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Full text of "The supernatural in Christianity, with special reference to statements in the recent Gifford lectures"

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THE SUPERNATURAL 



IN 



CHRISTIANITY 



PRINTED BY MORRISON AND GIBB 
FOR 

T. & T. CLARK, EDINBURGH. 

LONDON : SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT, AND CO. LIMITED. 

NEW YORK : CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS. 

TORONTO: THE WILLARD TRACT DEPOSITORY. 



The 



Supernatural in Christianity 



* * * • 
* - .1 



WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO STATEMENTS 

IN THE RECENT 

GIFFORD LECTURES/, ': \'<U 



BY 4 

PRINCIPAL RAINY, D.D. ^ 
PROFESSOR J, ORR, D.D. 

AND 

PROFESSOR MARCUS DODS, D.D. 



With Prefatory Statement by 
PROFESSOR A. H. CHARTERIS, D.D 



Second Edition 



EDINBURGH 
T. & T. CLARK, 38 GEORGE STREET 

1894 






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CONTENTS 



PAGE 

PREFATORY STATEMENT vii 

By A. H. CHARTERIS, D.D., 

Professor of Biblical Criticism in the University 
of Edinburgh. 



I. INTRODUCTORY— THE ISSUES AT STAKE . 

By ROBERT RAINY, D.D., 

Principal, and Professor of Church History, New 
College, Edinburgh. 



II. CAN PROFESSOR PFLEIDERER'S VIEW JUSTIFY 

ITSELF?. . . . . . .35 

By JAMES ORR, D.D., 

Professor of Church History, United Presbyterian 
College, Edinburgh. 

III. THE TRUSTWORTHINESS OF THE GOSPELS . . 71 

By MARCUS DODS, D.D., 

Professor of Exegetical Theology, New College, 
Edinburgh. 



:^329C 



T' 



EXPLANATORY NOTE 



Dr. Pfleiderer's double Course of twenty Lectures, "Philosophy 
and Development of Religion," ended on the 27th February. 
The three Lectures which follow were delivered on 5th, 8th, 
and 13th of March. Professor Charteris, who was prevented, ad 
he explains, from taking part in the Course as a Lecturer, was 
kind enough to take the chair at the first Lecture ; and his 
opening remarks constitute the Prefatory Statement. 



PKEFATOKY STATEMENT 1 



Inasmuch as the kindly despotism of my medical 
advisers has absolutely forbidden me to deliver one of 
the Lectures of this Course, I ask permission of the 
audience — I have already received that of the Lec- 
turer — to say a few words before calling on Principal 
Rainy to begin his Lecture. 

Though this Course is occasioned by the recent Gifford 
Lectures of Professor Pfleiderer, there is neither inten- 
tion nor need of beginning a personal conflict between 
present Lecturers and him. The mere fact that as yet 
many only know Dr. Pfleiderer's views from newspaper 
summaries, prevents a thorough discussion of them. 
That may come by and by in detail. Enough is known 
to make theologians aware of the general purpose and 
tendency of those views, as every biblical student has 
long been familiar with them in his published books. He 
is well known to be a follower of Ferdinand Christian 
Baur, making a gallant attempt to revive in Germany 
his great master's theories against the now predominant 
theology of RitschL There will, I am quite sure, be 
no attempt on the part of any Lecturer to belittle or 

1 Being the remarks made by me as Chairman on the occasion of 
Dr. Rainy 's Lecture. — A. H. C. 

vii 



viii Prefatory Statement 

disparage the conscientious convictions of Dr. Pfleid- 
erer, or the remarkable literary ability with which he 
presents those convictions. In the sparkle of his 
style he resembles and rivals Eenan, while in apprecia- 
tion of the spiritual longings of men he leaves the 
brilliant, but superficial, Frenchman far behind. Nay, 
I will go further, and say for myself that he has 
demanded of the Christian Church in our day some 
functions and duties which we, who believe in the 
Bedeemer's Incarnation and Eesurrection, may well 
set ourselves with new purpose to fulfil and dis- 
charge. 

But there seems to many of us to be a call to say, 
at the earliest possible moment,, with all possible 
personal respect for the Lecturer, that we object to 
many things clearly stated in those GifFord Lectures. 
Perhaps I may be allowed to speak for myself, and say 
that I object to the Lecturer's presupposition that the 
Incarnation is to be disbelieved because it is not accord- 
ing to his conception of history, founded on our 
experience. Further, I object to his assumption that 
all the more marvellous incidents in the Gospel history 
of Jesus Christ are of later invention than the others. 
I object to his extraordinary assertion that St. Paul 
believed in a merely spiritual Eesurrection of Jesus 
.Christ. I object to his almost as extraordinary asser- 
tion in regard to Baur's view of the Fourth Gospel, 
that " all further investigations have always only contri- 
\ buted anew to confirm it in the main " (Lecture II.). 
1 1 believe it is not difficult to show that Baur's account 



Prefatory Statement ix 

of the origin and date of the Fourth Gospel has been\ 
proved to be historically inaccurate and critically and 
philosophically impossible ; that the Gospel is explicitly 
quoted and undeniably founded upon forty or fifty 
years before Baur allowed that it was written ; 
and that not one of Baur's followers, not even Dr. 
Pfleiderer himself, ventures to maintain Baur's date. 
Objection may well be taken to the Lecturer's attempt 
to borrow all the ethics of the Christian revelation, 
and to appropriate all its highest hopes, and to make 
them parts of a speculative system which I know not 
whether to call Deism or Pantheism, which seems to 
deny any revelation except what may be found in 
gathering the lessons of history and science, and yet 
speaks of God as " the loving Father whose nature it 
is to communicate Himself to His children " (Lecture 
XIIL). We cannot recognise the faith in which our 
fathers fell asleep in this system which, as I understand 
it, leaves no place for expectant prayer, and no hope of 
a resurrection, and makes no admission that life and 
immortality are brought to light through the gospel. 

Therefore I, for one, am glad that some men have 
come forward to protest, in name of the Christian 
Church in Scotland, against this attack upon their 
faith. I know that some, whose opinions I value, 
shake their heads and say that there is danger of these 
Lectures begun to-night adding to the Gifford Lecturer's 
prestige, and, as they say, fanning the flame ; but there 
is a danger, on the other hand, of men's faith being 
weakened if no one amongst us dares to take up the 



x Prefatory Statement 

gage of battle which has been publicly thrown down. 
And as to prestige, it is not easy to add to what the 
Gifford Lecturer has received as the invited guest of 
the University. It is needful that some trained theo- 
logians should assure the Christian public that they 
have long been familiar with the system which the 
eloquent Berlin professor represents, and that they 
believe it has lost its power in its native country, as it 
will lose its power in Scotland when it is understood. 
I should think that every member of the Senatus 
which appointed him was surprised when he interpreted 
his commission as giving him a right to attack the 
Bible, for that appointment has lent importance — I 
trust only a temporary importance — to those views in 
the eyes of unlearned and generous youth. I hope 
steps may be taken by the Senatus to prevent any 
future Lecturer on Natural Theology — which is the 
apparent subject that Lord Gifford's rather puzzled 
bequest points to — from making an attack on the 
records of the Christian faith ; and I hope and expect 
that these Lectures here will meanwhile somewhat 
counteract the attack which has been made. I venture, 
in your name, to express by anticipation my gratitude 
to the Lecturers for accepting the invitation to interrupt 
their ordinary work so far as to come here and take 
part in this special Course. 

A. H. Chabteris, D.D. 



\ \'.x.*-vA-«-j 



THE ISSUES AT STAKE 



By PRINCIPAL RAINY, D.D. 






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THE ISSUES AT STAKE 



I am not here to prefer a complaint against Dr, 
Pfleiderer. Those who heard his Lectures have pro- 
bably received the same impression which readers 
have gathered from his published works, viz., that he 
is a sincere and serious thinker, and is entitled to be 
met respectfully by those who differ from him most 
widely. But I wish to point out the singular 
position in which we find ourselves, if the constitution 
of the Gifford Lecture is correctly interpreted by some 
of the recent Lecturers. It was understood that the 
foundation deed authorised the discussion of Theism 
on grounds of Natural Reason, excluding arguments 
from, or urged in favour of, Supernatural Revelation. 
But, according to the view now proceeded on, a 
Gifford Lecturer may apply himself to argue down 
the supernatural aspects or elements of Christianity, 
on the ground that he holds Christianity to be a 
non-miraculous product of human reason; while no 
Lecturer shall have leave to argue for the things 
believed among us, because that would be to assert 
i 



2 The Supernatural in Christianity 

supernatural revelation, which is excluded by the 
deed. The interpretation of the deed is no business 
of mine, and recent Lecturers may possibly be right 
in their construction of it. But if so, I venture to 
express my doubt whether Lord Gifford intended to 
produce this state of things ; and still more, my doubt 
whether the Universities, in accepting the administra- 
tion of the Lecture, anticipated that the deed would 
prove susceptible of this interpretation. At all events, 
it is time to point out that, as far as we know at 
present, we have a conspicuous and highly -paid 
system of Lectures at all our Universities, under 
which it is open to attack the faith of the Christian 
Church deliberately, energetically, and in detail, while 
so far as this Lecture is concerned the defence of that 
faith is gagged. And by the faith of the Christian 
Church in this connection I mean the main articles of 
the Apostles' Creed. 

Now this at all events justifies, if justification is 
heeded, a statement on the other side. And at the 
same time, as far as I am concerned, it limits the 
field which I feel called upon to traverse. In many 
Lectures Dr. Pfleiderer surveyed the course of the 
history of religion, and discussed the general principles 
which it is reasonable to apply to each of its successive 
stages. He said much that was learned, suggestive, 
and impressive— much that most of us will agree with, 
and not a little also from which many of us dissent. 
But that would not have led us to start Lectures to 
controvert him. It is when he comes into collision 



Dr. Pfleiderer s Position 3 

with the Christianity of the Gospels and the Epistles 
that I, at least, find myself concerned to make a 
counter - statement. As I have said, he may be 
within his right in making the attack : I am certainly 
within mine in asking leave to meet it. 

This brings us to the matter in hand. The business 
of an Introductory Lecture is to survey the field. 
And the first thing I take note of is the general 
attitude towards Christianity taken by Dr. Pfleiderer. 
There is no need, and one can have no wish, to mis* 
represent it. 

Dr. Pfleiderer believes the world and man to be so 
constituted that germs of religious truth have always 
existed. Religious impressions grow into the minds 
of men, and they are gradually purified in the furnace 
of history. Then, from advanced stages like ours, a 
reasonable criticism can distinguish the elements that 
have been thrown together. It can separate what has 
been permanent and valid from what has been tern* 
porary and fanciful. It can recognise in the former 
something that abides the trial of reason, and should 
be looked on, therefore, as sanctioned by the Supreme 
Reason. He therefore strongly asserts what is called 
Natural Religion,— only, with him, it is not a fixed 
quantity, as it used sometimes to be represented ; rather, 
it grows into being by a gradual discernment of prin* 
ciples, and clears itself by gradual disentanglement 
from impurities. In this process, which stretches through 
the whole history of the world, the influence of great 
religious personalities — men of exceptional force and 



4 The Supernatural in Christianity 

depth and warmth — counts, of course, for a great deal. 
Generally, Dr. Pfleiderer's thinking on all this repro- 
duces, with modifications, the ideas of Lessing's famous 
tract upon the Education of the Human Race. 

Now, Dr. Pfleiderer has accepted the view that 
Christian religion must resign the claim to stand upon 
special revelation, or to be attended with miraculous 
sanctions. It remains, therefore, that it must be 
explained from the same principles, the same sources, 
as other religions. But yet; on this ground, he wants 
to make the most of Christianity. Accordingly, if he 
bases himself on philosophy, it is still a spiritualistic 
philosophy, not a mechanical materialism. And, from 
the point of view which it supplies, Dr. Pfleiderer 
claims to be the friend and advocate of Christianity, 
only — an enlightened friend. He wants to show us 
the Christianity we can still have on these terms ; he 
wants to show us it may still be valuable ; and he 
means this quite sincerely. 

His point of view is given. But, from his point of 
view, he pleads for his right to stand in the Christian 
succession, to enjoy the Christian inheritance, and to 
breathe the Christian air. He emphasises the great- 
ness of Christianity, at all events, as a fact or order of 
facts in the religious history of man. For some 
Christian thoughts and principles — especially the trust 
in the divine Fatherhood and the duty and privilege 
of merging our private will in the moral ends of the 
universe, which express God's supreme purpose — he 
asserts permanent worth : they are ever to be guarded 



Advocates a Sifted Christianity 5 

as part of the moral and religious heritage of man. 
And the outlines of the wonderful life of Christ, in 
which these principles were first suitably singled out 
and emphasised, are dear to him because invaluable to 
the race. In short, when Christianity is sifted by criti- 
cism, on the footing that it is the most perfect form 
which the religion of human reason has yet assumed, 
he believes it to retain all its elements of strength and 
goodness ; and for Christianity so sifted he is an ardent 
and eloquent advocate. 

And, indeed, more than this may be said. Nothing 
strikes one more than the illustrations every day met 
with of the singular strength of the Gospels, and of 
the image of Christ there set before us. Men start 
with theories that lead to negative conclusions. But 
if they are at the same time at all desirous to do 
justice to Christianity and to Christ, the object that/ 
rises before them begins to overpower them. 

Schleiermacher refused to admit the supernatural ; 
and yet the Christ of his system is really supernatural 
to all intents and purposes, and brings an element of 
the supernatural with Him wherever he comes. And 
Pfleiderer (who will not think I do him injustice 
when I say that nobody would put him in the same 
rank with Schleiermacher), after laying down his 
thesis that Christ is not, and could not be, more than 
a remarkable religious genius, marking a most memor- 
able stage in the history of human thought and 
action, — from which one must conclude that not the 
man but the principles which He illustrated and 



6 the Supernatural in Christianity 

signalised make the essential and permanent worth of 
Christianity, — when he goes on to his theology, is found 
calmly laying down careful statements of the offices of 
Christ — Prophet, Priest, and King — and of His redemp- 
tion, satisfaction, substitution, and so on. 1 Of course, 
all these are carefully explained and qualified so as to 
retain only a certain vague impressiveness. But why 
on his principles, are they there at all ? Because 
Christ is so strong. He must be allowed to fill the 
religion which He founded. 

But Christianity claims to be a supernatural religion, 
and it has always claimed it, — not in some sense in 
which every religion is supernatural, but in a sense 
peculiar to itself. It has always claimed it. There 
is not an hour of its history for which the contrary 
could be established. Farther, it works and it always 
has worked as a supernatural religion ; in that faith 
it has fought its battles, endured its trials, and brought 
forth its fruits. Here men have felt, God has spoken, 
and has come and has made Himself, finally, ours. 
With this denied, some men and some circles of men 
— especially for the first generation or two — may 
carry on the tradition of much Christian goodness or 
Christian fragrance ; but in general, and on the large 
scale, such religion fades along the lines of religious 
dilettantism into a final religious nullity. On Dr. 
Pfleiderer's principles, great parts of Christianity drop 
away ; and those that are left are transformed. 

Great parts drop away. The Incarnation is dis- 

1 GrundHw, sec. 117 f» 



What Falls away J 

carded. What witnesses to us the personality of God 
as no argument and no metaphysic ever can; what 
expresses conclusively the reach of God's thinking of 
us and caring for us ; what stands as the unanswer- 
able assurance that God so loves the world, that 
behind all the mystery of being is a heart seeking us 
and rejoicing to do us good,— ^is to be dropped. What 
appeals to us as the condescension and grace of the 
Son of God, vanishes. Redemption, too, passes away. 
Jesus Christ is a redeemer in the same sense as 
every one is a redeemer who exhibits in his own life 
principles which, if adopted, might tend to retrieve 
other lives. Christ, fits a divine Friend, the object of 
a present trust, who has Himself overcome death, and 
lives to make us victorious, is gone. For He is dead; 
and He never rose again ; the Syrian stars look down 
upon His grave. All faiths that depend upon an 
authoritative declaration of God's mind through Christ, 
all divine promises made sure in Him, all power in 
Christ to comfort, to succour, and to save, have to 
be resigned. To show how much is lost would be to 
recite half the pages of the New Testament. 

When all this is given up, then we turn to go our 
way, making what we can of inferences about God 
from the system of His world, which, to various 
persons, have seemed acceptable. They have their 
value. In particular, a wise and good man called 
Jesus, who lived long ago, is said to ha've had wonder- 
ful thoughts on this subject. Of these we shall do 
well to take advantage. His thoughts cannot be 



8 The Supernatural in Christianity 

absolutely trusted, indeed ; for, according to all 
accounts, He had some ideas about the importance or 
significance of His own personality, which appear to 
have been exaggerated and groundless. 

But aho the elemeuts of Christianity which 
in a certain sense are left, are transformed. For 
.fiQme are left^ There is, in general, the example of 
Christ ; there are some great thoughts, — the Christian 
conception of the Fatherhood of God, of the true ideal 

: of human duty. Yes ; but not as faiths set forth for 
our comfort and guidance, emphasised for us to trust by 
one divinely charged with our welfare. They remain, 
but disassociated from the light and the heat derived 
from God's gift of His Son, and from the grace of the 

^ Son's incarnation and His death. 

Now this brings us to the point. Christianity has 
always claimed to be the divine supernatural religion, 
in virtue of the unique Person and mission of its 
Founder. But those whom Dr. Pfleiderer represents 
rely on a philosophy of the world and of man. That 
philosophy is to determine the right view of Chris- 
tianity, the wise and worthy way of looking at it. 
Accordingly, the Lecturer surveyed the progress of the 
schools of thought. In particular, he adverted to the 
way of thinking that was reckoned authentic in last 
century, which goes now among Germans by the name 
of the Vulgar Rationalism. That rationalism accepted 
and inculcated certain ideas, superficial enough, about 
God, virtue, and immortality. These they regarded 
as having been from the beginning, and these they 



Progress of Philosophic Theories g 

considered must be to the end, the rational basis of 
human religion. Those ideas, therefore, afforded a 
standard by which all religions of all ages should be 
tried; and everything in Christianity that went beyond 
this was dismissed, or was explained away. This 
rationalism, in short, gloried in a poor scheme of 
thought, and despised whatever did not correspond 
with it. By and by dissatisfaction with this declared 
itself, beginning with Kant, who was a rationalist in 
religion, but also a severe and resolute thinker. New 
systems of thought supervened, which far more fully 
recognised and strove to theorise the wonder and the 
glory of the world, and the destiny of man as a being 
capable of duty and of religious aspiration. Those 
systems did much more justice to Christianity than 
the older rationalism bad done. It began to be felt 
and owned that Christianity embodied profound 
thoughts about the relations of God and man, and 
about the right ideal of human life. Those were 
thoughts which Christianity bad emphasised in a way 
peculiar to itself ; yet they were thoughts which reason, 
on due consideration, must approve, and which the 
world could not dispense with. Any worthy system 
of moral and religious truth must take them up into 
itself as permanent good, and must credit Christianity 
as the religion which had secured a due place for them 
in the minds of men. 

