Horace Bushnell.

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to the third heaven ? Was he not even doubtful
whether he was in the body or out of the body ?
Why, it is a first point, is it not, to know that we are
in the body. And some of us would be as good as
nowhere if not in the body. True, the great man
talks in his overmodesty here of glorying in his
" infirmities ;" but he dares, we see, to glory a
little, nevertheless. And it was his way to be going
up always into these high regions, so that he was not
sure at times whether ^he had a thing by revelation or
not, and even had a considerable notion that angels
were getting high impressions out of him, and God s
work in him and by him. Yes, he was just the kind
of high-flying saint that the wise, blind folk of this
world most surely disrespect. Not knowing what
faith is, how could they know to what third heaven it


may lift ? So they called him " mad," as we know.
They could not call him a mystic, or a quietist, or a
pietist, or a Methodist, or a Calvinist, or a Low
Churchman; for these terms of stigma were not yet
ready. So they called him " mad," because he did
not stay on foot in their level of sanity. Was he then
a flighty person ? Does riot the world even -bow down
to him, nevertheless, as the grand, intellectual, theo-
logic chief of Christianity ? And was there ever, in
fact, x a soul more massive and sublimely steady in its
equilibrium than his ?

What, now, having all these expositions before us,
is the conclusion of the whole matter? What but
this, that true religion, according to the Christian idea,
makes an immensely wide chasm by the faith at
which it begins, or in which it is born ? It is not any
mere playing out of Nature on its own level ; but it
is the lifting up of the man above himself in a trans
formation that makes him new to himself. No more
flesh, but spirit, ranging above the world in all the
liberties of spirit. In so far as he is a Christian,
he occupies another sphere, and becomes the citizen
of another kingdom. This he will believe, and will
not only dare to be thus lifted, but will scarcely dare
not to be. For, whatever disrespect he may encoun
ter, in what so many will consider his fantastic way,
he will have evidences in himself that ask no certifi
cation. Besides, he will have learned, shortly, that
the only safe way of living for him is the highest, and


that no other is entirely safe. For in this highest
range he will be conscious that his disorders are
quelled, his internal jars and discords laid, his irrup
tions and tumults brought under, and a glorious se
renity and clearness, pervasive as the day, established
in him. All which, if he settles away from his trust,
or sinks below his calling, gives way correspondently
before the refluent forces of night and nature in him,
and leaves him sweltering in the old misrule. The
ancients had a fabled giant who could not be subdued,
because, whenever lie fell, his mother, the earth, let
such power into him that he forthwith sprung up, at
the moment of contact, and slew his antagonist ; till,
finally, Hercules, discovering the secret, held him up
in his grapple, not allowing him to touch the ground,
and so crushed him. Exactly contrary it is with the
Christian. The earth is not his mother, he is a child
of the sun; and, if he descends to settle on the
ground, his strength vanishes.

If, then, we are to make our ascent into this higher
plane of true Christian experience, it will be seen that
all the ties which bind us down, or hold us to our feet,
must be effectually cut by our habitual self-renuncia
tions. Not even right hands and right eyes can be
kept back from the sacrifice. Selfishness and self-in
dulgence are no more for us. Coming down no more
upon the world, we must lift up every thing we do in
it, and hope from it, into that pure life of sacrifice
and trust in which we abide with our Master. It
must be with us here as it was with Noah when he


made the ark. He did not expect partly to wade and
partly to float ; but he went in, he and his, taking all
the freight of his world-stock with him, when the
Lord shut him in. The waters now became his ele
ment, and he had no other. So, when we go up into
faith, we need to be shut in by severance from every
natural trust. Our expectation must be rested on
God, not on pillars of any kind below pillars are not
wanted under wings.



" For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness
hath shiried in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge
of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Cor. 4: 6.

