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accepted for hundreds of years. And though there were any number of facts that did not clearly or easily fit into this theory, yet, since they accepted the theory as true, the facts must be forced into accordance with it; and so all sorts of curious and complicated devices were resorted to, to explain the movements of the heavenly bodies in accordance with the preconceived theory.

Take as another illustration a more modern one. Newton not only advocated, but he demonstrated the theory of gravity,- demonstrated it so that no competent mathematician who was unbiassed could possibly help accepting it; and yet it was fifty, sixty, over seventy years in some parts of Europe, after it was demonstrated beyond question, before some of the finest mathematicians would accept it. Why? Because there was any flaw in the demonstration? Not at all. Even Leibnitz, a mathematician almost as great in rank as Newton himself, who might have been supposed to accept it on its first presentation because he was perfectly competent to go over the demonstration and understand every part of it, refused to believe it, because he held another theory. He supposed that the adoption of Newton's theory was substituting unintelligent force or law for the direct action of the Deity. That is, it was theological preconception that prevented the great mathematician from seeing a perfectly clear mathematical demonstration.

Take as another illustration the relation of Agassiz to the doctrine of evolution. Agassiz demonstrated some of the very strongest possible points in favor of the theory of evolution, and yet fought and opposed the theory as long as he lived. Why? Purely on account of a theological bias. He had been accustomed to look at the facts from another point of view, and consequently would not, shall I say? no: that is unfair — could not see the force of even the facts and arguments which he himself had discovered and presented.

I speak of these simply to illustrate the power over the human mind of a preconceived theory.

We are ready, then, having made that clear, to consider

this theory of the Messianic office of Jesus and what a tremendous part it has played in the development of human thought and belief and of ecclesiastical life. It is one of the strongest and mightiest ideas in the world; and people who look only at the Jewish expectation of the coming of the Messiah, and do not look over the world sufficiently to note that it is not entirely unique, not entirely confined to the Jewish race, are accustomed to wonder whether it must not have had some underlying divine truth in it, to make it so mighty, and to give it such power over human thought and human life. I know, before I studied the history of other religions I was accustomed to think that this unique, as I supposed, and age-long belief on the part of the Jews was so strange, so unnatural, so out of the common, that I felt almost forced to believe that it was true, as the only way of accounting for it. And yet, mighty as this idea seems to us, familiar as we have been with it all our lives, we must remember that it is only one of similar beliefs that have prevailed in many different parts of the world. Take, for example, India. It is believed there, as one of the doctrines of the Hindu religion, that at stated periods from the beginning a divine being becomes incarnate, that there is what they call an avatar, a coming, the manifestation of a divine being to set the world right, to bring some new and higher revelation. Among the Buddhists, also, Gautama was only one of many divine manifestations. It was believed that there had been a series of Buddhas, and that Gautama was only the last of the series, the most distinguished.

Not only has this been held by the nations of the far East, but it is a belief of quite modern times. Within the memory of man -I am not sure but the sect has become extinguished there was a body of religionists in Russia who were waiting the reappearance of Napoleon as their Messiah, their deliverer. One of the old German emperors was supposed only to have disappeared, to be asleep, ready to come. forth in the fulness of time. King Arthur disappeared; but it was not forever. He is not dead: he has withdrawn

into the quiet, far-off valley that exists only in the land of myth. When the time comes, he is to reappear in kingly power and glory once more. When Cortez landed on the shores of Mexico, though he was not aware of it, he owed his friendly reception and ability to penetrate into the country, and even to the capital city, to the belief on the part of the people in the coming of a divine being, a Messiah. They expected this Messiah to come in human form, and to be white; and the belief spread like wildfire over the nation that Cortez was he, and this was the reason for his friendly reception.

