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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 



CHARLES HENRY DICKINSON 
Calhoun, Alabama 



I 

Jesus' hope for the world seems to separate him from the 
tasks of civilization. All his teachings have reference to the 
Kingdom of God, which, as he conceived it, is not to be 
obtained by historic progress, but is to descend suddenly from 
heaven in divine power. The short interval, which he expected 
between his announcement that the Kingdom is at hand and its 
catastrophic inauguration, was not to be for its evolution, 
but for preparation of heart for the Kingdom's appearing. 
His absorption in that celestially originated order excluded 
from his mind the problems of the developments of industry, 
government, culture, as these demands confront us. The 
influence of Jesus upon the progress of social institutions seems 
to many to be based upon one of the most fortunate miscon- 
ceptions that ever blessed mankind. But now that his authen- 
tic thought and ideal have been recovered, we can no longer 
profit by the age-long mistake. 

The limits of an article on this subject permit only a few 
unexpanded reflections and suggestions. Their lacks will be 
evident to everyone who appreciates that all the contents of 
Jesus' soul were fused into his expectation and molded by it; 
that the main current of spiritual history flowed through it; 
that the contrasts between his gospel and the conditions that 
men have to face and the work that men have to do, may 
separate life into discordant realms, with increasing confusions 
of faith and action. The arguments for modern scholarship's 
view of Jesus' eschatology I must, except for a few intimations, 
leave to each reader to find or to work out for himself. Those 
who may think that my emphasis upon the social motives of 

47 



48 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

Jesus' hope is at the expense of its religious and personal 
elements, will recognize that I am obliged to make a selection. 
Yet I acknowledge that my social emphasis is because of my 
conviction that the faith and hope of Jesus are social in ground 
and origin, social in essence, social in fulfilments. 

A detailed knowledge of Jesus' expectation would require 
much clearer and fuller reports of his teaching than we possess. 
In such paucity of data we should be cautious of exaggerating 
contradictions and incongruities, and should concentrate upon 
elements of his prophecy that are pervasive. There are impor- 
tant differences from Jewish, Pauline, and other forms of the 
hope then prominent in Israel, of an impending revolution 
of the world by divine interference. From these are derived 
many statements incorrectly attributed to Jesus by the 
evangelists. But there remain in the synoptic records utter- 
ances derived from their most authentic sources and which 
are consistent with our best substantiated knowledge and 
clearest impression of him. In these reports we recognize his own 
message. Jesus shared the general hope. He purified it. He 
poured into it his own spiritual consciousness and social passion. 
Jesus' expectation differs from the materialism, secularism, 
and exclusive nationalism of the Jewish and — with modifica- 
tions — the Jewish-Christian eschatology. It also differs from 
the celestially inclined hope of Paul, from which the colors of 
Jesus' earth of the glorious future have faded, and from the 
still more transcendentalized expectation of the gospel and 
epistle called by the name of John. Jesus looked into the near 
future of the world for the realization of the Kingdom of God, 
and anticipated there a social order worthy of God to give and 
of men to receive. 1 

1 Careful readers of the New Testament, though not technically trained, can con- 
struct the expository argument on its main lines for themselves. They should 
keep to the first three gospels, read "age" for "world" in most places where it makes 
sense, and understand "treasure — or reward — in heaven" not of where the treasure is 
to be enjoyed, but where it is being kept. Also, "the Kingdom of God" is evidently 
Jesus' usual phrase; and Luke 17:21 refers to the Kingdom's sudden irruption: the 
translation "among you" is near enough. These hints may help to correct other 
misapprehensions. 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 49 

The change which Jesus expected is only subordinately 
a change in the material world. It is a regenerated, revolu- 
tionized order of human life upon the earth. Some synoptic 
passages indeed, judged to be essentially his because they are 
characteristic of him and closely represent their oldest sources, 
appear inconsistent with this anticipation. Such incongruities 
are unavoidable in a conception which no vision or thought 
can make a complete unity. There are glorious confusions 
from hopes so exultant that they can never, to our thought 
at least, be realized on this earth; as the absence of death, 
the tangible presence of those risen from the dead, including 
himself, and the ordering of the forms of human life upon 
celestial models — "like unto the angels." That these con- 
fusions did not confuse him is due to his prophetic consciousness, 
essentially different from the claim of a magical clairvoy- 
ance of future events. It is not a rationalizing, system- 
atically constructive consciousness. He was not concerned 
to work out a Utopian system. The new order is the Father's 
gift. It includes every good which the Father can bestow 
upon his children. How its blessings are to be interrelated is 
the Father's concern, not his. Of inexhaustible significance 
is his relation of the Kingdom to the divine Fatherhood. 

