Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, by Julius Wellhausen, , at sacred-texts.com
The post-Deuteronomic legislation is not addressed to the people, but to the congregation; its chief concern is the regulation of worship. Political matters are not touched upon, as they are in the hands of a foreigner lord. The hierocracy is taken for granted as the constitution of the congregation. The head of the cultus is the head of the whole; the high priest takes the place of the king. The other priests, though his brothers or his sons, are officially subordinate to him, as bishops to the supreme pontiff. They, again, are distinguished from the Levites not only by their office but also by their noble blood, though the Levites belong by descent to the clergy, of which they form the lowest grade. The material basis of the hierarchical pyramid is furnished by the contributions of the laity, which are required on a scale which cannot be called modest. Such is the outward aspect of the rule of the holy in Israel. Inwardly, the ideal of holiness governs the whole of life by means of a net of ceremonies and observances which separate the Jew from the natural man. "Holy" means almost the same as "exclusive." Originally the term was equivalent to divine, but now it is used chiefly in the sense of religious, priestly, as if the divine were to be known from the worldly, the natural, by outward marks.
It had so fallen out, even before the exile, that the reform of the theocracy which the prophets demanded began in the cultus; and after the exile this tendency could not fail to be persisted in. The restoration of Judaism took place in the form of a restoration of the cultus. Yet this restoration was not a relapse into the heathen ways which the prophets had attacked. The old meaning of the festivals and of the sacrifices had long faded away, and after the interruption of the exile they would scarcely have blossomed again of themselves; they had become simply statutes, unexplained commands of an absolute will. The cultus had no longer any real value for the Deity; it was valuable only as an exercise of obedience to the law. If it had been at first the bond connecting Israel with heathenism, now, on the contrary, it was the shield behind which Judaism retreated to be safe from heathenism. There was no other means to make Judaism secure; and the cultus was nothing more than a means to that end. It was the shell around the faith and practice of the fathers, around the religion of moral monotheism, which it alone preserved until it could become the
common property of the world. The great public worship gave the new theocracy a firm centre, thus keeping it one and undivided, and helped it to an organisation. But of more importance was the minor private cultus of pious exercises, which served to Judaize the whole life of every individual. For the centre of gravity of Judaism was in the individual. Judaism was gathered from scattered elements, and it depended on the labour of the individual to make himself a Jew. This is the secret of the persistence of Judaism, even in the diaspora. The initiatory act of circumcision, which conferred an indelible character, was not the only safeguard; the whole of the education which followed that act went to guard against the disintegrating effects of individualism. This is the real significance of the incessant discipline, which consisted mainly in the observance of laws of purity and generally of regulations devised to guard against sin. For what holiness required was not to do good, but to avoid sin. By the sin and trespass offerings, and by the great day of atonement, this private cultus was connected with that of the temple; hence it was that all these institutions fitted so admirably into the system. The whole of life was directed in a definite sacred path; every moment there was a divine command to fulfil, and this kept a man from following too much the thoughts and desires of his own heart. The Jews trained themselves with an earnestness and zeal which have no parallel to create, in the absence of all natural conditions, a holy nation which should answer to the law, the concrete embodiment of the ideals of the prophets.
