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Lecture 5 The Relationship Between God and Man

Lecture 5
The Relationship Between God and Man
AT our previous meetings we examined one of the foundations on which religion rests or perhaps I should rather say one of the indispensable elements in which religion consists—I mean man's belief in a superhuman power which works everywhere and in everything. This is not a mere philosophical theory or an abstraction designed to satisfy man's craving for knowledge nor is it a purely mental attempt to account for the world of phenomena we see around us—whether that world be the whole universe such as we conceive it to be or merely that limited portion of it that falls within the ken of uncivilised or primitive man and constitutes his whole world—but it is a religious conviction that is to say it exerts a direct and immediate influence on man's emotional life. For the phenomena which the religious man thus accounts for are precisely those which are bound up with his existence his welfare and his whole destiny; and the conviction that they reveal to him a superhuman power at once awakens in him a corresponding sentiment of awe and veneration of gratitude and trust towards that power and a sense of his obligation to obey and revere it above all others. Without this belief no religion can possibly exist. It is the fountainhead of all religions. If it is lost the old religious institutions may for a time be maintained and the performance of the old religious observances may for a time be ensured by the force of habit and tradition but the life of such a religion is extinct. Just as the machine must soon stop when its motive power has ceased to act although its wheels may continue idly to revolve a little longer so must such a religion inevitably perish. A God above us—that is the belief without which no religious life is possible.

Does this imply that the moment we feel compelled to reject the popular notion of the Divinity the moment we begin to hesitate to discern God with reverential awe in the highly anthropomorphised image which is regarded by most people as the only true God we must forthwith renounce religion altogether? Let us distinctly understand each other. It is never a single definite conception as such that constitutes the foundation of religion. Conceptions change; the imperfect are superseded by perfect the impure by the pure the lower by the higher; but the thing that abides that underlies them all is the one idea which they all strive to express in their different ways. All we have done and were bound to do has been to trace out and establish that idea. If our object had been to construct a philosophical system of religion we should now have to inquire into everything that is involved in that idea or that of necessity flows from it into the primitive myths and the later dogmas such as those of the creation of Providence and of the government of the world in which the idea has been more or less imperfectly manifested. We should have to test the dogmas by the idea itself and show what truth they contain or how far they are to be regarded as mere imperfect human allegories. We cannot however attempt so great a task. Our object is solely to offer you an introduction to the science of religion and to sketch its elements while in this ontological part of our course our special aim is to discover what is the permanent element in the multiplicity of changing forms. Yet there is one side-issue which we must not omit to notice. Belief in a superhuman power is a very positive belief a belief in one or more actual divine beings. Now people sometimes object to attribute personality and self-consciousness to the Godhead as importing a humanising and therefore a limitation and degradation of the Deity. But remember that we cannot even speak of the superhuman except after the analogy of the human or form any conception of God except with the aid of the highest conceptions known to us which in the domain of man's spiritual life are his personality and his self-consciousness. One thing is certain. When devout persons necessarily regard their God as a superhuman being He cannot be less than man He cannot be unconscious and impersonal or He would cease to be a god at all and to be worthy of adoration. It is beyond our province to inquire how far a philosophical system might be built upon the foundation of an unconscious and impersonal power but no religion could exist on such a basis. If personality and self-consciousness be terms which we may not apply to the Almighty without derogation let us admit that no human language can describe His being. But to predicate the contrary of Him would be a far graver derogation and would be no better than atheism. That “God is a Spirit” is in brief the creed of man throughout all ages; and religious man feels the need of ascribing to his God in perfection all the attributes he has learned to regard as the highest and noblest in his own spirit.

And all the more so because no religion is possible unless man feels that he is related to God. And this naturally leads us to consider the other essential of religion which is to be the subject of our studies to-day.
