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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 74

The Spirit of the Gospel

The Spirit of the Gospel.

But what is this I say? Did Christ not sound the war-note? Let us turn from the anise and cummin of these doubtful disputations to the [unclear: weigher] matters of the scripture, and see what its teaching really is. The Gospel not a code; the New Testament is not a Koran; Jesus is not a Mohammed. The Gospel does not prescribe for us what we are lo touch, taste and [unclear: han] nor what we are to leave alone; looking beyond the Letter of [unclear: for] observances, it prescribes the spirit in which all things are to be done:-" whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the [unclear: glo] of God." Never did Christ assume a tone of more terrible severity [unclear: th] when denouncing the formalism and pedantry of the Pharisees with the rigid attention to the letter, and their neglect of the spirit: and it was replying to them that he laid down for all time the ideal of true religiom:-"Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all [unclear: f] soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment And the second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbour as [unclear: thye] Well would it have been for the Christian Church and for the world of this simple creed had not been encumbered with a load of [unclear: extran] dogmas to be wrangled over too often with a sectarian bitterness and a [unclear: qui] ing refinement in which the Pharisees them selves were not seldom out-pharised.

So many gods so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
When just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs:

Doctrine has boon denned us "the skin of truth set up and stuffed," but the definition is a good deal too complimentary for some of the [unclear: metas] page 11 phoses which Christ's teaching has undergone at the hands of Christian Churches. The skin has been first turned inside out, and then, lest this disguise should be insufficient, it has been further ornamented into an absolutely irrecognisable mosaic by the profuse addition of patches from the skins of all manner of unclean beasts. Fortunately the process is being reversed in our time, and the Churches are rapidly retracing their steps to the Christ of the Gospels.

If I were to cite to you all the passages in which, by word or deed, Christ has illustrated his religious ideal, I should have to read through half the Gospels. For our present purpose an all-sufficient commentary upon it is the parable of the Good Samaritan which follows it in St. Luke's narrative. By this parable the meaning of "neighbour" is extended to include all whom we are capable of influencing for good or ill. We are to deny ourselves and follow Christ in serving these. What clearer mandate could the Christian desire to determine his attitude to the great robber and destroyer of his race? Thousands, even in our small colony, are being robbed every year of property, happiness, character and life by this awful curse. Are we going to play the Levite and pass by on the other side? I fail to see how we can do so without denying Christ, or how we can think of making terms with the robber when Christ's warning words are ringing in our eats :—"Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling! for it must needs be that the occasions come; but woe to that man through whom the occasion Cometh;" I do not know to whom this woe is more directly applicable than to the moderate drinker, whose well-regulated appetite necessitates the opening of sources of temptation in which the weak and the vicious must inevitably be consumed like moths in a flame, and to all who assist or countenance him in the indulgence of that appetite at so terrible a cost.

The greatest of Christ's followers did not fall away from his Master's teaching, and in the epistles of Paul we have the great ideas of Christ—the love of God, the love of man, and the sacrifice of self in their service-set forth in exactly Christ's spirit. Turn to the 8th and 13th chapters of 1 Cor. or to Rom. xiv., and think how much of Christianity could have been constructed from them alone. Our responsibilities towards our neighbours are especially dealt with in those chapters-the oneness of man, the limits which our regard for others must put to the exercise of our own rights, the omnipotence of love. In two verses especially the particular subject we are blindest considering is touched with such preciseness that one wonders how the blindest can overlook it, or the most sophistical explain it away:—

page 12

Rom. xiv. 21—" It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink [unclear: wi] nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is [unclear: m] weak."

1 Cor. viii. 13—"Wherefore if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.