It was as their Lord that the primitive community of Christians believed in Jesus. They thus expressed their absolute devotion to, and confidence in, him as the Prince of Life. As every individual Christian stood in an immediate relation to God through the Spirit, priests and mediations were no longer wanted. Finally, these “holy” people were drawn together into societies, which bound themselves to a strictly moral life in purity and brotherly fellowship. On the last point let me add a few words.
It is a proof of the inwardness and moral power of the new message that, in spite of the enthusiasm arising from personal experience of religion, there were relatively seldom any extravagant outbursts and violent movements to be combated. Such movements may have been more frequent than the direct declarations of our authorities allow us to suppose, but they did not form the rule; and when they arose Paul was certainly not the only one who was concerned to put them down. He had certainly no wish to quench the “Spirit,” but when enthusiasm threatened to lead to a repugnance to work, as in Thessalonica, or when, as in Corinth, there was a superabundance of ecstatic talk, he uttered some sober warnings: “If any would not work, neither should he eat,” and “I bad rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.” Still more plainly are the concentrated repose and power of the leaders shown in the moral admonitions, such as we get not only in the Pauline Epistles but also, for example, in the first epistle of Peter and in the general epistle of James. Christian character is to show itself in the essential circumstances of human life, and that life is to be invigorated, supported and illumined by the Spirit. In the relation of husband to wife and of wife to husband, of parents to children, of masters to servants; further, in the individual’s relation to constituted authority, to the surrounding heathen world, and, again, to the widow and the orphan, is “the service of God” to be proved and tested. Where have we another example in history of a religion intervening with such a robust supernatural consciousness, and at the same time laying the moral foundations of the earthly life of the community so firmly as this message? If a man fails to be inwardly affected by the faith proclaimed by the New Testament writers, he must certainly be stirred to the depths by the purity, the wealth, the power, and the delicacy of the moral knowledge which invests their exhortations with such incomparable value.