Rev. A. H. VINTON, D.D.
Dear Sir,--Feeling that we do not wish to lose any of the wholesome thoughts so ably and impressively set before us this morning at our ordination, and sure that their publication will prove equally helpful to others, we respectfully ask for your Sermon, that we may put it in a form that all may possess.
We are, as always,
With deep appreciation, yours,
JOHN G. BACCHUS.
ITHAMAR W. BEARD.
BRYAN B. KILLIKELLY, JUN.
THEODOSIUS S. TYNG.
EPISCOPAL THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL, CAMBRIDGE, MASS.,
The First Sunday after Trinity, 1873.
77 MARLBOROUGH STREET, BOSTON, July 1, 1873.
To the Revs. JOHN G. BACCHUS, ITHAMAR W. BEARD, LOUIS DECORMIS, BRYAN B. KILLIKELLY, Jun., and THEODOSIUS S. TYNG.
Dear Friends,--I have received your note asking permission to print the Sermon which I delivered at your ordination. I am grateful to you for your kind appreciation, and I submit it to your disposal willingly.
I am very truly yours,
ALEX. H. VINTON.
IT is not necessary to refer to the occasion and circumstances which led to the use of this expression by the Apostle; for, while the occasion itself might be narrow and special, the words are evidently comprehensive of many occasions, and fit for a wide adaptation. In this way I propose to use them.
The expression, "Truth as it is in Jesus," implies, that whatever other forms truth may assume, into whatsoever developments thought and reason may work themselves out, in science, morals, or politics, yet there is one form in which truth stands pre-eminent and peculiar,--one development of it so singular and so grand as to overmatch every other, and with a sort of sovereignty to sweep its sceptre over the realm of thought, and gather all other truths in a group around the central throne of the Great Truth.
This sovereign truth is "Truth in Jesus." In these words we find an answer to the satirical question of Pontius Pilate, which embodied the philosophical [5/6] scepticism fashionable in his day, "What is truth?" In fact, from the days of Pyrrho down to our time, there have been men who doubted every thing; because, as they maintained, there was nothing that had the certainty of truth; or, what is the same thing practically, that nothing could be certainly known by man. And yet the mental instincts of mankind are perpetually driving them in search of truth. The human mind was evidently made to find it; and it were to imagine a very disjointed creation to suppose that there was any thing which did not have its correlative thing--an organ without a function, an appetite without its fitting food, a faculty without its use, or means to an end with no appropriate end to the means--in all the wide world. We may be sure that this great central hunger of man's spirit shall not be abandoned to self-corrosion and everlasting emptiness. We may answer the universal doubter in this way; and we may safely conclude there is such a thing as truth, though we have not found it yet. There is a positive and absolute certainty, though we may not be sure where and what it is.
When we speak of the truth in this comprehensive way, we mean the relation of the effect to its cause, of the phenomenon to its producing power. We translate the fact into its principle, and the deed into its reason and motive. We look behind the scenic play of actualities that is going on before our eyes to discover the how and the why of the shifting forms of things, and we try to follow the mechanism of the [6/7] great world-life back to its motive power. When we have reached the principle and reason of any thing, we have discovered the truth of that thing,--partial truth, but real nevertheless.
Thus every fact is a veiled truth; and every species of facts is a sign of a wider truth, and every class of a wider; and so on, through departments and systems, till we reach one truth which is a world-truth; and that is GoD. His mind is the source of truth. Truth beams out of it as light out of the big bosom of the sun, and radiates in all directions and with diverse powers. Just as the sun's rays are coloring, or hot, or magnetic rays, and each works its own separate work; so the one truth which God is comes out into various forms and powers.
Now it is the truth of physical science, and now of metaphysical. Now it is the fruit-bearing truth of ethics, and then it is the blossoming truth of aesthetics. Above all, and through all, and producing all, is the one universal and absolute principle of truth,--God's mind and God's nature. That which is not true according to God, is not truth at all, but a lie.
