Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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universe of God, and the human race occupying this planet. In
the latter it means ceon, age, sera. The whole phrase* means the

* The phrase here is 7jTe'\eia rov
aiwvos. In Hebrews ix. 2G, Paul uses
the phrase, (ruvTe\eta tow aidvuv, the

juncture of the ages, the moment of

passage from one a;ra to another.

I Trench thinks "the phrase equivalent


coming together of aeras, the joining of their ends, the conclud-
ing end of one and the opening end of the other.

In this phrase there is nothing whatever which implies or in-
sinuates the destruction or end of either this planet or its inhab-
itants. There is very plainly indicated a great transition epoch,
when one cycle ends and another begins, and this juncture of
the aeras is marked by an epoch of vast changes in the constitu-
tion of tliing-s. It will be the harvest-home of the kingdom of
the heavens. Until that time no man, and no set of men, must
undertake the weeding process to cast the evil out. It cannot be
done. " Lest gathering together the tares ye root out the wheat
with them." Obviously Jesus believed that the world was not
so much hurt by the existence of evil men as it was benefited by
the existence of the good. It is better to permit an evil man to
reside in a community, a church, a society, a town, than by mis-
take to destroy a good man. The faith of Jesus in the goodness
of goodness is both beautiful and sublime. It rested upon an-
other thought. The evil is to be destroyed at the end of this
aeon and the beginning of the next, whenever that shall be. The
destiny of the evil is to be destroyed. The destiny of the good
is to be preserved.

At the conjunction of the ages the Son of Man will send his
reapers forth officially, and he will direct them what to do. Here
Jesus assumes to himself the final supervision, and accomplish-
ment by the agency of angels, of the destiny of the evil and the
good. He will direct what shall be done with them.

The evil are to be dealt with first. Wherever in any part of
his kingdom, — " the kingdom of the heavens," — there are any
who are baits to others, enticing them to evil, or any who make
lawlessness, teach or practise disregard of the laws of the king-
dom of the heavens, they are to be separated from all the good.
That is the first process. Then these evils and these evil people
will be assorted. All shall not be destroyed alike. Every man
is to be judged and punished " according to his works." There
are "few stripes" and "many stripes." There is discrimina-
tion and assortment. " Bind them in bundles for their burning.'"
Augustine sees this, and teaches that sinners shall be punished
together. " Hoc est, rapaces cum rapacibus, adulteros cum adul-

to tho t(Xtj twv aidfwv of 1 Cor. x. 11, the | the one and the commencement of the
extremities of the two aeras, the end of I other."




teris, homicidres cum liomocidis, fares cum furibus, derisorea
cum derisoribus, similes cum similibus ; " that is, robbers with
robbers, adulterers with adulterers, murderers with murderers,
thieves with thieves, scorners with scorners, like with like.* Then
these bundles are to be thrown into a furnace of fire. The weak
shall burst into wailing, and the fierce wicked ones shall gnash
their teeth in rage ; but they shall be destroyed. This intimates
the most fearful anguish in the process of destruction. Then,
when whatsoever and whosoever offends, or causes to offend, shall
have been destroyed, — shall have been rolled away like a dark
cloud, — the righteous shall blaze forth gloriously in the kingdom
of their Father. Until which time let no man undertake the
work of excision and destruction. It is the prerogative of the
Son of Man, and shall be accomplished at the juncture of the
seras, when " this age " shall end and " the age to come " begin.
And yet, with such plain teaching set before the world by Jesus,
and in face of the corroboration, by the history of the whole
world, of the utter impracticability of infallible judgment as to
the character of men, some called Christians have insisted upon
persecution for opinion's sake, making a man an offender for a
word, until at some period of the church's history ecclesiastics
have become morbid heresy -hunters. For instance, Aquinas, who
in the thirteenth century won the name of the Angelic Doctor,
taught that the prohibition is binding only when there is danger
of plucking up the wheat while extirpating the tares, as if Jesus
had not expressly taught that that danger is always and will be,
while this asra lasts. John Maldonatus, a Spanish Jesuit of the
sixteenth century, taught that the householder was to determine
whether such danger existed, and he added, that as the Pope is
the representative of that householder, he must be asked whether
or not the tares shall be removed. Upon which he addresses to
all Catholic princes an exhortation to imitate these slaves of the
householder, so that instead of having to be urged to the work of
rooting out heresies and heretics, they will rather need to have

