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connection, supposing an impression felt of some inhe-
rent litness, requiring the corporate disadvantage of the
fall, to be made good by a corporate remedy. Consider
then —

1. The antecedent probability of such a remedy, indi-
cated by familiar analogies. It is not God's manner to
work all remedies in things from without, but to make
them largely self-remedial, when attacked by damage,
or disorder. Thus all creatures of life, all substances
above the range of mineral substance, are endowed by
him with recuperative functions for the repair of their
own injuries. The bush that is bent to the ground
does not rei^uire some other bush or even tree, to come
and lift it up, but, no sooner is it let go, than it springs
up suddenly by an elastic force within. Cut it down,
as it begins to be a tree, and it will set new growths to
pricking through the hard bark even of its stump, and
BO, by a newly begun architecture it will go on to build


the tree it was beginning to build at the first. Every an-
imal body has a distinct self-medicating force in its own
vital nature, called by physicians and physiologists the
vis viedicatrix. When, therefore, it is attacked by dis-
ease, or hacked by violence, the qualified physician,
knowing how it will rally its own hidden force, and put
its own mysterious self- medications at work, will sim-
ply endeavor, on his part, to clear the way, and supply
the needed stimulus of action, till the subtle, inborn
physician, wiser and more sovereign than he, has
mended the break, or completed the cure. The same
is true as regards all defections of honor or character.
If the man himself does not return to himself, and re-
pair his losses by a process of recovery undertaken by
himself, there is no recovery for him. The whole world
toiling at his vices and dishonors, could not repair one
of them. He alone has power to win the first inch of
recovery. On a larger scale the same is true of society.
Broken down by oppression, desolated b}^ conquest,
rent by faction, weakened by every sort of incapacity,
it finally gets clear and rises, by reactions from within
itself — just as Italy is rising now. The national resur-
rection comes by man — man, that is, grown manlier, as
.God prepared him to be, by his own great struggles of

We see, in this manner, on how large a scale God
contrives to incorporate powers of self-recovery in
things. What then shall we expect, when humanity is
broken by the irruption, or precipitation of sin, but
that if he organizes redemption, he will do it in a way


to have it appear as a redemption from within, executed
in a sense by man.

I do not mean, of course, when I speak in this man-
ner of •' self-recover j," and "salvation by man," that
the recovery and salvation are not by God. There ia
exactly the same propriety in this kind of language
that there is in speaking of a harvest, or a voyage, as
being by man — it is never such in the sense of exclud-
ing God and his natural agencies. Indeed the recov-
ery and salvation of souls are more properly by man,
because the agency of God is here incarnated and works
in the race by a man thus inserted into it.

2. It is another point to be observed, that we not
only want a supernatural salvation (for nothing less
than that can possibly regenerate the fall of nature;)
but in order to any steady faith in it, we must have it
wrought into nature and made to be as it were, one of
its own stock powers. It does not meet our intellectual
conditions, till it satisfies, in a degree, the scientific
instinct in us, and becomes rational and solid, by appear-
ing to work inherently, or from within, as by a certain
force of law. Moving on the soul and society, as from
a point above and without, it would be here, and there,
and nowhere, flitting as it were apparitionally, breaking
out now as from behind the moon, and vanishing next, as
our faith reels away, in we know not what spaces of the
air, or abysses of the sea. What we want can be seen, at a
glance, from the eagerness that hurries such multitudes
of our time after the doctrine of progress. "We love to
look on education, political liberty, personal culture,



and the sway of moral ideas, all as advancing under
jixed laws of progress. This doctrine of progress is
even a better kind of gospel to many, and more ra-
tional. And yet if we speak of a strictly natural pro-
gress, under natural laws, there is no fiction more
utterly baseless: for after the fact of sin, or moral evil
broken loose in the race, the progress of society must
be inevitably downward from bad to worse. Just that
too which ought to be true is true, many of the proud-
est, most historic races drop into extinction ; and many
others exist that we call savage races, just because they
make no such progress, more than the animals, from

age to age.

