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Political and Social Significance

of the

Life and Teachings of Jesus



Professor of Political Economy and Politics
Cornell University




Copyright, 1906, by



[7-0-P 3177-2—08]


My Sister


Every thoughtful person who has given even the slightest attention
to the life and teachings of Jesus must have been impressed with
the practical way in which he applied his principles of life to the
every-day experiences of the people about him. As a student of
social science and politics, it has been a source of satisfaction to me
to see in how many cases the principles laid down by him have made
their way, often without the will of political or social leaders, into
the scheme of our modern life. The Christian religion has proved
itself practical in politics, and statesmen are realizing as never before
that God cannot be left out as a factor in public affairs. Like all
of the great thinkers who have weighed the deeper problems of life,
individual and social — Job, Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare — Jesus
looked deeper than the mere surface experiences of the day; and
where they discussed and explained, he touched and solved the
problems that are universal. The student is often struck by the
modernness of the views of Aristotle in matters of politics. To a
far greater degree may one notice the modernness of the teachings
of Jesus on almost all questions of personal and social life, simply
because he deals with the universal and his answers are complete
for all time.

Some five or six years ago, at the request of the Cornell Univer-
sity Christian Association, I gave a series of Sunday morning talks
upon the application of the life and the teachings of Jesus to political
and social problems. The views expressed by me, of course, are not
those of a special student of biblical literature or of the principles
of theology ; they are the views of a layman, a student of politics and
economics, who has taken a very great interest in seeing how the
teachings which Jesus applied in his own life fit themselves into the
views and practices of the best thinkers of the present day, as they
have molded the practices of those of the past, so that they are
surely, altho too slowly, regenerating the world.

Except incidentally, these talks were, naturally, not at all doctrinal;
but when at times a student asked for the application to the problems



of to-day of the sayings of Jesus, or when some of the more common
church doctrines seemed to come normally within the scope of the
discussion, I did not hesitate to express an opinion, tho I tried to
encourage tolerant discussion. While for many years I have been
a member of one of the evangelical churches, it is not expected that
all the opinions expressed will satisfy every one ; but they have been
in many cases comforting to me, because they seemed to me to show
the practical reasonableness of the teachings and practices of him
whom, whatever some may think who regard religion as a mere
sentiment, I believe to be the chief working influence in the world's
history. I hope that these thoughts may be helpful to others; but
1 have no fault to find with those who hold different views.

To me the chief intellectual characteristics of Jesus are his spirit
of impartiality, his broadmindedness, his aloofness from selfish inter-
ests. It will be seen that my belief in these characteristics has been
the basis of my interpretation of some of his teachings.

The material used in the preparation of this series of lessons
has been mainly the Gospels, but I have also been very much
interested in reading some other books that have treated these
same questions. I have not confined myself to those of any one
school of thought or criticism; I have not inquired whether the
books would support any special doctrinal views or not. I am not
aware that I have taken any one of the writers cited as a chief
guide. Some have been helpful on certain topics, others on different
ones. Students will have the same experience. It is a useful prac-
tice for a student to read thoughtfully the views of different writers
and to attempt to make a judgment. The power of judgment must
grow by practice. Such practice under a wise teacher will be of
the greatest service, and will help much in making the student more
useful in his life work.

When these talks were first given there were a number of re-
quests that they be published; but I felt that I did not have the
critical knowledge desirable for the writer of a book on so vital a
theme. My purpose in the talks had been rather to stimulate thought
and encourage investigation than to expound my own beliefs. When,
however, in the repetition of the course during the last year, the
request came to put these talks into the form of suggestive lessons
which might be used by students, it seemed to me that in this form
they might prove useful. I send them out, not as critical exposi-
tions, but rather as a series of statements and questions that I hope
may prove stimulating and helpful. Altho from the very nature
of the study it is essential, if the course is to be most useful, that
the viewpoint be primarily that of a study of Jesus the man, I trust
that the spirit has been reverent thruout and that the effect of work


in this course may be to encourage not only further study but also
better living.

It is a pleasure to me to acknowledge the very helpful assistance
given me in the preparation of these lessons by Miss Emelyn F. Peck.
In several instances she prepared the first draft of the outlines from
notes and stenographic reports of my lectures ; in many cases she.
has made the references, and she has usually verified them. Thruout,
her suggestions have been valuable. Without her aid it would not
have been possible for me to have prepared the course within the
time at my disposal.

