EVERY winter the publishers send forth a fresh stream of
Cbristological literature. The first sensation of the man whose duty leads him to read any considerable portion of this year's production must inevitably be one of confusion. The writers differ so widely upon almost every conceivable point of dogma. They differ about the facts of the sacred narrative ; they differ about the interpretation of the facts ; and even those who stand together in the same position, and have reached the same definite conclusions, defend those con- clusions upon different grounds. The only thing they all have in common is the burning intensity of their interest in the subject. In the welter and heat of contradiction one recalls the words of St. Paul, who, while he lamented in his old age that the teachers of the new faith were so much moved by controversy that "some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife," could still declare that, notwithstanding the contentions which troubled the Churches, " Christ is preached ; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice."
To take first the book which is likely, we think, to be the most popular,—a new Life of Christ called In the Days of His Flesh. It is clear, well written, and not too much burdened by learned digression. The writer, Mr. David Smith, maintains in essentials the orthodox stand- point, while candidly facing the doubts arising from the conclusions of modern scholarship. For instance, while firmly believing in the resurrection of our Lord upon the evidence of Scripture, he does not regard every item of Scriptural testimony to the event as of equal value, frankly admits the difficulty of synchronising the accounts, and declares his inability to believe in certain details of the Gospel narrative on the subject. Mr. Smith attacks boldly many well-worn difficulties. His interpretation of the " Raca" passage is too long to quote, but it seems to us the most satisfactory we have ever read. The strange and harsh- sounding sentence, " Let the dead bury their dead," takes on a very different complexion if we can agree with our author that " suffer me first to go and bury my father " did not refer to a recent death, but to a death in the vague future. It is, he tells us, an expression still in use in Syria, meaning merely, " Wait till I am the head of the household, and responsible to none but myself." Mr. Smith's interpretation of what are called the non-resistance clauses of the Sermon on the Mount is the only passage we have come across in the book which strikes us as a little uncandid. That the sayings are susceptible of a literal interpretation we do not for a moment suppose; but to belittle their spiritual significance, and regard them as of strictly limited application, is merely to beg the question of their true explanation. Non-resistance
(1) In the Days of His Flesh. By the Rev. David Smith. London : Hodder and Stoughton. [10s. 6d. net.l-----(2) History of the Dogma of the Deity of Christ. From the French of Albert Wyllie, D.D. London: Philip Green. [2s. 6d. net.]—(3) The Historic Christ. By T. A. Lacey. London: Longmans and Co. [3s. 6d. net.)—(4) The Testimony of St. Paid to Christ. By B. J. Knowling, D.D. London: Hodder and Stoughton. [lOs. 6d. net.]—(5) The Culture of the Spirit mit Life. By William Dickie, D.D. Same publishers. [6s.] —(6) Bread and Salt from the Word of God. From the German of Theodor Zahn. London : T. and T. Clark. [4e. 6d. net.]—(7) Jesus and the Prophets. By Charles Macfarland. London : G. P. Putnam's Sons. [6s. net._1— (6) Spiritual Difficulties of the Bible and Prayer-Book. By H. Mortimer Luckock. Loudon : Longmans and Co. [68.1—(9) The Garden of Nuts. By W. Robertson Nicoll. London : Hodder and Stoughton. [3s. 6c1..] The next two books on our list resew ble one another in name, but in nothing else. The first is a translation from the French of Dr. Albert Revile, a History of the Dogma of the Deity of Christ. What is commonly called Christian theology had, in Dr. Reville's opinion, no place in the teaching of Christ. His divinity, in some sense, was adumbrated in the writings of St. Paul and in the Fourth Gospel, but His actual deity was a false interpretation read into their words after the lapse of centuries. Dr. Revile traces the history of the doctrine—and however little his readers may agree with his conclusions, we can assure them of the extreme interest of his pages—from its germinal state to its full development, through a long period of triumphant immobility to the beginning of its decline at the time of the Reformation, a decline which, in his opinion, is still going on. The Reforma- tion, Dr. Reville believes, opened the door for more change of creed than its instigators dreamed of. Till the time of the great Reformers "it was the Church, in principle, which made the Christian, henceforth it is the Christians who will make the Church." Dr. Revile has no fear that Christianity will fail when the dogma of the deity of Christ is—as he imagines it will be—finally discarded by the Protestant Churches. Christianity, he maintains, began without it, and will survive it. At the back of the Churches stands the eternal personality of Christ. " At the source of this whole history, at the point where all its variations begin, lies a sentiment of incalculable power, the sense of a divine ideal manifested in the word and the person of Jesus," for " in vain would Jesus have expounded His sublime views upon the true relationship of man and God, if His person had not been itself the incarnation of the ideal which His teaching revealed to thought." Though we disagree with Dr. Reville's view, we hold that he, like all other reverent searchers after truth, deserves a full and patient hearing. The Christian faith can never suffer from honest discussion.
The second book is entitled The Historic Christ, and is in reality a set of essays in exaltation of the authority of the Church, to exalt which Mr. Lacey derogates at every point from the value of Scriptural evidence. The Scriptures offer, in his mind, merely confirmatory evidence to the teachings of the Church, upon whose word Christianity is to be believed. St. Paul is, he declares, our first witness to Christ, and he is a witness, we are given to understand, only to His resurrection. " We find that in his writings he does not concern himself at all with the life of Jesus in Galilee or Judea. Was the story of that life even known to him in detail ? It is very doubtful." Again, we read :—" Either St. Paul did not know the details of our Lord's life, or he thought them of com- paratively small importance The death of the Master is the beginning of good news to the disciple—not His perfeet life, not His incomparable counsel, not His inspiring promises and enthralling demands, but His death." In two events, " the death and the resurrection of the Christ, St. Paul finds the sum total of the Gospel." The Gospels, according to Mr. Lacey, were written to fill up a deficiency in St. Paul's teach- ing,—to give some details of the earthly life of the heavenly Being whom Paul preached. Mr. Lacey's conclusion from the whole matter is summed up in the words of St. Augustine : " I should not believe the Gospel, were I not moved thereto by the authority of the Catholic Church."
