The Relation of Jesus to the Present Age

by Charles Carroll Everett

The writer to the Hebrews affirms that Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." Paul exclaims to the Corinthians, "Though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." Christ was the same; yet before the generation that he left upon the earth had passed away his relation to the earth had changed. Thus does the work of Christ shape itself afresh to meet the needs of every generation. Compare together the Christ of the first century, the Christ of the thirteenth, the Christ of the sixteenth, and the Christ of the nineteenth centuries, and you would hardly think they all represent the same personality. Christ is always the same. His work is always substantially the same; but because the ages change, the method of this work changes. The same needs always exist in the heart of humanity, but in different ages these needs manifest themselves in different ways, and are to be met by different instrumentalities. And, further, it is not merely because the needs of humanity continually change their aspect that the work of Christ is ever changing. No age is a recipient alone. There is no action without reaction Each age contributes something to the work of Christ. It adds new forces, new methods, new machinery. Its spirit, and by this I mean its real, vital, energizing spirit, becomes united with the spirit of Christ, as it is present and active in the world.

In considering the relation of Christ to the present age, we have then to consider it under two aspects. We have to consider each as a giver, and each as a receiver. We may help to make this double relation clear by saying that Christ is present to this nineteenth century at once as a problem and as a power. No questions have stirred more deeply the heart of the age than those which have to do with the person and the office of Christ. The answers to these questions shape the aspect in which he stands to the age, and become therefore parts and elements of the power by which he acts upon the world. But this statement does not exhaust the twofold relation of which I speak. That which the age gives to Christ is not merely its thought about him. The secular thought and life of the age bring their contribution, they are themselves a contribution to him. They furnish one part of that complete organism of which Christ furnishes the other. If the age, in any fundamental forms of its thought and life, seems to stand in opposition to Christ, this apparent opposition is only the antithesis of elements which belong together. If what we call the spirit of the age seems, in any respect, to stand in opposition to the spirit of Christ, this only shows the need that each has of the other. The spirit of this nineteenth century needs the spirit of Christ, and the spirit of Christ needs the spirit of this nineteenth century. It is not then merely that the thought of the age clears away something of the obscurity and the misconception that have gathered about the person and the work of Christ. If all he said and did were as truly comprehended now as they could have been at the first, no less real, no less important, would be the offering which this age would bring to him. Neither does the fact, that the work of Christ needs the work, and that his spirit needs the spirit, of the century in which we live, necessarily imply any imperfection in his original work, or any thing originally lacking in his spirit. The question as to what he had in reserve, as to the limit, or the lack of limit, of his insight and comprehension, is one that I do not need, and do not intend here to raise. There is a kind of work that cannot be done all at once. There is a fulness of spirit that cannot manifest itself all at once. It is sufficient to know that Christ recognized this fact as well as we can. He affirmed it as clearly and as confidently as it is possible for us to do. "I have," he said to his disciples, "yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall lead you into all truth." All, so far as we can see, that it was possible for any spirit to do at one moment, Christ did. He infused into the world a spirit of love and faith and consecration, a principle of enthusiasm for humanity. He added to these the vitalizing power that came from his personality. This he did, and with this he was forced to be content. He told us the nature of his work, and foretold to us its history. It was to be as a little leaven which a woman hideth in a measure of meal till the whole is leavened. He hid in the world the leaven of his truth. That was all that he could do. It is for us to witness, and to contribute to, the completion of his work.

In considering the theme before us, I shall speak, first, of the external history of Christ, next of his teaching, and finally of his personality, in their relation to the present age.

In considering the relation of Christ to the present age, we are met, then, first by the most external form of this relation. The external history of Christ, the very framework of many of his highest and purest teachings, contains elements that are utterly opposed to the habits of thought which are most peculiar to the present century. I refer to whatever in the history of Christ implies the exercise of any miraculous power by him.

