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Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.'

When Jesus invested Life with its new mean-
ing He glorified the idea, but He was embarrass-
ed with the word. Words were polarised before
Jesus adopted them, and they were apt to
retain their acquired properties in His Kingdom.
Nothing could have done full justice to the
ideas of Jesus save a new language, and, as that
was impossible, Jesus and His disciples were
often at cross purposes. With Him Life was
something eternal and absolute ; with them.


something limited and temporary. Life sug-
gested nothing to them at first, except the vitali-
ty of the body ; death, nothing except its disso-
lution. Jesus, on His part, never used Life and
Death in a physical sense with emphasis, unless
when He spoke of laying down His own Life,
and no one knows what was hidden in that mys-
tery. ' I have power to lay it down, and I have
power to take it again.* He reserved the words
for their highest use, and ignored the popular
reading. ' Our friend Lazarus,' He said, with
careful choice of terms, ' sleepeth ; but I go,
that I may awake him out of sleep.' Lazarus,
the brother of Mary, and the friend of Jesus,
could not be dead. It was a moral impossi-
bility. The Jews, who saw Jesus at Lazarus'
tomb and played the informer to the Pharisees,
were dead. It was a moral necessity. When
the misunderstanding was hopeless Jesus had to
condescend. ' Lazarus,* if I must speak in your
tongue, * is dead.' Physical death Jesus refused
to recognise ; it was an incident in the history o
Life. Death was a calamity of the soul, and a
living soul was invulnerable. * I am the Resur-
rection and the Life : he that believeth in me,
though he were dead, yet shall he live : and


whosoever liveth, and believeth In me, shall
never die.' It was a brave struggle for reality,
and liberated the first disciples from the bond-
age of the physical ; but the atmosphere is too
rare for His modern disciples, who, for the most
part, speak exactly as if they were Pagans in the
Street of Tombs at Athens, instead of Christians
who had sat at Jesus' feet.

Jesus had to contend with a more inexcus-
able misuse which binds up the life of a man,
not with his body, but with his material envi-
ronment. According to this squalid definition.
Life is made up of circumstances ; if they are
pleasant, the man has an easy life ; if they are
adverse, he has a hard life. Life is stated in
terms of food and raiment, and goods and
houses. Against this degradation of life Jesus
lifted up His voice in a protest which admits of
no answer. He was never weary of reminding
His disciples that such things could not con-
stitute Life, and were, indeed, so unworthy as
to be beneath care. ' A man's life consisteth
not in the abundance of the things which he pos-
sesseth.* * Take no thought for your life, what
ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor yet
for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not


the life more than meat, and the body than
raiment ?' ' Labour not for the meat which
perisheth, but for that meat which endureth
unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man
shall give unto you.' Certainly this indiffer-
ence to circumstances was not due to any want
of sympathy with the labouring and heavy
laden — witness His parables, or to the favoured
experiences of His own life — witness His pov-
erty. But Jesus was anxious to lift Life above
the tyranny of circumstances and convince His
followers that one could live like God Himself,
although he had a whole world arrayed against
him and left nothing behind him but a peas-
ant's garment. And Jesus was jealous lest
they should confound the rough scaffolding
of circumstances, within which the building
was slowly rising, with the Temple of Life it-

Jesus has bequeathed to the world a mono-
graph on life (St. John vi.), and its basal idea is
Unity. Spiritual Life is not a series of isolated
springs, but an ocean laving every shore. It is
one and has its source in God, as Truth and
Righteousness and Love are one and stand in
God. When one thinks of Life in man as one


things and Life in God as another, he has lost
the key to the science of Life. Nothing de-
serves the name of Life in us that cannot be
affirmed of God. Life in the soul is the tide
of the Divine ocean flowing as it has opportu-
nity through the narrow channels of human
nature. Everything else is only a colourable
imitation of Life, and a mode of existence.
Life is in its origin Heavenly, and cometh
down. One must be * born from above * if he
is to enter into Life. Jesus casts His contrast
between physical and spiritual Life into a
felicitous figure. * Your fathers did eat manna
in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the
bread which cometh down from Heaven, that a
man may eat thereof, and not die.* Life is
first in God who is in Heaven, inaccessible, and
next in Jesus who is incarnate, and finally in
any man who is in fellowship with Jesus. *As
the living Father hath sent me, and I live by
the Father ; so he that eateth me, even he
shall live by me.' This is Jesus* theory of