You are familiar with the story of Hiawatha. When he disappears down the sunset, it is not a final disappearance: in fulness of time he is to come again. And here we are, curiously enough, on the eve of a war in the West, springing, as did so many Jewish rebellions and wars with their Roman superiors, out of this very belief in the imminence of the coming of a Messiah. The Sioux Indians and the Cheyennes are in arms. Why? There is a prophet among them who has predicted to them that a divine Messiah is coming, and they are in rebellion against the whites. He has prophesied to them within a week that at a given sign a mysterious wind is to blow, the earth is to tremble, and, when a song on the part of certain holy ones whom he has appointed is lifted up, the earth is to open, their enemies are to be slaughtered, and only five hundred of the white people will be left on the face of the earth. They are not to be afraid of the guns of their enemies. They are to put their trust in the coming of this divine messenger from on high, who is to deliver at last his copper-colored people.

You see, then, that the belief in a Messiah has not been confined to any one people nor to any one age. And you see illustrated in this modern instance how mighty the power of a belief like this can be over not only the thoughts, the beliefs, the creeds, but the actions, the life, of a nation.

The Jews believed, and believed very naturally, that a Messiah was to come, a divine messenger. Some of them

supposed he was to be only a man, some that he would be a supernatural being; but, no matter what the particular theory might be, a divine Messiah, a divinely sent being, was to come and deliver them from all their enemies, and make Jerusalem the central city of the world, and all nations subject to their king and to them, the chosen people.

I am not quite sure in my own mind, scholars are not agreed concerning it, whether Jesus himself believed that he was the Messiah or not. We need not stay to discuss the question, for it is practically of very little importance. The chief matter of concern to us is that the early Church had accepted this as the one great dominant thought. For, as I pointed out to you a few Sundays ago, in the beginning the only distinction between the Jew and the Christian was that the Jew believed a Messiah was coming, and the Christian believed he had come, and that Jesus was he. This was what made a man a Christian,— to be a follower of and believer in the Messiah.

Now I wish to point out to you the important part which this belief played in its bearing on the records of the life of Jesus, on the theories of his personality, on the growth of the Church, and on the body of doctrine that came to be accepted.

1. In the first place, I wish to call your attention to the fact that this Christ idea, this Messianic belief, reshaped the traditions about Jesus, and finally edited the records which we have in the Gospels. Jesus, so far as we know, never wrote a line or a word. His immediate disciples, so far as we know, never wrote a line or a word. Believing, as they did, that Jesus was to come in the clouds of heaven and establish this supernatural kingdom on earth within twentyfive or thirty years, they would feel no need of any written records. The story was familiar to the thought, and on the lips of every man, woman, and child. But after they had waited and Jesus did not come, waited sixty, seventy years, and still he did not come, then tradition, which up to that time had only passed from lip to lip, or fragments of which

only had been written down as a manual to teach the young catechists and students, or for the sake of sending a record of what one person claimed he knew to a friend, was gathered up, and the whole story was written out. It was made up of these memorabilia, these notes, these recollections, these traditions, as to what had occurred. The story, then, was written years after the death of Jesus,— the story as we have it now in the Four Gospels. And when you remember that even now in these days of the printing-press, of shorthand, of living witnesses, there are serious disputes as to important facts in the life of so well known a character as Abraham Lincoln,- as to what he said, as to certain actions, as to what were his religious notions, all the way from making him a very sound orthodox believer to turning him into a Unitarian or a Spiritualist, when you consider that there are all these contradictions to-day, recollect what it must have been two thousand years ago, with no critical spirit, no authority in writing, no printing-presses, no authentic or accurate reports of any kind. And then remember that they were written, completed, edited, from the point of view of a believer in the Messianic mission of Jesus of Nazareth. I do not wish to intimate for a moment that there was any conscious misunderstanding or misrepresentation. They believed, thoroughly, that Jesus was the Messiah; but they had clearly in their minds certain things that the Messiah was to be, and that the Messiah was to do when he came. Do you not see, then, how perfectly natural it was that they should have come to believe that those things did actually happen to Jesus of Nazareth? The Messiah must do such and such things. Jesus was the Messiah, therefore he did such and such things. That was the easy logic, and a logic not only natural, but inevitable under the circum


Let me give you one or two illustrations of the extent to which this Christ idea reshaped and edited the records as we have them in the Gospels. Where was Jesus born? In my judgment, there is no sort of doubt that Jesus was born in

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