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versal brotherhood might be estal)lished. ** When
the Son of man shall come in His glory and all
His Holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon
the throne of His glory and before Him shall be
gathered all nations." Thus we see how pre-emi-
nent was His personality. He was neither Jew,
nor Greek, nor Eoman, and yet all that was dis-
tinctive and characteristic in Jew and Greek and
Eoman was illustrated in Him.

2. Then again he was pre-eminent as to his
ideas of God and man. Let me say that this is
always the test of pre-eminence of nature, large-
ness of idea on these two all-absorbing themes.
The man whd is pre-eminently great and good,
will necessarily have the most ennobling ideas
on these two themes. And you may be very
sure that the instinct in our nature to regard with
suspicion and distrust the Satanic school wdio first
of all, deprive God of His personality, and then
man of his spirit, is ingrained and inborn. It is
the same kind of instinct which the dove has when
the bird of prey comes into sight. If any one
says *' It is only an instinct of self-preservation,"
what of it ? Is not that saying a great deal ? If
there were no lust of sinning in our nature, and
no desire to have doubts enough to allow us to do
it unrestrainedly, there is not an Infidel Lecturer
in the world who could pay his travelling expenses


out of his earnings. The right idea of God is
always an inspiration to a good man ; it is a
restraint, a fetter on an evil man. Jesus Christ
came specially to give us right ideas of the nature
of God and man. The idea He gave us of God
was pre-eminent. No one had ever approached
it. To be able to utter it and live it, gives this
Jesus a pre-eminence as a thinker who personal-
ized his own thinking as no one else ever did.
He gave us an idea of God that made God ** an
absolutely new being to our race." There had
been many attempts to name God, to put the
nature of God into a word, but every attempt had
fallen short of this which Jesus made, and must
fall short, for the reason that it takes a Jesus
Christ to give such utterance to the w^ord
^^ Father'^ as shall make it mean what it does
mean. Words are variable as to their quality and
quantity, according to the quality and quantity of
the speaker. The w^ords of Scripture on your
lips and mine — how poverty-stricken, compared
with the same words as spoken by Jesus of
Nazareth ! So much of religious effort has been
occupied in emptying the words of Jesus of their
spiritual content, that they may be made to fit the
poverty of our ideas. " The thought of an Eter-
nal Father, ruling in love, through righteousness,
towards lovely and righteous ends ^ that thought
of the Eternal, brooding in ceaseless pity, working


in untiring energy in all the units for the good
alike of the single person and the collective race,
that idea was the splendid gift of Christ to man."
There was never any such large idea of God in the
world before Christ came, but since, such ideas
have been struggling into form, and other ideas
wjiich naturally flow from them, and now men
who make no confesssion of mental and spiritual
alles^iance to Christ are often found utterins:
thoughts which had no existence in the speech of
the world in Anti-Christian times. Infidel minds
are sometimes found clothed in raiment of
Christian ideas, and are innocently unconscious
from whence they have plagiarized their clothes.
Indeed, as one has said, *' Christ's idea of God has
so entered into and possessed the spirit of man
that he cannot expel it or escape from it. It is
now His, even in spite of Himself, for ever."

Add to the idea which Jesus has given us of the
nature of God, His idea of the nature of man. In
the Anti-Christian days the noblest man among
the Jews was the chief of the Pharisees or the
chief of the Sadducees. Among the Greeks the
noblest man was the most physically beautiful
man, the Apollo Belvidere was the type of him.
Among the Eomans the noblest man was one of
the type of Julius Coesar, the simply strong man,
the man of achievement, though in order to
achieve he trampled everyone who was in his path


in the dust. How is it now in Christian lands ?
Under the influence of Jesus, the noblest man is
not simply the bravest man, but "the gentlest,
the humanest, the chastest, and the most charita-
ble." It is a new idea of man, and entirely
Christian in its completeness. This kind of man
is man with the lost image restored. This kind
of man must be immortal, for the life of the
immortal God is in him. Why should he die?
He is in harmony with the Universe. Everything
in it conspires to say to him, live ; and to help
him to live. And so the revelation of Immortality
naturally and necessarily comes with the emergence
into being of this Christian type of man. It takes
an immortal spirit to hold in it the idea of

