The Christian Ideal

Ephesians 4:13.---' A full grown man....... the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.'

There's no approaching the ideal for the masses except through the human life---through one much loved, much trusted soul, to some eternal verity.' This is not only correct touching the masses, it is true also of the rarest minds; and the Incarnation is Heaven's gracious concession to this organic need of our nature. The unembodied, the invisible, the diffused moral ideal is mental moonshine that warms and ripens nothing; the moral ideal in Jesus Christ is as when the sun goes forth in his strength---it calls for of the response of our moral sense, and then enthuses the heart, evokes the will, stirs, energizes, and perfects the whole personality. Through that much to loved, much trusted One we come to eternal verity.

The loftiness of the ideal is 'the stature of the Christ.' The thought of the high as conceivable goodness is here. The Apostle had no conception of perfection transcending that of our Lord. He felt that his Master had given the ages a type of character that was unique, and that His doctrine of righteousness was incomparable. But today it has become fashionable to sneer at the New Testament ideal of conduct as lacking elevation, and its censors affect to discover purer and loftier principles. It is not irrelevant to ask how it has come to pass that these theories of a superfine virtue should be forthcoming so liberally in these latter days. The simple explanation of the presence amongst us today of these excelling moralist is that Jesus Christ has raised immensely the conception of human nature, and kindled an enthusiasm of righteousness of which is the ancients knew nothing.

The fullness of the Christian ideal---' Unto a full grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.' The fullness of Christ as a revelation of humanity is a favorite theme with St. Paul. Whatever pertains to the perfection of human nature and the completeness of human life is found in our Lord expressly or potentially. A recent writer asks this question: "Of all the men that have lived can we name this single one in whom the spirit of all humanity has dwelt?" And, replying to his on query, he proceeds, "Even of the Prophet of Nazareth it was possible for so devout man has Carlyle to say, with regret, "There is no roguish character in Him." Can we name a single one in whom the spirit of all humanity has dwelt? Yes. 'The Son of Man.' And one of the most convincing proofs of His universality, that He was the "synthetic man," the gatherer and revealer of all the powers of humanity, is found in the fact that His hostile critics produced no charge against Him except they find no roguish character in Him! As though He who was for our advantage nailed to the bitter cross were to amuse us also! There something positively wanton in expecting the elements of humor in Him who came on the serious business whose symbol is the Cross. How perfect must He be in whom His adversaries can find no fault but this!

Our religion is charged with neglecting certain sides of human nature, various spheres of human activity. It has little to say about health, pleasure, art, science, literature, government, industry, and other subjects of similar import. It is true that the New Testament says little about corporeal, mental, or artistic perfection, while it is copious and imperative on the question of conscience. It omits everything except the main thing. And was not our Lord right? Do we not, first of all, need to be saved from the blighting power of moral lawlessness? Is not the essential malady of the race here? Is not to salvation from selfishness, irregular desire, ignoble passion, false aims, the primary need of the race? Just as a physician has little to say to his patients about beauty or music, politics or trade, but concentrates himself on the disease and peril of the sufferer, so great Physician of the race concentrates himself on the healing and health of the spirit. The world at its best is little to the sick; and all is nothing to a diseased and tortured soul. Let us, however, not forget that through our Master did omit items of the world worldly program, he did not forbid or depreciate them. Nothing can be farther from the truth than to suggest that He did so. He simply taught that through the power of character we possess all things. Through personal godliness and spiritual righteousness we attain and retain all the glories of intellectual life, all the riches of material life, all the delights of social life. Our gospel brings us the heavenly wisdom, the inward peace, the power of pure living, the mighty hope, which enable us to possess our possessions, and to enjoy them forever.

The harmoniousness of the Christian ideal, 'A fullgrown man, and to the measure of the fullness of Christ.' Nearly all the gifted writers who attempt a Life of Christ remark on the extreme difficulty of representing their subject because of the faultiness and harmoniousness of His character---it being so much easier to depict the partial and irregular than to describe the smoothness of absolute perfection. All graces blended in the Master in exquisite proportion; and whilst all feel the charm of His unearthly beauty, none may paint it. And, in truth, Christianity cannot be said to inculcate any special virtue, or to possess any distinguishing grace. The New Testament expression of holiness contains nothing defective or exaggerated; all fine features of a character and action in just proportion composed is ideal. Completeness, plentitude, justness, constitute Christ-likeness.

It was an artistic law in Greece that no victor in the games could have a portrait statue of himself set up unless he had been successful and all of five forms of contest, since anything short of success and all of five would leave open the possibility of certain parts of his body having been developed at the expense of others, owing to which it could not at first glance present, as a perfect figure ought to present, that perfection of adaptability in all its parts to work harmoniously towards one end. As the Greek was thus anxious to secure the full and symmetrical development of the body, the faith of Christ, as set forth by St. Paul, is set upon the realization of our whole personality, in its utmost fullness and most delicate harmoniousness. If perfection is the harmonious expansion of all the powers which makes the beauty and worth of human nature, who can study the New Testament without feeling that it contemplates a sanctification of all our powers; that Christianity is a study of perfection, and the secret of it?

In Christ, timothy. maranatha