« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
creature, must necessarily have existed previous to his incarnation, what ever subtleties may have been invented to evade this conclusion by those who contend for the merely human nature of Christ.“
But elsewhere he reduces his conception of that Personality to a lower level. Thus he writes :
Certain however it is, whatever some of the moderns may allege to the contrary, that the Son existed in the beginning under the name of the Logos or Word, and was the first of the whole creation, by whom afterwards all other things were made both in heaven and earth.37
With this passage may be compared the following:
That the Son is God, is a truth which I am far from denying but they will in vain attempt to prove from this passage (1 Timothy, III. 19) that he is the supreme God and one with the Father. 38
And again :
The Kingly function of Christ is that whereby being made King by God the Father, he governs and preserves, chiefly by an inward law and spiritual power, the Church which he has purchased for himself, and conquers and subdues its enemies.''
The pre-existence of the Son before His human birth, and His generation before all created things, are doctrines far from being equivalent to a belief in the Son's essential Divinity.
Milton expresses himself clearly in the words :
He (the Son) is called the own Son of God merely because he had no other Father besides God, whence he himself said that God was his Father, John 18. for to Adam God stood less in the relation to Father than of Creator, having only formed him from the dust of the earth, whereas he was properly the Father of the Son made of his own substance. Yet it does not follow from hence that the Son is co-essential with the Father, for then the title of Son would be least of all applicable to him since he who is properly the Son is not coeval with the Father, much less the same numerical essence, otherwise the Father and the Son would be one person. “'
And again :
Thus the Son was begotten of the Father in consequence of his decree, and therefore within the limits of time, for the decree itself must have been anterior to the execution of the decree, as is sufficiently clear from the insertion of the word “to-day.' Nor can I discover on what passage of Scripture the assertors of the eternal generation of the Son ground their opinion.“
Milton is fond of arguing from certain passages of the Bible that the ascription of the title 'God' to the Son is far from connoting the Son's equality with the Father. Thus, in reply
56 Christian Doctrine, ch. 14, Sumner's Translation. 31 Ibid. ch. 5. 38 Ibid. ch. 15.
J' Ibid. ch. 5. 40 Ibid. ch. 5.
41 lbid. ch. 5.
to persons who argue that Christ is called God in the Bible,
he says :
There would have been no occasion for the supporters of these opinions to have offered such violence to reason, nay even to such plain scriptural evidence, if they had only considered God's own words addressed to kings and princes, Psal. lxxxii. 6. 'I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High'; or those of Christ himself, John X. 35. ‘if he called them Gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken. :'; or those of St. Paul, 1 Cor. VIII. 5, 6. ' for though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or earth, (for there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things; ' etc., or lastly of St. Peter II. 1, 4. 'that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature,' which applies much more than the title of gods in the sense in which that title is applied to kings; though no one would conclude from this expression that the saints were co-essential with God."
Similarly he makes use of the following strange criticism upon a memorable passage of St. John's Gospel :
Another passage is the speech of Thomas, John XX. 28. “My Lord and my God.' He must have an immoderate share of credulity who attempts to elicit a new confession of faith, unknown to the rest of the disciples, from this abrupt exclamation of the apostle, who invokes in his surprise not only Christ his own Lord, but the God of his ancestors, namely, God the Father ;-as if he had said, Lord ! what do I see—what do I hear-what do I handle with my hands? He whom Thomas is supposed to call God in this passage, had acknowledged respecting himself not long before, v. 17. 'I ascend unto my God and your God.' Now the God of God cannot be essentially one with him whose God he is.“
Masson's estimate of Milton's theology in regard to the nature of Jesus Christ may be taken as a not unfair representation :
The Son of God, as he [Milton) concludes from an examination of all the relevant Scripture texts, did not exist from all eternity, is not coeval or co-essential or co-equal with the Father, but came into existence by the will of the Father to be the next being in His universe to Himself, the firstborn and best-beloved, the Logos or Word, through whom all creation should take its beginning. But though thus inferior to the supreme Godhead the Son is in a certain grand sense Divine. We are to believe that God imparted to His Son as much as He pleased of the Divine nature, nay of the Divine substance itself, care being taken not to confound the substance with the whole essence.
