[Front page image from The Independent (Friday 18 February, 2011.)]
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.*
[* NOTE. Not all footnotes are included. – Ed.]
By D. M. PANTON.
Criticism of the social structure is a habit of modern thought. Society and the thought that reflects it have grown chaotic: the Ritualist jostles the Quaker, the Socialist is neighbour to the Imperialist, the Anarchist haunts the chambers of kings; and over all broods the sleepless eye of the Jesuit. Reforming zeal, grown more ambitious with the instability of thrones, presses now to social rather than political issues. The ancient controversy lay in the entrenchments and the outworks; it now rages in the citadel of the State itself. Thus it is more deep-seated and momentous. For a re-constructer of the social order handles a more dangerous explosive than was ever handled by politician or even revolutionist. Autocracy might yield to democracy, and empires collide or disappear; but to alter the nature and functions of the State, and forcibly to readjust all social relations, is to apply the knife so deeply as to kill or cure. Yet it is certain that the social order is deeply diseased. Dislodgment of Birth from the places of power has merely resulted in their occupation by centralized and irresponsible Wealth. Labour, where freed from the shackles of priest craft, and also from the sacred restraints of religion, lifts a surly countenance upon the appropriated wealth it helped to produce, and on the self-created and impassable barriers erected by the rich. Want and disease send a wailing cry through all lands. Competition tramples whole classes under its ensanguined feet. In this travail of jarring classes and murderous monopolies, Socialism* was brought forth. Socialism is rooted in the failure of freedom to produce co-operative brotherhood; in the despair of effecting general happiness either by the accomplished reforms which, in earlier years, danced as a mirage before the seers of a political Utopia, or by the experiments in a miniature Communism which have continuously failed through a lack of cohesive power; and in the hope, which is the fiery heart of the new faith, of effecting redress by means of a drastic reconstruction of society.
[* Socialism is a steadily growing power in Continental parliaments and States it permeates literature with a singularly penetrating propaganda its societies, buttressed by powerful names, are active in English cities and universities, hitherto immune; and even the Christian Churches are not exempt from what Dr. Clifford calls “a regeneration of their social consciousness.”]
Exigencies of conviction have divided Socialism into its Christian,
State, and Anarchic branches. Christian
Socialism divides itself into Catholic and Evangelical. Catholic Socialism aims at social reforms,
and society reconstituted under a sacerdotal hierarchy, together with revived
mendicant orders, craftsmen’s guilds, and a general control by the Catholic
Church.1 [1 See F.S. Nitti’s Catholic Socialism, London 1895.] Political economy, says the Evangelical Socialist, is
the anatomist to show the construction of the social body; Socialism is the
pathology which describes the malady; and the Gospel is the therapeutics for
the application of the remedy.2 [2 See
Bishop Barry’s Christianity and Socialism, London, 1890.]
State Socialism desires to turn the State into an impersonal Mandarin,
by which all sources of power and wealth shall be possessed and controlled for
the common weal, set up - for no gentler process is deemed practicable by the
dominant school - on the overturned thrones and altars of the world. “We wish,”
says the Alliance of the Socialist Democracy (afterwards absorbed in the
International Working Men’s Association), “to destroy
all States and all Churches, with all their institutions and laws, religious,
political, juridical, financial, magisterial, academical, economical, and
social,” to establish, in their place, industrial co-operation and
collective ownership of land and capital.
Anarchic Socialism, by a like process of revolution, wars further
against all centralized government, for which it would substitute, after its
violent removal, control of its own affairs by each isolated industrial
unit. “Our task,”
says a Nihilist document (1876), “is the most
terrifying, ruthless, universal destruction.” “Let everything return to chaos,” cries
[* Socialists avoid the details of social reconstruction; they form forward the negative work, to destroy that which bars the way to the constructive: and so their energies, for the most part, are bent on creating a mighty reservoir of revolution. Even the advocates of a pacific Socialism admit that the most powerful and philosophic Socialistic thought is revolutionary.
** But the greater part of Socialism is frankly and deeply anti-Christian. In the sphere of religion, says Mr. Belfort Bax, Socialism is “Athestic Humanism”; “It utterly despises the ‘other world,’ with all its stage properties – that is, the present objects of religion.”
*** E.g., Matt. 13: 39-42; 25: 31-46; Luke 17: 26-30; 18: 8, etc.
**** The pioneer of Christian Socialism in
THE SPIRIT OF THE DISCIPLE
Ch. 5: 1. And seeing the multitudes, He went up into the mountain: and when He had sat down, His disciples came unto Him: 2 and He opened His mouth, and taught them.
It is disciples, though within earshot of the multitude, that our Lord, in solemn session, sets Himself to teach. Luke is equally explicit: “He lilted up His eyes on His disciples, and said” (Luke 6: 20). The Sermon on the Mount, as Bishop Gore succinctly puts it,* was spoken into the ear of the Church and overheard by the world.*
[* The Sermon on the Mount, p. 15; London, 1896. As Augustine’s comment is fullest of pregnant epigram; Tholuck’s the most erudite and exhaustive; Bengel’s the most subtly suggestive; so Mr. Govett’s is the most original, and, I believe, correct, of the commentaries on the Sermon with which I am acquainted.]
3. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of leaven.
It is spiritual character upon which our Lord strikes the first deep, strong note. Blessed is the man who is before he does. The new creation of the indwelling Spirit enfolds within itself all potentialities of blessed action. But consequent acts of love and mercy are the indispensable proofs that travel down into life’s little things - the robbed cloak and the assaulted cheek. “I am trying to build up new countries,” Cecil Rhodes said to General Booth; “you and your father are trying to build up new men; and you have chosen the better part.” In a ripe maturity of political experience second to none, Mr. Gladstone said: “The welfare of mankind does not now depend on the State, or on the world of politics: the real battle is being fought out in the world of thought; and we politicians are children playing with toys in comparison to that great work of restoring belief.”
On the threshold of the Sermon Christ erects the gate of humility. “And He called to Him a little child, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18: 3). Without a changed nature the malignant evils of the social order, deeply seated in a diseased heart, would reproduce themselves for ever, and reduce even God’s Kingdom to chaos. The Celestial Hills can be reached only through the Vale of the lowly heart.
4. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed, says the Socialist, is a general diffusion of comfort: Blessed, says the politician, is the greatest happiness of the greatest number: “Blessed,” says Christ, “are they that mourn.” This radical divergence springs from antagonistic views of the world. The philosopher is content to reform without regenerating; sin, to him, is a distemper of the skin; the world is disordered, but not condemned. Christ reveals that the world, jarred out of all harmony with God, is deeply cankered with sin. Wickedness predominates; therefore mourning is blest. The disciple is bowed by the cross he has lifted. But of righteous sorrow Christ approves; the mourners shall be comforted when earth is regenerate, and the Curse departs from every island and continent like a lifted shadow. Sorrow, in a sinless world, would be sinful.
5. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
An exquisite proof of the truth of Christ’s words is their amazing unworldliness. It is precisely the meek who are uniformly excluded from earthly inheritance; high places yield to the assault of wealth, ambition, and organized power. The meek waive, rather than prosecute, their claims; sufferers, doing right, with patience; much forgiven, they are much forgiving. For such the earth, when become Messiah’s in its uttermost parts, is reserved, as the hundredfold compensation for suffered wrong. The earth is yet to governed by its aristocracy of grace. But the possession is reached by the path of renunciation. “Dost thou wish,” says Augustine, “to possess the earth? Beware then lest thou be possessed by it.”
6. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Not, Blessed are the righteous; but blessed are disciples consciously imperfect and sinful, eager to crown imputed righteousness with active goodness. The daily recurring appetite is set on weaving the pure, bright linen - the …* [righteous acts] of the Bride. The love of righteousness, a thirst planted in the soul by God, is for ever baffled in the spheres of labour, politics, religion: Wealth triumphs in monopoly; Cabinets shape the course of kingdoms by expediency; the great State Churches dare not uproot powerful corruptions; the individual writhes under the tyranny of habitual sin. Nevertheless the hunger shall be satisfied. For the righteousness of Christ, falling on the shoulders of faith, is a pledge of ultimate sanctification. The body of resurrection will harbour no traitor within. Divine might shall establish upon earth a Kingdom of right.
[* Rev. 19: 8; Cf. 2 Cor. 5: 3.]
7. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
JUSTICE was the foundation principle of the
Law (Deut. 16: 20); MERCY is the soul of the Gospel.
8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
This is explicit. The beatific vision is for the pure alone; and for the pure, not in act only, but in heart. Purity of heart is far rarer than purity of life. But the entry into the sacred presence is, even among disciples, conditional*: God dwells in a privacy of holy light inaccessible to all but the heart-pure. “Without sanctification none shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12: 14). The Resurrection of Life, in which the Father reveals Himself, belongs to disciples whose righteousness exceeds the Levitical purity of the flesh.
[* “Even believers,” says Dr. Tholuck, “may inherit a partial unblessedness. This is a point,” he significantly adds, “on which our doctrine requires further elaboration.” - Sermon on the Mount, P. 39. Before the Bema disciples are to be arraigned (Rom. 14: 10; 2 Cor, 5: 10), with possible loss of all but eternal life (1 Cor. 3: 15; 9: 27), and a possible infliction of active but temporary punishment (Luke 12: 46-48; Matt. 25: 14, 30). Gift (Rom . 6: 23) is retained after prizes (Rev. 3: 11) are lost. For an expansion of this truth, see the seventh Present Day Pamphlet, The Judgment Seat of Christ.]
9. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called sons of God.
It is characteristic that obedience to these commands falls within the compass of the lowliest and the humblest. As quarrels are universal, so are the opportunities of the peacemaker. Christ’s disciples are not only to be peaceful, but makers of peace, as oil upon the world’s waters: sons of God in character, as also, in the Regeneration, in title.*
[* “Pity, purity, peace,” comments Dr. Tholuck, “not accidental ethical virtues, but characteristic Christian graces, the possession of which presupposes the possession of salvation.” ‑ Sermon on the Mount, P. 88.]
10. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Antagonism to the wor1d is an essential of discipleship. The “world” in modern literature has lost the shadowed, fallen, terrifying sense with which it was burdened on the lips of Christ. But so fundamental is the antagonism that He lays it down as a perpetual basis of action. Reproaches, damaged reputation, and the cruelty of false reports pursue even the holder of every beatitude, and constitute an ineradicable note of discipleship. “All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3: 12). But it is for His sake whom we love: that is enough. There are times when merely to suffer is the truest service that can be rendered to Christ.
