CHRIST'S ETHICAL TEACHING
We have seen that Christ claimed to fulfil the
unrealised ideal of the Old Covenant, and, at
the same time, that He continued to respect all its
detailed arrangements. In accordance with our plan of
study, we ought now to have discussed Christ's criticism
of the moral law. But, after our study has
advanced to the present point, it cannot surprise us to
find, that Christ nowhere criticises the moral law. To
Him, the Old Testament is God's revelation; and,
while He is conscious of bringing a new revelation, He
knows that He does so by fulfilling the Law and the
Prophets. Even when we expect Him to criticise the
old law, He criticises by preference(50)
50. Above, ch. 3, p. 53.
Yet, in spite of Christ's silence, it will be needful for us to summarise His ethical teaching, and to put it in contrast with Old Testament ethic. In this way we shall, from one side, reach the very heart of the new revelation; if we omitted this, we should misunderstand the very centre of Christ's originality. And the misunderstanding would spread over all parts of His teaching; for all His teaching, as we shall find, is vitally affected by His ethical principles. Perhaps it is unfortunate that we should need to extemporise a sketch, if not of Christian ethic, of Christ's ethic. At any rate, it is unavoidable. Our language is not rich in Biblical Theology; and, if it were, it is unlikely that any standard discussion would exactly answer the purpose of the present chapter.
But what do we mean by speaking of ethical teaching? We do not mean to exclude religious teaching;
that would be a wrong both to Christ and to the Old
Testament. In the latter, morality is blended not only
with religion, but with ritual ordinances and with civil
law; while in the teaching of Christ, in spite of the
changes He introduces, or rather because of these
changes, morality and religion are become the same thing.
Christ's religion is purely moral; Christs morality is
wholly religious. Nor by ethical teaching do we mean
to denote practical teaching in the narrow sense of
the word, to the exclusion of all theoretical elements,
Christ's teaching is founded on a religious revelation;
and, although His instructions are occasional and popular, not scholastic or systematic, they always presuppose
His revelation. Still, we mean to speak only of those
elements of Christ's teaching which can be brought
under the head of duty. All that He tells us, whether
concerning God or men, that we ought to do,all that
He says in the imperative mood,belongs to this chapter; whatever He reveals for our contemplation, but
not immediately for the quickening of our wills, is
excluded from this chapter. Such is the teaching that
we call ethical; and in using that name we imply, as I
think Christ leads us to do, that moral teaching, which
entirely omits the thought of God, mutilates the moral
universe. It must be added that we exclude from this
sketch of Christ's practical teaching His relation to
positive institutions. These He Himself taught separately;(51)
51. Appendix C, Christ as Founder of the Visible Church. 52. See next chapter.
The first point we have to note in regard to the essential principles of Christ's moral teaching is, that it grew out of the religious revelation He brought. This is not dogmatically assumed; its evidence lies in the Gospel records. We have seen how He revered the Old Testament; to understand why His morality is beyond its morality, or how He transformed and perfected its teaching, we have to recur to His position as founder of God's kingdom. Indeed, we shall find that whatever is novel in His teaching of duty, as compared with the Old Testament or with legal teaching, is exactly, barely, the statement of what is implied in His religious revelation. This is consistent with the fact that in much of Christ's teaching, especially of His earlier teaching, duty is far more prominent than the communication of religious truth; what is not always expressed is always implied. Neither element must be allowed to disparage the other. If religion furnishes morality with unity, and completeness, and a motive, morality furnishes breadth and vigour to religion (Matt 7:21, 19:16-22).
Next, we have to observe that Christ, as a religious teacher, addresses a special society. He is not a philosopher; all His moralities are addressed to the members of His kingdom. In this we see that His morality presupposes grace. The deliverance of Israel from Egypt at the founding of the Old Covenant was God's redemptive act; and the founding of the kingdom of God by Christ was His redemptive and gracious work. If He speaks then of the kingdom of God as come (Matt 12:28; cf. 13:16, 17, etc., etc.), it is not merely, though chiefly, because He is come, but because He is surrounded by His Church, in the first instance, by Israel, so far as Israel was faithful and repentant; later on, by chosen disciples and ordained apostles.
Before proceeding to the details of Christ's commands to His followers, it may be well to study the most formal utterance recordedthe nearest approach to a systemin His teaching: I mean the Sermon on the Mount. This sermon begins with the Beatitudes. These themselves may be taken as an informal enunciation of the graces of Christian character, as nearly formal as Christ ever was. If we do not dwell on them, it is because they announce gifts rather than require duties. But we must not ignore the meaning of that very fact. The very law-giving of the Kingdomwhat is as nearly a legislation as the nature of the Kingdom will allowwhat is as nearly formal as Christ's teaching ever isbegins, not with laws, but with blessings. This implies, not only that there were good men in the world to welcome Christready-made saints, as it were, who merely needed investiturethat, the Spirit of God was to some extent abroad in the world even before the Baptism and Pentecost, but that this kingdom imparts righteousness, makes men poor in spirit, makes them rich in faith, makes them blessed while they mourn. The cleft between law and life is filled up as soon as the kingdom of God is in the world. "Ye are the salt of the earth." "Ye are the light of the world." A change, this, from "Thou shalt," still more from "Thou shalt not"!
