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THE LIVING CHRIST

THE FOUR GOSPELS.

WORKS 3Y THE SAME AUTHOR.

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THE LIVING CHRIST

AND

THE FOUR GOSPELS.

BY

R. W. DALE, LL.D.,

BIRMINGHAM.

SECOND EDITION. FOURTH THOUSAND.

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PREFACE.

I ^HE Lectures printed in this volume were -■- delivered to the Carrs Lane congregation, at irregular intervals, during the winter and eariy summer of the present year ; the five first and the last on Sunday mornings, and the rest at the usual Thursday evening service.

For whom were they intended ?

Eleven or twelve years ago I was preach- ing at Augustine Church, Edinburgh, a few months after Dr. Lindsay Alexander, a scholar and theologian of distinction, had resigned the pastorate. As I walked home with one of the deacons after the morning's service, he said some very gracious things, which I have un- happily forgotten, about the sermon ; he also said some things, not so gracious, about the ministers who had served the Church since Dr.

viii Preface,

Alexander's resignation ; these, owing to some unamiable intellectual peculiarity, I remember. "Sir," he said, "they have preached to us as if we were all Masters of Arts." That was an error which I was not capable of committing, and therefore I deserved no credit for avoiding it. For if a preacher does something to form » the habits of his people, the people do almost as much to form the habits of the preacher ; and for thirty-seven years I have been the minister of a concrrecjation in the heart of a great manufacturing community a congrega- tion in which there are never many Masters of Arts, although there are in it many men and women with an active, vigorous, and specula- tive intellect, and with a keen interest in public affairs and in current theological controversies. For such persons the Lectures were prepared, and they are published with the hope that they may be of service to persons of the same description in other parts of England.

In delivering the Lectures to a popular audience, it was necessary to repeat in several

Preface. ix

of the later Lectures some thinofs which had been said in the earHer. These repetitions are unnecessary in a printed book, but I have not found it possible to cancel them without recon- structing the whole argument.

To those of my readers who may wish to see the question of the historical trustworthi- ness of the Four Gospels treated with greater fulness, I recommend Professor Salmon's In- trodziction to the Nezo Testament, Dr. West- cott's History of the New Testament Canon, Dr. Lightfoot's Essays on the Work entitled " Supernatural Religion^' Dr. Wace's The Gospel and its Witnesses, Professor Sanday's The Gospels in the Second Centnry, and The Grounds of Theistic and Christian Belief, by my friend Dr. Fisher, of Yale (U.S.), to all of which books I gratefully acknowledge my own obligations.

R. W. DALE.

Llanbedr, Atigust, 1890.

CONTENTS.

LECTURE I. 'AGE

The Argument from Experience . , . i

LECTURE IL

The Validity of the Argument from Expe- rience 24

LECTURE IIL

The Direct Appeal of Christ to the Spirit of

Man 42

LECTURE IV. Reply to Criticisms on the Preceding Lectures 62

LECTURE V.

The Historical Trustworthiness of the Story Contained in the Four Gospels : how should THE Evidence be Approached? ... .82

LECTURE VL EUSEBIUS - . 104

LECTURE VIL Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian . .1x7

xii Contents.

LECTURE VIII. PAGE

IREN/EUS 136

LECTURE IX. Tatian IS3

LECTURE X. Justin Martyr i75

LECTURE XI. Marcion 202

LECTURE XII. Papias 221

LECTURE XIII.

POLYCARP 246

LECTURE XIV. Review of the Argument ...... 269

APPENDIX 295

LECTURE I. THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE

I.

THERE are large numbers of people who sup- pose that modern Science and modern Criticism have destroyed the foundations of Faith, and who cannot understand how it is possible, in these days, for intelligent, open-minded, educated men to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

It may perhaps be well for us to remember that more than a hundred and fifty years ago there were large numbers of people of precisely the same mind. They believed that, as the result of the great changes which had passed upon the intellectual life of Europe since the Revival of Learning, the Christian Faith was no longer credible, and that its power was finally broken. Butler, in the preface to his Analogy, pub- lished in 1736, says : " It is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted by many persons that Chris- tianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry, but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious. And accordingly they treat it as if, in the present age,

L. c. I

2 THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

this were an agreed point among all people of dis- cernment, and nothing remained, but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were by way of reprisals, for its having so long in- terrupted the pleasures of the world."

