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JESUS CHRIST AND THE
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER



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JESUS CHRIST AND THE
CHRISTIAN CHARACTER



AN EXAMINATION OF THE TEACHING OF JESUS IN

rrS RELATION TO SOME OF THE MORAL

PROBLEMS OF PERSONAL LIFE



BY



FRANCIS GREENWOOD PEABODY

PLUMMER PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN MORALS
IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY



THE LYMAN BEECHER LECTURES

AT YALE UNIVERSITY

1904



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

LONDON: MACMILLAN & CO., Ltd.
1908

Ail rights reserved



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COFYKIGHT, X905,

By the MACMILLAN COMPANY.



Set up and electrotjrped. Published November, 1905.
Reprinted June, 1906 ; July, 1908.



Koitoootr 9rfM

J. 8. Oiuhing Sb Go. — Berwick A Smith Ck>.

Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



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HY DARLING BOY, SO EARLY SNATCHED AWAY

FROM ARMS STILL SEEKING THEE IN EMPTY AIR,

THAT THOU SHOULDST COME TO ME I DO NOT PRAY,
LEST, BY THY COMING, HEAVEN SHOULD BE LESS FAIR.

STAY, RATHER, IN PERENNIAL FLOWER OF YOUTH,
SUCH AS THE MASTER, LOOKING ON, MUST LOVE;

AND SEND TO ME THE SPIRIT OF THE TRUTH,
TO TEACH ME OF THE WISDOM FROM ABOVE.

BECKON TO GUIDE MY THOUGHTS, AS STUMBLINGLY
THEY SEEK THE KINGDOM OF THE UNDEFILED;

AND MEET ME AT ITS GATEWAY WITH THY KEY,—
THE UNSTAINED SPIRIT OF A LITTLE CHILD.






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CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

PAGE

Tub Modern World and the Christian Character . i

CHAPTER II
The Character of Jesus Christ • • • • • 39

CHAPTER III
The Roots of the Christian Character .... 71

CHAPTER IV
The Growth of the Christun Character . • .112

CHAPTER V

The Personal Consequences of the Christun Char-
acter . • 154

CHAPTER VI
The Social Consec'^ences of the Christun Character 196

CHAPTER VII
The Ascent of Ethics 234

CHAPTER VIII
ThI Descent of Faith 265



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JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHRISTIAN
CHARACTER

CHAPTER I

THE MODERN WORLD AND THE CHRISTIAN
CHARACTER

In another volume^ the teaching of Jesus has
been considered in its relation to some of the
problems of modem social life. It is an inquiry
which, in one form or another, forces itself upon
every mind which has, on the one hand, any rev-
erence for the teaching of Jesus, and, on the other,
any understanding of the present age. This is the
age of the Social Question. Never before were
so many people concerned with problems of social
amelioration and programmes of social transfor-
mation; never before were social solutions so
freely proposed or social panaceas so confidently
prescribed. Social institutions which for centuries
have been assumed to be rooted in human nature
or ordained of God are frankly discussed as social
expedients or experiments, to be reformed, trans-
formed, or abolished. Is the institution of the
family to survive the present movement toward

1 ** Jesus Christ and the Social Question," Macmillan, X9oa
B I



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2 JESUS CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

disruption ? Is the institution of private property
to be maintained among the economic changes of
the future ? Is the new social order to arrive by
peaceful processes of evolution, or must the pain
and travail of social revolution attend the birth
of a better world? — such are the questions which
confront all thoughtful persons who observe the
signs of the times.

A similar change in the centre of gravity is
to be observed within the Christian Church.
Where the mind of the Church was once absorbed
by questions of doctrine, it is now devoted to
questions of practice; and instead of a sur-
vival of controversies concerning God, there is a
revival of devotion to the service of man. Chris*
tian convocations which were once preoccupied
with definitions of orthodoxy and refutations of
heresy are now discussing the relation of the
Church to the family, the duty of the Church to
the hand-workers, the application of the Church
to philanthropy, the missionary opportunity of the
Church. A distinguished preacher of the last
generation, being asked whether Christianity was
outgrown, answered that, on the contrary, it had
never been tried. The present age is making this
trial of Christianity. The mighty wind of the
Social Question has swept through the Church, as
through the world, with cleansing and refreshing
force, and has swept away the barriers which once
divided worship from work, the single life from
the social order, the love of God from the love of



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THE MODERN WORLD 3

man, the salvation of the soul from the salvation of
the world. It is the age of the Social Question.^

