Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

image of his life and character; yet they were probably uttered subsequently to his disciples privately, after persecution had come.

Whatever was more fitting to say to Nicodemus than to less in. tellectual persons was no doubt repeated in that interview. This would sum up approximately in : It is not enough, Nicodemus, that you have examined my credentials, and that, approving them, you own me as a teacher carrying a commission from on high. You must accept deeper results of my mission than any you have yet thought of, and must give your mind and spirit to be translated into the region of a new and better life.- Dr. I. Hooykaas (The Bible for Learners, vol. iii., p. 141, ff.).

Dr. Geikie, however, reconciles Matthew and Luke by suggesting that the “plain” was a terrace:

Tradition has chosen the hill known as the “Horns of Hattin," two horn-like heights rising sixty feet above the plain between them, two hours west of Tiberias, at the mouth of the gorge which opens past Magdala into the wild cliffs of Arbela, famous in the history of the Zealots as their hiding-place, and famous also for Herod's battles in mid-air at the mouths of their caves, by means of great cages filled with soldiers let down the precipices. It is greatly in favor of this site to find such a writer as Dean Stanley saying that the situation so strikingly coincides with the intimations of the gospel narrative as almost to force the inference that in this instance the eye of those who selected the spot was rightly guided.

The plain on which the hill stands is easily accessible from the lake; and it is only a few minutes' walk from it to the summit, before reaching which a broad “level place” has to be crossed, exactly suited for the gathering of a multitude together. It was to this, apparently, that Jesus came down from one of the higher horns to address the people. Seated on some slightly elevated rock,- for the teacher always sat while he taught, the people and the disciples sitting at his feet on the grass, the cloudless Syrian sky over them, the blue lake with its moving life on the one hand, and in the far north the grand form of Hermon glittering in the upper air, he began what is to us the Magna Charta of our faith, and to the hearers must have been the inauguration of the new kingdom of God.- Life and Words of Christ, p. 418.

A prominent characteristic of Christ's discourses is their parables. These were a most advantageous means of indoctrination. The images thus imprinted on the imagination, together with the lessons they taught, fixed themselves without effort on the memory, and were passed from mouth to mouth: they will go down through the centuries,

Must throb in after-throbs till Time itself
Be laid in stillness, and the universe
Quiver and breathe upon no mirror more.

The dough standing to rise in the bread-trough illustrated the silent working of truth in society; the seeds falling on different kinds of soil, the degrees of receptivity of the human soul; the bird falling dead from the air, the perpetual, universal providence of God; the parent giving bread to his children at their meals, the influence of the Holy Spirit; the lightning seen all around the sky, at once the coming of a universal religion: by such illustration, Jesus perpetually appealed to the common sense of his hearers in support of his teaching. He also appealed sometimes to their scriptures, and occasionally he met reasoning by reasoning. But most frequently he taught by this reference to common life, so recognizing the analogy between God's laws in nature, in society, and in the soul.- Dr. J. F. Clarke (Common Sense in Religion, p. 12).

Thomas Fuller says of the good woman, “She makes plain cloth to be velvet by her handsome wearing of it.” So Jesus made the parable, which up to his time had been only moderately efficient, a weapon with which he accomplished wonders. And here it is not improper to introduce an indorsement of Christ's practice as to poetic (or simile) license from an unexpected source:

The most natural beauty in the world is honesty and moral truth. For all beauty is truth. True features make the beauty of a face, and true proportions the beauty of architecture, as true measure that of harmony and music. In poetry which is all fable, truth is still the perfection.- Earl A. A. C. Shaftsbury.

All my poetry is the poetry of circumstance. It wholly owes its birth to the realities of life.- Goethe.

Truth severe by fairy fiction dressed.— Thomas Gray. Fiction may be much more instructive than real history.- John Foster.

The fainter lines are neglected, but the great characteristic features are imprinted on the mind forever.- Baron Macaulay.

One notable feature is the reutterances. Thenceforth, Jesus appears habitually to have employed himself in those kinds of word and deed which, repeated in substance over and over again in a large number of places and before great multitudes of witnesses, were to constitute the main ground of his appeal to the conscience of the world and the first basis of the general belief in him,- the basis upon which all the rest was in due time to be built up. But, while he thus wrought from day to day and from place to place, he was also at times employed in sowing a seed which was to lie longer in the ground before the time of germination.