Throughout the seventeenth century an under- current of unbelief had been rapidly gathering strength in France, in Holland, in Germany, and in England. To check it Grotius had written his De Veritate Religionis Chn'stiancs, Pascal had projected the great work, the fragments of which are preserved in his Peusces, and Richard J^axter, ^^•ho, I think, was the earliest English writer on the " Evidences," had written his Unreasonableness of Infidelity, his Reasons for the Christian Religion, and his More Reasons for the Christian Religion, and no Reason against it. Towards the end of the century the hostile move- ment became so formidable, that Robert Boyle founded his famous lectureship for the maintenance and defence of the Faith against unbelief The first of the lecturers was Richard Bentley, who, in 1692, discoursed on The folly of Atheism and li'hat is now called Deism, even with Respeet to the Present Life not a promising argument with which to meet those who contested the supernatural origin of the Christian revelation. He was followed, year after year, by a succession of men, eminent in their time, and some of whom had extensive learning and great intellectual force ; but the sentences which I have quoted from Butler show that, after the Boyle

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

lecturers had been lecturing for more than forty )-cars, the assailants of the Christian Faith claimed the victor}'. The confidence of unbelief was as high when Butler wrote in the early part of the ciglitccnth century as it is now at the end of the nineteenth.

Then came a great change ; and within sixty years the writings and the very names of the English deists were almost forgotten ; the ponderous folios in which the first generation of Boyle lecturers lay entombed in public libraries were rarely disturbed, and were covered with dust ; ^ and the fires of a great religious revival were burning gloriously in every part of the country. Faith was triumphant.

Now again, as in Butler's time, " it is come, I know not how, to be taken for granted by many persons that Christianity is not so much as a subject of inquiry." The temper with which all but the coarsest and least cultivated of those who reject the Christian Faith regard it is happily very different from what it was in the last century. They do not "set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule " ; they

' "We too have had writers of that description, who made sonic noise in their day. At present tbe>' repose in lasting obhvion. Who, born within the last forty years, has read one word of Collins, and Toland, and Tindal, and Ciuibb, and Morgan, and that whole race who called themselves free- thinkers ? Who now reads Bolingbroke ? Who ever read him through ? Ask the booksellers of London what is become of all these lights of the world. In a few years their few successors will go to the family vault of 'all the Capulets.'" BURKE : RcJlcctioHS on the Revolution in France. [1790.]

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPEIUENCE.

speak with respect, sometimes with pathetic regret, of the vanished ilkisions which once consoled the sorrows and sustained the courage, the hope, and the virtue of mankind ; but still they take it for granted that, " among all people of discernment " or, to use the current phrases, among all cultivated men who are familiar with the best and most advanced thought of our time Christianity, as a religion claim- ing to have originated in Divine revelation, is a lost cause.

Their confidence is not, I think, as firm as it was ten or fifteen years ago ; for they are beginning to discover that renewed and prolonged assaults on the Christian Faith assaults from various quarters and sustained with great intellectual vigour and with all the resources both of the older learning and of the new sciences have produced very little effect.

Fifty years ago, the discoveries of geology were supposed to be fatal to the inspiration of Moses ; and it was contended that, if fatal to the inspiration of Moses, they must also be fatal to the claims of Christ as Son of God and Son of man, the Lord and the Saviour of the human race. The assailants of the Faith were sure that at last they were about to be victorious; among its defenders there was anxiety, anger, alarm. Ingenious theories were invented, illustrating the harmony between Genesis and geo- logy ; but plain men felt instinctively that they were very much too ingenious to be satisfactory. Since that time, Christian scholars have given themselves

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE. 5

more seriously than before to the scientific investiga- tion of the Hterature of ancient races ; and they are coming to the conclusion that, when the true nature of the earlier books of the Old Testament is under- stood, the objections to their authority suggested b}' the discoveries of modern science cease to be relevant. Meanwhile ordinary Christian people, who know very little about investigations of this kind, have frankly accepted all that the geologists have ascertained in relation to the antiquity of the earth and the antiquity of man ; but their faith in Christ is undisturbed.

