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Lecture Ninth. The Gospel of St. John and the Idea of a Divine Humanity.

Relation of St. Paul's Theology to the Representation of the Life of Jesus in the Gospel of St. John — The Idealising Process that follows Death — That it is not necessarily a fictitious Process of Imagination — The Growing Powers of Man as best revealed in their Results beyond the Life of the Individual — That Christianity gives the Highest Example and Explains the Rational of this Process — Sense in which Jesus was Unique — His Separation from Humanity due to Jewish Ideas — How far this appears in the New Testament — The Desire for a Miraculous Break in the Connexion of Experience in order to prove that the Ultimate Reality of Things is Spiritual — That Jesus did not rely on such an Argument.

IN the last lecture, we considered the way in which St. Paul at once generalised and idealised the faith of Christ, liberating it from the Judaic conditions of its origin, and at the same time lifting it into the region of theology. For him the whole life of Christ became summed up in his death; and the story of his humanity was changed into the history of a divinely commissioned Messiah, who had renounced the glories of his prenatal existence with God that he might endure all the pains and sorrows of man, and, by bearing the utmost force of evil which man can suffer or inflict, might emancipate man from it. For the resurrection of Christ, as St. Paul believed, had shown that the way of self-abnegation, and not the way of self-assertion, was the divinely-appointed way to glory and immortality. It had been made manifest in this transcendent example that he who empties himself of all selfish ambition, becomes filled with the power of a divine life; that he who gives up all, finds all again in God. Thus, as St. Paul maintained, through Christ's death a new principle has been introduced into humanity,—a principle which, in every one who has faith in Christ, will produce the same fruits as in him. We, indeed, cannot, like Christ, renounce heaven for earth, that we may save mankind; but none the less is it possible for us, through the new spiritual force that has come into man's life, to make the ‘grand renunciation’ of ourselves, and so to “fill up that which is behind in the afflictions of Christ”1 to complete the salvation of men. And, when we do so, we feel within us the “earnest of the spirit,” the sustaining and inspiring power of the same principle of life, which in him vanquished all the hate of man and rose victorious over death itself; and we cannot but believe that in us it will produce the same effects in life and in death. In this way we see that St. Paul combined two things which at first might seem irreconcilable. On the one hand, he generalised the lesson of the life and death of Jesus. He extracted from it a universal principle which was not confined to Jesus Christ, but might find new organs in every human soul. Or, to put it in another way, he recognised that in Christ was revealed the essential law of man's moral life, as drawing all its strength out of surrender to the divine Spirit, which is present in all men, in so far as in them the consciousness of self is bound up with the consciousness of God. Yet, at the same time, by his identification of Jesus as an individual with this principle, he prevented it from shrinking into an abstract dogma, and gave to it the living power of an image of perception or imagination.

And what St. Paul thus initiated, was still more fully worked out in the Gospel of St. John, in which the highest view of Jesus, as not only the Messiah but the ‘Logos of God,’ is brought into direct combination with the story of his earthly life; and, in which, on the other hand, the details of that life are consistently presented as the manifestation of the divine meaning of his personality. St. John, or the writer of the Gospel attributed to St John, thus completed that synthesis of the universal and the individual, to which Christianity owes so much of its power over the hearts of men. And when the same writer2 speaks of that which “was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life,” he is uniting, with a clear consciousness of their startling contrast and antagonism, the utmost universality of the Christian idea—as a principle which embraces all the existence of man and of the universe—with the immediate personality of an individual, who is represented a living and acting under the ordinary conditions of human life. He was thus bringing together the two poles between which the spirit of man moves, as it is conscious of itself in its finitude in relation to the divine, and, therefore, conscious at the same time that the divine can be revealed in it.

