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Title: Modern Skepticism - A Course of Lectures Delivered at the Request of the - Christian Evidence Society
Author: Ellicott, C. J. (Charles John), 1819-1905
Language: English
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    C. J. ELLICOTT, D.D.,

    770, BROADWAY.


    _Issued in this Country
    by special arrangement with the English Publishers_,


The following Lectures, delivered at the request of the Christian
Evidence Society, are now, for the convenience of the reader, gathered
together into one volume, and earnestly commended to his serious

A short account of the general designs of the Society, of the plan of
the Lectures, and the reasons for their appearing in a different order
from that in which they were delivered, will be found in an explanatory
paper which the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol has been kind enough
to draw up at the request of the Committee. Though placed, as last
written, at the end of the volume, the attention of the reader should
be early directed to this paper.

The Committee take this opportunity of offering their best thanks to
the eminent men who have found time, in the midst of their varied and
laborious avocations, to lend such able and efficient service to the
great cause in hand,--the maintenance of the truth of the Christian


    _Chairman of Committee._



  DESIGN IN NATURE                                                  1

  PANTHEISM                                                        33
      BY THE REV. J. H. RIGG, D.D., Principal of Westminster
      Training College.

  POSITIVISM                                                       79
      BY THE REV. W. JACKSON, M.A., F.S.A., late Fellow of
      Worcester College, Oxford.

  SCIENCE AND REVELATION                                          139
      BY THE VERY REV. R. PAYNE SMITH, D.D., Dean of
      Canterbury; late Regius Professor of Divinity, Oxford.

          CHRISTIANITY                                            179

  THE GRADUAL DEVELOPMENT OF REVELATION                           229

          DISCOVERIES                                             265
      BY THE REV. GEORGE RAWLINSON, M.A., Camden Professor of
      Ancient History, Oxford.

  MYTHICAL THEORIES OF CHRISTIANITY                               305
      BY THE REV. CHARLES ROW, M.A., of Pembroke College,

      BY THE REV. STANLEY LEATHES, M.A., Professor of Hebrew,
      King's College.


          CHRISTIANITY                                            457
      BY THE REV. CANON COOK, M.A., Canon of Exeter; Preacher
      at Lincoln's Inn.

  EXPLANATORY PAPER                                               503

  NOTES                                                           529





"All things are full of God," said the father of Greek philosophy.
"We have no need of the hypothesis of God," said a modern French
astronomer. It is with the latter saying, which is descriptive of the
attitude of modern science at this time, that the present address will
have to do. Atheism no doubt exists; but far more common is the mode
of thinking which would dispense with all questions about the Divine
nature in dealing with the world and its phenomena; which considers
that the introduction of the name of God into scientific research,
complicates what is simple, obscures the rules of observation,
introduces controversies that are useless to science, restrains the
free course of inductive reasoning by an apprehension of consequences,
and entangles physical inquiry which leads to sure and clear results,
with mental and with spiritual inquiry which have produced nothing but
disputation. Those who hold such views would think it unphilosophical
to deny, just as they would regard it to affirm, the existence of God.
But the popular mind is not equal to nice distinctions; and it seems
almost the same thing to most people to deny the existence of God as to
exclude the thought of Him when exploring His creation.

I am not without hope that a few words delivered here upon "the
argument from design," as it is called, may tend to diminish the
growing estrangement between science and religion, and at the same
time to revindicate for religion her legitimate share in matters of
scientific interest.

I may undertake that the subject, however unworthily treated in other
respects, shall be discussed without bitterness, and with a fitting
respect for those who have done so much for physical science during the
present generation.

It is necessary to sketch in a few sentences that field of creation
with which the argument from design has to do. The world presents to
us four kingdoms or classes of facts. One of these, and the first in
point of order, is the mineral kingdom. A few so-called elements, as
metals, earthy bases, and the like, acted upon by certain forces,
known to us as gravitation, motion, heat, electricity, magnetism,
chemical affinity, have formed the mountain and the valley, the wind
and the clouds, the sea margin and the cave; in a word, all the grand
substructure on which the higher kingdoms are to take their places.
Modern science has discovered however, that these physico-chemical
forces are interchangeable or convertible; that retarded motion turns
to heat, as in the railway break, that heat generates electricity, and
the electric current magnetises the iron round which it passes. Not
only this, but each force generates a certain equivalent of another--so
much and no more; and no force is lost, though a force may pass from an
active to a potential state. For example, two tuns of water are raised
by evaporation from the sea, and one of them falls in rain in a valley
drained by a river, and in its downward motion back to the sea it will
turn the water-wheel, lift the tilt-hammer, bear the barge swiftly in
its current, leap over the rocky ledge a foaming cataract, and in all
these it is only sending back a portion of the force which was spent
upon its evaporation; and the real source of all this work is, and
must be, the sun's heat. And ere the water rests again in the sea it
will have accounted for the whole of the force, neither less nor more,
that had operated upon it; part of it in friction on its bed and in
consequent heat; part of it in tasks imposed by human skill. The other
tun of water shall fall into some land-locked tarn, high in the hills,
where it cannot at once render back its force in work or duty, but the
force is there, held in suspense or in reserve. Water lifted from the
sea level to the valley of the Engadine, a mile higher, has used much
of the sun's heat; it will restore that heat or some equivalent force,
as soon as you make a way for it to the sea level again; and it will
have parted with all the force, neither more nor less, which raised it
to that height. That forces are convertible, and that whether converted
or not they are conserved, so that nothing is lost, are propositions
demonstrated. It is not, I believe, demonstrated, but it is a probable
supposition, that all forces are but one force manifested in different

Then as to the material elements on which these forces work; the
hydrogen, carbon, iron, lime, and the like, the name of elements must
be held to mean no more than that they have not as yet been resolved
into simpler substances. Of their ultimate composition we know nothing.
They may be so many modifications of an ultimate matter; but whether
this ultimate matter exists, whether it be, as modern materialists
tell us with such confidence, eternal and indestructible, whether
impenetrability be one of its properties, whether it be not a kind of
polar opposite to the physico-chemical forces, and engendered with
them, so that in a different universe, with other forces at work,
there must have been different elements, these are all questions of
mere speculation, incapable of proof. The physical enquirer has bound
himself to consider only the facts which he can observe; and when
he tells us that matter is eternal, and that therefore creation is
impossible, he is deserting the ground where alone he is strong.
Bishop Berkeley's and Collier's denial that matter truly exists is
quite as probable as this affirmation. But both alike are speculative
guesses and not science.

There is a second kingdom to add to the first. The world is not a
mere agglomeration of rocks and mountains, seas and lakes. Before the
physical forces had completed their work, a new force had been added
to them; that of life. The bare rocks became clothed with living
moss. In marshy places, warm and moist, a rich vegetation grew and
decayed. Along the slopes the interlacing roots of grasses detained the
particles of soil which would otherwise have been washed down to some
lower bed. The vegetable world, with thousands of varieties, clothed
and adorned the stony earth. England's greatness in the present was
taken order for in those ages when her coal measures were formed out
of the forests which grew rank and died in a climate different in all
respects from that which forms the subject of our daily animadversion.

Third in order comes the Animal Kingdom. I do not attempt to define
life, whether animal or vegetable, with exactness. Every one has
failed in that attempt. As a rough description of animal life, it
may, perhaps, suffice to say that the living being is one endowed
with sensation and spontaneous motion, of which each of the parts
contributes something to the continuance of the whole, and is in
turn preserved or defended by the whole. If those who find fault with
this, look for another definition in Dr. Whewell's comprehensive
work,[1] they will find my excuse in the variety and the inadequacy of
the definitions there collected. The animal life spread out over the
globe from the first is profuse, is beautiful and various. The oolitic
limestone and the white chalk are almost wholly made up of shells of
Foraminifera. On the river Columbia is a bed of clay 500 feet thick,
which consists largely of the shells of Diatoms, if, indeed, these are
to be ranked in the animal kingdom. The shells of the Foraminifera,
which can only be examined by the microscope, exhibit wonderful variety
and beauty. Still more remarkable in this respect are the Polycystina,
whose shells, as figured in Mr. Ponton's book, recall censers and
vases, jewelled crosses and stars, pendants and tripods, such as a
London goldsmith would do well to reproduce. Until the microscope was
invented no eye can have explored this wonderful dust. The shells of
both these humble tribes, the Foraminifera and Polycystina resemble the
shells of other animals much higher in the scale of organization; but
nearly as they are related in organization to each other, the forms
are very different, and each in itself presents a wonderful diversity
of forms. In higher families of animals there are the same characters.
The globe teems with life in earth, and air, and water. If you will
permit me, so early in my argument, to speak of the Maker of them all,
I will say that the creative power is inexhaustible in invention, both
of useful and beautiful parts. And in the ceaseless activity of these
creatures, great and small, we recognise the physical happiness which
accompanies so much life. It is a chorus of thanksgiving and praise,
from pool and jungle, from treetop and soft grass, from the creatures
that revel in the life that God has given them.

In demanding the right to regard man as the fourth kingdom of nature, I
am aware that some may demur to the claim. No doubt he must take rank
in the kingdom of the animals, by reason of his identity with animals
in all the vital functions. Disparaging things have been said of his
brain; and Moleschott has remarked, I think, that all its finest things
are but modified phosphorus after all. "No phosphorus, no thinking!"
The slight projection on the outer margin of the ear has lately assumed
portentous proportions. The possession of that precious relic, which
has turned up suddenly like the locket of the long lost child in a
stimulating novel, proves our kinship to the Simian race, from some
balder specimens of which we are supposed to have descended, and gives
us a place on an unsuspected family tree. But, after all that has been
said by the naturalists to teach us humility, there do remain some
facts, which entitle man to a separate place, to one at least of which
the modern school have given greater prominence than before. They are
these. Man can control nature. He can read nature and understand it. He
has a power of self-regulation, which we call conscience. And he can
and does think much about God.

As to the power of man to control nature, I prefer to employ the
words of Mr. Wallace, one of the first to put forward what is called
"the law of natural selection," who will not be suspected of claiming
any transcendental place or privilege for man. "With a naked and
unprotected body," he says, man's intelligence "gave him clothing
against the varying inclemencies of the seasons. Though unable to
compete with the deer in swiftness, or with the wild bull in strength,
it has given him weapons wherewith to capture and overcome both. Though
less capable than most other animals, of living on the herbs and the
fruits which unaided nature supplies, this wonderful faculty taught
him to govern and direct nature to his own benefit, and to make her
produce food for him when and where he pleased. From the moment when
the first skin was used as a covering, when the first rude spear was
formed to assist in the chase, the first seed sown or root planted, a
grand revolution was effected in nature, a revolution which in all the
previous ages of the world had had no parallel, for a being had arisen
who was no longer necessarily subject to change with the changing
universe, a being who was, in some degree, superior to nature, inasmuch
as he knew how to control and regulate her action, and could keep
himself in harmony with her, not by a change in body, but by an advance
in mind. Here, then, we see the true grandeur and dignity of man. On
this view of his special attributes we may admit that even those who
claim for him a position and an order a class or a sub-kingdom by
himself, have some reason on their side. He is indeed a being apart,
since he is not influenced by the great laws which irresistibly modify
all other organic beings. Nay, more, this victory which he has gained
for himself gives him a directing influence over other existences. Man
has not only escaped natural selection himself, but he is actually able
to take away some of that power from nature which before his appearance
she universally exercised. We can anticipate the time when the earth
will produce only cultivated plants and domestic animals; when man's
selection shall have supplanted natural selection; and when the ocean
will be the only domain in which that power can be exerted, which for
countless cycles of ages ruled supreme over the earth."[2]

Thus eloquently and forcibly speaks Mr. Wallace; and I do not stop
now to criticise the exaggeration of language which treats the law of
natural selection as supreme ruler of the earth. Let me say a few words
next upon man's power to reflect on, and to understand nature. For this
was the second mark by which man was distinguished from the animal
creation, with which he has so much in common.

Man alone is capable of an unselfish interest in the world around him;
that is, an interest that does not bear immediately on his bodily
wants. How far he has carried this interest, let modern science bear
witness. The common feat of foretelling all the eclipses of sun and
moon for a given year, is performed for our almanack yearly, without
exciting surprise or gratitude. Yet it means that man can so follow
the heavenly bodies in their path, for years and years to come, for
all the years that are gone, that he can tell, without fear of error,
on what day the cone of shadow thrown by the sun-lighted earth into
space, shall sweep over the face of the moon and blot out her light,
completely or a little. But this is an old triumph, hardly worth
quoting, but for its aptness to impress all kinds of minds. A clerk
in one of our public offices, using only such leisure as official
work allowed, has told us lately wonders about the composition of
the sun; and here in London, armed with a little instrument (the
spectroscope), this distinguished man has been able to ascertain that
in yonder photosphere the same elements are found which the chemist
seeks and finds in the crust of our little earth. What proofs can be
more convincing of the fitness of man to play his part in the scene
in which he is placed? His senses are adapted to the facts he is to
observe; his eye to light, his ear to sonorous vibrations, his touch
to resistance and to weight. But the naked organ soon falls short of
his wishes. And soon the microscope unfolds the beautiful forms of the
Polycystina shells, the minute fibril of the muscle, and the components
of the blood of life. The telescope brings near the world of stars, and
resolves the bright mist into clusters of distinct orbs. The balance
weighs quantities of matter too small for the touch to appreciate.
And lastly, the spectroscope takes the picture, so to speak, of
chemical phenomena too distant to be realised by these means; and so
the composition of the heavenly bodies, about which the most sanguine
observer twenty years ago would have admitted that we should never
know anything firmer than conjecture, is already the subject of exact

The names of Homer, Plato, and Shakspeare remind us how marvellously
the world is imaged and reproduced in the minds of some great men, and
of the share which we smaller men can take in their work by an admiring
sympathy. A production of art, whether literary, pictorial, or
plastic, is a creation. The things of Troy were not so touching nor so
grand in their reality as they became in the form which the poet gave
them. Legend enters largely into the stories of Macbeth and Hamlet. The
histories are shadowy, but the plays are substantial; they contain some
touch of truth. Old and young read them, and lend to the author all
their feelings to work on as he will. Weigh this fact well. It seems
to me to show so plainly that man's constitution has been fitted by
foresight and preparation for the place in earth that he was to fill.

Supposing that Moleschott was right in his startling aphorism,
"Without phosphorus there is no thought," what a wonder are we forced
to recognise here. The rage of Achilles, the death of Socrates, the
resolute wickedness of Lady Macbeth, the character of her husband,
so weak in his crime, so grand in his remorse and ruin; the refined
and gentle Hamlet, forced by a preternatural command to assume the
character of an avenger; to all these the presence of phosphorus in
the brain is indispensable. How comes so small a cause to work such
grand effects. It is sufficiently wonderful to hear Joachim discourse
eloquent music upon the simplest of instruments, a violin; take away
the violin and substitute a bit of wood; if the music still continues,
what was before a wonderful exercise of skill is now miraculous. If
great thoughts are but phosphorus burnt in the closed stove of a poet's
brain, I am more ready than ever to admire that creative wisdom which
could bring this out of that, which could so dispense with ordinary
means in His highest productions. But the aphorism is not true as it
stands. I believe there is no free phosphorus in the brain. "Without
lime, no thought; without oxygen, no thought; without water, no
thought." All these are true, and they import a well-known fact, that
man who thinks is a creature in a material world, and that certain
forms of matter are needful to his existence as an organised being.[3]

"Two things are awful to me," said Kant, "the starry firmament and the
sense of responsibility in man." In his "Metaphysics of Ethics" he
has treated this sense of responsibility with singular logical power.
It is one of the marks that separate man from all other creatures. No
doubt this principle has allowed men to come to very wrong and absurd
conclusions. Because the savage practises cannibalism, and knows no
rules of chastity but those which flow from the husband's right of
property in the wife, it is inferred that the savage has no moral
sense. It would be as fair to infer that because England once traded
in slaves, fought cocks, baited bulls, and oppressed the native races
in India and her colonies, therefore there was no sense of right
and wrong in England. It is for the existence of the principle that
I contend, and not for its perfect education and enlightenment. The
principle is that something is right to will and to do, and something
is not right. The existence of the principle is proved if the poor
savage of whom I spoke would consider his manhood disgraced by fleeing,
even for his life's sake, before the foe, or by suffering one cry to
escape him under the tortures, wherewith his captors are doing him
to death. The education of this principle is a different matter; no
one could say that even now his conscience was completely educated.
"So act that your principle of action would bear to be made a law for
the whole world,"[4] is a noble maxim; but it requires knowledge and
light, as well as right intention. If you twit us with the fact that
men have been cruel, impure, capricious, and absurd in their conduct,
we answer that they had still a right and a wrong. One who has the
sense of sight may find himself compelled to live in some narrow cleft
or ravine, where there is little to see, but the sense is there still.
The bathing-men at Pfeffers, with the earth closed almost over their
heads, see little of the scenery of Switzerland: but they have eyes not
the less. We are claiming for men now, not the fine sweep of moral
prospect, but the moral sense of sight; and this is never wanting. Upon
this sense every artifice has been used to make it look like something
else;[5] for until it can be so transformed, it is a powerful witness
for another world than this. The commonest explanation is that it is
only a principle of enlightened self-interest. Study it for yourself
in the savage, in the little child; you will find that these two
principles run on different lines.

The last mark of man, that distinguishes him from all animals is, that
he believes in God. One half the human race at this moment profess
some creed in which God is the great first cause, the Creator and
Governor of the world. Of the other half, hardly any are quite without
religion. "Obliged as I am," says M. Quatrefages, in words which I have
had occasion to quote elsewhere,[6] "even by my education, to pass in
review the races of men, I have sought for atheism in the lowest and in
the highest, but nowhere have I met with it, except in an individual,
or at most in some school of men, more or less known, as we have seen
in Europe in the last century, and as we see at the present day.
Everywhere and always the masses of the people have escaped it." But
for my present argument it is not necessary to insist that a right
belief in God prevails. There is a belief in God, and it cannot have
come from experience or observation of visible facts. You may lower the
position of man, by comparing him to the apes, and by chemical analysis
of his brain; all the more wonderful is it that a creature in such
sorry case should pretend to hold communion with the divine. His feet
are in the earthy clay, but his head is lifted up towards heaven. Heir
to a hundred maladies, the sport of a hundred passions, holding on this
life, so chequered in its complexion, but for a few days, this creature
cries out of his trouble: "God exists; and he can see and hear me."

Man, if I have proved my position, stands quite alone at the head of
the kingdoms of nature, alone in his power of controlling it, alone
in his appreciation of its beauty, alone in the self-government of
conscience, the first of all the creatures of God, to pronounce the
name of Him who had made all things, in a world which for ages had been
blind to its Maker, and thankless because blind.

Now it has become, and will probably continue to be, a question of the
deepest interest to mankind, how these four kingdoms came into being.
And at present there is a tendency towards a theory purely material
and mechanical. It is so in Germany, the country of Büchner, Vogt, and
Moleschott; it is so in France, where Comte and Littré have written;
it is so here in England, where it is needless to quote distinguished
names. I purpose, in the remainder of this lecture, to attempt an
interpretation of the facts before us, quite different from this
prevalent notion; and also to show how vicious and how inadequate in a
scientific point of view the system known as materialism appears to be.
The time is all too short for such a purpose: but any address like this
can only aim to scatter germs of thought, not to present a system.

That the creation was gradual, appears alike from the account of the
Bible and from scientific observation. Matter and motion must have
existed before the ball of earth was formed; and the physico-chemical
forces must have been in full play when the first lichen clothed the
rocks, or the first plants were formed in the sea. The first appearance
of life on the globe was a mighty step in creation, and from this point
the question of design becomes a very urgent one. Observe: the plant
world is a new world, with a series of wonders all its own. There was
nothing in the heat of the sun, nor in the earth's motion or magnetic
currents, to give any promise or presage of the marvels of the forest.
Supposing that we admit that these were evolved by law, that is to
say, that as a matter of fact plants only appeared where certain
conditions of light and heat and moisture combined to favour them,
and that wherever these conditions were combined they never failed
to appear. The question next arises whether matter and force evolved
them from their own inherent nature, or force and matter were created
with the intention to produce them, so that the plant was intended and
prepared then when the other forces began to stir the formless void.
Is the plant world the accidental or necessary outcome of the forces
that made the mineral world? or must we say that it bears marks of
design? Here we must observe that it is a wider and richer world than
that which preceded it: more full by far of forms of beauty and grace,
each of them sustained by a vascular system of which the mineral world
affords no parallel. You stand before the gnarled and twisted oak that
rises out of the feathering ferns; you never think that this giant of
two centuries, endued with a certain power of self-protection against
the storms of two hundred years, is an accidental product. It is so
grandly strong, so richly clothed with a myriad leaves, alike but
yet in something different each from each. The cattle count upon its
friendly shade; the fowls of the air make it their resting-place. This
a result of certain motions in the universe and certain properties
of matter, not designed at all, foreseen by no eye? To no one would
such a thought naturally occur. The world, full in its first stage of
marks of order and purpose, shows more of the same marks in its second
and more complicated state. The change that has taken place is not
towards confusion and exhaustion from unforeseen defects in mechanism,
but a higher development. The mineral kingdom was wonderful; that it
should be able to clothe itself with a mantle of verdure, and pass
into another kingdom much more complex, heightens the wonder. But then
comes the further change, the pouring out of animal life upon the
globe. Was this too an inevitable consequence of physical forces? All
the animal creation teems with marks of purpose. Consider only some of
the contrivances by which the fowls of the air are fitted for their
peculiar life. Describing a night of extreme coldness, the poet says:

        "The owl, for all her feathers, is a-cold."

That warm covering of the bird must be portable as well as warm; it
weighs about an ounce and a half. But the covering of birds would be
useless to them if the showers to which they must be exposed were
absorbed by the plumage, so that it became a heavy clinging mass. An
oily secretion makes it waterproof; we have all seen the duck free
itself by one shake from every trace of its recent bath. The heavy
skeleton that befits pedestrian creatures, would disable the bird from
flight; so it is provided with tubes of thin bone, surrounding a cavity
filled with air. Its pinions must be light as well as strong; observe
how the light barbs of the feather have roughened edges so that they
form one strong continuous surface, almost impervious to the air which
they strike. The air in the bones of birds and in other cavities of
the body, heated too by an inner warmth much greater than that of man,
contributes something to their buoyancy. Their speed and endurance are
enormous. It is said that the swallow's flight is ninety miles an hour.
One long stretch across the North Sea brings the sea-fowl from Norway
to Flamborough Head; they rest for a short time after this flight, and
pass inland, not the worse for their exploit. You may infer from the
beak of a bird its habits and its food. The bill of a woodpecker is a
pointed tool, tipped with hardest horn, to break open the bark of the
tree for insects. The flat bill of the duck has plates of horn at the
side; an excellent instrument for straining off the water and retaining
the food. The bill of the snipe is long, and narrow, and sensitive, to
pierce the marshy ground, and feel after its food. We might go on for
hours multiplying such instances, and from every part of the field of

Now, any mind in its natural state knows that in human works such
adaptations could only proceed from contrivance, and is willing to
regard these in the same way as proofs of design in creation. The
physicist has to tutor himself to a different view. All these things
are evolutions, under pressure of circumstances, of the original forces
of creation. For example, out of certain birds tenanting marshy
places, one has a somewhat larger beak, and this gives him an advantage
in piercing the ground for food; and so his share of food is larger,
and his strength and courage greater, and he has a freer choice of a
mate; and so the long beak grows longer in the next generation, and
the grandson's beak is longer than the son's, from the same causes;
and thus the law works, until in course of time there stands confessed
a new species--a perfect snipe. Is the scientific theory better in
this case than the popular? It is not. It does not account for the
facts so well. But is not our belief that God made the fowl of the
air with fitting instruments for a peculiar life because He saw that
it was good, and wished all portions of His varied earth to be the
scene of the joy and energy of appropriate tenants, a mere hypothesis?
The worship of God is universal, and exists without any explicit
opinion that He is the Creator, the first Cause. Because you are able
to conceive of Him, and are willing to accept Him as the Ruler of
your will and conscience, He must exist. Does this seem too rapid an
assumption? Consider the alternative. If He exists not, the sound of
worship has gone up from all lands in vain, and in vain have all good
men consecrated their lives to an obedience to the law of duty. Were
such deceit felt to be possible, a darkness that might be felt would
settle upon our spirits, and the hands would indeed hang down, and the
feeble knees be paralyzed, and a strict silence on all moral subjects
become us best. But we must see with such eyes as God has given us; and
scepticism about faith and conscience is perhaps as unprofitable as
scepticism about touch and sight. God exists then, it is assured to us
by the common faith of mankind, by the highest law within ourselves.
And as He exists, to Him, and to no other, must we assign the place
of Creator. There cannot be two Gods. I cannot give my conscience to
one as its guide, and adore another for the wisdom of the universe.
God exists then, and His existence is not merely assumed in order to
account for marks of design in nature. And we maintain that the easier
supposition is also the truer. These marks of purpose are what they
appear to be, tokens of the wisdom of God. "Thou hast made heaven, the
heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all things that
are therein, the sea and all that is therein, and thou preservest them

If I were to venture to express in a few sentences the belief of a man
of ordinary education upon this subject I should say that God alone is
and can be the first cause of this universe, the mover of its motion,
the giver of its life. The wise purposes which shine forth for us
in nature, were in the mind of God from the first act of creation.
In saying that He has wrought by laws, we do not detract from His
power; we seem rather to enhance it to our minds in attributing to Him
constancy as well as wisdom. A law is not a restraint; it is a fixed
manner of working. To say of a painter that he never produces any but
fine works, does not affirm that he is less free than an inferior
artist; just because producing bad work is no power or privilege but a
defect. And so, when we admit that God works by law, and expect to find
the same spectrum from the sun's rays, which we have once made with
our own prism, at every time and in every place where the sun's light
shines, and so on, we do not narrow the power of the Great Artificer,
unless it can be shown that caprice is a privilege and a good. The
subject of miracles is not here to be discussed; I will only observe
that they are presented to us as parts of a great purpose for the
good of man; and that our Lord refused, when He was tempted, to work
wonders out of wilfulness, or only to astonish. The extreme jealousy
of scientific men of admitting any allusion to theology, in connection
with the course of nature, proceeds from erroneous conceptions of God.
Mr. Wallace, whom I have already quoted with respect, is ready to
admit that the Creator works in the beginning as the founder of the
laws on which the world is to proceed; but he is afraid of admitting
that there has been continual interference and re-arrangement of
details.[8] But this eminent naturalist attributes to us a conception
of the Most High which we do not hold, nay, which we energetically
reject. If the laws were wise and good, whence would come the need
of interference or re-arrangement? Who are we that we should bid God
speak once, and forbid Him twice to speak? The laws of nature are God's
laws, and God's laws are His utterance of Himself through the speech
of nature. God is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever; and so His
laws remain the same. They are, if I may say so without irreverence,
the veil and vesture over the form of God, too bright in itself for
us to look on; they take their outline from Him who is beneath them.
You may continue your researches in full confidence that the laws
will stand sure, not because you have the slightest guarantee as a
man of science that these laws will never be interfered with; such a
guarantee you have on your own principles no right to ask. You are to
observe that the facts are so; that they shall eternally be so is not
for you, for that is all beyond experience. But the wisdom that made
the laws needs not to revise its work, and erase and insert and amend
its code. In the days of creation God saw that it was good; the eye
that so approved it changes not. Until the purpose that runs through
the ages is completed the laws will stand sure. But each new kingdom
of nature has introduced a change amounting to a revolution, which
neither the theologian nor the naturalist regards as an interference or
a caprice. When the principle of plant-life was introduced, the mineral
world became the material on which the plant-life worked; it gathered
into itself the lower elements, carbon, silica, nitrogen, and used
them as means of its own organic life. The plant partook of the nature
of the class below it, whilst it dominated and used that class. This
same took place when animal life was introduced. The beautiful plants
become the material whereon the animal life worked, the food whereby it
sustained itself. It was the same when man was added, in whom instinct
is replaced by reason, and ethical action supervenes over action by
impulse and appetite. Each of these kingdoms has much in common with
that which is below it. The animal is in many respects a plant; for the
diatomaceous creatures one knows hardly in which kingdom to find their
place. The man is an animal in much, and perhaps his animal instincts
play a larger part in the world's history and in his own development
than we are wont to allow. But each higher step brings in something
wholly new. "An animal," says Hegel, "is a miracle for the vegetable
world." Each step is a revolution in one point of view; but then the
lower state prepared itself for the higher, prophesied, so to speak,
of its coming, and the higher seated itself so easily on the throne
prepared for it, that we do not wonder to find it there. You call it
evolution; we call it a creative act. We think that God exists, and if
He acts anywhere it must be in this, the universe of things. Ἐξ ἑνὸς τὰ
πάντα γίγνεσθαι [Greek: Ex henos ta panta gignesthai] is an old saying
long before Christianity. But you and we may work by the same calculus
and rules of observation. The facts are the same, the interpretation of
what is behind them is different. Nor need we deny that the principle
of which Mr. Wallace spoke as "supreme in the world," has its truth and
its use in explaining the facts of creation. It never raised an inert
mineral mass into a vegetable organism; it never raised a plant into
an animal. It never raised an ape into a man. No facts have yet been
produced that go to prove any such leaps, and if our logic is to be
improved in anything by the light of experience, it is in this, that
facts should be recorded and generalised, but not assumed. But that
climatic conditions, and the struggles for life, have modified species,
and worked out new varieties, or new species, we may fearlessly admit;
it is one more proof, perhaps, that the world is a meet school and
training ground for the creatures placed in it for discipline. But a
law is not a god; it never ruled supreme; never was other than one
precept out of many in the Divine code of the world.

It has become the fashion with some naturalists to speak of God as "the
Unknowable." Mr. Martineau has finely observed, somewhere, that this
name is self-contradictory; for we affirm by the use of it that we
know so much, that He cannot be known. I go much further. It assumes
the existence of God, and in the same breath separates us from Him
for ever. Theologians have ever been ready to confess that God cannot
be known in His own essence to creatures such as we. "Lo! these are
parts of His ways: but how little a portion is known of Him? but the
thunder of His power who can understand?"[9] An uninspired writer
speaks the same language as the inspired. "For us that are men to talk
about divine things is as when the unmusical discourse of music or
civilians of strategy."[10] But shall we then sit down in despair, and
no more look up to God? We shall be untrue to our own best instincts;
we shall not have used all our means of enlightenment. I grant that
the mere contemplation of God in nature is not enough. Like the pillar
of cloud of old, it is at once light and darkness; a light to us in
contemplating the book of nature, a darkness to our hearts, shut in
with their own sins and sorrows. Naturalists have never done justice,
as it seems to me, to the most important facts of man's nature. Not
only can he study nature, but he can act in it and upon it. And this
power of action assures him of his freedom. Possessed of this gift,
that places him a little lower than the angels, he knows that he can
use it either way. He may follow his own foolish vanity, his own evil
wishes, and set up for his own law, and be his own God; or he may
return to Him, whence he came out, and offer to God the homage of his
own will, of his love, and his obedience. To one who has performed this
great act God is no more "the Unknowable." In the mutual commerce of
two wills, two spirits, the finite and the infinite, the finite rises
more and more, and sees more and more of Him who has manifested Himself
to us in His creation of the world out of free love, in His creation of
a free being to rule in the same world, crowned with glory and honor,
in His giving that free being a law of duty wherewith to rule himself,
in His having planted in him hopes and longings that will be satisfied
only in eternity.

Yes; man is humble and low. By every organ, and by every fibre he is
mated with some analogous creature in the brute world. He surpasses
them in the variety of his ailments, and the profundity of his pains.
He is part of a system, which naturalists tell us is hastening towards
night and death;[11] the motion of the power of nature tending plainly
towards universal rest. But

        "Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
        A being darkly wise and rudely great,"

he has that in him which unites him to another sphere. To be able
to conceive of God at all; to have within him a will and a power of
worship, these make him one with God, and assure him against death and
darkness. To deny oneself this privilege of viewing the earth in its
relation to God, to shut out God artificially from that sphere where
the natural understanding has always found Him without assistance, is
a pedantry for which we shall surely suffer. God will find us out.
There is often a certain irritation in those who would exclude Him
from their sphere of view. They lose their philosophic calmness when
they speak of religious things. These are the tokens of past conflicts
and past quarrels, of a soul that might know more of God if it had not
refused. God is reflected in the world, in the man's intelligence, in
his conscience, in his will. "Whither shall I go from His presence?"
we seem to be saying. It is better to be able to say, "Whom have I in
heaven and earth but Thee?"



REV. J. H. RIGG, D.D.,



A hundred years ago the controversy of Christianity in England was
with Deism, and in France with Atheism; while at that time the
transcendental infidelity of Germany was as yet undeveloped, and the
name of Spinoza was nowhere held in honour. Now, however, deistic
infidelity appears to be obsolete, and it is universally felt by those
who have entered truly into the thought and controversies of the age,
that the question for the present is between Christian Theism and that
style of philosophy which recognises an impersonal divinity in all

Deism grants too much to the Christian. If a man really believes in a
living and personal God, a Divine Maker and Ruler of the universe, with
a moral character and will, he finds it hard to deny the possibility
and probability of a revelation, and impossible to maintain the
impossibility of miracles. Having been obliged to yield thus far to
the Christian argument, the deist is unable thereafter to withstand
the positive evidence in favour of Christianity. Moreover Deism is
beset by the same difficulties in effect which surround the Christian
revelation, without its lights, its consolations, its blessings. The
man, therefore, who rejects Christianity seldom finds his resting-place
in Deism. He becomes a pantheist or an atheist.

Naked atheism, however, is a repulsive creed. It is a heart-withering
negation. It touches no sympathy; it stimulates no play of intellect;
under the deadly chill of its unlighted vacancy, imagination cannot
breathe. There is nothing about it refined, or subtle, or profound. It
is the barest and hardest form of infidelity, and has been professed
by the coarsest minds. It demands no effort to comprehend its one
universal negation and it taxes no skill to expound it. It is an arid
and barren, a cold and dreary, hypothesis, which no genius, not even
that of Lucretius, could make attractive. The old illustration is
conclusive as to its absurdity. It would be immensely less monstrous
to maintain that the Iliad, in its full perfection, might have been
the product of the "fortuitous concourse" of the letters of the Greek
alphabet, than that this infinitely wonderful and glorious universe
is the result of the "fortuitous concourse of atoms." Stark atheism,
therefore, however it may have flourished in the heartless and
hopeless France of a hundred years ago, was never likely to take root
in the soil of European scepticism as the alternative of Christianity.
In England it has had very few votaries. Nor has atheism, as such,
ever found favour in the land of Luther and Melancthon, the favourite
soil of mysticism and pietism. English deism and Scottish scepticism
did, indeed, produce potent effects in Germany a hundred years ago;
but the result was neither deism, nor such scepticism as that of Hume,
nor atheism, but a dreamy idealistic pantheism. And now Germany,
with a disastrous fidelity, by an infusion into our literature of
its pantheistic unbelief, has repaid to Britain the debt which it
contracted by its importation of English deism and Scottish scepticism.
At the present moment a pantheistic philosophy is the philosophy in
which unbelief for the most part invests itself in England.

Hence the task which falls to me to-day cannot but be felt by myself
to be one of very grave importance. I could unfeignedly have wished
that it had fallen into other and more competent hands. Perhaps,
however, I may venture to claim two qualifications which may, in some
measure, help to fit me for dealing with the subject on which I have
to speak. One is, that the subject of Pantheism is one which has much
and frequently exercised my thoughts for many years past, ever since I
learnt from the writings of Coleridge, Hare, and others the meaning
of what Hare spoke of as the "fascination of Pantheism;" ever since I
was led to the study of philosophy and its development, and especially
of the thoughts of the early Greek wrestlers with the mysteries of
being, of the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists, and of the modern thinkers
of Germany, who have filled with transcendental exhalations of verbal
dialectics the vacuum in speculation which had been created by the
destructive logic of Kant. The other qualification which I venture
to claim for my task to-day is that I have some knowledge of the
difficulties of thought and belief which may lead honest men to become
pantheists; that I understand the manner of thought of one who has
become entangled in the mazy coil of pantheistic reasonings; at all
events, that I know that honest searchers after truth may reluctantly
become intellectually pantheists, while yet their heart longs to
retain faith and worship towards a personal God. If, therefore, one
necessary condition of true success in argument is an intellectual
and, as far as possible, a moral sympathy with one's opponents, that
condition, I believe, is fulfilled in my case. And I cannot but think
that all Christian controversialists ought to feel a tender sympathy
towards honest thinkers who are involved in the bewildering confusions
of a philosophy which they do not love, even although they may, after
many a struggle and in sadness of heart, have succumbed at length to
Pantheism as the only conclusion of controversy in which they are able
to abide.

My subject to-day is not the history of Pantheism, but its principles.
The history could not be dealt with in one lecture; the principles, I
hope, may. And whatever may be the intellectual genesis, the descent
and derivation, or the special character, of any particular form of
Pantheism, all its forms will be found to coincide in certain respects.
The semi-Hegelian of Oxford, and the pantheist who falls back on the
lines of Mr. Herbert Spencer's speculations as his place of defence,
may both be regarded as standing on common ground for the purpose of my
present argument.

In attempting a criticism of the principles of Pantheism, the first
thing to be done is to obtain as clear an idea as possible of what
is to be understood by Pantheism, as distinguished from Theism on
the one hand, and from Atheism on the other. There can be no doubt
that the difficulties, both metaphysical and moral, which attach to
the conception of a personal God, the Creator and Governor of the
universe, have, more than any other cause, constrained thoughtful
men who have pondered the problem of the universe, to endeavour to
escape from their perplexities and bewilderments by taking refuge
in the notion of a diffused impersonal divinity. And it must be
confessed that these difficulties are so oppressive and so staggering
to our incompetent human reason, that they might well tempt the
mere reasoner, the mere logician, the mere metaphysician, to give up
faith in a personal God, if so to do were not really to involve one's
self in more than equivalent difficulties of the very same class,
besides many other difficulties, and in truth contradictions, both
intellectual and also moral, which are involved in the pantheistic
hypothesis. That the alternative is such as I have now stated, that
the pantheistic hypothesis is necessarily beset with such difficulties
and contradictions, will in part be shown by the inquiry which, as
I have intimated, must needs come first of all in the criticism I
am to attempt. An investigation of the meaning of Pantheism, of the
characteristic idea proper to the intermediate hypothesis which rejects
equally A-Theism and Theism, will open to view the metaphysical
difficulties and contradictions involved in the hypothesis. I shall
afterwards try to show the incompatibility of the principles of
Pantheism with the true principles of natural science. The moral
considerations belonging to the Christian controversy with Pantheism I
shall reserve till the final stage in my argument.

Pantheism agrees with atheism in its denial of a personal Deity. Its
divinity of the universe is a divinity without a will and without
conscious intelligence. In what respect, then, does Pantheism really
differ from atheism? If we eliminate from our idea of the divinity
of the universe all consciousness, all sympathy, all will, what
sort of a divinity remains, what sense of a present and real divine
power is left to the man that shrinks from atheism? Atheism denies
that in, or over, or with nature there is anything whatever besides
nature. Does not Pantheism do the very same? If not, what is there,
let the pantheist tell us, in nature besides nature? What sort of a
divinity is that which is separate from conscious intelligence and
from voluntary will or power? Is it said that though there be no Deity
in the universe, yet there is a harmony, a unity, an unfolding plan
and purpose, which must be recognised as transcending all limitation,
as unerring, inexhaustible, infinite, and therefore as divine? Let us
ask ourselves what unity that can be which is above mere nature, as
such, and yet stands in no relation to a personal Lord and Ruler of the
universe; what plan and purpose that can be which is the product of no
intelligence, which no mind ever planned; what infinite and unerring
harmony can mean, when there is no harmonist to inspire and regulate
the life and movement of the whole. Do not the points of distinction
which the pantheist makes between his philosophy and the bald tenets of
the atheist amount in effect to so many admissions that the facts of
the universe cannot be stated, that the phenomena of nature cannot be
described, with anything like fidelity or accuracy, without the use of
language such as has no real meaning unless it implies the existence
and operation throughout universal nature of a supreme actuative and
providential Mind and Will?

The least and lowest implication which is involved in Pantheism, the
most elementary idea which the word pantheism can be held to connote,
the barest _minimum_ of meaning which the creed of the pantheist can
be presumed to contain, is that there is in the whole of nature--in
this universe of being--a _divine unity_. Let us then look at this word
_unity_, and consider closely what it must mean.

Those who believe in a divine unity pervading all nature must imply
that in the midst of the infinite complexity and variety of the
universe there is everywhere to be recognised a grand law and order
of nature--a method, plan, and harmony in the great whole, which must
consequently be traceable through all the parts. But whose and whence
is this grand law? Is it indeed a reality? Are all things fitted to
each other, part to part, law to law, force to force, throughout the
infinite depths of microscopic disclosures, throughout the infinite
exuberance of nature's grandest provinces, throughout all space and
all duration? Do all things work to meet each other? Is every several
life-cell, each organic fibre, moving, tending, developing, making
escapes or overtures, as if a separate angel of unerring sympathy and
insight, of illimitable plastic skill and power, of creative energy
and perfect providence, inhabited, inspired, and actuated it? Is it so
that the man of science, who enters into communion with nature's actual
life, and movement, and purpose, seems to see and feel divinities,
unrestingly, unweariedly, in silent omnipotence, in infinite diffusion,
everywhere at work, so that the reverent inquirer and gazer to
whom this wondrous spectacle is unveiled, could almost, in his own
pantheistic sense, adopt the invocation of Coleridge, and address the
powers he sees at work in such words as these:

        "Spirits that hover o'er
        The immeasurable fount,
        Ebullient with creative Deity!
        _And ye of plastic power that interfused
        Roll through the grosser and material mass,
        In organising surge! Holies of God!
        (And what if Monads of the Infinite Mind?)_"

Is it so? I ask. Then, what does such a real harmony and such universal
correspondence and providence as this imply? Surely we must perforce
adopt one of two alternatives. If we refuse to believe in One Ruling,
Organizing, Creative Mind, One Living, Universal Mind and Will and
Providence, which works through all, we must endow each separate being,
or at least each form of life, with creative energy, illimitable and
all-answering sensibility and sympathy, unerring wisdom, and veritable
will. Nay, ultimately, as it seems to me, the alternative must be
between accepting the faith in an infinite God, and attributing to even
the particles of inorganic matter, amenable as these are to the laws
of gravitation and chemical combination, a wisdom, will, and power of
their own, the power of intelligence and of self-direction. As to what
are called the laws of gravitation and of chemical combination, we
know that a law, like "an idol," is "nothing in the world" but a name.
"There is no power but of God; the powers that be, are ordained of
God." A law is not a power; the laws of science do but define observed
methods of movement or forms of customary relation between thing and

Of one thing, at any rate, I think we may be sure, that a mere order
of nature, ascertained though it may have been by the truest and
surest induction, cannot have made and cannot sustain itself, cannot
be self-originated and self-impelled. So also it is certain that a
mere plastic universal power, apart from any creative or providential
mind, however its products might seem to imply intelligence, could be
animated by no conscious purpose, and could not be conceived as working
with blind automatic certainty conformably to a grand cosmical plan
or towards a providential end. And if the divinity of the pantheist
is nothing more than a personified law or order of nature, his
personification of this order or law can add nothing to its virtue
or potency, can by no means transform it from a phrase into a living
power, from a figure of speech into a real and intelligent force,
can never constitute it into a divinity. The more I reflect upon the
subject, the more assured the conclusion appears to be, that any
conception of a real unity in and of nature is self-contradictory and
unmeaning, except upon the assumption of a conscious and intelligent
Creator. The unity of nature, to a man who denies the existence of
a real God, cannot be a unity inherent in nature, cannot be a unity
according to which nature itself has been planned, and is really
working; it is an imputed unity, the conception of the pantheistic
philosopher's own mind. Unity, indeed, as apprehended by us--and it
can only be known through our apprehension of it--is essentially a
conception, a relative idea. If one could conceive nature as existing
destitute of a mind either to work on a plan, or to recognise a plan
in working, in such nature there could be no unity. Unity in action
implies a plan of voluntary working, and therefore a regulating mind.
Unity of conception and exposition implies an intelligent observer. The
unity of nature, if it be not the plan and work of the very God, can be
nothing more than a scheme and conception which has been invented and
imputed by man.

But perhaps it may be thought that the word unity, as used by
pantheists, should be understood rather as referring to the ultimate
oneness and identity of all force throughout the universe, than to
harmony of universal plan and purpose. Various as are the appearances
of nature, and the modes in which the laws of nature operate, it may
yet be set forth by the pantheist as his belief,--a belief, he will
say, which the modern advance of science tends continually to establish
as the true theory of the universe,--that all force is ultimately
one, that the different forces of nature are mutually convertible and
equivalent, that one energy of nature, Protean, universal, of infinite
plasticity and power of variation or adaptation, pervades and actuates
all things. It may be called gravitation, or electricity, or light, or
heat, or nervous energy, or vital force; but ultimately and essentially
it is one and the same; it is, to quote well-worn lines which will be
held here strictly to apply--

        "Changed thro' all, and yet in all the same."


        "Warms in the sun, refreshes in the breeze,
        Glows in the stars, and blossoms in the trees;
        Lives thro' all life, extends thro' all extent,
        Spreads undivided, operates unspent:
        Breathes in our soul, informs our mortal part,

       *       *       *       *       *

        To it no high, no low, no great, no small,
        It fills, it bounds, connects, and equals all."

Now if this be the pantheistic unity which is admitted by men who
deny a personal Deity, I will not stay to object that such a view is
hardly consistent with the essential distinction in nature which even
Professor Huxley and men of his school unwaveringly and powerfully
maintain, between inorganic matter and living forms. It is more to my
purpose to remark that it is much simpler and easier to believe in
a personal God, than in such an impersonal divinity as this Protean
Force. Every difficulty which belongs to the thought of God's existence
belongs to this also. This force must be self-originated, must have
been from everlasting, must be creative, omnipresent, providential,
equal to all plans, purposes, contrivances, inspirations, which have
been, or ever will be, in this dædalean and infinite universe; must be
the source of all intelligence, though itself unintelligent; of all
sympathy, although itself incapable of sympathy; must have formed the
eye, though it cannot see, and the ear, though it cannot hear; must
have blossomed and developed into personal intelligences, although
personal intelligence is a property which cannot be attributed to
it; must unquestionably be omniscient as well as omnipresent, or it
could not, in its infinite convertibility, anticipate all needs,
meet all demands, answer in absolute and universal harmony to every
faculty, capability, and tendency of all things that are and all
things that become. Now is it reasonable to object to the doctrine of
a personal Deity because of its inconceivability and its stupendous
difficulties, and yet to believe in such a primal, essential,
immaterial, creative, infinite, blind and unintelligent force as
this? Surely no contradiction could be greater. The conception of God
as from everlasting _is_ stupendous. But an infinite Protean Force
from everlasting, destitute of intelligence and will, yet continually
operative as the life, soul, wisdom, and providence, of all things, is
nothing less than contradictory and absurd.

I can come to no conclusion, accordingly, but that Pantheism really
only differs from atheism, in so far as it confesses that it is
impossible to speak with ordinary propriety, or in any such way as to
meet the necessities either of science itself or of the common sense
and feelings of mankind, without employing theistic language. It has
been said that hypocrisy is the homage which vice pays to virtue. So
a profession of Pantheism is the tribute of compliance at least in
speech, is the outward language of homage, which theism has power
to extort from atheism. "Pantheism," as is said by the author of
_Lothair_, "is but atheism _in domino_. Nothing," as the same writer
adds, "can surely be more monstrous than to represent a creator as
unconscious of creating."

Yes, Pantheism is but veiled atheism. Strip Pantheism of all
involutions of thought and all investitures of language, and in
its naked truth it stands forth as mere atheism. Every form which
Pantheism takes, every disguise which it assumes, to hide from itself
and from the world its real character, is a testimony borne by atheism
to the necessity which all men feel for assuming the existence of
Deity; What Robespierre is reported to have said with reference to
political government and national well-being, that if there were not
a God, it would be necessary to invent one, is felt by pantheistic
philosophers to be true in regard to nature. So monstrous a conception
is that of this universe without a governing mind; so clearly and
directly to the common sense of mankind do the infinite harmonies of
the universe seem to imply a designing and governing Intelligence; so
indubitably does the might and life of the universe, ever coming forth
anew, ever springing up afresh, ever unfolding and advancing, imply a
central living Power, One with the infinite governing Intelligence;
that pantheists, in order to speak and write intelligibly, are
compelled to invest nature with the qualities which they deny to the
Deity, to attribute a spirit and intelligence to the whole machine,
because they deny the existence of the great Mechanist; to personify
a harmony and unity which is but an abstraction, which, on their own
hypothesis, is but a grand accident, a result without a cause, because
they refuse to believe in a personal God.

I am very far indeed from wishing to come under the definition of
what Mr. Hutton has spoken of as the "Hard Church," or to carry my
positions merely by the use of the dilemma, yet I cannot refrain from
saying, parenthetically, that the argument of the dilemma, carefully
and truly applied, is not only always legitimate but often necessary,
and I must affirm that it applies very closely in the present instance.
The pantheist cannot maintain his position midway between atheism
and theism. If he absolutely refuses to be a theist, it is necessary
to show him that he will have to yield to the cruel necessity of
acknowledging himself to be an atheist. Standing midway, his position
is altogether untenable, from whichever side it is assailed. On the one
side, the pantheist is condemned by the same arguments which condemn
atheism; on the other side, the atheist may justly allege against
the position of the pantheist the self-same difficulties which both
pantheist and atheist urge against theism.

But if pantheism be in reality only atheism, I may henceforth
disregard the verbal distinction between the two, and bring forward
considerations and arguments which apply indifferently to either.
In pursuing the discussion I shall take up in detail some points of
argument already, as to their general scope, more or less distinctly
intimated in the preliminary considerations which I have advanced.

To explode any view of the world which excludes from it the presence
and government of a personal God, nothing more is needed than to
realize and truly understand the atheistic view in its various aspects.
Let us try the atheist's theory on the history of the universe, and see
whether it can be made to fit, or must be broken in the attempt to fit

The will and interference of God, as the Lord and Ruler of the
universe, is excluded. The universe is held to have been from the
beginning without a shaping and ruling intelligence and will. No
mind has presided over its destinies, has animated its energies; no
providence of Divine power and wisdom has guided its changes and
progress, has renewed and replenished and sustained it. It follows
that no power or will from beyond itself has ever touched the
universe. Its own unaided and unguided powers have done all. If the
universe did not make itself, it has developed itself: all that has
been, or is to be, was included potentially in that which was at the
beginning, and has unfolded in necessary order. The vision presented
is to certain minds very fascinating: it is a vision of vast unbroken
progress, of continual and infinite self-development. But let it
be worked out, and let us consider what it really means. Such an
hypothesis must lead us back, in the infinite dim distance of the
original and indistinguishable past, into a universe-mist of germinal
powers from which all has since developed.--But stay. Was this mist
and expanse of universal nature in its _origines_ all homogeneous
and at one stage of existence? Then I have to ask, whence came it?
What, going ever further and further back, where were the infinitely
earlier, fainter, evanishing entities or powers, into which infinite
creative force and potentiality was diffused? and what the one life
and grand harmony of influences and impulses, tending towards an
infinite goal of progress and perfection, which pervaded the whole?
What does all this mean? Is this easier, simpler, more rational, than
to believe in God from everlasting? Is anything gained in simplicity,
comprehensibility, probability, or in scientific character, by denying
that in the "increasing purpose" which "runs through the ages" there
is any guidance of a divine intelligence or working of a divine will;
and calling the whole process from first to last, from everlasting to
everlasting, "development"? What is this word development but a name?
Does the use of the word explain anything? Does the use of the word
reduce the mystery of the universe to the simplicity of an axiom? Does
the use of the word provide a simple equivalent for all that divine
wisdom, power, and providence, have ever been imagined to do for the
universe? Men call the mystery of being and becoming by the name of
development, and then say that all things are effected by development,
and that development explains all! Whereas this development of which
they talk so familiarly, as though they understood all its secrets, and
were privy to its infinitely various and mighty workings, and could
unfold its source and meaning, is itself all the time the very mystery
to be resolved and explained. Development is in truth as amazing and
incomprehensible a mystery as creation. It seems to be but another
word for creation. Only they who affect its use instead of the word
_creation_, insist upon creation without a creator. The unintelligent
and unconscious universe, on their view, is continually creating itself.

The hypothesis of development, however, is not only unintelligible and
utterly devoid of reality, when criticized in its general principle;
as might be expected, it altogether breaks down when it is tested
in detail. Professor Huxley's protoplasm breaks it down. All the
scientific evidence, as that eminent teacher of science showed at
Liverpool last autumn, is opposed to the idea that protoplasm was
developed out of inorganic matter. The hypothesis of spontaneous
life-generation appears to be exploded. Science, at any rate, on its
own positive principles, has no right whatever to pretend that life has
ever been developed out of what was not living. Here, then, a great
and, so far as science can help us to form a judgment, an altogether
impassable barrier rises to view against any development hypothesis. At
a certain stage in the history of the universe protoplasm, organized
life, made its appearance on the scene, starting up as a perfectly new,
an original, an undeveloped phenomenon. Before, all had been inorganic
and dead; now Life was abroad in the world, destined to increase and
multiply, and replenish the universe. Let those who deny divine and
creative will and government, inform us whence came this life. It was
not developed. Must it not have been created. If not, then whence, I
ask, whence did it spring?

The argument which I have just urged should, as I venture to think, be
conclusive even with those who know, and seek to know, nothing more
of science than the order and method of its phenomenal processes. I
will now bring forward a consideration which will, I hope, be admitted
to have weight by those men of science--it is to be greatly lamented
that there should be so few of these--who have studied the nature and
working of the mind as well as the phenomena of sense. We have seen
that protoplasm--that Life--was not developed out of inorganic matter,
but appears to have been an entirely new and primary fact on the face
of the universe. Life came in and appropriated, put to its own uses,
bound up under its own seal, impregnated with its own specific virtue,
the raw inorganic materials which it found in nature; but the power of
Life itself was altogether new. A fact in some sort analogous to this
confronts us in a higher sphere, in the sphere of living intelligence
itself. I refer to the emergence of personal consciousness among
the world of living creatures. To me it appears that the sense of
personality is an altogether new and original fact, one which cannot
be conceived as developed or developable out of any pre-existing
phenomena or conditions. Whence it comes, or how it arises, I know not.
But it appears to be, in and of itself, the assertion of an essential
separateness between One's Self and all phenomena, all constituents,
all conditions whatever. The sense of an I Myself, of Personality,
asserts an antithesis between the Man, and all that the Man uses, takes
up into his personality, makes his own. As Life binds up inorganic
matter under its seal, but is not developed out of inorganic matter, so
the voluntary and responsible Self binds up under the seal of its own
personality all that belongs to the manifold life of its complex being.
As life brings into the universe a new world of phenomena, higher and
more manifold than those of mere inorganic matter, yet embodying and
adopting these, so personality brings into the universe a new world
of vastly higher and rarer phenomena than those of mere vitality,
yet embodies and adopts these:--it introduces all that belongs to
reflection and morality, giving birth to an intelligence and a world
of thought, in which all the lower and anterior phenomena of the world
become matters of cognisance, and are mirrored as objects of thought.

As I venture to think that this sense of personality, with the new
world of reflective consciousness and morality which it brings in, is a
fact, starting up in the midst of a universe of anterior developments,
such as all Mr. Darwin's solvents utterly fail to touch, a phenomenon
which remains as far from explanation as before he wrote his last book,
so it appears to me that the power of human speech is another fact
starting up in the midst of the line of supposed developments which
no hypothesis of evolution can afford any help towards explaining.
Miraculously developed reason, something higher, as it seems to me,
than any development of human reason our race has, in its highest
culture, as yet put forth, must have been necessary in order to the
invention of language by any race even of the most sagacious mammals.
And yet, again, speech itself is a necessity, a necessary instrument,
in order to the high development of reason. We have some idea what
deaf mutes of our human family are like, when no painstaking and
kindly culture has been bestowed on their intelligence, and temper,
and affections, and conscience. Let us conceive the whole race of
man to be, and to have been from the beginning, not indeed deaf, but
congenitally and irreversibly dumb, with no more power of articulate
expression than a horse, or let us say, a dog. What would the
development of human reason have been under such conditions? How, then,
is it possible to conceive that the wondrous faculty and instrument
of speech was ever invented and perfected by mammals of infra-human
faculty and development, and that they were afterwards through this
invention developed yet more highly, until they attained to the dignity
and advancement of humanity? Such infra-human mammals must have been
more miraculously endowed in order to such an invention than ever man
himself has been.

After all that Mr. Darwin has written, does or can any reasonable
man or woman actually believe in the possibility,--_apart from the
Divine Power and Will and Guidance_,--for that is the point,--of the
self-development, the spontaneous upgrowth of articulate language?
Let us study our quadrupedal familiars, for the sake of illustration
and analogy. We see daily how our noble dogs strain and groan after
speech, do all but speak: we mark their eloquent looks, their speaking
gestures, their wonderfully expressive movements, how they watch us
speak, and seem as if they understood what speech is to us, and as if
they craved most longingly the power for themselves. We cannot but
sympathetically admire the intelligent, the benevolent, the noble, the
sagacious physiognomies which they show. If any creature ever could,
would, or did develop speech in any rudimentary form, are not they
just in the circumstances to do it? And when once rudimentally begun,
however uncouthly and imperfectly, should not their organs continually
improve by the continual effort and the increasing intelligence? Is it
not immensely less hard of belief, and less difficult to imagine, that
dogs should develop speech, than that man should have been developed
from the larvæ of the _ascidiæ_? Yet is there even a beginning made
towards the canine development of articulate language, or does any
living man believe that such a beginning ever could be made?

To me it appears that human speech and human personality are in some
way bound up with each other, that the one, in some sort, implies
the other, and that these two characteristics of our race present an
insuperable obstacle to the acceptance by really scientific thinkers
of any hypothesis of evolution which, leaving God out of nature, would
account for the whole existence and progress of the universe on the
principle of spontaneous development.

But again, let me be allowed to test the development hypothesis in
detail at another point. This hypothesis--and any pantheistic or
atheistic view of the universe which professes to be scientific--is
obliged to confess that all living beings, of whatever sort, have been
developed out of a single primary cell--called often a germ-cell--of
protoplasm. Here they find the beginning of every kind of life. The
plant, the animal, of every sort,--the lichen, the cedar, the sponge,
the bird, the mammal, the minutest entozoon, the most microscopic
infusorium, and man,--have been developed out of these primary
cells. What then do the same men who teach us this, find to be the
constitution of these same cells, when microscopically examined?
They find them to be, for the most part, and indeed always, if
allowance be made for very trivial exceptions, identically the same.
The matter is identically the same, the appearance identically the
same; no difference whatever of constitution, form, or properties,
is to be detected. They cannot tell whether the nettle, or the frog,
or the eagle, or the man, is to be developed out of any given cell:
for anything their science can teach them, any of these might be
developed, as they call it, out of any cell. But if this be so, is it
scientific, is it real or true, is it not altogether misleading, to
speak of _mere development_ in such a case? The flower may be said to
be developed out of the bud because the bud is the flower in miniature,
the flower is really folded up in the bud. But surely here is no
case of mere development; here is no unfolding out of the germ-cell
of what is potentially contained in the cell, regarded as a merely
material organism. Judged by every test of physical experiment, the
primary cells are identically the same; and yet they grow into forms
essentially and infinitely dissimilar. Does it not clearly appear that
here is a matter in which some power above and beyond the mere physical
constitution and nature of the primary cell must be admitted, on every
principle of science, on every ground of pure candour and truth, to
be of necessity present? Is it not evident that with each germ-cell
there must be associated some individual life-power which animates
the cell, which uses it as a unit to multiply, as a foundation to
build upon, which does build and weave and work into it and upon it
continually new material, which, for its own use in its work of weaving
and fabricating, and for the completion of its own distinctive form
and vehicle, takes toll of air and earth and water and heat-power--the
ancient elements--selecting out of them its appropriate pabulum,
in whatever chemical combinations of the primary elements known to
our modern scientific analysis may be fit and needful? Surely not
development, but life, the mystery of individual life, is here. And
if the philosopher will deny the omnipresent creative and sustaining
power of God, it appears to me that he must be prepared to animate
each germ-cell with an individual intelligence which works with divine
power, on a definite and most miraculous plan, and towards a distinct
goal of perfection. To call such various powers and processes, such
diverse and generically different operations, in every sphere of life,
by the same term, appears to me to be unscientific; to speak of them
all alike as processes of unfolding or development, when results the
most infinitely unlike and separate are obtained from beginnings
which are identically alike, appears to be not only unscientific but
altogether misleading.

I do not think it arrogant or unwarranted to conclude from such
considerations as I have been trying to set forth, that evolution,
or development, apart from the power and guidance of the Living God,
is an unphilosophical, an unscientific idea, an empty, an unmeaning
word. It is a thing of naught, utterly impotent to solve the mysteries
of the universe, even when expounded and reinforced by Mr. Darwin's
"Natural Selection." I have not a word to say here against the views of
Mr. Darwin, as defined and modified by the requirements of scientific
modesty and precision. If I had any pretensions to be called a student
of natural science, I should sit at the feet of Mr. Darwin when he
speaks, not as a philosophic theorist, but as a scientific observer
and a truly inductive naturalist. But I must say here in respect to
Natural Selection, regarded as, according to Mr. Darwin's hypothesis,
the handmaid of development, that, like development, it is but a
name, and not a power. It describes the order and mode according to
which Providence works; it is not itself a force--a working energy.
Mr. Darwin himself indeed often speaks as if Natural Selection were
itself a power and a providence. I find to my hand in Mr. Kingsley's
fine, suggestive paper on _The Natural Theology of the Future_,
recently published in _Macmillan's Magazine_, a sentence of Mr.
Darwin's in regard to Natural Selection which I will quote. "It may
be metaphorically said," writes Mr. Darwin, "that natural selection
is daily and hourly scrutinizing throughout the world every variation
even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding
up that which is good, silently and necessarily working whenever and
wherever opportunity offers at the improvement of every organic being."
"It may be metaphorically said," are Mr. Darwin's words. But in fact
he is using, not a metaphor, but a personification. The distinction
Mr. Darwin does not see. He repeatedly speaks of his personifications
as metaphors. But the distinction notwithstanding is most important.
By personifying Natural Selection Mr. Darwin makes it appear to be a
cause, attributes to it a real power, nay, wisdom and providence, as
well as power. He speaks in one place of "Nature's power of selection;"
contrasting this with the "powers of artificial selection exercised
by feeble man," by which, however, man can do so much; and arguing
that "Nature's power of selection" must be incomparably greater, and
competent to produce incomparably superior effects in respect of "the
beauty and infinite complexity of the co-adaptations between all
organic beings, one with another, and with their physical conditions
of life." Language of a similar sort he very frequently uses. He has,
therefore, as a scientific man laid himself open to the reproof of M.
Flourens, whom no one will deny to be a scientific critic. "Either,"
says M. Flourens, "Natural Selection is nothing, or it is nature, but
nature endowed with the attribute of selection--nature personified,
which is the last error of the last century; the nineteenth century has
done with personifications." The nineteenth century ought to have done
with personifications; but with the spirit of Lamarck's speculations
the style of the French atheistic philosophy of the last century

Mr. Darwin, in the passage quoted by Mr. Kingsley, describes the
manner in which his Natural Selection may be conceived as operating.
What, if his meaning were expressed with strict scientific truth, he
ought to intend to say, is that such as he describes is the result
of providential working according to the mode and order which he
designates by the phrase Natural Selection. "All we ask," says one of
Mr. Darwin's ablest critics, "is that we may be allowed to believe in a
God and a real Divine Providence, as powerful and wise and good as Mr.
Darwin's Natural Selection."

But, moreover, it must not be forgotten that there is something besides
the mere process of change and growth, of what our philosophers call
development, to be accounted for. There is a fact on which the growth,
the change, the evolution, must be held in a true sense to depend: a
prior fact to be taken account of. The growth proceeds upon a plan,
and fulfils an idea: protoplasm itself embodies a scientific principle.
But as the seal must be before the impression, the original before the
copy, so the principle must be before its embodiment, the plan and the
idea must be before the growth: the end, towards which as its goal the
growth or development proceeds, must have been conceived and set up
as an aim before its fulfilment began. We are bound therefore, if we
would exhaust the problem, nay, if we would truly conceive, and justly
state it, to ask how and whence the principle, the plan, the idea, the
end, had their existence? These are realities; they are the most inner
and essential realities in every instance of growth or development;
to deal only with the development of the physical basis, is to leave
untouched the kernel of the matter, is altogether superficial and
unreal. But principles, plans, types and ideas, ends contemplated in
movement and progress, these at any rate are not physical, are not
matters of sense and organization. They are, as I have said, prior to
what is physical, they are conditions antecedent to organization and
growth. Moreover, they are mental conceptions, not physical affections.
They are only possible, they have no meaning, except as the thoughts of
some mind. Here, then, we are brought back by an inevitable necessity
to an antecedent mind, the seat and origin of all the principles, the
plans the ideas, the ends, embodied in organized beings, and fulfilled
in their existence, growth, and perfection. In short, from whatever
side we contemplate the problems of nature, and whencesoever we take
our point of departure in their investigation, we find ourselves
brought face to face with creative mind. The things which are "seen and
temporal" lead us always inwards to "the things which are unseen and
eternal;" man and creaturely existence conduct us to the living God.

If any one would escape from the pressure of this argument by hardily
denying that living organization involves principle or plan, type or
idea, purpose or end, it can only follow that the living forms of the
universe are an infinite congeries of accidental combinations, that in
reality there are no such things as organs, that there can be no such
thing as development, and that there is no such thing as law. What men
call law is mere sequence that happens to follow regularly. The whole
universe has been constituted and regulated by the fortuitous concourse
of atoms. Against such a conclusion as this I do not need to argue. It
is the naked and repulsive atheism of which I spoke in the introduction
to this lecture. The line of argument which I have been pursuing seems
to force us to the conclusion that there is no logical resting-place
between such theism as Christianity teaches and such Democritean
atheism as that of which we have now had a glimpse.

But if this be so, it follows that it is impossible to deny design and
final causes in creation, and the sway and oversight of a universal
Divine Providence, the providence of a living God, except by denying
all law. To the Christian theist, science is living science indeed; to
the pantheist, no less than the atheist, science is hardly better than
a dead register. He may talk of the wisdom, the power, the order, the
benevolence, of nature. But such expressions on the lips of a pantheist
are utterly illusive. All the wisdom, all the marvellous adjustments
of nature, are but the happy conjunctures, the exquisite chance
unisons, of he knows not what. When lost in admiration of marvellous
organizations, complexly apt and beautiful contrivances, of what seem
like the most studied and beneficent provisions, the soul that is
beginning to glow with wonder at this seeming wisdom, and to swell with
thankfulness because of this seeming love, must be chilled into blank
confusion and amazement by the thought that there is no Being of Wisdom
and Benevolence Who is to be thanked and adored because of these His
marvellous works. Surely this is enough to darken the universe to the
explorer of nature's mysteries, and to fill his soul with perpetual
melancholy. Nor is it easy to understand how any man of true science,
any real inductive philosopher, who comes into contact with nature's
living processes and hears the perpetual whisper of her living voice,
can be ensnared into the acceptance of such a hard mystery of sceptical
belief as this.

Surely, then, on purely scientific grounds,--the grounds not only of
metaphysical but also of natural science, on every ground which can be
appealed to by high and pure philosophy, we are at liberty, I should
say we are bound, to reject the hypothesis which attempts to expound
nature and to solve its mysteries, without the admission of a divine
mind. Sense and matter and the observed order of phenomena do not
constitute the whole of our science. There are some words written by a
poet, too much neglected at the present time, which I cannot forbear
from quoting here.

        "How should matter occupy a charge
        Dull as it is, and satisfy a law,
        So vast in its demands, unless impelled
        To ceaseless service by a ceaseless force,
        And under pressure of some conscious cause?
        The Lord of all, Himself through all diffused,
        Sustains, and is the life of all that lives.
        Nature is but a name for an effect,
        Whose cause is God. He feeds the secret fire
        By which the mighty process is maintained,
        Who sleeps not, is not weary; in whose sight
        Slow circling ages are as transient days;
        Whose work is without labour; whose designs
        No flaw deforms, no difficulty thwarts;
        And whose beneficence no charge exhausts."

Surely, if I may here quote some words of Mr. Kingsley's in the
lecture to which I have already referred, this is what men of science
"are finding, more and more, below their facts, below all phenomena
which the scalpel and the microscope can show, a something nameless,
invisible, imponderable, yet seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent,
retreating before them deeper and deeper, the deeper they delve, that
which the old schoolmen called 'forma formativa,' the mystery of that
unknown and truly miraculous element in nature which is always escaping
them, though they cannot escape it, that of which it was written of
old, 'Whither shall I go from Thy presence, or whither shall I flee
from Thy Spirit?'"

The observations which I have thus far offered are directed wholly to
the philosophical and scientific aspect of the argument respecting
Pantheism. I cannot bring this lecture to an end without referring to
the moral branch of the argument. The existence of evil in the universe
is alleged as an argument against the existence of God and divine
government. Doubtless, the existence of evil is a painful mystery.
Many good Christians have felt it to be an oppressive and almost an
overwhelming mystery. It is one of the difficulties attendant on the
Christian's belief; it is, in fact, the one moral difficulty. But
difficulties and mysteries cannot annul the positive necessities of
thought and argument. If such arguments as I have endeavoured to state
make all science to be contradictory and unintelligible which speaks,
in one breath, of the laws and wisdom of nature, and, in the next,
denies the existence of a God, then we are bound to accept theism with
its inevitable consequences, notwithstanding the mysteries, whether
metaphysical or moral, which our faith may involve. Mysteries are not
contradictions, and, in whichever direction we move, we shall find it
impossible to escape from them. Mysteries surround the position of the
sceptic or the atheist, no less than that of the Christian theist;
not only mysteries, but, as we have seen, contradictions, beset him
round, in whichever direction he turns. The Christian theist, by his
faith in God, accepts the mysteries which are involved in the thought
of God, but, unlike the unbeliever, he escapes from contradictions and
absurdities. It appears that the morality of man--his great glory--that
his sense of responsibility and of voluntary moral power, that which
most peculiarly constitutes him man, involves the law of moral
influence as between man and man. It appears further that the power
and faculty of moral influence for good must needs involve the law of
moral influence for evil. From the fact of man's own moral nature and
moral responsibility, and the consequent fact of his moral influence
over his fellow-men, is derived, not only the possibility of moral evil
in the case of a solitary individual, but the possibility, perhaps
I may say the naturalness, the probability, of a contagion of moral
evil spreading throughout the race, the effect of which can only be
counteracted or limited by moral arrangements and influences specially
constituted for that end. So much I may perhaps say in general,
although the subject is one on which I think it wiser, as a rule, to
say nothing. I feel it to be a profound and perilous mystery, however
gloriously it may have been made the occasion for the manifestation in
Christ Jesus our Lord of the Divine superabounding wisdom, mercy, and
power. But if we admit the subject to be involved in profound, even
terrible mystery, is that a reason why, making shipwreck at one plunge
of all that belongs to humanity, faith and hope and philosophy should
commit suicide, and descend together into the gulf of everlasting
darkness and despair! Reason may reel and grow dizzy while it looks too
long and too absorbedly down the fearful and fathomless depths of the
mystery of sin, but that is no sufficient cause why reason should cast
itself headlong into the abyss.

