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between our Lord and the Pharisees is made manifest. 'Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.' Between a righteousness which, reckoning up with satisfaction its own completeness, could ask, 'What lack Ì yet?' in order to expect from heaven one more reward in addition to a debt already deep; and a better righteousness that, striving earnestly and in vain to mortify all sin of act and thought, sees that there is still a great gulf between it and a complete observance of the law of God, and answers the 'What lack I yet' by 'God be merciful to me a sinner,' the difference is too great for any comparison. The one was the Pharisaic righteousness, the other is that which Christ preached.*
We would carefully distinguish, with Keim, between stern rebukes of Pharisaic inconsistency of practice and condemnation of their principles. But, setting aside the former, it is against their inmost principles that the Gospel teaching is directed; and this, too, at the very outset of the ministry of the Lord. There is no token of change, of a union at first with the Pharisees which was afterwards broken off. To say that the Lord was under the influence of Pharisaic doctrine, is to say that He was brought up among Jews; whether in Judæa or in Galilee, a young mind seeking the truth about God would receive it in the form into which the Pharisees had cast it. When Jesus sat in the midst of the doctors, hearing them and asking them questions, they were Pharisaic answers that His questions produced. But He was no disciple of Pharisees. Side by side with their teaching the doctrine of Jesus vindicates its complete originality, even more than when compared with the slight and shadowy records of the Essenes.
Of the relations of the Baptist to Jesus much has been said, and yet the subject remains obscure. What was the amount of intercourse between the forerunner and his Lord? On the one hand little is recorded of actual converse between them; and up to the time of his imprisonment John appears to have paid little attention to the ministry of Jesus. On the other, it is probable that before the visit to John for the sake of his baptism, the Lord heard much of this new spiritual leader, prophet and more than prophet; and He speaks of him more than once in terms of honour. The coming of the Baptist marked a great awakening of the Jews to religion. This hardy and zealous preacher, re
* See John Smith's Select Discourses 'Of the Shortness and Vanity of a Pharisaick Righteousness.'
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minding them of the old prophets in his boldness, and of the Essenes in his hard and self-renouncing life, saw with profound sorrow the sins and miseries of the chosen people, and felt that the promised Deliverer was nigh. He called on the people to repent and bring forth fruits meet for repentance, lest the coming Lord should visit an unprepared house and nation. They all went out to hear him, and he bound together by a rite all that were moved to godly resolutions by his words. But in his preaching there was nothing, so far as we can judge, that went beyond the Mosaic system. The kingdom of heaven was what the Jews had expected, and righteousness was the preparation for it, and a corrupt people must repent and turn to holiness before they were fit to enter it; all this is the voice of the old covenant, and of that only. Not to be a mere witness to Jesus did John come to prepare the way before Him: but as the old covenant was one long preparation for Christ, as the heart of that old covenant was righteousness and hatred of the evil, and as the people had lost their hold on that, and were fruitlessly brooding over high national promises which their conduct was frustrating, there came a voice out of the desert stirring them up to the old belief, lest when Christ came He might find a people unable to accept the Gospel because they had ceased to understand the Law. When Christ was baptized by John there was a mutual testimony. By His baptism Jesus sealed as true the preaching of John, of repentance and the coming kingdom; and John was taught in that act to recognise the coming king. With this mutual recognition some other relations between them appear. The preaching of the Lord starts from the same theme as that of the Baptist: the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of heaven is at hand; repent ye and believe the Gospel' (Mark i. 15). But what was with the Baptist the denunciation of sin without much help or comfort under the load of it, became in the mouth of Christ a message of and peace love. Hearts first made to feel their own barrenness by John's preaching were parched under the pitiless heat of the sky, until words of mercy from Jesus dropped on them like gentle dews and showers, and quickened the imprisoned life of many a germ of good, and turned the barren soil into a fragrant garden. Opinions will ever vary as to the relation of John to Christ. The groundless absurdity of Renan, condemned by all writers since, that for a time the Lord became a follower and imitator of John, to the hindrance of His ministry, hardly deserves record. Keim rates high the influence of John. Schenkel more justly sees that John the Baptist and his disciples certainly did never make common cause with Jesus, and that Jesus never regarded
John as capable of appreciating Him and His mission, nor as capable of forming part of the kingdom of heaven.'* But whether the intercourse and influence appear more or less, the teaching of Jesus belongs to a wholly different sphere. Nay more, the Lord Himself has set a wide gulf between Him and the Baptist. In that answer to the question about fasting, Christ presents Himself as the bridegroom spreading his own life and joy into the hearts of all that were with him; whilst the figures of the new and heady wine in old bottles, and the new cloth in the old garments, contains something of rebuke of the dulness which failed to recognise the new order of things that had come. There was reproof, too, in the words 'Blessed is he that shall not be offended in me.' Lastly, the least in the kingdom of heaven was pronounced greater than John.
We have gained from recent investigations a stronger assurance than before of the complete originality of the teaching of Jesus. Not that all writers are agreed; but that when one bids us seek for the germs of it among the Pharisees as Keim does, and another rejects this view and refers us to the Essenes, as Hilgenfeld, we find each able to refute convincingly the opposite opinion, but unable to produce any proof of his own. In this point, this independence of local and traditional influence, the last results of criticism' so much vaunted confirm the uncritical estimate which believing people, with a better touch-stone in their hands even than criticism, have formed about Christ from the beginning.
