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and for others. They are far higher and more valuable
than mere pleasure, though not so valuable as good-
ness or willingness to do one's duty. Knowledge is
good, but love is better. So much is a clear deliver-
ance, as it seems to me, of the enlightened moral

(b) It must be admitted that Christ did not ex-
plicitly insist on this side of the moral ideal. There
is, indeed, nothing against it. Unlike many of the
sterner moral teachers, the prophets of righteousness
or enthusiasts of humanity, our Lord never depreciated
intellect or culture or the love of beauty. There are,
indeed, traces of the love of natural beauty in His
teaching : "I say unto you that even Solomon in
all his glory was not arrayed hke one of these." ^ We

^ Matt. vi. 29^ Luke xii. 27.

Objections to the Moral Teaching of Christ 165

must remember, too, that our Lord was well acquainted
with the only literature which was practically within
His reach — the Old Testament and a few books
belonging to the post-canonical literature of Judaism.
Among the Jews alone in the ancient world, outside
the countries affected by Buddhism, was there a
system of popular education : and the teaching of
Jesus implies a higher culture — even on the strictly
intellectual side — than is sometimes admitted. There
is no opposition to Culture in our Lord's teaching : but
it is, of course, vain to look for any such sense of the
high value of purely intellectual activity, of secular
literature, of Art, of Science and Music as we find
in the literature and philosophy of Greece and

And to say this involves the admission that the
ethical teaching of Christ does require development,
and that it can only be accepted as a final and perma-
nent ideal for the modern world on the understanding
that such a development is to be allowed. The mere
scantiness of the record by itself involves the admission
that many rules of conduct are necessary for the
guidance of human life which are not explicitly
contained in the teaching of Jesus — rules that were
necessary even then, and others that have become
necessary now. Some such rules are simply pre-
supposed by the teaching of Jesus. There was no
need to speak of them just because they were suffi-
ciently recognized in the Old Testament and the

i66 Conscience and Christ

current moral teaching of the time^ ; and others must
be developed out of His teaching if it is to be made
adequate to solving the actual problems of a modern
Society. The very idea of a detailed code of morals
suitable to all conditions of society is an obvious
absurdity and impossibility. The details of morality
must necessarily vary from age to age.

If Jesus had, indeed, put forward a set of rules which
claimed to prescribe in detail the conduct suitable for
all nations, all classes and all individuals in all future
periods of the world's history, it would be a perfectly
reasonable thing to say that the modern world could
not accept such a code. The attempt to guide our
conduct by such a code would put a stop to all social
progress, and would be fatal to the moral Ufe itself,
which at its highest implies that men should be con-
tinually acting upon their own judgement, using their
own moral and intellectual faculties, basing their hves
upon their own sense of right and wrong. That our
Lord never attempted to communicate to the world
such a code of Ethics, we have already seen. What
He did was to lay down a few great principles. These
principles, I have contended, do appeal to the moral
consciousness of the present as essentially true, and
as the foundation-stones of all true Morality.

In detail the principles require infinite expansion.

* still more obvious is the probability that what would be
remembered would be the more revolutionary element in the
Master's teaching.

Objections to the Moral Teaching of Christ 167

application, development, in accordance with the
growing experience of the race, and the altered needs
and circumstances of successive ages. To effect this
development is, according to the true idea of it, the
work of the Church of Christ — that religious com-
munity which should be the highest organized expres-
sion of the enlightened Christian consciousness of the
time.i The development began so early that the most
minute criticism can hardly draw the line with precision
between the authentic utterances of the Master and
the development which they received in the conscious-
ness of the Church. Belief in the continuous activity
of the Holy Spirit in human hearts and human
society is the necessary complement and corrective of
the doctrine of a unique Revelation of God in a single
historical Personality. Only on condition that that
doctrine is firmly held and duly insisted upon can it
be morally healthy — as I believe that, subject to that
condition, it is morally healthy and expedient in the
highest degree — to put the historical Christ in the
centre of our ethical as well as of our religious life, and
to make the imitation and the following of Christ into

