Imatges de pàgina
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wrath. They had lost the harmony of their being and fallen from its ideal. They progressed in science and art, and even morality, but their progress was partial and chequered, and lacking in definite guidance. They were not sure of themselves, only the fewest realized in any way to what ideal they were moving, and these only in an inadequate way. They needed to have put before them anew the ideal of manhood; they needed to be reconciled to God by obedience and sacrifice; they needed to be reunited with Him in the old close communion which they had lost.

The Person who came forward to effect these changes was none other than the Son of God. In some sense, not very clear to us, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity took upon Himself this work. He was from all ages the Son of God-the Eternal Object of the Father's Love. He it was in whom was reflected the Father's purpose in Creation, by whom all things were made. He came to earth in the form of man; He took man's nature upon Him. In so doing He lost none of the essentially Divine attributes; He was, in the flesh as before the Incarnation, in the bosom of the Father. He was, in the flesh no less than before, incapable of sin; He never lost the perpetual communion with the Father which was His of right. Yet His humanity was no less real. He took it all-entered fearlessly upon the family of David in spite of all its sinful history; He was completely man with body, soul, and spirit, with human Will no less than with Divine. And He took it for good; His Humanity was joined for ever to His Divine Personality. So He came upon the earth. Our present task is to describe His work, and to discuss some of the questions which arise all round it.

I. The first point which we must discuss here is the sense in which Christ was the representative Man. We have already treated of this point in some measure in connexion with the creation of the world. We then saw that the gradual expression of the Divine Purpose in the creation of the world might be expected to lead up to the manifestation of the Incarnate Word. Man, we said, was the priest of nature. In him converged the various lines of development existing in the lower world. In his conscious return of praise and glory to God the instinctive homage of the world was to be completed and made sublime. Further, man enjoyed full and free communion with God. Not that he was not to develope, to walk nearer to God and know more and more of Him; but at least there was in the beginning no obstacle which would interpose and check his freedom. Thus far man's possibilities were complete; they only required carrying out in fact. But at the same time there were limits to them. Each man is but a limited thing-a vehicle for a limited manifestation of the Presence of God. This does not belong merely to his fallen state. The conflict and the embittered competition of individual interests is the result of the Fall; the fact of individual limitation is simply the consequence of finite existence. But so long as humanity was made up of limited individuals, so long as the Word of God was partially revealed in some one aspect in each, the ideal of humanity was not yet realized. For this the world was to wait till the Fulness of God should dwell among men bodily, till the Word should be Incarnate.

The progress towards this consummation (if indeed we are right in thinking that it belongs to the nature of things) was broken in upon by the Fall.

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interfered with, but not changed. The character of it was altered, as the conditions of man's life were altered, but the essential features of the Purpose of God were displayed. The Word became flesh in the fulness of the times. The truth of humanity was to be seen in Him. But just because sin reigned in the world, Christ, ideal man though He was, was 'despised and rejected' of men. This followed by an inexorable law. The world, as it was at Christ's coming, was thoroughly soaked through with sin. Its best and highest products were tainted. High position in the world's order was no guarantee for moral or spiritual excellence. Earthly sovereignty was, as often as not, the most convenient basis for license and oppression: it was won, often enough, by reckless disregard of other men's interests, by war and violence. In its origin and conception kingship had been united with priesthood; the king was the intermediary between God and man. 'I have said, ye are gods, and ye are all the children of the most Highest.' But kingship was a failure; it oppressed the poor and the fatherless, it had lost hold of its ideal. The ideal of humanity could not accept the position of a human king: His kingdom was not of a world where sin reigned. His theory of sovereignty could not correspond with anything in the practice of the world. Nor was the priesthood any better. Even the Jewish High-priesthood, which had the sanction of the Divine Law, and was specially founded to keep alive communion between God and man-even this had become degraded and worldly. The true High-priestfor this if for no other reason-could not come in Aaron's line. And human genius was infected too. It 1 Cf. Westcott, S. John, x. 34, 35.

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had become carnal and lost its way, and was uncertain in its presentation even of the human ideal. Brilliant talents were no guarantee of special Divine Inspiration. All human gifts, in fact, and positions where man might have been expected to be at his best, had become impossible as means for the manifestation of God, so thoroughly had they been corrupted by the presence of sin. And besides they were not catholic enough. They were individual gifts, distinguishing one man from his fellows, not the general conditions of human life and for the Word to have appeared under such special conditions would have concealed the source of His strength. He would have seemed, if He had used them, to rely on some external and adventitious help in the performance of His Work, and not to be living in communion with, and dependence on, God alone.

Not only, however, are the loftiest and most powerful conditions of man corrupted by sin, but sin is ingrained in the whole race. Every man who comes into the world in the ordinary way starts with an inborn tendency towards sin. His very flesh is the seat of an impulse which expresses itself in wrong action as soon as action becomes possible. It could not be, then, that the ideal Man could come into the world in the ordinary way. Humanity He must have, real and complete humanity, but it must be free from the hereditary sinful strain. There must be a break in the succession. It is here that we see, after the fact, the necessity of the Immaculate Conception of our Lord. It was by this Immaculate Conception by the Holy Ghost, by His birth of a pure Virgin, that the old flow of tainted life was dammed up, and a new stream of life let in to corrupted humanity. The essential feature of Christ's Birth is,

that it should involve a break in the sinful succession; this necessity translated into fact is His conception by the Holy Ghost without sin.

The questions which arise concerning the immaculate character of the Blessed Virgin are of less moment dogmatically, though controversy has given them a special importance. That the Virgin was pure with all the purity of womanhood cannot be doubted. That, though born like other people, she was miraculously preserved sinless, may be true, but we have no direct information upon the subject. It is a pious conjecture, and may be held as a pious opinion. That she was conceived without sin, miraculously, like our Lord,— that she had no taint of original sin, and stood in no need of salvation, seems to us to be not only a conjecture for which Scripture gives us no warrant, but also to contain a profound and pernicious error. The Bible, as we have said, tells us nothing of the Blessed Virgin's earlier life-gives no hint of any peculiarity of nature. She has grown up to womanhood in quiet and holiness, and has contemplated marriage with Joseph, who was possibly her cousin. But the Bible does recognize and insist upon the law that, 'That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which was born of spirit is spirit.' It assures us that the new birth which we obtain through faith in Christ was 'not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' And these moral necessities are directly illustrated and enforced by S. Luke's account of the Birth of Christ. In other words, the evidence of the Bible is certain and clear (1) upon the necessity of a breach in the old connexion; (2) on the fact that this breach actually took place. And in spite of this, there is not a

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