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these facts: He said, twice at least, probably oftener, to His amazed followers, that it was a hard thing, a thing impossible except with God, for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. The only rich man who, so far as we know, volunteered discipleship, turned away in sorrow when he was told to sell his estates for the benefit of the poor. As the verdict of God upon success in the accumulation of wealth, He pronounced the man who was enlarging his storehouses,-a
fool.'' One day “ He lifted up His eyes on His disciples and said, “ Blessed are the poor (oi arayoi; literally, the beggars). Woe unto you that are rich !'" Those are His words. I find no pleasure in them; no satisfaction, certainly. They are strange and amazing words; but upon considering them and the many like them, we may be prepared to believe that Jesus was not giving expression to a sentiment, but to one of the primary laws of His Kingdom, to a conviction which must take possession of those who would be its members, when He said, “ Not in the abundance of a man's possessions consisteth his life."
Strange and bewildering indeed to ordinary standards are Jesus's conceptions of human life and its proper conduct. As I have meditated upon His life and words, I have been at a loss to conclude which were the most wonderful: the character of the Kingdom He talked of; His calmness of spirit and absolute simplicity of manner in describing its constitution; or the serene confidence with which He seemed to look for obedience and to dream of nothing but success.
The words which we have been considering were uttered without qualification of any kind by one whom we call Lord and Master. I submit to you, as in profound gravity I do to myself, that we are here face to face with an issue than which none in heaven or earth can be more serious. Are these words to be obeyed, or are they still to be ignored, despised and rejected ? Are they to be compounded with Machiavellianism and made palatable with glosses from Poor Richard's Almanac, or taken as they stand? Is here not the old issue between faith
and lack of faith? We pretend to accept Christ as the Way, His teachings as the Rule of Life, and we deny them, openly and unblushingly repudiate them, at every turn. We hardly even trouble ourselves to think out a method of evading them. We sit in judgment upon them; such as do not seem convenient and expedient, we fancy He could not have meant, and we therefore conclude that He did not mean them.
With perfect freedom I admit that it is not easy-nay: that it is quite impossibleto vindicate the wisdom of many of these precepts. Are we therefore free to cast them away? Is it necessary that they should accredit themselves to our judgments ? Wisdom is justified of her children. man will do the will, he shall know the doctrine. Is it not conceivable that these-as they seem to us—short-sighted and impracticable directions, might, if they were tried, be found wise and far-sighted ? But I am not concerned now to demonstrate the wisdom-as to earthly things of Christ's commands.
It is enough that they are His commands. Their wisdom may be-nay:
certainly is—of another kind than ours. When we consider the flowers of the field, and His words, “ Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on,' do we not rise to a glimpse into a higher and wiser and happier state, in which human lives, no longer sordid and self-seeking, are apparelled in the beauty of lilies and the glory of kings? Do we not, when we read these high commands, so heedless of the conditions actually prevailing here, even now catch swift views of another land in which we might be living, an earth of which St. Peter spoke in a phrase full at once of humour and indignation and sorrow and hope, a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness ?
An earth so unlike this one that we can hardly believe in its possibility. It took a Christ to conceive it. An earth upon which when we made a dinner, we should invite the poor, the lame, and the blind, because they have nothing with which to recompense, refusing to bid our friends and rich neighbours, lest haply they also bid us in return ! An earth upon which men obeyed this law: “ All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them.” Do you observe the language ? Not
a little less than ye would have men do to you"; and not“ all things whatsoever ye have reason to expect men will do unto you.” And the rule is universal in its application; it has no limitations, no qualifications; it is peremptory.
It seems therefore plain that Jesus Christ left those who would be His disciples an ethical code. To say this, is by no means to deny that His life and mission are infinitely more than those of an ethical teacher. He is the Christ, God incarnate, the temporal manifestation of the Eternal Love, but, being so, He is no less a Teacher and a Master. Union with Him in thes acred mystery of His indwelling is not won through despising His physically uttered commands. If His words have a higher and more sacred meaning than that of mere directions for conduct, that cannot be contrary to the first plain and literal meaning. If faith in Christ is the great and alone sufficient requisite for