Christ our New Creator! He was not simply a new departure n the history of ethical civilization, by the introduction of an exalted morality. If that was what He came with, He brought much less than the conscience needs; and on countless points He has left us without guidance today. Nor was He simply a great new departure in the history of religious ideas. He did much more than bring us a new idea of God. If that was all, again it was not what we need. For we have more and higher ideas of God than we know what to do with, more than we have power to realize. But He stands for a new departure in the history of Creation. His work in so far is cosmic. It is a new story added to the world. It is a new departure in the action which made the universe. It is an entirely new stage in the elevation of human nature, so imperfect in our first creation, to its divine height in holiness. By His moral treatment of our sinful case, which is our actual historic case, we are taken into a share of His superhuman life. That is our salvation. It is life and power we need. It is to be made over again by the Maker’s redeeming hand. We are redeemed from the ban of sin’s magic circle by the only One who has the secret of the unseen powers; we are joined with the sin-destroying life of Christ. And we are redeemed, by the very nature of that redemption, into the fellowship of His eternal and blessed peace. And that is our Reconciliation. The act that justified sanctifies and reconciles. And that totality of Christ in His Church is what God looks on and is satisfied. We are, as a believing race, in the Son in whom He is always well pleased.

Now what is it that has created so much difficulty for the old Protestant doctrine? I mean difficulty in the mind of Christian believers, and still more in their experience. For we need not trouble here about difficulty from the side of the worldlings or the ethical sentimentalists. But difficulty arose within the pale of the most devout and devoted evangelical experience. Perhaps it has arisen in your own minds. Well, the old Protestantism, as you know, was greatly exercised about the true relation between faith and works. And it had to insist so strongly on the sole value of faith in order to cope with Rome that its later years fell into an excessive dread of good works, lest there should be ascribed to them saving effect. As a result faith was credited with a merely receptive power, or no more beyond that than a power of assent. Men lost hold of the great Lutheran fact that faith is the most mighty and active thing in the soul, that our faith is our all before God, that it is an energy of the whole person, that good works are done by this whole believing person, and that faith by its very nature, as trust in God’s love, is bound to work out in love. They misread the moral impulse in faith, its power to recast personality and refashion life. They did not, of course, overlook the necessity of such renovation; but they put it down to a subsequent action of the Spirit over and above faith – almost as if the Spirit and His sanctification were a second revelation, a new dispensation. Which indeed many of the mystics thought it was – like many rationalist mystics today, who think we have outgrown historic Christianity and the historic Christ through our modern light. The old Protestant orthodoxy did not realize that the real source of the Spirit is the Cross. It therefore detached faith from life in a way that has produced the most unfortunate results, both in an antinomianism within the Church, and in a Socinian protest without, which was inevitable, and so far valuable, but was equally extreme. Faith was treated by the positive school then as a mystic power, or an intellectual, but not as a moral. It was not the renovating power in life, but only prepared the ground for the renovating power to come in. It had not in itself the transforming power either individually or socially. Its connection with love was accidental and not necessary – as it must be, being faith in love.

Now, if we translate this experimental language into theological, it means that they did not connect up justification and sanctification. Forgiveness of sin was not identified closely enough with eternal life. Eternal life was detached from identity with that which was the true eternal in life, from faith’s practical (i.e., experimental) godliness. Forgiveness did not go, as it should, with renewal of heart and conduct in one act. It delivered from an old world without opening a new and planting us in its revolutionized principles. Faith had, indeed, the power to do works of love, but it was not driven to them so that it could do no other. And this flaw in faith corresponded to a like flaw in the reading of Christ’s act which was the object of faith. They treated the work of Christ in a way far too objective. It was something done wholly over our heads. There was not a solidary connection between Christ’s work and the Church it created. Attention was concentrated upon one aspect of Christ’s work – its action on God. That is quite an essential aspect (perhaps the chief), but it must not be isolated. No aspect of that work must be isolated, as I began by saying. It is the service an accomplished theology does for the Church to keep all aspects in one purview, in the proportion of a great and comprehensive faith. We have today gone to another extreme, and isolated another aspect – the moral effect of Christ on man. So we need not give ourselves any airs of superiority to the old orthodoxy in that respect of one-sidedness. And we must also remember that the whole secret of truth in this matter is not what we are sometimes told – a change of emphasis. We have changed the emphasis, and yet we are short of the truth; and the state of the Church’s piety shows it. We have moved the accent from the objective to the subjective work of Christ; and we fall victims more and more to a weak religious subjectivism which has the ethical interest but no the moral note. We fall into a subjectivism which is reflected in one aspect of Pragmatism and overworks the principle contained in the words, “By their fruits shall y know them” (know them, whether they are true to the Gospel, not the Gospel and whether it is true to God and reality). So that people say, “I will believe whatever I feel does me good. My soul will eat what I enjoy, and drink what makes me happy.” They are their own test of truth, and “their own Holy Ghost.” The secret, therefore, is not change of accent but balance of aspects. And the true and competent theology is not only one which regards the Church’s whole history and outlook (thinking in centuries, I called it), but it is one disciplined to think in proportion, to think together the various aspects of the Cross, and make them enrich and not exclude one another.