That Jesus had a supreme aptitude for the things of the spirit, there can be no question. That through desire and through will he followed the leadings of the spirit—that he gave himself completely to its leadings—is evident both from his utterances and his life. It was this combination undoubtedly that led him into that vivid sense of his life in God, which became so complete that he afterwards speaks—I and my Father are one. That he was always, however, far from identifying himself as equal with God is indicated by his constant declaration of his dependence upon God. Again and again we have these declarations: "My meat and drink is to do the will of God." "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." "I can of myself do nothing: as I hear I judge; and my judgment is righteous; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
And even the very last acts and words of his life proclaim this constant sense of dependence for guidance, for strength, and even for succor. With all his Divine self-realization there was always, moreover, that sense of humility that is always a predominating characteristic of the really great. "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one—that is God."
It is not at all strange, therefore, that the very first utterance of his public ministry, according to the chronicler Mark was: The Kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. And while this was the beginning utterance, it was the keynote that ran through his entire ministry. It is the basic fact of all his teachings. The realization of his own life he sought to make the realization of all others. It was, it is, a call to righteousness, and a call to righteousness through the only channel that any such call can be effective—through a realization of the essential righteousness and goodness of the human soul.
An unbiased study of Jesus' own words will reveal the fact that he taught only what he himself had first realized. It is this, moreover, that makes him the supreme teacher of all time—Counsellor, Friend, Savior. It is the saving of men from their lower conceptions and selves, a lifting of them up to their higher selves, which, as he taught, is eternally one with God, the Father, and which, when realized, will inevitably, reflexly, one might say, lift a man's thoughts, acts, conduct—the entire life—up to that standard or pattern. It is thus that the Divine ideal, that the Christ becomes enthroned within. The Christ-consciousness is the universal Divine nature in us. It is the state of God-consciousness. It is the recognition of the indwelling Divine life as the source, and therefore the essence of our own lives.
Jesus came as the revealer of a new truth, a new conception of man. Indeed, the Messiah. He came as the revealer of the only truth that could lead his people out of their trials and troubles—out of their bondage. They were looking for their Deliverer to come in the person of a worldly king and to set up his rule as such. He came in the person of a humble teacher, the revealer of a mighty truth, the revealer of the Way, the only way whereby real freedom and deliverance can come. For those who would receive him, he was indeed the Messiah. For those who would not, he was not, and the same holds today.
He came as the revealer of a truth which had been glimpsed by many inspired teachers among the Jewish race and among those of other races. The time waited, however, for one to come who would first embody this truth and then be able effectively to teach it. This was done in a supreme degree by the Judaean Teacher. He came not as the doer-away with the Law and the Prophets, but rather to regain and then to supplement them. Such was his own statement.
It is time to ascend another round. I reveal God to you, not in the Tabernacle, but in the human heart—then in the Tabernacle in the degree that He is in the hearts of those who frequent the Tabernacle. Otherwise the Tabernacle becomes a whited sepulcher. The Church is not a building, an organization, not a creed. The Church is the Spirit of Truth. It must have one supreme object and purpose—to lead men to the truth. I reveal what I have found—I in the Father and the Father in me. I seek not to do mine own will, but the will of the Father who sent me.
Everything was subordinated to this Divine realization and to his Divine purpose.
The great purpose at which he labored so incessantly was the teaching of the realization of the Divine will in the hearts and minds, and through these in the lives of men—the finding and the realization of the Kingdom of God. This is the supreme fact of life. Get right at the center and the circumference will then care for itself. As is the inner, so always and invariably will be the outer. There is an inner guide that regulates the life when this inner guide is allowed to assume authority. Why be disconcerted, why in a heat concerning so many things? It is not the natural and the normal life. Life at its best is something infinitely beyond this. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." And if there is any doubt in regard to his real meaning in this here is his answer: "Neither shall they say, 'Lo here' or 'Lo there' for behold the Kingdom of God is within you."
Again and again this is his call. Again and again this is his revelation. In the first three gospels alone he uses the expression "the Kingdom of God," or "the Kingdom of Heaven," upwards of thirty times. Any possible reference to any organization that he might have had in mind, can be found in the entire four gospels but twice.
