To take a single example, how has Christ really proved himself to be the one great source of faith in immortality, just as he is the great source of our idea of God and of our faith in God? What, indeed, in this modern day is the ground of the hope of immortality for most of those who hold it vitally and strongly? In simple truth it would seem that the answer to this last question must be that the primary ground of our hope is in Christ, not in philosophy, not in science, not in any other religion. These may or may not seem corroborative. But, in any case, we do not build primarily upon them. They are simply not able to give that certain conviction for which we seek.

Harnack's statement upon this point can hardly be doubted: "Whatever may have happened at the grave [of Christ] and in the matter of the appearances, one thing is certain: This grave was the birthplace of the indestructible belief that death is vanquished, that there is a life eternal. It is useless to cite Plato; it is useless to point to the Persian religion, and the ideas and literature of later Judaism. All that would have perished and has perished; but the certainty of the resurrection and of a life eternal which is bound up with the grave in Joseph's garden has not perished, and on the conviction that Jesus lives we still base those hopes of citizenship in an Eternal City which make our earthly life worth living and tolerable. 'He delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage,' as the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews confesses. That is the point. And although there be exceptions to its sway, wherever, despite all the weight of nature, there is a strong faith in the infinite value of the soul; wherever death has lost its terrors; wherever the sufferings of the present are measured against a future of glory, this feeling of life is bound up with the conviction that Jesus Christ has passed through death, that God has awakened him and raised him to life and glory."[1]

If in fact, then, the great ground of our faith in immortality is the personality of Christ, let us ask further, Why is it Christ? Just how is it that our faith in immortality builds so directly upon him? Not because Christ has much to say about heavenly rewards; not because of much direct teaching; though giving, I think, straightforward assurance, he has, in fact, done little to satisfy our insatiate curiosity here. Not primarily, either, because of the resurrection evidence, however we may estimate that. For myself, for reasons into which I need not here go, I think there are more difficulties in setting aside the plain New Testament belief in the objective resurrection of Christ than most of our critics seem to realize. I have small faith in a gospel emptied of facts. And I share here Professor Mathews' expressed conviction of the genuine religious value of the historical fact of the resurrection.[2] But, at the same time, I cannot doubt that we cannot and do not build our faith in immortality primarily upon the historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus, even where we are able fully to accept it. We do not believe in Christ's Lordship over life and death because we believe in the historical evidence for his resurrection. Rather this evidence has with us the weight it does, because we are already convinced of his Lordship in the moral and spiritual world.

Our faith in immortality, that is, is built directly upon Christ, just because of the spirit of his life. He seems himself to live in the very atmosphere of the assurance of immortality, in the atmosphere of eternity. He expects it. He cannot be disappointed, we feel. But, more than that, eternity fits into that most perfect life of trust and love. It is harmonious with it. His life seems to us to have an eternal quality. We cannot think of it as of merely temporary significance. It must abide.

And so Harnack seems justified in continuing: "What else can we believe but that the earliest disciples also found the ultimate foundation of their faith in the living Lord to be the strength which had gone out from him? It was a life never to be destroyed which they felt to be going out from him; only for a brief span of time could his death stagger them; the strength of the Lord prevailed over everything; God did not give him over to death; he lives as the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. It is not by any speculative ideas of philosophy but by the vision of Jesus' life and death and by the feeling of his imperishable union with God that mankind, so far as it believes in these things, has attained to that certainty of eternal life for which it was meant, and which it dimly discerns—eternal life in time and beyond time.

This feeling first established faith in the value of personal life. But of every attempt to demonstrate the certainty of 'immortality' by logical process, we may say in the words of the poet:

 'Believe and venture: as for pledges,
     The gods give none.'

Belief in the living Lord and in a life eternal is the act of the freedom which is born of God."[3]

To like import, Matheson speaks of "the impossible consequences of a denied future." "If there be no immortality, Christ is dead—the purest, the fairest, the loveliest life that ever breathed has become less than the napkin, less than the grave-clothes, less than the sepulchre.' It is to Paul an impossible consequence. He cannot think of Christ as dead. He says, 'If Christ be dead, death must be a delusion.' Did you never feel this experience? You parted with a friend an hour ago, and the next hour you heard that he was dead; you said 'Impossible!' And when it was confirmed, you said again 'Impossible! if he be dead, then death is not to die. I must have misnamed it, misread it, mistaken the inscription on its doorway. Death henceforth is a gate of life to me.'