Not only that “God is above us” but also that “God is in us” is a belief common to all religions. It is probably unnecessary to prove nor can it indeed be disputed that this idea attained full development in the earliest stage of Christianity. The religion which regards God as the Father of all and all men as His children thus teaches the closest relationship between God and man; and this is precisely the doctrine that underlies the whole of the Gospel preaching. How this doctrine afterwards developed into the doctrines of the God-Man and the Trinity we may assume to be sufficiently well known to all. Our task is merely to show how this idea has found expression everywhere and in all ages although in widely differing conceptions myths emblems and symbolic observances and to trace its source back to the simplest forms of religious worship.
You will remember that we have divided the chief religions of antiquity into two categories according as the idea of God's supremacy over the world and man or man's relationship with God has been placed in the foreground and predominantly developed. The first category I called the theocratic in which the deity stands forth chiefly as a ruler and a king and the second the theanthropic which mainly emphasises the unity of God and man. That the latter should lay the chief stress upon the religious anthropological principle was of course to be expected. But this principle is by no means lacking and is sometimes very distinctly enunciated in the theocratic religions also. Does not the Hebrew—whose religion may be taken as one of the most pronounced types of this class—regard man as created in God's own image and did not Yahve Elohim breathe his divine breath into the nostrils of this his latest creation? Was it not recorded that both the patriarch Abraham and the prophet Moses communed as familiarly with God as men with their friends and that Israel actually wrestled with Him and overcame Him? Was it not vouchsafed to Elijah to obtain a glimpse of Yahve's glory and was he not taken up to Him in the chariot of fire? And although the Psalmist asks “What is man that Thou art mindful of him and the son of man that Thou visitest him?” yet he immediately adds “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels” (i.e. the “Elohîm” or gods). In the prophets in the sacred singers and even in the cunning artificers the divine Spirit was believed to dwell and to work for a time at least; and the prophet Jeremiah even looked forward to a time when all mankind should partake of this inspiration. These are surely sufficient proofs that the idea of God's spirit dwelling in man was by no means foreign to this most theocratic of all the religions of antiquity.
In the cognate theocratic religions of Western Asia the world of the gods and that of man are less strongly contrasted than in the Hebrew; and the older the religions are or the earlier developed the less marked is the contrast. In the Babylonian religion for example we meet with a legend analogous to the narrative in the second chapter of Genesis. Bel—that is in this case Maruduk the creator—is here represented as making men of clay mixed with his own blood a legend whose symbolical signification is obvious. Here too the legends mention a marriage between a deity and a mortal and in the narrative of the Deluge men are regarded as the children of Ishtar; while not only the king who in the earliest times was even worshipped as a divine being but every pious man is spoken of as “a son of his god” (ablu ilišu). This idea of regarding the relation between the theocratic god and his people as a nuptial tie is also as you will remember not unfamiliar to the prophets of Israel.
In the Egyptian religion which like the ancient Babylonian before it was modified by Semitic influence belonged to a very early stage of religious development we find the two ideas of “the deity as a superhuman power”and of “man as related to the deity” existing side by side unsophisticated and unreconciled. Before the time of Menes who is supposed to be the earliest historical king the gods themselves ruled on earth in successive dynasties and every subsequent human king was regarded as a son of the Sun born into the world by the great Mother-goddess. When men were created by the sun-god Ra the hidden sun-god Tuns gave them a soul like his own. Every dead man provided only he is in possession of the magic texts becomes in the lower world Osiris himself and after he has in that shape triumphed over the powers of darkness and death he is permitted to go forth into day in the train of the sun-god Ra and to navigate the heavenly waters in the boat of the sun. Even the living by dint of reciting the magical books destined for the purpose may assume the form of gods and as such may overcome the hostile powers which threaten them on earth. Famous kings even have their own temples and priesthood and their worship continues in vogue for ages in spite of the changes of dynasty. And not only they but every one who was in a position to found for himself a tomb or everlasting home was honoured by his successors with gifts and sacrifices in the chapel connected with it. It is well known how punctiliously the Chinese observed similar duties during the period prior to that of Kong-tse when their religion occupied the same plane of development as that of the Egyptians and what a prominent place they gave to the worship of deceased ancestors so that we might describe their religion as anthropocentric as being one in which the souls of men occupied an intermediate place between the heavenly and the earthly spirits.