And yet we want a salvation that is to us all which
this doctrine of progress pretends to be, and God defers
to our want, by contriving a gospel for man that is to
be, in form, by man; giving us to see the general hu-
manity so penetrated and charged with the supernatural,
by Christ living in it, as to be, in a sense, working out
redemption naturally from within itself. We call it
the progress of society, and such it really is, and yet,
solid and scientific as we think it, all the reality it has
comes of the incorporated, incarnated grace, in Jesus
Christ, which is countervailing always the penal disor-
ders of nature, and setting continually on, as by a des-
tiny itself, the rising fortunes of the race. Our gospel
is a cause, in this manner, among causes; a real calcu-
lable force, the confidence of which can be held with a
steady assurance. Is any thing more rational than tq
believe that goodness and truth are bound to master all


things bj their own everlasting necessary laws ? No
matter from what sphere they come, natural or super-
natural, getting into man, into the race, they will as
certainly master man at last, master the race, as gravity
will master a stone. Exactly this confidence God there-
fore means to give us — no visionary confidence but [i
rational, that of a banker whose fund is in ; for God
has put the stock functions of his own everlasting king-
dom into humanity itself, and by man He must reign.
Meantime —

3. We shall see that, if it were possible to restore the
fall of our race, by any kind of agency, or operation,
wholly external, supposing no recuperative forces and
concurrent struggles operating from within, it would
reduce our character and grade of significance to a vir-
tual nullity. Dismiss the grand world-honoring fact of
the incarnation, conceive that the Jehovah angel, or
some angelic messenger comes to us, not humanized in
sympathy or in order, but having a plastic power to
work on us from without and sway us to good, by his
own methods of divine magic, apart from our consent ;
this would settle us, at once, into a state of cliency both
dangerous and humiliating. We should probably
begin, at once, to pay him the honors of idolatry ; for
the manly consciousness in us will be taken away, and
w^e shall be to ourselves a kind of second-rate interest
in God's kingdom ; just that which the incarnation, be-
getting a new divine power in the race itself, contrives
to avoid with a skill so beautiful.

Or w^e may suppose that God was able tc put the


physical world into sucli a state of divine glow, show-
ing forth, in its objects, such radiances and miraculous
revolvings, such glorious apparitions of truth, such
faces of goodness, that men should have their bad
will quite taken away by the magical sceneries
thoy live in. But the transformation they undergo
in this manner would have little dignity in it, because
their manhood is unexercised in the change. It
would be a kind of vegetable conversion, not a
kindling of God's fires in the soul's aspirations and

So, if the race were to be recovered in any way that
includes no struggle of self-recovery, no power within
striving toward recovery, it would almost take away
the sense of our personality. We should be ciphers to
ourselves, not men. Exactly contrary to this, it is the
very great merit of the incarnation, that it brings
help in a way to make it valuable. God could easily
help us in a way to crush us, just as many human
helpers will really make nothing of their benefi-
ciaries, by allowing them to make nothing of them-
selves, and be nothing for themselves. The very thing
wanted here is to get power into the fallen race, and put
it striving upward; to raise a ferment of recuperative
energy, feeling, aspiration, choice, and whole right
working in humanity ; exactly what the nearness and
high sj^mpathy of God in the incarnation must inevita-
bly do. The Saviour being, or becoming man, the sal-
vation dignifies and raises man even before he receives
it; giving him the right to feel, that, coming veril}' a^-



an approacli of God, it is none the less a power in the
race itself, a salvation by man.

4. Since it is continually assumed by the scripture
that we fall by race, or as a corporate whole, we natu-
rally look for some recuperative grace to be entered
into the race, by which so great disadvantage may be
repaid or overcome. Thus, if we say "as in Adam
all die," we want also to say, " so in Christ shall all be
made alive." Or if we sa}^ that " through the offense of
one many be dead," we want also to say, " much more
the grace of -God, and the gift by grace, which is by one
man, JeSus Christ, hath abounded unto many." In
this manner it is that Christ is conceived to be a
"second Adam," a kind of new progenitor, such
that we get in him, as it were, a new descent from

But we are born of Adam physiologically, it will be
remembered, and so we go down with him as a race
by physiological consequence, while we are not thus
born of Christ the second Adam. He only comes into
the race at a given point, just as we do, and communi-
cates nothing by descent to persons collateral, any more
than we do to persons collateral to us. How then,
being no progenitor, does he become any proper Adam
at all ? how get himself into the race, in any such gen-
eral way, as to become a new headship of life ?