Pantheism has only one way in which to escape from the mystery of
evil, and that is to deny all distinction between right and wrong,
between moral good and moral evil. Of course there can be no such thing
as sin for the pantheist, because all, according to his creed, is
nature and development and necessity. Holiness is a matter of taste or
sentiment. Conscience is an illusive development; what we regard as
divine morality is but utilitarianism sentimentalized and exalted into
sacred law under the influence of unenlightened impulse and antique
superstition, a mere affair of the association of ideas which science
will some day explain away. The ontology and ethics of Pantheism may be
summed up in one sentence, "Whatever is, is; and there is neither right
nor wrong, but all is fate and nature." Pantheism--I say Pantheism just
as truly and completely as atheism, for the difference between the
two, as we have seen, is but one of name and phrase, and both alike
deny God and conscience--Pantheism thus does cruel violence to every
better instinct of our nature, outrages all the demands of religion and
government, whether human or divine, and makes itself the direst foe of
human progress and well-being. Many pantheists, doubtless, have been
and are virtuous, even noble, men; some, I am prepared to believe, may
even, in a certain sense, be religious men. But the direct tendency
of the pantheistic philosophy is confessedly what I have now stated.
When moral and pure, its pure morality can be nothing more, at least in
theory, than a refined utilitarianism. Only as such can any pantheist
pretend to impose morality as law.

To sum up, may I not say that Pantheism, whether in its metaphysical or
its moral aspect, is the dream of men who will not admit that there is
in the universe anything beyond what their senses immediately reveal
to them? Its philosophy was represented in the last century in its
lower and more popular form by Condorcet; the basis of whose system was
laid in the principle, "penser c'est sentir,"--thought is nothing more
than sense or feeling; in its higher and more intellectual form it was
represented by the sceptical sense-idealism of Hume. At the present day
Bain and Mill have endeavoured to develop the principle of Condorcet
in harmony with the higher and more subtle philosophy of Hume. The
result appears to be a sort of nihilistic sense-idealism. Matter is
probably nothing different from our mental ideas--so far Berkeley, no
less than Hume, is followed; our ideas, however developed, are yet
essentially only the combination and interfusion of our sensations
and sense-associations; meantime there is no evidence of the real and
substantial existence either of the world outside us, or of ourselves
as true and separate selves or persons, or of God. Such at least would
seem to be the metaphysics of the distinctively _English_ school of
Pantheism, _i.e._, of Pantheism rendered into philosophic system by
the English mind. The German Pantheism has _infected_ the _tendencies_
of English thought and criticism, but, notwithstanding the influence
of Hegel at Oxford, has not been reproduced in any English system of
egoistic Pantheism. In their aspects and results, in relation to
theism and Christian faith, the German egoistic Pantheism and the
English sense-idealistic Pantheism strictly coincide.

Such then is the highest philosophy to-day of those who, refusing to
be called atheists, nevertheless reject all faith in God; of those
who, rejecting Christian theism, claim to be positively neither more
nor less than the men of science. Men of science though they be,
their philosophy is the philosophy of nescience and the philosophy
of despair. We need be under no apprehension that such a philosophy
will ever be generally accepted. It is too strong, too sorrowful, too
nauseous a composition to suit the common taste. It not only dissolves
morality and its foundations, but it precludes all hope of immortality.
The race indeed may be immortal and progressively great and glorious,
although how even so much can be known is more than I can see; but the
individual man by man, woman by woman, child by child, perishes each
one for ever. Men and women with yearning, loving hearts, with tender
and passionate affections, who have buried their dead out of their
sight, and who could not endure to live if they were doomed to sorrow
without hope, cannot but reject with loathing and horror such doctrines
as these. Men of various culture, of manifold intellectual resources,
who live in the midst of refined and accomplished society, and who are
not suffering from the pang of immedicable anguish and irreparable
bereavement, may possibly live so merely intellectual and speculative
a life, may be so wholly absorbed in mere science, may have so far
separated themselves from all that belongs to the heart's affections
and the trembling religious sensibilities of human nature, as to adopt
the philosophy of nihilism with hardy calmness, although I confess
that it passes my power to understand or conceive this; such men may
be content to follow their speculative conclusions into the "blackness
of darkness" for ever, and may thus, if not less, be more than the
common crowd of humanity. But such a philosophy will not content
those who share the ordinary wants and sensibilities of our race. The
working, sorrowing, loving, hoping men and women of this human race
will no more be able to satisfy themselves with any atheistic or, if
any should prefer so to call it, pantheistic philosophy, than they can
"feast upon the east wind." They will cleave to that Christian truth
and faith which has "brought life and immortality to light," and which,
in "showing" to the craving heart of needy, sorrowing, sinful man "the
Father" reconciled in Christ, has blessedly "sufficed" a longing world.

Indeed, it would seem that, when, it comes to the point, even
distinguished leaders in the ranks of those against whose views I have
been arguing, find it impossible to give up their faith, at least in
immortality. Rénan is unquestionably one of the most distinguished
leaders among those men of learning and culture who deny the existence
of a creative will and Personal God. Yet Rénan cannot make up his mind
that he has lost for ever his beloved sister; that she has passed
into the night of nothingness into which he must soon follow her. In
the dedication to her memory of his "Life of Jesus," he addresses an
invocation to "the pure soul of his sister Henriette, who died at
Byblos, Sept. 24th, 1861;" and appeals to her "to reveal to him, from
the bosom of God in which she rests, those truths which are mightier
than death, and take away the fear of death."

Rénan, then, after all, cannot give up his sister, nor, if it were
only for her sake, his belief in immortality. And yet how utterly
unscientific is such a belief, if science is to be defined and limited
in accordance with the principles of the anti-theistic philosophy.
Where can our men of mere sense-science find any physical basis of
immortality? There is no hope, no instinct or faith, at once so
indissolubly bound up with our nature, so necessary to the development
of all that is best in man, and so utterly destitute of evidence and
basis in merely natural science, as our assurance of immortality. If
we are to retain our belief in immortality, we must maintain our faith
in realities above and apart from sense, in realities which cannot
be tested or investigated by any appliances of natural science. If
immortality be true, Pantheism cannot be true.

What, then, have we found respecting the seductive and too fashionable
illusion which has led astray so many minds, especially of speculative,
restless, and daring intelligence, in the present age? We have found
that Pantheism is essentially only atheism in disguise, and occupies
a position in which it combines against itself the arguments which
theists have to allege against atheism, and atheists against theism;
that, while it dethrones the true God, it sets up in His place
Development and Natural Selection as its divinities, clothing them
with the attributes which it denies to deity; that its development
hypothesis will not bear the test of science, of the natural science
to which it professes to appeal; that the origin of protoplasm, the
attributes of man, and the growth and transformation of germ-cells,
alike refuse to accord with the hypothesis; that the very nature of
science itself, as recognizing law and organization, is incompatible
with any philosophy which denies theism; that the moral difficulties
which rise up as a barrier against a denial of the Christian theism
are no less insurmountable than the metaphysical and scientific
difficulties; that morality, conscience, natural affection, immortal
hope, every deepest, most tender and sacred, most blessed and
humanising, instinct of our nature is violated by the denial of a
personal and holy God and Judge; in a word, that our whole humanity
revolts against it.

May I venture to hope that the views which I have now endeavoured to
set forth may have some weight with young and inquiring spirits? No
more terrible suffering can there be, than for an honest, loving, and
virtuous nature to become involved in the meshes of pantheistic doubt
and unbelief. We must make up our minds to bear with many profound and
painful mysteries which are not to be solved by man; but may the good
Spirit of God save us each and all from losing our childlike faith in
His almighty, omnipresent, and absolutely good and holy government and


    BY THE

    REV. W. JACKSON, M.A., F.S.A.,



Everybody in this room has, I suppose, heard of the "positive"
sciences, or "Positivism" in some shape or other.

What does "Positivism" mean?

A system based on _positive_ facts. But what are facts? They are (says
the Positivist) observed phenomena. As for metaphysical conceptions of
all sorts, these are _negatives_ with nothing real, nothing positively
true in them. Truth must be sought amongst observed phenomena.

It is worth our while to examine this last proposition. Take a
"_phenomenon_." You have all observed colour,--what is it?

A physicist, if you ask him, will tell you of a modification in a
ray of light variously produced--by refraction, for example--as when
sunlight breaks a dark cloud into many-tinted beauty. But how if all
the world of men and animals were blind?

The physiologist will step in and speak to you of the structure of the
eye--the susceptibility of its retina for special impressions; there he
says you may find colour.

Put both accounts together, and they appear as part-causes, each
a factor helping to make up a result; which result physicist and
physiologist would agree to call colour.

Yet again: Suppose the human and animal world were deprived of all
consciousness, all which in the widest meaning we call mind--their eyes
remaining like mirrors, telescopes, microscopes; perfect instruments,
only every kind of intelligence, instinctive or rational, gone. Where
would colour then be? The sun might play upon cloud or rain, the light
of a rainbow be reflected in the eye. Were there but perceiving mind,
the impression would exist. But we are supposing the impressible to
be wanting; there is no sensation, no percipient; colour must remain
unknown, for there is nothing capable of observing it.

Now this shows you, first, how important it is to emphasize the word
_observed_ added to phenomenon. It shows you, secondly, _where_
the ultimate seat of every observation really lies; each observed
phenomenon, each positive fact, is at last neither more nor less than
a mental state. The evidence for each fact is the condition of your
own mind, your consciousness as it is called. You may sift the thing
witnessed, verify, examine, and cross-examine; but after all, your own
consciousness is the first real evidence you have got.

It would seem, then, that the most positive of all sciences would be
the science of mind; and the next most positive the sciences which
enable us to draw conclusions from our positively existing mental
states; the statements, we may call them, which our minds make to
us. Yet, strange to say, the very first thing Positivism does is to
dispense with a science of mind, as mind, altogether. Mr. Mill makes
it a severe reproach against Comte, that he ignores both psychology
and logic; recognizes no power in the mind, even of self-observation;
accepts no theory even of the inductive process. Mr. Mill characterises
Comte's want of mental science as "a grave aberration."[12] It is
indeed so. This appears plainly enough in the example just adduced
from our commonest sensation, the every-day phenomenon of colour.
It was made up, you saw, of three factors, a physical antecedent, a
condition of the sensitive apparatus, and a mind which received into
its consciousness the impression instrumentally conveyed to it. This
last, you will remember, was the _first_ fact to us. It is _the_ fact:
the revelation of an outward world, its changes and its continuing
presence, its rest and its constant motion. Without this fact of inward
consciousness, nature would have possessed no more significance than
pictures seen in the eyes of the newly dead.

Such being the case, it needs no argument to show the importance
of making quite sure that our interpretation of nature is correct.
If there be any unobserved illusion in our sensory instruments, or
what must evidently be much worse, in our percipient mind, truth is
at an end, and falsehood received in its stead. Hence the necessity
of observing our own observations, subjecting our consciousness to
scrutiny, and being acquainted with the criteria, not only of our
perceptions, but of our judgments. It is this process of analysis and
criticism which forms a large part of the method of verification,--a
method the value of which did not escape the great Greek philosophers,
though some recent writers seem to fancy it a modern discovery.

Inexperienced observers are often so little aware of the pre-eminent
importance of this critical process, that I will detain you with an
illustration of it for the benefit of my younger auditors. My example
shall be taken from perception _par excellence_--our eyesight, _the_
sense pronounced surest both in poetry and prose. You will remember
your Horace

        Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem,
        Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, et quæ
        Ipse sibi tradit spectator.

And almost everybody else has said the same, as witness the old
proverb, "Seeing is believing." Now I will mention five instances in
which people believe they see something, and do not see it; in other
words, the objective antecedent is wanting, and the impression is
produced partly by the sensory apparatus, partly by the mind itself. As
I describe these instances one by one, let my hearers ask themselves,
How does this illusion come about? Is it produced by our optic
instrument or by our mental activity?

First, then, Take a lighted stick, and whirl it rapidly round and
round. You believe you see a circle of sparks--in reality it is no more
than a simple train, and on a like illusion the Catherine-wheel is
constructed. Again, put yourself in the hands of an optically inclined
friend, and let him operate upon you thus. He shall place a cardboard
down the middle axis of your face, quite close against your nose--one
side of his board, say the right, coloured a brilliant red, the left
a vivid green. After an instant or two let him suddenly substitute
another board, white on both sides. Do my young friends guess what will
follow? Your right eye will see green, your left red--the reverse of
what they saw before; yet neither will see correctly, for both eyes are
looking at uncoloured surfaces.

Thirdly, Watch the full moon rising--how large and round she looks,
resting as it were upon that eastern hill, and seen amidst the tops
of its forest trees! How much larger and broader than when she hangs
aloft in upper sky! Has every one here learned the true reason why?
If not, look at her through a slit in a card, and her diameter will be
the same. Fourthly, A schoolboy is crossing his bedroom in the deep
dark night, anxiously hoping that his head may not come into collision
with the bed-post. Though carefully and successfully avoiding it, he
imagines of a sudden that the blow is imminent. Quick as thought he
stops to save his head, and, behold, the room is as quickly filled
with sparks or flames of fire. Another moment, and all becomes dark
once more. I have heard many a schoolboy exclaim over this phenomenon,
but never knew one who could explain it. Finally, did you ever, on
opening your eyes in a morning, close them quickly again, and keep them
shut, directing them as if to look straight forwards? Most persons of
active nervous power, after a few trials--say a dozen, or a score--are
surprised to see colours appear and flit before the sight. Some years
ago, Germany's greatest poet tried, at the suggestion of her greatest
physiologist, a series of experiments on these coloured images. He
found that by an effort of will he could cause them to come and go,
govern their movement, march, and succession. And this took place
under no conditions of impaired sensation, nor any hallucination of a
diseased mind. A thoroughly healthy will succeeded in impressing itself
upon physical instruments, controlling their law, and creating at its
own pleasure an unfailingly bright phantasmagoria.

Some here may, others may not, have apprehended the distinctions
between our five cases. The first two are due to the sensory apparatus,
its optical laws of continued impression and complementary colour.
In the latter three, mind intervenes. The enlarged size of the moon
occurs through rapid comparison, the fiery lights in a dark room
through instinctive apprehension, both influences of mind on the
sensory system. The fifth and most interesting of all is no bad
example of interference between moral and material law. The will truly
causative (you may remark) overrules the natural process of physical
impression, alters it, and creates a designed effect. I wish I could
induce my young friends to devise a number of experiments on similar
mixed cases, and, having tried them, to dissect out their real laws.
These sharpenings of the critical faculty are exceedingly useful--they
cultivate clearness; and most people know that two-thirds among our
mistakes in life are caused by confusion of thought.

Besides all other uses, such lessons teach at once the necessity, as
we said before, of observing your own observations. And as, first, the
real witness of every observation is our mind; every fact[168] which
comes through our bodily senses being to us a mental impression, it
seems but common sense to hear above all things what mind has to say
for and about itself. Then, secondly, where would be the benefit
derived from our observations, if we could not reason upon them,
or could place no confidence in our own reasonings? Yet the art of
reasoning is so purely a mental process, that it can be represented by
symbols as abstract and free from material meaning as if they were bare
algebraic signs. Thirdly, in the most accurate of sciences mind extends
our knowledge far beyond the circle of observation, and gives us
axiomatic assurance of its own accuracy. Who ever saw, or ever can see,
all straight lines in all conceivable positions, yet who doubts that
throughout the whole universe no two straight lines ever did inclose or
can inclose a space? And, fourthly, can it be a matter of indifference
to any of us what evidence the mind offers concerning its own moral
nature, and what is the value of that evidence, and the laws deducible
therefrom? How true it thus appears that "know thyself" lies at the
root of all knowledge, and that the man who receives no witness from
within can know nothing as he ought to know it!

Comte swept away all these and the like considerations by a neat little
fiction of his own. We cannot observe ourselves observing, he said, we
cannot observe ourselves reasoning. So, then, logic becomes a chimera,
and psychology a word of contempt. Respecting this fallacy, Mr. Mill
thinks the only wonder is that it should impose on any one. Clearly
it imposed on Comte himself. But, "what organon," asks Mill, "for
the study of our moral and intellectual functions does M. Comte offer
in lieu of the direct mental observation which he repudiates? We are
almost ashamed to say it is phrenology!" Mill regards this statement
as a _reductio ad absurdum_, but the actual organon substituted is
more absurd still. Comte's phrenology was not the phrenology of Gall
or Spurzheim, but a funny small bantling of his own, a sort of "infant
phenomenon," called into existence not without a Positive purpose. In
plain words, mind was no longer to give evidence respecting itself. We
must study its laws in brain. How any true correspondence of brain and
mind could be known unless both were studied, does not appear. Comte
overlooked the question in his anxiety to substitute for psychology and
its laws a bodily function and _its_ laws. Yet his motive appears to
have been excellent! He regarded this dwarfed superficial phrenology,
Mr. Mill tells us, "as extricating the mental study of man from the
metaphysical stage, and elevating it to the positive." The chief gist
of which sentence, bewildering to the uninitiated, opens up the very
core and centre of the Positive system--a subject for dissection of
some considerable human interest.

Each science is brought into the positive stage when it is co-ordinated
according to positive laws--"systematized," Comte would say. He has
a perfect mania for systematization; system is with him almost an
equivalent for truth. Of course, the real value of every system turns
entirely on its co-ordinating method, or principle of formation; and
Comte's, we see, was one of positive laws. The nature of these laws is,
therefore, the essence and turning-point of the whole matter. I cannot
impress upon you too strongly the paramount importance of keeping this
truth steadily in view.

But if any one inquires exactly what these laws are, he asks, I fear,
a puzzling question. Puzzling, for this reason that, say what one
will--employ any words, however carefully selected--one may become
liable to the charge of raising a false impression. Positivist _savans_
themselves do not use any uniform phraseology, and many phrases they
do use are necessarily derived from philosophies most disedifying to
Positive ears.

Examples showing what sort of law is really meant are therefore always
welcome; and few could be more instructive than this way of making
mind Positive. Comte did not falter in his purpose. Later on he
explained the necessity (for his system, you understand) of bringing
our intellectual and moral phenomena under the same law with other
phenomena of animal life; and reduced them, not to brain action pure
and simple, but to cerebral functions, controlled by the viscera and
vegetative movements of our bodily existence.

Let us look at the meaning of all this. Soul used to be conceived of
as different in _kind_ from body. The brain, the nervous system, the
body, were its organs, allies, machines. Sometimes they, especially the
instruments through which the soul more immediately works, exercised
reaction on their sovereign employer; they impeded or suspended her
functions, and troubled her serenity. But though they might cloud the
manifestation, they could not destroy the essence of a living soul.
What they did was temporal and transitory; but they shall pass away and
be dissolved, while soul will endure for ever.

The word mind has been much used to signify soul, as acting in and
through body. There is, however, some vagueness in its employment. Yet
we constantly speak of the laws of mind, because soul is in this life
the partner of body; and therefore known to us as mind, and _as_ mind
is studied through its laws. One psychological task has always been to
separate the pure activity of soul from the mixed workings of mind, by
examination and cross-examination of our internal consciousness.

You will now easily understand how vast the change Comte intended by
his physiological organon for the study of our moral and intellectual
functions. You will see what is meant by elevating mental science
to the Positive stage, and systematizing it under laws which people
may variously describe as phenomenal, mechanical, or material;
adjectives all roughly used to express the same general idea. What we
took for a spiritual essence is only a developed animal nature, the
difference between men and beasts of the field is not one of _kind_,
but of degree. ManKIND is a misnomer. Humanity is (as Comte thought)
a higher degree of animality. We have no right to suppose a personal
immortality. Man may be said to live after death in the memory of his
fellow-men, but the truly Positive philosopher believes in no other
deathless existence. What we really can see and investigate is a vast
moving mechanism, _our_ universe. Beyond this all knowledge is a blank.
We know of nothing which set this mechanism in motion; it may have
moved from all eternity; it may go on moving everlastingly; or it may
wear itself out. Philosophy can teach us no more than distinctions
and degrees in the phenomenal law which pervades and rules a universe
without a God.

Yet Comte said that he was no Atheist. He even denounced Atheism, and
declared it as bad as theology. He did not wish to deny, only to ignore
God. Neither did he desire to appear ungrateful; (pardon words which
sound in your ears profanity;) God was a really useful hypothesis once;
in the days when men had recently issued from their primæval forests.
Thanking the Deity for His provisional services, Comte courteously
dismissed Him from His throne.

All this will have seemed to you a most monstrous tissue of negations.
But Comte held it to be a code of Positive faith; a faith firmly
grounded on the self-sufficingness of human nature, read according to
his version of course--void of belief in a personality which survives
the grave, without knowledge of, trust in, or prayer to God. The
blessings of this advanced faith he desired to extend far and wide.
At the present moment his desire is realizing itself; for the like
attitude of thought has become a favourite position among the _savans_
of our Western world. When it penetrates the more active classes, we
shall discern it easily by its _fruits_! what those fruits will be, is
a question for statesmen and for us all.

The chief hindrance opposing its spread amongst unsophisticated minds
has been a point much dwelt upon of old by Plato, and by Cicero after
him. It is the protest which that irrepressible entity called soul
perseveres in alleging. We are all apt to shrink from the picture of
bodily dissolution:

        "To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
        This sensible warm motion to become
        A kneaded clod!"

But what if the "delighted spirit" has been developed by brain, and
with brain must be dissolved? Our whole distinctive human life,
our mind, moral, intellectual, spiritual, rebels against a doom
of subjection to that crass material law! Yet can we establish a
difference? Can we show that the law of our true being differs from the
law of things outside us?

This question, unspeakably interesting to every one of us, might be
put in various shapes. We might ask, Can the protest of soul be set
down as a mere sentiment only? If it were no more than an instinct of
our nature, it would deserve consideration; for why should so high and
noble an instinct be aimless and misleading? If we cannot trust our own
souls, what are we to trust? Phenomena themselves are given us within.
Mathematical truths, which Positivists are obliged to exempt from
phenomenal law, have a subjective validity--we cannot help thinking
them, and we cannot think their contradictories.

But suppose that a future state of recompence with its
inferential moralities cannot be denied without denying our own
consciousness--pronouncing the clearest of our intuitions a will o'
the wisp--or, sadder still, a corpse light on the grave of hope--nay,
more, without subverting the law which makes human society to differ
from animal gregariousness, and gives to human action its spring, its
liberty, its life--suppose all this true, what shall, what can we say?
And such is the issue I propose to try this morning.

The plan I have devised for trying it fairly is, first, to get as
clear an idea as short compass will allow of what Positivism says
on our question. Afterwards to state a case for moral law by way of
antithesis. It is through the law of our moral being that we may most
readily look for something to difference our souls from creatures below
them. The strain I shall have to put on your attention lies in this;
after grasping in brief the Positivist attitude, I must ask that you
will not take my facts or arguments on trust, but will verify each
severally by an appeal to your own consciousness. It is always upon the
law deduced from or applied to facts that you ought to exercise your
greatest vigilance. For law interprets facts to us--we might almost say
that under its manipulation they bend like a nose of wax; nothing, you
will remember, so flexible as figures, except facts.

Let me represent these maxims to you under a similitude. Everybody has
looked (when young at least) through a kaleidoscope, and has observed
the beauty of its many-coloured figures, their symmetrical shapes,
and the enchantment of their succession. What magic creates this
phantasmagoria? Some pretty bits of coloured glass, shining gewgaws,
scraps of lace, fripperies, and other odds and ends, are put into a
translucent box, and beheld through a tube fitted with mirrors which
are set at an angle determined by optical law. The broken knick-knacks
represent the facts of everybody's phenomenal kaleidoscope; the
reflecting angle under which they are seen is its law; the coloured
images are everybody's impressions of things, nature, and mankind.
As long as you live, remember that whenever you are contemplating
the world's phenomena--whenever you see facts of life, either great
or small, you are looking at them through some optical instrument or
another. If its law accords with their law, your view is truthful;
but then it will be all the less pretty, the less symmetrical. There
are dark spots in our real world, checks of all sorts, moral evil,
anguish of heart and conscience, foresights, stern accountabilities!
You have lost your childhood's magic glass, and have got a clear
reflecting telescope in its stead! Pity to forego the nice kaleidoscope
where all was so bright, so harmonious, and arrayed in such regular
shapes. Yet the view it gave was worth what most people's views are
worth--precisely nothing!

Comte had his kaleidoscope. Every systematizer who allows no mystery,
no darkness anywhere, must keep the article; in point of fact, most
people enjoy having one. Alas! for the 19th century! It has such a
feverish viewiness, such a fashion of incessantly turning its magic
tube, that life seems little else than a dreamy phantasmagoria!
To construct a steady reflecting instrument for yourself requires
industry, time, and thought, three things which few people care to
bestow upon their beliefs. Therefore the practice is to pick up
kaleidoscopes ready-made at a cheap rate, and to feel as easy as stern
realities will permit on the subject of their truthfulness. Romances
are the kaleidoscopes of one class, cram-books of a second, newspapers
of a third, self-love the optical law of the greatest number. We are
met this morning to break up a grand kaleidoscope, and to look into its
construction. I shall do my endeavour to prevent you all from replacing
it by any instrument of a ready-made sort. The easiest plan for all
lecturers is to display a series of transparent conclusions; but I
shall prefer furnishing you with facts and arguments, letting you put
them together, look at them, and verify their law of true vision for

Let us see Comte's law first. It was, strictly speaking, a law of
succession and resemblance. You will guess at once that were this
all we could see in the phenomenal world, our insight would be very
limited. And Comte's object was to limit us. We can never know,
Positively speaking, final causes; those which make up the common
notion of design, purpose, intention. Nor yet any efficient causes;
nothing truly productive of an effect, as men usually say. All we can
know is the middle of a chain of successive phenomena. The two ends are
absolutely hidden from our eyes. It was in this sense that Comte denied
causation--his language was vigorous; he denounced it as metaphysical,
and when Comte nicknames anything metaphysical or theological, he
means, as everybody knows, Anathema maranatha.

The difficulty here is palpable. A law of averages--a statistical law,
as it is often called, does not profess to account for anything; it
merely generalizes crude material, and gets it ready for scientific
thought to work out the true law. But a law of succession has an
imposing sound, and it does in the worst sense impose. The fallacy may
be shown in an instant. Day and night succeed each other regularly.
Does either _account_ for the other? The rotation of the earth is
simultaneous with both--it accounts for both. Its effect is to expose
the earth's two hemispheres alternately to the sun's rays. This
rotation coincides again with other laws of our planetary system, and
they account for it. It is on these laws, and not on such grounds as
Hume, Comte's great Positive antecedent, alleged, that we look for
sunset and sunrise. When they fail, the system of which our globe forms
part will have collapsed.

Such then was the original kaleidoscope of Positivism. It was condemned
for reasons which will have plainly appeared to you. Other eyes have
swept the field of vision this world offers, and other instruments to
aid our insight have been adopted.

You will not have failed already to remark the extreme vagueness of
that word "law." There are very few English words more vague: it
is applied to almost every sort of formula, force, principle, idea;
besides being misused in ways almost innumerable. You must therefore,
when busy with questions like the present, fix your attention upon
the adjectives added to it, and the examples selected by way of

The Positive system is, according to Littré, of immeasurable extent,
embracing the whole universe. Thus, whatever was conceived in dark
preparatory ages, theological or metaphysical; whatsoever persons, who
philosophize in either of those antiquated ways may even now dream;--if
the conception cannot be reduced under Positive laws, it must be
regarded as non-existent. All that really exists is included within
such laws, the definition of which, therefore, becomes a subject of
the greatest possible importance. They are, he says, immanent causes.
The room we are in contains intelligent and educated people, but how
many here could define this word "immanent"? It and its correlative,
transcendent, are in truth metaphysical terms. If you will turn to
Mellin's Encyclopædic Word-Book (favourably known to metaphysicians for
purposes of pillage), you will find _immanent_ explained, under the
German _einheimisch_, into ten shades of usage. Probably, in common
English Littré might have said "inherent." "The universe," he writes,
"now appears to us as a whole, having its causes within itself,
causes which we name its laws. The long conflict between immanence
and transcendence is touching its close. Transcendence is theology or
metaphysic, explaining the universe by causes outside it; immanence is
science, explaining the universe by causes within itself."[13] Now,
one stock-in-trade example is that a stone falls to the ground by
virtue of an immanent cause. In plainer words, the stone belongs to
universal matter of which gravity is an inherent law. Next, we find
this same example Positively applied to the human will. Volition is
free just as a falling stone is free; it obeys its own inherent law.
Further, we read of "the rigorous fatalities which make the world
what it is." Comte, Littré, and others object against calling these
fatalities materialistic, because they distinguish gradations of law.
Yet they limit all human knowledge within the materialistic circle,
and Janet, who refuses to acquit them of Materialism, dwells on the
point that, instead of defining mind as an unknown cause of thought,
emotion, and will, it is said to be, "when anatomically considered,
the sum of the functions of brain and spinal cord; and when considered
physiologically, the sum of the functions of brain in consciously
receiving impressions."[14] We need not wish to dispute about words.
But suppose it had been stated in plain French or English that all
known or knowable objects in the universe are placed by Positivism
under the rule of laws as rigorous in their fatality as the laws
of matter, would not the ultimate point in question have been more
tangible, more intelligible? People might indeed have said, "Why, after
all Positivism comes to the same thing as Fatalism, or Materialism;"
and with certain writers this risk may very possibly be held a decisive

Once more,--another explanation given by Littré is, that Positivism
lies strictly within the "relative." Many here are aware how,
since Kant's time, England, France, and Germany have been flooded
with metaphysic, good, bad, and indifferent, on the relative and
the conditioned. Pity that Littré should have plunged into these
whirlpools! Ravaisson refers to Herbert Spencer and Sophie St. Germain
for the point that this conception, the relative, must always imply
the existence of an absolute, known or unknown.[169] I cannot follow
him now, but any one interested in doing so will find the subject
commenced at page 66 of his "Philosophie en France," (one of the
Imperial Reports), and continued through sections 9 and 10. It is a
very important discussion. Ravaisson stands out amongst Frenchmen as a
consummate master of his science; and he inclines to infer that Comte
tended, and that Positivism generally now tends, towards a final
return to metaphysic. However this may be, I fear I have tired you,
and am glad to quit this dry part of my lecture, and get away to more
common-sense ground.

By way of introducing our most interesting topic, let me draw one
common-sense conclusion from the difficult tract just shot over. During
our passage, a thought may have flashed upon you which I remember
hearing in a Bampton Lecture, somewhat to this effect--"Positivism is
the most negative system of all." It appears hard to avoid this idea;
for Positivism denies in express terms that human beings have any
knowledge outside those generalized laws of experience which make up
the Positive sciences. It denies (in a word) the most essential part of
what was formerly held to be a knowledge of mind, both human and Divine.

Positive thinkers rebut the charge of negativism this way. We confine
ourselves, they say, to what we know; we do not venture, like
Pantheists and Atheists, into the unknowable. We do not deny God, we
only ignore Him. We do not ask about the first cause of the world,
or whether it has a constructural final end. Such questions as these
are "disedifying." "The Positive philosophy," says Littré, "does not
busy itself with the beginning of the universe, if the universe had a
beginning--nor yet with what happens to living things, plants, animals,
men, after their death, or at the consummation of the ages, if the
ages have a consummation."[15] Littré's sentence, which I have rendered
_verbatim_, reminds one of the prayer told to Bishop Atterbury, as
offered by soldier on the eve of battle: "O God, if there be a God,
save my soul, if I have a soul!" I am sorry to repeat ill-sounding
words again; but is not this really the exact religious attitude of an
honest Positivist, who feels sometimes touched by visions of possible
life after death,

        "Of all the nurse and all the priest have taught;"

that is, if we conceive his attitude according to the _least_ negative
interpretation put upon the system?

Continuing this least negative interpretation, let us view under its
light the Positive cosmology or theory of the world's existence; of
creation,--that is to say, if there ever was a creation. A stone
falls to the ground. Trying to account for the phenomenon, we grasp a
law inherent in the material world. Other phenomena lead us to other
laws. We contemplate the material world with its laws in operation,
a magnificent spectacle of moving forces; an organic whole, shining
through its own intrinsic glory of never-ceasing development. If we
turn and pursue the reverse road, and trace evolution back to its
elementary principles, we may dissolve worlds into primordial force, or
we may, as Professor Tyndall suggested at Liverpool, find the All in
a fiery cloud occupying space. Then comes the complex question,[170]
What beyond? What before? Whence, and How produced? a Positivist
thinker may return one of two answers. He may either say, "We do not
know," or he may say, "Nothing can be known." Take the least negative
first, as we proposed; it surely deserves this rejoinder: If you plead
ignorance, but surmise that knowledge is possible, you ought not, for
reasons valid with every true lover of wisdom, to stop here. You are
substituting for the ideas of creation and first cause, what you call
a primordial universe, a material condition of some kind, producing
phenomena regulated by inherent laws, successive, perishable, and
nothing more! All once believed beyond, a blank! Even the very name of
philosophy consecrated by consent of ages to the First and to the Last,
admonishes you. Renounce your vocation, deny your name, or proceed. We
demand a Positive result in the highest sense, not a fog of ignorance,
not a slough of despond. But if the second answer be the true one, if
the teaching of Positivism is that nothing more can be known, let us be
told so in plain words. Let no one be charmed into the Positive circle
by false allurements; for of all vices treachery and hypocrisy are the
most cowardly. Are you really wiser than the pagan Lucretius? If not,
why boast of 19th century discoveries in wisdom, insight, happiness?
If you have examined the relics of a primæval world, explored the races
of living and thinking creatures, if you have ascended to the starry
firmament, and traversed its shining hosts, to come back with shame and
disappointment, and tell us this is _your_ all, _our_ all, then indeed
the wages of your science is death. While you speak your final verdict
at least cover your faces,

        "And, sad as angels for a good man's sin,
        Weep to record, and blush to give it in!"

These thoughts have brought us to the most essential considerations
of this lecture. Whether the Positive _savant_ puts in a plea of
ignorance or of blank negation, we care not. We will treat it as a
challenge thrown down, and do our best to meet it. Succeed or not,
we will take no refuge in ambiguities, but maintain a truly positive
assertion. We say that the world we live in is not one world, but
two,[171] distinguishable through the laws by which each is governed.
There exists such a thing as phenomenal law; we accept the fact. But
distinct, broadly distinct, apart in its working, its elements, and its
final result, is moral law. An appeal lies to facts, and we shall try
to justify our assertion.

The mode of proof now to be adopted is not metaphysical. I mention
the circumstance because investigations into mind are apt to be
confounded with metaphysic, and are then supposed too difficult to
deserve attention. My argument will demand nothing beyond a hearing
and a scrutiny. It will consist of just so much mental dissection as
may be needful to show, first, a structural law of our inward nature,
and, secondly, to illustrate its workings and effects. These two sets
of facts will be placed side by side, in order that each may check
the other, and that their coincidence may also (as I hope it will)
furnish a fresh and sufficient proof of the contrast between moral and
material law. Everybody knows how convincing are, and ought to be,
facts separately ascertainable, yet converging into one and the same

One form of speech almost unavoidable ought to be remarked beforehand.
I mean the word freedom as applied to the human will and its volitions.
When compelled to use it, I shall do so only in the sense of
philosophic as contrasted with theological free will. By philosophic
freedom I understand that sort and degree of active choice free from
constraint which is required for the idea of responsibility, an
idea universally agreed on by divines opposed to each other on the
point of theological freewill. By this last-named idea I understand
supposed powers of spiritual attainment, which go to make up a notion
of self-sufficing moral strength. With it the present lecture, being
purely philosophical, can have nothing whatever to do, but I should
much deplore misconception, because any theory of self-sufficingness
would be repugnant to my own personal convictions.

Look now at the life of an animal, with senses often more
instrumentally accurate than ours. Survey the world around, which
furnishes the objects of his perception and his intelligence. The
mode in which that intelligence acts is held to be more or less under
the absolute rule of instinct, and creatures below man are commonly
described as those "that nourish a blind life within the brain."
Whether this be or be not perfectly correct makes no difference to
our present purpose. The point I want you to fix your thoughts upon
is the _directness_ of relation between the feeling or intelligent
principle of mere animal life, and the object perceived, felt, or
apprehended. Perhaps it may give vividness to your thought, if you
figure this relation under the similitude of a right line connecting
two points--object without, apprehension within. The line itself will
then represent the impulsive activity of a creature, as, for example,
when a hungry tiger leaps upon his prey.

Now this directness of action is _not_ the thing most marked in our own
proper human existence. What is really marked is the exact reverse;
the more truly _human_ any action appears, the farther is it away from
resemblance to that animal characteristic. Suppose a man acts like a
tiger, he is simply brutal; if he be governed by his feelings, however
amiable, we pronounce him weak or unreasoning.

Absolutely impulsive doings, such as the indulgence of an appetite,
blows struck in passion, or even in self-defence, we separate from
our volitions proper, and call them irrational and instinctive. In
educating children we check displays of impulse, we bid them pause
and reflect. And it is obvious that education presupposes an educable
power or principle, which principle self-education (the most important
training of all) will place in a clear light before you. Interrogate
yourselves, then. You will see that the mental power you most wish
to train and augment is distinguishable enough even in the commonest
affairs of life. Take a case of feeling. Some object--no matter
what--kindles an emotion within you--anger, wish affection, pursuit,
dislike, avoidance--and you feel strongly impelled to take action
thereupon. This would be the movement which was imaged to our minds
as a simple line. But to launch along it inconsiderately you would
feel neither proper _per se_--nor yet doing what is due to yourself,
because it is your human prerogative to act, not according to impulse,
but according to reason. And observe, to do, or to forbear doing, is
a question by no means determined by finding whether another emotion
be or be not stronger than the first. What reason demands is that the
impulse you feel, or it may chance the strongest of a dozen impulses,
shall become to you an object of careful scrutiny. You are bound in
honesty to scrutinize it; not only because it exists as an incitement
felt within yourself, but much, much more because it is felt to be your
actual self. It is your character which gave the spring, and lives in
the movement to action. Perchance this point of character is a hidden
nook, an unknown depth of feeling or desire, undiscovered, unsuspected
by your fellow-creatures--a secret of your inner self. Nevertheless it
is amenable to the tribunal of a more inward self still, to be brought
before it as an object that shall be examined and cross-examined,
sentenced either to vivid freedom or present suppression--it may
be even to extinction evermore! Each human being possesses this
wonderful self-objectivizing power. He is able to look at himself as
a NOT-self--a something partitioned off, and external; to be thought
about, felt about, reasoned about; to be controlled, chastened,
corrected. This power is our inalienable heritage; we cannot resign it
if we would; we cannot finally suspend its exercise. Mountains could
not crush, nor oceans drown it; flames of fire never burned it out from
the breast of one single martyr. Whether we use our birthright for good
or for evil, it still remains with us; when we act, our will is not a
feeling, an appetition, travelling simply from one point to another. It
is a movement of our world within, a movement of that microcosm called

Suppose a person resolves to employ this power aright. Some wish or
feeling, such as might drive a lower creature to instinctive action,
stirs within him, and becomes the object of his contemplation. To
the sessions of silent thought he summons whatever assistants he can
get; the witnesses of experience, prudence, duty, the golden rules
of the Gospel; whatever seems most proper to determine the question
at issue,--fitness or unfitness, to act or to abstain from acting.
He says to himself (as all here have done a thousand times), "This
longing, thought, state of mind, is wise or foolish, good or bad, right
or wrong; nay, 'tis I myself that am so!" And in thus saying he is
conscious of that sort of freedom to will or not to will, which makes
up responsibility. He does not deny--contrariwise, with the might of
his whole essential humanity he asserts--that the act of will is thus
taken out of the direct line of inevitable antecedency, away from the
physico-mechanical series, and enabled to commence a series of its own.
In a word, his consciousness evidences to him that functional law which
makes the human soul a thing more wonderful than all the inorganic or
all the animated universe besides. And the law thus evidenced is the
law of moral causation.

I said that our own soul thus becomes to us more wonderful than all
the known universe besides. I might have said more mysterious; so truly
_sui generis_ and different from all things not ensouled, as to be
inexplicable by human sciences, an enigma to itself, dwelling alone in
its own awful isolation. Do but think what _cause_ is--nothing less
than originating power; what then must it be in stern and sad reality
for a soul to originate a sin! Yet we cannot deny the fact. We confess
it every day, not only in our hearts and deeper utterances, but in the
commonest though most tremendous of words, the word responsibility.
If a man were in no true sense the cause of his own actions, he could
never be held responsible either by God or Man. But as long as Justice
maintains her seat, each criminal will be so held, so judged, so
recompensed. And the only principle under which Justice can justify her
judgments is the reality of moral causation.

If, then, this law be established, we have proved our point. Just as we
recognize a material world by mechanical law--and indeed our knowledge
of matter itself is only a knowledge of its laws--so in like manner,
and _pari passu_, we recognize a moral world by its distinctive law. We
live, therefore, not in one world, but in two:

        "Man is one world, and hath
        Another to attend him."

The point is of surpassing importance! Upon it turns the whole issue.
"Can mechanism--or, as it is vaguely called, materialism--be or be
not accepted, with its attendant theories, as the truth; that is,
_our_ whole truth, all we have to live by and to die by?" Infinitely
important issue! having much to do at this very moment with the
happiness and real good of millions amongst our fellow-creatures and
fellow-countrymen. It is for this reason we must not spare pains to
demonstrate our moral law, for this reason also we will give some
passing sentences to show how worthless in argument is the sophism most
commonly circulated against it. Men speak of a "law of motives," with
complete assurance, and without seeming to be aware of the twofold
fallacy underlying it. Writers on the subject furnish statistics of
suicide, murder, and the like; and then ask how the freedom of moral
cause can be compatible with so visible a law? But what sort of a law
is this? Clearly not a law upon which the results are conditioned,
as sunrise on the earth's rotation; but a mere generalization, like
the laws of average before mentioned. Such a law does not govern the
acts, but the acts the law, or, in plain words, they _are_ the law.
It is an epitomized result, inferring no more consequence to our free
moral causation, than a life assurance infers to the contingency of
our individual life or death. The sophism would be readily detected if
it were not for that unfortunate word "motive." People forget that a
motive is not a power that compels us, but an object which we choose
to seek. "Will," we are seriously told, "must be determined by the
strongest motive." Now if, in thus speaking, the strongest motive
_objectively_ be meant, that is the motive essentially and in its own
nature the strongest, then indeed we may exclaim, "Would that this
were true!" For are not right, justice, goodness, absolutely and in
themselves the strongest? Yet men in general fail to pursue them;
they are chosen by those of whom the world is not worthy. But if, on
the other hand, the phrase "strongest motive" is to be understood
_subjectively_, and means that which on each occasion is _felt_ to be
the strongest; what form of sounding words has ever yielded a more
barren sense, a simpler truism? "Will must be determined by the choice
of will." It means this, and nothing more.

We may sum the whole matter of motive in a single sentence. Motives do
not make the man, but the man his motives. To conceive it otherwise
would be to imagine each man a mere bundle of instincts, such instincts
as we calculate with certainty in the brute animals we wish to allure,
to subdue, or to destroy.

        "Be not like dumb driven cattle,"

says the Psalm of Life, and old Herbert exhorts--

        "Not rudely, as a beast,
        To run into an action."

The beast feels an incitement, and rushes direct upon the pitfall. It
is the prerogative of a true man to subsume (as logicians speak) each
line of impulse into the circle of his own soul; to deliberate in the
secret chambers of a being impenetrable even to his own understanding,
and to put in force the result which becomes as it were the free
manifestation of himself. When therefore you examine the actions of a
fellow-creature, and discern his motives, you praise or blame what? not
the motives, but the man.

Permit me to close this discussion by an example of the manner in which
we make and unmake our own motives.

No one present is so young, or so careless, as never to have felt the
pains of self-reproach. Some light or shade of life projects before us
the outline of ourself. By virtue of the law described, we view and
review it, as if it were the picture of another being. In contrast
with it, we place our own ideal, all that our boyhood fondly fancied
our manhood would become; the semblances of those we have loved and
lost; of the father, who taught us to prize truth and virtue above
earthly wealth and distinction; of the mother, at whose knee we knelt
in prayer, and whose upraised eye imaged the serenity of that heaven
to which she implored us to aspire. These beloved forms, robed in the
unfading freshness of a love stronger than death, stir our heart of
hearts, with accents unmistakable. They remind us of what we resolved
and trusted one day to be found, in thought, in feeling, and in life.
But, close to the glowing portrait of our purposed self stands the
dwindled figure of what we actually are; and, oh, the shame, the
anguish of that stern, disappointing comparison!

Among the lower creatures (we ask in passing) what is there to resemble
this self-reforming principle? In the domesticated animal, both beast
and bird, we see wounded affection, grief under a master's anger, and
desire to win back his love. In the gregarious tribes we find respect
for a common bond of what we almost may call utility; but has any sense
of wrong as wrong, or sin as sin, ever been found educable? Man shows
the mighty strength of this principle within him, even when he shows it
in its most repulsive shapes. The remorseful wretch who throws himself
beneath the wheel of Juggernaut, is a different _kind_ of being from
the horse or dog. And considering the self-interest, self-flattery, and
self-indulgence arrayed against it, may we not say that the root of
such passionate remorse has something sound in it, else it would long
ago have been trodden out from the life and heart of mankind?

For now, as always, our honest anguish and shame sow the appointed seed
of our noblest attainments. Those steps by which we climb our steep
ascent are hewn in the travail of our souls. David found it so, when
he heard the voice of Nathan saying, "Thou art the man!" and wrote
words which have come down near three thousand years;--"The sacrifices
of God are a broken spirit." "Of all acts," asks Mr. Carlyle, "is not,
for a man, _repentance_ the most divine? The deadliest sin, I say, were
that same supercilious consciousness of no sin; that is death; the
heart so conscious is divorced from sincerity, humility, and fact; is
dead; it is 'pure' as dead dry sand is pure. David's life and history,
as written for us in those Psalms of his, I consider to be the truest
emblem ever given of a man's moral progress and warfare here below."
Truest emblem indeed! In it, we see, as in a glass, how living in two
worlds we cannot but have a sympathy with each; insomuch that every man
feels himself to be two selves, not one; a spiritual and a psychical
man. "There is," says Sir Thomas Browne, "another man within me,
that's angry with me, rebukes, commands, and dastards me." A _double_
consciousness which grows upon many a soul, until its truer choice and
better motives are attained:

        "The life which is, and that which is to come,
        Suspended hang in such nice equipoise
        A breath disturbs the balance; and that scale
        In which we throw our hearts preponderates."

This lecture started from the question, what is a phenomenon, and
how do we know of its existence? Seeing that our knowledge rests
primarily on the evidence of our own mind, we drew the inference that
Comte committed a fatal error when he banished the science of mind, as
mind, from his cycle. Reviewing his various devices, and some devices
of his successors, for eliminating psychology, and reducing the study
of mind to a study of bodily functions, we approached the stronghold
of Positivism,--law. And, after discussing the theories maintained
respecting it, we boldly threw down our challenge to this effect: law
phenomenal or mechanical admitted, we assert, the existence of another
kind of law. We say that the freedom of human choice between evil and
good is utterly unlike the freedom of a stone which falls by mechanical
law, and cannot choose but fall. The inference from phenomenal law
is the existence of a phenomenal world. The inference from another
existent law is that there is another existent world. Man, we affirm,
lives in both; has sympathies with both; and, by virtue of his double
nature, is a true citizen of both. The ultimate principle of man's
higher nature is to us inscrutable; for, even as the eye sees not
itself, so neither does the spirit of a man discern that which makes
it spirit. But, though we cannot know the soul, we can know much and
many things about it; things most important--nay, all-important for us
to know, since they distinguish the spirit that burns within us from
matter, from mechanism, and from mere animality. Hence we do not, with
the Positivist, ignore the unknowable. Contrariwise, confessing our
ignorance, where we are ignorant, we strive to observe and gather all
we can.

One thing that can be thus known is the principle of moral causation;
and this we have inductively investigated. We began by observing a
process in our own minds, a process or law of self-objectivity. I am
sorry to use such an uncouth word; but it saves a long description,
and you will all remember the fact. That process carries, on the very
face of it, adaptation to the purposes of moral choice, free from the
material necessity which governs a falling stone, and disengaged from
the control of such impulses as the incitement of ruling instincts. We
next verify this law by observing its operation; _first_, in single
acts of the Will accompanied, as you will recollect, by distinct
consciousness of choice and responsibility. It was in respect of
this conscious certainty that Dr. Johnson said, "We _know_ we are
free, and there ends the matter." We verified, a _second_ time, the
self-objectivising law, by its working and effects upon our motives,
which it makes and unmakes; eliminating some, adopting others, so as to
modify and alter our whole real character. Any one who is happy enough
to recall the slow advances of successful self-education, or a less
ordinary process by which old things passed away and all things became
new, may recollect with pleasure how this law served as an instrument
of change; how it placed himself before his own inward eye, even
daily, in freshly instructive lights, awakening new self-questionings,
emotions, aversions, desires, hopes, and stimulating to new exertions;
how it opposed itself to the mastery of any single dominant passion,
under which we say a man acts mechanically, because he has already
surrendered himself a slave to its sway; how it became a check upon all
day-dreaming or drifting with the tide, when again we are said to act
mechanically because we yield to circumstances as they flow, and live
a blind life, like creatures that cannot escape the chain of Instinct.
For, observe: let any instinct, even the noblest, be ever so nobly
developed, if we act from its impulse only, and not from a reflective
choice of the prompting which it gives, we are living below the image
of our true nature, because we are not striving to become a law unto

You may verify our moral law in numberless ways among the common
walks of life; and it really is a task of no great difficulty, if
you take with you the truth that the whole issue is summed in one
word--Responsibility. A falling stone cannot choose but fall; were
a man subject to material law, he could have no choice whatever.
Neither would it make any real difference, if the Will were impelled
by overpowering motive, and did not make its motive to itself. The
slate which slides from a roof, and kills a child, we do not accuse
of murder; we do not attach moral accountability to the hungry tiger.
It is because man is not impelled like stones or tigers, that we hold
him responsible. And we praise or blame in the highest degree his most
deliberate acts. The wrong he does with malice aforethought is a crime
in the strongest sense; the good he works with considerate purpose we
esteem his highest well-doing. In our time the wills of individual men
have changed the destinies of nations; and any one who reads books,
reviews, or newspapers sees a vigorous use of that word responsibility.
No one doubts that these powerful wills are the true causes of effects
felt throughout all Europe, effects which will remain when those who
caused them are in the grave; nay, even when generations--perchance
dynasties--shall have passed away.

In lower life, we honour the truly causative man who conquers a habit
of intemperance or any evil passion: it is greater to overcome one's
self than to conquer many cities. We deem every one accountable for
what he allows, or disallows, in relation to his God, his fellows, or
himself. In a word, we consider each man so far the true cause of his
own conduct, as to load him with responsibility.

Yes, responsibility! Do not shrink from the thought; it is wholesome
for all. Do but practise self-control enough to look yourself with
honest purpose in the face when you are about to act, you will never
suppose that you act mechanically, and you will seldom act amiss. If
you wish to benefit your countrymen, inculcate the grand lesson of
responsibility; for what well-informed person doubts that one main root
of our present social and religious ailments lies in compromise with
known immoralities, indolent acquiesence in hollow words, and lifeless
outside shows, where ought to be heard and seen the rigid truths of
accountability, duty, consistency?--all impossible without a practical
law of self-scrutiny and self-control. Yet further: Responsibility is
also an undeniable witness to a world of life beyond death. Just as
even Herbert Spencer himself has remarked, that the idea of relativity
involves the correlative idea of an absolute; even so, in thought,
responsibility involves its correlative belief, a recompence! But, in
morality, the evidence is stringent beyond expression. For, the idea of
responsibility is fixed in the nature of things; unchangeable, eternal.
And it contains in itself the loftier idea of personality. Leading us
to look for a world of righteous recompence, it leads also to belief in
a personal Being, before whom we are responsible, and who will award to
each of us our recompence. David travelled the same road to the same
conclusion, when he looked round upon men, who lacked mercy because
they lacked justice, and said, "Unto thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy:
for thou renderest to every man according to his work."

Did I not feel that my strain upon your attention must now cease, I
should have liked to show at length how the law by which we discover
moral causation, may be verified everywhere in the whole province
of mind. It is difficult, for instance, to look at the perplexing
questions raised about language, without perceiving that there
runs through its purely human formation the articulate results of
an element resembling internal dialogue; in other words, a law of
self-objectivising representation. In art, again, the perpetual efforts
of ages is to present our human manifoldness of thought, feeling, and
idea, before our one individual self. Hence the art formula of multeity
in unity. And what is the true bond of society as distinguished from
gregariousness? Is it not the Gospel's golden rule? But how can our
neighbour be viewed as a second self, unless self has been already
objectivised before our moral intuitions? We might follow the same
thread throughout the conditions of all philosophy.

The one thing we have to remember in every research concerning man
is that education, whether of self or others, implies an educable
principle; a germ, of which education and attainment are the bud, the
blossom, and the fruit. Therefore, if we want to know Humanity, we must
look to the educated human being. The philosopher, the artist, the
thinker of every sort, must have risen into clearness ere he can become
a typical man. Is it not, therefore, a mistake to appeal for theories
of human nature to the statistics (always statistics!) of ignorance and
savagery? When modelling our physical form, Buonarotti did not seek his
type in hospitals for maimed or distorted limbs, and exclaim, Behold,
such is man! Curious too, and contradictory, the way in which appeals
to barbarism have worked. In the 18th century we used always to hear of
that golden age,

        "When free in woods the noble savage ran,
        And man, the brother, lived the friend of man."

In the 19th, savage life is cannibalism, superstition, cruelty,
terrible, revolting, loathsome; perchance, time must yet pass before we
learn justice to our fellows of any age! Meanwhile, we may feel sure
that our human ideal is not to be found in the frost-bitten rickety
infant species; nor yet in its dwarfed and stunted adult; the cretin
and the imbecile will not give its lineaments; and it may be hard to
say which is least like a true man, the undeveloped or the perverted
creature. For example, what superiority in moral height has the
_savant_, whose self-satisfied science ignores or denies a God, over
the poor pigmy barbarian, unskilled in the use of fire, and living upon
berries and insects, who props himself against a tree with earthward
face, and prays, saying, "_Yere_, if indeed thou art, why dost thou
suffer us to be killed? Thou hast raised us up. Why dost thou cast us
down?"[16] Better perhaps the rude stammering of our race's childhood
than its half-speechless, half-paralyzed old age!

And here the argument of this lecture ends. Of causation in general,
and the grand subject of design, it has not been my hint to speak.
These vast topics have fallen into higher hands than mine. My aim was
limited to finding the _differentia_ of man--the moral characteristic
which places him in contrast with physico-mechanical laws.

It occurs to me, however, that you may employ ten minutes not
unpleasantly, upon what we can hardly help calling the romance
of Positivism. The story, taken from first to last--part comic,
part tragic--is as wild and weird as one of the Frenchman Doré's
pictures,--a story too strange to be thought true, if it did not
happen to have been true! It has also its stinging lessons, and they
follow naturally; evolved, as it were, from the motley and mystifying

Comte's life has been written by friend and foe. For fulness of detail
the right book is by his disciple and executor, Dr. Robinet, who has
just figured among those who rule in the Commune of Paris. Robinet
is very interesting, for he thoroughly believes in his master, and
accepts the whole Comtist religion, calendar and all, which Littré and
others reject. No reproach this to Comte's biographer, for that same
worship is celebrated in our cooler atmosphere of England. The _Pall
Mall Gazette_ has, by its notices, made the celebrations widely known.
There is an account of the grandest yearly solemnity which will suffice
many, and excite the curiosity of more, in its number for January
7th, 1868. It is not hard to see that the worshippers differ from
the recusants by a strong feeling that they cannot live upon axioms
sounding like negatives. They want sentiment, emotion, excitement to
sustain them. Let us observe how Comte caught the first glimpse of this

His life was sombre--a boy delicate and fractious, disliked by his
masters, turned out of the Polytechnique, repudiated by his great
socialist teacher St. Simon. His family relations not happy, his
marriage least of all. We cannot wonder at vagaries, for he had a
real fit of rampant insanity, and after release from an asylum had
nearly drowned himself in the Seine. His wife found him intolerable,
and left her home. Mr. Mill speaks of her respect for him;--it was
oddly testified after his death, for she pleads in law that he was a
madman, an atheist, and immoral; repudiates his will, and seizes the
consecrated relics of his dwelling. Littré supported her against those
who, like Robinet, thought her little less than blasphemous. If she had
appeared in an English law court, we should have known more truth than
we do.

Let us now look at such facts as we have from the more favourable
side. The man lived a lonely life, as became a sort of conceptual
alchemist, sustained by a belief that he was turning men's leaden
thoughts into his own pure gold. One brilliant projection of his has
made him the idol of Positivists. I confess it puzzles me, among
many others, to imagine how a qualified critic can treat such a
philosophic solvent either as true or as original. It supposes the
history of all human thinking to pass necessarily through three stages,
theology, metaphysics, positive truth; and that the world makes
progress accordingly. We will hope that the thing called theology, a
benighted belief in the government and intervention of supreme will,
is not altogether extinct in this age of progress; if it be so, Mr.
Froude encourages us to look for a revival. Among lesser matters, the
hypothesis of metaphysical cookery is an idea one fails to realise.
Was it a banquet with joints cut Laputa-like, after some fashion of
concepts, or syllogistic figures? Was it a "feast of reason and a flow
of soul," or, more probably, an abstraction pure and simple, as if a
man could

        "Cloy the hungry edge of appetite
        By bare imagination of a feast"?

Comte's comicalities strike most people all the more because he writes
on, always utterly insensible to his own comedy. If any one wishes for
a serious critique in small compass, I may mention Stirling's appendix
to his translation of Schwegler's Handbook; Whewell in his Philosophy
of Discovery, and elsewhere.

Comte was most confiding in his own theory. Littré is not so confident,
for he has another theory of his own. But, putting aside the question
of its verification, we may remark that in the rough idea Comte showed
himself before his age. Positive thinkers have busied themselves with
physical evolution; for example, the development of a brain from an
oyster or an eozoon; but Comte was intent upon mental evolution.[172]
Man need not much care about the congeners of a body sprung from
earth; but soul is another thing. We trust our own spirit, as carrying
some image and superscription of God; we feel and conceive it to be
different in kind from sensitive life; we love to think of it in its
finality as a spark flowing out from Divine Light; a breath breathed
into body from above. In the reverse of this belief there is doubtless
an element unfavourable to happiness; it makes some men cynics, some
pessimists, some simply victims. Comte's infinite self-satisfaction
probably saved him from self-torture. But we judge that he felt his
condition deeply, from the rapture with which he hailed a new and
brilliant discovery!

Yes, it was the most wonderful of all his discoveries; he one day found
an unsuspected law of life within himself; he discovered that he had a

To many, this is the black spot on Comte's memory; they cannot receive
his love, nay, his frantic adoration, of the lonely wife of a convict,
absent in the gallies, as a piece of pure Platonism. Had Madame Comte's
allegations been sifted fully, we might have known all. As it is, I
for my own part like to think him innocent; he was mad from disease,
and perhaps from conceit; a conceit, says Mr. Mill, too colossal to be
believed without reading him up; but I trust he was not immoral. His
letters are against it, the lady's face is against it, and above all,
there is against it the lasting effect upon himself. After a year's
happiness to Comte, she died and left him, as he thoroughly supposed,
an enlightened and a religious man.

Poor Comte! His sweeter life was buried with the dead, who to him could
never rise again. His religion was no more than a funereal cult; a veil
thrown over it, no hope, no thought of reunion! The episode of Clotilde
was, in itself, one of those touches of nature which make the whole
world kin; the brief, bright, and long sad experience the solitary
had of his heart; the love, the loss, the unforgetting sorrow! But,
did it not prove, beyond the force of reclamation to disprove, that
Comte's system ends, at last, in what is commonly called materialism?
its faith (or negation of faith) being in effect this, that we look
for entire human dissolution coincident with bodily death. And the end
flows naturally from the beginning; all we think is phenomenal, all
we know is phenomenal, first and last. Our life is only a phenomenon;
and death, death joins us to the unreturning past. We are absorbed,
all that is good of us, into general and generic humanity; an Eidolon,
called the Great Being for our comfort; as if a name (what's in a
name?) could console us! The race we may have tried to serve is to be
our Euthanasia, our sepulchre, I had almost said our cenotaph!

Strange thought, not without a kind of serpent-fascination! Epidemic
in England now, gaining force from its unhallowed audacity! The
consistent pessimist, who rates men at the worst, thinks the worst in
himself, and does the worst by all others, and by himself, if he is
but fixed in this unbelief, need not fear what the world, man, or God
shall do unto him. It is the old whisper, "Ye shall be as gods!" 'Tis
superhuman to sit and watch the storm; to have our strong sensations,
illusions they are called in France; blood-poisons which circulate in
our life, working hot passion and mischief; sorrow to many a loving,
many a confiding heart; passion, mischief, sorrow, what matters it?
there comes an opiate by-and-by! The man of overwrought brain, used
up, worn-out feelings; the distempered dreamer; the reckless worker of
wrongs; the disappointed striver for an earthly crown, all shall have
their common slumber at last; unconscious, impervious, unbroken. I will
read you three stanzas from a longer piece written by one not unknown
always where that tree of knowledge grew:--

        "Cessation is true rest,
        And sleep for them opprest;
        And not to be,--were blest.

        Annihilation is
        A better state than this;
        Better than woe or bliss.

        The name is dread;--the thing
        Is death without its sting;
        An overshadowing."

If such be the thought to them whose natural heritage stands strong,
fringed with luxurious hope to live beloved, to die regretted; what
will the "overshadowing" be when it passes, like a plague breath, over
the children of toil and anxiety, over them whose life is at best hard,
and their lot depressed and without "illusions"? Will they not want
their strong sensations? Will they respect any law, human or divine,
which stands between them and their enjoyments? Will they not crush
all who bar their pleasures, aye, choke them in their own blood? Why
not? The opiate comes to all at last. 'Tis an act of oblivion! The
overshadowing will cover all.

And this is the coming creed of the 19th century. To return to Comte,
about whom I might say much, but must not;--of course, he had no
foresight of anything worse than an immediate realization of his
crowning ideas--sociality, fraternity, Positivism. Europe split into
small states; women made incapable of property, but held objects
of religious worship; men worked on a communistic principle; an
oligarchy of rich; a spirituality of Positive believers, with a supreme
infallible pontiff at their head; Paris the seat of infallibility and
of order. Clotilde had shown Comte a principle antagonistic to, and
predominating over, all egoism; Altruism was to burn out of men all
selfish aims, nay, the ordinary feelings of a man! A rigorous rule of
life was to aid, and a religion without a God to enforce, this new
law. Two hours a day, divided into three private services, were to be
spent in the adoration of Humanity under the form of a living or dead
woman. The image of the fair idol, dress, posture, everything was to be
brought distinctly to mind; and the whole soul to be prostrated in her
honour. Comte, it has been said, gave woman everything except justice.

There is a grave moral in this tale. Theology was extinguished; but the
desire to worship burned on--a fire unquenchable. Is that desire, or
is it not, a broad reality, an inalienable truth of our nature? Comte
accepted it for himself, and not for himself alone, but for our whole
human race. Along with it he accepted the only principle which could
bestow universal validity. Our moral intuitions were acknowledged safe
guides, and something more; the rulers of an intellectual world, the
revealers of truth higher than all beside. Often and often he asserted
the dominion of heart over mind. Probably, if Comte had lived longer he
would have acknowledged other revelations of our moral nature. Moral
causation, for example. That strange phrase of his--"a modifiable
fatality," self-contradiction in words, suicide in sense, what did it
portend? Was it the first sound of a marriage-bell, freedom and duty
once again united? A change of his system wonderful to contemplate, yet
not more wonderful than the state in which he left it.

One cannot help here asking how matters would have stood if Comte had
died without knowing his Clotilde. How incomplete according to his own
account his philosophy! how wanting in that which perfected the whole!
A notable fact this, throwing great light on the value of such-like
systematization which, after all, much resembles secretion from that
interesting viscus, the system-maker's own particular brain. And there
is another fact quite as notable. How curious that Comte should have
lived so long without discovering whatever truth his own heart and
a strong human affection disclosed to him! Hence we might illustrate
and confirm a previous remark, that any one not living a truly human
life--call him undeveloped, uneducated, dwarfed, or immature--is no
typical man; and if we believe ancient maxims, scarcely a learner in
philosophy, certainly not a judge of its highest and widest problems.

The most notable fact and greatest surprise of all is, that Comte's
prayer without petition, his passionate self-mesmerizing adoration,
his religion without a God, should have taken any hold on men. No
one can transfer to others his private sorrow or his private joy;
it is hard for a man to get his thought understood, harder still to
make common pasture of his heart. But Comte devised extraordinary
propagandist expedients; those who consider his developments mere
madness, should explain why sane people have accepted them. Comte
set no value on Protestantism in any shape. The religion of his own
country he carried back to mediæval forms, and then travestied it.
There were many festivals, a calendar of saints, nine sacraments, and
a horrible caricature of the Christian Trinity. This idea crowned his
sociology, which I need hardly say was communistic socialism, enfolding
(as socialism always must enfold) and scarcely veiling the most iron
of despotisms, both temporal and spiritual. His mind delighted in
contemplating a synthesis of the great Fetish, Earth, with the great
Being Humanity; which last somehow assumes on occasion a feminine

To Clotilde, symbolizing that supreme object, Clotilde, his noble and
tender patroness, he transferred Dante's homage of Beatrice; addresses
to the mother of our Lord; and stranger than all, the prayer of Thomas
à Kempis to Almighty God, "Amem te plusquam me, nec me nisi propter
te"--"May I love Thee more than self, nor self at all except for Thee."
Now consider: when Comte died, sixty-four years had not quite elapsed
since goddesses of Reason were worshipped in the cathedral and other
churches of Paris. Upon each high altar a fair woman, chosen for her
faultless beauty, sate enthroned, her feet resting upon the consecrated
slab. Gaily clothed in tunic and Greek mantle, she was so displayed
by a torch behind her throne, so elevated above her worshippers, as
to attract from Phrygian cap to Italic shoe their passionate gaze and
adoration. Low down beneath her footstool lay the broken symbols of
a faith then declared effete and passed away; just as half a century
afterwards Comte declared theology passed away. Music sounded, incense
smoked, Bishop Gobel, who assisted at a parody of sacred rites, wept
tears of shame, but in fear and trembling he assisted. The object of
this mad mockery of religion, this empire of heart over mind, this
woman-worship, was to proclaim afresh Fraternity, Progress, Sociality.
Sociality, for the supposed law of which final development Comte
worshipped humanity and Clotilde--but disowned immortality and God.

These two madnesses, how near akin, how far apart were they? The world
is not really made young by destroying old things; yet the path of 18th
century madness lay through fire and blood. Its deeds are sometimes
spoken of, even now, as great crimes; but no great crime is criminal
in the sight of men whose life is godless, dark, and unsubstantial.
Horrors pass before them like unrealities. "The world," writes Mercier
on the trial of Louis XVI,--"The world is all an optical shadow." In
our 19th century life, 'tis a skilfully prepared overshadowing, beneath
which men beat their brows till their blood-shot eyes see red. "I see
red," exclaimed Eugene Sue's ruffian, "and then I strike with the

Let me end by telling you a dream, which is not all a dream.

A company of _savans_ were seen in the visions of the night, busy
with a new scientific invention. Earth, they argued, earth has her
volcanoes, her burning exhalations; men have electric lights, fires,
gas lamps, furnaces. These make up the world's proper illumination.
The effect intended was, therefore, to darken the air we breathe, so
that no rays from the upper sky should pass through it. The inventors
hoped that a district, a country, nay, even a world, might thus be
overshadowed by a gloom impervious to moon and stars by night, to sun
by day; and the human eye see no changes, save those which the earth's
activity, or human power and skill, might produce. Terrestrial and
artificial alternations excepted, all was to be changeless as winter
midnight--deep impenetrable darkness! It was seen slowly, very slowly,
to descend. In thirty years the men of science hoped and purposed its

Did those who had previously known the beautiful light of heaven, who
had bathed and basked in the life-giving sunbeam, feel happy, or even
calm, when they saw their children and children's children robbed of
celestial glory and gladness?

Yet there is one thing worse than a world without a sun--you know what
I mean--Humanity without a GOD.


The Lecturer purposely abstained from reading Professor Huxley's acute
critique on Positivism until this Lecture had gone to press. He now
strongly recommends his auditors to read No. viii. of the Lay Sermons.

Should any reader find difficulties in pages 23-25 of the foregoing
Lecture, he will do well to peruse Littré's "Auguste Comte et la
Philosophie Positive," chapter iii., particularly pp. 42, 43.






