The Universal Christ

"The resurrection gives us a Christ who is spiritually present; the Holy Spirit gives us a Christ who is universally present. By the coming of the Holy Spirit the risen Christ is made omnipresent, and the whole process of revelation here and now completed. Nothing higher can be looked for until the veil is dropped on the other side. Momentous consequences follow the acceptance of this truth. If the age of the Spirit under which we are now living marks the final outgoing of God to man; if the God who is manifested in Christ is every-where present in the Spirit; if through the medium-ship of the Spirit he dwells in the inner sanctuary of the soul; if he is not only with man, but in man; if through the Holy Spirit his presence within the soul is realized as the presence of Christ, then the time foretold by Jesus has come when temples and shrines are no longer indispensable, when every man has immediate access to God as the Father, and when every humble receptive soul may become "an habitation of God in the Spirit." "
- James Mann Campbell (The Presence, p. 89)

The New Covenant Gift of the Spirit

"Let us recall the three considerations that have been
mentioned. First, that our Lord Himself in His Divine-human nature was on earth, and is now in heaven, possessed of the fulness of the Spirit, and this in such a manner that the Spirit entered into all He was in the one sphere, and enters into all He is in the other. Secondly, that the Spirit given us by our Lord in His glorified condition is His own Spirit in the most definite and particular meaning of the words. Thirdly, that when the Spirit is bestowed upon us He must be made inwardly and experimentally ours, entering into all that we are in a manner similar to that in which He entered into all that Jesus was and is. Let us fix these three points distinctly in our minds, and it will follow that the Spirit promised as the chief gift of the New Covenant is pervaded by human as well as Divine elements. As the Spirit of the exalted and glorified Lord, He is not the Third Person of the Trinity in His absolute and metaphysical existence, but that Person as He is mediated through the Son, who is human as well as Divine. It is on this particular aspect of His being that He diffuses Himself through the members of Christ's body, and abides in them. Only as human, entering into and coalescing with what is human, can He be also our Spirit dwelling in a living and real way within us."
- William Milligan (The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of Our Lord, p. 189)

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Conversion or control? part 1 of 2

"And it came to pass, when Israel was waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to taskwork, and did not utterly drive them out."—Judges i. 28.

