Stacks Image 905


PART FIRST.
OF GOD, AND THE RELATIONS HE SUSTAINS TO HIS CREATURES.



CHAPTER I.


ON THE NATURE OF DIVINE UNION.


All original life in God. — The life which is not from God, not life, but death. — Of the union of God and men. — The basis of this union to be found in God's nature. — Of the different kinds or forms of union. — Union of pacification, of alliance, of nature.

FROM God all things come. To God, as the universal originator and governor, all things are in subjection. In ascertaining what God is, we necessarily ascertain the position and responsibilities of those beings that come from God, and are dependent on him. The life of his moral creatures, so far as it is a right and true life, is a reproduction, in a finite form, of the elements of his own life. "God created man in his own image. In the image of God created he him." Gen. 1:27. The Saviour, in speaking of himself, in his incarnate state, says, "I am in the Father, and the Father in me." John 13:11. God, in carrying out and perfecting the great idea of a moral creation, subjects the infinity of his being to the limitations of humanity, and reproduces himself in the human soul. So that man's life may truly be described, as God's life in humanity.

2. Nor, in the strict sense of the terms, can any­ thing but the DIVINE LIFE, or the life of God in the soul, be called life. Those who have gone astray from God, just so far as they have lost the divine life, and have sunk into the natural life, are dead. Hence, the expressions of the apostle: — "And you hath he quickened, who were
dead in trespasses and sins." Ephes. 2:1. The eternal vitality, the breath from the Infinite, the life of God in the soul, ceases to be in them. And being dead, by the absence of God as an indwelling principle, they must be recreated, or born again, by his restoration. It is not enough, that provision has been made, in the death of Christ, for man's forgiveness. Forgiveness, it is true, has its appropriate work. It cancels the iniquity of the past; but this is not all that is necessary. It is not without reason, that the learned Schlegel commences his profound work on the philosophy of history by saying, that "the most important subject, and the first problem of philosophy, is the restoration in man of the lost image of God." The immortal nature must be made anew, must be re-constituted, if we may so express it, on the principle of life linked with life, of the created sustained in the uncreated, in the bonds of divine union.

3. In entering, therefore, upon the important subject of Divine Union, by which we mean the union of God with man, and of man with God, we must first direct our attention to the central truth, to which reference has already been made, and consider
what God is. It is in God's nature, in what he is and what he requires, that the basis of union must be placed.

Before doing this, however, it is proper to make a few remarks, in explanation of that state of mind, and of that position of things, which are implied in that union of God and man, which is the topic of this treatise. And we proceed to remark, in the first place, that the union, which ought to be established between God and man, and which the Gospel of Christ proposes to restore, is not merely an union of pacification. Man is now at war with his Maker. War cannot exist without division. Those who are in contest with each other, stand apart, not only alienated in heart, but separated in position. It is thus with God and man, while man remains a sinner. When man ceases to contend, he is brought into union. But it is only the union of pacification. And it is not enough.

4. We remark again, that the union, which the mediatorial agency of the Saviour proposes to restore, is not merely an union of alliance. The first step is pacification. The two parties, God on the one side and man on the other, have entered into a pacificatory arrangement, by which it is agreed that man shall cease to rebel and to fight, and God shall cease to resist his wicked attempts and to punish. In addition to this, which is more an union or harmony of position than of feelings, man is willing to unite his efforts in carrying out the divine plans. God condescends to accept these indications and movements of return; — and thus there is constituted the additional union of alliance.

5. Both steps, it must be admitted, are very important. What can be more wise in man, than to lay down the weapons of his warfare? What can be more pleasing, than to see him uniting his efforts in the promotion of God's cause in the world? It would be difficult to exaggerate the beneficial results which necessarily flow from these forms of union. All who come to God must pass through them. But, in passing through them, they cannot attain the highest ends of their being, without going further.

And the reason is, that these two forms of union, although they exclude the idea of hostility, are consistent with, and imply, the existence of two parties; — each occupying his own position, and
sustained in his own strength. It is true they have ceased to contend. It is true, also, they have entered into alliance with each other. But still, even under these more favorable circumstances, it cannot be said of man, in relation to God, as was said by the Saviour, in relation to his heavenly Father, "I and my Father are one." The prayer of the Saviour, "As thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us," has not been fulfilled There is still a point of union which has not been reached. Something more is necessary.

6. Union, therefore, as we desire to develop it in this treatise, is not merely a treaty of peace, nor even the closer compact of alliance; but a combination or union of nature; not the union of juxtaposition, but of filiation; not the union of convention, but the union of life.

It is to this union that all who are born of God must at last come; — not uniting with God, as man unites conventionally with his fellow-man, in the formation of civil society, or for any other purpose, but with that union of life with life which binds together the father and the son.

7. Undoubtedly it must be admitted that this union is not reached at once. At least this is not the general method of God's operation. God works
gradatim, step by step; by the gradualism of continually developed law, and not by the impromptus and ejaculations of blind effort, without any wise and permanent principles as the foundation of effort. It is a great thing to begin to return; it is a much greater to complete the return. It is a great thing even to look towards God with feelings of humility and faith. It is a much greater to find him, encouraged as it were by these solicitations of humble faith, approaching nearer and nearer, in the mild radiance of a reconciled divinity; — melting away and removing, at every step of his approach, some envelopment of selfishness, until, the doors of every faculty being open, he enters his own purified temple, and becomes its everlasting centre.