The Character of Jesus Christ[1]

Francis Greenwood Peabody, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals in Harvard University

Berry Street Essay, 1902

 

Delivered at the Ministerial Conference

May 1902

[Peabody delivered the 1902 essay.  We have no source for the title.  In that same year he published the essay posted in the first volume of the Hibbert Journal.    It could well be his Berry Street Essay, though we have no way of knowing.  At the very least, it offers readers some acquaintance with Peabody's characteristic thought.]

The most conspicuous aspect of contemporary Christian thought is the renewal of popular interest in the character of Jesus Christ. Never was there a time when plain people were less concerned with the metaphysics or ecclesiasticism of Christianity. The construction of systems and the contentions of creeds, which once appeared the central themes of human interest, are now regarded by millions of busy men and women as mere echoes of ancient controversies, if not mere mockeries of the problems of the present age. Even the convocations of the Churches manifest little appetite for discussions which were once the bread of their life and the wine of their exhilaration, and one of the leaders of a great Christian communion has been led of late to say: "What conclusions these discussions may reach is of small concern; the only really important thing is that they should come to an end.” Under these very conditions of theological satiety, however, the mind of the age returns with fresh interest to the contemplation of the character of Jesus Christ. "Back to Jesus "; "In His Name”; "What would Jesus do?”; "Jesus’ Way”—phrases like these, caught up by multitudes of unsophisticated readers, indicate the force and scope of the modern imitation of Christ. To follow Jesus even though one does not understand Him; to do the will even if one has not learned the doctrine; to perceive through much darkness that the life is the light of man;—  these are the marks of the new obedience. Questions of criticism, of authority, of divinity, may be insoluble; but the Sermon on the Mount, the parables, the teaching, the character of Jesus, are left; and the practical Christ is enough to satisfy a practical age.

The working-class movement of the time represents the same view of the Gospels. Nothing could he more bitter than the antagonism of the social agitators to the institutions and methods of organised Christianity. They are regarded as bulwarks of the capitalistic system. "They will supply us with a religion,” said Felix Holt, "like everything else and get a profit on it… but we offer to change with them; we will give them back some of their heaven and take it out in something for us and our children in this world.” Yet this unmeasured hostility to priests and churches is for the most part hushed to reverence as it approaches the character of Jesus Christ. No supernatural halo is left by the social agitators round the person of Christ, yet behind what they conceived to be the patronage and medievalism of the Church they still discern a character which arrests their criticism and commands their loyalty. Decline as they may all entangling alliances with organised Christianity, the ideal of manhood still seems to them to have been anticipated by the carpenter of Nazareth, the friend of the poor, the victim of the ruling classes. "We used to think that Christ was a fiction of the priests…but now we find that He was a man after all like us—a poor working man who has a heart for the poor—and now that we understand this, we say—He is the man for us.”[2]

It will, of course, be answered that in this detachment of ethical example from religious interpretation we get no just impression of the mission of Jesus. He was not primarily a teacher of ethics, but a revealer of God. His ethics were rooted in His religion. He was a seer, a mystic, the conscious child of His Heavenly Father. Behind His teaching lay His faith. The ages of Christian theology have not erred in believing that in attempting to interpret this interior consciousness of Jesus Christ, and to penetrate through His conduct to the mystery of the Divine Life which to Him seems so plain, they were following the highest instincts of the human reason and dealing most directly with the central problem of the Gospels. Such criticism is wholly justified. Yet, of the many ways by which one may approach the person of Jesus, it may be for the present best to follow the indications of His ethical character. Here, in the first place, is where the mind of the age happens to be. The ascent to a complete view of the Gospels might, perhaps, be made by a broader road with nobler vistas, if one should begin by traversing the field of theology; but none the less, to pass from the temper of the present age to the method of metaphysical interpretation is at least to go a long way round. The commanding interest of modern thought happens to be humanitarian, industrial, social, ethical. Whatever method appears to withdraw attention from the practical issues of the life that now is appears for the moment to many minds remote and unreal. To derive the sanction of Christian ethics, as other generations have done, from the doctrines of Christian theology, is to reverse the order of procedure in which the inductive habit of mind is trained, and it is for this reason the earlier textbooks on Christian ethics have been by most students removed from the list of "live” books, and stored in those unfrequented shelves which hold their "dead” literature. The ethical instinct of the time turns inevitably from a system to a person, from Christian ethics to the ethics of Christ; and to great numbers of modern students it is like the joy of a new discovery when there emerges from behind the complexity of Christian doctrine the simplicity of the character of Jesus, and when a new way—even if it be a steep and narrow way—opens upward through the underbrush of life toward the larger view, and a trustworthy guide is heard to say: "Follow me: I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