At such a time one is inevitably led to examine
afresh the teaching of Jesus, and to consider the
applicability of that teaching to modern social life.
Has a teacher so remote from the circumstances of
the modern world any message to give which that
world should hear? Is there in the Gospels, be-
sides their personal and religious inspiration, a
social teaching which is still timely and significant ?
Many a modem mind which had almost abandoned
interest in the Christian religion is drawn back to
it by such questions as these. The theology of
Christianity has lost its grasp on great numbers of
such lives ; the ecclesiastical claims of the various
sects have become simply uninteresting ; the piety
of the Christian mystic has retreated before the
demands of the busy world ; but the world itself,
with its unredeemed masses, its unsolved problems,
its cry for help, is of unprecedented and dramatic
concern ; and those who stand, as it were, on the
shore of the present age and watch the social life
of the time, drifting like a rudderless vessel with-
out course or helmsman, turn with a pathetic eager-

iSo, Kidd, "Social Evolution," 1894, pp. 13, 14: "We are
beginning to hear from many quarters that the social question is
at bottom a religious question, and that to its solution it behoves
the Churches in the interests of society to address themselves. . . .
We have the note sounded in various keys, that, after all, Chris-
tianity was intended to save not only men but man, and that its
mission should be to teach us not only how to die as individuals
but how to live as members of society.''



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4 JESUS CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

ness to Jesus Christ, as to a pilot who is at home
in this uncharted and perilous sea.

When one turns with this new problem to the
Gospels, he discovers with fresh surprise the ex-
traordinary richness and variety of the teaching
of Jesus. Each period in history goes with its
question to the simple record, and finds an an-
swer which seems written to meet the special
problem of the time. In an age of theology the
Gospels were a source of theological doctrine ; in
an age of ecclesiasticism they fortified the Church ;
in an age of emotionalism they kindled the flame
of piety. The same adaptability is now discovered
once more by the age of the Social Question. As
others have found in the teaching of Jesus the key
of doctrine or organization or religious experience,
so there is now delivered by the same teaching to
the mind of the present age a key of the Social
Question. Remote from the condition of the
modern world as was the life of Jesus, and pri-
marily directed as was his teaching, not to social
but to spiritual ends, he has much to say of social
duty. His ethics are not individualist, atomic, a
doctrine of the single soul ; but organic, social, a
doctrine of the common life. ^

This characteristic gives, indeed, to the whole
Bible its freshness, contemporaneousness, and
applicability. The Bible is not only a book of
life, but a book of life in common. "The
Bible," said John Wesley, "knows nothing of a
solitary religion." The stream of the Bible story



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THE MODERN WORLD 5

flows not only through quiet places of personal
experience, but also through a world of social
relationships, as a great river runs through chang-
ing scenes of town and country, society and
solitude, light and shade. One who embarks on
its current finds himself floating down through
political changes, national problems, social reforms,
the sins and repentances of Israel, the needs and
hopes of the Gentile world, until at last this social
teaching issues into the broad, calm current of the
message of Jesus Christ It was not an accident,
therefore, that when Jesus announced the purpose
of his mission, he defined it in the language of the
ancient but still eflFective Law;^ still less was it
an accident that this law was social as well as
religious, the love of one's neighbor as well as the
love of God ; least of all was it an accident that
Jesus said of these two laws, one religious, and one
social, that the second was like the first. The so-
cial teaching of Jesus was the corollary from his
religious faith. The love of God involved the love
of one's neighbor as one's self.

In one of the most striking of his parables
Jesus commits himself unreservedly to this social
mission. Standing among the grain fields of
Palestine, which had often seemed to him the
symbol of his work, he speaks not only of the
grain, the soil, and the sower, but of the scope
and horizon of his hope. The field, he says,
is not restricted, fenced in, local, national; the
^ Deut vi. 5; and Ler. xiz. i8»



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6 JESUS CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

field is the world.^ His message is not personal
only, as in the parable of the soil and the seed,
but comprehensive, expansive, universal. Beyond
the Palestinian valleys, beyond the mountains that
shut in the North, and the strip of sea touched
with the Western light, stretched the field of his
social dream. " Neither pray I for these alone,"
says the fourth Gospel in the same spirit, "but
for them also which shall believe on me through
their word. Fortheirsakes I sanctify myself."^ It
was the comprehensive, generous dream of a conse-
crated society. The field is the world.^

It may be not unreasonably urged that, in this
transfer of interest, there is grave danger of mis-
interpreting the teaching of Jesus. He was, we
are reminded, not a social agitator, but a religious
teacher ; not a reformer, but a Revealer ; not pri-
marily concerned with social conditions, but with the
life of God in the soul of man. His social ideal was
not of an industrial order, but of a Kingdom of
God. Whatever his social teaching may have been,
it was but a by-product of his religious mission.
All this is obviously true ; and no misinterpreta-
tion of the Gospels is more superficial than that
which describes the work of Jesus as essentially that
of a labor leader, an anarchist, or a social revolu-
tionist* It must be remembered, however, that a

1 Matt xiii. 38. • John xvii. 19, 20.

• Compare also HomiUHc Review^ May, 1904, pp. 330 ff. F. G.
Peabody, " The Social Teaching of Jesus Christ."

