Horace Bushnell.

Select works (Volume 1) online

. (page 6 of 29)
Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

jumps of transition ! how incongruous, unaccountable,
and wild ! Could the internal picture be mapped to the
eye, what eye could trace it ! It is as if the soul were
an instrument played by demons. How unlike to the
sweet flow of order and health in the mind of an angel.
The metaphysicians do indeed make up their solutions,
showing how every thing goes on by a law of sugges-
tion or association in a strictly normal process. Their
farthing candle gives a very little faint light, wholly
insufficient, however, as regards the main question
The single word disease tells more than all their specu
lations. Watching these wild ways of thought, we dis-
tinguish a ferment of death, and not the flow of life.
The look is abnormal ; as if the soul were in a kind
of dissolution. No man, duly observing thus himself,
will easily doubt that he is somehow lost. The appall-
ing doubt, whether he can ever be saved will be more
natural. What a work indeed to save him, restore him,
that is, to the state of inward health, raise him up into
the orderly movement of angelic life, and make the car
rents flow m^elodious and clear.

Glance now a moment, at the disabilities that have
somehow come upon you, in what the Saviour calls


voar lost condition. You never encountered any
trouble, it may be, on this point, never thought of being
under any such disability as he speaks of. Have you not
your will, your strong will left? Yes, but the difficulty
is to execute, or carry through what you will to be done.
When you resolve to govern yourself, thus or thus, or
to be this or that, according to some ideal conceived,
does your soul mind you? do you become forthwith
such as you undertook to be ? Are there no currents
of habit encountered, no floods of contrary impulse, no
volcanic fires of irritation, that prove quite too strong
for you? Suppose you determine with all seriousness,
now, or at some future time, to begin a religious hfe.
Is it begun ? You find base motives creeping into your
mind, which you disrespect and determine to shut them
away. Do you succeed ? You grow sick of the world
in one form or another, and rise up to cast it out. Does
it go ? You conceive a true notion of spiritual dignity
and beauty of character, and set yourself to the attain-
ment. Do you reach it? Try a thing more brave and
certainly not less necessary; take stiff hold of your
thoughts, set your will down upon them and still their
tumult, and tame their wild way, into the sweet order
of health and rational proceeding. Can you do it?
Could any thing be more preposterous even than to try ?
And 3-et there is no true perfection of soul that does
not include even this ; including also, in the same way,
all that belongs to internal order, proportion, agree-
ment, and a full consent of all functions and powers.
Have you courage to undertake such perfection ? This



now is the verj' profound disability m which Christ
finds you yourself. Perhaps you never saw it before,
but he looks upon you tenderly in ii, and counts you
to be lost — is any thing more certainly, manifestly true?
This brings me to speak —

III Of the salvation — what it is, and by what means
or methods it is wrought. Too short a space is left me,
you will see, to allow an}^ thing but a very condensed
statement. Excluding then all that may be held, or
contended for, as regards the matter of expiation for sin,
or the final satisfaction of God's justice, in the death of
Christ — which can, at the most, be no proper salvation
from the inward disorder and disability we have discov-
ered — we come directly to the question, how the death
is quickened, how the lost condition of the old man is,
or is to be, renewed by Christ, in his work considered
as a salvation ?

Manifestly this can be done only by some means, or
operation, that respects the soul's free nature, working
in, upon, or through consent in, us, and so new ordering
the soul.

Not then, by some divine act in the force principle
of omnipotence, some new creating stroke from behind,
that restores our disorder ; the change thus accom-
plished is a mending by repair, and not a recovery ;
omnipotence, not Christ, is the Saviour.

