The Ethical Teachings Of Jesus.

IT is a notable characteristic of Christianity that the ethical teachings of its Founder are inseparably connected with his religious teachings. "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" is not given by him as a separate and detached precept, but as one of two. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart; and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like unto it is this, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hangeth the whole law and the prophets." Observe that the two precepts are not simply placed side by side, they are united: "on these two.'" In like manner the first four of the ten commandments present duties to God, the others present duties to men; the opening petitions of the Lord's Prayer are that God may be honored, the others that we may be blessed. In the great judgment scene described by Jesus, where he himself will sit as king, the rewards and punishments of the future life are made to turn upon the performance or the neglect of duties to him in the person of his people. Everything religious in Christianity is made to furnish a motive to morality.

We all condemn the fanatics who would make religion sufficient without ethics. Some teachings of this sort are absurd, and some disgusting. But on the other hand, shall we think it wise to regard ethics as sufficient without religion? Is it not true that he who would divorce religion and morality is an enemy to religion, and at best only a mistaken friend to morality?

Among the Greeks and Romans, in the historical period, these two were little connected. They were not even generally taught by the same persons; the priests taught religion, the philosophers taught morality. Some of the actions ascribed to the deities themselves were grossly immoral. The Jewish contemporaries of Jesus were severely rebuked by him for their traditional directions as to Corban. A man might refuse food to his own father by saying that this particular food was Corban, a thing offered to God, thus setting aside for the sake of a supposed religious service the profound moral obligation and the express commandment of God's law, to honor father and mother. So likewise Jesus pronounced woes upon the hypocritical Pharisees for scrupulously tithing the least important vegetables that grew in their gardens, and then leaving "undone the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith"; for carefully cleansing the outside of the cup and the dish, while their contents were the product of extortion and excess.

Ethical obligation, according to the Saviour's teachings, is enforced by the yet higher religious obligation. Our duties to men are really a part of our all-comprehensive duty to God. Why must I love my neighbor as myself? If it be placed on utilitarian grounds, meaning personal utility, then I ought to love my neighbor as myself because it will benefit me, that is, because I love myself better than my neighbor. If the utility consulted be general, then why ought I to care as much for the general good as for my own? We are back where we started. Herbert Spencer, with all the ability and earnestness shown in his "Data of Ethics" makes a reply which I think men in general cannot recognize as philosophically conclusive or practically cogent. Natural sympathy with others, we are told, if frequently exercised, hardens by force of habit into altruism, a sense of obligation to others. Is that all? Nay, I must love my neighbor as myself because I am the creature and the child of God, whom I must love with all my heart, more than my neighbor and more than myself. Shall we then, it may be asked, accuse every man who is not definitely religious of being gravely immoral? Nay, individual moral convictions may be largely the result of inheritance, education and present environment, and may subsist notwithstanding the individual lack of those religious convictions which are their proper, and, as a general fact, their actual support.

Observe further that Jesus not only tells us what we ought to do, but shows how we may be able to do so. He presents in his own character and life an inspiring example, satisfying our noblest ideal of morality, and yet conforming itself to the conditions of our own existence. He tells how we may obtain divine assistance in obeying his precepts. Many other teachers have given wholesome precepts, but left men to keep them in their unaided strength. Jesus tells of a divinely-wrought change so thorough as to be called a new birth, of a divine spiritual help which our heavenly Father will readily give. It is in this, and not simply in the great superiority of his precepts, that we find the unapproachable excellence of the Christian ethics.

In connection with this point we must remember that Jesus constantly pre-supposes the sinfulness of human nature. Many ethical precepts, and even whole systems of ethics, appear to assume that men have no particular bias toward evil. But it is far otherwise with him; and he meets the demands of the situation by providing atonement, renewal and divine sanctification.

Another thing quite without parallel is the unique authority which these ethical instructions derive from the faultless life and character of the Teacher himself. Every other instructor in morals comes manifestly short of his own standard, as indeed befalls the teacher in every other department of practical human exertion. Even the lessons given by the best parents to their children are subject to inevitable discount on account of the faults in parental character and conduct of which the children are aware and the parents are conscious. Here alone among all moral instructors the example is absolutely equal to the precept.