The idea of a miracle is opposed to the fundamental axioms of the popular thought of the present. The writers who best represent this thought do not hold it necessary to disprove the fact of miracles. They simply affirm, with Strauss, that the time is past when a miracle can be believed. On the other hand, the miraculous is inextricably intertwined with the history of Christ. We find miracles recognized, not merely in records the genuineness of which has, with or without reason, been suspected. In Epistles of Paul, the genuineness of which no critic of repute has ever dreamed of assailing, the miraculous element is recognized as distinctly as in the Gospels. We have at least the testimony of Paul—one of the grandest souls that ever lived, a man whom we know and honor as we know and honor few—that he believed himself to have wrought miracles, and that he believed the other apostles had done and were in the habit of doing the same. And we further have his testimony, with that of others indorsed by him, in regard to the most important of the miracles of Jesus; namely, the manifestation by Jesus of himself to his disciples after his death.

Here is a collision between the form of the external manifestation of Christ and the spirit of the age. The age itself has given such prominence to this that we cannot overlook it. The idea of miracle is so foreign to the spirit of the age that it has a fascination for it. It has less importance than any thing else in the history of Jesus, and yet nothing has more occupied the thoughts of the thinkers of the present generation.

For the reasons already stated, we must concede a certain degree of right to both sides of the great controversy. If we cannot eliminate the miraculous from the history of Jesus, neither can we, nor would we if we could, eliminate from the spirit of the age that element which finds it hard to accept a miracle. The very antagonism between the two, the right which each maintains being granted, shows the need that each has of the other. Each has a contribution for the other which could be received from no other source.

In the first place, the absolute incredulity with which the most thorough representatives of the thought of the time receive any story of the miraculous shows that now, for the first time, a miracle is seen to be in the truest sense of the word a miracle. To the child or the savage a miracle is hardly possible. Either every thing is a miracle or nothing is. It is only as the absoluteness of law is recognized that a miracle, which is in appearance a violation of this law, begins to produce its full impression. The present age has placed behind miracle a mighty background of law. From out this does miracle first stand forth in its true nature, as something demanding yet defying credence. Those who blame the spirit of the age for lack of faith in this direction should at least give it credit for this immense contribution to the idea of miracle, by which, for the first time, a miracle stands forth absolutely in its true nature.

Not only does the spirit of the age thus furnish to miracles the background that they need: it furnishes to them also a content. The thought of law does not stop with the background of laws of which I spoke. Laws may be finite: law is infinite. The miracle sets at defiance the great background of recognized laws; but itself can be only the manifestation of some higher, grander, more comprehensive law. Thus does a miracle more truly than ever before come as a real revelation. For the first time it has its full and logical meaning. It was before expected to prove something which from the nature of the case it could not prove. No miracle, however stupendous, can prove the truth of a principle in morals. It can show, indeed, some superiority, in some respect, in him who works the miracle; but this superiority may not be of a nature to demand implicit confidence towards the person in all respects. It may be like the superiority of the European over the ignorant savage. The missionary may win the trust of the simple barbarian by sending a message written upon a chip; but the sailor, bringing the seeds of all the vices of civilization, can "make the chip speak" as well as the missionary. But when the miracle testifies of the comprehensive law which it manifests, then first does it have a meaning which cannot be wrested out of it. Nay, then first does it become really sublime. Before, it was a single meteor flashing in short-lived brightness across the sky. Now, it is the first manifestation of a vast system of worlds of which we had not dreamed. Such is the contribution which the spirit of the age, through the very antagonism of which I spoke, makes to the miracles which constitute so much of the external form in which Christ meets it.

