« PreviousContinue »
who is not deceived by appearances; and holiness is possessed only by dwelling in love, and by love dwelling in us, - dwelling in God, and God dwelling
3. Nor was Jesus original and peculiar, because the Christ was in him and manifested through him. The Christ, I have proved, at least, think I have proved, is nothing but pure, disinterested Love. Now Jesus was not the first that loved, nor was he alone in the fact of manifesting pure, disinterested love. Thousands before him had loved, and with as much purity and intensity as he did. His love was strong, was intense, and able to endure neglect, ridicule, persecution, and death; but in this he was by no means singular. Others had been able to endure all he endured, and to submit to as great, if not even greater, sacrifices than he did. His personal sacrifices were great ; but, according to the record, they were by no means remarkable, nor are they difficult to be matched in any age or nation of the world. His death on the cross strikes me in no wise as remarkable ; and it loses much of its merit too, if we suppose that he foresaw that it was to be only a temporary suspension of existence, and that he should be alive again and well after the third day. Who of us would not joyfully consent to be crucified, if we could foresee that our crucifixion would result in the regeneration of the world, and that in three days we should be alive and well, walking about, meeting our friends, eating and drinking, and knowing that we were henceforth to die no more, but to rise at once into inconceivable glory and blessedness?
4. Nor was Jesus separated from all who went before him by the fact that he died a martyr to principle, or to convictions of Duty. Socrates long before him had set an illustrious example of a noble martyrdom to principle, and Abraham had been ready to offer up his son Isaac at the command, or supposed command, of Duty, which, I must believe, cost him altogether more than it would have cost him to lay
down his own life. And shall we suppose that truth, principle, duty, love, had no martyrs in the countless generations which had passed on and off the earth before the coming of Jesus? Shall we so wrong our common nature, do such injustice to the patriarchs, sages, and prophets, and saints, who the writer to the Hebrews says, “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonment, who wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, in deserts, in mountains, in dens and caves of the earth, destitute, afflicted, tormented, stoned, sawn asunder, or slain
vith the sword ?” Never since the human began its endless career of progress, has truth, science, love, faith, principle, duty, wanted martyrs, and martyrs too whose corporal and mental agonies suffer not in comparison with those of Jesus. It was noble in Jesus to die rather than be false to his mission; but this fact does not separate him from his
Humanity is rich in martyrs, and the fact that Jesus was one, does but admit him into a numerous and a glorious company. Every page of human history is written in the precious and life-giving blood of martyrs; and the blood of martyrs is too honorable to Humanity to be called the distinguishing glory of one alone. A goodly company, an august assembly was that, composed of the martyrs of all ages, which the apocalyptic John saw in the visions of his spirit, almost in the very days of Jesus, gathering round the throne of the Ancient of Days, and striking their harps to the triumphal song of Moses and the Lamb. Let no man wish to snatch the crown from one of their heads, or the palm from one of their hands, for the sake of elevating any one of their number above his equals.
But if Jesus was distinguished neither by his nature, nor the truths he taught or revealed, nor the means of man's justification which he pointed out or created, nor the strength and intensity of his love, nor by his personal sacrifices and his martyr death on the cross, in what then did the originality, the peculiarity of his character consist? It consisted in the fact that in him the Christ attained to Universality, and that his love was no longer the love of family, caste, tribe, clan, or country, but a love of Humanity; it was no longer mere piety, nor patriotism, nor friendship, but it was PHILANTHROPY.
