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The Cradle of the Christ A Study in Primitive Christianity   By:

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The literary intention of this volume is sufficiently declared in the opening paragraph, and need not be foreshadowed in a preface; but as the author's deeper motive may be called in question, he takes the liberty to say a word or two in more particular explanation. The thought has occurred to him on reading over what he has written, as a casual reader might, that, in his solicitude to make his positions perfectly clear, and to state his points concisely, he may have laid himself open to the charge of carrying on a controversy under the pretence of explaining a literature. Such a reproach, his heart tells him, would be undeserved. He disclaims all purpose and desire to weaken the moral supports of any form of religion; as little purpose or desire to undermine Christianity, as to revive Judaism. It is his honest belief that no genuine interests of religion are compromised by scientific or literary studies; that religion is independent of history, that Christianity is independent of the New Testament. He is cordially persuaded that the admission of every one of his conclusions would leave the institutions of the church precisely, in every spiritual respect, as they are; and in thus declaring he has no mental reserve, no misty philosophical meaning that preserves expressions while destroying ideas; he uses candid, intelligible speech. The lily's perfect charm suffers no abatement from the chemist's analysis of the slime into which it strikes its slender root; the grape of the Johannisberg vineyards is no less luscious from the fact that the soil has been subjected to the microscope; the fine qualities of the human being, man or woman, are the same on any theory, the bible theory of the perfect Adam, or Darwin's of the anthropoid ape. The hero is hero still, and the saint saint, whatever his ancestry. We reject the inference of writers like Godfrey Higgins, Thomas Inman, and Jules Soury, who would persuade us that Christianity must be a form of nature worship, because nature worship was a large constituent element in the faiths from which it sprung; why should we not reject the inference of those who would persuade us that Christianity is doomed because the four gospels are pronounced ungenuine? Christianity is a historical fact; an institution; it stands upon its merits, and must justify its merits by its performances; first demonstrating its power, afterward pressing its claim; vindicating its title to exist by its capacity to meet the actual conditions of existence, and then asking respect the ground of good service. The church that arrogates for itself the right to control the spiritual concerns of the modern world must not plead in justification of its pretension that it satisfied the requirements of devout people of another hemisphere, two thousand years ago. The religion that fails to represent the religious sentiments of living men will not support itself by demonstrating the genuineness of the New Testament, the supernatural birth of Jesus, or the inspiration of Paul. Other questions than these are asked now. When a serious man wishes to know what Christianity has to say in regard to the position of woman in modern society, a quotation from a letter to the christians in the Greek city of Corinth, is not a satisfactory reply. Christianity must prove its adaptation to the hour that now is; its adaptation to days gone by, is not to the purpose.

The church of Rome had a glimpse of this, and revealed it when it took the ground that the New Testament did not contain the whole revelation; that the source of inspiration lay behind that, used that as one of its manifestations, and constantly supplied new suggestions as they were needed... Continue reading book >>

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