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of the human spirit ? Nothing else has answered the question, “How can the heart and hand that have been crimsoned by sin be cleansed ?” Other remedies do not go to the root of the disease, but Christianity does. It undertakes and accomplishes the greatest of all tasks. How it does it we may not adequate
That it does it we surely know. And indeed we may now rightly appropriate and adapt to our use the old legend of the man fallen into the pit. The modern humanitarian comes along and seeing his distressed brother, reaches to him a hand of help, but the arm is too short and the strength too feeble. One class of teachers come along and say, “ You are not really fallen ; there is no lapse or apostasy; it is only one stage of the cycle of evolution; but, as you believe that you are in peril and in misery, I recommend as efficacious remedies, pilgrimages to holy places, giving food to priests and repeating the name of the Deity.” Then Confucius comes along and says, “Helpless sufferer, it is good enough for you, you have not kept the laws of society, you are receiving your own deserts in part at least; for what may be beyond, I do not know. When the archer misses the centre of the target he turns round and seeks for the cause of his failure in himself.” . And he goes away. Then Mohammed comes along and says, “ You are predestined to this fate unless you repeat my formula and espouse the cause of Islâm." Then Buddha comes along and says, “Make the best of the situation you are now in; be patient, subdue desire, have no desire for release, desire is a great evil, when it is suppressed, Nirvana awaits you. Do not trouble yourself about the forgiveness of sins, all things are under the dominion of inexorable laws, your sin will find you out, and the idea of pardon must be given up.” Then Christ comes along with a face of brotherly kindness, with words of tenderness and hope, brought from the bosom of the Godhead, and with a hand of divine deliverance, mighty with the power which girt the heavens with stars, and He lifts him out of the horrible pit and puts a new song into his mouth, that song which is the most gladsome music that earth ever hears, and shall blend at last with the anthems of those who sing in Heaven the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.
Christianity delivers men with a real emancipation through Christ. It does not reconcile man with God, as pantheism attempts, simply by obliterating all that makes him man. Christianity brings to men a message of Divine Love which can be criticised only by saying that it is too good to be true.
Christ may be said to have lived, and taught and died to contradict any such criticism. Human speculations have never exhausted the significance of Christ's sacrificial service to mankind. His moral power over men has become supreme by those sympathetic sufferings through which He has honoured the divine law.
He has glorified the perfections of God's holiness and mercy by His death ou the Cross; that Cross in its known and unknown elements of spiritual power sums up the Gospel message to mankind. It shows us God, not inaccessible, but near, not unmerciful, but gracious. It is only through Christ that men have ever gotten worthy and complete conceptions of God's nature. A great modern theologian speaking of the monotheism of Islâm has said, “ Indeed the defects of Mohammed's idea of God suggest to us to inquire whether it is possible to conceive worthily of God's holiness, except by seeing it expressed in a perfectly holy human life, or of His love, except by seeing God incarnate, emptying Himself and as a man dying for men that they may be one with Him forever.” The foremost need of mankind is to know that God is love, and Christianity supplies that need as it appears to us no other religion does, by setting forth God in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. We will not accept any vindication of God, any release from the weary weight of this unintelligible and sorrow-laden world, which, like
pantheism is immoral, enervating to spiritual energy and to a holy life. We may rightly point men, bewildered and in doubt, to the fact that God's world is one of evolution, that the divine picture is still unfinished, though from what has been completed, we may also bear down on all pessimistic critics of God, with the unchallengeable fact that men are themselves largely responsible, through misdoing for the greater part of the world's misery. But, more than this, Jesus Christ is our theodicy, our vindication of the divine government. As one has written, “He did not satisfy our minds with arguments, He did not solve objections, or show us why pain and sacrifice are necessary throughout creation; nay, He did not declare God's love as a dogma and prove it by miracle. The Gospel lies in
. He took upon Himself all that tells against divine love, all that has ever wrung from men's hearts the bitter words of unbelief, or the more chastened cry of agonizing inquiry, • My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?' He took it all upon Himself, and, as the Man of Sorrows, made it in His passion and death upon the cross, the very occasion for expressing the depth of the divine self-sacrifice.” And, I
