"Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son."--2 ST JOHN 9.
THE time we live in is a time of widespread religious unsettlement. It would, indeed, be hard to exaggerate the uncertainty of belief in many classes of society. This is due in part to what is our weakness--that the faculty of criticism far outruns the constructive faculty of our minds; and that in a period of diffused education the materials of criticism are presented to all kinds of minds and are sufficient to overturn positive beliefs without leading on to any reconstruction. But it is also due to what is a legitimate matter for thankfulness--namely, that there has been a wide extension of scientific and historical knowledge; and this widening of the intellectual horizon, with the accompanying change in the methods and categories of men's thought, almost necessarily carries with it religious unsettlement. The creed that had associated itself with the forms of thought of the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, must have a difficulty in adjusting itself to the history and science of the nineteenth and the twentieth. "We cannot evade this difficulty. There are, indeed, those who think the only proper way to meet religious unsettlement and scepticism is to hold fast by religious belief as we have received it from our grandmother Lois and our mother Eunice, without concessions or readaptations. To allow mistakes in the common teaching of the Church is said to be dangerous. Concession is regarded as only the first step to surrender, and parleying is only the prelude to treason. But, in fact, experience shows us in the past that religion in a settled age becomes encrusted with ideas which do not properly belong to the permanent creed, but to the thought of the time; and when a turn of the wheel of thought takes place, those ideas associated with the essential religion, but not of its essence, have finally to be discarded, that the religion may exercise its true strength once more. We cannot reasonably deny that permanent religion at every period is associated with impermanent elements, the gold with the dross, and we must have the intellectual courage to seek to dissociate the two, and to draw distinctions between essential and unessential, and to make concessions, and to seek readjustment. On the other hand are the men who seem to think that every clever new criticism is destined to triumph over an established idea; and they need reminding that the conservative tendencies of the human mind, and the recuperative power of old truths and old institutions, have disappointed revolutionists at every period. We are not, then, to refuse to reconsider and to abandon what is untenable, and to readjust the old and the new, any more than we are to abandon the old merely because the new is clamorously asserting itself. We have to consider frankly and estimate carefully. The question is a real and living one for us. Granted that in current religion, in the common religious tradition, there are permanent and impermanent elements, there are essential and unessential factors, how are we to distinguish the one from the other? What tests have we by which we can ascertain what is the real and permanent Christian creed, what is really revelation of God, truth permanent and divine? Now, the test which is practically the most convincing is also the least producible in argument; it is what may be called the mystical, or subjective, test. The religious truth that we hold with most confidence for permanent and divine is what, in some sense, by inner spiritual experience we feel we know. We know that our conviction of right and wrong, of duty to be done at whatever cost of pain to ourselves, is far stronger than the intellectual grounds by which we can justify it. Or, again, we have from time to time felt the presence of God in response to prayer, or in blessing upon a difficult duty loyally done, or in time of sorrow or joy. God is, and we have felt Him. We know that He is there, though all the proofs are ineffectual and inadequate. Or, again, the question of Christ's Godhead is for me beyond controversy. "No man can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost"; but there is such a thing as the movement of the Divine Spirit in the soul of man. I have heard Christ's words, and have read of His deeds in the Gospels, and my whole soul acknowledges in Him perfect God in perfect manhood. I have felt His presence in Holy Communion. I know He died for me. He has forgiven me. I am His and He is mine. Argument is unsatisfying. But I know by a conviction inseparable from my own personality that this is the Christ, the Saviour of the world; and that in worshipping Him as God I am only doing my rational duty; and that He is with us all the days, even unto the end of the world. As to the miracles, I can see in them but the most natural actions or accompaniments of His person. This is personal spiritual conviction. It is something far deeper than the intellectual presentation which it can give of itself. It is deep experience which seems to render argument needless. And we may truly say that whatever the means by which religious belief is generated--whether authority, or evidence, or logical reasoning--it never becomes belief worthy of the name till it has become in some degree experience, till the spirit of God has wrought it into the fibre of my personal consciousness, and I feel and know that He is God. So far as we have really believed in this deep sense, the intellectual evidence for our faith is rather the light it throws on the whole of life and the whole of knowledge, than any light that it receives from other fields of experience or investigation. It convinces more and more by giving light, rather than is proved by receiving it.
But this sort of inner conviction is bound, if not for its own sake then for that of others, to give a reason for itself. In itself it is not transmissible. It cannot be imparted. But it is a part of a great corporate conviction which has belonged to the whole Christian society, and it must strive to give itself corporate expression. What is it convinces me, apart from my own incommunicable experience, or as the prelude and way to such experience, or as the result of it, that such and such a statement is really part of the message of God to man? To return to our original question--since so many things have been taught as Christian truth, and afterwards proved false or uncertain, how do I propose, by more or less objective and producible tests, to distinguish essential Christianity from the variable or uncertain or false accompaniments to it?
