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held the other. The two opinions were Siamese twins, connected by a
vital bond; separate them and you would kill them both. But Jesus gave a
view of the resurrection and the future life totally different from the
Apocalyptic one. He taught the _continuance_ of life. His argument with
the Sadducees proves that doctrine, or it amounts to nothing. God is the
God not of the dead, but of the living. The Rich Man and Lazarus, of the
parable, are already in a future state of retribution. He who believes
on him has "already passed from death unto life." Jesus could not
suppose that one who had received from him the quickening of spiritual
life could pass into the under-world, and grope as a shade in the
intermediate state. "Whosoever liveth and believeth in him shall never
die." Now, to one who is satisfied that Jesus was emancipated from the
doctrine of an intermediate state, it must be evident that he could not
have held the Apocalyptic notion resting on it of a raising of the dead
at the coming of the Messiah, and could not have held to the visible
coming of the Messiah who was to come to do that very thing.

The same observation is to be made of the judgment. Jesus shows himself
emancipated from the common notion of the judgment, and of a future
simultaneous judgment-day. He that believeth on him is not judged. He
that believeth not is judged already, in that he has not believed in the
only-begotten Son of God. God sent him not to judge or to punish the
world, but to save it. The judgment of the world is not to be
exclusively at a remote day. It has begun. It is _now_. Christ says, Now
is the judgment of this world; now is the Prince of this world to be
cast out; now, when Jesus is about to consummate by dying the moral
means of that result. Jesus is not to be a personal Judge of men at a
remote time. His principles are for ever to judge men, to judge them
finally. Not himself as the personal Logos, or as the reappearing
Messiah, is to judge men, but "the word he has spoken." These thoughts
in the fourth Gospel must have come from Jesus, not from the writer, who
shows himself in places not emancipated from the view of his time.

3. The doctrine of Christ's expectation which I am considering is not
congruous with the means which he contemplates for accomplishing his
work, and with the view he took of the progress of his kingdom, and of
the moral duties and retributions of Humanity. Nothing is clearer than
that his kingdom of God was to be a communion of men on earth bound
together by the same consciousness of the heavenly Father. It was to
extend into another life. But it was to spread more and more widely, and
subdue the world to his spiritual dominion. By moral influence he is to
be King. This communion is to be the salt of the earth, the light of the
world. It is to extend its influence by holy example, by good works. He
will be in spirit with the apostles and with his church. He trains them
to carry on his work, and tells them to preach the good news to all
nations. He does this as if founding a work which shall go on
indefinitely. He declares early, in a discourse designed to explain his
kingdom, that the law shall not pass away; that it shall in its moral
requirements be all realized. Heaven and earth shall not pass away until
all shall _be_. And he directs his disciples to pray as much as for
daily bread that God's kingdom may come, and that God's will may be done
_on earth_ as it is done in heaven. Is it possible that this teacher
expects all this to be closed in thirty or forty years, by a violent
catastrophe, and by the substituting of a universal miracle for this
moral instrumentality? He says it is not the Father's will that one of
the lowliest shall perish. Did he mean to limit the opportunity of
salvation for the race to forty years, and to consign to the torment of
Gehenna all who did not accept the new truth in that time? And all this
impossibility is heightened by the nature of some of those parables in
which he treated of his kingdom. "If the kingdom of God were to be
established by an irresistible miracle, on a fixed day, in a manner so
splendid, what signify those admirable parables of the mustard-seed, of
the leaven, of the net, of the grain growing from itself, which suppose
a development, slow, regular, organic, proceeding from an imperceptible
point, but endowed with a Divine vitality, and displaying successively
its latent energies?"[40] Besides, no one ever more strictly enjoined
the duties of life, the everlasting obligations. He contemplates such
duties as are to be done in such a world as ours was then and is now, as
the essential sphere in which the heavenly spirit must be formed in man.
His principle of final judgment is, "Inasmuch as ye have done the duties
of Humanity unto your fellow-men, ye have done them unto me. Come, ye
blessed of my Father." Could that teacher suppose that the opportunity
for performing such duties would cease for ever before the last of his
apostles should have died? Could he think that within that time the
destinies of Humanity as he knew it would be closed?