The next part of the sermon, as we have already
seen, explains that Christ's purpose is to serve God,
not to depart from His word; to establish righteousness, not to relax its claims. We then have a statement of Christ's teaching in contrast to the Pharisaic
view of the Law. The general result is to remove the
merely legal character from God's revelation as conceived by the people, and to give it an absolute or
ethical character. Addressed to the citizens of the
Kingdom, the old law of Israel blossoms out into a
legislation for an ideal community. Statute law condemns murder; the founder of God's kingdom sees
that His society would be marred and defiled by anger.
Adultery is a "crime against society"; the well-being
of Christ's society would be tarnished by lust. The
victim of a sin against conjugal faithfulness receives
through the civil judge such poor redress as is possible;
in Christ's society,(53)
53. See Mark 10:11. Ritschl, A. K. Kirche, p. 31. Weiss, in New Testament Theology, Sect. 24. 54. Substantially as in Weiss. The author of Ecce Homo (ch.
xxiii.) decides, from a comparison of this passage with
Matthew 18:15, that "Christ held injuries inflicted by heathen to
stand on a materially different footing from those committed
by Christians." He forgets that he is comparing the paradoxes of an ideal legislation with practical social rules. And
he forgets Matthew 18:22, "Forgive thy brother until seventy
The next section
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
55. Ritschl, Justification, iii., p. 81, 18.
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. 14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; 18 That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Nor was this name a bare word. Implicitly, reconciliation of men to God and the forgiveness of men by God were both contained in it. In our Lord's Prayer those who call God Father appear bound to show resignation, faith in His providence, and absolute devotion to His glory; they are to seek His kingdom first of all things; while God appears as providing for their necessities, forgiving their sins, and yielding them strength and guidance. The children trust the Father, obey Him, and seek His mercy; the Father cares for the children, assures them of the best gift in promising His love, and undertakes a personal solicitude over their personal difficulties; for that which God teaches us to ask He promises to give. Such are, in outline, the lessons of the Lord's Prayer.
The following section (6:19, sq.), though probably inserted in Matthew in a connection originally foreign to it, contains Christ's leading principle , that the kingdom of God is to be the first aim in life. He vindicates this place for it in relation to the claims and temptations of worldly care, as He elsewhere (20:26; see also the Parable of the Sower) guards it against worldly ambition. Further than this we need not carry the present statement.
The general contrast of this teaching with the doctrine of the Old Testament may be expressed in a word: it is legal; this is ethical. It attributed sonship to Israel, or to the king as head of the people; this teaching makes the filial name and spirit the property of all. The Old Testament promised blessings of this world; Christ offers a summum bonum, in whose light all other blessings are indifferent. The Old Testament Church was a national society, founded on rights, such as the right of conquest; prosperity alone was the seal of God's favour. Christ's kingdom is a society, not for securing men in their rights, but for enabling them to do right. In order to enter it, men must consent to self-abnegation. They have no rights, in comparison with the claims of God's kingdom as a whole; personal property, the family, the nation, life itself, all must be sacrificed, if need be, to the interests of God and of Humanity. The Christian has "only one rightto do his duty"; and, if that includes the right to count upon God's effectual grace and upon His encouraging presence, this very right is of grace, and founded on God's self-sacrifice in Christ. In the Old Testament, on the other hand, there was at least the appearance of legal right. The traces of individual piety which appear in the Wisdom literature and in the Book of Psalms at any rate seem to retain this claim of legal dues, awkward though such a claim is in the individual. Hence, too, they often disclose a perplexed intellect, and a disordered conscience. The ceremonial sacrifices were partly inadequate to these religious necessities, partly unadapted to them. There was need of a better sacrifice. And, in the light of Christ, self-seeking is gone, and merit is gone, not only because the sinner is unable to attain it, but because it is unworthy of Christ's follower.
Here we may delay for a moment to speak of the
relation of Christ's teaching in this passage to the
Atonement. M. Godet says, "A religious party has
made a party-banner of this discourse. According
to them, this discourse is a summary of the teaching
of Jesus, who merely spiritualised the moral law.
