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His inspiration from popular traditions and hopes. Nay, rather the facts show that Jesus as a character and His life as a mission were alike inconceivable to the human imagination of that day. None but a Christ could have invented a Christ. He was the wonder of His own day. And He has remained the wonder of history. Hundreds of lives of Jesus have been written, viewing Him from many standpoints; but there still remains amazement in every earnest, contemplative mind, and still much to think and to say.
CHRIST AS AN EPOCH-MAKER.
"Anno Domini !"
NAPOLEON BONAPARTE once said, "Great men are like meteors: they glitter, and are consumed, to enlighten the world." And often is it true that genius is a mere flash in the dark -dazzling, blinding, and soon out. Napoleon himself was a case in point. There is, however, a creative genius that shines like the sun forever, and by its beams illumines, vitalizes, gladdens and beautifies. Such a Light was, and still is, Jesus Christ. His genius, like sunshine, was creative and perpetual. He died to rise again and live forevermore. His brief life turned the world upside down. He established a new Kingdom, He promulgated a new Law, and He introduced a new Civilization. But not as Lycurgus nor as Solon. His Kingdom was simply Righteousness; His Law, the Golden Rule; His Civilization, Justice for all and the Welfare of the greatest number. He treated men as though they were dead and demanded
such a moral reform that it should seem like a coming anew to life, a resurrection or a new birth. Himself spotless, He set the standard of human character higher than any moralist ever before had ever conceived of demanding. Pythagoras, Socrates, Gautama, Confucius, and others had forbidden enmity and evil-doing: Christ demanded that one should love his neighbor as himself. He denounced the world for its shams, its follies, its vices and its crimes, and yet showed Himself possessed of the largest faith in the possibilities of human reformation and attainment. Bad as man was, there was nothing he might not become. Though one were a very child of the Devil, he might become the Son of God, the Temple of the Holy Ghost and the Heir of Glory. His humble, ignorant and often dull peasant disciples were princes; and any poor drudge, labor as he must, be weary as he might and afflicted beyond measure, in Him found rest. For with God there was no respect of persons.
Seemingly all this concerned only the religious growth of men; but really it involved thorough revolution in human thinking and action, political, social and moral. It involved revolution, not at once precipitated, but in time inevitable. Indeed, it supplied the germs of all beneficent change.
Glance for a moment at this undermining and creative work of Christ's personality and teachings, in subsequent history.
Christianity struck at the accursed evil of caste; which was recognized in the corrupt Judaism of the day. To be sure, nothing was said about slavery or classes in society; but the system provided for their ultimate abolishment in its Golden Rule of Justice and Charity. Before God, the slave was as good as the Emperor, the layman as the priest; and in another world Dives might be in torment and Lazarus in Abraham's bosom.
Christ said nothing against Tyranny, yet His Coming was the only terrible and lasting blow that ever has been struck at despotism, and His Sermon on the Mount is to-day the only unanswerable argument for self-government. Seeming to consent to political evils which He could not at once abolish by mere denunciation, Jesus founded a purely democratic Church, a Republic within the Empire, and the very babes were to be considered as in the Covenant-that is, in league with God. The principle of such an organization, open to all and inviting all to membership (or citizenship), was absolutely hostile to every kind of oppression, and was sure, in time,--as it came to be understood and
realized, to work free institutions. Our modern Republics and constitutional governments are founded, not on ancient Greek democracy nor on Roman so-called republicanism, but upon the Church of Christ, with its unrestricted membership and its Golden Rule.
A significant document from the secret archives of the famous "Third Section" of the Russian Despotism has come to light in a German work recently published ("Von Nicolaus I. to Alexander III."), in which Prince Galitzin, Minister of Education, is accused of having introduced the "damnable practice of reading the Bible, which, as is well known, was the origin of the terrible reign of the Jacobins in France. Our servants are already beginning to imagine that they are the equals of their masters"!!
Moreover, Christianity furnished new underlying principles for common and statute law, germs to expand and grow and replace, until such time as human jurisprudence should become a very Sermon on the Mount. It provided new sanctions for moral conduct in its Heaven and Hell,-vividly pictured for the rude culture of the age,—and thus gave, not only to the preacher of righteousness, but as well to the magistrate, a new guarantee for good behavior.