The dilemma propounded by Pantheism is anticipated by the doctrines of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation, which provide, and that in three stages, for belief in immanence side by side with transcendence.
(1) Belief in the eternal existence of the Logos, as the Wisdom of the Father necessitates the immanence of the finite in God, Who for ever contemplates it in the Logos as other than Himself.
(2) The eternal existence of the Holy Spirit as the personal Love of God, allows for a creative act which shall form a true Self-realization on the part of the Creator. For this truth, while it saves to our conceptions of the Deity the necessary idea of a love which is eternal, yet allows us to conceive of the Creative Act as giving scope for a new form of love--to created beings. Nor does this involve any limitation of the Divine freedom; since love is the attribute in which the ideas of liberty and necessity merge into oneness.
(3) The Incarnation of the Logos involves, as a presupposition, the immanence of God in creation; since it were inconceivable apart from this, that the gulf between Infinite and finite should be spanned at a given moment in time; while, granted this immanence, the farther thought of a union being effected between the two, personally in Christ, sacramentally in ourselves, is congruous with the entire original relation between God and His creatures.
(4) This conception of Divine immanonce is not vitiated by the fact of sin, anymore than belief in Divine Omnipotence and Goodness. As far as our faculties can discern, the possibility of free choice of God equally carries with it the possibility of mischoice, [357/358] whether we believe in a sacramental union with an immanent Deity, or only in a revealed knowledge of a transcendent Deity.
To work out this thesis, then, on the threefold lines which I have indicated.
I start with the doctrine of the Logos--the Eternal, Divine Personality of the Word or Wisdom of God.
To God, to a perfect Being, to be wise essentially and eternally is to have within His own Divine nature both subject and object of contemplation--as I tried to show above that wisdom, apart from some object upon which it can be actually exercised, is meaningless, can hardly be conceived of; while the object for Divine contemplation must be co-eternal with Him who exerts it. This Divine Wisdom or Thought is revealed to us under the title of the Logos, a term which combines within itself the ideas of reason as existent, and of that same reason as manifested or expressed. This Thought, or Wisdom, or Logos is set forth to us in the Prologue to St. John's Gospel, as One with Himself, yet not as being so Himself but that He contemplates, and, by the act of contemplation, eternally generates the Word as the essential expression of Himself.
Through this Word, this realization of His own thought, this eternal and essential Self-expression, we are told that He created the scons. In Him, the Logos, we are told that, when created, they have their subsistence.
To the Pantheist all things subsist but in so far as they are contemplated by the Divine--God thinks a universe, says the Hindu, and because, and so long as He thinks it, it subsists, it has, in virtue of His thought, a seeming quasi-existence, as a moment in the dream of the unconscious, a bubble on the surface of the stream which is God, and nature, and all things. Let the dream pass away and be determined, and this illusory quasi-existence is no longer anything at all.
 A Christian can accept this position so far, and only so far, as to say that all things that are owe their being to the Eternal Word, to the Thought or Wisdom of God; that in This they were immanent from Eternity, and that this immanence in Him, the Logos, the Personal Thought of the Creator, makes them veritably immanent in God--yet nob so immanent even thus as to be in no sense objective to Him; because the Word, in Whom the Father conceives them, is other than the Father, though One with Him.
A Pantheist, doubtless, will reply that all this is perfectly true, as applied to that immanent existence, that prevision of the Eternal Mind, that intention of God to create, which alone can be thought of as Eternal; but that to grant them objective existence, an existence as aught but a dream, but a mode of the One Divine Being, is to land one's self in the total contradiction which emerges of necessity and at once when finite and Infinite Being are spoken of as actually coexisting. While this belief in their actual reality, in their being more than a mode of the Infinite, Christianity must necessarily cling to: for to abandon it for the sake of consistency on the logical side of the question were to part with her most precious inheritance, the freedom and responsibility of the creature. While she believes that in His Personal Logos God eternally contemplated the creature as in so far immanent in Himself, she yet holds that He called things in time to an existence, real and objective; as being His own, yet not as part of Himself; as not simply a dream or a moment in His Own Eternal Existence, but as verily subsisting, having being; sustained, it is true, by His Power, yet sustained in a contingent existence which is essentially different in kind from His own unapproachable Being.
A Christian thinker will not, then, pretend that this mystical revelation of the Scriptures does away with the [359/360] logical contradiction on which Pantheism delights to insist; will not think to compass the Divine in the narrow human vessel on whose perfection the Hindu prides himself. But he will say that this mystical accommodation--a matter, be it clearly observed, of no philosophical invention, but set down in words in the Scriptures, Divinely revealed from above--does soften what cannot be avoided. He will say, as I have tried to say above, that the difference between Pantheism and Christianity, between Hinduism as surrendering to Pantheism, and the Gospel as a spiritual system, lies in this--that the absolute surrender of Hinduism to Pantheistic Metaphysics is a betrayal of our spiritual needs for the sake of intellectual satisfaction; while his own more mystical Creed does preserve for the follower of Christ the essentials of a vital Religion--preserving at the same time to our reason that belief in the immanence of all things in Him through whom they exist, to deny which were to land us conclusively in the pitfall of logical contradiction avoided, so he claims, by the Hindu.