^ Father Tyrrell, after noticing the authority which may be
claimed by any good man, goes on to say, " Such too in kind,
though indefinitely greater in degree, is the authority of the Church,
that is, of the Saints and of all good men gathered round and
organised into one society under Christ, the Incarnation of Con-
science. It is as the formulation of their collective experience that
Catholic teaching commends itself to my reverence and assiduous
meditation" {Essays on Faith and Immortality, p. 22). No words
could better express the right relation between the three great
authorities — Conscience, Christ, the Church,

i68 Conscience and Christ

the supreme concrete expression of our ethical ideal.
The Christian Church has accepted and expressed that
principle by making belief in the Holy Ghost and in
a Holy Catholic Church into articles of its Creed side
by side with beUef in an historic Son of God. ^

* " La Vie de Jesus et I'Histoire de la redaction des £vangiles
sont deux sujets qui se penetrent de telle sorte qu'il faut laisser
cntre eux la limite indecise, au risque de paraitre se contradire.
En r6alit6 cette contradiction est de peu de consequence. Jesus
est le veritable Createur de I'fivangile ; Jesus a tout fait, meme
ce qu'on lui a prete : sa legende et lui-meme sont inseparables :
il fut tenement identifie avec son idee, que son idee devint lui-
meme, I'absorba, fit de son biographic ce qu'elle devait etre "
(Renan. Les Evangiles, p. 204). The passage is quoted with approval
by Mr. Montefiore, Syn. Gospels, I, p. lix.




It may be well at this point briefly to examine a few of
the minor and more detailed objections which are made in
various quarters to the ethical teaching, and in some cases
the character, of our Lord :

(i) The Unjust Steward (Luke xvi. i-8) . The author of The
Diary of a Church-goer writes (p. 211) : " Which of us has not
been conscious of something like a gulp in accepting the
parable of the Unjust Steward ? If the fraud of the Steward
is not approved it is certainly not reprobated. We are left
with an uneasy consciousness that we are invited to admire
the clever trick of escaping suffering through the success of
a dishonest manoeuvre." It seems to me that this objection
entirely misses the point of the parable. That point, as
I take it, is just what is expressed by our Lord Himself in
the words " The children of this world are in their genera-
tion wiser than the children of light " ; they show in the
pursuit of their selfish and worldly ends a contrivance,
a foresight, a common sense which the men of better
intentions and higher aspirations too often fail to show in
the pursuit of their higher ends. It is probable that the
words were spoken by our Lord with more or less special
reference to the use of wealth for purposes of Almsgiving.
Wealth spent in this way will meet with its due reward in
the Kingdom of Heaven. Certainly this is what was
intended by the Evangelist, who adds to it a number of


170 Conscience and Christ

sayings, perhaps originally independent, on the same
subject : " Make to yourselves friends out of the mammon of
unrighteousness " (Luke xvi. 9), etc. Wealth may be used
in such a way as to secure something much better and
more durable than wealth. Our Lord would hardly,
perhaps, have thought of asking whether this reward — the
" everlasting habitations " — was to consist in goodness
or in happiness : had He asked it, it would (if we may
judge from His general teaching) have said " both." If
happiness is not a worthless thing, is there anything to
object to in such teaching as this ? On the whole subject
of our Lord's teaching about reward and punishment, see
Appendix II.

(2) The parable of the Householder (Matthew xx. 1-15).
The same writer continues : " In the parable of the House-
holder and his Servants we are not exposed to so severe
a strain, but we are still uncomfortable at the apparent
inequity of the remuneration of the labourers. We
do not allow, in judging the conduct of our fellows
to-day, that the plea of contract is an answer to all
complaints ; whilst the doctrine involved in the question
' Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own ? '
is repudiated altogether as inconsistent with the obhga-
tions of morality which bind us in the disposition of what
is legally wholly under our control." The author goes on
to say (p. 212) : " Enough of these captious criticisms.
Let them be so called. I have no pleasure in them. Their
strength lies in the claim of flawless perfection which
provokes them, and against which a single fault is fatal.
Considered by themselves, they are insignificant: they are
lost in the beauty and the loveliness which break through
the narrative of acts and words contained in the Gospels."
How far I claim " flawless perfection " for the teaching of
Christ will sufficiently have appeared from the preceding