Now, we are taught, and our text intimates it, that this divine and universal truth is embodied and represented in the Son of God, who is the Godhead's fulness; and truth as it is in Jesus is therefore not only the important truth of religion, of morals, and of practical life; it is the great truth of the world, with all the grandeur of a universal truth. There may be other particular truths, subordinate to this, but not [7/8] contradicting this, which are not in any eminent way truths in Jesus. But these are only partial and fragmentary; true as far as they go, but not going far enough to bring out their connection with God or Jesus at all. And there are other things which pass for truths sometimes--that is, thoughts, reasonings, and conclusions about religion and morals--which are not truths, simply because they are not in Jesus, but without Him, and studiously separated from Him.
The great peculiarity ascribed by the Apostle to the truth as it is in Jesus, lies, I suppose, in the one and single idea of His being a Redeemer of a guilty race. For there is nothing else in the circle of Christian truths that is so peculiar, or even peculiar at all. Jesus, in His personal character as a holy and harmless and undefiled man, is considered by some persons to stand not beyond the fair challenge of historical competition. There have been other good and holy men,--faultless, so far as we know, as He. The moral teaching of Jesus was not so out of sight of all pagan moralities as to warrant any pretension to singularity. His claim of magisterial and lordly authority was by no means without precedent: Paganism was sprinkled all over with deities and semi-deities of human pedigree. Mahomet assumed to supersede Christ by the assertion of a superior lordship. Nay, even the strange truth of the divine incarnation was not peculiar to the Christian scheme of doctrine. The soul of Oriental devotion had embodied that idea in the Avatar of Vishnu,--the divine presence incarnate; [8/9] and Plato's meditations had fixed it as the essential condition of the restoration of the race, that the restorer must be the Divine become human.
But there is one idea, standing at the centre of the circle of Christian truth, which is so peculiar, that it has no mate, nor any thing like it, either in the religions of the world or the speculations of philosophers; and that is, THE REDEMPTIVE IDEA,--the substitution of the Redeemer in the place of the victim, His sacrificial death as a satisfaction and propitiation for human sin. This single idea is the nucleus of Christian truth. All other doctrines grow out of it, or accumulate themselves to it, by necessary affinity.
The incarnation was merely a necessary antecedent to the redemptive work. The model manhood, and the glorious, pure teaching, of Jesus, was a no less necessary consequent of the incarnation. The regal dominion over the world could not fail to follow the victory by which the Redeemer snatched the world away from the destroyer; so that while these ideas were not altogether new to men's minds, and so not peculiar to the gospel, yet, joined as they are to the redemptive idea, they gather new force and significance. They are nothing alone, every thing with this. The one vitalizing thought or truth which is peculiar, and so diffuses its peculiarity through the whole circle of truths, is that same redemptive idea, so new, so strange, that it needed to be authenticated throughout by miracles, by inspiration, by a pervading element of supernaturalism. It must be made a matter [9/10] of Revelation; and the redemptive idea would therefore always stand or fall, to men's minds, accordingly as they admitted or rejected the inspiration of the revealed Word.
And so we find that the great object of God's Revelation is to testify of His Son, the Alpha and Omega of all the divine dispensations. And so we find that all the history of the Bible is only subsidiary to the introduction of Jesus into the world. The prophecy of Scripture has Christ and' His work for its burden and key-note. The doctrines are all grouped and pendent from his Cross.
The world's future is to be Christ's triumph; and eternity, with its big balancing of destiny, is to be determined as Jesus shall point His finger towards heaven or towards hell. This great truth in Jesus, then, as being the substance and significance of Revelation, becomes the test and standard of true knowledge. That which is not incompatible with this Revelation may be truth, though it reach not so far as Jesus. But the theories and speculations and convictions which are in antagonism to Revelation are therefore false.
Let us find illustrations of this in the various departments and systems of human thought. We will enter, first of all, the domains of natural science. A right knowledge of the material world can never contradict religious truth, because both religion and nature are the offspring of one divine thought. When Science confines itself to its proper province [10/11] of simply interrogating Nature to learn her actual laws and the methods of her power,--in short, to understand simply what the universe is,--it will not be, and never has been, a contradiction to Revelation. With all its generalizations and analysis of physical forces, it may be truth as far as it goes, even though it be not truth in Jesus; which it cannot be, because Nature does not tell of Jesus.