* Dante, "the dark Italian hiero-
phant," represents that among other
spectacles in hell he saw one moving
flame, divided at the top, and was told
that it contained Diomed and Ulysses,
• ' who speed together now to their own

misery, as formerly they used to do to
that of others." The Old Testament
Scriptures give this intimation repeat-
edly. " That man perished not alono in
his iniquity." "The deceiver and the
deceived are Uis." Job xii. 16.


their r.eal restrained ! So totally has what is called " The Church"
misrepresented the teaching of Jesns.

Having now the invaluable help of the Great Teacher's method
of explaining his own parables, let us apply it to all that follows.

The next is the Parable of the Seed growing in secret. In that
the commentators have found great difficulties. They say that if
the man who sows the seed is Jesus, then the par- Explication of the
able seems to disparage him, — " something is at- Patient Husbandman,
tributed to him which seems unworthy of him, less than to him
rightly appertains, — while if, on the other hand, we take him to
mean those that in subordination to himself are bearers of his
word, then something more, a higher prerogative, as it would
seem, is attributed than can be admitted to belong rightly to any
save only to him." * Another f says that this parable "is another
and imperfect version of that of the tares, only with the circum-
stance of the tares left out ! " As to the first, the question is- set-
tled. Jesus says that he is the Sower. If that distinct declara-
tion of his cannot be made to consort with his pictorial represen-
tations of truth, it cannot be helped by even an archbishop. He
was not careful to preserve the unities, and a German doctor
must bear it. He spoke with the freedom of a soul too large for
mere rhetorical rules. Why should commentators be so careful
for the reputation of Jesus ? As to the second, the slightest ex-
amination would have shown the learned author that this is an-
other version of the parable of the tares, as Othello is another
version of Hamlet, when, of course, "the circumstance" of Ham-
let is " left out." That of the tares teaches one thing, this an-

This parable sets forth that the seed of the kingdom, the word
of God, the germ of truth, is under the great system of law per-
vading the universe. The truth grows of itself. All a man can
do is to plant it. He need have no worry, no excessive anxiety.
It will grow. The Son of Man, Jesus, has cast seed into the
ground, and whatever he may know of all the secret processes of
nature beyond what men know, the seed he plants can grow no
otherwise than, and will certainly grow just as, the seed of the
most unlearned fanner grows. That is to say, it is part of the
universal plan, and obeys the universal law. Jesus does not pro

* Trench, in his treatise on the Para- I f Strauss, Lcben jesu, vol i., j*
bles. I GG-1L


fess to give his words an unnatural element. He will wait. The
seed of God will surely grow day and night. Every part of ita
development is beautiful in its season, the blade, the ear, and the
full corn at last. It is an impressive lesson of faith and patience.
Then we have the Parable of the Mustard-seed. We need no
fanciful interpretation of this parable. It plainly means the ex-
Expiication of the tensive growth of the principles of the kingdom
Mustard-seed. £ t j ie heavens from the small bes-innings of the

obscure life of Jesus. He professed to plant that little seed in
the field of the world. The planting took place in one of the
most obscure corners of the field. It consisted of some spoken,
not written, words, uttered to a few ordinary people, and coming
out of a life of moderate length, only one-eleventh of which was
spent in public. He had such faith in the power of his own
words that he predicted the time when they should be so exten-
sive in their influence that the utterances of no other man should
be as potential. And that prediction is this day fulfilled. The
parable and its fulfilment shows what ])rodigious results God ac-
complishes with what apparently slender resources.

