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Preface to the Second Edition.


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the sublimity of His Human character. The supreme importance of this consideration is indeed obvious. Certainly, in the order of historical treatment, the inferences which may be deduced from Prophecy, and from Christ's supernatural design to found the Kingdom of Heaven, naturally precede that which arises from His language about Himself. But, in the order of the formation of conviction, the latter argument must claim precedence. It is, in truth, more fundamental. It is the heart of the entire subject, from which a vital strength flows into the accessory although important topics grouped around it. Apart from Our Lord's personal claims, the language of prophecy would have been only a record of unfulfilled anticipations, and the lofty Christology of the Apostles only a sample of their misguided enthusiasms; whereas the argument which appeals to Christ's claims, taken in conjunction with His character, is independent of the collateral arguments which in truth it supports. If the argument from prophecy could be discredited, by assigning new dates to the prophetical books, and by theories of a cultured political foresight; if the faith of the Apostles could be accounted for upon grounds which referred it to their individual peculiarities of thought and temper; there would still remain the unique phenomenon of the sublimest of characters inseparably linked, in the Person of Jesus, to the most energetic proclamation of self.

In this inmost shrine of Christian Truth, there are two courses open to the negative criticism. It may indeed endeavour to explain away Our Lord's self-assertion in the interests, as it conceives, of His Human Character. The impossibility of really doing this has been insisted upon in these lectures. For Christ's selfassertion is not merely embodied in statements which would be blasphemy in the mouth of a created being; it underlies and explains His entire attitude towards His disciples, towards His countrymen, towards the human race, towards the religion of Israel. Nor is Christ's self-assertion confined to the records of one Evangelist, or to a particular period in His ministry. The three first Evangelists bear witness to it, in different terms, yet xii

Preface to the Second Edition.

not less significantly than does St. John; and it belongs as truly, though not perhaps so patently, to Our Lord's first great discourse as to His last. From first to last He asserts, He insists upon the acceptance of Himself. But when this is acknowledged, a man must either base such self-assertion on its one sufficient justification, by accepting the Church's faith in the Deity of Christ; or he must regard it as fatal to the moral beauty of Christ's Human character.Christus, si non Deus, non bonus.

It is urged by persons whose opinions are entitled to great respect that, however valid this argument may be, its religious expediency must be open to serious question. And undoubtedly such like arguments cannot at any time be put forward without involving those who do so in grave responsibility. Of this the writer, as he trusts, has not been unmindful. He has not used a dangerous weapon gratuitously, nor, so far as he knows his own motives, with any purpose so miserable as that of producing a rhetorical effect.

What, then, are the religious circumstances which appear to warrant the employment of such an argument at present ?

Speaking roughly, men's minds may be grouped into three classes with reference to the vital question which is discussed in these lectures.

1. There are those who, by God's mercy, have no doubt on the subject of Our Lord’s Godhead. To mere dialecticians their case may appear to be one of sheer intellectual stagnation. But the fact is, that they possess, or at least that they have altogether within their reach, a far higher measure of real · life' than is even suspected by their critics. They are not seeking truth; they are enjoying it. They are not like Alpine climbers still making their way up the mountain side; they have gained the summit, and are gazing on the panorama which is spread around and beneath them. It is even painful to them to think of 'proving' a truth which is now the very life of their souls. In their whole spiritual activity, in their prayers, in their regular meditations, in their study of Holy Scripture, in their habitual thoughts

Preface to the Second Edition.



respecting the eternal Future, they take Christ's Divinity for granted; and it never occurs to them to question a reality from which they know themselves to be continually gaining new streams of light and warmth and power.