He thought that nothing men can do hastens or retards 
this impending divine event. Its coming and the moment of 
its coming depend upon God only. Far from his faith was the 
Jewish assumption, that if Israel should keep the law for one day 
the Kingdom of God would come. Yet men are to await it, 
not with folded hands, but with girded loins and lamps trimmed 
and burning. "Repent" was his proclamation, "for the 
Kingdom of God is at hand." The word inadequately trans- 
lated "repent" means an inward revolution. It is not merely 
a repudiation of the conduct condemned by the morality and 
religion of his time or of any imperfect time. It is not satisfied 
with standards of righteousness below those which his own life 
expressed. The very spirit of the Kingdom, the inward 



50 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

holiness, self -renouncing devotion, and all-enduring, all-forgiving 
ministering love, to which the blessings of the new order corre- 
spond, must be implanted and must grow in the receptive heart. 
Not that this establishes the Kingdom in the heart thus directed 
to it. Nor has it become established in the present fellowship 
of men thus changed in mind. It is to be a regnant social 
order, not yet realized. Yet this new life in the soul makes its 
possessors sons of the Kingdom, no longer children of the present 
age. This part of Jesus' gospel opens to us his own inexhaustible 
treasures of character, spiritual life, and devoted ministry. 
These are the two essential, inclusive elements of Jesus' 
message: the all-important divine event in the near future 
and preparation of heart for it. "Be changed inwardly: for 
the Kingdom of God is at hand." But between these two 
extends a vast field of human tasks. Only by the fulfilment 
of our responsibility to the tasks of civilization may mankind 
advance toward the perfected world-order of Jesus' hope. 
Admitting, as we are forced to admit, that Jesus was mistaken 
both in the nearness and the manner of the coming of God's 
Kingdom on earth, and that he made no conscious provision for 
our inalienable responsibility, must we undertake it with only 
incidental help from him, acknowledging that his gospel is not 
for the world as it is, to make it the world as it ought to be ? 

II 

The significance of Jesus' expectation, it is said with increas- 
ing currency, is his perception that the betterment of the 
world depends, not upon a process of natural evolution, but 
upon spiritual forces. In this sense, it is said, the Kingdom 
descends from heaven and is God's gift, whether it comes soon 
or late, suddenly or progressively. Without entering upon 
a critical analysis of this thought, we may accept its estimate 
of spiritual powers. That appreciation will, I believe, make 
evident that the essentials of Jesus' hope are indispensable 
for the task of civilization which we have to do, and inevitably 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 51 

translatable into it. Also, our fulfilment of our task will be 
found to be historically conditioned upon his hope as he held 
it, to the practical sufficiency of which its mistakes and 
limitations are requisites. 

One with the best spirit of our age, one with a militant 
and devoted humanism, is Jesus' prophecy of a perfected earth. 
"The distant triumph song" sounded for him, not from the 
heaven above us, but from the earth as it is to be, from happy, 
pure, and loving men, even as we hear it, whose hearts human- 
ity has touched, while we toil for the world's perfecting. His 
deepest and tenderest consolation to his disciples about to 
be bereft of him, was not that they should "meet the Lord 
in the air," nor that he, coming again, would "receive them 
unto himself," in that heaven to which he was returning, but 
that he who had so often pledged with them the cup of joy 
and love would "drink it new with them in the Kingdom of 
God." It is not heaven that we are working for or can work 
for, but earth as he foresaw it. The toiler's Kingdom of God 
is to be here. Often our hope of the world's progress is turned 
to doubt, sometimes to despair. Then we limit ourselves to 
patching one rent or another of an old decaying garment. We 
fret to make some conditions a little less intolerable, some 
human interrelations a little less discordant, if we can, 
between man and man, nation and nation, race and race, those 
who are in possession and those who are frantic to possess. 
Then we sink to futile compromises. We wander along desert 
trails that lead nowhere. Both aim and inspiration depart 
from resultless tasks. We need the reassurance that abides 
in the spirit of humanity, and which rises in our hearts from the 
insight and confidence of him who was most human. In his 
vision we see that the aims most spiritual, the faith most heroic, 
move unfalteringly on to the hope that is set, not unrelatedly 
above us, but attainably before us. It is this hope which 
intensifies the great task of humanity upon earth, the realiza- 
tion of humanity in the conditions and relations of earth. 



