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the justification of St. Paul's mission to the Gentiles. The latter
portion of the parable — about the jealousy of the elder brother —
may more reasonably be treated as a later attempt to vindicate
Gentile Christians against Jews or Judaizing Christians : but there
is no necessity for the supposition. The parable fits the case simply
because it asserts the eternal principle upon which the mission to
the Gentiles was founded (Luke xv. 11-32).



122 Conscience and Christ

forgiveness our Lord was only pressing a point very
familiar to the highest rabbinical morality of Christ's day,
though doubtless there were some things in that teaching
— as in much later Christian teaching — which were quite
inconsistent with it.

(3) Self-sacrifice. Jesus insisted much upon the import-
ance of self-sacrifice. It is obvious that, if \;e are really to
do what is best for our neighbours and not for ourselves
alone, this must involve — in the actual conditions of any
human society — much sacrifice of self. But the necessity
has not always been recognized — even in theory. Jesus
pushed His insistence upon it to the point of making it the
characteristic note of discipleship to Himself — the
characteristic requirement for admission to the Kingdom.
This principle was so fully grasped by the very earliest
disciples that it is difficult to say which of the sayings
attributed to Jesus represents the earliest form of His
teaching. It may well be thought that the saying about
taking up the Cross and following Him was formulated
by those who knew by what form of death He liad died,
even if we suppose that His anticipations of a violent death
had amounted to inward certainty. This portion of the
saying is probably a traditional expansion in the light of
subsequent events, though it is barely possible that the
cross may have become the recognized phrase for a shame-
ful death before it became the consecrated symbol of self-
sacrifice through the death of Christ.^ But the rest of the
famous saying there is no reason to doubt, " If any man
would come after me, let him deny himself."- So again,

* See passages from classical and rabbinic literature quoted by
Archdeacon Allen on Matt. x. 38. Luke gives the saying a meta-
phorical application to ordinary life by adding the word " daily "
(ix. 23).

' Mark viii. 34 ; Matt. xvi. 24-26.



The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 123

" Whosoever shall seek to gain his life shall lose it, but
whosoever shall lose his hfe shall preserve it."^

On this subject I will quote the words of Mr. Montefiore,
who has so nobly resisted the temptation — necessarily
strong to a Jewish interpreter — to minimize the originality
of Jesus. " Then come the two simple Greek words
aTrapv-qarda-du) eavTov, ' let him deny himself.' Here again we
have what is practically a new conception. Self-denial was
not unknown before Christ ; but the clear conception of
it and the ideal which it suggests were, I think, new, 2 and
they in their turn have exercised an immense influence
upon men's thoughts, aspirations and actions. More
restricted, but not less intense, has been the effect of the
next words : ' let him take up his cross.' The true
follower of the Master, in proportion to the perfection of
his discipleship, must endure and renounce, suffer and
die " (The Synoptic Gospels, I, 211).

(4) The Danger of Riches. The particular kind of self-
sacrifice to which Jesus called His first disciples was
determined by the needs of His mission. The hardships
imposed upon His disciples were especially those involved
in preaching the Kingdom of Heaven — the more so as it
eventually became clear to Him that in all probability the
accomplishment of that mission would involve death for
Himself, and imminent peril of death for His immediate
followers. On those whom He called to this work of
preaching He laid the specific requirement that they should
abandon — at least for the time — their homes and occupa-

1 Luke xvii. 33. It may be that the primary meaning of gain-
ing the soul or the life is " to be saved at the Messianic Judgement " ;
but none the less the ethical principle is laid down that self-sacrifice
is demanded for entrance to the Kingdom. As to our Lord's
teaching about reward, see below, p. 290 sq.

^ The Buddhistic ideal of Self-renunciation was different, see
below (p. 266).



124 Conscience and Christ

tions and lead the life of itinerant missionaries.* Some
who were rich He advised that they should sell all they
had and give to the poor.- His teaching was full of the
dangers of riches. Luke's version of the Beatitude,
" Blessed are ye poor," is probably nearer the original
idea than Matthew's " poor in spirit,"^ though we are told
that the Aramaic word will cover both meanings — " poor "
and " poor in spirit." " It is easier for a camel to go
through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter
into the Kingdom of God."* That is a saying which, just
because of its paradoxical character, is among those least
hkely to have been invented, whatever we may think of
the attenuated explanation in Matthew — " how hardly
shall they who trust in riches." The principle is strikingly
illustrated by the parables of the rich fool and of Dives
and Lazarus. ^ The difficulties involved in these passages
I shall consider in the next lecture.

