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It must not be supposed, however, that we can draw a strict line of demarcation between the dispensations of the Father, Son, and Spirit, or that one was over before the next began.1 In a sense, they have always been co-existent. We have still the dispensation of the Father, for Nature is yet around us to suggest God's beneficent care. We have still the dispensation of the Son, for we can contemplate and, in imagination at any rate, converse with the historic Christ. Further, under the old Jewish dispensation—the dispensation of the Father, as it would be called in theological language—there have been men who prefigured and typified Christ; who, by the lives they lived, shadowed forth, partially and vaguely but still really, the great truths which Christ made so plain. And long before the day of Pentecost God's Spirit had been influencing men, both in their common yearnings and aspirations, and in the deep religious communion which psalmists and prophets enjoyed. We, however, may be said to be peculiarly under the dispensation of the Spirit, in the sense that we have attained to a clearer consciousness than the ancients of an indwelling God.
1 The system of Sabellius, the reader will remember, involved this false distinction.
And, once more, not only should we remember that it is impossible strictly to distinguish between the dispensations, but we should also remember that the God of each dispensation is the same.1 In the words of the old creed, "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; yet are they not three Gods, but one God." It is the same kind and holy Being who appeals to us in the physical beauty of nature, in the moral beauty of Christ, and in those yearnings after a beautiful character of our own, which, do what we will, we can never completely extinguish. And, strictly speaking, God is only known as God when He is recognised as Father, Son, and Spirit. No one knows the full meaning of the first expression who has not, in his heart of hearts, experienced the full meaning of the last. Just as it is good when a child believes in his father's love, and better when he learns to admire and reverence his father's character, but best of all when the father becomes part of his inmost life,—a guiding principle, a restraining power, the source of his highest satisfaction and of his noblest development; so, though it is good to realise the existence of God the Father, and better to realise the existence of God the Son, it is best of all to realise the existence of God the Holy Ghost. Not only is the teaching of God in the heart fuller, deeper, and clearer than His teaching either in Nature or in Christ, but His inspiration enables us to live a life that may, in the most literal sense, be called divine, for it is no more we that live, but God who liveth in us. Theoretically, God may be much to a man who believes in the Father, and more to a man who believes also in the Son; but, practically, God is nothing to any one who is not yielding to the influence of the Holy Ghost. God without us is but a subject of curious speculation. It is God within us that is the sum and substance of all true religion, and of all real life. 316
1 The first Christian writer who distinctly taught a doctrine liable to the charge of Tritheism was Philoponus, in the middle of the sixth century.
'' We hear His voice when thunders roll
Through the wide fields of air;
Yet still He is not there.
Who yet is everywhere?
Oh, not in circling depth or height,
But in the conscious breast;
There doth His Spirit rest.
And make Thy creature blest!"
The Connection Between Reason and Faith.
THE EELIGIOUS USE OF EEASON.
"Be ready to give a reason to every man for the hope that is in
you."—1 Pet. iii. 15. "Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of
God."—1 John iv. 1. "Prove all things."—1 Thess. V, 21 [or rather it should be, "test
all things;" SoKiju£fere ir«n-a is the Greek expression. The word
aoKi/iijW is applied first and specially to the testing of metals
for the purpose of seeing if they are pure].
rpEUE religion involves the harmonious and -*- complete development of all parts of man's nature.' False religion consists in the attempt to get rid of, or to suppress, certain parts in favour of the rest,—the senses, for example, in favour of the intellect, or reason in favour of faith. I want to show you in this and the following sermons that there is nothing incompatible between the last-mentioned faculties, but that, on the contrary, they imply and involve one another.
It is, I am afraid, a very common opinion that the exercise of faith necessitates a violent suppression of reason. Some persons are so afraid of their intellects, so certain their own judgment would lead them astray, that they would seem to regard the human mind, not as the breath of God, but as a corrupting influence infused into man by the devil. Others, again, though not so distrustful of the powers of reason, appear to imagine there is no virtue in believing anything in which there can be perceived the slightest glimmering of meaning. Religion, they think, consists in professing to believe that which cannot be understood. In proportion as they comprehended what they professed, their profession, they fancy, would lose its value. Even so wise a man as Bacon was once foolish enough to say, " The more incredible anything is, the more honour I do God in believing it." Now the term incredible is equivalent- in plain Saxon, as you know, to unbelievable; and unbelievable means incapable of being believed. Bacon's assertion, therefore, amounts to this, that the