52 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

Jesus' gospel of the Kingdom offers not only inspiration 
to an attainable goal, but guidance no less. His Kingdom is 
for the poor; this is our directive principle. His dominant 
beatitudes are to the hungry, who shall be filled; for them 
that mourn, who shall be comforted. The earth is the inherit- 
ance of the meek, even the lowly and oppressed. These 
announcements are not figurative. Does one offer rescue in a 
figurative sense to drowning men, or figuratively promise 
bread to starving children ? Nor is he pointing to heaven, as 
we have indolently and supinely misunderstood him. He is 
speaking of the establishment of his Father's Kingdom upon 
the earth. Those who groan under the intolerable yoke of 
tyranny, inequality, inhumanity, and are hungering and 
thirsting for God's righteousness on the earth, shall have their 
longing satisfied. The last are first in his exultant hope, as 
in his beneficent compassion: the last must be first in every 
human task. The initial object of every service is the least 
of these his brethren. 

In this incontrovertible interpretation of his words, min- 
istry, social passion, our discipleship to Jesus gains a mean- 
ing more revolutionary than any socialistic programs, which 
must be tested, without prejudice either way, by their practical 
working out of his aim. His gospel of the Kingdom imposes 
a task pervasive of all our life, of every man's calling, of all 
our organizations and institutions. Only as practically 
directed to the redemption of the poor, the neglected, the 
miserable, is any comfort, pleasure, character, spirituality, per- 
missible, any advantage of birth, opportunity, ability. All 
things which are not directed and proved effective to this end 
are to his disciples unclean, hateful. They are blasphemies of 
his name, repudiations of his leadership, rejections of his 
salvation. They are Peter's denials of him, and Judas' 
betrayal. Ministry to the last and least is the primary and 
inclusive purpose of all government, all commerce, all industry, 
all social relations. By service directed to them impartial 



TEE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 53 

benefit is secured for all. For this purpose the gifts of genius 
descend from the wisdom and compassion of the all-loving 
fatherhood, wealth is accumulated and distributed, inventions 
conquer the material to human uses and ends, and the church 
preaches the gospel to the poor. 

The spiritual nobility of Jesus' hope exempts it from 
particularistic and materialistic aims. Moral and spiritual 
regenerations are inseparable from the blessings of his King- 
dom. Into it may enter only the righteous, kind, loving, 
forgiving. Therefore our ministry to the last and least, which 
regulates all personal and social action, is, above all else, 
though not prior to all else, cultivation of their mind and heart 
and soul, of their character, spirituality, service. Of them is 
required devotion to his self-renouncing ideals, including the 
forgiveness which brings men back to one another from every 
hatred, hostility, and prejudice, however caused, and makes 
those who were enemies of one another fellow-workers for the 
Kingdom of God. When we merge with Jesus' compassion 
for the poor his demands upon them — for the least in that 
Kingdom is to be greater than the greatest of this age — when 
we recognize them as first in human and divine regard, that 
they may be blended with all citizens of the Kingdom in equal 
and supreme privilege and service, it can be said with clearer 
meaning, that there is no other practicable all-inclusive aim 
for humanity and every member of it. Then every other prin- 
ciple of advance yields to Jesus' compassionate concentration 
of all human forces upon the neglected, the oppressed, the last 
and least. The opposite principle, most monstrous inhuman- 
ism of the passing era dominated by physical science, that the 
inheritance of the earth is the contention of the strong and 
the spoil of the strongest, has gone down in the world-war to 
everlasting contempt. Between the two principles there is 
no standing-ground, and Jesus' principle can make no compro- 
mise. Whatever aim is not directed to that or comes short 
of that, thereby reverts to the opposite. It is time to shame 



54 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

its antagonist out of thought as out of history. Let the ape 
and tiger die out of our philosophies. For men are of a higher 
order, which has attained another principle, save as the brutes 
have devotions to the helpless, in anticipations of the human. 
The futility of the anti-Christian principle is attested by the 
dark places of the earth, the habitations of cruelty, and by 
suffering bodies and barren souls about us, by the groaning 
ages, the horrible reverses of humanity, by irreparable wastes 
of ability stifled under poverty and oppression, by potencies 
of ministry suppressed, by thought and beauty and leadership 
wrenching in vain at their prison bars, or dead at hungry 
mothers' empty breasts. 

