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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/86

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74
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

say that they are not to be trusted as revealing a real relation between the Saviour and God. In spite of all doubts as to the accuracy of the Gospels, Jesus Christ—I trust I may be forgiven, under the stress of controversy, for mentioning his sacred name in this too familiar manner—is a tender and sacred figure to all thoughtful minds, and it is, it ought to be, and it always will be, a very painful thing, to say that he lived and died under a mistake in respect to the words which were first and last on his lips. I think, as I have admitted, that it should be unpleasant for a man who has as much appreciation of Christianity, and of its work in the world, as Prof. Huxley sometimes shows, to have to say that its belief was founded on no objective reality. The unpleasantness, however, of denying one system of thought may be balanced by the pleasantness, as Prof. Huxley suggests, of asserting another and a better one. But nothing, to all time, can do away with the unpleasantness, not only of repudiating sympathy with the most sacred figure of humanity in his deepest beliefs and feelings, but of pronouncing him under an illusion in his last agony. If it be the truth, let it by all means be said; but if we are to talk of “immorality” in such matters, I think there must be a lack of moral sensibility in any man who could say it without pain.

The plain fact is that this misquotation would have been as impossible as a good deal else of Prof. Huxley’s argument, had he, in any degree, appreciated the real strength of the hold which Christianity has over men’s hearts and minds. The strength of the Christian Church, in spite of its faults, errors, and omissions, is not in its creed, but in its Lord and Master. In spite of all the critics, the Gospels have conveyed to the minds of millions of men a living image of Christ. They see him there; they hear his voice; they listen, and they believe him. It is not so much that they accept certain doctrines as taught by him, as that they accept him, himself, as their Lord and their God. The sacred fire of trust in him descended upon the apostles, and has from them been handed on from generation to generation. It is with that living personal figure that agnosticism has to deal; and as long as the Gospels practically produce the effect of making that figure a reality to human hearts, so long will the Christian faith, and the Christian Church, in their main characteristics, be vital and permanent forces in the world. Prof. Huxley tells us, in a melancholy passage, that he can not define “the grand figure of Jesus.” Who shall dare to “define” it? But saints have both written and lived an imitatio Christi, and men and women can feel and know what they can not define. Prof. Huxley, it would seem, would have us all wait coolly until we have solved all critical difficulties, before acting on such a belief. “Because,” he says, “we are often obliged, by the pressure of events, to act on very