The second idea which underlies this dis-
course is Community. Jesus and His disciples
share the same Life. He is the ' Bread of


Life/ and they ' eat.' Jesus with this startling
image flashes a description of Life and answers
the question, ever in the background of one's
mind, 'What is Life?* It is fellowship with
the Spirit of Jesus, something that cannot be
estimated by the beating of the pulse, or the
inventory of a man's possessions, that must be
tested by conscience and the intangible icales
of the Kingdom of Heaven. It will lie in a
certain mind, in a certain ruling motive, in a
certain trend of character, in a certain obedi-
ence of will, in a certain passion for goodness,
the same as that of Jesus. Or, as Jesus put it
in a passage misunderstood too often by Jews
and Gentiles, yet simple enough when read ac-
cording to the mode of Jesus' thinking:' Whoso
eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath
eternal life.* This is Jesus* practice of Life.

The third idea which inspires the deliverance
of Jesus is Eternity. Again and again, with
heartening reiteration, Jesus pronounces Life
* everlasting,* and Jesus' expression is evidently
shaped by a contrast. It is His appreciation of
Life ; it is His depreciation of its travesty.
There is, He means, what may by concession
be called life, which consists in health, and riches.


and ease, and pleasure. This is life centred,
and imprisoned, and satisfied in this present
age. Its environment is local and temporary,
and when it is shattered this life must perish,
because it has no roots elsewhere. With its
age it vanishes. He that findeth this life shall
lose it. Life, as Jesus understood it, consisting
of Love and Sacrifice, does not belong to any
age because it is the inhabitant of all. Its
roots are struck into the unchanging and eter-
nal. It has already a spiritual environment,
and when this present state of things is re-
moved Life will rise to its full height and find
itself at home. This is Life which cannot be
lost. Life to-day, it would have been Life when
the Pyramids were new, it will be Life when
the earth is an ice-cold ball. Life is contem-
poraneous with all the centuries, it anticipates
and closes them. * Time is a parenthesis in
eternity,* says a fine old classic. When an
earth-born man is baptized into the Spirit of
Jesus the brackets are removed and he begins
to live in the ageless state. ' He that believeth
on me hath ageless Life.* This is Jesus*
prophecy of Life.

Life with Jesus was a condition of the soul


disentangled from any physical mode of exist
ence, and with this profound conception before
His mind, He did not need the classical argu.
ments for immortality. One would be sur-
prised if Jesus proved the future life from the
analogies of nature or the law of continuity.
One would be as much surprised if He described
its circumstances even in the sublime poetry of
St. John or followed the soul in its experiences
as in the Book of the Dead. For one moment
we do wonder why Jesus who, alone of all men
in this world, had been within the veil, did not
describe at length the details of the unseen
state ; in the next we understand such an
apocalypse would have been alien to Jesus.
Life before His eyes was not divided into sec-
tions, each depending for its character on local
colouring. Life here and there — everywhere —
in its essence and intention, must be the same
— conformity to the Divine Will — an inward
peace and joy. As a man lived here in this
age, he would live in all the ages ; carrying
Heaven within Him rather than going into
Heaven. The Life of the soul could not be
affected by the death of the body. Jesus
would have considered the question, * Shall I


live after death ? * beside the mark. He would
have asked, * Have you life now?' for Life is

If one should insist on proof that Life is age-
less, then Jesus was content to offer Himself.
Life hinges on this word of Jesus, * Because I
live, ye shall live also.* Suppose Jesus was the
victim of a fond delusion when He ignored the
death of the body and preached the ageless
life of the soul and insisted on the unseen, then
He is dead.

* And on His grave with shining eyes
The Syrian stars look down.'

