Horace Bushnell.

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blood." It is only redemption now that carries on the
counsel of Providence, and opens the seals thereof.
John s book of Revelation becomes, in this manner, a
book of Providence all through, celebrating, as the cri
ses arrive, all the overturn ings of Christ s advancing
empire, with successive hymns and acclamations ;
chanting everywhere the Lamb, the Lamb, the Lamb
that was slain ; sometimes, when public wrong is incor
rigible ancl fierce, the wrath, and always the victory
of the Lamb ; closing off at the river that proceedeth
out of the throne of God and the Lamb ; and showing
there installed and everlastingly established, a glorious
and complete Lamb-Providence for the world.

Once more and briefly, I must carry up my subject
a stage higher, and show you the world of the glori
fied crystallizing and crystallized, in the all-dominat-


ing sway of the Lamb. The everlasting, universal
kingdom reigns by him " Of whom the whole family
in heaven and earth is named." It is not in the dy
namics of God s nature, the will, the counsel, the oper
ative work and purpose, that the kingdom is organ
ized, save as these are first organized under his blessed
dispositions ; we nowise give the true account, till we
say, " to make all men see what is the fellowship of
the mystery, which, from the beginning of the world,
hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus
Christ." There he is in the throne where he fitly be
longs " That at the name of Jesus every knee should
bow of things in heaven, and things in earth, and
things under the earth. And that every tongue
should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of
God the Father." Therefore, " Blessing, and honor,
and glory, and power, be with him that sitteth upon
the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever."

There comes out now, my friends, in the closing of
this great subject, a question which I have not so
much as named, though it has all along been urgently
propounding itself; viz., what of the deity of Christ?
Is he the Lamb in the throne, or is he not ? And if
lie is not, what of Christianity ? For one, I really do
not know. In this article of Lambhood, and the cor
onation state which reveals it, I behold the major-part
and supreme glory of deity ; and without this major-
part I really do not see much in God to attract me.
I do not very much want a God whose endowments


and quantities, such as human thought and philosophy
muster, are the principal sum of his nature. But I
want a God relational to my sin and my redemption,
a God whose sensibilities and self-renouncing passibili-
ties are the containing causes of his dispositions, and
the determining causes, in that manner, of his charac
ter and counsel. Such is the God our scriptures offer
us, and the story of the Lamb ended off, by the
crowning of the Lamb, is really the dearest and grand
est of all the divine evidences ; and when we distin
guish this most tender and sufficiently authorized
pledge of forgiveness in the throne, where God, as
being the Lamb, hangs out his flag of sorrow, calling
us back, we shall want, I think, no other evidence of
his deity than what we have in our feeling.



" And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the
Son also be subject unto him that put all things under him, that
God may be all in all." 1 Cor. 15 : 28.

THAT Christ is to be in some sense eternal, and the
eternal joy of all believers, we can not willingly
doubt. Or if any one may turn this rather singularly
marked passage of scripture, in a way to make it sig
nify his being sometime merged in God, so as to be no
longer discoverable, whether in his person, or in his
kingdom, we may easily set the declaration of Christ
himself over against it " And if I go and prepare a
place for you, I will come again and receive you unto
myself, that where I am there ye may be also." A
full hundred other passages equally explicit might be
added from the gospels and the epistles, all affirming
it as a principal distinction of the heavenly felicity,
that Christ is eternally present in it, giving recogni
tions of his friendship, and permitting free approach
to his person. A very great part of them indeed
are also from Paul, and it is no wise probable that
what he says in one is to contradict and overturn all
he teaches in the others. There is no way then,
as we may see at a glance, but to seek some interme-

ETC. 443

diate and modified construction of his one passage,
that will accommodate the faith declared in so many
others, of a future felicity, constituted by the presence
of Christ with and among his people. In doing which
we raise the very important, and, to all right living in
the gospel hope, grandly practical question,

What kind of personal relation to Christ we are to hope
for and hold, as our authorized and fixed expectation, for
the future life f

I confess that I undertake this question partly for
rny own sake, hoping to be drawn by the deliberate
treatment of it, towards conceptions more satisfactory
and determinate. And if it should happen that this
is the last sermon I am permitted to give, it will not
be amiss that, for once, I have preached to myself. It
may be too that others, who are waiting for the veil to
be lifted, want the same kind of help that I thus con
fessedly seek on my own account.

