As the light of this nineteenth century is reflected back over the historical narrative of the New Testament, the fragmentary incidents there recorded grow luminous with a suggestiveness which enables us now to restore, in its original perfection, the Christian philosophy of life, after it has reposed for centuries beneath the surface debris of traditional interpretations; just as the paleontologist is able to reproduce the complete likeness of some extinct species, by the aid of a few scattered fossil impressions. It was impossible for men to be conscious of the real purport of the life of Jesus, until modern research and insight had first brushed aside the cobwebs of ignorance, materialism and religious bigotry that had long been allowed to envelop the simple story of the four Gospels.
For nearly two thousand years the religious system known as Christianity, has been undergoing a series of metamorphoses, and assuming ever-changing garbs of beliefs, ceremonies and ethical standards.
There are in existence today scores of sects claiming to base their creeds on the authority of the Bible. The term sect means cut off or separated. Sects stand for particular phases of truth, rather than for the Truth itself, which is eternal, not subject to interpretations. Every sect interprets the Biblical record in its own manner, and is convinced that the Bible embodies its peculiar doctrinal views. It regards their acceptance as necessary to the welfare of humanity; therefore it seeks to perpetuate its individual existence and to extend its influence. Various interpreters of equal intelligence discover very different meanings in those writings. And so the independent truth-seeker is confronted at the outset with a somewhat anomalous state of affairs, due to the existence of numerous sects, or "isms," representing a wide range of beliefs, and claiming each for itself the only exclusively correct interpretation of the Scriptures, resting on the clearest evidence.
Everyone who considers the Biblical record infallible must also assume the infallibility of his own interpretation, if the conclusions he derives from it are to have any certain value. Surely this aspect of Christianity is a matter well calculated to give the impartial investigator grave concern, if he expects to ascertain just what particular doctrines are taught in the Bible—providing it does represent a definite and exact code. In view of the chaotic state of sectarian interpretations, how can he hope to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion concerning the teaching of Jesus? For, even though he may be perfectly positive of the correctness of the views he has acquired by carefully studying the New Testament, yet his own individual opinion is fairly overwhelmed by the weight of testimony of more proficient scholars who have reached conclusions very different from his own, as well as from those of one another.
Obviously mere scholarship is not a reliable guide in this matter, for the most eminent Biblical students frequently hold diametrically opposite views on mooted points of doctrine. Jesus himself even declared that the Truth was hidden "from the wise and understanding," and revealed "unto babes." "Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall in no wise enter therein."
In the more exact sense, the term Christianity denotes that type of life which Jesus introduced into the world. The first step toward an understanding of that life, lies in ascertaining the viewpoint of Jesus. After discovering that, we shall be in a position to appreciate the meaning of his specific utterances, and the precepts he inculcated, as well as the events of his career. His view-point differed from that of his modern sectarian interpreters, in being purely spiritual. He recognized the Absolute or Infinite Self in every man. He dealt altogether with principles, realities, not with opinions, intellectual beliefs, or external expressions of any kind. "To this end have I been born, and to this end am I come into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth;" and that is the supreme motive in every worthy life. That one purpose was clearly defined throughout his public career; and it was that which constituted him "the way, and the truth, and the life," as well as the judge of the world. He was the Christ because he had the Christ-consciousness. He never turned to the right or the left for the sake of avoiding disagreeable consequences, or inviting agreeable experiences. He refused to endorse conventional standards and to conform to wrong customs, but always led the way, even where no one else followed. He never lost his poise or bearings, for the world of spiritual Reality was constantly open to his vision. He gladly sacrificed personal comfort, material gain, friendships, popularity, and political power, in order to realize the spiritual ideal. Even the desire to prolong his earthly career until the precepts he had been inculcating in his disciples had become more firmly established in their lives—as the spirit of prudence and policy, which too often dictates the course of moral and religious endeavors, would have suggested,—did not induce him to abandon his sublime purpose. Instead of encountering the opposition of the Jews by publicly teaching in Judea, he could easily have retired to some less frequented locality where, unmolested by his enemies, he might have instructed his disciples more fully in all things relating to "the kingdom of heaven" he sought to establish. By adopting such a course he would have gathered together a large body of sympathizers to perpetuate his work. But, no; his uncompromising attitude in the face, not alone of personal peril, but, apparently, of imminent danger to the new movement, not yet securely established, was the crowning manifestation, in all ages, of the eternal quality of the life that bears witness to the Truth. An evasion of this issue would have been a practical denial of his faith in the potency of the spiritual type of life.
