THE MYSTICAL ELEMENT IN THE BIBLE
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God.”—EPH. iii. 17-19.
The task which now lies before me is to consider how far that type of religion and religious philosophy, which I tried in my last Lecture to depict in outline, is represented in and sanctioned by Holy Scripture. I shall devote most of my time to the New Testament, for we shall not find very much to help us in the Old. The Jewish mind and character, in spite of its deeply religious bent, was alien to Mysticism. In the first place, the religion of Israel, passing from what has been called Henotheism—the worship of a national God—to true Monotheism, always maintained a rigid notion of individuality, both human and Divine. Even prophecy, which is mystical in its essence, was in the early period conceived as unmystically as possible, Balaam is merely a mouthpiece of God; his message is external to his personality, which remains antagonistic to it. And, secondly, the Jewish doctrine of ideas was different from the Platonic. The Jew believed that the world, and the whole course of history, existed from all eternity in the mind of God, but as an unrealised purpose, which was actualised by degrees as the scroll of events was unfurled. There was no notion that the visible was in any way inferior to the invisible, or lacking in reality. Even in its later phases, after it had been partially Hellenised, Jewish idealism tended to crystallise as Chiliasm, or in “Apocalypses,” and not, like Platonism, in the dream of a perfect world existing “yonder.” In fact, the Jewish view of the external world was mainly that of naive realism, but strongly pervaded by belief in an Almighty King and Judge. Moreover, the Jew had little sense of the Divine in nature: it was the power of God over nature which he was jealous to maintain. The majesty of the elemental forces was extolled in order to magnify the greater power of Him who made and could unmake them, and whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain. The weakness and insignificance of man, as contrasted with the tremendous power of God, is the reflection which the contemplation of nature generally produced in his mind. “How can a man be just with God?” asks Job; “which removeth the mountains, and they know it not; when He overturneth them in His anger; which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble; which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not, and sealeth up the stars.... He is not a man, as I am, that I should answer Him, that we should come together in judgment. There is no daysman betwixt us, that