As little is it by some help given to your develop-
ment, or self-culture, or even self- reformation. When
Lord Chesterfield gives disquisitions on the elegant

thelostcojs^dition. y<

properties of good manners and polite conduct, he
speaks to men as having a power to fashion themselves
by his rules. Christ is no professor of goodness in that
way. He calls you never to go about being better.
He does not so much as call upon you to stifle your deep
hunger, by satisfying your own wants. He does not
even put you climbing after the glorious ideals you
have, and the still more glorious he gives you from his
own life and person ; as if you could get inspiration
from these to raise yourself. The Chesterfieldian
method, and the merely moral of Socrates, are not his.
These were instructors, not Saviours, speaking both to
men, not to lost men — what you want, and what Christ
undertakes to be, is a Saviour for lost men. No scheme
of Christianity, so called, includes a gospel, which does
not include this. Any Christ, who does not come to
save lost men, is antichrist, or at best no Christ at all ;
for who can be the Lord's true Christ, not coming, as
life to death, peace within to discord within, order to
disorder, liberty to bondage?

We must look, in fact, for some such being as can
be a World's Regenerator ; making good the fact that
God has not created us for a lost condition, but for salva-
tion. Doubtless it may be true that God could not bring
us on as free, by an}^ straight line progress of develop-
ment, into the character he meant for us, and the relation
to Himself, that was to be our joy and his. As ihe
ancient poets tell us of this or that hero of theirs, who
went down to hell, fought away the th^ee-headed dog
at the gate, and passed the Stygian river and when the


grim reconnoisance was over, forced his way haek,
even by the judgment bar of Eadamanthus, out into
the light; so there was to be, we may believe, an epic
descent of souls into the hell-state of disorder and j udi-
cial condemnation, and a bursting up again, out of their
penal imprisonment, into life and free dominion. But
if the soul-history could aot be a simply quiet educing
of good, if it must be inherently terrible, plunging
down through gulfs of disaster and loss, in the mad
experiment of wrong, even as it is itself inherently
free ; then a Saviour is required who can sound the
bottom of such gulfs, and bring np the lost ones, into
that good and glory eternal for which they were made.
This is Christ the Lord, coming, as in everlasting coun-
sel, to execute a salvation prepared before the founda-
tion of the world.

He works by no fiat of absolute will, as when God
said " let there be light." He respects your moral
nature, doing it no violence. He moves on your con-
sent, by moving on your convictions, wants, sensibil-
ities, and sympathies. He is the love of God, the
beauty of God, the mercy of God — God's whole char-
acter, brought nigh through a proper and true Son of
Man, a nature fellow to your own, thus to renovate
and raise your own. Meeting you at the point of } >ur
fall and disorder, as being himself incarnated into the
corporate evil of your state, he brings you God's gieat
feeling to work on yours. He is deeply enough entered
into your case, to let the retributive causes loosened by
your sin roll over him in his innocence, doing honor


tlius to God's judicial order, that yon may see it suffi-
ciently hallowed without your punishment. And that
he may get the greater and more constraining power
over you, he reveals to you by his suffering death, the
suffering state of God's perfection — stung by the
wrongs, and moved in holy grief for the sad and
shameful lot of his fallen children. His suffering is in
fact the tragic hour of divine goodness ; for what to our
slow feeling, is even eternal goodness, till we see it tragi-
cally moved? Nay, it was even necessary, if trans-
gressors were to have their dull heart opened to
this goodness, that they should see it persecuted and
gibbeted by themselves. Thus, and therefore, he dies,
raising by his death at our hands, those terrible con-
victions that will rend our bosom open to his love —
dies for love's sake into love in us. So he will become
the power of God unto salvation, gathering you in, as it
were, with all your disorders, into the infolding, new-
creating sympathy of his own character in good ; so
that being thus infolded in him, all your disproportion,
discord, disability, and all wild tumult of the mind
will be new crystallized in his divine order. Thus ends
the ferment of death, succeeded by the harmony and
health of new-born life. In this view it was that
Christ said, "I am the life." And the same thing was
differently put, when he said " and I, if I be lifted
up, will draw all men unto me." He would draw
by his death, moving on consent and choice, so to ga'iher
in fill our disorder, into the molds of his own per-
fect life.