Among those who hold the Trinity more lightly, or
in a more nearly Sabellian way, as a dramatizing of
God to serve the occasional uses of redemption, it is
common to assume the discontinuance of it, when the
uses of redemption no longer require it. Having com
pleted the subjugation of evil, the Son is now to be
subject himself, that God, who has put all things un
der him, may be all in all. God is thus reduced back
to his complete normal unity. Trinity is gone, and
the absolute One, the strictly Unitarian God, has the
whole field to himself.


But there is a fatal want of depth in this concep
tion. If there was a necessity of the Three to carry
on the redemption of the world, as this partly Sabel-
lian view supposes, it was not a necessity of sin, but
of mind finite mind, all finite mind ; existing there
fore ab ceterno in ceternum. Besides a further account
of the matter is possible, showing that God s person
ality, and also his practical infinity are no otherwise
maintainable, than by means of trinity. An imper
sonal God, such as pantheism offers, is a merely Infin
ite Tiling, in which all our religious instincts are
mocked ; finding no attribute of rationality, or love, or
moral consciousness, that permits dependence, or even
the sense of a personal relation. We must therefore
have, we say, a personal God ; and we make issue for
God under that word. He is either personal, we feel,
or else he is naught.

And yet God is not a person we are obliged to
deny what we affirm in the word. He is only a person
in the sense that he is a rock, or a sun, or a sea. He
is not a literal rock, sun, sea, but only these in a figure.
So he is no literal person, but an infinite substance,
shadowed to our feeling in such qualities as belong to
person, borrowing this finite figure from ourselves. If
w r e understand ourselves, we only mean by the word,
that his. incomprehensible nature is such as to permit
us a practically social relation. After all, his person
ality is best affirmed, only when he is represented as
three persons. For if we call him one person, as in
the supposed better philosophy of the Unitarian teach-


ing, using and reiterating always that finite person-
figure, it results in a gradual and inevitable sinking of
God s magnitudes, till lie falls into place in the pro
nouns of our grammar, as being virtually one of our
selves working in our humanly personal methods of
/ conjecture, computation, inference, reasoning by
words, thinking one thought after another, willing in
new determinations. We try to save ourselves from
this collapse in idea, by adding on the epithet infinite
as a magnifier ; and it is as if God were only a man
written large, without any thing added for enlarge
ment ; for if we call him an infinite person, the noun,
person, is the only part of our designation that has
any positive meaning, and the adjective, infinite, is
merely a negative of boundary that indicates our
purpose of enlargement, while adding nothing, as re
gards the divine quantities, to accomplish it. And just
here we discover the real merit and value of trinity,
in that it saves the just dimensions of God s attributes,
without making an impersonal platitude of his infini-
ty. As the grammatic one person for God is a finite
figure, so are each of the three. They are, therefore,
neither one nor three, a completely exact notation for
God ; but the three, when taken all together, do com
pose a large approximation, the best that human lan
guage permits. Set in personal relativity with each
other and with us, they preserve and keep always in
sight, the personal quality, or function ; creating, at
the same time, a maze for the mind, by the indefinable
cross relations of three persons, such as practically in-


finite the conception of God s nature ; which they do
by raising a pitch of mystery that prevents any men
tal collapse into the always diminishing effect of-*a
single person.

We help ourselves in the conceiving of space in a
way strongly analogous. We call it infinite space, well
knowing that we are weak on the adjective. We
then take up three lines of direction, length, breadth,
and height, and running them out till we are obliged
to stop for we can not make them more than finite
we give them as our notations of infinite space. And
yet the lines are not space at Tall, they are only instru
mentations by which we conceive it. In much the
same way, we conceive the infinite personality of God,
by three persons, all grammatically finite. They are
instrumentations inherently necessary to all finite
mind, and, being necessary, God can never be thought
of in any world without them, so as to save the full effect
of his personality, and the proximately full impression
of his greatness. They are just as necessary for the
due conceiving of God, as the three lines were just
now seen to be for the conceiving of space.

