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THE CODE AND THE ISSUE.
A FEW months ago, a distinguished Arian divine, preaching at Harvard University, took up for consideration certain of those acts of Jesus of Nazareth which seem contrary to human wisdom, and certain of those commands of His which do not commend themselves as practicable, nor, all the circumstances of modern life considered, as expedient. What,” said the preacher, “shall we say of these ? Are we bound by them, in defiance of our common sense and our enlightened Christian judgment ? No! We must conclude that these are the mere details, incidental and unessential; partly of local and temporary expediency, and partly the enthusiastic excesses of a reformer, the extravagances of a God-intoxicated idealist. And besides, Jesus was a poet. Many of His sayings are poetical; whole discourses fall into the form of verse. The beautiful, the matchless spirit of Jesus's life will ever remain an inspiration to the highest living;
His actual words and acts must not, of course, be allowed to weigh against our practical common sense.
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
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
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 incap