But these systems, at least as Dr. Pfleiderer and his 
friends expound them, found no place for the super- 
natural, nor for any view of Christ that made Him 



i o The Supernatural in Christianity 

really unique and exceptional Christianity was to count 
for far more with the representatives of philosophy than 
it did in last century. But it should do so on condition 
that it took its place as only a happy birth, in a 
favouring hour, of the labouring reason of man, — upon 
the same basis and amenable to the same criteria as 
the fruits of human reason generally. 

Philosophy, then, had set itself so far to do justice to 
Christianity, but found no means to admit for it the 
character which itself claimed. That is a fact which 
may be very unfortunate for Christianity ; or possibly it 
may turn out a little unfortunate for philosophy itself. 
But when we are called upon to accept this as the 
criterion by which we shall be assured what in Chris- 
tianity we are still to own, and what we may dismiss 
as not central or essential, one can hardly help 
remembering that there are philosophies and philo- 
sophies; and also that the time in which this 
philosophy shall be supposed to have established its 
infallibility is somewhat short, — being really, at most, 
the time from Kant to Hegel. For Dr. Pfleiderers 
philosophy is revised Hegelianism. And in this 
department Hegelianism turns on one great thought, 
viz., that all history — and for one thing in particular the 
history of human religions (wilful and fortuitous as it 
may seem) — is after all a reasoned process, by which the 
Eternal Spirit is ripening— through all apparent con- 
fusions — the gradual disclosure of His own thought, — 
the thought which is the inner and immanent reason 
of the world. That is Hegelianism, for our present 



Revised Hegelianism i i 

purpose. And, having used the phrase "revised 
Hegelianism," I may say that the revision stands 
mainly in this. Hegel's God, or Eternal Spirit, was 
conceived to reach His own thought, or certainly was 
conceived to unfold it, only through the formal dialectic 
process of the intellect ; that abstract order of steps is 
conceived to guide and control the history which is the 
history of the world, and is also all we have for the 
history of God. But the revised conception admits 
other principles to deepen and enrich the thought of God 
and His working as disclosed in history. And whereas 
Hegel's thinking was accused of being merely pan- 
theistic, Pfleiderer follows a line of thought that seems 
to imply a divine Personality, working consciously for 
ends at which His providence aims. Whether this is 
or is not consistent with some of his own positions, it 
is welcome, at all events, as worthy in itself, and 
notably in harmony with Christianity. For the rest, 
Pfleiderer, who was a student of Baur's, stands very 
much in his view of religion and of Christianity 
where Baur stood when he died, more than thirty 
years ago. 

There is a great deal in this Hegelianism that is 
very remarkable and very suggestive.* No doubt it 
marked a signal step in the history of thought. ' As it 
reckoned with the history of the race, — including its 
Religions, — Hegelianism was on a track which was 
surely fruitful, in recognising God at the heart of the 
universe, or pervading its processes, as a principle 
of progress* So Hegelianism set its face towards the 



1 2 The Supernatural in Christianity 

idea of development, which since then has become 
so dominant in the thought of the age. In connection 
with that principle of development, we all have, or 
ought to have, learned and gained much. For the 
present it is accepted, by all but all, as the key-prin- 
ciple which is to explain everything. And indeed 
there seems to be hardly any other way to test a 
valuable new principle than to try it in every lock 
without exception^ By and by its limits will be 
found ; and after a while it will be antiquated, and 
newer methods will intoxicate the world. Meanwhile 
it represents a real gain to human thinking. &irf*j£w 

Philosophy says, then : Let us assume an order of 
the world (with God at the heart of it), which order is 
to proceed by steps of process that are in some high 
sense necessary — dictated by the nature of the case or 
by the nature of God — necessary, even if human wills 
play their part in them. Let us assume this, and see 
how the world can then explain itself. Let us refuse 
to have the ideal process perplexed by the hypothesis 
of any divine interpositions or interferences, — aside 
from the law of the process. These interferences have 
been often suggested by superstition, and they are 
easily believed by superstition; let us waive them 
aside ; and, I repeat, let us see how the order of the 
world will explain itself. 

Then, of course, as other religions and their 
founders appear under the general rubric of the 
religious capacities of man, so Jesus Christ can 
be no more than one. of those personalities. He may 



No really Supernatural Element 1 3 

be the most remarkable. Some one must be. But 
He is essentially one of those who have attained, 
within the human laws of intellectual and moral life, 
to wonderful insight, and to a style of life which 
their fellows felt to be impressively true and good. 
Hence in Him, as in the case of some of them, — but 
in His case more perhaps than in any other, — some 
religious truths and aspirations, that always were 
and will be true and valid, — germs of which were 
always in the nature of man and in the nature of the 
case, — shone out vividly to Him and shone out vividly 
through Him. The world is conscious of them 
now in a way which it will never cease to trace up 
to Him. 

This man left remarkable effects, as good men do ; 
«nd wonderful things were asserted of Him. But our 
theory (so this philosophy speaks) will account for as 
much of this as one is bound to recognise. It will 
account for the grand thoughts, — some, at any rate — 
about God and life. And then, as to every apparent 
evidence of more, there must be some mistake about it. 
More is inadmissible. To admit more is to burst up 
from the bottom, as Pfleiderer somewhere says, the 
foundations of our thinking ; for we are thinking out 
a divine method which works out an eternal process, 
just because the process is worthy to be worked out, 
and therefore is owned to be unworthy if it requires 
to be disturbed. Any apparent evidence, therefore, 
pointing in this direction, must be explained away. 
In thus separating elements which in Christianity 



1 4 The Supernatural in Christianity 

have been combined,— maintaining some and dropping 
others, — we may be assured that we are only disr 
tinguishing the kernel from the husk. 

I am far from denying that in liistorical Christianity 
it is well to distinguish the vital from the accidental, 
the more essential from the less. ; Bub I cannot but 
ask whether this philosophy, which cannot make room 
for the supernatural in Christianity, supplies, after all, 
a reliable criterion, We all know it is a temptation 
which lies in the nature of philosophies, to trust to 
single principles, and to refuse to contemplate ex- 
ceptions. Here is this manifold and mysterious world 
of ours, with Christianity seated in the heart of its 
noblest history. Eevised Hegelianism says : " I will 
open the door and admit what can pass as an elevated 
form of natural religion, but what claims to be gospel 
revelation or to involve special interposition— no. 
Shut the door." Well, but what a long procession 
of philosophies have passed down the stream of 
time! They have had meritorious lives, but they 
are ghosts now. They had their share of truth, but 
they failed to solve the mystery of the world. Has 
revised Hegelianism solved its own problems ? Is it 
not also upon the march like the rest ? \ Will no day 
come when those departed forms of thought — even the 
vulgar rationalism itself — shall hail its advent among 
them, saying, " Art thou also become one of us — art 
thou become weak as we ? " Eevised Hegelianism has 
no right to dictate. The business of a philosophy is to 
recognise what can establish a right to be recognised. 



Alleged Incongruity 15 

If its principles disable it in any case from doing so, 
they must be widened. 

In the scheme of the Lecturer it is plain that 
much turns on the alleged incongruity of super- 
natural Christianity. A system of the world which 
is to proceed mainly by development and growth, 
ought not to be interfered with by an Incarnation, 
and by a revealing process leading up to an Incarna- 
tion. That, Dr. Pfleiderer says, is to undo the scheme 
of thought from the bottom. We are here, then, in 
presence of the question, whether a worthy con- 
ception of the world can embrace the biblical 
conception of the Incarnation, preluded and pre- 
pared by the Jewish history which leads up to it. 
It is a question on which perhaps our best thoughts, 
on either side, are not conclusive. But I see no 
reason why they should not be given. It depends 
on the ends which God may reasonably be conceived 
to provide for. And as Dr. Pfleiderer does not 
question the personal character of God as one who 
contemplates ends, and by due means accomplishes 
them, we are not embarrassed by any necessity of 
debate upon that point. 

We assume, then, that man's nature, having a 
religious capacity, was destined to development, under 
the discipline of life and experience. That was, we 
know, to be in practice perplexed and marred by the 
spiritual state of men ; but if not always progressive, 
it was at least to admit of progress. The persuasions 
of men about God were to be gathered, if we look to 



j 6 The Supernatural in Christianity 

the prevailing aspects of human religions, not from 
perpetual interferences and oracles, but from the un- 
folding of the nature of man in the midst of the 
process of the world, — both the evolution of man, and 
the process of the world proceeding on principles 
which imply a stable order. Under these conditions, 
as a matter of fact, the history of the mass of the race 
went on, whatever ground we take about primitive 
revelations. Under these conditions, so far, human 
religion has had its history. Human religion proved, 
indeed, extremely prone to expect and believe all kinds 
of supernatural agencies. But, in the more remarkable 
examples of it, the tendency, as time went on, was to 
grow into a more adequate sense of the laws of nature 
and of the laws of mind. Men felt more and more 
the pressure of the stable order. They learned so far 
that God was not such an one as themselves, and that 
the awful majesty of His will was not liable to be 
warped, on all occasions, to the wantonness of theirs. 
In the same proportion also they learned to feel as 
though Godr — at least the highest God — was more 
remote* or more hidden, than in earlier days had been 
supposed, — far above, out of sight. And one knows, 
the fluctuations of opinion and belief which have 
ensued. 

All that being supposed, I ask, first, Is it beyond 
belief that it might be in the design of God to make a 
worthy manifestation of Himself, which should be per- 
sonal, — that is to say, should vividly bring out God in 
the unity and concentration which belongs to per- 



Revelation of Divine Personality 1 7 

sonality — personality with intellectual and moral 
features, with personal mind and will. That might 
not be well, for it might lead to inevitable miscon- 
struction, unless accompanied and prepared by the 
great impression of the order of the world. And yet 
this last also might surely be defective if it stood 
alone. For in it God is manifested, as it were, on 
impersonal lines ; and even if reason and conscience 
augur a personality behind the veil, it is vaguely, 
and with an unsatisfied sense of distance and dimness 
and doubt. Certainly, also, this is what the human 
heart has always craved for, when mythic fancies gave 
way before the advance of thought or under the strain 
of suffering, and when man felt himself face to face 
with the inexorable movement of the mighty world. 
" that I could find Thee." If God is in some high and 
intense sense personal, — in possession of His own 
thought and character and will, — is there no need that 
somehow at some stage His revelation should take 
personal character? And if so, let us not deceive 
ourselves. Personality expresses itself not by eternaf 
processes, but by individual words and deeds. If there 
be personality in God at all, it means that He who is 
behind me and beneath me and above me, who besets 
me everywhere, who is in all nature, — the source of 
forces, the measure of laws, the orderer of events, — 
can also, can, as person with person, stand face to face 
with me on the platform of His own world, to speak v 
and to be answered. But can He do it worthily f 
Can He do it, so as to complete, without fatally perplex- 



1 8 The Supernatural in Christianity 

iiig, the inanifestation of Himself ? I point for answer 
to Jesus Christ Through Jewish religion, which 
developed in singular combination the consciousness of 
God's majesty with that of His watchfulness over 
men, we reach Jesus Christ. Whatever view you : 
take of the theology of His Person, no doubt His own 
religion gave Him out as the singular manifestation 
and expression of God. And, no doubt of it, it is this 
that has decisively carried home to human minds the 
impression of the Divine personality, associated with 
worthy impressions of His mind and will This, in 
fact, has done it. Has it done wrong to the manifesta- 
tion of God, given through the great universe in which 
He is immanent, working evermore ? Do we not 
rather feel that this form of lowly and gracious man- 
hood enables us to harmonise both sides of the mani- 
festation, each enriching each. True, many a Christian 
has halted in one-sided thoughts of God, — all our 
thoughts of God come short. Nevertheless, the mani- 
festation itself is worthy in its completeness. It 
would be incomplete without the presence which con- 
fronts each of us in the pages of the gospel. For in 
some world — here or hereafter — I, the personal man, 
rightfully desire to find the personal God. In some 
world ; but why not in this world ? 

I say again, secondly, is it beyond belief that it may 
be in the design of God to bestow upon men in con- 
nection with religion — and most fitly in connection 
With the special manifestation just described — that 
form of evidence and assurance which arises when 



Miracles as Evidential 1 9 

tokens of God's special working in the outward history 
are associated with the inward evidence appealing to 
reason and conscience? This is the question of 
Christian miracles. I suppose I need not explain that 
I am not concerned with any question about vagrant 
marvels scattered fortuitously up and down the world. 
I deal with those which associate themselves with the 
revelation in Christ. Here I deal with matter on 
which modern prejudice is strong, I will grant, not 
unnaturally strong. I may be allowed, therefore, a 
few minutes to explain myself upon it. I am not 
going to thresh out the dry straw about laws of nature 
and that sort of thing, which, happily for the present, I 
feel that I can let alone. 

In asserting the supernatural in Christianity in 
any form, and especially in this form, I do it with 
a very lively sense indeed of the difficulty, the tempta- 
tion or excuse for doubt and suspense, which arises 
to many minds from the consideration of the masses 
of superstition related to the asserted supernatural, 
which have filled the history of the world. Men 
have been notoriously prone to assert rashly and to 
believe greedily in this department; in fact, there 
seems to be almost nothing some people will not 
believe. There has been such a complete proof of 
the disastrous and misleading influence exerted by 
all this, that a certain sceptical caution in relation 
to it is. certainly, beyond all question, an element in 
sane thinking. There are whole categories of the 
marvellous, which we every day of our lives dismiss 



20 The Supernatural in Christianity 

without a thought ; we are not going to waste time in 
examining them, because we perceive at a glance what 
tribe they are of. They bear on their face the stamp 
of outlaws of reason. I still think that even this 
mass of now incredible assertion — some of it non- 
Christian and much of it Christian — raises the ques- 
tion, whether behind all the folly and poor thoughts 
of God and His ways thus manifested, there is not 
here the working of a craving which might have 
legitimate expression, and might find a divine re- 
sponse ? But, at all events, as I have no hesitation at 
all in maintaining that the supernatural view of 
Christ, instead of being something to be shut out as 
incredible, is a congruous and necessary element of 
the spiritual life of men, so also I maintain the fit- 
ness of the miraculous in the manifestation of God 
through Christ. And my present point is that, a 
priori, it should not be judged unsuitable to God. 

I admit with Pfleiderer, and I may add with Dr„ 
Martineau, that the most appropriate, the most spiritual 
evidence — that, therefore, which may be regarded as 
most fundamental, constant, and vital — is the intrinsic 
reasonableness and divineness of the truth believed 
and embraced. Therefore spiritual Christianity has 
always laid great stress on the witness of the Spirit, 
as that in which a man may supremely and finally 
rest. There is such a thing as a perception, that in 
truths and facts God and I meet. And in this line 
Dr. Martineau has eloquently taught us, that the 
divine voice in the conscience of each man is the true 



Practical Difficulties for Faith 1 1 

revelation, and for each man the only one, — because, 
whatever gifted persons may have seen or experienced 
more than I, their report is no evidence to me, till 
countersigned by the oracle within myself. Well, 
whether that be true or not, the peculiar place and 
worth of this inner evidence is granted. And I have 
great sympathy with those who, under certain diffi- 
culties, say, " Well, let me, at all events, take the un- 
deniable facts about Christ and His teaching ; let me 
take them at their worth as facts, and make what I 
can of them, and, at all events, do no less than justice 
to them as they stand." I believe that often along 
that line a mode of feeling and of thought establishes 
itself, in which the peculiar and supernatural signifi- 
cance of Christ is really felt ; and His appearance in the 
world assumes its own decisive place. I only claim that 
such a mood should not be hindered from expanding 
farther. But then I am dealing with a theory which 
does not bar expansion, which finds it necessary to 
argue down both the essential elements and the proper 
tokens of Christ's peculiarity. I say, then, that the 
inner evidence I have spoken of is by no means 
always so clear and conclusive in practice. It is not 
true that every man is a prophet, who in these matters 
can confidently say, " Thus saith the Lord." 

The man, although he knows that such evidence is 
desirable, and perhaps believes it to be attainable, yet 
finds it hard to be sure of the accents of the divine 
will. He may be dubious as to the range of truth he 
ought to receive ; he may find it difficult to separate 



2 2 The Supernatural in Christianity 

that to which the authentic evidence applies from that 
which is mixed up with it in his own way of think* 
ing. He may find his own confusions intensified by 
the confusions in other minds. For men's minds are 
confused, — obtuse and dull, — bewildered by the various 
voices that make themselves heard within us. This 
cannot be questioned. The existence and personal 

' v character of God, providence, prayer, immortality,. 

J are all of them debatable and debated. Many, also,. 

w who have no wish to debate these articles, are yet un- 
fixed and changeable in their thoughts about them. 
The question returns : How do I know that I am not 

"'misled by feelings and by wishes, that I am not mis- 

/ taking the interpretation of nature and conscience ? 
Moreover, the soul is dull, and cannot well trust its 
own estimate of the worth of what it does believe, 
That may be true, it may be good ; but is it able to 
bear the weight if I throw my life upon it, and make 
it my guiding principle, the light of all my seeing ? 
It is here that the concurrence of the outward and 
the inward has a peculiar effect of assurance. It is 
a token that God is inviting to trust, is calling for 
faith. The divine within me and the non-divine are 

"inextricably mixed, perhaps; but the finger of God 
without is wholly independent of me. God will not 
give me such tokens on all occasions, nor on many. 
But He may have given them to the world in connec- 
tion with the mission of His Son. Further, in any 
such personal manifestation of God as I spoke of, the 
point in hand is not only the validity of unchanging 



Miracles congruous to Christ ' 23 

. truths, but the significance of this present interposi- 
tion, — the worth of this person, Jesus Christ. Now, 
His worth lies indeed in His fulness of grace and 
truth, — -it lies first in what He is. But there may be 
much human uncertainty and insensibility, which 
receives its needed succour in the mighty works which 
showed that God was with Him. 

