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a Pantheist, a Mohammedan, and a Calvinist. They may worship, but they may not pray, or they are inconsequent.
The Catholic is obliged to affirm the link between himself and God; he does so by prayer, thereby he affirms his own free-will and its correlative, grace. And as grace, to coincide with the law of God's dealings, must be double, must have a divine side and a material manifestation, he affirms the sacramental system.
Christ was Himself the sacrament of grace for thirtythree years. Now that He is no longer sensibly present, He continues to exist amongst us, conveying grace, according to the same law.
This is what His name Emmanuel implies, a perpetual presence of God with us, of God ever present in His Church to convey grace and to receive homage.
An historical Incarnation does not meet all man's requirements. God made flesh two thousand years ago is a fact of the past, interesting to the religious antiquarian, but of no practical importance to the Christian. The dealings of God with man after that event are precisely the same as they were before.
It was a golden spot in the world's scroll, diminishing in lustre as the future unwinds, and soon to be rolled up in oblivion; not a golden thread illuminating the whole history of man.
Christ was born, God incarnate, lived and died, rose and ascended, and Christianity scrambles on without Him in the light of that event, becoming dimmer as generations succeed generations. Four thousand years hence men will walk in darkness again. The faith required to hold the fact of the Incarnation is historical belief; and as historical facts become remote faith diminishes in intensity.
The Lutheran doctrine of Justification by faith does not hitch in to the Incarnation, it would apply as well without that event, and unite man and God whether He had been incarnate or not.
Protestantism is a religion of looking back to the past, not a religion of the present. Two thousand years ago Christ was in His Church, and we are two thousand years off from Him. “The history of religion,” says a modern essayist, “ according to the ordinary Protestant view, is an immense anti-climax. Judaism is a half success. Christianity is a catastrophe.” In the Twelfth Book of Milton's Paradise Lost, the Archangel Michael draws out for Adam the long history of his posterity. In grand pictures taken from Scripture, the four thousand years of preparation pass in review. All progresses in expectation of the promised Deliverer. He comes, He dies, He rises triumphant, and ascends into heaven. Adam exclaims in rapture:
“O goodness infinite, goodness immense !
That all this good of evil shall produce.” But his raptures are premature; he has the curiosity to ask Michael what shall follow the preaching of the Apostles. Great and glorious things doubtless, while Michael draws his prophecy from the Acts of the Apostles. He tells of the descent of the Holy Ghost, the gift of tongues, and miracles,
“ Thus they win
They die.” But as soon as Michael-Milton's Michael of course leaves Scripture, and takes his Protestant view of history,
1 In Spirit and in Truth: Longmans, 1869, p. 329. A very masterly essay, taking the scriptural argument, which it is not my place to adopt.
how changed is the scene! Scarcely are the Apostles dead, when wicked men
“ The truth
Religion satisfied." And so the world goes on,“ under its own weight groaning,” till the day of doom.
The reader must be of a very genial temperament who, with this philosophy of history in his mind, can exclaim with Adam-Milton's Adam of course
“Greatly instructed I shall hence depart
Greatly in peace of thought."1 Such a view is, I need hardly say, inconsistent with the dogma of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is a descent of God to the level of human necessities; man wants the presence of Christ as much now as he did two thousand years ago; he wants Christ not merely on paper, but living in fact as a person in the midst of His Church. He needs a perfect ideal life, and that he has in the history of Christ contained in the Gospels, but he wants something more than that, an ever-present object, before which he may pour out his prayers, of which he may ask grace, upon which he may lavish his love, towards which he may direct his worship
This is what the idolater and fetishist sought, and as idolatry and fetishism are present everywhere where worship is offered, idolatry and fetishism must have their expression in the Christian Church.
i Milton's Paradise Lost, book xii.
Idolatry and fetishism were expressions of the desire felt by every man to fix his attention on some one point, to have some sensible presence of God, to which he could turn as to a centre of devotion.
These forms of worship were appeals to God, and God's answer was the Incarnation, But if Christ was only Emmanuel for thirty-three years, the heart appeals still to God, for it feels the same want, and if man feels that want still, and it is still left unsupplied, the Incarnation was incomplete -it set man a moral exemplar and thus satisfied one longing, but it afforded man no satisfaction to his craving for an object of worship. There are two alternatives, those two between which the heathen world swung, Polytheism or Deism, Idolatry or Indifference. Christianity must slide into one of these unless that want be met.
It may go back into polytheism and idolatry under the more modern form of anthropotheism, or it may settle itself into a philosophic deism, which leaves man without union with his God, and therefore without a religion.
But if love be the link uniting the Creator and the creature, the creature cannot manifest its complete activity without loving its Maker, and as it cannot love the abstract God of reason, God is assumed to have become Man to give him that object on which he could expend his love for the ideal of all that is good, and true, and beautiful. But if that Ideal be removed from him, he is left as before with the same desires unsatisfied. Consequently there must be a prolongation of Christ's presence-His objective presence —in the midst of His Church. He must be our Emmanuel as well as the Emmanuel of the shepherds of Bethlehem. This is what Catholicisin teaches to be the nature of the Eucharistic presence. Catholics believe that the fulness of times brought with it the fulness of God's sensible presence
amongst men, and that amongst men He lived the ideal life, the model of all perfection, to be a perpetual model. Christ's ideal life did not end two thousand years ago. It is perpetuated in the Church. His life is reproduced more or less faintly in every Christian. If the Word took our nature, wherever that regenerate nature is, there is Christ. He is not only, as God, present everywhere at every point in space; He is besides immanent, living, acting, in the midst of us, in each one of us, in the human and created order, to bring us back to the divine and supernatural order. It is He who lives in us, prays in us, suffers in us, and merits in us. “I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: sick, and visited Me: I was in prison, and ye came unto Me. Verily I unto
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”] When Saul persecuted the Christians, Jesus is said to have reproached him with these words: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord ? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest."? What was done to the Church was done to Him.
Christ has a Real Presence in every Christian through all ages, as moral perfection. There is not an act of charity, of heroism, of self-denial, of purity, which is not the result of His permanent action, and consequently He ceases not to live visibly among us as our Moral Guide. S. Paul speaks of forming Christ in us, that is of making the Ideal of moral perfection shine out of us through the veil of our imperfection,
“Est Deus in nobis, agitante calescimus illo," said the heathen poet, and it is truer a hundred-fold of 1 Matt. xxv. 35, 36, 40.
2 Acts ix. 4, 5.