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think you are, and that publicans and sinners are also what you think them to be, my procedure stands justified.
The parable of the Lost Son (Lk. xv. 11-32) elaborates the same thought still more impressively. The elder son is the conscientious, scrupulous Jew who fulfils punctually his round of religious duty, taking great satisfaction in its completeness and feeling a self-complaisant disdain for those who neglect or despise their religious obligations. The younger son is the typical “sinner” who has thrown off all restraint and gives himself over to a life of sensuous indulgence. The father's solicitude for this lost son which leads him to hail with joy the first sign of his return is the divine love which does not despair of the heedless, reckless wanderer, who has not ceased to be the object of the divine compassion and yearning. The justification of Jesus' method is found alike in what God is and in what man is. The very fact that the man is lost lost to his true life and destiny, yet not irrecoverably so - moves the very heart of God to its deepest depths of pity and calls into action the most powerful energies of divine love. Such is the estimate - so contrary to the common judgment of men in his time - which.Jesus teaches that God puts upon even a moral outcast; such the exultant joy with which his return to his father's bounty and love is celebrated ; such “joy is there in heaven over one sinner that repenteth” (Lk. xv. 7, 10).1
1 “When Jesus made his own Apologia in the 15th chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, He also offered their apology for the people. They were not callous and hopeless sinners, only sheep that have wandered from the fold, and know not the way back; not useless and worthless human stuff, but souls that carried beneath the rust and grime the stamp of their birth, and might be put out at usury; not outcasts whose death would be a good riddance, but children loved and missed in their Father's House. This wreck, Jesus perpetually insisted, is not the man - only his lower self, ignorant, perverted, corrupt ; the other self lies hidden and must be released. This is the real self, and when it is realised you come to the
• When he came to himself,' said Jesus of the prodigal. This was Jesus' reading of publicans and sinners, – the pariahs of that civilisation. He moved among the people with a sanguine expectation ; ever demanding achievements of the most unlikely, never knowing when he might not be gladdened by a response. An unwavering and unbounded faith in humanity sustained His heart and transformed its subjects. Zacchæus,
(4) Jesus implied in his teaching that despite their sinfulness, there are good impulses and tendencies in men. He regarded the great majority of the men of his time as still susceptible to the appeal of his truth and Kingdom. As he moved about among the plain people of Galilee, he saw in them the prospect of a rich spiritual harvest if only laborers could be had to reap it (Mt. ix. 37, 38). He intimated very clearly that those who were popularly regarded as most depraved were not, in all cases, worse than others, and that there were noble spirits among the despised classes. In the striking parable in which he teaches the nature and scope of neighbor-love (Lk. x. 30–37) he, no doubt, purposely selects as his example of the absence of that love a priest, and as his illustration of its exemplification a Samaritan. All would assume that a priest would do justice and love mercy, and all would agree that nothing good need be sought in a despised Samaritan. Jesus shows how contrary to fact this judgment may be. Goodness may be found in the most unexpected quarter; a Samaritan may excel a priest in Godlike love. This is not an allegorical reading of the parable, but only a recognition of the naturalness and appropriateness of the materials out of which it is constructed. The
way in which Jesus spoke of children is not without a bearing upon his doctrine of human nature. When he wished to illustrate the qualities which should characterize the members of his Kingdom, he took a little child and set him in the midst of his hearers and said: “ Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the Kingdom of heaven” (Mt. xviii. 3). To what but the unassuming sense of dependence and the
the hated tax-gatherer, makes a vast surrender, and shows also that he is a son of Abrahain. St. Mary Magdalene, the by-word of society, has in her the passion of a saint. St. Matthew abandons a custom-house to write a Gospel. St. John leaves his nets to become the mystic of the ages. St. Peter flings off his weakness, and changes into the rock of the Church. With everything against Him, Jesus treated men as sons of God, and His optimism has had its vindication." The Mind of the Master, by Rev. John Watson, D.D. (1896), pp. 238, 239.
relative innocence of childhood could he have referred in so speaking? Had Jesus regarded human beings as totally depraved from the very beginning of life, had he believed that in consequence of the corrupt nature which all men inherit at birth they were “made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually," 1 as theology has so often taught, it is difficult to see how he could have made the child-spirit the test of fitness for his Kingdom. Of such persons as little children are, that is, of those who have a childlike disposition and character, his Kingdom is said to consist (Mt. xix. 14; Mk. x. 14; Lk. xviii. 16). How could Jesus say this if he did not see natural goodness in children; if human nature as such were that utterly corrupt and odious thing in the sight of God which it has so often been described as being ? Our sources warrant no such view as finding any support in the language of Jesus. This theory of human nature is the result of certain speculative considerations supported by isolated texts of Scripture which describe the dark depths of sin to which men may and often do descend. Jesus took no rosecolored view of man in his sinfulness, but he did not represent all men as being as bad as they can be and that from the very moment of birth.
