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July, August, September, 1913.
THE SANITY OF JESUS.
one of those pithy sayings in which Saint Paul sums up the
gist of the entire problem before him, he declares that the Jews demand a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom. He adds that both of them can have what they are looking for in Jesus Christ, who is, he says, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. The Jews are Pragmatists; they require a principle of motion a God who does things, who makes Himself felt in the course of history. The Greeks want to know; their need is above all for a principle of elucidation,—they would penetrate the plan of the universe, and see it clear and whole. Mankind can always be roughly divided into these two types. Paul thinks the demands of both are perfectly legitimate, and that Jesus meets them both. In Him he finds both heat, and light. Is he justified in his estimate?
Most people who have even the faintest idea of what has happened since then would agree with him about the power. Jesus Christ has certainly been and still is an incomparable force in the world. The Jewish side may be taken for granted. But what about the Greek side?—the wisdom? That has often been questioned from the very beginning. Many thought then, as many are inclined to think still, that in the words of Browning's Cleon, “the doctrine could be held by no sane man.” Never before, perhaps, was the question asked more disquietingly than it is now. This is the result of the long and laborious investigation, which has been one of the most fruitful achievements of our own day, into the actual historical facts of the life and times of Jesus. Can we look to Jesus for a comprehensive, well-balanced, and sober estimate of the actual facts which we must face? Did He see life steadily, and see it whole? Can we escape the haunting suspicion roused by so many voices
that he was a visionary, a fanatic-the somnambulist of an impossible ideal which He confidently expected to be realized in an impossibly short time-any time indeed it may be said within the next week or two, and in a quite impossible way; a man who made wild promises, wild claims, and fantastic demands? Was he not in short a madman, at least in Plato's sense-nobly, nay, divinely mad, no doubt, but still just mad and not "a man of this world"? And if so, how can He be our leader and guide? How can we follow him with an undivided mind and a whole heart? If we will insist on calling ourselves Christians, is it necessary like such saints as the present Pope, or the late General Booth, to choke off one side of our nature, resolutely to shut our eyes on a great mass of the real facts as well as of the possibilities of our own inner life; or like the German Naumann to pursue as it were a system of spiritual bookkeeping by double entry, to resign ourselves to a pluralistic universe, give up the ambitious dream of unity in the formula of our confession, and instead of saying "There is one God fully revealed to us in His son Jesus Christ", to say, "Allah is great", much too great for any one prophet to exhibit all of him; he has for us modern men mainly two prophets, Jesus Christ, and Prince Bismarck, and perhaps longo intervallo, a third in Goethe. Our life is not a circle with one centre: it is an ellipse with two foci. We must do our best according to the business in hand to compromise upon a double gravitation. Our private relations with iindividuals and our Sundays are to be ruled by Jesus; our political and social, our scientific, artistic and commercial activities, our workaday interests and occupations must seek their inspiration and guidance mostly from other sources. Jesus, it is said, was not at all concerned with our problems. They did not exist for him. This earth as it was then before his eyes and as it still is before ours, where men have to work for a living, and would seem at any given moment to be compelled both as individuals, classes and nations to trample each other down in order to gain it-the old step-dame Earth our unmotherly mother, with all her burden. of suffering and wrong, stupidity and hate, old wisdom gone sour into present folly and bonds, and all the weary work that "man has made of man", the hard, actual world we live in, which cannot be changed in a moment by prayer and mere
good-will, and pious imaginations pulling the shower-bath strings of some external omnipotence, but must be mended little by little, by gradual attrition "of the enduring soul that the Gods have given to man”, through the patient cunning, and hard work and tears of countless millions in the endless process of the generations—all this was for Him but an uneasy dream, a nightmare of the eleventh hour.” In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the last trump,” the clarion song of dawn, it would vanish, rolled up like an evil scroll One sweep of the sponge of God would make a clean sheet of it. What guidance are we to expect in the solution of our difficulties from a man whose tempestuous enthusiasm simply swept them aside? How can we crown as King of all this fiery idealist in a world which the ardour of his faith reduced to a mere ash-heap, which, according to him, should long ago have ceased to exist ? Such are the doubts that press on many a mind.
Now there is, I think, a real and great difficulty here—the difficulty in fact, one that must be faced quite honestly and squarely by those who feel that they have a vital interest in the man Christ Jesus, and in still keeping hold of his hand across the centuries. For, like many people who have given some attention to such questions, I have been forced, for my own part, to make several admissions: First, Jesus did expect the end of this imperfect world as it was before him and is still before us, and expected it very soon. Second, the end as he expected it did not come. Third, and chiefly, this illusory expectation was not a loose peripheral appendage upon the mere surface of his teaching, readily separable from it by means of a genially idealistic interpretation divining the essence and eliminating the accidents of that teaching. We cannot peel it off like the rind of an orange, leaving the nutritive substance of his thoughts practically unaffected, immediately transferable into our present conditions and tasks.
No! This hope of Jesus was something far more deeply interfused. In spite of the obsolete survivals, dead now as a door nail, clinging to the form in which it stood before his mind, there was wrapped up just in these enveloping fossils one aspect of the fundamental conviction that lay at the very centre of his innermost life, and found expression in every
utterance of that life in word and deed. This expectation, whether you call it hope or fear-it was in fact both—was the source and moving principle of his mission, of the claims he put forward, and of the demands he made both upon himself and upon others.
For Jesus was a whole man if ever there was one. That is surely the total impression he makes on any sensitive ob server. His raiment cannot be divided. He was not, as some are inclined to think, a bundle of Hebrew old clothes, with jewels of price loosely pinned on to them-jewels which we may keep forever while we relegate the worn-out rags to the attic of an archæological museum. We cannot divide his utterances into two incommunicable sections, one belonging to an antiquated eschatological hemisphere with which we have nothing to do, and another to a permanent ethical category, binding for all time. We must go to work at once more radically and more finely. It is not true to say, as Johann Weiss seems to say, that while sometimes he speaks as if the end of all things were near, and nothing mattered except what would prepare us for that, as if all earthly relations, and the duties implied in them, vanished into nothingness before it, sometimes again he seems to presuppose that things were to go on indefinitely in their ordinary everyday course, according to the system of nature and society which we know, and that we are to attend to the instructions given from the latter point of view and to abstract from those given from the former.
On the contrary, the fact is, as I believe and hope to show, that on the one hand, when he is most firmly planted on the ground of things as they are, he never forgets the imminent presence of the end, and on the other that at no time is his hold upon the solid facts before his eyes more vigorous than when he is most utterly absorbed in the vision of that end. He was not at all like the philosopher who fell into the well immediately at his feet because his gaze was fixed on ultimate truth. No one ever had a clearer eye for facts, or saw the world just as it was on all its sides with a more uncompromising realism or with more interest, freedom, kindliness, and even humour. And this same clearness, this flashing radiance and readiness of wit so often shown by him was not an occasional lucid interval diversifying a normal condition of eschatological sleep walk