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The Man Christ Jesus as a Teacher.
It may well be doubted if there has ever been on earth another personage so widely known and so little understood as the Man Christ Jesus. Unquestionably true that the world has always been divided in opinion concerning those who have acted the most conspicuous part in its history; and the rule would seem to be, that the more prominent the character and position of the man, the greater the diversity of opinion concerning him. Men are not yet agreed concerning the character of Maliomet, the founder of Islamism. Some think him an artful, crafty, ambitious and designing impostor, who sought his own profit and honor, and purposely imposed a system of falsehood upon the people, knowing it to be such ; others think, that, in the outset of his career, at least, he was a sincere and honest man, ardently desirous of restoring the religion of his people to its purity and simplicity; of preserving the worship of the one only living and true God, and of redeeming the world from the horrible curse of polytheism and idolatry. This idea so possessed him, and became inwrought in every fibre of his soul, that he believed his mission to be divine, and mistook the fervor of his imagination for the inspiration of God. Which of these opinions is correct is of no consequence to our present purpose. The simple fact which we note is, that the men of this age differ in opinion in regard to the character of Mahomet.
But the peculiarity of the case of Christ is, that differences of opinion, in the premises, involve not so much his character as his nature, and the rank he holds in the scale of being. On all hands it is agreed that he was a lover of his racema philanthropist of the highest type—a self-sacrificing reformer, who sought to do good, and whose life was pure and blameless. The question concerning him has therefore been, not so much whether or not he was a wise and good man, as whether he was indeed a man. Some hold that he was no other than God himself, veiled in flesh and blood; others, that his nature was super-angelic; and
others, that he was a man, exalted above his fellows, and endued with wisdom and power, such as have been given to no other man on earth. It is not our purpose to argue these points pro or con, in this article. Using the words of Paul, we have characterized him in our caption as “The Man Christ Jesus," and in that aspect, we could consider him. If any think this is degrading him let them reflect, that, it is no ordinary man, no common personage, that can, in a short mission of three years, so make his mark upon humanity, that, for eighteen centuries, the human mind shall war upon the question, whether he be indeed man, angel, or God. No such question as that ever arose concerning Moses, or the Prophets, or John the Baptist, or the Apostles, or any other man. The mere fact that such a question has been agitated concerning him of Nazareth is proof that he wrought as no other man wrought, and that there is in him a moral grandeur and glory that exalt him above other men. All the more glorious are his wisdom and power; and all the more interesting and lovely is his character, because he comes near to us, as an elder brother, and shows us what exaltation God has prepared for man. It is this man, Christ Jesus, that the world has failed to comprehend, and has practically degraded, by stripping him of his humanity and vainly striving to make him the equal of God.
The work he undertook to perform was one of immense magnitude. He was a Jew, and he lived among a people of all others most devoted to the religion of their fathers. That religion was associated in their minds with a long and eventful history-with all the pride and glory of their nation, and with a series of wonders which God had wrought in their behalf. It had in its favor the learning, the wealth, the influence, the popular feeling, and the temporal power of the people. And yet, this man, born of lowly parents, and in an obscure village, without wealth, learning or friends, announced his intention to work a radical change in their entire system—to do away with circumcision and burnt offerings and sacrifices—to abolish the Temple Service and set up instead, the spiritual worship of the Father, and inaugurate a system which should supersede Moses and the Prophets. Nay, more. He did not propose to confine his work to his own people, but to convert nations to God, turn men from their idols, and bring them to the knowledge of the Father as God over all. How great a work this is may be inferred from the fact that Jeremiah says it was not known in his day that a nation had changed their Gods. Priestly says: “ There is not a single instance in all history of a nation changing their religion from the force of persuasion or example. To subdue a nation by force of arms is a small thing compared with changing their religion. Calamities though awful and threatening and approaching to extermination have not been able to accomplish this work.” But this Man, Jesus, proposed to change not only the religion of the Jewish people, but of the world also. And this he would do by the power of truth ; and it is as a Teacher of truth that we propose to view him in this article.
