« AnteriorContinuar »
PROGRESS IN THE SPHERE OF THE CHRISTIAN
Contents—continued. ^\UR less recent Christian theology was, in
its distinguishing spirit, much more individualistic than the theology of to-day which emphasises Collectivism so far at least as to preach not alone the -gospel of individual salvation, but also the Gospel of the Kingdom—the Gospel that makes it no longer possible for the individual to remain unmindful of the fact that he is saved, not unto himself, nor only unto sporadic forms of fellowship, but unto that new, redeemed, and purified society which is the Church, visible representative of an absent Lord. Our modern Ecclesiology, in its care for the individual, cares not simply that he be saved from eternal death, but also and equally that he be developed in personal character, in qualities and activities of peerless value as contributive to his realised citizenship in the Kingdom of God, and to the weal of that social order which has become the Church's larger aim. And, while Julius Müller, Dorner, and others, have, in opposition to the views of Rothe and Delitzsch, reasserted the validity of the distinction between the visible and the invisible Church in the interest of the invisibility, it must be said that strivings after visible unity as the unattained ideal have by no means been wanting. In face of the antichurchly elements and baleful Individualism of our time, the churchly consciousness has risen to assert, in forms at once more practical and powerful, the importance of churchly function and communion, realised in the Church as a corporate institution, for the growth of the glorious Kingdom of God, abroad as well as at home, and for the extension of the Incarnation from the Head to the incorporation of the members: its thought has not been uninfluenced by the pulsations of the greater catholicity of spirit and the larger sympathy with all things human which have been characteristic of a new time, and it has laid new hold, as it appears to us, of progress rather than reversion as the law of its life.
The prime want of the Church, which is the Holy Spirit, as the Quickener and Sustainer of spiritual life, has been with growing clearness represented in modern Christian theology, which has enforced the need of the Spirit's presence and manifestation in the life of the corporate society of which the Church is composed. The truth of the Spirit's work, as characteristic of the dispensation under which we live, in which Christ, by the infusion of His Spirit, comes to be our inward life, has been unfolded so that men have felt it more profoundly in the hidings of its power. As the Son has been better seen to be the self-revealing God, so the Spirit in His true Divine Personality has been more clearly discerned by His abiding manifestations and activities as the self-communicating God. His work as the Life-Giver has been set in closer and more just relations to the Person of the Christ, after Whose Image He seeks to reconstruct human character, and of our conformity to Whose likeness the indwelling Spirit is the proximate cause. While the importance of the immanence of the Holy Spirit, as not only immanent in the natural world but as also the seal and the soul of the spiritual creation, has been more deeply felt, perhaps, in modern theological teachings, it is yet not without a certain feeling of dismay one sees so little to represent the theology of the subject beyond the writings of Smeaton, Kahnis, and Hare, the doctrine of the witness of the Spirit being in our view one of the directions in which modern Christian thought has work to do which has not yet been done.
There is found in recent Christian Eschatology one of the most important phases of theological progress in the nineteenth century, so patient, intense, candid, have been modern investigations here where are so many moot and difficult points bequeathed by the older theology. What is distinctive in the Eschatology of Christian theology is that which finds peculiar expression in the Second Advent, rightly noted by and since Schleiermacher as the central truth of Christian Eschatology, but which is characteristic of the whole circle of modern eschatological thought —namely, the relation sustained to the Person of Jesus Christ. To this supreme place of the Christ in the last things, all previous Christology naturally leads up. It does not seem necessary to our purpose to go beyond what may be deemed the Catholic doctrine of the Second Advent, and refer to Chiliastic matters. Enough to remark now that recent Christian theology has felt with increasing distinctness that not alone by external power or visible transformation, but also under ethical laws and spiritual influences, will ultimate issues be determined and final purposes achieved; has felt, too, how far from precise dogmatic form are the utterances, and how scant and insecure are the data, with which revelation has supplied us for some of our cherished eschatological conclusions.
Recent Christian theology — of scientific not confessional type—has given a more articulate utterance in favour of an Intermediate State, even for believers, in which status intermedins the regenerate find themselves in a realm of progressive advance in holiness and wisdom. It has not been able to find, while not denying the determination of the individual's destiny at death, sufficient support in Scripture, in reason, and in the scientific law of continuity, for supposing loss