In this view it is very often overlooked that a 
.purpose of great value is secured by the mighty works 
of the Gospels, quite antecedently to all discussion of 
the evidence in detail ; and, indeed, the discussion of 
that evidence in detail, however fitting, has a great 
deal less to do with Christian faith than readers of 
books on the subject might be led to suppose. At 
least I judge so by my own case. As I have said 
that the central evidence is that which opens in 
the truth itself, so I hold that the life, works, and 
teaching of Christ— the total Personality taken, if you 
will, apart from miracles — establish the unique and 
exceptional character of the Man. I find the super- 
natural there. As they grow upon the mind, they 
establish for Christ a place not with other men, but 
far different. As Charles Lamb said : " If Shakespeare 
came into the room just now, we would all rise up ; 
but if He came in, we would all kneel down." Never 
man spake like this Man. Truly this is the Son of 
God. Yes ; but my own conclusions in such matters 
are so hard to trust. Am I perhaps deceiving myself 
in some fond idolatry — was this, after all, not a man 
as other men, but one whose coming made the great 



24 The Supernatural in Christianity 

epoch of the world, one whom God calls me to trust 
and follow ? Could He be deceived Himself about His 
own powers and mission and claims ? If the decisive 
'manifestation of God was here, were there no 
N tokens of it ? Now I find that, as He stood in 
the line of a great preparation going before, so 
from the outset He claimed that works which man 
cannot do betokened His exceptional relation to God. 
The sick were healed, the dead were raised, the sea 
was stilled. This is what I need. It is a congruous 
part of that whole, of which our Lord's personal worth 
is the greater part, but of which this part too is the 
fitting complement. It comes home to me as a con- 
sistent and credible whole. 

I have one more point in this line, which needs the 
least illustration just because it is the most obvious 
and important. If great sin and need were to mark 
the history of the human race, shall it be judged 
unsuitable on the part of God to make manifestation 
and expression of Himself, in such a sort that here we 
should find divine remedy proportioned to our need,— 
personal friendship for the lost, redemption, love that 
saves? On the other view, it is true, indeed, that 
great personalities are rising and falling in the history 
of our race, — religious personalities among the rest, — 
who diversify our experience for better or worse. But 
on that view there is no interruption of the silence of 
God. He is present, — on reflection, He may be presumed 
to be present, — but there is no movement, save the even 
thrill of His great existence for ever on the spiritual 



Development and Immanence 2 5 

natures in contact with it : no incarnation, no atone- 
ment, no great promises, no covenant ordered in all 
things and sure. Not on these terms did Christianity 
conceive its message. Not under these conditions did 
the great sayings fill with their immortal meaning: 
" Hereby perceive we the love of God." " We have 
believed the love that God hath to us. God is love." 

On lines of thought like these a great deal could be 
saicL They have been adduced, not at present as 
evidence, but as pleas for keeping the mind open to 
evidence in favour of biblical Christianity. If the 
mind be kept open, the evidence will pour in by many 
avenues. The central conviction is one, but it will 
thrill into our being along many a line of evidence 
and many a chain of impressions. 

The doctrine of development, then, as we see, is 
the engine by which Christianity is to be reduced to 
the same principle with earlier forms of religion. But 
there is no need for us to take an attitude of suspicion 
towards the doctrine of development, though we 
contest a particular application of it. Nothing is more^ 
remarkable in Christianity than the way in which it / 
articulates itself into the process of the developing I 
world, takes up that process into itself, and submits I 
itself to the principle of growth and progress. We 
have learned much of this ; we are willing to learn 
more ; but not so as to forget that God was in Christ 
reconciling the world unto Himself. 

Now, as development is the engine by which Chris- 
tianity in principle is levelled down,so the doctrine of the 



:l 



26 The Supernatural in Christianity 

Divine Immanence is that by means of which it is after- 
wards to be levelled up again. For while Dr. Pfleiderer 
wants to disenchant Christianity of the miraculous and 
of the true supernatural, he wants at the same time to 
glorify the Christianity he retains. Christianity is still 
to figure as something eminent, extraordinary, beneficent. 
It is to be only a birth of human reason, but then reason 
has resources which enable it to rise as high as there is 
any need for. Indeed, as the next Lecturer will show, 
Dr. Pfleiderer claims for his Christianity gifts and 
attainments that are not consistent with his philosophy. 
Now the doctrine of Divine Immanence is the means 
by which he conveys the impression that this feat is 
possible. Christianity must be conceived to take origin 
and to abide within the order of the world, but 
then immanence belongs to the order of the world. 
So here, it is implied, we have divine influence, which 
may impel men to any height of mental or moral 
attainment that can reasonably be claimed. On this 
principle all that the world has seen of great and good 
can be accounted for, and yet can be kept within the 
limits of philosophical theory. Immanence can replace, 
for instance, the Incarnation, and leave us with no loss 
of anything substantial. 

But we have already seen how much is lost. And 
I am persuaded that the impression that any important 
help is to be found in this quarter depends upon con- 
fused thinking. 

The doctrine of the Divine Immanence means that 
we ought not to think of God as setting up a universe, 



What to be ascribed to God as Immanent 27 

endowing it with certain forces under certain laws, 
and then standing by, as it were, to see it work as of 
itself. Some such view it is usual to ascribe to the 
rationalists of last century, and also to some schools of 
Christian theology. At all events, immanence is the 
opposite of all that. The doctrine contemplates God 
as most inwardly present to His creatures, working 
all in all. This doctrine has been strongly pressed by 
philosophers during, this century, including those in 
whose genealogy Dr. Pfleiderer stands, and they have 
done so sometimes in the form of Pantheism, identify* 
ing the life of G.od with the life of the universe. But 
this is not to be imputed to Dr. Pfleiderer, who 
welcomes the thought of God as personal — as having 
moral and intellectual features, and conscious designs 
towards which the. universe tends — eternally, as Dr» 
Pfleiderer thinks, without beginning or end. Whether 
or no this doctrine of Divine Immanence can be finally 
settled on philosophical grounds, I willingly accept it 
on Scripture grounds, in so far as it teaches that " in 
Him we live and move and have our being." All that 
I feel concerned about is that this should not be held 
to be all that is to be said about God, or about His 
relation to His universe. 

But supposing God confessed to be immanent, the 
question still remains : What range of meaning belongs 
to the phrase, and what range of action is allowed to 
God under it ? Here, then, let it be remembered 
what this notion is set against, according to the 
philosophy of which it is a part. On the one hand, it 



28 The Supernatural in Christianity 

is set against the notion of a world that goes on by 
itself, with God, as it were, on the outside, looking at 
it. But, on the other hand, it is set against the notion 
of everything miraculous. That is, it is set against 
ie notion of any action of God in the world that is 
not at the same time the action of the creatures, and 
of "the creatures according to their own nature, under 
their'own laws, and subject to all the conditions in 
'{ which tfrfcy are placed at the time. God must confine 
Himself stri<5tly to that ; for if He goes beyond it, 
however secretly or gently, He is out into the region 
of the miraculous, which is prohibited. In short, His 
presence is only, after all, the philosophical explana- 
tion of the forces of nature, including of course the 
forces and capacities of human souls. Those are the 
facts of which we have cognisance. Certain views of 
the structure of the world lead thinkers to postulate 
God as the common ground of the existence of these 
facts with their forces and laws. Their life is con- 
ceived to refer itself back to His life. But, then, 
. He is not supposed in any case to add anything im- 
'* mediately, exceptionally, or of Himself; for that 
 would be supernatural interposition, and the thought 
'• of it would burst up the true system from the bottom. 
The forces and capacities of all creatures are con- 
ceived to be invested with a new dignity and in- 
terest, when they are viewed in their relation to 
the divine sustaining and vitalising power. But 
then they are not therefore to be supposed to re- 
ceive a new inspiration, or to be carried beyond 



Immanence within Limits 29 

themselves. For what the divine immanence does is 
to sustain them as they are, as in themselves they 
were meant to be. 

The immanence of God, assumed and granted, does 
nothing to shed new light on the world of nature or 
man, nor are the difficulties which have always beset 
natural theology in the least alleviated by it. For 
example, in this presence of His, God upholds all forces 
and tendencies, alike the conservative and the destruct- 
ive. He is immanent in the serpent and the tiger, as 
much as in the dove and in the lamb. And, in regard 
to man, He maintains our powers when we are using 
them well, and when we are using them ill,— both 
alike as far as the doctrine of immanence is concerned, 
— not less truly immanent in us in the time of our 
errors and our sins, than at any other time. 

It is true, indeed, that however we err, or however 
we sin, man is so made — man's life is so conditioned 
— that the great constants of truth and duty come 
into view, and they claim to be regarded and embraced. 
It is a sound conclusion that those great elements, 
which thus maintain their ground amid the fluctuations 
and infirmities of our minds and wills, have a divine 
authority and reveal the divine character. That con- 
clusion is sound, whether the doctrine of immanence, or 
any other doctrine consistent with faith in God, is 
embraced. But the divine immanence guarantees 
nothing beyond the known lines and limits of creature 
natures. In particular, it cannot ever guarantee us 
in any particular case against mixed experiences of 



30 The Supernatural in Christianity 

true and false, right and wrong. After we have 
adopted the doctrine of Divine Immanence as 
before, the question as to what is possible to human 
nature has to be settled from our own consciousness 
and from the experience of the race. 

All this applies to the case of Christ. The doctrine 
of Immanence supplies no fountain of revelation, and 
offers no guarantee against mixtures or errors. Im- 
manence could not produce sinlessness; for that 
would be the proper supernatural. Immanence leaves 
the creature within his limits. Never could it justify 
a man in saying, "I am the way, and the truth, 
and the life." To carry the creature beyond itself, 
Ho clothe it with authority, to guarantee it against 
'error or sin, may be very possible to God, — I believe 
,it. But it is a belief that contemplates the miraculous, 
jand does not limit God to development. 

I shall be sorry if I am thought to cherish a 
grudging spirit towards any who, unable in their 
present mental atmosphere to receive the miraculous 
and the supernatural as these appear in Christianity, 
still strive to hold on, and do hold on, to the im- 
pression derived from Christ as at least an incom- 
parable Personality and an incomparable Teacher. 
The truth is, I regard the position of many such 
persons with a very peculiar feeling of respect. I 
believe that not unfrequently their position represents 
moral qualities not easily overrated And while I 
must think it symptomatic also of something that is 
defective and one-sided, I am far from counting 



God in Christ 31 

myself qualified to be their censor. But I must 
express my belief that in the long-run, and for the 
mass of men, the position is untenable. Christianity 
does not hold men first by its ethical depth. It holds 
men because God is in it; because it is felt that 
once God in Christ has taken His self -revealing place 
in the midst of the world, calling men to judgment 
and to mercy. In Christ He has done it : " whereof 
He has given assurance to all men, in that He has 
raised Him from the dead." 



n 



CAN PKOFESSOR PFLEIDERER'8 VIEW 

JUSTIFY ITSELF? 

By PROFESSOR JAMES ORE, D.D. 



• i 



II 

CAN PEOFESSOE PFLEIDEEEE'S VIEW 

JUSTIFY ITSELF? 



The task entrusted to me this evening is that of 
surveying, and endeavouring to estimate on its merits, 
the theory of religion presented to us by Professor 
Pfleiderer with much persuasiveness, and in the name 
of the highest theological science, in his recent Gifford 
Lectures, and propounded by him as a substitute for, 
or rather, as he would phrase it, the truth and kernel 
of, supernatural Christianity. I need not say that in 
any criticism I feel called upon to make on this 
theory, nothing is intended personal or disrespectful 
to the distinguished Lecturer himself. Professor 
Pfleiderer's great abilities, and his remarkable breadth 
of historical knowledge and philosophical culture, are 
ungrudgingly admitted, and perhaps those of us who 
have most to do with these things would be the first 
to acknowledge, in its own place, our indebtedness to 
him in many respects. All the same, it is impossible 
not to recognise that these Lectures, delivered by a 
thinker deservedly of such high repute, and under the 
aegis of one of our great Scottish Universities, striking 

25 



36 The Supernatural in Christianity 

as they do directly at the foundations of historical 
Christianity, and tearing rip by the roots with 
unsparing hand much that we have been accustomed, 
at least, to regard as most vital to our faith, consti- 
tute a challenge to the Christian Church which it 
cannot ignore. I do not think the Church will shrink 
from taking up the gauntlet thus thrown down to 
it ; at least, I am sure it need not. The challenge in 
itself is not a new one. It has been heard before, 
and supernatural Christianity survives. To those 
acquainted with Professor Pfleiderer's works, the 
views enunciated in the Gifford Lectures came in no 
sense as a surprise. They have been before the world 
any time for the last dozen years; and they have been 
discussed in Germany any time for the last forty or 
fifty years. What is more important, they have not 
found acceptance there, or at least have not been able 
to hold the field. Indeed, the most remarkable thing 
to my mind in connection with these Lectures is, 
that it is precisely at the time when, as Professor 
Pfieiderer frankly acknowledges in a recent published 
utterance, 1 the tide has receded from the school he 
represents in Germany, and a reaction has set in in 
the direction of belief in a positive historical revela- 
tion in Christ — for this is the meaning of the 
dominant Eitschlian movement in that country — he 
should be found enunciating these views in Scotland 
as a new gospel, and should be hailed by many as the 
prophet of a new age ! I do not, however, wish to 

1 Introduction to Grundriss, 1893. 



Essence of the Theory $7 

make too much of this. Professor Pfleiderer's theories, 
old or new, are entitled to be tried on their own 
merits. He has stated his views to us ably, 
reverently, undisguisedly ; has put them before us in 
logically-reasoned form; and he is entitled to his 
answer. I have no desire to play with details on the 
surface of the system. What I would wish to do is 
to get as soon as possible to the heart of things, and 
deal with this theory in its fundamental presupposi- 
tions. I would take this new philosophy of Chris- 
tianity, not on its weakest and worst side, if there is 
anything about it which can be so characterised, but 
on its highest and best side, and would ask whether 
the root out of which it is supposed to grow is 
capable of sustaining it ; whether this rejection of the 
supernatural has a justification in the postulates and 
principles of Professor Pfleiderer's own system; and 
whether the religious convictions and moral idealism 
he retains do not require us to admit more than 
he allows. 

Let us look, then, at this theory of Professor 
Pfleiderer's — try to get to the essence of it. We have 
seen from the Lectures he has given us how everything 
of a supernatural or miraculous nature in the narra- 
tives of the Gospels goes overboard ; how the divine 
facts in the history of our Eedeemer, on the confession 
of which every great historical Church in Christendom 
up to the present hour, including Professor Pfleiderer's 
own, is founded, are relegated to the realms of myth 
and fiction — are interpreted as the fruit of "ideal 



38 The Supernatural in Christianity 

figurative invention." The question which starts up 
in every mind in the light of this treatment is: 
When these foundations are knocked away, as Pro- 
fessor Pfleiderer helps so vigorously in knocking them, 
will the Christian Church, or will Christianity itself 
in any form, survive, save as a pleasing (or, as some 
may choose to think it, a baleful) dream and illusion 
of the past ? Giving up supernatural Christianity, 
are we, with so many in our age, to take the plunge 
into Agnosticism or Nihilism or Pessimism ? This is 
far from being Professor Pfleiderer's opinion. He is 
never weary of assuring us that, if his theories are 
accepted, religion, so far from being destroyed, will be 
placed upon a firmer basis than ever. It is only the 
accidents, the excrescences, the drapery and embellish- 
ments of religious idea* that disappear : the essence, 
the kernel, the rational, imperishable truth of the 
matter remains, — and what could any reasonable mind 
wish more ? A wonder-working word, as we shall see, 
is this "kernel" in Professor Pfleiderer's system; a 
veritable enchanter's wand by which the most magical 
transformations are accomplished ! By its aid nothing 
vital is to perish. The Church is to go on ; Christianity 
is to go on, though in a purified form ; faith in God 
and in the moral goal of history is to go on ; labour 
for the Kingdom of God is to go on. Now, what I 
want to know is, whether this is a rational or tenable 
expectation ? I want to know whether, in giving up 
these supernatural aspects of Christianity, under 
pretence of keeping everything, we are not really 



What of the Future ? 39 

parting with all ? I believe for myself that we are, 
and I think that nine-tenths of those who agree with 
Professor Pfleiderer in his rejection of the principle of 
the supernatural, and who are gleeful over his supposed 
demolition of the historical groundworks of Chris- 
tianity, are probably of the same opinion. We cannot 
forget that this kind of language has been heard 
before. There was a time when Strauss also wrote : 
" But we have no fear that we should lose Christ by 
being obliged to give up a considerable part of what 
has hitherto been called the Christian Creed ! He will 
remain to all of us the more surely, the less anxiously 
we cling to doctrines and opinions that might tempt 
our reason to forsake Him. But if Christ remains to 
us, and if He remains to us as the highest we know, 
and are capable of imagining, within the sphere of 
religion, as the Person without whose presence in the 
mind no perfect piety is possible, we may fairly say 
that in Him do we still possess the sum and substance 
of the Christian faith." l But at a later period, in his ^ 
Old Faith and the New, Strauss faced the question, 
" Are we still Christians ? " with a bolder look, and gave 
it an uncompromising answer, "No." We want to 
know whether it may not be the same here. 