The Pantheist, of course, will maintain that to hold this in any sense at all is to accept that flat contradiction from which he himself has escaped by the consistency of his system of philosophy--that to predicate objectivity of the creature in any shape whatever is to stultify one's belief in the Creator, is to reduce the Infinity of the Divine to a mere form of words without meaning, is to predicate relations of the Absolute, is to cease altogether to be a thinker, and to sacrifice on the altar of Religion that first essential of Philosophy, its exhaustive, ontological completeness.
How far is the Christian apologist to accept the impasse thus propounded? Is he simply to acquiesce in it as insoluble--to say that if he must needs make a choice between the claims of his intellect and of his spirit, he [360/361] elects for the moral and the spiritual at the cost of sacrificing the intellectual?
Were this the last word on the question it would be better to make even this sacrifice than to allow man's sense of responsibility to be surrendered in the interests of logic.
But this is not, after all, the last word. Our Christian belief in the Logos, in the Eternity of the Divine Contemplation, and in the Personality of the Wisdom of God, serves at any rate to mitigate the difficulty where the immanence of all things in God forms the question over which we are challenged. And our belief in the Eternity of Love will be found to serve a like purpose, where the transcendence of God over the creature is challenged by Pantheism in its turn.
In attempting to grapple with this problem, I would take as the point of departure the act of Creation itself. For it is here, as I have always thought, that the difficulty presents itself most crucially. Shelley taunted the Christian religion with presenting a God for our adoration, Who awoke "from an Eternity of idleness" to create the universe of matter. And the taunt puts as powerfully as possible the difficulty which apologists have to meet. An Eternity of Infinite Existence; then time, with the finite, the contingent, existing as distinguishable from the Infinite: while yet the Infinite Being is to be conceived of as none the less Infinite for the existence of something not Himself--language staggers, inadequate, helpless, when one would compass some form of expression to resolve an antinomy such as this.
One is struggling to set forth the inexpressible, when one thinks of an Eternal Creator as making a new departure by calling into actual being a Universe whose existence from Eternity had been only as immanent in His thought. One has to use our poor human [361/362] phraseology to express what thought hardly conceives, what must "break through language and escape." For one seems, must seem, in effect, to predicate before and after of One whose Essential Existence is in the "nunc stans" of Eternity, where all things are equally present.
The difficulty, indeed, which one encounters is not only a difficulty of language: it is inherent in thought itself. One must speak--even Scripture has to speak--of a beginning of time, of time as succeeding to Eternity, contradictory as this is to itself. And one must think of things conditioned by space as the work of, and as related to One, who in Himself is "incomprehensible," not liable to conditions of space. Time and space are realities to ourselves, but in treating of God and His creation one has to deal with them as inapplicable to Him; although they are conditions and categories of our own conceptions of all things. In fact, one has to treat them, in such a context, as but foils for an Existence which transcends them; as being practically negations to Him, though to us they are the first of realities. One has to think of the contingent, the finite, side by side with the reality of the Infinite; while all the time, the very use of the terms seems to show as a blank contradiction against the background of Him, the Eternal, whose very Being would shame into nothingness whatever is not Himself.
One thinks of God only, God Eternally existing--then of finite, creaturely existence, which yet must be hypostatized as real, as an object to Him who is infinite, and who, in His Eternal Self-existence, is subject and object to Himself in the ineffable Life of the Blessed Trinity.
For it is here, in the thought of the Tri-Unity, that some relief, some help comes in. We have seen how some glimmering of light seems to fall on what before was sheer darkness, when we think of the Personality of the Logos, in whom God conceived and created the world of [362/363] creaturely beings; a standing-ground for their immanence in Himself thus softening the thought of His transcendence. And similarly some help seems to come towards conceiving of the act of creation, when we think of the Personality of the Love which, so far as we can venture on the distinction, forms His original motive or tendency towards creation. If we dwell only on the Thought or Wisdom, in which all things were immanent from eternity, but neglect the idea of the Love which prompted their actual creation; then the passage of the creatures of God from their immanence, as conceived of by Him, into actual objective existence, as other than a mode of Himself, would seem only a blank contradiction.
But the Spirit is everywhere revealed to us as the Person by whose creative activity the universe was called into being; exactly as the Word of the Father is revealed to us as the causal medium whereby they were conceived in His contemplation. And as the Son is the Wisdom of God, so the Spirit is the Love of God, subsisting as a Person from eternity. And it is here, in the conception of Love, that we learn what silvers the darkness when we think upon the act of creation.
It is a marvellous half-truth which is set forth when Pantheism insists upon creation, on the illusory, so-called existence which it concedes to finite things, as being necessarily but a realization of the eternal potentialities of the One and All. How far can a Christian lay claim to incorporate the thought into his system? How far can we look upon the universe as constituting a Self-realization of Him Whom we must hold to transcend it? Is the thought compatible in any way with that actual objectivity of things finite, with that freedom and accountability of man which we cling to as an essential of our faith? Through the thought of Divine Love as Eternal, through the action of the Spirit, who is Love, in [363/364] calling us into actual being, we can hold ourselves, hold all things that exist, as forming such a realization, such an actual Self-manifestation of something connatural and coeternal to the Divine Creator Himself.
