The Cornell Sun reports at length on a lecture yesterday by Professor Nathaniel Smith — “one of the most important and forcible” of the year.
On the teachings of Jesus Christ:
In the new society that was to come there would be no killing of enemies, no law of retaliation, no condemnation of men, no oath-taking, no divorce, no amassing of wealth, no compulsory support of religion, no public prayers, or almsgiving, no fasting, no masters, whether rabbis or kings, no oppression, or fear, or anxiety for the morrow. These laws of the coming social order were not to take effect in the future, nor were they counsels of perfection in view of the approaching end of the world, but rules to be at once imposed upon themselves by all who wished to be governed by the will of the father in heaven. . . . These ideas were presented in parables of inimitable simplicity, beauty, directness, and force, in answers to questions, or in brief and telling utterances easily remembered. The appeal was not to ancient books, but to nature, ordinary circumstances with which any one would be familiar, and the sound judgment of men.
On the importance of Paul:
Without Jesus of Nazareth there would have been no Christianity. But the religious genius who developed a Christian system of doctrine, worship and church polity was the Hellenistic Jew, Paul of Tarsus. Power and radicalism of thought, deep mysticism, intense zeal, and marked organizing ability, were united in this man to an extraordinary degree. He broke down the external authority of the law as a barrier between Jew and Gentile, yet saved this law as a pedagogue to Christ; he wrote that Magna Charta of Christian liberty, the epistle to the Galatlans, yet based his ethics upon subordination to authority; he organized churches in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece, in a manner not approved by James, the brother of Jesus, or the immediate disciples, yet claimed for himself the power of an apostle.
On Christianity’s twofold triumph:
The spiritual triumph of Christianity was a twofold one: over tendencies within the church that, however great the elements of truth and moral worth they held, would have prevented it from fulfilling its important function in the Middle Ages and in modern times, and over the forms of religion that were its rivals in the empire until they were finally abandoned. Among the former were Gnosticism, Montanism, Arianism, Donatism, and Monophysitism; among the latter the Caesar cult, the official worship of the gods of Greece and Rome, the mysteries of Orpheus, Demeter, Isis, Serapis, Attis, and Mirtha, Judaism, and the Stoic and Neo-Platonian j philosophy, now strongly imbued with; the religious sentiment.
The victory was due to the fact that Christianity satisfied the varied spiritual demands of the times. Its social sympathy and essential democracy attracted the slave population and the proletariat, its philosophy appealed to the earnest seekers after truth who longed for well balanced and deeply significant formulas, its doctrine of immortality inspired a richer hope than the mysteries, and its cult nourished a mysticism giving warmth to the religious feeling.