Take one or two other ideas characteristically
Christian which will help us to see how pre-emi-
nently Christ Jesus is the world's greatest thinker
as well as holiest man. The idea of the universal
brotherhood of man ; the idea that love of God is
expressed in service of man ; the idea that the
original image of God, though lost to sight in so
many, may be latent in the worst, a jewel at the
centre of a dung-heap ; — these are ideas floating
up and down the world to-day, and wherever they
enter the soul of man, entering it to stay, and
making men restless until society is harmonized
with these ideas. Many men wilfully refuse to


live under the shadow of this Tree of Life, Jesus
Christ, but unconsciously they are eating of the
fruit of the tree. Viewed intellectually as well as
morally, this Jesus of Nazareth has the pre-emi-
nence. His ideas of God and man are immeasur-
ably vaster than any other ideas which have been
flung into the world's life. Intellectually He has
the pre-eminence.

And yet once more He is pre-eminent as to His
mission in the world. No other ever came on
such a mission ; no other was ever capable of
entertaining the idea of it. The very conception
of such a mission puts Him into the place of pre-
eminence. What was it? To bring a revolted
world back as^ain into alleo^iance. Think for a
moment what that means. Into allegiance — into
such allegiance as is worthy of God to accept, and
of man to give. Not forced allegiance. Not the
allegiance which the conqueror gets when the
commander-in-chief on the other side delivers up
his sword. Not simply the allegiance which the
slave, beggared in spirit as in everything else,
gives to the Master whom he has no power to
resist — No, no such allegiance is unworthy of
a God to receive. Nothing satisfies love but love,
nothing satisfies reason but that which is endorsed
by reason, nothing satisfies sincerity but sincerity,
and so it would be unworthy of God to receive
from man anything short of that sincere, reasona-


ble, intelligent, loving allegiance, which is the only
true allegiance. But we need not complicate the
matter, wherever there is one spark of real love
all else follows. And so we hear our Lord saying
in justification of His receiving the sinning woman,
*'Her sins which are many are all forgiven for
she loved much."

To bring a world into this sincere, reasonable,
intelligent, loving allegiance towards God is the
mission which Jesus the Christ set Himself. It is
either the work of a God or of a madman. But
as a madman could never even conceive of such a
mission, the conception in itself shows the pre-
eminence of the nature in which it dwelt.

The accomplishment of this mission seems to
you and me impossible. Think what is involved
in it. Nay, you cannot. We often use the word
*' regeneration," but we know not what it ini-
plies. It is a word expressing some spirit-
ual process which lies out of the region of our
observation. We know the signs of it, but of
the process we know nothing. When a man
adheres through all temptations and persecutions,
through all the flatteries of prosperity, and the
despondencies of adversity to the Christ of God
as his Eedeemer and Savior, we know that he is
regenerated. When like Job, he says, (meaning
it), *' though he slay me, yet will I trust in him,"
we know he is regenerated. But when and liow.


that we know not. We say, by the power of the
Holy Spirit of God, because it is so revealed, and
because it must be by a power greater than the
human, greater than any power that man can
exert. Yet this is the mission which this Jesus
has undertaken : to regenerate the alienated heart
of manhood, to bring it in loving, glad allegiance
to the throne of God. Knowing what man is,
knowing, as Solomon said ages ago, that ''a
brother offended is harder to be won than a strong
city," knowing how much the human will can
endure and not bend, knowing how even a preju-
dice, when it gets into a human spirit, can hold out
against the strongest arguments, the most forcible
reasons, the most persistent acts of benevolence
and kindness — knowing all this, does it not seem
more easily possible to swing the Universe out of
its orbit, destroy its balance, and bring back chaos
and old night, than to accomplish this restoration
to loving allegiance of the alienated heart of man ?
Certainly this Jesus Christ must see in the deeps
of man's nature more than we see, and He must
know of forces in the spiritual realm, behind this
material realm, stronger and more persuasive than
we know of. Leaving all that is merely specula-
tive, we assert that the very conception of such a
mission puts this Jesus Christ pre-eminently above
all other men who have ever lived on this earth.
The theme is only half finished, not half


indeed, for I have given you nothing more than a
few suggestions, l)ut I must leave it. It is only
a portrait in outline, nay, not so much, only a
few sketchy strokes.

