The Divinity of
Whence hath This Man this Wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not This the
carpenter’s Son? is not His mother called Mary? and His brethren, James,
and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with
us? Whence then hath This Man all these things?
ST. MATT. xiii. 54-56.
A SKEPTICAL prince once asked his chaplain to give him some clear evidence of the truth of Christianity, but to do so in a few words, because a king had not much time to spare for such matters. The chaplain tersely replied, ‘The Jews, your majesty.’ The chaplain meant to say that the whole Jewish history was a witness to Christ. In the ages before the Incarnation Israel witnessed to His work and to His Person, by its Messianic belief, by its Scriptures, by its ritual, by its rabbinical schools. In the ages which have followed the Incarnation, Israel has witnessed to Him no less powerfully as the people of the dispersion. In all the continents, amid all the races of the world, we meet with the nation to which there clings an unexpiated, self-imprecated guilt. This nation dwells among us and around us Englishmen; it shares largely in our material prosperity; its social and civil life are shaped by our national institutions; it sends its representatives to our tribunals of justice and to the benches of our senate: yet its heart, its home, its future, are elsewhere. It still hopes for Him Whom we Christians have found; it still witnesses, by its accumulating despair, to the truth of the creed which it so doggedly rejects. Our rapid survey then of those anticipations of our Lord’s Divinity which are furnished by the Old Testament, and by the literature more immediately dependent on it, has left untouched a district of history fruitful in considerations which bear upon our subject. But it must suffice to have hinted at the testimony which is thus indirectly yielded by the later Judaism; and we pass to-day to a topic which is in some sense continuous with that of our last lecture. We have seen how the appearance of a Divine Person, as the Savior of men, was anticipated by the Old Testament; let us enquire how far Christ’s Divinity is attested by the phenomenon which we encounter in the formation and continuity of the Christian Church.
1. When modern writers examine and discuss the proportions and character of our Lord’s ‘plan,’ a Christian believer may rightly feel that such a term can only be used in such a connection with some mental caution. He may urge that in forming an estimate of strictly human action, we can distinguish between a plan and its realization; but that this distinction is obviously inapplicable to Him with Whom resolve means achievement, and Who completes His action, really if not visibly, when He simply wills to act. It might further be maintained, and with great truth, that the pretension to exhibit our Lord’s entire design in His Life and Death proceeds upon a misapprehension. It is far from being true that our Lord has really laid bare to the eyes of men the whole purpose of the Eternal Mind in respect of His Incarnation. Indeed nothing is plainer, or more upon the very face of the New Testament, than the limitations and reserve of His disclosures on this head. We see enough for faith and for practical purposes, but we see no more. Amid the glimpses which are offered us respecting the scope and range of the Incarnation, the obvious shades off continually into mystery, the visible commingles with the unseen. We Christians know just enough to take the measure of our ignorance; we feel ourselves hovering intellectually on the outskirts of a vast economy of mercy, the complete extent and the inner harmonies of which One Eye alone can survey.
If however we have before us only a part of the plan which our Lord meant to carry out by His Incarnation and Death, assuredly we do know something and that from His Own Lips. If it is true that success can never be really doubtful to Omnipotence, and that no period of suspense can be presumed to intervene between a resolve and its accomplishment in the Eternal Mind; yet, on the other hand, it is a part of our Lord’s gracious condescension that He has, if we may so speak, entered into the lists of history. He has come among us as one of ourselves; He has made Himself of no reputation, and has been found in fashion as a man. He has despoiled Himself of His advantages; He has actually stated what He proposed to do in the world, and has thus submitted Himself to the verdict of man’s experience. His own Words are our warrant for comparing them with His Work; and He has interposed the struggles of centuries between His Words and their fulfillment. He has so shrouded His Hand of might as at times to seem as if He would court at least the possibilities of failure. Putting aside then for the moment any recorded intimations of Christ’s Will in respect of other spheres of being, with all their mighty issues of life and death, let us enquire what it was that He purposed to effect within the province of human action and history.
Now the answer to this question is simply, that He proclaimed Himself the Founder of a world-wide and imperishable Society. He did not propose to act powerfully upon the convictions and the characters of individual men, and then to leave to them, when they believed and felt alike, the liberty of voluntarily forming themselves into an association, with a view to reciprocal sympathy and united action. From the first, the formation of a society was not less an essential feature of Christ’s plan, than was His redemptive action upon single souls. This society was not to be a school of thinkers, nor a self-associated company of enterprising fellow-workers; it was to be a Kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, or, as it is also called, the kingdom of God1. For ages indeed the Jewish theocracy had been a kingdom of God upon earth2. God was the one true King of ancient Israel. He was felt to be present in Israel as a Monarch living among His subjects. The temple was His palace; its sacrifices and ritual were the public acknowledgment of His present but invisible Majesty. But the Jewish polity, considered as a system, was an external rather than an internal kingdom of God. Doubtless there were great saints in ancient Israel; doubtless Israel had prayers and hymns such as may be found in the Psalter, than which nothing more searching and more spiritual has been since produced in Christendom. Looking however to the popular working of the Jewish theocratic system, and to what is implied as to its character in Jeremiah’s prophecy of a profoundly spiritual kingdom which was to succeed it3, may we not conclude that the Royalty of God was represented rather to the senses than to the heart and intelligence of at least the mass of His ancient subjects? Jesus Christ our Lord announced a new kingdom of God; and, by terming it the Kingdom of God, He implied that it would first fully deserve that sacred name, as corresponding with Daniel’s prophecy of a fifth empire4. Let us moreover note, in passing, that when using the word ‘kingdom,’ our Lord did not announce a republic. Writers who carry into their interpretation of the Gospels ideas which have been gained from a study of the Platonic dialogues or of the recent history of France, may permit themselves to describe our Lord as Founder of the Christian republic. And certainly St. Paul, when accommodating himself to political traditions and aspirations which still prevailed largely throughout the Roman world, represents and recommends the Church of Christ as the source and home of the highest moral and mental liberty, by speaking freely of our Christian ‘citizenship,’ and of our coming at baptism to the ‘city’ of the living God5. Not that the Apostle would press the metaphor to the extent of implying that the new society was to be a spiritual democracy; since he very earnestly taught that even the inmost thoughts of its members were to be ruled by their Invisible King6. This indeed had been the claim of the Founder of the kingdom Himself7; He willed to be King, absolutely and without a rival, in the new society; and the nature and extent of His legislation plainly shows us in what sense He meant to reign.
The original laws of the new kingdom are for the most part set forth by its Founder in His Sermon on the Mount. After a preliminary statement of the distinctive character which was to mark the life and bearing of those who would fully correspond to His Mind and Will8, and a further sketch of the nature and depth of the influence which His subjects were to exert upon other men9, He proceeds to define the general relation of the new law which He is promulgating to the law that had preceded it10. The vital principle of His legislation, namely, that moral obedience shall be enforced, not merely in the performance of or in the abstinence from outward acts, but in the deepest and most secret springs of thought and motive, is traced in its application to certain specific prescriptions of the older Law11; while other ancient enactments are modified or set aside by the stricter purity12, the genuine simplicity of motive and character13, the entire unselfishness14, and the superiority to personal prejudices and exclusiveness15 which the New Lawgiver insisted on. The required life of the new kingdom is then exhibited in detail; the duties of almsgiving16, of prayer17, and of fasting18, are successively enforced; but the rectification of the ruling motive is chiefly insisted on as essential. In performing religious duties, God’s Will, and not any conventional standard of human opinion, is to be kept steadily before the eye of the soul. The Legislator insists upon the need of a single, supreme, unrivalled motive in thought and action, unless all is to be lost. The uncorruptible treasure must be in heaven; the body of the moral life will only be full of light if ‘the eye is single;’ no man can serve two masters19. The birds and the flowers suggest the lesson of trust in and devotion to the One Source and End of life; all will really be well with those who in very deed seek His kingdom and His righteousness20. Charity in judgment of other men21, circumspection in communicating sacred truth22, confidence and constancy in prayer23, perfect consideration for the wishes of others24, yet also a determination to seek the paths of difficulty and sacrifice, rather than the broad easy ways trodden by the mass of mankind25;-- these features will mark the conduct of loyal subjects of the kingdom. They will beware too of false prophets, that is, of the movers of spiritual sedition, of teachers who are false to the truths upon which the kingdom is based and to the temper which is required of its real children. The false prophets will be known by their moral unfruitfulness26, rather than by any lack of popularity or success. Finally, obedience to the law of the kingdom is insisted on as the one condition of safety; obedience27, -- as distinct from professions of loyalty; obedience, -- which will be found to have really based a man’s life upon the immoveable rock at that solemn moment when all that stands upon the sand must utterly perish28.
Such a proclamation of the law of the kingdom as was the Sermon on the Mount, already implied that the kingdom would be at once visible and invisible. On the one hand certain outward duties, such as the use of the Lord’s Prayer and fasting, are prescribed29; on the other, the new law urgently pushes its claim of jurisdiction far beyond the range of material acts into the invisible world of thought and motive. The visibility of the kingdom lay already in the fact of its being a society of men, and not a society solely made up of incorporeal beings such as the angels. The King never professes that He will be satisfied with a measure of obedience which sloth or timidity might confine to the region of inoperative feelings and convictions; He insists with great emphasis upon the payment of homage to His Invisible Majesty, outwardly, and before the eyes of men. Not to confess Him before men is to break with Him for ever30; it is to forfeit His blessing and protection when these would most be needed. The consistent bearing, then, of His loyal subjects will bring the reality of His rule before the sight of men; but, besides this, He provides His realm with a visible government, deriving its authority from Himself, and entitled on this account to deferential and entire obedience on the part of His subjects. To the first members of this government His commission runs thus: -- ‘He that receiveth you, receiveth Me31.’ It is the King Who will Himself reign throughout all history on the thrones of His representatives; it is He Who, in their persons, will be acknowledged or rejected. In this way His empire will have an external and political side; nor is its visibility to be limited to its governmental organization. The form of prayer32 which the King enjoins on His subjects, and the outward visible actions by which, according to His appointment, membership in His kingdom is to be begun33 and maintained34, make the very life and movement of the new society, up to a certain point, visible. But undoubtedly the real strength of the kingdom, its deepest life, its truest action, are veiled from sight. At bottom it is to be a moral, not a material empire; it is to be a realm not merely of bodies but of souls, of souls instinct with intelligence and love. Its seat of power will be the conscience of mankind. Not ‘here’ or ‘there’ in outward signs of establishment and supremacy, but in the free conformity of the thought and heart of its members to the Will of their Unseen Sovereign, shall its power be most clearly recognized. Not as an oppressive outward code, but as an inward buoyant exhilarating motive, will the King’s Law mould the life of His subjects. Thus the kingdom of God will be found to be ‘within’ men35; it will be set up, not like an earthly empire by military conquest or by violent revolution, but noiselessly and ‘not with observation36.’ It will be maintained by weapons more spiritual than the sword. ‘If,’ said the Monarch, ‘My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, but now is My kingdom not from hence37.’
The charge to the twelve Apostles exhibits the outward agency by which the kingdom would be established38; and the discourse in the supper-room unveils yet more fully the secret sources of its strength and the nature of its influence39. But the ‘plan’ of its Founder with reference to its establishment in the world is perhaps most fully developed in that series of parables, which, from their common object and from their juxtaposition in St. Matthew’s Gospel, are commonly termed Parables of the Kingdom.
How various would be the attitudes of the human heart towards the ‘word of the kingdom,’ that is, towards the authoritative announcement of its establishment upon the earth, is pointed out in the Parable of the Sower. The seed of truth would fall from His Hand throughout all time by the wayside, upon stony places, and among thorns, as well as upon the good ground40. It might be antecedently supposed that within the limits of the new kingdom none were to be looked for save the holy and the faithful. But the Parable of the Tares corrects this too idealistic anticipation; the kingdom is to be a field in which until the final harvest the tares must grow side by side with the wheat41. The astonishing expansion of the kingdom throughout the world is illustrated by ‘the grain of mustard seed, which indeed is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs42.’ The principle and method of that expansion are to be observed in the action of ‘the leaven hid in the three measures of meal43.’ A secret invisible influence, a soul-attracting, soul-subduing enthusiasm for the King and His work, would presently penetrate the dull, dense, dead mass of human society, and its hard heart and stagnant thought would expand, in virtue of this inward impulse, into a new life of light and love. Thus the kingdom is not merely represented as a mighty whole, of which each subject soul is a fractional part. It is exhibited as an attractive influence, acting energetically upon the inner personal life of individuals. It is itself the great intellectual and moral prize of which each truth-seeking soul is in quest, and to obtain which all else may wisely and well be left behind. The kingdom is a treasure hid in a field44, that is, in a line of thought and enquiry, or in a particular discipline and mode of life; and the wise man will gladly part with all that he has to buy that field. Or the kingdom is like a merchant-man seeking ‘goodly pearls45;’ he sells all his possessions that he may buy the ‘one pearl of great price.’ Here it is hinted that entrance into the kingdom is a costly conquest and mastery of truth, of that one absolute and highest Truth, which is contrasted with the lower and relative truths current among men. The preciousness of membership in the kingdom is only to be completely realized by an unreserved submission to the law of sacrifice; the kingdom flashes forth in its full moral beauty before the eye of the soul, as the merchant-man resigns his all in favor of the one priceless pearl. In these two parables, then, the individual soul is represented as seeking the kingdom; and it is suggested how tragic in many cases would be the incidents, how excessive the sacrifices, attendant upon ‘pressing into it.’ But a last parable is added in which the kingdom is pictured, not as a prize which can be seized by separate souls, but as a vast imperial system, as a world-wide home of all the races of mankind46. Like a net47 thrown into the Galilean lake, so would the kingdom extend its toils around entire tribes and nations of men; the vast struggling multitude would be drawn nearer and nearer to the eternal shore; until at last the awful and final separation would take place beneath the eye of Absolute Justice; the good would be gathered into vessels, but the bad would be cast away.
