Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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man who stands and takes the second blow, or when one takes
his inner lets his outer garment go, is a better, a wiser, a happier
man than he who follows up an insult or injury by retaliation.

There remains little difficulty with the third case supposed,
which is that of political oppression. The verb in the original
Greek, ayyapevaei* comes from a Persian word, angaros, sig-
nifying a mounted courier, such as were kept ready at regular
stages throughout Persia, according to a postal arrangement insti-
tuted by Cyrus or Xerxes, f They Ave re authorized to impress
into the king's service, for the transmission of intelligence, not only
the horses but the persons of the king's subjects. They could
compel them to go. Of course the Jews felt the utmost reluc-
tance to yield such a service to the Roman government, which
they hated 4 And we can see what opportunities a vicious official
would enjoy of spitefully oppressing the people. Jesus taught,
by this specific example, the general lesson that no man must
take vengeance on his political oppressor; that when he felt his
anger rising, rather than take vengeance, rather than even resist
so as to increase the existing animosity, he should so promptly
show a willingness to go twice the required distance that the spite
of the exactor and the oppressor should be disarmed. Thus
Jesus taught the wisdom and blessedness of goodness, the rule of
conquering by surrendering. lie did not mean to describe acts,

* In the Cod. Sin. the word is ivyapdari.

f Greek historians assign the origin
of the postal system to both these kings.
For descriptions of the system see
Herod. , viii. 98, and Xen. , Cyrop. , viii.
6, 17.

\ The Jews particularly objected to
furnishing posts to the Roman govern-
ment ; and Demetrius, when he wished

to conciliate them, published a long list
of grievances from which he freed them,
in which it is stated that he gave orders
that the beasts of burden belonging to
the Jews should not be pressed into Ids
service, using the very word employed
in the text of Matthew which we are
now considering. See Josephus, Ant.,
xxiii. c. 2, § 3.


but to represent character. "What kind of character ? A mean,
unimpressible, negative character, that stands and takes kicks
like a bale of cotton? By no means; but a character so filled
with all goodness and active love that it would pass over and do
more even than the law of man demanded, doing so much for
even the evil and unthankful that they could exact no more. It
is not the doing of these particular acts which he enjoins, but the
having the spirit and disposition to do them. And we must be
quite careful not to frame a statute for ourselves, for oar neigh-
bors, or for the community out of these descriptive phrases, hold-
ing that he is no Christian who does not perform these very acts,
but rather understand that for ourselves we are to learn what is
the type of human character which appeared greatest and loveli-
est in the eyes of Jesus.

This principle applies to the last case described, the annoyance
of beggars and borrowers. To interpret the precept literally were
to break up all society : it would bestow alms upon impostors, put
dagger and poison in the hands of the insane, yield instruments
of destruction to children who had no discretion, and furnish
weapons to the murderer for the accomplishment of his dire de-
signs — and all this simply because we were asked! A literal
observance of the words might bring things to such a pass in a
day that we shall not be able to serve any others for a year. He
neither meant that we should wait until asked to bestow benefac-
tions, nor give in the very form of the request ; but that we should
be always ready to do good in every possible way to our fellow-
nien. This teaching of Jesus is as strictly observed by him who
makes a discreet refusal of what it were injurious to bestow, as by
him who yields a prompt concession to a request that is proper.
It is the disposition to do all good promptly and cheerfully to all
men, without being moved thereto by the good qualities in them,
and not being deterred therefrom by what is repulsive. And
this comes out in the general precept immediately following.

Of Love and Hatred.

The sixth and last example which he cites of the perversions by
the Pharisees is that which regards the Law of Love and Hatred.

