Religious Reality
by A.E.J. Rawlinson
Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse

But the true spirit and method of Christian missions is not a narrow proselytism. There are indeed things in many of the lower religions of the world which are dark and evil. There are regions of the earth which are full of base and cruel and degrading superstitions, immoral rites and practices against which the Church of Christ can only set its face, and with which it can make no terms. These are works of the devil which the Son of GOD was manifested to destroy. But there is much in the higher religious thought of paganism which Christ comes not to destroy but to fulfil, and Christianity can fulfil and interpret to the higher religions of paganism just that which is truest and most positive in their own spiritual message. Conversely, it is probable that there are in Christianity itself elements which will only be fully interpreted and understood when the spiritual genius of nations at present pagan has made its proper contribution to Christian thought. For our own sake as well as for theirs it is important that the nations should be evangelized and brought to a knowledge of the truth. When we say the Lord's Prayer we are praying, among other things, for the success of Christian Missions.

And if Christianity contains within itself the true solution of the problem of comparative religion, it contains also, in germ and potentiality, the solution of the problems of race and caste, and of the international problem also. Not until men have learnt the secret of brotherhood in Christ will the white and the coloured races treat one another as brothers. Not until the nations, as nations, are genuinely Christian and have learnt, in their dealings one with another, to manifest the spirit of unselfishness and love, will the day be in sight when they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and be content to learn war no more. This too, if the Gospel means anything at all, is part of the will of GOD for the human race. It is part of what is involved in the prayer, "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven." It is an integral and vitally important element in the Christian hope of the Kingdom.

The redemption of society, the evangelization of the world, the bringing together into the corporate wholeness of a world-wide Catholic Church of the fragmentary Christianity of the existing multitude of sects, the elimination of war from the earth, and the breaking down, as the result of a conscious realization of human unity in Christ, of the dividing barriers of colour and race and caste-all these are essential elements in the Christian vision. The man of the world may, and probably will, pronounce each and all of them to be chimerical, the baseless fabric of a dream. He will find no thoughtful man who is genuinely Christian to agree with him.

For these things are, quite certainly, part of the will of GOD for humanity. They are involved of necessity in any effectual realization in human life of the sovereignty of the Father who is revealed in Christ. And because GOD is GOD, the goal, for the Christian man, is within the horizon-"The Kingdom of heaven is at hand." In any case, be the goal near or be it far off, it is as a citizen of that Kingdom, and of none other, that the Christian man will set himself to live. He will enthrone GOD in his own heart as King and Lord, and will hold fast the heavenly vision which it has been given to him to see.

"As we look out into the future," says a modern writer,[Footnote: The Rev. W. Temple, in an address delivered at Liverpool on "Problems of Society" in 1912, and published by the Student Christian Movement in Christ and, Human Need.] "we seem to see a great army drawn from every nation under heaven, from every social class, from every section of Christ's Church, pledged to one thing and to one thing only-the establishment of Christ's Kingdom upon earth by His method of sacrifice and the application of His principle of brotherhood to every phase of human life. And as they labour there takes shape a world much like our own, and yet how different! Still individuals and communities, but the individual always serving the community and the community protecting the individual: still city and country life, with all their manifold pursuits, but no leading into captivity and no complaining in our streets: still Eastern and Western, but no grasping worldliness in the West, no deadening pessimism in the East: still richer and poorer, but no thoughtless luxury, no grinding destitution: still sorrow, but no bitterness: still failure, but no oppression: still priest and people, yet both alike unitedly presenting before the Eternal Father the one unceasing sacrifice for human life in body broken and blood shed: still Church and World, yet both together celebrating unintermittently the one Divine Service, which is the service of mankind. And in that climax of a vision, which, if we are faithful, shall be prophecy, what is it that has happened?

"'The kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our GOD and of His Christ.'"



