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him. In reply, let it be observed in what terms the Apostles speak of
their Master, and of the obedience, the faith, and veneration due to
him. Paul, for example, in various forms, tells them to "put on the Lord
Jesus Christ;" to let his mind be in them, his word dwell in them
richly, to acquire his spirit, to follow him in love and self-sacrifice.
He will know nothing, he says, "save Jesus Christ, and him crucified;"
and we know how closely he treads in his Master's steps, in the
absolute preference which he gives to the Love which, he declares, is
greater than faith, and the very fulfilling of the law itself. The same
strain is held by others of the Apostles; and there can be no doubt that
Christ, under God, was constantly looked up to by them as the great
object of the faith, the love, and the imitation of every disciple. It
is true, indeed, that there are many things in the Apostolical writings
other than we find in connection with Christ's personal life; but these
will be found to belong, almost exclusively, to the peculiar
circumstances and controversies of the times succeeding his death. In
truth, they belong so entirely to them as to have little of practical
reference, or utility, beyond. Paul's Epistles, for instance, are full
of the long debated question as to the claims of the law upon Gentiles,
and the mystery which, he says, had been hidden "from the foundation of
the world," that the Messiah should be preached even to those who were
not of the fold of Israel. But these are only temporary incidents of the
early career of Christianity. They have no intimate connection with the
permanent influence of Christ; and we of modern times have little
concern with them, except only to be on our guard against letting them
unduly sway our judgment and turn us away from subjects of greater
consequence, - as too often has happened to the ingenious framers of
theological systems. Christianity, in a word, has been only perplexed
and impeded in its course, by those thoughtless or over-zealous
expounders who have insisted upon constructing schemes of orthodoxy out
of the antiquated disputes of Jews and Gentiles.[29]

[Footnote 29: See, e.g., the Essay on the Death of Christ, in _Aids to
Faith_.]

In all his Epistles St. Paul, in the true spirit of his Master, gives us
clearly to know what is of chief importance. After treating, as he
usually does, of the local and passing concerns and disputes which
engaged many of his correspondents, he never fails to turn at last to
speak of the practical goodness, the purity of heart and life, the
kindly affections towards one another, the reasonable service of love
and duty, by which the Christian disciple may be known, by which alone
he can present himself as a "living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto
God." In such qualities as these, the attainment or the practice of
which he so earnestly urges upon his friends, we have precisely what
constitute the most marked features in the life and the teachings of
Christ. Thus we are brought once more to the old conclusion that in
faithful loyalty to Christ, to the highest ideal presented to us of his
spirit and character, are to be found the true light and joy and peace
of the Christian Gospel.

A third objection is of a different character. There are some things, it
will be said, in immediate connection with him whom we term Teacher and
Lord, some things in his words and ideas, if not in his actions, which
are far from being in perfect harmony with the highest truth, as known
to men in these later times. For example, when he speaks as though he
believed diseases and insanity to be caused by the presence of a devil,
or demon, in the afflicted person, are we to attach importance to this,
so as ourselves to think that such disorders are (or were) so
produced? - or shall we not rather follow the guidance of modern science,
and believe that the various infirmities which, in ancient times, were
attributed to evil spirits arose from natural causes, and that the
manner in which such things are spoken of in the New Testament is a
product simply of the imperfect knowledge of those days?

In reply, there need be no hesitation in saying that we are bound, as
beings of thought and reason, to follow the best guidance which God has
given us, in these and all other subjects; and by the term _best_ can
only be understood that which commends itself most forcibly to our
rational intelligence. It can in no way be claimed for Christ that he
was intellectually perfect; that he did not share in the prevailing
beliefs of his countrymen, and partake even of their ignorance. Such a
claim as this is certainly nowhere advanced in the New Testament, but
the _contrary_; and those who, in our time, would bring it forward
should ask themselves whether, by so doing, they are most likely to
benefit, or to injure, the cause which doubtless they would desire to
support. Jesus himself makes no pretension to intellectual
infallibility, but lets us see, in no uncertain way, that he was not
unconscious of the limitation of his own knowledge.[30]

[Footnote 30: Mark xiii. 32.]