Objections to the Moral Teaching of Christ ijl

lectures. Assuredly there is nothing in this parable to
detract from it. Christ was not thinking of the question
how labourers were to be paid or of any other economic
problem. What he was denouncing was the claim that
those who accepted the call to discipleship earher in the
day should have a reward greater than those who accepted
it later. ^ (" What shall we have, therefore ? " they asked
on another occasion.) He rebukes the commercial view of
Morality which this spirit implied. " God," He tells them,
" does no wrong by offering to those who repent at a later
date the same full and free forgiveness which was offered
to those who repented and became disciples earher." " \i
you insist on discussing the question in the terms of
ordinary commercial justice," He may be supposed to
suggest, " this involves no wrong to the later comers."
Would the writer really insist that God is bound to pro-
portion reward in this life or the next exactly to the
number of years of good service in the past, and not to
the actual and present moral condition of the person ?
Undoubtedly there are questions about the proper reward
of labour which lay wholly beyond our Lord's mental
horizon or beyond what He would have regarded it as
His province to deal with — questions as to which it would
be in vain to look for guidance in His teaching. But would
the writer say that, even in the light of the coldest modern
economics, an employer of labour, having paid to his
employee the stipulated wage (assuming it to be whatever
we understand by a just wage) was forbidden voluntarily,
out of profits which he might justly have retained, to
provide a club-house which should be open equally to his

^ It may be that the Evangelist means to suggest that the
Gentile was now spiritually on a level with the Jew. Our Lord, so
far as there was any special application in His mind, would rather
be thinking of the " publicans and sinners " as compared with the
Pharisees and other respectable religious persons.

172 Conscience and Christ

oldest and his newest employees ? If a body of modern
workmen were to make such conduct the motive for a
strike, I feel sure that the author of The Diary of a Church-
goer would be against them. Of course it might be argued
that these conventional notions about Justice and Benevo-
lence, about money which I am bound to pay and money
with which I may do what I hke, do not represent the
highest moral ideal ; but that objection can hardly be
urged by those who insist that the owner of the Vineyard
was bound to make pay exactly equal to work done. If we
are to argue the matter on grounds of economic justice,
the argument of the owner is a good one : if we say " these
ideas of economic justice do not represent the highest
Morality," then the objection has no relevance : the
argument was addressed to people who accepted these
ideas, and had never heard of Socialism. The lesson sought
to be conveyed is simply " Admittance to the privileges
implied by the Kingdom of Heaven is the free gift of God :
you must not be jealous because they are offered to others
who have done less for it, as you think, than you have
yourself." Would the writer seriously maintain that such
jealousy would be the note of a high morahty, and that
a man who had gone to heaven after twenty years of a
good Christian hfe would be justified in complaining if he
found someone else there who had only been a Christian
for ten ? After all, the lesson meant to be taught by the
parable is only " God forgives the past freely when there
has been sincere repentance : the Pharisee must not
expect a higher place in the Kingdom than the converted
Publican." Well may Loisy remark : " Au fond la
parabole est la meme que celle du Fils prodigue."^ He
^ Evan. Syn., II, 229. Loisy regards Matt. xx. 16 ("So the last
shall be first and the first last " — the conclusion of the verse is
omitted by the best MSS.) as a saying not originally connected
with the parable (found also in Matt. xxii. i.^).

Objections to the Moral Teaching of Christ 173

adds that the teaching of this parable must be balanced by
others which speak of higher and lower places in the
Kingdom (e.g. the parable of the talents, Luke xix. 11-27 ;
Matt. XXV. 14-30). Mr. Montefiore, who is assuredl}^ no
official apologist, pronounces this parable " one of the
greatest and most glorious of all."^ Much the same
lesson is taught by the parable of the Servant, concluding
with the words " Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all
the things that are commanded you, say. We are un-
profitable servants ; we have done that which it was our
duty to do " (Luke xvii. 10) — which Mr. Montefiore
pronounces to be " a highly noble, notable and important

