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duty of their obedience. We hope and pray the day will come when we may obey them, but-Christ never intended His people to starve. Were some of us disposed to accept them as intended for immediate practice, to renounce the accumulation of money, withdraw from competition, refuse to accept incomes from the labour of others, or to take advantage of rises in land-values brought about by movements of others—were we to consider such a course, our duty to our families and those dependent on us would prevent our entering upon it. The literal obedience of Christ's words is a conceivable duty under other circumstances; under existing ones it would be a palpable absurdity.
This is an objection much better founded than the cheap evasion which we considered two weeks ago, based on the assumption that Jesus was an enthusiast and a poet whose extravagances of speech can under no circumstances be entitled to regard. We are face to face to-day with the position which admits the authority of Christ's commands, but holds that they are intended to apply to those only who will be members of . perfected society, while we, who have our parts still in a society incomplete and imperfect, are, on account of practical considerations and practical duties therefrom arising, released from the obligation of present obedience.
Against this objection also, I am constrained nevertheless to maintain the authority of Jesus's words as directions for conduct to-day.
In the first place, I challenge the assumption that the ethical standard of Christthat the commercial morality, say, of the Sermon on the Mount-is impracticable. What right have we to conclude that a man who, submitting to Christ's code, gives to every one that asks and turns not away from the borrower,—what right have we to assert that he will not succeed in business? Maybe not, but let the rule be tried before it is condemned. It happens that I know of one man who practises this rule. A few years ago, he had not a dollar of his own; to-day he says not a dollar he has is his own; he calls it God's, and holds it as God's trustee, but he has thousands, this poor credulous disciple of the visionary Jesus, which keep him busy in the effort to spend them for the brightening of other human lives. I ask you if it is not at least possible that Love would prove as good a business principle as Competition; if it is not possible that such a command as “ Bear ye one another's burdens” has import of advantage to banks, business houses, to nations; possible that neglect of such an injunction—laid upon peoples and government treasuries as well as upon individuals—as “ Lay not up
for yourselves treasures upon earth” is certain to result in industrial and commercial distress? I have no doubt the Apostles gravely doubted the wisdom or practicability of Jesus's plan when He sent them out without provision or resources, but when they returned and He asked them, “ When I sent you forth without purse and wallet and shoes, lacked ye anything?” they answered “ Nothing."
But it is not, it can never be, on this ground that the directions of Christ are to be followed. It is, I take it, quite a matter of indifference whether they minister to
worldly success or not. No man is worthy of the glorious company of the disciples of the Way, of the goodly fellowship of the Kingdom of Heaven, unless the casting up of profit and loss accounts has lost all interest to him. Christian discipleship is nothing, or it is complete and heroic disregard of all earthly prosperity. If the alternative be between disobeying Christ and starving, he only can with right claim the name of disciple who counts it joy to starve. The only question can be as to what really is the Master's intention and desire. We must, then, come to close quarters with that question.
Doing so, we shall find it difficult to discover any basis for allowing ourselves to think that Jesus's Kingdom, with its extraordinary laws, is something which is to come into effect by and by. It was heralded by the cry, “ The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand !” And when He came, Jesus did not preach it as a state of things which would one day come to pass, meanwhile Himself living comfortably in this present world; He proclaimed it as an existing fact. The work
of the Apostles was to preach, saying, “ The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” Men were to enter and take their places in it. He was a King, and His followers were to wear His yoke, and obey His voice. It was a fellowship of those who despised the show, the fashion of things, who were “ of the truth.” If He taught them to pray for the coming of the Kingdom, so did He to pray for daily bread, and if one petition was to be daily answered, so was the other. The continual prayer was to receive a continual answer. It was a fellowship of men who were in the world, and yet were not of the world. It was as the hidden leaven, whose unregarded working was to transform that in which it was concealed. It was a Kingdom which was to come without observation; the disciples could not point it out “ Lo! here, or there!” and yet it was even then in their midst.
In point of fact, the one gigantic feature which distinguishes the Kingdom from all humanly conceived Utopias is just this: They are in the future; they are to be brought about. It is. Plato and More and