In the case of the theanthropic religions it is unnecessary to enter into matters of detail. Their general character implies that they lay the chief stress upon man's relationship with God. In them there exists no sharp line of demarcation between the human and the divine. The world of the gods and that of man coalesce. Gods become men without losing their dignity while men are elevated to the rank of gods. In the course of the one-sided development of these religions—as for example in the latest Vedic period—the world of the gods sometimes becomes a kind of aristocracy which holds aloof from such parvenus as those deified sorcerers the Ṛbhus as being still tainted with a human odour while it cannot deny them their right to receive sacrifices. Were I however to pursue this theme further I should have to repeat much of what I have already said in my description of the theanthropic religions. To that description therefore I beg to refer you.
But with regard to the lower nature-religions I should like to say a word. In these of course everything is magical. By this magical power the Shaman in his ecstasy ascends to heaven or descends to the subterranean spirits. But this magical power is possessed by him in common with the higher spirits and does not differ from theirs. In some cases there is formed an aristocracy or superior caste to which the rank the honours and the prerogatives of the gods are conceded and which forms a transition from man to the higher beings. In the religious observances the magician-priests entirely supersede the gods and assume their forms. The founder of the race is usually a son of the chief god born supernaturally or is the deity himself. And here too the dead are invariably regarded as having been admitted to the order of spirits and their souls are worshipped as spirits.
There are two widely diffused groups partly of myths and partly of legends which owe their origin to the fundamental idea with which we are now dealing. They occur among peoples of every rank—at one time as childish tales at another in the form of beautiful poetry. I allude to the representations of Paradise and the predictions of a glorious future for mankind upon earth. These are complementary to each other and the latter may even be said to be postulated by the former although in many cases as in the Old Testament the legends of Paradise are alone preserved while the images of a blissful future are converted into higher ethical expectations. Pure and unblemished according to the Hebrew tradition our first parents roamed at large in the garden belonging to Yahve's own dwelling where the Deity himself walked to enjoy the cool of the evening. As yet they were tormented by no cares they were disquieted by no desires; as yet they were exempt from the obligation to labour in the sweat of their brows and from gloomy forebodings of death. Such is the narrative of the Book of Genesis. During the thousand years’ reign of Yima as the Avesta informs us men lived on earth in perfect happiness and—according to some accounts while death was unknown—the human race increased continuously and the earth had repeatedly to be enlarged. Sick and infirm persons liars and evil-doers were as yet unknown; as yet Angra-Mainyu the Evil One was powerless. Life was supremely happy. Of each pair once every forty years was born another pair. And when the overwhelming and devastating winter which in the Zarathushtrian legends takes the place of the Deluge threatened man with destruction Yima warned by Ahura Mazda and by his command constructed a vara or enclosure which protected his first human race against the impending catastrophe and enabled them to continue their blissful existence undisturbed.1 In the Bundahish the more recent sacred book of the Zarathushtrians which however contains many ancient elements there also occurs a tradition concerning the first human pair which is very analogous to the narrative of the second and third chapters of Genesis although differing from it in details. The Greeks too used to speak of a golden age in which men still lived innocently and therefore happily but which was soon succeeded by other ages marked by a constant decline. For all these beautiful dreams belong to a past for ever ended. Paradise has been lost and may never again be entered by man. Man the Son of the gods and once privileged to live in proximity to the deity has fallen from his high estate chiefly through his own fault and through disobedience to the divine commands. The divine image has become faint if not entirely effaced. Man must now maintain his life by means of toilsome labour. He must battle against disease and disaster; few are his days and full of woe. The “afterthought” of Epimetheus has frustrated the wise “forethought” of Prometheus. And at the bottom of Pandora's box—that fateful gift of the gods from which a host of evils and sufferings escaped to overspread the whole earth—hope alone remains behind.
