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If God can give a true faith only by taking the trouble to show Himself worthy of our trust in all He appoints for us, all He requires of us, and all He purposes with us, the question of faith becomes the question of how God manifests Himself to His children, or, in one word, of revelation.

But, if we no longer rely on the infallibilities, what is meant by revelation?

Two difficulties, in particular, the studies of our time have raised for us.

First, how can we believe in a historical revelation, when we believe in evolution and progress and the advancement of knowledge?

Second, has not this advancement of knowledge compelled us to study the Bible by the same method as other ancient books, with the result of showing that it was written in the same way and presents the same difficulties regarding authorship, sources, mythologies, traditions? How, then, can we still be expected to speak of it as the Word of God?

For revelation, in the sense of a Word dictated from Heaven about God's mind there and conveyed by an inspired writer as a mere scribe, science and criticism alike leave little room. To many this gives a bitter sense of loss. They ask how we can 146 distinguish what is Divine from what is merely human if we can no longer believe in a literally inspired infallible Scripture. The reason is that they still cling to the idea of grace as the direct operation of omnipotence, for, if that is how God works, He is plainly not acting up to His irresistible power when He permits human error or limitation to mar the perfection of His revelation. Only on a different view of grace, as more patient because more personal, can we see that the living experience of those who, by special faithfulness in high endeavour and large conflict, have understood God's purpose in the world, may be a far Diviner vehicle than a mere animated pen, and that, as it interprets its own experience direct to ours, it has a security which no evidence for past infallibility can ever enjoy.

The soothsayers in Israel prophesied in an ecstasy which they took to be possession by the Deity: and their deliverances were deceitful hopes. Volumes have been written by persons who thought they had no part except to write down what was poured into their minds without a thought of their own: and they are worthless. In all writings ever regarded as sacred there is a singular absence of any such claim: and, the less they were in ecstasy, the more they are of spiritual value. If the prophets ever thought that they were at times under such possession, they never wrote under it, but thought of their message till it turned into eloquence and poetry. No New Testament writer claims ecstatic inspiration in any degree 147 for any writing. As has been said, the higher creations in religion, like all that is great in other spheres, have been accomplished only with the mind awake and the will set on its task.

To revelation, in one sense, there can be no limitation, for, if God deals with all men everywhere as children, everywhere and to all He is revealing Himself; and especially all history, as the record of experience, is revelation, being a temple of God's purpose, not a mere museum of antiquities.

But revelation, as usually understood, is concerned with more than God's manifestation of His mind, and deals also with the removal of misunderstandings in ours. And if God seeks to be understood by His children and not merely to display His power, if He is a person who would be personally understood, this dealing with our ignorance and blindness and perversity, which are a cloud between us and His light, is rightly named, by pre-eminence, revelation.

If a word of God is inspired as it inspires us to lay ourselves open to God's appeal, it approves itself as it reconciles and not as it informs. Only as it enables us to accept His purpose in the world and submit to the measureless demands of His love and seek our peace in His rule of righteousness, does it make us know that we know God.

The agent of this revelation is the prophet. But he is not a prophet by passively submitting, like the heathen soothsayer in Virgil's picture of an oracle of the gods, to the pressure and sway of the divine 148 afflatus. He is a prophet, because, more than others, he is intensely awake to life and duty. His equipment is loyalty and moral insight, and his call the sense of great tasks imposed upon him by the challenge of grave and terrible events. Had he been only a passive vehicle for a direct utterance of omniscience, the abiding value of his word would have depended upon proofs of absolute accuracy and guaranteed authorship. But, by actively interpreting God's purpose for his own life among men, his word remains its own evidence by continuing to interpret God's purpose for our lives and our society.

Even in this sense of reconcilers, there have been prophets since the world began, and the early Christians rightly accorded the name to the noblest Pagan thinkers. Yet the history of reconciliation is so supremely in the line of the Hebrew prophets as to permit us to include in our thought of their work all other contributions. Their understanding of reconciliation was an understanding of God's mind which so surpasses other views as to give them interest mainly as preparations and approximations, as much as the discovery of the elliptical orbit of the planets is an understanding of God's mind on that matter which makes obsolete all others. When Jesus comes as the perfect reconciler, their work also is merged in His, and He is Lord of the prophets, the chief cornerstone of prophecy.