Suppose He knew, when He declared Life
the supreme fact of human experience, and
death the escape of the butterfly from the
chrysalis and the world a passing show, then
Jesus is alive evermore. How can one be cer-
tain that Jesus is with God? It is a question
of the last importance. There are four lines of
proof. The first is to cite reliable evidence
that Jesus rose from Joseph's tomb — this is for
a lawyer. The second is historical — the ex-
istence of the Christian Church — this is for a
scholar. The third is mystical — the experience


of Christians — this is for a saint. The fourth
is ethical — the nature of Jesus' hfe — this is for
every one. The last is the most akin to the
mind of Jesus, who was accustomed to insist on
the self-evidencing power of His life. He is
alive because He could not die. * I am the
Resurrection and the Life.*

It is impossible to appreciate a picture with
your face at the canvas ; but even His blind
generation were arrested by Jesus. There was a
note in His words that caught their ear, the echo
of Divine authority; there was an air about
Him, the manner of a larger world. No man
could convince Him of sin, none confound Him.
He was ever beyond criticism. He ever com-
pelled admiration in honest men. *Thou art
the Christ,* said a Jewish peasant with instinctive
conviction, * the Son of the Living God.* Cen-
turies have only confirmed this spontaneous
tribute to Jesus* life. No one has yet discovered
the word Jesus ought not to have said, none sug-
gested the better word He might have said. No
action of His has shocked our moral sense ; none
has fallen short of the ideal. He is full of sur-
prises, but they are all the surprises of per-
fection. You are never amazed, one day


by His greatness, the next by His littleness.
You are ever amazed that He is incompara-
bly better than you could have expected.
He is tender without being weak, strong with-
out being coarse, lowly without being servile.
He has conviction without intolerance, enthusi-
asm without fanaticism, holiness without Phari-
saism, passion without prejudice. This Man
alone never made a false step, never struck a
jarring note. His life alone moved on those
high levels where local limitations are tran-
scended and the absolute Law of Moral Beauty
prevails. It was life at its highest. Jesus was
the supreme Artist in Life, and had a right to
say, * I am the Life.*

Was this Life something that could be
quenched by death or that death could touch ?
Granted that they scourged and crucified Jesus*
body, that it died and was buried. Could Jesus
who gave the Sermon on the Mount and the
discourse of the upper room, who satisfied St.
John and loosed St. Mary Magdalene from her
sin, and who remains the unapproachable ideal
of perfection, be annihilated by a few nails and
the thrust of a Roman spear? If the lowest
form of energy, however it may be transformed


or degraded, be still conserved in some shape
and place, can any one believe that the Author
of Life in this world was extinguished on a
Roman cross ? The certainty of Jesus' Resur-
rection does not rest in the last issue on His
isolated appearances during the forty days ; it
rests on His Life for thirty-three years. His
Life was beyond the reach of death ; it was
Ageless Life.

Jesus' Life impressed His generation as un-
paralleled and inexplicable, a Life with inscru-
table motives and incalculable principles. What
was its explanation according to any known
standard? Jesus was accustomed frankly to
admit that it had none ; that it was an enigma
from the earthly standpoint. But He pleaded
that it was supreme and reasonable from the
Heavenly standpoint. It was foreign here ; it
was natural elsewhere. He did the works He
had seen His Father do, He said the words He
had received of His Father, He fulfilled the
will of His Father, There was a sphere where
His Life was the rule, where His dialect was
the language of the country and His was the
habit of living. His unlikeness to this world
implies His likeness to another world. One


evening you find among the reeds of your lake
an unknown bird, whose broad breast and pow-
erful pinions are not meant for this inland
scene. It is resting midway between two
oceans, and by to-morrow will have gone.
Does not that bird prove the ocean it left, does
it not prove the ocean whither it has flown ?
* Jesus, knowing . . . that He was come from
God and went to God,' is the Revelation and
Confirmation of Ageless Life.



Sin is the ghost which haunts Literature, a
shadow on human life, which no one admits he
has seen, and which an hour afterwards asserts
itself. Define sin with anything like accuracy,
and it will be denied ; be silent as if you had not
heard of sin, and it will be confessed. Literature
oscillates between extremes, and affords an in-
structive contradiction. As the record of human
experience it must chronicle sin ; as the solace of
the individual, it makes a brave effort to ignore
sin. You hear the moan of this calamity through
all the work of Sophocles, but Aristophanes
persuades you that this is the gayest of worlds,
and both voices were heard in the same theatre
beneath the shadow of enthroned Wisdom.
Juvenal's mordant satire lays bare the ulcerous
Roman life, but Catullus flings a wreath of roses
over it, and they were both poets of the classical


age. A French novelist, with an unholy mastery
of his craft, steeps us in the horrors of a decadent
society. A French critic, with the airiest grace,
exclaims: *Sin, I have abolished it.* Our own
poet of unbelief has dared to write, revealing the
thoughts of many hearts : —

* Alas, Lord ! surely Thou art great and fair,
But, lo ! her wonderfully woven hair ;
And Thou didst heal us with Thy piteous kiss;
But see now, Lord, her mouth is lovelier.'

