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to a passionate or fanatical temper, we deem it a mark of his moral earnestness and elevation, seeing how free it was from private animosity. True, we can not read those words of his ; but that may be for the reason that we can not feel as much as he did either towards good or towards evil.
The crowning distinction of Jesus was, however, that he exalted the feminine elements of character to their due rank in the estimation of men. He was himself a man and a woman.
Is his manliness questioned ? If it is still regarded as manly to triymph over passion by sheer force of a consecrated will, - to choose the hardest path, the crookedest, the thorniest, and to walk in it firmly with bleeding feet to the end ; if it is still considered manly to maintain one's personal honor amid all inducements to falter or palter; if still it is reckoned manly to bear witness to the Truth, through uproar and flattery, and sternly to hold one's purpose though foes grow furious and friends become faint; if it is yet allowed to be a manly thing to let rich supporters go rather than compromise a principle, and calmly to choose a lonely and bitter death in preference to an ignominiously successful career ; if still we concede Truth to be a manly quality, or Justice, or Fortitude, or Self-Possession, which lets fall no complaint amid toil and suffering ; if the
power to bear hunger and thirst and fatigue is to be counted a manly possession, then we must grant that Jesus was manly, and after that old heroic style of which we see few imitators now. An iron man we might almost call him ; a disciple of the ancient Zeno, trained in a school of indifference, hardened against emotion, and toughened against every accident of Fortune.
But see now this iron man melting into tears by the grave of his friend; hear his wail over Jerusalem (how like a mother's !); listen to his conversation at the parting supper with his disciples, so full of tender compassion ; behold him dropping the big tears of a solitary spirit upon Gethsemane's hallowed dust ; look at him as he bends yearningly over his drowsy followers who could not watch with him one hour ; he murmurs gentle charities as he staggers beneath the cross, and from its cruel elevation drops benedictions down. This certainly is no stoic. This is a woman. Here we have a powerful illustration of the womanly virtues as elements of greatness in personal character, as elements of strength in the organization of society. Our attention is called to the fact that what people contemptuously speak of as “passive virtues” really display the
highest form of activity ; that one of the ruling forces in the world is charity. The grandeur of self-renunciation, the sublimity of meekness, the loftiness of obedience, the heroism of patience, and the all-subduing might of gentleness Jesus taught and manifested. He was a living demonstration of the power of sympathy to disarm violence, allay passion, convert unbelief, and reclaim error.
The theology of Christendom is a standing testimony to the prominence of these feminine attributes in the character of Jesus. They have reflected themselves in its whole conception of the Godhead. The Christian's God has always had a tender, womanly side. A virgin who was at the same time a mother shared his throne, and mingled an ineffable sweetness with the principles that ruled the earth. Was the deification of Jesus anything more than the deification of qualities which Jesus displayed ? In saying that Jesus was God, was anything else meant than that God was like Jesus? In worshiping Jesus, had men any other thought than to worship the attributes he exhibited - sanctity, pity, mercy, benevolence? What was the Christian Trinity but an attempt to engraft on the awful Hebrew Divinity the qualities Jesus had made them feel were Supreme? The Son was Deity coming down in human form, sharing human infirmities, bearing human burdens, soothing human sorrows, lifting the dead from human graves. The Spirit was Deity working in the hearts of the grieving and the lonely, counselling the erring, warning the tempted, pleading with the bad. The Virgin was Deity discharging towards the womanly half of humanity especially those more delicate offices of consolation which Jesus in two or three instances is reported as having fulfilled while living on the earth.
A new and original type of character this, to be glorified among men and gods,- a character which commands instant respect, but which no age would be likely to throw out as its ideal type of humanity. The qualities held practically in highest esteem are now as heretofore the harsher qualities that rule by conquest. The military commander is still the model man. We do not care so much to see him dressed in regimentals and marching at the head of his brigade,—we rather prefer to see him in the dress of an explorer, pioneer, discoverer ; but we honor in him the same attributes that we honor in the soldier the knowledge to direct affairs, and the energy to subdue men. The popular idols are even yet made of muscle and brains. Straws show which way the wind
blows. Go into a photographic gallery, examine the portraits of men there, and you will see that every one has put on as his finest expression a look of sternness, hauteur, defiance. They look like prize-fighters who have just flung down the glove as a challenge to all mankind. They meant to look their best, and they look their fiercest. But every picture of Jesus is a picture of resignation. Christian art in all its departments has caught from him a look of triumphant suffering, and lends its witness to the truth that a new ideal of humanity has seated itself on imagination's throne.
