W. H. (William Henry) Fremantle.

The world as the subject of redemption; being an attempt to set forth the functions of the church as designed to embrace the whole race of mankind. Eight lectures delivered before the University of Oxford in the year 1883 on the foundation of the late Rev. John Bampton online

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Online LibraryW. H. (William Henry) FremantleThe world as the subject of redemption; being an attempt to set forth the functions of the church as designed to embrace the whole race of mankind. Eight lectures delivered before the University of Oxford in the year 1883 on the foundation of the late Rev. John Bampton → online text (page 9 of 35)
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idyll of the Song of Songs ; and the book of soliloquies
called Ecclesiastes ; to which the Book of Daniel, the
first Apocalypse, may be added, containing the rudi-
ments of a philosophy of history. Yet each book is
related to and presupposes the law ; the last written
book, the Book of Daniel, as designed to encourage
the patriots of the Maccabsean era in their devotion
'for the sake of the holy laws,' and as shadowing forth
the destination of the Hebrew race in the establishment
of the universal kingdom of God; the Book of Eccle-
siastes, as returning after wanderings in the realms of
wilfulness and doubt to the straight conclusion, ' Fear
God and keep His commandments ; ' the Song of Songs,
as the triumph of faithful love over licentiousness ; the
Book of Proverbs, as a commentary on the words, The
fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge ; the
Book of Job, as ending in unquestioning submission to
the will of God, which, as has been pointed out, was
ever to the Hebrews identical with the law. But the
Psalms will ever be the chief evidence to us of the cen-
tral position which the moral and political law held in
the thought and literature of the nation. These free
lyric compositions are religious in no strained conven-
tional sense, but in this sense only, that the fear of
God, the love of God, joy in God, gratitude towards
God, are in the hearts of the poets and overflow from
their lips. But the God of whom they speak is always
Jehovah, the national God, the God of the law and of
righteousness. This is the case, not only in the didac-
tic Psalms, like the 119th, or those which express, like
the 1st, the praise of the good man whose delight is in
the law of Jehovah, in which he meditates day and
night : but, in historical Psalms, like the 105th, which
celebrates, as the crowning mercy of the deliverance
of Israel, their settlement in the Holy Land, 'that they
might observe His statutes, and keep His laws j ' in

1I-] Training in National Righteousness. 75

Psalms of nature, like the 19th, where the sun going
forth in his glory is made the emblem of the law of
Jehovah which is perfect, and His statutes which are
sweeter than honey ' ; in Psalms of victory, like the
76th, where the triumph over Sennacherib is the upris-
ing of God as the helper of the meek (the character
always ascribed to Him in the law). The Psalms
come from all epochs in the history of Israel ; they
are of all the characters that lyric poetry can assume ;
but the pervading thought of them all is the mercy,
the justice, the redeeming love of the one God, whose
law is enshrined in the life of Israel.

The Psalms, as poetry, form a specimen of art. They
were joined with music and the rhythmic dance, which
expressed the joy thrilling through body and soul in
the presence of the Eternal. Israel was not an aesthetic
people ; but their best architecture, their costliest deco-
rative art, their sculpture and embroidery and metal
work, were lavished on the Tabernacle and the Temple,
which was at once the place of approach to God and the
centre of their political system. Whatever art they had,
their whole intellectual and aesthetic nature, bore the im-
press of consecration to the God of righteousriess.

It may be asked whether the whole moral life of
Israel, which we have been attempting to describe, was
not marred, so far as any application of it to the
universal Church is concerned, by a mean national
exclusiveness. The answer is that the impression of
exclusiveness is given entirely by the ceremonial law,
which is now ascertained to be mainly an after-growth,
and of quite secondary importance. The moral law con-
tains little that is exclusive. The political law, no doubt,

' Compare Ps. civ., where the glories of nature suggest the contrast
between the Psalmist who ' sings to Jehovah as long as he lives,' whose
' meditation of Him shall be sweet,' and the wicked who ' shall be con-
sumed out of the earth.'