Christianity is primarily, then, the life which bears witness to the Truth, the spiritual Essence of things. As that is its single end, it cannot deviate from its path to secure incidental results, or seek for rewards in material things. It must achieve success, for the highest success lies in the kind of satisfaction the spiritual consciousness brings. In the midst of outward circumstances of the most discouraging sort, Jesus preserved a calm, even temper, and exhibited such apparent indifference to his surroundings as to amaze even his most intimate disciples, for they had not then grown to appreciate the meaning of his inner life. Even in the face of impending crucifixion he prayed that his "joy might be fulfilled in them."
Spiritual consciousness is not an outgrowth of intellectual beliefs or forms of any kind. One must learn to know the Spirit of truth inwardly before he can find it in any book, creed, or act. Superstitions, false notions, erroneous beliefs, and dogmatic assumptions, will ultimately fall away and disappear in the light of spiritual consciousness. "The Spirit of truth…shall guide you into all the truth."
A single, deep desire to know the Truth, is all that need concern the independent truth-seeker. The path ahead will be illumined if he walks by the light he already sees. Adequate intellectual interpretations and knowledge of facts will follow in due time if only one recognizes and appreciates the spiritual Essence of things.
For centuries men have wasted their efforts in sectarian strife, because of the assumption that Jesus intended to inculcate a theological system or scheme of intellectual beliefs in some way essential to a realization of the spiritual life. Had his intention been such, he would most assuredly have taken care to deliver to the world the doctrines of this scheme in some definite, unmistakable form, so that they would have been intelligible to all men alike, beyond the peradventure of a doubt, instead of clothing his ideas, as he did, in the vague, suggestive forms of parable and hyperbole, leaving their meaning open to a variety of intellectual interpretations. It was not his chief aim to impart knowledge to men, but to establish in them the spiritual viewpoint; for that is the key to right-thinking, and without it all knowledge is vain. Because the multitudes could not appreciate this view-point to any great extent, he chose twelve men, more receptive by nature than the majority, through whom to make it known to the world.
When the Jews asked him by what authority he taught, he replied: "The works which the Father hath given me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me." Although the finite mind cannot know the Truth itself, the spiritual consciousness is accessible to all who are willing to receive it; and through it every man may have abundant witness of the Truth. "Why do ye not understand my speech? Even because ye cannot hear my word," (i. e., they did not appreciate his view-point). "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear." Today, as of old, a true classification of men is based on their attitude toward principles, not beliefs or traditions. There are always those who show a disposition to take refuge in the letter in order to evade the spirit. The Pharisees said: "We know that God hath spoken unto Moses; but as for this man, we know not whence he is."
Peter, on the other hand, with real spiritual discernment, declared: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." "And Jesus answered:…Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."
Even when the twelve disciples questioned Jesus about traditions and doctrinal beliefs, instead of replying plainly, he always took the opportunity to impress upon them some spiritual truth of universal application; while to the multitude he spoke, as a rule, only in parables, “because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand." He rarely dealt, point-blank, in plain terms, with specific things and events; but his thought probed deeper into the causative realm of the spiritual Essence of things.
Christianity is a spontaneous expression of the vital, creative Spirit, which cannot be confined in forms of any kind. As human consciousness develops, there is a steady progression from purely external, toward purely internal conceptions of truth. The untutored mind associates it largely with the exterior aspect of things— facts, events and appearances. The educated mind of the conventional type commonly identifies it with opinions, beliefs, thoughts; but even those are only semblances of truth, not its absolute Substance.
