The Church of God with Us
THE CHURCH OF GOD WITH US.
The rapid survey, which we have taken of the Judgment of Christendom, has brought up for consideration the highest objects of interest, presently and permanently, for our Race.
Christendom is the Centre of mankind. Catholicism and Protestantism guide us to Christ as tho Centre of Christendom; Universal Unity opens a glimpse of Divine Manhood in the life of Christ; and the glorious promise therein given of Heavenly Humanity shines out upon us.
But in order to comprehend the tendencies of existing societies, and take our part intelligently and consistently in the struggles of our generation, we should attain to confiding communion with this Centre whence the Life of Christendom flows in. And one step towards such communion is a clear intellectual perception.
To-day, then, let us enter into and explore according to our power, the significance of Divine Manhood and Heavenly Humanity as presented in Jesus Christ.
I.—Right Posture Of Mind.
Two guiding voices speak to one, who reverently seeks to know the character and office of tho Man, who has given his name to the leading nations of the earth and stamped his image upon them; whose inspiration and aid arc] still instantly active, according to the assured conviction of the most living spirits on our globe.
The first voice says "Do Not deny. In the name of all the Saints,—who have blessed the last eighteen centuries by the freshness of their piety, the sweetness of their love, their hope and humility, their magnanimous heroism and indomitable patience, their angelic freshness of heart and serene anticipation of immortality,—do not belie their faith. Oh believe! They •poke from experience when they asserted their intercourse with a> Superhuman source of light and blessedness.
Let us respond: "We will not deny! Pour in upon us full illumination; let us know the richness of the promise whereby they were fed; let us too grow up to the perfect stature of godliness; Open upon us the glory of Divine Providence."
Then comes the second voice, saying "Do Not Exaggerate. The life of holy humanity, of inspiration, transfiguring natural impulse, is normal not exceptional for man. Let the ascending series of creations from chemical affinities to the social attractions of mankind inform you, that the very end of God is unity of living intercommunion between himself and all spirits. Dare to trust your highest aspirations, to put forth your utmost moral power, to seek the fullest harmony with universal order."
And again let us answer: "We will not exaggerate! The universe shall be made glorious to us by the perpetual indwelling of Divinity; we will keep our minds open to the teachings of all God's symbols of beauty; every human affection shall be consecrated in our regard, as a germ of immortality unfolding in our hearts."
Then both voices blend thus in unison: "In asserting God's universal revelations do not lose sight of his special revelations, rising grade above grade to Me, his Beloved Son; But in recognising and declaring the Divine incarnation in One Man beware how you limit or lose sight of the Divine inisarnation in Humanity."
Can we take and keep this attitude of Unitary Synthesis in contemplating the Life of Christ?
Surely, if Christendom is the Central Reality which we have asserted it to be; one radiant light must have been progressively revealing itself through the past eighteen centuries, however much refracted by transient obscurities of ignorance and prejudice, credulity and doubt.
Let us then trace up the great streams of traditions to their source.
II.—The Divinity Of Christ, Is the first grand truth, declared by innumerable believers; and in a condensed form, the views of those who worship God in Christ may be thus summed up.
Man was originally in direct communion with the Infinite Being, and received continually an influent life of love, truth, joy, whereby he was forever reformed into the Divine Image, and by assimilating which he was destined gradually to grow up into an angel, fit for transition to heaven. But by wilfulness man broke this living tie, lost spirituality in animality, and fell under the fatal dominion of natural forces. Thence followed a death of self-love, sophistry and sensual lusts, destroying the original harmony of his physical, mental, moral being, and substituting social chaos for the peaceful union of the primeval race.
To save Humanity from this brutal degradation, and open to the Race again the career of angelic progress, but one means could avail. It was to plant in man once more the germ of a holy will, and to renew the severed line of divine communication; it was for God to become incarnate in a child of clay, and by meeting instant temptations, bearing sorest trials, and suffering the cruelest form of death which man can inflict on man, with perfect purity, and perfect love, to restore in mankind his glorified image, and make them at-one with Himself.
This miracle of mercy did not transcend the infinite benignity of the Heavenly Father. In his second person, his Creative Word, his all regulating Wisdom,—when the ages were ripe,— he entered into the form of Man, and as God-Man bore evil, died on the cross, rose in glory to be Head over all Humanity, and from heaven by incessant influences of the Holy Spirit has been and is organizing the Church, which is his body, evermore becoming filled with his fullness. These influences are consciously felt by the regenerate, as a Grace that far transcends the powers of natural will. And finally, this testimony of a Superhuman Presence with Humanity, is cumulative through the experience of successive generations.
