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tiny in the unfolding of the kingdom of God. The fundamental element in the Christianity of Jesus is the love of God for humanity. This love lies at the base of all supernatural manifestations, is the law of all Providential discipline, the spring of all ethics, and the ground of all hopes. No communication takes rank with this communication. No principle limits or conditions this principle. As high as heaven, as deep as hell, as wide as space, is this truth which Jesus utters and embodies, — the love of God for men. Essential Christianity is the declaration and concrete expression of this love through the archetypal divine sonship and self-sacrifice of Jesus. All the manifold process of salvation in its widest sense flows out of this elemental truth thus expressed in an unique yet universally related and allrelating personality. The revelation which Jesus makes of divine Fatherhood and human sonship discloses the ideal toward the full realization of which the moral and spiritual life of man is a progress. This divine-human relation involves in itself the perfect good of the individual and the perfect good of society, that is, collective humanity. On the fundamental principle of man's moral relation to God — a relation exhibited and confirmed by the Christ — rest all the principles, and out of it rise all the forces, of that great upward movement of humanity to which history, with increasing clearness, witnesses. All that is best in our individual characters, as well as in our social morals, sciences, arts, industries, politics, and religions, has its primal spring in that relation. Ignorant as he may be, blind and bestial as he often is, man is the child of God; therefore he is the object of the divine love, the subject of the divine tuition and discipline, and, in the attainment of his true destiny, the fulfillment of the divine purpose. The revelation of God to man and of man's true relation to God, which Jesus makes, involves all that is essential in his teaching and in his experience. It involves the Cross, not as a necessary material fact, but as a symbol of spiritual fact,
- the fact of supreme self-sacrifice for moral ends. There is much of form and organization and theory that has got itself named Christian which, at the best, sustains but a loose and accidental relation to essential Christianity. There is much, also, which essential Christianity has created as instrument for the realization of its ends. All this, for the present, may be left aside. Nor shall any detailed elucidation of the spiritual contents of essential Christianity be attempted now. A single point claims our present attention. Christianity as a revelation of divine Fatherhood and human sonship, and of divine love seeking the full realization of truth and love in human experience and character and destiny, is preeminently a religion of hope.
In a deeper sense than ever any other teacher personally represented what he taught, Jesus was and is essential Christianity. For let it never be forgotten that Christianity is a spirit and method of life. It is not primarily a church, nor a creed, nor a ritual, nor even a religion, but a life of God and in God, which life has its supreme embodiment in the Christ. It is difficult, if not impossible, to find any truth or precept given by Jesus which had not been given to men before. The unity of God, the providence of God, the Fatherhood of God, the ubiquity of the divine spirit, the mercy of God, man's duty of repentance, faith and charity, and the hope of immortality, — all had found utterance in some form before Jesus came. But the whole of truth expressed in a life the world had not seen till Jesus came. What men had apprehended only in detached fragments of spiritual truth and beauty, and, for the most part, in the form of precept or proposition, Jesus exhibited in the harmony and fullness of a living incarnation. Thus embodied, all truths took on a new meaning, or rather now first disclosed their real meaning. To see one who loved God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength, and his neighbor as himself, made the old precept a new communication. To see in the clear face of the Son the unmarred reflection of the perfect Father, made the revelation of God a new revelation. To see faith and obedience and holy love perfectly realized in a person who
was to have a new sense of what faith and obedience and holy love are. In Jesus all the scattered rays of truth were gathered up into the glowing centre of a divinely human personality. He justified, therefore, as well as inspired, the testimony that “ God, having of old time spoken unto the fathers in the prophets by divers portions, and in divers manners, hath at the end of these days spoken unto us in a Son."
Jesus Christ, then, in his person and teaching and deeds, is the gospel, — the good tidings of God to men. His function, as well as his person, is thus, in a true sense, unique. Neither prophet nor apostle, neither Isaiah nor Paul, but Jesus only, adequately expresses and defines essential Christianity. The real progress of Christian thought is advance in power to understand and interpret Jesus. A book may be exhausted, for the capacity of “the letter" is limited; but a personality, such a personality, is inexhaustible. “The letter” is form, and easily becomes fetters; “the spirit” is life, and has no bounds. Men are perpetually trying to put Christianity into dogmatic systems which they label Calvinism and Arminianism, Old Theology and New Theology ; but they are perpetually baffled by the fact that Cbristianity, as the effluence of the living Christ, overflows all boundaries, transcends all forms, and convicts all definitions of inadequacy and error. Everything is transitory save the spirit. Jesus as the revelation of God and the manifestation of the life of God, realized and individualized in the life of man, is the secret of the power which Christianity possesses of perpetually renewing itself. Institutions, theories, and forms become decadent and effete. Then men say Christianity is moribund. But while they are brooding over the death of a faith, behold! that faith is rising in fresh power, putting forth new energies and creating new instruments to serve its ends. A clear apprehension of Christianity as a spirit of life, having its supreme manifestation in the Son of God, makes argument to prove that it is a religion of hope seem almost superfluous.