“Have been persecuted” Here our Lord strikes a note of profound discord with all Utopian ideals. No slow process of evolution, reaching after centuries the full flower of social perfectness, can justify a God of goodness and love. For what of the trampled myriads of bygone agonies? What of the servants of God slain? Without a resurrection, a tender reunion upon an earth regenerated and crowned with an opened heaven, who could justify the ways of God to men? But “these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perlect” (Heb. 11: 39, 40); nor we, apart from them. Half-lights of dawn break through the midnight of suffering.* For painful service God is pledged to recompense: by it the disciple is proved in the blessed succession of the righteous.
[* “In the subject” (throughout the Beatitudes), says
Royal rank awaits the sufferer. Throughout the Beatitudes the Kingdom, with
its riches - many names, as Augustine says, but one reward - is the prize held
forth: a Kingdom of the heavens, for its metropolis is the heaven-born
Jerusalem (Rev. 19: 7; 21: 10); an
inheritance upon earth, for to the fallen soil Christ returns (Zech. 14: 4); a vision of the Father, for it is
also His Kingdom (Rev. 11: 15); a treasured
reward in heaven, for it is
no worldly State reformed to perfect conditions, or rebuilt on the ideals of
Socialism.* Christ is yet to triumph in the arena of the
nations. On earth God’s will is yet to be done.
“Since Augustine’s time,” says Dr. Hort, “the
Kingdom of heaven or
[* The Kingdom. as Dr. Tholuck observes. was no new idea. To Christ’s hearers it was the Messianic Kingdom, the lodestar of Israel; and the millennial Kingdom, four times associated with “the Christ,” is, the Messianic (Rev. 11: 15; 12: 10; 20: 1-6). But its heavenly compartment, for the risen saints, was not understood (Rev. 19: 6-9). Afterwards, it is the eternal Kingdom, on new heavens and new earth (1 Cor. 15: 24; Rev. 21. and 22.). “This view of the Kingdom and its coming,” says Dr. H. A. W. Meyer, “as the winding up of the world’s history, a view which was also shared by the principal Fathers (Tertullian, Chrysostum, Augustine, Euth. Zigabenus), is the, only one which corresponds with the historical conception of the … throughout the whole of the New Testament.” On Matthew, trans. Edinburgh, 1877.
** Christian Ecclesia,
p. 19; London, 1897. Bishop Waldgrave’s Bampton Lectures on Millenarianism (
13. Ye are the salt of the earth but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men. 14. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. 16. Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The cardinal point of the Sermon is here resolved. Christ is addressing disciples. The disciple is the conscious follower of Christ. The multitude, though from its bosom the disciple is drawn, ultimately hurried Him to crucifixion. Sometime darkness (Eph. 5: 8), disciples are now light in the Lord. The Sun has kindled Himself in them. Grace has seasoned and salted their characters. The body our Lord addresses throughout is distinguished from the nations of the world; it is the little flock; its lifted face is rosy as with the lights of dawn. “For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: but your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. ... Fear not, litt1e flock. … Let your loins be girded about, and your lamps burning; and be ye yourselves like unto men looking for their lord” (Luke 12: 30-36). Christ embodies a code of legislation, not for the humanity of creation, but for the humanity of redemption – “a sphere wherein is realized what human life is meant to be, and, rightly dealt with, is capable of becoming.”* Works are demanded of those already disciples. The flooding light fills the eyes of beholders; the crag-borne city is the monument of its founder: so the convincing, compelling evidence of the glory of God is His servant’s consecrated life. The Church is the lampstand of God.**
[* Bishop Gore’s Social Doctrine of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 8; London,
1892. Individually God presents the
Gospel, socially the Church. The body of
brethren, radically distinct from the world, is, the sphere of Divine
community. The early Church’s unique
experiment, a community of use rather than a community of property, assumed
profound premises never accepted by later Communism (Acts
4: 32-35). (1) It was in no sense
economic legislation for the world; (2) it was based on new-born hearts, and
bodies baptized with the Holy Ghost; (3) it was not a unity born of
self-interest, but of heart and soul infused with the Spirit of God. Nor (4) was this, enthusiasm of sacrifice
commanded by the Spirit or by Apostles, or (5) practised in any apostolic
** The Church, our Lord implies, if once unsalted; if emptied of its distinguishing doctrine and peculiarity of conduct; if; as salt on a damp floor, it absorbs earthly corruption, and grace departs, and faith (Rom. 11: 20-22), the lampstand will not be restored (cf. Rev. 2: 5); and God’s protection will be withdrawn from a devitalized Christianity.]
CHRIST’S RELATION TO THE LAW OF MOSES.
17. Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil. 18. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Christ fulfilled the Law by obedience, and the Prophets by suffering. But, delivered on the threshold of His ampler-spirited code, more is obviously meant by this pregnant utterance. He fuller-filled* both. Never antagonistic to the Law, but to the tradition of the elders (Mark 7: 1-13); sanctioning the priestly succession, though sentencing the priestly sepulchres (Matt. 23: 2-4); asserting Law and Prophets as alike inspired** and alike indestructible, He, as the Prophet greater than Moses, rescinds entire laws, amplifies others, and fulfils the complement of all to a perfect standard. Moses and Christ are not two irreconcilables, as Count Tolstoy, reviving Gnosticism affirms.*** For with solemnest sanction our Lord asserts that, for Jewish disciples, He will adjudicate rank in His Kingdom according to their obedience to the lightest of Moses’ precepts. “As we treat the word of God,” said Bengel, “so does God treat us.”
[* See Tholuck. ** Our
Lord here asserts, in language that could hardly be more explicit, the verbal inspiration of Law and Prophets as
originally delivered. “… is the Hebrew Jod,” says Dean Alford, “the smallest letter in the
alphabet kepaiai [See Gk.] are the little
turns of the strokes by which one letter differs from another similar to it.” *** Gospel
in Brief, p. 11;
20. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.
But the new code is to supersede the old. Love, the strong undercurrent of the Law,
Christ now diverts into the open channel of Grace. The standard of obedience is exalted. The righteousness demanded of Christian
disciples surpasses the legal; it exceeds both in kind and in degree; for it is
more righteous intensively, and more exacting in the obedience it
whole of the rest of our Lord’s Sermon," as Dean Alford observes, “is a comment on,
and illustration of, the assertion in this verse.” The new Lawgiver lays down a momentous
principle. By obedience to the higher righteousness, expressed in detail in the
Sermon, entrance on the
[* Cf. Matt. 7: 21; 1 Cor. 6: 1-10; 2 Tim. 2: 12; Heb. 4: 11, etc.]
IMPULSES OF ANGER AND LUST.
21. Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou ,shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the Judgment: 22. but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire. 23. If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, 24. leave there thy ,gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art with him in the way; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, .and thou be cast into prison. 26, Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence till thou have paid the last farthing.
Authority is here recognized by our Lord; a principle that underlies the council, the judgment, and the sentence of Gehenna; and authority that expresses itself in law. Human government, though tarnished and corrupt, is a reflection of that eternal Sovereignty and immutable Order which rears itself in the background of the invisible; and since God’s plan has designed its ideal for each created soul, perfection of freedom lies in the choice of obedience, by which the tributary soul revolves round God in a perfect orbit. Lawlessness, by which this design is thwarted, now rears its head with bold front against Heaven. “Our enemy,” said the Anarchist Congress of Geneva in 1882, “is every abstract authority, whether devil or good God, in the name of which priests have so long governed good souls. OUR ENEMY IS THE LAW.”* Socialism betrays a kindred spirit. “The whole department of law,” says Mr. Bax, “will be swept away in the perfected State.”** This lawlessness - to be ripened in its season, as Paul reveals, in the Man of Lawlessness,*** who, himself a tyrant, will enthrone his tyranny on the ruins of established law,**** - actually attributes itself to Christ. “All power and authority” - words put into His mouth by Count Tolstoy - “must disappear, ... and all ruling power.”*****. Exactly antithetical are His actual words, which not only recognize the principle in its last and most awful form, the horrors of Gehenna.******
[* Mr. Rae’s Contemporary
Socialism, P. 254 (my italics). ** Religion of Socialism, p. 146. Dr. Percy Dearmer writes: “When we have established Collectivism we shall probably pass
on to Communism; and after some centuries of Communism humanity may become pure
enough to live without laws at all, to enjoy what is called by that
much-misunderstood name, Anarchism.” - Christian Socialism, p. 9; London, 1897. Not thus shall Heb.
10: 16 be fulfilled. *** O avopus [see
Gk. word] in 2
Thess. 2: 8. ****Thess. 2. 4-7; Dan.
11: 36, 37; Rev. 13. “In precipitating,” say Signors Cafiero and Reclus,
“from the heights of the heavens Him from whom all
power is reputed to descend, societies unseat all those who reigned in his
name. Such is the Revolution now in
progress.” Preface to God
These words, for the disciple, are very startling: for, Jesus being the Wisdom of God, the existence of Hell is taken bodily out of the region of doubt; and, more astounding still, it is the recalcitrant disciple whom Christ, hereafter the judge, thus threatens. No gloss, no casuistry, can evade the full force of this revelation.* “The anger without a cause,” says Mr. F. D. Maurice, “is the commencement of the disease; it has become chronic when it finds vent in words of fury; it has become radical, it has infected the vitals of your constitution, when it finds vent in words of settled scorn.”** Love is the immovable basis on which God has established the household of faith.
[* Cf. Luke 12: 4, 5; Rev. 2. 11. See Mr.
Govett’s Sermon on the
27. Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28. but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
The Law is not only deepened and enlarged; not only is there here a revelation of its inner meaning: Christ substitutes a law which, beyond bodily actions, takes cognizance of the heart. “This is the Second Commandment,”* says Count Tolstoy; “‘Do not think that love towards woman is good.’”** This is not comment, but caricature; it is the deliberate gaze of lust our Lord forbids..**
[* Gospel in Brief, p. 52. ** So Dr. Trench.:‑“ …(eo ut) is not = … (ita vt). In the first, [Greek word] which stands here, is involved not merely the event, but also the intention.” [The Greek word …] says Dr. Tholuck, is here to be understood in the sense of …, uxor, a married woman.]
29. And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell. 30. And if thy right hand causeth thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body go into hell.