And tliis is salvation, the entering of tt.e soul inta
God's divine order ; for nothing is in order that is not
in G-od, having God flow through it by his perfect will,
even as he swaj^s to unsinning obedience the tides of the
sea, and the rounds of the stars. As we are lost men
when lost to God, so we find ourselves when we find
G od. And then, how consciously do the soul's broken
members coalesce and meet in Christ's order, when
Christ hveth in them. In this new relationship, the
spirit of love and of a sound mind, all strength, free
beauty, solid vigor, get their spring — we are no more
lost. All that is in God or Christ his Son, flows in
upon us — wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemp-
tion. We are new men created in righteousness after
God. Even so, "in righteousness;" for we are new-
charactered in God, closeted so to speak in God's per-
fections — in that manner justified, as if we had never
dnned, justified by faith. We have put on righteous-
less, and in it we are clothed ; even the righteousness
of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and
upon all them that believe.

This is the salvation that our God is working in his
Son, but as the great apostle here intimates, it is, and is
to be, by faith ; for the result can never be issued save
as we, on our part believe. The very plan, or mode of
his working supposes a necessity of faith in us. For
as God comes nigh us in his son, he can be a salva-
tion, only as we come nigh responsively to Him, yieldmg
our feeling to the cogent working of his. And this
we do in faith. Faith is the act by which one being


confides in another, trusting up himself to that other,
in what he is and undertakes. And there is nothing
that puts a man so close to another's feeling, principle,
and character, as this act of trust. When you put such
faith in a man, his opinions, ways, and even accents of
voice have a wonderfully assimilative power in yci.
It is as if your life were overspread by his, included in
his. To be nigh a great good mind, accepted in trust
and friendship, is, in this manner, one of the greatest
possible advantages, and especially so for a young per-
son. In this fact you have the reason of that faith in
Christ which is made the condition of salvation. For
it is even your chance of salvation, as a lost man, that
a being has come into the world, so great in character
and feeling, that turning to be with him, he shall be in
yc u. And therefore, it is that his apostle says — " Christ
the power of God to every one that believeth;" and he
himself — "he that believeth shall be saved." He can
be no sufficient power, work no principle of life, save
as he is welcomed to the heart by faith. In the same
w\ay, he calls you to " come," for coming is faith. And
when he says, " come unto me all ye that are weary and
heavy laden, learn of me and ye shall find rest to your
souls," he does not speak, as many think, to such as are
only afflicted, world-sick, tired, pining in weal^: self-
sympath}^, but to them who are weary of their own
evils, tosscvi and rent by their own disorders, thrown
out of rest by the tumult of their thoughts and bosom
troubles, starving in their own deep wants, crushed by
their felt disabilities to good — in a word, lost men.


Thus he speaks to you. And you come when you
truly beheve in him. Then you rest, rest in God's har
mony, rest in peace — knowing in the blissful revelation
of fact, how much it means that the Son of Man ij
come to save that which was lost.


''^Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the ioildernes$
to he tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty
days and forty nights^ he was afterward an hungered^ —
Math. iv. 1-2.

I think I do not mistake, when I assume that thia
particular chapter of the gospel history, commonly
called the temptation^ is just the one that a good many
theologians, and a much larger number of Christian
disciples, do really, if not consciously, wish had not
oeen written ; that which most stumbles their specula-
tion, and least fructifies their spiritual impressions;
that which wears the most suspiciously mythic look,
that which they skip most frequently in the reading, or,
if they read, only gather up their minds to go on with
due attention, after they are through with it.

Jesus Immanuel, the eternal Word incarnate, inno-
cence itself and purity, the only perfect being that ever
trod the earth, fasting ! opening his great ministry of
life in a fast of forty days, and a conflict with the devil
for so long a time ! Coming down, as he himself declares,
from heaven, to set up the kingdom of God among men,
he goes to his work as if it were a deed of repentance —
out of a desert, out of a fast — inaugurating his sublime


kingship by austerities and fierce mental confliets, such
as guilt}^ souls might undergo for their chastening.
The picture is incongruous, many think, and revolting tc
faith. Besides they have a settled disrespect to fasting

Wnat I propose then at the present time, is a careful
inquiry into the matter. — The fasting of Jesus in the
wilderness. My hope is, that I shall be able to clear
this remarkable scene of what many regard as its for-
bidding, or unwelcome aspect. I even hope to open
up a conception of it that will place it along side of the
agony and the cross, and will make it correspondently
dear to all most thoughtful, practically earnest souls.

