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claim such exalted parentage as is accorded him by the creeds, might not even call on mankind to join him in addressing “Our Father”; and if he asked in the words of the prophet, “Have we not all one Father ? Has not one God created us?” could only have been answered truly in the negative ; for that he also was descended literally from a worm of the earth, the said worm having been “not made, nor created, but begotten," and that too by an animal still lower in the scale of life, whose first animate progenitor owed its existence to a process of spontaneous generation.
Moreover, that this genesis occurred without the consent of any supernatural being or beings, for as yet, according to Haeckel, there was none of them, neither in fact nor in fancy.
The present writer regards neither of the above theories of the descent of the prophet of Galilee as proven, and thinks himself justified in assuming that many other persons are thus far in agreement with him, who are, however, also uncertain what to think or believe respecting Jesus and Christianity (having become unsettled by the progress of free thought), yet who, desirous of truth, would welcome a volume from whatever quarter, which should enable them to substitute some definite conclusions for their present doubts and surmises.
If he is correct in these assumptions, a book on the subject of the relation of Jesus of Nazareth to Christianity must be a desideratum, provided it enabled the average reader, without much exertion, to attain to a right understanding as to the origin and meaning of Christianity.
The last notable work written to enable laymen to judge for themselves whether or not Christianity had a supernatural origin—the book entitled "Supernatural Religion "—though it has never been fairly answered, has failed, perhaps, to convince the majority of readers; at any rate, the religious world moves on with little alteration.
The work in question labours hard, for instance, to induce the reader to fix on an extremely late date for the origin of each of the gospels, although it is easy for writers of the opposite camp to show in each case that a much earlier date is more probably correct.
Thus the work is discredited through the extreme nature of the critical views enunciated.
The attitude of many modern apologists, and that of great numbers of Christians not of the narrowest types, towards the gospel miracles, and the evidence required for them, is sometimes that taken by Mr. Sanday, who, after some concessions, says, “But that miracles, or what we call such, did in some shape take place is, I believe, simply a matter of attested fact. When we consider it in relation to the rest of the narrative, to tear out the miraculous bodily from the Gospels seems to me, in the first instance, a violation of history and criticism rather than of faith."
Sometimes the miracles are pleaded for, as by Dr. Farrar, who lets them readily go, knowing that a single revolution of the circle of his reasoning will bring them back. Thus, he says, “To the belief of Christendom the Son of God would still be the Son of God, even if, like John, he had done no miracle.”
Again, “ One whose very existence was the highest miracle of all. For our faith is that he was sinless."
The fulfilment of the moral law without us in the Person of Jesus Christ. That fulfilment makes us believe that He was indeed Divine ; and if He were Divine, we have no further astonishment left when we are taught that he did on earth that which can be done by the power of God alone.” |
It may be, however, that the strict path of historical inquiry will lead to quite other conclusions respecting the supernatural origin of Christianity; that the Jesus presented to us (in the first Gospel, for instance), can be best understood and realized on the hypothesis of his being merely a natural man of great religious genius indeed, but one who was not in any way supernaturally gifted. The “internal evidence"
"The Gospels in the Second Century,” by W. Sanday, M.A., p. 8 of the Introd. Chap. Macmillan, 1876.
† “ Life of Christ," eighth edition, 1874, pp. 167, 170, 171.
of the superhuman may, perhaps more easily than even the external, be shown to exist only in the “ Christian consciousness.”
The present volume is the first portion of “An Inquiry Concerning the Origin and Meaning of Christianity,” and contains about one-fifth of the whole. If favourably received, it is intended immediately to issue the remainder in two volumes.
At the close of this introductory volume is appended an outline of the contents of the whole work, so that those who cannot obtain the remaining volumes may nevertheless have an epitome thereof. Others it will enable in some degree to judge whether or not the entire book will repay perusal and study.
The reader, whether Christian or non-Christian, is invited to begin the inquiry from a neutral standpoint, such as the writer occupies in his first chapter.
Whatever may be the defects of the work, and they are doubtless numerous, the reader of average intelligence will be enabled to decide for himself, from the ample material placed before him, on the claim of Christianity to be considered a Divine Revelation.
“ As for the truth, it endureth and will always stand. It liveth and conquereth for evermore.”
“For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”