Christianity

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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

CHRISTIANITY is the name given to the religion founded by Jesus of Nazareth, which is professed by more than one-fourth of the human race, including the foremost nations of the world. As an abstract name for a fully developed religion, it was not, and could not be, in use from the beginning. Only gradually, as the Christian community reached self-consciousness, and more especially as need arose from without of distinguishing its adherents from those of other religions, was a distinctive name adopted.

It is not the object of this article to sketch in outline the history of Christianity, to rehearse its doctrines, describe its triumphs, or vindicate its claims. But in a Dictionary of this kind it seems desirable to inquire into (1) the history of the name itself; (2) the proper connotation of the name and the best mode of ascertaining it; hence (3) the significance of the changes which have passed over Christianity in the process of its development; and (4) the essential character of the religion named after Christ and portrayed in the Gospels.

i. History of the name.—This is fully discussed in the preceding article.

ii. Connotation of the name.—The difficulties which arise when we attempt to mark out the correct connotation of the word are obvious, and the reason why some of them are insuperable is not far to seek. A definition should be simple, comprehensive, accurate; whereas Christianity is a complex multiform phenomenon, one which it is impossible to survey from all sides at the same time, and accuracy cannot be attained when a word is employed in many different senses, and when that which is to be defined is regarded from so many subjective, diversified, and sometimes incompatible points of view. The essence of a great historical religion—with a record extending over some two thousand years, taking different shapes in many diverse nationalities, itself developing and altering its hue and character, if not its substance, in successive generations—cannot easily be summed up in a sentence. Whilst, if an attempt be made to describe that element of permanent vitality and validity in the religion which has remained the same through ages of growth, unaltered amidst the widest external and internal modifications and changes, the character of such a description obviously depends upon the viewpoint of the observer.

A religion may be viewed from without or from within, and an estimate made accordingly either of its institutions and formularies and ceremonies, or of its dominant ideas and prevailing principles. To the Roman Catholic—who represents the most widely spread and influential of the sections of modern Christianity—its essence consists in submission to the authority of a supernaturally endowed Church, to which, with the Pope at its head, the power has been committed by Christ of infallibly determining the Christian creed, and of finally directing Christian life and worship in all its details. The Catholic Church, according to Möhler and the modern school, is a prolongation of the Incarnation. To the Orthodox Church of the East, the paramount claim of the community on the allegiance of the faithful depends on its having preserved with purity and precision the formal creed, fixed more than a thousand years ago, from which, it is alleged, all other Christians have more or less seriously departed. The Protestant regards his religion from an entirely different standpoint. He may be of the ‘evangelical’ type, in which case he will probably define Christianity as the religion of those who have accepted the authority of an inspired and infallible Bible, and who trust for salvation to the merits of the death of Christ as their atoning Saviour. If he claims to be a ‘liberal’ Protestant, he will describe Christianity as a life, not a creed, and declare that all attempts to define belief concerning the Person of Christ and other details of Christian doctrine are so many mischievous restrictions, which only fetter the free thought and action of the truly emancipated followers of Jesus.

Under such circumstances, can any considerable measure of agreement as to the real essence of Christianity be reached, or a truly scientific definition be attained? The acceptance of the supernatural authority of a single community would put an end to all discussion, but those who appeal to such authority are not agreed amongst themselves. As an alternative, it has been usual of late to fall back on history as the sole possible arbiter. The historian can only recount with as much impartiality as possible the sequence of events in a long and chequered career, and leave the warring sects and parties to settle their differences as to what true Christianity is, without making any attempt to judge between them.

Both these methods—the purely dogmatic and the purely historical—virtually give up the problem. A better course than either may be adopted. The historical method must be employed at the outset; a careful induction must lay the basis for subsequent deduction and generalization. Christianity is an organism possessing a long and complex history, not yet finished. That life-history is better known and understood now than ever, from the upspringing of the earliest germ onwards, and the laws which have regulated its growth and the principles operating in its development, can be determined in broad outline by the scientific historian without much fear of contradiction. But the analogy between the growth of the Christian religion and that of an animal or vegetable organism in physical nature, fails in certain important respects. On the one hand, the growth of Christianity is not yet complete, the great consummation is as yet invisible. On the other, the origin of the religion of Christ cannot be compared with the deposit of a tiny and indeterminate and almost invisible germ. Before the period covered by the NT writings had passed, what may be called the formative and normative stage of the religion was complete. Sufficient advance had been made to enable any critical student to arrive at a standard by which the true character of subsequent developments may be judged. Criticism, for the purpose of determining the facts of history, must not be excluded from any scientific inquiry, as it virtually is by those who invoke the infallible authority of a Church or a Book. But, on the other hand, criticism must not be merely subjective and arbitrary, else religious truth is simply that which every man troweth, and Christianity nothing more than what individual Christians choose to think it. By a candid and careful comparison of the religion in its simplicity and purity with the various forms it has assumed in the course of centuries amongst various nations and races, an answer may be obtained to the question, What is Christianity? which is neither purely dogmatic on the one hand, nor purely empirical on the other. As Dr. Hort said of the Church, ‘The lesson-book of the Ecclesia is not a law-book but a history,’ so the history of Christianity becomes a lesson-book for all who would understand its real essence.

The question thus opened up is emphatically modern. As the name ‘Christian’ was not given till those outside the pale of the Church found it necessary to differentiate the believer in Christ from the adherent of other religions, so the need of a scientific definition of Christianity was never felt by faith, nor could one be formed, till the standpoint was occupied from which the young science of Comparative Religion has taken its rise. We have therefore to ask, What was precisely the nature of the religion founded by Christ as recorded in the Gospels and Epistles? Has it remained in substance the same without fundamental change? If, as is obvious, it has markedly altered during a long period of growth and expansion, has its development been legitimate or illegitimate? That is, has the original type been steadfastly maintained, or has it been seriously perverted? Is a norm fairly ascertainable and a return to type from time to time possible?

iii. Changes in Christianity in the course of its development.—During the lifetime of Jesus, discipleship was largely of the nature of personal attachment; it implied confidence created by the teaching, the character, and the works of the Master. Even during this period, however, not only was there room for reflexion and inquiry to arise, but eager inquiry was inevitable. The appearance of a unique personality who spoke as no other man spoke and wrought works such as none other man did, irresistibly suggested the question, ‘Who art thou, what sayest thou of thyself?’ Jesus Himself occasionally prompted such inquiry, and was not satisfied with an undefined loyalty. Once, at least, He pointedly asked His disciples, ‘Who say ye that I am?’ ( Matthew 16:15). Again and again in the course of His ministry a sifting took place, as the Master made more exacting demands upon the allegiance of His followers, and showed that a cleavage must take place between those who really understood the drift of His teaching and were prepared at all costs to obey it, and those who did not. The tests which were applied were for the most part practical in their character, ‘Whosoever doth not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple’ ( Luke 14:27). But the ‘offences’ which caused many to forsake Him as a teacher were often occasioned by His departure from traditional and familiar teaching, His assertion of superiority to the highest Jewish law ( Matthew 5:21-48), and His claims to a unique knowledge of the Father ( Matthew 11:27) and such a relation to Him, that His disciples were called on to believe not only the words that He spoke, but in Himself. Christ’s ministry ended, however,—and, considering its brief and tragic character, it was bound to end,—without any clearly formulated answer to the question as to what constituted true discipleship, and how His followers were to be permanently distinguished from the rest of their nation and the world.

The question now arises, whether the normative period of the religion ends with the death of Christ, May it be said that when His life is over, the work of the prophet of Nazareth is complete, His words have all been spoken, His religion propounded—it remains that His followers obey His teaching? This position has often been taken, and is usually adopted by those who reject the supernatural element in Christianity. Lessing is the father of those who in modern times think it desirable to return from ‘the Christian religion’ to ‘the religion of Jesus.’ Harnack on the whole favours this view, as when he urges that ‘the Gospel, as Jesus proclaimed it, has to do with the Father only, and not with the Son’; or again, that it is ‘the Fatherhood of God applied to the whole of life—an inner union with God’s will and God’s kingdom, and a joyous certainty of the possession of eternal blessings and protection from evil.’ But he elsewhere rightly admits that ‘a complete answer to the question, What is Christianity? is impossible so long as we are restricted to Jesus Christ’s teaching alone.’ The more powerful a personality is, ‘the less can the sum-total of what he is be known only by what he himself says and does’; we must therefore include in our estimate the effects produced in his followers and the views taken by men of his work. See art. Back to Christ.

Further, if the miracles of Christ, and especially the great miracle of His Resurrection, be accepted, the whole point of view is changed. The disciples, during the short period of His ministry, were slow and dull scholars; only after the outpouring of the Spirit were they able to understand who their Master was and what He had done. Hence the Church with a true instinct included the Acts and the Epistles in the Canon, as well as the Gospels, and to the whole of these documents we must turn if we would understand what ‘Christianity’ meant to the Apostles and the first generation or two of those who followed Christ. Without entering into controversy such as would arise over exact definitions, we may say broadly that Christ became in thought, as He had always been in practice, the centre of His own religion. It circled round the Person, not so much of the Father as of the Son, yet the Son as revealing the Father. Personal relation to Christ continued to be—what it had been in the days of His flesh, but more consciously and completely—the all-important feature in the new religion. Significance attached not so much to what Christ said—though the authority of His words was supreme and absolute—as to what He was and what He did. His death and resurrection were seen to possess a special significance for the religious life of the individual and the community, and thus from the time of St. Paul and the Apostles onwards, but not till then, the Christian religion was fairly complete in its outline and ready for promulgation in the world.

But it is clear that the real significance of some features in the new religion could be brought out only in the course of history. The first great crisis which tested the infant Church arose over the question whether Christianity was to be a reformed and spiritualized Judaism or a universal religion, for the whole world and for all time. The controversy recorded in Acts 15, aspects of which emerge so frequently in St. Paul’s letters, was fundamental and vital; the very existence of Christianity was at stake. It was chiefly to the Apostle Paul that the Church owed her hardly won freedom from the bonds of Jewish ceremonial law and the national and religious limitations identified with it. Henceforward in Christ was to be neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but He Himself was all and in all.

The next two changes are not so clearly definable, though they are hardly less important and far-reaching. They were never brought to a definite issue before a council or assembly, and they do not come within the limits of the NT period. None the less they were fundamental in their character. They concern respectively creed and practice, doctrine and organization. In the first flush of enthusiasm which belongs to the earliest stage of a religions movement, the emotional—which means very largely the motive or dynamical—element is both pure and powerful. Belief, worship, spontaneous fulfilment of a high ethical standard, religious assurance and confident triumph over the world—all seem to flow forth easily and naturally from the fresh springs of a new life. But, as man is now constituted, this happy condition cannot last very long. A stage succeeds in which the white-hot metal cools and must take hard and definite shape. Faith passes into a formulated creed, the spirit of free, spontaneous worship shrinks within the limits of reverently ordered forms, the general sense of brotherhood narrows down into the ordered relationships of a constituted society, charismatic gifts are exchanged for the privileges which belong to certain defined ranks and orders of clergy; and, when the whole process is over, whilst the religion may remain the same in appearance, and to a great extent in character, it is nevertheless seriously changed. In Christianity such processes of development were proceeding, gradually but on the whole rapidly, during the latter half of the 2nd and the opening of the 3rd century. By the middle of the 3rd century the transmutation was well-nigh complete.

If at this stage the question, What is Christianity? were asked, a twofold answer would be returned. So far as its intellectual aspects are concerned, the substance of the Christian faith is summed up in certain forms of words accepted and accounted orthodox by the Church. So far as external position and status are concerned, the test of a man’s Christianity lies in his association with a definitely constituted community known as the Church, possessing an organization of its own, which, with every decade, becomes more fixed and formal, less elastic in its constitution, and more exacting in its demands upon those who claim to be regarded as true Christians.

Such changes as these are in themselves not to be regarded as marking either an essential advance or a necessary retrogression. All depends on the way in which they are carried out. In human life, as we know it, they are inevitable. The mollusc must secrete its own shell if it is to live in the midst of a given environment. At the same time, in the history of a religion, such a process is critical in the extreme. The loss of enthusiasm and elasticity may be counterbalanced by increased consolidation, by the gain of a greater power of resisting attacks and retaining adherents. If the complaint is made that the expression of belief has become stiff and formal, the reply is obvious that genuine faith cannot long remain vague and indeterminate. The Christian must know what is implied in worshipping Christ as Lord, must learn the meaning of the baptismal formula, and must belong to a specific community, which for the sake of self-preservation must impose conditions of membership and translate abstract principles into definite codes and prescriptions. If a community is to exist in the presence of a hostile world, or to do its own work well as its numbers multiply, it must organize; and thus ecclesiastical orders, rules, and formulae inevitably arise.

But the mode in which such processes are carried out varies considerably. The formulation and consolidation may be inefficiently done, in which case the young community is in danger of falling to pieces like a rope of sand. Or the organization may be excessive, in which case formalism and fossilization set in. One of the chief dangers arises from the influx of unworthy or half-hearted members, those with whom religion is a tradition, not a living personal energy. ‘When those who have laid hold upon the faith as great spoil are joined by crowds of others who wrap it round them like an outer garment, a revolution always occurs.’ And especially when at such an epoch it is sought to define the essentials of a religion, there is the utmost danger lest secondary elements should be confused with the primary, lest an orthodox creed should be substituted for a living faith, and outward conformity with human prescriptions take the place of personal allegiance to a Divine and living Lord.

Whatever be thought of the way in which this all-important change was effected in the first instance,—that is to say, the transition from Christianity viewed as a life to Christianity viewed as a system of dogmatic belief and ecclesiastical organization,—few will deny that before long the alteration was so great that it may be said the religion itself was transformed. By the orthodox Roman Catholic this transformation is considered to be Divinely ordered; the process is regarded as one of steady advance and improvement—as a perfect child might pass into an equally admirable youth and man. According to Newman’s theory, the original germs of doctrine and worship were developed normally and legitimately as determined by the criteria he specifies—Preservation of type, Continuity of Principle, Power of assimilation, Logical sequence, and the rest. Loisy, who is severely critical of the documents of the NT, holds the same view of the development of an infallible Church. To the eyes of others the change effected between the 2nd and the 6th centuries appears to be one of gradual but steady degeneration. In their view a living religion has hardened into a technical theology, vital union with Christ has passed into submission to the ordinances of a fast deteriorating Church, and the happy fellowship of believers in a common salvation and the enjoyment of a new life has almost disappeared under the heavy bondage of ceremonial observances and ecclesiastical absolutism.

The substitution of the worship of the Virgin Mary as an intercessor with her Divine Son for reverent intercourse with Christ Himself; the offering of the sacrifice of the Mass by an officiating priest for the benefit of the living and the dead, instead of a simple observance of communion with Christ and fellow-disciples at the Lord’s Table; the obtaining of absolution only after private confession to a priest Divinely appointed to dispense it, in place of free and direct forgiveness granted to the penitent believer in Christ,—changes like these made in a religion are not slight and superficial. To some they represent a transition from crude infancy to vigorous maturity; to others they indicate deep-seated degeneration and the utter perversion of a pure and spiritual religious faith. An organism in process of growth depends upon its environment without, as well as its own living energies within. The history of the Christian Church does not present a complete parallel to this. No true Christian can believe either that it was left to a chance current of events, or that it was simply determined from without by natural causes. But the external factors which largely influenced the development of Christianity—Jewish beliefs and precedents, Greek philosophy and intellectual habitudes, Roman polity and law, the superstitious ideas and observances of paganism—must be taken into account by those who are studying the nature of the change which came over Christianity in the first thousand years of its history.

The point at issue in the 16th cent. between Roman Catholics and Protestants, one which still divides Christendom, concerned the real nature of this development. Had the growth of fifteen hundred years in doctrine, worship, and organization simply made explicit what was implicit in the New Testament; or were the accretions to the original faith excrescences, exaggerations, or more serious corruptions; and how was a line to be drawn between false and true? The Reformation was a protest against abuses which had become ingrained in Catholicism. The need of ‘reform in head and members’ had been felt and acknowledged long before, and only when repeated efforts to secure it peaceably had proved futile was it seen that a violent cataclysm like that brought about by Luther was necessary before effectual improvement could be attained. The Reformers claimed to be returning to original principles—to the New Testament instead of the Church; to justification by faith instead of salvation by baptism, absolution, and the Mass; and to direct acknowledgment of the Headship of Christ instead of blind submission to the edicts of His vicar upon earth. Luther, who had intended only to remove some obvious abuses which disfigured the creed and practice of the Church he loved, found himself cutting at the very roots of ecclesiastical authority and institutional religion. But, consciously or unconsciously, the movement of which he was partly the originator, partly the organ and servant, meant a resolute effort to return to the faith and spirit of primitive Christianity.

This effort was not final, of course. It is easy now to condemn Luther’s procedure as illogical and indefensible, to say that he should either have gone further or not so far. Doubtless the result of the conflict between Romanism and Protestantism in the 16th cent. was not ultimate: the issues raised by Luther went deeper than he intended, but they were not deep and far-reaching enough. To every generation and to every century its own task. But the whole Reformation movement showed that Christianity as a religion possessed remarkable recuperative power; that the organism could throw off a considerable portion of what seemed its very substance, not only without injury to its life, but with marvellous increase to its vigour; and that the essence of the religion did not lie where the Roman Catholic Church had sought to place it. Subsequent history has confirmed this. ‘Evangelical revivals,’ great missionary enterprises, remarkable extensions of the old religion in new lands and under new conditions, unexpected manifestations of new features and resuscitation of pristine energies, have during the last two or three centuries illustrated afresh the same power of recovery and spiritual reinforcement, and raised afresh the question as to what constitutes the essence of a religion which is so full of vitality and so capable of developing from within unanticipated and apparently inexhaustible energies. The Christianity of to-day embraces a multitude of systems and organizations, it includes most varied creeds and cults, it influences societies and civilizations that are worlds apart, and the question is perpetually recurring whether there be indeed one spirit and aim pervading the whole, and if so, where it lies and what it is.

This question becomes the more pressing when the future is contemplated. Many are prepared for still more striking developments in the 20th century. The spectacle of two or three great historical Churches on the one hand preserving the kind of stability which is gained by outward conformity to one doctrinal creed and ecclesiastical system, and, on the other, an almost endless diversity of sects and denominations, with a tendency to fissiparous multiplication—cannot represent the τέλος, the ideal, the goal of the Christian religion. Christianity cannot be identified with one Church, or with all the Churches. Whilst many of these are enfeebled by age, the religion itself is young with a perpetually renewed vigour, and not for centuries has it shown more certain signs of freshly budding energy. Each new age brings new problems. As they arise, the power and permanence of a religion are tested by its ability to grapple with and to solve them, and by its success or failure is it judged. The problems of the present and the near future are mainly social, and the complaint is freely made that Christianity has proved itself unable to cope with them. But the principles and capabilities of a religion cannot be gauged by those of its representatives and exponents at a particular epoch. The assailants of Christianity as it is are often the allies of Christianity as it should be and will be. History has too frequently suggested the question which the poet asks of the suffering Christ—‘Say, was not this Thy passion, to foreknow | In death’s worst hour the works of Christian men?’ What new regenerative influences, swaying the whole of society with wider and freer quickening power, will be developed in the 20th cent. none can tell. But the present state of Christendom, no less than a survey of two thousand years of history, is anew compelling men to inquire, What, then, is the essence of Christianity?

iv. Essential character of Christianity.—The interpretation of the facts thus hastily sketched appears to be this. Christianity in the concrete has been far from perfect, that is obvious; its serious and widespread corruptions have often proved a scandal and a stumbling-block. But neither has its history manifested a mere perversion of a great and noble ideal. Again and again in the darkest hour light has shone forth, and at the lowest ebb a new flood-tide of energy has arisen, making it possible to distinguish the real religion in its purity and power from its actual embodiment in decadent and unworthy representatives.

