—Jesus to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:9
—Jesus in Luke 17:21
I have tried to show, in the five foregoing chapters, that the Teaching of Jesus is based entirely on the perfection of conduct, and can be summed up in the one word Goodness. Jesus manifested this Goodness in his life, and his Teaching is vitally powerful because it is rooted in his life, his conduct. His command, "Follow me," is literal and actual, not in the sense of a slavish imitation of the external details of his life, but in scaling (as he scaled) the heights of Goodness and Pity and Love by the conquest of self. The glory of his Teaching is embodied in his precepts, as the splendor of his life is wrapped up in them, and he who adopts those precepts as the guides of his life will so perfect his conduct by purifying the inward springs of thought and action as to become a spiritualized and sinless being, fulfilling the whole duty of life and the purpose of existence. Herein also is contained complete salvation, namely, freedom from sin.
The word salvation is only mentioned by Jesus twice, and only one of these utterances (that to Zacchaeus) can be said to have any vital significance for us; yet in that one brief statement we are fully enlightened as to its meaning by virtue of its pointed application to the altered conduct of Zacchaeus. This man, we infer, had hitherto been hard, exacting, and grasping, but though he had not yet seen in person the new Teacher, his message had reached his ears, and he had opened his heart to the Good News that man can and should repent, and abandon selfish and sinful practices for good and sinless conduct. And this he had done, and, having proved its blessedness, no wonder that when Jesus came to his house he "received him joyfully," and told him how he had abandoned wrong-doing for right-doing; evil for good; the selfish for the unselfish life. Jesus did not inquire into the "religious views" of Zacchaeus, did not impose upon him any change of view or opinion; did not demand that he believe anything about Jesus as being the Messiah, the Son of God, etc. Zacchaeus had changed his conduct; had completely turned round in his attitude toward others; had abandoned greed for generosity, extortion for charity, honesty for dishonesty, selfishness for unselfishness, evil for good—and this was sufficient, as Jesus declared in the words, "This day is salvation come to this house."
The only salvation recognized and taught by Jesus is salvation from sin, and the effects of sin, here and now; and this must be old selfishness, the old life of self, in any or every shape, only by doing this, and turning to the new life of gentleness, and purity, and humility, and unselfish love, can a man be said to be saved from sin; and then he is saved indeed, for, no more practicing it, it can trouble him no more. Herein also is Heaven, not a speculative heaven beyond the tomb, but a real, abiding, and ever present Heaven in the heart; a Heaven from which all the hellish desires and moods and sufferings are banished, where Love rules, and from which Peace is never absent.
Good news indeed is that message of Jesus which reveals to man his divine possibilities; which says in substance to sin-stricken humanity, "Take up thy bed and walk;" which tells man that he need no longer remain the creature of darkness and ignorance and sin if he will but believe in Goodness, and will watch and strive and conquer until he has actualized in his life the Goodness that is sinless. And in thus believing and overcoming, man not only has the guide of that Perfect Rule which Jesus has embodied in his precepts, he has also the inward Guide, the Spirit of Truth in his own heart, "The Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world," which, as he follows it, will infallibly witness to the divine origin of those precepts.
He who will humbly pass through the Gate of Good, resolving that every element of his nature that is not pure and true and lovable shall be abandoned, that every violation of the Divine precepts shall be abolished, to him, faithful, humble, true, will be revealed the sublime Vision of the Perfect One, and, day by day purifying his heart and perfecting his conduct in accordance with his vision, he will sooner or later rise above all the subtleties of his lower nature, will wash away every ignominious stain from his soul, and realize the Perfect Goodness of the Eternal Christ—the Christ-life within you effected by utterly abandoning sin, which, being done, the Kingdom of God is realized in the heart as a state of perfect knowledge, perfect blessedness, perfect peace.
"Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God." A man must become a "new creature," and how can he become new except by utterly abandoning the old? That man's last state is worse than his first who imagines that, though still continuing to cling to his old temper, his old opinionativeness, his old vanity, his old selfishness, he is constituted a "new creature" in some mysterious and unexplainable way by the adoption of some particular theology or religious formula. A man can only be said to be born again, to be a new creature, to be saved from sin, when he turns round on his old, natural, selfish self, and denies and abandons it. Only by putting away forever the old temper, the old opinionativeness, the old vanity, the old selfishness, the old life of self, in any or every shape, only by doing this, and turning to the new life of gentleness, and purity, and humility, and unselfish love, can a man be said to be saved from sin; and then he is saved indeed, for, no more practicing it, it can trouble him no more. Herein also is Heaven, not a speculative heaven beyond the tomb, but a real, abiding, and ever present Heaven in the heart; a Heaven from which all the hellish desires and moods and sufferings are banished, where Love rules, and from which Peace is never absent.
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James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.