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God, by His blessing, make them conducive to His own glory.
The fact of our Redemption must ever be the central bulwark for which the Church militant has to contend. At times, the struggle of controversy may be raging more violently around this or that outpost of the faith. The way in which those outposts are maintained, will ever depend upon the manner in which the great central fact of our Redemption is considered. Sometimes the enemy will attack an isolated doctrine, while professing a certain unanimity with those who will quietly remain content with an assertion of the simple fact of Redemption. The strength, however, of every doctrine for which we may at any time have to contend, must always consist in the closeness of connection between it and the one central truth. The purpose, the character, and the practical necessity, both of Holy Scripture and of the Sacraments, must depend upon the character and act of the Redeemer to which they have reference. Now, however, we have come round to have to fight for the very fact of our Redemption itself. It is therefore of the utmost consequence, that we fully understand what we mean in speaking of it.
I say "what we mean," for we cannot understand it according to the fulness of the meaning of Divine truth. We may, however, perceive certain consequences as resulting from elements of consideration which we cannot understand. Our meaning, therefore, must be in harmony with the operation of these supernatural elements. We may make allowance for what we cannot measure. The infinite is not necessarily indefinite. The Divine, though incomprehensible in itself, is found working according to certain fixed laws by reason of the Incarnation. Our Redemption is a work of Godhead subjected to the limitations of the creature. It is not a vague supernatural influence, but it is the work of a power incomprehensible by us, because Divine.
Now it seems to me, that much of the controversy about Redemption in the present day, arises from too technical a consideration of the subject in its bare outward manifestation, as if the outer phenomena could be separated from the incomprehensible character of the redeeming Person. Thus, for instance, the death of Christ is treated as a mere moral act. Or again, the death of Christ is spoken of as if it were simply a compensative substitution, the vicarious suffering of one man for another. But it must be plain, that the Divinity of the Redeemer makes all His actions in the flesh transcend the measure of morality. There must ever be a virtue going out of them. As the light of the sun's ray is different from all light that can be kindled upon earth, so is the simplest act of Christ different from all acts of men, not only in degree, but in kind. And again in Christ we have not merely one man dying that another may be spared from death, but we have God dying to bring mankind to life.
When a subject involves mysteries, as this does, we may be very much tempted to rest content with teaching as much of it as we can. We shrink naturally from acknowledging our utter incompleteness of perception. Hence men think that they may rest content with that portion which they seem to themselves to understand, and they forget that the life of the mystery of the whole truth pervades the fragment which their intelligence appears outwardly to grasp. Here is a fertile source of fatal error. Half truths about the infinite are nothing at all but delusions. We may pare off' the supernatural character, but the earthly residuum which is left, is made worthless. It may be easily grasped, but it is powerless to save. The charred remains of a torch may be easier to carry than the same torch blazing with fire. But without the fire it is valueless as a guide through the darkness. So may the creed be stripped of its mysterious light, but without its mystery it cannot lead any to salvation. Nor is its mystery really a greater difficulty to one understanding than it is to another. The poor man who is taught that another man died for him, so that God's justice is satisfied, is no way benefited, for he will, after all, regard the redemption as a matter arranged by God, irrespective of himself. The mere idea of his own salvation will be uppermost, for he has not been taken out of the region of earthly morals. He is glad to be saved, but he does not look upon his Redeemer with adoring love. The highest intellect can, no more than that of the poor man, understand the mystery of God, manifest in the flesh for our redemption. But both the man of learning and the peasant can yield their hearts to Him Who asked that solemn question,— "Believest thou in the Son of God?"—and when they know who He is, they can both fall down and worship Him. Let it not then be supposed, that because mysteries are difficulties, therefore, they are to be dealt with as other difficulties should be. Difficulties which arise from our individual shortsightedness are one thing: difficulties which arise from the limited grasp of our natural constitution are another. Intellectual difficulties require to be coped with until they are overcome. The difficulties of faith have to be accepted, in order that by them we may overcome. To be impatient of them, is to rebel against those laws of finite being under which we are created. To set them aside, is to throw contempt upon the Voice of God, Who speaks to us. God reveals to us these mysteries, perhaps because they will illuminate an intellect which is yet incapable of grasping their essence, or, perhaps because they will discipline the heart and prepare it for a condition of life which the intellectual powers do not suffice to reach. Christian truth must be taught in the fulness of Divine mystery, or the simplicity of Christ will rapidly be exchanged for the heartless intellect and lawless fancy of Anti-Christ.
"Believe in God, and all is easy." That is the simple solution of all difficulties in the government of Providence. Believe that Christ is God, and all is easy. That is the simple solution of all the inner and spiritual difficulties of the kingdom of grace.
For let us look to the government of God's people before Christ came. If we believe that Christ is the Son of God, sent upon earth for the Redemption of mankind, all the preceding system of types and prophecies, scintillating with miraculous touches of Divine light, in what may seem to us a very fitful sheen, but doubtless, according to a dispensation of wise love, as fixed in its operations as the shining of the moon upon the rippling waves,—all this becomes, in a certain sense, natural. We might expect, that certain tokens of Divine preparation should precede the advent of the Son of God, although quite incapable of conjecturing what those indications were likely to be. Or, if we consider the condition of those times, with reference not to the coming Saviour, but to the men who should be saved, surely we might conjecture, that as they were to profit by His future Redemption, they should have a certain measure of Divine teaching to draw them towards it. Of the