On the other hand, miracle brings a no less important contribution to the spirit of the age. This spirit tends, not only to look upon law as absolute, but to look upon the system of laws which it has discovered as final. These laws tend continually to become narrow and hard. They tend to become merely a system of physical forces. There is danger that the spirit may become shut up within these physical laws as in a prison-house. The miracle demonstrates to the senses that these physical laws are not absolute, even in their own realm; that these physical forces are encompassed and interpenetrated by spiritual forces; that matter is at the last subordinate to spirit. It may not reveal the nature of these spiritual forces; but it does reveal their presence. All do not need this demonstration. The same truth may be reached in other ways. The laws of thought reveal it. The spiritual consciousness may be sufficient unto itself. Christ himself regarded his miracles as of comparatively small account. He wrought them because he was moved to use whatever power he had to bless mankind. If he healed the sick, it was because he loved to heal them. He sympathized with sorrow and suffering, and, so far as he could, would remove their cause. But the miracles carry, as we have seen, their own revelation with them; and they have their place, however lowly, in regard even to the spiritual consciousness. The albatross, we are told, with all its magnificent sweep of wing, cannot lift itself from the flat surface of the deck on which it may be lying. Just because its wings are so strong and large, it needs to be lifted a little, that they may have space to move, that they may have freedom to smite the air. When this freedom has been given it, then it mounts upward, sustained by its own inherent strength. So is it, sometimes, with the spirit. It has strength of its own. It has a self-sustaining power. But it sometimes needs to be lifted a little way above the dead level of its daily life, above the plane of physical relations, before its wings find strength and freedom to beat the air. Then, leaving its temporary support behind it, it mounts in glad flight heavenward. Such help many have found, and may yet find, in the miracles of Jesus. The miracle may lift the level surface of life as if into a wave, from the crest of which the spirit may start upon its flight.

From the external manifestation of the history of Christ, and the external relations in which through this he stands to the present age, we pass to the inner power of this life. Within these external manifestations we find his teachings. We have, then, next to consider the relation in which Christ stands to the present age as a teacher. We shall find here the same twofold relation which we have found before; and the external may thus stand as a type and illustration of the internal. We will first consider, under this aspect, the basis and form of the teaching of Christ, and next its substance.

The spirit of the age is truth-seeking. We speak often of the eagerness for wealth that marks the age. I think that when, from the distant future, men shall look back upon this period of the world's history, the search for wealth will not be seen to fill the place that to us it seems to occupy. The age will be seen to be animated by a nobler quest than this. The search for truth will be seen to be the quest by which it is marked most really. We speak of the corruption of the age, of the trickeries of trade, of the unscrupulousness of speculation, of the pretence and display of fashion, of the venality of politics. All this is true. These things deserve the denunciation of the moralist and the preacher. But behind all this is the life which truly marks the age. It is the life of patient, earnest, honest search for truth. I believe that never and nowhere has there been manifested, to so great extent, such conscientious and self-forgetful love of truth for its own sake as may be found in the scientific investigations of the present day. Such accuracy of research, such microscopic delicacy of measurement, such patient and unprejudiced examination, I believe to be unequalled in the history of man. This proves that, in spite of the frauds and falseness of which I spoke, the age is really sound at heart. Theologians sometimes speak of the flippancy and conceit of the science of the day. The terms would be more true applied in the opposite direction. Theology is more open to such charges than science. A love of truth that would fling away even the highest glory of the earth and the hope of heaven, if so be truth may stand pure and perfect, has something sublime about it. Well might the theologian take a lesson from the man of science in regard to this consecration to truth. For theology, with its presumption, its prejudice, its pretence, its glossing over of difficulties, its leaning upon authority which it feels at heart is not authority, its saying what it does not exactly believe, that it may not contradict those who perhaps do not believe exactly what they say, may well stand ashamed in the presence of the science of the day that has left all to follow truth. Theology should give to science not tolerance, not patronage, but reverence. While it utters fearlessly the truth that is given it to speak, it should in its turn seat itself as a learner at the feet of science, and seek not only to gather the facts which it has to teach, but to catch something of its spirit, the spirit that loves truth, and that will suffer nothing to take the place of this.

But Christ was not a truth-seeker. It does not appear that he ever doubted or questioned. Pilate asked the question, What is truth? It does not appear that Jesus ever did. Jesus came not to seek the truth, but to announce it. "To this end," he cried, "was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth." He came to bear witness unto the truth, but it was truth that came to him without his seeking. Neither does it appear that Christ loved truth above all things. To the Jesuit there is something better than truth, and to this he will sacrifice truth itself. I assert nothing like this in regard to Christ. Truth was to him fundamental and essential. He would not accept or tolerate what was false. But still to know was not the great object of his life. There was something better to him than truth; namely, life. He would rather be than know. At his touch truth sprang into life. If he came to bear witness to the truth, this was only a step in his grander work, the work which he proclaimed at the very beginning of his mission, when he cried, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." And, further, Christ did not merely teach life through truth: he taught truth through life. "If any man," he said, "will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." And John was full of the spirit of his Master when he cried, "The life is the light of men."

