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Revealed Religion


Moral Being of God



Bishop of Edinburgh^ Scotland








Press of
G. P. Putnam's Sons

New York


From the communication of the donors to the
Board of Trustees of the Theological Semi-
nary of the Diocese of Ohio and Kenyon Col-

Cleveland, June 21, 1880.

We have consecrated and set apart for the service
of God the sum of $5,000, to be devoted to the estab-
lishment of a lecture or lectures in the Institutions
at Gambier on the Evidences of Natural and Re-
vealed Religion; or the Relations of Science and

We ask permission of the Trustees to establish the
lecture immediately, with the following provisions:

The lecture or lectures shall be delivered bien-
nially on Founders' Day (if such a day shall be
established), or other appropriate time. During our
lifetime, or the lifetime of either of us, the nomination
of the lectureship shall rest with us.

The interest for two years on the fund, less the sum
necessary to pay for the publication, shall be paid to
the Lecturer.

The Lecturer shall also have one half of the net
profits of the publication during the first two years
after the date of publication. All other profits shall


be the property of the Board, and shall be added to
the capital of the lectureship.

We express our preference that the lecture or
lectures shall be delivered in the Church of the
Holy Spirit, if such building be in existence; and shall
be delivered in the presence of all the members of
the Institutions under the authority of the Board.

We ask that the day on which the lecture or the
first of each series of lectures shall be delivered, shall
be declared a holiday.

We wish that the nomination to this lectureship
shall be restricted by no other consideration than the
ability of the appointee to discharge the duty to the
highest glory of God in the completest presentation
of the subject. We desire that the lectures shall be
published in uniform shape, and that a copy of each
shall be placed in the libraries of Bexley Hall, Ken-
yon College and of the Philomethesian and the Nu
Pi Kappa Society. Asking the favorable consider-
ation of the Board of Trustees,

We remain with great respect,

G. T. Bedell,
Julia Bedell.

The Board accepted the gift, approved the
terms, named All Saints' Day,. November the
first, as Founders' Day, and made it a holi-



I. It cannot be doubted that, of all the evi-
dences of Christianity, the clearest and the
most convincing is Christianity itself, when its
distinguishing characteristics are manifested in
the lives of those that profess the name of
Christ. When Jesus Christ gave to His dis-
ciples *' a new commandment, that ye love one
another, even as I have loved you"'; or as
St. Paul expounds it : '* Bear ye one another's
burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ,"'
He added further : ''By this shall all men
know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one

' St. John XIIL 34, 35-

• Gal. VI. 2 ; compare also Rom. XV. 2, 3 : *' Let each one of us
please his neighbor for his good, which is unto edifying, for Christ
also pleased not himself."


to another." They would thus exhibit to the
world the true meaning, as well as the reality
and spiritual power of faith in Christ, and win
others to the Saviour. And for this reason,
when our Blessed Redeemer, before offering
Himself on the cross as the propitiation for the
sins of the world, presented at the throne of
His Father His intercessory prayer for all who
should hereafter believe on Him through His
disciples' word. He prayed above all things :
" That they may all be one ; even as Thou,
Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also
may be one in us, that the world may believe that
thou didst send me!' The truth on which
Christ's Church is founded, that the Father and
the Son are one, has to be manifested to the
world by the unity of those who through Christ
have access in one spirit to one God and Father

2. But while no witness to Christianity can
be so powerful in its influence on the world, or so
distinctly manifest, as that which it bears to itself
through its practical results being exhibited in
the lives of Christ's disciples, it must be remem-
bered, that the practical Christian life is nothing

' Ephes. II. i8, and III. 3-6.