Acute observers of the deeply seated diseases of the social organism are, strangely enough, the most blindly optimistic of a cure to be wrought, not by revolution of the heart, but by readjustment of the social conditions. “According to Christianity,” says Mr. Bax, “and the ethics or religion of introspection generally, regeneration must come from within, must begin in the heart and mind of the individual. The ethic and religion of modern Socialism, on the contrary, look for regeneration from without, from material conditions and a higher social life.”* The antagonism is fundamental. Christ levels His law at the anger of the heart; at, impurity of heart; at treasure seducing the heart: “for from within,” He says, “out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: ALL THESE EVIL THINGS PROCEED FROM WITHIN, and defile the man” (Mark 7: 21-23).** Socialism is a clever device by which the sins of the individual are cast on the shoulders of society. The corruption of each is deepened and accelerated by the corrupt institutions of all; but society’s deadliest foe, and his own, is man’s vice-sown heart. So also, in forecasts of a world regulated to the Socialist’s ideal, there is a curious absence of any consciousness of sin or any attempt to eradicate it. It is man’s Utopia of sensuous and aesthetic gratification. “He will find his pleasure,” say Messrs. Morris and Bax, “in the satisfaction, first, of his bodily desires, and then of the intellectual, moral, and aesthetic needs which will inevitably arise when a man is not at odds with his own body, and is not exhausting his intellect in a vain combat with its urgent, promptings.”*** But some such combat is the very one here supposed and commanded. The hateful thing, evil, must be plucked out, even at the cost of a maimed and broken life.
[* Ethics of Socialism, P. 19; London, 1989.
** True Socialism cannot be Christian; for the living kernel of the Marxian creed, the right of a labourer to the entire produce of his labour, is unjust, since it excludes reward on the land, capital, and intelligence without which the labourer is powerless; and such inequity is iniquity. But Capitalism also is un-Christian; for it shares with Socialism an intense earthliness of taste and aim; and, further, adds to the sin of avarice an abandonment to the profoundly unspiritual fascination of possessed wealth. The one veils covetousness under a philanthropy which would transfer ill-used wealth to the pinched and struggling poor; the other shelters sensuous greed behind the gorgeous structure of State religion.]
*** Socialism, P. 318; 2nd ed., London, 1896.]
31. It was said also, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: 32. but I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress: and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.
The concession of the Law is here definitely set aside. Christ binds the married in bonds indissoluble, save for the one sin. For the obedient disciple no civil statute can override the great Lawgiver’s decision. He so decided on the ground of God’s original design: for “[a] male and [a] female made He them” (Mark 10: 6). Socialism is deeply tainted on the doctrine of marriage. The Manifesto of the Communist Party is stated by Mr. Frederick Engels, an adequate authority to be “the most international production of all Socialist literature, the common platform acknowledged by millions of working men from Siberia to California”; and the Manifesto advocates a legalized community of women.*
[* So Mr. H. M. Hyndman’s Historical Basis of Socialism in Eogland, P. 452; London, 1883. The earlier Socialism of Saint Sinnon, Fourier, and Owen, also dabbled in free love; but there are Socialists, who strongly repudiate it, See Mr. Kirkup’s History of Socialism, pp. 26, 34, 64, 192, and Mr. Pearson’s Ethic of Free Thought, pp. 384, 442 ; London, 1888.]
33. Again, ye have heard that it was
said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform
unto the Lord thine oaths: 34. but I say unto you, Swear
not at all: neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God; 35. nor by the earth, for
it is the footstool of His feet; nor by
Closer study of these words confirms a cursory glance. Our Lord forbids the taking of oaths. It is no wonder that the [Greek word …] so perplexed Augustine*: it is a universal negative; it purposely excludes, all exceptions. Swear not falsely, said Moses (Lev. 19: 12): “SWEAR NOT AT ALL,” says Christ. An oath binds the soul under . self-imprecation.** The. Law not only sanctioned oaths, but commanded them.*** Justification by works allowed the Israelite, to imperil his salvation on his truthfulness. But this Christ forbids. A critical distinction between Moses, who established judicial oaths, and Christ, by whom swearing is abolished altogether, is not a distinction concerning profane oaths; for these are forbidden by both. “So help me God” - it is a solemn challenge to the great Witness and Avenger to condemn or acquit in the last assize according as we have or, have not, told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.**** “A man may swear,” says Article 39 of the Church of England, “when the magistrate requireth.”***** The Article sanctions the judicial oath. But any such exception, prohibited by the exclusive ‑nature of our Lord’s language, is expressly excluded by an Apostle: “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, NOR BY ANY OTHER OATH: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; that ye fall not under judgment” (James 5: 12). Christ’s words enjoin simplicity in all discourse; but constitutional and judicial oaths are also excluded. The oath is the crux of allegiance to world-powers; it is the basis, in conscience, of imperial codes; it shackles Christian liberty, and, in oaths of obedience, the disciple unlawfully abdicates responsibility; it is alien, together with all vows, from simple dependence on the Holy Spirit; it binds the evil conscience, but is superfluous to the cleansed and truth-loving soul; it is a solemn challenge to Deity, to whom every oath is ultimately referable, for judgment on the ground of works; it withdraws us from the graciousness of Saphet, and places us under the thunderous brow of Sinai. Ecclesiastical tradition made void our Lord’s obvious intent when the Church made its compact with the State. “When the Church had opened her gates to whole nations and populations,” says Dr. Dollinger, “and had established definite relations with the civil power based on a mutual recognition of their respective rights, she was obliged to allow political and judicial oaths, as indispensable for bringing the truth to light and vindicating its claims.”****** The State, inexorably jealous concerning allegiance to itself, has in all nations, and ages clashed sharply with this law of Christ. Our Lord does not summon His disciples to that which will cost them nothing. But the prisons of the world have ever been the nursery-ground of the Church.
[* Dr. Trench’s St. Augustine on the Sermon on the Mount, p. 212. [The Greek word …], says Bengel, “extends this prohibition to swearing truly as well as falsely; it does not, however, universally prohibit all true swearing.” This is tying one's self up in a knot.
** “Whatever be the form of oath,” says Mr, Paley, “the signification is the same. ... It is invoking God’s vengeance, or renouncing His favour, if what we say be false.” - Works, V. ii., P. 1126, 1845 ed. So Webster, etc. Ecclesiastical (Blunt’s Theological Dictionary) and legal (Wharton’s Law Lexicon) definitions involve the idea of Divine vengeance, as pagan tribes swear by weapons to wound, by sun to burn, and by beast to devour them if perjured. The imprecation lies in “So help me God.”
*** Exod. 22: 11; Deut. 6: 13; Num. 5: 19. All vain and rash oaths, all profanity, was already forbidden by the Law of Moses;- “Ye shall not swear by My name falsely, neither shall thou profane the name of thy God” (Lev 19: 12): it was solemn and judicial oaths which the Law enforced in the quotation made by our Lord, and it is these which Christ forbids. Thus, so far from the Sermon on the Mount being “Jewish,” it actually forbids what the Law commanded; it forbids it on the ground that it is inconsistent with Grace, that is, on Christian ground; and the Sermon has never been accepted, and never will be, by any Jew except such as become Christians: it is characterically and fundamcntally Christian.
**** “As I shall answer to God," says the Scottish oath, "at the great Day of judgment.”
***** A thoughtful defence of Christian oaths will be found in
Mr. F. D. Maurice’s Kingdom of Christ, v. ii., pp. 259‑269. But it is an inadequate defence; and
Mr. Maurice adds: “I do not say that the Quakers may
not be able to prove that this passage forbids all oaths, judicial and
religious, as well as vituperative and conversational.” Christ’s alleged oath (Matt. 26: 63), if an oath, was taken as Messiah
responding to the official inquiry of
****** First Age of Christianity and the Church, p. 390; 2nd. Ed., London, 1867. Justin, Irenaes, Clement, Origen, Chrysostum, Jerome, and many others, rejected all oaths. See Mayer. How mournful is the fact revealed by the learned writer on oaths in the Encylopcedia Britannica: “By the Middle Ages oaths had increased and multiplied in Christendom far beyond the practice of any other age or religion” (my italics in both).]
RESISTANCE TO EVILDOERS.
38. Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39. but I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Justice, the cardinal principle of
government, is surpassingly expressed
in this quotation from Jehovah’s
worst maxim,” says an Agnostic, “ever
proclaimed. The worst advice ever offered
to men.” This author’s Plain Commentary on the First Gospel (
**** So, 1 Cor. 6: 1-7; Rom. 12: 14-21. He may, however, appear in his own defence, and also appeal for judical exoneration of his character (Act 25: 12)]
Here more sharply emerges the fact that this is no code for the world’s government; no adjustment of relations between armed and conflicting nations; no scheme whereby to rule and regulate an infidel society. “You can. govern,” says Mr. A. E. Fletcher, “in accordance with the principles laid down by Jesus Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.”* This thinkers have universally repudiated: it is impossible to retard criminals, to adjust civil disputes, to defend the nation against the ambition of aggressive rivals, without the exercise of a power resting ultimately on the sword. Anarchy can alone replace government based on judicial retribution.” “In the next revolution,” says the Anarchist Prince Kropotkine, “we hope that this cry will go forth: ‘Burn the guillotines; demolish the prisons; drive away the judges, policemen, and informers.’”** But the essential truth, the solution of the perplexing riddle, lies in the fact that Christ is legislating for the Church; a body not national, but supernational; whose selfish; and competitive passions, the bases of social disorganization, have been eradicated, and whose love is to be catholic, gratuitous, and perfect. Defensive war, therefore, as well as aggressive, is forbidden to the disciple. He withdraws himself from human protection to cast himself upon the Divine: he is food for powder because he would conquer by love.*** “Vengeance is Mine,” says God; “I will repay.”
[* Vox Clamantium, p. 118.
** Law and Authority,
*** “Even martyrdom was not avoided,” says Dr. Tholuck of the early Christians, “in order to escape enlistment.” - Sermon on the Mount, p. 275.]