Are the ethical teachings of Jesus original? Some have thought this a question of great importance. Opponents have taken immense pains to show that certain of his precepts find a partial in previously existing pagan writings; and some Christian apologists have been nervously unwilling to recognize the fact. It needs no great reflection to see that a wise teacher of morals must bring his instructions into close connection with what men already know, or what they will instinctively recognize as true when suggested by his lessons. If you are teaching a child, you do not present ideas entirely apart from and above the child's previous consciousness; you try to link the new thoughts to what the child has thought of before. We need not then be at all unwilling to admit that for the most part Jesus only carried farther and lifted higher and extended more widely the views of ethical truth which had been dimly caught by the universal human mind, or had at least been seen by the loftiest souls. This was but a part of the wisdom of his teachings. The most familiar and striking instance is the so-called golden rule, something more or less similar to which is ascribed to various contemporaries of Jesus and to earlier teachers. Thus Hillel said, " What is hateful to thee, do not do to another," and he was but repeating a passage in the book of Tobit, " What thou hatest, do to no one." A Greek biographer of Aristotle relates that being asked how we should behave towards our friends he answered, "As we should wish them to behave towards us"; and Isocrates had previously said, " What you are angry at when inflicted on you by others, this do not do to others." A similar negative form of the precept is also frequently quoted from Confucius, "What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others." But Confucius really taught, though not in form, the positive side of the same idea. A follower asked, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" Confucius replied, "Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others." Dr. R. H. Graves a distinguished missionary for many years in Canton, who went from Baltimore, replies to my inquiries that "reciprocity" seems to be a fairly correct translation. And this saying of the Anav lects is in the doctrine of the mean so illustrated as to leave no doubt that Confucius intended a posative, and not merely a negative precept. I have taken pains to bring out this fact as a matter of simple justice and exact truth. And indeed if we did not gladly "seize upon truth where'er 'tis found," we should not be faithful to the spirit of Jesus.

A recent writer (* Matheson, "Landmarks of New Testament Morality.") has pointed out that the Christian ethical system harmoniously combines principles which had been separately emphasized by the Greek philosophers. The Epicurean laid stress on self-love; the Stoic on love for others; the Platonist on love to God, in a certain limited sense. There can indeed be no basis for moral conduct other than " the love of self, the love of humanity, the love of God; and the religion which unites these has become the foundation of absolute morality." This is not at all saying that Jesus derived these ideas from the pagan philosophers. In fact they reside in the moral nature of man, and his relations to the nature of things and to the Creator. Jesus combines in harmonious completeness truths which one or another had separately and imperfectly taught.

The Old Testament ethical teachings he assumes as already received among his hearers, and in a general way endorses. The two foundation precepts, as to love of God and love of our neighbor, were both drawn from the law of Moses, though not there given together, nor either of them presented as fundamental. But have we not been frequently told of late that Jesus undertook to revolutionize the Old Testament ethics? Did he not supplant the law of Moses by his own authoritative and better teachings? No, nothing of the kind. He expressly declared in the Sermon on the Mount, that he came not to destroy the law, as some Jews imagined the Messiah would do in order to make life easier, but came to complete the law. And the examples which follow this statement are not at all examples of teaching contrary to the law of Moses, but in every case of going further in the same direction. Thus the law condemned killing; he condemns hate and anger. The law forbade adultery; he declared that a lustful look is virtual adultery. The law forbade false swearing; he goes further and commands not to swear at all. The only saying he condemns is the phrase, "and hate thine enemy"; but this was not a part of the law, it was a Rabbinical addition, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy." And the only case in which he appears to condemn an ethical teaching actually found in the Old Testament is really to the same effect as the others. The Mosaic law of divorce was really a restriction upon the otherwise existing facility of divorce, in that the preparation of a document gave time for reflection and the possession of it afforded some protection to the wife turned away. Jesus was going further in the same direction when he restricted divorce within narrower limits. And while he said that Moses foi the hardness of their hearts allowed divorce for various causes, his own teaching expressly went back to the original constitution of human beings as laid down in the Old Testament. There is thus no ground for the assertion that Jesus taught as a revolutionary reformer, or proposed to set aside the Old Testament ethics as essentially erroneous. He always went further in the same direction, he completed the law.