Yet he also allows the secret to ooze out^-

'The brief, bitter bliss one has for a great sin.*

Literature has confessed this mysterious presence
twice over, in the hopeless sadness of the austere
school which acknowledges it, in the nervous
anxiety of the lighter school which scoffs at it.
Philosophy has been, for the most part, dis-
tinguished by its strenuous treatment of the
moral problem, but has been visibly hampered by
circumstances, being in the position of a Court
which cannot go into the whole case. Sin may
be only a defect, then philosophy can cope with
the position ; but it is at least possible that sin
may be a collision with the will of God, then
philosophy can afford no help. Spiritual affairs


are beyond its jurisdiction ; they belong to the
department of Religion. Within the range of
philosophy the Race has not gone astray — it has
simply not arrived : humanity is not diseased —
it is only poorly developed. This deliverance is
not the fault, it is the misfortune of morals ; but
it must always seem shallow and unworthy to
serious minds. It creates the demand for Re-
ligion. If your chest be narrow, you go to a
gymnast ; if it be diseased, you go to a physician.
It is easy to add three inches to the chest cavity ;
it is less easy to kill the bacilli in the lungs.
There can indeed be no real competition between
Philosophy and Religion, for the former cannot
go beyond hygiene, and the latter must begin
at least with therapeutics.

' The cardinal question is that of sin,' says
Amiel, with his fine ethical insight ; and if it be
an essential condition in every religion that it
deal with sin, then, excluding Judaism as a pro-
visional and prophetic faith, there are only two
religions. One is Christianity, and the other
is Buddhism, and the disciples of Jesus need not
fear a comparison. When Jesus and the founder
of Buddhism address themselves to the problem
of evil, the ' Light of Asia ' is simply a foil to our


Master. Buddha identified evil with the material
influences of the body, as if a disembodied spirit
could not be proud and envious ; Jesus traced
evil to the will, and ignored the body. Buddha
proposes to train the soul by a life of meditation,
as if inaction could be the nursery of character;
Jesus insists on action, the most unremitting and
intense. Finally, the great Eastern sage held out
the hope of escape from individual existence, as
if that were the last reward for the tried soul ;
our Master promised perfection in the Kingdom
of Heaven. Both systems recognise the supreme
need of the Race, which is a favourable omen :
they differ in the means of its relief. Buddhism
amounts to the destruction of the disease, and
the extinction of the patient. Christianity
compasses the destruction of the disease, and the
salvation of the soul. Tried by the severest test
of a Religion. Jesus alone out of all masters
remains: He saves * His people from their sins.*
If Jesus had never said one word, yet had He
done more than all writers on sin, for His life was
its everlasting exposure. As the undriven snow
puts to shame the whitest garment, so was Jesus
a new standard of holiness to His society, and as
the lightning plays round the steel rod. so did


the diffused wickedness of His time concentrate
on His head. Pharisees in a heat of pseudo-
morality became self-conscious, and slunk from
His presence, who could not look at' them, and
an honest man of vast self-conceit beheld in a
sudden flash the moral glory of Jesus, and be-
sought Him to depart. Twice Jesus was carried
beyond Himself by anger — once when St. Peter
tempted Him to selfishness, and He identified
the amazed apostle with Satan ; once when the
hyprocisy of the Pharisees came to a head, and
His indignation burst forth in the invective of
history. He shudders visibly in the Gospels
before the loathsome leprosy of sin, while His
compassions lighten on the sinner, and in the
same Gospels we see the hatred of the world
culminate in the Cross, because Jesus did the
works of God. The personality of Jesus called
the principle of evil into full action, and sin was
an open secret before His eyes.