We see more clearly the antithesis between Christ as a teacher on the one side, and the present age on the other, in this fact: viz., that Christ speaks with authority to an age which rejects authority. The cry of the age, in the world of the intellect as well as in that of politics, is for liberty. But to this age, as to every age, Christ comes as a master. "My yoke," he says, "is easy;" but it is a yoke none the less.

If the relation of Christ to his truth is so different from that of the spirit of the age to its truth, it must follow that the two forms of truth rest on different bases. The faculties by which the age seeks truth must be different from those through which the truth came unsought to Jesus. This age seeks truth by the discriminating and investigating power of the understanding. Truth came to Jesus through the intuitions of the soul. In him the moral and spiritual faculties were full of strength. He lived as naturally in the world of spiritual realities as other men live in the world of physical realities. As we need only open our eyes and see, so his spirit had only to open its eyes and it saw. As the voices of the outward world come to us without our listening for them, so the voice of God came to him whether he would or no. And this was the ground of the authority with which he spoke. Whoever speaks from the moral and spiritual consciousness to the moral and spiritual consciousness may and must speak with authority. We may illustrate this by an extreme case. When a man is lurking for the commission of some crime, or after he has committed it, he feels the mastery of all innocent things. The rustle of a leaf may excite his dread. To a voice denouncing his crime, or crime like his, he listens as to the voice of God. This recognition of the mastery of a higher degree of life after its own kind is felt at every stage of moral and spiritual development. If the soul be comparatively guilty, it recognizes this mastery with dread. If it be comparatively innocent, it recognizes it with joy. Such was the authority with which Jesus spoke. Though he spoke with authority, what he said did not rest on this authority. It was the authority with which the awakened calls to the sleeper, bidding him awake, for the world is bright with the morning. The voice penetrates to the obscured consciousness of the sleeper. He stirs himself, he opens his eyes, and rejoices for himself in the morning brightness. So Christ called to a sleeping world. Nay, he called to those who were dead in trespasses and sin, and they that were dead heard the voice of the Son of Man and lived.

If the truth taught by Jesus and the truth that is sought by the present age rest on such different bases, they must be, we should suppose, in some respects different each from the other. But, if each be truth, they must be the complements each of the other. And, if they are the complements each of the other, they must need one another. Each must be imperfect without the other. Each must find a certain confirmation and support from the other, and each must complete for the other the circle of truth. We are thus led to look at some points in the teaching of Christ, and to see how these complete and are completed by the truth which the present age seeks and finds.

In the first place, Christ teaches us of the loving providence of God. He awakens in our hearts all childlike instincts of trust and confidence. He tells us that God is our father, that his love watches over all his children, that it follows the prodigal in his wandering and greets him on his return, that even a sparrow does not fall to the earth without it. This teaching is sufficient for the spiritual necessities of our nature. The spirit that has adopted these principles into itself will live a strong and blessed life. They have been the inspiration of the centuries ever since Christ uttered them. They contain all that could be told of God in the age when Jesus lived. But they do not exhaust the truth of God. They leave space for misconception. Love may be universal, and yet be not without caprice. Providence may watch over all, and yet in every case be only a special providence. God may watch over every individual of the race, but over each merely as an individual. If there may be the caprices of love, then it is not a long step to the possibility of caprices which spring from the lack of love. Love may alternate with hate. If each individual be dealt with singly, as though he existed by himself, the step is not a long one to the thought of discrimination between individuals. The caprices of love may become favoritism, and the special favor shown to one implies the neglect of another. All these things are foreign from the spirit and the teaching of Christ. They contradict the fundamental principles of his teaching. And yet, men's habits of thought being such as they were, the teaching of Christ could not be absolutely fortified against them. He told men that the love of God was like the sunshine that visits all alike, but the words passed through their ears unheeded. Thus Christianity all along has been corrupted by misrepresentations of its truth in which the thought of love had suggested caprice, and the thought of special love and special providence had suggested the thought of favoritism, and favoritism had suggested discrimination and neglect. All men were seen to stand in the presence of God as individuals, which is true; and merely as individuals, which is false.

