Copyright
Amory Howe Bradford.

The growing revelation online

. (page 10 of 13)
Online LibraryAmory Howe BradfordThe growing revelation → online text (page 10 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


operation ; and reverent faith in the Fatherhood
of God and the brotherhood of man, will be
realised in the Church of the future, and will be
its chief glory.



XII.
THE GROWING REVELATION



xn.

THE GKOWIXG KEVELATION.

" And I turned to see the voice which spake with me."

Revelation i. 12.

All that the Christian revelation means it is
not possible for those to understand who cannot
put themselves into a world without the hope of
immortality. If the doors and windows which
open toward the future could be closed ; if there
•could be taken out of humanity that which has
grown into it through many generations, and
men could actually be in a world in which
death is surely believed to be the end of all; if
at the same time there were retained aspirations,
longings, love, capacity for growth, and con-
sciousness of ability to improve, would there
long remain any of the beauty and glory of life ?
Only those can fully appreciate what the revela-
tion of redemption really signifies who are able
to think of themselves as inhabitants of a world
in which not life but death is the goal. Not
long ago a letter reached me asking, u What, in
your opinion, is the strongest argument for
immortality?" Select the strongest I could
not, but it was a privilege to reply : " It is
impossible for one at least to believe that life,



190 The Gkowing Revelation.

love, the discipline of experience, passion for
growth, and all growth itself are without any
purpose except that they may be destroyed."
Raphael would not have painted his Madonna if
he had known that when the last touch had been
given to it the divine picture would be burned. It
is no more conceivable that a human being can be
educated in the schools, disciplined in the home
and the state, chastened by sorrow, made com-
passionate by others' woes, and thrilled by great
ideals of things some time to be, if the end is the
grave.

To some the words, " the growing revelation,"
may have a strange sound. Was not the one
revelation in Jesus Christ completed when He
said, " It is finished " ? The reply of all who
believe in the Holy Grhost must be, " The pro-
cess of revelation can never cease while God
exists and man is spiritually receptive." Every
individual ought to hear some voice which no
other ever heard, and every generation should
be presumed to possess an aggregate of truth
exceeding that of all preceding ages. The text
was spoken by St. John when a new and mar-
vellous revelation was* granted to him. To him
had been given many glimpses of truth in the
past : He had heard Jesus speak ; had received
a commission from Him on Calvary ; had had
years in which to ponder that message ; but on
that Lord's day in the midst of the splendour
and the solitude there sounded in his ears a



The Growing Revelation. 191

new voice, and our text represents liim in the
act of turning to see who addressed him : " And
I saw One like unto the Son of Man, clothed
with a garment down to the foot. . . . And
His head and His hair were white as white
wool, white as snow ; and His eyes were as a
flame of fire; and His feet like unto burnished
brass . . . and His voice as the voice of
many waters . . . and His countenance
was as the sun shineth in His strength. And
when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as one dead."
Thus a new and larger revelation came to that
old man. In forms as real if not as vivid new
and larger revelations are given to waiting
souls ; and the visions of the wisest are only
suggestions of the glory to be revealed. Human
life from first to last is a means of Divine reve-
lation. All things are the expression of God,
and human growth is growth in the discovery
of God.

The first revelation is that which comes through
love. When love as a conscious experience is
born a great rent is made in the mystery which
shuts in human life. Love is a medium of
knowledge, a mode of revelation. There are
many forms of love, but each one opens a gate
into a larger world. The boy consciously loves
his father, and thus sees his relations to other
men more clearly ; a little later a crude form of
patriotism appears, and then he understands
that he is not only a member of a family, but



1£2 The Growing Kevelation.