The type of character which Jesus represents deserves to be called human. The virtues that prevailed in the ancient world, and that prevail in the modern world, too,— are individual rather than social, private rather than humane. They tend more to keep men apart than to draw them together. Some of the radical evils of society are perpetuated by what is popularly regarded as virtue. Pride, for instance, even in its noble form of self-respect, is never quite free from a wounding and discouraging disdain. Honor, through its sensitiveness to offence, is ever provoking suspicion and quarrel. Justice has too rarely the quality of mercy, without which it is injustice. Bravery becomes a bully, and Fortitude becomes a bruiser ; Truth pinches and Integrity badgers, Generosity squanders and Economy scrimps. People magnify a small sacrifice of comfort for a friend : here was one who spent all he had, and himself at last, for strangers and enemies. We hardly know how to yield knowing ourselves to be in the wrong: here was one who said, “ Say what you will of me, only respect the Holy Ghost.” It is thought much to preserve purity while associating only with the pure : here was one who sat at meat with publicans and sinners, and maintained a spotlessness of life which was not only proof against contamination, but which made pollution itself ashamed to be unclean. They who are deemed the noblest have much to say about rights : here was one who spoke only of duties. The world's good people make a point of shunning the vicious, abhorring the criminal, pursuing the guilty with vengeance, and exhibiting their excellence in strongest possible contrast with other folk's evil. The true Son of Man came to seek and save the lost; to call not the righteous, but the sinful, to repentance ; and consequently we read of him as going about among those whom we should shun, ministering to those whom we should punish, inviting those whom we should repel, blessing those whom we should curse,
and promising the kingdom of heaven to those whom we in pride of sanctity should doom to perdition. Men speak of sympathy, meaning by it a common feeling on the ground of congenial tastes, dispositions or experiences : Jesus by sympathy meant a fellowship in suffering with the unfortunate and the unhappy. Jesus is virtually the father of those enterprises in behalf of the poor, the neglected, the despised, the oppressed, the wicked, which forshadow the coming of a new era in civilization. He is the inspirer of the peace men, the anti-slavery men, the laborers in the cause of woman's emancipation from civil disabilities and social wrongs. Reformers, philanthropists and saints make appeal to him, and the resistance which is made to the movements of the new social ideas is the resistance of the first Adam against the second, is the angry amazement of a world long settled in ancient selfish ways at seeing this fresh ideal of man and his relations rise like a white spirit and dictate what is to be the order of things.
That the Christ of the Church is to a great extent a creature of the imagination, or, as we say, an ideal being, is frankly conceded. But as frankly it is conceded, on the other hand, that the Christ of the Church is no more than the Jesus of history rounded and developed, - as the great sculptor, not flattering his subject, but more deeply comprehending it, not disguising, but unfolding it, presents you with a bust of your dear friend, almost too beautiful to be true, and yet only beautiful because of the truth which flashes out upon you from day to day.
We feel constrained to admit that Christ has introduced a new type of human character. The absolutely perfect and consummate specimen of the type may not have appeared, but the type is decided; the shape is inaugurated, the fashion is set, and the new type sums up and judges those which went before it in the order of development. Out of the vast dust-heap and wreck and pile of rubbish of the theologies, burying fanciful Christologies out of sight we hope forever, like the praying boy from the Tiber mud comes up erect and radiant this form of the new man, to become the standard of manly beauty henceforth. Each animal in the scale of nature seems perfect until a higher form of organized being appears. Before the advent of the human creature, the ape, the chimpanzee, the gorilla may well have considered themselves as crowning forms; but the coming of man with his perfect frame makes each inferior order look defective and deformed. So the
character of Jesus, proving itself perfect in kind, if not in degree, becomes the rule by which humanity is silently measured and judged.
On a dreary eve of a winter day
A poet sate by his fire alone;
His heart of fire was a heart of stone.
And silently gazed on the flickering flame, -
As the light on his forehead went and came.
Quenched in his heart was the fever-thirst
For fame: he had labored; the world was proud —
With noisy clamor and homage loud;
All he had done he held as naught -
In the light of his great afterthought.
For he knew that the works they held so great
Were the shards and shells his soul had rent
Stronger and brighter, it onward went.
His name like a star might onward roll;
He had built, not fame, but a god-like soul.
THESE withered hands are weak,
The appointed words to speak.
Thy sneer I can forgive,
And then I would not live.