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generalization, especially if it is subversive of the great faith and hope to which the social rationality of the human race has heretofore acceded with something approaching to a cordial unanimity. There is a day after to-day. The end is not yet. There is more truth, as Robinson, of Leiden, said, to break forth from God's word,- not from the Bible only, but from that book whose leaves are time and space, whose sentences are writ in constellations and in galaxies upon the evening skies. If it must needs be that offences come, why not in our time as well as any? Let us be as patient as we can under the burden of the mystery. But, while appreciating that every fact indubitably attested is a revelation as authoritative as if God had rent the heavens and come down, let us suspend our judgment for a time whenever we have urged upon us a teaching, be it in the name of science or theology, that appears to offer us only a mean and paltry rendering of the universe or of the human soul.
"The man that went the cloud within
The Prophet's brother-priest;
"Devout, indeed! That priestly creed,
O Man, reject as sin;
The clouded hill attend thou still,
He yet shall bring some worthy thing
Some sacred word that he hath heard
Some lofty part than which the heart
Thou shalt receive, thou shalt believe,
NO BACKWARD STEP.
FOR some months I have been hearing much of Dr. Gordon's new book, "The Christ of To-day," and have anticipated great pleasure in the reading of it when the convenient season should arrive. Reading it very carefully, I finished it some days ago; and I propose to make it the subject of my discourse this morning. But why should I do this? Because the book is one of the most significant that have recently appeared; because it is particularly significant to the Unitarian body, for which it has the finest lot of compliments this body ever has received from such a source, while at the same time it is invited to gird itself like one in solemn haste for its return to the rock from which it was hewn and the pit from which it was digged,— the orthodox conception of Jesus, who is called the Christ. Its author, Dr. George A. Gordon, is the minister of the Old South Church in Boston, the most representative Congregational church in that city, and, consequently, in the United States. He is a man of great ability and culture, a writer of great force and brilliancy, the master of a noble rhetoric and a happy gift of illustration, a preacher whose habitual note is one of profound moral earnestness and spiritual invitation. Moreover, his book is not an isolated product. It is one of many which in these last days are coming in upon us like a flood, the characteristic books of what is sometimes called Progressive Orthodoxy and sometimes the New Theology. (The second of these names is certainly the better, because "Orthodoxy" and "Progressive" are mutually destructive terms. Orthodoxy ceases to be Orthodoxy the moment it begins to be progressive. Progress ceases to be progress
the moment it becomes orthodoxy; i.e., a doctrine which is a dogma because it is held as a finality.)
I am a diligent reader of these books, though, in general, they contribute little to the sweetness of my temper or the improvement of my mind. But they are very interesting to any one who is interested in the stupendous theological transition of the time. It is no exaggeration to say that three or four new ones have come to me in a single day. They are of all degrees of merit, and I will only name some of the most conspicuous of the most recently arrived: "Social Theology," by President Hyde, of Bowdoin College; Dr. Coyle's "Spirit in Literature and Life," certain "Rand Lectures," delivered in Iowa College; Rev. Frederic Palmer's "Studies in Theologic Definition"; "The Morals of Evolution," by Professor Harris, of the Andover Theological Seminary; and with these the book to which I am inviting your particular attention. They all agree in being wide departures from the traditional standards of Orthodoxy, but they agree in little else. The departure is in different degrees. The devices whereby the new things are made to look like the old things are extremely various. Here and there a writer is quite indifferent to the old forms of thought, and spends his strength in developing the new ideas. Such an one is Professor Harris, of Andover; and how he can ever sign again the creed which Andover professors are obliged to sign every few years it is impossible to conceive. But the Rev. Frederic Palmer, who is an Episcopalian clergyman in the same town, proposes to go on using the old creeds and articles, with the understanding that they shall be accepted as meaning not what they say, but what they do not say, what the authors of them wanted to say, but couldn't manage to articulate, what they would say if they were living now in Mr. Palmer's skin and with his individual mind.
But Dr. Gordon's book is, if not unique in the advancing host, exceptional in the degree of its insistence on the divinity and deity of Jesus Christ. In Professor Harris's book, as
in Dr. Lyman Abbott's "Evolution of Christianity," the specialization of Jesus is simply an arbitrary assertion of his unique perfection,- a perfection, nevertheless, entirely human and attainable by other men, albeit with supreme omniscience we are assured (at least by Dr. Abbott) that no other human being has so far attained an equal height. If deity is predicated of Jesus by writers of this class, it is only in the sense that it is predicable of every human being; and the predication is built out of the ruins of the traditional doctrine of the depravity of human nature, and on the deep foundation of Channing's "one sublime idea,"- the dignity and grandeur of the human soul. In the Christology of such writers we have a reproduction of the Unitarian thinking midway of the century, when it was freeing itself from the Arian and Socinian traditional forms and endeavoring to find a speculative basis for its emotional persuasion of the singularity of Jesus. It so happens that the Christology of Professor Harris and Dr. Abbott and such men is far more rational and progressive than the Christology of Channing and his contemporaries who agreed with him, and even than the Christology of Dr. Priestley and those who agreed with him. The former was the Arian conception of Jesus as a being sui generis: the latter was the Socinian conception of Jesus as a human being exalted to the right hand of God in token of his moral victories over sin and death. But, because the Christology of Progressive Orthodoxy is far more liberal and progressive than that of our early Unitarians, it does not follow that it is any final resting-place for Orthodoxy, any more than it was for Unitarianism when it arrived at it some half a century ago. For this it was a theological Samaria. But it must needs go to Jerusalem. Leaving behind the half-way house that gave it comfort for a while, it must push on to a more rational and consistent doctrine of the humanity of Jesus, a less arbitrary specialization. And we have every reason to believe that it will be as impossible for the New Orthodoxy to go thus far and no farther as it was for the Unitarianism of fifty years back.