Upon Him, therefore, we may concentrate our attention, and we may be confident that, if we can 149 remove the difficulties about faith in Jesus Christ, no other difficulties about revelation need be insuperable: for even those who do not give Him this central significance for revelation, will admit that we have no need to seek farther afield for the difficulties of the problem, because if they find perplexities about revelation in general, they find still more about Jesus in particular.

If faith has to do with God's gracious relation to us in the present, and especially with a reconciliation which gives us blessedness in our daily tasks and trials, what connection could this have with a person who lived long ago and who meets us only in a book, even though we were sure we knew exactly what He was and what He said and did? But, still more, if we are to believe only what we see to be true, how can we believe in One regarding whose person -- on which so much is thought to depend -- there has been such fierce, perplexing and inconclusive controversy, and whose life and teaching have been handed down with such variety in the tradition, that it has been possible -- even though it be only a vagary -- to doubt whether He ever existed? Can belief in Him ever be more than a very tentative hypothesis, a kind of intellectual adventure, no supreme succour of faith, but a heavy burden faith must carry, the hardest goal to reach, the last victory to be won? And when, finally, we have thus laboriously won faith in Christ, has it really to do with faith in God? Is it not rather something added to that faith, and, in many minds, something 150 substituted for it, and very far from being its most solid foundation?

That the difficulties are real and practical, and not imaginary and merely theoretical, cannot be denied, Faith in Christ has frequently been so conceived as to be both a burdensome addition to faith in the living God and a misleading substitute for it.

Faith in Christ becomes a burdensome addition to faith in God when a Christian is conceived to be, not one who has found in Christ the Father reconciling His children to Himself in the midst of this evanescent and evil world, but one who accepts certain facts about Christ's life and holds certain theories about His person. The theories especially have been used, not as a revelation to the individual soul which gives it moral independence in the knowledge of God's will of love, but as ecclesiastical mysteries, the possession of which requires the Church to keep her members in intellectual and even in moral pupilage, seeing that such a faith can only be held by way of not rejecting what official authority enjoins.

This addition to faith in the living God then becomes a substitute for it, so that whosoever would be saved must not reject these doctrines in any of their mysterious details, till belief in Christ becomes a mere pass-word which, it is thought, God will respect when we come knocking at the door of eternity.

For that way of escape from real faith mankind is only too ready. They do not find any faith in Christ so difficult as faith in the things He stood for, or any 151 way of salvation so hard as His way of being saved from themselves. A saving faith, not inconsistent with indulging our instinctive rebellion against life's limitations, with seeking to live at ease even at some cost of conscientiousness, with maintaining ourselves as persons of substance and repute even at the price of doubtful compromise and concentration upon personal profit, with having our first reliance for our own security upon a bank account even though selfishly accumulated, and for our country's greatness upon cannon-balls even at some cost of righteousness, would need to have very hard conditions indeed not to exercise a strong attraction for the natural man.

This faith also is a faith in God's grace, but it is as an act of omnipotence and not as the manifestation of a personal God gracious in all His relations with us. Christ Himself is conceived as the incarnation of this omnipotence, and faith in Him as the submission such a mysterious emanation of power demands.

This becomes apparent in the accompanying doctrine of the Spirit, whose personality is used as a device for importing quite impersonal operations both into Christ's life and ours, overriding forces, which require from us no moral dealing with them, but which are pantheistic in all their methods. When, for example, men, whose contribution could be of no human value except as they have had experience and have reflected on it, are exhorted to empty their minds of all thoughts of their own in order to be filled with the Spirit, or when the sick are assured that it is want 152 of faith to use human skill or even common-sense, and are asked to trust only the healing influx of the Spirit, the idea of a personal God is entirely superfluous. In the latter case it is quite openly rejected, but for spiritual healing ex opere operatum it is equally irrelevant. The Spirit of God as a medicine of immortality, active in a sacrament, might be a person, but to think so would add nothing to our faith in its efficacy. The personality of God, to be of any consequence for faith, must appear in a fellowship which deals with our whole nature by moral means and for moral ends, and not merely in operations of grace.