It gives him occasion to state his own philosophy on this subject.
The law is laid down in Leviticus xix. IS: "Thou shalt not
avenge nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people,


but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself : I am the Lord." Tho

intent of this law was to bind the Jewish people compactly together

Te have heard that for the great, humane purposes of Almighty God

it hah boon said, towards all people. It was not, as was not anything

Love your neighbor . , . , , . , , , , T . ,

ana hate your enemy. m the ceremonial Jaw, intended to make the J ewisn
But i wy to you, Lovo people, by an act of Almighty partiality, the special

your 1'iicm es and pray .., «,.. r "~ n , 7 . -.

for them that persecute recipients or divine invars for their own safcet
you, that ye maybe the alone, but that they might be eminently fitted to

sons of your Father in, ,,.. 1 1 i • 1

the heavens; for He SllbSCl'Ve 110t Only tllCir OW11 interests bllt tllC high-
makes his sun to rise est interests of all the peoi)lc of all the world and

on the bad and good, . , ,

ana rains on the just of all time. It was their stupendous mistake to
and the unjust. Forif j.™^ themselves as the end of all divine legisla-

ye love your lovers, _ ° °

what reward have ye? tion, aild they lost their power of Universal be-
Even the tax-gatherers ne fi cence in a ]ar „ e measure by this narrow view

do that same. And if a J

ye salute your brethren of the CUSC The PliarisCCS had Carried tllC JeW-

S',? at R : iT T in l ish bigotry to its last lengths when they added the

thing do ye ? Do not in J O J

even the Gentiles that corollary, " Thou shalt hate thine enemy." The law
B^Tto"^ porfect as na( ^ indeed enjoined on the Jew love for the " chil-
yom- Father in the heav- dren of his people," but that was an educational

ens is perf eet. n , . , . -,, 1 • i

preparation for loving and serving all mankind.

Jesus set forth the wide charity of his philosophy in the distinct
precept, " Love your enemies." He has been protesting against
all vindictiveness ; he now blooms out into richest precepts of uni-
versal fraternity and affection, lie is determined not to be mis-
understood, lie embraces public as well as private, national as
well as personal enemies, the Samaritan and the Roman, the
ecclesiastical and the political foe. Not simply is a man to regard
without animosity the foreigner and the alien, he is even to have
charity for the enemy who stands over him and curses him; for
hatred he is to return good, for contempt and persecution he is to
return benedictions. If the Jews had only understood and acted
upon this, they might have carried their rule of love to the end
of the world. The Messiah is to carry his rule to the end of the
world. Jesus makes good his claim by insisting upon leading his
people forth to this conquest of love ; and thus, and not as the
secular Jew expected, became in a high sense the Saviour of the

This broad law of benevolence is enforced by an appeal to the
loftiest example in the universe. God is our Father. His chil-
dren should resemble Ilim. He causes his sun to rise on men



without moral distinctions, and so he sends his rain.* If -we
would be his children, our love must have that same characteris-
tic of impartiality. Perhaps by this splendid appeal to God's
dealings in nature, the Great Teacher meant to imply that the
same principles prevailed in the moral government, and that as
sunlight and rain fell on the fields of all, so the grace of God was
not confined to the Jew but sent equally to the Gentile. It cer-
tainly does help one to come to a rational view of this lofty
teaching, when it is recollected that this impartiality in nature is
not the loss on the part of God of the distinctions of right and
wrong, nor insensibility to charms of character. It is the law of
active benevolence which is set forth, the desire to do good to
another whether he deserve it or not. The love I bear a mean and
wicked man, who is calumniating and persecuting me, is not to be
the love I bear my beautiful, true, and good friend, on whom my
soul safely rests ; for the love God shows men who rebel against
His holy law is not the same which He feels towards the devoted
child whose life is spent in learning and doing His will.

Attracting his hearers by the great example of the heavenly
Father, he endeavors to break them from their narrowness and
illiberality by the example of those whom they specially hated
and despised. The Jew who allowed himself to be a tax-gather-
er was an unprincipled and mercenary fellow. The Roman gov-
ernment of the Jewish people was not particularly harsh. It was
the galling of their pride more than anything else that was offen-
sive, and that came out specially in the presence of the Roman
soldiery, and more especially in the oppressive taxation. " Publi-
can" thence came to designate the most disagreeable kind of a
"sinner." But, Jesus urges, even publicans love their kith and
kin, their " nearest," if it be insisted that that is the meaning of
"neighbor." The Gentiles, whom you hate, will salute their
brethren. Arc the Jews the elect of the Father God? And do
they in moral character rise no higher than the plane of those
nations who are not favored by God and are hated by Jews ? If
the Jews have surpassingly helping privileges, should they not
have surpassingly elevated characters \

* Meyer quotes the following sen-
tence from Seneca, which is remarkably
like these words of Jesus: "Si deos
imitaris, da et ingratis beneficia : nam
et 8celeratis sol oritur, et piratis patent

maria." "If thou wilt imitate the
gods, bestow benefits on even the un-
grateful : for on even criminals the sun
rises, to even pirates the seas he open."


