may be.

§ 5. Coming of Christ in Human History at different Times.

As we look back through the eighteen centuries of Christian history, we
can observe many events which may now be seen to have been each a coming
of Christ. When, at the destruction of Jerusalem, the Mosaic theocracy
went down before the iron power of Rome, amid those scenes of horror the
firmest believers in Christ might have feared only evil. It seemed to be
the overthrow of everything most sacred—the triumph of Paganism over the
worship of Jehovah. Yet what was the result? Jesus then ceased to be the
Jewish Messiah, and began to reign over all nations as the world-teacher,
the Son of God, the prophet for mankind. Since then, more and more, the
world has gone to him as to its great Master. This, therefore, was a
coming of Christ.

Look again. The early centuries are disgraced with theological wars.
Fierce conflicts are carried on about the Trinity, and the rank of Jesus
in the universe. All regard for the pure, divine truth of Christianity
seems forgotten in the fury of these controversies. Yet, nevertheless,
amid all the absurdity and contradiction, one truth emerges, everywhere
recognized—that in Jesus was something divine; that God was more fully
manifest in him than elsewhere; that he is the moral image of the Infinite
One. This is another coming of Christ. He comes now not merely as a
prophet, but as the revealer of divine love and truth, in his own
character. The theological doctrines, in which this truth has been
wrapped, are the husks and shells which the world will throw away. But
throughout Christendom the idea of God is derived from the character of
Jesus, and in this way Jesus has come to rule the hearts of men as their
divine King.

Other centuries passed by, and we find new and strange ideas taking
possession of men’s minds. A horror of life, a dread of the sins of the
world, drive men into the desert, to live as hermits and anchorites.
Thousands and tens of thousands of monks withdrew from the world into the
wilderness. All Christianity appeared to be changing into a new form of
heathenish, self-inflicted torture. Its blessed humanity, its genial
influences on social life, seemed to be fast disappearing. Nevertheless,
out of all this error one truth emerged, one Christian idea was
developed—that of self-discipline and self-culture. And in the development
of this idea Christ came to reign _over the individual soul_ as its
Master, Guide, and Redeemer from all sin.

After this arose the Papacy. The Church, as a powerful institution, became
ambitious to rule the state and the world. A spiritual despotism appeared,
surrounding itself with earthly splendor, grasping the sword of earthly
power, and the farthest removed from the humble and gentle spirit of its
Master. It would tolerate no opposition to its will, in high places or
low. It hurled its thunders at the head of kings, and sent crusading
armies to persecute and torture the peasants of the Piedmont valleys.
Nothing could seem more full of the spirit of Antichrist than this
spiritual despotism embodied in the Papacy. And yet, even through this
evil there was developed a truth—that there was something in the world
higher than kings, greater than the state. Papacy, with all its evils, was
a standing proof, in an age of brute force, of the supremacy of mind over
matter. So that, even here, the pride and selfishness of the priests and
the popes have been overruled, in the providence of God, to give
ascendency to a Christian idea, and to cause Christ to come as the King of
the world.

Consider another important event in the history of Europe: the conversion
of the barbarous tribes to Christianity. When the nations of the north
poured from the forests of Germany and the deserts of Scandinavia over the
Roman empire,—when Goths and Vandals, Franks, Lombards, and Normans,
quenched the light of civilization and brought the dark ages over
Europe,—how terrible seemed the gloom, and how hopeless the prospects, of
the human race! But we now see the result in modern civilization. We see
all these different nations subdued by the power of Christianity, and a
new unity, a higher harmony, as the result. We see the great idea of the
unity of the race, the harmony of nations, resulting from all this
darkness and misery. So Christ has come again as the Prince of Peace,
breaking down the partition walls, and proclaiming a brotherhood of man.

Let us look at one more event of history—the Lutheran Reformation. What
evils attended it! What wars came out of it! How has the impulse to
freedom given by Luther degenerated into licentiousness, run out in
infidelity and unbelief! And yet, when we consider the ideas of personal
responsibility and individual independence which have been born of
it,—when we consider what an impulse it has given to thought, to free
inquiry, to earnest investigation of truth, all the results of this
fruitful principle,—we cannot doubt that this also was a coming of Jesus,
the unfolding of a new and higher power in Christianity.

Thus has Christ come from age to age, and in the midst of apparent
failure, increasing error, growing unbelief, and all forms of human
wickedness, has acquired new power over the human mind. At the present day
he is more the King of the world than ever. When he seems to go, then he
comes. When iniquity most abounds, then he is nearest. When love grows
cold in the hearts of his disciples, then a new impulse of faith is about
to be given. When false prophets rise up and deceive many, then new
champions of the truth are near at hand. Christ comes amid wars and
persecutions. He comes unexpectedly, like the thief in the night; comes
without observation; and while men say, “Lo, here!” and “Lo, there!” the
kingdom of heaven is in the midst of them. He is not to be found in the
desert, nor in the secret chambers; neither in public nor private; located
neither in this nor that particular place; incarnate neither in this nor
that particular person. But Christ comes like the lightning, seen over the
whole heaven at once, in a new spirit pervading all parts of life, all
parts of society.

§ 6. Relation of the Parable of the Virgins, and of the Talents, to
Christ’s Coming.

We now see what is meant by the parable of the foolish and wise virgins,
and of the talents, which follows it. We see their application to this
description of Christ’s coming. If the coming of Christ be thus
unexpected, he will not be recognized by the sleeping servant, nor by
those who beat their fellow-servants. Slothful Christians who make no
effort to improve, persecuting Christians who spend their time in
denouncing heretics, and saying, “My Lord delayeth his coming,” never
understand the signs of the times, nor recognize any new influx of divine
light in the world. At each new coming of Christ those who have been
faithful are rewarded by more light. To those who have, shall be given,
and the faithless lose what they had before. From him who hath not, shall
be taken away even what he seems to have. The capacity of seeing Christ
when he comes, of recognizing him in any new manifestation of truth,
depends on his previous fidelity.

§ 7. Relation of the Account of the Judgment by the Messiah, in Matt. ch.
25, to his Coming.

But what is meant by the judgment described in the 25th chapter of
Matthew, commencing, “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all
the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and
before him shall be gathered all nations, and he shall separate them one
from another, as a shepherd divideth the sheep from the goats.” This
stands in such close connection with what goes before, that many refer
this also to the destruction of Jerusalem. But the moral meaning is so
prominent, that others apply it entirely to the final judgment in the
future life. The difficulties on both sides disappear if we reflect that
the principles which govern this life and the next are identical—that
whether Christ came at Jerusalem, comes to-day, or comes in the future
life, the laws of Christian retribution are the same. Wherever Christ
judges men, the sheep go to the right, and the goats to the left. The
generous, humane, and disinterested hear always the words, “Come, ye
blessed of my Father; inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world.” The judgment in this world, it may be, is only
heard in the depths of the soul. It may be that no other mortal knows of
it. Still it is the voice of Christ which speaks. Still it is the real
kingdom which they inherit. The judgment in the future life, may be or may
not be, before assembled multitudes whom no man can number, and the
kingdom then inherited may be one shared with the angels, and extending
over worlds. Still the sentence is the same in both cases. The judgment of
Christ is one in all worlds. It was, and is, and shall be. Jesus Christ is
the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.

It may be said, this is to make the coming of Christ merely figurative—the
coming of ideas and principles only; only the coming of his religion; and
this is but an invisible abstraction. We reply, that according to our
view, Christianity cannot be conceived of as an abstraction, apart from
the person of Jesus, nor can his religion come unless he comes with it.
Jesus is with us always, in the world always, and none the less really,
because invisibly. It is no figure of speech to say that Christ is with
his Church, and with his truth; that where it goes, he goes; that when he
comes, it comes. It may even be that his presence will not always be an
invisible one. It may be that what we now believe, we shall one day see
and know. But then those only will recognize their Master’s presence who
are awake and watching for him. To the others it will seem a mere illusion
or enthusiasm.

§ 8. How Christ is, and how he is not, to judge the World.

In some places Jesus says that he is made Judge of mankind, and in other
places denies that he is to judge any one. Take, for example, the
following passages, selected because they seem to contradict each other.
They are all in the Gospel of John, and therefore the contradiction is not
in the different limitations or special misconceptions of the different
evangelists. The passages are, John 3:17; 9:39; 5:22; 8:15; 12:47. The
first is as follows: “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn
the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” The word here
translated “_condemn_” is precisely the same as that which elsewhere is
translated “_judge_.” Consequently we should here read that God sent
Christ into the world, not to judge the world, but to save it. But the
next text referred to (John 9:39) is one in which Jesus says, “For
judgment have I come into the world, that they which see not may see, and
that they which see might be made blind.” Again (in John 5:22) it is said,
that “the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the
Son.” But in the following passage (John 8:15) Jesus says, “Ye judge after
the flesh. I judge no man.” And in the last text he repeats the same idea.
“And if any man hear my words and believe not, I judge him not; for I came
not to judge the world, but to save the world.” We have, therefore, in
these passages, this apparent contradiction—that the Saviour seems in some
places to declare that he is to judge the world, and in others that he is
not to judge the world. We therefore shall do well to inquire how these
are to be understood, and in what way at all they are to be reconciled
with each other, and with the common Orthodox doctrine concerning

And here we may remark, in passing, that there are many such seeming
contradictions as these in the New Testament, and that to the student of
the Gospels, who is a sincere seeker of truth, they are very precious and
valuable. Such a one is always glad at finding statements in the New
Testament which thus appear opposed to each other; for he knows, by
experience, that they are the very passages from which he may learn the
most, and where he will be likely to find some hitherto unnoticed truth
concerning Christ or his gospel. Such truth, however, will not be found if
he attempts to remove the contradiction by any artificial, hasty, or
forced process. If his object is merely to find proof-texts in support of
the doctrines he already believes, such paradoxes will afford him nothing
but barren difficulties, and a sphere for the exercise of sophistry and
misplaced ingenuity. But if he can bear to admit his ignorance, and is
willing to examine these difficulties in order to correct his own errors,
enlarge his own views, and learn something really new, he will often find
here the clew to deeper insight and to a larger knowledge.

What, then, is the explanation of these passages? In what way is Christ to
_judge_? How is it that he has come into this world for _judgment_? and
how has the Father committed _all judgment_ unto the Son? and how,
nevertheless, can be say, “_I judge no man; for I came not to judge the

Christ’s coming was simply to do good; to make men better; to save them
from their sins; to reveal pardon; to offer salvation; to manifest God’s
love. “The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
Christ.” It is the law, and not the gospel, which judges and condemns the
evil-doer. The law given by Moses, or the law given in the conscience, in
the reason, in the nature of things, written on the face of nature,
written in the soul of man,—this law has not been made more strict by the
coming of Christ. Men were bound before, by the law of nature and the law
of Moses, to love God with all their heart, and their neighbor as
themselves; and they are not bound to do more now. They were bound by
nature and reason to obey their conscience, to do the best they could
always, and they are not bound to do any more now. The whole influence of
the gospel is a bountiful and gracious one, intended and adapted to make
it easier to do right, to add new motives to virtue. Christ is no strict,
severe judge, deciding by the letter of the law, bound by his office to
show no favor or compassion, but the sinner’s advocate and friend. And
hence it may truly be said that he came not to judge the world, but to
save the world.

Nevertheless, it is also true that the greatest blessings and the best
gifts of God are also judgments. They test the character. They show what
it is. According to the state of mind and heart in which a man is, so does
he receive, or reject, or neglect the offered good. If he loves light, he
comes to the light. If he loves darkness, he goes away. If his deeds are
good, he gratefully receives any revelation which brings him nearer to
God. If his deeds are evil, he rejects such revelation, avoids it,
dislikes the thought of it. So it necessarily is that the best and kindest
of men who wishes only to do good to all, nevertheless, by his very
presence and his offers of good, judges and condemns the wicked. But what
are the judgment and the sentence? Simply this—that light has come into
the world, and that they have chosen darkness rather than light, because
their deeds are evil. Therefore it was necessarily the case that the
coming of Jesus into the world was a judgment, and that though he
everywhere went with the purpose of saving and blessing men, yet that he
necessarily was also a judge. The thoughts of many hearts were revealed by
his presence. The pure in heart came to him in humility, penitence, and
faith. The proud in heart, the self-willed, the self-righteous, turned
away from him, and so judged themselves unworthy of receiving his truth.
The Galilean peasants, the common people, heard him gladly. The Scribes
and Pharisees murmured against him and rejected him. This was really a
judgment on both: the sheep went to the right hand, and the goats to the
left. Thus it is a law of human nature that all high truth by its coming
judges men, and shows by its influence upon them what is their real state.
And in this way, as Christ’s truth was the highest of all, so he was, and
is, a judge in the highest sense. But this is not quite all. The coming of
such truth not only shows the good and evil which are in men, but it
develops them, brings them out, increases the good, increases also the
evil. It is necessarily so; it cannot be otherwise. When good comes to us,
if it does not make us better, it makes us worse. Truth and goodness are
like the magnet. They have two poles. They attract and they repel. Thus it
was written that the coming of Jesus would be for the fall or the rising
of many. Thus he said, “For judgment I have come into the world, that
those which see not may see, and that those who see may be made blind.”
Peter was made better, Judas was made worse, by being in the company of
Christ. His coming was not only judgment, but also reward and punishment.
He came to the fishermen of Galilee: they were pure in heart, they were
lovers of truth and goodness, and his coming transformed them into
apostles, saints, and martyrs. He came to the Scribes and Pharisees: they
were not pure in heart. They were proud of their position, their
influence, their piety, and his coming transformed them into murderers.

We are now prepared to decide what is meant by Jesus in saying that he
came to judge the world, and yet that he came not to judge, but to save.
It was not the purpose of his mission to judge. The direct object of his
coming was not to judge, but to save; but indirectly, and as a matter of
necessity, one of the consequences of his coming was, that men were judged
by the word which he spoke, by the truth which he manifested, by the
holiness of his life, by the bliss which he offered, and which they
rejected. And yet it was true that he did not judge them, and that he did
not mean to judge them. They were already judged by their own choice and
determination. Therefore he says, “He who believeth not on me is judged
already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son
of God.” It was not the will of Christ, but the truth itself, which
pronounced the sentence upon him. “The word that I have spoken, the same
shall judge him at the last day.” And thus it is said, that God is the
Judge of all, and yet again, that the Father judgeth no man, but hath
committed all judgment unto the Son, and hath given him authority to
execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man. The explanation is,
that men are judged by the truth. But this truth is not abstract, but the
truth embodied in the life and teaching of Jesus. God does not come into
the world himself to show men their sins, but he embodies his truth and
holiness in the life of his Son, and so judges the world.

In giving this explanation, we have looked steadily at the essential thing
in judgment. We have regarded the substance, not the form. If we think of
judgment as something outward, the judge seated on his throne, the
criminal standing before him, and a formal sentence pronounced, of
acquittal or condemnation, we confess that we should find it difficult to
reconcile these different passages of Scripture, some of which declare
that Christ is to be the judge, and others that he is not to be. But what
is the essential thing in judgment? It is that justice shall be done, and
that truth and right shall be vindicated; that the good shall be rewarded,
and the wicked punished; that virtue and truth shall be seen and
recognized in the consciences of men for what they are. This is the
essential thing. _How_ this is done, whether in an open tribunal, before
the assembled universe, or in the secret places of every man’s soul,
belongs not to the essence, but to the form, and is comparatively

§ 9. When Christ’s Judgment takes Place.

Nevertheless, there is a more important question to be answered in
relation to the _time_ of judgment. When is the judgment? For it may be
thought, from what we have said, that we consider judgment as taking place
only in this world. But such is not the fact. Christ’s judgments take
place at Christ’s coming, whether here or hereafter. Whenever Christ
comes, he comes to judge. His first coming, in Judea, was a judgment; and
he said, “_Now_ is the judgment of the world.” His coming judged all those
who were near him; revealed the state of their minds and hearts; showed
them what they were. Wherever he went, men arranged themselves at once
according to their real characters, and the thoughts of many hearts were

It is true that people at that day did not understand that they were thus
condemning themselves. They did not know that the awful judgment of God
was being pronounced upon them; that they were standing before his bar in
the presence of angels. They did not know that the day of judgment had
come, and that they were giving an account of every idle word even then.
But so it was. When they scoffed at Jesus and said, “He is a gluttonous
man and a wine-bibber,” they may have forgotten their words almost before
they left their mouths. But there they stand, recorded against them
forever—an everlasting proof of their blindness of mind and their hardness
of heart. When the penitent woman brought the ointment and anointed the
feet of Jesus, and bathed them with her tears, little did she think that
it was her day of judgment also, and that the approving sentence of her
act would be read by angels in heaven and countless myriads on earth. None
of them knew that it was a judgment then; but it was so.

But was that the only judgment? No; for whenever Jesus comes, he comes to
judge; and since that, his first coming, he has come again and again to
individuals and to the world, and every coming has been a new judgment on
the state of the human mind and heart. It has therefore been well said,
that the history of the world is the judgment of the world. And it is
always true that this judgment is not understood when it is pronounced,
but is seen and recognized afterwards. It is so with individuals; it is so
with communities. Who is there who, in looking back over his past life,
does not witness many an hour in which the truth has come to him, and he
refused to admit it, and so sentenced himself to receive a lie? in which
he has had opportunities of improvement, opportunities of doing good, and
has refused to accept them, and so the talent has been taken from him and
given to another. This is the judgment—that light has come into the world,
and we have chosen darkness. At the time we did not know it: blinded by
prejudice, heated by passion, we rushed recklessly on. But sooner or later
comes the calm hour of recollection, and we see ourselves as we are.

But is this judgment which takes place in this world the only one? It is
unreasonable to think so. There are, in fact, two extreme views on this
subject. The views of those who say that all judgment is in this life, and
the views of those who say that no judgment is in this life. The New
Testament teaches that we are judged here, and that we are also judged
hereafter. The coming of Christ is here, and also hereafter; and the
judgment which commenced with his first coming will not be completed till
all of us stand before the judgment seat to give an account of the deeds
done in the body, whether they be good or evil. “It is appointed unto men
once to die, but after this the judgment.” There is a judgment in this
life, and another to come. But those will be best prepared for that future
judgment who understand the present judgment. Here is an example of the
nature of the judgments which take place in this world.

In the year 1633, an old man was brought before the Court of the
Inquisition, consisting of seven cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church,
to hear a sentence and to pronounce a recantation. The crime he had
committed was the publication of a book in the form of a dialogue,
maintaining that the sun stood still, and that the earth moved; which
proposition these holy cardinals pronounced to be absurd, false in
philosophy, and formally heretical, seeing that it was expressly contrary
to Holy Scripture. Whereupon they call upon him to abjure, execrate, and
detest these errors and heresies; prohibiting his book and condemning him
to confinement, with the penance of reciting once a week, for three years,
the seven penitential psalms. And thereupon, this man, Galileo Galilei, of
the age of seventy, on his knees, with his hands on the Gospels, abjures
his opinion.

These seven cardinals thought that they were pronouncing sentence on
Galileo and on the Copernican system. But, in reality, they pronounced
sentence on themselves and their own church. They put it upon record
forever, that the Roman Catholic Church, claiming to be infallible in
matters of faith, had, by its highest judicature, declared the Copernican
system a heresy, and thus declared its own claim to infallibility a lie.
This was the condemnation—that light had come into the world, and they
chose darkness rather than light.

So it is whenever a new truth comes into the world: it attracts the
free-minded, the lovers of truth; it repels those bound by interest or
passion. Those who believe, with Solomon, that a living dog is better than
a dead lion, leave behind them the past, and with open eyes go forward,
leaving the dead to bury the dead. Those who change the maxim, and love a
dead dog more than a living lion, turn their backs to the east and to the
rising sun, and hug their much-loved errors to their hearts. So the truth
stands in their midst, awful in its beauty, and judges them—sending away
its foes, drawing its friends to its embrace.

But it is not in abstract truth, whether of science or theology, that
Christ comes to us now. It is in the truth in its concrete shape, embodied
in the reforms which overthrow evil, in the great moral improvements which
do away with the sin and woe of the world. Every new cause of this sort
parts the sheep from the goats, and causes the thoughts of many hearts to
be revealed. We do not mean to assert that all who sympathize with any
particular reformatory measures, or any particular reformatory party, are
on the side of Christ, and all who disapprove these measures, or this
party, are against him. Such an assertion would be the sign of the
narrowest bigotry or the most foolish ignorance of human nature. But we
mean to say, that when any great human and moral movement comes to rouse
men’s minds to a great evil—such as the evil of _war_, _slavery_,
_intemperance_, _licentiousness_, _popular ignorance_, _pauperism_,
_infidelity_, it is impossible for good men not to take an interest in it,
and in their own way to aid it. If men neglect and ridicule such
movements, find fault with all that is done, and do nothing themselves,
they show thereby that they do not care so much for their brother’s
happiness as for their own ease and comfort. In this way it becomes true

    “Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or
    Parts the goats upon the left hand, parts the sheep upon the
    And the choice goes by forever ’twixt that darkness and the

We read in the book of Acts, that after Paul and Barnabas had preached the
gospel to the Jews in Antioch, the Gentiles were interested also, and
great multitudes came together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews
saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and contradicted Paul and
blasphemed. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, “It was necessary
that the word of God should be first preached to you; but since you put it
from you, and _judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life_, lo, we turn to
the Gentiles.” A hard judgment for a man to pronounce on himself—that he
is not worthy of eternal life!

But do we not often all do the same? Christ comes to us in the form of a
new truth, which will correct our errors and enlarge our hearts. But
loving our own little creed better than the truth, we reject it without
examination, and so judge ourselves unworthy of the light, strength, and
peace it might bestow. Christ comes again in some opportunity of
usefulness to our neighbor. But loving our own selfish ease, we excuse
ourselves, and so judge ourselves unworthy of the happiness we should
enjoy in doing the kind action. He comes in some deep conviction, calling
us to a new life. We feel that we ought to leave our frivolity, and live
for God and eternity—live for what is real and permanent. But we stifle
these convictions, and go back to our old lives, and so judge that we are
not worthy to become the friends and fellow-workers of Jesus, and
companions of the pure and good. The great feast is ready, and the
invitation is sent to us, and we, with one consent, begin to make excuse.
Do we think that in that moment we are standing before the judgment seat
of God, and pronouncing sentence on ourselves? It is our own heart that
condemns us, and God, and Christ, and the everlasting truth of things must
confirm the sentence.

§ 10. Paul’s View of the Judgment by Christ.

What were the views of the apostle Paul concerning a future judgment? One
of the passages is in Romans. (2:5-16.) In this passage Paul describes a
day, or time, when God should judge and bring to light the secrets of the
human heart. He refers probably to the coming of Christ, as described in
the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. Christ’s coming is represented as
“that day” the “day of judgment,” as, “it shall be more tolerable for
Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment.” It was not, we have seen, as
is commonly supposed, only a judgment in the other world after death, but
also a judgment in this world. It was not when we should go to Christ in
the other world, but when Christ should come to us in this world. It is
spoken of as a particular day, or time, and, no doubt, it was thought at
first by Paul, as by the other apostles, that the coming of Christ was to
be sudden and outward—an imposing visible transaction. But, gradually,
Paul’s views on this subject changed, under the influence of a growing
spiritual insight. At first he interprets literally what Jesus says of his
coming. But afterwards, in his later Epistles to the Ephesians and
Colossians, he ceases to dwell on the outward coming, and speaks of the
inward revelation of Christ in the heart—speaks of our now sitting in
heavenly places with Christ. We may, therefore, suppose that the apostle
believed the essence of the judgment to be in this—that either in this
world or the next, or both, there shall be a revelation of God’s truth to
the soul, so that every soul shall see itself as God sees it—see its own
evil or good, and so be rewarded or punished by that sight. This idea is
given by Jesus himself, in his description of the judgment which was to
take place before that generation passed away—a judgment in which the Son
of man should be seated on the throne of his glory, with all his angels,
and all nations be collected before him. The judgment consists in showing
to the good, that when they did anything good to man, they did it to
Christ and God; and in showing to the bad, that when they refused anything
to their poor brethren in want, they refused it to Christ and God. The
judgment is therefore making known to each man his own real character. The
consequence of that revelation is, that some men immediately go into
spiritual happiness, and others into spiritual suffering.

This is the substance of the Christian doctrine of judgment, as taught in
the New Testament. All else is accessory, and belongs to the rhetoric—is
part of the _mise en scène_; but there are two points in the views of the
apostle concerning judgment, which deserve further notice. The first is in
1 Cor. 6:2, where he says, “Know ye not that the saints shall judge the
world?” and (verse 3), “Know ye not that we shall judge angels?” He speaks
of this as of something which they already knew, or at any rate could
know; something like an axiom, as when he says (verse 9), “Know ye not
that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” or (verse 19),
“Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?” This notion
is based on the idea of the unity of Christ and his disciples. Christians
are joint heirs with Christ. Whatever Christ inherits, they receive and
share with him. If he judges the world, and judges angels, they do the
same with him, because they share his spirit of insight. Paul thinks the
essence of Christianity to be so profound, that even the angels, desiring
to look into it, may not have seen it. Therefore Christians, to whose
heart God has revealed it by his Spirit, may be able to set the angels
right in some matters. But this does away with the notion of a literal day
of judgment; for we can hardly imagine Christians to be assembled together
and seated on a throne by the side of Christ, in order to judge the world.
Some millions of Christians seated on a local throne as judges, with
millions of men and angels standing before them, is an impossible picture.

The other point is the passage in 1 Cor. 11:31: “If we would judge
ourselves, we should not be judged.” Here a principle seems to be laid
down—that just so far as we apply God’s truth to our own hearts and
consciences, we do not need to have it applied by God. And this
corresponds with the account of the judgment to which we have before
referred, in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew. Those who are there
called up for judgment, and who stand before the throne, are not Jews or
Christians, but Gentiles (τὰ ἔθνη). The holy angels are with Christ in his
glory. The heathen appear before him; those who have been doing good
without knowing it are received by him into his kingdom, as those who have
been blessed by his Father. They are Christians, it appears, without
knowing it. They inherit the kingdom, from which the original heirs who
have been wicked and slothful servants, and who have buried their talent
in the napkin, are excluded. Christians who have judged themselves, and
applied Christianity by their own lives, are not to be judged at the
coming of Christ, but only those who have been doing right or wrong

§ 11. Final Result.

The course of our investigations in the present chapter has brought us to
this result. Orthodoxy is right in expecting the coming of Christ in this
world, but wrong in supposing it wholly future and wholly outward. It is
right in making it a _personal_ coming, and not merely the coming of his
truth apart from him, but wrong in conceiving of this personal coming, as
material to the senses, instead of spiritual to the soul. It is right in
expecting a judgment, but wrong in placing it only in the other world. It
is right in supposing that all mankind, the converted, the unconverted,
and the heathen, are to be judged by Christian truth, but wrong in
supposing that this judgment must occur in one place or at one time.
Finally, in this, as in regard to many other doctrines, Orthodoxy fails by
neglecting the great saying of Jesus, “THE SPIRIT QUICKENETH, THE FLESH
PROFITETH NOTHING,” and the similar statement of Paul, “THE LETTER


§ 1. Different Views concerning the Condition of the Impenitent hereafter.

The different views concerning the future state, held by the Christian
Church, may be thus classified; arranging them, exhaustively, under eight

I. The Roman Catholic Church makes three conditions hereafter; viz.,—

1. Everlasting joy.
2. Everlasting suffering.
3. Temporal sorrow in purgatory.

II. The Orthodox Protestant Church makes two conditions hereafter; viz.,—

1. Unmixed and everlasting joy.
2. Unmixed and everlasting suffering.

III. The Old School Universalists make one condition hereafter; viz.,—

1. Eternal joy.

IV. New School Universalists and Restorationists make two conditions
hereafter; viz.,—

1. Eternal joy.
2. Temporal and finite suffering.

V. Unitarians make an indefinite number of conditions hereafter, according
to the various characters and moral states of men.

VI. The Swedenborgians make an indefinite but limited number of heavens
and hells, suited to the varieties of character, but having a supernatural

VII. The Spiritualists make the other world like this world, with no
essential differences, making it a continuation of the natural life.

VIII. The Annihilationists believe that the finally impenitent will perish
wholly, and come to nothing.

This statement includes all, or nearly all, of the views held in the
Christian Church concerning the condition of departed souls in the other
world. We do not propose to examine them all at the present time; but we
shall examine at some length three of them.

Eternal punishment, annihilation, and universal restoration are the three
principal views taken in the Church of the condition hereafter of those
who die impenitent, and in a state of hostility to God. The wicked may
hereafter be reformed, may be annihilated, or may be kept in a state of
permanent punishment. One of these views is held by the Universalists;
another by Orthodoxy; the third is now adopted by those who are
dissatisfied with the horrors of Orthodoxy, but not yet ready to accept
the Optimism of the Universalist hope. We will consider these, beginning
with the Orthodox doctrine of everlasting punishment. We wish we could say
that this doctrine was not fully and decidedly Orthodox. But it is quite
as much so as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, or the atonement. No one
is allowed to have any doubts or questions concerning it. It seems to be
believed that the whole system of Orthodoxy would be endangered, if this
terror was not held to its bosom with an unfaltering grasp.

§ 2. The Doctrine of Everlasting Punishment, as held by the Orthodox at
the Present Time.

What is this doctrine, as it is taught at the present day in all Orthodox
churches, and as it stands in all Orthodox creeds? It is, that the moment
of death decides, and decides forever, the destiny of man; that those who
die impenitent, unbelieving, and unconverted are forever lost, without the
possibility of return; that those thus lost are to suffer forever and
ever, without end, the most grievous torments in soul and body. These
torments consist in banishment from the presence of God, and positive
sufferings, in addition thereto, of an awful kind. Precisely what they
are, it is not, perhaps, necessary for an Orthodox man to believe. There
is no Orthodox definition which is authoritative on that point; and
considerable range, therefore, is allowable. The suffering may be that of
literal fire, or it may not. It may be physical suffering, or the pangs of
conscience, the absence of love, and the sense of emptiness. On these
points there is some liberty of opinion, doubtless. But we presume that it
would not be Orthodox to admit a preponderance, in hell, of good over
evil; or to admit, with Swedenborg, the existence of pleasure there, even
though it be only a diabolical and sinful pleasure. The doctrine of
Orthodoxy certainly is, that evil predominates over good, and pain over
pleasure, in the condition of the damned; so that there existence is a
curse, and not a blessing. Especially is hope shut out: there is no hope
of return, no possibility of escape, no chance of repentance, even at the
end of myriads of years. The man who is condemned to imprisonment for
life, in solitary confinement, is in an unfortunate condition; but he has
hope,—hope of escape, hope of pardon,—sure hope, at all events, of
deliverance, one day, by death, from his condition, and a change to
something better, or at least to something different. But, in the Orthodox
opinion, there is no such alleviation as this to the sufferings of the
future state.

It is usual, we know, for many Orthodox preachers to intensify in
description the sufferings of the future state, and to task their
imagination for multiplied pictures of horror; and we shall presently give
some examples to show how far this is carried. We have no doubt that there
are many Orthodox men who are as much shocked by these gross descriptions
as those are who deny everlasting punishment. But are they not themselves
really responsible for them? Those who admit the principle that God can
torment his children forever, in the other life, for sins committed in
this, have accepted the principle, from which _any_ view of the Deity,
however shocking, may very legitimately proceed.

But let us, for the present, only assume that Orthodoxy asserts a
preponderance of evil over good in the other world, and that this
preponderance is to be continued without end—forever. Let us see what this

It means that the suffering to be endured hereafter by each individual
soul, as a punishment for sins committed in this world, will infinitely
exceed in amount all the suffering borne on the surface of the earth, by
its total population, from the creation of Adam to the destruction of the
world. Each lost soul will suffer not only more, but infinitely more, than
all the accumulated sufferings of the human race throughout all time. We
shudder as we read the account of the sufferings from hydrophobia, or the
burning alive of a slave at the South, or the tortures inflicted by the
Holy Inquisition, or the horrors of a field of battle, or the cruelties
inflicted by savages upon their victims; but all of these, added together,
are finite, and the sufferings of a single soul hereafter are infinite.
That is to say, all the pain and evil of this world, resulting from all
human sin, through all time, is infinitely small and insignificant when
compared with the punishment endured by a single soul hereafter for his
share of that sin. And all this is inflicted by God; and he is a God of

There are some doctrines, the statement of which is their refutation.
This, we think, is one of them.

But it must also be considered, that this doctrine, which throws such
darkness over the future, also sends down a rayless night over the
present. It refutes every theodicy; it nullifies every solution of evil.
The consolation for the sufferings of this world is, that the fashion of
this world passes away, and that there is a better world to come. The
explanation of the evils of this life is, that they are finite, and that
they are, therefore, to be swallowed up and to disappear in an infinite
good. The Christian finds relief, in considering the sufferings of this
world, by regarding them as the means of a greater ultimate joy; by
looking forward to the time when all tears shall be wiped away; and by a
firm faith that love is stronger than selfishness, good stronger than
evil. But the doctrine of eternal punishment gives us, in the condition of
a single lost soul, a greater amount of evil hereafter than all the evil,
which is to be thus explained, here; and the myriads of lost souls, each
of which is to suffer infinitely more than all the sufferings of the
present world, present us with a problem, in the future, so appalling,
that the problem of present evil, vast as it is, becomes insignificant by
its side.

We are tormented with evil here. We seek a solution of the problem: we
find it in the limited, finite, and ancillary nature of evil. But that
solution is wholly taken away when we are told that evil is infinite and

It seems to us impossible to hold the common doctrine on this subject,
without having the gospel view of the divine character essentially shaken;
it is not possible to regard Him as a being in whom love is the essential
attribute. If this is so, as we shall presently undertake to prove, it
becomes a matter of vital importance that the doctrine should be disproved
and rejected. It is not enough that it should be quietly laid aside: it is
due to the truth that it should be distinctly and fully confuted. For this
doctrine, if it be false, is deeply dishonorable to God: it takes away his
highest glory; it substitutes fear of him, in the place of love, in the
human heart; it neutralizes the peculiar power of the gospel; it degrades
the quality of Christian piety, and poisons religion in its fountain.

The Orthodox doctrine of future punishment is, then, exceedingly simple.
There is to be a judgment in the last day, universal and final. All
mankind are to be collected before the judgment seat of Christ, and there
to be divided into two classes,—one on the right hand, and the other on
the left. These are to go upward, to heaven, to be eternally happy; those
downward, to hell, to be eternally miserable. There are no degrees of
suffering; for the torments of hell are infinite in degree, as well as
everlasting in duration. Usually the suffering is made intensively as well
as extensively infinite. Sometimes degrees are allowed in suffering. No
allowance is made for ignorance, or want of opportunity; for inherited
evil, or evil resulting from force of circumstances. The purest and best
of men, who does not believe the precise Orthodox theory concerning the
Trinity, sits in hell side by side with Zingis Khan, who murdered in cold
blood hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, marking his
bloody route by pyramids of skulls. The unbaptized child, who goes to hell
because of the original sin derived from Adam, is exposed to God’s wrath
no less than Pope Alexander VI, who outraged every law of God and man, and
who, says Machiavelli, “was followed to the tomb by the holy feet of his
three dear companions—Luxury, Simony, and Cruelty.”(46)

This is the doctrine which every denomination and sect in Christendom,
except the Unitarians and Universalists, maintain as essential to
Orthodoxy. It is but a year or two since twenty-one bishops of the
Protestant Episcopal Church issued a declaration of their belief that this
doctrine is maintained, without reserve or qualification, by the Church of
England. Only recently an ecclesiastical council of Congregationalists
refused the fellowship of the churches to a gentleman elected as its
pastor by the Third Congregational Church in Portland, Maine. In the
report of the result, the council says that it believes the candidate to
be generally sound in his belief, and exemplary in his Christian spirit,
and heartily extends to him its Christian sympathy. But it declines to
install him as pastor, because it “understands him as saying, that he does
not know but there may be another state of probation and offer of
salvation, after death, for all to whom Christ is not personally preached;
and that, whilst believing in a future retribution, he says that the
everlasting punishment of the wicked may be an extinction of the wicked by
annihilation.” So that a mere doubt on this subject is considered a
sufficient reason, by the most advanced and liberal of the whole Orthodox
body at the present day, for refusing church fellowship.

The American Tract Society floods the land with loose leaves, all
appealing to the fear of an eternal hell. We have one before us now,
called “Are you insured?” which represents Christianity as a contrivance
for escaping from everlasting torment, as a spiritual insurance office,
where one must “take out a policy,” and so escape everlasting fire.(47)

There is no theological journal, bearing the Orthodox name, which is more
rational and liberal than the “New York Independent.” But in its issue of
January 5, 1860, it speaks of future endless misery thus, saying that
there is a “vast amount and weight of evidence to the point—evidence
enough to prove it, if provable; all nature, all law, all revelation
uttering the doctrine, so that it is an amazing stretch and energy of
unbelief not to believe it, implying a moral state and position that will
not believe it on any testimony, however clearly and unqualifiedly, even
to the exhaustion of the capabilities of language, God himself may declare
and affirm it.”

