Edward Thomas Vaughan.

Some reasons of our Christian hope online

. (page 1 of 18)
Online LibraryEdward Thomas VaughanSome reasons of our Christian hope → online text (page 1 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


>F TU|;

Theological Seminary


BR 45 .H84 1875
Vaughan, Edward Thomas
Some reasons of our
Christian hope











ILontJon :


lAll Rights reserved.]













The Lectures which this volume contains were
dehvered in Great St Mary's Church, Cambridge,
in December and January last, in fulfilment of the
office of Hulsean Lecturer for the year 1875. The
duties of the office, as prescribed by Mr Hulse's
will, have been modified by various orders of the
Court of Chancery and of the University Com-
missioners, Parts of the Lectures were necessarily
omitted in the delivery for want of time.

Their general plan is as follows. I have en-
deavoured first to define the nature of our Chris-
tian hope, and to shew that it is adapted to certain
real and deep wants of human nature \ I have
recognized, secondly, the history of our Lord's
earthly life, His death and resurrection, as the only
basis on which that hope can be rested ; and have

^ Lecture i.


sought to shew further that some such history is
required to account for the origin of the Christian
Church, and for the admitted facts of the Christian
life, as these have been experienced, in the largest
possible variety of circumstances, during the last
eighteen centuries \ I have sought, thirdly, to de-
termine by strict examination the real value of the
direct evidence of the truth of the Christian history,
afforded by the various books included in the
Canon of the New Testament I

I have then gone back to the Scriptures of the
Old Testament, and have sought to shew that they
afford convincing proof of a divinely guided pre-
paration for the coming of the Son of Godl I
have sought finally to consider carefully certain
difficulties which are very generally felt to be
involved in those conceptions of Revelation and
Inspiration which, in some shape, seem to be neces-
sarily implied in our Christian faith^

1 Lecture ii. 2 Lecture in. 3 Lecture iv. 4 Lecture v.


The Lectures are intended to meet a want
which I believe to be real and pressing. The
wonderful progress of inquiry, historic, scientific,
and philosophical, in recent years, has given a
new shape to many old objections, and has pro-
duced many which were apparently unknown to the
generations in which our great English works on the
evidences were written. The difficulties of belief
have been eagerly and skilfully paraded in books
which have gained a more or less wide circulation ;
and are continually alluded to, often with an im-
plied assumption that they are insuperable, in
much of the popular literature of the day. For
the last few years an impression has prevailed
widely, even among those to whom it was most
unwelcome, that recent investigations have greatly
weakened, if they have not altogether destroyed,
the force of the formerly accepted evidences of

Many of those who have been and are dis-


quieted by this apprehension, however intelligent
and well informed on general subjects, are unable
or unwilling to read large books, or to enter upon
profound and difficult investigations for themselves.
Those writings on the subject, whether popular or
philosophical, which satisfied a former generation,
do not deal directly enough with the sceptical
difficulties of our own day, to make the real force
of their argument felt by those to whom I wish
especially to address myself. I have endeavoured
to supply their want of a statement of the Chris-
tian argument, in a shape adapted to the diffi-
culties of the present day, which shall be clear
and true, as far as it goes, and shall serve in
some measure as a guide to further study of the

My aim in these Lectures has not been contro-
versial. I mean that I have not wished to reply
to any particular writer. I have aimed to speak
as a Christian to Christians, with resrard to the


nature and the grounds of a hope in which we have
a common personal interest, but which we have no
wish to retain if it be not really founded in truth.
I have hoped to shew them that the history which
is the basis of our Christian hope is as fully proved
as any history can be ; and that the faith which
that history implies is reasonable in itself, and is
adapted to the real wants of man with a profound
wisdom plainly betokening its divine origin.

I am well aware that my aim, as above defined,
is a limited, and comparatively humble one, but
that, even so understood, the work undertaken is
difficult, and that I am very imperfectly qualified for
it. The argument which I have treated is indeed
one on which I have thought continually through
life ; and I have endeavoured to urge nothing
which I do not entirely believe, after long conside-
ration, to be worthy of the place which I have
given to it in the proof. But the subject is vast ;
and a life spent in active parochial work has not



allowed me time for that deep research, or even for
that patient consecutive thought on difficult ques-
tions, without which no man can hope to offer con-
tributions at once new and trustworthy to apo-
logetic theology. My hope has been that I might
help some, who have not time for extensive reading,
to see that they have within their reach, in facts and
considerations of which the truth can scarcely be
denied, ample ground for a reasonable conviction
that the Christian creed, and the life which should
result from its acceptance, are realities, not illu-
sions. — Some too, I hope, who are entering on a
wider range of reading, may find what I have
written useful, as an introduction to study, and a
clue through the labyrinth of detail in which a
young student sometimes becomes bewildered.