40. And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him twain.
Capital sustains itself by force; by force only can it be overthrown. Wealth has entrenched itself behind the bayonet.* “The pockets of my coats and trousers,” says a reigning Monarch, “are always filled with loaded revolvers.” Socialism, therefore in defiance of the precepts of Christ, retaliates by an appeal to the drawn sword. “Force,” says Mr. Bax, “is the midwife of progress.”** “Communists everywhere,” say Messrs. Marx and Engels, “support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. … The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can he attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution.”*** “There are not wanting signs,” says Mr. Hyndman approvingly, “that another serious revolutionary agitation has begun.”**** Even if revolution were not in profound antagonism to Christ, to wrest his sword from the Capitalist will not permanently reform. What force captures, counterforce can recapture. Socialism can only end in creating a succession of Caesars.***** But the Socialist is here in flagrant opposition to our Lord’s command. Christ counsels the yielding of the cloak: the Socialist not only defends his threatened property, and further counsels defence by illegal means, but actually would retaliate by a countertheft On principle he would confiscate the goods of others. “To the one [the Individualist] individual possession is right and justice, and social confiscation is wrong and injustice; to the other [the Socialist] individual possession is wrong and injustice, and confiscation is right and justice.” ******
[* England alone, in the judgment of Karl Marx, offers
conditions in which the social revolution can be effected legally and
peacefully; nevertheless the ruling classes, he expected, would offer a
sanguinary opposition. See Mr. Engels’
Preface to Marx’s Capital; London,
1896. Uncompensated seizure of all
private property, for example, would be bound to provoke civil war; and even a
Christian Socialist, though working for “a peaceful,
orderly, legal Social Revolution,” can advocate confiscation. - Mr. Headlam’s Christian Socialism, p. 13;
**Religion of Socialism, p. 105. *** Manifesto of the Communist Party, p. 31.
**** The Coming
***** To State Socialism in an absolute monarchy, two factors not irreconcilable, pacific Socialism tends. The universal boycott organized by the Antichrist (Rev. 13: 17) implies either a vast consolidation of trusts, or a complete State control of commerce. “The demi-god destined to smother Socialism in his mighty and fatal embrace,” says Signor Nitti, “is not yet born”; but he will arise, and perhaps embody, what Mr. Kirkup foresees, a Socialistic Caesarism resting on a dernocracy. - Inquiry into Socialism, p. 86.
****** Ethics of Socialism, p. 76. If wealth is a robbery, it cannot be a stewardship.]
42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
Christ here lays the axe at the root of selfishness. He not only forbids us to covet what we have not, but also to hoard what we have. The amount and kind of the gift our Lord does not determine; gift itself could not be more decisively commanded. To take this text literally, in the judgment of Dean Burgon, is to overthrow the foundations of society. But society will not disintegrate because our hands as well as our hearts are full of boundless compassion. Take care of the poor at your own doors, and God will take care of the poor at the doors of others. “A beggar is at thy gate,” says Augustine; “thou art thyself a beggar at God’s gate. As thou dealest with thy seeker, even so will God deal with His.” Full of loving-kindness and truth are the apocryphal words: “Turn not thy face from any poor man, and the face of the Lord shall not he turned away from thee.”*
[* Tobit iv. 7. Cf. 1 John 3: 17, 18; 1 Tim. 6: 17-19.]
43. Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, .and hate thine enemy: 44. but I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; 45. that ye may be sons of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. 46. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47. And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the Gentiles the same? 48. Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
THE LAW OF LOVE.
The retributive spirit of the Law is superseded by the Christian perfection of mercy. It is a supreme proof of the Divine origin of grace that it not, only commands, but can infuse, such love. “It is impossible.” says Count Tolstoy, “to love our personal enemies.”* Yet Christ commands it; and in the obedient heart He can fulfil this supremely difficult law. But casuistry must not be allowed to eviscerate the command. Hate of persons our Lord forbids, not relatively, but absolutely; yet Mr. F. D. Maurice writes: “Do we not feel that that man has a very poor love of his kind, and of each individual man as a member of that kind, who does not regard as his enemies those who hinder the good and help forward the evil, and who does not, in that character and capacity, hate them?”** Hatred of them, as distinct from their sin, is a violation of this law: we are not only not to hate, but are to love, our enemies. For God’s attitude regulates the attitude of His sons. When He judges and makes war, His sun - for the sun is His - does not shine on all, nor Heaven’s windows empty their treasure***: common mercies are proofs of a common love.**** His love embraces His enemies; so must ours. “Obtain by your prayers,” says Bengel, “blessings for those who take blessings from you.” It is a degree and quality of love unknown to the nations; it is a perfection that inheres in the Father’s character, whose standard for His sons is not less than perfection; it is, in the disciple who so loves, a last proof of the Incarnation.
[* Christ’s Christianity, p.191; trans. London, 1885.]
*** Wise charity, as distinct from lazy, most blesses; but be it observed that God’s fertilizing rain and sunshine are indiscriminate charity. Charity confined to the deserving is not the Divine charity: “For He is kind toward the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6: 35). If His sunlight be abused, it is the recipient, not the Donor, who is responsible. An order of ministry in the Church sprang from the administration of relief (Acts 6: 1-6); and the enormous charities of the first Churches, an essence, not an accident, of their life, prove the sub-apostolic view of the apostolic commands. See Dr. Hatch’s Organization of the Early Christian Churches, pp. 32-55. “The apparent and admitted evils which were wrought,” adds Dr. Hatch, “were counterbalanced, even from the economical point of view, by the forces which Christian organization kept in motion. These forces have been among the strongest conservative forces of society. They have arrested decay; they have prevented the disintegration, and possibly the disintegration by a vast and ruinous convulsion, of the social fabric.”
**** Natural judgments on broken laws still fall; supernatural, though God is provoked daily, are held back until Mercy shall, he displaced by justice ]
Love works no ill to its neighbour. Can we love as a disciple, and hate as a citizen? “Every nation in Christendom,” says Mr. F. D. Maurice, “resorts to judicial oaths, imposes punishments, in some cases capital, and believes war, under certain circumstances, to be a duty. The question, then, becomes a very important one; is this meant to be so or not?”* He decides in the affirmative by an appeal to the Old Testament. But here lurks a fatal flaw: there is now no national election. By consequence the Sons of God, a supernational body, are not sharers in national administration, nor involved in national quarrels. The growth and decay of nations,** and their geographical boundaries, God Himself determines; the Socialist cannot overthrow nationalism: but the disciple is not technically a citizen: “For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come” (Heb. 13: 14). Nor is he cosmopolitan. As his metropolis is elsewhere, with the Kingdom to which he owes primary allegiance, he is a stranger and a pilgrim. The Lord is regulating the conduct of pilgrims*** - blameless and harmless, children of God, in a generation crooked and perverse (Phil. 2: 12-16); servants to whom strife is forbidden, gentle TOWARDS ALL, opposing only in meekness (2 Tim. 2: 24-26); sons exalted and perfected in a catholic love, and a perpetual charity.
** Their [See Greek…] (Acts 17: 26).
*** Iniquitous wealth (James 6: 1-7) and even slavery (1 Cor. 7: 20-24) call from the pilgrim only Divine patience: he knows that God has eternity in which to redress the balance of time. The antagonistic view is deeply infidel: “God can wait; the slums cannot. Every year they last adds to the sum of human misery and to this heavy indictment against God’s justice. ... Stand up to God bravely. If you think He is wrong, say so. It will hurt neither of you.” - Mr. J. Trevor’s Theology and the Slums, pp. 101 13.]
The disciple’s true relations to the State now emerge: he is
alien, but he is submissive. The maintaince of civil order God has
entrusted to the Gentile powers: “Let every soul be in
subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the
powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore
he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God”
(Rom. 13: 1, 2).* Socialism breaks in
successive but impotent waves against this rocky clur that guards the present
social order, for behind it is, the decision of God. “Put them in mind,”
says the Apostle, “to be in subjection to rulers, to
authorities” (Titus 3: 1). “Thou wouldest have
no power against
[* Force, the ultimate basis of rule, is not necessarily violence. “To possess power and to do violence,” says Count Tolstoy, “are synonymous terms.”‑Kingdom of God within You, p. 251. This is an abuse of language, if it is not a criminality of thought; yet it is by an argument so suicidal that he meets the retort, obvious and fatal, that the overthrow of the State would be the signal of anarchy.]
ALMSGIVING, PRAYER, AND FASTING.
Ch. 6: 1. Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them: else ye have no reward with your Father which is in heaven.
It is a fundamental of revelation that God is a Rewarder: our Lord assumes it. It is remarkable to observe how Christ unveils, as embedded in us all, the constant peril of a desire for the praise of others; and counterworks it by a constant reminder of God’s praise, and the danger of His forfeited reward. To seek glory from God is to seek the glory of God.
2. When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. 3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4. that thine alms may he in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
Our Lord also assumes that almsgiving, prayer, and fasting will be prominent among the works of His disciples. The Socialist scorns charity, and demands for the poor a share in communal wealth: our Lord assumes the permanence of poverty, and elevates charity into the highest rank of service. The disciple is to give, not for the amelioration of a disorganized society, but for the relief of the distressed individual. Pauperism ensues on the removal of the necessity of labour; but the Christian disciple is to ease the pain of individual sufferers under the stern economic law. Three only are to know of the disciple’s gift: himself, the sufferer, and God.
5. And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. 6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee. 7. And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8. Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.
Not public, but ostentatious, prayer is forbidden.* It is remarkable that God who, sinking His gaze to the moving springs, sees by what weights and wheels go, promises not only to answer sincere prayer, but to reward it. But garrulous petitions, worded for applause, are paid on the spot: they exhaust** their reward. Not repetition, but vain repetition,*** is forbidden, counted prayers, which depend for efficacy on prescribed rotation or parrot-like abundance. Only the tensely strung bow lodges its arrow in heaven. We do not ask for miracle, though we should for gifts of miracle.**** God decides whether to answer supernaturally,***** or by that complexity of power which controls creation’s minutest atom. “Your Father knoweth”; but He makes certain blessings dependent on our asking: He would win us to prayer.
[* Verse 6 treats of private, and verse 9 of public prayer.
** See Alford.
*** Mark 14: 39; cf. 1Kings 18: 26; Acts 19: 34. “That very abuse of prayer which our Lord here especially reproves,” says Dr. Tholuck, “has become authorized and honoured in His own Church by the rosary of the Roman Catholics.”