"Son of Man, whenever I doubt of life, I think of Thee. Nothing is so impossible as that Thou shouldst be dead. I can imagine the hills to dissolve in vapor, and the stars to melt in smoke, and the rivers to empty themselves in sheer exhaustion; but I feel no limit in Thee. Thou never growest old to me. Last century is old, last year is old, last season is an obsolete fashion; but Thou art not obsolete. Thou art abreast of all the centuries, nay, Thou goest before them like the star. I have never come up with Thee, modern as I am. Thy picture is at home in every land. A thousand have fallen at its side, but it has kept its bloom; old Jerusalem, old Rome, new Rome—it has been young amid them all. Therefore, when oppressed by the sight of death, I shall turn to Thee. I shall see my immortality in Thee. I shall read the possibilities of my soul in Thee. I shall measure the promise of my manhood by Thee. I shall comfort myself by the impossible conclusion 'If there be no immortality, Christ is dead.'"

We build, then, first of all and chiefly, upon the essential spirit of Christ's own life. And we find this sense of the immediate perception of the eternal quality of the life of Christ confirming our faith in our own immortality, because this undeniable quality in his life means that he is the supreme artist in living, and that we have reason, therefore, to trust his moral and spiritual sanity and insight, both for himself and for others.

We remind ourselves, besides, of his express assurance. The eschatological note in the teaching of Jesus, whether urged as a reproach or as praise, seems, in any case, unmistakable. It is hard to see how one can question that the teaching of Jesus looks to a future life for his disciples as well as for himself. And this express assurance, coming from such a personality as Christ's, deservedly carries the greatest weight.

And, when one turns to the different elements in the teaching of Jesus, he not only finds nothing inharmonious with this conviction of the immortal life, but every bit of the rest of the teaching seems rather to demand it. His one great central message of God as Father requires it. For that would seem first of all to mean that our life, as children of God, is in him and must deepen as our personal relation to him deepens. Quite surely, as Münsterberg contends, one does not care for mere extension in space as dead space, nor for senseless extension in time, like changeless stones. But that seems to me a rather barren concession, and not at all to settle the question of the value of a continued, steadily deepening, ever more and more significant personal relation to God and to other persons. Has the life so far been of value? Then I am quite unable to understand how it can be thought that its continuance can mean nothing.

What is, indeed, the meaning of the eternal God as Father, if there are no abiding children? Is it not right into this depth that Christ looks, when he says, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living"? The Father cannot mock his children, and cannot disappoint them. His own life is the eternal life, and it is the very center of Christ's teaching that God opens the sharing of exactly that life to all his children.

And, again, is it not of the essence of Christ's message as a gospel that it is tidings of the eternal, that it is assurance of the abiding, as over against the temporal and passing? "He that doeth the will of God abideth forever." Is Christ's message not good news, just for the reason that it opens a personal relation to the eternal God, and that man's life, therefore, is knit up with the very life of the Eternal?

Christ's ethical insistence, moreover, his appeal to the individual sense of responsibility and accountability, his summing up of the law and of all religion and of all life in love—what is all this but just so much repeated emphasis on the essential significance of the individual personality, without which none of these things are possible? What does character itself mean, else? And how can one assert the eternal nature of the ethical, without at the same time asserting the enduring existence of individual persons?

How closely our faith in immortality is linked with the ethical, may be seen in the fact that the immortal hope is likely to go up or down in us with our own moral state. When our life is most surely of the quality that ought to endure, we find it easier to believe in immortality. And it is exactly through Christ, it should be noted, that we are chiefly and most surely brought on into character and into belief in it. Thus, just because Christ has not only within himself a character which has the quality of the eternal, and a teaching which implies at every point the immortal life, but because he is himself the one supreme inspirer to character, is our faith in immortality connected directly with Christ.

Christ's doctrine of unlimited self-sacrifice is another element of his teaching which implies most assuredly the abiding value of men. For there is simply no way of rationally justifying either the prodigal pouring out of his own life, or that which he demands from others, except upon the assumption of the abiding and inestimable value of men as children of God, as beings who can look forward to a life to whose growth in breadth and significance no limits can be put.

Everywhere, that is, in Christ's teaching one strikes the eternal note, that means nothing except as an appeal to an abiding personality. What meaning can it have for men, and what meaning in harmony with the teaching of Christ, that some impersonal outcome is left or lost in the Infinite? Who cares, whether God or man? The only essential significance of life we know lies in personal relations. What could be the will result, the character result, apart from continuing individual personality in the sense of a genuine self-consciousness and of individual initiative?