I will try to explain and verify this statement. Love had existed, and been as pure, as intense, as all-unconquerable, in thousands who had preceded Jesus, as it was in him; but in none of them had it taken the form of philanthropy, or love of mankind. Take the case of Abraham, the father of the Jewish people. The Christ was in Abraham ; the principle, or sentiment, which I have called love, was strong and abiding in him; but it was partial, it wanted freedom and universality; and it manifested itself in no remarkable degree, save in its religious aspect. The effort to give up his son Isaac, must, I have said, have cost him more than it would to have sacrificed himself, and could have been made only through the force of the strongest religious principle. But you see nothing of the human side of Abraham's love. The Christ in him was not the God-Man, the union of the love of God and the love of Man. Faithful to God, he was often wanting in his duty to Man. In his human relations, he was false, tyrannical, and in no way distinguished from ordinary chieftains of a nomade tribe. He lived by pasturage, and perhaps by carrying on a predatory warfare, as do the Bedouin Arabs to-day. So far as history gives us any account of him, it does not appear that he ever dreamed of loving or serving mankind. He was, so far as he is known to us, the true type of the Jewish people. That people was of an earnest race, full of noble qualities, capable of the firmest principles, the most exalted sentiments, and the loftiest deeds; but it was an Oriental race. Its brow was expanded but not elevated. It equals, if it do not surpass, all others on the religious side of our nature; but it comprehends nothing, feels nothing of the sentiment of Humanity. The fulness of its heart overflows towards God, but never towards man. From the depths of its being, rise perennial springs of piety, but not of philanthropy. In the same breath it pours forth the most kindling strains of devotion, and utters the most horrid imprecations upon its enemies.
Moses and David, the two most eminent names, after Abraham, of the race, partake of the same noble qualities, and are marked by the same defects. Moses was a great man. Antiquity boasts few greater names than his. The Christ was in him ; but unable to attain to a symmetrical development. His love was strong, intense, all-enduring, but it was love only in its religious and patriotic, or more properly, clannish phases. Piety was his breath. He saw God at all times, and in all things; and he bowed down with profound awe before the Divine Presence. He recognised God as the only rightful sovereign of the universe, and he would have no king in Israel, but Jehovah. His love for his tribe, or, if you please, for his people, was strong, generous, and strikingly verified. Though brought up as the adopted son of Pharaoh's daughter, and by his education, talents, genius, and position, capable of becoming virtually the first man in the kingdom, he chose to adhere to his people, a proscribed race in Egypt, to suffer reproach and affliction with them, and, if need were, to die for them. This was to him far more desirable than all the wealth, honors, pleasures, and power that Egypt had to give. But his love did not extend beyond his people. They were the whole earth to him. They were the only mankind he knew. He was willing to rob the Egyptians to enrich them, and he could command them to extirpate with fire and sword the Canaanites, even to helpless women and innocent babes. So strong is his hatred even of other nations, that he surrounds his people with laws and institutions designed to keep them forever a separate, distinct, and peculiar people. I will not say that all this, considering the age in which Moses lived, and
the designs of Providence, was wrong. Nothing can come but in its time; and the time for the universal brotherhood of Humanity was not yet. Moses doubtless was as perfect as his age and people admitted or demanded. All I would say is, that he was not a whole man, that he manifested the Christ only in its religious and patriot phases. This was much, but was not all. It was enough for his time, but not for all time.
The same, in some respects at least, may be said of David. David was a second Moses, really inferior by many degrees to the first, in himself, but in some measure compensating that disadvantage by living some centuries later. He was a poet and a warrior, a prophet and a man of blood. He was remarkable for his piety, and the strength and freshness of his devotional feelings. Even to this day, religious people can find no better medium for expressing their devotional sentiments, than his really inspired Psalms. I can conceive no language so adequate to the utterance of our religious feelings, as those astonishing Hebrew Odes of his. I read them always with fresh wonder and awe. But no sooner does David sink, as it were, the priest and the prophet in himself, and withdraw his eyes from the dazzling glories of Jehovah's chariot, than he breaks forth in the most intolerant rage against all who are not of his Israel. Some of his Psalms are nothing but imprecations upon his enemies. Spite, contempt, disdain, wrath, hatred, revenge, ring forth in a sort of hellish harmony, and would seem to partake enough of the infernal to make hell's monarch himself applaud. He loved his tribe, and through the aid or intrigues of the priesthood he made it the ruling tribe. He loved his family and left it the throne, of which it retained possession for many generations. But no recognition of human brotherhood ever escaped him ; no gleam of philanthropy ever broke in upon the obscure night, as to the relations of man to man as man, in which he lived, and in which he died. All the nations of the earth,