Yet a hope not entirely vain. For hope is too deeply rooted in the human heart to admit of the general acceptance of such a pessimistic view as that indicated by the Greek myth. The beautiful pictures of an irrevocable past are transferred to the future. Hope's anticipations are now of two kinds earthly and heavenly. People who cherish hopes of the earthly kind dream like the ancient Germans of a new earth purified by fire an earth purged of all evil a kind of second Paradise where mankind likewise regenerated by fire will live happily in the society of the best of the gods. Such was the hope of the Greek when the sway of Zeus and the Olympians should once be ended. Prometheus would be unfettered and mankind would be delivered from all its miseries. Such more especially was the hope of the devout Pârsee. During the thousand years’ reign of Hûshêdarmâh which was to precede the advent of the Saviour Sàshyans men were gradually to return to the sinless state of the first human pair and during the last ten years they were even to abstain entirely from food and yet live. Then comes the Redeemer. All the dead from Gâyômard the protoplast and from Mâshya and Mâshyôi the first human pair onwards are raised and the righteous and the wicked are separated. The earth is burnt up and in the ocean of molten metal which overflows its whole surface all are purified the wicked only after suffering terrible tortures and the righteous after experiencing merely a pleasant warmth. All then receive from Sôshyans a food which renders them immortal. The evil spirits are conquered and slain or driven unresisting into outer darkness. Even hell itself is purified and added to the earth; and in this enlarged world where there will be no more ice and no more mountains men are to be immortal and to live for ever united with their families and relations but without further offspring in pure and peaceful bliss.2 We only learn these conceptions from very late sources but even in the earliest documents they are alluded to as belonging to an already existing popular creed. The ideal of the earliest Zarathushtrian prophets of salvation was much more sober and ethical and consisted in the triumphant supremacy of the good God over all men an ideal more closely approaching the expectations of the prophets of Israel of which the first preaching of the Gospel formed the fulfilment.
But alongside of these representations of a future state of bliss on earth there often occur in the same religion others of a different character which however rather supplement than exclude them and which relate to the fate of men after death. Thus the Greeks had their Elysian fields destined for heroes alone; the Scandinavians had their Valhöll and Folkvang where the warriors who fell in battle banqueted with Odhin and Freya; and the Zarathushtrians their Garôdmana the abode of Ahura Mazda and his satellites connected with earth by a bridge which for the righteous is broad and commodious but for the wicked sharp as a razor so that they inevitably tumble off it into hell. I cite these examples only because they relate to the peoples whose belief in a regeneration of mankind I have already mentioned. But there are thousands of other forms which the belief in immortality assumes and which it would be impossible even to name at present. Suffice it to say that it occurs everywhere and among all peoples whatever be their stage of progress and wherever it has not been as yet undermined by any philosophic doubts or thrust into the background by other causes and that in every case it is found in connection with religion. It may possibly have sprung up independently and quite apart from religious motives (a matter which we cannot now investigate); it seems certain however that it did not spring from the sentiment of man's relationship with God but that both have the same origin while the belief in immortality once brought into connection with religion usually takes the form of a union with the deity or at least of an entrance into the world of the gods and a participation in their society. This is most apparent in the Egyptian religion in which this very doctrine is elaborated with special predilection. That this view was practically universal we learn from the worship of the dead of which we have already spoken. The Babylonian legend of Ishtar's descent into hell depicts in sombre colours the “land whence no man returns” (irṣit lâ tarat) where the dreaded Allat rules over the dead and dispenses all kinds of torture; but at the same time it pictures in words and images a state of happiness in which the pious man sits down with his God under the tree of life. We meet with both types almost everywhere. And as soon as more advanced moral sentiment asserts itself and the idea of retribution has been combined with that of a future existence the lower world once the destination of almost all the dead is converted into a place of punishment and torment while heavenly bliss is awarded to the pious alone. For it is the general belief of all peoples that every man goes to his own proper place; the warriors who have fallen in battle enter the abode of the hero-gods; Hêraklês the mighty hero who spent a life of toil and conflict in the service of humanity is received into Olympus; Enoch Moses and Elijah God's chosen friends instead of descending into the sombre lower regions are taken up directly to Him; and (when the ethical idea has effectually asserted its influence) the pious go to Him whom they have served faithfully while the godless who have forsaken their god and his commandments are consigned to the powers of darkness to be punished as they have deserved.
