페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

other home at Capernaum, by the shores of the lake, he became gradually known as a speaker of things different from anything people had ever heard before. The common people heard him gladly. Alas! they don't gladly hear all that is spoken in his name now. Anything but glad tidings do we hear now-a-days, supposing it all true, So popular did he become, that the people in the country districts almost rose in insurrection against the Roman government, and would have had him for their king. They had a strange notion that the most religious man, he who sees clearest into the deepest things of man's life, is the fittest to be king and governor. What a satire it is upon our modern religion, that when we see a man professing to set his religious principles above everything else, we have a secret notion that he will not get on that some one who is more a “man of the world” will do better in charge of our public or private business. Jesus avoided the dangers and the obstructions that would have surrounded him as a king; and yet, if he had not been so much greater in other respects, we should have looked up to him as the greatest of political and social reformers. Poor .Camille Desmoulins, one of the leaders of the French Revolution, who was executed at that momentous age of thirty-three we spoke of, said, when asked his age --" I am the age of the bon sansculotte--the good revolutionist—JESUS." And every great thinker, every noble soul, is, in his own time and way, a revolutionist: for a revolution, remember, is not mere disorder and confusion. A revolution of the earth is the bringing one particular spot just directly under the influence of the same light and heat that have shone

upon ever since the world began. So a revolution, whether political, social, or religious, is just a bringing men back to the old laws of righteousness and beauty. And every man who is himself true, reminds men perpetually of the old truths they heard in childhood-makes them ashamed of having forgotten them, by his own brave allegiance to them. Bacon revolutionised physical science by one summons to man to go back to the actual facts of

nature

and look at them, instead of at a priori suppositions of what they ought to be. The French Revolution, so far as it was a true thing, was not an invention of any new political principles; it was a call to men to go back to the primal laws of society--to live as brothers

us

to submit to the laws which were for the general welfare--to labour for the common good. So, again, Luther, as a religious reformer, did not invent a new religion ; he just touched anew the old chords that had so long remained silent in the human heart. The simplest boy going into a company of boys, if he be noble, truthful, and generous, is a revolutionist in his way; not that truth and generosity did not exist before, but because bis proclaimed or even silent allegiance to these laws de velopes the like in all around him. So, without any lack of reverence to the higher character of JESUS, we may say it was a new era, in which a plain peasant, with the possibility of becoming the king, perhaps the liberator of his country, by virtue of the power he had gained over the hearts of men, chose rather to be the Teacher and Saviour of all the ages--chose rather to spread a few ideas in his wayside talk, to nourish then in his mountain retirement, to die on the scaffold, rather than dishonour them. If we suppose for a moment that JESUS were nothing else to the world than this, it would still be the grandest thing in. history. If, as a politician, I wanted a condensation of all that is truest and broadest for the guidance of men, I come here for it. People looked as we look now, for some new era, some deliverance that is to come to us from without,

--some kingdom of Heaven, they called it, which should make the earth more like what its Maker intended it to be. But JESUS said - The kingdom of Heaven is within you ; the only possible reform is for every man to reform himself

. Every change for the better in men's outward life, is the expression of some improvement in their thoughts and their mutual relations, their teaching and worship. So, rather than be merely the builder of some tabernacle that should suffice the men of his day, he chose rather to sow the seed of that Tree of Life, under whose branches all the nations of the earth have found, and shall find, shelter and blessing

You will not, in a lecture on the life of Jesus, expect any detailed exposition of the particular truths he taught. I suppose you might arrange on a single sheet of paper all the words of his that have come down to us. If we were to judge his teaching as people judge preachers now-by what they do not say, but which hearers think they ought to have said-we should find some strange omissions.

Scarcely one of the terms of our modern theology can you find in the whole record of what JESUS said. Yet, what word is there that we would exchange for the most elabcrate system of doctrine? What would we give for a conplete record of that first sermon, from the text, “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he hath appointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor”? And when shall we ever exhaust that wonderful discourse on the conduct of life, which we call the Sermon on the Mount ? or that speech to the multitude on the last great day of the feast? There is hardly a word that is not as true and as touching for us in England now, as for the Jews in that day. If you read the words of any of the sages of antiquity, you are constantly reminded that theirs was a different age, a different kind of life from ours; you have to transport yourself into their world, and take the hue of their surroundings, before you can fully enter into it. But these words, though they were suggested by the circumstances of the moment, by the questions of any casual passer-by, are as fresh now as they were then. Allow me just to indicate some of the principal subjects of which he spoke. We have a very few sentences, so far as they have come down to us, about God, the Father of all; but how new they are, and how near to the human heart does every one of these words come! “Your Heavenly FATHER knoweth you have need of these things.” And this of the Fatherhood of God, remember, was hardly named among the Jews of his day. He talked a great deal, too, about the true worth of manhood ; how the soul is superior to the body, superior to circumstances, superior to human institụtions, and is to be guarded, protected, revered, everywhere and at all times : "Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment ?" He talked a great deal about integrity, about reverence to our higher self, about the duty of seeming what we are, of "letting our light shine before men. Then he enforced the duty of feeding the soul, enriching it, protecting it: "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth;