* Renan, " Marc-AurMe," 1882, p. 598 : '' Le christianisme



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THE MODERN WORLD 7

by-product, though in itself subordinate, may have
peculiar adaptability to certain conditions and
needs; and even though the social teaching of
Jesus be not his supreme concern, it may be an
aspect of his message which for the moment claims
attention. There are many paths which lead to
the understanding of Jesus; but the path of his
social teaching is, for the present age, the path
which is most open. Here is where the thought
of the time happens to be. The foreground of
human interest is for the present occupied by
social problems, and the way to any contemporary
interpretation of the Christian religion is not to
be found by going roimd the Social Question, but
by going through it. It is,, therefore, quite super-
fluous to consider whether there may not be other
ways which might lead more directly to the truth
of the Gospels. What must be frankly recog-
nized is the fact that a new way of approach is

fut, avant tout, une immense revolution 6conomique." ''Vie
de J6sus," 13th edition, 1867, p. 133: **Une immense revo-
lution sociale, ou les rangs seront intervertis, . . . voiUi son rdve."
So, Nitti, " Catholic Socialism," 1895, pp. 58 ff. : " Poverty was an
indispensable condition for gaining admission to the kingdom of
heaven." Rade, " Die sittlich-religiose Gedankenwelt unsrer In-
dustrie- Arbeiter," 9th Evang. Soz. Kongress, 1898, ss. 103 ff . :
"Christ was a revolutionist, like thousands now living." "A true
friend of working people, not with lips alone, like his followers,
but with deeds." ''He was persecuted as the Social Democrats
are persecuted now." '* To-day he would have been the greatest
of socialists." Compare H. Kohler, ** Sozialistische Irrlehren von
der Entstehung des Christentums," 1899, ss. 9-16; and F. G. Pea-
body, " Jesus Christ and the Social Question," p. 26, note ; p. 65.



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8 JESUS CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

prescribed by the conditions of the time. Other
paths open before the thought of other generations ;
but straight before the age of the Social Question
lies the social teaching of Jesus Christ The
modem mind must start from the point where it is,
and must proceed by its own path to its own form
of Christian loyalty and service.

When, however, one frankly commits himself to
this recognition of social redemption as the im-
mediate problem, both of the world and of the
Church, a further question presents itself to which
the age of the Social Question is now called to
reply. Though it be true, as the title of a book,
which is itself a sign of the times, affirms, that
the world is the subject of redemption,^ it is still
left to inquire what shall be the means of that re-
demption, and what instrument of social service
can be permanently effective. Here is a question
which must be answered before a campaign of
social service can be wisely undertaken. It is in
vain to enter upon a modern war until one is
equipped with modern weapons. It is impossible
to redeem the world without a well-considered
plan of redemption. What, then, is the weapon of
social amelioration which must be antecedently
provided before the age of the Social Question
can fulfil its task ?

No. sooner does one ask this question than he
is confronted by two theories of social progress,

iFremantle, "The World as the Subject of Redemption,'*
2d edition, 1895.



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THE MODERN WORLD 9

which are often regarded as irreconcilable com-
petitors. Social amelioration may be sought, on
the one hand, through external, mechanical, and
economic change ; or, on the other hand, through
spiritual, ethical, personal renewal. It is the
perennial issue between environment and person-
ality, the world and the individual. Does the
world make the person, or does the person make
his world ? Is personality the product of circum-
stances or are circumstances the instrument of
personality? Is the secret of social progress to
be found in better social conditions, or are such
conditions unredemptive unless met by better
men ?

The first answer now offered to this question
is the answer of externalism. The Social Ques-
tion has been interpreted as a consequence of
external maladjustments, and relief has been sought
by revolutionizing the conditions which are de-
humanizing and unjust. How can people, it is
asked, become better in character, if they are not
better fed and housed and clad ? How can the soul
be saved if the body is starved ? The Social Ques-
tion, it is urged, is a " Stomach Question." ^^ Man
ist was er isst^ Conditions create character.
Change the conditions of industrial life, establish a
living wage, supplant the rule of the capitalist by
the rule of the hand-worker, create circumstances
fit for a human life, and the better human life will
spring out of the better soil.

