Horace Bushnell.

Select works (Volume 1) online

. (page 29 of 29)
Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sess them. Besides, in the relation of spirits and beings
supernatural, we know not by what presences and reve-
lations they may come within the precincts of knowl-
edge ; as little by what fences they are kept asunder.
Place in this matter may be nothing, congenialities
every thing. It does not surprise us that the bad
3hould somehow come upon the bad ; as little should


it, that the good have a way of social presence with the
good. Perhaps, too, it will relieve the aspect of extrava-
gance here, if I say, that faith is nothing but the open-
ing of the supernatural sense of the soul on the super-
natural being to be apprehended. It opens, in other
words, the heaven of the mind, and God, and Christj
and the good supernatural society press in to fill it.
Faith is the evidence, in this manner, even as the scrip-
tures declare, of things not seen, and the substance, or
substantiation, of things hoped for. There is even a
kind of faitli in the sensing of sight, turning mere im-
ages, in the eye, to things, and making them real. That
there is a higher sense, realizing beings supernatural, is
a fact every way correspondent.

Furthermore it is a fact well attested, in all ages, and
proved by manifold experience, that minds do con-
sciously approximate God and the heavenly society,
accordingly as they are turned away from evil and set
open to good. They feel a certain nearness to beings
and worlds supernatural, that amounts to society begun.
And then how very often, as their affinities are more
completely fined and set open, do they, in their last
hours, hail the Saviour present, and good angels re-
vealed, and departed friends whom they salute by
name, waiting to receive them. Doubtless all such
things will be set down as the illusions of their wander-
ing faculty, but what if they should happen to be true
— even the truest truths ever beheld by them, and most
profoundly wanted by us all ?

I will only add that the scriptures constantly assume^


and in many ways assert, the fact of a supernatural
sense in souls, that is shut up and requires to be opened.
Christ declares this truth again and again, as, for in-
stance, when he says, " For this people's heart is waxed
gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes
have they closed, lest at any time they should see with
their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand
with their heart." He does not say this of the natural
senses and judgments, but of the higher perceptions of
the heart, or the religious and spiritual man. The same
thing also is very deliberately and carefully put by the
apostle, when he says — " But the natural man receiveth
not the things of the Spirit of God, neither can he know
them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he
that is spiritual judgeth all things." There is, in other
words, a natural man and a spiritual, a lower range of
perception and a higher ; and by this latter only, set
open to the light, can the spiritual and supernatural
things of God be discerned and judged. And this is
the supernatural sense of which I have been speaking,
the upper range of faculty that belongs to religion, pre-
pared for a seeing of the invisible. By this it was that
Christ expected to be in the soul's inward beholding, as
when he said — " but ye see me." By this it was that a
whole heaven of being and society is conceived to reveal
tself to souls, when they are converted and set open to
God — "But ye are come unto mount Zion, the city of
the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an in
numerable company of angels, and to the general assem-
oly and church of the first-born which arc written in


heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits
of jnst men made perfect." And so glorious anil clear
was their inward beholding, at times, that one disciple
seemed to be caught up into some " third heaven " by
it, though the heaven, as he well understood, waa
within. Another also declared, as in vision, "I see
heaven opened," and though he "looked steadfastly
up " at the time, it was only that altitude is the natural
language, or line of direction, in such inward exaltations
So intensely perceptive, according to the scripture view
may a human soul become, when awakened inwardly
and drawn out in its higher apprehensions, after those in
visible, supernatural associations for which it is created

Assuming now the fact of a supernatural sense in
souls, which is shut up by sin, we are next to consider — •

II. How Christ, as he declares to Nathanael, will
open this suppressed faculty, and make it the organ, or
inlet, of universal society.

And here it will be remembered, that angelic visita-
tions had been coursing back and forth upon the world
and through it, in all ages, both before Christ's coming,
and at his coming, and after. Moses had gone up into
the mount and brought down tables lettered, as it \\ere,
m heaven. Fires had been kindled, from above, in sac-
rifices offered on rocks, and altars of turf. Two holy
men had been visibly translated. And yet heaven still
appears to be somehow shut. The angels — not ascend-
ing and descending, but descending and ascending — are
thought of only as having gone away, to some invisible



nowhere whence thej came. The great public miracles
only help the chosen people to believe in a kind of Jew-
God reigning under limitations, and holding their little
patch of territory for his field. Instead of catching the
Lint from so many wonders, and so many bright visi-
tants^ of a world above the world, waiting to receive
them in eternal society, it even makes them angry to
hear, that God will include, in one circle of being, all
that come to him on earth. A holy few find real ac-
cess to the king, led in, to his seat, by the teachings of
their prophets and the more secret teachings of the
Spirit. But it is a most singular fact that no one of
these, no dying saint most enlightened by holy experi-
ence, speaks, in these former ages, of going to heaven,
or even of there being a heavenly world where righteous
souls are gathered ; unless it be that one or two expres-
sions of the prophets are to be taken in that sense.
Many critics therefore have denied, that there is any
revelation of immortality, or a second life, before Christ's
coming. And we know that, when he came, it was even
an open question, whether any such being as '' angel or
spirit" really exists?

