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he pursued his eagle's path straight into the sunshine. That loftiest, splendid theme unfolded before his intent gaze into a grand harmonious system of God-manifestation. It was not doctrine that he unfolded. It was the vivid reality of the sublimest historic facts, a Godhead in combined and harmonious action, working forth, not the salvation of individual man by any expedient, however sublime, but the grand overthrow and defeat of evil in a nature which had sinned. In this light the man who embraced his Lord with all the fervour of human affections, as well as with all the spiritua love and faith of which his soul was capable, perceived, with a depth of tender adoration not to be described, that wonderful reality of union which made his Lord not only his Saviour, but his brother and kinsman, the true everlasting Head of the nature He had assumed. Controversy was not in his mind, nor any desire after a novel view of the truth he uttered. He “knew not that any one entertained a doubt upon
head of Christian faith.” And with all the simplicity of undoubting belief and confidence he set forth the Saviour in whom he trusted, - a Lord noways abstracted from the life-blood of humanity, but rather its fullest spring and fountain-head, a man without guilt, but with everything else that belongs to man — an existence not of itself secure and unassailable, but held like a fortress in immaculate purity by the Godhead within. Such was the form in which the Redeemer of his life, and Master of his heart, appeared to Irving. He set forth the Lord so, before all eyes, with outeries of joy and tears, finding in that utter brotherhood of the flesh a culmination
DISCOVERIES MADE BY THE REV. MR. COLE.
of grace, and love, and unspeakable Divine tenderness such as heart of man had not conceived.
This was the preacher's view, standing above the crowd with his eyes and his thoughts in the heavens ; but other eyes and thoughts were in the cloudy regions underneath, watching that lofty perilous career into the Divine mysteries, without either light to lead, or faith to follow. An idle clergyman, called Cole,— of whom nobody seems to know anything but that he suddenly appeared out of darkness at this moment to do his ignoble office — heard by the wind of rumour, which at that time was constantly carrying something of the eloquent preacher's lavish riches about the world, of what appeared to him “a new doctrine.” The immediate cause was an address delivered by Irving in behalf of a society for the distribution of Gospel Tracts, in which some of his audience discovered that the preacher declared the human nature of our Saviour to be identical with all human nature, truly and in actual verity the “seed of Abraham.” This, coming to the ears of Mr. Cole, apparently, at the moment, a man at leisure, and in a condition to set his laborious brethren right and find out their errors, filled the soul of that virtuous critic with alarm and horror. To him the world seems to be indebted for the disingenuous statement of this new view, if new view it was, which, by giving the name of the “sinfulness of Christ's human nature" to that which in Irving's eyes was the actual redemption of human nature through Christ, inevitably prejudiced and prejudged the question with the mass of religious people. Few can follow those fine and delicate intricacies and distinctions which encompass
A THEOLOGICAL SPY.
such an important but impalpable difference of belief; but everybody can be shocked at the connection of sin with the person of the Saviour. This was the unfair and deeply disingenuous method of representing it, which Cole first hit upon, and which all who followed him on that side of the question, in spite of countless protests and denials from the other, obstinately maintained. The novel means which Mr. Cole took to satisfy himself about the new doctrine we are fortunately able to give in his own words, which, in the form of a letter to Irving, he published shortly after the event he narrates.
“I had purposed,” says this candid divine, “ever since the delivery of your Society Oration, to hear you myself, that I might be satisfied personally whether you really did hold the awful doctrine of the sinfulness of Christ's human nature or not; but six months elapsed before my continued purpose was realised. I did not like to leave my usual place of worship to hear you ; and yet there appeared no possibility of accomplishing my desire without it. On Sunday evening, the 28th of October last, however, I was returning home rather early, about eight o'clock; and it occurred to me that, if I went to your chapel, I might find your oration not quite concluded; and that I might, perhaps, hear something that would enable me to arrive at the desired satisfaction. I accordingly proceeded to the Caledonian chapel. When I entered, I found your oration not concluded; I therefore sat down, and heard you for about twenty minutes. I had not been seated above a minute or two, when I found that you were dwelling much upon the person and work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and I had hardly arrived at a perception of the train of that part of your discourse, when you made me tremble from head to foot by thundering out the expression, "THAT SINFUL SUBSTANCE!' meaning the human body of the adorable Son of God! You were declaring • That the main part of His victory consisted
FOLLOWS THE PREACHER TO THE VESTRY.
