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Horace Bushnell.

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by it, forever. Gone by as the Jesus, also as the
Christ under time, he is yet the Eternal Son forever
Christed by his mortal story ; so that we behold him
eternized as our Christ, and hear him saying as it
were out of his humanity " I am Alpha and Omega,
the beginning and the ending which is and which was
and which is to come." It is as if the Christ we loved
were visible in all his dear humanities, though Trinity
alone is left.

At this point we reach what may be called the out
line conception of the subject, t>ut to make it more



456 OUR RELATIONS TO CHRIST

clear, and settle the relation of it more definitely to
certain current ideas, I undertake to controvert and
correct our current ideas in two particular points,
where they seem to obstruct any such conception of
the view already stated, and forbid us to rest in it, as
one of the finalities, or true Last Things.

1. We have it as a commonly accepted article of
doctrine, that the incarnate person includes a human
soul, and by this human soul, contriving what is to
become of it, all our perplexities in the question of
our future relations to Christ are created. That, as
being incarnate, he has i( two natures and one per
son," is agreed by us all ; but when we come to an
alyze the human-nature part, as the teachers began to
do some centuries later, finding it composed of " a true
body and a reasonable soul " that is of a proper hu
man body and a proper human soul or spirit there is
more room for doubt. I do not here deny that there
was a proper man-soul involved in the incarnation, or
incarnate person I carefully abstain from doing it
but I do most peremptorily deny that any one can
show it. Doubtless there are inferences enough that
may be drawn to make it a most logically irrefragable
conclusion. Is he not distinctly called a man many
times over ? and what is a man without a soul ? He
also prays, he acquires knowledge, he moves about in
space as omnipresence does not, he suffers and by suf
fering is made perfect, and, to sum up all, he makes
advances mentally in the ways of a strictly human de
velopment represented therefore as growing in wis-



IX THE FUTURE LIFE. 457

dom and character, like all other human children
what then is left us but the conclusion, as by neces
sary logic, that he had a proper human soul included
in his person? Accordingly we have, I know not how
many sermons showing the complete humanity from
the complete and distinctly observable human develop
ment. The argument goes to the mark easily, and
we really suppose that every thing is established.
But the moment we cross over to the other shore the
tables are turned, and we find that about the toughest
matter we have there on hand is, to find where the
man-soul of Jesus is to go, and what is to become of
it. We began before we crossed over, to observe that
our " two natures and one person " had been running
us into two natures making two persons, and we also
had some twinges of suspicion that our very exposi
tion of the development assumed the fact, not of a
finite human nature only, but of a finite human per
son to be thus developed ; for a mere human nature,
observe, included under the " one person " of the first
orthodoxy, and dominated by the supreme con
sciousness of that one person, will signify as little to
itself, as any floating speck does in the tide-swing of
the sea ; and then what liberty is there as a condition
of development? Accordingly now, in its second-life
state, this man-soul becomes a most unreducible, non
descript being that allows no classification.

First, that the eternal Son of God, having his place
in God as trinity, is to be duplicated forever in a Son-
ship out of trinity, we can not imagine ; for what
39



458 OUR RELATIONS TO CHRIST

then is to become of this second outside Sonship ?
Next we can not more easily imagine that, as being
the Eternal Son, he has taken up the man-soul of
the incarnation to be forever component in his divine
nature ; for in that case, from and after the incarna
tion, God would be a different substance, a conception
w T holly inadmissible no such codicil to the divine
nature belongs to the New Testament. What then
next if the man-soul, taken up, be disengaged from
the incarnate person and become a proper man, a
Jesus visible forever by himself? If so there is cer
tainly no very special felicity to come of being with him.
After all we have said of his development, he can
have no specially supereminent character. He has
lived in shadow all his thirty years, under the all-
swaying will of the one superdominant person. He has
not done a work, or thought a thought, or loved, or
willed, or suffered, or conquered a temptation, on his
own account, in the right of his own free agency.
Had he been chloroformed and laid by these thirty-
three years, he would be as far on in all that consti
tutes character.

