Von der Gewalt die alle Wesen bindet Befreit der Mensch sick der sich tibenoindet.
This saying of Goethe’s excellently expresses the truth that is here in question. It is a truth which holds good for all time, and it forms the essential element in the dramatic pictures of contemporary life in which the Gospel exhibits the antithesis that is to be overcome. I do not know how our increased knowledge of nature is to hinder us from bearing witness to the truth of the creed that “The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” We have to do with a dualism which arose we know not how; but as moral beings we are convinced that, as it has been given us in order that we may overcome it in ourselves and bring it to a unity, so also it goes back to an original unity, and will at last find its reconciliation in the great far-off event, the realised dominion of the Good.
Dreams, it may be said; for what we see before our eyes is something very different. No! not dreams—after all it is here that our true life has its root—but patchwork certainly, for we are unable to bring our knowledge in space and time, together with the contents of our inner life, into the unity of a philosophic theory of the world. It is only in the peace of God which passeth all understanding that this unity dawns upon us.
But we have already passed beyond the limits of our immediate task. We proposed to acquaint ourselves with the Gospel in its fundamental features and in its most important bearings. I have tried to respond to this task; but the last point which we touched takes us beyond it. We now return to it, in order to follow, in the second part of these lectures, the course of the Christian religion through history.