in His overcoming the sin and corruption of His human nature.' You stated, “He did not sin.' •But, you said, “there was that sinful substance against which He had to strive, and with which He had to conflict during the whole of His life upon earth. What I felt at hearing such awful blasphemy against the person of the Son of God, declaimed with accompanying vehement gesticulations, before upwards, I should suppose, of two thousand persons, I cannot describe. And the whole superstructure of the remaining part of your oration was more or less of a piece with and built upon
this terrifically awful foundation. .. Nevertheless, to put myself beyond the reach of error, in so momentous a matter, and at the same time to give you the most fair and full opportunity of unsaying any unguarded expressions, and also to ascertain whether what you uttered was your considerate and real belief, I resolved, if practicable, to speak to you in person. Having understood from one of your attendants that you would favour me with a conference, I waited till you were disengaged, and was at length admitted into your presence. My address and questions, and your answers, were as follows:- 'I believe, sir, a considerable part of the conclusion of your discourse this evening has been upon the person and works of Jesus Christ?' You answered in the affirmative. I added, “If I mistake not, you asserted that the human body of Christ was sinful substance?' You replied, “Yes, I did. I continued, But is that your real and considerate belief ?' You answered, “Yes, it is, as far as I have considered the subject.' And here you produced a book, which, I believe, was some national confession of faith, to confirm your faith and assertions, in which you pointed out to me these words (if I mistake not), “The flesh of Jesus Christ, which was by nature mortal and corruptible.'
• This, sir,' I observed, “is to me a most awful doctrine.' And after making other remarks upon the awfulness of the doctrine, and asking you once or twice if such was your deliberate and considerate belief, which you answered in the affirmative, I put this final question to you, Do you then, sir, really believe that the body of the Son of God was a mortal, corrupt, and corruptible body, like that of all man
FIRST ACCUSATION OF HERESY.
kind?—the same body as yours and mine?' You answered, Yes, just so; certainly; that is what I believe. Upon which I departed."
The inquirer departed, after so unwarrantable an invasion of another man's privacy, to bring against the sincere and patient preacher who had borne this catechising, and had not resented it, the charge of serious heresy. Such a method of getting at the facts on which the indictment was to be framed has fortunately been seldom resorted to; and it is not an example which many men would like to follow. Irving himself gives a much shorter account of the same interview in the preface to a volume entitled Christ's Holiness in the Flesh, published in 1831. He says :
“Of the man I know nothing, save that a stranger once solicited conversation with me on a Lord's-day night, after public worship, of which conversation I found what purported to be the substance standing at the head of this publication (Cole's pamphlet). Whether it be so or not I cannot tell, for it was at a moment of exhaustion that it was held; and I gave the stranger an invitation to come to me at leisure on the Thursday following, for the further satisfying of his conscience. He did not think it worth his while to do this; and could reconcile his conscience to the betrayal of pastoral and ministerial confidence, and to the publication of a conversation, without even asking me whether it was correctly reported or not I shall never forget,” he proceeds, “ the feeling which I had upon first hearing my name coupled with heresy. So much did it trouble me, that I once seriously meditated sending a paper to the Christian Observer, in order to contradict the man's false insinuations. But I thought it better to sit quiet and bear the reproach. When, however, I perceived that this error was taking form, and that the Church was coming into peril of believing that Christ had no temptations in the flesh to contend with and overcome, I felt it my duty to intercalate, in the volume on the Incarnation, a