There is evidently an energetic attempt made in some quarters to revive
the decaying belief in the doctrine of everlasting punishment in the
future state, as a penalty for the sins of this. Dr. Thompson, of New
York, has published a work to this end, called “Love and Penalty.” Dr. J.
P. Thompson, the author of this book, is considered the leader of New
Haven theology—the Elisha on whose shoulders the mantle of Dr. Taylor, of
New Haven, has fallen. Dr. Nehemiah Adams, of Boston, has labored in the
same field, exerting himself to prove this doctrine in various tracts and
other works. Professor Hovey, of the Baptist Seminary of Newton, has
published a little book on the same subject.

It is probably thought dangerous by these gentlemen to relax at all the
terrors of futurity. And, no doubt, if all those who have been restrained
from evil by fear of eternal punishment were to lose that belief suddenly,
the consequences, at first, would be sometimes bad. If you have exerted
your whole force in producing fear of hell, instead of fear of sin, then,
the terror of hell being taken away, men might rush at first into license.
But the dread of a future hell is by no means so efficacious a motive as
is often thought. We become hardened to everything, and neither the
clergyman nor his parish eat any less heartily of their Sunday dinner, nor
sleep any less soundly on Sunday night, in consequence of the terrible
descriptions of eternal torments contained in the morning’s sermon.(48)

§ 3. Apparent Contradictions, both in Scripture and Reason, in Regard to
this Doctrine.

Beside the practical motive for maintaining this doctrine, which we have
intimated, there are also scriptural and philosophical reasons. Scripture
and reason both do, in fact, seem to teach opposite doctrines on this
subject. There are passages in the New Testament which appear to teach
never-ending suffering, and others which appear to teach a final,
universal restoration. It is written, “These shall go away into eternal
punishment;” but it is also written, that Christ “shall reign till all
things are subdued unto him;” when “the Son also himself shall be subject
to Him who did put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” As
the same word is used to express the way in which all enemies are to be
subject to Christ, and the way in which Christ himself is to be subject to
God, it follows that the enemies, when subjected, shall be friends. It is
said that the wicked shall be punished “with everlasting destruction from
the presence of God;” but it is also said that “in the dispensation of the
fulness of times, God will gather in one all things in Christ, both which
are in heaven and on earth;” and “that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, in heaven, in earth, and under the earth; and that every
tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
Father.” It is said of the wicked, that “their worm never dies, and their
fire is not quenched;” but it is also said that “it pleased the Father,
having made peace through the blood of the cross, by Christ to reconcile
all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth or things in
heaven.” So that Scripture, at first sight, seems to teach both eternal
punishment and universal restoration.

There is a similar contradiction on this subject, if considered in the
light of pure reason. When looked at from the divine attributes, the
unavoidable conclusion seems to be, that all men must be finally saved.
For God is infinitely benevolent, and therefore must wish to save all; is
infinitely wise, and therefore must know how to save all; is infinitely
powerful, and therefore must be able to overcome all difficulties in the
way of saving all: hence all must be saved. But, on the other hand, when
we consider the subject from the position of man’s nature, an opposite
conclusion seems to follow. For man, being free, is able to choose either
evil or good at any moment; and, as long as he continues to be essentially
man, he must retain this freedom; and therefore, at any period of his
future existence, however remote, he may prefer evil to good—that is, may
prefer hell to heaven. But God will not compel him to be good against his
will (for unwilling goodness is not goodness); and therefore it follows
that there is no point of time in the infinite future of which we can
certainly say that then all men will be saved.

Of course these seeming contradictions of Scripture and antinomies of
reason are not real contradictions. God does not contradict himself either
in revelation or in reason. Whether we can reconcile such antagonisms
_now_, or not, we know that they will be reconciled. Meantime, it is our
duty to disbelieve whatever is dishonorable to God, or opposed to the
character ascribed to him by Jesus Christ. Christ has taught us to regard
God as our Father. It is our duty to refuse credence to any doctrine
concerning him which is plainly opposed to this character. If I have
formed my opinion of my friend’s character from a large experience, I
ought to refuse to believe, even on good evidence, anything opposed to it.
What is faith in man, or in God, good for, that is unable to resist evil
reports concerning them? If I am told that my friend has become a thief or
a swindler, and he who tells me says, “I know that it is so—here is the
evidence,” I reply, “I do not care for your evidence. I know that it is
impossible.” So, if all the churches in the world, Catholic and
Protestant, tell me that Jesus teaches everlasting punishment inflicted by
God for the sins of this life, and produce chapter and verse in support of
their statement, I reply, “If I have learned anything about God from the
teachings of Jesus, it is that your assertion is impossible. About the
meaning of these passages you may be mistaken, for the letter killeth; but
I cannot be mistaken in regard to the fatherly character of the Almighty.”

These contradictions we shall consider in a paper printed in the Appendix
(an examination of Dr. Neheimiah Adams’s tract on the “Reasonableness of
Everlasting Punishment”). At present we will only say that we should hold
it less dishonorable to God to deny his existence than to believe this
doctrine concerning him. We think that in the last day it will appear that
the atheist has done less to dishonor the name of God than those who
persistently teach this view. For what says Lord Bacon? (Essays, XVII. Of
Superstition.) “It were better to have no opinion of God at all than such
an opinion as is unworthy of him; for the one is unbelief, the other is
contumely; and certainly superstition is the reproach of the Deity.
Plutarch saith well to that purpose. ‘Surely,’ saith he, ‘I had rather a
great deal men should say there were no such man at all as Plutarch, than
that they should say there was one Plutarch that would eat his children as
soon as they were born,’ as the poets speak of Saturn. And as the
contumely is greater towards God, so is the danger greater towards men.”

The doctrine of everlasting punishment, being essentially a heathen and
not a Christian doctrine, cannot do any Christian good to any one. It is
the want of faith in the Church which makes it afraid of giving it up. The
Christian Church has not faith enough to believe in the power of truth and
love. It still thinks that men must be frightened into goodness, or driven
into it. Fear is a becoming and useful motive no less than hope; but fear
of what? Not fear of God; but fear of sin, fear of ourselves, fear of
temptation. To be afraid of God never did any one any good. These
doctrines drive men away from God; or, if they drive them _to_ God, drive
them as slaves, as sycophants, as servants, not as sons. We are saved by
becoming _the sons of God_; but you cannot drive a man into sonship by
terror. You may make him profess religion, and go through ceremonies, and
have an outward form of service; but you cannot make him love God by means
of fear.

But good men teach these things, no doubt. Men far better than most of us
believe them and teach them. It always has been so. The best men have
always been the chief supporters of bad doctrines. A good man, humble and
modest, is apt to shrink from doubting or opposing what the Church has
taught. He accepts it, and teaches it too. When God wants a reformer, he
does not take one of these good, modest, humble men. He does not take a
saint. He takes a man who has ever so much will, a little obstinacy, and a
great love of fighting; and he makes the wrath of such a man to serve him.

Neither St. Teresa nor Fénélon could have reformed the Catholic Church. It
took rough old Martin Luther and hard-hearted John Calvin to do it. The
first Universalists, the Abolitionists, all reformers, are necessarily men
of that sort. They are rude debaters, not standing on ceremony or
politeness. They are hard-headed logicians, going straight to their point,
careless of elegances and proprieties. They are God’s pioneers, rough
backwoodsmen, hewing their way with the axe through the wilderness. After
them shall come the peaceful farmer, with plough and spade, to turn the
land into wheat fields, orchards, and gardens.

§ 4. Everlasting Punishment limits the Sovereignty of God.

It is certain that the doctrine of eternal punishment, in the common form,
can only be maintained by giving up some of the infinite attributes of the
Almighty. If punishment is to exist without end; if hell is always to
co-exist with heaven; if certain beings are to be continued forever in
existence merely as sinful sufferers,—then, it is clear, God is not
omnipotent. He shares his throne forever with Satan. Satan and God divide
between them the universe. God reigns in heaven, Satan in hell. God
desires that all shall be saved; but this desire is absolutely and forever
defeated by a fate greater than Deity. Law divorced from love—that is,
nature in its old Pagan aspect—is higher than God. God is not the Almighty
to any one who really believes eternal punishment. God is not the
Sovereign of the universe, but only of a part of it. The doctrine of
eternal punishment, in its common form, does, therefore, virtually
dethrone God.(49)

It is, in fact, impossible to conceive of an eternal hell co-existing with
an eternal heaven, without also seeing that it limits eternally the divine
Omnipotence; for the omnipotence of God is in carrying out his will to
have all men saved by becoming holy. Unless God’s laws are obeyed, God is
not obeyed; and he is not sovereign if not obeyed. Hell is a condition of
things hostile to God’s will: it is a permanent and successful rebellion
of a part of the universe. It is no answer to say, that it is shut up, and
restrained, and made to suffer; for it is _not_ conquered. God has
conquered sin only when he has reduced it to obedience. Hell is no more
subject to God than the Confederate States, during the rebellion, were
subject to the United States government. They were shut up by a blockade;
they were restrained by great armies and navies; they were made to suffer;
but they were _not_ reduced to submission and obedience.

Nor is it any answer to say, that the existence of sin and suffering
hereafter no more limits God’s omnipotence than their existence here and
now limits his omnipotence. For the question is of ETERNAL suffering.
Temporal suffering hereafter, we grant, is no objection to the divine
Omnipotence. Limited and finite evil, in this world or the other, is no
philosophical difficulty; and for this reason—that finite evil, when
compared with infinite good, becomes logically and mathematically _no_
evil. The finite disappears in relation to the infinite. All the
sufferings and sins of earth, through all ages, are strictly nothing when
viewed in the light of the eternal joy and holiness which are to result
from them. This is a postulate of pure reason. Make evil finite, and good
infinite,—make evil temporal, and good eternal,—and evil ceases to be
anything. But make evil eternal, as is done by this doctrine, and then we
have Manicheism—an infinite dualism—on the throne of the universe.

§ 5. Everlasting Punishment contradicts the Fatherly Love of God.

This doctrine is a relapse on Paganism, and derived from it. It has
nothing to do with Christianity, except to corrupt it. No man was ever
made better by believing it: multitudes have been made worse. It
attributes to our heavenly Father conduct that, if done by the worst of
men, would add a shade of increased wickedness to their character. It
assumes that God has made intelligent creatures with the intention of
tormenting some of them forever. It assumes that those who are thus
created, exposed to this awful risk, are to be thus tormented, unless they
happen to pass through what is called an Orthodox conversion in this short
earthly life. God keeps them alive forever in order to torture them

The barbarity of this opinion exceeds all power of language to express. We
are accustomed to mourn over the anguish and misery that are in this
world. The problem of earthly evil has been a burden and anxiety to good
men in all times, a great question for thinkers in all ages. The only
satisfactory solution is, that it is temporary and educational; that it is
to pass away, and, in passing, to create a higher joy and goodness than
could otherwise have come. But the doctrine of everlasting punishment not
only annuls this explanation, and makes it impossible to explain earthly
evil, but adds to it a tenfold greater mystery. The fatherly character of
God disappears in Pagan darkness, in view of this horrid doctrine; for the
everlasting suffering of one human being contains in itself more evil than
the accumulated sufferings of all mankind from the creation of the world
to the end of it. Add together all the sicknesses, bereavements,
disappointments, of all mankind; all the wars, famines, pestilences, that
have tormented humanity; add to these all the mental and moral pangs
produced by selfishness and sin in all ages, and all that are to be to the
end of time,—and these all combined are logically and mathematically
_nothing_, compared with the sufferings of one human being destined to be
everlastingly punished. For all temporal sufferings added together are
finite; but this is infinite.

Now, the being who could inflict such torture as this is _not_ the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There may be some deity of cruelty, some
incarnation of wrath and despotism, in the Hindoo Pantheon, capable of
such terrific wickedness. It is no answer to say that God inflicts
suffering now in this world, and therefore he may inflict everlasting
suffering in the other; for those are all finite; that is infinite.
_Finite_ suffering may result in greater good, may be an education to
good; but _everlasting_ suffering cannot. The finite and infinite cannot
be compared together. There is no analogy between them.

The God of the New Testament is our Father. If he inflicts suffering, it
is for our good; “not for his pleasure, but for our profit, that we may be
partakers of his holiness.” All earthly suffering finds this solution, and
accords with the fatherly character of God in this point of view. Much, no
doubt, cannot be now fully understood. We do not _see how_ it tends to
good; but all suffering _that ends_ MAY end in good. Suffering that does
not end CANNOT end in good.

If human beings are everlastingly punished, it must either be that they go
on sinning forever, and cannot repent, lose all power of repentance, and
so cease to be moral agents, or else that they retain the power of
repenting, and therefore _may_ repent. In the first case, God continues to
punish forever those who have ceased to sin, because their freedom and
moral power have ceased; or else he punishes forever those who have
repented, and _so_ ceased sinning. In either case, God must punish
everlastingly those who have ceased to be sinners; which is incredible.

If God is a Father, he is at least _as good_ as the best earthly father.
Now, what father or mother would ever consent to place a child in a
situation where there was even a chance of its running such an awful risk?
God has _created_ us with these liabilities to sin; he has (according to
Orthodoxy) chosen and determined that we shall be born wholly prone to
evil, and sure to fall into eternal and unending ruin, unless he saves us
by a special act of grace. “What man among you, being a father,” would do
so? Custom dulls our sense to these horrors. Let us therefore imagine a
case far less terrible. Suppose that a number of parents should establish
a school, to which to send their children. Suppose they should arrange a
code of laws for the school of such a stringent character that all the
children are sure to break it. Under the school are vaults containing
instruments of torture. For each offence against the laws of the school
(offences which the children cannot fail to commit) they are to be
punished by imprisonment for life in these cells, with daily torture, from
racks, thumb-screws, and the like. A few of them are to be selected from
the rest, not for any merit of their own, but by an arbitrary decree of
the parents, and are to be rewarded (not for their superior good conduct,
but according to the caprice of the parents) with every luxury and
privilege. Among these privileges is included that of taking a daily walk
through the cells, and witnessing the horrible sufferings of their
brothers and companions, and hearing their shrieks of anguish, and
praising the JUSTICE of their parents in thus punishing some and rewarding
the rest.

But this, you may say, is not a parallel case. No, we grant it is not, for
what are these torments to that of a never-ending futurity? They are all
as nothing. Therefore every such comparison must utterly fail of doing
justice to the diabolic cruelty ascribed to the Almighty by this Orthodox

“But what right,” says the Orthodox defender of this doctrine, “have we to
reason in this way concerning the divine proceedings, by the analogy of
earthly parents? What right have we to compare God’s doings with those of
a human father?” _No_ right, perhaps, as philosophers; but as Christians
we have not only the right to do it, but it is our duty to do so. Jesus
has himself taught us to use this analogy, in order to acquire confidence
in God’s ways, and to assure ourselves that God cannot fail of acting as
we should expect a good and wise earthly parent to act. “What man is there
of _you_, whom, if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he
ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If _ye_ then, being evil, know how
to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father,
which is in heaven, give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt.
7:9-11.) Jesus authorizes and commands us to reason from the parental
nature in man to that in God. Instead of simply assuring us of it, on the
ground of his own authority to teach us; instead of saying, “Believe this,
because I say it,” he says, “Believe it, because it accords with your own
convictions and with human nature.”

§ 6. Attempts to modify and soften the Doctrine of Everlasting Punishment.

The reasons for the late efforts to support this terrific doctrine are
probably to be found in a widespread and increasing disbelief concerning
it, pervading the churches nominally Orthodox. This has come from the
growing intelligence and progressive movements of thought in the Christian
Church. The evidences of this belief are numerous and increasing. Those
who reject the Orthodox view are a numerous body, but divided into several
parties. There are the old-fashioned Universalists, a valiant race,—men of
war from their youth,—who, under the lead of such men as Hosea Ballou and
Thomas Whittemore, have spent their lives in fighting the doctrine of
everlasting punishment. Very naturally, perhaps, they went to the opposite
extreme of opinion, and denied all future suffering. But this view has, we
think, ceased to be the prevailing one among the Universalists. The
doctrine of ultimate restoration has very generally taken its place. This
doctrine also prevails widely in other denominations; not only among the
liberal bodies, like the Unitarians, but also among Methodists,
Presbyterians, and Congregationalists. It has widely spread, as is well
known, in Germany. It was held by Schleiermacher, the father of modern
German theology. It tinges the writings of such Orthodox men as Tholuck,
Hahn, and Olshausen. Others profess to believe in everlasting punishment,
but make it a merely negative consequence of lost time and opportunity:
one will be always worse off hereafter in consequence of the neglect of
duty. Others follow Swedenborg, and make the sufferings of hell rather
agreeable than otherwise to those who bear them.

Various ineffectual attempts have indeed been made, in all ages of the
Church, to soften the austerity of this doctrine. From the days of Origen,
these merciful doctors(50) have always been trying to soften this austere
dogma, but ineffectually; for the dread of an eternal hell has been one of
the chief motives which the Church has used in converting men from sin to
holiness. Any suggestion of the possibility of future restoration would,
it is feared, cut the sinews of effective preaching. For the baptized who
are not fit for heaven the Roman Catholic Church has established, indeed,
a temporary hell, with torments of an inferior sort; for bad Catholics
there is purgatory, with the hope of ultimate escape from it; but for the
unbaptized heathen, for heretics, and for excommunicated persons, there is
nothing but eternal punishment.

Many, in all ages, have made the everlasting continuance of punishment not
absolute, but _hypothetical_—depending on the question, “Will the sinner
continue forever to sin?”(51) Others have made future punishment
_relatively_ everlasting; that is, because even the repentant sinner will
be always just so far behind the position he would have had if he had not
sinned. This, however, is taking a material view of progress, as though it
was limited, like the going of a horse, to so many miles a day.

Many of the early fathers, and some of the mediæval doctors, took milder
views of the future sufferings of the impenitent or unconverted.
Proceeding from the idea of freedom, as indestructible in the human soul,
Origen declared that, no matter how low any moral being has fallen, a way
to return is always open to him. Even the devil may, in time, regain the
highest position in the angelic hierarchy.(52) No doubt Origen admitted
the need of external conditions for this restoration; but he said, God is
able to heal the damage done to any part of his works.(53) He will restore
all things to their origin, uniting the end and the beginning, and so
becoming indeed the Alpha and Omega. This may require long processes,
through many ages.(54) Since Jesus speaks of a sin which cannot be
forgiven in this age (ἀιὼν) nor the next, it follows, says Origen, that
there is a series of ages, or worlds, through which we pass, and many of
these ages of ages (sæcula sæculorum) must pass away before all bad men
and angels shall have returned to their original state. Quoting the
passage, “The last enemy that shall be destroyed,” he says that he shall
not be destroyed as to his substance, but as to his enmity. His being was
made by God, and cannot perish; his hostile will proceeded from himself,
and shall be destroyed.

Mr. Brownson (or rather a writer in Brownson’s “Quarterly Review,” July,
1863) takes another way of softening the terrors of hell. With him too,
hell is an everlasting state; but he maintains that the Roman Church has
not made it an article of faith to believe that there is any positive
suffering therein. If you believe in an eternal hell, that is enough; you
are not precluded from softening its horrors to any extent you can. Thus
he maintains that the great Augustine allows hell to be only a negative
state—only the absence of the exquisite beatitude of heaven. This writer
(who is said by the editor to be a learned Catholic priest) asserts that
there is a growing repugnance to the popular doctrine upon eternal
punishment among the most intelligent of the Catholic laity, and this
reluctance is the chief obstacle to the reception of the faith by a large
class of non-Catholics. He attempts to meet this state of mind by showing
that neither the doctrine of St. Augustine nor that of the Catholic Church
supports this popular view, but allows a much milder one. He proceeds to
make these points:—

1. St. Augustine nowhere teaches that human nature is intrinsically evil,
but he invariably teaches that it is substantially good. (“Omnis natura in
quantum natura est bona est.” “Omnis substantia aut Deus est aut ex Deo.”
De Lib. Arbit.) Therefore it follows that the very notion of _total_
depravity is impossible. St. Augustine distinctly says that “the very
unclean spirit himself is good, inasmuch as he is a spirit, but evil
inasmuch as he is unclean.” Hence, not even the nature of the devil
himself is evil. So St. Thomas (“Diabolus, in quantum habet esse, est
bonus”), “the devil, so far as he _is_, is good.”

2. St. Augustine teaches in explicit terms that existence is a good even
to angels and men who are eternally bound by the consequences of evil.

3. Eternal death, according to St. Augustine, is a subsidence into a lower
form of life, a privation of the highest vital influx from God in order to
everlasting life, or supreme beatitude, but not of all vital influx in
order to an endless existence, which is a partial and incomplete
participation in good. These sinful souls, therefore, fulfil in a measure
the end of their creation, and have a place and a function in harmony with
the general order of the cosmos. There is no trace, in this view of
Augustine, that God hates a portion of his creatures with an absolute,
infinite, and eternal hatred, and is hated by them in return. The original
act of creative love is an enduring and eternal act, in which even Satan
is included. “Their nature still remains essentially good, and far
superior in excellence and beauty to material light, which is the highest
corporeal substance.”

4. Hell, therefore (Infernus), is simply a lower state of inchoate and
imperfect being, “of saints nipped in the bud.” Infant damnation is only a
gentle sadness—“levis tristitia.” All positive suffering in hell is
probably temporal, and therefore must at last cease. The lost souls will
enjoy there quite as much as they can do here, _minus_ the temporal
sufferings of this life. They continue _natural_ beings, and therefore can
enjoy all natural joy; and that which they lose, being the “beatific
vision,” of which they have no conception, is a loss of which they are
wholly unconscious.

Swedenborg maintains, in the same way, the everlasting character of the
punishment of those who have passed the final judgment, but admits many
palliations to its sufferings. He teaches that delight is the universal
substance of heaven, and also of hell, and that evil spirits are in the
delight of evil, as good spirits in that of good. An evil spirit would be
as unhappy in heaven as a good one would be in hell.

§ 7. The meaning of Eternal Punishment in Scripture.

But what, then, is the vital truth in the doctrine of eternal punishment?
Christ says, “These shall go away into eternal punishment.”(55) What is
this “eternal punishment”? It is commonly supposed to mean the same thing
as punishment which shall never end, or punishment continued through all
time. But this is to misunderstand both the philosophical and scriptural
meaning of the word “eternal.” Eternal punishments are the opposite of
temporal punishments: they have nothing to do with time at all; they are
punishments outside of time. To attempt to realize eternity by adding up
any number of myriads of years of time, is necessarily a failure; for time
and eternity are different things. You might as well attempt to produce
thought or love, by adding up millions of miles of distance, as, by adding
up millions of years of time, to get any idea of eternity. Eternal life,
in the language of Scripture, has nothing to do with the future or the
past. It is a present life in the soul, awakened within by the knowledge
of God and Christ. “This _is_ life eternal, to know thee, the only true
God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” “Eternal life and eternal
death both come from the knowledge of God and of Christ.” To one it is a
savor of life, to another of death. Eternal punishment and eternal life
are the punishments and the rewards of eternity, distinguished from those
of time, and having their root in the knowledge of God which comes through
Christ. Eternal life and eternal punishment both commence here, from the
judgments which takes place now: but the last judgment, or the judgment of
the last day, is that which will take place hereafter, when the soul shall
have a full knowledge of itself and of God; see its whole life as it
really is; have all self-deceptions taken away, all disguises removed, and
know itself as it is known. God’s love, when revealed, attracts and
repels. Like all real force, it is a polar force. The one pole is its
attractive power over those who are in a truth-loving state; the other
pole is its repelling power to those who are in a truth-hating state. Love
attracts the truthful, and repels the wilful. Eternal punishment, then, is
the repugnance to God of the soul which is inwardly selfish in its
will,—loving itself more than truth and right. It is the sense of
indignation and wrath, alienation and poverty, which rests on it while in
this condition. It is the outer darkness; it is the far country; it is the
famine, which comes as a holy and blessed evil, sent to save, by bringing
to repentance, the prodigal child, who has not yet “come to himself.”

From this knowledge of God and of itself, therefore,—from this judgment of
the last day,—will flow eternal life to the one class, and eternal
punishment or suffering to the other. Those who have been conscientious
and generous; who have endeavored faithfully to live for truth and right;
who have made sacrifices, and not boasted of them; who have clothed the
naked and fed the hungry, making the world better and happier by their
presence,—will hear the Saviour say, “Come, ye blessed of my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for
I was hungry, and ye gave me meat.” Perhaps they have never even heard the
name of Christ; perhaps they were the Buddhists of Burmah, of whom Mr.
Malcom speaks, who brought food to him, though a stranger to them. “I was
scarcely seated,” says he, “when a woman brought a nice mat for me to lie
on; another, cool water; and a man went and picked me a half dozen fine
oranges. None sought or expected the least reward, but disappeared, and
left me to my repose.” Or perhaps they will be the poor black women in
Africa, who took such kind care of Mungo Park, singing, “Let us pity the
white man: he has no mother to bring him milk, no wife to grind him corn.”
The reward of their fidelity will be the gift of a greater power of
goodness, coming from a knowledge of God and Christ. They were helping
Christ, though they did not know him. They will say, “Lord, when saw we
thee an hungered?” These Gentiles, without the law, who do by nature the
things contained in the law, will come to know Christ, and receive a
spiritual life—life flowing from that knowledge. On the other hand, those
who have not endeavored to do what they knew to be right will receive from
the same knowledge of God and Christ a spiritual or eternal punishment.
Perhaps they have received some of it already in this world; but a deeper
knowledge of the truth will bring a keener self-reproach. The worm that
never dies is this gnawing(56) tooth of conscience. The fire which is not
quenched is the heart still selfish, turned to evil, joined with a
conscience which sees the good. For man, as long as he is man, cannot get
away from himself. He may sophisticate himself with falsehoods, put his
conscience to sleep, and imagine that he has escaped all the penalties of
evil; but he cannot escape from himself. The longer and deeper the sleep
of conscience, the more terrible its final awakening.

Eternal punishment, therefore, is the punishment which comes to man from
his spiritual nature; from that side of man which connects him with
eternity, in contradistinction from temporal punishment, which is that
which comes from his temporal nature and the temporal world. Through the
body he receives temporal pleasure or pain from the world of time and
space; through the spirit he receives spiritual joy or sorrow from the
world of eternity and infinity.

Thus intimately are judgment and retribution connected. There is nothing
arbitrary about rewards or punishments. They follow naturally and
necessarily from the revelation of divine and eternal truth. Sooner or
later, the everlasting distinctions between right and wrong, good and
evil, make themselves seen and known. The distinctions between right and
wrong _are_ eternal.

The idea of duration is not connected with eternal punishment or eternal
life; for the idea of duration belongs to time, and not to eternity. Human
law sentences men, for crime, to be punished by imprisonment for six
months, three years, ten years, or for life; but in God’s world there is
not, and cannot be, any relation between a man’s guilt and the precise
time he is to suffer. He must suffer while he is guilty, be the time
longer or shorter. When he ceases to be guilty, he must cease to suffer.
He therefore fixes the _duration_ of his suffering himself: that makes no
part of the divine sentence. If he judges himself unworthy of eternal life
during five, ten, one hundred, or ten thousand million years, that is for
himself to say. God will never save him against his will; and God can
wait. The sphere of time belongs to man’s freedom; that of eternity, to
the freedom of God.

And this reconciles the philosophic difficulty. Man, being _free_, can
postpone his submission and obedience _indefinitely_; but, being finite,
cannot postpone it _infinitely_. At any point of time, he may still
resolve to resist the influx of eternal life, and continue in the sphere
of death: but eternity surrounds time, and infolds it; and in eternity
God’s purposes will be realized, and every knee bow, of things in heaven,
and in earth, and under the earth. Universal harmony must prevail at last.

“Eternal” and “everlasting” are two wholly different ideas. We fully
believe in eternal punishment, but not in everlasting punishment. Eternal
life is spiritual life: eternal suffering is spiritual suffering.

The whole of antiquity recognizes this distinction; and the Bible is
saturated with it. When Jesus says, “He who believes in me has _eternal
life_ abiding in him,” there is nothing about duration intended in that.
When he says, “This is _life eternal_, to know thee the only true God,”
there is nothing about duration implied. It is the quality of the life
which is conveyed—spiritual life, life flowing from the sight of God and

We believe in eternal punishment; but, because it is eternal, therefore it
is not everlasting. Eternal suffering, flowing from the sight of the
eternal truth and love of God, is real suffering, because it involves the
sight of sin, the consciousness of failure, the deep conviction of what we
ought to do and have not done; but all this leads to repentance and
salvation. When the Lord turned and looked on Peter, Peter went into
eternal suffering. He saw his own guilt and the infinite goodness of his
Master at the same time. The one produced penitence; the other, hope. But,
when Judas hanged himself, he did _not_ go into eternal punishment, but
into temporal. He saw his own baseness and his own folly; but he did not
see God’s love. If he had seen God’s love and Christ’s pardoning mercy,
together with his sin, he would not have hanged himself; but, like Peter,
he would have repented, and gone forth to preach the gospel.

When we see God’s truth and love, we go into eternal life or into eternal
suffering, according to the direction of our lives and hearts. If we are
following Christ, and trying to do right,—if we are not selfish, but
generous,—then the sight of God’s love and truth in Christ leads us
directly into spiritual joy; but if we are selfish, and seeking only our
own good, if we are indifferent to the rights of our fellow-men, then we
go into eternal or spiritual suffering.

The force of eternal punishment, therefore, is not in the statement that
it is never to end; nor in any description, however vivid, of outward
physical torments. Such descriptions produce excitement, agitation,
terror. But this is not _conviction_. The doctrine, not being in harmony
with the attributes of God or the nature of man, can never be sincerely or
profoundly believed. It is inwardly opposed by every Christian conviction
in the human soul; for it is not Christian, but Pagan. It is a relapse
into Paganism, an importation of Pagan terrors into Christianity. It
degrades every soul that teaches it, or that accepts it, in the same way
that idolatry degrades it. It puts a veil between the soul and the true

But the true Christian doctrine of eternal punishment is, that the soul
which sins shall eternally suffer; that there is an eternal distinction
between truth and falsehood, good and evil; that spiritual distinctions
are positive and real; and that evil is not a mere negative thing,
implying a little less of good, but positive, being the state of a soul
which is repelled, not attracted, by the divine goodness; which keeps away
from God, as the shadow keeps on the side of the globe which is away from
the sun.

Again: eternal suffering is the suffering of eternity, as distinguished
from temporal suffering, which has its root in time. This is something
which comes from within, while temporal suffering comes from without. Till
man is reconciled to God by obedience and love, he has the sentence of
death in himself. This suffering is not arbitrary, but fixed in the nature
of things. As a sinner, man must be eternally separated inwardly from God,
and therefore from bliss. His hell is within him, not without. And it is
also here, as well as hereafter, since eternity is here, no less than

In this view of eternal punishment, there is an important truth—truth
essential to the just spiritual growth of man. It is needed to resist the
tendency to make light of sin. It is needed to oppose the view which makes
evil, as well as good, a natural growth, and teaches that all men are on
their way upward, and will ultimately fall into heaven by some specific
levity. It is needed to remind us that we must choose whom we will serve,
and that, consciously or unconsciously, we are at all moments tending
either upward or downward—either towards God or away from him.

This is the great truth which is often lost sight of by Liberal
Christianity, and by that easy optimism which declares that “whatever is,
is right;” but darkly taught, because dimly seen, by Orthodoxy. Pagan in
its form, there is often an essentially Christian idea communicated by the
Orthodox pulpit. The Pagan form may be neglected and disbelieved: the
Christian impression may remain. It tightens the nerves of the soul, as a
cold bath invigorates the body made languid by too much warmth and ease.
Yet, as long as the Pagan form remains, the interior truth is shorn of its
full power. Let us pray that the truth, divested of its dark errors, may
at last be recognized by the Christian Church. For very often the words of
a great writer and thinker (who also was an earnest opponent of the
Orthodox form of this doctrine) recur to us in these studies: “Few see the
things themselves, but only the forms of things, in the mirror of
reflection, as images. But we shall at last see the things themselves face
to face, as it is said, and without a veil, if it please God, in part
before the close of this present life, more fully in the life to

§ 8. How Judgment by Christ is connected with Punishment.

To what we have said of judgment by Christ, in the previous chapter, we
add here some further thoughts in regard to its connection with
punishment. Orthodoxy makes this connection arbitrary and outward. For
such sins, it says, God has appointed such a punishment; and the object of
judgment is to glorify God, by showing how exact he is in finding out
every sinner, and fulfilling his every threat against evil. But, according
to a better view, which alone can commend itself to minds of any large
range—future judgment is simply the act by which God shows to a man the
truth concerning himself, so that he can see it.

A deaf and dumb child being asked, “What is judgment?” replied, “Judgment
is to see ourselves as we are, and to see God as he is.” This is the
essential thing in judgment; and in this sense Christ is declared “to be
the judge of the quick and the dead;” that is, he judges us in this world,
and will judge us in the other world. His judgments are not external,
sentencing us to external punishments; but they are internal, causing us
to judge ourselves. He shows us what we are. Whenever he comes, he comes
to judgment, separating the good from the evil, testing the state of the
heart, causing men to go to the right or the left. His coming always makes
an issue which cannot be avoided; calls upon us to decide which course we
shall take, what thing we shall do, what master we will serve. When Christ
first came, he came for judgment, that the thoughts of many hearts might
be revealed,—revealed to themselves and to others. Wherever he came, men
immediately were divided into two classes,—becoming his disciples, or
becoming his opponents. No longer was any compromise possible between
truth and error, between right and wrong. They were obliged to choose
which to serve; and they chose according to the inward tendency of their
hearts. They whose hearts were right, chose the right: they whose hearts
were wrong, chose the wrong.

Christ is thus the Judge of the living as well as the dead. Often in our
lives he comes to us thus to be our Judge. Every time he calls upon us to
do anything for him, he judges the state of our heart. Every time he
offers an opportunity to the world of improvement or progress, he judges
the world.

When he was on trial before Caiaphas and before Pilate, they were on
trial, and not he. When they sentenced him, they condemned themselves.
During the whole of those dark hours, when Christ was buffeted, spit upon,
crowned with thorns, to the eyes of angels he was seen to be sitting on
the throne of his glory. Caiaphas and the Jewish priests, Pontius Pilate
and the Roman soldiers, Judas Iscariot, the Jewish people, each in turn
received their sentence, and passed to the left hand. And so ever since,
whenever any great opportunity has been given to the world to decide
between right and wrong, the world has pronounced judgment on itself; has
gone to the right hand with the sheep, or to the left hand with the goats.
When Paul offered Christianity to the Jews, and they rejected it, he said
“it was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to
you; but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of
eternal life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.” So it always is. God does not
judge us, nor Christ; but we judge ourselves. For this reason Jesus says,
“If any man hear me, and believe not, I judge him not; for I came not to
judge the world.” And again he says, “The word which I have spoken, the
same shall judge him at the last day.” And yet again, “This is the
judgment, that light has come into the world, and that men have chosen
darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.”

The account of judgment (in the 25th chapter of Matthew) at Christ’s
coming we considered in the last chapter. It will, however, bear a little
further examination. There are _three_ different judgments indicated in
the three parables of the virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats.
The first is the judgment of opportunity, the second of work, the third of
knowledge. In the first and second we judge ourselves, in the last we are
judged. These two occur in time, the other in eternity. The first two are
the judgments which take place at Christ’s coming here; the third is the
judgment of “the last day.” The first takes place whenever we are “called”
by a new opportunity; the second comes in all retribution; the third by
the inward revelation of God’s truth, showing men what they are, and what
God is. The wise and foolish virgins represent those _who are invited to
receive Christianity_; the servants with the talents, believers who have
received it in different degrees; and the nations (heathen, τὰ ἔθνη)(58)
those (in Christendom or outside of it) to whom Christianity has never

§ 9. The Doctrine of Annihilation.

This view of the final results of moral evil, as destroying personal
existence, is hardly an Orthodox doctrine, though quasi-Orthodox. It is
the refuge of that class of minds which are unable to accept universal
restoration on the one side, or everlasting punishment on the other. To
them a large number of human beings seem “too good for banning, and too
bad for blessing,” and in their opinion will be suffered quietly to drop
out of conscious existence. The analogies of nature, in which out of many
seeds and many eggs produced, only a few attain to the condition of plants
and animals, tend to confirm this view. The state of human character here
appears also to favor it, since multitudes pass out of this world in an
undeveloped condition, seeming wholly to have failed of the end of their
being. The chief scriptural argument in favor of the doctrine is found in
the assumption that “life through Christ” is equivalent to continued
conscious existence, and that “death” as the punishment of sin, is
equivalent to annihilation. We have so fully discussed the meaning of
these terms in the previous chapter, that it is not desirable to argue
this point here. We agree with the Orthodox view, and differ from that of
the annihilationists on this point. The God of the gospel is the Father of
all his children—of the weakest, feeblest, and most sinful. If he is the
God of _all_, then he is “the God, not of the dead, but of the living, for
all live to him.” Indian tribes and heathen nations may be willing that
the sickly infants, and those worn with age, should perish; they may
expose female infants, thinking them not worth bringing up; but Christian
nations establish schools and hospitals for the deaf and dumb, the insane,
the inebriates, the idiotic. If we, then, being evil, know how to care for
the weak, undeveloped, and vegetative natures, how much more shall their
Father in heaven care for them! The doctrine of annihilation rests
fundamentally on a Pagan view of God.

