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His actual words and acts must not, of course, be allowed to weigh against our practical common sense.” 2
It is a comfortable teaching. It rather effectually appeals to us all. In fact, it expresses the notion,—not in many cases, perhaps, admitted in words,-upon which we order our lives. But I have stated, only to challenge, it; only, in the name of the Church and the Catholic faith, to take distinct and unequivocal issue with it. It is a teaching which those who believe in Christ and His divine authority cannot accept. It is a teaching which the Church denies on every page of her formularies. It is a teaching which is plainly repugnant, not only to a few of His phrases and to isolated acts, but to the whole course of the life of Him whose spirit it professes to honour. One who is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, could have done nothing of merely temporary and local significance. The Type and Ideal and Pattern of humanity could have indulged in no extravagances. If Jesus Christ be what He claims to be, we are not at liberty to measure His acts and words by any standard of our own; we must rather accept them as the standard by which our impulses and opinions are to be measured and judged. The exact conditions amid which He lived will never surround any of us; the sequence of events which, so far as external influences did so, determined His career, will never follow any of us. This gives us no right to disregard His example; the numberless circumstances and events that influence us do find their parallels in those of His Galilean days. While as for His spoken words, few of them have special relation to the events that called them forth, or are qualified by the circumstances of their utterance. They are almost entirely sermonic,-statements of universal principles, and of the application of these to situations of which human lives are full.
Take that series of commands made by Jesus at the beginning of His ministry. The Sermon on the Mount was given out under the open sky, in the daytime, before a gathering of plain men whom Jesus well knew would take His words as uttered literally and in all sincerity,-men quite incapable of the fanciful conceits by which we moderns evaporate their meaning. Common sense requires us to believe that He intended His words to be interpreted by precisely those canons which are applied to the words of other men. Decent respect for Christ's good faith cannot admit that He used human words, addressed to human beings, in any other sense than a downright, plain, human one. He who is the Truth, speaking the truth, spoke the language of an honest man.
Beginning His teaching by the declaration that the poor in spirit are blessed, He bade His hearers rejoice and be exceeding glad when they were persecuted. He told them not to resist him that is evil; to love—to love, not to tolerate, to love—their enemies; to turn the other cheek when one had been smitten; to give the coat when the cloak was taken away. We are asked to believe that this is poetry. So it is. It is perfectly easy to see its metrical form ; justifiable to delight in its literary beauty; on occasions, I have myself lectured on the art of Hebrew versification, and contended that this discourse illustrates it. It is the highest type of poetry,—but it is that because it is the speech of truth, twin-born with the music in which it is uttered. Scan it, count its numbers, sing it, if you choose; there it is, nevertheless : 3 Ye have heard, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth; but I say to you, that ye resist not him that is evil. Give to every man that asketh thee, and of him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not back. From him that would borrow of thee, turn not thou away. If ye lend to sinners, to them
from whom ye hope to receive, what thanks have ye? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. Love ye your enemies, and do them good, and lend to them, never despairing. (This is a hard saying; who can hear it?) Bid to your feasts those who can make no return. Do not gather a fortune ; lay up no treasure on earth. Take no thought
for clothing, nor for food. Live from day to day; to-morrow will take thought for itself.
Now either this is lunacy, or it is divine wisdom. His friends of those days said, “ He is beside Himself.” It is a favorite charge against men who are not satisfied with things as they find them. Festus was only one of many who thought St. Paul mad. No reformer has escaped the imputation. But especially it is not strange that the friends of Jesus questioned His sanity. No programme ever equalled His in boldness and apparent folly. Let us admit it. Coming from anyone else, these sayings would be suppressed as insane and dangerous. Coming from Christ, they are merely disregarded.
But we have by no means seen the worst of this madness. Consider the inducements which Christ holds out, the rewards He promises, to those who will follow Him. He certainly pledges that God will give them what is good for them, but He makes it plain that that will most often be what we esteem the most dreadful of ills. Guarding against any possible misapprehension about it, He is constantly telling His hearers that poverty, hatred from all men, enmity in their homes, persecutions, scourgings, and death in the world await them. Some of those who heard this, and believed Him,