The duty which has been imposed upon me to-day by the Christian
Evidence Society is, I conceive, to state as clearly as I can, what
is our ground for believing that a revelation is not only possible,
but is a necessary part of the system of this world. As the programme
further joins science and revelation, I conceive that I am debarred
from any but a strictly scientific proof. We may reasonably infer the
probability of a revelation from God's necessary attribute of love. We
may ourselves feel morally sure that a creature, approaching so nearly
to the spiritual world, and capable of so much good as is man, would
not be left by his Maker in that miserable state of vice and misery in
which we find ourselves. There are many good and weighty reasons for
believing that God would give us a revelation, and that the Christian
religion is God's revelation--reasons drawn from the nature of God,
from the actual condition in which man is placed, and from the direct
teachings of Holy Scripture--all these, like a cord of many threads
that cannot easily be broken, serve to confirm the faith of the
believer, but I must forego their use. In confining myself to what I
conceive to be the strictly scientific basis of a revelation, I would,
nevertheless, beg you to remember that the evidences of Christianity
are cumulative. They cover a vast field, and it is in their united
force that their strength lies. The very vastness of the field often
invites attack. Some outlying work seems capable of overthrow. Some
discovery in the domains of history, of philology, or of physical
science, seems to provide new weapons for the assault. Possibly not
all the arguments used in defence of Christianity will endure the
test of close and accurate examination. Possibly, too, in our views
of the nature of Christianity, and in our exegesis of the Scriptures,
we have arrived only at partial truth, and do not distinguish with
sufficient accuracy between what is certainly revealed, and what is
nothing more that a possible explanation of the Divine word. There
are, moreover, I will candidly confess, difficulties in the way of
faith. However new may be the form of the attack, and however modern
the materials which it uses, yet the strength of the attack lies in
real difficulties, which are no new matter, but have ever lain deep in
the minds of thoughtful men. I do not believe that belief is a thing
easy of attainment, any more than virtue is. I believe that both are
victories, gained by a struggle--gained over opposing forces.[173] But
as certain as I am that this present state of things was intended to
train man to virtue, though I cannot answer all the objections brought
against the system of the world being exactly what it is, nor solve all
the doubts and difficulties, moral and metaphysical, which surround
us: so I am convinced, in spite of similar difficulties in the way of
religion, that belief, and not unbelief, is the end at which man ought
to aim. I believe that man was intended to attain to a higher and more
perfect state than that in which he now finds himself, and that he can
only attain to it by virtue and faith; but as the very value of these
lies apparently in their being won by an effort, long and earnestly
maintained, I am not surprised at the existence of difficulties, least
of all of such difficulties as arise from our ignorance. Still belief
would be unnecessarily[18] difficult,[174] and we may even say, morally
impossible, if the sum of the arguments in defence of a revelation did
not largely exceed the sum of the arguments against one. With these
arguments I have to-day nothing to do. The evidences of Christianity,
external and internal, will be treated of by others. My business is to
show that a revelation was to be expected; that it was probable, or at
all events possible, and, therefore, that the evidences of Christianity
have a claim upon the consideration of every right thinking man. In
showing that a revelation was to be expected, I shall at the same
time show what is the exact position which it holds, and in what way
revealed knowledge differs from all other knowledge, scientific and

Now the argument which I shall use as my proof of the possibility of a
revelation is simply this, that in the present system of things we find
no being endowed with any faculties without there being also provided
a proper field for their exercise, and a necessity imposed upon that
being of using those faculties. In this statement I assume nothing.
I do not assume that there is a God who made these beings. I do not
assume that they were made or created; still less do I assume that
they were intended to use their faculties. I put aside all theories of
design and causation, not because I do not believe that they possess
force, but because the actual facts which I see around me, or which I
am taught by scientific men, are enough for my proof. The only thing
which I assume is, that the laws of nature are universal; and I assume
this simply because it will be readily granted me. The universality of
nature's laws compels us to admit that a law which holds good in all
known cases, will necessarily hold good in all cases whatsoever.

Our whole language is so essentially based upon religious ideas that it
would be very difficult for me to use only neutral words. But in using
religious words, I wish them to be understood in a neutral sense. If
I speak of creatures, I mean only beings, things which exist now, or
have existed. If I speak of them as endowed with faculties, I merely
mean that they possess them. By nature, I mean simply the present
state of things, whether designed by an intelligent mind, or a mere
come-by-chance. I look simply around me at what is--or at all events
appears to be--and I find myself in a world in which there is a very
exact correspondence between the endowments and faculties of every
existent being, and the state of things in which it happens to be.

So exact is this correspondence, that if you give Professor Owen a
bone, he will tell you to what order of animals its owner belonged,
what were its habits, the nature of its food, of its habitat, and mode
of life. Nature works out this correspondence even to the most minute
detail. By looking at the bone of a quadruped we can tell, not merely
great things about it, but such trifles as which leg it used first
in getting up from the ground. For nature is so undeviating that the
outward habits, even in things of no apparent moment, correspond to
the internal conformation.

Now, possibly, it will readily be granted that such is the present
state of things. Whatever may have been the stages through which we
have, or have not, passed, we now find ourselves in a world of apparent
cause and effect--full of infinitely varied forms of life, but of
which none are purposeless. I cannot upon this point bring forward a
better witness than Professor Huxley, who, in his most interesting
essay on Geological Contemporaneity (Lay Sermons, p. 236) speaks
as follows:--"All who are competent to express an opinion upon the
subject are, at present, agreed that the manifold varieties of animal
and vegetable form have not either come into existence by chance,
nor result from _capricious exertions of creative power_; but that
they have taken place in a definite order, the statement of which
order is what men of science term a natural law." The whole chain of
animal and vegetable life seems to this great authority so perfect
and complete, that even the variations which have taken place in it,
have been governed, he considers, by a law, that is, a regular and
orderly succession. These variations have been the result, apparently,
of certain changes in the external state of things, to which the
external conformation of the animal has somehow or other been made
to correspond. But as Professor Huxley points out, these variations
have been confined to very narrow limits. When people speak of the
enormous changes which have taken place in the living population of
the globe during geological eras, they refer, he says, to the presence
in the later rocks of fossil remains of a vast number of animals not
discoverable in the earlier rocks; but the fossils which you do find in
the early rocks differ but little from existing species. (See p. 238.)
He thus negatives on sure grounds the idea that a state of things ever
existed on this globe essentially unlike what exists now.

What then exists now? I answer, first of all a vast chain of vegetable
life, fitted in every portion of it to find its own subsistence, and
to propagate its species. Its main function is to "manufacture out
of mineral substances that protoplasm, upon which, in the long run,
all animal life depends." (Lay Sermons, p. 138.) I need not detain
you by enumerating the many various contrivances by which plants are
enabled to manufacture food for us out of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen,
and nitrogen--substances upon which, in their original state, animals
cannot feed--nor the still more curious and elaborate processes by
which their fecundation, and the propagation of each species is
provided for--processes which seem often to require the intervention of
animal life. I need not detain you upon this point: you will readily
grant that this correspondence does exist. If a plant is not suited to
its habitat, and cannot use its natural powers, nature imposes upon it
the severe penalties--first, of degradation, and then of death.

Upon the animal world she imposes just the same penalties. There is
neither excess nor defect in her operations.[19] Whatever she gives
must be used, but animals, being governed in the main by instincts,
have no choice. They necessarily employ all their living powers,
and apparently have no powers beyond those indispensable for their
existence. This point, however, I will not press, though it seems to
follow from the fact asserted by Professor Huxley, that no important
difference can be observed between the fossil remains found in the
earliest strata, and animals of the same species and order existent
now. (See pp. 241, 242, and for vegetables, p. 240.) For, as he tells
you, facts establish a scientific law--law in the mouths of scientific
men, meaning an established order of facts. Well then! I will put this
fact of absence of progress aside, and with it the corollary of the
absence of latent powers.[20] But of actual powers it is evident that
animals do use them all, and have to use them all. So close, too, is
the agreement between the powers and the external position of every
animal, that a change in its external relations will modify its powers
to a certain extent. But only to a certain extent; there are fixed
limits to the adaptability of those living powers. If the changes are
such as to occasion a more active exercise of its living powers, the
animal increases in strength, size, and beauty; if unfavourable, but
still permitting some use of its powers, it dwindles and decays. But
pass the appointed bounds and the animal dies. Nature is exacting the
penalty of the non-use of what it has given. Nature exacts a severe
penalty for the mis-use, and the last and final penalty for the
violation of her laws. I do not know that an ascidian jelly-bag has any
other faculties than those of sucking in water, and of sticking to a
stone.[21] But this I know, that if it does not use all the powers it
possesses and suck in its water, and stick to its stone, no process of
natural selection will ever develop it into a monkey: it will go to the
limbo of nonentity.[22] But what an alarming thought, that at a period
separated from us by such vast geologic ages, that, according to the
nebular hypothesis, held by so many of our leading astronomers as a
probable theory, this whole universe was a mass of heated vapour; what
an alarming thought that the very existence of man should have depended
upon a jelly bag sticking to a stone and sucking up water! Alas! there
was then no water, no stones, no jelly bags, and therefore there are
now no men! Man escapes, poor thing, from his humble parentage: he
need not feel his ears to find the proof there of his monkeyhood:[23]
but his escape costs him dear. What with astronomy and biology, men of
science between them have cleared us out of existence. Scientifically,
man is no more.

My argument, fortunately, depends upon matters of fact: facts for which
the believer accounts by holding that this world is the work of a
Being possessed of infinite wisdom and power, and who therefore has
endowed all His creatures with those faculties which they needed, and
with no others; because to give useless faculties would be a violation
of God's attribute of wisdom. The student of natural science may take
another view. It is no part of his business to do so. His office is
to discover and tabulate the order of facts, of phenomena, and this
order he calls a natural law. Well and good. But teleology, the science
of ends, which gives the reason why a thing is what it is--teleology
belongs to the metaphysician. It is his business to inquire into causes
and effects. Still, as a matter of fact, scientific men do try their
hand at accounting for the present state of things, and they say,
perhaps, that there is a struggle, a competition in nature,[177] so
sharp and close that no creature can continue to exist save by the
vigorous exercise of all its necessary faculties, while all useless
qualities will be cast away as mere overweight and incumbrance. I
need no decision upon this point; the fact is all I want. I do not
want you to decide whether mind preceded matter, and consequently
that there is a God: or whether matter and mind came into existence
contemporaneously, in which case there is no room for the theory of
development, but abundant room for impossibilities, metaphysical and
actual; or, lastly, whether matter preceded mind, the latter being
simply the result of a high corporeal organisation, slowly attained to
by the processes of selection, natural and sexual. Whether this present
state of things was worked out intelligently, by a Being possessed of
will and understanding, or is the result of blind and unintelligent
powers, working fortuitously, this, to my argument, matters not. All
I want is the admitted fact--that every living organisation fully
possesses all those faculties which it needs, and must use all its
faculties under penalty, first of degradation, and, finally, in the
long run, of extinction.

But man is a living organization, and must, therefore, come under this
law. Let us see whether the fact confirms this deduction. Now, in all
the long line, from the ascidian upwards to man, nature had supplied
none but physical wants. Her children need food; she gives them each
those senses and that conformation which enables them to get each their
own food. They need safety: she uses much ingenuity in providing for
their safety. She is, moreover, liberal. Their food is, in general,
gained so easily, and their safety so well provided for, that their
lives are full of enjoyment. Her care, however, is taken in the main
for the species, and not for the individual. He enjoys his food because
nature has taken loving care for the whole family to which he belongs;
and she further takes care that that family shall continue to exist.
If it perish, it is because by some change in temperature, or the like,
the correspondence is destroyed between its faculties and its external
position. Short of this, the ingenuity employed by nature in providing
for the continued existence of every species of insect and animal is as
wonderful as that employed by her in continuing vegetable life; and,
as a rule, the lower the creature is in the scale of being, the more
curious the contrivances used for its preservation.

Well, when we come to man we find these three leading necessities
equally well provided for. Man is provided with the means for obtaining
food, for providing for his safety, and for propagating his species.
But, though nature's ends are the same, and reached with equal
certainty, her means are, in the main, different. The animals are moved
to gain their existence by their senses working upon their instincts.
This is a great advance upon vegetable life. You had there neither
senses nor instincts, but simply powers. But man rises above the
animals as much as they transcend vegetables. He attains to these same
ends of food, safety, and continued existence by the use of his reason.

Now, I wish you to notice this. Nature is not limited in her resources,
nor confined to one method. She is not obliged to plant animals in
the ground that they may suck up food through their legs; she can and
does give them instincts by which they can get their food in a very
different way. But perfect as these instincts are, nature can do still
better. She can produce an animal capable of reasoning upon causes and
effects, and who, therefore, provides for everything which he imagines
to be good for him by setting those causes in motion which produce the
desired effect.[24]

But with the possession of reason there also goes the possession of
what we call mental faculties. Not only can man by the use of his
reason obtain food, provide for his safety, and continue his race,
but higher ends are made possible for him, to be attained to by the
use of this higher endowment. Man has the power of articulate speech,
and upon this follows the power of learning to read, to write, and
to cypher; and upon the power of doing these three things follows
a plenitude of other powers. Now, I shall not stop to enquire how
man gained these powers, whether by natural and sexual selection or
not; but I venture to point out that there is a vast chasm between
physical and intellectual powers. The most sensible monkey is a parody
rather than an imitation of man, and the difference between the two
is enormous.[25] The points of agreement serve rather to enable us to
measure this interval, and see how wide it is, than to bridge it over.
Now, let us suppose ourselves philosophers come, we will say, from the
planet Jupiter, on a mission intrusted to us by the Jovians, to examine
and report upon the nature of the creatures which people the four
inferior planets, Terra, Venus, Mercury, and Mars. Of course, we should
look upon the inhabitants of such small communities with contempt,
but, being philosophers, we should not neglect anything because it was
trifling. Well, when we came to Terra we should report that it was a
very curious region, inhabited by a long scale of beings, each one
fitted to its place, and that at their head there was a rather noxious,
troublesome, and uppish creature called man, whose examination had
caused us an infinity of trouble.

In examining this creature we should find that it shared in all the
wants of those beneath him, but that it supplied its wants, not by
the use of instincts, but of reason. Over and above, however, man's
physical wants, we should find that he had mental wants; and with
these wants faculties also, by which he could supply them. Supply all
the physical wants of an animal, and having none besides, it will lie
still for hours or days until hunger stirs it to renewed exertion.
Supply all man's physical wants, and his mental wants then develop
into full activity. Give him the lowest and basest drudgery; make him
work morning, noon, and night in the meanest occupations, for the
supply of merely physical necessities, and, though you can infinitely
degrade, you cannot destroy his mental powers. He still thinks, still
connects causes and effects. But our purpose will be best answered by
taking the case of those whose faculties are most highly cultivated.
Has nature supplied a proper field for the exercise of the mental
powers, not merely of Fuegians, but of the most highly developed man?
You know that she has. Take the senses which he has in common with the
animals, but see what vast means have been provided by which he can
make an intellectual use of them. What arts and sciences, painting,
music, harmony, numbers, eloquence, have grown out of their use. As for
our mental powers, think only of the vast number of ologies which are
claiming admission into our very normal schools. Think only of all our
learned Associations, our Royal Societies, our Social Congresses, our
British Museums full of books, which have been written, and are waiting
only to be read, and you must own that men do use their mental powers,
and have means enough for a more ample use of them. Nature makes us
use our mental powers to some extent. She encourages us to use them
thoroughly and earnestly.

Use them we must. Man is placed in such a position that he must
study what passes round him. Man learns by experience. Instincts are
but slightly progressive. Unless brought into contact with man, the
animals learn little--perhaps nothing. I do not doubt but that those
huge monsters, whose remains we behold in geological museums, were the
most dull and stupid creatures possible. I think this simply because
I suppose that man did not then exist, and, therefore, that these
monsters had nothing to waken them up out of their sluggish torpor. But
scientific men[26] tell me that existing mammals actually have larger
brains than their ancient tertiary prototypes of the same order.
Let man enter the stage, and the instincts of animals are quickened.
Nature did not create man without taking care to guard the inferior
animals from his destructive powers. But man in himself, essentially,
is at once progressive and retrogressive. Bound up with him is an
infinite possibility of advance and decay. He is never stationary.
Both individuals and communities are perpetually either ascending or
descending in the scale, morally and intellectually. But this law of
nature obliges man to perpetual mental effort under the usual penalty
of degradation. We have not merely to advance, to win new ground. If
this were all, at length we should have nothing to do. We have to win
back lost ground. Our gains are, I hope, greater than our losses;
but the progress of no community will ever be fast enough, continued
enough, and assured enough, to justify the members of it in living in
a fool's paradise. This, then, was our second point. The first was,
that nature has provided us with a proper field for the exercise of our
mental faculties; the second, that she imposes upon us the necessity of
using them.

We may add, that the law of scientific progress also makes it certain
that no advance of science will ever deliver us from the necessity
of using our faculties. The valuable part of every science is its
theory--the mental part. Facts and fossils are of no value, except as
being the materials for thought. No geologist would care much for a
discovery of fossils in agreement with an established theory, but if
the theory were still debated, then every discovery that tended to
prove or disprove it, would be canvassed with intelligent interest.
The pure sciences can grow, I am well aware, only by additions. But
then they are simply instrumental. They are to the mixed sciences what
arithmetic is to the ordinary business of life. Logarithms, algebra,
the integral and differential calculuses, are simply easy ways of
doing difficult sums. It is a great thing, no doubt, for science to
perfect its instruments and processes, but scientific progress lies
in the mixed sciences themselves, and these are constantly undergoing
modification. The spectrum analysis is largely modifying the science
of astronomy. Deep sea dredging, and other fresh means of information,
have so modified geology, that no one holds now that similar strata are
necessarily of the same date. A vast cretaceous formation is probably
going on at this very day in the bed of the Atlantic. (Huxley, "Lay
Sermons," p. 206.) The law, then, of scientific progress is constant
modification; fresh facts are discovered, new theories started, old
theories revived, existing theories altered, recast, newly shaped.
Should a science become, practically, complete and perfect, scientific
men would care for it no longer. The manufacturer and merchant would
then seize upon it. In this way what was once a problem in the mind
of the student, becomes an article of use, comfort, and enjoyment in
our daily lives. Meanwhile, new sciences spring up, and old sciences
take new shape, and, as a matter of fact, so large has become the
scientific domain, that no one man can master it. Division of labour
has become as necessary here as in the manual crafts. We are no longer
encyclopædists, but each one must stick to his own page in the great
book of learning.

Many of these sciences relate to our social condition. And of these
the importance and value every day rapidly increases. Good government
largely depends upon knowledge of all those natural laws upon which
moral and physical well-being depends. Upon good government follow
increased wealth, active trade, higher wages, and larger consumption
of commodities. Upon these follows increased population, and that
population concentrated upon spots favourable for all this activity.
And upon this follow new social difficulties; fresh problems arise to
be solved, and new questions to occupy the mind both of the student
and of the statesman. Unless solved, society will retrograde; it
will suffer in health, in wealth, and morality; turbulence will take
the place of quiet industry; and that community will decay. Here
again nature provides a field for the employment of our faculties,
and compels us to use them. If not there is the same penalty,
degradation. I do not know how many geological periods it would take
before, by the neglect of our powers, we could retrograde back to our
ascidian progenitor; but I see everywhere around me the proofs that
retrogression is as much a law of man's nature as progress. We can only
continue what we are by using all our powers.[27]

But I may have lingered over this part of my subject too long. No one
perhaps will deny that man both can and must use his mental powers
as thoroughly as an animal must use its instincts, and a plant its
vegetative powers, or it will suffer for its neglect. Only remember
that my argument has nothing to do with individuals; I am treating of
man as a species, and investigating the general laws which regulate his
well being. Well, now, has man any other powers than those already
described? Has he merely physical powers to enable him to get food,
and other bodily necessaries; and mental powers to enable him to read,
write, and cypher? Is this all? You know that it is not all. There is
another broad distinction between man and all the other inhabitants of
this earth. He alone distinguishes between right and wrong.[28]

Now if man possesses this faculty, however acquired, and by whatever
name called, then if nature's laws are universal, he is both bound to
use it, will suffer from not using it, and will have a proper field
provided for its use. Nature gives no faculty without imposing an
obligation of exercising it: an obligation, however, which rests in its
full force upon the species, and upon the individual only as belonging
to the species. Some powers every individual must use or he would
die; there are other powers which, if he does not use, nature will be
content with a lighter penalty. Far be it from me to affirm that every
one here uses his reasoning powers. I hope he does; but if he does not
use them, I am quite sure that nature will exact of him the penalty of
stupidity. But the species must use them; if not, upon degradation
would soon follow extinction. Nature, for instance, would not let man
exist as a mere animal. If he did not use his reason, the instincts of
other animals are so superior to his, that while they found food he
would be unable to do so. Even if necessity quickened his instincts, he
would yet have ceased to be a man, and would be retrograding back to
the ascidian. To continue to be a man he must make some low use at all
events of his mental powers. Now, can you establish any such difference
between man's intellectual and moral powers, as will justify you, while
acknowledging that you must use the one, in neglecting the other? Can
you give any reason why you need not use the faculty which undoubtedly
you possess of distinguishing between right and wrong, and the faculty,
let us say, of "using the imagination in matters of science." I am sure
you cannot. By not using your mental powers you will be in an inferior
mental position; by not using your moral powers you will hold an
inferior moral position.

But you may say the penalty is slight, and we will pay it. We will
use our physical powers, and become grand animals and we will use our
mental powers, and become grand intellectual men. Not men I answer.
Add intellectuality to animality, and you merely get an intellectual
animal. Your moral powers are an essential part of yourselves.
Confessedly too, there is ample field for using them. The whole
world is so constituted that morning, noon, and night, the question
perpetually arises of right and wrong. You cannot take a step in
life without conscience intervening. It is so inseparably a part of
yourselves that constantly it acts as a mere instinct, and approves or
condemns your conduct as spontaneously as your palate distinguishes
between sweet and bitter. You may render your palate dull, so that you
cannot taste what you eat and drink; you may render your conscience
dull, but it has a strong recuperative force, and, after years of
dullness, will awaken, and exercise again its judicial functions with
stern and decisive energy. Struggle as much as you like, but the
conclusion cannot be evaded, that you can distinguish between right and
wrong, that you ought to do so, and that you must do so.

If so, what follows? I answer, the necessity of religion, and therefore
of revelation. Resist as men will and do, they have but a choice
between two alternatives. Either all this present state of things, in
which every faculty has its appropriate field of exercise, and every
external possibility has opposite to it an internal faculty; either
all this is an illusion and deceit, a purposeless and objectless piece
of jugglery;[29] or if it be a reality, then the existence in man
of faculties, obliging him to distinguish between right and wrong,
constitute him a _responsible_ agent. If he is responsible, he is
responsible to some one: and certain penalties are necessarily attached
to the neglect, the misuse, and the violation of his moral powers.
The person to whom man is responsible must be capable of forming an
equitable judgment, and therefore must know the motives as well as the
outward acts, and for this nothing less than omniscience will suffice.
He must have the power of apportioning adequate rewards and punishments
to human actions, which will need little less than omnipotence. And
as no adequate reward or punishment follows in this life, there must
be some other state in which men will be dealt with according to
their true deserts. If not, then there exists in man a whole class of
faculties, moral faculties, which seem to find in this present state of
things an appropriate field for their exercise, but which man is under
no necessity of using. A man who lives in the habitual violation of
every moral obligation, but does so with discretion, may have a very
large enjoyment of the things of this world: while generally a man
whose conscience is tender, and whose life is regulated by the highest
motives, necessarily and voluntarily abandons much, both of pleasure
and prosperity. Nature cannot have so bungled her work. The highest
possible exercise of the powers which she has given us must necessarily
lead to the highest possible good. It does not matter to the argument
whether conscience and your other moral faculties be natural or
acquired. If nature endowed an ascidian with the power of acquiring
moral faculties, it was bound to use them as soon as it had got them.
The question whether you are bound to use your mental faculties does
not depend in the least upon the question whether man is an improved
monkey. You are bound to use them simply because you have them. So you
are bound to live as a responsible being simply because you have the
faculty of distinguishing between right and wrong. You know, too, that
you act yourselves upon this principle. If any one were to push one of
you out of your seat and take it himself, not only would you be angry,
but our chairman would call in a policeman to expel the disturber, and
give you your seat back again. Why? Because the man would have been
doing wrong, and need not have done it; and because it was wrong you
are angry and punish him. But can you stop there? There are things
which we know to be wrong, but which hurt none but ourselves; things
we know to be wrong, but which benefit society. A man may liberally
support useful institutions from motives of ostentation, or as a bribe,
if he is a candidate, let us say, for a seat in parliament. An act may
be apparently right, but the inner motive wrong. Now, conscience judges
of things absolutely; it condemns or approves of things, not as they
seem, but as they really are: not by results, but by their intrinsic
character. What is there which answers to this outside of man? Must
there not be a judge who also judges men absolutely? You can find no
such judge but God. Either, then, nature is a sham, and her laws not
universal, and this present state of things a delusion, or there is a
universal judge, and a future state in which reward and punishment will
be meted out in strict accordance with the rightness and wrongness of
human action. A being omniscient and almighty can alone judge actions
absolutely in the same way as conscience judges us, both for our
thoughts, words, and deeds.

I have chiefly spoken of conscience, but the argument takes in all
man's moral and spiritual powers.[30] No man can doubt but that man
has within him powers which exactly answer to religion outside of
him. The power of faith is as much a faculty as that of sight; and so
also is that instinct, I had almost called it, which makes a man ever
turn away in discontent from the present to struggle for the future.
And what is more, man's moral and religious faculties develop with
advancing civilization just as his mental faculties do. The mental
questions which agitate our minds would be entirely void of interest
to a savage; the social difficulties which occupy the attention of our
political economists and statesmen would be mere trash to a peasant:
so, too, with religion. I do not see any reason why a race may not
sink so low as to lose the very idea of a God; but I am sure that such
a race would hold the very lowest place in the scale of humanity.
Whatever round in the ladder of human progress you like to examine, I
will make bold to say that you will find the religious and moral state
of mankind there holding a very close relation to the degree of mental
culture and civilization to which it has attained.

Now, the only thing that acts powerfully upon man's moral faculties
is religion. I do not say that this ought or ought not to be so; all
I assert is that it is so. Call, if you like, the great mass of your
fellow men Philistines, and despise their low culture, but you will
find nothing that acts powerfully upon these Philistines to give
them culture, to raise, refine, and purify them, except religion.
Conscience, too, holds a most direct and evident relation to religion.
You will not find conscience amenable to reasoning. When virtue
begins to reason, the proverb tells you it is lost. When conscience
condemns, it is because the thing condemned is a sin against God;
when it approves, it is because the thing done is absolutely right,
and as God commanded. Conscience never asks whether a thing is a sin
against society; it never troubles about consequences, knows nothing
about political economy, or political morality either. It judges by a
higher and absolute rule. By so doing it makes man a responsible agent
absolutely, brings him into direct relation with God as the absolute
judge, and renders necessary a more exact apportionment of rewards and
punishments than exists at present. There must be some other state of
existence in which man will be judged in the same way as now he judges
himself, and in which the natural effects of this judgment will be
fully carried out.

But, if there is thus a future judgment, and a state in which happiness
and misery will follow as the natural[31] results of our actions
here, man will require a certain amount of knowledge concerning
this judgment. By the possession of conscience and other religious
faculties, man holds a definite relation towards God. Plainly the most
tremendous results may follow from this relation, and man ought to have
some sure knowledge of these results. Now it is conceivably possible
that God might have given us this knowledge by means of the light of
nature, as we call it. But He has not. Confessedly natural religion
is neither clear enough nor certain enough to affect powerfully the
masses. Man is not a quiet, orderly, neutral sort of being; he bears
about with him a nature fraught and fully charged with the most
dangerous passions. Reason, with its prudential maxims, has never done
much to restrain these passions. To take, then, the lowest possible
ground. As nature has given us moral qualities, I suppose that moral
excellence is a thing as necessarily to be attained to as physical
and mental excellence. But while nature has provided ample means for
attaining to the two last, she will not, without a revelation, have
provided sufficient means for the attainment of the first. By the aid
of religion, about as many men probably attain to moral excellence, as
by other natural means attain to physical and mental excellence.[32]
Without religion nature will have broken down. You would have
universally a state of things like that in ancient Greece--one Plato,
surrounded by the mass leading the most grossly sensual life.

Nature cannot develop any being higher than herself, nor endow it with
wants which she cannot supply. If nature develops intellect, morality,
religion, then that power which developed these faculties must also be
intellectual, moral, religious. What, then, can this power in nature be
but the working of God? Out of nothing comes nothing. The effect cannot
be greater than the cause. The existence of man, with his mental,
moral, and religious powers, forbids us to believe that that which
caused man to exist can be less possessed of these powers than he is.
Infinitely higher he may be, lower he cannot be. And as surely as man's
physical and mental wants are provided for by that power which called
these wants into being, so surely will man's moral and religious wants
be supplied.

They are not supplied by the light of nature; nothing then remains but
revelation. Into the formal proof of revelation I must not enter; all
that devolved upon me was to show the _à priori_ probability, or at
least possibility, of a revelation. I have endeavoured to show this
by a consideration of what man is, viewed simply as a natural being,
and by the consideration of his natural wants. I have not taken into
consideration any of the additional knowledge given us in the Bible
concerning man. I have treated him in much the same way as I might
one of the creatures in the Zoological Gardens, if I had been asked
to study it in order that I might see what its wants were, and tell
the keeper what to give it to maintain it in the full possession
of its powers. No doubt it would have helped me if I had been told
what and where the creature had been before. I should then have had
no difficulty in explaining and accounting for everything. Such
knowledge, however, even revelation does not give us, because it is not
indispensable. It gives us that only which is necessary for the supply
of our wants.

Even with this knowledge my argument is not concerned; but certain
general principles about revelation follow from what I have laid
down. And first, revelation has nothing to do with our physical state.
Reason is quite sufficient to teach us all those sanitary laws by
which our bodies will be maintained in healthful vigour. If the Bible
condemns drunkenness, gluttony, and the like, it does so not for
sanitary reasons, but for moral reasons, because they are sins. So
revelation has nothing to do with our mental powers; whatever we can
attain to by our mental powers we are to attain to by them. Physical
and metaphysical science alike lie remote from the object-matter of
revelation. Because God has, in the Bible, given us revelation in an
informal way, in order, perhaps, to commend it to our entire nature,
people often forget that its proper object-matter is simply the moral
relation in which man stands to God, especially with reference to a
future state of being. Religious men forget this. They often take up
an antagonistic position to science, and try to make out systems of
geology and astronomy and anthropology from the Bible and by these
judge all that scientific men say. Really the Bible never gives us
any scientific knowledge in a scientific way. If it did, it would
be leaving its own proper domain. When it does seem to give us any
such knowledge, as in the first chapter of Genesis, there is a very
important differentia about it. What it says has always reference to
man. The first chapter of Genesis does not tell us how the earth was
formed absolutely; geology ought to tell us that. It tells us how it
was prepared and fitted for man. Look at the work of the fourth day.
Does any man suppose that the stars were set in the expanse of heaven
absolutely that men might know what time of year it was? But that
is their special service, and in old time a most important service
for man. To the geologist man is just as much and just as little as
a trilobite or a megatherium. To the student of the Bible man is
everything, and the first chapter of Genesis teaches him that man was
the cause of all other terrestrial creation, the sum and crown of the
Creator's work.[180]

But if believers mix up science and revelation, so do the students of
physical science. No sooner is a theory started, than it is immediately
compared with what the Bible says, or is supposed to say. Now, no
doubt, the comparison between the teachings of revelation and science
is inevitable. Whatever is mixed up with revelation, owing to the
manner in which God has been pleased to bestow it, must, at least, be
true. It would be impossible for us to accept the authority of the
Bible upon those points in which we cannot judge of its truth, if in
those points in which we are competent judges we found it erroneous.
The teachings, therefore, of science and of revelation must be
compared; but in this comparison not only must we remember that it is
not the object of the Bible to teach science, and that, as it speaks
to all people at all times, it must use popular language, but also
that the comparison must be made, not with the floating theories of
the hour, but only with established truths. If the wisest geologist
of our days could show that there was an exact agreement between
geology and the Bible, it would rather disprove than prove its truth.
For, as geology is a growing science, it would prove the agreement
of the Bible with that which is receiving daily additions, and is
constantly undergoing modification, and ten years hence the two would
be at hopeless variance. At the same time there is a good side to the
discussion, and the theologian especially is the gainer. In the present
day the attack upon revelation draws its weapons from our increased
knowledge of physical science, of philology, and of history, and the
theologian can no longer neglect these studies. I have no scruple
in saying that I look with pride upon what my countrymen have done,
and are doing, in enlarging the bounds of our scientific knowledge,
even if I do not always approve of their spirit, or accept their
conclusions; and I am quite sure theologians must study, intelligently
and dispassionately, all those branches of knowledge which are brought
into contact with revelation, or they will lose their influence over
the intellect of the country. It is no use treating physical science
as a bugbear. Let our theologians master it, and they will find it a
manly study, which will give their minds breadth, will teach them what
are the difficulties which press heavily on many thoughtful minds, and
which must be fairly met. An opposition between an old science like
theology and new sciences there must be: but let both sides remember
that revelation was never intended to teach us anything that we could
learn by the use of our natural faculties, and that what the Bible
teaches must be compared not with floating and probable theories, but
with proved theories. These proved theories will, I believe, fall into
their place in due course of time, as easily as Galileo's theory about
the revolution of the earth round the sun. If not, I do not see how
the claims of the Bible to be the Word of God can be maintained: for I
cannot believe that there is any chasm between the teachings of God in
nature and in revelation. But I think it perfectly possible that men
may misinterpret and misunderstand both one and the other.

I have detained you too long. But I must make one more remark. If the
proper object matter of revelation is that knowledge, which being
necessary for us as moral agents, was yet unattainable by our natural
powers, then reason is no judge of what revelation teaches. There
may be in our relations to God, things which we never should have
expected: deep truths opening onwards into mysteries past our present
finite comprehension. If everything had been plain, easy, commonplace,
revelation would not have been needed. Nevertheless, reason holds a
very high office with respect to revelation. In a matter of so high
consequence, as whether God has spoken to us or not, we are bound to
examine most scrupulously the evidence upon which the fact of the
revelation rests. And this examination involves an enquiry into the
teachings of revelation. The existence of mysteries in a revelation is
reasonable: the existence of immorality in it would be fatal to its
claims. For if the scientific basis for my belief in the gift of a
revelation is the existence in me of conscience, and of moral faculties
which make me a responsible being, I am left absolutely without a basis
for a revelation which makes me violate my conscience. A revelation
which degrades my moral and spiritual powers is as much against nature
as anything that degraded my physical or mental powers. If religion be
true, it must ennoble, elevate, purify, and perfect me, here as far as
the present condition of my existence permits, entirely in that other
state to which our present responsibility points, provided, of course,
that I submit myself to its teachings. I know of no way by which I
can make this examination except by reason and experience. And I hold
this further, because I hold that a true religion must be commensurate
with the whole of man. It must make him better physically, mentally,
morally, and spiritually, and consecrate all his powers to God.

I am only too well aware that much which I have said has been put in
a feeble and confused manner. Much also necessary for the support and
elucidation of the argument had to be omitted because of the necessity
of compressing it into so short an essay; but I trust that the main
line of thought is clear, namely, that religion outside of us stands in
so plain a relation to what we are internally, that either it is real,
or this whole state of things is a delusion. Man, without a revelation,
and therefore without religion, is the only one thing of all that exist
upon the face of the earth that is a bungle,[33] a failure, and a









One of the most touching narratives in the New Testament relates to a
want of faith in miracles. It is said that when Thomas was told of his
Master's resurrection, he replied, "Except I shall see in His hands
the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails,
and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." He was not
denounced for this. No word of withering scorn, or cutting ridicule,
or threatening anger, fell on the ear of the doubting disciple. But
evidence was offered. "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands;
and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not
faithless, but believing." As far as rebuke appeared, it was only by
implication, in words respecting those whose faith is of keener eye,
and swifter foot: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have

I think that every one who speaks of miracles to doubting minds should
from this narrative take a lesson. Surely the gist and purpose of
it is, that we should distinguish between intellectual difficulty
and moral prejudice, and deal patiently and convincingly with honest
seekers after truth. Sometimes the subject before us has been so
handled as to drive the unbeliever into deeper unbelieving--I would
rather strive to work upon a little faith, and make it more.


I am to speak to you respecting the _nature_ of the miraculous
testimony to Christianity. My business is with mighty works, recorded
in the New Testament as having been wrought for the purpose of
testifying to a Divine mission. No definition of their character in
relation to physical law can anywhere be found in this ancient record.
They are not spoken of as _violations_ of law, or as _suspensions_
of law, or as _interferences_ with law, or as _contradictions_ to
law. They are described, not on the side of their physical nature,
but on the side of their moral signification. They are depicted, not
in their connection with the obvious order of the material universe,
or with any hidden powers and principles of a higher and harmonious
description; but in their connection with Him who claimed to be the
Redeemer of mankind, who came, according to His own words, to seek and
save that which was lost. They are denominated "_wonders_," startling
occurrences, things contrary to common experience; and "_signs_,"--not
mere marvels bursting idly on the public gaze, and exciting in a
multitude of spectators a barren curiosity, but _signs_,--replete with
an ulterior meaning, and testifying to the character and work of Him
through whom they were accomplished.

There is no necessity, then, for us at the outset to define a miracle
on the physical side of it--to call it a violation of law, or a
suspension of law--an interference with it, or a contradiction to it.
In other words, there is no need imposed by the conditions of our
argument, to inquire into the mode in which such a phenomenon can be
produced. It is enough to show that it did occur, and to dwell upon the
religious significancy of its occurrence first to the witnesses, and
next to ourselves. What is the exact position which miracles may be
thought to occupy as wonders in the universe, whether, through breaking
in upon common experience, they are referable to the operation of
occult laws, known and controlled at a fitting moment by the mysterious
touch of the wonder-worker; or whether they are to be considered as
resulting simply from the immediate fiat of the Supreme will, are
questions which may with advantage be relegated for consideration

1. But, at the very threshold of our inquiry we are met by the
assertion, that a miracle, however defined, is in itself simply
impossible. Impossible! In what sense impossible? Does it mean
impossible to man, or impossible to God? Impossible to man, of course,
it is. That impossibility enters into the popular idea of a miracle.
Man has no such control over nature as to be able to produce one. But
if it be said a miracle is impossible to God, such an impossibility
involves the extension of human inability to God Himself. It involves
either the idea, that nature has ever been independent of God, or
the idea, that if produced by Him, He is no longer Lord of His
own works--this Lordship having been surrendered by His will, or
having escaped from His hands. Summarily disposing of this gross
anthropomorphism, we find behind it the dogma of Spinoza, that there
is nothing transcendental anywhere, no transcendental beginnings, no
transcendental interpositions; for God and nature are one through the
eternities. In the wake of Spinoza's philosophy follows the modern
axiom--"to recognise the impossibility even of any two material atoms
subsisting together without a determinate relation--of any action of
the one on the other, whether of equilibrium or of motion, without
reference to a physical cause--of any modification whatsoever in the
existing conditions of material agents, _unless through the invariable
operation of a series of eternally impressed consequences, following in
some necessary chain of orderly connexion_."[34]

Here, _in limine_, before examining this principle, let me observe,
once for all, that miracles do by no means cast any slur upon the
settled order of nature, as if it were faulty and imperfect, and
required correction or supplement for effectuating its proper ends--as
frail constructions in engineering departments of human contrivance
need subsequent repairs. Nature is perfect enough for her own ends;
miracles are introduced for other and higher purposes. This requires to
be borne in mind throughout our entire discussion.

But to come to the antagonist principle, that there is a development
in nature through the agency of physical laws, apart from an original
Creator and an everlasting Lord. I do not say--far from it--that the
principle denies the existence of such a Creator and Lord, but it
supposes at least that the physical order of the universe is fixed in
such a sense, as to have ever excluded from it the action, directly
or indirectly, of a Divine will, beyond the inflexible maintenance of
ordinary operations. It is said, "The enlarged critical and inductive
study of the natural world cannot but tend powerfully to evince the
inconceivableness of imagined interruptions of natural order, or
supposed suspensions of the laws of matter, and of that vast series
of dependent causation which constitutes the legitimate field for the
investigation of science, whose constancy is the sole warrant for its
generalization." In reply to this it may be fairly urged that science,
whilst she maintains the invariable sequence of causes and effects,
and the uninterrupted order of physical events, is a prophetess of
truth and wisdom. She enunciates lessons bound up with the welfare of
the race. Thus far there is no antagonism between her and religion.
She can, without abandonment of her principles, nay, in the act of
carrying them out, officiate as a priestess at the altar of God; nor
is there anything in the position for which she stipulates contrary to
the claims of Revelation. For Revelation, in appealing to miracles,
supposes the ordinary course of physical phenomena to be inviolable,
and no book more than the Bible exhibits the normal constancy of
natural agencies. But when science pronounces as impossible all such
signs and wonders as are recorded in Scripture, she steps out of her
province. In her own province she may justly affirm there are no signs
of miracles; she may sweep her telescope over the fields of the sky,
and ply her microscope amidst the growths of the earth, and say, I can
see no traces anywhere but of inflexible law. These realms of existence
are full of order. It is the perfection of their beauty, that they are
free from violations, suspensions, disturbances, and interferences.
But to say this--and I fully concur in it--is not to demonstrate that
the Scriptures relate impossibilities. To do so, philosophy must pass
beyond the range of physical observation, since _there_ no place can
be found for working out the desired demonstration. Philosophers do
not always remember how difficult it is to prove a negative. Showing
that certain things are, they are apt to slide into a belief that
_therefore_ certain other things cannot be, the conclusion proving on
logical examination a simple _non sequitur_. Doubtless it is a fact,
that we can detect nowhere in nature a provision made for producing
miracles such as come under our review in this lecture, that no
prophecy nor hint of them can be discerned throughout her measured
realms; but this is a very different thing from saying, that nature
teaches the belief of them to be absurd. So far from its being absurd,
there may, after all, be found in nature something analogous to a
miracle. In nature there are distinct worlds, worlds between which
there are gaps and gulfs. I do not dispute that there are striking
approximations in the phenomena of some realms to the phenomena of
others; but there are also broad deep spaces, here and there, never
bridged over by the discoveries of science. Hence, "an animal," as you
have been told already, in the words of Hegel, "is a miracle for the
vegetable world." It is a new creation in some way, and a new creation
in any way is a miracle. After wandering amongst rocks, we find in
plants a new world. Organized life is so; so also, compared with
animal instinct, is the mind of man, with its spiritual reason, and its
moral consciousness.

Not only do Coleridge, Kant, and Plato regard man's highest faculty as
essentially different from the mere adaptive understanding of an animal
nature; but what is still more remarkable, Aristotle himself, whose
turn of mind was so different from theirs, differentiates man from
other creatures on the ground of his being endowed with the faculty of
reason. In his work on the Generation of Animals, he says that there
is no resource except to believe, that the reason has no affinity with
the material elements out of which the human embryo is formed, but that
it comes from without, and that it alone, of all the component parts
of man, is divine.[35] Thus, in the opinion of one of the greatest
philosophers the world has ever known, the line of demarcation between
man and all lower creatures is broad and clear, a line which in the
simple order and development of nature they could never cross. The
superior attributes of humanity, according to him, come _from without_;
here, then, amongst the component parts of humanity is something
divine. In other words, we have a new world; a new creation. I do not
say there is a strict parallel between any new race or species in
nature and the occurrence of individual miracles on rare occasions,
but I do say that there is enough of resemblance between these two
descriptions of change to exempt a believer in both of them from the
charge of being absurd.

Furthermore, there are in human minds varieties of power of an
astonishing description: although there be faculties common to all
men, the vigour of those faculties in some cases is such as perfectly
to eclipse the vigour of them in others. The superiority of individual
minds, whose works have filled the world with wonder, is such as to
leave behind, at an unapproachable distance, the ordinary measure
of human endowment. Certain intellects (I need not name them) have
long exercised a formative power upon the civilized portions of our
race. They have been as crystals inserted in a solution, and other
crystals have received shape from them. Whence have come these typical
energies in the intellectual world? No law of development will account
for a resplendent genius now and then flashing on the world; for the
appearance of a master mind, after humanity has kept on a low level
through generation after generation; for the ascent again of gifted
spirits into the highest heaven of invention, after another lapse into
mere mediocrity. No known laws of causality account for such facts
in the realms of intellectual existence. If, in the case of man, as
compared with other animals, the difference, as Aristotle says, is
something which comes _from without_, the same may be said with respect
to the difference between ordinary mortals and William Shakespere or
John Milton. There is forced upon us the conviction, that these stars
which dwell apart are kindled by fires burning in superhuman spheres.
I do not say, in this case, any more than in the others I have cited,
that we find an exact parallel to a miracle; but I do maintain, that
we discover here a kind of inspiration which, like the miraculous,
transcends all known laws, and brings to mind what was said by the
first of those just named:

        "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
        Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

What is called physical science must change her name, and renounce
her office, and assume functions of another order, before she can
pronounce a peremptory negative upon the point in controversy.[36]
Physical science needs to become metaphysical, and to pass into fields
of abstract reasoning in order to the utterance of a universal dictum.
To this kind of mental employment in itself I make no objection; for
the science of merely physical nature, without any outlook into higher
regions, keeps the soul in humiliating imprisonment. The excursions of
thought, however, now before us are regarded in some quarters under
the singular delusion of being strictly scientific, whilst employed
in devising a theory of the universe which excludes the constant
control of a personal God, an Almighty will. The assaults on what
is miraculous can be carried on only with metaphysical weapons. The
facts of physical nature do not supply them; only from theories of
physical nature, taking a metaphysical form, can they be gathered. Even
Positivism, with all its doubtfulness and denial--strange contradiction
that--must, in order to deny the possibility of miracles, build up a
wall to shut them out, by trenching first on ground beyond its own
domain. Pure Positivism, consistently with itself, is not competent to
contradict the existence of the supernatural; it can but leave it an
open question. The common method of distinctly denying miracles is one
involving either some atheistic or pantheistic principle. Assume--and
it is but an assumption--that matter is eternal and self-sufficient;
that natural laws have not originated in, or are not administered
by, a personal will; and thus assuming what prepares for, if it does
not necessitate, some atheistic or pantheistic hypothesis, you can
plausibly maintain that the wonders of which we speak are utterly
inconceivable. But, as you see, it is not physical science simply
considered which brings out this result; the result comes through
adding to physical science what is really a metaphysical element.

At what a tremendous cost, it may be observed by the way, is such a
result achieved. The philosophy of universal necessity places man in
the same predicament as it does simple matter. If all nature excludes
voluntary control, and is subject only to an iron rule of invariable
succession, then man also must himself be incapable of voluntary
control, whether it comes from a supreme will or from his own. Thus
the warfare which assails miracles, threatens to destroy all ideas of
freedom and moral responsibility. And this dark foreshadowing is not
concealed. "Step by step," we are confidently and calmly told, "the
notion of evolution by law is transforming the whole field of our
knowledge and opinion. Not the physical world alone is now the domain
of inductive (?) science, but the moral, the intellectual, and the
spiritual are being added to the empire. It is the crown of philosophy
to see the immutable even in the complex action of human life."[37]

But when all assumptions are denied, the whole question presents
another aspect. Given the fundamental distinction between things
physical and things moral; given the higher nature of man, the personal
existence of God, a moral element in the Divine rule, the immortality
of the human soul, and the present vicinity of invisible spiritual
realms; and, immediately, miracles wrought by the Divine will for
men's moral welfare are completely removed out of the sphere of the

Positivism, Atheism, and Pantheism are considered in other lectures of
this course, and therefore it is not my office to examine them. To what
has been said by the Archbishop of York and the Rev. Mr. Jackson, and
to what may be said by the Rev. Dr. Rigg, I must refer my hearers.

I would only observe in passing, what, indeed, I have hinted at
already, that it puzzles me beyond description to conceive how, by any
course of natural evolution, independent of the introduction of a new
force by an overruling power, the phenomena of the human will with its
morally creative energy for good and evil could have been produced. To
solve, on the principle of pure development, the problem of the genesis
of that mysterious faculty, is an insuperable task. If we may speak of
what is inconceivable--and scientific men set us the example--we should
say the existence of volition in man, with its moral accompaniments,
is utterly inconceivable, apart from belief in a Divine will, of which
ours is the offspring.

It appears, then, that science really presents no antecedent grounds
for rejecting miracles, and that if we believe in a personal God, the
presumed impossibility melts away. This point has been conceded by one
of the masters of modern reasoning. "A miracle," as was justly remarked
by Brown, "is no contradiction to the law of cause and effect; it is a
new effect, supposed to be produced by the introduction of a new cause.
Of the adequacy of that cause, if present, there can be no doubt, and
the only antecedent improbability which can be ascribed to the miracle,
is the improbability that any such cause existed."[38]

2. When we have disposed of the preliminary objection which, in
some way or other, says miracles are impossible, we are met by
another objection, namely, that they are immensely _improbable_.
Hume's ingenious position,[39]--that miracles are contrary to human
experience, that no amount of human testimony is sufficient to
establish them, and that it is far more likely men should be deceived
or mistaken, than that such events as miracles must be, could ever take
place,--has been made to do abundant service in this controversy; very
little, if anything, has been added by those who have persistently used
the argument, to improve its form or to increase its plausibility.
One of its latest modifications is, that incidents out of the common
course of things, said to happen in the present day, are by all of us
sceptically regarded, that supernatural pretensions are felt by us to
be inadmissible, and that where we are compelled to allow the honesty
of witnesses, if they affirm anything involving a miraculous nature,
we at once dispose of the whole matter by saying 'there must be a
mistake somewhere.' Undoubtedly it is true that miracles are contrary
to common experience. They must be so, or they would not be what they
are. If they were of frequent occurrence, if they had happened in the
history of the world so often as to become familiar to mankind, they
would change their character completely. Their nature and purpose, in
the view of those who receive them, is such as to render it necessary
that we should bear this in mind. But to allege that they are contrary
to human experience, taken in the widest point of view, is to beg the
question at issue, a fact remarked a thousand times. That they are
not contrary to the experience of certain persons who lived eighteen
hundred years ago, is what Christians affirm; to say that they are,
is illogically to cut the controversy short, and, by a general denial
of everything of the kind, to put out of court the very case about to
be tried, in support of which there are credible witnesses waiting
to give evidence. The question of probability must be looked at all
round. The circumstances under which any alleged wonders may have
happened must be taken into account, before we pronounce upon their
probability or improbability. When extraordinary things, coloured with
a supernatural tinge, are related to us as having occurred without
any assignable purpose, or only for some sectarian or party end, in
connection with beliefs long cherished and avowed, of course we look on
them suspiciously; giving to the authorities relating the narratives,
credit for integrity and truthfulness, we naturally say 'there must
be a mistake somewhere.' And, no doubt, the general culture of the
present age, however superficial that culture may be, makes us far
less ready than our fathers were, to endorse popular tales of wonder.
There is a salutary scepticism which grows out of extensive knowledge.
Truth is of such immense value, that we should not be indifferent
to it in the smallest communications and concernments of life. Most
assuredly any wayward, eccentric, unmeaning, and useless departure
from the common course of things, tending only to shake our faith in
nature,--as if men might gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles,
as if barley being sown, wheat should spring up, or an apple tree by
a sudden freak should bear oranges,--would deserve to be stigmatized
as unworthy of belief. But the wonders in question come under another
category. They are represented in the history which has recorded
them, not only as being exceptional incidents in themselves, but as
having been accomplished under exceptional circumstances. They are
not waifs and strays on the stream of time, floating no one knows why
and whither; but growths rooted in what appears as a unique system of
moral instruction and improvement, designed by the loving Father of
spirits for His lost children. They do not produce what may be called a
disturbance of nature--that is, a throwing things in the physical world
out of gear, so that men are thereby puzzled to make out what nature
is, and how far it may be trusted. The documents which contain our
miraculous chronicles attest the immutability of Him who is the King of
nature, and the unchangeable foundation of His government and law, with
a pre-eminent luminousness and with an unparalleled force.

The wonders chronicled were avowedly wrought for purposes of the
highest order; and here, again, we fall back upon the distinction
between what is physical and what is moral. Those purposes of the
highest order to which we refer are moral. They bear on the noblest
destinies of humanity, and they link themselves with the principles
of natural religion, with the being and sway of a mighty, wise, and
gracious God, with our conscience and responsibility, and with the
future existence of the soul. Natural religion, though it speaks not
a word of miracles, though it gives no prophecies of their advent,
yet prepares for their appearance so far, that its teachings, fairly
considered, cut off all antecedent unlikelihood of their occurrence.
For natural religion suggests the desirableness of revealed religion,
and revealed religion is only another name for supernatural

In a lecture upon Science and Revelation, by the Dean of Canterbury,
it has been shown that man's moral nature, man's religious
susceptibilities, render religion a necessity for the supply of his
deepest wants; but that what is called natural religion is not clear
enough, nor certain enough, to affect the generality of our race.
Revelation, then, it may be fairly argued, looking at man, is a
desideratum, looking at God, is a probability; and Revelation, being
obviously a supernatural bestowment, seems to imply some authentication
of itself, in part at least, by means of evidence corresponding with
its own supernatural origin and character.

The conditions under which Scripture miracles are said to have been
performed must be kept in view when we are told they are improbable.
They were not performed in one continued series by a succession
of Thaumaturgists; but they are found grouped together in certain
clusters. As science indicates particular epochs of the energizing
power of nature, so the Bible records particular epochs of an
energizing power above nature.

The first great cluster of Bible wonders we find gathered round the
Lawgiver of Israel; the second round the great Reformer of God's
ancient Church; the third round Him who is spoken of as The Word made
flesh, who dwelt among us, and who imparted to His apostles miraculous
powers akin to His own. Miracles, for the most part, are halos of
divine light encircling three grand names--Moses, Elijah, Jesus,--the
last the greatest of the three.

Physical wonders we meet with in company with spiritual ones--wonders
in outward nature in company with wonders in the great soul-world,
of which sensible things are the types and shadows. In other words,
miracles occur in connection with inspiration, and, whilst marvels
startle the eye, new truths or new applications of truth are addressed
to the mind. In harmony with facts in the intellectual universe already
noticed, resembling the exceptional illuminations of genius which at
intervals have flashed on the rest of mankind,--like the lightning that
lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, and shineth unto the other
part under heaven,--souls inspired with a grand moral message have come
forth from the secret place of the Most High; and it has been in the
pathway of these inspired souls that physical miracles have started up;
rather, it has been by their hands that physical miracles have been

There have been surprising coincidences in modern times between the
wonderful in nature and the wonderful in history; for example, between
the sailing of the invincible Spanish Armada, and the storm which
strewed the shores of Great Britain with its ponderous wrecks--between
the march of Napoleon's army and the winter's snow which blinded,
benumbed, and destroyed so many thousands. The connection is
unexplained except on the principle of a Divine providence.[40] And
so in ancient times there were coincidences between the lightning
and thunder of Sinai, and the legislative wisdom of Moses--between
the fire that fell on Carmel, and the reforming zeal of Elijah. The
connection is explicable only on the principle of these men having
been the internunciators of the Divine will. This explication is
strengthened by what they did with their own fingers or their own lips.

It may be considered as entrenching too much on the domain of doctrine
to speak in this lecture of the Incarnation; but I would venture to
say thus much, that Jesus appears on the face of the evangelical
narratives, as the Son of God, in a sense in which no other being
can be rightly called so; that in the opinions of early Christendom,
the lowest as well as the highest, He was esteemed as a supernatural
Person;[41] and that, by common consent, amidst diversities of
theological sentiment, it is acknowledged, never man spake like this
man, or lived like this man, or died like this man, or was like this
man. And being, by the perfection of His moral character, and by the
purpose of His benevolent mission, a truly exceptional person, it
is only in keeping with the first blush, and with the deeper study
of His wondrous life, to believe in signs and wonders attending His
earthly career, showing whence He came, and illustrating what He came
to do. Christ Himself is the greatest of wonders in the history of
the world. No other approaches Him in wisdom, love, beautifulness, and
glory. In more senses than one His name is "above every name." Taking
the four Gospels together, the Incarnation of the Word is associated
with a supernatural birth. The miracle in the spiritual world of the
manifestation of God in Jesus Christ, is coupled with the miracle in
the physical world of the Virgin's conception. If Christianity be more
than the republication of natural religion, if it be the revelation of
God's redeeming love, it involves a miracle as the very starting-point
of the process; and the unfolding of the idea in the New Testament
includes a divine manifestation, which is a miracle in history, and a
divine birth, which is a miracle in nature.[42]

His advent in the world comes out in the four Gospels as a central
sunlike marvel, and therefore it seems no improbability, but rather the
clearest of all probabilities, that around Him there should revolve a
planetary circle of miracles.

Difficulties are needlessly created by forgetfulness of the character
ascribed to this extraordinary Person. To argue as to what He did, or
as to what He did not do, without a recognition of the actual _One_
painted in the Gospels, is really to argue about another Christ, not
the one whom Christians follow.

In accordance with the view I have taken, is the manner in which
the New Testament miracles are narrated. It seems assumed that such
things might be expected in the wake of such a personage as the Son
of God. They are not introduced as a procession of facts challenging
supreme admiration. No flourish of trumpets heralds their march; but
they follow as the fitting and humble retinue of Him who walked the
earth its undisputed Master. The Evangelists write as men who were not
astounded at what their Master did, because they were so filled with
reverence and admiration, at the thought of what their Master was.

Having considered the antecedent objections made to miracles, we
are now prepared to look at what is really the _nature_ of the
miraculous testimony afforded to Christianity. And here, for the sake
of simplifying the argument, I shall confine myself to the miracles
ascribed to Christ. Faith in His miracles will lead to faith in
the miracles of His apostles. If it be granted, as we contend from
what has been said it ought to be, that this is a case in which
historical proof is admissible, then it is impossible to find stronger
historical proof than comes to hand in support of the truth of the
evangelical narratives. The historical proof, as such, has of late
been comparatively little impugned; the assaults made on the prior
credibility of supernatural facts being the main opposition with which
believers in Christianity have to contend. That opposition overcome,
and the validity of competent witnesses, as to the question at issue,
established, the course is free for an accumulation of evidence, such
as Dr. Lardner, with rare erudition, has piled up in his volumes on
the Credibility of the Gospel History: such as Archdeacon Paley,
with unique ingenuity, and with singular felicity of arrangement
and illustration, has condensed in his view of the Evidences of
Christianity.[43] The works now mentioned do not, it must be confessed,
supply all that is wanted for the settlement of the question,
according to the phase it assumes at present. But when scientific and
metaphysical difficulties of modern creation have been grappled with
and removed, the array of pagan and Christian testimonies in support
of the original credibility of the Evangelists, as collected by these
and other writers, comes to render service of immense value. It is
more than any one has yet attempted, to overturn, by citation against
citation, criticism against criticism, argument against argument, the
bulwarks of historical defence built up by the researches of learned
advocates. Indeed, the early historical evidence all goes one way. It
is evidence without counter-evidence.

And to pass for a moment to foreign literature. After the endeavours
of Strauss and others to resolve much of the Gospel story into myths of
a later age, and of Rénan, to construct out of the original documents a
French philosophical romance, we are provided with the works of Ebrard
and Pressensé, who have vindicated the truth of the New Testament story.

It would be idle to attempt, within the compass of this lecture, any
outline of the mass of matter brought together in this service. But I
may be allowed to indicate that it may be arranged in three divisions.
_First_, the concessions of the Jews. Talmudical writings imply that
Jesus of Nazareth did many mighty works. The _Toldoth Jeschu_ relates
a number of things, such as raising the dead, healing lepers, and
restoring the lame. It represents people as falling down before Him,
exclaiming, "Truly Thou art the Son of God."[44] The Christian miracles
are allowed, but they are attributed to magic. "There can be no doubt,"
says Whately, "that this must have been (as our sacred writers tell
us it was) what the adversaries of Jesus maintained from the first.
For if those who lived on the spot in His time had denied or doubted
the facts of the miracles, and had declared that the accounts of them
were false tales, and that no miracles had ever really been wrought,
we may be sure that the same would have been said ever after by their
descendants."[45] _Secondly_, the admissions of heathens. The extracts
from Celsus in Origen afford an abridged history of Jesus Christ,
and acknowledge that He did many marvellous things. Celsus explains
the fact by saying, Jesus went into Egypt, and having made trial of
powers practised there, returned highly elated, and pronounced Himself
a God.[46] Porphry speaks of Christian miracles as wrought by poor
rustics through magical arts.[47] Julian does not contradict them when
he contemptuously affirms, that Jesus did nothing in His lifetime
worthy of remembrance, unless any one thinks it a mighty matter to heal
lame and blind people, and exorcise demons in the villages of Bethsaida
and Bethany.[48] To these heathen admissions, which are of considerable
value, are to be added, _thirdly_, the affirmations of Christians.
Miracles are asserted by them in manifold forms and in manifold
writings. The Fathers follow in the wake of Apostles and Evangelists;
and, be it remembered, each New Testament author who testifies to
these superhuman achievements is an independent witness, so that their
statements bear the value of as many concurrent proofs: and if it
should be said that, because they were Christians, they are partial
witnesses, on the other hand it can be said that some of the Fathers,
and all the New Testament writers, had become so, contrary to former
habits and prejudices, in part, at least, through the very force of
miracles, and that too at the cost of extraordinary self-sacrifice and

I have not sufficient space to exhibit adequately the argument for
the credibility of the New Testament witnesses. I must, however,
observe that the force has not departed from the old-fashioned method
of stating the case, namely, that you must accept them as competent
and satisfactory; or you must believe either that they were dishonest
men, intending to deceive, or that they were dupes of their own or of
other people's fancies. I am disposed to extend the dilemma, and to
say, that there is a third supposition, growing out of the junction
of these two, the supposition (according to a not uncommon occurrence
in the mysteries of human nature) that the witnesses might be partly
the victims of delusion, and partly the inventors of fiction, that
credulity and imagination might be both at work, the result being a
fabrication of miracles, having no basis, or but an exceedingly slender
one, in facts occurring before men's eyes. With these alternatives
under our view, the inquiry is, Which shall we apply to the witnesses
of the miracles of Christ? Rénan has applied the composite supposition
to the witnesses of the resurrection. "On the Sunday morning, Mary
Magdalene first came very early to the tomb. The stone was displaced
from the opening, and the body was no longer in the place where they
had laid it. At the same time the strangest rumours were spread in the
Christian community. The cry, 'He is risen,' quickly spread amongst the
disciples. Love caused it to find ready credence everywhere." "Such was
the impression He had left in the hearts of His disciples, and of a few
devoted women, that during some weeks more, it was as if He were living
and consoling them. Had His body been taken away, or did enthusiasm,
always credulous, create afterwards the group of narratives by which it
was sought to establish faith in the resurrection? In the absence of
opposing documents this can never be ascertained. Let us say, however,
that the strong imagination of Mary Magdalene played an important part
in this circumstance. Divine power of love! Sacred moments in which the
passion of one possessed gave to the world a resuscitated God!" No one
is more ready than I am to do justice to the extraordinary literary
merits of the "_Vie de Jésus_," its lucid style, its descriptive
power, its manifold charms; but I cannot conceal my amazement that
the author, with his exquisite genius, should adopt such a travestied
rendering of the noblest of Bible stories. There are no documents,
as he confesses, to work upon but the four Gospels; and from these
Gospels it distinctly appears that, so far from the witnesses produced
being of the character he indicates, so far from their love snatching
at anything within reach, however airy, out of which to weave a web of
wonders, there were men amongst them slow of heart to believe what the
prophets had written, and what Jesus had said about the resurrection;
men who counted the report of that resurrection, when they first heard
of it, as an idle tale,--one of whom even would not yield to sight
itself, but demanded to touch the nail-prints in the holy palms, and
to thrust his hand into the sacred side. And as to the women, when
they came to the sepulchre on the third day, it was not to hail a
risen Jesus, but to anoint a buried one. That persons represented by
the historians as burdened with doubts, and fears, and unbelief, and
demanding demonstrative evidence, should have been finally convinced,
and should have staked their all upon that conviction, removes them
for ever utterly beyond all reasonable suspicion of dreaming strangely
coloured dreams of their Lord's risen life,--to say nothing of
collusion and fraud,--and places them at once amongst witnesses, who
well knew what they said, and whereof they affirmed.

The credibility of the witness borne to another resurrection is also
well established. For evidence of the authenticity of the Gospel of
St. John, I refer to Professor Lightfoot's lecture, and would only
remark upon the narrative in this Gospel--a narrative so full of
pathetic beauty--that it is impossible to explain away its details
by possibilities of misapprehension, and pardonable exaggerations
of extraordinary incidents. Thus much is indisputable, Lazarus was
sick unto death. To all human appearance he died. He died, and was
buried, and remained so long in the grave that it was believed the
corruption of his corpse had commenced. Coincident with the utterance
by Jesus, at the door of the tomb, of the words, "Lazarus, come
forth!" the body moved, arose, came forth, bound hand and foot with
grave-clothes; in consequence of which, "many of the Jews which came
to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on Him."
Here were presented to the senses of witnesses phenomena involving
the performance of a miracle. A distinction has been justly drawn
between testimony to phenomena cognizable by the senses, and miracles
completely considered on their invisible and divine side, as well as
their visible and human one. "Testimony," it is said, "can apply only
to apparent sensible facts; testimony can only prove an extraordinary
and perhaps inexplicable occurrence or phenomenon; that it is due
to supernatural causes is entirely dependent on the previous belief
and assumption of the parties."[49] With the omission of the words
"previous belief and assumption," and the substitution of the words
"reflection and conviction,"--whether exercised and experienced at the
time or afterwards,--I accept the statement. Phenomena are immediately
apprehensible; the cause is not so. A persuasion that the cause is
miraculous arises in the mind as an inference from what is directly
witnessed. But what is directly witnessed may be of such a nature
as to compel the witness, as a reasonable person, to believe that
what has taken place results from a supernatural interposition. This
conviction implies, indeed, that the person believes in the existence
of supernatural power--in other words, believes in the existence and
agency of God--which belief may be described as a "previous belief:"
but a conviction that particular phenomena are the result of a
supernatural cause, depends on the exercise of reason in regard to
the phenomena themselves. "No testimony," I admit, "can reach to the
supernatural," directly, but it may reach it by implication.

Keeping in view the distinction laid down, we say of the narrative
of the resurrection of Lazarus, that no natural solution of the
event recorded is within reach. Fraud, collusion, trickery,[50] are
excluded by the character of Christ and of Lazarus: no reference to
accidental coincidences, or to mesmerism, or to electric influences,
or to any known physical agencies, meets the case. Nor is there room
for the anticipation that the advancement of science will ever solve
this problem. If a solution be attainable, we are shut up to the
one solution accepted by Christians. To leave it unsolved, to refer
it to the class of unaccountable phenomena, through a persistent
determination not to believe in anything supernatural, in the face
of all which can be said in reply to antecedent objections, is most

Let me here add, in reference to narratives of the miraculous, that
it is easy to marshal a number of general reflections together,
casting a slur upon evidence, and to invest with some plausibility its
denial or non-acceptance. But, when we think how fallaciously, yet
plausibly, general reflections may be employed for the contradiction
of evidence,--how, by reference to the proverbial exaggerations of
travellers' stories, accounts of other countries, of their customs and
productions, may be discredited; how, by insisting upon men's liability
to illusion, the observations of scientific inquirers may be set aside;
how, by dwelling on credulity and passion, party spirit, and the
like, historic doubts may be conjectured respecting the existence of
Napoleon I., and how, in the same way, historic doubts may be hereafter
raised respecting a large part of the career of Napoleon III.; we see
how little such general reflections are to be trusted, how much more
they may do to hinder the interests of truth than to help them.[51] The
absurdity of the conclusions in such cases discredits the process by
which they are reached.

Let us not pass from this part of the subject without saying one word
as to the presumption in favour of the New Testament narratives of
miracles, when compared with narratives of miracles found elsewhere.
Place side by side with the Scripture narratives the miraculous stories
in the Apocryphal Gospels, in the writings of the Fathers, in mediæval
chronicles, in modern legends of Saints, and one sees the force of
a remark by an eminent German theologian: "The critical acumen of
Niebuhr was, as is admitted, inferior to that of no man, and he has
done away with only too much of the ancient history of Rome. Yet he
acknowledged, 'with respect to a miracle, in the strictest sense of
the word, it needs but an unprejudiced and searching investigation
of nature to perceive, that the miracles related are anything but
absurd, and a comparison of them with the legends or so-called miracles
of other religions, to recognize what a different spirit dwells in
them.'"[52] To take only one step farther in this direction, when it is
asked, "What, if so many apparently competent witnesses were to assure
you, that they had seen such and such a miracle--mentioning the most
monstrous absurd, fantastic, and ludicrous confusion of nature--would
you believe them?" We answer in the words of a modern Writer: "We are
only concerned with the miraculous under that form and those conditions
under which it has actually by trustworthy report taken place, as
subordinated to what has been called 'a general law of wisdom,'
_i.e._ to a wise plan and design in the Divine mind under which check
the course of miracles has, so to speak, kept near to nature, just
diverging enough for the purpose, and no more."[53]


It is time to attend to the second part of our subject, the _value_ of
the miraculous testimony to Christianity.

1. The miracles must not be taken alone; they form a part of
Christianity; and therefore, to be rightly understood, they should
hold in the mind an inseparable relation to the rest of Christianity.
Christianity is its own evidence. Each portion harmonizes with the
other portions. They yield mutual support. Miracles, therefore, are
concurrent with other proofs. "External" and "internal" are convenient
words, but they are liable to mischievous application. One objection to
the word "external," as designating the evidence of miracles, is that
it assumes them to be outside the Gospel--only bulwarks for defence,
not pillars identical with the inner structure. It is curious that
opposite classes of persons have attributed to miracles an externality
which their place in Scripture will not allow. By one class, consisting
of advocates for the evidence, miracles are presented as the chief
part of the evidence, as marks indispensable for the authentication
of Divine truth, yet quite _ab extra_ things, placed round about the
temple to ward off evil-disposed persons who would dare to violate the
shrine. By another class, consisting of those who take exception to the
miracles, they are also treated as things _ab extra_, things which may
well be cut off from Christianity--burdens which there is no necessity
it should be made to bear--a dress which disfigures it rather than
otherwise, and which, for the sake of its progress in the world, had
better be stripped off and cast away. These two modes of assuming one
and the same thing, are as objectionable in themselves, as they are
curious in their coincidence.