What has now been said may be otherwise expressed thus: It is a law of human history that principles and tendencies which are really universal, should at first make their appearance in an individual form, as if bound up with the passing existence of a particular nation or even of a single man. The general idea needs, so to speak, to be embodied or incarnated, to be ‘made flesh and to dwell among men’ in all the fulness realisation in a finite individuality, before it can be known and appreciated in its universal meaning. And it is only after such individual presentation has produced its effect that reflexion is able to detach the idea from accidents of time and place and circumstance, and present it as a general principle. Even in the case of philosophy itself—which, as it belongs to the reflective stage of consciousness, might seem independent of the personality of its teachers—the same law still partially holds good; for the greatest of all philosophical movements is associated with the life and death of Socrates, the first representative of the subjective principle of thought. Now, in this movement from the individual to the universal the great danger is that the idea should lose in intensity what it gains in generality; that, as it frees itself from local and temporal conditions, it should at the same time be deprived of that direct force of appeal to the souls of men which springs from its identification with an individual who is its organ and living embodiment. It is, therefore, of the highest importance that, in spite of the generalising process which necessarily begins so soon as the individual is removed and reflexion is at work upon his memory, the living impression of the person should as much as possible be retained, and kept in union with the principle he has represented. Hence

“Wisdom dealt with mortal powers,

Where truth in closest words shall fail,

When truth embodied in a tale,

Shall enter in at lowly doors.”3

Thus, while the individual influence is very limited in its operation, and the bare universal is like a disembodied soul that has lost the power of action in the finite world, the individual who is regarded as the organ of a universal principle, the universal principle which has incarnated itself for perception or imagination in an individual life, take hold upon man by both sides of his nature, and work with irresistible transforming force upon all his thought and life. Now, it may fairly be said that St. Paul's Epistles and St. John's Gospel have together discharged this office for Christendom in relation to the life of Jesus Christ: the former freeing the idea of t crucified Messiah from the limitations of the Jewish environment in which it is presented by the Synoptic narrative, and the latter reinstating the ideal image of Christ thus reached, not indeed in all the special Jewish relations of its first expression, but at least in the general conditions of an actual human life. With St. Paul, Jesus has become ideal without ceasing to be real, because, just in the same measure as he is lost as an image without, as a ‘Christ after the flesh,’ he is restored as a ‘quickening spirit’ in the hearts of his followers. With St. John, the outward image of Christ after the flesh, is revived again, though only as ‘Word made flesh,’ the individualised manifestation of God in a humanity which is perfectly conformed to that which it has to express.4

Now this process of idealising the real, and again realising the ideal, which we have thus just described, is not isolated, or unexampled in other spheres of human thought and life. If the spirit of Christ could not come to men till Christ after the flesh had departed, the same may be said in a measure of every human embodiment of excellence. The same psychological law renews its action in every great experience of loss or bereavement.

“’Tis only as they spring to heaven that angels

Reveal themselves to you: they sit all day

Beside you, and lie down at night by you,

Who care not for their presence—muse or sleep—

And all at once they leave you, and you know them.”5

In this sense it may be said that men never have full spiritual or ideal possession except of that which has ceased to be empirically present to their senses. They cannot discern the ‘word of life’ in that which ‘their eyes see and their hands are’ actually ‘handling.’ They need the real to be removed to some distance, ere they can fully apprehend the ideal that is behind it This does not mean, however, that they do not really discern but only imagine it. It is not that regretful memory exaggerates the virtues of the friend, who no longer is there to refute our idealism with the limitations of mortality. It is that the conditions of life half-conceal from us that which they half-reveal, and that the immediate perception of all the details of the moment obscures the meaning of the whole. And thus it is often death which first gives the right focus, from which alone each part can be seen in its proper proportion and relation to the others.

“When he shall hear she died upon his words,

The idea of her life shall sweetly creep

Into his study of imagination,

And every lovely organ of her life

Shall come apparelled in more precious habit,

More moving-delicate and full of life,

Into the eye and prospect of his soul

Than when she lived indeed.”