****1 Cor. 12: 31; 14: 1, 39; cf. Acts 4: 30. *****E.g., Acts 12: 5.]
9. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. 10. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. 11. Give us this day our daily bread. 12. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
The Lord’s Prayer is not a summary of the Gospel;* it is a model of approach for all believers to the throne of grace. (1) “Our Father which art in heaven”: because He is God, with a local sanctuary, and not a diffused influence; because, moreover, His is a fatherhood which, while it invites love, forbids familiarity. (2) Atheism sullies the Sacred Name, for it refuses to it its due: Idolatry also, for it shares, with others a glory due to it alone. The multitude defile it by profane oaths: the disciple would hallow it, Threefold, the epitome of the Faith. (3) The Church is to pray that the Kingdom should come; the two, then, are distinct. We pray for its coming, for it is absent; that it should come, not that we should go to it; that the sceptre of the world should pass into the hands of Christ, not that we should set up His Kingdom.** It is a crisis which can be hastened by prayer.*** (4) Liberalism is the freedom to do good or evil without infringing the rights of others: Socialism is the freedom to do that only which is directly profitable to all: Anarchism is the freedom of each to do his own will absolutely: Christian Faith is the freedom which chooses to do the will of God. Swift, sure, willing, exact, and entire is the angelic service; such, we pray, may be ours. (5) It is God, not the State, who is to grant to each, according to his needs, his essential*** bread; and to-morrow’s hunger is forestalled by to-day’s petition, not by to-day’s luxurious provision. (6) The sin of the godless life is obliterated: but transgression follows after belief. Here then is a startling revelation. The further forgiveness we are to receive depends, in kind and measure, on the forgiveness we practise; forgiving as we are forgiven, and forgiven even as we forgive.**** (7) Satan tempts that we may fall; God tempts to prove the good in us, or, through self-revelation, to produce good. But true self-knowledge shrinks from the searching test. From the evil without, and that within, we beseech deliverance. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thess. 4: 3).
[* As Count Tolstoy and Mr. Ruskin somewhat absurdly suppose. “We see at once,” says Dr. Tholuck, “that the prayer is given solely for His disciples.”
** The prevalent confusion of the Church and the Kingdom led the
Anglican Bishops, when touching on industrial problems, to represent disciples
as “occupied with Christ’s work of setting
** “I fancy,” says Mr. Ruskin, “that
the mind of the most faithful Christian is quite led away from its proper hope
by dwelling on the reign - or the coming again - of Christ; which indeed they
are to look for and watch for, but not to pray for.” - The Lord’s Prayer and the Church, P. 21;
*** For an exhaustive discussion … see Dr. Tholuck, Sermon, pp. 341-349. So was the Manna given. God controls the markets of the world. Famine is a sword of God; and when earth is to be vexed with the first faint signs of judgment, the issuing Angel is thus commanded:- “A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and the oil and the wine hurt thou not” (Rev. 6:. 6). It is His gift of sunshine or blight or hail, over the vast wheat-fields of continents, which apportions plenty, or sends exchange up to famine prices. Man lives by the words out of the mouth of God. See Lev. 25: 20‑23; 26: 3-26; Ps. 1: 12; Jer. 5: 24-29.
**** So Luke 6: 37, 39; Jas. 2: 12, 13; and especially Matt. 28: 21-35. “This petition,” says Dean Burgon, “becomes a terrible one on the lips of the implacable man, for thereby he closes the Gate of Mercy against himself; and declares his own dreadful sentence.” Christ instituted a rite to contain this truth (John 13: 1-11). “Herein,” as Augustine remarks, “is the daily Washing of the Feet, for them that are already partakers of the great Washing.” “On no other condition,” says Calvin, “does God admit us to pardon, but that we pardon our brethren whatever offences they have committed against us.” - Harmony of the Evangelists, vol. 1. p. 330; Edinburgh ed., 1845.
16. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. 17. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; 18. that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.
Fasting is Judiac and Roman; but it is also Christian. Our Lord assumes its survival throughout His mournful absence (Mark 2: 20), but forbids that ostentatious neglect of the toilet* which empties the observance of its self-humiliation.** A symbol od sorrow, it is a secret act between God and the soul.
[* Christ sanctions life’s civilities. As politeness is enjoined (Matt. 5: 47), so here ascetism is discouraged.
** “It is not because our body is evil,” says Bishop Gore, “that we are to fast; but because our body is, or is meant to be holy, and the effective instrument of the spirit.”‑ Sermon on the Mount, p. 116.]
19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal: 20. but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21. for where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also.
To wealth, and the disciple’s relation to earthly treasure,
Christ now turns with pregnant emphasis.
The Law sanctioned the amassing of riches: Christ forbids it. For not only is wealth the prey of moth and
thief; it not only mealts with waste with waste and wear,* breaking banks,
unsafe securities, and unscrupulous competition: but even when safest, and
because safest, the heart follows it as surely as the needle swings to the
north. God is a jealous God: He counsels the placing in Heaven
of both treasure and consequent affection. Quickly and eagerly, as the fabric
of the world totters, the disciple is to transfer his wealth to the abiding
City. But how? “Sell that
ye have, and GIVE ALMS: make for
yourselves, purses which wax not old, A
TREASURE IN THE HEAVENS that faileth not, where no thief draweth near,
neither moth destroyeth” (Luke 12: 33). Wondrous love, that provides a lasting
treasury for the goods of earth: wondrous wisdom, which has discovered so
blessed a method of investment! “Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the
[* … the corrosion of time and use; see Trench and Tholuck. Treasure is all that is treasured, stored, above and beyond daily requirement. “Marnmon,” says Bengel, “means not only affluence, but external goods, however few.”]
Here Socialism reveals itself as essentially un-Christian. “Poverty,” says Professor Shuttleworth, “tends directly to promote the growth of wickedness, and to hamper the advancement of wisdom and righteousness.”* “The Christian Socialist,” says Mr.. Stewart Headlam, “aims first at land nationalization, in order to the abolition of poverty”**; and it is the abolition of poverty to which Dr. Clifford looks as the happy fruit of Collectivism.*** “All asceticism, all, privation,” says Mr. Bax, “is in itself an unmitigated evil.”**** For it is the redistribution of earthly wealth, and not its renunciation, which sums up the Socialist’s profoundest aim, and on which he lavishes the full treasure of his heart. “Our first principle as Socialists,” says the Social Democratic Federation, “is that all should be well fed, well housed, and well educated. For this object we urge forward the Revolution”;* and “the Revolution,” says Herr Bebel, “does not seek new forms of religion, it denies religion altogether.” Our Lord’s aim is the welfare of all; but a welfare fed, not by wealth, but by that noble independence of things temporal which, while it suffers creation’s travail, humbly waits for its riches in creation’s redemption. Both Capitalism and Socialism, the greed to amass and the greed which covets, are essentially antagonistic to His ruling spirit, who commands contentment under poverty, and gift rather than demand. But here lies the fascination of Socialism. It is the ideal of the sensuous, worldly man; the Utopia of unbelief dressed in arguments of economic wisdom; its economy political, not heavenly; its motto “Comfort,” not “Duty”; a terrestrial religion from which God and Heaven, sin and judgment; have been banished. This antagonism, an antagonism of root principles, renders an incursion into the vast field of economic argument superfluous. “Every line I write,” said Lassalle, “I write armed with the whole culture of my century.” Earthly wealth is sought because heaven has become a mirage. “Socialism,” in the frank admission of Mr. Karl Pearson, “arises from the recognition that the sole aim of mankind is happiness in this life.”1 “To love each other as brothers and sisters,” says Mr. Blatchford, “and to love the earth as mother of us all, that is part of our new religion. Our new religion tears the old dogmas to tatters.”2 Thus Infidelity is the handmaid of Socialism, and Socialism the un-erected palace of the Infidel. “The belief in God,” says Karl Marx, “is the keystone of a perverted civilization.” “God,” says Proudham, “is the real evil.” “Surely now,” says a stout defender of the Atheistic founders of Socialism, “when the paradises and elysiums of the creeds are fast perishing from the hopes of men, it is time we were setting ourselves to the realization of our fullest hopes of life upon earth.”3 Yet the triumph of Materialism will not inaugurate a Socialistic era. For what is good in Socialism rests on sympathy with the poor4; and unbelief, by cutting off this altruistic stream at its source, reopens he fountain of cynical greed in individual the ambition, class monopoly, an general worship of power. Treasure is not to be laid up in personal fortune, communal wealth, State treasuries, or ecclesiastical endowments: it can be stored, safely and righteously, only in Heaven.
[* Vox Clamantium, p. 9. ** Christian Socialism, p.11. *** Socialism and the Teaching of Christ, p. 10.
****Ethics of Socialism, p. 145. The roots of the social problem are in Genesis. Labour may be painful, distressing, homicidal; or its heaviest shackles may be knocked off until it grows more nearly into, the fine function of un-tired nerve, and brain, and muscle; but labour it ever remains, difficult, precarious, and exhaustive, for in the sweat of his brow man must earn his bread. And at last it ends in death. For man has gone forth from the Tree of Life, and the land he has entered is the land of the play of terrible forces, and the realm of a perpetual struggle with dissolution. The doctrine is denied: the fact survives immutable and remorseless. Mankind is, economically, under the Iron Law; and the Christian disciple is bound to labour by stringent command. If he work not, neither, in the Spirit’s stern words, should he eat (2 Thess. 3: 10).
1 The Ethic of Free Thought, P. 319.
2 The New Religion, P. 3;
3 The Religion of Socialism, p. 16; 2nd ed.; by Miss Conway and Yr. J. B. Glasier. Some 120 Socialist Sunday Schools instruct thousands of children that Marx is “greater than God,” and the Red Dawn, a magazine for the young, says “Even the poor, downtrodden Jesus we leave to his class. The world during all ages has created a God suitable to the epoch, and, as we change the world, so will we change our God.”
4 The Christian may also receive from Socialism a quickened sense of the corruption of institutions; the perils of wealth; the terrors of others' destitution; the labour of man against man, instead of man with man:- the general disease of a world cradled in the Wicked One. But this is distinct from an acceptance of Socialism. “As Socialism becomes pacific, religious, and constitutional,” says Signor Nitti, “it is sure to meet with ever-increasing sympathy among Catholics.” For Catholicism has always tended to the sacrifice of the individual to society, as the Reformation was a reaffirmation of the sacredness of the individual conscience. But true Socialism is barred for ever by Infallibility. “Our first and most fundamental principle,” says Pope Leo XIII., “when we undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.” - Encyclical on Socialism, 1891.]