The miracles really run into and intersect the lines of New Testament
teaching from end to end. They are not seals externally attached,
but contents deposited inside--not post-marks showing simply whence
the letter comes, but paragraphs written in the folded sheet. The
"_internal_" and the "_external_"--if we may use the words in their
popular currency--must occupy our attention together. Miracles cannot
be torn from the life of Christ. His nature, character, teaching,
wonders, constitute an unparalleled spiritual unity. Criticism here,
of course, has its own department of duty to fulfil. What really
constitute the synoptical Gospels and the Gospel of St. John, is
its province to determine. Readings of MSS. require to be examined
with an honest desire to render the _textus receptus_ as perfect as
possible--a desire which a reverential regard for the genuine contents
of the record must serve to stimulate. When all that labour has been
accomplished, the miracles of the genuine rolls of Scripture are to be
regarded as integral elements of faith. "The facts of Christianity,"
says Archdeacon Lee, "are represented by some as forming no part of
its essential doctrines; they rank, it is argued, no higher than its
external accessories. It is impossible to maintain this distinction. In
the Christian Revelation the fact of the Resurrection is the cardinal
doctrine, the doctrine of the Incarnation is the fundamental fact.
Christianity exhibits its most momentous truths as actual realities, by
founding them upon an historical basis, and by interweaving them with
transactions and events which rest upon the evidence of sense."[54]

2. Miracles are reasonable attestations of a Divine mission. As such
our Lord appeals to them, they "bear witness of me, that the Father
hath sent me." As such Nicodemus received them: "We know that Thou art
a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that Thou
doest, except God be with him." As such the poor blind man regarded
them in that exquisite piece of _naïveté_, in which he says, "Why
herein is a marvellous thing, that ye know not from whence He is, and
yet He hath opened mine eyes." As it is reasonable, in the case of an
ambassador, to refer to his credentials in proof of his legitimate
authority; so it is reasonable, in the case of a professedly Divine
teacher, to refer to signs and wonders he is capable of working, in
proof of his Divine commission.

Of vast importance is it that we should note precisely the point
touched by the finger of miraculous evidence. It may be said, not only
are miracles incapable of enforcing a train of argument, but they
are incapable of establishing any moral or religious proposition. No
physical demonstration, it may be alleged, can ever link itself on to
a spiritual truth, because the two things belong to totally different
spheres. We should get involved in metaphysical subtleties, were I
to inquire thoroughly into this position. It is enough to say, that,
admitting it, the exact point touched by miraculous evidence, is,
according to the teaching of Scripture itself, the _office_ sustained
and the _commission_ borne by a person. "The works which the Father
hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness
of _me_." "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you, by
miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by _Him_." In these
passages, the witness of miracles is attached to a person. "My works
bear witness of _me_," says Jesus. They are the approval of "_a man_,"
says Peter. The evidential force of them bears on Christ Himself, the
sent of God. Thus considered, miracles free themselves from objections
made to their competency to serve as direct proofs of spiritual truths.

The miracles of Moses afford evidence of his Divine legation: in like
manner the miracles of Jesus afford evidence of His Divine Messiahship.
It is said of Him that "He taught them as one having authority, and
not as the scribes." Authoritativeness is characteristic of His mode
of teaching. "Verily, verily, I say unto you." He claimed a right to
speak, as one who had power to command men that they should obey. There
is in His utterance little of argument, but much of law. Miracles can
add no force to a chain of reasoning, and you may say they cannot
immediately demonstrate spiritual truth, but they afford a basis for
the enunciation of a Divine message, a mandate of the Divine will.

Miracles, no doubt, come within relations to spiritual truth, through
the medium of the miraculously demonstrated authority of its utterer;
but spiritual truth has other distinct and appropriate marks of its
Divine origin and character. It contains an inward witness--it shines
by its own light. It commends itself to men's consciences in the sight
of God, and when believed, vindicates the justness and wisdom of such

It cannot be too much insisted on, that miraculous evidence comes not
out in Scripture _by itself_. The works of Jesus include more than His
miracles. The whole beneficent influence of His life is covered by the
words, "who went about doing good." With the thought of what He did,
stands associated the thought of what He was; and with the character
of His matchless life is interwoven the character of His matchless
teaching. Miracles form but one strand in the cable which binds the
Church's faith to Him who is the Anchor of her hope; and _they_ expose
the ship to peril who untwist the rope, and lay upon that single strand
the whole amount of strain--the entire stress of tension. Holy Writ
warrants no such course; but warns against it. "If there arise among
you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a
wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake
unto thee, saying, 'Let us go after other gods which thou hast not
known, and let us serve them;' thou shalt not hearken unto the words
of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams." Moses, himself a worker
of miracles, appeals to something beyond miracles as essential to the
final establishment of religious authority. The moral proof is put
in the foremost place, and no mere physical achievement can exercise
exclusive force apart from that. And, as if to remind us of these words
in Deuteronomy, we read in the last chapters of Revelation of men being
deceived by the miracles of the beast, of the spirits of devils working
miracles, and of the false prophet that wrought miracles. Thus the
New Testament teaches us to bind the evidence of Christian miracles
to that which shows how utterly different they are from all the
pretensions of deceivers, from all the delusions of fanatics. To dwell
on extraordinary incidents, apart from other considerations, is to open
a door to superstition, and even revolting credulity. In this way, a
belief in witchcraft, sanctioning most unrighteous and cruel laws,
maintained its ground in England to the end of the seventeenth century.
From anything like the unreasonableness of staking religious faith upon
physical events or historical circumstances, _simply because_ they are
unaccountable upon any ordinary hypothesis of human affairs, the Gospel
is perfectly free. He who appeals to His own mighty works, appeals also
to His own self-evidencing words, and to the moral disposition of His
disciples. "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the
world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of
the truth heareth my voice." "My doctrine is not mine, but His that
sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine
whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of
himself, seeketh his own glory; but he that seeketh his glory that sent
him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him."

The solitary position assigned to the evidence of miracles in the
controversies of the last century was mischievous to the interests of
religion. I believe with Coleridge, "how little of divine, how little
fitting to our nature a miracle is, when insulated from spiritual
truths, and disconnected from religion as its end:"--and I would ask
with him, "What then can we think of a theological theory, which,
adopting a scheme of prudential legality, common to it with 'the sty
of Epicurus,' as far at least as the springs of moral action are
concerned, makes its whole religion consist in the belief of miracles!"
There is some room for this severe censure of theologians in the
last century, who failed to insist "on the creating of a new heart,
which collects the energies of a man's whole being in the focus of
the conscience--the one essential miracle, the same, and of the same
evidence to the ignorant and the learned, which no superior skill can
counterfeit, human or demoniacal." I should assign a higher place to
the physical miracle than Coleridge did,--but there is to my mind a
true and deep sense in what he asks respecting the moral one:--"Is it
not that implication of doctrine in the miracle, and of miracle in
the doctrine, which is the bridge of communication between the senses
and the soul?"[55] Christianity as a whole, at the present time,
establishes its claims by the new spiritual creation which it effects
in its sincere disciples. And here, let me add: looking at the position
of our inquiry at the present day, it appears of great importance, not
to lay down as a principle, that miracles are indispensable in the
authorization of a Divine message. To do so hampers our argument. To
do so contradicts Scripture,--"John did no miracle." If one eminent
servant of the Most High could make good his authority without
effecting any physical marvel, so might another. Regarding Jesus simply
as a Divine Teacher, there would, then, be no absolute necessity for
His working wonders in the fields of material nature. His moral acts,
His freedom from moral defects, and the whole moral tenor of His life,
would evince the holiness of His character, and the oneness of His own
spirit with that of the Father of spirits, the fountain of love and
truth; for what He said of men applied to Himself, "By their fruits
ye shall know them." Yet, though I cannot see that miracles, as some
think, were essential to the proof of what He said respecting Himself,
they are, as indicated already, what might be expected in one who was
all that Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be; they also corroborate claims
to spiritual authority, resting on other grounds; and, still further,
the manner in which some of them were performed, points to the higher
nature which tabernacled in His humanity.

The place in the sphere of evidence occupied by the miracles of
Jesus, is not exactly the same to us that it was to the multitudes
who witnessed them. I fully agree in the remark, "We do not ask any
one to begin with the miracles,--to regard power, and still more the
record of power, centuries afterwards, as the one irresistible proof of
the truth and Divine origin of a Revelation. This has been done--done
perhaps too long--done certainly in this age without conviction."[56]
A miracle never was _the one_ irresistible proof. It never was more
than one amongst others. But at first it had a power of awakening
attention, which it does not possess now. _Seen_, it irresistibly
produced excitement, which led to inquiry. _Recorded_, it fails of that
effect. It is wise, at this time of day, to begin the exposition of
Christian evidence by insisting on Christianity as a fact--as a moral
spiritual power in the world; and then, examining its principles, and
tracing its achievements to the beginning, to bring out the evidential
worth of Christ's miracles as a crown on the head of other proofs. At
the same, time it should be observed, that their pertinency as proofs
remains unaltered. They are not less true for being old. They are as
good witnesses now as they were eighteen centuries ago. What was done
by Julius Cæsar, what was done by Alexander the Great, as it appears
on record, is still as valid an indication as ever, of the genius and
prowess which the men possessed. So, what Jesus did, as we find it
recorded in His fourfold memoirs, produces undiminished assurance of
His superhuman character. If any one asks for miracles now, I reply,
they are not wanted, they could not be used as credentials of one who
left the world ages since. His own miracles, ascertained by history,
will, to the end of time, in connection with His whole life, avail as
guarantees for faith in His Divine might and goodness.

3. And, finally, the miracles promote the acceptance of Christian
truths by the illustrations of them which they afford. Christ's
miracles are of the same description as the principles and precepts
in Christ's teaching. They are animated with benevolence, instinct
with love. The Gospel perpetually offers to men a spiritual salvation;
Miracles at the beginning brought them salvation of a lower kind, which
nevertheless pointed to a higher. Of the author of Christianity it
might be said literally, "He is the Saviour of the body." His wondrous
works of healing sparkled with a tenderness, compassion, and help, like
those with which His main mission to mankind was filled. And, as they
were eminently beneficial to human beings, and so were of the same
class as the other bestowments the Christ of God came to confer, they
exhibited types of the nobler blessings themselves. They are mirrors
reflecting larger and better gifts. Signs they are as well as wonders;
parables as well as proofs. In cures of the blind, there are parables
of spiritual illumination; in the cleansing of lepers, parables of
spiritual purification; and in exorcisms, parables of spiritual

The benevolent animus, and the didactic form of the miracles of Jesus
seized the attention of early Christian writers, and were employed by
them for the purpose of establishing and recommending the Christian
religion. They used them much more under their illustrative than under
their strictly evidential aspect. Arnobius (A.D. 306), in ten chapters
of his seven books, "_Adversus Gentes_," lays special stress upon
their kind and beneficent tendency.[57] Lactantius, his contemporary
in his "Institutions," whilst regarding Christ's miracles as proofs
of His higher nature, manifests particular delight in searching
out their ethical significance. He goes through the mighty works
of our Lord in order, and points out, how they demonstrated the
renewal of the human soul, the opening of its eyes, the unstopping
of its ears, the loosening of its tongue.[58] And Athanasius (A.D.
326) takes special pains to show that the miracles of Jesus were
revelations--self-representations of His Person as Divine Creator,
not mere credentials of His doctrine, but veritable victories over
nature, so that no one can doubt who Christ is, when once he beholds
His works:--and moreover, that by the manner of His working miracles,
He at once proved his Divinity, and His humanity, His Godhead and
His incarnation.[59] And Augustine insists much on their design as
symbolical of redemption, as instructive acts, charged with prophetical
import, and calculated to inspire delight more than wonder.[60]

These remarks and quotations bear chiefly on the relation of miracles
to the spiritual blessings of the Gospel at the beginning. But miracles
also sustain a very interesting relation to the like blessings as
bestowed in after, and in present times. When the spring is over, and
its produce of blossoms has passed away, it is found, that though the
ground is covered with leaves of white and pink, the blossoms have
set into precious fruit. They have bequeathed more than blossoms. Each
folded up a promise of what is richer than itself. The peach flower,
the peach--the pear flower, the pear. We read in the Apocalypse, of
the Tree of Life. Is not the Gospel the Tree of Life? Is not Christ
the Tree of Life? It is not fanciful to speak of the miracles as early
blossoms. Long since they burst out profusely. Long since they fell. To
some eyes, they may seem to lie in the paths of history, as withered
leaves. But if the spring-time is past, the autumn-time has long
since come. Christianity can tell of spiritual blessings which it has
conferred on the children of men down to this day, and is conferring
still. A tranquil conscience, a pure heart, a holy life, a hope that
maketh not ashamed,--these are the clustering felicities, the manifold
beatitudes, of the Gospel of Love. Thank God! abundant has been the
ingathering. Thank God! abundant is the harvest, still waiting to be
gathered. In nature the bloom is more plentiful than the fruit, but
here the fruit is more plentiful than the bloom.





When I undertook, at the request of the Christian Evidence Society,
to deliver a lecture having for its title _The Gradual Development
of Revelation_, I confess that I did not perceive that the title was
open to criticism. I thought that I understood the terms employed, and
I still trust that this is so; but a little consideration showed me
that the language was not used very strictly, and that there was in
it a confusion of metaphors, which might possibly be connected with a
confusion of thought.

This being so, I propose to introduce what I have to say by a short
examination of the words which express the subject of my lecture: and I
do so, as I need hardly say, not for the purpose of finding fault, but
because it seems to me that I shall in this manner most easily explain
the nature of the subject which I conceive to be committed to me, and
indicate the manner in which I purpose to treat it.

Now the word _development_, which like many other long words has
become very common, is also, like many other words, not unfrequently
used somewhat loosely. The root of it, the word _velop_, is unknown in
any other form than the two words _envelope_ and _develope_.[61] In
mathematics, the word _develope_ is used, as all words are, with the
utmost precision. We speak of _developing a function_, that is, putting
it into a new and unfolded form, which, however, shall be essentially
equivalent to the original. So also we speak of _developable surfaces_,
that is, surfaces such as cones and cylinders, which can be unfolded
and laid flat upon a plane without tearing. It will be seen that in
these applications of the word the essential thought is that of a
change, by a process of unfolding, in the condition of something which
you already possess; and this I take to be the true definition of

From this, however, we easily pass to a cognate meaning of the term.
Thus we speak of the development of an idea, that is, the unfolding
and applying of the results of an original thought, a discovery or
principle, which were truly contained in it from the first, but were
not from the first perceived to be so contained. For example, we
say that railways are only a development of the original idea of
turning to account the expansive force of steam; or that Newton's
"Principia" and Laplace's "Mecanique Celeste," and, in fact, the whole
of modern physical astronomy, are developments of the idea, or fact,
call it which you will, of the universal gravitation of matter; or
that the British constitution of this century is a development of
_Magna Charta_; and so forth. What we mean by this language is that
the essential principles of the development were implicitly contained
in the original idea, and that one has been derived from the other
somewhat in the same way as that in which the bird comes from the egg
and the plant from the seed.

Dr. Newman, in his Essay "On the Development of Christian Doctrine,"
takes a somewhat different view. He speaks of the development of
an idea as follows: "When some great enunciation, whether true or
false, about human nature, or present good, or government, or duty,
or religion, is carried forward into the public throng and draws
attention, then it is not only passively admitted in this or that form
into the minds of men, but it becomes a living principle within them,
leading them to an ever-new contemplation of itself, an acting upon it,
and a propagation of it. Such is the doctrine of the natural bondage
of the will, or of individual responsibility, or of the immortality of
the soul, or of the rights of man, or of the divine right of kings, or
of the hypocrisy and tyranny of priestcraft, or of the lawfulness of
self-indulgence.... Let one such idea get possession of the popular
mind, or the mind of any set of persons, and it is not difficult to
understand the effects which will ensue."[62] Taking this view, there
is manifestly a difficulty in determining whether an idea has been
rightly or wrongly developed, whether the growth be wholly from the
root or partly parasitical; and the prime intention of Dr. Newman's
book is to supply tests of genuine development, and to apply them in
one particular case; but I wish it to be perceived that whether we take
this wider view, or the stricter one which I endeavoured to present
to you just now, it is essentially necessary to regard development as
the exhibition in a new unfolded form of that which already existed in

When therefore we speak of development with reference to God, we must
regard Him as the developer, and His eternal purposes as the thing
developed: the point which I have to bring before you with reference to
its bearing upon the faith of Christians, and the unbelief of those who
scruple to be regarded as disciples of Christ, is the gradual character
of the process by which God has developed His purposes.

And this being the meaning of development, I think it is manifest
that it is a confusion of figures to speak of the _development_ of a
_revelation_. To _reveal_ is to _draw back a veil_, and so to uncover
something which was concealed before. Hence we can properly speak
of God as _revealing_ to us His person, His character, His will.
His person is eternal and unchangeable; so is His character; so is
His will; but He uncovers and shows these to us; it may be by Holy
Scripture, it may be by the living voice, or the life, or the person of
the Lord Jesus Christ; but however it be, the conception appropriate
to the word revelation is that of something which exists independently
of our minds, and which is uncovered, so that our minds can perceive
it. Revelation, therefore, cannot be developed; if we use the word as
meaning the process of revealing, then this is a different process from
that of developing; and if we use the word as meaning objectively the
knowledge which has been revealed, the knowledge which we obtain of God
by revelation, then this knowledge comes to us in an already developed
form: it is not an idea to be developed, but a truth to be received.

On the whole, I regard as the most important word in the title of my
lecture, the word _gradual_: whether we speak of the development of
His eternal purposes and intentions, or the revelation of His person
and character, the process appears to have been a gradual one, and
in a certain sense a slow one: and this gradualness of operation may
be variously estimated according to the turn of mind and habits of
thought of him who considers it: some will be content simply to bow
their heads and worship as being in the presence of Him whose ways are
past finding out: some will say that that which Christians believe to
be the development of His purposes and the revelation of His person
is inconsistent with their conceptions of God, and so will reject it:
others will hesitate to reject on _à priori_ grounds that which, to
say the least, admits of a strong argument in its favour, but will
confess that they feel the difficulties which have been urged against
the creed of Christendom; and with regard to that particular phase of
difficulty with which I am professing to deal in this lecture, they
will say, and perhaps say with sadness, that the revelation which the
volume of Holy Scripture purports to contain, does not commend itself
to their minds, as corresponding to their highest thoughts of that
which God might be expected to do in making Himself known to man. Now
it is to minds in this condition that considerations concerning the
doings of God may be hopefully offered. I do not see how it is possible
to treat such a subject as mine, if I consider myself as speaking to
persons who deny the impossibility of revelation as distinct from human
knowledge: if a revelation be impossible, _per se_, it is useless to
discuss the qualities of that particular form of revelation which
Christians profess to have received; but if a man is willing to
receive a revelation, and has something of the spirit indicated by the
words, "Oh, that I knew where I might find Him," then it does seem to
be possible to offer some suggestions which shall tend to show that
the manner of revelation which Holy Scripture exhibits is in harmony
with all that we know of our Creator from other sources, and that
the gradual character of the Divine operations, as exhibited in that
history which culminates in the Lord Jesus Christ, is wonderfully
analogous to the character of every other operation which we can
rightly call divine.

Let us then observe what the revelation of God purports to be; and for
the special end which I have in view, I think we may suitably divide it
into the following principal steps:--

    1. That made to Adam and Eve;
    2. That made to Abraham;
    3. That made to Moses;
    4. That made in and by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us look at each of these for a moment.

The revelation to Adam and Eve is represented as being of the simplest
kind possible. In fact it is difficult to conceive how anything beyond
a very simple and partial revelation could be possible in the very
infancy of humanity. It amounts to little more than the revelation
of God as a personal governor, whose will must be obeyed: a command
is given; that command is broken, and a punishment is inflicted;
and then mankind is represented as cast out of Eden into the wild,
uncultivated world. It is necessary to realize the extreme simplicity
of this history, and the imperfect character of the revelation: the
more so, because there is some temptation to imagine Adam and Eve as
being in the possession of more knowledge than Scripture attributes
to them; Scripture in reality attributes no knowledge to them, but
rather represents the tree of knowledge as having been the cause of
their fall. Philosophically speaking, we may describe the condition
of things which existed in Eden as being the dawn of man's religious
consciousness; he has no responsibility, and no sin; but a law is
imposed upon him, and thus comes responsibility, and thus by the breach
of law comes sin: man "was alive without the law once, but when the
commandment came sin revived," and man "died."

The sacred history represents the world as engaged, so to speak, in
working out the results of this primitive revelation till the time of
Abraham. God is represented as punishing the evil and rewarding the
good, the punishment of the evil being the more conspicuous conduct
of the two; thus Cain is punished, the people in the days of Noah are
punished, the builders of the tower of Babel are punished: but I do
not think it can be said that the being and character of God are any
further revealed till the time of Abraham. Then we have the new fact of
God calling out a family; granting to that family special promises and
special privileges, and making it (as it were) the depository of the
fortunes of the world. Probably this is a step which we should not have
expected; possibly it may even be argued that it is no real step in
advance; but, be this as it may, it is represented in Scripture as the
next step in the process of revelation; whether it strike us as strange
or not, we are compelled, on the hypothesis that Scripture contains the
history of revelation, to regard Abraham and his family as a point, a
station, in the process.

And so we come to Moses. I am disposed, however, to regard the Mosaic
revelation as differing in degree rather than in kind from that made to
Abraham. A family was called in Abraham, a nation in Moses; but in the
one case as in the other, the fortunes of the whole world were bound
up with the history and conduct of a chosen few; the family of Abraham
was a peculiar and chosen family, the Israelites whom Moses made into a
nation were a peculiar and chosen people: the principle was the same,
namely that of selection, and whatever difficulty belongs to one case,
belongs equally to the other.

It would be a long task, and for my purpose an unnecessary one, to
trace the gradual progress of the revelation made "in sundry times
and in divers manners" to the Israelitish church and people; beginning
with the grand announcement of the Name of God from the Burning Bush,
and continued by the declaration of the law in the wilderness, rendered
visible, so to speak, by the sacrificial ritual, and expounded by
priests and prophets, it gradually became clearer and clearer, until
"the fulness of time" came, and "God sent forth His Son made of a
woman." I need not say that to Christians this is emphatically _the_
revelation of God--"he who has seen the Son has seen the Father."
All previous revelations are only preparatory for this; and when we
have received this, all others seem to be lost, just as the moon and
stars which shine so brightly at night are absolutely extinguished as
soon as the sun is risen. Assuming all this, however, it may be worth
while to remark, first, that Jesus Christ expressly connected Himself
with all that had gone before, saying that He "came not to destroy,
but to fulfil;" and secondly, that He, like Moses and Abraham before
Him, founded an ἐκκλησία [Greek: ekklêsia], or church, as a depository
of the fortunes of mankind, only with this difference or extension
of principle, that whereas the church of Abraham was a family, and
the church of Moses was a nation, the church of Christ was catholic,
knowing no distinction of family or nation, but embracing all who were
willing to take Him as their Captain, and His Cross as their banner.

This sketch, slight as it is, of the progress of revelation, as
presented to us in Holy Scripture, will be abundantly sufficient for my
present purpose. In considering its claims to be received by mankind,
I think it should be at once candidly owned, as seems indeed to be
conceded in Holy Scripture, that the method of revelation is probably
different from anything which we should have expected on general
grounds of reason. Perhaps it is difficult, it may be impossible, to
say very precisely what we should have expected; but certainly I think
we should _not_ have expected to have found the principal revelations
of God made, as they are alleged to have been made, to a selected
family, a selected nation, a selected corporate body. It is only candid
to acknowledge that, from a philosophical point of view, we may here
see a great difficulty; and the difficulty becomes more salient when we
look out of the narrow groove of sacred history into the wide history
of the world at large. There we find a remarkable growth of knowledge,
and an exhibition of the highest powers and gifts of humanity, quite
separated from that region which is asserted to have been specially
illuminated with light from heaven. The progress of our knowledge of
the literature of ancient nations, and a greater familiarity with
the thoughts and feelings of people outside the Christian pale,
have tended to throw this difficulty into stronger relief: our old
acquaintance with Greece and Rome, our more recent acquaintance with
such countries as India and China, have made us aware that, somehow
or other, great light did shine upon these countries in olden days,
and it is harsh to say that the light did not come from heaven. Let,
therefore, the difficulty be frankly acknowledged; while at the same
time it is also acknowledged that in a matter so much beyond the scope
of our faculties as that of saying in what manner God can best reveal
Himself to mankind, all difficulties depending upon the strangeness or
unexpectedness of a method alleged to have been adopted, must in the
nature of things be of less than first-rate magnitude, and must give
way to sufficient evidence.

Acknowledging, however, as frankly as can be desired, the difficulty
here stated, I observe that there is anyhow a remarkable consistency
in the scheme of revelation which Scripture contains. One step leads
naturally to another; and looking at the whole course of Scripture
history, from the first verse of the Book of Genesis to the last verse
of the Book of Revelation, it is wonderful (perhaps upon any infidel
hypothesis, more than wonderful) how the various parts hang together,
and how the beginning, the middle, and the end seem to dovetail
themselves together into one connected and consistent whole. I do not
know that I have ever been more struck with this, than when reading
the recent work on "The History and Literature of the Israelites," by
C. and A. de Rothschild. In this work we have the advantage of seeing
the Old Testament exhibited in a reverent and loving spirit without the
New, and as it might have appeared if Jesus Christ had not been born.
Any one reading the book would be impelled to say that the influence
of the literature of the Israelites must be for the improvement and
enlightenment of mankind; but the questions press upon the mind of the
reader--at least they did upon mine--"What does all this lead to? What
has become of these Israelites? and what is the meaning of the language
of their prophets?" In fact, the book seems to put the reader very much
in the position of the Ethiopian nobleman in the Book of the Acts of
the Apostles, who was prepared by reading some of the "literature of
the Israelites" to receive from Philip the evangelist the preaching of
the name of Jesus. The New Testament seems exactly to _fit_ upon the
Old; and that gradual progress of revelation which we notice in the Old
Testament, seems to lead up to, and find its completion and explanation
in, the history which is contained in the New.

On the whole, looking at the scheme of revelation as it appears in
Scripture, and as it has been illustrated by history, both profane and
sacred, I believe that I discern these features. I see the knowledge
of God emerging from very obscure beginnings, and imparted in very
unexpected ways; I see, however, that this knowledge does somehow or
another not merely remain with mankind, but increase and become clearer
and more influential; I see a particular family and nation selected for
the reception and spread of this knowledge, and the family and nation
so selected, after going through much education and many vicissitudes,
producing at length One in whom the whole history appears to culminate,
and then disappearing from all position of influence upon the fortunes
of the world except through this one pre-eminent member. Still further,
I perceive, and it is absolutely impossible for the most sceptical to
deny, that the name of this remarkable member of the selected family
and nation has been the most potent that has ever been named, and that
His influence in the world has been and is far greater, more extended,
and more intense in its action, than any other influence which has ever
been brought to bear upon the human heart and mind. Even in the work
to which I referred just now, in which the Old Testament alone comes
under consideration, the dates of the history are given by reference
to the birth of Jesus Christ; and whatever view men may be disposed to
take of the more mysterious and transcendental allegations concerning
the life of Jesus of Nazareth, it is impossible to deny that the
civilization and improvement of the world, and the purification of
human society and the like, are more connected with His Name than with
that of any other philosopher or teacher or leader of mankind. When
I say that it is impossible to deny this, I am of course aware that
it has been denied, and that there are and have been persons who have
asserted that Christianity has not only not been that which Christians
believe it to have been, but has been positively detrimental to human
progress; but what I mean is, that to make the denial to which I refer,
is so contrary to the general verdict of mankind that it is hard for
any one to make it, and impossible for any one who is at all likely
to be influenced by anything that I can say. For those who are at all
likely to be influenced are persons who are _sceptical_, not those
who are _antagonistic_; a man may doubt--who has not doubted?--and a
man may be tortured by his doubts, and it may be possible to relieve
him; but I see no probability of helping that man who has come to the
conclusion that the influence of Jesus Christ has been a mischievous
and obstructive influence in the history of human progress; with such a
man, I, at least, as a Christian apologist, do not feel that I have any
common ground.

Taking then the view of revelation to which I have referred as being
that contained in Holy Scripture, and acknowledging that such a view
presents difficulties to thoughtful and inquiring minds, I wish to
examine and see whether we cannot find some help towards a right
appreciation of God's method of revelation by examining the course of
nature, or that which is supposed to be its course.

And when we look to nature with this purpose, it is impossible not to
be struck by this general fact, namely, that gradualness of development
appears to be a universal law. The manner in which the original design
of the Creator (for I assume that there was an original design) has
been carried out, so far from being sudden, has been very slow;[63]
and more than this, the method of operation has been frequently such
as we should scarcely have expected, and greatly opposed to those
notions of creative majesty which most of us are very much disposed
to preconceive. In order to put this clearly before you, let me
call your attention to the very picturesque and poetical view of
creation, contained in Chateaubriand's "Genie du Christianisme." That
work appeared after the explosion of the volcano of the first great
French revolution, and was intended to reconcile the minds of men,
weary with the infidelity and atheism which had so long been rampant,
to the views of God contained in Holy Scripture, and maintained by
Christians. Writing with this purpose, M. Chateaubriand tells us
that we may conceive of the Creator as having called the world into
existence in a condition as complete, and having as many marks of
antiquity, as we now see about us: when this earth was created there
would be already ancient forests, and abundance of animals, some in
their maturity, others dancing about in the friskiness of youth; the
trees would be furnished with birds' nests, and the crows and pigeons
would be hatching their eggs, or tending their young; the butterflies
and moths would be sporting on the plants; the bees would be making
honey from the new-formed flowers; the sheep would be followed by their
lambs; and the nightingales would be astonishing themselves with their
first, yet perfect songs, in all the groves. Finally, Adam would be
a man of thirty, and Eve a girl of sixteen. "Without this original
antiquity," says our author, "there would have been neither pomp nor
majesty in the work of the Eternal; and, which could not well be,
nature in her innocence would have been less fair than she is now in
her corruption. An insipid infancy of plants, animals, elements, would
have crowned a world devoid of poetry."[64] No doubt this description
is anything but devoid of poetry; it is perhaps the only way in which
a poet would be disposed to conceive of creation; it is difficult to
imagine the music of Haydn set to any other description of the creative
work; but undoubtedly it is not scientific, and, what is more, it is
not Scriptural. Chateaubriand no more got his picture of creation
from the Book of Genesis than Ernest Rénan got his picture of Jesus
Christ from the four Gospels; and that there may be no mistake about
this latter point, let me ask you to observe that the most marked and
salient feature of the Bible picture of creation is the gradualness of
the creative work. I do not say that the picture is not poetical; I
believe it to be quite as poetical as that which Chateaubriand would
substitute for it, and I quite admit that it ought to be regarded from
a poetical rather than a scientific point of view; still gradualness
of development is the most marked and salient of its features: first,
a chaos of matter without life; then vegetable life; then the lower
forms of animal life; then mammals; and lastly, man. No one can deny
that these and other steps, spread over the time which is indicated
by the mysterious creative days, do together make up the Bible history
of physical creation; and no one can fail to perceive that the order
of proceeding is as different as possible from that described by the
French apologist. According to this latter view, creation starts
forth, Minerva-like, from the mind of God; according to Scripture, the
work is expressly gradual and presumably slow. We are so accustomed
to the first chapter of Genesis, that I think we sometimes scarcely
perceive its peculiarities; but suppose that the reverse order of
arrangement had been adopted, and that man in deference to his dignity
had been represented as coming in first, and that other creatures had
been represented as being made afterwards for his use and pleasure,
would not this have made a radical change, and introduced an enormous
scientific difficulty? I remember once being told by a person, who held
strong views with regard to the dangerous character of the conclusions
of geology, that it seemed to him absolutely incredible that a period
should have existed when the earth was inhabited by nothing but fishes,
reptiles, and the like; yet this is precisely what Scripture affirms to
have been the fact; and if the creative work had been concluded with
the fifth day, there would have been no mammals upon the earth, and no

Gradualness in creative work, therefore, is so far from being contrary
to the indications of God's method given in Scripture, that it is one
of the few things which stand out from the scriptural account with
undeniable prominence. That this same feature is not less prominent
in the results of all the physical sciences, it would take more time
and more ability to demonstrate than are at my command; nevertheless
it is necessary that I should ask you kindly to accompany me, while
I endeavour to show you that the conclusions of science, and even
the guesses of scientific men, point to this conclusion, and tend to
make untenable any objections to the revelation of God contained in
Scripture, on the ground of the gradual manner in which that revelation
is alleged to have been made.

The general evidence of geology is familiar probably to most of us,
and it is only the general evidence with which I can desire to deal on
such an occasion as this; but pray observe that while the particular
conclusions of geology, like those of other physical sciences, are
liable to continued modification and amendment, the general drift of
the conclusions is sufficiently clear and certain. No one can doubt,
for instance, the great antiquity of our globe, and the fact that it
has gone through successive changes with regard to the character of
its surface, the nature of its inhabitants, and the like. Undoubtedly
there was a time when civilized men did not dwell upon it; undoubtedly
there was a still more distant period when men did not dwell upon it
in any form, civilized or uncivilized; perhaps there was a period even
more distant, when life was not to be found upon the earth's surface at
all. And physical astronomy will take us even beyond geology, and will
make it probable that the earth was originally in a fluid condition,
in which from the excessive temperature no form of life could have
existed. Few problems are more curious than that which deduces the
present figure of our globe from the hypothesis of original fluidity.
Take a mass of fluid, and set it revolving slowly about an axis, as our
earth revolves, and it can be shown that it will assume such a form
as that which our earth has. I do not lay stress upon the remarkable
numerical coincidence of the ellipticity of the earth, as derived by
Laplace from theory, with that which is discovered by observation,
because this involves certain arbitrary hypotheses; but taking those
results which involve nothing arbitrary at all, it is almost impossible
not to believe that the earth was at one time a hot fluid mass, and
that it has gradually cooled down and hardened into its present
permanent condition.

Look upon the earth then as being once in this hot fluid condition.
It turns slowly round upon its axis and cools. I cannot trace the
whole of the process, but before it arrived at its present condition
there must have been crackings and burstings and eruptions; and so
continents and islands and mountains would be formed; but upon the
whole, even in the wildest times, the process would be very gentle, for
the highest mountains on the earth's surface are but as the down upon
the surface of a peach. Then upon this globe appear creatures suited to
its condition; and the eye which could have watched the world in its
progress would have seen animals of successively higher types occupying
the earth's surface, till at length that surface was spotted with
cities built by the hand of man, and the ocean studded with his ships.
It is impossible to guess the time which must have elapsed between the
epoch when the earth was a hot revolving mass of fluid, and the epoch
in which we live; neither is it very possible to say, though it is
possible to guess, what would have been the successive scenes presented
by the earth to the eye which should have witnessed the whole of the
changes; but whatever may have been the nature of the changes, this
conclusion is inevitable, namely, that there has been a progression
of some kind from the fluidity of the primæval dead revolving mass to
the inhabited world of this nineteenth century; it matters not for my
argument whether the progression, so far as animal life is concerned,
has been due to natural selection, or to such a process as that
advocated by the author of "Vestiges of Creation," or to successive
and distinct creative acts; the fact holds good, upon any hypothesis,
that the Almighty Creator has produced that universe which we see, not
by one act, but by a gradual and apparently very slow creative process,
whether continuous or discontinuous it matters not for my purpose to

Now this course of nature is strikingly analogous to that gradual
mode of proceeding which is alleged to belong to revelation; and any
difficulty which belongs to one appears to attach equally to the
other. Nay, if we are to give any weight to the most recent physical
speculations, it may be fairly argued that the difficulties connected
with revelation are but as trifles compared with those which nature
presents. I refer to those views of which the latest exposition is to
be found in Mr. Darwin's "Descent of Man." Let me touch upon those
views for a moment.

It seems that "the early progenitors of man were once covered with
hair, both sexes having beards; their ears were pointed and capable of
movement; and their bodies were provided with a tail, having the proper
muscles.... The males were provided with great canine teeth, which
served them as formidable weapons.... At a still earlier period, the
progenitors of man must have been aquatic in their habits." And lastly,
"the most ancient progenitors in the kingdom of the Vertebrata, at
which we are able to obtain an obscure glance, apparently consisted of
a group of marine animals resembling the larvæ of existing ascidians."
This is certainly a somewhat alarming conclusion; looking however
to the _ascent_ (for so I think it ought to be called) rather than
the _descent_, it would seem to be the view of some of our advanced
natural investigators, that the marine animals in question produced
certain lowly organized fishes; these produced ganoids and the like;
these produced amphibians;--here there seems to be a difficulty--"No
one," writes Mr. Darwin, "can at present say by what line of descent
the three higher and related classes, namely, mammals, birds, and
reptiles, were derived from either of the two lower vertebrate classes,
namely, amphibians and fishes." However, once get to the mammals, and
all difficulty ceases: the Monotremata produced the Marsupials; these
the placental Mammals: thus we come to the Lemuridæ, and from them the
interval is not great to the Simiadæ; the Simiadæ branched off into
two great stems,--the New World and Old World Monkeys; and "from the
latter at a remote period, _Man_, the wonder and glory of the universe,

Of this pedigree, which, "if not of noble quality," is "of prodigious
length," Mr. Darwin tells us "we need not feel ashamed." Perhaps not;
though certainly the nerves of any one unaccustomed to anthropological
investigations may be excused for trembling slightly as he hears it
recited; but the point which I wish to press is this, that supposing
(for argument's sake) this view of man's origin, or anything like
it, to be true, it is impossible to imagine a more thorough case of
gradual development; there is nothing in the religious history of
mankind as expounded in Holy Scripture so amazingly marvellous as
that which is contained in this physical history; and certainly those
who are prepared to receive the Darwinian view of the development of
man's body, ought not to find anything to offend them on the ground of
improbability in the Scriptural account of the revelation made by God
to the human soul.

I do not know to what extent Mr. Darwin's views are likely to be
permanent; but supposing that they, or any view of the same class,
should eventually overcome all existing difficulties, and be generally
regarded as representing the process by which it has pleased God to
bring about man's physical and mental supremacy, then it can hardly
seem strange that the same God should have adopted a course of
progress and development in the spiritual and religious world. I say,
emphatically, "if it has pleased God" to act thus; because if I accept
the hypothesis of the nebular origin of planetary systems, or the
supposition of the earth being a fluid globe gradually cooled, or even
the assertion that our most ancient progenitors were marine animals, I
must do so with the underlying assumption that it has pleased God so
to work. I do not find fault with scientific men for not putting their
theories in this form; but looking at the question from a religious,
or even from a philosophical, point of view, I cannot consent to lose
sight of God, as the intelligent maker of the whole. If this earth was
originally a fluid mass, then I believe that that was the best, or, for
anything I know to the contrary, the only way of making a world; if the
marine animals, which Mr. Darwin sees through his scientific telescope,
did become fish, and those fish eventually became men, then I believe
that that was the best, or, for anything I know to the contrary, the
only way of making men; and this being so, why may I not deal in the
same manner with the alleged course of man's spiritual history? I
have in my hands something which purports to be a revelation to my
intellect, and to my soul, of the God who made me: that revelation is
contained in a history which tells me that God spake at sundry times
and in divers manners to the people of olden time, and that finally
He spake by One who is called His Son. Now I do not say that this
revelation is or is not a real one; but I do say that there is nothing
to render us suspicious of its reality in the fact that it has been
communicated gradually, that it has grown as the human race has grown,
and that some of the steps in the process of revelation appear strange,
or even, at first sight, unworthy of the grand scheme of which they
form a part. No one has a right to find fault on this ground who has
read the lessons of natural science, and observed how it points to
gradual progression as a characteristic of the doings of God. Least of
all can they find fault on this ground, who receive in whole, or even
in part, the recent theories concerning the origin of man. I will not
undertake to answer for those students who have gone deeply into these
physical questions; but I do assert, without fear of contradiction,
that to men of ordinary education, and ordinary habits of thought, the
difficulties of accepting Scripture as the revelation of God to the
human soul, however much those difficulties may be expounded or even
exaggerated, are absolutely nothing as compared with the difficulty of
accepting recent views of man's prodigious pedigree.

The fact is, that it is not so much the process by which a result has
been brought about, as the result itself, which is the all-important
thing. Whatever may have been the history of our earth in the dark
dim distance of incalculable ages, we know that its present condition
is very beautiful, and that it answers admirably well the purpose
for which it seems to have been originally designed, namely, that of
serving for the residence of intelligent man; and whatever may have
been the process by which that creative work was consummated, which
is described in Scripture as the making of man out of the dust, and
breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, we know that man is
high above all the rest of creation, and worthy of being spoken of as
being made in the image of God. And so in the case of man's spiritual
history, we need not be over-careful to criticize the several steps
when we are able to see the result; the question is, not so much
whether the steps of God which we trace in Old Testament history be
such steps as we should imagine that the Most High would have left,
as whether the mystery of the Incarnation, and the truth that God has
spoken to us by His own Son, be not worthy of all acceptation. If
Christ be worthy of our adoration and love, then, though the way may
have been long, and strange, and dark, and sometimes even weary, yet we
may be sure that it is the right way, because it has led us to Him.

For there is this further analogy between nature and revelation,
namely, that in each the progress is not indefinite, but tends to
a limit. Whatever theory be adopted with regard to the history of
the earth, we seem to see in its present settled condition the
limit towards which everything has been moving in past geological
ages; and even if man has been a progressive animal, and has only
gradually attained his present physical perfection, I presume it is
not anticipated that the process of natural selection, or any other
process, will carry him beyond the point which he has now reached.
Or, if we take the divine picture of creation, we see the creative
work tending from the limit of chaos to the limit of man; then physics
cease and religion begins, and we hear utterances of the voice of God
beginning with whispers, and becoming more and more distinct, until we
are permitted to listen to divine oracles uttered by human lips. Beyond
this the dreams of philosophy, and the aspirations of the human heart,
and the longings of the weary and heavy-laden cannot carry our thoughts
or raise our desires.

Those who are acquainted with Bishop Butler's great work will perceive
that I have now been endeavouring--how imperfectly no one knows better
than myself--to apply to the question of "the gradual development of
revelation," those principles of reasoning which Bishop Butler has
taught us to use. I was very sorry to see it stated in the evidence
taken before the select committee of the House of Lords on University
Tests, that Bishop Butler's _Analogy_ was "out of fashion" in
Oxford.[66] I trust that the witness only intended to assert that the
_Analogy_ was not now so commonly chosen for examinations as formerly,
for it will be an evil day for us all when the method of reasoning
which Bishop Butler taught us shall be "out of fashion" with thinking
people. In truth, the advantage of the method is that, properly
speaking, it never can be out of fashion; it is like the method of
Euclid, or that of the Differential Calculus; it is an _organum_,
an instrument, a machine, which may be applied in all the varying
circumstances of theological controversy, and to almost all religious
difficulties. For the principle of the method is this. You find certain
difficulties in that which professes to be a revelation of God; you
think to get rid of these difficulties by denying the revelation;
will you succeed in doing so? Not if you find precisely analogous
difficulties in the course of nature; unless you go further, and deny
not only that there is a God of revelation, but a God of nature too.
Nay, the argument carries you beyond this point, and suggests to you
that if there be difficulties in God's natural world, and if He be
pleased to reveal the spiritual world to us, then we ought to expect to
find the same general method of proceeding in matters spiritual which
we have been able to observe in the natural world. I quite admit that
this reasoning has no force for the man who says "There is no God;" he
must be dealt with in another way; but it has force and it has comfort
for the doubting inquiring soul, by assuring it that it can find a
logical resting-place, and that the refuge from the misery of blank
and hopeless atheism is to be found in simple faith in the Lord Jesus

With the atheist, I honestly confess, that I have little or no
sympathy; certainly I should not think it worth while to compose
a lecture intended for his special behoof. I should feel disposed
rather to send him for his answer to the fourteenth and fifty-third
Psalms. The difficulty of supposing the framework of the universe to
have had no architect, appears to me to be so great, so absolutely
immeasurable, that the man who can fancy that he has got over it must,
as I believe, either not have understood the difficulty, or else have
deceived himself as to his power of solving it; anyhow, I feel that
he has cut away all ground of argument, as between him and me. Not so
the man whose mind is sceptically inclined. Be it ever remembered that
the word _sceptic_ is derived from a word which means to _look_ or to
_see_--it is the same word which forms the root of the word _bishop_
or _overseer_; and accordingly there is nothing radically reproachful
in the name of _sceptic_. It implies that a man is determined to look
into matters for himself, not to trust every assertion, not to repeat
a parrot creed; and so far as this determination is concerned, it is
high and noble, and is in fact the very root and spring of all human
knowledge; but who can wonder if looking should lead to doubting, and
that so the name of sceptic should popularly imply, not the man who
looks and believes, but the man who looks and doubts? And I am not
ashamed to confess that I have much sympathy with this sceptical frame
of mind. Not only is it closely connected with a noble instinct of
inquiry and search for truth which God has implanted in the human mind,
but also, as I believe, it is well-nigh impossible that an inquiring
mind should deal seriously with religious subjects and remain entirely
free from doubt. In my opinion, the amount of scepticism which has,
during some period of his life, occupied the mind of each thoughtful
earnest man, will be merely a question of degree; while, at the same
time, I most sincerely believe that scepticism ought not to be, and
need not be the lasting condition of the human soul, and that all
doubts may be made to vanish in the light which God has given to
"lighten every man who is born into the world."

I know not what may be the condition of mind of those to whom I have
been speaking to-day. I presume the hope of the Christian Evidence
Society is that some persons who feel practically the pressure of doubt
and unbelief, will come and see whether any of their difficulties
can be resolved by this course of Lectures. If there be such in this
company, I beg them, in concluding this Lecture, to believe that they
have been listening to one who does not wish to treat their speculative
difficulties as trifles, but who would consider it as an unspeakable
privilege to be able to help a doubting brother to get rid of his
doubts, and to exchange them for the steady assurance of faith in the
Lord Jesus Christ.










In addressing you on the historical difficulties of the Old and New
Testaments--a large subject, which it will be hard to treat adequately
within the time allowed to me--I must in the first place premise,
that with difficulties which lie on the verge or outskirts of the
historic field, on the debatable ground between Science and History,
I do not on the present occasion profess to deal. Questions as to the
origin of man, whether by development or by direct creation, whether
from one pair or from more; questions as to his primæval condition,
his possession from the first of the faculty of speech, his original
savagery or civilisation, and the like, lie (I think) beyond the
domain of history proper, belonging to what has been properly termed
the "_pre-historic_ period" of our race, and so not coming within the
terms of the subject on which I have undertaken to speak to-day.
History deals with man from the time to which written records reach
back. Historical difficulties arise from divergence, real or apparent,
between the different accounts contained in those records. Now the
profane records, to which any modern critical school would attribute
an historical value, do not reach back within many ages of the origin
of man, and thus no "historical difficulty" can arise with respect
to these primitive times. It is only when we descend to an age of
records, when the apparently authentic accounts of ancient countries
preserved to our day can be compared with the Scriptural narrative that
difficulty arises and that either agreement or disagreement can be

The first difficulty, really historical, which meets us when we open
the volume of Scripture, is the shortness of the time into which
all history is (or at any rate appears to be) compressed, by the
chronological statements, especially those of Genesis. The exodus of
the Jews is fixed by many considerations to about the fifteenth or
sixteenth century before our era. The period between the Flood and the
Exodus, according to the numbers of our English version, but a very
little exceeds a thousand years. Consequently, it has been usual to
regard Scripture as authoritatively laying it down that all mankind
sprang from a single pair within twenty-five or twenty-six centuries
of the Christian era, and therefore that all history, and not only
so, but all the changes by which the various races of men were formed,
by which languages developed into their numerous and diverse types, by
which civilization and art emerged and gradually perfected themselves,
are shut up within the narrow space of 2,500 or 2,600 years before
the birth of our Lord. Now this time is said with reason to be quite
insufficient. Egypt and Babylonia have histories, as settled kingdoms,
which reach back (according to the most moderate of modern critical
historians) to about the time at which the numbers of our English Bible
place the Deluge. Considerable diversities of language can be proved to
have existed at that date; markedly different physical types appear not
much subsequently; civilization in Egypt has, about the Pyramid period,
which few now place later than B.C. 2,450, an advanced character; the
arts exist nearly in the shape in which they were known in the country
at its most flourishing period. Clearly, a considerable space is wanted
anterior to the pyramid age for the gradual development of Egyptian
life into the condition which the monuments show to have been then
reached. This space the numbers of our English Bible do not allow.

Such is the difficulty. Now how is it to be met? In the first place,
candour should (I think) induce all those who urge it to let their
readers, or hearers, know that a special uncertainty attaches to the
numbers in question, from the fact that they are given differently in
the different ancient versions. We possess the Pentateuch in three very
ancient forms, in Hebrew, in the Greek version known as the Septuagint,
and in Samaritan. Our English numbers represent those of the Hebrew
text. The numbers of the Septuagint and the Samaritan version are
different. Those of the Samaritan version extend the period between
the Deluge and the birth of Abraham from the 292 years of the Hebrew
text to 942 years,--an addition of six centuries and a half--while
those of the Septuagint, according to some copies, give 1,072 years
as the interval, according to others 1,172 years, thus increasing the
period between the Deluge and Abraham by a space of nearly eight, or
nearly nine centuries. Now if the Greek, or even if the Samaritan,
numbers are the right ones, if they represent, that is, the original
text, it may be questioned whether anything more is wanted. It may be
questioned whether a term of from six to eight centuries is not enough
for the production of that state of things which we find existing in
Babylonia and in Egypt when the light of history first dawns upon them,
whether within that space might not have been produced such a state of
civilization, so much progress in art, such differences of physical
type, and such diversities of language as appear to have existed at
that period.

If, however, the ultimate verdict of calm reason, and rigid scientific
inquiry should be against this view, if more time seem to be absolutely
wanted for the development of settled government, of art, science,
language, ethnical diversities, varieties of physical type, and the
like, than even the enlarged chronology of the Septuagint allows, then
I should not be afraid to grant that the original record of Scripture
on this point may have been lost, and that, as it is certain that we
cannot possess the actual chronological scheme of Moses in more than
one of the three extant versions of his words which have come to us
with almost equal authority, so it is quite possible that we may not
posses his real scheme in any. Nothing in ancient MSS. is so liable to
corruption from the mistakes of copyists as the numbers; the original
mode of writing them appears in all countries of which we have any
knowledge to have been by signs, not very different from one another;
the absence of any context determining in favour of one number rather
than another, where the copy is blotted or faded, increases the chance
of error, and thus it happens that in almost all ancient works the
numbers are found to be deserving of very little reliance. Where they
to any extent check one another, they are generally self-contradictory;
where they do not, they are frequently in the highest degree improbable.

A second historical difficulty connected with Genesis was much
insisted upon by the late Baron Bunsen. The primitive Babylonian
kingdom is declared in the tenth chapter of Genesis to have been
Cushite. Baron Bunsen held that there were no Cushites out of
Africa, and that "an Asiatic Cush existed only in the imagination
of Biblical interpreters, and was the child of their despair."[68]
But an analysis of the earliest documents recovered from Babylonia
has shown that the primitive Babylonian people, that which raised
the first structures whereof any trace remains, in the country, and
whose buildings had gone to ruin in the days of Nebuchadnezzar,
was (at any rate to a large extent) Cushite, its vocabulary being
"undoubtedly Cushite or Ethiopian," and presenting numerous analogies
with those of the non-Semitic races of modern Abyssinia. Hence, modern
historical science, in the person of one of its best representatives,
M. Lenormant, commences now the history of the East with a "First
Cushite Empire," which it regards as dominant in Babylonia for several
centuries before the earliest Semitic Empire arose.[69]

A difficulty less noticed, yet one which was, in the state of our
historical knowledge a few years since, more real, may be found in the
narrative contained in the 14th chapter of Genesis with respect to the
invasion of Palestine in the time of Abraham by a number of kings from
the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. These kings act under the presidency
of a monarch, called Chedorlaomer (or Chedor-lagomer), who is stated to
be "king of Elam." Now till very recently there was no profane evidence
that Elam--which is not Persia, as many have supposed, but Elymaïs or
Susiana, the country between Babylonia and Persia--had ever been an
independent state, much less a powerful kingdom, and still less one
that at so remote a date could have exercised suzerainty over so many
and such important nations. But the Assyrian cuneiform inscriptions
have shown that throughout almost the whole of the Assyrian period Elam
maintained herself as an independent state and one of considerable
military strength on the south-eastern borders of the empire; and
very recently[70] it has further been discovered that, according to
the Assyrian belief, an Elamitic king was strong enough to invade and
plunder Babylonia at a date, which expressed in our ordinary manner
would be B.C. 2,286, or somewhat earlier than the time commonly
assigned to Abraham. Further, the primitive Babylonian remains bear
traces of the extension of Elamitic influence into Babylonia at a
remote era; and the possibility of such distant military expeditions
at this far-off period of the world's history, receives illustration
at once from the epithet "Ravager of Syria," which is borne by a
Babylonian monarch of about this date, and also from the numerous
expeditions conducted not very much later by the Egyptian princes from
the valley of the Nile into Mesopotamia.

No other historical difficulties, so far as I know, present themselves
in the narrative of Genesis. Some attempts were made in Germany,
about thirty or forty years ago, to prove that the description of
Egypt contained in the latter portion of the book exhibited numerous
"mistakes and inaccuracies;" but the "mistakes and inaccuracies"
alleged were scarcely of an historical character, and the writers who
alleged them have been so triumphantly refuted by Hengstenberg, and
others, that the sceptical school has ceased to urge the point, and now
allows the entire truthfulness and accuracy of the whole account. Few
things are in truth more remarkable than the _complete_ harmony and
accordance which exist between the picture of ancient Egypt and the
ancient Egyptians, as drawn for us by Moses, and that portraiture of
them which is now obtainable from their own contemporary writings and

With regard to the narrative contained in the last four books of the
Pentateuch, modern criticism has chiefly employed itself in objections
turning upon the numbers. The multiplication of the Israelites, as
related in Genesis and Exodus, has been declared to be utterly and
absolutely incredible. The sudden exodus from Egypt of a body of
two millions of persons in the way narrated has been pronounced an
impossibility. The subsistence of such a multitude, with their flocks
and herds, in the Desert of Tih for forty years, or even a single year,
has been said to be inconceivable. Many minor objections, turning
on the same point of numerical difficulty, have been urged, and the
conclusion has been drawn that the entire narrative of Exodus, Numbers,
Leviticus, and Deuteronomy is unhistorical--a romance drawn up at a
comparatively late period of the nation's history, having perhaps a
certain historic foundation, but in its details wholly and entirely

Now, with respect to these objections, let it be observed, in the
first place, that they all turn upon the one point of number; and that
the numbers of the sacred texts are (as has been already observed)
exactly the part of it which is most liable to corruption and least to
be depended upon. So that if the difficulties of the multiplication,
as stated, of the exit from Egypt, the march, the passage of the Red
Sea, and the sojourn in the wilderness, were all allowed to be as
great as represented, it would be enough to reply that there may have
been a corruption of the numbers--the addition (say) of a cipher in
each case--and that the whole narrative would stand good, and the
difficulties disappear, if for "six hundred thousand that were men" in
Exodus xii. 37, we were to read 60,000, and so on--the entire exodus
being thus made one of 200,000 instead of two million souls. But this
mode of meeting the difficulty is not, perhaps, here the right one. The
numbers may be defended as they stand. In Germany the best critics,
including so subtle and little credulous a writer as Ewald, accept
them. They seem required by the general tenor of the whole narrative,
especially by the great unwillingness of the Egyptians to let the
people go, and by their power, within little more than a generation to
conquer and occupy Canaan. Assuming therefore the numbers to be sound,
to have come to us as they were delivered by Moses, let us inquire what
the great difficulties are of which so much has been made, and see if
they are really so insuperable.

In the first place, as to the multiplication in Egypt. Now here, before
we can form any judgment, two things have to be determined--"What was
the number of the Israelites when they entered Egypt," and "What was
the duration of their stay there?" What was their number when they
entered Egypt? We are commonly told, "seventy souls." Now, no doubt,
these words occur in Scripture, "All the souls of the house of Jacob,
which came into Egypt, were threescore and ten."[72] But, when we
come to look into details, we find first, that the seventy souls of
Jacob's descendants comprise only two women, the married daughters and
grand-daughters of Jacob not being mentioned, who yet, we are told,
followed the migrations of the tribe,[73] and no account being taken of
the wives of his sons and grandsons. Supplying these omissions, we have
for the family of Jacob as it entered Egypt, the number 267, instead
of the number seventy, or nearly four times the ordinary estimate. But
this is far from being all. The children of Israel entered Egypt with
their households, or retainers.[74] What the size of a patriarchal
household was we may gather from the history of Abraham, who had 318
trained servants born in his house, capable of active military service.
It has been well observed that "we shall scarcely find so many in a
clan of three thousand souls."[75] Jacob's retainers are likely to have
been more numerous rather than less numerous than those of Abraham; and
the conclusion of Kurtz, that they amounted to "several thousands"[76]
is therefore perfectly reasonable. It appears to me quite probable that
the tribe which took possession of the Land of Goshen on the invitation
of Joseph and Pharaoh was a body of five or six thousand persons.

Next, as to the duration of the sojourn in Egypt, the Hebrew text
lays it down very positively that it was 430 years.[77] The best MSS.
of the Septuagint agree. There was a tradition among the later Jews
which brought down the term to 215 years; but this tradition cannot
reasonably be set against the plain words of Exodus; and consequently
we must take 430 years as the duration of the sojourn.

Is it then, or is it not, conceivable, that under the circumstances
of the time and country, a tribe or clan of 5,000 persons may have
increased in 430 years to one of two millions? Here it has to be
remembered that there were two modes whereby they might increase, one
that of ordinary natural increase, the other by augmentation of the
number of their retainers. The natural tendency of population has been
shown by Mr. Malthus, to be to double itself, if unchecked, every 25
years.[78] The Israelites, having the land of Goshen, a large fertile
territory, capable of supporting a population of several millions,
assigned them, would be in a position where the checks on the natural
tendency, especially at first, would be very slight. Now, according
to the estimate of Mr. Malthus, a body of 5,000 persons increasing
without check, would have become more than two millions at the end of
225 years; a body of 267 persons would have exceeded the same amount
at the close of 325 years; and a body even of seventy persons would
have done the same at the expiration of 375 years; so that, except for
the operation of artificial checks, the family of Jacob, had it really
consisted of seventy persons only, would have become one of above two
millions fifty-five years before the time of the exodus. But, no doubt,
as the increase took place, the artificial checks, which keep down
the natural tendency of population, began to operate, and the result
was, that if the original immigrants were, as I have supposed, about
5,000, the actual rate of increase had been a doubling, not once each
twenty-five years, but once each forty-eight years, or not very much
beyond the rate which prevails in our own country at the present time.

If we add to this the consideration that the Israelites, being in a
very flourishing condition during the earlier portion of their sojourn
in Egypt, would naturally augment, by purchase, the number of their
households, and might even receive, by agreement, whole tribes into
their body, we shall not be surprised that at the end of the 430 years,
the clan had grown to be a nation of two million souls.

With respect to the difficulties of the exit of this large body of
persons from Egypt in the sudden way which the narrative in Exodus
seems to describe, they depend (I think) mainly on the broad and
general manner of description habitual to Oriental writers, who do not
trouble themselves with details, or with exceptions, but describe _in
the mass_, stating that to be done by all which was done by most, or
by those of most account; regarding a nation as concentrated in its
heads; and directing attention to the main events, to the neglect of
the various details into which they were broken up. A candid reader,
making fair allowance for these characteristics of Oriental style,
and for the brevity of the sacred narrative, will scarcely be much
troubled by the difficulties of the start and the march, as they
have been urged by some critics. It is certain migrations of tribes,
quite as large as that of Israel is said to have been, have from time
to time taken place in the east, and indeed in the west also. Such
migrations have frequently been sudden--the emigrants have started off
with their women, children, and all their possessions on a certain
day[79]--they have traversed enormous distances, much greater ones than
the Israelites traversed, and have finally settled themselves in new
abodes. That the Israelites made such a migration there cannot be a
doubt. The Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, all accepted the fact as certain.
Cavils as to their exact numbers, or as to the particular expressions
used in Exodus, do not touch the main fact, but show (if they show
anything) either that our ancient manuscripts are here and there
defective, or that an early Oriental historian does not write in the
exact and accurate style of a nineteenth-century occidental critic.

The difficulty which attaches to the subsistence of the Israelites
for forty years in the wilderness of Tih, concerns almost wholly the
sustenance of their flocks and herds, which are said to have been
numerous, and have been calculated at two million head of cattle. The
answer to this difficulty may be very brief. In the first place, we
are not told that the cattle did not very rapidly decrease; for no
mention is made of the people possessing any considerable number in
the later portion of the sojourn, until an enormous booty is captured
from the Midianites;[80] and in the second place, there is ample reason
to believe that the wilderness was anciently very much more fertile
than it is at present, and quite capable of furnishing pasturage to
flocks and herds of a large size. The recent explorations of Mr.
Tristram and Mr. Holland have placed this fact beyond a doubt, and have
shown that the Sinaitic peninsula, at any rate, was a "desert" merely
in comparison with the richly agricultural countries of Egypt and

Historical difficulties are scarcely alleged with respect to the
portion of the Biblical narrative which follows upon the sojourn in
the wilderness. The conquest of Canaan by the immigrant Israelites is
a fact too well attested to be denied; and the subsequent chequered
history of the race, as delivered to us in Judges and in the First
Book of Samuel, is for the most part too modest and unpretending an
account to tempt the assaults of sceptics. The exploits of Gideon and
Samson are viewed indeed with incredulity; but merely on the ground
that they are intrinsically improbable. It is not until we come to the
time of David and Solomon that any further difficulties, really of an
historical character, present themselves, and that an examination of
the difficulties by the light of historical documents becomes possible.

The sudden rise of the Israelites to power and greatness in the reign
of David, the grandeur, magnificence, and extent of the kingdom of
Solomon, and the entire collapse of the empire at his death appear to
some, not merely in themselves strange and improbable, but incompatible
with what is known from history of the condition of the neighbouring
countries. The little country of Palestine was placed midway between
the territories of two great and powerful monarchies, of which it may
be said, in a general way, that for a thousand years before the rise
of the Persians to power, they contested the sovereignty of the East.
Over-shadowed by the grand forms of Egypt and Assyria, how could Israel
(it may be asked) emerge from obscurity, how especially advance at
a bound from a dependent to a dominant position, asserting, and for
above fifty years maintaining, her place among the great ones of the
earth? We may answer, that, in the first place such a revolution has
numerous analogies in the history of the East, where the rapid rise of
petty states to greatness, the sudden conversion of an oppressed into a
dominant power, is the rule rather than the exception; where Babylon,
Media, Persia, Parthia, where the histories of Timur, Yenghis Khan,
Nadir Shah, all illustrate it. But further, in this particular case,
we can see not only a general analogy, but a fitness in the peculiar
circumstances of the time for the production of such a phenomenon as
that which Scripture places before us. The monumental evidence of the
two countries shows, that exactly at the time when the conquests of
David and the Empire of Solomon are placed, both Egypt and Assyria were
exceptionally weak. Egypt, after the time of Ramesses III. (ab. B.C.
1,200) ceased to be aggressive on the side of Syria, and continued
until the accession of Sheshonk or Shishak, (ab. B.C. 990) to be a
quiet and unwarlike power. Assyria, which, about B.C. 1,100, extended
her sway into the valley of the Orontes, and threatened Palestine with
subjection, passed under a cloud soon afterwards, and did not again
become a terror to Syria, till about B.C. 880. For a Jewish Empire to
arise it was necessary that Egypt and Assyria should be simultaneously
weak. Such simultaneous weakness is found for the hundred or hundred
and twenty years between B.C. 1,100 and B.C. 990. And exactly into this
interval fall the rise of the Jews to power under Saul and David, and
the establishment of their empire under Solomon.

Doubts were thrown a few years since, by an able writer, on the
expeditions of Shishak against Rehoboam, Solomon's son, and of Zerah,
the Ethiopian, against Asa, Rehoboam's grandson;[81] which, it was
suggested, might be mere embellishments of a history, otherwise tame
and uninteresting. The careful analysis which the inscription of
Shishak at Karnac has undergone at the hands of Mr. Stuart Poole,[82]
and Dr. Brugsch,[83] not to mention other scholars, and the evidence
thus furnished of the reality and the importance of his expedition into
Palestine, render the continuance of incredulity, as to the former of
these attacks, impossible. The analysis has thrown a flood of light
on what was previously obscure in the scriptural narrative. It has
shown that Shishak went up, not so much with any extensive scheme of
conquest, as to settle his _protegé_, Jeroboam, in his kingdom, where
he was in great danger from the Levitical and Canaanite towns not
being in his hands. These Shishak reduced and made over to Jeroboam,
thus giving him a firm hold on the northern kingdom. Having done
this, he was content to receive the mere submission of Rehoboam, and
allowed him to retain the southern kingdom, perhaps not wishing to make
Jeroboam too strong. It was the constant practice of the great monarchs
of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon, to maintain, on dependent thrones, a
large number of petty princes, who were checks upon each other, and
could easily be dealt with, if they shewed any inclination to rebellion.

The expedition of Zerah has not yet received any distinct confirmation
from monuments. But the recent discovery that there reigned about
this time a king called _Azerch_-Amen in Ethiopia, has removed the
difficulties which attached to the name and the description of the
invader, and has indicated to the dispassionate and candid student,
that here, too, the Jewish historian had probably contemporary records
to guide him, and related real facts of history, not figments drawn
from his imagination.

A real historical difficulty meets us soon after this, in the sacred
narrative, in the invasion of the kingdom of Samaria, by Pul, who
is called a "king of Assyria," and is said to have put Menahem to a
tribute of a thousand talents of silver.[84] We possess the history
of Assyria for this period, apparently in a state of completeness;
and this history shows us no monarch at this time (or indeed at any
other time), bearing a name in the least resembling that of Pul. The
predecessor of Tiglath-pileser on the throne of Assyria, was a certain
Asshur-lush (or Asshur-likkis), whose predecessor was Asshur-dayan, who
followed on Shalmaneser III. It seems impossible that any one of these
kings can be Pul. Moreover, Assyria, in the time immediately preceding
the accession of Tiglath-pileser, instead of being a great, aggressive
power, capable of marching armies into Palestine, was in a depressed
state, troubled by frequent insurrections among her own subjects, and
quite incapable of sending out distant military expeditions. Thus "Pul,
king of Assyria," constitutes to the modern historical inquirer a real
difficulty--a difficulty which it has been proposed to meet in various

The best explanation hitherto suggested is, I think, the following.
Pul, who was called by Berosus, the great Babylon historian, "king
of the Chaldeans," was probably a monarch who reigned at Babylon,
while Asshur-lush was reigning at Nineveh. In the troublous decade
of years which preceded Tiglath-pileser's accession, he became a
powerful prince, perhaps deprived Assyria of her western provinces,
and invaded Syria and Palestine from the quarter from which Assyrian
invasions had been wont to come. Presenting himself to the Israelites
as the representative of the great Mesopotamian power, with which they
had been contending for centuries, they termed him loosely "king of
Assyria" when he was in reality a king of Babylon, who had possessed
himself of a portion of the Assyrian dominions. In the same way, they
subsequently termed Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, and
even Darius Hystaspis, "kings of Assyria."[85]

A difficulty used to be felt with respect to "Sargon, king of
Assyria," who is said to have taken Ashdod by the hand of one of his
captains.[86] Sargon's name is not contained in the historical books
of Scripture, nor is he mentioned by any of the classical writers, who
speak of Shalmaneser, Sennacherib, and Esarhaddon. The occurrence of
his name in Isaiah was thought to indicate an irreconcilable difference
between the historical data possessed by that prophet and those of
the writer of Kings. Even his existence was doubted, and different
writers proposed to regard his name as a mere variant for those of
each of the three princes just mentioned. The Assyrian inscriptions
have completely cleared up all this obscurity. Sargon is found to
have been the successor of Shalmaneser; the predecessor and father of
Sennacherib. He speaks of having captured Ashdod. All that Isaiah says
of him is confirmed; and it appears to have been quite accidental that
the writer of Kings, who more than once alludes to him,[87] does not
mention his name.

The strictly historical character of the later portion of the Old
Testament narrative, especially of that delivered to us in Kings,
Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and in the contemporary prophets,
Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Haggai, is generally admitted, even by
sceptics. The only writings belonging to this period, whereto exception
is taken are the Books of Daniel and Esther, which many still regard
as full of historical inaccuracies, and as quite unworthy of credence.
I shall therefore conclude my observation on the alleged historical
difficulties of the _Old_ Testament, and the light thrown on them by
modern discoveries, by a brief consideration of these two books and of
the objections taken to them.

The chief historical inaccuracies alleged against Daniel are the
following: He is said to have invented two kings, Belshazzar, and
Darius the Mede, whose existence is not merely unknown to history,
but precluded by it; to have falsely ascribed a government by satraps
to the Babylonians; to have incorrectly represented the condition of
their "wise men"; to have made Susa a residence of the Persian monarchs
when it was not even built; to have wrongly made the last king of
Babylon a son of Nebuchadnezzar, and to have misrepresented his fate;
to have misconceived the relative position of the Medes and Persians
at the time of the capture of Babylon; and to have related an utterly
incredible circumstance, viz. that Daniel was admitted among the
Babylonian "wise men," and even constituted their head.[88]

Now of these charges some are quite incapable of being either
substantiated or distinctly refuted from our insufficient knowledge of
the times to which they refer. Nothing is really known of the classes
into which the "wise men" of Babylon were divided in Nebuchadnezzar's
time, excepting what we learn from Daniel himself. The authors supposed
to contradict Daniel on this point, write of the state of things in
their own day, which happens to be eight centuries later! And they
do not write about the Babylonian "wise men" at all, but about the
divisions of the Persian magi, an entirely different class. We do not
even know enough about the "wise men" to say whether there was anything
strange and unusual in a foreigner being placed at their head. We may
suspect that it was so, but we have really no sufficient evidence on
the subject. The little evidence that we have is to the effect that
the "wise men" were a learned, not a priestly, body; and that they
admitted foreigners among them--more we do not know; but there is
certainly not the slightest difficulty in supposing that the despotic
power of a Babylonian monarch would have been amply sufficient to
overcome any repugnance which any class of his subjects might have felt
towards one of his appointments.

Similarly, we have no sufficient knowledge of the Babylonian
governmental system to say that it was not, at any rate, to some
extent, satrapial. A satrapial system is simply one in which governors
are appointed over the provinces, instead of their being suffered
to remain under the rule of native kings. Our present Indian system
is in part satrapial, in part a government by means of kings. The
Assyrian government was one of the same kind; and, on the whole, it
is most probable that so was the Babylonian. Gedaliah, who succeeded
to King Zedekiah in Judea, was a "governor,"[89] that is, a satrap,
appointed by Nebuchadnezzar; and Berosus speaks of a "satrap of Egypt,
Cœle-Syria, and Phœnicia," as holding office under Nabopolassar,
Nebuchadnezzar's father. Thus there is no "inaccuracy" in Daniel's
speaking of Nebuchadnezzar as summoning, among his other great
officers, his "satraps."[90] That the _word_, which is Persian, was
not used in Babylonia is probable; but Daniel, writing for Jews under
Persian government, who were perfectly familiar with the term, employed
it for a corresponding Babylonian expression.

The charge that Daniel misapprehended the relative position of the
Medes and Persians at the capture of Babylon, regarding the supremacy
of the Medes as still continuing, is unjust, and rests on an omission
to look carefully to the original text. It is true that the Medes are
placed before the Persians in the words of the handwriting upon the
wall, and also in the formula, "according to the law of the Medes and
Persians, which altereth not." But this honorary precedence assigned
to the Medes is a mere trace of their ancient supremacy--a trace much
more strongly marked in Greek writers, who actually call Cyrus and
his successors "Medes"--and is not an indication of its continuance.
Daniel twice marks very strongly the subordinate position of the
Medes, stating in one place[91] that Darius the Mede "_received_ the
kingdom"--_i.e._, was given it by another; and further declaring that
he "_was made king_ over the nation of the Chaldæans,"[92] using in
this case an expression which distinctly implies that he derived his
position from some superior authority, which made him king.[93]

The notion that Susa, or at any rate, its palace, was not built at
the time when Daniel says that he saw himself in vision there, rests
wholly upon a statement made by Pliny, six hundred years later, that
"Susa, the ancient regal city of the Persians, was built by Darius
Hystaspis."[94] Now this statement, one of very weak authority, had we
nothing to set against it, is contrary to the declarations of various
other classical authorities, among them notably of Herodotus; and is
completely disproved by the Assyrian inscriptions, which show that Susa
was one of the most ancient of all the Mesopotamian cities, and that
its "palace" was famous for many centuries before the time of Daniel.
The truth which underlies Pliny's statement, is the fact that Darius
Hystaspis was the first Persian monarch to build a palace at Susa after
the Persian fashion; but the ancient residence of the Susian kings, the
Memnonium, as the Greeks called it, had existed for considerably more
than a thousand years when the son of Hystaspes began his edifice.

Of the two remaining charges, which concern Darius the Mede, and
Belshazzar, one--and that the more important of the two--has been
completely rebutted by the evidence of the Babylonian monuments. These
monuments show that Nabonnedus (or Labynetus), the king of Babylon
attacked by Cyrus, had a son named Bel-shar-ezer, or Belshazzar, whom
during some years he associated with him in the government. This son
may well have been on the mother's side descended from Nebuchadnezzar,
as Daniel says that Belshazzar was;[95] he may have played the part in
the siege which Daniel states that he did, while his father (as Berosus
mentioned) defended the fortress of Borsippa; and he may have fallen
in the general massacre during the night in which Babylon was taken,
while his father was subsequently made prisoner, and kindly treated by
Cyrus. All the supposed contradictions of profane history by Daniel
in connection with this matter, are entirely removed by one little
document, exhumed in our own day from the soil of Mesopotamia, by the
exertions of an English gentleman.

With respect to Darius the Mede, nothing has been as yet discovered.
It is clear from Daniel that he was not a king in his own right, but
a viceroy set up by Cyrus. He held his government probably for not
more than two years. Perhaps he is to be identified with Astyages, the
Median king, whom Cyrus deposed but treated kindly; perhaps he was
merely a Median noble, whom Cyrus advanced, as he did other Medes, to
a position of trust and importance. The monuments have not at present
thrown any light on this matter; but he would be a bold person, who,
after the discovery with respect to Belshazzar, would undertake to say
that there may not, ere many years are past, be as much light thrown
upon the obscure history of this monarch, as has been recently thrown
on the history, formerly at least as obscure, of his predecessor.

I cannot leave this matter and turn to another without strongly
advising those who have any doubts as to the genuineness and
authenticity of the Book of Daniel, which have been of late so fiercely
attacked, to study carefully the recent work of Professor Pusey
upon the subject. They will find in it a complete answer to all the
objections, historical, and critical, which have been urged against
this portion of Scripture.

The historical difficulties alleged against the Book of Esther, are
chiefly the following. Assuming Ahasuerus to be Xerxes, which is no
doubt a highly probable identification, it is said that Esther's
position is impossible, since Xerxes had but one wife, Amestris, who
cannot be Esther. Nor could any Persian king have married a Jewess,
since there was a law that the kings should take all their wives out
of seven noble Persian families. Such a feast as that described in the
first chapter, where all the princes of the provinces were entertained
for 180 days, could not have taken place, since the governors could
not without ruin to the empire have been so long absent from their
governments. It is incredible that a Persian king should have given
the command, said to have been given by Ahasuerus to Vashti. The
edicts ascribed to Ahasuerus are all incredible--especially the second
and third. No king would have consented to the murder of 2,000,000 of
his subjects; nor would any king ever have allowed at a later time
those two millions to stand up and slay as many as they pleased of
their enemies. Finally, the honours granted to Mordecai are said to be
excessive, and such as no monarch would have allowed to a subject.

With respect to the first of these objections, we may reply that though
Amestris cannot be Esther, she may well be Vashti; and that though the
classical writers tell us of no other wife of Xerxes, yet it is quite
possible that he may have had several. Polygamy was the rule with
the Persian kings. Amestris was no doubt on the whole the chief wife
of Xerxes, and if she at one time fell into disgrace, must have been
afterwards restored to favour; but the accounts which we have from
the Greeks do not at all preclude the possibility of such a temporary
disgrace, and of the elevation of another wife to the first place for
a time. As to its being impossible that any Persian king could have
married a Jewess, it is sufficient to remark, that though the Persians
had laws, the Persian kings were above the law, and could always
disregard its restraints. When Cambyses having conceived an affection
for his full sister, Atossa, asked the royal judges if they could find
a law allowing a Persian to marry such a near relative, their reply
was, that they could find no law permitting the marriage of brothers
and sisters, but that they found a law, that the king of the Persians
might do what he liked.[96]

The objection to Xerxes feasting _all_ his princes for 180 days is an
objection, not to anything contained in the Book of Esther, but to
something which the critic who makes it has intruded into the book.
The writer of the book tells us that Xerxes "made a feast to all his
princes and his servants" (ch. i. 3), and subsequently relates that the
feast lasted "an hundred and fourscore days" (verse 4); but he nowhere
states that the princes were all present during the whole of the time.
Indeed, the reader possessed of common sense sees clearly enough that
the very duration of the festivity was probably contrived, in order
that all the princes might in their turn partake of it. The critic
says, "it is not so stated in the text," which is true: but neither is
that stated which he has thought that he saw in it.

The command given to Vashti is undoubtedly strange and abnormal. It
was an outrage on Oriental custom; and as such the narrative sets it
before us. The king does not issue the order until he is "merry with
wine"; and the Queen refuses to obey, because she feels the order to
be an insult. But can we say that no Oriental king could possibly
have issued such a command? Is it not more reasonable to allow, with
a German critic of the sceptical school, that the narrative is here
"possible on account of the advancing corruption in Xerxes' time, and
through the folly of Xerxes himself"?[97] Indeed is it not clear that
we can set no limit to the caprices of absolute power, or to the orders
that may not be issued by a proud and silly despot?

Considerations of this kind go far also to remove the difficulty which
has been felt as to the main facts of the narrative of Esther, the
intended massacre of the Jews, and the counter-edict allowing them to
defend themselves and slay their enemies. Such facts are altogether out
of the ordinary experience of Western nations; and it is not surprising
that they have been met with incredulity on the part of those whose
knowledge of the past is limited to an acquaintance with the course
of European, and especially of modern European, history. But can it
be said that they are altogether out of nature? that they have no
counterpart in the history of the East? that they transcend altogether
what authentic history relates of the doings of Oriental tyrants? Here
again the German sceptic is more cautious than some of those who have
sought to popularise him, and allows that from what we know of the
base character and despotism of Xerxes it may perhaps be believed that
Haman obtained from him a decree for the extirpation of the Jews,
and Mordecai in return a corresponding counter-decree[98]. All that
he objects to is, the fierceness with which the Jews set to work, and
the consequent massacre by them of above 75,000 persons. This fact
he thinks "incredible." It may be allowed that had the persons slain
been, as the objectors suppose, "Persians," the circumstances related
would have been extremely hard of belief; but it is on the whole most
probable that there were few or no "Persians" among them. A religious
sympathy united the Persians with the Jews; and it is scarcely likely
that any of them would have taken part in the proposed destruction of
the Jewish nation. The adversaries of the Jews were to be found in the
ranks of the conquered nations, not of the conquering one. They were
Persian subjects, not Persians. There is no reason to think that the
loss even of 75,000 of such persons would have been felt by Xerxes as a
matter of much importance. We must remember, however, that the number
75,000 is doubtful. The Septuagint version has 15,000; and this number
is more in harmony than the other with the 800 slain in the capital.

Finally, to the objection that the honours granted to Mordecai are
excessive, it may be replied, in the first place, that they are
analogous to those granted to Joseph,[99] and Daniel,[100] and
therefore such as were occasionally allowed to subjects by Oriental
sovereigns; and secondly, that if there were anything abnormal in them,
it would be sufficiently accounted for by the wild and extravagant
temper of Xerxes, which delighted in strange acts and exhibitions of an
unusual character. Haman, who knew his master's weakness, might well
speculate upon it, and suggest extraordinary honours, since he imagined
that it was himself for whom they were intended.

I have now noticed _all_ the historical difficulties of any force
or weight, which have come before me in the course of my studies
on the history of the Old Testament. I have dwelt particularly on
those connected with the Pentateuch and with the two Books of Daniel
and Esther, because of late years the attacks of sceptics have been
especially directed against those portions of the Sacred volume. I
have left myself but scant time for noticing historical difficulties
connected with the narrative of the New Testament; but this is of
the less consequence, since there are no more than one or two such
difficulties on which any stress has recently been laid by our

It has been said that St. Luke, in connecting the name of Cyrenius
with the "taxing" which caused Joseph and Mary to go from Nazareth
to Bethlehem, "undeniably contradicts history."[101] Cyrenius (or
Quirinus) was appointed governor of Syria about ten years after the
death of Herod the Great, and made a census of his province shortly
afterwards. This census St. Luke is accused of placing ten years too
early. The answer to this charge is, that the words of St. Luke (chap.
ii. 2) cannot possibly mean that Cyrenius was governor at the time of
the taxing; had it been St. Luke's intention to express this, the verse
would have ran thus: "This taxing was made when Cyrenius was governor
of Syria," and not "this taxing was first made," etc. "First," that
is, which is manifestly the emphatic word of the sentence, would then
have been absent from it. Evidently, therefore, St. Luke's words must
bear some other meaning. They may signify, "_this_ taxing was made
_before_ Cyrenius was governor," and so before that better known taxing
which he ordered. This is an allowable translation of the passage.
Or they may mean, and I think they do mean, "this taxing was first
completed--first took full effect--when Cyrenius was governor;" that is
to say, the taxing ordered by Augustus, and commenced under Herod the
Great, was interrupted (as it may easily have been, since the Jews were
very bitter against it), and the business was first accomplished under
Cyrenius. This is a sense which the Greek verb translated incur version
"was made" sometimes has.

Again, it has been said that St. Luke erred in stating that Lysanias
was tetrarch of Abilene (iii. 1) in the fifteenth year of the reign of
Tiberius Cæsar.[102] Lysanias, it is said, died sixty years previously;
and St. Luke has ignorantly made him alive, being deceived by the fact
that Abilene continued to be called "the Abilene of Lysanias," after
its former ruler, for sixty or seventy years subsequently. Now here
it is in the first place assumed, without any word of proof, that the
Lysanias who died B.C. 34 once ruled over Abilene. Secondly, it is
assumed, also without any word of proof, that Abilene came to be known
as "the Abilene of Lysanias," from him. I venture to assert that there
is absolutely no ground for believing that the old Lysanias was ever
ruler of Abilene; and I venture to maintain that Abilene came to be
called "the Abilene of Lysanias" from a second or later Lysanias, a
son of the former one, who is the person intended by St. Luke. Till
recently, Christian apologists were defied to show historically that
there was ever more than one Lysanias, and were accused of inventing a
second to escape a difficulty. But a few years since, a discovery was
made which must be regarded by all reasonable persons as having set the
whole matter at rest. This was an inscription found near Baalbek,[103]
containing a dedication of a memorial tablet or statue to "Zenodorus,
son of the tetrarch Lysanias, and to Lysanias, her children," by
(apparently) the widow of the first, and the mother of the second
Lysanias. Zenodorus was already known as having succeeded the first
Lysanias in his government. It is thus clear, that there were, as
previously suspected, two persons of the name, a father, and a son, and
there is not the slightest reason for doubting St. Luke's statement
that the latter was tetrarch of Abilene in the fifteenth of Tiberius.

I know of no other cavil against the historical accuracy of the New
Testament, that I can regard as worthy of being dignified with the
name of difficulty. It has been denied that any decree ever went out
from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed,[104] but as
Savigny, the best authority on Roman antiquities, holds the contrary
to be certain, this denial need not detain us. It has been asserted
that if the massacre of the Innocents had taken place, it _must_ have
been noticed by Josephus;[105] but this argument from omission is too
weak to deserve more than a passing notice. Nothing is more familiar
to historical students than the unaccountable omissions which occur
in the works of almost all historians. Scepticism has searched in the
most minute and unsparing way every detail of the Gospel and the Acts,
and has endeavoured earnestly to find "differences" and "divergences"
between these facts and those of profane history; but again and again
has it been compelled to own that the divergences are slight, and
the differences such as may be reconciled by natural and probable
suppositions. The entire result of the searching criticism, whereto the
historical character of the New Testament has been exposed, has been
to show that not only the general narrative, but all its minutiæ, are
trustworthy. No evangelist has been convicted of error in respect of
any historical statements. Where a shallow learning and a defective
knowledge of the records of the past have led men to think that they
had found a slip or a mistake, and a shout of triumph has been raised,
profounder research has always demonstrated the veracity and accuracy
of the sacred writer, and has exposed the ignorance of his assailant.
The historical character of the New Testament is, I think I may say, in
the eyes of all sober historical critics established.


    BY THE




It is hardly possible to over-estimate the importance of the issues
to which it will be my duty to address myself in this lecture. They
involve the central position of Christianity; viz., the all-important
question whether Jesus Christ was an historical person, or a creation
of the imagination. Is the Church which is erected on Him founded on an
historic fact, which had an objective existence; or is the Jesus of the
Evangelists a subjective creation which existed only in the minds of
its originators?

Many of the attacks which have been made on Revelation are directed
against its outworks merely; this is one directed against the very
key of the Christian position. If it can be carried by our opponents,
the whole line of our defences becomes untenable. Let us not deceive
ourselves. If the Gospels are not _in their main outlines_ historically
true, Christianity is no more divine than Shakespeare. It may be the
highest development of man; but it can have no pretence to be esteemed
a revelation from God.

The objections of this school have done more to undermine the belief of
the educated classes in Christianity as a divine revelation than any
one single cause. They have largely created the so-called rationalism
of the Continent. They are widely diffused in America. In our own
country, a numerous class of writers who obtain ready access to our
periodical literature are not only imbued with similar views, but
write with the quiet assumption that the historical foundation of
Christianity cannot be defended.

As my subject is a wide one, I must address myself to it without any
preliminary observations. The question before us is simply this, Are
the Gospels credible histories, in the sense that other writings of
the same description are? or are the larger portion of their contents

It should be observed that although these schools support their views
by an immense critical apparatus, the real σκάνδαλον [Greek: skandalon]
of the Gospels is the supernatural element which they contain. Apart
from this, their historical character would never have been questioned.
The theory that miracles are impossible underlies the entire mass of
these objections. But the question of the miraculous has been already
handled by another lecturer. I shall therefore only observe on it that
it forms no portion of a strictly historical inquiry. It appertains to
the abstract regions of thought. History has to deal with evidence, not
with abstract dogmas or philosophical questions. To begin an historical
inquiry with the assumption that miracles are impossible, and that any
event which involves the supernatural must be a fiction, is quietly to
assume the point at issue.

But as the Christian Church is an institution which actually exists,
and as its origin can be traced up to the times of Jesus Christ, and as
it is erected on the Gospels as its foundation, these schools are fully
aware that the question cannot be settled by the quiet assumption that
miracles are impossible. The case stands thus. The Christian Church
exists. It has had its origin in the events of past history. The Church
itself asserts now, and has asserted in all ages, that it is founded
on the historical truth of the divine person of Christ our Lord, as
He is depicted in the Gospels. If the Gospels are true, they give a
rational account of its origin, But those with whom I am reasoning deny
that they are a statement of historic facts, and consequently that they
are not the true account of it. But as the Church is an historic fact,
they are quite aware that any mere general assumption that miracles
are impossible is not sufficient. They find themselves, therefore,
compelled to do two things,--first, to invent a critical apparatus to
destroy the credibility of the Gospels; and, secondly, to propound a
theory which shall account for the origin of the Church on principles
purely human. The solution propounded is the mythical and Tübingen

This critical apparatus keeps two aims in view,--first, to prove the
existence of statements in the Gospels at variance with those of
contemporaneous history; secondly, to show that these narratives abound
with a multitude of contradictions. To effect this latter purpose,
every variation of statement is made to assume the character of a
contradiction. The extent to which this has been carried is scarcely

This process having as they hope destroyed the substance of the
Gospels, the next procedure is to invent a theory out of the
imagination as the account of the origin of Christianity, and to
propound it as true history.

At first sight it would appear to have been the easiest course to
assert that they are simple forgeries, in the same sense in which the
Donation of Constantine or the False Decretals are forgeries. But this
is what no unbeliever of the present day who regards his literary
reputation ventures to propound as the alternative to their historical
credibility. Why is the simple course abandoned, and an infinitely
complicated theory substituted in its place? The answer is that
their entire phenomena negative the supposition that they could have
originated in directly conscious fraud.

A more elaborate theory, therefore, has to be substituted for the
simple one. It must be observed that I can only speak of it in its
general aspect, for its modifications are extremely numerous, and
hardly any two writers can be found who take precisely the same view.
But the following may be stated as the principles which underlie these
systems of modern unbelief, throwing aside their minor details.

First. That miracles being impossible, no supernatural element whatever
enters into the character of the historical Jesus.

Second. That He was probably a very great man, though, whenever the
exigencies of the system require it, it is necessary to assume that He
was deeply implicated in the prejudices and superstitions of the age in
which He lived.

Third. That He probably believed Himself to be the Messiah expected by
His countrymen, though as to the precise nature of His Messianic claims
my opponents are not agreed.

Fourth. That He succeeded in inspiring a crowd of followers with an
enthusiastic attachment to Him.

Fifth. That they were honest people after their fashion; but were
impelled by an enthusiasm only equalled by their credulity.

Sixth. That they invented a multitude of fabulous stories, ascribed
them to Jesus, and in time mistook them for facts.

Seventh. That out of these and kindred elements, aided by a succession
of developments, the human Jesus was gradually metamorphosed, in the
course of the seventy years which followed the crucifixion, into the
Christ of the Synoptic Gospels, and in a hundred and thirty into that
of the Gospel of St. John.

Now, as these schools deny the existence of the supernatural, this
whole development must have been due to causes which are purely human;
in one word, to the laws which regulate the developments of the moral
and spiritual worlds. As those of the natural world have been effected
through the agency of natural laws, so the creation of the Jesus of the
Evangelists is due to laws which regulate with equal potency the action
of the mind. Both sets of laws are equally constant and invariable.

To examine the critical apparatus which has been applied to the Gospels
for the purpose of proving their unhistorical character, could only be
accomplished in a work of considerable length. I shall therefore only
make two observations on the principles adopted.

First. These schools assault the Gospels by charging them with
containing a multitude of inaccuracies, discrepancies, and
contradictions. While they do this they carefully keep in the
background the minute accuracies, agreements with contemporaneous
history, and plain indications of autoptic testimony with which they
abound. Such a line of conduct is the same thing as to place before
the Court which is to try the cause everything which an acute counsel
can adduce in opposition, and to suppress the whole evidence for the

Secondly. A great majority of these objections are founded on a view
of the Gospels which their writers expressly repudiate. It is taken
for granted that the Gospels are histories in the strictest sense of
that word. By a strict history I mean a narrative in which the events
are connected together in accordance with the sequences of time and
place. This is the arrangement which is generally adopted in modern
histories and biographies. But the Gospels expressly assert that they
belong to a different class of writings. They are not _histories_,
but _memoirs_. In a memoir, the arrangement of events in the strict
sequence of time and place is not the predominant idea. The Gospels are
not only memoirs, but memoirs of a peculiar character. They are details
of the actions and teachings of Jesus Christ written for the express
purpose of teaching the Christian religion. In works of this kind
the arrangement and grouping of events are formed on very different
principles from those adopted in the composition of pure histories.

As this is a most important point, I must adduce proof of it which is
beyond all contradiction. St. John's Gospel asserts, in as many words,
that it was the purpose of its author to write such a memoir, and not
a strict history. At chap. xx., ver. 30, 31, he says, "And many other
signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not
written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have
life through His name." Again, in the last verse of the Gospel it is
expressly stated that Jesus did many things which the writer has not

The author therefore clearly asserts that he has made a selection of
certain events in the life of Jesus Christ, from a very much larger
number, with which he was acquainted, and that the principle which
guided him, both in the selection and arrangement, was a religious
one. "These are written that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ,"
etc. It is impossible more distinctly to assert that the Gospel is a
religious memoir.

No less clear is the statement of St. Luke. He says "that he wrote
in order to the most excellent Theophilus, that he might know the
certainty of the things in which he had been instructed." The original
shows that the instruction was given with a definite religious purpose.
The Gospel is "a declaration of those things most surely believed
among Christians." In one word, the work is a memoir, and not a history.

If it be replied that Luke says that he wrote "in order," εν ταξει
[Greek: en taxei], I answer that there are other orderly arrangements
besides those of time and place; and that if a work is a religious
memoir, the arrangement would be regulated, though not exclusively, by
the reference of the facts to the religious end in view.

The assertions of the other two Gospels are not so express, but viewed
in connection with their contents they prove that they belong to the
same class of writings. Mark writes, "The beginning of the good news
of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Here a religious purpose is asserted
to be the guiding principle of the work. Matthew, in accordance with
Hebrew phraseology, entitles his work "The book of the generation of
Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham." The whole contents
of the Gospel answer to this description. It was written to prove that
Jesus was the Messiah of prophecy according to the conceptions of
Jewish Christianity.

Such being the distinct assertions of the writers of the Gospels as
to the character of their works, it is absurd to criticize them as
one might be justly entitled to do if four Boswells had set forth
four lives of Dr. Johnson, the arrangement of which was professedly
regulated by the historical sequence. The writer of a religious memoir
is entitled to adopt a very different order of events in his narrative
from that which ought to be adopted by the writer of a history.

An illustration will make this matter plain. If I were to compose a
biography of Wesley, I should be bound to narrate the events in the
order of time, with a distinct specification of the order of place; but
if I were to compose a memoir for the purpose of teaching the doctrines
of Wesleyanism, I should follow a very different arrangement. Still
more remarkable would be the variation in the arrangement if I wrote
his memoir for the purpose of proving that Wesley never designed that
the Church which he founded should dissent from the Church of England.

Such being the character of the Gospels, objections which would be
serious as against regular histories are harmless against compositions
of this description. A large portion of their alleged discrepancies
arise from the different arrangement of the events narrated in them,
owing to the predominance in them of the religious idea.

Now observe that in compositions of this description it frequently
happens that the connecting links which would make events perfectly
harmonize together, are wanting, simply because the purpose of the
writer has not led him to record them. I adduce a single instance where
the connecting link has been accidentally preserved, and which at
once converts a narrative against which most serious objections might
have been alleged, into one of the strongest proofs of the historical
truthfulness of the Evangelists.

We all remember the account of the murder of John the Baptist. It is
told with all those minute and delicate touches which are the peculiar
indication of autoptic testimony. It places before our eyes the great
feast--the young lady dancing her lascivious dance--the words of
Herod's vow--the girl's going out with excitement to her mother--the
demand of the Baptist's head in a large dish--the sorrow and reluctant
consent of Herod--the mission of the executioner--the presentation of
the head to the girl, and by her to her mother. Everything betokens the
presence of an eye-witness.

The narrative is open to this obvious objection: How could the
disciples of Christ, mean and low as they were, procure so accurate
a description of an event which happened in the palace at the great
feast? There were neither newspapers nor reporters in those days.
But this is only the beginning of the difficulty. The authors of the
Gospels profess to give us the _ipsissima verba_ which were uttered
by Herod, in the retirement of his palace, when the reports brought
him of the fame of Jesus rendered him conscience-stricken. The words
are most remarkable, and leave no alternative between their being
the words of Herod or a forgery. "It is John," says he, "whom I
beheaded: he is risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do show
forth themselves in him." Our version spoils the force of the last
words--αἱ δυνάμεις ἐνεργοῦσιν ἐν αὐτῷ [Greek: hai dunameis energousin
en autô]--which, rendered literally, are, "The powers energize in
him." This is certainly a most singular expression, and one open to
a strong suspicion of forgery; for how could the followers of Jesus
have got hold of the very words of an utterance of Herod spoken in the
retirement of the palace?

But besides all this, the words αἱ δυνάμεις ἐνεργοῦσιν ἐν αὐτῷ [Greek:
hai dunameis energousin en autô] plainly imply that it was the general
idea that a large number of miracles had been wrought by our Lord.
My opponents suppose that the historic Jesus only attempted to work
miracles in a very few questionable cases, and that the multitude
of miracles which have been subsequently ascribed to Him are the
inventions of His deluded followers. Such are the difficulties. Now for
their solution.

It has been observed that the author of the Acts of the Apostles tells
us that among the teachers of the Church at Antioch during Paul's
sojourn there, was Manaen, who was a foster-brother of Herod the
Tetrarch. This is told us in a manner which is purely incidental, and
supplies us with a possible source from whence the information might
have been derived. Still it by no means follows that a man who had the
same wet-nurse as Herod was an inmate of his palace, or witnessed the
great feast.

But a passage of the most incidental character in St. Luke's Gospel
supplies us with the source of information which we want. In narrating
our Lord's last journey to Jerusalem, Luke tells us that He was
accompanied by the twelve apostles, and several women who ministered to
Him. Of these he designates three by name. One of these is described as
Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward.

Here then we have the very person we are in want of. Chuza's office
of ἐπίτροπος [Greek: epitropos], or steward, imposed on him the
duty of superintending the great feast. He therefore witnessed the
whole procedure, and his wife was in constant communication with the
disciples. His office must have brought him into daily communication
with his master. What more likely than when he waited on Herod for
his orders, he would ask him the news; and that he should report
to him the fame of the great teacher with whom his wife was in
attendance? He was therefore in the exact situation to have heard
Herod's conscience-stricken exclamation. The source of information is
before us. The incidental mention of Joanna and her husband affords
to this narrative an attestation such as few events in past history
possess. If this incident had been lost, the difficulty would have been
insuperable. The manner in which little circumstances dovetail into
one another in the Gospels is only consistent with their historical
character. It would be impossible if they were bundles of myths or

I adduce one instance of the manner in which the Gospels fulfil the
conditions of history, even where the absence of the connecting link
has occasioned serious difficulty. You all know that the want of any
reference in the Synoptics to the miracle of the resurrection of
Lazarus is the stronghold of those who deny its historical credibility.
In the absence of any direct information, we are driven for the
solution of the difficulty to the regions of conjecture.

Let us suppose, then, that the story is a myth. If so, it is obvious
that it is a very grand and perfect one. The inventor must have been a
man of the highest genius in his way. If a person wished to invent a
description of a resurrection, he would find it impossible, in the same
number of words, to surpass its perfection. If the author of St. John's
Gospel has failed to depict another resurrection in an equally graphic
manner, it was not for want of sufficient genius. Yet the Gospel
asserts the fact of another resurrection--that of Jesus Christ; but it
utters not one word descriptive of it. All that it says is that Mary
Magdalene came in the morning, and found the tomb empty.

I put it to your common sense to determine, on the sup position that
this Gospel was written by a partisan for the purpose of throwing a
halo of glory around the person of his Master, whether the author
of the resurrection of Lazarus would not have forged a still more
magnificent description of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His
failure to do so is clearly not owing to lack of ability.

But how stands the case on the supposition that the Gospel is
historical? Everything is exactly as it should be. The Evangelist has
given his pictorial description of the resurrection of Lazarus, because
he witnessed it. He has not done so with respect to the resurrection of
Jesus Christ, because no human eye beheld it. The narrative therefore
fulfils the conditions of history, and breaks down under the tests
which belong to fiction.

The limits of a single lecture necessarily preclude me from entering on
any minor consideration.[106] I therefore proceed at once to address
myself to the demolition of the central position of my opponents,
that while the Gospels contain a few grains of historic truth, buried
beneath a multitude of fables, the greater portion of their contents
is a spontaneous growth which sprung up in the bosom of the Christian
society in the last seventy years of the first century; and that
by means of a number of mythical and legendary inventions, and a
succession of developments, a good and holy Jew, named Jesus, was
metamorphosed into the divine Christ of the Evangelists. In reasoning
on this point, I shall assume nothing but what is conceded by the
Schools in question.

What are the concessions which I ask as the foundations of my
reasoning? Very simple ones indeed, and such that no man can deny me.
First, that the Gospels exist; secondly, that the three first Gospels
were in existence about A.D. 100, and the fourth about 160; thirdly,
that in addition to the facts or fictions which make up our Gospels,
they contain the delineation of a great character--Jesus Christ.

On the existence of this character my argument is founded. I now
concentrate your attention on it, which I shall call for the future
the portraiture of Jesus Christ our Lord. I need not prove that it
exists in the Gospels, for the most ordinary reader perceives that it
is there. The question is, How did it get there? It is very easy to say
that the Gospels consist of a mass of fictions. But this is no account
of the origin of the portraiture. St. Paul's Cathedral undoubtedly
consists of an immense multitude of stones. But to say that a multitude
of quarrymen dug them, and that a multitude of masons arranged them
according to their spontaneous impulses, is no account of the origin of
that magnificent structure.

Let us carefully observe what this great portraiture of Jesus Christ,
as it is exhibited in the Gospels, consists of. It is the delineation
of a great moral and spiritual character dramatized over a wide sphere
of action. This portraiture is not the result of the artificial
delineation of a character such as we see very commonly presented to
us by historians, and of which we see very numerous examples in Lord
Macaulay's History of England. Such characters are the artificial
creations of the historian, and exhibit his view of what his heroes
actually were. But neither of the authors of the Gospels have once
attempted thus to delineate the character of his Master. But the
portraiture of Jesus Christ is delineated in the Gospels most clearly
and most distinctly. Of what materials then does it consist? Only one
answer can be returned. It is the combined result of all the facts, or,
as my opponents say, fictions, which compose the Gospels.

Now as the existence of this portraiture is not a theory, but a fact,
it is plain that it must be accounted for. The assumption that the
Gospels are historically true, and that their authors have truly
delineated the actions and sayings of one who had an historical
existence, is a rational account of its origin. But as these Schools
deny their historical character, they are bound to tell us how the
portraiture got there. The only answers which they propound are the
mythic and Tübingen theories.

According to these theories, a good and holy Jew, who had attracted
a crowd of enthusiastic and credulous followers, was gradually
metamorphosed by them into the divine Christ of the Evangelists.
The inventors of the character were impelled by purely spontaneous
instincts. They had no intention of conscious deception. They mistook
their Master for the Messiah. In the depths of their enthusiastic
credulity, they invented multitudes of fictions, and in time mistook
them for realities, and innocently ascribed them to Jesus. Development
succeeded development. The fruitful mind of the infant Church created
myth after myth. Party spirit raged. Compromise followed compromise.
Spontaneous impulse by the end of the century had created the materials
of our present Gospels. At last three unknown men appeared who arranged
these materials into their present form, and produced the Synoptics.
Sixty years later, another great unknown arose, whose character must
have been a compound of mysticism, enthusiasm, and imposture, and
produced the fourth Gospel, which he successfully palmed off on the
Church as the work of the Apostle John, some seventy or eighty years
after he was silent in the grave. Such is the alternative which modern
unbelief presents as a substitute for the historical reality of the
portraiture of Jesus Christ as we behold it in the Gospels.

One cannot help pausing to observe the kind of analogy which exists
between these theories and those of a certain class of philosophers who
attempt to prove that the moral and religious being whom we designate
man has been slowly developed out of the lower forms of life by causes
purely physical. Like as in the one case each development became an
improvement on its predecessor, so in the other the lower fabulous
creations must have died out, and the nobler ones prevailed, until at
last there emerged from them Christianity and the glorious Christ of
the Gospels. Physical philosophers, however, work at a great advantage
in developing an ape into a moral being, compared with the mythologists
who developed a Jew of the year 30 into a Christ. The one can draw
cheques to any extent on the bank of eternity. If a million of years
is not sufficient, a million of millions may be easily had. But in the
other case my opponents are limited by the stern conditions of history;
and the respective periods of seventy and one hundred and thirty years
are all that they venture even to demand.

Now, observe; the portraiture of the Jesus of the Evangelists consists
of a multitude of parts which harmoniously blend into a complicated
whole. It is composed, in fact, of as many distinct portions as there
are incidents recorded in the Gospels, which all concur in imparting
to it a common effect. Those with whom I am contending admit that
the character is a very great one. Many of them allow that it is
greater and more perfect than any which has ever existed as a fact
or been conceived as a fiction. Yet the character, taken as a whole,
presents us with an essential unity. This is obviously the case in the
three first Gospels, and will hardly be disputed except on a very few
subordinate points. But it is equally remarkable that of the various
traits which compose the character, and which are very numerous, each
presents us with a similar unity, although they are dramatized over
a very wide sphere of action. To this fact I earnestly invite your
attention. In the portraiture of Jesus at least twenty distinct aspects
of moral character are blended together, and a number of subordinate
ones not easy to be counted; and each of these constitutes a separate
unity, which harmoniously blends with the others, and together
compose the great unity of the portraiture. Numerous as they are, and
dramatized over a wide sphere of action, they are yet depicted with a
faultless propriety, even in the most minute details. Nor does it to
any serious extent differ with the fourth Gospel. This is certainly the
case as far as the actions attributed to Jesus are concerned, though it
is not so obvious in the case of the discourses. Still even in these
an underlying unity of conception can be found.[107] The four Gospels
contain, in fact, four portraitures of one and the same Christ, only
differing from each other in the point of view from which they are

Now the obvious course would have been to have assumed that the
conception of the original character was the creation of some great
poet, and that the fourfold modification of it which our present
Gospels exhibit has been the work of four subsequent poets. But this
supposition the facts and phenomena of the case consign to the region
of hopeless impossibilities. It is therefore necessary to assume that
the character itself, and the Christianity of the New Testament, have
been gradually elaborated bit by bit, not by a succession of great
poets, but of credulous, enthusiastic mythologists; and that the
Synoptic Gospels originated in piecing together a multitude of tales
which in the latter end of the first century were floating on the
surface of the Christian Church.

It is impossible to deny that the Jesus of the Evangelists is an
immeasurably finer conception than either the Prometheus of Æschylus,
which exhibits the divine in suffering, or the Macbeth or Hamlet of
Shakspeare. Each of these characters is distinguished by a unity of
conception which proves that as characters they are the creation of
a single mind. But supposing we were to be told that these, and the
dramas which contain them, were not the creations of single poets,
nor even of a succession of poets, but had been slowly elaborated,
step by step, during a considerable interval of time by a number of
credulous enthusiasts. My opponents would be the first to receive such
a suggestion with shouts of derision.

It is plain that if the portraiture of our Lord be an ideal creation,
those who framed it must have been gifted with a high order of genius.

Let me illustrate the position by the art of painting. High genius in
painting is analogous to high genius in poetry. Let us suppose that we
are contemplating a great ideal picture,--_e.g._, the Marriage Feast in
Cana of Galilee, at the Louvre,--and that we are told that it is not
the work of a single artist, nor even of four, but of a succession who
gradually developed it.

Nor, to make the case a parallel one, is this all which we should be
asked to believe. As I have already observed, the portraiture of the
Jesus of the Evangelists is made up of a multitude of parts, each
of which has a separate unity, from the union of which the unity of
the whole results. These are said to have been elaborated out of a
number of myths and developments which have been the creations of many
minds. In a similar manner the picture of the Marriage Feast at Cana
consists of a number of separate figures which harmoniously blend
into a whole, and to which the magnificent colouring has been adapted.
Now suppose that we were told that each of these figures had been
gradually developed into its present form by a set of improvements
effected unconsciously by a succession of painters; and that all that
the artist who formed the picture did was skilfully to combine these
separate figures, and place them in juxtaposition. Surely one would not
be uncharitable in assuming that the author of such a suggestion had
escaped from a lunatic asylum.

Similar is the theory of these Schools as to the origin of the Gospels,
and of the great character contained in them. Such a theory of their
origin demands our acquiescence in a greater miracle than all the
miracles of the New Testament united together.

Viewed in its great outlines, this theory is self-condemned by its
inherent absurdity. But when we apply a sound logic to its details, it
vanishes like one of the palaces of the Arabian Nights. Professing to
be based on rational principles, it violates all the laws of reason.
For historic truth it substitutes wild dreams of the imagination.

You will please to keep steadily in mind that the means by which my
opponents undertake to metamorphose a Jew of the year 30 into a divine
Christ, stated generally, are a succession of mythical and legendary
creations and developments, contests and compromises, between hostile
sects evolved in conformity with the laws of the intellectual and moral
world. Let us now assume the truth of their position, and see how it
will work.

If the Jesus of the Evangelists be a development, it is evident that it
must have had a starting-point. This could have been none other than
the atmosphere of thought and feeling which existed in Judæa during the
first thirty years of the first century.[108]

But none more firmly profess their belief in the reign of law in the
world of mind and matter than those whose theories I am controverting.
In consequence of this belief they pronounce all supernatural
interventions in human affairs impossible. I thankfully concede to them
the fact that all developments affecting the mind of man which are of
purely human origin must be brought about in conformity with law. Let
it be clearly understood, therefore, that my reasoning is based on this

This point being clear, the question immediately presents itself,
what is the nature of the laws which regulate the mental developments
of man, especially in his character of a moral and religious being?
Are they rapid, or do they require long intervals of time for their
elaboration? Are great changes in our moral or religious ideas of a
quick or a slow growth? The answer to these questions is of vital
importance to the argument, because on the showing of my opponents they
have only seventy years at their command during which they can develop
the Christ of the Synoptics, and the Christianity of nearly all the
Epistles, from the religious and moral ideas of the Judaism of the year

Fortunately for us, the universal testimony of history answers
these questions with no ambiguous voice. The developments of man,
whether moral, social, or religious, are slow. The whole course of
civilization, including within that term everything which relates
to the growth of the mind of man, and which tends to his refinement
and higher culture, is a very gradual one; and its successive stages
require long intervals of time for their development. Whenever
unbelievers attempt to account for the growth of human civilization
from a savage state, or to develop a man out of an ape, in the one
case they demand tens of thousands and in the other millions of years
for its accomplishment. As this point is of great importance to the
argument, I must adduce distinctive proof of it.

No truth is more certain than that it is impossible for men, either
individually or collectively, to raise themselves except by very
gradual stages above that moral and spiritual atmosphere in which they
were born. We are united by the closest ties of habit and education
with the past. We breathe from the dawn of our consciousness the
very atmosphere of its thought and feeling. Every succeeding state
of society is most closely bound to that which preceded it. Every
great change in thought or feeling has been produced by a succession
of changes leaving no deep gulf between. Individual progress, unless
external influences are brought to bear on the mind, follows the same
law of gradual growth.

Even genius, and what are called the creative powers of the mind,
are fettered by these conditions. All greatness is relative to and
bears the impress of the age which produced it. Great men differ from
others only in being able to advance a few stages beyond ordinary
humanity. But the greatest genius is unable to elevate itself into a
very high region of thought or feeling at a single bound, or to sever
the links which unite it with the past. The utmost effect which the
greatest of men have been able to produce on those by whom they have
been surrounded is to cause their actual developments to advance at a
somewhat accelerated ratio.

To the truth of these general principles all history testifies. When
we measure each stage of human growth, we find that it has occupied
long intervals of time. So gradual is the process, that considerable
changes can only be discovered after the lapse of lengthened periods.
The whole history of philosophy, art, morality, and religion testifies
to this. All philosophic schools of thought have been of gradual
growth. The daub of a savage has never suddenly developed itself into
the creations of a Michael Angelo or a Rubens, nor have his rough
imitations of the human form passed but by a succession of gradual
stages into the perfection of a Phidias. Poetry, the most creative of
arts, is subject to similar conditions. The ideas with which the poet
works are those of the age in which he lives. He paints the phenomena
and reflects the line of thought, the morality, the religion, the
intellectual and social conditions of the times which gave him birth.
What he accomplishes is to exhibit them under new combinations. A
bushman never at a single bound became a Homer or a Shakspeare.

The history of philosophy bears witness that the universal law of our
nature is a gradual growth. Each of its developments was closely allied
to that which preceded it, and directly grew out of it. Each School has
occupied a considerable time in its development, has grown out of that
which preceded it, and prepared the way for its successor. The interval
which separates the respective stages is small. Each great race of
mankind has also created a philosophy stamped with its own impress, and
directly related to its peculiar character. A native of Australia has
never suddenly elevated himself into a Socrates.

The same law is no less applicable to religions. We know no instance
of the direct creation of one. It is true that the origin of many is
buried in the obscurity of the past. Yet as soon as they emerge into
the light of history, it is clear that they are subject to a law of
gradual growth; and after they have attained their full development, to
a no less remarkable law of gradual decay. All the religions on earth,
with the exception of Christianity, bear witness to this rule. What
have been called new religions, have been evolved out of previously
existing materials, modified and adapted to the growth and decay of
civilization. No Fetish worshipper, however lofty his genius, could
have evolved the systems of Brahmanism or Buddhism by a single bound of
his imagination.

If the law of the growth of religions is a very gradual one, that
of our moral ideas is far more so. Improvements in the great moral
principles which regulate the life of man are most painfully slow. All
the great races of mankind have presented the same general outlines of
character, with only slight improvements, from age to age. I quote only
two examples, the modern French and Germans. How strikingly like are
certain portions of the character of the former, to the picture of the
Gauls given in the pages of Cæsar; or to the descriptions of the same
race inhabiting a distant region which the great apostle has drawn in
the Epistle to the Galatians. We may still read the general outline of
the character of the German race in the pages of Tacitus. Developments
there have been, and the slowness is sadly disappointing to the
philanthropist. To be able even to recognize progress, we must survey
long intervals of time. The optimist has indeed need of patience;
and the most enthusiastic may be certain that long ages before any
considerable advance is made, according to the mere laws of natural
development, he will be slumbering in the grave.

But it must not be forgotten that the developments which our opponents
postulate are always in the way of progressive improvements. Stern
historical fact compels us to assert that developments are frequently

No less gradual is the moral progress of the individual. It is also a
painful but undeniable fact that retrogressive ones are much more rapid
than progressive ones. The moral ideas in the midst of which we are
educated cling to us with the firmest grasp. The best men exhibit only
a slight advance above the general morality of their age.

I now draw your attention to the fact that the inventive powers of
the composer of fiction are limited by the same laws. He too, in the
strict sense of that term, is unable to create the new. The materials
with which he can work are the idealization of the times in which he
lives. Whether he be poet or novel writer, he can neither invent a new
religion or a new morality. Mythical inventions of every kind embody
the state of thought, feeling, and general idealization of the times
which produced them. The entire mass of existing mythology testifies to
this fact.

Such, then, are the instruments and materials with which my opponents
have to work in the elaboration of Christianity out of Judaism, and in
metamorphosing a human Jesus into a divine Christ. Let us examine the
possibility of the attempt.

We must place ourselves in the position of the followers of Jesus on
the evening of the crucifixion. His individual influence had gathered
around Him a number of enthusiastic and credulous followers who mistook
Him for the Messiah of popular expectation. The crucifixion certainly
dashed their hopes. But according to the theory of my opponents, in
the height of their enthusiasm they determined to believe in Him as
the Messiah still. To carry out this resolution, it is obvious that
new ground had to be taken. A development of some kind was absolutely
necessary. No amount of credulity could mistake a dead body mouldering
in the grave for the Messiah of Jewish expectation.

It was absolutely necessary, therefore, if His Messiahship could
become a possibility, that the crucified Jesus should be rescued from
the tomb. If a resurrection could not be effected in reality, it was
indispensable that one should be in imagination. Until His followers
could be brought in considerable numbers to believe that this had
happened, no developments in the direction of the Gospels were possible.

The most obvious expedient to have accomplished this would have been
for some of the disciples to have done that which, according to one
of the Evangelists, the Jews accused them of, viz., to have stolen
the body, and report that Jesus was risen from the dead. But those
against whom I am reasoning do not venture to accuse them of conscious
fraud. This assumption all educated unbelievers have long abandoned as
hopelessly untenable. Such a basis will certainly not bear the weight
of the Christianity of the New Testament. In place of this, they assume
that the credulity, idealism, and enthusiasm of the followers of Jesus
was bottomless. With this machinery they think that He can be rescued
from the grave.

Two theories have been propounded for this purpose. One is that some
enthusiastic woman--Mary Magdalene, for example--thought that she
saw Jesus with the mind's eye, or mistook the gardener for Him, and
converted this appearance into a bodily reality. She communicated
her enthusiasm to the rest. Others may have imagined that they saw
Him in a similar manner, and committed a similar mistake. The other
theory is that He was buried in a swoon, that He managed to creep out
of His grave, that He partially recovered, and died shortly after in
retirement. On such a foundation my opponents propose to erect the
whole weight of the historic Church, and from such a chimera to develop
the portraiture of the divine Christ.

The second theory I should not have mentioned if it had not been
dignified by the name of Bunsen. It is obvious that it will not support
the weight of the Christian Church. What! a man who died from weakness
shortly after creeping out of his grave, metamorphised by his followers
into a divine Messiah, and seated on the right hand of God! If He lived
in retirement, and died in Phœnicia shortly afterwards,--according
to an assumption for which there is not even the ghost of historical
testimony,--His followers had access to Him or they had not. If we
adopt the former part of the alternative, no amount of credulity could
have mistaken Him for a glorious Messiah rescued from the tomb. The
very sight of Him must have acted as a complete extinguisher on the
powers of the imagination. If we adopt the latter, it falls under the
general head that the belief in the resurrection was merely due to an
excited imagination. All the assistance which it renders is to dispose
of the dead body.

Now, in theory, nothing is easier than to say that an excited woman
saw Jesus with her mental eye, mistook it for a bodily reality, and
communicated her enthusiasm to the rest of His followers. But in
practice, such things are not quite so easy. Although it is no hard
matter to persuade the credulous to believe in the appearance of ghosts
and phantoms, yet I do not know that the whole history of man presents
us with a single example of a great institution which owes its origin
to such a belief. But even the credulous believers in such apparitions
are very difficult to persuade that they have actually seen a man who
once had died again restored to life. I doubt whether the entire mass
of fictitious literature presents us with anything at all analogous
to the supposed belief of the credulous followers of Jesus in the
resurrection of their Master. Even persons who have a most imperfect
knowledge that nature is governed by law, are quite aware that dead
men do not revive. The followers of Jesus could have been hardly more
credulous than modern spiritualists, yet these latter have not yet
succeeded in erecting a great institution on the basis of an actual
resurrection from the dead, or even on the presence of a spirit in a
table. Supposing, therefore, that some fanatic follower of our Lord
made the mistake in question, it could really have been no easy matter
to have communicated this enthusiasm to the rest, damped as their
spirits were by the crucifixion. Still more difficult would it have
been for any considerable number to have made the mistake of converting
a flight of the imagination into an objective fact. At any rate my
opponents must concede that to have persuaded any number of men under
such circumstances that the crucified Jesus was actually risen from the
dead must have required a considerable interval of time.

It would be much more easy to create a belief in a resurrection after
the lapse of a century, than within a few years of the event. When we
survey a past event through the haze of time, it helps to confuse our
ideas as to what is possible. But long intervals of time so convenient
for the physical speculator are precisely the things which my opponents
have not at their disposal. Seventy years is all which they themselves
think it possible to ask for; and as all developments are slow, one or
two entirely exhaust it, and they require a multitude to effect their
purpose. But not only was it necessary to get some of the enthusiastic
followers of our Lord to believe in His resurrection, but also to
constitute a society founded on its basis. Until this was done, all
development was impossible. But each step requires a considerable
interval of time. But how could the Church be held together while the
belief in the resurrection was forming?

But even supposing that Jesus by the power of the imagination had been
rescued from the grave, it became a very serious question what to do
with Him. No amount of credulity could have brought Him into daily
communication with His followers. If He continued on earth, His not
doing so was a very serious affair. The obvious expedient was that He
should be taken up into heaven, from which at some future day he should
come back again and take possession of his Messianic throne. Such
is the idea adopted by these schools of thought, and they are never
wearied with telling us that the chief if not the only article in the
primitive belief of the followers of Jesus was His speedy return to
realize their expectations of His Messianic glory.

Be it so; for the consequences are very serious to the position of
those whose views I am combating. His followers then expected Him to
return as the Jewish Messiah. Now nothing is more certain than as long
as this expectation lasted there could have been no development in the
direction of the Christ of the Gospels. How long, then, did this state
of stagnation last in the bosom of the Church? When did it occur to
the followers of Jesus that the expectation of the speedy return of
their Master was a baseless one, and that they must set themselves to
work to develop a different conception of a Christ? It is a fact that
such beliefs do not speedily die out, and that they can survive many
a disappointment. The modern prophetic School affords a striking proof
of the tenacity of such hopes. They have repeatedly prophesied that the
Advent will happen in our times; and notwithstanding the falsification
of their predictions, I believe that they still cling to this belief.
At any rate it has required a long interval of time to undeceive them;
and as credulity was, according to the views which I am combating,
the leading trait of the followers of Jesus, it must have been a
considerable interval of time before they could have been persuaded to
part company with their darling expectation. But as long as a Jewish
Messiah satisfied their aspirations, the Church could have developed no
new Messianic conceptions.

But to afford something like a basis for reasoning, I will suppose
these obstacles to have been surmounted; that the work of development
has commenced, and that the womb of the Church is at last become
pregnant with its future Christ. Fresh and ever-increasing difficulties
present themselves for solution.

Let it be observed that, after they have effected the resurrection, all
which has been accomplished was to repair the damage inflicted on the
Church by the crucifixion, and to restore to it, as a necessity of its
existence, a living instead of a dead Messiah. That Messiah was still
the Messiah of Judaism. They have scarcely advanced a stage in the
creation of the Gospels, and of the Christ therein delineated,--not to
say of the entire moral and spiritual teaching of the New Testament.

Let us observe the steps of the process by which the metamorphose
must have been effected. It is, say my opponents, very uncertain
whether the historic Jesus ever attempted to perform a miracle. But
according to the conceptions of the times, His followers thought that
the Messiah ought to have performed them. To supply the defect, they
invented a mass of miraculous stories, and in their fond credulity
thought that Jesus had actually performed them, and thus the delusion
of His miraculous wonder-working was propagated in the Church. But all
experience proves that mythic and legendary miracles are grotesque. Yet
those in the Gospels are all sober ones, and stamped with a high moral
tone. They must therefore have undergone a succession of developments
before they could have assumed their present form. Still a Jewish
Messiah has yet to be transformed into the Jesus of the Evangelists.
After a while a happy thought occurs to these uninstructed Jews. They
determine to invest the Teacher with whom they had habitually conversed
with a character at once divine and human. The mythic faculty is
again invoked, and the human Jesus, by the aid of development after
development, gradually assumes the aspect of the divine Christ. In
a similar manner they feel that the moral aspect of the Messiah of
their fondest expectations must undergo a change, and in due time the
triumphant King becomes the meek and the lowly Jesus, and the morality
of Pharisaism becomes that of the New Testament.

Few persons are at all aware of the enormous difficulties which would
have beset any persons who, whether consciously or unconsciously, set
themselves to metamorphise a Jew of the year 30 into the Christ of
the Gospels. Familiarity with the character induces numbers to think
that poets or fabulists, inventors of myths and legends, might easily
have created it. To form a correct estimate of the difficulty, it is
necessary to transport ourselves out of the nineteenth century into the
Jewish atmosphere of thought and feeling of the century which preceded
the Advent. A starting-point it must have had. There could have been no
other than it.

Let it be observed that before the elaboration of the Jesus of the
Gospels, those who fabricated the conception were wholly without
a model to guide them. All ancient fact or fable fails to furnish
anything at all analogous to this great character. Such models as they
had would have guided its inventors wrong. The only ones which they
possessed were the popular Messianic conceptions of the period, and
the prevailing Jewish ideas of religion and morality. Besides these,
they might have fallen back on the general ideas contained in the Old
Testament Scriptures and the apocryphal books. The ideal of a Jewish
hero would certainly not have helped them in forming the conception
of the Evangelical Jesus. One apocryphal book has been frequently
referred to as affording considerable aid--the Book of Enoch. I have
fully discussed this subject elsewhere,[109] and the conclusion to
which I have arrived is, I think, incontrovertible, that even if we
grant that its Messianic portions were composed prior to the Christian
era (a concession which I am by no means prepared to make), the aid
which it would have afforded the mythologists who invented the Christ
of the Gospels would have been inconsiderable. To avoid a lengthened
controversy as to its date, I am quite willing that these schools of
thought should make all the use they can of them.

Let me point out a few of the difficulties which must have beset the
path of the inventors of the great portraiture of the Gospels.

Every reader at once recognizes that the character who is there
depicted is a superhuman one; or rather, to speak more accurately,
it is exhibited as uniting the human and the divine. This is a plain
matter of fact, and is quite independent of the question whether
the Evangelists were right in so representing it. Nor is my argument
at all affected by any supposed difficulty in defining, in the terms
of an abstract creed, the precise measure of the divine which they
have ascribed to it. All that I contend for is that the Jesus of the
Evangelists is dramatized as uniting a divine and human consciousness,
and that it is exhibited with a faultless propriety.

Now the moment the mythologists made a movement in this direction, a
hundred problems of a most difficult character must have demanded their
solution before they could advance a single step. I can only adduce one
or two examples. How was the human to be represented as acting in union
with the divine, and the divine with the human? In what proportions
were they to be combined? How was the one to be prevented from
swallowing up the other? Let it be observed that there was no model to
guide them. The attempt to exhibit the divine and human in a single
personality had never been attempted before.

The difficulty will be at once seen from a reference to the Old
Testament. The nearest approach which it exhibits to uniting the human
and the divine is in the act of prophetic inspiration. But in this the
two factors are invariably distinct. The Old Testament prophet, when
under the influence of the prophetical illapse, invariably prefaces
his utterances with "Thus saith the Lord." These words are never once
placed in the mouth of Jesus throughout the entire Gospels. Instead of
them, His most solemn utterances are introduced with the words, "I say
unto you." The prophet is generally vehemently excited. The Jesus of
the Evangelists is invariably calm.

You must never forget that the position of those against whose theories
I am reasoning compels them to assume that the contents of the Gospels
have been elaborated by the action of a multitude of minds. Be it so.
It follows that these problems must have received as many different
solutions as there were minds engaged in the attempt. Instead of the
character which resulted therefrom presenting a unity of aspect, it
would have been a mass of hopeless confusion.

My limits will only allow me to draw your attention to one or two of
these difficulties out of the vast multitude. The historical Jesus was
unquestionably crucified. How was a crucified man to be represented as
divine? He died in agony. How was an artist to dramatize the divine
in suffering? If my hearers are not aware of the difficulties which
would have attended the solution of these and kindred questions, I
advise them to study the creation of the great Grecian dramatist, the
Prometheus Vinctus of Æschylus, and compare it with the Jesus of the
Gospels. I am sure that correct taste will pronounce that the creation
of the fishermen of Galilee utterly transcends that of the genius of
the great tragedian.

Nothing is more difficult, even in works of fiction, than to combine
the attributes of holiness and benevolence as harmoniously acting
in the same person. In living men they almost invariably jar. They
possess them imperfectly, and one generally counteracts the action of
the other. The difficulty of combining them is greatly increased if
the being uniting them is to be represented as both human and divine.
Holiness and benevolence are in fact opposite sides of character, and
no more difficult problem can be presented to the imagination than to
exhibit them as acting harmoniously in the same character. No question
in theology is more embarrassing than the mode in which they coexist in

It follows that if the contents of the Gospels were due to a multitude
of minds, they must have exhibited as many aspects of the character
of a Christ as there were fabulists engaged in its creation. But the
character of the Jesus of the Gospels, in its combination of holiness
with benevolence, presents us with a complete unity. Not only is the
unity complete, but the perfection of the picture is inimitable. Where
can we find, either in fact or fiction, anything like the perfection
of the holiness and benevolence of the Jesus of the Evangelists? Yet
we are asked to believe that it has been a gradual growth created by
successions of credulous mythologists.

The moral and religious teaching of the Gospels forms a subject by
itself of large dimensions, and it is impossible for me within the
limits of a lecture to do more than glance at it.[110] It consists of
two perfectly distinct portions: first, the subject of morality and
religion as it is exhibited in the person of Jesus Christ; secondly,
as He taught them for the use of ordinary men. Most unbelievers will
admit that the portraiture of Jesus Christ, as it is exhibited in the
Gospels, is one of the most spotless moral beauty, and the greatest
elevation. I am quite aware that a few exceptions have been made to
it; but some of them are obviously founded on misapprehension, and
others are evidently incorrect. At any rate it cannot be denied that
the entire moral aspect of the person of Christ is unique in human

No less remarkable is His moral teaching for the use of ordinary men.
It is pure, elevated, beneficent, grand. It bears the unquestionable
marks of having been the elaboration of a single mind. The parts are
adapted to each other and to the whole.

But our Lord's moral character, and His moral teaching as they are
exhibited in the Gospels, consist of a number of detached portions,
which together make up a complicated whole. Their solution involves
such a multiplicity of questions, as to render it difficult to count
them. They are questions which the profoundest thinkers have solved in
the most varied manner. Yet in the Gospels the mode of their solution
is a complete unity. They coalesce with an inimitable beauty. Let
unbelievers cavil as they may, an overwhelming majority of the holiest
and the best of men have bowed before the character of the Jesus of
the Evangelists in humble adoration, and felt that it was immeasurably
above them. Numbers of these subjects were inquired into by ancient
philosophers with the keenest interest, but they found no adequate
solution. My opponents assert that this great character, around which
the entire morality of Christianity centres, is not an historical one.
How did it then originate? The answer is, that it is founded on the
traditional reminiscences of the teaching of a Jewish peasant who died
in early manhood; and that the numerous parts of which the character
and His teaching consist were unconsciously elaborated in the course of
many years by a multitude of credulous, enthusiastic mythologists.

I must now advance to another stage of my argument. As my opponents
assert that the development of the Gospels, and of the portraiture of
the Christ which they contain, were entirely due to natural causes, it
is evident that they must have been effected in conformity with the
laws which regulate the developments of the human mind. Let us test
this principle.

Taking the atmosphere of Jewish thought and feeling as it existed in
the year 30 as the starting-point, it is evident to every one at all
acquainted with the subject, that the interval which separates its
conceptions from those of the Gospels is far greater than that which
separates any two types of human thought. To take a single example.
The interval between the free spirit of morality as it is exhibited
in the New Testament, and the casuistic and ritualistic tendencies of
moral thought which ultimately developed themselves into Rabbinism,
is profound. If, therefore, Christianity grew out of Judaism by a
succession of natural causes, the interval between them must have been
bridged over by a succession of developments. So, again, with respect
to Messianic conceptions. A profound interval separates that of Christ
from that of Barchocebas, to which Jewish Messianism was then tending.
That of Barchocebas was a natural growth out of the popular Messianic
conceptions of the year 30, and separated from them by no great
interval. But their development occupied no less than a century. But if
the Jesus of the Evangelists grew out of the popular idea of the year
30, it is evident that the succession of developments must have been
very numerous, and have required long intervals of time, before it was
possible to create the portraiture of Christ.

Let me take another example, which those against whom I am reasoning
cannot refuse to accept. The interval which separates the state
of religious and moral thought involved in the primitive Mosaic
institutions from that of the year 30 is considerable, though far
less than that which separates the latter from that contained in the
Gospels. In adducing this example, I use one most favourable to my
opponents. Christians maintain that this development was accelerated
by supernatural causes. The proper subject of comparison would have
been one which both sides are agreed to have been effected by causes
purely natural. I need not however fear making the concession, for it
will more than bear the weight of my argument. We will suppose that
the entire history of Judaism, as those with whom I am reasoning say,
contained in it nothing supernatural. I ask you therefore to observe
that the development in question was completed only after an interval
of more than a thousand years from its commencement. Yet we are invited
to believe that the Christianity of the Synoptics, and of the larger
portion of the Epistles, was evolved in a period of seventy years, and
the Christian Church erected on them, as its foundation, and that of
the fourth Gospel in 130 years.

Let us take another mode of measurement of my opponents' own choosing.
The Synoptic Gospels, as they say, are separated from that of St.
John by an interval of sixty years. Is it possible to bridge over the
interval which separates the Synoptics from the Jewish atmosphere of
thought and feeling of the year 30, in seventy years, if it required
sixty years to effect the development in question?

Against one convenient assumption I must present a most respectful
protest. Whenever it suits their purpose, the human Jesus is
represented as a very great man, who towered high above the ordinary
conditions of humanity. Again, when it is convenient He is represented
to have been a very little man, the prey of all the superstitions of
His age. I am prepared to reason on either side of this alternative,
but not on both. These Schools postulate greatness whenever they want
to make a prodigious leap in religion and morality; littleness when
they want to account for the miraculous element in Christianity. But
while I am ready to assume as the basis of the argument that the
human Jesus was a great man, let it be understood that He could have
been great only in the sense in which all other great men have been
great. Those who deny the possibility of physical miracles must not,
when it suits their purpose, assume the existence of moral ones. His
greatness must have been limited by the conditions imposed on it by
the environment of a Jew of the year 30 who was born a peasant, and
perished at thirty-five years of age.

Observe again, the miracles of the Gospels have to be invented somehow.
I am ready to concede that miraculous stories of a certain type have
been invented in rich abundance. But the whole class of fictitious
miracles invented in credulous ages are stamped with a peculiar trait
from which those of the Gospels are free. The one are monstrous,
undignified, and grotesque. The others are sober, dignified, and I
think that my opponents will allow, if miracles are possible, worthy of
God. The preservation of the apocryphal Gospels enables us to know what
sort of miracles the mythic spirit commencing with the next century
attributed to Jesus Christ. I have examined the subject elsewhere. The
following passage sums up the result:--

"The case stands thus: our Gospels present us with the picture of a
glorious Christ; the mythic Gospels with that of a contemptible one.
Our Gospels have invested Him with the highest conceivable form of
moral greatness; the mythic ones have not ascribed to Him one action
which is elevated. In our Gospels He exhibits a superhuman wisdom; in
the mythic ones a nearly equal superhuman absurdity. In our Gospels
He is arrayed in all the beauty of holiness; in the mythic ones,
this aspect is entirely wanting. In our Gospels, not one stain of
selfishness defiles His character; in the mythic ones, the Lord Jesus
is both pettish and malicious. Our Gospels exhibit to us a sublime
morality; not a ray of it shines in those of the mythologists. The
miracles of the one and the other are contrasted in every point. A
similar opposition of character runs through the whole current of
thought, feeling, morality, and religion."[111]

I ask my opponents to account for this difference, and specially to
say why in the second century the mythic spirit began to create a
ridiculous Christ, and in the first it produced a glorious one; and
through how many stages of development the creation passed until it
culminated in what we read in the Gospels, and the interval of time to
be assigned to each.

But according to the theories I am combating, the Messianic aspects
of the character of the Jesus of the Evangelists must have passed
through a succession of developments before they could have attained
their present form. Different parties had to invent different aspects
of it. Next, these had to procure acceptance in the various Churches.
Each party would cling to its own views. The formation of hostile
sects in the Church was a certain consequence. If they gradually wore
themselves out, all experience of sectarian warfare proves that the
interval must have been long. We know as fact that nothing is more
difficult than to effect compromises between contending religious
factions; and that they are only, if at all, possible after long
and bitter experience. I ask you to compute for yourselves how many
developments and compromises must have been required, and the interval
of time each must have occupied?

Far more difficult and more numerous must have been the developments by
which the moral aspects of the Gospels and of their divine Christ must
have been elaborated out of the Judaism of the year 30, and the popular
conceptions of its Messiah. I shall select for illustration only two
examples out of a vast multitude. One of the most marked distinctions
between Gospel and ancient moral teaching is this: the whole aspect of
ancient moral teaching assigned the highest place to the heroic and
political virtues, and a subordinate one to the mild, meek, benevolent,
and humbler ones. This is precisely reversed in the morality of the
New Testament. Again: the aspect of a Jewish saint and hero, as it is
depicted in the Old Testament, forms a singular contrast to that which
the New Testament has assigned to Jesus Christ. I have proved that
moral developments in the direction of improvement are very slow. I
propose, therefore, the following problem for my opponents to solve.
Through how many stages must these have passed before the creation of
the Gospels became a possibility, and how many years must they have

But all the while that the Christian Church was creating a mythology,
and struggling with developments and contentions and external
opposition, it is an historical fact that it succeeded in extending
itself over a wide geographical area. This greatly aggravates the
difficulty of developing an improved Christ out of her pregnant womb.
The wider the geographical area over which she gradually extended
herself, the more difficult would have become the interchange of ideas
necessary for developments and compromises. It by no means follows that
one little society would immediately swallow the mythic creation of

I must observe that this portion of the argument is cumulative, and
admits of being pressed to an indefinite extent.

It now remains for those against whose theories I have been reasoning
to count the number of these developments, and to assign a reasonable
interval for each. If they will do so, they will then find that these
theories are hopelessly untenable.

I have hitherto argued, on the chosen position of my opponents, that
the Synoptic Gospels were written about the year 100, and the fourth
about 160. Such dates are entirely fallacious, and against all
evidence. But as far as my reasoning is concerned, it matters little
when the Gospels were composed. If I can prove that the portraiture of
Christ and the general aspect of the Gospels were familiarly known in
the Church at a much earlier period, it is not the smallest difference
for my argument whether they existed in an oral or a written form. The
concession of seventy years for the creation of the Synoptic Gospels,
and one hundred and thirty for that of St. John, has now to be entirely

The most extreme of the School that I am opposing concede that the four
most important epistles of St. Paul are unquestionably genuine, and
written by him within less than thirty years after the resurrection.
The genuineness of at least four others is conceded by the most eminent
unbelievers. We have, then, before us genuine historical documents of
Christianity, composed by its most active missionary at about the same
distance of time from the resurrection as that which separates us from
the repeal of the Corn Law Act.

Now by the aid of these epistles it is possible to prove by a multitude
of incidental allusions that all the great features of the portraiture
of Jesus Christ were fully developed when St. Paul wrote them. Nay,
what is more, the manner in which the allusions are made prove that
this portraiture was not a new one, but that it had been long known in
the Christian Society. To exhibit this proof would require a lecture of
equal length to the present. As I have given it already elsewhere,[112]
and it has not been assailed, I shall assume that my position is

The period of time during which the human Jesus must have been
developed into the divine Christ of the Gospels, if the portraiture
be a fictitious creation, must be reduced to one of less than ten
years. But whether it be ten, seventy, or one hundred and thirty, it
contradicts the laws by which all human developments are regulated. Its
creation involves a moral miracle of the most stupendous character.

My opponents postulate a number of conditions which history and
philosophy refuse to concede. They require a long interval of
time; history will only grant them a short one. They require that
developments should be rapid; they are always slow, especially moral
ones. They require the creation of elevated moral sentiment; their
only instruments with which to work are credulous mythologists. They
require that developments should be always progressive towards higher
perfection; history declares that they are frequently retrograde ones.
They postulate party spirit, but it produces endless division. They
require compromises, but they must be made by credulous enthusiasts.
They require unity of result; they postulate a multitude of agents.
They ask for credulity, and are confronted by sobriety. They ask for
seventy years; historical fact will concede them less than ten. They
deny physical miracles, and ask us to believe in moral ones.

Such is the position of the school of thought against whom I have been
reasoning. They are called by a sad misnomer rationalistic. I ask, are
these theories rational, probable, or possible? Defenders of revelation
have no grounds for dreading an appeal to reason. If the Gospels, and
the glorious Christ therein delineated, have been evolved in accordance
with the various theories against which I have been contending, it
involves a greater miracle than all the miracles of the New Testament
united together.[181]


    BY THE




The attacks upon that body of traditional belief and received thought
which is conveniently expressed and commonly understood by the term
Christianity have turned very much of late years upon the authenticity
of the several books composing the New Testament. Inquiries of this
nature have commended themselves to an age which we need not shrink
from characterising as critical and discriminating. There is a
manifest and a very intelligible pleasure to be derived from reopening
questions which many have been accustomed to regard as settled, from
proving former conclusions erroneous, or showing that considerable
doubt still remains where certainty was believed to exist; and in
the natural enthusiasm attending investigations of this kind, it is
by no means a matter of surprise if the actual importance of the
results has been somewhat overrated. The inferences following from
the conclusions arrived at, have been estimated in proportion to the
supposed certainty of the conclusions. If a particular Gospel can be
shown to be falsely, or at any rate with doubtful truth, ascribed to
its traditional author, the inference drawn, or at least suggested, is
the comparative depreciation, if not worthlessness, of that Gospel. We
know not why, but it is frequently assumed that if everything is not in
exact accordance with the popular belief in any matter, nothing which
is popularly associated with that belief can reasonably be maintained.
The whole edifice will fall, or must even be destroyed, because a stone
here or there is faulty, or out of place. Because investigation shows
that the foundation does not lie as it was thought to lie, therefore
there is no foundation at all. The rashness and precipitancy of any
such inference will be at once apparent to every thoughtful mind.
Because the reasons usually assigned are inconclusive, it by no means
follows that no reasons can be given. The central questions really
involved, may be altogether unaffected by the technical and subordinate
question, who was actually the writer of some particular book. The
critical investigation of authorship may have positively no bearing
at all on the opinions expressed, or the facts recorded in the book.
Whether or not this be so in any given instance, it is at any rate
conceivably possible in the abstract.