This, however, is not a complete statement of the new situation. It is not only true that theological sanctions have largely lost their force, while the ethical summons, "Back to Jesus,” receives a new obedience; it is also true that this same way of approach was the path originally followed by those who actually listened to Jesus. By degrees, indeed, they were to be led into deeper surmises concerning His nature, such as are reported in the fourth gospel and in the theology of Paul. When, however, we turn from these interpretations of the nature of Jesus to the narratives of the Synoptic Gospels, the change in atmosphere is nothing less than climatic. We come upon a teacher whose purpose does not appear to be primarily theological or metaphysical, but personal and ethical. We feel the contagion of personality, the persuasiveness of character. Never was a teacher less concerned with definitions or propositions, or more undisguised in his hostility to the system-makers of the age. Others might collect and analyse his promises, as a botanist collects and analyses the flowers of the field, but the teaching of Jesus blooms in a spontaneous and fragrant growth, where the beholder is invited not so much to study its system as to feel its charm. It was the character of Jesus which, first of all, drew men to obedience. He was a person whose first claim was for personal loyalty. His rewards were offered for growth in character. "Blessed are the meek; the poor in spirit; the pure in heart.” His highest commendation was for those who accepted His tests of character. "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these least, ye have done it unto me.” Drawn, then, to this Person, as He thus lived and taught, impressed by the character He commended and illustrated, the first disciples were led on, through obedience to knowledge, through conduct to faith. It may be the same to-day. Beyond this first impression of the character of Jesus Christ there remain, no doubt, further glimpses of the Eternal which it was His mission to disclose; but the path to these heights of discernment may lie for the present age, as it did for the first disciples, through the recognition of His ethical authority. Doing the will, one may come to know the doctrine. The return of the mind to the contemplation of the character of Jesus does not, as some apprehend, involve a permanent re-action from theological interest, or a permanent substitution of ethics for religion. On the contrary, it may indicate the natural sequence of Christian conviction. Out of the new appreciation of the moral leadership of Jesus may issue a new era of theological confidence. A movement which begins in attachment to a character may end in richer philosophical discriminations and broader religious visions. The Christian theology of the future may not improbably be a process of induction from the character of Jesus Christ.

What, then, was the nature of this character which so immediately impressed itself upon its own age, and to which the present age with unjaded interest returns? May it not be that this ethical reverence is as vague and undetermined as much of the metaphysics of Christianity? May it not even be that a kind of character has been assumed in Jesus Christ which has led many minds to a misdirected discipleship, and for many other minds has made discipleship impracticable? Dismissing for the moment the inquiries which concern themselves with the interior nature of the person of Jesus, and approaching Him, as one might have done when He taught the people on the Galilean hills, or faced the Roman governor in Jerusalem, what is the main impression which His character naturally creates? It is obviously an impression which varies as His many-sided personality meets the various temperaments and problems and needs of different men. Jesus has been called the light of the world; but the light has been broken as though passing through a prism until each colour of its spectrum has seemed to some minds the complete radiation. He had, it has been variously urged, the character of a fanatic, an anarchist, a socialist, a dreamer, a mystic, an Essene. Out of these scattered conceptions of His character, however, there have issued two of exceptional permanence, each of which represents to many minds the special traits of His moral personality. One view interprets His character in terms of asceticism, the other in terms of aestheticism. One contemplates the suffering of Jesus, the other His joy. One is the view of ecclesiasticism, the other is the view of humanism. Tradition perpetuates the first, imagination welcomes the second.

