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a paralogism? Why try to confound the creed as such with his private-judgment votion? Why not distinguish between what he knows to be the historical sense of the creed and his own abstraction ? Besides, why attempt to identify this creed as to form with the original apostolic formula? Why ask a Christian to accept a Roman exposition of the divine Word of Christ? Virtually Dr. Nevin asks the disciples of Christ to believe in a human notion instead of believing in Christ himself ?
Will Dr. Nevin affirm that his Christo-centric abstraction is identically the DIVINE? If not, then he can have no right, Christian or scientific, to assume that his “idea or theory" of a whole is identically the Christian Church. His so-called Christo-centric notion is infinitely far from being the divine reality. The true Ecclesia is no more an “idea or theory" than the universe in its relation to man is such. The principle upon which Dr. Nevin founds his scheme is not divine; it is not Christian. His “ideal church” is a visionary abstraction.
Relying upon the absolute truth of that which can only be a relative principle, Dr. Nevin constructs an imaginary scheme said to be churchly, in accordance with his own subjective understanding; and then in a purely rationalistic way projects this subjectivism into the sphere of what he imagines to be the objective. It is easy to see where this false philosophy must lead its votaries. Speaking of heresy in its relation to Christianity, Dr. Nevin uses these significant words: “Wherever it may end, it is sure to begin always, consciously or unconsciously, in a wrong view of the Incarnation.” It is added that heresy turns the Incarnation" into a mere matter of speculative contemplation, by which it comes to be at last nothing more, in truth, than a thought or notion in the inind itself substituted for the fact it pretends to believe."-See Mer. Rev., vol. x., p. 419.
Dr. Nevin describes himself. His so-called Christo-centric notion, no matter what he imagines it to be, is “ nothing more in truth than a thought or notion in the mind itself substituted for the fact.” It is easy for a minister, fond of mystical speculation, to find fault with Protestantism, as being unchurchly
because it does not accept his private-judgment exposition of the creed: it is easy to denounce what is called “Puritanic Presbyterianism,” when intelligent Presbyterian ministers refuse to put confidence in a pantheistic abstraction. Happy had it been for the peace and prosperity of the German Reformed denomination, if this so-called Christo-centric notion had never been known in the schools. It is always a misfortune to allow an individual exposition to be held as the absolute truth. German rationalism lies at the foundation of this scheme, and sooner or later will be exposed and condemned.
A pantheistic conception of the ground of existence must give rise to a false view of the person of God. This in turn has given rise to a so-called Christo-centric abstraction. Faith with Dr. Nevin, instead of being a concrete personal reality, actual only in the sphere of self-consciousness, becomes a phantom: confessionalism is identical with Christianity. The Gospel of Christ becomes an “idea or theory,” and practical Christianity an absurdity. To be a member of what is called a church by means of priestly manipulation, is at once to be a Christian.
Thus has a pantheistic mysticism been substituted for the Personal Christ of the Gospel.
By confounding an abstraction, said to be Christo-centric, with the Gospel view of the person of Christ, this false scheme assumes to be churchly. Any fanatic may imagine, in a similar way, that his “idea or theory”is identically divine. Any
, minister, fond of mystic speculation, may assume, as Dr. Nevin has done, that his exposition is the true and historical sense of the old creeds.” No such assumption can stand. The principle underlying this Mercersburg scheme is just as far from being the truth as it is in Jesus, as German Rationalism is from being the Gospel of Christ. It were well for all ministers to bear in mind that what the Saviour says of himself, of the Father, and of the Holy Ghost, that, and that only, man can know. To attempt to identify any human notion with the existence of the Personal Christ must lead to heresy. This is what Dr. Nevin has attempted to do. His imaginative" idea or theory" of a whole finds no authority in what the Saviour says of himself.
Speculative studies have a peculiar charm. Profound minds
of all ages have loved to inquire into the “deep things” of God. All such investigations are attended with danger. Human weakness is nowhere more strikingly manifest than in the Ilistory of Philosophy. Once under the power of an “idea or theory,” conscientiously believed to be a reality, an earnest mind will almost inevitably be led to an extreme. Thus in the case of Dr. Nevin; his so-called Christo-centric notion of a whole has become for him the principle of all his thinking: with tyrant sway his philosophy rules his theology. An“ Order of Worship" has been constructed in the interest of this abstract “idea or theory.” Dr. Nevin says: “ They," that is, the members of the committee to prepare the “Order,"
were themselves brought more and more under the power of an idea, which carried them with inexorable force its own way.