The real ground, thus, of faith in immortality is Christ himself, his character, his teaching, his death. Our faith does not primarily depend on what we can persuade ourselves to believe about the resurrection and its evidence, significant as I believe that to be. Quite independently of that, we feel forced to believe that Christ has the power of the endless life in him, in any case; and this way of getting at it is open to all, and means life and the assurance of a direct relation with the living God. There is, thus, a very real sense in which we are able, through the majesty of the inner spirit of Christ himself, as revealed in the entire sweep of his life and verified in present experience, to cut under all questions of merely historical criticism, that can reasonably be regarded as at all open, or of philosophical speculation, and to reach an assurance grounded as deeply as assurance can be grounded, in the strength of our own rational and ethical convictions as we face the fact of Christ. Is faith in immortality an outworn belief? If so, how does it come to be bound up so indissolubly with the transcendent living, and the transcendent moral and spiritual insight of Christ?

So Harnack can say:[4] "I admit that if historical research had proved that he was an apocalyptic enthusiast or visionary, whose image and utterances were advanced to the level of pure aim and lofty thought only by the refining influence of later times, it would be another matter. But who has proved that, and who could prove it? For besides the four written Gospels, we possess a fifth, unwritten; and in many respects its voice is clearer and more effective than those of the other four—I mean the united testimony of the first Christian community. It enables us to gather what was the prevailing impression made by this personality, and in what sense his disciples understood his words and the testimony which he gave of himself. It is true that his clothes—the outward form of his doctrine—were part of the heritage; but the great and simple truths which he came to preach, the personal sacrifice which he made, and his victory in death, were what formed the new life of his community; and when the apostle Paul with divine power described this life as a life in the Spirit, and again as a life in love, he was only giving back the light which had dawned upon him in and through Jesus Christ his Lord. This is a simple matter of fact, which no historical criticism can in any way alter. All that it can do is to place it in a clearer light, and so increase our reverence for the divinity which was revealed in radiance in a Son of Abraham, amid the wreck and refuse of a narrow world. Let the plain Bible-reader continue to read his Gospels as he has hitherto read them; for in the end the critic cannot read them otherwise. What the one regards as their true gist and meaning, the other must acknowledge to be such. But the facts, the facts! I do not know how there can be a greater fact than the one which I have just been describing. By the side of it, what can any historical detail signify?"

Harnack thus suggests that, standing upon a broad basis of secure historical fact, one may find the personality of Christ continually verifying itself to him anew, through its thoroughgoing consistency with our deepest rational and ethical convictions. That personality "finds" us more surely than any other fact of the world; fits, as does no other, the highest and worthiest in us. Greater proof than this it is hard to ask, or to give.

In Harnack's words, once more:[5] "Eighteen hundred years separate us from this history; but if we seriously ask ourselves what it is that has given us the courage to believe that in the history of the world God prevails, not only by moral and intellectual forces, but by His presence in the midst of it; if we ask what it is that leads us to believe in an eternal life—our answer is, that we make bold to believe it in reliance upon Christ. Jesus lives, and with him I live also. He is the firstborn among many brothers; he is our surety for the reality of a future world. So it is, then, that God speaks to us through him. It was testified of Christ that he was the Way, the Truth, and the Life; as such he is still revealed to our inmost feeling, and therein consists his presence to us. As surely as everything depends on the soul finding God and becoming one with Him, so surely is he the true Saviour, Guide, and Lord who leads the soul to God."

It is by some such road as this, without ignoring in any way the value of corroborative lines of reasoning, that the man of the simple Christian life, who is neither historical and literary critic, or scientist, or philosopher, may find his way, by a road genuinely rational and genuinely ethical, into the very presence of God, and into the assurance of the greatest facts and doctrines of the spiritual life. This road is not a way to be travelled only by the ingenious reasoner; many a simple and unlearned soul has trod it confidently, even though unconsciously. It has been for him, as it must ultimately be for us all, not so much a matter of subtle inference, as of immediate and direct spiritual perception. He has found in Christ his Lord so great a fact, that all else that is much worth while is given him in Christ. And his argument, if he has one, is the very simple one of Paul, "How shall He not also with him freely give us all things?"

[1] What is Christianity? p. 162.

[2] See his very suggestive Chapter III, in The Church and the Changing Order, pp. 47 ff.

[3] Op. at. p. 163.

[4] Christianity and History, pp. 56-59.

[5] Op. at. pp. 48-49.