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$ 63.-Preservation of the Consummated Revelation.

Revelation is consummated ($ 62) for the purpose of being pre

served. It is preserved first of all by the community of those penetrated by the Spirit of the God-man. But, again, the absolute religion, forming the central point in the world-aim, guards against the power of space and time separating it from its commencement, and against the dangers threatening the secure preservation of the true and pure image of the God-man on the side of sin, supposing sin to exist, by the following means :—The persons forming the first link of tradition, having secured a clear and pure knowledge of the perfected revelation, make what they have received the common possession of humanity in all ages and places in the only possible way, namely, by records which, collected as memorials of the founding of the absolute religion, and accompanied by the Spirit proceeding from the God-man, possess power to make the Perfecter of revelation and religion live before the consciousness of humanity with the force of a perpetual and efficient presence. (8$ 57, 58, 59.)

1. In the manifestation of the God-man human nature generally is elevated and ennobled, while He, by virtue of the same Love that reveals its intrinsic glory in the Incarnation, condescends to make Himself a means in order to the world's good. The devotion of His self-sacrifice draws and allures the world into the fellowship of His Spirit, to the end that the world may repay the devotion of His love by the devotion of its faith, through which He is able to influence it and become the abiding principle of its life. The revelation of the Son passes over into that of the Spirit, through whom the higher life, instead of merely remaining objectively wrapped up in the God-man, becomes a subjective possession in new personalities. These form a relatively independent life-centre, a focus of pneumatic life, a new hearth or altar, whereon burns the fire

"John iv. 14; 2 Cor. v. 17.

with which the Holy Ghost baptizes. This spiritual baptism, presupposing God's accomplished incarnation and founding upon faith in Him, is no longer merely tentative, no longer remains in the sphere of growing revelation, but in virtue of participation in the whole perfected revelation (S$ 62, 63) now forms part of the life, acts, and words of the Church gathered round His name. By means of the testimony borne by word and deed to the perfect revelation as really existing, the new revelation is preserved and becomes a historic power.

For the new revelation does not spread by magical means, nor yet siniply by the unmediated action of the God-man or His Spirit, the aim of His working being not an idle salvation of believers, which would be eudæmonistic, but a fellowship of believing men with each other in giving and receiving. This is done, indeed, in such a way that to the end of the world He remains with them and in the midst of them, by His Spirit cementing the bond of the twofold, joyous communion that connects the members with the Head and with each other. The new revelation, accordingly, is preserved and disseminated in historical form, through the medium of those penetrated by the new principle as secondary causalities.

2. But supposing that the God-man has planted Himself through faith in humanity, so that the life manifested in Him has passed over in believing persons into the sphere of preservation, the question still arises, whether the testimony of believing persons by walk and speech is sufficient for the purpose of preserving the completed revelation. Nothing of it must be lost. Succeeding generations must not be placed in an inferior position to the first. The revelation must come to them just as it came to the first one, which could not be made partaker of the Spirit merely by the Spirit's internal influence, but by the historical activity of the God-man, who is to be apprehended by faith. Therefore must the historic objectivity of the God-man in a complete and pure form be made the well-attested, common possession of humanity in all ages, to the end that the testimony of faith, accompanied by the Spirit, may continue to draw to Him, although He retire from the region of sight?Since we found that, in regard to a perfect religion, the passing into history, the historical reality, is an element of religion itself, that the form or history is no longer merely contingent with respect to the contents, but a part of the doctrinal contents themselves, the historic consciousness is essential in regard to a perfect religion. No doubt, this historic objectivity is introduced by the Holy Spirit into the heart, and what the heart is full of the mouth will run over with. But not merely do the first promulgators retire again from the scene of action, but in no one of them alone is everything of moment, contained in the revelation of the God-man, translated into personal life. No single individual grasps, even in knowledge and memory, every important concrete event contained in the perfected revelation which is adapted to the most diverse individualities, and on this account universal; and yet of this revelation nothing must be lost. Now, the form of the provision made for securing the revelation with all its fulness of life to mankind is indifferent in itself, provided only the end be equally well accomplished. But, unless later generations are to be placed in an inferior position with respect to the first, provision must be made for bringing all, by means of the revelation, into immediate connection with the original founding. If revelation is really complete, it must possess power to maintain itself. But it will not effect its preservation by a new creative manifestation, such as would follow upon the old inspiration-doctrine (p. 186 ff.), but transmit itself by calling in the aid of secondary causalities ($ 60). Participation in the salvation and higher life, of which the completed revelation is the channel, will awaken zeal not merely to communicate it by a general testimony to it, but to preserve it as a permanent common possession for humanity. And thus this impulse to preserve cannot be dissociated from the means most effectively subserving the end in view. But for this end no means can be more appropriate than written memorials, nay, these are the only perfectly appropriate means, as is shown by the fact of so many nations, directly writing arose, having used this in the cause of their religion as the most perfect substitute for living speech. Written memorials have the peculiarity, that through capacity of boundless multiplication along with abiding identity, they are able to penetrate into every age and every place, thus to vanquish space and time, and to combine perpetual duration or immortality with ubiquity among mankind. All the more will this decidedly effectual means of transmission be adopted on the part of the first promulgators of the absolute revelation, as on the one side historic objectivity is so indispensable for the perfected religion ; and on the other, the highest seal of historic credibility depends directly on testimony conditioned by a body of eye- and earwitnesses, or springing from such a body. For in such testimony the direct act of the founding itself is embodied.

