Stacks Image 905


The Son of God.

1.—The duality of the Divine Existence, involving the fact of Fatherhood and Motherhood, necessitates that further unfoldment of being, which is implied in, and is not inappropriately expressed by, the word Trinity. Around this grand and historic word, which alternately attracts and repels by the greatness of the mystery involved in it, the world’s thought and the world’s controversy have for ages revolved. As it is not our object, however, to discuss religious truths in the precisions of their established dogmatic forms, but rather as they present themselves in their necessary facts and relations to the enlighted view of the whole human mind, we leave the Trinity, as one of the generally accepted methods of expression, to complete and verify itself by its own logical processes, and in its own time and way.

2.—But before proceeding further, I think it will be necessary briefly to say something of a personal nature, in order to a proper understanding of my own position, and as explanatory in part of my own tendencies of thought. I hope the reader will bear with me and sympathize, when I say that I am a believer in, and a lover of the biblical Scriptures. I frankly and joyfully acknowledge, that I have found in them not only an enlightening, but I trust something of a positive and renovating power. At the same time I am obliged to say further, that under the influence of inward suggestions, which I will not stop to explain and define, I have thought it right and felt it a duty, to compare the moral and religious revelations embodied in the Bible with the moral and religious thought of different ages and nations. I wished to ascertain in this way, and with the aid of the histories of philosophical opinions, the relation of the Scriptures to the moral wants and the enlightenment of universal humanity. And in the fulfilment of these desires, I have not only examined the Scriptures to some extent in the original languages, but have trodden the soil of Palestine, which may be regarded as a living commentary; and have verified, or attempted to verify, so far as illustration and verification can now come from those sources, the Scriptural affirmations in the birth-place of their origin; — in Nazareth and Bethlehem, on the banks of the Jordan, in the sacred places of Jerusalem, in the terrible deserts and on the rocky summits of Sinai. And not only this: I have read, as many others have done, the truth of the declarations of the Bible in the direct as well as the comparative history of nations, and in the records of my own heart. And therefore, without forgetting the intelligence and the conclusions of others, I frankly affirm that the Bible is no fable to me. I have no hesitancy in saying, that in my view, subject to the condition of a candid and wise interpretation, the Bible is the affirmation of the highest intelligence, and is the eternal “Word of God.”

3.—But there is another view, which it would be unwise and unphilosophical to omit. I remember also, that God is not only the God of the Bible, but the God of all nature, and of all history, and of all things. And so much so that He cannot be separated without the denial of the essential elements of his nature from any thing and every thing which exists; but on the contrary is found to be and cannot possibly be otherwise than universal, unchangeable, and eternal in all that He is, in all that He does, and in all that He utters. And it is, therefore, I believe, that the word of God in his Revealed Religion, known as the Bible or Scriptures, and the word of God in the Absolute Religion, when interpreted in the true and divine light of things, are and must be the same. It is possible that men may fail to harmonize the two but the harmony exists.

4.—It is well known that theologians, looking perhaps with the theologic eye, have found a Trinity in the Bible. We do not say that they have always understood or expressed it rightly; or that their views, often divergent from each other, are always entitled to assent. Nevertheless it is the general testimony of their writings and creeds that they have succeeded in finding it there; at least in the essential nature of the thing. And such is my own belief. And it is not surprising to me that God, whose wisdom always adapts itself in its exercise to the existing state of things, communicated this great truth, in the early periods of the world, in the dogmatic form and simply as a doctrine and not as a philosophy. As thus stated, and standing by itself alone, it is not free from obscurity; and there is a class of minds which do not readily accept it. But the God of the Bible is the God of universal nature. And it is not strange that in these latter days, with all the enlightenment of arts and letters and of moral and religious progress, some of the obscurities of the Bible are explained and reconciled by the light of the Absolute Religion.

5.—To the thoughtful mind it is a natural suggestion, that the duality of the Divine Existence, written everywhere in the book of nature, necessitates a Trinity. The train of thought in the case is essentially this. It is not only true, as the apostle Paul teaches us, but it is a truth which harmonizes with the nature and position of man who reasons constantly from effects to causes, that we learn the things of God from the things that exist. In other words, the effect in the principles and methods of its being, is antecedently in the cause. And what do we find in the effect? In the first place it presents itself as a duality. But it does not stop there. We always find that the out-birth of that which in the order of nature goes before, supplementing and carrying out the fact of duality, in other words the added fact which constitutes the Trinity, everywhere manifests itself in the objects of the world around us. Everywhere there is a duality of existence, resulting in a reproduction which constitutes a trinity. But the things which exist, and which necessarily carry with them the evidence of the highest wisdom, are but the reflex or the mirror of the great First Cause from which they came. The cause holds the effect in its arms and stamps its image upon it. And thus the duality which in the objects of nature around us always implies and necessitates the fact of a Trinity, reveals in the light of the relation of effects and causes, the antecedent but correspondent fact, not only of the duality but also of the tri-unity of the Infinite.