also of the State ; later there is given the crown-
ing blessing of finding himself bound by gold
chains to one other being, and then the sun
seems to have a softer lustre, and every bird to
carol a sweeter note. Once more, there is
granted a glimpse of the Being in whose hands
his father, his family, his State, his loved one, all
rest, and he loves his Heavenly Father, and
naturally as the flowers come in the spring-
seeks to do that Father's will. Each thrill of
affection is like the opening of a door into a
closed room. Few understand how we gain
knowledge. Much comes from books, travel,
contact of mind with mind, but more from
simply loving. You have been unable to grasp
a great doctrine like the Atonement until you
have had a family of your own and one of them
has wandered away. You say, " That child of
mine has disgraced his home, his name, his
friends, but I cannot give him up. I will follow
him to the end of the earth. I will die for
him, but he must be found and saved." Wait
a moment ? Did you not say that you did not
believe in the Atonement ? " Yes, but what of
it ? " This : Are you willing to go to the end of
the earth, and die to save your child, and can
you doubt that God would do as much to save
His child? "No." Well, the faith that the
Heavenly Father does that is the Christian doc-
trine of the Atonement. " Now I see." Yes ;
and you have not learned it in the schools or



The Growing Kevelatiox. 193

from books ; you have learned it by loving.
Thus every thrill of love reveals something
before unknown about God and the universe.

In like maimer sorrow is a mode of revelation.
To speak of sorrow as a revealer is like saying
that darkness is a cause of light. But sorrow
is a fountain of knowledge, a mode of Divine
revelations. It is so mentioned in the Scrip-
tures. Isaiah's great vision of God followed
the shock of the discovery that Uzziah, the idol
of his youth, was a leper. The sweetest of the
Psalms flowed from the pain of the Babylonian
captivity, as wine flows from grapes that are
crushed ; and the magnificent visions of the
Apocalypse were opened before an old man who
was set to digging in a deep mine when his hoary
hairs ought to have been regarded as a crown of
glory. John Bunyan did not become a seer
until he was imprisoned ; Dante sang of Paradise
after he had been in his own Inferno ; a In
Memoriam " is the cry of one who had first been
dumb in the presence of death. But why illus-
trate? The illuminating power of sorrow is
well known. " Before I was in prison I
preached myself, but after I was humbled I
preached Jesus Christ/ ' said a man whose best
training for the ministry had been in prison.
Before any learn much of spiritual things they
must have their eyes turned away from them-
selves. When the skies are bright and pros-
perity is abundant few think of what comes

13



194 The Growing Revelation.



after death ; but when our best beloved go away
into the darkness we feel that we must know
where they have gone. One Easter a man said
to a friend who was leaving " the feast of the
Resurrection," " I cannot think as you do. To
my mind the future is without promise, and all
any can do is just the best they can, and hope."
A few days later his son, his joy and pride, was
stricken down. Then he was asked, " What do
you think about the future life now?" He
replied, " I don't know anything about it, but I
am sure death cannot end life." In other
words, his sorrow had taught him that the idea
of a splendid, cultured, loving man being put
into the ground to stay there for ever is too
absurd to believe. Sorrows are hated because
they hurt, and men never like anything that
hurts; but in God's good plan every hurt is
made the way to larger knowledge and richer
blessing. " It is all for the best," said a man
as the idol of his life was covered with flowers
and laid away. " You did not speak that way
once," said a neighbour. " No," he replied,
"but I have been disciplined since then."
Discipline lets in the light. Love illuminates,
and so does sorrow. Love and sorrow are
sisters — where one is the other always quickly
comes. They are the twin teachers of our
mortal life.

The new birth is also a revealer. What is the
new birth ? It is the experience by which we



The Growing Revelation. 195

are made conscious that we are the children of
God. It is like the opening of doors on a June
day. Before, the house was dark, the rooms
musty and gloomy, the people like shadows;
now the whole place is as radiant as a palace.
So great is the change in a man who ceases
from evil and begins to do well; who takes
Jesus Christ for his Master, and says, " God's
will shall be my will." There is not at first
and suddenly a great influx of spiritual know-
ledge, for the way of the Spirit is the way of
growth. Growth to be healthful must be
gradual. By the new birth a man is placed
where he sees tilings in their true relations.
God, man, everything here and hereafter, are
seen from a different point of \iew. The value
of a man is known as soon as he is measured
by Divine standards. It is evident that causes
here are connected with effects there, because
with God nothing can be aimless ; and it is clear
that no man liveth to himself, and that there is
a purpose in things and a providence over all.
This knowledge is the result of a new experi-
ence. Thus St. Paul says, "When I was a
child I thought as a child, but when I became a
man I put away childish things."