No one will deny that the idea of relationship with God is but imperfectly expressed in all these images and that they are but attempts to give it shape; yet the religious thought that underlies them is that man “is of God and through God and to God” and is destined at last to be reunited with Him.
But poetic imagination could not rest satisfied until it had found a more concrete form for this religious conception. Its supreme effort accordingly finds expression in the belief in a Mediator—that is as Pfleiderer has aptly described such a being “the combination of the divine with the human into a personal unity in external objectivity.” However much mortal man may be conscious of the divine within him God and man ever present the contrast of Infinite and Finite of the perfect and the imperfect. Now as experience progress in self-knowledge and the development of mortal consciousness gradually beget and confirm in man the conviction that he answers but poorly to his high lineage and destiny and as on the other hand religious thought gradually creates a loftier conception of the Deity the gulf between the two ever widens and it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain the former root-idea without prejudicing the latter. And he accordingly fills up the gulf with all kinds of intermediate beings. On earth he fills it with persons of specially religious character with prophets priests teachers leaders and reformers whom his imagination glorifies and to whom he often ascribes supernatural holiness. In heaven or at least in the region between heaven and earth he fills the gulf with the ministers and messengers of God such as the Babylonian Nusku the Indian Agni Nâras´aṅsa the Avestic Sraosha the Greek Hermes or such as the Angels and Sons of God—the Hebrew Male῾akîm and Bnê Elohîm by means of whom the supreme deity communes with men; he fills it too with inferior gods who are less remote from man and whose intercession with the most high he invokes. But while the first of these classes consists of men more gifted than their fellows or raised above them by divine consecration and unction or possessed of extraordinary knowledge yet they are not one with God nor have they as a rule a definite divine origin assigned to them. The second order of beings on the other hand is not human but superhuman. In these orders the lower divine and the higher human come very nearly into contact so that the gulf is to some extent filled up although not entirely closed. This can only be accomplished by the conception of a being who partakes of both natures alike who is at once God and man a true son of God and true son of man. By means of such a bold flight of imagination the conflicting natures are reconciled the heterogeneous elements coalesce in a unity.
The belief in Mediators between the divine world and the human who belong to both alike is a very general one and is manifested in many different forms. In some cases they are gods who descend to earth and become men or for a time at least associate as men with men; as Apollo with Admetus; or like the numerous Avatâras of the god Vishṇu including even the Buddha and among whom Kṛshṇa occupied the foremost rank; or like the Scandinavian god Heimdall who by his union with three earthly wives became the father of the three estates of nobles freemen and serfs and whose posterity thus in a very special manner illustrates the kinship between gods and men. In other cases these Mediators are demi-gods men born of a union between gods and mortals such as Hêraklês Bellerophôn Perseus Thêseus and Dionysus who were believed to have been actually born on earth though of divine origin and to have lived and worked on earth—Heroes that is Saviours and Redeemers as they were called—and some of whom either as a reward for their achievements or merely on account of their divine lineage were raised to the rank of gods and worshipped as such. And often they are actual historical personages glorified and afterwards deified by a grateful posterity. Such were a number of kings like the ancient Sargon of Agade in Babylonia and sages like Lao-tse and Kong-tse in China and above all reformers whose work and preaching called a new religion into life like Mahâvîra the Jina Gautama the Buddha and Zarathushtra Spitama after whom the Jainas the Buddhists and the Zarathushtrians are respectively named. The history of most of these personages consists so largely if not entirely of myths chiefly myths of the sun-gods adapted to them that it has even been doubted whether they ever existed at all. But such an inference is unwarrantable. Once they were raised to the rank of gods or adorable beings the actual memorials of their lives so far as they still existed would thenceforth be of little use or would at least seem inadequate and had therefore to be replaced or supplemented by miraculous tales. That such tales borrowed mostly from the Mithras legend were transferred to Christ also chiefly in the apocryphal Gospels and the Golden Legend will not be denied even by those who are disposed to accept as pure history the whole of the narrative of the canonical Gospels. It is however certain that the dogma of the Son of God true God and true man which attained its highest mystic expression in the dogma of the Trinity has been throughout long ages one of the chief corner-stones of the creed of the great majority of Christians however different their religious views might be in other respects. Although unable to withstand the searching scrutiny of sober rational logic owing to the (from a purely rationalistic standpoint) irreconcilable contradiction of the two terms which compose the expression God-man this dogma has ever been cherished by all the Christian churches as a religious truth and one of the most important of all. And accordingly with due religious consistency they condemn as heretical the teaching of those who deny either of these terms—both that of the Docetes who rejected the true manhood of Jesus declaring it to be apparent only and that of the Rationalists who rejected the divinity of Christ.
