Chapter XXII: The Work and Teaching of the Christ
Rhayma paused, not with the pride of one conscious of the strength of his position, but rather in thoughtful consideration of myself, whom he was leading by such a hitherto unsuspected path into the fortress of a long-sought-for truth. My feet stood in the midst of the entanglements of the tares which choked and attempted to destroy the true grain, and he was reluctant to hurry my progress, but left me to contemplate the network of delusion, and contrast it with the clearly-defined highway he pointed out as we proceeded.
If any doubt or nervousness had troubled me in relation to the good faith of my conductor it had at length been dissolved. My future path was still shrouded with the veil of mystery, but what of that? Behind me could be seen the unmistakable outlines of the recovered highway—straight, well defined and carefully planned, leading in the desired direction, and furnished with safeguards for all who had eyes to see, that were sufficient to keep the pilgrim from going astray.
While I mused on these things and the many reflections they suggested, like a distant echo I heard the familiar strains of one of my favourite hymns assuring me that—
His love in times past forbids me to think
He’ll leave me at last in trouble to sink:
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review
Confirms His good pleasure to help me right through.
It came to me like Myhanene’s affirmation that “All is well,” and bestowed the benediction of the peace of God.
I afterwards discovered that Rhamya was fully conscious of what occurred just then, but he made no attempt to direct or disturb me; and as for Eilele—she had so completely isolated herself as to be forgotten. I have never quite satisfied myself whether she followed us on that eventful journey, or whether, knowing the road so well and being confident of the result, she did not give wing to her mind and spend the time among the visions which appear to be ever accessible to her daring flights.
Of all the dreams I have had in Paradise few, if any, have been more sweetly anticipatory than those I enjoyed upon the occasion of which I speak. I was being led through an altogether novel region, which, from a somewhat doubtful beginning, had opened gradually into most unexpected attractions, where I was utterly unable to attempt a forecast of what might yet remain to be revealed.
If but one step across the threshold
Had shown such sweet ambushed surprise,
What would be found when I should reach
The sanctuary, and, from within, new eyes,
Not yet evolved, behold the God-truth light
Blazing with perfect glory, and my steady sight
Endures as I adore?
I know not, nor could I waste valuable time in useless speculation; enough that for the present I was in an enchanted land where new and more divine senses were unfolding within me under the influences native to the condition in which I reposed. I was nearing the truth, and over its fields of glad surprise swept the gentle breezes of God’s soft revelation, bringing to me health and strength.
I was so glad to rest, and yet my buoyant soul was impatient to be away that with my now clearer vision I might behold more of the beauty of the King. I was coming nearer to the Christ! Oh, so much nearer than ever I had been before, and I longed to throw myself at His dear feet, and with the satisfied Thomas exclaim “My Lord and my God!”
Rhamya patiently allowed the exhilarating anticipation to pursue its course until it had wrought its full effect and the sign was clear that the time for his advance had come. He then re-addressed himself to his ministry and led me forward.
“You will now be prepared,” he began, “to look a little more closely at the beautiful interblending of the human with the divine by which God in Christ Jesus was working out the reconciliation of the world unto Himself. And let me here again impress upon you the importance of never losing sight for a single instant of the fact that the whole and sole object of the work of Christ is the reconciliation of the world to God, it is never to propitiate God or to secure His favour on behalf of the world.
“The fundamental difficulty to the establishment of this desirable partnership, on the human side, was the doubt as to whether man was really immortal or only ‘as the beast which perisheth.’ And it was just here where the priest was found to be as hopelessly ignorant as the laymen or the heathen. If a system is to be judged by the value of the service it is able to render, then at this all-important point, for which alone religions are called into existence, theologies, ecclesiasticisms and churches become nothing better than broken reeds and empty speculations. Neither priest nor schoolman is equipped for fording this Jordan, and bringing back such a report of the land on the other shore as shall satisfactorily solve the doubt. They
“‘Stand lingering, shivering on the brink,
And fear to launch away.’
“But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, the things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; that no flesh should glory in His presence.’ When learning fails, God has placed the prophet in readiness to serve humanity. And the greatest of all the prophets was Jesus, through whom the Christ came ‘to bring life and immortality to light.’ Everlasting—an unbroken, uninterrupted—life was the gift He came to bestow, or rather make clear the fact that it existed as the natural heritage of all mankind. This revelation was the God-erected goal towards which the prophetic gift had from the first reached out its hands. Its prize was Messiahship, and the competition was an open one which Jesus alone secured, and upon Him descended and rested the Christ of God. Let me now try to make the certainty of this dual personality somewhat clearer to your understanding.
“Can you first give me any information as to the relationship of Christ to the Godhead?” I asked.
“I can tell you something of it,” he replied, “but you will fail to comprehend me because it relates to an exalted condition of life of which I know but little and at present you have no conception. We shall only be able to understand it clearly when we reach it. Still, I may say this. The name of Christ is one which applies to a community rather than to an individual. It is a circle formed by the greatest souls from advanced existing worlds—into which number the earth has not yet been admitted—and what may be termed the rearguard of worlds who have entered upon higher stages of existence I have no power to anticipate. The ideal after which the Christ circle reaches is the union of many worlds (or folds) in the communal spirit of a new order in which the Divine features may be better expressed; but their aspiration also denotes their present imperfection, and if you will bear this in mind in relation to the position from which the Christ descended upon Jesus you may find it to be a key by which you may open and understand many of His sayings which otherwise must remain mysterious; the ideal He desires His Church to reach ‘that they all may be one,’ is the natural atmosphere in which He dwells; it is not a prayer for union of personality—that would be impossible—it is rather union of spiritual tone and service, such as He knows with the Father of whom He speaks as being so much ‘greater than I.’ It would be easy for me to multiply such sayings if it were necessary, but you may easily do so at your leisure, so I will leave this and pass on.”
“Permit me one other question here,” I ventured further, “that my mind may be perfectly free to follow what you have yet to say.”
“What is it?” he replied with kindly indulgence.
“You quote the Scriptures so frequently that I am anxious to know just what amount of authority you allow them to bear.”
“In all that I am saying to you,” Rhamya answered with a slightly accentuated deliberation, “I am guided by the thought that I am preparing you for your coming mission to earth. If it were otherwise I should prefer to treat all these subjects on a much higher plane and draw my illustrations from far more satisfactory sources; but such a course would be of no service or assistance to you, and for this reason entirely I shape my arguments for your convenience and guidance. In doing so I remember how many of the men with whom you will be brought into contact will take their first stand in relation to an open communion between the two conditions of life, upon the traditional interpretation the Church has placed upon the so-called sacred writings, and knowing this, without wasting any time in attacking their position, I have preferred to draw your attention to the clearly evident fact that what is recognized as an orthodox interpretation of the Bible is itself directly opposed to a far more satisfactory and consistent revelation contained in the selfsame volume. With only obligatory references to the sacerdotal system—recognizing that it contains qualities capable of good, and willing to concede that, in spite of its manifold errors and inconsistencies, it has done an inestimable service for humanity in the mundane sphere, and that also it has been a starting point for multitudes of saints who have risen superior to its own environments—I am content to leave its defence and promulgation in the hands of its own champions and simply expound the truth as I know it for myself. In doing this for your assistance and edification I use the Scriptures simply as historical documents recording a stream of events with one branch of which we are closely interested, but in so doing I claim my right to accept or reject what my knowledge or reason dictates, which is a standard of judgement one is bound to erect, especially where records speak with such double-tongued voices as those we are dealing with. Let God be true though by such an allowance we convict every man and book of lying. Men may and always do edit, re-edit, interpolate, interpret and generally deal with manuscripts and books to suit conveniences; the use and meaning of words and phrases change; and even though we admit the highest possible authority for an utterance made under certain given circumstances and conditions, it needs no skill in dialectics to prove that a command vital to the interests of one question might be equally fatal to another. Therefore a living and ever-present God elects to speak through living men—hence the prophetic ordination, ‘Thou shalt hear a voice behind thee saying this is the way’; ‘He shall give His angels charge concerning thee to keep thee in all thy ways’; ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee’; ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.’ These and other kindred assurances through the lips of prophets are infinitely more in accordance with the Spirit of Divine Fatherhood than a thousand appeals to what is written, although we may be assured that such words were in reality the voice of God to other men. It is in this light I make use of the Scriptures. They record, so far as they go, some of the inspirations of the past, enabling us to trace certain evolutionary lines of thought and development; they preserve outlines of the form through which ideas and movements have passed; they give to us a humanly sketched portrait of the Christ, which is certainly beautiful in spite of its imperfection, misconception, and failure to understand his true relationship either to God or man; but after all they hand on nothing more than the form of godliness—the life, the vigour, the strength, and its fervid inspiration cannot be transmitted through the inanimate channel of any document; they are spirit, they are life, and must needs flow from their source through ‘living epistles, known and read of all men.’ Briefly then, I use the Scriptures as I use the systems which are founded upon them for the good and truth I find therein. With a fervent desire at all times and in all places to be guided aright, I use my reason in a careful endeavour to ‘refuse the evil and choose the good.’ No man can do more, and if he honestly does this he will not go wrong. Have I made my meaning clear to you?”
“Perfectly; but I am afraid you will think my interruptions sadly interfere with what you wish to say.”
“Not at all. They come naturally and are necessary for your future guidance. All that I have to say will rather be assisted than otherwise by any inquiries you may wish to make, and when I have answered you I shall always find myself standing in the presence of one or other of the kindred points I still wish to notice. For instance, while our thoughts are engaged with the sacred writings we may advantageously linger to learn what they record about the teaching and work of the Christ, reserving my other point for later consideration.
“Now, if it were possible for you to clear your memory of all the teachings you have heard and been taught to believe as a Christian, then sit down and read for the first time what the Gospels record of the teaching and ministry of Christ, and afterwards listen to the doctrines of what is known as Christianity, you would be astounded to find how the one is at variance with the other, and inquire by what right the Church claims the authority of Christ for any such system formulated and taught by any one of the many sects calling themselves by His Name. In His teaching Christ took exactly the same position that I have taken with yourself. It would have been easy for Him to have used more learned language, higher arguments and philosophical illustrations, but had He done so the result would have been by so much a more hopeless misunderstanding. This is well evidenced by His interview with Nicodemus, who as a ruler and teacher of the people should surely be in a position to speak of spiritual things intelligently, yet even from him we hear the disappointed Christ asking, ‘If I have told you earthly things and you believe me not, how shall ye believe if I tell you heavenly things?’ The Master always had to accommodate His teaching to the gross mental and spiritual darkness which covered the people, in order that from the midst of it a light might shine—His light which was to be the light of the world. Hence He mentioned no word about theology—He who was in a position to speak so clearly and definitely—but it would only be (to use His own simile) to cast pearls before swine, who would afterwards turn and rend Him. Men are not in a position while subject to the domination of the animal passion consequent upon the flesh, to arrive at a passionless and purely spiritual conception of the nature, perfection, purposes and attributes of God, who is Spirit, and must therefore needs be understood in the shadowless uncreated beam of His own self-emanating light in the region of absolute truth. The Christ found a race of children running about with the preliminary inquiry it is still making—‘What is truth?’ and He wisely took the kindergarten system of teaching from natural pictures and parables the elementary lessons, which others coming after Him would gradually follow up until the ministering spirits of God would lead mankind into all truth. He began by teaching the human child-race to dismiss the confusing idea of God from their minds and replace it by the conception of a Father whom they might think of, in every good, noble, and considerate way, as being infinitely better than any human father the world had known, and one who—though Himself unseen—heard, saw and knew all men did and even thought. Christ knew this Father—had come from Him to teach mankind the way to the home where God awaited their coming—and if they prayed to Him as ‘Our Father, who art in Heaven,’ and lived a life such as He (Christ) would live for men’s example, the prayer would be heard and the Father would give them whatever they asked Him for, because while they lived as He would show to them it would not be possible for them to ask anything but what the Father intended them to have. Throughout this typical life He was always drawing attention thereto to illustrate all He said, in which He summed up the whole duty of man in one sentence, ‘All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; this is the law and the prophets.’ This command is to be so literally carried out, or honestly aimed at, that when the child prays to his Father he need not fear to link with his petition the plea ‘forgive me my trespasses as I forgive them that trespass against me,’ and he who can fearlessly make this request has nothing to fear.”
“Did He not also teach ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart’?” I inquired.
“Certainly! But love to God is not to precede, but be the outgrowth of love to man. ‘If a man love not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?’ In his humanity Christ represented the door by which alone entrance is to be found into the higher—the truly spiritual-life, and whoever tries to enter by another way ‘the same is a thief and a robber.’ Notice how stringently Christ lays the rule down: ‘If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee (not that thou hast ought against thy brother), leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift.’ The passport to admission into the kingdom of Heaven is righteousness of conduct towards men. This is the scope of the teaching of Christ which is strenuously enforced in His sermon on the Mount, in parable, in prayer, and by every aspect of His ministry. He came to save the world from the inevitable consequences of sin, and this He does by repentance and a new life in which rightness rules supreme. But repentance towards God can only be approached by repentance towards men accompanied by reconciliation. Salvation came to Zaccheus by his repentance and restoring fourfold that which had been unrighteously acquired; and the rich young ruler’s acceptance depended on distributing his wealth among the poor. ‘If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven; and come and follow Me.’ The instinct of selfishness which is legitimately dominant in the brute, becomes not only unnecessary but woefully injurious in the man, and the coming of Christ is to save both from the evil of the natural passion and the consequences its indulgence will entail.”
“Will you allow me here to suppose that such an incarnation as that of Christ had not taken place—what then would have been the fate of humanity?”
My teacher smiled good-naturedly as he heard my query.
“Such a supposition would be impossible to realize. Given a humanity, the manifestation of the Christ is a sequence as inevitable as death following the birth of the body. It would be just as futile to attempt to take the noon from day as Christ from the race. He is a natural stage in the divine order of ascent. He is not an interpolation to rectify the effects of a supposed fall—Christ has no connection with any scheme necessitating interpositions or corrections—but the orderly revelation of the next step to be taken in creation’s return to God. But this does not exactly answer the true pith of your inquiry, which is: Had Christ not been made manifest, would the race have been lost? No. God is in no sense confined to one particular mode of action to accomplish His determined purpose. To argue that He is would be to assert that He is limited in His operations and hence finite. But without rising into any such debatable sphere respecting the nature of God, which neither of us understand, I have full authority for all I have said when I consider the condition of those souls who passed hither before the advent.”
“Were they not in prison?” I inquired.
“Let us very carefully see what the Scriptures record of the teaching of Christ,” he replied, “for I must not forget that I am now drawing all my argument from what is written. In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Christ speaks of Abraham’s bosom as being a place of comfort, compensation and blessedness to the erstwhile beggar; and when Jesus was transfigured Moses and Elias ‘appeared in glory’ and spake to Him of His coming decease. Now if Abraham, Moses, Elias and the beggar Lazarus were not in prison, but rather in glory, the principle is established for which I contend. But God is love, and the essence of love is to lavish benefits upon the object of its affection, as far as possible to throw a protecting care around it, and save from the slightest approach to misfortune. Now, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son . . . not to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved’ from the consequences of the evil which is so closely allied with human nature. The descent of Christ was the expression of the God-paternal consideration and regard for the welfare of His children. They must ultimately reach His abode because He ‘will have all men to be saved,’ and He, being Lord, than whom there is none beside, whatsoever must come to pass. But love constrains itself to devise a means to bring about the early consummation of its own dear desire, and so God cannot leave to nature what may be more rapidly reached through the avenue of grace. Here is the needs-be for the work of Christ, who descends with the revelation of a moral law which brings a power of salvation to everyone that believeth and accepts it as a rule by which his life is to be henceforth governed.
“So far I have confined myself to the teaching of Christ as a law binding upon human life; but no wise ruler—no loving and tender father—issues any command without some good and sufficient reason for so doing. We have now to find the reason for which this new law, as promulgated by the Christ, has been established. I have already spoken of the universal disquietude concerning the fate of man, of the unanswered inquiry, ‘If a man die shall he live again?’ The coming of the Christ is God’s response thereto, and the law He proclaims is the love-appointed way by which the best—an abundant entrance—may be made into the entailed heritage of immortality. For the discharge of this embassage he was in every way adequately qualified, since He had passed through identical developments and won His way to a spiritual condition beyond the reach of any soul newly passing from the earth, although He was not so far away as to be out of sympathy with the frailties and weaknesses of the flesh. From this elevation He was able to declare the whole counsel of God in so far as men could receive and appreciate it, but when He had accomplished His mission He was compelled to assure His disciples that much yet remained to be disclosed though He could not tell them then. This rule of life, by a master-stroke of matchless genius, He reduced into a single sentence sufficiently simple for a child to understand, and which cannot be too often repeated ‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.’ Nor does He lay this down as a basis of conduct desirable merely for religious, social or political reasons, but speaking from His own intimate acquaintance with an inexorable law, He reveals the natural sequence of all conduct in His eloquent warning, ‘For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again.’ For this reason, then, He insists that life shall be so regulated that when one lays his petitions and needs before the Father he may confidently ask to be forgiven as he has forgiven others.
“Men miss the awful emphasis Christ places on character because they forget that speaking from the immortal side of life, death to Him was simply an incident in existence and not an end of it—a veil He could thrust aside, passing in and out at will. Neither King of Terrors nor Valley of the Shadow exists for Him, but His eyes look calmly forward from earth into the shadowless light of the eternal day, and He carries forward into that to-morrow the unbalanced account of life’s to-day. It is this thought in His teaching that should make men pause. There are many nights and days between the sowing and the reaping, but whatsoever a man soweth in the spring he shall reap in the autumn. There is only one accessory death has no power to confiscate as the soul passes forward—character. Beliefs, dogmas, creeds and professions will all be left behind, but character will furnish the only possible clothing with which it may step into immortality. Its works have preceded or will follow on and be produced in evidence in the judgement where ‘except your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven!’
“I wish you to notice here again how inseparably the Christ insisted on the union between cause and effect—sowing and reaping—as He here blends it in God and humanity. This law He promulgates takes the veriest outcast of a depraved humanity and makes its loathsome exterior to be the unattractive casket in which reposes a divine gem. It has been taken at its sight value on earth—‘despised and rejected of men’—but in that judgement hall every fragment of humanity must be gathered up that nothing be lost, and the King shall say to those who stand before Him, ‘Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these, My brethren, ye did it unto Me.’ It is so far the Christ declares God to outreach to bring the whosoever unto Himself.
“This essential purity of life, in the struggle for the acquirement of which neither ceremonialism nor priest was necessary or admissible, but only God and the aspirant can have any part in, was a revolution not lightly to be tolerated by the conflict that ensued, in which Christ never for an instant yielded a single spiritual claim to His persecutors, and God only used their wrath for His own praise, but would rather direct your attention to the steady purpose of the Christ to fulfil His mission, and by successive stages—clearly visible and well defined in the afterlight from which we may view them—led to the great and allimportant demonstration for which He came, that of bringing life and immortality to light by the resurrection of Jesus. Have you ever noticed how orderly and systematically this evidence is marshalled?”
“I scarcely understand your meaning,” I replied.
“Let me help you to do so by briefly reviewing some of the facts. The definite mission of the Christ, as we already see, was to establish the certainty of existence after the death of the body. ‘I am come,’ He said, ‘that ye might have life, and have it more abundantly.’ Whether the surmise, the hope, of this was true or not, was the greatest unsolved problem of the ages, and He had been sent with the definite purpose of answering it. With the success of His demonstration the collateral doubt would also be settled as to whether man possesses a dual nature, and Christ establish His claim to speak as to the best method of preparation for entering upon the life invisible to earth. But until the demonstration had been satisfactorily concluded that man did actually exist after death as the same conscious and intelligent personality as before, all other issues were beside the question and irrelevant. The old prophetic standard was raised as the arbiter of truth in the matter: ‘If the thing follow not nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken.’
“From the instant of His descent upon the Nazarene the latter ‘was changed into another man.’ ‘Old things had passed away and all things became new.’ There were visible in Him new powers, new purposes, new lines of conduct, new recognitions, new everything. The point of contact with humanity had been changed, and He spoke ‘as One having authority,’ and not as the scribes and Pharisees. Perhaps in no instance was this more marked than in His attitude towards the members of the family of Jesus. The Christ refused to be subject to a blood relationship: ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee?’ Or again: ‘One said unto Him, Behold Thy mother and Thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with Thee. But He answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is My mother? and who are My brethren? And He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in Heaven, the same is My brother and sister, and mother’ (Matt. xii. 47-50). From the outset He assumed the spiritual position, and lived that for which He prayed—‘Thy will be done in earth, as it is done in Heaven.’
“Such an assumption, so far removed from and opposed to the empty ceremonialism of the established religion, could not be allowed to go unchallenged, and soon He is beset by carping critics who wish to know by what authority He speaks and performs His mighty works. The reply of the Christ fixes the attention of the whole world upon His one great purpose—He will stand or fall by the test of the resurrection; ‘What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing Thou doest these things?’ Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Then said the Jews, ‘Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? But He spake of the temple of His body’ (John ii. I8-2I).
“So throughout His whole ministry He keeps all eyes fixed hopefully upon the reawakening hour. His teachings are full of references to the harvest of life that must then be reaped and garnered; His parables abound with cautions as to what is sown because of the harvest time which lies ahead; and between the lines of every illustration He used may be read awful significances of the reward of conduct.
“And all the while He worked and preached He also lived the life—the typical life to which He called all men—which bore evidence to its alliance with God in this world, and secured the best results in the world to come. Let us follow Him along the pathway of His works to the great consummation.
“He began the demonstration of the superiority of the spiritual over the physical man by the cure of diseases of a temporary nature, proceeding afterwards to those of more chronic form. Presently we hear Him hurriedly summoned to the bedside of the daughter of an alien, who lies at the point of death. In His attendance on others He allows the girl to cross the river, from whence He almost immediately recalls her, and gives her back to her consternated parents.
“At last the Christ had met the adversary He had come to destroy—had caught him in the act of spoliation; and Death was overthrown.
“They next meet at the gate of Nain. Death may well be sure of his prey this time, for the cortège winds its way to the burial, the broken-hearted mother following in the wake of the bier. But Christ had been sent to bind up the broken-hearted. The tyranny of death had already been destroyed in the chamber of the centurion, and the Christ restored the lad to his mother.
“In the third encounter the tomb joined issues with death to hold the sleeping Lazarus. But all in vain! ‘Christ is the resurrection and the life.’ All power is given unto Him! Therefore at His call he that was dead comes back to life again, and the claims of Christ gain cumulative evidence as to their veracity.
“There yet remains the last and all-decisive contest between the Prince of Life and the King of Terrors to be considered, but before proceeding to this let us make sure we clearly understand what it is the Christ is making manifest. Jesus of Nazareth, ‘a man approved of God,’ has placed Himself unreservedly at the Divine disposal, that in and through Him God may answer and supply the world’s great need. He was ‘in all points’ a man as other men, save in His whole-hearted consecration to the cause He espoused. Had He been otherwise-gifted with a peculiar nature, born under abnormal conditions, or conceived as the councils of men have determined-all that was accomplished would have been of no avail; it would have borne no manner of relation to the salvation of men who had come into existence under other circumstances. It is this conception of the Christ that has made Him to be so solitary and unapproachable to your mind. For Jesus was ‘a man in all points tempted like as’ other men, one chosen from the common brotherhood of humanity because He had been prepared by a holy mother’s efforts and His own spiritual aspirations to be the chosen messenger of God. Upon this man among men, this body which had been prepared, this temple made meet for the indwelling Spirit of the Lord, the Christ descended and by many mighty works gave evidence to the world that man possesses a nature capable of being elevated into a union with powers greater than the physical, possessing knowledge beyond the limitation of philosophies, and of directing forces which hold the material universe in subjection. This indwelling Christ who is first revealed to man through Jesus of Nazareth, blends the human with the divine, and carries evolution forward into another stage, becoming a second Adam of a new and nobler race. For though He is the firstborn, He is only the type of what the succeeding race shall be, which shall enter into the heritage He already enjoys, and by the powers they wield and the works they perform make their title clear to be called the sons of God. ‘He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also.’ ‘By their fruits ye shall know them.’ The feeling after immortality which has hitherto met with such unsatisfactory response is but the prenatal struggle of a man fighting his way to the second birth, which having been attained, both death and the grave shall be vanquished, and the first-born among many brethren shall bear away the captured keys into the region of an ever accessible immortality. It is to this last combat and the victory of Jesus I now invite your attention.”
“Why do you lay such marked emphasis on the name Jesus?” I inquired, as I noticed the peculiar significance of its mention.
“Because it is very essential that you should distinguish here between the two individualities at a point where they again separate. The Christ was not born, but descended upon Jesus at His Baptism; nor could He die; therefore, having finished His work, He re-ascended before the crucifixion. For Christ to have gone to the death would be as valueless to humanity as the miraculous birth. What man wanted to know was whether if a man die would he live again, not whether if an immortal pass through the semblance of the event—which by the nature of the case could not be a reality—he would afterwards survive. The work and teaching of the Christ was to give an affirmative reply to the universal inquiry and at the same time lay down the most favourable method of preparation for the event, which typical life He co-operated with Jesus in living, and then withdrew, that the man might enjoy the reward His sacrifice to the will of God had secured. In preparation for this it was Jesus, and not the Christ, who was transfigured on the mount when Moses and Elijah appeared to make Him acquainted with the nature of the death which lay before Him and give assurances of the victory. Had it been the Christ and not Jesus there was no necessity for the two to have spoken with Him, for the Anointed One had direct access to the Father, and needed not that any should come between, but Jesus had not passed that way heretofore, and for Him help and assurance was both needed and encouraging.
“Let us now approach the death on our way to the resurrection, which is to be the decisive test of Christ having been the sent of God; and in doing so I wish to call your very close attention to the moment when the work of Christ comes to an end, and He re-ascends, leaving Jesus to enter into the reward of the life to which He had so willingly and wholeheartedly lent Himself.
“Will you recall that scene as recorded in the upper room: the consternation and distress of the disciples, and the effort He made to comfort them: ‘Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me.’ And presently, in the possession of that ‘peace of God which passeth all understanding,’ we hear Him say, ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you.’ Shortly after the bestowal of this divine benediction we find Him under a tree in Gethsemane in an agony to which that of His disciples bore no comparison. In His terror He sweats ‘as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground,’ and we hear Him cry, ‘Father, if Thou be willing, remove this cup from Me: nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.’ What has become of the peace which the world could neither give nor take away? How is this change in the attitude of the man to be accounted for?”
“How?” I answered by repeating his own inquiry.
“There is but one reply. The words of comfort were part of the valedictory address of the Christ, in which He promised another Comforter, who would be to the disciples what He had been to Jesus, and by His controlling guidance lead them into all truth, the conditions being that they continued to love Him (the Christ) and keep His commandments. His farewell was concluded or followed by a paper in which, in more unmistakable language than any previously used, He made known the difference of identity between Himself and Jesus. The work of the Christ is over—‘I have glorified Thee on the earth; I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do’; on the contrary, Jesus, the man, had to go forward to the death, in order that He might attain to the resurrection, and towards this He went alone, uncontrolled, into Gethsemane. Christ has finished His work, and re-ascended; we shall only catch one other brief glance of Him, for He will come again to roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, that the man who has so completely effaced Himself that Christ might be all in all in His life may rise victorious into the glorious immortality His sacrifice has secured. At present your experience has not taught you what amount of nervous exhaustion even the moderate control of Myhanene entails upon his prophet, it is therefore impossible for you to conceive the indescribable condition of collapse to which Jesus returned when the Christ had left Him after His final farewell to His disciples. The agony of the garden was not occasioned alone by fear and dread at the thought of the painful death which stood so closely to Him; the intensity of the suffering was increased a hundred-fold by the physical weakness in which it found Him. Nor was it simply because ‘it pleased the Lord to bruise Him’ that this bitter cup was held to His lips to drain, it was rather that the world in looking back might see that come what sorrow might there would be none like unto His sorrow, and His obedience and sacrifice sounded deeper depths than other souls would be asked to sound. He swept life’s full gamut by the purity and self-abnegation of His life; He made His body a temple meet for the use of the Christ—bore the tension of a physical exaltation up to the highest possible limit of mortal endurance through a protracted ministry which is still the wonder of all in Paradise who are in a position to understand it; then, when the strain was over, the rebound dashed Him to corresponding depths, so that it might be truly said, ‘He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.’ But ‘He shall see the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.’ You remember the words with which I pictured His volunteering for this work. ‘Send Me, and let Thy will be done in and through Me on earth as it is in Heaven?’ In the depth of that awful agony His consecrated soul is true to its vow: ‘If it be possible let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not My will but Thine be done.’ It could not pass! Through the valley of the shadow of death humanity had for ages been trying to find its way to a joyful resurrection, but had failed to do so. Someone must find it. God had long been waiting for the pioneer He unseen could lead through the awful terrors of the most painful dissolution. So far the life of Jesus had been placed at the Divine disposal, and the Christ had utilized it to manifest what the highest, truest type of humanity might be. Was the Christ-divested man willing to tread the wine-press of the last great sorrow alone? The way was dark, and the guiding hand was gone! Still when the terrors of death seized Him and He could not see His way, He cried, ‘Not My will, but Thine be done,’ and His feet felt their way forward while the ‘bloody sweat’ started and ran from every pore. The Christ had come to ‘bring life and immortality to light’; the law relating to it had been made known through Him, should not the consummation also be attained? This gave Him strength. In His loneliness and terror He had still the memory of what Moses and Elijah had made known to Him at the great Transfiguration. By His endurance God’s will would be made known to man, and not only one life, but the life of all humanity would be transfigured by the sun of truth shining through the darkness in which He struggled forward towards the immortal and eternal day. The flesh was weak, but the spirit was willing, and that spirit was the harvestproducing seed which is endowed with potential omnipotence. In the consciousness of this He pushed His feet further forward, and with outstretched hands felt, if haply He might touch, the everlasting doors.
“He had not, however, reached the bottom of the valley yet. Behind Him lay the betrayal, arrest, scourgings, judgement hall, the forsaking and denial. He had torn the flesh of His hands and feet upon the nails of the cross, the gibes and sneers of priests and high-priests were falling away upon the deadening sense of His ears, the torture of His thirst was overpowering Him, and still the road went down. It was intolerable! Oh, it was impossible that there could be a sorrow like unto this sorrow. He could not go further. Why had the Christ forsaken Him? Why was He thus left alone? He might ask, but there was none to reply. Then He stood still. Stood still to gather what strength He might, and from the depths of His despair sent up such a prayer that would compel an answer. Whenever the Christ (the God) had left Him for a space before He had but to cry and the return was immediate; He would cry again, and the valley of death, with the impinging regions of earth, hell and Heaven, rang with the heart-breaking shout, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ He could do no more; but fainting fell and burst the everlasting doors! He had found the way for all mankind into the immortality they sought, from which, after a necessary rest, He would shortly return and make the truth of his discovery known.”
“I never felt the awful nature of His death so keenly before,” I gasped with relief when he came to the climax, “but have you not carried away somewhat of its importance in favour of the resurrection?”
“No; the resurrection is the all-important fact, and the death only an incident necessary thereto. We may now go back to the teaching at the point where we left it by the resurrection, or rather the recalling of Lazarus from the dead.”
“But resurrection and recalling are one and the same, are they not?”
“By no means. Christ recalled his three persons in their natural bodies, but the resurrection must be in the spiritual body, which is no longer subject to physical law. It appears and vanishes at will; it is now mistaken for the gardener by Mary; and again it takes ‘another form’, and is unrecognized until Emmaus is reached and the breaking of the bread discloses the identity of Jesus; Thomas must see the print of the nails before he is satisfied, and by all these changes we discover how different is the spiritual (even when rendered tangible) from the natural body. After the conquest of death in the case of Lazarus the only other sign Christ would give was the resurrection of Jesus, by which alone Paul says light and immortality was brought to light. Death was a phenomenon too common to attach any significance to, but to announce a resurrection from the dead was both a stupendous and incredible occurrence. Therefore the Apostles went everywhere ‘preaching Jesus and the resurrection,’ claiming it as the very foundation-stone upon which the Christian faith must rest—‘If Christ be not risen from the dead, then is our faith vain.’ Paul’s ambition everywhere was ‘That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead’ (Phil. iii. I0, II). All the careful precautions of the priests and Romans to make sure of His death and to keep the grave intact was to prevent the resurrection; but the demonstration was one of the power of God, and all these precautions of the wrath of man were to be pressed into service to testify to the fact they were so futilely determined to prevent. Therefore you may go on with your new ministry with this clear certainty, my brother, that the demonstration of the return from death is the great corner-stone of the faith of Christ.”
“What, then, of the atonement?” I asked.
“The doctrine of a vicarious atonement is one I must leave for priests to reconcile as best they may, but since it is a purely human dogma it is also one with which Paradise does not concern itself, being also entirely opposed to the teaching of the Christ. Think for one moment of what He taught: ‘Every tree beareth its own fruit; with what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again; whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.’ Zaccheus extorted, and he had to restore; the prodigal squandered, and he had to hunger; Dives neglected the sick pauper at his gate, and he had to endure the torment of hell; the unfaithful steward had to go to prison until the last farthing was paid. There is no room for vicarious atonement in the gospel of the Christ, but it is always the soul that sinneth that has to bear the penalty. So also in regard to sacrifices we may accept the words of the prophet-psalmist, ‘For Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.’ I know the discrepancy between this and other passages in the Bible which might as easily be quoted, but God and Christ at least must be consistent—‘a house divided against itself cannot stand.’ Outside these we have priest divided against prophet, but Jesus was greatest of the prophets and always opposed to the priests and their law. The Scriptures contain a record of the history of both, and therefore need to be rightly divided to ascertain the truth.
“So we come to an end of our inquiry,” continued Rhamya as he rose to leave, “and as a spirit who is to be sent forth for the inspiration of a prophet, I counsel you to be wise, and only speak to earth the things you know and see and understand, and then you need not be afraid. Peace.”