It would almost seem that it would not be difficult to judge as to what was uppermost in his mind. I have made this revelation to you; you must raise yourselves, you must become in reality what in essence you really are. I in the Father, and the Father in me. I reveal only what I myself know. As I am, ye shall be. God is your Father. In your real nature you are Divine. Drop your ideas of the depravity of the human soul. To believe it depraves. To teach it depraves the one who teaches it, and the one who accepts it. Follow not the traditions of men. I reveal to you your Divine birthright. Accept it. It is best. Behold all things are become new. The Kingdom of God is the one all-inclusive thing. Find it and all else will follow.
"Whereunto shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what comparison shall we compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that be in the earth; but when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches; so that the fowls of the air may lodge under the shadow of it." "Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? Is it like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened?" Seek ye first the Kingdom, and the Holy Spirit, the channel of communion between God your source, and yourselves, will lead you, and will lead you into all truth. It will become as a lamp to your feet, a guide that is always reliable.
To refuse allegiance to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, is the real sin, the only sin that cannot be forgiven. Violation of all moral and natural law may be forgiven. It will bring its penalty, for the violation of law carries in itself its own penalty, its own punishment— it is a part of law; but cease the violation and the penalty ceases. The violation registers its ill effects in the illness, the sickness, of body and spirit. If the violation has been long continued, these effects may remain for some time; but the instant the violation ceases the repair will begin, and things will go the other way.
Learn from this experience, however, that there can be no deliberate violation of, or blaspheming against any moral or natural law. But deliberately to refuse obedience to the inner guide, the Holy Spirit, constitutes a defiance that eventually puts out the lamp of life, and that can result only in confusion and darkness. It severs the ordained relationship, the connecting, the binding cord, between the soul—the self—and its Source. Stagnation, degeneracy, and eventual death is merely the natural sequence.
With this Divine self-realization the Spirit assumes control and mastery, and you are saved from the follies of error, and from the consequences of error. Repent ye—turn from your trespasses and sins, from your lower conceptions of life, of pleasure and of pain, and walk in this way. The lower propensities and desires will lose their hold and will in time fall away. You will be at first surprised, and then dumfounded, at what you formerly took for pleasure. True pleasure and satisfaction go hand in hand,—nor are there any bad after results.
All genuine pleasures should lead to more perfect health, a greater accretion of power, a continually expanding sense of life and service. When God is uppermost in the heart, when the Divine rule under the direction of the Holy Spirit becomes the ruling power in the life of the individual, then the body and its senses are subordinated to this rule; the passions become functions to be used; license and perverted use give way to moderation and wise use; and there are then no penalties that outraged law exacts; satiety gives place to satisfaction. It was Edward Carpenter who said: "In order to enjoy life one must be a master of life—for to be a slave to its inconsistencies can only mean torment; and in order to enjoy the senses one must be master of them. To dominate the actual world you must, like Archimedes, base your fulcrum somewhere beyond."
It is not the use, but the abuse of anything good in itself that brings satiety, disease, suffering, dissatisfaction. Nor is asceticism a true road of life. All things are for use; but all must be wisely, in most cases, moderately used, for true enjoyment. All functions and powers are for use; but all must be brought under the domination of the Spirit—the God-illumined spirit. This is the road that leads to heaven here and heaven hereafter—and we can rest assured that we will never find a heaven hereafter that we do not make while here. Through everything runs this teaching of the Master.
How wonderfully and how masterfully and simply he sets forth his whole teaching of sin and the sinner and his relation to the Father in that marvelous parable, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. To bring it clearly to mind again it runs:
"A certain man had two sons: and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey to a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose and came to his father.
"But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell upon his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him, and he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found."
It does away forever in all thinking minds with any participation of Jesus in that perverted and perverting doctrine that man is by nature essentially depraved, degraded, fallen, in the sense as was given to the world long, long after his time in the doctrine of the Fall of Man, and the need of redemption through some external source outside of himself, in distinction from the truth that he revealed that was to make men free—the truth of their Divine nature, and this love of man by the Heavenly Father, and the love of the Heavenly Father by His children.