§ 10. The Doctrine of Universal Restoration.

This opinion has its roots, we think, in the gospel. It has prevailed in
the church from the earliest times, having been held, as we have seen, by
Origen, and a great number of eminent church fathers and doctors. What
more Christian word has come to us from the earliest centuries than the
cry out of the heart of the great Alexandrian teacher, “My Saviour, even
now, mourns for my sins. My Saviour cannot be happy while I remain in my
iniquity. He does not wish to drink the cup of joy alone in the kingdom of
God; he is waiting till we shall come and join him there.”(59)

Our object in this chapter is to consider the Orthodox view, and we shall
not, therefore, enter into any extensive argument concerning universal
salvation. We will only here indicate the general scriptural evidence in
its support. The alternative to the Orthodox view of everlasting
punishment is not, as we have shown, necessarily Universalism. It may be
annihilation, or it may be, under the name of eternal punishment, a
negative evil, being the privation of the highest kind of happiness.
Still, it seems proper to suggest, if only very briefly, some reasons
given by Universalists for their belief.

In the Epistles of Paul there are five or six passages, which appear to
teach, or to imply, an ultimate restoration of salvation of all moral
beings. Among them are these:—

1. Eph. 1:9, 10. “Having made known to us the mystery of his will,
according to his good pleasure, which he hath purposed in himself, that in
the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one
all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth,
even in him.”

The apostle is speaking of the “riches of God’s grace,” wherein “he hath
_abounded_ toward us,” and gives as the proof this revelation made in
Christ of a great mystery—that “in the dispensation [economy] of the
fulness of times” he might bring into one (under one head) “all things in
heaven and on earth.” The idea of the passage seems evidently to be that
in the economy, or order, of the divine plan, which extends through
indefinite periods of time, all things shall be united under one head in
Christ. But if brought under one head (as the Greek word signifies), then
all become Christians, all “in heaven and earth.” This would seem to be a
very plain statement of a universal restoration.

As such, Olshausen, one of the most Orthodox of commentators, regards it.
He rejects all the explanations offered by the advocates of everlasting
punishment as unsatisfactory. “It cannot be disputed,” he says, “that in
it the restoration of all things seems to be again favored—a view which
Paul in general, as has already been remarked (on Rom. 11:32; 1 Cor.
15:24; Gal. 3:22) says more to support than the other writers of the New
Testament.” Olshausen declares the interpretations which suppose a merely
external subjection of the world to Christ to be entirely inadequate, and
have left unresolved the principal difficulty, which is, “how Paul could
say that all have a share in redemption, if he held the common view that
the numberless hosts of angels who fell, along with the far greatest part
of mankind (Matt. 7:13, 14) are eternally damned, and thus shut out from
the harmony of the universe.” The defenders of universal restoration, says
Olshausen, “understand the harmony of the universe seriously, in its
literal meaning, and seem, according to that, to be here in the right.”

2. Phil. 2:9, 10. “Wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a
name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee
should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the
earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father.” Here we have “_things under the earth_”
(καταχθονίων) added to “things in heaven and on earth.” This word only
occurs here in the New Testament, but is by Bretschneider (Lex. Man.)
translated “subterranean” or “infernal,” and applied to the inhabitants of
Hades, with a reference to Origen, who uses the word in relation to the
demons. De Wette applies the language to angels, living men, and the dead.
At all events, it appears to include all moral beings, and to declare that
the whole human race shall bow to Christ, and accept him as Master. But
this cannot mean a merely outward submission, for such a forced and
reluctant homage would bring little honor to God, nor be worth such
admiration on the part of the apostle. It must therefore mean that all
men, not only all who now live, but all who have lived, shall finally
become Christians and enter into the glory of God.

3. Col. 1:20. “And, having made peace by the blood of the cross, by him to
reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in
earth or things in heaven.” Here a new feature is added to the statement
by the word “reconcile,” which evidently expresses the entire conversion
of the heart, and therefore of human beings, to the law of Christ.

4. 1 Cor. 15:22. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made
alive.” The “all” must be as extensive on one side as the other. Now,
whether the death in Adam be physical or moral, whether it mean the
dissolution of the earthly body, or the loss of innocence by sin, it
certainly includes _all_ human beings, in the fullest sense. All men die,
and all men sin. It would therefore seem that the other “all” must be
quite as comprehensive. It must include all human beings. All men shall
“be made alive in Christ.” But this cannot mean a mere physical
immortality, or an immortality in misery; for one cannot be said to be
“alive in Christ” who is suffering endless torment. To be “alive in
Christ” means to be spiritually alive, for “he that hath the Son hath

5. 1 Cor. 24:28. In this passage Paul declares that _all_ enemies shall be
subject to Christ. But this, again, cannot mean a forced submission, for
that is in no sense being subject to Christ. _Christ’s_ subjects are
willing subjects. It therefore must mean that, finally, all human beings
shall become Christian in conviction and in heart.

These five texts from the apostle Paul seem to us very plain and
conclusive as to his opinions. But perhaps the strongest evidence in proof
of a universal restoration is to be found in Christ’s own parable of the
prodigal son. For in this the genuine spirit and purpose of the gospel is
shown to be that God _never_ loses his fatherly love for his rebellious
and lost children. On the contrary, his heart yearns towards them with a
more earnest affection than towards the holy and good. The prodigal son
represents those who are “dead in sin.” (Luke 15:24-32.) The parable
teaches that God loves them all the while they are away, and that “there
is more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth than over ninety and
nine just persons who need no repentance.” Now, if God loves the sinners
thus whose bodies are yet alive, does he cease to love them when the
bodily change takes place which we call death? Does his nature change
then? And if not, does it ever change? After millions of years, if they
have been lost and dead so long, has his love become weary of waiting, or
does “his mercy endure forever”?

To us it seems clear, that if the parable of the prodigal son is to be
taken as a true statement of the feeling of God towards every sinner, that
every sinner must at last be brought back by the mighty power of this
redeeming love. The power of the human will to resist God is indeed
indefinite; but the power of love is infinite. Sooner or later, then, in
the economy of the ages, all sinners must come back, in penitence and
shame, to their Father’s house, saying, “Make us as thy hired servants.”
If so, if universal restoration does not mean primarily restoration to
outward happiness, but to inward obedience, it seems to us that the
doctrine may be so stated as to be a new motive for _present_ repentance
and obedience. May we not say to the sinner, You may resist God to-day,
to-morrow, for a million years; but, sooner or later, you _must_ return,
obey, repent, and submit? God will spare no means to bring you. His love
to you requires him to use all methods, all terrors, all suffering. The
“worm that never dies,” the “fire that is never quenched,” the “outer
darkness,”—these are all blessed means, in the providence of the Almighty,
to bring the sinner back to a sense of his evil state. In the other world,
as in this world, God will “chasten us, not for his pleasure, but for our
profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness.”


§ 1. The Question stated.

One of the most interesting questions of the present time, in practical
theology, concerns the nature, authority, organization, functions, and
future of the Christian Church. The interest in this subject has recently
much revived, in consequence of a reaction towards the Roman Catholic or
High Church view. This has appeared in the tendency among Protestants to
join the Catholic Church as the only true and saving Church of Christ. The
same tendency has taken into the Church of England, and into the Episcopal
Church of the United States, those who were not ready to go as far as
Rome. It is therefore important and useful to ask, What is the truth and
what the error in the different views concerning the Church? These differ
very widely. The Roman Catholics declare that theirs is the only true
Church, and that out of it is no salvation. Many Protestants reply that
the Roman Catholic Church is Antichrist, and the only true Churches are
those which hold the Evangelical or Orthodox creed. The Swedenborgians say
that the Old Church came to an end in 1758, and that since then the New
Church has taken its place. Finally, a considerable number of persons
maintain that all these churches are worse than useless, and that it is
the duty of Christians to come out, and be separate from them all. They do
not believe in the need of any church, but would substitute for it
societies for special purposes,—lyceums and literary clubs for purposes of
mental instruction; temperance societies, peace societies, and other
associations for moral purposes; and Odd-Fellows associations, Masonic
associations, and clubs for social purposes.

The question then is, Is a Christian Church needed for the permanent wants
of man? Was such a Church established by Christ? If so, which Church is
it? And what is to be its future character and mode of organization?

It is scarcely necessary to discuss here the abstract question—Is a church
an essential want of man, so as to be needed by him forever? It is enough
to show that a church is needed now, and will be, for a long time to come.
Every religion has had its church. No sooner does a new idea arise, than
it is incorporated in some outward union. The new wine is put into new
bottles. Confucius has his church, Mohammed has his church; even Mormonism
and Spiritualism have established their churches. The Christian Church
arose immediately after the ascension of Jesus; it came as a matter of
necessity, born not of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. It has
continued ever since, in ever-varying forms, but one undying body. Other
institutions have risen and passed away. The Roman empire has disappeared.
The barbarous nations overflowed Europe, and then were civilized,
Christianized, and absorbed into the Christian Church. Protestantism
separated from Romanism, but _the Church_ remained in both. Other sects,
Presbyterian, Independent, Quaker, Methodist, Baptist, Swedenborgian,
Unitarian, Universalist, separated from the main Protestant body, but each
took with it the church; each has its own church. Even the Quakers, the
most unchurched apparently of any, who renounced the visible ministry, and
the visible sacraments, made themselves presently into the most compact
church of all. So the word continues evermore to be made flesh. So all
spirit presently becomes incarnate in body. The body is outward and
visible; the spirit inward and invisible. Both are necessary to the life,
growth, and active influence of the gospel. Without the spirit of
Christianity, the body would be good for nothing; it would be only a
corpse. Without the body of Christianity, the spirit would be
comparatively inactive; it would be only a ghost. A body without spirit
corrupts and is offensive; a spirit without body is inoperative and
alarming. Through body alone the spirit can act; through spirit alone the
body can live.

Without asking, therefore, for any other authority for the Church, than
its adaptation to human wants, we may safely say, that it is a great
mistake to suppose we can dispense with churches. You cannot overthrow the
churches, not the weakest of them, by any agency you can use; for all came
up to meet and supply a want of the human soul. They are built on that
rock. What will you put in their place? A lyceum? A debating society? A
reform club? What are you to say to the souls of men, hungering and
thirsting for God? What to the sinner, borne down by the mighty weight of
transgression? What to the dying man, who knows not how to prepare to meet
his God? We need the Church of Christ—the Church whose great aim it is,
and always has been, to renew and regenerate the soul from its foundation,
to lay the axe at the root of the tree of evil, and the very sound of
whose bell, rolling its waves of music over the sleeping hills on the
Sabbath morning, is worth more to the soul than a thousand lyceums and
debating societies.

No; the Church is not to be destroyed; it is to be renewed with a deeper
and fuller life. We want a better Church, no doubt—one more free in its
thought, more active in its charity, with more of brotherhood in it. We
want an apostolic Church, fitted to the needs of the nineteenth century.
The theological preaching which satisfied our parents is not what we wish
now. We need Christianity applied to life—the life of the individual and
of the state. A better Church, no doubt, is needed; but we want the
churches _fulfilled_, not destroyed.

§ 2. Orthodox Doctrine of the Church—Roman Catholic and High Church.

Admitting, then, the permanency of the Christian Church, we next ask,
“What is its true form?” or, “Which is the true Church?” or, again, to
state it in another way, “Is the form of the Church permanent, or only its
substance? Is _any_ union for Christian purposes, for worship and work, a
Church, or must it be found in some particular organic form?” To this
question Romanism and High Church Episcopacy reply, “It must.” The rest of
Protestantism answers, “No.” Romanism says—Jesus established an essential
form for his Church, as well as an essential substance. The true Church is
an organization as well defined as any corporation for secular purposes.
It has the monopoly of saving souls, a patent right of communicating
spiritual life, which cannot lawfully be infringed by any other
corporation. This right was originally bestowed on St. Peter, and has been
transmitted by him to his successors, bishops of Rome. The proof is in the
original deed of gift, “Thou art Peter,” &c., and in the regularity of the
succession of subsequent bishops.

“According to the Catholic dogma,” says Guericke,(60) “the Church is an
outward community, by which all communion with Christ is conditioned and
mediated. This outward community is the true Church, with the signs of
unity, universality, apostolicity, and holiness, and is both the only
infallible Church, and only one which can save the soul.” This Church,
according to Bellarmine, is a wholly visible and outward association; as
much so as the kingdom of France or republic of Venice.(61) According to
Moehler,(62) the Church “is the visible community of believers, founded by
Christ, in which, by means of an enduring apostleship, &c., the works
wrought by him during his earthly life are continued to the end of the
world.” The Roman Catholic idea is of a visible Church only, and not of a
Church at once visible and invisible, which is the Protestant notion. It
is composed of good and bad, while the Protestant notion makes the true
Church consist only of the regenerate.(63)

The chief refutation of this claim of the Romish Church is to be found in
the very vastness of its assumption. Assuming itself to be the only true
Church, and the only one founded by Christ, we of course require full and
exact evidence in proof of its assertion. It must prove, (1.) That Jesus
founded an outward Church of this kind; (2.) That he made Peter its head;
(3.) That he gave Peter power to continue his authority to his successors;
(4.) That the bishops of Rome are the successors of Peter; (5.) That this
succession has been perfect and uninterrupted; (6.) That the Roman
Catholic Church _is_ infallible, and has never committed any mistake; (7.)
That it _is_ Catholic, and includes all true Christians; (8.) That it _is_
at one with itself, having never known divisions; (9.) That it _is_ the
only holy Church, bearing the fruits of Christian character in a quality
and quantity which no other Church can rival. If any one of these nine
propositions fail, the whole claim of Rome falls prostrate. But they _all_
fail, not one being susceptible of proof. It cannot be made to appear that
Jesus ever intended to found a Church having such a monopoly of salvation;
nor that the apostle Peter was ever placed at its head, with supreme
authority;(64) nor, if he had this authority, that he ever was bishop of
Rome; nor, if he were, that he transmitted his authority to his
successors; nor, if he did, that the bishops of Rome are his successors;
nor, if they are, that the succession has been unbroken; nor that the
church has been actually infallible; nor that it includes all true
Christians; nor that it has been free from schisms; nor that it has always
been so pure and holy as to show that Romanism is eminently Christian, and
Protestantism not so. The chain of proof, therefore, which, if one link
parted, would be a broken chain, is broken at _every_ link, and cannot
carry conviction to any unbiassed mind.

In a little work lately published in France by the Protestant Pastor, Mr.
Bost,(65) the author gives as a reason for not being a Catholic, that
while the Church calls on us to submit to its authority, it cannot tell
where the authority resides.(66) The Ultramontanes place it in the person
of the pope; but the Gallicans have never admitted this idea, and place
the supreme authority in a universal council.

Besides, what sort of infallibility is that which has tolerated the
Inquisition, applauded the St. Bartholomew massacre, preached crusades
against the heretics in France, massacred the Protestants in Holland,
burned ten thousands at the stake in Spain? If it be said that Protestants
also have persecuted, we reply, that they did it _against_ their own
principles, but that the Catholics persecuted in accordance with theirs;
and that the Church which claims exclusive infallibility and holiness has
no right to excuse itself _because it has done no worse_ than those which
it denounces as being in error and sin.

§ 3. The Protestant Orthodox Idea of the Church.

Protestantism does not claim for its Church exclusive holiness or
infallibility. It defines the Church to be “a congregation of faithful
men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly
administered.”(67) Why, then, the reaction towards Romanism? It is partly
owing to the passive element in man—the wish to be governed, the weariness
of independent thought, which led Wordsworth to say,—

    “Me this unchartered freedom tires,”—

and which, in “Van Artevelde,” declares that,—

    Thought is tired of wandering through the world,
      And homeward fancy runs its bark ashore,—

and partly because the Protestant Churches are often less active and
diligent in the practical part of Christian work than the Roman Catholic
Churches. Instead of a manly Protestantism, they give us a diluted
Catholicism. They insist on a creed which has neither antiquity nor
authority to recommend it, on sacraments that are no real sacraments, but
only symbols, and on a ritual which has neither the beauty nor variety of
the Roman worship.

What does the Protestant Church propose to itself as its end? To produce
an abstract piety, instead of a concrete piety—not a piety embodied in
life and conduct, but taking only the form of an inward experience. If the
churches should set themselves the work of feeding the hungry and clothing
the naked, of removing the vices and crimes of men, of helping the
outcasts and visiting the prisoners, they would have a more living piety
growing out of this active charity. Their prayer meetings would be much
more vigorous when they prayed in order to work, than when they pray in
order to pray. Men should not be admitted into the Church because they are
pious, but in order to become pious by doing Christian work. By loving,
practically, the brother they have seen, they would come to love God, whom
they have not seen.

Again: the Protestant Church feebly imitates the aristocracy of the Romish
Church. In order to conquer Romanism, we must go on and leave it behind,
seeking something better, and finding some more excellent way. Now, the
sin of Romanism is its aristocracy; Protestantism ought, then, to give us,
in its Church, a Christian democracy. But it keeps up the pernicious
distinction between clergy and laity, making the clergy a separate class,
and so justifying Milton’s complaint that the “Presbyter is only the old
priest written large.” It makes a distinction between men and women in the
Church, not encouraging the latter to speak or to vote. It makes a
distinction between the rich and poor, selling its pews to those who can
buy them, and leaving those who are unable to do so outside of the
sanctuary. It makes a distinction between Orthodox and heretics, excluding
the latter, instead of inviting them in where their errors might be
corrected. And finally, it makes an unchristian distinction between good
people and bad people; for while Jesus, its Master, made himself the
friend of publicans and sinners, the Church too often turns to them the
cold shoulder, and leaves them to be cured by the law, and not the gospel.

The following saying of a saint of the desert, Abbot Agatho, is reported
by Dr. Newman, who tells it as something wise and good. It seems to us to
illustrate, with much _naïveté_, the tendency of both Catholic and
Protestant Orthodoxy, to put right opinion above right conduct.

“It was heard by some that Abbot Agatho possessed the gift of
discrimination. Therefore, to make trial of his temper, they said to him,
‘We are told that you are sensual and haughty.’ He answered, ‘That is just
it.’ They said again, ‘Are you not that Agatho who has such a foul
tongue?’ He answered, ‘I am he.’ Then they said, ‘Are not you Agatho _the
heretic_?’ He made answer, ‘No.’ Then they asked him why he had been
patient of so much, but would not put up with this last. He answered, ‘By
those I was but casting on me evil; but by this I should be severing me
from God.’ ”

According, therefore, to Agatho and Dr. Newman, the tongue “which is set
on fire of hell,” does not separate us from God, but an error of opinion
does. Pride, “which comes before a fall,” and sensuality, which makes of a
man a beast, do not come between the soul and God so much as an honest
error of opinion.

The Protestant Church fails to overcome the Catholic Church only by being
too much like the latter. With Protestant ideas, we have semi-Catholic
Churches. We claim as our fundamental principle the right of private
judgment, and then denounce and exclude those who differ from us. We claim
that the soul is not to be saved by monkish seclusion, by going away from
the world; and yet we do not preach and carry out in our church-action the
purpose of saving the bodies of men as well as their souls. When the
Protestant Church work gets more into harmony with Protestant ideas, we
shall then see fewer relapses into Romanism.

§ 4. Christ’s Idea of a Church, or the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Roman Catholics having made the visible Church, or outward Christian
community, the central idea of Christianity, and having changed this into
a close corporation of priests, it was natural, perhaps, that Protestants
should go too far in another direction. Accordingly, the central idea in
Protestantism is not the Church, but the salvation of the soul; not
social, but personal religion; not the Christian community, but personal
development; not the kingdom of heaven here, but heaven in a future life.
Yet it is true, and has been shown lately with great power,(68) that the
direct and immediate object of Jesus was to establish a community of
believers. This was implied in his being the Christ,—for the Christ was to
be the head of the kingdom of heaven,—and the kingdom of heaven was to be
an earthly and human institution. Jesus took the idea of the kingdom of
God, as it was announced by the prophets; purified, developed, deepened,
and widened it; and it resulted in his varied descriptions of the “kingdom
of heaven,” This phrase, in the mouth of Jesus, expresses essentially what
we mean by “the Church.” This will appear more plainly if we sum up the
principal meanings of the phrase “kingdom of God” in the New Testament. It

1. _Something near at hand._

Mark 1:15. “The kingdom of God is at hand.” Luke 9:27. “There are some
standing here who shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of
God.” Mark 9:1. “There be some of them which stand here which shall not
taste of death till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.”

2. _It was already beginning._

Luke 17:20. “And when he was demanded of the Pharisees when the kingdom of
God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not
with observation, neither shall they say, Lo, here! or, Lo, there! for
behold, the kingdom of God is within (or ‘among’) you.”

3. _It was not of this world._

John 18:36. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

4. _But was to be in this world._

Matt. 6:10. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as it is in

5. _In some respects it was to be an outward and visible kingdom, or an
outward institution._

Parable of the grain of mustard-seed. Matt. 13:31, 32.

6. _It would contain good and bad._

Parable of the net. Matt. 13:47.

7. _It would belong to Christ._

Col. 1:13. “Hath translated us into the kingdom of his Son.” Luke 22:30.
“Ye shall eat and drink in my kingdom.” John 18:36. “My kingdom is not of
this world.” Matt. 16:28. “Shall see the Son of man coming in his

8. _It would be finally given up to God._

1 Cor. 15:24. “Then the end; when he shall have delivered up the kingdom
to God, even the Father,” &c.

9. _It is a spiritual kingdom._

Rom. 14:17. “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but
righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

10. _Flesh and blood cannot inherit it._

1 Cor. 15:50. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither
doth corruption inherit incorruption.”

11. _The conditions of admission are spiritual._

John 3:3. “Except a man be born again,” &c. Matt. 5:3. “Blessed are the
poor in spirit,” &c. 1 Cor. 6:9. “The unrighteous shall not inherit the
kingdom of God.” See Gal. 5:21. Eph. 5:5.

12. _The kingdom was to be established by the Son of man at his coming._

Matt. 24:30; 25:1. “They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of
heaven,” &c. “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened.”(69)

Christ, therefore, had in his mind, as the direct object of his coming, to
cause God’s kingdom to come, and his will to be done on earth as in
heaven. It was not his direct purpose to teach the truth in abstract
forms, like the philosophers; nor to make atonement by his death for human
sins; nor to set an example of a holy life; nor to make a revelation of
God and immortality; nor to communicate new life to the world. These he
did; but they came as a part of the kingdom of heaven. They were included
in this great idea. His kingdom was a kingdom of _truth_, in which his
_word_ was to be the judge. He was to reconcile the world to God by his
death. He was to show what man was made to be and could become. He was to
reveal God as a Father to his human children. He was to set in motion a
tide of new spiritual life. But the METHOD by which all this was to be
done was the method of a community of disciples and brethren, who should
be his apostles and missionaries. They were to be an outward, visible
association with the symbols of baptism and the supper. They were also to
be an influence in the world, a current of religious life. We find that
such was the result. We see the disciples embodied and united in a visible
community, which spread through all the Roman empire, which soon had its
teachers, officers, its meetings, its worship, its sacred books, its
sacred days. But we find also the larger and deeper current of life, which
constitutes the invisible Church, flowing, like a great river, down
through the centuries. All Christians in all Christian lands drink from
this stream, and all their ideas of God, man, duty, immortality, are
colored and tinged by it. We read the Bible by the light of the
convictions we absorbed at our mother’s knee in our infancy. We carry on
our churches in the power of the holy traditions which have become a part
of our nature. There is a Christian consciousness which grows up in every
child who is born in Christendom, and is the best part of his nature. This
makes him a member of the invisible Church before he outwardly becomes a
member of the visible Christian community.

§ 5. Church of the Leaven, or the Invisible Church.

There are two parables of Christ which apply to the Church visible and
invisible. The Church Visible is the Church of the Mustard-seed; the
Church Invisible is the Church of the Leaven. The former is an
organization, the latter an _influence_; the one is body, and the other
spirit. The Visible Church is limited by certain boundaries; defined by
its worship, creeds, officers, assemblies, forms. It has its holy days,
holy places, holy men, holy books. But the Invisible Church is not limited
by any such boundaries; it exists wherever goodness exists. The Church of
the Leaven is to be found inside and outside of Orthodoxy; inside and
outside of professing Christianity; among Jews, Mohammedans, Heathen;
among Deists and unbelievers of all sorts, who build better than they
know. For says Jesus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and we hear the
sound thereof.... So is every one who is born of the Spirit.” A locomotive
must run on a track, a wagon on a road. But there is no track laid through
the sky for the south wind; there is no time-table to determine the
starting and arriving of the soft breeze which comes from the far
prairies, laden with the sweet fragrance of ten thousand flowers.

“So is every one who is born of the Spirit.” Get out your Catechism, my
Orthodox friend; establish, dear Methodist brother, your experience to
determine whether one is converted or no. Settle for yourself, excellent
formalist, the signs of the true Church, out of which there is no
salvation; and when you have got all your fences arranged, and your gates
built to your satisfaction, you are obliged to throw them all down with
your own hands, to let THE CHURCH OF THE LEAVEN pass through. “Nobody can
be saved,” says Dogmatic Christianity, “who does not believe in the
Trinity and the Atonement.” “Nobody can be saved,” says Sentimental
Christianity, “who has not had a conscious change of heart.” “ Nobody can
be saved,” says Formal Christianity, “who is out of the true Church and
its sacraments.” Here are the three fences of the Church of the
Mustard-seed. But see! here comes an innumerable multitude of little
children, who have never believed in Trinity or Atonement; have never been
baptized at all; have never been converted. Yet neither Dogmatist,
Sentimentalist, nor Formalist dares to exclude them from heaven. Logic
steps aside; good feeling opens the three gates; and the little ones all
walk quietly to the good Shepherd, who says, “Let them come to me, and
forbid them not;” gathering the lambs in his arms, carrying them in his
bosom, and tenderly leading them in the green pastures beside the still

The little children must be allowed to go through; consistency requires
them to be damned; but consistency must take care of itself; so much the
worse for consistency. But who comes next? Here are all the heathen, who
have not heard of Christ. Must they be damned? According to the creeds,
yes; but modern Orthodoxy has its doubts; its heart has grown tender.
Somehow or other we think that we shall have to let them pass, before a
great while. Then here are all the people whom we have known and loved.
They did not believe as they should. They were never converted, so far as
we know; they were not members of any Church, true or false. But we loved
them. Cannot the three fences be put aside again, just to let these
friends of ours pass by. What kind-hearted Orthodox man or woman was ever
wanting in an excuse for letting his heretical friends into heaven. “He
changed his views very essentially before he died. He used very Orthodox
language, to my certain knowledge. He said he relied on the merits of
Christ; or, at least, he said he believed in Christ.” And so all the good
and kind dead people must follow all the little children, and pass the
triple fence. They do not belong to the Church of the Mustard-seed; but
they belong to the Church of the Leaven. These fences are like the flaming
wall in Tasso; they seem impassable, but as soon as one comes up to them
they are found to be nothing. Blessed be God that common sense is stronger
than logic; that humanity is stronger than forms; and that large, kind
Christian hearts are more than a match for the somewhat narrow Christian

§ 6. The Church of the Mustard-seed.

This is not the spirit, but the body; not the life, but the organization
of that life. There is no doubt that we need a Church visible as well as a
Church invisible; need a body as well as a soul; and it is a very
important question what sort of a body we shall have. Soul, no doubt, is
infinitely more important than body; still we do not wish our body to be
lame, blind, or dyspeptic. Because soul is better than body, we do not
like rheumatism or neuralgia. Our visible Church, the body of Christ, is
sometimes a little dyspeptic, and goes about looking very gloomy and
miserable, when it ought to be as gay as a lark. Sometimes also it seems
to be rheumatic; at any rate, it cannot go and attend to its work. It is
very subject to fever and ague; plenty of meetings to-day, all alive with
zeal and heat, but to-morrow it is cold and shivering. It has its
pulmonary disease too; its lungs are not strong enough to speak when it
ought; to cry out for truth and right in the day of trial. And as we find
that hygienics are better than therapeutics for physical diseases, so,
perhaps, it will be better for us to prevent the diseases of the Church by
wise arrangements, which shall give it air, exercise, and a wholesome
diet, than to cure it, when sick, by the usual medicine of rebuke,
reproof, and ascetic mortification.

The visible Church may be looked at in four points of view. We may
consider it as,—

      1. The Primitive Church, or Church as it was.
      2. The Church Actual, or Church as it is.
      3. The Ideal Church, or Church as it ought to be.
      4. The Possible Church, or Church as it can be.

§ 7. Primitive and Apostolic Church, or Church as it was.

If we study the nature, organization, and character of the primitive
Christian Church, as it appears in the book of Acts and in the Epistles,
we recognize easily the warm, loving life which was in its spring time,
when all buds were swelling, and all flowers opening. It was far from
being a perfect Church. It had many errors, and included many vices. Some
persons in the Church did not believe in the resurrection of the dead. (1
Cor. 15:12.) Some disciples had not heard there was a Holy Ghost. (Acts
19:2.) Some even became intoxicated at the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor. 11:21,
ὁς δὲ μεθύει). Some Christians had to be told not to steal (Eph. 4:28);
nor to lie, (Col. 3:9); nor to commit other immoralities. Peter (supposed
to be the infallible head of the Church) was rebuked by Paul for
dissimulation. Paul and Barnabas could not get along together, but
quarrelled, and had to separate. Part of the Church Judaized, and
denounced Paul as a false apostle. Another part Paganized, and carried
Pauline liberty into license. And yet, though there was so little of
completed Christian character, there was a great amount of spiritual life
in the apostolic Church. They are styled saints, but never was anything
less saintly than the state of things in the beginning. But they were
looking the right way, and going in the right direction. They were full of
faith, zeal, enthusiasm, and inspiration; so they had in themselves the
promise and expectation of saintship, if not its reality.

Directly after the ascension of Christ, and the wonderful experiences of
the day of Pentecost, we find the Christian community in active operation.
Its organization was as yet very indefinite; that was to come by degrees.

It was a Church without a creed; its only creed was a declaration of faith
in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. It was a Church without a bishop,
or a single head of any kind; for Peter, James, and John seem all three to
have possessed an equal influence in it, and that influence was derived
from their character. Paul tells us expressly, in the Epistle to the
Galatians, that when he went up to Jerusalem, long after his conversion,
Peter, James, and John “seemed to be pillars” there. No mention is made
anywhere in the book of Acts of a single bishop presiding over the Church
at Jerusalem, or over any other Church. And as to the Romish Church, which
claims to be the oldest Church, and the mother of all the rest, it was not
yet founded at all, when the Church at Jerusalem was established. Nor was
the Church at Rome as old as the Churches at Antioch, at Lystra, at
Iconium, and elsewhere, for Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in all these
churches, as we are expressly told in Acts 14th; and in Acts 15:7 we find
Peter still at Jerusalem. If there was any church at Rome, Peter was not
its bishop; then either it was a church without a bishop, or Peter was not
its first bishop.

We find also that as the apostolic Church had no creed and no bishop,
neither had it any fixed or settled forms. Its forms and usages grew up
naturally, according as convenience required. Thus (Acts 6:1-5) we find
that the apostles recommended the disciples to choose seven persons to
attend to the distribution of charity. “A murmuring arose” because the
Greek widows were neglected—neglected, probably, because not so well known
as the others. This shows that there were no fixed, established forms;
even the order of deacons was originated to meet an occasion.

That they had no form of service, no fixed Liturgy, in the apostolic
Church, appears from 1 Cor. 14:26. “How is it, brethren, when ye come
together, every one of you hath a psalm, a doctrine, a tongue, a
revelation, an interpretation? Let the prophets speak, two or three, and
the others judge, and if anything be revealed to another that sitteth by,
let the first hold his peace. You may all prophesy one by one, that all
may learn, and all be comforted.” Now, it is very evident no fixed or
formal service could have been established in the churches when he
recommended this.

But though the apostolic Church had neither bishop, nor creed, nor fixed
forms, nor a fixed body of officers, it had something better—it had faith
in God, and mutual love. “The multitude of them that believed were of one
heart and one soul; neither said any man that aught that he possessed was
his own, but they had all things common.” We do not find an absolute
community of property established by a law of the Church, as in the
monastic orders, or as in the school of Pythagoras, and some modern
communities, as that of St. Simon; for Peter says to Ananias, of his
property, “While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold,
was it not in thine own power?” But though their property was in their own
power, they did not call it their own, or consider it so; it belonged to
God: they were only stewards, and they readily brought it, and gave it to
the use of the Church.

The apostolic Church was a home of peace and joy. Whatever tribulations
they might have in the world, when they met together they met Christ, and
ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. They were in an
atmosphere of love and freedom. We hear of no rules, no laws, no
constraining forms; but all were led by the Spirit of God. Even in their
public service, as we have seen, though Paul recommended a greater order,
it was not based on authority, but on the sense of propriety of each
individual, because God was not the God of confusion, but of peace.

Such was the original Church, as described in the Acts and Epistles. It
sprang up because it was wanted, and Christ foresaw that it would be. It
was founded not on an arbitrary command, but on the needs of human nature.
Man is not a solitary, but a social being. He needs society in his labors
and in his joys; society in study, society in relaxation. Even in the
highest act of his life,—in the act of prayer, in communion with God; in
that act, called by an ancient Platonist “the flight of one alone to the
only One,”—even then he cannot be alone. In the union of man with man in
any natural and true relation, his thought becomes more clear, his will
more firm, his devotion more profound, his affections more enlarged. The
broader and deeper the basis of the union, the more it blesses and helps
him. A friendship based upon the knowledge and love of the same God, what
can be better for us than this?

Thus we see that the apostolic Church was a home for Christ’s family
(Matt. 12:49); a school for his disciples; a fraternity of brethren. For
discipline, it had officers, but no clergy, nor priesthood, for all were
priests, and all took part in the services. (1 Peter 2:5; Rom. 1:6; 1 Cor.
14:26.) Its only creed was a belief in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of
God. (Acts 8:37; 16:31. 1 John 4:15; 5:5, 10. Rom. 10:9.) The unity of the
Church was not the unity of opinion, nor the unity of ceremonies, but the
bond of the Spirit (Eph. 4:3), and the central unities of faith, not of
doctrine (Eph. 4:5.) The object of the Church service was not merely to
partake the Lord’s Supper together, nor to maintain public worship, nor to
defend and propagate a creed, nor to call men into an outward
organization, nor to gather pious people together, and keep them safe as
in an ark, but to _do good_ and _get good_—to grow up in all things into
Him who is the Head. And the condition of membership was to wish to be
saved from sin, and to have faith in Christ that he could save them; it
was to hunger and thirst after righteousness.

§ 8. The Actual Church, or the Church as it is.

Now, if we turn from the Church as it was to the Church as it is,—from the
apostolic Church to those around us,—we see a difference. Instead of the
freedom and union which were in the early Church, we find in the Roman
Catholic communion union, but no freedom; in the Protestant Churches
freedom, but no union. In both we find the Church built on the ministry,
instead of the ministry on the Church; the priests everything, the people
nothing; fixed forms, instead of a free movement; dead creeds, instead of
a living faith. The spirit of worldliness has entered the churches, and
they try to serve God and Mammon; God on Sunday, and Mammon on the week
days. The members of the churches are more devout and more religious, but
not more moral or more humane, than many who are out of their body. And
because they do not love man whom they have seen, they find it hard to
love God, whom they have not seen. Their want of humanity destroys their

A vast amount of good is done by the churches, even in their present
state; but when we think of what they might do, it seems nothing. Yet it
is _not_ nothing. Could we know the good done by the mere sound of the
church bells on Sunday, by the quiet assembling of peaceful multitudes in
their different churches; could we measure the amount of awe and reverence
which falls over every mind, restraining the reckless, checking many a
half-formed purpose of evil, rousing purer associations and memories,
calling up reminiscences of innocent childhood in the depraved heart of
man; could we know how many souls are roused to a better life, made to
realize their immortal nature, reminded of a judgment to come; could we
see how many souls, on every Sabbath, in our thousands of churches, are
turned from sin to God, how many sorrowing hearts are consoled by the
sweet promises of the gospel; could we see, as God sees and the angels
see, all this,—we should feel that the churches, in their greatest
feebleness, are yet the instruments of an incalculable good. But when we
look at what _is_ to be done, what _ought_ to be done, what _could_ be
done by them, their present state seems most forlorn.

It is one of the most difficult of our duties not to despise an imperfect
good, and yet not to be satisfied with it.