In the individualism thus moulded into uniformity lay the chief difference which separated the new period from the old. The aim was universal culture by the law, that the prophecy should be fulfilled which says: "They shall all be taught of God." This universal culture was certainly of a peculiar kind, and imposed more troublesome observances than the culture of our day. Yet the strange duties which the law imposed were not universally felt to be a heavy burden. Precepts which were plain and had to do with something outward were very capable of being kept; the harder they seemed at first, the easier were they when the habit had been formed. A man saw that he was doing what was prescribed, and did not ask what was the use of it. The ever-growing body of regulations even came to be felt as a sort of emancipation from self. Never had the individual felt himself so responsible for all he did and left undone, but the responsibility was oppressive, and it was well
that there should be a definite precept for every hour of his life, thus diminishing the risk of his going astray. Nor must we forget that the Torah contained other precepts than those which were merely ceremonial. The kernel did not quite harden into wood inside the shell; we must even acknowledge that moral sentiment gained very perceptibly in this period both in delicacy and in power. This also is connected with the fact that religion was not, as before, the custom of the people, but the work of the individual. A further consequence of this was, that men began to reflect upon religion. The age in question saw the rise of the so-called "Wisdom," of which we possess examples in the Book of Job, in the Proverbs of Solomon and of the Son of Sirach, and in Ecclesiastes. This wisdom flourished not only in Judah, but also at the same time in Edom; it had the universalistic tendency which is natural to reflection. The Proverbs of Solomon would scarcely claim attention had they arisen on Greek or Arabian soil; they are remarkable in their pale generality only because they are of Jewish origin. In the Book of Job, a problem of faith is treated by Syrians and Arabians just as if they were Jews. In Ecclesiastes religion abandons the theocratic ground altogether, and becomes a kind of philosophy in which there is room even for doubt and unbelief. Speculation did not on the whole take away from depth of feeling; on the contrary, individualism helped to make religion more intense. This is seen strikingly in the Psalms, which are altogether the fruit of this period. Even the sacrificial practice of the priests was made subjective, being incorporated in the Torah, i.e., made a matter for every one to learn. Though the laity could not take part in the ceremony, they were at least to be thoroughly informed in all the minutiae of the system; the law was a means of interesting every one in the great public sacrificial procedure. Another circumstance also tended to remove the centre of gravity of the temple service from the priests to the congregation. The service of song, though executed by choirs of singers, was yet in idea the song of the congregation, and came to be of more importance than the acts of worship which it accompanied and inspired. The Holy One of Israel sat enthroned, not on the smoke-pillars of the altar, but in the praises of the congregation pouring out its heart in prayer; the sacrifices were merely the external occasion for visiting the temple, the real reason for doing so lay in the need for the strength and refreshment to be found in religious fellowship.
By the Torah religion came to be a thing to be learned. Hence the need of teachers in the church of the second temple. As the scribes had codified the Torah, it was also their task to imprint it on the minds of the people and to fill their life with it; in this way they at the same time founded a supplementary and changing tradition, which kept pace with the needs of the time. The place of teaching was the synagogue; there the law and the prophets were read and explained on the Sabbath. The synagogue and the Sabbath were of more importance than the temple and the festivals; and the moral influence of the scribes transcended that of the priests, who had to be content with outward power and dignity. The rule of religion was essentially the rule of the law, and consequently the Rabbis at last served themselves heirs to the hierarchs. At the same time, while the government of the law was acknowledged in principle, it could at no time be said to be even approximately realised in fact. The high-born priests who stood at the head of the theocracy, cared chiefly, as was quite natural, for the maintenance of their own supremacy. And there were sheep in the flock not to be kept from breaking out, both in the upper and in the lower classes of society; the school could not suppress nature altogether. It was no trifle even to know the six hundred and thirteen commandments of the written law, and the incalculable number of the unwritten. Religion had to be made a profession of, if it was to be practiced aright. It became an art, and thereby at the same time a matter of party:, the leaders of the religious were of course the scribes. The division became very apparent in the time of the Hellenization which preceded the Maccabæan revolt; at that period the name of Pharisees, i.e., the Separated, came into vogue for the party of the religious. But the separation and antipathy between the godly and the ungodly had existed before this, and had marked the life of the congregation after the exile from the very first.
It was the law that gave the Jewish religion its peculiar character. But, on the other hand, a hope was not wanting to that religion; the Jews cherished the prospect of a reward for the fulfilling of the law. This hope attached itself to the old prophecies, certainly in a very fantastic way. The Jews had no historical life, and therefore painted the old time according to their ideas, and framed the time to come according to their wishes. They stood in no living relation with either the past or the future; the present was not with them a bridge from the
one to the other; they did not think of bestirring themselves with a view to the kingdom of God. They had no national and historical existence, and made no preparations to procure such a thing for themselves; they only hoped for it as a reward of faithful keeping of the law. Yet they dreamed not only of a restoration of the old kingdom, but of the erection of a universal world-monarchy, which should raise its head at Jerusalem over the ruins of the heathen empires. They regarded the history of the world as a great suit between themselves and the heathen. In this suit they were in the right; and they waited for right to be done them. If the decision was delayed, their sins were the reason; Satan was accusing them before the throne of God, and causing the judgment to be postponed. They were subjected to hard trials, and if tribulation revived their hopes, with much greater certainty did it bring their sins into sorrowful remembrance. Outward circumstances still influenced in the strongest way their religious mood.