To connect Jesus with any such thought or teaching would be to take the heart out of his supreme revelation. For his whole conception of God the Father, given in all his utterances, was that of a Heavenly Father of love, of care, longing to exercise His protecting care and to give good gifts to His children—and this because it is the essential nature of God to be fatherly. His Fatherhood is not, therefore, accidental, not dependent upon any conditions or circumstances; it is essential.
If it is the nature of a father to give good gifts to his children, so in a still greater degree is it the nature of the Heavenly Father to give good gifts to those who ask Him. As His words are recorded by Matthew: "Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?" So in the parable as presented by Jesus, the father's love was such that as soon as it was made known to him that his son who had been lost to him had returned, he went out to meet him; he granted him full pardon—and there were no conditions.
Speaking of the fundamental teaching of the Master, and also in connection with this same parable, another has said: "It thus appears from this story, as elsewhere in the teaching of Jesus, that he did not call God our father because He created us, or because He rules over us, or because He made a covenant with Abraham, but simply and only because He loves us. This parable individualizes the divine love, as did also the missionary activity of Jesus. The gospels know nothing of a national fatherhood, of a God whose love is confined to a particular people. It is the individual man who has a heavenly Father, and this individualized fatherhood is the only one of which Jesus speaks. As he had realized his own moral and spiritual life in the consciousness that God was his father, so he sought to give life to the world by a living revelation of the truth that God loves each separate soul. This is a prime factor in the religion and ethics of Jesus. It is seldom or vaguely apprehended in the Old Testament teaching; but in the teaching of Jesus it is central and normative." Again in the two allied parables of Jesus—the Parable of the Lost Sheep, and the Parable of the Lost Coin—it is his purpose to teach the great love of the Father for all, including those lost in their trespasses and sins, and His rejoicing in their return.
This leads to Jesus' conception and teaching of sin and repentance. Although God is the Father, He demands filial obedience in the hearts and the minds of His children. Men by following the devices and desires of their own hearts, are not true to their real nature, their Divine pattern. By following their selfish desires they have brought sin, and thereby suffering, on themselves and others. The unclean, the selfish desires of mind and heart, keep them from their higher moral and spiritual ideal—although not necessarily giving themselves to gross sin. Therefore, they must become sons of God by repenting—by turning from the evil inclinations of their hearts and seeking to follow the higher inclinations of the heart as becomes children of God and those who are dwellers in the Heavenly Kingdom. Therefore, his opening utterance: "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel."
Love of God with the whole heart, and love of the neighbor, leading to the higher peace and fulfilment, must take the place of these more selfish desires that lead to antagonisms and dissatisfactions both within and without. All men are to pray: Forgive us our sins. All men are to repent of their sins which are the results of following their own selfish desires,—those of the body, or their own selfish desires to the detriment of the welfare of the neighbor.
All men are to seek the Divine rule, the rule of God in the heart, and thereby have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which is the Divine spirit of wisdom that tabernacles with man when through desire and through will he makes the conditions whereby it can make its abode with him. It is a manifestation of the force that is above man—it is the eternal heritage of the soul. "Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." And therein lies salvation. It follows the seeking and the finding of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness that Jesus revealed to a waiting world.
And so it was the spirit of religion that Jesus came to reveal—the real Fatherhood of God and the Divine Sonship of man. A better righteousness than that of the scribes and the Pharisees—not a slavish adherence to the Law, with its supposed profits and rewards. Get the motive of life right. Get the heart right and these things become of secondary importance. As his supreme revelation was the personal fatherhood of God, from which follows necessarily the Divine sonship of man, so there was a corollary to it, a portion of it almost as essential as the main truth itself—namely, that all men are brothers. Not merely those of one little group, or tribe or nation; not merely those of any one little set or religion; not merely those of this or that little compartment that we build and arbitrarily separate ourselves into—but all men the world over. If this is not true then Jesus' supreme revelation is false.
In connection with this great truth he brought a new standard by virtue of the logic of his revelation. "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven." Struggling for recognition all through the Old Testament scriptures, and breaking through partially at least in places, was this conception which is at the very basis of all man's relationship with man.