What we see in Christian history, as in the personal history of Christ upon earth, is the progressive development of a Divine Thought unfolding itself in spite of virulent opposition, under pressure of extreme difficulties, struggling against the misrepresentations of false friends and imprinting its likeness upon most unpromising and unsatisfactory material. When it first appeared on the earth, embodied in the Person and the Work, as well as the teaching, of Jesus Christ, the Divine Idea shone with the brightness of a new sun in the spiritual firmament. It was not developed out of Judaism, the Jews were its bitterest opponents; it was not indebted to Greek philosophic thought or to Roman political science, though afterwards it made use of and powerfully influenced both; it had nothing in common with the current superstitions of Oriental religions; it did not owe its origin to some cunningly devised religious syncretism, such as was not uncommon at the time when Christianity began to infuse life into the declining Roman Empire. A new idea of God, of man, and of the true reconciliation of man to God, formed the core and nucleus of the new faith. In the earliest records this idea appears as the germ of a nascent religion, a sketch in outline which remains to be filled up. In the history of nineteen centuries its likeness is to be discerned only as an image reflected in a dimly burnished mirror, in a troubled and turbid pool. None the less the dominant idea remains; as St. Paul expresses it, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God is seen in a face—the face of Jesus Christ ( 2 Corinthians 4:6). Lecky, writing simply as a historian of European morals, describes it thus ( Hist. Eur. Mor. 11 [Note: 1 designates the particular edition of the work referred] (1894) ii. 8 f.)—

‘It was reserved for Christianity to present to the world an ideal character, which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions; has been not only the highest pattern of virtue but the strongest incentive to its practice; and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers, and all the exhortations of moralists.’

Whether the spectacle of an ideal human character alone has done this remains to be seen, but it is possible with care to distinguish between the glory of the Divine Thought and the imperfect medium through which its light has filtered. We see truth manifested amidst crudities and insincerities, amidst falsehoods which are bad and half-truths which are often worse; a pure and lofty character struggling, mostly in vain, for adequate expression; a kingdom not come but coming, of which we cannot say ‘Lo here’ or ‘Lo there,’ for it floats only in the midst of men as they move, in their hearts as they ponder and feel and hope—not as an achievement, not as a possession, but as a magnificent conception, an earnest longing, and a never fully attained, but ever to be attained, ideal.

In what, then, lies the perennial and imperishable essence of the ever changing phenomenon called Christianity? The unknown writer of the Epistle to Diognetus wrote in the 2nd century—

‘What the soul is in the body, this the Christians are in the world. The soul is spread through all the members of the body, and Christians through the divers cities of the world. The soul hath its abode in the body, and yet it is not of the body. So Christians have their abode in the world, and yet they are not of the world.’

If for ‘Christians’ we read ‘Christianity,’ where is the soul, or vital spark, of the religion to be found? Nearly all are agreed that the centre of the Christian religion is, in some sense, the Person of its Founder. De Pressense closes an article on the subject by saying, ‘Christianity is Jesus Christ.’ But it is the sense in which such words are to be interpreted that is all-important. The relation of Christ to the religion called by His name is certainly not that of Moses to Judaism, or that of Confucius to Confucianism. But neither does He stand related to Christianity as do Buddha and Mohammed to the religions named after them. Not as a prophet of Nazareth, a religious and ethical teacher, however lofty and inspiring, does Christ stand at the centre of history. As Dr. Fairbairn has said, ‘It is not Jesus of Nazareth who has so powerfully entered into history; it is the deified Christ who has been believed, loved, and obeyed as the Saviour of the world.… If the doctrine of the Person of Christ were explicable as the mere mythical apotheosis of Jesus of Nazareth, it would become the most insolent and fateful anomaly in history.’ And as the secret is not to be found in the ethics, neither does it lie in the ‘religion of Jesus.’ Harnack is the modern representative of those who take this view when he says:

‘The Christian religion is something simple and sublime; it means one thing and one thing only: eternal life in the midst of time, by the strength and under the eyes of God.’

That is a fine definition of Theism, not of the historical Christianity which has done so much to regenerate the world. Nor can the essence of any religion be said to lie in its life, if by that be meant temper and conduct. These are fruits, and by their healthiness and abundance we judge of the soundness and vigour of the tree. But the life of a religion in the proper sense of the word lies far deeper.

The chief modern definitions of Christianity have been ably summarized and reviewed by Professor Adams Brown, who, in his Essence of Christianity , has produced an illuminating study in the history of definition which goes far to solve the problem before us. Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Ritschl are epoch-marking names in the history of Christianity during the last century, and their attempts at definition probably meet better than most others the conditions demanded by modern inquirers. Schleiermacher’s view is thus summed up by Professor Adams Brown—

‘Christianity is that historic religion, founded by Jesus of Nazareth and having its bond of union in the redemption mediated by Him, in which the true relation between God and man has for the first time found complete and adequate expression, and which, throughout all the changes of intellectual and social environment which the centuries have brought, still continues to maintain itself as the religion best worthy of the allegiance of thoughtful and earnest men.’

Hegel represents Christianity as the absolute religion, because in it is to be seen worked out in history the eternal dialectic immanent in the Being of God Himself, the ultimate principle of the Godhead, the Father, being revealed in the Son, the principle of difference, returning again in the synthesis of redemption. Finally, in the Holy Spirit Father and Son recognize their unity, and God as Spirit conies to full consciousness of Himself in history. Christianity, he says, is essentially the religion of the Spirit. Ritschl lays more stress on the idea of the Kingdom of God, but he follows in the steps of Schleiermacher when he defines Christianity as—

‘the monotheistic, completely spiritual, and ethical religion, which, based on the life of its author as Redeemer and as founder of the kingdom of God, consists in the freedom of the children of God, involves the impulse to conduct from the motive of love, aims at the moral organization of mankind, and grounds blessedness on the relation of sonship to God, as well as on the kingdom of God’ ( Justif. and Reconc. , English translation p. 13).

Dorner is one of the best representatives of the many who lay chief stress upon the Incarnation as the ‘central idea and fundamental fact’ of Christianity, and who find in mediation through incarnation its archetypal thought. Professor Adams Brown himself considers the chief difficulty in framing a definition of Christianity to lie in the attempt to reconcile its historical and its absolute character, its natural and its supernatural elements—the two contrasted tendencies which mark respectively (1) its resemblance to other faiths, and its realization of their imperfect ideals; and (2) its difference from all other religions as the one direct and supreme revelation from God Himself. His own solution may be indicated in the following sentences:—

‘Christianity, as modern Christian thought understands it, is the religion of Divine sonship and human brotherhood revealed and realized through Jesus Christ. As such it is the fulfilment and completion of all earlier forms of religion, and the appointed means for the redemption of mankind through the realization of the kingdom of God. Its central figure is Jesus Christ, who is not only the revelation of the divine ideal for man, but also, through the transforming influence which He exerts over His followers, the most powerful means of realizing that ideal among men. The possession in Christ of the supreme revelation of God’s love and power constitutes the distinctive mark of Christianity, and justifies its claim to be the final religion’ ( Essence of Christianity , 309).

These definitions are cumbrous, and no one of them is fully satisfactory. It is, however, clear that Christianity can never be properly defined if it is regarded merely as a philosophy, a system of ideas; or as a code of ethics, providing a standard of conduct; or as an ecclesiastical system, embodying rites and ceremonies of worship and institutions which are understood to be channels of salvation for mankind. It is a religion, that is, its root or spring lies in the relations which it reveals and establishes between God and men. It was the interpretation of the Person of Christ, the significance found in Him and His work, that changed the whole view of God and of human history, first for the Apostles and afterwards for all who followed them. Christ was to them doubtless a Lawgiver, His command was final. He was also an Example, perfect and flawless, the imitation of whom formed the highest conceivable standard of life. But unless He had been much more than this, the Christianity of history would never have come into being; and if it had had no other gospel for men than the most sublime human prophet could bring, it would not have regenerated mankind as it has done.

A religion may be described objectively or subjectively, from without or from within. As an objective religion in the world, Christianity is an ethical and spiritual monotheism of a high type, the highest that has been known in history, when its character and effects are fully estimated. So far there is general agreement. But the logical differentia has yet to be specified, and here opinions vary. If the characteristic and distinguishing doctrinal teaching of Christianity be considered, it may be said that the Incarnation is its central idea. But this must never be interpreted apart from Christ’s whole work, including His death and resurrection, and the main purpose of that work, the Redemption of mankind, that Salvation and Reconciliation which He has made possible and open to all. Opinions may differ as to the exact mode in which this has been effected, but the Cross of Christ is its central feature. Christianity without a Saviour is a face without an eye, a body without a soul.

If the Christian religion be regarded from within, as a subjective, personal experience, its essence lies in a new life, conceived in a new spirit and animated by a new power. This power is directly imparted by the Spirit of God, but on the human side it arises from the new conceptions of God given by Christ and the new relation to Him established through the redemption and mediation of His Son. If the religion be viewed on its racial and social side, it may be described as having for its object the establishment of a brotherhood of mankind based on the Fatherhood of God and the Elder Brotherhood of Christ; a view of man which implies the inestimable individual worth of each, and the ultimate union of all in a renewed Order of which Christ has laid the foundation, given the foretaste, and promised the complete consummation and fruition.

The secret of the power of Christianity lies in the conviction which it engenders that—granted the fundamental principles of Theism—God has Himself undertaken the cause of man; that He enters into man’s weakness, feels with his sorrows, and, chiefly, that He bears the terrible burden of man’s sins; all this being assured by the gift of His Son and the work which the Son Himself has accomplished and is still carrying on by His Spirit. The metaphysical nature of Christ’s Person may not be capable of being adequately expressed in words; the full scope of His redeeming work may be variously understood and may be incapable of being condensed into a formula; while Christians may widely differ as to the way in which the benefits of that work are best appropriated and realized and distributed by His Church in the world. But the essence of the religion lies in its conception of the spiritual needs of man, the ends for which he exists, his sin and failure to realize those ends; in its proclamation of Christ, the once dying and now ever living Lord as Himself the Way, through whom sin may be forgiven and failure remedied; and above all, in the moral and spiritual dynamic which is supplied by faith in the great Central Person of the whole religion, and the life in Him which is rendered possible for every believer by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

As to the claims of Christianity to be the only permanent, universal, and final religion for mankind, no vindication of them can amount to actual demonstration. But the argument would take the direction of inquiring whether history thus far confirms the high claim of Christianity to suffice for the needs of man as man. Is Tertullian’s phrase anima naturaliter Christiana borne out by facts? Has Christianity, not in its miserably imperfect and often utterly misleading concrete forms, but in the idea of its Founder and the best attempts made to realize it, shown the ‘promise and potency’ of a universal religion for the race? Such an argument would have to take full account of criticisms like those of Nietzsche and his school, who complain that Christianity in its tenderness towards the weak and erring, in its hallowing of sorrow and its preoccupation with the evil of sin, profoundly misunderstands human nature and man’s position in the Universe; that it amounts, in fact, to a worship of failure and decay. These criticisms have not been widely accepted as valid, and they can easily be met—they were, indeed, substantially anticipated by Celsus and refuted by Origen. But such objections are sure to recur, together with kindred difficulties arising from a naturalistic view of man which claims to be supported by physical science. They can be effectually repelled only by practical proof that the teaching of Christianity accords with the facts of human nature and meets the needs of human life more completely than any other system of philosophy or religion.

On the other hand, the triumphs which Christianity has already achieved; the power it has manifested of being able to satisfy new and unexpected claims; the excellence of its ideal of character, one which cannot be transcended so long as human nature continues to be what it is; the success with which it has brought the very highest type of character within reach of the lowest, as attested by the experience of millions; the power of recovery which it has exhibited, when its teaching has been traduced and its spirit and aims degraded by prominent professors and representatives;—these, with other similar characteristics, go far towards proving the Divine origin of Christianity, and its claim to be the perfect religion of humanity, sufficing for all men and for all time.

It is certain, however, that if the true spirit of the Christian religion is to be rightly displayed generation after generation, and its work rightly done in the world, there must be a constant ‘return to Christ’ on the part of His Church. The phrase, of course, must be adequately interpreted. Much has been said concerning the ‘recovery of the historical Christ’ as characteristic of our time, and the expression represents an, important truth. Christ is seen more and more clearly to be ‘the end of critical and historical inquiry’ and ‘the starting-place of constructive thought.’ But it is the whole Christ of the NT who is the norm in Christian theology, the object of Christian worship, the guide of Christian practice. The Christ of the Epistles cannot be separated from the Christ of the Gospels. The modern attempt, fashionable in some quarters, to distinguish between the Synoptic Gospels on the one hand as historic, and the Fourth Gospel and the Epistles on the other as dogmatic, cannot be consistently maintained, and does not adequately cover the facts of the case. The Sermon on the Mount does not reveal to us the entire Christ, nor the first chapter of St. John, nor the Epistle to the Romans; but there is no inconsistency between these representations of the Christians’ Lord. There is no contradiction between the Christ of the Synoptic Gospels and the Christ of Apostolic experience and the Christ of historical Christianity, except for those who reject the element of the supernatural, which, as a matter of fact, pervades the whole. The Christ of the NT is the object of Christian faith, as well as the Founder of the Christian religion in its historical continuity. To Him it is necessary for His Church—compassed with ignorance and infirmity and not yet fully purged from its sins—continually to ‘return,’ generation after generation, if His religion is to be preserved in its purity and transmitted in its power. The vitality of Christianity in the individual heart and in the life of the community depends upon the closeness of personal communion with Christ maintained through His indwelling Spirit. ‘To steep ourselves in Him is still the chief matter,’ says Harnack in one place. ‘Abide in me and I in you,’ was His own word to His first disciples, and it must ever be obeyed, if the characteristic fruit of that Vine is to be seen in abundance on its dependent branches.

What the Christianity of the future might be and would be, if this command were adequately fulfilled, none can say; the capacities of the religion have been as yet only partially tested. In Christ, as St. Paul taught, are ‘all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’—the treasures of all-subduing love, of assimilating and transmuting power, of uplifting and purifying grace for the nations—‘hidden’ ( Colossians 2:3). And the treasure is still hidden, because His followers, its custodians and stewards, do not adequately make it known—have not, indeed, adequately discovered it for themselves. But if in every generation there be, as there should be, a renewal of the very springs of Christian life by fresh recourse to the Fountain-head, then new claims, new needs, new problems, will only afford occasion for new triumphs of Christ and His Cross—the message of Divine self-sacrifice to the uttermost in redemption, as the one means of salvation for a sinning and suffering world.

Literature.—From amongst the vast number of books which bear on the subject of this article, a very few recent volumes and articles may be mentioned here:—R. S. Storrs, The Divine Origin of Christianity , 1885; A. Harnack, Das Wesen des Christentums , 1900 [translation by T. B. Saunders, What is Christianity? 1901], and Die Mission und Ausbreitung des Christentums in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten , 1902 [translation by J. Moffatt, The Expansion of Christianity , 1905]; A. M. Fairbairn, The Place of Christ in Modern Theology , 1893, and Philosophy of the Christian Religion , 1902; W. Adams Brown, The Essence of Christianity , 1903; see also the article on ‘Christian, The Name of,’ by P. W. Schmiedel in the Encyc. Bibl . i. 752 ff., and that on ‘Christianity’ by T. M. Lindsay in the Encyc. Brit .9 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred]

W. T. Davison.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

the religion of Christians. By Christianity is here meant, not that religious system as it may be understood and set forth in any particular society calling itself Christian; but as it is contained in the sacred books acknowledged by all these societies, or churches, and which contained the only authorized rule of faith and practice.

2. The lofty profession which Christianity makes as a religion, and the promises it holds forth to mankind, entitle it to the most serious consideration of all. For it may in truth be said, that no other religion presents itself under aspects so sublime, or such as are calculated to awaken desires and hopes so enlarged and magnificent. It not only professes to be from God, but to have been taught to men by the Son of God incarnate in our nature, the Second Person in the adorable trinity of divine Persons, "the same in substance, equal in power and glory." It declares that this divine personage is the appointed Redeemer of mankind from sin, death, and misery; that he was announced as such to our first parents upon their lapse from the innocence and blessedness of their primeval state; that he was exhibited to the faith and hope of the patriarchs in express promises; and, by the institution of sacrifices, as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, so that man might be reconciled to God through Him, and restored to his forfeited inheritance of eternal life. It represents all former dispensations of true religion, all revelations of God's will, and all promises of grace from God to man, as emanating from the anticipated sacrifice and sacerdotal intercession of its Author, and as all preparatory to the introduction of his perfect religion; and that as to the great political movements among the nations of antiquity, the rise and fall of empires were all either remotely or proximately connected with the designs of his advent among men. It professes to have completed the former revelations of God's will and purposes; to have accomplished ancient prophecies; fulfilled ancient types; and taken up the glory of the Mosaic religion into its own "glory that excelleth;" and to contain within itself a perfect system of faith, morals, and acceptable worship. It not only exhibits so effectual a sacrifice for sin, that remission of all offences against God flows from its merits to all who heartily confide in it; but it proclaims itself to be a remedy for all the moral disorders of our fallen nature; it casts out every vice, implants every virtue, and restores man to "the image of God in which he was created," even to "righteousness and true holiness."

3. Its promises both to individuals and to society are of the largest kind. It represents its Founder as now exercising the office of the High Priest of the human race before God, and as having sat down at his right hand, a mediatorial and reconciling government being committed to him, until he shall come to judge all nations, and distribute the rewards of eternity to his followers, and inflict its never-terminating punishments upon those who reject him. By virtue of this constitution of things, it promises pardon to the guilty, of every age and country, who seek it in penitence and prayer, comfort to the afflicted and troubled, victory over the fear of death, a happy intermediate state to the disembodied spirit, and finally the resurrection of the body from the dead, and honour and immortality to be conferred upon the whole man glorified in the immediate presence of God. It holds out the loftiest hopes also to the world at large. It promises to introduce harmony among families and nations, to terminate all wars and all oppressions, and ultimately to fill the world with truth, order, and purity. It represents the present and past state of society, as in contest with its own principles of justice, mercy, and truth; but teaches the final triumph of the latter over every thing contrary to itself. It exhibits the ambition, the policy, and the restlessness of statesmen and warriors, as but the overruled instruments by which it is working out its own purposes of wisdom and benevolence; and it not only defies the proudest array of human power, but professes to subordinate it by a secret and irresistible working to its own designs. Finally, it exhibits itself as enlarging its plans, and completing its designs, by moral suasion, the evidence of its truth, and the secret divine influence which accompanies it. Such are the professions and promises of Christianity, a religion which enters into no compromise with other systems; which represents itself as the only religion now in the world having God for its author; and in his name, and by the hope of his mercy, and the terrors of his frown, it commands the obedience of faith to all people to whom it is published upon the solemn sanction, "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned."