But how are we to harmonise with this view the
passages in which Jesus makes attachment to His
person the very centre of the new righteousness (for
My sake, Matthew 5:11; for the sake of the Son of man,
Luke 6:22), and those in which He announces
Himself as the Final and Supreme judge (Matt 7:21-23, compared with
Luke 6:46, Lord, Lord!)?" So far, we are thoroughly with M. Godet. But what
shall we say to his concluding sentence? "The
true view of the religious import of this discourse
is that which Gess has expressed in these well-weighed
words, 'The Sermon on the Mount describes
that earnest piety which no one can cultivate without
an increasing feeling of the need of redemption, by
means of which the righteousness required by such
piety may at last be realised.'"(56)
56. Godet on Luke, Clark's translation, i., 335-6.
To return; religion in the Old Testament was formally a legal thing. But religion is subtly elastic. It is always ready to put a deeper meaning into the forms of thought which body forth our relations with God, and to change laws into gifts of grace, rights into prayers. In those aspects of religion, however, which look not towards God but towards men, even religious persons are very much dependent on the standard to which they have been trained to aspire. Even religion can make herself at home in the presence of a very undeveloped code of conduct or social ideal. In form, the Old Testament theory of duty between man and man was confined to the letter of law, and restricted to members of the nation. Christ's society for the doing of duty necessarily changes this. There is no limit to duties; there is no outlaw on God's earth. Christ is universalist, therefore, from the centre out wards, and what He implies He expresses on occasion.
We have seen Christ's central conception. Let us now examine the details in which His teaching, governed by that conception, alters the Hebrew theory of duty, more especially towards men. (i) First, Law confines itself to commanding, or, often, to forbidding outward actions; Christ's .morality 1 reaches to motive and desire. It is true that the form of a law does not always cover its real spiritual currency. It is true that, just as Old Testament piety put a deep meaning into the apparent relations of right between God and man, so goodness, even under the Old Covenant, may have refused to stop at the outside, and may have ruled the heart. But this, which formerly was a Divine accident, but could not be commanded, is now the rule of Christ's kingdom. For His judgment, a good action done from false or defec tive motives is not a good action at all; while, of course, no motive ranks as good unless it issues in right conduct. We are to "do the will " of God (Matt, vii. 21); "from the heart" (xviii. 35) we are to forgive our brethren. And, since Christ demands, right deeds, done in the right spirit, He cannot begin with an external system, planned for the education and gradual development of virtue, but puts first of all the loftiest, 1 cce Homo, ch. xiii. 92 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. or at least the hardest demands, and the promise of a Spirit who shall guide with unerring wisdom and holy power. (2) A second novel feature in Christ's teaching is the stress laid upon active morality. 1 Negative duties, in the ethical sphere, give place to positive; the bad spirit is to be driven out, not by scourges or vigils, but by the entrance of a good Spirit. The kingdom of God is not only the most important, but the only aim of life; it includes all that is worthy; it refuses to dwell with whatever is base. It gives, not a regulation merely, but an impulse; it changes " thou shalt not" into " follow me." This, too, results from the very nature of the kingdom. When God is known as Father, and men as brethren, it becomes not only wrong, but ridi culous, to yield to selfishness, or to seek any private end. The power of the new gospel is seen- as in a picture in that outburst of charity in the early Church which astonished Pagan critics, and which so baffled Gibbon that he adduced it in its own explanation. The spirit of the new gospel breathes, too, in that " Golden Rule," in which, 2 knowing its organic connection with what He did and taught, Christ was content that " the law and the prophets " should be summed up : " What soever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them" (Matt. vii. 12). This is the rule, not of man's conduct only, but of God's judgment. For, in accordance with His law of active benevolence, Christ (xxv. 31) will judge the very heathen by the test, whether they have shown active practical sympathy towards the poor; His brethren. 1 Ecce Homo, ch. xvi., etpassim. 2 Ch. ii., p. 20; ch. viii., p. 169. CHRIST's ETHICAL TEACHING. 93 (3) A third point of contrast between Christ's teach ing and Old Testament ethic appears in regard to the forgiveness of injuries. Here we approach close to the centre of His revelation. Forgiveness is of the forgiven. Christ taught this, and required the forgiv ing spirit from all His disciples (Matt. v. 23, vi. 12, s^.,.xviii. 35). On the other hand, this very point of placability, like the central religious virtue of resigna tion to God's will, was strangely obscured in virtue of the conditions of Old .Testament revelation. The Psalms breathe far oftener the spirit of impatience and of revenge than that of patience and forgiveness. For law in many cases seems to reinforce the natural vehemence of outraged feeling, to add fuel to its fires, to give a Divine and moral sanction to its fierce anger. When a man feels not only pained but wronged, he thinks himself weak as well as wretched if he does not right himself. But, in the kingdom of God, in a life where the great good to be gained is a universal brotherhood of worship, a man is raised above the narrow horizon of the legalist; his point of view is that of absolute goodness. For the sake of the kingdom of God he forgets himself; for its sake it is easy to let private wrongs slip. (4) A fourth point of contrast has reference, not to the content of Christ's teaching as compared with Old* Testament ethic, or with law in general, but