Page images
PDF
EPUB

lust, depends more upon mildness and complacency than upon harshness and obstinacy; if he makes the people's good his great care, then everything will cheerfully submit to him, heaven and earth will combine to send down upon him refreshing dews, and the people will of themselves live in sweet concord. Lâo-tsze hates the clamorous politicians who at every street corner harangue about their own wisdom and the wickedness of their political foes. Such glib-tongued meddlers proclaim only their own folly and entangle the State in the meshes of misfortune. The shame of such factious politics can be removed and the blinding glare tempered only by modesty and self-emptiness.

Of war Lâo-tsze is a strenuous opponent. He is a sage of peace. No wonder he abhorred the clash of arms. War, rapine, plunder, bloodshed were rife in his day. Princes, , with no regard for their subjects, enforced levies, seized supplies, marched armies through the standing crops. Only a remnant of the people, beggared by exactions and made desperate by want, were left behind. Briers and thorns grew where legions had been quartered, while gaunt famine and poisonous pestilence followed in their wake. Amid such violence and desolation Lào-tsze lifted up his voice for peace. The superior man, he says, will make this his highest aim. Weapons he takes up only as a last resort. He fights bravely, but only when he must fight in a good cause. If forced into war he mourns with bitter tears over the destruction of property and life, and as soon as the stern necessity has passed away he gladly lays down his arms. When the campaign is over he takes his place upon the right, as though he were at a funeral, mourning over the lives he has been compelled to destroy. When he has conquered an honorable peace he does not needlessly irritate the vanquished by triumphing over his fall, does not exact oppressive or shameful terms of peace, but does what he can to mollify the wounded spirit. Would that in these days of international troubles, when giddy heads and thoughtless tongnes prate much of war, the world would heed these words of wisdom dropped from the lips of a heathen sage! May they find shining illustration in the nations which profess to be under the sway of the “Prince of

He says:

Peace," so that soon shall “forgotten be the bugle blast, and battle music of the drum,” that the cradle song of Christ may not have been sung in vain for this generation.

Lâo-tsze objects also to capital punishment. He held that in a well-governed State the necessity for it would never arise. But when men are carried headlong by passion no penalty will hinder their rushing into crime. He

When the people do not fear death, to what purpose is death still used to overcome them? But if there be a man worthy of death there is always the “great Executioner" in whose hands are the issues of life and death.. Now, for any man to act the Executioner's part is to hew out the great Architect's work for him. He who undertakes to do this rarely fails to cut his fingers.

Such are the leading thoughts of this profound sage of ancient China. Well might it have been for it had it learned deeply of him, instead of from Confucius. But Confucius's spirit was the spirit of his nation. Lâo-tsze was too far in advance to be even understood, much less followed. He was a solitary genius, a great peak lifting its glittering head miles above the little foothills about. Some have styled his ideas Brahmanical, and seek in the Hindu philosophy, especially of the Vedanta school, materials for the interpretation of the Tâoteh-King. Our exposition shows that there is no such harmony. Brahmanism is essentially pantheistic. There is nothing to show that the ideas of Lào-tsze were so. His system was far more intensely ethical and personal. How little real affinity between his lofty thoughts and the superstitious follies of modern Taoism! What a lesson here to those who argue for the continuous advance of human thought! How far has China in twenty-five hundred years advanced beyond Lâo-tsze?

a

Ger. H. Trever

[ocr errors]

ART. VI.—THE CUP OF SORROW. No more strangely enigmatical words ever fell from the Saviour's lips than the oft-repeated prayer in the garden, “ 0 my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” They reveal a mysterious experience whose soul wistfulness and heart hunger overwhelin us. A brief glance at the circumstances which surrounded our Lord, that fateful night when his quivering lips uttered this cry, will greatly aid our study of this experience. With his disciples he has forsaken the retreat where they had celebrated the “last supper.” Si- . lent and sad they pass down the steep side of the Kedron, and are soon on the road which leads to Bethany. But on this occasion he will not go to Bethany, for in the distance loom the outlines of the garden which shall witness his coming grief. To the careless onlooker nature seems strangely out of sympathy with the impending tragedy. “The young leaves have already burst their buds, and are covering twig and branch with their network of green.' The light of the “Passover moon ” shimmers through the foliage, falling on a form bent in the awfulness of a great agony. Yet when one remembers the current of events so rapidly hurrying toward the Arimathean's garden it will be seen that nature's mood well befitted the scene. Of the “garden” itself Dr. Olin writes : “The theater of this sublime transaction impresses itself upon the imagination in characters not to be effaced. It was near one of the most thronged and busy portions of Jerusalem, and yet lay so low in the valley of Jehoshaphat that not a sound from the restless hum of the city's strife could penetrate its profound depths. Its seclusion from the world was complete.”

