[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)
CHRISTIANITY ADAPTED TO MAN.
Christianity, like man, has its object and its subject. God himself, in all his adorable excellencies, is its object. It attracts and allures the human soul to its own origin and fountain. And these are Jehovah himself.
The universe is his temple. He fills it all, he animates it all, he beautifies and adorns it all. There is absolutely nothing above him, beneath him, beyond him. The visible heaven and the heaven of heavens are but his pavilion--the tent or tabernacle in which he manifests his eternal majesty and godhead. "Ascend I heaven! Lo! Thou art there. There if amongst the dead I lie." "I can not go where universal love smiles not all around." Take I the wings of the morning, and on "the swift-winged arrows of light" flee to the utmost star I see, I there find myself yet but in the vestibule of the pavilion of the great King, for I see as many suns and systems before me as I left behind me. And could I continue my flight for ages of ages, I would, at the remotest orb, still see as many wonders of creative power, wisdom, and goodness, above me as under me. Hence, eternity is the only field of vision and of bliss that meets the wants and the wishes of an immortal mind. But who can distinguish between "the Eternities of Israel," and the absolute eternity of eternities?
Yet nothing short of absolute space, absolute being, absolute blessedness, and absolute duration, can fill the vacuum which God has himself created in man, in angel, and in spirit.
The mysteries of creation, providence, moral government and redemption, all launch out into the ocean of eternity--into an infinite past behind us, and an infinite future before us. The moral pulsations of our moral nature, expand or contract in harmony with our intellectual and spiritual garniture, and with our conceptions of him whose most sublime position is comprehended in the oracle--I AM.
But who can comprehend the ineffable sublimity of the adorable I AM? And yet it is the only one self-existent impersonation that gives form to thought, or thought to form. Annihilate it, and you have annihilated yourself. You are a mere idea, an impression, an imagination, without a local habitation or a name.
There is a pleasure in being bewildered in a paradise; in being lost in a rapture of glory; or, like Paul, in not knowing "whether in the body or out of the body;" whether in the first or in the seventh heaven, in the heaven of heavens, or beyond them all.
There is no relation between the finite and the infinite, and yet neither of these could be without the other. There are, therefore, but two idea's in the universe of the genus generalissimum--two distinct, conceptions, and yet dependent on each other for a revelation of themselves. These are creature and creator. 
Father and child are equally dependent on each other for their being and manifestation. A father without a child, or a child without a father, is not within the grasp of human reason or of angelic thought. We may as well, then, pause here as go any farther in this direction. For all the philosophers of earth, and all the philosophies of the universe, are stranded and silenced just here, because of the impotency of boasting, boastful reason.
We are, because God is. And God is, because God was, and God will ever be, because he always was, the one only self-existent, underived, unbegotten, untreated One, indicated in the ineffably sublime utterance, I AM. This is our Rock of Ages. And in speaking of the joys and pleasures of true religion, we must have a clear and clean arena for its full manifestation, in order to its full enjoyment.
Religion (I use the term because of its consecration in the dialects of earth) being wholly of a remedial character, and to be appreciated and enjoyed as such, must be adapted to man as he now exists in this world. It must, therefore, have a body, a soul, and a spirit, to meet all the demands of his being and of his well being. Hence, Christianity must have a body, a soul, and a spirit, if it be at all adapted to the conditions of a lost, bewildered, and ruined world.
In heaven and in hell there is no religion. None in heaven, because all its inhabitants are reconciled to God; and none in hell, because its inmates are not under a remedial dispensation. The whole need neither a physician nor his medicine. Neither do the dead. Religion, therefore, is for man in the flesh, or for man fallen and undone, but yet placed under a remedial system.
Angels or spirits in no realm of the universe, are the subjects or the objects of religion. Adoration and praise belong only to those in holy communion with God; and these in heaven constitute nature; on earth, they are the fruit of religion, or reconciliation to God. Light is not love, neither is love light. It is but the fruit of it. Before we admire or love beauty, we must see it. And before we can love God, we must know him as he is--absolute, supreme, essential beauty.
