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Now go back to the three main points of the lesson: sin, repentance, faith. Concerning each of these ask yourself two questions: What is Jesus' central teaching? and, What has that to say to me? Give a definition of each.
Why are repentance and faith necessary before there can be any fellowship with God?
HUMILITY AND ASPIRATION
We have been considering the question of the beginning of the Christian life, or the entrance into the Kingdom. There is God's side first of all, as Jesus pointed it out. The way of entrance is not our goodness, not our deserving; it is the grace of God, "whose property is always to have mercy.” Sonship is God's gift. But there is man's side too, the turning from sin in penitence of soul, the opening of the heart in obedient trust. Thus the life begins with gracious forgiveness on God's side, with repentance and faith on ours. In the next three chapters we consider this new life of man in his relation with God; thereafter the Christian life as it is lived by man with fellow men.
HUMILITY AND DESIRE
The Reversal of Values.Nowhere is the genius and originality of Jesus seen more clearly than in this, that he puts the spirit of humility and desire first. The philosopher Nietzsche charged Jesus with a "reversal of all values," putting down what men
had hitherto praised, lifting up what they had despised. That is true. Men praised strength, and mastery, and success. The Jewish scribe and the Roman sage were not unlike here. Their blessings were for the man who had won: the man who had mastered the law, said the scribe; the man who was master of himself and his world, said the sage. In either case it was the man who had, the self-sufficient man. Jesus praised the man who had not, the man dissatisfied, the man that longed for something more.
Man's Need, God's Generosity. It is not hard to understand this teaching of Jesus if we will only consider his thought of God. Two things were true of God. First, he was the source of all life. Men had nothing except as it came from him; and all the want of men was from lack of God in their life. They were anxious and worried and weak because they had never really seen God's power and learned to trust him. They were narrow and hard and selfish because they did not know the Father's spirit. They made themselves the slaves of mere things, Mammon worshipers, because they had never found the highest good of life, which is in God. In the second place, this God who had all things was ready to give all. That was his very nature: he was Father. The law of his life was love, the desire to help and bless men.
The Obstacle.- What, then, stood in the way? Only one thing: men did not see and men did not care. The blindness of men Jesus sought to change by his teaching; he showed them this God waiting to receive and give, and this life of strength and joy. But the real obstacle was the self-satisfaction of men. It was not the sin of men. We know how he received the lowest and most vile. He had no doubt about these; “Go and sin no more," he said. But where men did not know the need of God how could God come in? How could God give where men were proud and self-centered ? That was why Jesus rejoiced over those that sorrowed; that was why he praised humility and longing. It was not that these sinners were better than others; it was because their hearts were open to God, and for Jesus that was the promise of all goodness, and the only promise.
What Is Humility ?—There is probably no Christian virtue which is more misunderstood than humility. Humility is not hypocritical self-depreciation; it is not selfdepreciation at all. The true Christian does not call himself a worm of the dust; on the contrary, he knows that he is a son of the Most High. Only he knows that this high place is all the gift of God, and not of his own worth or desert. Nor does Christian humility sing, “O, to be nothing, nothing." The New Testament, on the contrary, declares that we are to be strong and wise and rich in good works and to quit ourselves like men; we are not
to be empty, but to be filled. But the Christian also realizes that all this life comes from God; he knows his utter dependence upon God and in his joy and strength has the perfect humility of a child, knowing no life but that from God, having no will but that of God.
Humility and Strength.-Such humility belongs not to weaklings, but to men who are as strong as they are cleareyed. This is what Ruskin says in his Modern Painters : “I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility doubt of his own powers, or hesitation of speaking his opinions; but a right understanding of the relation between what he can do and say and the rest of the world's doings and sayings. All great men not only know their business, but usually know that they know it, and are not only right in their main opinions, but they usually know that they are right in them, only they do not think much of themselves on that account. Arnolfo knows that he can build a good dome at Florence; Albert Duerer writes calmly to one who has found fault with his work, 'It cannot be done better'; Sir Isaac Newton knows that he has worked out a problem or two that would have puzzled anybody else; only they do not expect their fellow men therefore to fall down and worship them. They have a curious undersense of powerlessness, feeling that the power is not in them, but through them, that they could not be or do anything else than God made them, and they see something divine and God-made in every other man they meet, and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”
THE SOUL OF A CHRISTIAN
The Soul of a Christian.-"Whenever there is danger of obscurity as to what Jesus' teaching means, then we will turn again and again to the Beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. They contain his ethics and his religion, joined in one root and freed from all that is external and particularistic.” So writes Professor Harnack in his volume, What is Christianity? The Beatitudes undertake to answer the question, To whom shall the Kingdom belong? Practically, however, they set forth for us the soul of a Christian. Not all of the Christian life is set forth in them, but here is its heart. The Beatitudes must be considered together, for Jesus is setting forth one spirit and not describing different classes of people.
Humility and Desire.-What kind of a man then shall receive the Kingdom? The man who has kept the law, said the Pharisees, the man who has achieved; and as they said it, proud and self-satisfied, they thought of themselves. We may understand, then, the surprise with which men listened to Jesus' opening words. The blessed, said Jesus, are the poor in spirit, the men who know their need; and these shall receive the Kingdom. The blessed are not the contented, but those filled with sorrow at the knowledge of their need. They are the meek, not the proud; they have no will of their own before God, only a perfect and contented submission to him. But though meek and poor in spirit, they are not wanting in desire; they are men with a passion for righteousness that is like a consuming hunger. The central thought of the first four Beatitudes is one: the spirit of humility regarding oneself, the spirit of earnest longing toward God. With these goes the sixth, “Blessed are the pure in heart.” The probable meaning is not freedom from impure thought, but rather sincerity and singleness of mind, a part of that same humility and aspiration.
Mercy and Peace.—The last three Beatitudes concern more a man's relation to his fellows. The men of the Kingdom will be merciful, for only thus can they be sons of their Father. They will be peacemakers, not only peaceable themselves, but bringing peace on earth because they bring righteousness. And because they have this passion for righteousness, they will not desist because of any cost to themselves; they will endure persecution.
Humility and Love.--In all these Beatitudes Jesus nowhere uses his supreme word, "love." And yet it is plain that that word underlies all these sayings. This spirit of humility and openness and earnest longing for God, what is it but love? The first element in our love for God, and