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The Moral Teaching of Christ.

The Moral Teaching of Christ.

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jul 29, 2013
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08/15/2015

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THE MORAL TEACHING OF CHRIST.
BY JOSEPH AGAR BEET
BEFORE proceeding to the most distinctive featuresof the teaching of the New Testament, certainother elements in it common to the Old Testamentand in some measure to other ancient religious booksclaim our attention because of their direct bearingon the results attained in the foregoing chapters.As His words are recorded in the Four Gospels,Christ spoke frequently and emphatically about aFATHER in heaven, the unseen CREATOR and RULERof man and of the universe ; and this conceptionmoulded and coloured all His teaching. He spokealso of God as taking deep interest in man and ascoming near to him to save and to bless, and as anobject of man s trust and affection and a source of hope and joy. The same ideas underlie the entireNew Testament ; and are a conspicuous feature of theOld Testament, especially as compared with other contemporary religious writings. In other words, our ownsure inference from the facts of the material world andfrom the felt authority of the moral sense is stronglyconfirmed, and is brought to bear on human thought5960 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.and life, by the express teaching of the Author of thegreat religious impulse which has shaped for good thedestinies of the world.In the Old Testament God is constantly representedas giving, or as having given, to men definite COMMANDS ; and as making obedience to these commandsa condition of His favour. In this, the Jewish Scriptures are followed by Christ, by all the writers of theNew Testament, and by many non-Christian religiousteachers of all ages.The Old Testament speaks occasionally, especially inits later books, of a perfect RETRIBUTION BEYONDTHE GRAVE. This is conspicuously taught by Christand throughout the New Testament. It underlies thestrange doctrine of Transmigration common to Hinduism and Buddhism, these embracing a great part of the religious thought of Asia ; and is nearly coextensive with the religious thought of mankind. Thusour own inference from the manifest imperfection of retribution on earth is confirmed by the teaching of Christ and by the remarkable agreement of the manyreligions of the world.The discourses of Christ are full of moral teaching.He not only announces retribution beyond the grave,but tells His hearers what they must do and leaveundone in order to escape punishment and obtaineternal life. Now, all moral teaching must be judgedat the bar of the MORAL SENSE of man. For this is, aswe have seen, the supreme judge of human conduct.We ask at once, What is the judgment pronounced onLECT. VII.] THE MORAL TEACHING OF CHRIST. 61
 
the moral teaching of Christ by the judge enthronedin every heart?The judgment is decisive. The entire moral teachingof Christ and of the New Testament commends itself to us as right and good and lofty. It docs more thanthis. The teaching of Jesus enriches and elevates andstrengthens our own moral sense, gives to us a loftierideal of human excellence, and gives to this idealabsolute authority as henceforth the law of our life.In His presence, the judge enthroned within, thesupreme arbiter to us of right and wrong, bows as inthe presence of One greater than himself, and at Hisbidding mounts a still loftier throne. A Voice whichthus raises and strengthens that in us which is loftiestand best reveals itself manifestly as that of our Lordand Master.The details of this impression cannot be reproducedin exact statement. We notice however the dignifiedsimplicity of moral teaching which, instead of smalldetails, asserts broad principles capable of universalapplication. Morality is summed up as unreservedloyalty to God and to His Kingdom and as activegood-will towards all men. And it claims as itsdomain the inward as well as the outward life of man.It is worthy of note that some of the noblest wordsof Christ are quotations from the Old Testament. But,as quoted and combined by Him, their moral force isgreatly increased. In the other literature of the ancientworld we find not unfrequently high moral teaching.62 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.Yet few will deny that, taken as a whole, the teachingof the New Testament rises immensely, as a practicalguide in life, above that of every other moral teacher.Nor is this all. In the picture of Christ presentedin the New Testament we see a perfect EMBODIMENTIN REAL LIFE of this lofty moral ideal. Whatever wethere read about human excellence is but a feature inthe portrait of Jesus of Nazareth. We see a manwhose one thought is to do and to complete the work for which God sent Him into the world and to enrichwith highest blessing all who are willing to receive it ;an object of unceasing and unscrupulous conspiracy,yet never uttering a word of resentment. We see, asthe teaching of the New Testament will be expoundedin PART IV., the Eternal Son of God laying aside theprerogatives of deity, taking upon Himself the limitations and the weakness of human life on earth, andsurrendering Himself to a cruel death in order to savemen, by a method in harmony with eternal justice,from the penalty of their sins, and to bring them intothe glory of the kingdom of God. Compared with thiscostly manifestation of unreserved devotion to God andof infinite love to man, every other recorded act of obedience or of beneficence sinks into insignificance.In the life and death of Jesus, as these are depicted inthe New Testament, we have, without defect and surpassing the thought of man, a perfect embodiment of the highest human excellence.This recognition, by our own moral sense, of the
 
absolute authority of the moral teaching and the;LECT. VII.] THE MORAL TEACHING OF CHRIST. 63example of Christ renders important confirmation toHis teaching about retribution beyond the grave andabout our Father in heaven. For it is in the lastdegree unlikely that One whose moral teaching wedare not and cannot reject should be in serious errortouching matters bearing so closely upon morals. Thusour own inferences from our observation of the materialworld and from the imperfect retribution in the presentlife are confirmed not only by the express teaching otChrist but also indirectly by the grandeur and authorityof His moral teaching. And we have already seen thatthe teaching of Christ is confirmed by its effect upon theworld and by the unique superiority of the Christiannations. Teaching thus doubly confirmed we may accept with confidence as true. It has been accepted inall ages and nations by nearly all the best of men.It must be confessed that these results of our preliminary study, valuable as they are, do little directlyto supply our deep spiritual need. As yet we haveheard no voice of pardon, and have experienced noliberation from our moral bondage. Indeed the loftyteaching and example of Christ rather make us feelhow far and how inexcusably we have fallen below theideal to which we ought to have risen. And we shrink from the light which with increasing clearness revealsour own deep sin. Even the efforts after amendmentprompted by this sense of guilt do little more thanreveal our moral powerlessness. We lie condemnedand helpless in the presence of the living Patternwhich we find ourselves unable to imitate.64 PRELIMINARIES. [PART I.On the other hand, Christ spoke much about thegoodness and mercy of God ; and promised help tothose who need it. " Come to Me," said He, " all yethat are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give yourest." And the matchless dignity of His moral teaching persuades us that what He promises He is ableto do. We wait to see whether the mercy of Godwill provide for the guilty a way of pardon, and forthe captives deliverance from bondage.To sum up. We have found in nature visible footprints of an unseen and supernatural and personalCreator and Ruler. In the moral sense of man weseemed to hear His voice : and in the moral teachingof Christ we heard that voice still more distinctly. Inhuman life around us we saw indications of retributionbeyond death. The unique pre-eminence of the Christian nations and the remarkable rise and progress of Christianity arrested our attention and demandedexplanation. A partial explanation we found in thesublime moral teaching of Christ. But this ratherquickened than satisfied our eager inquiry. We seek further information about this great Teacher and aboutthe wonderful religious impulse to which He gave birth.And we seek, what we have not yet found, a supplyof our deep spiritual needs.

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