4. Corresponding with these professions, which throw every other religion that pretends to offer hope to man into utter insignificance, it is allowed that the evidence of its truth ought to be adequate to sustain the weight of so vast a fabric, and that men have a right to know that they are not deluded with a grand and impressive theory, but are receiving from this professed system of truth and salvation "the true sayings of God." Such evidence it has afforded in its splendid train of MIRACLES; in its numerous appeals to the fulfilment of ancient PROPHECIES; in its own powerful INTERNAL evidence; in the Influence which it has always exercised, and continues to exert, upon the happiness of mankind; and in various collateral circumstances. Under the heads of Miracles and Prophecy, those important branches of evidence will be discussed, and to them the reader is referred.

It is only necessary here to say, that the miracles to which Christianity appeals as proofs of its divine authority, are not only those which were wrought by Christ and his Apostles, but also those which took place among the patriarchs, under the law of Moses, and by the ministry of the Prophets; for the religion of those ancient times was but Christianity in its antecedent revelations. All these miracles, therefore, must be taken collectively, and present attestations of the loftiest kind, as being manifestly the work of the "finger of God," wrought under circumstances which precluded mistake, and exhibiting an immense variety, from the staying of the very wheels of the planetary system,—as when the sun and moon paused in their course, and the shadow on the dial of Ahaz went backward,—to the supernatural changes wrought upon the elements of matter, the healing of incurable diseases, the expulsion of tormenting demons, and the raising of the dead. Magnificent as this array of miracles is, it is equalled by the prophetic evidence, founded upon the acknowledged principle, that future and distant contingencies can only be known to that Being, one of whose attributes is an absolute prescience. And here, too, the variety and the grandeur presented by the prophetic scheme exhibit attestations to the truth of Christianity suited to its great claims and its elevated character. Within the range of prophetic vision all time is included, to the final consummation of all things: and the greatest as well as the smallest events are seen with equal distinctness, from the subversion of mighty empires and gigantic cities, to the parting of the raiment of our Lord, and the casting of the lot for his robe by the Roman guard stationed at his cross.

5. These subjects are discussed under the articles assigned to them; as also the Internal Evidence of the truth of Christianity, which arises from the excellence and beneficial tendency of its doctrines. Of its just and sublime conceptions and exhibitions of the divine character; of the truth of that view of the moral state of man upon which its disciplinary treatment is founded; of the correspondence that there is between its views of man's mixed relation to God as a sinful creature, and yet pitied and cared for, and that actual mixture of good and evil, penalty and forbearance, which the condition of the world presents; of the connection of its doctrine of atonement with hope; of the adaptation of its doctrine of divine influence to the moral condition of mankind when rightly understood, and the affecting benevolence and condescension which it implies; and of its noble and sanctifying revelations of the blessedness of a future life, much might be said:—they are subjects indeed on which volumes have been written, and they can never be exhausted. But we confine ourselves to the Moral

TENDENCY, and the consequent Beneficial Influence of Christianity. No where except in the Scriptures have we a perfect system of morals; and the deficiencies of Pagan morality only exalt the purity, the comprehensiveness, the practicability of ours. The character of the Being acknowledged as supreme must always impress itself upon moral feeling and practice; the obligation of which rests upon his will. The God of the Bible is "holy," without spot; "just," without partiality; "good," boundlessly benevolent and beneficent; and his law is the image of himself, "holy, just, and good." These great moral qualities are not made known to us merely in the abstract, so as to be comparatively feeble in their influence: but in the person of Christ, our God, incarnate, they are seen exemplified in action, displaying themselves amidst human relations, and the actual circumstances of human life. With Pagans the authority of moral rules was either the opinion of the wise, or the tradition of the ancient, confirmed, it is true, in some degree, by observation and experience; but to us, they are given as commands immediately issuing from the supreme Governor, and ratified as his by the most solemn and explicit attestations. With them many great moral principles, being indistinctly apprehended, were matters of doubt and debate; to us, the explicit manner in which they are given excludes both:

for it cannot be questioned, whether we are commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves; to do to others as we would that they should do to us, a precept which comprehends almost all relative morality in one plain principle; to forgive our enemies; to love all mankind; to live righteously and soberly, as well as godly; that magistrates must be a terror only to evil doers, and a praise to them that do well; that subjects are to render honour to whom honour, and tribute to whom tribute, is due; that masters are to be just and merciful, and servants faithful and obedient. These, and many other familiar precepts, are too explicit to be mistaken, and too authoritative to be disputed; two of the most powerful means of rendering law effectual. Those who never enjoyed the benefit of revelation, never conceived justly and comprehensively of that moral state of the heart from which right and beneficent conduct alone can flow; and therefore when they speak of the same virtues as those enjoined by Christianity, they are to be understood as attaching to them a lower idea. In this the infinite superiority of Christianity displays itself. The principle of obedience is not only a sense of duty to God, and the fear of his displeasure; but a tender love, excited by his infinite compassions to us in the gift of his Son, which shrinks from offending. To this influential motive as a reason of obedience, is added another, drawn from its end: one not less influential, but which Heathen moralists never knew,—the testimony that we please God, manifested in the acceptance of our prayers, and in spiritual and felicitous communion with him. By Christianity, impurity of thought and desire is restrained in an equal degree as are their overt acts in the lips and conduct. Humanity, meekness, gentleness, placability, disinterestedness, and charity are all as clearly and solemnly enjoined as the grosser vices are prohibited; and on the unruly tongue itself is impressed "the law of kindness." Nor are the injunctions feeble; they are strictly LAW, and not mere advice and recommendations: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord;" and thus our entrance into heaven, and our escape from perdition, are made to depend upon this preparation of mind. To all this is added possibility, nay certainty, of attainment, if we use the appointed means. A Pagan could draw, though not with lines so perfect, a beau ideal of virtue, which he never thought attainable; but the "full assurance of hope" is given by the religion of Christ to all who are seeking the moral renovation of their nature; because "it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his good pleasure."

6. When such is the moral nature of Christianity, how obvious is it that its tendency both as to individuals and to society must be in the highest sense beneficial! From every passion which wastes, and burns, and frets, and enfeebles the spirit, the individual is set free, and his inward peace renders his obedience cheerful and voluntary: and we might appeal to infidels themselves, whether, if the moral principles of the Gospel were wrought into the hearts, and embodied in the conduct, of all men, the world would not be happy; whether if governments ruled, and subjects obeyed, by the laws of Christ; whether if the rules of strict justice which are enjoined upon us regulated all the transactions of men, and all that mercy to the distressed which we are taught to feel and to practise came into operation; and whether, if the precepts which delineate and enforce the duties of husbands, wives, masters, servants, parents, children, did, in fact, fully and generally govern all these relations,—whether a better age than that called golden by the poets, would not then be realized, and Virgil's

Jam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna,

[Now Astraea returns, and the Saturnian reign,]

be far too weak to express the mighty change? [It was in the reign of Saturn that the Heathen poets fixed the golden age. At that period, according to them, Astraea, (the goddess of justice,) and many other deities lived on earth; but being offended with the wickedness of men, they successively fled to heaven. Astraea staid longest, but at last retired to her native seat, and was translated into the sign Virgo, next to Libra, who holds her balance.] Such is the tendency of Christianity. On immense numbers of individuals it has superinduced these moral changes; all nations, where it has been fully and faithfully exhibited, bear, amidst their remaining vices, the impress of its hallowing and benevolent influence: it is now in active exertion in many of the darkest and worst parts of the earth, to convey the same blessings; and he who would arrest its progress, were he able, would quench the only hope which remains to our world, and prove himself an enemy, not only to himself, but to all mankind. What then, we ask, does all this prove, but that the Scriptures are worthy of God, and propose the very ends which rendered a revelation necessary? Of the whole system of practical religion which it contains we may say, as of that which is embodied in our Lord's sermon on the mount, in the words of one, who, in a course of sermons on that divine composition, has entered most deeply into its spirit, and presented a most instructive delineation of the character which it was intended to form: "Behold Christianity in its native form, as delivered by its great Author. See a picture of God, as far as he is imitable by man, drawn by God's own hand. What beauty appears in the whole! How just a symmetry! What exact proportion in every part! How desirable is the happiness here described! How venerable, how lovely is the holiness!" "If," says Bishop Taylor, "wisdom, and mercy, and justice, and simplicity, and holiness, and purity, and meekness, and contentedness, and charity, be images of God, and rays of divinity, then that doctrine, in which all these shine so gloriously, and in which nothing else is ingredient, must needs be from God. If the holy Jesus had come into the world with less splendour of power and mighty demonstrations, yet the excellency of what he taught makes him alone fit to be the master of the world;" and agreeable to all this, has been its actual influence upon mankind. Although, says Bishop Porteus, Christianity has not always been so well understood, or so honestly practised, as it ought to have been; although its spirit has been often mistaken, and its precepts misapplied, yet, under all these disadvantages, it has gradually produced a visible change in those points which most materially concern the peace and quiet of the world. Its beneficent spirit has spread itself through all the different relations and modifications of life, and communicated its kindly influence to almost every public and private concern of mankind. It has insensibly worked itself into the inmost frame and constitution of civil states. It has given a tinge to the complexion of their governments, to the temper and administration of their laws. It has restrained the spirit of the prince, and the madness of the people. It has softened the rigours of despotism, and tamed the insolence of conquest. It has, in some degree, taken away the edge of the sword, and thrown even over the horrors of war a veil of mercy. It has descended into families; has diminished the pressure of private tyranny; improved every domestic endearment; given tenderness to the parent, humanity to the master, respect to superiors, to inferiors ease; so that mankind are, upon the whole, even in a temporal view, under infinite obligations to the mild and pacific temper of the Gospel, and have reaped from it more substantial worldly benefits than from any other institution upon earth. As one proof of this, among many others, consider only the shocking carnage made in the human species by the exposure of infants, the gladiatorial shows, which sometimes cost Rome twenty or thirty lives in a month; and the exceedingly cruel usage of slaves allowed and practised by the ancient Pagans. These were not the accidental and temporary excesses of a sudden fury, but were legal and established, and constant methods of murdering and tormenting mankind. Had Christianity done nothing more than brought into disuse, as it confessedly has done, the two former of these inhuman customs entirely, and the latter to a very great degree, it has justly merited the title of the benevolent religion. But this is far from being all.

Throughout the more enlightened parts of Christendom there prevails a gentleness of manners widely different from the ferocity of the most civilized nations of antiquity; and that liberality with which every species of distress is relieved, is a virtue peculiar to the Christian name. But we may ask farther, What success has it had on the mind of man, as it respects his eternal welfare? How many thousands have felt its power, rejoiced in its benign influence, and under its dictates been constrained to devote themselves to the glory and praise of God! Burdened with guilt, incapable of finding relief from human resources, the mind has here found peace unspeakable in beholding that sacrifice which alone could atone for transgression. Here the hard and impenitent heart has been softened, the impetuous passions restrained, the ferocious temper subdued, powerful prejudices conquered, ignorance dispelled, and the obstacles to real happiness removed. Here the Christian, looking round on the glories and blandishments of this world, has been enabled, with a noble contempt, to despise all. Here death itself, the king of terrors, has lost his sting; and the soul, with a holy magnanimity, has borne up in the agonies of a dying hour, and sweetly sung itself away to everlasting bliss. In respect to its future spread, we have reason to believe that all nations shall feel its happy effects. The prophecies are pregnant with matter as to this belief. It seems that not only a nation, or a country, but the whole habitable globe, shall become the kingdom of our God, and of his Christ. And who is there that has ever known the excellency of this system; who is there that has ever experienced its happy efficacy; who is there that has ever been convinced of its divine origin, its delightful nature and peaceful tendency, but must join the benevolent and royal poet in saying, "Let the whole earth be filled with its glory? Amen and amen.

7. Among the collateral proofs of the truth and divine origin of Christianity, its rapid and wonderful success justly holds an important place. Of its early triumphs, the history of the Acts of the Apostles is a splendid record; and in process of time it made a wonderful progress through Europe, Asia, and Africa. In the third century there were Christians in the camp, in the senate, and in the palace; in short, every where, as we are informed, except in the temples and the theatres: they filled the towns, the country, and the islands. Men and women of all ages and ranks, and even those of the first dignity, embraced the Christian faith; insomuch that the Pagans complained that the revenues of their temples were ruined. They were in such great numbers in the empire, that, as Tertullian expresses it, if they had retired into another country, they would have left the Romans only a frightful solitude. (See the next article.) For the illustration of this argument, we may observe, that the Christian religion was introduced every where in opposition to the sword of the magistrate, the craft and interest of the priests, the pride of the philosophers, the passions and prejudices of the people, all closely combined in support of the national worship, and to crush the Christian faith, which aimed at the subversion of Heathenism and idolatry.

Moreover, this religion was not propagated in the dark, by persons who tacitly endeavoured to deceive the credulous; nor delivered out by little and little, so that one doctrine might prepare the way for the reception of another; but it was fully and without disguise laid before men all at once, that they might judge of the whole under one view. Consequently mankind were not deluded into the belief of it, but received it upon proper examination and conviction. Beside, the Gospel was first preached and first believed by multitudes in Judea, where Jesus exercised his ministry, and where every individual had the means of knowing whether the things that were told him were matters of fact; and in this country, the scene of the principal transactions on which its credibility depended, the history of Christ could never have been received, unless it had been true, and known to all as truth. Again: the doctrine and history of Jesus were preached and believed in the most noted countries and cities of the world, in the very age when he is said to have lived. On the fiftieth day after our Lord's crucifixion, three thousand persons were converted in Jerusalem by a single sermon of the Apostles; and a few weeks after this, five thousand who believed were present at another sermon preached also in Jerusalem,  Acts 2:41;  Acts 4:4;  Acts 6:7;  Acts 8:1;  Acts 9:1;  Acts 9:20 . About eight or ten years after our Lord's death, the disciples were become so numerous at Jerusalem and in the adjacent country, that they were objects of jealousy and alarm to Herod himself,  Acts 12:1 . In the twenty-second year after the crucifixion, the disciples in Judea are said to have been many myriads,  Acts 21:20 . The age in which Christianity was introduced and received, was famous for men whose faculties were improved by the most perfect state of social life, but who were good judges of the evidence offered in support of the facts recorded in the Gospel history. For it should be recollected, that the success of the Gospel was not restricted to Judea; but it was preached in all the different provinces of the Roman empire. The first triumphs of Christianity were in the heart of Greece itself, the nursery of learning and the polite arts; for churches were planted at a very early period at Corinth, Ephesus, Beraea, Thessalonica, and Philippi. Even Rome herself, the seat of wealth and empire, was not able to resist the force of truth at a time when the facts related were recent, and when they might, if they had been false, have easily been disproved. From Greece and Rome, at a period of cultivation and refinement, of general peace, and extensive intercourse, when one great empire united different nations and distant people, the confutation of these facts would very soon have passed from one country to another, to the utter confusion of the persons who endeavoured to propagate the belief of them. Nor ought it to be forgotten that the religion to which such numbers were proselyted, was an exclusive one. It denied, without reserve, the truth of every article of Heathen mythology, and the existence of every object of their worship. It accepted no compromise; it admitted of no comprehension. If it prevailed at all, it must prevail by the overthrow of every statue, altar, and temple in the world. It pronounced all other gods to be false, and all other worship vain. These are considerations which must have strengthened the opposition to it; augmented the hostility which it must encounter; and enhanced the difficulty of gaining proselytes: and more especially when we recollect, that among the converts to Christianity in the earliest age, a number of persons remarkable for their station, office, genius, education, and fortune, and who were personally interested by their emoluments and honours in either Judaism or Heathenism, appeared among the Christian proselytes. Its evidences approved themselves, not only to the multitude, but to men of the most refined sense and most distinguished abilities; and it dissolved the attachments which all powerful interest and authority created and upheld. Among the proselytes to Christianity we find Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea, members of the senate of Israel; Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue; Zaccheus, the chief of the publicans at Jericho; Apollos, distinguished for eloquence; Paul, learned in the Jewish law; Sergius Paulus, governor of the island of Cyprus; Cornelius, a Roman captain; Dionysius, a judge and senator of the Athenian areopagus; Erastus, treasurer of Corinth; Tyrannus, a teacher of grammar and rhetoric at Corinth; Publius, governor of Malta; Philemon, a person of considerable rank at Colosse; Simon, a noted sophist in Samaria; Zenas, a lawyer; and even the domestics of the emperor himself. These are noticed in the sacred writings; and the Heathen historians also mention some persons of great note who were converted at an early period. To all the preceding circumstances we may add a consideration of peculiar moment, which is, that the profession of Christianity led all, without exception, to renounce the pleasures and honours of the world, and to expose themselves to the most ignominious sufferings. And now, without adding any more to this argument, we may ask, How could the Christian religion have thus prevailed had it not been introduced by the power of God and of truth? And it has been supported in the world by the same power through a course of many ages, amidst the treachery of its friends, the opposition of its enemies, the dangers of prosperous periods, and the persecutions and violence of adverse circumstances; all which must have destroyed it, if it had not been founded in truth, and guarded by the protection of an almighty Providence.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

The religion of Christians. I. Christianity, foundation of. Most, if not all Christians, whatever their particular tenets may be, acknowledge the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the sole foundation of their faith and practice. But as these books, or at least particular passages in them, have from the ambiguity of language been variously interpreted by different commentators, these diversities have given birth to a multiplicity of different sects. These, however, or at least the greatest number of them, appeal to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the ultimate standard, the only infallible rule of faith and manners. If asked by what authority these books claim an absolute right to determine the consciences and understandings of men with regard to what they should believe, and what they should do, they answer, that all Scripture, whether for doctrine, correction, or reproof, was given by immediate inspiration from God. If again interrogated how those books which they call Scripture are authenticated, they reply, that the Old and New Testaments are proved to be the word of God, by evidences both external and internal.

See $ 2. and article Revelation. Ii Christianity, evidences of the truth of. The external evidences of the authenticity and divine authority of the Scriptures have been divided into direct and colleteral.

