Christ was a man of power, and is. This is His distinctive characteristic. It was power under the driving control of love, and is.
The religion of Christ is a religion of power. This is its outstanding feature. It was through this that it won its way in the beginning, in the bitter competition with old entrenched religions. It was this that blazed its pioneer way into every nation and civilization where it has gone.
It is a power clearly above any power men were accustomed to. It is distinctly more and greater than men had known. It rose above power working commonly through familiar natural channels.
And so it is called supernatural power. It was plainly claimed to be the power of Christ Himself, and of God back of and through Christ, at work through natural channels.
And always it came into play to help men. The help was sorely needed. Men were powerless to do what was needed.
This more-than-natural power of Christ, and of the religion of Christ, met men's sore need, and met it with a strange glad fulness. It was this distinctive trait that opened the doors and hearts and lives where the power was felt and seen.
Christianity is not a code of ethics, simply. It is that, plainly. It leaves all other codes trailing behind. Indeed there is pretty clear evidence that all these other codes sprang out of the mother roots of Christianity.
But, by comparison, this is merely a by-product, a blessed by-product. The distinctive thing is that Christianity is a religion of supernatural power.
It is not merely a system of culture. Very clearly it is that. The Holy Spirit's sway in a life brings the rarest culture of character and conduct. It leads to the truest culture of mind and personality and life. And this multiplied in many individual lives makes a rarely cultured community.
Its culture is the real thing, culture of heart and motive and behaviour and outreach to others. It clean out-cultures all other cultures, familiar to man. Its culture, at root, planted and fertilized all real culture wherever and whenever found. The evidence regarding this is abundant and clear.
But, in comparison with this other trait common to true Christianity, its culture is an incidental, a winsome wondrous incidental. The essential trait goes deeper in, and reaches farther out. Its power to transform personal life stands first and alone.
Christianity is not a teaching and a philosophy only. It surely is a teaching. It is a tremendous, a pervasive and satisfying philosophy.
All men, and all philosophers, and all nations, that know it gladly burn their incense at the altars of its teaching and its philosophy, the incense of words, and the greater incense of imitation.
There is the best of evidence for believing that the directly untraceable tendrils of all other philosophies and teachings run back to the Hebraic roots whence Christianity grew.
And this is still true, regardless of the strange unhallowed admixtures in these other systems. By common consent the teaching and philosophy of Christianity clear overtops all others.
Yet, be it keenly marked, again this is not the chief thing in Christianity. There is something greater back of this. It is so much greater as to have no second.
It's in a class by itself. Christianity is a thing of more-than-natural, more-than-human, power. It reveals God's own power in action through natural human channels.
There is even a stronger word to add here. Christianity is not a humanitarianism, a scheme for bettering world conditions, simply. It is that, clear beyond what can be told.
A simple quick run back in history to pre Christian times, and a quick run out to non Christian civilizations today, makes a startling contrast between nations that have come in any degree under Christian influence, near or remote, and the others.
Humanitarianism in all its blessed forms, and the unselfish bettering of outer conditions, stand out so big under Christian touch as to seem almost absent elsewhere.
Yet the distinct though faint traces elsewhere, even though untraceable directly, bear every mark of springing from the same old Eden Hebrew-Christian rootage. Christ's humanitarianism is the root actually of all this sort of thing.
Yet, a moment's clear, sharp thinking makes quite plain that these blessed things that have meant so much, and do beyond all calculation, are still—yes, again the word comes—incidentals.
They are the sweet, refreshing fragrance of the rose. The rose itself, creating fragrance, and lavishingly breathing it out into the sweetened air, this is quite another thing. The rose is always immeasurably greater than the fragrance it gives unselfishly out to all comers.