We go back now from this excursion across the
river, and reexamine our argument for the man-soul

C 1

from its supposed development. And here we dis
cover that our logical inferences were all at fault, in
the fact that the incarnate person is an abnormal per
son, and for aught that appears, wholly out of range,
for any sort of argument we are master of. We
might as well reason out the fire of the burning bush



IN THE FUTURE LIFE. 459

by the inference that it can not be fire, because it does
not burn ; or the wine of Cana by showing that, hav
ing come out of the water, it must have been in the
water before. All arguments in the categories of the
ordinary are but idle play, when applied thus to the
extraordinary. The facts of the development do in
deed prove development in some sense ; but the real
question still is left whether the incarnate Son of
God himself was not that soul or nature that was de
veloped ? That he became the germ, the born infant,
the child, the boy: the youth, the man, and finally
the ascended and glorified Son of the Father, pass
ing on gradatim, and up through, taking and making
all the history himself is not a whit more difficult than
the fact of incarnation itself infinite in finite. And do
not the scriptures very nearly assert this conception ?
As when they declare " And the Word was made
flesh," we understand them to say that the "Word it
self became the ensouling principle, the man of the
incarnate person. So when Christ calls himself the
bread that came down from heaven, adding " the
bread that I will give him is my flesh, which I will
give for the life of the world," he is evidently think
ing only of his own divinely conscious person, and the
body by which he gets connection with the world.
Nothing is farther off than to imagine that he is
thinking here of a man-soul lurking under the flesh
that is not it, nor himself. Again also, when the
apostle says " For since by man came death, by man
came also the resurrection of the dead ;" he does not



460 OUR RELATIONS TO CHRIST

mean of course that a certain human soul or nature
in Christ raises the dead, but that he himself in his
divine order and life does it he is the man. So
again when he says " For as by one man s disobe
dience many were made sinners, so by the obedience
of one, [i. e., one man,] many were made righteous,"
he has no thought of saying that the obedience of the
man-soul person was able to impart righteousness, but
only that the incarnate Lord is able, as being himself
the man. And yet again, once more, he tells exactly
who this man, so potently working is " the second
man is the Lord from heaven." In which he comes
as near saying that the man of the incarnate person is
the Lord himself, as he well could. All these declara
tions I cite, not to prove that there is no human soul
in the person of Christ, but to show how little ac
countable the scriptures are for the common assump
tion made of it. It is an incumbrance that we reason
out for ourselves, by inferences from facts totally ab
normal ; an elephant that we capture, and after that
can no way find what to do with it.

It further remains to say, as regards the particular
matter now in hand, that the scriptures give us, in the
positive, conceptions of God as related to man, and
of man as related to God, such as very nearly su
persede all these difficulties respecting Christ here
after, and open a fair possibility of being practically
with him as subsisting in trinity. Thus, if we take
what is said, several times over, of our being
made in the image of God, and of Christ being



IN THE FUTURE LIFE. 461

incarnate in the same, an inference runs backward,
as we may see, that God is in our image, and also in
Christ s image, and Christ and we in the same image ;
whence also it follows that, before creation and before
incarnation, God himself was somehow, or in some
sense, Man. He had, that is, an anthropoidal nature,
which anthropoidal nature is a kind of Divine Man-
Form or Word, by which he thinks himself, incarnates
himself, and types himself in his creations. And thus
it is that the Jehovah angel, and all the mysterious
visitors called angels, take the man-form in their ap
pearing, whether in fact physically bodied or not.
Thus Daniel saw in vision a celestial Son of Man
not incarnate " behold one like the Son of Man
came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the An
cient of days," [the Father] and had given him, as he
came near, " dominion and glory, and a kingdom."
Again he represents Nebuchadnezzar as looking down
into the fiery furnace, where he had cast the three bold
confessors, and crying out in astonishment, " Lo, I see
four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and
the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." And
this same notion of the Son of God as being in the
form of God, and so a Man, travels down, we see,
through the New Testament " Who being in the
form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with
God. But made himself of no reputation, and took
upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the
likeness of men."