Whence originated this wonderful faith? From Oriental and Greek philosophy, say the critics; from an infallible illumination pervading the Congregation of Saints, declare the believers. Did Heathen and Christian doctrines thus flow together and culminate in the creed of a God-man, asks the earnest inquirer, by accident or divine appointment?
But whencesoever sprung, these traditions claim the sanction of Jesus Christ's express declarations. It is undeniable, that according to reiterated representations of his nearest witnesses the Master asserted with unparalleled majesty his Oneness with the Father, in whom he dwelt and who dwelt in him; announced himself as the Resurrection and the Life; gave boundless promises of spiritual aid through future time to all who opened their wills to him; organized his circle of apostles with a view to a world wide and everlasting power of redeeming love; and spread before his followers the vista of an earth ransomed from evil, made glorious in beauty, and brightened with the presence of angelic hosts.
But is this tho whole truth, announced by the traditions of Christendom? Not so. Form the first onwards, through every generation, countless believers have asserted
III.—The Manhood Of Jesus.
Tho Prophet of Nazareth, they say, born in purity, nurtured amidst a devout nation, ,instinct with a vast religious genius, prompted by the miseries, social convulsions, superstition, depravity and darkness of his age, was a splendid manifestation of man's innate power of spiritual intuition and moral sympathies. Deep in the heart of every human being is the fountain of good-will, the spring of all human energy; it is a Divine impulse, God through his highest creature passing forth into full realization. The very end of any and every man i9 fulfilled, when becoming conscious of this divine life within him, and recognizing that its essence is love, he gives himself up to unlimited communion with the Infinite Source of Good by disinterestedness, and consecrates his highest energies to beneficent co-operation with his kind. Then does he truly enter into life, immortal life, by intercourse with fellow-spirits and the Eternal Being.
To fulfil this end of a Spirit, to attain to this true manliness, has been the aim of all sages in every nation. The moral principle at once impulsive and rational, spontaneous and reflective, has always and every where been honored as the legitimate Sovereign in private character and conduct, in public laws and manners. In poetry, art, ethics, philosophy, worship, mankind has perpetually exhibited an irresistible aspiration towards the Infinite, an exhaustless power of growth. Jesus was a felicitous illustration, under peculiarly favorable conditions, of the goodness, which is latent in every child of Adam. His grandest words of piety and charity are but a full utterance of longings and hopes, which find an echo in the native instincts of the youngest child and the simplest savage. His prayers and maxims, promises and benedictions, but eloquently repeat, what earnest and living souls have spoken in every nation on the face of the earth. And when physiological, legislative and scientific reforms have taught the human race, harmoniously to obey the laws of their nature, individuals, communities and mankind at large, will realize in their experience, all, and perhaps more, that Jesus was.
It is very intelligible, how loving hearts, won by the exceeding attractiveness of this beautiful person, should have surrounded him with a cloud of exaggeration, through which his commonest words and acts loom up in monstrous distortion. But a good heart and good sense, combined, readily dispel these delusive representations, and bring out the carpenter of Galilee to noontide light, as an earnest, magnanimous, brave reformer, —who sympathized profoundly with the people, made the sorrows of the poor his own, met undauntedly face to face the oppressor, stripped bare pretenders and hypocrites, lived out the law of justice by which he measured his fellows, high and low, and brightened every scene however humble with a radiant light of love. No wonder, his followers felt the refreshment of his example long after he was rudely torn from them. Let his name stand as the symbol for Humanity, till mankind are reformed in his image.
How shall we explain the rise of these free opinions in the face of orthodox dogmas? They emanate, say supernaturalists, from pride, self-will, shallow experience in human affairs, ignorance of mankind, intellectual enthusiasm combined with coldness of heart, impious perverseness. Not so! answer the reverers of man's native goodness and sublime destiny, the universal, reverent admiration for Jesus and the confidence felt, that it is in the power of all men to attain like greatness, are proof that Humanity is animated with a life of love, truly infinite in tendency. Meanwhile, he who sees in all history an unfolding of Providential purpose reflects, that in proportion as Christian piety and charity have softened and spiritualized most civilized communities, has the conviction of the Manhood of Jesus grown, and that among the teachers of this doctrine have been some of tho most Christ-like of men.