else than the outcome of the spiritual truth, which,
being received into the heart by faith, renews
and transforms the character by assimilating to
itself the motives and principles of the soul.
So that, after all, it is only as being an emphatic
and conspicuous representation of the truth
itself that the Christian life can be the con-
clusive proof to the world of His divine mission,
which our Lord declares it to be. The man
himself, however brightly and distinctly the
light may shine forth in him, is (like John the
Baptist) nothing more than the '' lamp'' \^ the
light itself is the truth to which he bears wit-
ness, the revelation vv^hich God has made of
Himself in His Son Jesus Christ. That which
our Lord said when speaking of the Baptist's
testimony to Him is equally true now : '' The
witness which I receive is not from man ; how-
beit, I say these things (of John) that ye may
be saved " ; or, as St. Paul says of the truth to
which he and other Apostles gave testimony :
*'We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that
the exceeding greatness of the power may be
of God, and not from ourselves.''^ This truth,

* (^VXVOZ^ St. John V. 35.
^ 2 Coi. IV. 7.


however manifested, is self-evident to all, ex-
cept those who, through their own love of evil
and of darkness, wilfully close their hearts and
minds against the light.^

3. It therefore follows that although the
witness to Christianity is of all the most
effective, which is given by the unity in love
of those that believe on Christ's name, because
it is (as we must infer from Christ's words) such
a manifestation of the light as is apparent to
all men ; the evidence which will have the
highest value next to this must be the distinct
exhibition, in the teaching of His Church, of the
Truth, which is the quickening power of the
Christian life. Indeed without this, Christianity
could not be a witness to itself in the lives of
Christians : first of all because it always is, and
always must be, very imperfectly represented
in the lives of those who profess to be, and
even of those who really are, disciples of
Christ ; and that, from no defect in Christianity,
but from the nature and the will of man. And
then, further, because of the inability of those
who do not understand the true principles of
the Christian life to appreciate the whole of the

« St. John III. 19. 2 Cor. IV. 3.


Christian character/ So that, in fact, an exposi-
tion of that truth, which is the root from which
the Christian Hfe springs, is absolutely essential
to supplement and confirm any testimony which
can be given by the fruits of this truth. I mean
such an exposition as shall represent clearly the
living principles of that truth ; what St. Paul has
called the spirit, as distinguished from the
letter. It is our first duty, no doubt, to bear
witness for Christ to the world by a life con-
formable with the holy doctrine which we have
received ; and our Lord Himself teaches that
the first and most characteristic feature of such
a life is that love of which He, in His own life
on earth, has given us the example. But, as
Christ Himself was the Li^ht of the World
when He dwelt among men, not only by His
life of love, but also by His teaching, of which
He said : " The words that I have spoken unto
you are spirit and are life " ; so, also, it is the
duty of His Church to exhibit in its teaching, as
distinctly as possible, what are the spiritual
principles — the fundamental laws, we may call
them — of that revelation of God in His Son
Jesus Christ, from which the faith and doc-

^ Both these questions will be fully discussed in my Third Lecture.
See Lect. Ill, § 17,


trine of His Church are derived. These spirit-
ual laws are contained in the Holy Scriptures,
in which is embodied the whole of that truth
the knowledo^e of which is eternal life. But
they are contained there, at least so far as the
greater part of Holy Scripture is concerned,
somewhat as God's laws of the visible universe
are to be found in nature. Occasionally in the
teaching of our Lord Himself, and that of some
of His apostles, we find them more or less
expressly enunciated ; but generally, the mind of
the believer learns them, or at all events learns
to apprehend them fully and distinctly, only
through a patient, prayerful, perhaps a life-long
study of the Word of God, •' comparing spirit-
ual things with spiritual " ; and so " beholding
as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, he is
transformed into the same image from glory to
glory," and the light shines forth more and
more brightly, even to the end, in his life and
conversation. Nor will it ever be possible for
the individual soul to become changed into the
very form of the doctrine of Christ's Gospel
except through such a process.