Thus having exhibited the wrong that is in the Pharisaic liar
rawness and selfishness, showing that in practice it was a mora
copy of the example of the worst men, while in theory it was an
injurious perversion of the law, he turned to his disciples and
said, " You are not to be so. You are to have perfect principles.
The principles which govern your Father who is in the heavens,
are those which are to govern you."

Reaching this transition point in the Discourse, I think it may
be well to notice that the simple, plain intellects of his congre-
gation, understanding the words of Jesus in their simplest, plain-
est meaning, did not see in them the difficulties which all the
glosses and comments have made for us moderns. It is really
some task to our intellects to throw out the influence of the per-
verting interpretations to which we have been accustomed in
order to place ourselves where the audience of Jesus stood. How
far I am doing so as I write, I know not ; but I am striving ear-
nestly to find just what Jesus meant his hearers to understand.
And an examination so conducted shows that he was not laying
down maxims of conduct but tests of character. The great
trouble many good people, and even many scholarly men, have
found in the Sermon on the Mount has come from not observing
this distinction. For example, take the last precept above, " Ye
are to be perfect, even as your Father in the heavens is perfect."
The physical and mental limitations of humanity make that ut-
terly impracticable as a rule of action, but quite practicable as
an attainment of principle. It is by considering his statements,
without their limitations, as a directory of conduct, and seeing
how utterly men fail to reach that standard, that the teachings of
Jesus come to be regarded as merely a refining ideal, not to be
realized totally in this life.


We have now reached another division of this discourse, in
which Jesus shows the corrupting influence of Pharisaism upon
even the practice of the virtues, and teaches his disciples to purge
the very spring of their actions.

Here is the key to this part of the discourse. A man's right-
eousness works itself out into his public life, and he must often
do good in the presence of his fellow-men, and there arc some
duties which cannot be discharged in total privacy. " Bighteous-



ness" is exemplified in this discourse by alms-giving, by prayer,
and by fasting, or more generally by our duties to our brethren,
to our heavenly Father, and to ourselves. These But take heed not to
duties arc to be discharged with reference to God, work your ri - ,u, " us -

° m ness * before men, to

and not man. When our righteousness is wrought be seen of them: a
in tlie presence of our fellow-beings, we are to othcnvise ' >' ou have

- 1 ~ no reward from your

be very careful that it is not for the purpose of Father who is m the
being seen by them, to elicit their applause. heavens -
The verb in the original is very striking, SeaOijvat,, from which
comes our word " theatre." "We are not to theatricize, play a
part, think the thing well done if they applaud, and ill if they
give signs of dissatisfaction.

It is, moreover, to be observed that Jesus does not inculcate
duties : he merely tells his disciples how they are to be performed.
lie does not say that they shall give alms, and pray, and fast. Lib-
erality towards our fellows, piety towards our God, and self-con-
trol, are among the well-known duties of religion everywhere, in
every form. But the methods of doing these right things may be
injuriously wrong, and, among the Pharisees, obviously were; so
Jesus sets himself to showing his disciples how they ought to do
what they already felt it their duty to do. The First Example is


The word hypocrite is in analogy with the theatricizing just
spoken of in general terms. A hypocrite strictly Therefore when thou
is one who maintains a part in a dramatic perfor- makest a,m *' tr » rn P et

1 * p not before thee, as the

niance, speaking his words usually from behind a hypocrites do in the
mask, and hence readily transferred to one who is ™wt™««*j in fhe

" streets, that they may

not really what he seems. The blowing of the have giory of men.
trumpet may be derived from what is affirmed to Vcri,y ' v ", i,v ' \ sny

i " nnto you, They exhaust

have been the custom of ostentatious alms-givers, their reward. But when

who summoned the poor by a trumpet, and thus

made known their gifts. But it is better to take it

figuratively, as signifying unnecessary display. A

man's goodness to a fellow-man may be known

and bring him praise, but he is never to do it for

the purpose of having that praise. If he do, he will not fail, he

thou doest alms, let not
thy left hand know
what thy right hand
docth, that thine alms
may be in secret, and
thy Father who seeth in
secret .shall reward thee.