Now in this brief retrospect of the scripture ideas
39*



462 OUR RELATIONS TO CHRIST

and methods, we discover, as plainly as need be, that
when the Son was to be incarnate, it was not neces
sary for him to take up a tiny man-soul, not before ex
isting, always to be unused and without character of
its own humanity was in the type of his own ever
lasting person before. He must needs begin his in
carnation at the germ state of our nature ; for he
could not otherwise be incarnate as in history ; he
w T ould only break in casually, as an apparition or
epiphany, to break out again when he pleases and be
gone. But he wanted to be integral in the race, and
live himself into record with us, even as Aristides,
or Socrates, or Antoninus. So he took the germ -life
and its tiny possibilities just as all men do, and in
that life, as if limited in a sense by age, and size, and
experience, he expected to grow, or unfold gradatim
into all the stages of wisdom, and power, and pro
gressive manhood. " For though he were a Son [Son of
God] yet learned he obedience by the things which
he suffered, and being made perfect graduated into
full divinity he became the author of eternal salva
tion unto all them that obey him." We are not inside
of this development, we can not reason it, or imagine
it, for it is abnormal. We only conceive that the Son of
God himself is the subject of it, and that we have no
more reason to suppose a man-soul joined with him in
it, and possibly eternized in him after he has passed
the grade of a man s development, than we have to
suppose the germ-life, the infancy, the child, the boy,



IN THE FUTURE LIFE. 463

the young man eternized, when the advances made
in years leave them behind.

Our being then with Christ in the future life, begins
at being with the Son of God in trinity. Nay it both
begins and ends with that ; for if, in our miseducated
ways of thought, we seem about to miss, in that man
ner, being at all with the personal manhood, in whose
conscious friendship it was our hope to be joined, we
discover the Man, even the God-Man everlastingly
present, integrally present, in trinity before either we
or the world began to be. Furthermore we may also
discover that the matter which most distinguishes the
fact of his reascension to the Father, is not that he
is gone up as a human-nature soul to be glorified, and
to set us in the faith of an everlasting companionship
with him, but that being himself the Eternal Man
brought low, he has gone up to be glorified again, as
he prayed himself " And now, O Father, glorify
tliou me, with thine own self, with the glory that I had
with thee before the world was." And what hope can
be as inspiring and reassuring to us as that Christ has
gone up thus to be the Son of God, and has lost
nothing, left nothing behind, because of his humilia
tions. We must not ask to have the story end off in
dejection, and to see the man sit weeping still and
forever in his sorrows. "We want exactly what is
given us to see, the due enthronement of his sacrifice,
showing him exalted forever to the throne of God
and of the Lamb. Only in that word Lamb, regal as
it is now become, there is a flavor of tenderness and



46 OUR RELATIONS TO CHRIST

loving patience that gathers np all the memories
of the cross, and flavors by them even the divine
greatness itself. Such is God, as the great Lamb-
history paints him. Ask we then for the man ? the
man of the cross ? this is he ; not another Son of God
better than the trinity affords, but the very same that
was before, more lovingly conceived, in that he has
brought himself down low to us, wading deep in our
sorrows, and tasting even death for us and our sins.
2. The other point to be considered and corrected is
more simple, and may be dispatched more briefly. Thus
it is an impression of many that we are to be with Christ,
in the sense of beholding him with our eyes. But it can
not be imagined that we are to behold God, whether
in three persons, or one, in this manner. The only
beholding conceivable is that of faith. And there is a
talent of faith in our human nature, that is much taller
and closer to the infinite, than some of our wise unbeliev
ers have commonly dared to conceive. It does not re
port things for knowledge, or cognitive perception, at
some nervous center, as in the five senses ; and does not
work below with them, ranging always in the same
field of matter and external fact, but it strikes out
into a wider and wholly different, wdiere things
invisible and above sense have their own other-world.
God, and truth, and right, and love, and the eternal
invisible heaven, report themselves to this faith-talent
when it is offered in congenial trust, and it is as if the
general overhead or whole sky of the mind were
quickened with a sense above sense, wide enough to



IN THE FUTURE LIFE. 465

let in their evidence. It glimmers at no point, as
when the five senses take in their knowledge, but it is
the whole consciousness opened believingly to God,
and the grand supersensible realities of religion. And-
so firmly pronounced is the conviction of the realities
beheld by faith, that not even the realities of the
senses are more strongly, often not as strongly, held.
God, " the unknowable " as he is called, will some
times utter himself in the knowledge thus of a believing
consciousness, more indubitably than a rock or a
mountain seen by the eyes. Faith beholds more
piercingly than they, looks farther in, sweeps a larger
horizon.

