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More than six hundred years ago were laid the foundations of the Cologne Cathedral. Only a small portion of the massive structure was ready for use in the thirteenth century. Delayed by poverty and war and national discord, the sublime idea of the unknown architect has had a slow materialization. But when, after six long cycles of a hundred years, the work was completed amid the rejoicings of Germany, it was in accord with the original plan of that marvellous mind, who from another sphere it may be, had patiently watched the slow flowering into stone of his lofty conceptions. Upon a slight eminence made of the débris of old Roman buildings that stood there in the times of the Cæsars, the massive foundations were planted forty and sixty feet in depth. This was to be no frail and yielding fabric, but one wherein should be illustrated, so far as man can do it, the security and eternity of God Himself. It was no flimsy and faltering trust in the Unseen which could undertake, and after disheartening delays, at last complete such a monument of Christian Faith. It wearies the mind merely to contemplate the patient toil which must be continued for a decade, just to add a few more string-courses to this mighty anthem in stone. Great cities are burned and destroyed and rebuilded with ampler magnificence, but the hammers are still smiting and the chisels are still ringing in the workshops of Cologne, where generations of artisans are educated into artists, that the work may go on. The quarries of Drachenfels and Caen yield their treasures of rock, to be floated down the Rhine or carried by means which to the old Archbishops would have seemed almost supernatural ; dynasties rise and fall, new continents are discovered, new faiths spring up to threaten the old; the soldiers of Napoleon desecrate the unfinished building ; a new Germany comes to life and demands that the old Gothic wonder be finished; the needle guns of Sédan complete the restoration of German unity ; French
are molten into a chime of bells for the gigantic towers; upward, upward grow the blossoming and leafy stones till the last is laid, the scaffoldings are taken down, the broken sculptures are replaced, the rubbish is removed and the princes and kings of the German Fatherland join in solemn and sublime Te Deums in praise of Him, whose only is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory.
Have we not here a parable in history of the Christian Rov. elation, of its majestic foundation in the Old Testament and of its immovable basis also on the great truths of natural religion; of the slow progress and unfolding of the Kingdom
of God through Hebrew history and of its glorious consummation in the commonwealth which Jesus founded and sent forward on its march through the centuries? Who shall adequately describe the majesty and grace of the Gothic Cathedral by the Rhine ? It almost requires an education to get any real conception of it. It seems like a product of nature, something that grew of itself, it is so light and upspringing, so lovely and delicate in proportion and detail. But when you ascend, and walk in and out among those graceful flying buttresses and beautifully sculptured pinnacles, they appear as solid and massive as mountains.
Standing before the double western port and looking upward five hundred and twenty-five feet, till your eyes rest upon the topmost stone, the finials which crown the spires, they seem to you like leafy and cruciform ornaments, which you could have placed there with your own hand; but each one of those finials when put in position had the weight of a hundred thousand pounds. . As you examine and study the remoter parts of this miracle in stone, you are fascinated by the faithfulness which wrought out the hidden ornamentation, with the same pious care that delights you in the multitudinous sculptures on which the passer-by may place his hand. And when at last you venture within and walk the spacious floors flooded with rainbow light from the windows which are the work of old-time artists, or the recent splendid gifts of Bavarian King, or Prussian Crown Prince or Imperial Kaiser, all of whom have passed into the unseen world; how wondrous are these lofty vaults toward which instinctively and perpetually the eyes are upturned ! How solemn the deepening aisles, how beautiful the massive, flowering, clustering columns, a forest of stone recalling the primeval temples of humanity, the leafy fanes within which Druid priests and Gothic savages may have offered their worship to Odin, Frija, Thor. And that nothing may be lacking to inspire and teach and uplift, how wondrously in elaborate sculpture within and without, and how splendidly in gorgeous panes, stained with dyes that are "precious as the blood of kings," is pictured and unfolded the story of man's redemption. Patriarchs, prophets, missionaries, martyrs, angels and the Man Divine, pass before us in sublime procession; the one building epitomizing the life of humanity, and lifting our thoughts above man's fall and above his present greatness, to that future in which the redeemed, gathered in the temple of God's own building, shall share the glory of Him in whose name this Cathedral rises like a Psalm to heaven.
And so Christianity, is a structure to which all beauty belongs, as well as all massiveness ; a structure crowned with the Cross and adorned within and without with images of sainthood, and blazonries of unmatched historic devotion and achievement. It is a sacred edifice which shelters and illustrates the chief historic development of mankind. It is itself the story of man's redemption, through divine mercy, and it alone points, with gure promise, to the house not built with hands, eternal in the heavens.