THE light of the knowledge of the glory of God a
mighty and glorious gospeling certainly ! and where
is it shown or testified ? In the face of Jesus Christ.
Faces are- the natural images or exponents of persons,
windows in bodies at which we see the souls looking


out. Every face accurately represents the man be
hind it ; so that when we get once thoroughly ac
quainted with him, we can not imagine the possibility
that he should have a face at all different. I am not
sure, however, that the apostle meant to make so fine
a point of the mere face taken simply as the fore
front of the head. The word he uses is a larger word
than our English word face, denoting the whole as
pect, or personal embodiment, that which reveals the
true presence and character-type of the man. And
this revelation regarding it as made by the Saviour s
w r hole person he conceives to be the fact-form gos
pel, blazoned in his life, and brought forth into living
expression by his personal demonstrations. And he
7 (73)


even conceives that there is a kind of absolute force in
it, though he probably means to say it only in a figure;
declaring that God hath sinned in our hearts, even as
when he commanded the light to shine out of darkness
in the creation of the world. It is a kind of personal
power, he would say, that is next thing to omnipotence.

What I propose therefore, now, is to speak of The
Gospel of the Face, or more accurately and scrip turally
stated, Tiie Gospel in the Face of Jesus Christ.

My conviction is that w r e put the gospel .too gen
erally out of its proper divine form, into our own
human form, serving it, as it were, in our own
cojor, as we have shaped and colored it for our
selves. We conceive what it ought to be to an
swer the conditions we appoint for it, and then,
by a huge milling process of construction by much
theologizing, propositionizing, schematizing, and ab-
stractionizing, we show it builded together, for the
very ends and uses w r e have reasoned for it. It be
comes in this manner our gospel ; if not the expres
sion of our face, the abstractional form and frame
work we have gotten up to do the work that required,
as we think, to be done. How far we go in this ab
stractive, theoretic way may be seen from the terms
we bring in to serve. our speculative, scheme-building
uses. Thus in our theology we have these for the
staple of our doctrine, not one of which is found in
the Scripture at all justice, satisfaction, merit, sub
stitution, compensation, expiation. When I say this
I am not objecting wholly to abstractional and theo-


retic efforts in religion. Some I know are strong in
the conviction that formulations of the Christian
truth are necessary to save us from being floated away
into all kinds of laxity and confusion. Perhaps it
may be so, as regards, the parts of Christianity more
easily reducible to propositions and terms of abstract
statement. But I seriously doubt whether the more
strictly proper matter of our gospel is capable of any
such thing. For it lies in sentiment wholly, in what
goes to make impression by expression in love, in
purity, in divine beauty, in sorrow, in suffering w T ell
and wisely. Conceive what a person may impress,
and do, and be, in the phases of a tragically great
life, and how far off are we from so much as im
agining the possibility of propositionizing the man.
Besides, what is Christ in his person, but God s own
formulization of himself, i. e. not the statement, but
the image of himself. AYhat less than a very bold
irreverence then can it be to substitute the revela
tion-form or face of God, by any so prosy thing as a
formula in words. And the more evidently is this
true that all that Christ was and did, is summed up in
character and feeling. Perhaps we make up an ac
count of Christ, or of what he has done, which is
like this God is just and must be; therefore he
could not forgive sin, without first satisfying his jus
tice by some expiation, or making amends to his gov
ernment by some exhibition equivalent to the execu
tion of penalty ; he therefore takes from his Son and
his suffering cross, what was justly due from us, and


we are released, or rather justified. Is it then pos
sible, I would ask, for any human creature, to read
over this mortally dry record, this mere pile of bricks
and not miss something most dear, every thing most
dear, in hearing him talk, and looking in his face, and
going with him out into Gethsemane and up to Pi
late s hall of judgment ?

Let us see now if there is not a gospel of the face,
an all transcending fact-form, life-form gospel made
out for us, which it behooves us always to live in, and
have also living in us ; for the most living form of the
doctrine is that, of course, which as our human nature
works will have the most immediate and divinest

1. Let us look into the New Testament and dis
tinguish, if we can, what is called preaching there.
And we find our apostle testifying, " Whom we
preach, * that we may present every man per

fect in Christ Jesus." He does not say about whom,
or the just account and formula of whom, but whom;
the fact-form man, the life, and life-history, and feel
ing, and sorrow, and death, and resurrection of the
man. "Whom we preach " that is, cry, proclaim,
publish as good tidings, set forth as a fact-matter
news or story the word is not theologize, resolve,
reduce, but preach. The souls to be gained are also
to be presented " perfect in Christ Jesus ;" that is, in
the new possibilities and powers of grace embodied
for them in the face and person, or personal life, of
their incarnate Redeemer.


