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Christian to re-marry.

The same principle is then appUed to the case of
sw^earing. Our Lord brushes aside the casuistical
distinctions between oaths which were more binding
and oaths which were less binding, or not binding at
all. Among those who wished to follow the ideal
law of God, yea would be yea, and nay nay. The
rule of Veracity would be observed habitually : lying
would be avoided as much as perjury. Our Lord was
here probably thinking not so much either of judicial
oaths or of cursing and swearing in ordinary conversa-
tion (though He would, of course, have condemned
the irreverent appeal to the name of God), as of at-
tempts to cheat one's neighbour by taking oaths to
repay a debt, or the like, on which the other would
rely — oaths which the casuistically learned swearer
secretly knows not to be binding, and does not intend
to observe.^ In the matter of judicial oaths Christian
States and Churches have followed a perfectly sound
principle. Undoubtedly in an ideal society there
would be no distinction between swearing and affirm-
ing ; a man's word would be "as good as his oath."
But as long as there are persons superstitious enough
to shrink from perjury though willing to lie, it is the
less of two evils that formal oaths should be adminis-

* This point seems generally to have been overlooked.

io8 Conscience and Christ

tered to witnesses in Courts of Justice and on other
solemn occasions.

We need not linger on our Lord's other detailed
applications of His principle. They lead up to the
emphatic enunciation of universal undiscriminating
love to one's neighbour, even to one's enemy. " All
things therefore whatever ye would that men should
do unto you, even so do unto them," as it is elsewhere
expressed. If it be the Evangelist who adds the
words, " for this is the law and the prophets," he is
only bringing out the very deepest and most character-
istic thought of his Master. The law of God which
was of universal obligation was the law of universal
love, the law which regards every other human being
as of equal intrinsic importance to oneself, as equally
entitled to have his true good promoted by every other
rational being. The most certain thing about the
teaching of Jesus is that He did teach this doctrine of
universal love. Anyone who admits that He did so, and
that He taught nothing inconsistent therewith, and who
also regards this teaching as the fundamental truth of
Morality, is already a disciple of Jesus, in a very dis-
tinctive and definite sense.

(3) The third great modification of average Jewish
Morality which was called for in the time of Jesus
was an extension of the meaning which was to be given
to the precept " Thou shalt love thy neighbour as
thyself." In putting that rule side by side with the
law of love to God and making these two into the first

The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 109

and greatest commandments of the Law, Jesus was
only quoting the most rituaUstic and least spiritual
book among the Old Testament Scriptures — the book
of Leviticus. The two great deficiencies in the applica-
tion of this law by its Pharisaic expositors were these.
The first was that they taught much which was really
inconsistent with that rule, and which (as we have
seen) was in principle brushed aside by the teaching
of Jesus. By the love of God it is probable that the
author of Leviticus would have by no means understood
simply the love and service of men whose good God
wills, but also the observance of a host of ceremonial
regulations, some of which were thought to be well-
pleasing to God, but which were not at all for the
good of man. That this was not the case with Jesus
we have already seen. The second defect was that
by one's neighbour was understood simply — at the
very most — the Jewish fellow-countryman. ^ In the
Law itself, in the Prophets, in the teaching of the
Rabbis, much was said about the considerate treat-
ment of strangers ; but the most liberal of them would
have shrunk from the assertion that a Gentile was in the
sight of God as important as a Jew, and was entitled to
the same treatment at the hands of his Jewish brother.
Did the teaching of Jesus actually affirm this
principle ? I believe that we can confidently assert
that it did. There would, indeed, be no doubt about

^ The very question of the Scribe to our Lord shows that there
were different interpretations of it current at the time. See
Appendix I (below p. 286).