It is only a grander illustration of the same law which we have in the great poem of the Middle Ages, the Divina Commedia, with its all but deification of the object of Dante's youthful love. By the long brooding gaze of the Poet's imagination the purity and simplicity of maidenhood, with its single-minded instinct for what is lovely and pure—all that Dante had loved in Beatrice—were gradually transformed into a symbol, and even an embodiment of the divine light that guides man through the confusions of life; and all the faults and weakness of mortality were lost in the vision of the “eternal womanly” which is ever “drawing us upward.”6 And this example suggests another thought, viz., that the qualities which we revere in men are growing powers, which have their value in their promise, and can only be fully understood by one who sees in them the future to which they point. They are undeveloped germs to which a finite form hides an infinite potentiality. And though, as life goes on, such hints may acquire more definiteness, yet the veil of human individuality is generally too dark to let us discover in what ways and in what measure the individual has become and is becoming one with his ideal. The imperfections of growth, and the limits of finite personality keep, so to speak, the human separated from the divine, till the idealising touch of death removes the division between them, and enables us to see in the man, our fellow, a new organ of the universal spirit of goodness. This revelation of the divine in the human is perhaps the highest use of sorrow, as it is the one thing which has plucked from many human hearts its bitterest sting. Hence it is no irreverence, still less is it any more poetic exaggeration, copying the irrationality of human passion, which leads Tennyson to find his final consolation for the loss of his friend in all but dissolving his individuality in the divine. Though ‘mixed with God and nature,’ he declares, ‘I seem to love thee more and more.’

“Strange friend, past, present, and to be;

Loved deeplier, darklier understood;

Behold, I dream a dream of good,

And mingle all the world with thee.”7

Still more definitely is this felt in the case of a great original individuality who does not, so to speak, give us merely a casual glimpse of the divine through a life generally lived on the ordinary levels of mortality; but who, by the devotion of his whole existence to the realisation of the one idea that possesses him, initiates a new type of human character, and creates a new ideal of human excellence. Such men as Buddha, Socrates, and Luther, whose manhood and age are the fulfilment of an idea conceived in youth, and who treat their whole life, and even it may be their death, as the clay in which the moral work of art is realised, can be seen truly only when faithfulness unto death has given as it were the last touch to their work. In such a consistent course of life what strikes us most is not this or that ray of excellence, nor even the completed course of progress, but rather the path of life which is traversed is to us as the path of a star to the astronomer, which enables him to prophesy its future course. Such men seem still to grow beyond the end which hides them from our eyes. The idea which, while they lived, was painfully seen through the personality it animated, now seems after their death to bo freed from all obstacles and to go on developing, carrying their personality with it. Thus the great man in his lifetime stands before his contemporaries as an external image of excellence, which may, indeed, awaken a new spirit in those who are able even partially to appreciate it; but, when the outward presence is removed, the, awakened spirit reproduces the inmost reality of the fact in an idealised vision which is truer than anything seen with the eyes of sense. For then, all the results that have sprung out of the living energy of the man, furnish us with new traits which enable us to realise more clearly what he was; and this new idealised image in turn reacts in further developments of the same spiritual energy which originally produced it.

It is only the greatest of all instances of this law of development which we see in the early history of Christianity. And it is this which explains at once the intensity of the religious life which Christ called forth, and the rapid expansion of the Christian community, so long as the strength of its first impulse was maintained. In the narrative which is at the basis of the Synoptic Gospels, in the idealising movement of St. Paul's Epistles, and, finally, in the effort of St. John to bring back the highest result of this process into connexion with the remembered facts of Christ's life, we see the expanding power of the idea of Christ: we see it as it flows out of his personality, and again as it reacts on the memory of the life from which it proceeds, at once deepening and widening the interpretation of it, and thus, so far as may be, raising the human in it into closer union with the divine. And if in this process the accurate lineaments of fact are in some degree lost or changed, yet in the main and with one important reservation, it is to bo recognised that the change is only a sacrifice of the letter to the spirit. For the result is a more perfect combination of the real and the ideal, or, if the words are preferred, of the human and the divine, than ever has been reached in any other writings. The two terms are, indeed, stretched to the utmost point of their antagonism, and are shown in their utmost tension against each other; but the religious imagination, the intuition of faith, is still able to hold them together, and, by doing so, it gains a kind of power which is possible only in such a union of opposite poles of the consciousness of humanity.

