But we have a certain farther difficulty to face here. If it was God that made the atonement – which it certainly was in Christianity – then was it not made to man? Can God reconcile Himself? And can the atonement mean anything more than the attuning of man to God – that is to say, of individual men in their subjective experience? God then says to each soul, “Be reconciled. See, I have put My anger away.” Can such attuning of Himself by God have for its results anything more than individual conversion? Now, conversion means much, but it does not mean the whole of Christianity. Reconciliation means the life-communion of the race. But, if God made the atonement, it might seem that the result and effect of this atonement could only be reached gradually by the attuning of individual men to God. It would seem to destroy the totality of the race, or (to employ another word even more useful) the solidarity of the race. That would seem to be the effect; and it is such a serious effect, for this reason: that it affects the universality of Christ’s work. Whatever affects the universality of Christ’s work cuts the ground from under aggressive Christianity, from under missions, whether at home or abroad. They cannot thrive except upon a faith which means the universality of Christ’s work, which means again the solidarity, the organic unity, of the whole human race. And the conversion of a race is a work that exceeds conversion and is redemption. About that the Old Testament and the New Testament are at one.
But, you say, you do not have the solidarity of the human race in the Old Testament. Well, you do, and you do not. What you have fact to face with God in the Old Testament is a collective nation, Israel. We shall never read the Old Testament with true understanding until we realize that. That is one of the great things modern scholarship has brought home to us – that the vis-a-vis of God in the Old Testament is Israel and not the individual Jew. Gradually, as the Old Testament develops in spiritual intimacy, you have this changing and becoming intensely individual, as in the later Psalms. In Jeremiah it became so especially. The greatest prefiguration of Christ’s individual solitude in the Old Testament is Jeremiah. But both of them were representative or collective individuals. They condensed the people. The object that faced God in the God in the Old Testament in the main was not primarily the individual soul, it was the soul of the nation of Israel, even though it was sometimes reduced to a remnant. What took place when Israel made the great refusal of Christ? There was set up another collective unity, the Church, the new Israel, the spiritual Israel, the landless, homeless Israel, whose home was in Him, the universal Israel, the new Humanity of the new covenant. The Church became the prophecy and prefiguration of the unity of Humanity. It is through the Church alone that the unity of Humanity can be consummated, because it is possible only through the gospel. And the preacher of this gospel in the world is the collective Church.