The first, and to some minds the most obvious, test is that of authority in its broadest sense. There has been a common, a universal, faith of Christendom, which has, most authoritatively, expressed itself in the Catholic Creeds, the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds. There are, indeed, features in the common faith, such as the belief in Atonement, in sacramental grace, in the inspiration of Scripture, which are only slightly or by implication touched on in these formulas of faith; but at least in what they contain they represent what has been universal Christianity. Hardly anything has been nobly or effectively done, or bravely suffered, for the name of Christ, that has not been done or suffered in the profession of these Creeds or the profession of the faith which preceded them. The great movement of humanity which gives glory to Christ as its Redeemer, as it traverses the ages and spreads over the world, has confessed itself in these terms almost without exception. Since the Reformation differences have sundered the visible Christian society into fragments; emphasis has been laid on one point in this body and on another in that; but Calvinist and Lutheran, Anglican, Romanist, Greek, and Russian have confessed the same faith in the Holy Trinity, one God; in Christ, perfect God and perfect Man; in His birth of a Virgin and life and death for man, and His Resurrection and Ascension; in the descent of the Spirit and the formation of the Church; the fellowship of the saints; the forgiveness of sins; in judgment to come and everlasting life. We pass back behind the Reformation to the Middle Ages, and behind the Middle Ages to the centuries of the Councils, and back to the earlier Fathers; we note the differences of Alexandria and Antioch and Rome and Africa; but they do not touch this common Creed. Even separated heretical bodies, like the Nestorians, seem, so far as the bulk of them is concerned, to have been separated, not from the faith, but, by an accident of mismanaged controversy, from a misunderstood term of theology. And the great Creed finds its justification in the theology of the Epistles and its verification in the words and deeds of Christ in the Gospels. Criticism loves to dwell on differences; but the real unity is unmistakable. And it is a mistake, surely, if we never let this broad and massive unity of the Christian faith make its proper impression upon us. The modern student, in his desire to dive below the surface, or in his passion for original work, may bury himself prematurely in some forgotten corner of Church history, some study of apocryphal Acts or anonymous and unpublished documents. Let him first tread the broad highway. Let him read the main texts, as they can be read in mass and with rapidity, first of all, that the great general impression may be made upon him. There is, after all, a faith which has been held semper, ubique, ab omnibus in such sense that what fragments of the Christian body have not held it hardly count in the total effect. What records we have of human life redeemed and consecrated have been redeemed and consecrated in the profession of this faith, and what lies outside this profession can be left out of reckoning without the general effect being altered, or the result for human life appreciably affected. And this impression of unity through all differences, and permeating all divisions, is impressive in a very high degree. It generates in the mind a sense of indissoluble coherence--a feeling that this Creed and Christianity are one and the same thing, or as root and fruit. There may be great differences between the Christian beliefs of the twentieth, and the tenth, and the fourth, and the second century, but the differences will not touch the great central body of faith.
But this brings us to the second test. This Creed professes to be based simply upon a revelation given, or given in its final form, through an historical person, Jesus Christ. It is a Creed based on facts, which are confessedly unique and, in part, miraculous. As thus claiming a historical basis, it enters the region of historical criticism. It has always from the first taken its stand on testimony. And testimony must stand criticism. Moreover, for us to-day there is no testimony worth considering which is not in the New Testament. I say that it is impossible in any way to withdraw the historical basis of Christianity from the freest and frankest criticism. If there exist persons who say, Let the Old Testament be frankly criticised, for it is not so important, but not the New Testament, for it is vital, the claim must be utterly repudiated. In proportion to the important issues which hang upon the New Testament records, must be the frankness of the criticism to which they are subjected. And the Creed has no other line of defence behind the New Testament documents. It is sometimes suggested that we can hold that destructive criticism has done its work successfully upon the Gospels, but can still go on proclaiming our faith in Christ born of a Virgin and risen from the dead, in Christ as God in manhood, on the authority of the Church. I am sure this is not the case. The authority of the Church has always professed to rest on the authority of the Apostles. It is rooted and based on their witness--their eye-witness. And the content of the apostolic witness "as they delivered it unto us which from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the Word," is contained in its most authentic form in the Gospels, and a few other historical passages of the New Testament. It is very difficult to conceive any critical scholar supposing that if the New Testament narratives are not sufficient to warrant us in believing that Jesus Christ was really born of a Virgin, and really fed the five thousand with the five loaves, and was really raised from the dead the third day, there is any other witness which can