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Nothing more was needed to authorize Jewish theologians to believe and to teach that it was always the Word of God which appeared to their ancestors, and which, as God's agent, guided and governed the Hebrew nation. Nor should we be surprised, that a poetical figure of speech thus should be transformed into a being real and concrete. The multitudinous personifications of the attributes of God which the Cabbala contains, testify how familiar was this proceeding to the Jews.
As to the terminology of the theory, it is true that Jesus, Son of Sirach, imitating the Book of Proverbs, generally* styles the intermediate being the Wisdom. But the term Word prevailed because consecrated by its employment in Genesis,t - a book reputed to be the most ancient of the sacred writings, intimately connected with the name of Moses, and reciting the account of the creation.
We say, then, that the doctrine of the Word resulted, not from a metaphysical speculation or importation, but from a literalistic and arbitrary interpretation applied to remove difficulties from the sacred volumes, and to deduce from their teachings a more or less systematic set of doctrines.
This doctrine passed, as we know did many other doctrines, from Jerusalem to Alexandria. Planted in a new soil, it grew there to a more philosophical form, but retained its original essence. We have already seen what it became under the cultivation of Philo. In after times it lost among the Jewish doctors its ancient terminology, and the intermediate being is known to the writers of the Talmud, not under the name of the Word, but as the Schechina.
The great current of history is formed by the confluence of two rivers, in comparison with which all other tributaries are but rivulets. To the Indo-European races (comprising the Hindu, Persian, Greek, Latin, Slavonic, Germanic, Keltic peoples) humanity owes the chief elements of its politics, art, poetry, philosophy, science; to the Semitic races it owes the predominant characteristics of its religion. The one furnished
* He uses the term Word in Ecclus. xlii. 15; xlviii. 3, 5. † Gen. i. 3, 6, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, and 29.
the human, the other the divine, factor of the grand product. The prevailing method of progress in the one is national development; in the other, it is inspiration. In the one, individual conception and general practical acceptation march with nearly equal step; in the other, the highest idea appears side by side with conflicting practice.
To us, as Christians, the Hebrew nation is the nearest related and best known representative of the Semitic races. To it, in the providence of God, we are indebted for the monotheism of our religion.
With deep reverence for the One Invisible Being, and in extreme revulsion from every form of polytheism which the religions of nature around them had developed, the Israelites sought God above all contact with created things; they contented themselves with saying “ He is,” and began that perpetual tautology, which their cousins, the Ishmaelites, can only repeat: “God is God.” It is as though the word had been spoken to those Semitic races, “ Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther."
But if God is separate, by the very purity and difference of his nature, from all created things, how then shall he govern the world? How shall the craving of the Hebrew heart for a special and intimate Deliverer and Protector be satisfied ? In order to preserve the idea of a governing providence, so essential to the Semitic mind, the doctrine of the Word developed itself, as we have seen, in the Palestinian schools, through the contemplation and literalistic interpretation of certain figurative expressions in the sacred books. This doctrine, a correlate to the strict monotheistic idea of God, was, like that, the result of an interior development through the natural action of the Hebrew mind. In the sacred books, and especially the Mosaic, God is represented as effecting everything by speaking; hence it is his Speech, his Word, through which every action is performed. This intermediate and intermediating agent, no more separate from God than the speech from the speaker, and yet not God, is the minister of God's will, the medium through which God acts upon nature as he does on the heart of intelligent beings. It is the Word which has created and systematized the world, which preserves its con
stant harmony, which governs the Jewish people, and intercedes for them with the Deity, and which appears, instead of God himself, to Abraham and the Patriarchs, to Moses and the Prophets.
Thus the Semitic philosophy effected the reconciliation between the doctrine of a governing Providence and that of One God, who is utterly separate from man and the world. God reigns, but does not govern. “No man hath seen God at any time.”