One of the greatest evils of our churches is, that they are churches of
the clergy, not of the people. Our clergy are generally pure-minded,
well-intentioned men, less selfish and worldly than most men; but they are
not equal to the demands of their position. We take a young man, send him
to college, then to a theological school, where he studies his Greek very
faithfully, and learns to write sermons. He comes out, twenty-two years
old, a pleasing speaker, and is immediately settled and ordained over a
large long-established church. As he rises in the pulpit and looks down on
his congregation, one would think he would despair. What can he say to
them? He knows nothing of human nature, of its struggles and sins, its
temptations in the shop and the street. Men do not curse at him, nor try
to cheat him, nor entice him into bar-rooms, oyster-cellars,
billiard-rooms, and theatres. He cannot speak to men of their vices, their
stony and hard hearts, their utter unbelief, their crying selfishness, for
he knows nothing of it. He must speak of sin in the abstract, not of sin
in the concrete. If he did, what could he say? What weapons has he? The
sword of the Spirit is in his hands, but he has not tried it; he has no
confidence in it. The awful truths of the Bible, which smite the stoutest
sinner to the earth, these he might utter, if he dared; but he knows not
how. And yet he is the teacher of these gray-headed men, and their only
teacher. Had he gone out as Jesus sent his disciples, without purse or
shoes or two coats, and preached the gospel for ten years by the way-side,
in cottages, in school-houses, living hard, sleeping on the floor, seeing
men and women everywhere without disguise, and taking no thought
beforehand what to say, but leaning on God for his inspiration,—then might
he have learned how to say something weighty even to a great congregation.
Or if this poor boy were surrounded by a living active church, helping him
by advice, going with him into the house of sorrow, the haunt of sin,
kneeling with him by the sick couch and death-bed, and adding to his small
experience the whole variety and richness of theirs,—then might he be a
man of God, thoroughly furnished for every work.

If there were Judaism and Paganism in the early Church, they still, no
doubt, linger in our churches to-day. The Church Judaizes in this—that it
still puts forms above life. For example, the Roman Catholic Church
teaches that if you take a child, and put water upon him, repeating the
baptismal formula, and with the _intention_ of baptizing him, the child
becomes in that moment regenerate. If he had died the moment before, he
would have been damned forever in eternal torments; if he dies the moment
after, he will go to eternal bliss in heaven. Now, if an earthly parent
should cover his child’s body with camphene, and then set it on fire,
because somebody had not baptized it, we should say he was a very cruel
parent. But this conduct is attributed to the good God by the Roman
Catholic doctrine. Moreover, when an outward form is made thus essential,
when everlasting salvation or damnation depends on it, it behooves us to
know what it is. Baptism consists of three parts—the water, the formula,
and the intention of the baptizer. But as to the water, we may ask, _How
much_ is essential? Is it essential that there be enough to entirely
immerse the body? The Catholic Church replies, “_No_.” Is the aqueous
vapor always present in the air enough? It answers, “No, _that_ is _not_
enough.” At what precise point, then, between these two, does _enough_
begin, does baptism take place, and the child cease to be a child of
perdition, and become an heir of salvation? The Roman Catholic Church,
being obliged to answer this question, has answered it thus: There is no
baptism until water enough to _run_ is put on the child. A drop which will
not _run_, does not baptize him; a drop which will run, baptizes him. The
difference, then, between these two drops, is the difference to the child
between eternal damnation and eternal salvation.(70)

How does this sound by the side of the declaration of the apostle Paul—“He
is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is circumcision outward in the
flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is of the
heart”? Judaism, if anything, was an outward institution; Christianity, if
anything, is an inward life. And yet that which the apostle Paul said of
Judaism we hardly to-day would venture to say of Christianity. “He is not
a Christian who is one outwardly, neither is Christianity in outward
belief, profession, or aspect; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly.”
“O, no!” we say, “there must be a distinction. A man who does not believe
in the miracles, for example, may be a good man, but you must not call him
a Christian.” But he who follows Christ, we think, is a Christian. And as
Christ walks before mankind on the divine road of goodness, truth, love,
purity, he who walks on that road _cannot help being a follower_ of
Christ, whatever he may call himself.

How the Church Judaizes about the Sabbath—pretending, first, that there
_is a Sabbath_ in Christianity, and teaching people that there is a sort
of piety in calling Sunday _the Sabbath_, and next putting this ritual
observance, this abstinence from labor and amusement, on a level with
moral duties! When men tithe mint, they are apt to forget justice and
mercy. If Jesus were to return, after all these centuries, and were only
to do and say just what he did and said about the Sabbath when he was here
before, there are many pious Protestants who would think him rather lax in
his religious principles. How long he has been with us, and yet we have
not known him!

An American Protestant bishop once forbade a clergyman of his church to
officiate again, because this clergyman had invited a Methodist minister
to assist him in the administration of the sacrament. This is backsliding
a good way from the position of Him who said, “Forbid him not: he that is
not against us is with us.” And again: “Whosoever wishes to do the will of
God, the same is my mother, my sister, and my brother.” Dear Master! is
_thy_ Church so broad as to include all who desire to do the will of God,
and are _our_ churches so narrow that they cannot hold any but those who
agree with us in our little notions about ceremony and form? Hast thou
been so long time with us, and yet have we not known thee?

The Church Actual is a timid Church. It is afraid of truth, and afraid of
love. Its creed is full of mysteries too solemn and sacred to be examined.
They are the sealed book of the prophet, which is given to the learned
clergy, and to the unlearned laity; and the answer of the unlearned laity
is, “We are not learned.” And the answer of the learned clergy is, “It is
sealed. It is a mystery. We must not even try to understand it.” The
Actual Church is not fond of a free examination of its tenets, but rather
represses it by the flaming terrors of perdition impending over honest

The Church Actual sticks in the letter. How it idolizes the Bible! But
when you ask, _What?_ you find it is rather the letter of the Bible than
its manly, generous, humane, and holy spirit. It babbles of verbal
inspiration and literal inspiration, which are phrases as absurd as it
would be to say “bodily spirit.” Question the inspiration of the letter,
and a thousand voices cry, “You are cutting away the very foundations of
our faith. If we cannot believe every letter of the Bible to be from God,
we have nothing to hold by.” But the apostle Paul thought somewhat
differently, when he said, “Who hath also made us able ministers of the
New Testament, _not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter
killeth, but the spirit giveth life_.”

The American Bible Society appointed a committee of learned persons to
revise the present translation of the Bible—not to make a new translation
by any means, but merely to correct palpable blunders of the press,
palpable errors in the headings of chapters, or universally admitted
mistakes of the translators. The learned men did their work. It was
examined, printed—about to be published. But an outcry was made, that the
Bible Society, in taking away these few errors of the press, was taking
away _our_ Bible. The Christian public, in the middle of the nineteenth
century, has been so instructed, that when a few errors in the letter of
the outward word are corrected, it cries out, “They have taken away my
Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

The Church Actual is sectarian. Every church is trying to swell its
numbers at the expense of its neighbors. We do not think that a Christian
Church should be constructed on the principle of a mouse-trap, which it is
easy enough to get into, but hard to get out of. We do not think it right
that young persons, in the glow of their piety, should be drawn into a
church, without being told that if they should change their views on any
important point, they cannot leave it except by being excommunicated
publicly. But there are churches in New England which have many very easy
and agreeable entrances, but only two exits—very difficult and
disagreeable. If one wishes to leave, he is dismissed with a letter
directed to some other church of the same creed, and not till he has
joined some such church, and a certificate is sent back to that effect, is
he released from his obligations. The Church is therefore like a city on a
hill, with a palisade fence all round, with openings by which one can get
in, but not out; and having only two outlets—one by a gate kept carefully
locked, and the other over a steep wall, fifty feet high. You have your
choice of three things: 1. Stay where you are; 2. Go through the gate into
another palisaded enclosure; 3. Be pitched down the Tarpeian rock of

Thus we see that the Church Actual differs much, and often for the worse,
from the Church Primitive. It is not now a home or a fraternity, for its
members often do not know each other by sight. It is not a school of
disciples, for it is thought necessary to take your whole creed at once,
ready made, and not learn it by degrees. The worship is too often by the
minister and choir, the people being only spectators. Instead of the
simple original faith in Jesus as the Christ, the people are taught long
and complicated creeds. Instead of a unity of conviction, seeing the same
things, there is only a unity of expression, _saying_ the same things.
Instead of seeking to save the outcasts, infidels, vicious; churches are
built and occupied by Christians themselves, as though Christ came to call
only the righteous to repentance. There may be, in our great cities, a
church to every two thousand persons; but every seat in every church is
bought and occupied by the respectable and comfortable classes. The gospel
is preached, but no longer to the poor. There is something wrong in all

§ 9. The Church Ideal, or Church as it ought to be.

The Church Ideal is full of life, power, love, freedom. It is a teaching
Church; calling men out of darkness into marvellous light, throwing light
on all the mysteries of human existence. It takes the little child and
teaches it concerning its duty and destiny. It organizes schools through
every Christian nation, so that all Christian children shall be taught of
God, and that great shall be their peace. It teaches systematically and
thoroughly all classes of society; so that all, from least to the
greatest, know the Lord. It organizes missions to all heathen lands, and
its missionaries are so true, noble, kind, so reflect the life of Jesus in
their own, that the heathen come flying like clouds, and like flocks of
doves, to the windows of the holy home. The dusky, and swarming races of
Hindostan, the mild and studious Chinamen, come flowing to Christ, as the
long undulating clouds of pigeons darken along the October sky in our
western forests. The ideal Church is a loving Church. It loves men out of
their sins. It seeks the poor and forlorn, the hard-hearted and
impenitent, and by unwearied patience soothes their harsh spirit. Enter
its gates, and you find yourself in an atmosphere of affection. The strong
bear the infirmities of the weak. Each seeks the lowest place for himself.
They love to wash the disciples’ feet.

The Ideal Church is an active Church. All the members work together for
the building up of the body; some after this fashion, others after that.
“So the whole body, fitly joined together, and compacted by that which
every joint supplieth,” is built up in love. Is there any ruinous vice,
any corroding sin, any festering moral disease in the land? The Ideal
Church searches for its root, and finds its cure. It takes the intemperate
man by the hand, and will not let him go till he abstains. It penetrates
into every haunt of sin and pollution, and brings forth the half-ruined
child, triumphantly leads out the corrupt woman, and places them in new
homes. The Ideal Church does not dispute about doctrines or dogmas. It
says to each, “To your Master you shall stand or fall, not to me.”

Therefore the Ideal Church is an earthly heaven. There is in it a warm,
serene, sunny atmosphere; a sky without clouds; the society of love, the
solitude of meditation, the inaccessible mountain tops of prayer; the
low-lying, quiet valleys, where the wicked cease from troubling, and the
weary are at rest.

But where is the Ideal Church? We have seen that it is not in the past,
where many look for it. The golden age of the Church, the Paradisiacal
state of Christianity, is not behind us. Was the Ideal Church that which
persecuted Paul for renouncing Judaism? Was it any of the Churches
described by John in the book of Revelation? that of Ephesus, which had
“left its first love”? that of Pergamos, which contained heretical
teachers? that of Thyatira, which communed with Jezebel and the depths of
Satan? that of Sardis, which had “a name to live, and was dead”? or that
of Laodicea, which was lukewarm?

Was that an Ideal Church where Paul was obliged to write to Titus that a
bishop must not be a striker, nor given to wine, nor to filthy lucre? and
to advise Timothy to avoid “profane and vain babbling”?

There was more life in it than in the Church now; a great struggling, but
undeveloped power of life, heaving and tossing the Church, as with
subterranean fire—smoke and flame bursting forth together; a great power
of life, but little chance of doctrine as yet; little harmony of action;
little in accordance with our ideas of decency and order. It was the
spring time, and as in the spring there is a great power of life in
nature, swelling all buds, pushing all shoots, unfolding leaves,—but all
things still bare; few flowers, no fruit,—so it was in the Primitive
Church. It was not Ideal. The Ideal Church is before us, not behind us; it
is to come.

§ 10. The Church Possible, or Church as it can be.

Is any Church possible but the Actual? We think there is. We think that a
Church may be something more and better than any we have now. Without
reaching the ideal standard we can yet do something.

We think it possible for a Church to be united on a basis of study and
action rather than on that of attainment. Instead of having it consist of
those who have formed opinions, let it consist of those who wish to form
them. Instead of having it consist of those who have been converted, and
who believe themselves pious, let it consist of those who wish to be
converted, and who desire to be pious. Instead of having it consist of
good people, let us invite in the bad people who desire to be good. Do you
send your children to school because they are learned, and not rather
because they are ignorant? Why should we not become disciples of Christ
because of our ignorance, rather than our knowledge.

We think it possible to have a Church, and even a denomination, organized,
not on a creed, but on a purpose of working together. Suppose that the
condition of membership was the desire and intention of getting good and
doing good. The members of a church are not those who unite in order to
partake the Lord’s Supper, but to do the Lord’s work. The Lord’s Supper is
their refreshment after working. They come together sometimes to remember
his love, and to get strength from him. Let them sit together, express
their desires, confess their faults, say what they have been trying to do,
where they have failed, where succeeded, and so encourage each other to
run with diligence the race set before them.

We therefore think it possible for a Church to be built on Christ himself,
and not on a minister. The Church might even do without a sermon; the
members might pray together and sing together, when they had no minister,
and be a true family of Christian men and women, brothers and sisters in
the Lord. The lowest view of a Christian Church is that which makes it a
body of pew-holders; the next lowest, that which makes them an audience
met to hear a sermon; the next lowest, a mere congregation or assembly of
worshippers; a little higher is that of a body of communicants, bound
together by the desire of knowing Christ; but highest of all is that which
regards a Church as the body of Christ. Such a Church is to learn of him,
and to do his will; it is his eyes, to look on all things with a Christian
vision; his hands, by which he shall still touch and heal the wretched;
his feet, to go through the world, to search out its evils and sins; his
mouth, through which he shall speak words of divinest help and
encouragement. “The body of Christ, and members one of another.” The body
of Christ; always active, always progressing, always advancing; advancing
into a deeper and better knowledge of his will, into a purer love of his
kingdom, into a further and divine life of union with him; the body fitly
joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, making
increase of the body to the building of itself up in love.

It is possible to have a Church which shall be ready to teach and preach
the gospel, not to a few pew-holders only, but to the whole community.
Every child born in New England is taught the elements of secular
knowledge without money and without price. Are the waters of earthly
knowledge, then, so much more essential to the safety of the state than
the waters of life, that we cannot risk the chance of leaving any child
uninstructed in reading and writing, but may leave him untaught in the
gospel? It would seem to be possible, since we have free schools, to have
also free Churches, and so really to have, what we profess to maintain,
_Public Worship_! There is no such thing now as public worship. The
churches are not public places—each belongs to a private corporation of

It is possible to have a Church which shall consider it its duty to obey
its Master’s first command, and “preach the gospel to every creature.” Its
mission shall be to go out into the highways and the hedges, to seek and
save the lost. It will regard the world as its field, and the whole
community as its sphere of labor—the whole community, according to its
needs, to be taught, helped, comforted, and cured by the gospel.

It is possible to have a Church which shall be united, not on ceremonies,
nor on a creed, but on study and labor, on loving and doing. The condition
of admission should be the purpose to get good and do good. They should
enter this school to learn, and not because they were already learned; to
become good, and not because they were already so.

It is possible to have a Church which shall make it its purpose to educate
the whole man—spirit, soul, and body; and not merely the spirit; to
present the human being to God perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

It is possible to have a Church which shall combine union and freedom. The
Roman Church, aiming at union, and neglecting freedom, has a union which
is no real union; which is an outward shell of conformity, without inward
unity of heart and thought. The Protestant Church, desiring freedom and
neglecting union, has a freedom which is not really freedom, being only
the outward liberty of tolerated opinions, but one in which free thought
is discouraged, and honest difference of opinion disallowed. Only by
combining in a living whole such antagonist needs, can either of these be
fully secured. Union without freedom is not union; freedom without union,
not freedom. There is no harmony in the juxtaposition of similar notes,
but in the concord of dissimilar ones. Difference without discord, variety
in harmony, the unity of the spirit with diversity of the letter,
difference of operation, but the same Lord, many members, but one
body,—this is very desirable, and wholly possible.

The day is coming in which our dogmatic Churches, formal Churches,
sentimentally pious Churches, and professedly liberal Churches, shall be
all taken up into something higher and better. The very discontent which
prevails everywhere announces it. It is the working of the leaven—mind
agitating the mass. In Protestant countries there is a tendency to Rome;
but in Roman Catholic countries an equal or greater tendency to
Protestantism. Orthodoxy tends to Liberal Christianity. Liberal
Christianity tends to Orthodoxy. Each longs for its opposite, its
supplement, its counterpart. It is a movement towards a larger liberty and
a deeper life.


§ 1. Definition of the Church Doctrine.

“The fundamental formula for the doctrine of the Trinity, as defined by
the Church,” says Twesten,(72) “is, that in one divine essence or nature
there are three persons, distinguished from each other by certain
characteristics, and indivisibly participating in that one nature.” The
“Augsburg Confession,” says, in like manner, “three persons in one
essence.”(73) So the “Gallic Confession,” and other Church Confessions,
which say almost the same thing in the same words.(74)

The explanations given to these phrases vary indefinitely. Nitzsch (System
d. Christ. Lehre, § 80) says, “We stand related in such a way, with all
our Christian experience (Gewerdensein und Werden), to the one, eternal,
divine essence, who is love, that in the Son we adore love as mediating
and speaking, in the spirit as fellowship and life, in the Father as
source and origin.” Schleiermacher considers this doctrine as not any
immediate expression of the Christian consciousness, and declares that
“our communion with Christ might be just the same if we knew nothing at
all of this transcendent mystery.” Hase says,(75) “This Church dogma
always has floated between Unitarianism, Tritheism, and Sabellianism,
asserting the premises of all three, and denying their conclusions only by
maintaining the opposite.”

All sorts of illustrations have been used from the earliest times—such as
fountain, brook, river; root, stalk, branch; memory, understanding,
will;(76) soul, reason, sense;(77) three persons in grammar, the teacher,
the person spoken to, and that spoken of.(78) Some mystics argued the
necessity of three persons in the Deity for the sake of a divine society
and mutual love.(79) Lessing argues that “God from eternity must have
contemplated that which is most perfect, but that is himself; but to
contemplate with God, is to create; God’s thought of himself, therefore,
must be a being, but a divine being, that is, God, the Son God; but these
two, God the thinker and God the thought, are in perfect divine harmony,
and this harmony is the Spirit.”(80) Leibnitz also considers the Trinity
as illustrated best by the process of reflection in the human mind.
Strauss objects to this class of definitions, that they are two elements
united in a third, while the Church doctrine requires three united in a

The Church doctrine concerning the Trinity appears most fully developed in
its Orthodox form in what is called the Creed of St. Athanasius. It was
not written by him, but by some one in the fifth or sixth century.

1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things must take care to keep the
Catholic faith:

2. Which except one keeps it entire and inviolate, he shall without doubt
perish everlastingly.

3. But the Catholic faith is this: that we adore one God in Trinity, and
the Trinity in Unity;

4. Neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance.

5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another
of the Holy Spirit.

6. But the divinity of the Father, Son, and Spirit, is one, the glory
equal, the majesty equal.

7. As is the Father, so is the Son, and so is the Holy Spirit.

8. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit

9. The Father immeasurable,(81) the Son immeasurable, and the Holy Spirit

10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

11. And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal.

12. And so there are not _three_ uncreated, nor _three_ immeasurable, but
_one_ uncreated, and _one_ immeasurable.

13. So the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy
Spirit is omnipotent.

14. And yet there are not _three_ omnipotents, but one omnipotent.

15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

16. And yet there are not _three_ Gods, but _one_ God.

17. So the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.

18. And yet there are not _three_ Lords, but _one_ Lord.

19. For as we are compelled by Christian truth to confess of each one,
that each person(82) is God and Lord; so we are forbidden by the Catholic
religion from saying three Gods or three Lords.

20. The Father is not made, nor created, nor begotten.

21. The Son is from the Father alone; not made, nor created, _but

22. The Holy Spirit is from the Son and the Father; not created, nor
begotten, but _proceeding_.

23. Therefore there is one Father, and not three; one Son, and not three;
one Holy Spirit, and not three.

24. And in this Trinity there is none before or after, none greater or
less, but all three Persons are coeternal and coequal.

25. So that everywhere we must adore the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity
in Unity.

26. Whoever, therefore, would be saved, must think thus of the Trinity.

§ 2. History of the Doctrine.

In the Christian Church, the history of this doctrine is interesting and
important. Some sort of Triad, or Trinity, existed in very early times,
although the Orthodox form was not established until later.

At first, the prevailing doctrine is that of subordination; that is, that
the Son and the Spirit are inferior to the Father. But, as the Son and the
Spirit were also called divine, those who thought thus were accused of
believing in three Gods.(83) Some then said, that the Father was alone
divine; and these were called Monarchians. Others, wishing to retain the
divinity of the Son and Spirit, and yet to believe in one God, said that
the _divinity_ in the Father, in the Son, and in the Spirit, was
essentially the same, but that the divinity of the Father was the fountain
from which that of the Son and Spirit was derived. This was fixed as
Orthodox at the Council of Nice, A.D. 325, and was the beginning of
Orthodoxy in the Church. It was a middle course between Scylla and
Charybdis, which were represented on the one side by Arius, who maintained
that the Son was created out of nothing; and by Sabellius on the other
hand, who maintained that the Son was only a mode, manifestation, or name
of God; God being called the Father, as Creator of the world; called Son,
as Redeemer of the world; and Spirit, as Sanctifier of the world. The
Council of Nice declared that the Son was not a manifestation of God, as
Sabellius said, nor a creation by God, as Arius said, but a derivation
from God.(84) Just as the essence of the fountain flows into the stream
derived from it, so the essence of the Father flows into the Son, who is
derived from him. Here, then, we have the three formulas of the early
Church—that of Arius, who says, “The Son was created by the Father, and is
inferior to him;” that of Sabellius, who says, “The Father, Son, and
Spirit, are manifestations of God, and the same essence;” and Orthodoxy,
as the Council of Nice, trying to stand between them, and saying, “The Son
is derived from the Father, and is of the same essence with him.”

The Church, ever since, has been like a ship beating against head winds
between opposing shores. It has stood on one tack to avoid Arianism or
Tritheism, till it finds itself running into Sabellianism; then it goes
about, and stands away till it comes near Arianism or Tritheism again.
Unitarianism is on both sides: on one side in the form of one God, with a
threefold manifestation of himself; on the other side in the form of a
Supreme God, with the Son and Spirit subordinate. It has always been very
hard to be Orthodox; for, to do so, one must distinguish the Persons, and
yet not divide the substance, of the Deity. In keeping the three Persons
distinctly separate, there was great danger of making three distinct Gods.
On the other hand, if one tried to make the Unity distinct, there was
danger that the Persons would grow shadowy, and disappear.

The heaviest charge against the Church doctrine of the Trinity is, that,
driven to despair by these difficulties, it has at last made Orthodoxy
consist, not in any sound belief, but only in sound phrases. It is not
believing anything, but saying something, which now makes a man Orthodox.
If you will only use the _word_ “Trinity” in any sense, if you will only
call Christ God in any sense, you are Orthodox.

§ 3. Errors in the Church Doctrine of the Trinity.

The errors in the popular view concerning the Trinity, as it is at present
held, appear to be these:—

1. _The Trinity is held as a mere dogma_, or form of words, not as a
reality. It is held in the letter, not in the spirit. There is no power in
it, nor life in it; and it is in no sense an object of faith to those who
accept it. They do not believe it, but rather believe that they ought to
believe it. There are certain texts in Scripture which seem to assert it,
certain elaborate arguments which appear convincing and irrefutable. On
the strength of these texts and these arguments, they believe that they
ought to believe it. But it is a matter of conscience, not of heart; of
logic, not of life; of law, not of love. It is not held as a Christian
doctrine ought to be held, with the heart; but only philosophically, with
the head. If it should cease to be preached for a few years in Orthodox
pulpits, it would cease to be believed; it would drop out of the faith, or
rather out of the creed, of the community. Unitarianism has extended
itself, without being preached, from the simple reading of the Bible. But
Trinitarianism cannot be trusted to its own power. It has no hold on the
heart. Here, in Massachusetts, the ministers left off preaching the
Trinity, and the consequence was, that the people became Unitarian.
Unitarianism in New England was not diffused by preaching: it came of
itself, as soon as the clergy left off preaching the Trinity. This shows
how worthless, empty, and soulless the doctrine was and is. Instead of
this formal doctrine, we want something vital.

2. _Another objection to the present form of the Trinity is, that it is
not only scholastic, or purely intellectual, but that it is also
negative._ It is not even a positive doctrine. It is often charged against
Unitarianism, that it is a mere negation; and, in one sense, the charge is
well founded. Unitarianism is a negation, so far as it is a mere piece of
reasoning against Orthodoxy; but, as asserting the divine Unity, it is
very positive, But the doctrine of the Trinity _is_ a mere negation, as it
is usually held; because it is an empty form of denial. It only can be
defined or expressed negatively. The three Persons are not substances, on
the one hand; nor qualities, on the other hand. It is not Sabellianism,
nor is it Arianism. Every term connected with the Trinity has been
selected, not to express a truth, but to avoid an error. The term “one
essence” was chosen in order to exclude Arianism; the term “three
Persons,” or subsistences, was chosen in order to avoid Sabellianism.

Because the doctrine is thus a negation, it has failed of its chief use.
It has become exclusive; whereas, when stated truly, as a positive truth,
it would become inclusive. Rightly stated, it would bind together all true
religion in one harmonious whole, comprehending in its universal sweep
everything true in natural religion, everything true in reason, and
uniting them in vital union, without discord and without confusion. Every
manifestation which God has made of himself in nature, in Christ, and in
the human soul, would be accepted and vitally recognized by Christianity,
which comes, not to destroy, but to fulfil. The doctrine of the Trinity
would be the highest form of reconciliation or atonement,—reconciling all
varieties in one great harmony; reconciling the natural and supernatural,
law and grace, time and eternity, fate and freedom.

But, before illustrating this, we must consider further some of the
objections to the common form of the doctrine.

3. _It is also charged against the doctrine of the Trinity, __“__that it
is a contradiction in terms, and therefore essentially incredible.__”_ To
this it is replied, that it would be a contradiction if God were called
Three _in the same sense_ in which he is called One; but not otherwise.
The answer is perfectly satisfactory; and we therefore proceed to ask, In
what sense is he called Three, and in what sense is he called One? The
answer is, The Unity is of essence, or substance: the Trinity is of
persons. This answer, again, is satisfactory, provided we know what is
meant by these two terms. But the difficulty is to know what is meant by
the word “person.” We are expressly informed, that this term is not used
in its usual sense; for, if it were, it would divide the essence, and
three Persons would be the same as three Gods. On the other hand, we are
told that it means more than the three characters or manifestations. Here
lies the difficulty, and the whole of the rational difficulty, in the
doctrine of the Trinity. It is all on the side of the Triad. When we ask,
What do you mean by “the three”? there can be given but three answers,—two
of them distinct, and one indistinct. These answers are, (1.) We mean
three somethings, which we cannot define; (2.) We mean three Persons, like
Peter, James, and John; (3.) We mean three manifestations, characters, or
modes of being. Let us consider these three answers.

(_a._) “The three Persons are three somethings, which cannot be defined.
It is a mystery. It is above reason. There is mystery in everything, and
there must be mystery in the Deity.” So Augustine said, long ago, “We say
three Persons, not because we have anything to say, but because we want to
say something.”(85) But if one uses the phrase “three Persons,” and
refuses to define it positively, merely defining it negatively, saying,
“It does not mean this, and it does not mean that, and I don’t know what
it does mean,” he avoids, it is true, the difficulties, and escapes the
objections; but he does it by giving up the article of faith. No one can
deny that there _may be_ three unknown distinctions in the divine nature;
but no one can be asked to believe in them, till he is told what they are.
To say, therefore, that the Trinity is a mystery, is to abandon it as an
article of faith, and make of it only a subject of speculation. We avoid
the contradiction; but we do it by relinquishing the doctrine.

This fact is not sufficiently considered by Trinitarians. They first
demand of us to believe the doctrine of the Trinity, and, when pressed to
state distinctly the doctrine, retire into the protection of mystery, and
decline giving any distinct account of it. Now, no human being ever denied
the existence of mysteries connected with God, and nature, and all life.
To assure us, therefore, that such mysteries exist, is slightly
superfluous. But, on the other hand, no human being ever _believed_, or
could _believe_, a mystery, any more than he could see anything invisible
or hear anything inaudible. To believe a doctrine, the first condition is,
that all its terms shall be distinct and intelligible.

(_b._) The second answer to the question is, “We mean, by Persons, three
Persons, like Peter, James, and John.” According to this answer, the
_Trinity_ remains, but the _Unity_ disappears. This answer leaves the
Persons distinct, but the Unity indistinct. The Persons are not
confounded; but the essence is divided. The Tri-personality is maintained,
but at the expense of the Unity. In fact, this answer gives us Tritheism,
or three Gods, whose unity is only an entire _agreement_ of feeling and
action. But this answer we may set aside as unorthodox, no less than

(_c._) Having thus disposed of each other possible answer, there remains
only that which makes of the three Persons three revelations or
manifestations of God, or representations of God. This answer avoids all
the difficulties. It avoids that of _contradiction_; as we do not say that
God is one in the same sense in which he is three, but in a different
sense. It avoids the objection of _obscurity_; for it is a distinct
statement. It avoids the objection of Tritheism; for it leaves the Unity
untouched. Moreover, it is a real Trinity, and not merely nominal. The
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are not merely three different names
for the same thing, but they indicate three different revelations, three
different views which God has given of his character, which, taken
together, constitute the total divine representation. It remains,
therefore, simply to ask, Is this view _a true one_? Is there any
foundation for it in Scripture, in reason, and in Christian consciousness,
the three sources of our knowledge of the truth?

§ 4. The Trinity of Manifestations founded in the Truth of Things.

We repeat, that this view is an Orthodox view of the Trinity, according to
the teaching of the greatest fathers of the Church. If we suppose that the
Deity has made, and is evermore making, three distinct and independent
revelations of himself,—each revelation giving a different view of the
divine Being, each revelation showing God to man under a different
aspect,—then each of these is a personal manifestation. Each reveals God
as a Person. If we see God, for example, in nature, we see him not merely
as a power, a supreme cause, but also a living Person, who creates
evermore out of a fulness of divine wisdom and love. God in nature is,
then, a Person. Again: if God reveals himself in Christ, it is not as
abstract truth or as doctrinal statement. But we see God himself, the
personal God, the Father and Friend, the redeeming grace, the God who
loved us before the foundation of the world, approaching us in Christ to
reconcile us and save us. It is a God who “so loved the world” that we see
in Christ, therefore, a Person. And so the Spirit, which speaks in the
human conscience and human heart, is not a mere influence, or rapture, or
movement, but is one who communes with us; one who talks with us; one who
comforts us; one who hears and answers us; therefore a Person.

If, then, there is no antecedent objection to this form of the Trinity as
a threefold manifestation of the divine Being, we have only to ask, Is it
_true_ as a matter of fact? Has such a threefold manifestation of God
actually taken place? We reply, that it is so. According to Scripture,
observation, and experience, we find such to be the fact. Scripture shows
us God, the Father, as the source of all being, the fountain and end of
all things; from whom all things have come, and to whom all things tend.
As the Creator, he reveals himself in nature and providence (as the
apostle Paul declares), “being understood by the things that are made,”
and “not leaving himself without a witness.”

Supreme power, wisdom, and goodness are manifested in nature as unchanging
law, as perfect order. But God is seen in Christ again as Redeemer, as
meeting the exigencies arising from the freedom of the creature by what we
call miracle; not contrary to nature, but different from nature, showing
himself as the Friend and Helper of the soul. As the essence of the first
revelation of God is the sight of his goodness, and wisdom, and power,
displayed in law, so the essence of the second revelation is of the same
essential Being displaying himself as love. In the first revelation, he is
the universal Parent; in the second, he is the personal Friend. But there
is a third revelation which God makes of himself,—within the soul as life.
The same power, wisdom, and goodness which we see displayed externally in
outward nature, we find manifested internally in the soul itself, as its
natural and its spiritual life. That which is displayed outwardly as power
is manifested within the soul as cause; that which is manifested outwardly
as wisdom is revealed inwardly as reason; and that which is manifested
outwardly as goodness is manifested inwardly as conscience, or the law of

§ 5. It is in Harmony with Scripture.

The Scriptures also speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. When
they speak of the Father, they usually mean God as the Supreme Being.
Matt. 11:25: “Jesus said, I thank thee, _O Father_, Lord of heaven and
earth.” As omniscient: “Of that day knoweth no man, nor the angels, nor
the Son, but _the Father_ only.” As omnipotent: “Abba, _Father_, all
things are possible to thee.” As having life in himself, and as spirit:
“They shall worship _the Father_ in spirit and in truth.” As the source of
all power, life, and authority of the Son: “I came forth _of the Father_;”
“_the Father_, which hath sent me;” “the works which _the Father_ hath
given me to do.” The apostle Paul says, “To us there is but _one God, the
Father_;” and calls him “the God of our Lord Jesus;” also “the one God
_and Father_ of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all.”
The great order of the universe depends on him: “He has put the times and
the seasons in his own power.” Christ will at last “deliver up the kingdom
to God, _the Father_.” By Christ, “we have access in one spirit _to the
Father_.” “All things were delivered” to Christ “of _his Father_,” whose
will Christ always sought. Thus is _the Father_ spoken of in the New
Testament as the Source from which all things have proceeded, and the End
to whom all things tend.

_The Son_ (or Son of God) is spoken of in the New Testament as distinct
from the Father, but intimately united with him. The Father gives power;
the Son receives it. The Father gives light; the Son receives it. The Son
does nothing but what he seeth the Father do. “The Father hath sent me,”
he says, “and I live by the Father.” “I am not alone; but I, and the
Father who sent me.” “The Son is in the Father, and the Father in him.”
“No man cometh to the Father but by” him. He shows the Father to the
world. The Father is glorified in the Son. He is in the bosom of the
Father. The Father sent him to be the Saviour of the world. “He that hath
the Son hath life;” “And in him is everlasting life.”

_The Holy Spirit_, which came after Jesus left the world (also called the
Holy Ghost and the Spirit of God), is an inward revelation of God and of
Christ. It teaches all things, comforts, convinces. It is a spirit of
life, lifts one above the flesh, makes one feel that he is a Son of God,
communicates a variety of gifts, produces unity in the Church, sanctifies,
sheds the love of God into the heart, and renews the soul. The New
Testament speaks of joy in the Holy Ghost, power of the Holy Ghost, and
communion of the Holy Ghost.

According to the New Testament, the Father would seem to be the Source of
all things, the Creator, the Fountain of being and of life. The Son is
spoken of as the manifestation of that Being in Jesus Christ; and the Holy
Ghost is spoken of as a spiritual influence, proceeding from the Father
and the Son, dwelling in the hearts of believers, as the source of their
life,—the idea of God seen in causation, in reason, and in conscience, as
making the very life of the soul itself.

There are these three revelations of God, and we know of no others. They
are distinct from each other in form, but the same in essence. They are
not merely three names for the same thing; but they are real personal
manifestations of God, real subsistences, since he is personally present
in all of them. This view avoids all heresies, since it neither “divides
the substance” nor “confounds the persons.” And these are really the two
heresies, which are the most common and the most to be avoided. We think
it can be easily shown that these are the great practical dangers to be
avoided. To “divide the substance” is so to separate the revelations of
God as to make them contradict or oppose each other: to “confound the
persons” is not to recognize each as an independent source of truth to the

§ 6. Practical value of the Trinity, when rightly understood.

There is, therefore, an essential truth hidden in the idea of the Trinity.
While the Church doctrine, in every form which it has hitherto taken, has
failed to satisfy the human intellect, the Christian heart has clung to
the substance contained in them all. Let us endeavor to see what is the
practical value of this doctrine, for the sake of which its errors of
statement have been pardoned. What does it say to the Christian

The Trinity, truly apprehended, teaches, by its doctrine of
Tri-personality, that God is _immanent_ in nature, in Christ, and in the
soul. It teaches that God is not _outside_ of the world, making it as an
artisan makes a machine; nor _outside_ of Christ, sending him, and giving
to him miraculous powers; nor outside of the soul, touching it _ab extra_
from time to time with unnatural influences, revolutionizing and
overturning it; but that he is personally present in each and all. So
that, when we study the mysteries and laws of nature, we are drawing near
to God himself, and looking into his face. When we see Christ, we see God,
who is in Christ; and when we look into the solemn intuitions of our soul,
the monitions of conscience, and the influences which draw our heart to
goodness, we are meeting and communing with God.

Moreover, the Trinity, truly apprehended, teaches, by its doctrine of _One
Substance_ (the Homoousion), that these three revelations, though
distinct, are essentially at one; that nature cannot contradict
revelation; that revelation cannot contradict nature; and that the
intuitions of the soul cannot be in conflict with either. Hence it teaches
that the Naturalist need not fear revelation; nor the Christian believer,
natural Theism. Since it is one and the same God who dwells in nature, in
Christ, and in the soul, all his revelations must be in harmony with each
other. To suppose otherwise is to “divide the substance” of the Trinity.

And again: the Trinity, rightly understood, asserts the distinctness of
these three personal revelations. It is the same God who speaks in each;
but he says something new each time. He reveals a new form of his being.
He shows us, not the same order and aspect of truth in each manifestation,
but wholly different aspects.

And yet again: as the doctrine teaches that the Son is begotten of the
Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son, it thereby shows
how the revelation in nature prepares for the revelation in Christ, and
both for the revelation in the soul.

