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take them to the field, forbidding any word of peace to
be spoken, till the laws are vindicated and the foes of
order crushed. If God will make a broken world
restore itself by man, much more a broken people, and
it will as certainly be done as there is quantity enoagh
of manhood in them— enough great sentiment and pa-
triotic fire — to do it.


Again, the immense responsibility thrown upcn
Christ's followers, in the fact that the salvation of the
world is to be in so many ways by man, ought to be
distinctly admitted and practically assumed. If they
are to preach the gospel, and light iip the gospel by
their lives, so to be the gospel, and finally to regain the
world to God ; if Christ himself lays it on them to be
gospelers with him, putting the world in their hands
to be lived for, died for, won and saved, then how clear
it is that their faith will be no relaxation of responsi-
bility, but the begun fulfillment and seal of it rather.
How nearly appalling too is the fact that if God has
any good thing to be done, it is to be done somehow by
man, and that he has the man, or men, or women,
somewhere, on whom so great a charge is laid. As he
has undertaken to make man good, he will let the good
that wants to be done, wait till their goodness gets pur-
pose, and fire, and sacrifice, in a word, reality, enough
to do it. And if they make slow progress, if the con-
version of the world drags heavily, then so it must ; for
God will not so far dishonor the great salvation as to
push on the propagation of it faster than it has reality
enough to propagate itself. If it takes a million of
years to recover the world to God, then a million it
must have ; for it never can be accomplished, either in
one, or in a hundred millions, unless it is accomplished
by man. O, how preposterous, in this view, is the soft
opinion many hold of faith ; as if it were the faith of a
Boldier to expect that his captain will do all the fighting
himself, and that he is never to fight under hin-., or win


with him ; or as if it were the true believing unto life,
to come in, as clinical patients, and lie down upon the
gospel to be saved by it! No ! the salvation of God is
no such washy and thin affair — it has meaning, it has
dignity ; else it has no mark of God upon it. To really
believe is to come into the great life-struggle of Jesus
and be with him in it; to be engineering for him,
watching for occasions to commend him, watching for
souls to receive him, fighting for him in sacrifice, even
as heroes fight for their country. The salvation of the
"world by man — that is the tremendous fact which all
true faith takes hold of, and for which it is girded even
by the sign of the cross.

There is, furthermore, a great mine of comfort opened
here, for such as have settled into heart-sickness over
human affairs, and the want of all high movement in
them. Some are sick because they hear no thunders,
and see no mighty stir in the heavens. If they could
see God converting the world by signs, and wonders^
and mighty portents, there would seem to be something
going on ! Nothing could be weaker than such a kind
of gospeling. Laying no hold of us by rational evi
dence, it would only drum us to sleep in the tumults
of the senses. And yet they are almost pining to have
the world's dull tedium broken, by some such outward
stir ; never once recollecting that, while commotion is a
profitless noise, real motion is silent. Another class
are pining, in the same manner, for some new dispen-
sation to break, that shall displace the rotten hopeless-
ness of the old; some second coming of Christ, some



purgation by fire, some literal new heavens. They
want a Saviour farther off and not one hid in the
world's bosom, a Saviour in the clouds of heaven, or in
some miraculous new city, — ^just the Saviour that would
take us out of our faith and put us into our senses, and
set us running to see, instead of resting in love to know.
StiJl another class, who look for no such mock reliefs,
are only the more sick, because seeing no good, they
have, beside, no hope of any. There seems to be no
good reason why the world should continue, for it
comes to nothing, losing always in one year, age, or
place, what it gained in another — constitutions, laws,
liberties, learning, commerce, religion, all swinging tid-
ally, and as certain to go back in the ebb, as to come in
at the flow. Why should such a hopeless, always baf-
fling, laboring vanity be kept on foot? Why, my
friends, because it is not hopeless ! because the grand,
all-regenerating force is already entered into the world,
and is working steadily on through all retrocessions and
advances alike. Lift up your heads ye drooping
ones ! Christ is in the world ! Jesus, Son of God, and
word of God's eternity — he is about us, within us, going
through all things, moving onward in all. Leaven
does not make a noise when it works, and yet it works !
And so the gospel works, the progress goes on, a grand,
mighty progress, and there is really no retrocession.
No river runs to the sea more certainly or steadily,
than the great salvation by man runs to conquest and
a kingdom. No reason why the world should con-
tinue? That is unbelief. Do the men who are lifted


up to such grand heights by the progress of society
think so? No, there is reason enough to them, wliy
the world should continue ; they only steal our gospel
and millenium, which, if we reclaim, we shall be as iu-
bilant as they, with only so much better right.

