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Christ and Baha'u'llah

by George Townshend

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Chapter 3


      MOSES had announced, and great Prophets had described in inspired language, the establishment of the Kingdom and the restoration of the Jews. Jesus' function was more intimate, more constructive, more creative. He was actually the Herald of the Kingdom, which, He said, was "at hand". But He did not reveal it fully; "I have yet many things to say unto you, ye cannot bear them now." The Kingdom, in His Revelation, becomes a living, glowing reality, both within the believer's heart and shortly to be fulfilled in the world. Jesus reveals its King as none had done before Him, testifies of Him as "he shall testify of me".

      Jesus created a power of perceiving God which was new, and in order that it might operate clearly, had to cleanse the spirit of man from all worldly encumbrances. Virtue become detachment from the world, sin attachment to it. Jesus demanded this sacrifice — losing the life of the world for the life of the spirit, but He made God so attractive, so joyous, loving, powerful, that the Christian was ready to abandon all for Him, and for Christ Who revealed Him.

      Thus the tremendous and fearsome Deity of the Old Testament wins men's hearts in the New. We read of the poor sparrow whose fall was watched by a loving Father, of the flower of the field and the bird of the air, and the

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tenderest stories that ever have won men's hearts — the prodigal son and the good Samaritan.

      A new quality of love now characterizes the Kingdom, a love which united the believers not only with God, but with each other, and even extended to enemies and "them that hate you." "That ye love one another" became the test of Christian discipleship.

      The supreme ideal of this love was, as shown in John, the relationship between Christ and the Father, and though revealed in the most simple language and the plainest words, stands as the highest expression of Divine love in scripture.

      The result was that Jesus' teachings let loose upon the soul and heart of man a spiritual power such as never had been known in the world before. Historians have said that Jesus' teaching has done more to elevate human nature and civilization than all the laws of legislators and the disquisitions of philosophers combined. By releasing religious energies measured to the needs of the hour and the people, He opened the way to the Kingdom of God in men's hearts. New affections and aspirations, hopes and loyalties were brought into being and the whole moral world was carried into a state of flux.

      The early Christians taught the sacredness of human life and the dignity of human nature. As soon as they could they stopped the exposure of infants at birth and the practice of gladiatorial shows. Later they promoted education, built hospitals and introduced a juster system of legislation than had been in use in the Roman State before. Such changes as these they made because the seat of Christ's government was fixed in their souls and His throne was in their hearts. They lay open to the impress

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of every breath the Spirit breathed on them and had consecrated their wills to His service. A new and Christian civilization arose, centered on Byzantium, which reached its height in the fourth century.[1]

      In Jesus' time there was a great company of brilliant philosophers, historians and orators, poets and scholars in Rome, all of them deeply conscious of the debasement and the disintegration of Roman life, particularly anxious to find a way of improving it and all truly unable to do so. The thought that the new teaching of Christ would prove equal to the task and would rebuild a new and better social order never occurred to one of them. They seldom mentioned Christianity and when they did, referred to it in terms of complete contempt. Men have marvelled at their blindness, but after all the cause is not far to seek:[colon] Jesus regards this human world as antagonistic to the divine world. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon" is the cornerstone of His ethics. Unless a man hates his father and his mother, his wife and his home for His sake and the Gospel's he cannot be His disciple. He demands, therefore, that a man shall exercise a high degree of self-control and self-discipline. Jesus taught that this earth life is intended to be a bridge to pass over and not a home in which to take up one's abode. The wise man, therefore, who passes this way will not attach himself to too many ties but will keep himself free so that he will be able, if some higher call of duty comes to him from the divine world, to follow it at once. He will seek to achieve a high standard of self-control and self-discipline, happily conscious that the demands of the Gospel and of Christ take precedence over any earthly imperative.

1. see Chap. 9.

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      The Roman philosophers on the other hand, immersed completely in the affairs, interests and calls of the human world, had no conception whatever of any obligation to sacrifice its need to those of a higher existence.

      Purity, therefore, is the cleansing of the human heart from the obscuring influence of the mists and shadows of earth which do not enable man to see any vision of God or of Christ but keep him in comparative darkness, knowing nothing of the vision or the power which comes to the heart that has disengaged itself from all love of Mammon. The wonders of Christ could never have come to pass, nor could the spiritual energies, shed so bountifully, have been released had He not been ready to sacrifice every human tie and attachment for the sake of God and God's beloved. The mysterious power which comes of sacrifice like Christ's, and in no other way, is similar to that of a seed which falls into the ground and is buried in the dark. The seed gives up its outer life and the shell perishes; instead the inner being of the seed takes on a new life of its own which spreads and expands into a very big tree, assuming a new form in the boughs and branches and leaves. Analogously, Christ abandoned all that held Him to home and all the ties of earth, and this sacrifice created the Christian community into which His own life passed. He was the first to make the sacrifice His teachings demanded and God-intoxicated apostles, following Him, went forth to transform the world and die as martyrs.

      Bahá'u'lláh testifies: —

". . . that when the Son of Man yielded up His breath to God, the whole creation wept with a great weeping. By

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sacrificing Himself; however, a fresh capacity was infused into all created things. Its evidences, as witnessed in all the peoples of the earth, are now manifest before thee. The deepest wisdom which the sages have uttered, the profoundest learning which any mind hath unfolded, the arts which the ablest hands have produced, the influence exerted by the most potent of rulers, are but manifestations of the quickening power released by His transcendent, His all-pervasive, and resplendent Spirit.

      "We testify that when He came into the world, He shed the splendor of His glory upon all created things. Through Him the leper recovered from the leprosy of perversity and ignorance. Through Him, the unchaste and wayward were healed. Through His power, born of Almighty God, the eyes of the blind were opened, and the soul of the sinner sanctified.

      "Leprosy may be interpreted as any veil that interveneth between man and the recognition of the Lord, his God. Who so alloweth himself to be shut out from Him is indeed a leper, who shall not be remembered in the Kingdom of God, the Mighty, the All-Praised. We bear witness that through the power of the Word of God every leper was cleansed, every sickness was healed, every human infirmity was banished. He it is Who purified the world. Blessed is the man who, with a face beaming with light, hath turned towards Him."[1]

      Wonderful is the story of Christ indeed! Yet where is the Gospel in the world to-day?

1. Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, section xxxvi.

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