Manifestations of the Truth are not restricted to the Biblical record, or to ancient times, but may be found in the living experiences of spiritually discerning men of every race and age, regardless of their mental enlightenment. Every life, every utterance, every written word imbued with the Spirit of truth, is inspired. Moses, Isaiah, Jesus, and Paul, were inspired; but so, also, in various degrees, were Luther, Carlyle, Emerson, Browning, Walt Whitman, and a host of others. The Spirit which has spoken in many languages throughout the ages, speaks today in every true life. Accepting the opinions, beliefs or thoughts of one who is inspired, does not lead us to realize the Truth, any more than mechanically reproducing the forms of an organic body creates life. The Bible, like every other inspired account, can only illumine one's inner life and quicken his latent powers into activity, by its suggestions of living manifestations of the Truth which the past has witnessed. It is not by endorsing traditional beliefs, or imitating the deeds of righteous men of old, that one becomes endowed with their spirit. Many people are today living and feeding on the past experiences of others, instead of developing their own resources, so that their lives, too, shall be inspired. It matters comparatively little to us what Peter or Paul believed, unless we are imbued with their spirit; and having that, we shall not be contented merely to reflect their beliefs, for new ones will formulate in our minds as natural outgrowths of experiences of our own. All vital beliefs must be subject to endless revision, inasmuch as the experiences of men are undergoing perpetual change; but the Truth itself is changeless, however great the variations that take place in the mediums through which it is perceived. The eternal element in human experience may be discovered by everyone who diligently searches the depths of his nature, for it lies at the foundation of every man's life.
In seeking to impose forms of belief or action upon others, we are violating the spirit of Christianity, which insures absolute freedom of choice to every individual. In past ages multitudes were imprisoned or tortured for refusing to accept dogmas which have long since been discarded by all intelligent people; and while today, in civilized communities, such drastic measures are not resorted to as a means of suppressing heresy, there are still evidences of the same spirit at work in milder ways, seeking to restrain or define the scope of men's liberty to think and act for themselves. Every attempt to perpetuate forms and creeds is opposed to the Spirit of truth. Were all formulas of the past annihilated, the creative Spirit would speedily provide new ones adapted to existing needs. The free, unconventional, Christian type of life is like the wind that "bloweth where it listeth." It is radically opposed to conventionality. The hostility of the Pharisees toward Jesus was largely due to the fact that he set at naught their traditional customs and beliefs, and taught men to do likewise. Yet he did not deliberately and intentionally aim to overthrow them, in an iconoclastic spirit; he "came not to destroy but to fulfil." Yet when the free Spirit which actuated his life demanded new forms of expression, it incidentally and unavoidably accomplished the downfall of old ones that impeded its progress. Time-honored ceremonies and traditions which had been sacredly guarded and cherished for centuries by the Jews, were necessarily swept away by the truth he revealed. As he did not seek to destroy old forms, neither did he attempt to establish new ones. "The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life."
The issue was not: old vs. new forms; but Spirit vs. fixed forms of belief of every description. The free life of the Spirit cannot be subordinated to rigid forms. Either the one or the other must be paramount; both cannot retain the supremacy. But no sooner were the disciples thrown on their own resources than reverence for doctrines and observances, so characteristic of the Hebrew race, began to be shown in a revival of certain old forms and the substitution of new ones in place of others. Paul was regarded with suspicion by the brethren at Jerusalem, on account of his liberal views, and we find him at one time engaged in a controversy with them over the matter of observing rituals commanded by the Jewish code, which he held had been abolished by Jesus. The metamorphosis of Paul's own doctrinal views, as may be seen from a comparison of his earlier and later epistles, was very marked.
But the whole life of Jesus demonstrated the absolute freedom of Spirit and the impossibility of making it subject to forms.
Jesus did not estimate men by their deeds, but by their motives and their receptivity to spiritual truth. The poor widow who cast a mite into the treasury, gave more than the rich who contributed liberally. Although the polished counterfeit out sparkles the rough gem, it does not deceive the connoisseur. Jesus saw in the uncouth peasant fishermen, Peter and John, and the detested tax-gatherer, Matthew, the crude material of divine characters. Beneath most unpromising surface indications were natures which responded to truth that the scholarly, religious Nicodemus and the exemplary young ruler declined to accept. Conventional piety and Christianity are by no means identical; for genuine Christianity is utterly opposed to the spirit of conventionality. The following of Jesus was drawn largely from the class known as the irreligious, according to conventional standards. He declared to the chief priests and the elders: "Verily the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you." "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." "By their fruits ye shall know them." Sooner or later every life is judged by the spirit it expresses; but just estimates are often tardy. The world is still prone to stone its living prophets while building the tombs of dead ones; yet the living and the dead, voice the same Spirit under different forms. It is the Rabbis, priests, and conventional teachers—representatives of the letter in religious matters—who are accorded immediate recognition, while prophets and apostles— representatives of the Spirit—are received, if not with scorn and contempt, at least with meager appreciation. The same general types of character appear and reappear in all ages.
