The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37
The task before me is a pleasant and yet an arduous one. I wish to show in short compass why it is that the Christian Church accepts the Four Gospels as part of the Word of God; and that it is right in so accepting them. It is a task from which any one, who holds that these Books are inspired, might well shrink, lest he should fail in convincing others that his own belief is well grounded; not as the marsh light, only a snare to the weary traveller, but as the light from some well-built lighthouse, shining bright alway in the darkness, pointing out the haven where the mariner would be. He might well fear, too, lest by some mistake of his, others who think not with him, might be the rather confirmed in their unbelief.
The Christian Church holds, then, that these Books are the very foundation of The Faith. If they are false; if they are but the fond imaginings of some one or other, magnifying a faint, far off mythical story; if they are not truly written by men of God, and of men inspired of God to write; then are we left in almost darkness—our Christianity is well-nigh gone—we of this day have scarce anything to tell of Jesus that is worthy of acceptance in comparison with this loss—we must walk on sadly as those who are unknown and uncared for, wanderers in a wilderness without a guide.page 6
This result is well put by one who has always endeavoured to prove that the Gospels are false. He sees clearly the result of his labour, and then shrinks from it terror-stricken. The late Dr. Strauss writes:—"The loss of faith in Providence is, in fact, one of the most deeply-felt deprivations which are connected with the giving up of the Christian beliefs of the Church. In the enormous machine of the Universe—amidst the incessant whirl and hiss of its iron—toothed wheels—amidst the deafening crash of its ponderous stamps and hammers—in the midst of this whole terrible commotion, man, a helpless and defenceless creature, finds himself placed, not secure for a moment, that, on an imprudent motion on his part a wheel may not seize and rend him, or a hammer crush him to powder. This sense of abandonment is at first something awful." The writer has well understood the matter at issue. Nowhere more plainly than in The Four Gospels do we learn of the Providence of God. The coming of the Lord is proof that God careth for the world. And thus He speaks:—"Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do they spin, and yet I say unto you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as one of these. If then God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, how much more will He clothe you? * * * Behold the fowls of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they.*
If, then, our Gospels are not what we profess them to be, there is no longer any such comforting sense of page 7 God's providence tenable—we must live aided by our own power only. They are but human compositions, and of little value—pleasant, perchance, to read, but not speaking with any authority.
* See remarks below on J. Martyr's quotations from The Gospels.