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to Mr. Row's Bampton Lectures, as named at the head of this article, where it has been treated at considerable length. All that can be done here is to state the conclusions which have been deduced after careful examination of the evidence :
First, they affirm that our Lord's Divine Person is self-evidential; and that the various manifestations of the Divine which have been exhibited in Him, whether they are recorded in the New Testament, or subsequently manifested in history, constitute the highest evidence that He came forth from God, and therefore that they ought to be placed in the front of the Christian argument.
Secondly, that the evidential value of miracles, viewed as objective facts in the physical universe, is subordinate to this; and in estimating it, it is necessary to take into account the moral impress which they bear.
“Thirdly, that while all miracles, as being manifestations of the Divine on the sphere of the human, have an indirectly evidential value: a considerable number of those wrought by our Lord were not performed for the purposes of proof, but stand in the same relation to him as ordinary actions do to other men.
'Fourthly, that while several of the Apostolic miracles were wrought for the express purpose of proving to those who witnessed them the truth of our Lord's Resurrection, and of His Messianic character consequent thereon, a very considerable number of them were wrought for merely providential purposes, and consequently were only indirectly evidential.
“Fifthly, that the great evidential miracle of Christianity is the Resurrection of our Lord, which, if it can be proved to have been an objective fact, will carry all the other miracles in the Gospels along with it; that is to say, they will require no stronger proof than that which is required to establish the ordinary facts of history.'
If, therefore, these five propositions are correct statements of the grounds on which the writers of the New Testament claimed that our Lord's mission should be accepted as Divine, it is clear that the moral evidences of Christianity bear the chief weight of its evidential position, and that miracles, viewed as mere objective facts in the physical universe, occupy a subordinate place. Their position in its evidential scheme is best set forth in a brief saying which the author of the fourth Gospel has attributed to our Lord. “If ye believe not Me, believe the works, that ye may see and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him. These words affirm that He who uttered them viewed His entire working, taken as a whole, as affording the strongest evidence that He came from God; and that His miracles, viewed apart from the moral impress which they bore as mere wonders and mighty deeds,
i Christian Evidences viewed in relasion to Modern Thought, 1877.
were addressed to those who failed to appreciate the morally Divine which dwelt within Him. As an illustration of this, we remark that numerous as are the miracles recorded in the Gospels, only two of them are alleged to have been performed with a directly evidential purpose,' the remainder generally being attributed to His Divine compassion as the reason which led Him to perform them.
'S. R.', and many writers of his school, declare that our sole ground for believing in certain transcendental doctrines of Christianity is the evidence of miracles. To this there is one conclusive reply :—that not a single miracle referred to in the New Testament is alleged to have been performed for the purpose of proving the truth of either a doctrine or a moral precept. When referred to as evidence, they are appealed to as affording proof of one thing only—the reality of a Divine mission. The author of the fourth Gospel has attributed to our Lord numerous strong assertions respecting His superhuman character; but when these were called in question, He is never once described as offering to prove their truth by the performance of a miracle. On the contrary, He appeals to the perfection of His knowledge, of His holiness, and of His veracity as the reason why His testimony should be accepted as true; and then He adds, in the language of the passage above referred to, 'If ye believe not Me, believe the works,' thus obviously assigning to His miracles, viewed apart from their moral associations, not the first, but the second place, as attestations of His Divine character.
if, then, such were the views which were entertained by the first teachers of Christianity, who had to make good their Master's claims to be accepted as the Messiah against a hostile world, it follows that they must have been far better judges of the position which miracles ought to occupy in the Christian argument than even the most learned men of the present day. Circumstances may have so changed as to render it necessary for us to vary the form of the argument; but nothing can justify our departing from its fundamental principles as laid down by our Lord and His Apostles. If then in the Apostolic age moral evidence held the first place, and the miracles were subsidiary, much more must this be the case, now that upwards of eighteen centuries have elapsed since their alleged performance; so that mere lapse of time has made the historical investigation a very complicated one, in consequence of no small portion of the materials for forming a judgment, which were available in the first century, having hopelessly perished, and from a variety of other causes.
1 The cure of the paralytic, in proof that He had power on earth to forgive sins; and the resurrection of Lazarus, that the people which stood by might believe that the Father had sent him.'
But this line of reasoning is also one which is suggested by the principles of common sense, for it allows an appeal to facts which admit of easy and unquestionable verification. If one thing connected with this controversy is more certain than another, it is that the writers of the New Testament concur in depicting Jesus as a superhuman person. This is equally true of the moral aspects of His character, as it is of Him as a worker of miracles. Such a pretension can be brought to the test of facts, as the tree is known by its fruits. If Jesus Christ was a superhuman person, He ought to have exerted an influence on the history of the world which has been exerted by no one else beside Him; if His claim to be the light of the world be just, His illuminating power ought to be distinctly visible in the facts of the past and of the present. Whether these and other kindred claims have been vindicated is a question, not of theory, but of simple fact. If His influence on history has been absolutely unique, if it has differed from that of all other great men, single or united, if this can be proved by the facts of the last eighteen hundred and fifty years, then His superhuman claims are vindicated by the unmistakable evidence of facts. But if, while the writers of the New Testament have attributed to Him a superhuman character, His action on history cannot be distinguished from that of ordinary great men, then His claims are hopelessly discredited. This line of reasoning possesses the especial merit of bringing the controversy between Christians and unbelievers to the precise test which is demanded by scientific thought,—that, namely, of verification.
