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tion, Waat shall I eat? what shall I drink? wherewith shall I be clothed?” But he had silenced all such doubts by listening to the voice of God within, and going whither he was called, without reserve. All worldly obstacles and earthly cares must be set aside. “ Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," he had said distinctly to himself, - and all these temporal things will be provided." And afterwards,
Why should I be afraid of men? an Almighty power watches over me.” We have no right, then, to unravel these expressions of trust, and to ask whether Jesus expected God to work miracles on occasion to preserve his life. He neither asked nor expected miracles on his behalf. He had no rounded system to explain how it was all to happen; but this one thing he knew, that it was the kingdom of God, and that alone, upon which he must bestow his every thought, to which he must direct his every effort, in which he must seek his only wealth.
And the life-choice he himself had made, and which experience had justified so fully, that choice he urged upon all others, and demanded from his followers. We shall find him constantly insisting upon this decisive choice. Surely he had a right to do so.
In thus describing the vocation of the citizens of God's kingdom he unintentionally drew his own likeness, and this thought gives new value to his parables and exhortations; for who can gaze upon that image and withhold the fulness of respect and admiration? But he requires more than respect and admiration from us. He demands the homage of our imitation.
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM.
Matthew XVIII. 12-14.
E have now submitted a considerable part of the teach
lowing chapters we shall hear and see how the principles contained therein controlled his views of many subjects, and dictated his conduct towards many classes of mankind and under many varied circumstances. But let us first pause a moment to look back, and ask ourselves whether we have dis
covered what the grand central thought of Jesus really was. Our object in doing so is not only to form a clear conception of the connection and unity of his teaching and the point upon which it converges, but still more to put ourselves into a position from which we can truly understand and justly estimate the line of conduct we shall see him pursue, and the judgments we shall hear him pronounce. If once we have grasped his leading thought, we shall be able to explain his life as the infinitely varied practice which is but the many-sided expression of the simple and uniform theory.
But is it possible to sum up in a few short words the spirit of his teaching, the new element he brought into life, the special thought that made his preaching a true gospel ?
Undoubtedly it is. We have incidentally referred to this distinguishing conception more than once already. Jesus taught no new system of religious doctrine; indeed, strictly speaking, he cannot be said to have laid down a single fresh article of doctrinal faith. Nor did he teach a new scheme of morals. He had, indeed, certain new moral conceptions, but he never worked them into a systematic whole. This total absence of any thing like a formal system has come spontaneously to light in the preceding chapters. What Jesus really did was to give utterance to a new principle, to make a sublime discovery, which explains all his work and all his teaching, and furnishes the key to the mystery of his own religious genius. This new discovery, this great principle, may be described, according to the side from which it is approached, as the worth of man or the love of God.
The worth of man! Man, as man, is called to and destined for the highest moral perfection, and, as a consequence, the purest blessedness. Such was the inextinguishable faith of Jesus, bis steadfast rule of conduct, his life's unalterable motto. And it was altogether new. In the Roman empire the individual was of no importance except as a part of the great whole, as a citizen of Rome. In Israel man had no rights, no hope, except as a member of the chosen race, a son of Abraham. But for Jesus, man as man had sacred and inalienable rights and a worth that nothing could transcend. And in the mind of Jesus, who brought all things straight into connection with God, this truth assumed this form : Man is by nature God's own child, is capable of bearing God's image, and is the object of His infinite affection. The Supreme Power, before which man bows in adoration, which has traced
1 See p. 150.
its in lelible law upon his heart, is a power of love, and man's inmost nature is akin to it. Man is akin to God. God is our Father. This great, this glorious truth was discovered and proclaimed by Jesus; and its meaning for each one of us is, that to do and to be good is his true nature and his highest blessedness. It is because man is so truly great, that, as a spiritual being, he must trample down all that is material or push it altogether into the background, since it is too poor and worthless to be the object of his care. It was because each human being has such infinite significance that Jesus felt himself most strongly drawn towards the poor, the oppressed, the despised of the world; for they had only their humanity to live by, only their humanity to live for. That was their passport to his heart. The first beatitude that passed his lips refers to them. Pointing to them, the Judge declares to the righteous, " What ye have done to one of the least of these, my brothers, you ha done to me ;” and of them Jesus said, making it the crowning work of his ministry, “ The poor have the gospel preached unto them.” 1 because the worth of man lies in nothing external, but simply in his being man and therefore the child of God, that Jesus laid such stress on humility and childlike simplicity. Worldly rank is so absolutely insignificant that no man should be puffed up by it.
