The Teaching of Jesus eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 161 pages of information about The Teaching of Jesus.
In the long history of man, it remains, perhaps, the supreme illustration of the fatal facility with which religion and morality are divorced when once the emphasis is laid upon the outward and ceremonial instead of the inward and spiritual.  All experience helps us to understand how the system works.  There is no deliberate intention of setting ritual above righteousness, but it is so much easier to count one’s beads than to curb one’s temper, so much easier to fast in Lent than to be unswervingly just, that if once the easier thing gets attached to it an exaggerated importance, fidelity in it is allowed to atone for laxity in greater things, and the last result is Pharisaism, where we see conscience concerned about the tithing of garden herbs, but with no power over the life, and religion not merely tolerating but actually ministering to moral evil.  It was in the name of religion that the Pharisees suffered a man to violate even the sanctities of the Fifth Commandment, and to do dishonour to his father and mother.  The righteous man in their eyes was not he who loved mercy, and did justly, and walked humbly with his God, but he who observed the traditions of the elders.  So that, as Professor Bruce says,[39] it was possible for a man to comply with all the requirements of the Rabbis and yet remain in heart and life an utter miscreant.  “Outwardly,” said Christ, “ye appear righteous unto men, but inwardly ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”  Is it any wonder that He should call down fire from heaven to consume a system which had yielded such bitter, poisonous fruits as these?

But let us remember, as Mozley well says,[40] there are no extinct species in the world of evil.  The value for us of Christ’s condemnation lies in this, that it is a permanent tendency of human nature which He is condemning.  Pharisaism is not dead.  Have I not seen the Pharisee dressed in good broad-cloth and going to church with his Bible under his arm?  And have I not seen him sitting in church and reading the twenty-third chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, and thinking to himself what shockingly wicked people these men must have been of whom Christ spoke such terrible words, and never once supposing that there is anything in the chapter that concerns him?  No, Pharisaism is not dead; and when we read of those who devoured widows’ houses and for a pretence made long prayers, using their religion as a cloak for their villainy, let us remember that Christ says to His disciples to-day, even as He said to them centuries ago, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

II

Thus far we have considered Christ’s idea of righteousness only in contrast with other ideas.  When we seek to define it in itself we fall back naturally on the words of the two great commandments which have already been quoted:  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;” and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”  Righteousness, Christ says, is love, love to God and love to man.

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Project Gutenberg
The Teaching of Jesus from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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