Charles Edward Jefferson.

Things fundamental; a course of thirteen discourses in modern apologetics online

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BOOKS BY DR. JEFFERSON



The Character of Jesus

Doctrine and Deed

The Minister as Prophet

The New Crusade

Quiet Hints to Growing Preachers

Quiet Talks with Earnest People

Things Fundamental

My Father's Business



Christmas Builders
Faith and Life
The Old Year and the New
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THINGS FUNDAMENTAL



A COURSE OF THIRTEEN DISCOURSES
IN MODERN APOLOGETICS



BY



CHARLES EDWARD JEFFERSON

PASTOR OF BROADWAY TABERNACLE
NEW YORK CITY



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NEW YORK

THOMAS Y. CROWELL & COMPANY

PUBLISHERS



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THE NEW YORK
PUBLIC LIBRARY

587864

ASTOR. LENOX AND
TILDiN FOUNDATIONS.

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Copyright, 1903,
By THOMAS Y. CROWELL & CO.



Published September, 1903.



TO THE CONGREGATION

WHOSE EARNEST AND STEADFAST ATTENTION

KINDLED THE PREACHER'S HEART

AND TONGUE

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CONTENTS
I

PAGE

The Nature and Place of Faith in the Christian Life . i
January ii, 1903.

II

The Nature and Place of Reason in the Christian Life . 27
January 18, 1903.

Ill

The Cause of the Present Uneasiness in the Christian

Church S3

January 25, 1903.

IV

How the Old Conception of the Scriptures differs from

the New. (Part I) ....•• 77

February 8, 1903.

V

How the Old Conception of the Scriptures differs from

the New. (Part II) io3

February 15, 1903.

« •

Vll



viu CONTENTS

VI

PAGE

The Deity of Jesus. (Parti) ., ... 141

March i, 1903.

VII

The Deity of Jesus. (Part II) 163

March 8, 1903.

VIII

The Miracles 191

March 15, 1903.

IX

Sin, and its Forgiveness ..•••. 223
March 22, 1903.

X

Sin, and its Punishment 249

March 29, 1903.

XI

The Church of the Living God . • • • . 283

April 5, 1903.

XII

The Immortality of the Soul 315

Easter, April 12, 1903.

XIII
The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit . . . 343

April 26, 1903.



I



THE NATURE AND PLACE OF
FAITH IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE



THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH
IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

« Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction
of things not seen." — Heb. xi : i.

We are living in an age of mental confusion.
The world everywhere is torn up. There have
been so many surprising discoveries, and so many
startling inventions, and so many new combi-
nations within the last fifty years, that we are all
at sea. There are so many novel hypotheses and
so many interpretations, there are so many books
and so many voices giving directions which con-
tradict one another, that the minds of many are
hopelessly bewildered. This mental confusion is
everywhere. It is impossible that the Christian
church should escape it. The impression has
gone abroad that Christianity is not what it used
to be ; that the Bible is not the book it was when
we were young ; that the old doctrines have been
if not discredited at least seriously modified ; that
Jesus of Nazareth must be looked at from a differ-
ent viewpoint ; and that the Christian church is not

3



4 THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH

worthy of the veneration which was given to it
by the fathers. This is the vague and general
impression, and the average man has no time to
find out whether the impression has good foun-
dations or not. For we are living in one of the
busiest of all ages. Men are obliged to work
almost with desperation, and when their day's
work is over it is necessary for them to play that
they may keep the physical machine in working
order. The busy physician bewails the fact that
he gets almost no time to read, being scarcely
able to keep up with his professional reading.
The hurried lawyer sighs because he has so little
time with his books. I heard a college president
lamenting, not long ago, that he had scarcely any
time to read. So crowded is our modern Hfe, that
the average man or woman is unable to pursue
any systematic course of serious study. The
result of it all is that there is a widespread igno-
rance of the foundations of our Christian faith, and
the question arises. Where are people going to
find the instruction v/hich they need }

They cannot go to the daily papers, for the
papers are gotten up in a hurry, and it is not their
function to impart Christian doctrine to the world.
Moreover, many papers are in the hands of men
who are either indifferent to Christianity or hostile
to it altogether; and whatever is said about the
church in their columns is written, for the most
part, by young and inexperienced reporters who



THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH 5

see Christianity simply from the outside, and know
nothing of its fundamental doctrines. Shall we
go to the novelist for this information ? No.
There is not a great novelist now writing who is
a safe or satisfactory interpreter of the Christian
faith. Mrs. Humphry Ward, Miss Marie Corelli,
and Mr. Hall Caine have produced what are called
religious novels, but neither of these three writers
is competent to interpret Christianity to this gener-
ation. Shall we go, then, to the theological pro-
fessors } No. They are immersed in the work
of the class room ; and the seminary and the
people cannot easily be brought together.

