Chapter 1 - His Personality
Chapter 2 - His Attitude
Chapter 3 - His Teachings About Man
Chapter 4 - His Teachings About Wealth
Chapter 5 - The Apostles and Their Failure
Chapter 6 - The Source of Power
Chapter 7 - Attaining Cosmic Consciousness
Chapter 8 - Demonstration and Attainment
HERE we cannot stay. Our very existence demands that we go forward or backward. Life is not static. Change and movement are in the picture for all of us. Whether for better or for worse, move we must. Today we are moving into that next great forward step from self-consciousness into cosmic- or God-consciousness. We are beginning to understand that we must lose ourselves, lose our egocentric occupation, throw wide the bars, give our lives away, and get into a higher consciousness where we know that none of us can live without the others, none can be completely happy and safe unless all are happy and safe.
In our world, man has had freedom of choice from the earliest time. He chose his path in the beginning, and if his first choice was stupid, there were new opportunities coming along for him to better his condition. Good or bad, wise or unwise, he has made his choices. If some super-auditor could produce a tally sheet of man's decisions over the ages, we wonder how the two columns would compare. Which influence has been the stronger, constructive or destructive, good or bad? We wonder where our freedom has been leading us, for now we come up against what seems to be the grave issue of survival in the atomic age.
Today the choice before us is a definite and a vital one. We see it and recognize it. It is not lurking in the shadows, like a thief in the night waiting to surprise us; it is not out of sight over the horizon like a distant tornado which we need not fear. No, the issue today is clear and ominous. If we use atomic fission in the world of force, we face doom. We are compelled this time really to look at the two ways which Jesus told us about, the way of Caesar which is the way of violence and force, and the way of the Kingdom of God, which is the way of co-operation, compassion and fellowship. If we think thoughts of Caesar's world we give our allegiance to Caesar; but if we think the thoughts of Jesus, our allegiance is to the Highest Power for good.
We have our dream, every man's dream for a more abundant life. And we dare not make a stupid choice this time. Our decision will have farther-reaching consequences than anyone can estimate. Never in history has man been faced with anything comparable to it. Our great opportunity lies in choosing the way of compassion and love, the Kingdom of God way. Let us take hold of our dream for a more abundant life, fall on our knees with it, and commit ourselves to its fulfillment.
Man always has the choice. This is the free will that God gives him. And this free will is one of the most magnificent of God's gifts. One may ask, If God wants His children to be happy, healthy and peace- loving, why does He allow us to have feelings of depression, weakness, hatred and jealousy?
The answer is that we are not puppets. We are not little chessmen on a board, moved by some great power that is pushing us around. None of us likes to be pushed around. We can, for the most part, choose to do or be whatever we wish to. This is a magnificent freedom that God has given us. It puts tremendous power at our disposal. What wonderful results we see when we use it constructively! But we can use this power in reverse, and when we do so we pay. The satisfaction we anticipate turns to ashes in our mouth.
We would retain and respect the freedom that God has given us, even though we are aware that within it lies the possibility of both good and evil. We may be comforted by the knowledge that the freedom we may have spoiled by misuse can again be reversed by His love and be reborn in us the moment we give our lives and wills completely into His keeping. And so we seek the path of discipline not because we must, but because we want to. We want the best. We do it because it is wise; it is the way to the complete and abundant life we all desire. But the choice is voluntary.
Today religion is not so often saying "You must" and "You ought," since it is learning a better way to put it. Today religion is saying to us, "This is the way to find wholeness and happiness and fulfillment. The other way costs too much and it does not give you anything of value." This is the best use of free choice. It invites cooperation by making the better way seem reasonable, sensible and desirable. It makes possible a wholehearted decision to seek and follow the higher road. And it helps in achieving a singleness of purpose and an unchanging vision of a more perfect realm as our goal.
Our dream, through decision and preparation, can turn into a great and rewarding adventure. But how important is this singleness of purpose! Indifference, uncertainty, wavering between beliefs, between ideals, between goals, will weaken or nullify our hope of achievement. We cannot ride two horses when they are not going up the same road. Remember, there is no pretense in the soul. If we are to have the fullness of the power of prayer, if we are to know the heights of spiritual attainment, we must be absolutely true. We must live outwardly everything that we believe, and we must be careful that our lips do not say those things which we are not ready to live. We must be completely and wholly coordinated. That which we believe deep down within us will shout itself from the housetops. We deceive ourselves when we feel we can hide it. In the last analysis everything is known. When we are true to ourselves, "It follows as the night the day, that we can not then be false to any man."
The decision to embark upon this adventure to seek a more abundant life concerns ourselves first of all. So it is right that we should stop a moment and examine our motives. Why do we seek the abundant life? What do we mean by "abundant"? Obviously, the standard by which we weigh our answers to such questions is the standard of unselfishness. Are we self-seeking in our planning? "He that seeks to save his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it." said Jesus. So, in this glorious adventure we dare not be self-seeking. The world has long enough followed the road of cunning planning for selfish ends. Man has tried that sort of thing too long. W hat has it brought him?
Never before were these words of Jesus more true: "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Our mad scramble for material things, the desperate struggle for power supremacy among nations, our dependence upon intellectual rather than spiritual values, all have tended to push God farther and farther into the background. As a result, we have lost our sense of direction, and with storm clouds gathering, we know not whither to flee. At a moment like this, our worldly achievements are as nought compared with the peace we yearn for. We want to find our way again, and we want it not only for ourselves, but for the whole human race. Our soul's most sincere desire is that mankind everywhere will open its heart to be filled with compassion and love and goodwill toward men and toward God! Here, then, is our answer. This project is not for self-seekers. It is to be undertaken only by those visualizing a far more sublime achievement.
Our adventure will take us out over uncharted seas. It will put us on paths with which we have little or no acquaintance. There will be times when we shall wonder whether to go on or turn back. But God's promises are still good, and we shall not give up. It is His strength on which we shall be relying. Our faith will grow stronger as we acknowledge our own weakness and give over to Him the control, the management of every detail. If we let Him have His way, we shall find that we are being guided by the Holy Spirit into truths which will later, perhaps much later, become accepted as though men had always known them. These new, strange, fresh truths, full of dynamic power, might cause us, as mere human beings, to be afraid. But we shall be wearing the armor of God, our decision made, we shall fare forth with Him in faith.
St. Augustine said, "Faith is to believe what we do not see; and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe." We believe that faith is an attribute common to both science and religion. Outwardly the scientist's faith and the churchman's faith may not look alike at first glance. But there is much in common. The scientist and the religionist or mystic are both reaching out for something on which to pin their faith. In the lives and dreams of each of these men there are great areas uncharted and unexplored inviting them to adventure and discovery. In these great new areas both men know there is something deep, unchanging, unvarying. They both want to contact this Absolute, for there, they both know, they can pin their faith. There lies the answer to Man's problems. There, awaiting conquest by faith, rests the secret of fulfillment and perfection. These men may not both call this Absolute Power by the name of God, but it is God just the same. They both pin everything they have upon the knowledge of the laws of the universe as they see them. They both know these laws will not fail them.
We are studying the teachings of the world of physical science in connection with the study of spiritual values, for our unique purpose is to build a bridge between physical science and religious teaching. We want to see an agreement, a mutual tolerance, in that area where the intangible values cannot be measured by scale and test tube. And this is coming about even now. The physical scientists are supporting religion by their acknowledgment of powers beyond their explanation, and of the need of a higher reference than materialism in our complex life. And religion is accepting with a more open mind all of God's gifts, not fearing more knowledge but welcoming it as a part of His unfolding plan.
It is like two men who start off together, both of them intent upon climbing the unsealed Mountain of the Unknown. They soon disagree about the route. Each believes he knows the only way leading to the top, and so they part company. Years later they come face to face on a convergence of their paths. They greet each other in amazement, and compare notes on their journeys so far. They feel a new respect for each other. And then, realizing that they have gone only part of the way to the top, with the stiffer climb still ahead, they come to a new agreement. They will no longer ignore each other's beliefs, each other's leadings. They will keep in touch, and lend a helping hand when necessary.
In spite of grave danger today, the world is ready for a great forward step. That step can be taken if man can let go of the willful self sufficiently to be lifted up into that next evolutionary pattern that lies before him. Our faith, our lives, will then be geared to higher values, and the lesser things, the destructive things, will fall away.
Today as we work among people we see a new interest arising everywhere. There is a new reaching out. A yearning is in the hearts of men and women which they are not ashamed to express. There is a new seeking. And earnest seeking does not go unrewarded. New hope is showing in the faces of people, and there is a rekindling of faith that envisions a new world. Oh how the angels of heaven must be rejoicing as they see one, then ten, a hundred, a thousand, with their faith reborn and growing! This faith is the great bulwark of the sons of God, the rod and the staff to strengthen and comfort them in their need. It binds them close to God, yet blesses them with freedom and power for their challenging adventure.
There will be joy, enthusiasm and thrilling expectancy in the experiences ahead. There will also be trials, difficulties, disappointments, but not greater ones than we can bear. Our inner conditioning will determine the way we shall react to testing. Can we say with St. James, "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness"? If fears and doubts assail the citadel of our inner being, and we are tempted to let them enter, we shall call quickly upon our Divine Protector; for, as St. Paul has said, "God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength.".
In this adventure of the spirit we shall not be wholly dependent upon our five senses, for in spiritual perception these wonderful physical gifts alone are inadequate. We shall know beyond our seeing, by virtue of faith. Peter put it this way: "Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls."
We shall seek to develop constancy in our contact with the unseen spiritual forces. It will require patience, and prayer and love in great abundance. For we shall want to see through and beyond the three-dimensional world in order to attain more spiritual power, greater wholeness and a new capacity for achievement in the larger life.
We all have at least a spark of Divine fire within us. Each one of us has something of that high purpose, that urge to unselfish achievement, which we can lift to God for dedication. Let us take it, however small, and ask God to show us how best to use it. Though it be apparently insignificant as we hold it before Him, we need not be concerned. For He values greatly whatever we offer Him, if it be our best. He sees the great potential in our gift, and if we ask Him to tell us how to develop it, then listen carefully, He will direct us. He will lead us into the right action and we shall be justified in expecting great results.
We have no right to limit the mighty things God can do through us. We are His instruments and all we need to do is to let Him use us. Our part is to stop resisting–to get ourselves out of the way. As the little spark within us becomes a flame, as our tiny gift begins to develop, as we feel ourselves being used as channels of God's power, our spirits soar as on eagles' wings! This is a supreme moment. We become conscious of the Presence in our midst. We feel the Divine influx. We feel our oneness with Him. He looks into us; nothing is hidden; He knows our every need. As we give ourselves completely to Him and lay our lives open to Him, ashamed of nothing, afraid of nothing, His understanding love encompasses us and our lives take on new meaning. A sense of glorious destiny fills us. We no longer feel inadequate, but we are consumed with a great desire to stride out ahead and beyond our earth-bound limitations.
We begin our search for the higher life. We start right where we are, looking at experiences and ideas from all sides, examining them and seeking more light on them. We revise many of our concepts, and re-evaluate much of our world.
As we continue, we find our goal to be a more expanded consciousness, a widened horizon of awareness. So through recognition and development of the idea of the interdependence of body, mind and spirit, we enlarge our philosophical circumference. From the very start, in this quest, we instinctively reach out for a Higher Intelligence. We become aware of that Divine Something within us which we do not fully comprehend, but which we know somehow is the key to man's unfoldment. At last we see that it is the Christ-self within us which relates us to God's love, and brings into our life the limitless power of the universe.
We see the importance of this not only for ourselves but for others. We feel an awakening sense of mission. How can we spread the good news? How can we best be a channel for bringing the light and love of God and the awareness of the Christ-self to others? We begin to realize that it is through the development of the Christ-self in ourselves.
Working in these areas we find ourselves growing in understanding, walking on higher paths, gaining in both spiritual insight and outlook. We reach a new plateau of enlightened vision, and from here we can see ahead an ever-expanding vista of beauty and perfection. We are awed and shaken by its magnitude. It is unfathomable, mysterious, yet full of such radiant promise as we have never known. The adventure of life so far has unfolded many wonders. But in the greater adventure beyond, we will find mature spiritual achievement, and fulfillment of our destiny.
Proceeding along the way we have just envisioned, we pray for deep in filling. We welcome every experience that comes to us in our day- to-day development. We find in ourselves an ever-increasing devotion to our high purpose, and an ever-deepening joy in our mission. Setbacks become less frequent, and when they do occur we are not discouraged by them. We but count them as stepping-stones out of darkness into light. Edison counted his failures as just so many methods proven unworkable, and so do we.
Confidence in our higher self grows in proportion to our relationship with Christ. It is when we have a knowledge of belonging that we feel an inner reinforcement. Courage and self-assurance are ours in increased measure when we identify with greatness beyond our own. W ho are we, then? From whence cometh our courage and our strength? Jesus made the startling statement, "You have not chosen me, it is I who have chosen you". What amazing love is expressed here! We are His! By His own words we are chosen to carry His love in our hearts and to give it out to all. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." This love is our identification with Him. As we give it out we are, as Paul said, "ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us", for the whole world.
W hen the M aster walked this earth, love among men did not extend far beyond family boundaries. The tight little circle of family and race had to be enlarged to include all men, all nations, for His was a radical teaching for His day. Even now there are those who quarrel with such an all-inclusive concept. Yet it was the crowning idea of His ministry, and He lived it and died for it because He knew that love in the hearts of men was the only hope for the world's salvation. We must learn to love people with the same intensity, the same compassion as we have for our very own. We must love in them their potential good, and pray for that quality to express itself.
Jesus realized as He taught the disciples, that He was stretching their provincialism, and expanding their love circumference. He wanted them to reach out with this kind of caring to those beyond their family and their nationalism. That is why He posed the questions, "W ho is my brother? W ho is my sister? W ho is my mother?" He was creating in them the expanded consciousness of their relationship with all men, of love for all people. And this is what we must learn today.
Specifically, we must learn to love our neighbor. But loving our neighbor sometimes puts us to quite a test. The less we feel naturally drawn to certain people, the more difficult it seems for us to love them. The trouble is that we transfer our dislikes from the deeds of a man to the man himself. Love does not flow. It is dammed up by the way in which we ourselves react. So we correct the matter by learning to love the man instead of what he does. Then love is released and our identity with God is strengthened.
We learn to love a person as a child of God, recognizing in them a potential quality much greater than their deeds may demonstrate. In this we are not overlooking their mistakes, but extending to them a compassionate understanding through our love and prayers. But if we find one who insists upon going their selfish, willful way, then we have but one thing to do–stand by and wait, just as the Master waits for us. We never stop loving and praying for them, yet we do not hurry them. Until they are ready we can do nothing more than this. Then suddenly a miracle may happen. But whether it happens or not is really not our responsibility if we have fulfilled our part of loving and praying. In this we strengthen our identity with the Father, and as that is made stronger, our spiritual influence with others is increased.
We mentioned earlier the need for man to let go of the willful self to enable him to be lifted up into his next evolutionary spiritual pattern. We must surrender the selfish, grasping, ruthless part of man's nature, that part of him which promotes himself at the expense of others, is quick to blame others, harbors resentments and worries, and is indeed altogether unlovely. We do not mean the strong, individualized characteristics which make men outstanding in constructive, human achievement. In the giving up of the little self we need not be at all worried that we shall be giving up our individuality. W hen we are reborn into the higher self we shall have far more individuality. We shall find ourselves more unique. We shall develop along our own distinctive lines and as a result we shall be different from one another.
We may well look at the disciples and see how they developed. As they grew in grace they did not grow more alike in characteristics. They became alike only in their consecration and zeal, in their lifted consciousness. But in their several personalities, their outward expression, they were as different as snowflakes, no two of which are ever alike. We may expect this kind of development, each toward his or her own perfection, without any of the things that cause trouble and disturbance within us, and through that disturbance, disease of the body.
It is the willful self that tries to oppose the current of life by making its own plan, setting its own pattern and insisting on that being fulfilled. This stubborn opposition to God's laws of life often brings a sharp crisis in man's affairs, and he cries out, "O God, why did you do this to me?" But even in the crisis, Christ is present, and man would see Him there, if his lack of humility did not blind him. Humility–true humility–not only brings us to the place where God's help can enter our lives, it insures us of His repeated help, and we cannot ask too often. A habit of humble asking enables us to contact Him at any time instantly.
Saul of Tarsus was reduced to utter humility and while in that state he found the Great Power which lifted him into a higher expression and he was no longer Saul. He became Paul. Just as Peter had been changed from Simon the unstable to Peter the Rock. But, time after time, both of these men slipped, lost their footing for just a fraction of time and went down. But they never stayed down. All they had to do was to lie still for just long enough to contact the Power again, and they got up and went on. They were enabled to do this because in their humility they were no longer encumbered by the petty, egocentric self. Their lives had been turned outward from the center and they could again function in the dimension of Divine creativity.
We glimpse the constructive, limitless possibilities of the higher life and everything we do is turned toward its realization. We are aware of negative emotions that must be transformed into constructive forces. For instance, suppose we are perfectionists–suppose we are drivers with a tremendous inner urge that doesn't let us rest. The "hound of heaven" pounding close behind always pursues us. If we do not find a constructive expression for this type of nature, we are going to use it negatively. We grow fussy and domineering. We are likely to become a gorgeous nuisance! People may admire us but they won't like us. Because we are not using our drive, our perfectionism, for big things. We must redirect the wasted energy of irritability, fault-finding and criticism, and make it work for something constructive and worthwhile.
Man has harnessed the forces of nature everywhere to relieve himself of labor and give himself time for many other things. The next step, our next duty, is to harness and control and use the emotional drive to create a new world, a world where jealousy, hatred and fear are replaced by love.
Motivated by a vision of building a new world, we have no time for indulging in negative thoughts and emotions. With our energies focused upon bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to earth, we do not feel repressions. The sophisticated world may wag its finger at us and warn us that we will have to deny ourselves lots of good things. But the world is wrong. We are not living a deprived life. We are not denied any good thing. We are not living the life of withdrawal, the one-sided narrow existence, restricted by intolerance, fear and superstition. No, instead it is a life of fulfillment. We enjoy a trinity of blessings, spiritual, mental and physical. There is an old saying, "Make your passion write poetry." This means that everything in life can be lifted up to a higher expression; for it all comes from God, and His gifts are free and without blemish. Only man limits, binds down, misuses, mars and destroys.
When we make full use of God's gifts, we shall find fulfillment. We shall find the perfect things we are to express. He will create in us through His indwelling Spirit, and bring into visible form, original ideas, inventions, art, music, poetry, that will delight His children.
* * * * *
In the chapters that follow you are going to meet, perhaps for the first time, the real Jesus of Nazareth. You will learn what kind of man He really was, and what His true mission and purpose on earth was.
Wallace Wattles is best known for his book "The Science of Getting Rich", published in 1910, in which he provides a formulated system for acquiring wealth by harnessing and utilizing the power of creative thought. He went on to write several other books along similar lines including "The Science of Being Well", "The New Science of Living and Healing", and The Science of Being Great."
"A New Christ" was Wattles' very first book and has been virtually forgotten about having been out of print for the past hundred years, yet it remains one of the finest, if not the finest book on primitive Christianity ever written. In it he describes with brilliant clarity what Jesus the man really stood for, and why He was despised and put to death. He goes on to explain what Jesus meant when He said "The works that I do, you shall do also, and much greater works", and how this can really be so.
Part two of the book, "Jesus: The Man and His Works", was originally privately published as a book based on a lecture that Wattles gave in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1905. His lecture made such a favorable impression on some of his listeners that they determined to have it printed if Professor Wattles would provide a manuscript. As the lecture was based on his book "A New Christ", quite a lot of his original book is duplicated in "Jesus: The M an and His Works", however it is still well worth reading as there are a number of very interesting and amusing anecdotes included, and also some further insights that were not included in his first book.
Part three of the book centers around a famous inspirational lecture entitled "The Greatest Thing in the World" that the Scottish evangelist Henry Drummond gave at a mission station in Central Africa in 1883. The American evangelist Dwight L. Moody heard Drummond's talk the following year and said he had never heard anything so beautiful. Based on the Bible's "love chapter," 1 Corinthians 13, the lecture was made into a pamphlet and has since become a classic with over 12 million copies out over the 120 years it has been in print.
A second lecture by Drummond entitled "The Programme of Christianity," is included, and you will find that it blends perfectly with the first two sections of this book by Wallace Wattles. It is quite likely that Wattles would have had opportunity to read these lectures by Drummond before writing his own book, and it may well have been those that originally inspired him. Certainly Drummond has been quoted extensively in other's writings ever since his lectures were published.