No other religion could be symbolized by the Cologne Cathedral. Hinduism might find its symbol in some rock-hewn temple of Hindustan, finished a thousand years ago, and now, as I hear Indian scholars saying, fast falling into decay; and Buddhism may be likened to a painted and tiled pagoda ; and Islâm to some aspiring crescent-crowned and minaretted mosque ; but Christianity is the only historic structure whereon is written the whole life of humanity; the only temple of faith which symbolizes the story of man’s redemption; the only house of worship which shelters the peace and the trust, and the hope which are furnished by a divinely authenticated Revelation; the only sacred edifice crowned by the Cross and resplendent with the light that streams from the New Jerusalem. The proposition which I offer in this closing lecture is this, that Christianity alone is a religion of historic facts, a system of faith built not upon a philosophy, or merely the ethical teaching of some saintly founder, but resting on what is surer and more abiding, a historic basis which has remained unshaken for nineteen hundred years. That foundation, that history, is
. the very life of the Christian religion, a history centering in a supernatural person who sums up the truths and vital forces of Christianity. Any one familiar with certain forms of Oriental thought will realize that much which has been set forth in the preceding lectures might be acknowledged and accepted without changing the mental and spiritual attitude of the Eastern thinker. He would say and he is learning to say, "My faith is broad enough to accept truth from every source," and so we find that Christian ideas are being taken up and swallowed by elastic and omnivorous systems. Therefore, to be true to the whole truth which Christian believers from the beginning have set forth, it must be shown that Christianity is fitted to become a world-wide faith, demanding not the giving up of any spiritual truth, but the renouncing of other schemes as methods of salvation, because it and it alone is a religion of supernatural historic facts; the supernatural history which it has proclaimed from the first as true history. The believer in some other religion may remain outwardly loyal to it, and accept the Fatherhood of God, the humanities of Jesus, the ethics of the New Testament, except where they interfere with artificial social distinctions, the Christian doctrine of immortality, and I know not what besides ; but let him accept the incarnation of God in the Jesus of the Gospels as an actual historic occurrence, let him believe that Christ came from Heaven to earth as the culmination of God's previous revelations of Himself to men, let him believe the supernatural signs which accompanied the ministry of Christ as actual events, and, if he follows his convictions, Christ Himself will be accepted as the divine, authoritative final Teacher and only Saviour of the race. Therefore it is supremely important in the present lecture, to show that Christianity alone is a religion centering in such historic facts as are contained in the New Testament. It is, also, a faith set in the midst of a great history, reaching back through prophets, sages, kings, patriarchs towards the beginning of recorded annals. It is a religion inwrought with the changing and advancing life of the most wonderful of peoples. It is the historic flower of Judaism. “The revelation recorded in the Bible is a jewel which God has given to us in a setting of human history. The love of God to His people now, is a continuation of that which He showed to our fathers . To deny that Christianity can ultimately be traced back to such acts of revelation, taking place at a definite time in a definite cycle, involves in the last resort a denial that there is any true religion at all, or that religion is anything more than a vague subjective feeling.” “Revelation itself has become a force in human conduct only by first becoming a factor in human history.”
But, beyond these general considerations which are true and important, it is essential that we see that Christianity centers in the character, person, teachings, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The facts of the Gospels, truly interpreted, make the Gospel, the divine evangel which we believe is giving life to the world. The New Testament history is the life of the Christian religion, and it is a history embodied in the person who sums up the truths and vital forces of Christianity. If Christ, as revealed in the Gospels, is a historic delusion or fabrication, then our faith is vain, and we have believed a lying legend, or a delusive myth. If the historic foundations are gone, then the Christianity of the future will no more resemble the Christianity of the past,
than a shattered church whose underlying basis has sunk into quicksands, and whose walls are crumbling, resembles the Cathedral of Cologne. Take away the Gospel history, and our divine religion becomes only a scheme of human devising or a system of morals mingling with other schemes and systems, and losing all distinctive, commanding, victorious power.
In the preceding lectures we have been brought face to face with most commanding facts. We have found one religion and one only, presenting the aspects of a vigorous faith in all lands and among all races. We have found the Christian religion claiming a supernatural origin, and preaching the supernatural Christ, working such effects in individual and national regeneration as to add strength to its claims. We have found a unique phenomenon in the Christian Bible, absolutely the only universal Book, unified by its doctrine of the kingdom of God, and by its disclosure of the purposes of Redemption. We have found it a volume speaking with strong clear words to the heart of every spiritual need, and adapting itself as no other Book does, both by its contents and its form, to the mental and moral peculiarities of all races. We have also seen in the Christian doctrine of God as one, as spiritual, omnipresent, holy, merciful, a God revealed through His Son as the Redeemer of the world, we have found in this Christian doctrine of the Supreme Being, an adequate basis for a Universal Religion. We have found that Christianity presents in the Christ the Universal Man and the only Saviour. We have seen in it the completion and fulfillment of all the scattered and fragmentary ideals, hopes and longings of the nations. And thus we have gained the right vantage ground from which to survey the definite claim which Christianity has always made that its record of supernaturalism is historically true. From a broad survey of humanity, we have, I hope in some degree, become convinced that man needs redemption, and that we can look nowhere else, except to the Christian religion, for the satisfaction of his profoundest spiritual needs. I have endeavored to make it reasonable to believe, that if God purposed to set a supernatural, authoritative seal on one religion as designed for all the world, it can only be the Christian ; on any book, it can only be the Bible; on any one person it can only be Jesus Christ; on any one doctrine concerning Himself it can only be on the radiant matchless elements of Christian Theism.
Christianity is the only religion now existing among men,