"Jesus Christ Took the Way of Perishing"
If Jesus was only a man there is another marvelous thing you must have thought of before this time. He talked of a kingdom that was to endure forever, that was to conquer the world, and that was to bind the human race into a body brotherhood; but he made no preparation for a successor. He expected to die early, as he did; he told his disciples, time and again, that he would not be with them long; but he provided for no representative or visible headship when he was gone. The idea of such a representative did not occur in all his thoughts, as it was not intimated in any of his words. Napoleon shows us a man's way in his eager concern for a successor and in the cruel and wicked method he took to secure his ends.
What Jesus did not ordain and require men may use in his work, if their methods be in themselves good, and consistent with the spirit of his kingdom. But what he did not require men must not demand of his free children.
So far as plans are concerned, of a sort recognizable by men as plansof a sort they will admit who believe he was only a manthere was just one thing he did and commanded. He called about him a few fishermen and other plain peopleof what are called by some the "lower classes"and said in effect: "Go up and down through the earth and tell every body what you have seen me do and what you have heard me say; tell the people of me; tell them to go on repeating the story; tell them to hand it down through the ages, telling it over and over."
These are the very words: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
Mere men, undertaking great and perilous enterprises, conceal from their followers the hardships and perils that await them; they tell them of victories and rewards. So did the Genoese, mustering a crew to help him find a new world. So all mere human leaders do. And no mere man in such a case ever yet clearly saw the difficulty and danger of the undertaking; if men could see clearly the toils and tribulations between them and success they would never enter upon any great and hazardous enterprise. But Jesus saw all the antagonisms that were in his path and, unlike any other leader that ever lived, told his disciples what awaited them. In words like these he spoke to his disciples:
"Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles....And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved....The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?...He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it."
Let us think of all this. Such an end to accomplish, such a plan, such a claim, such a promise! If Jesus was only a man this was lunacy, unless we should impeach his sincerity.
Yet with perfect simplicity, perfect composure, perfect confidence, Jesus relies upon such a plan as this. It is not a man's way at all; it is not only above and beyond a man's way, it is unlike it, foreign to it, and impossible to a mere man.
How do men plan? Read history; look about you. It is easy to find out from books; if you know how to read men it is easier to find out from observation.
Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed, among warriors and conquerors; Richelieu, Macchiavelli, Jefferson, Hamilton, Disraeli, Bismarck, among statesman and the men who know state-craft; the fathers and popes, Ignatius Loyola, Luther, Calvin, Wesley, among churchmenthese show us the methods of men. Studying the lives of those mentioned here and of others of their order we will find plans many and diversewise and foolish, good and badbut they show a man's way.
If you wish something more like a parallel consider the plans of those who fastened what is called Buddhism, or Confucianism, upon hundreds of millions. Or consider Mohammedanism. In these systems we see the handiwork of men. The authors of these systems recognize the ordinary influences that determine men's conduct and use them with rare human skill. These employ agencies that Jesus repudiates; they appeal to motives that he ignored; offer inducements that he utterly denied; these planned as men plan in all they did. What Pascal says, in effect, in comparing Christ and Mohammed, we may say of Christ and any other founder of a religion: "If Mohammed took the way of succeeding, according to human calculations, Jesus Christ took the way of perishing, according to human calculations."
Never did Jesus look to using the strongest drifts in human nature to secure his ends; his ends required him to arrest and reverse these drifts. He was not ignorant of the forces locked up in human nature; no man ever so deeply read the heart, so absolutely "knew what was in man." As no other who ever taught men the truth Jesus knew the force of the torrent that bore down upon himthe Niagara his cause had to ascend.
If Jesus was only a man how happened it that the methods he adopted are as unlike the methods of men as the end he sought is unlike the end that any man ever yet proposed to himself? How happened it that in his plans he did every thing that a man would not do, and nothingall history being witnessthat a man would do?
These pages are not written for exhortation; but would it not be better every way, for the cause they stand for, if his friends studies the plans of Jesus more and their own plans less?
Placing ourselves, in imagination, in the company of those few faithful friends, men and womenwho were of the humble and obscure peopleamong those who received his command to "disciple all nations," let us look about us and consider what are our prospects of success.
What predominant influence in the world is friendly to the cause of our Lord and Master? The only people who believe in the Lord God have crucified Jesus. The Romans are masters not only in the holy city but in all the world we know, and the Roman power has just sanctioned the death of Jesus. The Greeks still give philosophy and art to the world, but there is not among the Greeks sympathy with the teachings and work of Jesus. No people befriend his cause; no hand is stretched out to his disciples; the world is against his cause, and for his sake against us, his disciples.
Looking at it all as man might, was there then a single human probability that the cause represented by the crucified Galilean would have the least place in history? That it would abide among men for a single generation? If Jesus was only a man could any thing conceivable by the human mind be more impossible than the realization of the dream (if he was only a man it was but a dream) of this man of Galilee, crucified like a felon?
No wonder certain men, while Jesus was yet among them, "laughed him to scorn."
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