support the statements, considered as records of actual events. Thus, as between M. Loisy and Professor Harnack, I cannot doubt that, if the critical results in which they substantially agree are accepted as scientific, we must go with Harnack and not with Loisy in our attitude towards the Creed. Once again, the theology of the Creed of Nicæa is only the making explicit what is already there in the theology of St Paul and St John. But I cannot believe that the theology of St Paul and St John could rank as more than a phase in the history of thought, if it were found that Christ Himself, as a matter of fact, made no such Divine claim as, in different degrees, but with equal certainty, the Gospels record Him to have made. Thus we cannot refuse to enter the region of free criticism with our Gospels; nor can we pretend that the validity of our Creeds is independent of the issue of such criticism. If the Creeds stand, with their historical and doctrinal statements, it must be because the Gospels stand. I do not want a complete absence of inaccuracy or discrepancy in the Gospel narratives. I want only, if I am to believe the Creeds, that the Gospels should stand as, in the fullest sense, trustworthy history. Well, now, it is my conviction that no fair historical criticism can dissolve the force of the historical evidence we have to such propositions as the following: that Jesus Christ was, and knew Himself to be, sinless in the midst of a sinful world of which He came to be the Saviour; that, moreover, He encouraged in His disciples towards Himself and claimed from them the sort of allegiance and faith which only God can rightly claim and which can only be rendered without impiety to God; that He worked miracles which no reasoning can allow us to ascribe to anything else than the creative power of God working with Him to authorise His teaching; that after His death and burial His tomb was found empty on the third (or, as we should say, the second) day, and His disciples were raised from despondency and despair to a sure faith and confident hope by repeated manifestations of Himself risen, in a body transformed and spiritualised, but the same. I am quite sure that it is those who disbelieve such propositions, and not those who believe them, who do violence to the evidence. Further, though the manner of our Lord's birth falls outside the period of His life of which the Apostles were personal witnesses, and was not, therefore, among the grounds on which belief in Christ was asked; yet I see the best reasons for thinking that in the early circle of believers the fact of our Lord's Birth of a Virgin was believed on the evidence of the only first-hand witnesses, Joseph and Mary, and that it is Joseph and Mary whose testimony is embodied in the first and third Gospels. I believe, therefore, that the faith of the Creed is supported by free inquiry into historical facts. And if I am asked how it is that "the critics" reach a conclusion so different, I reply, At least in England, the strength of criticism--its strength in bulk and intellectual value--is on the conservative side. Also, I reply, that in the great majority of cases I seem to see most clearly that the destructive critics reach the results they reach, not from considerations properly historical, but because their mind is occupied with a certain view of the world which indisposes them to the conclusions of the Creed; just as, on the other hand, I am conscious that my own mind is filled with a certain belief in God, a certain view of sin, a certain expectation of Divine redemption, which makes the evidence of the Gospels acceptable, which makes me susceptible of belief. I seem to see clearly enough that historical criticism, as applied to the Gospels, can take us a certain way without appealing to any presuppositions except what are shared by almost all sensible men: as that the matter of the synoptic Gospels dates almost entirely back behind the destruction of Jerusalem, or that when St Paul wrote his First Epistle to the Corinthians (A.D. 55), and, after reminding them in detail of his original teaching as to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, speaks of his own relation to the older Apostles, and says, "Wherefore, whether it were I or they, so we preach and so ye believed," he could not have been conscious of any difference between his witness and theirs. I think, then, that we might very well reach almost universal agreement that the witness of the New Testament can be shown to have taken shape so early that it might be strictly historical--that it falls within the conditions which admit of good history. On the other hand, there remain discrepancies, obscurities, difficulties; there remain the large gaps in the evidence and the historical possibility that conjectures or mistakes might very rapidly have become imaginary memories. Thus it seems as if the question whether these recorded events actually happened, miraculous and supernatural as they are, will almost always be answered in accordance with what a man's mind is as to the probabilities of Divine action-- in accordance with what he thinks is really credible or probable. We must all train ourselves in the very rare quality of submission to good evidence, when it runs contrary to our prejudices at any point. This quality is as rare among biblical critics as among men of the world; and as rare among sceptics as among believers. To train ourselves in it is a high intellectual duty. But at the end we are left acknowledging that a man's judgment, on the weight to be assigned to historical testimony, will be found in part depending on his general view of what is probable in this world, as he knows it.
And this brings me to my third test--the rational or logical--by which I would try to distinguish the essential or permanent from the unessential or impermanent elements in Christianity. It is the test of rational coherence.