The error of “dividing the substance” is perhaps the most common. The man
who sees God in nature, sees him only there: therefore God loses to him
that personal character which seems especially to be seen through Christ;
for God, as a person, comes to us most in Christ, and then is recognized
also in nature and the soul as a personal being. So, without Christ,
natural religion is cold: it wants love; it wants life. But, on the other
hand, the Christian believer who avoids seeing God in nature, and who
finds him only in his Bible, loses the sense of law or order, of
harmonious growth, and becomes literal, dogmatic, and narrow. And so, too,
the mystic, believing only in God’s revelation through the soul, and not
going to nature or to Christ, becomes withdrawn from life, and has a
morbid and ghastly religion, and, having no test by which to judge his
inward revelations, may become the prey of all fantasies and all evil
spirits, lying spirits, foul spirits, and cruel spirits.

Such errors come from “dividing the substance;” and they are only too
common. So that, when the true doctrine of Trinity in Unity is
apprehended, the most beneficial results may be expected to flow into the
life of the Church. No longer believed as a dead formula, no longer held
in the letter which killeth, no longer accepted outwardly as a dogma or
authority, but seen, felt, and realized in the daily activity of the
intellect and heart, the whole Church will recover its lost union, sects
will disappear, and the old feud between science and religion forever
cease. Science will become religious, and religion scientific. Science, no
longer cold and dead, but filled through and through with the life of God,
will reach its hand to Christianity. Piety, no longer an outlaw from
nature, no longer exiled from life into churches and monasteries, will
inform and animate all parts of human daily action. Christianity, no
longer narrow, Jewish, bigoted, formal, but animated by the great liberty
of a common life, will march onward to conquer all forms of error and evil
in the omnipotence of universal and harmonious truth.

Natural religion, Christianity, and spiritual piety, being thus
harmonized, nature will be more warm, Christ more human, and the divine
influences in the soul more uniform and constant. Nature will be full of
God, with a sense of his presence penetrating it everywhere. Christianity
will become more natural, and all its great facts assume the proportion of
laws, universal as the universe itself. Divine influences will cease to be
spasmodic and irregular, and become calm, serene, and pure, an indwelling
life of God in the soul.

A simple Unity, as held by the Jews and Mohammedans, and by some Christian
Unitarians, may be a bald Unity and an empty Unity. Then it shows us one
God, but God withdrawn from nature, from Christ, from the soul; not
immanent in any, but outside of them. It leaves nature godless; leaves
Christ _merely_ human; leaves the soul a machine to be moved by an
external impulse, not an inward inspiration.(86)

We conclude, finally, that no doctrine of Orthodoxy is so false in its
form, and so true in its substance, as this. There is none so untenable as
dogma, but none so indispensable as experience and life. The Trinity,
truly received, would harmonize science, faith, and vital piety. The
Trinity, as it now stands in the belief of Christendom, at once confuses
the mind, and leaves it empty. It feeds us with chaff, with empty phrases
and forms, with no real inflowing convictions. It seems to lie like a
vessel on the shore, of no use where it is, yet difficult to remove and
get afloat; but when the tide rises, and the vessel floats, it will be
able to bear to and fro the knowledge of mankind, and unite various
convictions in living harmony. It is there for something. It is
providentially allowed to remain in the creeds of the Church for
something. It has in itself the seed of a grand future; and, though
utterly false and empty as it is taught and defended, it is kept by the
deeper instinct of the Christian consciousness, like the Christ in his
tomb, waiting for the resurrection.


In this Appendix we shall add a brief critical examination of certain
recent works on points connected with our previous subjects. These
criticisms will complete the discussion in these various directions, so
far as space will allow here. The largest part of what follows has been
printed already, either in the “Christian Examiner,” or in the “Monthly
Journal of the American Unitarian Association.”

§ 1. On the Defence of Nescience in Theology, by Herbert Spencer and Henry
L. Mansel.

Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his book called “First Principles,” lays down the
doctrine of theological nescience, as the final result of religious
inquiry. In his chapter on “Ultimate Religious Ideas” he argues thus: The
religious problem is, Whence comes the universe? In answer to this
question only three statements are possible. It is self-existent. It was
self-created. It was created by external agency. Now, none of these, says
Spencer, is tenable. For, (1.) Self-existence means simply an existence
without a beginning, and it is not possible to conceive of this. The
conception of infinite past time is an impossibility. (2.) Self-creation
is Pantheism. We can conceive, somewhat, of self-evolution, but not of a
potential universe passing into an actual one. (3.) The theistic
hypothesis is equally inconceivable. For this is to suppose the world made
as a workman makes a piece of furniture. We can conceive of this last,
because the workman has the material given; he only adds form to the
substance. To produce matter out of nothing is the real difficulty. No
simile enables us to conceive of this production of matter out of nothing.
Again, says Spencer, space is something, the non-existence of which is
inconceivable; hence the creation of space is inconceivable. And lastly,
says Spencer, if God created the universe, the question returns, Whence
came God? The same three answers recur. God was self-existent, or he was
self-created, or he was created _ab extra_. The last theory is useless.
For it leads to an endless series of potential existences. So the theist
returns to self-existence; which, however, says Spencer, is as
inconceivable as a self-existent universe, involving the inconceivable
idea of unlimited duration.

Nevertheless, continues Spencer, we are compelled to regard phenomena as
effects of some cause. We must believe in a cause of that cause, till we
reach a _first cause_. The First Cause must be infinite and absolute. He
then follows Mansel in showing the contradiction between the two ideas.

But total negation is not the result,—only nescience. Atheism, Pantheism,
and Theism agree in one belief, namely, that of a problem to be solved. An
unknown God is the highest result of theology and of philosophy. “If
religion and science are to be reconciled, the basis of the reconciliation
must be their deepest, widest, and most certain of all facts—that the
power which the universe manifests is utterly inscrutable.”

Thus Mr. Spencer proposes to take back human thought eighteen centuries,
and ignoring the conquests of Christian faith in civilization, theology,
and morals, carries us to Athens, in the time of Paul, to worship at the
altar of an unknown God. He makes a solitude in the soul, and calls it
peace. He makes peace between religion and science, by commanding the
first to surrender at discretion to the other. Science knows nothing of
God; therefore theology must know nothing of God. But not so. Let each
impart to the other that which it possesses, and which the other lacks.
Let science enlarge theology with the idea of law, and theology inform
science with the idea of a living God.

It is not difficult to detect the fallacies in this argument of Spencer
for religious nescience. His notion of conception is that of a purely
sensible image. He assumes that we have no knowledge but sensible
knowledge, and then easily infers that we do not know God. We can
conceive, he says, of a rock on which we are standing, but not of the
whole earth. No great magnitudes, he declares, can be conceived. The
conception of infinite time is, therefore, an impossibility.

But it is clear to any one, not bound hand and foot by the assumptions of
sensationalism, that it is just as easy to conceive of the whole globe of
earth, as of the piece of it which we see. We cannot have _a visual image_
of the whole earth, indeed, but the mental conception of the globe is as
distinct as that of the stone we throw from our hand. And so far from the
conception of infinite duration being an impossibility, not to conceive of
time and space as infinite is the impossibility. It is impossible to
imagine or conceive of the beginning of time, or the commencement of

Looking at his trilemma concerning the universe, namely, that it was
either, (1.) Self-existent, (2.) Self-created, or, (3.) Created by an
external power, we say,—

1. The real objection to a self-existent universe, is not that we cannot
conceive of existence without beginning. Nothing is easier than to
conceive of an everlasting, unchanging universe, without beginning or end.
It is not existence, but change, that suggests cause. Phenomena, events,
require us to believe in some power which produces them. Now, the events
which take place in the universe suggest an intelligent, absolute, and
central cause, that is, a cause combining supreme wisdom, power, and
goodness. A self-existent universe is not inconceivable, but it is

2. Self-creation, he objects, is Pantheism. But this is no reason for
denying it, since Pantheism may, for all we see at this stage of the
argument, be the true explanation of the universe. The real objection to
the hypothesis of a self-created universe (or of a self-created God), is
that it involves the contradiction of something which exists and which
does not exist at the same moment; at the moment of self-creation, the
universe must exist in order to create, but must be non-existent in order
to be created. A self-created universe, then, is not incredible because it
involves Pantheism, but because it involves a contradiction.

3. He objects to the Theistic hypothesis, that we cannot conceive of the
production of matter (more strictly, of substance) out of nothing. He adds
that no simile can enable us to imagine it.

But I can produce, out of nothing, something visible, tangible, and
audible. There is no motion and no sound. I move my arm by the power of
will, and I produce both sound and motion. The motion of a body in space
is a material phenomenon; for whatever is perceived by the senses is
material. We do then constantly perceive material phenomena created out of
nothing, by human will.

His argument against the Theist, that space could not have been created by
God, since its non-existence is inconceivable, is much more plausible. But
suppose we grant that space, supposed to be a real existence, was not
created in time. Does it follow from that, that it does not proceed from
God? Not being an event in time, it does not require a cause; but being
conceived of as a reality, it may have eternally proceeded from the divine
will, and so not be independent of the Creator.

And as regards his trilemma concerning Deity, that also fails in the
failure of his thesis that eternal duration is inconceivable. His argument
against the self-existent Deity, only rests on that assumption which we
have shown to be untenable.

But Mr. Spencer, who is not a theologian, is at this point reënforced by
Mr. Mansel, on whose former work, “The Limits of Religious Thought,” we
proceed to offer some criticism. This also is an argument for nescience in
theology, in the presumed interests of revelation. Mr. Martineau has ably
shown the weakness and the dangerous tendency of this whole argument of
Mansel, in an article to which we earnestly refer our readers.

The work of Mr. Mansel is a desperate attempt to save Orthodox doctrines
from the objections of reason, not by replying to those objections and
pointing out their fallacy, but by showing that similar objections can be
brought against all religious belief. For example, when reason objects to
the Trinity, that it is a contradiction, Mr. Mansel does not attempt to
show that it is _not_ a contradiction, but argues that our belief in God
is another contradiction of the same kind. His inference therefore is,
that as we believe in God, notwithstanding the contradiction, we ought to
believe in the Trinity also, notwithstanding the contradiction. If we
believe one, we may believe both.

But this is a dangerous argument; since it is evident that one might
reply, that there remains another alternative; which is, to believe
_neither_. If Mr. Mansel succeeds in convincing his readers, the result
may be a belief in the Trinity, or it may be a disbelief in God
altogether; one of two things—either a return to Orthodoxy, or a departure
from all religion. Either they will renounce reason in order to retain
religion, or they will renounce religion in order to retain reason.

At the very best, also, the help which this argument offers us is to be
paid for somewhat dearly. It proposes to save Orthodoxy by giving up the
use of reason in religion. Mr. Mansel would say, “by giving up the
unlimited use of reason;” but, as we shall presently see, this comes very
much to the same thing at last.

What, then, is the nature of Mr. Mansel’s argument? It is an argument
founded upon Sir William Hamilton’s philosophy of the Unconditioned. Now,
this has been generally considered the weak side of Hamilton’s system.
According to him, the unconditioned is inconceivable: in other words, of
the Absolute and Infinite we have no conception at all. But this denies to
man the power of conceiving of God, and so leads directly to Atheism. This
charge has already been brought against Hamilton’s philosophy, in various
quarters; for example, in the “North British Review ” for May, 1835. But
we will not here attempt any examination of Hamilton’s theory, but confine
ourselves to Mr. Mansel.

The argument of Mansel is this (p. 75): “To conceive the Deity as he is,
we must conceive him as First Cause, as Absolute, and as Infinite. By the
First Cause is meant that which produces all things, and is itself
produced of none; by the Absolute is meant that which exists in and by
itself, having no necessary relation to any other being; by the Infinite
is meant that which is free from all possible limitation.”

Having thus defined the Deity as the First Cause, the Absolute, and the
Infinite, Mansel goes on to show that these ideas are mutually
contradictory and destructive. A First Cause necessarily supposes effects,
and therefore cannot be absolute: nor can the Infinite be a person; for
personality is a limitation. By a course of such arguments as these,
Mansel endeavors to show that the reason is as incapable of conceiving God
as it is of conceiving the Trinity, the Atonement, or any other Orthodox
doctrine; and since we do not renounce our belief in God because of these
contradictions, neither ought we, because of similar contradictions, to
renounce our belief in the Trinity.

Such is the substance of Mansel’s statement, though the arguments by which
it is proved are varied with great ingenuity and to great extent. This
course of thought is by no means original, either with Mr. Mansel or Sir
William Hamilton. A far greater thinker than either of them (Immanuel
Kant) had long before shown the logical contradictions of the
understanding in what he called the Antinomies of the pure reason. But the
important question is, If the reason contradicts itself thus in its
conception of Deity, how are we to obtain a ground for our belief in God?
Mansel answers, “Through revelation; that is, through the direct
declarations of Scripture.” This he calls faith. We are to believe in a
personal God on the ground of a Bible confirmed by miracles.

This result is so strange, that it may well seem incredible. Yet we cannot
think that we have misrepresented the tendency of the argument; though, of
course, we have given no ideas of the acuteness and flexibility of the
reasoning, the extent of the knowledge, and mastery of logic, in this
work. That such a position should be taken by a religious man, in the
supposed interest of Christianity, is sufficiently strange; for it seems
to us equally untenable in its grounds, unfounded in its statements, empty
of insight, destructive in its results. We will add, very briefly, a few
of the criticisms which occur to us.

The first thing which strikes us in the argument is, that everywhere it
deals with words rather than with things. The whole object of the
discussion concerns the meaning of terms, and it deals throughout with the
relation of words to other words. It is an acute philological argument. We
feel ourselves to be arguing about forms, and not about substances. Now,
such arguments may confuse, but they cannot convince. We do not know,
perhaps, what to say in reply; but we remain unsatisfied. One not used to
logic may listen to an argument which shall conclusively prove that white
is black; that nothing is greater than something; that a man who jumps
from the top of the house can never reach the ground; but, though the
thing is proved, he is not convinced. So, when Mr. Mansel proves to us
that we cannot conceive of a Being who is at the same time Infinite and
Personal, we are unable, perhaps, to reply to the argument; but we know it
to be false, since we actually have the two conceptions in our mind.

We _do_ conceive of the Deity as an infinite personality. Of what use to
tell us that we _cannot_ have an idea, when we know that we _do_ have it?

Mansel tells us that we cannot think the idea of the Infinite and
Absolute. He says (p. 110), “The Absolute and the Infinite are thus, like
the Inconceivable and Imperceptible, names indicating, not an object of
thought or of consciousness at all, but the mere absence of the conditions
under which consciousness is possible.”

But, then, they are only words, with no meaning attached; and, if so, how
can we argue about them at all? All argument must cease when we come to an
unmeaning phrase; therefore the existence of Mr. Mansel’s argument proves
the falsehood of his assertion. Since he argues about the Infinite, it is
evident that he has the idea of the Infinite in his mind.

Mr. Mansel agrees in principle wholly with the Atheists; for the Atheists
do not say that God does not exist, or that God cannot exist, but that we
cannot know that he exists. So says Mr. Holyoake, a leading modern
Atheist. This is what Mansel also asserts, only he goes farther than they,
contending that the very idea of God is impossible to the human reason. It
is true that he believes in God on grounds of revelation, which the
Atheists do not; but he agrees with them in setting aside all natural and
reasonable knowledge of Deity.

But how is it possible to obtain an idea of God from revelation, if we are
before destitute of such an idea? When Paul preached to the Athenians, he
addressed them as having already a true, though an imperfect, idea of God.
“Whom, therefore, ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.” But, if
they had not already an idea of God, how could he have given them such an
idea? Suppose that he works a miracle, and says, “This miracle proves that
God has sent me to teach you.” But, by the supposition, they know nothing
about God; consequently, they have nothing by which to test the truth of a
revelation professing to come from him. Neither miracles, nor the nature
of the truth taught, nor the character of the teacher, avail anything as
evidence of a revelation from a Being of whom we know nothing. Without a
previous knowledge of God, only immediate revelation is possible.

Mr. Mansel, therefore, is one who, without a foundation, builds a house on
the sand. He attempts to erect faith in God after taking away the
foundation of reason. The apostles built revealed religion upon natural
religion, revealed theology upon natural theology, according to the rule,
“That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural;
afterward that which is spiritual.” Christ said, “Ye believe in God:
believe also in me.” Mr. Mansel reverses all this, and makes Christ say,
“Ye believe in me: believe also in God.”

But, even if it were possible to ascend to belief in God through belief in
Christ, we must ask, Is not belief thought? If the mind cannot _think_ the
Infinite, how can it believe the Infinite? Must we not apprehend a
proposition before we can believe it? Does not the conception of a thing
logically precede the belief of it? If it is impossible to apprehend the
Absolute, if this is only an empty name, how is it possible to believe in
the Absolute on grounds of revelation, or on any other grounds? A miracle
cannot communicate to the mind an idea which is beyond its power of

Mr. Mansel declares that our religious knowledge is _regulative_, but not

He lays great stress on this distinction: by which he means that we have
ideas of the Deity sufficient to guide our practice, but not to satisfy
our intellect; which tell us, not what God is in himself, but how he
_wills_ that we should think of him. According to this view, all
revelation is overturned, just as all natural religion has been previously
overturned. Revelation does not reveal God on this theory. We have no
knowledge of God in the gospel, any more than we had in nature. Instead of
knowledge, we have only law. But this seems to despoil Christianity of its
vital force. Christ says, “This is life eternal, to _know_ thee, the only
true God.” But Mr. Mansel tells us that such knowledge of God is
impossible. Therefore, instead of the gospel, he gives us the law; for it
is certain that his _regulative_ truths are simply moral precepts,
addressed to the will, not to the intellect; capable of being obeyed, but
not of being understood.

The radical error of Mansel seems to be this,—that his mind works only in
the logical region belonging to the understanding, and is ignorant of
those higher truths which are beheld by the reason. He has tried to find
God by logical processes, and, of course, has failed. He therefore
concludes that God cannot be known by the intellect. He has fully
demonstrated that God cannot be comprehended by the logical understanding;
and in this he has done a good work. But he has not shown that God cannot
be known by the intuitive reason. The understanding comprehends: the
reason apprehends. The understanding perceives the form: reason takes
holds of the substance. The understanding sees how things are related to
each other: the reason sees how things are in themselves. The
understanding cannot, therefore, see the infinite and absolute; cannot
apprehend substance or cause; knows nothing of the eternal. But the reason
is as certain of cause as of effect; knows eternity as really as it knows
time; it is as sure of the existence of spirit as it is of matter; and
sees the infinite to be as real as the finite. Therefore, though we cannot
comprehend God by logic, we can apprehend him by reason. We can be as sure
of his being as we are of our own, and we are not obliged to explain away
all those profound scriptures which teach us that the object and end of
our being is to know God.

Since, therefore, Mr. Mansel’s argument, with all its acuteness, learning,
and honesty, tends directly to Atheism; since, by overturning the
foundation of Christianity, it overturns Christianity itself; since it
substitutes mere moral laws in place of the vital forces of the gospel,—it
is no wonder that its positions have been rejected with much unanimity by
the most eminent Orthodox scholars. Its defence of Orthodoxy costs too
much. Leading thinkers of very different schools—for example, Mr.
Brownson, the Roman Catholic, in his “Quarterly Review;” Professor Hickok,
the Presbyterian, in the “Bibliotheca Sacra;” and Mr. Maurice, of the
Church of England, in an able pamphlet—have opposed with great force the
arguments and conclusions of this volume. It is true that some Orthodox
divines consider that Mr. Mansel has _demonstrated_ that the human
consciousness is unequal to the speculative conception of a Being at once
absolute, infinite, and personal, and seem gladly to have the aid of this
book in defending the Trinity. But the more distinguished and experienced
thinkers mentioned above are cautious of accepting the help of so
dangerous an ally.

§ 2. On the Defence of Verbal Inspiration by Gaussen.

Following the declaration of the apostle Paul, that “the letter killeth,”
we have, in the text of this volume, set aside all the theories of the
Bible which assume its absolute and literal infallibility. But within a
few years, a work in defence of this doctrine has been published abroad,
by an excellent man, M. Gaussen, of Geneva, and translated and republished
in America by Rev. Dr. Kirk, of Boston. Such a work, coming from such
sources, deserves some examination. We shall, therefore, show the course
of argument followed in this book, and the reasons which lead us to
consider its conclusions unsound, and its reasoning inadequate.

Inspiration, as defined by Gaussen, is “that inexplicable power which the
divine Spirit formerly exercised over the authors of the Holy Scriptures,
to guide them even in the employment of the words they were to use, and to
preserve them from all error, as well as from every omission.

“We aim,” says he, “to establish, by the word of God, that the Scriptures
are from God—that all the Scriptures are from God—and that every part of
the Scripture is from God.”

Let us consider the arguments in support of this kind of inspiration, and
the objections to them.

_Argument I. Plenary Inspiration is necessary, that we may know with
certainty what we ought to believe._

Great stress is laid upon this supposed _necessity_, both by Gaussen and

“The book so written,” say they, “is the Word of God, and binds the
conscience of the world; and nothing else does so bind it, even though it
were the writings of Paul and Peter.

“With the Infidel, whether he be Christian in name or otherwise, the sharp
sword of a perfect inspiration will be found, at last, indispensable. If
the ground is conceded to him that there is a single passage in the Bible
that is not divine, then we are disarmed; for he will be sure to apply
this privilege to the very passages which most fully oppose his pride,
passion, and error. How is the conscience of a wicked race to be bound
down by a chain, one link of which is weak?”

_Reply to Argument I._—It is no way to prove a theory _true_ to assume its
_necessity_. The only legitimate proof of a theory is by an induction of
facts. This method of beginning by a supposed necessity, this looking
first at consequences, has always been fruitful of false and empty
theories. The great advance in modern science has come from substituting
the inductive for the ideological method. Find what the facts say, and the
consequences will take care of themselves. An argument from consequences
is usually only an appeal to prejudices.

Again: This argument is fatal to the arguments drawn from the Scriptures
themselves. In arguing from the Scripture to prove that every passage is
divine, we have, of course, no right to assume that every passage is
divine, for that is the very thing to be proved. Then the texts which we
quote to prove our position may themselves not be divine, and if we grant
that, “we are disarmed.” For, according to this argument, nothing can be
proved conclusively from Scripture except we believe in plenary
inspiration—then plenary inspiration itself cannot be proved from
Scripture. But Gaussen admits that this doctrine can be proved “only by
the Scriptures;” therefore (according to this argument) it cannot be
proved at all.

If, therefore, the doctrine of plenary inspiration is necessary “to bind
the conscience of the world,” it is a doctrine incapable of proof. If, on
the other hand, it can be proved, it is then clearly not necessary “to
bind the conscience of the world.”

But again. This theory of plenary inspiration does _not_ bind the
consciences of men. If men are naturally disposed (as Messrs. Gaussen and
Kirk maintain) to deny and disbelieve the doctrines and statements of the
Bible, they have ample opportunity of doing so, notwithstanding their
belief in this theory. For, after admitting that the words of Scripture,
just as they stand, are perfectly true and given by God, the question
comes, What do they mean? For instance, I wish, we will suppose, to deny
the doctrine of the Deity of Christ. Now, you quote to me the text Rom.
9:5. “Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God,
blessed forever,”—which is the strongest text in the Bible in support of
that doctrine. Now, though I believe in the doctrine of plenary
inspiration, I am not obliged to accept this passage as proof of the Deity
of Christ. For I can, 1. Assert that the verse is an interpolation; 2.
Assert that it is wrongly pointed; 3. Assert that it is mistranslated; 4.
Assert that Christ is called God in an inferior sense, as God over the
Church. And, as a matter of fact, these are the arguments always used,
even by those who deny the doctrine of a plenary inspiration. They seldom
or never accuse the writer of a mistake, but always rely on a supposed
mistranslation, or misinterpretation, in order to avoid the force of a
passage. Hence, also, we find believers in this doctrine of plenary
inspiration, differing in opinion on a thousand matters, and with no
probability of ever coming to an agreement.

_Argument II. Several Passages of the New Testament plainly teach the
Doctrine of the Plenary Inspiration of the Bible._

The passages quoted by Gaussen, and mainly relied upon, are 2 Tim. 3:16.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration,” &c.; 2 Peter 1:27, “Holy men of
God spake as they were moved,” &c. Besides these, he refers to many
passages in the Old and New Testaments, but his chief stress is laid on

_Reply to Argument II._—It is well known that both these passages refer
only to the Old Testament Scriptures. It is well known that the first may
be translated so as to read, “All Scripture, given by inspiration, is
profitable,” &c. But it is reply enough to both these passages, to say,
that neither of them indicates what kind of inspiration is intended. They
assert an inspiration, which we also maintain. But they do _not_ assert a
verbal inspiration, nor one which makes the Scriptures _infallible_, but
simply one which makes them _profitable_.

The stress laid on the passage 2 Tim. 3:16, “All Scripture,” &c., is
itself an argument against the theory of plenary inspiration. The most
which can be made of this text, by _any_ punctuation or translation, is,
that all the Scripture is written by inspired men. What was the degree or
kind of their inspiration, is not in the least indicated. It might have
been verbal, it might have been the inspiration of suggestion, or of
superintendence, or the general inspiration of all Christians.

Gaussen’s only argument on this point is, “that it is the _writing_ which
is said to be inspired, and writing must be in words; hence the
inspiration must be verbal.” To this we must reply, that inspired writing
can only mean what is written by inspired men. The writing itself cannot
be inspired. This argument is too flimsy to be dwelt upon.

But further still. There is another argument which lies against every
attempt to prove plenary inspiration out of the Scripture. _Every such
attempt is necessarily reasoning in a circle._ Gaussen and Kirk have
labored earnestly to reply to this argument, but in vain. The answer they
make is, “We are not reasoning with Infidels, but with Christians. We
address men who respect the Scriptures, and who admit their truth. The
Scriptures are inspired, we affirm, because, being authentic and true,
they declare themselves inspired; and the Scriptures are plenarily
inspired, because, being inspired, they say that they are so totally, and
without any exception.”

But we answer Messrs. Gaussen and Kirk thus: “You are indeed reasoning
with Christians, not with Deists; but you are reasoning with Christians
who do not believe that _every passage_ of Scripture is infallibly
inspired. To prove your doctrine from any particular passages or verbal
expressions, you must prove that those particular passages and expressions
are not themselves errors. You yourselves assert that this cannot be done,
except we believe these passages to be infallibly inspired. Therefore you
must assume infallible inspiration in order to prove infallible
inspiration. In other words, you beg the question instead of arguing it.”

In this vicious circle the advocates of a verbal inspiration of
infallibility are necessarily imprisoned whenever they attempt to argue
from the words of Scripture. They contend that one must believe their
theory in order to be sure that any passage is absolutely true, and then
they quote passages to prove their theory, as if they were absolutely

_Argument III. The theory of plenary inspiration is simple, precise,
intelligible, and easy to be applied._

We admit this to be true. It has this merit in common with the opposite
theory of no inspiration. Both are simple, precise, and very easy of
application. But simplicity is not always a sign of truth. The facts of
nature and life are more apt to be complex than simple. Theories
distinguished by their simplicity most commonly ignore or omit a part of
the facts. Simplistic theories are generally one-sided and partial.
Materialism, Atheism, Idealism, Fatalism, are all very simple theories,
and explain all difficulties with a marvellous rapidity. This makes them,
at first, attractive to the intellect, which always loves clear and
distinct views; but afterwards, when it is seen that they obtain clearness
by means of shallowness they are found unsatisfactory.

_Argument IV. The quotations from the Old Testament, by Jesus and his
apostles, show that they regarded its language as infallibly inspired._

This argument, upon which great stress is laid, both by Prof. Gaussen and
Dr. Kirk, though plausible at first sight, becomes wholly untenable on

Thus, in the temptation of Jesus, in his reply to the tempter, he says,
“Thou shalt not live by bread alone;” the whole force of the argument
depending on the single word _alone_.

Replying to the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, he says, “Have ye
not read that God says, I _am_ the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of
Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Then the whole
stress of the argument rests on the use of the verb in the present tense,
“_I am_.”

Arguing with the Pharisees, “How did David, by the Spirit, call him
_Lord_, saying, The Lord said to my Lord,” &c.? Here the argument depends
on the use of the single word _Lord_.

Many more instances could be produced of the same kind; and Gaussen
contends, that when Jesus and his apostles thus rest their argument on the
force of a single word of the Old Testament, they must have believed that
the very words were given by inspiration. For otherwise the writers might
not have chosen the right word to express their thought in each particular
case. And unless the Jews had also believed in the verbal inspiration of
their Scriptures, they would have replied that these particular words
might have been errors.

_Reply to this Argument._—Plausible as this argument may seem, it turns
out to be wholly empty and worthless. Whenever any writer is admitted to
be an authority, then his words become authoritative, and arguments are
necessarily based on single words and expressions. In all such cases, we
assume that he chose the best words by which to convey his thought, and
yet we do not ascribe to him any inspiration or infallibility.

Thus, go into our courts of law, and you will hear the language of the
United States constitution, of the acts of legislature, of previous
decisions of the courts, argued from, word by word. Counsel argue by the
hour upon the force and weight of single words in the authorities. Judges
in their charges instruct the jury to determine the life and death of the
criminal according to the letter of the law. And this they do necessarily,
according to the rule, “_Cum recedit a litera, judex transit in
legislatorem_.” But will any one maintain that the counsel and court
believe that the legislature was infallibly inspired to choose the very
language which would convey their meaning?

In this very argument for plenary inspiration, Gaussen and his associates
rest their argument on the single word “all,” in the text, “All Scripture
is given by inspiration,” &c. Yet, say they, we are not assuming that this
text is plenarily inspired, for that, we admit, would be begging the
question. If, then, Mr. Gaussen can argue from the force of the single
word _all_, without assuming the doctrine of plenary inspiration, why
could not Jesus and his apostles argue from single words, without assuming
the doctrine of plenary inspiration?

There is, however, a passage in Paul (Gal. 3:16), in which the apostle
quotes a text from the Old Testament, and lays the whole stress of his
argument on two letters. “He says not, ‘And to seeds’ σπέρμασιν, as of
many, but as of one, ‘And to thy seed’ σπερματι.” According to Gaussen’s
argument, Paul must have believed in the inspiration of the letters. But
Gaussen is careful not to adduce this instance, which seems at first so
much in his favor. For, in fact, both in Hebrew and Greek, as in English,
“seed” is a collective noun, and does mean _many_ in the singular. The
argument of Paul, therefore, falls through; and it is evident that he is
no example to be imitated here, in laying stress on one or two letters.
Most modern interpreters admit that he made a mistake; and so, among the
ancients, did Jerome, who nevertheless, said the argument “was good enough
for the foolish Galatians.”

Having thus replied, very briefly, but we believe sufficiently, to the
main arguments in support of this theory, we say, in conclusion, that it
cannot be true, for the following reasons, which we simply state, and do
not now attempt to unfold.

1. The New Testament writers nowhere claim to be infallibly inspired to
write. If they had been infallibly inspired to write the Gospels and
Epistles, they certainly ought to have announced this important fact.
Instead of which Luke gives as his reason for writing, not that God
inspired him to write, but that “inasmuch as others have taken in hand” to
write, it seemed good to him also to do the same, and that for the benefit
of Theophilus. John and Paul assert the truth of what they say, but not on
account of their being inspired to write, but because they are disciples
and apostles.

2. The differences in the accounts of the same transactions show that
their inspiration was not verbal.

These differences appear on every page of any Harmony of the New
Testament. They are numerous but unimportant; they go to prove the truth
of the narrative, and give probability to the main Gospel statements. But
they utterly disprove the theory of plenary inspiration.

3. Paul declares that some things which he says are “of the Lord,” other
things “of himself;” that in regard to some things he was inspired, in
regard to others, not.

4. Every writer in the New Testament has a style of his own, and there is
no appearance of his being merely an amanuensis.

5. While the New Testament writers lay no claim to any such inspiration as
this theory assumes, they do claim for themselves and for all other
Christians another kind of inspiration, which is sufficient for all the
facts, and which gives them ample authority over our faith and life, and
makes them independent sources of Christian truth.

This view we have already sufficiently considered in our chapter on

§ 3. Defence of the Doctrine that Sin is a Nature, by Professor Shedd.

In the “Christian Review” for 1852 appeared an article of great power,
written by a gentleman who has since become eminent as a thinker and
writer—Professor W. G. T. Shedd. The title of the article was calculated
to attract attention, as a bold attempt to defend an extreme position of
Calvinism—“Sin a Nature, and that Nature Guilt.” The article was so
rational and clear that we consider it as being even now the best
statement extant of this thorough-going Calvinism, and therefore devote a
few pages here to its examination.(87)

After some introductory remarks, which it is not necessary to notice, the
writer lays down his first position, that sin is a nature. His statement
is, that we all sin necessarily and continually in consequence of _our
nature_, i.e., the character born with us, original and innate.

The proofs of this position are, 1. The language of St. Paul (Eph. 2:3),
“We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” 2. That we are
compelled by the laws of our mind to refer volitions to a nature, as
qualities to a substance. We cannot stop in the outward act of sin, but by
a mental instinct look inward to the particular volition from which the
sin came. Nor can the mind stop with this particular volition. There is a
steady and uniform state of character, which particular volitions cannot
explain. The instinct of reason causes us to look back for one common
principle and source, which shall give unity to the subject; and, having
attained a view both central and simple, it is satisfied. As our mind
compels us to refer all properties to a substance in which they inhere, so
it compels us to refer all similar volitions to a simple nature. When we
see exercises of the soul, we as instinctively refer them to a nature in
that soul, as we refer the properties of a body to the substance of that
body. 3. Christian experience proves that sin is a nature. The Christian,
especially as his experience deepens, is troubled, not so much by his
separate sinful actions and volitions, as by the sinful nature which they
indicate, and out of which they spring. We are compelled to believe, as we
look inward, that there is a principle of evil within us, below those
separate transgressions of which we are conscious. There is a diseased
condition of the soul, which these transgressions, indicate. There are
secret faults from which we pray to be cleansed. 4. The history of
Christian doctrine shows that the Church has in all ages believed in a
sinful nature, as distinguished from conscious transgressions.

These are the proofs of the first position, that sin is a nature. We have
stated them concisely, but with sufficient distinctness and completeness.
Let us now examine their validity.

The first argument is the text in Ephesians, “We were by nature children
of wrath,” ἦμεν τέκνα φύσει ὀργῆς. The word φύσις, the writer contends,
“always denotes something original and innate, in contradistinction to
something acquired by practice or habit.” This text, we know, is the
proof-text of original sin, and is considered by many commentators as
teaching that man’s nature is wholly corrupt. But plainly this is going
too far. Granting the full meaning claimed for the word φύσις, the text
only asserts that there is something in man’s nature which exposes him to
the divine displeasure by being the source of sin. It does not assert the
corruption of the whole nature, nor preclude the supposition that we are
born with tendencies to good, no less than to evil. That we are so, the
writer is bound by his own statement to admit; for if this Greek word
“always denotes something original and innate,” it denotes this in Rom.
2:14,(88) which declares that the Gentiles “do by nature the things
contained in the law.” According to this passage in Romans, if there be
such a thing as natural depravity, it is not total; and if there be such a
thing as total depravity, it is not natural. Those who wish to maintain
both doctrines can only do it by admitting two different kinds of
sinfulness in man, one of which is natural, but not total; the other
total, but not natural—a distinction which we esteem a sound one.
According to this passage in Rom 2:14, we must understand φύσις as
referring to the good side of man’s nature, and the same word in Eph. 2:3
as referring to the corrupt side of man’s moral nature. The first refers
to the “law of the mind;” the second, to the other “law in the members”
(Rom. 7:23). But there is another passage (Gal. 2:15), which asserts that
the Jews by nature are not sinners, like the heathen. Now, as we can
hardly suppose that the original instincts and innate tendencies of the
Jewish child were radically good from birth, and essentially different
from those of the heathen, and as such a supposition would contradict the
whole argument of Paul in Rom. ch. 2, it is evident that φύσις in Gal.
2:15 does not denote something original and innate. The meaning of this
verse probably is, that the Jew from birth up, and by the mere fact of
being born a Jew, came under the influences of a religious education,
which preserved him from many forms of heathen depravity. The word,
therefore, means in that passage, not a Jew by nature, but a Jew by birth;
and, if so, we are at liberty, if we choose, to ascribe the same meaning
to the word in Ephesians, and to understand the text to teach that we were
by birth placed under circumstances which tended necessarily to deprave
the character.

This passage, therefore, quoted by the writer, does not teach entire
depravity by nature, but a partial depravity, either found in the
hereditary tendencies and instincts, or acquired by means of the evil
circumstances surrounding the child from his birth.

The second argument of the writer is, that the laws of mind compel us to
refer sinful volitions to a sinful nature, as they compel us to refer
qualities to a substance.

We admit that, where we see uniform and constant habits of action, we are
compelled to refer these to a permanent character or state of being. If a
man once in his life becomes intoxicated, we do not infer any habit of
intemperance, or any vicious tendency; but if he is habitually
intemperate, we are compelled, as the writer justly asserts, to look
beneath the separate single actions for one common principle and source.
But in assuming that this source is a nature brought with us into the
world, the writer seems to us to jump to a conclusion. It may be an
acquired character, not an original nature. It may be an induced state of
disease either of body or mind, a depravity which has commenced this side
of childhood. We know that there are acquired habits both of mind and of
body; otherwise, not only would it be impossible for a man to grow worse,
but it would also be impossible for him to grow better, and there would be
an end to all improvement and progress. Such an acquired character
introduces unity into the subject of investigation, as completely as does
an original nature, and therefore satisfies all the wants of the mind.