This chapter ought properly to be written by a layman who is also a Christian man of business. It is inserted here mainly to challenge inquiry and to provoke thought. The writer has no first-hand acquaintance either with business life or with business methods. He desires simply to chronicle an impression that the level of morality in the business world has been declining in recent years, and that the more thoughtful and candid of Christian laymen in business are beginning to be deeply disquieted. It is not uncommon to be confronted by the statement that it is impossible in modern business life to regulate conduct by Christian standards. The impression exists that if large numbers of business men abstain from the outward observances of religion, it is in many cases because they are conscious of a lack of correspondence between Sunday professions and weekday practice, and have no desire to add hypocrisy to existing burdens upon conscience. The clergy are by the circumstances of their calling sheltered from the particular difficulties and temptations which beset laymen in the business world. Their exhortations are apt to sound in the ears of laymen abstract and remote from life.

If the situation has been diagnosed correctly the matter is serious. What is suggested is not that men to-day are deliberately more unprincipled than were their fathers, but that modern conditions have made the way of righteousness more difficult. Things have been speeded up. The competitive struggle has been intensified. Men are beset, it has been said, by a "moral powerlessness." They are "as good as they dare be." Absorbed in money-making, and pressed hard by unscrupulous rivals, they cannot afford to scrutinize too narrowly the social consequences of what they do, or the strict morality of the methods which they employ. Honesty, as experience demonstrates, is by no means always the best policy from a worldly point of view. "The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." This being so, it is to be feared that men are apt to prefer the wisdom of the serpent to the harmlessness of the dove.

Moreover the man of business in the majority of cases does not stand alone. He is a breadwinner on behalf of others. Very commonly he regards it as a point of honour to refrain from disclosing to those at home his business perplexities and trials. It is assumed that they would not be understood, or that in any case it is unfair to burden wife and children with financial troubles. In the result it sometimes happens that a man's foes are found to be they of his own household, and that for the sake of wife and child he stoops to procedures which his own conscience condemns, and which those for whose sake he embarks upon them would be the first to disapprove. A wife, it may be suggested, ought to share the knowledge of her husband's difficulties, and to be willing, if need so require, to suffer loss and diminution of income as the price of her husband's honour. A wife takes her husband in matrimony "for poorer" as well as "for richer," for sickness and poverty as well as for health and wealth. It is a tragedy that in modern marriages too often only the more pleasurable alternative is seriously meant.

Enough has been said to make it evident that in the world of modern business there is a battle to be fought on behalf of Christ. Precisely for the reason that the vocation of a Christian in this sphere is in some ways the most difficult it is also the most necessary. There is a call for courage and consecration, for hard thinking and readiness for sacrifice, and from the nature of the case it must be mainly a laymen's battle. There may have to be financial martyrdoms for the sake of Christ before the victory is won. But the prize and the goal is worth striving for, for it is nothing less than the redemption of a large element in human life from the tyranny of selfishness and greed. [Footnote: It may, of course, be argued that so long as the competitive system prevails in the business world, a Christian man in business must compete, just as in the existing state; though in an ideally Christian world competition would be replaced by co-operative and war would be unknown. This is perfectively true. But it should be possible, nevertheless, to hold fast the Christian ideal as a regulative principle even under present conditions. Only in proportion as this is done is the redemption of business life a possibility.]

In principle the issues are clear enough. The interchange of commodities is a service rendered to the community. It ought to be so regarded, and the service rendered, rather than the gain secured, should be its inspiration and motive. The service of man is a form of the service of GOD, and the operations of financiers and business men ought to be capable of interpretation as forms of social service. It is only as this spirit is infused into the lives and practice of men in business that the world of business can be saved from degenerating into a soulless mechanism, dominated by the idea of purely selfish profit, or a tissue of dishonest speculation and sordid gambling. The business man, like any other servant of the community, is entitled to a living wage. He is not entitled either by chicanery and trickery, or by taking advantage of the needs of others and his own control of markets, to become a "profiteer." Profiteering in time of war is condemned by the common conscience. It is equally to be condemned in time of peace. The Christian man in business will stand for integrity and just dealing, for human sympathy and the spirit of service, for the renunciation of profits which are unreasonable and unfair. His function is not to exploit the community in his own personal or sectional interests, but to be a servant of the Christian commonwealth. Some procedures and some methods of making money the Christian man will feel himself debarred from employing. For the rest what is needed is mainly a change of heart, a shifting of emphasis, a modification of the inward spirit and motive of business life.