But in this lower world, and in all its mists and fogs of philosophy and religion, so called, there is a vocabulary as frail, and feeble, and erratic as man. The reason is clear--the stream can not rise above its fountain; and man can never, at one glance, see himself. There is, of his senses, not one that can recognize its own acts. The eye sees not itself, the ear hears not itself, and neither of these can take cognizance of any one of the other senses, nor any one of them take cognizance of either of them. The gustatory nerve, the olfactory nerve, nor any nerve of sensation, can take any cognizance whatever of itself or of the acts of its fraternity. Hence, mind and spirit are  mysteries, on which myriads of philosophers have, in vain, racked their brains for thousands of years. But shall the eye of man nullify its own being because it never saw itself, or the ear, because it never heard itself! Talk not of mirrors. There are neither eyes nor ears in mirrors. They but adumbrate material orbs or structures. Senses have no shadows, no lights, no colors, no forms, no images of themselves or of one another. Organs are not senses. But if they were, not one of them could recognize another.
So of all the inner faculties of the mind. Indeed, the mind and the spirit require the sharp two-edged sword of the Spirit of God to separate them. None but a sword manufactured in heaven, can distinguish or separate these. That sword is the Word of God. Hence Paul, who saw all this by a spiritual intuition, eloquently declares that "The Word of God is quick and powerful, [living and effectual,] sharper than any two-edged sword, and is a discerner [or a detector] of the thoughts and intents of the heart." Hence the metaphysical or animal man never did, never can, discern himself.
No mere philosopher, unaided by revelation, in writing or in tradition, ever knew himself--his origin, his relations to the universe, his ultimate destiny. So reason we, and so affirms Paul by a plenary inspiration. Now, then, after this excursion, let us return to our theme.
We have said that Christianity, like man, has its subject and its object. Man himself is the subject of it--man, in his whole being, constitution and character, is the subject of this Divine institution. He was in being before it was in fact. It was originated and consummated for him as a fallen, degraded, ruined being. It contemplates his entire regeneration in body, soul and spirit. This is, therefore, its object. This consummated, its design is perfected. This not consummated, he dies a wretch undone--lost, ruined, degraded forever. It is, therefore, the greatest subject, or theme, within the limits of human thought, of human aspiration. Compared with it, the physical universe is an atom unappreciable. Possessed of it, and of its full effect upon his intellectual and moral constitution, his whole spiritual being is the most sublime spectacle we have ever seen, or can see, by the light of this world, whether we call it physical, intellectual, or spiritual light.
But man being a miniature trinity--possessing a body, a soul, and a spirit--Christianity assumes a similar constituency, and, therefore, it has a body, a soul, and a spirit. Its body is the ordinances of the Christian faith. Here I would not call them the ordinances of religion, for religion is God's one grand ordinance, the centre of which is the propitiatory sacrifice and the propitiatory intercession--the latter based on, and emanating from, the former. The sun has been  turned into blood, in the Son of God having become a slain lamb. Blood is the envelope of life, the mystery of mysteries, in the organizations of this physical and moral universe. But that Lamb of God having been slain a sacrifice for us, there needs no more sacrifice for sin. Hence, this blood is embalmed, preserved, and shadowed forth iii that which we have called the body of Christianity--its ordinances. And of these, there are three distinct embodiments. These are, baptism, the Lord's supper, and the Lord's day. These are pregnant institutions, filled with the grace of God. Forms, without meaning, are nothing. Form is but a mode of being. It is not being. In Christian baptism there is more than words and water, and the action of immersion. There is a grace, a special grace. Baptism is valid grace, and no more. There is, indeed, implied, and solemnly expressed in it, a death, a burial, and a new life. There is, too, a solemn preparation for it. There is a spiritual illumination terminating in faith, as preparatory to it, or to the enjoyment of its spiritual provisions. This faith itself is not a physical impression on the senses or the soul of a man, in a state of death or torpidity, but an actual giving up of the heart, the conscience, the will, to the Redeemer, on the verity and fidelity of the Holy Spirit, who always testifies to the Divine and moral grandeur of the Son--the INCARNATE WORD OF THE LIVING GOD. This is baptismal faith, terminating in a literal immersion in water, into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Hence its inappreciability to insensible, unappreciating babes and sucklings.
There is then a resurrection out of the mystic grave, by the arm of the administrator--a second birth into a new world--the church or family of God. Born thus of the water and of the Spirit, a new and formal life begins. Communion with the Father, and with the Son, and with the Holy Spirit, here commences, in the spirit of adoption, by which those mystically regenerated in body, soul, and spirit, cry, Abba, Father!