Cornell University, October i, 1906.



Preface xi

Suggestions xv

Bibliography xvii

Study I.— Society and Social Forces : the Materials with
Which Jesus Worked

i. The Point of View 2

2. The Nature of Society 4

3. Mental and Moral Inertia 6

4. The Motive of Self-interest 8

5. Religious Aspiration 10

6. Group Characteristics 12

7. Review 14

Study II. — Jesus' Preparation for His Work

1. His Surroundings 16

2. His Training 18

3. His Character 20

4. Jesus and the Messiahship 22

5. John's Preaching and the Baptism 24

6. Plans for His Kingdom 26

7. Review 28

Study III. — Jesus' Conception of His Social Mission: Its
Relation to the State

1. Jesus to Found a New Kingdom 30

2. The Nature of the Kingdom: Its Constitution 32

3. Admission to Citizenship in the Kingdom 34

4. The Method of Growth of the Kingdom 36

5. Jesus' Authority in His Kingdom 38

6. Relation of His Kingdom to the State 40

7. Review 4-

Study IV. — The Principle of Individual Responsibility:
Its Social Significance

1. Twofold Responsibility of the Individual.... 44

2. Individual Responsibility for the Use of Oppor-

tunity 46




3. Independence in Judgment Regarding our Du-

ties 48

4. Religious Forms and Christian Duties 50

5. Relation of the Church to Christian Living 52

6. Individual Responsibility in its Relation to our

Habits and Beliefs 54

7. Review 56

Study V. — Jesus' Teaching as to Faith and Content-
ment: Its Social Significance

1. Our Value in God's Sight 58

2. "Take no Thought for the Morrow" 60

3. Our Business to do our Work: Peace the

Result 62

4. Our Work and Our Father's Business 64

5. God to be Trusted for Results 66

6. Faith and Contentment in Relation to Good

Government 68

7. Review 70

Study VI.— Jesus' Attitude toward Pleasures

1. His Recognition of Society and Social Customs 72

2. His Attitude toward Asceticism 74

3. The Need of Thoughtfulness 76

4. Relation of the Development of the Individual

to Social Progress 78

5. Jesus does not Condemn Pleasures or Social

Customs in Themselves 80

6. The Tests of Our Social Customs. . 82

7. Review 84

Study VII. — Jesus' Teaching Regarding Wealth

1. Wealth of Slight Moment Compared with En-

trance into the Kingdom 86

2. The Difficulty of Striving at the Same Time for

Wealth and Spiritual Excellence 88

3. Wealth need not be Sought, but Thrift is Com-

mended 90

4. The Duty of Generosity and Thoughtfulness in

the Use of Wealth 92

5. Relation of the Spirit of the Giver to the Value

of the Gift 94

6. Significance of the Common Purse kept by

Jesus and His Disciples 96

7. Review 98



Study VIII. — Jesus' Attitude toward the Poor

I.Jesus' Sympathy for the Poor ioo

2. Generosity Commended chiefly for its Effect

upon the Giver 102

3. Jesus' Poverty in no Way Encourages Begging 104

4. Assistance may well be Accepted under proper

Conditions 106

5. Jesus' Attitude toward Hypocrites and Frauds 108

6. Selfishness not to be Excused by Fear of Fraud no

7. Review 112

Study IX. — Jesus' Views Regarding Crime and the Treat-
ment of Criminals
t. Significance of Jesus' Dictum as to Lending