We begin life almost like animals, with the
clinging of animals to parents, but soon intelli-
gence takes the place of instinct, and then the
growing child is linked to father and mother,
lover and friend, not by instinct alone but also



196 The Growing Kevelation.

by intelligent choice; and that love which in
the man is a self-conscious act shows him how
he is related to others ; how love in him must
have its source in a fountain of love above him ;
reveals to him something* more desirable than
wealth, more to be coveted than fame, and more
imperishable than power. In short, love
becomes a schoolmaster leading toward the
highest things, and under that tutelage the
child grows toward the stature of a man. But
hardly does he begin to love before he begins to
suffer. Sorrow teaches him that even love can-
not keep its own ; that if love would triumph it
must have a longer period than threescore and
ten years ; that there must be time sufficient for
love to grow and complete its ministry. Sorrow
teaches a great lesson concerning the solidarity
of the race, and so makes those who suffer
tender, and careful lest they increase the burden
of the world's pain ; it breaks so many plans
and disappoints so many hopes that at last, from
looking around, men begin to look up, and
looking up catch glimpses of the King in His
beauty. Sorrow is like a wind that blows away
the mists and lets in the sunshine ; like the good
hand that opens the windows and permits the
fragrant June air to pour into long-closed
parlours. Love and sorrow join hands and
together lead to the cross of Jesus Christ, where
as nowhere else is taught the lesson that the
noblest life is obedience to God and service of



The Growing Revelation. 197

man, and that he who can obey God must par-
take of His eternity. Thus by love, by sorrow,
by the new birth, the revelation grows, and
continues to grow, until at last there is reached
the one great experience toward which all move
and from which most shrink.

The revelation by death. What that will be
no one can tell, but it must be greater than any-
thing of which men have dreamed. It hath not
yet " entered into the heart of man, the things
which God hath prepared for them that love
Him." Who does not long to know what is
beyond death ? But no whisper comes from
that beyond. Hope and Faith alone can guide
in these dark hours ; and both agree that while
" it doth not yet appear what we shall be, we
shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He
is." Whatever death may be, unless everything
else in the human experience is not only
mystery but mockery, it will be the entrance into
something vaster and better than has been
known before, for every previous step would
not be advance if this were to be a long one
backward. The new light comes as the mind is
prepared for its reception. To the soul opened
by love and made sensitive by sorrow God
conveys messages that even He could not teach
to others. " The pure in heart shall see God."
And now we are before the curtain which
separates the seen from the unseen, the mortal
from the immortal. What is dying ? No one



198 The Growing Revelation.

can tell, but it, too, must be revelation. All
that lies beyond must continue to reveal the
universe, our home, God our Father, the bond
that binds us to our fellow-immortals, our
eternal brethren, and the goal which men may
for ever approach but never attain. Beyond
lies what ? Resurrection and life ; life in our
Father's house ; life in a form which will make
each individual recognisable. And then what
more is taught? Not much — and yet how
much ! What ? This :

"No sorrow, no pain, no sin, no death.' '
How easily those words are uttered ; but what
they mean only death can make clear. Light
flashes through that curtain, but the full
splendour is not for eyes in the flesh.

That life is symbolised by music. Music is
the language of emotions too profound for
words. Heaven will be harmony ; heaven will
be infinite bliss; heaven will be something
which only music can suggest.

« The Lamb is the light." The lamb is the
symbol of sacrifice reaching to death — of dying
love ; and that symbolism suggests a state when
men shall see in love as now they see in light.
Is that indefinite ? Yes ; hints are always
indefinite, but, like the first rays of dawn, they
are prophetic. Toward that revelation in the
light of sacrificial love all men are moving.

" We shall be like Him." And the wonder
and the mystery grow together. "Like Him" —



The Growing Bevelation. 199

but what that means " we know not now, but
we shall know hereafter. ,, And then common
men, with their littleness, narrowness, selfish-
ness, passion, lust, greed, will be transformed
and made like Him. Do not think of that
miserable outcast as he appears to-day ; think
of him as he will be when he is like Him. Do not
measure yourself by your failures, your grey
hairs, the little you can do, by your limitations,
but by what you will be when you are like Him.
But what that is you will not know until you
see Him as He is in the glory everlasting.