In the descent of the Spirit upon him at his baptism,
he passes his great inward crisis of call and endowment,
the effect of which the gospels report, in terms that
require to be distinctly noted ; saying, one that he is
"led up," [transported,] another, that he is "led," [taken
away,] another, that he is "driven" by the Spirit into
the wilderness. Under all these rather violent forms
of expression, the fact is signified, that the Spirit,
coming here upon him in the full revelation of his
call, raises such a ferment, in his bosom, of great
thoughts and strangely contesting emotions, that he is
hurried away to the wilderness, and the state of privacy
before God, for relief and settlement. He was not
wholly unapprised of his Messiahship before, bui had
come to no adequate impression of what, as Messiah,
he was to do and to be. He began at twelve years of


age, to talk, in words profoundly enigmatical to his
friends, of being "about his Father's business." He
was reading also, from that time onward, the prophets,
so often quoted by him afterward, and his soul wa^
making answer more and more consciously to their
words, even as a bell that chimes responsively to some
quivering harmony of sound that is felt upon the air.
Still he was so far from expecting a public inaugural in
John's baptism, that when John objects, saying "comest
thou to me?" he only pleads the comnion reason of
the multitude, a desire "to fulfill all righteousness," in
the accepting of John's righteous ministry.

As he was human, so there was to be a humanly
progressive opening of his mind, and a growing pre-
sentiment of his great future. All which makes the
revelation, when it comes, only the greater and more
astounding, because he is just so much more capable of
taking the fit impression of it. Nor does it make any
difference what particular account we frame of his
person. If there is a divine-nature soul, and a human-
nature soul, existing together in him as one person,
that one person must be in the human type, unfolding by
a human process, toward the consciously great Mes-
siahship he is going to fulfill. If he is pure divinity
incarnate, he is not simply housed or templed in the
flesh, biit inhumanized, categorized in humanity, there
to grow, to learn, to be unfolded under human condi-
tions of progress.

And then it is only a part of the same general view,
that when his endowment settles upon him, as it does id


the scene of his baptism, it raises iu liis feeling just tliG
same kind of commotion that is raised in any /ery great
and really upright human soul— as, for example, in that
0/ a prophet — when his call arrives. There has been a
mighty apprehension waking gradually in him before,
and now there is a mighty breaking in, as it were at
once, of the tremendous call; all the great movings
attendant — sentiments, misgivings, joys of hope, agonies
of concern — coming in with it, like the coming in of the
sea. The surges break all round him, and the little
skiff of humanity that he has taken for his voyage
quivers painfully — quivers even the worse that it feels the
heavy armament aboard of so great purpose and power.
An amazing transformation is suddenly wrought in
his consciousness. As heaven opens above to let forth
the voice, and let down the power, and the gate is set
open before him to let him forward into his great future
as a world's Eedeemer ; as every thing opens every way
to prepare his mighty kingship, and he feels the Mes-
sianic forces heaving in his breast, he reels so to speak,
under the new sense he has of himself and his charge,
moved all through in a movement so tremendous that
every faculty groans in the pressure, like a forest sway-
ing in a storm. And the result is that he does what he
must — tears himself utterly away from the incontinent
folly of human voices, and the sorry conceit of human
faces, and plunges into the deep silence and solitude of
the wilderness ; there to settle his great inward commo«
tions and compose himself to his call. He is "driven
of the Spirit," only in the sense that the crisis brought


apon him by his call and felt endowment drives him.
And he goes 'Ho be tempted of the devil," only in tlie
sense that, being so mightily heaved by his inward
commotion, he both is and will be tempted thus, till lie
finds his point of rest, and settles into his plan of