Ill 
But what did he do about it ? He did the only thing he 
could do, and it was the strongest thing that could ever be 
done. He founded the new humanity, which is the fellowship 
of his social passion. This was not the church. No utterance 
of his which meets the tests of authenticity as demonstrated 
in the general trend of modern scholarship, mentions the church. 
It receives no sanction or inheritance from him, except in so far 
as it belongs, with other practical stimulations and agencies, 
in the fellowship of his social passion. Many tests of member- 
ship which all branches and divisions of the church agree in 
imposing are nonessential to the fellowship which he formed 
and is ever forming. Even the confession of his name is not 
a requisite. Multitudes of those whom he has united in his 
spirit do not know the source of their regenerated social and 
personal life. This result is to his unspeakably greater 
honor, to the deeper recognition of his power. Multitudes 
in distant climes, vvho never heard of him, multitudes who 
lived before his coming, are members of the brotherhood which 
he established by completing it; for their spirit is so akin to 
his, and his regenerative power is so much greater than theirs, 
that their true devotions to humanity must find his deeper 
intensities, must be merged into his larger and clearer aims. 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 55 

The sympathetic student of spiritual history must judge that 
the greatest names are destined to array themselves under the 
name that is above every name. This judgment becomes 
conviction in men of conscious discipleship to him. In the way 
most direct, simple, inevitable, he established the new human- 
ity, into which everything truly human pours itself. He 
attached to himself a little company, in most of whom he 
kindled a spark from his own fire. That little company became 
an enlarging nucleus — not conterminous with the church, 
even in its early history — of the new humanity, or rather 
of humanity restored to its own inmost nature. This renewed 
mankind, which is not an abstraction or a mass, but a concrete 
unity of souls interrelated in him, endured, expanding, con- 
tracting, corrupted, repurified, baffled, resurgent, but ever on 
its way to subdue all human life unto itself. 

Against the discredited interpretations of history which, 
in various formulations, reduce its power of advance to material 
forces, capable of only material results, stands history's own 
witness that its power grows through companies of men in 
whom a vision has dawned and a passion has been enkindled, 
and that material things and developments are their instru- 
ments. So, when we are tempted to despair of any predomi- 
nant good resulting from the colossal sins, sacrifices, heroisms, 
of the world-war, and we sorrow over reactions of greed and 
insensibility, confusions breeding confusions, recrudescences 
of brute and devil, our courage grows strong again when we 
find, in high places and lowly places, men to whom life can 
never again be as far as it was from Jesus' hope and aim. We 
become aware of heart responding to fraternal heart, and deter- 
mined will joining determined will, into the fellowship of those 
whom the woes and intrinsic spiritualities of humanity have 
absorbed. We know that the world's future is given into their 
hands. This fellowship springs from the heroic devotion of 
those who gave their lives that humanity might live. So the all- 
inclusive fellowship created by Jesus, in which this fellowship 



56 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

from the world-war was formed and is completed, is vital- 
ized forever from his heroic sacrifice. His glorious death of 
love, agony, and shame rises increasingly, in immortal life, 
into the brotherhood of the world as it is to be. This is what 
he did about it. He did the only thing he could do, and it 
was the strongest thing that could ever be done. 

