His perfection was not that of a paragon, one who could do better what every soul and genius of the race could do well. He was not all the powers and excellencies of mankind rolled into one superman. But His perfection was that of the race’s Redeemer. It was interior to all other powers and achievements. It was central both for God and man. He made man’s center and God’s coincide. He took mankind at its enter and laid it on the center of God. His identification with man was not extensive but intensive, it was not discursive and parallel, so to say. It was morally central and creative. He was not Humanity on its divine side; He was its new life from the inside. The problem He had to solve was the supreme and central moral problem of guilt; and the work could only be done by the native action of a personality moral in its nature and methods, moral to the pitch of the Holy.
It is an immense gain thus to construe Christ’s work as that of a moral personality instead of a heavenly functionary. It brings it into line with the modern mind and into organic union with the moral problem of the race. It enables us to realize that every step of the moral victory in His life was a step also in the Redemption of the whole human conscience. And we grasp with new power the idea that His crowning victory of the Cross was the victory in principle of the whole race in Him – that Justification is really one with Reconciliation, and what He did before God contained all He was to do on man. It makes possible for us what my last lecture will attempt to indicate – a unitary view of His whole work and person.
7. After these great modifications and gains, we have cleared the ground to ask with some exactness just where the question at the moment stands. What was the divinest thing, the atoning, satisfying thing, the thing offered to God, in Christ; the thing, therefore, final and precious in what He did? The permanent thing in Christianity must be that which gives it its chief value to God. We are now beyond the crude alternative that so easily besets us, “Did Christ’s work bear upon God or on man?” Neither alone would be true Reconciliation. Neither Orthodoxy nor Socinianism has it. But we have to ask this: “Can we combine the truth in each alternative? Can we reach the value of Christ’s saving work to God (i.e. its true and final value) if we exclude its effect within man? Must we not take that in? Nihil in effectu quod non prius in causa. Must we not include the effect to get the full value of the cause, and give a full account of it?”
Now, let us own at the outset that the first things we must be sure about are the objective reality of our religion, its finality, and its initiative in God’s free grace independent of act or desert of ours. But if we start there, it looks as if we were shut up to the first of the crude alternatives, as if the idea of Christ’s work as acting on God only gave the best effect to these conditions. It looks as if the old theory alone guaranteed a salvation finished on the Cross, one wholly God’s in His grace, one that ensures a full and objective release of the conscience. These things are not secured by what we do, but by Christ’s work on the Cross. Moreover, that work was done for the whole of mankind, and was complete even for those who as yet make no response. And, besides, that first alternative is a view that seems to have the letter of Scripture with it. It does look as if we could not have full security except by trust of an objective something, done over our heads, and complete without any reference to our response or our despite.