The truth that God is love needs to be supplemented by another truth; namely this, that God is Law. The great truth of the absoluteness of law cannot be taught in a single lesson. No man can tell it to another. It must be demonstrated to be believed. It must be shown in its myriad and unvarying applications to all forms of being before it can be felt as a reality. One must see for one's self the grand march of the order of the universe, the unfailing sequence of cause and effect, the mathematical exactness of the correlation of all the forces of the world, before one can have a sense of the truth which lies at the basis and forms the culmination of scientific thought to-day. This truth has not been reached suddenly. The ages have been groping after it. This age has reached, by slow and patient thought, a comprehension of this truth which is its inspiration. The ages to come will only add to it new illustrations as they follow its mighty sweep. This truth is what seems at times to put this age into antagonism with the spirit of Christ. It is really the offering which the thought of the age brings to Christ. The teaching of Christ needs, as we have seen, this truth as its complement. The antithesis between the two shows the intimate relationship between them. When we bring the two together in one thought, we have the most sublime conception that ever dawned upon the mind of man. The truth of Christ finds a body: the truth of the age finds a soul. On the one side, all possibility of caprice is driven from our thought of God. The love of God, as strong and tender as the lips of Jesus could describe it, is seen to be as regular and as calm as the movements of the heavens. This truth only adds to the strength and the clearness of our thought of the love of God. We see demonstrated before us how his care pursues all things, how not a sparrow falls to the earth unfollowed by this watchful providence, how every grain of dust that floats in the summer sun has its place and work in the great whole, not a single mote forgotten. We learn in what direction to look for the action and succor of this providence. We do not look for it to come to us in weakness, but in strength. We see that this perfect order is the truest providence, that the care of each is most perfect that recognizes each in its relations to all the rest. So soon as we recognize the divinity of law and the love that is enshrined in it, we feel the omnipresent might of this divinity, the omnipotence of this love. The restlessness and passion of our hearts are stilled. Trust in God takes on the peace and the calmness of the heavens. Such is the offering which the age brings to Christ. It brings a body in which his spirit may incarnate itself afresh.

The result of the union of the thought of the age with the thought of Christ may be seen in all the relations in which the soul stands to God. Christ bade his followers preach his gospel to every creature. The age has taught us the necessity of educating and civilizing the barbarian, if we would christianize him. Christ taught us to love the sinner while hating sin. This has seemed to some paradoxical; but the age has removed some of the difficulty by showing how much of what we call character is the result of inherited tendencies and outward circumstances. Jesus taught the doctrine of immortality. Men have tended to look upon the future life as something standing over against the present. The age teaches us that such a break in life is impossible, that if there be an immortality it must lie hidden in the present. It teaches, too, that the judgments of God, if there be a God, are never arbitrary. He does not hold blessing in one hand and cursing in another, and give each, by an outward bestowal, as he may see that it is deserved. Men's acts drag their consequences after them. Thus the old Scripture phrases are just coming to their meaning. It is not an angry God that pursues the sinner: it is his own sin that has found him out. Men do reap the fruit of their own sowing. There is no scientific truth of the day that stands in any stronger antagonism to the truth of Christ than is implied in such antitheses as have been referred to. Even the theories of development, so rife at present, do not stand in the way of Christ. Christ looks not downward but upward, not backward but forward. Such theories, if established, would only show the progressive power of spirit, the omnipotence of life.

But if the thought of Jesus needs that of the present age, still more does the thought of the age need that of Jesus. If the spirit needs a body, still more does the body need a spirit. The laws, the forces on which the thought of the age dwells, until this divineness is added to them are hard and cold. The body, which could carry on all the functions of its life, yet without life, would be a machine, perfect indeed and wonderful, but a machine none the less. The thought of the age, taken by itself, uninspired by Christian truth, tends to drag down the soul, to imprison it in mere mechanism, to take from it its divine inspiration; and while we need the thought of the present age to illustrate to us the methods of God's dealings with the soul, none the less does the thought of the age need the knowledge that there is a soul. Among all the forces of the universe, the power of the soul, the culmination of them all, is apt to be lost sight of. The thought of the age tends to look upon things from without, and to lose that which is their essence. It needs the voice that shall awaken its own inner life, and thus bring it to a consciousness of the life that lies at the heart of all things.