But the old belief in retribution which sought to justify itself in connection with the fortunes of the congregation proved here also unequal to the strain laid upon it. Even in Deuteronomy it is maintained that the race is not to suffer for the act of an individual. Jeremiah's contemporaries thought it monstrous that because the fathers had eaten sour grapes the teeth of the children should be set on edge. Ezekiel championed in a notable way the cause of individualism on this ground. He denounced the Jews who had remained in Palestine, and who regarded themselves as the successors of the people of Jehovah because they dwelt in the Holy Land and had maintained some sort of existence as a people. In his view only those souls which were saved from the dispersion of the exile were to count as heirs of the promise; the theocracy was not to be perpetuated by the nation, but by the individual righteous men. He maintained that each man lived because of his own righteousness, and died because of his own wickedness; nay more, the fate of the individual corresponded even in its fluctuations to his moral worth at successive times. The aim he pursued in this was a good one; in view of a despair which thought there was nothing for it but to pine and rot away because of former sins, he was anxious to maintain the freedom of the will, i.e., the possibility of repentance and forgiveness. But the way he chose for this end was not a good one; on his showing it was chance which ultimately decided who was good and who was wicked. The old view
of retribution which allowed time for judgment to operate far beyond the limit of the individual life had truth in it, but this view had none. Yet it possessed one merit, that it brought up a problem which had to be faced, and which was a subject of reflection for a long time afterwards.
The problem assumed the form of a controversy as to the principle on which piety was rewarded—this controversy taking the place of the great contest between Israel and the heathen. Were the wicked right in saying that there was no God, i.e., that He did not rule and judge on earth? Did He in truth dwell behind the clouds, and did He not care about the doings of men? In that case piety would be an illusion. Piety cannot maintain itself if God makes no difference between the godly and the wicked, and has nothing more to say to the one than to the other; for piety is not content to stretch out its hands to the empty air, it must meet an arm descending from heaven. It must have a reward, not for the sake of the reward, but in order to be sure of its own reality, in order to know that there is a communion of God with men and a road which leads to it. The usual form of this reward is the forgiveness of sins; that is the true motive of the fear of God. That is to say, as long as it is well with him, the godly man does not doubt, and so does not require any unmistakable evidence by which he may be justified and assured of the favour of God. But misfortune and pain destroy this certainty. They are accusers of sin, God's warnings and corrections. Now is the time to hold fast the faith that God leads the godly to repentance, and destroys the wicked, that He forgives the sin of the former, but punishes and avenges that of the latter. But this faith involves a hope of living to see better things; the justification of which the good man is sure must at last be attested by an objective judgment of God before the whole world, and the godly delivered from his sufferings. Hence the constant anxiety and restlessness of his conscience; the judgment passed upon him is ultimately to be gathered from the external world, and he can never be sure how it is to turn out. And a principle is also at stake the whole time, namely, the question whether godliness or ungodliness is right in its fundamental conviction. Each individual case at once affects the generality, the sufferings of one godly person touch all the godly. When he recovers and is saved, they triumph; when he succumbs, or seems to succumb, to death, they are cast down, unless in this case they should change their
minds about him and hold him to be a hypocrite whom God has judged and unmasked. In the same way, they are all hurt at the prosperity of an ungodly man, and rejoice together at his fall, not from jealousy or pleasure in misfortune for its own sake, but because in the one case their faith is overturned, while in the other it is confirmed.