The difficulty, I imagine, which most people will 
feel in dealing with Professor Pfleiderer is, that there 
is so much in his religious philosophy which is in 
itself good and true,— which has a Christian appear- 
ance, or at least a Christian sound, — and to which the 

1 Colloquies (Eng. Trans.), p. 67. 



4b The Supernatural in Christianity 

Christian believer can cordially assent. The denial of 
the miraculous in Christianity by a bold naturalism 
we can readily understand, but here is something of a 
subtler order which does not fit in with any of our 
accepted categories. Huxley we know, and Spencer 
we know ; but here is a thinker, not less pronounced 
in his anti-supernaturalism than they, who clothes his 
ideas in Christian garb, who uses continually the 
Christian dialect, who professes to be giving us the 
very essence and truth of the Christian religion, — 
what are we to make of him ? Professor Pfleiderer 
himself would not admit that his theory is fairly 
described as a denial of the supernatural. His system, 
he will tell you, is saturated with the idea of the 
supernatural. He believes in a supernatural basis of 
the world — God ; in a supernatural government of the 
world, or, what is held to be the same thing, a divine 
teleological system of the world ; in a divine purpose 
and goal in history ; in the peculiar place of Israel in 
the religious development ; in Jesus as the bearer of 
the principle of the absolute religion ; in the victory 
of good over evil, and the ultimate triumph of the 
Kingdom of God on earth. 1 Still less would Professor 
Pfleiderer admit that he is fairly described as denying 
revelation. It is the last thing in the world, he will 
tell you, he would think of doing. All religion rests 
on revelation. The foundation of his whole religious 
philosophy is the idea of God as self-revealing. The 
religious history of mankind is the history of revela- 

1 Lectures V., VI., IX., X. (First Course) ; II. (Second Course), etc. 



Supernatural but not Miraculous 4 1 

tion. 1 Yet underneath all this, as we are compelled 
to confess when we get to the bottom of his meaning, 
— the limits of my Lecture will not allow me to put 
too fine a point on it, — there lies nothing but the most 
naked rationalism. The world may rest on a supexPj 
natural basis, but it is a supernatural which expresses 1 
itself only in the natural, never beyond it. Miracle, 
in the strict sense, he tells us again and again, is 
impossible; nothing ever happens, or can happen, 
outside the eternally established natural order ; of any 
transcendence, or overstepping of the limits of that 
order, whether in nature or in the human mind, it is 
not permitted to the enlightened theologian to speak. 3 
With this accords the idea of revelation. That 
which, on the divine side, is viewed as revelation, is, 
on the human side, simply the natural development of 
man's spirit — the working out of the original potenti- 
alities and capacities of his nature in contact with 
the world and with history. 3 Everything is there, 
like a coiled-up spring, in man's constitution from 
the beginning, waiting only the touch of external 
events to cause it to unfold itself. This I take to be 
the peculiarity of Professor Pfleiderer's system — its 
combination of Christian elements and a high moral 
and religious idealism with an essentially naturalistic 
or rationalistic view of the world; and it is the^ 
legitimacy of this combination I am to test. The 

1 Lectures V., VI. (First Course), etc. 

3 Lecture I. (Second Course). 

8 Cf. Philosophy of Religion (Eng. Trans.), iv. pp. 70, 72, 75, 78. 



42 The Supernatural in Christianity 

difficulty is not in dealing with either of these con- 
ceptions separately. We can perfectly understand a 
man who maintains his faith in God, in His love, in 
a providential government of the world, in progressive 
revelation, and in an ultimate triumph of the Kingdom 
of God, in connection with a general supernatural view 
of the world • and we can understand the agnostic or 
the avowed naturalist who rejects the supernatural 
altogether, and with it sweeps aside this whole load 
of theological conceptions which Professor Pfleiderer 
would carry with him. The peculiarity in Professor 
Pfleiderer's philosophy is its attempt at the combina- 
tion of these two commonly opposed sides. I do not 
doubt that Professor Pfleiderer has made a synthesis 
of these two sides which satisfies his own spirit ; the 
question is, whether it is one which will hold good for 
the mass of men, or can permanently justify itself at 
the bar of reason ; whether a religious optimism can 
maintain itself on this footing ; or whether we are not 
brought back to the alternative of either going over 
wholly to the side of Christianity, with its super- 
natural basis, or else of accepting a view of the world 
from which the supernatural is entirely excluded, and 
surrendering the hopes and idealisms which spring from 
faith in God and revelation ? It is this peculiarity in 
Professor Pfleiderer's system which is, as I regard it, 
at once its strength and its weakness. It is its 
strength, for it falls in with a prepossession of the 
times, fostered by many causes, adverse to the recogni- 
tion of the supernatural, and creating a desire for just 



A Midway Position Untenable 43 

such a combination as is here attempted. Even from 
the evangelical side I can conceive that many, finding 
so much that seems to them morally elevated and 
genuinely Christian in Professor Pfleiderer's teaching, 
hearing him speak, as they constantly do, of the love 
of God and revelation and salvation and the com- 
munication of the Holy Spirit, may think, " Well, if 
this is not supernatural Christianity, it is at any rate 
a very good substitute for it, and we can get on very 
well without the other." But it is also its weakness ; 
for this middle position of Professor Pfleiderer's can- 
not long satisfy either the Christian believer or the 
sceptic. The former will ask, with perfect justice; "\ 
whether these high religious convictions of Professor ' 
Pfleiderer's would ever have been his, or can be 
sustained, apart from the faith in supernatural revela- 
tion from which they have sprung ; and the sceptic 
will ask whether, renouncing such revelation, he has . 
any right to retain the fruit which grew upon its 
tree ? This is a question we must now inquire into 
further. 

It is the anti-supernaturalism of Professor Pfleid- 
erer's system which is its chief attraction in many 
eyes, and with it, accordingly, I must begin. Nothing, 
we are told, can be allowed to have a place in the 
system of the world outside the natural order. Not 
only is it so, says Professor Pfleiderer, but it must be 
so. It is impossible to think rationally or worthily of 
God otherwise. A miracle is excluded on metaphysical 
and on moral grounds ; and it is further, we are told, 



44 The Supernatural in Christianity 

excluded on scientific grounds. 1 This, e.g., is Professor 
Pfleiderer's objection, or one of his objections, to 
Augustine. The Christian salvation stood with him 
in mere opposition to nature, and could only come to 
it from without through a miracle. 2 I cannot help 
remarking in passing that Professor Pfleiderer is not 
always quite fair to his supernaturalistic opponents 
in his statements of their views. He exalts distinc- 
tions into contrasts, and throws them into an abrupt 
and forbidding form which those whom he criticises 
would not accept No Christian (and least of all 
Augustine) holds that because salvation comes to 
humanity from a source above nature, therefore it is 
" in mere opposition " to nature. Bather is it held 
to be in deepest congruity with nature, — that which 
redeems, restores, sanctifies, and perfects it. The same 
exaggeration is seen in Professor Pfleiderer's treatment 
of the idea of revelation, and indeed of the super- 
natural generally. A view which refuses to recognise 
the all-sufficiency of nature is invariably represented 
as in harsh opposition to nature, and as taking no 
account of psychological or other natural conditions. 8 

1 Cf. Philosophy of Religion, pp. 88, 89. 

2 Lecture IX. (Second Course). 

8 Thus the alternative is represented as lying between a view of 
revelation which resolves it into a purely psychological product (with 
God certainly as the ultimate creative ground) and "an entirely 
divine operation, not indebted to the assistance, nor subject to the 
conditions of the human mind." — Philosophy of Religion, iv. p. 66. 
So miracles are " isolated exceptions of a lawless divine freedom," and 
are held to involve a view of God as "in general unliving, inactive, 
and not free," — an activity which "shows itself alive by way of 
exception merely." — Ibid. p. 88, etc. 



The Possibility of Miracle 45 

It is this anti-supernaturalism which is the key of the 
position in Professor Pfleiderer s, as in all similar 
systems. It marks the contrast between two concep- 
tions of the world and of Christianity fundamentally 
distinct, and incapable of being reconciled. Here, then, 
the issue must specially be faced. 

There must be nothing, we are told, outside of the 
natural order. But why must? I can conceive of 
some views of the nature of God and His relations 
to the world which would necessitate this conclusion. 
A Spinozistic view of God, e.g., in which everything 
proceeds necessarily from the Divine Substance; a 
Hegelian view of God, in which nature and spirit 
are again but the logical unfolding of the Immanent 
Season of the universe ; a Deistical view of God, such 
as that described by Professor Pfleiderer in words 
quoted from Goethe — " What were a God which only 
gave the> world a push from without, or let it spin 
round His finger ? " 1 Such views of God of necessity 
exclude miracle; but none of these is Professor 
Pfleiderer's view of God, though he puts himself in 
the rational succession to Spinoza and Hegel, and 
serves himself heir to their denials of miracle, drawn 
from such different premises. Professor Pfleiderer is 
a theist. The God he believes in is a God of love and 
power and wisdom — a personal God, not to be identi- 
fied with the natural order, but distinguishing Himself 
as a knowing, willing person from the totality of His 
manifestations in the universe. 2 With such a concep- 

1 Lecture IX. (First Course). 2 Lecture V. (First Course). 



46 The Supernatural in Christianity 

tion of God as that, however it may be on the view of 
a Spinoza or Hegel or Spencer, the denial of the 
possibility of miracle on metaphysical grounds is 
plainly incompetent. Not less illegitimate is the 
assertion of the & priori scientific impossibility of 
miracle. Professor Huxley and J. S. Mill are probably 
as good authorities on science as Professor Pfleiderer, 
and both of them tell us that there is no scientific 
impossibility in miracle — it is purely and solely a 
question of evidence. 1 Nor is the denial tenable on 
Professor Pfleiderer's own theory. God, as I under- 
stand it, on Professor Pfleiderer's view, is Himself the 
ultimate law of all connection of phenomena in the 
universe, and the immanent and efficient cause of its 
changes. No laws of nature, no secondary causes, 
interpose themselves between the universe and Him. 
He is Himself the ever-flowing fountain of all life and 
power ; His presence, love, and will are through and 
over all. 2 

Yes, but from this very doctrine of the immanence 
of God a new objection arises. Miracle may be 
possible to God, but is it worthy of Him ? Is it not 
a far higher conception of God to think of Him as 
immanent in His universe, working along the lines of 
an eternally-ordained order, and never needing, as He 
can never desire, to depart from it ? Is it not a 
reflection either on the wisdom or on the power of 

1 Huxley's Controverted Questions, pp. 258, 259 ; Mill's Logic, 
Bk. iii. chap. 25. 

2 Lecture Y. (First Course). 



Miracle and the Divine Immanence 47 

God, a reflection 011 the perfection of the order He 
has established, to suppose that all the ends He had 
in view in His creation cannot be accomplished through 
it — that it needs to be tampered and interfered with 
to bring out yet higher and exceptional ends ? Is it 
not enough, to quote Goethe again, to say, " I look 
for a God who moves the world from within, who 
fosters nature in Himself, Himself in nature ; so that 
naught that in Him lives and moves and has its 
being ever misses the force of His Spirit ; " and is 
it not a kind of sacrilege, a desecration of this con- 
ception, to imagine that God ever needs to depart 
from this sublime path which His own infinite wisdom 
has eternally marked out for its manifestation ? I 
desire to state this objection as strongly as I can, for 
it is here that the argument against miracle is at its 
best, I wish, at the same time, I could be clearer 
than I am as to what place after all Professor 
Pfleiderer leaves in his scheme for something that to 
the, uninitiated mind looks very like " miracle." He 
often enough uses laDguage which, strictly interpreted, 
would imply the appearance of something absolutely 
new, springing creatively from the immanent divine 
source, though prepared for by previous stages of 
development. Such a new beginning, for example, 
was the appearance of life upon the earth, which, he 
appears to contend, in opposition to those who would 
extend the Darwinian theory of development to include 
this phenomenon, cannot be explained out of pre- 



48 The Supernatural in Christianity 

existing physical causes. 1 But this is what in ordinary 
parlance would he called a miracle; indeed, in this 
sense, every higher stage of nature (vital, sentient, 
rational) is a miracle to the stages below it. Language 
of the same kind is frequently used in speaking of 
"revelation," — giving his expressions often a quite, 
supernaturalistic look, — though this is taken back 
again by saying that every so-called revelation, if we 
could only see into its depths, would be found to be 
perfectly psychologically mediated, £& to be only a 
stage or phase of the natural development of the 
spirit. 2 To take but one more instance, readers of 
Professor Pfleiderer must often feel edified by the 
earnest, almost warmly evangelical, references to the 
" Holy Spirit " which abound in his writings, — to His 
teaching, guiding, sanctifying influence, — but the glow 
is rather chilled when we find this "Holy Spirit" 
elsewhere rationalistically explained as simply "the 
arrival of the divine reason (which is our own reason) 
at supremacy in our hearts." 3 I take it, then, that 
anything which looks like the admission of the 
miraculous in Professor Pfleiderer's system is to be 
interpreted in harmony with a curious phrase of his 
own in one of his works, when speaking of the 
transactions of Pentecost, — " miraculous, no doubt, 

1 Lecture IX. (First Course). 

8 Cf. Philosophy of Ileligion, iv. pp. 70-78 ; Q-rundriss, p. 20. It 
must be observed that on all subjects touching the border-line of the 
natural and supernatural, Professor Pfleiderer's language is exceedingly 
loose and vague. 

8 Ibid, iii. pp. 304-5. 



Nature and Personality 49 

but not an absolutely supernatural miracle ; " l and 
that his real view is, as I indicated, one of unbroken 
natural causation, a causal order outside of which no 
operation of Deity ever takes place. It is a fair 
demand, then, when we are asked why this purely 
immanent action of God in nature and in the 
activities of the human spirit does not satisfy us, why 
we contend for something more as both worthy of God 
and necessary for the fulfilment of His purposes ? I 
shall try to give some reasons, arguing the matter less 
on abstract grounds than on the basis of ideas and 
principles furnished by Professor Pfleiderer's own system. 
And the first reason I would give why a purely 
immanent action of God within the limits of the 
natural order is not regarded by us as intellectually, 
morally, or religiously satisfying, is this, — that the 
end of the natural order itself is something higher 
than a mere natural order, namely, a realm of free, 
personal spirits, in which the law is not that of 
impersonally mediated manifestations, but the direct 
personal intercourse of love. Professor Pfleiderer is 
the last who can reject this premiss of my argument, 
for the idea is one on which he himself is continually 
insisting. Nature is a means to humanity. The end 
of the natural development is the spiritual being man; 
the end of the historical development, that for which 
both nature and history are constituted, is the King- 
dom of God. 2 But see what this means. We are 



2 



UrchristentJium, p. 14. 
Lectures V., VI. (First Course). 



50 The Stipernatural in Christianity 

ourselves parts of nature, yet in a very true sense we 
are above nature — higher than nature. We have the 
attribute of personality which nature has not, and 
through this attribute can enter into relations with 
each other which are impossible to nature ; we have 
modes of revelation to one another of which nature 
knows nothing. We can form societies, spheres of 
reciprocal love and communion; can hold personal 
converse with each other ; can act and react on each 
other by the continual interchange of thought and 
sentiment. We communicate with each other, not 
merely by dumb show, or through some system of 
automatic arrangements which go on unvaryingly from 
day to day, but behind which we ourselves are never 
visible, — which would be no satisfaction to the life of 
personality (imagine it in the arrangements of a 
household, or of a father with his children), — but by 
direct articulate speech, through personal word and 
look and deed, through all those subtle media by 
which the contents of one soul are poured into another. 
This is because, on the basis of nature, there has been 
reared a kingdom of personality. Is it, then, to be 
held that this direct personal form of communion is 
possible to. every class of finite spirits, but is only not 
possible to, or cannot take place with, the Spirit of 
spirits, — who, be it remembered,in Professor Pfleiderer's 
yiew, as in our own, is a Personality, full of love, 
fatherhood, and the desire of self-communication ? I 
do not ask what is possible with other conceptions of 
God, but can we hold this conception, and yet consist- 



The Reality of Divine Communion 5 1 

ently deny the possibility, need, and suitableness of 
supernatural revelation? The strangest thing of all 
is, that Professor Pfleiderer himself affirms the actuality 
of communion between the human and divine spirits 
in as strong a form as can be desired. I quote only 
one passage : " Why should it be less possible," he [ 
says, " for God to enter into a loving fellowship with \ 
us, than for men to do so with each other ? I should \ 
be inclined to think that He is even more capable of 
doing so. For as no man can altogether read the 
soul of another, so no man can altogether live in the 
soul of another; hence all our human love is and 
remains imperfect. But if we are shut off from one 
another by the limits of individuality, in relation to 
God it is not so : to Him our hearts are as open 
as each man's heart is to himself; He sees through 
and through them, and He desires to live in them, and 
to fill them with His own sacred energy and blessed- 
ness." x Verily, why not ? But will any one say that 
when you have thus affirmed a perfect loving fellow- ; 
ship of God with the soul, analogous to that into * 
which human things enter with each other, the line 
is not already crossed between the natural and the] 
supernatural ? or will any one say why, if the gates 
of intercourse are thus open between the soul and 
God, He should not enter into them, and give to man ^1 
a better light and aid than he can find in his own J 
dim gropings after Him ? Why must God speak with H - 
man only through these dumb symbols of nature, or j 

1 Philosophy of Beligion, vol. iii. p. 305. 



5 2 The Supernatural in Christianity 

through the inarticulate longings and aspirations of 

his spirit, to which no personal response is ever given, 

and not through a " a more sure word " such as Plato 

of old longed for, and these ancient Hebrew prophets 

believed themselves to possess, and we Christians are 

assured that we have in a yet diviner form in Jesus 

Christ — the Word made flesh ? There is nothing here 

which is not worthy of God, needed by man, consonant 

with the nature of things, and in accordance with the 

laws of the human spirit Once grant, what lies in 

^Professor Pfleiderer's own philosophy, that spirit is 

\ higher than nature, consciousness than unconsciousness, 

(personality than impersonality, and that the goal of 

I all God's workings and leadings alike in nature and 

j history is the realisation in humanity of a kingdom of 

• love, 1 — the production of a kingdom of free, personal 

, spirits, bound together by love, and finding their highest 

good in fellowship with Himself, — and some direct, 

.immediate, articulate word of God to man is the 

most natural and probable thing imaginable. 

I have given one answer to the question why we 
cannot rest satisfied with a view of God which con- 
fines His activity purely within the bounds of the 
natural order. I shall now give another. It is this : 
If the goal of the divine purposes in nature and 
history be the bringing in of that Kingdom of God 
on earth of which Professor Pfleiderer speaks, 2 there is 
needed for the attainment of this goal a better know- 

1 Lecture VI. (First Course). 

8 Lectures VI. and IX. (First Course). 



Philosophy and Theism 53 

ledge of God than is possible on the hypothesis of 
immanent development. Professor Pfleiderer thinks 
it quite easy — nay natural and inevitable — that, 
given time and circumstances, the spirit of man 
should unfold from its depths just such a knowledge 
and certainty of God as we now have in the Christian 
gospel. He will analyse the process, trace the steps 
of the ascent, and put the whole result before you 
— on paper. Yes, on paper; but does the actual 
history of mankind justify him in this view ? Grant 
that the Christian idea of God, once we have got it, 
can be shown to be in deepest accord with reason, 
and to furnish the true key to the purpose of God in 
history, — though this to many will be a very huge 
assumption, — has human reason found it so easy in 
practice to make a synthesis of these elements for 
itself, and to construct a conception of God adequate 
to the religious necessity ? I do not think the history 
of philosophy or of religion will bear us out in saying 
that it has. Will any one read the history of the 
higher speculative systems, either ancient or modern, 
and say that their trend has been naturally and 
necessarily in the direction of that conception of a 
living, loving, personal God, which Professor Pfleiderer, 
with the Christianity from which he has borrowed it, 
affirms to be the only true one ? Is the tendency of 
our philosophies of the Absolute not quite in the 
opposite direction — away from the idea of personality ? ' 
Does the study of science any more than of philo- 
sophy necessarily beget in men's minds this profound 



54 The Supernatural in Christianity 

faith in God as the ground at once of the moral ideal 
and of the natural order ? I fear we have only to look 
to the Agnosticism of many of our leading men of 
science to get too conclusive an answer. No, so far as 
/ history enables us to judge of the powers of reason, or 
\ of the soul's intuitions, to rise to a clear, assured, con- 
'* sistent, adequate conception of God, — of His character, 
I will, love, and purpose in the world, — it is not a 
denial of, but an eloquent plea for, the necessity of a 
' supernatural revelation. Nor is this to be wondered 
I at. Each thinker had flashes, gleams, fitful appre- 
hensions of this or the other side of the truth, — saw, 
guessed, imagined, something of the ways of Him whom 
Plato said it was hard to find, and when He was found, 
impossible to make known to all, — but not the efforts 
of any single mind, or of all together, could so combine 
these scattered rays of truth, so purify them from 
what was erroneous, or supply remaining defects, that 
the full and true theistic conception was the result. 
Still less could they bring the soul into living relation 
and communion with the Being thus dimly sketched 
by the intellect. 

But there is another side of this subject from which 
perhaps it may be more profitably approached. This 
knowledge of God which is now in the world, and of 
which Professor Pfleiderer avails himself, has come to 
us in a very different way than through philosophical 
speculation. It is an heritage to us from the people 
of Israel, and above all from Jesus Christ. How, 
then, are we to explain this God - consciousness of 



The God-Consciousness of Israel 55 

Israel, — this clearness, certainty, and power of their 
convictions of the being, government, and holy, loving 
purpose of the one living and true God, — the un- 
shaken faith of psalmists and prophets in His righteous- 
ness and goodness, and their triumphant confidence in 
the future of His kingdom? We know how they 
themselves explained it, but let that pass for the 
moment. To Professor Pfleiderer it is but the highest 
example of what the spirit of man can attain to in the 
evolving of its innate religious endowment. But is 
this reasonable ? Professor Pfleiderer is by no means 
of the opinion of another Gifford Lecturer, at present 
discoursing in a neighbouring city, who thinks that the 
Old Testament has been an unfortunate inheritance for 
Christianity. He does very considerable justice to the 
uniqueness and moral elevation and purity and far- 
sighted vision of the religion of Israel, 1 though that 
religion is even more unique and organically one in its 
development from patriarchal promise, through law 
and prophecy, to its ripened fruit in Jesus Christ, than 
he, with his naturalistic presuppositions, can allow. 
" In fact," he says, " if a religious revelation is to be \ 
found anywhere, it is certainly to be found in the spirit j 
of the Hebrew prophets, who knew that God was I 
the soul of the morally good. . . . Israel knew such a 
purpose of history, viz., the realisation of a kingdom of 
God, of a human fellowship and community, correspond- 
ing to the holy will of God, and thus did they become 
the path-finders and leaders of our race upon its toil- 

1 Lecture VI. (First Course) ; II, (Second Course). 



56 The Supernatural in Christianity 

some way to the moral ideal of humanity." 1 Yes, but is 
their path-finding intellectually comprehensible, except 
through that factor of supernatural revelation to which 
they themselves unhesitatingly referred it ? Try the 
matter by Professor Pfleiderer's own account of the 
origin of the idea of God. There are, it appears, two 
roots of the idea of God, — the rational impulse and the 
moral ideal. 2 Israel did not get its idea of God from 
rational and philosophical speculation,— that is clear. 
There remains the path of the moral ideal. But the 
mind in the forming of any of its ideals needs materials 
to work upon, — it does not act in vacuo, — and the 
materials at Israel's disposal here were nature and 
history. Did Israel, then, get its idea of God from 
nature ? To the inspired seers nature indeed was 
full of the presence of God, — a perpetual revelation 
;of His wisdom, power, and goodness; but every 
/ one sees that they interpret nature through the 
j idea of God which they bring to it, rather than reach 
God through the appearances of nature. When science 
comes to nature without this presupposition of God in 
its heart, it is often a far different account it has to 
give of it. There remains history, experience, the 
visible course of God's providence. Did Israel get its 
idea of God from these ? Now, history does indeed 
reveal God, — i3 an unfolding of His plan and purpose ; 
but will any one say that in the course of events 
as they actually fall out around us, — in this strange 

1 Lecture VI. (First Course). 
a Lecture IV. (First Course). 



The Faith of the Prophets 5 7 

riddle of a life of ours, as we are so often compelled 
to regard it, — this plan of God is so clearly and un- 
ambiguously revealed that the most gifted mind could 
infallibly read in it God's purpose for the world, or 
raise out of it that unfailing confidence of His wisdom, 
righteousness, and all -compassionating mercy which 
we find in the Hebrew prophets ? Given the Christian 
key to history, and we can perhaps spell out the 
meaning of God's purpose in parts of it ; but how 
dark and confused, how enigmatical, tangled, and per- 
plexed, how often a torturing problem to faith, does 
the larger portion of it still remain ? Optimist and 
pessimist alike find grounds for their theories in 
history, according to the attitude of mind with which 
they approach it. It is here also less the action of 
history upon the mind which creates the faith, than 
the faith in God which determines how we shall read 
the history. And this is conspicuously evident in 
Israel It is not when events are going well in their 
nation, but precisely in those periods of darkness and 
disaster, when God's providence is most adverse, and 
to the eye of sense His purposes are breaking down in 
utter failure, — it is then that the faith of these 
prophets seems to draw new vigour from misfortune, 
and plumes its wings for flight to yet unreached 
heights of confidence and hope ! It is neither from 
nature nor from history, therefore, that Israel derives 
its idea of God. If it is the ideal that does it, it 
must be an ideal unlike every other we have known, — 
one, namely, which has power to lift itself up in 



58 The Supernatural in Christianity 

its own naked strength clean above and out of its 
environment, and sustain itself • at this triumphant 
height of confidence, not only without anything 
objective to stay on, but in face of the most adverse 
appearances, — which works, as I have said, in vacuo. 
And this, I take it, is an inadmissible hypothesis. It 
was a far different account which Israel itself had to 
give of its faith and hope in God. They believed, 
this people of Israel, in a God who had revealed Him- 
self to them, not in Professor Pfleiderer's sense, but in 
lloving, saving deeds in their history, in which His 
j presence, power, and grace had been unequivocally 
\ manifested ; who had given them His sure word on 
which to hope ; and who had opened to them by His 
Spirit visions and hopes of a future salvation, and a 
universal triumph of righteousness, which they knew 
He would not allow to fail. And why should we not 
accept this account as the truest and most reasonable, 
— as, indeed, it is the only one which will perfectly 
explain the facts ? If the end of all God's guidance 
in nature and providence is, as Professor Pfleiderer 
says, the realisation of this Kingdom of God in 
humanity, 1 and if man is designed to be a co-worker 
with God in bringing in that kingdom, why should 
God not give to him that knowledge of Himself and 
of His will which is needful to enable him to enter 
intelligently into His purposes, and to co-operate with 
. Him consciously and effectively ; instead of using him 
only as an unconscious instrument of His plans, and 

. l Lectures VI., IX. (First Course). 



Sin demands a Revelation 59 

leaving him to his hlind gropings after a Divinity ) 
whom haply he may. never find ? It will at least 
hardly be disputed that a far higher class of results 
are conceivable as reached on a system in which man 
knows something of the ends he is pursuing, and freely 
devotes himself to the realisation of these ends (the 
hypothesis of supernatural revelation), than on another 
in which he has no such knowledge, but is left to the 
dim and uncertain light afforded by his natural reason 
and conscience. 

There is yet another answer which might be given 
to this question, why we cannot- be satisfied with a 
merely natural revelation of God, but it was touched 
on by the learned Principal in his opening Lecture, 
and I shall dismiss it with a few words here. It is 
that drawn from the fact of sin. Whatever know- 
ledge of God we may suppose to be possible to man 
if his faculties were pure and entire, and his conscience 
an unsullied mirror reflecting the divine, it is surely 
obvious that the case is altered when it is recognised 
— as on any hypothesis it must be — that his mind is 
darkened and beclouded, and his will held in bondage, 
by sin. Did my limits permit, I might raise the 
question whether Professor Pfleiderer's account of 
the genesis and nature of sin does not evacuate that 
which we so name of its essential evil, and rob it of 
its awfulness and tragicalness under the government of 
God, by representing it as a part of man's original 
constitution and necessary stage in his development ; x 

1 Lecture VII. (First Course). 



6o The Supernatural in Christianity 



but at least he recognises the fact of universal sin and 
guilt, and does homage to the Christian idea of Redemp- 
tion, by granting that salvation from sin in some sense 
is necessary. When, however, we come to inquire 
what this salvation from sin is, we find, in accordance 
with the genius of the whole system, that it is some- 
thing which man has to accomplish entirely in and on 
himself. 1 The true Saviour is not Jesus, — though He 
remains as a motive, — but the ideal man within our- 
selves, our own reason or better self. The mystical 
conception of Redemption, as Professor Pfleiderer 
expresses it, is changed into the corresponding ethical 
conception of education. 2 The sinner is saved through 
faith in the ideal. The doctrine is simply that of 
Kant in his Religion mthin the Limits of Mere 
Reason, given to the world now fully a century ago, 
— salvation through return to the better self, the new 
man suffering vicariously for the sins of the old, etc. 8 
It is very much as if a man were summoned to take 
himself by his own waistband, and lift himself up out 
of his sin and misery, — and this is called Redemption ; 
nay, is supposed to be the " kernel " of that doctrine 
of salvation by grace which is founded on the 
absolute inability of the sinner to help himself, and 
on the need of a divine, supernatural interposition on 
his behalf. Now, I submit that all experience is with 
me when I say that the power of sin is not to be 
broken in this way in the heart and life of the sinner. 

1 Cf. Philosophy of Religion, iv. pp. 126-132. 
8 Lecture VIII. (First Course). » Ibid. 



Seeming and Real Redemption 6 1 

In Professor Pfleiderer's system there is no place for 
forgiveness, in any proper sense of that word. There 
is no act of God in forgiving ; no change in His 
thoughts or dispositions towards the sinner. The 
sinner was formerly alienated from the ideal of his 
being ; he has now come back to his true self ; the 
whole drama is internal to his own spirit. For a change 
like this, perhaps, no supernatural revelation is needed, 
beyond, at least, an illuminative one; but for such a 
salvation as I daresay most of us feel that we require, — a 
true forgiveness, a real regeneration, a sanctifying power 
brought to bear upon us from without ourselves, — there 
is needed very much more: an actual redemptive 
interposition of God in human history, provision for 
the obliteration of guilt, the work of a divine, living 
Spirit, — in short, a great moral dynamic such as the 
Christian gospel yields, but for which Professor 
Pfleiderer's system, however clamant might be the 
necessity, affords no room. 

These last remarks are already the answer to 
another line of defence of Professor Pfleiderer's anti- 
supernaturalistic conception of Christianity which 
might plausibly be attempted, and may possibly have 
occurred to your own thoughts. " Granted," it may 
be said, " that there is a doubt as to how these ideas 
have arisen, need that trouble us ? However originally 
obtained, whether by natural or supernatural means, 
these ideas of the Christian system are in the world 
now, and are not likely soon again to be parted with. 
The Christian idea of the fatherly love of God ; the 



6i The Supernatural in Christianity 

moral idealism of Jesus; the thought of a Kingdom of 
God for which all are to labour ; the ethical view of 
Redemption as a dying to the old self that we may live 
to the new, — are not these sufficient to constitute the 
basis of a very elevated form of religion for mankind, 
to which all questions of supernatural or non-super- 
natural origin are indifferent ? " This brings us back 
to the point from which the present Lecture started. 
Purged of all supernatural elements, how long 
/would this quasi-Christianity of Professor Pfleiderer be 
' likely to maintain itself ? I cannot say that I regard 
its prospects as very bright. Professor Pfleiderer 
thinks that he is able to establish these views of his 
on God and the ethical purpose of the world on 
philosophic grounds. But we have only to look at 
the variety of opinion in the philosophic systems 
around us, — at the Agnosticism, the Materialism, the 
Pessimism of the day, not to speak of the diversity of 
view even in the higher idealistic schools, — to see how 
far Professor Pfleiderer is from being likely to gain 
general acceptance for his metaphysical foundation ; 
while, for the workaday jnass .of mankind, his 
philosophical reasons are as good as non-existent, — 
they produce no effect on their minds whatever. But 
were the foundations even stronger than they are, 
there are other glaring defects and weaknesses of the 
system which would still prove fatal to it. In its 
heart lies the great essential contradiction of a God 
who is conceived of as living, loving, personal, yet who 
never enters into real relations of revelation and fellow- 



The Non-Miraculous Christ 63 

ship with His creatures ; who, having the power to make > 
Himself known to them in direct, immediate ways, and t 
to bless them with His friendship, help, and grace* • 
never does so. This system, standing fixed within the 
limits of natural law, brings no aid to those whose 
need can only be met by supernatural remedy. It 
cannot be preached as a gospel to the sick in heart 
and sin-laden, for it has in it no power to pardon, re- 
new, or save. It speaks of the Kingdom of God, but 
it has no means to realise it. The theory lies under 
the fatal defect that it will not work. It has no force 
to make it go. 

All these difficulties in Professor Pfleiderer's system, 
I would now observe in closing, reach their acutest 
stage when we come to deal with Jesus Christ. That 
Professor Pfleiderer is filled with the sincerest 
reverence for Jesus, and the highest admiration for 
His character; that he exalts Him, ethically, 
spiritually, religiously, to the highest pinnacle of 
eminence compatible with his principles; nay, that 
he sometimes strains his principles almost to break- 
ing point in the attempt to do Him yet greater 
honour, — this must be evident to every reader of 
his works. Professor Pfleiderer's face is not away 
from, but towards, the grace and truth that are in 
Jesus Christ. Yet, with all this exaltation of Jesus, 
it is not difficult to see that Jesus is for him, so far \ 
as historical reality is concerned, little else than a 
figure to hang his idealisations upon. He is a great 
religious genius, it is true, but still within the limits 



64 The Supernatural in Christianity 

of the merely natural. He has a young, fresh heart ; 
is filled with a child-like love- of God ; has a wonder- 
ful charm and sweetness as a preacher of the Kingdom 
of God ; is the nearest approach to the ideal which 
history can show. 1 But He is not the 'perfect ideal ; 
He is not sinless. This would be to take a magical 
view of His character ; would be to acknowledge Him 
as miraculous; and miracle is the one thing which 
cannot be admitted. 2 For the same reason, He did 
not work real miracles in His ministry ; and when He 
died His history on earth was ended. There was no 
Kesurrection. But there happened something which 
took the place of a Resurrection for the Christian 
Church. The stricken disciples, after the first blow, 
pluck up courage, and begin to think their Master is 
with them again. Then Peter has a vision, — sees a 
bright light, or something of the sort, and fancies it 
is Jesus; and, by a mysterious telepathy, his faith 
affects the Twelve, and they have visions; and the 
women have visions ; and the five hundred brethren 
at once have visions; and, last of all, Paul has a 
vision. Out of these visions grew faith in the 
Resurrection, the Ascension, the Godhead, the Incar- 
nation, the Atonement of Christ, — the whole scheme 
of Christian theology. 8 Paul is peculiarly the creator 
of this theology, and his scheme — though ingenuity 
can do wonderful things in extracting " kernels " 

1 Lecture III. (Second Coarse). 

2 Lecture I. (Second Coavae); cf. Philosophy ofJReligion, i. p. 339. 
8 Lecture IV. (Second Course) ; cf. his Urchristenthum, pp. 1-25. 



" Picture- Language" and the Sceptic 65 

from it 1 — is mainly a scheme in the air! But treat 
these illusions tenderly. Professor Pfleiderer is very 
angry with the Eitschlians for laying violent hands on 
what he calls the " picture-language " of the Church, 2 
i.e., the dogmas of the Miraculous Conception, Eesurrec- 
tion, and the like. Let all be carefully preserved. 
Let the Church be maintained, with its institutions, 
its sacraments, its festivals, — its Christmas, and 
Epiphany, and Easter, and Whitsuntide ; let the 
old prayers be recited, the old hymns be sung, the 
old Scripture lessons be read, the old service be gone 
through. The philosopher knows its meaning, and it 
edifies the people. Ah, but there are others to reckon 
with ! The sceptic comes along, who has long since 
parted with all this theological make-believe, — a 
Strauss or a Hartmann, — and he draws aside the veil, 
and points the finger $X> this which is going on, and 
says, " What mockery ! " " In all ages," says Hart- 
mann, " there has been one common mark of the 
Christian religion — belief in Christ. .... But the 
liberal Protestant cannot believe in Christ as either 
Luther, or Thomas Aquinas, or John, or Paul, or Peter, 
believed in Christ, and least of all as Jesus believed 
in Himself, for He believed Himself to be the Christ 
— the Messiah." 3 And is the sceptic not right ? 

Must we then give up all in which we have hitherto 
believed ? Most certainly not, if only we are willing 

1 Lecture V. (Second Course). 

8 Introduction to Grundriss (1893). 

8 Selbstzersetzung des Christenthums, pp. 54, 55. 

5 



66 The Supernatural in Christianity 

to fulfil the simple condition of allowing Christian 
ideas and beliefs to grow upon their own root, and do 
not attempt to put this artificial, non-natural meaning 
upon them, and force them into a frame of anti- 
supernaturalism with which they can never agree. 
Go back to these Gospels again, — you will find a very 
different Jesus in them from Him whom Professor 
Pfleiderer has pictured. Professor Pfleiderer tells us 
that Jesus was no enthusiast, yet he acknowledges 
that He believed in His Messiahship, and in His own 
future return to judge the world. 1 Think of One who, 
without fanaticism, claimed to be the Judge of the 
world — the arbiter of the everlasting destinies of 
mankind, and ask by what standard you are to 
measure Him ? Think of One who speaks habitually 
of Himself as " Son of Man " and " Son of God/' who 
founds the Kingdom of God, who gives the law for a 
new dispensation, who arrogates to Himself the power 
on earth to forgive sins, who dispenses the Holy Ghost, 
who ascribes an expiatory virtue to His death, who 
predicts His Eesurrection iand return in glory ! This is 
no simple, trustful, religious genius, preaching a sweet 
gospel of the love of God to the multitudes of Galilee, 
but One vastly greater. I read these Gospels, and 
find in them the most wonderful impress of historical 
reality. But if the Christ of these Gospels was an 
historical Person, He made claims, He did works, He 
spoke from a consciousness of unity with God, He 
asserted an authority, He wielded prerogatives, which 

1 Lecture III. (Second Course). 



The Faith which Overcomes 67 

you cannot fit into a merely human — least of all 
naturalistic — frame. To the life and death of such an 
One as Jesus Himself claimed to be, the Eesurrection 
was a natural sequel, — indeed, is implied in His own 
announcements of a return after death. And it is 
faith in such a Divine Christ, — One who liveth and 
was dead, and, behold, is alive for evermore, — not 
faith in a mere moral ideal, which is the victory that 
overcomes the world. 1 I do not pursue this subject 
further, but leave the discussion of the historical 
evidence to one more competent to deal with it than 
I am. 

