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never" within bounds of space and time, but reach on to endless possibilities, its findings can never be cast into formulative moulds that shall be final, but ever issue in a call to "cling to faith beyond the forms of faith." Its ideal tasks are concerned with no jejune circle of trite truths incapable of evolution or development, no hortus siccus of effete doctrines or indigesta moles of uncoordinated facts or hidebound beliefs, but—for its dogmes ne sont pas des choses mortes—with swelling germs, growing truths, living forces, creative energies in modern life and history. The theology that has to do with the manipulation and adjustment, evolution and correlation, demonstration and methodical concatenation, of such truths and facts and forces is a vast and endless growth —a fulness to which Faith can never perfectly attain, but to which she constantly presses forward.
The very function of faith, in our Protestant theology, implies the repudiation of blinding traditionalism, and the recognition of ceaseless progress—a growing capacity of union between subject and object, between our spiritual consciousness and the being of God, between faith itself and objective Christianity. Faith carries with it imperious obligation for every age to derive its theology directly and independently from the divinely ordained sources. "Truth," says Milton, "is compared in Scripture to a running fountain; if her waters flow not in a perpetual progression, they sicken into a muddy pool of conformity and tradition." The truth supplied by Scripture, instead of being "hewn stone for building up dogmatic systems," consists rather of "teeming principles," which, "vital and fecund as ever," can "quicken new systems of thought and aid in the solution of new social problems." With new social as with new intellectual problems, the theology of modern days has been called to deal: in dealing with these it has proved itself as well the sanctifying light of the former as the stimulating light of the latter.
We know no reason why Christian theology should not coafront every ascertained truth, or fruitful idea, or epoch - making word, in every sphere, and afford each such irresistible welcome aS is implied in the ancient word—" Quisquis es, noster eris": no reason why she should not show her catholic capacities in at once translating into the language of faith and aspiration every fresh and certain contribution which thought or science may make to the rising pile of human knowledge: none why it should be a thing incredible with theologians that God should reserve some truths—not indeed essential to salvation, but to a ripe theology—which the Church in the apostolic or post-apostolic eras might not be in fit state to receive, but which should be added, by the Almighty Spirit of truth, to the gradually increasing spiritual possessions of the Church, through the slowly unfolding developments of experience, thought, and life, in the course of Christian history, and through the growingly penetrative study of, and insight into, nature as well as Scripture. It appears to us God-honouring rather than presumptuous that a century, nineteenth in the Christian succession, should be ready to say for itself, against the claims of any of those earlier epochs by invocation of whose authority it is sometimes attempted to dispose of the present, as by some sort of law of spiritual mortmain—
"Mihi forsan, tibi quod negarit,
1 Hor., Od. II. xvi. 31, 32. As Lord Lytton has it—
"And haply what the Hour to thee shall grant not,
We conceive of the self-revelation of God as the gradual apprehension and assimilation of eternally existent objective truth, forming for us an ever-enlarging revelation projected into, and perpetuated in, the future life, with its larger capabilities and higher manifestations; and we cannot conceive how faith, living and active, should feel otherwise than that it dare set no limit to its own capacity for progress in receptiveness and ascertainment of the divine, so that, to its glowing vision, stretches away from the theological view-point of the present a vista of unending progressions in expansive and profound theology—a theology that asks, with Lessing, "1st nicht die ganze Ewigkeit mein ?" 1 or says, with Browning—
"A man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Not that we mean to despatch theological aspiration and endeavour upon an aimless progressus in infinitum, as though "finite nature could reach or realise its ideal only in the way of adding perpetually to the sum of its spiritual
1 Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts, § 100.
2 "Andrea del Sarto."
attainments," or as forgetful that "continuous progression could no more bring us nearer to a quantitative infinite than continuous motion could bring us to the end of space, or endless additions of years and millenniums enable us to exhaust eternal duration." 1 The inspiration of a progressive theology lies not in the fact that it is "attainable only by interminable progression," but that it is in process of being realised from this hour forth for ever, since the progress of a living and spiritual theology is not to be conceived as "towards, but within the sphere of the infinite," whose unlimited inheritance is already ours for faith's endless appropriation.
"The notion of progress," Hartmann has said, "necessarily includes that of end," and in the progress of Christian theology, which, it must be said, is far from leading to bewilder and dazzling to blind, a definite end is attained at each moment of the process, even the subtle unification, if not identification, of finite knowledge and the absolute Being and Life, or of the human consciousness and the divine. But no sooner is this end gained than it becomes the 1 Principal Caird, Philosophy of Religion, pp. 295, 299.