" God shall be all and in all." God is love
and God is light ; and what will be when He is
all and in all ? To answer that all must wait
for the grander revelation which will attend
the next great step all will have to take — the
revelation by death.

What hints are these? A life which shall
be music ; a life which shall be love ; the life of
those who are like Him, in the time in which
God is all and in all? Toward that we are
hastening. From what has been we know that
something still grander lies before us. To the
glory of these ideals let us rise. Let us refuse
to believe that those who were made for God
shall find no God ; and that those who have
a passion for light and knowledge are con-
demned to everlasting night. Those who were
made to know God and to grow for ever
toward immortal youth cannot become in a



200 The Growing Kevelation.

few short years jests for clowns and food for
worms.

We bow our heads
At going out, we think, and enter straight
Another golden chamber of the King's
Larger than this we leave, and lovelier.

The revelation by love discloses much ; that
by sorrow more ; that by the new birth still
more ; that by death must be infinitely ampler
and more splendid, and the revelations must
continue as God's children are fitted to receive
them for ever and for ever.

This is all we know and all we need to know.



XIII.

THE GROWING REVELATION
OF CHRIST.



XIII.

THE GROWING- REVELATION OF
CHRIST.

" And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature, and in favour
with God and man. "—Luke ii. 52.

Jesus did not suddenly come to His greatness.
So far as we know He was not at first conscious
of the divine. He moved along tlie paths of
childhood, youth, and earlier manhood ; He was
disciplined by circumstances, made strong by
limitations, and came like other men to the con-
sciousness of His powers. He grew in wisdom and
stature. The linking of wisdom with stature
binds Him more closely to our common humanity.
What men do reveals what they are. Char-
acter and power find expression in action.
What a man is is never understood until he has
ceased to breathe, and not always even then,
because plans sometimes require more than one
lifetime to work themselves to full manifestation.
This was true in the case of Jesus. He under-
dertook a task which required ages for its com-
pletion. The nineteenth century understands
Him better than the first, for the nineteenth
century has clearer appreciation of His real
purpose. He has relation to all time and all



204 The Growing Revelation of Christ.

men, therefore all time and all nations will
contribute their part to a perfect knowledge of
His Person and mission. In the nature of
things His must be a growing revelation, since
centuries are required for its full expression.
The end is always the test both of the nature
and the value of the revelation.

The Christ is revealed in the world, and thus
becomes more and more a part of the world. He
is the revelation of God, and consequently, as
He is better known, there is a larger and truer
appreciation of God. The revelation of the one
is synonymous with that of the other.

There is a groiving revelation of Christ in
theology. Theology has a perennial fascination
for all thinkers. Every mother is a theologian,
and every thoughtful man has his system of
theolog} T . There has been revolt from certain
theological theories, and this has been confused
with an attempt to get away from theology
altogether. This cannot be, and is neither
desired nor desirable. Theology is the world's
thought about God, and all think of God, even
those who are least supposed to do so. There is
in New England a young girl who is deprived of
all senses save that of touch. Through that
avenue alone she has become finely educated.
She was the friend of the late Bishop Brooks.
When the attempt was first made to teach her
concerning religion, she is reported to have said
in her own way, "Why, I have always known



The Gjiowing Kevelation of Christ. 205

these things." In other words, she who could
neither see, hear, nor speak had her own
thoughts about God and His relation to her.
Theological subjects are the most popular for
magazines and reviews. If a novelist wishes
instant attention he attempts theology in fiction.
Writers as far apart as Matthew Arnold and
Professor Huxley yield to this spell. Those
pulpits have the largest hearing which treat in
a human way the truths of revelation. They
are staple food for human thought. It can
never get away from God.