To the ordinary reader it seems a strange and unaccount- able fact that Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor and fanatic, became Paul, the inspired exponent of charity, if he took no interest in the "incomparable counsel" of Christ. But the reader has only to open another book to find an able refutation of Mr. Lacey's sweeping arguments. In The Testimony of St. Paul to Christ Dr. Knowling proves, as it seems to us, beyond all reasonable doubt that St. Paul was well acquainted with the facts of Christ's life and with His ethical teaching. The Epistles are not biographies ; much is taken for granted, as already known to the readers of his letters. "It is inconceivable that in his missionary preaching. St. Paul could have disclaimed all knowledge of the par- ticulars relating to the historical Jesus. How could he have reckoned upon being understood even in the smallest degree, unless he could have declared who this Jesus actually was, what He did, and what He taught?" Besides this a priori
" He [St. Paul] knows of the night of our Lord's betrayal; he knows of the institution of the Eucharist ; he refers to ' the
Twelve' as if he was evidently using a familiar term he knows of the impression which our Lord's character had made upon men he can refer to our Lord's teaching as to marriage, to His ordinance for the maintenance of the Church, to His appeal to love as the fulfilling of the law ; he knows of our Lord's great discourses as to His coming to judgment, and he borrows some of his phraseology from it."
To forget the ethical side of Paul's teaching is to forget half of it. Not perhaps if we were to follow the mechanical plan of counting the number of actual verses referring to morals, but certainly if we use any more intellectual or spiritual method of computation. An excellent book dealing with Pauline ethics, entitled The Culture of the Spiritual Life,
has been written by Dr. William Dickie. This book is not controversial, but is entirely moral and spiritual in its aim.
We would recommend to our readers especially the chapter
called " On Thinking the Best," dealing with St. Paul's recommendation to fill the mind with the things that are
just, honourable, and lovely ; and the one on " Conscience," the substance of which is summed up in these words : " The speech of conscience is absolute; the silence of conscience needs interpretation."
Another translation, this time from the German, Bread and Salt from the Word of God, deserves much praise. It is a collection of sermons preached to educated men and women by Dr. Theodor Zahn, who, while occupying an orthodox position, often addresses himself with sympathetic earnestness to those religions-minded people who are in a less happy case than he,—people who are too often ignored in our pulpits, or alluded to contemptuously as sceptics. He speaks to those who "are overanxious and afraid about the continuance of true Christianity in our nation and in all the world," to those who say : "I do not fear for the Church and Christendom, but for my own soul; how am I to preserve it in the midst of the strife of opinions ? I envy those who can find consolation and strength for life in the old Christian faith, but I cannot answer the arguments by which the wisest prove that it is all superstition, for they have the very strongest allies in my judgment and my own observations." Perhaps, he writes, " many a young theologian, whilst he stands beneath the Cross, acknowledges that the atonement which took place there is still an unsolved riddle to him, and perhaps he knows nothing more about it from his own experience than the heathen centurion, who said beneath the Cross: ' Certainly this was a righteous man.' " For such as these Professor Zahn has a message of consolation and hope. His sermon dealing with the subject of " the whole" who " need not a physician " is very interesting, and be treats the fact of the moral excel- lence of many avowed agnostics with complete candour.
Mr. Charles Macfarland in Jesus and the Prophets throws a flood of light upon our Lord's attitude towards the Old Testament Scriptures. He compares it with the attitude of the Rabbis, and declares it to be totally different from theirs. Mr. Macfarland's conclusion is that our Lord was "the first free spiritual expounder of the Scriptures." We know that He disregarded the letter of the law, and He was not in bondage either to any literal interpretation of the prophets.
When He speaks of "fulfilling" the Law and the Prophets " He refers to His perfect revelation of the comprehensive moral purpose and plan of God."
In Spiritual Difficulties of the Bible and Prayer-Book Dean Luckock has attempted an impossible task,—to explain from the point of view of the most rigid conservatism certain passages in the Old Testament and the Athanasian Creed which shock the enlightened conscience of to-day. He has a theory that the Psalmist was not cursing his enemies when he wrote the imprecatory Psalms, but quoting the curses they heaped upon his own head. He thinks it not necessary—in the light of a new translation—to suppose that Jael's chronicler intended to assert that Jehovah's blessing rested upon Jael, but only the blessing of the multitude, and he minimises the curses of the Athanasian Creed as far as they can be minimised by industrious ingenuity in the service of a kind heart.
The last book on our list, The Garden of Nuts, is by Dr.
Robertson Nicoll. It can perhaps hardly be rightly described as Christological, for it deals directly neither with ethics nor
doctrine, but is a collection of papers upon mysticism. It comes, however, within the scope of the present article in virtue of certain sayings which bear shrewdly upon some false popular conceptions of our Lord's attitude of mind. Preachers speak carelessly of Christ's resignation as though it were a quality made up of a kind of inert sorrow. In a chapter happily named " The Animation of Our Lord's Surrender" Dr. Nicoll points out that "resignation is a word that does not describe our Lord's attitude to the Father's will. Our Lord for our redemption made the great surrender ; but He put the whole force of His life and activity into every moment of that surrender, from the first to the last." Dr. Robertson Nicoll's book will be read with pleasure and interest by all who care for the mystical side of religion, and who can appreciate the application of a fine literary sense to the esoteric problems of the Christian faith.
AN EPITOME OF EMPIRE.*