Although both Drummond and Wattles came from Christian backgrounds, and were both ordained ministers, their teachings transcend organized religion completely, so no matter what your own particular religion may be, or if you have no religion at all, you are sure to find great value in reading what they have to say.
This series will not be an attempt to prove something about Christ; it will be an effort to ascertain by scientific study, what He was, how He lived, and what He taught. Too many people have studied Jesus from the standpoint of some preconceived notion of Him or His mission, such an attitude always leads to erroneous conclusions.
The common concept of Christ was given to the church by the priests of the dark ages, at a time when a religious ideal was wanted which should induce men to be content with slavery, and to bow their necks to every kind of wrong and oppression; and this concept was drawn almost wholly from the poetry of Isaiah; the Christ of the churches is the Christ of Isaiah, and our ideas of Him are not drawn at all from an impartial study of the history of His life.
Such passages in the prophecies as; "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth," have been quoted to show His character, and the meekness and humbly submissive spirit with which He endured wrong and injustice; and we have had held up as the ideal man a despised, friendless, poverty-stricken laborer whom the upper classes regarded with scorn because of his lowly origin and station; who had no friends save fishermen, laborers, outcasts and sinners; who was often shirtless and hungry, and who bore insults and persecutions with meek submission, and walked about in a scornful world with his hands always uplifted in loving benediction.
This character has too long been offered as the Christian ideal; Be meek, Be submissive, Be lamb-like or sheep-like. Bow your head before the persecutor, and offer your back to the shearer. Rejoice when you are fleeced; it is for the glory of God. It is a good religion for the man with the shears.
The Christ who was held up in the old fashioned orthodox pulpit is a weak character. He is not the kind of a man we would nominate for president, and his followers have very little faith in him as an organizer.
No railroad magnate of today would make him foreman of a section; and if it were broadcast over the country tonight that the president of the United States had resigned and that Jesus would be inaugurated tomorrow, 95 percent of the Christians there would draw their money out of the banks for fear Jesus might start a panic.
What we propose to do now is to ascertain by a study of the four gospels in the light of history whether this is the real Christ; and if not, to find what the real Christ was like.
The Real Jesus Christ . In the first place, then, Jesus could not have been despised because He was a carpenter, or the reputed son of a carpenter. Custom required every Jewish Rabbi or teacher to have a trade. We read in the Talmud of Rabbi Johanan, the blacksmith, and of Rabbi Isaac, the shoemaker, learned and highly honored men. Rabbi Jesus, the carpenter, would be spoken of in the same way. St. Paul, a very learned man, was a tent-maker by trade.
At that time, and among that people, Jesus could not have been despised for His birth and station.
And He was popularly supposed to be of royal blood, being saluted as the son of David; His lineage was well known. The people who cried "Hosannah to the son of David" knew that He was an aristocrat of the aristocrats; a prince of the royal house. He was not "lowly" in birth, nor was He supposed to be so. On this point I refer you to Matthew 9:27; Matthew 15:22; Matthew 20:30; Matthew 21:9; M ark 10:47.
He W as Educated . Second, He could not have been despised for His ignorance, for He was a very learned man. Whenever He went into a synagogue He
was selected to read the law and teach the congregation, as the one best qualified for that work. Luke says; "There went a fame of Him through all the region round about, and He taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all." In those times of fierce religious disputation, no unlearned man could have held his own in such fashion. He must have been letter-perfect in the books of the Jewish law, for He was always able to rout His adversaries by making apt quotations from their own books. Even His enemies always addressed Him as Master, or Teacher, acknowledging His profound learning. On this point, read Matthew 13:54; Mark 12:24-34; Luke 4:14-15; John 7:19-23; John 10:34.
Jesus Had Plenty . Third, He was not despised for His poverty, for He had many wealthy and influential friends, and knew no lack of anything. Lazarus and his sisters, whose home was always open to Him, were people of consequence; for we are told that "many of the Jews" came to comfort the sisters when Lazarus died.
Luke says that Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the king's steward, and other women "ministered unto him of their substance"; that is, they were supporters of His work.
The king's steward was a high official, and his wife would be a prominent lady.
Joseph of Arimathea, who came to get the body of Jesus, was a well- to-do man. So, probably was Nicodemus.
Jesus healed the sick in the families of rulers and high officials, and they appear to have responded liberally in supplying His financial needs.
True, He held no property and bought no real estate; but He dressed expensively, lived well and never lacked for money. W hen He was crucified the soldiers cast lots for His clothing because it was too fine to cut up, as they would have done with the garments of an ordinary man; and on the night of His betrayal, when Judas went
out, it was supposed by the others that he had gone to give something to the poor. It must have been their custom to give away money, or how could such a supposition have arisen? In that country and climate, the wants of Jesus and His disciples were few and simple, and they seem to have been fully supplied. He wore fine clothes, had plenty to eat and drink, and had money to give away. Read Luke 8:1-3; Luke 5:33; Luke 23:50; John 11:19; John 12:2; John 19:23.
Jesus W as Not Humble . Fourth, Jesus was not humble, in the commonly accepted meaning of the word. He was a man of the most impressive, commanding and powerful personal appearance. He "spoke as one having authority" and "his word was with power."
Frequently, we are told, great fear and awe fell upon the people at His mighty words and works. In one place they were so frightened that they besought Him to leave; and John tells how certain officers sent to arrest Him in the market place lost their nerve in His commanding presence, and went back, saying "Surely, never man spake like this man."
On the night of His arrest a band of soldiers approached Him in the grove and asked for Jesus of Nazareth; and when He answered "I am he," such was His majesty and psychic power that they prostrated themselves; "they went backward," the account says, "and fell to the ground" (John 18:6).
To be like the Christ of the four Gospels, one must be learned, well dressed, well supplied with money, and of noble and commanding appearance, speaking with authority, and having tremendous magnetic power. And now, what was His attitude toward His fellow men?
One of the very best ways to reach an understanding of Jesus is by studying His reasons for taking the title He assumed - the Son of Man. He rarely spoke of Himself in any other way. This term, Son of Man, was common in the Jewish prophecies, and in the current conversation of the times, and it was simply an emphatic way of saying "Man." If you wished to emphasize your fealty to democracy, you might say "I am a son of Thomas Jefferson"; and if you wished to emphasize your fealty to humanity, you would say as Jesus did. "I am a son of man."
The World Jesus Lived In . The Roman empire was a great taxing machine. In its conquered provinces, the people were left, as far as possible, with their own local government and institutions of justice, the function of the Roman officials being to extort tribute, or collect taxes. Every form of extortion and oppression was practiced by the governors, procurators and tax collectors upon those who had property. Open robbery, torture, kidnapping, false accusation and imprisonment might be visited upon the man who had money to tempt the cupidity of the higher powers; and as the oppressed property owners had no way of meeting the exactions of the government but by exploiting the poor, the condition of the masses was pitiful indeed.
You will readily see that the business, and property-owning class had to get the money to pay their taxes by exploiting the multitude in some way. It is an economic axiom which is indisputable that all taxation of whatever kind, upon whomsoever levied, must at last be wrung from the hard hands of the producers; no one, however, seems to comprehend this fact as little as the producers themselves. They strenuously reject all offers of deliverance, and generally kill those who try to help them.
Jesus received His only real and permanent following from among the middle class, as we shall see, and was crucified by the workers, whom He was trying to deliver from oppression. It was no middle class mob which demanded the liberation of Barabbas and howled for the blood of Christ.
To give you an idea as to how oppressive the Roman taxation was, we may estimate from certain passages in Josephus that the private income of Herod the Great was three and one-half millions of dollars a year. That is vastly less, of course, than the income of our John D. Rockefeller; but our Herods have a much larger, richer, and more populous country to levy taxes on, and they have discovered methods of extortion which lay the crude ways of the monarchs of antiquity very far in the shade. The enormous sums which were collected from the little province of Galilee brought the unhappy workers down to the last extremity of destitution; they could go no lower and live.
The Sects of Jesus' Day . In Judea at this time were several religious sects, which were also, in a way, political parties, scheming for prestige and power, and for influence with Rome. The Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Samaritans, etc., disagreed upon various questions, as the existence or non-existence of angels, the resurrection of the dead, baptism, and so on. The strife between these parties was desperately acrimonious and bitter, often to the point of open violence. You will notice as you read that they were always ready to "take up stones" to end a dispute; riots were of daily occurrence in the streets of Jerusalem, and only the psychic power and commanding personality of Jesus saved Him from being stoned by these religious mobs. Read Luke 4:28-30; Luke 20:6; John 8:59.
The leaders of these sects were, of course, of the middle, or property-owning class; but the rank and file were the common masses, sunk in the most abject poverty - taxed, beaten, robbed, outraged, slaughtered, with no voice lifted anywhere in their behalf. No one, Jew or Gentile, thought for a moment of demanding justice for the mongrel multitude.
It is said of Jesus that He "had compassion on the multitude, because they fainted, and were amazed, and were like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36). They had then, as now, plenty of
shepherds to baptize them, to interpret prophecy for them, to instruct them in "spiritual" things; but none to demand a lightening of their burdens - none to cry out, in their behalf, for justice.
The principal care of the shepherds was that the flock should be so doctrinally correct that they would never, never consent to be sheared by the opposing party.
The New Thought of Jesus' Time . Into this maze of oppression, taxation, murder, outrage and theological discussion comes the grand, strong figure of this young prince and scholar, saying; "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he hath anointed me to preach good news to the poor. I am no Pharisee; I am no Sadducee, Essene, or Samaritan; I am a man. I come, not in behalf of Pharisaism or Samaritanism, but in behalf of humanity."
Here was an altogether different religious attitude; He had no "ism" to build up; His only creed was justice, His only doctrine the square deal. No wonder they were "amazed at his doctrine."
No wonder His "word was with power."
No wonder they said, "he speaketh as one having authority." Jesus said of Himself that the father had given Him authority to execute judgment because He was man (John 5:27). That is the only reason God could possibly have for giving authority to any man; if there is a man anywhere today upon whom the divine sanction rests, it is not because he is a Pharisee, a Methodist, Presbyterian, Republican or Democrat, but because he is a MAN.
And it is further true that amongst all those who claim leadership by virtue of divine authority we may apply this test with certainty - that the man who stands for humanity, first, last and all the time, against all vested interests, religious and economic, is the man who stands as Jesus stood.
The man who stands for humanity against the vested religious
interests of his time frequently is called an infidel; and the man who stands for the propertyless against the vested political and economic interests of his time is called a traitor. Jesus was crucified on the charges of infidelity and treason, and He was guilty on both counts.
Let no one be too horrified here to proceed further; for there are no prouder titles when justly held than the terms Infidel and Traitor. It was a grand saying of Wendell Phillips; "Write upon my grave. Infidel-Traitor; infidel to every church that compromises with wrong; traitor to every government that oppresses the poor."
The most sinful infidelity is not being unfaithful to some church, but being unfaithful to the truth; and the vilest treason is not turning against some government, but turning against the weak and helpless. This was the attitude which Jesus took; He gave expression to all this when He took the title which made Him the champion of humanity - when He said, "I am the Son of Man."
We will now take up the consideration of His teachings.
If Jesus was a Savior, He came to save mankind, collectively and individually, from sin, from Error; for there is nothing but error to be saved from. That is what He says of Himself, in John 18:37; "To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth."
A lost world is a world which has lost the truth about life; and a lost man or woman is simply one who has lost the truth about life; and there is no other way under heaven to save the lost but by telling them the truth about life.
This simple sentence in which He concisely states His mission lets in a flood of light upon His theory of life; He came to save from sin, disease and poverty by telling the truth. Then sin, disease and poverty are untruths; that is, they are wrong ways of living. We will consider first His broader and more generic application of truth, and later, His application of it to the individual.
In the sermon on the mount, He says (Matthew 5:21-22); "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother Raca, shall be in danger of the council; but whosoever shall say Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." The phrase, "thou fool," as we understand it now, does not give the meaning of the original at all; it would be better rendered by some such phrase as "you are of no value" or "you are good for nothing."
I can make His meaning clear, I think, by an illustration. I was sitting in a hotel lobby, once, when the news came of a coalmine horror in which a number of poor fellows lost their lives. Two well- dressed men near me were discussing the affair, and one said; "Oh, well, it's only a couple of Huniaks less. A million more are ready to step into their shoes tomorrow; the world hasn't lost anything."
Jesus says whosoever shall speak of a man as that man spoke, is in danger of hell fire. That man, and those who think and speak as he does, are the real murderers of all who die in mine and mill and under rolling wheels; they make the slaughter possible by cheapening the estimate that is put on the value of a human life. Whosoever talks of "cheap" people, and of "lower" classes, and insists that some are especially valuable to God, and that others are their "inferiors," will go to hell, said Jesus; and I think He was right.
A little farther on in His life, we shall see how He proved it, and on what great natural fact He based His assertion. I have given you the exact meaning of the quoted passage, and the only meaning which may legitimately be drawn from it.
Turn now to the 12th chapter of Matthew and read the first eight verses.
The Sabbath . There you find that the disciples were crossing the fields on the Sabbath day, and that they plucked the ears of corn, and ate as they went. This gave great offense to the Pharisees. They were not offended because they took the grain, for, under the Jewish law, the right of the hungry wayfarer to life transcended the property rights of the owner of the field; none might say the famished man nay, if he chose to pluck and eat. It was not to a theft of grain that the Pharisees objected, but to the fact that the plucking and eating were done on the Sabbath day. The Pharisees believed that the one thing most valuable to God was their church with its institutions and observances. They would not break the Sabbath to feed a hungry man, or to heal a sick man, because they thought the Sabbath was more valuable to God than the man.
And so they complained to Jesus, and He answered them, "Have ye not heard what David did, when he was hungry; he and they that were with him?" and He went on to tell them from their own scriptures, in which, as I have said, He was letter-perfect, how David and his followers went into the temple and took the sacred shew bread and ate it - and God approved. "One standeth here," said Jesus, "greater than the temple."
"The (son of) man is lord of the Sabbath day." That is, God cares more for a hungry man than He does for a holy day or house. In the second chapter of Mark, where the same story is told, He adds, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath."
Organizations . Here is brought out and sharply defined the issue between Jesus and His opponents. They were exalting the temple, the worship, the Sabbath, the ceremonial; He exalted the man. They declared that God was working through humanity to build systems and institutions; He declared that God was working through systems and institutions to build humanity. And I, for one, agree with Jesus. I feel no reverence for buildings; even though they are magnificent structures, where the dim light falls through stained glass windows upon the sculptured forms of saints and angels, where robed priests chant in solemn cadence; these things move me little.
But when I stand in a schoolroom and look into the bright faces of a hundred, boys and girls - when I stand in the crowded marketplace, or in a mill or factory where my brothers and sisters toil to supply the needs of the world, and I remember that every soul before me contains possibilities as boundless as the universe itself; when I stand in the presence of this toiling, seeking, loving, suffering, glorious, common humanity, I bare my head and bow in reverence, for here, indeed, I am in the presence of Almighty God. One is here greater than the temple, greater than the Sabbath, greater than the system, greater than the institution, greater than the Church or State.
God has a higher call for man than the keeping of certain days and places holy. This whole earth is a holy place, because it is consecrated by the love of God to fulfill His purpose in unfolding the high destiny of man.
Little Children . In the 18th chapter of Matthew you will read how Jesus took a little child and set him in the midst, of them, and said; "Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven"; and He went on to assert that whatsoever should offend the child had better be cast into the sea.
You will get a good idea of the prevailing misconception concerning Jesus and His times if you study the pictures you commonly see of the scene where He blessed the little children. He is always shown to us surrounded by prettily dressed women, who are bringing nice clean babies for Him to love and bless; and it looks very easy for one to humble himself as one of those.
But turn back to our description of the condition of the masses in His day, and you will get a different idea. That was a slave child that He set in the midst of them; unwashed, uncombed, covered with vermin and noisome sores repulsive to every sense; a child of the abyss, in the darkest period of the world's history.
And what could He mean by telling us to humble ourselves as such a child? Is it that we should be childlike in spirit, teachable, credulous? No; there is only one way. Stand beside that child of the gutter, and say; "Before God he is as good as I. He is entitled to everything that I claim for myself and for my children, and I will not rest until all that I demand for my own is his also." Then you will have humbled yourself as the little child by acknowledging his equality with you, and then you will begin to be great in the kingdom of heaven.
"W hosoever shall offend one of these little (slaves?) ones, it is better that a millstone shall be hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Yes, any man, or woman, or railroad system, or financial system, or industrial order or disorder that stands between the poor man's child and life, is under the curse of God. It is better that all the corn crops of a thousand years be lost, than that the least injustice shall be done to one such little child. That is what Jesus taught; and it is not to be wondered at that He was crucified.
One day Jesus was teaching the people, and He said, in substance; "Why are you worried about things to eat, and to wear". Look at the birds; they have not a fraction of your intelligence; they do not know enough to sow, or reap, or gather provision for the future; and yet they have no famine. You, with your great intelligence, surely ought to be able to live with more ease and safety than the lower orders of life; yet the only fear and anxiety are to be found among men. Seek the kind of kingdom your Father wants; a perfectly righteous order of things, and you will have plenty of everything."
This is a rather free translation of Matthew 6:25-34, but it is a very accurate rendering of the meaning of the original; much more accurate than that given by the King James version.
And I wish here to give you a word of caution. I frequently receive letters from people who lay great stress on the interpretation of some particular passage from the New Testament, and even on that of some single word; as if the letter of it was a perfect and infallible guide. Now, remember that Jesus taught and spoke in the Aramaic, a dialect which had entirely supplanted the Hebrew among the Jews of Palestine, and that His sayings, in that language, were held in memory about seventy years before they appeared in the Greek, written in the manuscripts of the gospels; and that from the Greek they were translated into the English of 500 years ago, in our King James version. Five hundred years ago many words in our language carried meanings which are lost now; and so you will see how foolish it is to pin so much faith on single detached sayings and passages, which may not at all convey the meaning He gave to them. We never can understand him until we study his teachings as a connected whole.
Wealth for All . On the face of things it would look as if He told the truth when He said that there was no need for worry. There is no lack of the things needed, and where there is no lack there is no necessity for worry. This world would produce food, under intensive cultivation, for
more than ten times its present population. It would produce the fabrics wherewith to clothe ten times its present population finer than Solomon was arrayed in all his glory. It would furnish building material sufficient to erect a palace larger than the Capitol at Washington for every family now living, and there would be material enough left over to house another generation.
Our Father has provided the raw material for all the things essential to life, and He has provided a thousandfold more than we can use. The race, taken as a whole, is rich; immensely rich; it is only individuals within the race who are poor.
The satisfaction of human needs is a problem of machinery and organization, and the machinery is pretty well perfected; it is now, then, a matter of organization.
Seek the Father's Kingdom, says Jesus, and you solve the bread and butter problem. Does that sound like a rational interpretation of the passage we are speaking of? Turn to the 12th chapter of Luke, and read the parallel passage.
The Kingdom of God . Now, what did He mean by the kingdom of God? Practically all commentators agree, now, that He did not mean a distinct Heaven, which we cannot enter until we die; and they agree, also that He did not mean a church like the one we have now.
If you can conceive of the church as expanded until it filled the whole earth; all the people united in one, and all practicing what the churches preach now, that would be very like a Kingdom of God as Jesus describes it.
He illustrates it by showing that the birds know no anxiety; they live in the Father's kingdom. They all, alike, have access to the Supply. There is no bug trust, and no shrewd bird has, as yet, cornered the worm market. W hen, instead of going freely to the Great Supply, the birds begin to compete for the limited portions of it, there will begin to be an anxiety among them. There can be no Father's kingdom unless all can have equal access to the Great Supply.
Equality and Democracy. You will find this confirmed in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, in the first twelve verses. Here He lays the foundation of the kingdom in the fact of the Fatherhood of God, and I will call the attention of the literalists especially to the fact that the sayings were addressed "to the multitude" as well as to His disciples.
He assures them all that God is their Father, and that they are brethren; and that hence, they should not compete for the best place at the feast. If, instead of struggling with each other, you will go lovingly to the feast together, is there not enough for all? Let there be no striving for mastery, or power over one another; just plain equality and democracy, says Jesus, and no one will have to bear a heavy burden anymore.
Suppose the father of a family should see his children gather around a table, where he had provided for them as bountifully as our Father has for us; and suppose that the largest boy should get to the table first and gather all the best food around his plate. W hen his little sister reaches for a nice piece of cake he slaps her; he strikes back the out stretched hands of the others, and says:
"Get away! Our father put this here, and I am the first one to get to it; so it is mine. Get away" (strike, push, shove) and, looking up to his parent, he addresses him thus: "Our father (biff), thy kingdom come (bang), thy will be done (whack)."
