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onwards. His horizon is bounded by neither space nor time; and Christianity is pre-eminently the religion of hope, because it is the religion of love. These virtues have a universal sphere. They embrace all men. From the Pauline point of view there is absolute value attaching to every individual. Every man who comes within the range of Christ's sacrifice has a personal worth, and is important enough despite his outward circumstances to have a place in the scheme of redemption. The old barriers of country and caste which separated men in the ancient world are broken down by the faith in God and the hope for man which love inspires.
Faith, hope, and love are usually styled in contradistinction to the cardinal, "theological virtues." But if they are to be called virtues at all, it must be in a different sense from what the ancients understood by virtue. These apostolic graces are not innate or constitutional elements of the natural man, but states which come into being through a changed moral character. They connect man with God, and with a new spiritual order, in which his life has come to find its place and purpose. They were impossible for a Greek, and had no existence in ancient ethics. They are related to the new ideal which the Gospel has revealed, and obtain their value as elements of character from the fact that they have their object in the great distinctive truth of Christianity-fellowship with God through Christ-a union which is begun in this life, but only consummated in the life to come.
These three graces are not merely outward adornments of character, or optional accomplishments added to life. They are, as we have seen, the essential conditions of the Christian man. They constitute his inmost and necessary character. They do not, indeed, supersede or render
the other virtues superfluous. But as we have already observed, they transmute and transfigure them, giving to them at once their value and their coherence.
Both in this life and that which is to come, faith, hope, and love abide. We cannot conceive of a time when even faith and hope shall cease. They, not less than love, must be abiding elements of the perfect state. But love is pre-eminent in this-that while new objects of trust and desire will come into sight in the widening visions of the eternal life, they shall bring to us no higher or better blessing than love itself.
THE PROGRESSIVENESS OF THE NEW LIFE
WHAT has been already said of Paul's conception of faith as the faculty of gradual appropriation in the moral life, might seem to render unnecessary any separate treatment of the subject of this chapter. Faith, as we have seen, is necessary not only at the beginning, but also at each subsequent stage of the Christian career. It is the free act of man, by which he accepts the life of Christ, and also continues to walk in it. It was, however, only in a passing way that this aspect of the new life was touched; and it will be well, not only for the sake of clearness, but also to combat certain false and one-sided inferences that have been drawn from the apostle's teaching, to examine how far the idea of growth and development is recognized by Paul. We shall therefore, in this chapter, consider, first some of the salient passages in which this idea is presented or implied, in order to show in what form the progress of the new life discloses itself, and next we shall speak of the special aids by which, according to the apostle, progress is to be achieved.
1. The idea of growth. In all systems of ethics, both ancient and modern, the evolution of the moral life is a
fundamental idea, No man is virtuous all at once. The realization of the ideal is not an act, but a process. This is the meaning of Plato's famous figure of the charioteer and his winged horses, one of which is noble and the other of ignoble origin. The noble element or soul is striving continually to mount heavenwards, but the lower element or the body is ever dragging it down to earth. So there is a constant conflict, and only partially and gradually is the ideal life attained. Aristotle, even more explicitly than Plato, represents the moral life as a growth to be achieved through practice, and perfected by habit. The Stoics, indeed, present the only exception to this common agreement among ethical thinkers. They alone refused to make allowance for the weakness of human nature, or to admit of a gradual progress towards virtue. The wise man became wise by sudden conversion, and man was either perfect or the reverse. But as time went on, and as it was seen how rare a phenomenon the wise man was, the later Stoics were led to make concessions, and to allow that, after all, there are various grades of attainment, and that pleasure and pain are not absolutes, but may be steps towards a higher good. Turning to Christianity, it might seem that here also` there was no room for progress. Conversion is a complete renewal of life, and the man who is regenerated has made an entire break with the past, and has entered upon a state of perfection in which sin is no longer possible.
There are innumerable passages in the New Testament, particularly in the epistles of St. Paul, in which the distinction between the old and the new life is strongly emphasized, and a decisive transition out of complete darkness into light is implied. Paul says if any man is in Christ he is a new creature: old things are passed
It is no longer I
away; all things are become new. that live, but Christ that liveth in me. and others of a like nature the idea is that of a sheer division, a complete revolution of the innermost nature, so that the man who is in Christ, and dominated by the Holy Spirit, is completely lifted out of the realm of weakness, and is no longer subject to the infirmities and imperfections of the natural man. The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." 8 But a closer study of the New Testament modifies this first impression. Not only do we find that change of mind or conversion is required of those who are already within the Church, and have been there for a long time (and such words as "sanctify," "renew," "enlighten," "put on Christ," are employed in a quite similar way, both of a decisive turning-point and of a repeated turning again to the truly "good"), but also the very man who uttered that enthusiastic confession-"old things are passed away"-is also the man who reminds us that he has "not already attained or is already perfect." It might appear that the only way to get over this seemingly irreconcilable contradiction was to deny one or other of the truths, and this is exactly what has been attempted in the history of Christian ethics.* A certain type of perfectionists sees previously to conversion nothing but darkness, and after conversion no real sin. The rationalistic school, on the other hand, does not recognize such a thing as regeneration at all, and regards what is called conversion as only a gradual evolution of the good. But neither of these solutions is in harmony with the general teaching of the New Testament. Our Lord distinctly states that
12 Cor. v. 17.
2 Gal. ii. 20.
3 Rom. viii. 2. *See Haering, Ethics of Christian Life (Trans.), p. 202.