(3) The cursing of the fig-tree (Matt. xxi. 19 ; Mark
xi. 12-14, 20). The same writer treats the cursing of the
fig-tree as an exhibition of '* petulance " (p. 209). There
is a general disposition among critics to regard the whole
story as a misunderstanding or materiahzation of the
parable of the fig-tree. The story of the miracle occurs in
Matthew and Mark : and is omitted in Luke, who inserts
the parable (xiii. 6, 7. But cf. Matt. xxiv. 32 ; Mark xiii.
28). Even apart from this, there would be Httle ground
for accepting the saying by anyone who rejected the
miracle, and surely a writer who so freely criticizes the
morality of Christ is not Hkely to accept as historical a
miracle of this character. It will be observed that in
Matthew the miracle is exaggerated. In Mark it was on
the return journey that the fig-tree was found to be
withered : in Matthew it withers " immediately."

(4) The cleansing of the Temple. Other writers have
criticized the violent cleansing of the Temple. Our Lord's
conduct on this occasion cannot be understood without
bearing in mind His conviction that He was the Messiah of

^ Syn, Gospels, II, 700.

174 Conscience and Christ

His nation. It is impossible here to discuss the exact
sense in which the claim was made or the grounds which
justified the claim :^ it is enough for our present purpose to
assume that He identified Himself in some sense with the
Messiah of Jewish prophecy and expectation. As such He
would naturally regard Himself as free to act in the way in
which the Messiah was represented in prophecy as acting.
The sight of the profanation would remind Him of the
passage in Malachi (iii. 1-3) about the Lord suddenly
coming to His Temple and purifying the sons of Levi.
The thought would occur to Him : " Is not someone called
upon to protest against these things ? And who more so
than I, if I am indeed the Messiah ? " Nay, might not any
Jew, conscious of a divine call to preach righteousness,
conceive that he was justified in correcting what he
regarded as a flagrant breach of the Mosaic Law ? Can we
say that such a one was not justified in committing what
possibly from the point of view of Roman (hardly perhaps
of Jewish) Law may have been an illegality, as a means of
protesting against what Jewish Priests and Rabbis must in
their conscience have admitted to be inconsistent with the
divine Law supposed to be contained in the Old Testa-
ment ? That the rebuke went home, is evident from the
fact that the interference was, for the moment, quietly
submitted to ; though it was, of course, the act which
eventually provoked the arrest and crucifixion. As an
illustration of the fact that " Criticism " can sometimes be
as rash in its assertions as Orthodoxy, I may mention that
I recently read an otherwise able Unitarian sermon in
which it was assumed that the " scourge of small cords "
was used on the owners as well as on the beasts. Of this,
of course, there is no suggestion in the text, and it is ob-
servable that the scourge is only mentioned in the fourth
* I have said what seemed to me necessary in Lecture II.

Objections to the Moral Teaching of Christ 175

Gospel. The Synoptists do not say exactly how the
dealers were "cast out."^

If we do venture to conclude (which I for one should not
do) that in the light of full knowledge of all the facts,
the course adopted by Jesus was not the ideally best course,
it will be because : {a) in the light of subsequent events
and the inspiration vouchsafed to Christ's Church, we are
able to see that Jesus was Messiah in a higher sense than
the prophets conceived, and that not all the details of
prophecy could properly be taken as precedents for His
action, or (b) because we do not conceive of the inspira-
tion of the Law and the prophets in the way in which they
were commonly understood in His day,^ and which to
some extent — to some extent only, for He was far from
giving a very literal interpretation to them — He shared ;
or lastly (c) because we may have a stronger sense of the
importance of social order in matters of this kind. There
was nothing in the spirit or motive or principle of His
action which does not appeal to the modern conscience as
in accordance with the highest Morality. It does not
follow, of course, that a modern man, full of the spirit of
Christ and thoroughly accepting the principles of His
action, should in an analogous case (so far as there can be
an analogous case) act in precisely the same manner.

(5) Alleged harshness : the words to the Syro-Phcenician
woman (Matt. xv. 26 ; Mark vii. 27). There are a few
cases in which our Lord is alleged to have shown a harsh-
ness not in accordance with the spirit of His own teaching

1 Matt. xxi. 12 ; Mark xi. 15 ; Luke xix. 45 ; John ii. 15.

* Perhaps we ought to add that this difference would carry
with it some conclusions which were outside of our Lord's mental
vision, as to the importance of civil order and the proper relation
of the civil government to the ecclesiastical. But we must remember
that the pohce of the Temple belonged to the Sanhedrin, and they
were both a religious and a secular authority, basing their whole
polity upon the Old Testament.

