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with this ont but by her and Lead,
chiefly because it enables them to reconstruct his character, to give Life to their Ideal, and to make the disciples of these latter days, sharers in the privileges of those whom his look could move into tears, and on whom his presence left a spiritual mark and hue, so that men took note of them that they had been with Jesus.
We profess to belong to this class of Christians. We take this opportunity of saying that this is the idea of Christianity with which we wish this Periodical to be identified. We believe Jesus to be the Teacher and Leader of Humanity, “not by selfappointment but by divine appointment,”—and in consistency with this belief we value the Scriptures, chiefly as they enable us to know the Christ. We acknowledge nothing faultless but the character of Jesus, nothing divine but the soul of Christ. The Gospels are not Auto-biographies. The Scriptures contain the representations which other minds have received and given of Christ,-faithful, we believe, as a record of impressions, but not infallible as a record of facts. “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God was in the face of Jesus Christ, but we have received this treasure in earthen vessels.” From the hints and sketches, the words and works, preserved in the Scriptures, to make distinct the Image of God, as to travail in birth until Christ is formed within us," is the great work of Christian Discipleship. This is our highest duty to the Scriptures,—and the highest aid we derive from them. They are not systematic statements of Christian Truth, they are not Christianity reduced to words, but mainly elements out of which to renew the living impersonation of Man's duty and God's providence, Jesus Christ himself, who, as the perfection of humanity under its earthly condition, is necessarily “the same yesterday, to day, and for ever.” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” “No man can come unto the Father except through me.” These two sentences contain our entire view of Christianity as a revelation of God, and a revelation of Duty.
We may be asked, in what does this differ from the common view of Christianity entertained by those who profess themselves the friends of religious freedom? We should be glad to believe that there was no difference; but we cannot. There is among all protestant believers in revelation a vast deal too much of what Coleridge called “Bibliolatry.” Christ is not the Revelation-but the Bible is the Revelation. Not the divine Original,—but the human impressions and representations of it are what men worship. The Scriptures which should lead them to Christ, they substitute for Christ. The traces he left of himself on minds of the most various make, they insist on regard
VOL. III. No. 12,—New Series.
ing as parts of their own faith, and the essentials of salvation. Instead of ascending from the effects to the cause, they insist on stopping with the effects ;-—and they regard the impressions produced by Christ on the minds of Paul, or Peter, or John, as divine as the mind of Christ himself. Not Christ as seen in himself, but Christ as reflected from minds the most different from his own, is their complex and heterogeneous Christianity. All this is abundantly indicated in that much-vaunted saying, “the Bible is the religion of Protestants,”—and thus the Book is substituted for the Christ. Not the unity of a perfect mind, to which we ascend from the traces it left of itself on imperfect beings,—but these traces themselves, this secondary intercourse, this multiform reflection, these complex effects produced by the one pure ray of truth falling on the misty elements of Jewish mind, are all confused together, and identified with the unity of the Image of God. Protestants in general maintain, not the perfection of Christ only, but the perfection of the writings of his first followers, and profess to find, doctrinally and morally, a complete unity in the Christian Scriptures. They say, you must receive the books, and harmonize their statements : we say, you must receive the Christ, and harmonize his character. The Scriptures enable us to conceive him who is the revelation. The religion that is represented by the unity of a perfect mind is clear, consistent, forcible, all-sufficient. The religion that is to harmonize at every point, with the multifarious contents of the writings of the first disciples, who will undertake to embody into one consistent conception ? Again we say, the one Christ, and not the many impressions of him, is the Religion we profess.
The friends of progress in religion have naturally allied themselves to this idea of Revelation. The Religion which is embodied in a perfect mind cannot be exhausted. The image of God in humanity, like God himself, is an inexhaustible provision, for the spiritual education of imperfect man. It is the divine conception, however, not the verbal statement of the views and feelings it excited when he who realized it first came into the world, that is universal and inexhaustible. A religion reduced to words and propositions, is necessarily bounded, limited, incapable of giving out new light as man advances. But the traces that a perfect mind leaves of itself, may for ever lift nearer to its own perfection the kindred mind that studies and loves them. God and his Christ become known to us by the signs and traces we possess of their own spirits; and thus there is the closest analogy between the manner in which the perfect God is more and more revealed to the filial and understanding heart in Nature and Providence,—and the perfect Christ in his words and works. We trust no one will think we are disparaging the Scriptures by thus exhibiting the relation they bear to our knowledge of Christianity. They enable us to rise to the conception of “God manifest in the flesh,”—and that conception is our Religion.
It has been a perhaps not unnatural consequence of this view of Christianity, that, the Image of God in man being the only essential part of it, as soon as that conception has been obtained, many minds have relieved themselves from all philosophical difficulties respecting the origin and history of the Revelation by taking refuge in this grand result. In the fountains of their own souls, not in dogmatic statements or historical records, the saving Ideal dwells,—and when they have collected it from its outward and documentary vehicles, they drop the embodying narratives as non-essentials, the character and the difficulties of which they are not bound to consider and explain. The Christ is formed within them. The Books contain many things, which, whether true or false, are perplexing and doubtful. The one is the essential spirit. The other is but the unessential form,—why encumber themselves with its difficulties, its discords, its marvels? This appears to us an easy and indolent inclination of mind which ought not to be indulged.