There is a certain set of ideas, for example, which naturally arise on the consideration of the Christian religion in a mind which views the world mainly under the modern category of development, which, however, has its ancient analogies. Humanity is thought of as in gradual progress of upward development from the brute. Sin broadly appears as the remains of the tiger and the ape-nature in us, which is gradually being outgrown; or, where it is admitted to be more than that, as the mistake or fault of the individual choosing the lower instead of the higher, which is the fault of his own will only, and does not involve the race as a whole. In this process of upward movement viewed spiritually, Christ is the highest point. The language of Incarnation may be accepted. He may be declared Son of God, or the phrase God in man may be used; but the idea is that humanity is God's son, that God is, so to speak, incarnate or becoming incarnate in humanity, and that Christ is in the highest degree what every man is in a measure because he has the Word and Spirit of God in him. Now, Christ's sinlessness in an absolute sense is an incumbrance to this view. The Virgin Birth is an offence. Miracles, as a whole, including the physical resurrection, are an incumbrance. What is wanted is a more or less comprehensive view of a development in which the Divine sonship of man is the climax, and Jesus Christ is the highest specimen. This view is represented consistently in many German and English Unitarian Theists. In ancient language, we should describe it as a Pelagian view of man associated with a Nestorian view of Christ and leading to a Sabellian doctrine of God. The cohesion of these ideas was recognised in early times, and it is recognisable enough in our day in modern forms.
Now, this sequence of ideas may be very strongly criticised in itself. The idea of sin as something which in the process of civilisation we show a tendency to outgrow, is quite contrary to experience. The evidence of the Gospels, too deeply engraved into the record to admit of dislodgment, postulates in Christ both a sinlessness and a personal claim which force us to recognise in Him something much more than this highest development of our existing manhood. The historical witness to the miracles, and preeminently to the physical resurrection, is overwhelming. But I am concerned now not to combat this set of ideas but to confront them with another which, starting from the same fundamental conception of God and man, is distinguished first of all by the severer view of sin. This is the Bible view. Sin is so deep a taint, so profound an evil, and so ingrained into the whole stock of our humanity, that we cry out --and the best specimens of our common manhood most strenuously--for something more than progress--for redemption--for a new birth; that is, a new creative act which shall give our nature a fresh start. This profound sense of sin and need gives a welcome to the Catholic and New Testament doctrine of a Divine act of redemption, led up to, indeed, in the course of history, and prepared for by the anticipations of prophecy, but in itself single and unique; an absolute act of God, by which the Son of God, the eternal Son of the Father, for us men and for our salvation, came down from Heaven, and was incarnate and was made man. This is a phrase which could not possibly be applied to any other event than one--the one Incarnation, or to any other person than one--Jesus Christ, believed to be Personally God in manhood. This new creative act of God brings into the world a new manhood--perfectly human, but free from all the taint and weakness of sin; and the startling distinction between Jesus Christ's conscious sinlessness and the consciousness of other prophets and saints suggests so manifest a moral miracle, as makes the idea of the physical miracle which accompanied His Birth intellectually welcome and congruous; while it leads on naturally to a human life such as the Gospels describe. But the Incarnation is the consummation of our human nature in union with God as well as its redemption. In Christ our manhood is taken into God. He is God in manhood. This both puts Christ in a quite unique relation to all other men, so that He can become in a complete sense by spiritual regeneration the head and fount of a new manhood; and also gives a reason of the most weighty kind for His miracles and the Resurrection. His miracles are not portents; they are the physical counterparts of His moral teaching and claim. They are the evidences such as we feel in our deepest moments we rationally need, that there is only one lordship in the universe, and that the material world, which commonly seems so indifferent to moral distinctions, ultimately and at the bottom is only the instrument of the moral will of God. This is made manifest by the miracles and the Resurrection of Christ as it could be in no other way. Christ presents to us in summary an anticipation of the final victory of spirit in matter; and assures us of the glorious future, which, through all failure and disaster, awaits the manhood which holds fast by God. Meanwhile the whole relation of the Son to the Father revealed in the Incarnation, and of the Spirit to both, establishes the idea of the Trinity which offers its profound solution of the ultimate difficulties of Divine personality by disclosing to us a social nature in the depth of the one Divine Being.
All this is obvious. It means only that the whole set of ideas about sin and redemption and the Incarnation and the Trinity which belong to the Catholic Creeds, and are the commonplaces of historical Christianity, cohere and are practically indissoluble. It suggests, what I am sure is true, that to abandon our maintenance of miracles as an integral part of our creed; or in particular of one miracle, the Lord's birth of a Virgin--as if the rest of the fabric would be unimpaired--is simply due to lack of perception. In fact, the writers who ask for the particular surrender make it manifest enough, if their thought is scrutinised, that what they are asking for is something much more than a single surrender; it is the substitution of one whole set of ideas for another. And if we examine wherein lies the secret of the difference between the Catholic and the Unitarian set of ideas, we shall find it, I am persuaded, not so much in any view of historical evidence, as in the different views of what sin is and what it needs. The deeper, severer, view of sin is the clue to the whole Catholic sequence of ideas. And what a man thinks about sin is very largely a matter of his own personal moral consciousness.
