A Series of Ten Lectures
Christ: Both Fully Human and Fully Divine
INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF AUTHENTICITY.
- THE HUMAN VIRTUES OF CHRIST.
- HIS ETHICAL AND RELIGIOUS TEACHINGS.
- HIS INFLUENCE.
- THE DIVINE SIDE OF HIS CHARACTER,
- HIS SUPERHUMAN WORKS NEITHER IMPOSTURE NOR DELUSION.
- ADMISSIONS OF EARLY ADVERSARIES OF CHRISTIANITY.
IN my last two Lectures I have endeavored to establish the genuineness and authenticity of our canonical Gospels, partly by adequate testimony, partly by their superficial characteristics and their relations to one another. The contents of a book have an important bearing on the question of its authenticity. There are books which cannot be believed. There are books which, unless they were true, could not have been written. No one could believe the Baron von Mun-chausen's narrative of his adventures, though it made its first public appearance under his own highly respectable name and authority. On the other hand, there was probably never a classical scholar so sceptical as not to give entire credence to Xenophon's Anabasis, - a story so coherent, so closely in accordance with all that is known of its time and scenes from other sources, and in portions so journal-like, equally in its minuteness and its vividness, that, were the book found now for the first time, without the author's name, the universal verdict would be that it was perfectly true throughout, and undoubtedly written by one who had borne part in some of the principal events recorded. The story, unless true, could not have been written.
The object of my present Lecture is to establish this same proposition as to our canonical Gospels. They could not have been written, had they not been true. To test this statement, let us take an inventory of their contents.
The character of Jesus Christ stands out alone, whether in fable or
in history. Viewed in its human aspects, it is entirely unique. There is
a blending, a harmonizing, of all seeming contrasts of moral excellence,
- of traits, any one of which in equal lustre would have immortalized him
in whom it shone forth among multiplied imperfections and foibles, - magna-
nimity and humility; firmness and meekness; uncompromising justice and
unexhausted benevolence; dignity and condescension; the spirit of command
and that of the lowliest service; purity in which the most watchful hostility
could detect no stain, and tenderness for the lowest, vilest types of depravity;
a walk with God so close that he seemed ever within temple-gates, and yet
a walk with man so genial, friendly, loving, and helpful, that his eyes
and thoughts might seem never lifted above the surrounding world; a might
stern and resolute, such as was never witnessed before or since in the
conflict with evil, and a submission and resignation so serene and trustful,
so gentle and kindly, as to call forth the admiration and sympathy of men
whose lives had been passed in scenes of warfare and carnage.
This picture is presented under a kaleidoscopic diversity of aspects. We see Jesus in every condition of life : in moments of triumph, with the hosannas of adoring multitudes; in hours of rude buffeting, coarse jeers, and brutal insults, when Jew tosses him over with cruel scorn to Gentile mockery, and Gentile remands him scourged and lacerated to fresh Jewish outrage. We behold him, now at the marriage feast; now by the death-bed, the bier, the grave-side; in the evening with the friends at Bethany, to whom his advent is high festival; on the morrow among those who despise his claims and scoff at his teachings; then among disciples who misapprehend his words, misconceive his mission, annoy him by their paltry rivalries, disturb his serenity by their angry strife; then, again, among those who watch every word and gesture that they may find ground of censure and accusation; then among those who look to him for temporal benefits, but turn a deaf ear to his counsel and admonition. We are admitted even to his retirement. His heart is laid open to us. We learn that, as others by sleep, he by midnight devotion seeks strength for the burden of the day; and through the agony of prayer in Gethsemane comes to him the peace, the sweetness, the triumph of that awful, glorious death-scene on the cross.