Would not that father say, "M y will will not be done until you, with your brothers and sisters, go together to the Supply I have provided."
And if the large boy should say then: "Well, father, I will hold it as your trustee, giving to the others as I think it best for them, and seeing that all is done decently and in order," would not the father say, "I do not want benevolence, or charity, or self-denial, or Sabbath observance, but that each one shall go freed to the Supply for all that he needs."
The idea of Jesus appears to be that if each one will go freely to the Supply, there can be no poverty or lack of any kind; and His idea appears to be sound. If the supply is super-abundant, and all go freely to it, how can anybody have lack? The trouble is that we have our eyes fixed, not on the Abundance, but on the Uppermost Place.
It is as if there were a mountain of gold, to which we might go for wealth, but on our way thither we find a few scattering nuggets which have been washed down by the rains, and we stop to fight for the possession of these fragments, and so lose the whole.
In this connection, look up the parallel passages in Luke, and note the one in the twenty-second chapter, where He cautions them against that most insidious of temptations, the desire to pose as a "benefactor." No benefactors are needed where all may go to the Supply. You are to serve by inviting men to the feast, not by handing them a few crumbs from your own plate. It is not possible that there should be benefactions, benefactors or charity in the kingdom of God; so long as there is need for these things we are not in His kingdom.
And how can we hope to establish the kingdom by practicing things which do not belong to it?
"Love Thy Neighbor"
It is in this light that we must consider His command to love one's neighbor as one's self. W hat does it mean, this loving one's neighbor as himself? Suppose my wife and I sit down to lunch; and there is nothing on the table but a crust of bread and a piece of pie. And suppose that I hastily grasp the pie, and say; "My dear, I certainly love you devotedly; I do wish you had some pie, also," and I swallow it, and leave her the crust; have I loved her as myself? If I love her as myself, I will desire pie for her as intensely as for myself, and I will try as hard to get it for her as for myself.
If I love you as myself, what I try to get for myself I will try to get for you, and what I try to get for my children I will try to get for your children, and I will no more rest under an injustice done to you or yours than if it had been done to me or mine.
And when we all desire for everybody all that we desire for ourselves, what is there for us to do but to stop competing for a part and turn to the abundance of the Great W hole, which is the Kingdom of God.
In the next chapter we will consider how the apostles went about solving the problems of supply, and why they failed.
No one who studies carefully the teachings of Jesus can doubt that by the phrases, "Kingdom of Heaven" and "Kingdom of God," He meant such a righteous adjustment of social relations as would have revolutionized the Society of His day; or which, if applied in our time, would revolutionize the society of this day.
You will get this idea pretty clearly if you study His use of the term "this world," and His comparison of the "world" with the kingdom. W hen He speaks of the "world" He never means the earth; He always refers to the existing social and governmental order; the world of men; organized society. He speaks of this world as a living, sentient thing; as loving, hating, etc.; and it can hardly be that He refers to the senseless clods and stones composing the material planet on which we live.
Thus in John 17:14, He says: "The world hath hated them, because they are not of the world."
In the same chapter He speaks of His disciples as being in the world, but not of the world; as being sent into the world; and He prays that the world may believe, and that the world may know. In the two preceding chapters He speaks of the world as being overcome. Follow this clue through all His teachings, and you must conclude that by the "world" He means the existing order of human relationships.
The World and the Kingdom . Having come to an understanding of this, we can appreciate the contrast He draws between the world and the Kingdom. His Kingdom, He says, is "not of this world"; that is, it is not on the same basis as the world's kingdoms. "If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight" (John 18:36).
In the world's kingdoms they fight; in His Kingdom they co-operate.
In the world's kingdoms they sustain the relationship of master and servant; in His Kingdom, they are "friends" (John 15:15) (See also M atthew 23:10).
The world's kingdoms are divided against themselves (M atthew 12:25), but in God's Kingdom they do not try to conquer or master one another. That is the essential thought of the life of the Kingdom - that there shall be no seeking for power over other men; over against it He places the essential thought of the world-life, which is the strife for power, and for the uppermost place.
So, when they sought to make Him king by force (John 6:15), He refused, because that would have been placing His Kingdom on the world basis of strife and competition, and a kingdom over which Jesus ruled by force of arms would, after all, differ from the world kingdoms only in degree, and not in principle. The only kingdom in the establishment of which He could assist was the Father's Kingdom; a co-operative commonwealth, in which all should have access on equal terms to God, and to the Great Supply.
So He sends His followers out, not to fight or conquer, but to go as lambs among wolves, and by teaching and living to transform the insane and struggling world into a vast brotherhood. He believed that He had overcome the world by His demonstration, and that it must soon come to its end.
The End of the World . This brings up another point for our consideration. W hen He speaks of the "end of the world" it is apparent that He is not referring to some tremendous cataclysm which shall destroy the planet, but to a social change; a world revolution. In the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, He does, indeed, give some symbolical pictures of the darkness of the sun and moon, etc., which He quotes from the prophecies; but as we shall see in a future chapter, the "coming of the son of man" meant to Him, not His own personal return to establish a spiritual force-kingdom, but the awakening of racial M an, and his entrance into his heritage. W hen M an awakes and enters into his own, the world will be ended and the Kingdom will begin; that is the Coming of Man, which the prophets foretold.
That is the way Jesus interpreted them, as you will see if you study Him carefully and without prejudice. He does not appear to have had any idea that the planet would "come to an end"; or that He would actually come in personal presence to do what He steadfastly refused to do while here - set up a kingdom based on force.
The apostles caught this concept of the Kingdom, and they set forth with joyous confidence to build a united and harmonious world.
Read the second and fourth chapters of the Acts, and read the writings of the early Christian fathers, and you will see that their idea was not to build an institution for worship, in a bad world, but to build the world itself into a righteous, united and orderly society. Property was held in common, and there was no poverty among them which was not shared by all, and no riches which were not enjoyed by all.
The early Christian societies were little commonwealths, and the inspiring purpose to which they held with intense enthusiasm was the building of the world into one great commonwealth.
The apostles were communist organizers, and the purpose of Jesus as understood by them was the establishment of a communistic state which should grow up within the kingdoms of the World, and absorb them all, not by force, but by conquest of truth; by evangelizing the world, by educating it to the brotherhood ideals and methods.
Their dream was a world of Man, where the united efforts of all should center in the development of the little child; it was this glorious vision which gave virility and power to their preaching, and it was the loss of this vision which cost the church its spiritual power. The church of today is alive in proportion as it receives this world-vision; as it sees the kingdom and helps reorganize society.
W hy Communism Fails . We may here consider for a moment why the communistic experiment failed, and we shall find the reason easy to get at. Communism has always failed, and always will fail, because it interferes with the Great Purpose, which is the complete development of the individual soul. It extinguishes the individual in the mass, and takes all initiative from him. Seeking to prevent him from gaining power over other men, it robs him of power over himself. It destroys individuality for man can develop only by the free proprietary use of everything he is individually capable of using.
Capitalism robs the majority of men of the opportunity to make proprietary use of the things necessary for their individual development; Communism would rob all men of this opportunity. In this, both are the opposites of Christian socialism.
Christian Socialism . Socialism would tremendously extend private property. Its cardinal doctrine is that the individual should own, absolutely and without question, everything which they need or can use individually; and that the right to hold private property should be limited only when we come to those things which a man cannot operate without exploiting other men. Man, under socialism, may acquire and hold all that he can use for his own development; but he may not own that which makes him master of another man.
As we approach socialism, the millions of families who are now propertyless will acquire and own beautiful homes, with the gardens and the land upon which to raise their food; they will own horses and carriages, automobiles and pleasure yachts; their houses will contain libraries, musical instruments, paintings and statuary, all that a person may need for the soul-growth of themselves and theirs, they shall own and use as they will.
But highways, railroads, natural resources, and the great machines will be owned and operated by organized society, so that all who will may purchase the product upon equal terms. Socialism, when properly understood, offers us the most complete individualism, while communism would submerge the individual in the mass.
The apostles failed because communism is a failure in the nature of things, while the world, at that time, had not evolved far enough to make socialism possible. They tried to establish for all a life which was only possible to a few.
Jesus ascribed all His marvelous power to the mental relationship which existed between Himself and the Father. He uses the terms Father and God interchangeable, and says: "My father, of whom ye say that he is your God" (John 8:54).
And in His talk with the Samaritan woman, He explains clearly His conception of God, declaring that "God is Spirit" (Not A Spirit, as the King James version has it), and that He is not to be worshipped in some particular place like Jerusalem, or on some specially consecrated mountain, but may be approached, or worshipped in spirit and in truth, anywhere.
The Father, as described by Jesus, is Universal Spirit, working in all, through all, and FOR ALL. He describes this spirit as making the sun to shine, and causing the rain to fall, and so as being the POW ER behind nature; as clothing the lilies of the field, and causing the hair to grow on man's heads, and so as being the one and only LIFE; as quickening and leading men to truth and so as being the one and only INTELLIGENCE.
Every man is a God, according to Jesus, because it is Spirit which lives in man; He said to them: "Ye are Gods" (John 10:34). Spirit holds the earth in its orbit, makes the sun rise, sends the rain, and causes the coming of seedtime and harvest; Spirit lives in the lily and clothes it finer than Solomon was arrayed in all his glory; Spirit lives in man.
There is only one power, only one life, only one intelligence.
Unity of Man in God . As I have said, Jesus ascribed all His power to His conscious unity of mind with this One Intelligence. "I and my father are one," said He. "I do always his will."
And He went on to declare that because He always did the will of Spirit, Universal Spirit worked in and through Him. "I do always
those things that please him," said he (John 8:29). "I come, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me." "I seek not mine own will, but the will of him" - and so on.
He made it perfectly plain that it was because of this unity of mind with the Father - which we call cosmic consciousness - that the Father could work through Him.
Because I will to do his will, said Jesus, my father and I act as one; and so it is not I that do the works, but the Father that worketh in me. He was consciously one with the one Spirit, and so all power in heaven and earth was at His service; He was consciously one with the one Life, and so He could transfigure His body, and heal others; "there went out from him a virtue (a realization of truth) that healed them all"; He was consciously one with the one Intelligence, and so all knowledge and all wisdom were His.
This is a point we must not lose sight of; that all that there is in the life of Jesus which transcends the ordinary, He positively declares to be due to His cosmic consciousness; to unity of mind and will with the All-Spirit.
Cosmic Consciousness . I will quote you a few more passages on this point; "He that sent me is true, whom ye know not; but I know him" (John 7:28-29). "I know him, and keep his saying" (John 8:55). "The son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the father do" (John 5:19). "As the father knoweth me, even so know I the father" (John 10:15). To "know" the father can have but one meaning; and that is to be conscious of Spirit; to have my own consciousness so unified with the consciousness of Spirit that what Spirit knows I know; what Spirit sees I see; and what Spirit does, I do.
My father is greater than I; I proceeded forth and came from Him; but if I unite with Him in consciousness, He is in me and I in Him, and He and I are one.
Jesus declares that this cosmic consciousness is the source of all power; He demonstrates that it is perfect health, both in His own person, and by healing others; "and this is life eternal to KNOW thee" (John 17:3). He asserts that it gives perfect wisdom - "The father loveth the son, and showeth him all things." "My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I and the father" (John 8:16).
And He asserts that it is wealth; "All things that the father hath are mine" (John 16:15).
Christ's Brothers . He does not trace His power to something peculiar about His birth, but to His conscious unity with Spirit.
He does not say that God is His father alone, but that He is our father. He says; "One is your father, and all ye are brethren."
He says in the sermon on the mount; "It is your father who feeds and cares for you; be his children in mind and will, as you are in fact."
He does not assert that He is a demi-god, and that we are men; but that He is God, and we may be God, too, if we will; "He that willeth to do the will of God, shall know"; "shall enter the kingdom," and so on.
"The works that I do, ye shall do also; and greater works than these shall ye do."
The consciousness that He had, He seems to think quite possible for all of us; "That they may all be one," he prays, in the seventeenth chapter of John, "as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be one in us." "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." W hat He is, we can any or all of us become, He says.
Jesus' Relationship to God . It is not within the scope of this little book to study whether Jesus really was born in a different way from other people; that inquiry must be reserved for a more pretentious work. But this is quite certain, that He Himself made no claim to being different from the rest of us, except as to the extent of His consciousness.
He was conscious of a relationship with Spirit which the world knew nothing about; this relationship existed for the world as well as for Himself, whenever the world would recognize it, and enter into it. And for all to enter into this conscious unity with Spirit would save the world from sin, sickness, ignorance and poverty; it would establish the Kingdom of God.
He could pray for no greater good than that they might be "one with the Father," even as He was one with the Father. To be one with the Father is to be one with Spirit; and to be one with Spirit is to so harmonize with it that thought, life, power, and wisdom shall come in a continuous inflow from Spirit into our minds and bodies.
M an's Relationship to God . There is, according to Jesus, one Spirit who is all the power there is, all the life there is, and all the intelligence there is; and this Spirit has children, who are of the same substances as Himself, and who have power to think independently, and to separate themselves in consciousness from Him.
And the power to think independently implies the possibility of thinking erroneously; if man separates himself in consciousness from God, he is sure to fall into error, for he can see only an infinitesimal portion of the truth.
Man's life, man's power, and man's wisdom decrease in exact proportion to the extent of his separation in consciousness from God.
Jesus found a world of men who had lost the consciousness of God, and because of doing so had become afflicted with the most horrible diseases; had fallen into the vilest depths of sin and debauchery; had sunk to the lowest levels of poverty and misery, and were in danger of losing life itself. To this lost and struggling world, He gave a demonstration of the possibilities of a life of cosmic consciousness - of conscious unity with Spirit. He demonstrated power over nature by calming the storm, and precipitating the food elements from the atmosphere to feed the hungry multitude; He demonstrated the power of Life to heal the sick; He demonstrated the W isdom which is beyond the limited consciousness of Man, and He demonstrated wealth; and finally, He demonstrated power over death.
And He told them how He did what He did, and how any other man might do the same, and even greater works.
The method of attaining cosmic consciousness we will consider in the next chapter.
"And this is Life Eternal: to know God."
Cosmic consciousness or conscious unity with Eternal Spirit can only be attained by a continuous and sustained effort on the part of man. The extension of consciousness always requires a mental effort; and this mental effort, when it is a seeking for unity with Spirit, constitutes prayer.
Prayer is an effort of the human mind to become acquainted with God. It is not an effort to establish a relationship which does not exist, but to fully comprehend and recognize a relationship which already exists. Prayer can have but one object, and that is unity with Spirit; for all other things are included in that.
We do not really seek, through prayer, to get health, peace, power or wealth; we seek to get unity with God; and when we get unity with God, health, peace, power and wealth are ours without asking. Study the intercessory prayer, as it is called, in the seventeenth chapter of John, and you will see that Jesus asks nothing for men except that they may be one in mind with God. This is the one thing needful; all other things are contained in it.
W hoever has full spiritual consciousness has health, peace, power and wealth.
Oneness Through Prayer and W ill . Jesus laid great stress on prayer in His teachings, and demonstrated His reliance upon it in His daily practice. The gospels abound with references to His praying; to His going apart to pray, continuing all night in prayer, and so on.
It is evident that His consciousness that He and the Father were one was only retained by persistently and continuously affirming and reaffirming the fact. This fact, it must be remembered, is in direct contradiction to our objective consciousness.
We appear to think, live, move and have our being entirely in ourselves and of ourselves; our physical senses deny the existence of a God. God is not found by extending the outward or objective consciousness. "God is Spirit," said Jesus, "and they who approach Him must approach Him through their own spirits."
To attain cosmic consciousness, the effort of prayer must be, first to arouse to activity the spirit in man and second, to unite that spirit in conscious union with God.
The spirit of man - the ego - the man himself, is aroused whenever the will acts.
Only the man himself can will; and when he wills it is his whole personality which comes into action.
We see, then, that Jesus was perfectly scientific in laying down His first requirement for attaining cosmic consciousness - that one must will to do the will of God.
He plainly ascribes His own power to His setting His will to do the will of Cosmic Spirit; and He says;
"He that willeth to do the will of God shall know."
To will to do the will of the Father, to keep His sayings, to do His works; this was the first step toward unity. And the next was the prayer of faith.
The Prayer of Faith . The prayer of faith is clearly described in Mark 11:23-24. "W hosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.
"Therefore, I say unto you, what things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them (now), and ye shall have them."
We see, here, that the prayer of faith cannot be offered twice for the same thing. As soon as you have asked, if you have real faith, your prayer changes to an affirmation of possession. Having willed to do the will of God, and having asked God to receive you into Himself, nothing is left you but to declare, "I and my Father are one."
This is the point which has been missed by most commentators - that the prayer of faith, when uttered, becomes an affirmation of possession. You cannot continue to pray for a thing when you believe that you receive it; you can only return thanks and assert that it is yours.
The Process of Receiving . First, will to do the will of God, and then (2) pray that you may be one with Him; and then (3) affirm, "I and my father are one."
And when you have definitely established in your consciousness the fact of your unity with Spirit, then draw your deductions of health, peace, power and wealth from this fact, and affirm them; otherwise you may not demonstrate them, for while they are all included in the fact of your unity with God, the mere assertion of that may not bring all the corollaries to your consciousness.
W hen the disciples came to Jesus asking Him to teach them to pray, He gave them the Lord's prayer; and it begins; "Thy kingdom come." When one has said that, he has asked for all there is; in the Kingdom of God no one would be without daily bread, or suffer evil; but these things are included in the prayer in order to make the thing prayed for more definite to the understanding.
So, the general affirmation of unity with God is not sufficiently definite to bring us health, peace, power and wealth; we do not clearly understand that these are included, and it is better to affirm them. But we must be definite and specific in our understanding of the fact of our unity with God.
"That Mind which was in Christ Jesus" . "I and my Father are one." That is good, but it does not convey the idea to the modern mind with sufficient distinctness.
"There is one Intelligence, and I am one with that Intelligence." Better, but somewhat clumsy.
"There is one MIND, and I am that MIND." That is a most clear-cut and concise statement of the fact; it would be hard to put it more tersely.
"There is ONE MIND." W hen you say that, think of the one Intelligence, permeating all things, vitalizing all things, giving coherence and purpose to all things. Get your thought fixed on this MIND, so that it seems to you that you can see and feel it! Then say: "I AM that MIND."
It is that MIND which is speaking, when I speak; which is acting when I act.
It takes affirming and reaffirming to get this fact fixed in consciousness, but all the time you put into the work is most profitably spent. You can well afford to go, as Jesus did, into the desert to fast and meditate for forty days; you can well afford to spend whole nights in prayer, if by doing so you can arrive at a full consciousness of your unity with God.
For then you will have entered the Kingdom.
"There is one MIND, and I am that MIND." Say it continuously, and always when you say it, try to comprehend all that it means. You; you who speak, are eternal mind; eternal power; eternal life.
All things are yours, and all things are possible unto you, when once you have banished the false idea of separateness from your consciousness.
Your word will be with power, and you will speak as one having authority; you will demonstrate health, power, wealth and wisdom,
when the consciousness that you are the ETERNAL ONE has obtained complete possession of your mind, objective and subjective.
And you can bring this about; only faith and continuing in affirmation while you will to do the will of God, are required.
After you have affirmed and reaffirmed your unity with the One Mind until that unity has become a fact present to your consciousness, the next step is to become Life-conscious.
Understand that the M ind is a living mind; that it is life, itself. If you are Mind, you are also Life. There is only one Life, which is in all, and through all; and you are that Life.
So, follow your first affirmation with this; "That MIND is eternal, and it is LIFE; I am that MIND, and I am ETERNAL LIFE."
Repeat this until you have thoroughly stamped it upon your mentality, both conscious and subconscious; until you habitually think of yourself as life, and as eternal life. Now, you habitually think of yourself as a dying being, or as one moving on toward age and decay; this is an error, born of holding separate consciousness. M eet every suggestion of age, decay or death with the positive assertion: "I am ETERNAL LIFE."
Jesus said: "And this is life eternal; to know thee, the LIVING God." To know God is to be conscious of your unity with Him; howelse can you know him?"
Health Consciousness . After Life-consciousness is attained, the step to Health- consciousness is easy. The One Mind is the living stuff from which you are made; and it is Pure Life. Life must be Health; it is inconceivable that an inflow of pure life should carry with it anything but health. A fountain cannot send forth sweet and bitter at the same time. A good tree cannot bring forth corrupt fruit. Light hath no fellowship with darkness. The One Mind cannot know disease; can have no consciousness of disease.