Jesus quickened in his hearers the sense of their own dignity as moral beings, and at the same time taught them respect for the humblest and least of their fellow-men. As a specimen of the way in which he made these twin results flow from his common principle, we may give the following sayings. We do not vouch for their having been uttered in the order in which they have come down to us, by Jesus himself; but in their present form they are certainly knit together into a single whole by that one central conception. Jesus is speaking of " offences,” that is to say, of all that tempts us to sin or unbelief, to faithlessness to the higher life and things invisible.
6. He who receives a little child like this, in my name, receives me; 2 but for him who offends one of these little ones, it were better that a millstone were hung about his neck and he were cast into the sea! Woe to the world because of offences ! for offences must needs come; yet woe to him by whom they come! If your hand or your foot offend you, cut it off and cast it from you! It is better to go into life maimed
1 Matthew xi. 5 2 Matthew xviii. 5 (Mark ix. 37; Luke ix. 48.
or crippled than to be cast into eternal fire with two hands or feet. And if your eye offend you, pluck it out and cast it from you!
It is better to go into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be cast into Gehenna. Beware of despising one of these little ones! For I tell you that their guardian angels, as the first in nk, look upon the face of my Father in heaven at all times.” 1 And then he speaks of the divine sympathy with these little ones under the sweet and touching imagery of that well-known parable : " What think you? If a man have a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and seek the one that has strayed? And if he should chance to find it, does he not rejoice more over that one than over the ninety-nine that never strayed? Even so it is the steadfast will of your Father in heaven that not one of these little ones be lost." 2
Such was the fountain of his deep and inexhaustible love of man. We have spoken already of his compassionate sympathy. We constantly read in the Gospels of his being stirred with intensest pity for the multitudes, because of their sad and weary plight, as of sheep without a shepherd ; 8 and we shall see that he turned with special zeal to “the lost sheep of Israel's fold,” to the notorious " sinners.” Such was the impulse of his heart, which he could not disobey. So he called to him all who were “ weary and heavy laden,” and promised
I will give you rest.” Take my yoke upon you,” he said, "and learn of me, for I am gentle and lowly of heart, and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. But we must clearly understand what this compassion was. The feeling that inspired Jesus with tenderness towards all men however insignificant, however sinful, had not a touch of that lofty condescension which often passes for sympathy. It was a feeling of unbounded reverence for their humanity. It was on the foundation of this respect that the temple of his love was reared. Even the most degraded human being was still an artistic masterpiece fashioned by the Great Artist, God. As such he must be handled tenderly and reverentially, even while the stains that marred his beauty were being cleansed.
Do you ask how Jesus discovered this new truth of the worth of man and the love of God? We must not suppose,
1 Luke xvii. 1, 2; Matthew xviii. 6-10 (Mark ix. 42-47).
on the strength of a few passages in the Gospels, that he ascended from the known to the unknown, and arguing from certain phenomena in the world of Nature and the world of Man reasoned out the lofty conclusion! No syllogisms or inferences led him to his great result. No strained intellectual effort, no profound speculation or deep line of argument brought him to this discovery. One of the latest writers of the New Testament attributes a saying to him which he never really uttered, but which, nevertheless, is an exact reflection of the truth : “My doctrine is not mine, but His that sent
If any man will do Ilis will, he shall know of this doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” That is to say, Jesus had not invented the truth he preached; he had neither worked it out by his own penetration, nor woven it into a system by careful argument. The truth had revealed itself to his heart, and all that he did was to reproduce as purely and faithfully as he could that which had forced itself upon him, so to speak; that which he had learned by his own experience. He produced nothing, properly speaking. He simply translated, as best he could, the impressions and emotions he had received from the invisible world. Hence, too, the certainty and decision of his teaching. For he knew that he had something more and better to communicate than mere personal views or conclusions reached by argument, more and better than mere changing fallible opinions. What he strove to impart to others was that moral truth which he had learned by the surest method, — his own experience ; those impressions he had received from God in his own inner life. For all the discoveries we make on intellectual or philosophic ground bear about them a more or less strongly marked character of uncertainty as the badge of their human origin. But we regard the questions of the moral life in a wholly different light; and riglıtly so. For here it is not we who find out the newly-discovered truth, but it that finds us out; and it bears about it such a mark of its divine origin that we know it will never have to be surrendered, but is a conquest gained for ever. It was in himself, therefore, and by turning to his own heart, that Jesus discovered who God is and what man is. By his own experience he had come to know that God is our Father, that He is love; for he had experienced the indescribably sweet and irresistible attraction, the unutterably blessed influence, of that sacred Power above us, which unfolds its will in the human heart and conscience, 1 Matthew v. 45, vii. 11, et seg
John vii. 16, 17.