More recently, the conclusions of Mr. Darwin con- cerning the origin of species, and especially concern- ing the origin of man, created similar excitement. At first, and when the boldness and grandeur of his theories were very imperfectly apprehended, they provoked more resentment than apprehension ; for they seemed to impeach the dignity of human nature. But the geological controversies had helped to dis- cipline thoughtful Christian men to a new conception of the nature of Divine revelation and of the literature in which the revelation is preserved. As soon as it became apparent that the general conclusions of Mr. Darwin were sustained by the almost universal con- currence of the highest scientific opinion in Europe and America, most Christian people accepted them without hesitation but with one necessary and reasonable reservation. It lies within the scope of the physical sciences to investigate the origin and history of the physical organization of man ; but

6 THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

their resources and methods arc at fault when they attempt to investigate the origin and history of his ethical and spiritual life. By no process of develop- ment is the transition from mere necessity to freedom conceivable. The region of moral freedom, and of religious faith and hope, lies beyond the boundaries of the sciences that deal with a world of phenomena governed by fixed and unvarying laws. These dis- tinctions however remain unknown to the immense majority of Christian people. They are assured that the highest scientific authorities are practically agreed in accepting the great outlines of Mr. Darwin's theory of the origin of species, and they are also assured that this theory is irreconcilable with the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Through popular magazines, through newspapers, through a thousand channels, they are informed that the old beliefs concerning the creation of the heavens and the earth, and concerning the creation of man and the fall of man, arc finally destroyed : but they still rely on Christ with their old confidence for the remission of sins ; they still make Ilis will the law of conduct; they still pray to Him for consolation in sorrow, for defence against temptation, and for strength in duty ; and they still hope, through Him, for a glorious immortality. They are sure that the foundations on which their faith is built are firm and unshaken.

Assaults of another kind have been made on the traditional Christian beliefs during the last fifty j'ears. Attacks on the historical trustworthiness of the Four

THE ARGUMENT EROM EXPERIENCE. 7

Gospels have taken a new form ; and the theories of their origin maintained by Strauss and by Ferdinand Baur have been discussed with great vigour all over Europe. The learning and the industry and the splendid intellectual vigour of Baur have produced a great impression on theological scholars ; but, if I may trust my own observation, neither the speculations of Strauss on the origin of the story of Christ, nor of Baur on the origin of the books of the New Testa- ment have produced the general alarm that was created for a time by the discoveries of geology and their alleged conflict with the early chapters of Genesis, or by the theories of Mr. Darwin and their alleged conflict with the Christian conception of the origin and destiny of man. Forty or fifty years ago ordinary Christian people heard that an eminent German theologian had written a great book to show that the story of Christ in the New Testament was as mythical as the story of Hercules ; that the book had produced immense excitement in German}-, France, and Holland ; and that it had been translated into several European languages. They listened with astonishment, many of them with a certain scornful amusement ; but very few of them felt that this assault on the Christian Faith v>as at all formidable. Some years later they heard that another eminent German theologian was maintaining that most of the books of the New Testament were written in the second century, in the interests of conflicting parties in the Church, or to bring about a reconciliation

8 THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

between them ; that they were the productions of unknown authors, who, to add to the authority of their writings, had attributed them to Paul and Peter and John and Luke ; that, to use the rough language of plain men, they were deliberate forgeries. Most Christian people listened to this account of the Christian Scriptures with indignation, and dismissed it as wholly incredible. It did not disturb their faith.

Nor has modern criticism on the Jewish Scriptures produced any general and enduring anxiety. The excitement which followed the appearance of the writings of Bishop Colenso, twenty or thirty years ago, soon passed over ; and there is something very remarkable in the indifference with which at the present time the majority of Christian people regard the whole critical controversy concerning the Old Testament.

I do not mean that these successive assaults on traditional Christian beliefs assaults in the name of Science, assaults in the name of Criticism have had no disastrous results. There are many persons who are convinced that the ascertained conclusions of modern Science and of modern Criticism are destructive of the authority which has been attri- buted both to the Jewish and the Christian Scrip- tures, that the traditional opinions concerning the authorship and the dates of many of the books of the Old Testament arc false ; and that most of the writings contained in the New Testament arc .spu-

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE, 9

rious. Or, if some of the extreme conclusions of the destructive criticism are not regarded as finally- established, it is known that great names can be quoted for, as well as against, them. And as it is assumed that the Jewish and the Christian Scrip- tures are the foundations of Christian faith, that we must believe in the genuineness and historical trustworthiness of these ancient books, and even in their inspiration, before we can believe in Christ, they argue that, until these discussions are finally closed in favour of the traditional opinions, faith in Christ is impossible. The controversies have not, in any large number of cases, destroyed faith wJicre faith already existed ; but where faith does not exist, they appear to very many persons to create an insuperable obstacle to faith.