The consciousness of disease is an error, the result of judging by appearances; and we judge by appearances only so long as we retain the separate consciousness. One cannot be Life-conscious and conscious of disease at the same time; when we become fully life- conscious we lose the disease-consciousness.
So, the next affirmation is; "That Mind knows no disease; I am that Mind and I am HEALTH." Affirm it with faith; it will cure every sickness, if the affirmation is made in the consciousness that you and your Father are one.
Power Consciousness . Next comes power-consciousness; and the affirmation for this is: "That M ind is the source of all POW ER, and cannot know doubt nor fear; I am that Mind, and I am PEACE and POW ER."
It needs no argument to show that the source of all power cannot be afraid of anything; what could there be for it to be afraid of? Nor can the source of all power have doubts as to its being able to do any conceivable thing, or to cope with any possible combination of circumstances; what is there that all the power there is cannot do?
It is only when you conceive of yourself as separate from this power that you begin to have doubts as to your ability to do things; it is only as you hold this separate consciousness that you can be afraid.
Jesus never showed any doubt; nor did He ever manifest fear. He knew that no harm could come to Him, against His will; and none did. He was not crucified because His enemies gained a victory over Him; He went voluntarily to the cross, to make a demonstration which should finally show the truth to His disciples. "No man takes my life," said He, "I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (John 10:18).
To have power-consciousness gives poise; poise is the peaceful consciousness of power and is the result of affirming unity with power until it becomes a present fact in consciousness. "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you. Let not your heart be troubled; neither let it be afraid."
You cannot keep your heart from being afraid if you retain consciousness of yourself as something apart from Power. So, understand and affirm that you are one with Power.
W isdom Consciousness . Wisdom-consciousness is next. Power without wisdom may be a dreadful and destructive thing, like the strength of the runaway horse; and power can be constructive only when wisely applied. So we must affirm the fact of our wisdom. The One Mind, being the source of all things, must know all things from the beginning; must know all truth.
The mind which knows all truth cannot be mistaken; mistakes are caused by a partial knowledge of the truth. Such a mind cannot knowerror.
Knowing ALL truth, it can only act along the lines of perfect truth; it can only entertain in consciousness the idea of perfect truth.
It cannot know good from evil; it can know only the good. To recognize anything as evil, a mind must have only a partial knowledge, and a limited consciousness. W hat seems to be evil is always the result of partial knowledge. W here knowledge is perfect, there is no evil; and no one can be conscious of that which does riot exist.
"God is light and in him is no darkness at all." "God is of too pure eyes to behold evil, and cannot look upon eniquity."
When we become conscious of ALL truth, we lose the consciousness of evil.
W ith complete consciousness judgment becomes impossible, for there is nothing to judge. You do not have to exercise judgment when you know the right way; you do not sit in judgment on others where there is no evil.
So Jesus said; "Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man." "I am come, not to judge the world, but to save the world." "The Father judgeth no man."
W here evil and error are non-existent, there can be no judgment. To rise above the error of belief in evil, use this affirmation; "That Mind knows only TRUTH, and knows ALL truth; I am that Mind, and I am KNOWLEDGE and WISDOM ."
Wealth Consciousness . Having attained consciousness of eternal life, of health, power, and wisdom, what else do you need? Wealth-consciousness; the assurance of affluence and abundance.
The one M ind is the original substance, from which all things proceed forth. There is only one element; all things are formed of one stuff.
Science is now precipitating sugar, coloring matter, and other substances from the atmosphere; that seems to be akin to what Jesus did when He fed the multitude, in the so-called miracles of the loaves and fishes. The elements which compose all visible nature are in the atmosphere, waiting to be organized into form; and the atmosphere itself is only a condensed and palpable form of the one original substance - Spirit - God.
All things are made from, and made of, one living intelligent substance; One M ind, and you are that M ind. Therefore, you are the substance from which all things are made, and you are also the Power which makes and forms; you are wealth and abundance, for you are all there is.
So, affirm; "All things, created and uncreated, are in that M ind; I am that M ind, and I am WEALTH and PLENTY."
I Am the Way, Truth, Life . Lastly, say; "I am the WAY, and the TRUTH, and the LIFE; the LIGHT in me shines out to bless the world."
This will give you love-consciousness: the will to bless, and the will to love. Eternal life; health; power and peace; wisdom; wealth; and love; when you are conscious of all these, you have attained cosmic consciousness; you are in Christ and Christ is in you.
Statement of Being.
There is one Mind, and I AM that Mind.
That Mind is eternal, and it is Life.
I am that Mind, and I am ETERNAL LIFE.
That Mind knows no disease; I am that Mind, and I am HEALTH.
That Mind is the source of all Power, and cannot know doubt nor fear; I am that M ind, and I am POW ER and PEACE.
That M ind knows only Truth and knows ALL truth; I am that M ind, and I am KNOW LEDGE and WISDOM .
All things created and uncreated, are in that Mind; I am that Mind, and I am WEALTH and PLENTY.
I am the WAY, and the TRUTH, and the LIFE; the LIGHT in me shines out to bless the world.
In these days of idol smashing and rapid readjustment of ideals this lecture is most timely. Delivered at the Auditorium, Cincinnati, November 11, 1905, under the auspices of the local branch of the Socialist Party, it made so favorable an impression on certain listeners that they determined to have it printed if Professor Wattles would furnish the manuscript. This he has done. . The identity between the ethics of real Christianity and Socialism is perfect. The cornerstone of each is laid in Justice, Equality, Brotherhood. Under the vile and senseless economic system in vogue these principles cannot be practiced except through the absolute sacrifice of every material interest. W ho can doubt what the economic attitude of Jesus the carpenter agitator of Nazareth would be were he alive today!
The Spirit of Christ is not dead, but it no more resides in the modern church than it did in the church of His day. W here, then, do we find it? Those whose eyes are open to the truth see in the world-wide revolt of the working class the manifestation of the real Christianity. In it, they see the dawn of that "Peace on earth, good will to men" that Jesus proclaimed.
The reader is earnestly enjoined to read this beautiful lecture with open mind. Prejudice and intolerance are millstones about the neck of aspiring intelligence. They are a fatal handicap and cannot be discarded too quickly. Do not shy at a word, like a horse shying at a feather, for one is as ridiculous as the other. A better day is dawning and no nobler work is presented than to lend a helping hand to the establishment of an economic system where Christianity can be practiced.
It is doubtful if any man was ever more misunderstood by the people of His own time than Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly no man was ever more grossly misrepresented by succeeding generations, and especially by those who professed to be His friends and followers.
The Christian religion was first recognized by the powers of the state at an era when the interests of the ruling class demanded the utmost submission and conformity on the part of the people; and out of the needs of the kingly and priestly classes for a religious ideal which should induce men to be contented with slavery, to bow their necks to the yoke of taxation, and to submit to every form of economic evil without protest, was born the concept of the message, and of the personal character of Jesus which is accepted as orthodox today.
The picture of the man Jesus which you hold in your minds has been drawn far more from the poetry of Isaiah, written 700 years before He was born, than from the four gospels, which purport to be narratives of eye witnesses of His life and works. Such passages in Isaiah as: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was oppressed, and he was afflicted and he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth," have been quoted to show the meekness and the humility, the submissive spirit with which Christ endured wrong and injustice; and we have had held up as the saviour of the world a despised, friendless, poverty-stricken laborer whom the upper classes regarded with scorn because of his lowly origin and station; who had no friends save fisherman, laborers, outcasts and sinners; who was often shelterless and hungry, and who bore insults and persecutions with meek submission and walked about a scornful world with his hands always uplifted in loving benediction.
And this character is held up to us as the Christian ideal. Be meek. Be submissive. Be lamb-like or sheep-like. Bow your head before the persecutor and "hump" your back to the shearer. Rejoice that it is given you to be fleeced for the glory of God. It is a good religion - for the man with the shears. . The Christ who is held up in the orthodox pulpit is rather a weak character. He is not the kind of man we would nominate for president. His followers have very little confidence in him as a practical teacher of business ethics. They have great faith in him as a revealer of spiritual things, but none at all as an organizer of the affairs of this world. If it were telegraphed over the country this afternoon that the president has resigned and that Jesus would take his place tomorrow, 95 percent of Christian business men would draw their money out of the banks for fear that Jesus would inaugurate a panic.
Jesus said of Himself, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me." Well, He has not drawn all men, not even a majority of men, and I am inclined to think that He has never been lifted up. An unreal, imaginary character is being lifted up instead, and men are not being drawn by it.
Near a certain Indiana town there is a neighborhood peopled by an Amish sect. They all wear flat black hats and plain black clothes which they fasten with hooks and eyes, because buttons are not Christlike; they shave their upper lip, cut the beard square across the chin, and the hair square also. It is said that when one of the brethren needs a hair-cut his wife turns a bowl or basin bottom upward over his head and cuts away all the hair that comes below it. Attired in this fashion, and in a very strong odor of sanctity, two of these brethren were walking in the street one day, and were met by an old farmer, a typical Hoosier character. After looking them over critically, he accosted them thus: "Say, why don't you fellows get your hair cut an' shave?" "We attire ourselves thus," said one, "because we want to look like our Savior." "Did the Savior look like you?" asked the farmer. "We believe he did." "Well," said the old man, positively, "darned if I blame the Jews for killin' him, then."
The brethren were holding up a false Christ, and so the old man was not attracted; and I want to prove to you today that the church, everywhere, is holding up a false Christ; I want to show Him to you as He was and is, the Supreme Man - the Highest Type, the incarnation and revelation of that One Great Life which is above all and through all and in us all, lifting us all toward unity with one another and with Him.
It is my task to rescue Christ from Christianity.
In the first place, then, Jesus was not despised because He was a workingman. Custom required every Jewish Rabbi, or learned man to have a trade. We read in the Talmud of Rabbi Johanan, the blacksmith, and of Rabbi Isaac, the shoemaker, learned and highly honored men. Rabbi Jesus, the carpenter would be spoken of in the same way. St. Paul, a very learned man, was a tent-maker by trade. Jesus could not, in that time and place have been despised for His station or His birth. Indeed, He was popularly supposed to be an aristocrat by birth, a son of the royal house and was frequently saluted as the son of David.
Second. He was not despised for ignorance. He was a very learned man. W henever He went into a synagogue He was selected to read the law and teach the congregation, as the one best qualified for that work. Luke says: "There went fame of him through all the region round about and he taught in their synagogues being glorified of all." In those times of fierce religious controversy no unlearned man could have held his own in such a fashion. He was thoroughly versed in the Jewish law; the way that He silenced his adversaries with apt quotations shows Him to have been letter-perfect. Even His enemies always addressed him as M aster or Teacher, acknowledging His profound learning.
Third. He was not despised for His poverty. He had many wealthy and influential friends. Lazarus and his sisters were people of consequence. Luke says that Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the king's steward, and other women ministered unto him of their substance - that is, were supporters of His work. The king's steward was a high official, and his wife was a prominent lady. Joseph of Arimathea, who came after His body, was a well-to-do man. So probably, was Nicodemus. Jesus healed the sick in the families of rulers and of high officials, and they appear to have responded liberally in supplying His financial needs. True, He owned no real estate; but He dressed expensively, and never lacked for money.
When He was crucified His clothing was too fine to cut up, and so the soldiers cast lots for it; on the night of His betrayal, when Judas went out, it was supposed that he had gone to give something to the poor. It must have been their custom to give away money. In that country and climate their wants were few and simple, and were fully supplied. Jesus wore fine clothes and had plenty to eat and drink and had money to give away.
Read the four gospels, and you can come to no other conclusion. Jesus was not humble, in the accepted sense. He did not go about with downcast look, and a general attitude of asking permission to stay on earth. He was a man of the most impressive, commanding and powerful personal appearance. He "spoke as one having authority" and frequently we are told that great awe and fear came upon the people at His mighty words and works. In one place they were so frightened that they besought Him to leave; and John tells how certain officers sent to arrest Him in the market place lost their nerve in His commanding presence, and went back saying, "Surely never man spake like this man."
On the night of His arrest a bank of soldiers approached Him in the grove, and asked for Jesus of Nazareth; and when He answered, "I am he," such was His majesty and psychic power that they prostrated themselves; "they went backward" the account says, "and fell to the ground." Does this man I am describing seem to you like one of our Amish, or even like one of our Methodists? Yet this is the Christ of the four gospels. I would like to see one of His present-day followers knock down a platoon of policeman by saying "I am he."
Now, to be Christ-like in personality a man must be learned, well dressed, well supplied with money and be of noble and commanding appearance, speaking with authority, and possessing tremendous magnetic power.
W hat now, of the Christ-like attitude toward the world? One of the very best ways to understand that is by studying His reasons for taking the title He assumed - the Son of Man. He rarely spoke of Himself in any other way. This term, son of man, was common in the Jewish prophecies. It was simply an emphatic way of saying Man. If you wanted to emphasize your Methodism, you might say, "I am a son of Wesley," and if you wanted to emphasize your humanity, as Jesus did, "I am a son of man."
Why did He lay stress upon the fact that He was a man? You will note the position. The son of Wesley will stand for M ethodism, and the son of Calvin will stand for Calvinism, but the Son of Man must stand for humanity.
The Roman empire was a great taxing machine. In the conquered provinces, the people were left, as far as possible, with their own local government and institutions of justice, the function of the Roman officials being to extort tribute, or collect taxes. Every form of extortion was practiced by governors, procurators and tax- collectors upon those who were able to pay. Open robbery, torture, kidnapping, false accusation, outrage of every kind might be practiced upon the man who had money to tempt the cupidity of the higher powers. And as the oppressed property holders had no way to meet the extractions of government but by oppressing the poor, the condition of the masses was pitiful indeed. You will readily see that the business and property-owning classes had to get the money to pay their taxes by exploiting the poor in some way.
It is an economic axiom which is indisputable that all taxation of whatever kind, upon whomsoever levied, is wrung at last from the hard hands of the toiling poor; that is the reason they are poor. To give you an idea as to how oppressive this taxation was, we may estimate from certain passages in Josephus that the private income of Herod the Great was three and one-half millions of dollars a year. That is not as much, of course, as the income of our president today, but he has a very much larger country, and more people to tax, and while he is not allowed to use some of Herod's most effective methods, he has others of his own which lay the crude ways of the monarchs of antiquity very far in the shade.
The enormous sums which were collected from that little province brought the unhappy toilers down to the last extremity of destruction; they could go no lower and live. In Judea, at this time there were several religious sects, which were also in a way political parties, scheming for place and power, and for influence with Rome. The Pharisees, Saducees, Essenes, Samaritans, etc., disagreed on various questions, as the interpretation of prophecy, the existence of angels, the resurrection of the dead, baptism, and so on. The strife between these parties was desperately acrimonious and bitter, often to the point of personal violence. Their arguments frequently ended in riots. You will notice, as you read, that they were always ready to "take up stones" to end a dispute; often only the commanding personality of Jesus saved him from being stoned by these religious mobs. These sects were intensely eager to make converts, or proselytes. Jesus says of them that they would compass sea and land to add one to their number.
Below all these middle-class disputants were the common people, sunk in the most abject poverty - taxed, beaten, outraged, robbed, slaughtered, and no voice lifted anywhere in their behalf. No one, Jew or Gentile, thought of demanding justice for the mongrel multitude. It is said of Jesus that He had "compassion on the multitude because they fainted and were amazed, and were like sheep without a shepherd." They had plenty of shepherds to baptize them, to interpret prophecy for them, to instruct them in "spiritual" things, and even to shear them; but none to demand a lightening of their burdens - none to cry out in their behalf for justice.
There are still shepherds who are far more concerned about correctness of doctrine than about justice. Into this maze of oppression, taxation, murder, outrage and theological discussion comes the grand figure of the Christ, saying: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. I am no Pharisee; I am no Saducee; I am no Essene or Samaritan: I am a man! I come, not on behalf of Phariseeism or Samaritanism, but on behalf of humanity." A new note in religion; a new attitude. No wonder they were "amazed at his doctrine." No wonder His word was with power. No wonder they said "he speaketh as one having authority."
In John's gospel, Jesus says of Himself that the Father hath given Him authority to execute judgement because He is a man. I say that this is the only reason God ever had for giving authority to any man, and I say that if there is a man anywhere today upon whom the divine sanction rests it is not because he is a Pharisee or a Saducee, a Methodist, Presbyterian, Republican or Democrat, but because he is a man. And I also say that among all those who claim leadership today, by virtue of divine-annointment, we may apply this test with certainty - that the man who stands for humanity, first, last and all the time, against all vested interests, religious and political, is the man who stands with God. He and he only, is in the true Christian attitude - the attitude that Jesus took.
And because He took this position; because He stood for humanity against the vested religious interests of His time, He was called an infidel; because He stood for humanity against the vested economic and political interests of His time He was called a traitor. Jesus was crucified on the charges of infidelity and treason; and He was guilty - legally - on both counts. I know no prouder titles, when justly acquired, than these: Infidel and Traitor! I pray that Great Intelligence, before whose eye all the affairs of men are spread, to write opposite my name in the book of His remembrance, Infidel - Traitor: Infidel to every church that apologizes for economic injustice; Traitor to every government that assists in the exploitation of the poor. The only sinful infidelity is infidelity to the truth; the only vile treason is treason to the weak. This was the attitude that Jesus took; He expressed all this when He assumed the title which made Him the champion of humanity - when He said, "I am the son of man." And He gave all this full expression in His teachings.
Let me quote from the sermon on the mount: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement; but I say unto you that whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgement, and whosoever shall say unto his brother 'Raca,' shall be in danger of the council, but whosoever shall say 'thou fool,' shall be in danger of hell fire." The expression "thou fool," does not clearly interpret the original; it would be better rendered by the phrase "you are no good," or "you are worthless.
Let me illustrate the meaning of this passage to you. I was sitting in a hotel lobby when the news came in of an Indiana coal mine horror, in which a number of poor fellows lost their lives. Two well-dressed men were discussing the affair, and one said: "Oh, well, it's only a couple of Hungarians less! A million more are ready to step into their shoes tomorrow. The world hasn't lost anything." Jesus says, whosoever shall speak of a man like that is in danger of hell fire. That is the exact meaning of this passage. The responsibility of all murder rests on those who degrade the public estimate of the value of human life. The killing of Filippinos on behalf of our commercial interests is paving the way for the killing of Americans in the streets of our own cities, on behalf of those same "interests." The talk of "inferior races" is but a prelude to the talk of "lower classes." W hoever talks so is in danger of hell fire.
The doctrine of hell itself, is born of the infamous idea that there are some classes of men who are specially valuable to God; and those who teach such blasphemies walk ever on the crumbling verge of that black pit, wherein gleam the fires of eternal wrath. If anybody goes to hell, it will be those who degrade humanity.
This is what Jesus said. Now, if you turn to the 12th chapter of Matthew, you will read that the disciples were crossing the fields on the sabbath day, and that they plucked the ears of corn and ate as they went. This gave great offense to the Pharisees. They were not offended because they took the grain, for under law the right of a hungry man to life transcended the property rights of the owner of the field; none might say the famished wayfarer nay if he chose to pluck and eat. It was not, I say, because they ate, that the Pharisees were angry, but because the thing was done upon the sabbath day. The Pharisees thought that the thing most valuable to God was their church, with its institutions and observances. They would not break the sabbath to feed the hungry; they would not break it to heal the sick. God cared more for the institution than He did for the man.
And so they complained to Jesus; and He answered them: "Have ye not heard what David did when he was hungry, he and they that were with him?" and He went on to tell them how David and his companions - and David's companions at that time were a mighty tough gang - went into the temple itself, and took the shew-bread, which was sacred, and ate it - and God approved. "One standeth here," said Jesus, "greater than the temple." God cares more for a hungry man than he does for a holy house.
In Mark 2, where the same story is told, he adds: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath." Here is defined sharply the issue between Jesus and His opponents. They were exalting the worship, the temple, the sabbath, the ceremonial. He exalted the man. And I for one, agree with Jesus. I feel no reverence for buildings, even though they may be magnificent structures, where a dim light falls through stained glass windows upon the structured forms of saints, and where robed priests chant in solemn ceremony; these things move me not at all. But when I stand in a school room and look into the bright faces of a hundred boys and girls - when I stand in the crowded market-place or in a factory, where my brothers and sisters toil to supply the needs of the world, and I realize that every life before me contains possibilities as boundless as the universe itself; when I stand in the presence of this toiling, suffering, loving, seeking, glorious, common humanity, I bare my head and bow in reverence, for here indeed I am in the very presence of Almighty God. One is here greater than the temple, greater than the church, greater than the sabbath.