Eternal, self-existent love, with a veritable object for its exercise, is essential to any conception of a God who is perfect in Himself. How far can a similar conception be applied to love on His part to anything which is not Himself? The Eternal Love of God is, above all else that we can think of, the necessary Self-realization of the Divine in its fullest perfection. He ib Love; Love makes Him Himself, as nought else can be conceived to do. Can the same be thought or said of Love to the creature, to the contingent? Do we limit His Divine Perfections by assuming that aught but Himself was needed for its realization? If this difficulty is not insurmountable, then the conception of Love upon His part as accounting for the act of creation would render it a Self-realization, a finding of His proper perfection, without our being necessitated in thought to deny its being other than Himself.
I said above that the conception of love carried with it as essential to itself, the thought of an object to be loved. And side by side with this thought, I would now advance another--that when we speak of love in God--I might say of any attribute whatsoever, or of any act whatsoever, which we know to be proper to Him--we are dealing with the outcome of Infinite Perfection. For every act of God is that of One who is perfect; who can will nothing, do nothing, be nothing which is not the outcome of perfection; whose acts partake of the perfection which constitutes His Personal Being. To create us, and all finite beings, as objects of love, was an act, then, in that perfect existence.
We may say, indeed we must say, that it is impossible [364/365] to limit His Perfection--to deny that He were equally perfect were we swept out of being at this moment; that He had been equally perfect had He never created us at all. And yet, when all this has been said, there remains the bare fact that He did create us--that, therefore, He has found His Perfection, has acted out all that He is in this particular way; and that, therefore, this particular way has its own essential Perfection, is a part of the Perfection of the Most High. Does this seem to be self-contradictory? Then I submit that we can find a solution, or what we may call a solution, without any undue presumption, if we analyze the Attribute of Love which is revealed to us as constituting pre-eminently the essential Being of God, so that the Scriptures say, "God is Love;" which attribute, we shall find, if we think it out, is what accounts for the Act of Creation. Think of either of the other two Attributes which are essential to the thought of Him, and they give no unanswerable reason, why we ever were created at all. His Power had been equally Omnipotent, had He never exerted it to create us. His "Wisdom had been Infinite Wisdom, had He contemplated us as immanent in the Logos, without ever evolving us into being as anything distinct from Himself. But His Love for us--where had that been, had we never existed as its objects? To speak of it as Love at all, apart from its exercise towards us, wrere but to contradict one's own words. That love for us could only be realized as an Attribute of God the Creator, by our being summoned into being, to give it that whereunto to go forth. And therefore we may think of our creation as a Self-realization on His part of that which was not up till then. We may think of "The Beginning," when He created things, as meaning nothing less than this--the opportunity for Love to go forth beyond the sphere of the Divine--the veritable realization by God of a Perfection [365/366] not realized from Eternity, which perfection is love for His creatures.
And if the thought be staggering to the mind, if we recoil from positing of Him the development of a new mode of Being, the addition of a new Perfection to that which is His from Eternity, let us again try to look a little farther into the bare essential constituents which make up our conception of Love.
To speak of a Perfection being realized in the Life of the Eternal God sounds at first like asserting imperfection as having characterized the Godhead from eternity: as though He were necessitated to create us, that He might find His Perfection by doing so.
But the ultimate good, the perfection, of the being which we love, is to us, in proportion as we love it, an object so fervidly desired, that to promote it is inevitably and yet freely the supreme desire from within, and the compelling motive from without. In other words, creaturely love contains and harmonizes within itself the thought of both liberty and necessity.
Now, if this idea of love be transferred to the sphere of the Infinite, of the totally and essentially Perfect, we still must read in the conception, however it transcend our best thoughts, that one most intimate characteristic--that it contains within itself the two principles of liberty and of necessity, coalescing into a perfect unity.
When we think of the Divine as loving, still more of God as being Love, a love of which our own best affections are the feeble, creaturely counterpart, we find ourselves absolved altogether from asking if we limit His freedom by speaking of love to the creature, of love to the temporal, the contingent, as a self-realization of the Perfect One, of Him who, from eternity, is love.
To deny Him eternal love and an eternal object for its exercise were indeed to limit His perfection. This [366/367] granted, there is room, I would maintain, for thinking of love to the finite as constituting, when its object came to be, an exercise of another perfection, not realized, in its fulness at least, when nought subsisted but Himself.
For, indeed, this thought about love seems to take off the staggering contradiction suggested at first to the mind when one speaks of the Eternal God as needing to call us into being that He might find His perfection in loving us. For does not the conception of love, whether thought of in Creator or in creature, carry with it, as essential to itself, as that without which it were not love, an exemption from the flat contradiction which obtains in all other thoughts between necessity and absolute liberty? Do not liberty and necessity coalesce, where love is the subject of our thoughts, into a unity where each is lost sight of? Even love as we know it in ourselves refuses to abide our question, when we ask, is it compelled, or is it free? Its very freedom is its uttermost compulsion; its necessity is its absolute freedom. It moves sweetly and spontaneously to its mark, compelled by the very plenitude of its volition. It would not be other than it is: it could not be other than it wills. Its own essential desire--the possession, the good, of the beloved--is its own sweet, voluntary compulsion. It ever compels itself freely to move in that one direction. Could it cease thus freely to be compelled, it would cease to be love at all.