In this entire picture of human virtue, we find no situation or incident out of keeping with any other, or out of harmony with the relations in which he stood to the institutions, life, and men of his time. It is not a compilation of excerpts from different lives; not like some of the stories of heroes in prehistoric times, and those in the hagiobiography of the early Christian ages, the heaping together under one name of anecdotes, events, and traditions, that evidently had at the outset various titles. The narrative is homogeneous; its contents belong together. The four Gospels manifestly present different sections - often parallel, and, when not so, mutually consistent and of like staple - of one and the same life, real or imagined. Even were it maintained that the longer discourses in the fourth Gospel differ essentially from those in the other three; still the human Jesus of John is precisely the same person with that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with not a trace or shade of difference as to the features of character or the style of incident. It is no more certain of the several biographers of Washington than of the evangelists, that they wrote the life of one and the same personage, or, if fictitious, of one and the same unreal character, whose fabulous history was equally known to them all.
As to the features of Christ's character, we may say, without fear of contradiction, that they - have commanded the entire approval of persons of every age, condition, and culture, and the most cordially, of the confessedly greatest, wisest, and best. Whatever objections there are to the contents of the Gospels do not apply to the character of Jesus as a man. " We can find no fault in him," has been the verdict of his enemies from Pilate until now. Nor can we detect in him the absence of any virtue or grace which enters into our highest ideal of human excellence.
His, too, is a character whose pre-eminent worth wins universal recognition. Though he is a Jew as to birth and surroundings, there is no Hebrew or Oriental element about him which interferes in the least with the appreciation of his moral supremacy by nationalities of the opposite stamp. The German, the Englishman, the Frenchman, is not constrained to make the slightest abatement or allowance in estimating his merits. He belongs equally to all ages. He has no secular parallax. In the darkest times he has been acknowledged as supremely perfect, and equally so at epochs of the highest culture, mental and moral. He is transcendently beautiful and glorious to the rudest aspirant after goodness; and no less so to a Fénelon, a Martyn, an Oberlin, a Judson. The ignorant woman who can hardly spell out his story in her Bible can imagine no other being so lovely, so adorable; and he seems no less the highest type of humanity to Milton, Newton, Locke, Bunsen, Faraday. In the galaxy of the greatly good, he is not a star a little brighter than the rest, but a sun in whose light the stars grow pale.
Such is the character which either grew under the pens of the evangelists, or was incarnated in the life of one of their coevals. The former hypothesis need detain us but a moment; for probably hardly any one holds it now. Friendly and hostile critics will agree that the evangelists show neither the imagination, the culture, nor the capacity of authorship, which would have started them on the career of fictitious literature, or made their success in it even possible. They evidently used with no little difficulty the language in which they wrote. They exhibit no familiarity with any literature except the Hebrew Scriptures. Their style is literal, prosaic, unimaginative. The first three enter but imperfectly into the beauty and majesty of their own picture, - build better than they know, - describe a breadth and a tenderness of spirit with which, when they write, they have hardly come into full sympathy.
Then, too, the differences among the evangelists as to style and material render it certain that they were four men, not one man under four names. Now, were you to set the four most able and accomplished writers that can be found to write four fictitious stories about the same imaginary personage, in such a way that the events of the four can be combined into one story, and that there shall be nothing in the hero as described by either of the four that shall not be in perfect harmony with all that is related of him by the other three, it is inconceivable that, without more than human genius and vigilance, there should not escape here and there, from one or another of them, an expression out of keeping with the rest. Nay more, the hero himself, though intended to be the same, could not pass through these four different moulds without some variation of form and feature, discernible, if not to superficial view, on close inspection. The only alternative is that the character described by the evangelists actually existed in a person whom they all knew.