From setting forth the extensive growth of the kingdom of the
heavens by the propagation of truth, Jesus proceeds to conclude

this series of parables by teaching the intensive
Lea^f Catl ° n ° f thB g row th of truth. This kingdom is like hidden

leaven. It is a small body when compared with
the three measures of meal, but it is more than a match for the
mass of inert substance in which it is hidden. The meal has no
effect on the leaven. The leaven instantly attacks the meal. It is
a vivid, restless, transforming agency. It seizes the particles of
meal next to it and changes them to leaven. It converts the use-
less into an ally. There is now more leaven and less unleavened
meal. This process goes forward until the whole mass is leavened.
It is a noiseless process. No one sees it, no one hears it ; but just
as certainly as if the work were performed in the sight of all men,
and with blare of trumpets, the great change goes steadily forward.
Placed in contact with humanity, the truths of the kingdom will
go forward changing that humanity by a potency peculiar to itself.
It will cover humanity and take the whole world, not by over-
powering, or conquering, or subjugation, but by transforming the
world, and converting the mass of inert humanity into a vigorous


Thus did Jesus set forth his ideas of the nature of the kingdom
of the heavens when addressing multitudes, and thus did he ex
plain his teaching; to his disciples in private when

, , -,. r- t • i i • Similitudes.

they sought an explication or his dark sayings.
And teaching his immediate followers he adds these other para-
bles, or " similitudes," as Origen says they should be called. (1)
" The kingdom of the heavens is like to a treasure hidden in the
field, which a man having found he hid, and from the joy of it
goeth and selleth all that he hath and buyeth that field." (2)
" Again the kingdom of the heavens is like to a merchant seeking
good pearls, and having found one pearl of great value, he went
and sold all that he had and bought it." (3) "Again the king-
dom of the heavens is like to a drag-net, cast into the sea, and
gathering of every kind, which when it was full they drew upon
the shore, and having sat down, they gathered the good into ves-
sels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be in the end of the age :
the angels shall come forth and separate the bad from the midst
of the righteous, and shall cast them into the furnance of fire.
There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

After the method of Jesus in explaining his parables, it would
seem that these similitudes should contain no difficulties. And
they do not, to simple minds. There is not a particle of difficulty
except to such as have the old barren idea of churchism, to which
all things must bend. Jesus is talking about something much
higher and deeper than church ; he is talking about the kingdom
of all ages and all heavens. He presents it again in three ways.

1. In the Parable of the Treasure, it is as if a man walking
over the field, which may seem to him barren and worthless, all
at once comes unexpectedly upon a treasure, which
so enhances the value of the field that everything
else in comparison with it seems worthless. "The
field is the world." The kingdom of the heavens is the treasure.
It is this which makes the world so valuable. It is in the world.
Men do not see it. They are like unlettered rustics who walk
over a field and perceive nothing. The chemist, the botanist, the
geologist, the tnining engineer, come into the same field, and they
see a thousand beautiful and valuable tilings; and the geologist
and engineer perceive traces of coal or copper, or silver or gold,
exhibitions or promises "1" riches such as Australia and California
never presented. [low rapidly the field appreciates! Just so is

The Treasure in ths


it often with men who, not expecting it, have such a sudden rev-
elation of the glory of the reign of God in the world. Then the
world becomes vastly precious to them.

The basis of this parable was a fact common to society in the
East, not only in the days of Jesus, but in this day. Curious ex-
plorers of oriental ruins have obstructions in their work created
by the belief of the natives that they come to carry away vast
treasures from the country, the existence of which had somehow
become known to these travellers. In ancient times, when there
were rapid changes of dynasties, men adopted methods of invest-
ment unknown to modern times. It is said that they divided
their estates into three parts, one of which was put into commerce
for current use ; another converted into costly articles, which were
easily portable and salable in all countries, so that, if obliged to
fly, these would be their means of support ; and the third they
buried, so that if they returned to their own land they might And
their riches again. As in the changes of this mortal life many a
man did not return, there were frequent occasions when treasure
would be found. Idling peasants often sighed for the discovery
of great riches, and so many romantic incidents would necessarily
be connected with the burying and the finding of these treasures,
that they occupy no inconsiderable space in oriental literature.

Jesus meant to teach, (1) That the reign of changeless principles
occupying God's universe and pervading God's eternity is incom-
parably valuable. (2) That its existence is what gives value to
the world, which would otherwise be worthless. (3) That men
sometimes have these great truths revealed to them as by an
inspiration, and all true men are excited with gladness thereat.