It may be worth while to quote one instance of Milton's teaching as regards the Third Person of the Trinity :
Lest however we should be altogether ignorant who or what the Holy Spirit is, although Scripture nowhere teaches us in express terms, it may
42 Christian Doctrine, ch. 5.
43 Ibid. ch. 5, iv. p. 110. “ Life of John Milton, vol. vi. p. 824.
be collected from the passages quoted above, that the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as he is a minister of God, and therefore a creature, was created or produced of the substance of God, not by a natural necessity but by the free-will of the agent, probably before the foundations of the world were laid, but later than the Son, and far inferior to him.
There is however sufficient reason for placing the name as well as the nature of the Son above that of the Holy Spirit in the discussion of topics relative to the Deity; inasmuch as the brightness of the glory of God, and the express image of his person, are said to have been impressed on the one, and not on the other. 45
Milton held, then, the superiority of the Son to all created beings, and among them to the Holy Spirit, but His inferiority to the Father. He held that the Son, being pre-existent, chose to become incarnate by a sublime act of self-humiliation, and, being incarnate, by his voluntary submission to the Divine Will in death as in life achieved the redemption of mankind. Between the Paradise Lost and the Paradise Regained the theological difference is that in the one Jesus Christ is regarded more as a transcendent Being who condescended to assume human nature, and in the other more as a human being exalted by a sublime and unique personal virtue to a special assimilation with the Godhead.
But whether the one view or the other be predominant in Milton's writings, they are alike, although in different degrees, unmistakable departures from the orthodox Creed. Yet that a poet and a thinker so deeply Christian in the whole mood and temper of his moral and spiritual nature as Milton should have lapsed into heresy, and in spite of his heresy should have been, and should still be, studied, admired, and in greater or less degree followed by the Christian world, is a lesson, which the Church may still lay to heart, in religious tolerance. The Creeds of the Church are serious and logical attempts of the human intellect to express Divine realities far surpassing the scope and range of that intellect itself. It may be that history is a warning against theological definitions. For every such definition, if it is closely scrutinised, reveals its inadequacy. Jesus Christ is called the Son of God; but human sonship implies both posteriority and inferiority; yet these ideas are both excluded from His Sonship. Arianism, even in the high form which distinguishes it from Unitarianism, falls sadly short indeed of the Christian orthodox Creed. Yet to repudiate it as wholly un-Christian would be to surrender the strength which Milton, and others like him, have afforded by their doctrine and example to the truth of Christianity. For amidst all varieties of faith and thought touching the nature of Christ's Personality, there remains the allegiance of devout and
Christian Doctrine, ch. 6. VOL. LXXI_No. 423
holy souls to Him who alone has spoken upon earth in the accents of heaven, who stood and shall ever stand in a unique relation to His Father, and who reveals with incomparable authority, as the only Son of God, the spiritual and eternal verities by which alone the sin-stricken children of earth in their weakness and their sorrow are most powerfully enabled to live holy lives and to die peaceful deaths.
J. E. C. WELLDON.
INDIA AND THE ROYAL COMMISSION
ON IMPERIAL TRADE
On the 16th of June 1911 the Premier of the Commonwealth of Australia submitted to the Imperial Conference-Mr. Asquith being in the chair-the following resolution of which his Government had given notice :
That this Conference, recognising the importance of promoting fuller development of commercial intercourse within the Empire, strongly urges that every effort should be made to bring about co-operation in commercial relations and matters of mutual interest.
That it is advisable, in the interests both of the United Kingdom and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, that efforts in favour of British manufactured goods and British shipping should be supported as far as practicable.
After the insults about ‘banging and bolting the door' with which the British Radical Government had met the unanimous proposals of the Dominions for Imperial Preference in the Imperial Conference of 1907-after the incessant taunts of the British Radical party, particularly galling to the sensitive and high-minded statesmen of the Colonial democracies, as to the proposals of the Dominions being based, not on Imperial patriotism, but on their own interests regardless of British needs--and after the elaborate preparations and 'ground-baiting' of the Liberal
' Government, with the view of shunting this very question of Preference at the Conference-it argued no little courage and tenacity, as well as conspicuous magnanimity, on the part of the Australians that they should have dared to submit this Preferential resolution to the Conference at all.
But Mr. Fisher--able and conscientious patriot though he bewas no match for the wily politicians who were his adversaries. Mr. Asquith and Mr. Harcourt affected to accept the resolution with unction-provided the Conference would accept 'a slight explanatory amendment'! And the 'slight explanatory amendment’explained away all reference to Preferential trading-explained away India and the Crown Colonies and Dependencies, that obviously came within the scope of the original resolutionand restricted the work of this much-vaunted and costly Commission to the investigation of such local details as are already known
3 M 2