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own peculiar people, and, in spite of the glimpses of a universal religion which the prophets had opened up from time to time, troubled himself little about the hopes or the prospects of the Gentiles. Christ revealed God as the Father of all men in a fuller sense than before, and made religion the bond of a new society in which all men should have their places as sons, in virtue of their union with the only-begotten Son of God. Thus in this point also the Incarnation of our Lord fulfils and justifies earlier insight. From the first, and throughout all its manifestations, religion had been bound up with the social character of man, and the new religion makes no change in this. It only widens and strengthens the social idea, by destroying the exclusiveness and one-sidedness which belonged to the earlier stages of the history.
IV. There is one point further which must be discussed under this head. It is a common remark that there is nothing so conservative as religion. It dislikes change of any kind, whether in ritual or doctrine. In early stages, as we have seen, the ritual was more permanent than the doctrine; the mythology was in some measure changeable, the ritual traditional and unchanged. In other words, religion tends to become stereotyped and to regard itself as final, at any rate so long as it lasts. It is true that in Greece the old Hellenic faiths were criticized away by the new philosophy; but at the same time there was a large number of customs preserved-in connexion, for instance, with the Eleusinian mysteries-of which the explanation goes back into a primitive age and social condition. In Judaism there was a considerable divergence between the theory and the practice. In theory, the Jewish
religion pretended to no finality,-looked on always to a day when a fuller and final revelation would come from God. But in practice, as the events of our Lord's life showed, the old conservative instinct of religion displayed itself, and the Pharisees, while holding tenaciously to the belief in a Messiah who should come, resisted anything which seemed likely to change the outward order with which they were familiar. The doctrine of Christ Incarnate meets this instinct directly. It proclaims itself from the first as final, but final just in the region where the tendency had been to admit change-in doctrine, not in outward observance. The instinct of finality, so firmly rooted in the religious mind, is seized upon and transfigured. It is centred upon the revealed knowledge of the unchanging nature of God, not upon the methods of approach to Him. The sacrifice of reconciliation is once performed, the Gospel is once given, and the whole scheme as it stands is put forth as a whole-a stewardship to be occupied till Christ come. The long delay before this Second Coming has brought into view new needs and new conditions of life which the apostles can never have contemplated; but the 'faith once delivered' is the source to which we still look for constant guidance. We shall have to look in detail into some of the adaptations of the old faith to new problems in the chapters which follow.1 Here it is enough to point out how by its finality of doctrine and indifference to change in rites and ceremonies, Christianity has spiritualized religion without making it vague and fluid.
We have dwelt at some length on the contents of Natural Religion, and the connexion with these of 1 Chaps. III. IV.
Judaism and the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. We have seen how broken lights from earlier days are concentrated in the person of our Lord; how, if the apostolic witness to His Incarnation be true, the fragmentary intuitions of men are made to cohere; how their partial anticipations of the truth fall into system and order in Him who claims to be the truth. Before passing from this subject into the detailed treatment of the Incarnation, we may pause and ask the question, whether our discussion, so far as it has gone, has thrown any light upon the general character of revelation. We have represented the Incarnation as fulfilling the various aspirations already in existence rather than as introducing any sudden or startling change. That is to say, we have emphasized the historical aspect of it; shown it, as far as possible, in its organic continuity with the progress of the world. And this character we believe to be one certain note of a revelation from God, that it involves no hopeless breach with the past, that it fulfils but does not destroy. In this aspect it forms a very striking contrast to the ordinary human notion of Divine revelation. Man is content, as a rule, with ordinary knowledge obtained through ordinary channels. But now and then he becomes dissatisfied with these. He wishes to know something which is outside the range of his capacities, or to do something which is beyond his natural powers. And it is here that he expects the activity of God to step in and aid him. He wants to know whether a scheme which he has projected will be successful; he goes to an oracle and expects an answer from the divine omniscience, or he opens his Bible and accepts the first chance words as a direction from God. Or he wishes to know where the soul of his
dead mother is at this moment, and how it is engaged, and he attends a spiritualistic séance. He always looks for some detailed information which will satisfy his particular wishes, give him a certainty in the ordinary ways of life which he cannot acquire by ordinary means, and thus bring him an advantage over his neighbours. His purview is apt to be bounded by his own individual life and conditions; he does not rise to the conception of a vast historic scheme.
But it will be said, This is only true of coarse and vulgar superstition. Has not Buddhism, has not Hellenism, risen to some such notion as this? Where will you get such bold drafts on the bank of time as in Buddhism? How can you say that the Stoic system of recurring cycles fails to be a great historic scheme? The answer is, that it is true that the systems of the Buddhist and the Stoic have arisen by repulsion from the crude and vulgar superstitions of which we have been speaking. But with all their magnificence they show the faults and exaggerations of a reaction. They look at life from within, as it were, buried in it. If the whole process of the world's movement tends to some 'far-off divine event,' they can only conjecture what it may be. Their knowledge of it is barren: they cannot use it to explain what happens now. Life, as men see it from within, is incomplete and unsatisfying, and the hope that its order is right and its issue happy is but a hope. And it is a hope which reflection tends to impair. For the causes which we see at work show no signs of ever leaving off their activity; they seem to have been active during an indefinite past, and likely to be active during an indefinite future. Any announcement that the process must close seems sudden and violent. We have always
lived in the middle of things; the world has always been going on, and our life makes no difference to it; how then can we seriously imagine that the time will ever come when the world's day will be over? It must surely always be in the middle of its course, always oscillating under the pressure of the forces of love and hate, of expansion and contraction, of evolution and dissolution, which we see at all times at work in it: the world's history must be a system of recurring cycles without beginning or end.
This point of view, which we may be allowed to call the regular form of philosophic superstition, curiously plements the naive and popular form of superstition. The latter thinks too highly of the importance of human affairs, the former is impressed with their littleness. The one class of men expects the gods to enter into business transactions, into petty political feuds and unheroic warfare, with all the energy and zest of a tradesman, or a vestryman, or a mercenary soldier. They hope to have higher powers on their side to tell them what the event of some petty decision may be, so that they may know it before it becomes public property. The gods are to be swallowed up in human interests. But the philosopher flies off at a tangent from all this. The laws of gravity go on, whichever political party is in power; fire burns here and among the Persians, whatever may be the state of the funds. No human action has power to stop the steady march of the forces which make the world what it is: their action and reaction go on without the smallest deviation, and the utmost that can be looked for in the way of change will be a periodic alteration in the equilibrium.
Both these are, we maintain, essentially human con