It is often asserted by some modern writers that the Founder of Christianity derived much of his teaching from the current traditions of Rabbinical sayings, as shown by the existence of similar ideas or expressions in the Talmud and other late Jewish writings. The alleged proofs of this indebtedness are few and curiously inadequate. It is folly to say that Jesus derived the golden rule from his older contemporary, Hillel, for we have seen that it existed centuries before. The statement is frequently made that the Lord's Prayer is all found in the Talmud or in the liturgies now used in synagogues. I have investigated all the proofs of this adduced by accessible writers, and the facts are as follows: the only exact parallels presented in the Talmud and the liturgies are to the address, "Our Father, who art in heaven," and the two petition, "Hallowed be thy name" and "Bring us not into temptation." There are phrases somewhat resembling "Thy kingdom come," and "Deliver us from the evil one." There is no parallel to "Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth," or to "Give us this day our daily bread," or to the petition which Jesus emphasized by repeating it after the prayer, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Thus the most characteristic petitions of the prayer are wholly without Jewish parallel, and the scattered phrases similar to some of its expressions are such as devout Jews could hardly fail sometimes to employ. The image of the mote and the beam, and two or three other expressions elsewhere employed by Jesus, are found in the Talmud. They may have been proverbial. Or it is entirely possible that the Talmud and other late Jewish writings really borrowed sometimes from the New Testament. The Jews in Alexandria early borrowed largely from the Greek philosophers, and at a later period the Jews are said to have borrowed from the Arabs; why might they not adopt an occasional phrase from the Christian writers, whom they could so easily claim as really of their own race? Thus the charge of indebtedness to Hillel, or to the traditions in general, so far as I can find evidence, quite breaks down. (* Comp. Delitzsch, "Jesus and Hillel.")

Let us next consider that the ethical teachings of Jesus do not usually undertake to give mere rules, but to set forth principles. The Jewish traditions had run everything into rules. They called it making a fence around the law, to encompass it with all manner of minute directions, which would keep men away from breaking the law. It is a general tendency of mankind to save themselves the trouble of thinking, by expressing principles in the form of rules. Many schools and some colleges undertake to regulate the whole behavior of the student by a set of rules; and churches sometimes show the same tendency. Jesus evidently set himself against this disposition. He did not wish his followers to be burdened by stiff and narrow rules; he taught them principles, which are at once more comprehensive and more flexible. And the thinking which is required in order to apply principles brings with it a most valuable part of our moral discipline.

Some sayings of Jesus have often been taken for rules which were meant only as striking statements of a principle; for example, "Whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." If any proof be needed that this was not meant as a rule, let us judge of the Saviour's meaning from the course which he himself pursued, for he, as we have said before, is the one teacher whose example never fell short of his precepts. When one of the high priest's officers struck him at the trial, we do not read that he turned the other cheek. He calmly remonstrated: "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou me?" Here, as in many other cases, we can interpret his saying by his action. In like manner he said, "Resist not him that is evil;" and many have taken this as a rule and have inferred that war is always wrong, and that a man must never defend himself when attacked. Yet Jesus did not tell the believing centurion at Capernaum to abandon his calling, nor in any case intimate that it was wrong to be a soldier. We must remember that the Saviour was often a field-preacher, or a preacher in public squares. It was necessary to hold the attention of his audience, whom no decorum restrained from leaving. Some had never heard him before, some would never hear him again; it was necessary to drive a truth into unsympathetic minds, to fix it there in permanent remembrance. He did this partly by a great variety of images and illustrations, and partly by paradoxical statements which would compel reflection and ensure recollection. Thus the saying, "Turn to him the other cheek also" has been very often misunderstood, and may have been misunderstood by some of those who first heard it; but did any one ever forget that saying? Better that many should misunderstand, than that none should remember. We interpret such sayings by their general connection, or by the Saviour's own example, or his teaching on other occasions. This is a very different thing from explaining away his teachings because not in accordance with our views or wishes; this is only trying to determine what he really meant. He said, "Swear not at all," and many persons, including some devoted Christians, have understood that he forbids taking an oath in a court of justice. Yet they ought to have noticed that he himself did that very thing. The high priest presiding in the Sanhedrin said, "I put thee on oath by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou art the Christ, the Son of God." To answer at all was to answer on oath; and Jesus answered. So then his prohibition of swearing must have related to the sadly common use of oaths in ordinary conversation. His example interprets his precept.