The proclamation of this kingdom was termed the Gospel, that is, the good news of God. It was good news for mankind, Jewish as well as Pagan, that a society was set up on earth wherein the human soul might rise to the height of its original destiny, might practically understand the blessedness and the awfulness of life, and might hold constant communion in a free, trustful, joyous, childlike spirit with the Author and the End of its existence. The ministerial work of our Lord was one long proclamation of this kingdom. He was perpetually defining its outline, or promulgating and codifying its laws, or instituting and explaining the channels of its organic and individual life, or gathering new subjects into it by His words of wisdom or by His deeds of power, or perfecting and refining the temper and cast of character which was to distinguish them. When at length He had Himself overcome the sharpness of death, He opened this kingdom of heaven to all believers on the Day of Pentecost. His ministry had begun with the words, ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand48;’ He left the world, bidding His followers carry forward the frontier of His kingdom to the utmost limits of the human family49, and promising them that His presence within it would be nothing less than co-enduring with time50.
Let us note more especially two features in the ‘plan’ of our Blessed Lord.
(a) And, first, its originality . Need I say, brethren, that real originality is rare? In this place many of us spend our time very largely in imitating, recombining, reproducing existing thought. Conscious as we are that for the most part we are only passing on under a new form that which in its substance has come to us from others, we honestly say so; yet it may chance to us at some time to imagine that in our brain an idea or a design has taken shape, which is originally and in truth our own creation --
‘Libera per vacuum posui vestigia princeps;
Non aliena meo pressi pede51.’
Those few, rapid, decisive moments in which genius consciously enjoys the exhilarating sense of wielding creative power, may naturally be treasured in memory; and yet, even in these, how hard must it be to verify the assumed fact of an absolute originality! We of this day find the atmosphere of human thought, even more than the surface of the earth, preoccupied and thronged with the results of man’s activity in times past and present. In proportion to our consciousness of our real obligations to this general stock of mental wealth, must we not hesitate to presume that any one idea, the immediate origin of which we cannot trace, is in reality our own? Suppose that in this or that instance we do believe ourselves, in perfect good faith, to have produced an idea which is really entitled to the merit of originality. May it not be, that if at the right moment we could have examined the intellectual air around us with a sufficiently powerful microscope, we should have detected the germ of our idea ‘floating in upon our personal thought from without52?’ We only imagine ourselves to have created the idea because, at the time of our inhaling it, we were not conscious of doing so. The idea perhaps was suggested indirectly; it came to us along with some other idea upon which our attention was mainly fixed; it came to us so disguised or so undeveloped, that we cannot recognize it, so as to trace the history of its growth. It came to us during the course of a casual conversation; or from a book the very name of which we have forgotten; and our relationship towards it has been after all that of a nurse, not that of a parent. We have protected it, cherished it, warmed it, and at length it has grown within the chambers of our mind, until we have recognized its value and led it forth into the sunlight, shaping it, coloring it, expressing it after a manner strictly our own, and believing in good faith that because we have so entirely determined its form, we are the creators of its substance53. At any rate, my brethren, genius herself has not been slow to confess how difficult it is to say that any one of her triumphs is certainly due to a true originality. In one of his later recorded conversations Goethe was endeavoring to decide what are the real obligations of genius to the influences which inevitably affect it. ‘Much,’ said he, ‘is talked about originality; but what does originality mean? We are no sooner born than the world around begins to act upon us; its action lasts to the end of our lives and enters into everything. All that we can truly call our own is our energy, our vigor, our will. If I,’ he continued, ‘could enumerate all that I really owe to the great men who have preceded me, and to those of my own day, it would be seen that very little is really my own. It is a point of capital importance to observe at what time of life the influence of a great character is brought to bear on us. Lessing, Winkelmann, and Kant, were older than I, and it has been of the greatest consequence to me that the two first powerfully influenced my youth and the last my old age54.’ On such a subject, Goethe may be deemed a high authority, and he certainly was not likely to do an injustice to genius, or to be guilty of a false humility when speaking of himself.
But our Lord’s design to establish upon the earth a kingdom of souls was an original design. Remark, as bearing upon this originality, our Lord’s isolation in His early life. His social obscurity is, in the eyes of thoughtful men, the safeguard and guarantee of His originality. It is not seriously pretended, on any side, that Jesus Christ was enriched with one single ray of His thought from Athens, from Alexandria, from the mystics of the Ganges or of the Indus, from the disciples of Zoroaster or of Confucius. The centurion whose servant He healed, the Greeks whom He met at the instance of St. Philip, the Syro-phoenician woman, the judge who condemned and the soldiers who crucified Him, are the few Gentiles with whom He is recorded to have had dealings during His earthly life. But was our Lord equally isolated from the world of Jewish speculation? M. Renan, indeed, impatient at the spectacle of an unrivalled originality, suggests, not without some hesitation, that Hillel was the real teacher of Jesus55. But Dr. Schenkel will tell us that this suggestion rests on no historical basis whatever56, while we may remark in passing that it is at issue with a theory which you would not care to notice at length, but which M. Renan cherishes with much fondness, and which represents our Lord’s ‘tone of thought’ as a psychological result of the scenery of north-eastern Palestine57. The kindred assumption that when making His yearly visits to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, or at other times, Jesus must have become the pupil of some of the leading Jewish doctors of the day, is altogether gratuitous. Once indeed, when He was twelve years old, He was found in a synagogue, hard by the temple, in close intellectual contact with aged teachers of the Law. But all who hear Him, even then, in His early Boyhood, are astonished at His understanding and answers; and the narrative of the Evangelist implies that the occurrence was not repeated. Moreover there was no teaching in Judaea at that era, which had not, in the true sense of the expression, a sectarian coloring. But what is there in the doctrine or in the character of Jesus that connects Him with a Pharisee or a Sadducee, or an Herodian, or an Essene58 type of education? Is it not significant that, as Schleiermacher remarks, ‘of all the sects then in vogue none ever claimed Jesus as representing it, none branded Him with the reproach of apostasy from its tenets59?’ Even if we lend an ear to the precarious conjecture that He may have attended some elementary school at Nazareth, it is plain that the people believed Him to have gone through no formal course of theological training. ‘How knoweth This Man letters, having never learned60?’ was a question which betrayed the popular surprise created by a Teacher Who spoke with the highest authority, and Who yet had never sat at the feet of an accredited doctor. It was the homage of public enthusiasm which honored Him with the title of Rabbi; since this title did not then imply that one who bore it had been qualified by any intellectual exercises for an official teaching position. Isolated, as it seemed, obscure, uncultivated, illiterate, the Son of Mary did not concern Himself to struggle against or to reverse what man would deem the crushing disadvantages of His lot. He did not, like philosophers of antiquity, or like the active spirits of the middle ages, spend His Life in perpetual transit between one lecturer of reputation and another, between this and that focus of earnest and progressive thought. He was not a Goethe, continually enriching and refining his conceptions by contact with a long succession of intellectual friends reaching from Lavater to Eckermann. Still less did He, during His early Manhood, live in any such atmosphere as that of this place, where interpenetrating all our differences of age and occupation, and even of conviction, there is the magnificent inheritance of a common fund of thought, to which, whether we know it or not, we are all constantly and inevitably debtors. He mingled neither with great thinkers who could mould educated opinion, nor with men of gentle blood who could give its tone to society; He passed those thirty years as an under-workman in a carpenter’s shop; He lived in what might have seemed the depths of mental solitude and of social obscurity; and then He went forth, not to foment a political revolution, nor yet to found a local school of evanescent sentiment, but to proclaim an enduring and world-wide Kingdom of souls, based upon the culture of a common moral character, and upon intellectual submission to a common creed.
Christ’s isolation, then, is the guarantee of His originality; yet had He lived as much in public as He lived in obscurity, where, let me ask, is the kingdom of heaven anticipated as a practical project in the ancient world? What, beyond the interchange of thought on moral subjects, has the kingdom proclaimed by our Lord in common with the philosophical schools or coteries which grouped themselves around Socrates and other teachers of classical Greece61? These schools, indeed, differed from the kingdom of heaven, not merely in their lack of any pretensions to supernatural aims or powers, but yet more, in that they only existed for the sake of a temporary convenience, and that their members were bound to each other by no necessary ties62. Again, what was there in any of the sects of Judaism that could have suggested such a conception as the kingdom of heaven? Each and all they differ from it, I will not say in organization and structure, but in range and compass, in life and action, in spirit and aim. Or was the kingdom of heaven even traced in outline by the vague yearnings and aspirations after a better time, which entered so mysteriously into the popular thought of the heathen populations in the Augustan age63? Certainly it was an answer, complete yet unexpected, to these aspirations. They did not originate it; they could not have originated it; they primarily pointed to a material rather than to a moral Utopia, to an idea of improvement which did not enter into the plan of the Founder of the new kingdom. But you ask if the announcement of the kingdom of heaven by our Lord was not really a continuation of the announcement of the kingdom of heaven by St. John the Baptist? You might go further, and enquire, whether this proclamation of the kingdom of heaven is not to be traced up to the prophecy of Daniel respecting a fifth empire? For the present of course I waive the question which an Apostle64 would have raised, as to whether the Spirit That spoke in St. John and in Daniel was not the Spirit of the Christ Himself. But let us enquire whether Daniel or St. John do anticipate our Lord’s plan in such a sense as to rob it of its immediate originality. The Baptist and the prophet foretell the kingdom of heaven. Be it so. But a name is one thing, and the vivid complete grasp of an idea is another. We are accustomed to distinguish with some wholesome severity between originality of phrase and originality of thought. An intrinsic poverty of thought may at times succeed in formulating an original expression; while a true originality will often, nay generally, welcome a time-honored and conventional phraseology, if it can thus secure currency and acceptance for the truth which it has brought to light and which it desires to set forth65. The originality of our Lord’s plan lay not in its name, but in its substance. When St. John said that the kingdom of heaven was at hand66, when Daniel represented it as a world-wide and imperishable empire, neither prophet nor Baptist had really anticipated the idea; one furnished the name of a coming system, the other a measure of its greatness. But what was the new institution to be in itself; what were to be its controlling laws and principles; what the animating spirit of its inhabitants; what the sources of its life; what the vicissitudes of its establishment and triumph? These and other elements of His plan are exhibited by our Lord Himself, in His discourses, His parables, His institutions. That which had been more or less vague, He made definite; that which had been abstract, He threw into a concrete form; that which had been ideal, He clothed with the properties of working reality; that which had been scattered over many books and ages, He brought into a focus. If prophecy supplied Him with some of the materials which He employed, prophecy could not have enabled Him to succeed in combining them. He combined them because He was Himself; His Person supplied the secret of their combination. His originality is indeed seen in the reality and life with which He lighted up the language used by men who had been sent in earlier ages to prepare His way; but if His creative thought employed these older materials, it did not depend on them. He actually gave a practical and energetic form to the idea of a strictly independent society of spiritual beings, with enlightened and purified consciences, cramped by no national or local hounds of privilege, and destined to spread throughout earth and heaven67. When He did this, prophets were not His masters; they had only foreshadowed His work. His plan can be traced in that masterful completeness and symmetry, which is the seal of its intrinsic originality, to no source beyond Himself. Well might we ask with His astonished countrymen the question which was indeed prompted by their jealous curiosity, but which is natural to a very different temper, ‘Whence hath this Man this wisdom?’68
(b) And this opens upon us the second characteristic of our Lord’s plan, I mean that which in any merely human plan, we should call its audacity. This audacity is observable, first of all, in the fact that the plan is originally proposed to the world with what might appear to us to be such hazardous completeness. The idea of the kingdom of God issues almost ‘as if in a single jet69’ and with a fully developed body from the thought of Jesus Christ. Put together the Sermon on the Mount, the Charge to the Twelve Apostles, the Parables of the Kingdom, the Discourse in the Supper-room, and the institution of the two great Sacraments, and the plan of our Savior is before you. And it is enunciated with an accent of calm unfaltering conviction that it will be realized in human history.
This is a phenomenon which we can only appreciate by contrasting it with the law to which it is so signal an exception. Generally speaking, an ambitious idea appears at first as a mere outline, and it challenges attention in a tentative way. It is put forward enquiringly, timidly, that it may be completed by the suggestions of friends or modified by the criticism of opponents. The highest genius is always most keenly alive to the vicissitudes which may await its own creations; it knows with what difficulty a promising project is launched safely and unimpaired out of the domain of abstract speculation into the region of practical human life. Even in art, where the materials to be molded are, as compared with the subjects of moral or political endeavor, so much under command, it is not prudent to presume that a design or a conception will be carried out without additions or without curtailments. In this place we all have heard that between the 'theoria' and the 'genesis' of art there may be a fatal interval. The few bold strokes by which a Raffaelle has suggested a new form of power or of beauty, may never be filled up upon his canvas. The working-drawings of a Phidias or a Michael Angelo may never be copied in stone or in marble. As has been said of S. T. Coleridge, art is perpetually throwing out designs which remain designs for ever; and yet the artist possesses over his material, and even over his hand and his eye, a control which is altogether wanting to the man who would reconstruct or regenerate human society. For human society is an aggregate of human intelligences and of human wills, that is to say, of profound and mysterious forces, upon the direction of which under absolutely new circumstances it is impossible for man to calculate. Accordingly, social reformers tell us despondingly that facts make sad havoc of their fairest theories; and that schemes which were designed to brighten and to beautify the life of nations are either forgotten altogether, or, like the Republic of Plato, are remembered only as famous samples of the impracticable. For whenever a great idea, affecting the well-being of society, is permitted to force its way into the world of facts, it is liable to be carried out of its course, to be thrust hither and thither, to be compressed, exaggerated, disfigured, mutilated, degraded, caricatured. It may encounter currents of hostile opinion and of incompatible facts, upon which its projector had never reckoned; its course may be forced into a direction the exact reverse of that which he most earnestly desired. In the first French Revolution some of the most humane sociological projects were distorted into becoming the very animating principles of wholesale and extraordinary barbarities. In England we are fond of repeating the political maxim that ‘constitutions are not made, but grow;’ we have a proverbial dread of the paper-schemes of government which from time to time are popular among our gifted and volatile neighbors. It is not that we English cannot admire the creations of political genius; but we hold that in the domain of human life genius must submit herself to the dictation of circumstances, and that she herself seems to shade off into erratic folly when she cannot clearly recognize the true limits of her power.
