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Love which found its life in sacrifice. As the
Father gave the Son, so the Son gave Himself,
and as the Son gave Himself, so must His dis-
ciples give themselves for the brethren. God
and Christ were one in love ; Christ and man
were one in love. The great Law had full
course, and God and man were united in the
sacrifice of love. * Therefore doth my Father
love me, because I lay down my life that I
might take it again. This commandment have
I received of my Father.' * This is my com-
mandment, that ye love one another as I have
loved you.' * If ye keep my commandments,
ye shall abide in my love ; even as I have kept
my Father's commandments and abide in His
love.* * If a man love me, he will keep my
words : and my Father will love him, and we
will come unto him, and make our abode with
him.' Perhaps the most profound symbol of
Jesus was the washing of the disciples* feet, and
therefore the preamble of St. John, * knowing . . .
that He was come from God and went to God/


It seemed only an act of lowly and kindly
service : it really was an illustration of the Law
which holds in one God Almighty and the
meanest man who is inhabited by Jesus* Spirit.
Apart from the Incarnation, which is the
theoretical ground of a united humanity, and
His Spirit, which is the practical influence
working towards that high end, Jesus made two
contributions to the cause of unity. He has
stated in convincing terms the principle which
alone can repair the disruption in society and
close its fissures. What rends society in every
land is the conflict between the rights of the one
and the rights of the many, and harmony can only
be established by their reconciliation. Peace
can never be made by the suppression of the
individual — which is collectivism, nor by the
endless sacrifice of a hundred for the profit of
one — which is individualism. Jesus came to
bring each man's individuality to perfection,
not to sink him in the mass. Jesus came to
rescue the poor and weak from the tyranny of
power and ambition, not to leave them in bond-
age. Both ends were His, and both are em-
braced in His new commandment. For the
ideal placed before each individual is not rule


but service, and in proportion to his attainments
will be his sacrifices. By one stroke Jesus secures
the welfare of the many who share in the suc-
cess of the one, and the sanctification of the
one whose character is developed by his service
of the many. It will not be necessary to cripple
any man's power lest it may be a menace to his
neighbours, because he will be their voluntary
servant, nor will his neighbours be driven to
the vice of oppression, because they will not
fear. Where Jesus' idea prevails a rivalry of
service will be the habit of society, and he will
stand highest who stoops lowest in the new
order of life.

Jesus also offered in the Church a model of
the perfect society, and therefore He established
the Church on an eternal and universal principle.
Wherever a number of isolated individuals come
together and form one body there must be some
bond of unity. With a nation it is geography —
the people live within certain degrees of latitude.
With a party it is opinion — its members bind
themselves for a common end. With a firm it is
business — its partners trade in the same article.
Jesus contemplated a society the most compre-
hensive and intense, the most elastic and


cohesive in history, which would embrace all
countries, suit all times, cultivate all varieties,
fulfil all aspirations. It was the ambition of
Jesus as the Son of Man, and this was the
question before His mind : What delicate and
pervasive moral system could bind into one the
diverse multitude that would call Him Lord,
so that I — some obscure nineteenth century
Christian — may feel at home in St. Paul's Ca-
thedral, or at St. Peter's, Rome, or in the
Metropolitan Church of Athens, or at a Salva-
tion Army meeting? This were indeed an
irresistible illustration of spiritual communion
and a prophecy of the unity of the Race. * I
belong,* said AngeHque, the Abbess of Port
Royal, * to the order of all the saints, and all
the saints belong to my order.* What is the
bond of this mystical order .^ Jesus stated and
vindicated it in the upper room.

It is the fond imagination of many pious
minds that the basis of spiritual unity must lie
in the reason, and stand in uniformity of doc-
trine. This unfortunate idea has been the
poisoned spring of all the dissensions that have
torn Christ's body, from the day when Eastern
Christians fought in the streets about His Di-


vinity to the long years when Europe was
drenched in blood about His lovely Sacraments.
It is surely a very ghastly irony that the im-
mense sorrow of the world has been infinitely
increased by the fierce distractions of that soci-
ety which Jesus intended to be the peace-
maker, and that Christian divisions should have
arisen from the vain effort after an ideal which
Jesus never once had within His vision. With
St. John and St. Thomas, Matthew the publican
and Simon the zealot at the same Holy Table,
it is not likely that Jesus expected one model
of thought : with His profound respect for the
individual and His sense of the variety of
truth, it is certain He did not desire it.