to its form. Christ's teaching is occasional, aphoristic, paradoxical, practical. A system must be syste matic; from the foundation to the summit everything must be orderly and consecutive. The Old Testa ment law is a system; in its ceremonial parts, at all events, it is minutely literal, and % every deliberate 94 CHRIST AKD THE JEWISH LAW. breach of its letter is a sin visited by death. Practical ethic, on the other hand, as distinguished from ethical philosophy and from ritual law, must needs be popular . in order to be effective, and resigns the hope of scholastic nicety and wholeness. The prophets were practical teachers; the unity of their teaching is in the spirit, not in any explicit system. Christ, too, was a teacher of the people; but, beyond all other men, He uses paradox with incamparable boldness. The fact is connected fundamentally with His vocation to found an absolutely ethical community, in which everything depends upon the inward disposition. For His purpose it was undesirable to fetter men's minds too tightly even with His own words. He, therefore, speaks pictorially, emphatically, paradoxically, in order by any means to move the sluggish hearts of men, and in order to quicken them till they show the spontaneous movements of life. The form of words is only a husk; the teacher's wisdom seeks to make form and principle obviously two separate things, that His disciples may throw away the husk of paradox and live by the truth He communicates. In this way we find an explanation of the manner of Christ's law-giving in the Sermon on the Mount. To apply it immediately to practice would be impossible, jven to Socialists and Quakers. Why, then, it may be asked, did Christ give an ideal legislation ? Is the kingdom of God, which He came to clothe with reality, vanishing again into the mists of the ideal as soon as it has appeared in men's sight? Christ's statements ire not even the ideal of ultimate progress; law, polity, institutions, as Christ Himself recognised, have their place both in Church and State. He nevertheless uses ETHICAL TEACHING. 95 an ideal statement, for by means of an ideal statement He can best work actual results. We might be asked, if the law-giving in Matt. v. is not a slightly irregular exposition of the Decalogue ? but this ignores the tone of Christ's teaching both there and elsewhere. Strange exposition ! Christ found men refusing His service under the pretext of duty at home, and He cried, 1 " Hate your parents ! " He found men hugging to themselves an ideal of goodness, which was only half true, a religious legalism, the Decalogue, or what not; and He cried, "Away with society, away with oaths, away with self-defence; make yourselves the victims both of craft and violence, as I yield myself to both!" He found men priding themselves on their rights, saying, " I have a right to do what I like with my own, so long as I respect others rights," thinking that in this all their duty was exhausted; He replied, "You have no rights, not one!" And He held up to men the kingdom of God as an ideal society, not telling them merely what rules should govern their conduct, but showing them a picture of simplicity and mutual confidence and right-heartedness, impossible of being copied in the world. Strange as such teaching may seem, it was most wise and most needful. Nothing is harder to expel from men's minds than a half truth. No snare of sin is half so dangerous an enemy to good ness as an imperfect ideal. Christ found men buried in self-esteem, professing to look for the -Messiah, but 1 Luke xiv. 26. It may be said that in Matt. v. we have the tenth commandment as in the report in Matthew (xix. 19) though only as in the report in Matthew of our Lord's con versation with the young ruler. Perhaps this would be to reason in a circle. 96 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. destroying everything that afforded outlook to a better future or made the Messiah's work possible; Christ did everything He could to startle and allure them towards the better life He had to give. For us the lesson is, Every right may be suspended by the claims of God's kingdom. And again, If in your own personal life, in the family, in the state, your motive is not the desire to hasten God's kingdom, better for you that you were mutilated or dead, your family a wreck, your nation pillaged and laid waste. And again, Take heed to Christ's words, that you worship them not idolatrously, but daily obey the spirit that speaks to your own heart through Christ and His words, whether it prompts to what is familiar or to what is strange. (5) One point yet remains to be noted in regard to Christ's detailed teaching of the principles of life. It has reference to an external circumstance. Old Testa ment ethic was ethic for a nation. Foreigners were to be treated kindly, but they had no rights. Indeed, when foreigners became enemies, Old Testament reli gion condemned them coldly to massacre. Now Christ's teaching, which so quietly and so thoroughly trans formed Old Testament ideals, began with the central ethical conceptions, and only by degrees, when occasion arose, touched upon external questions. He preached humanity and God's Fatherhood; but we do not find Him inscribing on His banners the universal brother hood of mankind. . Yet He taught, when asked, that nationality did not limit duty. There are difficulties connected with the narrative which introduces the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke x. 25-37). It recals, first, the narrative of the young ruler (Matt. xix. 1 6 and parallels); secondly, ETHICAL TEACHING. 