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as embodying, for our purposes, the sum and substance of the Gospel, and as indicating the central points in the Christian argument. Let us observe, then, that it is a brief and simple summary of the life of our Lord, as recorded in the four Gospels, supplemented by a statement of what He commanded His Apostles to preach after His resurrection. In slight but vivid details, all the essential points of those narratives and of the Saviour's last commands are sketched—His ministry of grace and power, His miracles of mercy and of healing, His crucifixion, His resurrection and His open manifestation to chosen witnesses, His declaration to the Apostles that it is He who was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead, and the assurance that whosoever believed in Him should receive remission of sins. In these few momentous facts lies, according to St. Peter, the whole essence of the Gospel; and that essence is the supernatural character of Jesus Christ, His miraculous powers, His authority to forgive sins, His commission to judge the quick and the dead. In strict harmony with this cardinal example of Apostolic preaching, the Christian Creed, a confession of which has from the earliest ages been the condition of baptism and of admission into the Church, has consisted of a summary of these same facts. One of its earliest forms, that of the primitive Roman Church, ran as follows: "I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate and was buried ; on the third day he rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead; and I believe in the Holy Ghost, in the holy Church, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the flesh.'*
A Christian, accordingly, is a man who believes in these facts, past, present, and future. He is not merely a man who submits himself to the moral teaching of Christ; though that of course is involved in the belief in Him as the Judge of quick and dead—a belief which gives to that teaching an absolutely supreme authority. But, to be a Christian, a man must regard our Lord as having exerted in the past the power and influence which the Gospels record, as exercising a similar influence in the present, and as destined to exercise it with infinite majesty and might in the future. Under this belief, the Christian surrenders himself to Christ for life and death, in sure and certain hope that, through Him, he is reconciled with God, that he will be purged by his Saviour's supernatural grace and power from the moral evil which besets him to the last, and that hereafter he will be raised in purity of soul and incorruption of body to a life of full communion with the truth, the goodness, and the love of the Divine nature. This is the blessed creed which we contemplate in the series of the great festivals of the Christian year, and which reaches its culmination at the two festivals between which we stand-those of Easter and Whitsuntide.
* See Gebhardt and Harnack, Salmon in the Contemporary Apostolic Fathers, Fasc. I. part 2, Review for August 1878. p. 115, and an article by Dr.
Now, this being the case, it appears that the whole edifice of Christian faith rests upon the foundation of the historic truth of the life and ministry of our Lord, as summarized by St. Peter in this passage,
, and as narrated in the Gospels; and in these days, when we are daily called upon to give to ourselves, if not to others, a reason of the faith that is in us, it seems of increasing importance we should clearly realize that this is the main question which is practically at issue. Great service has been done, and is still being done, by those who have vindicated the harmony of the great doctrines of Christian theology with the constitution of nature and of man, and who have brought into prominence the immense presumption in favour of our faith afforded by the course of history and by the beneficent influence of Christianity on mankind. Considerations of such a nature are well fitted to be a stay and support to souls in many moments and moods of anxious doubt, during which the answer to other difficulties is for a while obscure; and they must always form an essential part of the Christian argument. A creed which is to command our allegiance must be in harmony with the existing facts of life, must explain them, control them, animate them. But still, when all this is done and said, we must again and again come back to the few facts we have just reviewed—to the simple preaching of St. Peter to Cornelius; to the question whether, as a matter of fact, Jesus of Nazareth was anointed by God with the Holy Ghost and with power; whether He rose from the grave, and ordered His Apostles to proclaim Him as Judge of quick and dead. This, after all, is our one message as Christian ministers. We not only urge upon you certain moral or spiritual truths, but we bring a message to you from the man Christ Jesus, who declared Himself also to be God, and who proved Himself to possess the authority He claimed, not only by His marvellous teaching, but by His visible supremacy over all the powers of nature. We call on you for this reason, as has been said, to surrender yourselves to Him, to obey Him, to trust in Him, to pray to Himto appeal to Him for daily support, guidance, chastisement, purification for all the
your moral and spiritual and intellectual and bodily nature needs, and to commend yourselves confidently in death to His merciful hands. And if you ask what are our credentials for this gracious, but wonderful and supernatural invitation, we have, and we can have, but one—that the facts recited by St. Peter in the text, and the narratives in the Gospels, are faithful records of the life and deeds and words of the Person of whom we speak.
Accordingly, it is natural and reasonable that, in the course of the present century, the attention of all who take a serious interest in religious truth should have more and more been concentrated on the question of the authenticity of the books of the New Testament, and on the credibility of the account there preserved to us of the life and work of our Lord. The question was first seriously raised, at least in its present import, at the close of the last century; and since then it has passed through various forms, until, in our own time, it has culminated in a series of attempts to give an account of our Lord's life which should be reconcilable with common experience and with the ordinary course of the laws of nature. The Christian must be justly indignant with the spirit by which some of those attempts have been marked, and by the tone of many rationalistic writers on particular points; but