Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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pleasant, and never takes bis opinions at second-hand, believing
them because tl ley are taught by one who has a great name, a
man whose lusts and passions are not allowed to make such a
fume about his soul that the very sun of truth is hidden, -a man

whose moral atmosphere is translucent, sees God, knows God, and
shall see and know llim forever. The glass to he used in the


telescope lifted to gaze into the greatest depths which vision can
penetrate must be flawless and colorless, otherwise all observations
will be inaccurate and all calculations thereupon be false and
misleading. The lesson of the Teacher is against double-minded-
ness, guile, and all kinds of mental as well as moral impurities,
as interfering with the highest privileges and pleasures of the

And then follows the last of the characteristics of the Happy.

It would seem most natural that if any body of men can be found

who are distinguished by the predominance of

Happy the peace- *p

makers, for they shaii the characteristics we have been studying, they

be called sons of God. ^ ^ mQn whf) gj^jj be engage d ill tllC blessed

work of pacification, and shall be making peace among men skil-
fully and on a proper basis, as distinguished from those who
increase difficulties by their bungling interference, and thereby
compromising the right in making settlements. Touched by a
sense of their own spiritual wants, mourning over their own frail-
ties of temper and character, meek, merciful, and guileless-, see-
ing things in clear light, humane, but hating all wrongs, they will
be the very people who shall bring together those who have been
separated. •

And here is the final blow to the secularity of their Messianic
hopes. They had dreamed of going forth conquering and to
conquer. How happy should they be, pouring out of all the
gates of Jerusalem, and from all the hamlets of Judaea, following
their divine Leader to Rome, hurling Cassar from his throne,
gathering all the crowns and sceptres of the world into their
arms, and trampling the heathen and the Gentile under their
feet ! There is no such happiness in store for them. The climax
of the description which Jesus gives of his followers, of the peo-
ple he desires to collect about him, is that they are to be peace-
makers, exerting the gentle but powerful influence of benign
lives on the turbulent passions of men, and preventing and curing
the dissensions of the world. Such men are sons of God, and
Jesus teaches that their relationship and likeness to the Most High
God shall be recognized. They shall be " called," considered,
u sons of God," not little children, but adult sons of the King of
Peace. Every man of the disciples of Jesus will, as the ground
of his kinship to the Holy Father, do whatever in him lies to
bring an end to all violences among men, so that while that great


diversity of intellectual difference shall continue, which God
intends shall be in men forever, their passions may not be kindled
thereby into outbreaks that destroy society.

The existence of wars shows how far men are yet from coming
wholly under the dominion of the principles of Jesus. But let
no man be discouraged. Earth distributes its prizes, and heaven
bestows its honors. In the estimate of God, a man who is en-
gaged in breaking the peace of the universal commonweal is
despicable, and the peacemakers are the highest style of men.
The warriors wrap themselves in bloody garments to lie down,
amid the insane plaudits of a vulgar generation, in everlasting
forgetfulness, while simple-hearted pacificators go up to the high
places in the loftiest society of the universe.

Having made this ideal representation of the discipleship of
that Messiahship which he chose to represent, Jesus glanced at
the sufferers in the past. They had been very

i i i i -i -i -i j i ,, Happy they who have

much such persons as he had described, and they been persecuted on
seemed to have perished out of the world miser- account of r! g hteouB -

1 ness, tor theirs is the

ably. They might have been cited as a refuta- kingdom of the tui-
tion of his statements, for their sighs and groans ens (or ? orn:dn of the

~ ^ D universe).

were a strange echo to his repeated " Happy, hap-
py, happy ! " But they are happy. " Happy they that have
been persecuted on account of righteousness." Persecution is
represented in the original text by a word taken from the chase
and from war, the stronger frightening, pursuing, causing to run,
those who are the weaker. The good are not always in power,
and when the evil have rule the good are made to suffer. But if
a man has come into that affliction because, when the question of
right arid wrong was thrust upon him, he stood up for the right, he
is not to be compassionated. The tyrant is to be pitied, not the
victim. Brief pain and everlasting glory ia the martyr's reward,
if he was a martyr because he preferred dying to sinning. Brief
triumph and everlasting shame belong to him who was the malig-
nant destroyer. Generations of even bad men who succeed a
tyrant condemn him, while they praise his victim. It is c/uti or!, ,\
not circumstance, that makes the happiness.