Thus the way in which, in the thought of the disciples, the ordinary limitations of finitude and humanity—of that in the finite world and in man which separates them from God—gradually drop away from the image of Christ, has in it something which, though unexampled in degree, yet agrees in kind with the ordinary process by which the ideal reveals itself in and through the real; or, to put it more accurately with the process by which the ideal reveals itself as, the reality which is hid beneath the immediate appearance of things. It may even be said that Christianity is distinguished from all other religions by the fact that it supplies the rationale and tho justification of this process. For its fundamental lesson that man must ‘die to live,’ involves as a consequence that it is just through the last sacrifice of life itself that the divine principle of life in humanity reveals itself most clearly. In such complete devotion of himself, man becomes, what it is his innate vocation to be, the organ and manifestation of God. From this principle it necessarily follows that the idealising process which death sets on foot, and by which the individual is lifted out of the limitations of mortality, is no mere visionary or poetic exaggeration, but only a recognition of the inmost truth of things. If life and death are the process whereby the image of God is realised in man, then there is no illusion in the correlative process by which, in the thought of those that come after, the history of a man is regarded as a stage in the manifestation of God. And, if it was the founder of Christianity who first realised in its full meaning the truth which we philosophically express by saying that the consciousness of God is presupposed and implied in the consciousness of the world, and even more directly in the consciousness of self—and that therefore a self-conscious being cannot know what he really is, or realise his good except in utter self-surrender to God—then there is a supreme reason why all generations of men should call him divine, not, indeed, as isolated from others, but as the “first-born of many brethren.” By him, as by no other individual before, the pure idea of a divine humanity was apprehended and made into the great principle of life; and consequently, in so far as that idea can be regarded as realised in an individual—and it was a necessity of feeling and imagination that it should be regarded as so realised—in no other could it find so pure an embodiment. Nay, we may add that, so long as it was regarded as embodied in him only in the same sense in which it flowed out from him to others, so long the primacy attributed to Christ could not obscure the truth. It only furnished it with a typical expression, whereby the movement of the feelings the imagination were kept in harmony with that of the intelligence.

Now this seems to be the ruling idea of the 17th chapter of St. John's Gospel, in which the principle of Christian mysticism receives its highest expression. The same divine life which manifests itself in Christ, it is there declared, is also communicated by him to all his followers. “Holy Father keep through Thine own name those that Thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are…Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also that shall believe through their word, that they may all be one, as Thou Father art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.” Christ is thus proclaimed to be the unique revelation of God, but only as the first-born of many brethren, the greatest of all the servants of humanity, the most perfect organ of that divine life for which man was made, in as much as he was made in the image of God. In fact, it was through Jesus Christ that that capacity of men to become sons of God, which was in humanity from the first, was actualised or clearly revealed; and that, not merely in some casual voice of exalted religious feeling, or in the abstract conceptions of philosophy, but as the ruling principle of a life lived under ordinary human conditions, and, above all, in the death which was its culmination, the death of the cross to which Jesus was “lifted up that he might draw all men to him.”8 For the cross, combining as it did the loftiest and the lowest things of human existence, the deepest outward shame and the manifestation of the highest energy of spiritual life to which the soul of man can rise, was the appropriate, and, we might even say, the necessary symbol of a religion which, in breaking down all the walls of division between man and man, class and class, nation and nation, at the same time awoke man, in all the weakness of his finitude, to a consciousness of unity with God.

