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the results of critical enquiry respecting each of our Gospels, as illustrated by the statements of the most famous unbeliever of our day-M. Renan. With his assistance, it will be possible, without following in detail all the thorny paths of the criticism of the present century, to estimate the general value of its results. The long debate on this subject has, in fact, at last reached a point at which even simple readers may sufficiently see their way, provided they approach the subject without those prejudices by which, as we have seen, the arguments of negative criticism are marred. In subsequent Lectures, we will consider the leading facts of our Lord's ministry on earth as they are summarized by St. Peter in the text, and recited in the creeds of the Church, with reference at once to their spiritual significance and to their credibility. In pursuing such an enquiry we should be led to a profitable contemplation of our Lord's character, of His deeds and words; and we shall, I trust, be enabled to place a more implicit and unhesitating faith in those grand facts, those marvellous exbibitions of divine power, on which our faith as Christians is based. May God grant us this blessing, through Jesus Christ our Lord !
THE RESULTS OF MODERN CRITICISM
“Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day's journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphæus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren.”-Acts i. 12–14.
It has been shown in the previous Lecture that all the important objections to the authenticity and credibility of the Gospel narratives, as we possess them, all the critical arguments which have been prominent during the present century, have started from the assumption that anything miraculous and supernatural is incredible, and that therefore any documents which profess to contain a record of it must be, in some degree, legendary, and their accounts must need to be explained away. The consequence is that no hostile critic of the Gospel history has approached the subject impartially, and Christian writers alone are willing to estimate without prejudice the testimony offered, and to accept as facts what may thus be established. Some striking instances were also given of the errors into which critics bave been betrayed by these prejudices, and of the damage which has been inflicted on their arguments by every successive discovery in early Christian literature. In the present Lecture I propose to enquire more particularly into the practical results of modern criticism respecting the Four Gospels, and to ask how far any conclusions have really been established which are adverse to our belief in the authenticity and credibility of those books.
For this purpose I shall not presume to rely upon any arguments I might myself urge in answer to sceptical critics. It will be sufficient to appeal to the evidence of a witness who is familiar with the whole controversy, who is a master of all the branches of learning connected with it, and who is not only unprejudiced in favour of Christian belief, but is himself the most famous unbeliever of our day. That witness is M. Renan. The interpretation which he places upon the evidence he feels obliged to admit, the manner in which, under the influence of his rationalistic prejudices, he explains away natural effect, in no way affect the character and the significance of the admissions themselves. We are concerned, at present, simply with the nature of the testimony with which we have to deal. When that is substantially ascertained, we shall be justified
in interpreting the evidence ourselves. What we wish to know, in the first instance, is how far modern criticism has seriously succeeded in establishing solid objections against the constant belief of the Church that we possess in the four Gospels the evidence of contemporaries and eye-witnesses. On this point M. Renan is an authority to whom sceptical critics, at all events, cannot fairly demur. If their contentions have not been established, even in the main, to his satisfaction, Christian writers, or apologists-if any one prefers so to call them—can hardly be accused of orthodox prejudices for being of a similar opinion.
Now the third Gospel offers peculiar advantages for entering upon this question. The book of the Acts of the Apostles purports to be by the same writer; and the latter book, from the manner in which the pronoun • We’ is used in its later chapters in describing some of the journeys of St. Paul, affords internal evidence of unique value respecting its authorship. It is well known what has been the uniform tradition of the Church upon the subject, as well as how vehemently it has been attacked by the chief sceptical critics of Germany. If the book of the Acts of the Apostles was written by a friend and companion of St. Paul, the chief theories of Baur and his school at once fall to the ground, and accordingly they have directed ceaseless assaults against its authenticity. How far
have they succeeded in establishing their case to the satisfaction of a scholar like M. Renan ? They have absolutely failed. After reviewing these criticisms, he says in the introduction to his work on the Apostles :* Must we be checked by these objec
• tions ? I think not; and I persist in believing that the final composition of the Acts of the Apostles is due to the disciple of St. Paul, who says “we” in the last chapters. All the difficulties, however insoluble they may appear, ought, if not to be dismissed, at least to be held in suspense, in presence of an argument so decisive as that which results from that word “ He further considers that the tradition is correct, according to which this disciple was St. Luke, and concludes :f “We think, therefore, that the author of the third Gospel and of the Acts is in all reality Luke, the disciple of Paul.' So again, in the introduction to his · Life of Jesus,' he says it is evident that if the titles of the four Gospels are correct they at least carry us back to the half-century which followed the death of Jesus; and he proceeds :P 'As to Luke doubt is scarcely possible. The Gospel of Luke is a regular composition, founded on previous documents. It is the work of a man who chooses, curtails, combines. The author of this Gospel is certainly the same as
* Les Apôtres 1866, p. xiv. † p. xviii.
I Vie de Jésus, 1876, p. xlix.