Impressions from Voices of the Past

Somehow, I feel that I have yet to make plain this awesome change in mankind. So I now reach back to almost forgotten voices that made a great impression on me some years ago.

Consider the words of Phillip Schaff in his eight-volume History of the Christian Church, a work recognized as one of the very finest histories. Schaff says,

The transforming spiritual power of Christianity appears first in the lives of individuals. The apostles and primitive Christians rose to a morality and piety far above that of the heroes of heathen virtue and even that of the Jewish saints. Their daily walk was a living union with Christ, ever seeking the glory of God and the salvation of men. Many of the cardinal virtues, humility, for example, and love for enemies, were unknown before the Christian day. [This is also true of the human conscience.]

Christianity raises woman from the slavish position, which she held both in Judaism and in heathendom, to her true moral dignity and importance…Thus raising the female sex to its true freedom and dignity, Christianity transforms and sanctifies the entire family life. It abolishes polygamy, and makes monogamy the proper form of marriage; it condemns concubinage with all forms of unchastity and impurity. It presents the mutual duties of husband and wife, and of parents and children, in their true light, and exhibits marriage as a copy of the mystical union of Christ with His bride, the church.

To Christianity we owe the gradual extinction of slavery. This evil has rested as a curse on all nations, and at the time of Christ the greater part of the existing race was bound in beastly degradation—even in civilized Greece and Rome, the slaves being more numerous than the free-born and the freed-men. The greatest philosophers of antiquity vindicated slavery as a natural and necessary institution; and Aristotle declared all barbarians to be slaves by birth, fit for nothing but obedience. According to the Roman law, “slaves had no head in the State, no name, no title, no register”; they had no rights of matrimony, and no protection against adultery; they could be bought and sold, or given away, as personal property; they might be tortured for evidence, or even put to death, at the discretion of their master. In the language of a distinguished writer on civil law, the slaves in the Roman empire “were in a much worse state than any cattle whatsoever.”

Schaff continues,

Christianity enters with its leaven-like virtue, the whole civil and social life of a people, and leads it on the path of progress in all genuine civilization.

Listen now to what the world historian J. M. Roberts says in his History of the World. He discusses the influence of Christian rulers, then says on page 251,

All these monarchs would behave differently because they saw themselves as Christian, yet, important though it was, this is only a tiny part of the difference Christianity has made to history. Until the coming of industrial society, in fact, it is the only historical phenomenon we have to consider whose implications, creative power and impact are comparable with the great determinants of prehistory in shaping the world we live in…Often disguised or muted, its influence runs through all the great creative processes of the last fifteen hundred years.

I especially like what President Reagan once wrote in Stories in His Own Hand, the Everyday Wisdom of Ronald Reagan, pp. 17–18:

Meaning no disrespect to the religious convictions of others, I still can’t help wondering how we can explain away what to me is the greatest miracle of all and which is recorded in history. No one denies there was such a man, that he lived and that he was put to death by crucifixion.

Where then you may ask is the miracle I spoke of? Well consider this and let your imagination, if you will, translate the story into our own time— possibly to your own home town. A young man whose father is a carpenter grows up working in his father’s shop. He has no formal education. He owns no property of any kind. One day he puts down his tools and walks out of his father’s shop. He starts preaching on street corners and in the nearby countyside. Walking from place to place preaching all the while even though he is in no way an ordained minister, he never gets farther than an area perhaps 100 miles wide at the most.

He does this for three years. Then he is arrested, tried and convicted. There is no court of appeal so he is executed at age 33 along with two common thieves. Those in charge of his execution roll dice to see who gets his clothing—the only possession he has. His family cannot afford a burial place so he is interred in a borrowed tomb.

End of story? No this uneducated, propertyless young man who preached on street corners for only three years, who left no written word has for 2000 years had a greater effect on the entire world than all the rulers, kings and emperors, all the conquerors, the generals and admirals, all the scholars, scientist and philosophers who ever lived—all put together. 

How do we explain that miracle?—Unless he really was what he said he was. End.

Please think again—deeply—of the truly awesome power of Jesus’s words, especially the most universally famous thing Jesus ever said—those 11 words that are changing the bread glob, our globe.

It’s the way that the Golden Rule yeast works. It’s the way that the Great Commandment of love works, guiding us to love others the way that we want to be loved and treated. Again, this is not a side issue. It’s the central issue in Christianity, along with loving God more every day. All according to Jesus Christ himself! I know that we are limited in our resources and our energy, so individually, we can’t do everything. But we can do something! Every day. With God’s help.

Just take a minute and remember what you know about ancient history and appreciate what that one slogan—one idea—one thought—The Golden Rule—has done for mankind. It is an 11-word condensation of the genuine love of Jesus Christ. From His own lips. And never forget the following words of Jesus:

I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father said to me, so I speak. (John 12:49, 50) 

So the real author of the Golden Rule is God himself!

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