The Semitic race had reached its utmost limit in the comprehension and development of the divinely inspired idea of the One Invisible God. The time had now come, in the providence of God, for the transmission of the monotheistic idea from the race of Shem to races which should return “ with usury” the talent given. But the transfer of this great trust of the ages was not to be effected till certain new elements had been divinely interpolated; for we can trace development in man towards Christianity, not up to Christ. The first of these elements was the introduction of a perfect character into the religious life of the world, by which men were to be drawn up to heights above the mists of passion to a clearer perception of the Godhead. In Mosaism, if we can ascertain what Mosaism was, we see an attempt to unite the idea — the spirit — and the life ; in Prophetism, an elevation of the spirit above the life; in Pharisaism, which grew out of the intense contemplation of the Mosaic Law by the returned Babylonian captives, the subordination of the spirit to the life. In Jesus Christ we behold the perfect union of spirit and life. The assertion of Protestantism, that Christianity is a religion of the spirit, is one-sided, partial. The doctrine proclaimed from the well-curb of Samaria had a special application as opposed to the then prevalent Judaism and Samaritanism, and all kindred ritualism. The religion of Christ is a religion of both spirit and manifestation.
As a necessary correlate to this, the second element is the Christian doctrine of the Word, — the immanent presence of God in the world. The Christian Word is not only (as the Jewish Word was) the Creator and Preserver of the world, the Revealer of divine truth, the Sanctifier, the Consoler, the Intercessor, but it is God himself manifested most divinely in the Messiah, the Messiah suffering as well as the Messiah triumphant, descended as well as ascended.* God, ever present in his creation, became most intimately united with the human in Jesus Christ, that henceforth there might be a moral indwelling of God in humanity through the consciousness of the fact of the permanence of the one all-permeating Spirit, Power, Will, in that which it forms and fashions, under innumerable changes, according to its own divine purpose. The Jewish development had resulted in removing God from the world, and in denying the occasional theophanies in the flesh ; Jesus Christ brought back God to the world, that he might bring the world to God.
A third element is the combination of Universality with Unity. God is the universal God, — God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews. And he is one : there are no other gods.
In these three elements we find the philosophical basis of whatever Jesus revealed of the moral relation of God to his creation : a character which demonstrated a moral problem by the union of spirit and life, idea and manifestation; a correlate doctrine of the presence of the Creator in the things created ; and the idea of a universality unlimited existing together with a unity which was absolute. We do not intend to say that there is to be found in the sacred books of Christianity any adequate philosophical statement of these doctrines. Their credited authors were men whose thought is rarely metaphysical in its form, but whose inward eye was opened that they might clearly see the things of the spirit.
The Indo-European races are naturally progressive; and the . method of their movement is rational rather than spontaneous. Containing within themselves the germs of every other element of human progress, but lacking the one ingredient of religious truth, they uttered the cry,“ Come over and help us!”
That cry was answered. Received into their thought and heart, through the corrective and enlarging medium of Christianity, Semitic Monotheism necessarily underwent cer
* “ The Jewish Word and the Messiah are never identified, in the Apocrypha of the Old Testament, or in the Chaldaic paraphrases, or in Philo.” – Nicolas.
tain modifications. The idea of manifoldness and plurality had permeated the Indo-European mind. The characteristic method of their religions was the exaltation of the wonderful, mighty, or beneficent powers of nature to Godhead. Following this tendency, the Indo-European deified Christ; developed the doctrine of the Trinity ; established the worship of saints ; and in that religion which began with the Hebrew horror of graven images bred an idolatry which grew to be the horror of Ishmael. Saints were substituted for heroes; and then images of saints for images of heroes. True to his Semitic instincts, Islimael revolted from this elevated Paganism, and became a Mohammedan. There came another revolution. The Indo-European spirit still feared not to place God in contact with the world, but it individualized and limited him ; the most evident and highest manifestation of God it took to be God. We trust that it is freeing itself from this littleness.
And so, at the present day, the great opposing forces — pure Monotheism, as represented by the yet more numerous Jews and Mohammedans, and the modified Monotheism of Christendom — stand with confronting faces. Out of the conflict will come the victory and peace of truth.
We ought to venture, even in the most general terms, no rash predictions for the future. But we have no belief that any system of unqualified Monotheism, as held by the Jews, will ever prevail or have a continued existence among the Indo-European races, with whom the idea of plurality is no weaker now than the idea of unity. We are speaking of facts. Read the history of Christendom. The idea of plurality mingles everywhere with the idea of unity. Nor were all the various forms of this idea of manifoldness which have existed or do exist in Christendom foisted upon Christianity. Preparation for their development was made by its Founder. Believing as we do that the hand of God guides the progress of Christianity, we cannot suppose that his Divine plan has been thwarted for twenty centuries. Christianity, based upon eternal religious principles, has been developing itself continuously in the comprehension and consciousness of humanity.
Modern thought, unfolding and embracing, through science, the unity of nature, the unity of the universe, amid