and Giving 114

2. Significance of His Dictum of "Judge Not" ... 116

3. Crime from the Moral Viewpoint 118

4. The Punishment of Crime and Jesus' Forgive-

ness of Sin 120

5. Aim in the Treatment of Criminals 122

6. Jesus' Method of Overcoming Evil 124

7. Review 126

Study X. — Jesus' Teaching Regarding Non-resistance to

1. Non-resistance in Harmony with a Spiritual

Kingdom 128

2. To Whom the Principle Applies 130

3. Attitude of State and Individual toward Evil-

doers 132

4. Significance to the Individual of the Principle

of Non-resistance 134

5. The Abolition of War 136

6. The Foundation of a World Parliament 138

7. Review 140

Study XI. — Jesus' Principles of Social Reform

1. Necessity of Knowledge of Men and of Society 142

2. Relation of Individual Reform to Social Re-

form 144

3. Christian Social Progress Necessarily Slow... 146

4. Obstacles and Opposition to Progress 148



5. Adverse Conditions Demand Patience and

Faith 150

6. Points of Emphasis in the Teachings of Jesus. 152

7. Review 154

Study XII. — Jesus the Exemplar of His Teaching

1. Jesus' Joy in Life 156

2. His Love of Nature 158

3. His Enjoyment of Social Life.. 160

4. His Mental Activity: Speaking, Discussion, In-

sight 162

5. His Consciousness of Power and Right 164

6. His Certainty of Success 166

7. Review 168





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These lessons have been prepared for a course of twelve weeks,
with the thought that it will probably be best to devote some time
each day to the study. Provision is made for a review of the week's
work on Sunday, and for thinking out some questions suggested
by the lessons. In part, these questions are for review, but in the
main they are intended to suggest some lines of collateral thought
or some practical application of the principles laid down to the
affairs of everyday life.

Classes differ so much in the age of the students, in the time at
their disposal, in their interest in the topics under discussion, in the
tastes and inclinations of the teacher, that no definite rule should
be laid down regarding the amount of time to be given to the course.
For some classes it will doubtless be found best to give two weeks
or more to a study, especially if the students become interested in
the discussion of the questions. The daily readings may well be
repeated, the student looking up each day authorities not consulted
before. In some cases, if the class desires thoro work, it may be
found best to give to the course the entire college year.

Each day the student should read at least the outline and the
references to the Bible. Only a few references have been given
under each topic. It would be well to read, in connection with
these, other passages on similar subjects, such as can readily be
found in a harmony of the Gospels or in a good concordance. If time
can be taken to read the views of some of the other writers referred
to, so much the better. Each student will do well to own and read
some good life of Jesus in connection with the work.

Wherever questions are asked, an effort should be made to think
out a clear answer. It will often be best to put the answer in writ-
ing so as to be sure that a clear opinion has been reached.

If the syllabus is made the basis of class work on Sundays, the
teacher should select the two or three most important thoughts and
make them the basis of free discussion. There is no intention what-
ever to dogmatize in the lessons themselves. The students should
read different authorities, so that several views will be represented.




A candid, honest discussion, under the leadership of a wise teacher
will aid more than anything else in clarifying the judgment, and
especially in giving the stimulus needed to put the lessons taught
into practical effect. "The best that we can do for one another is
to exchange our thoughts freely."


The Bible, Revised Version, especially the Gospels of Matthew,

Mark, Luke, and John.
Stevens and Burton: A Harmony of the Gospels; New York,

Charles Scribner's Sons, 1905.
James, C. C. : A Harmony of the Gospels; London, C. J. Clay &

Sons, 1892.
Pittenger, William : The Interwoven Gospels and Gospel Har-
mony; Boston, The Pilgrim Press.
Robinson, Edward: A Harmony of the Four Gospels in English;

Boston, Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
Edersheim, Alfred: The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah; 2

vols. New York, Anson D. F. Randolph & Co.
Sanday, W. : Outlines of the Life of Christ; New York, Charles

Scribner's Sons, 1905.
Fairbairn, A. M. : Studies in the Life of Christ; London, Hodder

& Stoughton, 1889.
Andrews, Samuel J. : The Life of Our Lord upon the Earth; New

York, Charles Scribner's Sons, 1892.
Schmidt, Nathaniel: The Prophet of Nazareth; New York, The

Macmillan Co., 1905.
Farrar, Frederic W. : The Life of Christ; New York, E. P. Dut-

ton & Co., 1895.
Stalker, James : Life of Jesus Christ; Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark,

1 891.
Gilbert, George H. : The Studenfs Life of Jesus; Chicago, Press

of the Chicago Theological Seminary, 1896.
Rhees, Rush : The Life of Jesus of Nazareth; New York, Charles

Scribner's Sons, 1000.
Geikie, Cunningham : The Life and Words of Christ; New York,

D. Appleton & Co., 1883.
Stevens, George Barker: The Teaching of Jesus; New York, The

Macmillan Co., 1901.
Mathews, Shailer: The Social Teaching of Jesus; New York,

The Macmillan Co., 1897.


