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JESUS, THE CHRIST.
HENRY WARD BEECHER.
“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1871,
BY J. B. FORD AND COMPANY,
in the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.
HAVE undertaken to write a Life of Jesus, the Christ, in
the hope of inspiring a deeper interest in the noble Personage of whom those matchless histories, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are the chief authentic memorials. I have endeavored to present scenes that occurred two thousand years ago as they would appear to modern eyes if the events had taken place in our day.
The Lives of Christ which have appeared of late years have naturally partaken largely of the dialectic and critical spirit. They have either attacked or defended. The Gospel, like a city of four gates, has been taken and retaken by alternate parties, or held in part by opposing hosts, while on every side the marks of siege and defence cover the ground. This may be unfortunate, but it is necessary. As long as great learning and acute criticism are brought to assail the text of the Gospels, their historic authenticity, the truth of their contents, and the ethical nature of their teachings, so long must great learning and sound philosophy be brought to the defence of those precious documents.
But such controversial Lives of Christ are not the best for general reading While they may lead scholars from doubt to certainty, they are likely to lead plain people from certainty into doubt, and to leave them there. I have therefore studi
ously avoided a polemic spirit, seeking to produce conviction without controversy.
Joubert? finely says: “State truths of sentiment, and do not try to prove them. There is danger in such proofs; for in arguing it is necessary to treat that which is in question as something problematic; now that which we accustom ourselves to treat as problematic ends by appearing to us as really doubtful. In things that are visible and palpable, never prove what is believed already ; in things that are certain and mysterious, — mysterious by their greatness and by their nature, make people believe them, and do not prove them ; in things that are matters of practice and duty, command, and do not explain. 'Fear God' has made many men pious; the proofs of the existence of God have made many men atheists. From the defiance springs the attack; the advocate begets in his hearer a wish to pick holes; and men are almost always led on from a desire to contradict the doctor to the desire to contradict the doctrine. Make Truth lovely, and do not try to arm her.”
The history of the text, the authenticity of the several narratives, the many philosophical questions that must arise in such a field, I have not formally discussed; still less have I paused to dispute and answer the thousands of objections which swarm around the narrative in the books of the sceptical school of criticism. Such a labor, while very important, would constitute a work quite distinct from that which I have proposed, and would infuse into the discussion a controversial element which I have especially sought to avoid, as inconsistent with the moral ends which I had in view.
1 As quoted by Matthew Arnold, Essays in Criticism, p. 234 (London ed.), 1865.