In general terms it may be added, the Gospel, when first preached in the
world, was necessarily adapted to the people to whom it was addressed.
It conformed, in many respects, to their ideas and modes of expression,
and also made use of these for its own ends. Had it not done so, how
could it have touched and moved them as it did, and as, through them, it
has touched and moved the world ever since? Jesus, therefore, himself,
and those who took up his work after him, were, in a large degree, men
of their own day, imbued with prevailing ideas and feelings, and
employing these in their speaking and preaching in the most natural
manner. Is it not even so with ourselves at the present moment? For how,
indeed, can it be otherwise? And if many of the primitive Christian
ideas were more or less erroneous and ill-founded, it is easy to
understand that, while the overruling Providence made them its
instruments for leading men on by degrees to something better, still it
can have been no part of the great design of God that misunderstanding
and ignorance should be removed by any other process than by the natural
growth of knowledge among men. They were not to be supernaturally
refuted, but left to be corrected in due course of time; and the needed
correction was and is to come even as men grow wiser and more thoughtful
and able to bear it.

Hence, it is not to be questioned, many errors, chiefly of the
intellectual kind, attached to the early preaching of the Gospel, and
some certainly did to the words of Christ himself; just as very much of
human ignorance and prejudice has since and continually been involved in
the ideas prevailing as to the character and purposes of his religion.
As before observed, man has been made by his Creator to find his way up
to light and truth from the most imperfect beginnings, and by a
prolonged conflict against and amidst darkness and manifold error. Such
is our human nature, and the position which the Divine Will has assigned
to us. And so in the early ages after Christ there sprung up the
idolatrous worship of the Virgin Mary and of innumerable saints; nor is
the world yet free, though it is slowly freeing itself, from the
influence of these superstitions and their related errors of thought.
Successive generations inherit much of the evil as well as the good, the
ignorance as well as the knowledge, of those who have been before them.
Thus does the Almighty Father exercise and discipline his human family
in patience, in self-control, in the search after truth, even by letting
us suffer and work for the good fruits of knowledge and righteousness,
instead of giving them to the world at once without thought or effort of
our own. This is eminently true in connection with the whole course of
Christian development. In Christ's own teachings and those of the
Apostles, as time has amply shown, erroneous ideas were not wanting.
Peter denied his Master, and thought at first that only Jews could be
disciples. Both he and Paul, as well as James, with probably all the
early Christians, long cherished the hope of their Master's return to
the earth within that generation; a belief which is to be traced also,
equally with that in demoniacal possessions, in the recorded words of
Jesus himself. Other instances of a similar kind might easily be
mentioned.

But, while all this seems perfectly undeniable, has not Divine
Providence so ordered that what is really wrong and false in men's ideas
of Christian truth shall sooner or later be seen in its real character,
in the advancing progress of human knowledge? - and therefore, if we are
ourselves only patient and faithful, each of us, to what we see, or
think we see, to be right and good, that the untrue in our ideas shall
be eventually separated from the true, however close may be the
connection which at any time may subsist between them? Such is,
doubtless, the Almighty purpose, such the all-sufficient process
provided in His wisdom for securing the training and growth of the races
and generations of men in the knowledge of Divine things. It follows,
again, that whatever in the Christian teaching, as in other teaching,
shall stand the test of advancing knowledge, and still approve itself
as true and honest and just and pure and lovely and of good report[31]
to the purified conscience and practised intellect of man, that shall be
God's everlasting Truth; that too He must have designed not only by the
word of Christ, but through the living souls of His rational children,
to proclaim to the world with the mark of His Divine approval.

[Footnote 31: Philip. iv. 8.]