In the case now before us, however, we have to deal with a converse
position. There are four Epistles in the New Testament which have been
admitted on all hands to be the veritable productions of the Apostle
Paul. These are the two Epistles to Corinth, the Epistle to the Church
at Rome, and the Epistle to the Galatians. The writers, if any, who
have ventured to call in question the authenticity of these Epistles
are so few, and so insignificant, as to be unworthy of mention. We may
safely pass them by without fear of challenge or dispute. There is
absolutely no room for any reasonable doubt that we have in our hands
in these four letters the true and genuine compositions of Saul of
Tarsus, after he had become a Christian.

It will be my business, then, on the present occasion, to examine and
weigh the precise value of this admission of authenticity, which can
only be spoken of as universally made. What is the evidence in support
of Christianity which can be fairly adduced from it? In endeavouring
to estimate the nature and amount of this evidence, I shall not assume
these Epistles to be what we commonly understand by inspired. I shall
regard them only as the natural human productions of a certain man
whose personal history, to a considerable extent, can be discovered
from them. If, on internal or other grounds, there is cause to believe
they have any higher authority, that will be another matter. But we
shall not assume it in dealing with them. Our aim in the first place
must simply be to inquire what the acceptance of these four Epistles
as the work of St. Paul legitimately demands of us; what are the
inferences fairly deducible from their statements; what insight
they give us into the character and motives of the writer, and what
information they convey as to the nature and constitution of the early
Christian society to which they were addressed.

And first, as to their date. We cannot place the death of the Apostle
Paul later than the year of our Lord 68. It may have been the year
before; but as he is said by Jerome and Eusebius to have suffered
under Nero, and Galba succeeded Nero in A.D. 68, it cannot have been
afterwards. Again, we are safe in saying that, on the supposition of
the latter date, these four Epistles had been written ten years before
the Apostle Paul died; that is to say, they were all written before
the end of A.D. 58. Festus probably succeeded Felix in the year of our
Lord 60. But Paul had been two years a prisoner at Cæsarea, when Festus
came into the province;[113] and these letters were written while he
was still at liberty. We have, then, in St. Paul's Epistles, by which
we mean always and exclusively these particular Epistles, undoubted
genuine productions of about five-and-twenty years, or not much more,
after the death of Jesus Christ. Making all due allowance for possible
variation in the requisite dates, we are warranted in saying that the
interval between the Crucifixion and the sending of these letters to
their several destinations, did not exceed by more than two or three
years the quarter of a century. It was certainly less than thirty years.

The best way of appreciating such an interval as this is to take a
corresponding period in our own lives. We have most of us a very clear
recollection, probably, of events which happened in the year 1844 or
1845. The war in the Punjaub, and the Irish famine, which happened
shortly afterwards, in 1846, and the great European events of 1848,
some two years later, are fresh and vivid in the memory of every
person who has arrived at middle age. To others yet more advanced, an
interval of five-and-twenty or thirty years can effect but little in
effacing events or circumstances which at the time produced a deep and
powerful impression. They remember them as yesterday. So it must have
been with many who were living at Corinth when the first Epistle to the
Church there was written, and who read it on its arrival. But from this
Epistle we know[114] that more than 250 persons who had seen the risen
Jesus at one time were still alive and able to give their testimony
to that effect. These persons, therefore, must have had as vivid a
recollection of the circumstance referred to, as we ourselves have of
the battles on the Sutlej. The Queen's coronation is to us an event
farther in the background of the past than the vision of the crucified
Jesus was to the 250 brethren who still survived.

And the way in which their experience is mentioned is one which
is the more striking because it is so casual. St. Paul alludes to
it incidentally as a thing of which he had often spoken to the
Corinthians. He could not have done so had this not been the case.
They knew perfectly well that he had mentioned it to them. They had
not forgotten that it formed a part of his oral communications. He
could not have referred to it in this way had it not been so. But so
neither is it possible that he could have spoken of the fact had the
250 witnesses been the mere invention of his own brain. Were there no
shrewd men of common sense in the Church of Corinth who could have
detected an imposition so gross as this, if it had been one? Had there
been even a small minority of such men, we should have had no second
Epistle to the Corinthians, or the second Epistle would surely have
been very different from what it is. We are obliged, in accepting the
first Epistle to Corinth as the veritable work of St. Paul, to conclude
that during his stay in that city he had habitually spoken of the fact,
which none could call in question or deny, that there were living at
that time more than 250 persons who had a distinct recollection of
having seen Jesus Christ at some period less than six weeks after He
had been crucified, _but who never saw Him again_. St. Paul not only
said this, but the whole Corinthian Church knew that what he said was
true, for otherwise he would not in this way have dared to say it.

There is no occasion now to discuss the question what it was these
people saw, because that would carry us far astray. All we need for the
present insist upon is the fact that we have contemporary evidence of
the very best kind, in the form, namely, of a genuine letter, that a
large number of persons were still alive, say in the year of our Lord
58, who believed that they had seen a person, not merely as a spectre
or vision, but as a living and substantial man, whom they knew to have
been crucified and buried but a short time before, and who likewise
knew that there were many more who could have corroborated their
evidence on this point if they had not been dead.

We fully admit, then, that this is a circumstance which is open to
explanation in various ways, the true explanation being determinable
upon other and additional considerations; but what we do maintain is
that upon the premises conceded to us by the most rigid criticism, it
is not possible to set aside the evidence on which it rests, be its
explanation what it may.

And here it is worth while asking, before we pass on, how we should
feel ourselves justified in regarding the testimony of 500 persons now,
not more credulous or weak-minded than ourselves, to an event which
had passed under the cognisance of their own senses, even though that
event were the posthumous appearance of a man who had been put to death
as a malefactor? Is it not certain that any such supposed appearance
would be calculated to make an impression on the beholders which might
well last for five-and-twenty or thirty years, and should we not regard
their uniform agreement in the matter as a very remarkable circumstance
imperatively demanding some solution?

The first point, then, which the existence of this Epistle establishes,
is the fact that at the time it was written there were living many
competent eye-witnesses of what was believed by them to have been the
reanimation of a body which had been dead and buried, and that their
testimony was accepted by a very large number of persons who implicitly
believed it. Here, then, we have written evidence to the effect that a
particular event was amply testified and very generally believed upon
the testimony.

But, again, the same Epistle shows that this belief was by no means
unquestioning. The very same chapter proves that there were those at
Corinth who said there was no resurrection of the dead.[115] They did
not believe, that is, in the doctrine that the dead will ultimately
rise. They held no doubt in common with others that the resurrection
was "past already;" that the change which had passed upon the Christian
upon belief in Christ was so radical and so complete, that he might
literally, without any violent figure of speech, be said to have risen
again from the dead. They acquiesced so fully in the truth expressed
by St. Paul in the second Epistle, "If any man be in Christ, he is a
new creature,"[116] that the felt newness of that spiritual creation
seemed to satisfy all their longings after life, and they relegated
to the insignificance of a non-essential and a dreamy unreality the
thought of a resurrection of the body yet to come. The way, then,
in which the Apostle meets this form of unbelief is in the highest
degree noteworthy. He argues from the known to the unknown, from what
was believed to what was not believed, from what these early doubters
implicitly accepted to that which they sceptically rejected. "Now, if
Christ be preached that He rose from the dead, _and ye believe it_, how
say some among you that there is no _future_ resurrection of the dead?
For if there be no _future_ resurrection of the dead, then is Christ
not risen? _but ye know and believe Him to be risen, otherwise ye would
not be what ye are_."

This, and nothing else than this, is the drift of the Apostle's
argument. It shows us plainly, therefore, that there was a
discriminating exercise of reason at work in men's minds at Corinth.
The struggle between reason and faith had landed them in a logical
inconsistency. They rejected the future resurrection on what seemed to
be rational grounds, because it appeared to them contrary to reason
and experience, but they forgot that they had already submitted their
reason to a belief no less absolute and imperious, which, if logically
held, would stultify their scepticism.

And there is no setting aside the inference from this argument, that
the tendency of the mind which rejected the future resurrection was to
reject likewise the personal resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and the
testimony of the greater part of the 500 brethren yet surviving who
had seen Him after He was risen. That is to say, the character of the
faith in the one case is enhanced by the scepticism in the other. Just
as the belief of Thomas after his doubt, accepting for the sake of
illustration the narrative in St. John,[117] was the stronger and more
convincing because he had only adopted it upon conclusive evidence, so
is the belief of the Corinthians in the resurrection of Jesus of the
greater value evidentially, because we know it to have been their habit
of mind not unquestioningly to believe.

We arrive, then, at this further position that we may not lightly
regard the belief of the Corinthian Church in the validity of the
evidence for Christ's resurrection as the belief of persons who were
credulous enough to believe anything. Upon fairly estimating all the
circumstances, there is abundant and conclusive proof, which we may
call contemporary, that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was believed
in as a fact by a vast number of persons who were convinced they had
received that fact upon ample or sufficient testimony.

We must not forget, also, the nature of the fact that was believed.
The resurrection of a dead body is so contrary to all reason and
experience, that the difficulties in the way of believing it may be
estimated as practically equal in all cases. No one can profess to
believe it without being fully conscious of the absurdity of that which
he professes to believe. It is a point in which the imagination can
scarcely hope to take the reason at a disadvantage, or at unawares.
In only two ways is deception possible. First, on the supposition
of the unreality of the previous death; and secondly, that the
subsequent appearance was unreal. Now in the first case the notion
of unreality is precluded, because it was firmly and universally
believed, and not by Christians only, that Christ had died; and there
is no vestige of any evidence to show that He died in any other way
than on the cross. This death was as needful an element in the creed
of the Corinthian Church as His resurrection, not to say that any
true belief in His resurrection involved the belief in His death.
It will not do to explain His supposed resurrection on the ground
that His death was unreal. Where would have been the foolishness of
the cross, if Christ had not died? To secure the resurrection of
Christ at the expense of His death would have been simply absurd, for
two reasons: first, because that would have made the resurrection
after all no resurrection--an unreality; and secondly, because the
death of Christ alone and by itself was a fact that was implicitly
believed, and without which the faith of the Church cannot be conceived
or comprehended. We are reduced, therefore, to the necessity of
explaining the resurrection of Christ on the alternative supposition
that the subsequent appearance was unreal. And here we are met by
the transcendent difficulty, that it is antecedently in the highest
degree improbable that any sane man should be found to believe that the
appearance of a person after death, who had been crucified and buried,
could be other than imaginary and delusive. And we become, in fact,
bound to determine whether in the abstract it is more improbable that
multitudes of competent persons should believe in what was contradicted
by universal experience, and especially by their own, or that something
may have occurred which, in spite of themselves and their experience,
had compelled them to this belief.

For we must not fail to remember that the two suppositions are
mutually destructive. If Christ died, then the belief in His
resurrection can only be explained on the theory that His subsequent
appearance was unreal. If His subsequent appearance was unreal, then,
to say the least, it is entirely gratuitous to deny the fact of His
having died, because if He did not truly die, there is no discoverable
reason why His supposed appearance after death should not have been
real. We may choose which explanation we deem preferable. We cannot
alternately or simultaneously adopt both.

I am not now called upon to prove more than what is clearly proved,
that the existence of this one Epistle as the genuine work of St. Paul
affords abundant evidence that the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead was accepted as a fact by large numbers of men, some of whom,
at least, can only have accepted it on evidence which seemed to them
sufficient to counteract the adverse testimony of their experience,
their reason, and their senses. And it is almost needless to observe
that the belief in the resurrection as here depicted, involved also a
belief in the burial[118] of Jesus Christ, in the main and essential
features of His death,[119] that it was on the third day that He
arose,[120] that His appearances after His resurrection were distinct
and manifold,[121] and that the Apostle who depicted it had himself
been among the most vehement opponents of this very belief in the
person of the Lord, whose resurrection he proclaimed.[122] All this
is established by the admission of this letter as genuine, and by
the admission which cannot be denied, that the writer was giving a
natural and plain statement of the truth, and not a fabricated or ideal
narrative of fictitious occurrences.

That is to say, so far the testimony of this Epistle is in conformity
with the framework of the Gospel history. If the four Gospels were lost
to us, the life, and death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ would
still remain firmly and distinctly imbedded in the original faith
of the Corinthian Church. We know from this letter that less than
thirty years after the death of Christ, there was a very large body
of men at Corinth who believed implicitly that He had risen from the
dead, and that they knew that many persons were still alive who were
eye-witnesses of the fact.

I ask you, then, very carefully to observe that this does not prove the
fact. It only shows us conclusively that less than thirty years after
the fact there were many persons who believed in it as such.

And let us put a parallel case. Suppose a person coming to London
in the present day, and declaring that less than thirty years ago
a certain man in a distant country who had been put to death as a
malefactor, had risen from the dead the third day, and was still
alive. What success think you would he meet with? Most assuredly there
would not be half-a-dozen people who would believe him. But if, on the
contrary, a new society should be formed, consisting exclusively of
persons professing to believe all this, would not the circumstance be
so remarkable as to lead us to infer that there must be some adequate
cause for it? If the persons professing this belief were of all
stations and classes, and many of them, as is proved by this Epistle,
men of intelligence and discernment, should we not be constrained
to confess that the only reasonable supposition was that there was
something in the evidence which could not be lightly set aside? However
strange and mysterious the tale might be, it could not be altogether a
cunningly devised fable. There must be something at the bottom of it.
No effect can exist without an adequate cause. Here is clear evidence
of a very considerable effect existing. What was the cause of it? The
cause alleged would doubtless be a sufficient cause, for truth is
not only stranger, but mightier than fiction. And it may be fairly
questioned whether, under all the circumstances, any other cause can be
discovered which would be sufficient. There is so far, therefore, an
antecedent probability that the cause alleged was the true cause.

Again, it is to be observed throughout all these Epistles of St. Paul
that the resurrection of Christ was to him not a past influence, but
a present power. If the evidence of the first Epistle to Corinth is
less than thirty years after the death of Christ, the evidence of the
second carries us back to nearly half that time. The writer speaks of
himself as being in Christ more than fourteen years before.[123] This
brings us virtually to not more than a dozen or fifteen years from
the actual occurrence of the resurrection; and in all probability the
Epistle to the Galatians carries us back even further still. Critics
are divided as to the computation of the time mentioned in it. But if
the "fourteen years after" of chap. ii. are to be added to the "three
years" after which Paul "went up to Jerusalem to see Peter," then the
whole period can be little less than twenty, and the extreme limit
referred to scarcely more than ten years after the resurrection.[124]
At that time, then, St. Paul himself fully and implicitly believed
in it. At that time he had made great sacrifices for his belief in
it. At that time, or shortly after, he had not improbably suffered
privation and persecution because of it. But the faith which he held
then he is found holding as tenaciously as ever fourteen or twenty
years afterwards, holding it, in fact, so tenaciously that he is able
to bring many others to share it with him. A man must be something more
than an enthusiast who for fourteen years could retain a conviction so
monstrous as this, if false, and at the end of that time could make
more converts than before. Surely this is not the ordinary experience
of mankind, that it is so easy to get men to believe as a fact,
contradicting their own experience, what after all is no fact at all.
It is one thing to win converts to our _opinions_ or our _principles_,
and quite another to gain credence for a _fact_ that it is every one's
interest to disprove.

For at that time what secondary advantage could there be in the
profession of a faith which was universally despised, and which exposed
its more prominent votaries to imminent peril, as the eleventh chapter
of the second letter to Corinth abundantly shows. It is obvious that at
fifteen years after the death of Christ many of the 500 brethren who
were afterwards dead were still alive, and it is not too much to infer
that St. Paul, from the position he held in the Church, was personally
acquainted with many or most of them. He therefore personally must
have had numerous opportunities of amply satisfying himself as to the
truth of the fact which he proclaimed so persistently. But still it
is evident that it possessed for him a power and an influence totally
different from that of any ordinary occurrence or event. It was not the
Christ who once rose, but the Christ who was risen that he proclaimed.
His first rising from the grave was the work of a distinct moment of
time. The influence of which He thereby revealed Himself as the centre
and source was continuous and inexhaustible. It was this influence
which the Apostle felt in his life. He could tell the Galatians in
language it would be impossible to counterfeit, "I am crucified with
Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and
the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son
of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me."[125] A declaration
such as this is worth volumes of evidence; it is its own evidence; it
bubbles up clear and sparkling from the very fountain and well-head of
truth. No man could have said it who did not feel it, and no man could
have felt it, and not known that what he felt was an intense reality,
defying all explanation except on the hypothesis that the central core
of it was truth, and not falsehood. If an influence thus operating
on the life was derived from the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ, there must have been something very unusual in that death, and
something more than a mistake or an illusion in that rising again to
set such a force in operation. No other man's death would produce the
same effect, (who cares for the death of Socrates?) and no other man's
resurrection, whether alleged or proved, could do so; but if this man's
death and resurrection did produce it, as it plainly did, then the
result speaks for itself. The Epistle to the Galatians, though written
more than eighteen centuries ago, is a standing witness to it. There
is no wonder that such an influence was felt then in every part of the
known world, and especially in the centres of its life, such as Rome
and Corinth, because we cannot but feel it now; and a principle so
instinct with life cannot but be superior to and independent of the
power of death. Here is the present power of the resurrection acting
concurrently with the mass of cumulative evidence converging in the
point when it was an event of actual history, and combining therewith
to show the truth of it. Nothing can prove more conspicuously the
strength of this influence in the personal life of St. Paul than his
great Epistle to the Romans. Everywhere Christ is present with him
as an energising power, which is vastly more than a mere memory of
the past, and is a vital and potent agency still in operation. He did
indeed die unto sin once, but evermore He liveth unto God.[126] The
gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, who was
declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of
holiness by the resurrection from the dead.[127]

But what is not the least remarkable feature about the Epistle to the
Romans is the fact that it was written to a Church of which St. Paul
was personally ignorant. He had never been at Rome. It is evident,
however, that there were many Christians there. These Christians were
not his converts. He says he had had a great desire for many years
to come unto them.[128] Then there had been Christians at Rome for
many years. The many can be scarcely less than ten or a dozen; but
if so, this brings us again to little more than fifteen years after
the death of Christ. We find, however, these Christians professing
identically the same belief in the same person and the same facts as
St. Paul himself. They also believed in a Jesus Christ who had been
crucified, and who had been raised from the dead. How they came to
believe in Him we cannot tell. It is plain they did believe in Him.
It is also probable in the highest degree, nay, it is impossible but
that many of them from whom they received their faith, had either been
eye-witnesses, or companions of eye-witnesses of the life of Jesus
Christ. At any rate, it is obvious that the substantial framework of
belief was identical with that which was current among the Churches of
Galatia, and in the Church at Corinth. A man who had been crucified
and risen again, was the centre of their hope, their affection, their
joy, their confidence. In Him they all felt they were supernaturally
united in a supernatural life; and as their knowledge of Christ was
altogether independent of St. Paul's preaching, it possesses the
value of independent testimony, and presents an additional amount of
difficulty in the face of any attempt to account for the belief in
Christ's resurrection on the hypothesis of some error or deception.
However unreasonable it was to attempt to account for it in that
way at Corinth, the difficulty becomes greater when the case of
Rome is added to that of Corinth. Here the personal influence of
the enthusiastic Paul is removed, and yet the results produced are
manifestly undistinguishable. Their faith had been spoken of throughout
the whole world,[129] and it was faith in a crucified and risen
Jesus; a faith which they as Gentiles were not ashamed to profess
in the Jew Christ Jesus, and to be confirmed in by the Jew Saul of
Tarsus. There is something very remarkable in these results. How many
national and personal prejudices must have been overcome; how many
rooted and inherent animosities must have been eradicated; how much
stubborn pride must have been bent and mortified; and how many acute
sensibilities deadened, before results such as these could have been
obtained. And what was it all for? No earthly advantage had been or was
likely to be secured. No hope of visible reward was offered. Simply
the loss of self-respect, in having believed what was only a gross
absurdity if it was not the truth, was incurred. The knowledge that
under any circumstances their temporal condition would have been far
better if they had never heard of Christ Jesus; that the belief in
His name could give them neither lands nor houses, but only lay upon
them additional hindrances in the way of gratifying their natural
inclinations, only expose them more and more to the hatred and contempt
of men. If in this life only they had hope in Christ, they were of
all men most miserable; there was no one redeeming point, no one
compensating advantage. They had believed a lie, and they were all the
worse for it. These two points at least are clear: that they thought it
no lie, and that under the circumstances they must have been strangely
constituted, if, being a lie, it had the power to sustain them as it

For observe, connected with the faith of Christ there was not even the
gratification of flattered vanity in the case of these first believers.
There is an intelligible pleasure that a man can find nowadays in
constituting himself the apostle of unbelief. There is the promise of a
certain intellectual glory in the effort to overthrow an ancient faith
like that of Christianity. The hope of possible triumph is dazzling.
There is a pleasure in seeming to be so much wiser than so many others,
in having outstripped the accumulated wisdom of ages, in being the
pioneer of intellectual emancipation, the harbinger of light that has
emerged from every trace of religious darkness, the forerunner of the
downfall of superstitious prejudices, the demolition of the last and
oldest of the creeds. There is something to attract the imagination
in all this, something to foster a self-complacent estimate of self,
together with a kind of malevolent joy in indulging the passion of
destructiveness. But what was there to flatter the vanity in the belief
of a proclamation which was foolishness to the Greeks? What was there
to exalt the intellect, or to magnify the self, in the doctrine of
Christ crucified? We do not deny that it was possible for the self to
enter in and mix even with the doctrine of the cross; but it could only
do so as a principle that was fatally antagonistic to it. The two could
not co-exist; one must destroy the other. The belief that a crucified
malefactor had risen in triumph from the grave, was subversive of
everything calculated to honour the intellect, or to please the natural
desire of man to worship and admire himself. There was no harvest to be
reaped from belief in the Crucified on this score. We are at a loss to
discover in any one point what secondary motive can, with any show of
probability, be attributed to the first believers, as predisposing them
to their belief, if the motive was not a simple and sincere conviction
of its truth. And yet if so, the difficulty becomes still greater in
_assuming_ that what they believed was not the truth, but a flagrant
lie. For it must ever be remembered that it _is_ an assumption after
all. It is certainly not less difficult to _prove_ in the face of all
the evidence that Christ did not rise, than it is to _prove_ upon that
evidence that He did. If the result of the whole argument in the one
case is a _presumption_, it most assuredly is not less so in the other.

Once more, it cannot for one moment be asserted that the Epistle to the
Romans originated in any way the faith which it assumes. It is absurd
to suppose that an unknown man merely on the credit of his reputation
could have substantially modified the belief of a particular Church
by simply inditing a letter to it. The state of things assumed at
Rome, and the faith depicted in the Epistle to the Romans, are only
intelligible on the supposition that they are true. It is obvious that
the body of the writer's faith was substantially identical with that
of those to whom he was writing. Both were attached to a particular
person whom they believed to be the Son of God, who had been crucified,
dead, and buried, had risen again, and was then sitting at the right
hand of God as an intercessor.[130] And more than that, both believed
that this person was the giver of a new Spirit which influenced both,
and animated all believers, and made them all one, and was not only
the evidence to them of the actual truth and resurrection of Christ,
but was also the pledge that they themselves were accepted in a new
relation to God by Christ.[131] This gift of the new Spirit was the
invisible bond between them and Christ, between them and one another,
between them and the Macedonian Christians, between them and the
brethren of Corinth, between them and St. Paul himself.

Nothing the least like this Spirit had been known before in their own
experience or in that of the ages past. It was a new phenomenon which
they felt, and saw, and acknowledged, and could not deny. Now the
eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans contains incontrovertible
proof of the operation of this Spirit. No letters from Paul could have
made the Christians at Rome imagine they were influenced by it. We can
see for ourselves that it was not less familiar to them than it was to
him. No message of his had made it familiar to them. Years before they
had known it, although from whom they had received it none can tell,
but it is perfectly certain that a condition of belief like that at
Rome could not have been the work of a day. It must have taken time
to grow. And yet at the same time it is no less clear that it was a
product of the existing generation. There was not one of those to whom
the Apostle wrote who had not in his own being the consciousness of a
prior condition of unbelief. Many of them had probably been defiled
with some of the dark catalogue of crimes enumerated in the first
chapter, but they had been justified by faith, and had found peace with
God through our Lord Jesus Christ.[132] They knew this; they were
conscious of the double experience; they could compare the one with the
other. The Apostle's letter had not originated these experiences of
their consciousness: it had reflected and expressed them. The notion
of the Epistle to the Romans being an imaginary letter written under
imaginary circumstances to imaginary persons, describing imaginary
incidents and imaginary feelings, is too monstrously preposterous to be
for one moment entertained. It has preserved the real and irresistible
evidence of a vast spiritual influence at work among a large body
of men which was precisely contemporaneous with one event--their
belief, namely, in the resurrection of a man who had been crucified in

Now it must be admitted that in this alone and by itself, if it was not
true, there is nothing that can be discovered which is adequate to the
production of results so remarkable. When it is asserted that the death
of Jesus Christ is surpassed in excellence and sublimity by any other
death, the one question that suggests itself is, If this be so, how is
it that the results which followed that death were not more remarkable
than or so remarkable as those which followed the death of Jesus? This
is a simple fact that no criticism or scepticism can destroy, that the
preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in the first
thirty years afterwards did produce results, as testified by these
Epistles, which are simply unparalleled in the history of the world.
If the death was not a real death, or the resurrection not a true
resurrection, then the responsibility must rest upon us of discovering
some other explanation sufficient to account for effects which are too
palpable to be ignored, and can assuredly be accounted for on this
supposition, but have not yet been adequately accounted for on any

It is no part of my present design, and time would fail me, to enlarge
upon all the points in which the history of the Gospels is confirmed by
these Epistles. I am not now concerned to establish the credibility of
the Gospels, but only the general credibility of the Gospel history;
and therefore it may suffice to say that we find St. Paul and the
Romans believing that Jesus Christ "was made of the seed of David
according to the flesh,"[133] an admission which, coming from the pupil
of Gamaliel, who must have had the requisite technical information, is
very remarkable; but "separated as the Son of God with power," which
is at least consistent with our Gospel narrative, that makes Him the
Son of God, but born of a virgin, and especially characterised during
His ministry by miraculous powers; that in each of these Epistles the
custom of baptism is expressly mentioned or implied;[134] that if the
origin of this rite is not directly to be referred to the institution
of Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, we are altogether ignorant of
its origin; that the practice of it was clearly universal, which is so
far consistent with the belief that it was derived from the express
command of Christ; that in the first Epistle to the Corinthians[135]
the writer speaks of Jesus Christ taking bread the same night that
He was _betrayed_, and blessing it, and speaks of it in terms almost
identical with those of the Gospels, thus showing not only that the
death of Christ, but that the main circumstances of His death were
commonly known, and the record of them so far unvarying, and that
consequently the supposition of any great or substantial divergence
is precluded; that the portrait of Jesus which all recognised was, in
all its principal and important features, identical with that which we
recognise now; and that, therefore, as the existence of some Gospels
is, under the circumstances, a matter of necessity, the question is not
so much whether _our_ Gospels are true, as whether there are any others
which can be regarded as truer and more trustworthy.

And when we bear in mind that at this time the interval of thirty years
had not yet elapsed since the death of Christ, we can partly estimate
the possibility of dim or uncertain recollection in the case of events
so clearly defined, and so simple, and so important, by the freshness
with which we ourselves remember other events more complicated that
have happened within a similar period of time. There is, moreover,
clear evidence that at the date of these Epistles two practices were
universal in the Church--those, namely, of baptising converts, and
of commemorating what was called the Lord's Supper. These practices
must have had a commencement, and have had an origin. The period of
thirty years, before which there is no trace of the second, even if
the first existed in other forms, is too short a time for their origin
to have been forgotten, or for the practice of them to have become
materially modified. But the commemoration of the Lord's Supper is
unmeaning, except in connection with the death of Christ, and St.
Paul declared, "As often as ye eat this bread and drink this cup, ye
do show the Lord's death till He come;"[136] and whatever relation
there may have been between baptism as practised by the Jews or by
John the Baptist, and Christian baptism, it is certain that baptism
in the name of Jesus is unintelligible, except on the supposition of
His having risen from the dead, or having in some way established His
claim to be the Son of God, or the founder of a new society. St. Paul,
however, distinctly says that Christ sent him "not to baptise, but to
preach the Gospel,"[137] as though He had sent others to do both; or
at any rate, had sent others to baptise. The prevalence, therefore,
of these significant practices, which is clearly traceable less than
thirty years after the death of Christ, is well-nigh equivalent to
contemporary evidence, both as to their origin and to the reality of
the events they signified. If Christ had been a shadow, or a myth, or a
mere crystallised idea, it is absolutely impossible that we should have
the kind of evidence we have as to the universality of these practices.
We can account for them on no theory but the express command of Christ,
which must have been substantially identical with that recorded in the

It is perfectly clear, therefore, that the known writings of St. Paul
contain incontrovertible evidence of the whole framework of the life
of Christ, which was the basis of the Christian faith less than thirty
years after His death. They show us the existence of a large and
organised society, which was held together solely by the attachment of
its members to His person; and which, but for faith in Him, would have
had no existence at all. This society was notorious for the profession
and the practice of a very high morality, such as had never before been
seen, and can never be surpassed,--at least, it is such a morality
these Epistles inculcate. The occurrence of one or two flagrant
breaches of this morality in the Church at Corinth, only serves as a
foil to what was, beyond all question, its general standard; but,
in addition to this, there were other features in it of a wholly
exceptional and unprecedented character. One of these was what we may
call, for want of a better name, its unworldliness. Every one must feel
that there is that in the writings of St. Paul which is distasteful
to the common humanity of the world. It is as if a new sense had been
suddenly created, and the writer was bent upon satisfying it. The
whole range of sympathies and requirements and tastes is new. It is
not a natural thing for men to care about communion with Jesus, or
prayer to God, or participation in the Holy Spirit, to have hearts
overflowing with gratitude to the Divine Being for having redeemed
them, for adopting them into His family, and making them partakers of
the holiness of His own nature. However this is to be accounted for--if
it can be accounted for--it was not then, and is not now, a condition
of mind natural to man. Now, take away the expression of these
feelings, and the letters of St. Paul come to an end, and the occasion
for writing them comes to an end, and the existence of the society for
which they were written comes to an end. But as the letters exist, the
occasion for writing them must have existed, and the society for which
they were written must have existed; and none of these things can have
existed without a sufficient and analogous cause. They are inseparably
connected with the preaching of Jesus and the belief in His name. Take
away these two things, and they would not have existed at all. But
their very existence is a proof at the same time that they can only
have made their way in opposition to the prevailing tendencies of human
nature, because they cherished and exhibited a condition of mind which
is foreign to the natural tastes and inclinations of mankind. There
is internal evidence, therefore, in the writings of St. Paul that the
faith which he preached had only succeeded, wherever it was successful,
by triumphing over much that was naturally and fatally opposed to it;
thus showing that we cannot refer to any natural causes the success of
a scheme of religious belief which was itself contrary to nature, and
is still felt to be contrary to nature.

But there is another feature, wholly exceptional and unprecedented,
which characterised the new society; the evidence for which is too
distinct to be set aside or explained away--the first Epistle to
Corinth affords conclusive proof of the existence of miraculous gifts
in the Church there. These gifts were of various kinds; the most
mysterious of them being the gift of tongues. Whatever this was, it
is sufficiently clear that it was over-estimated, and that it was
abused. The possessors of it were puffed up on account of it. They
were disposed to prefer it before charity, and the less obtrusive
gifts of the Spirit. We can only conclude, therefore, that this gift
was a reality which was acknowledged and envied by others, but a
reality likewise which was peculiar to the Church, and which was
limited to the area of belief in Christ. Now we must not assume that
the possession of this gift was miraculous; all we may insist upon
is the validity of the evidence that it was real, and of this the
fourteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians presents
incontestable proof, and consequently the existence of this gift is
a distinguishing characteristic of the effects which followed the
original profession of the faith of Jesus. Not only was the standard
of morality raised by it, not only were new dispositions awakened by
it, and new capacities and tastes created, and new desires and hopes
implanted, not only were the original propensities, inclinations, and
antipathies of nature resisted, thwarted, and overcome; but in addition
to this, there is a plain evidence of new powers and endowments being
conferred upon the first believers concurrently with their belief in
Christ. Now it is obviously impossible that delusion can have operated
in all these cases; but unless it did, the multiplicity and combination
of them supply no inconsiderable confirmation of the reality of that
event, the belief in which was the very basis of their existence.
Multitudes believed in the fact that Christ had risen from the dead,
and the profession of that belief was followed by one or other of these
results. A great change was wrought in numerous instances which was
unprecedented in the experience of the individual, and which could
find no counterpart in the experience of the heathen world; and if the
results which followed the proclamation of a fact were conspicuously
so real, is it possible that the fact itself was less so? For there
is only one alternative--if the cause producing these results was not
a fact--namely, that _belief_ in a particular event which was not a
fact, produced them. In other words, not only was the faith of the
early Church self-originated, but moreover, all the phenomena of its
existence were the product of that which itself had no existence.

We need not fear to admit that a very strong conviction may suffice to
produce considerable results, even though the conviction may be based
upon a falsehood; but we may well question whether all the results here
manifested, combined, could have been produced by mere belief in the
resurrection of a man whose resurrection was not a fact. What was there
in this belief, supposing it to have been based upon a lie, which could
have wrought so powerfully and so generally on the minds of men as it
did? Could such a belief have made them morally new, have made them
willing to encounter shame and contempt, and endowed them with powers
which rendered them the objects of envy to their fellow-believers?
If we think it could, we must still confess that a combination of
circumstances like these, taken all together, is so exceptional as to
be virtually without a parallel in the history of the world.

There is, however, another point in the Epistles of St. Paul which
deserves our notice when estimating their value as evidence, and that
is the witness they afford us of his own altered feelings with regard
to Christ. He speaks, in his letter to the Galatians, of having been
formerly a devoted Jew, and having persecuted the Church of God and
laid it waste.[138] If we had no other evidence than this, it would be
sufficient. There is no reason to doubt what the Apostle says. He had
been a bitter enemy of Christ. But there is no evidence whatever that
while he was thus hostile to Christ he had ever believed His death
and His resurrection to have been an unreality. Had he disbelieved in
these events as facts, it is more than probable that some trace of such
disbelief would have escaped him in his writings. But it is not so.
The death of Christ was manifestly a notorious fact which neither he
nor any one cared to deny. The resurrection of Christ, though perhaps
received more questioningly, was nevertheless put by or explained away
rather than actually denied. The tradition mentioned at the end of St.
Matthew's Gospel, as commonly reported among the Jews,[139] is probably
a fair sample of the indolent spirit in which the story of Christ's
resurrection was met by them, and, perhaps, regarded by Saul of Tarsus.
In his own case it was not so much that he disbelieved these things
as facts, as that he was ignorant of their power. The death of Christ
was no more to him than the death of any one else. The resurrection
of Christ was to him nothing more than an idle Christian tale. He
disregarded both rather because of the principles associated with them
than because of their intrinsic falsehood. But the time came when it
was otherwise. "It pleased God, who separated him from his mother's
womb, and called him by His grace to reveal His Son in him."[140] He
then found that the man whose death he had known as a fact, though not
as a power, was intimately connected with himself, that he had a share
in His death, and had been crucified with Him, and the resurrection,
which had been to him before but as an idle tale, he now found to be
the unfailing source of a new spiritual life to him. This was probably
more than twenty years before he wrote any one of these Epistles. If we
place his escape from Damascus under Aretas in the year of our Lord 39,
this will bring his conversion to the year of our Lord 36. Now, I ask
you notice this date very carefully. It is as late as we can well fix
the conversion of Saul; some have fixed it much earlier. But supposing
it to have happened as late as A.D. 36, this was but five or at the
most six years after the death of Jesus Christ, which happened in A.D.
30, or, as I believe, in A.D. 31. Now, if the death of Christ was an
unreality, He would in all probability at that time have been still
alive, as He would not yet have been forty years old, and His death
by natural means was not likely to have occurred. But conceive for
one moment the impossible absurdity of the conversion of Saul taking
place and the active life of the Christian Church going on for many
years while Christ, who was supposed to have died upon the cross, was
actually living in obscurity in some unknown corner of the world. The
idea is simply preposterous. The supposition of Christ not having died
as He was believed to have died is too impossible to be maintained.

If we have got Christ's death then as a positive historical fact which
is unquestionable, we have a platform of reality on which to rear
our superstructure of evidence for the reality of His resurrection.
If Christ did not truly rise, there is one very important question
to be answered which has not been, and which never will be answered,
namely--What became of His dead body? The production of that dead body
by the enemies of Christ would have been absolutely fatal to all the
preaching and the faith of the Christians; the Christian Church would
have been effectually stifled in its very birth. I should not now,
after an interval of almost nineteen centuries, be lecturing in St.
George's Hall on the evidences of Christianity if the dead body of
Christ had been produced, and yet nothing, surely, would have been
easier for His enemies to do. If, then, the disciples stole Him away
from the sepulchre while the soldiers slept, and so made away with the
body, we must admit that these Epistles of St. Paul, which at least
are unrivalled in the literature of the world, and which cannot again
be produced at will, owe their origin to a deliberate lie; and that
after an interval of five-and-twenty years, which might have sufficed
for it to have been successfully exposed. And we must confess that
one of the most distinguished and highly educated of the Jews of that
time, who himself had been a violent persecutor of the Christians, was
induced against his will, and apparently not by Christian influence, to
connive at this collusion or become the victim of it, and that in such
a way as to ruin all his worldly prospects, to entail upon him years of
hardship, and to inspire him, or at least to leave him, after almost a
quarter of a century, with all the tact, wisdom, and discretion which
are so conspicuous in his letters to the Churches at Rome and Corinth.
Verily this supposition is absolutely precluded by the very nature of
the case.

There remains then but one other to be advanced, and that is this.
The primitive Christians and St. Paul himself were alike the victims
of delusion. The testimony of the first disciples was based upon an
error. The vision which had arrested Saul on his journey to Damascus,
and changed the whole current of his life, was nothing more than the
hallucination of a sunstroke. The preaching in which he passed so
many years of his life, and breasted so much resistance, was only an
infatuation; the hope, and peace, and joy of which his letters are
so full, and which had taken permanent possession of him upon belief
in Christ, were all a lie. He had sacrificed himself for nothing,
he had toiled and suffered for nought. He had thrown away his life
for a dream. We do not deny that such a position is conceivable; but
we do deny that the letters of St. Paul give evidence of it. Had
the resurrection of Christ been merely a delusion, the Epistles to
Rome, Corinth, and Galatia are not the kind of fruits we should have
expected it to produce after so long an interval; nay, there is room
for the gravest possible doubt whether, being a delusion, it could have
produced them.

This, then, is our standing ground. We do not assume that St. Paul
was inspired. We do not say that his writings are authoritative or
binding upon our faith. We take up no such position. We take only what
we find--the genuine letters of an early convert to Christ, which were
certainly written less than thirty years after the death of Christ,
which contain internal evidence on the part of their writer to his
belief in the central facts they proclaim, at an interval of little
more than five years after those facts occurred. We treat these letters
as the natural productions of any ordinary man. We deduce from them
only such evidence as we should deduce from the letters of Cicero, or
anyone else. We do not affirm that they are in any way supernatural,
but we say that they supply conclusive evidence to the very wide-spread
belief in centres of life so far removed as Rome, Corinth, and Galatia,
in a supernatural fact less than thirty years after it occurred. We do
not say that this wide-spread belief proves the fact to have occurred;
but we do say that if the fact really did occur, it would account
for the belief, and we do say that taking all the circumstances into
consideration there is at least room for the very gravest possible
doubt whether had it not occurred, the phenomena we witness would have
been presented. Given the resurrection, and St. Paul's Epistles are
explained; deny the resurrection, and you cannot account for them.
Given the resurrection, and St. Paul's own character is the natural
consequence of it, St. Paul's conversion its natural product; deny the
resurrection, and he is the greatest of all inconsistencies, and his
conversion, _with its effects_, the most inexplicable of all enigmas.

And here we might be content to leave the case, confident that we have
not overstrained it, and confident in its own intrinsic soundness and
inherent strength, for the more the character, the history, and the
writings of St. Paul are fairly studied, the more disciples they will
win to Christ; but it may, perhaps, be expedient to notice briefly one
or two points in their bearing on this position. It will, of course,
be said that no amount of belief in a fact will prove it to have been
a fact, which is obviously true. The resurrection, if a fact, is a
miraculous fact, so far removed from the limits of ordinary experience
and natural law as to be well-nigh sufficient to cover almost any
contradiction of the one, or any violation of the other. It is no part
of my present business to discuss the question to what extent a belief
in miracles is defensible; that has already been done in a previous
lecture of this course; but I may make this observation, that, granting
the actual occurrence of a miracle like the resurrection, there are
those to whom it would be impossible to prove it by any testimony
whatever. Nay, there are those who would not believe it on the evidence
of their own senses, or, at least, who say so. Any demonstration,
therefore, of a miracle, even if it could be demonstrated, would be
clearly useless for them. It would, of course, on this hypothesis,
fail to reach them. Now, we may concede at once that Christianity is
wholly unable to offer any such demonstration; nay, we may go further,
and say that if it could, it would be no nearer to the overcoming of
such opposition. But let it be observed that the existence of such
opposition by no means proves the evidences of Christianity to be
unsatisfactory or unsound. The person who declares that he would not
believe a miracle like the resurrection even though he were himself the
witness of it, is not likely to believe it on the testimony of a second
person, be he never so trustworthy, even if it had actually occurred.
And this is a fact that deserves to be borne in mind, because so far
from showing that the evidences of the great Christian miracle are
inadequate, it rather shows the absolute impossibility of their being
adequate to meet successfully the case in point. It rather concedes the
strength of those evidences, from mere eagerness to affirm that nothing
could make them strong enough.

But, besides this, it must be remembered that, granting the reality
of a miracle like the resurrection, it is obvious that, having been
witnessed by a limited number of witnesses, it must necessarily
be dependent afterwards for its acceptance upon testimony. On the
supposition of its actual occurrence, a few only could receive it
upon ocular demonstration, and the vast majority of mankind, if they
received it, could only do so upon the testimony of others. It is
therefore clearly conceivable on the hypothesis that many who rejected
it might do so in direct contravention of the truth. Indeed, all who
rejected it must do so.

Because, then, there are found those who reject the evidence of the
resurrection of Christ, it by no means follows they have not done so in
contravention of the fact. The question really is not whether there
is still left any possible room for doubt--for that we have seen there
always must be--but whether the existing testimony is sufficiently
unbroken, and sufficiently uniform, and sufficiently valid, to be
reasonably conclusive. And on this point the known Epistles of St. Paul
are singularly clear. They witness to the fact of five hundred persons
having seen the risen Jesus at one time, of the universal acceptance of
belief in the resurrection, so that neither in the Churches of Rome,
Corinth, or Galatia, does there seem to have been a single Christian
who doubted it. They witness to the fact that St. Paul himself had
lived in familiar intercourse with Peter, James, and others, who had
known the Lord, and that he had originally joined the Christian body at
the most six or seven years after the resurrection, when he must have
had abundant opportunities of testing the validity of its evidence,
and when it would have been impossible for him to have given in his
allegiance to an event so contrary to his experience, except upon
conclusive proof.

Bearing in mind that under any circumstances some must content
themselves with belief on testimony, it is difficult to conceive of
any testimony which could be more convincing or more satisfactory
than that of this Apostle; especially seeing that he was at the first
a violent persecutor of the faith he preached; that he must have had
ample means of sifting the evidence on which it rested; and, because,
living at the time he did, so near to the death of Christ, that which
his testimony loses in the matter of personal eye-witness it more than
gains, all things considered, in the matter of deliberate conviction
and devoted lifelong service.

That is to say, the conversion of the persecutor Saul of Tarsus is
itself a wondrous evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The
letters of the Apostle are the expression of his mature belief; but at
the time when that belief was formed he must have had ample means of
knowing how far he had followed a cunningly devised fable, and how far
that which he believed was truth and was no lie.

Lastly, it may be said, If the evidence for Christ's resurrection
was so satisfactory when it was first proclaimed, why was it not
universally believed? To this we may answer, Why was Paul the Apostle
at any period of his history Saul the persecutor? or Why were there
any that believed if there were some who doubted? It is gratuitous to
affirm that the want of universality on the one side is more remarkable
than on the other. We can only say that faith is the great touchstone
of man's moral nature. To the end of time it will be true that some
will believe the things that are spoken, and some believe them
not.[141] Why are there now any intelligent and able men who believe
in Christ's resurrection if it is absolute folly to believe in it?
That it is not folly to believe in it we can show to demonstration,
while if, as a matter of fact, it did occur, as for the moment we may
assume it did, it is obvious that the actual effects are what we see
them now to be. There are those who believe, but there are those also
who disbelieve. It is from the nature of the case impossible that a
fact like the resurrection should appeal to man's acceptance like
any ordinary fact of history, a battle or an earthquake. It cannot
do so. If it did, there were no place for the question, "Why should
it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the
dead?"[142] In accepting the resurrection of Christ, we accept also the
inference that it was God who raised Him from the dead, and that He did
so for a special purpose--the purpose, namely, of testifying to His
life, His character, His mission, His teaching, and His claims, which
are inseparable from His teaching. In accepting the resurrection, we
accept not only a bare fact, but a fact that influences our relation
to God and our thoughts of God--a fact involving antecedently many
important principles, and resulting in momentous consequences.

But be it remembered that if the resurrection is established as a fact
at all, it is established as a fact for all time; no progress of mind,
no advancement of science, no change of circumstances, no distance of
time, no lapse of ages can affect its truth. That which has happened
once has happened for ever. The undisputed Epistles of St. Paul furnish
what may be regarded virtually as evidence of a contemporary character
to the truth of Christ's resurrection. Had it not truly happened, they
could not have been written; for the pulse of resurrection life beats
strong in every page. Had it not truly happened, those exigencies of
the early Church would never have occurred which were the occasion of
their being written, for without the death and resurrection of the
Redeemer the Church of the redeemed is an impossibility. Had it not
truly happened, the Christian Church would have had no existence now,
and the commentary of eighteen centuries on the advice and judgment of
Gamaliel, when confronted with the first preaching of the resurrection,
would have been quite other than it is: "And now I say unto you,
Refrain from these men and let them alone; for if this counsel or this
work be of men, it will come to nought; but if it be of God, ye cannot
overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God."

       *       *       *       *       *

_For further treatment of this subject the reader is referred to the
Boyle Lectures for 1869--"The Witness of St. Paul to Christ."_





My subject is a large one, and my time is short; therefore, I will say
but very few words of preface. I propose to assume nothing but the
patent facts of history, admitted even by the most advanced sceptics of
the day. Heartily as I myself believe in all the canonical scriptures,
and in all that they teach us, I do not ask you to admit the truth of
miracles, or the inspiration of the Apostles, or the genuineness of
the fourth Gospel, or anything which any moderately reasonable man
can doubt of. All I would assume is this, that we have in history a
general outline of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, that that
outline corresponds with what we read in the three Synoptical Gospels.
There is really no discordant account or contradictory tradition either
among the early Christians or the early heretics, or the contemporary
heathens. It is everywhere one and the same. It may be more filled
up, more coloured, more draped in one picture than another; but the
features and the lineaments belong unmistakably to one Man. In all the
biographies, all the letters, all the traditions, and they are many and
most unusually numerous and diversified though not diverse, there is in
reality nothing like the discrepancy which we observe in the character
of Socrates as portrayed by his disciple Xenophon, and the character of
the same Socrates as drawn by his other and more famous disciple Plato.
The account in the first three Gospels is uncontradicted by that in
the fourth, by what we read in the Acts, by the letters of the early
disciples, by the traditions carefully gathered up by men like Papias,
some seventy years after the events, by the general belief of after
ages, or by the few notices to be found in the writings of enemies and

I shall ask, then, that you admit the general truth of the history of
Jesus as handed down to us by St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, just
as you would generally admit the evidence of common men, even if some
choose to think that they were credulous men.

I. Let us first look at the character of Christ as so depicted. I
venture to say, in the first place, that it exhibits the most perfect
picture of sublime simplicity ever drawn. The Gospels seem very much
like notes taken from memory by men who were anxious not to lose
some record of One whom they had known and loved. It is impossible
to imagine anything more simple or more simply graphic than their
style--it is still more impossible to imagine anything more removed
from the vulgarity of rhetoric or display or effort at effect, than
the character of Jesus Christ. People have spoken as though He had
been merely a first-rate political reformer, a demagogue belonging to
a type of unusual disinterestedness. Surely His retired, unseen youth,
His gentle, quiet manhood, His calm, dignified, unimpassioned words
are the very opposite in tone and character to those of the noblest
demagogue or the purest political leader that was ever heard of. "He
went about doing good," seems almost to record His history. "He was
meek and lowly of heart," seems almost to sum up His character. The
most untiring energy, the most patient endurance, the most tender and
affectionate benevolence strike us in every act and every word of
Christ. And yet there was nothing feeble, nothing effeminate, nothing
sentimental about Him. Simple as the gentlest child, He was brave as
the hardest warrior. Weeping with the tenderness of a woman for the sad
and the suffering, He rebuked with inflexible sternness the base, the
cruel, and the hypocritical. With the most unsullied purity of thought
and life, He had yet a heart of such large and gentle sympathy that the
very outcasts of mankind could come to Him for help and counsel, and
He never rejected them. He did not shrink from touching the leper, and
the leprous sinner went away from Him a new man, with a new heart and
a new life. But the covetous, the proud, the treacherous, the actor in
religion, were rebuked by Him in words which have made a new language
in Christendom; Scribes, Pharisees, hypocrites, sounding to us no
longer as writers of the law, members of a religious body in Palestine,
and actors in dramatic performances, but as synonyms for all that is
untrue in religion and in life. And there is one thing which signally
separates Him as a teacher from all other teachers of religion and
morality, viz., that the great lesson was Himself. I must speak further
of this presently. What I mean here is, that the biographies, though
they give many of His discourses, set before us most of all, not what
He said, but what He did; and His actions are to us, and have been in
all time, the most impressive lessons ever given to man. Probably all
men--even those who do not believe in Him--would confess, that if they
could see anyone living just the life which is related to have been the
life of Jesus, the man so living would be perfect in all parts, the
very ideal of humble-hearted, active-spirited, pure-minded, high-souled
humanity. He taught Himself, by simply living Himself; and His life is
the great lesson to every age of man.

And the originality of His character is almost as observable as its
excellence. He was not simply the Great Teacher, like the philosophers
of old, to whom crowds of disciples were gathered to listen. He was
not the contemplative thinker, living retired from human society. He
was no ascetic, frowning coldly on the innocent happiness of man. On
the other hand, with all His marvellous activity, there is not the
smallest appearance of restlessness, excitement, impetuosity. He was,
if He be rightly described by His biographers, what no other man ever
was--perfectly unselfish, living, acting, thinking, speaking, always
with reference either to the service of God or the good of man.

Of course, as I do not assume the truth of miracles, I am unable to
ask you to give unlimited credence to all that His followers have
recorded concerning Him. But this is evidently the impression that He
left upon their minds, viz., that He possessed amazing power, but that
it was united with infinite condescension, and that it was constantly
engaged in doing good, and never exerting itself to do mischief. They
believed that He had power to do all things, but that he restrained
it from doing evil even to His greatest enemies; that He never used
it to gratify Himself, nor to save Himself from trouble, or even from
suffering; that it was always exercised for the benefit of others;
that in fact the _Self_ which was unspeakably grand was incessantly
restrained and denied.

II. Now let us turn for a few moments to His teaching. It was as
remarkable as Himself. Other moral philosophers, or teachers of the art
of living, argued with their followers, setting forth moral systems
or propounding theological theories. He used no arguments, propounded
no theories, weaved no elaborate systems. All He said was with an
authority which astonished His hearers, and all the more, because of
the humility of His life and the self-denial of His character. His
whole system of casuistry would be contained in four or five pages of
common printing; and though much of it was new, and all of it of the
severest stringency, it yet commended itself at once to the consciences
of them that heard Him; it has commended itself in the main to the
consciences of all subsequent ages, and in principle at least it yet
rules the morality of all Christendom, and in great measure even the
morality of the followers of Mohammed.[143]

It is easy to sketch out a few of the great principles which He thus
set forth. At the root of all lay truth. The Easterns, among whom He
taught, have always been accounted as too ready to practise deceit.
There was nothing Jesus Christ condemned so much as dishonesty or
hypocrisy--the very word hypocrisy, as I have said already, and all our
instinctive hatred and contempt of it, being due to His denunciations
of it to His disciples. Closely connected with this was the stress
which He laid on purity of thought. To impose a weight and put a strain
on outward conduct was all too little: it would very likely lead to
superficial character, to the dreaded and denounced hypocrisy. From the
heart come evil thoughts, and evil words, and evil actions. And the axe
must be laid to the root of the tree. Make the tree good, and its fruit
will be good. To give way to the desire of evil is to do evil.

Again: there was plenty of partial goodness. The heathens and even the
Jews had learned an ardent patriotism, but it was linked, as to its
_alter ego_, with a burning hatred of their country's enemies, never
stronger in Palestine than when Jesus taught there. And this principle
of love to country and hostility to aliens came home, too, into private
life. It was an axiom that men should "love their neighbours and hate
their enemies." Never before were those words clearly uttered upon
earth, "I say unto you, love your enemies." Imperfectly, miserably ill
indeed, as they have been acted on, they have revolutionized human
thought. It was not only "Spare your enemies," not only "Forgive your
enemies," but "Love your enemies." Like everything that He taught,
it was to have its seat deep down in the heart. It was essential to
every Christian that he should from his _heart_ forgive everyone his
brother their trespasses. It has been objected to His teaching that it
undermined the principle of heroic virtue, absorbing active patriotism
in a dreamy philanthropy. But the objection is false. His teaching was
at the farthest possible distance from dreaminess or sickliness. The
benevolence He taught was, like His own, active and energetic, busying
itself, as everything practical must, first on those most easily and
most naturally within its reach, but then extending to every created
being, made by the same God, and loved by the common Father. There did,
indeed, arise a new kind of patriotism, to which I may, perhaps, allude
hereafter; but can anyone read our Lord's lamentations over Jerusalem,
or St. Paul's utterances of his heart's desire for Israel, his almost
wish that he himself might be lost if he could save them, and yet
maintain that patriotism in its truest essence was quenched either in
the heart of Jesus or in the feelings of His most devoted followers?

But whatever else may have been peculiar and exceptional in the
teaching of Christ, that which chiefly distinguishes Him from all
other teachers is this. Moral philosophers like Socrates, ever kept
themselves in the background. It was philosophy that was everything,
Socrates was but the humble tyro, feebly feeling after truth. Prophets
of every religion,--Moses, Zoroaster, Mohammed, all spoke the word
which God put into their mouths. He was all; and they were at the best
His honoured subjects and servants. But Jesus Christ, the meek, the
gentle, the humble, the unselfish, the self-denied, the self-devoted,
not only showed Himself as the Pattern of life, but even propounded
Himself as the Object of faith, hope, love, obedience, loyalty,
devotion, adoration, worship. It is impossible to deny this without
rending to pieces every Christian record. It is argued, I know, that
this was no part of Christ's original teaching, that it grew up after
His death among His devoted followers, who looked back upon Him as a
loved and lost friend and teacher, and who by degrees invested Him
with Divine attributes and paid Him Divine honours; and especially it
is thought that the writings of St. John, or rather writings in the
second century falsely ascribed to St. John, and the later epistles
attributed to St. Paul, fostered this exaggerated belief. I may well
leave the genuineness of these later writings to those who have so ably
and so amply dealt with them before me. All I wish to say now is, that
if St. John's Gospel and St. Paul's Epistles had never come down to us,
we should still be just where we are. This special teaching of Christ
by Himself is fully developed in every portion of the three synoptical
Gospels. They are interpenetrated by it from end to end. If it never
came from Christ, the writers of those Gospels have misconceived Him
altogether, and their record is mere fiction and falsehood. And so it
is of every document which we possess--history, letters, traditions,
anecdotes, apocalypses--they all turn the same way, they all speak the
same tongue. Nay; I have often thought that if we had only the three
synoptical Gospels left, though we should suffer terribly indeed by
losing the deep theology of St. John the Divine, we should still have
the clearest possible statements--though of the character sometimes
called undesigned, or more properly indirect and incidental--as to the
Godhead, Kingship, Priesthood of Christ; and that we should have none,
or at most but one or two of those passages which have been thought by
many to be inconsistent with the highest belief in our Lord's supreme,
co-equal, co-eternal Deity. It is in fact in St. John and in St. Paul
that we find the most developed form of the New Testament theology,
but on that very account the appearance, for appearance it is only, of
inconsistency and difficulty.[144]

Let us briefly recall our Lord's words in the first three Gospels.
Constantly He calls Himself _the Son of Man_, meaning--(can we
doubt?)--one who had no ordinary interest in mankind, in manhood, in
all humanity; constantly He confesses Himself, and is confessed to be,
the Son of God; constantly He claims to be King: He demands absolute
obedience, boundless love ("he that loveth father or mother more than
Him is not worthy of Him"); He forgives sins; He has authority over
the Sabbath; He baptizes with the Holy Ghost; He promulgates His own
law even where it seems to contradict Moses' law; He is at least
_represented_ (as I do not assume miracles I must say no more) as
with creative power, multiplying bread, restoring sight, calling the
dead to life, saying to the tempest, "Peace, be still;" He proclaims
Himself the Judge of all the earth, about to sit upon His throne,
with all nations, the dead, small and great, gathered before Him,
and the angels of God waiting to do His pleasure; He pronounces the
sentence, and it runs in words which indicate that the great act of
obedience was waiting on Himself in prison, in sickness, in need, and
in suffering, that the great sin was neglecting Him, Him as represented
by His servants. There is one other scene which seems to me even more
telling than all these. Each of the three Evangelists relate, St.
John alone omits to relate, the institution of the Last Supper. There
distinctly--whatever may be held by differing sects as to its meaning
and its blessing--there distinctly Jesus Christ presents Himself to
our faith as the Power which sustains all spiritual life; pointing to
Himself as the great Sacrifice, the anti-typical Paschal Lamb, and then
professing that His Body and Blood can feed and sustain the souls of
all disciples in all coming time. What is this but, first to proclaim
Himself the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world; and
then to attribute that sustaining, strengthening, life-giving power to
Himself which can be predicated of nothing short of God?

I therefore fearlessly assert that, if our Christian records be in
any way better than waste paper, if they be any records of Christ at
all, we cannot but learn from them that He presented Himself to His
followers, not as Prophet merely, not as Teacher only, but as their
Priest, their King, their God.

Now, observe, first, the perfect originality of this. No one ever
professed anything like it before. All the heathen fables about gods
coming down among men, all their belief or half belief that some men
were the offspring of deity, meant nothing like this. Their gods were
themselves but deified men or personified powers of nature. It was easy
to make mythic stories about their bodily appearance, or about their
earthly loves and their earthly progeny.

Or, to speak of something grander, though perhaps less poetical, the
great pantheistic religions gave ready room for the fancy that there
was a spark of deity in every sentient being, and that it might be
more and more developed into God. In them, indeed, God is but the
general principle of life and intelligence which runs throughout all
the universe; it is duller in one spot and brighter in another; here it
may almost go out in darkness, and there it may burst forth into the
light of heaven and of glory. But it is not a person; at the highest
it is an impersonal power. It may dwell therefore in the Bull Apis,
it may reside in the Lama of Thibet, it may grow to be the highest
intelligence in Buddha. In none of them is it really God. It is but
the embodiment and the kindling up of a spark of Divine Being, but
not a living, thinking, willing maker of the universe and ruler of
all things. But Jesus Christ, when He was upon earth, lived among the
only people on the earth who had a clear conception of one great and
personal God, so one and so personal as each separate man is one and
personal, man having been made in the express likeness of God. Jesus
Christ lived among a people who esteemed that one personal God so great
and so awful that they dared not even speak His name, the name by which
He had specially revealed Himself, for they thought that that name,
if human lips should utter it, would shake heaven and earth. Yet it
was this great, only, incommunicable, unutterable Being, whose Son He
called Himself, whose very essence He claimed for His own.

Let it not be said, that He came at a moment when Jewish hopes were all
centred on some heavenly Messenger to redeem and restore them, that He
only fell into their notions, took advantage of their expectations and
flattered their prejudices. They expected a Messiah, no doubt, with
much in him that was heavenly (if you will, Divine); they expected Him
to redeem their nation, to overthrow their enemies, to advance their
kingdom. But they never thought that their Messiah would claim to be
the Supreme JEHOVAH, they never thought that He was to redeem, not
their bodies, but their souls, by dying as a lamb sacrificed upon the
altar; they never thought that, instead of satisfying their patriotism
and elevating their nation, He would teach them to subordinate
patriotism to universal love of man, and that instead of extending the
earthly kingdom of Israel through the world, He would found a kingdom
which should be wholly moral and spiritual, and which would place
the Greek, the Roman and the Samaritan on the same footing with the
long-favoured children of Abraham. So far were they from any thoughts
like these, that it was because of all this that they crucified their

And if all this were original in Jesus, it was as bold as it was
original. The humble, unostentatious, unselfish, Jewish peasant
declares Himself the One Eternal God. If it was assumption only, it
deserved the death which was its consequence.

But just let us consider it for a moment. Was it fanaticism? I have
already pointed to the calmness, self-possession, soberness of Christ.
No character in history exhibits these qualities so markedly. There
is not a symptom of restlessness, excitement, intemperance, of any
kind in one of His discourses. His eloquence--and no one can doubt His
eloquence who has read, "Consider the lilies of the field," who has
heard "Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden"--but His
eloquence, though more heart-thrilling than any human eloquence, was
never rhetorical, never emotional. It carried conviction because it
sounded like _truth uttered by love_. In fact, fanaticism or insanity
are charges that cannot be made against Him on any ground whatever,
except on the ground that He believed what He taught, and that no
reasonable man could believe it. And if so, I think the charge must be
abandoned, for Bacon, Locke, Leibnitz, Newton have believed it, and it
is still believed by the most reasoning minds in Christendom.

Imposture is another charge. I have reminded you that the great
principle of Christ's teaching was truth. If there was one point on
which it could with some colour of probability be said that He was an
enthusiast, it would be in His love of truth, and His scorn for all
that was false and hypocritical. It would be strange indeed that such
a teacher should lay the foundation of His teaching in falsehood. And
be it remembered, that the supposed falsehood was not to please popular
tastes, or to take advantage of popular prejudices, but to run counter
to and offend them all, having apparently no purpose, but the purely
disinterested purpose of mending men's manners against their wills,
and having evidently no earthly end but persecution, suffering, and
death. The fanaticism is the most inexplicable, the imposture the most
improbable ever heard or thought of.

III. And now let us see what the teaching of this so-called fanatic or
impostor has done.

I suppose it will be acknowledged that He lived at a time when the
world was singularly _in want_. Heathenism had failed to satisfy it.
The world had outgrown its infancy, and had tossed away its dolls.
The philosophers derided, even the poets could hardly play with,
their old heathen deities. Society was corrupt to its core. The old
monarchies had sunk one by one,--Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia,
Macedonia--oppressed with their own vices. Rome had indeed reached the
height of power, but it was power to be vile and so to be miserable.
And there was a groan uttered from universal humanity for something to
save it from the utter exhaustion of sensuality hard by suffering, of
moral, social, and political degradation. Judea itself, where still God
was worshipped, was no exception to the general rule, though it had yet
hardly fallen to the depth of imperial Rome. And what of philosophy?
Certainly it could never have had a better trial. The greatest moral
philosophers the world ever knew, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, had
taught at Athens. The sound of their voices reached Rome, and echoed
through all the civilized world. Without doubt, their teaching was
valued, without doubt it was valuable to the thinking few; but the
effect produced upon the many is too truly described by Ovid, "Video
meliora proboque, Deteriora sequor." The salt of society had not been
discovered; for society stank, and was corrupt throughout.

And then Jesus Christ set forth a remedy, and it was HIMSELF. It
cannot be too emphatically said, or too steadily borne in memory, that
CHRISTIANITY IS CHRIST. So He taught; so His disciples after Him--not a
law--not a theory--not a code of morals--not a system of casuistry--not
even an elaborate theology--but "they ceased not to teach and to preach
Jesus Christ."

_And this did satisfy human wants._

(1) Moral philosophy never moved more than a few thoughtful minds.
A strong law, like the law of Moses or the laws of Rome, may put a
curb on men's passions and keep them in by bit and bridle, lest they
fall upon you. But there was something vastly more powerful in the
teaching of Christ. He propounded Himself to His followers, as the
one great object of their loyalty and love. Now love and loyalty are
the very groundsprings of noble and disinterested life. The servant
of law lives in obedience to law, because to break law is to incur
its penalties. The moralist trains himself with special reference to
himself. The very necessity of his training turns the moral eye inward,
creates self-consciousness, and produces, perhaps despondency from
failure, perhaps self-confidence from success. The effect of loyalty
is altogether otherwise. The eye, the heart, the hope, are all turned
outwards--and in the case of the Christian--not outwards only but
upwards. The result is, not the calculating morality, which may easily
make a man selfish, but the absorbing love of a master, which makes him
self-devoted. And coincident with the love and loyalty to the Master,
came the brotherhood of all who loved and obeyed that Master; a close
tie of brotherhood towards them, and earnest desire to bring others
into that brotherhood, and so an universal charity to mankind. Thus did
the Great Teacher provide for the wants of man, considered as a _moral

(2) Let us see how He provided for His wants as _a spiritual being_. It
is the witness of all religious antiquity, that, whilst the soul longed
to look up to, and rest in something above it, it was ever striving to
bring that which was above it down to a level with itself. It could not
grasp infinity, and it was ever trying to make it finite. So it devised
man-gods and idol-gods. So it degraded God to be no higher than man,
nay, "likened its Maker to the grazed ox." What Jesus Christ did was to
bring God down to man, but not to degrade and lower Him by doing so. He
professed not to be a Man-God,--like the Saturn and Jupiter of Latium,
like the Lama of Thibet, or like the Buddha of Ceylon and China; but
the God-Man, God dwelling in human flesh, and manifesting all the
character of infinity in the person of the finite. So He satisfied
the yearnings of the human soul, without lowering the dignity of the
Divine Spirit. It is impossible to remember the fables of heathenism
without feeling that Deity is not only lowered, but utterly lost in
them. But I appeal to your experience and to your hearts, whether the
conception of God conveyed to us through Christ is not raised, rather
than depressed--raised even above the conception of the High and Lofty
One which inhabiteth eternity, as discovered by our reasonings, or as
revealed to our faith, in the theism of the philosopher or the writings
of the Jewish prophets.

(3) Once more, He provided for man's wants _as a social and political
being_. Social polity has ever oscillated between an absolute despotism
and a pure democracy. There are many who say that the only ideal of
good government is either a paternal despotism, or "liberty, equality,
and fraternity." It is most true that our Lord declined persistently
to mingle Himself with earthly politics, or to meddle in the affairs
of earthly kingdoms. But He declared that His mission was to set up in
this world a kingdom not of this world. And the principles, the polity
of that kingdom combined in a marvellous manner the unopposed will
of the Father-King with the fraternal equality of all the people. As
King of the kingdom of God He exacted the most devoted loyalty and the
most unswerving obedience; but to the members of the kingdom He said,
"All ye are brethren." He forbade any to aspire to pre-eminence, or
authority, like the kings of the Gentiles; to those who desired to sit
on His right hand and on His left He only promised that they should
drink of His cup of suffering, and be baptized with His baptism of

(4) Lastly, He provided for man's natural wants _as a sinful being_.
Every religion witnesses to the anxiety of the religious mind to throw
off a weight from the conscience by austerities, or by sacrifices,
or by gifts. I am aware that I am treading on ground which may lead
me into controversy, and from this I must guard myself. Still I
think every one who reads the Gospels must confess that the Christian
history and the Christian faith culminate in sacrifice. I do not wish
to reason on it; I readily admit its deep mystery, and the great
difficulty of explaining it; I only assert, and I assert without
fear of contradiction, that Christ set forth Himself, and that His
disciples set Him forth to the world as One who suffered for the sins
of that race which He had made His own; that He first bound them
closely to Himself, and then drained off to the dregs that cup which
their sins had prepared for _them_. He came into mankind that He might
carry off the curse which sin had cast into the midst of it. And I
know, indeed, that there are some, and some for whose scruples and
difficulties I feel deep respect, who, acknowledging all the debts due
to Christianity, for raising, ennobling, and purifying human life and
human thought, yet say that they could accept every portion of it save
only its doctrine of atonement and sacrifice. They think it derogatory
to the mercy and to the love of God, and they doubt if the sins of
feeble beings like ourselves can ever be so offensive to His majesty as
to need such an intervention, or to cost so tremendous a price. I say I
respect their scruples, for in some cases I believe they have been the
scruples of men very pure in life and very loving in heart. But of this
I am most certain, that there is nothing in Christianity which has so
commended it to the acceptance of mankind at large. And certainly its
effect, if fully exhibited, is very remarkable. Its effect is first to
enhance our sense of sin, and secondly to enhance our sense of the love
of God. Wellnigh every other system of forgiveness tends to make light
of sin. If repentance be easy, sin cannot be so very hard. Wellnigh
every other system of religion has created a dread of the Sovereign
Ruler of the Universe, and has seldom, if ever, led to devoted love
of Him. Strangely enough, too, all past religions had treated sin,
when great, as inexpiable, and gave no room for repentance, even
though sought carefully and with tears. But the Christian faith in
the atoning love of Christ has deepened, beyond all comparison with
aught besides, our conviction of the darkness and the danger of sin;
has yet assured us that repentance for sin is not impossible, but to
be attained and then certain to be accepted; and, lastly, has been the
one only convincing evidence that, for all the clouds and darkness in
which nature and natural religion have enveloped the Deity, there is
yet a loving Heart in heaven, and that we may, with undoubting, filial
confidence cast our orphan souls upon the Fatherhood of God. And so it
is a fact, which nothing can take away, that, with all its admitted
mystery and deep obscurity, the cross of Christ has been, even more
than all else in His marvellous history, that which has won human
hearts, and which has satisfied human yearnings.

