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the agitation of transient controversies. To a thoughtful person living at the close of the first century, St. John, of all the Apostles, would have seemed to be the one whose teaching was likely most powerfully to control the movement of Christian speculation, and to determine both the form and the substance of the theology of the Church.
But M. Reuss hardly exaggerates the truth when he says that St. John has been neglected by those who have organised the dogmatic thought of Christendom; that his characteristic theology, happily for itself, has never been embodied in the systems and creeds of ecclesiastical orthodoxy. “It has retained its virgin purity untouched by the scholasticism of the schools, and has thus escaped the unhappy mésalliance which has done such deep injury to the theology of St. Paul.” The fortunes of St. John might have been different had not the theological development of the Eastern Church been prematurely arrested. In the West, for reasons which it is not difficult to discover, the supremacy of St. Paul has been almost unbroken from the days of Augustine to our own.
Among many of those who reject the idea of the Atonement, there is a strong desire to assert for St. John his rightful position. It seems to them that he is the representative of a nobler and more spiritual type of the Christian Faith than that which appears in the
1 REUSS: Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age. Translated by Annie Harwood. London : Hodder and Stoughton. Vol. ii. 335.
writings of the Apostle of the Gentiles. Those who contend that “the true Christian knows no covenant or mediation with God, but only the old, eternal, and unchangeable relation, that in Him we live and move and have our being," are in the habit of thinking that their faith is the faith of St. John.' That God is life and light and love ; that in Christ humanity achieved its ideal unity with the life of God; and that the Christian redemption consists in the final restoration of mankind to union with God in Christ-these it is alleged are the ideas which constitute the substance of Christianity as conceived by “the disciple whom Jesus loved," and they ought to displace the theories of Divine justice, and of expiation, and of an unreal and technical forgiveness of sins, which the Church has built up on the teaching of St. Paul.
It is true no doubt, and should be cordially acknowledged, that Mysticism, which in every age of the Church, and especially in times of general corruption, has had so strong an attraction for the purest and most saintly souls, can place its devotional books- if the perfect and unearthly beauty of very many of them needs any apostolic sanction-under the shelter of the great name of St. John. Even Pantheism, so long as it affirms the reality of sin and the eternal obligation of the Moral Law—if any philosophy which fulfils these conditions can be called Pantheistic — may vindicate its right to recognition as a form of speculation not altogether alien from the Christian faith by an appeal to the same authority. With still greater reason may those theo. logians claim to be the representatives and guardians of one of the principal elements of St. John's teaching, to whom the Incarnation is the fulfilment of the Divine idea of human nature, and the assurance and the prophecy to those who are in Christ of their eternal fellowship with the life of God.
* FICHTE : Characteristics of the Present Age. Lecture vii. The Way towards the Blessed Life. Lecture vi. London: John Chap
For all Christian mystics, therefore, and for all who maintain that the Incarnation is the fundamental truth of the Christian revelation, but who on moral and spiritual grounds are hostile to the idea of Atonement, the appeal to the authority of St. John is critical. It must, I think, be admitted that when he wrote his Gospel and his Epistle he had passed altogether out of the atmosphere of Judaism. His thought had taken new forms, and he had learnt to speak a new language. If in both his language and his thought we think we can discern the influence of contemporaneous speculation, there is no reason to suppose that this influence was friendly to the idea of an objective Atonement. It is infinitely improb
1 This is true, although the Fourth Gospel is singularly rich in passages which recognise the Divine authority of Jewish institutions and the Divine presence in Jewish history. St. John has preserved many passages in our Lord's teaching, not contained in the other Evangelists, which show how fully our Lord acknowledged that Judaism had been a great revelation of God to man.
I do not intend to press the very strong proofs which are supplied by the Book of the Revelation, not because I am doubtful about its Johannine authorship, but because I am anxious to keep the argument from the authority of St. John free from entanglement with the controversies in which that subject is involved.
able that this idea can receive any sanction from the writings of St. John's maturer years, if it is really alien to the Christian faith, inconsistent with the deeper and more spiritual elements of our Lord's teaching, the creation of a formal and legal theory of God's relations to the moral universe, or the result of a determination to preserve in Christianity the rudimentary conceptions and language of Judaism.
It is confessed by those who oppose the doctrine of the Atonement, that St. John is the representative of the ighest and most spiritual form of Christian thought. Those conceptions of God which are alleged to be irreconcilable with any theory affirming the necessity or possibility of any other reason for the exercise of the Divine mercy in the forgiveness of sin than the repentance of the sinner himself; those conceptions of the Lord Jesus Christ and of His eternal relations to mankind which are alleged to be obscured and even contradicted by the doctrine of an objective Atonement, whatever form the doctrine may assume ; those conceptions of the true nature of the Christian Redemption which it is alleged can never find any adequate expression in a theology which rests on the idea that the Death of Christ was intended to meet any necessities of the Divine nature or government, instead of being intended to act as a great spiritual force on the spiritual nature of man-all these are the very substance and life of St. John's theology. But, like St. Peter, he insists on the exceptional and supreme significance of our Lord's
Death. It is “the blood of Jesus Christ " which “ cleanseth us from all sin.” We come to know the real nature of love in the Death of Christ, for “He laid down His life for us.
If it is urged that by the cleansing from sin in the first of these passages is meant our moral purification only, and that the removal of our guilt is not included, Except as the result of deliverance from sin, it is at least remarkable that St. John should have attributed the sanctifying power of Christ exclusively to His Death-not to His teaching, not to the manifestation of the Eternal Life through the whole of His earthly ministry, not to the direct action of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of those who believe. How are we to explain this reference to“ the blood of Jesus Christ "?
The line of thought in which it occurs greatly augments its significance. St. John has been speaking of the fellowship of Christian people with the Father and the Son. "God is light, and in Him is no dark
" ness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with
. Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and”—what? Does he add that the light in which God dwells, and in which we dwell with Him, so fills and penetrates and transfigures our whole nature, that we sin no more? or that through our fellowship wití God His life becomes ours, and that therefore we are delivered from all sin ? This was what might have been expected, and the. * I John i. 7.
2 Ibid. iii. 16.