4. But to make intelligible to the v/orld the
spiritual character of Christian faith and doc-
trine, so that Christianity may be its own wit-


ness to men, and commend itself to every man's
conscience in the sight of God, it may be asked
whether Christian theology has done all that
might be done, and that ought to be done, in
order that the Church may fulfil the duty which
it owes to its Lord ? As reo^ards the exhibition
of the dogmatic truths of Christianity the
Church has from the beginning set them forth,
in simple compendious forms, in which the one
faith into which we are baptized is briefly
enunciated, for the most part, in the very words
of Holy Scripture. But precious and necessary
as the Creeds are for the purposes for which the
Church has put them forth, it is obvious that
they do not supply that w^hich is needed, viz. :
such a representation of the spiritual principles
of Christianity as shall make it a witness to it-
self to the conscience of man. Indeed, the
Creeds are not intended for this purpose;
and taken alone they are sometimes mis-
undertood by the world, — indeed by many un-
spiritual Christians also, — as if Christianity were
a religion which demands of men belief in
mysterious doctrines as a mere act of passive
obedience to the authority of the Revealer,
without any apprehension, through our spiritual
faculties, of the necessary truth of the revelation.


Ought not, I say, theology to supply this great
want of a simple, clear, and comprehensive ex-
position of the spiritual principles which under-
lie and pervade with their divine vitality all the
dogmatic verities of Christianity ? It is, no
doubt, the very purpose of every true and faith-
ful and duly qualified Minister of the New Tes-
tament, so to make manifest the truth in his
preaching, taking the veil off its outward form^
and being a Minister of tlie spirit, not of the
letter, that if the Gospel is veiled it may be
only in those whose own minds are blinded
by having given themselves over to the
power of darkness.^ But is it not the function
of Theology, the science of religion, to aid this
work systematically ; to investigate these inner
principles and laws, to trace and expound the
harmony and consistency of those laws, and
thus to make the revelation of God distinct to
the conscience of man, even as physical science
expounds nature to the reason of man ?

5. It is a remarkable fact, but undoubtedly it
is true, that in this scientific age there is a strong
tendency, not only among those \vho do not
believe in Christianity, — where we might expect
it, — but even among many sincere and earnest

^ 2 Cor. IV, I, etc.


if not very profound Christians, to disparage, as
unprofitable if not injurious to spiritual life, the-
ology, the science of religion. Whatever causes
may have contributed to produce this feeling,
the result is very serious loss, both to the
cause of Christianity as against infidelity, and
not less to Christians themselves, and to the
whole practical life of the Christian religion ; for
all knowledge is effective and profitable in pro-
portion not only as* it is exact and definite, but
also (and yet more) as it is seen to be related to
central and fundamental principles ; by which
two elements, exactness and unity, science is
distinguished from other knowledge. It is in-
deed often supposed, and sometimes argued,
that religion is intended only for the heart and
its emotions ; and that, therefore, as soon as it
is treated scientifically, it is changed from living
principles into dry and barren formulas, so that
its spiritual power is enfeebled if not altogether
lost. This, however, is to misapprehend the
very nature of Christianity, which addresses not
the feelings and affections only, but the whole
spiritual being of reasonable man, and produces
its effects through the knowledge of truth. Yet
must not theology be itself somewhat in fault, if
it gives occasion for such an objection ? If it


be a profitless study as regards the practical
Christian life, — as many, even sincerely religious
men imagine, — must not the cause be some
serious defect in the scientific treatment of
a subject, in itself of the profounded inter-
est and highest value to man ? And may
we not learn a lesson from the history of
science in another department of human knowl-
edge ? Physical science is nothing else than
the interpretation of the wisdom of God in
His works in the natural world, even as the-
ology is, or ought to be, the interpretation
of His spiritual wisdom in His revelation of
Himself and of His relations to us. And we
know that formerly physical science was a bar-
ren and dead study, because it was merely the
knowledge of disconnected, unharmonized phe-
nomena. But we know also that when general
principles or laws were determined, which en-
abled the reason of man to trace the connections
of the different phenomena of nature, and to
conceive the complete unity of the whole sys-
tem of the visible creation, through sequences
of cause and effect, then physical science had a
life and reality, such as it never before possessed.
Then also it became a study fruitful of practical
benefits in human life. And is it not possible


that the science of religion has been wanting, both
in profit and in interest, from a somewhat sim-
ilar cause ? That is, have we not studied Christi-
anity too much as a revelation of isolated and
almost independent verities, and not sufficiently
as Science now studies God's wisdom in the
natural world ?