But when Science undertakes to pronounce on matters which are not subjects of analysis; substitutes deduction for induction; and, besides telling what the world is, assumes to determine how long it has been,--a thing which no analysis is competent to decide; does not scruple to face down the positiveness of inspiration with the untutored guessings of itching human faculties,--why, then it is only "science falsely so called;" for it is not scientia. It not only is not the truth as it is in Jesus, but it is not truth at all, has no quality of truth, neither certainty, nor fixedness, nor fertility, nor promise.
When Science interrogates and analyzes, she wears the winning beauty of modesty: her face glows with a blushing brightness from God as she looks upward, honoring him. But when she postulates and speculates and arrogates, and, because the Bible will not bow to her, scolds and scouts the Bible; because Nature does not reveal an atonement, smiles satirically at the Cross,--then she has lost the divine beauty of her innocence; the glow of her face has become meretricious: fallen, like another Eve, from the lust of [11/12] knowing too much, she has bartered the paradise of truth, and the felt nearness of God, to wanton with day-dreams, chasing forever after the impossible knowledge of the possible. She has lost all the character of truth because she would not abide with Jesus and His word.
Now, let us bring another department of human thought under the shadow of this truth in Jesus, and see how it abides the neighborhood: let it be history. One writer of history may chronicle simple events: another may exhibit the proximate causes of social and political changes. One man may write history like an Englishman, collating and comparing documents and dates; another, like a Frenchman, with a theory and a foregone conclusion, with a taste for personalities, and with brilliant biographical tints; another, like a German, catching the thin spirit of the age, and condensing it into philosophy. And each history may be truth so far as it goes, and neither may be contrary to the truth of a Divine Providence in history. Yet it is only partial truth, and therefore not the truth as it is in Jesus.
The whole truth of history is Christ in history,--God's plan of governing the world for His Son, who is rightful King of nations as of saints,--whose progress is heralded by every discovery in science, every new invention in art, every fresh facility of commerce, and, above all, by the enunciation of every new truth of the freedom of man's soul and body, and of the equality of all human creatures before God. And the [12/13] path of Jesus through history has been paved with the ruins of thrones, and strewn with the laurels of fallen conquerors; and His progress in the historic life of the world has been greeted by the music of broken chains, and the thanksgiving of emancipated men and women,--the minor key of disappointment and cursing from corrupt men and tyrants serving only by the discord to heighten the harmony, and cause the very wrath of man to praise Him. When history is thus written to illustrate the progress of Christ's redeeming work in the world, then it becomes the very truth as it is in Jesus. When it denies this, throws contempt on this, refuses the supernatural dignity of Christianity, and explains historical facts on any other supposition rather than admit the power and truth of a Christian life, then history, as in the hands of Gibbon and Hume, becomes, not only not the truth as it is in Jesus, but hardly truth at all,--a mere effigy, modelled from a cast taken after death.
Try now another department and system of human thought and life,--politics. Though it may not be called in strictness a science, yet it has in it germs of great ideas, that may sprout into manifold blessings, and be Christ-like truths, or wild, gnarled, perverse mischiefs to the world, not like Christ at all. The rights of the people; the paramount duty of all governments to conserve and defend those rights; the welfare of the masses, moral, mental, physical, and social, as the great end of civil government,--these [13/14] are all great truths, entirely coincident with Christianity, but, standing alone, not necessarily truths in Jesus, because they are partial truths,--fragments struck off from the mass of truth. And when these partial truths are insulated and exaggerated to men's minds; when the rights of the people are made to swallow out of sight the duties of the people; when men in power recognize no authority but their own wills or ambitions; when principle is made to wait outside the door of party, and conscience ties the shoe-latchet of expediency; when the paramount question with public men and legislators is, not what the people want, but what they wish,--then the people are turned into a god,--the great idol Demos,--and politics becomes not only not the truth in Jesus, but the profanest falsifier of that truth, than which no other idolatry was ever more profane.