Again the same apostle declares, more stringently
and by exclusion, what and what only he could suffer
himself to preach, " For I determined not to know
any thing among you save Jesus Christ, and Him
crucified." We often cite the words as authority for
preaching nothing but a certain ruggedly articulated,
formulated doctrine of the cross, or justification by
the cross. This is our meaning, not his. The very
thing he means to say, with sharpest emphasis, is that,
when preaching among them, he had felt bound to
make Christ himself every thing, and his own specula
tions or humanly contrived opinions, nothing.

Great varieties of word and symbol come up on all
sides in the Xew Testament, centering in the same
general impression. Thus Christ is bread, calls him
self " the bread that came down from heaven." But
no preaching about bread ever fed any body. Noth
ing answers but a fit dispensing of the bread, that is
of Christ himself. " He that eateth me shall live by

Again he declares that, when he is lifted up, he is go
ing to become a healer of souls in being simply looked
upon, as the serpent lifted up was a healer in the wil
derness, lie does not imagine that some notional
view, or opinion, or doctrine of the being lifted up, is
going to heal, but that he himself lifted up will do it.
Medicines cure by what they are, not by what is said
of them or reasoned about them.

Again, calling himself the truth, " I am the
truth," he does not think of his gospel as a proposi-


tional matter, but as being worded in his person, and
receivable only from his person just the point where
Christianity differs from all the theorizing doctrines of
the philosophers. It is no Christian idea that we are
going to be converted and sanctified through the
truth, in the sense that we are going to manipulate
and manage, convert and sanctify ourselves by good
abstractions installed in our heads. Our Christ is to be
the truth beheld in living expression. No matter
what notions we have gotten booked for a gospel, he
is all the gospel there is himself.

He is called again and calls himself the life. How
the life ? Because, the abstractional believer will
commonly answer, he clears our liability to punish
ment which is death, and prepares a salvable condi
tion for us. A salvable condition, life ! Any con
dition, life ! Soil, sun, dew are these vegetable life,
any or all of them ? No, the soul lives only when life
itself comes, that is, when Christ has entered the soul
as life. " And you hath he quickened who were dead
in trespasses and sins." It is he within that is life,
and not any thing he is conceived to have done, to pre
pare a new condition, or work out a governmental ex
igency for us.

It is very important, also, to notice what directions
are given concerning the use of the incarnate person
and especially that all questions of psychological
analysis are put by. The word is, u This is my be
loved son, hear ye 7?im." It does not say, fall to work
upon the problem of his person, resolve the psychol-


ogy of his parts, as if lie were no miracle, but let
liim be the miracle he is and hear ; hear ye him, the
one single being him. Distinguishing the parts of his
composition in a manner that is quite too common,
the part that suffers and the part that does not, the
part that increases in knowledge and the part that
does not, the part that prays, and the part that does
not, the part that works in a miracle, and the part
that does not, makes him two persons, and not one, a
Son of God who is not Son of man, and a Son of man
who is not Son of God ; and then what is he to us
bu.t a kind of double personation, dodging all appre
hension? Exactly contrary to this he is to be two
poles in unity, a solidly concrete, impenetrable, un-
solvable person God s full beauty and love in the
human type or face, " the Word made flesh." Look
ye hither, mortals, the Eternal is here, a Friend per
fect, sinless, bringing good-ivill, and emptying God s
bosom into yours hear ye him. God is the mean
ing, man is the face so much we know, for it is
given ; more we do not care to know.