If now any one should ask what this means — how the
world above seems to be already opened if it ever can
be, and yet is shut ? — the answer is, that all this appari-
tional machinery goes on without, before men's eyes,
while the heaven of the soul is shut; and that so many
angels therefore, coming and going, are looked upoD
only as ghosts of the fancy, or at least mere outsiders
and strangers. They do not st-ay to be citizens, they


are seen only as in transiiu ; they flit across the stage
and are gone — gone, as many will think, to the same
blind nowhere that receives all phantasms.

Here then is the deeper work Christ undertakes to
do ; viz., to open the heaven of the soul itself, or, what
is nowise different, to weaken in it that higher sense, by
which it m.ay discern the supernatural being and society
of God's realm. How he does it we shall hardly be at
a loss to find.

First, he comes into the world himself, not appari-
tionally, like an irruption of angels, but he comes up, so
to speak, out of humanity, emerging into his visibly
divine glory, through a glorious and perfect manhood.
And so it comes to pass that, while they accomplish
nothing by their character, and have, in fact, no char-
acter beyond what is implied in their message, he is
bringing on his wonderful, visibly divine manhood, and
becoming, by force of his mere supernatural character
alone, the greatest miracle of time — with the advantage
that, being self-evident, even as the sun, all other mira-
cle is upheld by it. At first he appears to be only a
man among men, the Son of Mary, growing up in the
mold and mortal weakness of a man ; but his life un-
folds silently and imperceptibly, till the magnificent
proportions of his Godhood begin to appear in his man-
hood, and the tremendous fact is revealed, that a being
from above the world is living in it! Supernatural
event and character are built in solidly thus, into the
world's history, to be an integral part of it. Mere nature
is no longer all, and never can b^ again. The \Qr-y world


has another world interfused and working jointly witt

He comes too in no light figure, but in the heavy
tread of one that bears eternal government upon hia
shoulder — comes to reconcile the world, to justify, and
gather, and pacifj^, and save, the world ; " For it pleased
the Father that in him should all fullness dwell, and
having made peace by the blood of his cross, by him to
reconcile all unto himself, whether they be things in
earth or things in heaven." Everlasting order hangs
tremulous in expectation round his cross, and eternity
rings out from it, tolling in the world. As the veil of
the temple is rent, so the way into the holiest opens.
As the dead are shaken from their graves when he dies,
so the souls shut up in death are loosened from the
senses, to behold the new-sprung day. The middle
wall is now broken down, the dividing isthmus cut
through, and things in heaven, and things in earth, are
set in a common headship in his person. Heaven is
become an open door which no man shutteth, an abund-
ant and free entrance is ministered, that we may entci
with boldness into the holiest.

It is a great j)oint also, as regards the impression
effected, that every thing taught by him, in his doc-
trine, holds the footing of immortahty and eternity,
looking towards a higher and relatively supernatural
state. Nothing is allowed to stop short, within the
boundaries of time, as in the old religion. The very
law of God is carried forward into spiritual applications ;
the temporal and outward sanctions are taken away, an (J


the inmost principle of dutj under it is enforced by the
tremendous allotments of a future, everlasting state.
Outward sacrifices and remissions will not answer.
There mast be a sacrifice that purges even the con-
scieuce itself There must be a righteousness found,
that exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Phari-
sees — even the righteousness of God. Every thing in
the doctrine out-reaches nature and time, piercing even
to the dividing asunder, and stirring all the inmost
senses, sentiments, and fears of the religious nature.
Not that any mere standards, or sanctions, can force
open the shut heaven of souls ; but that, by these things,
grinding hard upon the supernatural sense, it is made
to feel a reverberative movement of the powers of the
world to come, and look in, through the rifts that are
opened in the stony casement that surrounds it.

Let us not imagine now that, by any or all these
things, the supernatural sense, or heaven of the soul, ia
really opened. These are preparations, all, including
even the cross itself — powers that move on our consent,
but without that consent accomplish no result. Nothing
done will ever accomplish that result with many ; they
will go to their graves denying that any such upper
^voi-ld of faculty is in them. But with some it will be
otherwise; they will respond, they will believe, and
tlieir faith will be the opening of heaven. In that faith
the Son of Man will be revealed, and the angels of God
ascending and descending upon him. But this faith, in
BtiU another view, is love, and here we have the grand
finality. Christ and his cross are a movement on the



world's love, and love itself is the higher sense, or ap-
prehending power of the soul. Love is perceptive;
whatever is loved is most really known, or discovered.
He tliat loveth knoweth God, and, in that manner, he
that loveth universal society knoweth universal so-
ciet)'. Worlds above the world are present to the sense
C'f love. All the immense longings of souls after uni-
versal society are consummated and crowned, when
they are issued in love. And this is the opening of the
soul, this the state and character which are its heaven —
the kingdom of God wdthin.

