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An essay by Henry Frederick Cope

The Age-Long Miracle

Title:     The Age-Long Miracle
Author: Henry Frederick Cope [More Titles by Cope]

The Sufficient Sign
Behold the Man
The Life that Lifts

Silent goodness speaks loudest.

Our loads lift us up to strength.

Life grows as love is given.

From the grind of drudgery comes at last the glorious divine spark.

The spirit of the father never works separation in the family.

That day best fulfills its purpose which is a preparation for the next.

The proof of a faith is not in its prestige, but in its present power.

Things divine are not defended by dodging.

It is the heart that gives ease to any work.

The door of truth never opens to the key of prejudice.

Love never knows how much it gives nor what it costs.



The scribe and the Pharisee are still with us. "Establish the credibility of the miracles of Jesus, or, better still, let Him work a miracle to-day, and we will believe," they say. This age is credulous; it hungers to believe the extraordinary. Yet, while it is running after folly, it is blind to the most extraordinary fact, the most stupendous miracle that ever took place, although it goes on right before its eyes and is open to every kind of proof. It cannot see the miracle of Jesus in the world to-day, the miracle beside which all the works He did in His lifetime sink into insignificance.

Here is the sign to-day offered to the skeptic: Once, nearly twenty centuries ago, a young preacher travelled and taught through the villages and by the wayside in an obscure oriental country. He addressed a subject race, insular in their prejudices, lacking in political genius and in artistic culture. He lived in days calculated to chill the most fervid religious enthusiasm. He was at first ignored and then hated by His own people; the religious leaders became His implacable foes. His work ended in apparent failure, in a death of shame.

But that was not the end. It is strange that the world remembers anything about that young preacher; but stranger still is the fact that to-day He influences more than half the population of the globe, surpassing all other teachers, more people are under His sway now than the whole world held when He lived. These millions make Him the object of their worship and devotion; in His name they gather regularly all over the world, without regard to language or race.

More than this, this one whom the wise men of His day ignored has been the inspiration of the works of genius and art, of the deeds of heroism, of the lofty endeavours of the world since He died. He has changed the mind. He has changed the appearance of the world; by Him nations have fallen and risen. The humble, the despised, the rejected has become the world's hero, the mightiest of all the sons of men, the saviour of His race.

Once He touched a few who were blind and lame and they were healed; to-day in His name, in every city, a thousand suffering ones are made whole. Science does the work; but the opportunity for its development and the inspiration for its application came from Him.

Nor is this all. He made the world to see; He touched the blind eyes of the people, as they groped in superstition, and has given them sight; He has made the ages, once limping and halting, to arise and march forward with magnificent tread; He found the world a babel of jarring voices and fretting purposes, and His touch gave peace and singleness of purpose until men could discern that "through the ages one unceasing purpose runs." He did for man and mind what was first done for matter, brought the cosmos out of chaos. This is the miracle indeed.

It goes right on before our eyes. They take His name to a dead people, and soon there is life there. Light, and love, and larger life spring up everywhere in His name. From this modern miracle of the power, the growing authority, the kingship of the once despised Jesus we cannot escape; we are perforce participants in its benefits; it conditions all our lives.

If all the gospel stories could be proved myths and the miracles but inventions, there would still remain the greater, the insuperable miracle of the world's picture of the perfect and all glorious personality of Jesus and the fact of His preëminent power in the world to-day. This is the sign He gives this age, and to this the open mind answers: "Thou art the Christ, the saviour of the world."



The two words, "Ecce homo," contemptuously spoken by the cynical Roman governor contained the highest tribute that had been given to Jesus. How empty appear all the high sounding titles, such as king and emperor, beside this significant one of Man. How sad and self-damning the bitter railing of His enemies in the light of that serene dignity. How puerile the bickering over words and ways of worship, and all the wrangling that blinded them to the heavenly radiance of that all glorious manhood. The wonder of Jesus is not in the deeds He did, but in the being He was. And the wonder of His being is not in that it offers elements for arguments as to a divine personality, but it is that of a simple, clear, sublimely perfect manhood. It is upon this perfection of personal character that His abiding claim to divinity must rest; it depends not on His birth but on His being.

There is something strange about the perversity with which the church has emphasized the least attractive aspects of its master's person. The preachers have scolded men for not coming to church, and when they did come they offered them pictures of an emaciated, effeminate being for their adoration. With them the painters have conspired to set on canvas and in church window representations from the reality of which we would turn with repulsion or on which we would look with pity.

If Jesus is to be the leader of men He must go before them. He must stand in the front, not set there by artificial arguments as to His right to rule over men, but there because He belongs there, first because He is first in all that makes manhood; He is king because He can, and because He has overcome in life's great conflict.