To such persons, if they are serious and well informed, there is something perplexing in the persistency of the faith of the great majority of Christian believers. Among those who remain Christian there are men whose intellectual vigour, patience, and keenness are equal to their own ; men who are their equals in general intellectual culture, and who know as much as they know about the currents of modern thought ; candid men ; men who are incorruptible in their loyalty to truth ; men who have a due sense of the immense importance, in relation to the higher life of the human race, of the questions at issue : Hozv is it that the faith in Christ of siieh men is nnshaken ?

10 THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

This is the precise question which I propose to answer in the earHer lectures of the course which I begin this morning. It is not my primary intention to state the reasons why those who do not beheve in Christ should believe in Him, but to explain zvJiy it is that those ivho believe in Him continue to believe. This explanation however ought to show that those are in error who suppose that present controversies on the authority of the Holy Scriptures make a firm and settled faith in Christ impossible.

n.

The substance of my first answer to the question why it is that those who believe in Christ continue to believe, may be given in a single sentence : What- ever may have been the original grounds of their faith, their faith has been verified in their ozcn personal experience.

They have trusted in Christ for certain great and wonderful things, and they have received great and wonderful things. They have not perhaps received precisely what they expected when their Christian life began, for the kingdom of heaven cannot be really known until a man has entered into it ; but what they have received assures them that Christ is alive, that He is within reach, and that He is the Saviour and Lord of men.

That they have received these blessings in answer to their faith in Christ is a matter of personal con-

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

sciousness. They know it, as they know that fire burns.

Their experience varies. Some of them would say that they can recall acts of Christ in which His personal volition and His supernatural power were as definitely manifested as in any of the miracles recorded in the Four Gospels. They were struggling unsuccessfully with some evil temper with envy, jealousy, personal ambition and could not subdue it. They hated it ; they hated themselves for being under its tyranny; but expel it they could not. If it seemed suppressed for a time, it returned ; and returned with its malignant power increased rather than diminished. They scourged themselves with scorpions for yielding to it; still they yielded. In their despair they appealed to Christ ; and in a moment the evil fires were quenched, and they were never rekindled. These instantaneous deliverances are perhaps exceptional ; but to those who can recall them they carry an irresistible conviction that the Living Christ has heard their cry and answered them.

The more ordinary experiences of the Christian life, though less striking, are not less conclusive. The proof that Christ has heard prayer is not always con- centrated into a moment, but is more commonly spread over large tracts of time. Praj-er is offered for an increase of moral strength in resisting tempta- tion, or for the disappearance of reluctance in the discharge of duties which are distasteful, or for a

THE ARGUMEXT FROM EXPERIENCE.

more gracious and kindly temper, or for patience and courage in bearing trouble, or for self-control, or for relief from exhausting and fruitless anxiety ; and the answer comes. It comes gradually, but still it comes. We had lost hope. It seemed as if all our moral vigour was dying down, and as if nothing could restore it. The tide was slowly ebbing, and we were powerless to recall the retreating waters : but after we prayed it ceased to ebb ; for a time it seemed stationary ; then it began to flow ; and though with many of us it has never reached the flood, the wholesome waters have renewed the energy and the joy of life. , Or we prayed to Christ to liberate us from some

evil habit. The chains did not fall away at His touch, like the chains of Peter at the touch of the angel ; but in some mysterious way they were loosened, and at the same time we received accessions of strength. The old habit continued to trouble us ; it still im- peded our movements : but we could move ; we reco- vered some measure of freedom, and were conscious that we were slaves no longer. There still remained a mechanical and automatic tendency to the evil ways of thinking, speaking, or acting ; but we had become vigilant and alert, and were prompt to resist the tendency as soon as it began to work ; and we were strong enough to master it. In the course of time the tendency became weaker and weaker, and at last, in some cases, it almost disappeared.

Some men have appealed to Christ when they have

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE. 13

been seized with a great horror through the discovery of their guilt. It was not the awful penalty which menaces the impenitent that haunted and terrified them. Nor was their distress occasioned chiefly by the consciousness of moral evil. They feared the penalty, and they were humiliated and shamed by the contrast between ideal goodness and their own moral and spiritual life ; but what stung and tortured them, sunk them into despair, filled heaven and earth with a darkness that could be felt, and made life intolerable, was their guilt guilt which they had incurred by their past sins, and which they continued to incur by their present sinfulness.