Jesus realised that the tie which binds men
together in life is not forged in the intellect
but in the heart. Behind nations and parties,
behind all the divisions and entanglements of
society stands the family. Love is the first
and the last and the strongest bond in experi-
ence. It conquers distance, outlives all changes,
bears the strain of the most diverse opinions.
What a proof of Jesus' divine insight that He
did not make His Church a school — whether of
the Temple or the Porch — but a family: did


not demand in His farewell that His disciples
should think alike, but that they should feel
alike ! He believed it possible to bind men to
their fellows on the one condition that they
were first bound fast to Him. He made Him-
self the centre of eleven men, each an indepen-
dent unit ; He sent through their hearts the
electric flash of His love and they became one.
It was an experiment on a small scale ; it
proved a principle that has no limits. Unity is
possible wherever the current of love runs
from Christ's heart through human hearts and
back to Christ again. No one is cast out unless
he refuse to love : no one is isolated unless he
be non-conducting. Within the Church visible,
with its wearisome forms and lamentable con-
troversies, lives the Church invisible, the com-
munion of love, and its spirit is a perpetual
witness to Christ's mission of atonement :
* That they all may be one ; as Thou, Father,
art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may
be one in us, that the world may believe that
Thou hast sent me.*

Whenever doctrine and Love have entered
the lists, not as friends but as rivals. Love has al-
ways won and so has confirmed the wisdom of


Jesus. He has had servants in every country
distinguished for their devout spirit and con-
troversial ability. Their generation crowned
them for their zeal against heresy, but succeed-
ing generations conferred a worthier immortal-
ity. The Church forgot their polemics, she
kept their hymns. Bernard of Clairvaux de-
populated Europe in order to conquer the Holy
Land with the sword for Him who preached
peace throughout its borders ; but we only re-
member the saint who wrote :

' Jesus, Thou joy of loving hearts.*

Toplady divided his time between composing
hymns instinct with love, and assailing John
Wesley with incredible insolence. His acri-
monious defence of the Divine Sovereignty is
buried and will never be disinterred, but while
the Church lasts she will sing

* Rock of ages, cleft for me.*

Rutherfurd, of St. Andrews, laboured at
books of prodigious learning against Prelacy,
and the dust lies heavy upon them this day,
but the letters he wrote in his prison on the
love of Christ have been the delight of Scot-
tish mystics for two centuries. If any one


feels compelled to attack a religious neighbour,
his contemporaries may call him faithful, his
successors will endeavour to forget him. If
any one can worthily express the devotion of
Christian hearts, his words will pass into the
heritage of Christendom. What is not of love,
dies almost as soon as it is born : what is of
love lives for ever. It has the sanction of
Eternal Law ; it has in it the breath of immor-

The Christian consciousness grows slowly
into the mind of Jesus. First it clings to legal-
ism with St. Peter ; afterwards it learns faith
with St. Paul ; it enters at last into love with
St. John, the final interpreter of Jesus. We
are now in the school of St. John, and are be-
ginning to discover that none can be a heretic
who loves, nor any one be other than a schis-
matic who does not love. None can be cast out
of God's kingdom if he loves, none received
into it if he does not love. Usher cannot ex-
communicate Rutherfurd because he was not
ordained by a Bishop, nor Rutherfurd condemn
Usher because he was a head and front of Prel-
acy. Channing cannot exclude Faber because
he believes too much, or Faber exclude Chan-


ning because he believes too little. None can
read Jesus' exposition of Love and imagine
such moral disorder. It would be the suspen-
sion of spiritual gravitation. We are protected
from one another by the Magna Charta of the
kingdom : we are under a Law that has no re-
gard to our prejudices. He that loves is
blessed ; he that hates is cursed — is the action
of an automatic law. It is the very condition
of the spiritual world, which is held together
by love : it is the very nature of God Himself,
who is Love.