To be of significance for this fellowship, Christ must manifest our perfect relation to the Father of our spirits by blessedness in the trials, injustices and conflicts of life, so as to manifest them all as of God, and show us how, amid the actual conditions of our life, intellectual as well as physical, we remain in the Kingdom of God, which is perfect blessedness in perfect righteousness. No manifestation of God's power can be a revelation of the Father; and to introduce it in the form either of omnipotence or omniscience into the life of Christ is merely to remove His life out of the plane of our conflict. What human reality, for example, can be left in Christ's sufferings which could enable us to say, "My God, my God," even when we felt forsaken, and commend our spirits to our Father as the floods go over our souls, if, as Dr Gore supposes, He had the night before observed the eucharist proleptically in His glorified body?


Such a view springs from the notion that a revelation in our humanity is a mere condescension to our weakness, and that it would have no significance were the condescension to be taken seriously. The king covers himself with a beggar's rags, but he is a king only as his robes, which he still wears beneath, are not concealed. Though God thus graciously condescends to our humanity, in Himself He is really quite different, and a true revelation of Him must be by glory and not service.

But, if God, being the Father, can have no more adequate manifestation than His children, what could we seek beyond One who accepts all life's discipline and meets all its demands, deals with all God's children in love, and unfailingly makes peace by obedience to righteousness even to death? It is a manifestation, moreover, we can verify, as, even amid our own failure, it enables us to realise God's gracious personal relation to us in all things.

For this reason, faith in Christ is not primarily as He meets us either in Scripture or in doctrine, but as He meets us in life. When He is hungry, the blessed of the Father feed Him; naked, they clothe Him; sick and in prison, they visit Him. As we treat Him when we meet Him in flesh and blood in our brother, as we recognise the power of His meekness, purity, truth, holiness, amid the actual claims of pleasure and wealth and outward dignity, so is our living faith in Him.

"How," He asks, "can ye believe who receive 154 approbation one of another, and not that approbation which is of God alone?" Can we, that question means, unite two contradictory faiths in what is life's highest good and final security ? How, asks James, taking the same view, can men hold the faith of Christ, "in respect of persons"? which, being literally translated, is "in flunkeyism." What, in short, is the good of looking for Christ who was meek and lowly in heart, in the Gospels, when we should be certain not to recognise Him in our next-door neighbour? Till we believe in Him there, we cannot possibly believe in Him any where else.

After we thus believe in Him in life, many intellectual questions, both about His history and His person, may remain; and we should not think that our belief gives us a right to silence them. This faith cannot decide what sayings in the Gospels are authentic, or what miracles are related without exaltation of the miraculous, or in what formula we shall express Christ's nature; even though, without it, no one will ever answer these questions aright. But, when we believe on Him in life, by finding Him the strength of our faith in God, however many intellectual problems may remain, the religious difficulties will have disappeared. By manifesting God's love in life's hardest appointments and sternest demands, by lifting up our sins and weaknesses into God's compassion and pardon, and so touching us with the love of God in its infinite requirements and infinite succour, and by giving us the spirit of peace in all our weary 155 struggle against the kingdom and power of darkness, He lays us open, as the manifest presence of God alone can lay us open, to God's whole appeal through the whole of life. Here, as nowhere else, we discover that the weak things are the mighty, that, in the end, the things of love, not of violence, prevail, so that we believe, by the only way that can truly be belief, because, in its perfect manifestation in Him, we see our true blessedness to be its own evidence.