Jesus saw in men a mixture of good and evil. At his side as he hung upon the cross was a robber. Yet even he was capable of a vague yearning to share in the Kingdom of truth and holiness and was promised the fellowship of Christ in paradise (Lk. xxiii. 42, 43). Zacchæus was no doubt what people called him, a “sinner,” yet he evinced an eager interest in Jesus, and under the inspiration of his presence and teaching quickly responded to the requirements of the life of love and truth (Lk. xix. 1-10). There is no reason for supposing that the Roman centurion was a specially religious person. Yet he was generous; he had built a synagogue for the Jews of the town where he was stationed. He loved his servant and believed that Jesus had power to heal him. He was a noble Roman, modest, kind, and generous, but — so far as our source informs us no more.
i The Larger Westminster Catechism, Q. 25.
Yet Jesus saw in these qualities the elements of a greater faith than he had elsewhere found in all Israel; among all the scribes, Pharisees, and priests that he had ever met he had not found a disposition so pleasing to God as that of this heathen soldier (Lk. vii. 9).
Jesus' view of mankind was not one-sided or extreme. He saw men as they were — neither wholly bad nor wholly good; ignorant, perverted, and even wilfully wicked, yet not without good desires and aspirations; lost, but not hopeless. In all their unfilial indifference and disobedience they were still, in his view, sons of God, susceptible to the appeal of a Father's love, and capable both of coming to themselves — their true, normal selves — and of returning to their Father.
(5) The hope of a future life Jesus grounds upon man's essential kinship to God. He seems not to have spoken frequently of the resurrection life. Belief in it was general in his time, and it was not necessary to insist upon it. The Sadducees, however, rejected it, and presented to Jesus a supposed case to which they thought it could not be made to apply (Mk. xii. 18 sq.). They said: If a woman becomes the wife of seven brothers successively, whose wife shall she be in the resurrection? The supposition was intended to exhibit the absurdity of maintaining the doctrine. Jesus' reply turns on two points. In the first place, the objection rests upon the wholly unwarranted assumption that the future life must be like this suous life subject to the same conditions and relations which obtain here. In making this assumption the objectors have utterly failed to estimate justly the resources of God. The God whom the Scriptures reveal is able to provide for mankind a mode of life to which no such conditions or limitations apply: “Ye know not the Scriptures, nor the power of God" (v. 24). The objection involves no proof of the absurdity of a blessed resurrection life, but is only an evidence of the limitations of the Sadducean idea of it. In the second place, Jesus turns to the “ Book
of Moses,” which they estimated so highly and from whose provisions they had drawn their example (v. 19), and points out that Jehovah is there called the God of the patriarchs, long since dead (Ex. iii. 6). The expression assumes, not merely that Jehovah was their God when living on earth, but that he is their God still: “ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (v. 27). The passage, therefore, presupposes a continuing relation, a living communion between these persons and Jehovah. The argument of Jesus meets the specific difficulty by placing the whole subject upon the deepest and broadest basis — by appealing to what God is and to what man is. The hope of future blessedness is grounded on the boundless resources of the divine love, and on the kinship of man to God which fits him for communion with God.
We next observe the language of Jesus respecting human sinfulness. Our sources do not represent him as speaking of the origin of sin or as discussing its specific nature. On the contrary, he speaks of sin as a fact of common observation and experience, and discloses its nature by noting its manifestations.
His teaching assumes that sin is universal among men. All men are called upon to repent. He indeed speaks of “righteous persons who need no repentance" (Lk. xv. 7) in contrast to “ sinners,” but it is evident from the context that he is speaking ironically, and that the Pharisees whom he is answering are “ righteous” only in their own estimation or according to the traditional but inadequate standards of righteousness which obtained at the time. He gives his disciples a universal form of prayer, containing the petition : “ Forgive us our sins ” (Lk. xi. 4). Even the most loving of parents, who delight to give good gifts to their children, are themselves “evil” (Trovnpoí, Mt. vii. 11), morally imperfect, sinful. Men are assailed on every side by temptation, blinded in their spiritual perceptions, perverted by worldliness. The lower life could not thus assert its power over them if it did not find a ready point of contact with their inner life; if the wills of men w not weakened and biassed towards false objects of desire