97 the lawyer of Matt. xxii. 35, Mark xii. 28. If our narrative is correct, 1 then the lawyer of this passage, with his combination of two citations from the Penta teuch in Jesus own spirit, must have been a remark able religious genius; unless we cut the knot by supposing that he spoke after Jesus answered the lawyer of Matt, xxii., and that he merely parroted Jesus own words; an unwarranted supposition, which runs counter to the impression of the passage, and to such indications of chronology as we find in the Gospels. But, in any case, critical doubts as to the setting do not touch the substance of the parable, which vouches 2 for its own authenticity. Jesus then, on being asked to whom one should show neighbourly love, answered, To him whom God's providence throws in our way, even should he belong to an alien and hated nation. So far we have spoken only of the essential princi ples of Christ's ethical teaching. Our statement would be incomplete, and liable to attack, did it say nothing of the temporary details in which that teaching was involved. It is inevitable that ethical teaching, given in a practical form, should bear, to an exceptional degree, the marks of the circumstances under which it arose. A system is in a different position; it must be judged directly, on its merits, as it applies to all or anv circumstances; for a system claims to impart universal wisdom. But occasional teaching speaks directly 011)3 1 Bleek (Stud. u. Krit, 1853, p. 301) suggests that our Lord must have drawn out the answer by a Socratic questioning. "The apocryphal gospels contain no parables." Dean Plumptrc in Smith's Biblical Dictionary. 98 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. to what occasioned it. Hence, in loyalty to Christ, when we seek to carry with us His lessons and apply them to fresh cases, we are bound to distinguish be tween those sayings and teachings which hold good for all time, and those which were externally conditioned by obsolete needs in a bygone age. (i) First of all, Christ's ethic is in a certain contrast to Old Te&tament ethic. This in itself does not, of course, tinge Christ's teaching with particularism. What He taught was for all; what the Law and the Prophets had already taught in Israel was the truest introduction to Christianity. Nevertheless, it was in evitable that Christ should state His teaching in allusion to, and in contrast with, the tenets of a revealed faith, which, after all, was only a stage, and, therefore, an im perfect stage, in God's education of the Church. Christ taught Jews. It was inevitable that He should lay more stress on those Christian virtues which they were hereditarily apt to disregard, than on those to which they were already trained. It was inevitable that He should often correct the assumptions which limited the Old Testament outlook, while rarely reaffirming its attain ments. The nett result, to speak generally, is, that the passive or feminine virtues, so new to the world, are placed in a strong light, while the masculine or active virtues I do not say the virtues of active morality are comparatively little mentioned. To speak first of the religious virtues; patience and resignation are all but strangers to the Old Testament. Its afflicted saints are far oftener impatient; "Thy will be done " is a prayer which they do not readily frame. And this is natural. For, before the perfect sacrifice of Christ, confidence in God's mercy took its ETHICAL TEACHING. 99 rise from particular occasions, a legally correct sacri fice, a providential deliverance, a gift of happiness, and it was equally liable to be overthrown by interrupting accidents. Death itself always menaced, till Christ brought life and immortality to light. Of course we can cite isolated passages which alter all this, which speak of endurance (Psalm xxxix. 9), resignation (Micah vii. 9), triumph over death (Psalm xvi. IO\ just as we can quote passages in which each Old Testa ment limitation is transcended. But these, in the Old Testament, remain isolated passages. It is Christ's perfected reconciliation of God with men that produces resignation to all God's ways. In patience, in the likeness of Christ, he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than all the saints of earlier days. The moral virtues of the Old Testament were, of course, coloured by its religious incompleteness, and by what we may call its worldly attitude. For the Old Testament faith was cosmical; national in form, it was unconscious of the possibility of a conflict with the natural virtues of the family, and of the race; it moved among the relations of this life, finding in these its sphere and material, its rewards and its sanctions. Joy was the gift of God's approval; sorrow and death were His sudden punishment for sin. " Prosperity," in Bacon's words, "was the blessing of the Old Covenant." Christ's favour for the poor had, of course, its anticipations from prophets and psalmists; but Christ first made it a principle. He thus completed the reversal of the original Old Testament mode of judgment. With it, God's favoured patriarchs had sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants, and wives, and riches innumerable; the " happy nation 1 00 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LA W. whose God was Jehovah " was distinguished by an " unexampled prosperity " like that in which modern political optimists rejoice. But Christ's blessings on the poor, the mourners, the meek, the hungry, announce an unworldly mode of judgment, which is warranted only by Christ's supernatural life and revelation. Again, in the Old Testament God is thought of as the defender of His people's rights, the enemy of their enemies, their avenger (e.g., Psalms xviii., xciv.). Even a David cannot abide in the high temper which forgives. The passive endurance of wrong seemed a weakness, for it seemed to argue desertion by God; " not he hath done it, but God," expresses the full bitterness of spirit which wrongs then awoke. But, with Christ, the offending brother is to be forgiven always (Matt, xviii. 