There is no praise to pain. A man is n< >t happy because he lias
Buffered, but because he has Buffered for the sake of being right

It lb the cause and not the pain that make, a martyr. And tlOW,

when Jesus Looked upon the noble army of martyrs who had


chosen to keep an unbroken manhood in suffering rather than
purchase pleasure by surrender of their souls, he exclaim* d,
" Happy those who have suffered on account of righteousness : the
kingdom of the heavens is theirs: they stood awhile in the nar-
row place of torture, dungeon, or rack; they are now free in all
the width of the dominion of the universe. If they had surren-
dered the right to avoid the painful, they would have so belittled
their spirits as to have been miserable: but now they possess what-
ever delights the universe can pour in on souls that are truly

It was natural that Jesus should then turn with a special ten-
derness towards those who were linking their fortunes with his,
and who, by becoming his disciples, were to try
Happy ye, v-hen they the experiment of being such persons as he had

6hall revile yon, and L o i

persecute you, and say described. If they became poor in spirit, and
every bad thing against mcek and raerci f u i and pure-hearted, and peace-

you falsely, on account 1 l

of me. Rejoice and makers, the world would hate and persecute them.

shout, for your reward rrvi „i i „.,l 1 „ 1 1 __ _ t. £ T

' ., , lhat trouble would come on account of Jesus —

is {rreat in the heavens :

for thus they persecu- because they were followers of him. In the COl-
ted the prophets who -i • • £ T£ -n i -li i , i

were before tou. hsions of lite men will be reviled and persecuted.

There is nothing in that to make joy; on the con-
trary, if any trouble has arisen from a man's own imprudence, it
is a cause of great regret and pain. But when every kind of bad
thing has been spoken falsely of a man, and the utterance of it
has been prompted by the bad that is in those who malign, excited
by hatred of his goodness, let him rejoice, yea, let him even exult.
It is proof of the positiveness and vigor of his character and good-
ness. Every man that has Hung himself on his generation to do
them good has had this kind of trouble. Evil is positive. Good
must be positive. They will collide. /So much the worse for the
evil. Why cannot we learn that? A man slanders another, cir-
culates lies that are injurious, and the misrepresented party is
regarded as the damaged. Is he ? Is it not the slanderer who is
hurt? At the close of the day, who ought to shout in his closet:
the slanderer, who has succeeded in making his lies temporarily
believed, and thus done vast injury to his own character; or the
meek man, who has not allowed the falsehood of his persecutor to
damage his character by arousing unholy resentments?

The heavens are very wide. There is room in the universe.
The growth of the character will be the good man's everlasting


joy. The prophets were not destroyed : but what of their persecu-
tors ? Did you ever hear of Magor-missabib ? No? lie was the
same as Pasb.ur. "And who was Pashur?" The innocent igno-
rance implied in that question tells the whole story of the relation of
persecutors and the persecuted. Pashur, named Magor-missabib,
was a great man in his day. lie was the son of Immer the
priest, " who was also chief governor in the house of Jehovah."
There was an earnest brave man in his day named Jeremiah, and
this man spoke words of great truth very courageously, but they
were bitter words to an evil people and priesthood. And so
Pashur threshed him and put him in the stocks in a most public
place near the Temple, and left him there all night. (Jeremiah
xx.) But Pashur was carried to Babylon a slave, and died
obscurely there. There would be no memory of his name on
earth at this day, but for the fact that Jeremiah has pilloried him
in a book which the world will never let die, hundreds of thou-
sands of which are printed every year, although twenty-four cen-
turies have elapsed, and Jeremiah is among the immortals. Of
all the kings of David's family who sat on David's throne, there
was no one who reigned so long as ManjMseh, the twelfth king of
Judah. And yet of no one is so little known. The historians
avoid as much as may be all mention of his reign. If the tradi-
tions of Lis people are to be relied on, he caused Isaiah to be sawn
asunder. No words of the king are remembered. No actions of
hi* arc regarded as memorial and exemplary. But Isaiah's worda
have inspired the preachers and prophets of all succeeding times,
and to-day are preserved among the most precious treasures of all
human literature. And so it has been, is, and will be, until right
and wrong shall cease toopp< ise each other. Great is their reward
in all the heavens who suffer, being in the right.


What Jesus says of the position of his disciples, those who are
distinguished by the characteristics he has mentioned, is so plain
as to need little exposition, lie braces them against the storm
which is to beat upon them, by reminding them l the transcen-
denl Importance and dignity of the functions which they arc
to discharge towards the world. They are the world's msen atora
and illuminators, its salt and its light. Without them the world
would rot in utter darkness. That is to be true in all ases. Take



your light shine before
men, that they may see
your good works, and
thus have more glori-
ous thoughts of your

instantly out of the world all the men described in the opening

of the Sermon on the Mount, and the evil that is in it would run

the world rapidly to a state of total putrefaction.