Christ's idea of God as expressed in the
Gospels may be condensed into three words :
Fatherhood, Service, Sacrifice. He seldom
spoke of God except as Father — His Father and
the Father of all men. Jesus declared that
those who had seen Him had seen God, and His
life was filled with service and sacrifice. He
went about doing good. He always sought the
welfare of the poor, the weak, and the sinning ;
but His service grew into sacrifice, and His final
act was the giving of Hhnself in death that men
might live. The theology of Jesus is short and
positive. It is in substance this : God is Father ;
His essential nature is to serve. Even the cross
with all its agony is but a faint hint of what
God is doing for men in time and eternity.
Man's theology is becoming more like Christ's.
Those who study the universe, who observe the
Bweep of its laws, tremble before its forces, are



206 The Growing Revelation op Christ.

awed by its storms ; who see how remorselessly
those who transgress are crushed, must believe
in the majesty and justice of the Deity. The
early Christians emphasized so much of God as
had been revealed to them in their experience.
That is a true word of Herrmann's in which he
says, " The Gospel can help us only if we under-
stand it,"* and we add, in spiritual things we
understand only what we experience. At first
God was regarded as the awful and majestic
King. But Jesus added to that belief the teach-
ing that the Sovereign is the Father ; and to-
day the doctrine of the Divine Fatherhood is
central and governing in most theological
teaching. The old creeds remain, monuments
of earnest and honest thought, but the people
have passed into a fairer realm. They have not
forgotten the Divine holiness and justice, but
they have learned that behind all forces and
events is the beating of a heart whose love is
only hinted at by the tragedy of the cross. The
Puritans in the seventeenth century, and the
Fathers in earlier times, thought for themselves,
according to their light ; in the clearer light of
to-day we find most of their teachings true as
far as they go, but they had only begun to
appreciate the glory of Christ. The vital truths
of the theology of Jesus as made known to us are
these : Omnipotence is swayed by Fatherhood ;
power is intended for service ; at the heart of the
* Communion of the Christian with God, p. 6.



The Growing Revelation op Christ. 207

universe is One who gives Himself in everlasting
sacrifice for those whom He has created. This
teaching brings hope and joy, shows that history
is not aimless but moves steadily toward a pur-
pose of love ; links every child with the throne
of God; binds to that throne with a golden
chain the outcast and the criminal ; insists that
humanity is not a procession toward death, but
that God Himself spoke in the words of Jesus :
"I am come that ye might have life." The
true theology is the theology of Christ. That
it is occupying a larger place in human thought
is indicated by the names of a few great modern
books : " The Place of Christ in Modern Theo-
logy ; " "The Christ for To-day;" "The
Teachings of Jesus;" u The Incarnation," and
so on. The thinking of our time is becoming
tender and gracious, attractive and winning.
The majesty of God is even more evident
than formerly, since it is seen to rest on a
scientific basis, while more and more He is
felt to be within reach of the thought and love
of the humblest human heart.

There is a growing revelation of Christ in
politics. He is getting a place in the midst of
the politicians, and is beginning to lead even
them. He is humanising the theories of the
State. The nation is no longer regarded as a
mass of unrelated individuals bound together by
laws, but is seen to have organic life and by
many even to be ordained to a service as divine



208 The Growing- Revelation of Christ.



as that of the Christ. That is the splendid ideal
now rising into the political horizon. Some
teachers are even Christlike enough to declare
that the political priest — the politician — ought
to be as good and spiritual as the religious
priest. This doctrine is not yet popular, but it
is championed by great and enthusiastic thinkers
who are real prophets. " The Nonconformist
Conscience " in Great Britain has dethroned
more than one leader because he was corrupt, and
kept in the background many who would have
become prominent if they had been pure. The
revival of municipal righteousness in the United
States has traversed the Continent because
behind it is the conviction that the city should
be as holy as the Church. The State ordained
to service ? Laws to be enacted in the Spirit of
Christ ? A dream ! Yes, but a dream which
already has vital political force. This teaching
insists that the nation is the guardian of the
moral as well as the physical life of the indivi-
dual ; and that laws which allow the degradation
of man are sins against God. The revelation of
Christ in politics is changing the treatment of
the criminal classes. Very slowly, but actually,
criminals are ceasing to be objects of vengeance
and beginning to be regarded as unfortunate
brothers who need the hand of a Good Samaritan.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13

Online LibraryAmory Howe BradfordThe growing revelation → online text (page 10 of 13)