The direct evidences are such as arise from the nature, consistency, and probability of the facts; and from the simplicity, uniformity, competency, and fidelity of the testimonies by which they are supported. The collateral evidences are either the same occurrences supported by heathen testimonies, or others which concur with and corroborate the history of Christianity. Its internal evidences arise either from its exact conformity with the character of God, from its aptitude to the frame and circumstances of man, or from those supernatural convictions and assistances which are impressed on the mind by the immediate operation of the Divine Spirit. We shall here chiefly follow Dr. Doddridge, and endeavor to give some of the chief evidences which have been brought forward, and which every unprejudiced mind must confess are unanswerable. First. Taking the matter merely in theory, it will appear highly probable that such a system as the Gospel should be, indeed, a divine revelation.

1. The case of mankind is naturally such as to need a divine revelation,  1 John 5:19 .  Romans 1:1-32 :   Ephesians 4:1-32 :

2. There is from the light of nature considerable encouragement to hope that God would favour his creatures with so needful a blessing as a revelation appears.

3. We may easily conclude, that if a revelation were given, it would be introduced and transmitted in such a manner as Christianity is said to have been.

4. That the main doctrines of the Gospel are of such a nature as we might in general suppose those of a divine revelation would be; rational, practical, and sublime,  Hebrews 11:6 .  Mark 12:20 .  1 Timothy 2:1-15 .  Matthew 5:48 .  Matthew 10:29-30 . Philippians 4:8 . Romans 2: 6, 40.

Secondly. It is, in fact, certain that Christianity is indeed, a divine revelation; for,

1. The books of the New Testament, now in our hands, were written by the first preachers and publishers of Christianity. In proof of this, observe, 1. that is certain that Christianity is not a new religion, but that it was maintained by great multitudes quickly after the time in which Jesus is said to have appeared.

2. That there was certainly such a person as Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified at Jerusalem, when Pontius Pilate was governor there.

3. The first publishers of this religion wrote books which contained an account of the life and doctrine of Jesus, their master, and which went by the name of those that now make up our New Testament.

4. That the books of the New Testament have been preserved, in the main, uncorrupted to the present time, in the original language in which they were written.

5. That the translation of them now in our hands may be depended upon as, in all things most material, agreeable to the original. Now, II. From allowing the New Testament to be genuine, according to the above proof, it will certainly follow that Christianity is a divine revelation; for, in the first place, it is exceedingly evident that the writers of the New Testament certainly knew whether the facts were true or false.  John 1:3 .  John 19:1-42 .  Acts 27:7;  Acts 9:2 .

That the character of these writers, so far as we can judge by their works, seems to render them worthy of regard, and leaves no room to imagine they intended to deceive us. The manner in which they tell their story is most happily adapted to gain our belief. There is no air of declamation and harangue; nothing that looks like artifice and design: no apologies, no encomiums, no characters, no reflections, no digressions; but the facts are recounted with great simplicity, just as they seem to have happened; and those facts are left to speak for themselves.

Their integrity likewise evidently appears in the freedom with which they mention those circumstances which might have exposed their Master and themselves to the greatest contempt amongst prejudiced and inconsiderate men, such as they knew they must generally expect to meet with.  John 1:45-46 .  John 7:52 .  Luke 2:4;  Luke 2:7 .  Mark 6:3 .  Matthew 8:20 .  John 7:48 . It is certain that there are in their writings the most genuine traces not only of a plain and honest, but a most pious and devout, a most benevolent and generous disposition, as every one must acknowledge who reads their writings.

3. the apostles were under no temptation to forge a story of this kind, or to publish it to the world knowing it to be false.

4. Had they done so, humanly speaking, they must quickly have perished in ti, and their foolish cause must have died with them, without ever gaining any credit in the world. Reflect more particularly on the nature of those grand facts, the death, resurrection, and exaltation of Christ, which formed the great foundation of the Christian scheme, as first exhibited by the apostles.

The resurrection of a dead man, and his ascension into an abode in the upper world, were such strange things, that a thousand objections would immediately have been raised against them; and some extraordinary proof would have been justly required as a balance to them. Consider the manner in which the apostles undertook to prove the truth of their testimony to these facts; and it will evidently appear, that, instead of confirming their scheme, it must have been sufficient utterly to have overthrown it, had it been itself the most probable imposture that the wit of man could ever have contrived.

See  Acts 3:9;  Acts 14:19 &c. They did not merely assert that they had seen miracles wrought by Jesus, but that he had endowed them with a variety of miraculous powers; and these they undertook to display not in such idle and useless tricks as slight of hand might perform, but in such solid and important works as appeared worthy of divine interposition, and entirely superior to human power. Nor were these things undertaken in a corner, in a circle of friends or dependants; nor were they said to be wrought, as might be suspected, by any confederates in the fraud; but they were done often in the most public manner. Would impostors have made such pretensions as these? or, if they had, must they not immediately have been exposed and ruined? Now, if the New Testament be genuine, then it is certain that the apostles pretend to have wrought miracles in the very presence of those to whom their writings were addressed; nay, more they profess likewise to have conferred those miraculous gifts in some considerable degrees on others, even on the very persons to whom they write, and they appeal to their consciences as to the truth of it. And could there possibly be room for delusion here?

5. It is likewise certain that the apostles did gain early credit, and succeeded in a most wonderful manner. This is abundantly proved by the vast number of churches established in early ages at Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, Collosse, &c.&c.&c.

6. That, admitting the facts which they testified concerning Christ to be true, then it was reasonable for their contempories, and is reasonable for us, to receive the Gospel which they have transmitted to us as a divine revelation. The great thing they asserted was, that Jesus was the Christ, and that he was proved to be so by prophecies accomplished in him, and by miracles wrought by him, and by others in his name. If we attend to these, we shall find them to be no contemptible arguments; but must be forced to acknowledge, that, the premises being established, the conclusion most easily and necessarily follows; and this conclusion, that Jesus is the Christ, taken in all its extent, is an abstract of the Gospel revelation, and therefore is sometimes put for the whole of it,  Acts 8:37 .  Acts 17:18 .

See Articles Miracle and Prophecy

7. The truth of the Gospel has also received farther and very considerable confirmation from what has happened in the world since it was first published. And here we must desire every one to consider what God has been doing to confirm the Gospel since its first publication, and he will find it a farther evidence of its Divine original.

We might argue at large from its surprising propagation in the world; from the miraculous powers with which not only the apostles, but succeeding preachers of the Gospel, and other converts, were endowed; from the accomplishment of prophesies recorded in the New Testament; and from the preservation of the Jews as a distinct people, notwithstanding the various difficulties and persecutions through which they have passed. We must not, however, forget to mention the confirmation it receives from the methods which its enemies have taken to destroy it; and these have generally been either persecution or falsehood, or cavilling at some particulars in revelation, without entering into the grand argument on which it is built, and fairly debating what is offered in its defence. The cause has gained considerably by the opposition made to it: the more it has been tried, the more it has been approved: and we are bold to say no honest man, unfettered by prejudice, can examine this system in all its parts, without being convinced that its origin is divine.

III. Christianity, general doctrines of. "It must be obvious, " says an ingenious author, "to every reflecting mind, that, whether we attempt to form the idea of any religion a priori, or contemplate those which have already been exhibited, certain facts, principles, or data, must be pre-established; from whence will result a particular frame of mind and course of action suitable to the character and dignity of that Being by whom the religion is enjoined, and adapted to the nature and situation of those agents, who are commanded to observe it. Hence Christianity may be divided into credenda or doctrines, and agenda or precepts. As the great foundation of his religion, therefore, the Christian believes the existence and government of one eternal and infinite Essence, which for ever retains in itself the cause of its own existence, and inherently possesses all those perfections which are compatible with its nature; such are its almighty power, omniscience, wisdom, infinite justice, boundless goodness, and universal presence. In this indivisible essence the Christian recognises three distinct subsistences, yet distinguished in such a manner as not to be incompatible either with essential unity, or simplicity of being, or with their personal distinction; each of them possesses the same nature and properties to the same extent.

This infinite Being was graciously pleased to create an universe replete with intelligences, who might enjoy his glory, participate his happiness, and imitate his perfections. But as these beings were not immutable, but left to the freedom of their own will, degeneracy took place, and that in a rank of intelligence superior to man. But guilt is never stationary. Impatient of itself, and cursed with its own feelings, it proceeds from bad to worse, whilst the poignancy of its torments increases with the number of its perpetrations. Such was the situation of Satan and his apostate angels. They attempted to transfer their turpitude and misery to man, and were, alas, but too successful! Hence the heterogeneous and irreconcilable principles which operate in his nature; hence that inexplicable medley of wisdom and folly, of rectitude and error, of benevolence and malignity, of sincerity and fraud, exhibited through his whole conduct; hence the darkness of his understanding, the depravity of his will, the pollution of his heart, the irregularity of his affections, and the absolute subversion of his whole internal economy. The seeds of perdition soon ripened into overt acts of guilt and horror. All the hostilities of nature were confronted, and the whole sublunary creation became a theatre of disorder and mischief. Here the Christian once more appeals to fact and experience.

If these things are so; if man be the vessel of guilt, and the victim of misery, he demands how this constitution of things can be accounted for? how can it be supposed that a being so wicked and unhappy should be the production of an infinitely good and infinitely perfect Creator? He therefore insists that human nature must have been disarranged and contaminated by some violent shock; and that, of consequence, without the light diffused over the face of things by Christianity, all nature must remain in inscrutable and inexplicable mystery. To redress these evils, to re-establish the empire of rectitude and happiness, to restore the nature of man to its primitive dignity, to satisfy the remonstrances of infinite justice, to purify every original or contracted stain, to expiate the guilt and destroy the power of vice, the eternal Son of God, from whom Christianity takes its name, and to whom it owes its origin, descended from the bosom of his Father, assumed the human nature, became the representative of man; endured a severe probation in that character; exhibited a pattern of perfect righteousness, and at last ratified his doctrine, and fully accomplished all the ends of his mission, by a cruel, unmerited, and ignominious death. Before he left the world, he delivered the doctrines of salvation, and the rules of human conduct, to his apostles, whom he empowered to instruct the world in all that concerned their eternal felicity, and whom he invested with miraculous gifts to ascertain the reality of what they taught.

To them he likewise promised another comforter, even the Divine Spirit, who should remove the darkness, console the woes, and purify the stains of human nature. Having remained for a part of three days under the power of death, he rose again from the grave; appeared to his disciples, and many others; conversed with them for some time, then re-ascended to heaven; from whence the Christian expects him, according to his promise, to appear as the Sovereign Judge of the living, and the dead, from whose awards there is no appeal, and by whose sentence the destiny of the righteous and the wicked shall be eternally fixed. Soon after his departure to the right hand of his Father (where in his human nature he sits supreme of all created beings, and invested with the absolute administration of heaven and earth, ) the Spirit of grace and consolation descended on his apostles with visible signatures of divine power and presence. Nor were his salutary operations confined to them, but extended to all who did not by obstinate guilt repel his influences.

These, indeed, were less conspicuous than at the glorious aera when they were visibly exhibited in the persons of the apostles. But, though his energy be less observable, it is by no means less effectual to all the purposes of grace and mercy. The Christian is convinced that there is and shall continue to be a society upon earth, who worship God as revealed in Jesus Christ, who believe his doctrines, who observe his precepts, and who shall be saved by the merits of his death, in the use of these external means of salvation which he hath appointed. He also believes that the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper, the interpretation and application of Scripture, the habitual exercise of public and private devotion, are obviously calculated to diffuse and promote the interests of truth and religion by superinducing the salutary habits of faith, love, and repentance.

He is firmly persuaded, that, at the consummation of all things, when the purposes of Providence in the various revolutions of progressive nature are accomplished, the whole human race shall once more issue from their graves; some to immortal felicity in the actual perception and enjoyment of their Creator's presence, and others to everlasting shame and misery." IV. Christianity, morality and superiority of. It has been well observed, "that the two grand principles of action, according to the Christian, are the love of God, which is the sovereign passion in every gracious mind; and the love of man, which regulates our actions according to the various relations in which we stand, whether to communities or individuals. This sacred connection ought never to be totally extinguished by any temporary injury. It ought to subsist in some degree even amongst enemies. It requires that we should pardon the offences of others, as we expect pardon for our own; and that we should no farther resist evil than is necessary for the preservation of personal rights and social happiness. It dictates every relative and reciprocal duty between parents and children, masters and servants, governors and subjects, friends and friends, men and men: nor does it merely enjoin the observation of equity, but likewise inspires the most sublime and extensive charity; a boundless and disinterested effusion of tenderness for the whole species, which feels their distress, and operates for their relief and improvement."

"Christianity, " it has also been observed (and with the greatest propriety, ) "is superior to all other religions. The disciple of Jesus not only contends that no system of religion has ever yet been exhibited so consistent with itself, so congruous to philosophy and the common sense of mankind, as Christianity: he likewise avers that it is infinitely more productive of real consolation than all other religious or philosophical tenets which have ever entered into the soul, or been applied to the heart of man. For what is death to that mind which considers eternity as the career of its existence? What are the frowns of men to him who claims an eternal world as his inheritance? What is the loss of friends to that heart which feels, with more than natural conviction, that it shall quickly rejoin them in a more tender, intimate, and permanent intercourse, than any of which the present life is susceptible? What are the vicissitudes of external things to a mind which strongly and uniformly anticipates a state of endless and immutable felicity? What are mortifications, disappointments, and insults, to a spirit which is conscious of being the original offspring and adopted child of God: which knows that its omnipotent Father will in proper time effectually assert the dignity and privileges of its nature? In a word, as this earth is but a speck in the creation, as time is not an instant in proportion to eternity, such are the hopes and prospects of the Christian in comparison of every sublunary misfortune or difficulty. It is therefore, in his judgement, the eternal wonder of angels, and indelible opprobrium of man, that a religion so worthy of God, so suitable to the frame and circumstances of our nature, so consonant to all the dictates of reason, so friendly to the dignity and improvement of intelligent beings, so pregnant with genuine comfort and delight, should be rejected and despised by any of the human race."

V. Christianity, propagation and success of. Despised as Christianity has been by many, yet it has had an extensive progress through the world, and still remains to be professed by great numbers of mankind; though it is to be lamented many are unacquainted with its genuine influence. It was early and rapidly propagated through the whole Roman empire, which then contained almost the whole known world: and herein we cannot but admire both the wisdom and the power of God. "Destitute of all human advantages, " says a good writer, "protected by no authority, assisted by no art; not recommended by the reputation of its author, not enforced by eloquence in its advocates, the word of God grew mightily and prevailed. Twelve men, poor, artless, and illiterate, we behold triumphing over the fiercest and most determined opposition; over the tyranny of the magistrate, and the subtleties of the philosopher; over the prejudices of the Gentile, and the bigotry of the Jew. They established a religion which held forth high and venerable mysteries, such as the pride of man would induce him to suspect, because he could not perfectly comprehend them; which preached doctrines pure and spiritual, such as corrupt nature was prone to oppose, because it shrunk from the severity of their discipline; which required its followers to renounce almost every opinion they had embraced as sacred, and every interest they had pursued as important; which even exposed them to every species of danger and infamy; to persecution unmerited and unpitied; to the gloom of a prison, and to the pangs of death.

Hopeless as this prospect might appear to the view of short-sighted man, the Gospel yet emerged from the obscurity in which it was likely to be overwhelmed by the complicated distresses of its friends, and the unrelenting cruelty of its foes. It succeeded in a peculiar degree, and in a peculiar manner; it derived that success from truth, and obtained it under circumstances where falsehood must have been detected and crushed." "Although, " says the elegant Porteus, "Christianity has not always been so well understood, or so honestly practised, as it ought to have been; although its spirit has been often mistaken, and its precepts misapplied, yet, under all these disadvantages, it has gradually produced a visible change in those points which most materially concern the peace and quiet of the world. Its beneficent spirit has spread itself through all the different relations and modifications of life, and communicated its kindly influence to almost every public and private concern of mankind. It has insensibly worked itself into the inmost frame and constitution of civil states. It has given a tinge to the temper and administration of their laws. It has restrained the spirit of the prince and the madness of the people. It has softened the rigour of despotism, and tamed the insolence of conquest.

It has in some degree taken away the edge of the sword, and thrown even over the horrors of war a veil of mercy. It has descended into families, has diminished the pressure of private tyranny; improved every domestic endearment; given tenderness to the parent, humanity to the master, respect to superiors, to inferiors ease; so that mankind are, upon the whole, even in a temporal view, under infinite obligations to the mild and pacific temper of the Gospel, and have reaped from it more substantial worldly benefits than from substantial worldly benefits than from any other institution upon earth. As one proof of this (among many others, ) consider only the shocking carnage made in the human species by the exposure of infants, the gladiatorial shows, which sometimes cost Europe twenty or thirty thousand lives in a month; and the exceedingly cruel usage of slaves, allowed and practised by the ancient pagans. These were not the accidental and temporary excesses of a sudden fury, but were legal and established, and constant methods of murdering and tormenting mankind. Had Christianity done nothing more than brought into disuse (as it confessedly has done) the two former of these human customs, entirely, and the latter to a very great degree, it had justly merited the title of the benevolent religion: but this is far from being all. Throughout the more enlightened parts of Christendom there prevails a gentleness of manners widely different from the ferocity of the most civilized nations of antiquity; and that liberality with which every species of distress is relieved, is a virtue peculiar to the Christian name."

But we may ask farther, what success has it had on the mind of man, as it respects his eternal welfare? How many thousands have felt its power, rejoiced in its benign influence, and under its dictates been constrained to devote themselves to the glory and praise of God? Burdened with guilt, incapable of finding relief from human resources, the mind has here found peace unspeakable, in beholding, that sacrifice which alone could atone for transgression. Here the hard and impenitent heart has been softened, the impetuous passions restrained, the ferocious temper subdued, powerful prejudices conquered, ignorance dispelled, and the obstacles to real happiness removed. Here the Christian, looking round on the glories and blandishments of this world, has been enabled with a noble contempt to despise all. Here death itself, the king of terrors, has lost its sting; and the soul, with an holy magnanimity, has borne up in the agonies of a dying hour, and sweetly sung itself away to everlasting bliss. In respect to its future spread, we have reason to believe that all nations shall feel its happy effects.

The prophecies are pregnant with matter as to this belief. It seems that not only a nation or a country, but the whole habitable globe, shall become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ: and who is there that has ever known the excellency of this system; who is there that has ever experienced its happy efficacy; who is there that has ever been convinced of its divine origin, its delightful nature, and peaceful tendency, but what must join the benevolent and royal poet in saying, "Let the whole earth be filled with its glory, amen, and amen."