Now this teacher from the time of His Baptism looked on himself as the Messiah foretold by the Jews. Whether and how this consciousness grew in Him, it would be barren speculation to discuss. From the opening of His Ministry He assumed a position which could only belong to one of highest authority. In the Sermon on the Mount no scribe would have ventured to deal with the law as He did: His words are not interpretation but reformation of the law. He forgives sins. At Nazareth He applies to Himself a passage of Isaiah that had never been interpreted save of the Messiah. He selects a company of disciples, and expects from them a great devotion and a complete renouncement of earthly cares and ties. All this we know from the first three Gospels; the fourth is more express. The imprisonment of the Baptist may have served as an appointed call to Jesus to proclaim His mission more distinctly. It was the vanishing of the last ray of light from the page of the old Covenant. However this may be, from the commencement of the ministry the
kingdom of God was preached, and He who preached it put forth an authority which showed that He was the King and the Head.
Now what was this kingdom, the theory of which was perfected among a people whose national or sectarian pride was the foremost element of their character? Amid Pharisees whose very name was separation, amidst Essenes whose bigoted exclusiveness went far beyond even Pharisees, Christ proclaimed a system from which natural and exclusive privileges had been silently abolished. The beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount speak of a kingdom to which men must be admitted for moral and spiritual qualities, for meekness and mercy, purity and peace, and the hopes and prospects of which are not bounded by the sensible world, but belong to heaven itself. The writers before us may attempt to fix the precise time at which Jesus assumed fully the title and functions of Messiah; but we must maintain that when the Sermon on the Mount was uttered then were the old contracted hopes of Abraham's seed scattered for ever. A new law from the lips of a new law-giver, and new terms of admission and citizenship in a new kingdom, are plainly written in this discourse. There is no allusion to the foreign yoke that pressed on the sacred people and made their hearts bitter. There is no hope held out of a redintegrated nation, and a reign splendid and prosperous like Solomon's; no word is uttered of a brave deliverance by the soldier's sword. Another sort of glory the preacher presents to His hearers: the glory of God's reign in men's hearts; the conquest of sin in their breasts, ay, even the idle word and loose thought conquered by the tender and enlight ened conscience. This should not be overlooked, when writers like Sibenhal and Keim persuade us that the idea of a kingdom that should embrace the Gentiles only grew up later, and is first seen clearly in the journey to Tyre and Sidon. There is some confusion between the outward teaching and the inward growth. The new kingdom was offered first to the Jews, and offered without any shock to their prejudices. It would take time to learn that a kingdom that included Gentiles was not to be abhorred as a kingdom of the unclean. But, if the question be of inward growth, then it is quite safe to say that, at no moment of His ministry, did any narrow theory of exclusion find favour with Him. There is a large class of passages in
which some writers find marks of doubt and hesitation, instead of the singular prudence that marked the preach ing of the Kingdom of God. Where He seems to put from Him the title of Messiah, and charges men not to make Him known, He wishes to be seen as the Messiah that He is, and not
as the Messiah of men's false preconceptions. 'He will do nothing to excite in His person the carnal hopes of political fanatics, or to provoke prematurely the hostility of religious fanatics.' 'He shall not strive nor cry: neither shall any man hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall He not break, and smoking flax shall He not quench until He send forth judgment unto victory.' This prudence was the highest love. It would have been easy to have kindled all the inflammable elements of the people into a fire of wild enthusiasm, to use their false prepossessions in aid of the kingdom that was to be; but many a bruised reed had then been broken, and the smoking flax had often had the feeble spark of divine love smothered out of it. This reserve was intentional, was necessary; it was also temporary, and applied to the present state of the people. What I tell you in darkness,' He says to the twelve, that speak ye in light and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.' There is, moreover, another fact for which allowance must be made. The Jews had enjoyed divine favour, were the people of God. That His favour was not wholly withdrawn from them, even now, was manifest from the fact that the light of the world appeared among them; and if they had not loved darkness rather than light, light would have been their portion. In the mysterious counsels that we cannot explore, by which the world is governed, it was decreed that salvation should be first preached to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. Salvation was for all the world: the kingdom was open to the poor in spirit, the meek, the heavy-laden in every land; but the offer was first made to the Jews. Hence Christ appears sometimes to regard himself and His apostles as sent to Jews, because the first invitations to the heavenly feast were to them. The offer and the refusal are often spoken of by the Lord: the parables of the Wedding Guests, the two Sons, the Vineyard, all refer to it; the last most expressly, for He makes the application, The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.'† There is in the teaching of the Lord, from the first, a clear indication that the Kingdom of God' was to be open to the whole world. Not less clearly do we see that it was a spiritual kingdom; that the confusion of temporal and spiritual, which has marked other religions, had no place here; that the ideal of humanity, which He exhorted His followers to attain, left on one side all the boasted privileges of the Jews. Was not this a great stride in spiritual progress? If
† Matt. xxi. 43, xxii. 2-10, xxi. 28.