Besides, there is an impossibility, as regards making
a heaven about Christ in terms of sight, which many
have not considered. All sight objects are, by suppo
sition, under conditions of space. They spread, they
have measures of extension, and the seers themselves
must have room. Christ therefore can be had by the
eyes, in the future life, only as being at some point of
space, and having his beholders round him in space.
Seeing, observe, implies just this, else we do not know
what we mean by it. How then can we ever be with
him, where he is? how get near enough to him, one in
a million, once in an age, to so much as look upon
him ? Instead therefore of trying how to sharpen our
apprehensions of Christ by making it a case for sight,
we had better, far better, sharpen our ideas of faith,
and learn its amazing capacity. O what revelations
of Christ come to us even here greater by a thou-



466 OUR RELATIONS TO CHRIST

sand times than the mere eye-beholders of the Son of
Mary ever saw, when he walked the earth. How
much greater then are to come, when the vision of our
faith is purged, as it will be. Ah, if we could stop our
singing " When faith and hope shall cease," and begin
to sing " now abideth faith, hope, charity, these
three," into what more glorious, more inspiriting at
mosphere should we be lifted ! And God forbid our
ever passing to any other world where faith, the
grandest of all human powers, has nothing any more
to do. Indeed what are we here for, when the matter
is sounded to the bottom, but to get our inward visu-
alities unsealed for the all-perceiving, illimitable faith-
sense discovery of God and his kingdom.

Observe also this remarkable fact concerning faith,
that it always sees the invisible in forms contributed
by the visible ; that is by what has before been seen,
remembered, felt and wonted in experience. Thus it
is how often that persons just born into the new r life
are taken by the conviction that they have actually
seen Christ ; which is true, in the sense that he has
come into their consciousness, though not in the sense
that they have seen him with their eyes. Faith has
no draperies of its own, but is seeing its objects always
in images borrowed from sense and memory. Thus
beholding the state of the blessed, it imagines it to be
a kind of sky-state and calls it heaven adding gar
dens, and rivers, and gold, and geins, and a city that
came down from God, even the new Jerusalem. And
so when the Eternal Son, as in trinity, is beheld by



IN THE FUTURE LIFE. 467

faith lie will be reclothed out of his earthly story, and
it will even be as if there was a doubling back on the
sight of his humanity. I do not say that our faith-
perception will see the prints in his hands, or the scars
on his brow, but we shall have him in the types of our
memory, and think of him as the man of sorrows, the
Lamb that bore our sins, the buffeted, the crucified.
So that our being with him will be a beholding leveled
eternally to our feeling, and a gloriously fresh partici
pation allowed us in the flavors of his humanly divine
society.

Let me now add in closing, what I am thoroughly
aware of, that I have not been trying to set this great
world of the future in fascinating colors, or to engage
you in the pursuit of it, by fresher and more glowing at
tractions. I have not been preaching it, but engineering
for it rather; I have not shrunk from letting it be a dif
ficult subject. And my reason for it is, the painfully
fixed conviction of our being so far at loose ends in our
conceptions, that steadiness of aim in the heavenly
calling is scarcely at all permitted us. As to condi
tion, circumstance, sceneries, and surroundings, we are
indeterminate of course. But it should not be so, in
our conceptions of Christ himself and his relations to
us. For if we are striving after him and to be with
him in a mixture of contrary and impossible ideas, or
to think of him in a kaleidoscopic play of figures
that put us at cross purposes continually in regard to
his person, and to God and trinity as related thereto,



468

we are rather distracted and baffled than helped by
the inspirations of our hope itself. Hence to persons
of intelligence and thoughtf illness, there is a random
look of undiscerning declamation in what is said of the
great future, that costs them, in the loss of their re
spect, more damage than we often know. There
ought to be a possibility of salvation- for sensible
people. But there hardly can be, if we leave the
great subject of. Christ s future under vague, impossi
ble, or even contrary conditions. I have been try
ing to initiate a more fixed conception of it ; speak
ing in the conviction that there is no other, in which
the Christian disciple can better afford to dig even
whole years, if he can fitly master it. In no other
field will his advances yield him greater returns of
strength. In this study he will have his religious
ideas concentrated more and more about Christ. He
will discover a new glory in Christ, and conquer a new
stability centered everlastingly in him. He will think
of his friends who have already crossed the river, and
will seem to be apprehending a little what they have
now apprehended, O how distinctly ! and to be with
Christ who is now become his clear possibility and
steady North Star light he will hold himself to the
mark and make sure progress onward.



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