There is no room to do more than mention the fact which crowns the revelation of this new law of righteousness. Christ’s words about goodness do not come to us alone; they come united with a life which is their best exposition. Christ is all His followers are to be; in Him the righteousness of the kingdom is incarnate. From henceforth the righteous man is the Christ-like man. The standard of human life is no longer a code but a character; for the gospel does not put us into subjection to fresh laws; it calls us to “the study of a living Person, and the following of a living Mind." And when to Jesus we bring the old question, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” He does not now repeat the commandments, but He says, “If thou wouldest be perfect, follow Me, learn of Me, do as I have done to you, love as I have loved you.”
Such, then, is the good life which Christ reveals, and to which He calls us. To say that to Him we owe our highest ideal of righteousness, is only to affirm what no one now seriously denies. John Stuart Mill has, it is true, alleged certain defects against Christianity as an ethical system, yet Mill himself has frankly admitted that “it would not be easy now, even for an unbeliever, to find a better translation of the rule of virtue from the abstract to the concrete, than to endeavour so to live that Christ would approve our life.” If Christ be not our one Master in the moral world, it will at least be soon enough to discuss a rival’s claims when he appears; as yet there is no sign of him. But the point I am most anxious to emphasize just now is not simply that Jesus has put before us an ideal, the highest of its kind in the world, but that there is nothing of any kind to be desired before it. To be good as Christ was good, here in very truth is the summum bonum of life, the greatest thing in the world, that which, before all other things, a man should seek to make his own, There are times, perhaps, in the lives of all of us when we are tempted to doubt it—times when the kingdoms of this world, the kingdoms of wealth and power and knowledge lie stretched at our feet, and the whispering fiend at our elbow bids us bow and enter in. But once again, if we be true men, the moment comes,
“When the spirit’s
Stand out plainly from its false ones,”
when the sacred, saving faith in righteousness returns, and we know that Christ was right, that for ever and for ever it is true that better than to be rich, or to be clever, or to be famous, is it to be true, to be pure, to be good.