When once this sense of guilt fastens itself on a man, he cannot shake it off at will. The keen agony may gradually pass into a dull, dead pain ; and after a time, the sensibility of the soul may seem to be wholly lost ; but a man can never be sure that the horror will not return.

The real nature of this experience is best seen when it has been occasioned by the grosser and more violent forms of crime. Men who have committed murder, for example, have been driven almost insane by the memory of their evil deed. Their agony may have had nothing in it of the nature of repentance ; they were not distressed because their crime had revealed to them the malignity and the fierce strength of their passions ; they had no desire to become gentle and kindly. They were filled with horror and remorse by their awful guilt. They felt that the

14 rilK ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

crime was theirs, and would alwaj'S continue to be theirs ; that it would be theirs if it remained concealed as truly as if it were known ; indeed, it seemed to be in some terrible way more truly theirs so long as the secret was kept. It was not the fear of punishment that convulsed them ; they have sometimes brought on themselves public indignation and abhorrence, and have condemned themselves to the gallows by con- fessing their crime in order to obtain relief from their agony.

Suppose that a man possessed by this great horror discovered that, in some wonderful way, the dark and damning stain on his conscience had disappeared ; that, although he had done the deed, the iron chain which bound him to the criminality of it had been broken ; that before God and man and his own conscience he was free from the gtiilt of it ; the supposition, in its completeness, is an impossible one ; but if it were possible, the discovery would lift the man out of the darkness of hell into the light of

/aven. But to large numbers of Christian men a discovery which in substance is identical with this has actually come in response to their trust in Christ. Nothing is more intensely real than the sense of guilt ; it is as real as the eternal distinction between right and wrong in which it is rooted. And nothing is more intensely real than the sense of release from guilt which comes from the discovery and assurance of the remission of sins. The evil things which a man has

^

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE. 15

done cannot be undone ; but when they have been forgiven through Christ, the iron chain which so bound him to them as to make the guilt of them eternally his has been broken ; before God and his own conscience he is no longer guilty of them. This is the Christian mystery of justification, which, according to Paul and his words have been con- firmed in the experience of millions of Christian m.en is " the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." It changes darkness into light ; despair into victorious hope ; prostration into buoy- ancy and vigour. It is one of the supreme motives to Christian living, and it makes Christian living possible. The m.an who has received this great deliverance is no longer a convict, painfully observing all prison rules with the hope of shortening his sen- tence, but a child in the home of God.

There are experiences of another kind by which the faith of a Christian man is verified. Of these one of the most decisive and most wonderful is the consciousness that through Christ he has passed into the eternal and Divine order. He belongs to two worlds. He is just as certain that he is en- vironed by things unseen and eternal as that he is environed by things seen and temporal. In the power of the life given to him in the new birth he has entered into the kingdom of God. He is con- scious that that Diviner region is now the native land of liis soul. It is there that he finds perfect rest and perfect freedom. It is a relief to escape to its eternal

l6 THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

peace and glory from the agitations and vicissitudes, the sorrows and successes, of this transitory world. It is not always that he is vividly conscious of belonging to that eternal order; this supreme blessed- ness is reserved for the great hours of life ; but he knows that it lies about him always, and that at any moment the great apocalypse may come. And even when it is hidden, its " powers " continue to act upon him, as the light and heat of the sun pass through the clouds by which the burning splendour is softened and concealed. , / Further, " in Christ " Christian men know God ; they know Him for themselves. The mere concep- tion of God is as different from the immediate knowledge of Him as the mere conception of the Matterhorn from the actual vision of it as an external objective grandeur ; and it is not the conception of God, but God Himself, that fills them with awe and wonder, and with a blessedness which trembles into devout fear. Sometimes the "exceeding weight of glory" is too great to bear, and human infirmity is relieved when the vision passes. At other times God is more than a transcendent glory to be contemplated and adored. His infinite love, to use Paul's words, is sJicd abroad in their heart, like the sun's heat under tropical heavens ; it is immediately revealed. How, they cannot tell, any more than they can tell how the material world is revealed to sense ; they only know that, apart from any self-originated effort, apart from any movement of their own towards Him, the

J

THE ARGUMEISTT FROM EXPERIENCE. 17

Eternal Spirit draws near to their spirit and reveals God's love to them. It is as if the warm streams of the love which have their fountains in the depths of His infinite life were flowing round them and into them. They are conscious of that love for them of which God is conscious.