Future generations will read the history of the nineteenth century as we read that of the first. Men of this age will be judged according to the spirit of their lives, and not their professed allegiance to creeds or observances, which are destined sooner or later to become obsolete. We individually must take our places either on the side of the Pharisees—exponents of traditionalism, or of the apostles—exponents of the free Spirit. The Pharisaic spirit is exhibited today by those who insist on the perpetuation of creeds and observances, and demand that men shall recognize particular times, places and forms of worship. So long as men order their lives according to external authority supposed to be derived from the Scriptures, instead of the internal authority of the omnipresent Spirit of truth, they find little difficulty in proving, to their own satisfaction, the correctness of their tenets. But such a course is not consistent with the view-point of Jesus, who taught that the spirit, instead of the letter, is the sole consideration in all human thought and action.
It is far more profitable to cultivate his spirit of life than to try to ascertain the exact meaning he intended to convey in certain utterances which seem to us obscure, because of our unfamiliarity with the conditions under which they were spoken. As it was not his aim to establish intellectual beliefs, the terms he chose in which to illustrate spiritual principles, were such as came to hand most naturally. Whenever his hearers held traditional beliefs that did not involve moral wrong or conduce to hypocrisy, instead of entering into an unprofitable argument over doctrinal issues, he sought to enforce some spiritual lesson which those with "eyes to see and ears to hear," could discern at once. Therefore, in the course of his teaching, we often find him incidentally drawing material for illustration from such current beliefs and figures of expression as lent themselves most readily to his purpose and method of treatment. In parable, metaphor, and hyperbole, dealing with incidents and situations familiar to their habits of thought, he presented various phases of truth, in such a manner that the spiritually discerning among his hearers could appreciate the point he sought to convey.
But the modern sectarian interpreter who regards the letter of these utterances as of the first importance, finding certain doctrines embodied or suggested in the narrative, assumes that Jesus intended to incorporate them into his teaching; he accepts their introduction as an unqualified endorsement of their dogmatic value. Again, we should remember that the writers of the New Testament accounts, however deep and sincere their appreciation of the spirit and aim of their master may have been, never claimed to be more than practical exponents of the truth he proclaimed, and that the few scattered, suggestive remnants of his utterances we now possess, are drawn either from incomplete personal recollections gathered long afterward, or from the testimony of witnesses incapable of perfectly understanding their meaning. "I have many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." It is, therefore, purely gratuitous to assume that the brief sketches (they cannot properly be termed histories) of the life and teaching of Jesus, which we now have in the four Gospels, fairly represent more than his general intent and purpose, with such occasional side-lights as the disciples were disposed to furnish by way of interpretation. Even the most discerning of his hearers, born and educated as they were in the conventional atmosphere of the period, were imperfect mediums through which to communicate to the world the purest and profoundest spiritual truth; so that, naturally, much of the record is colored with their quasi-materialistic conceptions, and one must constantly read between the lines to discover its purely spiritual significance.
But although we have no clear or complete account of the verbal teaching of Jesus, even the meager, fragmentary outline of his public career, given in the four Gospels, furnishes unquestionable testimony regarding the spiritual aspect of his life; on that point the story leaves little to be desired. If we seek to understand his recorded words in the light of the revelations of his life, we shall find it a sufficient commentary on them. He recognized and appealed to the Absolute or Infinite Self of every man, not its mortal semblance. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit." "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? . . . Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother." "Be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do." "Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake."