There is, also, besides the quickening of the Word or Spirit of God, the resurrection to a new life, not only in the symbolic form of emersion, but in the spiritual, and holy, and joyful aspirations of the soul to God, in the pure and holy spirit of personal consecration to the service and the honor of the Lord who redeemed us by his own blood, and constituted us kings and priests to God. This sublime confession of our faith in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus, is followed up by a sacred regard to the other constituents of the Christian gospel--the Lord's day and the Lord's supper.
Christianity is pre-eminently social. Hence its social institutions. These are its social prayer meetings and congratulations, its social  praises, its social thanksgivings, its social communings, its social benedictions.
Its standing occasions and festivals are ordained for this purpose, for the cultivation and manifestation of a spiritual and holy union and communion, in joint participation of its prospective and retrospective ordinances and institutions.
Hence the necessity of a church state. A Christian can no more live out of a church state than can a physical man live out of a physical universe. He as much needs the Spirit of God as he needs breath. He needs the bread and the water of life as much as his body demands for the sustenance the literal bread and water of earth. Were this not so, the church and its institutions would be unmeaning and barren appendages, without reason, without object, without good. They are silly philosophers, who seek to live without physical elements; and quite as silly Christians, who dream of spiritual life, spiritual health, or spiritual comfort, without the ordinances which God has instituted far the life spiritual and divine. The communion of saints is the exquisite of human happiness. Without employment there is no enjoyment, and no enjoyment without employment. Heaven is not a mere state of repose. Its raptures and ecstacies of bliss are all activities of the soul, in wonder, love and praise expressed.
A philosophic speculative repose is a state of soulless apathy and inactivity. A human being can not live on ether, however pure, unearthy, and unelementary it may be alleged to be. There are ordinances of worship even in the heavens. And there are worshipers there who unite and commune in the full radiation and fruition of the Divine presence. But they are not mere thinking Quakers, speculative philosophers, or ranting enthusiasts, but admiring, worshiping, adoring saints. They tune their golden lyres to the song of Moses and the Lamb.
It is not only in the apocalyptic visions that we read of "harpers harping with their harps," in rapturous choirs above; but there, also, we hear of the "song of Moses" repeated; and, better still, that of the slain lamb echoing in choral symphonies through all the vaults of heaven.
But in the earthly state of the church we now live, and move, and have our membership. Its social ordinances are, one and all, of Diving appointment. And they are severally and collectively designed to instruct and to comfort, to encourage and strengthen us for the work of faith, and labor of love, and the patience of hope.
A Christian living out of the Church of Christ--unless in exile on some Patmos, or in some prison, banished from the sanctuary of the Lord--is a conception so far out of my premises, that comprehend it I can not; nor do I envy that man who attempts to justify it, under  pretense of high spiritualism, or because of some canonized shibboleth of factitious importance, made sacred only by some sectarian enactment or prescription.
The Church of Jesus Christ and its Divine ordinances are now the only Bethel--the only social antitype of the tabernacle of Israel, of the temple of Solomon, of the Mount Zion where stood the Ark of the Covenant, the citadel of the great King.
|The foundations of Zion are on the holy mountains.
Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion
More than any of the dwellings of Jacob.
Glorious things are spoken of thee, City of God!
Yea, concerning Zion it shall be said,
This and that man was born in her!
For the most high shall himself establish her.
In the records of peoples Jehovah shall relate,
This man was born there.
They shall sing as those leading the dance;
Each shall say, All my springs are in thee.
But in clearer vision, with Paul we say to the Christian Church, and to its holy brotherhood--"You are come to Mount Zion, even to the city of the Living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels; to the general assembly and church of the sons of God, who are enrolled in heaven, and to the Judge, who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect; to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."
|In such society as this
My weary soul would rest;
The man that dwells where Jesus is
Must be forever blest.
What a contrast between a citizen of Zion and a mere citizen of any state or empire founded in blood, usurpation, tyranny, or on any of the forms of philosophy or theology, ancient or modern!
A. C., 1854, page 121.
|Alexander Campbell. "Christianity Adapted to Man." The Millennial Harbinger 25 (March 1854): 121-127.|
[Table of Contents]
|Benjamin Lyon Smith
The Millennial Harbinger Abridged (1902)