1 1 John v. 4, 5 ; Rev. i. 18. I have not had opportunity to refer to 
the remarkable silence on the hope of immortality in the Lectures, but 
the fact is surely one full of significance. Can the Christian hope be 
dissociated from the promise — "Because I live, ye shall live also" 
(John xiv. 19) ? 



* 

* 



Ill 

/ THE TRUSTWORTHINESS OF THE 

GOSPELS 

By PROFESSOR MARCUS DODS, D.D. 



Ill 
THE TRUSTWORTHINESS OF THE GOSPELS 



Ik the first Lecture of this Course the ground was 
cleared of some of the difficulties most commonly 
alleged against the admission of the supernatural ; its 
reasonableness and congruity were urged; and the 
genealogy and general character of Professor Pfleiderer's 
scheme were indicated. The second Lecture exposed 
the inconsistencies of that scheme, and of the philo- 
sophy which so largely enters into it. It is my humbler 
function to exhibit the unsatisfactory character of the 
Gospel criticism which is an essential part or necessary 
adjunct of this form of anti-supernaturalism. I am 
not called to estimate the value of miracle, to discuss 
its necessity, or to determine whether we can have a 
religion without it, and what kind of religion that 
must be ; I am not even to bring forward what might 
be adduced as positive evidence in favour of the 
miracles which lie at the foundation of Christianity : I 
am merely to show the incompetence of that mode of 
disposing of the miraculous which is adopted by 
Professor Pfleiderer under the guise of criticism. But 
if I must call you down from those heights of philo- 

71 



72 The Supernatural in Christianity 

sophy to which you have been carried, and invite you 
to accompany me on lower levels and in more 
pedestrian style, I have yet the advantage of being 
able to lay before you issues, that are sharply defined 
and easily apprehended. 

Let me once again remind you that the question 
in debate is the all-important one : What is Christ ? 
What is the truth about Him ; how is He to be 
accounted for ; and what lies at the root of His 
influence ? Is He a supernatural interpolation in the 
history of our race, or is He the natural product of 
antecedent persons and conditions ? Did He begin to 
be when born in Judea, or did He come from a 
previous existence ? Is He human, precisely as other 
men are human, or has He a unique relationship to 
the Father and to the Unseen ? Is Christ merely the 
best of men, or is He the same who was with God and 
was God, and by whom God made the worlds ? 

To answer these questions, one naturally turns to 
the Gospels. These narratives profess to give us an 
account of what Jesus was and did and said in His 
life on earth. Cannot we, then, at once settle all 
debate by referring to these documents ? No, says the 
theory in question, you cannot ; because it is axiomatic 
that all miracle is impossible, and the Gospels are full 
of miracle. In the words of Professor Pfleiderer : "To 
investigate a history means to trace up the connections 
of its causes and effects and to make it intelligible to 
the understanding. This presupposes that in what 
once happened there existed such a connection of 



Exclusion of Miracle 73 

causes and effects as is analogous to our general 
experience and to what happens among men, and is 
therefore intelligible to our understanding." This 
postulate is an essential part of the philosophy ex- 
pounded by Professor Pfleiderer. It cannot admit the 
miraculous. One miracle explodes the whole system. 

Now, unquestionably, any construction of Christianity 
which can dispense with miracle has a primd facie 
recommendation. Matthew Arnold stands by no 
means alone when he says : " There is nothing one 
would more desire for a person or a document one 
greatly values, than to make them independent of 
miracles." The smaller the claim, the larger will be ) 
the number who admit it. Possibly; possibly, also, 
even religion may be so cheapened as to make it worth- 
less. A religion without miracle may turn out to be 
a religion without God. Take Christ, we are told, as 
the revealer of God, and let miracles go. But we ' 
may reasonably ask in reply, How has Christ revealed 
to us a God present with us, tender and helpful? 
How, but by and in those very miracles in which 
divine compassion and divine help were manifested ? . 
Is it not precisely the miracles of Christ even / 
more than His teaching, and as much as His death, ( 
which have imprinted indelibly on the heart of J 
Christendom the impression of God's love ? 

Neither is it quite as easy as it seems * to dismiss 
miracle. For at once the question emerges, and a 
most troublesome question it has proved itself to be, 
What is to be done with the Gospels ? Here are four 



74 The Supernatural in Christianity 

narratives, indisputably written by truthful writers; 

and yet it is imperative to get rid of a large part of 

what they tell. How is it to be done ? Observe that, 

/ starting from the postulate that miracle is impossible, 

! criticism is impossible. The form of examining the 

i 

/ records may be gone through, but the conclusion is 
( foregone. No school of sound criticism can arise on 
a basis of presuppositions so enormous. The problem 
of criticism so-called, becomes the problem of finding 
the most feasible mode of accounting for the presence 
of the supernatural in the Gospels. No matter what 
violence is done to the Gospels in the process, it is 
imperative to form a theory of their origin which shall 
account for the presence of the miraculous without 
requiring us to accept it. 

It is to this point I am asked to speak. I have 
nothing to say directly of the underlying philosophy 
— I am relieved from the extremely difficult task of 
measuring the probable results of accepting or denying 
this philosophy; but I have to call your attention 
to this: that the philosophy under consideration 
necessarily carries with it a certain explanation of 
the Gospels, and if this explanation is demonstrably 
erroneous, then plainly the philosophy itself must be 
reconsidered. 

In testing the worth of Professor Pfleiderer's criti- 
cism of the Gospels, it will be convenient first of all to 
consider the theory by which he accounts for the 
presence of the miraculous, then to examine his 
account of the crowning miracle, the Eesurrection 



Strauss revives in Pfleiderer 75 

of Christ, and, if time allows, to adduce some con- 
siderations which corroborate the historicity of the 
narrative as it stands. 

On learning Professor Pfleiderer's theory of the origin 
of the Gospels, the first feeling is one of disappointment. 
Has criticism, then, actually not moved for sixty 
years f This is precisely nothing more nor less than 
the theory of Strauss, given to the world so long ago, 
and which was thought to have been slain and buried 
a generation ago. May not conservative criticism be 
excused if it exclaim, " This is John whom I be- 
headed." In the battle of Inkermann, after every 
repulse of the Eussians, mass after mass of grey- 
coated obedience and fearlessness was hurled against 
the British position, but with no new disposition of 
force, and no more adequate conception of the require- 
ments of the attack. They did not know when they 
were defeated. So in these reiterated critical assaults" 
without the slightest change of tactics, one sees stub- 
bornness, gallantry, but also some bluntness of percep- 
tion. " This is not war/' we are tempted to say^ 

However, the fact is that the two most influential 
living critics in Germany at this hour, Holtzmann and 
Pfleiderer, merely reproduce the theory of Strauss, and 
certainly have added nothing of any consequence to 
his fascinatingly lucid and persuasive presentation 
of the case. This theory accounts for the large 
admixture of the miraculous in the Gospels by the 
familiar fact that there always grow up round the 
figure of popular favourites incredible stories of 



76 The Supernatural in Christianity 

wonderful feats, marvellous escapes, and so forth. 
The influence of this tendency in the human mind 
had been quite perceptible in the early history of 
Greece and Eome, and traditional stories had been 
discounted and allowance made for the inevitable 
incursion of the marvellous. The history of Jesus 
was singularly liable to the influence of this myth- 
forming propensity, because already in the Old Testa- 
ment there abounded foreshadowings of what the 
Messiah was to be, and the Jewish people cherished 
in their minds an ideal to which the history must be 
conformed. Those who had not known the actual 
Jesus would necessarily ascribe to Him all that they 
had expected the Messiah to be and to do. They would 
unconsciously argue : " Such and such things must have 
happened to the Messiah — Jesus was the Messiah : 
therefore, such and such things happened to Him." 
The Messiah was to be greater than Moses ; and as 
Moses had given the people manna, Jesus must be 
represented as feeding the hungry miraculously. 
Elisha raised the dead; Jesus therefore must also 
raise the dead. Jesus must have gathered up and 
surpassed in His own life and deeds everything that 
the ancient prophets had done and experienced. This 
\ weaving of a garland for the popular hero was not the 
work of premeditating deceit or of cunning invention : 
it was the inevitable growth of the feeling of the 
community. 

Another influence was also at work. This influence 
Strauss exhibits in the following words ; " Conceive a 



Mythical Theory of the Gospels 77 

-recently-established community, revering its founder 
with all the more enthusiasm on his unexpected and 
tragic removal from his work ; a community impreg- 
nated with a mass of new ideas, which were destined 
to transform the world; a community of Orientals, 
chiefly unlearned people, who therefore could not 
appropriate and express those ideas in the abstract 
conceptional forms of the understanding, but only as 
symbols and stories in the concrete fashion of the 
imagination. When all this is remembered, one can 
perceive that, under these circumstances, there must 
necessarily have arisen what actually did arise, viz., a 
series of sacred narratives fitted to bring visibly before 
the mind the whole mass of new ideas started by 
Jesus, and of old ones applied to Him, cast in the 
form of particular incidents in His life." According 
to this theory, it is the idea not the related fact that 
is true. The eternal truths of Christianity are 
embodied by the popular imagination in concrete 
incidents and actions. The reported resurrection of 
Christ was the rendering visible to the imagination, 
and sealing on the mind, of the great truth that man 
lives by dying. The narrative of the turning of water 
into wine, to continue the festivity of the wedding 
feasts at Cana, was merely a way of saying that, the 
watery forms of Judaism were to be changed into the 
strengthening wine of spiritual religion by Jesus. 
Thus, although the fact disappears, the idea, the 
eternal truth abides. And it is only the idea which 
is of any acccount. 



78 The Supernatural in Christianity 

The difficulties in the way of accepting this theory 
are enormous. First, It proceeds upon the idea that 
the Messiah was expected to be a worker of miracles, 
and therefore after the death of Jesus miracles were 
freely ascribed to Him. But if during His life Jesus 
had wrought no miracles, how did He come to be 
acknowledged as the Messiah by persons who looked 
for a miracle-working Messiah ? How was it possible 
that men who were so persuaded the Messiah would 
work miracles that they invented them for Him, should 
recognise as the Messiah a person who wrought none ? 
If without miracles the first step could be taken, and 
they could be induced to believe in Him as the 
Messiah, why could not the easier subsequent steps be 
taken without the ascription of miracles ? Something 
originated the idea that He was a supernatural person, 
what was it ? 

Second, It is not denied that Jesus Himself claimed 
to work miracles. This admission seems to me fatal 
. to the theory. To say that He was compelled to work 
miracles against His inclination, is nothing to the 
point. To say that He professed to work miracles, but 
did not, is inadmissible. Whether a supernatural 
person or not, He was sane and He was honest. But to 
admit that He claimed to work miracles, and to main- 
tain that He could not and did not, is to reduce the 
purest, truest Being we know to the level of the 
common charlatan. His own claim seems to me to 
settle the question. 

Third,The mythical theory must have been elaborated 



Difficulties of the Mythical Theory 79 

in forgetfulness of one of the most important factors in 
the origin of Christianity — the Apostle Paul The 
miracles ascribed to Jesus are accounted for by the 
hero-worship of His followers : how are the miracles of 
Paul accounted for? A mythical theory is here 
impossible. If one is determined to exclude the 
miraculous, he must have the hardihood to maintain 
that Paul was again and again mistaken as to what 
was happening under his own observation and in his 
own experience. That, of course, does not deter those 
whose postulate is the impossibility of. the miraculous ; 
but it should deter them from advancing the mythical 
theory to account for the appearance of the miraculous 
in primitive records, — for here are records, the Epistles 
of Paul, to which the theory cannot be applied. 

Fourth, The fourth difficulty which prevents our 
acceptance of this theory is that, admittedly, the 
formation of myths requires some time. Thus Strauss 
himself says : " It would most unquestionably be an 
argument of decisive weight in favour of the credibility 
of the biblical history, could it indeed be shown that 
it was written by eye-witnesses or even by persons 
nearly contemporaneous with the events narrated." * 
If it can be shown that the Gospels faithfully embody 
the primitive tradition, the observation and conviction 
f of eye-witnesses, and that they are not the reflection of 
the thoughts and fancies of the second generation, 
then this theory falls to the ground. Hence the 
efforts constantly put forth to bring the Gospels down 

1 Life of Jesus, p. 55. 



80 The Supernatural in Christianity 

to a late date, and to deny to them the authority 
attaching to the reports of eye-witnesses. It is usually 
represented by this school of critics, that until the 
year 70 the story of the life of Jesus was not written 
down, but was at the mercy of oral tradition. But, 
notoriously, oral tradition not only preserves, it creates : 
each person that tells the story tries to tell it in a 
sharper and more impressive form. And thus, as time 
goes on, the story, in proportion to its popularity, 
becomes distorted, and its last state is irreconcilable 
with its original 

It is essential, therefore, that we know the facts 
regarding the origin of the Gospels. Are they, as 
represented, the embodiment of an oral tradition which, 
for a full generation at least, had been at the mercy of 
popular fancy ? If this description can apply to any 
of our Gospels, it must be to Luke's. Now, Luke has 
fortunately given us a few words of preface, in which 
he himself tells us something of his opportunities for 
arriving at the historical truth. In this preface he 
implies that he himself had not been an eye-witness of 
what he records. But are we therefore to conclude 
that he merely gathered together the current oral 
tradition, and that therefore we have little or no 
security for the truth of his narration ? Are we 
to think of Luke as a youth of twenty or thirty years 
of age, sitting down in the year 80 or thereby to com- 
pile, partly from uncertified documents, partly from 
current and popular stories, what we now accept as the 
Third Gospel ? That certainly is the impression left 



Origin of the Gospels 8 1 

on the mind by the representations given by critics of 
this school. But this is far from correct. Luke was 
one of the most intimate of the companions of Paul — 
the trusted, faithful, confidential friend of the men of the 
first generation, and himself born certainly before the 
year 30, probably before 20, and possibly much earlier. 
He shows that he quite understood the value of the 
testimony of eye-witnesses by the manner in which he 
speaks of it ; he shows that he was aware that care- 

1 fulness and accurate investigation were requisite in 
narrating events which he himself had not witnessed ; 
he tells us that he had carefully investigated all he 
narrates, and he narrates it to impart assurance to 
Theophilus. The accuracy of Luke is confirmed year 
after year, by the discovery of inscriptions and of local 
peculiarities by which his narrative in the Acts can be 
checked, and it is now maintained by all who know 
the subject at first hand that he is an accurate 
historian. 

One feature of this Gospel cannot escape observa- 
tion. A full third of it, from the ninth to the \ 
eighteenth chapter, is a solid block of narrative not ' 
found in the other Gospels. This section of the Gospel 
contains several of the most beautiful of our Lord's 
parables and sayings, which, by their form as well as 
their substance, are self-authenticating. So genuine a 
record is this, that, not without plausibility, it has been 
supposed to be the work of one who accompanied our 
Lord at this period of His ministry. But embedded 

in this genuine narrative are accounts of miracle. I 
6 



82 The Supernatural in Christianity 

own to a feeling of disingenuousness if I proposie to 
accept the one part of the narrative and reject the 
other. 

Further, an examination of the Third Gospel reveals 
the fact that the writer made use not only of oral 
tradition but of written material. Is it an incredible 
supposition that some at least of the "many" nar- 
ratives already in circulation were ten y^ars older 
than Luke's own Gospel ? But if that is not only 
credible, but most probable, then we are taken back to 
a period when a considerable number of the con- 
temporaries of Jesus were still alive and indeed in 
their prime, and well able to contradict or to corroborate 
accounts of what had taken place under their own: 
observation. 

Criticism is not as yet in a position to declare with 
certainty the date of Luke's Gospel. Lower than the 
year 80 a.d. it can scarcely be brought, but the latest 
German criticism of the Gospel, published two or 
three months ago (Hahn), maintains that it was 
written by a contemporary of our Lord. And indeed 
it is as open to any one to suppose it was written in 
the year 60 as in the year 80. The second work of 
the author, the Book of Acts, terminates abruptly, and 
the obvious and simple reason for that abrupt termina- 
tion is that, when the book was written, there was no 
more to tell, that he had written it up to date ; in 
other words, that he was writing in the year 63 or 
64. No other reason has been assigned for its abrupt 
close. Strauss follows the easier course of saying, 



Composition of the Third Gospel 83 

" The breaking off of Acts might have been the result of 
many other causes." But he mentions none. 

It is, therefore, a misrepresentation to say or to 
imply that the Third Gospel is the mere embodiment 
of an oral tradition which has been for a generation 
at the mercy of popular fancy. It is the work of a 
man who more than fulfils Strauss's requirement of 
being " nearly contemporary," of a man who was the 
companion of eye-witnesses, and who, as a careful 
historian, knew the value of first-hand testimony. 
That such a book, so composed, may have admitted 
embellishments .is likely enough ; that everything here 
narrated occurred precisely as it stands it might be 
hazardous to maintain : but that it is little more than 
a mass of myths is incredible. 

In the present state of criticism, it is impossible to 
speak with certainty of the origin of the First Gospel. 
That the apostle by whose name it is still called had 
something to do with its composition is tolerably 
certain, but it is also certain that it passed through 
more hands than his before it reached its present 
form. Certainly we cannot accept all that we find in 
Matthew's Gospel as the testimony of Matthew, i.e. of 
an eye-witness. If criticism can prove anything, it 
can prove that much that is in this Gospel was not 
written by an eye-witness. At the same time, critics 
who have an instinctive taste for style, such as Eenan, 
admit frankly that the sayings of Jesus recorded in 
this Gospel bear upon them irresistible marks of 
authenticity. But many of these sayings affirm the 



84 The Supernatural in Christianity 

miraculous, and arise out of discussions regarding the 
miracles wrought by Jesus. We have, therefore, in 
this Gospel incontrovertible evidence that Jesus Him- 
self believed that miracles could be wrought and were 
wrought by Himself. Through these sayings we are 
brought into the very presence of Jesus Himself, 
and we find that both He and His contemporaries, 
friends and foes, believed that He worked miracles. 
No room is found for a mythical theory, for a theory 
which says that the belief that the Messiah must have 
wrought miracles grew up in the second generation, 
and the Gospels reflect that belief. That belief 
existed in the first generation. 