* I'm apt to think the man
That could surround the sum of things and spy
The heart of God and secrets of His Empire
Would speak but love, with him the bright result
Would change the hue of intermediate scenes
And make one thing of all Theology,'




Nothing is easier than to create a religion ;
one only needs self-confidence and foolscap
paper. An able Frenchman sat down in his
study and produced Positivism, which some
one pleasantly described as Catholicism vmius
Christianity. It stimulated conversation in
superior circles for years, and only yesterday
Mr. Frederic Harrison was explaining to Pro-
fessor Huxley that this ingenious invention of
M. Comte ought to be taken seriously. An
extremely clever woman disappeared into Asia
and returned with another religion, which has
distinctly added to the innocent gaiety of the
English nation. One never knows when a new
religion may not be advertised. Various in-
teresting societies are understood to be work-
ing at something, and each novelty receives a


good-natured welcome. No person with any
sense of humour resents one of these efforts to
stimulate the jaded palate of society, unless it
be paraded a season too long and threatens to
become a bore. Criticism would be absurd:
you might as well analyse Alice in Wonderland,
Comparison with Christianity is impossible : it
were an insult to Jesus.

The great religions of the East compel an-
other treatment ; one bows before them with
wonder and respect. They are not the ephem-
era of fashion ; they are hoar with antiquity.
They are not the pastime of a coterie, they
have shaped the destinies of innumerable mil-
lions. The most profound instinct of the soul
breathes in their creeds and clothes itself in
their forms, and, notwithstanding their limita^
tions and corruptions, these ancient faiths have
each made some contribution to the Race. One
has anticipated the self-renunciation of Jesus,
another has asserted the mystery of the Eternal,
a third has vindicated the unity of God, and a
fourth has saturated with filial piety the future
rivals of the West. It were unbelief in Divine
Providence to deny those faiths a share in the
development of humanity : it were inexcusable


ignorance to regard them as systems of organ-
ised iniquity. They bear traces of noble an-
cestry, they preserve in their history a record
of splendid service. Stricken by time, their
ruins affect our imagination like the columns of
Karnak. Dying at the heart, these worn-out
religions still make more converts than Chris-
tianity. No reverent Christian will allow him-
self to despise the religions of the past ; no
intelligent Christian doubts that his will be the
religion of the future. A child of the East,
the religion of Jesus has conquered the West ;
conceived, as appears, by a Galilean peasant, it
has no limitations of thought or custom ; with
only a minority of the Race, it embraces the
dominant nations of the world. The mind of
Jesus seems nothing more in the world as yet
than a grey dawn ; but wise men can see it is
the rising sun.

The final test of any religion is its inherent
spiritual dynamic : the force of Christianity is
the pledge of its success. It is not a school of
morals, nor a system of speculation, it is an en-
thusiasm. This religion is Spring in the spirit-
ual world, with the irresistible charm of the
quickening wind and the bursting bud. It is a


birth, as Jesus would say, a breath of God that
makes all things new. Humanity does not
need morals, it needs motives: it is sick of
speculation, it longs for action. Men see their
duty in every land and age with exasperating
clearness. We know not how to do it.

* Whom do you count the worst man upon earth.
Be sure he knows, in his conscience, more
Of what right is than arrives at birth
In the best man's acts that we bow before.*

No one condemns the good, he leaves it un-
done. No one approves the evil, he simply
does it. Our moral machinery is complete but
motionless. The religion which inspires men
with a genuine passion for holiness and a con-
straining motive of service will last. It has
solved the problem of spiritual motion.