I repeat: in current controversies as to what Christian belief does or does not necessarily involve, the language used by different sides is, on the surface, largely identical; but what we are really concerned with is a conflict between two fundamentally different cycles of ideas.
I have tried to face the question: In an age of change and criticism and new knowledge, what are we to regard as permanent Christianity? what are we to regard as the permanent faith for which we are to contend to death--any "advance" out of which, to use St John's phrase, is only advance along a road which separates from God and Christ? I reply, first of all, the faith summarised and expressed in the Catholic Creeds--that faith in God and man, and man's destiny; in the Incarnation and the Person of Christ and the accompanying miracles, and the eternal Triune Being of God disclosed in Christ's revelation. Beyond that, I am not now inquiring whether there be anything more of equal value. But that first of all, and every part of it. And my reason is, because in a remarkable manner it obeys all those three tests which I may restate in a different order. First, that this whole faith is historically identified in all its parts with historical Christianity. It comes to us with the whole weight of Christian authority. Secondly, this is not bare authority. We discover in the articles thus proposed by authority a most convincing sequence of ideas. It is not a number of isolated dogmas, but one view coherent and indissoluble. Thirdly, when we approach the historical evidence we find it (at the points material to our present inquiry) cogent in a high degree. It supports and justifies our belief that the facts on which our faith rests really occurred. And if the mind is already furnished with the ideas which render it susceptible of the evidence, or, to put it in other words, if it is free from the hostile prejudices which belong to another set of ideas, it will not fail to find the evidence convincing.
I have ventured to suggest the consideration and application of this threefold test, because I feel that our scholars are mostly applying the test of criticism, as if really historical criticism were, what it is not, an abstract instrument which could be detached from the general furniture of the mind. It is possible that the intellect of the schools in our own age may become so merely critical as to make it highly difficult for the professed student to be a believer. The remedy for this lies, surely, in the deliberate restoration of other modes of approach to Christian truth. If the educated intellect becomes purely critical, we may feel sure that whatever restoration or revival of religion is to be expected in the future, will have to arise out of another kind of soil--out of something more broadly human, more spiritually profound; in a word, more sympathetic with Christ's own mind.
"Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."-- ST MATT. iii. 2.
IT is my persuasion, which deepens with every year of experience, that there will be no revival of vital religion among us, on any large scale, or with any adequate results, except through a deepening of the sense of sin: a return to the properly Christian severity of view about the meaning of sin and its consequences; and that this is needed equally in all classes of society and among all kinds of men. There is, in the Old Testament, a narrative of the way in which the foolish king, Jehoiakim, and his courtiers, received the solemn warnings of Jeremiah, as Jehudi read them from the roll of the book in which Jeremiah had caused Baruch to write them. "And Jehudi read it in the ears of the king, and in the ears of all the princes which stood beside the king. Now the king sat in the winter-house . . . and there was a fire in the brazier burning before him. And it came to pass, when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, that the king cut it with the pen-knife and cast it into the fire that was in the brazier, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was in the brazier. And they were not afraid nor rent their garments, neither the king nor any of his servants that heard all these words." "They were not afraid" of the warnings of the Word of God on sin. That seems to describe the attitude of all classes (I do not say, by any means, of all individuals) of our society to-day. The horror of sin and the terror of its consequences have come to be regarded as somewhat old-fashioned. But this false fearlessness of the king Jehoiakim was the ruin of himself and his country. If there is any truth in the Bible, it is this: that sin is not a stage in upward evolution: a mere survival of animal tendencies which is gradually being outgrown: nor a mere result of untoward circumstances or lack of education or experience; but a lawlessness of the human will, a perpetually renewed rebellion against God or neglect of God, which disorders human nature by depriving it of the fellowship of God, and ruins both the individual and the social life, except so far as repentance leads towards amendment, and opens the way for that divine redemption which God's love is ever offering.
It is quite a mistake to suppose that this teaching about sin is dependent upon our regarding the story of the Fall, in Genesis iii., as historical. If the materials of that story are derived from popular legends, common to the Israelites and the Babylonians, they have been used by a truly inspired mind, and been turned into an everlastingly true parable of what temptation and sin really are. Moreover, that story has strangely little appreciable effect on the rest of the Old Testament. The Old Testament view of sin is simply the result of the moral teaching about the character of God and the nature of man, which constitutes the central feature of the Old Testament revelation. In the Old Testament, indeed, the view of sin and its consequences is mainly confined to this life. Sin is ruin, here and now, to the individual and the State. It is social ruin. That is permanently true. Professor Huxley speaks of "that fixed order of nature which sends social disorganisation upon the track of immorality, as surely as it sends physical disease after physical trespasses," and he speaks of its being "the high mission" of science "to be the priestess of a firm and lively faith" in that fixed moral order.  Substitute for the words "fixed order" some such phrase, as "the will of God in the government of the world," and you have the teaching of the prophets about the "day of the Lord"--the judgment of God upon nations. That is permanently true teaching. It admits of no advance. It is given practically in its final form in the Old Testament prophets. It simply passes over from the Old Testament into the New, and receives its reaffirmation through the lips of Christ. And it is verified, if we look below the surface, in the history of the falls of nations and governing classes.
