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The creature was made subject to the laws and conditions of this mortal life-it fell out that men were created as they were under the present laws of the discipline of this worldby reason of the great and joyous hope that lay along the line of promised development. While the old theory declares that men are in this world, in the condition in which they are, in consequence of Adam's sin, Paul, looking the other way, says that, while men in this world are subjected unwillingly to laws of limitation and weakness, it is for the sake of gradually unfolding and developing them; "because," as he further says, "the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
That is to say, looking in the light of the Gospel upon the fact of the world lying in wickedness, Paul says, "I behold the great race in that condition, not on account of their own willingness, but being subjected thereto by God, because it is a scheme which promises, through the very experiences of this condition, to open them more and more gloriously, until at last they shall break out of their nascent state, and come into a later stage of glorious liberty, and be the children of God."
We are born, not of Adam, but of Christ. Our roots take hold, not of the old soil of Eden, but of the soil of the New Jerusalem. Our theory of life is not to be evolved from the poems or the parabolic teachings that are but shadows and intimations and hints and dark sayings, according to the line of the instruction of antiquity. We are to take the clearer light which shines from the face of Jesus Christ; the light of God's providence; the light of the interpretation of that system of things under which we live.
Now under this mode of teaching the imperfection of the race and its urgent necessities are recognized just as clearly as they are in the old view. Ministers and others are afraid, and very justly, of any system of teaching which lightens the sense of responsibility. They say that men are prone to sink back to animal and worldly conditions, and that if you preach flattering doctrines to them, giving them to understand that they are good, and that
they only need to be a little more good; that if you comfort them and soothe them thus, the tendency of your preaching will be to carry them back again in contentment toward the germ and the seed. The fear is a valid one; and if there were no other way in which to prevent so serious a result, we might look with a great deal more allowance upon this method of declaring that men inherited from Adam a corrupt nature, that they all fell in him, and sinned in him, and so were brought under liability to the penalty and curse of God, the sin which was committed by their federal head being distributed by natural generation through the whole race-if that were the only way in which to keep men from the dirt and the clay, and to inspire in them some aspiration toward higher things, then there would be more justification for it; but it is not the only way it is of all ways the lowest and the poorest. For mankind is developing, or easily may be developed, in such a way that while fear is not dispensed with, as it were, from behind, yet the motive power in advance is an attraction toward things that are good. It is not the fear of poverty that to-day makes men work; it is the ambition to rise higher. It is the development of a more manly quality in them which leads them on to desire better conditions of life. And in regard to the whole race, if they be so low that they cannot be stirred except by fear in its coarsest forms, then that may be used; but to say that that view is so essential that any change of it will work toward deterioration is false in fact, and still more false in philosophy.
On the other hand, the doctrine that the creature was made subject to this mortal and mutable state in order that out of it, by education and evolution, under the influence and guidance of the divine Spirit, he might come into the larger liberty, not of animal life, nor of man's life, as we understand it here, but of the life of the sons of God-that doctrine is full of inspiration, of attraction and of hope. All that is sweet in purity, all that is winning in affection, all that is fascinating in qualities addressed to the imagination, lies in such a theory as this: that men are born in seminal forms in this world; that the race comes in at the lowest
point; and that it is the divine plan that by laws, by educations, by industries, by instructions, under the supervision of God's providence, and under the stimulation of the Holy Spirit, they may be unfolded, and that by successional developments they may be brought out, by-and-by, into a larger sphere, into the spiritual sphere, into the sonship sphere, where they are to be like God. That theory has in it all the stimulus that comes from the fear of the other system, and it has in it the additional attractions and inspirations which belong to a higher moral plane of instruction. More than that, it falls in with a man's reason. It quadrates with a man's moral sense. It is in accordance with facts. It may not be with some men any further confirmation, though it will be with others, that it lies in the line in which modern philosophy seems likely to travel. The unfolding of the most materialistic school lies in the same direction. It lies in the same line as the science of our day, which is strangely co-incident with the line of thought of Paul, of John, of Peter, and of the whole of the New Testament writers; and when it shall be completed, I believe it will be the best commentary on the New Testament that was ever written. The New Testament is a very good commentary on the Old, but the Old Testament is a very poor commentary on the New.