See article CHRISTIANITY in Enc. Brit.; Paley's Evidences of Christianity; Lardner's and Macknight's Credibility of the Gospel History; Lord Hailes on the Influence of Gibbon's Five Causes; Fawcett's Evidences of Christianity; Doddridge's ditto; Fell's and Hunter's Lectures on ditto; Beattie's Evidences of the Christian Religion; Soame Jenyns's Evidences of ditto; White's Sermons; Bp. Porteus's Sermons, vol. 1: ver. 12, 13; and his Essay on the beneficial Effects of Christianity on the temporal Concerns of Mankind.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

CHRISTIANITY . When the name ‘Christian’ (see preceding art.) had come to be the specific designation of a follower of Jesus Christ, it was inevitable that the word ‘Christianity’ should sooner or later be used to denote the faith which Christians profess. The word does not occur in the NT, however, and first makes its appearance in the letters of Ignatius early in the 2nd century. But for 1800 years it has been the regular term for the religion which claims Jesus Christ as its founder, and recognizes in His Person and work the sum and substance of its beliefs.

Christianity presents itself to us under two aspects objective and subjective, past and present, world-historical and personal. It is a great fact of universal history, but also a truth of personal experience. It is a revelation given from above, but also an appropriation effected from within. We must think of it therefore (1) as it was historically revealed to the world; (2) as it is realized in the life of the individual.

I. Christianity as a Historical Revelation . In dealing with this part of the subject two opposite mistakes must be avoided. (1) First the mistake of those who confound history with dogma, principles with institutions, and read back into Christianity as a Divine revelation the later creeds and rites and orders of the Church. It was inevitable that the Christian religion in the course of its history should clothe itself in outward forms, but it is not to be identified with the forms it has assumed. In dealing with the subject, we are limited, of course, by the plan of this work, to the Biblical material. But apart from that, the view taken in the present article is that, in seeking to discover Christianity in its essential nature, we must accept the NT as our authority and norm, inasmuch as there alone we find the historical record of the life and self-witness of Jesus Christ, and also the writings of that Apostolic group which moved in the immediate light of His manifestation as that was given not only in His life on earth, but in His death and resurrection and their extraordinary spiritual results.

(2) On the other hand, we must avoid the error of those who, when they insist on going ‘back to Christ,’ and demand the substitution of the Christ of history for the Christ of dogma, assume that nothing that is supernatural can he historical, and that the Christ whom we find in the NT the Christ of the Incarnation and the Resurrection and the Atonement, the Christ who wrought miracles and claimed to be the Son of God, and was so accepted by those who had known Him in the flesh and subsequently knew Him in the Spirit is not the Jesus of history at all. To this it can only be said here that the reality of alleged supernatural facts, like the reality of any other alleged facts, depends upon the evidence, and is not to be ruled out by any presuppositions. Further, that while from the nature of the case there is a difference between the teaching of Jesus during His earthly ministry and the teaching of the Apostles regarding the risen Christ, the evidence of our Lord’s own consciousness and history, even as we find it in the Synoptic Gospels, points to the correctness of the Apostolic conclusions about Him. We therefore hold that whatever Christianity is, it is not what certain modern writers describe as ‘the religion of Jesus,’ but something very different; and that as it is not to be confounded with churchly dogmas and institutions, it is just as little to be identified with an ethical theism based on the beauty of Christ’s character and the pure precepts of His Sermon on the Mount. The men who were first called Christians ( Acts 11:26 ) had never seen Jesus or listened to His teaching, and the gospel that laid its grasp upon them and won for them this distinctive name was neither a hare repetition of the Master’s teaching nor a mere exhibition of His perfect life. On the contrary, it was such a gospel as meets us in the Epistles of St. Paul and the sermons reported in Acts the gospel of One who not only lived a spotless life and spake as never man spake, but died for our sins and was raised again for our justification, and was thereby declared to be the Son of God with power. It is in accordance, therefore, with the original application of the name ‘Christian’ that in seeking for the meaning of the word ‘Christianity’ we should make full use of the Apostolic testimony regarding Christ.

1. As a religion appearing in history, Christianity had its historical relations and its historical roots . ( a ) It was related to all the old ethnic faiths , and to every religious experience of vision and longing, of striving and despair, that the soul of man had ever known. The modern study of Comparative Religion is enabling us to realize this as it has never been realized before; but the NT makes the general truth perfectly plain. God speaks to man in the visible world (  Romans 1:20 ), He writes His law on the natural heart (  Romans 2:15 ), He never leaves Himself without witness (  Acts 14:17 ). And on their part men grope through the darkness after God (  Acts 17:27 ), being dimly conscious of the truth that they are also His offspring (  Acts 17:28 ). And so when Christ comes, He comes not only as the Light of the world (  John 8:12 ), but as the true Light which Iighteth every man that cometh into it (  John 1:9 ) a statement which implies that even apart from His historical manifestation in Judæa, the heavenly Christ was the Light and Life of all men, and that there is a sense in which a soul may be ‘naturally Christian’ as Tertullian said.

( b ) But while Christianity was and is related to all the ethnic faiths, it was deeply rooted in the soil of the OT . In the pagan religions we find many anticipations of Christianity, but in Judaism there is a definite and Divine preparation for it. Law and prophecy, priesthood and sacrifice all contributed directly to this result. St. Paul declares that ‘the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ’ (  Galatians 3:24 ). The Evangelists draw attention again and again to the fact, so evident to every discerning reader of Scripture, that the prophets were heralds of the Christ who was to come. The author of Hebrews shows us that the ministries of Tabernacle and Temple were examples and shadows of Christ’s heavenly Priesthood. In the Fourth Gospel we find Jesus Himself affirming that ‘salvation is of the Jews’ (  John 4:22 ); and in that very sermon in which He sets forth the manifesto of His own Kingdom, He proclaims that He came to fulfil and not to destroy the Law and the Prophets of Israel (  Matthew 5:17 ).

2. But notwithstanding its historical connexions with the past, Christianity was a religion absolutely new . The pagan faiths, so far from explaining its origin, serve rather to reveal the world’s great need of it. St. Paul seized on this truth when he saw in the altar at Athens inscribed ‘To an Unknown God,’ an unconscious appeal to the Christian missionary to declare the God and Father of Jesus Christ (  Acts 17:22 ff.). And even Judaism no more accounts for Christianity than the soil accounts for the mighty tree which springs out of it. While carefully relating Himself to Judaism, Jesus no less carefully discriminated between the permanent and the passing in its institutions. He claimed the right not only to give a fresh reading of its ancient laws (  Matthew 5:21 ff.,   Matthew 5:27 ff.), but even to abrogate certain laws altogether (  Matthew 5:33 ff.,   Matthew 5:38 ff.,   Matthew 5:43 ff.). He set Himself not merely above ‘them of old time’ (  Matthew 5:1-48 passim ), but above Moses (  Matthew 19:7 ff. ||,   Matthew 22:24 ff. ||,   John 6:32 ff.) and Solomon (  Matthew 12:42 ||), Abraham (  John 8:53 ff.) and David (  Matthew 22:41 ff. ||). It was this freedom of Jesus in dealing with the old religion that astonished His hearers: ‘He taught them as having authority, and not as their scribes’ (  Matthew 7:28 f.). Moreover, His attitude of independence towards Judaism is illustrated by the opposition of the Jewish leaders to Himself. His condemnation and crucifixion is the standing proof that He and His religion did not grow out of Judaism by any process of natural evolution. St. Paul sets the immense difference between the two faiths in the clearest light by his contrast, so fully worked out in Rom. and Gal., between the Law of Moses and the grace of Christ. And very soon in the history of the early Church there came that inevitable crisis which decided that though Judaism had been the cradle of Christianity, it was not to be its nursing-mother (cf. Fairbairn, Christ in Modern Theology , p. 52); that Christianity was not a mere spiritualized Judaism, but a new and universal religion recognizing no distinction between Jew and Greek, circumcision and uncircumcision, and seeing in Christ Himself the ‘all in all.’

3. When, with the NT as our guide, we seek for the essential features of objective Christianity, the following characteristics present themselves:

( a ) It is a revelation of God through the life and in the Person of Jesus Christ . Upon this the vast majority of those who call themselves Christians are practically agreed. ‘God was in Christ’ (  2 Corinthians 5:19 ); and in the human face of Jesus there so shone the brightness of the Eternal Glory (  2 Corinthians 4:6 ) that he that hath seen Him hath seen the Father (  John 14:9 ). In His teaching Jesus revealed God to us as our Father in heaven; in His own tenderness and pity and boundless love for men He showed us what the heavenly Fatherhood really means. And so, as we read the Gospels, the assurance grows that in looking on the face of Jesus Christ we are seeing right into the heart of the invisible God.

There are those, however, who, while fully admitting all this, yet hesitate to recognize in the historical Jesus a personal revelation of the Divine nature in human form. For them Jesus as the Revealer has the worth of God without being Himself God. But this is not the Christ who is presented to us in the NT; and if we fall short of the NT view of Christ, our Christianity will not be the Christianity of the NT. If, on the other hand, we take the Gospels and Epistles as our authorities, we must hold upon their evidence not only that ‘God was in Christ,’ but that He so dwelt in Christ that Christ Himself was God; and that historical Christianity is nothing less than an immediate revelation of the Divine nature through the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ.

( b ) Christianity is the religion not only of the revelation of God but of the redemption of man . The paganism that reared altars to an unknown God proved impotent to redeem human life from the dominion of evil (see   Romans 1:21 ff.), while the visions of the Divine that came to true Israelites only made them more deeply conscious of their sin and need (cf.   Isaiah 6:5 ). The purpose of Jesus is announced in His very name; He came ‘to save his people from their sins’ (  Matthew 1:21 ). His own testimony runs: ‘The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost’ (  Luke 19:10 ). St. Paul sets Christ before us as the Divine Reconciler and Redeemer. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (  2 Corinthians 5:19 , cf.   Romans 5:10 ); He sent forth His Son that we might have redemption through His blood, and might receive the adoption of sons (  Galatians 4:4-5 ,   Ephesians 1:7 ). And it is the witness of the whole NT that Christ accomplished His work of seeking and saving, of reconciling and redeeming, by taking our sins upon Him, by suffering with men and for them, by dying at last on the cross the Just for the unjust, by rising from the dead and sitting down at God’s right hand to dispense those spiritual gifts and powers whereby we are enabled to overcome the world.

( c ) It follows from what has just been said that Christianity is the religion of perfected character . Whatever may be the case with other faiths, Christianity permits of no divorce between religion and morality. It is not from the pains of sin merely that Jesus comes to redeem us, but from sin itself. In keeping with this He sets up an ideal standard of personal attainment ‘Ye shall be perfect,’ He says, ‘as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (  Matthew 5:48 ). Unlike the religions of the pagan world, Judaism was based upon a moral law of wonderful purity and breadth. But the law which Jesus gave and which His Apostles enforced is broader and loftier beyond comparison a law for heart and mind as well as for the outward life, forbidding unreasonable anger equally with murder (  Matthew 5:21 ff.), and unholy desire no less than adultery (  Matthew 5:27 f.). Moreover, Christ not only enjoined this heavenly standard of character, but exemplified it personally. It is not a theoretical ideal that He sets before us, but one that has been realized in a human life. The ethics of Jesus are the ethics of His own example; ‘the mind of Christ’ is the Christian’s indwelling law (  Philippians 2:5 ).

( d ) Christianity is the religion of a regenerated society . It has the promise not of personal perfection only, but of the establishment of a Society pure, blessed, and world-wide. ‘The kingdom’ was the characteristic word of Jesus in proclaiming His message; and so both Mt. and Mk. describe His gospel as ‘the gospel of the kingdom’ (  Matthew 4:23;   Matthew 9:35 ,   Mark 1:14 ). And as the rule of a Divine King is the first implication of the word, the second is the harmonious relation of the subjects of the Kingdom to one another. Love is the rule of the Kingdom (  Matthew 5:43 ff. ||,   John 13:34;   John 15:12;   John 15:17 ); and love from its very nature is the fulfilling of all social law (  Romans 13:8;   Romans 13:10 ,   Galatians 5:14 ). The Church which Christ established is the organization of this social Kingdom for moral and religious ends (  Matthew 16:18 f.,   Matthew 18:17 ). And when Christ’s people shall have been joined together in a perfect harmony of brotherly love and mutual co-operation, even as they are severally joined to Him who is their Head (  Romans 12:5 ,   1 Corinthians 12:27 ,   Ephesians 1:22 f.,   Ephesians 4:15 f.,   Ephesians 5:23 ), there will come the realization of that perfect Society which is variously shadowed forth in the NT under the figures of a Kingdom from which there have been cast forth all things that cause stumbling (  Matthew 13:41 ), a glorious Church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (  Ephesians 5:27 ), a Holy City, the New Jerusalem, ‘descending out of heaven from God’ (  Revelation 21:10 f.).

II. Christianity as a Personal Experience . Christianity is not only a revelation in history, but a reality of personal life. Without Christians there would be no Christianity. What is it then that constitutes men Christians, and so translates the historical fact of the revelation of Jesus Christ into the religion which has lived through the centuries and surrounds us to-day?

1. Here faith is the fundamental thing. Just as Christianity, regarded as a historical revelation, may all be summed up in the fact of Christ, so, when it is considered as a personal reality, it may all be included in the faith that lays hold of and appropriates Christ. The whole effort of Jesus during His earthly ministry was directed to this end to secure faith in Himself. And when His death and resurrection and the experiences of Pentecost had revealed Him to His followers in His fuller glory, faith in Christ crucified and risen became the first demand of the Christian preacher (  Acts 2:36 ff;   Acts 3:15 f.,   Acts 8:37 ,   Acts 11:20 f.,   Acts 13:38 f. etc.). So much was this the case, that before the disciples were called ‘Christians’ they were called ‘believers’ (  Acts 5:14;   Acts 10:45;   Acts 16:1 ,   1 Timothy 4:12 ), while others were distinguished from them as unbelievers (  Acts 14:2 ,   1 Corinthians 6:8 and passim ). And as Christ had shown Himself to be not the revealer of the Father only, but the bringer of redemption to sinful men, faith in Him came to mean specifically trust in Him as One who was able to meet the sinner’s greatest need the need of redemption from sin. So St. Peter called upon the Jews in Jerusalem to repent and be baptized ‘in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of sins’ (  Acts 2:38 ). So St. Paul in like manner, when the Philippian jailor cried out in the night, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved’ (  Acts 16:30-31 ) words which contain in brief the essence of the Apostolic testimony as to the way of salvation. And when we would learn from the NT how the Christianity of those who have trusted in Christ is to live and increase and be perfected, we find that it is faith again, still clinging to Christ, that is the vital principle of the life which faith has begun. Through faith Christ dwells in our hearts (  Ephesians 3:17 ). This is the secret of that abiding in Christ which secures His abiding in us (  John 15:4 ), and results in the fruitfulness that makes us worthy to be called His disciples (  John 15:8 ).

2. The next principle of the Christian life is obedience . Between faith and obedience there is no opposition any more than between the roots of a tree and its fruits and flowers. And yet, in the one case as in the other, the secret spring of life and its outward manifestations may be distinguished and separately considered. The root of Christianity, as we have seen, is the religious principle of faith; but from that root there grows an ethical practice bringing life into conformity with all Divine laws. The actual conduct of professedly Christian people has always served as the world’s rough test of Christianity. As applied by the world, it is a rude, imperfect test; for the obedience wrought by faith is a product far too fine and subtle to be fully judged by ‘the world’s coarse thumb and finger.’ The law by which a Christian walks is a law that it needs a Christian mind to appreciate. But though often roughly applied, the test of obedience to God is an unfailing gauge of what claims to be Christianity. It was Christ Himself who said, ‘Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven’ (  Matthew 7:20-21 ).

3. The third great principle is love . For Christianity is social as well as ethical and religious. It is a Divine Kingdom whose subjects stand in a definite relation not only to their King but to all their fellows. Now love is the proper attitude of every Christian to all those of whatsoever name for whom Christ died; and love binds men together as they are bound by nothing else. Even worldly kingdoms are beginning to learn, through the gradual infiltration of Christian ideas into the general mind, that neither force nor mutual self-interest is the true bond of society, but the brotherhood of love. How to produce and secure such brotherhood remains the difficulty for the statesmen of the world. But Jesus, who first gave clear utterance to this great social law, also furnished the sufficient motive for giving effect to it within His own Kingdom. His love to them inspires His disciples to love one another (  John 13:34;   John 15:12 ), and also to love all men after the example of the Divine ‘philanthropy’ (  Matthew 5:43 ff. ||; cf.   Titus 3:4 ,   Romans 5:8 ). And so the faith in Christ which in the ethical sphere blossoms into obedience to God, fills the social sphere with the bloom and fragrance of a universal love to man. Thus once more we are brought back to Him who is at once the object of Christian faith and its ‘leader and perfecter’ (  Hebrews 12:2 ). And whether we think of Christianity as revealed or realized, as a historical manifestation of the Divine or a present human experience, we may justly say that it is all comprehended in Jesus Christ Himself.

J. C. Lambert.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [5]

(See Jesus Christ The law and Mosaic system, though distinct from the gospel, yet clearly contemplates the new dispensation as that for which itself was the preparation. The original promise to Abraham, "in thee ... and thy seed ... shall all families of the earth be blessed" ( Genesis 12:3;  Genesis 22:16), still awaited its fulfillment, and the law came in as the parenthesis between the promise of grace and its fulfillment in Christ the promised "seed."  Romans 5:20; "the law entered (as a parenthesis, incidentally, Greek) that the offense might abound."  Galatians 3:8-25; "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith; but after that, faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster."

Jacob's prophecy contemplated the theocratic scepter passing from Judah, when Shiloh should come as the gatherer of the peoples to Himself ( Genesis 49:10). Many psalms (as Psalm 2; Psalm 72; Psalm 22; Psalm 67) and all the prophets (compare Isaiah 2; Isaiah 53) look forward to the Messiah as about to introduce a new and worldwide dispensation. Nay, even Moses himself ( Deuteronomy 18:15, etc.) announces the coming of another Lawgiver like him, about to promulgate God's new law; for to be like Moses He must be a lawgiver, and to be so He must have a new law, a fuller development of God's will, than Moses' law, its germ. Psalm 110 declared that His priesthood should be one "forever, after the order of Melchizeded" (the king of righteousness and king of peace), to which the Levitical priesthood did homage in the person of Abraham their ancestor, paying tithes to Melchizedek (compare Hebrew 6-7).

The law was the type; the gospel was the antitype ( Hebrews 10:1-10). Christ came not to destroy it (i.e. its essence) but to fulfill (complete) it ( Matthew 5:17). The letter gives place to the spirit which realizes the end of the letter ( 2 Corinthians 3:3-18). As also Jeremiah foretells ( Jeremiah 31:31-34; compare  Hebrews 8:4-13;  Hebrews 10:15-18). If Christianity had not been of God, it could never have prevailed, without human might or learning, to supersede the system of the mightiest and most civilized nations (1 Corinthians 1-2). Its miracles, its fulfillment of all prophecy, and its complete adaptation to meet man's deep spiritual needs, pardon, peace, holiness, life, immortality for soul and body, are the only reasonable account to be given of its success.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): (n.) The body of Christian believers.