Now Jesus Christ our Lord was in the true and very highest sense of the term a social reformer; yet He fully proclaimed the whole of His social plan before He began to realize it. Had He been merely a ‘great man,’ He would have been more prudent. He would have conditioned His design; He would have tested it; He would have developed it gradually; He would have made trial of its working power; and then He would have re-fashioned, or contracted, or expanded it, before finally proposing it to the consideration of the world. But His actual course must have seemed one of utter and reckless folly, unless the event had shown it to be the dictate of a more than human wisdom. He speaks as One Who is sure of the compactness and faultlessness of His design; He is certain that no human obstacle can baulk its realization. He produces it simply without effort, without reserve, without exaggeration; He is calm, because He is in possession of the future, and sees His way clearly through its tangled maze. There is no proof, no distant intimation of a change or of a modification of His plan. He did not, for instance, first aim at a political success, and then cover His failure by giving a religious turn or interpretation to His previous manifestoes; He did not begin as a religious teacher, and afterwards aspire to convert His increasing religious influence into political capital. No attempts to demonstrate any such vacillation in His purpose have reached even a moderate measure of success70. Certainly, with the lapse of time, He enters upon a larger and larger area of ministerial action; He develops with majestic assurance, with decisive rapidity, the integral features of His work; His teaching centers more and more upon Himself as its central subject; but He nowhere retracts, or modifies, or speaks or acts as would one who feels that he is dependent upon events or agencies which he cannot control71. A poor woman pays Him ceremonial respect at a feast, and He simply announces that the act will be told as a memorial of her throughout the world72; He bids His Apostles do all things whatsoever He had commanded them73; He promises them His Spirit as a Guide into all necessary truth74: but He invests them with no such discretionary powers, as might imply that His design would need revision under possible circumstances, or could be capable of improvement. He calmly turns the glance of His thought upon the long and checkered future which lies clearly displayed before Him, and in the immediate foreground of which is his own humiliating Death75. Other founders of systems or of societies have thanked a kindly Providence for shrouding from their gaze the vicissitudes of coming time;
‘Prudens futuri temporis exitum
Caliginosa nocte premit deus76;’
but the Son of Man speaks as One Who sees beyond the most distant possibilities, and Who knows full well that His work is indestructible. ‘The gates of hell,’ He calmly observes, ‘shall not prevail against it77;’ ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away78’
Nor is the boldness of Christ’s plan less observable in its actual substance, than in the fact of its original production in such completeness. Look at it, for the moment, from a political point of view. Here is, as it seems, a Galilean peasant, surrounded by a few followers taken like Himself from the lowest orders of society; yet He deliberately proposes to rule all human thought, to make Himself the Center of all human affections, to be the Lawgiver of humanity, and the Object man’s adoration79. He founds a spiritual society, the thought and heart and activity of which are to converge upon His Person, and He tells His followers that this society which He is forming is the real explanation of the highest visions of seers and prophets, that it will embrace all races and extend throughout all time. He places Himself before the world as the true goal of its expectations, and He points to His proposed work as the one hope for its future. There was to be a universal religion, and He would found it. A universal religion was just as foreign an idea to heathenism80 as to Judaism. Heathenism held that the state was the highest form of social life; religious life, like family life, was deemed subordinate to political interests. Morality was pretty nearly dwarfed down to the measure of common political virtue; sin was little else than political misdemeanor; religion was but a subordinate function of national life, differing in different countries according to the varying genius of the people, and rightly liable to being created or controlled by the government. A century and a half after the Incarnation, in his attack upon the Church, Celsus ridicules the idea of a universal religion as a manifest folly81; yet Jesus Christ has staked His whole claim to respect and confidence upon announcing it. Jesus Christ made no concessions to the passions or to the prejudices of mankind. The laws and maxims of His kingdom are for the most part in entire contradiction to the instincts of average human nature; yet He predicts that His Gospel will be preached in all the world, and that finally there will be one flock and One Shepherd of men82. ‘Go,’ He says to His Apostles, ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world83.’ He founds a world-wide religion, and He promises to be the present invigorating force of that religion to the end of time. Are we not too accustomed to this language to feel the full force of its original meaning? How startlingly must it not have fallen upon the ears of Apostles! Words like these are not accounted for by any difference between the East and the West, between ancient and modern modes of speech. They will not bear honest translation into any modern phrase that would enable good men to use them now. Can we imagine such a command as that of our Lord upon the lips of the best, of the wisest of men whom we have ever known? Would it not be simply to imagine that goodness or wisdom had been exchanged for the folly of an intolerable presumption? Such language as that before us is indeed folly, unless it be something else; unless it be proved by the event to have been the highest wisdom, the wisdom of One, Whose ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts84.
II. But has the plan of Jesus Christ been carried out? Does the kingdom of heaven exist on earth?
(1.) The Church of Christ is the living answer to that question. Boileau says somewhere that the Church is a great thought which every man ought to study. It would be more practical to say that the Church is a great fact which every man ought to measure. Probably we Christians are too familiarized with the blessed presence of the Church to do justice to her as a world-embracing institution, and as the nurse and guardian of our moral and mental life. Like the air we breathe, she bathes our whole being with influences which we do not analyze; and we hold her cheap in proportion to the magnitude of her unostentatious service. The sun rises on us day by day in the heavens, and we heed not his surpassing beauty until our languid sense is roused by some observant astronomer or artist. The Christian Church pours even upon those of us who love her least, floods of intellectual and moral light; and yet it is only by an occasional intellectual effort that we detach ourselves sufficiently from the tender monotony of her influences, to understand how intrinsically extraordinary is the double fact of her perpetuated existence and of her continuous expansion.
Glance for a moment at the history of the Christian Church from the days of the Apostles until now. What is it but a history of the gradual, unceasing self-expansion of an institution which, from the first hour of its existence, deliberately aimed, as it is aiming even now, at the conquest of the world85? Compare the Church which sought refuge and which prayed in the upper chamber at Jerusalem, with the Church of which St. Paul is the pioneer and champion in the latter portion of the Acts of the Apostles, or with the Church to which he refers, as already making its way throughout the world, in his Apostolical Epistles86. Compare again the Church of the Apostolical age with the Church of the age of Tertullian. Christianity had then already penetrated, at least in some degree, into all classes of Roman society87, and was even pursuing its missionary course in regions far beyond the frontiers of the empire88, in the forests of Germany, in the wilds of Scythia, in the deserts of Africa, and among the unsubdued and barbarous tribes who inhabited the northern extremity of our own island. Again, how nobly conscious is the Church of the age of St. Augustine of her worldwide mission, and of her ever-widening area! how sharply is this consciousness contrasted with the attempt of Donatism to dwarf down the realization of the plan of Jesus Christ to the narrow proportions of a national or provincial enterprise89! In the writings of Augustine especially, we see the Church of Christ tenaciously grasping the deposit of revealed unchanging doctrine, while liturgies the most dissimilar, and teachers of many tongues90, and a large variety of ecclesiastical customs91, find an equal welcome within her comprehensive bosom. Yet contrast the Church of the fourth and fifth centuries with the Church of the middle ages, or with the Church of our own day. In the fourth and even in the fifth century, whatever may have been the activity of individual missionaries, the Church was still for the most part contained within the limits of the empire; and of parts of the empire she had scarcely as yet taken possession. She was still confronted by powerful sections of the population, passionately attached for various reasons to the ancient superstition: nobles such as the powerful Symmachus, and orators like the accomplished Libanius, were among her most earnest opponents. But it is now scarcely less than a thousand years since Jesus Christ received at least the outward submission of the whole of Europe; and from that time to this His empire has been continually expanding. The newly-discovered continents of Australia and America have successively acknowledged His sway. He is shedding the light of His doctrine first upon one and then upon another of the islands of the Pacific. He has beleaguered the vast African continent on either side with various forms of missionary enterprise. And although in Asia there are vast, ancient, and highly organized religions which are still permitted to bid Him defiance, yet India, China, Tartary, and Kamtchatka have within the last few years witnessed heroic labors and sacrifices for the spread of His kingdom, which would not have been unworthy of the purest and noblest enthusiasms of the Primitive Church. Nor are these efforts so fruitless as the ruling prejudices or the lack of trustworthy information on such subjects, which are so common in Western Europe, might occasionally suggest92.
Already the kingdom of the Redeemer may be said to embrace three continents; but what are its prospects, even if we measure them by a strictly human estimate? Is it not a simple matter of fact that at this moment the progress of the human race is entirely identified with the spread of the influence of the nations of Christendom? What Buddhist, or Mohammedan, or Pagan nation is believed by others, or believes itself, to be able to affect for good the future destinies of the human race? The idea of a continuous progress of humanity, whatever perversions that idea may have undergone, is really a creation of the Christian faith. The nations of Christendom, in exact proportion to the strength, point, and fervor of their Christianity, seriously believe that they can command the future, and instinctively associate themselves with the Church’s aspirations for a world-wide empire. Such a confidence, by the mere fact of its existence, is already on the road to justifying itself by success. It never was stronger, on the whole, than it is in our own day. If in certain districts of European opinion it may seem to be waning, this is only because such sections of opinion have for the moment rejected the empire of Christ. Their aberrations do not set aside, they rather act as a foil to that general belief in a moral and social progress of mankind which at bottom is so intimately associated with the belief of Christian men in the coming triumph of the Church.
(2.) But long ere this, my brethren, as I am well aware, you have been prepared to interrupt me with a group of objections. Surely, you will say, this representation of the past, of the present, and of the future of the Church may suffice for an ideal picture, but it is not history. Is not the verdict of history a different and a less encouraging one? First of all, do Church annals present this spectacle of an ever-widening extension of the kingdom of Christ? What then is to be said of the spread of great and vital heresies, such as the mediaeval Nestorianism, through countries which once believed with the Church in the One Person and two Natures of her Lord93? Again, is it not a matter of historical fact that the Church has lost entire provinces both in Africa and in the East, since the rise of Mohammedanism? And are her losses only to be measured by the territorial area which she once occupied, and from which she has been beaten back by the armies of the alien? Has she not, by the controversies of the tenth and of the sixteenth centuries, been herself splintered into three great sections, which still continue to act in outward separation from each other, to their own extreme mutual loss and discouragement, and to the immense and undisguised satisfaction of all enemies of the Christian name? Are not large bodies of active and earnest Christians living in separation from her communion? Do not our missionary associations perpetually lament their failures to achieve any large permanent conquests for Christ? Once more, is it not a matter of notoriety that the leading nations of Christian Europe are themselves honeycombed by a deadly rationalism, which gives no quarter in its contemptuous yet passionate onslaughts on the faith of Christians, and which never calculated more confidently than it does at the present time upon achieving the total destruction of the empire of Jesus Christ?
My brethren, you do a service to my argument in stating these apparent objections to its force. The substance of your plea cannot be ignored by any who would honestly apprehend the matter before us. You point, for instance, to the territorial losses which the Church has sustained at the hands of heretical Christians or of Moslem invaders. True: the Church of Christ has sustained such losses. But has she not more than redressed them in other directions? Is she not now, in India and in Africa, carrying the banner of the Cross into the territory of the Crescent? You insist upon the grave differences which form a barrier at this moment between the Eastern and the Western Churches, and between the two great divisions of the Western Church itself. Your estimate of those differences may be a somewhat exaggerated one. The renewed harmony and cooperation of the separated portions of the family of Christ may not be so entirely remote as you would suggest. Yet we must undoubtedly acknowledge that existing divisions, like all habitual sin within the sacred precincts of the Church, are a standing and very serious violation of the law of its Founder. Nor is this disorder summarily to be remedied by our ceding to the unwarrantable pretensions of one section of the Church, which may endeavor to persuade the rest of Christendom, that it is itself co-extensive with the whole kingdom of the Savior. The divisions of Christ’s family, lamentable and in many ways disastrous as they are, must be ended, if at all, by the warmer charity and more fervent prayers of believing Christians. But meanwhile, do not these very divisions afford an indirect illustration of the extraordinary vitality of the new kingdom? Has the kingdom ceased to enlarge its territory since the troubled times of the sixteenth century? On the contrary, it is simply a matter of fact that, since that date, its ratio of extension has been greater than at any previous period. The philosopher who supposes that the Church is on the point of dying out because of her divisions must be strangely insensible to the higher convictions which are increasingly prevailing in the minds of men. And the confessions of failure on the part of some of our missionaries are certainly balanced by many and thankful narratives of great results accomplished under circumstances of the utmost discouragement.
But you insist most emphatically upon the spread and upon the strength of modern rationalism. You say that rationalism is enthroned in the midst of civilizations which the Church herself has formed and nursed. You urge that rationalism, like the rottenness which has seized upon the heart of the forest oak, must sooner or later arrest the growth of branch and foliage, and bring the tree which it is destroying to the ground. Now we cannot deny, what is indeed a patent and melancholy fact, that some of the most energetic of the intellectual movements in modern Europe frankly avow and enthusiastically advocate an explicit and total rejection of the Christian creed. Yet it is possible to overrate the importance and to mistake the true significance of this recent advance of unbelief. Of course Christian faith can be daunted or surprised by no form or intensity of opposition to truth, when there are always so many reasons for opposing it. We Christians know what we have to expect from the human heart in its natural state; while on the other hand we have been told that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church of the Redeemer. But, in speculating on the future destinies of the Church, as they are affected by rationalism, this hopeful confidence of a sound faith may be seconded by the calm estimate of the reflective reason. For, first, it may fairly be questioned whether the publicly proclaimed unbelief of modern times is really more general or more pronounced than the secret but active and deeply penetrating skepticism which during considerable portions of the middle ages laid such hold upon the intellect of Europe94. Yet the mediaeval skeptics cannot be said to have permanently hampered the progress of the Church. Again, modern unbelief may be deemed less formidable when we steadily observe its moral impotence for all constructive purposes. Its strength and genius lie only in the direction of destruction. It has shown no sort of power to build up any spiritual fabric or system which, as a shelter and a discipline for the hearts and lives of men, can take the place of that which it seeks to destroy. Leaving some of the deepest, most legitimate, and most ineradicable needs of the human soul utterly unsatisfied, modern unbelief can never really hope permanently to establish a popular ‘religion of humanity95.’ Thus the force of its intellectual onset upon revealed dogma is continually being broken by the consciousness, that it cannot long maintain the ground which it may seem to itself for the moment to have won. Its highest speculative energy is more than counterbalanced by the moral power of some humble teacher of a positive creed for whom possibly it entertains nothing less than a sovereign contempt. Thirdly, unbelief resembles social or political persecution in this, that, indirectly, it does an inevitable service to the Faith which it attacks. It forces earnest believers in Jesus Christ to minimize all differences which are less than fundamental. It compels Christian men to repress with a strong hand all exaggeration of existing motives for a divided action. It obliges Christians, sometimes in spite of themselves, to work side by side for their insulted Lord. Thus it not only creates freshened sympathies between temporarily severed branches of the Church; it draws toward the Church herself, with an increasingly powerful and comprehensive attraction, many of those earnestly believing men, who, as is the case with numbers among our nonconformist brethren in this country, already belong, in St. Augustine’s language, to the soul, although not to the body, of the Catholic Communion. Lastly, it unwittingly contributes to augment the evidential strength of Christianity, at the very moment of its assault upon Christian doctrine. The fierceness of man turns to the praise of Jesus Christ, by demonstrating, each day, each year, each decade of years, each century, the indestructibility of His work in the world; and unbelief voluntarily condemns itself to the task of maintaining before the eyes of men that enduring tradition of an implacable hostility to the kingdom of heaven, which it is the glory of our Savior so explicitly to have predicted, and so consistently and triumphantly to have defied.