add, that the redemption which Christ offers is not for time only but for the great world to which all men hasten which lies beyond. The redeeming mercy which Christianity associates with His disclosure of God reaches into the life immortal. It illumines the darkness of the grave with a light which neither Buddha, Confucius, Mohammed, nor any Hindu seer or poet ever held in his hands, and it makes immortality, the power of an endless life, an uplifting, inspiring, purifying, comforting, restraining force in the sorrowing and tempted life which men live to-day. After what has been said do I need to put to you
the question whether or not the Christian revelation of God in His unity, spirituality, holiness, and redeeming mercy made real through His Son, is a satisfactory basis for a universal religion ? Is not Christ, through whom God becomes near and actual to us, the desire of all the nations ? And do not the stories of the Incarnation, which are found almost everywhere, evidence, as Neander said, “ a wide-spread desire and expectation of a divine Saviour taking upon Himself a human form ?” Let me enrich this lecture and your lives with the words I take great delight in, of the French statesman and theologian, De Préssensé, which I believe are a message that might well be carried to every
child of our race as a true summary of the Gospel, and as an eloquent portraiture of all those hopes and dreams which are at last fulfilled by the Incarnation. “ The Deliverer is at length come ! He for whom the old Chaldean was yearning, when with terrorstricken conscience, he used the incarnation of his seven demons, and weeping for his sins called upon a God whom he knew not. The Deliverer is come! Whom Egypt foresaw, when she spoke in words which she understood not, of a God who was wounded in all the wounds of his people. The Deliverer is come! for whom the Magi strained their eyes, looking for a
greater than Zoroaster. The Deliverer is come! for whom the India of the Vedas panted when she was lifted for a moment above her pantheism by the intuition of a Holy God, One who could satisfy the burning thirst for pardon, which none of the springs of her own religion would avail to quench. The Deliverer is come ! the true Son of God, who alone can lead mankind to battle with full assurance of victory; the God whose image dimly discerned, had floated in fantastic incarnations through the waking dreams of the Brahman. The Deliverer is come! He who can have compassion on the sufferer and on all who are desolate and oppressed without plunging Himself and the whole world into the Buddhist sea of Nirvana.
The Deliverer is come! He whom Greece had prefigured at Delphi and at Eleusis,—the God who saves because He also has suffered. The Deliverer is come ! He who was foretold and foreshadowed by the holy religion of Judea, which was designed to free from every impure element the universal aspiration of mankind.”
THE UNIVERSAL BOOK.
It was my fortune one July day in 1879, to pass by the Library of the Andover Theological Seminary, in Massachusetts, in which at that time were gathered a company of American scholars, engaged in revising the translation of the New Testament, a part of the greater company busy over the entire Christian Scriptures. Had I said to these men, "Is there any real demand for such an immense amount of scholarly toil over that ancient Book ? Why should a hundred famous scholars, working for ten years, lavish on this version more of labor than was ever before expended on a single volume ?” Those men might have answered, “This is deemed the Word of Eternal Life for one hundred millions of our English-speaking race, soon to be two hundred millions, already encompassing the globe, and, within a century, to shape its destinies. We believe that no labor is ill-spent that shall make it a better transcript of the originals. We expect that our work will be a new bond holding together the nations of common faith, and that it will greatly stimulate the zeal for Biblical study which is already a hopeful sign of the present time. Outgrown or obsolescent, did you say? The Christian Bible has only begun its beneficent mission. In the hands of the two leading nations speaking the English tongue, and those of kindred faith, it is to shine like a newly-risen sun over a darkened globe."
Leaving the Theological Library, I might chance to have met that venerable theologian, Professor Edwards A. Park, and had I put to him the question, if the Bible was not losing its hold over the modern world, he might have answered : “I have no faintest quiver of fear that this book has been undermined or disintegrated in an age when it is better understood than ever before. It is an anvil which has worn out many hammers. The geologist's pick, and the astronomer's telescope and the archæologist's spade, and the biologist's microscope were once thought to have disproved Scripture; Darwin's first great book was claimed by many to have sounded the death-knell of Revelation, but the most fruitful third of a century that Biblical