The people are indeed mighty, grandly so, in their oneness of conviction, in their mourning, and in their triumph. The interests of the people are of immense worth; for they are of the company of God's immortals. Angels are interested for them; God cares for them; Christ loves them dearly: but when the people forget that they are of God, and for God, He sends madness into their counsels, and their counsels become, first a falsehood, and then an overthrow.
So we see how, in these outside regions of life and action, the truth as it is in Jesus finds its place, and claims a power, it is so authoritative and penetrating. No work of man escapes its supervision; no [14/15] system or organization is strong enough to wrench off its grasp. No education, nor philosophy, nor style of thinking, can claim to be purely true, that does not. recognize Christ somewhere as its author or finisher,--Himself, or His Redemptive work, or the Book that tells of Him and it.
But now come back from this outside realm of life into that other realm, itself a world, where man's soul is, and his real life, the region of deep thoughts and high thoughts,--thoughts soaring to the high mystery of the great God, and diving to the deep secrets of man, the divine attributes, and human character. See what a new hue these subjects are tinged with, accordingly as they are seen with or without the truth as it is in Jesus!
Take, for example, that attribute of God, or rather that quality of the Godhead, which we call His holiness. It is a primary quality; for we cannot conceive of God without holiness. It is the light in which His nature dwells, so that the very constitution of Deity seems to be made up of its clear, transparent, intensely white moral purity. It is the radiance of the Godhead, ineffable, insufferable, scorching the sight. How terrible God seems, with that unflickering, broad blaze of purity flooding His nature! I cannot approach it: it is too Divine. Let it not come too near me, or I shall be destroyed. Let it stay in heaven, and let me abide here on the earth, where I can turn my eyes upon the shadows, and opaque, dull things. This represents a real truth of God's nature and [15/16] character, but not truth as it is in Jesus. When immaculate holiness was humanized and embodied in God's Son, how very tolerable, how attractive, it became! How the soul of humanity goes out to know Him now! How the moral taste of human nature approves Him, and covets to reproduce His image in itself! How cheerfully the best men and the worst men confess the beauty of it, and bring their tribute of admiring reverence and lay it at His feet! That distant glory seems attainable now,--none the less divine, yet much nearer to men; its splendor not now terrible, but entrancing, because it is holiness as it is in Jesus.
Now behold another attribute of God,--His justice. First insulated, and looked at absolutely without a medium. Out of Christ, what a consuming fire it is! Justice is holiness in action. It is the diffused light of moral purity condensed into a burning mass to consume the sin that is in the world. As we look at it in its isolated greatness, it seems to subordinate all other attributes to itself. Goodness stands behind, in the gray atmosphere of perspective, waiting for development, if opportunity shall ever come; while wisdom and power almighty seem to march in advance, wielding fiery arrows, and pronouncing heavy and solemn words of doom, which are echoed by a world's groans. And well it may be so; for, if we behold God's justice in its absolute form and color, any soul may shrink and sink into itself.
But look at that attribute through a medium,--through [16/17] the Mediator: see how He bared His own bosom to the stroke that was meant for us; God intercepting His own blow, rather than we should be struck and killed by it. See how He is still just, and we are justified; and then our terror loses all its wildness, and becomes chastened into sweet awe. Affection mingles itself with our fear; and the compound is that filial feeling which lays us at the foot of the Cross, contrite, subdued, willing.
Next take the divine attribute of benevolence. We believe in it, indeed, as an absolute quality of Deity, because we metaphysically argue that an infinite Being must have infinite perfections, and that an infinitely bad being is an impossibility. Yet how the argument fails when we quit the metaphysical ground! For when did the world ever see that infinite love in action? Is not the Divine benevolence the most vexed and equivocal fact in the world, flecked and broken with the lights and shadows of Divine providences, now prosperous, now adverse,--no health without its balance of sickness, no wealth without its co-ordinate poverty, nor any household without its skeleton, nor any joy without its ghastly, grim, mocking sorrow tagging in its train, and turning the end of every life into tragedy? Why any misery at all? And, more than all, why any sin to blast man's better nature, and deprave his celestial tendencies to brutish and demoniac? We try to answer all these importunate queries of humanity's broken heart, as they fly in our faces like birds just breaking from their cage, by arguing that all these [17/18] melancholy things may perhaps be compatible with the Divine benevolence, though we see not how; and so we lay the thin pillow of an abstraction on the rocky points of human anguish, and bid the soul hush and go to sleep, with the desperate consolation of a possibility. This is the best that human thought could ever make out of the Divine benevolence, seen by itself out of Christ.