But have we not in the Fourth Gospel precisely 
the testimony demanded — the testimony of one who 
lived on familiar terms with Jesus, who was with Him 
from day to day during His ministry, who saw all 
that He did, who had liberty to question Him about 
all that He did, and who at length records for behoof 
of others the incidents and sayings which had produced 
in himself the conviction that Jesus was the Christ, 
the Son of God ? This is denied, and of course must 
be denied, by critics who are resolved to exclude the 
miraculous. If the Fourth Gospel is from the hand 
of John, the apostle and friend of Jesus, then what 
Strauss calls a decisive weight is thrown into the 
scale of historicity. Deliberate falsification is out of 
the question, and is not suggested ; ignorance plainly 
cannot be pleaded, and is not pleaded. The easier 
course is chosen, and it is affirmed that this Gospel is 



Authorship of the Fourth Gospel 85 

not from the hand of that one only person to whom 
it was ever ascribed in early times. Of course no one 
now-a-days has so little regard to his reputation as to 
ascribe it, as Baur did, to the year 170. That is no 
longer possible. Every find of primitive literature 
which has recently been made is a nail in the coffin 
of these late dates, and forms one more link more 
certainly binding this Gospel to the first century. 
The current of criticism has set in strongly during 
recent years towards the Johannine authorship. Still, 
undaunted by the fact that the Gospel is quoted as 
early as the year 125, Professor Pfleiderer bravely 
holds the last post, and declares that the Gospel was 
written about 140. But, one would say, a man of 
learning and judgment, who knows all that has been 
urged on the other side, must have some substantial 
reason for declaring against the general voice. What 
is his reason ? His reason is, that the governing 
ideas of the Gospel belong to a system of thought 
which only came into vogue in the third decade of 
the second century. " In order to estimate correctly 
the true value of this Gospel, we should not seek in 
it a historical work, which it did not at all mean to 
be, but it was a didactic way of writing which had 
invested its theological thoughts in the form of a 
life of Jesus." " The material of the evangelic tradi- 
tion was only used to the extent that it was usable 
for the didactic purpose of the theologian John ; the 
discourses of the synoptic Jesus were completely re- 
placed by dogmatic treatises which would have been 



86 The Supernatural in Christianity 

as incomprehensible for the companions of Jesus and 
for His time and people as they were, in fact, 
intelligible and useful for the apologetic theology of 
the second century. Generally it was the experiences, 
feelings, and interests of the Church of his time which 
the evangelist saw typified in the life of Jesus." This 
is as nearly as possible the reverse of the truth. 
This Gospel could not have been written in the second 
century. It is saturated with the atmosphere, the 
thought, the mental movement of the first age. 

Now, of course, this method of criticism is sound : 
that is to say, it is the task of criticism to show the 
relevancy of the contents of any document to the 
thought of the age to which it belongs. A document 
that claims to belong to the year 1750, and speaks 
of the independence of the United States, is thereby 
condemned as spurious. A scientific treatise claiming 
to belong to the sixteenth century is recognised as a 
forgery belonging to a much later age, if it speaks of the 
origin of man, of heredity and of evolution, in terms 
which have only come into vogue in our own day. 
The question is: Does John speak in a language more 
appropriate to the second century than to the first ? 
Is his mind occupied with the ideas, controversies, 
prospects of the first or of the second century ? Two 
main subjects occupied the thoughts of Christian 
people in the second century, the relation of the State 
to Christianity, and the relation of Christianity to the 
current Gnostic philosophy. The Apologies which 
remain from that period, those of Justin, Aristides, 



Literature of the Second Century 87 

Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus, being addressed to 
heathen rulers or inquirers, are of an entirely different 
character from the Fourth Gospel. This Gospel was 
also an Apology, but in its framework and conception, 
its contents and its language, it is as far removed as 
well could be from the typical second century Apology. 
None of the later apologists attempts a life of 
Christ, or puts into His mouth discourses not 
found in the canonical Gospels ; they fill their pages 
with explanations of Christian belief and Christian 
practice, and they defend Christians against the mis- 
conceptions and calumnies current among the heathen 
populace. One glance at them is enough to show 
that they could not have been written in the earliest 
period. Already the Christians are so numerous as to 
have attracted the attention of the State ; the Church 
has become fixed in its creed and in its practices. 
Already it has a history. Place the Fourth Gospel in 
the midst of that literature, and the incongruity is at 
once apparent. The dullest critic must perceive at 
once that this Gospel belongs to a different class of 
literature, springs out of another atmosphere. 

But there were other writers in the second century 
besides the apologists. There were semi-Christian 
Gnostics, continually spinning out of their brain 
philosophies more or less related to Christianity. 
These writers produced works of a very different 
character from the Apologies, but with as little 
resemblance to the Fourth Gospel. They use the 
material furnished by the Gospels, and hereby prove 



88 The Supernatural in Christianity 

themselves to belong to an age lower than the primitive. 
But with one of these, according to Professor Pfleiderer, 
the Fourth Gospel holds an obvious relationship. It 
is Basilides who is selected for the honour of inspiring 
the writer of the Fourth Gospel. It is from Basilides 
he borrows his dualistic opposition of light and dark- 
ness, God and the devil. Occasionally, too, the errors 
of Basilides are aimed at in the Gospel. John, e.g., 
departs from the synoptic tradition, and makes no 
mention of Simon bearing the cross. Why is this 
significant omission made ? According to this lynx- 
eyed German criticism, it was made because Basilides 
held that Simon not only bore the cross but suffered 
in place of Jesus, while Jesus, in the form of Simon, 
stood by and laughed at His enemies. But, concludes 
Professor Pfleiderer, since the Basilidian gnosis only 
emerged in the third decade of the second century, 
the Gospel cannot well have been written before the 
fourth decade. 

Unfortunately for this theory, Basilides did not 
hold the docetic view of Christ's person ; the story of 
Simon had no place in the theory of Basilides, 1 who 
explicitly admitted, unlike some other gnostics, that 
the sufferings of Christ were real and indeed necessary. 
And, still more unfortunately, instead of the Fourth 
Gospel being indebted to Basilides, Basilides quotes 
the Fourth Gospel, — quotes not words of our Lord, 

1 Irenseus and Tertullian, it is true, sot to mention Epiphanius, 
ascribe this belief to Basilides, but the much fuller and more accurate 
account of Hippolytus, which is confirmed by Clement of Alexandria, 
excludes it. 



The Fourth Gospel belongs to First Century 89 

which might have been handed down by tradition, 
but quotes from the prologue written by the evangelist 
himself. Instead, therefore, of the Fourth Gospel being 
subsequent to Basilides, and belonging to the year 140, 
it must have been earlier than he, that is, earlier than 
the year 125, and therefore close upon, if not within, 
the first century. Indeed, as Basilides certainly be- 
longed to the third generation after Christ, that is, as 
he certainly knew men and learned from men who 
had themselves known Christ, it may reasonably be 
concluded that he would not have quoted from an 
unauthorised, fictitious Gospel, which had come into 
existence in his own time. 

Evidence of a similar kind has so rapidly multiplied 
during recent years, that even the most cautious and 
reluctant of critics have been compelled to push back 
the date of the Fourth Gospel, until now it is wholly 
exceptional for any one to deny that it may quite 
well have originated during the lifetime of the 
Apostle John. No scholar of the past or present 
generation has been so familiar with the literature of 
the second century as the late Bishop Lightfoot But 
he is decidedly of opinion that this Gospel is from the 
hand of the apostle. Professor Sanday has spent 
many laborious years in investigating with the most 
unbiassed of judgments, and the most thoroughly 
scholarly equipment, everything connected with the 
origin of the Gospels ; he now stands alone, whether 
in Germany or in England, as an authority on this 
subject : it is his carefully-formed conviction that the 



90 The Supernatural in Christianity 

Gospel is no reflection of second century ideas, and 
could not by any possibility be such. 1 Add to this, 
that the writer of the Gospel himself declares that he 
was an eye-witness of what he relates : " He that saw 
it hath borne record, and his record is true, and he 
knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe." 

Besides all this, there are what may be called 
watermarks in the Gospel itself, which witness to its 
being a careful record of facts. It is maintained that 
the Gospel is not a history but a doctrinal treatise in 
the form of a history, and that the doctrine it is 
intended to expound and inculcate is the doctrine of 
the Logos, or the Word of God. Is it not strange, 
then, that the writer never once puts this designation 
into the lips of our Lord Himself, although manifestly 
this would have given an authority to His teaching 
which it does not otherwise possess? Again, why 
does he give the number of the fishes taken in the 
miraculous draught ? Not, certainly, for any of the 
absurd reasons of symbolism suggested by com- 
mentators, but simply because he was a fisherman, 
who must always count his take, and can never after 
forget it ot abstain from mentioning it. In the other 
Gospels the same marks of historicity exist. The 
favourite title by which our Lord designates Himself 
is, " the Son of Man" ; but this is a title never used by 
His followers, and entirely displaced by the title " the 
Christ " in the succeeding generation. Again, why, if 
not from a regard to fact, do the Gospels put in the 

1 Similarly Harnack. 



Inadequacy of Mythical Theory 91 

mouth of the demoniacs a designation of our Lord not 
in common use, and represent them as calling Him 
" Son of the Most High God " ? Instances of a similar 
kind, which demonstrate that the Gospels are trust- 
worthy records, may be multiplied ad libitum. 

The theory, then, that the Gospels are rather the 
reflection of the ideas of the second and third 
generations after Christ, than trustworthy records, of 
what He actually said and did, finds no support in 
what is known of the origin, date, and composition of 
the narratives. The attempt to loosen faith in what 
they report by attributing to them a late date, and an 
admission of much that is entirely fanciful, will be 
abandoned by any one who for a while turns from 
philosophical presuppositions and studies questions of 
criticism. We have, at least, one Gospel from the 
hand of an eye-witness, who, knowing the difficulty of 
finding credence for the strange things he relates, 
emphatically declares that he saw what he records. 
To reject such testimony is to put ourselves out of 
court altogether, and to lose hold of all sound guiding 
principles of criticism. In another Gospel, as is 
admitted by critics of all schools, there are embedded 
reports of our Lord's sayings written down by one 
who heard them, and in these reports it is again and 
again implied that our Lord and His contemporaries 
believed He wrought miracles. In the Gospel of 
Mark, again, we have the stories Peter used to tell, as 
his friend Mark used to hear and interpret them. 
And in Lukes Gospel we have, from the hand of one 



92 The Supernatural in Christianity 

who has elsewhere proved himself a careful historian, 
and who had been the companion of those who knew 
our Lord, a digest of His works and words, compiled 
from their reports and from written records. In all 
these competent authorities for the history of Christ 
the miraculous is freely narrated. If these accounts 
are untrue, it is strange that of such a life we should 
not have one true narrative. That each is accurate 
in every detail we have no concern to maintain ; that 
all are inaccurate, in what they consider the core of the 
history, it is impossible to believe. That the trans- 
mission of the story in an unwritten form should 
occasion considerable divergence in details of time, 
place, and circumstance, was to be expected ; but that 
the entire complexion and most striking characteristic 
of the life should suffer such change as to become an 
entirely different thing, is simply not credible. That 
myth should be absolutely excluded, and that no one 
of the incidents narrated is touched by it, may be an 
extreme position to assume ; but that the bulk of the 
narrative, or any considerable portion of it, is mythical, 
has certainly not been made out ; and this method of 
accounting for the appearance of the miraculous may 
be dismissed as incompetent 

It may, however, be said that even granting that 
the Gospels are in the main trustworthy, admitting 
that they faithfully depict Christ's character, yet, 
when they give us accounts of miracles, we must 
draw the line at that point, and decline to follow 
them, because not even the evidence of trustworthy 



Huxley on Impossibility 93 

men can impart credibility to the miraculous. It is 
here where cautious critics at present entrench 
themselves. Professor Huxley, e.g., will not affirm the 
impossibility, but only the incredibility of miracles. 
Recently he has made a remarkable statement to this 
effect : " Strictly speaking," he says, " I am unaware 
of anything that has a right to the title of an 
< impossibility,' except a contradiction in terms. There 
are impossibilities logical, but none natural. A 
' round square/ a ' present past/ ' two parallel lines 
that intersect/ are impossibilities, because the ideas 
denoted by the predicates, round, present, intersect, are 
contradictory of the ideas denoted by the subjects, 
square, past, parallel. But walking on water, or 
turniDg water into wine, or procreation without male 
intervention, or raising the dead, are plainly not 
' impossibilities ' in this sense." It might, he thinks, 
be otherwise if our present knowledge of nature 
exhausted the possibilities of nature, but it is, he 
says, " sufficiently obvious, not only that we are at the 
beginning of our knowledge of nature, instead of 
having arrived at the end of it, but that the limita- 
tions of our faculties are such that we never can be in 
a position to set bounds to the possibilities of nature." 
And I own I cannot see why Professor Pfleiderer, or 
any one else who holds a Theistic as distinguished 
from a Pantheistic philosophy, is constrained to hold, or 
can even consistently hold, the impossibility of miracle. 
But Professor Huxley holds as strongly as Professor 
Pfleiderer the incredibility of the miraculous. And 



94 The Supernatural in Christianity 

with his accustomed perspicuity, if scarcely with his 
wonted sagacity, he puts the whole argument in a 
nutshell, when he asks if any testimony would make 
it credible that a centaur had been seen trotting down 
Eegent Street. Now this illustration brings out with 
precision the weakness of this position. 

For (1) the centaur is itself a monstrosity. The 
miracles of the New Testament are all on the plane 
of nature. Feeding the hungry, healing the sick, 
raising the dead, — all these are removals of obstruc- 
tions which hinder nature from being the expression 
of God's goodwill to man. They are hints of an ideal 
state which nature will one day reach, accelerations of 
her slower processes. So far from the truth is 
Matthew Arnold's dictum, that "from the moment 
that the comparative history of all miracles is a 
conception entertained and a study admitted, the 
conclusion is certain, that the reign of the Bible 
miracles is doomed." So far is this from the truth, 
that it is when you bring the miracles of Jesus into 
comparison with the prodigies and portents of Greece 
and Eome, that you more clearly than ever discern 
the finger of God, and detect, perhaps for the first 
time, the essential and distinctive character of the 
works of Christ as truly revealing the God of the 
nature we know. 

(2) But, secondly and especially, the centaur is an 
isolated phenomenon \ proceeding from nothing, going 
no whither, accomplishing nothing, signifying nothing, 
meaningless, irrelevant, incredible. The fact that a 



Are Miracles Incredible ? 95 

man of Huxley's sagacity should compare such an 
appearance to the miracles of the New Testament is- 
another warning to us to examine for ourselves, 
another demonstration that able men may often be. 
satisfied with but touching the surface of a subject. 
The miracles of the New Testament were wrought by 
a unique Person, by one who actually revealed God 
and altered the world's conception of God ; they were 
wrought as a part of that revelation, and they have 
actually enabled men to think of God as merciful ; 
they appear as the natural outcome of a manifesta- 
tion, which had been prepared for and expected 
through a long course of years. Between miracles 
so embedded in the supernatural, so significant, so 
congruous to the circumstances, . and trailing such a 
history behind them, — and a centaur trotting down 
Regent Street, where is the analogy ? 

But it is precisely here where all assaults on the 
credibility of the Christian miracles fail. The very 
strongest evidence in their favour is their congruity 
with the Person who wrought them, and with the 
revelation in connection with which they were 
wrought ; and this evidence is regularly left out of 
account. In this respect, Matthew Arnold, who com- 
pares them with the marvels recorded in Grecian 
history, is as superficial as Huxley. Of course we 
should find it difficult to believe in the resurrection 
of Julius Csesar or of Trajan; but given a unique 
person, a person already miraculous in His sinlessness, 
and on whose resurrection the hope of the world de- 



96 The Supernatural in Christianity 

pended, and I find the incredibility immeasurably 
diminished. Is it nothing in favour of the miracles, 
that they were wrought for the accomplishment of 
the greatest end that is to be served in this world? 
Does it make them no more credible, that they were 
relevant, significant, congruous, necessary ? The mir- 
acles are Christ's miracles, and that makes precisely 
all the difference. 

But let us test the trustworthiness of the Gospel 
narrative at its critical point. Each of the Gospels 
tells us that after Jesus had been crucified, and His 
actual death certified to Pilate, He was buried, but that, 
after lying in the tomb two nights and a day, He rose 
again, and was seen alive by many of His disciples, and 
on several occasions. This, it is said, is incredible. 
It is possible that He may have healed persons 
afflicted with certain forms of nervous disease, much 
may be believed of the impression He made by His per- 
sonality, but that He appeared in a bodily form after 
death is not to be believed. It is not doubted that His 
followers thought they saw Him alive after He had 
been buried, nor is it doubted that it was this belief 
of theirs which carried their drooping faith in His 
Messiahship, and produced the Christian Church. It 
is admitted that the faith, the ideas, the institutions 
of the Christian people, the faith which has brought the 
most healthy influence the world has known, was based 
on the Eesurrection. If the Eesurrection is a delusion, 
then we must accept the consequence that what has 
been best in human history is the result of a mistake. 



Belief in the L ords Resurrection 9 7 

That the disciples supposed they had seen the risen 
Lord is admitted. It is admitted that " the astonish- 
ing revolution, from the deep depression and utter 
hopelessness of the disciples at the death of Jesus, to 
the strong faith and enthusiasm with which they 
proclaimed Him as the Messiah in the succeeding 
Pentecost, would be inexplicable, unless something 
extraordinarily encouraging had taken place, — some- 
thing, in fact, which had convinced them of His 
Eesurrection. But that this cause of conviction was 
precisely a real appearance of the risen Jesus — that, 
indeed, it was necessarily an external event at all — 
is by no means proved." 

Now, we may at once put aside some explanations 
of this belief which were current sixty years ago, — as 
that Jesus was never truly dead, but, being taken down 
from the cross in a swoon, the unguents of burial 
healed and revived Him. We may trust the Boman 
soldier for knowing what a coup de grace was; and 
we may also suppose that a pallid, almost dead, 
scarcely recovered body, could not be mistaken by 
the disciples for a risen, glorified Lord. Such ex- 
planations have been put out of court by advanced 
critics, because they are glaringly insufficient, and 
damage their cause. 

But also we may put out of court the discrepancies 
in the Gospel accounts of the appearance of Jesus after 
His Eesurrection. These discrepancies have been harped 
upon to an extraordinary extent. What do they 
amount to ? Do they discredit the narrative, so that 
7 



98 T/ie Supernatural in Christianity 

we cannot accept their testimony to the fact of the 
Resurrection ? On these terms we can have no history 
at all. It is impossible to reconcile the discrepant 
accounts we have of the signal given by Nelson at 
Trafalgar, or of the time at which the battle began. 
Are we therefore to conclude that there was no signal 
and no battle ? The conclusion is monstrous, and can 
only be drawn by those whose views of inspiration 
require that they should reconcile every discrepancy. 
The accounts vary in many particulars, but as to the 
central fact that the Lord had risen, and had been 
seen over and over again, there is no variation, and 
such variations as there are, are merely such as exist 
in all similar accounts of one and the same event by 
different authors. 