To this I answer, that we must not press the corres-
pondence too closely ; it is not understood to be literal,
or to hold in any but a general and qualified way. Let
it be enough that as the sin abounded, so the grace


mucli more abounds, onlj not in exactly the same man-
ner. Adam is our head physiologically, Christ is our
head by the head -influences he inaugurates, by the au-
thority, sympathy, beauty, of his suffering goodness —
a power that propagates across all the lines of genera-
tion, as efficiently as if it traveled by descent — a new
regenerative power incarnated into the race as such,
there to work, running down through all descent, as a
redemption of man executed in the large view by

Observe too this very striking distinction, that good
souls have a power to get into the race by collate-
ral propagations of their goodness, when bad souls have
almost no such power at all. The bad impregnate
human feeling through falsities, and lies, and oppres-
sions, and combinations of interest, or at best through
the dazzling exploits of ambition. But there is a short
run to such kind of power. Deep in evil, the world is
yet naturally shy of evil, and begins very soon to get
away from it. No bad character propagates long, as by
character. Even bad writings drop out soon and die,
as it were, of their own poison. On the other hand it
will be seen that good and great souls have a destiny
of headship, propagating side-ways, and every way, till
they become Adams in the sublime fatherhood of their
power, and that so completely as to finally reach and
take headship of the race. Thus we think of Socrates,
for example, as a kind of progenitor in good for his
people ; a man whose ideas, principles, sacrifices, entered
him into the whole Greek race, and more and more


widely into the general life of the world. So of Wash-
ington. Dying childless, he had yet many children,
and his large posterity still multiplies more and mora
rapidly, in every part of the world. Aaron Burr waa
a man of greater splendor, but he never got into the
world's life and feeling at all, and never became pro-
genitor of any thing. He was dropped instinctively
even out of the world's thought. But Washington
goes on to be, not father of his country only, but
world's father also; inserting his grand fatherhood into
kings, emperors, peoples, and laws, accepted more and
more reverently, by the compulsion of good in his life,
and reigning, in fact, as a kind of civil-state Messiah,
that has come to propagate his sway in human laws and
Hberties. The civil capacity even of the world, is
increased by the august propagations of his example
and sentiment.

And so it is, illustrating the great by the small, the
divine by the human, that Jesus, the incarnate word of
G-od's eternity, coming into birth and living and dying
as a man, fills the whole race with new possibilities and
powers, starts resurgent activities, overtops the sin
abounding, with a grace that much more abounds, and
becomes the Adam, so to speak, of a new humanity.
Consider now —

5. Some of the scripture evidences of the subject
And here we meet, first of all, as it were at the head of
all scripture, the remarkable and rather strangely
worded promise, which declares that the seed of the
woman shall bruise the serpent's head. The represent*


ation is not that Christ, sometime hereafter to be borD
of the woman, shall bring under and finally destroy the
bad power, though that is true, but that the woman's
whole posterity, having Christ included, shall do it.
God will of course be always present in the struggle,
pushing it on, and turning all the crises of it, by his in-
visible agency; while outwardly, to human apprehen-
sion, it is but a struggle, in one view, of society and
man. In this manner, he contrives, by the hiding of
himself, in our otherwise poor, dejected humanity, to
put us in confidence and keep us at a pitch of courage,
quite above our own broken powers.