(2): (n.) Practical conformity of one's inward and outward life to the spirit of the Christian religion

(3): (n.) The religion of Christians; the system of doctrines and precepts taught by Christ.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [7]

kris - chan´i - ti , kris - chi - an´i - ti , kris - ti - an´i - ti ( Χριστιανισμός , Christianismós ):

I. In Principle and Essence

1. Early Use of Term

2. New Testament Implications: Messiahship - R esurrection - R edemption

Pauline Summaries

3. Did Jesus Claim to Be Christ?

4. The Resurrection

Its Evidence

5. Two Contrasted Estimates of our Lord's Person

(1) The Non-Believing Estimate - not Truly Historical

(2) The Believing Estimate - R elation to Experience

6. Christianity an Experience of Salvation

7. Jesus and the Gospel

8. New Testament Types of Doctrines

9. Naturalistic Interpretations - the Religio-Historic School

II. Historical and Doctrinal

1. "Religion of Christ" and "The Christian Religion"

(1) The Historical Jesus Is Supernatural

(2) Essence of Christianity in Redemption

2. Modern Definitions

(1) Schleiermacher

(2) Ritschl

3. Place in Historical Religions

(1) This Place Unique

(2) Universality of Christianity

(3) The Absolute Religion

(4) Religion of Redemption

4. Development and Influence

(1) Expansion of Christianity

(a) Apostolic Age

(b) Succeeding Period

(c) Modern Missions

(2) Doctrinal Shaping

(a) Gnosticism

(b) Monarchianism

(c) Arianism

(d) Sin and Grace

(e) Person of Christ

(f) The Atonement

(g) The Reformation

(h) Lutheran and Reformed

(3) Its Influence

(a) The Ancient World

(b) The Modern World

(c) Testimony of Professor Huxley

Literature

I. In Principle and Essence

1. Early Use of Term

Unlike "Christian" (the King James Version), the term "Christianity," so far as is known, was first used by the Christians themselves, but does not occur in the New Testament. It is exactly parallel to Judaism ("the Jews' religion"), found not only in   Galatians 1:13 ,  Galatians 1:14 , but in 2 Macc 2:21, etc. Our earliest authority for the word "Christianism" is Ignatius of Antioch. Christian is now a title of honor, and the Christian's glory is "to live according to Christianism" (Ignatius, Ad magnes , 10).

2. New Testament Implications: Messiahship - R esurrection - R edemption

While, however, the name is foreign to the New Testament, the New Testament is by universal consent our most important source of information regarding the thing. Christianity arose out of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth, who claimed to be "the Christ." During Jesus' lifetime this claim was admitted by a circle of adherents, in whose view, afterwards, it was triumphantly vindicated by His resurrection from the dead. By resurrection He "was declared to be the Son of God with power" ( Romans 1:4 ). With this was united from the first the recognition of Christ as the God-sent Redeemer, through whom has come to the world forgiveness, reconciliation with God and Divine spiritual power.

Pauline Summaries

One of the oldest summaries of Christianity is that of Paul in  1 Corinthians 15:3 ,  1 Corinthians 15:1 : "For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;... and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures." Of similar purport are the apostle's words in   2 Corinthians 5:18 ,  2 Corinthians 5:19 : "God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses." From this reconciliation springs the new life of believers (Rom 6;   2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ).

3. Did Jesus Claim to Be Christ?

More recently some have denied that Jesus advanced any such claim to Messiahship, but always upon purely arbitrary and subjective grounds. On the one hand these writers have been profoundly impressed by the grandeur of Jesus' character; on the other they have looked upon the claim to stand in such a unique relation to God and man as unfounded or meaningless. They have sought, accordingly, to escape the difficulty by denying that Jesus regarded Himself as the Anointed of the Lord (Thus, e.g. Wrede). Sometimes they have gone the length even of affirming that Jesus was not so regarded by His personal disciples. Divine honors were accorded Him only gradually, as the memory of what He actually was faded away, and an idealization begotten of Christian faith took its place. The notion of Messiah is merely a piece of Jewish folklore. This position in its distinctively modern form has been answered, it seems to us, with absolute conclusiveness, by Professor James Denney in his Jesus and the Gospel . In a historical point of view, nothing in Jesus' life is more certain than that He regarded Himself as the Christ, the culmination and fulfillment of the Divine revelation given to Israel. This conviction of His is the point round which His whole message revolves. The most recent New Testament theology, that, e.g. of Dr. Paul Feine (1910), rightly starts from Jesus' Messianic consciousness, and seeks to understand His whole teaching in the light of it. Doubtless, like everything else which Jesus touched, the concept of Messiahship becomes transmuted and glorified in His hands. our Lord was in no way dependent upon current beliefs and expectations for the content of His Messianic consciousness. But is it likely that His followers, without His authority, would have attributed Messiahship to one so utterly unlike the Messiah of popular fancy?

4. The Resurrection

The New Testament proves not only that the Christians from the very outset were fully persuaded, on what they regarded as adequate grounds in history and experience, that their Lord had risen from the dead, but also that this conviction mastered them, giving direction and purpose to their whole lives. Historical Christianity was erected on the foundation of a Risen Lord.

Its Evidence

On this point Professor Denney says ( Jesus and the Gospel , 111): "The real historical evidence for the resurrection is the fact that it was believed, preached, propagated, and produced its fruit and effect in the new phenomenon of the Christian church, long before any of our gospels were written.... Faith in the resurrection was not only prevalent but immensely powerful before any of our New Testament books were written. Not one of them would ever have been written but for that faith. It is not this or that in the New Testament - it is not the story of the empty tomb, or of the appearing of Jesus in Jerusalem or in Galilee - which is the primary evidence for the resurrection: it is the New Testament itself. The life that throbs in it from beginning to end, the life that always fills us again with wonder, as it beats upon us from its pages, is the life which the Risen Saviour has quickened in Christian souls. The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is the existence of the church in that extraordinary spiritual vitality which confronts us in the New Testament. This is its own explanation of its being."

5. Two Contrasted Estimates of Our Lord's Person

The best Christian thought of our day has no more difficulty than had the apostles in holding and establishing what Principal Forsyth fitly calls "the superhistoric finality of Christ." In the very nature of the case, wherever the problem of our Lord's person has been seriously faced, there have always been two distinct estimates of His value, that of assured faith, based upon personal experience of His redemptive power, and that of mere externalism.

(1) The Non-Believing Estimate - N ot Truly Historical

The latter or non-believing estimate has no more right now to call itself "historical" or "scientific," than it had, nearly nineteen hundred years ago, to crucify the Lord of glory. The priests doubtless thought that they understood Jesus better than the ignorant, deluded Galileans. Yet the boldest champion of "the religio-historic method" would scarcely claim that theirs was the correct judgment. As a matter of fact, the so-called critical school are no more free from presuppositions than is the most thoroughgoing traditionalist. Nor have they a monopoly either of historical knowledge or of critical acumen. No truths are accessible to them which are not equally available for the Christian believer. No proof exists, beyond their own unsupported assertions, that they are better interpreters of the common truth. On the other hand, that whole range of experience and conviction intop which the Christian believer finds the supreme assurance of the truth of his religion is to them a sealed book. Surel y, then, it is the height of absurdity to maintain that the external, non-believing, estimate of our Lord's person is likely to be the more correct one. From the standpoint of Christian faith, such an external estimate is necessarily inadequate, whether it finds expression in a mechanical acceptance of the whole ecclesiastical Christology, or in the denial that such a person as Jesus of Nazareth ever lived.

(2) The Believing Estimate - R elation to Experience

The believing estimate of our Lord's person is the essence of Christianity as a historical religion. But according to the New Testament this estimate is itself Divinely-inwrought and Divinely attested ( Matthew 16:17;  1 Corinthians 12:3;  1 John 4:2 ,  1 John 4:3 ). It presupposes the perfect objective self-manifestation of God in Jesus Christ on the one hand, and the subjective appropriation of this revelation by faith on the other. No argument against the reality of the revelation can be built upon the fact, generally acknowle dged by Christian theologians nowadays, that the Deity of our Lord and the supernatural origin of our religion can neither be proved nor disproved independently of one's personal attitude to Christianity. This follows necessarily from the nature of the apprehension of Divine truth. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. There can be no impersonal knowledge of religious, any more than of ethical and aesthetic, truth. In these realms another's knowledge has no real meaning for anyone till he has felt its power and tested it in his own experience. Evangelical Christians do not accept the Deity of the Lord as the cardinal article of their religious faith on any merely external authority whether of Scripture or of tradition, or even of His own recorded words apart from experience of Christ. They accept it precisely as they accept the authority of Scripture itself, because of the witness of the Spirit with their spirits. The combined testimony of Scripture and tradition is confirmed in their religious life, when by receiving Jesus as our Lord and Saviour they experience the Christian power. This power is the great experienced reality in the light of which alone the other realities become intelligible. "One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see" ( John 9:25 ). "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life" ( John 6:68 ).

6. Christianity an Experience of Salvation

The true church of Christ consists of all who have experienced the power of Christ, delivering them from the guilt, the stain, and the dominion of sin and bringing the peace of God into their souls. Nothing less than this is either the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, or the historic faith of Christendom, or a religion adequate to human need. The Christian doctrine is partly the assertion of the reality of this power, partly its interpretation. Facts of history and theological propositions are vital to our faith, just in proportion as they are vitally related to this power. The Christian essentials are those elements, historical and dogmatic, without which Christianity would lose in whole or in part its living power to reconcile sinful man to the all-righteous, loving God.

7. Jesus and the Gospel

Thus Jesus Himself belongs to His gospel. He is the heart and core of it. Christianity is both a rule of life and a doctrine. But in its inmost nature and being it is neither an ethic, nor a theology, but a religion - a new relation to God and man, Divinely mediated through Jesus Christ in His life, death and resurrection. As many as receive Him, to them gives He the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on His name, who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God ( John 1:12 ). He brings man to God by bringing God to man, and the power of God into man's sin-stained life.

8. New Testament Types of Doctrines

It can scarcely be claimed that New Testament Christianity was in a theological point of view absolutely homogeneous. Various types can be distinguished with more or less clearness; even the ordinary reader feels a difference of theological atmosphere between e.g. Romans and James. This is inevitable, and need occasion no perplexity to Christian faith. All theology is partly interpretation - the relation of universal and eternal reality to personal thought. Hofmann rightly says that genuine Christian faith is one and the same for all, but that everyone must have his own theology, if he is to have any at all. In all genuine serious thought there is a personal element not precisely the same for any two individuals. It is possible to find in the New Testament foreshadowings of all the great distinctive types of historic Christianity. But the essential purpose of the New Testament is to make Christ real to us, to proclaim reconciliation to God through Him, and to convey the Christian power to our lives. The New Testa ment everywhere exhibits the same Christ, and bears witness to the same redeeming, life-transforming power.

9. Naturalistic Interpretations - T he Religio-Historic School

The attempt has often been made to explain Christianity as the natural product of contemporary forces intellectual and religious - most recently by the so-called "religio-historic school." But at most they have only shown that the form in which the religious concepts of primitive Christianity found articulate expression was to some extent influenced ab extra , and that the earliest Christians were in their general intellectual outlook the children of their own time. They have not proved that the distinctive content of Christianity was derived from any external source. They have not even realized what they have to prove, in order to make good their contention. They have done nothing to account for the Christian power on their principles.

Literature

See the New Testament Theologies, especially that of Feine (1910); Seeberg, Fundamental Truths of the Christian Religion (English translation very incorrect, 1908); Seeberg's Lehrbuch d. Dogmengeschichte , 2nd edition I, 1908; Brown, Essence of Christianity , New York, 1902; W. N. Clarke, What Shall We Think of Christianity? New York, 1899; above all Denney, Jesus and the Gospel (1909), and Forsyth, Person and Place of Jesus Christ (1909).

II. Historical and Doctrinal

In its historical and doctrinal relations, developments, and influence, and its connection with the successive phases of human thought, Christianity presents many points of interest, only the more prominent of which can here briefly be touched upon.

1. "Religion of Christ" and "The Christian Religion"

A convenient starting-point is the well-known distinction of Lessing (Fragment in Works , XI, 242ff) between "the religion of Christ" and "the Christian religion" - a distinction which still exactly marks the attitude to Christianity of the modern so-called "historical" school. By "the religion of Christ" is meant the religion which Christ Himself acknowledged and practiced as man; by "the Christian religion" is meant the view which regards Christ as more than man, and exalts Him as an object of worship. From this standpoint the problem for the historian is to show how the religion of Christ came to develop into the Christian religion - in modern speech, how the "Jesus of history" became the "Christ of faith."

(1) The Historical Jesus Is Supernatural

It has already been pointed out (under I above) that the view of Jesus on which the assumed contrast rests is not one truly historical. The fallacy lies in regarding the Jesus of history as simply a man among men - holier, diviner in insight, but not essentially distinguished from the race of which He was a member. This is not the Christ of apostolic faith, but as little is it the picture of the historical Jesus as the Gospels actually present it. There, in His relations alike to God and to man, in His sinlessness, in His origin, claims, relation to Old Testament revelation, judgeship of the world, in His resurrection, exaltation, and sending of the Spirit, Jesus appears in a light which it is impossible to confine within natural or purely human limits. He is the Saviour who stands over against the race He came to save. It is the same fallacy which under-lies the contrast frequently sought to be drawn between the religious standpoints of Christ and Paul. Pau l never for an instant dreamed of putting himself on the same plane with Christ. Paul was sinner; Christ was Saviour. Paul was disciple; Christ was Lord. Paul was weak, struggling man; Christ was Son of God. Jesus achieved redemption; Paul appropriated it. These things involved the widest contrasts in attitude and speech.

(2) Essence of Christianity in Redemption

Though, therefore, Christ, in His relations of love and trust to the Father, and perfection of holy character, necessarily ever remains the Great Exemplar to whose image His people are to be conformed ( Romans 8:29 ), in whose steps they are to follow ( 1 Peter 2:21 ), it is not correct to describe Christianity simply as the religion which Christ practiced. Christianity takes into account also the work which Christ came to do, the redemption He achieved, the blessings which, through Him, are bestowed on those who accept Him as their Saviour, and acknowledge Him as their Lord. Essentially Christianity is a religion of redemption; not, therefore, a religion practiced by Jesus for Himself, but one based on a work He has accomplished for others. Experimentally, it may be described as consisting, above all, in the joyful consciousness of redemption from sin and reconciliation to God through Jesus Christ, and in the possession of a new life of sonship and holiness through Christ's Spirit. Everything in the way of holy obedience is included here. This, at least, reduced to its simplest terms, is undeniably what Christianity meant for its first preachers and teachers, and what historically it has meant for the church ever since.

2. Modern Definitions

Definitions of Christianity are as numerous as the writers who treat of the subject; but one or two definitions may be glanced at as illustrative of the positions above assumed. As modern types, Schleiermacher and Ritschl may be selected in preference to writers of more conspicuous orthodoxy.

(1) Schleiermacher

Schleiermacher , in his Der Christliche Glaube , has an interesting definition of Christianity. Christianity he speaks of as "a form of monotheistic faith, of the teleological order of religion (i.e. in which the natural is subordinated to the moral), the peculiarity of which, in distinction from other religions of this type, essentially is, that in it everything is referred to the redemption accomplished through Jesus of Nazareth" (section 11). As, in general, Schleiermacher's merit is recognized to lie in his bringing back, in a time of religious decay, the person of Christ to a central place in His religion, so here his true religious feeling is manifested in his fixing on the reference to redemption by Christ as the distinctive thing in Christianity.

(2) Ritschl

Ritschl's definition is more complicated, and need not here be cited in full (compare his Justif. and Recon ., III; English translation, 13). The important point is that, like Schleiermacher, Ritschl gives, together with the idea of the kingdom of God, an essential place to the idea of redemption in the conception of Christianity. "Christianity," he says, "so to speak, resembles not a circle described from a single center, but an ellipse which is determined by two foci " ( Jb ., 11). The idea of the kingdom of God furnishes the teleological, the idea of redemption the religious, element in Christianity. There is truth in this; only it is to be remembered that the kingdom of God, as representing the end, can only, in a world of sin, be into existence through a redemption. Redemption, therefore, still remains the basal conception.

3. Place in Historical Religions

In the enlarged view of modern knowledge, Christianity can be no longer regarded in isolation, but is seen to take its place in the long series of historical religions. It appears, like these other religions, in a historical context; has, like some of them, a personal founder; claims, as they also do, or did, the allegiance of multitudes of the population of the world; presents in externals (e.g. the possession of Scriptures), sometimes in ideas, analogies to features in these religions. For this reason, an influential modern school is disposed to treat Christianity, as before it, the religion of Israel, as simply one of these historical religions - "nothing less, but also nothing more" - explaining it from the inherent laws of religious development, and rejecting the idea of any special, authoritative revelation. Sacred books are pitted against sacred books; moral codes against moral codes; Jesus against founders of other religions; gospel stories against legends of the Buddha; ideas like those of the virgin birth, the incarnation, the resurrection, against seeming parallels on other soils. For examination of the principal of these alleged resemblances, see Comparative Religion .

(1) This Place Unique

Here it is desirable to look at the place of Christianity in the series of historical religions in certain of its wider aspects. The uniqueness of Christ's religion, and justification of its claim to a special, Divine origin, will only appear the more clearly from the comparison. In general, it need only be remarked that no other religion in the world has ever even professed to present a plain, historically developed, progressive revelation, advancing through successive stages in the unfolding of a Divine purpose of grace, till it culminates in the appearance of a person, life, character and work, like that of Jesus Christ; not in one single instance.

(2) Universality of Christianity

A distinction is commonly made between national and universal religions, and Christianity is classed as one of the three universal religions - the other two being Buddhism and Mohammedanism (compare e.g. Kuënen's Hibbert Lectures on National Religions and Universal Religions ). There is certainly agreement in the fact that the two religions named with Christianity are not "national" religions; that they are "universal," in the sense in which Christianity is, may be denied. Neither Buddhism nor Mohammedanism has any fitness to become a religion for the world, nor, with all their remarkable extension, have they succeeded in establishing themselves, as Christianity has done, in East and West, in Old World and in New. Mohammed boasted that he would plant his religion wherever the palm tree grew (Palgrave), and this still marks very nearly the range of its conquests. It is not a revivifying influence, but a blight on all higher civilization. It degrades woman, perpetuates slavery, fosters intolerance, and brings no real healing for the spiritual woes of mankind. Buddhism , again, notwithstanding its wide spread in China and neighboring lands, has in it no real spring of moral progress, and is today withering up at the root. Its system of "salvation" - attainment of Nirvana - is not for the many but the few. It has not a message for all men alike. Buddha does not profess that all can accept his method, or ought to be asked to do so. For the multitude it is impossible of attainment. In practice, therefore, instead of one, he has three codes of duty - one for the laity, who continue to live in the world; one for the monks, who do not aspire to Arahatship or sainthood: and one for those who would reach the goal of Nirvana. These last are very few; only two cases are specified, besides Buddha himself, of success in this endeavor. In contrast with these Christianity approves itself as a strictly universal religion - the only religion of its kind in the world. In its doctrines of the one God and Father, and of the brotherhood of all mankind; its teaching on universal need through sin, and universal provision for salvation in Christ; its gospel of reconciliation addressed to all; its pure spirituality in worship and morality; its elevating and emancipating tendency in all the relations of human life, it approves itself as a religion for all sections and races of mankind, for all grades of civilization and stages of culture, appealing to that which is deepest in man, capable of being understood and received by all, and renewing and blessing each one who accepts and obeys it. The history of missions, even among the most degraded races, in all parts of the globe, is the demonstration of this truth. (On the universalism of Christianity, compare Baur, Church History of the First three Centuries , I, Pt 1.)