76 The Hebrew Theocracy. [lect.

bore partly the colour of its time and place, but was
mainly, as we have seen, an effort at the establishment
of just relations. This it is which gives it its high im-
portance, for true righteousness is universal. It is also
to be observed that at many epochs in the world nation-
alism is the truest universalism. There may be a
cathohcism which is merely sectarian, and an alliance
of a whole continent which is only a tyrannical compact
of its kings, and a fellowship in art or science which is
no more than a bond of selfish and disdainful refine-
ment ; and none of these have the true spirit of univer-
salism such as is exhibited by the feeling of brotherhood
within a single nation, establishing just relations be-
tween its component members, drawing its various
classes into one, and harmonizing all its public and
private life. The true and universal religion, says Kue-
nen ', must be born of the nation but rise above it.
And this condition the religion of Israel fulfilled. The
strangers within its borders were the special care of the
national God ^. The prophets again and again announce
that the people of God are those, and those alone, who
have the righteousness of God among them, and that
Israel when unfaithful is no more His people s. There
is nothing sectarian about the prophets. The condem-
nation of the Assyrian tyrant in Isaiah is not the sec-
tarian or nationalist complaint that he has oppressed
Israel, but this : ' Thou hast destroyed thy land and
slain thy people ; the seed of evil-doers shall never be
renowned ■».' The prophets also keep in sight the hope
that other nations will share in the favour and service of
Jehovah, as when Isaiah represents Him as saying :

' Hibbert Lectures for 1882, Lect. I.
^ Ex. xxii. 21 ; xxiii. 9. Deut. x. 18, 19. Ps. cxlvi. 9.
' 2 Kings xvii. 22, 23. Jer. ix. 13-16; xliv. 26, 27. Ezek. xvi. 3,
48-53. Hosea iv. 6.
* Isa. xiv. 20.

III.] Training in National Righteousness. ']'j

' Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of
my hands ' ; ' or, when Malachi says, ' From the rising
of the sun even unto the going down of the same, my
name is [or shall be] great among the Gentiles ; and in
every place incense is [or shall be] offered unto my name,
and a pure offering ; for my name shall be great among
the heathen ^ ' The true relations w^hich the law estab-
lishes are the heritage of the world. In this sense the
prophecy has been fulfilled that the law of Jehovah shall
go forth from Jerusalem to many nations s.

Perhaps it may be said that Jewish history is the his-
tory of one nation only, a small nation, without the
secular greatness which belongs to Greece or Rome,
and that the interest in it is somewhat fictitious or
conventional. There has, no doubt, been much that is
conventional in the study of the Old Testament, since
the chief stress has often been laid on the predictive
element in prophecy or the external resemblances of
ceremonial or history to events in the Christian dispen-
sation ; and events and characters have been studied
without any philosophical estimate of their true place
in history, while the law which established true rela-
tions has been neglected. But study the history of the
three races (we can spare none of them), and ask which
of the three presents an ideal of life of the most central
importance and the mogt applicable to ourselves ♦ ? The
ideal of the Greek was versatility, 'Ex\ TzXeiara iiStj r6

' Isa. xix. 25. " Mai. i. 11. ' Isa. ii. 3. Mic. iv. 2.

* Mr. Goldwin Smith has, in articles in the 'Contemporary Review'
and ' Nineteenth Century,' asserted that the Jew as the worshipper of a
tribal God can never be a trustworthy citizen of a Christian nation.
That depends on the question whether the Old Testament is interpreted
by the Jews of the present day,as it was in the Rabbinical schools or as
it was in the Sermon on the Mount. The latter I believe to be gener-
ally the case. On this point mainly depends the answer to the ques-
tion, whether the Jewish race will bear the high place for which it
seems destined in the Christian society of the future.

78 The Hebrew Theocracy. [lect.

oZlia abrapxki napi/effdat '. That of the Roman, Imperial
power, ' Parcere subjectis et debellare superbos ^ ; ' that of
Israel, Righteousness, ' Open ye the gates that the right-
eous nation, which keepeth the truth, may enter ins.'
We learn much, no doubt, from Aristotle's Politics, and
from Roman constitutional history. But the Greek re-
publics, whatever their form, were an aristocracy super-
posed upon a mass of slavery. Roman history resulted
in a despotism, a useless patriciate, and a pauper proleta-
riate. The Jewish community was a brotherhood bound
together by a worship and a law of righteousness, and it
gave birth to -the righteousness which is owned as com-
plete where that of Rome and of Greece fails. The ideal
we seek in modern times is that of a national community
knit together in all its relations by righteousness and
love, and caring especially for its weaker members.
This neither Greece nor Rome did, but only the Jewish
nation. Let those who would make Christianity merely
a religious system apart from the common life of men,
those who ascribe to it a sacerdotal or a dogmatic basis,
those who conceive of God as apart from human rela-
tions, and of religion as a merely individual connexion
with Him, see to it, that they do not fall below the
Hebrew ideal. Those who appreciate that ideal most
fully, and dwell most on the divine element pervading
it, will see very clearly that it points to none of these
as its proper development, but to an all-embracing
society, including the whole range of human interests
and binding all men and classes and nations together in
true relations, which are the work and the expression of
the Spirit of God.