And all this has a very real bearing on the question at issue with Pantheism. It does not remove the difficulty. This, once more, it is impossible to do: it was determination to remove it at all costs which was fatal to the Hindu religion as answering to spiritual needs. But it does soften down the contradiction; does enable us to accept the position that the Universe is, in a sense, an actual self-realization of the One Eternal Godhead; that although its existence is real, as something distinct from the Divine, [367/368] that although He stands utterly above it, in a word, transcends the finite, yet it is not a mere contradiction, a limitation of God's Infinity, to aflirm that there exists a real finite; because we can see that the creature, regarded as the outcome of Love, as created to give Love opportunity, is that in which God, its Creator, fulfils Himself, finds His perfection.
The Tri-Unity, then, of the Godhead, God's being to Himself, from Eternity, both Subject and Object of contemplation both Lover and Beloved in One, and that as an absolute reality; His containing as immanent in His Logos all things that He ever has made; His fulfilment of Himself as love in His actual making them through the spirit:--In these lies the answer of Christianity to the challenge of an arrogant Pantheism, which claims to have syllogized into nothingness belief in Creator and creation.
Whereas, then, the Hindu Pantheist affirms that the existence of the finite is an illusion, a dream, an unreality, is but the self-realization of the absolute; that the Divine is all that exists, and that apart from that realization which we call the creation of the finite, the Infinite Being itself has only a possible existence, is pure nothing, hypostatized as pure being, the Christian can boldly say that, here again, with the positive statement he is totally and heartily in agreement, and that he only joins issue on the negation. That in his eyes the act of creation is a self-realization on God's part; that the boundless potentialities of the Infinite do find their realization when His power is actually exerted; that a love not actual before finds, through the exertion of power, an object whereon to be exercised, and that as a fulfilment of Himself which, apart from this, never had been?
As regards, then, one part of the problem on which Hinduism made shipwreck as a religion, and degenerated into bondage to philosophy, the Church anticipated the [368/369] difficulty by her doctrine of the Trinity in Unity. Holding fast to the Eternity o£ the Word, as a Person distinct from the Father, within the Unity of the One Divine Nature, she provided for an immanence of the creature in God, by Whom it is created, and that from all Eternity. For "through Him were all things made," and "in Him all things subsist," and He is the Wisdom of the Father, by Whom, as the Source of all being, they were created. And she believes that before the worlds were, they were contemplated by God the Father in their immanent existence in His Word. And this at least softens the difficulty, which nothing can actually obviate, of believing in the ereaturely and the finite as other than, and distinct from, its infinite Creator. Again, believing that God is Love, that to love is the essence of His Being, she holds fast to a truth about Himself which takes off from the other grand difficulty of conceiving of Creation as beginning, at one moment as existing but potentially, at the next as actually existing as other than the God who created it. For she thinks of this act of creation as a veritable self-realization on the part of the Creator Himself, as an actual giving of effect to a Love which moves freely yet necessarily to forming an object of love.
Yet again, by the doctrine of the Incarnation, the Church anticipates another part of the same problem. As the truth of the Trinity in Unity provides for the immanence of the creature in the Deity who called it from nothingness, so the truth of the Word-made-Flesh anticipates the kindred problem of the immanence of God in creation, when once He has called it into being. For, indeed, the bare idea of Incarnation seems to involve, as a pre-supposition, a previous immanence in nature, as a condition of its creation and its subsistence. It were perhaps not too much to say that, the idea of the Incarnation once grasped, it becomes easy and natural [369/370] to suppose that God was, from the inception of its being, fulfilling Himself, His perfections, in each and every part of it, and that its ultimate union with Himself was the motive of its original creation.
In any case, His immanence in it all is, to me at least, a presupposition involved in the very root-idea of the Word becoming Flesh upon earth, and tabernacling here among us.
For the presuppositions of a belief are not the least important of its conditions. A thought which were simply inconceivable apart from its presuppositions becomes possible, natural, certain when these presuppositions are comprehended. And to me the Incarnation of God were thus totally incredible, inconceivable, if the universe in which it takes place had been, up to the time of His Advent, a thing apart from Himself; in which He was not essentially immanent as the condition of its very existence. But assume that it never existed, could never have existed at all, were He not present within it, did it not live and move in Him; and then, when I am told by St. John that "the Word became Flesh and dwelt among us," I am prepared to believe on the instant that His thus taking manhood into God was the ultimate outcome and consummation of the purpose with which he created it--that "all things are complete in Him," as it was put into words by St. Paul.
I maintain, then, that the truth of the Incarnation, as held by the Church from the first, involves, and is dependent upon a belief--explicit or implicit--in an immanence of God in His creation, and that without this it were simply unthinkable.