no Conscience and Christ

our answer, if we could rely with absolute confidence
upon the genuineness of all the universahstic sayings
of our present Synoptists — such as the declaration that
many shall come from the East and West, and from
the North and South and shall sit down in the King-
dom of God.^ But such sajdngs may be doubted or
interpreted in some non-universalistic sense. I think
it must, indeed, be admitted that our Lord Himself
considered His own mission to be to His own people.
" I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house
of Israel. "2 But this does not imply that, if and when a
Jew was brought into contact with a Gentile, he was not
to treat him as a brother, or that He would have had
any doubts about the truth that "in every nation he
that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accept-
able to Him." We need not rely upon passages which
a somewhat over-suspicious criticism may doubt.
That our Lord's teaching was in principle universahstic
is implied in the modifications of current Jewish
Ethics which have already been insisted on. The whole
tone and tenor of His teaching implied that a man's
standing in the sight of God did not depend upon

* Matt. viii. ii ; Luke xiii. 29. It is a curious fact that in
Matthew the passage is certainly universalistic, being addressed to
the Centurion, while in Luke it is just possible to suppose that
it is only the Jews of the Dispersion that are referred to.

* Matt. XV. 24. Cf . X. 6. Luke's omission, being accounted for by his
Universalism, is not conclusive against the genuineness of the saying,
and yet it may be due to the first Evangelist's view of the Messiah's
original mission. We cannot rely upon Mark xiii. 10, xiv. 9, or
Matt, xxviii. 19, because these imply a long period before the

The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ iii

descent from Abraham, upon circumcision, upon the
observance of the distinction between clean and un-
clean meats, but upon the state of his heart, upon
the degree of his love, upon the extent to which he
did the will of God. If righteousness was the sole
condition of admission to the Kingdom of Heaven, it
followed necessarily and as a matter of course that a
Gentile could enter it. If Gentiles might become sub-
jects of the Kingdom of God without observing the
distinction between clean and unclean meats, it was
obvious that they must be treated as brothers. And this
was, I believe, no mere implication of Christ's teaching
discovered afterwards by St. Paul and the Christian
Church. He could hardly have failed to be aware
that no less than this was involved in it ; though
it did not often (no doubt) fall within the purpose of
His mission (as He conceived it) to dwell much upon
it. He who associated so habitually and so lovingly
with publicans and sinners — lax observers of the Law
when they observed it at all — could hardly have
regarded Gentiles as less the children of God than
they. In proof of this view of our Lord's teaching
I will not insist much on the exceptional occasions
when He was brought into contact with individual
Gentiles — on His healing of the Syro-Phoenician
woman ^ or His approval of the Centurion's faith ^ —

1 The saying above-quoted about His mission being to the house
of Israel occurs in two contexts, and this may suggest doubts as to
the incident, about which see below, p. 176.

2 Matt. viii. 10 ; Luke vii. 9.

112 Conscience and Christ

but rather upon the general tone and temper of the
teaching which finds its most perfect expression
in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke x. 30 sq.).
The Samaritans were at least as much outside the pale
of average Pharisaic charity as the Gentiles. A Jewish
teacher who explicitly taught that a Samaritan might
be neighbour to a Jew and spiritually superior to a
Priest and a Levite, has parted company with Jewish

If anyone is disposed to accept the conjecture that
in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan
has taken the place of a story in which the bar-
barity of Priest and Levite is contrasted with the
humanity of the simple Israelite/ we may appeal to
the passage in the Sermon on the Mount upon love

^ " As to the good Samaritan there is much reason to suppose
(though no Christian commentator is likely to admit it) that he
comes from a verbal alteration of the original story " {Syn.
Gospels, I, p. Ixvi.). M. Hal^vy has given plausible reasons for
supposing that the personages of the parable were originally
Priest, Levite, and simple Israehte, and Mr. Montefiore {ib., II,
PP- 935-7) has accepted his theory. The grounds are briefly:
(i) the improbability of a Samaritan travelling between Jeru-
salem and Jericho, (2) the strangeness of the collocation
"Priest, Levite, Samaritan." These grounds (for a full statement
of which I must refer to Mr. Montefiore 's note) do not seem to me
very convincing, and even if we suppose that an old Jewish story
has been adapted to a new purpose, I cannot see why the adapter
may not as probably have been jesus Himself as St. Luke, but the
theory prevents our treating this piece of evidence as conclusive.
The parable of the two sons is often regarded as meaning " Jew and
Gentile" (Matt. xxi. 28: cf. the parable of the Banquet), but those
who so interpret it are disposed to regard it as an "ecclesiastical
addition " of Matthew. Even if it is so, the attitude of the Jewish
Church towards Gentile Christianity can hardly be explained except
by the inherent univcrsalism of the Master's teaching.