But as to the consequences of sin to the individual, the Old Testament teaching was much more imperfect. "The soul that sinneth it shall die," meant at first that God's judgments on individuals accomplish themselves, in this world. Sin is punished by misfortune and death. Moral experience broke down this simple faith and forced the conscience of man forward to see, in a wider area, and a course extending out beyond the limits of this life, the fulfilment of the dealings of God with the human soul. But the Christ, when He came, with His full disclosure of divine love and human destiny, did not mitigate, nay, rather He intensified the severity of Old Testament teaching about the consequences of sin to the individual soul. He would have men still tremble--till perfect love should cast out fear--under the terror of the wrath of God. "Yea, I say unto you, fear Him." So long as the fear of temporal disaster in this world is an inevitable element in human nature, an inevitable stimulus to avoid the disaster that threatens, I cannot conceive why men should endeavour to eliminate from our ordinary human motives, the fear of eternal ruin. We may, indeed, regard hell as nothing else but the inevitable outcome in another world than this, of the process by which, in this world, we have formed for ourselves a character incompatible with God. We must rid the doctrine of any inequitable associations. We must recognise to the full the compassion of God, the love which binds Him to do the utmost possible for every human soul which He has created, and to be equitable with a father's equity, in taking into account ignorance, or hard circumstances, or lack of opportunity. But there is such a thing as self-willed independence of God: as lust which will not be controlled: an avarice or ambition which will not brook restraints: a malice which will not forgive. There is the possibility that men may--nay, there is the experience that men do--harden themselves in persistent habit, passing into indelible character, into a moral state incompatible with the fellowship of God. Death does not change us. It only strips us bare, and transplants into a world where only God is, and His judgments: and the man there reaps the consequences of what, in defiance or neglect of God, he has become. If men are to be dealt with in accordance with moral laws, God Himself cannot alter those consequences. And, unless we are prepared to play fast and loose with language, we must admit that those consequences, according to the teaching of the New Testament, may have become final and irreversible--an eternal sin--an eternal perishing, a state of being finally outcast and of knowing it, which is the weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is because the New Testament takes this tremendous view of sin, and treats it as a universal fact in human nature, that its whole teaching about man treats him as being the subject of redemption--as needing in each individual case to be bought back out of a slavery in which he lies.
The divine method of this redemption is, so to speak, from within the human race itself. It is a new creative act of God restoring in human nature a moral creation which had been ruined. The Saviour is man, but new man: born, but virgin-born. He moves out into experience and history as "in all points" tried as we other men, his brethren, are, but with one significant exception--He knew no sin. He was without sin in Himself. He set the pattern of our manhood, not as we have made it, but as God would have it be and will (if we will let Him) remake it. The sin which was in the world marked the Saviour's steps with blood and nailed Him to the Cross. But His willing obedience, unto death--the willingness of a manhood wholly in conformity with God, turns the death which a God-refusing world recklessly inflicted, into a perfect offering of a perfect manhood consecrated by self-sacrifice--an offering which brings back our wilful nature into the fellowship with God which it had lost. It was as our representative that He lived our life, conscious of Himself as the Son of Man. It was as our representative that He offered for us and in our stead the sacrifice that we had been withholding. And living, risen and glorified through death and beyond it, it is still as our representative, the second Adam, the head of a redeemed race, that He builds up a new humanity, a temple on a secure basis, a city that hath foundations, in which the real divine purpose for man is to be realised, even into an everlasting fulfilment. But still for every individual, the sin which taints every man and woman, aye, and every child, makes it a moral necessity that there should be a new birth, a fresh incorporation upon a fresh stock, the stock of the new Man, Jesus the Christ: and this incorporation upon the new stock, if it is to be efficacious, must be a real personal act of faith and repentance, a real "turning" of the will--except ye be converted or "turn," ye cannot enter into the kingdom of God. And because sin is ingrained into our nature, therefore the recovery of the dominion of