To develop the thought a little farther: let us conceive of the Divine Creator as having, ever since the creation, merely contemplated, and sustained from without a universe, the work of His hands, which His own mere [370/371] fiat had created, apart from what I may call with all reverence its being from its very inception a fulfilment of Himself in the finite. Let us divorce our conception of creation from the thought attached to it above--that it constituted a realization of a perfection unrealized without it. Then ask whether the thought of an Incarnation is not seen to be isolated and divorced from everything which makes it appeal to us as congruous with our beliefs about Himself. Think of Infinite and finite, Creator and creature, each wholly apart from the other, with nothing to bring them from the first into a mutual relation, nay a oneness, of immanence each within each. Then conceive, if it be possible to do so, of a gulf so complete, so impassable, being spanned at a certain given moment; so that henceforth there should be personal union between the Divine and the human, between the Deity hitherto wholly transcendent, and the creature hitherto wholly transcended, with nothing to soften the separateness.
How it appears to others, I know not. To myself it is perfectly unthinkable. And that it appears thus unthinkable to others, I gather from the failure, almost total, of many English Christians to attach any definite meaning, or to accord an intelligent belief to the catholic doctrine on the subject. Real belief in the Incarnation of God is almost foreign to the thoughts of most Englishmen, who yet call themselves orthodox Christians: they have never taken in what it means. Hence the total disbelief in the sacraments as actual channels of grace, which obtains so widely among us, without, and even within, the communion of the Church of England. And this failure to believe in the Incarnation, and in its agelong sacramental extension, is due in no small degree to our exalting the transcendence of God at the cost of the exclusion of His immanence from the thought of all but a few.
 But regard the existence of the universe as due to a presence of the Creator, pervading it, immanent in the whole of it; and then His taking it, in the fulness of time, into personal union with Himself becomes instantly far more than credible; becomes natural, nay, absolutely inevitable. If we find in the bare act of creating it a fulfilment of His proper perfection, if we hold that such Self-fulfilment, such scope for the exercise of love is what accounts for His willingness to create it, then what closeness of union with Himself, what mutual interpenetration between Himself and that which He created can be other than a natural consummation of the purpose with which it was made? What intimacy of mystical union between Him and each one of ourselves, what extension of the One Incarnation to include the redeemed individually in participation of the Divinized Humanity, is too great to be accepted and rejoiced in? If God finds a fulfilment of Himself in His creating of the stone, the stock, the brute, then what more congruous, more natural, than that He find a far higher fulfilment in taking me, the rational creature, into the arms of His Incarnate Son, to be a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones? Whether the words of the Oxyrhynchus papyrus be actually our Lord's or no, yet they express most accurately, as it would seem, that thought of the immanence of God upon which His Incarnation depends, when they present Him to us as mystically saying:--"Raise the stone, and there you will find Me; cleave the wood, and I am there." For this "Christian Pantheism," as I take it, is the groundwork and essential condition of belief in God being incarnate.
Great clearness will accrue to all this if approached from yet another point of view--by our contrasting the attitude of Englishmen which I have tried to exhibit above, with the easiness of belief in avatars, [372/373] incarnations of various deities, which obtains among Hindus.
That God should be present in everything--should be more than present in everything, should be everything that exists or can exist--is to the Hindu a category of thought: it conditions and pervades all his thinking. For to exist is essentially to be divine, from the point of view of a consistent pantheist: Divinity is inseparable from, one might say is synonymous with, the thought of existence as such. A coming of God among men, as man, as this or that man, is, accordingly, but a higher example, a more definitely specialized instance of that which is always taking place when children are born into the world. To say that some man in Gujerat (where these incarnations, or quasi incarnations, are believed to be constantly taking place) by being born of a particular family, is constituted an incarnation of Krishna, is not to claim anything for him which differs, except in degree, from what takes place in any other family, in the birth of any other child. To be born a human being is, in a sense, to be born a divine being, if God is all that exists. It is God who looks out upon the world through the eyes of some man in particular, who is treated as Krishna incarnate--so the worshippers certainly believed, whom I have heard singing hymns in his honour in the compound next to my own. But this did not mean to them that here was a unique event in the history of man and of the universe. To them, God looks out through all eyes, human and brute alike, just because they exist, and are eyes. If God did not so look through them, they would not be eyes at all; if God were not immanent in them, they would not be anything at all. An avatar, then, a Hindu Incarnation, depends, in the thought of the believer, on the general immanence of the Divine, of which it is a specialized instance.
 The Incarnation believed in by Christians is totally different from this: it is unique, it could never be repeated. It means that once, in the fulness of time, a Person of the Triune God, Who not only is immanent in all things, but Who infinitely transcends them all, took into His own Divine Being the spiritual and the bodily essentials of a perfect human nature. It means no mere flux in a great flood, sweeping onwards from age to age--God realizing His own perfections by raising one mightier swirl upon the flood of transient potentialities--no illusive display of His power in what appears to the fascinated gazer to be a special embodiment of the Divine, while yet it is but one more vision in that dream of the One and All which is God and man and nature, and everything that is, or seems to be. It represents, and it verily is what we cannot express to ourselves save by words which do but1' stammer a meaning too deep for thought to take hold of--a Self-emptying on the part of the Almighty, as well as a Self-realization; a new thing emprised by the Eternal, who, changeless in His innermost Being, yet adapted Himself to new conditions; Who then limited Himself in His Humanity, remaining incomprehensible, illimitable, on the side of His eternal Divinity.
