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had long vanished; the priests, busied with their long prayers and endless repetitions, had no ears for the new living voice of him who was to fulfil all the law and the prophets. As in every decaying Church, we find the priests more and more magnifying rituals and outward symbols, while neglecting the weightier matters of the law ;-taking tithe of mint and annis and cummin, but inventing pleas to excuse a man from supporting his father or mother; just as in our day a man is read out of the synagogue if suspected of unsound views, but is not disturbed so long as he is only selfish, or unjust in his trade, or morose and cruel to his family. And, like every dead church, the Jewish Church was a persecuting one ; just as a dead body, if not speedily buried out of sight, becomes a centre of corruption and death, so the formalism of this Jewish priesthood seemed roused for a moment to new life and power to crush the new message that disturbed its slumbers. His first sermon which I spoke of, about the emancipation of men and the preaching the Gospel to the poor, almost cost him his life on the spot. And perhaps from that very day--at any rate from an early period- he kept aloof from the old worship as a thing that could not help, but only hinder, the human soul in its strivings heavenwards. "They found fault because he neglected their washings and fastings, because he walked out in the fields on a Sunday instead of going to the Temple. But he heeded it not: he said, The friends of the bridegroom cannot be wearied with all these mummeries ; the new joyous life that is in us must not be swaddled in your old ecclesiastical vestments. Notice, that nowhere does JESUS speak of this old Church as a venerable institution, that was to be preserved and revered. He said, indeed—“I come to fulfil all the law and the prophets ;" but he fulfilled the spirit of these, just by abolishing the organisation that had become a mere travesty of what was once sacred and noble. He says, that trying to weave your new jubilant hymns of praise to GOD, your new aspirations for man, into these old creeds and rubrics, is like putting new cloth into an old garment, only fruitless labour, ending in vexation and injury-a thing to be given up altogether and at once. In no one instance do we find that he received any help from, or showed any toleration for, the clergy of his day. He who overflowed with mercy for the Magdalene, he who had no woe for the Sadducees or sceptics of his day, burst out into holy wrath when he came into contact with them. The only malediction that fell from his lips, but that one repeated in several forms, was hurled against these teachers of the law, who "keep the key of knowledge, and enter not in themselves, but those who would they hinder." Plain peasants were charmed with the freshness and beauty of his speech; whole villages and districts left their homes and followed him to hear the Word of Life. But, if we except Nicodemus, no priest seems ever to have been touched by this wonderful life and teaching. Throughout his course he had a constant struggle to escape from personal violence; the fickle populace sometimes following their own better instincts, sometimes siding with those who oppressed and deluded them. At last the death-struggle came : they felt that either they must extinguish this new light, or their hold on the popular obedience was gone. For months their watchful malice dogged his footsteps, to find some pretext for bringing him under the condemnation of the Roman law. It is remarkable, that although there had been a scheme afloat for making him a king, yet even the jealous Roman prefect seems to have befriended him as far as he could. The charge of treason broke down as completely as the charge of blasphemy ; but priestly malice is never at a loss to spin new webs around its victim as often as the old ones are broken. The friend of the people he who had been greeted a few days before with almost royal honours-now heard a priest-ridden mob crying out for his blood. The Roman governor, afraid to face the fanaticism of that sturdy, passionate Hebrew race, consents to lend the secular power for the perpetration of a clerical murder; for now, as ever, the Divinest institutions, once forsaken by the Divine SPIRIT, seem to have in them more capacity for evil than aught else in God's world. Over the tragedy that followed, let us, as sympathising Nature did, draw the veil, and let silence be our most fitting tribute to its perennial meaning.
