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LECTURE I.

THE TIME CHRISTIANITY APPEARED,

So is the Kingdom of God as if a man should cast seed into the

ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how.-S. MARK

iv. 26, 27

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It is a

THE question is once more being asked in various The Subways, and with an importunity which will not be posed. put off and a freshness almost surprising, What was Christianity as first given to the world? question so practically brought to us, that our moral and social not less than our religious future must be concerned in its present solution. In the ensuing Lectures on the mission and writings of the great Apostle of the Gospel, we shall necessarily survey our Religion from the point of view of its first century, and it is not unreasonable to think that, with those authentic materials which are in fact the oldest Christian documents we possess, we may at least learn what it was that S. Paul taught when he went forth to the nations and proclaimed Jesus and the Resurrection.' It cannot be without use even to the well-in- Reasons for

considering structed believer in times like ours, when the pro- it. gress of new thought and the lengthening of the

must be real.

old traditions may seem to magnify the distance
from the first historic Christianity, that he should
thus

go

back to breathe once more the air of that earlier day, and touch again, if it may be so said, the soil of his birthplace.

We know indeed that the appeal to Primitive Christianity is trite enough, and is made with unguarded confidence by many who identify it with an ideal of simplicity corresponding with very little in the past. But we have to think of some, who will now explore our origines very really, though with no sympathies of religious partizanship, and

perhaps even coldly, resolutely, and from without. Exegesis of And there are others, doubters whose half-implied the facts

challenge when sincere may not be declined. True
critics should be fellow-workers; and we need not
bring to our task the zeal of theorists, though we
may approach it with the insight which must belong
to believers.

Some indulgence, it is hoped, may be conceded
if we here pause and look over the field, though
familiar to so many, in which the sacred seed of
our Religion was sown. By so doing, we shall after-
wards better trace the earliest appearances of the
growth of that seed; and let it be borne in mind,
that it is no dry historical defence of the faith that
is here intended, but simply the exegesis of the facts
of the Gospel as first presented and speaking for
themselves.

Every one recognizes in some way the great change which passed over the world eighteen hun

H

1.]

AS CHRISTIANITY FOUND IT.

5

world

modern, a

dred years ago, the full import of which is far from being yet known. Old Religions, old philo- The change

from the sophies, old nationalities were shattered, and even ancient their languages transmuted into other forms. It to the was not that large populations then changed their Renewal. masters, from the barbarian boundary of the North to the deserts of Africa in the South ; from the pillars of Hercules looking out on the Atlantic, to the confines of far-off India. No, for that kind of revolution had happened before. The change was now a more real one perhaps than human nature had ever gone through, so penetrating indeed, that it seemed as if implied on all hands that another order of things was coming, though as yet men knew not how. That renewal which soon began, in whatever terms we may describe it, is what this nineteenth century of ours inherits. From that epoch dates the generally accepted faith of

', modern civilization.

While as Christians we feel that the events of Its examithat time are associated with all our sentiments of not inconreverence, we are not the less called on to deal with them also as simple facts. Fully acknowledging, indeed, that there are depths in the early springs of the Christian life which no analysis can reach, we need not on that account reject any true and just scrutiny that has been made ; and we may not hold back, if the lamp has been carefully carried down, at any time, for the exactest exploration of our holy places. We shall be venturing into no forbidden ground.

nation

sistent with reverence.

1.

the times from Ausgustus to

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I. If we look to the times immediately preceding the coming of our Deliverer, and next glance at

the days which followed the departure of His last Hadrian. Apostles,—view, that is, the conditions of the Empire

of Augustus and then the phenomena towards the days of Hadrian,—we have the interval of a century; and that is the Field' in which the Gospel was sown. It is there that we must find the substantial details of the transition which took place. Taking

only the facts which emerge after the most careful (We might examination, it is certain that towards the end of

that period a mighty growth had begun to show

itself throughout a considerable part of the social cient.)

system. It had been little noticed at first, among the world-embracing interests of the great Roman polity ; but it was plain enough when the second century arrived.

A seed' had surely been sown, and even if 'men knew not how,' it was springing on every side. Most true it had been, indeed, that 'men knew not how, and we may see this in the confused utterances of Pliny, or the obscure words of the historian Tacitus, or the fainter allusions of Juvenal. The very Apologies which bring our Religion to the more formal knowledge of the world's rulers, do but show that the 'light had been shining in darkness, while the darkness comprehended it not.'

But a world thus unconscious at first of the rising was then walting for Christianity had yet been waiting for it. It was not that came indeed, as some have suggested, a natural sequence

in the moral movement of the ages; yet in the

The world

.

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