6. It may be urged indeed with much appar-
ent force, that in regard to the mysteries of
revealed truth the exercise of human reason is
not only presumptuous, but being beyond its
own sphere, cannot lead to trustworthy conclu-
sions ; that in the oft-quoted words of Hooker:
" Although to know God be life, and joy to
make mention of His name, yet our soundest
knowledge is to know that we know Him, not
as indeed He is, neither can know him ; and our
safest eloquence is our silence, when we confess
without confession that His glory is inexplicable.
His greatness above our capacity and reach."
But, while we must ever bear in mind the duty
of reverence and caution in speaking of the
things of God, yet it has been truly said ^ that if
we should take these words of Hooker in their
literal meaning, viz.: ''that divine and human
reason are different in kind, and God cannot be

Caird's Hegel, p. 140.


known, religion would be an impossibility." In
fact, agnosticism would be the only possible
condition of man. Undoubtedly we have in
Holy Scripture abundant warnings against sub-
stituting the conclusions of a defective, and
partial, and often sin-clouded reason — infinitesi-
mally small in the extent of its range compared
with that of divine wisdom — for the teaching
of God's Word ; and especially against suppos-
ing that our minds c^n fathom God's ways or
God's purposes. But, when the principles from
which the conclusions are drawn are those
which God's Word itself reveals, and the infer-
ences those which that Word itself asserts, and
recognizes, as folio winQf from the fundamental
truths which God has made known to us, can we
do wrong in seeking, in all humility and simple
dependence on the teaching of His Word and the
guidance of His Spirit, to exhibit the consistency,
the harmony, the unity, of the revelation which
he has made to us, His children, of Himself our
Father in Heaven ; and if through the use of
that gift of reason, which is the light in us of
His own divine wisdom, we endeavor to clear
away some of those mists and fogs that rise out
of the carnal mind and obscure His truth from
the eyes of men, may we not humbly trust that


He, the Father of Light, will direct, assist, and
bless this our feeble attempt ?

7. In order that theology may be a real
science, and enable us to exhibit the revela-
tion of God as one consistent and harmonious
system of spiritual truth, it is necessary first of
all to find some fundamental spiritual law or
principle, and that, as the preceding considera-
tions show, distinctly revealed as such, to which
it will be the function of theology to expound
the relation of all Christian faith and doctrine.
Is there any such fundamental and central truth
revealed to us in Holy Scripture? It is evident,
when we consider the question, that since the
revelation is a revelation of God Himself, the
truth must relate to the Being of God ; and
although we need not be surprised if it is one
which the unaided reason of man could not of itself
discover much less expound, for otherwise why
should a revelation be necessary ? yet it must
be a truth which, when revealed, and especially
when expounded by Christianity, its expo-
nent, and in a certain sense its development,
must commend itself to every man's conscience;
so that Christianity when exhibited as the out-
come of this principle shall be a witness to itself ?

8. In the Old Testament, we need not expect


to find any distinct revelation of such a funda-
mental principle. As the apostolic author of
the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, '' God
of old time spoke to the fathers by the prophets
by divers portions, and in divers manners." '°
The revelation was fragmentary, and its numer-
ous separate parts were diverse in form. It re-
vealed God as the Creator, making all things by
His word, and man in His own image and like-
ness ; the Giver of Laws to man, even from the
beginning, disobedience to God's laws being
followed by death ; the Holy and Righteous, the
Merciful and Good, the Sovereign and Father of
His people. All these spiritual perfections of
God shone forth in the history of the chosen
nation, in inspired psalms and songs of praise,
and in the various prophecies of those ser-
vants of God by whom from age to age His
Spirit spoke. But it would have been impos-
sible for the mind of man to have brought
together all the partial lights and the various
and very different aspects of the character ot
God, and of His relations to man, in one central
and comprehensive idea. There was indeed the
one incommunicable name (Jehovah) by which
He revealed Himself to His people, — a name