Labour problems have always existed, but the development of industrialism as we know it to-day is comparatively modern. It dates from the introduction of machinery and mechanical transport, and coincided in its beginnings with the vogue of the so-called "Manchester School" in political and economic theory. The modern world of industry has been built up by the enterprise of capitalists working upon the basis of unrestricted competition. Joint-stock companies and "trusts" are simply capitalistic combinations for the exploitation of industrial opportunities upon a larger scale.

The economic theorists of the Manchester School regarded wages as necessarily governed by the working of the "iron law" of supply and demand. It was the "interest" of the employer to buy such labour as was required at as cheap a rate as possible. It was assumed that in this, as in other matters of "business," his procedure must be determined wholly by self-interest, to the exclusion of "sentimental" considerations. Individual employers might be better than their creed, and in the smaller "concerns" the relations between employer and employed were often humanized by personal knowledge and intercourse. With the advent of the joint-stock company this no longer held good. "A corporation has no bowels." Directors were not personally in contact with their workpeople, and their main consideration was for their shareholders. The whole tendency of the industrial order of society as it developed was in the direction of the exploitation of the workman in the interests of "capital."

It was not that members of the employing class were consciously inhuman. It was simply that they were blinded to the human problems which were involved. They had become accustomed to regard as natural and inevitable a wage-slavery of the many to the few. Labour was a commodity in the market. The workman was a unit of labour. Regarded from the point of view of Capital he represented simply the potentiality of so many foot-pounds of more or less intelligently- directed energy per diem. His life as a human being, apart from the economic value of his labour, was from the "business" point of view irrelevant.

The system was based upon a lie. "Treat human beings as machines as much as you will, the fact remains that they are incurably personal." The wage-slaves of the modern world asserted their personality, and the modern Socialist-Labour Movement is the result. The forces of organized labour have won some notable victories. They are a recognized power in the land. There are those who hope, and those who fear, that they will in the end become socially and politically omnipotent. It is now generally recognized that society prior to the war was on the brink of a struggle between the classes of great bitterness, and that the social condition of the country after the war is likely to be fraught with formidable possibilities. There are many observers who regard a social revolution, in one form or another, as inevitable.

Much, no doubt, will depend upon the temper of the returning troops, both officers and men. That men and officers have learnt to know and to respect one another upon the battlefield is acknowledged, but those who imagine that herein is contained a solution of social and labour problems are likely to prove grievously disappointed. A great deal of nonsense is being talked about the effects of "discipline" upon the men. Military discipline has its admirers: but men of mature years and civilian traditions who in the present conflict have served in the ranks of His Majesty's Army are not included among their number. They have submitted to discipline for the period of their military service. They are quite able to recognize that it is essential to the efficiency of the army as a fighting machine. But they conceive themselves to have been fighting for freedom: and their own freedom and that of their children and of their class is included in their eyes among the objects for which they fight. They will be more than ever jealous, after the war, of their recovered liberties, and determined to assert them. It is probable that one result of demobilization will be an enormous accession of strength to the ranks of the Socialist and Labour parties. The "class war" with which society was threatened before the European War broke out is not likely to be a less present danger when "that which now restraineth" is removed by the conclusion of peace.

What in relation to these problems is the message of the Christian Church? The distinctively Christian ethic is based not upon self- assertion but upon self-sacrifice, not upon class distinctions but upon brotherhood. "Let no man seek his own, but each his neighbour's good." The principle is of corporate as well as of individual application. In an ideally Christian society, the interests of "Labour" would be the sole concern of "Capital," the interests of "Capital" the sole concern of "Labour": and the message of the Church to the contending parties should be, now as always, "Sirs, ye are brethren."

