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the Wilderness-the Only-begotten sent of God as a propitiation for our sins: these are one figure, dominating thought and inspiring faith to precisely the same intent in the epistle and in the gospel. And in this character, as in every other, Jesus stands alone. It is in Him and in His death, in no other person and no other act, that for the New Testament Christian sin is annulled. Here above all, we may say, for New Testament faith, there is none other name.
Summary and Transition
Our investigation of the place which Jesus occupied in the faith of those who wrote the New Testament, and of those whom they addressed, is now complete. To the present writer it is conclusive evidence that in spite of the various modes of thought and feeling which the canonical Christian writings exhibit, there is really such a thing as a self-consistent New Testament, and a selfconsistent Christian religion. There is a unity in all these early Christian books which is powerful enough to absorb and subdue their differences, and that unity is to be found in a common religious relation to Christ, a common debt to Him, a common sense that everything in the relations of God and man must be and is determined by Him. We may even go further and say that in all the great types of Christianity represented in the New Testament the relations of God and man are regarded as profoundly affected by sin, and that the sense of a common debt to Christ is the sense of what Christians owe to Him in dealing with the situation which sin has created. This may not involve either a formally identical Christology, or a formally identical doctrine of Propitiation, in every part of the New Testament; but it is the justification of every effort of Christian intelli
gence to define to itself more clearly who Jesus is and what He has done for our salvation from sin. The New Testament writers did not think of Christology and of the Atonement without sufficient motives, and as long as their sense of debt to Christ survives, the motive for thinking on the same subjects, and surely in the main on the same lines, will survive also. But this is not our interest here. What we have now to ask is whether the religion of the New Testament, consisting as it does in such a peculiar relation to Him as we have seen illustrated in all the documents, can be justified by appeal to Christ Himself. With all its peculiarities, New Testament Christianity claims to rest on a historical basis, and it is a question of supreme importance whether the historical basis which can be provided is adequate to support it. The question is at the present time not only important, but urgent, for the existing Christian Churches, in which the relation of faith to Jesus perpetuates on the whole the New Testament type, are perplexed by voices which call them away from it in different directions. On the one hand, we have our philosophical persons who, on the specious pretext of lifting religion into its proper atmosphere of universal and eternal truth, invite us, as has been already noticed, to dismiss historical considerations entirely. The truths by which Christianity lives are true, it is argued, whatever we may or may not be able to find out about Jesus; they are true, not in Him, but in themselves and in God. It is a mere failure in intelligence-a sort of cowardice, to speak plainly-which makes people nervous about Jesus and the gospels. The Christian religion belongs to a world to which the historical and contingent, even though they should be represented by the life of Jesus, are matters of indifference. It will survive in all that is essential to it though Jesus should entirely disappear.
On the other hand, we have our historical persons, whose views are very different. To get back to Jesus, they tell us, is not the unimportant thing which philosophy would make it. It is vital to get back. But when we do get back, what do we find? Not, according to many of them, anything which justifies the New Testament attitude to Jesus, or which supports what we have just seen to be the New Testament religion. What we find in the historical Jesus is not the author or the object of the Christian faith known to history, but a child of God like ourselves-a pious, humble, good man, who called others to trust the Father as He trusted, and to be children of God like Him. The Christian religion is not thus left to us, with the added advantage that it is historically secured; when the historical basis is laid bare, it is seen that the Christian religion cannot be sustained upon it. The Christian religion has been a mistake, a delusion, from the beginning; our duty is to revert from it to the religion of Jesus Himself, to cast away the primitive Christian faith and its testimony, and to fall back upon the pattern believer. It is obvious that there is something dogmatic in both these appeals to the Church; there is a theory of religion, of history, and of reality in general, implied alike in the philosophical appeal which would give us a Christianity without Jesus, and in the historical one which would give us a Jesus who could take no responsibility for anything that has ever been called Christian. The writer has no such confidence in either theory as would justify him in assenting off-hand to the stupendous impeachment of Providence which is implied in both. It is easy enough to admit that there may have been errors of every kind in the historical development of Christianity. The adherents of the new religion may have made intellectual blunders and moral ones, and no doubt made
both. Once, too, the possibility of going astray is admitted, it is impossible to limit it; if there can be such a thing as wandering, there may be wandering very far. But what it is not easy to admit is that Christianity itself, in the only form in which it has ever existed and functioned as a religion among men, has been a mistake and misconception from the first. This is the ultimate meaning of these 'historical' and 'philosophical' appeals to the Church, and it certainly needs courage to assent to them when their meaning is perceived. Less courageous men, or perhaps we may be allowed to say men with a larger perception of what is involved, will feel bound to proceed with less precipitation. It is not self-evident that eternal truth, or rather our grasp and apprehension of it, can be in no way historically conditioned. It is not self-evident that no historical person could really sustain the phenomenon of the Christian religion. Dismissing the summary and à priori decisions in which courageous spirits lay down the law beforehand to a world of which we know so little, it is our duty to raise the second of the two questions with which this discussion opened, and to examine it as disinterestedly and as thoroughly as the first. It is the question, Does Jesus, as He is revealed to us in history, justify the Christian religion as we have had it exhibited to us in the New Testament?