Again he said, "Give to him that asketh thee." People suppose that here is a rule for unrestricted observance, though perhaps no one in real life ever attempted to carry it out. But in the same discourse he said, "Ask, and it shall be given you." In this latter case he goes on to compare the heavenly Father's giving to that of parents. These, with all their human infirmity, "know how" to give good things to their children, and will not weakly give what the children ask through mistake; much more must the Father in heaven know how to give, and withhold where that would be truer kindness. Then if the promise as to God's giving what we ask is limited by the nature of the case, so must be the direction to give to others what they ask of us. He also says, " Love your enemies. . . . that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." Yet the heavenly Father does not love enemies as he loves friends; he cannot love enemies with a love of complacency, as he loves the obedient and holy. " He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust." So we should love our enemies, and gladly do them good; but this does not mean that we ought to love them as we love our friends.

In like manner then we must interpret what the Saviour said as to revenge. The law of Moses confined the requital of injuries to exact retaliation, "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," while natural human passion would tend to make the requital far surpass the injury. Jesus goes further in the same direction as the law, and entirely forbids revenge. So great an evil is revenge, so carefully must we avoid it, that he says, better give the litigant the exempted garment as well as the other, better invite still further exactions from the impressing officer, better turn the other cheek for a second blow, than to practise revenge. I repeat, we must not explain away the Saviour's sayings to suit our own notions, but we must seek to ascertain his real meaning. And I think it is clear that some of these sayings were not at all designed to be taken as rules, but were only a paradoxical or otherwise striking expression of a principle.

Because of these paradoxical expressions many have declared the morality taught by Jesus to be unpractical, and so have disregarded any and all of his teachings as much as they please. Some sincerely devout persons have excused themselves for falling short of other precepts on the ground that several of his sayings could not be literally obeyed. Some Christians have made a point of refusing to bear arms, or to practise any sort of resistance to wrong. Count Tolstoi, a man of great imagination and dramatic power, but morbid and a trifle fantastical, supposes himself to have discovered, as a new thing in the world, that Jesus meant these paradoxical statements of a principle for precise rules. He does not know that the same notion has been held by some persons in almost every age and country. And the gifted old nobleman tries to live according to his discovery, so far as his own wiser instincts and the control of those around him will allow. Tell him that if such notions were generally adopted it would break up society, and like many others of his countrymen at the present day, he would reply that society ought to be completely demolished, so that we may see if the survivors cannot build something better. In like manner Ibsen in one of his dramas makes the hero attempt to act upon these sayings as rules, but shows that the result must be to crush the individual attempting it, and supposes himself thereby to prove that the existing constitution of society in Christian countries is wholly contrary to the real teachings of the Founder of Christianity. But did Jesus ever mean thus to teach? Has he not been simply misunderstood?

We turn now to consider the great motive which Jesus connects with his ethical teachings. That motive, as already intimated, and as well known, is Love. The love of God is to be supreme. The love of one's neighbor is to be in equipoise with the love of self. This makes a distinct recognition of self-love as essentially right. And Jesus elsewhere appeals to self-interest in the highest sense, saying, "It is profitable for thee," "What shall it profit a man ?" Nor was this self-love forbidden by the selfrenunciation which he enjoined. One who proposed to be his follower must renounce himself, and take up his cross, and follow on as ready to be crucified. And so it is added, "Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall find it." Self-renunciation for his sake was thus encouraged by a higher self-love.

In sinful beings self-love constantly gravitates downwards towards selfishness. The remedy is to keep it balanced by love of our neighbor, while love to God is exalted above both, and holds them in symmetrical relation. A man's duties to himself, as accordant with and implied in Christ's teachings, would form a wholesome subject of reflection and discussion. An English literary man tells us, "The philosophy of the past said, Know thyself; the philosophy of the present says, Improve thyself." In sooth, neither of these will make much progress without the other.