(5) Humility. Closely connected with the inculcation
of self-sacrifice is the insistence on Humility. ^ The duty
of Humility — properly understood — is indeed only an
application of the doctrine of Love. In Aristotle's picture
of the " high-souled man " the feature which revolts us is
not that " he thinks much of himself being worthy,"
though Jesus might have suggested the doubt whether he
was altogether so worthy as he thought himself, but rather

^ Matt. X. I -1 5. It is probable that the Commission to the
Seventy in Luke is a variant of the Commission to the Twelve in
Matthew. The details of both these discourses have probably been
more or less coloured by the later experiences of the first Christian
missionaries.

* Matt. xix. 21.

' Luke vi. 20 ; Matt. v. 3.

* Matt. xix. 24 ; Mark x. 25 ; Luke xviii. 25.

' Luke xii. 16 ; xvi. 19. Cf. also Matt. vi. 19-34.
' Matt, xviii. 1-4 ; Matt. xix. 13-14, etc.



The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 125

his intolerable arrogance and contempt for others. ^ By the
man who really loves his neighbour as himself, the excel-
lences of others will be as highly esteemed as his own ;
their sins and deficiencies will be to him a subject of
genuine pity and regret, not of ostentatious self-congratula-
tion and haughty isolation. That Jesus recognized this
connexion between Humihty and Love, is, I think, clear
from His whole treatment of the subject. " He that is
greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and
he that is chief as he that doth serve." ^ True great-
ness consists in social service : there is one kind of
ambition which He does not deny to His disciples —
the ambition to serve much. The oft-repeated ex-
hortation to become as little children refers, ^ I think,
not primarily to the simplicity, guilelessness and other
real or supposed virtues of childhood, but rather to
th^ insignificance of children — with possibly a suggestion
that those who wish to enter the Kingdom should, as
children have to do in poor families, be much engaged in
the service of others.* These sayings are invitations to
self-subordination and social service rather than to
simpHcity or child-Hkeness of character. In condemning
grasping, self-assertive, pushful ambition, Jesus was only
carrying on one of the characteristic features of later
Jewish morality.



1 "The high-souled man justly despises" (others). "He is
ashamed of receiving a benefit," for that impUes inferiority. " To-
wards those in power or prosperity he is haughty, but to the lesser
people condescending" (yti^rptos), etc. (Nic, Eth. iv. 3).

2 Luke xxii. 26.

3 Matt. xix. i3-i4=Mark x. i4=Luke xviii. 16 ("of such is
the Kingdom of Heaven ").

* So in the Middle Ages the child habitually waited at table, and
even the sons of the rich were brought up as pages in the house-
holds of Bishops or great secular Lords.



126 Cofi science and Christ

One reason for humility recognized by our Lord is that
it is a necessary outcome of love to one's neighbour. But
another ground on which Jesus could not have approved
Aristotle's " high-souled man " is His strong sense of
human imperfection, of the need for self-condemnation,
repentance, and humility in the sight of God. " None is
good, save one, even God."^ The true moral ideal is so
high that no one can self-complacently suppose that he has
attained it. Of Humility on this side the noblest expres-
sion is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-gatherer.*
The same principle underhes the condemnation of cen-
sorious condemnation of others which is contained in the
maxim " Judge not " and the saying about the mote and
the beam. 3

(6) The Christian Good. The duty of love means the
duty of promoting the true good of Humanity, and in its
practical applications it will vary enormously according
to the interpretation which is given to that true good. In
the teaching of Jesus the importance of the spiritual — of
conduct, of character, of motive, is everywhere insisted
upon, while at the same time there is no ascetic dis-
paragement of ordinary human happiness. Happiness is
not despised, but the chief good which the Christian lover
will seek to realize for the loved is to make him also a lover
— a lover of God, a lover of all that is good, a lover of
his fellow-men. This principle has perhaps been suffi-
ciently insisted upon in our analysis of the sermon on the
Mount, but I should like here to quote a fine passage from
Professor Royce's recent book on the Problem of Chris-
tianity. Professor Royce has mastered, as it seems to me,
the true essence of Christ's own moral teaching in a way

* Mark x. i8=Luke xviii. 19.