A precisely similar answer may be made to the writer’s third argument,
drawn from Christian experience. He is perfectly right, we think, in
saying that the Christian is troubled, not merely, nor chiefly, by the
recollection of single acts and volitions of evil, but in the evidence
which they seem to give of a sinful state of mind and heart. He is right
in considering any theory of moral evil shallow and inadequate which only
takes into account sinful actions and sinful volitions. What earnest man,
who has seriously set about correcting a fault, or improving his
character, but has been obliged to say, “To will is present with me; but
how to perform that which I will, I find not”? Every earnest effort shows
us more plainly how deep the roots of evil run below the surface. We find
a _law_ in the members warring against the law of the mind, and bringing
us into captivity to the law of sin. This is the description which Paul
gives of it. It is a _law_; that is, something regular, constant,
permanent—a steady stress, a bias towards evil. The apostle, however,
differs from the writer in placing this law, not in the will, but in the
members; and also in stating that there is another law,—that of the
mind,—which has a tendency towards good. In the unregenerate we understand
him to teach that the law of evil is the stronger, and holds the man, the
personal will, captive. In the regenerate, the reverse is the case. Nor
does Paul teach that this sinful tendency is guilt. It is not “O _guilty_
man that I am!” but “O _wretched_ man that I am!”

Now, while we agree with the writer in rejecting as superficial and
inadequate any theory of evil, whether emanating from our own denomination
or from any other, which does not recognize this evil state or tendency
lying below the volitions, we differ from him in that we think it not
always a nature, but a character. He has not proved, nor begun to prove,
that this dark ground of evil in man is always innate or original. It may
or may not be; but the argument from Christian experience shows nothing of
the sort.

The writer’s fourth and remaining argument is, that the Church has, in all
ages, believed in a sinful nature, as distinguished from conscious
transgressions. If this were so, we admit that it should have weight in
the inquiry; but we deny the fact so far, at least, as the sinful nature
is concerned.(89)

The writer proceeds thus: “Assuming, then, that the fact of a sinful
nature has been established, we pass to the second statement of St. Paul,
that man is by nature a child of wrath. We pass from his statement that
sin, in its ultimate form, is a nature, to his statement that this nature
is guilt.” If we have done justice to the writer’s arguments,—and it has
been our object to state them fairly, though briefly,—we submit that the
fact of a sinful nature has not been established by them. He has shown
that in man there is a tendency to evil running below the conscious,
distinct volitions—that there is a permanent character, good or evil,
which manifests itself, and becomes first apparent to ourselves, or to
others, in these separate, spiritual exercises or actions. But that this
stress either to good or evil, this law either of the mind or members, is
original and inborn, is yet to be proved. Let us then consider the second
point, namely, whether this character or nature, whichever it may be, is
also guilt.

As the writer’s first argument to prove a sinful nature was drawn from the
Greek word φύσις, so his first argument to prove that nature guilt is
derived from the Greek word ὀργή in the same passage. “The apostle
teaches,” he says, “that sinful man is a child of wrath. Now, none but a
guilty being can be the object of the righteous and holy displeasure of
God.” But this word, translated _wrath_, is confessedly used in other
senses besides that of the divine anger or displeasure. It may mean the
sufferings or punishments which come as the result of sin, in which sense
it is used in Matt. 3:7, “Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to
come?” and other places. This word is used in the passage just quoted for
some future evil; in John 3:36, for a present evil—“The wrath of God
abides on him;” and in 1 Thess. 2:16, for a past evil—“For the wrath is
come [lit. _has_ come] on them to the uttermost.” It may mean the
subjective feeling of guilt; the sense that we deserve the divine
displeasure, which is removed by the assurance of forgiveness. It may mean
the state of alienation from God, which results by a law of the conscience
from this sense of guilt—an alienation removed by the divine act by which
God reconciles the sinner to himself. And the radical meaning, from which
these secondary meanings flow, may be the essential antagonism existing
between the holy nature of God and all evil. But whatever it means, it
cannot intend anything like human anger. In the divine wrath there is
neither selfishness nor passion; and it must consist with an infinite love
towards its object. The word, therefore, as used in Eph. 2:3, does not
convey the idea of guilt, _a vi terminis_. It may mean as well, that this
sinful tendency in man, manifesting itself in sinful actions, produces a
state of estrangement or alienation between man and God. How far this is a
guilty alienation, and how far it is evil and sorrowful, is not to be
learned from the term itself.

But the main proof of the writer in support of his second position is
found in the assertion, that this sinful tendency in man, out of which
evil acts continually flow, is not a tendency of the physical nature, but
of the will itself. He distinguishes the will proper from the mere faculty
of single choices, and considers it to be a deeper power lying at the very
centre of the soul, which determines the whole man with reference to some
great and unlimited end of living. It is, in fact, the man himself—the
person. For man, he asserts, is not essentially intellect or feeling; but
is essentially and at bottom a will, a self-determining creature. “His
other faculties of knowing and feeling are grafted into this stock and
root; and hence he is responsible from centre to circumference.” He then
affirms the will, thus defined, to be the responsible and guilty author of
the sinful nature; being nothing more nor less than its constant and total
determination to self as the ultimate end of living. This voluntary power,
which is the man himself, has turned away from God and directed itself to
self as an ultimate end; and this state of the will is the sinful nature
of man.

We have no disposition to quarrel with the psychology of this statement.
We admit man to be essentially will, in the sense here described. He is
essentially activity; an activity limited externally, by special
organization and circumstances,—limited internally, by quantity of force,
and knowledge.

Nor, again, do we deny that in the unregenerate state the will of man is
directed to self rather than to God as its ultimate end; and that this is
guilt, and in a certain sense total guilt. No man can serve two masters.
If he is obedient to one, he is necessarily disobedient to the other. This
disobedience may, or may not, appear in act; but it is there in state. He
whose ultimate end is self-gratification is always ready to sacrifice the
will of God to his own. He whose ultimate end is God is always ready to
sacrifice his own will. In this sense, the unregenerate man may be said to
be wholly sinful; and he who is born of God, not to commit sin.

Thus much we grant; and the admission is a large one. But we must now
object to the writer, that this is but one side of the question; and that
he has omitted to see the other side. The sources of evil are not so
simple as he seems to suppose; for man is a very complex being, and the
world in which he lives is a very complex world. We therefore would

What proof have we that this guilty direction of the will is a _nature_,
in the sense claimed, i.e., something innate or original? Why may not the
will have been turned gradually in this direction as we grow up, by
enticements of pleasure; and why might not the will, in like manner, by
means of wise culture, have been gradually directed to God?

Again: what proof have we that we are so wholly _unconscious_ of this
direction of the will, as our author contends? That a great many of the
acts of the will are unconscious acts, like the separate movements of the
finger in a skilful pianist, or lifting of the feet in walking, we admit;
and we are not responsible for these separate acts, but for the _preceding
choice_, by means of which we determine to play the tune, or walk the
mile. In like manner, the direction of the soul to self rather than to God
may be moral evil; but is not moral guilt, until we become conscious of
it, in a greater or less degree. Then, when partially or wholly awakened
to the evil direction of the soul, if we allow ourselves to neglect this
discovery, to turn away from the fact and forget it, on that conscious act
presses the whole burden of guilt, and not on the unconscious volitions
which may result from it. We say, therefore, in opposition to the writer,
that though there may be depravity without consciousness of the depraved
state, there cannot be guilt without consciousness of the evil choice, or,
as the apostle says, “Sin is not imputed where there is no law.”

Again: we totally dissent from the statement that this deep-lying will in
man is unable to obey the commands, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil way,
for why will ye die?”—“Repent and be converted, that your sins may be
blotted out,”—“Make you a new heart and a new spirit,”—“Choose you this
day whom you will serve,”—“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.”
The writer says, that “such a power as this, including so much, and
running so deep, which is a determination of the whole soul, cannot, from
the very nature of the case, be such a facile and easily managed power as
that by which we resolve to do some particular thing in every-day life.”
True: not _so_ easily managed; but can it not be managed at all? It may
require _more_ self-examination to understand what the direction of the
will is, and more concentration of thought and will, and more leaning on
God’s help; but _with_ all these are we able or not able to turn to God?
He says, the great main tendency of the will to self and sin as an
ultimate end, though having a free and criminal origin, “is not to be
reversed so easily.” True, again; but why not _less_ easily? The writer
speaks of the sinful will as a “total determination of itself to self;”
and asks “how the power that is to reverse all this process can possibly
come out of the will thus shut up, and entirely swallowed in the process.
How is the process to destroy itself?” But what! Has man become _a
process_? He is essentially will, but is this will blind mechanism? Has it
not, according to our author’s own theory, intelligence, conscience,
affection, rooted into it? The moment that the writer begins to speak of
the will, as unable to change its direction, he is compelled to conceive
of it materially and mechanically, and not as the moral, responsible soul.
He says, “The human will becomes a current that becomes unmanageable
simply because of its own momentum.” And therefore, again, he is obliged
to conceive of the whole voluntary power as lost, and lost before man was
born; and he reduces all our real freedom to the original act of the will
previous to birth, which took place when we were present in Adam’s soul,
and committed the first transgression with him.

This is plainly the denial of all human freedom since the fall of Adam. We
bring into the world, according to the writer, a will wholly and
inevitably bent to evil. We have no consciousness of this tendency, and if
we were conscious of it we have no power to change it; but we yet are
responsible for it, and guilty because of it, inasmuch as we began this
state ourselves when all our souls were mystically present in the soul of
Adam. Of this theory, we merely say now, that, if it be true, man is not
_now_ guilty of any sin which he commits in his mortal life; for he is not
now a free being. He is only responsible for the sin which he freely
committed in Adam. He is no more responsible when we suppose his sin to
proceed from his will, than when we suppose it to proceed from a depraved
sensuous nature, or from involuntary ignorance, for he is no more free in
the one case than in the other. He may be an infinitely depraved and
infinitely miserable being, but he can in no true sense be called a
_guilty_ being. Again we say, if this theory be true, it is an awful
theory, and one which we cannot possibly reconcile with the justice or
goodness, and still less with the fatherly character, of God. That God
should so have constituted human nature that all the millions of the human
race should have had this fatal opportunity of destroying themselves
utterly, by one simultaneous act, in Adam, is, to say the least, an
_awful_ theory to propound concerning our heavenly Father. We might put
Christ’s argument to any man not hardened by theological study, as it
seems to us, with irresistible force. “What man is there among _you_,
BEING A FATHER,” who could do anything of this sort? But we know too well
that all such appeals fall harmless from the sevenfold shield of a
systematized theology.

Therefore we will only say further, concerning this theory, that, as being
_apparently_ in direct conflict with the divine attributes as taught in
the New Testament; as making man a mere process deprived of real freedom;
as proving man not guilty for any sin committed in this life; and as
thereby deadening the sense of responsibility, and showing that we cannot
possibly obey the command, “Repent and turn to God,”—this theory of a sin
committed in Adam _ought to have the amplest proof_ before we believe it.
We admit that it may be true, though opposed to all our ideas of God, man,
and duty. But being thus opposed, it ought to be sustained by the most
unanswerable arguments. If Jesus and his apostles have told us so plainly,
we will believe it if we can. How is it, then? Not a word on the subject
in the four Gospels. Not a text from the lips of Jesus which can be
pretended to lay down any such theory. He does not even mention the name
of Adam once in the Gospels, nor allude to him, except when speaking of
marriage. This theory rests, not on anything contained in the Gospels,
book of Acts, or Epistles of Peter, James, or John, but on two texts in
two Epistles of Paul (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22). In the latter passage Paul
says not a word of Adam’s sin, but only of his death,—the whole chapter
treating, not of sin, but of death and the resurrection. This passage,
therefore, can hardly be considered a plain statement of the theory. The
other, in Romans, is confessedly so far from plain, that it is difficult
to make it agree with any theory; but the most evident meaning, to one who
has no theory to support, is, that sin began with Adam, and the
consequences of sin, which are moral and physical evil, began also with
him; and as he thus set in motion a series of evil tendencies which we
find in our organization, and which Paul elsewhere calls the law of the
members, and a series of evil circumstances which we find around us in the
world, both of which are the occasion of sin, we may trace back to him the
commencement of human disobedience. If the passage teaches anything more
than this, it certainly does not teach it plainly or explicitly.

§ 4. Defence of Everlasting Punishment, by Dr. Nehemiah Adams and Dr. J.
P. Thompson.

Two defences of this dreadful doctrine have appeared within a few
years—one by Rev. Nehemiah Adams, D. D. (chiefly known by his many and
determined pleas for slavery), and the other by Dr. Thompson of New York.

We will first examine Dr. Adams’s tract on “The Reasonableness of Eternal
Future Punishment.”

We have these three objections to it:—

I. It, throughout, denies the sovereignty of God.

II. It is, throughout, a system of naturalism.

III. It, throughout, ignores the central truth of the gospel.

It is our business to substantiate these assertions by sufficient proof.

1. The view taken in his tract, of God, cannot be true, because it
conflicts with his supreme and sovereign deity.

Of course, this is to dethrone God. God, if not sovereign, is not God. Any
view which disturbs, however remotely, the supremacy of the Deity, must be
a relapse towards Pagan idolatry. We charge this tendency on the whole
tenor of this tract. We affirm that it seriously impairs that confidence
and strength which can only come from reliance on Omnipotence, and remands
us to the terrors and narrowness of Polytheism: not consciously, of
course, or intentionally, but by the logic of its ideas and the tendency
of its argument.

According to Dr. Adams’s view of the world, it is a scene of conflict
between God and the Devil. The prize contended for is the souls of men.
God wishes to save them: the Devil wishes to damn them. By immense
efforts,—by the unparalleled sacrifice of himself on the cross,—God
succeeds in saving a portion of this race, whom the Devil had plunged into
fearful and desperate sin. As for the rest, He can do nothing with them,
but must go away and leave them; escaping with the saved to some other
region, where the sin and misery of the rest may be lost sight of.

The only divine supremacy which Dr. Adams admits is that of force. God is,
on the whole, _stronger_ than the Devil; so that He can prevent him from
carrying his ravages beyond certain limits. God can “hem in and overrule”
the power of sin; but he cannot conquer it. He has no complete power over
the heart and will of men to become supreme there; but he has power over
their conduct, and can restrain that within certain limits.

God’s sovereignty, according to Dr. Adams, is only like that of a human
government, and that, again, a weak one. A human government is strong when
it is able to dispense with standing armies, with an omnipresent police,
with prisons and dungeons: it is weak when its authority is only
maintained by these. In the first case, it rests on the love of the
people; in the other case, only on force.

Now, according to Dr. Adam’s tract, God’s sovereignty is essentially one
of force. He is not sovereign by overcoming sin through his own holiness,
but only by restraining its outbreaks by externally applied force. So far
from conquering sin, he is represented as giving up all hope of conquering
it. He has tried everything in his power, and has failed. He can do
nothing more. Dr. Adams speaks of God’s “having expended upon us all which
the gospel of his grace includes,” and of “the failure of that which is
the brightness of his glory.” Now, Dr. Adams says, “What God will probably
do is, to go away and leave us,” God says, according to the idea of this
tract, “I will place all of you, who sin, in a world by yourselves, from
which I and my friends will forever withdraw.” In substance, He gives up,
and acknowledges himself defeated. He is beaten by sin, which is more
powerful than his gospel. Sin compels the Deity to compromise; to take
some souls, and to leave others; to divide the universe,—love reigning in
one part of it, hatred and wickedness in another.

2. The second objection to the doctrine of everlasting punishment, as
taught in these works, is, that it is a system of pure materialism. It is
naturalism, as opposed to supernaturalism. All its arguments from
Scripture interpret Scripture according to its letter, and not according
to its spirit. While much stress is laid on the word “eternal,” no real
eternity is believed in, or even conceived of. The fundamental law of
religious knowledge—namely, that a man must be born of the Spirit in order
to see the kingdom of God, and that spiritual things must be spiritually
discerned—is wholly lost sight of. The spiritual world, with its bliss and
its woe, is supposed to be a continuation of the natural world, instead of
being its exact opposite. The same conditions of space and time are
supposed to prevail there as here. Hell is regarded by Dr. Adams as a
large place, located in some remote part of the universe, where the
sufferings and blasphemies of damned souls and devils will not disturb the
sentimental happiness of himself and his pious companions. Eternity he
regards as an enormous and quite inconceivable accumulation of time,
instead of being the very negation of time. An unlimited quantity of days,
months, and years, is his notion of eternity.

In like manner, all the arguments by which the school to which he belongs
maintains this doctrine, are drawn from relations which exist in this
world. Great use is made of the analogies of human government. It is said
that it would not be safe for the Deity to forgive sins on the simple
condition of repentance, without an atonement, because it would not be
safe for human governments to do so. The government of God is made wholly
similar to the imperfect and ignorant governments of men. When we say that
God, as described in the New Testament, is not a Being to inflict
everlasting suffering hereafter, we are told that he inflicts suffering
here; as though there were no essential distinction between the finite and
the infinite, the temporal and the eternal. When we argue that God would
not suspend the eternal destiny of a soul upon the conduct and the
determination of a brief earthly life, we have instances given us of great
risks to which we are exposed, and great evils which we may incur, in this
world; as though there were no difference between a partial loss and total
destruction. When we say that the justice of God will not permit him to
punish everlastingly those who, like the heathen, have never known Christ,
we have instances given of those who have ignorantly burned themselves or
have fallen down precipices. In all such examples, these reasoners
overlook the essential distinction between the finite and the infinite.
They forget that all finite evil can be made the means of a greater
ultimate good, but that infinite evil cannot.

It is a curious fact, that those who are most Orthodox fall most easily
into a very hard and dry naturalism. God is to them a king sitting on a
throne in some far heaven outside of the world, not a spirit pervading it
and sustaining it. He governs men from without by offering them rewards
and threatening them with punishments, not by inward inspirations and
influence. He teaches them from without by an outward Christ, an outward
Bible, outward preachers, pulpits, creeds, Sabbaths, and churches; not by
Christ formed within us, not by epistles and gospels written on the
fleshly tables of the heart. The day of judgment is a particular time,
when God shall sit on his throne, and all appear before him; not the
perpetual spiritual sentence pronounced in each human soul by the divine
law. And so heaven is a place where there is to be some singing of psalms,
and such amusements as are here considered proper in Orthodox families;
hell, another place, where souls are shut up, to suffer from physical
fire, or at least from some external infliction. The doctrine taught by
the Saviour in the first twelve verses of his first sermon, that the
humble, the generous, the merciful, are already blessed, and have heaven
now, does not appear to be at all comprehended. That heaven and hell are
in this world already; that truth, love, and use are its essence, whilst
falsehood and selfishness are the essence of hell,—these, though
rudimental facts of Christianity, are commonly considered mere mysticism.
But those who do not see all this have not seen the kingdom of heaven, and
must be born again, into a new world of spiritual ideas, in order to see

3. The third and principal argument against the doctrine of everlasting
punishment is, that it is _inconsistent with the divine love to his
creatures_. It is impossible for God to manifest love to a human being by
inflicting everlasting torment upon him. It cannot do him good, because,
according to this theory, the period of probation is past, and he has no
power now to repent. As far, therefore, as the man himself is concerned,
it is gratuitous suffering—torment inflicted without any purpose. It
cannot be said that God has any love for the soul which he is treating in
this way. He has cast it off. To that soul, nevermore, throughout the ages
of an everlasting existence, shall God appear as a friend, but always as
an enemy.

We sometimes hear of a father who disinherits a child in consequence of
some act of disobedience. In one of the most touching tragedies in the
English language, a father refuses to forgive his daughter who had married
contrary to his wishes. He leaves her to starve, and refuses to forgive
her or to see her. No one approves of this conduct in the parent. But
every Orthodox man, who believes in everlasting punishment, attributes an
infinitely greater cruelty to God; infinitely greater, because the
obstinacy of the human parent endures only during a short life, but the
severity of God endures forever.

The force of this objection is such, that Dr. Adams has felt obliged to
add to his tract on “Everlasting Punishment” another tract upon the text,
“God is love,” endeavoring to show a consistency between the two. But he
does this by substituting something else in the place of the last. It is
curious enough, that a master in Israel should have written a tract upon
the “love” of God, and should have substituted “benevolence” instead of
it. In other words, instead of that fatherly love to every individual
which is the essential fact revealed in the gospel, he gives us a general
good-will towards the human race. Such a general benevolence he finds not
inconsistent with the doctrine of everlasting punishment; for, if love be
only general good-will, then, the greatest good of the greatest number
being the object, there is nothing to complain of if a few are sacrificed
for the sake of the rest. It is not, to be sure, easy to see how those who
have safely reached glory, and are in no danger of relapse, can be
benefited by the knowledge that their old neighbors and friends are in
hell; but there may be some benefit which is not apparent. By quietly
substituting, therefore, the idea of benevolence in the place of love, the
difficulty may be evaded, which otherwise is unanswerable.

But what an entire confusion of ideas is this, which substitutes a general
benevolence for a personal affection, good-will towards the race for love
to the individual! It is, in fact, abolishing the idea of Father, and
substituting that of Ruler. The kind ruler, actuated by benevolence,
desires the good of all his subjects; but he does not love them as
individuals. But the father loves the child with a wholly different
feeling. The tie is personal, not general. It is one of mutual knowledge
and mutual dependence. We cannot love one whom we do not know; but we can
exercise benevolence towards him very easily. Benevolence depends wholly
on the character of the benevolent person; but love is drawn out by the
object loved. I do not love my child because I am benevolent, but because
it is my child. The infant draws forth a host of feelings, before unknown,
in the mother’s heart. She does not love her infant because she is a
benevolent woman, but because the infant excites her love. A man is
benevolent towards the sufferers in Kansas, whom he has never seen; but he
does not love them. He loves his wife, but is not benevolent towards her.
Benevolence and love, therefore, are not only essentially different in
their nature, origin, and manifestations, but so different as often to
exclude each other.

Now, it has always been seen that God is benevolent. This is taught by
natural religion. We see it in all the arrangements of divine Providence.
The infinitely varied provisions for the good of his creatures, the myriad
adaptations by which their wants are met, are ample evidence of this. But
Christianity comes to teach us something else,—to teach us that God is our
Father, and so to see in him benevolence swallowed up in love. God does
not love his children because he is benevolent, but because they are his
children. He does not love them for the sake of others, but for their own
sake. His love does not depend upon their being good, pious, or Christian;
it depends only upon the fact that they are his children. This is the
doctrine of the prodigal son; in which wonderful parable it is more
distinctly stated than in any other part of the New Testament. The
doctrine there taught, that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner
who repents than over ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance,
is somewhat different from that other doctrine, that the redeemed in
heaven look down with joy upon the sufferings of the damned below. This
parable teaches that God has a personal, fatherly love towards the
impenitent sinner who has gone away from him into a far country. The
father’s joy when his child returned is the evidence of the love which had
continued in his heart while his child was absent from him.

This being the character ascribed by Christ to the Deity, we assert that
it is wholly inconsistent with the doctrine of everlasting punishment as
taught in the pamphlet before us. There are, it is true, many widely
different doctrines to which the term “eternal punishment” is applied.
Some of these may not be inconsistent with the love of God. Let us give
some instances.

Some, by eternal punishment, intend the punishments of eternity, as
distinguished from those of time. They mean spiritual punishment, as
distinguished from temporal punishment. They mean the sufferings which
have their root in the sight of eternal things, as distinguished from
those which originate in the sense of earthly things—sufferings which come
to us from within, and not from without. “Eternal,” in this sense,
describes the quality, and not the quantity, of the suffering; and in this
sense eternal punishment is not inconsistent with the divine love. But
this is not the sense which Dr. Adams intends.

Some mean by endless punishment, that, as long as men continue to sin,
they will continue to suffer; that sin is eternally suffering. But this is
not the sense which Dr. Adams intends.

And some say that they believe in eternal punishment; meaning thereby,
that the consequences of sin are everlasting,—either positively, by
leaving forever some remorseful sorrow in the mind, or negatively, by
leaving men forever lower down in the scale of excellence and happiness
than they would otherwise be. But this is not what Dr. Adams means by it.

And some men believe in eternal punishment in the sense of a dark
background to the universe, which will always continue, a shadow as
permanent as light,—necessary for the full perfection and beauty of an
infinite divine creation. Into this shadow man may forever plunge; out of
it he may forever emerge: and it will always continue so to be. But this
is not the view taken by Dr. Adams.

The view which Dr. Adams takes is of endless punishment inflicted as a
consequence of temporal sin committed in this life. There will be no
opportunity to repent hereafter, no pardon offered. There is nothing done
by God, after this life, to save men. The heathen who have never heard of
Christ, unconverted infants, those who have been brought up in the midst
of evil, and heretics who do not accept the theory of Calvin concerning
Christianity, are to be tormented forever in the other world. This view he
thinks not only scriptural, but reasonable. It corresponds nearly to the
human penalty of imprisonment for life; except that, instead of a few
years of earthly life, it is a never-ending existence; and, instead of
simple imprisonment, it is imprisonment with torture added.

We are accustomed to complain of the “horrors of the Inquisition;” but
wherein do they differ in principle from the doctrine of Dr. Adams? The
inquisitors tortured men for heresy; Dr. Adams thinks that God will do the
same. The power of the Inquisition, however, was limited, on the
principle, _Dolor, si dura, brevis; si longa, levis_. But not so with
everlasting punishment.

That this view is absolutely inconsistent with the fatherly love of God to
every soul, is apparent. It would be impossible for a father to torment
his child forever in consequence of temporal sin. No earthly parent could
be found cruel enough to inflict a million years of torture upon his child
for each sin committed by him; but a million years for every sinful action
would be but a trifling penalty compared with everlasting punishment.

As it is absolutely impossible to defend this doctrine on the ground of
the fatherly love of God, it is defended by Dr. Adams and his companions
on other grounds, namely, of the divine benevolence, and the duty of God
as a governor. The argument is this: If God was dethroned, all sorts of
evil would ensue. But sin is always endeavoring to dethrone God; therefore
it is his duty to use the most strenuous measures to prevent this result.
These strenuous measures consist in the highest rewards offered to
obedience, and the severest punishments threatened to disobedience. But no
punishment is so severe as everlasting punishment; therefore the
benevolence of God requires him to threaten it; and, if threatened, his
truth requires him to inflict it. This is the sort of argument by which
the doctrine is defended. Its fallacies are manifest. It is based on a
sort of Manicheism, making evil a hostile power in the universe, which
threatens the supremacy of God. It makes God in danger of outward
overthrow in consequence of the external assaults of sin. But we have
always supposed that the essence of sin was the state of the heart, and
the evil of sin to consist in the estrangement of the heart from God, and
not in any danger that Omnipotence would be dethroned by it. Besides,
though the fear of future punishment may restrain the outward act, it
cannot change the heart, and cannot, therefore, remove the real evil of
sin. Here is the fallacy of this whole argument.

Another weak point in the argument for everlasting punishment regards its
proof, that all opportunity for repentance is confined to this life. Only
two or three texts are quoted in proof of this very important position.
One is taken from the book of Ecclesiastes, and declares, that, “in the
place where the tree falleth, there it shall be;” of which there is no
evidence that it has any relation to the subject; or, if it has, that it
carries the least authority with it. Another passage asserts that “there
is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither
thou goest.” But this would prove too much; for it would prove that there
was no knowledge in the other life. Another passage, quoted by Dr. Adams
from the book of Revelation, says, “Let him that is unjust be unjust
still;” from which it is inferred that men have no opportunity hereafter
for repentance. But, as this is said to those who are in _this_ world
waiting for the coming of Christ, it also proves too much, if taken
literally; since it would declare that men cannot repent even in this
world. Such is the extremely slight foundation on which this essential
part of the doctrine is made to rest. Never was there so weak a support
for so important a position.

The arguments from reason, by which our writer supports this part of his
doctrine, are all taken from the plane of the lowest naturalism. He thinks
it reasonable that the Almighty should suspend the everlasting destiny of
his creatures upon what they do or omit doing in this life, because men,
in earthly transactions, adopt a similar principle. A railroad train is
advertised to start at a certain hour. If we are there a minute too late,
we lose our opportunity of going on an important journey. We think this
reasonable; why, then, argues Dr. Adams, should we think it unreasonable
for God to make us lose our chance throughout eternity if we do not take
the opportunity during life? God has given us full notice, he says, of his
intention; we have been duly notified; and, after due notice, it is
thought reasonable, in earthly business transactions, for people to run
their chance. A man may commit a crime in a minute, for which he is
sentenced to imprisonment for life or to capital punishment. We think this
reasonable; why should we think it unreasonable that God should send men
to an everlasting hell in consequence of sin committed in a short

All these arguments are fallacious, because they apply to the infinite,
conditions belonging wholly to the finite; because they transfer to Him,
whose ways are not as our ways, and whose thoughts are not as our
thoughts, the poor necessities of human ignorance and weakness. To those
who reason thus, the Almighty may say, “Thou thoughtest me altogether such
a one as thou thyself.” It is because man is weak and ignorant that he is
obliged to live under these limitations. If we were able to do
differently, we should not make such severe consequences flow from human
ignorance and weakness. We do such things, not because we think them
absolutely just and good, but because we cannot help it. To argue that,
because it is reasonable for human weakness to do something which it
cannot help, it is reasonable for divine Omnipotence to do an infinitely
more injurious thing of the same kind, is to fly in the face of all logic
and reason.

Men make a rule, that, if I am not at the station when the train starts, I
shall lose my trip for that day. Yes; but suppose the rule should be,
that, if I arrived a moment too late, I should be crucified. Suppose a
father should give full notice to his children, that, whenever any of them
mispronounced a word, he should be burned alive. But it is easier,
according to Dr. Adams’s theory, for a child never to make a mistake, than
not to commit the sins for which it is to be punished with everlasting
torment. “What man among you is there, being a father,” who would cause
his children to come into the world exposed to such fearful risks; who
would allow them to be born with constitutions tending inevitably to sin,
the inevitable consequence of which, after a few short years of life, is
never-ending torment, the only possible escape from which is salvation
through a Being of whom the majority never heard, according to a system
which the majority cannot believe, and by a process, which, except by a
special help, none of them are able to accomplish? We should say, that we
would not have children under these conditions. It were better that such
children had never been born. If we then, being evil, would not subject
our children to such risk, how much less would our Father in heaven do
anything of the kind!

The reply to such arguments, by those whom Thomas Burnet calls the
“unmerciful doctors” and “ferocious theologians,” is always the same.
Because finite evil exists, and is not inconsistent with the divine plan,
therefore infinite evil may also exist, and not be inconsistent with the
divine plan. Because one may suffer for a time in this world, therefore he
may be compelled to suffer forever in the other world. It is assumed that
there is no essential distinction between time and eternity, between
finite and infinite evil. Here is the immense fallacy of the argument. The
difference is simply this: All finite _suffering_, however great, is as
nothing when compared with everlasting happiness afterwards; but all
finite _happiness_, however great, is as nothing when compared with
everlasting suffering afterwards. If we deny, therefore, the doctrine of
everlasting suffering, evil virtually disappears from the universe; if we
accept it, good virtually disappears, as far as the sufferers are
concerned. If all evil is finite, the goodness of God can be fully
justified; but, if to any one it is infinite, no such theodicy is

This is the fatal objection to the doctrine of everlasting punishment. It
clouds the face of the heavenly Father with impenetrable gloom. It takes
away the best consolations of the gospel. When Jesus tells us to forgive
our enemies, that we may be like our heavenly Father, who sends his
blessings upon the evil and the good, this doctrine adds, that God’s
character is thus forgiving only in this world; but that, in the other
world, he will torment his enemies forever in hopeless suffering. When we
seek consolation amid the griefs and separations of this world by looking
to a better world, where all tears will be wiped away, we have presented
to us instead this awful vision of unmitigated horror. Instead of finite
evil being swallowed up into infinite good, it darkens down into infinite

Dr. Adams quotes Thomas Burnet, Master of the Charter-house, as a striking
instance of one, who, though he denied or doubted this doctrine, admitted,
nevertheless, that the Scriptures were probably against him. He quotes him
correctly as saying, “Human nature shrinks from the very name of eternal
punishment; yet the Scriptures seem to hold the other side.” Though Dr.
Adams gives the Latin, and refers to the page of the book, let us hope,
for his own sake, that he quotes it at second-hand; which, as he twice
misspells the name, is not unlikely; for Dr. Burnet, so far from admitting
that the Scriptures are “probably against him,” concludes, after an
examination of the leading passages, that they prove nothing certainly as
to the eternal duration of future punishment. He quotes the passage in
which the Jewish servant is said to become a slave _forever_,—meaning till
the year of jubilee; in which circumcision is called an _everlasting
covenant_,—meaning that it shall be abolished by the same divine
authority; in which the land of Canaan was given for an _everlasting
possession_ to Abraham and his seed, from which they have long since been
expelled; &c. Dr. Burnet does, indeed, say that the Scriptures _seem_ to
favor the doctrine he opposes; but he then goes on to show that such is
not the case. He also “awakens antiquity,” and calls to his aid the
merciful doctors of the early church (Justin Martyr, Jerome, the
Gregories, &c.) to support his hope in a merely limited future suffering.

We will now consider the meaning of some of the texts usually adduced in
support of this doctrine. Of these texts, there are some six or seven only
upon which much stress is laid; and of these the principal ones are as

1. Matt. 18:8, “Having two eyes, two hands,” &c., “to be cast into hell
fire,” or “into everlasting fire” (τὸ πῦρ τὸ αἰώνιον)—(τὴν γέεναν τοῦ

2. Matt. 25:46, “These shall go away into everlasting (eternal)
punishment, but the righteous into life eternal ”(κόλασιν αἰώνιον and ζωὴν
αἰώνιον). The same adjective is used in both places here, in the Greek;
but our translators have seen fit to render it “everlasting” in the first
place, and “eternal” in the second. There is no authority for such a
different translation. The word κόλασις, translated “punishment,” occurs
in one other place in the New Testament: this is (1 John 4:18), “Perfect
love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment.” In this last instance,
it is evident that the idea of punishment is not found, but only that of
suffering. In the LXX. (Ezek. 14:3, 4, 7) it is translated
“stumbling-block,” and means, says Schleusner (Lexicon in LXX.), “all that
is the source of misfortune or suffering.” Donnegan gives as its meaning,
“the act of clipping or pruning; _generally_, restriction, restraint,
reproof, check, chastisement; _lit. and met._, punishment.”

The true translation of the passage, then, is,—

“These shall go away into the sufferings or punishments of eternity; and
the righteous, into the life of eternity.”

The simple, direct, and natural meaning, therefore, of this passage is,
that, besides temporal joy and suffering, there are eternal joy and
suffering: besides the joys and sufferings which have their root in time
and in temporal things, there are joys and sufferings which have their
root in eternity and in eternal things. In the twenty-fifth chapter of
Matthew, the sufferings of eternity are described as following directly
upon judgment, and as being its natural consequence. The judgment on each
soul consists, according to this passage, in showing it its real
character. Both the good and the bad are represented as needing such a
judgment as this. Until the judgment takes place, men are described as
being ignorant of the true nature of their own past conduct. They do not
know their own good or their own evil: they do not understand themselves
as they really are. They have done good and bad actions, but have not
understood the value of those actions. They have not seen, that in every
deed of charity, in every act of humble benevolence, they were helping
Christ and his cause. They have not understood, that, by every selfish and
cruel deed, they were injuring their Master. But the judgment reveals all
this to them, and lifts them immediately out of temporal joy or pain into
eternal joy or pain. They rise out of temporal things into eternal things,
and the new insight is to them a source of spiritual joy or spiritual

In some instances, if αἰώνιος were translated “everlasting” or
“never-ending,” it would make such palpable nonsense, that our translators
have been obliged to give it an entirely different rendering. Thus (2 Tim.
1:9; Tit. 1:2) we have the phrase πρὸ κρόνων αἰώνιον; which would be,
literally, “before eternity,” or “before everlasting time began,”
according to the common rendering. They have, therefore, translated it
“before the world began.” In the same way (Matt. 24:3; 1 Cor. 10:11), they
are obliged to change their usual rendering, or they would have to say,
“So shall it be at the end of forever;” or, “The ends of eternity have

Mark 9:43-50, it is said that the “worm does not die” in Gehenna, and “the
fire is not quenched.” This, therefore, is thought to teach the doctrine
of never-ending punishment hereafter; but this was a proverbial
expression, taken from the book of Isaiah.