2. But there are men who are seeking the valuable, the most

precious, and they find it in this kingdom. This truth is set forth

in the Parable of the Pearl-buyer. It is necessary

The rcarl-tuyer. . , . , ,

to recollect the great esteem in which the ancients
held the pearl, and the great sums often given for a single perfect
pearl. The two pearls which Cleopatra proposed to dissolve in
acid, in honor of Mark Anthony, were valued at 10,000,000 ses-
terces, or about $390,000 in gold. But the value depended upon
several things, such as size, form, color, and purity of lustre. It
was rare to find a pearl that united all the good qualities, and
when found it was of great price, of so great price as to stimulate
elaborate counterfeiting. It was worth while sometimes to invest


all one possessed in a single pearl. There was less fluctuation in
its value than in that of other commodities in the world's markers.
So Jesus likens the earnest truth-seeker to the pearl-merchant.
lie finds the most costly truth in the kingdom which Jesus was
preaching. As men come to see and know the value of these
truths, all other things will become comparatively valueless. They
will seek this. They will give up everything else for this. The
possession of this truth is the gaining of an everlasting fortune.

3. Again, this kingdom is likened unto a drag-net. Such a net
is loaded with lead at the bottom, to sink it into the sea, and fur-
nished with cork at the top, which floats it, and

, •in \ -1-1 i • i The ^rag-net.

then carried tar out, as on the Jinglisn coast some-
times half a mile, and brought round with a sweep that takes all
in and pulls all to the shore. Such a drag-net is the kingdom
of the heavens, not the church. It sweeps the sea of life. It
gathers in all the good fish and all the bad. It might be likened
to the sea itself, but that Jesus desired to convey again a very
deep, important lesson of this kingdom, namely, that at the end of
the current age, at the period when this cycle shall come to its
conclusion, at the moment when another cycle shall be at its be-
ginning, then there is a discrimination, judgment, separation crisis,
and that this separation shall be followed by the destruction of
the wicked. Fishermen sit on the shore and throw away upon the
sand all fish that cannot be sold in the market. And the fish die,
rot, disappear. Xow it is to be remarked that Jesus teaches the
doctrine of the final destruction of the wicked at the end of this
seon, but connects with it the idea of suffering, teaching us that the
wicked shall not rot away out of the universe painlessly, but shall
be as if a man were cast into a furnace, when there should be pain
in the process of destruction, pain which should vent its expres-
sion, according to the character of the sufferer, in weak wailing or
in terrific grinding of teeth.

When Jesus had said these things he asked his disciples if they
understood them, and when they said "yes," he added, "On this
account every scribe disciplined for the kingdom of the heavens,
is like to a man, a housemaster, who throws forth from his treasury
new things and old." That is to say, that all who are to be ex-
pounders of the truth must be themselves trained to it, and then
must be, like householders, bringing forth whatever those who are
the taught need, old things and new things. The truths of the


kingdom will perpetually expand to the soul's vision as they are
studied. The truth is no worse for being old ; but if a man sup-
poses that there will never be new revelations of truth he is
sadly mistaken. It has always been a part of the injury which
the race has suffered from churchism, that it has been taught that
the limit of the knowledge of truth can be definitely fixed by one
set of men for all men, and by one generation for all succeeding
generations, so that a church may say in a council that such and
such a thing is semper et uhique, always and everywhere the truth,
and whosoever does not see it and acknowledge it to be truth,
" let him be accursed."

Every man disciplined for the kingdom pours out, to those
whom he is in turn disciplining, all things new and old ; old truths
in new developments of science and human experience ; and thus
the truth, to the teacher's mind, is as old as the hills and as fresh
as the flowers that grow thereon. And thus the word "ortho-
doxy " comes to be the contempt of the wise and the horror of the
good, for it no longer means " right thought," but the edict of an
overbearing and dogmatic and narrow self-conceit. The ortho-
doxy of to-day may be the heterodoxy of to-morrow. Thinking
which is right on the plane of the discoveries of to-day may be
most wrong on the plane of the discoveries of to-morrow. A wise
man holds on to all valuable truth bequeathed him by the ages,
and seeks to gather something new to add thereto for the benefit
of those who shall succeed him. Research into the laws of the
whole expanse of the kingdom of the heavens is as much taught
as research into that small section we call the animal kingdom,
the vegetable kingdom, or the mineral kingdom. New things are
useful ; and so are old things.