Here and there, it is true, this interior hidden method
is departed from, and he appears to be operating from
without, doing something for, or upon, our humanity,
and not through it ; working some astounding miracle,
sending some angel, or appearing by some angelic the-
ophany. In one case he even ordains a supernatural
sign that is to be a kind of institution, recurring, like
the sun itself, with astronomic regularity ; the cloud, I
mean, by day and the pillar of fire by night. And yet
none of these extraordinary, external things, appear to
get much hold of the race, just because they do not
get into it. Nothing works like a power that does not
work by man. The sacrifice of Abraham and the
wrestling of Jacob bring more victory and might into
<^he race, as far as we can see, than the brazen serpent,
or the waters drawn out of the rock. When, too. Christ
comes, what is he but a man? and though, as such, he
has a divine power and plenitude, how careful is he tc



get bis attitude in tlie race and not above it. He un-
dertakes no outward championsliip. Seed of the wo-
man, a proper man, lie only gets into the common
family register as such, and puts the struggle on, as
])eing a struggle of the race itself. Perfect in all divin-
ity even, he is still the Son of Man, claiming the appel-
lation for himself He dies low. And when he is
gone, all that we know is that a gospel is born ! In
one view there seems to be nothing here but the same
humanity there was before, and the same hard fight still
going on that before was struggling to bring the serpent
under and to bruise his head. But it is a very different
fight, as respects the power of it ; for there is a Christ
now in the race, and the whole seed of man is quick-
ened by the sense of his divine brotherhood.

We shall find, accordingly, that the scriptures are
full of images, that conceive the great contest with evil
to be a struggle in the bosom of the race itself^ and
give us the expectation that it will go on, as such, till
it has won a complete triumph for the truth. Thus it
is that Isaiah uses the word "increase," which does not
mean to enlarge by additions, but by internal growth ;
— "And of the increase of his government and peace
there shall be no end." Thus it is that Daniel repre-
sents the kingdom of the Messiah as " a stone cut out
without hands," but a most remarkable kind of stone
in the fact that it grows from within itself, and becomes
a great mountain filling the whole earth. In the same
way it is compared, by Christ himself, to a grain of
mustard seed, which does not grow by something added


on the outside, but by an internal operation, becoming
in that manner a tree. He compares it also to leaven
bid in a large quantity of meal, there to work till all ia
leaAened; where the working, it will be observed, ia
not the working only of the original leaven, or that of
the atmosphere outside, but such a kind as puts the
meal next the leaven working too, and that also on
doing the same to what is next to it ; and so the propa-
gated working goes on, till the whole body of the bread
is leavened.

Here Christ is giving, you will see, his deliberate
opinion Df the manner in which his kingdom will be
extended. The process will be forwarded, he conceives,
within the race itself, and will so far be human, that we
may rightly say of it — for since by man came the fall
of the world, by man came also its restored glory and

Observe, again, how even holy scripture is the scrip-
ture also of man, written by man, given to the world
by man, bearing, in every book, the particular stamp
and style of the particular mind, in whose personal con-
ceptions it was shaped. The subject matter too of the
historic and biographic parts is human, showing how
men have acted, thought, felt, suffered for the truth,
fallen before temptation, triumphed over it. Indeed
the value itself of these records consists, to a grea
extent, in the fact that they give us divine lessons under
human incidents, in the molds of human character and
life. They show us too, on a larger scale, what is the
meaning and way of God's Providence, bv the disasters


of wrong and the struggles of merit, and also by the
overturnings and uprisings of nations.

When we come to the writings of devotion, the
Psalms, for examjDle, and other chorals of scripture,
these are human sentiments, lifted indeed by holy in-
spirations, but none the less properly human for that
reason — rolling in as such upon us, from the word,
even as the tides roll in from the sea.
• The proverbs are specially human, being maxims of
human wisdom, such as have even gained a proverbial
currency, in the judgments of philosophy and states-
manship and common life.

The prophets, again — these are all men speaking by
men's words and voices. True their voices are voices
also of God, but they are none the less human, that God
wants to use them as such, or that he sometimes puts
them to speaking in the first person for him, saying " I
the Lord ;" for when he crowds himself thus into men,
or men's voices, he only proves how much he may
prefer to do as man.