Jesus did not create goodness — her fair form
had been already carved in white marble by
austere hands ; His office was to place a soul
within the ribs of death till the cold stone
changed into a living body. Before Jesus, good-
ness was sterile, since Jesus, goodness has blos-
somed ; He fertilised it with His spirit. It
was a theory, it became a force. He took the
corn, which had been long stored in the


granaries of philosopliy, and sowed it in the
soft spring earth ; He minted the gold and
made it current coin. Christianity is in Re-
ligion what steam is in mechanics, the power
which drives. Jesus wrote nothing, He said
little, but He did what He said and made
others do as He commanded. His rehgion
began at once to exist ; from the beginning it
was a life. It is the distinction of Christianity
that it goes. This is why some of us, in spite of
every intellectual difficulty, must believe Jesus
to be the Son of God — He has done what no
other ever did, and what only God could do.
He is God because He discharges a * God-

• 'Tis one thing to know and another to practise.
And thence I conclude that the real God-functioo
Is to furnish a motive and injunction,
For practising what we know already.*

Religion with Jesus has a dynamic, and it is
Jesus Himself, for Jesus and His religion are as
soul and body. He did not evolve it as an in-
tellectual conception, He exhibited it as a state
of life. It was never a paper scheme like Plato's
Republic or More's Utopia. Jesus' religion was
in life before it appeared in the Gospels ; it had


been fulfilled in Himself before it was preached
to the world. The Gospels are not only a pro-
gramme, they are already a history. Chris-
tianity has been apt to sink into a creed or a
ceremony — it is the decadence of Pharisaism—
in Jesus' hand it was a life. Jesus never pro-
posed that men should discuss His Gospel, He
invited men to live it. * Whosoever cometh to
me, and heareth my sayings and doeth them
... is like a man which built an house ... on
a rock.* He did not suggest lines of action.
He commanded His disciples to do as He did.

* Jesus . . . saw a man named Matthew sitting
at the receipt of custom, and He saith unto
him, Follow me.* He did not dismiss His fol-
lowers as pupils to a task, He declared that
they would have a common life with Him.

* Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door
of the sheep ... by me, if any man enter in.
He shall be saved, and shall go in and out and
find pasture.* Jesus combines every side of
religion in Himself, and is the sum of His
Gospel. * I am the way, the truth, and the

Jesus made a claim that separates Him from
every other teacher — a claim of solitary and


absolute infallibility. The attitude of other
masters has been modest and qualified. ' This,
I think, is true, but you must not believe it as
my word ; this, I think, is right, but you must
not do it after my example. Examine and
decide for yourselves. I am, like yourselves, a
seeker and a sinner.' Their disciples accepted
this situation, and so Simmias said to Socrates,
* We must learn, or we must discover for our-
selves, the truth of these matters; or if that
be impossible, we must take the best and most
impregnable of human doctrines, and, embark-
ing on that as on a raft, risk the voyage of life,
unless a stronger vessel, some divine word,
could be found on which we might take our
journey more safely and more securely. . . .
Cebes and I have been considering your argu-
ment, and we think that it is barely sufficient.*

*I daresay you are right, my friend,* said
Socrates in the PJicedo.

Jesus did not affect such humility, nor make
such admissions. He did not obliterate or
minimise Himself ; He emphasised and as-
serted Himself. *Ye have heard that it hath
been said by them of old time,* opens one
paragraph after another of Jesus' great sermon,


and then follows, * But I say unto you.* Jesus
brushes aside the ancients as if they had
never been. His disciples were not to own any
authority beside Him ; He was to be absolute,
with Apostles and Prophets as His witnesses
and interpreters, never His equals. * Be not ye
called Rabbi, for One is your master, even
Christ, and all ye are brethren.* His words are
ushered in with the solemn formula, * Verily,
verily * ; they fall on the inner ear like the
stroke of a bell ; they are independent of argu-
ment. It is ever * I,' and one's soul answers
with reverence. For his T that sounds from
every sentence of the teaching of Jesus is not
egotism ; it is Deity.

Jesus makes the most unqualified demand on
the loyalty of His disciples, and believes that
the attraction of His Person will sustain their
obedience. The beginning of the religious life
was no reception of dogma or dream of mysti-
cism ; it was to break up a man's former envi-
ronment, and to follow the lead of Christ.
* Believe in me,' and * Come to me,* He was
ever saying, as if it were natural to trust Him,
impossible to resist Him. The hardness of
religion had its compensations : it carried as-