In the present day there is too great a tendency to
disparage the religious importance of the Old Testa-
ment; and to doubt its value as an educational instru-
ment, or as a medium for the teaching of practical life.

' Thucydides, ii. 41. ^ Virg. Aen. vi. 854.. ^ Is. xxvi. 2,

II-] Training in National Righteousness. 79

This is, to a large extent, a reaction from the over-
strained notions which attributed to it an exact historical
accuracy and a perfect sanctity. The Ration alismus
Vulgaris, which has been applied with success to destroy
such notions, was in its right, and had received abun-
dant provocation. But the fuller and higher criticism of
later years which has come to us from Gottingen, from
Leyden, from Aberdeen (may we not say also from
Natal, at least in the later volumes .?), if it has displaced
some parts of the fabric of our rehgious ideas, has also
readjusted them. When the smoke of controversy has
passed off, we shall find that the more historical treat-
ment of the Old Testament greatly enhances its reli-
gious value for us. It is true that we must make a dis-
tinction between various parts of the Old Testament.
Christ and St. Paul have taught us this. There are some
parts which have already been recognized as unsuitable
for reading in our churches, and this process may be
carried further. Other parts can only be read with profit
if we apply to them constantly a kind of philosophy of
history ; and this will be more possible with the advance
of general education. But, if what has been said in this
Lecture be true, not only will the Psalms and the
prophets gain through the appreciation of their historical
surroundings, — a process which will be greatly furthered
by the forthcoming new version of the Old Testament,
and by the more open study of Hebrew literature in our
universities, — but the whole of the Old Testament will
be recognized as possessing the highest educational and
political value. Through its connexion with Chris-
tianity, it knits together the old and the new world with-
out a breach of continuity. And it exhibits the stages
of human progress, and also its drawbacks, its inci-
dental failures, its atoning penalties and sacrifices, in a
manner which strikes all ages and both sexes, and goes
direct to the heart. It is also of extreme value as show-

8o The Hebrew Theocracy. [lect. ii.

ing by a typical example that religion is a matter of
public and national concern, which has often been de-
nied through a misunderstanding of the New Testament.
And if the political and moral aspect which I have
attempted to restore to prominence be maintained,
this will make it still more precious in an age of poli-
tical changes. For we have in it both a constant
stimulus to the reform of our social state, and at the
same time a direction for our efforts and a safeguard
against our excesses. We may enter upon the path of
democratic progress, which seems to open before modern
communities without fear, if we apply, like Savonarola,
the spirit of the prophets to uphold and to guide it ; for
no nobler effort can be made in the political sphere than
that which they made, to direct the national action
towards the raising of the poor and the weak, and the
promotion of brotherly relations throughout the com-
munity in the name and in the fear of God.



St. John xviii. 37. Pilate saith unto Him, Art thou a king then ?
Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I
born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear
witness unto the truth. He that is of the truth heareth My voice.

The establishment of a true theocracy or reign of
God, by which, as we have shown, is meant, not a
government by priests, but a recognition of divine
righteousness in all the relations of life, is the purpose
of the whole course of human development. We are
not following any narrow or conventional plan when
we trace this development in the facts revealed in the
Jewish and Christian Scriptures ; for the world of our
day is led by Western Christendom, and an under-
standing of Christendom must be sought in the study
of the Christian origins, and these again cannot be
understood apart from the Old Testament. Other
systems, European or Oriental, are accessory ; here
alone is the main line of development. The principle
of life which the Scriptures set forth is brought face
to face with those of Greece and Rome, and to some
extent of the East, in the early Christian history. I
will not say that the one destroys the others ; but it
absorbs them ; it vindicates itself as supreme, partly
by contrast to them, partly by its power of assimilating
them. But the battle-ground, or point of contact, is
6 81