Mathews, Shailer: The Messianic Hope in the New Testament;

Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1905.
Speer, Robert E. : The Principles of Jcsns; New York, Fleming H.

Revell Company, 1902.
Peabody, Francis G. : Jesus Christ and the Social Question; New

York, The Macmillan Co., 1900.
Peabody, Francis G. : Jesus Christ and the Christian Character;

New York, The Macmillan Co., 1905.
Seeley, J. R. : Ecce Homo; London and Cambridge, Macmillan &

Co., 1866.
Harnack, Adolf: What is Christianity?; London, Williams & Nor-

gate, 1901.
Simpson, P. Carnegie: The Fact of Christ; New York, Fleming

H. Revell Co., 1901.
Hillis, Newell Dwight : The Influence of Christ in Modern Life;

New York, The Macmillan Co., 1900.
Hyde. William DeWitt: From Epicurus to Christ; New York,

The Macmillan Co., 1904.
Spencer, Herbert: Principles of Sociology; 3 vols.; New York,

D. Appleton & Co., 1888.
Ward, Lester F. : Outlines of Sociology; New York, The Mac-
millan Co., 1899.
Giddings, Franklin H. : The Elements of Sociology; New York,

The Macmillan Co., 1898.
Jenks, Jeremiah W. : Citizenship and the Schools; New York,

Henry Holt & Co., 1906.


Society and Social Forces : the Material with which Jesus


"But when he saw the multitudes he was moved with compassion
for them, because they were distressed and scattered, as sheep not
having a shepherd." — Matthew ix, 36.

"Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men." — Mat-
thezv iv, 19.


First Day: C&e JJctnt of Eteto

"Whatever makes men good Qiristians, makes them good citi-
zens." — Daniel Webster.
Speer: Principles of Jesus, iv, xxxii.


First Day : ft&e Point of Suiu

Many great men have affected profoundly the history of the world ;
Jesus has changed the fundamental nature of human society. Many
people, young men especially, perhaps, are inclined to look upon
the Christian religion as sentimental, and upon its Founder as ex-
hibiting an admirable character, gentle and lovable, but as giving
nothing of special service for the hard tasks of a working world.
On the contrary, any thoro study of history shows the reason-
ableness of Christianity as founded by Jesus, and its practical effi-
ciency in the greater affairs of statesmanship as well as in the
individual experiences of the citizen. If, to meet the prejudiced
criticism of those who think they admire only the strong heroes of
the past, we for the time consider Jesus merely as the man who
walked and talked in Palestine, even then we find him a hero, with
an intellect of almost startling strength and originality, and with
a moral boldness and courage unequalled, but amply justified from
the human standpoint by the revolutionary success of his teachings.
In consequence of these practical results, we may well claim in our
work with ambitious young men that thru a study of his life
and teaching we have an opportunity of getting ideas and sugges-
tions of prime value for our own practical work in society. Our
Christianity will be not merely a matter of feeling; it will be of
practical worth in our life-work.

The work of Jesus was primarily social. We can understand it
only by understanding the material with which he worked and
the methods which he employed.

For this special study to be of the highest value to us in our
own personal lives, it is desirable that we view the problem of Jesus'
work in society from the point of view of society of the present day,
with the understanding that in the time of Jesus, even as now, society
was molded by forces that we ourselves to a greater or less degree
may control ; and that in his dealings with men he knew human
nature, and employed the means that we are to use. Our purpose
is "the application to conduct today, under its changed conditions.
of the principles which found expression in the life and teaching
of Jesus nineteen hundred years ago, but which, because they are
principles, are not local, transient and personal, but universal and
abiding."— Speer.


Second Day : Clje JRatttre tit J&ocutp

"It is evident that the state is a creation of nature, and that man
is by nature a political animal. And he who by nature and not by
mere accident is without a state, is either above humanity or below
it; he is the

Tribeless, lawless, hearthless one/

whom Homer denounces — the outcast who is a lover of war; he
may be compared to a bird which flies alone." — Aristotle.

