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lands, and the simple homage of shepherds-the extremes of humanity, lowly Jews, and cultivated Gentiles, bending before the new born babe,-should close its earthly biography, in the person of its founder, by a benediction upon all nations, a catholic outlook over that world which the great teacher was soon to see in its round beauty, blessed by the common light, as he ascended from it into the peace of God! The disciples stood facing nearly every known kingdom of the world as he gave them that command, ready with missionary staff and zeal to bear the quickening words of Jesus into every clime, and to robe them in every tongue. We should expect, therefore, that the comprehensiveness of the thought of Jesus, characteristic of the prominent doctrines which he proclaimed in the midst of his ministry, would be especially manifest in the great commission with which it closedthat he would gather up the prominent forces of his faith, and sketch its vast scheme of relations to humanity, by the formula with which his delegates were to visit the nations. I believe that the terms of this final message of Christ do present the outline of the Christian religion, and that we have not studied that phrase as we should, by a spiritualized imagination, as presenting three large symbolic centres from which the peculiarities of Christianity radiate, and without all of which, neither its truth, its symmetry, or its power, can be complete.
Generally, we know, this last charge which the record ascribes to Jesus, is interpreted simply as a dogmatic statement of the Trinity, and the authoritative form to be used in every baptism of individual converts-the affirmation of the one great mystery of his religion forever beyond the reach of reason. But it is quite a singular fact that, in no instance of baptism by any apostle, recorded in the book of Acts, was this formula used. The phraseology of that service was "into Christ" alone; into the name and faith of Christ. And that it could not have been uttered by Jesus as a Trinitarian formula, the summing up of his doctrine concerning the divine nature into a final creed, is evident from the fact that he had never taught them a word of the personality of the Holy Spirit, or associated it in any way as a mystery with the unity and personality of God. Neither could the primitive
church have gathered such a meaning from this formula; since, by the general confession of the students of Christian antiquity, the personality of the Holy Ghost was not distinctly conceived till some generations after the apostles.
From the wide and intricate complications which this phrase has suffered with the Trinitarian scheme, many Unitarian believers have been reluctant to use it, feeling that some mental insincerity is involved now in its repetition. But we cannot afford to lose it; we ought not to yield it; we ought not to feel any mental perplexity in uttering it as the comprehensive formula of faith; and so there is a peculiar call upon us to examine it, and see, if, instead of a dogmatic statement of the composition of the divine nature, it is not rather a triplicate symbol of the ideas, forces, and privileges, which Christianity has communicated to the human race.
"Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father." So far this formula of baptism expresses the great contribution of Christianity to the world's knowledge of God. There is no science of the divine nature in the four Gospels, no definition of the relations which the Divine Spirit holds to the universe, no settlement, because no discussion, of those questions of creation, or development, plastic, unconscious intellect, or theism, which inquisitive philosophers have raised for the torment of faith in modern days. Indeed, there is no deliberate and official announcement of the divine paternity itself in the Gospel, as though Christ consciously brought it as a momentous secret, which he was to shed for the first time upon the astonished darkness of nature. It leaped out in his instructions as a truth that could not but be seen. It was a light so clear upon his spirit that he alluded to it as an unquestionable, self-evident, granted fact-the luminous vesture which all eyes must see wrapping the dark substance of the Divinity. It is quite remarkable that, in no passage of his instruction, did Jesus place it in any critical opposition to the severer countenance of Deity which Judaism had portrayed, or to the starry darkness of the pagan mind; but talked to the Galilean peasants and the more cultivated listeners of Jerusalem, as though it were a part of their unconscious faith, which he would kindle into more luminous power.
We believe that there is hardly an instance in the records of Christ's instructions, where this statement concerning God is made antagonistically, or, even in the direct sense, affirmatively. In almost, if not quite, every instance it is published obliquely,-used to endorse a duty or inspire a sentiment, as in the passages: "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect; ""Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;""That thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee; "When ye pray, use not vain repetitions, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him;" "But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, &c., that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he mak eth his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." The parable of the prodigal son will also occur to the reader, as the crowning instance of the custom of Jesus to assume the paternity of the Infinite, and reason from it to all the needs and sins of the human heart; instead of to state it and develop it as a truth consciously peculiar to his own mind, which was to undulate from him over the darkness of the race.