Jesus' expectation of the almost immediate gift of God's 
Kingdom can connote a lack of wisdom only to those who sup- 
pose that thought has any value when it is less than a 
transforming power. The dissevered intellectualism which 
then remains is on a level with the performances of arithmetical 
prodigies. The wise man is not one who separates himself 
from those limitations of his time which enshrine its noblest 
hopes and aims. The prophets of Israel were greater, not less, 
for conditioning the world's hope upon the fortunes of Israel. 
If it were true that certain medieval thinkers anticipated the 
German idealists, and died leaving no trace upon the mind of 
their age, those barren cliffs of desolate seas cannot compare 
in the world's gratitude with men who spoke to their own time 
some comprehensible word that stirred it on. It is wisdom to 
take into one's own soul the highest, strongest impulse which 
at the time broods on the hearts of men. This Jesus did when 
he fused the contemporary expectation of the Kingdom of God 
into all his thoughts and deeds. It is wisdom to ennoble and 
humanize the supreme impulse of one's own time, to enforce 
the moral and spiritual conditions of realizing its hope, and 
to create its devoted brotherhood. This Jesus did. If he 
had attempted or even imagined more, he would have accom- 
plished little, for only through appropriation of the best in 
one's own generation can one work upon the ages following. 
And when the form bursts asunder, the spirit, which pours 
itself into the molds of each generation, remains to inspire 
and guide through all successive forms. 

What personal expectation mingled with his universal hope ? 
Did he anticipate a seat on the right hand of power, coming 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 57 

on the clouds of heaven and all his holy angels with him? 
Such claims wake little response in hearts attuned to his self- 
renouncing ministry. We welcome every success of criticism 
in sifting out from the Gospels the additions to his authentic 
sayings concerning the Kingdom of God, because so little is 
left of the pretensions attributed to him. His theme was the 
Kingdom, not the Christ. All the more evidently is he central 
in his eternal religion because the supreme significance is 
forced upon him by the experience of his disciples. So the 
Fourth Gospel would be a tawdry thing if understood to be an 
authentic report of his own words and deeds. It is a glorious 
thing, notwithstanding its ecclesiasticisms and long antiquated 
attempts at philosophy, when it is recognized as the imaging 
of the significance which Jesus has attained in the mind and 
heart of humanity. Criticism has not been able indeed to 
deny his messianic consciousness, but has made evident that 
this consciousness was predominantly of the inspired and 
empowered herald of the Kingdom. So predominantly that 
every forward look into his own destiny was the confidence of 
the victory of his mission, expressed in whatever incidental 
and traditional forms. The popular understanding of the 
title " Son of Man," though it has no suspicion of the original 
meaning, does not misinterpret essentially his mission and his 
consciousness. He who announced the Kingdom, building 
better than he knew, as does every man in proportion as the 
spirit of humanity and the God of it sweeps through him, 
founded the Kingdom from the spiritual attainments of human- 
ity and his own soul, by forming the brotherhood of service 
to the last and least. He desires no pompous throne from 
which to lord it over us and to exercise authority upon us. 
He came into the world's history never to be ministered unto, 
forever to minister, to the utmost power of redemptive sac- 
rifice. The attainments of his life, the triumph of his cause, 
are his only lordship. They are his supreme lordship because 
he gave himself to them utterly. 



58 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

The heralding of the Kingdom, his essential messiahship, 
determined all his ministry. For the sufficient herald has 
more to do than to announce his message in words. The very 
spirit of the Kingdom must possess him, must be expressed in 
him, and this is one with the holy spirit of God. He could 
not have announced the Kingdom if his life and deeds had not 
enabled him to say, "The spirit of the Lord is upon me." 
That spirit of the Kingdom makes its representative holy in 
its holiness, loving in its love, unto the last demand of heroic 
devotion, and stern as the conditions of entering the Kingdom 
are inviolable. It urges him to those ministries which shall 
constitute the Kingdom's consummations, it impels him to 
open the blind eyes, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 
to preach the gospel to the poor, to receive sinners and to 
eat with them, to pour himself out to the last and least. His 
unparalleled, but not miraculously incredible influence upon 
sick bodies and distracted minds, through the faith which his 
announcement awakened, was derived from the same con- 
sciousness that as ambassador he was the representative of the 
Kingdom's beneficent power. Through all the wild exaggera- 
tions of the gospel reports there is manifest in him a calm 
restraint in his exercise of this influence. He subordinated it 
to his office of herald of the Kingdom, and made it contributory 
to his high calling. Therefore it never led him into failure, 
through attempts to exceed that power's legitimate exercise. 
He correctly viewed his mighty works as attestations of his 
message, credentials of his office. And as the Kingdom is God's 
gift, so these works of his are by God's power. In every way 
Jesus' announcement of the Kingdom rises into the power of 
his life to organize it. 