Yet the powerful instinct of self-love needs far less encouragement in ethico-religious teaching than the disposition to love our neighbor. Accordingly, the one is simply implied in the teachings of Jesus, the other is repeatedly and strongly urged. The race antagonisms and national animosities which so abounded in the world that Christianity entered, which caused every foreigner to be instinctively regarded as an enemy, led the Jewish Eabbinical instructors to quibble with the command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." They would say, Certainly, but who is my neighbor ? A dog of a Gentile is not my neighbor. An abominable Samaritan is not my neighbor. And so there arose the fashion of making an addition to the law, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy." It is easy to exclaim against the scribes and lawyers for such a gloss; but it ought to be a warning. We are all in danger of adding to, or subtracting from, or somehow modifying, a law of man or a law of God that interferes with our interests, passions or prejudices. We read that a certain lawyer, that is, a professional student of the law of Moses, undertook one day to test the wisdom of Jesus by asking "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And he said unto him, What is written in the law? How readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." Here we see that at least some of the Jewish teachers were already accustomed to put the two commandments together. And Jesus said unto him, "Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live. But he, desiring to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor?" This shows the process above mentioned. He wished to justify himself for a conscious lack of general benevolence by restricting the definition of the term neighbor. Having perceived this, we see the point of the Saviour's reply in the parable of the Good Samaritan. A Jew fell among robbers, who left him half dead. Two of his own people, not merely private citizens, but one a priest and the other a Levite, successively saw his hapless plight and kept on the other side of the way. Presently he was relieved, with kindliest care, by a Samaritan. Let us be thankful that with all our modern bad feeling of many kinds, we find it hard to realize the burning hatred which existed between the Jews and the Samaritans: a hatred compounded of race antagonism, oft-repeated national strife, utter non-intercourse socially or even in business, and religious bigotry and jealousy. The point is then that a neighbor, in the sense of the law, is even one of the most hostile and hated, scorned and loathed, of human beings, when you find him needing human help. Notice in this case, as heretofore, how strongly the Great Teacher presents a general truth by a single illustrative example. If Jew and Samaritan were to be neighbors, in the sense of the law there could be no limit within the bounds of universal humanity. Wherever we see need, we see a neighbor. And the priest and the Levite, stepping along the opposite side of the road, are a warning to all religious officials, who have no taste, or fancy they have no time, for the relief of suffering humanity.

We must observe that in general Jesus did not merely enjoin the duty of caring for others. The whole tendency of his teachings, his example, the spirit he infuses, has always been to awaken a burning enthusiasm for the relief, the improvement, the increased welfare of our fellow-men. Make liberal concession, far more liberal than any known facts might indicate, as to the human kindness often manifested before Christ came, yet every one must acknowledge that Christianity has in this respect given a new meaning to such words as benevolence and humanity. With all the misapprehensions and corruptions of Christian teaching which have prevailed, with all the grievous imperfections and inconsistencies so widely existing among professed Christians, yet the story of Christian benevolence, in its various departments and throughout the Christian ages, shines among the fairest and most inspiring pages of human history. And how far its best specimens fall short of the original author and exemplar!