And finally through this supreme Master of life it did break through, with a wonderful newborn consciousness.
The old dispensation, with its legal formalism, was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The new dispensation was—"But I say unto you, Love your enemies." Enmity begets enmity. It is as senseless as it is godless. It runs through all his teachings and through every act of his life. If fundamentally you do not have the love of your fellow-man in your hearts, you do not have the love of God in your hearts and you cannot have.
And that this fundamental revelation be not misunderstood, near the close of his life he said: "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another." No man could be, can be his disciple, his follower, and fail in the realization of this fundamental teaching. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." And going back again to his ministry we find that it breathes through every teaching that he gave. It breathes through that short memorable prayer which we call the Lord's Prayer. It permeates the Sermon on the Mount. It is the very essence of his summing up of this discourse. We call it the Golden Rule. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." Not that it was original with Jesus; other teachers sent of God had given it before to other peoples—God's other children; but he gave it a new emphasis, a new setting. He made it fundamental.
So a man who is gripped at all vitally by Jesus' teaching of the personal fatherhood of God, and the personal brotherhood of man, simply can't help but make this the basic rule of his life—and moreover find joy in so making it. A man who really comprehends this fundamental teaching can't be crafty, sneaking, dishonest, or dishonorable, in his business, or in any phase of his personal life. He never hogs the penny—in other words, he never seeks to gain his own advantage to the disadvantage of another. He may be long-headed; he may be able to size up and seize conditions; but he seeks no advantage for himself to the detriment of his fellow, to the detriment of his community, or to the detriment of his extended community, the nation or the world. He is thoughtful, considerate, open, frank; and, moreover, he finds great joy in being so.
I have never seen any finer statement of the essential reasonableness, therefore, of the essential truth of the value and the practice of the Golden Rule than that given by a modern disciple of Jesus who left us but a few years ago. A poor boy, a successful business man, straight, square, considerate in all his dealings,—a power among his fellows, a lamp indeed to the feet of many—was Samuel Milton Jones, thrice mayor of Toledo. Simple, unassuming, friend of all, rich as well as poor, poor as well as rich, friend of the outcast, the thief, the criminal, looking beyond the exterior, he saw as did Jesus, the human soul always intact, though it erred in its judgment—as we all err in our judgments, each in his own peculiar way—and that by forbearance, consideration, and love, it could be touched and the life redeemed—redeemed to happiness, to usefulness, to service. Notwithstanding his many duties, business and political, he thought much and he loved to talk of the things we are considering.
His brief statement of the fundamental reasons and the comprehensive results of the actual practice of the Golden Rule are shot through with such fine insight, such abounding comprehension, that they deserve to become immortal. He was my friend and I would not see them die. I reproduce them here: "As I view it, the Golden Rule is the supreme law of life. It may be paraphrased this way: As you do unto others, others will do unto you. What I give, I get. If I love you, really and truly and actively love you, you are as sure to love me in return as the earth is sure to be warmed by the rays of the midsummer sun. If I hate you, ill-treat you and abuse you, I am equally certain to arouse the same kind of antagonism towards me, unless the Divine nature is so developed that it is dominant in you, and you have learned to love your enemies. What can be plainer? The Golden Rule is the law of action and reaction in the field of morals, just as definite, just as certain here as the law is definite and certain in the domain of physics.
"I think the confusion with respect to the Golden Rule arises from the different conceptions that we have of the word love. I use the word love as synonymous with reason, and when I speak of doing the loving thing, I mean the reasonable thing. When I speak of dealing with my fellow-men in an unreasonable way, I mean an unloving way. The terms are interchangeable, absolutely. The reason why we know so little about the Golden Rule is because we have not practiced it."
Was Mayor Jones a Christian? you ask. He was a follower of the Christ—for it was he who said: "By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." Was he a member of a religious organization? I don't know—it never occurred to me to ask him. Thinking men the world over are making a sharp distinction in these days between organized Christianity and essential Christianity.