Complaints against Jesus that he failed to attack the evil 
or senescent institutions of his day need not long detain the 
historic sense. These criticisms take too little account of his 
terrific indignations, his blastings of those abuses which 
encountered his high mission. In the reports of his denun- 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 59 

ciations, the bitterness, unfairness, and scurrility attributed to 
him by the evangelists, manifest so plainly the temper aroused 
in his successors by their conflicts with Judaism, and are so 
unlike his habitual poise in the face of his antagonists, that no 
unbiased historic criticism can charge them against him. He 
entered the conflicts necessary to his heart-searching and per- 
suasive announcement of the Kingdom of God. Whatever 
opposed that proclamation he fought down, though the battle 
swept on to Calvary. His two chief antagonists were hypoc- 
risy and inhumanity. Hypocrisy was to him the substitution 
of another spirit for the spirit of the Kingdom. Inhumanity 
culminated in the laying of a stumbling-block in the way of 
God's little ones. This was the battle which his heralding 
encountered. Upon it has depended our age-long strife. 
Faithful to his orders, he refused to divide his forces for any 
other. 

IV 

The work left for us, in connecting the two great 
elements of Jesus' gospel, involves modifications of some of his 
teachings in the interest of his purpose, to which alone they 
are subordinate, and by which alone they are amendable. 
Literal faithfulness to them is spiritual unfaithfulness to his 
aim. Non-resistance to the evil man, or that waiving of an 
individual right which compromises the progress of universal 
human rights, means something different from Jesus' view, 
to those who must work out the order which he expected to 
descend soon from God. The accumulation, distribution, and 
use of wealth may be different from the unsocial covetousness 
and self-indulgence against which he prophesied, when we take 
wealth as an instrument for serving his ends. The developing 
institutions and goods of civilization are different when they 
become the progressive incarnations of the good most dear 
to him. In these tasks we develop instruments outside his 
absorptions, and unnecessary for the work he had to do. 



60 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

The work which is left to us makes the demands of our 
discipleship severe and difficult. A man who loses in the things 
of it Jesus' spirit and purpose is none of his. Then our toils 
and strifes, however we may attempt to justify them, become 
subversive of his desire. When the pursuit or retention of 
these things contradicts his purpose, we must unbind ourselves 
from them and fling them away. None the less, ineffectiveness 
in any man's part of the world's work is more severely judged 
by the standards of the Kingdom than by the world's incon- 
siderate demands. God's workmen have no time off. Sleep and 
food, recuperations and replenishments of exhausted powers, 
play, respites when "I loaf and invite my soul," books and art, 
joy and love, prayer, meditation, and the cultivation of the 
spiritual life, all are for the world's work that we have to do, 
and implicit in it; and the sternest demand of the work, 
which is the life, is that it shall somehow and every way 
direct itself and concentrate itself upon Jesus' great purpose 
of ministry to the last and least. When this is done, the care 
and fret and exhausting self-regarding ambition, with slavish 
dependence upon the world's estimates of success, fall away, 
leaving it all a delight in the spirit and purpose which now 
occupy even its least details. 

Whatever powers we employ for his Kingdom's service, the 
supreme energies are from his heart. The age to come is the 
conquest of his sacrifice and ours, as at every morning's 
renewal of our tasks we take up our cross and follow him. 
Force beats back evil that a space may be won where his plants 
of life may grow, from his light, his tears, his bloody sweat. 
We use resisting, annihilating force to the end that it may 
become unnecessary. The carnal weapons of our warfare 
achieve victories by the superior strength of heroic devotion, 
not because we take the lives of his enemies, but because we 
give our own. From the compulsions which we enlist for his 
cause, we keep out, so imperfectly, the opposites of his spirit, 
which cancel his designs. And we find, in sublime contrasts 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 61 

