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it would, I think, be unjust not to admit that it was not only natural, but just and proper, that questions of this nature should be raised and fairly considered, in view of the increased knowledge which has been gained during the last two centuries both of nature and of the facts of human history. The development of natural science has placed miracles in a new light; it can hardly, I think, be denied that it has increased the wonder of them, and it has in proportion enhanced their primâ facie improbability. At the same time the advance of criticism in other departments of history and literature has compelled us to reject as legendary stories, as myths or poetical fancies, many narratives respecting obscure parts of history which were formerly accepted without hesitation. It was impossible that serious men should not ask themselves whether it was conceivable that any such legendary process had contributed to produce the marvellous and superhuman stories in the Gospels, and whether the evidence on which we were asked to believe in violations of all ordinary experience would bear the strain. It was a natural consequence of human infirmity that in some cases these questions should be raised with undue audacity, and with an imperfect power of appreciating the moral conditions of the problem. If, as must needs be said, German critics have been often rash, arbitrary, deficient in spiritual and his

torical penetration-for on so serious a subject it is necessary to speak plainly-their rashness has not less often been a perversion of a very noble quality, perhaps peculiarly characteristic of their nation

of that intrepidity which marked the great hero of the Reformation, and of an impetuous effort to grasp the truth, whatever the apparent cost. The result of their errors, as of many another temporary aberration in the course of the history of theology, has been, on the whole, to bring into clearer light the old truth, and to render more unassailable for the future the cardinal facts of the Christian revelation. But the process has been a perilous one, and has involved for the time a shaking of the foundations of faith, which has, of late years, been severely felt among ourselves. By the brilliant French writer, M. Renan, and by the author of a book called 'Supernatural Religion' among ourselves, the doubts in question have of late years been given vivid expression. At the same time the main points at issue have been so thoroughly argued that it is possible to point to some definite conclusions; and an attempt may not be inopportune to present, in a simple and direct form, the grounds on which we can take our stand in proclaiming, in all its wonder and all its simplicity, the old message of St. Peter respecting the life, the work, and the present power of Christ.

Now, there is one remark to be made at the outset which seems to deserve particular consideration. It is that, among those who have conducted this great controversy, Christian writers alone have approached the subject from an impartial point of view. A different impression no doubt prevails, and it is a common reproach against us that we enter on the discussion with a special interest in favour of the old faith. Of course we do; and it would be a shame to us if we did not. We have the same interest in believing in the truth of the Christian creed that all men have for believing in the truth of any cause with which the civilization they inherit is indissolubly bound up, for which those whom they love and admire best in the world have shed their blood, and with which the deepest and purest and most elevating of their feelings are united. It would be a bitter thing no doubt, and bitter to others than Christians -it would be a shock to human nature, and would shake our faith in the very trustworthiness of our faculties-to have to recognize that the self-sacrifice of Christian martyrs and the devoted lives of Christian saints, inseparably united as they are, in a manner presented by no other religion, with all that is noblest and most progressive in history, with the highest hopes of the human race even for this world

-to have to recognize, I say, that all this was founded upon a series of illusions. But nevertheless, none

have the right to say of us, any more than they have a right to presume respecting any other men, that we are disqualified by our prejudices from recognizing plain facts. It is facts that we want, and nothing else. Our creed, as has already been said, is a creed of facts; and every light that can be thrown on the evidence for them is welcome to us.

On the other hand, we are justified in saying of the principal writers among our antagonistsfor they say it of themselves-that they are so far from entering on the consideration of the subject impartially, that they actually prejudge the very question in dispute. They say, and it is the cardinal and ever-recurring principle of their objections, that miracles and supernatural facts cannot have happened; and that this consideration, taken alone, renders it necessary to treat the narratives of the Gospels as legendary. As illustrations of this attitude of mind, it may be sufficient to mention three leading writers: Strauss, the notorious author of the mythical theory of the Gospels; Baur, the distinguished leader of the Tübingen school; and lastly M. Renan. Strauss, in his final work on this subject, reiterated that the main difficulty in accepting the narratives of the Gospels as historical is that they assume the existence of a personality in our Lord, and recognize the operation of powers in the course of His life, to which we have no

parallel in any other history.* Of course we have not—that is the very Christian contention; but to assume that because no such personality and no such deeds are recorded in any other history, therefore they could not have occurred in the case of our Lord, is to beg the whole question at issue-it is to say that no amount of evidence to the narratives of the Gospels would be of any value. Or, as Strauss puts it in another form, 'that which cannot happen did not happen; '† and accordingly the narratives of the Gospels must be explained away by some device or other.

The case is practically the same with Baur. While sympathizing with Strauss, he objected to him that he had not sufficiently investigated the authenticity and date of the Gospels. Strauss laid the stress of the argument on the inherent incredibility of the history; Baur, on the other hand, endeavoured to show that the Gospels were of very late origin, and consequently could not be regarded as valid testimony to the occurrence of the facts. But, after all, the decisive argument, even for him, is that the contents of the Gospels are miraculous and impossible. In his own words, 'The cardinal argument for the

* Das Leben Jesu für das Deutsche Volk bearbeitet, 3rd ed. 1876, p. 145.

† See also Das Leben Jesu

kritisch bearbeitet, 4th ed. § 16; Criterions of what is unhistorical in the Evangelical narrative.

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