But how in Christ? How as the truth is in Jesus? It turns the abstract truth to living fact. It anthropomorphizes the Deity. It represents the Infinite One, who, our philosophy says, is without parts or passions, in the near, dear character of a personal Father, who loved His human creatures so much that He gave His adorable and only-begotten Son to save them and theirs. As the lost world hears that Gospel, and looks upon the Cross, and sees who was THE CRUCIFIED, it takes up a strain of confession, so universal that it never was known to be contradicted by a single tone of dissent,--"Herein is love; that God so loved the world as to give His only-begotten Son." Truly "God is love." Like all heart-consciousnesses, it treads down the small scruples of fear; it tosses aside the filmy robe of speculation, and wraps the soul instead in the thick folds of conviction, that keep it warm with an immortality of hope. God's love no longer shines with a broken flicker. There are no spots on that sun. It glows like the unhindered noon. It is the very centre of the whole system of religious thought. All other Divine truths beam forth from this, or [18/19] gravitate to it. God in Christ is pure love. We interpret all providences by this light; and, even when our thick griefs blacken into a cloud above our heads, we can still see, that, all around and beyond the cloud, the atmosphere and fixed firmament is of golden, pure love.
In this way does every Divine attribute, as seen in Jesus, find its just place and proportion; just as, when you stand among mountains in a morning twilight, each of the big forms rises up from its base of darkness, and lifts its separate peak to catch the first gray gleam of day. And so they stand in their peculiarity, facing and frowning on each other in irreconcilable grandeur, as if they had nothing in common, not even their foundation. But by and by the sun gets up towards his vertical height, and shines down each mountain-side, clear to the bottom; and there is a beautiful valley where these tall cliffs are joined and rooted side by side, making one grand harmony of structure, showing that they are nothing without the valley, and the valley nothing without the mountains. Just so the attributes of God, seen by themselves in that twilight which is reason's best light: they rise out of the dark divinity in which they are based, and loom in their separate grandeur, as if they could never be reconciled. The truth as it is in Jesus is the vertical daylight: it shines in upon that dark divinity, and shows how the attributes are harmonized and mated in the beauty and deep glory of the Godhead, so that "mercy and truth meet together, and [19/20] righteousness and peace embrace each other" only and everlastingly in the light of Christ.
And now that we have seen how wide the sweep of this great truth is, taking in all departments of outside knowledge, see again how penetrating it is when we make it a practical thing, and bring it to bear on ourselves and our human state. See how it enters into and controls our views of nature, of man, of his condition, of his duty, of his destiny. What a different estimate of our moral nature comes from seeing it as the truth is, or is not, in Jesus!
Common sense tells us our nature is frail. The universal conscience tells us we are erring. Natural religion tells us that we owe God a duty; and the universal experience pronounces that we have violated our duty. Yet, notwithstanding all this, poets were found, and theologians too, who sang and preached the grace and beauty of humanity in and of itself. Its frailties were but accidents, its faults only peccadilloes; while its worth was transcendent and half divine. And men applauded this self-praise even to the world-echo. None chid the vices of life except a rare satirist; and he to make men laugh, and not to weep. It was no maxim of theirs, though it is a maxim of common sense, that, because all men have vices, therefore all are vicious; or that, because all men sin, therefore their nature is sinful. None saw it thus, or next to none, until the truth as it is in Jesus flashed from the Cross its divine and disastrous [20/21] light. Then, as the sick man learns the extremity of his malady from the nature of the doctor's prescription, so we moral patients understand what our frailty means from the amazing method of its restoration; for how desperate must the blight and ,plague of our nature be, when only the Son of God was its competent Physician, and His method of cure a total re-creation by the Almighty Spirit!