If the final appeal is made to Jesus himself, one fact stands out clear amidst all obscuring myths. The great men of Judea cut off the young Galilean innovator, because they feared that revolution would spring from the excitement which his pungent appeals stirred up in the people. Never were respectability, wealth, caste, ambition, treated with more straightforward sincerity ; never were shams" of all kinds more swiftly burned to ashes in a pure flame of indignation. Wit, presence of mind keenest penetration, indomitable courage,—all subdued, harmonized, sweetened, sublimed by a boundless humanity—combined to give that plain peasant his mighty power over the multitude. Whatever else was in his thought, at least his purpose was to bind his followers together in living fraternities.
Here then are the two grand streams of Christian Tradition, —presenting in contrast the Divinity and the Humanity of Jesus Christ.
Good men. wise men, equally good and equally wise, alike pious and learned, loving and magnanimous, have been, are now, wasting time, talent, love, power, in debate whether Christ was really God Incarnate or Jesus merely a Good Man.
Around this central controversy gather countless differences as to the whole range of human destiny and duty, which vitally affect the practical plans of the smallest community and humblest person in Christendom, and paralyse all movements of humane reform in its midst and upon tho world at large.
Christendom can never fulfil its manifest end of being a Living Centre to mankind, until it is a Unity. It cannot be a Unity, until it is in communion with The Centre whence flows its Life. Before it enters fully into such communion, conflicting views in relation to tho Divinity and Humanity of its Centre must be made-at-one.
What then is the significance of that mighty word, God-man.
W. H. C.
The significance of the word God-man is the question, which we most seek to answer,—conscious all tho while of the hosts of generous spirits who on this little globe have passed a life-long in contemplative aspiration, while studying this problem,—conscious yet more profoundly that we live, move and have our being amidst tho Divine Reality, whose glory no doubts or delusions, prejudices or raptures of ours can for an instant shadow.
The choice presented to us in this generation of Christendom is between Catholicism, Pantheism, and Divin;<: Humanity.
Catholicism, claiming to be inspired with a Superhuman influence, hierarchically transmitted and diffused, seoks from the centre of religious unity, to bring into divine order the distracted societies of civilized Christendom, and thence of Heathendom, by sanctified obedience.
Pantheism, instinct with Natural impulse, amidst the overvarying sphere of hourly circumstance, longs for unchecked freedom to realize the harmonious joy of earthly existence, in consummate art.
Divine Humanity, conscious of the everlasting series of descending and ascending mediations, whereby tho One Absolute Good progressively fulfils his infinitely benignant purpose 01 uniting in heavenly communion the perfected races of all globes. stands willing to do the exact work allotted to nvinkind, upon this globe, to day, assured of exhaustless growing good, and aspiring to the end of Religious Unity and Art made one by perfect Love.
According to the answer which persons actually give in their own souls, whether knowingly or not, to the question "What ig the significance of the word God-Man," do they take rank by •Unction of affinities, in oneor another of these three bodies of Catholic?, Pantheists, Universal Unitarians.
Be it our prayer, our abiding state of Will, " Let not the light that is in us be darkness."
I.—God In Man. We conceive of God as living in three modes,—The Absolute Being, The Creator, The Recreator.
As Absolute Being, God is revealed to spirits as the pure essence, in whom love, thought, power, are perfectly one in a unity of goodness, harmony, beautiful joy so consummate, that the soul at its vision is swallowed up in floods of blessedness. This Eternal Blissful Life, wherein will, wisdom, act, are mutually fulfilled in an all sufficing fullness, is Tho Father.
As Creation, God manifests in existence, his infinite Ideal of Good-will .'—by producing through a descending series of unities passing out into multiplicities, an utter opposite of himself. —the ultimate possibility of existence—those passive, unconscious, monotonously uniform, infinitely minute, innumerable receptacles, which we call matter; 2, by impregnating each and all of these vessels with appropriate aotive germs, rising hierarchically from insensate affinities to intelligent aspirations, till instinctive love ascends to conscious reason, and spontaneous impulse is transformed to willing love j 3. by communicating throughout the boundless sphere, and the minutest atom of Creation a living principle of Order, whereby existences however multiple are regulated according to the Ideal Unity in Eternal Reason, whereof they are but partial types. Thia mediating Wisdom Is The Son.
As Rkcrk Ator, God from everlasting to everlasting works a perpetually unfolding miracle of mercy, whereby disintegrated
particles are recombined, and creatures differentiated as finite existences from Absoluto Being, and separated as individualities from one another, are attracted by love to co-operation ;— forever forming and reforming larger and more varied, freer and more symmetric Composite Unities, which brighten into glorious images of the All Holy One, and forever approach to more intimate and comprehensive communion with the All Loving, from crystals, vegetables, animals, man, societies, races, the heavens of humanity on every globe, to the Heavens of Heavens, the Realized Ideal of tho All Good. This beautifying, blessing Power is The Spirit.