It is not the business of the science of religion to maintain or defend still less to dispute or destroy this or any other dogma or any religious conception as such. Its duty is merely to explain. But here it is confronted with the question—How comes it that this doctrine of the God-man occurs not only in the theanthropic religions which with more or less bias place the immanence of God in the foreground but even in the Christian religions which all spring from a common religious communion having emanated from the strongly theocratic Judaism whose God was transcendental if one ever was? How has this doctrine come to occupy so prominent and so central a place that its denial is regarded by most Christians as a denial of Christianity itself and tantamount to unbelief? To this there can be but one answer—Because it satisfies the deepest needs of the religious soul.
In the first place there is need of communion with the Divinity. The result of the development of religion on the theocratic lines was an ever-increasing exaltation by means of spiritualisation of the conception of God. Even the great Persian reformer had already in Ahura Mazda held up to his people as an object of adoration a god far above all the nature-gods they had hitherto worshipped. In Greece by the philosophers at least the anthropomorphic conception of Zeus and the other gods was vigorously disputed. How much more emphatically would the like be done by the Israelites whose God the Holy and Invisible dwells in secret who is unapproachable to whom weak mortals conscious of their immeasurable inferiority scarce dare to draw near with fear and trembling? The more abstract and the further divested of human imagery the conception of God becomes the more difficult it is found by man to seek and to maintain communion with so exalted a Being. Without such communion his faith is a dead and barren faith. He desires to feel that he is near his God and that his God is near him. The worshipper wishes to possess as his own the object of his worship. He wishes to love it with his whole soul; but how can he love what is raised so far above him and almost defies the possibility of conception? This need is satisfied by the conception of the God-man. Here is a being like himself and yet far above him a being that he can love and adore at the same time. He cannot see his God; but here is a being who says to him—“He who sees me sees the Father”—here is His image. The perfection of God overwhelms him; here is a being to whom he can give himself whom he can at least try to follow and by becoming whose likeness he may strive to the utmost of his power to become a likeness and a follower of God.