If anybody is to interpret Christianity to the
men and women of to-day, it must be the preacher ;
but even he is often tempted to feel that he has
no time to do this foundation and all-important
work. There are so many urgent duties to be
pressed home upon the consciences of men,
there are so many practical truths which need
to be unfolded and illustrated, there are so many
deserving enterprises to be held up and com-
mended, that the average preacher seldom ventures
to deal with those processes by means of which
his own faith has been built up, and very rarely
considers with his congregation the deep foun-
dation stones on which the whole superstructure
of the Christian church is built. Moreover, every
preacher knows that in his congregation there are
many persons who do not want a lecture on the-



6 THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH

ology. They come to church, worn and weary,
and they want something which appeals to and
satisfies the heart. A woman in high position said
to me not long ago : "When I go to church 1 do
not want to think. I get enough thinking to do
through the week, and when I go to church I want
to rest. All I want is some good music and a
chance to be soothed by the atmosphere of the
place of prayer." This woman in these words
speaks for many. The minister who deals seri-
ously with the great themes of Christian thought
knows that many in his congregation will grow
drowsy or impatient, and that some of them will
go away feeling they have not received that imme-
diate uplift which they need to carry them through
the duties of another week. But there are others
who crave and long for fuller instruction on the
problems and mysteries of our Faith, and so I
have decided to devote the Sunday mornings of a
quarter of this year to the consideration of these
lofty and difficult themes.

In my walking up and down the world I have
found seven men : —

The first man is confused. He does not know
what to think about religious matters. He has
heard that there has been recent light from the
monuments, but he does not know what the light
is. He has seen in a head-line in some paper that
something has been dug up somewhere, but he
does not know where or what. He has heard that



THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH 7

there has been commotion in a Theological Semi-
nary, but just what caused the commotion he does
not know. He has read in a paper that a certain
creed has been modified, but just why or to what
extent he has not been able to ascertain. He has
noticed in the paper that Dr. Blank has given up
belief in a certain section of the creed. But the
reason for all this he is not able to discover. He
was brought up in a Christian household and has
been standing on the outskirts of the Christian
crowd, and he knows that something is going on
at the centre, but just what it is he does not know.
The second man is a man with suspended judg-
ment. He believes that there are two sides to
every question, and that it is a man's business to
consider carefully both sides. He knows there
are arguments for Christianity and arguments
against it, and he wants to consider both sets of
arguments impartially. He sits down with a pair
of scales in front of him and throws into one pan
the arguments for Christianity and into the other
pan the arguments against Christianity, and every
man who has anything to say either for or against
is certain to catch his ear, for it gives him a chance
to put something else in one or the other pan of
the scales. If you ask him to become a Christian,
his reply is, ** I want to think about it. There are
two sides, you know." I have often marvelled at
this man, for I have seen him when his hair had
grown gray and with great furrows in his cheeks



8 THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH

chiselled by the years, and even with the shadow of
death falling across his face, I have heard him say-
ing, " There are two sides, you know."

The third man is the agnostic. He is the man
who does not know and who is convinced that he
cannot know. Religious matters are beyond him.
They are beyond everybody. Such themes as God,
and the soul, and immortality are not profitable.
We cannot reach certainty in regard to any of
these matters, and therefore it is the part of wis-
dom to give one's time and thought to other things.
There are only two things of which the agnostic
is absolutely certain. The first is that he cannot
know anything religiously, and that you cannot
know anything either.