21). It is unnecessary to repeat how strictly this is connected with Christ's religious revelation. Closely associated with the forgiveness of injuries is another Christian virtue, which might have been placed among the religious virtues, but which almost always has reference to our fellow-men; I mean crossbearing. If patience is rare in the Old Testament, self-denial, strange though this may seem to us, lies wholly beyond its horizon. Not even patient in bearing what God sends, Old Testament saints do not dream of voluntarily giving up happiness for God's sake. Happiness was, as yet, too nearly identified with God's will and with His favour to be made a sacrifice. By Christ it is demanded of all; alike the sacrifice of self for men's good, and the subjection of self to God's glory. This is only another and a more emphatic way of saying, that active benevolence and CHRIST's ETHICAL TEACHING. IOI absolute self-devotion are universal rules in Christ's kingdom. Now, there is certainly nothing narrow or temporary in the currency which Christ's teaching gives to these virtues. They are essential parts of His revelation, and an essential advance on the Old Testament. Yet they are, in a sense, one-sidedly prominent. They are apt to produce the impression that they are the whole of piety, and that Christianity is a sort of union of resignation with benevolence. Even if Christ's own teaching is too balanced to have any responsibility for such impressions, the novelty of its newer features is so great that they tend to make us forget the universal elements of religion. Truth, uprightness, courage, honesty, justice, are plain virtues, which no more can become obsolete than we can outgrow the fresh air or the daylight. Faith and love, hope and fear, repentance and joy in God, are the uniform materials of all religious experience; they are found alike in the Old Testament and in the New; they may be variously compounded and shaped, but essentially they can neither be reduced in number nor added to. Christ's words are the crown of all teaching; but His stranger messages gain, and need, special pro minence with an untaught or differently trained audience. It is eternally true that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and abidingly true that the gospel is for the poor; but, while the first is a truth for all men at all times, the other is especially a comfort for the down-trodden, a warning for the plutocrat and the Pharisee. We might debase the faith of Christ, if we hawked about its blessings on the lowly in order to gain favour for ourselves 102 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. with the mob. Ebionism is not catholic Christianity; nor, it may be added, does womanliness cover the Christian ideal of character. (2) Secondly, Christ's teaching, like all practical teaching, is directed in detail chiefly against the evils that were most prominent at the time when it was given. Only in so far as these evils are permanent, or have prominence at a later time, are Christ's individual warnings directly applicable by His Church to modern society. The evils of Christ's age were chiefly the* defects inherent in the Pharisee ideal of conduct, or fostered by it. This brings us again by a direct road to a warning we noticed under the last head, the warning against ^covetousness. Covetousness (Luke xvi. 14, Mark xii. 40, and Luke xx. 47) was a characteristic fault of Pharisees. Their vulgar externalising of the Old Testament code, their abstinence from political effort, the ban which their inherited ethic laid on many human interests all tended to foster the vice. (A modern parallel, as we see, may give living force and interest even to detailed warnings). Christ met the evil, not merely by sentimental praises of poverty, but by searching admonitions against care, ambition, covetousness, as diseases of the heart. Again, truth between man and man is the first element in goodness; merely formal, the mere begin ning in virtue, it is yet the foundation and trainingschool of all virtue. We have seen how casuistry endangers this, the root of virtue; we have found reason to suspect that Pharisaism had actually provided men with authorised evasions of the obli gation of honour. And, therefore, while Christ s CHRIST's ETHICAL TEACHING. 1 03 declaration that " whatsoever is more than yea, yea, nay, nay, is of evil " (Matt. v. 37), seems addressed to the ideal audience who peopled His ideal kingdom, we should not wonder if it could be proved one of Christ's practical counsels to that distracted age, "Swear not at all." In view of such a sin as systematic treachery, no inhibition could seem extravagant. Mortal diseases need vigorous remedies. Once again. If truth, the bond of all business and of all casual intercourse, is paramount in the personal character, of paramount importance to the social organism is the virtue of purity. Society depends on the family; family life depends on the purity of men and women. No sin was oftener denounced by Christ than that of adultery (see Matt. xii. 39, xvi. 4; Mark viii. 38). And, if we often doubt how His denunciations are to be understood, whether of the sin against marriage,, or of the licentious use of lax laws (Matt. v. 32, xix. 9), or of the spiritual sin of covenant breaking,, described in the language in which prophecy had rebuked the apostasy of Israel, still one passage at least (John viii. 8) gives a terribly black picture of the age, and Christ's teaching as to the marriage law shows that for Him the practice of the age was a thing of vital moment, and of deadly evil. For a law may work differently at different times, it depends partly on the temper of those who work it ; and that imperfect law, given first " for men's hardness of heart," was now worked by Pharisees. It is important to compare Christ's treatment of this question with His evasion of other problems propounded by the Pharisees. This, He IO4 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. recognised, belonged to His sphere. This was a vital question for holiness towards God and for the life of His kingdom. He, therefore (Matt. xix. 3), used His l authority to declare the truth on this point. But He appealed to Moses; He pointed out, with historical accuracy, that Moses sanction of divorce was a permission and no proper part of the law of commandments; by going back to "the beginning," He appealed to God's will seen in creation; and by quoting Genesis He placed Himself under the protection of the book of the Law in order to be recognised as. speaking from God, and in order that the alteration in men's practice which He demanded might not seem "a destruction of the law and the prophets." Christ, then, replaced Pharisaism by the preaching of purity in heart, and of abstinence from marriage when God requires celibacy in the interests of His kingdom. If anything was needed to convince us of the low tone that prevailed in Palestine at the Christian era on the question of the relations of the sexes, in Palestine, where God had trained men by history and by the writings of the Old Testament, \ve should find conviction in the disciples remark after Christ had stated the law against divorce : <( If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry." To such men it was 1 It is unquestionable that Jesus here approaches excep tionally near the position of one consciously and deliberately amending legislation. The closest parallel is John iv. 24. In both passages Jesus appeals to the teaching of the Old Testament, and infers a principle not recognised by the Old Testament. See below, ch. vi., pp. 120, 127. ETHICAL TEACHING. 