What is Christianity?
This question refers to a matter of fact. I do not ask whether the Christian religion is true, but only, What is the Christian religion? What is that religion which has existed for eighteen centuries; which is professed by Christendom; and which has been more precious than life itself to millions who have died in its faith, and is so still to millions who possess it as their peace and joy?
But how are we to obtain a satisfactory reply to this question? Are we to examine the opinions of all the various “churches,” “sects,” or “bodies,” professing Christianity, in order to determine what it is they profess? If we adopted such a process of investigation as this, I believe we would reach, by a longer road, the very same point which may be reached by a shorter and more satisfactory process.
For I suppose it will be admitted that the Christian religion is what Jesus Christ and His apostles taught, and that we may rely upon the information conveyed to us in the New Testament as to the sum and substance of that teaching.
I do not even insist, as essential to my argument, upon the inspiration of Scripture, according to any theory whatever of that doctrine; but assume only that we have in the New Testament a true account of the teaching of Jesus Christ and His apostles, and that we are able, therefore, to ascertain from its pages what their Christianity was as an historical fact, with as much certainty, surely, as we can learn from the Koran what Mohammedanism was as taught by Mohammed, or from any work of philosophy what were the opinions of its author.
Now, if we read the New Testament with ordinary attention, we must, I think, be struck by one feature which is repeated in almost every page, and is manifestly the all-pervading spirit and life of its teaching,—that is, the peculiar place which Christ occupies in relation to all other persons mentioned there. This person, Jesus Christ, whoever He was, stands out prominently before every other teacher of Christian truth. The apostles speak of Him, point to Him, plead for Him, labour for Him. He is not the greatest Teacher merely among themselves, but the only Teacher, and they but His scholars, who glory in having nothing of their own to impart, and in being ministers, “stewards,” only of what they have received from Him their Master. The subject of all their preaching is this Person—not a system of morality, or doctrines, or truths, apart from, but embodied in Him who was the Truth and the Life—Jesus Christ. The text of all their teaching is, “God forbid that we should know anything among you save Jesus Christ.” In order to see this, take up any epistle, and mark how often the name of Jesus Christ appears as the ever-present thought, the centre of every idea.