And this blessedness is not the prerogative of elect saints, or of those who may be said to have a natural genius for spiritual thought. It is the common in- heritance of all that are " in Christ," although there is reason to fear that many Christian people rarely reach the height of its joy. But among those who reach it are men of every degree of intellectual rank and every variety of moral and spiritual temperament. It is reached by ignorant men, whose thoughts are narrow and whose minds are inert, as well as by men with large knowledge and great powers of speculation ; by men destitute of imagination, as well as by men whose imagination kindles as soon as it is touched by the splendours of nature or by the verses of poets. Men whose whole life moves slowly and sluggishly reach it, as well as men who arc impulsive, ardent, and adventurous. And where this experience is known, it becomes an effective force in the moral life. Peter, writing to slaves, says, " For this is acceptable, if through consciousness of God a man endureth griefs, suffering wrongfully." ^

' In the text of the Revised Version the words stand, " If for conscience toward God " ; but in the margin an alternative reading- is suggested, " If for conscience of God." Tliis was L, C. 2

iS THE ARGUMENT FROM EXTERIENCE.

y< I have said that ''in Christ" men know God not merely through Christ. It is true that during His earthly ministry He revealed God ; so that, in answer to the prayer of one of His disciples, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us," He said, " Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know Me, Philip? he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." That revelation has eternal power and value ; but there are other words spoken by Christ that same night which suggest that it is not merely by the revelation of God during His earthly ministry that Christ has made it possible for men to know the Father. He said : " I am the true vine, and ye are the branches. . . . Abide in I\Ie, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine ; so neither can ye, except ye abide in Me. He that abideth in Me, and I in Him, the same beareth much fruit : for apart from Me ye can do nothing." It is not certain that when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Galatian Christians he had heard of these words ; but what they meant he had learnt

Wiclil's translation, wliicli reads, "If for conscience of Go.l men suffcrcth heaviness, and suffercih unjustly," etc. In the older English writers the word " conscience " is often used where we should use " consciousness." Hooker, for example, says, "The reason why the simpler sort arc moved with authority is the conscience of their own ignorance." We should say "consciousness." The Greek word wliich Peter uses has sometimes the one meaning, "consciousness," sometimes the other, "conscience." In i Pet. ii. 19 I believe that it mc.tns " consciousness."

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE. 19

for himself. Me said, " I live : and yet no longer I, but Christ UvetJi in me." In various measures the experience of Paul has been the experience of Chris- tian men ever since. Their relationship to Christ their conscious relationship to Christ has been most mysterious, but most intimate and most certain. They have meditated on the infinite love which moved Ilim to descend from the heights of God and to become man, upon His graciousncss and gentle- ness, His purity. His spontaneous goodness. His pity for suffering. His merciful words to the sinful, His patience and His longsuffering, and His fiery indig- nation against hypocrisy ; they have meditated on His teaching, on all the words of His that have been preserved concerning the love and grace of God, con- cerning the remission of sins, the gift of eternal life, the judgment to come, the eternal blessedness of the righteous, and the doom of the lost ; they have felt the spell and the charm of that ideal perfection to which He calls them in His precepts, and which He illustrated and transcended in His own character : but they have been conscious that it was not merely by the power of the great and pathetic story of His earthly history, or by the power of His spiritual and ethical teaching, that He gives to men the life of God, and constantly renews, sustains, and augments it. They shared the very life of their Lord. He lived in them. The}- lived in Him. And it was in the power of this common life that they knew God. Nor is it only the immediate knowledge of God

20 THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

that is rendered possible by this union with Christ. Christian men arc conscious that they do not receive strength from Christ for common duty, as they might receive strength from One who, while He conferred the grace, stood apart from them, but that in some ,/^vonderful way they are strong in the strength of Christ Himself They are too often drawn down into the region of baser forces, and then they fail ; but their very failure verifies the truth of their happier experiences, for it brings home to them afresh what they are apart from Christ ; and when they recover their union with Him which indeed had not been lost, though for a time it was not realized they recover their power.

HI.

The man who has had, and who still has, such experiences as these will listen with great tranquillity to criticisms which are intended to shake the his- torical credit of the Four Gospels, although the story they contain may have been the original ground of his faith in Christ. The criticism may be vigorous ; he may be wholl}' unable to answer it : but what then? Is he to cease to believe in Christ? \\'hy should he ?