Let us also observe the beautiful delicacy of God in
his plan of salvation. He is not willing to make it a
salvation /or man only, as I have said already, but con-
trives to make it also, as far as possible, a salvation hy
man. As the seed of the woman goes down, so he
contrives to get a force into it that will finally bruise
and trample its adversary. If he should do every thing
simply as acting upon us, it would make us only un-
derlings to eternity, waste timber of creation, that he
has only gathered and stored for the dry-rot of a state
of impotence, miscalled felicity. No, he wants to raise
a character in us, and, to do this, requires a great hiding
of power. He must contrive to put us a doing, in all
that is to be done, striving to enter the straight gate,
working out our salvation with fear and trembling, as
only knowing by faith that he is working at all. And
then his word of promise at the end will be— "to him
that overcometh." The beauty, the delicacy, of his
work is that he gets the force of it into our own bosom,
and lets it work as if it were a part of ourselves. True
it is all by Christ, and yet it is by the Christ within—
the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And so,
instead of making his mercy a mere pity that kills
respect, he makes it a power that lifts into character and
everlasting manhood. He becomes a second Adam, a


kind of better parentage in tlie race itself, and we rise
bj a new derivation that nowise shames our feeling, or
sliatters our confidence. How beautiful and tender the
method! and when we conceive, in addition, that we
ourselves are to preach, and live, and illustrate, and
perpetuate, and spread, this gospel, having it as a gospel
to prevail by man, what shall we feel eternally, but that
our very sorrow and shame are ennobled by the grace
we partake. And when we shall go home to be with
Christ, Christ the faithful witness, and prince of the
kings of the earth, what shall we do but confess, in
lowliest homage — Unto him that loved us and washed
us from our sins in his own blood ; raising our finale
also to sing, in the glorified majesty of our feeling — And
hath made us kings and priests unto God!



**Because that the ivorshipers^ once purged^ should have
had no more conscience ofsins.^^ — Heb. x, 2.

The reading is not, you observe, "conscience of no
more sins," — as if the sins were stopped, but "no more
conscience of sins," — as if the conscience of sins already
past were somehow extirpated, or else the sins taken
quite away from it and forever extirpated themselves,
as facts, or factors of the life. And the allegation is,
that while the old sacrifices of the law had power to
accomplish no such thing, it is accomplished by the
wonderful, seemingly impossible efficacy of the gospel
sacrifice. Those older sacrifices could not make the
comers thereunto perfect — perfect, that is, as pertaining
to the conscience — and therefore they must needs be
renewed as remembrances of sin every year ; but the
offering of the body of Jesus, once for all, was suffi-
cient; allowing us forever after to have no more con-
science of sins. Now it is this practical wonder, this
seeming impossibility accomplished by the cross, to
which I invite your attention on the present occasion.



It is what our apostle elsewhere calls — The mystery of
faith in a pure conscience.