It is not necessary here to ask in detail what it is in existing schemes
of Christian theology, or in the outward forms and arrangements of
priesthoods and of churches, that will bear this test of advancing
knowledge, and this scrutiny of the educated intellect and conscience.
Doubtless much in the popular creeds of our day will do so; but much
more will only be as chaff before the wind, or stubble before the
devouring flame. Among the perishable things will surely be the
ecclesiastical systems which vary with every different country and
church, and along with these the claims to priestly and papal authority
and infallibility, about which we again hear such angry contention.
Truly, none of these will bear the test and strain of time and
knowledge; but only those great and unchangeable principles of spiritual
truth, and those deep-lying sentiments of moral right, which are
_common_ to _all_ the different sects and parties of Christendom. These
will retain their place among the great motive forces of the world, even
because their roots are firmly planted by the Divine hand itself in the
very nature of man, and made to be a part of the constitution of his
mind; while, also, it is true, and the Christian disciple will ever
gratefully acknowledge, they owe their best and highest expression and
exemplification to Jesus the Christ, the "beloved Son," in whom God was
"well pleased."

We may conclude then, as before, that in the mind and life of
Christ, - in his unshaken trust in the Heavenly Father, and in the heaven
to be revealed hereafter, - in his readiness to obey the call of Duty,
wherever it might lead him, even though it might be to the shame and the
agony of the cross, - in his faithful adherence to the right, and earnest
denunciation of falsehood, hypocrisy, and wrong-doing, - in his gentle
spirit of forgiveness and filial submission even unto death, - we have
the lessons of Christian truth and virtue which it most of all concerns
us to receive and to obey. In this high "faith of Christ" we have the
true revelation of God's will for man; the Gospel speaking to us in its
most touching and impressive tones, - either reproaching us for our
indifference and calling us to repentance, or else aiding and
encouraging us onward in the good path of righteousness.

So long as Christianity shall be thus capable of speaking to the world,
so long will it, amidst all the varieties of outward profession, be a
living power for good; and vain will be the representation which would
tell us that it is now only a thing of the past, unfitted for the better
knowledge and higher philosophy of these modern times. Surely not
so! - but, rather, until we have each individually attained the moral
elevation even of Christ himself, and can say that we too, in character
and conduct, in motive and aspiration, are well pleasing in the sight of
Heaven, until we _are_ this, and can feel and say this with truth, the
religion of Christ will be no antiquated thing of the past to _us_; but
from its teaching and its spirit - the teaching and the spirit of
Christ - we shall still have wisdom and truth to learn.

May the time speedily come, which shall see Christ's spirit ruling the
individual lives of all around us, - more truly inspiring the thoughts
and efforts of our lawgivers, - teaching men everywhere to be just and
merciful towards each other; and thus making Christianity, in deed and
in truth, the "established religion," the guiding and triumphant power
of this and all other lands! Then, indeed, will the daily prayer of all
Christian hearts be answered, and the "kingdom of heaven" on earth be
truly come.




THE AIM AND HOPE OF JESUS.

By OLIVER STEARNS.


A learned Historian of the Christian Theology of the Apostolic age
observes that what most distinguishes the Jewish religion, at least in
its last centuries, is not so much monotheism as faith in the future.
While elsewhere we see the imagination of men complacently retracing the
picture of a golden age irrecoverably lost, Israel, guided by its
prophets, persisted in turning its eyes towards the future, and attached
itself the more firmly to a felicity yet to come, the more the actual
situation seemed to give the lie to its hopes.[32]

[Footnote 32: Reuss, History of the Christian Theology of the Apostolic
Age.]

What these hopes were in relation to the future of that people and of
the world, what the Messianic ideas and expectations were, we learn from
the New Testament, particularly from the Gospels. And we find our
impressions from this source made more clear in some points, and in all
confirmed, by a study of the Apocalyptic literature, - of those writings
of which it was the object to give both shape and expression to the
Hebrew thought of the kingdom of heaven, and of the brilliant and
miraculous events which would introduce and establish it.

