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Faith in God, through Jesus Christ, is faith in God which is of God's giving. Yet, only because God cannot give it directly, or otherwise than through our own personal conviction, does it require to be mediated at all. Could it be imparted by direct operation of omnipotence, so as to be breathed into our nostrils like the breath of life, there could be no need for making it depend on any other transaction. Every form of historical revelation would, in particular, be an irrelevance and an encumbrance; for if, by the finger of power, God can implant the faith which is the secret of blessedness, other aids could only distract attention from the real fountain-head. Why introduce a saint, or even a Christ, saying to His brother, "Know the Lord," if, by irresistible might, all can be made to know Him? Only if grace is a personal relation, does it need to work through human experience and God be manifest in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.

Nor would such revelation be merely an irrelevance. As soon as we returned from what is implanted and came again to our own thinking, it would become a quite insurmountable obstacle to any assurance that the God who governs the world is both good and omnipotent; for, if it were all a matter of 161 operation, why should it require so many reinforcements, and have such obviously inadequate results? If God can mould our hearts, like clay, to real faith, why should there be the slow progress of the ages, or any unbelief, or -- seeing He could as easily make us holy as believing -- any sin?

To refer us to the inscrutable will of God is merely to ask us to be satisfied with arbitrariness. But piety cannot hinder us from regarding such arbitrariness as grossly culpable, if it leave or, indeed, ever permit, this chaos of wickedness and misery, were the avoidance of it so completely and easily within the compass of His might. Could He remove, by the mere word of power, all distrust from the heart as well as all evil from the lives of His children, why does He refrain?

Nor is it any explanation to say that we isolate ourselves from this operation of grace, for that justification of God could only belong to quite another way of thinking of Him. From the point of view of pure omnipotent operations of grace, our isolation from God must be the easiest possible obstacle to remove, or rather the most senseless for God ever to permit.

The perplexity, moreover, carries with it grave practical consequences. For such a mystical faith, Christ is constantly no more than a symbol of a Divine operation, and all historical events have to be attached in an external, arbitrary, and even illogical way.


The value of man's long search after God, the faith of the prophets, and especially the manifestation of the Father in the Son, must have some place assigned to them by any kind of religious thinker. But if the drama of faith is all operation of omnipotence, revelation can only be inserted into it as an epilogue; and, even then, it leaves the impression, which most epilogues do, that the author would not have found it necessary to come from behind the scenes and explain, had the drama been completer and better constructed.

And, seeing how imperfect the drama seems to be as the work of omnipotence, we can give no better explanation than God's arbitrary good pleasure, why His communications were so intermittent in the past, and, in spite of the present abundant scepticism and wickedness, have now entirely ceased.

Being isolated acts in the past, moreover, they must be cherished as heirlooms, else once more all will be confusion. But with the present criticism of our heritage, we find this task increasingly difficult, so that, in fact, we are beyond measure confused. The situation is as though we had fallen into doubt regarding the authenticity and interpretation of some letters our father once sent us from India, while the tradition about his one furlough home has grown mythical, and we cannot be sure any more that he actually is in that distant land, toiling, as we had supposed, for the benefit of his family.

This notion of revelation as supplementary 163 authoritative information causes, most of the perplexities which have so often been met only by an obscurantism about Scripture and doctrine which is guilty of fearing that truth cannot shine in its own light, but must, as it were, be lacquered with a kind of luminous paint of submissive piety.

Butler argues that it would be the opposite of the proof of a Divine revelation to find it attempting to remove the mysteries, which, if humbly and sincerely respected, are the best part of life's discipline and the supreme test of the spirit of duty. To this Leslie Stephen replies by asking, what a revelation is for, if not to remove mysteries. With that position many theologies are agreed, and have, therefore, proceeded to construct out of Scripture elaborate universal and absolute systems, for which nothing remains mysterious or unknown. From disconnected tags of verses information is derived on every kind of subject in this world and the next, in earth and heaven. Especially the origin of the world and the destiny of man have been declared to the last detail.

The result never was much to edification, and more recently it has been mainly to the encouragement of scepticism about the whole business of theology, root and branch.

Nor shall we ever introduce the sense of reality into it again and establish for it a place among the sciences of experience, till we have revised our whole conception of revelation by relating it, no longer to information by sporadic acts of omniscience, but to 164 most direct evidence of His love is His patient way of dealing with the blindness of our unbelief, this reconciliation is rightly regarded as pre-eminently revelation. Yet we should remember that it is revelation only as climbing an eminence affords us a prospect because the landscape is there already.

To understand this living interaction of revelation and reconciliation is to understand how faith is both the gift of God and our own insight. It is like the relation between the prospect which inspires the climber to dare the Alps, and the climbing without which there would be no prospect; or like the first mariner whom Horace execrates for impious rashness in launching on the deep from love of gain, who would never have risked his life without prospect of gain and never have had prospect of gain without adventuring on the deep.