I fell in company, some years ago, with a college
acquaintance — not a minister of religion, but a remark-
ably subtle, closely scientific thinker, and withal a
devout Christian — who said to me, in a manner and
tone of sensibility I can never forget — My great trial in
religion is, to find how a clean bosom, in regard to sin,
is ever possible. I can not see how my sin can ever be
really gotten away ; indeed I fall into such darkness on
this point, w^hen I undertake to solve it, that I quite
lose my faith in the possibility of a real deliverance, and
feel obliged to say with David — "my sin is ever before
me." He went on to state his difficulty more fully, but
as I have it on hand to make an exposition of the whole
subject, the ground of his difficulty will be covered with
much other ground beside. How then is it, or how
is it to be imagined, that Christ, by his sacrifice, takes
away the condemning conscience, or the felt dishonor
of transgression ? This is the question we are to con-
sider, and, if possible, answer ; in doing which I will —

I. Go over, as briefly as may be, certain supposed
answers, that do not appear to reach the real point of
the question ; and —

II. Will endeavor to exhibit and support by suffi-
cient illustrations w^hat appears to be the true scriptural

I. The supposed answers that are not sufficient


They are various and very unlike among themselves ;
they still fall short, all of them, at the same point ; viz,
in the fact that they do not touch, or take away at all
from the mind, or memory, or conscience, the fact and
shame of wrong-doing. Be the remedy this or that,
still the man, as a man, is none the less consciously
guilty, none the less really dishonored, shamed, damned,
before himself. There stands the fact, unmoved and
immovable forever, that he is a malefactor soul, none
the better for being safe, or forgiven, or justified.

Thus, when it is conceived that Christ has borne our
punishment, that, if it were true, might take away our
fear of punishment, but fear is one thing, and mortified
honor, self-condemning guilt, self-chastising remorse,
another and very different thing ; and that will be only
the more exasperated, that divine innocence itself has
been put to suffering on its account.

Neither will it bring any relief to show that the
'justice of God is satisfied. Be it so; the transgressor
is none the better satisfied with himself — his own self-
damning justice is as far from being satisfied as before.

Is it then conceived that what has satisfied the justice
of God, has also atoned the guilty conscience ? Will it
then make the guilty conscience less guilty, or say
sweeter things of itself, that it sees innocence, purity,
goodness divine, put to suffering for it ? If any thing
could exasperate, even insupportably, the sense of guilt,
it should be that.

Is it then brought forward to quell the guilt of the
conscience that Christ has evened our account legally bj


his sacrifice, and that we are even justified of God, for
Christ's sake ? But if God, in this manner, and by a ki nd
of benevolent fiction, calls us just, do we any the less cer-
tainly disapprove and damn ourselves even to eternity ?
Nothing it would seem can save us from it, but to lose
the integrity of our judgments!

Forgiveness taken as a mere release of claim, or a
negative letting go of right against transgression, brings,
if possible, even less help to the conscience. Christ had
forgiven his crucifiers in his dying prayer, but it was
the very crime of the cross, nevertheless, that pricked
so many hundreds of hearts on the day of pentecost.
Christ had forgiven them, but their consciences had

But Christ renews the soul itself, it will be said, and
makes it just within; when, of course, it will be justi-
fied. That does not follow. If Judas at the very point
where he confessed — "I have betrayed the innocent
blood," could have been instantly transformed into an
angel of beauty, his purified sensibility would have
been shaken, I think, with a greater horror even of his
crime than before.

But the fatherhood of God — the disciple of another
and different school will take refuge under that, and
say, that here, at least, there is truly no more conscience
of sins. Would it not be strange, if a tolerably good
father can forgive and forget, and God can not? But
who is God, and what most fitly represents him? a
mortal father who is able, just because of his weakness^
to forgive and forget, or to forgive without forgettingj


or to forget without forgiving, or the transgressor's own
everlasting immutable conscience, which can neither
forgive nor forget? What is this conscience, in fact,
but God's throne of judgment in the man? Why, if
G-od, in his fatherhood, were such a kind of being,
dealing in laxities and fond accommodations, having no
care for his rectoral honor, as the defender of right and
order, we certainly are not such to ourselves. A con-
science that can say, " no matter, God is rather loose and
very easy with his children, therefore I will be to my-
self as good in my sin, and let the matter go," — I cer-
tainly, for one, wdiatever may be said by others, have
no conscience that can go in that loose gait. I love
my conscience because it is the one thing in me that
goes true, and will unalterably, inevitably damn my
wrongs, even if God should let them go. I^ay, if God
be such a God, it would even set me in a shudder, to
find how easily I might sigh for a being whom I can
more sufiiciently respect.