22. The lamp of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness! 24. No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
The straightforward, unclouded, liberal eye; controlled by one master aim,* and reflecting a definite image of Christ and His Kingdom - if this be withdrawn, and be replaced by the blurred vision** and the clouded conscience that covet treasure both here and hereafter, the natural darkness resumes, its sway, and the discipleship is ruined by provision for the lusts of the flesh. “I am constantly longing for wealth,” says Mr. Henry George, “Wealth would bring me comforts and luxuries which I cannot now obtain; it would give me more congenial employments and associates; it would enable me to cultivate my mind, and exert to a fuller extent my powers; it would give me the ability to minister to the comfort and enjoyment of those I love most; and therefore it is my principal object in life to obtain wealth, or at least more of it than I have at present.*** But mammon-worship, however disguised by economic argument or buttressed by philanthropy, excludes Divine worship: “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
[* Greek] – single, undistracted. ** [Greek] - spiritually diseased.
*** Quoted by
25. Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? 26. Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? 27. And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his stature? 28. And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
The perils of wealth having now been removed, our Lord addresses Himself to the anxieties of poverty. For if mammon, the unrighteous wealth, is not to be stored, how is provision to be made for Sickness, old age, and adversity? The Lord, who forbids, will provide. For behind nature stands God; in whose eyes is the fall of every sparrow, and before whom all substance becomes as shadow. Shall He not feed and clothe the bodies which He first created and then redeemed? Thought is not forbidden, nor daily provision for the household (1 Tim. 5: 8); banking is not forbidden, if it be for current needs, (John 13: 29); work is not forbidden, for the idle disciple is not to be fed (2 Thess. 3: 10); but anxiety is. It is the solicitude, says Augustine, not the labour, which is excluded. For consider the lilies, blown in a thousand fields; still rosy with the dust from their Maker’s fingers, or white as no fuller can bleach; more gorgeous than Solomon, more perfect in leaf and petal than silk from the loom, or the sheen of the satin of queens: lovely, though they be, but to decay, and to-morrow they shall be as dust.
30. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31. Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we he clothed? 32. For after all these things do the Gentiles* seek: for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
[* Rather the nations, [See Greek] - antithetical to the Church.]
Christ is addressing men of faith; but tenderly rebukes their little faith. For not only are they worshippers of God and despisers of mammon: their God is a Father, by the adoption of grace. As God, He knows our needs; as Father, He will supply them. Simple, childlike trust; a trust that wells up from a deep love and a consecrated life; a trust that puts its hands into the hands of our Father, to be led whithersoever He will; a trust that means profound distrust of the world, and a thirst for the enduring riches; such is the sweet, deep, pure, powerful trust of the faithful disciple. He who has abandoned all may also abandon himself to Christ.
33. But seek ye first His kingdom, and His righteousness: and all these things shall be added unto you. 34. Be not therefore anxious, for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
“Not here the forensic righteousness of justification [by faith],” as Dean Alford observes, “but the spiritual purity inculcated in this discourse.”* In the kingdom of grace the disciple already stands (Col. 1: 13); the Thousand Years, the abundant entrance on eternal life (2 Pet. 1: 11), requires, in addition, the higher standard of righteousness set up by our Lord in the Sermon. “I suffered the loss of all things, ... if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead. ... One thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching toward to the things, that are before, I press on toward the goal;unto the PRIZE of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3: 8-14). The [Millennial] Kingdom, the royal prize, is the controlling passion of the faithful soul. “Let us therefore,” adds the Apostle, “as many as be perfect, be thus minded.” But for so absorbing a pursuit, requiring the entire faculties, God would free the disciple alike from the cloying encumbrance of wealth, and the paralyzing distractions of anxiety. To-day’s burden is ours,** tomorrow’s is God’s: take short views of life, and let God take the long ones.
[* So also Tholuck and Govett. “What is to form the object and aim of our striving,” says Dr. Meyer, “is the Messianic Kingdom, the becoming partakers in it, the being admitted into it, and the moral righteousness which God imparts to the believer to assist him, to attain the [that] Kingdom.” Cf. Matt. 1: 12; 2 Thess. 1: 5; Rev. 11: 15-18, etc. God begins to impart righteousness from the first moment that He imputes it.
[** “Seek first.” Food and clothing are also to be sought; [work] is lawful, but not …: work is commanded, anxiety is forbidden; but work is incidental, the Kingdom is essential. The prohibition of anxiety even for to-morrow is very remarkable.]
THE EXERCISE OF JUSTICE
Ch. 7: 1. Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.
Discrimination Christ commands in this very chapter (vers. 6, 16): it is the judicial bench which is denied to the disciple. Proving this, our Lord in Luke splits the judicial act into its constituent parts: “And judge not, and ye shall not be judged; and condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: release, and ye shall be released” (Luke 6: 37). “Christ,” says Count Tolstoy, “forbade all earthly tribunals of justice.”* Such quintessence of anarchy, nowhere taught by Him, would endanger the very fabric of society. Our Lord does not condemn the exercise of State justice; but forbids the disciple to share in it. Discipline, necessarily based on acts of judgment, is commanded within the Church;** but to all without the disciple, forgiving because forgiven, is to be merciful as, and as long as, God is; an attitude which incapacitates him for that rigorous exaction of the law rightly demanded of the magistrate. Upon the believer who judges, and therefore in countless cases sentences, justice will recoil: “For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy” (James 2: 13).
[* Christ's Christianity, p. 124. ([The Greek …] is to pronounce upon with judicial authority. See Tholuck.) “The magistrate,” says Prince Kropotkine, “I detest even more than the snake.” “By flinging overboard Law, Religion, and Authority, mankind regain possession of the moral principle which has been taken from them.” Anarchist Morality, pp. 8, 13; San Francisco, 1888.
** Matt. 18: 15-17; 1 Cor. 5: 12. By an oversight of this distinction Bishop Gore is led to suppose Matt. 18: 15-17 contradictory to the literal acceptance of Matt. 5: 39, 40, - Sermon on the Mount, p. 104. Judgment will be given to the saints in the epoch of judgment (Dan. 7: 22; Rev. 20: 4).]
3. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Not rebuke of a brother,* but the unfit state of the rebuker, is here condemned. The magisterial spirit, as well as the magisterial function, is unsuited to the disciple: censoriousness is not only unlovely, but often hypocritical. Criticism of others is speculative: self-examination is practical.
[* See 1 Tim. 5: 20; Titus 2: 15; 1 Thess. 5: 14.]
6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.
Deeply sundered as by a piercing arrow, the masses of men, brought face to face with Christ, divide inevitably into believers and unbelievers. He is the obstructing Rock past which flow the two mighty currents of mankind.* The solidarity of the race – “the idea of humanity as a vital organism, itself the creation and gift of the Christ” - is here repudiated by Christ Himself in words we should hardly have dared to use. He assumes that His disciples will be able to discriminate the two classes correctly implies that they must so distinguish; and he forbids our inner sanctities to be conferred on the lustful and the carnal. Holy rites and doctrinal margarites, the peculiar treasures of Faith, rouse the brutality of unbelief, and endanger the disciple.**
[* Both dogs and swine were unclean under the Law. But now the principle of separation is deepened: then it was ceremonial; now it is spiritual. The cleavage can disappear only with the unbelief.]
** To unbelievers the Gospel is offered because, while it proclaims; the separation, it invites its removal. Otherwise the cleavage is eternal (Rev. 22: 15).]
THE GOLDEN RULE.
7. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8. for every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone; 10. or if he shall ask for a fish, will give him a serpent?
Christ now presents to His disciples the golden key, the enablement of the high tasks set them, which lies in direct access to the Father. The kernel of prayer is here revealed: the what? - all good things; the how? - with triple importunity; the to whom? - your heavenly Father; the why? - because the asker receives, the seeker finds, the knocker enters. Here is the perpetual fountain of enabling grace.
11. “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?
“If ye then, being evil.” Our
Lord, as Bishop Gore has said,*
could not have more forcibly expressed human corruption, or our need of
regeneration. Society is but the
multiplied individual: bad individuals make bad society; and love, honesty,
industry, cannot be manufactured at Collectivist factories, or laid on like
gas. Individual sin has been the ruin of every institution. The iron of system
is mixed with the clay of humanity, and disaster ensues. The Socialist, who,
for aught of sin he sees, seems to have come fresh from
[* Sermon on the Mount, p. 169.]
**Looking Upward, p, 188. The delusion of the Socialist, says Mr. Herbert Spencer, is that “an ill-working humanity may be framed into well-working institutions.”- Social Statics, p. 326.
*** “The man who did most to reform the social life of England in the last, century,” says Dean Moore Ede, “was John Wesley. His, appeal was direct: it was an appeal to the individual.” - The Church and Town Problems; Cambridge, 1896.]
12. All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do, unto you, even so do ye also unto them: for this is the law and, the prophets.
Heathen versions of the Golden Rule are all negative:* reminiscences of primitive revelation proofs of an indwelling conscience. It is embedded in exhortations to prayer – “all things therefore” - because, while the pagan ethic shows what should not be done, Christ shows how to do what should. “There can be nothing simpler,” says Bishop Bossuet, “than this principle; nothing more far-reaching in practice; for all human society is included in it.”** If you hunger, you crave a little food; if your coat is threadbare, you shiver; if heart-sick, you yearn for sympathy: O child of God, you represent Him to these poor sufferers; you are to love them as you would be loved; turn them not from your door, lest God send into your life the despairing sob with which they turned away.
[* See Dr. Tholuck’s Sermon on the Mount, p. 412. ** The Sermon on the Mount, p. 138; trans. London, 1900.]
13. Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby. 14. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.
It is disciples - men already justified, and received as conscious followers - whom Christ addresses. He offers them a choice of principles. The strait gate is a renounced world, a heart-whole discipleship; the consequent way is narrowed by the strict nature of His peculiar and isolating principles. It has to be found, for all feet are naturally in the broad; its reward is Life, a synonym for the revealed Kingdom.* The wide gate is a bridge between Christ and the world; the consequent way is an easy morality, thronged by professing discipleship, and ending, for both disciple and unbeliever, in terrible disillusionment.** Christ means what He commands:- He requires love of the brethren; purity of heart; abstinence from oaths; perfect mercy and love; unostentatious righteousness; wealth treasured in heaven; freedom from anxiety; abstention from judgment; separation from the unclean; importunate prayer.*** As salt is unique in its flavour, and the disciple is charged with peculiarity; so the higher path is restricted, and will be assailed as narrowness. Indescribably solemn and pathetic are His closing words: “Few be they that find it.”****
[* Cp. Mark 9: 43 with 47.