6.—If we are right therefore in the view which we take, we must supplement the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood by the eternal Son. The eternal Son, or the Son “eternally proceeding,” as it is sometimes theologically expressed, is the great and un-ceasing out-birth of the Divine Duality. That which being
in God, is necessarily in its appropriate time born out of God, is the Son of God. But the Son of God is a wide and mighty form of expression which, in order to embrace the whole truth included in it, may be presented to our notice, first, generically or in its most general form; and second, specifically or in relation to that remarkable manifestation of the divine in the human, (undoubtedly the most remarkable fact in human or any other history) which is known as both Son of God and Son of Man.

7.—Generically, or considered in the whole of its extent, the trinal out-birth, otherwise called the Son of God, without which the eternal Fatherhood and Motherhood could have neither name nor power nor meaning, is the whole of creation from its lowest to its highest form. Spoken of in terms suggested by the analogy of the human form, which in some respects may be regarded as the physical similitude and outward portraiture of God, the myriads of existences which form the lowest stratas or divisions of beings, constitute the FEET; the highest developments and classifications of existence constitute the head; and the intermediate grades, all in their appropriate places and fulfilling their appropriate offices, make out and manifest the completeness and beauty of this boundless and unceasing out-birth or generation of positive and separate life.

8.—So that not an insect that floats in the air, nor a fish that swims in the sea, nor a bird that sings in the forests, nor a wild beast that roams on the mountains; not one is or by any possibility can be shut out and excluded from the meaning and the fact of the divine Sonship, considered in this generic or universal sense. Under that significant and glorious name in its generic and widest import are included all possible forms and degrees of being, whatever may be their distinctive character, which sustain the relation of effect or createdness to the great Causative Centre which lies hidden in what may be called the Dual Infinite. And this Sonship of universal existence, though it undoubtedly sustains the relation of effect to cause, is nevertheless so closely and indissolubly interwoven with the Eternal source from which it springs, that it may, in a proximate but most important sense, be said of it, that it is without beginning and without end; that no time in its specific measurement is allowed to mark its commencement and that no time, unless the same can be said of God himself, can announce the hour of its termination. It is what theologians, with a just and significant expression, have sometimes called it, the
eternal Sonship, or a Sonship in eternal procession. In other words, in the two-fold bosom of the Dual Infinite there exists a Sonship, which identical in nature but discriminated in personality, converts two-foldness into tri-foldness, duality into trinity, and of which it can be said in its objective manifestation it is always being born, and in the mystery of its subjective existence it is always in the bosom of its eternal birthplace and always in readiness to be born.

9.—All living nature then in all the variety of its forms, being only the out-birth of that which has existed interiorly and subjectively from eternity, is the mighty procession of form, feeling and activity which, in virtue of its birth-place, constitutes the Son of God. And in this vast complexity of Sonship, including all possible degrees and forms and methods of being, there is not a living thing that is forgotten, not one that is not overshadowed by the divine Love. All sheep and oxen, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, and the young lions of the forest, and the fishes of the sea, and the birds of the air, as they could not be born and exist without God, have a right to be called the children of God. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God,” “thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn,” “thou givest them their meat in due season,”—it is such expressions as these which show the loving heart of the Infinite.

And little does that man know of the greatness and boundlessness of God’s universal love whose heart is not touched with the deepest sympathy for everything that exists, no matter what it is or where it is. If we are one with God we are one in all we can do to contribute to the happiness of everything God has made.

10.—But again and specifically the Sonship, which constitutes and completes the divine Unity, not only in Duality but in Trinity, so that we can speak of the oneness of Eternal Life in the three-foldness of Personality and relations, the One in Three and the Three in one, is found in
Man. Not man however, in the first form of life, not the self-centered and limited Adamic man, (a subject on which we shall have something explanatory to say in another place;) but man with the experience of the second or higher birth, which expands the self-centered into the universal-centered and God-like form of life; man standing at the head and as the comprehension and the perfection of all lower existences; man who cannot separate his own life and happiness from the life and happiness of all other beings, man in his glorious Christhood. This is Sonship in the specific and higher sense; the fulfillment of the prayer and hope of the long expectant ages; the culmination of humanity in the Son of the virgin Mother.

11.—I stand with awe in the presence of this great out-birth. The true man was born: the effulgent model and ante-type of the incoming, heavenly humanity; and becoming the dwelling-place of God, he embodied the glory of divinity in the humbleness of the human form; and in virtue of that which was within Him, took the name in the specific and more glorious sense of the term of the Son of God. I shall be pardoned for saying it is my earnest prayer, that I may understand more and more this great advent known specifically as the divine Son. I do not believe that a true philosophy has any sympathy with that perversity of spiritual perception which turns coldly away from this divine brightness. The expression which better than any other meets my thoughts, and which in the comprehension of its meaning reveals the evidence of its divine origin is, “God manifest in the flesh.” Being not only made in the similitude of man, but being the possessor of a man’s nature, we do not find him as he is historically represented, exempt from human weaknesses and trials, temptations and sorrows. In what sense therefore, is it possible to speak of him as the manifestation of God? This is a great question. With a view to the better understanding of it, we leave the subject here until we shall have considered in the next chapter the necessity and possibility of a divine manifestation.