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understand him, and walked no more with him. Then in answer to the question which Jesus put to the twelve, “ Will ye also go away ?” Peter boldly replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life,” thus indicating that he, at least, discerned the profound meaning of his words.
Nicodemus, too, who came to Jesus by night, did not understand the spiritual iinport of the new birth as taught by the Savjour. When Jesus ised a material illustration to elucidate it, he rested in this fact, and saw not the great truth lying beyond which he tried to inculcate. And even after Jesus told him that he must be born of the spirit, in order to become fitted for the kingdom of heaven, he was still incredulous, and in sceptical despair, cried out, “How can these things be?” In reply, Jesus said, “If I have told thee of earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things ?” He was compelled to give him a full explanation of his figure of speech, without removing Nicodemus' misapprehension of the whole subject, however, as far as we can learn from the narrative of John.
When the disciples heard of the crucifixion of Jesus, they thought the cause which they had espoused was done with ; and when he rose froin the tomb, they were slow of heart to believe, and Thomas refused to acknowledge Christ without a physical demonstration of his identity.
After churches had been established in Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Thessalonica and other cities, some of the members of these churches, having brought their crude notions of religion with them from their sensual rites and superstitions, indulged in materialistic conceptions of the offices of Christ, the resurrection, the communion, and other elements of the Christian faith, and Paul in his epistles to these churches makes frequent allusions to these conceptions, and the practices growing out from them. In his epistles to the Romans, alluding to the idea which some had, of bringing Christ down from above, or again bringing him up from the abyss, he inculcates the idea that we need a present Saviour, not one far off, but
one near at hand. “The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, that is, the word of faith which we preach "' (Romans x. 8). Here is the essence of Christianity, “ With the heart man believeth unto righteousness." We are not to say, Lo here! or Lo there! for the kingdom of God cometh not with observation. We discern it not by looking far out as in the dim darkness, with our sensual vision, trying to gain sight of something which, in the very nature of the case, can not be
“ Behold the kingdom of God is within (or among) you,” as an invisible and potent influence. It is not seen, but felt, not discerned, but recognized, “the power of God unto salvation.” And Jesus is not a mighty conqueror, subduing his enemies by "carnal weapons," or trampling them literally under his feet, but redeeming and purifying them by agencies "mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds."
Not only in the age of Christ and the apostles, but in the century following, in the times of “the Apostolic Fathers," and amid the darkness of the middle ages, materialism pervaded the minds of Christians and colored all their conceptions of religion. And in these modern times it banys like a dead weight upon the Church, and palsies all its interests. It is ever fatal to growth in grace and progress in the divine life. It is the great bane of Christianity, and one of the most fruitful sources of error in the Church. It deals with sensuious forms; Christianity with spiritual truths. Materialism presents us with only perishable facts ; Christianity with eternal verities. The one is only of the earth, earthy; the other lays hold on eternal life. The one reaches only the physical and intellectual; the other penetrates into the inmost shrine of our moral being. The former enters only the outer court; the latter, “ the holy of holies.” The influence of materialism is fatal to sentiment. It dries up the vital springs of our spiritual heing. It even restrains the legitimate action of our emotional natures, though Tyndall in his excess of charity, remands religion wholly to the region of the emotions. He says in his Belfast address : “Grotesque in relation to scientific culture as many of the religions of the world have been
and are,- dangerons, nay, destructive, to the dearest privileges of freemen, as some of them undoubtedly have been, and would be again, if they could,-it will be wise to recognize them as the forms of force, mischievous, if permitted to intrude on the regions of knowledge over which it holds no command, but capable of being guided by liberal thought to noble issues in the region of the emotions, which is its proper sphere!” We are thankful for so much. Tyndall does not, like Comte, banish religion wholly from the world after the first stages of civilization are passed. He allows it still to linger here under proper restraints. But it must be guided. It is not yet out of its leading strings. No wonder this is called a materialistic age, when one of its greatest scientists thus rudely takes religion out of the sphere of knowle.ge, and relegates it to the emotions, its own “ proper sphere."