What man can think of Jesus as a Saviour, and link that thought in with his own self-proud virtue? Who can speak the word Regeneration, and speak it soberly, and not feel the tingle of humiliation creep through his soul? This deep self-truth, fundamental to spiritual life and to the immortal hope it begets, was hardly seen at all, even in glimmer, until it became a truth in Jesus.
So it is likewise with man's condition, as well as with his nature. Even though under the best teaching we admit that it is ill-deserving, yet who can say how guilty our sin really is till we see it in the bloodflowing Cross, and hear it in the anguished cry of atonement, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
Now bring another point of man's state into this high light of Jesus' truth,--the point of moral obligation,--human duty. The law of nature only suggests the idea of duty at all. The word "OUGHT" is not printed in capitals in Nature's glossary. Nay, even the revealed law of God, the law of the elder [21/22] Bible, pure and holy truth so far as it goes, yet not the truth in Jesus,--how lame and ineffective it is by the side of this as a groundwork of duty! How discouragingly the law sounds out its two-voiced message of impracticable precept and intolerable penalty! It proclaims its demand for pure righteousness; but it imparts no power to obey, changes no propensity, inspires no motive, but leaves the convicted soul in the fruitless, comfortless agony of flat despair.
But interpret the rule of duty by the light of Jesus' redemptive truth. See how the law, as it was lived by Him, became a practicable thing, and how He inspires His disciples with the vital power of the same obedience. Laying hold of the perishing soul that clings to Him by faith, He lifts it out of its dismay, reveals His compassion, makes it feel His embrace, whispers peace into its ears, until, re-assured, the sufferer looks up, and dares to say, "Lord, I love thee." And this personal love becomes heightened and transformed into a spiritual. Gratitude to the Holy Saviour ripens into love for His holiness, so that the love of Christ enters as a glad constraining power into the soul, bending its perverted nature back again to God; and while the truth in Jesus abates not a single duty of holiness, nor blots one iota of the perfect law, it superadds such a faculty of freedom to the forgiven soul through its changed affections, that it runs out after holiness, and pants for the utter purity of its Saviour God.
 What the law could not do, when it bade us to love God, in that our depraved affections resisted and made the law weak, God did for us in another way than by the law,--that is, by sending His Son, and condemning our sin in Him, and so turning us from our depravity through sheer gratitude, to fulfil the very righteousness of the Law itself; which is simple, sovereign love to the Redeeming Trinity.
Once more: look at another point of human interest, and see how it appears in the two lights, out of Jesus and in Him. I speak now of man's future,--his destiny. What shall become of us all hereafter? It was the tired or the terrible question of the great human heart, through all the ages, as it travailed with its big fears and doubts, "If a man die, shall he live again?" Natural religion suggests a guess in the affirmative. But how, and where, and what that human everlasting should be, it dared not even guess, but only suggested pictorial possibilities, and presented poems for faith.
Revealed religion before Christ and without Christ shadowed forth the same possibility in sharper lines, but still with only a dreamland light. It had no demonstration. Human hopes hung in mass upon such a mere shred of possibility as broke with every tug of reason; so that no man could ever peremptorily pronounce that he was immortal.
See all this guesswork transformed in Jesus into fact, so plain and living that the future reads like history. Man shall live again, and live always. The [23/24] buried humanity shall break up through its grave; the gathered peoples shall stand together, to be judged by the Mediator, who gave them a lifetime to accept or reject His truth,--the wilfully unforgiven, who despised the Crucified, sinking into darkness; and the heart-changed, blood-washed, loving, and obeying disciples, in white robes, with crowns and palms, led by Jesus' hand, with an escort of angels, to the throne and presence of the Father, never to sin, nor strive, nor weep again. Thus the solemn experiment of grace issues out into a saved or an undone eternity, and the issues awarded by Jesus. The truth as it was demonstrated in Him, in His incarnation, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension, culminates, then, in the begun experience of immortality by all mankind.
Said I not truly, brethren, that this truth has the element of universality in it? See how it overlaps all departments of thought and life; how it adjudicates and adjusts all the open questions of social and political life. See how, like a telescope, it resolves the nebulm of religious speculation into their atomic ideas, and how, with reversed power, it reveals the minute, moral anatomy of man to himself; above all, exhibiting the true relation of God and man to each other, the real want of the world, and the sovereignest wish of every sober judgment and every earnest heart among men. Is it not universal, then?