Here I am ready to join the company of unbelievers in maintaining that, in accordance with the recognized laws of human nature and development, such a man could not have sprung up and lived in that age and people. If you will look through the list of eminently good men in all times and nations, you will find, Jesus Christ alone excepted, not one who does not bear a perceptible relation to his antecedents and surroundings. Other good men have become illustrious by transcending by a very little the moral standard of their day, by ridding themselves of a few prevalent partialities or prejudices, by abjuring the most glaring faults of their contemporaries; in fine, by anticipating the next stage of progress. But none of them have lost the flavor of their native soil, or obliterated the date-mark of their birth. Socrates would not be received as an exemplary man anywhere in Christendom. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus would not satisfy a purist of our day. The saints worshipped by the Romish Church would, many of them, be excommunicated were they living now; and those of them who were truly holy men, often from conscientious motives, outraged all the decencies of common life. There were many things licensed among good men of the last century which would be utterly inconsistent with respectability, not to say piety, at the present time. Praying men commanded slave-ships and privateers. Ministers of the Gospel managed lotteries, and harvested their profits for the supposed interests of religion. As intelligence advances, even if the world does not grow better, Christians see more clearly what they ought to be, and each generation finds deficiencies and faults in the standard of all that preceded it. Christ alone does not fall under this law.
Do you say that he had before him the examples of the great men of the earlier dispensation, - patriarchs, psalmists, seers? I ask in reply, Fall they not into the same category with all other worthies of the early time? Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Elijah,- is there one of these whom Jesus can have taken as a model for his character? Moses and Elijah are in the record (as I believe they were visibly on the mountain of transfiguration) placed side by side with him, - grand, glorious men for their times, well worthy to be captains in the Lord's host; but both of them men of violence and blood, implacably vindictive against the enemies of God, more prompt to curse than to bless. The Jewish type of virtue and piety was harsh and hard, narrow and exclusive, ungentle and stern, at the opposite pole from that of Christ. The Hebrews, like the classic nations, had no esteem for what we call the passive virtues, - to the whole ancient world not virtues, but weaknesses. These virtues had not even decent names in the language in which the evangelists wrote. The only names which they could find for humility meant (like the Latin humilitas) not a good quality, but a mean quality,--grovelling abjectly on the ground; and these words, for lack of better, the sacred writers had to pick up out of the dust, and to give them Christian baptism, to denote a habit of mind which in Jesus Christ was for the first time consecrated as a duty and a virtue, but which is now a gem second in lustre to none in the kingly diadem with which grateful generations have crowned him who unearthed it.
Jesus was, indeed, " a root out of a dry ground." He is not to be accounted for by any spiritual Darwinism, by any possible process of development. Do what you will with his character, you cannot bring him into line with his predecessors, whether Jewish or Gentile, or with the culture or standard of his age. These eighteen centuries of progress have hot brought the advanced guard of humanity up to him. o We can trace the rudiments of other pre-eminent characters, and show whence and how they grew. There is no human or earthly accounting for him. Yet he must have lived; if not, you have a still more marvellous prodigy, - an unprecedented, unequalled, and unaccountable creation of transcendent excellence, repeated fourfold in the imaginations of two fishermen, a tax-gatherer, and an obscure physician in Galilee.
But this is not all. There can be no doubt that Jesus taught no less than lived. Renan admits that the ethical teachings of the Gospels were for the most part handed down from his lips. And what are they? It is conceded by candid and virtuous unbelievers, it is asserted in every form of strong asseveration by Renan, that " never man spake like this man." We find no pre-arranged system in his words. They were suggested by the occasion, the scene, the casual surroundings, the incident of the moment. Yet when we put them together, we find no lacuna, no department of duty omitted, no question which the tender conscience can ask unanswered. While his Church has made but slow advances in the embodying of his precepts, and still falls far short of the fulness of his requirements, not one of them has been disallowed or outgrown or transcended; nor has the keenest or the most malevolent criticism detected fault or flaw in the morality that flowed in his words and was incarnated in his life.