Such an interpretation of the doctrine of the divine humanity of Jesus Christ may seem to many to take a way that which is the necessary support of their faith. But I believe that, when fully considered and understood, it will be found to contain all the elements of vital Christianity, all the elements in it that have really given support to the religious life of man in the past. For the power of Christianity has always lain in its bringing Christ, at once, and in virtue of the same moral and spiritual characteristics, into unity with God and with man; and the theological doctrine of two natures in Christ which are the source of separate and even opposed attributes, has never found an echo in the voice of immediate religious experience. Read all the books of Christian devotion from the earliest to the latest, and you will find that what they dwell upon, when they are not merely repeating the words of the creeds but speaking in the language of religious experience, is that Christ is divine just because he is the most human of men, the man in whom the universal spirit of humanity has found its fullest expression; and that, on the other hand, he is the ideal or typical man, the Son of Man who reveals what is in humanity, just because he is the purest revelation of God in man. The divisions of theological logic, the dogmatic decrees of councils as to the nature of Christ, which set the human and the divine in him in opposition to each other, or only externally unite them, have never quite corresponded with the devotional, language of the saints, i.e. with the language in which there is the purest utterance of the religious life. And even the history of dogma itself shows a continual reaction of that life against the distinctions of theology, and an ever-renewed effort to overcome them by new refinements and distinctions. In truth, the attempts of theology to raise Christ above the conditions of human life, and to give him a metaphysical or physical greatness of another kind, really end in lowering him and depriving him of his true position in the religions life of man. For they obscure the one point in which he really is unique, as being the first to break through the Jewish division between the divine and the human, yet without falling into the gulf of an abstract pantheism, or losing any of that moral idealism in which the purifying power of monotheism lay.

Now Christianity, as it arose out of Judaism, had, so to speak, to pay tribute to Judaism. It had to express itself in the forms of the religion of Israel, and it could not avoid being to some extent influenced by those forms. Judaism, however, was specially distinguished by the way in which it separated God from the world and from all the creatures He has made, even from man; and, as a consequence of this, by the catastrophic or apocalyptic view which it took of the divine dealings with humanity. And this view was, as we saw, specially predominant at the time of Christ. In such a time the mind of the Jew could scarcely receive the idea of a moral regeneration of man's life, except as the accompaniment, or even the effect, of a sudden divine interference with the course of nature, by a Messiah who was exempted from all its laws. Now, I have already spoken of the way in which Jesus ran counter to the ordinary Messianic idea in almost all its characteristics, and I have pointed out that his fate was the natural result of his doing so. But there is one point which has specially to be recalled here,9 viz. that, while Jesus altogether rejects the demand of the Jews for an outward Messianic miracle, and maintains that the true victory of good must be that in which the natural is the effect and that the cause of the spiritual triumph, he also, as a necessary consequence of this, speaks of the process whereby such victory is to be attained as one not of catastrophic change, but of continuous growth. Hence it is not too much to say that in some of his words the idea that true progress is possible only by development, is more clearly expressed than it ever was by any one down to tho present century, when it has become the key-note of all speculation. But in this, as in all his views of his own Messiahship, Christ was working against the whole prepossessions of his age and nation. His image is therefore seen by us through an atmosphere made obscure by ideas just the reverse of his own. And, just as he who refused to the Pharisees a sign from heaven was in a short time surrounded by an atmosphere of signs and wonders so he who compared the development of the kingdom of heaven to the slow growth of the seed by a silent unnoticeable process, “first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear,” was soon represented as having prophesied an immediate ‘restitution of all things,’ a miraculous revolution which, without any process of growth whatever, should, in a few years at the most, make Christianity triumphant over the earth. Even St. Paul, who of all the immediate followers of Christ entered most fully into the spiritual meaning of Christianity, did not dissociate it from such a belief. He sought, indeed, to free his creed from the external scaffolding of miracle which belonged to his original Jewish conceptions of Messianic agency; yet he admitted one transcendent miracle as the basis of his faith, and he expected another transcendent miracle to cut short the process—which must be slow and gradual, if it was to be really a spiritual process of development—and to bring in the final harvest of good within the space of a few years, and even within his own lifetime. And, while he taught in the most powerful way the lesson of Jesus, the lesson that self-sacrifice is the only way to self-realisation, he yet partly weakened its effect, as the simple exposition of the moral nature of man and the mode of his development, by making the sacrifice of Jesus essentially different from that which is the ordinary trial of humanity.