The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 113

to enemies. Any Jew who was disposed to accept
the traditional rule of popular Ethics, ** Thou shalt
love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy," would
certainly have extended the principle to national as
well as to personal enemies. Christ invited His disciples
to love their enemies and pray for those that despite-
fully used them " that ye may be sons of your Father
which is in heaven : for he maketh his sun to rise
on the evil and the good."^ A God who loves the
bad Vvdll certainly love Gentiles, and if the followers
of Jesus were to be like Him, they must obviously be
no less comprehensive in their philanthropy.

I submit then in conclusion that in laying down the
principle of human Brotherhood, in its fullest possible
extent and with a complete absence of inconsistent
additions and qualifications, our Lord has laid down
the fundamental principles of all true Morality as it
is recognized by the moral consciousness of the present
day at its highest. Whether side by side with these
principles there are other elements in the moral
teaching of Christ which fail to commend themselves
to the moral consciousness of to-day, I shall consider
in my next lecture. Meanwhile, I leave with you the
suggestion that the claim of Christ's religion to the
position of a universal reUgion rests to a large extent

^ Matt. V. 45 ; Luke vi. 35. Matthew concludes with the in-
junction : "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father
is perfect." If this version be genuine, we must suppose the words
to mean " all-embracing, universal, undiscriminating in your
charity " rather than " faultless " or " sinless." But Luke's
" merciful " is perhaps nearer to the original.

114 Conscience and Christ

upon the fact that it is the religion which has most
completely and consistently insisted upon this prin-
ciple. How congenial is that ethical teaching with the
most characteristic idea of Christ's teaching on its
strictly religious side — the Fatherhood of God — I
must here content myself with merely pointing out.
The Ethic which makes the duty of Universal Love its
first and chief commandment necessarily involves,
for a teacher in whom ReUgion or Morahty are in-
separably connected, the idea of a God who Himself
loves equally all the souls whose life is derived from

But before I conclude, a word must be said as to
the form in which the moral teaching of Christ is
presented to us. It is difficult to reduce that teaching,
as I have attempted to do, to formal propositions,
and then to point out its complete harmony with
the conclusions of modern Moral Philosophy, without
doing an injustice to the most characteristic features
of the Gospel records. Such an argument may be
suspected of proving too much. If all that can be
said is that there is no inconsistency between the
teaching of Christ and that which may be found in
some modern text-book of Morahty, the objection
may occur, " What does it matter what we teach and
preach — the Gospel or some modern Education Com-
mittee's text-book of Morahty, assuming that such a
work does in some way teach the duty of loving one's
neighbour as oneself ? "

The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 115

Fully to answer the objection would demand an
elaborate discussion upon many questions which
hardly belong to our immediate subject. I must be
content with indicating a few of the heads under which
such an answer would fall.

(i) In his inaugural lecture as Professor of Poetry
at Oxford, Dr. Andrew Bradley pointed out the
inseparability in poetry of form and matter : in
poetry we cannot treat the poet's meaning as one
thing, and the poet's language as a quite distinct and
separable way of expressing his meaning. The same
principle holds of the teaching of great moral teachers
— and pre-eminently of Christ. The impressiveness,
convincingness, and efficacy of His teaching largely
disappear when the form which He gave to it is taken
away. You can reduce the teaching of the Sermon on
the Mount to a dry philosophical form, and its truth
is unaffected by the process ; but when you do so,
you have lost the peculiar force and charm of
the sayings which have caused that discourse to be
accepted as the classical summary of human duty by
so many of those who have altogether repudiated
the Theology with which it is associated^. You
can teach the forgivingness of God and the duty of
forgiving one's brethren without the parable of the
Prodigal Son, the duty of Humanity without the
parable of the Good Samaritan, the value of the

^ It is said that the late Professor Tyndall was in the habit of
reading it through once a fortnight.

ii6 Conscience and Christ

individual soul without the parable of the hundred
sheep ; but if you do so, you do not teach them so well.
Certainly a Morality might be Christian Morahty,
which was taught without a single reference to the
personality of Christ or to the words of the Gospel.
But it must not be assumed that such a teaching of
Christian Morahty would be an effective substitute for
a knowledge of the historic Christ and of the Gospel
pages. The moral supremacy of Christ cannot be
fairly appreciated apart from the form in which His
teaching is presented to us.