Here, again, we find him alone and unapproached. Socrates, Plato, Zeno, Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, have been outgrown. Socrates gave a broad license in some portions of the moral code, and virtually sanctioned by acquiescence tantamount to approval, if not in his own practice, some of the worst vices of his age. In Plato's morals, with much that is pure and noble, there are some of the worst maxims that disgrace the phalanstery. The Stoics were in certain respects almost Christian; but their philosophy gave scant honor to the gentler virtues, and recommended suicide as the wise man's avenue of relief from defeat, disappointment, incurable disease, and the infirmities of old age. The Hebrew morality, divine so far as it went, yet imperfect, needed at every point the "filling out," which neither sage nor prophet had conceived, but which Jesus gave at the very beginning of his ministry. His movement among the virtues was no less than revolutionary. The mountains were laid low; the valleys exalted. The first were made last; the last first. And the moral judgment of the Christian centuries has, point for point, sustained his decisions. That such a teacher, remote from all the great centres of intelligence, destitute even of such instruction as the rabbies of his nation might have given him, should have been nurtured and developed, by the might of his own genius, in that poor, starveling village in a despised corner of Palestine, is simply impossible. Yet that there was one such, if not four, is an historical fact as fully authenticated as is the fact that Augustus Caesar was the Roman Emperor at the reputed era of his birth.
Yet more. There were other than ethical teachings. No one doubts that Jesus proclaimed the fatherhood of God as it had never been conceived before; that he declared the doctrine of a full and righteous retribution for the good and evil of men's lives, - a retribution reaching out into the depths of eternity; that he presented the divine clemency and forgiveness for repented sin, as to which there had been previously no clear assurance, and which had been tentatively, often despairingly, sought by bloody sacrifices, nay, by horrible self-torture, and, even in highly civilized communities, by the immolation of human victims, in lieu of all which he prospectively announced his own impending sacrifice on the cross as fully and for ever sufficient. Toward the last of these great truths, there had been in the later Hebrew prophets a certain negative tendency in the comparatively low esteem in which they regarded sacrifice; but even from this tendency the nation had retroceded into the merest ritualism. Immortality, dimly taught, if at all, in the Hebrew Scriptures, denied by the Sadducees, travestied by the Pharisees, had nowhere, either on Jewish or Gentile soil, been so received as to furnish motives for the government of the earthly life, comfort under its griefs, or a confident onlooking beyond its confines. As for the divine nature, its paternal aspect toward the individual worshipper or the Jewish people is recognized but sparingly, toward others than Hebrews in not a single undoubted instance, in their national Scriptures Yet, without any intermediate stage of development, these truths come from Jesus Christ, clear, round, and full, so that there are no statements of them in human language so explicit and satisfying as his; and, what is more, they take their start from him as motive powers of the intensest momentum and efficacy. The divine fatherhood, through his ministry extended to Canaanite and Samaritan, in John and Paul fructified into a universal brotherhood, which has been the soul of Christian propagandism and philanthropy until now. Immortality, from a vague conjecture, exhaled when most needed, through him became a conviction immovable as the consciousness of selfhood, with unexhausted energizing power both for brave endurance and for virtuous action. From him, too, the divine forgiveness - with precisely the agency which was first attributed, not by those who came after him, but by himself prophetically, to his own death - grew at once into a regenerating force, by faith in itself creating its own subjects in a line of succession which, commencing on the first Pentecost after his crucifixion, promises to last as long as sin shall endure. These revolutionary doctrines were enunciated, established, put into action by one who in training, position, and external advantages, possessed no prestige whatever,- by one who was unlikely to be either highly intelligent or peculiarly spiritual, and still less likely to obtain extended or lasting influence.
There are some facts of a more comprehensive scope that belong essentially with the specific considerations which I have stated. Jesus Christ, whose actual existence, as I have shown, alone can account for the existence of the Gospels, was in every human point of view by far the most remarkable man of any age or race. Who else is there whose birth civilized man would ever have consented, or could without patent absurdity have proposed, to assume as an era from which to date our years? Yet this seems unnatural to no one; for his birth marks the intrusion among pre-existing forces of a force which, whether human or divine, has proved greater than all the rest. It has furnished the characteristic elements of Western as distinguished from Oriental civilization. It has so underlain every improvement in sociology, public policy, international law, nay, even commerce and finance, that when professedly new maxims in these departments have been promulgated, adopted, established, it is always found that they are corollaries from principles which Jesus proclaimed, and may be retranslated, and for the better, into the very words that fell from his lips. The paramount efficiency of this force is owned by its enemies no less than by its friends. No other cause enlists so devoted champions; none other awakens so intense antagonism. It is a stone of stumbling ever in the way of those who will not build upon it.