The conventional history of sin has three
chapters — origin, nature, treatment. It is char-
acteristic of Jesus that He has only two: He
omits genesis, and proceeds to diagnosis. It is
for an instant a disappointment, and in the
next a relief : it remains for ever a lesson.


Among all the problems upon which the human
intellect has tried its teeth, the origin of evil is
the most useless and hopeless, the most fasci-
nating and maddening. Eastern religions have
played the fool with it. Christian theology has
laboured it without conspicuous success. Sci-
ence has recently been dallying with it. It is a
kind of whirlpool which sucks in the most sub-
tle intellects, and reduces them to confusion.
Jesus did not once approach the subject : He
alone had the courage to leave it in shadow.
As a consequence He has offered another pledge
of His reasonableness, and removed a stum-
bling-block from the doctrine of sin. Jesus*
silence did not arise from indifference to the
law of heredity, for He traced the blind hostility
of the Pharisees to the bigotry of their fathers,
and saw in the sin of His crucifixion the legiti-
mate outcome of ages of fanaticism. But He
foresaw how the moral sense might be perverted
by wild applications of the law, as when His dis-
ciples asked, * Who did sin, this man or his
parents, that he was born blind ? * Jesus would,
no doubt, know the Rabbinical theory of
Adam, although He escaped St. Paul's doubtful
advantage, and had not been educated in the


schools; but one feels by an instinct that
Jesus* missing discourse on the ' Federal Rela-
tionship * would not fit in well between the
Sermon on the Mount and the Farewell of the
Last Supper. Jesus must have been taught
the story of the Fall, and in after years He en-
dorsed its teaching. He clothed that lovely
idyll with a modern dress, and sent it out as
the Parable of the Prodigal Son. It is always
a startling transition from the theologians to
Jesus, and it gives one pause that the supreme
Teacher of religion did not deliver Himself on
original sin. But it is a fact, and Jesus had
His reasons.

For one thing, any insistence on heredity
would have depreciated responsibility, and
Jesus held every man to his own sin. Science
and theology have joined hands in magnifying
heredity and lowering individuality, till a man
comes to be little more than the resultant of
certain forces, a projectile shot forth from the
past, and describing a calculated course. Jesus
made a brave stand for each man as the pos-
sessor of will-power, and master of his life. He
sadly admitted that a human will might be
weakened by evil habits of thought, He de-


clared gladly that the Divine Grace reinforced
the halting will : but, with every qualification,
decision still rested in the last issue with the
man. ' If Thou wilt. Thou canst make me
clean,' as if his cure hinged on the Divine Will.
Of course, I am willing, said Jesus, and referred
the man back to his inalienable human rights.
Jesus never diverged into metaphysics, even to
reconcile the freedom of the human will with
the sovereignty of the Divine. His function
was not academic debate, it was the solution of
an actual situation. Logically, men might be
puppets ; consciously, they were self-determi-
nating, and Jesus said with emphasis, * Wilt
thou ? '

Jesus had another interest in isolating the
individual and declining to comprehend him in
the race — He compelled his attention. Noth-
ing could have afforded the Pharisees more
satisfaction than a discussion on sin. Nothing
was more uncomfortable than an examination
into their particular sins. A million needle-
points pressed together make a smooth sub-
stance, but one is intolerable. Jesus touched
the conscience as with a needle prick, for which
He received homage from honest men, and


the Cross from the dishonest. Before and since
Jesus' day people have been invited to hold an
inquest on the sin of Adam, and have dis-
charged this function with keen intellectual in-
terest. It was Jesus who made sin of even
date, and invited every hearer to see the trag-
edy of Eden in his own experience.

If one be still disappointed with the marked
silence of Jesus on the genesis of sin, let him
find his compensation in Jesus' final analysis of
sin. Our Master was not accustomed to lay
down a definition, and make it a catchword, or
to propose a subject and expound it to exhaus-
tion. He does not equip us with a theory to
be associated with His name. His method
was worthy of Himself, who alone could say,
* Verily, verily,* and was becoming to spiritual
truth, which is above theories. It was not the
brilliant play of artificial light on a selected ob-

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Online LibraryIan MaclarenThe mind of the Master → online text (page 4 of 15)