Let us now consider briefly the magnitude of the work Jesus proposed to do as the end of his mission to men.
It is the baldest commonplace to say the work Jesus proposed to accomplish transcends all the dreams of the boldest imagination.
It is a deep offense that once, at St. Helena, Napoleon contrasted the work Jesus proposed to do with the dreams that he and Alexander and Julius Caesar had indulged of world-changing conquests. It is no great thing that selfish, ambitions, and gifted men have dreamed of conquering what we call the world by force. Caesar, Alexander, Mohammed, Napoleon, even poor wild El Mahdi of the desert, may dream such dreams. But what are such dreams when we think of Jesus and the work he proposed to do and set himself to do?
We do not like to think of the dreams of ambition, the loftiest that ever dared or planned a world-wide scheme of conquest, when we are listening to Jesus concerning his mission to men. Jesus speaks of the conquest of all nations, not as they then were, but of all nations for all times. It is nothing less and nothing else than the moral and spiritual re-creation of the human race, the absolute conquest of the love of men's hearts for time and eternity.
Say what men may of Jesus, it was worth dying, in shame and agony, upon a Roman cross to have had such thoughts, even for one moment. No mere man ever had such thoughts, could originate such thoughts, or for long hold such thoughts in his grasp. The end Jesus proposed to himself is as far above the noblest thoughts of the noblest men as the splendors of the midnight heavens are above the cheap glitter of a toy-shop.
The thought of saving a race was as extra-human and superhuman as the thought of the universe; the saving of a race, the saving of one man, is as far beyond man's power as the creation itself.
We cannot grasp the conception Jesus had of the work he came to do; it makes us dizzy when we contemplate it steadily; it is like trying to realize the distances of the fixed stars. Its splendor blinds us; it is like looking at the unclouded sun.
No one, whatever may be his opinion of Jesus or attitude toward him, can question that he believed absolutely in the success of the work he proposed to accomplish. His plans embrace the entire race of man and require eternity for their consummation, but he speaks of these stupendous things with the perfect assurance and simplicity of a little child: "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me."
It were hard to say which is most unlike a mere man: the character of the work he proposed to do, the magnitude of it, the unhasting zeal with which he set about it, or his absolute confidence, calmness, and simplicity of manner in telling men about it.
It is impossible to write worthily on such a theme. Let us, if only for a moment, try to see how unlike a mere man it is.
Jesus considers the sources of man's misery and the nature of his remedy. It is all open, clear, and certain to his thoughts. He has not the least possible doubt that he has gone to the root of the subject and absolutely knows it all. What has confounded all human thinkers is the sunlight to his vision. When the strongest and best of mean tries to mine into the depths of man's nature and misery he labors heavily and breather hard, like a diver in his coat of mail down in the deep sea. When a man attempts to tell what he thinks he sees in the shadows from which he cannot escape, while meditating these difficult and to him impossible themes, he is in sore travail for words; utterance is heavy and confused. But Jesus makes no effort to grasp the truth; his thoughts are clear and complete to him; his language simple and clear to us. It is like this: "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts." Therefore, there must be, not reformation only, but change. "Ye must be born again," is his first word to Nicodemus and to all who come to him.
There is another thought to be considered at this point in taking note of characteristics which difference Jesus from men. A mere man discovering in his reflections the abysmal depths of man's spiritual malady, a mere man clearly comprehending, as no man ever yet comprehended, the evil of sin, would be crushed by despair. Many good men, seeing but a little way into this darkness, have been made mad by what they saw. Where it is not morbid sentiment or philosophic pay this is the origin of pessimism.
There is nothing of this in Jesus. He saw it all; is uttermost deeps were open to his eyes; but he faces the trouble with infinite calmness. He announces a remedy adequate to the evil. He speaks to a weary and sin-stricken race: "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
And this is what he offers to a sinning and troubled world. He says he will change men, make them new and good, make them well again.
But there are no lunatic airs, common to dreamers and enthusiasts. No mere man could think such thoughts and earnestly say such things without lunacy. But there never was such perfect mental and spiritual equilibrium as we see plainly in Jesus. He speaks of the moral conquest of the entire race; he asks for the perfect love of men, that he may save them from all evil by saving them from their sins; he speaks of his work as comprehending time and eternity; he offers to the faithful immortality and eternal life. And his calmness of spirit is absolute; his simplicity of manner is perfect.
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