'' Keb. I. I.


which seems to express the Being of God, as
the one self-existent, eternal, and infinite Spirit.
But although this divine name was, through the
teaching of the law and the prophets, and by
His covenant with His people Israel, intimately
related to the moral attributes of God, which the
Old Testament expounded, yet of itself it does
not, so far as we can judge, express these attri-
butes. The fuller proclamation of the "• namie
of the Lord " which was made to Moses on
Mount Sinai when the law was given the second
time," is, we may say, a brief summary of the
whole revelation of God under that dispensation;
and, like that revelation, it contains elements
which, under that imperfect economy, might
have appeared inharmonious, if not contradic-

9. When we proceed to the New Testament
to seek there for the fundamental principle as
to the Being of God which lies at the basis of
Christianity, we must bear in mind that as God
is eternally the same and unchangeable, the
truth for which we look must be not only the
central truth of the Gospel, and of that part of
the Old Testament revelation which anticipates
the Gospel, but such as will also unite in one

" Exod. XXXIV. 6, 7.


harmonious whole the entire revelation, both
of the Old and of the New Testament, and all
the separate parts which under the law appeared
to be diverse. This consideration would be of
itself sufficient to show that the truth which
some have hastily assumed as the central prin-
ciple of Christianity, I mean '' the Fatherhood "
of God, is not that which the science of theol-
ogy can accept as its fundamental law. Un-
doubtedly our Divine Redeemer came into the
world to manifest the Father, and we shall find
that the Christian " doctrine of the Father and
the Son " is a primary truth of revealed relig-
ion, because it is the first and immediate infer-
ence from that revelation of the moral and
spiritual Being of God which is itself the central
and primary principle of all true knowledge of
God. But the result of assuming a particular
inference instead of the fundamental truth itself,
is necessarily that the theology which is derived
thence leads to partial, defective, if not abso-
lutely false, conclusions, as indeed has been ex-
emplified in this instance. For every one whose
mind is thoroughly imbued with the teaching
of Holy Scripture as a whole, must admit that
the religious teaching which is based solely on
the truth of the Fatherhood of God, fails to ex-


hibit clearly or expound fully the relation of the
law of God to the rest of Christian theology.

lo. It may of itself indicate in which direc-
tion we should look for this fundamental princi-
ple, that our Lord points to one result in the
practical Christian life, which, above all others,
is to be the evidence to the world of the divine
origin of His religion. If the love of Christians
one to another is to be the witness to the world
in the Christian life, the love of God, which is
the source and well-spring of all the love which
can animate the Christian heart, must surely be
that character of God the revelation of which
is the central principle of the Christian faith, and
therefore of true theology. In fact, that apostle
of Christ, who was especially and peculiarly
6 0£oAo;/o5'^ the truest and profoundest theologian
of all the ages of the Church, has expressly di-
rected us (in his First Episde) to the truth that
" God is Love!' as the foundation truth of the
Christian faith. His language implies not
merely that this is one particular aspect of the
moral and spiritual character of God, but much
more, that His whole Being, so far as its spir-
itual perfections and attributes are concerned, is
comprehended in that one word. All that God
is ; the Infinite, Eternal, Self-existing Spirit, who


"• is and was and is to come," is Love. And
since love is the very Being of God, it must be
the apxv^^ "^ divine revelations as well as of all
divine operations and manifestations, and there-
fore certainly of all theology. In the light of
this truth, St. John expounds, in a few com-
prehensive words, the whole of man's redemp-
tion from its origin to its consummation, as the
manifestation in time of this eternal Being of

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Online LibraryHenry CotterillRevealed religion expounded by its relations to the moral being of God → online text (page 1 of 7)