We are not at liberty to receive Christ as divine and perfect, and yet blink the question as to how his mind was formed. If he is not divine and perfect, he does not represent the Religion of universal man ; if he is, is he an accident in the world's History, or is he the specially, the providentially, and to all intents and purposes, the preternaturally formed Image of God? Either he is the natural product of the circumstances in which he appeared,—or he is the product of Miracle, that is, of a special Providence. Now assuredly those who receive Christ as divine and perfect, if they reject the accounts of the origin of his mind, which the Christian records contain, are bound, in some other way, to account for the phenomena. They are not at liberty to say, we accept the perfection and the divine mission of Jesus, but we will not encumber ourselves with the question of his natural or preternatural relations to God. Is he their Image of God? Was he designed to be so by God? If these two questions are answered in the affirmative, then the extraordinary, the miraculous formation of the Christ is conceded,-though this or that miracle of the Evangelists, or all of them together, may be rejected. We can conceive no greater inconsistency than for a man to accept of Christ as divine and perfect, and yet to deny the supernatural formation of his mind; and if he is not divine and perfect, we know not in
what sense any man can profess to follow him as his Teacher and Leader up to God. Perfection has nowhere been the natural condition of humanity; and a being whose imperfections we are capable of discovering, cannot be our Representative of God. In what sense then do they who deny the miraculous formation of Christ's mind profess Christianity? Do they think that perfection could appear in man without special Providence? Or do they relieve themselves from the necessity of miracle, by acknowledging some imperfection, and professing a Christ who is not the full image of God?
Not the supernatural, however, in relation to the formation of Christ's mind, but the supernatural as evidence, miracles worked for the purpose of producing belief and conviction in the divine authority and commission of the Miracle worker, have been the chief sources of difficulty. We must distinguish between the supernatural wrought by God on Christ,—and the supernatural wrought by Christ for the purposes of evidence and self-manifestation. It is very possible to reject the latter, yet retain the former. It is a possible state of mind, we doubt whether it is a philosophical and consistent one. For in such a case these two questions present themselves. First, if you separate from the manifestations of Christ every miraculous incident, if you limit your picture of him within the conditions of the natural,-is there absolute necessity for resorting to Miracle in order to account for his existence? If nothing supernatural proceeded from him, is there evidence in his views and character alone, that he proceeded from the supernatural ? For ourselves we feel that the moral and spiritual manifestations of his mind are so bound up with the miraculous, that it is impossible to effect a separation,—and that if you take away the miraculous from the Gospels, you have no longer the means of constructing that Image of Perfection which forces the mind upon God as its only possible Original. The second question that arises in the case supposed is this—how do you account for the character of the Books that preserve for us all that we know of Christ? If there was nothing of miracle connected with him, how do we account for the miraculous texture of the only notices of him we possess? How did the present Histories of him grow, and come into existence, and exclude all other accounts, if they are formed upon a fundamentally false supposition ? This complicated literary and historical question, those who separate Christ from the miraculous, whilst they accept him as perfect and divine, are bound to settle in some probable or possible manner.
Mr. Wood, in his lecture on the mission of Jesus Christ, has
rejected the miraculous from Christianity, without attempting any explanation of the moral, literary, or historical phenomena. Miracles, his reason cannot admit; yet the Christ he considers perfect and divine, “the chosen servant of Almighty God.” The difficulties of the formation of such a being; the difficulties in separating the natural from the supernatural, in the only delineations of him we possess; the difficulties in accounting for the miraculous character of the earliest records of Christianity, and of arriving at the truth if these are framed upon a false view; the difficulties connected with the effects wrought by Christianity on Jew and Gentile,these Mr. Wood silently passes over as though he was not conscious of their existence. His soul accepts the moral Christ: his reason refuses miracles. He takes what he likes ; leaves what he dislikes ; and hurdens himself with the explanation of nothing. Now we think that this is not the way in which so grave, so profound, so momentous a question should be discussed from the pulpit. It was due surely to all the literary, historical, and philosophical difficulties that stood in the way of Mr. Wood's view of Christianity, and to the judgment of Christendom at large, that some attempt should be made to establish it by unanswerable arguments, and to harmonize it with the actual facts and phenomena, which are the conditions into consistency with which any view must be brought, before it can earnestly and honestly be maintained. We are surprised that a public teacher should treat the connection of Christianity with miracles, as if it was a question of taste, to be decided by tact or feeling. His intellectual palate does not relish miracles; and therefore miracles are not.
“Hoc volo, sic jubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas." Let any one who pleases trouble himself with the elucidation of the historical phenomena: he is better employed. And we the more lament this slight and slighting treatment of the actual facts of the question, because we have great sympathy with the spirit of some of Mr. Wood's views, and are not by any means disposed to grant to his opponents that miracles hold that peculiar relation to Christian discipleship which they incline to assign to them. We ought to distinguish more exactly between the philosophical and the religious question. What is the origin of Christianity?-miracle?-or is it within the natural laws of providence? This is a question of history, philosophy, intellect. Does the soul acknowledge Christ as the Image of God, and follow him without power of resistance, as that blessed being who has brought peace into the world by the union in