Thus we see how the thought of Christ and the thought of the age need and complement each other. The thought of Christ is spiritual, the thought of the age tends to become material. In this world we are neither wholly spiritual nor wholly material. And we must bear in mind that the two elements should not exist over against one another in our thought. We must not hold the two conceptions, however opposite they may appear, as two. In life the spirit and the body do not exist as two but as one. As soon as they exist as two, there is death. So must the truth of Jesus and the truth of this present age be blended in one thought. We must not say love and law, but love in law. We must not see the divine power setting at work forces that by their natural operation shall reward or punish the spirit. We must see the divine power working in and through these forces. Then, as science makes us feel that we are encompassed by law, the words will not need translating to us; for we shall feel that we are encompassed by God.

The relation which we have found to exist between the intellectual teaching of Christ and the thought of the age is no less marked between the moral teaching of Christ and the life of the age. The moral teaching of Christ is absolutely true. It is as true as his thought of God; yet like that it needs its complemental truth. Further, the moral teaching of Christ needs instrumentalities. Love, however strong, cannot work without means. The heart needs the hands and the feet.

In both of these respects the age brings its offering to Christ. Christ teaches love and self-sacrifice. He bids us do for others as we would have them do for us. He bids us give to him that asks, and lend to him that would borrow. These principles are the very life of society. They are the very truth of God. But yet these principles carried out, without explanation and qualification, would produce harm as well as good. The church of every age, in striving to carry out these precepts, has done much good; but it has done much harm also. It has done good by bringing succor to the lives that needed it. It has done immeasurable good by keeping alive on the earth the spirit of Christian love. Men have been blest by the power of the spirit, even more than by its specific acts of mercy. But, while it has relieved the poor, it has too often tended to perpetuate poverty. Indiscriminate alms-giving, mere alms-giving, is the very mother of pauperism. We see in some Catholic countries how the alms-giving which the church has taught in the very words of Christ has degraded whole populations, has taken from manhood its real dignity and strength. We need, then, not only the principle of love, but also a knowledge of all social laws. The science of political economy must be understood; but this, like physical science, cannot be taught in a day. Ages must teach the lesson. The present age has only half learned it. But it has learned enough to bring a magnificent contribution to Christ. Christ bids us help men: the age, in its poor blundering way, is just beginning to tell us how to help them. It teaches that the best way to help the poor is to strike at the root of poverty. No less does the age furnish means for carrying out the principles of Jesus. It brings the ends of the earth together. Christ bids us love our neighbor. This age has made those from whom the sea parts us our neighbors. There is famine, or some more sudden calamity, on the other side of our continent, or in a foreign land. Christ bids us help those who need. How shall we carry sudden help unless we hear at once the story? How shall we send prompt help if there be no strong and swift messenger waiting at our door? But now the lightning tells the story the moment in which there is a story to be told, and the unwearied steam bears our gifts as soon as they can be gathered. The commands of Jesus are absolute. The power of the age to fulfil these commands is approaching absoluteness. Thus does the age add to the teaching of Christ the completeness that it needs.

But does not the age in turn need this teaching? Materialism and mechanism in thought are bad enough: they are worse in life. The life of the age has a tendency to materialism and mechanism. The science of political economy tends to become a hard system of rules, in which the spontaneous sympathy of the helper and the individuality of the helped are lost together. The eagerness of the world after material prosperity tends to a practical absorption in these ends. Thus we have the greed, the excitement, the madness, the display, the corruption that to so great an extent characterize the age. We have seen that there is a deeper life beneath this superficial one; but these evils, however superficial, need prompt and constant care lest they eat into the very heart. The body needs the spirit, or it will sink into decay.