(2) The value and impressiveness of any moral
teacher's work cannot be adequately estimated by
isolated sayings. A moral ideal is a connected whole,
and this whole is best presented by the picture of a
character and a hfe.^ Even the ideal considered as
so much precept can hardly be appreciated apart from
the character of the teacher. Still less can the moral
effect of the teaching be separated from the impression
made by the teacher's life. The ethical importance of
Christ and of the religion which He founded is based
not merely upon the intrinsic value of His teaching,
but upon the picture of a life which seems to be in
complete harmony with that teaching. I have con-

* " Jewish Apologists have a habit of breaking up the Gospels into
fragments. They are somewhat inclined to do the same with their
own literature. But a great book is more than its own sentences
taken singly or disjointedly. A great personality is more than the
record of its teaching, and the teaching is more than the bits of it
taken ore by one. It must be viewed as a whole." Montefiore,
Syn. Gospels, I, p. civ.

The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 117

tended strongly that we cannot defend the supremacy
which the Christian reHgion claims for the moral
teaching of Christ except by contending that it actually
satisfies the moral consciousness of the present. But,
it must be recognized that the full extent of the appeal
depends on the character and the life and not merely
upon isolated sayings. The influence of a Person is
stronger than that of an idea. This is a very impor-
tant point to be borne in mind in estimating the moral
healthiness of a religious system which places the
teaching of an historical Person who lived in the re-
mote past in the forefront of its ethical ideal.

(3) One of the most characteristic features of the
Christian Ethic is the closeness of the connexion in
which it stands to Religion, as it is the distinctive
characteristic of Christian Theology that, more unre-
servedly than any other historical religion, it exhibits
the complete identification of Religion and Morality.
There has necessarily therefore been something un-
natural and one-sided about an attempt to exhibit
Christian Morality in isolation from Theology. An
adequate defence of Christian Ethics would involve an
attempt to show that it is morally healthy and desir-
able that Ethics should be taught in this close con-
nexion with Religion. And this represents a new
subject upon which I can hardly enter now.^ I believe

^ I have discussed it pretty fully — so far as I could do so without
entering in detail into the special theology of the Christian Religion
— in The Theory of Good and Evil, Bk. Ill, chaps, i. and ii.

ii8 Conscience and Christ

that it could be shown that the idea of an objective
moral obhgation is not only consistent with, but
naturally leads up to and even logically demands, if
the fullest meaning is to be given to the term objectivity,
the belief that MoraUty consists in obedience to the
will of a perfectly righteous God. At the very least
it may be said that it is thus interpreted that the idea
of an objective duty comes home most powerfully to
ordinary minds, and that it is most likely to influence
life. And this is the form in which the idea of an
absolute right and wrong is set forth in the teaching
of Jesus. In His ideal of life complete devotion to
the will of God is bound up with the conviction that
God is perfectly and intrinsically good, and conse-
quently wills nothing but the true and highest good of
His creatures. In the whole range of Theology there
is no principle so important as this. If Jesus was
the first to teach that principle in its full purity, if
He taught it with a purity, a force and a consistency
to which no other Religion — uninfluenced by His
teaching — affords any parallel, we have already dis-
covered a sufficient answer — an answer of enormous
force — to the question why we of the twentieth cen-
tury should still consider ourselves disciples of Christ,
and of none other in the same sense and to the same
degree. We have found sufficient reason for saying
with the disciple of the fourth Gospel : " Lord, to
whom shall we go ? thou hast the words of eternal