Yet if to realize Himself in an avatar must involve, in the thought of the Hindu, a previous immanence of God, as the condition under which it takes place, then, not less--I would say, indeed, far more--must Self-limitation as a creature, Self-emptying on the part of the Word, involve, in the thought of a Christian, an immanence, not a whit the less real for being compatible with Infinite transcendence.
Creation immanent in the Creator, and that essentially and eternally, because he conceived of it from eternity in His Logos, His Personal Wisdom, co-eternal and co-essential with Himself--a real Self-fulfilment of the [374/375] Creator in the act by which He created it, gave it being objectively to Himself; and that without any limitation of His absolute divine freedom; because Love is the motive of Creation, and in Love perfect freedom and necessity are merged in total identity--the Creator immanent in the creation, when once it had been called into being, just because, from its original inception, it docs constitute a Self-realization on the part of the creator Himself--creation as a whole, and man in especial, taken up into a union with the Creator, when the Logos, through whom it was created, took Flesh and tabernacled amongst us; so that in Him, in His actual Incarnation, it was united hypostatically, personally, with Him who is its causal medium, as in Him was its eternal conception--the whole redeemed race of mankind become capable of mystical union with God, its Creator and Father, through being sacramentally united to the Manhood of the One Redeemer, Who, being in the form of God, yet emptied Himself, took the form of a servant, was found in the likeness of man--such is the train of thought along which I have invited the reader to follow the idea of Christianity as expressed by St. John and St. Paul, and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews.
I have treated it to very little purpose if this be not clear by now--that the Gospel anticipated Pantheism, raised the thoughts of those who should accept it to a plane where the Pantheistic dilemma has no existence for them. This truth of the mutual immanence obtaining between God and His creatures is what tempers the idea of His transcendence, what disarms the logical dilemma which has betrayed Hindus into Pantheism.
And no less does it supply to our minds a protection against the tendency to Materialism which lurks, as I have tried to bring out, round the thought of a transcendent Creator, Whose existence is separated too [375/376] sharply from our conceptions about that which He has made. Let the order and uniformity of nature be thought of as the daily Self-expression of One Whose every act is the outcome--we may say in a sense, the necessary, the inevitable outcome--of something in His own proper Being, and we never need fear losing sight of Him behind laws guiding natural processes along a way of invariable sequence; a sequence which, apart from Him, we should also regard as unconditional.
Professor Hort, in his Hulsean lectures on "The Way, the Truth, and the Life," has treated the thought of the way as including within its manifold significance the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal, Uncreated Wisdom, through whom all things were made, is the Way along which God works in nature as well as in grace. Coming forth from Himself, the Eternal, as from Eternity He willed: to come forth, to call finite worlds into being, He has stamped the image of Himself, of His free, yet inevitable perfection, upon all that He is pleased to effect. In His Word he guides, by His own divine working, whatever takes place, or can take place, in this lower world of matter, to which, on one side of our nature, we human beings belong. "All's love, yet all's law" in His universe, because law, because invariable sequence is that which, in His own divine perfectness, He stamps upon all that He has made. What we call law is the highest expression of the Love which called it from nothingness into being; or from its immanent existence in Himself into objective reality of being. Gravitation, all force, all matter, the all in all of physical existence, from the Milky Way to the ultimate electrons, is the outcome, the inevitable self-expression of the Love which called it into being, that in it He might express, might fulfil Himself. Its very invariability of procedure, in the light of the thoughts given above, so far from eliminating the Divine, is what [376/377] brings Him most perfectly to our knowledge. But apart, once more, from this thought of Himself as immanent in it all, of Himself as realized in it all, this ordered, invariable sequence but conceals Him altogether from our minds; until we are tempted to hold that His intervention, His presence, as beginning it, or as upholding it, is unnecessary, superfluous, nay, unthinkable.
Here, perhaps, we come to the point where it is needful to deal with a difficulty entailed by this conception of immanence. Where a material order is in question, which proceeds under invariable laws; where the fiat of God is carried out without any jarring or inconsistency; where nothing asserts itself against Him by spiritual or moral rebellion--here, I say, it is comparatively easy to think of the working of the Universe as fulfilling the perfections of God.
It were easier still to recognize it in the working of a moral world where His Will was in all things carried oat. But how, it may well be asked, is this belief about the immanence of God to be reconciled with sin as a fact? If the universe was called into being that He might fulfil, through its existence, some divine necessity of His Being, then how is it that a part of His creation is found in opposition to Himself?
Is not even a denial of sin, a reduction of all that takes place to the non-moral, inevitable action of one all-embracing Will, an easier and more obvious explanation than one whose assertion of freedom on the part of created beings, makes the Deity realize Himself in a world where sin obtains?
