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JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL
THE COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING OF
The life was the light of men.
THERE are many periods in history which, as one looks back on them, seem marked by distinct and central problems or achievements, as if to each such time there had been committed a special work to do. Their characteristics stand out clearly against the past, as a distant range of mountains stands out against an evening sky. We speak with confidence of the mission of Greece to civilization, of the place of Rome in history, of the vocation of the Hebrews, of the period of the Reformation, of the epoch of Napoleon. By one lesson at a time, - through types of beauty or strength or righteousness, through instructions in intellectual liberty, or warnings of the lust for power, – the Master of the ages seems to have directed the education of the human race. Sometimes this mission of an age or race is recognized by those who are fulfilling it; sometimes it is discerned when one stands at a distance, where the crowded details of life melt into a general view. The Hebrews, on the one hand, were sustained throughout their history by the conviction of their sacred and special calling, and that conviction gave to their career its sombre, strenuous, self-examining character; in Greek life, on the other hand, it was the very unconsciousness of a didactic mission which made possible the prevailing serenity and charm. If Greek art had stood consciously before the glass of the future, it might have been the teacher, but could not have been the joy, of the world.
The present age belongs, without question, to the former class. There is not only given to it a mission, but there is added a distinct consciousness of that mission. We do not have to wait for the philosophical historian of some remote future to discern the characteristic problem of the present time. Behind all the extraordinary achievements of modern civilization, its transformations of business methods, its miracles of scientific discovery, its mighty combinations of political forces, there lies at the heart of the present time a burdening sense of social mal-adjustment which creates what we call the social question. “The social question,” remarks Professor Wagner, “comes of the consciousness of a contradiction between economic development and the social ideal of liberty and equality which is