If now it should occur to some one that our trinity is
grounded thus in ourselves that is in our finite want
and belongs in no sense possibly to God ; and if it
should be demanded, since three finite persons, or
images of such, are wanted to preserve the magnitudes
of God, why not six, or sixty ? it may fairly be answered ;
first, that too great a number would produce distrac
tion, landing us in all the vices and weaknesses of poly-


theism. Probably three persons come about as near
producing distraction as it may be advisable to go ;
creating a maze that, being carried farther, might
fatally unsettle the composure of our faith. Six lines
of direction, or sixty, might do something to help out
our conception of space, but the three just named will
do more. But, secondly and more decisively, it may
be answered, that there are reasons, or distinctions in
God s own nature, as thought by us, answering exactly
to our necessity as finite beings, which fix the number
three to be the number of the persons. Thus, as we
just now found three lines of direction, which may be
called the categories of space, so there are three prin
cipal categories in the nature of God, which take up
or contain, as far as finite thought is concerned, all
that he is. Thus we may think God as the All-Fa
ther, the Original Base or Fontal Source, out of whom
all things proceed and at whom all beginnings begin ;
also as the Word or Expression Principle, the All-
Beautiful and ideally Perfect Form of God s Intelli
gence and Holiness which Word is Son, as being the
perpetually born image of the Father, when he thinks
himself, and bodies himself to us also as the Perva
sive Spirit or Going-Through Principle, by which God
moves and sovereignly Imbreathes in us and things
the Everlasting Waft of Deity. So we have, in these
three categories, the composite material of God ex
haustively conceived, as Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
Nothing more can be added, which they will not take
in. And these three categories we represent as per-


sons. Which three are persons only in some undefina-
ble way that puts them in practical relationship with
us. They do not move transitionally in space. They
neither forget nor remember but always absolutely
know. They have no new thoughts and no personal
development. They do not plan among facts, but in
the everlasting possibilities back of facts. And yet
they are so related to our moral and social nature, that
we can be sure of an approach and an experimental
realization. We call them persons, not knowing ex
actly what we affirm, and yet none the less confident
that we are affirming what is somehow related to our
inmost social life. Our image is imperfect, but it is as
good as the grammar of human speech allows. Or if
some one should suggest that for aught that appears
our personal pronoun they, covering confessedly person
alities we can not definitely conceive, but can only
play into our socially religious nature, may after all be
only neuter plurals, plurals of it, such as grammar en
dows with imputed personality when in fact they have
none, it must be enough to answer, that by setting
them, the persons in trinity, as one that is three
and three that are one, we affirm a cross identity and
coalescence that is not possible of any three things
and can be only of persons. And in this view it is
the particular merit of trinity, and is forever to be,
that, as finite persons, we can steadily hold the person
ality of God, without reducing him at all to our meas
ures ; as we certainly should, if we thought him al
ways as a single person.


We have now a great first point established ; viz.,
that when the Son is spoken of as finally to be made
subject, or so far discontinued as to let God be all in
all, it can not be meant that the Son is to be taken
away, or disappear, in any sense that modifies at all
the fact of trinity. If God is to be all in all. it must
be as trinity and not otherwise.