On the one hand is the prevailing tradition which associates Jesus with the Messianic prophecies. When the Second Isaiah writes of the servant of God: "He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; he bath no form or comeliness, we did esteem him smitten of God and afflicted”; whom, it is asked, could these passages prefigure if it was not Him who expressly claimed to fulfil the Messianic promise? Thus the character of Jesus becomes a historical necessity. The New Testament type is the answer to the Old Testament demand. He was the lamb of God, the patient victim, the willing sacrifice. The ethical type, therefore, which shall reproduce His character can be none other than a resigned, self-mortifying, ascetic type. The Hellenic character of harmony, symmetry, virility, is supplanted by the Hebraic type of patience, pathos, pain. The Christian character, un-Hellenic and other-worldly, utters the poignant note of suffering Israel. This tradition of the character of Jesus was early accepted by the Church. The Christian life—it was taught—could be indeed attained in a certain degree under the conditions of the secular world; but the Vita Religiosa was a product of the asceticism of the monastic cell. It was intended, as Strauss has said, "to depict as strikingly as possible the contrast between the I.L.opch- Owl; and the izoprn(GR)).”[3] Here, also, is the dominant ideal of mediaeval Christian art. With but few exceptions the Christ of the masters is the Man of Sorrows, whom it hath pleased the Lord to bruise, and who is stricken for the transgressions of His people. One of the most eminent of living German philosophers’[4] has set forth in detail this conception of the character of Jesus. The Christian character, says Professor Paulsen, is marked by abnegation (Weltverleugnung), the Greek character by affirmation (Watbejahung); the one represents the scorn of the natural, the other the development of the natural. The Greeks prized intellectual development, the Christians distrusted it. To the Greeks courage was a cardinal virtue; the Christians were taught to resist not evil. All Greek virtues were, therefore, in the light of Christianity "splendid vices.” "For a Greek to become a Christian it is necessary that the old man should die and a new man be born.” Thus the Christian character, self-effacing, ascetic, contrary to nature, admirable though it may have once appeared, becomes impracticable for a healthy-minded man in the modern world.[5]

On the other hand is the interpretation of the character of Jesus in terms of aestheticism, as the type of gladness, graciousness, spiritual peace and joy. According to Renan, a young Galilean peasant is entranced by the vision of the Divine life, and gives himself with delight to its expression. "An exquisite perception of nature furnished him with expressive images.” "A remarkable penetration, which we call genius, set off his aphorisms.” "Tenderness of heart was in him transformed into infinite sweetness, vague poetry, universal charm.” "His lovely character, and doubtless one of those transporting countenances which sometimes appear in the Hebrew race, created round him a circle of fascination.” In the same spirit Strauss remarked: "Jesus appears as a naturally lovely character (eine schöne Natur von Haus aus) which needed but to unfold and to become conscious of itself”[6]

It is interesting to recall the many incidents in the life of Jesus which tend to confirm each of these impressions of His character. On the one hand there is a quality of self-sacrifice in His experience which removes Him from all positive relation with Hellenism.[7] A whole series of virtues humility, self-forgetfulness, the bearing of burdens not one’s own— appear in Jesus for which no room is found in the Greek ideals ofocaOpocri;11 and tifyaXolpvxr.a. Such a saying as "He that will be chiefest among you shall be the servant of all,” would have seemed, as St Paul said of the crucified Christ, "Unto the Greeks foolishness.” On the other hand there is heard throughout the ministry of Jesus an underlying note of tranquil and lofty joy. He is quick to note the beautiful in nature and in character. He detects qualities worthy of love even in unlovely lives. In His teaching the instinct for spiritual principles is met by the instinct for artistic expression. The universe is picturesque and eloquent to His sensitive mind, and at the end of a short career, abounding in misinterpretations and disappointments, there still lingers the happy tradition of His spiritual joy.[8] "These things have I spoken unto you,” says the Fourth Gospel, "that my joy might remain with you, and that your joy might be full.”