(3.) For these and other reasons, modern unbelief, although formidable, will not be deemed so full of menace to the future of the kingdom of our Lord as may sometimes be apprehended by the nervous timidity of Christian piety. This will appear more certain if from considering the extent of Christ’s realm we turn to the intensive side of His work among men. For indeed the depth of our Lord’s work in the soul of man has ever been more wonderful than its breadth. The moral intensity of the life of a sincere Christian is a more signal illustration96 of the reality of the reign of Christ, and of the success of His plan, than is the territorial range of the Christian empire. ‘The King’s daughter is all glorious within.’ Christianity may have conferred a new sanction upon civil and domestic relationships among men; and it certainly infused a new life into the most degraded society that the world has yet seen97. Still this was not its primary aim; its primary efforts were directed not to this world, but to the next98. Christianity has changed many of the outward aspects of human existence; it has created a new religious language, a new type of worship, a new calendar of time. It has furnished new ideals to art; it has opened nothing less than a new world of literature; it has invested the forms of social intercourse among men with new graces of refinement and mutual consideration. Yet these are but some of the superficial symptoms of its real work. It has achieved these changes in the outward life of Christian nations, because it has penetrated to the very depths of man’s heart and thought; because it has revolutionized his convictions and tamed his will, and then expressed its triumph in the altered social system of that section of the human race which has generally received it. How complete at this moment is the reign of Christ in the soul of a sincere Christian! Christ is not a limited, He is emphatically an absolute Monarch. Yet His rule is welcomed by His subjects with more than that enthusiasm which a free people can feel for its elected magistracy. Every sincere Christian bows to Jesus Christ as to an Intellectual Master. Our Lord is not merely listened to as a Teacher of Truth; He is contemplated as the absolute Truth itself. Accordingly no portion of His teaching is received by true Christians merely as a ‘view,’ or as a ‘tentative system,’ or as a ‘theory,’ which may be entertained, discussed, partially adopted, and partially set aside. Those who deal thus with Him are understood to have broken with Christianity, at least as a practical religion. For a Christian, the Words of Christ constitute the highest criterion and rule of truth. All that Christ has authorized is simply accepted, all that He has condemned is simply rejected, with the whole energy of the Christian reason. Christ’s Thought is reflected, it is reproduced, in the thought of the true Christian. Christ’s authority in the sphere of speculative truth is thankfully acknowledged by the Christian’s voluntary and unreserved submission to the slightest known intimations of his Master’s judgment. High above the claims of human teachers, the tremendous self-assertion of Jesus Christ echoes on from age to age,—‘I am the Truth99.’ And from age to age the Christian mind responds by a life-long endeavor ‘to bring every thought into captivity unto the obedience of Christ100.’ But if Jesus Christ is Lord of the Christian’s thought, He is also Lord of the Christian’s affections. Beauty it is which provokes love; and Christ is the highest Moral Beauty. He does not merely rank as an exponent of the purest morality. He is absolute Virtue, embodied in a human life, and vividly, energetically set forth before our eyes in the story of the Gospels. As such, He claims to reign over the inmost affections of men. As such, He secures the first place in the heart of every true Christian. To have taken the measure of His Beauty, and yet not to love Him, is, in a Christian’s judgment, to be self-condemned. ‘If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha101.’ And ruling the affections of the Christian, Christ is also King of the sovereign faculty in the Christianized soul; He is Master of the Christian will. When He has tamed its native stubbornness, He teaches it day by day a more and more pliant accuracy of movement in obedience to Himself. Nay, He is not merely its rule of action, but its very motive power; each act of devotion and self-sacrifice of which it is capable is but an extension of the energy of Christ’s Own moral Life. ‘Without Me,’ he says to His servants, ‘ye can do nothing102;’ and with St. Paul His servants reply, ‘I can do all things through Christ Which strengtheneth Me103.’
This may be expressed in other terms by saying that, both intellectually and morally, Christ is Christianity104. Christianity is not related to our Lord as a philosophy might be to a philosopher, that is, as a moral or intellectual system thrown off from his mind, resting thenceforward on its own merits, and implying no necessary relation towards its author on the part of those who receive it, beyond a certain sympathy with what was at one time a portion of his thought105. A philosophy may be thus abstracted altogether from the person of its originator, with entire impunity. Platonic thought would not have been damaged, if Plato had been annihilated; and in our day men are Hegelians or Comtists, without believing that the respective authors of those systems are in existence at this moment, nay rather, in the majority of cases, while deliberately holding that they have ceased to be. The utmost stretch of personal allegiance, on the part of the disciple of a philosophy to its founder, consists, ordinarily speaking, in a sentiment of devotion ‘to his memory.’ But detach Christianity from Christ, and it vanishes before your eyes into intellectual vapor. For it is of the essence of Christianity that, day by day, hour by hour, the Christian should live in conscious, felt, sustained relationship to the Ever-living Author of his creed and of his life. Christianity is non-existent apart from Christ; it centers in Christ; it radiates, now as at the first, from Christ. It is not a mere doctrine bequeathed by Him to a world with which He has ceased to have dealings; it perishes outright when men attempt to abstract it from the Living Person of its Founder. He is felt by His people to be their Living Lord, really present with them now, and even unto the end of the world. The Christian life springs from and is sustained by the apprehension of Christ present in His Church, present in and with His members as a 'pneuma zwopoioun106.' Christ is the quickening Spirit of Christian humanity; He lives in Christians; He thinks in Christians; He acts through Christians and with Christians; He is indissolubly associated with every movement of the Christian’s deepest life. ‘I live,’ exclaims the Apostle, ‘yet not I, but Christ liveth in me107.’ This felt presence of Christ it is, which gives both its form and its force to the sincere Christian life. That life is a loyal homage of the intellect, of the heart, and of the will, to a Divine King, with Whom will, heart, and intellect are in close and constant communion, and from Whom there flows forth, through the Spirit and the Sacraments, that supply of light, of love, and of resolve, which enriches and ennobles the Christian soul. My brethren, I am not theorizing or describing any merely ideal state of things; I am but putting into words the inner experience of every true Christian among you; I am but exhibiting a set of spiritual circumstances which, as a matter of course, every true Christian endeavors to realize and make his own, and which, as a matter of fact, blessed be God! very many Christians do realize, to their present peace, and to their eternal welfare.
Certainly it is not uncommon in our day to be informed, that ‘the Sermon on the Mount is a dead letter in Christendom.’ In consequence (so men speak) of the engrossing interest which Christians have wrongly attached to the discussion of dogmatic questions, that original draught of essential Christianity, the Sermon on the Mount, has been wellnigh altogether lost sight of. Perhaps you yourselves, my brethren, ere now have repeated some of the current commonplaces on this topic. But have you endeavored to ascertain whether it is indeed as you say? You remark that you at least have not met with Christians who seemed to be making any sincere efforts to turn the Sermon on the Mount into practice. It may be so. But the question is, where have you looked for them? Do you expect to meet them rushing hurriedly along the great highways of life, with the keen, eager, self-asserting multitude? Do you expect, that with their eye upon the Beatitudes and upon the Cross, they will throng the roads which lead to worldly success, to earthly wealth, to temporal honor? Be assured that those who know where moral beauty, aye, the highest, is to be found, are not disappointed, even at this hour, in their search for it. Until you have looked more carefully, more anxiously than has probably been the case, for the triumphs of our Lord’s work in Christian souls, you may do well to take upon trust the testimony of others. You may at least be sufficiently generous, aye, and sufficiently reasonable, to believe in the existence at this present time of the very highest types of Christian virtue. It is a simple matter of fact that in our day, multitudes of men and women do lead the life of the Beatitudes; they pray, they fast, they do alms to their Father Which seeth in secret. These are Christians who take no thought for the morrow. These are Christians whose righteousness does exceed that worldly and conventional standard of religion, which knows no law save the corrupt public opinion of the hour, and which inherits in every generation the essential spirit of the Scribes and Pharisees. These are Christians who show forth the moral creativeness of Jesus Christ in their own deeds and words; they are living witnesses to His solitary and supreme power of changing the human heart. They were naturally proud; He has enabled them to be sincerely humble. They were, by the inherited taint of their nature, impure; He has in them shed honor upon the highest forms of chastity. They too were, as in his natural state man ever is, suspicious of and hostile to their fellow-men, unless connected with them by blood, or by country, or by interest. But Jesus Christ has taught them the tenderest and most practical forms of love for man viewed simply as man; He has inspired them with the only true, that is, the Christian, humanitarianism. Think not that the moral energy of the Christian life was confined to the Church of the first centuries. At this moment, there are millions of souls in the world, that are pure, humble, and loving. But for Jesus Christ our Lord, these millions would have been proud, sensual, selfish. At this very day, and even in atmospheres where the taint of skepticism dulls the brightness of Christian thought, and enfeebles the strength, of Christian resolution, there are to be found men, whose intelligence gazes on Jesus with a faith so clear and strong, whose affection clings to Him with so trustful and so warm an embrace, whose resolution has been so disciplined and braced to serve Him by a persevering obedience, that, beyond a doubt, they would joyfully die for Him, if by shedding their blood they could better express their devotion to His Person, or lead others to know and to love Him more. Blessed be God, that portion of His one Fold in which He has placed us, the Church of England, has not lacked the lustre of such lives as these. Such assuredly was Ken; such was Bishop Wilson; such have been many whose names have never appeared in the page of history. Has not one indeed quite lately passed from among us, the boast and glory of this our University, great as a poet, greater still, it may be, as a scholar and a theologian, greatest of all as a Christian saint? Certainly to know him, even slightly, was inevitably to know that he led a life distinct from, and higher than, that of common men. To know him well, was to revere and to love in him the manifested beauty of his Lord’s presence; it was to trace the sensibly perpetuated power of the Life, of the Teaching, of the Cross of Jesus108.
4. On the other hand, look at certain palpable effects of our Lord’s work which lie on the very face of human society. If society, apart from the Church, is more kindly and humane than in heathen times, this is due to the work of Christ on the hearts of men. The era of ‘humanity’ is the era of the Incarnation. The sense of human brotherhood, the acknowledgment of the sacredness of human rights, the recognition of that particular stock of rights which appertains to every human being, is a creation of Christian dogma. It has radiated from the heart of the Christian Church into the society of the outer world. Christianity is the power which first gradually softened slavery, and is now finally abolishing it. Christianity has proclaimed the dignity of poverty, and has insisted upon the claims of the poor, with a success proportioned to the sincerity which has welcomed her doctrines among the different peoples of Christendom. The hospital is an invention of Christian philanthropy109; the active charity of the Church of the fourth century forced into the Greek language a word for which Paganism had had no occasion. The degradation of woman in the Pagan world has been exchanged for a position of special privilege and honor, accorded to her by the Christian nations. The sensualism which Pagans mistook for love has been placed under the ban of all true Christian feeling; and in Christendom, love is now the purest of moral impulses; it is the tenderest, the noblest, the most refined of the movements of the soul. The old, the universal, the natural feeling of bitter hostility between races, nations, and classes of men is denounced by Christianity. The spread of Christian truth inevitably breaks down the ferocities of national prejudice, and prepares the world for that cosmopolitanism which, we are told, is its most probable future. International law had no real existence until the nations, taught by Christ, had begun to feel the bond of brotherhood. International law is now each year becoming more and more powerful in regulating the affairs of the civilized world. And if we are sorrowfully reminded that the prophecy of a world-wide peace within the limits of Christ’s kingdom has not yet been realized; if Christian lands, in our day as before, are reddened by streams of Christian blood; yet the utter disdain of the plea of right, the high-handed and barbarous savagery, which marked the wars of heathendom, have given way to sentiments in which justice can at least obtain a hearing, and which compassion and generosity, drawing their inspirations from the Cross, have at times raised to the level of chivalry.