The first reply, as I conceive, must be that we are dealing with facts; that the world which we have to explain is that which we have actually before us. And that in this actual world, moral evil, as distinguished from imperfection, and sin, as distinguished from inexpediency, [377/378] are facts, and have got to be dealt with. Remorse is at any rate a fact, the grimmest fact in the world. And again, it is a fact that in the consciousness of mankind there exists a sharp distinction between moral and physical evil. We have, I maintain, a real faculty, presupposing a real distinction, by which we discern from one another moral right and moral wrong. And the distinction, I equally maintain, is as real as the faculty which discerns it. The details are matter of experience, requiring to be learnt by individuals, and varying to an indefinite degree in various ages and communities. But this very fact of variation, of indefinite divergence about details, does but throw into higher relief the universal distinction, as such, between moral right and wrong; does but indicate all the more clearly the existence of a faculty in man for discerning between the two, when presented before him as such; which faculty is innate and universal, like the faculty for distinguishing colours, or for responding to nervous stimuli.
Even under the domination of Hinduism, which denies the fact of sin, of rebellion against a personal God, by denying the ultimate distinction between ourselves and God--so that in fact there is no God to disobey--the fact of remorse remains, inevitable, ineradicable, compelling. I have seen it appealed to many times in sermons addressed to Hindus, and never without a response. The representative of philosophical Hinduism at the Chicago "Parliament of Religions" might denounce belief in sin as blasphemy against the dignity of man; who himself, lie asserted, is God. The mind of his Hindu countrymen retains the sense of it none the less.
But if sin and remorse be facts, and if the world which we have to explain be a world which contains such facts, then all that we have to inquire is whether the immanence of God, in the form in which I have displayed [378/379] it, requires any other account of the being and origin of evil than that upon which we fall back when we try, on any other supposition, to account for antagonism to God in a world of His own creating.
No other reply seems possible, than that which is ordinarily attempted--and what beyond attempts can we make?--when the origin of evil is in question. Nor, indeed, does any other seem needful. It is the existence of evil at all in a universe ruled by Goodness, and by Goodness untrammelled by helplessness, which constitutes the essence of the problem. Nor is any new element imported by belief in the immanence of God. If it makes any difference at all in accounting for the presence of evil, whether we think of the universe as fulfilling Him, or regard it as merely obeying Him, it is a difference of degree, not of kind.
It is of the essence of Christian thought that the end for which man exists is the intelligent service of God in a life of moral freedom, of response to the love of the Creator, by creatures who freely make choice of Him as the end and aim of their being. This Christian theory of life involves, of absolute necessity, the possibility of refusal on their part to respond to the love of ^ the Creator. In other words, the possibility of love entails the possibility of sin, the highest development of good carries with it the possibility of failure. Beyond this it is futile to inquire, short of this it is impossible to stop, in the quest after absolute truth. As far as we can see, in the world in which we actually live, this alternative presents itself inevitably--either no possibility of freedom, no highest height of goodness, or else no certainty of attainment; but, on the contrary, the terrible risk that the highest being missed or not aimed at, the lowest may actually ensue. It may be hard to recognize in this alternative, Self-fulfilment on the part of the Divine. And yet we are [379/380] shut up to maintaining that no other mode of Self-fulfilment were as worthy of all that He is, as the rational choice of Himself by beings so made, and so placed, that to decline upon lower alternatives, to miss Him, or even to refuse Him, is before them as a veritable possibility.
And again, if it be love upon God's part which seeks Self-fulfilment in creation, then nothing short of love on the part of the beings that He has made could constitute, in its highest developments, an actual realization of His object. And to us--whatever may be the ease in any other sphere of existence--to us the reality of love carries. with it the possibilities of hate; to us the very thought of freedom carries with it liability to mischoice. Nor can we conceive of this possibility apart from its actualization. A possibility which never occurred, a liability to which no one had succumbed, would not be, in our ordinary speech, a veritable liability at all. One might say, then, without over statement, that as far as our faculties can discern--of course, we dare not go farther than this--God's fulfilment of Himself through a creation which includes a rational element carries with it the possibility of failure; and, yet more, that a liability such as this, if it is to mean anything at all, carries with it a practical certainty that what may be actually will be, in certain cases at any rate. A fulfilment of his own potentialities which did not include within its scope an interchange of recognition and of love would fall short of the highest possibilities which even we can look for and understand. And of this the facts of sin would appear to be an unavoidable concomitant.
And all this holds good, as it would seem, with even more telling force, of a universe in which He is present not only with a general immanence (in that it, by existing at all, includes His presence within it as the factor of factors in its being) but with an actual indwelling of it [380/381] by Him as personally incarnate in the midst of it. For if He so indwells His creation as that it, in union with Himself, shall offer itself to Him; that His will be that which informs it, His love become operative within it; that the love of man to God be, in the Person of His Incarnate Son, a return of His love upon itself; then here, more than anywhere else, must a veritable freedom obtain in the highest sense of the word. Here that consideration will come in with the fullest possible force, which I urged in analyzing love, whether found in the Deity or in ourselves--that freedom and necessity coalesce in a unity which reduces them to identity. Here the force of a free compulsion will urge the heart of love to an absolute surrender of itself to the will of the One loved Object. Yet what were the meaning of this surrender, what the force of this loving compulsion, apart from a possibility of its opposite? while only the force of love, the free exercise of choice between alternatives, prevents that possibility from being realized, from being actual reality? That another alternative had been possible, unless love were what it actually is--without this no freedom of choice, no path along which to choose, had existed or been possible at all.