* Not " alms," as in the common ver-
sion. The authentic text is undoubted
ly Sucaiofuj/Tje, righteousness, and not
l\frinnnii>riv, alms, the latter being a
frell-intentioned but mistaken gloss.

The Vatican and Beza MSS., and, what
is still more important, the Codex Sinai-
tiri/s give the former. This restored
reading aids the symmetry of the dis-



will be praised. lie will have his reward, and his whole reward,
in that praise. lie will thus exhaust his reward. But when ho
gives alms because it is right, and for the good the alms may do
another, and does it so secretly that, to use a proverbial phrase,
his left hand does not know what his right hand does, such a
man has reward from the Father, who does His greatest works in
secret. Let the deed be done as to Ilim and not to man.
The Second Example is


Let it be remembered that it is hypocrisy which Jesus attacks, not
any special outward modes or acts. He does not condemn using

And when thou pray- synagogues and streets as prayer places ; he does not
est, be not as the hypo- condemn standing as a posture.* A man may pray
plTitanding y !n Ve tho anywhere, and should pray everywhere. But no
synagogues and in the matter where he prays, nor how, nor when, — if liis

corners of the broad- •■ -. -i , , , , . , .

ways, that they may be prayers be made in order to attract the attention

Kconof men. verily, i and elicit the applause of men, he is a hypocrite.

hlsT'theTr' Reward" IIe pretends to be speaking to God, when, in real-

But thou, when thou ity, he is speaking to men. A modern clergyman,

prayest, enter into thy , ,. . , i , , n . re "" 1 , .

closet, and having lock- kneeling m the church, may be playing off rhetori-
ed thy door, pray to cal fireworks for the entertainment of hisaudience,f

thy Father who is in ■. ■. , .. , .... ,.

rather than be assisting them in their supplica-


tions for the mercy of the Almighty Father,
is warned by this incisive speech of Jesus.

Jesus does not prohibit much praying, but much

secret ; and thy Father
who seeth in secret will
reward thee. But when
ye pray use not sense-
less repetitions, as do
the heathen ; for they

are of opinion that talking ; \ not repetitions, but vain, empty repe-
they shaii be heard for titions. Jesus passed whole nights in prayer, and

their much speaking. x "» .

t>o not, then, resemble in the agony of Getlisemaue he made repetition

them; for God your Q f j^ ^-^ tQ fa Q j leavcn l v Father. It Was tllB

Father knows what _ "

things ye need before heathenish custom,§ which had also crept in
ye ask lum. among the Jews, of sometimes unthinkingly re-

* Indeed, where the general custom
is to stand, as it was among the Jews, it
would be ostentatious to kneel ; and if
Jesus had intended to make a special
hit at the posture, he would have said
kneeling. No posture must be taken
which so attracts attention as to nourish
one's vanity.

f As would seem to have boen the
case with that clergyman of whom a

modern newspaper said, ' ' He delivered
the finest prayer ever addressed to a
Boston atxdience."

\ This distinction is made by Augus-
tine : ' ' Absit ab oratione m ulla locutio ;
sed non desit mvlta preaaUo, si fervent
perseverat intcntio." Ep. 130, 10.

§ A specimen of heathenish vain re ■
petitions is given in the Old Testament^
in 1 Kings xviii. 26.


peating sound, good words, and at other times filling np the sea-
Bon of prayer with the unmeaning repetition of irrelevant and
senseless things. When a clergyman in church, or a layman in a
meeting for prayer, sets before Almighty God a tabular statement
of statistics, or a running commentary on the shortcomings of the
neighborhood, or a resume of the political movements of the
times, telling the Great Ruler how wickedly such a senator is
going to vote if God do not kill him, he is acting hcathenishly,
and Jesus rebukes him in these precepts.