But let us proceed to explicate this truth somewhat in detail. The message of Jesus to the world was one of hope, for it was a message of salvation. He declared that “God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever trusteth in Him might not perish but have life eternal;” and He presented himself as the embodiment of this love and the executor of this purpose. He took to himself as definitive of his mission, in a broader sense than the prophet understood, the words of Isaiah:
“ The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
Because He anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor :
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” He came not to rebuke, but to encourage men. His message was one of cheer, and not of condemnation : “For God sent not the Son into the world to judge the world ; but that the world should be saved through Him." His words were continually provocative of hope. His ministry of healing was in a large, sweet
way illustrative and symptomatic. His practical helpfulness reinforced, in a manner that men could feel and in some sense understand, his declarations of divine purpose. Of old, men were ever more ready to credit God with the purpose of smiting than they were to believe in his disposition to heal. Jesus declared the love of God to men, and, avowedly fulfilling the will of God, put the message into a palpable gift of health to diseased and tormented bodies. Thus He dissolved that ignorant fear of God which was a main hindrance to the reception of his message. He declared the law of love between man and man, and illustrated the declaration by his invincible goodness and his utter unselfishness in helping the needy of every class. Thus He dissolved the antagonisms that thrust men apart and made them mutual hurters instead of mutual helpers of each other. He uttered and embodied the divine principle of love which is at once the motive of true worship and the law of right action. This was lifting life to a new level. His purpose was but dimly apprehended then, and is far from being clearly apprehended even now. Still, despite their little apprehension of Jesus, many of those among whom He lived and taught awoke to a new hope, and the impulse of that hope created the new life which dates from the first Christian century.
What Jesus did, He does still. The material circumstances of his ministry, for example his works of healing, as to their form, are incidental. In essence the ministry of Jesus continues, and not as the prolonged impression of historic events simply, but as the ever fresh impression of his spiritual force, — his transcendent personality. Treating his life historically, we must say, “ He was,” and “He did," but treating his life on the higher plane of his essential mission to the world, we instinctively drop the past tense. The Christ belongs to all time, and is the contemporary of every age. His message is not a mere reminiscence of a past event; it is a vital communication of the present and dateless gospel of God. The world has greatly changed in the nearly two millenniums that have passed since Jesus of Nazareth began his ministry in Palestine, but it has not changed in its essential relation to Him. He is better understood, but He is still preëminent. The force of his teaching is more widely felt, but it is still unexhausted. Man is less abject and bestial, less ignorant and superstitious than he was, but he is still dependent upon “ Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
In a true sense, then, what Jesus did He still does; only the scope of his ministry ever widens as man's capacity to apprehend the meaning and end of that ministry increases. Jesus' message of hope to men was not simply a promise of “ something better by and by," that is, in eternity, conceived as a condition of being to be entered upon by humanity collectively at the end of time. He did not say, “Life is evil and irremediable here and now, but in the hereafter it will be wholly good.” He had little to say of “the hereafter” in the sense in which we commonly use that term. He said enough. He gave the fruitful germs of thought that grow with the growth of man's spirit into ever enlarging spiritual conceptions of humanity's future. But He did not speak as fully and as explicitly of “the bereafter” as many have thought. The promise of the better by and by which men needed to hear was implicitly in all his teaching, but the pledge of its fulfillment was in a bettered present. If the seed of the better age is not in to-day, its flower and fruit will not appear in the distant to-morrow. Jesus did not leave men in their misery simply enriched by a hope. He began in their minds and hearts the process which, making the present better, brightens all the future. Man himself must be improved if there is to be any permanent improvement of his environment. Civilization is first subjective. Jesus gave to men a revelation of God that awakened trust in the divine goodness. This trust was itself at once a ground and spring of hope, and a powerful motive to righteousness. To deepen one's faith in the good is to generate rational hope and to elevate character. He taught men the meaning of love, and planted in them the root of that divine affection which must grow from heart to heart until all humanity is bound in living, holy brotherhood. The man who loves to-day, even feebly, gives promise in himself of the day when he will love his neighbor as himself. What Jesus did for man was, most of all, what He did in man, and in man He began the process of which “the new heaven and the new earth” will be the natural and divinely ordained culmination. The leaven in the meal is the finest symbol of Christ's method. The spirit works within, and from within outward.
The character of Jesus' work in man is the best answer to the pessimism of much “Christian theology,” as well as of unchristian philosophy. He gave to human life an impulse toward the good that strengthens and broadens with every passing century.
In giving that impulse He discloses at once both the actual and the ideal of human life from the moral point of view. What life