And in the sacramental extension which the Personal Incarnation carries with it, in the taking of redeemed humanity into mystical union with the Incarnate, the same again holds good. It is in that from which His presence delivers us, in wrong choice being a veritable alternative, that the field for the display of love is open to every soul which unites itself mystically to Christ. It is in flying to Him, the Redeemer, to escape from ourselves as lost; in accepting holiness from Him, to be attained by struggle and endurance; in working His Divine Holiness into the fibre of a being like our own, with its terrible possibilities of evil, that we find the most perfect expression [381/382] of the love which unites us to Him. No possible sin, no actual holiness--so must the alternative stand for all to whom union with the Incarnate is the opportunity of realizing perfectly the capacities of humanity in God.
The position of a Christian thinker, as distinguished from a Pantheist or a Materialist, might be expressed, then, in the following terms.
To the Pantheist everything is divinized until virtually nothing is divine; the Deity depending upon all things, just as all things depend upon Him, for existence in any true sense. To the Materialist nothing is divine; because beyond the phenomenal, the contingent, there is no existence at all, but all things are as they are, just because they are none other than they are. To the Christian believer in the Trinity, who knows that the Word became Flesh, all that is must be instinct with the Divine; because all that is at all is the outcome of Divine Perfection, coming forth by the Way, which is Divine, to fulfil Himself, to realize His perfections, in an ordered sequence of nature, which is exactly as it is, because He, in His Eternal Wisdom, for ever conceived of it as perfect, and because He, in His eternal love, created it perfect for Himself.
But, indeed, we ought not to stop short with saying this; we ought to add that He created it for Himself, that He might not only find expression of Himself in its ordered natural sequence as in creaturely relation to Himself, but as the field for taking to Himself a new development of perfection: that its ultimate possibilities were only realized when He made a new thing upon the earth, a mode of Divine subsistence, in which a Person, Eternal and Divine, submitted to human conditions, acquired by degrees, like other children, a human and creaturely knowledge of the world which Himself [382/383] had created, and learnt obedience, as Man, to the Law which, as God, He had promulgated.
Let our conceptions of the dignity of nature be cast in any lower mould, rule it out from including in its scope the manifestation of God Himself in a creaturely form upon earth, and we shall end by eliminating Him completely from any relation with the world, as Sustainer or even Creator. For a hunger of the Divine for Self-expression in matter as simply existing, and in matter in union with Himself, is what alone will, in the ultimate analysis, offer a basis for any solution of the riddle of Infinite and finite, of Divine and creaturely existence, as thinkable in relation to each other, or as compatible each with each.
To sum up this division of our subject, we believe in an eternal tendency to create--eternal love for the creatures of a day; in a Divine contemplation of the world, to be called from immanence into actuality--in Wisdom Eternal, "incomprehensible," exerted upon the temporal and the extended; in a word, in the Trinity in Unity, perfect Power, perfect Wisdom, perfect Love, coming forth to create for Himself an object for the exercise of love; in a new departure of Divinity, united hypostatically to humanity--the Incarnate Word of God. In all this we have antinomies reconciled; in this we have dilemmas anticipated, in this we have a sacred philosophy which satisfies in mystical fashion the cravings of thought about all things; in this we have full satisfaction for the spiritual needs of humanity; in this we have an answer to our ultimate inquiries, an answer not suicidal, not liable to be disastrously countered, though the legitimate demands of our reason refuse to accept any faith which will in no sort abide their question.
Now, these Truths of the Trinity and the Incarnation either assume as presuppositions, or carry with them as [383/384] necessary consequences, belief in the immanence of God as tempering that in His transcendence. And this, I suppose, is the reason, why English religious thought has been disposed to lose sight of them altogether. Transcendence is a simple idea, has nothing of the mystical about it; while immanence demands for its acceptance a higher degree of imagination, an acuter sense of the mysterious as not being necessarily the obscure, still less the shadowy, the unreal. Two factors in contrast with one another, and merely related to one another, it is easy to conceive of at once the fact of their contradictoriness to one another it is also easy to discern, when thought has proceeded a little farther in discussing them as originally presented. And so the truths of Creator and creation, the categories of Infinite and finite, are readily accepted, to begin with, by unimaginative temperaments such as ours, when propounded as fundamentals of religion, and that with no prevision of a mode of reconciling them with each other as actually co-existing side by side. And the after reaction is as easy, when the thought of Divine transcendence encounters the logical difficulties which beset it, if strictly examined, apart from the thought of His immanence.
From this unscientific beginning and this so disastrous ending, there is nothing, I believe, which can preserve us, but the belief in the immanence of God presupposed in these doctrines of the Faith. But the dependence of each upon each--of the doctrines on the philosophical position, and of the Christian philosophy upon the doctrines, if once they be stated and faced--is complete and cannot be dispensed with. An intelligent grasp of the Faith may be entirely independent of the philosophy--may be held, thank God, by the believer, without his so much as having heard that there exists [384/385] such a thing as philosophy. But a misleading philosophy accepted is fatal to holding the Faith. And premises loading up to, or depending on a false philosophical position will in the end be equally fatal, if people think on the subject at all.