It would be impossible and useless to acknow-
ledge all I owe to others who have treated parts of
my subject. The books to which I am directly
indebted are generally well known and easily ac-


cessible. But the writers to whom one owes most
in reality are often just those to whom one can
least express one's obligations by reference to par-
ticular passages. They have helped to form one's
habits of thought. They have suggested subjects
of inquiry. It is scarcely necessary to say that I
have used freely, and am deeply indebted to, the
works of the Dean of Westminster, of Professors
Westcott and Lightfoot, with Professor Pusey's
invaluable introductions to and commentaries upon
the Minor Prophets. Sometimes I may seem to
have borrowed from these and other recent writers
results at which I had really arrived independently,
in years long past, and which I have only been
deeply thankful to find afterwards confirmed by
authority so much higher than my own.

I have found it pleasant and useful to myself to
have been engaged, during the preparation of my
lectures, with the great truths which lie nearest to
the roots of our Christian life, and should therefore


be dearest to all to whom that life and its Lord
are dear. I can only wish that some of those who
read them may find something of the same plea-
sure and benefit. From a deep and fairly earned
conviction of the certainty and paramount im-
portance of these great verities, there should follow
immediately a deeper feeling of brotherhood with
all who receive them, however they may be ap-
parently separated from us by differences about
matters of less primary importance. We may hope
for a yet further consequence, in a deeper charity
toward those also who still find it difficult to re-
ceive them, yet are often, by the purity of their
lives, and their high moral aims, an example to

Harpenden Rectory,
March 30, 1876.




Our Christian Hope considered as meeting the



The Christian Church and Life must have had a

supernatural origin 47


The weight of the Direct Evidence of the Truth

of the Gospel History 83


The Evidence of the Old Testament to a Divine

Preparation for Christ's coming . . . .153


The Christian Conceptions of Revelation and
Inspiration, and some of the Difficulties in-
volved IN them 207





V. H. L.
i '


I Pet. III. 15.

Be ready always to give an ajiswer to every man
which asketh you a reason of the hope that is in
you, \but'\ with meekness and fear.

Every one feels that during the last few years
there has been a very general unsettlement of
old-established opinion upon almost all questions
connected with religion and philosophy. Nearly
every question is regarded just now as an open
question. Any one of many answers to it may
possibly prove true ; and it is more likely than
anything else that no final and conclusive answer
will ever be found.

Those who would fain hold fast what they
and their fathers have believed and practised are
naturally pained by this. To them it is simply
terrible to think of the limitless and unfathom-
able ocean into which human life seems to be

drifting without chart and compass. The world



seems as firmly convinced as it can be of any-
thing, that the old chart and compass are delusive
or outworn. We shrink from the bewilderment,
the loss of salutary restraint, the absence of guid-
ance in life and of hope in death, which appear
to await our children.

Nor is the behaviour of those whose sympa-
thies are with the general movement usually such
as to diminish these natural apprehensions. Their
tone and manner constantly betray a want of any
just sense of the momentous import of the ques-
tions which they are raising. They seem either
never to consider, or, if they do consider, to pre-
sume upon, the want of fitness for any serious
and patient consideration of these questions, under
which a very large part of the audience to which
they address themselves — the inexperienced, the
half-educated, the uninformed on philosophical
and historical subjects — is necessarily labouring.
They seem to forget that, if belief has its pre-
judices and obstinacies, scepticism has also its
supercilious pride of superiority to prejudice, and


its emancipation from irksome restraints ; and that
these may commend it to an unreasoning accept-
ance, with many who will never take the trouble to
form a real conviction either way. They seem
unaware, or not displeased, that many wish to
live for this world only, and will welcome as a
relief from all check upon worldliness, the gospel
(as it would be to them) that the unseen world
has no certain existence, and consequently no
claim upon recognition in their plans of life.

I am not at all sure that this is more the
case now than it has often been before. Bishop
Butler complained that it was so in his day\
Wilberforce, a generation or two later, says some-
where that before the Great Revolution of last
century it was so everywhere in the upper circles
of English life. Much of the apparent unbelief
around us is rather apparent than real, and does
but float on the still surface of society. It seems
to be widely diffused among men of the literary

1 See * Advertisement,' prefixed to the Analogy, dated May,


profession, which has become so important an
estate of the realm within living memory. It
is natural to suppose that the popular literature
of an age indicates the general current of its
thought and feeling. And, no doubt, in quiet
times the world does accept, without any audible
protest, the pleasant food provided by the period-
ical literature of the day. But whenever any
great emergency makes the world serious for a
few months, it becomes impatient of the scepti-
cism of its self-constituted teachers. At such
times a deep undercurrent of religious belief mani-
fests its unsuspected strength. And the energy
of Christian feeling displaying itself in various
forms, and the amount of self-denying Christian
labour which is being expended in well-doing on
every side of us, are tokens of the reality of Chris-
tian life existing in multitudes, such as may well
make any Christian thankful and hopeful, on a
broader view of our time, rather than dejected.

