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PREFACE

THE first edition of The Death of Christ appeared in 1902. It contained the first six of the nine chapters in this book, and its purpose was to explain, in the light of modern historical study, the place held by the death of Christ in the New Testament, and the interpretation put upon it by the apostolic writers.

In its motive, the work was as much evangelical as theological. Assuming that the New Testament presents us with what must be in some sense the norm of Christianity, the writer was convinced that the death of Christ has not in the common Christian mind the place to which its centrality in the New Testament entitles it. It gets less than its due both in ordinary preaching and in ordinary theology. It is not too much to say that there are many indications of aversion to the New Testament presentation of it, and that there are large numbers of people, and even of preachers, whose chief embarrassment in handling the New Testament is that they cannot adjust their minds to its pronouncements on this subject. They are under a constant temptation to evade or to distort what was evidently of critical importance to the first witnesses to the gospel. It was with this in mind that the writer conducted his study of the subject, and while claiming to be impartial and scientific in his treatment of New Testament documents and ideas, he nowhere affected an insensibility he did not feel. He was and remains convinced that the New Testament presents us with a view of Christ’s death which is consistent with itself, true to the whole being and relations of God and man as these have been affected by sin, and vital to Christian religion; and that on the discovery and appreciation of this — or if we prefer it so, on the rediscovery and fresh appreciation of it — the future and the power of Christianity depend. Without it we can have no renewal of Christian life and no large or deep restoration of Christian thought. It is quite true that there is a difference between religion and theology, and it may be argued (as the writer himself has argued elsewhere) that it is possible to have the same religion as the apostles without having the same theology; but the distinction is not absolute. In a religion which has at its heart a historical fact, it is impossible that the meaning of the fact should be a matter of indifference, and the whole question at issue here is the meaning of the fact that Christ died. The chapters in which the New Testament interpretation is examined have been carefully revised, but not essentially modified. A few sentences and paragraphs have been canceled and a few inserted, but in substance the work is what it was before.

The Death of Christ, when published, was reviewed from various standpoints, and in particular it led to a considerable correspondence both with acquaintances and strangers which made still clearer to the writer the mental attitude and atmosphere to which the New Testament message has to be addressed. It was with this in view that the last three chapters were written. Originally delivered as lectures to a Summer School of Theology in Aberdeen, they appeared in The Expositor in the course of 1903, and were subsequently published under the title of The Atonement and the Modern Mind. No one could be more sensible than the writer of the disproportion between this title and what it covered; it could only be justified because, such as it was, the book was a real attempt, guided mainly by the correspondence referred to, to help the mind in which we all have and move to reach a sympathetic comprehension of the central truth in the Christian religion. As a rule, names are not mentioned in these chapters, but where opinions are stated or objections given within inverted commas, they are opinions and objections which have really been expressed, and they are given in the words of their authors, whether in print or manuscript. There are no men of straw among them, constructed by the writer merely to be demolished.

The close connection of The Atonement and the Modern Mind with The Death of Christ makes them virtually one work, and it seemed desirable, for various reasons, that they should appear together. The present volume contains both. The title of the earlier has been retained for the two in combination, and the publishers have made it possible, by resetting the whole in a slightly different form, to issue the two at the original price of the first.

The character and purpose of the book have not been affected by revision. It is not a complete dogmatic study of the subject, but it contributes something to the preliminaries of such a study. It is governed as much by interest in preaching as by interest in theology, and the writer still hopes that it may do something to make evangelists theologians and theologians evangelists.

The full table of contents will enable the reader to dispense with an index.

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