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§ II. The Word and the World.
The existence of the Eternal Word establishes the divine freedom, for in him absolute love finds its perfect realization.
God is under no constraining necessity to create. If he does so, it can only be by a determination of his free love. According to St. John, the Word takes an important part in creation. As the organ of revelation, by whom alone the light, life, and love emanating from God can be communicated, "all things were made by him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."562562Πάντα δι᾽ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν. John i, 3.
The Word not only created the world. He already, in part, gave himself to the world: "He was in the world."563563Ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἦν. John i, 10. In truth, the moral creature derives from him all the elements of the higher life. Something was imparted to it from the Word. The Word is the "light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."564564Ἦν τὸ φῶς τὸ ἀληθινόν, ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον, ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον. John i, 9. Notwithstanding the contrary opinion held by many learned exegetes, our translation still seems to us more in harmony with the context and with grammar. In fact, the distance between ἦν and ἐρχόμενον is too great for the two words to be connected. We know that the rabbis were accustomed to designate man as "him that cometh into the world." Lastly, St. John, in the verse following, speaks not of the illumination of the world by the incarnation, but of the illumination previously given to the world by the Word. Therefore it is said that when He came into the world he came "unto his own." This last expression would indeed itself suffice to establish an essential link between the Word and humanity. See the discussion of this passage in the commentaries of De Wette, Tholuck, and Lücke. Thus do we find in St. John a sublime commentary on the noble utterance of St. Paul—"For we are also his offspring." In reason and conscience man has in himself an inner Word, an emanation from the Eternal Word, by which he is rendered capable of perceiving divine things and of possessing God himself. Such a conception raises us far above any dualistic notion; nor is it possible to conceive a more decided opposition than that which subsists between this doctrine and that of Philo. While John admits an essential and true harmony between human nature and the Godhead, the Alexandrian philosophy declares plainly that it is impossible for man to draw near to God.
This harmony, however, has not been sustained. John recognizes the intrusion of a principle of discord into the world. The power of sin has been let loose. He does not enter into any argument on the origin of evil. He affirms the fact and is content with proving it. A kingdom of darkness has set itself in opposition to the kingdom of light, of which God is the sun. The devil has had a great influence upon man, seducing him into evil. He is not indeed to be regarded as Ahriman the eternal, confronted with the eternal Ormuz; no, the principle of light was before the principle of evil. Satan himself was born in the light, for it is said "He abode not in the truth."565565Ἐν τῇ ἀληθείᾳ οὐκ ἔστηκεν. John viii, 44. It is evident that John supposes a fall in his case no less than in ours, and that consequently, in the origin of things, all was light and purity as became a creation called into being by the Word.566566M. Reuss (work quoted, II, 380) misconceives John's idea, when he denies that the fourth gospel represents Satan as a fallen angel. Doubtless the fall of Satan does not explain ours; we might rather say, the reverse is true. The trial through which man passed as a free creature reveals itself to us as an indispensable condition of liberty for all moral creatures. The cause of evil is entirely moral. "Sin," says the Apostle, "is the transgression of the law."567567Ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐστὶν ἡ ἀνομία. 1 John iii, 4.
There is a law for the creature. It is this law which John calls the old and new commandment, the commandment of love based upon the very being of God. 1 John ii, 5-10. The destiny of the moral creature is to become like his Creator, conformed to his nature. The law implies liberty, for it appeals to the will. Sin, then, was a free violation of the law of God. The creature took part against God; that is to say, he rejected life, love, and light. Thus the world became dark from the day in which it turned from God. It is now plunged in moral night; all the higher elements are stifled in man; the outward and sensible life predominates; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life enshroud it in threefold darkness. 1 John ii, 16, 17. It is given over to a lie because it has set itself against good and love-that is, against God and the Word. Its prince is he who was a liar and murderer from the beginning, (John viii, 44,) and who, having fallen himself, has dragged after him in his descent all those who have freely, and under no external constraint, followed his suggestions. John does not assert, however, that this darkness which envelopes the world is traversed by no beam of heavenly light. Even now, the Word enlightens the human soul; all that it possesses of intelligence, of true reason, of divine consciousness, it derives from him. When he comes to man he comes to his own.568568Εἰς τὰ ἴδια ἦλθεν. John i, 11. If the fall were total—that is to say, if all spiritual capability were dead in man—it would then be irremediable, since there could be no more any point of contact between the heart and God. But if the buried germ of the Word were not fertilized by grace, mankind would be none the less irrevocably lost.
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