Sometimes, he set himself to sow seed in capable minds and willing hearts, like those of the apostles or like that of Nicodemus ; sometimes, to let it fall apart from the common beat of the chosen people, and where it could not be choked by their peculiar prejudices, as with the woman of Samaria. But also in Terusalem itself, at least by one series of discourses, he was pleased to state sufficiently, in the hearing both of the people and of their guides, the dignity and claims of his person; so that the authentic declaration from his own lips of the truths which were to be developed in apostolic teaching might accredit that teaching to minds that would otherwise have stumbled at the contrast, or would have been unable to fill the void between such doctrine posthumously preached and the common tenor of our Lord's words and acts as they are given in the Synoptical Gospels. Some portions of St. John's Gospel may be regarded as the golden link between the Sermon on the Mount and the theology of the Apostolic Epistles.- Hon. W. E. Gladstone (Review of Ecce Homo, p. 92).

The key-note of Christ's discourse was self-abnegation. The Sermon on the Mount was an unfolding of that wide and deep word of John's message "Repent!” without rejection of any light from the established traditional lore of the listeners.

The principle may be described according to the side from which it is approached, as the worth of man or the love of God: “Man as man is called to and destined for the highest moral perfection, and as a consequence the purest blessedness.” 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 its indelible 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. And 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.- Prof. J. R. Seeley (Ecce Homo).

The chief potency of the words of Jesus lay in the demonstration afforded by his example. It is the most hopeful and redeeming fact in history that Christ, by preference, associated with the meanest of our race. Indeed, the poor attracted him more than the rich : their vices seemed to him less dangerous. Injustice, cruelty, and oppression were more hateful to him than vices of passion or improvidence.

It was because the edict of universal love went forth to men whose hearts were in no cynical mood, but possessed with a spirit of devotion to a man, that words which at any other time, however grandly they might sound, would have been but words, penetrated so deeply, and along with the law of love the power of love was given. Therefore, also, the first Christians were enabled to dispense with philosophical phrases, and instead of saying that they loved the ideal of man in man, could simply say and feel that they loved Christ in every man. We have here the very kernel of the Christian moral scheme.

Few of us sympathize originally and directly with this devotion; few of us can perceive in human nature itself any merit sufficient to evoke it. But it is not so hard to love and venerate him who felt it. So vast a passion of love, a devotion so comprehensive, elevated, deliberate, and profound, has not elsewhere been in any degree approached save by some of his imitators. And, as love provokes love, many have found it possible to conceive for Christ an attachment the closeness of which no words can describe,-a veneration so possessing and absorbing the man within them that they have said, “I live no more, but Christ lives in me."

Now, such a feeling carries with it of necessity the feeling of love for all human beings. It matters no longer what quality men may exhibit : amiable or unamiable, as the brothers of Christ, as belonging to his sacred and consecrated kind, as the objects of his love in life and death, they must be dear to all to whom he is dear. And those who would for a moment know his heart and understand his life must begin by thinking of the whole race of man, and of each member of the race, with awful reverence and hope.- Prof. J. R. Seeley (Ecce Homo, p. 165 [178]).

CHAPTER XXV.

VENERATION.

Wherein and What the Regenerating Tendencies of the In

doctrination of Faith in Christ and in the Mutuality or Solidarityof the Human Race ?

THERE are two facts, the converse of each other, mutuality of blessing and mutuality of cursing. One is :

There is no sort of wrong deed of which a man can bear the punishment alone: you can't isolate yourself, and say that the evil that is in you shall not spread. Men's lives are as thoroughly blended with each other as the air they breathe : evil spreads as necessarily as disease. - George Eliot.

As to the other, the existence of faith of fidelity to an Unseen Power of Goodness — imports an exercise of the elemental power of sympathy and emotion, with the single, unalterable object of dying with Christ to the law of the flesh, to live with Christ to the law of the mind.

Justice is often but a form of pedantry, mercy mere easiness of temper, courage a mere firmness of physical constitution; but, if these virtues are genuine, then they indicate not goodness merely, but goodness considerably developed. A man may be potentially just or merciful, yet from defect of training he may be actually neither. We want a test which shall admit all who have it in them to be good, whether their good qualities be trained or not. Such a test is found in faith. He who, when goodness is impressively put before him, exhibits an instinctive loyalty to it, starts forward to take its side, trusts himself to it,- such a man has faith, and the root of the matter is in such a man. He may have habits of vice, but the loyal and faithful instinct in him will place him above many that practise virtue. He may be rude in thought and character, but he will unconsciously gravitate toward what is right. Other virtues can scarcely thrive without a fine natural organization and a happy training. But the most neglected and ungifted of men may make a beginning with faith. Other virtues want civilization, a certain amount of knowledge, a few books; but, in half-brutal countenances, faith will

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »