Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

II.

EVANGELICAL APOLOGETICS.

THERE HERE is much said in these days about the necessity of a restatement of the evidences for our Christian faith to meet the wants of the present time; and the idea is often advanced in such a way as to imply some depreciation of the labours of those who have borne the brunt of the battle against infidelity in the past, and even sometimes to suggest that the arguments which were once supposed to be decisive no longer retain their validity. Much of this may be safely set down to nineteenth century conceit, the notion that our "thought" is so "advanced" that all old ideas, even those of the giants who were in the earth in those days, are too small to fit our greatly enlarged intellects.

And yet it ought not to be forgotten that, as new attacks are made, new defences are needed; and the nature of the defence must be determined by the nature of the attack. Thus it may come to pass that even the strongest and best presentation of the evidences, which proved amply sufficient for the emergency which called it forth, may not be fully adapted to the exigencies of a subsequent encounter. This we take to be the position of things at the present time. Infidelity has changed the mode of its attack. It has redoubled the vigour of its onset. It has made an alliance with forces which, in all former conflicts, were hostile to it. Hence the call

for restatement of the evidences. But it is our conviction that on examination it will be found that not the substance of the old arguments so much as the method of presentation needs reconsideration; and, further, that the change which is most needed is in the direction of a more evangelical and biblical method.

That preaching is most evangelical and biblical which puts Christ in the foreground and centre, so that His Person and work are always conspicuous, and whatever is said on related subjects is introduced in such a way as to direct attention to, and not away from, the central figure. The preaching of the Gospel is the preaching of Christ; and whatever of biblical exposition, or ethical disquisition, or doctrinal discussion there may be must gather round Him, as it were, in the rear, but never come in front, so as to take the place of prominence.

It has been different with our Christian Apologetics. In that department it is exceedingly rare to find Christ in the foreground. That position of honour is almost invariably accorded to the Bible as a book, or to Christianity as a system. The first question of Apologetics has not been whether Christ be the Son of God, but whether the Bible be the Word of God, or whether Christianity be the true religion. The usual course has been, after laying down the fundamentals of natural religion, and showing the antecedent probability of God's giving some additional revelation to supplement that of nature, and specially to meet the wants of man as a sinner, to pass at once to the Bible as the Revelation which God has given for the purpose, or else to the complex idea of Christianity as a system, embracing no one knows how much of vague meaning and of disputed doctrine. The result is, that, at the very threshold of revealed religion, the inquirer is confronted with a large and com

plicated and much-debated subject, presenting innumerable difficulties which it is easy to raise and hard to answer, by which he is discouraged and repelled at the very outset. It is true that the mischief has been, to a great extent, neutralised by the care which has generally been taken to remind the inquirer that, while the road is long, and toilsome, and difficult by the way of the intellect, it is not so by the way of the heart; that a sinner may come to Christ without any preliminary investigations about the Bible or Christianity, and, by a direct and immediate exercise of faith in Him, receive such inward light, and enjoy such an experience of saving grace, that many of his difficulties will be removed at once, and those which remain will not interfere with his peace and progress. But the question seems scarcely to have been raised. whether it is actually necessary that the path of the intellect should be so much more circuitous. If an inquirer who, in addition to the belief in God which most men have, has a sense of moral need springing from a consciousness of sin, is at once pointed to Christ without any further preparation, why may not an inquirer who is intellectually convinced of the being of God, and the need there is of some further revelation, be at once led to Christ, without being required first to wrestle with questions about the authenticity of the books of Moses or the Gospel of John, or with the question whether the complex creed which enters into his instructor's or his own idea of "Christianity" be all the truth of God? Why may not the first and main inquiry be, whether Christ, the Christ of history, be the Revelation of God which the soul needs, whether He be not the Truth of which the man is in search? When we are asked the way of salvation, we do not say, "God has revealed Himself in the Bible, therefore believe the Bible;"

nor,

Christianity is the true religion, therefore accept it.” No; we present Christ at once, using only so much of the contents of the Bible, perhaps only a few sentences, as may be necessary to get the Saviour before the mind. and heart, knowing full well that, if once He is accepted, there will be no fear for the rest. Now, is there any reason why, in the systematic treatment of the evidences, we should have ever so much to say and to prove about the Bible as an inspired book, or Christianity as the true religion, before we have a word to say about Christ Himself? Is there any reason why our Apologetics, presenting the truth to the intellect, should be less evangelical in its method than our Homiletics, presenting the truth to the heart?

As an illustration of how little has been thought of this order in the past, we may refer to one of the ablest and most spiritual works on the evidences, that of Dr. Hopkins. The subject of method was before his mind. quite prominently, as is evident from his third chapter, in which he gives excellent reasons for taking the "internal evidences " before the "external," thus reversing the order which had been previously in use-a change which was a great improvement in the evangelical direction. Yet even he elaborates nine arguments for Christianity before he presents "the condition, character, and claims of Christ;" and when he does reach this point, he does not give it a separate, substantive position, but simply brings it in as the tenth and last argument of the series of internal evidences of Christianity. And it is not only in the more formal treatises covering the whole ground, that the claims of Christ are postponed till those of the Bible or Christianity are considered; but even in those monographs where attention is restricted to the Christological part of the argument, the same order of

[ocr errors]

thought will show itself. Take, as an instance of this, the admirable little work of Dr. W. Lindsay Alexander, of Edinburgh, entitled "Christ and Christianity." The title would certainly warrant the expectation that the order of thought would be, Christ first, afterward Christianity. But it is not. He begins by speaking of Christianity as the one religion for man," and then goes on to say (p. 9), “Let it be remembered that Christianity comes to us in an objective form-in the form of a book;" and, further on, "It is not only to certain cardinal verities that the Christian must yield his cordial assent, but to all things which are written in the book. It is only as he has satisfied himself on solid grounds that the book, as a book, is entitled to his homage, that he will be prepared to bow to it with that docility which is required." (The italics are his own.) It is not till the second part that the Person of Christ comes in at all. Dr. Bayne's "Testimony of Christ to Christianity" presents the claims of the personal Christ with great directness and power; but is not the title he uses significant? The idea evidently is that Christianity is the thing to be proved, and that Christ is a witness to prove it. The question does not seem to have suggested itself, whether Christ Himself be not Christianity, and what we call Christianity a witness to Him rather than He to it.

The method for which we contend is to present Christ, and the claims which He makes on our confidence, first. Let the first effort be to lead the inquirer to believe in Him. Let Moses and Joshua stand aside, till a greater than either is introduced. Let even the Evangelists be nothing more than good, trustworthy witnesses, to begin with. Few candid men will stumble at that, and even if they do, they are more likely to be captivated by the

« AnteriorContinuar »