Proved, but improbable; certain, yet incredible; historical verity, still none the less an impossibility, - is this human life of Jesus taken alone. Had we this, and no more, we should have ample exterior evidence for the story, yet should be utterly unable to account for it. But the evangelists do not leave these marvels unaccounted for. According to them, Jesus bears a unique relation to the Supreme Being, - a sonship more intimate, more entirely consubstantial - if you will tolerate a word from the old theology - than belongs to any other being in the universe. He is the image, in human form, of the omnipresent and eternal God. It is his special mission, living and dying, to manifest all of the divine that can admit of manifestation. This mission is reported, not on the mere evidence of his assertions, but as attested by the exercise of such supernatural powers as put the seal of God upon him and upon his utterances. Disease flees at his touch. The maniac grows sane under his eye. He walks on the lake as by its shore. The bier and the grave yield up their dead at his summons. Chief of all, - barely to name a subject to which a Lecture of this course will be devoted, - he rises from his own sepulchre, and reappears repeatedly to those who had seen him dying, dead, and entombed. If all this be true, there remains no difficulty in accounting for the character, the teachings, the extended and enduring influence of Jesus Christ. The divine and the human side of his person, character, and history, are in entire harmony, and cannot be severed in thought. The human presupposes the divine as its only solution; the divine could have had no inferior human manifestation. They are inseparable in the record. The life of Jesus in the Gospels is not a human life, with strange and supernatural incidents interspersed here and there. In this respect it differs entirely from numerous biographies of personages in Greek and Roman history, and of saints in the Christian calendar. Their stories contain supernatural events; but you can cut them out from the record, and there will remain a perfectly coherent and credible biography. The lives of St. Francis de Sales and St. Elisabeth of Thuringia, for instance, may, with an occasional omission, be made holy and beneficent lives, such as those saints undoubtedly led. But no such process can be performed with the life of Jesus. The divine is inextricably blended with the human. It forms part of the warp and woof of the whole story. You can no more expunge the supernatural and leave a coherent narrative, than you can cut out some of the figures of a piece of tapestry and leave a fabric that shall retain aught of comeliness and beauty. Sometimes it is the divine that forms the canvas for the manifestation of human perfections; sometimes it is in human actions, relations, and sympathies, that the divine shines forth with pre-eminent radiance and majesty. His beneficence is the most strikingly displayed in his miracles; his gentleness and condescension are brought out into the strongest relief by them. There are few of his discourses that do not refer to them. Indeed, his whole style of address betrays the consciousness of a mission far above that of the prophets who had gone before him. Some of them were men of lofty bearing; they stood undaunted before kings and multitudes, bent not to godless power, and defied the rage and insults of the people. Yet who among them ever dared to speak in his own name? "Thus saith the Lord," is always the prefix and the refrain of their counsel, rebuke, and denunciation. Nor was it in their own names, but on the authority of the sacred books, and of honored names of rabbies of preceding generations, that the scribes of Christ's time gave their utterances. But he, the most modest and humble of the sons of men, never appeals to prescription. He speaks as one who has first-hand authority, - a right to be believed and obeyed. " Ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time; but I say unto you." He constantly refers to his works as the credentials of his mission. Pare away his words as you may, reject the fourth Gospel, and retain the mere skeleton of the synoptics, you yet cannot eliminate the tokens of a higher than mere human self-consciousness, - of the possession of such powers as mere mortal man never wielded upon earth.