As to the fast itself, it is not likely that he had any
thought of fasting, when he betook himself to the le-
tirement of the wilderness ; he only found, when there,
that a fast was upon him, and since it might help
him to subdue his partly intractable humanity more
completely to his uses, he took it for his opportunity,
refusing to come out into the sight of the world's works
and faces, to obtain his customary food. The great
inward tumult he was in held him thus to his fasting
for a whole forty days, and so deep was the stress of his
feeling, that he does not appear to have been particu-
larly conscious of hunger, till the very last of it ; when
as we are told "he began to be an hungered" — all
which, as many are forward to say, is a myth, or, if
not, a perfectly incredible story ; no mortal organization
being able to subsist for so long a time without food.
And yet we hear every few months, of cases well
attested that correspond. There appears in fact, to be
a possible state of mental and nervous tension, that
allows the subject to maintain life without food, for a
much longer time than he could in the quiet equili-
brium of a more natural state.

But what is Christ doing in this long solitude and


silence of the wilderness? To say that he is fasting
does not satisfy our inquiry. The fast, we can see, ia
total ; not a fasting from food only, but from the com^
forts of human habitations, trom conversation, from
society, and even from public worship in the synagogrie,
where *'his custom" was, even from his childhocd, to
be always present. Isolated thus from the great world,
and closeted with God in that grim wilderness, there is
of course, no one to report him and he has not chosen
to report himself; save that, in the very closing scene
of his exhaustion, which is often called "the tempta-
tion," he allows the veil to be lifted.

Who has not wished many times, that he could have
the record of these forty days ? And yet they may be
worth even the more to us, that the record is not
given — left with a veil hung over it, left to the imag-
ination ; by that only, as the purveyor to faith and
sympathy, to be explored and pictured as it may be in
its scenes, for there is nothing so fructifying as the sup-
plying fondly of what is not given us in our Master's
history, but is left, in this manner, to our creative lib-
erty. In this view, certain blank spaces were even
necessary, it may be to our complete benefit in the
record of his life. Had he kept a complete diary for
us of the forty days experience, it might have been a
far less fruitful chapter, than the almost total blank he
has left us to range in, loosing our love in tender explo-
rations and reconnoisances, and constructing a liistorj
for our faith, out of the scantiest helps given to our


Among tLe few tilings given, or whieh we <5Mfficicntly
know, are such as these; that he is not bewailing his
sins; that he is not afflicting himself purposely ii
penances of hunger and starvation ; that he is not
wrestling with the question whether he will undertake
the work to which he is called. The first he can not be
doing, because he has no sins to bewail ; nor the second,
because he is no believer in the doctrine of penance :
nor the third, because his choices are concluded alwaj^s,
by the simple fact that any thing right or good is given
him to do. If by reason of his human weakness he
suffers, for a time, great revulsions of body and mind,
that do not pertain to his voluntary nature, that is
quite another matter. We shall find reason to think it
may be true.

But these are negations only, and I think we shall
be able to fix on several very important points, where
we know sufficient in the positive, to justify a large de-
duction, concerning the probable nature of the struggle
through which Jesus is here passing.

1. He has a nature, that, in part, is humanly derived,
so far an infected, broken nature. He has never sinned,
he has lived in purity, under this humanly impure in-
vestment ; growing more and more distinctly conscious
of those higher affinities by which he thus dominates
over the human, unable to be soiled by its contact.
But now it is opened to him in his call, that he is hero
not as here belonging, that he is sent, let down into the
world incarnated into human evil, into the curse.
There must have been some time at whi.^h the sense of


tliis fact became fullj developed in Mm ; doubtless it
was partly developed before, but it could not be com-
pletely till now, because his Messiahship, or mission
of salvation to sinners, requiring him to be incarnated
into tlie very fall and broken state of sin, was not
before opened to him. Now it is opened, and the
whole relation he is in flashes upon him. Before he
had the contact of evil in a simply quiet mastery, now
he has it in the grim discovery, that he is membered into
it! Feeling himself incorporated thus into the corpo-
rate evil of the world, to bear its woe and shame, and
hate and wrong, as being of the common humanity, he
shudders in horrid recoil and revulsion — takes himself
away into the desert, there to wrestle with his feeling,
till he gets ready to bear the sin of the world with a
mind leveled to the burden of its ignominy. For a

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 6 of 29)