Many have considered that the Saviour's teachings as to forgiveness were impracticable; that to forgive seven times a day, to forgive till seventy times seven, to forgive those who trespass against us, or else we cannot hope that our Heavenly Father will forgive our trespasses against him, belongs to some lofty ideal that we may admire like the stars, but to which ordinary humanity can never climb up. But is there not an important distinction here between forgiveness and the love of enemies? We may illustrate again by the example of God himself. He does not forgive his enemies until they repent and change into friends; yet he loves his enemies who have not repented, and sends upon them rain and sunshine, the common blessings of his Providence. So we ought to love those who have wronged us, and be glad to do them any kindness which would not promote their evil designs against us; but we are under no obligation, in fact we have no right to forgive them in the strict sense of the term, to restore them to our confidence and affection, until they repent, until we have good reason to believe that they will henceforth act otherwise. If this be the correct idea of Christian forgiveness, it is not impracticable, and we should not exempt or excuse ourselves from performing the duty so often enjoined. As to love of enemies, with all the imperfection of our actual Christianity, it has wrought a great change in the views and feelings of mankind. Among the ancients "that man considered himself fortunate who on his death-bed could say, in reviewing his past life, that no one had done more good to his friends or more mischief to his enemies. This was the celebrated felicity of Sulla; this is the crown of Xenophon's panegyric on Cyrus the Younger." The author of "Ecce Homo" adds, "When therefore people deliberately consider it mean to forgive extreme injuries, they are really setting a limit, not to the duty of forgiveness, but to the possibility of genuine repentance. The words 'there are some injuries that no one ought to forgive,' mean really 'there are some injuries of which it is impossible to repent.'" And again, "The forgiveness of injuries, which was regarded in the ancient world as a virtue indeed, but an almost impossible one, appears to the moderns in ordinary cases a plain duty. . . And so a new virtue has been introduced into human life." Many in Christian countries still practice unforgiving hatred and even ferocious revenge, but few defend it, and all know that it is utterly forbidden by Christianity.

A kindred subject will be our Lord's teachings as to the poor. The Jews have always been in an eminent degree lovers of money, and gifted in acquiring it, being in that, as in most respects, one of the foremost races of mankind. They interpreted the Old Testament promises of providential reward and punishment to the effect that if a man was prosperous and rich it showed him to be an uncommonly good man, a favorite of heaven; and if he was poor and suffering, this was the punishment of his uncommon sinfulness. So the friends of Job insisted that he must have been guilty of great sins, though nobody knew what they were, for here was the manifest penalty and proof in his great sufferings. If a Jew had passed by and observed the scene described in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, his natural thought would have been, yonder man of wealth must be a very good man, and this poor wretch at the gate must have been very wicked. Now the author of the parable made it teach the opposite of their views in this case. He did not mean that all rich men are bad, and will one day lift up their eyes, being in torment, nor that all poor men are good, but he gave a case in point, diametrically opposed to Jewish opinion. Yet even here the dying beggar was carried by angels into the bosom of Abraham, who had been a Prince of the East, a man of great wealth. Jesus rebuked the Jewish error as to riches and poverty, showed himself the friend of the poor and found among them the great majority of his followers. Yet the family at Bethany, whom he especially loved, were manifestly rich. One of the sisters had a box of perfumery, which was declared by a man interested in money-values, named Judas Iscariot, to be worth more than three hundred denaries. Now a denary was the common price of a day's labor, and, allowing for Sabbaths and feastdays, this box of perfumery was worth more than a whole year's work of a laboring man. Mary of Bethany could not have possessed it, or if possessing by gift or inheritance, could not have rightly used it in an unpractical way, had they not been a wealthy family-which also accounts for the fact that "many of the Jews" went out from Jerusalem to the suburban village to comfort the sisters when their brother died. The Saviour had the previous day commended the holy enthusiasm of a poor widow, who gave more than all the rich, gave all she had to live on. And here he justifies Mary for using this costly article of luxury in a quite unpractical expression of affection, though there were thousands of poor in the great city two miles away. The occasion was extraordinary, she was showing that she understood better than the Twelve the Master's intimations of his approaching death, and that the recognition of it did not weaken her faith or her love, and " she did what she could " to cheer him as the dark shadows gathered. But though the incident was extraordinary in its circumstances, it certainly proves that wealthy people may sometimes lawfully express affection to God or man by costly gifts, though there be many all around who are poor and needy.

The words of Jesus to the young ruler, "Sell all thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me," are often spoken of as if he had enjoined this upon all who propose to follow him. Yet there is no record of his laying such requirement upon any one else, except that Matthew the publican and the two sons of Zebedee left their business to follow him as permanently attached disciples. The "one thing'' lacked by the young ruler was that he should not only care much for eternal life, but care more for it than all things else. The test was, whether he would sacrifice what he valued most in this world, out of supreme devotion to Jesus. That which he valued most was his vast wealth, and this test he could not stand. The test for another man would be whether out of devotion to Jesus he could abandon sinful pleasures, or relinquish worldly ambitions. The principle involved is that the service of God must be supreme. In a certain sense, "religion must be everything, or it is nothing." One who retains or acquires wealth, one who pursues ambition or indulges in pleasures, must subordinate all to his Christian discipleship, or he is no disciple.