But there is a common belief that Paul, who had
the very best and deepest understanding of the gospel,
made up carefully and steadily preached a theorizing
gospel, dealing with all ruggedest and deepest problems
of abstraction, even as our Christian schools do now.
The fact is very different. He did present and pub
lish Christ in terms out of which we are accustomed
to draw, by inference, many articles, but he never
drew them himself. We have done it so long that his


words appear to signify, themselves, the very things
we get by construction out of them. But in this we
greatly mistake, as may be seen by the one single fact,
universally conceded by the Christian scholars and
writers of dogmatic history, that no theoretic or ab
stractive doctrine of Christ s work was ever stated or
taught during the first ten centuries of the Christian
Church none, of course, by Paul ; for in that case, be
ing formally set forth in his epistles, it took the church
ten whole centuries to find it ! Far more likely it is
that we draw him into such constructions by our own
inferences. The inferences may be just, but, since he
did not make them himself, they are no part certainly
of the gospel he preached. The remarkable thing
about his preaching, on the contrary, is that he ad
heres so closely to the fact-view of the gospel. Using
many terms that we have carried on to a point of
meaning more theoretic and abstractive, he stops
short himself, in the purely practical power of the
story. Other men have gone farther since his day,
and seen, perhaps, just as much less. His justification
is practical, based in no speculated scheme of satisfac
tion, being simply "the righteousness of God," in
Christ s most righteous life, " unto all and upon all
them that believe " a " declaring [in-sh owing] of
the righteousness of God," to make us righteous be
fore him. Neither does he quit the fact-form view of
the Gospel, or go at all beyond it in the figures of
offering and sacrifice, and Uoocl, and cleansing, so pro
fusely applied and with so great unction, to set forth


its meaning. It has taken long ages of drill and ob
servance to prepare these figures, and he sees God s
evangelic purpose working in them from the first.
He finds them made ready as chariots for his Master s
life and passion, and putting them in harness, drives
them, burdened with atoning love and grace, directly
into men s hearts. How else but by these images
from the altar could he tell a guilt-stricken world
what the incarnate Son of Man, obedient unto death,
has done for them. Meantime he is always recurring
to the gospel of the face, the manifested and ex
pressed glory, as to the pole-star of his Christed life
and ministry ; testifying that " God was in Christ ;"
that " we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass
[? . e., in Christ] the glory of the Lord, are changed
into the same image from glory to glory ;" that " God
hath, in these last days, spoken to us by his Son, who
also is the brightness of his glory, the express image
of his person."

Consider now,

2. What importance there may be in some revela
tion, or presentation of God, which enters him into
the world as he can be entered in no form of abstrac
tion. The very purpose of the incarnation is to get
by or away from abstractions, and give the world a
concrete personation. Thus in Christ s living person,
we are to have God, who is above all history, entered
into history, and by such human ways of life as his
tory takes note of, becoming incorporate in it. And
to make the fact historic, and no mere theophany, he


stays thirty whole years among us, descending to our
human level, as being under all but the sin of it,
weaving all God s charities and healing mercies into
it , teaching how divinely, as no mortal teacher could,
suffering with us and for us, and strangest of all by
us, and so unbosoming all God s beauty as a God who
can pity and seek after his enemies. And he has,
withal expressing in it, we may almost think, more
than by all beside a face. Who of us has not sighed
many times for a look upon that face, and the light of
the knowledge of the glory of God therein revealed !
O what depth of meaning, and height of meaning,
and purity of meaning, what tender composure, what
restful strength, what majesty of good, and grace of
sorrow, and close-drawn human sympathy was there
in it all saying " look unto me," " come unto me."
And such is the concrete, staple matter brought in for
us in the gospel. It is all person, what a person is
and feels and does and suffers in the out-door forms of
human life and action. It hangs for the matter of it,
not on abstract teachings, but on the personal pro
nouns, the I, the me, the he, the him, of his divine

He is to be the concrete of all government and per
fection, let into the world in such visible deific force
and super-earthly quality, that, having once gotten
the sense of it, and the transcendent miracle em
bodied in it, we are satisfied we know God ; the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God hath
shined in our hearts.