And is it not unchanging besides?--a truth, not only for the world, but for all the world's ages? [24/25] Though times change with the skies, and opinions and philosophies and theories and schools revolve in the firmament of thought, like the planets in cycles, coming round and round again in their old samenesses, yet this truth in Jesus stands still like the central light, turning, if turning at all, only on its axis, that the moving world may see all the while how stanch it is, and always bright. It cannot change, of course, unless the essential nature of either God or man can change,--a new creation or a new Creator.
My brethren, do we feel enough how truly the Church's power in the world consists in holding this stanch truth stanchly and supremely, and with a divine dogmatism?
There never was more need of it than now. Our fast and fertile century would outreach the Church and her sacred holding of faith. The Church must not let it be. Assured that real truth is found only in Jesus, she must hold it forth with its supernatural authority; and, in order to this, must hold the supernaturalism and inspiration of the Book that alone tells us of a Saviour. Unloose our faith in that, and we have no truth for our wretched souls to grasp but the merest drift-weed of speculation; or yield to the impatient criticisms of the Bible here and there, and you cut the strands, one by one, of the saving truth, until it is too weak for salvation. Let us rather hold the Book of the faith under fair interpretation, but still in its wholeness and divinity, remembering that Revelation has always proved itself more stable than Science,--the [25/26] one always changing, the other ever the same: Revelation, an eagle soaring to the source of light, and basking on its level wing right underneath the sun's burning eye, as if it were begotten and belonged there; Science, like the phoenix of the fables, a noble bird, but always pictured as spreading its wings amid the flames of its own funeral pile.
The human soul craves the celestial, and can repose itself nowhere but in the bosom of some infallibility. "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." Let Thy word be the "light to our feet and the lamp to our path," and, whatever other paths be dark, Thy people shall see the truth.
And, brethren, let us remember that in the Church, as well as out of it, we need to hold the great, ONE truth of Jesus, in its great, essential, redemptive idea. For it may easily happen, that, while the Church borrows somewhat from the spirit of progress that marks our time, she may chance to let go some of the safeguards which will keep her progress from becoming pernicious.
Real progress consists in the discovery of some new truth, rational or practical, or in the development of an old one that had lain dormant and expectant. As each generation stands on the shoulders of the last, it seems to enjoy a broader horizon and a longer reach of vision; and it may sometimes chance that the perspective view will be so engrossing as to hide the foreground. The fresh truth may be so [26/27] captivating as to render the old one stale; yet all the while the view is nothing without the standing-point, and the new truth runs back necessarily into the old.
It may be so in our theological teaching. In the great circle of Christ's doctrine, of which the Cross with its redemptive idea is the luminous and single centre, there are various segments of practical, spiritual development, into which that central redemptive idea naturally opens itself. The different forms and modes of religious life and thought lie all along the periphery of the circle; yet each one of them is a natural out-cropping of the central element,--salvation by grace and atoning blood. These several forms of religious truth and practice are adapted to the various temperaments of men, and to the varying spirit of the times in which they live. The practical, the contemplative, the a sthetic temperaments shall each find its congenial and satisfying truth, as a part of the great Christian circle of truths. But either of these presented exclusively, and without its clear and announced connection with the central truth of the Cross, would lose its sacred worth, and utterly cease to be of the truth as it is in Jesus.
For example, while sacraments and orderly worship, while philanthropy and self-sacrifice for others, while the lofty contemplation of God and His grand moralities and eternities, are clearly parts of a true Christian life, and grow out of the radical idea of a suffering and redeeming God, yet either of them may be separated from its vital connection with that [27/28] root, and become no better than a gospel that man has made. A Platonist might teach the same doctrines of contemplative piety, and be a pagan still. A moralist might practice all the philanthropy, exalting the beauty of Jesus' life all the while, but worse than ignoring His sacrificial death; and the sacramentalism and the ritualism might be all done by a Hebrew or a Hindoo, the one not knowing Christ at all, the other hating Him. The ritualism, the philanthropy, the contemplativeness, would all be forms of religious development, representations of ideas and truths found in the great circle of Christian truth; but, as used thus, not truly Christian ideas,--not "the truth as it is in Jesus," because dislocated from the great redemptive idea, which is their only vitalizing power.