And what a finding of the soul will it be! what a
sublime privity of knowledge will it reveal! when
Christ, as in the promise made to Nathanael, shall have
made it conscious eternally, in this manner, of the para-
dise hid in its own higher faculty, so long shut up and

Some very important consequences follow, in the train
of the subject thus presented, and with these I conclude.

1. The real merit of the issue made up between Christ
and the naturalizing critics of his gospels is here dis-
tinctly shown. Professing much respect to his character,
they are offended by the supernatural matters reported
in his life, and set themselves at work to produce a new
Christianity, without either miracle or mystery, or more
than natural fact in it — and, of course, without even
Christ himself, who is the greatest miracle of all.
Christ, on the other hand, undertakes to give them,
over and above the supernatural facts they reject^


supernatural evidences ; viz., to set open a higher range
of faculty in tliem related to himself and all supernatu-
ral beings, and so to find them at the point of deeper
sentiments and apprehensions in their nature, than they
are themselves aware of. They do not even imagine,
that they have any thing included in their nature, above
the mere basement story so much investigated and mag-
nified by the philosophers ; viz., reason, memory, imag-
ination, affectional capacities and the like, including,
perhaps, a merely moral, in distinction from a religious,
conscience ; practically ignoring, because they are shut,
the sublime upper ranges of their spiritual nature — their
transcendent affinities prepared for immense supernat
ural relations, their capacities to apprehend what is
above the test of mere intellectual judgments, divine
being, viz., and concourse, and the flow and reflow of
God's universal society. The heaven of their nature
being shut, and the supernatural sense practically un-
discovered, they proceed to bring the great questions of
the gospels down for trial before the basement court of
their criticism ; where it results, that having made their
souls small enough for their doctrine, they have no
great difficulty in making their doctrine small enough
for their souls.

They are men of high talent, if any talent is high
m the lower ranges only of the nature, they are some
of them scholars specially advanced in their culture, but
talent and scholarship are, alas, how pitiably shriveled
in their figure, when they undertake to handle the
questions of religion, without so much as a couceptioD


of the inherently supernatural relations and discerning
powers of the religious mind. Wh}^, the humble, guile-
less Nathanaels, who never had a speculation in their
lives, but have the heaven of their faith set open, and
have found the Son of Man deep set in. the heart's own
center, have a better competence in the supernatural
than Hennel, or Parker, or Strauss, or Renan, or than
all these brilliant gospel extirpators together. No, gen-
tlemen, Christ did not come to be approved before the
tribunal of your mere logic, or lore, or critical acumen,
but before a nobler and more competent, which, though
it be in you, is yet hidden from you. Having a nature
boundlessly related to the supernatural, flowering never^
save in the knowledge and concourse of supernatural
society, you put your critical extinguishers on it and
stifle it, and then you can even triumph in the discovery
that all you most sublimely want is incredible — scien-
tifically impossible ! Hardly could you make yourselves
a more fit mark for Christian pity ; for, with all your
fine stores of learning, you are in fact the least knowing
men of your day. Would that Christ might only find
you, in that glorious opening of the nature of which he
speaks ; what a revelation would it be — and, first of all,
because it would be a revelation so wonderful of your-
selves !

You assume that you can settle questions of being, or
not being — supernatural being, or not being — by logic,
and criticism, and the processes of the head, even as you
do questions of thought, or idea. Can you then reason
a rock, as being or not being, in that manner ? ISTo,


you will answer; subjects of being can not, in the first
instance, be thought or reasoned, they can only be
cognized, or perceived, by the senses. And so it is of
all supernatural being, God, angels, worlds above the
world, universal society ; they are known only as they
are cognized, by the supernatural sensing of the spiritual
man ; or, what is nowise different, by faith. And when
it is done, they are had in as complete evidence even aja
the solids of matter. I do not undertake to say what
particular facts of the gospel will, or will not be proved
in this manner, but only that nothing will be rejected,
because it is supernatural. The soul will be going after
things supernatural and the commerce of the supernatu-
ral society, because it is practically open to their con-
course. Here then is Christ, on one side, contriving
how to open this immense upper world of the soul, and
you, on your side, protesting that there is not, and must
not be, any such upper world in you. He would make
the soul a sky-full of glorious and blessed concourse,
and you set yourselves to it, as a problem worthy of
your industrj^, to make it a cavern ! His work may be
a hard one, but yours will be much harder. The
emptiness of j^our cavern will ring back answers,
stronger to most men, after all, than your arguments.
For heaven is as much a necessity to men as bread, and
souls can no more live without the supernatural, than
the senses without matters of sense. In the same way —
2. We have given back to us, here, the most solid,
only sufficient proof of our immortality. How often do
we stagger at this point, even the best of us. All mere