That Jesus suffered it to be believed that he possessed such powers, that his habitual speech on all occasions implied this, is an historical fact no less certain than are the universally admitted events of his earthly life. Renan, indeed, concedes this, and attempts to apologize for it, sometimes on the ground that Jesus believed pious fraud essential to his success; sometimes on the ground that his enthusiasm and the flattery of his followers, together with some remarkable, yet easily accountable instances of his power over the imagination of diseased persons in his presence, deluded him into a false belief in his own supernatural powers. We cannot hang at the same time on both the horns of this dilemma; but they may be tested separately.
Did Jesus pretend to supernatural powers without the consciousness of possessing them? For what purpose? For the establishment, Renan says, of the purest, loftiest morality that man ever taught, - for the building up of a kingdom of righteousness which shall last as long as the world lasts. This may be a French mode of producing such a result, but a mode utterly inconceivable to the Anglo-Saxon mind. If, either as principal or accomplice, he lent himself to such a work, he strips himself of every title to our reverence. But if any thing is certain about him, it is that he inculcated and practised the severest virtue, and especially that he held in holy scorn and horror every kind of pretence and deception. What was the burden of his charge against the Scribes and Pharisees? Not that they were openly and scandalously wicked : they were the farthest possible from being so; and he always treated with peculiar gentleness and tenderness those who before the world bore the stigma of shameful depravity, if they were only honest enough to confess it. It was as hypocrites, as pretending to be what they were not, that he denounced those who sat in Moses' seat; and in these invectives there is every mark of scathing moral indignation. It is manifest that, from the depths of his soul, he had the profoundest. abhorrence for aught that was not honest, open, sincere, true.
Try we now the other alternative. " He was self-deluded." But his strength of character is no less manifest than his purity. We see him controlling both friendly and hostile multitudes by the mere power of his presence. Majesty and meekness sit together on his brow and mien and spirit. His serenity and evenness of temper show him to have been incapable of those waywardnesses and weaknesses which are wont to issue in delusive self-exaltation; while, had his self-exaltation been imaginary, it would have tinged all the currents of thought and feeling. But his lowliness of life and spirit remained to the last as simple and genuine as when he first left his mother's home. Then, too, had any unreal fancy been possible for him, there was one which would of necessity have taken fast hold upon him so soon as he had acquired influence and a following. His people, writhing and smarting under a Gentile yoke, and encouraged by misunderstood intimations of the prophets (which, we believe, really pointed to such a Messiah as Jesus of Nazareth), were looking for the advent of a Messiah who should be warrior; king, and conqueror, and raise them from beneath the heel above the throne of the Cæsars. The popular expectation early seized upon Jesus : he was vehemently urged to assume this heroic part; and had there been any weak place in his character, along with his extraordinary gifts, it would have been impossible for him not to yield to this pressure, borne in upon him, as it was, not only from a waiting nation, but from untold generations in the past.
