Page images

Him that sent Me for the night cometh when no man can work." This was the kind of an estimate that He placed on His own work: “Go your way and tell John the things that you do both see and hear; the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the lepers are cleansed, the poor have good tidings preached unto them.”

The enthusiastic historian doubted if the world itself could hold the record of what He did in those brief years. What would he think if he could behold the record through two thousand years? Sooner could the thin colonies of the Atlantic seaboard have imagined the rich heritage of the America of today. Because others could not see the possibility of the future, on September 9, 1850, William H. Seward in the Senate of the United States called upon Senators who hesitated in the vote for the admission of California to the Union to understand that “ The unity of our empire hangs on the decision of this day.”

But the wildest imagination could not have pictured the things that have flowed from the life of Christ during nineteen centuries. Like a beneficent river, that influence has gone through the parched regions of human life, causing love to God, love to man, purity of heart and right conduct to have an ever increasing dominion among men. Examine and see His mighty works.

If it had not been for Jesus where would be our civilization? If it had not been for Him it is safe to say it never would have been at all. This is not

an extravagant statement. The world had seen splendid civilizations before He was born. Memphis and Thebes and Babylon left a trail of glory whose sunset hues were still visible in His day, but they were smitten of death none the less truly. Jewry, Greece, Rome, had attained lofty heights in religion, in culture, in government, but the deathrattle was in the throat of each when He was born. For the Jew religion had become narrower and narrower until it was a mere piece of empty ritual; for the Greek the worship of mere physical beauty was universal; the gods themselves were the incarnation of human vices as well as virtues; among the Romans men had ceased to believe in the gods and worshipped Cæsar. This was but the outward symbol of the decay and rottenness at the very heart where used to be virility and strength. There could be no hope for civilization in the future unless the breath of heaven should be breathed upon these dry bones. And the needed impulse came in the young man who stepped from His tiny home in the Galilean hills and incarnated in Himself his message of God, of purity, of truth, and of love. Civilization lives just so long as red blood pulses through three main arteries of the mind, of the heart, and of the conduct

These are the very avenues through which Jesus manifested His works. Jesus Christ is the mighty heart of humanity forever pumping lifestreams of righteousness, of truth, and of love through the corporate body of human association. When the heart ceases its work the organism dies.

of men.

No matter how perfect the physique, no matter how piercing the intellect, when the heart ceases the strong man is seen no more at his work. No matter how great the culture, no matter how costly the display of luxury and comfort, when its heart ceases civilization is ready for its funeral. Christ's heart of righteousness, truth, and love is the only source and mainstay of our civilization, and yet we prate about the growth of our cities and industries, and our commercial prosperity! So once did Athens and Carthage.

“God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

Dominion over palm and pine-
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget!

“Far-called our navies melt away

On dune and headland sinks the fire-
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget, lest we forget.”

If it had not been for Jesus we should not have our civilization, and for the reason that we should lack life-blood in the very channels where it is essential.

If it had not been for Jesus, what would be the flow that marks the volume of moral rectitude?

His teachings quiver with moral strength as does the aspen with the very presence of its native air; His teachings are clothed with moral beauty as

perennially as are the evergreens of the wood with their verdure.

Oh, yes, there is moral beauty and strength in His teachings,” one exclaims, “but have we not the moral system of our civilization even when we leave religion out? After all, why is Christ indelibly associated with our moral life? We have our moral code, we have our schools; education is our safeguard.” Very good. Just two things in reply. As to education, we yield to none in the recognition of its worth and necessity. We have not enough of it. Yet education itself cannot produce moral stamina. The age of Pericles, which dazzles with the array of genius and scholarship, was the most corrupt time that the little peninsula of Attica ever


Even if education could produce morals we should have but little of it if it had not been for Jesus, as we shall see later.

But that you might know that Christ is the greatest factor in the moral fabric of our civilization, hear the testimony of one not professionally interested in religion. He is only looking at the matter historically and ethically. Lecky in his “ History of European Morals” says, “It was the distinguishing characteristic of Christianity that its moral influence was not indirect, casual, remote or spasmodic. Unlike all pagan religions, it made moral teaching a main function of its clergy, moral discipline the leading object of its services, moral disposition the necessary condition of the due performance

of its rites. By the pulpit, by its ceremonies, by all the agencies of power that it possessed, it laboured systematically and perseveringly for the regeneration of mankind. Under its influence doctrines concerning the nature of God, the immortality of the soul and the duties of man, which the noblest intellects of antiquity could barely grasp, have become the truisms of the village school, the proverbs of the cottage and the alley.”

If the Grecian poets and dramatists could weave their immortal stories round the later development of Paris and Oedipus, royal babes, who were exposed to death on the mountains, they were illustrating the terrible custom of infanticide which was so prevalent in ancient times. This moral dereliction, Christianity stamped out. If Roman society by the tens of thousands could sit unmoved while gladiatorial shows exhibited man slaying his brother man wholly for sport, it was Christianity and that alone which accounts for the ultimate banishment of this enormity. Says the great historian, “ Christianity alone was powerful enough to tear this evil plant from the Roman soil. The Christian custom of legacies for the relief of the injured and suffering replaced the Pagan custom of bequeathing sums of money for games in honour of the dead.”

The exalted position of woman, the making of her a companion rather than a mere plaything, the upholding of virtue and the abhorrence of unchastity, Lecky credits to Christianity.

« PreviousContinue »