105 impossible to announce a higher morality than monogamy, varied by celibacy; for such men the higher motives in marriage did not exist; self-denial was the noblest attainment they could be made to conceive. It is true, Protestants will always be tempted to impute some error upon this point to those who heard and handed down the words of Christ; they will always be tempted to distrust the ascetic hints of the Synoptic Gospels. But perhaps these hints, when fairly weighed, are accounted for by the considerations that have just been mentioned; while other features of that age, which are still to be mentioned, and which helped to fashion Christ's precepts, tend to throw a further light on the natural ness of the ascetic element ih the words of Christ. (3) Christ's teaching, like that of all great teachers, harmonises, when it is possible, with the best thought of His age. Such thought has a right to be conciliated, and taken up into the fuller light of new revelation; by so acting revelation reduces to a minimum the offence which it cannot fail to occasion. It is, perhaps, not quite certain whether we owe to Jesus or to the Evan gelist the grouping of the three religious observances, alms-giving, fasting, and prayer (Matt. vi. 1-18). But it is certain, on one hand, that these were currently recog nised; on the other hand, that Jesus teaching regulated them. Only, Jesus teaches not only to do deeds of benevolence, but to do them in the liberty of love, and to live without care; not only to pray and to fast, but so to fast and pray as to honour God and draw down His blessing on the worshipper. If He seems to make the negative element in morality even more prominent than before, that is due to His superior earnestness. 106 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. For every earnest teacher of the masses of mankind must speak little of wealth as a possible means of great heroism, which it rarely becomes, and much of wealth as a terrible temptation, which it never fails to be; and what is true of wealth is true of every other mundane source of happiness. It remains uncertain, however, whether Jesus thoroughly committed Himself to approval of the comparatively mechanical practice of fasting. In the passage already cited, He takes for granted that His disciples will pray, fast, and give alms, and tells them how to pray, give, and fast. And, though He speaks of a time when His disciples " will fast " (Matt, ix. 15 and parallels), the phrase occurs in a lyrical outburst of sadness at the thought of His own approach ing death; it is poetry rather than prose; and our natural supposition, that the fasting temper will express itself in the rite of fasting, is modified by Christ's immediately following words (vers. 16, I/). 1 This character of Christ's teaching, as being given to His own time in its own familiar speech, blunts at once the edge of the objection, that Christ's morality is illdeveloped and incomplete. It is not the function of a religious revealer to enunciate a system of philosophy, or apocalyptically, like a heathen Sibyl, to speak to distant ages. "The more detailed is the programme of a reformation in the life of the spirit, so much the narrower is its scope; the more indefinite it is in detail, so much the further and longer does it operate." 2 (4) The last time condition of Christ's teaching is to be found- in the uniqueness of His own vocation. No other son of man was ever called to be the world's 1 See below, ch. vi., p. 121. 2 Ritschl, Justification^ Hi., 359. CHRIST's E7If1CAL TEACHING. IO/ Saviour, and the founder of the kingdom of God. But this calling, because it was above all, excluded all ordinary ethical duties of society; l it excluded the possession of a home, and the duty of working for bread. After the opening of His public ministry Jesus did not labour. Nor was his life-work regulated by any general social conditions; it was not organic to any of the ordinary realisations of God's purpose on earth; it was purely exceptional. Now, it was inevit able that this exceptional character should attach not only to Christ, but to Christ's immediate followers. Before the Resurrection Christianity seems a different thing from what, in subsequent history, it has shown itself to be. Men are called to leave everything for Christ's sake; very soon the apostles are found bidding their converts abide in that station in which conversion found them (compare, as examples, Luke xiv. 33 with I Cor. vii. 20). It seems at first as if Christ made it a necessity for salvation, to follow Him on His evange lising tours; but we cease to be misled when we find that, in definite cases, when His new-found disciple was not selected for training or for office, and when he belonged to a region that had not already heard Christ's gospel, Christ was capable of checking the burning zeal of personal devotion, and of sending His convert home (Mark v. 19 and Luke viii. 39). Thus it appears that the temper, which would hold Christianity to the bare letter of its first form, is unreligious. " Imitation " of Christ is unchristian; it is possible only for those who have failed to perceive what Christ is, that His is a calling no Christian can 1 /<*., P- 389- 108 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. or dare imitate; and that Jesus is not come to destroy the world's order, but to deny it in