I have spoken of the two elements which we are considering as if they stood simply over against one another. This is in some respects true. The thought and life of the age are, indeed, largely indebted to the stimulus of Christianity; but they are not, like the painting and architecture of the Middle Ages, the direct outgrowth of it. The science of the present day is self-developed and self-sustained. The machinery of the world has been invented for the world's uses. Its political economy has been thought out to facilitate its own ends.

But though the two elements, to some extent, stand over against one another, yet each, by its natural development, is approaching the other, and each is becoming penetrated by the other. On the one side, religion is catching the spirit of the age, and is approaching the clearness and accuracy of scientific thought. On the other side, science is becoming conscious of truth which is unattainable by its methods, and which is to it therefore the unknowable. Already does Herbert Spencer, who represents the foremost thought of the time, feel the awe of this mystery, and see gleaming through it something of the presence of the infinite love. The life of the age, also, by bringing men near to one another, tends to produce the sense of human brotherhood. Its vast business enterprise, in some of its aspects, does more for the cause of humanity than many a professed charity. Further, the age is, to some extent at least, directly inspired by Christianity. Its zeal for humanity, its sympathy with the oppressed and suffering everywhere, its gigantic and unparalleled charities, show it to be more truly Christian than any age that has preceded it.

If however, in spite of all this, we are sometimes tempted to doubt whether the power of the truth which Christ represents is to win the mastery, or whether it is destined to be lost in the great struggle, we must remember that its authority is that of elements that are fundamental in human nature. The spiritual instincts may be repressed: they cannot be exterminated. As in every little creek and inlet along the shore the water answers to the call of the ocean, and feels the might of the outgoing and the incoming tide, so in human life deep answers unto deep.

We must remember, too, that Christ is not a mere teacher. His power is not alone that of the truth he utters. It is no mere accident of history that the higher truth and life which we have been considering confront the age as Christian truth and life. They receive a power from their union with Christ which they could not have received, even had the thought of men attained to them, without this. We have looked at the external form of his life and at his teaching in their relation to the age. There is yet another step to take. There is still an inner reality to be unveiled. Behind the power of his teaching is the power of his personality. In this is found the climax of the antithesis in which he stands to the present. The tendency of the present age is, consciously or unconsciously, to disown personality. The laws which make the substance of its thought, the mechanism that makes the framework of its life, both tend to assert themselves against the power of a free personality. We may illustrate this by the modern method of warfare. In ancient times the victory depended on the strength of the individual arm and the courage of the individual heart. Now it depends more upon the drill of the army and the clear head of the general.

This tendency of the thought of the age is not based on error. It brings to our thought of personality the correction that it needs. The tendency of the past has been to look upon personality as existing by and for itself. It has recognized no limits to the power of freedom. Each individual stood by and for himself in the universe. Now we see a common element in all lives. All lives are entwined together. We see limits which freedom cannot pass. We understand something of the limits of each individual. We understand something of the laws of descent and of the power of education. Even the personality of Jesus does not stand by itself as it seemed to once. We see in him the power of the common nature. We see in him the effect of forces which had been in operation since the world was. He was no stranger upon the earth. He was the Son of God, but he was no less the Son of man. He was the flowering of a nation's history, the flowering of humanity. The flower is drawn forth by the sun, but it is drawn out from the plant. Even the sun can kindle the flame of no rose upon the bramble's stalk. While, however, the age teaches us what is the background out from which the power of personality stands forth, and what are the elements that are fused together in it, personality itself remains too much unrecognized. But, I repeat, the integrity of human nature can never be violated; and personality is the culmination of human nature. The power of a modern army, we have seen, depends largely on its drill; yet even here the impetuous courage of a leader may infuse a life into this vast machine that shall decide the victory. Mere signals, it is found, upon a ship will not answer the purpose of communication between the captain and the men. In times of peril, in the midst of the fury of the storm, the sailor needs the inspiration of the captain's voice, ringing with a force that is mightier than the tempest; namely, the force of human will and courage. No matter how mechanical the age may become, no matter how the idea of freedom may be eliminated from its thought, the great heart of humanity beats still in its bosom, and the voice of a strong, free personality will sooner or later arouse it to an answering consciousness. The very bands which it sets about personality will make its power more strongly felt when it is perceived. Its very knowledge of the elements that are united in it will make it feel more really the might of the force which can fuse these into one burning point.