Let no one think that this exposition of the method in which Christ unfolded the character of God, is a point of mere speculative interest. It shows us how the whole character of Christianity is involved with the spread of that conception; how its power and its honor are suspended upon the clearness with which it is held, the eloquence with which it is preached, and the force with which it is felt. Is not a new force given to it when we find that the royal soul that once stood upon this globe,seer and speaker of the laws and mysteries of the spiritual universe, did not utter that truth, sublimest of all that can be conceived by human reason, as though it was a beam straying miraculously from the sky, and reflected from a supernatural intellect upon the world, but as one that seemed to rush in upon his vision from all quarters of nature,-shed from the sunlight which wrote it by magical photography upon his brain,-sprinkled by the show
ers, written in mystic lines upon the lily's leaf, symbolized in the best affections of every parent's heart, effluent from all those beneficent arrangements which make the world a glorious home for humanity, and hinted sweetly in the poetic confusion of those lights in the Syrian sky, to which perhaps from that upper room in Jerusalem, he pointed the gaze of his disciples, uttering for them their struggling meaning, when he said, on the night of the last supper, "In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you?" Given to us in this way, we are made, not only to receive the truths of the divine goodness and parentage, but also to feel that it is the open secret of all nature, waiting only for the discerning soul to catch its import; we are taught to look with welcome upon every new illustration which any science, or any saint, bears in from nature of the heavenly Goodness, as proving that the rays of Christian light have struck with new splendor upon the world, and to feel that we are away from nature if it is not the habit of our thought; and we realize that the religion which began in the spontaneous instructive assurance, pervading the soul which launched it, of the Infinite paternity, commits us to the fearless and full interpretation of that truth by all the wisdom, and according to all the needs, of the world. Baptizing them into the name of the Father." delight to read in this the great commission of the religion of Jesus to the world to carry out that truth into all the results which it justifies, to saturate feeling with it, and to hold it as the key-note of faith, with which every other truth must be toned in harmony. The fragmentary instructions of Jesus, drawn out by the shifting accidents of his short career, implied this faith; and so when the Gospel is to pass out from his personal superintendence, and to be given by the hurrying Apostles to the general mind of the world, the message seems to be, "Take this great doctrine, O ye peoples, as the chief legacy of heaven to earth; take it as the inspiration of your thought and the life of your philosophy; take it as a rich principle only feebly developed as yet, and draw it out in all its consequences, which will become parts of the Christian religion, if they are fairly drawn; cling to it as the great sun-truth, around which, as Christian thinkers, all your
other ideas must be disposed, and from which they must draw their light; take it, and interpret it, and make this universe a home by its radiance, and so flood your life with holy joy!
Regarded in this light the baptismal formula recognises the most important principle, that the first records of our religion are filled with the germs of truth which Christ, the great Sower, has scattered over the soil of the church, to be developed by the light and climates of after centuries. It puts us in the right attitude towards the first documents of Christianity, which give us the name and force into which our spirits must be baptized, and which they are then to develope for themselves, rather than the detailed and systematic truth from which we are to gather our instruction by texual compilation. And so it should seem that we may judge of the fulness of our baptism into Christianity, by the extent to which the thought of the church, or the world, is permeated with the sense of the paternity of God. For only to the degree that our philosophy is colored with it, our theories of the universe illumined by it, our conceptions of destiny brought within its sweep, has the great commission to the Apostles been fulfilled with us. All our defects of faith in that principle, all our hesitances to apply it as the touchstone of truth in controversies, all our beliefs and moods of feeling inconsistent with it, and that will not come by natural evolution out of it, are signs of our imperfect baptism into the name of the Father.
It is quite remarkable, therefore, that the Christians who hold that truth with the greatest fervor, and unfold it with the largest freedom and with the most ample richness of results, are treated as the most conspicuous heretics of the church. Not that there is any party which as yet has worthily unfolded the latent burden of that word; but it is an astonishing fact that, just so far as that work has been attempted, the church has recoiled with anathemas and fear. For the fundamental controversy in the Christian church now, is about the question, whether or not Christianity is a sacrificial scheme, or only a special revelation; and the decision turns upon the radical conception formed of God. Is the throne, or the home, the chief symbol of His rule? Do the laws of the court, or of the family, 21