to its inefficiencies, how great were his ways of getting things 
done. So wealth, though it may be his instrument, may 
suddenly change, even in the hands of best intention, from a 
rod of power to a serpent that darts at the face of him who 
holds it. Still the covetousness of its accumulation and the 
self-indulgence of its use are as evident as when Jesus branded 
the mammon of unrighteousness. Dives, faring sumptuously 
every day, is eulogized because some crumbs from his table 
are fed to Lazarus laid at his gate full of sores. Even wealth's 
purestphilanthropies are infectedby the injustices of its accumu- 
lation and tenure of proprietorship in an un-Christianized, 
unhumanized industrial order. Many who have the talent, 
which they must use, for getting it, and are oppressed by the 
load of it, struggle in vain against the present barbarous 
conditions, to find a practicable way to the righteous acquiring 
and distributing of it. Those who are most blatant to show 
the way out are blind leaders whom only the blind can con- 
scientiously follow. The intensifying class struggle for wealth 
makes little progress because it neglects to consider the purpose 
of wealth. The church, though not competent to work out 
a science of wealth, is under obligation to proclaim a gospel 
of its motives and ends, by which its methods may be tested; 
but she shirks her responsibility. To this inefficiency is due 
a large part of her futilities. And meanwhile the wealthiest 
benefactions descend from riches of the soul. So institutions 
which house the finer accumulations of civilization are tran- 
sient tabernacles of the humanity regenerated from Jesus' heart. 
Many which seemed essential have become superfluous. 
Artificial complexities will work out into natural simplicities 
at last. Our tasks are like those which we give to a child, 
when we care little for what is outwardly accomplished, if only 
the child is developed by them. Yet all the more earnestly 
do we apply these insufficient devices because we perceive 
their insufficiency, for our task is not only to use them, but 
continually to improve the means which we must use, unto 



62 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

perfectings beyond our sight, changing the earth as it is into 
the earth that is to be. All the realm bequeathed to us between 
Jesus' goal and his creation of the new humanity, we fill from 
his life which continually renews and unites us, and from his 
purpose which guides us. We are servants bidden to wait 
and watch for our lord; but his way to us is impassable; there- 
fore we go to meet him, and across the flood that bars his 
progress, we, with labor and long pain, build the road by which 
the King of Glory shall come in. 



Now that Jesus' hope is found to be fixed upon a perfected 
earth, the charges against him of otherworldliness and historic 
pessimism fall to the ground. They were always evidently 
contrary to his view of nature and his estimate of man. But 
from the opposite direction objections arise, only to be merged 
into his hope. 

Perfection, it is urged, is unattainable and undesirable. 
It would turn to evil if attained. A perfected earth, with 
all its problems solved, all its ambitions accomplished, with 
nothing to do except the same old things, nothing left to strive 
for, to amend, would be a lubber-land, a garden of Eden, a 
blank, an extinction. But it is a deeper thought that per- 
fection is not static, but dynamic, an energy of holy love that 
fulfils itself and accomplishes evolving tasks always and from 
more to more. No lower, idler perfection than this is in Jesus' 
soul, nor is anything unworthy of this in his hope. Hope does 
not contradict the energies that form it. 

But, it is again objected — and these two objections seem to 
involve whatever may be challenged from this side — this earth, 
which Jesus made his goal in what he supposed the fulfilment 
of God's purpose, is as a spark in the flaming universe, gleaming 
for a moment and then ashes. What are the traversible miles 
of its circumference, in spaces which light-years cannot 
measure! What are the computable millenniums of its possible 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 63 

habitableness, in eons to which the birth, duration, and death 
of the star-mist beyond Andromeda are an incident! The 
expectation of Jesus may seem to disappear with the shriveling 
up of his cosmology. Is the human spirit, in this instance at its 
most generous ideal, again overwhelmed by superspatial and 
supertemporal immensity ? Yet in some estimates all bigness 
sinks into insignificance in comparison with the universe of 
Jesus' soul. Nor would our astronomy have changed his hope 
and purpose any more than, upon reflection, it need change 
ours, who know the science of which he was ignorant, and are 
learning the rudiments of the wisdom which he knew. For the 
work which anyone must do is the work next his hand. If it is 
an eternal task, it begins and forever continues with the task 
at hand. The universe beyond this world is not now our field 
of labor: it becomes so by our work upon this earth. Every 
faithful man works in the lot assigned to him, or rather, attain- 
able by him, to make that place better, in Jesus' spirit, towards 
Jesus' goal. Each faithful man works with every other in 
the works which unite and advance to redeem the earth in 
Jesus' spirit and to Jesus' goal. And when we feel ourselves 
transcendent of these limitations, for God hath set not the 
world only, but eternity in our heart, we may see our earth 
task flashing its signals beyond the orbit of Mars. They 
are responsive signals. God's work of redemption is every- 
where in his encircling skies, accomplished by those who in 
every lot attainable by them work together for his Kingdom in 
the works appointed them. The perfecting of earth is essential 
and directive in Jesus' work and ours. It is not final. The 
service of the last and least everywhere is final. The work and 
the workers beyond us are one with us in his prayer," Thy 
Kingdom come." 