IV. Let us pass to the reception of Christ's teaching in the world.
There is not much that is new to be said about this. First, as to the
mode of its propagation: it was not propagated by force, like the
religion of Mohammed; nor was it a political revolution, as Buddhism
was a great rising against the caste system of the Brahmins, joined
with a modification or so-called reformation of their theological and
philosophical theories. Christ forbade His followers to mix themselves
up in the politics either of the Jews or of the heathens; and, as to
force, He told them, in words which all Christian history since has
verified, that "they who take the sword shall perish with the sword."
In fact, the mode of the propagation of the faith of Christ was the
simplest conceivable: it was merely a proclaiming of Christ as the
Prince and the Saviour of the world. Apostles preached the kingdom of
God, invited men to come into it, declared that Christ was its King,
claimed from His subjects obedience to His sovereignty, and promised
them peace in their hearts here and happiness in His home hereafter. It
is a matter of perfect indifference to my present argument whether you
acknowledge that this preaching was accompanied with miracles or not.
If it was, then _cadit quæstio_. Probably no one in this company will
say, as the Jews said and as some of the heathens said, that those
miracles were due to Satanic agency. If there were miracles therefore,
they were of God. But, if you refuse your assent to miracles, then I
only say the result was all the more miraculous. If there was nothing
but a simple teaching of Christ--if only men narrated the life of the
Jewish carpenter, told of His death, declared him to be their King,
set up His cross as their hope, and claimed submission to Him as
their God; and if thereupon, in the midst of Jerusalem and Rome, and
Athens and Corinth, and Ephesus and Philippi, and Smyrna, and Antioch,
and Alexandria, at a time when art and science, and civilization
and philosophy were at the greatest height ever known; if then and
there, in the space of a single generation, thousands and hundreds of
thousands, of all ages and all classes, bowed their heads and gave up
their hearts to Christ, I ask what was it that gave such magic power to
the so-called "foolishness of preaching?" I answer, It was the force of
truth; and I ask again, Has any other answer ever been given?

The progress of Christianity in every stronghold of heathenism soon
roused the jealousy of the governors of the world. We need not dwell
upon the cruelties with which its votaries were persecuted. Men
clothed in garments smeared with pitch, and then lighted up as living
torches, to add a horrid lustre to the festivities of the Emperor.
Men crucified with their heads downwards. Men thrown to wild beasts.
The heart sickens at the recital of their sufferings, and still more
at the ferocity of their torturers. But nothing stopped them. Every
human power was exerted. Every device was tried. But neither skill
nor force availed. The stream flowed onwards till it became a river;
the river spread out till it became a flood. In the short space of
three centuries from the death of Jesus, Europe, Asia, and Africa, as
far as civilization had reached, owned Him as their sovereign, and
marched under His banner. Not a blow had been struck in His favour,
though thousands and hundreds of thousands had died rather than disown
Him. And then the heathen oracles were silent, the heathen altars
were deserted, the heathen philosophers were changed to Christians;
Christian presbyters ministered where heathen priests had sacrificed;
Christian orators spoke where heathen advocates had pleaded; Christian
judges decreed justice in the seats of the prætors and the proconsuls;
a Christian Emperor sat upon the throne of the Cæsars. It is so still;
the great bulk of the civilized world still retains, and professes to
be guided by, laws, customs, and morals, which are really drawn from
the teaching of Jesus Christ.

       *       *       *       *       *

(1) It is said that the spread of Christianity is at least partly due
to mere human and common-place causes.[145] It is said for instance,
that the civilization of the heathen empire was effete, that society
was corrupt, that the very world was wearied with its own wickedness.
Very true: yet it was in the Augustan age that Christ lived and taught,
the very climax of ancient art and letters, and refinement, and
philosophy. Very true; but still, that which will be our only refuge
if we are driven out of our faith, had offered everything that it can
ever have to offer. Moral philosophy had done its best. Socrates,
Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Seneca, had done all that could be done
by reasoning and moral teaching, to win men from vice, and to train
them to virtue. And earth, for all that, was wearing the very semblance
of hell. Men, no doubt, were weary of it, and they listened the more
readily to Him who promised to the weary rest. Is it no mark of design
and wisdom, that the remedy was offered at that very time when it was
the most needed, and when the need was the most keenly felt?

(2) It is said, that the world then, in its deep dissatisfied
restlessness and inquietude, was turning right and left for
satisfaction, and that thus it readily lent an ear to the superstitious
and the supernatural. It may have been so. It had apparently given up
all faith; and the unbeliever passes readily into the credulous. But
I cannot think it reasonable to conclude, that an age of philosophical
scepticism, of unbridled licentiousness, even though it might combine
with these some disposition in favour of the marvellous, would be
likely to admit the pretensions of Christianity without careful
investigation; when Christianity bore with it requirements of the most
rigid morality, offered in exchange for its philosophy simple faith, in
exchange for its licentiousness the sternest self-denial, and gave it
no promise in this life, but of contempt and suffering, and very likely

(3) It is said once more, that the unequalled organization of the
Primitive Church made it a firm phalanx sure to win its way through the
ranks of the fiercest foes. Very true. The economy of the Primitive
Church, with its bishops, priests, deacons, and deaconesses in every
city and suburb, with its strict and unbroken unity throughout the
world which it had won and was winning, was, no doubt, an organization,
a freemasonry, a secret society if you will, which constituted the best
possible machinery for preserving and propagating its faith. Is it no
sign of the superhuman wisdom of its Founder, that He not only taught
the great secret of life; but that He devised means whereby that secret
should be guarded and handed on to men?

I must here consider for a moment one of the gravest questions which
arises in many minds about the progress of Christianity. Granted that
its speed was rapid at the first, why has it ever stagnated since? If
it be the great remedy for human woes, and the great prompter of human
virtue and morality, why did not its Divine Author, if Divine He be,
ordain that it should at once find its way everywhere, and should never
fail anywhere? I am ready to admit the gravity of the question. I doubt
if there be any greater mystery connected with the faith of Christ. It
was objected to that faith by Lord Herbert of Cherbury, perhaps the
most eminent of the deists of the last century, and it has tried many a
believing, as well as many a doubting spirit, since. We naturally feel,
that a religion meant to save all men ought to be made known to all
men. In the few words I can say on it now, I do not pretend to clear
up all the mystery. I cannot clear up all the mystery of God's actions
or of God's will. I would only remind you first, that this is at all
events but one specimen of the working of that general law, which seems
to rule in creation, in Providence, and in grace. The analogy between
the development of nature and the development of revelation was ably
traced in the lecture of one who preceded me some fortnight or three
weeks back. It certainly seems the principle of the Divine action, that
all things should rise up into maturity by steady gradual progress and
growth. So the infancy of mankind was left in the glimmer of twilight;
then there was a dawning light in the ages of the patriarchs and the
prophets, till the day broke full upon the world in the coming into it
of Jesus Christ. By the same kind of gradual working, that day-spring
from on high has extended its brightness first to one land and then
to another. It is no more marvellous that China and India and Central
Africa should not yet have seen it all, than that for thousands of
years of man's past history, the whole human race, except at most a
very small portion of it, should have known nothing of Christ or even
of God. There has been an infancy of man, as there has been an infancy
of the Universe; and we may well believe, that there may have been a
preparation for Christ's coming, and elsewhere a preparation for the
knowledge of His coming, corresponding with the preparation through
countless ages past for the habitation of man upon the earth.

And as to the imperfect reception of Christianity in some places and
times, and its actual retrogression, as from the Mohammedan conquest,
in others; is it not plain that we have to expect Christianity to
advance by moral means and not by mechanical? Christ left a leaven in
the world, that it might work and leaven mankind. We are apt to expect
that it should work by magic, and not by its own moral influence. Now,
our Lord never so worked on earth. If He worked in His miracles by a
mechanical force on nature, He never applied such a force to human
wills, nor does His Gospel work so now in the world. He called His
church the salt of the earth; but He warned it that the salt might lose
its savour. He said it was a grain of mustard seed, which should grow
into a tree and fill the earth; but He never said that there should
be no blights, no frosts, no tempests which might check its growth,
or nip its leaves or rend off its branches. The apostles themselves
knew that they had the Gospel treasure in earthen vessels, and when
the vessel was injured the treasure could not be safely conveyed by
it. It is very natural to expect that a potent remedy should produce
an instantaneous cure. But we are constantly taught by experience that
maladies are too deep-seated, or constitutions too sickly, for rapid
or perfect restoration. We naturally expect every man under the true
influence of Christianity to become perfect: we expect Christianized
society to exhibit no defects. But, in reality, we only find that both
the man and the people have a new principle, which gradually raises
them, that they become instinct with a new life, which shows itself
sometimes indeed by vigorous action, but which sometimes, too, becomes
languid and feeble. If we make these allowances, there will be nothing
to stagger our faith in the slow progress of the Gospel through the
world. In the beginning, Christianity was thrown into mortal conflict
with heathenism. That heathenism it steadily extirpated, whilst the
sounder philosophy which had lived in the midst of heathenism it
adopted for its own. In the midst of this there came too often an
attempt at compromise. There sprang up a fusion between Christian
verity and philosophy, and philosophy, too, of the corrupter heathen
type, not of the purest or most divine type. Hence the strange forms
of heresy which meet us in the earlier centuries. After the barbarian
conquests, Christendom indeed took its fierce captors captive. They
who had trod down imperial Rome, bowed lowly before Him whom Roman
governors had crucified and Roman emperors had persecuted. Then came a
struggle between barbarism and faith, the faith gradually subduing the
barbarism, but the barbarism still clouding the faith. And I think we
do not enough remember how through the Middle Ages, on which we often
look so contemptuously back, there was ever going on a great mission
work of the church and of the Gospel, the fierce barons and the rude
churls being as hard to win to the obedience of faith as the heathens
with whom the apostles pleaded in the early ages of the faith.

On the whole there has been a constant progress, greatest certainly at
first, but never seriously slackened, till Mohammed devised a great
Christian heresy (for a Christian heresy it was, as much as that of
the Gnostics, or that of the Manichees before him,) thereby blighting
the growth of the Eastern Church for centuries; still, however,
there was progress again in the west, among Germans, and Slaves and
Scandinavians; stagnation for a time from the twelfth to the eighteenth
century, as far at least as visible increase was concerned; and now,
again, progress, through the over-spreading of new continents by
Christian colonists, and the bringing in of newly-known heathen tribes
to the faith of the Church. Unless we insist that the world should
be won by miracle, I do not see that we can ask more evidence to the
winning power of the teaching of Christ.

V. And now for its effect on those taught by it, and on the world
at large through them. I have argued that philosophy failed; has
Christianity succeeded? With the allowances which must be made for
the matter on which it has to work, and with the premised condition
that it was not intended so to act as a spell that man's will would
simply be enslaved by it, his moral responsibility lost, and his state
of probation done away with; then I assert that it has succeeded
incomparably beyond anything else that has ever been devised, or ever
attempted by man.

Let us take great and acknowledged facts. It is confessed that under
the influence of Christianity gladiatorial shows, and the throwing
of prisoners to wild beasts, were given up and done away with. It is
impossible to deny that the worst forms of licentiousness, which were
not only tolerated in Greece and Rome, but indulged in openly by
their heroes, attributed to their deities, and celebrated in verse by
their poets, have been universally reprobated in Christendom, and dare
not now show their heads abroad even in the most corrupted centres of
modern society. The respect paid to woman is due before any other cause
to the honour with which the Great Founder of our faith treated those
women who waited on Him, and to His filial reverence for the mother
that bare Him. The laws of marriage which now rule in Europe are not
heathen, not even Jewish, but pre-eminently Christian. What Christ
spoke concerning marriage and divorce regulated the principles of the
Church, and the first Christian rulers incorporated those principles
into the laws of the empire. Our domestic morals have thus been
governed by a few sentences from the lips of one Man. The existence of
hospitals for the sick and wounded is entirely due to the charity of
the early Christian Church. The softening of the horrors of war, and
the better treatment of prisoners, are equally the result of Christian
influence. Contrast, for instance, the conduct of the most humane of
heathen conquerors with the conduct of any great Christian general. No
one among the ancients is more celebrated for his humanity than Titus;
yet when Titus had taken Jerusalem, he crucified by thousands its
undoubtedly brave defenders, and the historian tells us that "there
lacked crosses for the bodies and room for erecting the crosses."
When Gustavus Adolphus took a city, he so guarded the lives of its
inhabitants, that it is said that no injury passed upon the head of one
of them. In the war we have just witnessed, the German army marched
into Paris, after fierce fights and long sieges, yet the first care
of the invaders was not to slay or torture, but to feed the famished
inhabitants of the city they had taken, the conquering army even giving
up its rations to supply food to their enemies, who might else have
perished for hunger. And as for the prisoners in modern warfare, the
wounded and the sick are tended by the surgeons, and nursed in the
hospitals of those against whom they have been fighting, and against
whom it is possible they may yet live to fight.[146] This regard for
human life is justly regarded by philanthropists as the truest test
of a high civilization; and I confidently ask whether it has ever
come but from the influence of Christian teaching and the effect of
Christian sympathy.

Let us turn to the question of slavery. It is objected by some that
there is no direct denunciation of slavery in the Scriptures. I am
not now concerned with the Old Testament; but I may yet, in passing,
say, that whilst Moses could hardly refuse to recognise slavery as
a prevailing institution, he still gave laws concerning it which
mitigated its horrors to the utmost, and placed the Jewish slave
in a condition, moral, social, and spiritual, utterly unlike to
his condition in any heathen state. As regards the Gospel, we must
remember, once more, that Christ was not a political reformer, not
professedly a social reformer, not even primarily a moral reformer. His
mission was to elevate men's whole spiritual nature; and this He did by
the infusion into society of a new religious or spiritual principle.
It did not fall in with the purposes of that mission to descend
to every detail of social life, still less to regulate political
institutions. So, He never denounces war, nor imperial tyranny, nor
even the political factions of the Jews. It is scarcely a question that
sudden emancipation of a great slave population is never desirable.
And if the first Christians had preached against a deeply-rooted
social institution, they might easily have produced great political
convulsions, and have ultimately rendered less tolerable than ever the
conditions of those whom they desired to befriend. But the principles
of Christ's teaching are directly adverse to slavery, and their
progress has invariably tended to mitigate, and at length to eradicate
it. The principle of the brotherhood of all men, of their common
interest in God, of their common humanity with Christ; the principle
that there was neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female, neither
bond nor free, in the great Christian commonwealth, but that all were
one in Christ--this principle cannot be worked out without destroying
the abject servitude of one man to another. And, as a matter of fact,
this is what it has done. "The change brought about was gradual, but
it was sure. At first monks, especially eastern monks, refused to be
waited on by slaves. Then missionaries never lost an opportunity of
redeeming slaves.... Ecclesiastical legislation declared the slave to
be a _man_, and not a _thing_, or _chattel_; laid it down as a rule
that his life was his own, and could not be taken without public trial;
enforced on a master guilty of involuntary murder of his slave penance
and exclusion from the communion; opened asylums to those who fled
from their master's cruelty; declared the enfranchisement of the serf
a work acceptable to God. The abolition of domestic slavery was one
of the most important duties incumbent on the missionary energies of
the mediæval Church."[149] It is sad, indeed, to think how the plague
of slavery again broke out on the discovery of the West Indies and of
America--slavery, too, in one of its most revolting and debasing forms;
but it still is true that Christianity and Christian missions have
struggled with it from the first, and that now, at length, it seems to
be yielding, and there is good hope that it may ere long be utterly

In every way Christianity has been the pioneer of civilization, and
the giver of social comfort and peace. Very truly, many colonists from
Christian lands have given to the colonies which they founded not
comfort, nor peace, nor civilization; but it has been because they
have left Christian lands and not carried their Christianity out along
with them. Often, indeed, they have only laid waste heathen lands and
oppressed heathen races; and Christianity following after them, has had
to undo the evil, which apostate Christians had inflicted. Still we
may challenge any one to show a single instance, in which civilization
in modern times has spread to any place to which Christianity has not
first found its way. We may challenge any one to deny, that, where
Christianity has been forsaken or neglected, there have sprung up,
instead of it, as in revolutionary France, cruelty, licentiousness, and
social degradation.

Christianity, once more, has been favourable at least to the
development of mind, the cultivation of letters, the advancement of
science. It is easy, of course, to say that there have often been
efforts among Christians to check the progress of science, still more
frequently panic terrors as to its unexpected discoveries. It is easy
to point to Galileo, easy to speak of the fate of geology in the
earlier days of the present century, of the reception of Mr. Darwin's
theory now. As to Galileo, we may at once disown the Inquisition as
representing the Christian faith. But it is unnecessary to deny that
an appearance of antagonism between faith and science, or faith and
literary criticism, will alarm timid believers, and so may lead to
temporary misunderstandings between Christians and men of science
or of literature. Yet look at past history and say, first, whether
science and philosophy and literature did not for centuries find their
only shelter in the Church, even under the deepest shadows of its
cathedrals and monasteries. When all the world besides was unlettered
and ignorant, learning flourished among the schoolmen, philosophy
and even physical science were pursued, as far as they then could be
pursued, by ecclesiastics and divines. The name of Roger Bacon stands
out conspicuously as one who, in the cell of a convent and under the
garb of a friar, carried inquiries into physical truth to a height
which, considering his date and his difficulties, may compare even with
the great and rapid discoveries of the present day. In short, it may be
said truly and fearlessly, that whilst the only other religious systems
in the world, which deserve consideration, Mohammedanism, Brahminism,
and Buddhism, have either stifled, or at the best stunted science and
made stagnant civilization; Christianity has fostered learning of all
kinds, and has been in itself the highest civilization ever known.

I have naturally dwelt upon the external development of the religious
life of Christians, not upon its inner being. A lecture on evidence,
must of necessity appeal to that which can be known and read of all
men. Yet I might, if there were time, point to the characters of
individual Christians as proof of the elevating, ennobling, purifying,
sanctifying power of the teaching of Christ, of the contemplation of
Christ, and of the love of Christ. I will content myself with quoting
words which many here have read, and read with interest, long ago. The
author of "Ecce Homo" writes: "That Christ's method, when rightly
applied, is really of mighty force, may be shown by an argument
which the severest censor of Christians will hardly refuse to admit.
Compare the ancient with the modern world. 'Look on this picture and
on that.' One broad distinction in the characters of men forces itself
into prominence. Among all men of the ancient heathen world, there
were scarcely one or two to whom we may venture to apply the epithet
'holy.' In other words, there were not more than one or two, if any,
who, besides being virtuous in their actions, were possessed with an
unaffected enthusiasm of goodness, and besides abstaining from vice,
regarded even a vicious thought with horror. Probably no one will
deny that in Christian countries this higher-toned goodness, which we
call holiness, has existed. Few will maintain that it is exceedingly
rare. Perhaps the truth is, that there has been scarcely a town in any
Christian country since the time of Christ, where a century has passed
without exhibiting a character of such elevation that his mere presence
has shamed the bad and made the good better, and has been felt at times
like the presence of God Himself. And if this be so, has Christ failed?
or can Christianity die?"[150]

Let us apply this test to one or two of the greatest and best of the
heathen philosophers. Take Socrates first. Is it possible to imagine
an apostle of Christ joining, as we know that Socrates joined, in
drinking bouts where many were intoxicated, not himself drinking
willingly, but when pressed making deeper potations than any one
besides, yet never exhibiting symptoms of drunkenness?[151] It cannot
be conceived that the unutterable licentiousness of Alcibiades,
manifested during one of those drinking bouts, could have been so
manifested, I will not say in the presence of St. Paul or St. John, or
in the presence of any Christian clergyman since them, but even in the
lowest assembly of English drunkards.

Take Marcus Aurelius: Mr. Lecky, the eloquent and able writer on
"European Morals," has held him up as an example of what pure
philosophy can do, and has challenged comparison between him and the
most exalted and sanctified of the followers of Christ. We may well
acknowledge the nobleness, the disinterestedness, the simplicity,
and the elevation of his character. No absolute and irresponsible
governor of men has ever been more "clear in his high office." Yet the
concessions, which his panegyrist has made concerning him, separate
him off by a broad line of demarcation from the highest types of
Christian holiness. When his wife died, for his children's sake he
would not contract a second marriage; but he preferred the society of
a mistress. When he persecuted the Christians, an act which we may
perhaps attribute to mistaken conscientiousness, he not only persecuted
them, but he derided their sufferings. Could we in these days even call
a man Christian who could so err? Professed Christians, no doubt, fall
into licentiousness, but then they know they are in act repudiating
their Christianity. Christians, alas! have persecuted those whom they
regarded as heretics. But we must look fairly at the sad history of
persecution before we simply say that Roman emperors did no more. In
the first place, persecution was not inconsistent with the principles
of heathenism, nor is it inconsistent with the principles, if such
there be, of atheism or of atheistic philosophy; but it is wholly
inconsistent with the principles taught by Christ, and can only have
been tolerated when those principles had been perverted or obscured.
In the next place, Christian persecutors, believing that their own
form of Christianity was the only faith that could save mankind,
esteeming therefore those who defiled that faith as more dangerous to
mankind than any robbers or murderers, thought consistently, though
erroneously, that they were bound to stamp out heresy as they would
stamp out pestilence in their cattle sheds, or moral pestilence in
their homes and villages. In the third place, though deeds of violence
always harden the hearts of those that do them, it is well known
that even inquisitors, so far from ridiculing the sufferings of their
victims, often decreed those sufferings with trembling hands and
broken accents, and eyes filled with tears. Persecutors are no types
of Christian excellence; the truest Christianity utterly repudiates
them; but even persecutors have generally been so, not from love of
persecution, but from a deep and painful conviction that persecution
was a duty and a necessity.

It will be replied, and very truly, that for all this, Socrates and
Marcus Aurelius were grand specimens of humanity, rising to a noble
height of moral greatness in an age of cruelty and licentiousness, and
that we cannot expect them to have been all that we should expect from
a Christian apostle or from a Christian king. Granted most heartily
this. It only proves that Christianity has raised our standard of
excellence and has raised the characters of those who embrace and
follow it immeasurably above the highest standard and the noblest
characters of the world, which had never heard of Christ.

I must bring my words, my most feeble and imperfect words in this
high argument, to a close. I have tried to show that the life of
Christ, and the teaching of Christ, as we have them recorded in the
most unsuspicious records,--records which could not possibly have
been the gradual concoctions and concretions of subsequent times,
the careful afterthoughts of enthusiasts or impostors; that the
life and teaching of Christ were original in the highest degree, not
calculated to attract from any pandering to prejudice or to passion,
that they exhibit the most marvellous ideal of simple grandeur or grand
simplicity; that the power which they exercise is from no apparent
effort--not even from reasoning and argumentation,--but from the
strength of truth, and from their satisfaction to human want; that the
power which they exercised, and yet exercise, is the greatest moral
power ever tried upon man; that they have raised, and yet do raise,
men and nations to a greater height of civilization, humanity, and
purity, than anything has ever raised them before. And I ask, How can
we account for the fact that all this has been done by the teaching of
one unlettered Peasant in the most despised corner of a despised land?
Is there any phenomenon in moral science, or in physical science, which
demands a patient and honest investigation more seriously than this?

There are those who think the influence of Christianity is on the wane.
I confess I can see no sign of this; though, without doubt, its enemies
are many, and the wish is father to the thought. But I will just put
my case in one other shape, which will more or less deal with this
question of decay, and then I will end.

If an assembly of 500 or 1,000 persons could be gathered together,
in any city of Europe, or European America, it being provided that
all of them should be intelligent, well-educated, high-principled,
and well-living men and women; and if the question were put to each
of them, "To what influences do you attribute your high character,
your moral and social excellence?" I feel no doubt that nineteen out
of twenty of them would, on reflection, reply, "To the influence of
Christianity on my education, my conscience, and my heart." I will
suppose a yet further question to be put to them, and it shall be this:
"If you were to be assured that the object you hold dearest on earth
would be taken from you to-morrow, and if at the same time you could be
assured with undoubting certainty that Jesus Christ was a myth or an
impostor, and His Gospel a fable and a falsehood, whether of the two
assurances would strike upon your heart with the more chilling and more
hope-destroying misery?" And I believe that nine-tenths of the company,
being such as I have stipulated they should be, would answer, "Take
from me my best earthly treasure, but leave me my hope in the Saviour
of the world." This is the effect produced upon the most civilized
nations of the world by the teaching of four years, and the agony of a
few hours, of One who lived as a peasant, and died as a malefactor and
a slave. "Whence had this man this wisdom and these mighty works?"


    OF THE


    BY THE

    REV. F. C. COOK, M.A.,



The evidences of Christianity form a department of sacred literature of
vast extent, to which the most valuable contributions have been made in
ages when the faith of the Church was most vehemently assailed, and her
powers were developed by severe and protracted struggles.

It was the subject to which the ablest Christian writers of the first
three centuries devoted their energies, carrying on in no alien
spirit the work of the Apostles, meeting assailants at every point,
demolishing with comparative ease the fabric of heathen superstition;
winning a nobler and more fertile triumph over the intellect of
Greece. Nor was the work thus well begun wholly intermitted during
the ages which intervened between the overthrow of ancient, and the
full development of modern, civilization; a civilization which owes
whatever it has of life and power to its reception and assimilation
of Christian principles.[152] But, as might be expected, the work had
to be begun anew, new difficulties were to be met, new victories were
to be achieved, when the spiritual and intellectual energies of Europe
were set free by the vast upheaval of mind at the Reformation. The
way was opened by representative men. Grotius, who combined in a most
remarkable degree the accurate and profound learning and the clear
dispassionate judgment characteristic of his countrymen, produced the
first complete treatise, "_De Veritate Christianæ Religionis_," soon
adopted as the standard work by Protestants, translated into every
language of Europe, and by our own Pocock into Arabic, for the use of
the East. England followed early in the field, and in the last century
fairly won the place, which she still retains, among the foremost
champions of the Cross. Nor did the persecution which arrested the
progress of the Reformation in France, then, as ever, unhappy in
her struggles for light and air, suppress the workings of spiritual
thought. Of all advocates of the faith, none penetrated more deeply
into its foundation, none ascended with a stronger flight or keener
vision into its highest sphere, none combined more varied gifts of
intellect and spirit than Pascal, a name bright with the gracious
gleam of letters, dear to "science," dearest above all to Christian
truth.[153] Germany, too, great in every field of intellectual power,
has not been unmindful of the duty of maintaining and defending the
deposit of truth--a duty specially incumbent upon her as first leader
in the revolt against usurped authority--not wholly unmindful, though
as yet she is far from having discharged her debt to Christendom, of
late years perplexed and harassed by her reckless abuse of power.
Still in the past, among other great names, Leibnitz, who represents,
perhaps more fully than any one man, the peculiar characteristics
of German intellect, laid the foundations of a system, in which the
true relation between the Christian revelation and God's universe is
examined. And at this present hour men sound in the faith, full of
the love and light of Christ, are bringing the resources of profound
learning and vigorous intellect to bear upon the chaotic turmoil of
anti-Christian influences. Within this present year several works have
appeared in which infidelity is confronted, both in the sphere of
general cultivation, and in the abstrusest fastnesses of philosophy, by
Luthardt, Steinmeyer, and Delitzsch.[154] One of the greatest works at
present incumbent upon the Church of Christ is to bring together into
a compact and systematic body the results of previous investigations,
which from their very extent are inaccessible to the generality of
inquirers. It is a work for which this society has been formed; it will
only be accomplished by the combined efforts of men varying in gifts
and powers, but animated alike by one spirit of fealty and love to our

On this occasion I propose, with all possible brevity, to show that
those evidences of Christianity which are accessible to every careful
inquirer are complete and adequate; complete inasmuch as they meet
the fair requirements of our moral and rational nature, and adequate
with reference to their purpose, which is to bring us into contact
with the central and fundamental truths of our religion, and with the
Person of its Founder. It may be assumed that persons who meet to
consider the evidences of revealed religion have previously satisfied
themselves of the existence and the personality of God; or at least
that they have not accepted the theory, once deemed too irrational to
need refutation, that the universe is but an assemblage of forces,
self-existent, and uncontrolled by a conscious will. That is a question
antecedent to our present inquiry. It would be useless to discuss the
proofs of a supernatural intervention with one who held that there
is no supernatural power to intervene. Materialism under any form,
and Christianity in any stage, are mutually exclusive. They are not
even, properly speaking, antagonistic; since antagonism implies a
common field of action, and the recognition of some principle to which
disputants can appeal. We can only argue now with those who admit the
possibility of a revelation, and are therefore willing to examine the
evidences, and to accept the conclusions to which those evidences may

Our first object will be to see what conclusions are fairly drawn from
those broad facts which first present themselves in the history of
Christianity, and which no one thinks of disputing. Put yourselves, if
possible, in the position of an inquirer to whom the facts might be
new, and who had simply to satisfy himself as to their bearings upon
his own convictions and upon the state of man.

Here is one fact. At the central point of the world's history, central
both in time and in historical import, equidistant from the end of
what men are agreed to call the prehistoric period and our own time,
the man Jesus arose, and claimed to be, in a sense altogether apart
from other men, the teacher and the Saviour of the world. He claimed
a direct mission from God,--nay, more, to be, in a sense hereafter to
be ascertained, the Son of God. He assumed that the truth which He had
to teach was new, inasmuch as it was one which man could not discover
for himself, but at the same time one to which man's conscience
would bear testimony, which could not therefore be rejected without
sin. As credentials of His mission, He appealed to works which those
who accepted Him and those who opposed Him admitted could not be
wrought without supernatural aid.[155] To one work, as the crowning
work of all, He directed His followers to appeal, as one capable of
being attested, and incapable of being explained away, even His own
resurrection from the dead.

And now observe, the fact of this assumption, quite independent of
the evidence by which it was supported, stands absolutely alone in
the world's history. Consider the existing religions of the world.
Three are associated with the names of individuals as their founders.
Of Mahomet we need not speak. His doctrine was avowedly derived from
Judaism, he claimed no special relationship to God, nor did he profess
to work miracles; as coming after our Lord, we might have expected
a far nearer resemblance in pretensions advanced by himself, and to
some extent at a later period advanced by his followers. Two other
men, however, stand before us with characteristics which attract our
warmest interest, and enable us to understand the permanent influence
they have exerted over the countless myriads of Asia. I know nothing
in history more touching than the account of Siddartha[156] (called
Sakya Monni, that is, monk of the royal race of the Sakyas), the
founder of Bhuddism, whose tender and noble spirit was driven by the
contemplation of human misery into desperate struggles to escape from
this prison of the universe even at the cost of personal annihilation;
but observe this, he did not even profess to support his strange gospel
of despair by assertions or attestations which would necessarily imply
the personality of God, and His sovereignty over the universe. If,
again, you consult the four books in which Confucius[157] sets forth
with singular simplicity and force the great principles of moral
truth, you will find that he never presents them as revelations, as
a message supernaturally imparted or attested, but as evolutions of
man's inner conscience, as the product of a faculty inherent equally
in all. Seekers after truth, honest, earnest, and noble seekers, to
whom no Christian should refuse a tribute of admiration, the world
has produced, but you will find no one man, save Jesus only, among
the founders of existing religions, no one indeed within the historic
period, who ever professed to be the _giver_ of a truth at once
absolutely new and attested by works such as God only could enable him
to perform.

And now consider this fact. The appearance of this man Jesus,
unparalleled as it is shown to have been, was nevertheless _expected_.
At present I have not to show that His person, His offices, His work,
together with their permanent effect, had actually been foretold,
or that the predictions referred to Him as accomplisher of a divine
purpose; but this we know, as a fact beyond controversy, that when
He began to teach and work, his countrymen were familiar with a long
series of texts, beginning with the first, and continued to the end,
of their sacred books, in which they recognized descriptions of such
a teacher. You will remember that those descriptions included all
particulars by which an individual could be identified. As for their
accurate coincidence with what is recorded of our Lord, it is scarcely
necessary to argue, since our ablest opponents hold that it is too
close to be accounted for, save on the supposition that the records,
whether consciously or unconsciously, were moulded so to produce the
conformity. With that theory Mr. Row and others have dealt. I do
not believe that it is likely to retain a hold on the minds of our
countrymen, but it is a most striking attestation to an all-important
fact which I request you most seriously to weigh, remembering that of
this man Jesus alone in the world's history can it be asserted that
such an expectation existed.

The next fact, again, is so obvious that men are in real danger of
overlooking its significance. The faith in this Man took root. It took
root at once, and so deeply that storms which might have sufficed to
tear up any human institution, served only to fix it more firmly. This
Man died, His followers were hounded to the death, man's passions,
man's superstitions, man's intellect, during centuries of struggle,
were opposed to this religion, and yet it prevailed. Will you say
it did not prevail universally? Well, what is its actual extent? I
answer, it is co-extensive with the civilization of the world. Is
this assertion too strong? Look at the facts. Beyond the pale of
Christendom, the great races of humanity, which in past ages have
shown equal capacities for the highest culture, have at this present
time no single representative nation, Turanian, Semitic, or Aryan,
in which liberty, philosophy, nay, even physical science, with its
serene indifference to moral or spiritual truth, have a settled home or
practical development. The elements of civilization are there, capable
undoubtedly of being evoked and energized, but as a plain matter of
fact at this present time, after thousands of years for development,
throughout the vast regions of Islamism, Buddhism, and Confucianism,
not to speak of lower forms of paganism, they are stunted, distorted,
and, to all human ken, in hopeless and chaotic ruin. It would not be
difficult to prove that the special evils which have choked the human
mind, and blighted its energies, are in each case distinctly traceable
to evils inherent in those religious systems; but we are dealing now
with facts not depending upon argument, nor demanding lengthened
inquiries. It suffices to state the bare fact that the religion of the
crucified Jesus, with its doctrines that were a stumbling-block to the
Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles, is at this day conterminous
with human progress, with all advance in liberty, science, and social
culture, with all that is substantially precious in the civilization of
the world.

To these facts others might be added of a similar character, such
as the recognition of our Lord Jesus as the true Master and Teacher
of the world, by men acknowledged in every age of Christendom to be
conspicuous for moral worth and intellectual power; such, again, as the
pre-eminence in Christendom, in every age, of nations which profess at
least to acknowledge Him as their Lord, and as the rapid disintegration
or ruin of communities which have corrupted or abjured His religion.
But the broadest and simplest facts thus stated are sufficient for
the one purpose we have now in view; sufficient to induce every one
who cares to know the truth to go at once to that Man, to ask what He
has to teach. The inquirer will do this, as I should think, before he
enters into the lengthened and very difficult inquiry into the origin
or interpretation of the predictions or the words of which we have
spoken. He will do it because, after all, no evidence has anything
approaching the weight which attaches to the personal influence of
a teacher, in this case, of one who declares Himself to be ready to
receive inquirers, and to satisfy their wants, who claims to be the
living and ever-present Teacher of man. The inquirer will certainly do
this if he feels the same moral wants, and experiences the same moral
difficulties and perplexities which beset the most thoughtful heathen
before the coming of this Man; feelings well expressed in the Phædo of
Plato by Simmias, a good representative of sturdy, even sceptical, but
thoroughly honest seekers after truth. These are his words: "It seems
to me, Socrates, as probably to you also, that to know the certainty
about such questions in this present life is a thing either impossible
or exceedingly difficult; yet that, nevertheless, not to test
thoroughly whatever is said about them, or to desist until we have done
our utmost by inquiring in every direction, would be sheer cowardice.
For some one at least of the following results we ought to attain about
them, either to learn from others how the truth stands, or discover it
for ourselves; or, if neither should be possible, then, at any rate, to
take the best and most irrefragable of human theories, and use it as a
raft, so to speak, to convey us, though in much danger, through the sea
of life, unless, indeed, one were enabled to accomplish the passage,
with no risk of error or mishap, upon the firmer conveyance of a word
from God."[158]

The question now meets us, How can we be sure that we have His
teaching? Where can we find His own words? Where can we learn what He
really did? Have we a thoroughly trustworthy, not to say unquestioned,
record of the words He uttered? of the works He is asserted to have

Now there can be no doubt, that of all assaults upon the faith, the
most effective in this age are those which have been made upon the
documents which compose the New Testament. The reason for this is
obvious. An investigation into the authenticity of any ancient book
demands an amount of knowledge and critical ability, a soundness and
keenness of judgment, which are the very rarest of qualifications. Turn
to secular literature, and you will find critics arguing for ages,
without any approximation to a settlement, touching the genuineness
of works attributed to men whose peculiarities of genius and of style
would seem to defy imitation. Who would venture on his own judgment to
determine how much of the Homeric poems belong to

                "That Lord of loftiest song,
        Who above others like an eagle soars?"

        "Quel Signor dell' altissimo canto,
        Che sovra gli altri com' aquila vola."[159]

Look at the controversy between Grote, Jowett, and the latest German
critics touching the authenticity of no small portion of the Platonic
dialogues. Taken simply as a question of critical inquiry, no man of
sense would venture to determine, on internal data, the authorship of
any book in the New Testament, without years of laborious preparation.
I will add, no prudent man at all conversant with the history of
criticism would accept assertions, however confident, of critics whose
known and avowed prepossessions would make it _à priori_ certain that
they would be averse to the acceptance of documents which, if genuine,
supply substantial grounds for belief in supernatural works and a
supernatural Person.

What then are we to do? Well, in the first place we may inquire
whether any portion of the documents in that book is admitted to be
wholly unaffected by the corrosive solvent of negative criticism.
This will give us at once a most important set of documents, no
less than those epistles of St. Paul[160] which contain the fullest
exposition of Christ's doctrine, and the most explicit statements of
the supernatural facts on which that doctrine is based; above all,
the fact of the Resurrection. There you will find Christ speaking,
according to His own promise, by His Spirit. But we are not to be
cheated of our heritage by a criticism of which the main negative
results are repudiated, not only by all who believe in any form or
degree of objective revelation, but by a great majority of avowed
rationalists. One by one we recover, with their concurrence, the
other general epistles of St. Paul, the first of St. Peter and of
St. John, the Gospel of St. Mark, the discourses in St. Matthew, the
two treatises of St. Luke, and, though hotly contested, as might be
expected, considering its vital importance, still triumphantly, and I
do not fear to say irrevocably, secured, attested by external evidence
ever more perfect, and by internal evidence[161] daily more convincing,
as you can witness, the Gospel of St. John. I might go farther still,
and point to the reception of nearly all contested portions by some
or other of our opponents, and show the cogency of the reasons which
overcame deep-seated prejudices; but it is sufficient for our
immediate purpose to argue _ex concessis_. If we take at first those
books only which the severest critics, with the exception of certain
scholars of the Tübingen school hold to be indisputable, we have Christ
before us, the characteristics of His Personality, the cardinal events
of His life, the subject matter of His teaching. Even Keim and Rénan
admit that His mark is unmistakably stamped upon those discourses to
which every inquirer will naturally turn at once, when he seeks to know
what Jesus taught.

And here let me speak out frankly my own opinion. The whole result of
inquiry into the truth of Christianity will depend upon the effect
produced upon you by the Personality of Jesus Christ. If a careful
study of His words, of His works, does not constrain you to recognize
in Him a divine Teacher, if it does not lead you to discern the Being
in whom alone humanity attained to that ideal perfection of which
philosophers had ever dreamed, but of which they deemed that the
realization was impossible, nay, more, a Being in whom the moral and
spiritual attributes of Deity, perfect holiness, and perfect love,
were manifested, then indeed I admit, nay, I am in truth convinced,
that no other evidences will have any real or permanent effect upon
your spirit. The completeness of those evidences may fill your minds
with anxious questionings, their adequacy may leave you without excuse
for their rejection; but without a personal influence they will also
leave you cold, and in a position, if not of outward antagonism, yet
of inward alienation. If, on the other hand, you accept Jesus as your
Teacher and Master, simply and wholly because He has won your heart and
conquered your spirit, then all other evidences will fall into their
proper place; they will not be set aside, contemned, or neglected--had
they been needless, they would not have been given--but they will be
used as subsidiary and supplementary; enabling you to give a reason for
the faith which is in you, both for your own satisfaction, and for the
defence and advancement of Christian truth. The one great evidence, the
master evidence, the evidence with which all other evidences will stand
or fall, is Christ Himself speaking by His own word.

Our first endeavour must therefore be to acquire a distinct and, so far
as may be possible, a complete conception of the personal character
of Jesus Christ. Here, however, we are met by the question, Are we
to consider Him at first in His human nature separately, or must we,
in order to appreciate Him truly, contemplate Him at once in the
completeness of His Personality, combining the human with the divine?
I answer, not without some hesitation, that the line seems pointed
out by Holy Scripture. We are told there that His nature is twofold,
that in Him we see God in man, that the whole work which He came to
accomplish depended upon that nature; but, on the other hand, we find
that the form in which He presented Himself to His contemporaries,
and through the medium of historical records to the Church, in which
and by which He drew mankind to Himself, was thoroughly human; and so
it seems to me clear that our first duty must be to collect from the
Gospel narrative all the characteristic traits of His humanity, and so
learn to know Him as perfect man. We may or may not avail ourselves of
external help in this part of the inquiry; but if we do, the utmost
caution and discrimination will be needed. It is certain that all
so-called lives of Jesus are written under some kind of prepossession,
and convey impressions which, however fair and honest they may be,
have a strong colouring of personal feelings. Doubtless by such lives
as those by Neander, Baumgarten, Pressensé, not to speak of the "Ecce
Homo," a student may have his attention drawn to traits which he might
otherwise fail to appreciate: but I believe that, until the mind is
saturated with the truth set forth with all plainness and in all
completeness in Scripture, the loss will outweigh the gain. I do not
say that, in an advanced stage of inquiry, those among us especially
who have to consult the wants of other minds, may not profitably
resort to these and similar writings for supplementary information or
suggestions: but this observation is to some extent true of other
works in which the false infinitely preponderates over the true; and
if you once go outside of the Gospels for aid in the natural attempt
to gain an independent position as an impartial inquirer, you may
entangle yourself in the subtle webs of sophistry, such as are woven
by Rénan, Keim, or Strauss. Speaking indeed of Pressensé's work on
our Saviour's life, which, on the whole, approaches most nearly to a
faithful and complete portraiture, a friend remarkable for sound strong
sense remarked to me that a careful perusal served but to convince him
of the needlessness of such remouldings of the sacred history. And for
my own part, I do not hesitate to say that you will act most wisely if
you keep to the gospel narrative exclusively until you have ascertained
to your own satisfaction what are the true characteristics of our Lord.
I do not entertain any doubt as to the result. No healthy moral nature
ever came into contact with that Personality without recognizing its
unapproached and unapproachable excellence. Nay, I will add, no human
heart susceptible of tender or noble emotions ever fixed its gaze upon
Jesus without acknowledging in Him the embodiment of love. Attestations
to this effect might be adduced in abundance from writings of men who
have passed their lives in ineffectual efforts to extricate themselves
from the perplexity arising from their inability to reconcile that
impression with their intellectual system: but we need no testimony
from without. Go to Christ, hear Him speak, watch His actions, and you
will have an evidence, at once complete and adequate, that in Him was a
human nature which, in its entire freedom from all moral evil, and in
its perfect development of all moral goodness, stands absolutely alone.

You may say this is mere assumption. I can only answer, You have to
judge for yourselves. I do not profess to draw out the evidence, but
simply to show what is its nature, and where it is to be found. I do
not attempt to delineate that character; at the utmost, I could but
give you but a very imperfect account of the impression which it has
made on my own very imperfect nature. I simply assert that the evidence
is there, and that upon you rests the responsibility of examining it.
Its effect, as I doubt not, will depend upon your moral nature; not
indeed upon your moral goodness--Christ speaks to sinners--but upon
your moral susceptibility, your capacity to discern and appreciate
moral goodness. If that character does not attract, subdue, and win
you, I freely admit all other evidence will be useless so far as your
innermost convictions are concerned. But numerous as are the cases
of individuals who have remained in, or relapsed into, a state of
scepticism from various causes, intellectual or moral, few indeed are
the cases of men who have not borne with them into that dreary region
an abiding sense of the personal and supreme goodness of Jesus.

But the more carefully you examine that character, the more forcibly
you will be struck by the fact that this Man, of whom the most special
and most distinctive characteristics are absolute truthfulness and
absolute humility, speaks throughout with an authority which involves
the assumption of a divine nature. This statement does not rest on
particular texts open to misconstruction or evasion, but on the tenor
of each and every discourse, on His acts not less than His words.
He addresses man as man's Master; He speaks as the Son of God, as
one with God. This fact is stated in strong, not to say irreverent,
terms by the author of "Ecce Homo": "During His whole public life
Jesus is distinguished from the other prominent characters of Jewish
history by His unbounded personal pretensions." Two writers, differing
widely in tone of mind, but alike in depth of thought and earnestness
of purpose, prove, were proof needed, that those pretensions are
justified by the truth of the Incarnation, and by that alone. (See the
Rev. M. F. Sadler, "Immanuel," pp. 264-309; and Mr. Hutton's "Essay
on the Incarnation.") You will, in fact, soon find that you have no
alternative but either to give up all that has wrought itself into your
moral nature, and intwined itself around the fibres of your affections,
all your convictions of the moral excellence of Jesus, or to accept
Him, even as He presents Himself, the God-man. His enemies felt this.
They persecuted Him because He made Himself, as they said truly,
equal with God. They crucified Him because He claimed the powers and
attributes of the Son of God. Modern sceptics of loftier strain feel
this keenly. They might be content to accept Him as a moral teacher;
for, in that case, they could deal with Him as their equal by nature,
receiving or rejecting His teaching as it might accord or not with
their own judgment; if they reject Him it is simply or mainly, as they
will tell you, because He claims to be more than man, and, as they well
know, to be no less than God. They ask (perhaps you will ask), how
did He justify the claim? The answer, of course, involves the whole
controversy; but I will once more state my own conviction. If you put
yourselves under His teaching, He will not leave you in doubt. You will
attain by degrees only to any real appreciation of His human goodness;
but together with the growth of that appreciation will dawn upon you
the consciousness, ever increasing in clearness and intensity, that
in Him you are gazing upon the Incarnate God. You will have a twofold
evidence: the evidence of a perfectly logical conviction, founded on
sure inferences from sure premises, upon the inseparability of truth
and goodness, self-knowledge and perfect wisdom, and the evidence of
direct intuition; you will feel yourselves in the presence of God.

And now let me read a passage which is a very remarkable attestation
to the effect produced upon a man of strong sense and thorough
independence of character, by an honest and reverent study of our
Lord's Person and teaching. You will find it in the treatise on the
Incarnation, published within the last few months, in Mr. Hutton's
Essays: "And now let me honestly ask myself, and answer the question
as truly as I can, whether this great, this stupendous fact of the
Incarnation is honestly _believable_ by an ordinary man of modern
times, who has not been educated into it, but educated to distrust
it; who has no leaning to the orthodox creed, as such, but has
generally preferred to associate with heretics; who is quite alive to
the force of the scientific and literary criticisms of his day; who
has no antiquarian tastes, no predilection for the venerable past;
who does not regard this truth as part of a great system, dogmatic
or ecclesiastical, but merely for itself; who is, in a word, simply
anxious to take hold, if he so may, of any divine hand stretched out to
help him through the excitement and the languor, the joy, the sorrow,
the storm and sunshine, of this unintelligible life. From my heart I
answer, Yes--believable, and more than believable, in any mood in which
we can rise above ourselves to that supernatural spirit which orders
the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; _more_ than believable,
I say, because it so vivifies and supplements that fundamental faith in
God as to realize what were else abstract, and, without dissolving the
mystery, to clothe eternal love with breathing life."[162]

Let me call your attention to the remarkable resemblance, of which
I believe the writer to have been unconscious, between these most
striking words and those which I quoted from Plato. What the ancient
inquirer longed for, but sought in vain, the modern has sought and
found, and with it the one and the only imaginable solution of the
mystery of life.

I speak to persons able to bring the stores of varied reading to bear
upon these questions, and we live in a time when learning has fairly
rivalled science in bringing regions of thought hitherto unknown,
or known only to solitary students, within the cognizance of men of
general cultivation. As a matter of a deep interest and importance,
I would ask you, when you have attained to a complete conception of
our Lord's Person, to compare His teaching with that of men whose
influence has been most widely and abidingly felt in the world. I will
not insult our Master by placing His name in juxtaposition with the
founder of Islamism, nor indeed would it fairly enter into the inquiry;
for if you separate the elements of truth derived from Judaism
and from Christianity, through the medium of a corrupt tradition,
the Koran will yield you but a mass of idle legends. It is indeed
the fashion at present to speak of Mahomet as "a great and genuine
prophet, with a Divine mission" (see Hutton's Essays, i. p. 277).
Now I do not doubt his sincerity at the beginning of his career, or
his steadfast adherence to the one great truth which he proclaimed;
but it must never be forgotten that he invented a special revelation
to justify indulgence in his master-sin (see the Koran, c. 66), and
that he commanded the propagation of his religion by the sword.
There are, however, three great names connected with those mighty
revolutions of thought which have permanently affected the moral or
religious convictions of mankind; I speak of them specially, because
their character and teaching were wholly uninfluenced by revelation,
and because they severally represent the highest development of
pre-Christian character: Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates. Of two
I have already spoken, and will now simply refer you to the clear
and impartial accounts given by Ampère, Francke, and Barthélemi
St. Hilaire, to justify my statement, that although, as might be
expected, in some points of their moral teaching and in their spiritual
aspirations they bear a true resemblance to Him in whom human nature
was perfectly represented, yet each of them differed, as indeed all
other men differ, from Him, in one special characteristic; each of
them is the creature of his race and of his age; the influence of each
is felt in the full development of the peculiar tendencies of his own
section of the human family; in the one case, of physical languor
and mental dreaminess; in the other, of a formal and conventional
morality, and of political unity secured by the sacrifice of all
independent action and thought. I turn to Socrates. There is a special
reason why we should direct our attention to his character. It has
at various times been brought into comparison with that of our Lord;
even when that comparison is not distinctly brought out, it is often
intentionally, or it may be unintentionally, suggested. That character
has been delineated by Mr. Jowett, in the prefaces of his translation
of the Platonic dialogues, with a sagacity beyond all praise, with an
impartiality which trenches upon indifference, not merely in questions
of merely speculative interest, but of moral concernment.[163] It is
a noble work, representing the labour of long years devoted almost
exclusively to the study of the master-mind of Greece. Socrates
there stands before us. We enter into his thoughts, we know him as
a living man. His character may indeed have undergone some change of
representation in passing through the mind of the most imaginative of
human teachers, his greatest disciple, Plato; but it is a change which
does but magnify and idealize his loftiest characteristics. Let us
see, then, in what respects this wisest and best of men, this teacher
whom the great Fathers of Christendom justly reverenced as a true
though unconscious preparer of men's spirits for the coming Teacher,
resembles, in what respects, not less than the other two, he especially
differs, from our Lord.

This strikes us at a glance. Socrates is altogether and throughout
a Greek. His intellect, his character, is Greek. The stamp of an
exclusive nationality is upon him. He has the feelings, the prejudices,
of a singularly exclusive section of an exclusive race. His code
of morals tolerates, I will not say sanctions, habits and feelings
"quite at variance," as Mr. Jowett says, "with modern and Christian
_notions_." Characters moulded to a great extent under his influence
became living embodiments of some of the worst characteristics
of heathenism, of force, pride (ὑβρις [Greek: hubris]), and
licentiousness, as, for instance, Critias, Charmides, and Alcibiades.
Exquisite and perfect as was his sympathy with all that was noble,
all that was graceful and beautiful in Hellenic culture, it went no
further. Graces which to the Christian are the very foundation of
spiritualist life, had no place, no name even, in his philosophy. I
cannot recall, among all his sayings, one that expresses sympathy
with man in his extremest degradation and misery, or indignation with
his countrymen for their treatment of their slaves. I would not be
unjust. I never turn to the pages in which his spirit breathes without
recognizing its attractions for the lover of man and the seeker after
God; but still the fact remains, and stands out more clearly the more
fully that spirit is made known, that Socrates, in his best and in his
worst characteristics, was out and out an Athenian by character, by
temperament, by moral sympathy, and by religion also, not less than
Confucius was a Chinese, and Siddartha a Hindoo.

I touch briefly on another important point Socrates was a true, honest,
earnest seeker after truth. I give this high praise unreservedly. As
such, he represents the best tendencies of Gentile thought. As an
honest seeker he had the fitting reward. So far as his search was not
impeded by moral causes to which I have alluded, it was successful.
He apprehended and taught truths of infinite value. But note this; he
had not, did not profess to have, definite convictions upon the most
important of all truths. Mr. Jowett says deliberately,[164] and as
I think truly, "Socrates cannot be proved to have believed in the
immortality of the soul." His speculations concerning a future state
of retribution, recorded doubtless with a considerable admixture
of Platonism in the Phædo, are deeply interesting; but they are
speculations only, resting partly on grounds of which he recognises the
insufficiency, or of which we cannot doubt the unsoundness. Socrates
gave what he found. He sought for life and immortality; he drew very
near to the region where they are to be found; he prepared the spirit
of man for their announcement; but he did not bring them to light That
was the work of Him who at once declares the truth, and justifies its

And now, keeping these characteristics in mind, let me ask you to
consider them in reference to our Lord's teaching. One of our most
popular and graceful writers--the Dean of Westminster--has done good
service to the truth by pointing out repeatedly the very conspicuous
and utterly peculiar characteristic of the Saviour, that He is wholly
devoid of national exclusiveness. This is the more striking since His
birth and all the circumstances of His early life would naturally have
imbued Him with the prejudices of the most exclusive of all nations: a
nation which was intended to be exclusive, which could only fulfil its
special mission by exclusiveness. Mr. Hutton puts this with his usual
force, but somewhat harshly: "To trust in Him really, to believe that
He can help us to reduce the vulgar chaos of our English life to any
order resting on an eternal basis, is far easier if we believe that
the very same mind is shining on our consciences which entered into
the poorest of lots among nearly the most degraded generation of the
most narrow-minded race that the world has ever known, and made it the
birthplace of a new earth" (Essays, vol. i., p. 283). Christ speaks
ever to man as man; His words find an echo in universal consciousness;
in Him there is neither Jew nor Gentile, and, _note specially this
point_, neither bond nor free.

At this point, however, we may be met with an objection which has
been presented with considerable skill, and appears to have seriously
affected the judgment of inquirers. It is asserted that, after all,
our Lord was but a Jewish Rabbi, differing indeed in some remarkable
characteristics from other teachers of the synagogue, but only to
an extent which may be accounted for, partly by His position and
education, and the influence of Essenian principles, partly by
peculiarity of nature and gifts which our opponents admit to have
been of the highest order, marking Him, as they would say, as a man
of transcendent genius, one of the few in the world's history in whom
men are compelled to recognise a master of the soul. Hebrew writers
of great learning, by whom this notion is gladly accepted, in their
efforts to establish it have done signal if unwitting service to our
cause. They have enabled readers of general culture and unbiassed
judgment to ascertain for themselves some important facts which were
formerly known thoroughly to those only who had sufficient learning
and leisure to enable them to penetrate into the depths of Rabbinical
literature, the most intricate and repulsive which human labour ever
produced. It is now comparatively easy to ascertain what was the true
character of the Jewish Rabbi, and of Rabbinical teaching; what, too,
was the special character of the Essenian teaching,[165] at and about
the period when our Lord impressed His stamp upon the mind of man. Now
I would challenge any controversialist to deny that our Lord's teaching
differed from that of all the Rabbis, not merely in degree, but in
kind. It differed in principle, in its processes, in its results, in
its tone, its spirit, in every essential characteristic. This was
felt at once by His hearers: the first and most abiding impression
made upon the mass of His countrymen was that He taught _not_ as the
scribes. This was the secret of the attraction which drew and retained
disciples. "_Where_ shall we go? _Thou_ hast the words of eternal
life." This was the cause of the fierce antagonism on the part of the
Rabbis. They felt that His system was incompatible with their own. The
scribe, as such, was a mechanical instrument; his authority was that
of the system under which he worked, he held the minds of his hearers
bound down and crippled by fetters by which he was himself bound even
more tightly. Properly speaking, he was not even an interpreter of the
law, with the principles of which he was little concerned, but simply
a referee on points of casuistry or of formal observance which had
been settled in past ages. The one merit which he claimed was that
of unswerving adherence to the old customs, the old interpretations,
the old applications of the law. Of all disqualifications for the
office of a scribe, the most fatal would be independence of spirit,
originality of thought or feeling. Many sayings of the Rabbis express
this principle with the utmost _naïveté_: _e.g._, "A scribe will have
no portion in the world to come, even should he be faithful to the
law of God, and full of good works, if his teaching be not wholly in
accordance with tradition." Our Lord's charge against them, that they
made the word of God of none effect by their tradition, scarcely puts
this point in a stronger light than their declaration "that it is
highly perilous for any learned man to read the Bible, since he may
be induced to trust to its guidance rather than to his teacher." For
the more advanced disciple the rule was, "that for one hour given to
the study of the Bible, two should be devoted to the Talmud." When we
read of different schools of Rabbis, and learn that they represented
different tendencies, we naturally suppose that there must have been
some movements of spirit, some struggles of moral and intellectual
spontaneity. And it is true that between the school of Shammai and
that of Hillel and the Gamaliels there was a wide divergence, the
one relaxing and the other enforcing rigorous observances, the one
encouraging, the other condemning all genial culture; but when we
compare the teaching of the two parties which is fully represented in
the Talmud, we see that the liberality of the most advanced is bounded
within very narrow limits. Hillel, the best of all, had the spirit of
his caste. Eternal life, according to him, was the portion of those who
had attained to a perfect knowledge of the unwritten and traditional
system to which he devoted his own life.

It is quite possible to cull from the Talmud, especially from one
section (the Pirke Aboth, _i.e._, decisions of the Fathers) a set
of maxims which breathe a high and grave morality, which enjoin
temperance, chastity, gentleness, love of country, earnestness in the
study of God's law, contempt for wealth, celebrity, and power; but the
general spirit is cold, formal, casuistical, and the decisions are, on
the whole, determined by considerations of interest and expediency.
In short, errors of every kind,--errors of interpretation, errors in
the foundations of moral truth, errors in the representation of God's
attributes, errors originating in the grossest superstitions, and above
all in narrow, bitter, exclusive prejudices,--bear an overwhelming
proportion to the whole compilation, and belong unquestionably to
that Talmudic atmosphere in which we are told that the pure and lofty
spirit of our Master attained its natural development. It is true
that the second portion of the Talmud, the Gemara, presents those
characteristics in an exaggerated form; but the first part, the Mishna,
is replete with a casuistry so trifling and repulsive as to make a
continuous perusal almost impossible, save to one who has some special
motive for the study. It contains not less than 4,008 mishnaioth,
that is, decisions or precepts, of which the largest proportion is
attributed to Hillel or his followers. Out of this vast collection it
would be difficult to fix upon any consecutive series of maxims, say
fifty, which would approve themselves to the moral sense.

Widely as our Lord's teaching differs from that of the Greek or
the Asiatic, far more does it differ from that of His Hebrew
contemporaries: it belongs altogether to a different sphere, the sphere
in which the human spirit was emancipated from all narrow, dark,
exclusive prejudices, and all its powers developed by that Spirit which
rested on Him without measure, which He received as man, and which He
bestowed as God.

It may be said that if the evidence supplied by knowledge of the
Person of our Lord be of itself complete and adequate for the highest
purpose, further inquiries may be dismissed as superfluous. Nor is
the remark unfair. It is, I believe, quite true that of the myriads
who accept the Christian revelation an immense proportion, including
spirits of every class, are moved chiefly, if not exclusively, by the
personal influence of Jesus, by the intuition, so to speak, which
they thus attain into the manifested truth. The sun shines with its
own lustre, and needs no evidence to prove its existence. But our
nature is full of inconsistencies. Our strongest convictions, after
all, are held with a feeble grasp, and are liable to be wrenched from
us by sudden assaults, most especially when they depend upon what
in modern parlance are called subjective impressions. It is well,
therefore, that even this strongest and deepest of all convictions
should have outward and independent support, that it should appeal to
palpable and ascertainable facts, never indeed surrendering its true
position in the central stronghold of our spirits, but going forth
when challenged, and examining at frequent intervals the state of
its defences and outposts. Let us, then, very briefly consider some
of those evidences which the Christian apologist recognizes as most
important for the confirmation of faith.

Here, undoubtedly, we have first to look at the evidence of miracles,
which has been discussed by Dr. Stoughton, and, among all miracles,
first and foremost--with which all other proofs of miraculous
intervention stand or fall--the miracle of the resurrection.[166] I
take it in this place, not as it is often taken, as an antecedent
evidence to be examined or rejected previous to examination of the
character of our Saviour; but as an evidence of which the true force is
inseparably bound up with the result of that preliminary inquiry. The
mind may indeed submit to logical inferences drawn from undisputed or
demonstrated facts, but it will submit reluctantly, and will, sooner or
later, shake off its shackles, unless those inferences accord with its
sense of moral fitness, of harmony between the outward manifestation
of power and the inward demands of conscience. All moral antecedent
objection to the resurrection of Christ disappears when it is
acknowledged that His character satisfies those conditions. The first
apologist of Christianity--St. Peter at Pentecost--puts this in the
very foreground of his argument: "God raised Him up, having loosed the
pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be holden
of it." It was impossible, considering the relation of the Son to the
Father, and of the Father to the universe. The expectation, in fact, of
the resurrection of one "approved by God" as perfect in holiness, such
as Christians believe their Master to be, is actually admitted to be
so natural that the most subtle opponents of revelation assume that it
must have existed in the minds of the first disciples, bringing them
into a state which prepared them to receive without questioning the
rumours which were gradually moulded into a semblance of historical
consistency. This theory at least proves this,--given the two facts of
God's power and justice, and of Christ's nature, as acknowledged by the
Christian, the resurrection, if proved on other grounds, will find no
obstacle to its reception in our moral consciousness.

But the very fact that such a hope exists, one which, if fulfilled,
transcends all human longings, carrying with it, as St. Paul shows,
the pledge and the only pledge of our personal redintegration, will
but make the inquirer careful to prove every link in the chain of
evidence. And here we have to remark that, so far from having that
assumed expectation, His disciples were utterly in despair after the
crucifixion. With their Master's last breath their last hope departed.
They treated the first accounts which reached them as idle, they did
not believe till they had the evidence of their senses; "then were
they glad, when they saw the Lord." It is a remarkable, not to say
unique, combination of two conditions for the perfect establishment of
an ascertainable fact, that on the one side it should be in perfect
congruity with an eternal principle, and on the other that it should
be witnessed by persons wholly unprepared for its occurrence, and
attested under circumstances which make it impossible to doubt their
sincerity. That the attestation was given, that it was confirmed by
outward effects otherwise psychologically inexplicable, by an immediate
and complete change in the character of the disciples, and by the rapid
triumph of the religion so attested, these and kindred points you
will find discussed in every treatise on Christian evidences: they
are, in fact, not open to reasonable doubt. Weigh more especially the
attestation of St. Paul, both as one who knew previously all that could
be alleged against the belief, as one whose strong intellect and strong
prejudices rendered him inaccessible to mere subjective impressions,
and as a man of whose conversion no rational, no intelligible account
has ever been given which does not involve the fact of a personal
manifestation of Christ, and then you will have all that can be needed
for steadfast conviction, evidence complete and adequate for its
purpose, proving that Jesus was shown "to be the Son of God with power
by the resurrection from the dead." (Rom. i.)

With an equal interest the student of evidence will now turn back to
the inquiry into the teaching of prophecy. At the outset it sufficed to
know the broad fact that the characteristics of the coming Christ were
believed by His contemporaries to have been announced in predictions
which, whether of divine origin or not, unquestionably moulded their
anticipations. He is now able to test their accuracy, to satisfy
himself as to their origin, and to study them with a far deeper and
more intelligent interest than would be possible without the previous
appreciation of our Lord's nature. At first his attention will
naturally be caught by separate predictions, by their correspondence
with outward occurrences in the Gospel narration; but as he
advances in the study his whole spirit will be gradually absorbed in
contemplation of their internal coherence, their unbroken continuity,
their ever progressing development. Distinct, accurate, and in the
strictest sense of the word evidential, those predictions are, taken
separately and independently; as such they are recognised by one and
all the sacred writers--by none more fully than by the two who stand
pre-eminent among the disciples of Jesus--by St Paul, who represents
the highest development of the intellectual forces in Christianity, the
acute disputant, the subtle reasoner, the spiritualist philosopher, or,
as he has been lately called, the metaphysician of Christianity--and
by St. John, whose spirit, insphered in the region of love, came into
nearest contact with the divine, who represents the very highest of
all faculties, that of spiritual intuition. Nay, those predictions
are repeatedly and distinctly recognised as conclusive evidences by
our Lord Himself. But their full significance is only discerned when
we contemplate them as parts of a mighty whole, as a continuous and
complete testimony of the Spirit of God. Two lines of light traverse
the realm of spiritual manifestation, the one revealing the divine, the
other the human characteristics of the future Saviour: the one ever
expanding, but from the beginning broad, luminous, equable; the other
advancing, so to speak, with varying progress, ever and anon bursting
out in sudden flashes, each bringing into vivid light some event in
the life, above all each event in the crowning work, of the Saviour.
These two lines gradually converge until they meet in the Incarnation.
From that point of meeting the Christian goes back; then he learns to
combine and to comprehend their intimations. Under Christ's teaching,
prophecy becomes to him a guiding light--an evidence so complete that
if it stood alone he might dispense with other proofs, and feel it
adequate for the support of his faith.

You will, however, remember that besides those predictions which apply
directly to our Lord's person, an inexhaustible treasury of predictions
refer to events in the providential history of the world, and they,
too, are strictly evidential. Even writers to whom the very word
revelation is distasteful, acknowledge in the Hebrew prophets true
seers; that is, men whose spirit was in unison with the everlasting
harmonies of the universe. But it is only when we know Christ as He
reveals Himself, as the Lord of history, that the long series of
prophetic intimations present themselves in their true light to our
minds. The exact explanation of each specific prediction, such as are
found in Isaiah and Daniel, taxes and rewards the industry of students,
but the real interest consists not in the satisfaction of a rational
curiosity, or the bearing upon controversy, but in the help which is
thus supplied, enabling us to realize vividly the presence of Christ
foreordering all events so as to make them work together for the
accomplishment of His will.

If time allowed, I might here dwell on other topics. I might point
out how deep thinkers, Pascal perhaps most powerfully, have shown
that Christianity, and Christianity alone, fully recognises the two
opposite and apparently irreconcilable aspects of our common humanity,
its unspeakable misery and degradation out of God, and its capacity
for restoration and reunion with the Divine, and, again, that it
corresponds to an extent wholly incomprehensible, save on the admission
of its divine origin, with those requirements of man's conscience and
spirit which every system of philosophy recognises, but which one and
all admit that they fail to satisfy. I might dwell upon the fact that
between the acceptance of the entire truth thus made known to us,
and utter negation of the supernatural and divine, the intermediate
positions long defended as tenable have been, both here and on the
continent, all but universally abandoned by the representatives of
modern thought. I might point out that together with that abandonment,
and as a direct result of that abandonment, a dark, drear hopelessness,
not merely as to the immediate issue of the storms which convulse the
atmosphere we breathe as spiritual, social, and intellectual beings,
but as to the future and abiding consequences of those convulsions,
appears to be settling down upon men's minds: a hopelessness for
which there is no remedy save that which depends upon the triumph
of righteousness and truth, a triumph to be achieved only under the
banner of Christ. What I have attempted to do, none can feel as I
do how imperfectly, has been to set before you in orderly sequence
facts within the reach of all; facts of which the truth and power
and far-reaching influences will be felt more and more in proportion
to the earnestness and sincerity of your own inquiry; facts which
once admitted are evidences complete in themselves, and adequate for
their purpose in each stage of our spiritual development: evidences
sufficient to constrain all who believe in God to believe also in the
Son whom He has sent; to know Him as the way, the truth, and the life.
In His school that rational conviction, retaining all its clearness,
will undergo a process at once of development and transfigurement; and
become a living faith.





Having been requested by the Committee of the Christian Evidence
Society to draw up a short paper which might serve as a partial
introduction to the Lectures, and especially might set forth their
general plan and connexion, as originally designed by the Committee, I
have much pleasure in submitting the following brief comments to the
many readers of this valuable series. The Lectures were delivered in
the course of the spring in the present year, to large audiences, in
St. George's Hall, Langham Place, and were specially designed to meet
some of the current forms of unbelief among the educated classes.

They were delivered at the request of the Christian Evidence Society,
and represent a portion of the work undertaken by the Committee of that
Society in the present year.

As they thus stand in such close connection with our Society, it may
not be unsuitable for me to make a few explanatory remarks on the
Society itself, and its general objects, as well as on the plan of the
lectures which have been delivered at its request, and which are now
presented to the reader in a collected and continuous form.

First, then, as to the Society, and its present working and design.

I. The Society was established in the spring of the past year. It had
long been felt by earnest and thoughtful persons, both Churchmen and
Nonconformists, that some combined attempt ought to be made to meet in
fair argument the scepticism and unbelief which for the last few years
have been distinctly traceable in all classes of society.

Into all the causes of this state of things it is not now our object
to inquire. These are, probably, many and various, and may defy any
formal classification. It is, indeed, seldom that those who live in
the stream and current of a quickly moving generation can properly
estimate the variously combined movements around them, or can always
very successfully refer them even to their more proximate causes. We
may, however, very profitably, as thus illustrating the general design
of the lectures, pause to advert to two or three of what would seem to
be leading causes of this present prevalence of doubt and scepticism.

We may, in the first place then, venture to express the opinion that
it does seem to stand in some degree of connection with the historical
criticism, or, to speak more exactly, with the philosophical mode
of treating ancient history, which, especially since the time of
Niebuhr, has so honourably marked the present and the latter half of
the preceding generation. It was obviously impossible that a system
which appeared to yield results judged to be eminently satisfactory and
trustworthy in regard of the general history of the past, should not be
applied to sacred history, and to the various documents which together
make up the Holy Bible. And it _has_ been applied, sometimes cautiously
and reverently, and with a due regard for the religious convictions of
Christian readers, but sometimes also with an eagerness and persistence
which may not unfairly be characterized as both inconsiderate and
unjustifiable. This method of criticism, especially in its more
unfavourable manifestations, may certainly be specified as one of the
earlier causes of that suspended belief in the historical truth of
several portions of the Old and New Testament, which many entertain at
the present time, and make no scruple of avowing and justifying.