."—See Lit. Quest., p. 39. This Mercersburg scheme, like Romanisın, is a species of priestly ritualism : it is from man. Romanism is based upon a human notion having for its centre a Pope: this scheme is founded upon a metaphysical abstraction having for its centre German Rationalism. Dr. Nevin has confused the mind of ministers who seem to have no acquaintance with the writings of the German metaphysicians. By affirming that Christ is the principle of his scheme, the real principle which is his own so-called Christo-centric notion of a whole has not been clearly apprehended. True Dr. Nevin holds and teaches many precious truths of the Gospel. Care must be taken to distinguish between these and the scheme as such. A church has been constructed, having for its foundation a pantheistic “idea or theory” of personal being. This phantom church Dr. Nevin calls the Christian Church! As well attempt to construct the universe, in a similar way, and call the abstraction the work of God himself. So-called philosophers expose their weakness by thus trying to know as God. Their speculative notions are right, they say, even though the Almighty should be wrong! Not content to sit at the Saviour's feet, they attempt to “find out the Almighty to perfection.” Of the work of God, a greater than Dr. Nevin says; “Though a man labor to seek it out, yet shall he not find it: yea, further, though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.”
Thousands of ancient bishops, priests, and councils may not be regarded as superseding the Personal Christ. When the Son of God speaks, let so-called priests and bishops be silent. What the Saviour says is divine; what these priests affirm is human. Thousands of self-constituted hierarchs, whether Roman, Greco-Roman, Anglo-Roman, Nevinistic, or heathen, can in no sense secure or hinder the saving of a single soul. "It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.
This Mercersburg scheme would have priests to mediate between an abstraction, said to be an objective reality, and the subjective life of personal beings. The Apostles knew of no such visionary church. These heroic servants of Christ, speaking as moved by the Holy Ghost, do not say that the soul is enabled to love the Saviour through any such priestly mediation. This pantheistic scheme, like Romanism, would substitute a slavish subjection to a priestly abstraction for personal freedom in Christ. The Christian Church is not a PERson. By necessary consequence, a priestly scheme can stand in no right relation to Christianity. Very properly does Dr. Nevin ask: "Is not God the last ground of personality ?”See Mys. Pres., p. 173.
Christian philosophy stops not here. Does not Dr. Nevin know that ground and condition are correlated terms? If personality has its ground in God, it follows that the condition is also in God. A pantheistic philosophy cannot admit this. A mediated life is not a conditioned life. This scheme is shut up to the necessity of teaching a pantheistic notion. Dr. Nevin says: “In every sphere of life, the individual and the general are found closely united in the same subject. . . So in the case before us, the life of Christ is to be viewed under the same twofold aspect.”—See Mys. Pres., pp. 160–1.
It is easy to say that the life of Christ " is to be viewed also under the same twofold aspect.” But where is the absolute authority ? Dr. Nevin can do no more than appeal to German Rationalism. Starting from an assumption, Dr. Nevin goes on to say: “Christ's life, as now described, rests not in his separate person, but passes over to his people; thus constituting the Church.”—See Mys. Pres., p. 167.
“ As now described.” Here is the secret of this pretentious scheme. As Dr. Nevin describes Christ, so must the Christ be! This is extravagant enough, surely. The Gospel view of the person of the Saviour is denied the moment any human “idea or theory” is affirmed to be identically the Divine. It has already been remarked that the Christian Church is not a person : if not a person, then must it follow that the personality of man can in no sense stand related to the Church. Salvation is not conditioned in that which is impersonal. Certainly Dr. Nevin will disown the legitimate issue of his pantheistic scheme. He says: “It is not a system of subjec
. tive notions born only of the human mind, a supposed apprehension of supernatural verities brought into the mind in the way of abstract thought.”—See Vindica. of Lit., p. 66.
Will Dr. Nevin say that his “idea or theory” of a whole is not “born only of the human mind?” This is an “abstract thought” having no foundation in the sphere of Christian philosophy, and infinitely far from being the Gospel of the Son of God. Christ is himself in his own blessed person both the ground and the condition of salvation. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.” The parallel is clear. The relation sustained to Christ is direct: it is personal. This is the Gospel view: this is the view recognized by all true Protestants. Dr. Schaff says: “ Protestantism goes directly to Christ.” The relation of the soul to Christ is here admitted to be direct and personal. This is primitive Christianity. The divine Redeemer is allowed himself to say to the sinner: “FOLLOW ME.” Dr. Nevin constructs a scheme which ignores the possibility of direct relation to Christ. He seems to think that his abstract church can, in some mystical way, supply the Presence of Christ. It is only necessary, he imagines, to fol. low his church. The Saviour may not be followed without the intervention of a priestly order. This is extravagantly false. Does Dr. Nevin suppose that there are priests in the Church triumphant? If not, then surely there can be none in the Christian Church militant.
Dr. Nevin is sadly mistaken in supposing that his objectivism "passes over" through the mediation of his imaginary priests into the souls of men. The Christian Church may not