rational arguments, here, fall quite short of the mark
They never established any body. And yet every man
ought to know his immortality, even as he knows that
he is alive. He is made, to have an immediate, self-
asserting consciousness of immortality, and would never
have a doubt of it, if he had not shut up and darkened
the divine side of the soul. And for just the same
reason, Christ, when he opens the soul, opens immor-
tality also. What was so dimly revealed, under the old
religion, stands out visible everywhere under the new.
There is no room here for a Sadducee to live. The
metropolis of the world is here in Christ's person, and
the visitants of all unknown spheres crowd about him,
ascending and descending upon him. And they are all
certified to our faith, by his supernatural character.
We grow familiar thus with spirit, realize it, and know it
in ourselves. Immortality ! why the dead Christ proves
it. And again the resurrection proves it ; for what could
such a being do but rise ? It would even be a greater
wonder if he did not. Away to their native abyss fly
all our doubts — life and immortality are brought to
light through the gospel ! It only remains —

3. To note precisely, as we can at no other point of
view, the meaning of salvation, or the saving of souls.
Christ does not undertake to save them as they are —
only half existing in the plane of nature. Do we call it
saving the hand, that we save it in all but the fingers?
Is it saving an eye, that we save it in all but the sight ?
Do we save a tree, when we save the stump and the
roots, and not the leafy crown of shade and flower ?


No more is it sa\ ing a soul to save the economic under-
work only of opinion, judgment, memory, and the like.
These are not the soul, and if we take them to be, we
only come as near saying, as possible, that the soul is
gone already. And it is in just this condition that
Christ finds us — 0, that he might also find us in the
deeper sense of his promise ! He comes to the soul as
having a whole heaven hid in its possibilities, which
heaven is shut up, which possibilities are even ignored
and hid. He finds it made little, a fire almost gone out.
Belated constitutionally to a vast supernatural society,
and to ranges of life and knowledge, as much broader
than all causes and laws of the world, as eternity is
broader than time, he undertakes to open it again upon
its true field, relieve the pinch of its compression, give
it enlargement, and make it truly live. Whatever man
of opinion, taking on the airs of science, tells him that
his gospel is incredible because it is supernatural, will
get no answer, but that his soul is very nearly gone out
already, and is wanting simply salvation. And just here
it is that the soul gets such an immense lifting of pitch,
and outspreading of dimensions, when it comes to
Christ. The coming unto Christ is, in another view,
Christ coming unto it and being revealed in it. Even
as the apostle says — "When it pleased God to reveal
his Son in me." And what a revelation was it to him I
— as great proportionally to all who receive it. It is as
if they had gotten a new soul, with a heaven-full of
society gathered round the Son of Man there revealed.
Therefore it is called "the new man ;" not because it is


new, for it is older even tlian the old man put away,
being ilie original, normal man of Paradise, hitherto
stifled and suppressed ; still it is new, all things are
new. The change is so great as to be sometimes even
bewildering. It is as if some wondrous, unknown light
bad broken in; the whole skj is luminous. The soul
is in day ; for the day has dawned and the day-star is
risen. God, eternity, immortality, universal love and
society — into these broad ranges it has come, and in
these it is free, having them all for its element and its
conversation in them, as in heaven. The unknowing
state, the old, blank ignorance that was, because of the
blindness of the heart, is gone ; and a wondrous knowl-
edge opens because the heart can see. Before it was a
doubter possibly, mighty in opinion, wise in the wisdom
of this world, pleased with its own questions and
reasons, now it has come up where the light is, and the
old questions and reasons do not mean any thing — the
judgments of moles, in matters of astronomy, are as
good. 0, what strength, and majesty, and general
height of being, are felt in the new life begun ! And
this is salvation ! great because it saves, not some small
part of the soul, but because it saves and glorifies the
sublime whole; restoring its integrity and proportion,
and setting it complete in God's own order, as in ever-
lasting life. Who could wish it to do less? who could
ask it to do more? Seminary-Speer L.brar:

1 1012 01147 5300

Date Due

*J ^'

N 22 '9




1 1

! 1 1

Ap la '4i

> i

Ad S n


4 ■



^^-—-^ 1

^*.««.— ^ 1


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