Jewish Theology in the age of Jesus Christ divided the whole course of
time into two grand periods; one, comprehending the past and the
present, was that of suffering and sin; the other, embracing the future,
a period of virtue and happiness. The last years of the former period
formed the most important epoch in the History of Humanity, the
transition to a new order of things, and was designated by a peculiar
phrase, - the consummation of the age and the last days. It would be
introduced by the appearance of the great Restorer or Deliverer of the
people of God, and of the world, whom the prophets predicted; and who
was called the Messiah, the Anointed of the Lord, - _i.e._, the King by
eminence, the King of Israel. He was to be the successor and the son of
David. The precise moment of his appearance was not known. The Jewish
theologians tried to determine the precursive signs of the near approach
of his advent. The first of these was the period of great wickedness and
suffering, marked by a particular name, the anguish, and compared to the
pangs of child-birth. Immediately preceding the advent of the King, a
prophet of the Old Covenant would be restored to life to announce it, - a
part in the miraculous drama commonly assigned to Elijah. The Messiah
himself would come on the clouds of heaven, with a retinue of angels,
and with a pomp and splendor which would leave no doubt of the fact of
his advent. He would come to found the kingdom of God. This implied the
political, moral, and religious regeneration of the people. A series of
most imposing scenes would follow the advent. At the sound of a trumpet,
the dead would arise and appear for the judgment of the last day. The
just would take part in the judgment of the reprobate, who would be
thrown into the lake of fire, prepared for the devil and his angels to
suffer eternal torture. And the kingdom of God or of the Messiah would
be established immediately on the earth, which, with the whole of the
universe of which it was the centre, would be gloriously transformed to
fit it to be the abode of the elect of God.

Into the circle of these ideas and expectations Jesus was born. In it he
passed his life, acted and suffered; and claimed to found the kingdom of
God. He claimed in some sense to be the Messiah; and, though rejected by
his people and put to death, he has borne the name in history, and now
bears it. He is Jesus, the Christ. How did he regard these ideas and
expectations? Did he adopt them? And, if at all, how far? Did he claim
to be such a Messiah as the Jews expected? If so, then Christianity may
be what it has been called, "a natural development of Judaism." It is
not essentially a new religion. It is not an evolution of a perfect
universal, from an imperfect and partial, religion. It is essentially
Judaism still; and "the kingdom of God, which Jesus preached in both a
temporal and spiritual sense, developed naturally and logically into the
Popedom, which is the nearest approximation to the fulfilment of the
claim of Jesus. Judaism is germinal Christianity, and Christianity is
fructified Judaism." Christianity is only what is weakest and most
fantastic in Judaism gone to seed. _The fruit_ is the Roman Hierarchy
and Ritual. That which is alone characteristic of it is limited and
perishable. Jesus himself, though his ambition was a lofty one, was
mistaken in an essential point of his self-assertion; and the gospel is
not destined to be an universal religion, but only to make some moderate
contributions thereto.

It is an important question, then, - one which concerns his worth and
position as a man, as well as his wisdom as a founder of a
religion, - What did Jesus aim at? and what did he expect as the result
of his movement? The answers that have been given may be reduced to
three principal forms: 1. He expected to found a political Empire; 2. He
expected to introduce a vast Theocracy, to which believers of other
nations should be admitted, and which was to be established on the
renovated earth, after his death, at his return to take possession of it
as King, to reward his followers, and to put all opposition under his
feet; 3. He expected to found a purely spiritual communion or society in
which he should continue to exercise for ages, by his spirit, word, and
life, a power of truth and love over the minds and hearts of men,
filling them with the most exalted sense of God.

