Imatges de pÓgina

word even upon the sinlessness of the Blessed Virgin. We may surely infer from this that there is no dogmatic or moral necessity in the conjecture that she was conceived without sin.

But though there is no moral necessity, the doctrine answers to a philosophical difficulty. It may be plausibly argued that if a breach of continuity was necessary on one side, it was necessary on the other. If it were unfitting that the Word of God should enter the world by the instrumentality of a human father, it was equally necessary that sin should be excluded from His mother. Though not an unnatural conjecture, the argument does not appear conclusive as it stands; and it lies under the fatal objection that it proves too much. If it is applied to prove the sinlessness of the Son of the Blessed Virgin, it should be applied to her own birth. She, too, would require sinless parents, and these again the same. And so the whole notion of a break in a sinful line would pass away, and we should have to conceive Christ as born not in the regular human conditions, but in a special sinless family kept sinless from the first. Such a theory would practically get rid of His humanity altogether; it would be either Docetic or Monophysite. We have said that the philosophical difficulty is not an unnatural one; it is indeed an extremely common one. It is the difficulty which arises always when the mind has to contemplate an actual breach in continuity, and the theory which has been adopted to satisfy the problem is of a piece with many another philosophical speculation. It is an attempt to disguise the breach in continuity by breaking it up into two stages. It is, then, we believe, not only deficient in the moral necessity of which dogmas are usually the expression, but it is

also a case of a philosophical tendency which has caused some of the most startling heresies with which the Church has had to cope.1 Anglican theology, we may add, has excluded it from the first.

Christ came, then, to display the ideal Manhood; and owing to the sin-laden state of the world He could not adopt any of the conditions which the world might expect. He must come by a new form of birth, and live a life which would cut across the most cherished convictions of worldly minds. How, then, would the world receive Him? It could receive Him only in one way, with rejection and contempt. That this is so requires little more than ordinary observation; it is not so much a theological fact as a fact of experience. Evil and good are perpetually at war, and it is a war of extermination that they wage. Moreover, the presence of the good stings up the self-respect of evil, and rouses it to acts of violence. It does not require any positive offensive action; the reproach of the mere presence of good is sufficient. This is a perfectly familiar experience in any mixed form of life-in a school as well as in a nation. And the struggle is, of course, the more intense the greater the powers engaged on either side. Let us apply these ordinary principles in the case before us. Sin has had a long and successful reign-it is in actual occupation of the throne of the world. It has entered into and corrupted the most lofty of man's achievements; it has affected his standards of good and evil, of success and failure. In this state of things Christ enters-rejecting the current standards, dispensing with this world's good, censuring and displaying unerringly the faults and fallacies of those who claimed

1 The æons of Gnostic thinkers depended on this principle.

to be on the side of right, as well as rebuking by His Life of holiness and service the sinful conscience. There could be no reconciliation between such a Life and the powers of darkness. The battle must be fought to a definite issue. The victory must remain with one side or another. And so the powers of sin collect themselves for a decisive struggle. They offer Christ the temptations beneath which any other son of man would fall. And as He continues to reject them, they inflict upon Him the shame of a public death. For by so doing they seem to identify Him with themselves. He hangs between two thieves, suffers a malefactor's death. And death itself has long been held to be a penalty due to sin. That He should suffer this open and public death would seem to stamp His pretensions not only with the mark of failure, but also with the brand of God's displeasure. Cursed is he that hangeth upon a tree.' Such was the inevitable nature of the warfare, waged as it was under certain conditions of time and place. That Christ was crucified and not put to death in some other way was due in part to the peculiarities of the age in which He lived; but that, if He undertook to come to earth and show forth to the world the true life of obedience, He had nothing better to expect than this, depends upon the general laws which obtain in the moral world.

This is, as it were, the mechanical view of the Death of Christ. It shows the necessity of it from the point of view of the conditions of the world into which He came. It does not in any sense exhaust the significance of Christ's Death. But it is important to keep it in view, because it throws light on a difficulty which is sometimes felt to be a serious one. The Death of Christ, it is argued, is represented by the Church as the vengeance of an angry

God. Some one must suffer for the guilt of mankind, and God apparently was indifferent whether the person was innocent or guilty. According to this method of representation, the Son is the Person who appeases the wrath of His Father, by the sacrifice of Himself, and the Father is satisfied to have it so. Of course this theory of the Atonement is fearfully inadequate. It tends to introduce a division into the Holy Trinity itself, and sets up the Son as an independent agent. And it puts a false colour upon the whole process, by representing the necessity of death as coming from the Father and not from the world. But in truth the certainty and necessity depended on the will of Father and Son alike. It was the Father's good pleasure that the Son should come into the world, it was the Son's choice to come. And death was certain to be the result as soon as ever man fell. The world then came under the dominion of sin and the devil, and there could not be a restoration of the original condition of things unless the strong man armed was subdued by force. Hence the Death of Christ must not be regarded as an act meant to pacify an offended person; it was involved in the long-suffering of God, when He determined not to destroy the world, but to redeem it.

We must look for the marks of the ideal manhood (1) in Christ's complete Sinlessness; and (2) in His constant and close Communion with God. For the Sinlessness of Jesus reversed the Fall. There was presented before God a life of continuous obedience instead of a life of rebellion. And such a life involved continuous effort and sacrifice. Our life rapidly comes under the dominion of habit, and so far as it does so, it gets to be unconsciously carried on. Habits grow upon us,

and we mechanically reproduce the actions which they suggest. We do not have to think and decide anew on every special occasion. And the reason is that we are naturally placed in our present conditions; the soul and body move naturally together, they are naturally suited one to another. But with Christ it was rather different. He was in a condition which He had to make an effort to attain. To be imprisoned in the flesh with its sin-wrought consequences upon it can only have been, if we may dare to use the phrase, a tremendous strain. And throughout His life, as we have seen,1 there was a conscious reserve, a holding back of His Divine powers and prerogatives, that He might enter in full into the limitations and imperfections of our humanity. We cannot look upon this act of self-abnegation as done once for all, and suppose that its effects lasted throughout Christ's life. For that would deprive our Lord of all His divine consciousness during His life on earth, and this we have seen to be impossible. The act of submission, therefore, must have been continuous, the obedience a constant strain. Hence the sacrifice upon the Cross is the crown and consummation of the whole life. It is not separate from it, but continuous with it. His whole life was one perpetual act of sacrificial submission, carried out even unto death. Thus Christ as Son of man reversed the Fall, presenting a life of ideal obedience. (2) In the other respect, viz., His communion with God, He presented a higher type of humanity than Adam, or any one since Adam. We read that man before the Fall was allowed familiar intercourse with God; but in the Person of Christ that unity of will and thought which belongs of necessity to the Word of God was 1 See pp. 127 seqq.

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