Striking, however, as are both these traits of the character of Jesus, it is far from probable that they touch its deepest note. The asceticism of Jesus, however un-Hellenic it may be, and His delight in life, however un-Messianic it may be, are obviously not ends in His teaching, but incidents along His way. They are by-products thrown off in the development of His career. The problem of the character of Jesus first comes into view, when behind His sufferings and His joy there is observed a quality of spiritual life which makes these varied experiences so subordinate and contributory that they become the mere rhythm of His step as He moves steadily toward His supreme desire.[9] The ethics of Jesus are not those of a mediaeval saint or of a Galilean peasant; but of a teacher whose pains and pleasures are but the scenery and environment of the soul. And what, then, was the first impression of this Teacher, which seized upon His hearers with such extraordinary compulsion, that when He said, "Follow me,” men left all to follow? The answer to this question concerning the original and general impression of the teaching of Jesus seems beyond dispute. The immediate effect of the teaching of Jesus was an effect of power, of authority and mastery, the commanding impressiveness of a leader of men. It is striking to notice how often this word "power” is applied in the New Testament to the influence of Jesus. "The multitude glorified God,” says Matthew, "who had given such power unto men.” The kingdom of God comes with power,” says Mark. "His word was with power,” says Luke. "Thou past given Him power over all flesh,” says John. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with power,” says the Book of Acts. "The power of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” says Paul. His ministry, that is to say, was first of all dynamic, commanding, authoritative. When He announced the principles of His teaching, the impression first made upon its hearers was, we are told, not so much of the message itself as of the messenger. The people were astonished, not primarily by the contents of the discourse, but by the authority with which it was delivered. The preacher did not demonstrate, or plead, or threaten like the Scribes; He swayed the multitude by personal power. It was the same throughout His ministry. He called men from their boats, their tax- booths, their homes, and they looked up into his face and obeyed. He commends the instinct of the soldier who gives orders to those below him because he has received orders from above. What is the note of character which is touched in such incidents as these? It is the note of strength. This is no ascetic, abandoning the world; no dreamer, no joyous comrade, delighting in the world; here is the quiet consciousness of mastery, the authority of the leader, a confidence which makes Him able to declare that a life built on His sayings is built on a rock. Jesus is no gentle visionary, no contemplative saint, no Lamb of God except in the experience of suffering; He is a Person whose dominating trait is force; the scourger of the traders, the defier of the Pharisees, the commanding Personality whose words are with the authority of power.

From whatever side we approach the character of Jesus this impression of mastery confronts us. On the one hand is the distinctly ethical aspect of His strength. It may still be debated whether the religious life is fundamentally an expression of thought, or feeling, or will; but the point at which the teaching of Jesus first touches the religious sentiment seems quite beyond debate. It is obviously not at the point of intellectual satisfaction; for Jesus repeatedly accepts as disciples persons whose theological convictions would satisfy few modern churches. "O woman, great is thy faith,” He says to the Canaanite; "I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel,” He says of the centurion. The measure of knowledge, as Schleiermacher said, is plainly to Jesus not the measure of piety. Nor is it to the emotions that Jesus offers His teaching. Solemn exaltations of moods, experiences of prolonged temptation, moments of mystic rapture happen, indeed, in his career; but when we consider what a part these emotional agitations have played in the history of religion, one is profoundly impressed by the sanity, reserve, composure and steadiness of the character of Jesus. He is no example of the "twice-born” conception of piety, which has been of late presented to us with such vigour and charm.[10] His [**MISSING PP. 652-653! SEE CONTINUATION OF NOTE 10 ON P. 652**] intellectual gifts had not been trained in Rabbinical schools of academic legalism. "How knoweth this man letters,” asked the Pharisees, "having never learned? "—learned, as they probably meant to say, as a student from the masters of the law. Yet, on almost every page of the Gospels there are indications that the new master was neither unlettered nor untrained, but equipped with intellectual as well as spiritual authority. When at the beginning of His work Jesus is solicited by the temptations of a misused ministry, He meets them all with the weapon of the scholar; confronting His adversary with the testimony of the scriptures, and quoting to him. "It is written; it is written.” When the time arrives to set forth the principles of His teaching He expounds them through their contrast with the teachings of the past: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, but I say unto you.” When He returns to Nazareth where He had been brought up, there is delivered unto Him the book to read. He is addressed in more than forty passages of the Gospels as Teacher or Master. When His enemies would entangle Him they assume His familiarity with the literature which they cite, and He in His turn does not hesitate to use against them their own weapons of dialectic, so that they dare ask Him no more questions. Yet, sufficiently equipped as Jesus was to adapt His teaching to the learning of His age, it was not His scholastic wisdom which most impressed His hearers. There was perceived in Him a quality of insight which, instead of being akin to the learning of scholars, was distinct from it, and was seen to be an original endowment, a spiritual gift. When the boy Jesus met the wise men of Jerusalem it was this untaught wisdom which startled them. He lingered among the doctors, eager to hear and to ask them questions; and when His parents sought their child He turned to them with one of those deep, strange sayings with which other children sometimes perplex their parents, as though they were listening to another voice and heard a command ‘their parents had not given. From that time on, as it is written, Jesus increased not in stature only and in charm, but in wisdom. He was a teacher, but the authority of His teaching was not that of the scribes. His wisdom was not erudition. It left, not an impression of academic acquisition, but of penetration, discernment, grasp. It was one aspect of His central quality of power.