If He is to show us the way we should go He must walk in that way; He must be flesh of our flesh, true man, knowing the full fellowship of our lives. If He was born with a halo; if He lived on angel's fare; if somehow He belongs to another world and His perfections are not those of our nature, then, almighty as He may be as a leader for beings of another world, He has no value to us.

But men have ever set aside the weavings of minds so absorbed in the wonder of their speculations that they could not see the truth. They have seen through the dreamings of poets, painters, and preachers, who pictured only their sickly ideals. And, instead of their caricatures, men have held in their hearts a man, one of their own. And this true fellow, brother and friend, has spurred them to noble deeds and lofty living.

Perfection is seen in strength, not in weakness, in virility and not in tears, in majesty, the majesty truly of meekness, but not of a maudlin, mooning etherealism. The revelation of the perfect man cannot come in a form that a child will pity; it will be admirable from all points of view. It is the heroic rather than the esthetic we must admire.

The men who followed that one long ago did so not because they had heard arguments as to His divine claims, but because they were drawn by the heavenly power of His manhood. This it is that wins men ever, the magnetism of manhood. The force of a great life is mightier than any of the things it does. There is about this leader, Jesus, that which compels us to greatness, spurs us to strife for our better selves, strengthens to sacrifice and to service for our fellows.

It matters little whence a life like this has come; the greater question is where does it lead us. Childish minds spend time on the genealogical trees of the giants; the wise men follow them. The value of the life of the great Teacher does not depend on our ability to comprehend it biologically or arrange it chronologically, but on our vision of its moral and manly perfections and on the power these attributes have over our lives.

This world will be little helped by the most irrefutable syllogism concerning the peculiar nature and separate exclusive divinity of its great religious Teacher. But lives will be lifted everywhere in the measure that they see the man in Him who taught us of God. For men need not so much a God who has come down as a man who has attained to God, not a descent, but an ascent, one who is the life and the truth because He is the way which they may tread up to the glory that is their heritage and the God who is their own.



To any save the few in the group of His friends that statement of Jesus that being lifted up He would draw all men to Him must have sounded like the ravings of one deluded. It has taken the centuries to show that He was right. He was right in His estimation of His life's end; it was a lifting up. His enemies thought it a casting down, a defeat; He knew it to be a triumph. Sorrow, injustice, oppression, hatred, the things that seem to crush are the things that elevate. Only by opposition has any life discovered power. The fiercer blow these winds the firmer grows the tree. Out of the petty persecutions, the countless meannesses, the littleness of those who oppose him the great soul builds its greatness. It is, and ever has been by a cross that men are lifted up. History abounds with prisons, gibbets, and crosses which have become thrones of eternal glory.

Whether we shall be cast down or lifted up depends upon ourselves; neither enemies nor adverse circumstances have the power to do this. The soul that seeks the stars builds its staircase out of the stones flung by the persecutor, out of the rocks of difficulties. If your heart is great, my brother, nothing can keep you from greatness; if it is mean, no amount of o'ervaulting ambition can make you other than a little, obscure man, as truly lost on the peak as you would be at the base.

Jesus died a failure; His friends were few, and the best of them thought His life a mistake. It takes more than the span of our lives to measure their size. It is better that a great soul should be called a failure than that it should die a shrivelled success. Earth measures by what the hands hold; heaven by the heart. The hands at last lose their grasp, but the heart wealth goes on from more to more. This it is that is worth while.

Jesus was right when He said that He would draw all men to Him. Then it sounded like folly; to-day it demonstrates His divine insight. Lifted up in shame the riches of His life were revealed. After all, the best in us answers to the best; it is love that leads. In the end, goodness, truth, gentleness, sincerity have the greatest attraction for men. Jesus is known and loved by millions who never heard of Nero or of Augustus. Their glory was that of circumstance; His that of character. His life lifts.

This it is that most helps the world; not learning, but a life; not power or position, but simple passion for men; not riches, but wealth of the inner life. You may not found a university or build libraries or hospitals, or even write books or preach sermons. But every one may do the principal thing that Jesus did. That was to live a life amongst men of love for them, of simple kindnesses, of God-seeking aspiration, of white sincerity. The race needs not so much men who will shake it with their power or dazzle it with their learning as it needs men and women who will lift it with the quiet earnestness and sincerity of their lives. Herein is lasting greatness and true power, to live as He lived, to love as He loved, true to God, to yourself, and to your fellows, seeking the best and giving of your best.

Service and sacrifice are the things that lift to the supreme places; the lower you stoop in helpfulness the higher you are lifted in lasting glory. And they are lifted to heaven, they achieve immortality, they can never die who were willing to die if death lay in the path of duty, to be sacrificed if sacrifice was part of their service.

[The end]
Henry Frederick Cope's essay: Age-Long Miracle