82 The New Testament Church. [lect.

not that of philosophical disquisition, but of the estab-
lishment and maintenance of human relations : for
this is the true subject-matter of religion ; in this lies
the kingdom of God. If Judaism and Christianity
(which we may take as one whole) formed a peculiar
religion, that is, a special system of doctrine and of
worship, it could never take the position which ex-
perience shows it capable of taking. It is the object
of these Lectures to show that it is something different
from this, that it is a central principle of spiritual life,
which develops into relations, and through these again
into organizations and communities ; and that, being
this, it is capable of becoming, and has constantly
sought, and is now seeking to become, the harmonizing,
co-ordinating and saving principle of human society

It has been pointed out in the last Lecture that the
centre of the Jewish development, of its laws and con-
stitution, of its theology, its history, its literature, was
the consciousness of God as a power of righteousness,
abiding amongst the people by the law of just relations.
This was the true theocracy. This theocracy, it was
shown, was cast in various forms suited to the various
epochs of the national history ; it was necessarily
national not universal at first, and was bound up with
peculiar forms, which, though they had a moral inter-
pretation, yet constituted a fence round the inner and
moral law, thus giving to its votaries an exclusive char-
acter, and to righteousness and obedience to God a
formal and limited meaning. But it was also pointed
out that the moral law has in it the character of univer-
sality, and that the development into universality was
contemplated by the prophets as the object of aspiration,
if not of direct endeavour.

The time came when this universal moral power,
nourished within the womb of Judaism, was to come

Ill-] Beginnings of the Universal Society. 83

forth into light. Christianity is bom from the Jewish
Church as Christ Himself from a Jewish mother ; and
though the separation of tlie child from the parent was full
of sharp pangs, the life of the one passed over into the
other. The theocracy in Israel was the righteous God
abiding in the nation. The theocracy in Christendom
was to be the same righteous power abiding in mankind.
The righteousness is at once deeper and fuller ; deeper,
because, to become universal, it must touch the springs
of human action, not the mere rules of national custom ;
and fuller, because, starting from the central principle,
that of love, it must show itself all-pervading, applicable
to all, subduing and embracing all, binding the world
into one.

The inwardness of the Christian righteousness has
been recognized ; it has been characterized in our day as
the special method of Christ ' : but its extension and
goal have been little dwelt upon. We have known, to

' M. Arnold, Literature and Dogma, p. 195 : ' No outward observ-
ances were conduct, were that keeping of the commandments, which was
the keeping of a man's own soul and made him enter into life. To
have the thoughts in order as to certain matters, was conduct. This
was the " method " of Jesus : setting up a great unceasing inward move-
ment of attention and verification in matters which are three-fourths of
human life, where to see true and to verify is not difficult, the difficult
thing is to care and to attend. And the inducement to attend was,
because joy and peace, missed on every other line, were to be reached
on this.'

Mr. Arnold seems to be content with this inwardness, and to con-
sider that it cannot and ought not to work itself out into a social
system. ' Mr. Froude,' he says, {Lit. and Dogma, p. 95) ' thinks he de-
fends the Puritans by saying that they, like the Jews of the Old Testa-
ment, had their hearts set on a theocracy, on a fashioning of politics
and society to suit the government of God. How strange that he does
not perceive that he thus passes, and with justice, the gravest condem-
nation on the Puritans as followers of Christ ! At the Christian era
the time had passed, in religion, for outward constructions of this kind,
and for all care about establishing or abolishing them.'

Contrast with this. Natural Religion, p. 187 : ' Is it true that, whereas

84 The New Testament Church. [lect.

use St. Paul's words, the depth and the height of the love
of Christ, but not its length and breadth. Men see in
Him the Saviour of their own lives. We must show that
He is the Saviour of the life of the world, the Founder of
a society which is to embrace all mankind in a fellow-
ship of righteousness.

