The Social Ethics Of Jesus -- By: John S. Sewall

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 052:206 (Apr 1895)
Article: The Social Ethics Of Jesus
Author: John S. Sewall


The Social Ethics Of Jesus

Prof. John S. Sewall

Was Jesus a Social Reformer? Was the renovation of society the special object of his mission? Did he come to regenerate the individual, or to rectify the community? These questions will open the gateway into the field before us.

It is a wonderful vision we see when we look across the ocean and back through the centuries to the country and the times of our Lord. There lies little Palestine, rugged with mountains, rich with orchard and vineyard, her soil fertile with the blood of countless battles against heathen invaders, her people ennobled by a history which no other nation could even approach; but now a province prostrate at the feet of pagan Rome, her people corrupt, her temper soured, her religion degraded, her character haughty, provincial, intolerant, hypocritical, her burdens fierce, her masses a slumbering volcano ready to burst into flame at the first word of revolt. In the midst of these disorders stands a central figure of light, calm, collected, busy with his own mysterious project. He recognizes the wrongs, the confusions, the oppressions, the perversions of character and justice and truth all around him. But he does not appear to be alarmed. He is not in a hurry. He starts no crusade against Rome. He breaks no lance with Herod, nor with the priesthood, nor with the laws, nor with existing institutions, nor with social custom. It is not along these lines that he appears to be working.

And yet when we think of the evils which afflict the race, it would seem as if here would be the point at which

Jesus would begin. The wars, the oppressions, the cruelties, the class hatred, the feuds between capital and labor, the business monopolies, the frauds, peculations, gamblings on change, the passions and crimes which prey upon society, the sufferings of the unemployed, the homeless, and the starving,—surely such calamities show how badly the planet needs disinfecting. Here is a Cause of sufficient magnitude to enlist even a reformer from heaven.

When we look at Jesus himself we note how finely he was adapted to just this work of social renovation. In person and character he was a God. In sympathies he was a man, and understood men. In spiritual gifts he was equipped with a revelation of divine love and divine grace to save men. In miraculous endowment he had power over the forces of nature, exorcised both demons and disease, held the keys of life and death. He claimed that all authority had been committed to him. His life, his character, his teachings, show how competent he was to assume that royal trust. And his works show him using it,—a kingly dispenser of gifts from heaven.

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