We cannot, then, regard him as either deceiver or deceived. His, therefore, was a life which to those conversant with him presented a double aspect, - human excellencies and endowments which indicated a unique nearness to and union with the Supreme Being. Two of the evangelists were his apostles; we have abundant reason for believing that the other two were his disciples. I have given you what seems to me satisfactory evidence that these men really wrote the Gospels. Yet those who know all that it was ever possible for God to do, and are therefore sure that miracles can never have been wrought, and that a being superior to themselves can never have trodden the earth, set off the alleged absurdity of this unreal conception of a being both the Son of God and the Son of man, against the evidence of the early composition of the Gospels. They maintain that, however strong the grounds for believing these books to have been written by their reputed authors, the conception which they embody must have demanded more than one generation for its development from the best and noblest life that can ever have been lived upon the earth. We have, however, independent proof that this conception had reached its full dimensions long before we suppose the fourth Gospel to have been written, and as early as the earliest of the synoptic Gospels. Eusebius tells us that the authorship by St. Paul of thirteen epistles ascribed to him in our canon of Scripture had never been called in question; almost all sceptical critics admit the genuineness of ten out of the thirteen; Baur and the Tubingen critics regard four of them as having been undoubtedly written by Paul. These four are those to the Romans, the Corinthians, and the Galatians. Neither of these can have been written later than A.D. 58. The Messianic conception, as attached to Jesus, had certainly reached its full growth when they were written. Even the fourth Gospel contains no more highly colored picture of the human perfection and the divine sonship of Christ than Paul recognizes in almost every chapter of these epistles. Let me quote a few passages. " His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." " The light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ." " Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor." " When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law." " If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." " Put ye on the Lord Jesus." " To this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." In the epistle to the Galatians; St. Paul describes his conferences with Peter and James, from which it appears that as to every thing appertaining directly to Christ he believed precisely what they believed, and that the only question between him and them related to the obligation of the Gentile converts to conform to the Jewish law. It is evident, beyond the shadow of a doubt, then, that thus early, and among those who had been familiarly acquainted with Christ during his lifetime on earth, there existed the very same belief concerning his person and character, which we find drawn out in detail in the Gospels. Thus, there is no reason whatever why the Gospels could not have been written at the time when they purport to have been written, and by the men whose names they bear.
With reference to the supernatural portion of the Gospel record, it is worthy of note that we see no proof of its ever having been called in question during the early centuries, even by the enemies of Christianity. Some of my hearers know what a demurrer is in legal proceedings. It is a plea in which an opposing counsel admits the facts alleged by his adversary, but denies their relevancy, - maintains that they prove nothing to the point. Now the earliest arguments against the divine authority of Christ were demurrers. Such was the statement recorded by the evangelists, " He casteth out demons through Beelzebub, the chief of the demons." Such was that of the council assembled after the raising of Lazarus, " This man doeth many miracles; if we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him." Celsus and Porphyry, it appears from the portions of their works still preserved, admitted the supernatural facts of the Gospel record, but ascribed them to necromancy. This was the favorite, and, I believe, the sole theory of Jewish teachers and writers for many centuries, vestiges of it having lingered in the synagogue as late as the epoch of the Protestant Reformation. Now this demurrer is, of course, valid only with one who can adopt the theory of the party that makes the plea. It gives very strong additional attestation to the facts admitted in common by both friends and enemies. It proves that the persuasion was early seated, and transmitted from primitive times, that Jesus Christ performed works like those which he said proceeded from the Father, and as to which none in our time who believe them to have been wrought can doubt whence they came (see Appendix II, Note E).
I have in this Lecture sought to present the character of Christ as
portrayed in the Gospels, as the highest possible evidence of their authenticity.
It is a character which, without an original, could not have been conceived
by the evangelists; one for which they had neither the materials within
their reach, nor the genius or culture requisite for its invention. As
an actual character, it could not by any possibility have been formed by
antecedent or surrounding influences. It was not a natural development;
for human virtue has not yet developed up to its standard. Its human side
cannot possibly be authentic, unless its divine side be equally authentic.
The philosophy of our day insists on our receiving only proved facts, and
the causes necessarily implied in those facts. We accede to this postulate.
We claim only the unquestionable fact that, eighteen hundred and fifty
years ago, there lived a man who left an indelible impress on all subsequent
ages, who inaugurated a revolution in humanity, who started anew the current
of the world's history, and of whose moral per-fectness the best since
his day have deemed themselves but far-off imitators. If our theory be
disallowed, the burden of proof rests on those who reject it. Let them
show the fountain of his purity in the turbid waters of Judaism or heathenism,
or in the highest culture and the best philosophy of his times. Let them
demonstrate the sources of his power. Let them reveal to us the secret
by which the emblem of his ignominy became the symbol of all that is great,
glorious, and excellent, and the crucified felon grew into the King of
kings and Lord of lords. Till they can do this, we will be content with
the loyal apostle's confession, " We believe and are sure that thou art
that Christ, the Son of the living God."