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resources of divine wisdom as the Vicegerent of God on earth, whilst unconscious of any personal change, and still the Pius or Leo of old to his familiar friends. The possibilities of faith are in fact only restricted within the limits of human imagination; and, if we sceptical moderns could but believe, this nineteenth century might rival the age of Jesus in theosophic mysticism.
With what training in childhood, youth, and manhood did Jesus enter upon his public career? Nazareth, no doubt, possessed its synagogue and Hazzan, or reader, who also fulfilled the duties of village schoolmaster, and taught Jesus to read the Aramaic Targums paraphrasing and expounding Moses and the prophets. As he attained the age of voluntary study, the repulsive contents of the Pentateuch and Joshua necessarily proved distasteful to so refined and gentle a nature; but he found more congenial studies in Isaiah, the Psalms, Apocrypha, and book of Enoch-his favourite authors, whose ideas he freely borrowed. Thus, in the book of Enoch we read: The elect shall possess light, joy, and peace, and they shall inherit the earth ;'? and Jesus
says: • Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.? How disappointing for the elect or the meek to learn that the idea of rewarding them with so noble an inheritance is not an original suggestion of Jesus!
We know not how or when Jesus became imbued with Essenism. This sect willingly undertook the education of children : can Jesus have been an attendant at their schools ? Candidates for admission into their society passed through a year's novitiate: can he have
1 Enoch vi.
thus studied their system, or even have become the temporary disciple of a Banus in the wilderness ? History or legend gives no answer to these questions. We only know that Jesus taught all which is most excellent in Essenism, and brought to his task the mental characteristics of the contemplative life, through which he presents himself to us as a man of genius who had passed his youth in self-conscious reverie and visionary dreams, vague and purposeless until transformed in maturer life into practical designs, adopted in response to the promptings of external circumstances suggestive of action.
This age of conventional formalism, harmonising rather with the respectability of collective mediocrity than with the aspirations of personal genius, can but imperfectly understand the individuality of men, gifted with the moral power which awakens the enthusiasm of contemporaries, and fashions the institutions of posterity. In modern life the individual is lost in the crowd; the routine of the schools discourages originality in youth, and the co-operative action of maturity absorbs the man in the multitude. Temporary isolation is, therefore, indispensable to the development of a commanding genius, which must grow in solitude and obscurity until the matured force of a distinctive individuality can withstand attrition with ordinary minds, and maintain a steady front in the presence of hostile systems bristling with the prescriptive rights of centuries. But even then genius is powerless in the present, unless its practical purpose admits of adaptation to the wants of its own generation.
History depicts our great men, not as creating the
tendency of their age, but as embodying its vague conceptions in the definite purpose of their own career, and changing its vacillating theories into accomplished facts. Genius born in advance of contemporary thought, in an age incapable of understanding its designs or adopting its leadership, beats out life against the iron barrier of circumstance, and dies unknown, or possibly transmits the record of its work to a later generation, which grants it the tardy justice of posthumous applause, whilst gratuitously enjoying the fruits of its labours. Genius, therefore, although not always to be found in the supreme crisis of a nation's destiny, cannot command a career independent of time, of circumstance, of place, but must find its field for action in the wants of contemporary humanity.
Jesus proved no exception to this rule. Born and educated at Athens or at Rome, he would have become an illustrious master of moral philosophy, anticipating Seneca and Aurelius in practical lessons of virtue and humanity; but born at Nazareth in the midst of Messianic dreams, fostered by the ambiguous oracles of ancient bards, Jesus drifted from philosophy to superstition, and became the central figure around which later generations grouped the fanciful creations of imaginative piety.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.
The unexpected call to the Messianic office found Jesus unprepared with any definite policy. He therefore remained a passive spectator of events until informed of the imprisonment of John, when he adopted the prophetic formula, “Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand '—words expressive of nothing more than a popular cry of the day, sufficiently vague for divergent ideals of the phantom kingdom of the prophets.
At length, postponing Messianic responsibilities with the light-hearted philosophy which anticipates not evil, he assumed the rôle of a popular Rabbi, or more humble Meturgeman, and, dispensing with school or synagogue, preached the Sermon on the Mount, as his imaginative Targum on the law and the prophets.
The genius of Essene Buddhism inspires this famous discourse: Blessed are the humble, the merciful, the peacemakers, the pure in heart. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and suffer persecution for its sake, for great is their reward in heaven.” This language might well have been addressed to his disciples by an Essene sage, commending
| This form of exhortation was anticipated by the son of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus xiv. 1, 2, 20).
the virtues which they practised within the circle of an exclusive sect; but, when Jesus adds, ' Ye are the light of the world ; let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven,' he rises above Essene exclusiveness, and invites ascetic piety to go forth into the world, and instruct the multitude in righteousness through the force of example.
In harmony with the freedom of Haggadah, this illustrious Meturgeman of the Mount does not hesitate to denounce all which he finds most objectionable in Moses, even when uttered in the name of Jehovah, and thus sanctions our rejection of scriptural authority, when found conflicting with the reason and conscience of our age. He concurs with Shammai in condemning capricious divorce, replaces Mosaic licentiousness by Essene purity, and emphatically denounces the sanguinary violence of ancient priests and prophets by characterising unjust anger as constructive murder.
The moral genius of Jesus sympathised with the monogamous relationship of the sexes which flourished among Achaian Greeks and Egyptian citizens. He therefore announced that, “ from the beginning' marriage had been consecrated by Divine decree ;1 but alas! his * beginning' merely dated from the fabulous Eden, in absolute unconsciousness of prehistoric Humanity, and of the countless generations through which woman had not risen above the communal Hetairism, which prevailed before the moral evolution of higher forms of social relationship.
In rejecting oaths, Jesus follows in the footsteps of
1 Matt. xix.