—Jesus in Matthew 7:24
—Jesus in John 8:31
The Gospel of Jesus is a Gospel of living and doing. If it were not this, it would not voice the Eternal Truth. Its Temple is Purified Conduct, the entrance-door to which is Self-surrender. It invites men to shake off sin, and promises, as a result, joy and blessedness and perfect peace.
There is one characteristic in the teachings of all those Great Souls who have been worshiped by mankind as saviors, and that is that they bring to light and appeal directly to, the simple facts and truths of the soul and of life; and in the teaching of Jesus this feature stands out preeminently. Strictly speaking, he put forward no theory, advanced no creed, laid no claim to any particular "views," and propounded no speculative philosophy. He was content to state that which is.
Men are so taken up with their pleasures, theories, theologies, and philosophies that they cannot comprehend the simple facts of life, and it is supremely the office of the true teacher to bring men back to the simple and beautiful realities of their own souls. The false teacher, he who can perceive the simple truths of Duty and of Conduct, and does not see himself and other men as they are, when asked to point out the Way of Truth, will declare that it lies entirely in the acceptance of his own particular theology, and will warn the questioner against all other systems of theology. Not so, however, the true Teacher, he who knows the human heart, and who sees life as it is; and particularly not so, Jesus, who when questioned of the Way of Life, always told his questioner to go and do certain things. Never once did he refer a questioner to any views, theories, or deftly woven philosophies of his own, or indeed of other men. He referred them to duty and to purity of life and conduct, and the only things he warned them against were their own sins. And, truly, this is all that is needful. A man either abandons sin or clings to it; if the former, he does all and realizes the Law of Life; if the latter, he does nothing, and remains ignorant, blind, without understanding.
Truth is contained in conduct and not in any system of thought; and to live purely and blamelessly is infinitely superior to all wordy doctrines. Let a man carefully study every system of theology, and he will at last find that one selfless thought, one pure deed, puts them all to shame. Truth is divorced from the controversies of the creeds, but it shines with undimmed luster in the self-forgetting deed. How beautifully this is illustrated in the parables of Jesus, and how forcibly it is brought out in many of the incidents of his life; particularly in that one recorded in the tenth chapter of Luke, where the lawyer asks, "Master, what shall I do to inherit Eternal Life?" The answer of Jesus is to ask him to repeat the chief commandment, which being done, Jesus simply says, "This do, and thou shalt live." Whereupon the lawyer, wishing to draw Jesus into an argument, in order, no doubt, to confound him, asks, "And who is my neighbor?"
We then have the incomparable parable of the good Samaritan, wherein Jesus shows in the simplest language and imagery, yet forcibly and unmistakably, that religious observances are so many vain and useless burdens unless accompanied by good deeds, and that the so-called worldly man who does unselfish deeds has already found Eternal Life; while the so-called religious man who shuts up his soul against mercy and unselfishness, is shut out from Life. To comprehend the full force of this parable it is necessary to bear in mind that the Priests and the Levites were regarded by the Jews as being the highly favored and chosen of God, whereas the Samaritans were regarded as being entirely outside the pale of salvation.
Jesus recognized no religion outside of conduct; and truly there is none. Pure Goodness is Religion, and outside it there is no religion. There are innumerable doctrines, and there is much strife and heated controversy, but a man is only truly religious when he succeeds in rising above these and this, and reaches that loving place in his heart where all hateful distinctions are burnt away by the pure flames of compassion and love. And in this divine place Jesus stood, and he calls other men thither to receive rest and peace.
That Jesus was meek, and lowly, and loving, and compassionate, and pure, is very beautiful, but it is not sufficient; it is necessary, reader, that you also should be meek, and lowly, and loving and compassionate and pure. That Jesus subordinated his own will to the will of the Father, it is inspiring to know, but it is not sufficient; it is necessary that you, too, should likewise subordinate your will to that of the overruling Good. The grace and beauty and goodness that were in Jesus can be of no value to you, cannot be understood by you, unless they are also in you, and they can never be in you until you practice them, for, apart from doing, the qualities which constitute Goodness do not, as far as you are concerned, exist. To adore Jesus for his divine qualities is a long step towards Truth, but to practice those qualities is Truth itself; and he who truly adores the perfection of another will not rest content in his own imperfection, but will fashion his soul after the likeness of that other. To us and to all there is no sufficiency, no blessedness, no peace to be derived from the goodness of another, not even the goodness of God; not until the goodness is done by us, not until it is by constant effort, incorporated into our being, can we know and possess its blessedness and peace. Therefore, thou who adorest Jesus for his divine qualities, practice those qualities thyself, and thou too shalt be divine.
The teaching of Jesus brings men back to the simple truth that righteousness, or right doing, is entirely a matter of individual conduct, and not a mystical something apart from a man's thoughts and actions, and that each must be righteous for himself; each must be a doer of the word, and it is a man's own doing that brings him peace and gladness of heart, not the doings of another.
Millions of people worship Jesus and call him Lord, but Jesus does not leave us in any difficulty or doubt as to who are his disciples, as to who have entered into Life! His words are directness and simplicity itself, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven." And again, "Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" And they are the doers of the Father's will who shape their conduct to the divine precepts.
The doer of the word demonstrates and proves its truth in his own mind and life. He thus knows the Eternal Rock as a substantial reality within himself, and he builds thereon the Temple of Righteousness which no rains of grief, no winds of temptation and no floods of sin can destroy or undermine. It is only the doer of forgiveness who tastes the sweets of forgiveness; it is only he who practices love and mercy and righteousness who receives into his heart the overflowing measure of their blessedness; and none but he who dwells in peace toward all can know the boundless and immeasurable peace. Thus is the doer of the word the disciple indeed, and continuing in that word, becoming one with it in heart and mind, he knows the Truth which frees the soul from the bondage of sin.
More from James Allen
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.