God has a higher call for men than the observation of certain days, or the keeping of certain places holy. This whole earth is a most holy place because it is consecrated by the love of God to fulfill His purpose in the high destiny of man.
Is not this the only rational interpretation of these sayings of Christ? Have you ever heard it so in church? Theirs is a metaphysical Christ, a false Christ. This Christ I hold up today is the real Saviour.
The trouble with the churches is that they are all too much like one in Washington. It was a Calvanistic church - a very solemn place. Washington is a solemn place anyway, for people who believe in hell - they are so near their finish. A good old Methodist woman strayed into this church one Sunday and sat down. The preacher was eloquent, and presently the old lady, greatly moved, shouted heartily, "Amen!" An usher touched her gently on the shoulder and whispered: "Madam, you will please keep still." She subsided, but under the influence of the eloquent sermon, she lost herself again directly, and shouted: "Glory to God!". Again came the usher with his whispered reproof. "But sir," she said, "I've got religion." "Oh, well, madam," he answered, "this is no place to have religion." You laugh. Perhaps you know of churches where anything is more welcome than religion.
"And Jesus took a little child, and set him in the midst and said: 'W hosoever shall humble himself as this little child shall be great in the kingdom of heaven.'" You have, no doubt, seen a great many pictures of Jesus as he blessed the little children, and you have always seen Him surrounded by prettily dressed ladies, who were bringing nice, clean babies - the kind of children it is easy to love; the kind you cannot help blessing. The gentlemen who draw these pictures cater more to the artistic sense than to a desire to represent accurately the facts in the case.
That was undoubtedly a slave child; a child of the abyss; unwashed, uncombed, covered with vermin; human in His suffering, in His capacity for pain, but with the better portion of His humanity lying dormant in His soul visible to God but not to men. And He said, "W hoso receiveth one such little child, receiveth me."
There are a good many children in whom you find it hard to see the Christ, are there not? Let me do for you, my friends, what Jesus did for His hearers; let me bring a little child, and set Him here before you.
I went into a tenement building in the city of Chicago, one hot afternoon in the season when those buildings become great superheated ovens, with a doctor, to see some children who were sick. In one room we found a little boy - a very little boy indeed - who was dying with a fever. The room was squalid and intensely hot; there were three other children, dirty and uncared for. The mother was giving all her time to her sick baby, wetting his parched and bleeding lips, and trying by every poor device at her command to lessen his suffering. The doctor said to me that day: "I can go where grown people are dying, or dead, without being overmuch moved; I can go where children are dead, and thank God; but when I go in where these children are sick, and see what they have to bear, and how they bear it, it breaks me down and unmans me quite. I cannot bear to see it."
Poor little boy, with his bright eyes and flushed cheeks, he lay quite patiently, and only the restless movement of the wasted little hands upon the quilt betrayed his suffering. He spoke to his mother: "Mamma," he said, "it is time for papa to come in." The father was a stationary engineer, who worked near by, and it seemed that it was his custom to leave his work, now and again to run in and see his child. "Yes, honey," the mother answered, "papa will be here pretty soon." "M amma," the child said, "when papa comes he'll say 'how is my little man' and I'll say 'all right,' so he will be glad. Don't tell him I am dying, but I think I am."
He was thinking, you see, not of himself, even in the hour of his extremity, but of his father. Well, presently the father came into the room. He was a rough, wild looking man, with uncombed hair and beard, clad only in a shirt and overalls, his face and bare arms black with coal. I have no doubt he was an ignorant man, as books go. I have no doubt he was a bad man from the orthodox and conventional standpoint; I presume he sometimes swore, and played cards for the beer, and did other dreadful things.
As he came in, he glanced anxiously at his wife, and then at us, and read the worst of tidings in our faces. His own face quivered, and his bearded lips twisted strangely; then, for the child's sake, he forced a cheerful smile and came across the room toward the bed; and as he came, upon his coal-grimed features shone with transfiguring light a father-love as holy as the love of God Himself.
The father bent above the cot. "How is my little man?" he asked. And the feeble voice piped bravely, while the parched lips writhed in a pitiful attempt to smile: "I'm all right, papa; I'm all right." It broke the man down. He burst out sobbing, and springing to his feet rushed out upon the landing to struggle for self-control. The mother, also sobbing bitterly, bent over her child again; and down the poor child's cheek rolled just one tear - of pity - for his father. That was a "cheap" child; one of the "lower" classes. Not one of the "fittest" to survive - and so he died.
Jesus took a little child and set him in the midst of them, and said: "Whosoever shall offend one of these little ones it is better that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Yes, any man, or woman, or railroad system, or financial system or industrial order that stands between the child and life, is under the curse of God. I say, with Jesus, that it is more important that justice be done to one such little child than that all the corn crops of a thousand years be saved.
"Whoso shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be great in the kingdom of heaven." How can you humble yourself as such a child? Does it mean to be childlike in spirit, teachable, credulous? No; there is only one way. Stand beside that child of the abyss and say, "Before God he is as good as I. He is entitled to everything I claim for myself and for my children, and I will never rest until all I claim for myself and mine is assured for him also." Then you will begin to be great in the Kingdom of God.
How can I love my neighbor as myself? How can I love that child as I do my own children?
One day Jesus was talking to the folks and He said: "Why are you worried about things to eat and wear? Seek a just and righteous order of things and you will have plenty." I am here to testify that Jesus told the truth. This world would produce food for ten times its population. It would clothe ten times its population more richly than Solomon was arrayed in all his glory. It would furnish building material to erect a palace larger than Rockefella mansions for every family that lives on it. Our Father has provided the raw material for the things essential to life a thousandfold more than we can use. The race is rich, abundantly rich, as a whole. The satisfaction of human needs is a problem of machinery and organization. We have the machinery pretty well perfected. It is now a problem of organization.
Seek the Father's kingdom, says Jesus, and you solve the bread and butter problem. W hat is a father's kingdom like? A yonder comrade, let us say, is the father of a family, and he sees his children gather about a table where he has provided bountifully for them all, as our Father has for us. Well, the biggest boy gets to the table first, and he gathers all the good things around his plate, and gets his arms around them; his little sister reaches for a piece and he slaps her; he strikes back the outstretched hands of the others and says: "Get away! Our father put this here and I've got here first and it's mine! Get away," (strike, push, shove), and looking up to the father he says, "Our father (strike), thy kingdom come (biff), thy will be done" (bang). W ould not that father say, "My will will not be done until your brothers and sisters have an equal chance." ? And if the big boy should say "Well then, father, I will hold it as your trustee, and I will give the others what they need, if I can spare it." Would not the father say, "My kingdom does not consist in benevolence or charity, or self-denial, or sacrifice, or worship, or Sabbath observance, but in justice for all."
Jesus pointed out that the birds are not worried about getting something to eat. They live in the kingdom of God. We live in the kingdom of Caesar. If the time ever comes when some of the smart birds get a corner on bugs or organize a worm trust, there will be worry among them also.
Now, so far as nature is concerned there is nothing to prevent me from loving my neighbor as myself. There is plenty for him and me, too. And just what does it mean this loving ones neighbor as himself? Suppose my wife and I sat down at the table and we had nothing to eat but a crust of bread and a piece of pie. And suppose I reach out and get the pie and say, "M y dear wife, how I love you! I do wish you had some pie!" and I swallow it and leave her to gnaw the crust. W hich do I love best, myself or her? If I love her as myself, will I consent to hog the pie? If I love her as myself what I try to get for myself I will try to get for her. If I love you as myself, what I try to get for myself I will try to get for you, and what I try to get for my children, I will try to get for yours and I will no more rest under an injustice done to your children than if it were done to my children.
Now can you imagine a state of society in which the good thing I do for myself shall be done for you also? I spoke one night in Chicago and at the close I got on a street car and stood beside a girl who had been one of the listeners, and she spoke to me. "Mister," she said, "I heard your speech and I liked it very much. I'm only a poor, ignorant girl but I've thought of these things, and the world as it is reminds me of one of these big jack screws they lift buildings with - you turn a handle round and round and the center part is lifted up. So, it seems as though we poor folks are at the handle. We go round forever and never get any higher. We are always in the same place. We go round to lift somebody else. And I thought it might be fixed like one of those winding stair-cases so that as we all went round we all might go up together, and the work we all do would help us all, and if a few people didn't get quite so high, some day we would all come to the top together and that would be better for us all." And I thought that if I had the power I would make all the college professors and preachers and the teachers go and sit at that poor girl's feet and learn a little political economy.
These things are hidden from the wise and prudent and revealed unto babes. The pure in heart shall see God. The average man is so wedded to the idea of the divine origin of the present order that he cannot conceive of the possibility of a change. He will not investigate, he will not consider; he simply says, "It can't be done." He is like the old Tennesseean who did not believe in railroads. They built a railroad through his vicinity and the neighbors got him to go down one day to look at the track. They had laid the track down to the river bank and had tunneled on the opposite side under a hill, but had not commenced to build the bridge. The old man took one look - that was enough. He didn't stop to ask questions. He threw up his hands and said: "Oh, by thunder, you needn't tell me that you can make an engine that will jump that river and hit that hole in the hill! It can't be did."
Have you ever thought, oh ye of little faith, that there is a way to bridge this chasm between individual effort and united effort? Consider for a moment our public school system. We are educating our children by uniting our effort. We hold the school property in common. You are a proprietor in the school property of M arion, Ind.
I am a part owner of the school property in Cincinnati. So far as that work is concerned we are all one family, are we not? It is our father's kingdom, in part, established in the midst of Caesar's kingdom, isn't it?
Suppose, in my love for my children, I devise a new text book or a more convenient desk or a more comfortable seat, anything that makes their work easier or betters the school service - then I get it adopted, and I have helped my own children, I have helped your children, I have helped every child from Maine to California. I have brightened every life and added to the happiness of every home, I have loved all as well as my own. This is the spiral stair-way plan. I like it better myself than the jack screw method.
Industry is on the other plan. If I invent a new laborsaving machine, I cause hundreds of my brothers to lose their chance to make a living, and make the problem more intense for all. Suppose the factory were like the school, an institution set apart for the supplying of a common need by united effort, would it be so? If I could, by some device, lighten my own task I would bring rest to all, and there, again, I would love my neighbor as myself.
The apostles understood it so. They started out to build a unified and harmonious world. Read the second and fourth chapters of the Acts of Apostles, and read the writings of the early Christian fathers, and you will see that the idea of Jesus and the apostles was not to build an institution for worship in a bad world, but to build the world itself into a united, harmonious, orderly and scientific society. To make society a spiral stairway, up which a redeemed humanity should march together into unity with God. They had all things common. There was no poverty among them that was not shared by all. The early churches were little commonwealths, and the purpose which they held with intense enthusiasm was the building of the world into one great commonwealth.
The Apostles were communist organizers. The purpose of Jesus, as understood by them, was the establishment of a scientific society, which he called by its true name - the Kingdom of God; a world of unified effort, centering in the development of the little child. It was this glorious vision which gave virility and power to the preaching of the early church, and the church of today has no power because it has no purpose and no hope.
Dr. Quayle, of Indianapolis, has written a little pamphlet in which he argues that the Apostles were mistaken in their sociology. He holds that they were all right in their theology - inspired and infallible - but they were poor business men. I would suppose that the same Holy Spirit who gave them their theology must have given them their social ideas also. The communistic regime was as much a part of the life of the church as the Lord's Supper, and was far more clearly drawn from the teachings of the Master. Dr. Quayle's attitude is equivalent to saying that the Holy Ghost is an excellent old personage, very correct on doctrinal matters, but a little off when we come to the practical affairs of life.
That is exactly the attitude of the church today toward Jesus. Every modern preacher, with fewexceptions, denies his Master whenever he speaks of social problems. I am not going to rail at the church; but the church charges us with infidelity, with atheism and immorality, and I am going to reply with a statement of the case and with a counter charge.
Those of you who have read Elbert Hubbard's article on the cotton mills of South Carolina, will never forget that realistic description of the awful conditions. How the thousands of baby slaves are gathered in by fraud, misrepresentation and by tempting the cupidity of their fathers; how the long hours, the close application, and the flying lint combine to break down their feeble bodies so certainly and so speedily that the average life of a child condemned to one of these hells is only four years. It is organized murder on a wholesale scale; it is cruelty beyond words; outrage so infinite as to be inexpressible. And near many of these slaughter- houses you will find a church, built by the child-killing corporation, and there is a preacher whose salary is paid from the pitiful stipend of the dying children. In some cases it is even reported that a regular percentage is deducted from the weekly wages for the support of the gospel of that Christ who said, "Forasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me."
I suppose we all agree that that church is supported by the organized exploitation, even unto death, of little children? I suppose that we all agree that a business which works the lives of little children into dividends is wrong, and that a church which is supported by the fruits of such a crime is wrong, and that the spiritual life of any church cannot rise very far above the source from which it draws its financial nourishment? A church which lives by child murder can not have much divine power in its ministrations, can it?
W hat is the difference, in principle, between a business in the South which takes all a child's life in four years, and a business in the North which takes a man's or woman's life in twenty years? W hat is the difference in principle between the business of Ohio and that of South Carolina? What is the difference in principle in competition anywhere? W hat is the difference in principle between the source of nourishment of the church here and the church there?
Let my brethren of the pulpit charge me with heresy and with infidelity if they will; I answer with this counter charge: I say that the same power which corrupts great corporations and bribes lawmakers, which suborns perjury and spots with foul stains the robe of justice, which plants the land with brothels and saloons, and makes city government a stench in the nostrils of God, is the power that feeds the church. Organized business!
And I charge that down the no-thoroughfares of commercialism today, organized business and the church which bears the name of Jesus Christ, bound together like the Siamese twins, nourished by the same blood, fed from the same source, thinking the same thoughts, and loving the same loves, are walking side by side; and of the exploitation of men and the degradation of women, and the murder of children, equally guilty before God.
If that be infidelity, let the church make the most of it. If it be false, let the church disprove it. If it be true, let her cleanse her robes of the innocent blood, attire herself in sack cloth and with the ashes of repentance on her head, cry for mercy to Almighty God.
In the time of Jesus they were very prone to compare themselves with one another, and thank God that they were not like other men. In the 13th chapter of Luke, you will read how Jesus said to them "Think ye that those on whom the tower fell the other day were sinners above all the other people in Jerusalem, because such a thing befell them? I tell ye nay, but except ye repent ye shall likewise perish!"
Do you think, my friends, that in the day when Capitalism stands up for judgement, and the blood of its slaughtered millions cries to God for justice, it will avail a man to say, "I was a Methodist: I was sound on justification," "I was a Baptist, I was put clear under water," "I was a Catholic, I said prayers with perfect regularity every day." I tell you no but except we repent we shall all likewise perish.
Ah, how I long to give my brethren of the pulpit this vision of the Christianity of Jesus and the Apostles; this concept of the real Christ. How I long for adequate words to convey His call to them and to you!
The call of Christ! W hat is it and where is it? W here do we hear it? Look and listen at the pageant of your civilization; see the gorgeous shows, the display of wealth, the wonders of color, the things of art: Hear the mighty uproar of the great world of commerce, the clamor of the market, the screaming of the whistles, the ringing of the bells, the puffing of engines, the crash and rattle of machinery, the clangor of music, the cheering of excited crowds - and now listen closer, bend down and keep still and through it all you hear another note, a minor strain growing louder and stronger day by day - the groans of despairing men, the sobs of outraged women, the feeble cries of dying children. The cry of the sorrowing for relief, the pleading of the disinherited for justice.
That, oh men and women, is the call of Christ to you. W hat does it mean to a minister of the gospel in the present day to answer that call? It means to stand, not for charity, but for justice; not for reform but for revolution. It means to close the doors of these splendid temples, rather than live another day by taking the gold of organized oppression. It means to go again upon the highways and the byways, saying, "The spirit of the Lord is upon us because he hath anointed us to preach good news to the poor." It means to work, not for institutions of worship, but for a commonwealth. It means to break at once and forever with the vested interests of Capitalism: to be infidel to its religion, traitor to its government: to cry with Isaiah: "Thy princes are rebellious and companions of thieves; every one loveth gifts and followeth after rewards; they judge not the widow, neither doth the cause of the fatherless come unto them; the spoil of the poor is in their houses, their hands are full of blood! Bring no more incense, sing no more songs, pray no more vain prayers; observe no more ceremonies. I will have justice, before worship, saith the Lord of Hosts!"
Yes, the call of Christ to the minister is to break once and for all and absolutely with Capitalism. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's means that all is God's: in a redeemed world there is no room for Caesar. And my brother, sister, the call is the same to you.
M atthew tells us that when Jesus hung upon the cross the Pharisees mocked Him saying, "If thou be the son of God come down from the cross." They wanted to be led by a Son of God but they wanted to be led in easy ways, to glory, place and power. They wanted a competitive Christ, who would lead them to competitive victory. They wanted a kingdom of God, but they wanted it to be on the general plan of this world's kingdoms. They wanted to give the poor charity not justice; to give the slave kindness not liberty. They would be good to the poor but they would not abolish poverty; they wanted to ride easily on the backs of others, not to bear others as a burden on their own shoulders. "If thou be the Son of God, come down!"
And current Christianity stands before the cross in the same attitude saying the same words, "Not that way, Master! Not to be crucified on behalf of humanity! Lead us the other way! Come down off the cross!"
My friends, the call of Christ is as it was 2000 years ago, and has ever been to bear the burdens of weak, wronged, outraged, robbed, oppressed and disinherited humanity. To join your lives to those of the poor. To feel their pains, to share their sufferings, to live for their deliverance - to bow beneath their sorrows in dark Gethsemane; to walk, thorn-crowned, with staggering feet up the steep way to Calvary; sustained because beyond the cross we see the river sepulcher, and through it shines the glory of a resurrected humanity. Lift up your heads! The day of your redemption draweth nigh; the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Compare this call, my friends, with what you hear from the orthodox pulpit, the appeal to selfishness, the exhortation to save yourself; compare it with the appeal of orthodox politics to the appetite alone, and see if it does not move you more. Is not this Christ worthy of your following, this cause entitled to your highest service? Let us consecrate ourselves to it today. To the service of Christ in humanity, to the bringing in of the redeemed world, let us in emulation of our fathers pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not LOVE I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not Love, it profiteth me nothing.
Love suffereth long, and is kind;
Love envieth not;
Love vaunteth not itself is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly,
Seeketh not her own,
Is not easily provoked,
Thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I knoweven as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love.--I COR xiii.
EVERYONE has asked themselves the great question of antiquity as of the modern world: W hat is the summum bonum--the supreme good? You have life before you. Once only you can live it. W hat is the noblest object of desire, the supreme gift to covet?
We have been accustomed to be told that the greatest thing in the religious world is Faith. That great word has been the key-note for centuries of the popular religion; and we have easily learned to look upon it as the greatest thing in the world. Well, we are wrong. If we have been told that, we may miss the mark. I have taken you, in the chapter above, to Christianity at its source; and there we have seen, "The greatest of these is love." It is not an oversight. Paul was speaking of faith just a moment before. He says, "If I have all faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. "So far from forgetting, he deliberately contrasts them, "Now abideth Faith, Hope, Love," and without a moment's hesitation, the decision falls, "The greatest of these is Love."
And it is not prejudice. A person is apt to recommend to others their own strong point. Love was not Paul's strong point. The observing student can detect a beautiful tenderness growing and ripening all through his character as Paul gets old; but the hand that wrote, "The greatest of these is love," when we meet it first, is stained with blood.
Nor is this letter to the Corinthians peculiar in singling out love as the summum bonum. The masterpieces of Christianity are agreed about it. Peter says, "Above all things have fervent love among yourselves." Above all things. And John goes farther, "God is love." And you remember the profound remark which Paul makes elsewhere, "Love is the fulfilling of the law." Did you ever think what he meant by that? In those days men were working their passage to Heaven by keeping the Ten Commandments, and the hundred and ten other commandments which they had manufactured out of them. Christ said, I will show you a more simple way. If you do one thing, you will do these hundred and ten things, without ever thinking about them. If you love, you will unconsciously fulfil the whole law. And you can readily see for yourselves how that must be so.
Take any of the commandments. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." If a man love God, you will not require to tell him that. Love is the fulfilling of that law. "Take not His name in vain." W ould a person ever dream of taking His name in vain if they loved Him? "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." W ould they not be too glad to have one day in seven to dedicate more exclusively to the object of their affection? Love would fulfil all these laws regarding God. And so, if they loved M an, you would never think of telling them to honour their father and mother. They could not do anything else. It would be preposterous to tell them not to kill. You could only insult them if you suggested that they should not steal - how could they steal from those they loved? It would be superfluous to beg them not to bear false witness against their neighbor. If they loved their neighbour it would be the last thing they would do. And you would never dream of urging them not to covet what their neighbours had. They would rather their neighbour possessed it than themselves. In this way "Love is the fulfilling of the law." It is the rule for fulfilling all rules, the new commandment for keeping all the old commandments, Christ's one secret of the Christian life.