The fourth man is the man who has been made
a sceptic, as he thinks, by science. He is not a
scientist himself, but has a smattering of what
sundry scientists have written, and so far as he
can see, Christianity and science are opposed to
each other, and science has driven Christianity
from the field. The Bible has been completely
discredited, he thinks, by scientific discoveries, and
the Christian church is a defunct institution. The
Bible says that the world is six thousand years old
— science says it is older. The Bible says the
world was made in six days — science says it was
not. The Bible says that on a certain occasion the
sun stood still — science knows that it did not.
The Bible says that the whale swallowed Jonah —



THE NATURE AIVD PLACE OF FAITH 9

science says it could not. Therefore all the mira-
cles of the Old Testament are so many myths, and
the miracles of the New Testament are accretions
of beautiful legends which have gathered around
the life of a very good man who once lived in
Galilee.

The fifth man is the man who has been made an
eclectic by the study of literature. This man has
not studied the Bible, but he has read a little poetry
and a little philosophy, and has dipped a little into
the science of comparative religion. He has gone
just deep enough into Buddhism and Confucianism
to know that there are some good things in those
religions, and he has not gone deep enough to
know how many bad things there are in them.
This man is very cosmopolitan in his views and
aspirations. He would not be so narrow as to be
a Christian and pin his faith to the sleeve of any
one religion. He believes in the good wherever it
may be found. He would not accept any par-
ticular creed, but would take all creeds so far as
they commend themselves to his good judgment.
Tennyson has given us a portrait of this man in
his "Palace of Art" : —

" I take possession of man's mind and deed ;
I care not what the sects may brawl ;
I sit as God holding no form of creed,
But contemplating all."

I have often met that man.

The sixth man is exceedingly humble, so humble



10 THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH

that he is unwilling to become a Christian. He
knows that Christianity is a big subject, and he
knows also that he is busy and that his intellectual
faculties are limited. He has neither the time nor
the ability to investigate such a myriad-sided sub-
ject, and therefore he has convinced himself that
he has no right to believe. "What right," he
says, "has a man to say he believes in a thing
which he has neither the time nor the disposition
to investigate t " This man of humiHty is one of
the most plausible of all men now alive.

The seventh man is a man whose heart is timid.
He lives in a state of chronic alarm. He is afraid
of the higher criticism, of the new theology, and of
the new psychology, and of German philosophy,
and of French speculation, and of scientific inves-
tigation, for he does not want the Ark of the Lord
to be upset. He puts on a brave face, but in his
heart he is afraid of thorough investigation, think-
ing that possibly if we only thought deeply enough,
we might discover that some of the things we be-
lieve are not true. This would be quite disastrous
to the church, because it would unsettle the minds
of the young. This man thinks we had better let
well enough alone and not bother ourselves by
efforts to probe too deeply. He is a believer him-
self, so he thinks, he accepts all the doctrines, he
is a member of the church — but why he believes
the things which the church stands for, he does
not know. He does not know why he believes in



THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH u

the existence of God, or in the deity of Christ, or
in the forgiveness of sins, or in the immortality of
the soul. He is not able to give a reason for the
hope that is in him. In the presence of the first
six men who are always talking about their unbelief
and giving good reasons for it, this man is silent.
He is a Christian, but he is not well enough posted
to defend himself when he meets men who are not
Christians. It is to this man that I want to preach
on the coming Sundays. I hope the other six men
will be present. Please invite them to come, but
the sermons are not for them. The sermons are
for the man who, although a member of the
church, does not really know what the founda-
tions of the Christian faith are. In Mrs. Ward's
famous novel, *'' Robert Elsmere," she represents a
contest between Squire Wendover and the hero
of the novel, Robert Elsmere. The Squire is not
a believer in Christianity as the church teaches it.
He has a very plausible, weighty way of saying
things. He drops a few remarks against the
miracles and claims of Jesus, and Robert Els-
mere capitulates at once. He offers not a word
of argument, he utters no protest, he simply sur-
renders. This picture of Mrs. Ward's incensed
Mr. Gladstone. He thought it was ridiculous.
According to Mrs. Ward's story there was no con-
test at all ; it was a paean on one side and a blank
on the other. A great creed with eighteen cen-
turies of Christian history behind it was not able



12 THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH

to utter a single articulate syllable in its defence.
But Mrs. Ward was painting true to life when she
painted that picture. Many a young man has gone
down just as Robert Elsmere went down, without
a word to say in defence of the faith which he had
confessed. I have been dumfounded more than
once by the silence of Christians when they have
been caught in situations where they ought to
have spoken. I have heard a man say with great
assurance that the doctrine of the Trinity was
never thought of until the fourth century, and the
Christian man to whom it was said opened not his
mouth. I have heard it asserted in the presence
of Protestant people that the Roman Catholic
Church is the mother church — and there was no
protest. I have heard it said that men of science
had given up believing in the miracles — and there
was not a word of denial uttered. Certainly the
church militant is never going to win victories
until its members know how to defend themselves
against the people who talk against Christ and his
church.