Revelation, being thus concerned with the reconciliation to God's gracious relation to us by which alone we can discover that it is gracious, must be a work of history. What is more, it must be the work of history, the work which gives it meaning and treasures up its gains. The life of everyone who takes the right road and uses life to the right end and lays his heart open to the right influences, will help to interpret God's gracious relation to his fellows as well as to himself. But there will be special significance in the experience of those who meet life with special insight and sincerity and courage, and more particularly when exercised in times of supreme crisis 170 in human affairs. As in all other human progress, they will establish one line of advance, so conspicuously in the right direction as to make all others mere matter of antiquarian interest. Finally, if there were One whose absolutely right relation to God manifested adequately God's relation to us, even that line would become only a preparation for His task, and He would be an ultimate revelation, not in the sense of being a substitute for our own insight or of exhausting the whole meaning of experience, but as the inspiration of our insight and the pioneer of our experience. Yet Christ is the supreme revelation only as He is the supreme reconciliation. Its finality is not as the guarantee of a body of truth which makes of no account God's patient wisdom in overcoming unbelief, manifested in all human history, but as the embodiment of a relation to the Father, the perfection of which we prove only as we use it to interpret His relation to us in all things and at all times.

If reconciliation is in a free, a truly personal acceptance of God's gracious relation to us, it can only be by revelation; but, on the other hand, there can be no revelation to our own personal insight except by reconciliation. To understand this interaction, which is only possible between moral persons in a moral universe, but which is the very essence of their relation, is to understand how God's grace is nothing else than the succour of our moral personality into the liberty of the children of God, a succour which we may sum up by saying that faith is the gift of God by 171 the whole of experience, interpreted by the whole of Christianity.

We shall see what is effected for us, if we consider how, without the grace of Christ as the connecting link between the love of God in our outward experience and the fellowship of the Spirit in our inward experience, love is a shallow sentiment, as inadequate to the interpretation of life as a shower to fertilise the Sahara, and the influence of the Spirit as barren as a mist which never comes down as rain upon the mown grass and as showers to water the earth.

The task is not to lay God open to us, but to lay us open to God. The uniting of the love of God and the fellowship of His Spirit is not because they are divided, but because, by reason of unbelief, we make both void by keeping them apart. The revelation which brings them into one, deals, not with God's unity, but with man's divided heart, as, when we see the same object apart and different, we do not need to bring the images together but to correct our sight.

The difficulty to be overcome is primarily the manifold hypocrisies, springing, in the nature of the case, from all sin, which make us pervert the witness of truth, and look in the world for love as mere goodness without inward moral demand, and in our hearts for God's fellowship in the Spirit without application in any outward moral sphere. Love is then mere sentimental kindliness from which, in this world of hard trials and terrible responsibilities, no true belief in providence can ever be wrung; and the 172 fellowship of the Spirit is a mere shadowy mystical sense of a presence realised in a dim ecstatic emotion, which, if we rest in it, is only a sort of "vacant interlunar cave." Without an abiding fellowship with the Father of our spirits to be our light and confidence in the hour and power of darkness, when, so far as the outward events of our life can show, even God has forsaken us, we can at best struggle to believe that life is pretty good on the whole, with an optimism which is not only cruelly assailed, but most deserts us when most needed: and, apart from realising God's love in our actual experience, the fellowship of the Spirit is equally empty of practical significance.

The nearest analogy is the passive if passionate emotion too often called love, which compels the novelist to end his story where the test of it begins, with the marriage ceremony, a love which the deeper insight of the poet calls blind, and which rude experience teaches us usually flies out at the window as poverty enters by the door. Not being a moral fellowship, it is no preparation for helping those it unites to face the world together and make life blessed, whatever happen. It does not grow into a deeper, stronger, wiser comradeship because of the conflict, but is a mere expectation of being borne up, on the wings of overpowering and delightful emotion, above earth's rough and muddy ways. Then, instead of being life's supreme strength, it becomes its vastest and saddest illusion.

A mystical sense of the Spirit is often not merely 173 an analogous, but the selfsame emotion, little disguised and not much exalted; and at best is a passive emotion, with no personal moral foundations, a mere way of withdrawing for a little from the inward, if not the outward stress of the world, and its ideal would be to be carried over the rough places of life on the wings of a sustained ecstasy.

But the Spirit is the Spirit of Him who was meek and lowly in heart to accept all life's sorrows, and the Father the Father of Him who was among us as one who serves. Therefore, to have the fellowship of the Spirit in unity with the love of God is so to see love behind conscience and power behind love that we can rejoice to bear our trials, which show us the things of the Spirit, and to serve our brethren by living in sympathy with suffering, in pardon of offences, and calm loyalty to every cause of righteousness, which shows us the love of God.

The revelation of God, so understood, means that it belongs eternally to His nature not to be content to direct the world according to His own wise love, heedless of our misunderstanding, or to offer us His fellowship, heedless of our alienation, but that He must seek to overcome, in the freedom of a true reconciliation, our misunderstanding and our alienation. This is the end of all His dealings with us in time, and the task to which He has called all prophetic souls, and which is consummated in the Lord of the prophets, who, being perfectly the Son of God, enables us to be sons of God, for whom, in the fellowship of the Spirit, all things work together for good.

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