(3) The Absolute Religion

It is the custom, even in circles where the full supernatural claims of Christianity are not admitted, to speak of Christ's religion as, in comparison with others, "the absolute religion," meaning by this that in Christianity the true idea of religion, which in other faiths is only striven after, attains to complete and final expression. Hegel, e.g. speaks of Christianity as the "Absolute or Revealed Religion" in the sense that in it the idea is discovered of the essential unity of God and man (Thus also T. H. Green, E. Caird, etc.); others (e.g. Pfleiderer) in the meaning that it expresses the absolute "principle" of religion - a Divine sonship. Christianity also claims for itself, though in a more positive way, to be the absolute religion. It is the final and perfect revelation of God for which not only revelation in Israel, but the whole providential history of the race, was a Divinely ordained preparation (  Galatians 4:4 ). It is absolute in the sense that a larger and fulle r revelation than Christ has given is not needed, and is not to be looked for. Not only in this religion is all truth of Nature about God's being, attributes and character, with all truth of Old Testament revelation, purely gathered up and preserved, but in the person and work of the incarnate Son a higher and more complete disclosure is made of God's Fatherly love and gracious purposes to mankind, and a redemption is presented as actually accomplished adequate to all the needs of a sinful world. Mankind can never hope to attain to a higher idea of God, a truer idea of man, a profounder conception of the end of life, of sin, of duty, a Diviner provision for salvation, a more perfect satisfaction in fellowship with God, a grander hope of eternal life, than is opened to it in the gospel. In this respect again, Christianity stands alone (compare W. Douglas Mackenzie, The Final Faith , a Statement of the Nature and Authority of Christianity as the Religion of the World ).

(4) Religion of Redemption

A third aspect in which Christianity as a historical religion is sometimes regarded is as a religion of redemption . In this light a comparison is frequently instituted between it and Buddhism, which also in some sort is a religion of redemption. But the comparison brings out only the more conspicuously the unique and original character of the Christian system. Buddhism starts from the conception of the inherent evil and misery of existence, and the salvation it promises as the result of indefinitely prolonged striving through many successive lives is the eternal rest and peace of non-being; Christianity, on the other hand, starts from the conception that everything in its original nature and in the intent of its Creator is good, and that the evil of the world is the result of wrong and perverted development - holds, therefore, that redemption from it is possible by use of appropriate means. And redemption here includes, not merely deliverance from existing evils, but restoration of the Divine likeness which has been lost by man, and ultimate blessedness of the life everlasting. Dr. Boyd Carpenter sums up the contrast Thus: "In Buddhism redemption comes from below; in Christianity it is from above; in Buddhism it comes from man; in Christianity it comes from God" ( Permanent Elements in Religion , Introduction, 34).

4. Development and Influence

Christianity, as an external magnitude, has a long and chequered history, into the details of which it is not the purpose of this article to enter. Ecclesiastical developments are left untouched. But a little may be said of its outward expansion, of the influences that helped to mould its doctrinal forms, and of the influence which it in turn has exercised on the thought and life of the peoples into whose midst it came.

(1) Expansion of Christianity

From the first Christianity aimed at being a world-conquering principle. The task it set before itself was stupendous. Its message was not one likely to commend it to either Jew or Greek (  1 Corinthians 1:23 ). It renounced temporal weapons (in this a contrast with Mohammedanism); had nothing to rely on but the naked truth. Yet from the beginning (Acts 2) it had a remarkable reception. Its universal principle was still partially veiled in the Jewish-Christian communities, but with Paul it freed itself from all limitations, and entered on a period of rapid and wide diffusion.

(A) Apostolic Age

It is the peculiarity of the Pauline mission, as Professor W. M. Ramsay points out, that it followed the great lines of Roman communication, and aimed at establishing itself in the large cities - the centers of civilization ( Church in Roman Empire , 147, etc.). The Book of Acts and the Epistles show how striking were the results. Churches were planted in all the great cities of Asia Minor and Macedonia. In Rome Tacitus testifies that by the time of Nero's persecution (64 ad) the Christians were a "great multitude" (" ingens multitudo " ( Annals xv.44)).

(B) Succeeding Period

Our materials for estimating the progress of Christianity in the post-apostolic age are scanty, but they suffice to show us the church pursuing its way, and casting its spell alike on East and West, in centers of civilization and dim regions of barbarism. In the last quarter of the 2nd century great churches like those of Carthage and Alexandria burst into visibility, and reveal how firm a hold the new religion was taking of the empire. Deadly persecution could not stop this march of the church to victory. From the middle of the 3rd century there is no question that it was progressing by leaps and bounds. This is the period in which Harnack puts its great expansion ( Expansion , II, 455, English Translation). On the back of the most relentless persecution it had yet endured, the Diocletian, it suddenly found itself raised by the arms of Constantine to a position of acknowledged supremacy. By this time it had penetrated into all ranks of society, and reckoned among its adherents many of noblest birth.

(C) Modern Missions

It is unnecessary to trace the subsequent course of Christianity in its conquest of the northern nations. For a time the zeal for expansion slumbered, but, with the revival of the missionary spirit at the close of the 18th century, a new forward movement began, the effects of which in the various regions of the heathen world are only now beginning to be realized. It is impossible to read without a thrill what was accomplished by the pioneers of Christian missions in the South Seas a nd other early fields; now the tidings of what is being done in India, China, Japan, Korea, Africa and elsewhere, by Christian preaching and education, awaken even more astonishment. Countries long closed against the gospel are now opened, and the standard of the cross is being carried into all. The church is arousing to its missionary obligations as never before. Still, with all this progress, immense obstacles remain to be overcome. Including all the populations of nominally Christian lands, the adherents of the Christian religion are reckoned to amount only to some 560,000,000, out of a total of over 1,600,000,000 of the population of the world (Hickmann). This looks discouraging, but it is to be remembered that it is the Christian peoples that represent the really progressive portion of the human race.

(2) Doctrinal Shaping

The doctrinal shaping of Christianity has taken place largely as the result of conflict with opposing errors. First, as was inevitable, its conflict was waged with that narrowest section of the Jewish-Christian community - the Ebionites of early church history - who, cleaving to circumcision, disowned Paul, and insisted that the Gentiles should observe the law ( Galatians 5:13 ,  Galatians 5:14; see Ebionites ). These, as a party of reaction, were soon left behind, and themselves fell under heretical (Essenian) influences.

(A) Gnosticism

A more formidable conflict was that with Gnosticism - the distinctive heresy of the 2nd century, though its beginnings are already within the apostolic age (compare Lightfoot, Colossians ). This strange compound of oriental theosophy and ideas borrowed from Christianity (see Gnosticism ) would have dissolved Christ's religion into a tissue of fantasies, and all the strength and learning of the Church were needed to combat its influence. Its opposition was overruled for good in leading t o a fixing of the earliest creed (see Apostles ' Creed ), the formation of an authoritative New Testament canon (see Bible; Canon ), and the firm assertion of the reality of Christ's humanity.

(B) Monarchianism

Christianity had now entered the world of Greek thought, and ere long had contests to sustain within its own borders. First came assaults (3rd century) on the idea of the Trinity in what are known as the Monarchian heresies - the assertion that the Father Himself was incarnate and suffered in Christ (Patripassianism), or that the Trinity consisted only in "modes" of the Divine self-revelation (Sabellianism).

(C) Arianism

These were hardly repelled when a yet greater danger overtook the church in the outbreak (318 ad) of the violent Arian controversy, the Son Himself being now declared to be a creature, exalted, before all worlds, but not truly of the nature of God. The commotion produced by this controversy led to the summoning of the first ecumenical council - that of Nicea (325 ad), and the framing of the Nicene Creed, affirming the full deity of the Son. A like controversy about the Spirit (the Macedonian, 4th century), led to the confirming of this creed, and adoption of additional clauses, at the Council of Constantinople (381 ad).

(D) Sin and Grace

The doctrine of the Trinity was now settled, but new controversies speedily sprang up - in the West on sin and grace (Pelagius and Augustine) (411-18 ad), and in the East in the long series of controversies known as the Christological, bearing on the right apprehension of the person of Christ (4th to 7th centuries): as against Pelagius, who denied original sin, and affirmed man's natural ability to keep the whole law of God, Augustine vindicated the complete dependence of man on the grace of God for his salvation.

(E) Person of Christ

And as against errors successively denying the reality of a human soul in Jesus (Appollinarianism), dissolving the unity of His person (Nestorianism, condemned at Ephesus, 431 ad), or conversely, fusing together the Divine and human into one nature (Eutychianism, Monophysitism), the church maintained, and embodied in a Creed at Chalcedon (451 ad), the integrity of the two natures, Divine and human, in the one Divine person of the Lord. These decisions are upheld by all branches of the church - G reek, Latin, Protestant.

(F) The Atonement

The medieval scholastic period made one great advance in the attempt of Anselm in his Cur Deus Homo (1089) to lay deep the foundations of a doctrine of atonement in the idea of the necessity of a satisfaction for human sin: Abelard, on the other hand, denied the need of satisfaction, and became the representative of what are known as moral theories of the atonement. It was reserved for the Protestant Reformers, however, to bring this doctrine to its true bearing, as furnishing the ground for man's free justification before God in his union with Christ, who had made full satisfaction for his guilt. There have been many theories of atonement, but the idea that Christ has "satisfied Divine justice" is too firmly imbedded in all the Reformation creeds, and has too profound a Scriptural support, to be removed.

(G) The Reformation

The 16th century Reformation, on its outward side, was a revolt against the errors and corruptions of the papacy, but in its positive aspect it may be described as the reassertion of the sole mediatorship of Christ (as against priestly intervention), the sole authority of Scripture (as against tradition), and justification by faith alone (as against salvation by works of merit). The schism meant a separation of the great Protestant communities and nations from the church of Rome, which, by its claim o f papal supremacy, had already separated from itself the great Greek communion.

(H) Lutheran and Reformed

Within Protestantism itself a difference of genius between the Swiss and German Reformers, with divergences of view on the sacraments, led to the formation of two main types - the Lutheran (German) and the Reformed (Swiss) - and between these two, as respects theology and church order, later Protestantism has mostly been divided. Luther represented the one; Calvin for long was the chief name in the other. With the rise of Arminianism and other forms of dissent from the peculiarities of Calvinism, the aspect of Protestantism became more variegated. Of the later divisions, producing the numerous modern sects which yet own allegiance to the common head (Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Methodists, Baptists, Congregationalists, etc.), it is not necessary here to speak. The unity of spirit revealed in creed, worship and combined endeavors in Christ's service goes deeper than all outward differences.

(3) Its Influence

Christianity preaches a kingdom of God, or supremacy of God's will in human hearts and human affairs, by which is meant, on its earthly side, nothing less than a complete reconstruction of society on the two great bases of love to God and love to man - "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth" ( Matthew 6:10 ). The influence of Christianity is paramount in all the great advances that have been made in the moral and social amelioration of the state of mankind.

(A) The Ancient World

It was so undoubtedly in the ancient world. The world into which Christianity came was one fast sinking into dissolution through the weight of its own corruptions. Into that world Christianity brought a totally new idea of man as being of infinite dignity and immortal worth. It restored the well-nigh lost sense of responsibility and accountability to God; breathed into the world a new spirit of love and charity, and created that wealth of charitable and beneficent institutions with which Christian lands are now full (Lecky speaks of it as "covering the globe with countless institutions of mercy, absolutely unknown in the whole pagan world," History of Morals , II, 91); set up a new moral ideal and standard of integrity which has acted as an elevating force on moral conceptions till the present hour; restored woman to her rightful place as man's helpmeet and equal; created the Christian home; gave the slave an equal place with his master in the kingdom of God, and struck at the foundations of slavery by its doctrines of the natural brotherhood and dignity of man; created self-respect, and a sense of duty in the use of one's powers for self-support and the benefit of others; urged to honest labors; and in a myriad other ways, by direct teaching, by the protest of holy lives, and by its general spirit, struck at the evils, the malpractices, the cruelties of the time.

(B) The Modern World

Despite many failures, and gross backslidings in the church itself, these ideas, implanted in the world, and liberating other forces, have operated ever since in advancing the progress of the race. They exist and operate far beyond the limits of the church. They have been taken up and contended for by men outside the church - by unbelievers even - when the church itself had become unfaithful to them. None the less they are of Christian parentage. They lie at the basis of our modern assertion of equal rights, of justice to the individual in social and state arrangements, of the desire for brotherhood, peace and amity among classes and nations. It is Christian love which is sustaining the best, purest and most self-sacrificing efforts for the raising of the fallen, the rescue of the drunkard, the promotion of enlightenment, virtues, social order and happiness. It is proving itself the grand civilizing agency in other regions of the world. Christian missions, with their benign effects in the spread of education, the checking of social evils and barbarities, the creation of trade and industry, the change in the status of women, the advance in social and civilized life, generally, is the demonstration of it (see Dennis, Christian Missions and Social Progress ).

(C) Testimony of Professor Huxley

Professor Huxley will not be regarded as a biased witness on behalf of Christianity. Yet this is what he writes on the influence of the Christian Scriptures, and his words may be a fitting close to this article: "Throughout the history of the western world," he says, "the Scriptures, Jewish, and Christian, have been the great instigators of revolt against the worst forms of clerical and political despotism. The Bible has been the Magna Charta of the poor, and of the oppressed; down to modern times no state has had a constitution in which the interests of the people are so largely taken into account, in which the duties, so much more than the privileges, of rulers are insisted upon, as that drawn up for Israel in Dt and Lev; nowhere is the fundamental truth that the welfare of the State, in the long run, depends upon the uprightness of the citizen so strongly laid down. Assuredly the Bible talks no trash about the rights of man; but it insists upon the equality of duties, on the liberty to bring about that righteousness which is somewhat different from struggling for 'rights'; on the fraternity of taking thought for one's neighbor as for one's self."

Literature

See works cited in Part I above; also Kuënen, Hibbert Lectures for 1882, National Religions and Universal Religions  ; W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire  ; M. Dods, Mohammed , Buddha , and Christ  ; on early expansion of Christianity, Harnack, Mission and Expansion of Christianity , and Orr, Neglected Factors in the Study of the Early Progress of Christianity  ; on the essence of Christianity, W. Douglas Mackenzie, The Final Faith; on the influence of Christianity , C. L. Brace, Gesta Christi  ; Uhlhorn, Christian Charity in the Ancient Church  ; C. Schmidt, Social Results of Early Christianity  ; Lecky, History of European Morals  ; Dennis, Christian Missions and Social Progress; Reports of World Miss. Conference , 1910.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

(1) in the Objective Sense, is the religion of Christians, including doctrines, morals and institutions. Of Christianity, the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the sole foundation and source, as containing all things necessary to salvation; so that whatever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation" (Art. 6 Of The Church Of England). (2) In the Subjective sense, it denotes the Christian faith and life of the individual, in which is manifested the life of Christ, the God-man, imparted through the Holy Spirit. The statement of Christian doctrines, in scientific form, is the object of theology (q.v.). The special doctrines are treated under their proper heads in this dictionary. The proof of the divine origin and authority of Christianity is the province of Apologetics, or the Evidences of Christianity. (See Apologetics); (See Evidences). The statement of the practical principles of Christianity belongs to Ethics or Morals (q.v.). The institutions of Christianity are treated under the heads (See Church), (See Baptism), (See Lords Supper), (See Ministry), (See Sacraments). The aggressive movements of Christianity in heathen countries are treated under MISSIONS; its present territorial extent under CHRISTENDOM (See Christendom) .

The history of Christianity is the history of the reception of the teachings, ordinances, and institutions of Christ among men, and embraces what is more commonly, but less properly, called the history of the Christian Church. We give a brief survey of the history of Christianity, and divide it for this purpose into five periods.

I. From The Foundation Of Christianity Until Its Establishment As A State Religion In The Fourth Century. When Christ appeared upon earth, both paganism and Judaism had lost their influence over the mass of the people. Presentiments of the proclamation of a purer religion were widely disseminated. Among the Jews, the Messianic hopes which had been awakened by the prophets had gained new strength from the political oppression under which the nation so long suffered. Christ confined his preaching to the Jews, and we read in the Gospels that large crowds of the people were always eager to hear him, though the most influential sects of those times, the Pharisees and Sadducees, opposed him. After the ascension of Christ, the disciples were prepared, by the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, to carry on the dissemination of Christianity. The first congregation was established at Jerusalem, the second at Antioch. In Judea, and especially in Jerusalem, the apostles and other Christians were cruelly persecuted, and Stephen was stoned and became the first martyr. But one of the leading instigators of the persecution, Saul of Tarsus, was soon converted in a miraculous manner, and established new churches, not only among the Jews in a great many provinces of the Roman empire, but also among the pagans. At Antioch, the followers of Jesus, who during his lifetime had had no distinguishing name, received the name Christians. (See Christian).

Paul warned the congregation in Corinth not to assume party names, as parties of Apollos, of Paul, of Cephas, or of Christ; but the term is applied, not to distinguish a party among Christians, but to distinguish Christians from pagans and Jews. By the Jews, the Christians were for a long time called Galilaeans or Nazarenes. The Christians of Jewish extraction separated only by degrees from outward connection with the synagogues, and the fundamental elements of a church constitution were not developed before the second half of the first century. The details of this development have been of late the subject of most minute and ingenious investigations, but the darkness in which the subject, on account of the meagerness of the contemporaneous literature, has been involved, is far from being removed. (See Apostolic Age); (See Church).

The apostles remained the center for the Christian churches, and devoted themselves, in connection with so-called evangelists, to the spreading of the Gospel, while under them presbyters (or bishops) were the teachers and superintendents of particular congregations. Deacons, and sometimes also deaconesses, were charged with the care of the poor and other social wants of the community. The spread of Christianity gave rise to repeated persecutions by the Roman emperors, some of which were local, while others were more or less general. Usually ten persecutions are counted, viz. first, under Nero, 64-68, by whose order several Christians of Rome were put to death, Nero, as is reported, charging them with having caused the great conflagration. In the second persecution (93- 95), Domitian, misinterpreting the royal office of Christ, ordered the surviving relations of Christ, whom he looked upon as rivals, to be put to death. The third persecution was under Trajan, in Bithynia, in 116. Many were punished as apostates from the state religion, although a report from the younger Pliny bore a good testimony to their character. The fourth persecution, in 118, under Hadrian, did not proceed from the government, but the Christians greatly suffered in many places, especially in Asia Minor from riots of the mob. The fifth persecution, under Marcus Aurelius, in 177, affected especially the congregations of Lyons and Vienne, in Gaul, and the churches of Asia Minor. Among the martyrs was Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna.

