The Jesus of History eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 258 pages of information about The Jesus of History.

With all his wide outlook on mankind, his great purpose to capture all men, Jesus is remarkable for his omission to devise machinery or organization for the accomplishment of his ends.  The tares are left to grow with the wheat (Matt. 13:30)—­as if Jesus trusted the wheat a good deal more than we do.  Alive as he is to the evil in human nature, he never tries to scare men from it, and he seems to have been very little afraid of it.  He believed in the power of good—­because, after all, God is “Lord of the Harvest” (Matt. 9:38).  He invents no special methods—­a loving heart will hit the method needed in the particular case; the Holy Spirit will teach this as well as other things (Matt. 10:19, 20).  How far he even organized his church, or left it to organize itself if it so wished, students may discuss.  Would he have trusted even the best organized church as such?  Does not what we mean by the Incarnation imply putting everything in the long run on the individual, quickened into new life by a new relation with God and taught a new love of men by Jesus himself?  The heart of friendship and the heart of the Incarnation are in essence the same thing—­giving oneself in frankness and love to him who will accept, and by them winning him who refuses.  Has not this been the secret of the spread of the Gospel?  The simplicity of the whole thing, and the power of it, grow upon us as we study them.  But after all, as Tertullian said, simplicity and power are the constant marks of God’s work—­simplicity in method, power in effect ("de Baptismo”, 2).



“For clear-thinking ethical natures,” writes a modern scholar, “for natures such as those of Jesus and St. Paul, it is a downright necessity to separate heaven and hell as distinctly as possible.  It is only ethically worthless speculations that have always tried to minimize this distinction.  Carlyle is an instance in our times of how men even to-day once more enthusiastically welcome the conception of hell as soon as the distinction between good and bad becomes all-important to them."[26]

Here in strong terms a challenge is put to many of our current ideas.  Is not this to revert to an outworn view of the Christian religion—­to reassert its dark side, better forgotten, all the horrible emphasis on sin and its consequences introduced into the sunny teaching of Jesus by Paul of Tarsus, and alien to it?  Before we answer this question in any direct way, it is worth while to realize for how many of the real thinkers, and the great teachers of mankind, this distinction between good and evil has been fundamental.  They have not invented it as a theory on which to base religion, but they have found it in human life, one and all of them.  If Walt Whitman or Swami Vivekananda overlook the difference between virtue and vice, and do honour to the courtesan, it simply means that they are bad thinkers, bad observers. 

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The Jesus of History from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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