In adopting this conclusion I am properly required
to make answer to an objection that may be
raised ; viz., that when the everlasting need and fact
of trinity are thus asserted, there ought to be an ap
pearance of trinity in the Old Testament, which is not
there affirmed. Expositions are to be given hereafter
from the Old Testament for a different purpose that
will sufficiently answer this ; I need only observe
therefore here, that while the trinity is not formulized
in the Old as it is in the Xew Testament, the material
of it is all there, as visibly as if it were set forth in the
Kew Testament formula itself. Furthermore, I will
first add, what is even a curiously forward evidence,
that Trinity breaks in fact on discovery, in the very
first chapter of Genesis ; and that too in a way the
more striking, that there appears to be no thought, or
intellectual consciousness of the fact. Making nothing
of the fact that the very name God \JElohim] is plural,
for we do not know what causes back of the word
gave it the plural form, we have first the Fontal God,
the Father, the God in first beginning " creating the
heavens and the earth." Then we have the Move
ment or Waft-Power, the Spirit moving " upon the


face of the waters," to beget form and order in the
formless. And finally, coming to the creation of
man, we have a deliberation that for some reason in
dicates, in figure, at least, a plural consciousness, say
ing, " Let us make man in our image and likeness."

O " O

In which words " image and likeness " reference is
had to the Everlasting Son who is the God-Moral
humanly conceived, the image and type of all God is,
in his possibilities of Beauty and Character. Finding
trinity thus in the very first chapter of Revelation, we
can not be required to look farther.

Going forward then into the future life, so much ap
pears to be determined ; that we shall there know God
unalterably and forever as trinity Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost. The Son therefore, as discovered in
trinity, is of course never to be merged, or passed out
of sight, or in such a sense made subject. How then
shall we understand the apostle when he testifies that
the " Son " shall be subject or retired from the view ?
He is speaking plainly of the Son as incarnate, or ex
ternalized in the flesh, visible outw r ardly, in the man-
form and known as the Son of Mary. He it is that,
after having as a king outwardly regnant, put all
things under his feet, is in turn to become subject also
himself, that God may be all in all, and the machin
eries hitherto conspicuous be forever taken back as
before the advent.

The only objection I perceive to this construction is,
that the word Son here appears to be used in connec
tion with the word Father " delivered up the king-


dom to God even the Father,"" then shall the Son
also " as if it were intended to say that the Son as in
trinity is to give place to the Father as in trinity, and
he to be Henceforth sole deity. But there is a two-fold
relationship of Father and Son appearing and reap
pearing constantly ; viz., that of the Father to the
incarnate Son and that of the Father to the pre-incar-
nate Son ; that which gives him earthly Fatherhood
and that which gives him celestial, ante-mundane Fa
therhood. The apostle was not careful -here to put a
guard for the saving of the eternal Sonship, because
he did not imagine the need of saving that, any more
than of saving deity itself. He was only thinking of
the mortal Sonship, and giving us to see the essentially
temporal date of its continuance.

Trinity then as he conceives will remain, but the
mortal Sonship, the man, will disappear and be no
more visible. And let us not too hastily recoil from
this. It may be that we have been promising our
selves a felicity in the future world, made up almost
wholly of the fact, that we shall be with Christ in his
humanly personal form, and have used this hope to
feed our longings, quite apart from all higher relations
to his Eternal Sonship. There are multitudes who
mean to be, and really think they are, supereminently
Christian people, whose piety is but a kind of caressing
of themselves before Jesus the man, or a canting, or
caressing repetition they practice on his name. Their
word is Jesus, always Jesus, never the Christ ; and if
they can see Jesus in the world to come, they do not


specially look for any thing more. Heaven is fully
made up, to tlieir low type of expectation, if they can
"but apprehend the man and be with him. Some
times it is not difficult to see that the piousness
enjoyed in their cantillation of the name Jesus is
really idol worship. It is hardly necessary to say that
in such a use of the ever dear name, they put a vir
tual fraud on the gospel. The gospel hangs, for all its
operative value and spiritual consequence to the
world, on the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the man-
form used as vehicle for the eternal Word and Lord.
Religion reaches after God, and God is Trinity, and
all the gospel does, or can do, by the name and human
person of Jesus, is to bring us in and up to a God,
who is eternally above that name.