"Men were born for the service and benefit of each other." —
Marcus Aurclius.

Matthew vii, 16-20; xi, 16-19; xiii, 54-58.

Mark vi, 1-6.

Luke xi, 11- 13.

Giddings : Elements of Sociology, Chapters V and VI.

Peabody: Jesus Christ and the Social Question, Chapter VII.

Mathews : Social Teaching of Jesus, VIII.

Speer: Principles of Jesus, Introduction.

Jenks : Citizenship and the Schools, Chapters I and II.


Second Day : C&e Jftature of S>0Ctetp

Every society is built upon human nature, and is the product of
heredity and environment. Each society will differ from every other
society, but in most particulars, when the question is one of funda-
mental moving forces, human beings are much the same in all times
and countries. Men are of one species, altho there are many varie-
ties. In consequence, altho the religion of Jesus as he gave it to
the world had, of necessity, local coloring, altho many of the inci-
dents are local, and many of his sayings were addressed to local
prejudices and temporary conditions, still with his profound insight
into human nature, he could and did touch springs universal, and his
religion may well become eventually a universal religion.

The prime social fact in his day, as since, is that of the inter-
relations of men, and their interdependence upon one another. No
person can live to himself alone; his every act is bound to have
influence upon other persons, and his own acts are largely deter-
mined by his relations to others. Most of us who are taking up
these lessons will feel the influence of our parents, that of the social
customs which led us to want a higher education, and the causes,
numerous as they may have been, which led us to study, as well as
the influence of the various motives that have dominated those
whose work has made our educational institutions what they are.

Greatest of all in its influence in this study is the fact that Jesus
lived and worked, and that his life and work gave to religious and
social thought an impulse whose force and active power have been
accumulating thruout the ages since. The method by which the
impulse of his personality has been extended thruout generations
shows largely how any person who attempts to influence society
must go to work.

We sometimes forget that people never act except as they are
influenced by their feelings. In consequence, if we are to discuss
the causes of any great social movement, such as the introduction of
Christianity, it is essential that we study somewhat carefully the
primary human motives.

The various motives from which men act are, of course, almost
numberless, and most of our actions are influenced not by one simple
motive, but by a complexity of different motives. There are, how-
ever, a few motives so nearly universal that we should note their
characteristics, so as to see in what way the teachings of Jesus
worked upon them, and by what means he brought about a social


Third Day : itotai auU floral JJnertia

"Custom calls me to'i."— Shakespeare.

Proverbs i, 22; vi, 6-1 1; xviii, 9.

Matthew xxv, 15, 24-36.

Giddings : Elements of Sociology, X, XIV, XV.

Ward: Outlines of Sociology, VII.

Jenks : Citizenship and the Schools, I, II.


Third Day : ^Xtntnl anfc floral inertia

Economists have long taught that the natural desire to spare our
energies is one of the most important factors in business life. A
somewhat deeper study will show that this same inclination is also
profoundly felt in the fields of politics, of social life, and of religion.

In business, each man ordinarily follows the customs of the day,
with little effort to make improvements. In politics, men are usually,
too lazy or too indifferent to do their own political thinking; they{
drift into a party in childhood, and remain there regardless of shift-
ing of principles or changes of leadership.

Likewise in religion, altho each one of us probably feels that he
has joined the church of his choice, a thoughtful examination will
show that, as we have drifted into our ways of doing business, and
into our political party, so we have drifted with comparatively little
thought or original expenditure of energy into the church of our
families. Probably, too, thru our unwillingness to think out the
meaning of our forms of worship, i. e., thru our moral and spiritual
inertia, we are failing to secure much of the richness of religious
experience that is our due. Like the generations that have gone
before us, we have adopted other people's phraseology and habits
of thinking, and are satisfying ourselves on the husks of ceremo-
nial religion instead of on the life-giving principles of Christianity.

Yet we must not fail to recognize the good side of this mental
and moral inertia. It is the great force in society which enables the
thinkers, statesmen, and reformers to count with certainty upon
the actions of the mass of men as uniform. Furthermore, it is from

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Online LibraryJeremiah Whipple JenksThe political and social significance of the life and teachings of Jesus → online text (page 1 of 9)