You perceive in this recital, my friends, how great a
matter we have undertaken, and how very obstinate, or
intractable, our difficulty is. Doubtless a foul vessel
may be washed, a fracture mended, a personal injury
redressed, a sick body restored to health and soundness,
and dressed in a new covering of flesh ; nay, there is a
clear possibility of raising the dead to life, but to con-
ceive a sinner so wrought in as to obliterate the fact of
his dn, leaving no more conscience of it, is a very dif
ferent matter, and if the possibility were not really
shown by the gospel itself, we must certainly give up


the question, as one tliat we can not solve, hj anj
faciiltj that God has given us. "We come then —

11. Td the question as it is, and the answer given it
Dj tlie scriptures of God.

The great question meeting us at this point is, whether
it is possible, or how far possible, to change the con-
sciousness of a soul, without any breach of its identity ?
In this manner, we shall find, the gospel undertakes to
remove, and assumes the fact of a removal of, the dis-
honor and self-condemnation of sin. But we shall con-
ceive the matter more easily and naturally, if we notice,
before going into the scripture inquiry, certain analogies
discoverable in our human state, which may serve as
approaches to the proper truth of the question.

Thus a thoroughly venal, low-principled man, elected
President of the United States, will undergo, not un-
likel}^, an inward lifting of sentiment and impulse, cor-
responding with the immense lift of his position. The
great honor put upon him makes him willing to honor
himself. He wants to deserve his place and begins to act
in character in it. He is the same man, regarding his
personal identity, but he is raised, even to himself, in
the grade he occupies. His old natural consciousness
has a kind of Presidential consciousness superinduced,
which holds a higher range of quality. He lives, in
fact, Presidentially, and is dignified inwardly by the
dignities of his position.

How many thousand soldiers, who before were living
in the low, mean vices, lost to character and self-respect,


have been raised, in like manner, in our armies, to
quite another grade of being. It has given them a
wholly different sense of themselves, that their dear,
g.'eat country has come upon them in so great power.
They are consciously ennobled, in the fact that they
have borne themselves heroically in the field ; and are
so become another kind of man even to themselves.
They are the same, yet by a vast reach of distance not
the same. A certain great something has come into
their feeling. They stand more firmly, and bear them-
selves more erectly ; and it gives them an exultant feel-
ing even, that their discouraged and miserably forlgrn
consciousness is gone — supplanted by the sense of self-
respect, and manly honor.

The same, again, is true in a different way, of all the
gifted ones in art and speech and poetry, when they are
taken by the inspirations of genius. When such a soul,
that was down upon the level of uses, torturing itself
into production for applause, or even for bread, begins
to behold God's signatures upon his works and worlds,
and the magnificent discipline he gives us ; discovering
in objects ideas, in facts the faces. of truth ; catching also
the fires of a Promethean heat from all subtlest moods
and hardest flints of experience ; — then it is become, to
itself, quite another creature. It is as if the grub-state
were gone by, and the winged life had broken loose, to
try the freedom of the air. In that finer element he
ranges at will, lifted by his ethereal seership, to move in
altitudes hitherto unvisited; consciously another and
different being — another, yet still the same.


In these and other like examples, afforded us in the
field of our natural life, we are made familiar with the
possibility of remarkable liftings in the consciousness of
men, such as make them really other to themselves, and
set them in a higher range of being; and, by these
examples, we are prepared, as it were beforehand, to
that more wonderful ascent above ourselves which is
accomplished in Christ, when he takes us away from the
conscience of sins. He does it — this is the general, or
inclusive truth that covers the whole ground of the
subject — by so communicating God, or himself as the
express image of God, that he changes, in fact, the
plane of our existence. Without due note of this, we
do not understand Christianity ; the very thing it pro-
poses is to bring us up into another level, where the
consciousness shall take in other matter, and have a
higher range. Thus, when the apostle says — "And
hath raised us up together and made us sit together in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus," he is speaking of a
change purely internal, a conscious lifting to another
grade of life, and a higher range of jo}'-. The word
places, here occurring, belongs to the English only, and
it is put in to fill out the plural of the neuter adjective
heavenlies, used here as a noun. But sitting in the
heavenlies, does not mean, of necessity, sitting in other
localities. It means sitting in heavenly things, as well;
above the world, that is, and the flesh and sin, in the
serene, pure element of God's eternal love and glory,
there to be folJed in harmony, raised in consciousness,
filled to the full with all God's heavenlies, even as his


