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to reason, and that inspiration is something which, strictly taken, applies to persons, who are thereby helped to discover truth, and are not without an uniqueness as inspired writers, not to a book, supposed to be “signed, sealed, and delivered” as authoritative for the soul, however unresponsive.
The Christian Church has, without doubt, in recent times secured some real result in its investigation of the subject of inspiration, though much remains to be done in the way of showing what a real, living, free transfer of divine thought is pledged to us in inspiration, and, while less attached than formerly to theory, has retained a more enlightened faith in the thing itself, holding to the reality of Biblical inspiration in the wiser way, by which Christianity is yet not regarded as based upon the doctrine of inspiration, a former result of inspiration having a false meaning read into it.
When Christian thought impinges on the mystery of the Incarnation, most mysterious of doctrines within the compass of Christian truth, it no longer is to view it as an isolated wonder, a passing episode in the history of the race, or a divine after-thought consequent on man's transgression, but as an event charged with a significance fundamental, cosmical, eternal, as in fact the fitting goal of all the world's antecedent evolution, the crown, climax, and completion of all things — the groanings of the material, the yearnings of the intellectual, and the aspirations of the moral world. For He, in whose becoming flesh, through the Word, that man might be delivered from the power of sin, lay all future issues of the faith, had been present since the beginning as the eternal Word—the indwelling Spirit and sustaining life of all things, but only in the Incarnation do we see the perfect synthesis of the Infinite and the finite.
The Christian theology of to-day more clearly sees how the self-imparting energy of divine love, ceaselessly going out in the process of creation, could not stay its hand till it should have given the supreme gift—the Word made flesh, the Lord from heaven; hence its unwonted emphasis on the Incarnation as grounded in the ethical and eternal necessities of love, and its higher vision of the naturalness of that supernatural manifestation. The Incarnation is to it, with heightened reality, at once the goal and consummation of creation, and the crown and completion of God's self-revelation : it is to it, therefore, an event of cosmical significance, wherein Christ is seen to be Head of the creation, towards Whose appearing all things in the theistic evolution have been tending, as He is Head of the Church, whose perfect redemption He seeks. The Christian theology of to-day does not feel it consistent with this larger outlook upon the Incarnation to treat a fact that is for it so central and fundamental as merely means to the Atonement as end: it sees that in the fact of Incarnation, God was already in Christ giving Himself to mankind that He might reconcile the world unto Himself, and retrieve what had become lost to humanity : it sees that redemption rather is means unto an end, that end the total reconsecration through the Incarnate Word of the sinning universe to God, Whose revelation in the Word is adequate to all the needs of human life.
In the theology of the Word, it has more amply acknowledged that to take the Incarnation thus as, theologically, the larger fact with the deeper basis, nowise militates against the Atone
ment being retained in its former place of power, experientially, over the soul. For it, the Atonement is still, since the old jealousy for the Atonement has become dropped as groundless, the livelier, though the Incarnation is the larger, truth, for it is the Atonement that has the greater power to create penitence, inspire devotion, and beget sanctity.
In finding the necessity of the Incarnation in the eternal thought and purpose of God that the human race should be one with Christ, and live in the power of His life, instead of the older way of regarding it as merely a “ means devised” for man's deliverance, as indeed, in some sort, a divine after-thought contingent on man's sin, modern Christian theology views sin as having proved only the occasion and determined only the tragic form of the Incarnation : to it the ideal, true, eternal relations between God and man are revealed in the Incarnation, that necessity to man's perfection, wherein is set forth the reality of his sonship, wherein are also disclosed the perpetual relations that should subsist between all human units themselves, national and individual, and be realised in the practical brotherhood of mankind. If sin has brought us a more moving and wondrous revelation of the divine love, modern Christian thought, believing in the absolute worth of the Incarnation in itself, rejoices to think, with Dorner, Martensen, and many more, what rich access of life there would still have been to the soul of man in Christ the Incarnate Word, had human sin cast never one shadow athwart the world.