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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 salvation, that faith is not displayed in a lack of faith in His programme for the life of His followers.
Is it not, I repeat, just lack of faith, infidelity, disbelief, that leads us to explain away these words, adopting the easy evasion that they are the hyperbole of poetry, or the exceeding enthusiasm of an idealist ? I wish I could believe it, but to my wish, my reason replies that the disciples did not discover this. They laboured under the delusion that Christ meant what He said, and they believed it all not a visionary, but a practical, thing. I read in St. Paul's letter to the Romans,-and I never heard that called poetry,-along with those sober exhortations to hospitality, to diligence in business, to honesty—the commands, to us so strange and unbusinesslike: Prefer ye one another. (Now prefer cannot mean enter into competition with, and undersell if possible.) Bless them that persecute you ; if thine enemy hunger, feed him ; if he thirst, give him drink. Moreover, as I read the story of the early disciples, given in the Book of the Acts of the Blessed Apostles, I learn that the whole Church understood Christ literally in His words about treasures of earth, and accordingly its members resigned all that they had, “ neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had all things common.” Notwithstanding this unbusinesslike policy, we have it on good authority that “great grace was upon them all, neither was there among them any that lacked,” and that they were had in favour of all the people, and that their numbers rapidly increased. Ah! but those were unusual times. Truly were they unusual times! But why may not these also be unusual times ?-unusual and glorious! Is it not still Christ's command: “ Arise ! let us go hence,” out of an age of competition and selfishness into a better day of truly Christianized society founded on Love!
I am obliged to reply further that Jesus himself seemed to have mistaken this that we are asked to believe is poetry for downright prose, and that He did not, on the whole, exhibit the symptoms of aberration. He seemed to have perfect confidence in the extraordinary method He recommended.
He practised it, and with results of the most marvellous success. Anyone familiar with the barest outline of the life of Jesus knows that there is not a phase of self-renunciation, of heedlessness of material things, wealth, honour, ease, and pleasure, that He did not typify; His whole life is so opposed to human maxims, His plans are so short-sighted, His methods so foolish, judged by our standards, that we are accustomed to say that His is a story which no novelist or legend-maker could or would have invented. Diplomacy was excluded from his methods. Force, pomp, political artifice, however honest, none of these things would He employ. With truth does Pascal say of the method He used in founding the Kingdom, “ He took the way of perishing, according to human calculations.” A life lived in poverty in the most despised part of an insignificant province,—not in Athens or Rome, where He might have been appreciated; spent in denouncing the nation's great men, whom He might have propitiated and employed for His ends; His companions a dozen fishermen, peasants, a tax-collector and the like,