Again, we guard ourselves against the temptation to the Phari-
saic vice of literalism in interpreting Jesus. lie did not proscribe
public worship in his precepts, and he was strictly observant of it
in his conduct. But he does teach that culture of character is
much more important than that of the outward behavior. While
all display should be avoided in public service, there is a still
surer mode of spiritual culture, namely, communion with God
the Father in the profuundest secret, in that place which no one
but God knows to be used as an oratory, at that time when no
one but God knows that the suppliant is praying. Such pniying
recognizes the individual personal responsibility of the suppliant,
for therein he must use the singular personal pronoun when refer-
ring to himself. lie is away from the crowd. lie cannot mingle
his deeds and life with theirs, and thus divide, even in idea, the
responsibility of his actions. lie is alone with God. lie acknow-
ledges the spirituality of true religion. There is no ceremonial,
even the very simplest, to help him. It is the spirit of the man
seeking strength from the spirit of the God. He acknowledges
the spirituality and omnipresence of God. No distance separates
and no darkness hides from the Almighty. While one is praying
here in this closet, another is in that closet, thousands of miles
away ; and both are heard.

It seems to me difficult to overestimate the importance of this
urgent teaching by Jesus of the internalism of true religion as
antagonizing all the extemalisvfb of cultivated Paganism and
ecclesiasticized Judaism. It is what a man is, not what he does,
that distinguishes him in God's eyes. Being right will produce
doing right. Internal piety will certainly produce proper external
worship, but proper external worship does very little towards pro-
ducing true internal piety. The external is easily assumed. Tho
internal is produced with difficulty. Therefore a ceremonial reli-



gion is easily popularized. Men are attracted by the showiness,
and gratified by the pomp. It requires no painstaking of soul
culture. But it does not endure. It cannot be carried beyond
the moment of death. What is not inwrought falls off. Charac-
ter is everything.

It is surprising that the modern church has gone so far from
the teaching of Jesus as to lay almost the whole stress upon forms
and ceremonies; that a "denomination" may be erected on a mere
form, and a whole church be convulsed with a controversy about
mere ceremonials; that one branch of the church, as is the case
with the Lutherans in Germany, should have worship disturbed,
and discord and separations occasioned, on the question whether
the Lord's Prayer, as it is called, which we shall next consider,
should be begun Vater wiser or Unser Vater, " Our Father " or
"Father, Ours!"" If externalism could be banished from all
religion, nine-tenths of all prejudices, animosities, and persecu-
tions would cease.

"the lord's prayer."

And then Jesus furnished a form of prayer, which should be a

model, and show what the spirit and general method of praying

should be. To a critical student of the mind and

Tims therefore pray

ye: our Father, the soul of Jesus there can be no passages in his life
one in the he ; ,ve„ s more important than those which set forth his

hallowed lie Thy Name, x

Thy kingdom come, prayers. A man's prayers are the main and most
Thy win he done, a, in liable ibices of his real character. The posture

heaven so on earth. i

Bread necessary for he deliberately assumes before his God is the

™ te 7r£rTve m,blest and the most gra^ 111 possible to him.
our debts like, as we His uttered prayers reveal him more than his

also have forgiven our , . , ,. ■, ,. mi 1 _c A i

actors. Ana lead us didactic deliverances. Ihe prayers he sets forth
not into trial, but res- to be used by others are his own highest represen-
tation of himself. They show what he believes
God to be, what he believes man to be, and what he believes to be

* This is stated by my learned friend
Dr. Schaff in a note to Lange. In Greek
it is na-r* y rjuwv, Pater haymone ; and in
the Latin, Pater nosier. The German
Lutherans follow that form in Voter
unser, but the German Reformed insist
upon Unser Vater. People who write

quarrelsome books and articles on that
distinction have no need for either form.
It does not much matter at all how they
pray. It would not seem that they
should care anything for the teaching of
Jesus who are so utterly unlike him in


the relation between them. The theological system of Jesus must
therefore be found chiefly in his prayers. The theology he wished
to popularize must be what he embodied in the prayer which he
set forth for all his followers, in all ages of the world. The "ye"
is emphatic, as the form in the Greek shows and implies that
between the praying of the heathen, the " ethnic battology," as he
calls it, and the praying of those 'who belonged to his spiritual
family, there was to be a marked difference.

Brief as this prayer is, it is so pregnant that one scarcely sees
how in a few paragraphs to set forth its wonderful teachings.

First of all, in every sense, is the presentation of God the

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 28 of 77)