« EdellinenJatka »
ness as to every thing connected with religion. it is true, attempted to introduce a reform into religion. "Unless your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” But he based his reform in religion upon a better theology. He would have men pray in few words and in secret; why? because God is omniscient, he seeth in secret, and he knoweth what things we need before we ask him. "Take heed that ye do not your alms before men"; and why? because God, not man, is, or ought to be, the motive of every religious act. If he is not the motive, then it is a religious act no longer.
His countrymen thought themselves secure of God's favor, because they were descendants of Abraham. He told them, that in the sight of God this distinction was of little worth. For, said he, "God is able of the stones to raise up children unto Abraham."
Such is the view taken of this subject by Paul. He ascribes the practical corruptions of the pagan world to their theoretical corruptions of theology. "Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image, made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness. "Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, Amen. For this cause, God gave them up unto vile affections." "And even as they
did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind."
When Paul arrived in Athens, he must have seen the moral disorders which we know prevailed there, but he did not strike at them first. His first attempt was, not at a reform of manners and morals. He struck deeper, and commenced with theology. He began with making known to them "the God who made the world, who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, and is not worshipped by men's hands as though he needeth any thing, seeing that he giveth unto all life and breath and all things." Without this better theological doctrine concerning God, Paul, as a moral reformer, would have been utterly powerless. Thus it was that the preaching of Paul carried out and verified the principle laid down by Christ in his last prayer with his disciples. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God."
Equally powerless would Paul have been as a moral reformer, if he had preached the Supreme Deity of Jesus Christ. This, indeed, would not have been a theological reform, for almost all the deities the Athenians already worshipped were deified men. Over them Jesus, preached as God, could have had no supremacy, but could only have been added to the number. His deity would have had, moreover, a difficulty peculiar to itself. It would have been encumbered with the doctrine of the incarnation, the doctrine that He in whom we live, and move, and have our being became incarnate in the body of an unborn infant, a doctrine quite as revolting to the reverence as it is to the reason of mankind, a doctrine which would have deprived the idea of God of all dignity and moral efficiency
quite as effectually as the incidents described in their mythology. And such would have been the effect of the doctrine of incarnation upon the whole theology of the New Testament, in all time, had the incarnation included the whole Deity, instead of being confined to one of the persons in it. For, while the idea is inculcated, that one of the persons became incarnate, the Father, who is generally identified with the whole Godhead, is never represented to have submitted to such a humiliation, or bowed himself to the lowly usages of the stable, the manger, and the The fatal influence of the doctrine of incarnation is not felt in its full extent, for the simple reason that it is not literally believed. No human mind which has once conceived of Jehovah as he is revealed in the Bible, as unchangeable and filling the universe, as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, really believes that he became incarnate in the body of an infant, which he himself created and upheld. Paul preached not only "the only true God," but "Jesus Christ whom he had sent," not as God, but as "that man by whom God was to judge," or rule, "the world,' ""whereof he had given assurance unto all men, in that he had raised him from the dead.'
Peter gives the same testimony of the paramount importance of theology. "Grace, mercy, and peace be multiplied to you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord."
Finally, the considerations we have now brought into view explain and vindicate the necessity of doctrinal preaching, and of controversies in the Christian Church. They arise from the transcendent importance of a pure theology. The ideal must be kept right, for the practical
grows out of it. Hence the ministrations of religion have been from the beginning, in part, controversial. The contest between Judaism and paganism was theological, whether God was one or many. The struggle now between different sects is mainly theological, as to the nature and attributes of God, the religious nature and responsibilities of man. It is no pleasure to the ministers of religion to differ with each other, for they had far rather agree. But the maintenance of truth is a sacred instinct. Peace is dear, but truth is still more precious. Every man feels himself ennobled by its defence. To impart it to the world is the highest achievement of this life. Blessed is he who is engaged in this great work.
Doctrinal preaching is often the most practical preaching. To point out human duty, arising from the fitness of things, is generally an easy task. To form an image of perfect humanity requires little intellectual power. But it is doctrines, a sound theology only, that can breathe into this dead_form the breath of life, the doctrines of God the Almighty Creator. God the Universal Father, God the Author of conscience, God the present Witness, the future and eternal Judge, these are the most practical of all doctrines, and do the most to control the world and regenerate mankind.