The man who accepts this standpoint will feel the necessity of forming other associations. Former things will gradually pass away, and all things will become new. New ideals often demand different surroundings for their realization; in time, new ways of thinking are certain to create a new environment. The feverish scramble for "things that perish," will give way to simpler and less artificial methods of living. Such changes may be very radical, and involve a complete transformation of industrial, social, political, and religious relations; yet without a disposition to accept the necessary conditions, one cannot "enter the kingdom of heaven." "Think you that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. They shall be divided, father against son, and son against father, and daughter against her mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." "I come not to send peace, but a sword." "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me: . . . and he that doth not take his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me." "Leave the dead to bury their own dead." "If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off." One may be called upon, like the rich young ruler, to sell all he has and give to the poor; or, like Peter and John, to leave home and previous occupation to enter some new field of activity, or, peradventure, to put into practice his new-born ideal amid the old surroundings—oftentimes a more difficult undertaking than to make a radical departure. But, however gradual may be the change in outward conditions that results from accepting this viewpoint, a new inner world comes at once into being, and grows each day more real with the increase of one's spiritual vision.
The whole attitude of Jesus was so remarkable that men have always been disposed to regard his life as apart from the world of actual human influences, an admirable ideal, indeed, but quite beyond the range of human attainments at any time. Yet he instructed his followers to conform in all particulars to his standard, and to realize in the concrete the very things he did. He taught them to love their enemies, and to exhibit that attitude in all their dealings with men; to "resist not him that is evil," but to "overcome evil with good"; to renounce anger, revenge, and all malevolent thoughts; to devote their lives to the service of others; to heal the sick; these things he did and enjoined on all who would become his disciples.
The only recorded incident in his life which seems inconsistent with his professed attitude of non-resistance of evil, viz.: the expulsion of the traders from the temple, is now treated, in accordance with the best of evidence, as an allegorical picture of certain experiences in his inner life, and not as descriptive of any actual event. In a candid estimate of the life of Jesus, his whole course of action, as well as his recorded utterances on the subject, point overwhelmingly to such a conclusion. "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews." "All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword."
When men seek to ascertain the plain spirit of Christianity, rather than the obscure letter of the terms and forms in which it received its original expression, we may expect to experience a very different state of affairs from that which confronts us in the so-called Christian world of today.
Four or five rival churches will not then struggle to maintain a precarious existence in a single small community, for the purpose of perpetuating as many creeds or intellectual opinions about the Truth.
Men will not resort to specious arguments and plausible sophistries in order to evade a direct, unreserved acceptance of the spiritual viewpoint. They will not substitute perfunctory religious observances for practical life, or mystifying creeds, theories and dogmas for truth so plain that "the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err" concerning it. Jesus declared: "The hour cometh, and now is, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall ye worship the Father;" but "the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth: for such doth the Father seek to be his worshippers." "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." "The Almighty dwelleth not in temples made with hands." Yet we now have edifices, often stately and magnificent, consecrated exclusively to religious purposes; and furthermore, pews in many of them are sold to the highest bidders.
As Jesus recognized no special places of worship, neither did he regard any one day as sacred above others. He treated all days alike, ignoring the Sabbath, and setting at naught its traditional observance. Therefore the Pharisees sought to kill him, because he did "that which it was not lawful to do on the Sabbath day."
Still today we find men holding virtually the same attitude in setting apart one day in seven as peculiarly sacred, and trying to compel its general observance in a distinctly religious manner.
The very idea of violence is exactly contrary to the spirit, example, and precepts of Jesus; yet now, often in the pulpit, war is commended as righteous, when undertaken with humanitarian intent, under the plea that "the end justifies the means." But "two wrongs never make a right"; and evil overcome by evil, scatters broadcast seeds that propagate it in men's hearts and cause it to bear fruit in forms more insidious and dangerous, even though not so malignant, as those that have been suppressed.
The spontaneous, earnest words of Jesus and his followers proceeded directly from hearts and lives devoted to the service of their fellows. Every disciple was a minister. Peter, James and John, plain fishermen of Galilee, Matthew, receiver of customs, and Paul, tent-maker, went about proclaiming the spiritual life and seeking the welfare of others, not their own pecuniary interests or personal gratification. Theological training was not a necessary requisite for their work; they did not need to learn about truth, for they knew the Truth itself. They never tried to adjust it to their lives, but always allowed their lives to conform to it. What a contrast with much of the religious effort of modern times! How frequently are sermons and homilies judiciously worded and cautiously prepared to please the not over-spiritual tastes and inclinations of certain influential members of the congregation, upon whose financial support the very church organization sometimes depends! How often are elaborate rituals, ceremonies and other irrelevant features introduced, for the maintenance of which, large sums of money must be raised—too often by questionable methods!
