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WHAT WAS THE MISSION OF CHRIST?
I am come that they might have life, and might have it more abundantly.-John 10:10.
'HE mission of Christ has not always been fully under
clear in the minds of some. Even those who should know the subject best, and whose business it is to expound this great doctrine have not always made themselves clear. Notwithstanding the great influx of light which has come as the result of careful, devout study, the notion as to why Christ came is as confused as it is confusing. This confusion, in all probability, is due to the angle from which men have looked, and the view point from which they have approached the subject. Such is the breadth of the subject, and such the variety of its aspects that even the scriptures are not altogether agreed touching its nature. When we have read the new testament through, we are still at sea as to any definite conception of the mission of Christ. His mission is variously described by the authors of the gospels, and different aspects of it are emphasized by the authors of the epistles. It is impossible to judge as to its character from the teachings of any single book, or to determine its nature from the content of any isolated passage. It is said in one place that He came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. In another place it is said He came, not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. When asked why He associated with the outcast the answer was that He came to seek and to save that which was lost. Elsewhere we are told that He came to found a kingdom, and that His mission was to vindicate the truth and expound and exemplify the principles of righteousness. In one of the epistles, and from the pen of one of the ablest exponents of christianity, we are told that He came to be a mediator between God and man, and, teaching men the way of life while He lived, He finally made salvation possi
ble by His death on the cross. In the passage before us it is stated that He came that men might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
It is the effect His coming has had upon human life with which we are concerned at this hour. Whatever else He came for, the main thing about which he was most concerned was how men ought to live. Until His advent the conception of life had been a most narrow one. Men had lived, but only a few had lived the more abundant life. They had little conception of its divineness or its dignity. He came to give men a more exalted idea of life and to impress them with the transcendent possibilities and privileges of true living.
If human life is rightly understood, it is the greatest blessing God ever conferred upon man; but if misunderstood, it may be a most intolerable burden or most dreadful tragedy. There are men and women who go moping through the world, thinking it a sin to really live. The joys and privileges of the more abundant life are neither understood nor appreciated. They eke out the barest existence because they do not know the real meaning of life.
I remark first: Christ came to dignify and glorify human life. More than any other great leader of men He showed the divineness of living, and exemplified the principles of life in His own conduct. A little reflection will show that the whole aim of our present existence is that we may attain to the fullness of life. Life is the highest end that can be sought by God or man. It is the genius of all creation, and the goal of all human effort. It is the one high and holy end to which all else is incidental, and is, itself, fundamental to all else. The highest form of earthly existence is human life. The animal exists, but does not really live. The tree possesses vitality and occupies space, but has no conscious life. Man, alone, really lives, for he, alone, knows the meaning of life. God is concerned with all life, but chiefly with the life of man. More than any other object of creation, man must be nurtured and stimulated. The tree lives without cultivation or protection. It grows on some mountain side, amid the rocks and crags, battling with the storm all alone, or it comes up in the heart of some primeval forest and blossoms and bears its fruit, without any help from the hand of man. The animal asks for no
cradle, for it needs none, and it is rocked by no kind hand. It asks for no school, and it waits for no organized method of obtaining knowledge. It asks for no bible or church. But man must be rocked and protected, taught and led.
Christ came because man needed God close by his side, as the child needs the mother. It is no more strange that God should stoop to help His inexperienced prodi. gal children than that the mother should nurture and protect her inexperienced child. As a matter of fact, no creature is born so far away from maturity as man. The insect is born today and tomorrow is grown, and soon dies. The maturity of the bird dwells close beside the nest. The ox asks for but three summers that it may attain its growth; while the burden bearing elephant wants only ten years. But man begins so far away that he wants four score years to begin to live, and must have a limitless eternity in which to reach full orbed manhood.
It is a noteworthy fact that growth is no where so slow as in morals. Most of the life is spent before men really learn to do right. We learn the art of right living as we learn to walk or talk or sing. It is because of the long distance man travels that he needs teachers. Homes and schools, libraries and galleries must be established for his development. Friendships and temptations, defeats and victories are also instruments of progress. Speaking reverently, God could not live apart from man and educate him. In the abstract He might influence him, but to lead him and educate him efficiently, He must come into concrete form. He must come to him as the mother comes to the child, and the teacher to the pupil. He must become his companion, his guide, his helper. Books inspire, but not like heart beats. Precepts thrill, but not like the eye and hand of a sympathetic teacher.
It was to glorify and dignify human life that Christ became human. He lived like we do to show us how to live. He showed us how divine human life is and how much more divine it may become. He taught that each man has in him a divinity that links him onto God. Each human sphere has about it a sacredness that makes it fit even for God to live in. Life, in the conception of Christ, is in no sense low or mean. Man can do no greater thing than to live a true, clean, upright, manly life. Living is a transcendent privilege. To be a true man is to be only
a little lower than God. Christ's idea of life was the most exalted the world has known. There was no place for cynicism or misanthropy in His conception. Whoever, therefore, cheapens or depreciates life is a criminal. Who teaches that human existence is a tragedy and the sooner we get out of this world the better, is a misanthrope and an enemy to man.
I remark second: Christ came to lead men into a more abundant life. He taught that men should put all into and get all out of life they can. It is not meant, however, that men may be voluptuaries, or libertines. Liberty in the use of blessings is in no sense license to abuse them. There is a vast difference between volition and voluptuousness. Sensuality and sanity are in no sense the same. Nothing is more unchristian than self indulgence. Christ was neither a Sybarite nor an Epicure. Unfortunately, the swing here is too often to the extreme. Men imagine they may indulge themselves as they please, because they can. They conclude nothing is wrong which they have the liberty to do. Many, therefore, choose promiscuously, and indulge themselves indiscriminately, but that freedom which is unre strained and unbridled is always dangerous. Liberty lies within the limits of law. In a world like this we cannot live without restraint. No man has the right to live as he pleases, or to have all he wants.
Nor, is it meant on the other hand that we are to eke out a bare existence. There is no virtue in poverty. Religion is not crawling through the world. If Christ was not a Sybarite nor an Epicure, neither was he a Stoic or an ascetic. He never looked upon the world as a wilderness, nor life as a tragedy.
There are some people in the world who are actually afraid to live with any enthusiasm for fear they will do wrong. They stand off from the pleasures of life for fear they will sin. Such people confine themselves to the bare necessities. They seek barrenness instead of abundance. They miss the best of life because they are afraid to live. To avoid prodigality they eat the simplest food and wear the plainest clothes, thinking thus to be christian. This is to swing to the opposite extreme. Christ opened the gates of life and asked men to use and enjoy the blessings of the world. He taught that this is God's world and we are His children. He has supplied our wants with a lavish hand. He has filled the world with beauty and