Religion New-Given - Part 4
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
For we have already remarked how it is the great achievement of the Israel of the Old Testament, happiness being mankind's confessed end and aim, to have more than anyone else felt, and more than anyone else succeeded in making others feel, that to righteousness belongs happiness. Now, it will be denied by no one that Jesus, in his turn, was eminently characterised by professing to bring, and by being felt to bring, happiness. All the words that belong to his mission,- gospel, kingdom of God, saviour, grace, peace, living water, bread of life,—are brimful of promise and of joy. `I am come,' he said, `that ye might have life, and that ye might have it more abundantly ;" Come to me, and ye shall find rest unto your souls;' ' I speak, that my disciples may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.'
You can see, says Jesus to his followers, you can see the leading religionists of the Jewish nation, with the current notions about righteousness, God's will, and the meaning of prophecy, you can see them saying and not doing, full of fierce temper, pride, and sensuality ;—this shows they can be but blind guides for you. The saviour of Israel is he who makes Israel use his conscience simply and sincerely,, who makes him change and sweeten his temper, conquer and annul his sensuality. Such a saviour will make unhappy Israel happy again. The prophets all point to such a saviour, and he is the Messiah, and the promised happiness to Israel is in him and in his reign. He is, in the exalted language of prophecy, the holy one of God, the son of God, the beloved of God, the chosen of God, the anointed of God, the son of man in an eminent and unique sense, the Messiah and Christ. In plainer language, he is ' a man who tells you the truth which he has heard of God;' who came not of himself and speaks not of himself, but who came forth from God,'—from the original God of Israel's worship, the God of righteousness and of happiness joined to righteousness,—' and is come to you.' 1 Israel is perpetually talking of God and calling him his Father ; and `everyone,' says Jesus Christ, `who hears the Father, comes to me, for I know Him, and know His will, and utter His word.' 2 God's will and word, in the Old Testament, was righteousness. In the New Testament, it Is righteousness explained to have its essence in inwardness, mildness, and self-renouncement. This is, in substance, the word of Jesus which he who hears ` shall never see death ;' of which he who follows it `shall know by experience whether it be of God.'
But as the Israel of the Old Testament did not say or feel that he followed righteousness by his own power, or out of self-interest and self love, but said and felt that he followed it in thankful self-surrender to ' the Eternal who loveth righteousness,' and that ' the Eternal of ordereth a good man's going and maketh his way acceptable to Himself,' so, in the restoration effected by Jesus, the motive which is of force is not the moral motive that inwardness, mildness, and self-renouncement make for man's happiness, but a far stronger motive, full of ardent affection and gratitude, and which, though it really has its ground and confirmation in the fact that inwardness, mildness, and self-renouncement do make for man's happiness, yet keeps no consciousness of this as its ground. For it acquired a far surer ground in personal devotion to Jesus Christ, who brought the doctrine to his disciples and made a passage for it into their hearts ; in believing that he was indeed the Christ come from God ; in following him, loving him. And in the happiness which thus believing in Jesus Christ, following him, and loving him, gives, it found the mightiest of sanctions.