* Luke xviii. 9-14.

^ Matt. vii. I, 2 (=Luke vi. 37) ; Matt, vii. 3 ( = Luke vi. 41).



The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 127

which hardly any professed Philosopher has ever done
before : —

" But now let us return to the relation of love to the
services that one is to ofer to one's neighbor. What
can the lover — in so far as Jesus describes his task —
what can he do for his fellow-man ?

" To this question it is, indeed, possible to give one
answer which clearly defines a duty to the neighbor ;
and this duty is emphasized throughout the teaching of
Jesus. This duty is the requirement to use all fitting
means — example, precept, kindhness, non-resistance,
heroism, patience, courage, strenuousness — all means
that tend to make the neighbor himself one of the lovers.
The first duty of love is to produce love, to nourish it,
to extend the Kingdom of Heaven by teaching love to
all men. And this service to one's neighbor is a clearly
definable service. And so far the love of the neighbor
involves no unsolved problems."^

(7) Purity. One special application of the last principle
— the superiority of the spiritual to the carnal — upon
which Jesus insisted much was on the side of sexual
Morality. The licentious thought was condemned no less
than the licentious act ;2 and He went beyond the letter of
the Jewish law in condemning divorce, which was still
common though some Rabbis condemned it, and by
imphcation polygamy, which was practically unknown
among the Jews of that time.^

It may be desirable to say a word about the connexion
between Christ's central doctrine of Love and His principles
of sexual Morality — all the more so because this is one of

1 I, 85. I should like to quote the whole chapter. I must add
that in other directions Professor Royce's interpretation of Chris-
tianity seems to me seriously defective. * Matt. v. 28.

^_Matt. xix. 3-10, etc. (see above, pp. 104-5).



128 Conscience and Christ

the few cases in which intellectual doubt as to the basis
of a moral duty is probably a very frequent cause of moral
transgression. What then is the true answer to the
question " Why is fornication wrong ? " The duty of
abstaining from fornication springs, I believe, from these
two principles taken together — the duty of love, which
includes respect, for every human being, and the superi-
ority of the spiritual to the carnal. Extra-matrimonial
intercourse is degrading to the woman. That it is in-
trinsically degrading to the woman to be used for the
satisfaction of the lusts of a man, and not with a view to
a permanent union in which she is to be treated as the
equal companion of the man and the mother of his children,
is one of those truths which are intuitively perceived. All
judgements as to the nature of the good are of this
character : they must be apprehended by our judgements
of value. That the vast majority of men do thus judge is
made plain enough by the attitude which the most hcen-
tious man of the world would instantly assume towards
the seducer of a sister or a daughter, and by his contempt
for immoral women. If a man accepts the principle that
every human being is equally to be treated as an object
of love, entitled to his or her share in whatever is truly
good, entitled to be treated as a " brother or a sister " or
(in more philosophical language) as an end-in-himself , then
he cannot justify the treatment of another woman in a
way which would arouse his utmost indignation if any
woman he really cared for were so treated by another.
And the obligation to treat every other woman as he would
wish his sister to be treated is not altered by the fact that
weakness or poverty or vanity or sinful inclination may
make her a willing victim. The man who accepts Christ's
principle is bound to promote the true good of every other,
not to gratify all his actual desires. It may be added



The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 129

that in a vast number of cases the wrong inflicted on
the woman is not merely the moral degradation but the
first step on the road to ruin in every sense of the word.^