but lay up treasure in Heaven." What rich lessons, too, in practical life we find scattered everywhere! What new views those must have seemed about the blessedness of poverty, of being evil spoken of, of being persecuted for righteousness' sake. What an innovation was it to proclaim, that to love God and our fellow-man

comprises all the law and the prophets. · And how, in parable and practice, he taught the great truth of the brotherhood of man-of neighbourhood not limited by caste or creed. What a nobility, again, he bestows on our nature, by the solemnity with which he speaks of human work, and of his own as the highest : “To this end came I into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth :” “I must work the work of tim that sent me while it is day." See, again, how he reverenced humanity-he, the Spotless One -- when he found it by the wayside, bruised and wounded by sin. He, perhaps, first spoke the truth our latest poet sings, that

“Sin itself is found The cloudy porch, oft opening to the sun.” Of one who had been led away by passion, he said_-“She loveth much, for she hath been much forgiven.” Of the blackest crime in human history, he said-“They know not what they do.” And his maxims for dealing with sin, too, were different from any that had ever been uttered before. I could almost like to conjecture that those words of Paul's had come down by tradition from the Master's own lips-“Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good ;”--the true law, surely, let me hint here, to overcome evil in ourselves as well as in others. You cannot, you must not, crush out the lower nature ; but you may feed and enrich the higher, so that it shall ever keep its

proper supremacy over the lower. You need not wish to be rid of any appetite that gives you animal enjoyment; only let every day bring some new stimulus to the intellect and the heart, and then the other will have its due play without running riot.

Then, how JESUS reverenced humanity as he saw it in childhood. He held it up as a pattern to us : “Of these, he said, “is the kingdom of Heaven.” Such trust, simplicity, teachableness, as seem natural to childhood, are the root of everything that is to make the world better. Again, in all his dealings with men, how firm his trust in the progress of truth amidst all discouragements and denials. No one can steep himself in the teaching of JESUS and continue to despise humanity or despair of it. Taking it just as it is, he recognises still the high parentage of this debased and sorrowing manhood, with its infinite

capacities for good and evil; and this nature of ours, fallen among thieves, bruised and incapable, and well-nigh destroyed, he, the Elder Brother of the human race, lifts up, pours oil into our wounds, and leads us upward to his FATHER and our FATHER, to his God and our God.

I will only add a word as to the teaching of Jesus about Nature--the outward world around and above us. There is very little in leed of this, for the highest things about nature will hardly bear to be spoken of, much less remembered and reported. But to no one so much as to JESUS was this fair world what Goethe calls it, the “living garment of GOD." “ Consider the lilies,” they grow not without a Divine impulse-as it were by a necessity which GOD is under to make beautiful things; and by a higher necessity, if we may reverently speak so, we, who are of more value than many sparrows, are placed here that we may develope his thought, and grow, as the lilies do, in obedience to his laws. Modern poets seem to think they compliment the Almighty Maker by stringing together pretty phrases about his works; but to JESUS, communion with nature was a necessity. We read of him seeking the sea-shore and the mountain whenever his heart was too full to mingle with his fellows; and even when his soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, it is to the Mount of Olives that he repairs. And after that Last Supper, together they go out to that familiar spot, as though, looking out on the

mountains round about Jerusalem, he would be reminded, as David was, of the everlasting mercy of GOD, now to manifest itself in that awful and terrible tragedy that was at hand. Such was the relation of JESUS to the outward world; and those who disparage the sense of beauty that is more or less in us all, must certainly seek some other warrant for their irreverence, alike towards the work of God without us, and the promptings of his Spirit within us.

I have kept for separate consideration one striking feature in the life before us—I mean the relation of Jesus to the Established Church of his day; a Church, you recollect, in which the minutest things were of Divine appointment, and the daily routine perhaps the same that Isaiah and Solomon had mingled in. But for four hundred years the voice of prophecy had been unheard ; the life that once flowed through the solemn psalm and mystic sacrifice

« 이전계속 »