« PreviousContinue »
for the short-lived part he played in the resistance of the Tyrol to the French in 1809, has been the subject of a good deal of discussion: on the one hand, he has been represented as vacillating and of feeble ability; and, on the other, as the incarnation of heroism. When Zimmermann published his tragedy of Hofer in 1828, the Tyrolese veterans who had aided him could not recognize the features of his naïve and hardy character in the transformation he had undergone into a Judas Maccabæus; and perhaps, in the midst of Auerbach's violent declamation against the sovereigns of Germany, they could recognize him as little in the latter's representation of him, as the victim of the cowardice and treachery of the Emperor of Austria.
But Auerbach has grown wiser as he has grown older: he has given over political for moral revolution; for, individual and interior reforms once made, legitimate revolutions follow of themselves. His motto, as has been well suggested, might have been borrowed from Angelus Silesius, Le bien ne fait pas de bruit: le bruit ne fait pas de bien. The patience which he recommends is the patience of the man who will reform himself: the courage which he illustrates is the courage of the man who can see his illusions melt away, and yet not become indifferent. "In the midst of his rustic stories, he inserts a discourse," says a French writer, "grave, solemn, evangelical, a sort of sermon on the mount; and this sermon is the glorification of human activity. There is a pulpit, who knows where it is? There is a congregation, who can tell its name? In this pulpit, before this congregation, a preacher without office or title might say, I have come to speak to you of the majestic crown of man, and the name of it is TOIL.'
This idea of individual regeneration appears in his long and unsuccessful romance entitled Neues Leben. It was under this title that Dante related the mystic ecstacies of his youth; but Auerbach applies it to the present situation of Germany, to the doubts which have obtained possession of many minds, to the disenchantments which have afflicted many hearts. His doctrine is, "You believe in God, and do
not lose your confidence, though his every way may seem dark and mysterious. I believe in humanity, and believe that it is destined to attain absolute sanctity and absolute beauty." Yet this new life, is it the religion of Strauss? or the-humanism of Bruno Bauer? or the atheism of Feuerbach?
ART. III. — WHAT IS THE VITAL TRUTH UNDERLYING THE TRINITY?
IT has come to be a recognized principle among the most advanced students of theology, that every great and widespread belief, every doctrine which has been clung to and lived in through a long series of years, no matter how false its form may be, must have its core in some precious and substantial elements of truth. The human mind was never made, even in its lowest and grossest state, to be satisfied with error alone. A lie- which is a lie and nothing more, the same as a body which is all disease, or a soul which has sinned till it is utterly without goodness-must die inevitably of its own nature. It is the truth inside of falsehood which gives it life and beauty, which makes it loved and clung to, which enables it, like a fortress full of men, as compared with one which is only dead matter, to resist attacks and repair the ravages, which from time to time are made in its walls. The pertinacity with which the world clings to many things which we regard as superstition and poison, is evidence not of its love for error, but of that craving for what is true which will take it even in its worse forms, rather than not have it at all. There is no false system of doctrine which has not had a providential mission, either as a poison neutralizing some other poison, or a bitter shell holding within it the germ of a precious fruit. God is to be found in the history of error, not less clearly than in the progress of truth and the course of events. It is better for our moral,
the same as for our physical health, to have all the elements of food, even though mixed up with some things which are inert or hurtful, rather than to have none at all, or to have one separated entirely from the others. And when we find a doctrinal statement, which we feel sure is wrong, resisting all our attacks, and held not only in the minds of scholars but by the great common heart, it is absolute proof that the world needs it, is better off with it, errors and all, than with our pure half truth, and that it is something we need conquer to possess, not to destroy.
Recognizing this principle, it is an interesting and most important question, what is the vital truth which underlies the Church doctrine of the Trinity? We have no doubt, that every statement of this doctrine, which was ever made, and which ever can be made, is false. It is contradictory in itself. It is opposed by the most explicit terms of Scripture. There is no analogy for it in nature. Again and again its defences have been battered down, and the doctrine itself logically demolished. Yet somehow it has survived all its destructions. It is one of the oldest doctrines of the Church. Nine-tenths of the strongest and best Christians that have ever lived have believed it. It is connected with all the great revivals of religion; is as prominent in all light of modern science, as in the darkest night of the middle ages; and is held to-day, by the whole Christian world, Protestant as well as Roman Catholic, except a mere handful of liberals, as a most vital part of its religious faith. What is the secret of its strength? How are we to reconcile our position as Unitarians with these undeniable facts of Trinitarianism ?