Now Paul had learned that; and in this noble eulogy he has given us the most wonderful and original account extant of the summum bonum. We may divide it into three parts. In the beginning of the short chapter, we have Love contrasted; in the heart of it, we have Love analysed; towards the end we have Love defended as the supreme gift.
PAUL begins by contrasting love with other things that men in those days thought much of. I shall not attempt to go over those things in detail. Their inferiority is already obvious.
He contrasts it with eloquence. And what a noble gift it is, the power of playing upon the souls and wills of men, and rousing them to lofty purposes and holy deeds. Paul says, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." And we all know why. We have all felt the brazenness of words without emotion, the hollowness, the unaccountable unpersuasiveness, of eloquence behind which lies no Love.
He contrasts it with prophecy. He contrasts it with mysteries. He contrasts it with faith. He contrasts it with charity. Why is Love greater than faith? Because the end is greater than the means. And why is it greater than charity? Because the whole is greater than the part. Love is greater than faith, because the end is greater than the means. W hat is the use of having faith? It is to connect the soul with God. And what is the object of connecting man with God? That he may become like God. But God is Love. Hence Faith, the means, is in order to Love, the end. Love, therefore, obviously is greater than faith. It is greater than charity, again, because the whole is greater than a part. Charity is only a little bit of Love, one of the innumerable avenues of Love, and there may even be, and there is, a great deal of charity without Love. It is a very easy thing to toss a copper to a beggar on the street; it is generally an easier thing than not to do it. Yet Love is just as often in the withholding. We purchase relief from the sympathetic feelings roused by the spectacle of misery, at the copper's cost. It is too cheap--too cheap for us, and often too dear for the beggar. If we really loved him we would either do more for him, or less.
Then Paul contrasts it with sacrifice and martyrdom. And I beg the little band of would-be missionaries and I have the honour to call some of you by this name for the first time--to remember that though you give your bodies to be burned, and have not Love, it profits nothing--nothing! You can take nothing greater to the heathen world than the impress and reflection of the Love of God upon your own character. That is the universal language. It will take you years to speak in Chinese, or in the dialects of India. From the day you land, that language of Love, understood by all, will be pouring forth its unconscious eloquence. It is the man who is the missionary, it is not his words. His character is his message.
In the heart of Africa, among the great Lakes, I have come across black men and women who remembered the only white man they ever saw before--David Livingstone; and as you cross his footsteps in that dark continent, men's faces light up as they speak of the kind Doctor who passed there years ago. They could not understand him; but they felt the Love that beat in his heart. Take into your new sphere of labour, where you also mean to lay down your life, that simple charm, and your lifework must succeed. You can take nothing greater, you need take nothing less. It is not worthwhile going if you take anything less. You may take every accomplishment; you may be braced for every sacrifice; but if you give your body to be burned, and have not Love, it will profit you and the cause of Christ nothing.
AFTER contrasting Love with these things, Paul, in three verses, very short, gives us an amazing analysis of what this supreme thing is. I ask you to look at it. It is a compound thing, he tells us. It is like light. As you have seen a man of science take a beam of light and pass it through a crystal prism, as you have seen it come out on the other side of the prism broken up into its component colours--red, and blue, and yellow, and violet, and orange, and all the colours of the rainbow--so Paul passes this thing, Love, through the magnificent prism of his inspired intellect, and it comes out on the other side broken up into its elements. And in these few words we have what one might call the Spectrum of Love, the analysis of Love. W ill you observe what its elements are? W ill you notice that they have common names; that they are virtues which we hear about every day; that they are things which can be practised by every man in every place in life; and how, by a multitude of small things and ordinary virtues, the supreme thing, the summum bonum, is made up?
The Spectrum of Love has nine ingredients:-- Patience: "Love suffereth long." Kindness: "And is kind." Generosity: "Love envieth not." Humility: "Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." Courtesy: "Doth not behave itself unseemly." Unselfishness: "Seeketh not her own." Good Temper: "Is not easily provoked." Guilelessness: "Thinketh no evil." Sincerity: "Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth."
Patience; kindness; generosity; humility; courtesy; unselfishness; good temper; guilelessness; sincerity--these make up the supreme gift, the stature of the perfect man or woman. You will observe that all are in relation to men and women, in relation to life, in relation to the known today and the near tomorrow, and not to the unknown eternity. We hear much of love to God; Christ spoke much of love to man. We make a great deal of peace with heaven; Christ made much
of peace on earth. Religion is not a strange or added thing, but the inspiration of the secular life, the breathing of an eternal spirit through this temporal world. The supreme thing, in short, is not a thing at all, but the giving of a further finish to the multitudinous words and acts which make up the sum of every common day.
There is no time to do more than make a passing note upon each of these ingredients. Love is: Patience. This is the normal attitude of Love; Love passive, Love waiting to begin; not in a hurry; calm; ready to do its work when the summons comes, but meantime wearing the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit. Love suffers long; beareth all things; believeth all things; hopeth all things. For Love understands, and therefore waits.
Kindness. Love active. Have you ever noticed how much of Christ's life was spent in doing kind things--in merely doing kind things? Run over it with that in view and you will find that He spent a great proportion of His time simply in making people happy, in doing good turns to people. There is only one thing greater than happiness in the world, and that is holiness; and it is not in our keeping; but what God has put in our power is the happiness of those about us, and that is largely to be secured by our being kind to them.
"The greatest thing," says someone, "a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children." I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered. How super-abundantly it pays itself back--for there is no debtor in the world so honorable, so superbly honourable, as Love. "Love never faileth". Love is success, Love is happiness, Love is life.
"Love, I say, with Browning, "is energy of Life."
"For life, with all it yields of joy and woe and hope and fear, Is just our chance o' the prize of learning love-- How love might be, hath been indeed, and is."
W here Love is, God is. He that dwelleth in Love dwelleth in God. God is love. Therefore love others, without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love. Lavish it upon the poor, where it is very easy; especially upon the rich, who often need it most; most of all upon our equals, where it is very difficult, and for whom perhaps we each do least of all. There is a difference between trying to please and giving pleasure. Give pleasure. Lose no chance of giving pleasure. For that is the ceaseless and anonymous triumph of a truly loving spirit.
"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
Generosity. "Love envieth not" This is Love in competition with others. W henever you attempt a good work you will find other men doing the same kind of work, and probably doing it better. Envy them not. Envy is a feeling of ill-will to those who are in the same line as ourselves, a spirit of covetousness and detraction. How little Christian work even is a protection against un-Christian feeling. That most despicable of all the unworthy moods which cloud a Christian's soul assuredly waits for us on the threshold of every work, unless we are fortified with this grace of magnanimity. Only one thing truly need the Christian envy, the large, rich, generous soul which "envieth not." And then, after having learned all that, you have to learn this further thing, humility. To put a seal upon your lips and forget what you have done. After you have been kind, after Love has stolen forth into the world and done its beautiful work, go back into the shade again and say nothing about it. Love hides even from itself. Love waives even self-satisfaction. "Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up." The fifth ingredient is a somewhat strange one to find in this summum bonum: Courtesy. This is Love in society, Love in relation to etiquette. "Love doth not behave itself unseemly." Politeness has been defined as love in trifles. Courtesy is said to be love in little things. And the one secret of politeness is to love. Love cannot behave itself unseemly. You can put the most untutored person into the highest society, and if they have a reservoir of love in their heart, they will not behave themselves unseemly. They simply cannot do it.
Carlyle said of Robert Burns that there was no truer gentleman in Europe than the ploughman-poet. It was because he loved everything--the mouse, and the daisy, and all the things, great and small, that God had made. So with this simple passport he could mingle with any society, and enter courts and palaces from his little cottage on the banks of the Ayr. You know the meaning of the word "gentleman." It means a gentle man--a man who does things gently, with love. And that is the whole art and mystery of it. The gentleman cannot in the nature of things do an ungentle, an ungentlemanly thing. The un-gentle soul, the inconsiderate, unsympathetic nature cannot do anything else. "Love doth not behave itself unseemly."
Unselfishness. "Love seeketh not her own." Observe: Seeketh not even that which is her own. In Britain the Englishman is devoted, and rightly, to his rights. But there come times when a man may exercise even the higher right of giving up his rights. Yet Paul does not summon us to give up our rights. Love strikes much deeper. It would have us not seek them at all, ignore them, eliminate the personal element altogether from our calculations. It is not hard to give up our rights. They are often external. The difficult thing is to give up ourselves. The more difficult thing still is not to seek things for ourselves at all. After we have sought them, bought them, won them, deserved them, we have taken the cream off them for ourselves already. Little cross then, perhaps, to give them up. But not to seek them, to look every man not on his own things, but on the things of others--id opus est.
"Seekest thou great things for thyself? "said the prophet; "seek them not." W hy? Because there is no greatness in things. Things cannot be great. The only greatness is unselfish love. Even self-denial in itself is nothing, is almost a mistake. Only a great purpose or a mightier love can justify the waste. It is more difficult, I have said, not to seek our own at all, than, having sought it, to give it up. I must take that back. It is only true of a partly selfish heart. Nothing is a hardship to Love, and nothing is hard. I believe that Christ's yoke is easy. Christ's "yoke" is just His way of taking life. And I believe it is an easier way than any other. I believe it is a happier way than any other.
The most obvious lesson in Christ's teaching is that there is no happiness in having and getting anything, but only in giving. I repeat, there is no happiness in having or in getting, but only in giving. And half the world is on the wrong scent in the pursuit of happiness. They think it consists in having and getting, and in being served by others. It consists in giving, and in serving others. He that would be great among you, said Christ, let him serve. He that would be happy, let him remember that there is but one way--it is more blessed, it is more happy, to give than to receive. The next ingredient is a very remarkable one: Good Temper. "Love is not easily provoked." Nothing could be more striking than to find this here. We are inclined to look upon bad temper as a very harmless weakness. We speak of it as a mere infirmity of nature, a family failing, a matter of temperament, not a thing to take into very serious account in estimating a man or woman's character. And yet here, right in the heart of this analysis of love, it finds a place; and the Bible again and again returns to condemn it as one of the most destructive elements in human nature.
The peculiarity of ill temper is that it is the vice of the virtuous. It is often the one blot on an otherwise noble character. You know men who are all but perfect, and women who would be entirely perfect, but for an easily ruffled, quick-tempered, or "touchy" disposition. This compatibility of ill temper with high moral character is one of the strangest and saddest problems of ethics. The truth is there are two great classes of sins--sins of the Body, and sins of the Disposition. The Prodigal Son may be taken as a type of the first, the Elder Brother of the second. Now society has no doubt whatever as to which of these is the worse. Its brand falls, without a challenge, upon the Prodigal. But are we right? We have no balance to weigh one another's sins, and coarser and finer are but human words; but faults in the higher nature may be less venial than those in the lower, and to the eye of Him who is Love, a sin against Love may seem a hundred times more base. No form of vice, not worldliness, not greed of gold, not drunkenness itself, does more to un-Christianise society than evil temper. For embittering life, for breaking up communities, for destroying the most sacred relationships, for devastating homes, for withering up men and women, for taking the bloom off childhood; in short, for sheer gratuitous misery-producing power, this influence stands alone.
Look at the Elder Brother, moral, hard-working, patient, dutiful--let him get all credit for his virtues--look at this man, this baby, sulking outside his own father's door. "He was angry," we read, "and would not go in." Look at the effect upon the father, upon the servants, upon the happiness of the guests. Judge of the effect upon the Prodigal--and how many prodigals are kept out of the Kingdom of God by the unlovely characters of those who profess to be inside? Analyse, as a study in Temper, the thunder-cloud itself as it gathers upon the Elder Brother's brow. W hat is it made of? Jealousy, anger, pride, uncharity, cruelty, self-righteousness, touchiness, doggedness, sullenness--these are the ingredients of this dark and loveless soul. In varying proportions, also, these are the ingredients of all ill temper. Judge if such sins of the disposition are not worse to live in, and for others to live with, than sins of the body. Did Christ indeed not answer the question Himself when He said, "I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the Kingdom of Heaven before you." There is really no place in Heaven for a disposition like this. A man with such a mood could only make Heaven miserable for all the people in it. Except, therefore, such a man be born again, he cannot, he simply cannot, enter the Kingdom of Heaven. For it is perfectly certain--and you will not misunderstand me--that to enter Heaven a man or woman must take it with them everywhere they go.
You will see then why Temper is significant. It is not in what it is alone, but in what it reveals. This is why I take the liberty now of speaking of it with such unusual plainness. It is a test for love, a symptom, a revelation of an unloving nature at bottom. It is the intermittent fever which bespeaks unintermittent disease within; the occasional bubble escaping to the surface which betrays some rottenness underneath; a sample of the most hidden products of the soul dropped involuntarily when off one's guard; in a word, the lightning form of a hundred hideous and un-Christian sins. For a want of patience, a want of kindness, a want of generosity, a want of courtesy, a want of unselfishness, are all instantaneously symbolised in one flash of Temper.
Hence it is not enough to deal with the temper. We must go to the source, and change the inmost nature, and the angry humours will die away of themselves. Souls are made sweet not by taking the acid fluids out, but by putting something in--a great Love, a new Spirit, the Spirit of Christ. Christ, the Spirit of Christ, interpenetrating ours, sweetens, purifies, transforms all. This only can eradicate what is wrong, work a chemical change, renovate and regenerate, and rehabilitate the inner man. W ill-power does not change men. Time does not change men. Christ-Truth does. Therefore "Let that mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus."
Some of us have not much time to lose. Remember, once more, that this is a matter of life or death. I cannot help speaking urgently, for myself, for yourselves. "W hoso shall offend one of these little ones, which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." That is to say, it is the deliberate verdict of the Lord Jesus that it is better not to live than not to love. It is better not to live than not to love.
Guilelessness and Sincerity may be dismissed almost with a word. Guilelessness is the grace for suspicious people. And the possession of it is the great secret of personal influence. You will find, if you think for a moment, that the people who influence you are people who believe in you. In an atmosphere of suspicion people shrivel up; but in that atmosphere they expand, and find encouragement and educative fellowship. It is a wonderful thing that here and there in this hard, uncharitable world there should still be left a few rare souls who think no evil. This is the great unworldliness. Love "thinketh no evil," imputes no motive, sees the bright side, puts the best construction on every action. W hat a delightful state of mind to live in! What a stimulus and benediction even to meet with it for a day! To be trusted is to be saved. And if we try to influence or elevate others, we shall soon see that success is in proportion to their belief of our belief in them. For the respect of another is the first restoration of the self-respect a man has lost; our ideal of what he is becomes to him the hope and pattern of what he may become. "Love rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth." I have called this:
Sincerity. From the words rendered in the Authorized Version by "rejoiceth in the truth." And, certainly, were this the real translation, nothing could be more just. For those that love will love Truth not less than other men or women. They will rejoice in the Truth-- rejoice not in what they have been taught to believe; not in this Church's doctrine or in that; not in this ism or in that ism; but "in The Truth." They will accept only what is real; they will strive to get at facts; they will search for Truth with a humble and unbiased mind, and cherish whatever they find at any sacrifice.
But the more literal translation of the Revised Version calls for just such a sacrifice for truth's sake here. For what Paul really meant is, as we there read, "Rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth," a quality which probably no one English word--and certainly not Sincerity--adequately defines. It includes, perhaps more strictly, the self-restraint which refuses to make capital out of others' faults; the charity which delights not in exposing the weakness of others, but "covereth all things"; the sincerity of purpose which endeavours to see things as they are, and rejoices to find them better than suspicion feared or calumny denounced.
So much for the analysis of Love. Now the business of our lives is to have these things fitted into our characters. That is the supreme work to which we need to address ourselves in this world, to learn Love. Is life not full of opportunities for learning Love? Every man and woman every day has a thousand of them. The world is not a play- ground; it is a schoolroom. Life is not a holiday, but an education. And the one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love.
W hat makes a man a good cricketer? Practice. What makes a man a good artist, a good sculptor, a good musician? Practice. W hat makes a man a good linguist, a good stenographer? Practice. W hat makes a man a good man? Practice. Nothing else. There is nothing capricious about religion. We do not get the soul in different ways, under different laws, from those in which we get the body and the mind. If a person does not exercise their arm they develop no biceps muscle; and if they do not exercise their soul, they acquire no muscle in their soul, no strength of character, no vigour of moral fibre, nor beauty of spiritual growth. Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, vigorous expression of the whole rounded Christian character--the Christlike nature in its fullest development. And the constituents of this great character are only to be built up by ceaseless practice.
W hat was Christ doing in the carpenter's shop? Practicing. Though perfect, we read that He learned obedience, He increased in wisdom and in favour with God and man. Do not quarrel therefore with your lot in life. Do not complain of its never-ceasing cares, its petty environment, the vexations you have to stand, the small and sordid souls you have to live and work with. Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is the practice which God appoints you; and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind, and courteous.
Do not grudge the hand that is moulding the still too shapeless image within you. It is growing more beautiful though you see it not, and every touch of temptation may add to its perfection. Therefore keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men, and among things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles. You remember Goethe's words: Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, Doch ein Character in dem Strom der Welt. "Talent develops itself in solitude; character in the stream of life." Talent develops itself in solitude--the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen; Character grows in the stream of the world's life. That chiefly is where men are to learn love.
How? Now, how? To make it easier, I have named a few of the elements of love. But these are only elements. Love itself can never be defined. Light is a something more than the sum of its ingredients--a glowing, dazzling, tremulous ether. And love is something more than all its elements-- a palpitating, quivering, sensitive, living thing. By synthesis of all the colors, men can make whiteness, they cannot make light. By synthesis of all the virtues, men can make virtue, they cannot make love. How then are we to have this transcendent living whole conveyed into our souls? We brace our wills to secure it. We try to copy those who have it. We lay down rules about it. We watch. We pray. But these things alone will not bring Love into our nature. Love is an effect. And only as we fulfil the right condition can we have the effect produced. Shall I tell you what the cause is?
If you turn to the Revised Version of the First Epistle of John you will find these words: "We love, because He first loved us." "We love," not "We love Him" That is the way the old Version has it, and it is quite wrong. "We love--because He first loved us." Look at that word "because." It is the cause of which I have spoken. "Because He first loved us," the effect follows that we love, we love Him, we love all people. We cannot help it. Because He loved us, we love, we love everybody. Our heart is slowly changed. Contemplate the love of Christ, and you will love. Stand before that mirror, reflect Christ's character, and you will be changed into the same image from tenderness to tenderness. There is no other way. You cannot love to order. You can only look at the lovely object, and fall in love with it, and grow into likeness to it.
And so look at this Perfect Character, this Perfect Life. Look at the great Sacrifice as He laid down Himself, all through life, and upon the Cross of Calvary; and you must love Him. And loving Him, you must become like Him. Love begets love. It is a process of induction. Put a piece of iron in the presence of a magnetised body, and that piece of iron for a time becomes magnetized. It is charged with an attractive force in the mere presence of the original force, and as long as you leave the two side by side, they are both magnets alike. Remain side by side with Him who loved us, and gave Himself for us, and you too will become a centre of power, a permanently attractive force; and like Him you will draw all men unto you, like Him you will be drawn unto all men. That is the inevitable effect of Love. Any individual who fulfils that cause must have that effect produced in them.
Try to give up the idea that religion comes to us by chance, or by mystery, or by caprice. It comes to us by natural law, or by supernatural law, for all law is Divine. Edward Irving went to see a dying boy once, and when he entered the room he just put his hand on the sufferer's head, and said, "My boy, God loves you," and went away. And the boy started from his bed, and called out to the people in the house, "God loves me! God loves me!" It changed that boy. The sense that God loved him overpowered him, melted him down, and began the creating of a new heart in him. And that is how the love of God melts down the unlovely heart in man, and begets in him the new creature, who is patient and humble and gentle and unselfish. And there is no other way to get it. There is no mystery about it. We love others, we love everybody, we love our enemies, because He first loved us.
Now I have a closing sentence or two to add about Paul's reason for singling out love as the supreme possession. It is a very remarkable reason. In a single word it is this: it lasts. "Love," urges Paul, "never faileth." Then he begins again one of his marvellous lists of the great things of the day, and exposes them one by one. He runs over the things that men thought were going to last, and shows that they are all fleeting, temporary, passing away.
"Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail" It was the mother's ambition for her boy in those days that he should become a prophet. For hundreds of years God had never spoken by means of any prophet, and at that time the prophet was greater than the king. Men waited wistfully for another messenger to come, and hung upon his lips when he appeared as upon the very voice of God. Paul says, "Whether there be prophecies, they shall fail" This Book is full of prophecies. One by one they have "failed"; that is, having been fulfilled their work is finished; they have nothing more to do now in the world except to feed a devout man's faith.
Then Paul talks about tongues. That was another thing that was greatly coveted. "W hether there be tongues, they shall cease." As we all know, many, many centuries have passed since tongues have been known in this world. They have ceased. Take it in any sense you like. Take it, for illustration merely, as languages in general--a sense which was not in Paul's mind at all, and which though it cannot give us the specific lesson will point the general truth. Consider the words in which these chapters were written--Greek. It has gone. Take the Latin--the other great tongue of those days. It ceased long ago. Look at the Indian language. It is ceasing. The language of Wales, of Ireland, of the Scottish Highlands is dying before our eyes. The most popular book in the English tongue at the present time, except the Bible, is one of Dickens's works, his Pickwick Papers. It is largely written in the language of London streetlife; and experts assure us that in fifty years it will be unintelligible to the average English reader.
Then Paul goes farther, and with even greater boldness adds, "Whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." The wisdom of the ancients, where is it? It is wholly gone. A schoolboy today knows more than Sir Isaac Newton knew. His knowledge has vanished away. You put yesterday's newspaper in the fire. Its knowledge has vanished away. You buy the old editions of the great encyclopedias for a few pence. Their knowledge has vanished away. Look how the coach has been superseded by the use of steam. Look how electricity has superseded that, and swept a hundred almost new inventions into oblivion.
"Whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." At every workshop you will see, in the back yard, a heap of old iron, a few wheels, a few levers, a few cranks, broken and eaten with rust. Twenty years ago that was the pride of the city. M en flocked in from the country to see the great invention; now it is superseded, its day is done. And all the boasted science and philosophy of this day will soon be old.
But yesterday, in the University of Edinburgh, the greatest figure in the faculty was Sir James Simpson, the discoverer of chloroform. His successor and nephew, Professor Simpson, was asked by the librarian of the University to go to the library and pick out the books on his subject that were no longer needed. And his reply to the librarian was this: "Take every text-book that is more than ten years old, and put it down in the cellar." Sir James Simpson was a great authority at the time: men came from all parts of the earth to consult him; and almost the whole teaching of that time is consigned by the science of today to oblivion. And in every branch of science it is the same. "Now we know in part. We see through a glass darkly."
Can you tell me anything that is going to last? Many things Paul did not condescend to name. He did not mention money, fortune, fame; but he picked out the great things of his time, the things the best men thought had something in them, and brushed them peremptorily aside. Paul had no charge against these things in themselves. All he said about them was that they would not last. They were great things, but not supreme things. There were things beyond them.
What we are stretches past what we do, beyond what we possess. Many things that men denounce as sins are not sins; but they are temporary. And that is a favourite argument of the New Testament. John says of the world, not that it is wrong, but simply that it "passeth away." There is a great deal in the world that is delightful and beautiful; there is a great deal in it that is great and engrossing; but it will not last. All that is in the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, are but for a little while. Love not the world therefore. Nothing that it contains is worth the life and consecration of an immortal soul. The immortal soul must give itself to something that is immortal. And the only immortal things are these: "Now abideth faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love."
Some think the time may come when two of these three things will also pass away--faith into sight, hope into fruition. Paul does not say so. We know but little now about the conditions of the life that is to come. But what is certain is that Love must last. God, the Eternal God, is Love. Covet therefore that everlasting gift, that one thing which it is certain is going to stand, that one coinage which will be current in the Universe when all the other coinages of all the nations of the world shall be useless and unhonoured. You will give yourselves to many things, give yourselves first to Love. Hold things in their proportion. Hold things in their proportion. Let at least the first great object of our lives be to achieve the character defended in these words, the character,--and it is the character of Christ--which is built around Love.
I have said this thing is eternal. Did you ever notice how continually John associates love and faith with eternal life? I was not told when I was a boy that "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should have everlasting life." W hat I was told, I remember, was, that God so loved the world that, if I trusted in Him, I was to have a thing called peace, or I was to have rest, or I was to have joy, or I was to have safety. But I had to find out for myself that whosoever trusteth in Him--that is, whosoever loveth Him, for trust is only the avenue to Love--hath everlasting life.
The Gospel offers a man life. Never offer men a thimbleful of Gospel. Do not offer them merely joy, or merely peace, or merely rest, or merely safety; tell them how Christ came to give men a more abundant life than they have, a life abundant in love, and therefore abundant in salvation for themselves, and large in enterprise for the alleviation and redemption of the world. Then only can the Gospel take hold of the whole of a person, body, soul, and spirit, and give to each part of their nature its exercise and reward. M any of the current Gospels are addressed only to a part of man's nature. They offer peace, not life; faith, not Love; justification, not regeneration. And men and women slip back again from such religion because it has never really held them. Their nature was not all in it. It offered no deeper and gladder life-current than the life that was lived before. Surely it stands to reason that only a fuller love can compete with the love of the world.
To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love forever is to live forever. Hence, eternal life is inextricably bound up with love. We want to live forever for the same reason that we want to live tomorrow. W hy do you want to live tomorrow? It is because there is someone who loves you, and whom you want to see tomorrow, and be with, and love back. There is no other reason why we should live on than that we love and are beloved. It is when a person has no one to love them that they commit suicide. So long as they have friends, those who love them and whom they love, they will live; because to live is to love. Be it but the love of a dog, it will keep them in life; but let that go and they have no contact with life, no reason to live. The "energy of life" has failed.
Eternal life also is to know God, and God is love. This is Christ's own definition. Ponder it. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." Love must be eternal. It is what God is. On the last analysis, then, Love is Life. Love never faileth, and life never faileth, so long as there is love. That is the philosophy of what Paul is showing us; the reason why in the nature of things Love should be the supreme thing--because it is going to last; because in the nature of things it is an Eternal Life. That Life is a thing that we are living now, not that we get when we die; that we shall have a poor chance of getting when we die unless we are living now. No worse fate can befall a man or woman in this world than to live and grow old alone, unloving, and unloved. To be lost is to live in an unregenerate condition, loveless and unloved; and to be saved is to love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth already in God. For God is love.
Now I have all but finished. How many of you will join me in reading this chapter once a week for the next three months? A man did that once and it changed his whole life. W ill you do it? It is for the greatest thing in the world. You might begin by reading it every day, especially the verses which describe the perfect character. "Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself." Get these ingredients into your life. Then everything that you do is eternal. It is worth doing. It is worth giving time to. No man or woman can become a saint in their sleep; and to fulfil the condition required demands a certain amount of prayer and meditation and time, just as improvement in any direction, bodily or mental, requires preparation and care.
Address yourselves to that one thing; at any cost have this transcendent character exchanged for yours. You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments that stand out, the moments when you have really lived, are the moments when you have done things in a Spirit of Love. As memory scans the past, above and beyond all the transitory pleasures of life, there leap forward those supreme hours when you have been enabled to do unnoticed kindnesses to those round about you, things too trifling to speak about, but which you feel have entered into your eternal life.
I have seen almost all the beautiful things God has made; I have enjoyed almost every pleasure that He has planned for man; and yet as I look back I see standing out above all the life that has gone four or five short experiences when the love of God reflected itself in some poor imitation, some small act of love of mine, and these seem to be the things which alone of all one's life abide. Everything else in all our lives is transitory. Every other good is visionary. But the acts of love which no man knows about, or can ever know about--they never fail.
In the Book of Matthew, where the Judgment Day is depicted for us in the imagery of One seated upon a throne and dividing the sheep from the goats, the test of a man then is not, "How have I believed?" but "How have I loved?" The test of religion, the final test of religion, is not religiousness, but Love. I say the final test of religion at that great Day is not religiousness, but Love; not what I have done, not what I have believed, not what I have achieved, but how I have discharged the common charities of life. Sins of commission in that awful indictment are not even referred to. By what we have not done, by sins of omission, we are judged. It could not be otherwise. For the withholding of love is the negation of the Spirit of Christ, the proof that we never knew Him, that for us He lived in vain. It means that He suggested nothing in all our thoughts, that He inspired nothing in all our lives, that we were not once near enough to Him to be seized with the spell of His compassion for the world. It means that:--"I lived for myself, I thought for myself,
For myself, and none beside-- Just as if Jesus had never lived, As if He had never died."
It is the Son of Man before whom the nations of the world shall be gathered. It is in the presence of Humanity that we shall be charged. And the spectacle itself, the mere sight of it, will silently judge each one. Those will be there whom we have met and helped, or there, the unpitied multitude whom we neglected or despised. No other Witness need be summoned. No other charge than lovelessness shall be preferred. Be not deceived. The words which all of us shall one Day hear, sound not of theology but of life, not of churches and saints but of the hungry and the poor, not of creeds and doctrines but of shelter and clothing, not of Bibles and prayer-books but of cups of cold water in the name of Christ.
Thank God the Christianity of today is coming nearer the world's need. Live to help that on. Thank God men and women know better, by a hairsbreadth, what religion is, what God is, who Christ is, where Christ is. W ho is Christ? He who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick. And where is Christ? W here?-- whoso shall receive a little child in My name receiveth Me. And who are Christ's? Everyone that loveth is born of God.
To Preach Good Tidings unto the Meek:
To Bind up the Broken-hearted:
To proclaim Liberty to the Captives and the Opening of the Prison to Them that are Bound:
To Proclaim the Acceptable Year of the Lord, and the Day of Vengeance of our God:
To Comfort all that Mourn:
To Appoint unto them that M ourn in Zion:
To Give unto them–
Beauty for Ashes,
The Oil of Joy for Mourning,
The Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness.
"W HAT does God do all day?" once asked a little boy. One could wish that more grown-up people would ask so very real a question. Unfortunately, most of us are not even boys in religious intelligence, but only very unthinking children. It no more occurs to us that God is engaged in any particular work in the world than it occurs to a little child that its father does anything except be its father. Its father may be a Cabinet M inister absorbed in the nation's work, or an inventor deep in schemes for the world's good; but to this master- egoist he is father, and nothing more. Childhood, whether in the physical or moral world, is the great self-centred period of life; and a personal God who satisfies personal ends is all that for a long time many a Christian understands.
But as clearly as there comes to the growing child a knowledge of its father's part in the world, and a sense of what real life means, there must come to every Christian whose growth is true some richer sense of the meaning of Christianity and a larger view of Christ's purpose for mankind. To miss this is to miss the whole splendour and glory of Christ's religion.
Next to losing the sense of a personal Christ, the worst evil that can befall a Christian is to have no sense of anything else. To grow up in complacent belief that God has no business in this great groaning world of human beings except to attend to a few saved souls is the negation of all religion. The first great epoch in a Christian's life, after the awe and wonder of its dawn, is when there breaks into their mind some sense that Christ has a purpose for mankind, a purpose beyond the individual and their own needs, beyond the churches and their creeds, beyond Heaven and its saints--a purpose which embraces every man and woman born, every kindred and nation formed, which regards not their spiritual good alone but their welfare in every part, their progress, their health, their work, their wages, their happiness in this present world.
What, then, does God do all day? By what further conception shall we augment the selfish view of why Christ lived and died?
I shall mislead no one, I hope, if I say--for I wish to put the social side of Christianity in its strongest light--that Christ did not come into the world to give men religion. He never mentioned the word religion. Religion was in the world before Christ came, and it lives today in a million souls who have never heard His name.
What God does all day is not to sit waiting in churches for people to come and worship Him. It is true that God is in churches and in all kinds of churches, and is found by many in churches more immediately than anywhere else. It is also true that while Christ did not give men religion He gave a new direction to the religious aspiration bursting forth then and now and always from the whole world's heart. But it was His purpose to enlist these aspirations on behalf of some definite practical good.
The religious people of those days did nothing with their religion except attend to its observances. Even the priest, after he had been to the temple, thought his work was done; when he met the wounded man he passed by on the other side. Christ reversed all this--tried to reverse it, for He is only now beginning to succeed.
The tendency of the religions of all time has been to care more for religion than for humanity; Christ cared more for humanity than for religion--rather His care for humanity was the chief expression of His religion. He was not indifferent to observances, but the practices of the people bulked in His thoughts before the practices of the Church.
It has been pointed out as a blemish on the immortal allegory of Bunyan that the Pilgrim never did anything, anything but save his soul. The remark is scarcely fair, for the allegory is designedly the story of a soul in a single relation; and besides, he did do a little. But the warning may well be weighed. The Pilgrim's one thought, his work by day, his dream by night, was escape. He took little part in the world through which he passed. He was a Pilgrim travelling through it; his business was to get through safe.
W hatever this is, it is not Christianity. Christ's conception of Christianity was heavens removed from that of a man setting out from the City of Destruction to save his soul. It was rather that of a man dwelling amidst the Destructions of the City and planning escapes for the souls of others--escapes not to the other world, but to purity and peace and righteousness in this.
In reality Christ never said "Save your soul." It is a mistranslation which says that. W hat He said was, "Save your life." And this not because the first is nothing, but only because it is so very great a thing that only the second can accomplish it. But the new word altruism--the translation of "love thy neighbour as thyself"--is slowly finding its way into current Christian speech.
The People's Progress, not less than the Pilgrim's Progress, is daily becoming a graver concern to the Church. A popular theology with unselfishness as part at least of its root, a theology which appeals no longer to fear, but to the generous heart in man, has already dawned, and more clearly than ever men and women are beginning to see what Christ really came into this world to do.
W hat Christ came here for was to make a better world. The world in which we live is an unfinished world. It is not wise, it is not happy, it is not pure, it is not good--it is not even sanitary. Humanity is little more than raw material. Almost everything has yet to be done to it. Before the days of Geology people thought the earth was finished. It is by no means finished. The work of Creation is going on.
Before the spectroscope, men thought the universe was finished. We know now it is just beginning. And this teeming world of people in which we live has almost all its finer colour and beauty yet to take. Christ came to complete it. The fires of its passions were not yet cool; their heat had to be transformed into finer energies. The ideals for its future were all to shape, the forces to realize them were not yet born. The poison of its sins had met no antidote, the gloom of its doubt no light, the weight of its sorrow no rest. These, the Saviour of the world, the Light of men, would do and be. This, roughly, was His scheme.
Now this was a prodigious task--to recreate the world. How was it to be done? God's way of making worlds is to make them make themselves. W hen He made the earth He made a rough ball of matter and supplied it with a multitude of tools to mould it into form--the rain-drop to carve it, the glacier to smooth it, the river to nourish it, the flower to adorn it. God works always with agents, and this is our way when we want any great thing done, and this was Christ's way when He undertook the finishing of Humanity. He had a vast intractable mass of matter to deal with, and He required a multitude of tools. Christ's tools were men. Hence His first business in the world was to make a collection of men. In other words He founded a Society.
IT is a somewhat startling thought--it will not be misunderstood-- that Christ probably did not save many people while He was here. M any an evangelist, in that direction, has done much more. He never intended to finish the world single-handed, but announced from the first that others would not only take part, but do "greater things" than He. For amazing as was the attention He was able to give to individuals, this was not the whole aim He had in view. His immediate work was to enlist men in His enterprise, to rally them into a great company or Society for the carrying out of His plans.
The name by which this Society was known was The Kingdom of God. Christ did not coin this name; it was an old expression, and good men had always hoped and prayed that some such Society would be born in their midst. But it was never either defined or set agoing in earnest until Christ made its realization the passion of His life.
How keenly He felt regarding His task, how enthusiastically He set about it, every page of His life bears witness. All reformers have one or two great words which they use incessantly, and by mere reiteration embed indelibly in the thought and history of their time. Christ's great word was the Kingdom of God. Of all the words of His that have come down to us this is by far the commonest. One hundred times it occurs in the Gospels. W hen He preached He had almost always this for a text. His sermons were explanations of the aims of His Society, of the different things it was like, of whom its membership consisted, what they were to do or to be, or not do or not be. And even when He does not actually use the word, it is easy to see that all He said and did had reference to this.
Philosophers talk about thinking in categories--the mind living, as it were, in a particular room with its own special furniture, pictures, and viewpoints, these giving a consistent direction and colour to all that is there thought or expressed. It was in the category of the Kingdom that Christ's thought moved. Though one time He said He came to save the lost, or at another time to give men life, or to do his Father's will, these were all included among the objects of His Society.
No one can ever know what Christianity is till he has grasped this leading thought in the mind of Christ. Peter and Paul have many wonderful and necessary things to tell us about what Christ was and did; but we are looking now at what Christ's own thought was. Do not think this is a mere modern theory. These are His own life-plans taken from His own lips. Do not allow any isolated text, even though it seems to sum up for you the Christian life, to keep you from trying to understand Christ's Programme as a whole.
The perspective of Christ's teaching is not everything, but without it everything will be distorted and untrue. There is much good in a verse, but often much evil. To see some small soul pirouetting throughout life on a single text, and judging all the world because it cannot find a partner, is not a Christian sight. Christianity does not grudge such souls their comfort. W hat it grudges is that they make Christ's Kingdom uninhabitable to thoughtful minds. Be sure that whenever the religion of Christ appears small, or forbidding, or narrow, or inhuman, you are dealing not with the whole--which is a matchless moral symmetry--nor even with an arch or column--for every detail is perfect--but with some cold stone removed from its place and suggesting nothing of the glorious structure from which it came.
Tens of thousands of persons who are familiar with religious truths have not noticed yet that Christ ever founded a Society at all. The reason is partly that people have read texts instead of reading their Bible, partly that they have studied Theology instead of studying Christianity, and partly because of the noiselessness and invisibility of the Kingdom of God itself. Nothing truer was ever said of this Kingdom than that "It cometh without observation."
Its first discovery, therefore, comes to the Christian with all the force of a revelation. The sense of belonging to such a Society transforms life. It is the difference between being a solitary knight tilting single-handed, and often defeated, at whatever enemy one
chances to meet on one's little acre of life, and the feel of belonging to a mighty army marching throughout all time to a certain victory. This note of universality given to even the humblest work we do, this sense of comradeship, this link with history, this thought of a definite campaign, this promise of success, is the possession of every obscurest unit in the Kingdom of God.
HUNDREDS of years before Christ's Society was formed, its Programme had been issued to the world. I cannot think of any scene in history more dramatic than when Jesus entered the church in Nazareth and read it to the people. Not that when He appropriated to Himself that venerable fragment from Isaiah He was uttering a manifesto or announcing His formal Programme. Christ never did things formally. We think of the words, as He probably thought of them, not in their old-world historical significance, nor as a full expression of His future aims, but as a summary of great moral facts now and always to be realized in the world since he appeared.
Remember as you read the words to what grim reality they refer. Recall what Christ's problem really was, what His Society was founded for. This Programme deals with a real world. Think of it as you read--not of the surface-world, but of the world as it is, as it sins and weeps, and curses and suffers and sends up its long cry to God. Limit it if you like to the world around your door, but think of it-- of the city and the hospital and the dungeon and the graveyard, of the sweat-shop and the pawn-shop and the drink-shop; think of the cold, the cruelty, the fever, the famine, the ugliness, the loneliness, the pain. And then try to keep down the lump in your throat as you take up His Programme and read-- TO BIND UP THE BROKEN-HEARTED: TO PROCLAIM LIBERTY TO THE CAPTIVES: TO COMFORT ALL THAT MOURN: TO GIVE UNTO THEM --BEAUTY FOR ASHES, THE OIL OF JOY FOR MOURNING, THE GARMENT OF PRAISE FOR THE SPIRIT OF HEAVINESS.
W hat an exchange--Beauty for Ashes, Joy for Mourning, Liberty for Chains! No wonder "the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on Him" as He read; or that they "wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His lips." Only one man in that congregation, only one man in the world today could hear these accents with dismay--the man, the culprit, who has said hard words of Christ.
We are all familiar with the protest "Of course"--as if there were no other alternative to a person of culture--"Of course I am not a Christian, but I always speak respectfully of Christianity." Respectfully of Christianity! No remark fills one's soul with such sadness. One can understand a man as he reads these words being stricken speechless; one can see the soul within him rise to a white heat as each fresh benediction falls upon his ear and drive him, a half-mad enthusiast, to bear them to the world. But in what school has he learned of Christ who offers the Saviour of the world his respect?
M en repudiate Christ's religion because they think it a small and limited thing, a scheme with no large human interests to commend it to this great social age. I ask you to note that there is not one burning interest of the human race which is not represented here. W hat are the great words of Christianity according to this Programme?
Take as specimens these: LIBERTY, COMFORT, BEAUTY, JOY.