The same is true of the Epistles. They are written
by men, to men, in the words of men, under the rela-
tionships of teacher and taught, and shepherd and flock.
They deal with actual human conduct, in actual human
conditions. They speak to human difficulties and
human dangers. They show how good men suffer in
times of persecution, how they bruise Satan under their
feet, how fidelity triumphs ; in a word how Ihe great
lilb-struggle of the church goes on.

A corresponding reason doubtless required the gospel


of Christ to be preached b}^ human ministers. It is not
commonly expected that thieves will be sent to I'eform
thieves, or perjurers to remonstrate with perjur}^, but
sir.ners are sent to gospel sinners. God certainly could
hitve taken a different method. He could have sent
cohorts of angels flying through the air, to publish the
good news, even as they began to do, for an hour, when
Christ was born. He could have set the stars chiming
with the silver music of salvation. He could have
made the stones cry it out of the mountain tops, and
under the ground, and under the sea. But he wants
the great work of the redemption to go on from within
the race itself, unfolding by internal growth, intending
that his kingdom shall be great and finally universal,
only because the powers or principles he has inserted
are sufficient of themselves to make it so.

He also constructs a corporate state, called the
church, in which, as being corporate, and not subject to
death, he deposits the gospel and the sacraments, and
all the institutional appointments of religion, thus to be
conserved and perpetuated by man.

In the same way too, he makes the church even to be
the pillar and ground of the truth itself; for the disci-
ples in it are to be Christ's living epistles, gospels of the
life, new incarnations of the word, showing always what
is in the text, by wdiat is expressed in their life and
walk and character. Were it not for this light contin-
ually supplied to the written gospel, from the lives of
those who live it, the word of the skies would shortly
become an utterly dead language, a kind of Sanscrit


jargon, without either salvation or intelligence in it
Living men are its interpretation, living men are its ar-
guments and evidences. It lives bj man.

As the disciples are to be new incarnations, in this
manner, of Christ, so, in a sense, they are to be vehiclea
also of the Spirit, demonstrations, revelations, of hia
otherwise unseen or unobserved agency ; and so, many
of his most effective operations will be through their
gifts, works, prayers, sufferings, personal testimonies,
and the pentecostal glow of their assemblies.

Again, last of all, and as it were to include all, it is
given to men even to convert the world. Not that
they, as being simply men, are able to do any sach
thing, but that Christ, the Son of Man, being entered
into the race, and working as a leaven in the mass of
it, will make them a leaven also to one another, and set
the ferment on till all is leavened. And so the great
world itself, all the empires, known or unknown, all the
continents, and islands undiscovered, all most distant
ages and times are given as a trust to men, originally
to a very few, very humble men. " Ye," said Christ,
"are the light of the world." "Go ye into all the
world and disciple every creature."

I will not detain you with farther illustrations of the
subject in hand, but will simply suggest in conclusion,
a few points variously related, in the practical drift of
its applications.

We have then a very significant presumption raised,
that when any breakage, or damage, occurs in any le-


gitimate institution, or society of the world, God has
prepared, or put in somewhere, some kind of self-
remedial force to mend it. Thus if any church, or
Christian brotherhood, is rent by disagreements, embit-
tered by recriminations, and broken, for the time, aa
regards a due confidence of the future, the remedy must
still be in it, else it is nowhere. Even if God himself
undertakes for it, he will accomplish his restoring pur-
pose, in some very important sense, only by man, even
by themselves; that is by their strivings after one
another, their sorrowings over themselves, their prayers
and their longings after the lost love. If there be any
remedy for them, it must so far come out of themselves.
Not even God will try to bring it from any other

So if there be a great nation rent by faction, a good
government broken down and trampled by rebellion,
God has no miraculous fire to flash upon the conspira-
tors and scorch them down. It must be enough that
he has given a sword for the punishment of evil-doers,
that the remedy may come by man, making due use of
it. If the people too will know that God is with them,
let a spirit be kindled in their manly breast that shall

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 29)