Ye are the salt of the i J l

earth: but if the salt Take them away and all hope would be gone —
become insipid, with a]1 brightness, bloom, and beauty.

what shall it be sea- ° ' "

soned? Fcmothingis More than among the moderns, salt was held in

it useful any longer, , j- ^ ac l m i rat i on am0 ng the ancients. Their

except to be cast out J ~ ~

and trodden down by poets gave it the most noble and beautiful epi-
men Ye are the light tJ t ^ nd tl ; philosophers bestowed great praise

of the world. A city ' - 1 - 1 B 1

set on a hill cannot be lipOll it. It Was USCd ill rcliglOUS Services, Sym-

hid Neither do they ^^^ ()f h t fe ye fi ye re fi n i n g very

light a lamp and put it J J °' J

under a corn-measure, powerful, and very preservative.* The words of

anTrghxlTghtTaii Jesils > in which he llkens llis disciples at once to
in the house. Thus let salt and light, are remarkably reproduced by
Pliny [Hist. JYat., xxxi. 9) in his words, " Nil sole
et sale utilius," Nothii\g is more useful than the
sun and salt. And because of their value to the
Father who is in the world, Jesus urges them to be careful to preserve
the saltness, and avoid what would cover the
light ; in other words, preserve in their characters those very
elements which give them these powers.

Much useless labor has been spent on the salt and city ques-
tions. Whether real salt can lose its saltness, is not a pertinent
question. The question of Jesus is hypothetical : if the saline
quality be lost out of salt, how can it be restored? By chemical
action we know that salt can "lose its savor." But because the
example should have suggested something that was familiar, and
it is not a familiar fact that salt does utterly lose its saltness,
many have perplexed themselves with striving to hud what the
to d\a, divine, and
Plato deo(pi\(s cufia, a substance dear to
the gods. There was a Latin proverb,
Purior salillo, purer than salt. Both
Greeks and Latins used it as a trope for

wit, on account of its pungency. Hence
we hear of Attic salt. In incense and in
religious sacrifices salt was used. See
Ovid, Fasti, i. 3o7.


slippery places to prevent falling, as by the priests in the Temples
when sacrificing animals. Bnt his citations feebly sustain his po-
sition, and if they did they would not disprove the words of Jesus
who says that it is worthless, and this being " trodden d< >wn < if men "
expresses only the utter contempt men have for its woi thlessness.

So of the city. There is no reason to suppose that some special
city was referred to. Any city on a hill-top must be conspicuous,
especially when lighted at night. lie was simply charging his disci-
ples not to hide their light nor to lose the vigor of a good character.

" Let your light shine." If you have light it will do its own
shining, and give light to others, if you do not cover it. Only let it
shine. You need not go flaunting it about as a wild boy does a
flambeau at night; but let it be like the sun's light, naturally il-
luminating ; but do not obscure it. There are just two important
things to care for, namely, that a man have in him the illumi-
nating property, and then that he see to it that that light be not

The Law : and Jesus the Completer thereof.

Whenever any man has the fortune to see truth in a new light,
and the commission to make it known to the world, there are
those who adroitly endeavor to break his power Think not that i
by giving out that he is a revolutionist ; that he is came to re,ax the law

i i l i • t -t • ■. i or tho prophets: I

unstable; that lie is discontented with the estab- came not to relax, but
lished order of things. Such a rumor does two *°f m P lete - Forvri -

ly I say unto you, Un-

wrongs. It drives from him those who hold to tn the heaven ami the
the truth that has been already gained, and sends « arth < >ass «■* n*

J ° thcr the smallest letter,

about the new teacher those who really hope that nor the smallest stroke
the allegation is true and that old things are to ? * '. UM / s ,l J!**t

O o from the law until all

be abrogated. Their approach to the teacher be accomplished, who-

/. ' 1 -■ . . i i soever, therefore, shall

confirms the prejudicial rumor, and so soon as rolax „ 11C ()1 thr K ,^
they discover their mistake they fall away, and i,f these commands,

i . /, -\ n r i i and shall teach men ao.

tins Iliix and reflux i apparent popularity weak- he ahau be called least

eUS the hold of the teacher on the public COnfi- in the kingdom ol the

. T .. , . . . , , heavens (the dominion

deuce. Jesus suffered m that way, as in modern „ f a, a universe); but

times have Luther and Weslev, who sustained whosewvw shall do and

teach, he shall be

towards the Roman and Anglican churches, res- ,,.,,„ in Ul0 kingdom

peetivelv, a position similar to that of -Icsus to- ot tho "covens,
wards the Jewish church.