Still, after all abatements have been duly made,
it seems the fact that for some years past there


has been, and probably for some years to come
there will be, a general impression among educated
and intelligent men that the grounds of Christian
belief have been considerably weakened by the
progress of scientific, philosophic, and historical
inquiry. It is very generally assumed by many
popular writers and speakers, and the world is
impressed by the assumption, that the Christian
scriptures are irreconcilably at variance with ascer-
tained facts in science : — that the evidence of their
credibility is proved by historic criticism to be con-
siderably less than was formerly supposed : — that
many of the fundamental conceptions implied in
Christianity and its alleged evidence have been
proved by an accepted philosophy to be impossible.
That this impression does exist in very many
minds, may and must be confessed alike by those
who regret and those who rejoice in its existence.

What then shall be the attitude towards this
popular scepticism of those who still believe that
the foundation of their faith stands firm } Not, I
trust, one of fear, or of anger. That can only be


possible to those who have some secret misgiving
as to the truth of their Creed. In them it may
be natural enough. For

When men are tost
On tides of strange opinion, and not sure
Of their own selves, they are wroth with their o^vn selves
And thence with others i.

But he who truly believes is sure, in the poet's sense,
of his own self; and therefore can afford to be
patient with those whom he believes to be in error.
Still less one of contempt. That is of all feelings
the most alien from a Christian's mind toward
those who (possibly with little fault of their own)
are casting away what he knows to be the greatest
blessing. Nor yet of such averseness from the task
of examining the foundations on which our faith
rests, as shall either make us refuse to inquire,
or become incapable of fair dealing, and of hearty
sympathy with any really earnest doubt and diffi-
culty which exists in the mind of others.

Neither shall we be hopeless, as some would

1 Queen Mary, Act III., Scene iv.


tell us that we ought to be, of any really good
result from serious examination of the nature and
the grounds of our belief

Of course there can be little hope of good at
present from discussion with those who are not in
earnest, because they think that truth and falsehood
in religious belief or non-belief differ little, and are
of little import to individuals or to the world. But
many of those who feel doubt and difficulty, and
even incline at present toward unbelief, are yet
men of deeply religious instincts, and of lives of
which the truthfulness, the purity, and the unself-
ishness may put that of many Christians to shame
by comparison. These men have a right to be
reasoned with patiently and kindly as well as fairly.
We are bound to shew those who approach the
question thus, what we believe, and why we believe
it. If they cannot yet receive the truth we live by,
we trust that many of them will hereafter feel their
way toward it, as the discipline of life forms in
them a maturer wisdom, deepens their knowledge
of human wants, and opens their hearts to receive


the divinely given satisfaction of those wants which
our faith alone, as we believe, can afford.

And there are around us and them the many
who have no adverse prejudices to overcome ; who
have been trained in Christian belief, and are living,
or trying to live, Christian lives. These men and
women, for they are both, reasonably ask us, who
are older, and have made these matters the subjects
of our study, to shew them, if we can, that they
have no need to be ashamed of the belief which
they have learnt first in its simple elements from
a mother's lips ; which was then unfolded more
fully in the Christian teaching and worship which
have been among the best influences of their home
and school and University. They demand of us,
and often with a very touching meekness and fear,
a reason of the hope that is in us. They would
very gladly cherish the same hope in themselves, if
only they can be shewn that it is no delusion, but
a truth which may be tested, which does not fear
inquiry, and which has its own appropriate proof, —
a proof practically sufficient to sustain its weight.


I can best hope to make useful my fulfilment
of the office intrusted to me, by trying to do the
work of which I have thus sketched the outline.
I do not address myself to philosophers and scien-
tific or deeply learned men, as sitch. They will
seek from others the removal of those doubts which
their special gifts and studies have made peculiarly
perplexing to themselves. They will not expect
satisfaction from one who has no claim to be re-
garded as their compeer upon their own ground ;
still less as their instructor.

I attempt a much humbler but I believe not at
all an unuseful work. I would address myself, if
I could hope that my words would reach them, to
the general mass of my intelligent and educated
fellow countrymen and countrywomen, on those
great matters which most deeply concern us simply
as human beings^ whatever our condition in life,
our acquirements, or abilities may be. I wish to
lay before those who will give me their attention
some plain and simple considerations, which satisfy
me, and which, after long consideration, I think



ought to satisfy them, that a Christian's hope is a
reasonable hope; a Christian's rule of duty is a
divinely given lazu ; the Christian belief, on which
both depend, a divinely revealed reality, I wish
to give them an antidote, God enabling me, to the
cavil and the sneer which flippant speakers and
writers too often throw before those who, as they
well know, will not, perhaps cannot sift them.