The tortures incident to this curious oscillation between believing and seeing are set forth in the most trenchant way in the Book of Job. Job, placed in an agonizing situation, condemned without hope to the death of sinners, and yet conscious of his godliness, demands vengeance for his blood unjustly shed. But the vengeance is to be executed on God, and in such a case who can be the avenger? There is no one but God Himself, and thus the striking thought arises, that God will be the champion against God of his innocence, after having first murdered it. From the God of the present he appeals to the God of the future; but the identity between these two is yet maintained, and even now the God who slays him is the sole witness of his innocence, in which the world and his friends have ceased to believe. God must be this now if He is to avenge him in the future. An inner antinomy is in this way impersonated; the view of the friends is one of which the sufferer himself cannot divest himself; hence the conflict in his soul. But, supported by the unconquerable power of his good conscience, he struggles till he frees himself from the delusion; he believes more firmly in the direct testimony of his conscience than in the evidence of facts and the world's judgment about him, and against the dreadful God of reality, the righteous God of faith victoriously asserts Himself.
Job in the end reaches the conclusion that he cannot understand God's ways. This is a negative expression of the position that he holds fast, in spite of all, to himself and to God; that is to say, that not outward experience, but inner feeling, is to decide. This inner feeling of the union of God with the godly meets us also in some of the Psalms, where, in spite of depression arising from untoward circumstances, it maintains itself as a reality which cannot be shaken, which temptations and doubts even tend to strengthen. It was a momentous step when the soul in its relations to God ventured to take its stand upon itself, to trust itself. This was an indirect product of prophecy, but one of not less importance than its direct product, the law. The prophets declared the revelation of God, which had authority for all, but along with this they had their own personal experience, and the subjective truth of
which they thus became aware proved a more powerful solvent and emancipator than the objective one which formed the subject of their revelation. They preached the law to deaf ears, and laboured in vain to convert the people. But if their labour had produced no outward result, it had an inner result for them. Rejected by the people, they clung the more closely to Jehovah, in the conviction that the defeated cause was favoured by Him, that He was with them and not with the people. Especially with Jeremiah did prophecy, which is designed primarily to act on others, transform itself into an inner converse with the Deity, which lifted him above all the annoyances of his life. In this relation, however, there was nothing distinctively prophetical, just because it was a matter of the inner life alone, and was sufficient for itself; it was just the essence of the life of religion that the prophets thus brought to view and helped to declare itself. The experience of Jeremiah propagated itself and became the experience of religious Israel. This was the power by which Israel was enabled to rise again after every fall; the good conscience towards God, the profound sentiment of union with Him, proved able to defy all the blows of outward fortune. In this strength the servant, despised and slain, triumphed over the world; the broken and contrite heart was clothed and set on high with the life and power of the Almighty God. This divine spirit of assurance rises to its boldest expression in the 73rd Psalm: "Nevertheless I am continually with Thee; Thou holdest me by my right hand; Thou guidest me with Thy counsel, and drawest me after Thee by the hand. If I have Thee, I desire not heaven nor earth; if my flesh and my heart fail, Thou, God, art for ever the strength of my heart, and my portion."