About this time occurred one of those seasons of excitement in
■which the populace showed a disposition to make Jesus king, and
hasten his revelation of his Messianic, powers. ,, „ ... „ , .

* Matt. vin. ; Mark iv. ;

These popular paroxysms were always so man- Luke vUL, ix. Jesus
aged by Jesus that they should create no outbreak, had no pohUca -
and thus connect his name and mission with the ephemeral poli-
tics of his nation. No man can be a great moral teacher and a
politician. Politics are for a day ; morality for eternity. It
seems utterly impracticable to make any satisfactory conjecture
as to the political opinions of Jesus, whether he was Ilerodian or
anti-Ilerodian. He would have absolutely nothing to do with
these questions. So, when another burst of excitement came, he
directed his disciples to accompany him to the other side of the

A certain scribe, an official expounder of the moral law, came
to him and said, " Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
He may have amplified this short speech into a

. . r . . , A political follower.

statement or his views of the position and pros-
pects of Jesus, or there may have been something in his mannci
which showed that he had ulterior designs, or else Jesus read his
character at a glance. The reply shows that the Teacher under-
stood precisely the spirit in which the statement was made by this
new disciple. " The foxes have lairs, and the birds of the heaven
have places of shelter ; but the Son of Man hath not where he
may lay his head."

It is supposed that Jesus adopted the name The Son of Man
with reference to the prophetic vision of Daniel (vii. 13), and
because all other titles of the Messiah had been perverted to fos-

* Into Perea. The eastern side of
the lake of Gennesaret and of the
river Jordan was called "beyond."

Hence its Greek name "Perea," which
means "beyond."


ter the worldly expectations of the Jewish people, and because it
comported at once with the humility of his position and the dig-
nity of his character. The scribe was willing to endure for a few
days, or even a few months, the roving life which Jesus had
adopted, expecting that the great Leader would soon ascend
the throne of David, and then those who had shared his poverty
would share his glorious fortunes, lie was as cunning as a fox,
and doubtless felicitated himself on his sharpness of calculation
and superior skill in reading the signs of the times.

The reply of Jesus is graphic and touching, and perhaps by its

figures had reference to the cunning and the " fugitive character "

of the scribe's enthusiasm. He did not mean to

Jesus discourages him.

say strictly that the Son of Man had no sleeping-
place, for he had at this very time some friends who devoted
themselves to looking after his personal comfort, and, so far as we
know, he w r as never without a night's lodging, except when lie
voluntarily set apart a night to devotional vigils. He simply
meant that he had no fixed place of residence, a comfort enjoyed
by even the lower order of animals. It w r as a solemn warning to
the scribe, that if he joined his fortunes to those of Jesus he
would become a homeless wanderer, as the Son of Man had given
himself to a life of perpetual voluntary poverty. Whether the
scribe became a " disciple," in the stricter sense, we have no
means of knowing. Lange suggests that this was Judas Iscariot.
But it is a mere hypothesis, suggested by the characteristics of
Judas displayed by this scribe.

Another of the followers of Jesus, called quite generally " dis-
ciples," said to him, " Sir, permit me first to go and bury my

father." Jesus replied, " Follow me, and leave

A hard saying. L #

the dead to bury their own dead : but go thou and
preach the kingdom of God." It is not said who this person was.
A church tradition, which can be traced to Clement of Alexan-
dria, in the third century, says it was Philip, which cannot be cor-
rect, as he had already been called. Lange suggests Thomas, but
this is only conjectural. It is not important. But the lesson of
Jesus is. What did he mean ? The request of the follower seems
natural, and even dutiful. The Jews buried their dead.* Great

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 36 of 77)