Chap. 66:24, the prophet says, that, in the times of the Messiah, all men
shall come, and worship in the presence of Jehovah; and shall then go out,
and look upon the dead bodies of the men who had transgressed against the
Lord; “for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched;
and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Our Saviour, therefore, is
not making an original doctrinal statement, but he is quoting from Isaiah.
Now, the passage in Isaiah refers, not to punishment of the soul
hereafter, but to the destruction of the bodies of transgressors in the
valley of Hinnom. The fire and the worms in that valley were not
everlasting in any strict sense. When Isaiah says, “Their worm shall not
die, nor their fire be quenched,” he expresses merely the utter
destruction which would fall upon them. The fire and the worms of the
valley of Hinnom have long since disappeared; but, while the fire lasted,
it was the emblem, to the Jews, of the destruction which was to fall upon
those who resisted the will of Jehovah. But it is not to be supposed that
the idea of eternity, which is not in the original image, should be added
in the figure. The fire and the worms were to last in the valley of Hinnom
as long as there were idolaters to be punished for their idolatry; and so
the spiritual suffering consequent upon sin lasts as long as sin lasts.
Sin is perpetual misery; conscience is a worm which never dies; bad
passions are a fire which is never extinguished. This is the simple and
natural meaning of this passage.

3. Matt. 26:24. In this passage, as it stands in our translation, Jesus
says concerning Judas, “Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is
betrayed! It were good for that man if he had never been born.” (Mark
14:21.) The argument is, that, if it were good for Judas not to have been
born, it must be impossible that he should ever repent and be saved;
because, if he should ever be saved, and his punishment should cease
(though at ever so remote a period), it would be better for him to have
been born than not to have been born; since there would remain an eternity
of happiness to be enjoyed afterwards. And if this be true of Judas, it
may be also true of others.

But, in reply to this argument, we say,—

1. The translation is doubtful. The literal translation is, “Woe to that
man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for him if that
man had never been born.” This is the literal rendering of the Greek; and
the apparent meaning seems to be, “that it had been good for the Son of
man if Judas had not been born.” Jesus seems to say that it is a great woe
to him, a great sorrow, to be betrayed by one of his own friends, by a
member of his own household. It would have been good for Jesus, if this
traitor, who was to wound his heart so deeply, had never existed.

2. But, retaining our present translation, the natural application of it
is to this life. It means simply this: The earthly life of this man is an
entire failure. His life is wholly thrown away. He had better never have
been in the world, than to stand, as he will to all time, a monument of
the basest treachery. The idea of the future life does not come it at all

On the whole, one must feel, in reading these books and tracts, that such
writers are more to be pitied than to be blamed. Confined in the
strait-jacket of an austere theology; steeped to the lips in Calvinism;
working painfully all his life in sectarian harness; with an angry heaven
over his head, and a ruined earth about his feet; his friends and
neighbors dropping into hell by thousands every year; never having had any
real sight of the blessed face of Jesus; having for them no hope full of
immortality, but, instead thereof, a tenor full of damnation,—even a
kindly nature and an affectionate heart must suffer, be dwarfed and

It is not an agreeable task to refute such errors; but believing them
equally destructive, in their tendency, to piety and morality,—corrupting
the Christian life at its centre, and weakening its chief source of
power,—we feel it a duty not to be avoided. Advancing age does not make us
conservative in regard to such doctrines. The longer we live, the more we
see of their evil tendency. When young, we shrank from attacking them,
fearing lest they might contain some truth beyond the range of our limited
experience. But, having come to see wherein the essence of Christian truth
lies in all varieties of pious experience, we know that this doctrine is
an excrescence, weakening always the vital power of the gospel. It rests
on custom, on cowardice, on the fear of change, not on any positive
insight or substantial knowledge. But, as Tertullian declared of another
doctrine defended by precedent, “Christ did not say, ‘I am the Custom,’
but, ‘I am the Truth.’ ”

The time will come in which the Christian Church will look back upon its
past belief in this doctrine as it looks back now on its former universal
belief in the duty of persecution, the primacy of the pope, or the
atonement made by Christ to Satan. It will regard it with the horror with
which it now regards its former universal conviction, that God was pleased
when his children burned each other alive for difference of opinion. We
now shudder when we hear of “AN ACT OF FAITH,” consisting in burning at
the stake ten or twenty Jews and Protestants. Our children will shudder
with a still more inward grief that we could make it _an act of faith_ to
believe that GOD burns millions of his own children in unquenchable fire
forever because they deny Calvin’s view of the atonement, or the Church
definition of the Trinity, or because of any possible amount of sin
committed in this world.


We now proceed to add some remarks upon a recent work by Dr. Thompson of
New York, a zealous and favorite disciple of the late Dr. Taylor of New
Haven. This book, the title of which is, “Love and Penalty,” consists of
nine lectures delivered in the Broadway Tabernacle.

With the contents of some of the chapters we have nothing to do. All the
arguments for retribution, derived from the nature of God, the nature of
man, the course of Providence, the demerit of sin, have for their object
to prove what all Christians fully believe. Unitarians and Universalists,
Theodore Parker and R. W. Emerson, teach retribution, present and future,
with a force which leaves little need of additional arguments from
Orthodoxy. They teach a perfect and inevitable retribution, proceeding
both from the truth and goodness of God, by means of which every man reaps
as he sows. Orthodoxy, they complain, teaches no such full and perfect
retribution. All that part of this volume, therefore, which is intended to
show the probability of retribution, is wasted, so far as any opposers are
concerned. In this part of his book, Dr. Thompson fights as one who beats
the air. He is very zealous to disprove that which no one asserts, to
prove that which no one denies, and to show the folly of a position which
no one assumes.

The confusion referred to runs through the whole book; and perhaps there
is no better illustration than this volume presents of that logical
fallacy which is called “the irrelevant conclusion.” This fallacy consists
in proving one thing, and making men think you have proved another. Dr.
Thompson’s hearers saw that he proved future retribution, and thought that
he proved eternal punishment. We do not suppose that he intended to
sophisticate them: the difficulty seems rather to be, that he has
sophisticated himself. The _ignoratio elenchi_ is in his own mind. He
thinks, because he sees penalty, that he has seen vengeance; that, because
he has established retribution, he has demonstrated everlasting

A reasoner has, no doubt, a perfect right to try to prove two distinct and
independent propositions; but he must keep them distinct and independent,
and not pretend to be proving one when he is proving the other. He has
also a perfect right, if he desires to establish one proposition, to prove
another, as the first step towards it; but he has no right to assume or
imply that he has made out one of his points, when he has only shown the
probability of the other.

Now, our author (p. 19) declares that he has one object; viz., to show the
truth of the doctrine of everlasting punishment. He says, “It will be the
aim of this series of lectures to show that _the doctrine of the eternal
punishment of the wicked is in entire harmony with the paternal character
of God_.” He then proceeds to give the substance of his argument, under
eight heads. Six of these only prove future retribution, and only two of
them have any direct bearing upon the main question. Yet, through all of
them, there runs a quiet assumption, that they are bearing directly on the
main question. This is the radical sophism of the whole volume. We may see
this more plainly by analyzing some of his chapters.

His first position is this, in Lecture I.: “Our own nature, which is
appealed to as refusing to recognize the attribute of punitive justice in
a God of love, in fact demands this attribute, as essential to the moral
perfection of the Deity—an attribute without which he could not command
the confidence and homage of his intelligent creatures.”

Before attempting to demonstrate any theorem, it is important to define
its terms. An accurate definition at first of what we wish to prove would
often make a long discussion unnecessary. What is meant by the “_attribute
of punitive justice_”? Does it mean that God’s nature is such that he
causes happiness to flow from goodness, and suffering from wickedness, in
the constitution of the universe? If this is meant, Dr. Thompson will find
no one to oppose him; for all this can take place in perfect accordance
with divine love to the sinner himself. What he _needs_ is suffering: this
is the way by which he is to be cured of that sin which is a greater evil
than suffering. Or does the author mean, by “punitive justice,” some
attribute of the divine nature which finds pleasure in punishing the
sinner, without regard to any good which is to come from it, either to him
or to any one else? Apparently, this last is what he means; for he goes on
to quote from Pagan authorities and Pagan religions, to show that
conscience in man requires that the wicked should be punished, without any
regard to any good to result from it. But these authorities only show,
that, in the one-sided action of man’s nature, the sense of justice acts
independently of love. What Dr. Thompson has undertaken to show is, that
it can act in God in harmony with love. In man, conscience produces hatred
of sin, without regard to the good of the sinner; but the divine
conscience acts in no such one-sided way. “Mercy and truth meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.” The law is vindicated and the
sinner benefited at the same moment.

The atonement of Christ, objectively considered, consisted exactly in
this, that he showed a perfect reconciliation, in his own life, of God’s
hatred to sin, and love to the sinner. No one was ever so averse from sin,
no one was ever so in sympathy with the sinner, as Jesus. The power of his
life, death, and higher life, lay in this union of holiness and love. This
was the objective atonement in Christ, and in this he was God manifest in
the flesh. He who has seen him has seen the Father. The Christianized
conscience, following Christ, pities the sinner, while it abhors the sin.
Christian legislation lays aside the vindictive tendencies of natural law,
and seeks at the same time to destroy evil, to protect society, and to
reform the criminal. From this gospel view our author remands us to
Paganism, and to the dicta of the natural conscience in unregenerate man.
These testimonies only show, that conscience, in its unregenerate state,
demands that the sinner be punished, and does not care whether that
punishment does him good or harm, makes him better or worse. But
conscience, when Christianized, does care: it wishes to save the sinner,
while it punishes the sin. As far as the natural conscience goes, it
speaks truly in saying that evil should follow sin. But why it should
follow it, and what shall be the result, it does not say. That was left to
Christ to reveal.

Dr. Thompson himself bears witness, unconsciously, to the truth of this
distinction. Along with his testimonies from the Heathen conscience, he
gives us two testimonies from the Christian conscience. The one is his own
feelings on seeing a woman carried to the Tombs. He says he felt sympathy
for her, and would fain have saved her from that shame, while he wished
her crime to be punished. The other is the testimony of Dr. Bushnell, that
the “necessary reason” why wicked people, remaining wicked, should not be
in heaven, is, that it would destroy the happiness of heaven. These two
Christians, therefore, have consciences which do not testify to punishment
proceeding from naked, arbitrary, and vindictive law, such as the Pagan
conscience accepts, but punishment having a reasonable end, a benevolent
purpose, and accompanied with sympathy for the sinner.

Another position of Dr. Thompson is, however, so extraordinary, that it
needs more consideration. His fifth proposition is this: “_The high and
sacred Fatherhood which the gospel reveals is a Fatherhood in Christ
towards those who love him, and not a general Fatherhood of indiscriminate
love and blessing for the race._”

A certain want of logical clearness in our author’s mind appears in the
very statement of this proposition. He joins together a positive and a
negative, which have no antithetical relation. We entirely agree with him,
that the Fatherhood of God is _not_ one of _indiscriminate_ love and
blessing for the race; but we utterly reject the proposition, that the
Fatherhood which Christ reveals is only one towards those who love him.
The apostle John tells us that “we love him because he first loved us.”
And again: “Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us,
and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The doctrine of the
apostle is exactly opposite to that of Dr. Thompson. The modern divine
teaches that God only loves those who first love him; but the ancient
divine teaches that only by God’s loving us first do we come to love him.
Nor is this doctrine peculiar to John. It is a fundamental truth of the
New Testament, that God’s fatherly love, manifested to the soul, creates
an answering love, and that nothing else can create it. Jesus said of the
woman, “She loved much; but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth
little.” God’s forgiving love comes first, and creates a grateful love in
return. And again we read (John 3:16), “God so loved the world, that he
gave his only-begotten Son.” He therefore loved the world while it was
still alienated from him. And again we are told by the Saviour (Matt.
5:44) to “love our enemies, that we may be the children of our Father in
heaven,” who loves his enemies.

Possibly our friend may say, “Yes, God loves the sinner; but he does not
love him with a _fatherly_ love, but only with a general love.” Perhaps a
copy of the New Testament may be used in the Tabernacle Church, New York,
which does not contain the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Only on some such
supposition can we account for this assertion of Dr. Thompson, that “the
high and sacred Fatherhood which the gospel reveals is a Fatherhood in
Christ towards those who love him.” Is that “_high and sacred Fatherhood
of God_” revealed anywhere more fully and plainly than in this parable?
and does it not teach expressly that the father loved the son, while he
was absent, as a son? Is not his joy at the return of his son the evidence
of that love which clung to him while he was away? Even after the son
returned, he had not begun to love his father as a son: he did not think
he had any right to do so. He did not expect that his father would love
him again: he only expected to be as a servant. It is evidently, then,
utterly false to say that God’s Fatherhood, revealed in the gospel, is
only a Fatherhood towards those who love him: it is a Fatherhood to those
who hate him and to those who fear him. His love creates theirs, and is
not created by it. Such a doctrine as this of Dr. Thompson, if generally
believed, would sap the foundations of Christian life, and turn the gospel
of reconciling grace into a cold system of retribution.

As a proof of this melancholy opinion,—an opinion which takes the life out
of the gospel,—the author relies chiefly on that passage in which Jesus
says to the Jews that they were of their father the devil. (John 8:44.)
From this he argues that they had no right to regard God as Father, and
that no one has that right except pious believers in Christ. But was not
God at that very moment their Father, in the same way that the father of
the prodigal son was his father while he was yet in the far country? The
prodigal son could not see his father’s love: while absent from him, he
could not tell how much his father loved him. Only when he returned, and
came back to his father’s house, could he behold that blessed countenance
and feel that pardoning love. But none the less did his father love him
during all that absence; none the less did he desire his return.

When Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews, “Ye are of your father the
devil,” was he describing God’s state of mind, or their state of mind? Did
he mean that God was alienated from them, or that they were alienated from
God? He evidently meant to say that they were in a _devilish_ state of
mind; that in their character and feelings they partook of the spirit of
the devil, and not of the spirit of God. He was describing their position
in relation to God, not God’s position in relation to them. The text,
therefore, appears to have no direct bearing on the subject. It teaches,
indeed, that they could have no truly filial feeling towards God; but it
does not show that he might not have a truly parental feeling towards
them. If they could not truly say, “Abba, Father,” he could say, “My son,
give me thy heart.”

We dwell on this because our author seems to us to have assumed a position
injurious, if not fatal, to the most vital force of the gospel. That which
subdues and converts the heart, and makes all things new in the soul, is
not to be told, that God will be our Father when we love him, but that he
is our Father now. “Herein is love; not that we loved God, but that he
loved us.” “God commends his love toward us, that, _while we were
sinners_, Christ died for us.” But why multiply quotations to prove that
which is written on the face of the gospel, and to which all Christian
experience bears testimony? It is God’s love to us, descending in Christ,
while we are estranged and far off, which draws up our affection to him:
it is not our love which takes the initiative, and draws his down.

The sixth position argues future retribution from the demerit of sin, and
asserts that “no punishment equal to the demerit of sin is, or can be,
inflicted in the present life.”

The boldness of this proposition is only equalled by the poverty of the
reasoning by which it is supported. To assert that it is not in the power
of God adequately to punish sin in this world, is to profess a knowledge
of the resources of Omnipotence, and an acquaintance with the deserts of
man, which it seems to us presumptuous to claim. On this point it is not
necessary to enlarge. An _a priori_ argument to prove that God cannot
punish sin in this life as much as it deserves to be punished, can carry
conviction to no mind which possesses any intellectual humility.

The seventh position declares that “there is no conceivable mode and no
revealed promise by which the Fatherhood of God can make one, dying in
impenitence and unbelief, holy and blessed in the future world.”

This is, of course, the very key-stone of the argument in support of the
doctrine of everlasting punishment. The burden of proof rests upon those
who assert that doctrine. It is not enough that Scripture does not
expressly declare that there is an opportunity in the other life for
repentance and pardon; for Scripture is dealing with us in this life, and
has no occasion to say much of the opportunities of the other. Those who
wish to prove that there is no opportunity hereafter must show some text
which expressly declares it. No such text is produced, and there is no
such text in the Bible. If Jesus had said, “You must repent in this life,
for after death there will be no opportunity;” or, “At death, man’s
spiritual condition is finally determined;” or, “After this life, man
cannot turn from evil to good,”—we should have some distinct proof of the
doctrine. But now we have none.

The Parable of Dives and Lazarus is referred to more than once by our
author in support of his position. It is sufficient to say in regard to
this, that the most Orthodox commentators, provided they are scholars,
expressly deny that this refers to the doctrine of everlasting punishment.
Olshausen, for instance, says, “Rightly to understand the whole
delineation, we must, above all, keep clearly in view, that it is not
everlasting salvation or condemnation which is here described, but the
middle state of departed souls, between death and the resurrection.” “In
our parable, there is no possible reference to the everlasting
condemnation of the rich man, inasmuch as the germ of love, and of faith
in love, is clearly expressed in his words.” The word translated “hell” in
this parable is not Gehenna, but Hades.

Our author says, and says justly, that we can form no opinion as to
another probation hereafter from _a priori_ reasoning, but that the
question must be answered only from Scripture. Having said this, he
immediately proceeds to argue it, _a priori_, stating that there are only
three conceivable modes by which those dying impenitent can be saved; and
then tries to show that neither is possible. After this, he quotes a few
passages bearing only indirectly, and by inference, upon the question. The
Parable of the Ten Virgins is one of these, because in it it is said, “The
door is shut;” and, “Depart! I know you not.” With regard to this parable,
also, Olshausen says that “the words ‘I know you not’ cannot denote
eternal condemnation;” that the foolish virgins were “saved, but not
sanctified;” and that the parable does not distinguish between the
penitent and the impenitent, but between the penitent believers who watch
and those who do not watch.

Of course, we have not been able to notice all the arguments of this book,
or all the texts referred to; but we have perhaps said enough to show that
its positions are not all tenable, and that its arguments are not
absolutely unanswerable. This book of Dr. Thompson, though able, cannot be
called conclusive.

§ 5. Defence of the Trinity, by Frederick D. Huntington, D. D.

The last section of this Appendix shall be devoted to an examination and
criticism of Dr. Huntington’s sermon, printed some time since, in defence
of the Trinity. The course of our argument will be as follows. We shall
give the reasons which have induced Unitarians to reject the Church
doctrine of the Trinity; also examining Dr. Huntington’s positions and
arguments in its support.

The principal reasons, then, for rejecting the Church doctrine of the
Trinity, as assigned by Unitarians, are these:—

1. That it is nowhere taught in the New Testament.

2. That every statement of the Trinity, which has ever been made, has been
either, (1.) Self-contradictory; (2.) Unintelligible; (3.) Tritheistic;
or, (4.) Unitarian, in the form of Sabellianism, or of Arianism.

3. That the arguments for it are inadequate.

4. That the arguments against it are overwhelming.

5. That the good ascribed to it does not belong to it, but to the truths
which underlie it.

6. That great evils to the Church come from it.

7. That it is a doctrine of philosophy, and not of faith.

8. That we can trace its gradual historic formation in the Christian

9. That it is opposed to a belief in the real divinity of Christ, and to a
belief in his real humanity; thus undermining continually the faith of the
Church in the divine humanity of Christ Jesus the Lord.


Proceeding, then, to an examination of these reasons, we say,—

I. The Church doctrine of the Trinity is nowhere stated in the New

To prove this, as it is a negative proposition, would require us to go
through the whole New Testament. But we are saved this necessity by the
fact that we have a statement on this point from one of Dr. Huntington’s
own witnesses, and one on whom he mainly relies. He brings forward
Neander, the great Church historian, as a believer in the Trinity (p.
361), and again (p. 378), by an error which he has since candidly
admitted, quotes him as saying, “It is the fundamental article of the
Christian faith,”—which is just what he denies in the following passage.
We call Neander to the stand, however, _now_, to have his unimpeachable
testimony as a Trinitarian (and a Trinitarian claimed by Dr. Huntington
with pride) to the fact, that the doctrine of the Trinity is nowhere
stated in the New Testament. This is what Neander says of the Trinity, in
the first volume of his great work on Church History (p. 572, Torrey’s

    “We now proceed to the doctrine in which Theism, taken in its
    connection with the proper and fundamental essence of
    Christianity, or with the doctrine of redemption, finds its
    ultimate completion—_the doctrine of the Trinity_. This doctrine
    does not strictly belong to the fundamental articles of the
    Christian faith, as appears sufficiently evident from the fact,
    that it _is expressly held forth in no one particular passage of
    the New Testament_; for the only one in which it is done, the
    passage relating to the three that, bear record (1 John 5:7), is
    undoubtedly spurious, and in its ungenuine shape, testifies to the
    fact, how foreign such a collocation is from the style of the New
    Testament Scriptures. We find in the New Testament no other
    fundamental article than that of which the apostle Paul says, that
    other foundation can no man lay than that is laid—the annunciation
    of Jesus as the Messiah.”

With this authority we might be content. But Dr. Huntington differs from
Neander in thinking that Jesus has himself stated the doctrine of the
Trinity, and stated it clearly and fully, in the baptismal formula. (Matt.
28:19.) He says that this is “a clear and full declaration of the
fundamental article of Christian belief.” He says, “Now, if ever, Christ
will distinctly proclaim the doctrine of Christendom;” and he then
declares that Christ, in this passage, told his Church to baptize “in the
Triune name.”(90)

Not in the Tri_une_ name, certainly. This is an assumption of our friend.
He may think that this is implied; that this is to be inferred; that this
is what Christ meant; but certainly it is not what Christ said. Christ
gives us here _three_ objects of baptism, no doubt; but he does not say
that they are one. How far this baptismal formula is “a clear and full
declaration” of the doctrine of the Trinity will appear thus. The doctrine
of the Trinity declares,—

1. That the Father is God.

2. That the Son is God.

3. That the Holy Ghost is God.

4. That the Holy Ghost is a person, like the Father and the Son.

5. That these three persons constitute one God.

Of these five propositions, all of which are essential to the doctrine of
the Trinity, _not one is stated in the baptismal formula_. Christ here
says _nothing_ about the deity of the Father, the Son, or the Holy Ghost;
_nothing_ about the personality of either of them; and _nothing_ about
their unity: It is difficult to conceive, therefore, how Dr. Huntington
can bring himself to call this a command to baptize in the Triune name.

Dr. Huntington adds, “Our faith is summoned to the three persons, of the
one God.” But nothing is said of three _persons_; nothing is said of their
being one God.

He says, “No hint is given that there is any difference of nature,
dignity, duration, power, or glory, between them.”

We admit it, but also say, that no hint is given of any _equality_ of
nature, dignity, duration, power, or glory, between them. Which way, then,
is the argument? Christ does not state, on the one hand, that the three
are unequal or different: he does not state, on the other hand, that they
are equal and the same. The inference of proof from this fact seems to us
to be this: If the apostles, when Christ spoke to them, were already full
believers in the church doctrine of the Trinity, the fact that Christ did
not deny it would be an argument in its favor; but if the apostles were,
at that time, wholly ignorant of the Trinity, then the fact, that he did
not assert it distinctly, at least shows that he did not mean to teach it
at that time. That inference appears to us a very modest one. But Dr.
Huntington will admit that they did not know the doctrine; for he tells us
that it was the purpose of Christ to teach it to them at that time. To
which we can only reply, If he meant to teach the doctrine, why did he not
teach it?

That the _word_ TRINITY is not to be found in the New Testament, and that
it was invented by Tertullian, is a matter of little consequence; but that
the doctrine itself should be nowhere stated in the New Testament we
conceive to be a matter of very great consequence. We have seen that Dr.
Huntington’s attempt to show that it _is_ stated in the baptismal formula
is a failure. If not stated there, we presume that he will not maintain
that it is stated anywhere. We therefore agree with Neander in saying,
that, whether the doctrine be true or not, it is not taught distinctly in
the New Testament. If taught at all, it is only taught inferentially; that
is, it is a matter of reasoning, not a matter of faith. It is metaphysics:
it is not religion.

II. The second reason why Unitarians reject the Church doctrine of the
Trinity is this:—

That every statement of the Trinity has proved, on examination, to be
either, (1.) A contradiction in terms; or, (2.) Unintelligible; or, (3.)
Tritheistic; or, (4.) Unitarianism under a Trinitarian form.

Let us examine this objection. What is the general statement of the
Trinity, as made by the Orthodox Church, Catholic and Protestant?
Fortunately, this question is easily answered.

Orthodoxy has been consistent since the middle ages in its general
statement, however much it may have varied in its explanations of what it
meant by that statement.

The doctrine of the Trinity, as it stands in the creeds of the churches,
is this:—

There is in the nature of God three persons,—the Father, the Son, and the
Holy Ghost,—and these three are one being. They are the same in substance,
equal in power and glory. Each of these three persons is very God,
infinite in all attributes; and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.

According to the general doctrine of Orthodoxy, the unity of God is in
being, essence, and substance; that is, God is one being, God is one
essence, God is one substance. The threefold division stops short of the
being of God: it does not penetrate to his essential nature: it does not
divide his substance.

What, then, is the Trinity? It is a Trinity of persons.

But what is meant by “person,” as used in this doctrine? According to the
common and familiar use of the word at the present time, three persons are
three beings. Personality expresses the most individual existence
imaginable. If, therefore, the word “person” is to be taken according to
the common use of the phrase, the doctrine of the Trinity would be
evidently a contradiction in terms. It would be equivalent to saying, God
is one being, but God is three beings; which again would be equivalent to
saying that one is three.

Now, Trinitarians generally are too acute and clear-sighted to fall into
such a palpable contradiction as this. It is a common accusation against
them, that they believe one to be three, and three one; but this charge
is, in most cases, unjust. This would be only true in case they affirmed
that God is three in the same way in which he is one; but they do not
usually say this. They declare that he is one being,—not three beings.
They declare that the threefold distinction relates to personality, not to
being, and that they use the word “person,” not in the common sense, but
in a peculiar sense, to express, as well as they can, a distinction,
which, from the poverty of language, no word can be found to express
exactly. Thus St. Augustine confessed, long ago, “We say that there are
three persons, not in order to say anything, but in order not to be wholly
silent.” _Non ut aliquid diceretur, sed ut ne taceretur._ And so
Archbishop Whately, in the notes to his Logic, regrets that the word
“person” should ever have been used by our divines; and says, “If
_hypostasis_, or any other completely foreign word, had been used instead,
no idea at all would have been conveyed, except that of the explanation
given; and thus the danger, at least, of being misled by a word, would
have been avoided.”

(1.) _The Unintelligible Statement._

The Trinitarian thus avoids asking us to believe a contradiction; but, in
avoiding this, he runs upon another rock—that, namely, of not asking us to
believe anything at all; for if “person” here does _not_ mean what it
commonly means, and if it be impossible, from the poverty of language, to
define precisely the idea which is intended by it, we are then asked to
believe a proposition which Trinitarians themselves are unable to express.
But a proposition which is not expressed is no proposition. A proposition,
any important term of which is unintelligible, is wholly unintelligible.

To make this matter clear, let us put it into a conversational form. We
will suppose that two persons meet together,—one a Unitarian, the other a

_Trinitarian._ You do not believe the Trinity? Then you cannot be saved.
No one can be saved who denies the Trinity. It is a vital and fundamental

_Unitarian._ Tell me what it is, and I will see if I can believe it. What
is the Trinity?

_Trin._ God exists as one being, but three persons.

_Unit._ What do you mean by “person”? Do you mean a person like Peter,
James, or John?

_Trin._ No; we use “person” from the poverty of language. We do not mean

_Unit._ What, then, do you mean by it?

_Trin._ It is a mystery. We cannot understand it precisely.

_Unit._ I have no objection to the doctrine being mysterious; I believe a
great many things which are mysterious; but I don’t want the _language_ to
be mysterious. You might as well use a Greek, or a Hebrew, or a Chinese
word, and ask me to believe that there are three _hypostases_ or three
_prosopa_ in Deity, if you do not tell me what you mean by the word

_Trin._ It is a great mystery. It is a matter of _faith_, not of
_reasoning_. You must believe it, and not speculate about it.

_Unit._ Believe _it_? Believe _what_? I am waiting for you to tell me what
I am to believe. I am ready to exercise my faith; but you are tasking, not
my faith, but my knowledge of language. I suppose that you do not wish me
to believe _words_, but thoughts. I wish to look through the word, and see
what thought lies behind it.

Now, it seems to us that this is a very fair demand of the Unitarian. To
ask us to believe a proposition, any important term of which is
unintelligible, is precisely equivalent to asking us to believe no
proposition at all. Let us listen to Paul: “Even things without life,
giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the
sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For, if the trumpet
give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle? So likewise
ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall
it be known what is spoken? _for ye shall speak into the air_.... For, if
I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a
barbarian; and he that speaketh, a barbarian unto me.”

It is of no use to talk about mystery in order to excuse ourselves for not
using intelligible language. That which is _mysterious_ is one thing; that
which is _unintelligible_ is quite another thing. We may understand what a
mystery is, though we cannot comprehend _how_ it is; but that which is
unintelligible we neither comprehend nor understand at all. We neither
know _how_ it is, nor _what_ it is. Thus, for example, the fact of God’s
foreknowledge and man’s freedom is a mystery. I cannot comprehend how God
can foreknow what I am to do to-morrow, and yet I be free to do it or not
to do it. I cannot comprehend how Jesus should be delivered to death by
the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, and yet the Jews have
been free agents in crucifying him and accountable for it. These things
are mysteries; but they are not unintelligible as doctrines. I see what is
meant by them. There is no obscurity in the assertion that God foreknows
everything, nor in the other assertion that man is a free agent. I can see
clearly what is implied _in both statements_, although my mind cannot
grasp both, and bring them together, and show the way in which they may be
reconciled. So, too, infinity is a mystery. We cannot comprehend it. Our
mind cannot go round it, grasp it, sustain it. Our thought sinks baffled
before the attempt to penetrate to the depth of such a wonderful idea. But
we understand well enough what is meant by infinity. There is nothing
obscure in _the statement_ of the fact, that the universe is unbounded. So
the way in which a flower grows from its seed is mysterious. We cannot
comprehend how the wonderful principle of life can be wrapped up in those
little folds, and how it can cause the root to strike downward, and the
airy stalk to spring lightly upward, and the leaves to unfold, and, last
of all, the bright, consummate flower to open its many-colored eye. But
certainly we can understand very well _the statement_ that a flower grows,
though we do not comprehend how it grows.

Do not, then, tell us, when you have announced a doctrine, the language of
which is unintelligible, that you have told us a mystery. You have done no
such thing. Your proposition is not mysterious: it is unintelligible. It
is not a mystery: it is only a mystification.

(2.) _The Tritheistic Statement._

Leaving, then, this ground of mystery, and attempting to define move
clearly what he means by three persons and one substance, the Trinitarian
often sinks the Unity in the Triplicity, and so runs ashore upon
Tritheism. This happens when he explains the term “person” as implying
independent existence; in which case the Unity is changed into Union. Then
we have really three Gods: the FATHER, who devises the plan of redemption;
the SON, who goes forth to execute it; and the HOLY SPIRIT, who sanctifies
believers. If there are these three distinct beings, they can be called
one God only as they are one in will, in aim, in purpose,—only as they
agree perfectly on all points. The Unity of God, then, becomes only a
unity of agreement, not a unity of being. This is evidently not the Unity
which is taught in the Bible, where Jesus declares that the _first of all
the commandments is_, “Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is ONE Lord.”

Moreover, against such a Trinity as this there are insuperable objections,
from grounds of reason as well as of Scripture. For God is the Supreme
Being, the Most High; and how can there be _three_ Supreme Beings, three
Most High Gods? Again: God is the First Cause; but if the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost are each God, and all equal in power and majesty, and
have each an independent existence, then there are three first causes;
which is evidently impossible. Again: one of the attributes of God is his
independent or absolute existence. A being who depends on another cannot
be the Supreme God. The Father, Son, and Spirit, therefore, cannot depend
on each other; for each, by depending on another, would cease to be the
independent God. But, if they do not depend on each other, then each
ceases to be God, who is the First Cause; for that being is not the First
Cause who has two other beings independent of him. Other arguments of the
same kind might be adduced to show that there cannot be three necessary
beings. In fact, all the arguments from reason, which go to prove the
Unity of God, prove a unity of nature, not of agreement.

“But why argue against Tritheism?” you may say. “Are any Tritheists?” Yes:
many Trinitarians are in reality Tritheists, by their own account of
themselves. There are many who make the _Unity_ of God a mere unity of
agreement, and talk about the society in the Godhead, and the
_intercourse_ between the Father, Son, and Spirit.(91)

Opposed to this kind of Trinity is another view, in which the Unity is
preserved, but the Trinity lost. According to this view, God is one Being,
who reveals himself in three ways,—as Father, as Son, as Spirit,—or
sustains three relations, or manifests himself in three modes of
operation. The Trinity here becomes a nominal thing, and is, in reality,
only Unitarianism with an Orthodox name. This kind of Trinity also is very
prevalent, and is the one really maintained by men of high standing in the
Orthodox Church, both in Europe and America. According to this view, the
word “person” in the doctrine of the Trinity means the same as the
corresponding word in Greek and Latin formerly meant; namely, the outward
character, not the inward individuality. Thus Cicero says, “I, being one,
sustain three persons or characters; my own, that of my client, and that
of the judge”—_Ego unus, sustineo tres personas_.

This view of the Trinity is commonly called Modalism, or Sabellianism, and
is also widely held by those who call themselves Trinitarians. It is, in
fact, only Unitarianism under a Trinitarian name.(92)

(3.) _The Subordination View._

Avoiding these two extremes, and yet wishing to retain a distinct idea of
Unity and Tri-personality, the Trinitarian is necessarily driven upon a
third view, in which the Father is the only really Supreme and Independent
Being, the Son and the Holy Spirit subordinate and dependent.

This view, which is called the subordination scheme, or Arianism, is
Unitarianism again in another form; and this view also is entertained by
many who still retain the name of “Trinitarians.” According to this view,
the Son and the Holy Ghost are really God, but are so by a derived
divinity. God the Father communicates his divinity to the Son and the Holy
Ghost. This is the view really taken in the Nicene Creed, though adopted
in opposition to the Arians, and was the doctrine of the earliest Church
Fathers before the Arian controversy began. In the Nicene Creed, we read
that the Son is “God of (ἐκ) God, Light of (ἐκ) Light, true God of true
God;” the “_of_” here being the same as “from,” and denoting origin and

This doctrine seems, in reality, to have less in its favor than either of
the others. By calling the Son and Holy Spirit God, it contrives to make
three distinct Gods, and so is Tritheism; and yet, by making them
dependent on the Father, it becomes Unitarianism again. Thus, singularly
enough, this attempt at making a compromise between Unity and Trinity
loses both Unity and Trinity; for it makes three Gods, and so loses the
Unity; and yet it makes Christ not “God over all,” not the Supreme Being,
and so loses the Trinity.

Between these different views, between Tritheism, Sabellianism, and
Arianism, the Orthodox Trinity has always swung to and fro,—inclining more
to one or to the other according to the state of controversy in any
particular age. When the Arian or Tritheistic views were proclaimed and
defended, the Orthodoxy of the Church swung over towards Sabellianism,
making the Unity strong and solid; and the Trinity became a thin mode or
an airy abstraction. When Sabellianism, thus encouraged, came openly
forward, and defended its system and won adherents, then Church Orthodoxy
would hasten to set up barriers on that side, and would fall back upon
Tritheistic ground, making the Threefold Personality a profound and real
distinction, penetrating the very nature of Deity, and changing the Unity
of Being into a mere Unity of Will or agreement. We will venture to say,
that there has never yet been a definition of the Trinity which has not
been either Tritheistic or Modalistic; and Church Orthodoxy has always
stood either on Tritheistic or on Sabellian ground. In other words, the
Orthodox Trinity of any age, when searched to the bottom, has proved to be
Unitarianism, after all—Unitarianism in the Tritheistic or in the
Sabellian disguise; for the Tritheism of three coequal, independent, and
absolute Gods, is too much opposed both to reason and Scripture to be able
ever to maintain itself openly as a theology for any length of time.

The analogies which are used to explain the Trinity are all either
Sabellian or Tritheistic. Nature has been searched in all ages for these
analogies, by which to make the Trinity plain; but none have ever been
found which did not make the Trinity either Sabellianism or Tritheism.
They are either three parts of the substance, or else three qualities or
modes of the substance.

Thus we have instances in which the three are made the three parts of one
being, or substance; as in _man_,—spirit, soul, body; thought, affection,
will; head, heart, hand.

One Being with three distinct faculties is Tritheism: one Being acting in
three directions is Sabellianism.

Time is past, present, and future. Syllogism has its major, minor, and
conclusion. There are other like analogies.

St. Patrick took for his illustration the three leaves of trefoil, or
clover. Others have imagined the Trinity like a triangle; or they have
referred to the three qualities of space,—height, breadth, width; or of
fire,—form, light, and heat; or of a noun, which has its masculine,
feminine, and neuter; or of a government, consisting of king, lords, and
commons; or of executive, legislative, and judiciary.

This survey of Church Trinity shows that it is either one in which,—

1. The persons are not defined; or an unintelligible Trinity.

2. Or which defines person and Unity in the usual sense; or a
contradictory Trinity.

3. Or which defines person as usual, and the Unity as only Union; or

4. Or which defines person as only manifestation; or Sabellianism.

These four are all the views ever hitherto given, and are all untenable.
We might stop here, and say that the Trinity is utterly unsupported. There
is no need of going to the Scripture to see if it is taught there; for we
have, as yet, nothing to look for in Scripture.