His own person, in order thereby, in the lives of His disciples, to redeem it and consecrate it to the glory of God. We have now finished our review of Christ's ethical teaching. It may strike us that, in spite of the novelty of His revelations, the doctrines He teaches do not depend for acceptance on His personal authority. It is new, strange, unearthly to be bidden forgive our enemies; but once the new truth is launched, we cannot doubt that it belongs to the law of duty; our conscience bears it this witness. And, of course, Christian life and virtue are the human ideal; but the ideal has been developed by the aid of Christ; and we cannot prove that its conception could have been reached without Him. How can we distinguish what is natural from what is supernatural in ethic ? We have grown up in the very atmosphere of Christianity; centuries of acquiescence, generations of belief, are in our blood. And, even if Christian ethic could be stated as a selfevidencing philosophy, it would be binding on us, not as a philosophy, but as the law of a redeemed life. At the same time we must insist on the essential importance of all that is newest in Christ's ethical teaching. Self-sacrifice is the open secre-t of the moral life. The cross is not only the emblem of infinite purity and boundless love, but the type of willingly accepted suffering. In the struggle after righteousness the half is harder than the wrhole. What the Law could not do, God has done by the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And this, not only in Christ s CnRIS7"S ETHICAL TEACHING. IC>9 doctrine, but in His person and life. For His doctrine and His person imply each other. He illustrated all that He preached. He is the revealer of a kingdom of righteousness, because He not only taught but lived all the novel virtues of the new faith. He is thus the great exemplar of patience, resignation, humility, propitiatoriness, cross-bearing. We refuse to require in the New Testament a detailed programme of spiritual reform; but we equally refuse to underrate the glimpses of final and perfect truth which Christ permits from time to time. If, indeed, Christ's teaching could be antiquated, Christianity must die. If a higher or wiser teaching than His could be discovered, if a better example could be pointed out, if an influence could be found which might even be compared with His in persuasive moral force, then we might fear for Chris tianity; but we do not fear for it. From this character of maturity and power, Christian ethic makes good the claim of Christ not only on Jews but on all mankind. There are other moral teachers besides Christ, but none better than the Law and the Prophets. If these needed fulfilment by Christ, much more do the unconscious prophecies of the world's cravings and aspirations. Even those who profess contentment with other masters, may confess the lack of four things promised in Christ. He verifies the moral view of life as compared wi th the materialist. When "their light is low," Christians look away to the victorious submission of Christ's death, and believe. Secondly, Christ completes the range of duty by reveal ing the forgotten Father, forgotten through our sin; by making God known brings God glory, and thus brings true salvation to men. But duty which does not in 1 10 CHRIST AND THE JEWISH LAW. elude duty towards God surely has the nature of sin in it. Thirdly, Christ, while revealing the highest peaks of virtue, gives us a new impulse to enable us to scale them; and, finally, He reckons with the con sequences of our failure in duty by atoning for sin. In other words, Christ reveals the ideal life for man, God's wandering child, in such a way as to commend it to sinners and to enforce it on them. Christianity is neither a natural nor an unnatural religion. It enables men to reach their proper ideal in such a way as, by God's grace, remains open for sinners. But " redemp tion from sin " does not explain Christianity, unless we can say to what life we are redeemed; nor does the fact that our piety springs out of a prolonged repent ance measure down the gospel to a merely remedial scheme. There is truth as well as error in the frequent protest against a negative creed; and the truth is of great importance. If Christianity is so stated as to seem a Divine anomaly, a mere episode in the history of the universe, our apologetic will tremble, if it does not fall, under the attacks of scepticism. What is con ventional, however noble or venerable, passes away. What is, in a high sense, natural, what is organically bound up with the whole moral world, what has its value in itself, alone is permanent. The doctrine in which this view of Christianity first meets us is the doctrine of the sinlessness of Jesus. It is a claim of sinlessness, or rather of perfectly achieved vocation, which we make on behalf of Christ. Sinlessness denotes the unchallengeable holiness, the unique ness, of Christ; it sums up His ethical claims, if indeed, only His ethical claims, upon mankind. The priority of the internal evidence for the gospel does not CffKIST's ETHICAL TEACHING. 1 1 1 lead us away from miracle, but puts miracle on a new footing Which commends it with new force. For there are miracles and miracles, just as there are orders of nature and orders of nature mixed up in our cosmos. The theory of uniformity, usually used by contemporary science, is drawn from that law of causality which applies directly to the fragmentary aspect of the universe investigated by the sciences of the inorganic, which applies less perfectly and less exhaustively to the phenomena of life, and not at all, or only by analogy, to character. Hence a priori there may be no probability of a physical miracle, while a moral miracle may both possess a native probability of its own and lend probability to others. The imagination of a sinful Jesus may please those sceptics or weak would-be Christians, who must, above all things, save the regularity of the phenomena of the time-and-space world; but a sinful Jesus would mean that the main spring of the moral universe was broken. Not thus vainly, or contradicted by His own life did Jesus Christ teach.