If onXy it helps any human soul struggling into
the light, any soul fighting the billows of doubt
and trying to get to land, to some tcri^a jirma on
which the foot can rest, it will not be in vain that
we have tried to make it clear how in His person-
ality, in the greatness of His ideas of God and
man, and in His mission to this w^orld, this Jesus
Christ was not simply eminent as many men have
been, but emphatically and unapproachably
pre-eminent. A theology of abstract ideas is no
theology at all. It is but the shadow of a
theology. The substance is elsewhere. A theol-
ogy which has not in it, in the place of pre-emi-
nence, the person, the ideas, the mission of Christ
is chaff and not bread. And so while we cannot
measure the nature of Christ, if only we can see
that He is pre-eminent in these particulars I have
specified, w^e have enough for a foundation for all
the religion of which our nature is capable.

I know of but one conspicuous man in the world
of literature, the bitterness of whose malignity
was such as to blind his eyes to all moral and
spiritual beauty and allow him to cry out
'^ Ecrasez V infame'" — Crush the wretch. If
that man lives on in eternity no other punishment


could surely be asked by his bitterest enemy than
that it should be for ever remembered that he
used those words in writing of Jesus the Christ.

Other great sceptics have seen the pre-eminence
and have acknowledged it ; as though God
employed one sceptic to shame another. Even
Eousseau, *'that soul ever floating between error
and truth," lost its hesitation, and with a hand firm
as a martyr's, forgetting his age and his works, the
philosopher wrote with the pen of a theologian a
page which was to become the counterpoise of
Voltaire's blasphemy, and concluded it with words
which will resound throu^^hout Christendom until
the last coming of Christ, *' If the life and death of
Socrates be those of a saint, the life and death
of Jesus Christ are those of a God."

Even Napoleon I. — the embodiment of milita-
ry ism, the old Roman back again in the Christian
centuries, meditating on men and things in the
lonely isle of St. Helena — cannot keep his mind
off this man and His history. The fallen con-
queror asks one of the few companions of his
captivity if he could tell him what Jesus Christ
really was. The soldier begged to be excused.
He had been too busy in the world to think about
that question. *'What! you have been baptized
in the Catholic church and cannot tell me what
Jesus Christ was? Well, then, I will tell you."
Then the man of Austerlitz and Jena began speak-


ing of the great generals and emperors and
conquerors of the world and ended with these
words, "In fine, I know men, and I say that Jesus
Christ was not a man." And so Goethe, the great
literary dandy among men of genius, confesses
Christ's pre-eminence when he says, i' the moral
majesty, the spiritual culture in the gospels can
never be excelled." And so Schiller when he
names the religion of Jesus *'the Incarnation of
the Holy ; " and even Strauss acknowledges His
pre-eminence when he praises Him as the ** su-
preme religious genius of time;" and Eenan too,
diseasedly self-conscious as he ever is, confesses
that He merits Divine rank. And so in all things,
and from all sorts of men, St. Paul's words have
been and are being fulfilled, **that in all things
He might have the pre-eminence." Has He it in
our hearts ? Then to us belongs the joy that St.
Paul felt when he uttered the words — ' ' who hath
delivered us out of the power of darkness and
translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of
His love."


" At the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of
man — Genesis, h.: 5.