the spirit needs all through life a continual "mortification," a putting to death of the old man that the new may grow--a dying to live. But do you say to the preacher, this is all very commonplace and very old-fashioned. We have heard it very often. But you do not seem to have been reading modern literature. We have got a somewhat different version of these things. The law of humanity is progress. The sphere of progress is this world. We look before and after, and find in the scientific doctrine of development, the guarantee of this progress. This is the gospel of modern science. What you call sin is a survival of the animal propensities of a pre-human ancestry--it is the tiger or the ape in us--which we are slowly outgrowing in the upward movement of the human race. Nay, the preacher may make rejoinder. This comfortable doctrine is not science, nor based on science, properly so-called. Professor Huxley, who was a scientific man, when he came to Oxford to speak his Komanes lecture many years ago, told us, and it is as true to-day, that science has got no gospel of progress at all. "The survival of the fittest" means not the survival of the best, but the survival of those best suited to their surroundings. The "survival of the fittest" may mean, and may come to mean, for all that science can say to the contrary, "the survival of the worst." "The theory of evolution,"  he went on, "encourages no millennial anticipations. If, for millions of years, our globe has taken the upward road, yet, sometime, the summit will be reached and the downward road will be commenced." And science knows not when: neither in the individual case, nor that of the nation, nor that of the race. Science simply observes changes which are sometimes from worse to better and sometimes from better to worse, and she traces, when she can, the conditions and the law of these changes: but she indulges in no prophecies and would have no reason at all, so far as she is science, to be disappointed when an epoch of change passes into an epoch of deterioration. Nay: science gives us no message of necessary human progress. How could she, in view of the facts of past history. Take a tour in imagination round the Mediterranean Sea, beginning with Morocco and ending with Spain. Examine country after country, race after race, city after city. One after another, almost without exception, through the whole tour, they yield the answer: Our contribution to the sum of human knowledge, human virtue, human progress, was made centuries ago, millenniums ago. Our glories live in the past. We are interesting mainly because of very remote memories or very ancient history.
And there is little hope of recovery here, except, perhaps, through the intrusion of some strange race to dispossess a fallen one. Nay, extend your view. Take a map and go over the surface of the globe and ascertain accurately of how many races you can say that there is evidence of progress, if you compare what they are now, with what they were a thousand years ago. You will be astonished at the vast area of stagnation, the vast area of retrogression and decay, as compared to the line of progress. Nay, but take the progressive races, and you will find even more ambiguous the relation of civilisation to moral progress. Nations do not always become better as they grow more civilised. Sometimes you trace moral progress, as history records it, and find it passing into an age of general moral deterioration. We seem to be morally better than we were a hundred years ago in England. But what reasonable man but owns that the moral condition of our country is very precarious. Who then can reasonably say--with his eyes on the indisputable and widely-spread facts of moral deterioration in races--that sin is a survival which men are seen to be outgrowing? Science indeed! Such an idea is mere wilfulness. And if you begin to examine individuals, how utterly contrary to experience is such a view. How many men disappoint hopes: how many deteriorate, grow worse, not better. How many men and women are wrecks--the mere ruins of what they might have been. Have we no doctrine of human progress, then? Indeed we have: it is grounded on the ineradicable consciousness of hope which God, who made man, has inspired: it has been nourished by His prophets: it is confirmed and realised by our Lord, Son of God and Son of Man. Yes, men, according to Christian teaching, are meant for progress. There is an assured goal. There is to be a perfected humanity, a city of God in which no good thing shall be lost, into which all the gains of all mankind shall be at last stored up and accumulated. "They shall bring the glory and honour of all nations into the city of God." But this perfection cannot be won, by taking ourselves as we are and languidly hoping for the best: by treating sin as if we should naturally outgrow it. But by awakening from sin: by knowing it to be disease which needs sharp remedies, for it is mortal: by conversion: by confession: by bearing our penance: by a new birth into a new manhood: by a dying to the old manhood to live in the new.