The truth seems to be that that transformation of religion which Jesus had in view, and by which the spiritual was put above and before the natural and recognised as its source and principle, was only imperfectly carried out even in the mind of his noblest disciples. The old confusion that substituted spiritual a supernatural world—which was merely another natural world with external and sensible characteristics of the same kind though higher in degree—was by no means entirely dissipated. At least, if this confusion could no longer be directly made, still the spiritual was made to rest on, and derive its evidence from the supernatural. Thus miracles, signs and wonders, were mingled with the proof of a Gospel whose highest virtue lay just in this, that it turned men's eyes away from such outward breaches of nature's laws to the thought that in the ordinary course of things there is a divine principle realising itself, for him who looks deeper than the surface. And, on the other hand, the idealising process by which the deeper meaning of the life of Jesus as the manifestation of that priniciple was discovered, was neutralised in some measure by the tendency to make an absolute division between him and other men—a tendency much favoured by the lingering influence of the Jewish conception of the opposition between God and all the creatures He has made. No doubt, in the earliest years of Christianity, this Jewish monotheistic spirit was counteracted in its effects by the living consciousness of union with Christ, and through him with God, as not only his Father but the Father of all men. But, in the following age, it gained continually greater predominance; and the conflict between it and the idea of the union of divine and human—an idea which could not but make its way wherever the record of the deeds and words of Christ was carried—led to ever-renewed controversy, which was rather silenced than satisfied by the dogmatic decisions of the councils of the church. For these decisions were nothing but continually renewed compromises between opposite elements of the orthodox faith, which could neither be neglected nor reconciled.

We may put it thus. It is the nature of the imagination to represent the spiritual as an enlarged natural world, a natural world with some of its limitations taken away. This is inevitable and necessary; for in no other way can imagination realise ideas than by giving to them the forms of the sensible, while yet emancipating them from some of the consequences which these forms carry with them. Nor does this necessity disappear when, as in the Jewish religion, the spiritual or divine is abruptly opposed to the natural: only, in this case, the natural symbol will be still farther emancipated from the conditions of nature, and its contrast with the objects subjected to these conditions will be still more strongly emphasised. Miracle as such, as the triumph over nature, will thus become the sign of spiritual power, and faith will rise to the latter only on stepping-stones of the former. This was the attitude of the Jews who demanded of Christ signs and wonders, that they might believe in him. For them the higher revelation of love and forgiveness could be received, only if it was mediated by the exhibition of super human powers. Now, the early Church had so far risen above this that it regarded the wonder merely as a sign, and had learned to count that the highest kind of belief that did not need any sign. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” And yet the early Christians, like many in a later time, felt that bare faith in the spiritual was too much for them, a thing uncertain and subjective. The spiritual truth seemed a thing which they could hardly trust without some external warrant, some objective support or verification. Their faith called for some visible guarantee, some breaking of the divine through the clouds of heaven, some reversal, were it but for once10 and in one individual case, of the common order of nature, which should deliver them from the idea that that order is the ultimate reality of life, and that there is nothing beneath or beyond it. A sign from heaven seemed to them necessary, ere they could be convinced that the inmost meaning of the natural course of things is spiritual, or that God is actually present in His world. Above all, the apostles must be able to declare that they had seen, with their eyes the vision of the risen Jesus, ere it could be believed that the spirit which was in him was stronger than death and the grave.

Even for St. Paul himself who, as I have said, had more than any other penetrated to the spiritual meaning of Christianity, the evidence of the Christian law of life through death, and the possibility of obeying it, rested on the believed fact of the resurrection of Christ, and especially on the vision of the living Christ which had been given to himself. But I do not think that for us it need rest on that basis. Whatever was the truth of these visions—and it is impossible for us to apply to

But one poor instance when He interposed

Promptly and surely and beyond mistake

Between oppression and its victim, closed

Accounts with sin for once, and bade us wake

From our long dream that justice bears no sword,

Or else forgets whereto its sharpness serves.’”