This answer of externalism was soon fortified



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lO JESUS CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

by the philosophy of socialism. The spiritual
condition of any civilization, it was taught, is
the corollary of its economic system. Given the
industrial order of a land or time, and one may
prophesy what shall be its ethics or art or
domestic life or religion. Character is the product
of circumstances. Social revolution must precede
ethical progress. " Religion is a mirror in which
is reflected the prevailing social condition. As
society develops religion is transformed. . . .
Both religious and moral conceptions spring from
the contemporary circumstances of human life." ^
"The bourgeois moralist . . . holds fast to the
old fallacious standpoint, according to which in-
dividual good men make healthy social condi-
tions, rather than acknowledge the truth that it is
healthy social conditions which make good men." ^
Abolish, therefore, the institution of private prop-
erty, transform the machinery of society, emanci-
pate women from domestic bondage; and from
the new circumstances thus created will emerge
new moral capacity, as surely as the moral degra-
dation and social discontent of the present time
have been the consequences of the competitive
system.^

1 Bebel, << Die Frau und der Sozialismus," 1891, ss. 314, 315.

* Bax, "The Religion of Socialism," 1886, p.x i " Socialism breaks
through these shams in protesting that no amount of determination
on the part of the individual to regenerate himself . . . will of
itself aflect in aught the welfare of Society."

•Marx, "Zur Kritik der polit. Oekonomie," 1859, Vorwort,
s. xi: "The form of material production is the general cause of



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THE MODERN WORLD II

There is unquestionably much in the modem
world which appears to justify this application to
society of the philosophy of materialism. Many
conditions of modem life are almost prohibitive of
morality. Precepts of chastity are mocking words
to dwellers in one-room tenements; exhortations
to patience find few listeners when children are
hungry and work is slack. Many processes of
modern industry convert the worker into a de-
humanized fragment of the machine at which he
works. The moralization of industry is an essen-
tial part of the Social Question. It does not, how-
ever, follow from these solemn facts that the only
key of social progress must be found in external
changes, or that favoring conditions are sure to
make good men. On the contrary, most great
transitions in social welfare have occurred, not
through mechanical, external, or economic changes,

social, political, and spiritual processes. It is not consciousness
which detennines conditions, but, on the contrary, social condi-
tions which determine consciousness." Compare Bernstein, " Die
Voraussetzungen des Sozialismus," 1899, s. 5; and Masaryk, *'Die
phil. und socioL Grundlagen des Marxismus,'' 1899, s* 93* ^ ^^
J. A. Hobson, "The Social Problem," 1901, p. 140: "To preach
that each individual can, by his own private conduct, contribute to
the solution of a social problem is a barren gospel." C. H. Kerr,
"The Central Thing in Socialism," p. i : "TtWmcAowj^ou^gtwhtX
you eat and I will tell you what you are. In other words, the laws
and customs of a people in any stage whatever, . . . grow out of
the way in which the people get their food, clothing, and shelter."
The issue is clearly described by Arndt, " Die Religion der Sozialde-
mokratie," 1892, ss. 9 fF., with many references. See also "Jesus
Christ and the Social Question," p. 18, with references.



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12 JESUS CHRIST AND CHRISTIAN CHARACTER

but through personal initiative, moral or intellec-
tual leadership, mastery of circumstances by force
of character. The story of Christianity, of Protes-
tantism, of Greece, of Germany, of New England,
is not one of favoring conditions accepted, but of
hostile conditions conquered, the victory of the
mind or will or conscience over the flesh or the
world.

If this be true of history, it is still more
obviously true of the social movement which char-
acterizes the present age. The social ferment of
the time is most inadequately described when it is
regarded as the sheer consequence of evil condi-
tions, or as proceeding altogether from material
desires ; and it is one of the most unfortunate acci-
dents of history that a philosophy derived from
Neo-Hegelian materialism should have filtered
down into the popular creed and have obscured
the real nature of the working-class movement.^
What gives pathos and power to the modem Social
Question is not the economic programme which it
proposes, but the human note which it utters, of
sympathy, pity, justice, brotherhood, unity. The
sense of discontent is most conspicuous, not where

1 F. Engels, " Ludwig Feuerbach u. der Ausgang der deutschen
klassischen Philosophie," 1888, s. 68: ''The German workingmen's
movement is the heir of the German classic philosophy.'' Schaffle,
"The Impossibility of Social Democracy," tr. 1892, pp. 32, 33 : " Its
philosophy is in reality the offspring of the subjective speculation
of HegeL Three important Socialists were followers of this
philosopher's school, Marx, Lassalle, and Proudhon. . . . But the
grass has long grown upon the grave of Hegelianism."



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THE MODERN WORLD 1 3

social conditions are at their worst, but where they


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