Imatges de pàgina
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which a judgment could rest. The act of judgment becomes more and more certain, especially in cases where evidence is less than demonstrative, in proportion as the mind is stored with facts which lead it to determine itself in one particular way. All education shuts the mind out of certain positions which it might otherwise assume. The scientist gets to know as he goes on more and more of what is possible in nature; and his mind becomes therefore, by degrees, biassed against the very possibility of things, which the uneducated mind would think quite likely. So the evidence for theological truth is convincing, not necessarily to any chance mind, specially educated or not; but to those who are aware of the special character of theological facts, and the peculiar evidence they require.

This brief statement of the special character of Theology as a science will not have been wasted if it succeeds in making plain in some degree the reasons why Theology is a difficult science. Its nature is only another name for its difficulty. It is difficult, because it is what it is. It deals with the most abstruse of all subjects: its questions are raised at the most remote points. Its whole matter lies in a region which the senses cannot verify: and the estimation of its evidence requires a fuller exercise of human powers than is consciously at work in any other field. It makes an exceptionally severe demand both upon the intellect and the will, and the arguments arrayed against it (as their appeal is without complications, and lies directly to the intellect) have almost always a more convincing appearance than they deserve. To put the matter quite briefly, Theology is concerned with all the facts of nature and human life, viewing them as a living whole, in

which God is: and the truths of Theology are statements of facts in the life of God, which have their bearing on the life of man, and which lose their meaning when analysed and dissected and treated under separate and exclusive aspects, just as surely as flowers lose their beauty when picked to pieces by a botanist. It is true the botanist learns the structure and the history of the plant he dissects, and can generally correct his merely scientific conception of it by simply looking at another specimen in his garden. But no really scientific botanist would claim to be able to realize the full beauty of a plant which he had never seen growing by mentally putting together the dissected fragments of it. A thing which lives and grows is always far more beautiful than an intellectual reconstruction of its parts would lead us to expect its beauty appeals to more in us, and requires more of us in the way of sympathy and insight. So it, is also with the great truths of Theology. They are too solid and concrete to bear dissection: their value and significance will not emerge in response to a knowledge of their structure and history, however useful this may be for deepening and strengthening their power. They must be believed in order to be fully understood.

It remains to indicate briefly the method we propose to follow in this book. We shall start, as we have already said, from the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It will be our endeavour (1) to present this, assuming it to be true, as the true outcome and explanation of the various efforts towards the knowledge of God in various peoples and periods; (2) to show its coherence with the claims of Christ for Himself, and His Apostles for Him, and to express its meaning as interpreted by the Church; (3) to indicate its bearing on the idea of God, that is, its

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connexion with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity; (4) to place it in relation with the human race and to indicate God's purpose for them as revealed in it; (5) to describe its extension and continuance in the world by means of the Church and the Sacraments. By this method we shall hope to cover all the articles of the Christian Creed. If the order be somewhat unusual, we believe that the unity which will result from our mode of treatment will fully make up for this defect.

CHAPTER I

THE INCARNATION AS THE SATISFACTION OF HUMAN ASPIRATIONS

As we look back over the history of religion we observe that it has performed, at various times, two prominently different functions for man. It has been the source of his metaphysic, that is his explanation of the world, and of his morality. The gods he has worshipped from time to time have been useful to him as explaining the phenomena of nature. The seasons, the fertility of the earth, the storm, the earthquake, and the like have all appeared to him as the direct and immediate action of separate deities. Instead of a metaphysical system of forces and causes and laws, he has satisfied himself with a heaven full of gods, each with his separate function and range of activity. Then, again, these beliefs have guided him in his life. The gods whose existence he has feigned have been to him a motive for regulating his conduct. He has endeavoured to please them by action of a particular kind, or, at least, to avoid their displeasure. His family and social life have been consecrated by being connected with his religious beliefs and experience.

The truest and loftiest religion will hold these two elements in close connexion. The God who is its object

will be at once the Cause and Sustainer of all that is, and the source of the obligation to live a holy life. But it has not always happened so. The history of religion shows us many instances in which the two constituent elements have been separated, or, at least, very differently emphasized. Thus, for instance, the Greeks seem to have had, as it were, a genius for metaphysical speculation, and into this form all that was valuable and permanent in their religious idea soon found its way. The host of deities dwelling in Olympus and elsewhere, by whose arbitrary and capricious action the world was kept in order, gave place to the thought of a universal single substance, by participation in which all things had their being. This development was in many respects a gain. The old religion had sprung out of a lower moral state, and fell far beneath the ideals and aspirations of the greatest minds in Greece. It had its day and perished, as all things must do when they become obsolete. But there was loss involved in the change as well as gain. For the philosophical conception of God was intelligible only to a few; and the philosophical ideal of morality was above the capacity of most Greeks at the time when it appeared, so that it, too, failed to extend the sway of religion over the popular mind.

On the other hand, the Hebrew race presented to the world an essentially moral idea of God. They felt the temptation of the surrounding nature-religions, as we may see from the long list of their relapses into the idolatry of their neighbours; that is, their minds were open to the influences which produced these effects in their neighbours; they were not, so far, peculiarly constituted. But, nevertheless, in spite of all this there arose amongst them a body of men of whom one chief aim was to

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