It was to Jewish hearers an almost unequalled paradox to say, "How hard is it for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle." Various and strange attempts have been made to explain away this comparison. Yet it is an obvious hyperbole-the largest familiar animal passing through the smallest familiar orifice, representing impossibility. The Talmud has a similar saying, only substituting the elephant, a still larger animal. The disciples understood Jesus as meaning an impossibility, for they replied, "Who then can be saved?" If the rich cannot, who can be? And Jesus answered, "With men it is impossible; but with God all things are possible." On the other hand, the Sermon on the Mount begins with a series of sayings quite the reverse of Jewish opinion. This opinion was, Happy the rich, the well-fed, the merry, those who taste the sweetness of revenge. Jesus says, Happy the poor, the hungry, the mourners, the meek and merciful, the peacemakers. Why should the poor be called happy? Because they were more likely to accept the good news of the Messianic reign, and thus to enjoy its high spiritual blessing; because the poor in possessions were more likely to become the poor in spirit. This reconciles for us the phrase in Luke, "Happy are ye poor," with that in Matthew, " Happy are the poor in spirit." In like manner the Saviour more than once set it forth as a sign of his Messiahship, a sign predicted by Isaiah, "To the poor the gospel is preached." It requires an almost impossible effort of historical imagination to appreciate the change which Christianity has wrought in the feelings of mankind with regard to the poor. Still, alas! even in Christian countries, they are often despised and neglected and wronged. But this much at least is true, that all men know it ought to be otherwise, and that very many strive, in various and helpful ways, to have it otherwise. Jesus of Nazareth has been the best friend the poor have ever had in human history; and his faithful and wise followers will try in this also to be like him. Yet we have seen that he was no enemy of wealth, that he had special friends and devoted followers who were wealthy; and there is nothing in his teachings to encourage the notion that equality in human possessions is desirable or possible.

In this connection it may be well to make a slight digression, and notice a very common and very grave misunderstanding as to the generosity of the Saviour's followers in Jerusalem during the years that immediately succeeded his departure. The phrase is used in Acts, "they had all things common"; and it is stated that even the holders of real estate would sell it and bring the money to the Apostles for the support of the brethren. Hence the idea has grown widely current that these Christians at Jerusalem were really communists, that every one who joined them at once gave up his entire possessions to a common fund and there was no longer any private ownership; and from this supposed fact various inferences have been drawn by friend and foe. But it is not a fact. It can be proven from the record that they were not Communists. When Ananias sold a piece of land, and brought a part of the proceeds to the Apostles, making the impression that he had brought all, as others were doing, Peter said to him, "While it remained, did it not remain thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thy power?" His sin was not in withholding a part, but in lying to inspired men, lying against God. Now this language of Peter is absolutely incompatible with the idea that every Christian at once gave up all his property to a common fund. The Apostle declares that the property was his own while it remained unsold; and that after it was sold, the money was in his own power. He was under no necessity of selling, or of turning over the proceeds. Think of it, and this clearly shows that no real Communism prevailed among them. What then is meant by the phrase, " they had all things common"? It means that they held all their property as for the common benefit. Listen: "and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common." No one said that any part of his property was his own; it was his own, but he did not so speak of it; he regarded and treated his property as held for the benefit of his brethren. A reader of the Greek will notice that here and throughout the following passage every verb is in the imperfect tense, showing what happened from time to time, as the brethren saw need and felt moved: "as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the Apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto each, according as any one had need." Every verb is in the imperfect tense. (Acts 4: 32-35; likewise in 2:43-47.) One Christian this month, and another the next month, would bring money, even selling property for the purpose; and this went on during the several years embraced in the first six chapters of Acts. Thus you see that this was not at all a case of Communism. It was a case of extraordinary generosity, called for by extraordinary needs. Many of these first believers had come up to the great Pentecost, with only money enough for a short visit and a return, and here they were remaining for months and years; others had been fishermen on the Lake of Galilee, and at Jerusalem had no means of livelihood; others were poor Jews at Jerusalem, accustomed to receive help from the contributions of wealthy Jews in foreign countries, and cut off from this as soon as they became Christians. Rejoicing together in their new faith and hope and love, those of them who had property gladly contributed, as they saw occasion, for the support of their brethren. All this ceased of course when the disciples were scattered in every direction by the persecution that arose in connection with Stephen. And it is greatly to be regretted that this magnificent example of Christian generosity should be popularly mistaken for an attempt at Communism, and even sometimes represented as turning out to be impracticable, and thereby showing itself to be unwise.