The Trinitarian’s difficulty appears to be in defining person. But
possibly he may say, “I cannot, indeed, give a positive idea of person;
but I can give a _negative_ one. I cannot say what it _is_; but I can say
what it is _not_. It is _not_ a mere _mode_ on the one hand; and not
_being_, on the other. We must neither confound the persons nor divide the

We will, then, go further, and say, as Trinitarians have never yet defined
person, without making it either a mode or a being, so they never can
define it otherwise. There is no third between being and mode. They _must_
either confound the persons or divide the substance.

Again: that which differences one person in the Deity from another must be
either a perfection or an imperfection. There is nothing between these.
But it cannot be an imperfection; for no imperfection exists in God: and
it cannot be a perfection; for then the other two persons would want a
divine perfection, and would be imperfect.

III. The arguments in support of the Trinity are wholly inadequate. Since,
according to Neander, the Trinity is not stated in the New Testament, it
follows that it is a doctrine of _inference_ only; that is, a piece of
human reasoning. Now, we have, no doubt, a perfect right to infer
doctrines from Scripture which are not stated there; but, as Protestants,
we have no right to make these inferences fundamental, or essential to the
religious life. They may, indeed, be metaphysically essential; that is,
essential to a well-arranged system; but they are not morally essential;
that is, not essential to the moral and spiritual life of the soul.

But this is just what Dr. Huntington attempts to do. He tries to show that
there is a doctrine essential to the life, peace, and progress of man,
which the New Testament has omitted to state; which is neither distinctly
stated by our Saviour nor by any of his apostles; which has been left to
be inferred, and inferred by the mere processes of unaided human reason.

What arguments does he allege for this?

His first and principal argument is the _universal belief of the Christian
Church in the doctrine of the Trinity_.

On this Dr. Huntington lays great stress. He says,—

“Truth is not determined by majorities; and yet it would be contrary to
the laws of our constitution not to be affected by a testimony so vast,
uniform, and sacred as that which is rendered by the common belief of
Christian history and the Christian countries to the truth of the Trinity.
There is something extremely painful, not to say irreverent, towards the
Providence which has watched and led the true Christian Israel, in
presuming that a tenet so emphatically and gladly received in all the ages
and regions of Christendom, as almost literally to meet the terms of the
test of Vincentius,—believed always, everywhere, and by all,—is unfounded
in revelation and truth. Such a conclusion puts an aspect of uncertainty
over the mind of the Church, scarcely consistent with any tolerable
confidence in that great promise of the Master, that he would be with his
own all days.” (p. 359.)

To which we answer,—

(1.) That, according to Dr. Bushnell (Dr. Huntington’s own witness), there
never has been, nor is now, any such belief in the doctrine of the Trinity
as he asserts. The largest part of the Church have always “divided the
substance” of the deity, and another large portion have “confounded the
persons;” and so the majority of the Church, while holding the word
“Trinity,” have never believed in the Triunity at all.

Dr. Huntington summons Dr. Bushnell as a witness to the practical value of
the Trinity; and we may suppose something such an examination as this to
take place:—

_Dr. Huntington._ Tell us, Dr. Bushnell, what instances you know of
persons who have been converted or deeply blessed by the holy doctrine of
the Trinity.

_Dr. Bushnell._ I have known of “a great cloud of witnesses,” “living
myriads,” “who have been raised to a participation of God in the faith of
this adorable mystery,” (Huntington, p. 413.)

_Dr. H._ Mention some of them.

_Dr. B._ “Francis Junius,” “two centuries and a half ago,”—a professor “at
Heidelberg (Leyden?), testified that he was, in fact, converted from
atheism by the Christian Trinity;” also “the mild and sober Howe;” “Jeremy
Taylor;” also “the Marquis de Rentz;” “Edwards,” and “Lady Maxwell.”
(Huntington, p. 414.)

_Unitarian._ Say, Dr. Bushnell, whether, in your opinion, the majority of
Christians really believe in the Church doctrine of the Trinity.

_Dr. B._ “A very large portion of the Christian teachers, together with
the general mass of disciples, undoubtedly hold three living persons in
the interior nature of God.” (Bushnell: “God in Christ,” p. 130.)

_Unit._ Is that scriptural or Orthodox?

_Dr. B._ No. It is only “a social Unity.” It is “a celestial
Tritheocracy.” It “boldly renounces Orthodoxy at the point opposite to
Unitarianism.” (Bushnell: “God in Christ,” p. 131.)

_Unit._ Do I understand you to be now speaking of the properly Orthodox
ministers and churches generally?

_Dr. B._ “Our properly Orthodox teachers and churches, while professing
three persons, also retain the verbal profession of one person. They
suppose themselves really to hold that God is one person; and yet they
most certainly do not: they only confuse their understanding, and call
their confusion faith. This I affirm on the ground of sufficient evidence;
partly because it cannot be otherwise, and partly because it visibly is
not.” (_Ibid._ p. 131.)

_Unit._ Do you believe, Dr. Bushnell, that spiritual good can come from
such a belief in the Trinity as you describe to be “undoubtedly” that of
“the general mass of disciples”?

_Dr. B._ “Mournful evidence will be found that a confused and painfully
bewildered state is often produced by it. They are practically at work in
their thoughts to choose between the three, sometimes actually and
decidedly preferring one to another; doubting how to adjust their mind in
worship; uncertain, after, which of the three to obey; turning away,
possibly, from one with a feeling of dread that might well be called
aversion; devoting themselves to another, as the Romanist to his patron
saint. This, in fact, is Polytheism, and not the clear, simple love of
God. There is true love in it, doubtless; but the comfort of love is not
here. The mind is involved in a dismal confusion, which we cannot think of
without the sincerest pity. No soul can truly rest in God, when God is in
two or three, and these in such a sense that a choice between them must be
continually suggested.” (_Ibid._ p. 134.)

_Unit._ This state of mind is undoubtedly that of the general mass of the

_Dr. B._ It is. (_Ibid._ p. 130.)

_Unit._ Are there others, calling themselves Trinitarians, who hold
essentially the Unitarian doctrine?

_Dr. B._ Yes. “It is a somewhat curious fact in theology that the class of
teachers who protest over the word ‘person,’ declaring that they mean only
a _threefold distinction_, cannot show that there is really a hair’s
breadth of difference between their doctrine and the doctrine asserted by
many of the later Unitarians. They may teach or preach in a very different
manner; they probably do: but the theoretic contents of their opinion
cannot be distinguished. Thus they say that there is a certain divine
person in the man Jesus Christ; but that, when they use the term ‘person,’
they mean, not a person, but a certain indefinite and indefinable
distinction. The later Unitarians, meantime, are found asserting that God
is present in Christ in a mysterious and peculiar communication of his
being; so that he is the living embodiment and express image of God. If,
now, the question be raised, ‘Wherein does the indefinable _distinction_
of one differ from the mysterious and peculiar _communication_ of the
other?’ or ‘How does it appear that there is any difference?’ there is no
living man, I am quite sure, who can invent an answer.” (_Ibid._ p. 135.)

_Unit._ Is it not true that both of these views are sometimes held
alternately by Trinitarians?

_Dr. B._ “Probably there is a degree of alternation, or inclining from one
side to the other, in this view of Trinity, as the mind struggles, now to
embrace one, and now the other, of two incompatible notions. Some persons
are more habitually inclined to hold the three; a very much smaller
number, to hold the one.” (_Ibid._ p. 134.)

_Unit._ But can they not hold the Unity with this Trinity?

_Dr. B._ “No man can assert three persons, meaning three consciousnesses,
wills, and understandings, and still have any intelligent meaning in his
mind, when he asserts that they are yet one person. For, as he now uses
the term, the very idea of a person is that of an essential,
incommunicable monad, bounded by consciousness, and vitalized by
self-active will; which being true, he might as well profess to hold that
three units are yet one unit. When he does it, his words will, of
necessity, be only substitutes for sense.” (_Ibid._ p. 131.)

(2.) But suppose that the belief of the Church in the Trinity was as
universal as Dr. Huntington asserts and Dr. Bushnell denies, what would be
its value? His argument proves too much. If it proves the Trinity to be
true, it proves, _a fortiori_, the Roman Catholic Church to be the true
Church, and Protestantism to be an error; for Martin Luther, at one time,
was the only Protestant in the world. Suppose that a Roman priest had come
to him then. He might have addressed him thus:—

“It is certainly an impressive testimony to the truth of the Church of
Rome, that the Christian world have been so generally agreed in it. Truth
is not determined by majorities; and yet it would be contrary to the laws
of our constitution not to be affected by a testimony so vast, uniform,
and sacred as that which is rendered by the common belief of Christian
history and the Christian centuries to the doctrines and practices of the
Roman Catholic Church. We travel abroad, through these converted lands,
over the round world. We enter, at the call of the Sabbath morning light,
the place of assembled worshippers; let it be the newly planted
conventicle on the edge of the Western forest, or the missionary station
at the extremity of the Eastern continent; let it be the collection of
Northern mountaineers, or of the dwellers in Southern valleys; let it be
in the plain village meeting-house, or in the magnificent cathedrals of
the old cities; let it be the crowded congregation of the metropolis, or
the ‘two or three’ that meet in faith in upper chambers, in log-huts or
under palm-trees; let it be regenerate bands gathered to pray in the
islands of the ocean, or thankful circles of believers confessing their
dependence and beseeching pardon on ships’ decks, in the midst of the
ocean. So we pass over the outstretched countries of both hemispheres; and
it is well nigh certain—so certain that the rare and scattered exceptions
drop out of the broad and general conclusion—that the lowly petitions, the
fervent supplications, the hearty confessions, the eager thanksgivings, or
the grand peals of choral adoration, which our ears will hear, will be
uttered according to the grand ritual of the Church of Rome. This is the
voice of the unhesitating praise that embraces and hallows the globe.”

What would Luther have replied to that? He would have said, “Truth must
have a beginning. It is always, at first, in a minority. The gate of it is
strait, the path to it narrow, and few find it. All reforms are, at the
beginning, in the hands of a small number. If God and truth are on our
side, what do we care for your multitudes?” We can make the same answer

Dr. Huntington proceeds to give his own creed in regard to the Trinity,—to
state his own belief.

God, in himself, he declares, we cannot know at all. We know him only, in
his revelation. “Out of that ineffable and veiled Godhead—the groundwork,
if we may say so, of all divine manifestation; a theocracy—there emerge to
us, in revelation, the three whom we rightly call persons—Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost.”

We can only conceive of God, he says, in action; and in action we behold
him as three. But action and revelation take place in time. The Trinity,
therefore, according to Dr. Huntington, is only known to us in temporal
manifestation: whether it exists in eternity or not, we cannot tell. And
yet, in the next sentence, he goes on to say that “the Son is eternally
begotten of the Father,” and “the Holy Ghost proceeds out of the Father,
_not in time_;” which is the very thing he had a moment before professed
to know nothing about. It is very difficult, therefore, to tell precisely
what his view is. With regard to the incarnation of the Son, he is still
more obscure. He says that “Christ comes forth out of the Godhead as the
Son;” that he “leaves the glory he had with the Father;” that, while he is
on earth, the Father alone represents the unseen personality of the
Godhead, and that therefore the Son appears to be dependent on him, and
submissive; that temporarily, while the Son is in the world, he remains
ignorant of what the Father knows, and says that his Father is greater
than he. “He lessens himself to dependency for the sake of mediation.”
“All this we might expect.” This he calls an “instrumental inequality
between Son and Father:” it “is wrought into the biblical language,
remains in all our devotional habit, and ought to remain there.”

In other words, Dr. Huntington believes that the Infinite God became less
than infinite in the incarnation. The common explanation of those
passages, where Christ says, for example, “My Father is greater than I,”
does not satisfy him. He is not satisfied that Jesus said it “in his human
nature.” No. It was the divine nature which said it; and it was really GOD
THE SON, who did not know the day nor the hour of his own coming. He lost
a part of his omniscience. He ceased to be perfect in all his attributes.
We should say, then, that he ceased to be God; but Dr. Huntington
maintains that he was God, nevertheless; but God less than omnipotent,—God
less than omniscient; God the Son, so distinct from the Father as to be
ignorant of what the Father knew, and unable to perform what the Father
could do.

Dr. Huntington (p. 366) ascribes it to “condescension” in Christ, to say
that “of that day and hour knoweth not the Son.” “_It is condescension
indeed!_” says he. But this word “condescension” does not well apply here.
One does not condescend to be ignorant of what he knows: still less does a
truthful person condescend _to say_ he is ignorant of what he knows. We
may wisely condescend to help the feeble, and sympathize with the lowly,
but hardly to be ignorant with them, or to pretend to be ignorant. It is a
badly chosen word, and seems to show the vacillation of the writer’s

IV. The arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity are unanswerable.

We infer that they are unanswerable from the fact that they are not
answered. It is to be presumed that Dr. Huntington, having been for so
many years a preacher of Unitarian doctrine, is acquainted with our
arguments. It is a remarkable fact that, in this sermon, he has nowhere
attempted to reply to them. He has passed them wholly by. You would not
know, from reading the discourse, that he had ever been a Unitarian, or
had ever heard of the Unitarian objections to the Trinity; still less that
he had himself preached against it. Unitarians, for instance, have said,
that _if the Trinity be true, and if it be so important to the welfare of
the soul as is contended, it would be somewhere plainly taught in the New
Testament_. Does Dr. Huntington answer this argument? No; he answers the
argument from the _word_ “Trinity” not being in the Bible, and his answer
is sufficient; but he does not answer the argument from the fact, that the
doctrine itself is not anywhere distinctly taught, and that none of the
terms which have been found essential to any Orthodox statement of the
doctrine are to be met with in the New Testament.(93)

Nor does Dr. Huntington anywhere fairly meet the Unitarian argument from
the impossibility of stating the doctrine in intelligible language. He
tells us, with his usual eloquence, what we have often enough been taught
before, that there are many things which we do not understand, and that we
must believe many facts the _mode_ of which is unintelligible. But when we
say, “Can we believe _a doctrine_ or proposition which cannot be
distinctly stated?” He has no answer. The Trinity is _a doctrine_, and
must therefore be distinctly stated in order to be believed. It has not
been distinctly stated,(94) and therefore cannot be believed. To this
objection Dr. Huntington has no reply; and we may conclude that it is an
unanswerable objection.

Dr. Huntington uses an unnecessary phrase about those who object to
mystery. He calls the objection “shallow self-illusion,” and proceeds with
the usual declaration, that all of life is mysterious. Can he have been a
Unitarian preacher for twenty years, and not have known that Unitarians
object to mystery only when it is used by Trinitarians as a cover for
obscurity and vagueness of statement?

You ask us to believe a precise statement, viz., that “there are three
_persons_ in the Godhead.” We say, “What do you mean by ‘person’?” The
Trinitarian answers, “It is a mystery.” We say, “We cannot believe it,
then.” The Trinitarian replies, “Why, all is a mystery. How the grass
grows is a mystery; yet you believe it.” “No,” we say, “we do not believe
it. When the mystery begins, our belief ends; we believe up to that point,
and no farther.” The statement, “the grass grows,” is _not_ a mystery; the
fact, “the grass grows,” is _not_ a mystery. We believe the fact and the
statement. The _way_ in which it grows _is_ mysterious; and we do not
believe anything about it. “You cannot understand _how_ the grass grows.”
No; and, accordingly, we do not believe anything about _how_ the grass
grows. But the whole purpose of the Trinity is to show _how_ the Father,
the Son, and the Holy Spirit exist. You are not satisfied that we receive
_what_ the Scripture teaches; you try to show us the _how_, and then leave
it in obscurity at last.

Nor does Dr. Huntington reply to the Unitarian explanation of the
Trinitarian proof-texts. Trinitarians have often quoted the texts—“_I and
my Father are one_;” “_He who has seen me has seen the Father_”—in proof
of the Deity of Christ. Unitarians have often replied to both of them: to
the first passage, that since Jesus has also said that his _disciples were
to be one with him, as he is one with God_, it either proves that the
disciples are also to be God, or does _not_ prove that Christ is God. To
the second passage, Unitarians have replied by reading the next clause, in
which Christ says, “Believest thou not that I am _in_ the Father?” showing
how it is that he reveals the Father. He is _in_ the Father, and his
disciples are _in_ him. Those who see him, see the Father; those who see
his true disciples, see the face and image of Christ. These answers are so
obvious, and Dr. Huntington must have heard them so often, that he should,
as a controversialist, have taken some notice of them. He has not done so.

He quotes the passage from Eph. 1:20, 21, and says, “_Can this be a
creature?_” We reply, “Can he be anything _but_ a creature?—he who was
_set_ by God in this place of honor.” Does God set God, as a reward, above
principalities and powers? Does God make God “head over all things in the
Church”? Again: Dr. Huntington quotes, “that, at the name of Jesus, every
knee should bow, and every tongue confess that he is Lord;” but he omits
the conclusion, “to the glory of God the Father.”

He even quotes the passage, “Him _hath God exalted_ to give repentance and
forgiveness of sin.”

And he quotes the passage, which has staggered the strongest believers in
the Trinity, where Paul declares (1 Cor. ch. 15), that, _at the end_,
Christ will give up his kingdom to the Father, that “God may be all in
all,” and explains it as meaning that “he will resume his place in the
coequal Three, the indivisible One.” Has he _left_ his place, then? Is
that Orthodox? Dr. Huntington evidently thinks so; for he says, “The Son,
in his character of Sonship, is retaken, so to speak, into the everlasting
undivided One.” _So to speak._ We may _speak_ so: “But what do we mean by
it?” is the question. Did God the Son leave his place in the Godhead? Did
he become less than God? Did he become ignorant? Did he suffer and die?
Did he arise, and at last reascend, and take his place, “so to speak,” in
the Godhead? If this is meant as real statement, what better is it than
the Avatars of Vishnu? What sort of Unity is left to us? We have a Trinity
of council; but where is the Unity, except of agreement? One divine Being
descending, and leaving the other divine Being alone, temporarily, on the
throne of the universe, until the divine Being who had descended should
reascend to take his seat again “in the coequal Three and indivisible

One Unitarian argument, which appears to us unanswerable, is in the fact,
that the very passages in which the highest attributes are ascribed to
Christ are always those in which his dependence and subordination are most
strongly asserted. We could throw aside all the passages in which Jesus
asserts directly his inferiority,—as, “My Father is greater than I;” “Of
mine own self I can do nothing,”—and take the strongest proof-texts of the
Trinitarians, and ask for no better proof for the Unitarian doctrine: “All
power is given to me in heaven and earth;” “The image of the invisible
God, the first-born of every creature;” “In him dwelt all the fulness of
the Godhead bodily.” Are these passages written of Christ in his divine or
human nature? Not his divine nature; for to God the Son all power cannot
be “given.” God the Son cannot be “the image of God,” or the “first-born
of every _creature_.” The “fulness of the Godhead” cannot dwell in God the
Son. They must, then, be said of him in his human nature; and, if so, they
show that the loftiest titles and attributes do not prove him to be God.

V. The good ascribed to the doctrine of the Trinity does not belong to it,
but to the truths which underlie it.

Dr. Huntington asserts, for example, that “the Triunity of God appears to
be the necessary means of manifesting and supporting in the mind of our
race, a faith in the true personality of God.”

If so, it is remarkable that the two forms of religion in which the
personality of God, as absolute will, is most distinctly recognized (i.e.,
the _Jewish_ religion and the _Mohammedan_ religion), should both be
ignorant of the Trinity. It is equally remarkable that the most
Pantheistic religion in the world, in which the personality of God most
entirely disappears (i.e., Braminism), should have a Trinity of its own.
It is also remarkable, on this hypothesis, that idolatry in the Christian
Church (as worship of Mary, worship of saints and relics, &c.) should come
up with the Trinity, and flourish simultaneously with it.

No; it is not the Trinity which brings out most distinctly the personality
of God, but the faith in a divine revelation through inspired men. If God
can dwell in the souls of men, teaching and guiding them, he must be a
person like the soul with which he communes. Especially does the religious
consciousness of Jesus, his simple and child-like communion with the
heavenly Father, bring God near to the soul as a personal being. It is not
the Trinity, but the Christian faith which underlies it, which teaches the
divine personality.

Nor is it the doctrine of the Trinity which is necessary for a living
faith in God through Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. All that
Dr. Huntington says of the evil of sin is well said, but has no bearing on
the point before us. According to Dr. Huntington’s own witnesses, as we
have seen above, the Trinity was unknown in the earlier ages of the
Church. Was reconciliation unknown? Was the forgiving love of Christ
unknown? If he cannot assert this, the doctrine of the Trinity is not
necessary to a living faith in a reconciling God.

Dr. Huntington argues, that only the sufferings, and actual sufferings, of
God himself, can touch the sinful heart; and, therefore, the Trinity is
true. The conclusion is a long way from the premise, even supposing that
to be sound. But as regards the premise, he has read and quoted Mansel.
Has he not verged towards the dogmatism which that writer condemns? Would
it not be more modest, and better accord with Christian humility, to be
satisfied with believing the scriptural assertions, that “God so loved the
world, that he gave his only-begotten Son;” that “He who spared not his
own Son, but gave him up for us all,—shall he not, with him, freely give
us all things?” Is not this enough, without an argument to prove that the
_only_ way by which man can be saved is the method of a suffering God?

We will not dwell further on this head, nor examine our friend’s argument
to show that we cannot consistently, as Unitarians, have any piety. We
will try, then, to have it inconsistently.

VI. Great evils to the Church have come from the doctrine of the Trinity.

It has tended to the belief in three Gods. It has tended to a confusion of
belief between three Gods of equal power and majesty, united only in
counsel; one supreme and two inferior Deities; one Deity with a threefold
manner of manifestation; and a vague, undetermined use of words, with no
meaning attached to them—unhappy confusion, which none have been more
ready to recognize and to point out than Trinitarians themselves.

And what shall we say of the continual struggles, conflicts, and bitter
controversies, which this doctrine has caused from the time of its
entrance into the Church? What is there more disgraceful in the history of
the Church, than the mutual persecutions of Arians and Athanasians, and of
all the minor sects and parties, engendered by this disputed doctrine?

This is what Dr. Bushnell says of one of these matters; and his testimony
is, perhaps, sufficient on this point,—

“No man can assert three persons,—meaning three consciousnesses, wills,
and understandings,—and still have any intelligent meaning in his mind,
when he asserts that they are yet one person; for, as he now uses the
term, the very idea of a person is that of an essential, incommunicable
monad, bounded by consciousness, and vitalized by self-active will; which
being true, he might as well profess to hold that three units are yet one
unit. When he does it, his words will, of necessity, be only substitutes
for sense.

“At the same time, there are too many signs of the mental confusion I
speak of not to believe that it exists. Thus, if the class I speak of were
to hear a discourse insisting on the proper personal Unity of God, it
would awaken suspicion in their minds, while a discourse insisting on the
existence of three persons would be only a certain proof of Orthodoxy;
showing that they profess three persons, meaning what they profess, and
one person, really not meaning it.

“Such is the confusion produced by attempting to assert a real and
metaphysical Trinity of persons in the divine nature. Whether the word is
taken at its full import, or diminished away to a mere something called a
_distinction_, there is produced only contrariety, confusion, practical
negation, not light.”

So far Dr. Bushnell. On another point thus testifies Twesten:—

“There are many to whom the biblical and religious basis of the doctrine
is exceeding sure and precious, who are dissatisfied with the Church form
of the doctrine, and even feel themselves repelled or fettered by it. It
is to them more negative than positive, more opposed to errors than giving
any insight into truth. It solves no difficulty, it unseals no new

Twesten goes on to admit that the Trinity has really hemmed in the free
movement of the mind, substituting a dead uniformity for a manifold and
various life; and yet Twesten is a very strong and able Trinitarian.

VII. The doctrine of the Trinity is a doctrine of philosophy, and not of

As philosophy, it might be ever so true and important; but, when brought
forward as religion (as Dr. Huntington has done), it would become at once
pernicious. To offer theology for religion, belief for faith, philosophy
born of speculative reflection in place of spiritual insight and pious
experience, have always been most deleterious both to religion and to

The objects of faith are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Through
Christ we have access to the Father in the Spirit. We see the Father
revealed to us in the Son; we feel the power of the Spirit in our hearts.
This is religion; but this has nothing to do with the doctrine of the

VIII. We can trace the gradual formation of the doctrine in the Christian

The following facts we suppose to be incontrovertible:—

1. Down to the time of the synod of Nice (A.D. 325), the Son was
considered to be subordinate, or inferior to the Father, by the great
majority of writers and teachers in the Christian Church, and by the
multitude of believers; and no doctrine of Trinity existed in the Church.

2. The _Nicene symbol_, which declared Christ to be “God from God, Light
from Light, true God from true God, of the same substance with the
Father,”(95) was directed against the two Arian positions,—that Christ was
created, and that there was a time when he did not exist; but it did not
declare his equality with God the Father, nor teach the personality of the
Holy Spirit, nor say anything of the Trinity.

3. The councils vacillated to and fro during three hundred years,
gradually tending towards the present Church doctrine of the Trinity;

1. _Synod of Nice_ (A.D. 325) opposed the Arian doctrine of the creation
of Christ out of nothing, and maintained that his substance was derived
from that of God.

2. _Synod of Tyre_ (A.D. 335) favored the Arians, and deposed Athanasius.

3. _Council of Antioch_ (A.D. 343) opposed the views of the Arians, and
also the views of their opponents.

4. _Council of Sardica_ (A.D. 344) resulted in a division between the
Eastern and Western Churches—the East being semi-Arian, and the West,
Athanasian—in their view of the nature of Christ.

5. The Western Church tending to Sabellianism (taught by Marcellus and his
pupil Photinus), this view was condemned by two councils in the East and
West, viz.:—

Second council of Antioch (A.D. 343).

Council of Milan (A.D. 346).

6. Constantius, an Arian emperor, endeavored to make the Western Churches
accept the Arian doctrine, and, at two synods (A.D. 353 and 355, at
Arelate and Mediolanum), compelled the bishops to sign the condemnation of
Athanasius, deposing those who refused so to do.

7. The Arians, being thus dominant, immediately divided into Arians and
Semi-Arians,—the distinction being the famous distinction between _o_ and
_oi_. Both parties denied the _Homoousios_; but the Semi-Arians admitted
the _Homoiousios_.

8. At the synod of Ancyra (A.D. 358), the Semi-Arian doctrine was adopted,
and the Arian rejected. The third synod of Sirmium (A.D. 358) did the same

9. Down to this time (A.D. 360), nothing was said about the Holy Spirit in
its relation to the Trinity. The Emperor Valens, an Arian, persecuted the
Athanasians from A.D. 364 to 378. Then Theodosius, an Athanasian emperor,
persecuted the Arians. Semi-Arianism, however, continued Orthodox in the

10. The Nestorian controversy broke out A.D. 430. Council of Ephesus (A.D.
431) condemned Nestor. The Nestorians (who were Unitarians) separated
entirely from the Church, and became the Church of the Persian empire.

11. The Monophysite controversy broke out. The council of Chalcedon (A.D.
451) decided that there were two natures in Christ; and the Monophysites
separated, and formed the Coptic Church. Their formula was, that “God was
crucified in Christ.” The Nestorians were too Unitarian, and the
Monophysites too Athanasian. The Church decided (against the Nestorians)
that Mary was God’s mother, but decided (against the Monophysites) that
God was not crucified.

12. _First Lateran Council_ was called (in A.D. 640) to settle a new
point. It having been decided that there were _two_ natures in Christ, it
was now thought best by many to yield to the Monophysites—that there was
only one will in Christ. Hence the Monotheletic controversy, finally
settled at the,—

13. Sixth General Council (A.D. 680), when _two_ wills in Christ were
accepted as the doctrine of the Church.

Thus it appears that it took the Church from A.D. 325 to A.D. 680 to
settle the questions concerning the relation of Christ to God. During all
this time, opinion vacillated between Arianism on the one hand and
Sabellianism on the other. At the end of this period, the Church had
become consolidated, and strong enough to compel submission to its
opinions: but the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Trinity remained
unsettled for several centuries more; and finally the Eastern Church
separated altogether from the Western Church on this point. The whole
Greek Church remains, to this day, separated from the Latin Church on a
question belonging to this very doctrine of the Trinity. So much, then,
for Dr. Huntington’s assertion, that the Trinity is a doctrine which can
almost literally be said to have been believed “always, everywhere, and by

IX. The doctrine of the Trinity is opposed to the real divinity of Christ
and to his real humanity; thus undermining continually the faith of the
Church in the divine humanity of Jesus Christ the Lord.

Our final and chief objection to the Trinity is, not that it makes Christ
divine, but that it does _not_ make him so. It substitutes for the
divinity of the Father, the Supreme God, which Unitarians believe to dwell
in Christ, a subordinate divinity of God the Son. This is subordinate,
because derived; and, because derived, dependent. The Son may be said to
be “eternally generated;” but this is only an eternal derivation, and does
not alter the dependence, but makes it also to be eternal. The tendency of
the Church doctrine of the Trinity is always to a belief, not in the
supreme divinity dwelling in Christ, but in a derived and secondary

How is it, for example, with the Nicene doctrine concerning Christ? Dr.
Huntington claims Nice as Trinitarian. (p. 361.)

But what says Prof. Stuart concerning the Nicene doctrine? Listen.

“The Nicene symbol presents the Father as the Monas, or proper Godhead, in
and of himself exclusively; it represents him as the _Fons et Principium_
of the Son, and therefore gives him superior power and glory. It does not
even assert the claims of the blessed Spirit to Godhead, and therefore
leaves room to doubt whether it means to recognize a Trinity, or only a
Duality.” (Moses Stuart, Bib. Repos., 1835, quoted by Wilson, Trin. Test.,
p. 264.)

And how is it with the ante-Nicene fathers, whom Dr. Huntington also
considers to be Trinitarian? else certainly his rule of “always,
everywhere, and by all,” does not hold. If, for the first three hundred
years after Christ, there were no Trinitarians, it cannot be said that the
Trinity has “always” been held in the Church. Listen, again, to Prof.
Stuart, whose learning no one can question.

“We find that all the Fathers before, at, and after the Council of Nice,
who harmonize with the sentiments there avowed, declare the Father only to
be the self-existent God.” (See the whole paragraph in Wilson, Trin.
Test., p. 267.)

“To be the author of the proper substance of the Son and Spirit, according
to the Patristical creed; or to be the author of the _modus existendi_ of
the Son and Spirit, according to the modern creed,—both seem to involve
_the idea of power and glory in the Father, immeasurably above that of the
Son and Spirit_.” (Moses Stuart, Bib. Repos., 1835.)

So Coleridge asserts that “both Scripture and the Nicene Creed teach a
subordination of the Son to the Father, independent of the incarnation of
the Son.... Christ, speaking of himself as the coeternal Son, says, ‘My
Father is greater than I.’ ” (Wilson, Trin. Test., p. 270.)

According to the Trinitarian doctrine, then, we do not find God—the
Supreme God, our heavenly Father—in Christ; but a derived, subordinate,
and inferior Deity. Not the one universal Parent do we approach, but some
mysterious, derived, inscrutable Deity, less than the Father, and distinct
from him. Do we not, then, lose the benefit and blessing of the divinity
of Jesus? Can we believe him when be says, “He who has seen me has seen
the Father?” No; we do not believe that, if we are Trinitarians; but
rather, that, having seen him, we have seen “THE SON;” whom Coleridge
declares to be an inferior Deity; over whom Bishop Pearson, in his
“Exposition of the Creed,” says, the Father holds “preeminence,”—the
Father being “the Origin, the Cause, the Author, the Root, the Fountain,
the Head, of the Son.” The doctrine of the Trinity is therefore opposed,
as Swedenborg ably contends, to the real divinity of Christ.(96)

But it is equally opposed to his real humanity. It constantly drives out
of the Church the human element in Christ. Dr. Huntington is astonished at
Unitarians not perceiving that the humanity of Christ is as dear to
Trinitarians as his Deity; yet it cannot be denied, that the mysterious
dogma of deity has quite overshadowed the simple human life of our dear
Lord, so that the Church has failed to see the Son of man. All his highest
human traits become unreal in the light of this doctrine of his deity. He
is tempted; but that is unreal, for God cannot be tempted. He prays, “Our
Father;” but this also is no real prayer, for he is omnipotent, and can
need nothing. He encounters opposition, hatred, contumely, and bears it
with sweetest composure; but what of that? since, as God, he looked down
from an infinite height upon the puny opposition. He agonizes in the
garden; but it is imaginary suffering: how can God feel any real agony,
like man? Jesus ceases to be example, ceases to be our best beloved
companion and brother, and becomes a mysterious personage, inscrutable to
our thought, and far removed from our sympathy.


    1 The following passage, from an article in the “Independent,” by
      Henry Ward Beecher, is valuable, perhaps, as the testimony of one
      who has “summered it and wintered it” with Orthodoxy:—

      “Does anybody inquire why, if so thinking, we occasionally give such
      sharp articles upon the great religious newspapers, ‘The Observer,’
      ‘The Intelligencer,’ and the like? O, pray do not think it from any
      ill will. It is all kindness! We only do it to keep our voice in
      practice. We have made Orthodoxy a study. And by an attentive
      examination of ‘The Presbyterian,’ ‘The Observer,’ ‘The Puritan
      Recorder,’ and such like unblemished confessors, we have perceived
      that no man is truly sound who does not pitch into somebody that is
      not sound; and that a real modern orthodox man, like a nervous watch
      dog, must sit on the door-stone of his system, and bark incessantly
      at everything that comes in sight along the highway. And when there
      is nothing to bark at, either he must growl and gnaw his reserved
      bones, or bark at the moon to keep up the sonorousness of his voice.
      And so, for fear that the sweetness of our temper may lead men to
      think that we have no theologic zeal, we lift up in objurgation now
      and then—as much as to say, ‘Here we are, fierce and orthodox; ready
      to growl when we cannot bite.’ ”

    2 Thus Theodore Parker (“Experience as a Minister”) speaks of a review
      of his “Discourse on Religion” in a Trinitarian work, which did it
      no injustice.

    3 According to the “Chart of Religious Belief” in Johnston’s Physical
      Atlas, there are in the world 140,000,000 of Catholics, 70,000,000
      of Protestants, 68,000,000 of the Greek Church, and 14,000,000 of
      minor creeds. _About_, in his “Question Romaine,” gives the Roman
      Church 139,000,000. He says, “The Roman Catholic Church, which I
      sincerely respect, is composed of 139,000,000 of individuals, not
      including the little Mortara.”

    4 Mr. Taylor shows that the Church, A.D. 300, was essentially corrupt
      in doctrine and practice; that the Romish Church was rather an
      improvement on it; that Jerome, Ambrose, Gregory, and Athanasius are
      full of false doctrine; and that a Gnostic theology, a Pagan
      asceticism, and a corrupt morality prevailed in the Church in those
      early centuries.

    5 Of course we do not mean to charge our Orthodox friends with
      believing in persecution. We only show that _if Orthodoxy is in the
      letter_, they _ought_, consequentially, to believe in persecution.
      No doubt Protestantism has put an end to persecution. When Luther
      came, all believed in persecution; now, no one does. This is because
      the Reformation contained a double principle: first, that we are
      saved by faith, not by sacraments, and that faith is the belief of
      doctrines; second, that to see them aright, we must use our own
      minds, and consequently seek for truth as the paramount duty of
      life. But in order to seek effectually, we must seek freely—hence
      the right of private judgment as against authority in Church and
      State. The last principle is that of toleration; the first is the
      principle of intolerance. The last has proved the stronger, because
      it rests on the logic of things, the other only on the logic of

    6 Heb. 11:1.

    7 Jacobi—whose words have been said to let the thoughts shine through,
      as wet clothes around the limbs allow the form to be seen—says that
      all knowledge begins with faith. Faith is, according to Jacobi, (1)
      a knowledge proceeding from immediate revelation; (2) knowledge
      which does not need, and cannot have, proofs; (3) much more certain
      knowledge than any derived from demonstration; (4) a perception of
      the super-sensual world; (5) A well-grounded and reliable
      prepossession in favor of certain truths; (6) a faith which sees,
      and a sight which believes; (7) a vision, an impenetrable mystery, a
      perception of the thing in itself.

    8 See “Broken Lights,” p. 207, note.

    9 A story is told of a clock, on one of the high cathedral towers of
      the older world, so constructed that at the close of a century it
      strikes the years as it ordinarily strikes the hours. As a hundred
      years come to a close, suddenly, in the immense mass of complicated
      mechanism, a little wheel turns, a pin slides into the appointed
      place, and in the shadows of the night the bell tolls a _requiem_
      over the generations which during a century have lived, and labored,
      and been buried around it. One of these generations might live and
      die, and witness nothing peculiar. The clock would have what we call
      an established order of its own; but what should we say when, at the
      midnight which brought the century to a close, it sounded over the
      sleeping city, rousing all to listen to the world’s age? Would it be
      a violation of law? No; only a variation of the accustomed order,
      produced by the intervention of a force always existing, but never
      appearing in this way till the appointed moment had arrived. The
      tolling of the century would be a variation from the observed order
      of the clock; but to an artist, in constructing it, it would have
      formed a part of that order. So a miracle is a variation of the
      order of nature as it has appeared to us; but to the Author of
      nature it was a part of that predestined order—a part of that order
      of which he is at all times the immediate Author and Sustainer;