** It is - such is the force of the second … - the crowded concourse in the broad way which drains the narrow. Life offers its ample halls: man’s will remains outside.
*** A conclusive proof that Christian disciples are subject to these commands lies in their reproduction, in almost every detail, in the Epistles, a reinforcement of this Decalogue of Christ.
**** It is the Decalogue of the Church. See, for fuller exposition, Mr. Govett's Sermon on the Mount Expounded, pp. 289-300.]
15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. 16. By their fruits ye shall know them.
A profession of Christian faith can cloke a heart of brutal antagonism. “But beware.” [See Alford] Rigid austerity of life, endorsing and surpassing the abstinences of the strait gate, will claim to be the original Faith, while really destructive of it like a corrosive acid. A prophet’s fruit is especially his doctrine*; as a flute breathed through from the unseen, his essence in sap and bud flowers in his prophecy. Infidelity masquerading as Christian faith, exhibited of old in Gnosticism, is reviving to-day its hypocritical fleece. . Count Tolstoy, for example, exalts the Sermon, and professes essential Christianity**; yet denies the supernatural, and therefore the Incarnation and Resurrection; the Godhead of Christ; the redemption of fallen man; the Holy Trinity; all specific revelation; even, it appears, a personal God.*** Voltaire, says the Russian ascetic, not unreasonably called the Christian Church But the especial reference appears to be to later times, and false prophets:- men inspired by unclean spirits, and upholding false Christs, on the eve of the Advent.****
[* The tongue, says Calvin, is the portrait of the mind. The fruit of the children of light is “in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth” (Eph. 5: 9).
** Crammed in title and text with Christian phrases, his works claim to set forth the primitive Christian Faith. Yet of orthodox Christianity he says:- “The teaching to children of this so-called religion, which is taking place among us, is the most dreadful crime we can possibly imagine. Torture, murder, the violation of children are nothing in comparison with this crime.” ‑Religious Education of the Young, p. 2. Comment is superfluous.
he says, “puts in the place of what men call ‘God’
a right understanding of life. ... No man can
see or know an external God; therefore our life cannot take for its aim the
service of such a God. ... Understanding of
life is God.” ‑Gospel in Brief, pp.
157, 158. “According to the
Christian teaching, God is that essence of
life which man recognizes, both within himself and in the whole universe, as
the desire for welfare.” – Christ’s
Teachings, p. 7; trans.
**** Matt. 24: 24; Rev. 13.]
17. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
How simple and exhaustive is the discrimination of Christ: ‑that it is the issues of a man’s life, his words and acts, which classify him; not a historical succession, nor attachment to a society; not the austerity of his life, but the graciousness and love that pervade it; not even the prophetic power when severed from the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5: 22). “Ye shall know them thoroughly”* [*See Alford]: the wolf reveals himself, classifies himself. “First make the tree good:” not by richness of soil, or strength of sunshine; but, engrafted into the Vine, by change of sap and fibre.
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
21. Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.
[* Therefore the
criticism is baseless which charges Scriptural “Chiliasm” with being carnal and
visionary. The Kingdom embraces, indeed,
the physical world, which is yet to be regenerate (Matt.
19: 28; Isa. 65: 17‑25); it lingers still in the region of inspired
vision; but the qualities fitting for entrance into it are, above all,
practical, and, beyond all, spiritual. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is
** Social Aspects of
Christianity, p. 86;
*** Critics of a literal acceptance of the Sermon perplex themselves by noting the embarrassing consequences of universal obedience. But Christ foresaw, and continuously implies, that no popular concourse would throng the strait gate, or, by a world-wide obedience, dissolve the very assumption on which the Sermon is constructed. Cf. Luke 18: 8.
****But this effect ceases when the Salt becomes foolish, silly, (Mat. 5: 13).
***** John 3: 5; Heb. 10: 16. Bishop
Westcott’s forecast is thus premature: “We wait
for the next stage in the growth of the State when, in full and generous
co-operation, each citizen shall offer the fullness of his own life that he may
rejoice in the fulness of the life of the body.” – Socialism, p. 8;
****** Matt. 19: 28. It is obvious that the obstinate rejection of these prophecies in favour of a general triumph of the Faith must, in the minds of benevolent casuists when met with the final facts, create such a shock of confusion and heart-burning disillusionment as to rock their faith to its foundations (Dan. 11: 35; Matt. 24: 10).]
22. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by Thy name, and by Thy name cast out devils, and by Thy name do many mighty works? 23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.
The most studied forecast of social and political development is apt to be disturbed by the invading forces of the unseen. Our eyes scan only the narrow shore on which beat the shining seas of angelic worlds. But the prophet, the mouthpiece of unseen powers, is not proved holy by exorcism or inspired utterance. So Philanthropy, clothed in its inadequate rags, will hold them forth for Divine approval, and, as here, be amazed at their rejection.* But the invocation of Christ’s name by the wicked, with resultant miracle, being hitherto unfulfilled, must, as Augustine saw,** occur in the last days. “And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour forth of My Spirit upon ALL FLESH” (Acts 2: 17). Humanitarianism, divorced from the supernatural, is benevolent Unbelief; reinforced by the supernatural, it is the higher Paganism. For Christ is the supreme and eternal criterion. Not to be known of Him is not to know Him: He knows those in whom He recognizes Himself.
[* “Instead of inanely repeating the old formula, ‘Respect the law,’” says Prince Kropotkine, “we say, ‘Despise law and all its attributes.’ In place of the cowardly phrase, ‘Obey the law,’ our cry is, ‘Revolt against all laws!’” - Law and Authority, p. 6. So his Anarchism in Socialistic Evolution, Appeal to the Young, Anarchist Communism, etc.
** “It must be either the Sermon on
the Mount or the Creed,” says Count
Tolstoy. “No man can believe in both. ... A man who believes in God, in the
Christ who is coming in His glory, to judge and punish the dead and the living,
cannot believe in a Christ who commands us to turn the other cheek to the
THE LAWS OF CHRIST
24. Every one therefore which heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, which built his house upon the rock: 25. and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon the rock. 26. And every one that heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man which built his house upon the sand: 27. and the rain descended', and the floods came, and the wind blew, and smote upon that house; and it fell : and great was the fall thereof.
“Our Lord,” says Bishop Gore, “is giving us principles, not laws.”* But the formal gravity with which, one by one, He quotes the laws of Moses, to confirm or rescind; the solemn imperative of every utterance; the consecutive code covering and regulating so vast a field of the disciple’s action; the final classification of hearers between doers and disobedient:- if principles, most surely they bind also with the finality of laws. Abysmal profundities, deep spiritual principles, impulses to action as they are, their dominant characteristic is yet the intense practicalness of the commands. The Sermon is full of realistic examples, lest we should be touched only to an unobedient admiration of abstract principles. “The vast danger,” as Bishop Gore admits, is lest, while professing to obey its “spirit,” we fail to practise those specific acts by which Christ would have us prove, and not merely assert, a noble disregard for our selfish interests. By many methods, Christians evade obedience to the Sermon. (1) It is Jewish, and therefore not obligatory on the Church**: (2) it is impracticable, and therefore a counsel of perfection given only as an ideal***: (3) it applies, to the disciple’s private life, and certain of his public acts may conform to the Roman law of the State****: (4) it is the rule of conduct for Christ’s future Kingdom, and therefore may now be disregarded.***** Its simplicity is a snare to the proud.****** Its collision with Gentile militarism and heathen codes is a menace to the timorous. Its strenuous self-denial is distasteful to the indolent. Its beatitude of poverty (Luke 6: 20, 24) is a stumbling-block to the rich, and an obstacle to the ambitious. Its law of love offends international rivalry and personal feud. Its way of sorrows has no tangible compensation but a crown of thorns. Its profound unworldliness, so subtle a proof of its truth, alienates the multitude, and perplexes the averted face of the disciple. Nevertheless obedience, the fine test of discipleship, is imperative. “But the Comforter,” said Christ, “even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance ALL THAT I SAID UNTO YOU” (John 14: 26). The largest consecutive body of His teaching preserved and recalled, through the pressure of modern perplexities, to a forgetful Church, is enfolded in this code of Christ. It is recalled, to be obeyed: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost: TEACHING. THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WRATSOEVER I COMMANDED YOU: and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28: 19, 20). No ecumenical council, no catholicity of tradition, no assumed infallibility of Pope or Church, will save the body of disciples, disobedient, from rebuke; no insistent claim on the privileges of grace, or repudiation of responsibility for works done after faith; no empty admiration or praise of precepts insulted by non-observance:- for Catholic, and Calvinist, and Socialist alike, for every bearer whose hearing does not become doing, the ruins of his house of works will fall about him in disastrous overthrow. The Rock here is the sayings of Christ: on which he who builds his life builds strongly, and builds wisely. Wave and wind of apostasy will sap and beat in vain.******* The Sand is every other body of principles for controlling action, however plausible in economic argument, however wise in apparent conciliation of a sceptical world; however splendid with panoply of erudition, and pomp of patristic lore, and labour of science. “This is My beloved Son,” saith God; “hear Him.”
[* Sermon on the Mount, P.
103. Or, as Bishop Stubbs expresses
it, “The Sermon on the Mount is not to be taken as the
direct measure of the Christian practice, but as the unalterable standard of
the Christian spirit.” ‑ Christ
and Economics, p. 83 ;
** That teaching cannot be Jewish which repeals laws of Moses, exalts or revises others, defines fresh offences, creates, a new people of God, distinguished by spiritual, not fleshly, distinctions, and deepens and amplifies both penalties and rewards. The commands, monover, are repeated in the Epistles. The Epistles duplicate seven leading characteristics of the Sermon on the Mount: (1) prohibition of oaths - Jas. 5: 12; (2) non-resistance - 1 Cor. 6: 7; (3) love towards enemies - Rom. 12: 20; (4) fasting - 2 Cor. 6: 5; (5) the peril of un-forgiveness - Jas. 2: 13; (6) renunciation of wealth - Jas. 5: 1; and (7) the command to seek the Kingdom - 1 Thess. 2: 12, R.V. So those to whom Jesus is Lawgiver are always a heavenly people - which excludes the Jew: yet also a suffering people - which excludes the Millennial Age. If persecuted, “great is your reward in heaven” (Matt, 5: 12); if Wise, they would “lay up treasures in heaven” (Matt. 6: 20); if justly excommunicated, it would be ratified “in heaven” (Matt. 18: 18); if escaping the Tribulation, it is a heavenly escape – “To stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21: 36) returning on the clouds of heaven; if in the Kingdom, in its heavenly compartment (2 Tim. 4: 18). This rich legacy of command, is, as Bishop Wordsworth says, a perfect code of Christian duty.
