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The Person Of Christ by Philip Schaff


We present here, by way of an Appendix to our argument for the Divinity of Christ, a collection of the more remarkable testimonies of unbelievers to the character of Christ, arranged in chronological order, and accompanied with explanatory notes.

Dr. Nathaniel Lardner (born in 1684, died in 1768), although a Socinian, or Unitarian, in his views on Christ's person, did excellent service to the cause of revealed religion against the Deism of his day by his truly learned and valuable work on the |Credibility of the Gospel History| (in seventeen books, published from 1727 to 1757), in which he collected with untiring industry, and examined with critical judgment, the heathen, Jewish, and Christian testimonies of antiquity in favor of the historical truthfulness of the apostolic writings. A similar service might be done to the true doctrine of the person of Christ, by bringing together, in proper order, the testimonies to his Divinity, as embodied in the creeds, the worship, and the institutions of all ages and denominations of Christendom, and exhibited from day to day in the practical fruits of faith in Christ among all classes and conditions of men.

Our present task is limited to the testimonies of opponents of the old faith of the Church in her divine-human Head and Saviour. The concession of an enemy sometimes carries more weight in an argument than the assertion of a friend. Honey may be extracted even from a dead lion. |Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness| (Judges xiv.14).

The testimonies we are going to produce are important and interesting in various ways. They prove, especially those of more recent times, that there is in the inmost heart of man an instinctive and growing reverence and admiration for the spotless purity and perfection of Christ as the holy of holies in the history of the race. Infidels may deny his miracles; but they cannot deny his power, or assail his character, without doing violence to the noblest feelings and aspirations of their own nature, and forfeiting all claim to the moral respect of their fellow-men. It seems to be felt more and more, that he is, without controversy, the very best being that ever walked on this earth, and that an attack on his character is an insult to the honor and dignity of humanity itself. And this feeling and conviction becomes stronger and deeper as history advances. The impression of Christ upon the world, far from losing ground, is gaining new strength with every stage of civilization, and controls even the best thinking of his enemies.

These testimonies; on the other hand, expose also the glaring inconsistency of unbelief, in admitting the absolute purity and truthfulness of Christ, and yet refusing his own testimony concerning himself; in praising his perfection as a man, and yet denying his Divinity on which it rests, and which alone Call satisfactorily explain it in a universally imperfect world.

This inconsistency, which has been repeatedly noticed in the preceding Essay, is clearly brought out, with special reference to Renan, by the distinguished statesman and historian, M. Guizot, who consecrates the closing years of his retreat to the defence of revealed religion. I beg leave to conclude these introductory remarks with an appropriate quotation from his recent |Meditations on the Essence of the Christian Religion:| --

|Those who do not; believe in Jesus, nor admit the supernatural character of his person, of his life, and of his work, are free of this difficulty [of giving adequate expression in human language to the intimate and continual intermixture of the divine and human in Christ]. Having beforehand suppressed the divinity and the miracles, they see in the history of Jesus Christ nothing more than an ordinary history, which they narrate and explain like any other biography of man. But they fall into a far different difficulty, and wreck themselves on a far different rock. The supernatural being and power of Jesus Christ may be disputed; but the perfection, the sublimity of his actions and of his precepts, of his life and of his moral law, are incontestable: and, in effect, not only are they not contested, but they are admired and celebrated enthusiastically and complacently. It would seem as if it were desired to restore to Jesus Christ as a mere man the superiority of which they deprive him in refusing to see in him the Godhead. But then, what incoherence, what contradictions, what falsehood, what moral impossibility, in his history, such as they make it! What a series of suppositions, irreconcilable with the facts which they admit! This man they make so perfect and sublime becomes by turns a dreamer or a charlatan; at once dupe and deceiver, -- dupe of his own mystical enthusiasm in believing in his own miracles, willful deceiver in tampering with evidence in order to accredit himself. The history of Jesus Christ is thus but a tissue of fables and falsehood; and, nevertheless, the hero of this history remains perfect, sublime, incomparable, -- the greatest genius, the noblest heart, that the world ever saw; the type of virtue and moral beauty; the supreme and rightful chief of mankind. And his disciples in their turn, justly admirable, have braved every thing, suffered every thing, in order to abide faithful to him, and to accomplish his work; and, in effect, the work has been accomplished, -- the Pagan world has become Christian, and the whole world has nothing better to do than to follow the example.

|What a contradictory and insolvable problem they present to us instead of the one they labor so hard to suppress! | History reposes upon two foundations, -- the positive evidence or documents concerning the facts and persons, and presumptive evidence or moral probabilities resulting from the connection of facts and the action of persons. These two foundations are entirely wanting in the history of Jesus Christ, such as it is related, or rather constructed, in these days. It is, on the one hand, in evident and shocking contradiction with the testimony of the men who saw Jesus Christ, or of the men who lived near those who had seen him: on the other hand, it equally conflicts with the natural laws presiding over the actions of men and the course of events. This does not deserve the name of historical criticism: it is a philosophical system and a romantic narrative substituted for the substantial proof of the moral evidence; it is a Jesus false, and impossible, made by the hand of man, pretending to dethrone the real living Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

|The choice lies between the system and the mystery; between the romance of man and the design of God.|




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