With this much by way of introduction, let us
now come to the subject for this morning: The
nature and place of faith in the Christian life.

A hasty glance through the New Testament
will convince one that faith is a matter of cardinal
importance to anybody who would be a Christian.
Jesus began his ministry by urging men to believe,
and in the upper chamber on the last night of his



THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH 13

earthly life we find that the greatest word upon
his lips is still that word " believe." He is pleading
with them to believe in him. "You believe in
God," he said, "believe also in me." "These things
have I said that you may believe." He was always
looking for faith. There was no question which
he asked with such earnestness as the question.
Do you believe } And wherever he found it he
was delighted. There was nothing delighted him
so much. " O woman, great is thy faith ! " The
words came from his lips like a shout of triumph.
" I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel."
With such a eulogy he crowned a Roman centu-
rion. And the reason why faith delighted him
was because it gave him an opportunity to do
wonderful things. The greatest miracles, as the
New Testament plainly declares, were preceded
by acts of faith. Jesus is very careful to call
attention to the fact that it is faith which has
made his great works possible. How many times
we read this expression, " And Jesus seeing their
faith," and then the story goes on to tell us of
some marvellous thing which he did. But if there
was no mighty faith, there were no mighty works.
One of the evangelists tells us that in a certain
locality he could do no mighty work because of
the people's unbelief. And so in his conversations
with his disciples we find that Jesus comes back
again and again to this fundamental subject. Now
he reprimands them, " O ye of little faith ! " Now



14 THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH

he chides them, " Where is your faith ? " Or again,
"How is it that you have no faith ? " Again he
encourages them, " If you have faith as a grain of
mustard seed," you shall be able to do things which
the world calls impossible. This is the first thing,
then, which Jesus of Nazareth looks for in a man.
It was the first thing he looked for when he came
to the earth nineteen hundred years ago, and it is
the first thing which he will look for when he
comes again. " When the Son of Man cometh,
shall he find faith on the earth } "

Now all the New Testament writers follow Jesus
in placing faith at the beginning of the Christian
life. Paul seldom wrote about anything else.
The word " faith " occurs again and again on every
one of his pages. He takes up an expression in
the Old Testament, "The just shall live by faith,"
and he makes that the key-note of his entire in-
terpretation of Christianity. " By faith are you
saved," so he writes to his converts. "We walk
by faith, not by sight." Further quotation is un-
necessary. According to the writer to the Hebrews
everything great that had ever been done in
Hebrew history was done by men of faith who
were able to do it because of their faith. Peter
also makes faith the foundation stone on which
the whole temple of Christian character is to be
built. "Add to your faith," he says, "virtue, and
to your virtue knowledge," etc. Faith is the stone
upon which all the other stones are to rest. At



THE NATURE AND PLACE OF FAITH 15

the end of his gospel John tells us why he has
written the things which he has just narrated.
He says, "I have written these things that ye
might beHeve." The supreme ambition of John's
life was to develop in men's hearts this Christian
faith. It is evident, therefore, if we are to make
any progress in our study of the Christian religion,
we must at the very start get a clean-cut concep-
tion of what faith is and how it works.

But before we come to our definition let us clear
away two misapprehensions which have caused a
deal of mischief. The New Testament never op-
poses faith to reason. The assumption that faith
is one thing and reason another thing directly
opposed to it has estranged many from the Chris-
tian church. Anything that goes contrary to rea-
son is especially repugnant to young men. The
men who have attacked Christianity with most
effect have been men who have given the impres-
sion that Christianity crushes the reason. One of
the causes of the marvellous influence of Thomas
Paine's book, "The Age of Reason," was that he
contrasts society when it is moved by principles
of justice and liberty with the state of society
as it existed when lazy, superstitious monks were
supreme. He always confused faith with credulity
and superstition and ignorance and vice. And if
that is what faith is, who would not prefer the age
of reason .


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Online LibraryCharles Edward JeffersonThings fundamental; a course of thirteen discourses in modern apologetics → online text (page 1 of 21)