sociation with Jesus. ' Whosoever will come
after me, let him deny himself, and take up his
cross and follow me.' The immense sacrifices
of religion would be an office of love. ' There
is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or
sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children,
or lands, for my sake.' . . . Religious cow-
ardice was a synonym for treachery to Christ ;
it was a breach of friendship that could not be
healed. ' Whosoever shall be ashamed of me
and of my words, of him shall the Son of man
be ashamed when He shall come in His own
glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy
angels.' The slightest kindness was exalted
into an act of merit, because it was inspired by
devotion to Christ. ' For whosoever shall give
you a cup of water to drink in my name, be-
cause ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto
you, he shall not lose his reward.' When Jesus
came from the Father, the religious instincts
were withering in the dust, and vainly feeling
for something on which they could climb to
God ; Jesus presented Himself, and gathered
the tendrils of the soul round His Person. He
found religion a rite ; He left it a passion.
Perhaps the most brilliant inspiration of


Jesus was to fling Himself on the earliest,
latest, strongest passion of our nature, and
utilise it as the driving force of His religion.
All our life from infancy to age we are in the
school of love, and never does human nature
so completely shed the slough of selfishness,
or wear so generous a guise, or offer such un-
grudging service as when under this sway.
Here is stored to hand the latent dynamic for a
spiritual enterprise ; it only remains to make
the connection. Do you wish a cause to en-
dure hardness, to rejoice in sacrifice, to accom-
plish mighty works, to retain for ever the dew
of its youth? Give it the best chance, the
sanction of Love. Do not state it in books ;
do not defend it with argument. These are
aids of the second order ; if they succeed, it is
a barren victory — the reason only has been
won ; if they fail, it is a hopeless defeat — the
reason has now been exasperated. Identify
your cause with a person. Even a bad cause
will succeed for a space, associated with an
attractive man. The later Stewarts were hard
kings both to England and Scotland, and yet
women sent their husbands and sons to die
for * Bonnie Prince Charlie,* and the ashes of


that romantic devotion are not yet cold.
When a good cause finds a befitting leader, it
will be victorious before set of sun. David
had about him such a grace of beauty and
chivalry that his officers risked their lives
to bring him a cup of water, and his people
carried him to the throne of Israel on the love
of their hearts. Human nature has two domi-
nant instincts — the spring of all action as well
as the subject of ail literature — Faith and
Love. The religion which unites them will be

It was Jesus who summoned Love to meet
the severe demands of Faith, and wedded for
the first time the ideas of Passion and Right-
eousness. Hitherto Righteousness had been
spotless and admirable, but cold as ice ; Pas-
sion had been sweet and strong, but unchast-
ened and wanton. Jesus suddenly identifies
Righteousness with Himself, and has brought
it to pass that no man can love Him without
loving Righteousness. Jesus clothes Himself
with the commandments, and each is trans-
figured into a grace. He illustrates His Dec-
alogue in the washing of feet, and compels
His disciples to follow His example. * If I


then, your Lord and Master, have washed youf
feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet.*
By one felicitous stroke He makes Love and
Law synonymous, and Duty, which had always
been respectable, now becomes lovely. It is a
person, not a dogma, which invites my faith ;
a person, not a code, which asks for obedience.
Jesus stands in the way of every selfishness ;
He leads in the path of every sacrifice ; He is
crucified in every act of sin ; He is glorified in
every act of holiness. St. Stephen, as he suf-
fered for the Gospel, saw the heavens open and
Jesus standing to receive him. St. Peter flee-
ing in a second panic from Rome, meets Jesus
returning to be crucified in his place. Con-
science and heart are settled on Jesus, and one
feels within his soul the tides of His virtue.
It is not the doctrines nor the ethics of Chris-
tianity that are its irresistible attraction. Its
doctrines have often been a stumbling-block,
and its ethics excel only in degree. The life
blood of Christianity is Christ. As Louis said
*L*^tat c'est moi,* so may Jesus say *I am my
Religion.* What Napoleon was to his soldiers
on the battle-field, Jesus has been to millions
separated from Him by the chasm of centuries.


No emotion in human experience has been so
masterful, none so fruitful, as the passion for
Jesus. It has inspired the Church, it has half

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Online LibraryIan MaclarenThe mind of the Master → online text (page 8 of 15)