[Footnote 40: Réville, Review of Renan's Life of Jesus.]

These are the principal reasons which determine me to believe that Jesus
did not expect to return visibly to raise the dead, judge the world, and
be the head of an external Theocratic kingdom on the renewed earth.
What, then, shall be said of the language which appears to express that
opinion? "Ye shall drink the wine new with me in my Father's kingdom."
"Ye shall sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel," &c. Two
considerations are to be kept in sight in establishing the views and
expectations of Jesus: first, that he used this language - so far as he
used it - in a figurative sense, to represent spiritual and providential
facts as he conceived them; second, that the evangelists may have
sometimes given to his language a precision and a connection which did
not belong to it, as delivered. That he could not have employed this
language as it is reported to us, in its literal and proper sense, is to
my mind a necessary conviction in the premises. This would suppose that
he entertained two orders of conceptions, which were opposed to one
another, with a clear profound conviction, and gave them as revelations
of God: one his spiritual and rational beliefs; the other his
Apocalyptic beliefs. This supposition is the vice of Renan's seventeenth
chapter. The language of the Apocalyptic beliefs Jesus might use to some
extent as a vehicle for conveying the spiritual and rational to others;
and the most explicit language in which he conveyed his spiritual
beliefs, so far as it was retained in their feebler minds, might be
forced into harmony with their traditional opinions. But that in Jesus'
mind, so original, so manifestly filled with fresh thought on every
theme of Providence and man, these spiritual apprehensions of a kingdom
or communion of God which should act under and within the state,
renovating human life and society; of a Messiah who by such a kingdom
should fulfil the missionary function of Israel to the race of man; of a
resurrection which should be the uninterrupted continuance of the
blessed life, or an immediate renewal of the sense of wasted opportunity
and law violated on earth; of a judgment both immediate and continual of
every soul despising the truth revealed to it; of a retribution to civil
societies according to Divine law, - should arise as original
conceptions, be held with firm decisive grasp, be of the essence of his
instruction, and so pronounced in him that our most advanced modern
thought is but the distant echo of his profound and distinct
enunciations; and that at the same time he should hold those Apocalyptic
traditions, of a visible coming, of a Theocratic throne before whose
splendor that of Cæsar would fade away, of a simultaneous resurrection
and judgment, - hold them in unimpaired conviction, as truths to be
solemnly insisted upon as a part of his revelation, - this, it seems to
me, comes as near a psychological contradiction as we can well conceive.
And besides, if Jesus had clung to those beliefs as Divine convictions,
the language ascribed to him would have had the unity of that of the
Epistles and the Apocalypse on this subject. We should not be perplexed
with apparent contradictions. As it is, we are obliged to use those
words which inculcate his spiritual thought for explaining that part of
his language which is conformed to Jewish conceptions.