Perhaps the most striking evidence of this intellectual mastery was a certain lightness of touch which Jesus often employed in controversy, and which sometimes approaches the play of humour, and sometimes the thrust of irony. His enemies attack Him with bludgeons, and He defends Himself with a rapier. No test of mastery is more complete than this capacity to make of playfulness a weapon of reasoning. The method of Jesus pierces through the subtlety and obscurity of His opponents with such refinement and dexterity that the assailant sometimes hardly knows that he is hit. Instead of a direct reply, the immediate question is parried and turned aside and the motive which lies behind it is laid hare. People come to Him with an inquiry about the division of property, and Jesus first seems to decline jurisdiction in the matter. "Who made me,” He says, "a judge or a divider over you?” Then, however, looking round at the faces of the crowd who are seeking His guarantee for their greed, He penetrates to the thought which the economic problem has disguised, and answers, not their inquiry, but their hearts: "I say unto you all, keep yourselves from covetousness.” His disciples ask for the reward of their loyalty: "Lo, we have left all and have followed thee "; and Jesus answers: "Ye shall receive an hundredfold, houses and brethren, sisters and mothers, and children and lands”; and then, as if with a playful sense of the little that all this tells them of that which should happen, He goes on: "Yes, houses and lands indeed, with persecutions.” He opens the Book in the synagogue, and with the familiarity of one versed in the Scriptures, selects that passage which is fulfilled in Him, "He hath anointed me to preach the acceptable year of the Lord”; but then, while the minds of His hearers run on into the next phrase of the Prophet’s saying, Jesus abruptly closes the Book in the middle of a sentence and gives it back to the attendant, leaving it for the congregation to perceive that He declines to appropriate the ancient threat, "and the day of vengeance of our God.”[11] Here is intellectual insight matching spiritual authority. Here is no recluse, or peasant, or passive saint, but an intellectual as well as moral leader, who may be rejected indeed, but who cannot be despised. The picture of the historic Jesus which would reproduce this type of character, and which is still left for Christian art to paint, is not of the pallid sufferer, stricken by the sins of the world, but of the wise, grave Master, whom to meet was to reverence, if not to obey. Tempted He may be, but His are the temptations which come to power. Confronted by learning He must be, but the weapons of scholarship are His also. Thwarted by the kingdoms of this world He will be, but He remains a king in the empire of the truth. Suffer He must, but it is the suffering of the strong. He dies as if defeated, but His power asserts itself commandingly even when He is gone; and the very memory of it brings to His cause men who could resist His teaching. Nicodemus, the scholar, returns to care for the body of Jesus; and Judas, the betrayer, hangs himself for shame.

This central quality of moral and intellectual power becomes still more impressive if one goes on to consider the habits of life and ways of conduct which are its natural expressions. There are two ways in which the conduct of Jesus discloses a character whose dominant note is strength, and both of these habits of life increase the pathos and impressiveness of such a character. The first is the prodigality of the sympathy of Jesus; the second is His solitude of soul. The first mark of power is its self-impartation. It gives itself lavishly because there is so much to give. It feels no need of thrift. This is what impresses one in the conduct of Jesus. He is extravagant and unthrifty in His teaching. On one occasion only does He seem to gather an audience about Him and address to them any formal announcement of His mission. For the most part He lavishes His teaching on a few, and sometimes charges even these to tell no man what He has taught. He takes three friends apart from their companions and shows them His glory. His parables are flung out into the world with little care for their interpretation. Those who have ears to hear may hear them; but many shall hear and not understand. His favourite symbolism is that of the sower’s work, with its broad, tree sweep of arm and its widely-scattered seed. What matter was it if much seed be wasted, if that which falls on good ground has such reproductive power? There is the same prodigality in His relation with the diverse types of people who came to Him. It is often asked whether Jesus should be classified with reformers or with working-men, with the proletariat or the poor. The fact is, however, that the ordinary social classifications are inapplicable to Him. He is equally at home with the most varied types. He moves with the same sense of familiarity among rich and poor, learned and ignorant, the happy and the sad. What does this range of sympathy, this prodigality of method mean? It has been sometimes regarded as the sheer manifestation of an appreciative and responsive mind. This is the trait which has encouraged the aesthetic interpretation of the character of Jesus. This lavish offering is, it is said, a mark of His delight in life. But delight in life is robbed of its significance when it has no background of rational justification. Sympathy to be effective must be the expression of power. To give, one must have. To give one’s life a ransom for many is of no avail if the ransom is insufficient. To say that the Son of Man comes not to be ministered unto, but to minister, is to utter no great truth, unless the Son of Man has the capacity for ministering. To dig a channel for the water-power of one’s mill is no wise investment if the stream has run low. The sympathy of Jesus is the channel through which His power flows, and the abundance of the stream testifies to the reserve of power at the source.