VI 

When we ask what detailed contributions Jesus has made 
to the consciousness and the tasks of our awakening spiritual 
humanism, the wealth of the answer amazes us. He discovered, 



64 THE JOURNAL OF RELIGION 

to mention only a part of his discoveries, the child, the 
woman, the common man, the union of spiritual aims with 
daily toils, the fundamental answer to the perplexities of human 
relations. From the God of the social passion down to the 
place of the sparrow and the grass of the field in the universal 
order, which is the Father's love, everything that enters man's 
life or touches it is implicit in Jesus' gospel. Every problem 
of politics, of industry, of the courses of individual lives, of the 
unity of lives in the great human brotherhood, depends for 
the essential of its solution, and therefore for the use and direc- 
tion of every element in the process of its solution, upon his 
progressive creation of a new humanity concentrated in the 
primal devotion to the last and least. The demonstration of 
this thesis is far beyond the scope of these few reflections. It 
can be completely established only when the Kingdom of God 
is come. Yet it is safe to derive our guiding principle, whose 
proof can be only in its outworking, from the fusion of Jesus' 
hopes with the works we have to do; especially as that prin- 
ciple has never yet failed to result in deep satisfactions to the 
man who tests his life's efficiencies by their workings out of 
character and spirituality, of joy and love, and of the conditions 
favorable to these things. This effectiveness is the supreme 
instance of the universal content, the inexhaustibly unfolding 
applications of simplest principles. Nor is this appreciation 
lessened by the recognition of the wide realms which Jesus 
could not enter. The greatness of any thinker is measured 
by the applicability of his thought to activities which are, 
by historic necessity, outside his view. The wisdom which 
meets that test has attained the heart of things. It is a con- 
tinually evolving and originating power of thought and action 
in its disciples, and becomes more originative with each succes- 
sive generation of them. 

In our day, as in other epochs of change, mankind has 
seemed to have come to the parting of the ways, the parting of 
Jesus' way from ours. Once more many earnest men, with 



THE SIGNIFICANCE OF JESUS' HOPE 65 

tender reverence, with stern devotion to the work at hand, 
bid him farewell. They and the generations after them, they 
know, can never forget the gentlest, holiest, manliest presence 
that ever blessed the earth. Sanctifying memories of him will, 
they gratefully acknowledge, impart inspiration to tasks which, 
they judge, are not his tasks, and which must be pursued along 
ways that are not his way. With aching hearts of loneliness 
we follow the path which now opens to our advance. And 
before us again we see the guiding presence of our Master. 
In his leadership we are united into the new humanity continu- 
ously created by him, as he leads us, one in heart and purpose, 
to the neglected, the oppressed, the last and least of his 
brethren. To the starving, ruined peoples he leads us, and 
to the waste places of the earth, many of them at our doors; 
wherever there is ignorance, wherever there is crime, and the 
publicans and the harlots rise up and follow him; wherever 
there is poverty that withholds the largest human privilege; 
wherever a little child of a backward race has denied to it 
equal and supreme opportunity of all the accumulated excel- 
lencies of mankind. It is into a regenerated civilization that 
we follow him. It were better for a civilization that a millstone 
were hanged about its neck and that it were drowned in the 
depth of the sea, than that it should lay a stumbling-block 
before one of these little ones. Through this earth and beyond 
it, we his brotherhood, sweeping into our front ranks those 
who were the neglected and oppressed, follow him, to the 
spirits in prison, to the innumerable dead of unillumined 
ages, wherever in his unending path there are blind eyes to 
be opened, dead souls to rise again, hate to be won to love, 
lower forms of existence to be led up into his universal human, 
forms of spiritual life unimaginable to us, to be united in the 
fellowship of his inexhaustible helpfulness; there is his leading, 
there is our following, into fulfilments everywhere of the love 
for which he died.