Secondly, this view of man, as created at a low estate on purpose, as brought into this life at the bottom, rising higher and higher through a series of educational developments, and promising a final future manhood most glorious, does not do away with the doctrine of the divine and efficacious influence of God's Spirit. To teach, as every man in the scientific world does teach, that the floral kingdom has been developed from lower forms by growth through successive stages of evolution up to its present condition of variation is not absurd, as many have thought that it was; there is not a botanist forty years old on the globe who does not accept the doctrine of evolution in respect to the vegetable kingdom; but suppose a man fifty or sixty years old should say, "To teach that vegetation develops in this way is to teach that plants can get along without the sun; and we know that the sun is indispensable to the develop
ment of plants"? You may not see any logical connection here, and there is none; but the objection is precisely parallel to the fears of many men who say, "If a man is born into this sphere on a lower plane, and if the divine problem is the evolution of men up through social, intellectual, moral and spiritual conditions to the higher state, then where is the use of the Holy Spirit ?" Just as if the plan of evolution did not make a guiding supernal light, warmth and stimulation more necessary! The function of the Divine Spirit, according to the old theory, is to work in special lines of election. The whole world lies in wickedness; and the vast majority of men in accordance with that scheme are to be damned. A handful, here and there, are elected to be saved; and these elect, these glass-house plants, as it were, these conservatory vegetables under a glass church, the Divine Spirit is supposed to be working upon. That is the view which goes with the old system and the old theology.
In the New Testament theology the teaching is that man "was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope," because the creature looks forward to the glorious evolution and disclosure of itself in the sonship of God; but under such a system the revelation of the Divine Spirit is universal. It belongs to all ages and to every creature on the globe. It is infinite in its extent, as well as necessary-more necessary a thousand fold than in the artificial function which has been given to the Divine Spirit by the old theology. For what the sun is doing on this terraqueous globe, through ages vivifying it, and unfolding it toward ideal excellence, that same thing is the Sun of Righteousness doing upon the higher organizations in this world. The intelligent thought and soul of God, poured forth and stimulating the whole universe, is the operation of the Divine Spirit, according to the New Testament view of the origin of man, of his nature and of his destiny. It does not do away with that doctrine. It enlarges it and glorifies it, and exalts its sphere. It makes the functions of the Divine Spirit wonderful in the eyes of men who look upon the infinite necessities of this great outlying infantile race, that waits for its disclosure and development.
The reality, the intelligibility, and the necessity of the new birth are even more apparent under this New Testament view of the origin and the destiny of the race. It is held under the old theology that there is to be an absolute change -that all whom God elects he calls with an effectual calling, and that those who are called with an effectual calling are transformed, through the divine Spirit, by a renewing of their minds, and brought into a higher or Christian state. This is a view which, with the exception of the limitations of the present, is not to be contested. It is a view which ought to fill the mind with undying gladness. But it is even larger than we have been accustomed to teach it or understand it. If you understand that men begin low down in their animal natures, and that there is forever a vivific influence everywhere of the divine Spirit, by which whatever is reasonable and moral and spiritual in man shall come to a point where it dominates over the physical and animal, so that the forces of a man's inward life and outward life become rational and religious, then that point at which the spiritual comes into dominancy over the physical is the transition between. death and life, between animalism and spiritualism, between the natural man and the spiritual man, between the flesh and the spirit, which Paul so much discusses. In other words, when, in the process of divine providence, men come to that point in which there is a clear ascendency in them of that which is high, and pure, and moral and religious, they are born into the spiritual life; it is a new birth. When men who live by the appetites, by the passions, by the will, by pride, by vanity, by selfishness, begin to live by rectitude, by love, by mercy, by justice, by truth, by goodness, there is a transition from the animal to the spiritual and the rational; and the transition is actual and noble.
Now, if this be a peculiarity of the development of the race instead of a few favored individuals, and if it be understood, and avowed, and taught, it gives to the doctrine of regeneration and the new birth a grandeur and dignity which it has not had in times gone by, when, according to the ecclesiastical system, it was a special act, be