*** If it be the rule of life only for society perfected, how can that perfection be brought nearer by present infringement and abeyance of the rule? The Church’s blessing invoked on flag and legal warrant promotes war, not peace, justice, not mercy; and perpetuates indefinitely conditions in which obedience is imprisoned, and compromise is endowed. Christ’s ideals are obligatory.
**** If the Sermon binds at all, it binds disciples; if it binds disciples, it must control all the actions to which the Sermon refers; if, therefore, this control is inconsistent with political, legal, military, or. commercial life, the disciple has no option but to withdraw from them. Our duty is not to revise Christ’s laws, but to obey them. Luther's distinction (Meyer on v. 41) between the disciple as a Christian and as a man of affairs is obviously unsound.
***** This evasion is equally tenable. For the Kingdom is to be controlled by swift and, where necessary, consuming justice. . See Zech. 14: 66-19; Ps. 2: 8-12 ; Isa. 11: 1-10; Rev. 12: 5. “And he that overcometh, and he that keepeth My works unto the end, to him will I give authority over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are broken to shivers.” (Rev. 2: 26, 27): the Millennial Age will be a rule of sharp, retributive justice; unresisting grace and poverty-stricken renunciation will have vanished from the enthroned and judging co-heirs of Christ. Here Mr. J. N. Darby trips:- “When the Kingdom shall be established hereafter in power, the world will be governed according to these principles.” Synopsis, vol. iii. p. 55, 2nd ed. Persecution, anger, lust, hate, hypocrisy, fasting, mammon, anxiety, false prophets, are present facts only to be met by an immediate application of Christ’s principles, here thrown into the form of laws.
****** Some think the Sermon on the Mount is confined to a “dispensation of the Acts”; others, that it is reserved for a Jewish remnant yet to arise; others again, that it will be the rule of the Millennial Age: that is, it is for any age but our own, and for anyone but ourselves. That there is no single alternative view proves at once that there is none such in the context; nor does it seem to reveal a very eager love in us to do all that our Lord commands if we tax ingenuity to discover why we should not.
******* The peculiar importance of these words lies in the prophecy implied: that disciples faithfully obedient to the Sermon will be so founded upon rock, so fenced by the barriers of defensive grace that, the Apostasy, in which all storms will throng together to the attack, will be powerless to seduce, and equally powerless to. overwhelm.]
Socialism is but a phase, and now a
passing phase, the wider phenomenon of democracy. Democracy is the world’s last
hope for achieving Utopia. Never was the
Clay - the brittle, unstable, fragile populace - more freely mixed in, yet
hopelessly un-amalgamated with, the hard crushing Iron of Imperialism (Dan. 2: 43.)
Democracy in 1919 reached in
It is essential that we should grasp the attitude of the Most High to modern democracy. Democracy – “the government of the people, for the people, by the people” - is the long-suffering of God granting to the less cultured classes such political power as will prove whether the miscarriage of all human government is due to its form, or to its sin; so that, when moral disaster overtakes republics equally with empires, every mouth may be stopped, and every order of sinner - whether Chaldean absolutist, Persian satrap, Greek oligarch, Roman militarist, or modern democrat - be proved, by sin, equally incompetent to control the world. To prove whether bad government springs from ancient barriers - monarchy, peerage, or sex - God grants adult suffrage at last, until the whole Colossus-Man - collapses in ruin. And it is exceedingly remarkable that an exactly parallel test, with a like piebald effect, holds good in the Christian Church. For through Plymouth Brethrenism, probably the most democratic polity ever known in the Church of Christ, God has appealed to a democratic age with a spiritual appeal of pure democracy; and so also the last Church named in Scripture, and that which will precede the final crash, is Laodicea – “judgment ,by the people” – God’s closing probation of the organized Church, in which He entrusts the maximum of power to the non-ministerial elements of the Assembly.* For in both State and Church the whole organism is being tested (in grace and love) down to the last man. “He who can spiritualize democracy,” said Mazzini, “will save the world.”
[* On its evil side it means the capture of thousands of
churches by Socialism. The International
Socialist Congress, which met at
For now we see the goal to which God is tending. Every form of Government, when administered by righteous men, brings ample blessings in its wake; it is iniquity, and not polity, that wrecks nations.* A Tsar who abandons Jehovah for a Rasputin is given over to be shot: a Red Republic, abolishing all law courts (Times, September 10th 1918) and flinging open all prisons, goes down in blood and fire. The vast and changing forces which we are now confronting, threatening not forms of government but government itself, have been thus strikingly stated by a close and shrewd political observer. Mr. Frederic Harrison. “Would that men could see that we are living not only in the crisis of the greatest war that has ever afflicted mankind, but also in the Advent of Revolution, at once material, moral, and spiritual; wider, I believe, and deeper than any which in some thousand years has transformed civilization on earth. The Russian Revolution, in its scale of population and area, in its overwhelming changes, in its suddenness and velocity, exceeds any revolution yet known. Now in a state of revolution things move, change, appear and disappear with lightning velocity. Things which we imagine to be trifles swell up into incalculable forces: changes, which in normal times could hardly be worked through in generations, spring up completed in months or weeks.”** For spiritual agents in the unseen are precipitating a world-crisis at lightning speed. “In the course of the present Armageddon,” says Mr. A. P. Sinnett, the Theosophist, “Unseen Powers embodying loftier knowledge than common humanity has yet reached are taking part in the struggle. Some of us are in conscious touch with them.”***
[* At the same time it is true that, exactly as Apostles, directly inspired and miracle-gifted, ruled God’s ideal Church, so, even among nations wholly regenerate at last, God’s ideal government is literally aristocracy - not rule by the good, much less rule by the many, but rule by the best. - Rev. 22: 5.
** Fortnightly Review, March, 1918. *** Nineteenth Century, March, 1916.]
THE COLLAPSE OF DEMOCRACY
For it is slowly dawning on careful thinkers that
world-salvation is no more lodged in democracy than in monarchy. The idea that the world is safe in the hands
of any class of the unregenerate is a pure chimera.* How stern was the disillusionment that awaited
Charles James Fox when he cried, on
the fall of the Bastille: “By how much is this the
greatest event that ever happened in the world, and by how much the best!” “I am sorry,” exclaimed
[* In 1906 Labour, by a card-vote, advocated the expulsion of religion from the schools by 817,000 to 76,000; in 1907 by 1,239,000 to 126,000; and in 1908 by 1,433,000 to 131,000. “In all the Russian schools have been organised compulsory lessons, beginning with the youngest children, called ‘Atheism courses,’ to train them in the non-existence of a Divine being” (Times, Dec. 28th, 1918).]
But a further fact unfolds itself. Lawless democracy produces an invariable
anarchy and iniquitous tyranny act and react in a vicious and ineludable
Democracy he anathematizes along with Capitalism. “Democracy is a State which recognizes the subjection of the minority to the majority, that is, an organization for the systematic use of violence by one class against the other.”* [*Times, Dec. 15th. 1920.] Finding that human nature, steeped in sin, refuses to respond to altruistic ideals, Communism finds itself forced, in order to make its ideals actual, to create an autocracy more ruthless than the autocracies it supplanted, and so provides the inevitable dictator with his absolutism. Bolshevism aiming at world-revolution as a stage towards universal centralization; and “Russian so peasants who hope for a return to civilized life - and there are thousands - say, ‘We trusted in God and the Emperor and the Allies. God punishes us. The Emperor has left us. Only the Allies are left. If they don’t come, the Antichrist will.’”* [Times, Dec. 28, 1918.]
For democracy, in common with Imperialism and every other
modern movement, betrays most dangerous Messianic symptoms. It was a saying of Mazzim’s that “Great social
transformations have never been, and never will be, other than the application
of a religious principle, of a moral development, of a strong and active
faith. On the day when democracy shall
elevate itself to the position of a religious party, it will carry away the
victory, not before.” “What is happening now throughout the world,” we are
told, “is equal in importance to the events which
occurred at the time of Christ and after. The Russian Revolution may be said to
herald the second coming of Christ, the revelation of which will come again out
of the East - out of Russia; not the end of the world, but the end of the false
civilization of Europe.”* [*English review, 1918.] Lassalle, who was, with
Karl Marx, the founder of Socialism, “is looked upon
by his disciples,” says
[* For it is the Beast, not the Woman - the imperial power,
not the ecclesiastical - which the Spirit paints entirely scarlet (Rev. 17: 3.)
Antichrist will be born in the cradle of anarchy. “Never was there
such fanaticism as now, dominating everything in
impressive of the “mystery of iniquity” sub-terraneously at work, now shortly
to appear above the surface, are the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.* [*The Jewish Peril,
[* The Russian professor who edits the documents (presumably a
Greek Catholic) closes in words remarkably revealing another phase of
developing prophecy. “The hour has struck for summoning the Eighth Ecumenical
Council, to which, oblivious of the quarrels which have parted them for so many
centuries, will congregate the pastors and representatives of the whole of
Christianity, to meet the advent of the Antichrist.” It is the Woman preparing to confront the
Beast. For Rome, ever anti-Semite, is preparing to
merge back into her ancient source - the most implacable foe Israel ever had
the older Babylon (Zech. 5: 11); and this
book, instead of distinguishing carefully the monstrous apostates from Moses,
who are the root of Bolshevism, from the innocent masses of Israel, so
confounds the two, and so studiedly inflames the old racial prejudice, that it
may yet provoke savage pogroms even in the British Isles. Papal
“In the days of those kings” - could any music be sweeter to our ears? – “shall the God of Heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never
be destroyed.” (Dan. 2: 44.) The epoch of the struggle of the Iron and the
Clay is the epoch of the return of Christ.
The advance of democracy over the
ruins of monarchies is so sure and rapid that, were the Advent indefinitely
delayed, it is doubtful if many kings - assumed by prophecy as present at the
end - would survive. The fallen
thrones of the Tsars and the Kaisers; the seven monarchies swept away in