Rev. J. F. Clarke, in his recent most valuable book, "The Truths and Errors of Orthodoxy," has stated, in its best form, one of the ways by which a reconciliation has been attempted. He supposes the essential truth, which underlies the doctrine of the Trinity, to be, that "the Deity has made, and is evermore making, three distinct and independent revelations of himself; each revelation giving a different view of the Divine Being, each revelation showing God to man under a different aspect." "The Father would seem to be
the Source of all things, the Creator, the Fountain of being and of life. The Son is spoken of as the manifestation of that Being in Jesus Christ; and the Holy Spirit is spoken of as a spiritual influence, proceeding from the Father and Son, dwelling in the hearts of believers, as the source of their life, the idea of God seen in causation, in reason, and in conscience, as making the very life of the soul itself." "There are these three revelations of God, and we know of no others. They are distinct from each other in form, but the same in essence. They are not merely three names for the same thing; but they are real personal manifestations of God, real subsistences, since he is personally present in all of them." "It is the same God who speaks in each, but he says something new each time. He reveals a new form of his being. He shows us not the same order and aspect of truth in each manifestation, but wholly different aspects." "It teaches that God is immanent in nature, in Christ, and in the soul." "So that, when we study the mysteries and laws of nature, we are drawing near to God himself and looking into his face. When we see Christ, we see God who is in Christ; and when we look into the solemn intuitions of the soul, the monitions of conscience, and the influences which draw our hearts to goodness, we are meeting and communing with God."
There seems to be some confusion in the language here used, as to whether Dr. Clarke makes the Trinity consist in the three aspects of God which are spoken of, or in thẹ three modes by which he is manifested; also whether the Father is to be considered one of the manifestations of Deity, or as the entire Being who is manifested. The meaning, however, that we get from his words, as a whole, is not that there is any real distinction in the Divine nature otherwise than of its attributes, but that the one eternal person of the godhead is revealed to us in the three ways of nature, Christ, and the soul; and that, through each of these ways, we get a view of something in him which is different from what we get in the others.
Now, there can be no question as to the general facts on
which this reconciliation is based. God is manifested in nature, in Christ, and in the soul; and it is the same Person who is manifested in all these different ways. But is this really the vital truth which underlies the Church doctrine of the Trinity? Is it the source from which it grew,: and the reason for which it is held? Or is it an after-thought, made to explain away its logical difficulties, and make it more acceptable to the thinking mind?
The objection starts up at once, that, whatever truth the view itself may have, it is not, in the proper sense of the words, a truth of Orthodoxy. It is not the kind of trinity in which the Orthodox churches believe, and which they have clung to for so many ages. The doctrine, as generally held, is that God is revealed in Scripture as three persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, having special points of difference; and that these three together are one God. Even Sabellianism, which comes nearest the view of Dr. Clarke, makes the distinction consist in the relations of God to the world as Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, rather than in the modes by which he is revealed. There is no prevailing statement or conception of the Trinity which lays any stress on his being manifested in any separate modes. Hence, as an explanation of the vitality there is in the Church doctrine, it entirely fails.
Then, in regard to the view itself, it does not do full justice to the words of Scripture. Christ says, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." The Father, however, is a term which denotes not an attribute or manifestation or aspect of God, but the Eternal Being himself. It is the name of all he is; the word which expresses the highest conception of him the human mind has ever reached. And it is hardly possible that Christ meant to say otherwise than that he was a revelation of the entire Deity. So with the words of Paul in Colossians, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily." What other meaning can they have, than that Christ was a manifestation, not merely of one part of God, different from what we have in nature and in the soul, but of the whole God, of his wisdom and power, and justice