The life surrendered is here found again in a higher life, without any expression of hope of a hereafter. In the Book of Job we do indeed find a trace of this hope, in the form that even after the death of the martyr, God may still find opportunity to justify him and pronounce him innocent; yet this idea is only touched on as a distant possibility, and is at once dropped. Certainly the position of that man is a grand one who can cast into the scale against death and devil his inner certainty of union with God—so grand indeed that we must in honesty be ashamed to repeat those words of the 73d Psalm. But the point of view is too high. The danger was imminent of falling from it down into the dust and seeking comfort and support in the first earthly experience
that might offer, or, on the other hand, sinking into despair. Subjective feeling was not enough of itself to outbid the contradictions of nature; the feeling must take an objective form, a world other than this one, answering the demands of morality, must build itself up to form a contrast to the world actually existing. The merit of laying the foundations for this religious metaphysic which the time called for belongs, if not to the Pharisees themselves, at least to the circles from which they immediately proceeded. The main features of that metaphysic first appear in the Book of Daniel, where we find a doctrine of the last things. We have already spoken of the transition from the old prophecy to apocalypse. With the destruction of the nation and the cessation of historical life, hope was released from all obligation to conform to historical conditions; it no longer set up an aim to which even the present might aspire, but ran riot after an ideal, at the advent of which the historical development would be suddenly broken off. To be pious was all the Jews could do at the time; but it caused them bitter regret that they had no part in the government of the world, and in thought they anticipated the fulfilment of their wishes. These they raised to an ever-higher pitch in proportion as their antagonism to the heathen became more pronounced, and as the world became more hostile to them and they to the world. As the heathen empires stood in the way of the universal dominion of Israel, the whole of them together were regarded as one power, and this world-empire was then set over against the kingdom of God, i.e., of Israel. The kingdom of God was entirely future; the fulfilling of the law did not prepare the way for it, but was only a statutory condition for its coming, not related to it inwardly as cause to effect. History was suddenly to come to a stop and cease. The Jews counted the days to the judgment; the judgment was the act by which God would at once realise all their wishes. The view thus taken of the world's history was a very comprehensive one and well worked out from its principle, yet of an entirely negative character; the further the world's history went wilfully away from its goal, the nearer did it unintentionally approach its goal. In this view, moreover, the earth always continued to be the place of hope; the kingdom of God was brought by the judgment into earthly history; it was on earth that the ideal was to be realised. A step further, and the struggle of the dualism of the earth was preluded in the skies by the angels, as the representatives of the different powers and nations. In this struggle a place was assigned to Satan; at first he
was merely the accuser whom God Himself had appointed, and in this character he drew attention to the sins of the Jews before God's judgment-seat, and thereby delayed the judicial sentence in their favour; but ultimately (though this took place late, and is not met with in the Book of Daniel) he came to be the independent leader of the power opposed to God, God's cause being identified with that of the Jews. But as this prelude of the struggle took place in heaven, its result was also anticipated. The kingdom of God is on earth a thing of the future, but even now it is preserved in heaven with all its treasures, one day to descend from there to the earth. Heaven is the place where the good things of the future are kept, which are not and yet must be; that is its original and true signification. But the most important question came at last to be, how individuals were to have part in the glory of the future? How was it with the martyrs who had died in the expectation of the kingdom of God, before it came? The doctrine of the zakuth was formed: if their merit was not of service to themselves, it was yet of service to others. But this was a solution with which individualism could not rest content. And what of the ungodly? Were they to escape from wrath because they died before the day of judgment? It was necessary that the departed also should be allowed to take some part in the coming retribution. Thus there arose—it is remarkable how late and how slowly—the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, that the kingdom of God might not be of service only to those who happened to be alive at the judgment. Yet at first this doctrine was only used to explain particularly striking cases. The Book of Daniel says nothing of a general resurrection, but speaks in fact only of a resurrection of the martyrs and a punishment of the wicked after death. With all this the resurrection is not the entrance to a life above the earth but to a second earthly life, to a world in which it is no longer the heathen but the Jews who bear rule and take the lead. Of a general judgment at the last day, or of heaven and hell in the Christian sense, the Jews know nothing, though these ideas might so easily have suggested themselves to them.
