Page images
PDF
EPUB

result of that teaching, upon the men of those times, we can form no idea, for neither do we know how Christ preached to them the Redemption, (1 Peter iii., 19,) when He had accomplished it. That God, however, would in some way waken within them a longing to see the day of Christ, is only what we might have anticipated, if they were to be partakers of that Redemption, not as a mere arbitrary gift, but as a result of a moral discipline of themselves.

Again, if we look to what may be called the theological difficulties in the doctrine of Redemption, those, namely, which arise from our conception of the Divine attributes, we shall find that they disappear as moral difficulties, when we acknowledge the essential Godhead of the Redeemer.

All that is said about the injustice of God punishing the innocent to spare the guilty, is really based upon a Socinian view of our Lord's Personality. That God should punish one man for another would be unjust. But that the Son of God should become man in order to suffer for sinners, is a mystery. Until we can comprehend the mystery, we cannot say anything about justice or injustice. It is no mere act of morality or compensation that we have to consider. It is a Divine act that we have to adore. We cannot fathom its operations. We can worship the love from which it sprang.

And surely even amongst those who do acknowledge our Lord's essential Godhead, we find the real love of the redeeming work very much marred by a separation of the Father's justice from the Son's compassion. S. Paul speaks of the Death of Christ as manifesting the love of the Father. So also does S. John. I think we often find the matter stated very much otherwise, as if justice were the special attribute of God the Father, injured by the sins of man, and love the special attribute of God the Son, Who came on earth to satisfy the requirements of the Father's wrath. Now, the justice of the Father and of the Son is one justice. God the Son is as much injured by the sin of man as God the Father. And further, God the Father and God the Son dwell together in one bond of consubstantial love. Their love towards man is one love. They operate by one will. If God the Son came, God the Father sent Him to be the propitiation for our sins. The act of Redemption is not the mere act of the love of the redeeming Person, but the manifestation of the love of the Triune God, God the Son came upon earth to satisfy His own justice, as much as to satisfy His Father's justice, and for the accomplishment of His Father's love to man, as much as for the accomplishment of His own. If this truth is often lost sight of, as I believe it is, it must be because the consubstantial Godhead of the Father and of the Redeemer is ignored. The heretical opinions of our great poet, on the subject of our Lord's Godhead, have probably greatly increased the hold which a conception of Christ's work, which is Arianizing at least, has taken upon the national mind.

We must acknowledge the work of Redemption to be the act of God, and then its difficulties become hallowed as mysteries of faith, instead of being puzzles for intellectual speculation, as caricatures of human justice. Regard the Redeemer only as a Man—speak of His work only after its human appearances— and you are putting a Man to do an impossible work, you are, therefore, also exposing God to contempt, as if He were pleased with an imposture. Regard the Redeemer as the Incarnate Son of God, One God with the Father,—speak of His work, in the flesh, as the outward manifestation of inner mysteries, agencies affecting a spiritual basis of humanity, which is beyond our intellectual apprehension,—you will then, indeed, find that the contemplation of His redeeming love opens the door of heaven to the head and to the heart of all the faithful. Then will the mysteries of grace follow in due order. We shall then know the great result of our Redemption to be the real communication to us of a new life. That life we may call spiritual, mystical, Divine. We shall not be terrified at names which force us to recognize the onward flow of mystery from the Person and general work of the Redeemer, to our own persons, and the means by which it is to be appropriated by us. What begins in the mystery of God, must end there also. If the Redeemer is the Son of God become man, we shall not shrink from recognizing the spiritual power of our regenerate life, or the high aim of our Divine fellowship.

We dare not therefore consent to a naturalizing, unmystical, and therefore really godless Christianity. This is the simplicity of man, not the simplicity of Christ. If we admit the Divine element, we allow the necessity of mystery in all that follows.

It is consequently no objection to any view of the work of Redemption that it is mystical. Rather it would be an objection to any view, that it were not mystical. If the whole scheme consequent upon Redemption is not mystical, the Redeemer's act is clearly left as merely one of the steps of the moral progress of the world. If we believe that Christ died to bring as out of one condition, we believe that He brought us also into another condition. The condition out of which He brought us was our natural condition. The condition into which He brings us is a supernatural, and of necessity a mystical condition. He died that He might bring us to God, not by way of local approach, but by way of mystical union and fellowship.

I believe that much of the difficulty, which some persons find in admitting the full truth of our Redemption, arises from considering the act of Redemption independently of its consequences. The act thus becomes dead. As it derives its vitality from the Godhead of the Redeemer, so it shows its vitality in the new creation of the Redeemed. It cannot therefore be considered properly, except as part of the great scheme of Divine operations. It is not enough for us to contemplate it as having procured pardon for sinners. Had the transaction been merely as between man and man, the act of pardon would have been a special act distinguishable from all that went before and that followed. Since Redemption is the work of the Creator for his creatures, it cannot be thus distinguished. It is an act of power. Its consequences are not limited to a removal of the past. It is infinite, involving mystery, that is—involving a new relation between the Creator and the creature.

A due consideration of the work of the Redeemer will make us feel the utter futility of any theories of natural progress. If mankind is to make a real progress towards God, they need more than the education or development of any element within themselves. They need regeneration.

If Redemption were more fully recognized as the initial act of man's restoration, and the mystical life more fully appreciated as the proper scope of a Divine Redeemer's interference on our behalf, the subject would be cleared of many besetting difficulties.

This mystical life, in union with God through Christ, is indeed freedom. Freedom in any other sense is a mere phrase. The death of Christ as a

« PreviousContinue »