The disciples, then, believed they had seen the Lord 
risen ; but the Lord had not risen — whence the belief ? 
Stated in its most plausible form, the theory is that 
the disciples, who before the Lord's death had believed 
Him to be the Messiah, found themselves after His 
death compelled to solve the contradiction between 
the ultimate fate of Jesus and their earlier opinion of 
Him. This they did by turning to the Old Testament 
Scriptures, and applying to the Messiah whatever was 
said about the man of God being bowed down even 
to death. But when once they could think of the 
Messiah suffering ignominy in death, they recognised 
that, through death, He had but passed to Messianic 
glory. But how could He fail, out of this glory in 
which He now lived, to give tidings of Himself to His 



Vision-theory of the Belief 99 

followers ? And what more natural, when they read 
the Scriptures, and found their hearts burn within 
them as they gave them this Messianic interpretation, 
than to conceive of this as the actual presence of 
Christ conversing with them ? And how conceivable 
is it that in individuals, especially women, these im- 
pressions were heightened, in a purely subjective 
manner, into actual vision. 1 

This, then, is the theory which is supposed to account 
for the belief in the Eesurrection, and for the foundation 
of the Church. A few excited people, especially women, 
thought they saw, because they wished to see, the 
Lord. The belief created the Eesurrection, not the Re- 
surrection the belief. The theory fails at every point. 

1. Take the narration of the Fourth Gospel. What 
convinced the writer of that Gospel that there had 
been a Eesurrection ? Not an appearance of the Lord 
to an eagerly expectant disciple, — not an appearance 
of the Lord at all to any one, but an examination of a 
tomb by matter-of-fact fishermen. Peter and John 
were convinced, by the very simple method of entering 
the tomb and finding it empty. They had not as yet 
seen anything which they could mistake for their 
Master ; neither had their informant, Mary Magdalene. 
She was so little expecting a Eesurrection, that when 
she saw the stone rolled away she merely supposed 
the body had been removed to be disposed of else- 
where. They were certainly excited when they ran 
out to the sepulchre, but their excitement did not -, 

1 So Strauss. \ 



ioo The Supernatural in Christianity 

create a vision of their risen Lord, All that they saw 
was an empty tomb and deliberately folded grave-clothes. 
Here, then, the vision-theory utterly fails. One or two 
persons, in a peculiarly excitable state, might suppose 
they had seen a figure they very much desired to see, 
but how the belief that the tomb was empty could be 
merely imagined by men who actually entered it, 
passes comprehension. 

2. If the belief in the Resurrection was a delusion, 
why was it not exposed at the time ? Hundreds of 
persons must have visited the sepulchre during the 
succeeding weeks. The apostles affirmed the Resurrec- 
tion when they were brought before the Sanhedrim. Why 

/ did not the authorities at once explode this nascent 
I sect and dangerous heresy, by exposing the delusion on 
\ which it was based ? Nothing was easier, if the body 
of Jesus still lay in the tomb. Nothing was more 
desirable or more desired. Is it credible that with 
the means of quelling all disturbance and resistance 
of their authority, with the means of justifying their 
own conduct in the eyes of the people, the Sanhedrim 
should not have used the opportunity which the 
affirmation of a Resurrection put in their hands, and 
at once and for ever have crushed this delusion ? 

3. Although the vision-theory might explain how 
one or two people believed in the Resurrection, it is 
wholly inadequate to explain the belief of the entire 
body of disciples. It implies that in a couple of days 

. the belief of those who knew the Lord underwent an 
s : : entire change ; that there was not among them one 



The Vision-theory Inadequate ioi 

hard-headed person who could distinguish v fact from 
fancy; and that in the most important of cau&$'and 
in a cause which imperilled their own' litfefc, * they 
jauntily proceeded upon the delusion, and were never 
thrown back on the fact. For it is remarkable that 
the witness of the apostles was unanimous and con- 
stant to the end. And yet this was all delusion. 
These are the miracles, these are the incredibilities 
which attach to this theory of the Gospel narrative. 

It is, no doubt, possible that one or two persons 
who were anxiously awaiting the Resurrection of Jesus 
might persuade themselves that a sudden gleam of 
sunshine or a passing figure was the looked-for person. 
But what sane person, in a matter of such moment, 
would accept that as proof, and not take further steps 
to reach surer ground of belief? Besides, what we 
have here to explain is how not one but several 
persons, not together but in different places and at 
different times, not all in one mood of mind but in 
various moods, came to believe they had seen the risen 
Lord. He was recognised, not by persons who ex- 
pected to see Him alive, but by women who went to 
anoint Him dead ; not by credulous persons, but by 
men who would not believe till they had gone to and 
into the sepulchre ; not by persons so enthusiastic and 
creative of their own belief as to mistake any appear- 
ance for Him they knew, but so slow to believe, so 
scornfully incredulous of Resurrection, so resolutely 
sceptical, and so keenly alive to the fear of being 
deluded, that they vowed nothing would satisfy them 



• • • • • 

• • • 

••• •• 

• • • 
• • •• 



io2 Thfi Supernatural in Christianity 

.: • •; : •: " - 

.1: ••*.•".. &u£ theHfcslrbf touch and sight. It was a belief pro- 

•..•••: .4 u ^d jiofcby: one doubtful and momentary appearance, 
V :\ ."b\rt # by-repearted and prolonged appearances to those 
who had every opportunity of applying what tests 
they pleased to ascertain its reality. 

It has been maintained by Strauss and his successors, 
that the vision-theory receives strong confirmation from 
the manner in which Paul speaks of the appearances 
of Christ. In 1 Corinthians xv. he enumerates 
the appearances of Christ after His Eesurrection, and 
closes the enumeration by recording the fact that to 
him also had been granted a manifestation of the 
risen Lord. But, argue Strauss and Pfleiderer, when 
he places all the earlier appearances in one and the 
same line with that which he himself experienced, he 
implies that they were similar in form to that closing 
manifestation. But the manifestation to Paul was not 
a bodily but a spiritual manifestation. The apostle 
was convinced that he perceived a revelation of the 
heavenly spirit-nature of Christ, in the form of a 
luminous appearance. Therefore, " beyond all contra- 
diction," says Pfleiderer, Paul thought of the appear- 
ances to the first disciples as appearances not of a 
risen body but of the heavenly Spirit of Christ. 1 

Admitting that Paul considered that the appear- 
ance to him was of the same nature as the appearance 
to the rest, we precisely reverse the conclusion. 
Pfleiderer's argument is : All these appearances were 
of one kind ; but the appearance to Paul was purely 

1 Urchristenthum, p. 6. 



PauFs Belief in the Resurrection 103 

spiritual, therefore those to the first disciples were 
spiritual also. According to the evidence, the argument 
should stand : All these appearances were of one kind ; 
but the appearance to Paul was of a risen body, there- 
fore what the first disciples also saw was a risen body. 
That Paul believed he saw the Lord in His risen 
body, is easily proved. In the passage to which allu- 
sion is made, and in which Paul enumerates these 
appearances, his purpose is to prove not the continued 
spiritual existence of the Christian, but his bodily 
resurrection ; and only a reference to the bodily Resur- 
rection of our Lord would have been relevant; (2) 
Besides, why mention His burial, unless it was His 
bodily Resurrection he had in view ? His gospel, he 
says, was that Christ died, and was buried and rose 
again. Clearly it was a Resurrection of that which 
was buried that he had in view. (3) In arguing 
(1 Cor. ix. 1) that he was an apostle, he claims to 
have "seen Jesus Christ our Lord." The principal 
apostolic function was to witness to the Resurrection 
of Christ, and in order to discharge this function it 
was requisite that the apostle should, with his own 
eyes, have seen the risen Lord. (4) In several parts 
of his writings Paul lets us see that he considered the 
body to be an essential part of human nature, that 
redemption is not complete until the body shares with 
the spirit in the renewing and perfecting work of 
Christ's Spirit (vide Rom. viii. 23; Phil. iii. 10-21), 
and that our Lord Himself only became perfect as our 
Head, and the quickener of spiritual life in us, when 



1 04 The Supernatural in Christianity 

His body rose from the grave (Rom. i. 4 ; Col. L 18). 
It is quite incredible that Paul should have conceived 
of the glorified Messiah as a disembodied spirit. In 
this case he could not have spoken of Him as the 
Head or Life-source of the Church, the First-born of 
the dead, that in all things He might have the pre- 
eminence ; nor could he have called Him " the first- 
fruits of them that slept." Neither expression has any 
meaning unless we suppose that Paul understood that by 
His Resurrection our Lord had been declared the Son 
of God with power, having completed the curriculum of 
human experience, and perfect in body as in spirit. 

But the more difficult question remains : Is Paul's 
belief that he saw the Lord proof that Jesus had risen 
from the dead ? From Paul's belief that he saw 
Jesus, can we infer that he did actually see Him ? 
This conclusion is rejected as incompetent by such 
critics as Renan, Weizsacker, and Pfleiderer. They 
construe the incident of Paul's conversion in some 
such way as this : Paul's mind was deeply exercised 
with the question whether Jesus was the Messiah or 
not. The glorified face of Stephen, as he saw the Son 
of Man waiting to receive him, haunted his spirit. 
Some of Paul's own relatives were Christians, and he 
knew from their conduct, as well as from the bearing 
of the apostles and others, that some extraordinary 
spiritual influence was breathing through Jewish 
society. A righteousness higher and deeper than that 
of the law was being produced in the very men he 
knew ; and . with one accord they referred this new 



The Conversion of Paul 105 

life to Jesus Christ. The passages of Scripture which 
they cited to prove that the Messiah must suffer, 
gradually found entrance into his mind. To his great 
alarm, he found his conviction that Jesus was a deceiver 
gradually loosening. He struggled, he kicked against 
the goad that was driving him into the Christian 
camp. He sought to drown conviction by plunging 
into fresh persecutions, and silencing the voices that 
tormented him. In pursuit of this purpose he obtained 
commission to follow the Christians to Damascus ; but 
the quiet of the journey was too much for him. As 
he drew near the city, the debate that had been, 
consciously or unconsciously, agitating him reached a 
crisis. The credibility of the Christian testimony 
flashed upon him; his spirit was illumined with a 
blaze of light, which seemed to flow from the risen 
body of the Lord. The vision was a projection from 
his own mind, it was the embodiment of his own 
slowly-won conviction that Jesus was risen and was 
therefore the Messiah. In a word, the vision was the 
result, not the cause of his conversion. 

Such a construction of the incident is only weakened 
by Pfleiderer's introduction of epilepsy, or by Kenan's 
allusion to the fatigue of the journey. If Paul was 
an epileptic, then he had often had fits before, and 
must have known what to make of any visions so 
induced. Besides, the visions of epileptics are of a 
different character. The " epileptic " idea should be 
cancelled. 

Such a construction of the vision is certainly 



106 The Supernatural in Christianity 

plausible ; and it is possible to account for Paul's 
conversion in this manner, while yet it is believed 
that it was due to a Divine guidance of his mind and 
the influence of Christ's Spirit. But the immediate 
question is, not whether such a construction is possible 
and is consistent with belief in Christ, but whether it 
is correct. 

Now there are several difficulties in the way of 
its acceptance : — First, on each of the three occasions 
on which the incident is related — and two of these 
are reports of Paul's own account — it is explicitly 
stated that not only Paul was affected by the vision, 
but also those that were with him. Their terror could 
not be the result of a process of conviction in their 
own mind, but only of some external manifestation. 
Second, had this vision stood alone, one would have 
been greatly inclined to listen to an interpretation of 
the scene which would seem to reduce its miraculous 
character. But it is only one of several manifestations 
of the risen Lord. It does not stand alone. And 
unless we reject all the accounts we have of our Lord 
appearing to the disciples, walking with them and 
talking with them, we cannot reject Paul's account. 

But no doubt the question ultimately is: What 
weight are we to give to Paul's testimony ? Are we 
lightly to put it aside as that of a nervous, excitable, 
probably epileptic individual ? That is impossible. 
He had visions frequently, it is said. Yes ; and the 
common-sense way in which he puts himself on his 
guard against being carried away by such things 



PauFs Testimony to be accepted 107 

reflects a strong light on his sobriety of mind. In 
fact, no quality is more striking in Paul than his 
entire and perfect sanity. On every occasion when 
coolness, self-command, promptitude, physical and 
mental fitness were required, these qualities were 
forthcoming. Living in a state of society in which 
old ideas were being subverted, and speculations and 
proposals of every variety were rife, his was the one 
clear and steady judgment and firm hand that brought 
the ship of the Church through the turmoil and 
hazard. In ordinary circumstances, one would accept 
the account such a man would give of his own change 
of mind. He understood the influences usually 
moving men. His knowledge of men was wide, 
practical, and accurate; and if any one quality is 
discernible in his writings, it is a fearless frankness ; 
and he never had but one account to give of his 
conversion. He always maintained that he believed 
Jesus was the Messiah, because he had seen Him 
risen. He carried this belief through every kind of 
circumstance that could compel him to test the reality 
of it. He proclaimed it at once in Damascus, where 
there were men to put him right if he was wrong. 
He quietly reflected upon it for nearly three years in 
Arabia, undisturbed and unexcited. Years made no 
impression upon the brightness of that vision, nor upon 
the depth of the conviction it had wrought in him. 
He checked excitement in others, he rebuked the 
tendency to be puffed up with visions and revelations ; 
but not once did he apologise for his own conversion. 



108 The Supernatural in Christianity 

He threw away brilliant prospects, and accepted a life 
of hardship, danger, and suffering, so sure was he of 
the foundation on which he was building. He felt no 
need of comparing notes with the older apostles and 
the rest who had seen Jesus after His Resurrection : 
his own vision was enough for him. He felt no fear 
in returning to Jerusalem, where the facts were 
known. I must say, I do not see how a mind so 
sensitive to all reasonable appeal, so apprehensive of 
truth, so quick to see the point of an argument, could 
have withstood all that Gamaliel and his friends must 
have plied him with, had he not gone over the ground 
again and again in his own mind, and been quite sure 
of his standing. Had they been able to prove to him 
that Christ was not risen, had they been able to 
dispel the illusion of a risen Christ, and to show him 
that his vision was a dream of his own mind, no man, 
I do believe, would have been quicker to see and to 
own the point of what they urged than Paul. 

But though all this went for nothing, the strongest 
argument, the most convincing proof remains. There 
remains that which drew to Christ His earliest, 
most convinced, and steadfast followers, — His own per- 
sonality. It is in Him that we meet the highest we 
know. In His person, speaking human language, 
mingling freely in human society, the world saw that 
which permanently raised its idea of God. Seeing 
Christ, it was God men saw, and saw Him to be more 
and better than they had thought. But for any ma 
to plan and carry through what might seem to be an 



■1 



Sinlessness of Jesus 109 

incarnation of God, would prove itself to be an im- \ 
possible audacity. To begin as a human child, to 
carry this idea through boyhood and youth, to exhibit 
a life congruous to this idea amidst all the tempta- 
tions, excitements, and exigencies of manhood, is 
so impossible, that any one who attempted it would 
betray, in constant failure, that he had both inade- 
quately conceived the part and could only inadequately 
play it. Inconsistency, extravagance, grotesque as- 
sumption, unjustified claims and unfulfilled pretensions, 
would betray the would-be incarnate one at every 
point. But in Jesus there is no such betrayal. In 
the judgment of generation after generation of godly 
souls, He has perfectly fulfilled the part. God is 
revealed in Him, and our hope of knowing God better 
is our hope of knowing Christ better. 

For to escape from the admission of the super- 
natural at this point, by denying the sinlessness of 
Jesus, is a sorry shift. He says to us, as to His 
contemporaries, "Which of you convinceth Me of sin ?" 
And this is the marvellous thing, that He, who by His 
own purity most clearly detected the faintest taint 6t 
evil, should Himself claim to be absolutely untainted. 
All other testimony fades before this. We have the. 
honest Peter frankly owning that his Master was nob- 
as other men. We have Pilate washing his hands to 
clear himself of the guilt of condemning the innocent. 
We have Judas, who had marked Him with the 
keenest scrutiny, and who would have welcomed any 
excuse for betraying Him, sinking under his awful 



.» •> 



t 



no The Supernatural in Christianity 

guilt, unable to recall one act which might help to 
justify him. We have his own brother James, who 
himself was reverenced by all Jews as James the 
Righteous, and who had grown up with Him through 
all His boyhood and early manhood — we have this man, 
who judged by the severest standard, and with whom 
nothing was a claim to homage which did not come in 
righteousness, and who knew Jesus with the intimacy 
of a brother, speaking of Him as the Lawgiver and 
Judge of men. But more than all, we have the voice 
of Jesus Himself. The holier any one is, the more 
clearly does he see his own shortcomings ; but with 
Jesus there is no sense of sin, no penitence, no prayer 
for forgiveness, no need of a Eedeemer. This is 
the crowning, or, it should rather be said, the funda- 
mental miracle — a miracl$ continuous, innate, and 
inseparable from His own person ; a miracle unique, 
separating Him indubitably from all other men, and 
which makes all other miracles congruous and credible. 
Is a miracle in the spiritual world less, or is it greater, 
than a miracle in the physical ? Which is the more 
divine, the turning water into wine, or the perfection 
of character that is impervious to sinful thought or 
desire? The one thing is as unexampled as the 
other, as truly beyond experience. 

What, then, are we to make of this sustained 
spiritual miracle, inseparable from the person of 
Jesus? Here is one who stands alone in the history 
of mankind, who has also introduced and maintained 
a new life and the highest conceivable type of 



Miracle of Christ's Person 1 1 1 

humanity. By His three years of manifestation, He 
lifted the world once for all out of darkness into light, 
and has become the source of life eternal to the race. 
This, at any rate, is certain, that it is in His person 
we most surely find God. It is here God speaks to 
us most plainly, manifests Himself most indubitably. 
Whatever difficulties remain concerning Christ's Per- 
son, concerning the nature of God and His relation 
to the world and to Christ, it remains certain that 
in Him we meet God, and a God whom we can 
reverence, worship, and serve. Where the intellect 
gropes, stumbles, and falters, conscience leads straight 
on. Great harm may be done by misconceiving the 
Person of Christ ; but the greatest harm, and the only 
unmitigated harm, is done when we deny that some- 
how God is in Him, and in Him most of all. 



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