The Man and His Works
by Wallace D. Wattles
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Jesus, The Man and His Work is based on a lecture that Wallace Wattles delivered in 1905 and really is a must-read for anybody that wants to learn about Jesus' real mission on earth. It could be a real eye-opener for you if, like most people, you have never devoted much thought to the subject before.
In these days of idol smashing and rapid readjustment of ideals this lecture is most timely. Delivered at the Auditorium, Cincinnati, November 11, 1905, under the auspices of the local branch of the Socialist Party, it made so favorable an impression on certain listeners that they determined to have it printed if Professor Wattles would furnish the manuscript. This he has done.
The identity between the ethics of real Christianity and Socialism is perfect. The cornerstone of each is laid in Justice, Equality, Brotherhood. Under the vile and senseless economic system in vogue these principles cannot be practiced except through the absolute sacrifice of every material interest. Who can doubt what the economic attitude of Jesus the carpenter agitator of Nazareth would be were he alive today!
The Spirit of Christ is not dead, but it no more resides in the modern church than it did in the church of His day. Where, then, do we find it? Those whose eyes are open to the truth see in the world-wide revolt of the working class the manifestation of the real Christianity. In it, they see the dawn of that "Peace on earth, good will to men" that Jesus proclaimed.
The reader is earnestly enjoined to read this beautiful lecture with open mind. Prejudice and intolerance are millstones about the neck of aspiring intelligence. They are a fatal handicap and cannot be discarded too quickly. Do not shy at a word, like a horse shying at a feather, for one is as ridiculous as the other. A better day is dawning and no nobler work is presented than to lend a helping hand to the establishment of an economic system where Christianity can be practiced.
Jesus: The Man and His Work
It is doubtful if any man was ever more misunderstood by the people of His own time than Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly no man was ever more grossly misrepresented by succeeding generations, and especially by those who professed to be His friends and followers.
The Christian religion was first recognized by the powers of the state at an era when the interests of the ruling class demanded the utmost submission and conformity on the part of the people; and out of the needs of the kingly and priestly classes for a religious ideal which should induce men to be contented with slavery, to bow their necks to the yoke of taxation, and to submit to every form of economic evil without protest, was born the concept of the message, and of the personal character of Jesus which is accepted as orthodox today.
The picture of the man Jesus which you hold in your minds has been drawn far more from the poetry of Isaiah, written 700 years before He was born, than from the four gospels, which purport to be narratives of eye witnesses of His life and works. Such passages in Isaiah as: "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was oppressed, and he was afflicted and he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth," have been quoted to show the meekness and the humility, the submissive spirit with which Christ endured wrong and injustice; and we have had held up as the saviour of the world a despised, friendless, poverty-stricken laborer whom the upper classes regarded with scorn because of his lowly origin and station; who had no friends save fisherman, laborers, outcasts and sinners; who was often shelterless and hungry, and who bore insults and persecutions with meek submission and walked about a scornful world with his hands always uplifted in loving benediction.
And this character is held up to us as the Christian ideal. Be meek. Be submissive. Be lamb-like or sheep-like. Bow your head before the persecutor and "hump" your back to the shearer. Rejoice that it is given you to be fleeced for the glory of God. It is a good religion - for the man with the shears.
The Christ who is held up in the orthodox pulpit is rather a weak character. He is not the kind of man we would nominate for president. His followers have very little confidence in him as a practical teacher of business ethics. They have great faith in him as a revealer of spiritual things, but none at all as an organizer of the affairs of this world. If it were telegraphed over the country this afternoon that the president has resigned and that Jesus would take his place tomorrow, 95 percent of Christian business men would draw their money out of the banks for fear that Jesus would inaugurate a panic.
Jesus said of Himself, "If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me." Well, He has not drawn all men, not even a majority of men, and I am inclined to think that He has never been lifted up. An unreal, imaginary character is being lifted up instead, and men are not being drawn by it.
Near a certain Indiana town there is a neighborhood peopled by an Amish sect. They all wear flat black hats and plain black clothes which they fasten with hooks and eyes, because buttons are not Christlike; they shave their upper lip, cut the beard square across the chin, and the hair square also. It is said that when one of the brethren needs a hair-cut his wife turns a bowl or basin bottom upward over his head and cuts away all the hair that comes below it. Attired in this fashion, and in a very strong odor of sanctity, two of these brethren were walking in the street one day, and were met by an old farmer, a typical Hoosier character. After looking them over critically, he accosted them thus: "Say, why don't you fellows get your hair cut an' shave?" "We attire ourselves thus," said one, "because we want to look like our Savior." "Did the Savior look like you?" asked the farmer. "We believe he did." "Well," said the old man, positively, "darned if I blame the Jews for killin' him, then."
The brethren were holding up a false Christ, and so the old man was not attracted; and I want to prove to you today that the church, everywhere, is holding up a false Christ; I want to show Him to you as He was and is, the Supreme Man - the Highest Type, the incarnation and revelation of that One Great Life which is above all and through all and in us all, lifting us all toward unity with one another and with Him.
It is my task to rescue Christ from Christianity.
In the first place, then, Jesus was not despised because He was a workingman. Custom required every Jewish Rabbi, or learned man to have a trade. We read in the Talmud of Rabbi Johanan, the blacksmith, and of Rabbi Isaac, the shoemaker, learned and highly honored men. Rabbi Jesus, the carpenter would be spoken of in the same way. St. Paul, a very learned man, was a tent-maker by trade. Jesus could not, in that time and place have been despised for His station or His birth. Indeed, He was popularly supposed to be an aristocrat by birth, a son of the royal house and was frequently saluted as the son of David.
Second. He was not despised for ignorance. He was a very learned man. Whenever He went into a synagogue He was selected to read the law and teach the congregation, as the one best qualified for that work. Luke says: "There went fame of him through all the region round about and he taught in their synagogues being glorified of all." In those times of fierce religious controversy no unlearned man could have held his own in such a fashion. He was thoroughly versed in the Jewish law; the way that He silenced his adversaries with apt quotations shows Him to have been letter-perfect. Even His enemies always addressed him as Master or Teacher, acknowledging His profound learning.
Third. He was not despised for His poverty. He had many wealthy and influential friends. Lazarus and his sisters were people of consequence. Luke says that Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the king's steward, and other women ministered unto him of their substance - that is, were supporters of His work. The king's steward was a high official, and his wife was a prominent lady. Joseph of Arimathea, who came after His body, was a well-to-do man. So probably, was Nicodemus. Jesus healed the sick in the families of rulers and of high officials, and they appear to have responded liberally in supplying His financial needs. True, He owned no real estate; but He dressed expensively, and never lacked for money.
When He was crucified His clothing was too fine to cut up, and so the soldiers cast lots for it; on the night of His betrayal, when Judas went out, it was supposed that he had gone to give something to the poor. It must have been their custom to give away money. In that country and climate their wants were few and simple, and were fully supplied. Jesus wore fine clothes and had plenty to eat and drink and had money to give away.
Read the four gospels, and you can come to no other conclusion. Jesus was not humble, in the accepted sense. He did not go about with downcast look, and a general attitude of asking permission to stay on earth. He was a man of the most impressive, commanding and powerful personal appearance. He "spoke as one having authority" and frequently we are told that great awe and fear came upon the people at His mighty words and works. In one place they were so frightened that they besought Him to leave; and John tells how certain officers sent to arrest Him in the market place lost their nerve in His commanding presence, and went back saying, "Surely never man spake like this man."