angels are; no more to be shamed forever bj the
little, defiled consciousness that is henceforth over-
spread, submerged, and drowned by the sea-full of
God's infinite worthiness and righteousness wafted in
upon it.

Now it must not be imagined that this one passage of
scripture stands by itself in asserting such a sentiment.
The whole New Testament is full of it. " If ye then be
risen with Christ seek those things which are above,
where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God," — " Hath
made us kings and priests unto God," — "A chosen
generation — a royal priesthood," — "Partakers of the
divine nature," — " Sons of God," — In all such modes of
expression, and a hundred others that might be cited, we
have the same thought breaking out on our discovery ;
that Christ is lifting us out of shame and condemnation,
into a higher plane and a footing of conscious affilia-
tion with God.

But you will not conceive how very essential this
idea of a raising of the consciousness may be, if you do
not bring up distinctly the immense fall of our mortal
consciousness, in the precipitation of our sin. In their
true normal condition, as originally created, human
souls are inherently related to God, made permeable
and inspirable by him, intended to move in his divine
impulse forever. A sponge in the sea is not more truly
made to be filled and permeated by the water in which
it grows, than a soul to be permeated and possessed by
the Infinite Life. It is so made that, over and above
the little, tiny consciousness it has of itself, it may have



a grand, all-inclusive consciousness of God. In that
consciousness it was to be, and be lifted and blessed
evermore. The senses it should have of God, always
present, were to be its dignity, its base of equilibrium,
its everlasting strength, and growth, and majesty, and
reigning power in good.

But this higher consciousness, the consciousness of
God, is exactly what was lost in trangression, and
nothing was left of course but the little, defiled con-
sciousness of ourselves, in which we are all contriving
how to get some particles of good, or pleasure, or pride,
or passion, that will comfort us. The great, inspirable.
and divinely permeable faculty, is closed up. We do
not know God any more, we only know ourselves.
We have the eyes, and the ears, that were given us, but
we are too blind to see, too deaf to hear — " Having the
understanding darkened, being alienated from the life
of God, through the ignorance that is in us because of
the blindness of our heart." The true normal footing
or plane of our humanity was thus let down, and it is
exactly this which Christ undertakes to restore. And
until that restoration is accomplished, the soul occupies
a plane of mere self-knowing, and self-loving, and is, in
fact, a lower order of being. It lives in the conscience
of sins, a guilty, self-denouncing, and miserably shamed
life. But as soon as it is opened to God, by the faith
of Jesus Christ, and is truly born of God, it begins to
be the higher creature God meant it to be — the same
yet another. It is no more like the sponge stuck fast
on some dry rock, but like the same, filled and vitalized


by its own proper element, and spreading itself in ita
possessorship, so to speak, of the sea !

It is of course to be admitted tliat tlie disciple, raised
thus in his plane, has the same conscience, and remem-
bers the same sins, and is the very same person that he
was before ; but the consciousness of God, now restored,
makes him so nearly another being to himself, that the
old torment of his sin will scarcely so much as ripple
the flow of his pea,ce. It takes, in fact, a considerable
rock, a little way oat from the shore, to do more than
dimple or curl the tide-swell coming in ; and the sea,
at the full, will simply bury it and hide it from the
sight, in the depths of its own stillness. Or we may im-
agine, without much danger of extravagance, that when
a soul is really filled with the higher consciousness,
moving wholly in the divine movement, so great a lift-
ing of character, and quality, and action, will carry it
above the old range so completely, as to let the wrong
and shame quite drop away ; even as the insect creatures
hovering on wings about us, flitting in swift motion,

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 19 of 29)