Is not the simple, undisguised principle of Christianity just as applicable today as when first presented? Why should not scholars, teachers, mechanics, business men and laborers, now manifest the spirit of Jesus and fulfill his command to make known the new life "and heal the sick"? Direct contact with men is necessary to successfully demonstrate the spiritual Principle. No individual can rightfully delegate his personal responsibility to ministers or charitable associations. The early Christians enjoyed practical immunity from disease; for the disciples then possessed the gift of healing. That power may be exercised by anyone who is willing to conform to the spiritual standard of living. Jesus said: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do." "These signs shall follow them that believe: in my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise harm them; they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." "Lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."
Are these promises fulfilled to any general extent among the professed followers of Jesus at present? Evidently not. The church and the "world" suffer in common from the ravages of disease. Both would arbitrarily limit the efficacy of a universal Principle by restricting the application of the spiritual method of healing to the brief period covered by New Testament history. In many instances both alike are ready, even though unwittingly, to sacrifice the ideal of "a new heaven and a new earth" for temporary material success, either by actively supporting, or tacitly sanctioning, industrial and economic methods based on selfishness, as opposed to love, thereby upholding institutions directly antagonistic in spirit to the fundamental doctrine taught and practiced by Jesus and his more immediate disciples.
May we not well pause, in view of the state of affairs which confronts us, and question whether any traditional ecclesiastical body, as constituted today, stands really and vitally for the idea and method of Jesus? Whether it is, indeed, a faithful exponent of the simple spiritual truth for which he lived and died? Can it hope to successfully realize his ideals and do his works if, at the same time, it remains subservient to wealthy or otherwise influential members and patrons, whose means and power have been acquired by employing or countenancing methods and practices diametrically opposed to his? If the "salt of the earth have lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted?" "If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham."
The most unchristian motives and sentiments freely masquerade under the guise of Christianity and the sanction of professed Christians. Murder, theft, revenge, lust, assume forms quite generally countenanced by civilized people. Their spirit in disguise permeates respectable society, although operating so insidiously that men are often led, almost unawares, into attitudes which they would abhor, were the exact nature of the principle involved more clearly evident. Society is far more seriously threatened by the spirit of anti-Christ arrayed, like a "wolf in sheep's clothing," in the garb of conventional piety, virtue or material humanitarianism, than by flagrant abuses and glaring vices that are easily detected, and therefore more likely to be estimated at their actual values. Murder committed in cold-blooded, brutal fashion, is too repulsive to command respect, even among the most depraved classes; but in the exigencies of so called civilized warfare, it is frequently exalted to a high rank among the virtues. A considerable portion of modern society still endorses the anti-Christian sentiment embodied in the ancient decree "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed." The standard which demands "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," finds favor among men of all degrees of intelligence, not alone in the treatment of criminals, but in ordinary dealings of man with man. Unconscious hypocrisy is encouraged under the name of "righteous indignation." The spirit of theft and gambling flourishes under less offensive names, in our exchanges, and even invades churches and societies organized ostensibly to advance the moral interests of humanity.
A majority of the failures of ethical and religious attempts to reform and elevate mankind, have been due to entertaining mixed motives. "Ye cannot serve two masters." Every compromise is a surrender. One drop of ink will pollute a whole glass of water. Truth loses its efficacy when mingled with error.
The entire human race would have been brought long ago to accept the standard of Jesus but for compromises at critical periods. When confronted with the alternative of meager results in the present or complete triumph in the future, men have too often been willing to sacrifice the ultimate success of the cause they sought to further, for more apparent immediate benefits; the "mess of pottage" has proven more enticing than the "possession of a birthright."
Jesus devoted the greater part of his ministry to establishing the spiritual view-point in a dozen lives.
The practical worth of the spiritual life will not be generally apparent until men are willing to accept the teaching of Jesus at its par value, and comply with its spirit.