But neither would any improvements in man’s social life, nor even the regenerate lives of individual Christians, of themselves, have realized our Lord’s ‘plan’ in its completeness110. His design was to found a society or Church; individual sanctity and social amelioration are only effects radiating from the Church. The Church herself is the true proof of His success. After the lapse of eighteen centuries the kingdom of Christ is here, and it is still expanding. How fares it generally with a human undertaking when exposed to the action of a long period of time? The idea which was its very soul is thrown into the shade by some other idea; or it is warped, or distorted, or diverted from its true direction, or changed by some radical corruption. In the end it dies out from among the living thoughts of men, and takes its place in the tomb of so much forgotten speculation, on the shelves of a library. Within a short lifetime we may follow many a popular moral impulse from its cradle to its grave. From the era of its young enthusiasm, we mark its gradual entry upon the stage of fixed habit; from this again we pass to its day of lifeless formalism, and to the rapid progress of its decline. But the Society founded by Jesus Christ is here, still animated by its original idea, still carried forward by the moral impulse which sustained it in its infancy. If Christian doctrine has, in particular branches of the Church, been overlaid by an encrustation of foreign and earthly elements, its body and substance is untouched in each great division of the Catholic Society; and much of it, we rejoice to know, is retained by communities external to the Holy Fold. If intimate union with the worldly power of the State (as especially in England during the last century) has sometimes seemed to chill the warmth of Christian love, and to substitute a heartless externalism for the spiritual life of a Christian brotherhood; yet again and again the flame of that Spirit Whom the Son of Man sent to ‘glorify’ Himself, has burst up from the depths of the living heart of the Church, and has kindled among a generation of skeptics or sensualists a pure and keen enthusiasm which confessors and martyrs might have recognized as their own. The Church of Christ in sooth carries within herself the secret forces which renew her moral vigor, and which will, in God’s good time, visibly reassert her essential unity. Her perpetuated existence among ourselves at this hour bears a witness to the superhuman powers of her Founder, not less significant than that afforded by the intensity of the individual Christian life, or by the territorial range of the Christian empire.
III. The work of Jesus Christ in the world is a patent fact, and it is still in full progress before our eyes. The question remains, How are we to account for its success?
1. If this question is asked with respect to the ascendancy of such a national religion as the popular Paganism of Greece, it is obvious to refer to the doctrine of the prehistoric mythus. The Greek religious creed was, at least in the main, a creation of the national imagination at a period when reflection and experience could scarcely have existed. It was recommended to subsequent generations, not merely by the indefinable charm of poetry which was thrown around it, not merely by the antiquity which shrouded its actual origin, but by its accurate sympathy with the genius as with the degradations of the gifted race which had produced it. But of late years we have heard less of the attempt to apply the doctrine of the mythus to a series of well-ascertained historical events, occurring in the mid-day light of history, and open to the hostile criticism of an entire people. The historical imagination, steadily applied to the problem, refuses to picture the unimaginable process by which such stupendous ‘myths’ as those of the Gospel could have been festooned around the simple history of a humble preacher of righteousness111. The early Christian Church does not supply the intellectual agencies that could have been equal to any such task. As Rousseau has observed, the inventor of such a history would have been not less wonderful than its Subject112; and the utter reversal of the ordinary laws of a people’s mental development would have been itself a miracle. Nor was it to be anticipated that a religion which was, as the mythical school asserts, the ‘creation of the Jewish race,’ would have made itself a home, at the very beginning of its existence, among the Greek and the Roman peoples of the Western world. If however we are referred to the upgrowth and spread of Buddhism, as to a phenomenon which may rival and explain the triumph of Christianity, it may be sufficient to reply that the writers who insist upon this parallel are themselves eminently successful in analyzing the purely natural causes of the success of Sakya-Mouni. They dwell among other points on the rare delicacy and fertility of the Aryan imagination113, and on the absence of any strong counter-attraction to arrest the course of the new doctrine in Central and South-eastern Asia. Nor need we fear to admit, that, mingled with the darkest errors, Buddhism contained elements of truth so undeniably powerful as to appeal with great force to some of the noblest aspirations of the soul of man114. But Buddhism, vast as is the population which professes it, has not yet made its way into a second continent; while the religion of Jesus Christ is to be found in every quarter of the globe. As for the rapid and widespread growth of the religion of the False Prophet, it may be explained, partly by the practical genius of Mohammed, partly by the rare qualities of the Arab race. If it had not claimed to be a new revelation, Mohammedanism might have passed for a heresy adroitly constructed out of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. Its doctrine respecting Jesus Christ reaches the level of Socinianism115; and, as against Polytheism, its speculative force lay in its insistance upon the truth of the Divine Unity. A religion which consecrated sensual indulgence could bid high for an Asiatic popularity against the Church of Christ; and Mohammed delivered the scymetar, as the instrument of his apostolate, into the hands of a people whose earlier poetry shows it to have been gifted with intellectual fire and strength of purpose of the highest order. But it has not yet been asserted that the Church fought her way, sword in hand, to the throne of Constantine; nor were the first Christians naturally calculated to impose their will forcibly upon the civilized world, had they ever desired to do so. Still less is a parallel to the work of Jesus Christ to be found in that of Confucius. Confucius indeed was not a warrior like Mohammed, nor a mystic like Sakya-Mouni; he appealed neither to superior knowledge nor to miraculous power. Confucius collected, codified, enforced, reiterated all that was most elevated in the moral traditions of China; he was himself deeply penetrated with the best ethical sentiments of Chinese antiquity116. His success was that of an earnest patriot who was also, as a patriot, an antiquarian moralist. But he succeeded only in China, nor could his work roll back that invasion of Buddhism which took place in the first century of the Christian era. Confucianism is more purely national than Buddhism and Mohammedanism; and in this respect it contrasts more sharply with the world-wide presence of Christianity. Yet if Confucianism is unknown beyond the frontiers of China, it is equally true that neither Buddhism nor Mohammedanism have done more than spread themselves over territories contiguous to their original homes. Whereas, almost within the first century of her existence, the Church had her missionaries in Spain on one hand, and, as it seems, in India on the other; and her Apostle proclaimed that his Master’s cause was utterly independent of all distinctions of race and nation117. In our own day, Christian charity is freely spending its energies and its blood in efforts to carry the work of Jesus Christ into regions where He has been so stoutly resisted by these ancient and highly organized forms of error. Yet in the streets of London or of Paris we do not hear of the labors of Moslem or Buddhist missionaries, instinct with any such sense of a duty and mission to all the world in the name of truth, as that which animates, at this very hour, those heroic pioneers of Christendom whom Europe has sent to Delhi or to Pekin118.
2. From the earliest ages of the Church, the rapid progress of Christianity in the face of apparently insurmountable difficulties, has attracted attention, on the score of its high evidential value119. The accomplished but unbelieving historian of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire undertook to furnish the skepticism of the last century with a systematized and altogether natural account of the spread of Christianity120. The five ‘causes’ which he instances as sufficient to explain the work of Jesus Christ in the world are, the ‘zeal’ of the early Christians, the ‘doctrine of a future life,’ the ‘miraculous powers ascribed to the primitive Church,’ the ‘pure and austere morals of the first Christians,’ and ‘the union and discipline of the Christian republic.’ But surely each of these causes points at once and irresistibly to a cause beyond itself121. If the zeal of the first Christians was, as Gibbon will have it, a fanatical habit of mind inherited from Judaism, how came it not merely to survive, but to acquire a new intensity, when the narrow nationalism which provoked it in the Jew had been wholly renounced? What was it that made the first Christians so zealous amid surrounding lassitude, so holy amid encompassing pollution? Why should the doctrine of a life to come have had a totally different effect when proclaimed by the Apostles from any which it had had when taught by Socrates or by Plato, or by other thinkers of the Pagan world? How came it that a few peasants and tradesmen could erect a world-wide organization, sufficiently elastic to adapt itself to the genius of races the most various, sufficiently uniform to be everywhere visibly conservative of its unbroken identity? If the miracles of the early Church, or any one of them, were genuine, how can they avail to explain the naturalness of the spread of Christianity? If they were all false, how extraordinary is this spectacle of a moral triumph, such as even Gibbon acknowledges that of Christianity to be, brought about by means of a vast and odious imposition! Gibbon’s argument would have been more conclusive if the ‘causes’ to which he points could themselves have been satisfactorily accounted for in a natural way. As it was, the historian of Lausanne did an indirect service to Christendom, of that kind for which England has sometimes been indebted to the threatening preparations of a great military neighbor. Gibbon indicated very clearly the direction which would be taken by modern assailants of the faith; but he is not singular in having strengthened the cause which he sought to ruin, by furnishing an indirect demonstration of the essentially supernatural character of the spread of the Gospel.
3. But you remind me that if the skeptical artillery of Gibbon is out of date, yet the ‘higher criticism’ of our day has a more delicate, and, as is presumed, a more effective method of stating the naturalistic explanation of the work of Jesus Christ in the world. Jesus Christ, you say, was born at a time when the world itself forced victory upon Him, or at least ensured for Him an easy triumph122. The wants and aspirations of a worn-out civilization, the dim but almost universal presentiment of a coming Restorer of mankind, the completed organization of a great world-empire, combined to do this. You urge that it is possible so to correspond to the moral and intellectual drift of a particular period, that nothing but a perverse stupidity can escape a success which is all but inevitable. You add that Jesus Christ ‘had this chance’ of appearing at a critical moment in the history of humanity; and that when the world was ripe for His religion, He and His Apostles had just adroitness enough not to be wholly unequal to the opportunity. The report of His teaching and of His Person was carried on the crest of one of those waves of strange mystic enthusiasm, which so often during the age of the Caesars rolled westward from Asia towards the capital of the world; and though the Founder of Christianity, it is true, had perished in the surf, His work, you hold, in the nature of things, could not but survive Him.
(a) In this representation, my brethren, there is a partial truth which I proceed to recognize. It is true that the world was weary and expectant; it is true that the political fabric of the great empire afforded to the Gospel the same facilities for self-extension as those which it offered to the religion of Osiris, or to the fable of Apollonius Tyanaeus. But those favorable circumstances are only what we should look for at the hands of a Divine Providence, when the true religion was to be introduced into the world; and they are altogether unequal to account for the success of Christianity. It is alleged that Christianity corresponded to the dominant moral and mental tendencies123 of the time so perfectly, that those tendencies secured its triumph. But is this accurate? Christianity was cradled in Judaism; but was the later Judaism so entirely in harmony with the temper and aim of Christianity? Was the age of the Zealots, of Judas the Gaulonite, of Theudas, likely to welcome the spiritual empire of such a teacher as our Lord124? Were the moral dispositions of the Jews, their longings for a political Messiah, their fierce legalism, their passionate jealousy for the prerogatives of their race, calculated—I do not say to further the triumph of the Church, but—to enter even distantly into her distinctive spirit and doctrines? Did not the Synagogue persecute Jesus to death, when it had once discerned the real character of His teaching? It may be argued that the favorable dispositions in question which made the success of Christianity practically inevitable were to be found among the Hellenistic Jews125. The Hellenistic Jews were less cramped by national prejudices, less strictly observant of the Mosaic ceremonies, more willing to welcome Gentile proselytes than was the case with the Jews of Palestine. Be it so. But the Hellenistic Jews were just as opposed as the Jews of Palestine to the capital truths of Christianity. A crucified Messiah, for instance, was not a more welcome doctrine in the synagogues of Corinth or of Thessalonica than in those of Jerusalem. Never was Judaism broader, more elastic, more sympathetic with external thought, more disposed to make concessions, than in Philo Judaeus, the most representative of Hellenistic Jews. Yet Philo insists as stoutly as any Palestinian Rabbi upon the perpetuity of the law of Moses. As long, he says, as the human race shall endure, men shall carry their offerings to the temple of Jerusalem126. Indeed in the first age of Christianity the Jews, both Palestinian and Hellenistic, illustrate, unintentionally of course, but very remarkably, the supernatural law of the expansion of the Church. They persecute Christ in His members, and yet they submit to Him; they are foremost in enriching the Church with converts, after enriching her with martyrs. Wherever the preachers of the Gospel appear, it is the Jews who are their fiercest persecutors127; the Jews rouse against them the passions of the Pagan mob, or appeal to the prejudice of the Pagan magistrate128. Yet the synagogue is the mission-station from which the Church’s action originally radiates; the synagogue, as a rule, yields their first spiritual conquests to the soldiers of the Cross. In the Acts of the Apostles we remark on the one hand the hatred and opposition with which the Jew met the advancing Gospel, on the other, the signal and rapid conquests of the Gospel among the ranks of the Jewish population129. The former fact determines the true significance of the latter. Men do not persecute systems which answer to their real sympathies; St. Paul was not a Christian at heart, and without intending it, before his conversion. The Church triumphed in spite of the dominant tendencies and the fierce opposition of Judaism, both in Palestine and elsewhere; she triumphed by the force of her inherent and Divine vitality. The process whereby the Gospel won its way among the Jewish people was typified in St. Paul’s experience; the passage from the traditions of the synagogue to the faith of Pentecost cost nothing less than a violent moral and intellectual wrench, such as could be achieved only by a supernatural force, interrupting the old stream of thought and feeling and introducing a new one.
(b) But if success was not forced upon the Christian Church by the dispositions and attitude of Judaism; can it be said that Paganism supplies us with the true explanation of the triumph of the Gospel? What then were those intellectual currents, those moral ideals, those movements, those aspirations, discoverable in the Paganism of the age of the Caesars, which were in such effective alliance with the doctrine and morality of the New Testament? What was the general temper of Pagan intellect, but a self-asserting, cynical skepticism? Pagan intellect speaks in orators like Cicero130, publicly deriding the idea of rewards and punishments hereafter, and denying the intervention of a higher Power in the affairs of men131; or it speaks in statesmen like Caesar, proclaiming from his place in the Roman senate that the soul does not exist after death132; or in historians like Tacitus, repudiating with self-confident disdain the idea of a providential government of the world133; or in poets like Horace, making profession of the practical Atheism of the school of Epicurus, it is hard to say, whether in jest or in earnest134; or in men of science like Strabo135 and Pliny136, maintaining that religion is a governmental device for keeping the passions of the lower orders under restraint, and that the soul’s immortality is a mere dream or nursery-story. ‘Unbelief in the official religion,’ says M. Renan, ‘was prevalent throughout the educated class. The very statesman who most ostentatiously upheld the public worship of the empire made very amusing epigrams at its expense137.’ What was the moral and social condition of Roman Paganism? Modern unbelief complains that St. Paul has characterized the social morality of the Pagan world in terms of undue severity138. Yet St. Paul does not exceed the specific charges of Tacitus, of Suetonius, of Juvenal, of Seneca, that is to say, of writers who, at least, had no theological interest in misrepresenting or exaggerating the facts which they deplore139. When Tacitus summarizes the moral condition of Paganism by his exhaustive phrase ‘corrumpere et corrumpi,’ he more than covers the sorrowing invective of the Apostle. Indeed our modern historian of the Apostolic age, who sees nothing miraculous in the success of the Gospel140, has himself characterized the moral condition of the Pagan world in terms yet more severe than those of the Apostle whom he condemns. According to M. Renan, Rome under the Caesars ‘became a school of immorality and cruelty141;’ it was a ‘very hell142;’ ‘the reproach that Rome had poisoned the world at large, the Apocalyptic comparison of Pagan Rome to a prostitute who had poured forth upon the earth the wine of her immoralities, was in many respects a just comparison143.’ Nor was the moral degradation of Paganism confined to the capital of the great empire. The provinces were scarcely purer than the capital. Each province poured its separate contribution of moral filth into the great store which the increasing centralization of the empire had accumulated in the main reservoir at Rome; each province in turn received its share of this reciprocated corruption144. In particular, the East, that very portion of the empire in which the Gospel took its rise, was the main source of the common infection145. Antioch was itself a center of moral putrefaction146. Egypt was one of the most corrupt countries in the world; and the same account might be given generally of those districts and cities of the empire in which the Church first made her way, of Greece, and Asia Minor, and Roman Africa, of Ephesus and Corinth, of Alexandria and Carthage. ‘The middle of the first century of our era was, in point of fact, one of the worst epochs of ancient history147.’