Add to this that these moral evidences of Christianity have a cogency at the present day far greater than they could have had to our Lord's contemporaries; for, instead of being weakened, they have only grown with the lapse of time. True, the few who were in habitual intercourse with Him were capable of witnessing the manifestations of His Divine character, and of forming their own judgments respecting it; but, if we cannot participate in this advantage, we can verify the truth of His pretensions by an appeal to the history of the past and the facts of the present in a manner impossible to them. Do they justify His superhuman claims ? Is He the one character in history who stands forth in unique and solitary grandeur ? Does He alone of the sons of men exert an influence which is supremely attractive to every condition of the human heart, and form the mightiest power in the moral world, more than eighteen centuries after the termination of His earthly life? These are questions to which history returns no uncertain answer. The might of His influence cannot be disputed. It follows, therefore, if it has been one which has been exerted by none other beside Him, that it is absolutely unique; or, in other words, that it proves the presence of the superhuman.
It is impossible to deny the validity of this line of reasoning, for it is one which is strictly in accordance with the requirements of modern investigation. Nothing more, however, can be done here than to hint at its general character. It is impossible, within the assigned limits, to sketch even the outlines of the argument, which requires a considerable space for its elaboration. To this aspect of it the first four Bampton Lectures (1877) and their six Supplements are devoted ; and to attempt to state it in a more concise form would deprive it of its logical value. The attention of scep. tical writers, and ‘S. R.’in particular, is invited to this portion of the Christian argument; which has never yet been fairly grappled with. ‘S. R.' informs us in his preface that his work is the result of many years of earnest and serious investigation, undertaken in the first instance for the regulation of personal belief,' yet its careful perusal leaves one under the impression that he has never even heard that Christianity rests on a body of moral evidences, which require to be grappled with as much as those which are usually regarded as miraculous. If he attempts, on any future occasion, to deal with this portion of the argument, he should grapple with its main issues, and not with mere points of detail ; for objections may be urged against the latter which leave the former untouched. S. R.' has complained that he has received this mode of treatment from several of his critics. If his charge is just, it is surely incumbent on him not to follow a bad example ; yet his own work forms a remarkable illustration of the practice which he condemns.
IV. The historical argument. -A few observations will be here necessary as to the mode in which ‘S. R.,' who in this respect follows a multitude of unbelieving critics, deals with the historical portions of the Christian argument, because it either overlooks or evades the essential point of the controversy, for, unless it can be subverted, the essence of Christianity, as distinct from its adjuncts, remains unshaken. His mode of attack compels him to assail not only the superhuman (this word is used advisedly rather than supernatural) elements of the New Testament, but even the ordinary details of the narratives of the Gospels and of the Acts of the Apostles as unhistorical; and this to such a degree that, if his criticisms are just, his reader must conclude that hardly a single incident referred to rests on a trustworthy historical foundation. His manner of dealing with our Lord's Passion, which has been already referred to, may be taken as a singular instance of this mode of criticism. A brief passage may be quoted as an illustration of his method :
'Let no one,' says 'S. R.,' suppose that in freely criticising the Gospels we regard without deep emotion the actual incidents which lie at the bottom of these narratives. No one can form to himself any adequate conception of the terrible sufferings of the Master, maltreated and insulted by a base and brutal multitude, too degraded to understand His noble character, and too ignorant to understand His elevated teaching, without keen pain. 'S. R.' then proceeds to subject the details of the narrative of the Passion to a rigid criticism, and if his method is a just one he does not leave us a single detail as historically reliable. It does not seem to have occurred to him that by thus destroying the truthfulness of the incidents he leaves little or nothing to excite our deep emotion. He will doubtless reply that he has left the fact of the Crucifixion unassailed, even while he consigns all its details, and those of the Last Supper, to the regions of mythology. But if his method of historical criticism is correct, it is hard to discover what grounds we have for believing that Jesus 'was maltreated and insulted by a base and brutal multitude,' nay, more, why the fact of the Crucifixion itself should not be matter of mythological invention. On the principles adopted by writers of this school, it may full well have been a legend fabricated to embody certain theological tendencies.
The first 219 pages of 'S. R.'s' work are occupied with a laboured attempt to establish two positions, which, if true, would settle for ever the controversy between Christians and unbelievers, and render the historical investigation a mere work of supererogation. The first of these is that miracles are, on à priori grounds, incredible, and the belief in them irrational ; the second is that the followers of Jesus and the early Christians were so intensely credulous and superstitious as to deprive their testimony of all historical value. As to the former, we are absolved from discussing it by the fact that the validity of a large portion of the reasoning proceeds on the assumption of the truth of the principles of Atheism, Pantheism, or Agnosticism ; whereas S. R.' not only pro
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