It is not easy to find points of view from which to pronounce on the character of Judaism. It is a system, but a practical system, which can scarcely be set forth in relation to one leading thought, as it is an irregular product of history. It lives on the stores of the past, but is not simply the total of what had been previously acquired; it is full of new impulses, and has an entirely different physiognomy from that of Hebrew antiquity,
so much so that it is hard even to catch a likeness. Judaism is everywhere historically comprehensible, and yet it is a mass of antinomies. We are struck with the free flight of thought and the deep inwardness of feeling which are found in some passages in the Wisdom and in the Psalms; but, on the other hand, we meet with a pedantic asceticism which is far from lovely, and with pious wishes the greediness of which is ill-concealed; and these unedifying features are the dominant ones of the system. Monotheism is worked out to its furthest consequences, and at the same time is enlisted in the service of the narrowest selfishness; Israel participates in the sovereignty of the One God. The Creator of heaven and earth becomes the manager of a petty scheme of salvation; the living God descends from His throne to make way for the law. The law thrusts itself in everywhere; it commands and blocks up the access to heaven; it regulates and sets limits to the understanding of the divine working on earth. As far as it can, it takes the soul out of religion and spoils morality. It demands a service of God, which, though revealed, may yet with truth be called a self-chosen and unnatural one, the sense and use of which are apparent neither to the understanding nor the heart. The labour is done for the sake of the exercise; it does no one any good, and rejoices neither God nor man. It has no inner aim after which it spontaneously strives and which it hopes to attain by itself, but only an outward one, namely, the reward attached to it, which might as well be attached to other and possibly even more curious conditions. The ideal is a negative one, to keep one's self from sin, not a positive one, to do good upon the earth; the morality is one which scarcely requires for its exercise the existence of fellow-creatures. Now pious exercises can dam up life and hold it in bounds, they may conquer from it more and more ground, and at last turn it into one great Sabbath, but they cannot penetrate it at the root. The occupation of the hands and the desire of the heart fall asunder. What the hands are doing has nothing in common with the earth, and bears no reference to earthly objects; but with the Jews the result of this is that their hope assumes a more worldly complexion. There is no connection between the Good One and goodness. There are exceptions, but they disappear in the system.
The Gospel develops hidden impulses of the Old Testament, but it is a protest against the ruling tendency of Judaism. Jesus understands monotheism in a different way from his contemporaries. They
think in connection with it of the folly of the heathen and their great happiness in calling the true God their own; He thinks of the claims, not to be disputed or avoided, which the Creator makes on the creature. He feels the reality of God dominating the whole of life, He breathes in the fear of the Judge who requires an account for every idle word, and has power to destroy body and soul in hell. "No man can serve two masters; ye cannot serve God and Mammon; where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." This monotheism is not to be satisfied with stipulated services, how many and great soever; it demands the whole man, it renders doubleness of heart and hypocrisy impossible. Jesus casts ridicule on the works of the law, the washing of hands and vessels, the tithing of mint and cummin, the abstinence even from doing good on the Sabbath. Against unfruitful self-sanctification He sets up another principle of morality, that of the service of one's neighbour. He rejects that lofty kind of goodness, which says to father and mother, If I dedicate what I might give to you, that will be best even for you yourselves; He contends for the weightier matters in the law, for the common morality which sees its aim in the furtherance of the well-being of others, and which commends itself at once to the heart of every one. Just this natural morality of self-surrender does He call the law of God; that supernatural morality which thinks to outbid this, He calls the commandment of men. Thus religion ceases to be an art which the Rabbis and Pharisees understand better than the unlearned people which know nothing of the law. The arrogance of the school fares ill at the hands of Jesus; He will know nothing of the partisanship of piety or of the separateness of the godly; He condemns the practice of judging a man's value before God. Holiness shrinks from contact with sinners, but He helps the world of misery and sin; and there is no commandment on which He insists more than that of forgiving others their debts as one hopes for forgiveness himself from heaven. He is most distinctly opposed to Judaism in His view of the kingdom of heaven, not as merely the future reward of the worker, but as the present goal of effort, it being the supreme duty of man to help it to realise itself on earth, from the individual outwards. Love is the means, and the community of love the end.
Self-denial is the chief demand of the Gospel; it means the same thing as that repentance which must precede entrance into the kingdom of God. The will thereby breaks away from the chain of its own acts,
and makes an absolutely new beginning not conditioned by the past. The causal nexus which admits of being traced comes here to an end, and the mutual action, which cannot be analysed, between God and the soul begins. Miracle does not require to be understood, only to be believed, in order to take place. With men it is impossible, but with God it is possible. Jesus not only affirmed this, but proved it in His own person. The impression of His personality convinced the disciples of the fact of the forgiveness of their sins and of their second birth, and gave them courage to believe in a new divine life and to live it. He had in fact lost His life and saved it; He could do as he would. He had escaped the limits of the race and the pains of self-seeking nature; He had found freedom and personality in God, who alone is master of Himself, and lifts those up to Himself who seek after Him.