Tho formulas, which seem least inadequately to symbolise the Three Powers, Degrees, States of God, are such as these: Tho Father iB O/ic; the Son is One in many; tho SriRiT is many in One. The Father is Infinite Life; tho Son is Infinite in finite life; The Spirit is finite in Infinite Life; The Father is inhimself Absolute Unitary Lovo; tho Son is from the Father the Distributer of manifold loves into varieties; the Spirit from the Father and through the Son is the harmonizer of manifold loves into unities. The Father is the Only Good; the Son is the Truth of that good ; the Spirit is the Energy of both in union. The Father is Central, the Son Mediate, the Spirit Circumferential. The Father communicates essential force; the Son determines forms of forces in their order; the Spirit fulfils in deeds the destined end of these forces. By their combined influence the ineffable mystery of Infinite Good-Will is accomplished, whereby The One,—who in Himself is the- intensest substance girts Himself atcay without exhausting his fullness, in degree as his countless families of children can partieipate in his perfections, and ascend through loving, intelligent cooperation, to conscious communion with the Infinite Love, reho loves infinitely and loves to be infinitely loved, forever and ever.
God lives in us and we in him, in each and all of bis modes but it is through the Son and the Spirit that wo come to know and commune with the Father: through truth and beneficent action, that we come to the unity of love. Through the Son we recognize God in Man; through the Spirit we ascend to union with Man in God. We must attempt to express in words however feeble, our conceptions dim and distant as they are, of these sublime realities.
And first of God in Man.
The profound thinkers of all ages, have with unanimous oouscnt declared, that the Divine Wisdom reveals itself to human reason as Multiple, as an infinite scries of Ideas of Existence, proceeding forth in perfect order from Eternal Being. Now somewhere in that series must be the Idea of Man. What is that Idea, that generic form of each and every human creature? Is it one man, limited physically, socially, spiritually, finite in all relations, natural, human, divine? Evidently not. For the mind intuitively Bees that this Idea is a form of active, intelligent love t'» relations,—a medium of conscious good will putting forth beneficent energy. One man, alone, upon a globe, would be the exact opposite of the Divine Idea of Man;—for he could not beautify the earth, and make it a symbol of heavenly joy, he could not by loving or being loved manifest the cxhaustless wealth of affection, he could not then either by creative plastic energy or by the harmonious flowing forth of manly emotion, come into communion with the Essential Being. Not co operating with the Spirit in Deeds of blessing, not conversing with the Son through Laws of kindness, he oould not be at one with the Father in the Life of love. Thus negatively we are enabled to rise into the light of the positive Divine Idea of Man. What is it? Plainly it is of an original Unity unfolded into utmost variety and recombined into a composite Unity—of a Race, in other words, unfolding through ages, climates degrees of progress, development of all powers, into • harmonious perfect whole, or to use a brief and significant formula—of One In Mant Manhood. The infinite thought of the possibilities of Humanity upon earth evidently can manifest itself only through a continuous series of united generations, eoworking to beautify their planet—to harmonize all social relations, private, communal, national, universal,—to rise into conscious, free, active oneness with the Infinite One. A perfected Humanity on a perfected Globe is the highest possible approximation to the Creative Idea of Man.