The central truth of Christ's Morality was His promulga-
tion of the duty of universal love. But the teaching of
Christ would not have exercised the influence that it has
exercised, it would not have constituted the epoch in the
ethical development of the race that it has actually consti-
tuted, if His teaching had consisted in nothing but the bare
enunciation of the formula *' Thou shalt love thy neigh-
bour as thyself." Nor would the merely negative merit of
excluding inconsistent additions or contradictions of the
doctrine have been sufficient to account for the effects of
that teaching. Ethical teaching that is really to come
home to men's consciences must have some body, some
fullness of content, some wealth and forcefulness of illustra-
tion : there must be more than a bare enunciation of formal
principles : the principles must be developed. There must
be concrete deductions and applications. Corollaries and
consequences must be pointed out. Contradictory and
inconsistent principles must not merely be excluded : they
must be denounced and exposed. And all these things are
pre-eminently characteristic of the teaching of Jesus.
Nothing is more remarkable in it than the way it combines
very great universahty in the enunciation of fundamental
principles with great concreteness of illustrative detail and
application. An entirely incorrect impression will be formed
of it — of its originahty, its importance and its distinctive-
ness — if it is supposed to consist in nothing but the


120 Conscience and Christ

enunciation of the abstract law of universal Benevolence
in a way that will commend itself to philosophers
anxious to discover the fundamental principle of all
Morality. It does enunciate that law with more clearness
and consistency than had ever been done before : but
there is much in it besides. And therefore it is important
that we should try to enumerate and summarize the
leading features of Christ's ethical teaching in somewhat
greater detail than has been possible in the preceding
lecture. Our limits demand that the summary should be
very brief, and that little shall be attempted in the way of
explaining or vindicating the teaching or applying it to
modern conditions. Such a reply to objections as is
possible will be reserved for the next lecture.

(i) Love to enemies. The principle of love to enemies
is so absolutely involved in the principle of love to
Humanity in general that it may be treated as simply a
reassertion of the principle itself. If Humanity as such
is to be loved, if its good is to be promoted, if every indi-
vidual human being possesses an intrinsic worth, that
principle cannot cease to be true because the man is an
enemy. That does not imply that there is not much in
some men which may properly be hated as Jesus hated
the hypocrisy of some Pharisees and the covetousness of
others. Such men are to be loved because they are capable
of better things. The enunciation of this principle holds
a prominent place in the sermon on the Mount. ^

(2) Forgiveness of injuries. The duty of forgiveness is
another implication of the same principle. This was an
extremely characteristic feature in the teaching of Jesus :
" Whensoever ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have aught
against anyone ; that your Fatlicr also which is in heaven

* Matt. V. 43-48; Luke vi. 27-35.

The Ethical Teaching of Jesus Christ 121

may forgive you your trespasses."^ " Leave there thy gift
before the altar, and go thy way : first be reconciled to
thy brother and then come and offer thy gift."^ " If
thy brother sin, rebuke him ; and if he repent, forgive
him. And if he sin against thee seven times in the day,
and seven times turn again to thee, saying, I repent,
thou shalt forgive him."^ The principle is asserted even
in the shorter version of the prayer which our Lord
is said to have bequeathed to His disciples. It is illus-
trated by the attitude of Jesus to the adulterous woman
where it is carried to the point of actual disobedience
to the letter of the Mosaic law, providing that such
should be stoned — a law which it is doubtful whether
later Judaism ever enforced even when it possessed the
poHtical power to enforce it. It has been enshrined for
ever in the parable of the Prodigal Son.* Primarily that
parable was intended no doubt to teach the forgiving-
ness of God, but in Christ's teaching the divine forgiveness
and the duty of human forgiveness were indissolubly
associated. It is right to add that in His insistence on

* Mark xi. 25.
2 Matt. V. 24.

' Luke xvii. 3, 4 ; Matt, xviii. 21, 22, where it is further
illustrated by the parable of the unmerciful servant {ib. 23-35).
Luke's version is simpler than Matthev/'s more elaborate ques-
tion and answer with the more emphatic " until seventy times

* We need not suppose that either our Lord or the Evangelist
meant the Prodigal Son to be a type of the Gentile world, though
the principle of the parable undoubtedly carries with it in germ

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