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nation in theological science there can never be, while the full meaning of the Christian revelation is being evolved in the course of history, and a higher knowledge of God is being opened out before us with the Divine Spirit's unfolding of the whole of truth amid the rolling of the years.
Through the Scriptures,—in the facts and processes of nature and of history,—in the course of national as in the manifold aspects and relations of individual life, — in the secular progress of humanity, the play and function of the human mind, the course of philosophic thought, the growth and development of Christian consciousness ;—theology traces out the revelation of God through every stage of the universal evolution—
"From seeming evil still educing good,
The progress of which we speak is no addled motion or circular movement: its advance is neither through chameleon changes nor inorganic accumulation: its procedure is neither by spiritual cataclysms nor by fits of saltation to the changeful piping of the Zeit-Geist, which it sways more than it serves: it lies in gradual, organic, cosmic growth, in progress at once extensive and intensive, embracing broader comprehension of the facts linked to deeper insight into their nature and significance. The theological knowledge, of which such qualitative and quantitative progress is predicable, is, in basis, Biblical; but truths unfolded and developed in the course of Christian history, however present germinally in Biblical principles and declarations, form, in their actual and gradual development, integral parts of theological progress. "More light " is ever to break forth from the Holy Word: it will take the orchestra of many and diverse Churches, and the chorus of myriad minds, under the conduct of the One Eternal Spirit, to give that masterpiece of Revelation its full effect in the growing ages. That effect will stand at vast remove from that reached by theologians who, in their well-meant but mechanical treatment of the Scriptures, " turned their breathing organism into a colossal Memnon's head, with a hollow passage for a voice."
unchanging heritage of the Church since her morn of Pentecostal radiance, and absorbing everything that is vital and permanent in the old, Theology, inbreathed upon by the Divine Spirit, and impelled by advancing science and culture, unweariedly pursues her unending task of gathering together the ever-ripening historic fruits of faith, of reviewing and building up the waste places of her thought, and of raising herself, by "steps of infinite progression," as one who has not thereto attained, but as yet knows only in part, ever nearer the sacred height of a perfect yet expanding theology. If this should mean that some cherished idols that have desecrated the temple of our thought be by her cast out, it is only that truth, which shall be the better equivalent of spiritual reality, be had in reverence of them that approach the sacred shrine. If it should mean that, in pursuit of her loved task, she anon lop off some branches on the trunk of existing system through which the sap of life seems never to have freely pulsed, or prune some shoots overgrown with leafy foliage of human tradition, it is but because such excision of the fictitious and the decayed is needful to the stronger growth and freer development of the stately tree of spiritual truth.
"Inutilesque fake ramos amputans
The time past may suffice to have shown the most conservative of theological minds that "there is nothing so dangerous, because nothing so revolutionary and convulsive, as the strain to keep things fixed, when all the world is, by the very law of its creation, in eternal progress." The Church must, by her very essence, progress: it is only in the continuity and progress of her life, so subject to the law of cyclical movement and so rich in celestial impulse, that she becomes fitted for, and filled with, the fulness of God in Christ—a growing fulness that craves expression in a theology whose eternal asymptote is an ever higher and more exact accordance with the facts and phenomena of spiritual life, thought, and experience. If no theory of life covers life, so no theological system covers this spiritual fulness, at whose breasts successive systems are nourished, in so far as they are filled with vitality: in the growing approximateness of
1 Hor., Epod. ii. 13, 14.
our theologies lies the possibility of progress. Life has only to be restricted to the study of theology for that study itself speedily to become impossible. Christian truth unfolds itself, as theology is at length more surely coming to see, not to the "mere thinker," but to Emerson's "man thinking "—man thinking in the totality of his being, will, conscience, feeling, imagination, called into play before his own perplexities and miseries, and those of the race; and man, following his instinctive craving for consistent thought and formulated knowledge, even in respect of things pertaining to the life, in its subtle illimitableness, that comes from above—
"Knows partly but conceives beside,
The truth may, in the Christian revelation, be a thing sui generis, given, not attained, theology may be "une philosphie, dont la base est donnee," but Christian theology, starting from the truth as objective basis, assumes a scientific form only by undergoing the same subjective