We can now see why no Scripture writer ever dreamt that faith in Jesus could be a substitute for our faith in God, or a further burden upon it, or even any addition to it, or anything except the supreme succour of this faith, and why every word said about it thrills with strange, new, contagious joy in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and especially why the Cross was victory over sin and sorrow, and not a mere agony of defeat inflicted by wickedness.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ was put in the centre of God's revealing name, not, as is sometimes said, because faith in Christ was such an addition to faith in God that His followers had to break up their idea of God to put Him in, but, for the opposite reason, that their idea of God was broken and He made it whole. They could in no way unite the God of their experience in the world with the God of the deepest experiences of their own hearts; and their souls' conflict came upon them because they 156 continued to be true children of the prophets, who never, for any distress without or doubt within, abandoned the endeavour to bring them into one.

The Old Testament still speaks to our hearts because it is this supreme search after one God, not as an intellectual conception, but as a moral victory to unite all our life into one, and because of the confidence it gives us that those who seek after God in this way will find Him. No prophet ever attained, but also no prophet ever rested content with any of the easy solutions found in other religions. None ever sought peace in the dualism of one God of their worship and another of their work, or in the easy but hopeless unity of worldliness, or in the more difficult, but not really more victorious, unity of abandoning the world in order to endeavour to live in an ecstatic religion. When the Old Testament saints prayed, Lord, show us Thy salvation, they did not mean, Help us to avert our eyes from the welter and chaos around, but, Help us to face the Assyrian as well as the enemy of our souls. To the end it remained a distressful and dubious conflict, amid which men were always in danger of falling back on the hope that somehow, after all, this world may be interpreted on mere principles of human justice, if only you will give it time to show that the name of the wicked rots and the righteous are never forsaken or their children reduced to begging their bread. Then, they had to be recalled to the true way of seeking one God, not merely by a great religious book like Job, ending in 157 silence before the greatness of God, but by the vocal pessimism of Ecclesiastes.

Only when we realise this bitter antagonism between our experience of God in the world and our experience of God in the insight of conscience and the aspiration of the heart, can we realise the supreme significance, for our faith in God's whole gracious relation to us, when the grace or the graciousness of our Lord Jesus Christ became the middle term between the love of God without and the fellowship of the Spirit within.

Later we have many attempts to interpret this name of God as Father, Son and Spirit by the conception of grace as the operation of omnipotence, but never in the New Testament, where this Divine name is just the full and complete expression of God's one gracious relation to us in all our experience without and within, making it as certain that all things in this world work together for good through the love of the Father, as that our true good is the kingdom which is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Then only could men overcome the temptation to make the providence of God a cheap optimism, and the righteousness of God a way of compromising with this world and a mere matter of changed conditions in the world to come.

Belief in God derives meaning and content from experience, and belief in God through Jesus Christ is through the only adequate dealing with life, because of the only perfect relation to God behind it. Neither 158 God, nor aught besides, can we know apart from the world. But, on the other hand, neither can we truly know the world apart from God. We see God through the world, as we see a soul through the body, only because it is not a living body at all except as it is informed throughout by the soul. And even then we only know as we are taught to think, as it were, parallel with that spirit within, taught by a continuous interaction between knowledge and friendship, which we might equally call revelation and reconciliation.

If it is the essential nature of God to have this personal relation to His children, He could be manifested only in a life perfectly lived among men, through a perfect relation to Himself. If the love of God is thus the inmost nature, as well as the deepest meaning of His outward working, that would be the only possible revelation; and we should never think of God as in Christ merely in condescension to the limits of our humanity. Through Christ we must think after the order of the Beatitudes, where all knowledge of God is mediated through a right relation to man. As Christ helps us to attain this gracious relation to God's children, we learn how He came from the bosom of the Father to declare Him, and how God is in Him reconciling the world to Himself.

The final triumph of this manifestation is the Cross, the obedience unto death of the Prince of Peace in the service of God's kingdom of righteousness. When


persecution for righteousness, even to shame and agony, stirs only pardon and supplication for His oppressors, it is turned from being an evidence of God's indifference into the triumph of His love; and, by sharing in this triumph, His children are made victorious over all evil. But we share only as we too are taught to sympathise with sorrow, forgive sin and endure the contradiction of sinners against ourselves.

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