176 Conscience and Christ

at its best. In particular there are the words addressed to
the Syro-Phoenician woman : " It is not meet to take the
children's bread, and cast it to the dogs." I do not think
that here we can quite accept the conventional explanation
that our Lord was only assuming the tone of one con-
temptuously rejecting the woman's petition with a view
to a trial of her faith. On the other hand, we need not see
in them a piece of personal harshness, an actual defect of
character. This incident may possibly represent a moment
in the process of Jesus' emancipation from the ideas of His
environment. He was, as it were, talking aloud to Him-
self. The woman asks Jesus to heal her : He says : " Can
it be really part of the Father's will that I should use the
powers which He has given me, for the benefit not of
Israel, the children of God, but of those whom Israel has
always regarded as no more than mere outcasts ? " The
woman's humble acceptance of the situation, her plea to
be accepted as one who can hope for the leavings, as it were,
of God's promises to Israel makes it easy for Him to decide
the question in her favour. And thereby, perhaps, the
mind of Jesus was led one step onwards in the road to that
recognition of God's equal love of all men to which it is
clear that He ultimately attained. Progress in moral
insight there must certainly have been in Christ's case, as
in that of all other human beings, if we accept the Evangel-
ist's statement that " Jesus advanced in wisdom and

So far I have assumed the trustworthiness of the
narrative. At the same time I may remark that it is open
to some suspicion, not because it is connected with a
narrative of miraculous cure, but because it presupposes
a kind of miracle much more difficult to understand than
most of our Lord's cures, which were by present, personal

^ Luke ii. 52.

Objections to the Moral Teaching of Christ 177

influence. Alleged cures from a distance are open to
peculiar suspicion. Still, we are hardly entitled to treat
the saying as altogether without historical foundation.
Loisy remarks : " En soi, I'incident n'autorisait pas la
predication de I'Evangile aux paiens. II est vrai seule-
ment que la presence de Jesus en terre paiienne, dans une
maison qui est sans doute habitee par des paiens, et ou il
revolt I'hospitalite, temoigne, comme sa reponse touchant
la purete des mets, qu'il ne partage aucunement les
scrupules pharisaiques sur les relations avec les etrangers "
{^van. Syn., I, p. 971).

The words " I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of
the house of Israel " are in Matthew only (xv. 24) and
possibly represent the ideas of the Evangelist as to the
personal mission of Christ (see Loisy, I.e., p. 973) : he was
not of course opposed to the Gentile mission in his own
days. It is natural enough that St. Luke should have
omitted the whole incident.

(6) Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, " Give not
that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls
before the swine, lest haply they trample them under
their feet, and turn and rend you."

The passage occurs in Matthew only.^ He places it just
after the command not to say " let me pull out the mote
out of thine eye, and lo ! a beam is in thine own eye." If
Matthew has preserved the context, the words might well
mean " Do not be too eager to offer good advice or rebuke,
even when it is called for, unless you are sure that it will be
well received. Do not be censorious : be tactful in deahng
with others." But the passage has rather the appearance
of an isolated saying. To see in these words a prohibition
to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom to Gentiles would be
to attribute to our Lord an attitude unsupported by any-
* Matt. vii. 6.

178 Conscience and Christ

thing else which He ever said or did. It is certain that not
even the most Jewish of the Evangehsts would have
inserted it in his Gospel if he had understood it in this
sense. It is not easy to find a meaning for the saying which
is in harmony with the general teaching of our Lord on the
assumption of its genuineness. It is far more probably an
" ecclesiastical addition." In the Didache it is interpreted
to mean " Do not admit the unbaptized to the Eucharist."^
And something not quite so definite but in the same
spirit may well have been the meaning which it bore for
the Judceo-Christian consciousness. As Loisy suggests, it
may have grown out of the saying to the Syro-Phoenician

(7) Depreciation of family ties. I do not feel that the

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