From the sixth persecution, under Septimius Severus, in 202, especially the Christians of Egypt and Asia Minor had to suffer. The seventh persecution, under Maximin, in 235, was properly directed only against the bishops and leaders of the congregations, but the Christians suffered greatly during his reign from the mob, especially in Cappadocia, because earthquakes and other calamities of that kind were laid to their charge. Very severe and extensive was the ninth persecution, under the emperor Decius (249-251), who was alarmed at the rapid increase of the Christian population. In consequence of the severity of the persecution, many Christians apostatized and many congregations were destroyed. The ninth persecution, under Valerian, in 257 and 258, was also very cruel. He ordered bishops to be exiled, prohibited the assemblies of the Christians, and declared state officers who were Christians to have forfeited their offices, and, later, also their lives. The tenth and last persecution, under Diocletian, in 303 and 304, was the severest of all. The edict of 303 ordered all the churches of the Christians to be burned, the state officers who were Christians to be declared infamous, and all the Christians to be made slaves. According to an edict of 304, all Christians were to be compelled by tortures to sacrifice to the pagan gods. With the abdication of Diocletian in 305, the era of persecutions ended (see Benkendorf, Historie der zehn Hauptverfolgungen, Leips. 1700, 8vo). Those Christians who, in some way or other, succumbed in the persecution, were called Lapsi (q.v.), of whom there were several classes, as Libellatici, Sacrificati, Thurificati, and Traditores; those who remained steadfast were called Confessores. (See Confessors).

Christianity was, however, not persecuted by all the Roman emperors, but was tolerated by some, and even favored by a few, e.g. Caracalla, Alexander Severus, and Philippus. In 306 Constantine established toleration of Christianity in the provinces of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. Conversion to Christianity was expressly permitted by another edict of Constantine in 313, and restoration of the Christian churches ordered. Even an indemnification from the public treasury was promised. Constantine, by a decree of 324, established full religious liberty for the Christian religion in the whole Roman empire, and restored to liberty those who, under Diocletian, had been enslaved. Toward the end of his reign he even issued edicts against paganism. He was baptized himself shortly before his death. (See Constantine).

Christianity during the first period of its history was not only exposed to the persecution of the emperors, but also to the literary attacks of many pagan scholars, as Lucian, Celsus, Porphyrius, Hierocles, and others, which called forth among the Christians a number of apologetic writers. (See Apologists). Dissensions and divisions were very numerous among the Christians from the earliest period of the Church. A strict line of demarcation established itself between the common faith (orthodoxy) and the secessions (heresy). As early as the apostolic age we find the Gnostics, Simonians, Nicolaites, Cerinthians; in the second century the Basilidians, Carpocratians, Valentinians, Nazareans, Ophites, Patripassians, Artemonites, Montanists, Manicheans, and others; in the third century the Monarchians, Samosatensians, Noetians, Sabellians, Novatians, etc. Most of these controversies concerned the person of Christ; some related to the creation of the world and of the spirits; others to the Lord's Supper; only a few had regard to the discipline of the Church and some other points.

The diocesan constitution gradually developed itself, the congregations in villages and smaller places seeking a connection with the bishops of the town. Of a regular metropolitan constitution, only the first beginning is found during this period, but the bishops of Rome, Alexandria, and Antioch were already regarded as the heads of very extensive ecclesiastical districts. Christian ministers assumed a distinguishing name (clerici), and a peculiar dress for divine service, and they were divided into many classes (see Bingham, Origines Ecclesiae; Planck, Gesch. der christlich- kirchlichen Gesellsckaftsverfassung, Hanov. 1803). Towards the end of this period, resort began to be had to synods and councils to settle ecclesiastical disputes. (See Councils). The form of public worship was gradually fixed in imitation of that of the Jewish synagogue, and consisted of prayer, singing, reading, and interpreting the Scriptures. Baptism was performed in the name of Jesus; the agapae (q.v.) and the Lord's Supper (q.v.) were celebrated after divine service. The sources of doctrine were the epistles of the apostles and the records of the life of Jesus (the Gospels). Some of the gospels, which are now regarded as apocryphal, were in use in some of the churches, and some importance was also attributed to ecclesiastical tradition. Church discipline was very strict, and all grave offenses were punished with exclusion (excommunication). Asceticism and monasticism found their first adherents in this period in Anthony, Paul of Thebes, and others.

II. From The Death Of Constantine The Great To Charlemagne (A.D. 337 to 800). The last attempt to suppress Christianity by force, or at least to repress its further advancement, was made by Julian the Apostate (q.v.), but it failed utterly. His successors remained Christians, and Christianity became the religion of court and state. The Church and the state began to exert a powerful and reciprocal influence upon each other. (See Church And State).

The metropolitan constitution was organized throughout the whole Church, and in connection with it the patriarchal constitution, represented by the four patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. The bishops of Rome began to claim jurisdiction over the whole Church. Councils and synods became more frequent. In addition to the provincial councils of the first period, oecumenical councils (q.v.) (of which one had been held during the first period, viz. that of Nice, A D. 325), to which all bishops of the Christian Church were invited, were held at Constantinople (381, 553), at Ephesus (431, 449), at Chalcedon (451). (See Councils).

They were occasioned by doctrinal controversies, the number of which greatly increased during this period. The doctrine of the Church on the person of Christ was attacked by the Arians, Eunomians, Aetians, Anomoeans, Adoptians, Nestorians, Eutychians, Monophysites, Jacobites, Monothelites, and other sects; that of the Trinity by the Tritheites; that of the nature of God by the Seleucians and the Anthropomorphites. The Church also rejected the views of the Antidikomarians, Bonosians, Jovinians, Collyridians, on the Virgin Mary; those of the Euchites and Priscillianists (modified Gnostico-Manichaean doctrines); those of the Mieletians and Donatists on the constitution of the Church. Monasticism was rapidly developed after the fourth century; and as the lower secular clergy were generally ignorant, the missionary work and the culture of letters were almost entirely left to the monks. The ignorance of clergy and people facilitated the introduction of many innovations and corruptions in the doctrine of the Church, such as the veneration of saints and relics. Pomp and magnificence were introduced into the celebration of divine worship, and the arts began to be used to serve ecclesiastical ends. The Latin language was retained in worship, though it was no longer understood by all the people. The changes in the ancient discipline of the Church (for which in many cases even payments of money were substituted) exerted a most disastrous influence on the Christian life. In the literature of this period, the names of Chrysostom, Augustine, Cyril, Theodoret, Isidor of Pelusium, Isidor of Hispalis (Seville), and Johannes Damascenus, stand forth most conspicuous.

III. From Charlemagne To Gregory Vii (A.D. 800 to 1073). Among the Germanic tribes, the Franks were attached most firmly to Christianity. Charlemagne in his conquests always sought to make Christianity the established religion, and his wars against the Saxons and Sclavonians were wars for the extension of Chrisianity. The degraded condition of the clergy and the Church in his states induced Charlemagne to attempt vivious reformatory measures in behalf of the Church. By the establishment of convents and cathedral schools, he sought to promote the education of the clergy. By the order the corrupt translation of the Bible was corrected, the congregational singing improved, more prominence given to the sermon in divine worship, and annual visitations of the diocese by the bishops introduced. (See Charlemagne).

While Christianity rapidly: advanced in Northern Europe, the body of the Church was divided, in consequence of the rivalry of the bishops of Rome and Constantinople, into the Western or Latin, and the Eastern or Greek Church. The two churches excommunicated each other, and a permanent union has never since been effected. The Greek Church, first enslaved by the emperors of Constantinople, and afterwards trodden down by the Turks, became petrified and stationary. In the Roman Church the rights of metropolitans and bishops were more and more curtailed, and those of the pope enlarged, especially by the pseudo-Isidorian Decretals. (See False Decretals).

Spain, England, and the other European countries gradually surrendered their ecclesiastical independence, and the pope became all-powerful in the exercise of jurisdiction as well as in doctrinal decisions. Bishops and abbots became the possessors of large property; the pope entered the ranks of secular princes, and strove to subject even the secular governments to his influence and rule. Most of the literary institutions founded by Charlemagne were suspended within half a century after his death, and the general ignorance of the clergy became so great that the bishops had to order that "every clergyman must know at least the Apostles' Creed." The theology of this period spoke little of Christ, his work and his merits; the belief in the intercession of the saints, in the efficacy of their relics, and similar points, became prominent in the mind of the Church. The pope reserved to himself the examination of the genuineness of the relics, and the beatification and canonization of holy men. In the eleventh century the rosary (q.v.) came up in England and Holland, and new festivals were introduced, especially festivals in honor of the Virgin Mary. Pilgrimages (q.v.) commenced in this period. In ecclesiastical architecture the Romanic style was developed in the tenth century. Among the doctrinal controversies, those on the Lord's Supper (q.v.) were the most important. Morality was generally at a low ebb, and there was no vice which was not prevalent among the clergy and in the monasteries, and immorality passed over from them to the people.

IV. From Gregory VII To The Reformation (1073-1517). The oppression of Christianity by the Turks called forth the crusades against the Saracens (1096-1246), in order to deliver the Holy Land. SEE Crusades

Palestine was conquered and held for a short time, and several orders of Christian knights were established there for the protection of Christianity; but towards the close of the 13th century it was reconquered by the Saracens, by whom Christianity was barely tolerated. The oppression suffered by the Greek Church led to an attempt at a new union with the Roman, which, however, was soon given up as impracticable. The power of the popes reached its climax under Gregory VII and Innocent III, but it soon began again to decline, especially through the papal schism (1378-1414), during which two papal sees existed Rome and Avignon. The popes secured the right of the investiture of the bishops and abbots, and the exemption of the clergy, and enforced throughout the Church the celibacy (q.v.) of the clergy. The Bible was less and less appealed to as the rule of faith; the fathers and tradition took its place. The pope became the sole legislator and judge in matters of faith. New doctrines and practices, such as auricular confession, transubstantiation, and indulgences, together with new festivals (e.g. Corpus Christi), were established. The Inquisition and the mendicant orders, especially the Franciscans and Dominicans, crushed out all opposition to the ruling Church. Public worship greatly degenerated. The Mass became its center; sermons became rare, and consisted mostly either in unintelligible scholastic lectures, or in comic invectives against the follies of the times. The increasing corruption among the clergy, and still more the traffic with indulgences, undermined the piety of the people. Attempts to stop the prevailing abuses were frequently made, both by individuals and by smaller and larger denominations, among which the Albigenses (q.v.), Waldenses (q.v.), and Hussites (q.v.) were prominent. At the request of the Church the secular governments proceeded against these sects, and crusades were preached for their extirpation. Most of them were extirpated; but the Waldenses in Italy, the Moravian Brethren in Germany, and the Lollards in England, survived to see and to share in the great Reformation of the 16th century.

In theological science, Scholasticism arose, a system full of acute subtleties, but entirely incapable of satisfying the religious wants of the heart. In opposition to the Scholastics (q.v.), many pious Mystics (q.v.) strove to maintain a pure Biblical Christianity, more by ignoring the antiscriptural doctrines of the Church than by openly rejecting them. In ecclesiastical architecture the Byzantine style was supplanted in France, England, Spain, and especially in Germany, by the Germanic or Gothic, which reached the highest stage of development in the 13th and 14th centuries.

V. From The Reformation Until The Present Time. The controversies called forth by Wycliffe, Huss, and other reformers of the Middle Ages, awakened in large circles the longing for a thorough reformation of the Church. The councils of Constance (q.v.) and Basle (q.v.) at first attempted to carry through this reformation, but they only diminished a few of the grossest abuses, being both unable and unwilling to remedy them thoroughly. The corruption of the Church not only continued, but certain abuses (e.g. the traffic in indulgences) became so flagrant that at the beginning of the 16th century contempt of the Church, her officers, doctrines, and ordinances, became almost general throughout Europe. When, therefore, Luther, Zwingle, and others raised the standard of a radical reformation of the Church on the basis of the Bible, millions of Christians, especially in Germany, Switzerland, Holland, England, Denmark, Sweden, Prussia, at once rallied around it. (See Reformation).

Though the Reformers did not agree on all points of doctrine, they were unanimous in claiming the Bible as The rule of faith, decidedly rejecting everything which had crept into the Church in opposition to the Biblical doctrine. The Roman Church made many unsuccessful attempts to suppress these reformatory movements, and the new order of the Jesuits (q.v.), the most powerful and influential of all monastic institutions, was instituted for this special purpose. These attempts, which led to the war of the Huguenots in France, and the Thirty Years' War in Germany, were in vain. From some countries the Roman Church was entirely excluded, while in others it had at least to grant to Protestants equal rights and toleration.

The Church saw itself also compelled to convoke a General Council, (See Trent), and to abolish at least a few of the grossest abuses. A few futile efforts were made to bring about a union with the Protestants. The doctrine of the Roman Church received in the Council of Trent its final form, yet since that period several doctrinal controversies (e.g. Jansenism [q.v.] and Quietism [q.v.] in France, and the philosophy of Hermes [q.v.] and Gunther in Germany) have required new decisions of the Papal See. The Gallican Church (q.v.) in council, with Bossuet (q.v.) at its head (1682), and a number of distinguished bishops in Germany, (See Febronius), Italy, (See Ricci), and other countries, protested against making the infallibility claimed by the popes a doctrine of the Church; yet, on the whole, the popes have been so successful in enforcing obedience to their doctrinal definitions and divisions, that in 1854 an entirely novel dogma, (See Immaculate Conception) was proclaimed by Pope Pius IX, without the sanction of a General Council. Some princes, as Joseph II of Austria, Leopold of Tuscany, and others, have attempted to restrict the absolute power claimed by the pope over clergy and people, mostly without success. Still less successful were certain attempts to establish national "Catholic" churches independent of Rome (viz. the "French Catholic Church" in 1831, the "German Catholics" in 1854). These movements were not made on the ground of the Bible and of revealed Christianity, and therefore necessarily were failures. The relation between the different states of Europe, in which the Roman Church is recognized as a state religion, and the pope, is regulated by Concordats (q.v.).

The Protestants in course of time formed a number of different denominations, among which two Main tendencies are to be distinguished, viz. the Lutheran and the Reformed Churches. The latter were subdivided into the German Reformed, Swiss Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterians, Baptist, Congregational, and other minor churches. The Church of England, as far as it identified itself with the Reformation, belongs to the class of Reformed churches; yet it retains also enough elements from the time before the Reformation to leave room for the continuance of a party which rejects altogether the Protestant character of the Church, refuses association with other Protestant denominations, and acknowledges only the churches which claim the so-called apostolical succession of bishops as valid. From the Church of England sprang the Methodists (q.v.), who discarded everything unProtestant in the mother Church, and took at once a prominent place among the Reformed denominations. In the rapidity of their extension they have surpassed all other bodies of Protestant Christians.

In a large part of Europe the Protestant churches have unfortunately allowed to the secular government an undue influence over ecclesiastical affairs an influence which has generally been used for the entire subjugation of the Church. Only by hard struggles have dissenters from state religions secured toleration. Many of them had to cross the Atlantic in order to be at liberty to worship God according to the dictates of conscience. The declaration of American independence was the first heavy blow against state-churchism; and the independence of the Church, which was now, for the first time, carried through on a large scale, worked so well, that all the European churches began to feel the influence of the new principle, and gradually to loosen, at least, the connection between Church and state. The question of a union between various Protestant bodies has been, from the beginning of the Reformation, a favorite idea of many distinguished men, though it has frequently led to an increase of parties and of controversies, especially as generally these schemes of ecclesiastical union have been attempted with the aid of the secular arm. The most important of these attempts was the establishment of the United Evangelical Church (q.v.) of Germany in 1817, through the instrumentality of Frederick William III of Prussia. In modern times the opinion has gained ground that the large number of evangelical denominations has had a beneficial rather than a disastrous influence on the advancement of Christianity, and that it would be better, instead of aiming at ecclesiastical uniformity, to form a cordial alliance of evangelical Christians of all denominations. This led to the formation of the so-called "Evangelical Alliance" (q.v.), which soon assumed grand dimensions. It has held some large assemblies, which have been called the first oecumenical councils of Protestant Christianity. The development of theology during this period has centered mostly in Germany. (See German Theology).

The struggle, after the Reformation, between Lutheranism and Calvinism, was soon followed by the more important contest between Christianity and an infidel philosophy, represented by the Deists in England, the Encyclopuedists in France, and Rationalism in Germany. The belief in Christianity was for a time undermined in a large proportion of the European population, but with the beginning of the nineteenth century a powerful reaction in favor of Christianity has set in. The influence of Christianity over the political, social, and literary life of mankind is now greater than ever before. But infidel parties have not been wanting in the nineteenth century. Among them may be named Young Germany, the Free Congregations and German Catholics, the Young Hegelians, the, Socialistic Mechanics' Associations in Switzerland and France, the Materialism in natural science, the Positivist followers of Comte, the Westminster Review and its party in England, the Mormons and Spiritualists in America. The movements of these parties have led to a new development of powerful agencies in defense of Christianity. In nearly every department of science and literature the works of former centuries have been surpassed by modern Christian writers. The various denominations vie with each other in establishing religious periodicals, which already form one of the grandest characteristics of the church history of the nineteenth century. Free associations for religious and other charitable purposes have rapidly multiplied; missionary societies, Bible, tract, and book societies have displayed a wonderful and unparalleled activity. Thus the spread of Christianity from the beginning has been like to the growth of the "grain of mustard seed;" today its branches overshadow the whole earth; the prospects of Christ's kingdom on earth are brighter than at any previous period of its history. Compare Smith, Tables of Church History (especially the column "General Characteristics"). (See Christendom); (See Church History); (See Theology).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [9]

Belief ( q. v .) that there is in Christ, as in no other, from first to last a living incarnation, a flesh and blood embodiment, for salvation of the ever-living spirit of the ever-living God and Father of man, and except that by eating His flesh and drinking His blood, that is, except by participating in His divine-human life, or except in His spirit, there is no assurance of life everlasting to any man; but perhaps it has never been defined all round with greater brevity and precision than it is by Ruskin in his "Præterita," under the impression that the time is come when one should say a firm word concerning it: "The total meaning of it," he says, "was, and is, that the God who made earth and its creatures, took, at a certain time upon the earth, the flesh and form of man; in that flesh sustained the pain and died the death of the creature He had made; rose again after death into glorious human life, and when the date of the human race is ended, will return in visible human form, and render to every mail according to his work. Christianity is the belief in, and love of, God thus manifested . Anything less than this," he adds, "the mere acceptance of the sayings of Christ, or assertion of any less than divine power in His Being, may be, for aught I know, enough for virtue, peace, and safety; but they do not make people Christians, or enable them to understand the heart of the simplest believer in the old doctrine."

References