These are among the greatest words of life. Give them their due extension, the significance which Christ undoubtedly saw in them and which Christianity undoubtedly yields, and there is almost no great want or interest of mankind which they do not cover.
These are not only the greatest words of life but they are the best. This Programme, to those who have misread Christianity, is a series of surprises. Observe the most prominent note in it. It is gladness. Its first word is "good- tidings," its last is "joy." The saddest words of life are also there--but there as the diseases which Christianity comes to cure. No life that is occupied with such an enterprise could be other than radiant.
The contribution of Christianity to the joy of living, perhaps even more to the joy of thinking, is unspeakable. The joyful life is the life of the larger mission, the disinterested life, the life of the overflow from self, the "more abundant life" which comes from following Christ. And the joy of thinking is the larger thinking, the thinking of the man or woman who holds in their hand some Programme for Humanity. The Christian is the only one who has any Programme at all-- any Programme either for the world or for themselves.
Goethe, Byron, Carlyle taught Humanity much, but they had no Programme for it. Byron's thinking was suffering; Carlisle's despair. Christianity alone exults. The belief in the universe as moral, the interpretation of history as progress, the faith in good as eternal, in evil as self-consuming, in humanity as evolving--these Christian ideas have transformed the malady of thought into a bounding hope. It was no sentiment but a conviction matured amid calamity and submitted to the tests of life that inspired the great modern poet of optimism to proclaim:--"Gladness be with thee, Helper of the world! I think this is the authentic sign and seal Of Godship, that it ever waxes glad, And more glad, until gladness blossoms, bursts Into a rage to suffer for mankind And recommence at sorrow."
But that is not all. Man's greatest needs are often very homely. And it is almost as much in its fearless recognition of the commonplace woes of life, and its deliberate offerings to minor needs, that the claims of Christianity to be a religion for Humanity stand. Look, for instance, at the closing sentence of this Programme. W ho would have expected to find among the special objects of Christ's solicitude the Spirit of Heaviness?
Supreme needs, many and varied, had been already dealt with on this Programme; many applicants had been met; the list is about to close. Suddenly the writer remembers the nameless malady of the poor--that mysterious disease which the rich share but cannot alleviate, which is too subtle for doctors, too incurable for Parliaments, too unpicturesque for philanthropy, too common even for sympathy. Can Christ meet that?
If Christianity could even deal with the world's Depression, could cure mere dull spirits, it would be the Physician of Humanity. But it can. It has the secret, a hundred secrets, for the lifting of the world's gloom. It cannot immediately remove the physiological causes of dullness -- though obedience to its principles can do an infinity to prevent them, and its inspirations can do even more to lift the mind above them. But where the causes are moral or mental or social the remedy is in every Christian's hand.
Think of anyone at this moment whom the Spirit of Heaviness haunts. You think of a certain old woman. But you know for a fact that you can cure her. You did so, perfectly, only a week ago. A mere visit, and a little present, or the visit without any present, set her up for seven long days, and seven long nights.
The machinery of the Kingdom is very simple and very silent, and the most silent parts do most, and we all believe so little in the medicines of Christ that we do not know what ripples of healing are set in motion when we simply smile on one another. Christianity wants nothing so much in the world as sunny people, and the old are hungrier for love than for bread, and the Oil of Joy is very cheap, and if you can help the poor on with a Garment of Praise, it will be better for them than blankets.
Or perhaps you know someone else who is dull--not an old woman this time, but a very rich and important man. But you also know perfectly what makes him dull. It is either his riches or his importance. Christianity can cure either of these though you may not be the person to apply the cure--at a single hearing.
Or here is a third case, one of your own servants. It is a case of monotony. Prescribe more variety, leisure, recreation--anything to relieve the wearing strain.
A fourth case--your most honored guest: Condition--leisure, health, accomplishments, means; Disease--Spiritual Obesity; Treatment-- talent to be put out to usury. And so on down the whole range of life's dejection and ennui.
Perhaps you tell me this is not Christianity at all; that everybody could do that. The curious thing is that everybody does not. Good- will to men came into the world with Christ, and wherever that is found, in Christian or heathen land, there Christ is, and there His Spirit works. And if you say that the chief end of Christianity is not the world's happiness, I agree; it was never meant to be; but the strange fact is that, without making it its chief end, it wholly and infallibly, and quite universally, leads to it. Hence the note of Joy, though not the highest on Christ's Programme, is a loud and ringing note, and none who serve in His Society can be long without its music. Time was when a Christian used to apologize for being happy. But the day has always been when he ought to apologize for being miserable.
Christianity, you will observe, really works. And it succeeds not only because it is divine, but because it is so very human--because it is common-sense. W hy should the Garment of Praise destroy the Spirit of Heaviness? Because an old woman cannot sing and cry at the same moment. The Society of Christ is a sane Society. Its methods are rational. The principle in the old woman's case is simply that one emotion destroys another. Christianity works, as a railway man would say, with points. It switches souls from valley lines to mountain lines, not stemming the currents of life but diverting them.
In the rich man's case the principle of cure is different, but it is again principle, not necromancy. His spirit of heaviness is caused, like any other heaviness, by the earth's attraction. Take away the earth and you take away the attraction. But if Christianity can do anything it can take away the earth. By the wider extension of horizon which it gives, by the new standard of values, by the mere setting of life's small pomps and interests and admirations in the light of the Eternal, it dissipates the world with a breath. All that tends to abolish worldliness tends to abolish unrest, and hence, in the rush of modern life, one far-reaching good of all even commonplace Christian preaching, all Christian literature, all which holds the world doggedly to the idea of a God and a future life, and reminds mankind of Infinity and Eternity.
Side by side with these influences, yet taking the world at a wholly different angle, works another great Christian force. How many opponents of religion are aware that one of the specific objects of Christ's society is Beauty? The charge of vulgarity against Christianity is an old one. If it means that Christianity deals with the ruder elements in human nature, it is true, and that is its glory. But if it means that it has no respect for the finer qualities, the charge is baseless.
Christianity not only encourages whatsoever things are lovely, but wars against that whole theory of life which would exclude them. It prescribes aestheticism. It proscribes asceticism. And for those who preach to Christians that in these enlightened days they must raise the masses by giving them noble sculptures and beautiful paintings and music and public parks, the answer is that these things are all already being given, and given daily, and with an increasing sense of their importance, by the Society of Christ.
Take away from the world the beautiful things which have not come from Christ and you will make it poorer scarcely at all. Take away from modern cities the paintings, the monuments, the music for the people, the museums and the parks which are not the gifts of Christian men and Christian municipalities, and in ninety cases out of a hundred you will leave them unbereft of so much as a well- shaped lamp-post.
It is impossible to doubt that the Decorator of the World shall not continue to serve to His later children, and in ever finer forms, the inspirations of beautiful things. M ore fearlessly than he has ever done, the Christian of modern life will use the noble spiritual leverages of Art. That this world, the people's world, is a bleak and ugly world, we do not forget; it is ever with us. But we esteem too little the mission of beautiful things in haunting the mind with higher thoughts and begetting the mood which leads to God.
Physical beauty makes moral beauty. Loveliness does more than destroy ugliness; it destroys matter. A mere touch of it in a room, in a street, even on a door knocker, is a spiritual force. Ask the working-man's wife, and she will tell you there is a moral effect even in a clean table-cloth. If a barrel-organ in a slum can but drown a curse, let no Christian silence it. The mere light and colour of the wall-advertisements are a gift of God to the poor man's sombre world.
One Christmas-time a poor drunkard told me that he had gone out the night before to take his usual chance of the temptations of the street. Close to his door, at a shop window, an angel--so he said-- arrested him. It was a large Christmas-card, a glorious white thing with tinsel wings, and as it glittered in the gas-light it flashed into his soul a sudden thought of Heaven. It recalled the earlier heaven of his infancy, and he thought of his mother in the distant glen, and how it would please her if she got this Christmas angel from her prodigal. W ith money already pledged to the devil he bought the angel, and with it a new soul and future for himself. That was a real angel. For that day as I saw its tinsel pinions shine in his squalid room I knew what Christ's angels were. They are all beautiful things, which daily in common homes are bearing up heavy souls to God.
But do not misunderstand me. This angel was made of pasteboard: a pasteboard angel can never save a soul. Tinsel reflects the sun, but warms nothing. Our Programme must go deeper. Beauty may arrest the drunkard, but it cannot cure him.
It is here that Christianity asserts itself with a supreme individuality. It is here that it parts company with Civilization, with Politics, with all secular schemes of Social Reform. In its diagnosis of human nature it finds that which most other systems ignore; which, if they see, they cannot cure; which, left undestroyed, makes every reform futile, and every inspiration vain. That thing is Sin.
Christianity, of all other philanthropies, recognizes that man's devouring need is Liberty--liberty to stop sinning; to leave the prison of his passions, and shake off the fetters of his past. To surround Captives with statues and pictures, to offer Them-that-are-Bound a higher wage or a cleaner street or a few more cubic feet of air per head, is solemn trifling. It is a cleaner soul they want; a purer air, or any air at all, for their higher selves.
And where the cleaner soul is to come from apart from Christ I cannot tell. "By no political alchemy," Herbert Spencer tells us, "can you get golden conduct out of leaden instincts." The power to set the heart right, to renew the springs of action, comes from Christ. The sense of the infinite worth of the single soul, and the recoverableness of man at his worst, are the gifts of Christ. The freedom from guilt, the forgiveness of sins, come from Christ's Cross; the hope of immortality springs from Christ's grave. We believe in the gospel of better laws and an improved environment; we hold the religion of Christ to be a social religion; we magnify and call Christian the work of reformers, statesmen, philanthropists, educators, inventors, sanitary officers, and all who directly or remotely aid, abet, or further the higher progress of mankind; but in Him alone, in the fulness of that word, do we see the Saviour of the world.
There are earnest and gifted lives today at work among the poor whose lips at least will not name the name of Christ. I speak of them with respect; their shoe-latchets many of us are not worthy to unloose. But because the creed of the neighboring mission-hall is a travesty of religion they refuse to acknowledge the power of the living Christ to stop man's sin, of the dying Christ to forgive it. O, narrowness of breadth! Because there are ignorant doctors do I yet rail at medicine or start an hospital of my own? Because the poor rawevangelist, or the narrowecclesiastic, offer their little all to the poor, shall I repudiate all they do not know of Christ because of the little that they do know?
Of gospels for the poor which have not some theory, state it how you will, of personal conversion one cannot have much hope. Personal conversion means for life a personal religion, a personal trust in God, a personal debt to Christ, a personal dedication to His cause. These, brought about how you will, are supreme things to aim at, supreme losses if they are missed. Sanctification will come to masses only as it comes to individual men; and to work with Christ's Programme and ignore Christ is to utilize the sun's light without its energy.
But this is not the only point at which the uniqueness of this Society appears. There is yet another depth in humanity which no other system even attempts to sound. We live in a world not only of sin but of sorrow--"There is no flock, however watched and tended, But one dead lamb is there; There is no home, howe'er defended, But has one vacant chair."
When the flock thins, and the chair empties, who is to be near to heal? At that moment the gospels of the world are on trial. In the presence of death how will they act? Act! They are blotted out of existence. Philosophy, Politics, Reforms, are no more. The Picture Galleries close. The sculptures hide. The Committees disperse. There is crape on the door; the world withdraws. Observe, it withdraws. It has no mission. So awful in its loneliness was this hour that the Romans paid a professional class; to step in with its mummeries and try to fill it.
But that is Christ's own hour. Next to Righteousness the greatest word of Christianity is Comfort. Christianity has almost a monopoly of Comfort . Renan was never nearer the mark than when he spoke of the Bible as "the great Book of the Consolation of Humanity." Christ's Programme is full of Comfort, studded with Comfort: "to bind up the Broken-Hearted, to Comfort all that mourn, to Give unto them that mourn in Zion." Even the "good tidings" to the "meek" are, in the Hebrew, a message to the "afflicted" or "the poor." The word Gospel itself comes down through the Greek from this very passage, so that whatever else Christ's Gospel means it is first an Evangel for suffering man.
One note in this Programme jars with all the rest. W hen Christ read from Isaiah that day He never finished the passage. A terrible word, Vengeance, yawned like a precipice across His path; and in the middle of a sentence "He closed the Book, and gave it again to the minister, and sat down". A Day of Vengeance from our God--these were the words before which Christ paused. W hen the prophet proclaimed it some great historical fulfilment was in his mind. Had the people to whom Christ read been able to understand its ethical equivalents He would probably have read on. For, so understood, instead of filling the mind with fear, the thought of this dread Day inspires it with a solemn gratitude. The work of the Avenger is a necessity. It is part of God's philanthropy.
For I have but touched the surface in speaking of the sorrow of the world as if it came from people dying. It comes from people living. Before ever the Broken-Hearted can be healed a hundred greater causes of suffering than death must be destroyed. Before the Captive can be free a vaster prison than his own sins must be demolished. There are hells on earth into which no breath of heaven can ever come; these must be swept away. There are social soils in which only unrighteousness can flourish; these must be broken up.
And that is the work of the Day of Vengeance. W hen is that day? It is now. W ho is the Avenger? Law. W hat Law? Criminal Law, Sanitary Law, Social Law, Natural Law. W herever the poor are trodden upon or tread upon one another; wherever the air is poison and the water foul; wherever want stares, and vice reigns, and rags rot--there the Avenger takes his stand. Whatever makes it more difficult for the drunkard to reform, for the children to be pure, for the widow to earn a wage, for any of the wheels of progress to revolve--with these he deals. Delay him not. He is the messenger of Christ. Despair of him not, distrust him not. His Day dawns slowly, but his work is sure. Though evil stalks the world, it is on the way to execution; though wrong reigns, it must end in self-combustion. The very nature of things is God's Avenger; the very story of civilization is the history of Christ's Throne.
Anything that prepares the way for a better social state is the fit work of the followers of Christ. Those who work on the more spiritual levels leave too much unhonoured the slow toil of multitudes of unchurched souls who prepare the material or moral environments without which these higher labours are in vain. Prevention is Christian as well as cure; and Christianity travels sometimes by the most circuitous paths. It is given to some to work for immediate results, and from year to year they are privileged to reckon up a balance of success. But these are not always the greatest in the Kingdom of God. The men who get no stimulus from any visible reward, whose lives pass while the objects for which they toil are still too far away to comfort them; the men who hold aloof from dazzling schemes and earn the misunderstanding of the crowd because they foresee remoter issues, who even oppose a seeming good because a deeper evil lurks beyond--these are the statesmen of the Kingdom of God.
SUCH in dimmest outline is the Programme of Christ's Society. Did you know that all this was going on in the world? Did you know that Christianity was such a living and purpose-like thing? Look back to the day when that Programme was given, and you will see that it was not merely written on paper. Watch the drama of the moral order rise up, scene after scene, in history. Study the social evolution of humanity, the spread of righteousness, the amelioration of life, the freeing of slaves, the elevation of woman, the purification of religion, and ask what these can be if not the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. For it is precisely through the movements of nations and the lives of men that this Kingdom comes.
Christ might have done all this work Himself, with His own hands. But He did not. The crowning wonder of His scheme is that He entrusted it to men. It is the supreme glory of humanity that the machinery for its redemption should have been placed within itself. I think the saddest thing in Christ's life was that after founding a Society with aims so glorious He had to go away and leave it. But in reality He did not leave it. The old theory that God made the world, made it as an inventor would make a machine, and then stood looking on to see it work, has passed away. God is no longer a remote spectator of the natural world, but immanent in it, pervading matter by His present Spirit, and ordering it by His Will.
So Christ is immanent in men and women. His work is to move their hearts and inspire their lives, and through such hearts to move and reach the world. Only men and women of this world can carry out this work. This humanness, this inwardness, of the Kingdom is one reason why some scarcely see that it exists at all. We measure great movements by the loudness of their advertisement, or the place their externals fill in the public eye. This Kingdom has no externals. The usual methods of propagating a great cause were entirely discarded by Christ. The sword He declined; money He didn't need; literature He never used; the Church disowned Him; the State crucified Him. Planting His ideals in the hearts of a few poor men, He started them out unheralded to revolutionize the world. They did it by making friends and by making enemies; they went about, did good, sowed seed, died, and lived again in the lives of those they helped. These in turn, a fraction of them, did the same. They met, they prayed, they talked of Christ, they loved, they went among other men, and by act and word passed on their secret. The machinery of the Kingdom of God is purely social. It acts, not by commandment, but by contagion; not by fiat, but by friendship. "The Kingdom of God is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened."
After all, like all great discoveries once they are made, this seems absolutely the most feasible method that could have been devised. People must live among other people. People must influence other people. Organizations, institutions, churches, have too much rigidity for a thing that is to flood the world. The only fluid in the world is man. W ar might have won for Christ's cause a passing victory; wealth might have purchased a superficial triumph; political power might have gained a temporary success. But in these, there is no note of universality, of solidarity, of immortality. To live through the centuries and pervade the uttermost ends of the earth, to stand while kingdoms tottered and civilizations changed, to survive fallen churches and crumbling creeds--there was no soil for the Kingdom of God like the hearts of common men and women. Some who have written about this Kingdom have emphasized its moral grandeur, others its universality, others its adaptation to man's needs. One great writer speaks of its prodigious originality, another chiefly notices its success. I confess what almost strikes me most is the miracle of its simplicity.
Men and women, then, are the only means God's Spirit has of accomplishing His purpose. What men and women? You. Is it worth doing, or is it not? Is it worth while joining Christ's Society or is it not? What do you do all day? What is your personal stake in the coming of the Kingdom of Christ on earth? You are not interested in religion, you tell me; you do not care for your "soul". It was not about your religion I ventured to ask, still less about your soul. That you have no religion, that you do not care for your soul, does not absolve you from caring for the world in which you live. But you do not believe in this church, you reply, or accept this doctrine, or that. Christ does not, in the first instance, ask your thoughts, but your work. No man has a right to postpone his life for the sake of his thoughts. Why? Because this is a real world, not a think world. Treat it as a real world--act. Think by all means, but think also of what is actual, of what the stern world is, of how much even you, creedless and churchless, could do to make it better. The thing to be anxious about is not to be right with man, but with mankind. And, so far as I know, there is nothing so on all fours with mankind as Christianity.
There are versions of Christianity, it is true, which no self-respecting mind can do other than disown--versions so hard, so narrow, so unreal, so super-theological, that practical men can find in them neither outlet for their lives nor resting-place for their thoughts. With these we have nothing to do. With these Christ had nothing to do--except to oppose them with every word and act of His life. It too seldom occurs to those who repudiate Christianity because of its narrowness or its unpracticalness, its sanctimoniousness or its dullness, that these were the very things which Christ strove against and unweariedly condemned. It was the one risk of His religion being given to the common people--an inevitable risk which He took without reserve--that its infinite lustre should be tarnished in the fingering of the crowd or have its great truths narrowed into mean and unworthy moulds as they passed from lip to lip. But though the crowd is the object of Christianity, it is not its custodian.
Deal with the Founder of this great Commonwealth Himself. Any man or woman of honest purpose who will take the trouble to inquire at first hand what Christianity really is, will find it a thing they cannot get away from. Without either argument or pressure, by the mere practicalness of its aims and the pathos of its compassions, it forces its august claim upon every serious life.
He who joins this Society finds himself in a large place. The Kingdom of God is a Society of the best men and women, working for the best ends, according to the best methods. Its membership is a multitude whom no man can number; its methods are as various as human nature; its field is the world. It is a Commonwealth, yet it honours a King; it is a Social Brotherhood, but it acknowledges the Fatherhood of God. Though not a Philosophy the world turns to it for light; though not Political it is the incubator of all great laws. It is more human than the State, for it deals with deeper needs; more Catholic than the Church, for it includes whom the Church rejects. It is a Propaganda, yet it works not by agitation but by ideals. It is a Religion, yet it holds the worship of God to be mainly the service of man. Though not a Scientific Society its watchword is Evolution; though not an Ethic, it possesses the Sermon on the Mount. This mysterious Society owns no wealth but distributes fortunes. It has no minutes for history keeps them; no member's roll for no one could make it. Its entry-money is nothing; its subscription, all you have The Society never meets and it never adjourns. Its law is one word-- loyalty; its Gospel one message -- love. Verily "Whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it."
The Programme for the other life is not out yet. For this world, for these faculties, for this one short life, I know nothing that is offered to man to compare with membership in the Kingdom of God. Among the mysteries which compass the world beyond, none is greater than how there can be in store for man a work more wonderful, a life more God-like than this. If you know anything better, live for it; if not, in the name of God and of Humanity, carry out Christ's plan.