The first view has been presented by some able adversaries of
Christianity, among whom Reimarus led the way in a fragment "On the Aim
of Jesus," published with others anonymously in 1778. He charged Jesus
with using religious motives as merely a means to a political end; but
supposed that, after he found death impending, he renounced the
political aim, and pretended that his purpose was only a moral one. A
few able scholars have been disposed to blend the last view with the
others. They suppose an original Theocratic purpose to have been
entertained by Jesus, in which the moral and religious principle
predominated, but which was not at first exclusive of the political
element. They suppose, however, a progress in his aim; that after his
rejection by the people, "which he regarded as God's rejection of any
national limitation of his work," he inferred that his mission was to
found a spiritual kingdom. Though the direct imputation of a political
aim has not been a favorite expedient with ultra-rationalist critics
since Reimarus was answered by Reinhard and others, it ought not to be
passed without consideration. It is continually reappearing in modified
forms. And this happens, because it is impossible to present the
hypothesis that Jesus intended to be a Jewish Messiah without involving
the supposition of something political in his object, and in his means
of accomplishing it. Accordingly a very recent critic[33] of
Christianity, writing in the interest of "Free Religion," and
representing Jesus as claiming to be a Jewish Messiah, after saying very
truly that "the popular hope of a Priest-king transformed itself in the
soul of Jesus into the sublime idea of a spiritual Christ ruling by
love," is constrained to say, inconsistently, in another place, that, if
Jesus had assumed the office, he would not have hesitated to discharge
its political duties, and to exercise political sway. Here, then, is a
revival of the imputation to Jesus of a political aim. But I am not
aware that it is anywhere in recent criticism enforced with any new
strength of argument. It is obviously contradicted by the general
bearing of his actions, and by the whole tone of his teachings when
rightly apprehended. It is contradicted by his utter neglect of
political measures. He could not be induced or forced to take the
position of a political ruler. Admirers wished to proclaim him King: he
sent them away, tore his disciples from them, and went himself into the
mountain to commune with God. Asked to settle a dispute about property,
he says he has never been constituted an administrator of civil justice.
When shown the tribute-money, and inquired of if it were lawful to pay
tribute unto Cæsar, he makes the memorable reply in which he at once
acknowledges the rights of the government _de facto_; and the rights of
conscience and religion, which to deny would be usurpation. He was the
first to distinguish the spheres of the church and of the state so
intimately related, but never to be blended. And this is just what the
political Messiah, the Priest-king, could not have conceived. The
outlines of his church may serve as the model of a free church to-day.
There was no political motive to enter it. It had no officer who could
exercise political power. There was no authority but in the
congregation. It was amenable to no political head. Its fundamental
truths were the equal relation of all men with God as his children, and
the common relation of all men with one another as brethren. The only
end of his church was the moral and spiritual development of its members
and of all men; the only condition of membership, the recognition of
this end; and, with it, of the providential gift of truth and life given
in Jesus Christ's consciousness of God, and an appropriating and
co-operative sympathy with his character and purpose. Its method was
free conference and prayer in the spirit of unity, and in devotion to
the regeneration of the human family; a method, the results of which, he
assured them, would be the reaching of decisions which would be in
essential harmony with his own spirit, the Spirit of God. He drew more
from the synagogue than from the temple. Worship might ascend anywhere
from the heart. One need not go to Jerusalem. No political Messiah could
have thought of any centre of the restored Theocracy but the holy city,
to which the tribes should repair with their sacrifices, and the
converted heathen bring their votive offerings to Jehovah, the God of
Jews; but the temple must be destroyed, and not one stone of it left
upon another, according to Jesus, in order to prepare for that worship
of the Father by men in spirit and in truth, which he, as the Christ,
would inaugurate.

[Footnote 33: See "The Index," Toledo, Jan. 1 and Jan. 8, 1870.]

We thus come naturally to another point in the discussion. The theories
which recognize the political aim of Jesus commonly suppose that he
regarded it as his personal mission to restore Mosaism to its primitive
purity. And, if he shared in the hope of the restoration of the
Theocracy, he would probably take the most conservative ground in regard
to the Levitical institutions and the Mosaic precepts. He would believe
the Jewish people must be made independent, in order to give supremacy
to those institutions. The Roman yoke must be broken, and the coming
kingdom be inaugurated with war. Nothing of this, however, is found in
the ministry of Jesus Christ. When he preached "the kingdom of heaven is
at hand," it was no summons to war. The characteristic qualities of
those who belonged to this kingdom were opposed to the Theocratic
spirit. And the Sermon on the Mount taught, as clearly as the formal


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