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what characteristics and what themes the writer delights to dwell upon.
Gibbon remarks that: “As long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters."
However much the skill and bravery of the soldier or the ability of the ruler may have awakened the pride of the Old Testament historian, the character of the man under consideration was seen to be of paramount importance. The record of the achievements of many a brave warrior and able ruler is cut short with the words, "He did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Where the subject will justify eulogy, eulogy is not withheld, and there we read, “He did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.” The right or wrong of the man's career was what fixed itself upon the attention of the historian.
Religion and Morality as They Stand Related
to Each Other in the New Testament
THE long line of prophets, though broken at certain points, lingered till the incoming of the new dispensation. This fact gives us in the New Testament a sketch of the last of the prophets of the old dispensation, John the Baptist. The work of this forerunner of the Messiah had been indicated in the Old Testament. It was to make the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. Most earnestly he devoted himself to the work assigned him.
At his coming we find him in the desert region along the Jordan preaching a rigid morality. When he saw many persons of the very religious classes in the multitude that had come to hear him, he cried out to them: “Bring forth fruits meet for repentance, and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father.” If I may state the substance of John's preaching in modern terms, it was, Show the sincerity of your religious professions by right living. This was the sound that lingered in the air as the old dispensation passed away. A wonderful emphasis given to the demand for consistent living marks the period of transition between the old dispensation and the new.
On arriving at the teaching of Jesus we reach the Christian's ultimate authority. He corrects the misconceptions of the people of his day, and gives the final expression to many. important truths. If in his teaching morality is a thing of little importance, then what has been quoted from others is dust and ashes of little value. A few words from the teaching of the Master constituted the introduction to our subject, and we now return to follow him farther.
That is a touching case in which one asked, apparently in all sincerity “What good thing shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?" Perhaps it is a case but partly understood, in which the needs of the person inquiring
called forth an answer not intended to be generally applied in every respect. Jesus having answered, “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," "He saith unto him, Which?” Jesus said: “Thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, honor thy father and thy mother: and thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” recounting the duties we owe to our fellows without, in this case, alluding to the relation we sustain directly to God. At first thought it appears strange that one who came to show us the way to God and heaven should, when directly appealed to for the way of everlasting life, dwell with so much minuteness and persistence on the relation we sustain to our fellow-men. But this is part of the New Testament. It evidently was not the purpose of Jesus that those who seek everlasting life through his help should neglect morality.
We have an outline of Christian principles in the Sermon on the Mount. In it, precepts pertaining to religion and precepts pertaining to morality are mingled without distinction, and the thought that one class is to be considered more sacred than the other is barred by the idea underlying the teachings of Jesus, as well as those of the apostles, and explicitly stated by James in the words: “Whosoever shall keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.” So, whether the broken precept pertains to religion or to morality, the authority of the same Lawgiver is defied.
Jesus rebukes indulgence in those thoughts and feelings which lead to acts of immorality and violence. He also leads us to feel that the influence of our actions and words on the people about us should be carefully guarded: "Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
While discoursing on the evil of angry feelings and angry words, Jesus introduces an