THE subject of the Inspiration of the Old
Testament Scriptures has often been in
debate. Such debate every generation of men
has to take part in. It is natural for us to accept
the teachings of those who are in parentage to us,
natural and right. So long as we are children we
are under tutors and governors. These tutors
and governors have to do their duty by us accord-
ing to the best light they have. But the inevitable
period of self-assertion comes. We arrive at the
time when we have a right to our own individu-
ality. The mind is conscious of itself. The
generation ahead of us has to endure oftentimes
a disagreeable amount of self-assertion. Exam-
ine into things for ourselves we must. It is an
anxious time for those who have had the responsi-
bility for us. Our inclination towards scepticism
or faith will depend now upon the moral forces at



the back of us and in us. Our opinions will be
colored by our sympathies. If there be in us a
natural goodness this period of debate is not dan-
gerous. Of many a young man you hear it said
by those who know him best, *'oh, never fear,
he'll come out right." Of others, "I'm not so
sure about him,'* with a significant shake of the
head. There is another kind of young man con-
cerning whom not even so favorable a view as
that is expressed. It is at this period of life that
such questions as that of the inspiration of the
Scriptures come up. And generally external evi-
dence is thought to be that which is necessary to
prove it. And so there is a great marshalling
of facts and evidences which establish the probabil-
ity. At this age the eye is not wide open to the
internal evidence. It is not perceived that that is
the strongest, and that without it all external evi-
dence is well nigh useless. When you see outside
the walls of a building a number of props to keep
those walls from falling, there needs no other
evidence of a bad foundation or wretchedly poor
building. External evidence is often like prop-
ping up an ill-constructed and dishonestly built
house. It is like asking a young student to sup-
ply you with proof that Agassiz was a great
naturalist or that Descartes w^as a great philoso-
pher. Agassiz and Descartes must supply the
evidence themselves ; no one else can do it. And


SO it is always. You cannot prove by any exter-
nal evidence that Beethoven was a great composer,
or Homer a great poet. These men must supply
the evidence themselves. And so you cannot
prove the inspiration of the Scriptures by any ex-
ternal process simply. Nor can you by any
process to the mind not itself capable of receiving
high inspirations. This is forgotten, that the
mind of the individual must be itself capable of
receiving inspiration from that in which inspira-
tion dwells, or all attempts at proof are necessarily

A blind man can receive no impulse from the
verdure of nature, the blush of the rose, the deli-
cacy of the lily, or the blue of the sky. A deaf
man is not soothed when the music of *' Oh, rest
in the Lord, wait patiently for Him,** falls upon
the ear. It finds no entrance to his soul. The
<' Hallelujah Chorus" wakes no triumph in his
heart. And so it is in relation to the inspiration
of Scripture. If it cannot inspire me, move me,
rouse something in me into response, you cannot
prove to me its inspiration. Now when I find a
declaration like this at the very threshold of the
history of man's Ufe *' At the hand of every man's
brother will I require the life of man," I feel the
inspiration. How did this cosmopolitan truth get
there ? If it sprung up out of the soil of man's
nature, then man was in an exceedingly advanced


spiritual condition. Why, we are not up to it
now. It is ahead of all but the most spiritually
minded Christians. No other people are abreast
of it. It is Pauline in its character. It would
not surprise us to find it among the words of St.
John in the ripeness of his old age. But to meet
it in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis, —
it creates somethino^ of the feelino: which arose
in the heart of a friend of mine who in the huts of
a tribe of Maoris in New Zealand came upon a face
like to some of the most beautiful he had seen in
his native Scotland, and addressing her found that
she was Scotch, but how she had got there he
could not discover. And here we find a Christian
truth of the most advanced kind in the opening of
the book of Genesis : a truth which inspires every
inspirable Christian heart, and so proves its own
inspiration. ** At the hand of every man's
brother will I require the life of man."

The terms of the passage are too general to
make any narrowing of them down within family
limits legitimate. They contain the very advanced
truth that every man belongs to every other man ;
that there is but one great human family ; and that
our action is not accordinf]j to the will of God
when it is conducted on lines of exclusion.
Whether we see it or not the fact is everywhere
assumed in Scripture, that that which is good for
the whole humanity is good for each member of it.