Long before Tyndall, wrote Carlyle, in his essay on “ The Signs of the Times”: “ Religion in most countries, more or less in every country, is no longer what it was and should be, a thousand-voiced Psalm from the heart of man to his invisible Father, the Fountain of all goodness, beauty, truth, and revealed in every revelation of these ; but for the most part, a wise, prudential feeling grounded on a mere calculation ; a matter, as all others now are, of expediency and utility, whereby some smaller quantum of earthly enjoyment may be exchanged for a larger quantum of celestial enjoyment. Thus religion, too, is profit, a working for wages; not rererence, but vulgar hope or fear."
Materialism leads to error through the improper use of language. Nearly all words, in their original significance, are applied to material things. This is specially true of barbarous ages. But as the people become more refined, they make use of the same words to express intellectual and moral ideas.1
The Hebrews used anthropomorphitic terms to express the idea of God, because they had not emancipated themselves from the bondage of material forms. God has hands, feet,
1 See this thonght illustrated in Universalist QUARTERLY, October, 1866, pp. 470–72 Also, Ibid. January, 1868, pp. 8–11.
head, breath ; He talks, moves from one place to another, has passions like men, hates as well as loves, takes vengeance as well as proffers mercy. Christianity indicates a more advanced stage of intellectual and moral truth, yet in the early times of its history, there were still many who rested in materialistic conceptions of religious truth. In their imagination, God and angels have material forms, punishment is physical torture as by fire, and reward is physical pleasure ; the resurrection is the resuscitation of the physical frame, heaven and hell are places rather than states or conditions. Jesus came to establish a material or political kingdom, and he will put down rebellion by violent agencies and literally trample his enemies under his feet; he rose bodily to the sky and will return in the same manner, not in spirit merely, but in person, and judge the world, separate the sheep and goats, and thrust sinners down into the deep and dark caverns of the earth where they will be imprisoned and tortured forever. These views have perraded the Christian Church more or less down to the present time, and poisoned the fountains of spiritual truth, while multitudes have become emancipated from materialistic conceptions, and advanced to a higher grade of moral life. Yet the religious world has hardly begun to appreciate and enjoy the glories of Christ's spiritual kingdom. Much of the 80-called spiritual worship is gross materialism, as is seen by the cant words and phrases used in private and public circles, and the church. And it is difficult to emancipate ourselves wholly from the bondage of these forms of expression. We propose to consider more in detail some of the mudes in which these conceptions find expression.
1. The Idea of a Material Kingdom.
Jesus came to set up a kingdom here on earth, not in the realm of the physical world, but in the hearts of men. It consists not of fleshi and blood, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is not meat and drink, but faith, love, holiness, as manifested in lives consecrated to God. But men lave failed to grasp this spiritual conception, and made it to consist of a material realm, ruled by a King seated ou the throne, swaying His sceptre over the nations, an army at His seet, ready to do His bidding, with material appliances and regal splendor. This government is patterned after that of the oriental despot, rather than that of the family.
This was the great mistake which the Jews, before the coming of Christ, made. He was to come at the head of a vast army, in all the pomp and glory of regal rank, to throw off the Roman yoke, and restore to the people their civil and religious privileges. In the age of the Maccabees, they exalted Simon because he had bravely fought and conquered their enemy, and made him their governor and high priest, “ until there should arise a faithful Prophet who should be their Messiah”
(1 Maccabees xiv. 41, 42), and carry out the plans which Simon had begun. This was their idea of salvation. It was deliverance, not from sin, but a foreign enemy.2 And when the Messiah did come, not as a mighty conqueror, but a simple, humble, peasant reformer of the Jewish Church, who taught truths that penetrated the hearis of men, and changed their whole character, they were grievously disappointed, and put him away. And even professed followers of Christ have almost as grossly materialistic conceptions of his work as did the Jews. He is pictured out to their feverish imaginations as a great King, rather than a Saviour, one of the triune Godhead, who came down to earth to induce men to enter his kingdom after death. Those who turn from " nature to grace,” though they may endure suffering and contumely here, will pass through the large gates of the kingdoin above. It is surrounded by a high wall, so that no saint can escape, or sinner get in. Its streets are of gold, and its pleas
In this pent-up enclosure they sit at ease, and enjoy themselves forever. These conditions suggest the motive for entering upon the Christian life. It is a working for wages. It is enduring privation and toil here for an endless inheritance there. They seek not a kingdom within, but without, the soul. Its rewards, too, are material, addressed to the
3 See this subject treated by Pressense, in the “ Preliminary Questions” of his Life of Christ, Eng. Ed. pp. 75-78.