While, then, we yield, as we legitimately may, to the contemplative spirit of the age, which rejoices in a high-toned and spiritual hymnody, depicting the sublimest devotional reach of the soul; while we cannot resist, but must answer and meet, that practical spirit which exacts the Christian's labors and gifts in all the forms of philanthropic effort; and while, too, we gratify the asthetic demands of the times, in making God's house and worship as beautiful as befits their holiness; yet, oh! let us never forget that all these are not live truths, unless Christ be in them as the dying Redeemer, who bore our sins and their penalty in His own person; and that none of these religious deeds are done as they should be done, unless they come from the grateful remembrance of His Cross.
 For the arrangement and proportions of Christian doctrine and theory typify most truly the plan and order of the practical Christian life. If Christ be the central power of the system of doctrine, He must likewise be the life-principle of religious practice. If the Cross has the highest place among Christian truths, it must have the deepest place in the Christian heart.
There is but one way for a sinning soul to reach that central truth, and work itself within it; that is, by simple, trusting faith in the atoning blood of the Crucified. And there is but one way in which that same soul, now forgiven and renewed, works itself out through that truth into all the severalities of Christian practice; that is, by a constraining and consuming love for the Crucified, which makes every duty a joy, makes every prayer a loving communion, makes death the gratified desire of being with Jesus, and makes heaven a song of rapture, whose burden is, "Worthy the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by His blood."
Let us not, then, attempt the semi-profanity of reversing the order of God's saving truth. Let us not try to change a sinner to a Christian by presenting the high themes of spiritual contemplation, and telling him to work his soul into that mood, and he will be fit for heaven; let us not hold up the Saviour's personal character and life to a godless soul, saying to him, "There! emulate those virtues; lift your manhood to that pitch of the moral sublime; rise superior to temptation; go about doing good; be Christ-like; [29/30] and you shall be a Christian." Let us not, again, take a sinner by the hand, and lead him to the Church's door, and show him Christian rites and sacraments, and then tell him, that, if he will go in and become as one of the diligent practisers of those rites, he shall, of holy necessity and by the divine plan of spiritual begetting, become a child of God.
But let us rather invite, no matter who he may be, old or young, educated or ignorant, gentle or simple, polished or vulgar, mantled with coarse crimes or robed in applauded virtue,--let us invite him to go and sit down at the foot of the Cross, and gaze, face to face, upon the Crucified. Let him see the bleeding Saviour; make him know why it was so, and that it was for him, personally and individually for him; and, as the amazing truth enters within him and absorbs his thought, you will see the tremor of repressed conviction, you will hear the breaking of his heart; and he will bow his head, and say, "God be merciful to me!" And when he hears the promise, "I will," he binds it to his bosom; and he does not leave the Cross till his whole being has been consecrated joyfully to his redeeming Lord; and then he goes away to show what the Lord has done for his soul, by acting out, with a conscientiousness educated by love, all the manifold graces of the adoption. Redemption is henceforward his life and song. The truth as it is in Jesus hath saved him.
"All praise to the Lamb; accepted I am,
Through faith in the Saviour's adorable name:
 In Him I confide; His blood is applied;
For me He hath suffered, for me He hath died.
Not a doubt doth arise to darken the skies,
Or hide for one moment my Lord from my eyes:
In Him I am blest; I lean on His breast;
And, lo! in His wounds I continue to rest."
May the history of this School of Divinity, as it shall open into the coming generations, be constantly known by this sign!--We teach Christ crucified,--the centre, the life; the crown of all the truth that is in Jesus.
And may you, my young friends, just about to enter on His ministry, have the constant grace to make this the great life-theme of your preaching as of your experience! May it enter now freshly into your ordination-promise, coming deeply out of your souls, and going into God's waiting ear,--"None but Christ, none but Christ! I am determined to know nothing else." And may His blessing alight upon you each with the Bishop's hands, and never, never leave you!