It was amid the solitude and gloom of this sanctuary that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was to undergo an intensity of suffering to which the purely human soul must ever be a stranger. It was not strange then that he longed to be alone. “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder,” are his words of loving counsel to his companions. They must not behold his anguish, the sight of which would have produced greater stu

[ocr errors]

pefaction than the astonishment caused by his transfiguration. Soon they are lost in sleep, but upon the Master the fury of the storm descends. For four thousand years it had been gathering, and now leaps forth with a fury that is almost irresistible. And he is alone in an awful and absolute solitude. Human sympathy could not aid him even by its dumb presence. Heaven seemed far away. The stars had gone out. He was walking near the valley of the shadow of death, and beneath the shadows of the “ olive garden” were fulfilled the prophetic words, “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me.” The sacred writers have almost exhausted langnage in their effort to convey to our mind some impression of our Saviour's anguish. They tell us that he “kneeled down,” and “fell on his face;" that his soul was “exceeding sorrowful unto death ; " that he “ was sore amazed,” and “very heavy."

The fact of our Lord's agony is thus self-evident. What was its cause? Fortunately the answer to this question is not a difficult one. There were two factors operative in producing his sufferings : First, he was subject, in a large sense, to the laws of human experience. There was in him a human consciousness. He was undoubtedly affected by its exercise. He is now misunderstood by friend and foe alike. The very men to whom his great heart had been freely opened lie asleep, as much apart from him as if they did not exist. Not only so, but, “ before the next dawn shudders in the east, and steals over the terraced hills of Judea,” they will all forsake him and flee. Nor is this the worst. His own familiar friend in whom he trusted “ will degrade the holiest symbol of human affection into a sign of betrayal. And the man who with persistent vehemence had vowed eternal constancy will soon deny his Lord with oaths and curses.'

The contemplation of these facts must have contributed to the soul agony of this royal sufferer. Second, he was the God-man. He was the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world." He is already bearing the burden of the world's sins. Heavier and heavier does that indescribable burden grow. As he nears the end its weight well-nigh crushes him. There is no escape. He knows it. He does not seek it.

He does not seek it. He will gladly

[ocr errors]

The cup:

climb Golgotha’s rugged side and finish with joy “the work the Father had given him to do.”

What, then, is the meaning of those strange enigmatical words, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me?” What did our Lord mean by “this cup?” The question has given rise to much discussion. Commentators have given to it unusual attention. We cannot do better at this point than cite the opinions of some of our leading exegetes :

“This cup” of suffering; that is, those bitter sufferings which were before him, particularly the burden of his Father's wrath.Burkitt.

The present agony. If man's salvation can be obtained in any way consistent with the claims of divine justice, “let this cup pass from me."-Binney and Steele.

The cup. The conflict and agony of dying, showing that he was brought to the point of shrinking when he called in help.-Jacobus.

The cup. The suffering and dying now before him. There was a momentary longing for deliverance, which afterward yielded to unconditional submission.Myer. These opinions are fairly representative and may be accepted as typical, and hence further citation would be a useless repetition. Now, it will be seen from these opinions that the phrase "this cup” includes the whole period of our Lord's passion, placing special emphasis upon his ignominious death on the cross. This conclusion is sustained with almost perfect unanimity by the various exegetes quoted.

Do they express the true meaning of that prayer? The writer unhesitatingly answers in the negative. Their interpretations involve inconsistencies and absurdities which forbid their acceptance. Let us glance at some of those difficulties :

(1) Our Lord's sufferings and death were an integral part of inspired prophecy. So much a part of it, indeed, that to eliminate that factor would justify the charges made by the most ribald infidelity against those Old Testament predictions. His sufferings, death, and its manner, were foretold with the circumstantiality of an eyewitness. Can we think of any agony so intense as to cause the Saviour to lose sight of his relation to the prophetic messages of Israel's seers? None knew so well as he that in him all types, symbols, and predictions were to find completest culmination. Could he forget this? Was there ever a moment up to this crucial hour when

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »