JMC : Philosophy of Literature / by Brother Azarias


We cannot overestimate the influence of this great central Fact on thought, on literature, and on civilization. No historian -- no thinker worthy of the name -- be his personal opinion or personal practice what it may, can ignore this all-important factor in the world's history, nor Him by whom it has been introduced. Those who have ceased to believe in the Divinity of Jesus, must still bow before His greatness. One such places Him upon the highest summit of human grandeur. The same writer tells us that His ideal of life is the most perfect that the world has ever witnessed or shall ever witness; that He has created a heaven of free souls in which is found what we ask in vain from earth, the perfect nobility of the children of God, absolute purity, total abstraction from the contamination of the world, -- that freedom, in short, which material society shuts out as an impossibility, and which finds all its amplitude in the domain of thought. He tells us further, that whatever be the purposes of the future, Jesus will never be surpassed, His worship will grow young without ceasing; the story of His life will call forth tears without end; His suffering will melt the noblest hearts; all ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is none born greater than Jesus.{1} No; for Jesus is more than man. He is God incarnate; He is the Word made flesh.

World-reformers there have been who labored within the limitations of their race and their clime and adapted their reforms thereto. They were well-meaning, with spiritual aspirations, seeking to raise up their peoples to higher and better things; and to a certain extent they succeeded. Such a reformer was Gautama; such an one was Zoroaster; such was Mohammed. But they all pale before the Personality of Jesus. All the gropings of all the ages after light and life find their goal in Him. All the wisdom of all the sages is crystallized in His saving doctrines. There is not an ennobling truth the world over which He has not announced. He touched this world, passed among men, and forthwith the face of the earth began to be renewed. He soothed misery; He sanctified sorrow; He inspired hope; He taught men how to bear the burdens and trials and crosses of life with patience and resignation. In His own Divine Person he was meek and lowly, poor and despised by the rich and the powerful. All the material comforts that men set store by, He held at their true worth. He sought not worldly fame nor worldly goods; He sought souls, His Heart went out in yearning love for souls. Beyond all accidents of birth and environment He prized men's souls, and endeavored to establish in them the kingdom of God. His sympathy and His love knew no limits; they embraced saints and sinners, rich and poor, the well and the sick. He loved with a love boundless as the ocean, expansive as the starry sky, and therefore he was loved, and is loved, and will ever be loved, with a constancy and an intensity that only the goodness and holiness of God can claim and could receive from men. The reign of Jesus is the reign of love. His kingdom is the kingdom of love, and therefore is its duration assured beyond all time and through all eternity. Mohammed was feared; Zoroaster was unswervingly rigid in his teachings; Gautama, though gentle and kind and meek, saw in this world only misery and illusion, and his apostleship was that of the resignation of despair. Jesus alone is loved. His doctrines are above all others precise and clear-cut; they alone are bearers of a message of joy and hope and love and life everlasting. "It was reserved for Christianity," says one who does not believe in the Divine origin of Christianity, "to present to the world an ideal character, which through all the changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an impassioned love, has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations, temperaments, and conditions, has been not only the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exercised so deep an influence that it may be truly said that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers, and all the exhortations of moralists. This has indeed been the well-spring of whatever is best and purest in the Christian life."{2} But that well-spring flows from the Holy Trinity; hence its miraculous power. Hence its sway over natures the most rich and fruitful in life and activity, and intellects the most soaring and acute. We shall have occasion to note this all-penetrating influence throughout the following pages.

{1} Rénan, Vie de Jésus, chap. xxviii.

{2} W. E. H. Lecky, History of European Morals, vol. i. p. 9.

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