And in the second place in order to strengthen his sentiment of relationship with the Deity man feels the need of beholding in a concrete image formed by a union of the divine and the human the true divinity of the highest humanity. In his Gifford Lectures (‘The Evolution of Religion’) Professor Edward Caird has repeatedly made a very striking remark and one which may indeed be described as a psychological discovery to the effect that in the human mind the idea of the Infinite precedes that of the Finite. The finite we know by experience alone; of the infinite experience teaches us nothing. On the contrary the infinite is in irreconcilable conflict with all our experience. Nor is it the result of reasoning for there is nothing from which we can deduce it as an inference. It is born in us and we cannot choose but think it. We act unconsciously as if we were infinite. Infinity is the mainspring of all human development. At the same time it is the source of a healthy pessimism which acts as a check on a narrow and superficial optimism and which lies at the root of all progress. Nothing satisfies us really and permanently except striving after the infinite even though we are perfectly aware that during our earthly existence at least it is beyond our reach. We are cramped by the fetters imposed on us; we regard as unnatural the limits against which we fret. Our spirits therefore revel in a magical world with the fantastic delineation of which the romancers ever delight children both small and great. Hence it is that we dream of a beautiful past when everything was as yet perfect and when mortal happiness was undisturbed. Hence we long for a future age when all tears will be wiped away and all toil will have an end; for “hope springs eternal in the human breast” in spite of all experience and has hitherto proved ineradicable. In our best moments we feel superior to the world of phenomena around us; we feel the superiority of our spirits to the blind powers of nature which can crush us; we feel that we are not merely of the earth earthy that we are not merely dust which to dust must return and that man and mortal are far from being simply convertible terms. Translated into the form of religious conception this consciousness of the infinite within us is that sentiment of kinship with the superhuman power which the religious soul postulates. But then come our daily experiences with their terrible reality. Everything around us passes away. Death snatches away our dearest ones from our side and we ourselves sometimes feel the chill touch of its hand. Our most excellent plans so well considered so carefully prepared are constantly thwarted. We desire to investigate to know and to understand but we continually stumble against riddles which we are powerless to solve and we perceive that we only “know in part.” Then it is that we feel the limitation of our powers our littleness our nothingness. But as we cannot rest content with our condition we seek support for our weakness in more highly gifted persons in the mighty spirits who “endure as seeing Him who is invisible” in saints “whose conversation [or rather citizenship] is in heaven” in inspired prophets whose witness strengthens us and above all in the contemplation of the image of that One in whom the purely human element coincides with the all-conquering divine love.
Lastly this experience of our weakness and impotence is equivalent in the ethical domain to that consciousness of guilt which gives rise to our need of redemption. As I have already said more than once the idea of redemption which has sometimes been erroneously supposed to be limited to the most highly developed religions is absolutely general although the form in which it is conceived is at first very simple and imperfect. The image is borrowed from that of captivity. Redemption is release not merely as it is usually understood from the power of sin and still less from its consequences and penalties only but from all the bonds of finiteness from everything that hampers man in the full development of his spiritual life. Such is the Brahmanic Moksha which is a release from all worldly hindrances; and a still more striking example is the Buddhistic Nirvâna in which all desire all pleasure even a man's very personality are extinguished. The Christian conceptions which sometimes differ very widely are more temperate and chiefly lay stress on reconciliation with God. But here as in other ethical religions the power to release and the power to reconcile are concretely combined in the person of the Mediator who was born of God and yet was man just as in the old nature-religions the demi-gods were Saviours and Liberators. And the origin of this need of redemption or release the feeling that prompts man to seek salvation from his Redeemer is none other than his sentiment of kinship with God which has come into collision with the sad experiences of his moral battle of life. Even his highest aspirations have so often ended in disappointment. What he his higher ego would he has left undone and what he would not that he has done. Akin to God yet he has proved untrue to his origin. Though he ought to be superior he feels his inferiority to a power that is really beneath him and whose service degrades him. And then whatever be the conception he forms of it whether he is still in bondage to a belief in certain magic influences or whether he be aware that it is the spectacle of moral grandeur that restores him to himself the image of the man that was one with God revives in him a consciousness of his kinship with God and enables him to be reconciled both with himself and with his God.
I have endeavoured to account for the conception in which religious faith culminates the concrete image in which the union of the divine and the human is discerned as arising out of the needs of the religious soul. We have established the presence of two root-ideas in all conceptions of faith. On a closer examination which our time does not now permit we might perhaps discover that the two are essentially one. No form however beautiful however exalted is abiding; for no form can adequately express what is infinite and ineffable. Who does not feel that as “we know in part” so we can only “prophesy in part”? Yet forms are necessary; and no form ought to be discarded until some other is discovered which expresses more correctly and adequately the truth of which it is the figure. The Credo quia absurdum est of Tertullian if taken in a literal sense would be an unwarrantable and therefore an inadmissible paradox. That an ephemeral being like man should imagine that he participates in the Infinite is judged by materialistic or sober rationalistic standards the most absurd thing in the world. Yet this belief is one of the chief corner-stones of religion and it perfectly justifies the pious believer in declaring that what seems foolishness to the world may be wisdom with God.