The second mark of the conduct of Jesus is His spiritual solitude. Give Himself as He may to others in lavish word and deed, there remains within the circle of these relationships a sphere of isolation and reserve. Eager as He is to communicate His message, there are aspects of it which, He is forced to see, are incommunicable, so that His language has sometimes a note of helplessness. Men see but they do not perceive; they hear but they do not understand. I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” There is profound pathos in this solitude of Jesus. The very ideals which He cherishes estrange Him from many a hearer. The throng that presses about Him seems to drain His strength, and He seeks the solitude of the hills or of the lake to recover poise and peace. Here is the meaning of those passive virtues which appear to give the note of asceticism to the Gospels. Meekness, patience, forbearance, silence—these are not the signs of mere self-mortification, they are the signs of power in reserve. They are the marks of one who can afford to wait, who expects to suffer, who need not contend; and all this not because He is simply meek and lowly, but because He is also strong and calm. Consider, for instance, the relation of Jesus to His family. Christian art has here again misled the sentiment of the devout, and has pictured the mother of Jesus as continuously aware of His profoundest hopes, from the time of His boyhood, when she "pondered these things in her heart,” to the time of the Cross when she stood near by, leaning on the disciple whom Jesus loved. The fact is, however, that in every glimpse of the domestic relations of Jesus we see Him separated from an undiscerning, if not an alienated, home. When His parents find their boy in the temple they keep His sayings indeed in their hearts, but they do not open their minds to those sayings. On the contrary, it is written that "they understood not the saying which He spake unto them.” Even when His teaching had gained many other followers, His own kin had no ears for His message. What infinite pathos is in that scene at Capernaum, when the people crowd upon Him so that He and His friends cannot find time to eat, and His mother and His brethren cannot "come at Him for the press.” They come, it is plain, to take Him from the dangers which beset Him. Perhaps they see the political peril that threatens Him; perhaps they lament His break with the sacred law; perhaps they even doubt His sanity. At any rate, they come not to listen but to deter, and Jesus is smitten with the poignant realisation that a man’s foes are of his own household. If He is to go on, it is to be alone. Those who should know Him best are the least to comprehend Him. With a look of profound sorrow, yet of undeterred resolution, He turns from those who are dearest to Him and gives Himself to that larger sympathy, which is at the same time personal solitude. And He looked round on them which sat about Him and said: Behold my mother and my brother; for whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my mother and my brother and my sister.” Here, indeed, is the pathos of the character of Jesus; yet here also we approach the source of His strength. It was in this detachment of nature, this isolation of the inner life, that Jesus found His communion with the life of God. At this point His ethics melt into His religion. The crowd press round Him and He serves them gladly, and then it seems as if His nature demanded solitude for the refreshment of His faith. The tide of the spirit ebbs from Him in the throng, and when He goes apart He is least alone, because the Father is with Him. Thus, from utterance to silence, from giving to receiving, from society to solitude, the rhythm of His nature moves; and the power which is spent in service is renewed in isolation. He is able to bear the crosses of others because He bears His own. He can be of use to men because He can go without men. He is ethically effective because He is spiritually free. He is able to save because He is strong to suffer. His sympathy and His solitude are alike the instruments of His strength. The type of character directly derived from Him—the Christian character—is not a survival of monastic or sentimental ideals, inapplicable to the conditions of the modern world; it is a form of power made effective through strength of soul. Its force flows down like an unstinted river among the utilities of life because it is nourished among the eternal hills. It has its abundance and its reserves, its service and its solitude; and the power which moves the busy wheels of the life of man is fed in the deep places of the life of God.

 


 

[1]The Hibbert Journal, Vol. I, No. 4, 1902, pp. 641-660.

[2]The Kernel and the Husk, American edition, 1887, p. 334.