In a similar spirit Carlyle is said to have complained that ‘God does nothing.’ them any the tests of fact—it is not on such a foundation that we can base our faith in the Christian law of life and the Christian hope in death. In this respect we can appeal from St. Paul to Christ himself, who declares that those who do not believe when they “have Moses and the Prophets”; in other words, those who do not believe when they have the immediate evidence of the ethical and religious life of humanity, would not even “be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”11 The spiritual life is, or ought to be, its own evidence; and every secondary support that can be given to it, even if it were the visions of a St. Peter or a St. Paul, must prove treacherous. When Christ refutes the Sadducees, who refused to believe in a resurrection or a future life for man, it is not by an appeal to the miraculous, but by the declaration that the belief in a future life for man is involved in our consciousness of the existence of God. “As touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read what was spoken to you by God, saying: I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead but of the living”; “for,” as Luke adds, “all live unto Him.”12 This is the only properly religious proof of immortality. All of us indeed, have at times a desire to be directly convinced of the reality of another life, and of a world in which those who are gone prolong their existence. And we naturally think that if ‘one rose from the dead,’ or if, in any other way, we could establish communication with that world or bring it into empirical connexion with this, we should find it easier to believe in the existence of a divine power which orders our lives with a view to the realisation of the highest good. The best answer to such a demand, however, is that such a belief would not be a religious belief, would not properly speaking be a belief in God at all. The religious man believes in a future life for himself and mankind, because he believes in God; he does not believe in God, because he believes in a future life or another world. The only religious proof of a future life is, in short, that “God is not the God of the dead but of the living”; i.e. as I understand it, the evidence for any destiny of man higher than that of other beings is that which springs out of the divine principle already manifested in his life here, and, we might even say, out of the fact that he possesses a consciousness of God. For in these words, as has been well said, “Christ does not proclaim resurrection; he denies death, and asserts the indestructibleness of all life that remains in communion with God.”13 In this point of view, an over-anxious desire to prove the immortality of the soul is not by any means an evidence of a religious temper of mind. Indeed, the belief in immortality may easily become an unhealthy occupation with a future salvation, which prevents us from seeking for salvation for mankind here—unless it be that natural spring of confidence in its own supreme reality, that unbelief in death, which seems to be the necessary characteristic or concomitant of true spiritual life. If it be a consequence of the intellectual conditions under which we live in the present day, that the empirical evidences of a future life that seemed most sure and certain to our fathers, have for some of us lost their convincing power, this, in a religious point of view, may not be altogether a loss. It is possible even that the spiritual may gain all that the supernatural has lost.

  • 1. Col. i. 24.
  • 2. If it is the same writer who wrote the First Epistle of St. John. In any case there can be no doubt that the Gospel and the Epistle are written in the same spirit.
  • 3. In Memoriam, xxxvi.
  • 4. Cf. Green's Works, vol. iii. p. 168 seq., where this idea is developed with great force and clearness.
  • 5. Browning's Paracelsus, Part Fifth.
  • 6. Das ewig Weibliche Zieht uns hinan.
  • 7. In Memoriam, cxxix.
  • 8. John xii. 32.
  • 9. See above, p. 168 seq.
  • 10. Cf. Browning's Parleyings with Certain People—Bernard de Mandeville, p. 119.

    “‘No sign’—groaned he—

    ‘No stirring of God's finger to denote

    He wills that right should have supremacy

    On earth, not wrong! How helpful could we quote

  • 11. Luke xvi. 31.
  • 12. Matt. xxii. 31, 32; Mark xii. 26, 27; Luke xx. 36-38.
  • 13. Reuss, I think; but I have mislaid the reference.