1 John vii. 38 ff., iv. 14; Acts i. 5; Matt. iii. 11; Luke iii. 16. ? By the retirement of the God-man beyond the reach of sensuous vision, later. born generations suffer no essential loss, for without faith even contemporaries could not know Him in His true reality. The only essential point was to secure to those coming later the possibility of a faith that conscientiously seeks and finds the truth.

1 $$ 3, 11, 12

It belongs to the act of founding itself as an element of the same, the living mirror, so to speak, into which the God-man during His manifestation threw His image, and which thus bears upon itself the historic traces of His existence and work. If we call the first disciples, to whom the God-man entrusted the dissemination of the glad tidings, His apostles, we are shut up to the alternative, either that, not indeed the credibility altogether, but the highest seal of historic attestation of the perfected revelation will be lost with the last oral word of the last apostle, or that their immediate testimony has been made accessible to all ages by other than oral means, which can only be done by written records, by means of which, what they experienced, their immediate impression of the manifestation of the Godman and His labours, might be transmitted to all ages. And granting that the first generation lacked the consciousness of its unique and unrepeatable position among mankind, still the forward-looking spirit of the perfected revelation, observing the needs of the future, and providing for the secure preservation of its work, must at the right time create for itself the necessary organs and instruments, precisely as in the domain of living nature we observe such provision for future needs by the preparation of the necessary organs.

Such provision, which is perhaps in the first instance designed for other ends, the divine Wisdom of revelation by means of a higher teleology is able to connect with a period, when alone this can be done most simply and yet securely, in the first generation after the perfecting of revelation. But when one looks at the sinful character of the world, to whose influences even believers remain exposed, the necessity of such provision appears all the more imperative. Revelation, committing itself to the course of history, comes into conflict with hostile powers, is exposed to the combined influences of sin and error, and thus by mere caprice the purity of the image of the completed revelation may be obscured or falsified. When this takes place, if no recurrence to the original truth, to authentic records, were possible, faith would lack trustworthy, historical confirmation; and as it would be impossible to make out what primitive historical Christianity was, everything must go to ruin under subjective impulses. But a perfected revelation carries with it the power of faithfully remembering everything pertaining to its essence. History forms part of the self-consciousness of those who participate in it. Accordingly, revelation cannot be satisfied with merely being secured in living tradition in persons; but an objective representation of Christianity, independent of personal change and succession, needs to be given by those who must themselves have made sure of having received a clear and pure knowledge of the absolute religion, seeing that otherwise the latter would not have passed over to humanity at all. And thus, at a time when the stream of tradition still flows purely, and is under the control of eyeand ear-witnesses, the pure form of tradition is fixed for all ages as a primitive standard for the changing human race, as a shield to God's Church against the corruption issuing from the world, finally as a mirror for faith, which, if it is to be certain of its objectivity, must be able to strike back to the beginnings of the absolute religion, and be conscious of being acknowledged by them as partaking in the same spirit.

Observation.--Herewith we have established the necessity of the principle of the Evangelical Church on its formal side.

The above course of argument certainly makes it possible to assure the primitive, absolute religion to the Church of God also, in the first instance however to the Church in course of growth ; but the Church grows through the faith of the individuals added to it, and these are added not through the authority of the Church, but through its Scriptural, self-attesting witness borne to the God-man (§ 11). The importance of the record of the absolute religion for the permanent Church will be more fully exhibited in the Second Part, in the Doctrine of the Means of Grace. DORNER-CHRIST. Doct. II.


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