(8) Repentance. The very idea of an absolute duty^
implied in all the teaching of our Lord — carries with it the
duty of repentance where there has been a violation of duty.
Or to put it otherwise, our Lord taught that sin is the
worst of evils, and a recognition of that truth necessarily
brings with it sorrow for sin — both for positive external
wrong-doing and for any failure in love. Obvious as these
deductions are, they have not always been actually drawn
in practice. There is nothing about repentance in
Aristotle, not very much in Plato ; more no doubt in
the teaching of the Stoics, though the proud self-sufficiency
of that school hardly favours a penitential attitude of
mind. The insistence upon the necessity of repentance, and
upon the closely connected doctrine that God will forgive
wherever there is sincere repentance, was one of the great
points upon which the Jewish prophetic teaching most
clearly goes beyond the moral level of the ancient world.
And here the doctrine of the Rabbis was quite faithful to
the best traditions of Judaism,^ though there are many
things about the necessity of ritual expiation on the great
day of the Atonement and otherwise which are hope-
lessly inconsistent with this doctrine. In the teaching of
Jesus the necessity for repentance was absolutely central.

* Those sexual immoralities to which these considerations do
not apply are equally condemned by our immediate judgements of
value, and here we are able to appeal to a very general con-
sensus. There are some pleasures which do not form part of true
human good, and everyone is bound to promote his own true good
as well as that of others.

* " Nothing can be proved by more abundant and overwhelming
evidence than that the conception of God as forgiving from free
grace was a fundamental and familiar feature of the Pharisaic
religion, just as it still remains so " (Montehore, Syn. Gospels, I, 79).

K



130 Conscience and Christ

Even those who most one-sidedly insist upon the eschato-
logical character of Christ's teaching admit that the
necessity of repentance for entrance into the Kingdom was
from first to last as prominent a feature of His message as
the proclamation that the Kingdom was at hand.^ The
noblest expression of this necessity is the parable of the
Pharisee and the Publican with its emphatic declaration
that the repentant sinner was justified rather than the
self-complacent observer of the Law.^

The modern depreciation of repentance is a note either
of superficiality or of cant. Professor Oliver Lodge's much-
discussed declaration that the modern man has no time to
think of his sins is really one of the most unwise things
that was ever uttered by an able and religious-minded man.
If a man's will is not wholly directed towards the good, he
must hate and condemn himself in so far as his will is bad ;
and he cannot do that unless he knows himself, unless he
reflects on his bad actions and sorrows over them and the
character which they reveal, and deliberately resolves to
turn from them. If the man believes in a perfectly righteous
Being whose Will is identical with the law of his Conscience
(so far as that Conscience sees truly) — a Being from whom
he has alienated himself by his transgressions— iiis sorrow
will be deepened, and will assume the form of a desire for
reconciliation with that Being, which will most naturally
express itself in confession and prayer for forgiveness,
restitution, change of will. Repentance is only the reverse
side of the turning towards good. It is not complete, it
cannot exist, without effort after amendment. And this is
a truth which is everywhere taught by Jesus. It is implied
in the parable of the Prodigal Son^ whose willingness to
become as one of his father's hired servants was already an

* Mark i. 15= Matt, iv, 17.

' Luke xviii. 9-14. ' Luke xv. 11-32.



The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 131

act of amendment. It is the especial point of the parable
of the two sons. The son who " afterwards repented and
went " had begun to do the will of his father. ^

(9) The duty of making others better. The necessity of
repentance was a prominent feature of rabbinic teaching.
That was also to some extent the case with another impHca-
tion of the doctrine that the most valuable element in
the good life is goodness itself, i.e. the duty of promoting
that good in others, and of encouraging repentance in those
who lack it. The prophets had both by example and
precept set forth the importance of making other men
righteous, and so had the Rabbis. But it may be doubted
whether by any of them this duty had been emphasized
as it is emphasized in the teaching of Jesus. When once
it is recognized that the Kingdom whose advent was fore-
told was an ethical and spiritual Kingdom, a new heaven
and a new earth wherein was to dwell righteousness, the
eschatological character of the teaching only adds additional
emphasis to this supreme duty — the promotion for others
of a good wherein righteousness is the most important
element. From this point of view all the parables of the
Kingdom, whatever subordinate aspects of it they are
intended to teach, become so many emphatic assertions of
this duty.

The specially characteristic application of this principle
which we find in Jesus is His insistence on the duty and
blessedness of bringing sinners to repentance. The
importance of righteousness is a common note of all high
moral teaching, but it has often been accompanied by
much contempt of sinners and a disposition to avoid them.
Christ pitied the sinner and sought to move him to repent-
ance. And this is no more than a logical deduction from
these three principles — the duty of love, the doctrine that
^ Matt. xxi. 29.