In this discourse of his doctrine, .lesus is at pains to define


his relation to the system of morals taught in the sacred books
of the Jews. If, as he taught, his followers were to endure *
great persecution "for righteousness' sake," and "on account
of Jesus," it was natural to infer that it would be on account of
the kind of righteousness which they should learn from him ; and
if that were such as to raise persecution, it must be because it wo*
opposed to the righteousness taught in their law and in their pro-
phets. Jesus takes occasion to correct this by showing that he
held to the law ; that it was the Pharisees who had a new right-
eousness, and that it was this fact (that he should teach a right-
eousness which, while it opposed that of the Pharisees, accorded
with that of the law, and really accomplished and fulfilled it by
giving it a spirit, and by vitalizing it) that should bring him
trouble from a generation that had gone far astray from Moses
and the Prophets.

"The Law" and "the Prophets" constituted the great basis of
Jewish morals and religious institutions. The law, as Tholuck
says, kept alive in the people a sense of their need of salvation ;
the prophets perpetually sustained them by the hope that want
would one day be satisfied. Jesus must have meant something
more than merely presenting in the facts of his history the coun-
terpart of what the prophets set forth, or in the morality of his
life an example of perfect observance of the moral law. lie
meant to say that all those who looked upon the work of the Mes-
siah as that of mere abolition, mere loosing, mere doing away,
had made a total misapprehension. His work was not negative
but positive. So far from doing away the law, he came to show
the world that even the moral law, written on Sinai stone or liv-
ing human hearts, is imperfect, in the sense of incomplete. lie
came to supplement, to fill up. The Law was one thing, the Pro-
phets another; and with them both, without something else, hu-
manity was poor indeed. He was that something else, that pie-
roma, that Fulness; so that hereafter, for all purposes of living
and dying, the world might have all it needed : the I,aw, the
Prophets, the JESUS. Without the law the world is a mora]
chaos. "With the Law, and without the Prophets, the world is a
company of condemned malefactors. With the Law and Pro-
phets the condemned world is hoping with a hope deferred that
makes the heart sick. With the Law, the Prophets, and Jesus,
mankind have their hopes fulfilled, and such an element of power


from love, and such an element of love newly developed in the
Law, that life becomes the sublime occupation of preparing the
soul, by obedience, for still greater obedience to a moral rule
which keeps the universe in rhythm. " I am come," said he,
"not a Relaxer but a Completer." This great Jesus must have
been conscious of vast spiritual resources, a fulness of soul that
was to stream out into the nations and down through the ages.
He felt that he had enough soul for himself and a whole race of
men. It is not necessary to go into the minute details of the
theological anatomists. They have said nothing finer than Augus-
tine, u Because he came to give love, and love is the fulfilling of
the law, he has rightly said that he had not come to dissolve, but
to complete." *

The moral law is to stand while earth and heaven endure, a
proverbial form of expression, like, as Strong says, our less ele-
gant one of "While grass grows or water runs." While there is
any universe of moral beings there will be moral law. Not a
particle is superfluous. Not a particle, therefore, shall ever be
swept away; not a * (yode), the smallest of the Hebrew letters;
not a /cepaia, the smallest stroke of the pen used to distinguish
letters, f But a grace that is in neither letters nor laws shall bo
given the world, and mankind shall see how beautiful and unsel-
fish and free a thing a life of obedience maybe; of obedience to
God's laws, — not man's moral police enactments, perhaps, but
God's laws. He that regards reverently the slightest indication of
what the will and purpose of God is, shall be recognized great
in the dominion of the universe, the kingdom ami rule which is
so wide as to embrace not merely this present scheme of our
world, hut all the changes of all worlds, and all the sweep of the
universe, — not merely the ages which mark the history of man,
but the cycles on which eternity rests.

Thus Jesus taught that he did not come, as some feared and

* "Quia venit dare charitatem, et I slight prolongation to the right of the

charitas preticit legem, mcrito dixit, upper part of* the letter, la writing

nonvci: I implere." Au- them for the printer I have made a

gustine, 8erm. 136, on John v. raish in both instances, and in the lat-

f That this may \>

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 26 of 77)