  "WHAT Israel foolishly tried to do with those who were Israel's national enemies is just what people are very often foolishly trying to do with that which is the enemy of their souls. The principle on which Israel attempted to manage the land God had given to them is the principle on which we too frequently attempt to manage our hearts. Israel contented itself with seeking to control what it ought to have got rid of: if the Canaanites could only be reduced to order and kept in their place, surely more extreme measures need not be resorted to; and if there was a possibility of ruling them with a strong hand and a tight rein, no harm could result from allowing them to remain where they were. With a complacent confidence in their own power, with a self-satisfied assurance that there was nothing to be afraid of, the Israelites, when they were waxen strong, "put the Canaanites to taskwork, and did not utterly drive them out."
    What are human hearts to do with their Canaanites—simply to control them, or utterly to drive them out? What is the true programme for our moral and spiritual life? Do we need simply to be kept in order, to subdue the baser impulses of our nature into some sort of half-reluctant quietude, to bind and chain them in a slavery from which we hope they will not escape, or must we submit ourselves to a more radical and a more sweeping change? What is religion to do for us? Is it to supply a system of restraints, and to do nothing more than that, or is it to bring coursing through us some strong winds of purification and to send us through some burning fires of cleansing, by which we may be morally transformed and spiritually re-created? Are the lower elements of us to be kept down and put to taskwork, or are they to be driven utterly out? Is "control," or "conversion," the word?
    There are, one may say, the two ways of looking at the moral need and the moral problem of human nature—the taskwork way, so to call it, and the casting-out way. And of the highest importance must it be for each one of us to settle once for all the question for his own heart—Is it enough for me to restrain myself, to keep down and to keep in order whatever is low and base in me, or must I prepare myself to go through a spiritual change which shall utterly expel the old and bring in what is utterly new, and make a man or woman of me in very deed and truth spiritually new-born?
    Think first for a few moments of that view of religion which makes its entire work to consist in controlling what is bad or base in us. The idea of religion which seems to possess many of us is just that of a power which is to keep the unruly elements of our nature in order: certainly the conventional religion of the time amounts to no more than that; and if all outward symptoms of rebelliousness can be made to disappear, if every exterior movement and act of wrong can be held in check, religion, it is thought, has fulfilled its purpose and done all that it can do for human life. Further than that, people of ordinary respectability do not think it necessary to go. Of course, the really depraved and the utterly degraded may, it is admitted, need something more drastic: for their ills stronger moral medicines may be required; nor is there, perhaps, any great impropriety in mentioning the word "conversion" in regard to them. But even for them the object aimed at is to train them up to a certain pitch of moral strength, to bring them up to such a point of self-control that they shall be able to keep themselves safely from being dragged into the depths again. For all alike, that is religion—so the ordinary estimate of religion appears to take it. When we, at each uprising of an evil instinct within us, spring upon it with quick eye and strong will to beat it back—then are we religious. When every faint stirring against good finds us ready, so that, even if for an instant we are somewhat distracted by the rush of the attack, we presently repel it, and drive the wrong into its hiding-place beneath the surface again—then are we religious. If we have so schooled and mastered our hearts that when the voices calling us to sin are heard, and when for a passing moment there does seem to be some sweetness in them still, and in the momentary tumult we are half whirled away to follow their call, we nevertheless pull ourselves up sharply, and with determination say," No!" —then are we religious. To rule our life with a strong hand, to keep the reins stretched tight, to have evil instinct and wrong desire and base passion well in hand—what more than that can a true estimate of religion contain?
    But we should repudiate that theory, of course. We believe in conversion. We should repudiate the theory of religion which makes religion to consist in nothing more than control. But then we live too much as though we accepted it. How many of us have set before ourselves, as the goal of our spiritual striving, this—the casting out, really the casting out, not the control or the keeping under, but the actual and entire casting out, of all that is .evil in our natures, so that it should have no home nor place nor part in us any more? "Help me to resist the baser instincts of my heart," we are always praying. And we need to pray it, God knows how sorely we need it; but even when we pray it we should follow it with this prayer of yet loftier range, " And so cleanse my heart, O God, that there may no more be any baser instincts to resist." For we are not in truth converted until that prayer is answered. Oh! it is a high thing to hope for, I know! For all of us hard and long must the upward progress toward it be: it is not so light a thing for us to drive out our Canaanites as it was for these chosen ones of long ago. But the mistake and the mischief is that we settle down contentedly without trying to drive them out, just as these did. A religion which keeps us from doing anything very wrong—with that we satisfy ourselves: we do not seek for a religion which roots out of us all inclination to anything that is at all wrong. Ay, more than that. What religion should really do for us is, not to make it hard for us to do wrong, not to impart strength to us so that we may be able to keep ourselves from yielding to the wrong; but religion should make it impossible, in the very nature of us, to do or yield to the wrong. Till it has done that, its last work upon us has not been performed. Till it has done that, our Canaanites, sternly though they may be restrained, have not been driven utterly out.
    We have not set that before ourselves. What is it, for instance, that we seek for when we remember how many doubtful things, doubtful courses, doubtful actions, there are open to us? We have to pick and choose, to pause and consider, Is this permissible or is that ?—we are overshadowed all the time by the possibility that we may make a wrong choice and come to a mistaken decision—and what we expect the influences of religion, the influences of God, to do for us, is to warn us when we are about to go astray, to recall us when we are going to surrender ourselves to false courses or to decide mistakenly. Religion is to enable us to detect our hearts' Canaanites, if they present themselves to us disguised. The influences of religion are, as it were, a sort of police to prevent us breaking bounds. Why, if the evil had been swept out of us, there would be no question of pondering and choosing and deciding between this course and that, for the whole nature of us would swing round to the Truest and the Best, as the needle to the pole. The very fact that we are content if religion thus arrests us when our steps are straying, and calls a halt to us when we are likely to go too far, shows that the moral and spiritual process in us has been left incomplete—and shows, besides, that we have not sought to make it complete. We have not got beyond the notion of control: to put our Canaanites to taskwork is what we have set before ourselves as the loftiest achievement of spiritual statesmanship; and with a religion which checks us just in time when check is needed, which puts a strong restraining hand on rebelliousness when the first movements of rebelliousness make themselves felt—with that we have all too often satisfied our souls.
    And hence has come much of our spiritual failure. For the danger of it lies here—that moral qualities and moral impulses are living things, and, even though we are restraining the evil qualities and impulses, they may be accumulating power all the while, and may presently break out within us with a strength we shall not be able to resist. These Israelites took the risk of conspiracy and treachery on the part of the Canaanites whom they permitted to remain. How did they know that the " taskwork" might not be suddenly thrown aside, and that, instead of being obedient slaves, the Canaanites might not unexpectedly confront them as armed and masterful foes? So for us there is no safety except in the utter casting out of all the wrong: checked to-day, the baseness may to-morrow have obtained a strength which no check will suffice to keep down; and the evil instincts and passions which we fancied we had put to deep and lasting sleep may rise up against us in their living might, all the fiercer and the more terrible for the transient spell of rest into which we forced them for a while. To content ourselves with a spiritual influence, with a religion, which simply restrains and controls the baser elements in our hearts, is as it were to bind a giant with ropes of sand. Broken soon the bonds will be, and, with the evil freed and let loose upon us in all its awful power, the soul must be overcome and dragged to ruin. So often have we failed, so often is the life polluted and the heart betrayed for us, because our religion has only sought to keep down the evil in us, and has not cleansed it away. We may be enthusiastic enough in the effort to control ourselves: there may be earnestness and sincerity enough in it; but no earnestness and no sincerity can make up for that partial and incomplete ideal of the religious life which is too often the only ideal our hearts have known. No safety lies in check and chain and prisoning of the baseness in us, though we seek to make the bondage never so stringent and severe. More sternly and thoroughly must we deal with ourselves, more sternly and thoroughly must we let our God deal with us, would we be delivered from the fear of rebellion and treachery within our gates.
    Religion is not properly regarded as self-control. The highest moral ideal is not simply the attainment of some sort of balance, and rather a precarious balance at that, between the good and the bad in us —the good generally bulking just a trifle more largely and weighing just a trifle more heavily than the bad, and so inclining the scale of our lives in the direction of the good. That is about what we have hoped and striven for. A struggle between the opposing forces over us—a struggle in which the evil, we hope, will get the worst of it—further than that we have scarcely sought to go. Yet contrast that conception of the religious life with the conception of it brought before us in all the teaching of the Lord whose teaching we profess to follow, and what a pitiable thing it is! We struggle always, and we curb here and check there, and find the outbursts of the wrong set curb and check so often at defiance. His programme for us is rather that, with nothing left in us to curb or to check, we are to be calm, serene, and free—that, as our Father in heaven is perfect, so are we to be perfect too."

- Henry William Clark (Meanings and Methods of the Spiritual Life, pgs. 2-8)  

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