Personality involves three elements. The first is freedom; the second, a purpose freely chosen; the third, devotion to this purpose. There is no slavery like sin. Absolute freedom, and thus absolute personality, can be found only in a nature wholly pure and unselfish. Christ was thus free. His purpose was the vastest that any human soul has grasped; and he gave himself to it with all the power of his nature. Thus Christ possessed the most intense personality ever felt upon the earth. His teaching came forth glowing with its fire. We feel to-day the effect which his personality produced upon those who came into direct contact with it. This influence has propagated itself from age to age. The Church grew out of it, and its influence is felt to-day far beyond the limits of the Church. Besides this indirect power of the personality of Jesus, we may feel its force directly, as we bring ourselves into personal relation with him. It has not lost its original might. It still tends to reproduce itself in the present.

The form in which truth first utters itself has a power which no subsequent repetition can equal. There is a kind of work that can be done only once. The first discoverer or announcer of any truth stands in a relation to it which no other can ever fill. Many navigators have crossed the sea, but there is only one Columbus. Many astronomers have searched the heavens, but there has been no second Newton. This fact is most noticeable in regard to truths that represent not merely the intellect, but the whole moral and spiritual nature of him who first uttered them in their fulness. There is a fact in science strange, apparently illogical, but yet unquestionable. It is this: The power of heat-bearing rays to pass through any resisting medium depends not upon the temperature of the rays, but upon that of the body from which they come. The heat-bearing rays of the sun that approach the earth hardly differ in temperature from the rays that are reflected from it; but the former pass almost unimpeded through the atmosphere by which the latter are to a great extent imprisoned. The rays reach the earth without difficulty, but are entrapped by the principle referred to, and remain to bless the world. The first have this power to pass through the atmosphere because they come direct from the burning body of the sun. The reflected rays have lost this power, because they proceed from the colder earth. This law is as true in the intellectual and spiritual as it is in the physical world. The power of moral and spiritual truths to penetrate to the hearts of men has this strange dependence upon the moral and spiritual power of him who utters them. The very spontaneity of this utterance is a revelation of this power. It is because the truth that Jesus uttered came forth from his glowing heart of love, it is because it sprang fresh and spontaneous from the intensity of his spiritual life, that it has such power to-day to touch the hearts of men. As the sun's rays preserve their penetrating force through all the interplanetary spaces, so the teachings of Christ have preserved it through all the reaches of history. No subsequent repetition of these truths can ever have quite the power that their first complete utterance still retains. And the power that they exercise is largely in this, that they excite in the hearts of men a spiritual life akin to that from which they originally sprang. Scientific truths are taught by demonstration. Spiritual truths are taught chiefly by stimulating the spiritual life. When we live merely in the contemplation of laws, in the study of external relations, our intellect is stimulated, but our moral and spiritual nature may be comparatively dormant. Our life is stimulated as we are brought into living relationship with the universe. As our inner nature is thus stimulated, as it rounds itself into completeness, the moral and spiritual consciousness is awakened. This is the reason why it so often happens that spiritual truths are so real in moments of sorrow. In its sorrow the soul lives wholly in love, and it receives the enlightenment of love. Our nation had almost forgotten God; but in those terrible years of war, when every soul was full of life and earnestness, the earth and the heavens were full of God. Our nation's history became transparent to us, as the history of the Hebrews was transparent to them, and we saw God's providence in it all. Theology has wrestled vainly with science. In such a struggle it will always be the loser. Christian theology can never conquer science. Christian life must absorb science into itself.

The truths that Jesus uttered, as they have been absorbed into the common thought of men, or as they are received directly from the record of his life, have a mighty power to purify the thought and elevate the hearts of men. But I think that the greatest power of Christ to-day is that of imparting his life to the men and women who are now living in the world. The power of the Church will depend upon its power to receive this life and to impart it. It is well to have a true theology; but the church that has the most of the life of Christ will accomplish the most for men. It brings to this truth-seeking and law-investigating age the pure personality which it needs. And it will at last possess the truest theology, for now and evermore it is the life that is the light of men.