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captivity, he escaped, fled over the deserts, and arrived in Cairo. There, famished and houseless, he became a tailor, and made garments to gain a livelihood. He married, had a family, and so years rolled by. One day he was accused of some crime or other, and was sentenced to death. He mounted the scaffold, the executioner brandished the sabre, and ... the Sultan raised his head out of the water, to see himself surrounded by his guards, with the dervish beside him. The Sultan, in a quart of water, had lived twenty years in one minute.
It is perhaps natural that those who have to struggle incessantly with space and time should deceive themselves as to its nature, and erect what are mere relations into positive existences. So the ancients personified and deified Time. Many philosophers, without exactly going so far as to anthropomorphize Time, have at least given it substance. But Leibnitz, in his controversy with Clarke, demonstrated conclusively the non-existence of time and space as entities, and shewed that they are only the relation of succession or of co-existence existing between things; and that consequently such expressions as infinite time and infinite space mean the indefinite and nothing more. understand the infinity of a being, but not the infinity of a relation.
When we apply the term infinite to God, we mean that He is neither in time nor in space, but is altogether outside of them. When we say that God is everywhere present,
“Out beyond the shining
Of the farthest star,
Infinitely far," and that He is everlasting, “the same yesterday, to-day and for ever,” we understate the idea of infinity. Time and
space are not to the Absolute, and are terms wholly inapplicable to Him. To the Absolute, the plenitude of being is, without succession and without co-existence, without duration that is, and without extension, or without time in which to endure, or space in which to extend.
We may fix two points anywhere, draw a line between them, and divide up the line into any number of portions, and each portion bears a relation of a half, a quarter, an eighth, and so forth, to the whole; and each is equal to, greater or less than, another portion, but neither the whole nor any part bears any relation to infinity. We cannot say that the line is a fraction of infinity, we cannot say that it is greater or less than infinity--for infinity belongs to an order with which comparison of length is out of the question.
It is the same with time; time is to us, but it is not to the Absolute. To Him there is no past, no present, no future, or past and future are at once present.
Now—understanding the Infinite thus—is the union of the finite and the infinite an absurdity? No. It is absurd only to those who mistake the infinite for the indefinite. It is absurd to say that a thousand square miles are one with a square yard; and that the life of the centenarian raven and that of the May-fly are indissolubly united; but it is not absurd to say that two natures which are opposite but not contradictory are harmonized in one, that God, in Himself, outside of time and space, should, when entering into relation with man, become subject to those relations, without which He would be incognizable by man. As time and space have no real existence, and are relations only of co-existence and succession existing between men and between material objects, to become subject to time and space does not touch or affect in any way the nature of God, or infinity, it touches and affects the nature of man alone.
And if the infinite be the opposed moment to the finite, a conciliating moment must be sought. For here we have distinct ideas contrasting and yet implying one another. At least, we say of the finite that it is an idea which implies, not the indefinite, but the infinite, of which it is the negation ;' and of the infinite that it is the negation of all limitation and finality.
As God is the plenitude of being, He is the plenitude of life without succession in it, and of thought universal. In Him how many ideas are there? But one, for there is in Him but one eternal act. But this idea necessarily contains all possibilities. It contains, therefore, the idea of the finite. All that is, and all that can be, existed eternally in the idea of God. And with Him eternity and instantaneity are one. Thus the idea of God contains eternally the infinite and the finite: the infinite as essence, and the finite as effect.
Between the essential infinity and the realized finality there is opposition of natures; they are radically inverse. Nevertheless the finite is possible, because the infinite is. But how can the Infinite pass to the finite, the Absolute call the limited into actuality ? Only through the Idea. True to our method, we must find the relation, not of the finite to the infinite, which is impossible, but of the infinite to the finite, or of the cause to the effect. But the effect can only be in reciprocal relation to the cause, on condition that it be equal to it, and that is impossible if creation be the sole effect. The equation is imperfect, how is it to be perfected ? By the Word or Idea, who is Himself the relation balancing the equation, who is Himself the mediator between the infinite and the finite, without confusing either, but preserving the distinction by the very fact of His uniting them 1 Cf. Descartes : Réponses aux cinquièmes objections (3me Med. sec. 4).
The Word, then, is the mediator between these antinomical factors. By Him the Infinite calls into existence the world of finalities, and the finite ascends towards God. It is not that in Christ, the two natures, the divine and the human, the infinite and the finite, are juxtaposed, so that in Him on one side is the man, and on the other side is the God, they are absolutely united so as to be indissolubly one without confusion of nature, any more than there is absorption of North pole and South pole, the axis of the earth uniting them. It unites by separating them.
Christ is not simply God and man, but is God-man indivisibly and simultaneously; that is to say, He is at once the infinite, or the idea of the divine personality, and the finite, or the idea of the created personality. In Him the two personalities are not only welded together, and brought into reciprocal communion, but are emphasized and distinguished at the same time. Without Him the Absolute could not have called the finite into existence, for there would be no mode of passage from the timeless and spaceless, the imponderable and immaterial Being to matter, subject to extension, duration, and gravitation; apart from Him man could not enter into relation with God, for he would be the finite dislocated from the infinite, without connecting bridge.
Thus the dogma of the Incarnation is a necessary consequence to those who rightly comprehend the finite and the infinite. Without it, there is no possible relation between them, the Incarnation is the only conceivable conciliation.
But that this notion of Christ should appear in its full grandeur, let the metaphysical idea be vivified by the contemplation of its application to living realities.
If we rise from the mathematical point, the sole possible expression of matter in its condition of absolute indivisibility, to the immensity of the sidereal universe, from the ultimate chemical atom through all degrees of the mineral reign, from the first vegetable embryo to the most complete animal; if, passing onwards to man, we follow him from a whimpering babe to the conception of his unlimited personality in God through Christ, tracing the laborious stages of the progressive development of humanity in history, what does this magnificent panorama of creation exhibit to us but the marvellous ascension of the finite under the form of the indefinite towards God, the Infinite ? Christ is to humanity not merely the Son of Mary, but the veritable Son of Man, resuming in Himself the entire creation, of which He is the protoplast and the archetype. Thus, this conception of the whole visible universe in its projection towards the infinite, from the atom and the germ to the Man-God, is the complete equation of the infinite; and from this point of view Christ is the Ideal of creation; whilst from the Divine point of view He is the Idea of the creation. By Him the Idea was realized in creation, and by Him creation is raised towards the Infinite.
God, the infinite Being, arrives at the finite only through the eternal Word, the mediating moment; the creature, or the finite, can only lift itself towards the infinite by means of the same mediator. He is their point of junction and communion; and this point of junction manifests itself by the association of the activities of the finite and the infinite for the reconciliation of the whole order, the things in heaven and the things in earth, all opposites wherever opposed, in one all-enfolding Idea.
God operates through the Word, and man reaches the Father through Christ. In Him the action of God and the action of man meet, are focussed as in a lens, and diverge orderly.