1. Of the Presence of the Man. Of his personal address we know little or nothing. And yet, it is doubtless true, that we all have in our mind's eye some ideal of his personal aspect, as we have of every one of whom we hear or read. It is so with the writer of the present article. But that ideal is not the picture in books, of a sort of dignified marble man, with a halo of light about his head, and the humanity all blotted out of his countenance, in an attempt to make him look like a god. The best specimens of art in this line are, to us, perversions of truth as to his personal presence. Tous, Jesus, in his external appearance, is a man, nothing more or less. He is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He ate, he drank, he walked, he talked and slept, like other men. If the external corresponded with the internal, he was a man, the prominent expression of whose countenance was that of calm and placid benignity, so beaming with benevolence and kindness that one might go to him, though a stranger, in any trouble or difficulty and open to him the secrets of his heart, feeling sure that he would receive sympathy and a blessing. Should he appear in our midst as he was in the days of his earthly pilgrimage, we should expect to see in him nothing to repel but every thing to attract; a man not proud or haughty in his bearing, not apparently conscious of his own dignity, but meek, humble and mild-calm as the summer morning, his very look a benediction ; a man whose aspect was so benignant and so human that every one of us would like to go and take him by the hand and talk with him—whom even children would not fear, but p!uck his garments as he went, if haply they might attract his attention and get a word from his lips or a smile from his countenance. If he were to speak, we should expect that same calm and serene benignity to dwell in the tones of his voice and breathe from his words-no display of oratory--none of the mandatory style of Moses, the sententious aphorisms of Solomon-the poetic imagery of David-the fire and fervor of Isaiah--the pathos of Jeremiah, or the austerity of the Baptist ; but simplicity itself, uttering great principles in parables and appealing to what is in man, by the most pertinent and familiar illustrations. We should expect to go away feeling that we had communed with a spirit that was wise and good and pure, and that we had been made wise and better by that communion. Such is our idea of the personal presence of this wonderful man.
II. Of his Method. By the term method we intend to indicate the arrangement and adaptation of means to ends the way in which he sought to teach divine truth. In his method of procedure there are several peculiarities.
1. His instructions were entirely oral. He taught with the living voice, and did not write at all. All precedent, whether among the religious or philosophical teachers of the world, would seem to have indicated to him the propriety and even the necessity of placing his new system, of so much value and importance to the world, in some permanent and enduring form, as Moses wrote the Law on tables of stone. Moses and Solomon and David and the Prophets all wrote. It is said of Jesus, on a certain occasion, “IIe stooped down and wrote with his finger upon the ground;” and besides the few unknown characters in the sand, he wrote nothing. Such was his confidence in truth and in the self-perpetuating immortality of the doctrines he taught, that he merely breathed them out upon the air, in the hearing of those that would listen, and left them to take care of themselves. He would impress them not on tables of stone, but upon the tables of the heart, and leave thom there to live by their own power or live not at all.
2. In his oral teachings, there is a peculiarity of method. “ He spake unto them in parables, and without a parable spake he not unto them.” Moses gave a long code of definite laws, and reduced the doctrines of his religion to set forms of speech. David taught in verse. Solomon embodied his wisdom in brief aphorisms and proverbs that can be easily remembered. The Prophets gave wings to the imagination and indulged in flights of poetic eloquence. But Jesus spoke in parables. He had mostly to do with great principles that could not well be embraced in set forms of words without being cramped and fettered. He therefore took the things with which the people were most familiar-introduced the actors into the scenes that he depicted, and thus held up the lesson that he would teach, not merely in words, but in a living picture, enacted, as it were, in their vision. Æsop's Fables have been greatly admired because they thus embody instruction in living forms and acts rather than in mere words and definitions. But Æsop's Fables are overstrained, uncouth and grotesque as compared with the beautiful simplicity and life-like truthfulness of the parables of Jesus. It would require a learned man, a philosopher and a metaphysician, to take the parable of the Prodigal Son and reduce all its lessons to scientific forms of faith and speech. But a child can understand it in the form in which it came from the lips of the Great Teacher. Whole volumes of dissertations on theology and disquisitions on ethical science could hardly teach as much, and vast libraries full of homilies could better be spared from the world than that single parable.
III. He taught Authoritatively. This peculiarity in his method was noticed by those who heard him, and said; “ He teacheth as one having authority, and not as the Scribes.” The idea may be illustrated as follows: logicians and philosophers have various modes of investigating and presenting truth. There is the analytical method, which examines the subject in all its parts separately, for the purpose of finding the original principles on which it rests. There is the synthetical method, which advances by a regular chain of reasoning, from principles admitted or propositions proved, or assumed, to the conclusion. And again, there is the inductive method, which rises from facts to general principles, and affirms of the whole what has been found true of the parts. In all these methods the effort of the teacher is to present the grounds on which he rest: his instructions, and lead the mind to a perception