There is, of course, a theory or way of conceiving of the world which is called scientific, which is in the most direct conflict with the Christian teaching about sin--I mean, the theory which refuses to see anything in the world but the inevitable sequence of physical phenomena, according to physical law, which would have good characters and bad characters to be merely physical products, like good apples and bad apples, and which refuses, accordingly, to recognise the possibility of any actions which ought not to have been done, and, in fact, need not have been done. But such a fatalism really ignores a whole class of facts involved in our moral consciousness. Confessedly it will not work; that is, it has to be repudiated in order to deal with real life. You cannot dare to educate a child in the belief that nothing he may do could have been otherwise. All possibility of moral progress is bound up with the belief in moral freedom. You can give no account on such a theory of the ineradicable consciousness of guilt and shame which belongs to a fairly good man when he has done really wrong--"the self-contempt bitterer to drink than blood." On the other hand, the postulate of voluntary action, the power, that is, to direct a certain amount of force in the channel of one kind of action or of another, does not result in any conclusion incompatible with any observed or observable facts of the physical world. You may defy any one to show you any observed or observable fact which must have been otherwise if the postulate of moral freedom were true. I think we are not wrong in saying that the denial of the fundamental axiom of moral responsibility is due, not to any contrary facts, but to an abstract refusal to recognise any other class of facts than those which fall under the purview of physical investigation. May we not hope that in this region, at least, a better relationship is already afoot between religion and moral thought on the one side, and physical science on the other? "We have lost a really great man in Mr Herbert Spencer--really great, because he determined to view the sum of ascertainable reality as a whole, and to deal with it as a whole, and pursued this great ambition with such indomitable industry. But may we not say that so far as his was an attempt to bring all facts, including moral and spiritual facts, under a single formula of physical evolution, it belongs to a bygone age, to the hot and arrogant youth of science; and that science, since Herbert Spencer began to write, has become wonderfully more modest and conscious of its limitations: even as its old rival, theology, has quite changed its attitude and become wonderfully deferential and respectful toward physical science--even, perhaps, at times too submissive to its more hasty or conjectural utterances?
We must be true both to physical reality and to that which is moral and spiritual; and interpret each apart, and on its own ground, and by its own methods; if we are to attain more nearly to completeness of knowledge and fulness of outlook. But if you set aside a fatalist view of the universe: if the fact of moral choice and moral responsibility is admitted: then I cannot understand how there is any stopping on the way to the acceptance of the Christian view of sin.
Let it be granted that the doctrine of physical evolution has occupied the ground of human thought, and permanently displaced the idea of special creations: let it be granted, that is, that our race developed out of an animal ancestry: let it be granted that the early chapters of Genesis give us in forms of the imagination certain elemental spiritual truths about God, and nature, and man, and human sin--that they most assuredly do--but no actual history of the origins of things: still the fact remains--the development of the human race has not been what it might have been, what it ought to have been, what in the purpose of God it was intended to be. I know this for a fact, because I know it in my own history. I am not what I was meant to be. And the reason of my miserable failure to become what God meant me to be, is nothing whatever but my sin, my faithlessness, my wilfulness, my impatience, my lawless lust--my fault, my own fault, my own great fault. I know this is true of myself, if I like to think. I know it is true in countless others. I see their wilfulness, waywardness, selfishness spoiling homes, ruining friendship, alienating love, corrupting life on all sides. I work this out on the great scale and see sin--human lawlessness--retarding the Divine purpose for man's development all through, turning into evil what was meant for good. I see this sin in the individual writ large in the race, and I know its true character in my own heart. I go back in imagination to the beginning, and I know that however and where-ever and whenever the human consciousness, the consciousness of self, the consciousness of choice, the consciousness of fellowship with the Divine, dawned in the animal organism, there back in the dim beginnings, under conditions which I can but dimly realise, it must have been the same thing in principle. What retarded, impeded, destroyed at the beginning, in the rude beginnings of our race, is what retards, impedes, destroys now--sin.
I am saying nothing about the tainting of the stock of manhood, and the inheritance of sin, though I find it wholly impossible to doubt that sin has weakened the race by an inherited taint or disorder. And I do not anticipate that careful biological or psychological science is likely ultimately to find itself in ascertained conflict with this idea. I recall a remark of George Romanes that Weismann himself would, he doubted not, be the first to allow that his theory of heredity encounters greater difficulties in the domain of ethics than in any other--unless, indeed, it were in that of religion.  But I make no assumption here of the quasi-physical transmission of sin. I look now only to the universality of actual sins in experience, and to the light in which they reveal themselves in the inner consciousness; and I say, the Bible is right. Sin is the great enemy. There is no illusion so extraordinary as the light-hearted-ness of men, in view of the mastery which sin manifestly has over them and in them. And as the Christian message is a message to men who feel the burden and the guilt of sin, so true is it that what we need to-day is some John the Baptist to prepare the way of the Lord by arousing us again in all classes, and under all sorts of conditions in life, to a wholesome and a godly fear of sin and of its consequences.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. There is no optimism so strong as the optimism of the forecast for humanity which our religion offers us, if only we will set ourselves deliberately to face, and recognise, and deal with the one great obstacle, in the only way in which it can be dealt with--the obstacle of sin. We must deal with it first in ourselves, and if in ourselves we have realised something of the joy and thankfulness which belong to those who know themselves to be redeemed men--men in whom the Divine redemption is actually taking place--then and then only we can go out into the world to do the work of evangelists, and make men feel that the kingdom of heaven is among us and within.
 T. H. Huxley's Evolution and Ethics (Macmillan, 1903), p. 146.
 Loc. cit., pp. 80, 85.
 See Darwin and After Darwin (Longmans, 1895), ii. p. 90.