Our policy is to be broadly sympathetic. In
church, in state, religiously, politically, every-
where. The charge is put upon us to preserve
human life, not simply our own individual life,
but to do all Ave can to preserve human life
everywhere. And this is every man's duty. I
beseech you to notice how singularly inclusive as
well as how unlimited the terms of this passage
are : — *' At the hand of every man's brother will
I require the life of man — " I know not how
words could be better ordered so as to prevent
any of us finding a way of escape from their

'' The life of man," what is it ? The true human
life, what is it? That which is fitting and proper
to you and me and all men, what is it? Because
that is the life we have to preserve. We are not
allowed to live in the front of great human prob-
lems we never so much as touch with the tip of
our finger. Almighty God will not have that. It
is contrary to His idea of man and His responsi-
bility. Whatever occurs in a community or
nation we have some sort of relation to it ; we
have an interest in it. There was one sublime
moment in the history of the Koman people when
one of their orators lifted the whole crowd to a
higher plane than common as he exclaimed, "I am
a man, nothing that is human is foreign to me."
Overstepping all individual interests and all selfish


feeling, leaping all bounds of place and time, lie
embodied in that one sentence the noblest aspira-
tion that had ever moved in the heart of the
noblest Roman citizen.

But how many, how very many, even now, in
these Christian times, live on a very much lower
plane than that ! How often do we find ourselves
saying, "It's no concern of mine whether people
are this, that, and the other ; if only I can be let
alone to do my own business and enjoy my own
life, that is all I ask." But that is not all that
God asks ; it is not all of which our nature is
capable ; and every man is accountable to God for
the capability within him. We live in a world
indefinitely improveable. In a right condition of
society we live in a world capable of supporting
an almost countless population. Man is here, even
according to his natural endowments, to dress it
and to keep it. Society is capable of being very
diff'erent from what it is. And God has put
upon each generation the responsibility of moving
this world towards a completeness never yet at-
tained, towards an order never yet reached,
towards a sympathetic co-operativeness of man
with man never yet approached.

Now, in this movement the Christian Church
has a very important place to fill, and for this
simple reason that it is the Trustee of the truth
which is to leaven the mass of human opinion and


feeling. If some one else is in possession of more
advanced truth, let them give it us. We have a
right to it. We need it. It has not yet appeared
that anyone has. Much talk has been of recent
years as to the wonderful change which is to pass
over the lot of men generally by the discoveries
of Science. And it would be a very foolish atti-
tude for Christian men to take, — that of depre-
ciating anything which Science can do to improve
the lot of men. But Science is occupied simply
with material forces. It does not pretend to step
beyond them, although it has to do it, but then it
is not strictly scientific. Supposing that every-
thing which the most enthusiastic scientific
optimists predict should come to pass ; supposing
that our material life should have everything
provided to make it comfortable — what does it
amount to ? The telegraph brings us into closer
neighborhood to men at a distance. The telephone
has a similar use. The steam-engine transports
us at a quicker rate from here to elsewhere. The
steam-ship ploughs the main in saucy independ-
ence of the winds without whose favor sailinof
ships can make no progress. There is more of
movement, more knowledge, more stir, more
expenditure of nervous energy. The people who
have nothing to do in the world (so far as
they have made discovery) can move about the
surface of this broad earth more rapidly under the


delusion that they are really doing something.
Facilities for travel have promoted the vagabond
spirit and made it a little more respectable.

The merchant finds his customers in China and
Japan as well as at his own doors. And has to ;
for our very material progress, this very inven-
tiveness for which we are noted, is multiplying
our difficulties. The Secretary of the Treasury
of the United States has just told us in his report
that our manufactures can thrive no longer by
simply supplying the home market. *'We can
produce much more and much faster than we can
consume : the existing iron, woolen, and cotton
mills w^ould meet in six months, perhaps in a
shorter time, all our home demands." Our fields
grow more wheat, and produce more corn, than we
can sell ; our factories make more clothes than
we can wear ; our cattle yield more meat than we
can eat. And yet we are not content, far from it,
our discontent grows with our abundance. We
are verifying on a large scale the truth of the
w^ords that ' ' a man's life does not consist in the
abundance of the things which he possesses." We
need something else than material prosperity, to
make material prosperity a blessing.

It becomes us to make a calm estimate of what
science can do for us ; to note its limitations, and
how soon we reach them. It may give us houses

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Online LibraryReuen ThomasDivine sovereignty, and other sermons → online text (page 9 of 16)