Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

God's kingdom. All that they were born into they shook from them, and stood afar off, as from a thing under a curse.

The world, then, out of which they were taken, was not the Gentile world, but the disobedience of the visible Church.

We have here a clue which will lead us safely out of this question.

1. First, it is true to distinguish between the Church and the world, as between things antagonist and irreconcilable: for the Son of God, by His incarnation and atonement, and by the calling and mission of His apostles, has founded and built

up

in the earth a visible kingdom, which has no other Head but Him alone. That visible kingdon is so taken out of the world, that a man must either be in it or out of it; and must, therefore, be either in the Church or in the world. In the visible kingdom of Christ are all the graces and promises of life; in the world are the powers and traditions of death. We know of no revealed salvation out of that visible kingdom; we can point to no other way to life. There is but one Saviour, one Mediator, one Sacrifice for the sin of the world; one baptism for the remission of sins; one rule of faith; one law of holiness. “ We are of God," writes St. John, “and the whole world lieth in wickedness."* "I have manifested Thy name," saith our Lord, “unto the men which Thou gavest Me out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they have kept Thy word. .. . I pray for them : I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me; for they are Thine.... I have given them Thy word ; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world, I pray not that Thou shouldest take tbem out

:

1 St. John v. 19.

[ocr errors]

of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."* He made His Church so separate and visibly distinct from the world, that it became a broad and enduring witness of His advent, and of His divine mission to mankind. “ Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word;" that is, for the catholic Church to the world's end : “ that they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us: that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me.” It is needless to multiply quotalions in a thing so plain. It is certain that, in a very true, deep, and ineffaceable sense, the Church is so taken out of the world as to be absolutely separate from it, and opposed to it. It is so by the gifts of election and regeneration ; by the graces of righteousness, illumination, and sanctity; by the laws, precepts, counsels of obedience; by the traditions,

e sacraments, and institutions of God. And this is a separation and distinctness not simply external or relative, as of things ceremonially consecrated ; though even so, it would be no less actual ; but it is parted from the world as a leavened mass from a mass unlcavened-as a field in which sced has been sown, from a field lying fallow; that is, by the unseen presence of Christ, the inward endowments and virtual possession of righteousness and of immortal life. It is, therefore, no less than a covert denial of the great mysa tery of the regeneration, to confound this separation and opposition between the Church and the world, and it has been commonly found, that wheresoever faith in the sovereign grace of God to us in our baptism has declined, there the distinction between the Church and the world has been confounded, and finally lost. In this sense, then, they that are

• St. John xvii. 6, 9, 14-16, 20, 21.

a

of the world are not of the Church, and they that are of the Church are not of the world. There can be no real fellowship between those that are of the body of Christ and those that are not. The only intercourse the Church has ever held with the heathen has been either such as St. Paul permitted to the Christians in Corinth, who might still maintain the relations of outward kindliness with unbelievers, or direct missions for the conversion of nations to the faith. There could be no closer fellowship; for as the world had its own complex scheme of political, social, and personal life, so had the Church, over and above its positive institutions, a whole moral character, founded on precepts and counsels both of obedience and devotion altogether separate and distinct. The communion of saints could no way blend with the fellowship of the impure. It had no unity with the violent, covetous, and unholy, or of those who believed in nothing unseen. The personal habits of the Christian, aiming at the example of the Son of God, could in no way adjust themselves to the habits of the heathen. And this St. Paul intends in his counsels about the marriage of Christians. There was a moral and formal contrariety between the rules of conduct and aim on both sides, which held the Church and the world apart.

2. But farther, it is no less true to say, that the world, which in the beginning was visibly without the Church, is now invisibly within it. So long as the world was heathen, it warred against the Church in bitter and relentless persecutions. The two great traditions—the one of God, the other of the world, the powers of the regeneration and o the fall—kept their own integrity by contradiction and perpetual conflict. The Church stood alone-a kingdom ordained of God, having her own princes and thrones, her own judges and tribunals, her own laws and equity, ber own

public customs and private economy of life. All these ran clear from a source freshly opened, and in a channel newly sunk to preserve their purity. The streams of the world had not as yet fallen into the river of God: its waters were transparent still. It was when the conversion of individuals drew after it, at last, the whole civil state ; when the secular powers, with all their courts, pomps, institutions, laws, judicatures, and the entire political order of the vzorld, came into the precinct of the Church ; then it was that the great tradition, as I have said, of human thought, passion, belief, prejudice, and custom, mingled itself with the unwritten usages of the Church. I am far from saying this with the intention of those who declaim against those ages, and sit in judgment on the Church. All this seems to imply a shortsighted and irrelevant habit of mind. Without doubt it was as much the design of God that the Church should possess itself of the empire of the world, as that Israel should possess itself of a fixed habitation in the land of Canaan, and that David's throne should be set up in Jerusalem. The typical or temporal import of this is no objection. It was the design of Heaven that the Church should overspread mankind, and, like the leaven, work mysteriously in the whole world. Neither is it any objection to say, that the Church has thereby lost in purity or devotion, and the like. It is enough that it is doing God's behests, grappling with the world in its own precincts, and in its seats of power and pride. Whatever be the apparent tide of the struggle, we are sure of this, that the work of God is being wrought by the Church upon the world. When the world seems to prevail, yet even then the elect are being made perfect. And it is equally certain, that the probation of our faith is all the more keen and searching. When Noah was shut into the ark, his faith had a strong trial to endure ; but he was

11.-13.

a

THE

Len race,

To be a

tramuseme

are not

und truly

that the

gey are e

shielded from manifold temptations. It was after he he
again possessed the earth that he was tempted and fel

ng its effe
In the beginning the Church had a sorer and a more fie
trial : but who can say that the peril of souls is not grea

Llic moral now? In those days it was no hard matter to disce between the world and the Church. But now our difficulty is, to know what is that world which we ha renounced ; to detect its snares, and to overcome its allds of the

;
ments. It is no longer an external adversary, raging, re
ing, and wearing out the name of Christ. Now it is wid
The world is inside the fold, baptised, catechised, subdų
specious, and worshipping. This is a far more dange
antagonist.

According to the sure proniise of Christ, and by
power of His presence, the Church has in a wonderful
ner preserved inviolate the whole tradition of the Faith.
that He taught and commanded for the perfection of
clect has been kept spotless in the midst of this evil v
But no one can read the history of Christendom wil it is
discerning the same law of decline and deterioration,
has from the beginning obtained among mankind, pre
ing, not over the Church as it is a work of the Divine Christi
sence, but over the moral, intellectual, social conditio used, so
nations professing Christianity. It would be out of fents, th
here to give detailed examples ; but I may just refer the wo
corruption of Christian Africa in the time of St. Aug
and of England under the later Saxon kings, and
north of Italy in the sixteenth century. It is most
that there is a power always working in Christian
which is not of God, nor of the Church, but of the
of that corruption which every generation reproduce unds u
of that aboriginal evil which has been always work

* Gen. ix. 20, 21.

purpos at variat kie

, the cu of fami Reed, alv mlad limite

the :

ou

meani

be com

This Aced. It and

а

evil has is

[ocr errors]

about

,in

a

« VorigeDoorgaan »