But was such an epoch, such a world, such a ‘civilization’ as this calculated to ‘force success’ on an institution like ‘the kingdom of heaven,’ or on a doctrine such as that of the New Testament? If indeed Christianity had been an ‘idyll’ or ‘pastoral,’ the product of the simple peasant life and of the bright sky of Galilee, there is no reason why it should not have attracted a momentary interest in literary circles, although it certainly would have escaped from any more serious trial at the hands of statesmen than an unaffected indifference to its popularity. But what was the Gospel as it met the eye and fell upon the ear of Roman Paganism? ‘We preach,’ said the Apostle, ‘Christ Crucified, to the Jews an offense, and to the Greeks a folly148.’ ‘I determined not to know anything among you Corinthians, save Jesus Christ, and Him Crucified149.’ Here was a truth linked inextricably with other truths equally ‘foolish’ in the apprehension of Pagan intellect, equally condemnatory of the moral degradation of Pagan life. In the preaching of the Apostles, Jesus Crucified confronted the intellectual cynicism, the social selfishness, and the sensualist degradation of the Pagan world. To its intellect He said, ‘ I am the truth150;’ He bade its proud self-confidence bow before His intellectual Royalty. To its selfish, heartless society, careful only for bread and amusement, careless of the agonies which gave interest to the amphitheatre, He said, ‘A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another, as I have loved you151.’ Disinterested love of slaves, of barbarians, of political enemies, of social rivals, love of man as man, was to be a test of true discipleship. And to the sensuality, so gross, and yet often so polished, which was the very law of individual Pagan life, He said, ‘If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me152;’ ‘If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee; it is better for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell153.’ Sensuality was to be dethroned, not by the negative action of a prudential abstinence from indulgence, but by the strong positive force of self-mortification. Was such a doctrine likely, of its own weight and without any assistance from on high, to win its way to acceptance154? Is it not certain that debased souls are so far from aspiring naturally towards that which is holy, elevated and pure, that they feel towards it only hatred and repulsion? Certainly Rome was unsatisfied with her old national idolatries; but if she turned her eyes towards the East, it was not to welcome the religion of Jesus, but the impure rites of Isis and Serapis, of Mithra and Astarte. The Gospel came to her unbidden, in obedience to no assignable attraction in Roman society, but simply in virtue of its own expansive, world-embracing force. Certainly Christianity answered to the moral wants of the world, as it really answers at this moment to the true moral wants of all human beings, however unbelieving or immoral they may be. The question is, whether the world so clearly recognized its real wants as forthwith to embrace Christianity. The Physician was there; but did the patient know the nature of his own malady sufficiently well not to view the presence of the Physician as an intrusion? Was it likely that the old Roman society, with its intellectual pride, its social heartlessness, and its unbounded personal self-indulgence, should be enthusiastically in love with a religion which made intellectual submission, social unselfishness, and personal mortification, its very fundamental laws? The history of the three first centuries is the answer to that question. The kingdom of God was no sooner set up in the Pagan world than it found itself surrounded by all that combines to make the progress of a doctrine or of a system impossible. The thinkers were opposed to it: they denounced it as a dream of folly155. The habits and passions of the people were opposed to it: it threatened somewhat rudely to interfere with them. There were venerable institutions, coming down from a distant antiquity, and gathering around them the stable and thoughtful elements of society: these were opposed to it, as to an audacious innovation, as well as from an instinctive perception that it might modify or destroy themselves. National feeling was opposed to it: it flattered no national self-love; it was to be the home of human kind; it was to embrace the world; and as yet the nation was the highest conception of associated life to which humanity had reached. Nay, religious feeling itself was opposed to it; for religious feeling had been enslaved by ancient falsehoods. There were worships, priesthoods, beliefs, in long-established possession; and they were not likely to yield without a struggle. Picture to yourselves the days when the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter was still thronged with worshippers, while often the Eucharist could only be celebrated in the depths of the Catacombs. It was a time when all the administrative power of the empire was steadily concentrated upon the extinction of the Name of Christ. What were then to a human eye the future prospects of the kingdom of God? It had no allies, like the sword of the Mahommedan, or like the congenial mysticism which welcomed the Buddhist, or like the politicians who strove to uphold the falling Paganism of Rome. It found no countenance even in the Stoic moralists156; they were indeed among its fiercest enemies. If, as M. Renan maintains, it ever was identified by Pagan opinion, with the coetus illiciti, with the collegia illicita, with the burial-clubs of the imperial epoch; this would only have rendered it more than ever an object of suspicion to the government157. Between the new doctrine and the old Paganism there was a deadly feud; and the question for the Church was simply whether she could suffer as long as her enemies could persecute. Before she could triumph in the western world, the soil of the empire had to be reddened by Christian blood. Ignatius of Antioch given to the lions at Rome158; Polycarp of Smyrna condemned to the flames159; the martyrs of Lyons and Vienne, and among them the tender Blandina160, extorting by her fortitude the admiration of the very heathen; Perpetua and Felicitas at Carthage161 conquering a mother’s love by a stronger love for Christ162;—these are but samples of the ‘noble army’ which vanquished heathendom. ‘Plures efficimur,’ cries Tertullian, spokesman of the Church in her exultation and in her agony, ‘quoties metimur a vobis; semen est sanguis Christianorum163.’ To the heathen it seems a senseless obstinacy; but with a presentiment of the coming victory, the Apologist exclaims, ‘Illa ipsa obstinatio quam exprobatis, magistra est164.’
Who was He That had thus created a moral force which could embrace three centuries of a protracted agony, in the confidence that victory would come at last165? What was it in Him, so fascinating and sustaining to the thought of His followers, that for Him men and women of all ages and ranks in life gladly sacrificed all that is dearest to man’s heart and nature? Was it only His miracles? But the evidential force of miracle may be easily evaded. St. John’s Gospel appears to have been written with a view to furnishing, among other things, an authoritative explanation of the moral causes which actually prevented the Jews from recognizing the significance of our Lord’s miracles. Was it simply His character? But to understand a perfect character you must be attracted to it, and have some strong sympathies with it. And the language of human nature in the presence of superior goodness is often that of the Epicurean in the Book of Wisdom: ‘Let us lie in wait for the righteous, because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings. . . . . . He was made to reprove our thoughts; he is grievous unto us even to behold; for his life is not like other men’s, his ways are of another fashion166.’ Was it His teaching? True, never man spake like this Man; but taken alone, the highest and holiest teaching might have seemed to humanity to be no more than ‘the sound of one that had a pleasant voice, and could play well upon an instrument.’ His Death? Certainly He predicted that in dying He would draw all men unto Him; but Who was He That could thus turn the instrument of His humiliation into the certificate of His glory? His Resurrection? His Resurrection indeed was emphatically to be the reversal of a false impression, but it was to witness to a truth beyond itself; our Lord had expressly predicted that He would rise from the grave, and that His Resurrection would attest His claims167. None of these things taken separately will account for the power of Christ in history. In the convergence of all these; of these majestic miracles; of that Character, which commands at once our love and our reverence; of that teaching, so startling, so awful, so searching, so tender; of that Death of agony, encircled with such a halo of moral glory; of that deserted tomb, and the majestic splendor of the Risen One;—a deeper truth, underlying all, justifying all, explaining all, is seen to reveal itself. We discern, as did the first Christians, beneath and beyond all that meets the eye of sense and the eye of conscience, the Eternal Person of our Lord Himself. It is not the miracles, but the Worker; not the character, but its living Subject; not the teaching, but the Master; not even the Death or the Resurrection, but He Who died and rose, upon Whom Christian thought, Christian love, Christian resolution ultimately rest. The truth which really and only accounts for the establishment in this our human world of such a religion as Christianity, and of such an institution as the Church, is the truth that Jesus Christ was believed to be more than Man, the truth that Jesus Christ is what men believed Him to be, the truth that Jesus Christ is God168.
It is here that we are enabled duly to estimate one broad feature of the criticism of Strauss. Both in his earlier and scientific work, published some thirty years ago for scholars, and in his more recent publication addressed to the German people, that writer strips Jesus Christ our Lord of all that makes Him superhuman. Strauss eliminates from the Gospel most of Christ’s discourses, all of His miracles, His supernatural Birth, and His Resurrection from the grave. The so-termed ‘historical’ residuum might easily be compressed within the limits of a newspaper paragraph, and it retains nothing that can rouse a moderate measure, I do not say of enthusiasm, but even of interest. And yet few minds on laying down either of these unhappy books can escape the rising question: ‘Is this hero of a baseless legend, this impotent, fallible, erring Christ of the “higher criticism,” in very deed the Founder of the Christian Church?’ The difficulty of accounting for the phenomenon presented by the Church, on the supposition that the ‘historical’ account of its Founder is that of Dr. Strauss, does not present itself forcibly to an Hegelian, who loses himself in a priori theories as to the necessary development of a thought, and is thus entranced in a sublime forgetfulness of the actual facts and laws of human life and history. But here M. Renan is unwittingly a witness against the writer to whom he is mainly indebted for his own critical apparatus. The finer political instinct, the truer sense of the necessary proportions between causes and effects in human history, which might be expected to characterize a thoughtful Frenchman, will account for those points in which M. Renan has departed from the path traced by his master. He feels that there is an impassable chasm between the life of Jesus according to Strauss, and the actual history of Christendom. He is keenly alive to the absurdity of supposing that such an impoverished Christ as the Christ of Strauss, can have created Christendom. Although therefore, as we have seen, he subsequently169 endeavors to account for the growth of the Church in a naturalistic way, his native sense of the fitting proportions of things impels him to retouch the picture traced by the German, and to ascribe to Jesus of Nazareth, if not the reality, yet some shadowy semblance of Divinity170. Hence such features of M. Renan’s work as his concessions in respect of St. John’s Gospel. In making these concessions, he is for the moment impressed with the political absurdity of ascribing Christendom to the thought and will of a merely human Christ. Although his unbelief is too radical to allow him to do adequate justice to such a consideration, his indirect admission of its force has a value, to which Christian believers will not be insensible.
But a greater than M. Renan is said to have expressed the common-sense of mankind in respect of the Agency which alone can account for the existence of the Christian Church. If the first Napoleon was not a theologian, he was at least a man whom vast experience had taught what kind of forces can really produce a lasting effect upon mankind, and under what conditions they may be expected to do so. A time came when the good Providence of God had chained down that great but ambitious spirit to the rock of St. Helena; and the conqueror of civilized Europe had leisure to gather up the results of his unparalleled life, and to ascertain with an accuracy, not often attainable by monarchs or warriors, his own true place in history. When conversing, as was his habit, about the great men of the ancient world, and comparing himself with them, he turned, it is said, to Count Montholon with the enquiry, ‘Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?’ The question was declined, and Napoleon proceeded, ‘Well, then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him. . . . . I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man: none else is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than man. . I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me, . . but to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, of my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lighted up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts. . . . Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man towards the Unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable supernatural love towards Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This is it which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ171.’
Here surely is the common-sense of humanity. The victory of Christianity is the great standing miracle which Christ has wrought. Its significance is enhanced if the miracles of the New Testament are rejected172, and if the Apostles are held to have received no illumination from on high173. Let those in our day who believe seriously that the work of Christ may be accounted for on natural and human grounds, say who among themselves will endeavor to rival it. Who of our contemporaries will dare to predict that eighteen hundred years hence his ideas, his maxims, his institutions, however noble or philanthropic they may be, will still survive in their completeness and in their vigor? Who can dream that his own name and history will be the rallying-point of a world-wide interest and enthusiasm in some distant age? Who can suppose that beyond the political, the social, the intellectual revolutions which lie in the future of humanity, he will himself still survive in the memory of men, not as a trivial fact of archaeology, but as a moral power, as the object of a devoted and passionate affection? What man indeed that still retains, I will not say the faith of a Christian, but the modesty of a man of sense, must not feel that there is a literally infinite interval between himself and that Majestic One, Who, in the words of Jean Paul Richter, ‘being the Holiest among the mighty, and the Mightiest among the holy, has lifted with His pierced Hand empires off their hinges, has turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the ages174?’
The work of Jesus Christ is not merely a fact of history, it is a fact, blessed be God! of individual experience. If the world is one scene of His conquests, the soul of each true Christian is another. The soul is the microcosm within which, in all its strength, the kingdom of God is set up. Many of you know, from a witness that you can trust, Christ’s power to restore to your inward life its original harmony. You are conscious that He is the fertilizing and elevating principle of your thought, the purifying principle of your affections, the invigorating principle of your wills. You need not to ask the question ‘whence hath this Man this wisdom and these mighty works?’ Man, you are well assured, cannot thus from age to age enlarge the realm of moral light, and make all things new; man cannot thus endow frail natures with determination, and rough natures with tenderness, and sluggish natures with keen energy, and restless natures with true and lasting peace. These every-day tokens of Christ’s presence in His kingdom, of themselves answer the question of the text. If He Who could predict that by dying in shame He would secure the fulfillment of an extraordinary plan, and assure to Himself a world-wide empire, can be none other than the Lord of human history; so certainly the Friend, the Teacher, the Master Who has fathomed and controlled our deepest life of thought and passion, is welcomed by the Christian soul as something more than a student exploring its mysteries, or than a philanthropic experimentalist alleviating its sorrows. He is hailed, He is loved, He is worshipped, as One Who possesses a knowledge and a strength which human study and human skill fail to compass; it is felt that He is so manifestly the true Savior of the soul, because He is none other than the Being Who made it.