I wish, if it may be, to shew such persons that
any philosophy which recognizes all the facts of
human nature must needs recognize the existence
and many of the attributes of a Divine Being ; on
whom we and all nature depend ; and for the know-
ledge and love of whom man was made. Such a
philosophy must therefore leave room for the possi-
bility, and ought to confess the desirableness, of a
revelation of further truth concerning that Being
to man. I wish to shew them that real historic
inquiry, proceeding according to the laws which
govern all reasonable investigation of history, ought
to result in a conviction that the history which is
the basis of the Christian revelation is substantially


true. I wish to shew that it is only a misappre-
hension of the design and nature of the Christian
revelation, which has ever seemed to bring it into
collision with well-established truths of physical or
moral science. I wish above all to recognize and
give reason for a deep conviction that the Chris-
tian life, really lived as it may be and has been
lived by many in every age, is the best evidence
of its own divine original ; and that he who will
honestly try to live that life will in due time find a
better witness given him within himself than any
external proof, to which yet he does well to give
heed, as to a light shining in, a dark place, until the
day dawn, and the day star arise in his heart \

It will be my aim then to do this, as far as possi-
ble, I know that it must be very imperfectly, within
the narrow limits necessarily assigned to my work.
And in doing it I wish to keep steadily in view the
truth of which St Peter's word ^hope^ rather than
'faith! seems chosen to remind us. 'Faith' is very
apt, and perhaps was so even before the age of the

1 2 Pet. i. 19.


Apostles ended ^ to degenerate into an expression for
the hard and dry belief that certain things are true.
^ Hope' does still retain, and can scarcely ever lose,
its connotation of a looking for something in which
our own personal interest is made sure. " The hope
that is in you" means evidently the expectation of
some good thing for which we look as promised to
oicrselves. One man cannot properly be said to hope
for that which is promised to another, in which he
himself has no part.

Yet let me guard by anticipation against a
popular misinterpretation of the word hope, or
false inference from its use. Never let us think of a
Christian's hope as relating to blessings altogether
future. They are such in part ; and the perfection,
and the full enjoyment of them all, is matter not
of present possession, but of future expectancy.
But the future for which a Christian looks is not
something altogether new and unlike anything to
which he can attain in his present state of beingl
His future life, if we listen at all to any of those

1 Jude 3. James ii. r4. 2 jo]-,„ y_ ^^^ ^ j^i^^^ -;_ j^


whom the Church has accepted as its teachers,
from the Apostles downward, is the development,
in their full perfection, of capacities and habits
which have their beginning in this life, and their
appropriate exercise in its daily trials. It is the
full enjoyment, unbroken and without hindrance,
of that which has its foretaste given even now,
though it be only known in part, through many
hindrances, in much imperfection.

The aim then of this first Lecture will be to
shew you, or remind you, w^hat the blessings are
substantially, or as to their essential nature, which
a Christian believes that he has now, and which he
hopes to have much more fully hereafter. In so
doing, we must mark distinctly the connexion, in
a Christian's belief, between those blessings and
the Person of the Saviour in whom he lives.
We must notice also how remarkably they meet
all the facts of human nature, and satisfy its
wants. In the subsequent Lectures I must en-
deavour to shew you some of the reasons which
assure us that in so believing and so hoping we


have noX. followed cunningly devised fables^, but are
maintaining truth as surely proved as it is full of
comfort to those who hold it in reality.

Our interest in the inquiry on which we are
entering must depend in great measure, of course,
on our answer to the question, what those blessings
are, which, as Christians we have in part, and hope
to have more perfectly . Is it little or much which
we have personally at stake, when we ask whether
our Christian faith has the rock for its foundation,
or some shifting sand? We do not wish to accept
for proof that which is not really proof, because
the thing to be proved is what we might wish to
find true. But neither do we wish to enter into the
evidence in a state of cold indifference as to the
result of the inquiry; which takes away all earnest-
ness and reality from the investigation. We will
watch, by God's help, against all self-deception, as
we proceed ; but we will not affect or try to forget
that the reality of the blessings which faith gives
us is a matter to us of life and death ; — of life and

1 See ^ Pet. i. i6.


death to ourselves if we are truly Christians; — of
the very greatest possible moment to the world,
whatever our own personal attitude towards the
Christian's hope may be. Moreover, it may well
be argued that what so satisfies man's heart must
come from Him who made it.

We must begin by recognizing some of those
facts of internal consciousness, common as we be-
lieve to all mankind, which our Christian faith
presupposes, and of which the recognition is neces-

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryEdward Thomas VaughanSome reasons of our Christian hope → online text (page 1 of 18)