. It is no light matter even to touch the question- What is Jesus to the world, to you, and to me, after eighteen centuries ? Try and express, in a few logical phrases, all that a mother, a friend, has been to you, and then you will hardly find fault with me if the two or three hints I can now give, fall infinitely short of your sense and mine of his grandeur. Of the conventional phrases in which preachers speak of him I have nothing to say, except that they convey no meaning whatever to me; they sound like Old Bailey jargon gone mad. I grant, however, that a phraseology that has gained such currency, must be related, somehow or other, to the truth: but is it not, to say the least, 'defective ? Does it not dwell almost exclusively in one phase of this manifold life of ours, that terrible fact which we call sin ? A Saviour of sinners truly ; but evil is not the chief part of our life, let us hope. Whether it be excess or defect, “deliver us from evil" is not the whole of the prayer he taught us. Give all emphasis to the truth that, in subtler, higher ways than we know of, he is our Redeemer from the evil that is in us and around us. Even to the soul that is sick, JESUS brings not medicine only ; he leads the soul upwards into its pure native air, takes the man out of the atmosphere that was poisoning his whole being, and says—“Sin no more.” Cast the past behind you ; feed your better nature with noble thoughts, by contact with noble persons ; seek useful and noble work—that, better than anything else, will erase the stain which has already fallen on you, and guard against the like in future. But for each one of us, let sin be in our theology what it has been in actual life. A Paul or a Magdalene longs, above all, to have this black vault that overhangs our life upraised-feels that deliverance from the weight of evil were itself bliss. No doubt, when the dawning of this Sun of Righteousness has chased away, the gloom, the notion of a deliverer from evil will always be prominent in that man's mind. But a pure, loving woman, whose life has never been stained by passion, seldom been 'chargeable with any defect, though she knows her own shortcomings better than any save God, does not find this fact of sin the over-mastering, ever-recurring experience of her life. She too, at times, feels the need of correction, purification, forgiveness; but this is not the aspect in which JESUS oftenest appears to her. As a Saviour from sin, the purest soul has fewer points of contact with JESUS than the Magdalene. I have known some of the best women that ever blessed the earth, who, for long years, were sorrowful and despairing because they could not "feel their need of a Saviour"-could not by any amount of bysterical self-reproach attain to that sense of “exceeding sinfulness" which they had been taught was necessary be fore JESUS could be anything to them. The evil past is not all we have to think of. The daily cry of the soul is for light, strength, guidance, love ; and these, I say, JESUS brings as well as healing. I need not dwell on the direct revelations that he brought in that speech such as never mun spake. It is not only that knowing the truth, the truth makes us free. This life on which we have been dwelling, is the perennial source of strength to those who seek to obey as well as to know the truth. A new sacredness is shed on the common relations of life new stimulus is yiven to our strivings after all that is highest, in looking on this symmetrical, perfect human life, in which alone, of all others, we find no jarring note, no excess, no defect. Look on your own life, and say how much strength you owe to the example, the aspiration of some friend, in whose presence you always felt nothing good was unattainable, and could not help growing daily better. Now, think what it is to each one of us separately, that we can each have fellowship with this All-wise, Allliving, All-perfect One!
« Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside,
Such as He have lived and died." Then, I love to think of Jesus as a perpetual conscience to the world. What a perpetual safeguard, for instance, is the memory of a mother to the erring and wayward one ! how the mild presence of a friend long gone, dwells with us, more potent to guard and to purify, it may be, than when alive; how, while in the full memory of such a life, you felt you could not do a base thing could not slight the sacredness of duty. Is not the life of the best person we know like a portrait by a master-hand, which reveals not the everyday aspect of the face, but so true a foreshadowing of what we might be at our best, that it strikes all beholders as truer than life itself. The friend may not tell us anything new about life and duty, he may even be modestly unconscious that he can do us any good, but the fact that a life in conformity with the laws which we pro
fers to obey is being led by our side, makes us ashamed of any shortcoming, forbids any tampering with our consciences. So we may say that this great friend of the race, by the fact of his being partaker of our humanity, but above it, is a perpetual memento not only that we can, but that we ought to live as he did --truthful, beneficent, fruitful lives ; and if contact with Jesus does nothing more for you or me than to stimulate our own natural sense of duty, and make us give the reins to the higher instead of the lower nature, surely this is a result which those who have experienced it will not think lightly of.
Lastly, this life and death have steeped humanity in an ocean of love. What so purifying, so strengthening to the young man, as to feel that in one breast at least there is stored up for him an infinite, irrepressible affection, which no unworthiness can abate, which no word or deed of his can adequately respond to, but which must leave him for ever and infinitely a debtor. What a bright experience that one being, at least, still hopes for him, and that his welldoing will be a source of highest joy to that one. It matters little whether the person be actually near us, or lives only in memory. Oftentimes the spirit of the mother lives in her boy more truly, her mild authority is more potent, after her lips have been closed in death. And so this life and death of Jesus have so mastered and entranced some of the noblest of our race, that Paul said of all that was best of him-“Not I, but CHRIST that liveth in me.” Reverently we may say—this, the highest revelation of God that we have, is the brightest smile from the great Father of all. I might say of the influence of JESUS what Coleridge beautifully says of the healing and elevating power of Nature:
“With tender ministrations, thou, O Nature,