The element of fear has lost its hold on the part of thinking men and women. It never opened up, it never can open up the springs of righteousness in the human heart. He believed and he acted upon the belief that it was the spirit that the Master taught—that God is a God of love and that He reveals Himself in terms of love to those who really know Him. He believed that there is joy to the human soul in following this inner guide and translating its impulses into deeds of love and service for one's fellow-men. If we could, if we would thus translate religion into terms of life, it would become a source of perennial joy.
It is not with observation, said Jesus, that the supreme thing that he taught—the seeking and finding of the Kingdom of God—will come. Do not seek it at some other place, some other time. It is within, and if within it will show forth. Make no mistake about that,—it will show forth. It touches and it sensitizes the inner springs of action in a man's or a woman's life. When a man realizes his Divine sonship that Jesus taught, he will act as a son of God. Out of the heart spring either good or evil actions. Self-love, me, mine; let me get all I can for myself, or, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself—the Divine law of service, of mutuality—the highest source of ethics.
You can trust any man whose heart is right. He will be straight, clean, reliable. His word will be as good as his bond. Personally you can't trust a man who is brought into any line of action, or into any institution through fear. The sore is there, liable to break out in corruption at any time. This opening up of the springs of the inner life frees him also from the letter of the law, which after all consists of the traditions of men, and makes him subject to that higher moral guide within. How clearly Jesus illustrated this in his conversations regarding the observance of the Sabbath—how the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, and how it was always right to do good on the Sabbath.
I remember some years ago a friend in my native state telling me the following interesting incident in connection with his grandmother. It was in northern Illinois—it might have been in New England. "As a boy," said he, "I used to visit her on the farm. She loved her cup of coffee for breakfast. Ordinarily she would grind it fresh each morning in the kitchen; but when Sunday morning came she would take her coffee-grinder down into the far end of the cellar, where no one could see and no one could hear her grind it." He could never quite tell, he said, whether it was to ease her own conscience, or in order to give no offence to her neighbors.
Now, I can imagine Jesus passing by and stopping at that home—it was a home known for its native kindly hospitality—and meeting her just as she was coming out of the cellar with her coffee-grinder—his quick and unerring perception enabling him to take in the whole situation at once, and saying: "In the name of the Father, Aunt Susan, what were you doing with your coffee-grinder down in the cellar on this beautiful Sabbath morning? You like your cup of coffee, and I also like the coffee that you make; thank God that you have it, and thank God that you have the good health to enjoy it. We can give praise to the Father through eating and drinking, if, as in everything else, these are done in moderation and we give value received for all the things that we use. So don't take your grinder down into the cellar on the Sabbath morning; but grind your coffee up here in God's sunshine, with a thankful heart that you have it to grind."
And I can imagine him, as he passes out of the little front gate, turning and waving another good-bye and saying: "When I come again, Aunt Susan, be it week-day or Sabbath, remember God's sunshine and keep out of the cellar." And turning again in a half-joking manner: "And when you take those baskets of eggs to town, Aunt Susan, don't pick out too many of the large ones to keep for yourself, but take them just as the hens lay them. And, Aunt Susan, give good weight in your butter. This will do your soul infinitely more good than the few extra coins you would gain by too carefully calculating"—Aunt Susan with all her lovable qualities, had a little tendency to close dealing.
I think we do incalculable harm by separating Jesus so completely from the more homely, commonplace affairs of our daily lives. If we had a more adequate account of his discourses with the people and his associations with the people, we would perhaps find that he was not, after all, so busy in saving the world that he didn't have time for the simple, homely enjoyments and affairs of the everyday life. The little glimpses that we have of him along these lines indicate to me that he had. Unless we get his truths right into this phase of our lives, the chances are that we will miss them entirely.
And I think that with all his earnestness, Jesus must have had an unusually keen sense of humor. With his unusual perceptions and his unusual powers in reading and in understanding human nature, it could not be otherwise. That he had a keen sense for beauty; that he saw it, that he valued it, that he loved it, especially beauty in all nature, many of his discourses so abundantly prove. Religion with him was not divorced from life. It was the power that permeated every thought and every act of the daily life.
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More from Ralph Waldo Trine
- Lived from September 6th, 1866 to February, 22nd 1958
- Born in Mt. Morris, Illinois
- Most popular book is In Tune With the Infinite
- Was an early leader in the New Thought movement.