Jesus works in the world and for the world, but with His faith He stands above the world and outside it. He can sacrifice Himself for the world because He asks nothing from the world, but has attained in retirement with God to equanimity and peace of soul. And further, the entirely supra-mundane position, at which Jesus finds courage and love to take an interest in the world, does not lead Him to anything strained or unnatural. He trusts God's Providence, and resigns Himself to His will, He takes up the attitude of a child towards Him, and loves best to call Him the Heavenly Father. The expression is simple, but the thing signified is new. He first knows Himself, not in emotion but in sober quietness, to be God's child; before Him no one ever felt himself to be so, or called himself so. He is the first-born of the Father, yet, according to His own view, a first-born among many brethren. For He stands in this relation to God not because His nature is unique, but because He is man; He uses always and emphatically this general name of the race to designate His own person. In finding the way to God for Himself He has opened it to all; along with the nature of God He has at the same time discovered in Himself the nature of man.
Eternity extends into the present with Him, even on earth He lives in the midst of the kingdom of God; even the judgment He sees inwardly accomplished here below in the soul of man. Yet He is far from holding the opinion that he who loves God aright does not desire that God should love him in return. He teaches men to bear the
cross, but he does not teach that the cross is sweet and that sickness is sound. A coming reconciliation between believing and seeing, between morality and nature, everywhere forms the background of His view of the world; even if He could have done without it for His own person, yet it is a thing He takes for granted, as it is an objective demand of righteousness. So much is certain; for the rest the eschatology of the New Testament is so thoroughly saturated with the Jewish ideas of the disciples, that it is difficult to know what of it is genuine.
Jesus was so full of new and positive ideas that He did not feel any need for breaking old idols, so free that no constraint could depress Him, so unconquerable that even under the load of the greatest accumulations of rubbish He could still breathe. This ought ye to do, He said, and not to leave the other undone; He did not seek to take away one iota, but only to fulfil. He never thought of leaving the Jewish community. The Church is not His work, but an inheritance from Judaism to Christianity. Under the Persian domination the Jews built up an unpolitical community on the basis of religion. The Christians found themselves in a position with regard to the Roman Empire precisely similar to that which the Jews had occupied with regard to the Persian; and so they also founded, after the Jewish pattern, in the midst of the state which was foreign and hostile to them, and in which they could not feel themselves at home, a religious community as their true fatherland. The state is always the presupposition of the Church; but it was at first, in the case both of the Jewish and of the Christian Church, a foreign state. The original meaning of the Church thus disappeared when it no longer stood over against the heathen world-power, it having become possible for the Christians also to possess a natural fatherland in the nation. In this way it became much more difficult to define accurately the spheres of the state and the Church respectively, regarding the Church as an organisation, not as an invisible community of the faithful. The distinction of religious and secular is a variable one; every formation of a religious community is a step towards the secularisation of religion; the religion of the heart alone remains an inward thing. The tasks of the two competing organisations are not radically different in their nature; on the one side it may be said that had not the Christian religion found civil order already in existence, had it come, like Islam, in contact with the anarchy of Arabia instead of the Empire of Rome it must have founded not the Church, but the state; on the other side
it is well known that the state has everywhere entered into possession of fields first reclaimed to cultivation by the Church. Now we must acknowledge that the nation is more certainly created by God than the Church, and that God works more powerfully in the history of the nations than in Church history. The Church, at first a substitute for the nation which was wanting, is affected by the same evils incident to an artificial cultivation as meet us in Judaism. We cannot create for ourselves our sphere of life and action; better that it should be a natural one, given by God. And yet it would be unjust to deny the permanent advantages of the differentiation of the two. The Church will always be able to work in advance for the state of the future. The present state unfortunately is in many respects only nothing more than a barrier to chaos; if the Church has still a task, it is that of preparing an inner unity of practical conviction, and awakening a sentiment, first in small circles, that we belong to each other.
Whether she is to succeed in this task is certainly the question. The religious individualism of the Gospel is, and must remain for all time, the true salt of the earth. The certainty that neither death nor life can separate us from the love of God drives out that fear which is opposed to love; an entirely supra-mundane faith lends courage for resultless self-sacrifice and resigned obedience on earth. We must succeed: sursum corda!