« PreviousContinue »
UNWIN BROTHERS, THE GRESHAM PRESS, WOKING AND LONDOF.
IF a book is incapable of expressing its scope and intention with adequate lucidity, it is scarcely in the power of a preface to atone for this inherent defect. A preface may, however, do something to define the objects of an author, and it is a recognised vehicle of personal confession.
The object of the author is to depict the human life of Jesus as it appeared to His contemporaries, with a purposed negligence, as far as it is possible, of the vexed problems of theology and metaphysics. It is the Man Christ Jesus whom the author has striven to see; and it will be unnecessary to remind the reader that this phrase, which is used as a title for the book, is St. Paul's. It must, however, be confessed, frankly and at once, that the author has not interpreted the phrase as strictly limitary. It did at one time seem possible to write a life of Christ from the sole point of view of its human grace and efficiency, but the design was soon rejected as entirely incompetent to the theme. The first chapters of the book were scarcely drafted before the story seemed to pass from the author's hands and to urrite itself in terms of its own. As the experiment proceeded the mind became more and more an involuntary agent, acting upon instincts which were not based on reason, but were superior to reason. This did not annihilate the functions of criticism; it did not replace these functions with something else; but it produced a conviction, at once profound, gradual, and irresistible, that in the very nature of the story itself, and therefore in the nature of Christ, were elements entirely incommensurate with the limits of the human. It is not possible to disengage the human elements in Jesus from the Divine. The human life may be indeed studied in its integrity, and no story can be more fruitful of exalted thought and impulse; but at every stage a deepening awe falls upon the mind, until at last the sublime confession rises to the lips, “ These things are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name.'
Although a Pauline phrase stands as the title of the book, yet it is obvious that the only materials we possess for a life of Christ are not found in the writings of St. Paul, but of the Evangelists. Bentham's famous motto, “Not Paul, but Jesus,” is still significant of a wide cleavage in religious thought. St. Paul certainly had the first word in the shaping of Christianity, for his writings had made a deep impression on the human mind long before the Gospels were known except by oral tradition. One might have supposed that St. Paul himself, the only man of trained mind among the Apostles, would have been eager to collect these traditions, and to combine them into an authoritative life of Christ. But St. Paul had never seen the living Jesus. Jesus only begins to exist for him on the day when He dies, or rather on the day when He rises again from the dead. St. Paul is pre-eminently the Apostle of the Resurrection and the Spiritual Life of Jesus. The Resurrection, and the sublime theologies which sprang from it, absorbed his mind; and, no doubt, the Resurrection was the supreme fact which all the Apostles had to communicate to the world. But the world needed more than a theology to save it ; it needed more even than the doctrine of a Resurrection. It needed a human Christ, a Person who could be loved, an Example that could be followed :