Let me answer these questions by an illustration. Towards the close of our Lord's ministry, wlicn He was in the neighbourhood of Jericho ^just leaving the city or just entering it Bartimaeus, a blind man, who was begging at the side of the road, heard that

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

Jesus of Nazareth was passing b}', and he appealed to the great Prophet to have mercy upon him. Jesus answered his appeal, and gave him sight. Now it is possible that Bartim?eus may have been told by some passing traveller, of whom he knew nothing, the story of a similar miracle which Jesus had worked a iQ.V4 weeks before in Jerusalem, and this may have been the ground, and the only ground, of his confidence in our Lord's supernatural power. If, after he had received his sight, some sagacious friend of his had asked him how it was that he came to believe that the Nazarene Teacher could give sight to the blind, nothing would have been easier than for his friend to show that, whether the story of the Jerusalem miracle was true or not, Bartimaeus had no trustworthy evidence of its truth. A tale told by an unknown stranger ! This was no sufficient reason for believing that Jesus had given sight to a man born blind. Did the stranger who told the tale know the beggar who was said to have been cured ? Was it certain that the man was blind ? Mad the stranger examined his eyes the very morn- ing of the day on which he received sight ? Was it certain that the vision was not gradually returning? Was the stranger present when Jesus made the clay, and put it on the blind man's eyes ; close enough to see that no delicate operation was performed during the process ? The sending of the blind man to wash at the Pool of Siloam was suspicious : what could that washing have to do with a miracle? Did the

22 THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

stranger go with the man to the pool, and keep his eye upon him while he was there ? Was it quite certain that the blind beggar who was sent to Siloam was the man who came back to the city and declared that Jesus had healed him ? Might not one man have been sent to the pool, and another man have come back to Jerusalem ? It looked very much as if there v/cre some previous understanding between the blind man and the Nazarene Prophet. The Prophet had rich friends ; they could have made it worth the man's while to come into the plot. Had Bartimasus considered all these difficulties? Was it not more probable that the stranger's story should be false than that the miracle should be true ? Would it not be well for Bartimasus to suspend his faith in Jesus until he had made further inquiries about the miracle ?

Wc can imagine the answer of Bartim.'EUs. I think that he would have said : " At first I believed in the power of Jesus of Nazareth, because I was told that He had given sight to another blind man ; noio I am sure of His power, because He has given sight to me. It is possible, as you sa\', that the story about the blind man in Jerusalem is not true. You have asked me many questions \\liich I cannot answer. I cannot explain why he should have been sent to the Pool of Siloam. I acknowledge that the evidence which 1 have for the miracle is not decisive. As Jesus has restored my sight, I think that the story is probably true ; but whether the story is true or

THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE. 23

not cannot disturb my faith in Him, for if He did not heal the other man, He has healed me."

And so the faith in the Living Christ of those who have had the great experiences of His power and grace which I have described is not shaken by any assaults on the historical trustworthiness of the story of His earthly ministry. Much less can it be shaken by discussions concerning the nature and origin of the ancient Scriptures of the Jewish people. Their confidence in the books, both of the Old Testament and the New, may perhaps have to be suspended until the controversies of scholars are closed, or until, on historical and critical grounds, they can see their own way to firm and definite conclusions about the main questions at issue ; but not their confidence in Christ. They may be uncertain about the books ; they are sure about Him. Both Christian scholars and the commonalty of Christian people approach the controversies on these ancient records with a settled faith in His power. His grace and His glory. Their faith in Him rests on foundations v/hich lie far beyond the reach of scientific and historical criticism. They know for themselves that Christ is the Saviour of men : for they have received through Him the remission of their own sins ; Pie has translated them into the Divine kingdom ; He has given them strength for righteousness, and through Him they have found God.

LECTURE II.

THE VALIDITY OF THE ARGUMENT FROM EXPERIENCE.

THE argument of the preceding Lecture may be challenged. It rests on the experiences of Christian men. But are these experiences to be trusted? Do they satisfy the critical understanding? Are they sufficient to justify faith in Christ ?

I.

In reply to these questions it might be sufficient, for the moment, to say that, while experiences of this kind are strong and actually present they covtmand certainty. They arc as decisive and as irresistible as our physical perceptions of light and darkness. They leave no room for doubt. B