But, it is said, this language would naturally create misunderstanding,
and that it is too bold to be taken in a figurative sense. In regard to
the misunderstanding of it, let it be said, if we suppose a mind
inspired by God to see far deeper and further than its contemporaries,
it must be liable to be misunderstood in proportion to the poverty of
the vernacular language. Jesus' inspiration and insight gave his speech
a character such as the highest poetic endowment always gives, and made
it bold. It is not to be forgotten that he belonged to the east and to
the people who have given us the Old Testament prophecies. The boldest
tropes were natural to him. In moments of strong moral excitement, they
fly from him as sparks from the flint or lightning from the charged
cloud. It exposes him to the charge of mysticism. We forget that he was
not a lecturer, a systematic teacher; but a prophet, a converser in the
streets, a popular teacher, a poet sent from God to re-create humanity.
Necessity concurred with inspiration to make his speech tropical and
often liable to be misapprehended. He was obliged to use images and
terms which the people and the schools applied to the Messiah in order
to claim, as he meant to claim, a predetermined, providential connection
with Hebrew history and hope. When he said to Pilate, "I am a king," it
was a truth; but it was a trope. "I am the bread of life," - a truth, but
a trope. "I am come to send a sword on the earth, not peace;" "This cup
of wine is my blood sealing the new covenant," - truths, but compact with
the boldest tropes. When he said, "I am the Messiah," it was a truth,
but a trope. It was liable to be misunderstood; but, without it, it was
impossible that he should be understood. He saw Satan, after the seventy
returned from their mission and related their success, "falling like
lightning from heaven." If he foresaw political revolutions which would
occur within a generation, and believed they would be employed by
Providence to further the establishment of his principles or kingdom,
which would then reach a point from which it would be evident, to a
sympathizing mind quick to catch the glimpses of a new day, that they
would become dominant in humanity, would it be too bold a figure for him
to say, "The coming of the Son of Man will be as the lightning which
shoots from horizon to horizon," or too bold a figure to describe those
precursive overturns and downfalls of the old in language borrowed from
Isaiah and Joel, the prophets whom he loved and knew by heart? Might he
not believe, identifying his religion and the Divine spirit which would
spread it, that at the time of these changes, conspiring providentially
with the labors of apostles and evangelists, his voice would call the
chosen, those prepared by mental and moral affinity, to the new
life-work, to the new order of things; that his call to his own would be
like the supposed call of the last trumpet summoning them to come into a
spiritual communion of blessed work, and blessed hope? These figures
were naturally, almost inevitably, formed in these circumstances.

He used the language given him in the speech of his time in a figurative
sense, partly because of the want of proper terms suited to his purpose,
and partly because as a popular teacher, desirous to impress the common
mind, he could not sacrifice all the associations connected with that.
But we often find in proximity with it words of his own, or something in
the occasion, which he might expect to constrain the listeners to
reflect that he was speaking figuratively; as John vi., "My words, they
are spirit and they are life," and the reply Luke xxii. 38, to the
information, here are two swords, "It is enough." Were the accounts more
full, it is fair to suppose we might have more such expressions. They
would not be so likely to be remembered as the striking, figurative

There are words of Christ at the Last Supper which seem to me to have
occasioned quite unnecessary perplexity. "I say unto you I will not
henceforth drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it
new with you in my Father's kingdom." They were the spontaneous outflow
of mingled sadness, affection, and hope. He might expect them to be
interpreted to his disciples by his situation, by all he had said of
leaving them, and by his habit of conveying spiritual thought under the
sensuous images suggested by the moment. They referred to the kingdom he
died to establish. They were as natural as to say, "Where two or three
are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." But
they have been a stumbling-block to students whom we should have
expected to be able better to _orient_ themselves in the Master's genius
and style.

Colani has spent a page to ridicule it, and show that it is not fit for
its place.[41] Yet a similar figure is used by occidental preachers, who
would not expect to be reproached for coarseness. A young minister
on an occasion not unlike that on which Jesus sat with his
disciples - occurring as did that passover in the midst of sacrifice and
revolution, the Thanksgiving day celebrated after the close of our great
war, in our land at once so afflicted and so blessed - addressed his
hearers, some of whom had lost sons or brothers in camp or field, in
figurative but very appropriate and touching language, in which we may
suppose he felt the inspiration of his Master's words at the last meal.
It was to the effect that, although those who had fallen in the strife
could no more partake with us in the bounty with which the Thanksgiving
table would be spread, they would in all future festivals be with us in
spirit, and rejoice in the blessings ever more and more to be realized
which had been purchased by their sacrifices for our disinthralled

[Footnote 41: Jesus Christ and the Messianic Beliefs of his Time.]