1. 'basileia twn ouranwn' occurs thirty-two times in St. Matthew’s Gospel, to which it is peculiar; 'basileia tou qeou' five times. The latter term occurs fifteen times in St. Mark, thirty-three times in St. Luke, twice in St. John, seven times in the Acts of the Apostles. In St. Matt. xiii. 43, xxvi. 29, we find 'h basileia tou Patroj.' Our Lord speaks of 'h basileia h emh' three times, St. John xviii. 36.
5. Phil. iii. 20: 'hmwn gar to politeuma en ouranoij uparxei.' Cf. Acts xxiii. 1: 'pepoliteumai tw Qew.' Phil. i. 27: 'aciwj tou euaggeliou politeuesqe.' Heb. xiii. 14. In Heb. xi. 10, xii. 22, 'polij' apparently embraces the whole Church of Christ, visible and invisible; in Heb. xi. 16, xiii. 14, it is restricted to the latter.
41. Matt. xiii. 24-30, 36-43. ‘In catholica enim ecclesia, quae non in sola Africa sicut pars Donati, sed per omnes gentes, sicut promissa est, dilatatur atque diffunditur, in universo mundo, sicut dicit Apostolus, fructificans et crescens, et boni sunt et mali.’ St. Aug. Ep. 208, n. 6. ‘Si boni sumus in ecclesia Christi, frumenta sumus; si mali sumus in ecclesia Christi, palea sumus, tamen ab area non recedimus. Tu qui vento tentationis foris volasti, quid es? Triticum non tollit ventus ex area. Ex eo ergo, ubi es, agnosce quid es. In Ps. lxx. (Vulg.) Serm. ii. n. 12. Civ. Dei, i. 35, and especially Retract. ii. 18.
55. ‘Hillel fut le vrai maitre de Jesus, s’il est permis de parler de maitre quand ii s’agit d’une si haute originalite.’ Vie de Jesus, p. 35. As an instance of our Lord’s real independence of Hillel, a single example may suffice. A recent writer on ‘the Talmud’ gives the following story. ‘One day a heathen went to Shammai, the head of the rival academy, and asked him mockingly to convert him to the law while he stood on one leg. The irate master turned him from the door. He then went to Hillel, who gave him that reply -- since so widely propagated -- "Do not unto another what thou wouldest not have another do unto thee. This is the whole law: the rest is mere commentary."’ Quarterly Review, Oct. 1867, p. 441. art. ‘The Talmud.’ Or, as Hillel’s words are rendered by Lightfoot: ‘Quod tibi ipsi odiosum est, proximo ne feceris: nam haec est tota lex.’ Hor. Hebr. in Matt. p. 129. The writer in the Quarterly Review appears to assume the identity of Hillel’s saying with the precept of our Blessed Lord, St. Matt. vii. 12; St. Luke vi. 31. Yet in truth how wide is the interval between the merely negative rule of the Jewish President (which had already been given in Tobit iv. 15), and the positive precept -- 'osa an qelhte ina poiwsin umin oi anqrwpoi, outw kai umeij poieite autoij' -- of the Divine Master. On Gibbon’s citation from Isocrates of a precept equivalent to Hillel’s, see Archbishop Trench, Huls. Lect. p. 157. Hillel said that there would be no Messiah, since the promise and its fulifiment belonged to the time of Hezekiah; Westcott, Introd. p. 223.
56. ‘Ganz unbewiesen ist es,’ Schenkel, Charakterbild Jesu, p. 39, note. When however Dr. Schenkel himself says, ‘Den Einblick, den Er [sc. Jesus] in das Wesen und Treiben der religiosen Richtungen und Parteiungen seines Volkes in so hohem Masse befass, hat Er aus personlicher Wahrnehmung und unmittelbarem Verkehr mit den Hauptern und Vertretern der verschiedenen Parteistandpunkte gewonnen’ (ibid.), where is the justification of this assertion, except in the Humanitarian and Naturalistic theory of the writer, which makes some such assumption necessary?
57. Vie de Jesus, p. 64: ‘Une nature ravissante contribuait a former cet esprit.’ Then follows a description of the flowers, the animals, the insects, and the mountains (p. 65), the farms, the fruit-gardens, and the vintage (p. 66), of Northern Galilee. M. Renan concludes, ‘cette vie contente et facilement satisfaite . . se spiritualisait en rêves éthérés, en une sorte de mysticisme poétique confondant Ia ciel et la terre. . . . Toute l’histoire du Christianisme naissant est devenue de la sorte une délicieuse pastorale.’ p. 67.
61. Mr. Lecky makes an observation upon the originality of our Lord’s moral teaching, considered generally, which is well worthy of attention. Rationalism in Europe, i. p. 338. ‘Nothing too, can, as I conceive, be more erroneous or superficial than the reasonings of those who maintain that the moral element in Christianity has in it nothing distinctive or peculiar. The method of this school, of which Bolingbroke may be regarded as the type, is to collect from the writings of different heathen writers, certain isolated passages embodying precepts that were inculcated by Christianity; and when the collection had become very large the task was supposed to be accomplished. But the true originality of a system of moral teaching depends not so much upon the elements of which it is composed, as upon the manner in which they are fused into a symmetrical whole, upon the proportionate value that is attached to different qualities, or, to state the same thing by a single word, upon the type of character that is formed. Now it is quite certain that the Christian type differs, not only in degree, but in kind from the Pagan one.’ This general observation might legitimately include the vital differences which sever all merely human schemes of moral association and co-operation from that of the Founder of the Christian Church. See also Tulloch on The Christ of the Gospels, p. 190.
62. This point is well stated in Ecce Homo, p. 91, sqq. The writer observes that if Socrates were to appear at the present day, he would form no society, as the invention of printing would have rendered it unnecessary. But the formation of an organized society was of the very essence of the work of Christ. It is a pleasure to recognize the fulness with which this vital truth is set forth by one from whom serious Churchmen must feel themselves to be separated by some deep differences of belief and principle.
65. Pascal, Pensees, art. vii. 9 (ed. Havet. p. 123): ‘Qu’on ne dise pas que je n’ai rien dit de nouveau; la disposition des matieres est nouvelle. Quand on joue a la paume, c’est une même balle dont on joue l’un et l’autre; mais l’un la place mieux. J’aimerais autant qu’on me dit que je me suis servi des mots anciens. Et comme si les mêmes pensees ne formaient pas un autre corps de discours par une disposition differente, aussi bien que les mêmes mots forment d’autres pensees par leur differente disposition.’
66. The teaching of St. John Baptist centered around three points: (1) the call to penitence (St. Matt. iii. 2, 8-10; St. Mark i. 4; St. Luke iii. 3, 10-14); (2) the relative greatness of Christ (St. Matt. iii. 11-14; St. Mark i. 7; St. Luke iii. 16; St. John i. 15, 26, 27, 30-34); (3) the Judicial ('ou to ptuon en th xeiri autou,' St. Matt. iii. 12; St. Luke iii. 17) and Atoning ('ide o amnoj tou Qeou, o airwn thn amartian tou kosmou,' St. John i. 29, 36) Work of Christ. In this way St. John corresponded to prophecy as preparing the way of the Lord (St. Matt. iii. 3; St. Mark i. 3; St. Luke iii. 4; St. John i. 23; Isa. xl. 3); but beyond naming the kingdom, the nature of the preparation required for entering it, the supernatural greatness, and two of the functions of the King, St. John did not anticipate our Lord’s disclosures. St. John’s teaching left men quite uninformed as to what the kingdom of heaven was to be in itself.
67. Guizot, Essence de la Religion chretienne, p. 307: ‘Je reprends ces deux grands principes, ces deux grandes actes de Jesus-Christ, l’abolition de tout privilege dans les rapports des hommes avec Dieu, et la distinction de la vie religieuse, et de la vie civile; je les place en regard de tous les faits, de tous les etats sociaux anterieurs a la venue de Jesus-Christ, et je ne puis decouvrir a ces caracteres essentiels de la religion chrétienne, aucune filiation, aucune origine humaine. Partout, avant Jesus-Christ, les religions étaient nationales, locales, etablissant entre les peuples, les classes, les individus, des distances et des inégalités énormes. Partout aussi avant JesusChrist, la vie civile et la vie religieuse étaient confondues et s’opprimaient mutuellement; la religion ou les religions etaient des institutions incorporées dans I’état, et que l’état reglait ou reprimait selon son intérêt. Dans l’universalite de la foi religieuse, et l’indépendance de la societe religieuse, je suis constraint de voir des nouveautes sublimes, des éclairs de la lumière divine!’ Even Channing, who understates our Lord’s ‘plan,’ is alive to the originality and greatness of that part of it which he recognizes; Works, ii. 57. ‘The plans and labors of statesmen sink into the sports of children, when compared with the work which Jesus announced . . . . . . The idea of changing the moral aspect of the whole earth, of recovering all nations to the pure and inward worship of the one God, and to a Spirit of Divine and fraternal love (our Lord proposed much more than this), was one of which we meet not a trace in philosopher or legislator before Him. The human mind had given no promise of this extent of view . . . . . . We witness a vastness of purpose, a grandeur of thought and feeling, so original, so superior to the workings of all other minds, that nothing but our familiarity can prevent our contemplation of it with wonder and profound awe.’
68. See Felix, Jesus-Christ et la Critique Nouvelle, pp. 127-133; Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, pp. 237-8. Keim has exaggerated the influence of Pharisaism upon the language and teaching of our Lord, which only resembled Pharisaism as being addressed to the Jewish mind in terms which it understood. Geschichtliche Christus, pp. 18-22.
70. Dr. Schenkel, in his Charakterbild Jesu, represents our Lord as a pious Jew, who did not assume to be the Messiah before the scene at Caesarea Philippi. Kap. xii. § 4, p. 138: ‘Dadurch, dass Jesus Sich nun wirklich zu dem Bekenntnisse des Simon bekannte, trat er mit einem Schlage aus der verworrenen und verwirrenden Lage heraus, in welche Er, durch die Unklarheit seiner Junger und den Meinungstreit in seiner Umgebung gebracht war. Ein Stichwort war jetzt gesprochen.’ This theory is obliged to reject the evangelical accounts of our Lord’s Baptism and Temptation, and to distort from their plain meaning the narratives of our Lord’s sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth (St. Luke iv. 16), of His call of the twelve Apostles, and of His claim to forgive sin. See the excellent remarks of M. Pressense, Jesus-Christ, pp. 326, 327.
71. Channing, Works, ii. 55. ‘We feel that a new Being, of a new order of mind, is taking part in human affairs. There is a native tone of grandeur and authority in His teaching. He speaks as a Being related to the whole human race. A narrower sphere than the world never enters His thoughts. He speaks in a natural spontaneous style of accomplishing the most arduous and important change in human affairs. This unlabored manner of expressing great thoughts is particularly worthy of attention. You never hear from Jesus that swelling, pompous, ostentatious language, which almost necessarily springs from an attempt to sustain a character above our powers. He talks of His glories, as one to whom they were familiar. . . . He speaks of saving and judging the world, of drawing all men to Himself, and of giving everlasting life, as we speak of the ordinary powers which we exert.’
79. Bushnell, Nature and the Supernatural, p. 232. ‘To Jesus alone, the simple Galilean carpenter, it happens . . . that, having never seen a map of the world in His whole life, or heard the name of half the great nations on it, He undertakes, coming out of His shop, a scheme as much vaster and more difficult than that of Alexander, as it proposes more, and what is more Divinely benevolent.’
87. Tert. Apol. 37: ‘Hesterni sumus, et vestra omnia implevimus, urbes, insulas, castella, municipia, conciliabula, castra ipsa, tribus, decurias, palatium, senatum, forum, sola vobis relinquimus templa.’ Cf. de Rossi, Roma Sotteranea, i. p. 309.
88. Tert. adv. Judaeos, c. 7: ‘Jam Getulorum varietates, et Maurorum multi fines, Hispaniarum omnes termini, et Galliarum diversae nationes, et Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo vero subdita et Sarmatarum, et Dacorum, et Germanorum, et Scytharum, et abditarum multarum gentium et provinciarum, et insularum multarum nobis ignotarum, et quae enumerare minus possumus. In quibus omnibus locis, Christi nomen, Qui jam venit, regnat, utpote ante Quem omnium civitatum portae sunt apertae.’
89. St. Aug. Ep. xlix. n. 3: ‘Quaerimus ergo, ut nobis respondere non graveris, quam causam forte noveris qua factum est, ut Christus amitteret haereditatem Suam per orbem terrarum diffusam, et subito in solis Afris, nec ipsis omnibus remaneret. Etenim ecclesia Catholica est etiam in Africa quia per omnes terras eam Deus esse voluit et praedixit. Pars autem vestra, quae Donati dicitur, non est in omnibus illis locis, in quibus et literae et sermo et facta apostolica cucurrerunt.’ In Ps. lxxxv. n. 14: ‘Christo enim tales maledicunt, qui dicunt, quia periit ecclesia de orbe terrarum, et remansit in solâ Africa.’ Compare S. Hieron. adv. Lucifer. tom. iv. pt. ii. p. 298: ‘Si in Sardiniâ tantum habet [ecclesiam Christus] nimium pauper factus est.’ And St. Chrys. in Col. Hom. i. n. 2; in 1 Cor. Hom. xxxii. n. I.
90. In Ps. xliv. (Vulg.) Enarr. n. 24: ‘Sacramenta doctrinae in linguis omnibus variis. Alia lingua Afra, alia Syra, alia Graeca, alia Hebraea, alia illa et illa; faciunt istae lingae varietatem vestis reginae hujus; quomodo autem omnis varietatis vestis in unitate concordat, sic et omnes linguae ad unam fidem.’