To such as these, this book may or may not be of service. To some Christians, who are filled with joy and peace in believing, a review of the grounds of any portion of their faith may be even distressing. To others such a process may be bracing and helpful. But in any case it should be observed that the foot-notes contain passages from unbelieving writers, which are necessary to shew that the statements of the text are not aimed at imaginary phantoms, but which also are not unlikely to shock and distress religious and believing minds very seriously. In such a matter to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

2. There are others, and, it is to be feared, a larger class than is often supposed, who have made up their minds against the claims of Divine Revelation altogether. They may admit the existence of a Supreme Being, in some shadowy sense, as an Infinite Mind, or as a resistless Force. They may deny that there is any satisfactory reason for holding that any such Being exists at all. But whether they are Theists or Atheists, they resent the idea of any interference from on high in this human world, and accordingly they denounce the supernatural, on a priori grounds. The trustworthiness of Scripture as an historical record is to their minds sufficiently disproved by the undoubted fact, that its claim to credit is staked upon the possibility of certain extraordinary miracles. When that possibility is denied, Jesus Christ must either be pronounced to be a charlatan, or a person of whose real words and actions no trustworthy account has been transmitted

Whichever conclusion be accepted by those who belong to the class in question, it is plain that this book cannot hope to assist them. For it treats as certain, facts of which they deny even the possibility. It must of necessity appear to them to be guilty of a continuous petitio principii; since they dispute its




Preface to the Second Edition.


fundamental premises. any

such should ever chance to examine it, they would probably see in it only another illustration of the hopelessness of getting “orthodox” believers even to appreciate the nature and range of the difficulties which are felt by liberal thinkers.'

It may be replied that something should have been done towards meeting those particular difficulties. But, in point of fact, this would have been to choose another subject for the lectures of 1866. A few lectures, after all, can only deal with some aspects of a great Doctrine; and every treatise on a question of Divinity cannot be expected to begin ab ovo, and to discuss the Existence and the Personality of God. However little may be assumed, there will always be persons eager to complain of the minimized 'assumption'as altogether unjustifiable; because there are always persons who deny the most elementary Theistic truth. This being the case, the practical question to be determined is this :—How much is it advisable to take for granted in a given condition of faith and opinion, with a view to dealing with the doubts and difficulties of the largest number? The existence and personality of God, and the possibility and reality of the Christian Revelation, have been often discussed; while the truth and evidential force of miracles were defended in the year 1865 by a Bampton Lecturer of distinguished ability. Under these circumstances, the present writer deliberately assumed a great deal which is denied in our day and country by many active minds, with a view to meeting the case, as it appeared to him, of a much larger number, who would not dispute his premises, but who fail to see, or hesitate to acknowledge, the conclusion which they really warrant.

3. For, in truth, the vast majority of our countrymen still shrink with sincere dread from anything like an explicit rejection of Christianity. Yet no one who hears what goes on in daily conversation, and who is moderately conversant with the tone of some of the leading organs of public opinion, can

Preface to the Second Edition.




belief. People have a notion that the present is, in the hackneyed phrase, 'a transitional period,' and that they ought to be keeping pace with the general movement. Whither indeed they are going, they probably cannot say, and have never very seriously asked themselves. Their most definite impression is that the age is turning its back on dogmas and creeds, and is moving in a negative direction under the banner of freedom.' They are, indeed, sometimes told by their guides that they are hurrying forward to a chaos in which all existing beliefs, even the fundamental axioms of morality, will be ultimately submerged. Sometimes, too, they are encouraged to look hopefully forward beyond the immediate foreground of conflict and confusion, to an intellectual and moral Elysium, which will be reached when Science has divested Religion of all its superstitious incumbrances, and in which thought' and 'feeling,' after their long misunderstanding, are to embrace under the supervision of a philosophy higher than any which has yet been elaborated. But these visions are seen only by a few, and they are not easily popularized. The general tendency is to avoid speculations, whether hopeful or discouraging, about the future, yet to acquiesce in the theory so constantly suggested, that there is some sort of necessary opposition between dogma and goodness, and to recognise the consequent duty of promoting goodness by the depreciation and destruction of dogma. Thus, the movement, although negative in one sense, believes itself to be eminently positive in another. With regard to dogma, it is negative. But it sincerely affects a particular care for morality; and in purifying and enforcing moral truth, it endeavours to make its positive character most distinctly apparent.

It is easy to understand the bearing of such a habit of mind when placed face to face with the Person of Our Lord. It tends to issue practically (although, in its earlier stages, not with any very intelligent consciousness) in Socinianism. It regards the great statements whereby Christ's Godhead is taught or

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