Nor do I see any better cause of the offence which is taken at the
language ascribed to Jesus in Matt. xix. 28, in the offer of thrones:
"In the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of his
glory, ye also shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of
Israel." Let us think how Jesus must have longed to communicate his
thought and his hope to those chosen ones; how he would not be willing
to drive them away by his very greatness as he sometimes drove away the
careless and cavilling; how his mind, if he were a human being and not
an automaton, would alternate between the sternest truth-speaking and
the necessity of coming closer to them, and giving them hope, and
lifting them a little nearer to himself; how like the mother bird,
enticing her brood to their first flight, and finding he had at one
moment gone beyond them, he would come back, and alight on a point
nearer to their apprehension, that he might tempt them to use the
untried pinions of their thought, - and we need have no difficulty in
seeing that he meant thrones of moral power. I do not know how those men
received it; but I do not believe they thought then of political power.
If, after Jesus left them, they recalled this and every other such
expression as a means of nourishing the hope of an Apocalyptic return
and kingdom, the great Teacher and Comforter was not accountable for
that perversion.

Jesus' language, then, can be explained without supposing him to have
expected visibly to return after death to erect a kingdom of God of
which he should be the visible head.

The result of our inquiries is, that Jesus did not aim at any political
sovereignty, that he rose by the force of the special endowment of his
nature above the Apocalyptic superstition of his age, and that he looked
and labored immediately for the moral and spiritual renovation of
humanity on this earth. He claimed to be a Messiah; not a Messiah after
the Jewish conceptions, but a man anointed and endowed of God, to
perfect by the manifestation of the Divine in the human, the means of
this moral renovation of humanity. He regarded the spiritual Messiahship
as a divinely appointed means to this end. He aspired to spiritual rule
for no end but this, and his aspiration was disinterested, godlike. It
has been said that he was ambitious, though it is allowed that his
ambition was the most elevated. And he has been compared with
disadvantage to Socrates, whose ambition, it is said, was "_to serve
without reigning_," while that of Jesus was "_to reign by serving_," and
the former is justly thought to be the nobler purpose. It is no time to
institute a comparison between Jesus and Socrates. I have no wish to
disparage the great Pagan. I will allow Grote's estimate, that the
Apology as given by Plato is the speech of one who deliberately foregoes
the immediate purpose of a defence, the persuasion of his judges; who
speaks for posterity without regard to his own life. The aim of Socrates
was disinterested, but not so elevated as that of Jesus. The aim of
Socrates belonged to the realm of the understanding; the aim of Jesus,
to the realm of the Spirit. They both took delight in the exercise of
their gift: this is innocent, when not an exclusive motive; but Socrates
more consciously sought this delight than Jesus. No self-abnegation can
be conceived more entire than that of the Christ as represented by the
evangelists with every mark of truth. He sought to reign only as all
seek to reign who put forth their powers to assist the development of
other minds. He would reign only so, and so far, as this might be to
serve his race. He had no ambition. His purpose was not _to reign by
serving_, but _to reign that he might serve_. He respected the freedom
of the mind. He appealed to reason and conscience. He claimed authority
in the name of reason and conscience, and believed that he thus claimed
it in the name of God. And if his reign has been more extensive, more
durable, and more beneficent than that of others, it is because he has
acted by the highest kind and with the largest measure of truth and
life, on the highest powers and tendencies of man.

Cambridge: Press of John Wilson and Son.

Transcriber's Notes:

Obvious punctuation errors were repaired.

Phrases in italics are indicated by _italics_.

Words in the text which were in small-caps were
converted to ALL-CAPS.

Greek text is transliterated and surrounded by [Greek: ].

The "oe" ligature is indicated by "[oe]" (e.g. [oe]cumenical).

On pg. 77, the Latin phrase for "altar of Heaven"
is transcribed as "Ara C[oe]li" (it might be "Ara Cæli").

Typo corrected:
"phenonema" changed to "phenomena"
(pg. 206, "classes of perceived phenomena")

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