The fact that in this and various other cases the ethical teachings of Christianity have been widely misunderstood, must not prevent us from recognizing and endeavoring fully to appreciate how much the Saviour really taught that was new to the world, and among the greatest blessings ever brought to mankind. When he said "give to him that asketh," it was (as we have seen) not a mere rule, requiring or authorizing us to scatter alms with blind negligence, since God, who is held forth as our example, gives to those who ask him, but gives wisely; and yet it is a precept that stirs every true Christian heart to benevolence. Whether we shall give to needy individuals upon casual application, or shall in general prefer to give through carefully organized effort, is a question of expediency and practical wisdom; but in some way, yea, in all ways that are not palpably unwise, we must give. And it is in accordance with the whole spirit of Christianity that we should not merely relieve human suffering, but that we should strive to prevent it. The principles which Jesus taught will be found to apply with the most flexible adaptation to whatever may be required and justified by our growing knowledge of sanitary and social conditions.

I should be very glad, if we had time, to dwell on many details of the Saviour's ethical instruction. Especially should I like to show - what we all know in a general way - how he has put unspeakable honor upon the lowlier and more passive virtues, which the pride of human strength is so apt to neglect or even to despise. But it is impossible now to attempt any detailed exhibition of his moral teachings. I know of no one who questions that as a whole they are greatly superior to those of any other teacher, or of all other teachers combined. The only drawback with some minds has been the existence of certain sayings supposed to be impracticable, and these I have tried to show have been simply misunderstood. The only ethical teachings now compared by any one with those of Jesus are the ethics found in the Buddhist writings. Let us gladly recognize all in these that is true and wholesome, and the great good they have done on a wide scale in the Asiatic world, as supplanting ideas that formerly prevailed among many races. The recent fashion of favorably comparing Buddhism with Christianity has been thought by some to find countenance in Sir Edwin Arnold's poem, "The Light of Asia." It may have been justifiable in a poem that he should borrow Christian terms, and add no small tinge of Christian sentiments, in order to make pleasing poetry for Christian readers; the trouble is that many have failed to distinguish in this case between a poem and a history. As I heartily admire many parts of "The Light of Asia,'' I am glad to quote words taken down from the author's lips during his recent voyage across the Pacific by a man whom I personally know to be of the highest character and intelligence. Sir Edwin said to Dr. Ashmore, "I have been criticised for an implied comparison between Buddhism and Christianity in regard to doctrines derived from them and principles contained in them respectively. No such object was in mind. For me Christianity rightly viewed is the crowned queen of religions, immensely superior to every other, and though I am so great an admirer of much that is great in Hindu philosophy and religion, I would not give one verse of the Sermon on the Mount away for twenty epic poems like the Mahabharata, nor exchange the golden rule for twenty new Upanishads."

It may be mentioned in conclusion that some propose to exalt the moral teachings of Jesus by saying that for them no further religion is necessary. They will live by the Sermon on the Mount alone. But he who spoke that great and inspiring discourse gave many other teachings, ethical and spiritual. Were they superfluous? Shall we be really honoring him, or acting wisely and safely for ourselves, if we presume to select one discourse of his and treat all the rest of his teaching and his work as unnecessary and useless?

Besides, who does really live up to the Sermon on the Mount? Who can afford to slight the religion of Jesus, upon the assumption of fully conforming to his ethical instructions? To end as we began. He gave ethical and religious teachings together - he stands as not merely a teacher, but a Saviour. Others have taught well and helpfully, though not in a way comparable to his teaching, as to how we ought to live; he alone can also give the spiritual help we need in order actually to live as his teachings require.