[3]Life of Jesus, translated by Marian Evans, 1856, p. 202.

[4] Friedrich Paulsen, System der Ethik, Berlin, 1889, S. 50 ff., Die Lebensanschauung des Christentums.

[5] The same conclusion is drawn by many socialists; (e.g., L.. Stein, Die Soziale Frage im Lichte der Philosophie, 1897, s. 344: "Christianity has a certain dark and monastic quality (etwas monchisch finsteres) which is hostile to social and philosophical inquiries based on confidence in human nature; and by many philosophers; (e.g., F. H. Bradley (Int. J. of Ethics, October 1894 "We have lived a long time now the professors of a creed which no one consistently can practise, and which, if practised, would be as immoral as it is unreal ").

[6] Leben Jesu, fur das Deutsche Volk bearbeitet, Pte Autl., 1 tits 1, s. 208.  So Hase, Geschichte Jesu, Leipzig. 1876, § -Jesus defends human life from the asceticism which so often allies itself with religious earnestness. . . . He shares freely in the good things of this life. He is as a bridegroom among his companions. Never did a religious hero shun so little the joys of life.” So also, though in less unmeasured words, Kenn, Geschichte Jens von Nazara, i. 1.58: "Is not. the primitive description of Him as being gentle and joyous (seine Herzlichkeit and milde Heiterkcit) the character which Strauss assigns to Him- justified by the record?” One of the most curious illustrations of scholarly candour is the somersault of conviction performed by A. Wunche in his Der Lebens freudige Jest,. Leipzig. I876. In 1870 lie had published his Leiden Des Messias. describing with much erudition the Messianic ideal of lowly suffering in its fulfilment through Christ. Six years later Jesus appears to him in a wholly opposite characte, joyous, triumphant, with a delight in life in which the Talmudic teachers could fund no satisfaction. See also the essay of I. Zangwill (Dreamers of the Ghetto. 1s7). p. 480), "I give the Jews a Christ they can now accept, the Christians a Christ they have forgotten, Christ, not the tortured God, but the Joyous Comrade, the friend of all simple souls  not the theologian spinning barren subtleties, but the man of genius protesting against all forms and dogmas that would replace the Divine vision and the living ecstasy, . . . . the lover of warm life and warm sunlight and all that is fresh, and simple, and pure and beautiful.” So in many popular studies of the Gospels, e.g., the fresh and thoughtful narrative by \V. .1. Dawson. The Life of Christ, 1901, p. 87 ff. "He became the incarnation of the spirit of joy, the symbol of the bliss of life. . . . Christ’s gracious gaiety of heart proved contagious.”

[7] A. Harnack, What is Christianity? (transl. Saunders, 1901), p. 37:  "The picture of the life and discourses of Jesus stands in no relation with the Greek spirit. . . . That he was ever in touch with Plato or the Porch . . . . it is absolutely impossible to maintain.”

[8] The responsiveness of the mind of Jesus to the suggestiveness of the world is beautifully described by Principal Fairbairn: The Philosophy of the Christian Religion, 1902, pp. 383 ff. See also Ehrhardt: Die Ethik Jesu, s. 110, note: "In Jesus the Messianic idea is rather a means than an end (mehr ein instrumentaler als ein Zweckbegriff), He used its form for the expression of his ideal. The ascetic element in the ethics of Jesus is its transient, the service of God its permanent element”  See also Strauss, Leben Jesu, ss, 24: "This joyous, continuous conduct of a lovely soul . . . may be described as the Hellenic quality in Jesus.”

[9] So Keim, Gesehichte Jesu, 1869, i. 445: ". . . . A Galilean in the freshness and susceptibility of His sense of nature in all her forms, with contemplative seriousness and the depth of power of His life with God….Let us at the same time confess that humanity can elsewhere hardly exhibit the even balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces.”

[10] The captivating lectures of my distinguished and beloved colleague, William James (The Varieties of Religious Experience, 1902) abound, it is needless to say, in illuminating suggestions concerning the expansion of life through the religious emotion; and, in spite of his startling pluralistic theism, the conclusion that "the conscious person is continuous with a wider self through which saving experiences come” makes an epoch in psychology. The sweep and charm of the discussion cannot, however, obscure the fact that

[11] This incident is noted by S. M. Crothers, in a Sermon on the Simplification of Life, Boston, 1901.