91. Ep. liv. ad Januar. n. 2: ‘Alia vero [sunt] quae per loca terrarum regionesque variantur, sicuti est quod alii jejunant sabbato, aIii non; alii quotidie communicant Corpori et Sanguini Domini, alii certis diebus accipiunt; alibi nullus dies praetermittitur, quo non offeratur, alibi sabbato tantum et dominico, alibi tantum dominico; et si quid aliud hujusmodi animadverti potest, totum hoc genus rerum liberas habet observationes: nec disciplina ulla est in his melior gravi prudentique Christiano, quam ut eo modo agat, quo agere viderit ecclesiam, ad quam forte devenerit. Quod enim neque contra fidem, neque bonos mores esse convincitur, indifferenter est habendum et propter eorum, inter quos vivitur, societatem servandum est.’
95. The attempt of M. Auguste Comte, in his later life, to elaborate a kind of ritual as a devotional and aesthetical appendage to the Positivist Philosophy, implies a sense of this truth. M. Comte however does not appear to have carried any large section of the Positivist school with him in this singular enterprise. But a like poverty of moral and spiritual provision for the soul of man is observable in rationalistic systems which stop very far short of the literal godlessness of the Positive Philosophy.
97. St. Aug. Ep. cxxxviii. ad Marcellin. n. 15: ‘Qui doctrinam Christi adversam dicunt esse reipublicae, dent exercitum talem, quales doctrina Christi esse milites jussit, dent tales provinciales, tales maritos, tales conjuges, tales parentes, tales filios, tales dominos, tales servos, tales reges, tales judices, tales denique debitorum ipsius fisci redditores et exactores, quales esse praecipit doctrina Christiana, et audeant eam dicere adversam esse reipublicae, immo vero non dubitent eam confiteri magnam, si obtemperetur, salutem esse reipublicae.’
98. St. Hieronymus adv. Jovin. lib. ii. tom. iv. pars ii. p. 200, ed. Martian: ‘Nostra religio non 'pukthn,' non athletam (St. Jerome might almost have in his eye a certain well-known rnodern theory) non nautas, non milites, non fossores, sed sapientiae erudit sectatorern, qui se Dei cultui dedicavit, et scit cur creatus sit, cur versetur in mundo, quo abire festinet.’
110. A reviewer, who naturally must dissent from parts of the teaching of these lectures, but of whose generosity and fairness the lecturer is deeply sensible, reminds him that ‘Our Lord came to carry out the counsel of the Eternal Father; and that counsel was, primarily, to establish, through His sacrificial death, an economy of mercy, under which justification and spiritual and eternal life should be realized by all who should penitently rely on Him.’ 1 St. John iii. 16, vi. 38-40. Undoubtedly. But this ‘economy of mercy’ included the establishment of a world-embracing church, within which it was to be dispensed. Col. i. 10-14. Our Lord founded His Church, not by way of achieving a vast social feat or victory, but with a view to the needs of the human soul, which He came from heaven to save. Nevertheless the Church is not related to our Lord’s design as an ‘inseparable accident.’ It is that design itself, viewed on its historical and social side; it is the form which, so far as we know, His redemptive work necessarily took, and which He Himself founded as being the imperishable result of His Incarnation and Death. St. Matt. xvi. 18. Cf. Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, Dec. 1867, p. 1086.
112. The well-known words of the Emile are these: ‘Jamais des auteurs juifs n’eussent trouvé ce ton ni cette morale; et l’Evangile a des caracteres de vérité si grands, si frappants, si parfaitement inimitables, que l’inventeur en serait plus étonnant que le héros.’
114. Cf. Saint-Hilaire, Le Bouddha et sa Religion, pp. 142-148. Yet M. St. Hilaire describes Buddhism as presenting ‘un spiritualisme sans âme, une vertu sans devoir, une morale sans liberté, une charite sans amour, un monde sans nature et sans Dieu.’ lb. p. 182.
118. We are indeed told that ‘if we were to judge from the history of the last thousand years, it would appear to show that the permanent area of Christianity is conterminous with that of Western civilization, and that its doctrines could find acceptance only among those who, by incorporation into the Greek and Latin races, have adopted their system of life and morals.’ International Policy, p. 508. The Anglo-Positivist school however is careful to explain that it altogether excludes Russia from any share in ‘Western civilization;’ Russia, it appears, is quite external to ‘the West.’ Ibid. pp. 14-17, 58, 95, &c.
120. No reader of Gibbon will be misled by the sarcasm of the opening paragraphs of Decl. and Fall, c. xv. Would that Gibbon had really supposed himself to be describing only the ‘secondary causes’ of the progress of Christianity.
122. Renan, Les Apôtres, pp. 302, 303. M. Renan is of opinion that ‘Ia conversion du monde aux idées juives (!) et chretiennes etait inevitable;’ his only astonishment is that ‘cette conversion se soit fait si lentement et si tard.’ On the other hand, the new faith is said to have made ‘de proche en proche d’étonnantes progres’ (Ibid. p. 215); and, with reference to Antioch, ‘on s’étonne des progrès accomplis en si peu de temps.’ Ibid. p. 236.
127. How far St. Paul thought that Judaism contributed to the triumph of the Church might appear from 1 Thess. ii. 15, 16. Compare Acts xiii. 50, xiv. 5, 19, xvii. 5, 13, xviii. 12, xix. 9, xxii. 21, 22.
128. Renan, Les Apôtres, p. i 43: ‘Ce qu’il importe, en tout cas, de remarquer, c’est qu’a l’epoque ou nous sommes, les persécuteurs du Christianisme ne sont pas les Romains; ce sont les Juifs orthodoxes. . . C’était Rome, ainsi que nous l’avons deja plusieurs fois remarqué, qui empêchait le Judaisme de se livrer pleinement a ses instincts d’intolérance, et d’étouffer les développements libres qui se produisaient dans son sein. Toute diminution de l’autorite juive etait un bienfait pour la secte naissante.’ (p. 251.) See Martyr. St. Polyc. c. 13.
130. Cicero however, in his speculative moods, was the ‘only Roman who undertook to rest a real individual existence of souls after death on philosophical grounds.’ Dollinger, Heidenthum und Judenthum, bk. viii. § 3.
138. Ibid. p. 309, note 1: ‘L’opinion beaucoup trop sevère de Saint Paul (Rom. i. 24 et suiv.) s’explique de la mêrne manière. Saint Paul ne connaissait pas la haute société Romaine. Ce sont la, d’ailleurs, de ces invectives comme en font les predicateurs, et qu’il ne faut jamais prendre a la lettre.’ Do the Satires of Juvenal lead us to suppose that if St. Paul had ‘known the high society of Rome,’ he would have used a less emphatic language? And is it a rule with preachers, whether Apostolic or post-Apostolic, not to mean what they say?
139. Juvenal, Sat. i. 87, ii. 37, iii. 62, vi. 293. Seneca, Epist. xcvii.; De Benefic. i. 9, iii. 16. Tacitus, Hist. i. 2; Germ. xix. See other quotations in Wetstein, Nov. Test, in loc. It may be that Tacitus, in his affection for the old regime of the republic, was tempted to exaggerate the sins of the empire, and that Juvenal dwelt upon the vices of the capital with somewhat of the narrow prejudice of provincialism. Still, after allowing for this, there is a groundwork of fact in these representations which amply justifies St. Paul.
140. Renan, Les Apôtres, p. 366: ‘Tel etait le monde que les missionaires chretiens entreprirent de convertir. On doit voir maintenant, ce me semble, qu’une telle entreprise ne fut pas une folie, et que sa réussite ne fut pas un miracle.’
142. Ibid. p. 310: ‘L’esprit de vertige et de cruaute debordait alors, et faisait de Rome un veritable enfer.’ P. 317: ‘A Rome, il est vrai, tous les vices s’affichaient avec un cynisme révoltant; les spectacles surtout avaient introduit une affreuse corruption.’ This statement is not an exaggeration. See Döllinger, Heidenthum und Judenthum, bk. ix. pt. ii. § 3, 4, pp. 704-721.
143. Les Apôtres, p. 325: ‘Le reproche d’avoir empoisonne la terre, l’assimilation de Rome a une courtisane qui a verse au monde le vin de son immoralite était juste a beaucoup d’egards.’ Yet M. Renan is so little careful about contradicting himself that he elsewhere says, ‘Le monde, a l’epoque Romaine, accomplit un progrès de moralite et subit une decadence scientifique.’ (p. 326.) The nature of this progress seems to have been somewhat Epicurean: ‘Le monde s’assouplissait, perdait sa rigeur antique, acquerait de la mollesse, et de la sensibilite.’ (p. 318.)
145. Ibid. p. 305: ‘Le mal venait surtout de l’Orient, de ces flatteurs de bas etage, de ces hommes infames que l’Egypte et la Syrie envoyaient a Rome.’ P. 306: ‘Les plus choquantes ignominies de l’empire, telles que l’apotheose l’empereur, sa divinisation de son vivant, venaient de l’Orient, et surtout de l’Egypte, qui était alors un des pays les plus corrumpus de l’univers.’
146. Ibid. p. 218: ‘La legerete Syrienne, le charlatanisme Babylonien, toutes les impostures de l’Asie, se confondant a cette limite des deux mondes avaient fait d’Antioche la capitale du mensonge, la sentine de toutes les infamies.’ P. 219: ‘L’avilissement des ames y etait effroyable. Le propre de ces foyers de putrefaction morale, c’est d’amener toutes les races au méme niveau.’
154. M. Renan himself observes that ‘la degradation des âmes en Egypte y rendait rares, d’ailleurs, les aspirations qui ouvrirent partout (!) au christianisme de si faciles accès.’ Les Apôtres, p. 284.
155. Tac. Ann. xv. 44: ‘Repressa in praesens exitiabilis superstitio rursus erumpebat.’ Suetonius, Claudius, xxv.; Nero, xvi.: ‘Christiani, genus hominum superstitionis novae ac maleficae.’ Celsus apud Origenem, iii. 17. Celsus compared the Church’s worship of our Lord with the Egyptian worship of cats, crocodiles, &c.
156. Dollinger, Heidenth. und Judenth., bk. ix. pt. 2. § 6. has some very interesting remarks on the characteristics of the later Stoicism. It was a recoil from the corruption of the time. ‘Wie die Aerzte in Zeiten grosser Krankheiten ihre besten Studien machen, so hatten auch die Stoiker in dem allgemein herrschenden Sittenverderben ihren moralischen Blick geschärft.’ p. 729. Seneca’s knowledge of the human heart, the pathos and solemnity of M. Aurelius, the self-control, patience, and self-denying courage preached by Epictetus and Arrian, are fully acknowledged. But Stoicism was virtue upon paper, unrealized except in the instance of a few coteries of educated people. It was virtue, affecting Divine strength in the midst of human weakness. Nothing could really be done for humanity by ‘diesen selbstgeralligen Tugendstolz, der alles nur sich selbst verdanken wollte, der sich der Gottheit gleich setzte, und bei aller menschlichen Gebrechlichkeit doch die Sicherheit der Gottheit fur sich in Anspruch nahm.’ (Sen. Ep. 53.) Stoicism had no lever with which to raise man as man from his degradations: and its earlier expositors even prescribed suicide as a means of escape from the miseries of life, and from a sense of moral failure. (Doll. ubi supra, p. 728; comp. Sir A. Grant’s Ethics of Arist. vol. i. p. 272.) Who can marvel at its instinctive hatred of a religion which proclaimed a higher code of Ethics than its own, and which, moreover, possessed the secret of teaching that code practically to all classes of mankind?
165. M. Renan observes scornfully, ‘Il n’y a pas eu beaucoup de martyrs tres-intelligents.’ Apôtres, p. 382. Possibly not, if intelligence is but another name for skepticism. Certain it is that martyrdom requires other and higher qualities than any which mere intelligence can supply.
171. This is freely translated from the passages quoted by Luthardt, Apologetische Vortrage, pp. 234, 293; and Bersier, Serm. p. 334. The same conversation is given substantially by Chauvelot, Divinité du Christ, pp. 11-13, Paris 1863; in a small brochure attributed to M. le Pasteur Bersier, and published by the Religious Tract Society, Napoleon, Meyrueis, Paris, 1859; by M. Auguste Nicolas, in his Etudes Philosophiques sur le Christianisme, Bruxelles, 1849, tom. ii. pp. 352-356; and by the Chevalier de Beauterne in his Sentiment de Napoleon sur le Christianisme, edit. par M. Bathild Bouniol, Paris 1864, pp. 87-118. In the preface to General Bertrand’s Campagnes d’Egypte et de Syrie, there is an allusion to some reported conversations of Napoleon on the questions of the existence of GOD and of our Lord’s Divinity, which, the General says, never took place at all. But M. de Montholon, who with General Bertrand was present at the conversations which are recorded by the Chevalier de Beauterne, writes from Ham on May 30, 1841 to that author: ‘J’ai lu avec un vif interêt votre brochure; Sentiment de Napoléon sur la Divinité de Jesus-Christ, et je ne pense pas qu’il soit possible de mieux exprimer les croyances religieuses de l’empereur.’ Sentiment de Napoleon, Avertissem. p. viii. Writing, as it would seem, in ignorance of this testimony, M. Nicolas says: ‘Cite plusieurs fois et dans des circonstances solennelles, ce jugement passe généralement pour historique.’ Etudes, ii. p. 352. note (1.).
‘Se il mondo si rivolse al cristianesmo
Diss’ io, senza miracoli, quest’ uno
E tal, che gli altri non sono il centesmo;
Che tu entrasti povero e digiuno
In campo, a seminar la buona pianta,
Che fu gia vite, ed ora è fatta pruno.’
Dante, Paradiso, xxiv. 106-111.
173. ‘Apres la mort de Jesus-Christ, douze pauvres pecheurs et artisans entreprirent d’instruire et de convertir le monde. . . . le succès fut prodigieux. . . . Tous les chrétiens couraient au martyre, tous les peuples couraient au bapteme; l’histoire de ces premiers temps était un prodiqe continuel.’ Rousseau, Reponse au Roi de Pologne, Paris, 1829, Discours, pp. 64, 65.