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The Faith Of Christ
by [?]

When I come to the New Testament, I feel myself, in the Gospels, confronted by the most wonderful personality which has ever drawn breath upon the earth. I am not in a position to affirm or to deny the exact truth of the miraculous occurrences there related; but the more conscious I am of the fallibility, the lack of subtlety, the absence of trained historical method that the writers display, the more convinced I am of the essential truth of the Person and teaching of Christ, because he seems to me a figure so infinitely beyond the intellectual power of those who described him to have invented or created.

If the authors of the Gospels had been men of delicate literary skill, of acute philosophical or poetical insight, like Plato or Shakespeare, then I should be far less convinced of the integral truth of the record. But the words and sayings of Christ, the ideas which he disseminated, seem to me so infinitely above the highest achievements of the human spirit, that I have no difficulty in confessing, humbly and reverently, that I am in the presence of one who seems to me to be above humanity, and not only of it. If all the miraculous events of the Gospels could be proved never to have occurred, it would not disturb my faith in Christ for an instant. But I am content, as it is, to believe in the possibility of so abnormal a personality being surrounded by abnormal events, though I am not in a position to disentangle the actual truth from the possibilities of misrepresentation and exaggeration.

Dealing with the rest of the New Testament, I see in the Acts of the Apostles a deeply interesting record of the first ripples of the faith in the world. In the Pauline and other epistles I see the words of fervent primitive Christians, men of real and untutored genius, in which one has amazing instances of the effect produced, on contemporary or nearly contemporary persons, of the same overwhelming personality, the personality of Christ. In the Apocalypse I see a vision of deep poetical force and insight.

But in none of these compositions, though they reveal a glow and fervour of conviction that places them high among the memorials of the human spirit, do I recognise anything which is beyond human possibilities. I observe, indeed, that St Paul’s method of argument is not always perfectly consistent, nor his conclusions absolutely cogent. Such inspiration as they contain they draw from their nearness to and their close apprehension of the dim and awe-inspiring presence of Christ Himself.

If, as I say, the Church would concentrate her forces in this inner fortress, the personality of Christ, and quit the debatable ground of historical enquiry, it would be to me and to many an unfeigned relief; but meanwhile, neither scientific critics nor irrational pedants shall invalidate my claim to be of the number of believing Christians. I claim a Christian liberty of thought, while I acknowledge, with bowed head, my belief in God the Father of men, in a Divine Christ, the Redeemer and Saviour, and in the presence in the hearts of men of a Divine spirit, leading humanity tenderly forward. I can neither affirm nor deny the literal accuracy of Scripture records; I am not in a position to deny the superstructure of definite dogma raised by the tradition of the Church about the central truths of its teaching, but neither can I deny the possibility of an admixture of human error in the fabric. I claim my right to receive the Sacraments of my Church, believing as I do that they invigorate the soul, bring the presence of its Redeemer near, and constitute a bond of Christian unity. But I have no reason to believe that any human pronouncement whatever, the pronouncements of men of science as well as the pronouncements of theologians, are not liable to error. There is indeed no fact in the world except the fact of my own existence of which I am absolutely certain. And thus I can accept no system of religion which is based upon deductions, however subtle, from isolated texts, because I cannot be sure of the infallibility of any form of human expression. Yet, on the other hand, I seem to discern with as much certainty as I can discern anything in this world, where all is so dark, the presence upon earth at a certain date of a personality which commands my homage and allegiance. And upon this I build my trust.