We may also as certainly specify as a second cause the tendency to
over-hasty generalization that has of late marked the rapid development
of some of the natural sciences. From true science true religion has
nothing to fear. But it is otherwise when results newly obtained, and
at present, from the very circumstances of the case, imperfectly tested
and verified, are confidently put forward; and when inferences of
perhaps doubtful validity are set, if not in actual opposition to the
statements of Revelation, yet in such a studious juxtaposition, that
comparison is challenged, and by consequence many an early conviction
weakened and impaired. We say by consequence,--for no acute observer of
the heart and its mysteries can have failed to mark how, even in minds
of higher strain there is often a secret sympathy with the attacking
party, not so much on the merits of the case, as from the simple fact
that it _is_ the attacking party; and that while on this side there
is only the passivity of prescription, on the other there is all the
vigour of assault and progress. This obvious fact, which,--like some
other mental facts of a similar nature,--is, we fear, proved by almost
daily experience, has not been sufficiently taken into consideration;
but if estimated properly, it will account for much that is otherwise
perplexing. It will even tend to reassure us, as it will enable us to
assign to its true though hidden reason much of the present startling
readiness with which scientific inferences, supposed generally to be
unfavourable to received views, have received at least some measure
of sympathy and approval It may be, too, that this latent feeling of
sympathy with the attack will be neutralized when it is found that the
defence is not deficient in energy or vigour, and when English fair
play seems to suggest that each side should be allowed to fight it out
without having any advantages arising from prepensions or prejudice.
However this may be, there is no doubt that the cause we have specified
is a real and a prevailing one. Over-hasty scientific generalization is
certainly one of the causes of the present state of modern religious

One more cause we may also pause to specify, as it involves in it much
that will minister comfort and reassurance. This cause is the eager and
often impatient search for solid ground whereon religion and morality
may be based. With all their faults, men are now certainly seeking for
truth. There may be misapplications of historical criticism, there may
be misuses and misapprehensions of the real testimony of science, but
amid all there is clearly a searching for truth and firm ground. The
processes of destructive criticism are in fact nearly over, and the
difficult process of reconstruction is commencing. The due remembrance
of this will help us in estimating a little more calmly, and perhaps
also a little more fairly, some of the startling phenomena presented by
the present state of religious belief. Let us, for example, take for a
moment into consideration two remarkable characteristics of the present
time,--first, the attempts to form a system of morality independent of
revealed religion; and, secondly, the acceptance on the part of several
earnest and truthful minds of such a system as Positivism. These really
would seem to be at first sight two inexplicable phenomena. Both,
however, are to be accounted for by that searching for something to
rest on, which has just been mentioned. It has been assumed in the
one case, far too hastily, that the uncertainties connected with the
belief in the facts of revealed religion are so great, that no system
of morality could be considered securely founded if it rested only on
the Scriptures. It has been felt by many earnest thinkers that any
such system, to be a true one, ought to rest solely on principles
acknowledged to be of universal application, and on maxims that have
received the assent of all the better part of civilized mankind. If
the teaching of Scripture be in general harmony with such maxims and
principles, its concurrence is not to be slighted; but it is not
deemed as of more real moment than the concurrence of any other form
of religious teaching that has exercised a real influence over any
large portion of the human family. Religion generally is accepted as
a buttress to the rising edifice of morality, but as nothing further.
The tower is being builded really with the desire to reach heaven:
if the sequel be what it was of old, it may still be conceded, with
all fairness, that the attempt is not made in a bad spirit To change
slightly the allusion, the effort is not made in the spirit of the
Titans who piled Pelion on Ossa, but with all the earnestness and
anxiety of hoping, enquiring, and searching, though we are bound to
add, mistaken men.

In the other case, though it may seem to many rash to say one word
to mitigate the severity of the judgment that both is and ever will
be passed on such a system as Positivism, yet, even here, let us be
just and sympathising. There is, no doubt, in Positivism much that is
plainly repulsive, and really calls for severity; still, even in this
system, we may trace the prevailing desire to find something solid,
something which appears to be proof to the changes of opinion or the
fluctuation of creeds. So the attempt is made to secure a scientific
basis, and to place thereon fact after fact, when each has become
verified and established, and so to build onward--we cannot honestly
say upward--until something like a system is so far constructed that
succeeding generations may feel induced to continue it. So even in
this sombre and cheerless system there is, we believe, really at
work a desire to touch ground. To that desire, however, it must be
sorrowfully added, every loftier aspiration, every nobler incentive, is
necessarily sacrificed. Science and scientific truth is used in a way
that warrants the apprehension that--if such is to be the use made of
it--the progress of science may tend, first, to impair, and, next, to
obliterate, the sense of _responsibility_ on which the present and the
future alike so solemnly rest. It is not without reason, then, that
this is dwelt gravely upon by all sober thinkers; nor is it too much to
say that this is now one of the gravest considerations connected with
the advance of modern scientific investigations. The tendencies of such
investigations certainly do _appear_ to hinder the due recognition of
these two momentous principles--first, the sense of responsibility;
and, secondly, the sense of dependence on something higher than law,
order, and evolution. This hindrance, we trust, is only in appearance;
still that appearance is accepted by many as reality, and it is not
without reason that we are again and again reminded that the acceptance
of the truth of the Christian creed will with many depend on its power
of assimilating the doctrine of universal causation, or, to speak more
precisely, of demonstrating that that doctrine is itself only a form of
a yet higher and holier truth.

We turn, however, back again to the design and working of the Society.
It was established to meet this growing scepticism, and with a due
recognition of the causes which have just been specified. It was not
started, as has been sometimes said, with a little irony, for the
purpose of restoring a belief in Christianity, but for the purpose of
meeting argument with argument, and of supplying the many that are
now fluctuating between belief and no belief with sober answers and
valid arguments drawn forth anew from the great treasury of Christian
evidences. This is the true design and object of the Society. Its mode
of carrying out this design has hitherto been threefold--first, by
means of lectures addressed to the educated; secondly, by the formation
of classes under competent class-leaders, for the instruction of those
in lower grades of society who are exposed to the thickening dangers
arising from that organized diffusion of infidel principles which
is one of the saddest and most monitory signs of the present time.
Thirdly, the Society is endeavouring to stimulate private study by the
circulation of useful tracts, and by the offer of prizes to such as may
be willing that their private study should be tested by competitive
examination. All these three modes of carrying out its work have been
adopted during the present year; and, so far as can be inferred from
the work that has been done, and from the various expressions of public
opinion, with considerable success. Popular attention has naturally
been directed more especially to the first of the modes specified--the
lectures to the educated; but it is satisfactory to state, ere we pass
at once to our explanatory comments on the plan of these lectures, that
the formation of classes has answered even beyond expectation, and
that, from the amount of the competition for the prizes that have been
offered, examination in Christian evidences will form a large and most
interesting portion of the future work of the Society.

II. We may now turn our attention to the lectures that are included in
the present volume--our first year's work.

The number of the lectures was twelve. One of these, the lecture on
the Internal Evidence of the Authenticity of St. John's Gospel, is
unfortunately not included in the present volume, owing to the desire
expressed by the learned writer that it should not be published. The
absence is much to be regretted; first, on account of the value and
importance of the lecture; and, secondly, on account of the partial
break which has thus been caused in the sequence of the lectures.

The lectures were not delivered in the order in which they are here
presented to the reader. The convenience of the active as well as
distinguished men who consented to act as lecturers, had naturally to
be consulted; adjustments had to be made, and interchanges of days of
lecturing acceded to, so as to secure the continuous delivery of the
lectures on the days specified. In this collective edition, however,
the proper order is restored, and may now be briefly explained, as
some criticisms have been passed on the subjects of the lectures,
which would certainly have been modified if the whole series had been
delivered in the order originally designed.

The first three lectures were designed to be preparatory and
prelusive. They were directed against the three systems which are
now more especially, in different ways, coming into collision with
Christianity--Materialism and its theories, Pantheism, and Positivism.
It was judged by those who sketched out the plan of the lectures,
that until these subjects were shortly dealt with, and until the
objections against Christianity, founded upon them or derived from
them, were briefly noticed, the evidences for Christianity could hardly
be expected to have a fair hearing. The internal arguments in favour
of the leading truths of the Christian religion could scarcely be
fairly estimated if there were to be antecedent objections of a grave
and general character left wholly unnoticed and unanswered. Hence
the three opening lectures: The first of these breaks ground by the
consideration of some leading materialistic opinions, and especially by
an exposition of the argument from design. It thus prepares the reader
more fully to accept the deep truth so well and succinctly stated by
Bishop Martensen,[167] that the "world has not merely a cosmogonic but
also a creational origin," and that the mysterious problem of creation
and life can "never be solved in a merely natural way, but demands
a supernatural solution, that is, a solution through a _creative

The second lecture very suitably follows by a clear exposition of
that great system which has of late been found to exercise such a
fascination over thoughtful and cultivated minds that it becomes,
to far more than we may suppose, the conclusion of all controversy.
We allude to the system of Pantheism, into which of late many noble
spirits have seemed willing to merge all their hopes and all their
fears. Swayed to and fro, unable to accept Law for their God, and yet
equally held back from the blessed truth that the God of the universe
is a PERSON, thousands fall back upon the subtle and fascinating system
which supplies a moving Principle, but withholds the blessed idea of
a holy Will; which discloses to them a _natura naturans_, but denies
the existence of a loving Creator and a personal God. It was thus very
properly provided that the lecture on this subject should follow the
lecture on Design in Nature, as exhibiting the true characteristics of
that modified Atheism which only too often becomes the refuge of men
whose minds have been shaken by the inferences of pure materialism,
or who may have been drawn towards the disguised forms of it which
lurk in many of our popular treatises on the origin and evolution
of Man. After a careful study of these two lectures, the thoughtful
reader will be enabled to recognize the true nature and force of the
argument from design, and so will be led the better to appreciate the
enduring validity of that great _natural_ foundation for our belief in
a personal God. Of the four great arguments by which man is permitted
to rise to the knowledge of God, the argument from design, or, as it is
technically called, the teleological argument, is the most important,
as it, in fact, includes the moral argument, which, properly estimated,
is only its subjective aspect. Apart from revelation we rise to the
knowledge of God in two ways, by the consideration of ourselves, and by
the contemplation of the world around us; what the moral argument is
in the former method, that the teleological argument is in the latter.
Hence the importance to the general reader of having an argument of
such validity clearly set before him on different sides, and from
different points of view.

The third lecture, on Positivism, completes the first group, and forms,
as it were, a kind of useful appendix to the other two. Here we have
the investigation of a special system,--a system that professes to be
based on positive and observed phenomena, and claims to extricate the
mental study of man from metaphysics and abstractions, and to place
it in the realm of the realizable and the positive. Such a system,
though neither now prevailing to any extent, nor ever likely to become
prevalent or popular, is still worthy of attention, as it stands in
close connection with current materialistic conceptions, and suggests
some instructive contrasts to Pantheism. In the latter system we have,
at any rate, some idea of pervading Deity; but in Positivism, if we
understand the system aright, God, and all conceptions of God, are not
so much denied as simply and entirely ignored. If Pantheism be deemed
fascinating, Positivism will appear to most minds utterly repellent:
still it is a system that claims some distinguished men among its
professed exponents, and perhaps a larger number than we may suppose of
conscious or unconscious adherents. It may therefore well claim from us
investigation, and, in the position it occupies in the order of these
lectures, may fairly be considered to be in its right place.

We have dwelt upon the first group of the lectures, as both the
position and the importance of the subjects considered in it have
seemed to require a fuller notice. On the remaining groups we may speak
more briefly, as their connection and the special subjects on which
they treat are much more self-explanatory.

The first three lectures having, as it were, cleared the ground, and
having demonstrated, as we believe, successfully the untenable nature
of the systems that have been placed in competition with Christianity,
the two next lectures, which form the second group, deal with the chief
difficulties arising from the supposed conflict between science and
the Holy Scriptures. The first of these two lectures, that on Science
and Revelation, enters into the subject generally, by showing how,
on scientific considerations, a revelation was to be expected, and
how, consequently, the evidences of Christianity have a strong claim
upon the attention of every right-thinking man. The second of these
two lectures is confined to a special but prerogative case, in which
science and religion are supposed to be more particularly in opposition
to each other,--viz., the case of miracles. Here it is necessary, not
only to investigate generally the nature of the miraculous evidence
to Christianity, but fairly to face the antecedent question, whether
miracles, however defined, are not in themselves impossible. In facing
that question, however, attention is rightly called to the nature
of the weapons that are used in the conflict, and especially to the
fact, so often overlooked, that all the assaults on the miraculous
that can in any degree be deemed worthy of consideration, are carried
on only with metaphysical weapons. The whole question really turns
upon the belief in a personal God: if it be conceded that this belief
is just and reasonable, then, as the writer of the lecture rightly
observes, the presumed impossibility in reference to miracles at once
melts away. The very idea of a free-creating God carries with it the
possibility of new manifestations of the Divine will, whether in
history or nature. The sustaining power of God, which we recognise in
the form of law and orderly progress, changes whensoever it shall have
seemed good to His holy will for it to pass into the creative; His
immanent workings are then seen in the realm of the transcendental,
and the result is that which Pantheism, Naturalism, and all similar
systems must, if consistent, regard as impossible, a new movement from
the Divine centre, an epiphany of a creative and overruling will, a
wonder, a miracle. When Spinosa said that God and nature are one from
eternity to eternity, he was quite consistent in adding that there is
no transcendental beginning, and that miracles are impossible; but for
any one who believes in a personal God, or who believes nature to be
what it is,--not a system eternally fixed, but a system passing through
a development characterised by design,--to deny the possibility of
miraculous interpositions, reason and consistency must certainly, in
this particular, be suspended or sacrificed.

The third group of lectures, which may be regarded as subdivided into
two portions, naturally connects itself with, and follows, the subjects
just specified. After the general consideration of difficulties
connected with religion and Christianity, the attention of the reader
is now directed to the more special difficulties connected with the
Holy Scriptures. In the first portion of the group the subject of the
Gradual Development of Revelation, or, as the title was re-defined
by the lecturer, the Gradual Nature of Divine Revelation, properly
occupies the first place. It is followed by a lecture in which there
will be found a careful consideration of some special instances of
difficulty connected with the historical portions especially of the
Old Testament. These two lectures were to have been followed by
a consideration of the moral difficulties that have been felt in
reference to some parts of the Old Testament; but for this subject,
which, if properly treated, would have probably claimed a large share
of attention, the Committee were not able to secure the services of a
lecturer for the present year. This is to be regretted, as there is
no subject connected with the Holy Scriptures which at the present
time more requires a candid and sober consideration; no discussion
which, if fairly conducted, would do more to remove many honestly felt
difficulties, and to many minds to bring probably lasting reassurance.
Without presuming to enter, however slightly, into such a subject in
a discursive paper like the present, we will venture to make this
general remark, which perhaps may be found helpful, viz., that in
dealing with all such difficulties we must carefully distinguish
between those connected with Divine workings, and those connected with
human actions. The former are, in their real nature, utterly beyond
the finite judgment of man. All that we may presume to consider is the
way or manner in which they are brought before us by the writer, and
all that we can either safely or wisely subject to criticism are the
aspects or colouring under which they are presented. We really are
not competent to sketch out theories of Divine government, even in
the simplest matters, and with all the advantages of contemporaneous
knowledge; nay, in the lives of ourselves and those around us, there
are, as has been wisely observed, innumerable events of sorrow, and
countless circumstances of suffering, of which the economic purpose
cannot even be guessed at in our present state of knowledge, and of
the exact purposes of which no sober or reverent thinker ever dreams
of attempting to form any estimate whatever. It is thus utterly out of
the question to attempt to consider the difficulties connected with the
Divine workings, except as to the manner of their representation by
the human narrator, whose human powers were the instruments by which
God was pleased to communicate the outward facts of those workings
to the children of men. In regard of the Divine workings themselves,
especially when they come before us in the general forms of judgments
on individuals or nations, all we may presume safely to do is to
regard them as manifestations of Divine righteousness in judicial
relations or contradistinctions to the sins or transgressions of men.

In reference, however, to the moral difficulties connected with
recorded human actions, we may venture to go farther, and to take into
consideration the fact already referred to of the gradual nature of
God's revelation, and all the modifying thoughts which such a fact
brings with it.

It is thus not only right, but necessary, to accept as our guide
in all such investigations or discussions this sober spiritual
principle,--that the Old Testament must be interpreted from the
stand-point of the New Testament, and under the fuller light which is
afforded by the later dispensation. If we cling to these two great
truths--first, that the history of the past, as we find it in the Old
Testament, ever involves a reference to final purposes; and, secondly,
that every attempt to realize the deeper significance of that history
must use Christianity as its basis--we shall probably find our way
in this difficult domain of speculation as far and as safely as the
finite powers of man can be deemed capable of advancing; we shall
see as clearly as we can be permitted to see, when poor human reason
is endeavouring to survey the adorable mysteries that surround the
recorded workings of the manifold wisdom of God.

The second portion of this third group is more especially devoted to
difficulties connected with the New Testament, the first place being
naturally reserved for the questions relating to the life of our Lord
and the Gospel narrative. The first lecture is thus directed to a
consideration of the Mythical Theories of Christianity; the second
to the Evidential Value of St. Paul's Epistles. As has already been
mentioned, the lecture on St. John's Gospel, which would have occupied
a position between the two just specified, owing to the request of the
writer, has not been published, and the series in this part of it has
in consequence suffered.

The two remaining lectures, viz., that on Christ's Teaching and
Influence on the World, and that which follows it, on the Completeness
and Adequacy of the Evidences of Christianity, form the last group,
and worthily conclude the interesting series. A third lecture on the
additional strength which is brought to the evidences of Christianity
by the convergence of various lines of independent testimony, was
intended to have been added to this group, but for this important and
comprehensive subject, as in the case of another subject recently
mentioned, the Committee were not able to procure a lecturer.

The series, as above described, is now commended to the thoughtful
reader. It will be found to be marked throughout with learning,
candour, and we believe also with gentleness and sympathy. On this
last characteristic we ourselves lay great stress. If we would reclaim
the wandering, or confirm the wavering, it is not by hard words and
unkindly imputations, but by the expression of that love and gentleness
which an apostle reminds us are numbered among the fruits of the
Spirit. We must regard ourselves as far as possible in their places,
endeavour to see as they see, and feel as they feel, and then it may be
permitted to us to return from our charitable quest, bringing back the
friendly wanderers with us, and ourselves sharing some portion of that
holy joy which is felt in heaven and in earth when the doubter is led
back to belief, and the lost is found. This rightful characteristic of
all true Christian controversy is not, we believe, anywhere wanting in
this volume, and we thus, with fullest confidence, commend it to the
consideration of all who love the truth, and humbly seek it in history,
science, and theology.

Lastly, we may call attention to the encouraging fact, that in this
great work good men have agreed to forget minor differences. Among the
distinguished men whose independent lectures are now, for convenience,
gathered together in a common volume, are members of the Church
of England and members of other religious communities. It is long
that this co-operation has existed in the circulation of the Holy
Scriptures; it is recently that it has again appeared in the effort to
present those Scriptures in their most accurate form to the English
reader; it is now again happily exemplified in the present attempt to
defend and maintain the truth as it is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

These things are of good augury. Though there may be dissensions, sad
and pitiful, within the Church, and assaults made upon it from without,
often sadly characterized with the marks of political strife, yet we
may thank God that in efforts such as the present, and in the calm and
serenity of studies such as those which this volume commends, a true
union has been felt and acted on. Yes, it is a cause for thankfulness
and rejoicing that the love of Christ is more and more binding us
together in companionships of high duty and gentle sympathy, and that
reverence for His Holy Word, His Word of Life and Truth, is making
us feel that our work is a common one, and that as we have in common
freely received, so it is a blessed thing in common freely to give.

We may humbly pray then that God's gracious favour may rest on this
Course of Lectures, and may be permitted to bear a blessing to those
that read it. May they feel anew convinced in heart and spirit that
we have not "followed cunningly devised fables," but that in the Holy
Scriptures of the Old and New Testament there is light and truth, even
because they bring us nearer to Him who is the Truth, as He is the Way
and the Life, for evermore.


    _July 19, 1871._


[1] "Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences."

[2] Mr. Wallace, in the "Anthropological Journal," 1864; see also
Lubbock's "Prehistoric Times," last chapter.

[3] Moleschott, "Circulation of Life:" Letter XVIII., with Liebig's
opinion there quoted.

[4] Kant, "Metaphysics of Ethics."

[5] See, for example, Renouvier, "Science de la Morale," 1869.

[6] "Limits of Philosophical Enquiry." 1868.

[7] Nehem. ix. 6.

[8] See Duke of Argyll's "Reign of Law."

[9] Job xxvi. 14.

[10] Plutarch, "De Justitia."

[11] Buchner.

[12] See Mill on Comte, p. 62, _seq._

[13] Paroles de Philosophic Positive, p. 54.

[14] Janet refers to Nysten's Dictionnaire de Médecine, etc., by Littré
and Robin.

[15] Paroles de Philosophie Positive, p. 53.

[16] Harris's Highlands of Œthiopia, vol. iii. p. 63.

[17] While these sheets were passing through the press, I read in the
_Pall Mall Gazette_ for April 24th, as follows: One of the Communist
papers, the _Montagne_, writes: "Education has made sceptics of us;
the Revolution of 1871 is atheistic; our Republic wears a bouquet of
immortelles in her bosom. We take our dead to their homes, and our
wives to our hearts without a prayer. Priests! throw aside your frocks,
turn up your sleeves, lay your hands upon the plough, for a song to the
lark in the morning air is better than a mumbling of psalms, and an ode
to sparkling wine is preferable to a chanting of hymns. Our dogs that
used only to growl when a bishop passed will bite him now, and not a
voice will be raised to curse the day which dawns for the sacrifice
of the Archbishop of Paris. We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the
world. The Commune has promised us an eye for an eye, and has given us
Monseigneur Darboy as a hostage. The justice of the tribunals shall
commence, said Danton, when the wrath of the people is appeased; and he
was right. Darboy! tremble in your cell, for your day is past, your end
is close at hand."

[18] I use this word because if the value of faith and virtue consists
in their being a discipline, while this implies the existence of
difficulty, it also limits the degree of the difficulty.

[19] "Rudiments," so far from disproving, prove this. A rudiment shows
that nature might have given more, but has not done so. Why? Because
the further gift would have been useless, for instance, man would not
have been benefited by being able to feel with his eye-brows. (See
Darwin, "Descent of Man," i. 25.)

[20] Professor Huxley's words are, "In these groups there is abundant
evidence of variation--none of what is ordinarily understood as
progression; and if the known geological record is to be regarded as
even any considerable fragment of the whole, it is inconceivable that
any theory of a necessarily progressive development can stand, for the
numerous orders and families cited afford no trace of such a process."
(p. 245.)

[21] Darwin, "Descent of Man," i. 205.[175]

[22] It is a curious fact that these Ascidians possess a heart and a
circulation, but that after the heart has beaten a certain number of
times it stops, and then beats the opposite way, so as to reverse the
circulation. (Lay Sermons, p. 95.) In what stage of its progress did it
so degenerate as to lose this remarkable power?

[23] Darwin, "Descent of Man," i. 22.[176]

[24] There is something of this in animals just as, on the other hand,
man is not altogether devoid of instincts. I should have expected this
from the teaching of the first chapter of Genesis, which represents men
not as a distinct creation but as the last act of creation.

[25] Physically the monkey is man's superior. Anatomists assure us that
they can find no very great difference between his brain and ours. His
larynx also is as well fitted as ours to produce articulate sounds.
So far we are equal. But he has four hands, and we have but two. Read
Sir C. Bell's "Bridgewater Treatise upon the Hand," and you will
see at once that a vast superiority is implied in this. I can never
believe that when, by natural and sexual selection, a creature had been
attained possessed of four hands, nature could so degradate in her work
as to fall back upon two. No well-bred monkey would have mated with one
so deformed.[178]

[26] Lartet, quoted by Darwin, "Descent," i. 51.

[27] The body politic is in fact very much like the natural body. There
is a constant waste and a constant repair. The waste may be greater
than the repair--and in that case the body dwindles--but the repair may
be greater than the waste, in which case there is growth, progress. In
both alike real growth can only be by assimilation. The new must be
taken up into the old, and become part with it. That which is losing
vitality must be put away; but that which is to take its place must
become one with the old. After a certain time, however, natural bodies
lose their powers of assimilation, and old age and death are the
result: I cannot enter into the question how far this is also the case
with political bodies.[179]

[28] Animals brought into contact with man attain some small share in
this power. The influence of man over domesticated animals is most
remarkable. I should doubt whether a wild animal was at all capable of
making such a distinction.

[29] I have taken these words from the "Vedanta Philosophy." It teaches
that the apparent reality of this world is _māyā_, i.e., deceit,
illusion, jugglery: "naught besides _the One_ exists:" the world was
made out of nothing and is nothing. "All that is real in this visible,
is the God who is invisible." See Ballantyne's "Christianity compared
with Hindu Philosophy," pp. xxxi-xxxvii, 43-50.

[30] It is the examination of these moral and spiritual faculties which
makes it so probable that man possesses something more than a highly
organised body and mental powers, which, though superior in degree, are
still of the same kind as those possessed by the animals. And it should
be remembered that the proof that man possesses a soul, and that the
soul is immortal, is entirely independent of revelation. It is based
upon the intelligent study of the facts of psychology. If, however, it
is said that man does not really possess, but only seems to possess
these faculties, I answer that then nature is a mere deceiver, and its
works a sham: and that, consequently, all physical science would be the
study of the illusive.

[31] Though we draw a distinction between the natural and the
supernatural, this distinction is tenable only when we look at things
from below, and not when we look at them from above. We call those
processes natural of which we know or might know the secondary causes.

[32] It is no argument against revelation that it does not make us all
holy and devout. It is not the law of this present state of things that
all men attain to the highest possible physical and mental excellence.
All that we can say is, that they ought to aim at nothing less. So
neither do all men attain to moral and religious excellence. Equally it
ought to be their aim; but why they so often fail in attaining to it is
more than any one can answer. The failure of individuals to attain to
the highest good possible for the species is one of nature's universal
laws. Why this present state of things is so constituted is a mystery,
which cannot be solved here; but which will certainly be solved when we
have the perfect knowledge promised us in 1 Cor. xiii. 12.

[33] Professor Huxley considers that man is a bungle. At all events he
would be glad to be "turned into a sort of clock, and wound up every
morning before he got out of bed," on condition that he should always
"think what is true, and do what is right." (Lay Sermons, p. 373.) I
suppose this means that we should like to be governed by very perfect
instincts, but I question whether he would not find his new kind of
life dull. At present both right thinking and right doing require of
him an effort, which, from the spirit of his writings, I should think
he enjoys. But, after all, what he says has a true foundation. Sin
is not a necessary part of man's lot. It cleaves to him because he
is fallen; and this world apparently offers us a state of moral and
religious discipline, by the aid of which, in a future state, we shall
be free from sin. But those who do not wish to retrograde would prefer
to have this freedom by the force of perfected habits than by the force
of instinct.

[34] "Essays and Reviews" (Baden Powell), p. 133. The italics are mine,
simply to call attention to the point of the quotation.

[35] De Gen. An. II. iii. 10. See article by Sir Alexander Grant in the
_Contemporary_, May, 1871, p. 277.

[36] Since writing the above, I have lighted on the following passage
in an able university sermon by one of the lecturers in the present
course. I am glad to confirm what had struck my own mind, by quoting
the words of so careful a reasoner. In reference to philosophic doubts
directed against the idea of design, and the analogy between human
and natural productions, he remarks: "This is evidently a very hard
question, and if it properly belonged to the province of physical
inquiry I should shrink from hazarding any investigation of its merits.
But the question has overstepped the boundary of such sciences, and
become a branch of philosophy. I may seem obscure in making this
assertion, but you will see its truth if you consider for a moment the
limit which divides science from philosophy. Sciences are often content
to accept their principles, the lower from the higher (as Aristotle
puts the case) in an ascending scale up to metaphysic, which, if it is
anything at all, is the philosophy of first grounds so far as they are
discoverable. While the various kinds of inquiry assume their several
grounds as postulates, each keeps its separate and subordinate place.
But one prime impulse of the human mind is unification, and thus, in
every science, there springs up a tendency to ground itself. The moment
this attempt is made, a science becomes a philosophy, and must be
tested by the ordinary criteria of philosophic procedure."--_Right and
Wrong_, by the Rev. W. Jackson, M.A.

[37] _Westminster Review_, Oct., 1860. Art. on New Christianity.

[38] Mill's "System of Logic," ii., 160.

[39] "The argument in Hume's celebrated Essay on Miracles was very far
from being a new one. It had, as Mr. Coleridge has pointed out, been
distinctly indicated by South in his sermon on the incredulity of St.
Thomas; and there is a remarkable statement of much the same argument
put into the mouth of Woolston's Advocate, in Sherlock's Trial of the
Witnesses."--Art. on Miracles in Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible."

[40] See Martensen's "Christian Dogmatics," 222.

[41] I must here refer to Dorner's "Doctrine of the Person of Christ,"
where evidence is afforded of what I say.

[42] See again Martensen's "Christian Dogmatics," 220.

[43] I would also mention "The Divine Origin of Christianity," by John
Sheppard. A work less known than it deserves to be.

[44] Wagenseil's Confutation of the Toldoth Jeschu: Sheppard's "Divine
Origin of Christianity," ii. 205, _et seq._

[45] Lessons on Christian Evidence, 33.

[46] Celsus in Orig., L. i., § 28.

[47] Hieron, T. ii. 334.

[48] Cyril contra Jul., L. vi., p. 191. See, respecting these and
similar passages, Lardner's Credibility, vii. 225, 442, 627.

[49] "Essays and Reviews" (Baden Powell), 107.

[50] That Rénan should treat the Resurrection of Lazarus as a pious
fraud, and the one moral blot in the story of Christ, is the greatest
literary, as well as moral, blot in his "Vie de Jésus." See Hutton's
Essays, i., 297.

[51] See Art. on Miracles in Smith's Dic.

[52] Niebuhr's "Lebensnachrichten," quoted in Luthardt's "Apologetic
Lectures," 200.

[53] Mozley's "Lectures on Miracles," 120.

[54] "Lectures on Miracles," 5.

[55] Coleridge's "Friend," iii., 104-6.

[56] Dr. Vaughan's "Christ the Light of the World," 172.

[57] Ad. Gen. 1. i. c. 42, _et seq._

[58] Inst. L. iv. c. 25.

[59] Dorner, in his _Person of Christ_ (Clark's Trans.), ii. 254,
dwells upon this subject as unfolded by Athanasius. See also
Athanasius' third discourse against the Arians, § 32.

[60] In Johan. Evan. Tract, 16, 24, 49.

[61] See Brachet's "Dictionnaire Etymologique," sub voc: _Developper_.

[62] "Essay on Development," page 35.

[63] I will here quote the words of a great man, who has for many years
been one of the chief scientific ornaments of this country, and whose
departure from this life, at the ripe age of seventy-nine years, I see,
with much sorrow, recorded in the _Times_ of this day.

Speaking of the manner in which the universe has come into its present
condition, and is preserved in that condition, and of the possibility
of collision amongst the constituent bodies, Sir John Herschel says:
"Ages, which to us may well appear indefinite, may easily be conceived
to pass without a single instance of collision, in the nature of a
catastrophe. Such may have gradually become rarer as the system has
emerged from what must be considered as its chaotic state, till at
length, in the fulness of time, and under the pre-arranging guidance
of that DESIGN which pervades universal nature, each individual may
have taken up such a course as to annul the possibility of further
destructive interference."--_Outlines of Astronomy_, p. 600.

I quote these words for the sake of the phrase which they contain,
and the importance of which it is impossible to exaggerate, "The
pre-arranging guidance of that DESIGN which pervades universal nature."

[64] "Le Genie du Christianisme," Bk. iv., chap. v.

[65] "Descent of Man," p. 208.

[66] Report of Evidence, 1870:--

Q. 376. I thought you said Bishop Butler had been excluded?--It is
not excluded, but being an optional subject it is one that has been

Q. 377. Why?--He is gone out of fashion; I do not know why.

Q. 378. Who makes the fashion?--I suppose the particular set of
examiners at one time.

Q. 379. What are the works of Bishop Butler which have so gone out of
fashion?--The Analogy and the Sermons were the books which we used to
take up.

[67] The subject of this Lecture is touched upon, but not expanded,
in the following pregnant passage of Butler's _Analogy_: "The thing
objected against this scheme of the Gospel is, that it seems to suppose
God was reduced to the necessity of a long series of intricate means
in order to accomplish His ends, the recovery and salvation of the
world: in like sort as men, for want of understanding or power, not
being able to come to their ends readily, are forced to go roundabout
ways, and make use of many perplexed contrivances to arrive at them.
Now, everything which we see shows the folly of this, considered as
an objection against the truth of Christianity. For, according to our
manner of conception, God makes use of a variety of means, what we
often think tedious ones, in the natural course of providence, for the
accomplishment of all His ends. Indeed, it is certain there is somewhat
in this matter quite beyond our comprehension: but the mystery is as
great in nature as in Christianity."--_Analogy_, Part II., chap. iv.

[68] Philos. of Univ. Hist. i. p. 191.

[69] Manuel d'Histoire, tom. ii. p. 16.

[70] Zeitschrift f. Œgypt. Sp. Nov. 1868.

[71] Colenso. "The Pentateuch and the Book of Joshua."

[72] Gen. xlvi. 27; compare Ex. i. 5.

[73] Gen. xlvi. 7.

[74] Gen. xlvi. 5. The word _taph_ (טף) here, translated "little ones"
means "households." The Septuagint translate it by οἰκία [Greek: oikia]
or συγγένεια [Greek: sungeneia].

[75] Payne Smith, "Bampton Lectures." p. 89.

[76] History of Old Covenant, vol. ii. p. 149. E. T.

[77] Ex. xii. 40, 41.

[78] Essay on Population, vol. i. p. 8; Encycl. Brit. vol. xviii. p.

[79] It was on the 5th of January, 1771, the _day_ appointed by the
high priests, that Oubacha began his march, _with seventy thousand
families_. Most of the hordes were then assembled in the steppes,
on the left bank of the Volga, and _the whole multitude followed
him_."--Hommaire de Hell, Travels, p. 227, E. T.

[80] Num. xxxi. 32, 33.

[81] F. Newman's "Hebrew Monarchy," pp. 160, 161.

[82] "Dictionary of the Bible," ad voc. SHISHAK.

[83] "Geographische Inschriften," vol. ii., p. 32, _et seq._

[84] 2 Kings xv. 19.

[85] 2 Kings xxiii. 29; Ezra vi. 22.

[86] Isaiah xx. 1.

[87] 2 Kings xvii. 6; xviii. 7, 11.

[88] Von Lengerke, "Das Buch Daniel; Einleitung," § 13; p. lxiii.
"De Wette, Einleitung in d. Abte Testament," p. 225, a; Davison,
"Introduction to the Old Testament," vol. iii. pp. 174-192.

[89] 2 Kings xxv. 23.

[90] Dan. iii. 2. אתשדרפניא translated in our version, "princes," but
really the Hebrew equivalent of the Persian _khshatrapa_, "satraps."

[91] Dan. v. 31.

[92] Dan. ix. 1.

[93] See Pusey's "Lectures on Daniel," pp. 124, 125. 3rd edition.

[94] H. N. vi. 27.

[95] Dan. v. 11.

[96] Herod. iii. 31.

[97] De Wette, "Einleitung," p. 267.

[98] Ibid. loc. cit.

[99] Gen. xli. 42, 43.

[100] Dan. v. 29.

[101] Strauss, "Leben Jesu," § 32.

[102] Strauss, "Leben Jesu," § 44.

[103] See Krafft, "Topografie Jerusalems," Inscr. 29.

[104] Strauss, L. J. § 32.

[105] Ibid. § 34.

[106] Those who wish to see the cumulative force of the entire argument
will find it in "the Jesus of the Evangelists." It is impossible to
compress its reasonings.

[107] See Appendix to "St. John's Testimony to Christ," in Professor
Leathes' Boyle Lectures. No one who has not read this can form an idea
of the extent of similarity of thought and expression to the fourth
Gospel which underlies the Synoptics.

[108] To give precision to the argument, it is necessary to determine
its definite character. But it is impossible to do so within the limits
of a single lecture.

[109] "Jesus of the Evangelists," chap. x.

[110] See "Jesus of the Evangelists," chap. v.

[111] "Jesus of the Evangelists," p. 381. The entire collection of
apocryphal Gospels has been translated by Mr. Cowper. I am sure
that their perusal will greatly confirm our faith in the historical
character of the true. The order of mind which invented the one could
not have invented the other.

[112] "Jesus of the Evangelists," chap. xvii.

[113] Acts xxiv. 27.

[114] 1 Cor. xv. 6.

[115] 1 Cor. xv. 12.

[116] 2 Cor. v. 17.

[117] For evidence as to the authenticity of this Gospel see the Boyle
Lectures for 1870, "The witness of St. John to Christ."

[118] 1 Cor. xv. 4.

[119] 1 Cor. xi. 27.

[120] 1 Cor. xv. 4.

[121] 1 Cor. xv. 5-8.

[122] 1 Cor. xv. 9.

[123] 2 Cor. xii. 2.

[124] 1 Gal. ii. 1, and i. 18.

[125] Gal. ii. 20.

[126] Rom. vi. 10.

[127] Rom. vi. 23; i. 3, 4.

[128] Rom. xv. 23.

[129] Rom. i. 8.

[130] Rom. i. 4; vi. 6-9; viii. 34.

[131] Rom. viii. 14, 16, 17.

[132] Rom. v. 1.

[133] Rom. i. 3, 4.

[134] Rom. vi. 3; 1 Cor. i. 13; Gal. iii. 27; cf. 2 Cor. i. 22.

[135] 1 Cor. xi. 23.

[136] 1 Cor. xi. 26.

[137] 1 Cor. i. 17.

[138] Gal. i. 13.

[139] St. Matt. xxviii. 15.

[140] Gal. i. 15, 16.

[141] Acts xxviii. 24.

[142] Acts xxvi. 8.

[143] It must always be remembered that Mohammed learned the best of
his morals and his theology from Jews or Christians.

[144] In answer to this theory of development or afterthought it may
be said that all the early records, the writings of the Apostles and
Evangelists, the writings of the Apostolic fathers, are clear about
the Godhead of Christ. It was comparatively late that doubters arose,
heretics like Cerinthus and Theodotus, and philosophic Christians like
Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen, accepting the gospel
indeed, but diluting it by their reasonings upon it.

[145] The arguments here considered are those propounded in Lecky's
"History of European Morals."

[146] The terrible scenes just enacted, and even now enacting, in
Paris, almost seem to contradict my words concerning mercy in war,
words written and even printed before Paris was burned and wasted.
But let us remember that eighty years ago France threw away its
Christianity, and took Atheism for its creed; that in the last fifty
years it has been slowly and painfully recovering its faith; that
Paris has been the centre of the unbelief of Europe; that so, a large
portion of its inhabitants have grown up utterly without religion;
that, according to a friendly witness, "the people of Paris believe not
in any God, nor in any man;"[147] or, according to another statement,
"the Communists acknowledge no God, no man, no faith, no hope, nothing
but better wages and more pleasure;"[148] that the chief perpetrators
of the horrors of the past week not only abhorred Christianity, but
murdered priests, only because they were ministers of Christ, and
proclaimed Atheism and Materialism to be the very basis of their
theory, both in politics and in life. There is nothing to surprise
us when we find that those who deliberately cast off religion and
humanity, faith in God, and faith in man, fall lower than those who are
simply ignorant of the true principles of either. Atheists in the midst
of faith are very likely to be much worse than heathens.

[147] _Fortnightly Review_, quoted in _Times_, May 31, 1871.

[148] _Times_, May 31, 1871.

[149] Maclear's "History of the Christian Missions in the Middle Ages,"
p. 417. Macmillan, 1863.

[150] "Ecce Homo," p. 71. Second edition, 1866.

[151] Platon. Symposium. Steph. iii., 220.

[152] Midway stands Anselm, the father of modern metaphysics, with the
scientific demonstration of the two fundamental truths of all religion,
the existence of God and the Incarnation.

[153] Pascal, "Fragmens d'une Apologie du Christianisme," in the 2nd
vol. of "Pensées du Blaise Pascal." Paris, 1814.

[154] Luthardt (Apologetische Vorträge, in two parts), presents in a
form peculiarly adapted for general readers, a very complete survey
both of the internal and external evidences. Steinmeyer, Apologetische
Vorträge, in three parts, discusses the historical evidence for the
miracles, the death and the resurrection of our Lord, with special
reference to the latest criticisms. Delitzsch's System der Christlichen
Apologetik is of a more exclusively philosophical and dogmatic
character. It has been reviewed in the Studien u. Kritiken, by Dr.
Sack, of Bonn, whose own work, Christliche Apologetik, 1841, is one of
the best on the whole subject of evidences.

[155] It is well known that both Jews and Gentiles admitted that the
works were wrought, though they denied that the power came from God.
Superstition, then as ever, opposed the faith of which it is the

[156] The most interesting and accessible accounts of this man are
given by M. Barthélemi S. Hilaire, "Le Bonddha et sa Religion;" and by
M. Ampère, in "La Science et les Lettres en Orient." Siddartha lived
about the end of the seventh century, B.C. The name "Sakya
Monni" is an appellative, meaning the monk or hermit of the Sakyas, the
royal race to which he belonged. The true end of all philosophy and
religion in his system is to enter into Nirvana, _i.e._ (according to
M. Eugène Burnouf, the highest authority on this subject), the complete
annihilation, not only of the material elements of existence, but
also, and more specially, of the thinking principle. In this view the
majority of Oriental scholars agree; the few who differ, as Colebrook
does, identify Nirvana with an endless and dreamless sleep. See M.
S. Hilaire, l.c., p. 133. M. Ampère (p. 215) thus characterizes the
system, "La fin suprème de l'homme â été de perdre le sentiment de son
moi, de renoncer à sa liberté, de s'élever au dessus des affections les
plus pures, d'arriver à un état, où il ne restât plus que le _vide_."

[157] The four books of Khung-fu-tseu were written in the second half
of the sixth century, B.C. They contain the religions and philosophy
of China in a dogmatic form. The second book, called "Tchung yung,"
represents most fully his moral code, of which the principle is
obedience to natural reason, and the rule is observance of the _via
media_, with due regard to times and circumstances. In one passage,
ccxi., iv., Confucius says a man of strong virtue goes beyond this _via
media_ which prescribes indifference and exact conformity to natural
law. For a just appreciation of the Confucian system, the reader may
consult M. Ampère, "La Science et les Lettres en Orient," p. 98 ff.

[158] For a very remarkable echo of this passage, showing the depth
and permanence of such feelings, see the words of Mr. Hutton, quoted
further on.

[159] Dante, Inferno, c. iv.

[160] Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians, accepted by all the Tübingen
School. (See Mr. Leathes' lecture.)

[161] In addition to the well-known work of Tischendorf, and German,
French, and English commentaries, attention may be called to a valuable
treatise by P. H. de Groot, of Groningen, "Basilides als erster Zeuge
des Johannesevangeliums." Leipzig, 1868. The internal evidence has
already been discussed by Dr. Lightfoot, who promises a complete
treatise on the subject, with which no one can deal more effectively.
Some good points are made by Mr. Hutton in Essays, vol. i.

[162] Essays Theological and Literary, by R. H. Hutton; vol. i., p. 282.

[163] Notice the faint condemnation, if it be a condemnation at all, of
the peculiar shame of Athens, as "greatly at variance with modern and
Christian _notions_, but in accordance with Hellenic sentiment" (vol.
i., p. 482, and compare p. 555).

[164] See the preface to the Republic, in vol. ii. Compare also the
words of Socrates on his trial (p. 40 in the Greek, vol. i., p.
354, Jowett); they probably represent his views more truly than the
brilliant speculations in the Phædo. One alternative which he seems
disposed to accept, viz., that death may be "a sleep like the sleep of
him who is undisturbed by dreams," resembles very nearly the Nirvana of

[165] Ritschl shows very conclusively that the Essenian principle was
even more exclusive than the Rabbinical, and more antagonistic in
principle to Christianity. See Altkatholische Kirche, pp. 179-203.

[166] Within the few last months, Steinmeyer has published a treatise
on the history of the resurrection, with reference to the latest
criticisms, which I would commend to readers of German. Serious
attempts have been made in England to disjoin this cardinal truth
from the doctrinal system of St. Paul, attempts which seem passing
strange on the part of critics who accept him as a thoroughly truthful
man, nay, as an inspired apostle, and who must know that he makes
the resurrection the very centre or foundation of his teaching. Even
Hegel, the very Corypheus of idealism, declares "Die Auferstehung
gehört wesentlich dem Glauben an;" _i.e._, the resurrection belongs
essentially to the faith. See "Die Philosophie der Religion," p. 300.
In a note on the same page, Hegel shows that he takes it as a real
objective event: "wie alles Bisherige in der Weise der Wirklichkeit für
das unmittelbare Bewusstsein zur Erscheinung gekommen, so auch diese

[167] Christian Dogmatics, § 63. (Clark.)





[168] "Does any one fancy that he sees a solid cube? It is easy to
show that the solidity of the figure, the relative position of its
faces and edges to each other, are inferences of the spectator--no
more conveyed to his conviction by the eye alone than they would be if
he were looking at a painted representation of a cube. The scene of
nature is a picture without depth of substance, no less than the scene
of art; and in the one case, as in the other, it is the mind which, by
an act of its own, discovers that colour and shape denote distance and
solidity. Most men are unconscious of this perpetual habit of reading
the language of the external world, and translating as they read.
The draughtsman, indeed, is compelled, for his purposes, to return
back in thought from the solid bodies which he has inferred, to the
shapes of surface which he really sees. He knows that there is a mask
of theory over the whole face of nature, if it be _theory_ to infer
more than we _see_. But other men, unaware of this masquerade, hold
it to be a fact that they see cubes and spheres, spacious apartments,
and winding avenues. And these things are facts to them, because they
are unconscious of the mental operation by which they have penetrated
nature's disguise....

"Our sensations require ideas to bind them together; namely, ideas of
space, time, number, and the like. If not so bound together, sensations
do not give us any apprehension of things or objects. All things, all
objects, must exist in space and in time--must be one or many. Now
space, time, number, are not sensations or things. They are something
different from, and opposed to, sensations and things. We have
termed them ideas. It may be said they are relations of things, or of
sensations. But granting this form of expression, still a _relation_ is
not a thing or a sensation; and therefore we must still have another
and opposite element, along with our sensations....

"We are often told that such a thing is _a fact_--a fact, and not a
theory,--with all the emphasis which, in speaking or writing, tone or
italics or capitals can give. We see from what has been said, that when
this is urged, before we can estimate the truth, or the value of the
assertion, we must ask to whom is it a fact? what habits of thought,
what previous information, what ideas does it imply, to conceive the
fact as a fact? Does not the apprehension of the fact imply assumptions
which may with equal justice be called theory, and which are perhaps
false theory? in which case the fact is no fact. Did not the ancients
assert it as a fact, that the earth stood still, and the stars moved?
and can any fact have stronger apparent evidence to justify persons in
asserting it emphatically than this had?"--_Whewell's Philosophy of the
Inductive Sciences_, 2nd ed., vol. i., p. 42, _seq._

That the solidity of figures is in truth given by mental judgment, has
been often proved experimentally; see for examples, Huxley's Elementary
Physiology, Lesson x., 13-16. The experiment with a coin, lens and pin,
p. 259, is easy as well as conclusive, but Wheatstone's Pseudoscope
more surprising to most observers. Compare on this curious subject
Brewster's Natural Magic, Letter v.

[169] It is important to bear in mind that, from an admitted
incompetency of our faculties to _know_ the absolute, we cannot infer
an impossibility of knowing its _existence_. To know that a thing _is_,
and to know _what_ it is, are two totally distinct degrees and sorts of
knowledge. The moment this distinction is stated, every one sees its
truth; but many persons omit stating it to themselves when they reason
upon these difficult subjects.

Ravaisson, after giving a brief account of Herbert Spencer's opinion,
goes on to say: "Comment il y a, au fond de toute connaissance, un
absolu, auquel correspond, comme son opposé, le relatif, c'est ce
qu'établissait, il y a plus de vingt siècles, contre une doctrine
déjà régnante alors de relativité et de mobilité universelles, la
dialectique platonicienne, qui fraya le chemin à la metaphysique.
Elle faisait plus: elle montrait que par cet absolu seul les relations
sont intelligibles, parce qu'il est la mesure par laquelle seule
nous les estimons. La métaphysique, entre les mains de son immortel
fondateur, fit davantage encore: elle montra que cet absolu, par lequel
l'intelligence mesure le relatif, est l'intelligence même. C'est ce
que redisait Leibniz, lorsque, à cette assertion, renouvelée de la
scolastique par Locke, qu'il n'était rien dans l'intelligence qui
d'abord n'eût été dans le sens, il répondait: "sauf l'intelligence,"
et que, avec Aristote, il montrait dans l'intelligence la mesure
supérieure du sens."--_Rapport_, p. 66.

Ravaisson then gives interesting extracts from Sophie St. Germain, and
proceeds to show how Comte, without admitting any self-contemplating
intelligence, and thus inferring the possibility of an Absolute,
did in fact pursue the idea of Unity, and extended this idea to the
universe,--a principle which, if fully grasped, must be fatal to
Positive views. "D'accord maintenant avec Platon, Aristote, Leibniz,
il déclarait que l'ensemble étant le resultat et l'expression
d'une certaine unité, à laquelle tout concourt et se co-ordonne
et qui est le but où tout marche, c'est dans cette unité, c'est
dans le but, c'est dans la fin ou cause finale qu'est le secret de
l'organisme."--_Rapport_, p. 76.

A special interest attaches to the work of Ravaisson as an
authoritative French rating of the philosophic exchange between England
and France. It is almost unnecessary to refer for a less abstract
account of these relations to the widely known writings of M. Taine.

[170] It should have been stated in the text, as it was in the
delivered lecture, that these questions were not forgotten by the
eminent Professor. The passages referred to will be found in his
eloquent address on the "Scientific use of the Imagination," p. 47,
_seq._, or in his volume of collected Essays, p. 163, _seq._ The reader
may observe that, both in Professor Tyndall's pages and two sentences
back in this lecture, Development is spoken of as a process or law in
operation. The various kinds of philosophy which may be engrafted on
such a law are severally determined by whatever reply is given to the
questions above suggested. It would seem inappropriate here to state
the possible relations between a law of development and such consequent
(or inconsequent) philosophies. Those who wish to consider them the
writer may refer to his little volume entitled "Right and Wrong," for a
brief discussion of this subject, and more particularly for the results
to natural theology.

The following German sketch of an evolution-philosophy may not be
without interest:--"Vermöge einer ewigen Kreisbewegung entstehen als
Verdichtungen der Luft unzählige Welten, himmlische Gottheiten, in
deren Mittelpunkt die cylinderförmige Erde ruht, unbewegt wegen des
gleichen Abstandes von allen Punkten der Himmelskugel. Die Erde hat
sich aus einem unsprünglich flüssigen Zustande gebildet. Aus dem
Feuchten sind unter dem Einfluss der Wärme in stufenweise Entwickelung
die lebenden Wesen hervorgegangen. Auch die Landthiere waren anfangs
fischartig und haben erst mit der Abtrocknung der Erdoberfläche ihre
jetzige Gestalt gewonnen. Die Seele soll Anaximander als luftartig
bezeichnet haben."

Anaximander of Miletus was born about B.C. 610. Consequently he ranks
early among European theorizers on development. The extract is from
Ueberweg's Grundriss, t. 1, p. 40. Cf. Plutarch de Placit. v. 19, and
Sympos viii. qu. 8, with Euseb. Præp. Evang. i. 8.

[171] The sight of a dualism apparently insoluble never fails to
suggest some such questions as these: Was it always so? will it be so
always? and were I at the centre of the universe, should I see it so

There are three possible ways of conceiving otherwise: 1, by reducing
mind to matter; 2, by reducing matter to mind; 3, by comprehending both
under a higher unity.

We need only write down these issues for common sense to perceive that
Nos. 1 and 2 arise from, and end in one-sided speculation. A man who
lives shut up amongst machinery is apt to think of his own mind as a
machine. Great chemists have ere now taken the human stomach for a
laboratory, and were slow in awakening to those physiological facts
which put the vital processes of assimilation in a nobler and truer
light. Comte began by reducing all sciences to mathematical elements.
Afterwards he discovered that to explain a higher order of things by a
lower is the essence of materialism.

To a meditative spirit, the inner world is nearer than the outer;
and therefore the evidence of its reality is stronger by wanting the
weakness of a second link. But active life brings home to us the
existence of both; we suffer by defying or neglecting the laws of
either; and pain and sorrow are often the advanced guard of much stern
unyielding truth. In a world where we all endure the friction of things
external, it is hard not to believe in objective as well subjective

The truth is, that the primary question belongs to the practical
reason, and can be settled by no other criterion. There is a
philosophical maxim that we can never speak of the Divine univocally,
but only by analogy, figure, or similitude; the cause being that all
attributes belonging to the Infinite require words which, if taken
literally, must land us in self-contradiction. How vivid an idea do
we gain of Omniscience or Omnipotence by saying that it is "a circle
of which the centre is everywhere, the circumference nowhere." And
what signifies the obvious inconsistency? Deny the Infinite, try to
find a place for its centre or circumference, and the inconsistency
remains, together with a host of absurd consequences. When of two
hypotheses both cannot, but one must be true, and either position lands
us in logical inconsistency, it is easy to see that our theoretical
understanding will never clear up the inexplicable issue. A rule
by which we live and act becomes the surest touchstone of truth or

Let us see whether the two worlds in which we live can be practically
treated as one. Suppose a bivouac into which a shell descends, certain
in another moment, by physical law, to explode. Is the moral law--the
effort of this man or that man to escape--equally certain? Arguing
abstractedly, most people would hold it so, yet we know that the fact
lies otherwise. There is a fatalism among soldiers--"every bullet has
its billet"--as there is among nurses who believe that every epidemic
must kill its destined prey. One may have trained himself to wish for
death, another is indifferent, a third so undecided that he leaves the
event to a doctrine of chances, a fourth is simply capricious. Each by
a course of life and action has made or modified his present moment for
choice, and any one may or may not draw back from the coming peril. Had
the falling shell been a splash from a carriage wheel, every man would
have shrunk from it. The latter risk is too simple for human ponderings
or human self-direction, and in such cases people act by a proximate
straightforward instinct.

But on what principles must he who shrinks from either risk really
proceed? He is sure that his own movements are in his own power and
contingent. He is equally sure that the movements of shell or mud are
absolutely determined in calculable curves, and not at all contingent.
Acting on these two conjoint data, he succeeds in avoiding death or
dirt; and, whatever theorists may write, he would have perilled his
success by acting otherwise. Nay, what is much to our purpose, all
theoretical men would themselves act upon the like assumption in all
cases of practical consequence and emergency.

Suppose dualism banished from the world in fact as well as in theory,
the problems of education ought to be as demonstrable as those of
geometry or chemical experiment. The paths of men and of comets being
equally calculable, because equally subject to uniform law, how
comes it that biography and history abound in the records of grossly
falsified predictions? Let the courses of nations be tabulated, and
statesmanship is made easy. We must owe it to some egregious oversight
that criminal punishments are not invariably deterrent. Perhaps the law
of the strongest motive has been neglected; if so, re-enact the code of
Draco, and virtue will become universal. Till then the supposition must
continue only an unverified hypothesis.

If we go back to our starting-point, and ask, can the practical dualism
be reduced to a higher unity? our answer must confess a present
condition of ignorance. We are so far from knowing what constitutes
the thing we call matter, or what the entity we feel within us--our
soul or mind--really is, that we cannot tell how they act and react on
each other. We fail in tracing our own sensations from their outward
antecedents to their impression on our consciousness; and, _vice
versâ_, we cannot follow our energies from the springs of our volitions
outward. While thus baffled, the longed-for unity floats before our
inward eye like a dim vision of that intuitive faculty which pronounces
subject and object to be ultimately identical, or as a revelation of
that religious faith which accepts the incomprehensible, and reposes in
the bosom of God.

[172] Since Comte's time it has been shown that mental development is
no very difficult process, _provided_ we assume that several principles
which consciousness distinguishes and sometimes places in antagonism,
may be treated as equivalents, and be resolved into each other
interchangeably. For example, we have been apt to reverence those who
suffered the loss of all things rather than accept the Expedient as the
Right, and who died resolute in disallowing the rule of policy to be
pleaded _in foro conscientiæ_. We have also in common parlance asserted
a distinction between these two principles, while holding that the one
claims the other for its assured attendant. Honesty, we said, is the
best policy; and we never meant thereby that thorough policy is the
best policy. What we did mean was that a regard to expediency fails of
the success which a straightforward observance of right deserves, and
will at last obtain. But to make mental development easy, antitheses
must appear fluent, the noble be convertible with the useful, the
human with the merely animal. Thus, when Comte adored Clotilde, and
Dante immortalized Beatrice, they rehearsed for a millionth time the
loves of preadamite plants. Coleridge used to maintain that the test
of a philosophy was its ultimate coincidence with common sense. In
the theories under consideration, right is philosophically resolved
into the greater happiness of the greater number, and this equivalent
exactly coincides with the common sense of starving thinkers who are
possessed by a fixed idea that the happiness of the impoverished many
is promoted by an opportune pillage of the wealthy few.

It is less easy to verify mental development than to theorize upon
it, yet verification may not be impossible! If disbelief in a future
life, denial of responsibility, duty, and morality, as opposed to
expediency, make sufficient way in the world, and if practice harmonize
with speculation, progress may become more evidently regress, and Man
be proved a brute animal at last. The promising events in France are
patent to every one; a less known, but still more encouraging fact,
which we learn on scientific authority, is that certain Basuto tribes
have lately adopted the (to them) novel custom of cannibalism.

Pending the hoped-for verification, if an identity of human with
animal nature be accepted as provisionally true, it may be as well
to anticipate a few of its logical consequences. Eating the flesh of
our instinctive congeners ought positively to be discountenanced;
or, as men and women are simply animal, all carnivorous human beings
should on compulsion become cannibals. Despotism being the form of
government adopted by us with general applause, as regards the animal
kingdom, it cannot be too soon transferred to our own mismanaged
nationalities. In a word, our practices in reference to men, women,
beasts, fishes, birds, and reptiles, ought to be made uniform. Above
all, the new school-boards should be charged with the education of our
poor relations, and the linguistic professors of Oxford and Cambridge
be instructed to use every effort for the promotion of a universal
language. Charity may be thought by some to begin at home, therefore
a commencement may be made with the domesticated irrationals, finches
spaniels, cats, hackneys, sheep, mules, all asses, all pigs, and
all monkey favourites. It is just possible that volatile creatures
unaccustomed to habits of reflection (some tribes of light-minded
birds, for example) may find abstract ideas and declarative sentences
a little difficult. Yet, after all, it need not be such a long step in
the case of contemplative owls; and we may then apply the old proverb,
"Il n'y a que le premier pas qui coûte." At all events, the "Simious
process," so successful in our world of fashion, will be likely to
suffice with every well-disposed chimpanzee; the circle of knowledge
will continually widen until the world of animals becomes identified
with the world of man. Then, but not till then, the astonished
psychologist may cease his useless labours, and record the inauguration
of a new era by acknowledging

        "Omnia jam fient fieri quæ posse negabam;"

or, still more conclusively,

        "Thinking is but an idle waste of thought,
        And nought is everything, and everything is nought."


[173] In an answer to this lecture by "Julian," it is replied that
"Belief is the easiest thing possible for weak and ignorant minds."
But Julian by belief means _acquiescence_; and every church-goer is
aware that the worthlessness of mere acquiescence is constantly being
urged upon them from the pulpit. It holds the same relation to faith
that respectability--_i.e._, acquiescence in the ordinary standard
of morality--holds to holiness. The subject is too difficult to be
discussed adequately in a note; but in my first Bampton Lecture I have
shown how belief, though gained by a struggle, is equally possible for
the unlearned and the learned, but in every case it has to be won by an
effort (Mal. xi. 12).

[174] "Julian" asserts that there ought not to be any difficulty.
"There ought not to be the least shadow of doubt whether a given book
is from God or not" (p. 5): "If the handwriting of Jehovah in the
Scriptures be doubtful, it cannot be divine." But, as Bishop Butler
has shown in his "Analogy," there are no difficulties, as regards
Revelation, different in kind from those which we daily encounter
in common life. "Julian's" easy assertions involve a tremendous
difficulty; for what he virtually affirms is that God ought to have
acted, in matters of religion, in an entirely different way from that
in which He has acted in the ordinary constitution of this world. The
whole question turns upon something quite as much out of "Julian's"
depth as it is out of mine; namely, what was God's purpose in creating
man. By the study of "the constitution and course of nature," and of
what is said in Holy Scripture, I arrive at the conclusion that God
has, for some wise purpose, been pleased to place man here in a state
of discipline. Such a state implies the existence of difficulties;
the greatness and degree of these difficulties we can know solely by
experience, being able only to guess at the reasons which have made
a state of probation necessary for us. But the difficulties must not
be insuperable; for if they were, then this present state would be a
discipline no longer.

[175] Mr. Darwin, in his "Descent of Man" (i. 201-206), enumerates the
several stages through which man is supposed to have passed, of which
the first stage is an imaginary "group of animals, resembling in many
respects the larvæ of our present Ascidians, which diverged into two
great branches--the one retrograding in development, and producing the
present class of Ascidians, the other rising to the Vertebrata." He
further describes these Ascidians as "hardly appearing like animals,
and consisting of a simple, tough, leathery sack, with two small
projecting orifices." I must own that in Mr. Darwin's book I can find
no proof either of the degradation of the present race of Ascidians
or of the development of their cousins, whom Mr. Darwin has summoned
into existence to serve his purpose, into apes. The work is full of
interesting facts and ingenious speculations, but the speculations can
scarcely be said to have consistency enough to merit the name even of a

[176] If this struggle existed, it seems unaccountable that we do
not find creatures in every stage of evolution. We must suppose that
these Ascidian larvæ existed by millions--at all events, many thousand
species of animals exist, all according to this theory, evolved from
them; and, as many have failed and become our present Ascidians, and
others were content to remain as they were, the number of possible
starters in this race must have been vast. Reasonably, then, we should
expect to find creatures in every stage of progress, and at the head
numbers pressing closely on man. Instead of this, we find an empty
space between each several order, and that between man and the animal
second in the race is enormous. "The difference between the mind of the
lowest man and that of the highest animal is immense" (Darwin, i. 104).

[177] A monkey must walk, and does so quite as frequently as man,
but he walks very ill. "The gorilla runs with a sidelong shambling
gait, but more commonly progresses by resting on its bent hands. The
long-armed apes occasionally use their arms like crutches: ... yet they
move awkwardly, and much less securely than man" (Darwin, i. 143). Now
the theory of revolution would require that, before men and monkeys
separated from some common ancestor, their configuration was the same.
How and when did the hands become feet, or, _vice versâ_, the feet

[178] I do not think that "Julian" can have observed this note. For he
retorts upon me that dogs, monkeys, and jackdaws have a conscience,
and that what I deduce from it as regards men, would justify a similar
conclusion as regards cats and dogs. But I had already pointed out that
whatever appearance of the higher moral qualities is to be observed
in animals is apparently the result of contact with man. It is part
of the present constitution of things that certain animals have been
domesticated, and over these the "dominion" given to man (Gen. i. 28)
is very large. I cannot see how any animal could be domesticated
if it were quite incapable of quasi-moral qualities. I see then no
difficulty in a domestic animal having a sort of conscience: without it
a dog could scarcely be faithful. And note, too, that this rudimentary
conscience in a dog implies responsibility in it quite as much as man's
more perfect conscience does in man. The dog's responsibility is to
his master; to whom is his master responsible? Still, as regards these
rudiments of conscience, I cannot see any real proof for more than a
very curious influence of man's qualities upon those of animals brought
into contact with him. With Mr. Darwin (i. 89) I hold that "man only
can with certainty be ranked as a moral being;" and that as regards
conscience "man differs profoundly from the lower animals" (_ib._) I do
not hold, however, as "Julian" imagines, that conscience is an unerring
guide. The exact contrary is implied in Matt. vi. 23. Conscience needs
more than itself to guide men aright.

[179] "Julian" considers that I must be "one of those who believe a
stop occurs in the middle of the second verse of Gen. i., which severs
the preadamite world from the world as it now is." I answer that I am
one of those who know a little Hebrew, and I am therefore aware that
the verb rendered _was_ in verse 2 is not a copula, but means continued
existence. As regards the geologic notions ascribed to me by "Julian,"
I can only express my regret that scientific men should persist in
ascribing to theologians mere nonsense. Nothing is easier than to slay
men of straw, but is it worth the trouble? I would recommend him to
read a discussion upon the Mosaic record in the last chapter of [Mr.
Capes'] "Reasons of Returning to the Church of England." He would then
see that the opinions of theologians are not so puerile as he supposes.


[180] The publishers have asked me whether I have any remarks to make
on "Julian's" Reply. A few lines will be sufficient for all I have to

"Julian" quotes (page 16) a sentence within inverted commas, as mine,
which the reader will in vain search for in my Lecture.

He, on page 17, attributes to me, for the purpose of exciting ridicule,
a statement which I never dreamed of making. Yet he adds: "The words
are Dr. Stoughton's, and you may read them for sixpence."

He concedes the point maintained in the first twenty-six pages of my
Lecture, by remarking: "We do not say that miracles are improbable or

Although I distinctly explain that my argument in the remainder of
the Lecture is confined to the miracles ascribed to Christ, "Julian"
simply indulges in an attack on the authenticity and genuineness of the
Pentateuch. He concludes by saying: "The New Testament stands on no
better foundation, although we need not enter on that question now."
Most people will think this was the very question on which "Julian"
ought to have entered, in answer to a Lecture on "The Miraculous
Evidences of Christianity."

       *       *       *       *       *

Exception has been taken to what I have said respecting remarkable
coincidences between natural events and historical facts (p. 200). Some
of my remarks, as the foot-note indicates, were suggested by one of the
most thoughtful of modern Continental divines. I therefore subjoin the
following passage:--

"There is a mysterious harmony between the natural and the moral,
between facts of nature and facts of history, manifest in what we
call the 'wonderful' (_mirabile_), as distinct from what is properly
called the 'miraculous' (_miraculum_). While the miracle, properly
speaking, implies a violation of the laws of nature, the wonderful,
which is closely connected with it, is such a coincidence and working
together of nature and history as reveals a supernatural result to the
religious perceptions, while the natural explanation still holds good
for the understanding. The march of Napoleon into Russia, pregnant
with results, and the severe winter; the invincible Armada of Philip
the Second, and the sudden storm (_afffavit deus et dissiparit eos_),
serve as examples of the 'wonderful' in the sense referred to. There
is in these things a surprising and unaccountable harmony of nature
and history, and yet all is natural; no law is broken, but the
coincidence is inexplicable. Wonders such as these continually present
themselves to us, both in the world at large and in the lives of
individuals. There is, generally speaking, an unaccountable power of
nature which plays its part in the historical and moral complications
of human life; and it cannot escape the notice of the careful observer
that wonderful coincidences often occur, which to reason may appear
only as an extraordinary, inexplicable _chance_; to the poet as a
profound _play_ of the spirit of the world, and an active presence
of a divine phantasy in the world's progress;--combinations which
lie beyond the range of rational computation, and which, like genii,
scorn the narrow laws of human knowledge;--but in which the Christian
discerns the _finger of God_. But he who truly recognizes the finger
of God in these strange coincidences must be led on to a recognition
of the actually miraculous. The wonderful is only the half-developed,
unperfected miracle. The wonderful possesses that ambiguous character,
half chance, half providence, half natural, half divine, just because
the coincidence of the holy and the natural is external only; and faith
must still demand a relation wherein nature and freedom--separate
in the usual course of events--shall not only seek one another in
wonderful configurations, shall not only approach one another, but
be immediately and essentially united; faith must still long for an
unequivocal sign, of which it can say, Here is God, and not nature.
This sign is given in the sacred history of Christ; a sign which is
spoken against, and which is set for the fall of many, and for the
rising again of many."--_Martensen's "Christian Dogmatics_," p. 222.


[181] The following quotation from Mr. Lecky, who is a witness of the
most unexceptionable character, sets forth in a striking light the
solitary grandeur of the character of Christ as it has been depicted
in the Gospels. "It was reserved for Christianity to present to the
world an ideal character which throughout all the changes of eighteen
centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has
shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments,
and conditions; has not only been the highest pattern of virtue,
but the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exercised so
deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record
of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate
and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers,
and all the exhortations of moralists. This has, indeed, been the
well-spring of whatever is best and purest in the Christian life. Amid
all the sins and failings, amid all the priestcraft and persecution
and fanaticism that has defaced the Church, it has preserved in
the example and character of its Founder an enduring principle of
regeneration."--Lecky's "History of Morals," vol. ii., p. 9.

Mr. Lecky distinctly admits that it is an historical fact that the
Christ of the Gospels has exerted a power compared with which that of
all characters, whether real or mythical, has been inconsiderable.
A true philosophy must account for this unique power possessed by
Jesus Christ. If the character is a fiction, why is it that it has
exerted an influence compared with which all other fictions have been
feebleness? If Jesus Christ was a great man only, why "has He done more
to regenerate mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers, and
all the exhortations of moralists"? Why has He left immeasurably behind
Him all other great men who have ever lived? The historical truth of
the Divine character portrayed in the Gospels adequately accounts for
this mighty influence. Nothing else does. A character which leaves
every other human character indefinitely behind it, must belong to the
supernatural, not to the natural, order of things. It is a moral and
spiritual miracle. To suppose that such a character has been generated
by the slow and gradual action of natural laws, contradicts alike the
acts of history and the principles of philosophy. Nature recognizes no
mighty leaps in her order of production.

Watson & Hazell, Printers, London and Aylesbury.

Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Greek words are shown in Greek and then in English transliterations
that are indicated by [Greek: ] and were added by the Transcribers.
Accent mark errors in Greek text have been remedied.

The original book used both footnotes (at the bottom of each page) and
endnotes (at the end of the book). The footnotes have been numbered in
a single sequence and moved nearly to the end of the book, just before
the endnotes. There are 14 endnotes, the first of which is identified
here as 168.

Typographical inconsistencies in the identifications of the footnotes
have been corrected, but the original endnote anchors (in the main
text) 176-180 (originally 9-13) appear to have been numbered "1" too
high. Also, anchor 180 originally was numbered 1 instead of 13, and
endnote 180 (originally 13) is associated with a chapter that contains
no endnote anchors. Anchor 181 (originally 14) is correct.

One footnote (146 in this eBook) contains anchors to footnotes of its
own (147 and 148 in this eBook). They appear as separate footnotes,
immediately after their parent.

Page 145: "in a neutral sense. If I speak of" The period was printed as
a comma.

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