There is also another most cogent reason for this
concrete or incarnate presentation ; viz., to beget a
more benign, more thoroughly felt, impression of the
just severities of God. They must come as out of
feeling, else they are feeble and cold and without evi
dence beside. Terrors and reproofs, let fall thumping
on the world out of abstract deity, do not come in
power. They sufficiently impress only when they
speak out of a mind that feels, or is visibly bathed in
sympathy and sorrow. Who but Christ then ever
gave us any vital impression of God s hatred to sin ?
Authority had been asserted before, condemnations
pronounced, judgments uttered, but who ever heard
them, as when spoken by the loving, suffering Son of
Man ? Hell was never so deep, justice never so
dreadful, or so close at hand, as when they lowered in
his divine face. Woe to the hypocrites ! Woe to the
oppressors ! Woe to the learned thieves of God s
kingdom ! Woe to all ungodly now ! No such ap
palling sense of God s justice was ever bolted into
human bosoms by the severities of unseen, abstract
deity, as when that justice spoke in the voice, or glit
tered in the wrath of the Lamb. Here is justice in
feeling, and this concrete man who feels, is the judge
of the world. Many persons who are much con
cerned lest Christ should not make due compensation
to the justice of God for the release of sin, appear to
be concerned without reason. Half his power con
sists in the- fact that justice comes out as in concrete
embodiment with him.


Advancing now to a point still deeper we per

3. That if there is to be any remedy for the precise
disability and woe of sin, it must be such as may, in
some way, restore God to his place in the soul. What
is our misery in the state under evil, but that we are
separated from God s occupancy or indwelling by it
" alienated from the life of God ?" Therefore no mere
body of opinional truths or doctrines meets our case
nothing meets it but to give us back, in some way, the
personal inhabitation we have lost. Our gospel has
no relativity, save when it embodies or envisages the
divine love and friendship powerfully enough to enter
them into our life. Reinspiration is our first want ;
for not even the Holy Spirit reinspires save as he
shows the things of Christ objectively within. "I in
them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect
in one," is, in fact, the very gospel, and the whole of
it. Finding us emptied of God, it undertakes to
bring us God, and recommunicate God ; not some no
tional truth or truths about God, but God s indwelling
life itself" I in them." God is to look himself in
again from the face of Jesus. Or, what is nowise dif
ferent, Jesus dying into our dead sympathies, is to
enter back the Divine, and quicken us to life. Opin
ions, formulated notions, or abstractive articles can do
nothing plainly as regards the rehabilitation of God.
Nothing is at all apposite but incarnation, or what is
the same, a living gospel worded to our feeling, in the
face of Jesus and the concrete matter of his life.


4. It is a consideration having great weight, that no
other kind of doctrine but that which adheres to the
concrete, matter-of-fact gospel makes a true, or any
but a false point for faith. Salvation we say is by
faith, and what is faith ? A great first question at
which many stumble. Faith they assume to be a be
lief in something true propositionally. They even
assume that we put men in a way to be saved, only
when we give them just the propositions they must
believe. Now the propositions may be true or not I
make no question here about them I only protest
that such a notion of faith totally mistakes the nature
and meaning of faith. Gospel faith has nothing to do
with any prepositional truth whatever. There is no
proposition, or hundred propositions, that can not be
believed, and have not been, times without number,
having yet no gracious effect whatever.

JSTo, the faith that brings salvation is the act of a
being towards a being, sinner to Saviour, man to
God. " He that believeth in me," says Christ, not he
that believeth some things, or many things, about me.
It is the act of an undone, lost man, giving himself
over in trust to Jesus Christ, person to person ; a total
consenting to Christ, to be of him, and with him, and
for him, to let him heal and renovate, and govern, and
be made unto him wisdom, and righteousness, and
sanctification, and redemption, in one w r ord, every
thing. The simple first point of it is Christ, a Sav
iour, manifested in such love and divinity that, taken
for salvation as a being, he can be trusted. And


when he is thus trusted, that is faith. Propositions
are needed of course, facts about him are needed, to
prepare the conception of him, so that he may be

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSermons on living subjects → online text (page 5 of 29)