But as we contemplate this Divine Idea,—this germ of Godin-man, this creative fountain of Mankind, which wo see at once must be the very form of reason, the model of intelligence, the primal latr of every human creature,—immediately a second thought presents itself: In the progressive incarnation of this Idea, the gradual evolution of this germ—a process whereinto the intuitions of genius, results of experience, deliberative judgments, poetry and prophecy, science and invention, law and ethics, of all nations and ages forever pour by the diffusion, interblending, refining of languages, institutions, worships, &c, with accumulated wealth—there must come persons fitted more and more fully to manifest in the varied energy of their own goodness this Idea of Man;—there must come sooner or later One Person, Bo beautiful, healthful, and mystically one with all natural energies—so liberal, loyal, sympathetic, protective, discriminating, balanced, enthusiastic, and affectionately ono with his fellows—so single at once and comprehensive in his inmost will, in his pure and boundless love, and thus one with Him who is Essential Unity and Love—as to be worthy of tho name, not only of Man but of God-Man, because consummately fulfilling the desire of all nations; God-Man because adequately embodying the Divine Will of perfect goodness. Such a person would be a Centre in whom would culminate, on whom would concentrate, through whom would out-shine the piety, humanity, beneficence of all preceding ages; around him would gather wise and loving Spirits, translated from every land to the spiritual world, to fill him with their aspirations, knowledge, power to bless; for him the changes, rises, downfalls, conquests, migrations of all peoples would prepare the way; in him would the Word for the hour and for coming eras be spoken, tho Ideal of a Manly and Divinized life radiate, the Power of regenerating the most broken down and brutalised of his race be felt; from him would go forth a quickening energy to reconcile the severed nations into one world-wide confederacy, to link the most opposed by character, culture, condition through all societies, in living intercourse, to fill private persons with harmonious force in every sphere ; and more and more, as men in succeeding times attained to the nature of true manliness, would they see perennial, symbolic beauty in his most transient act and briefest utterance, more and more would they love him as Brother, while honoring him as King.
Was Jesus of Nazareth such a Man? Did the full incarnation of the Divine Idea of Man in him make him the Christ? Was he a full embodiment of the Word, and thus peculiarly the Son, at one with the Father, and a communicator of the Spirit? Were natural and human life in him transfigured by a Divine Life t Did God, in his second person dwell in him, manifest himself through him? Was he tho fullfilment of accumulated prophecies, the object of delighted affection to spiritual ancestors, the ruler of natural forces, the one and universal lover of mankind, the dearly beloved of the Infinite Being 1 Did a new era open from him of Humanity reconciled in Heaven and on Earth? Has he evermore poured forth through living hearts a renovating influence on Humanity 1 Is he now head over all in the Church of Humanity? Is he the Vicegerent for this globe of Divine Wisdom, one of the great hierarchy or governing wills, through each of which speaks the Divine Word, and in whose councils presides God the Son? Is it his influence which now upon the warring, oppressed, impoverished nations of Christendom pours in the sublime Life of Universal Peace, Justice, Co-operation?
Certainly,—when one regards the wonderful convergence of all tendencies in the ancient world towards the advent of that Jewish peasant,—the unsurpassed majesty of his own claims, and truly royal grandeur of character and conduct—the vast prophetic promises which filled the hearts of his followers, and prompted them to boundless disinterestedness—the fact of a growing Christendom—and finally, the experience of living communion with him, to which tens of thousands of the noblest spirits whom earth has ever known, in past ages, and never more than now, bear consenting witness—he must long to be perfectly assured, that the Christian Church declares the Truth, in naming Jesus Christ the God-Man, in reverencing him as Regent in Heaven.
But why the reluctance on the part of so many magnanimous and humane seekers of light and reformers, to respond to his Creed? Us explanation is found in the exclusiveness of the claims put forth for the Divine-Manhood of Jesus, and in the seeming isolation from the human race which such a claim involves. In every man speaks forth more or less clearly the voice of God, shines out more or less brightly the Divine Ideal, is manifested more or less gloriously the image of the Infinite. Genius, the wisdom of goodness, swift intuitions, correct perceptions, transparent judgment, conscience, recognitions of the law of right, imaginations of perfect virtue and loveliness, ideal visions of reconciled humanity, prophecies of consummate harmony, what are they, but the progressive incarnation of God-in-Man, making all, in proportion as they purely receive this influx, Sons of the Father.
We long then for such a statement of the Word made Flesh, as will give full utterance to the struggling consciousness of mankind; that Truth, Law, Order. Form, Method, Reason, in all modes and degrees, are the personal communication of God the Son ; as will make the Sages of all lands and times incarnations more or less partial of the Divine Idea of man; as will place Jesus in the position of a beloved and loving Chief amidst this grand company of the Sons of God; as will inspire every truthful mind with a single eyed simplicity to seek the Light of Life wherever revealed in natural movements, organizations, and the series of universal existence, in the individual and collective reason of mankind upon the surface of the globe, in the influx of illumination from humanity in heaven. Such a statement will sum up all that is most enlivening in the Catholic Doctrine of Tradition and Infallibility, in the Pantheistic doctrine of Immanent Divinity; and it will complete while harmonising these partial views of the Living Reality, by showing how the Idea of One-in-Many Manhood has been and is incarnating itself by personal communications from God to Man, through a progressive series of Mediation.
Thus are we led to the consideration of the living ties which bind Humanity on Earth to Humanity in Heaven.
W. H. C.