It is true that the first and main effort of His ministry-
was to renew in men's minds the consciousness of the
Fatherhood of God, and the inner and spiritual life, the
life of gratitude and affection, which flows from this con-
sciousness. He and His disciples were members of the
Jewish Church, and it was not the first and essential part
of His office to revolutionize existing institutions. He
gave intimations, no doubt, of the changes which must
be wrought by the working out of the universal principle
which He inculcated — the conversion of the Gentiles,
the universality of His kingdom ; and, as the enmity of
the Jews against Him deepened, of His own self-sacri-
fice, of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the upraising
of a new and spiritual temple. But He did not excite
His hearers by dwelling upon any of these. He spoke
of them only to the inner circle of His followers, and
with the reserve imposed by His spiritual objects.
There was to be nothing of that which is called in our

the ancient religions, including the Jewish, were closely connected with
public and national life, Christianity is different in kind, being purely of
the nature of a philosophy, and intended only as a guide for the indi-
vidual conscience ? ... It does not appear that Christianity has ever
wished or consented, except under constraint, to be such a religion.
Its nature is misrepresented when it is reduced to a set of philosophical
or quasi-philosophical opinions ; its history is misrepresented when it is
described as a quiet spiritual influence, wholly removed from the tur-
moil of public disturbances, and spreading invisibly from heart to heart.
Its rise and success are closely connected with great political revolu-
tions.' P. 197 : ' Look almost where you will in the wide field of
history, you find religion, wherever it works freely and mightily, either
giving birth to and sustaining states, or else raising them up to a
second life after their destruction.'

III.] Beginnings of the Universal Society. 85

day sensational. Speculation on wonderful events to
come was not to outstrip the conviction by which the
minds of His servants were to be prepared for them.

Nevertheless, the events were present to His mind,
and He was concerned to prepare H!is disciples for them.
He declared, and with more frequency and impressive-
ness towards the end, that He was come to send a fire
upon the earth ', that His disciples would be delivered
up % expelled from the Jewish synagogues 3, brought
before Gentile rulers. And here we may trace the
need for the formation of the Church. His disciples
were to go forth as sheep among wolves. Was there
to be no fold or shepherd, no organization in which
they could support one another? We can hardly doubt
that the great prophecy of Matt. xxiv. expresses
His thoughts about the future. When the great tribu-
lation there spoken of should come, and Jerusalem
should no longer afford them any shelter, was there
to be no social system to succeed that of which Jeru-
salem had been the centre ? The fabric of the cere-
monial law must crumble away, as the political law
had well-nigh done. It had crumbled away already in
our Lord's estimation, for He never urges its obligations,
and, so far as the record informs us, He never practised
more than its central ordinances. What was to come
after, when the fabric of the law, which had seemed
to the Jews like the eternal ordinances of nature,
should have vanished away ? Was each man to build
up an intellectual home for himself ? Were the
simple believers to confront the Western school of
philosophy, or the theosophies of the East, or the
stupendous power of Rome, without guides or leaders ?
Our Lord saw multitudes already taking the kingdom
of heaven by storm ■* ; the fields were white to the

' Luke xii. 48. ^ Mark xiii. g. ^ John xvi. 2.

■• Matt. xi. 12. Luke xyi. 16.

86 The New Testament Church. [lect.

harvest ' : and He bade His disciples pray for labourers
to gather them in ^ ; the Greeks who sought to see Him
at the last Passover called forth some of His deepest
and most far-reaching sayings ^ ; His last injunction to
His apostles was, that they should make disciples of all
nations +. Was He content to look forward merely to
a tumultuary aggregate of individuals, and not to an
organized society ? Some such questions — though we
must not bring all our later thoughts within the scope
of our Lord's ministry — must have presented them-
selves to His mind ; and the answer He gave to them
was the foundation of the Church. There are many
of His sayings, especially in the parables, which show
how His mind dwelt upon the future destinies of the
body of His disciples s, and which must have come
back to them for their guidance when they began to
organize the Christian community.

We may compare our Lord's dealing with the subject
of the Church or organized body of believers, with His
dealing on some other matters of importance. Take
the question of public worship. There is hardly a
word about it in our Lord's discourses. Yet we cannot
doubt that, though its position has been greatly exag-
gerated, it is an integral element in the life of Christians ;
and, as such, it must have been present to the mind
of Christ. We must presume, therefore, that He gave
no injunctions concerning it, because the general prin-

Online LibraryW. H. (William Henry) FremantleThe world as the subject of redemption; being an attempt to set forth the functions of the church as designed to embrace the whole race of mankind. Eight lectures delivered before the University of Oxford in the year 1883 on the foundation of the late Rev. John Bampton → online text (page 9 of 35)