Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

a unit, body and soul making up one life, and that what truly blesses one blesses the other. He will discover a certain temper in these words that furnishes a keynote to the Christian system, and a prophecy of its work. He finds in them a theology and a life, a doctrine and a practice, and that the two are inseparable.

Our student, as he goes on in the history, gets as deep an insight into the human heart as into the divine. He reads again the oft-recurring story, a great spirit rejected by friends and neighbors; it is only the carpenter's Son, the boy who grew up in the midst of us, and now, forsooth! claiming to be a prophet! And they drive him out of their city. He finds in this no strange history, but only an illustration of a daily fact. Men never see the great in what is about them. We ride without eyes under Greylock, and go to the White Mountains for sublimity. The moon in Venice, and the sky in Naples, have more charm than here at home. The weeds of other climates become our flowers, and our flowers seem to us but weeds. There is little heroism, little devotion and nobility on our square mile; there are no epics or lyrics of human deed and feeling sung in our streets ; the great, the beautiful, the excellent, is at a distance. Why we think thus it may be hard to tell, unless it is from instinctive reverence on the one hand, and on the other, because the realization of greatness makes us aware of our own littleness, and so provokes us to envy and anger.

Quite a broad field our student has traversed in

studying this short paragraph of St. Luke's Gospel,

— from the political constitution of Judea down to the subtilties of our common nature!

We pass now to this preaching of Christ, and will speak of its substance, its philosophy, and its power.

1. Its substance. Without doubt we have here the keynote to his entire teaching. This was his gospel from first to last, whatever He may have said of an apparently different tenor on special occasions. It is a derogation and an absurdity to suppose, as is sometimes asserted, that Christ, finding this kind of preaching did not answer, changed his tone to a 66 woe.” It may be reasonably supposed that Christ did not feel his way along, but that He understood himself and his work from the first, and struck at once to the heart of his business. This appears still more plainly as we realize that, here at the outset, He brings out the whole divine meaning of the Jewish economy. It is understood that great numbers of persons are still reading that purblind mass of crudities known as the “ Mistakes of Moses.” Does the author of that book know what the Jewish system means when you get down to the soul of it? Does he tell you that its keynote is mercy, and that its method and aim is simply that of deliverance and freedom from the actual ills of life? Does he tell you that it is a system shot through and through with great redeeming and liberating forces ? Does he tell you that it takes a nation of slaves, ignorant, barbaric, besotted in mind and degenerate in body, and by a

shrewdly adapted system of laws lifts it steadily and persistently, and bears it on to ever bettering conditions and always towards freedom? Does he tell you that from first to last, from centre to circumference, it was a system of deliverance from bondage, from disease, from ignorance, from anarchy, from superstition, from degrading customs, from despotism, from barbarism, from Oriental vices and philosophies, from injustice and oppression, from individual and national sin and fault? Does he tell you that thus the nation was organized in the interest of freedom, planned to secure it by a gradually unfolding system of laws, educational in their spirit, and capable of wide expansion in right directions ? Nothing of this he sees, but only some incongruities in numbers and a cosmogony apparently not scientific.

It is the peculiarity of Christ's preaching that He pierces at once to the centre of this great delivering system, and plants his ministry upon it. He takes its heart, its inmost meaning and intent, and makes them universal. He draws them to the front, leaving behind the outworn framework of laws and ordinances, and lays them directly before the eyes of the people. “ This is the meaning of your law, this is the secret of your nation, namely, deliverance, freedom.”

We cannot conceive a better Gospel nor a profounder social order than this. It accords with the largest view of humanity, whether it be scientific, historical, or religious. Science and history and religion tell a like story of deliverance, emergence

from the lower into the higher, struggle towards the better, deliverance from evils, and so a passing on into righteousness and peace. Christ supplements and crowns this order of nature and providence by his Gospel. “I am come to save you in full, body and spirit, to make you free indeed by a spiritual freedom ; I am come to declare that this deliverance, which is the secret of your national history, is to become universal, the law of all nations and the privilege of all men.” Here is a gospel indeed!

The peculiar feature of this quotation from Isaiah, which Christ makes his own, is its doubleness. “ The poor,” — but men are poor in condition and in spirit. " The captives," — but men may be in bondage under masters or circumstances, and also under their own sin. “The blind,” — but men may be blind of eye and also in spiritual vision. “ The bruised,” — but men are bruised in the struggles of this rough world, and also by the havoc of their own evil passions. Which did Christ mean? Both, but chiefly the moral, for He always struck through the external forms of evil to the moral root, from which it springs, and of whose condition it is the general exponent. And He always passed on to the spiritual end to which external betterment points. He was no reformer, playing about the outward forms of evil, — hunger, poverty, disease, oppression, - giving ease and relief for the moment. He does indeed deal with these, but He puts under his work a moral foundation, and crowns it with a spiritual consummation. Dealing with these, He was all the while inserting the spiritual principle which He calls

faith. Unless He can do this, He is nearly indif. ferent whether He works or not. If you cannot heal a man's spirit, it is a small thing to heal his body. If you cannot make a man rich in his heart and thought, it is a slight matter to relieve his poverty. At the same time, Christ will not separate the two, for they are the two sides of one evil thing. Poverty and disease and misery mostly spring out of moral evil. They are not the limitations of the finite nature, but are the fangs of the serpent of sin. To refer evil, physical or moral, to development, betrays clumsy observation. The imperfection of development is a phrase the parts of which do not go together. In a true and orderly development, every part and point are perfect. A halfgrown animal is never blind because it is halfgrown, or paralyzed because it is young, or sick because it is immature. In the natural order, evils come in when the development has been reached, and its energies have ceased to act in full force. But those who contend that physical and moral evils are the necessary attendants of what they call imperfect development, reverse the very process from which they argue, placing them at the outset where they are never found in any other order. Plainly, we cannot reason from one to the other; plainly, there is a disturbing element in human development, for which no analogy can be found in the physical and animal processes. Human ills are not the sole products of ignorance, nor the chance features of human progress, but the fruit of selfish

« ElőzőTovább »