132 Conscie7ice and Christ

sin is the worst of evils, the possibility of repentance and
amendment even for the worst. The teaching of Jesus is
full of this idea. It will be enough to refer to the parable
of the lost sheep and the memorable paradox " I say
unto you that even so there shall be joy in heaven over
one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and
nine just persons who need no repentance."^ The truth
that repentance is never impossible — and that when
there is a full repentance, no punishment is called
for or will be demanded by God — is illustrated by the
parable of the labourers. " I will give unto this last even
as unto thee."- The whole life of Jesus, His association
with the " tax-gatherers and sinners " whom the correct
religious world despised, was an illustration of it — a side of
His teaching sometimes forgotten by the extreme " Eschato-
logists " who complain that our Lord taught no Ethics of
permanent value. If they think that the ethical principle
which underhes such a mission to the morally lost is
suitable only for an " Interimsethik," that is their doctrine,
not the Christ's. On this subject Mr. Montefiore remarks :
" So far as we can tell, this pity for the sinner was a new
note in religious history " (Syn. Gospels, II, 574).

(10) The sin of casting stumbling-blocks. The heinous-
ness of the sin involved in putting a stumbling-block in
the way of others, particularly of the little ones, the

^ Luke XV. 7 ; Matt, xviii. 13 (Luke adds the parable of the
lost piece of silver, xv. 8). The thought can only be understood
literally if it be assumed that the righteousness of the ninety and
nine was merely external righteousness or at least an easy righteous-
ness helped by favourable circumstances, which implied less good-
will than the repentance of the sinner. But this is too prosaic a
way to treat the parable. Matthew perhaps did not like this
disparagement of the righteous which he found in his source (Q)
and omitted it.

* Matt. XX. 12-14.



The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 133

simple and the weak, is only a particular application —
a negative application — of the duty of helping others to
avoid sin.i And this leads on to the more general principle
— the intrinsic value of the lowliest soul, for all are capable
of goodness, however narrow their sphere of action and
however small their intellectual capacities. " See that ye
despise not one of these little ones ; for I say unto you that
in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my
Father which is in heaven." ^

(11) The danger of hypocrisy. Much of the moral teach-
ing of Jesus is concerned not so much with the enforcement
of particular duties as with the importance of goodness in
general — the good will itself. This carried with it a special
emphasis on the wickedness of hypocrisy^ — the besetting
sin of religious people in a community in which piety was
at a premium, a passport to social recognition and import-
ance. This is the principle which underlay His denunciation
of the Scribes and Pharisees. Here again those who
complain of the "interim" character of Christ's in-
junctions seem unable to distinguish between the im-
mediate and the permanent application of His sayings.
Scribes and Pharisees are always with us, though in the
modern world hypocrisy may often assume forms strangely
different from those common in first-century Palestine —
especially the form of an " inverted hypocrisy " which sets
up claims to a greater emancipation from moral restraint
than the pretender really believes in or is prepared to put
into practice. Much contemporary literature is steeped in
this kind of hypocrisy. The interim for which, according
to some, Christ's Ethic was suited, has certainly not come
to an end yet.

1 Matt, xviii. 6, 7 ; Mark ix. 42 ; Luke xvii. i, 2.

' Matt, xviii. 10.

» Matt. vi. 1-6, 16-18.



LECTURE IV

OBJECTIONS TO THE MORAL TEACHING
OF CHRIST

I PROPOSE in the present lecture to consider
some of the objections which are most commonly
made to the moral teaching of Jesus. We have seen
that the fundamental principle of Christian Ethics, as
laid down in the teaching of Jesus Himself, resolves
itself into the general principle of impartial love to-
wards all mankind. 1 I have already pointed out that
nothing is more characteristic of Jesus than the
generality or universality of His teaching, and that
it is this characteristic which makes it possible for the
teaching of One who lived in a petty, not very ad-
vanced community of the ancient world, to be accepted
as the basis of a universal morality and a universal
religion.

At the same time it is essential to recognize that our
Lord did not actually limit Himself to the teaching


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