Our relations to Christ, then, in the future life, are
to be relations to God in Christ, and never to the
Jesus in Christ. They center in the triune deity, and
specially in the Eternal Word or Son, who is repre
sented more specially, for a time, in the person of
Jesus. But when that which is perfect is come, that
which is in part will be taken away. Christ will re
main, because the Eternal Son is in him, but the
Jesus, the human part, will be made subject, or taken
away, because all that he could do for us in the reve
lation of God is done.

There is, I know, a much less questionable concep
tion of our gospel which has its blessedness in Jesus,
because it meets God in him, and is specially drawn
to his humanity, because it even finds the fullness of


God bowed low in his person. This so far is genuine
gospel. And it would not be strange, if a disciple
thus wonted in God, should imagine that the joy of
his faith is conditioned forever, by the human person
at whose ministry or from whose love it began. What
then is the future glory, he will ask, if it does not
bring him in, where he can see the very man of the
cross ? - All my expectation stretches hitherward,
he may say fabulating visit and vision to express his
grief * I cross over to be with him, I press in eagerly
to behold him, but I can not find him. I grope along
the dusky streets of gold, asking where the Son of
Man is to be seen, and they tell me that he is made
subject, and is no more to be visible. Whereupon I
sit down baffled, and sick, and even spilling some sad
tears on the pavement; groaning inwardly that my
heaven turns out to be a poor illusion, a confidence of
beholding the man, who yet in fact is nowhere.
Dreary and forever dry world this, where the chief
among ten thousand, he in whom I learned to seek all
good and find all dearest peace, is gone out forever
and lost ! Ah ! but you shortly catch a note that is
music indeed, a strain that has been a long time
wonted in your heart < Worthy is the Lamb,"
"The Lamb that was slain," " for thou hast re
deemed us to God by thy blood." And who is this
but him that you seek ? Surely he is somehow here,
and this is somehow he. You missed him, perchance,
because you were looking too low down, out of the range
of deity, to find him ; whereas now you find him throned


in God, hymned in God, as the everlasting Son of the
Father and yet he is somehow Son of Mary still,
even as he is the Lamb that was slain. Whereupon,
as you think farther, you begin to see, that the hu
manly mortal, the humble and poor Christ, dusted
with sore foot travel, as on his way up from Galilee,
is in fact the everlasting Son, as in Trinity, and took
his mortal guise only for a day, that he might prove
his gentle condescensions and draw us in the level of
brotherhood. And then, ascending to the Father, and
the glory that he had with him before the world was,
you have it as your liberty to possess him still as char
actered in his mortality, to hail him as the Lamb, or
behold him as the mortal brother, and see in fact the
whole Christ-feeling in him, such as he was to you
when he was with you below.

Our conclusion then is that the pre-incarnate Son of
the Father is the incarnate Son of Man ; the same
that \vas made flesh and dwelt with men, bore his
mortal poverty, wept his mortal tears, and died, for
men, to be the propitiation for their sins. Only he is
now made subject ; which means that he returns into
God where he belongs and is duly glorified. How
else should it be with him ? Of course he would not
stay incarnate forever. He is not here as being mort
gaged forever to humiliation. He came into his mor
tal work that he might be made subject when his
work is done ; which being made subject only means
that he is entered back into God and the ascendancy
that belongs to Him as the all in all. And lest he


should seem in this reexaltation to be lifted quite
above us, and lest we should seem to have lost the
lowly one we learned to love so tenderly, and now re
member as having been so nearly evened with him in
his lot, how grandly will it comfort us to know that he
is now, and is forever to be just w r hat he was histor
ically ; that as he was the Lamb of God, so now he is
all that in the throne ; that as being in the form of
God he took the form of a servant, so now he is a
servant in the form of God ; bowing all his honors
sweetly down to let us see our Christ centered ever
lastingly in Trinity itself. Back there under that veil
is the Son of Mary, the Child of her Manger,
the Healer that came about on foot, and slept uncov
ered by the roads and on the mountains, he that was
bowed to suffering, he that could be hated and die
all this he is above, as charactered for us by what he
was here below ; nowise exalted above it, but rather

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSermons on living subjects → online text (page 28 of 29)