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III.

THE SCEPTIC'S QUESTION ANSWERED BY

HIMSELF.

"Pilate saith unto Him, What is truth?"-JOHN Xviii. 38.
"Pilate saith unto them, Behold the Man."-JOHN xix. 5.

THE HE sceptic's question, answered by himself, unintententionally, unconsciously, but most admirably. No answer could be better. We thank thee, Pilate, for the word. It was meant for scorn; it has turned to praise. As out of the mouth of babes and sucklings, so, out of the mouth of a witness as unconscious as they, God has ordained strength because of the enemy. It is said that

in nature the stinging nettle is closely attended by the healing blade, so here close to the sceptic's question lies its most appropriate answer. A little further on there is another unconscious answer. Pilate had asked in his undecided way, "What shall I do with this Jesus which is called Christ?" and out of his mouth comes the right answer: Behold your King!" But one is enough at a time; we shall confine ourselves to the sceptic's question with its answer, and add Pontius Pilate to the staff of Cheshunt College for the hour. It may be worth while, for once, to get a lecture from the Procurator's chair.

Though the speaker is ancient, the subject is not, for * In its original form this was an address delivered at Cheshunt Anniversary, 1887.

the sceptical question which he answered so well is a question of the day. The truth doubted is the same which unbelief doubts now. For Pilate was no sceptic as to matter, or motion, or force; he believed in everything he saw; he did not doubt his senses or his reason or the reality of plain palpable facts of observation. That was not the kind of truth he suspected; it was the truth which Christ had been speaking, to which He had come to bear witness, the truth in regard to the permanent realities of life-those "high instincts," as the poet calls them, "which, be they what they may, are yet the fountain light of all our day," "a master light of all our seeing," the truth about God, and eternity, and duty, and destiny, the truth which underlies all changes and over-arches all experience. And his position was not one of denial, only of Agnosticism. He does not say "There is no truth," only raises the question whether it can be known, and thinks that by raising it he has justified himself in dismissing the subject from his mind; for immediately he goes out from the presence of Him who has been urging the claims of truth upon him. He asks the question and does not wait for the answer, a method of investigation which is by no means obsolete in the nineteenth century.

Well, now, let us look at the words which follow the question so closely that we can scarcely avoid connecting them with it, and see if they be not the very answer required. "What is truth?" he has just asked. "Behold the Man!" he now exclaims. Yes; and as we think of it, we remember what Christ Himself has said to His disciples the very day before: "I am the truth." We remember, too, how all through the Old Testament there are voices which seem to herald the coming of a man who shall satisfy the yearnings of humanity, and how all

through the New Testament we are summoned and entreated to look unto this Man as one who has done it. Yes, Pilate, you are right, you are quite in the line of the true succession, of the prophets that went before, and the apostles that are to come after you, and in harmony with Him who stands before you, when, after asking the question, "What is truth?" you point to the incarnate Word, and say: "Behold the Man!"

First and foremost, there is the truth about humanity. What is man? What are we to think of human life; its meaning and value, its hopes and prospects, its duties and responsibilities, its nature and destiny? Come now,

ye biologists, here is a life to study! Come, ye anthropologists, "Behold the Man." By all means study all kinds of men, savages and wild men of the woods, the most degraded specimens you can find; but do not consider your induction complete till you have given at least as much attention to the noblest and the best, and, above all, to the man whose life, by consent of all intelligent persons, is most of all worth looking into. You know the common reference to the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out. Surely you do not intend to reach a conclusion as to man's place in nature with THE MAN left out, His name never mentioned, His great life never once referred to?

We have not a word to say against the investigation of the lower forms of life, the exploration of all that contributes to our knowledge of the meanest part or function of our complex nature; and if it is ascertained as a fact, that our bodies are closely connected with a succession of forms running down to the lowest organism, so let it be. Let us have all the facts, however mean they may be, or seem to be; but then let us have them all, however great they be; all the facts that point to what is grand and elevating, as well

as those that point to what is mean and degrading. Why should attention be fixed so exclusively on the facts which belong to the lower phases of life? Why should the science of life, claiming, as it does, to include mind and heart and soul in it, be defined, as one of its greatest exponents defines it, as "the science of living matter," a conception which, however appropriate to the lower ranges of life, is utterly inadequate in the higher? Starting out with that conception, it is of course necessary to resolve all thought and feeling into modifications of "living matter," to make conscience and character, faith and hope, and love and righteousness, nothing better than so many varying movements of living matter; and, of course, when the living matter ceases to be living it is dead matter, and in that dead matter is to be found all that remains of faith, and hope, and love, and life, in the shape of ashes and water and gas. Now, so long as one keeps working mainly amongst molluscs or even among troglodytes, it is not difficult to think that all is only living matter. The mental phenomena are so very scarce and low in type that they are easily accounted for without spoiling the definition. But when we come to the higher ranges of life we reach a region where, if we deal honestly with the facts, we cannot dispose of them in so easy a way. It is impossible to do it honestly in dealing only with ordinary men; the difficulty is greatly increased when we are confronted with the great minds and noble souls, which have adorned the history of mankind; but when we look at the greatest of all, it becomes nothing less than an insult to reason to suggest it.

So long as we are looking at creatures in which the animal is clearly predominant, it is easy to think of them as mere animals, made up of living matter and nothing else; but as soon as the spiritual becomes manifestly predomi

naut, us in the better sort of men, it is only by the most unworthy sophistry that the higher can be merged in the lower; and when you turn your attention to One in whom the spiritual so shines out as it does in this Man, in whom the spirit so manifestly lords it over the flesh-transfigures the common clay of its environment-gives it a glory which is manifestly not its own-it is impossible to believe that we are looking at a mere phase of animal life, flickering up for a moment, only to fall back again and be "cast as rubbish to the void." It becomes manifest that in Him there is life quite out of the range of protoplasm and all possible variations of it, infinitely higher than any conceivable motion of living matter. See how the life shines out in contrast with the poverty and meanness of its setting, a demonstration that spirit and not flesh is the ultimate truth of humanity. "Behold the Man!" See Him in His humble home at Nazareth, to outward appearance only a carpenter. See Him trudging the dusty roads and climbing the steep hill-sides of Palestine, to outward appearance only a poor pedestrian. See Him despised and rejected of all the great of the land, to outward appearance only a deluded fanatic. See Him before Pilate, His form scarred with scourging, His face pale with anguish, the thorn crown upon His brow, mocking voices and scowling faces all around, to outward appearance a common criminal. Then think of that great soul of His, see it in its awful and majestic loneliness; compare the magnificence of the spirit with the shame of the flesh, the glory of the life with the abjectness of the living matter; and then say, if you can-if you darethat the real truth of that manhood is to be found in the paltry matter of its flesh, and not in the magnificent, glorious Divine Spirit which shines out of that poor tenement of clay. No, no! my biologist friend, I do not think so

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