Neither party, however, is likely at present to pay much heed to such a message, which is apt to sound like an abstract and theoretical truism remote from the actualities of life. In point of fact, the large sections of the population who live permanently near or below the poverty line are largely precluded by lack of leisure from entering into the Christian heritage of the spiritual life, and are too much obsessed by the daily struggle for material existence to have patience with exhortations to regard with sympathy either the temptations or the good intentions of the well-to-do. The latter in turn are apt to resent any attempt to stir in them a social conscience with regard to the problems of poverty or the fundamental causes of labour "unrest," to regard the security of dividends as conveniently guaranteed by the laws of GOD, and to hold, in a general way, that everything has hitherto been ordered for the best in the best of all possible worlds. The Church—and more particularly the Church of England—is commonly regarded both by "Labour" and by "Capital" as traditionally identified with the Conservative Party in politics. The Church-going classes love to have it so, and the world of Labour not unnaturally holds aloof.

It is nevertheless sufficiently obvious that the future of civilization after the war will be largely in the hands (or at the mercy) of organized Labour. And it is worth remembering that our Saviour died not for the rich only, but for the poor, having moreover Himself lived and worked as a labouring Man. There are those who regard the spirit of idealism and world-wide brotherhood by which the Labour Movement is inspired as the most profoundly Christian element in the life of the modern world, and the existing cleavage between Labour and the Church as a tragedy comparable only to the tragedy of the war. It is the plain duty of a Christian man to do what in him lies to remedy this cleavage, to think hard and honestly about social problems from a Christian point of view, and to make it his business to have an adequate understanding and sympathy with the real character and motives of Labour aspirations and ideals.



Politics at their worst are a discreditable struggle between parties and groups for selfish, and sectional ends, full of dishonesty and chicanery and corruption. It is often recognized at the present time as desirable that none should be for party, but all for the state. The Christian ideal goes further than this: it is that none should be for party, but all for the Kingdom of GOD, and for the state only in so far as the state is capable of being made the instrument of that higher ideal. The Christian man is not to hold aloof from political life, but to seek, so far as his personal effort and influence can be made to tell, to Christianize the political struggle. In every contested election he is bound to think out in the light of Christian ideals the issues which are at stake, without either prejudice or heat, and to register his vote in accordance with his conscience under the most solemn sense of responsibility before GOD. He is bound, of course, to be a reformer, standing for cleanness of methods, probity of motives, honest thinking, class unselfishness, and the elimination of abuses and malpractices. He will tend in most cases to be a cross- bencher, in the sense of being independent of party caucuses and concerned only for social and political righteousness.

A Christian man who has leisure and opportunity can render enormous service by going into politics, more especially into municipal politics, which are too often surrendered to the tender mercies of corrupt, narrow-minded, or interested local wire-pullers. There is an enormous field of unselfish social service and opportunity lying open to Christian laymen in this connexion. There can be no truer form of work for the Church of GOD than the work of a municipal councillor who seeks not popularity but righteousness.

The carrying over of Christian ideals into national and international politics is equally indispensable. In the sphere of international affairs in particular, while other nations have, for the most part, rendered official lip-service from time to time to ideals of international morality, it has been reserved for Germany to declare openly for the repudiation of "sentiment," and for a policy of undisguised cynicism and real-politik. The doctrine that the state as such is exempt from moral obligation towards its neighbours, and that the whole political duty of man is exhausted in the service of his country and the promotion of her purely selfish interests and "will to power," has been exhibited in action by the Prussian Government in such a fashion as to incur the moral reprobation of the world. The cynical doctrines of real-politik, the belief that the "interests" of the state are in politics and diplomacy paramount, and that "the foreigner" is a natural enemy, the belief that in all international relationships selfish and self-interested considerations must really determine policy, are unfortunately by no means unrepresented, though they are not unchallenged, in the political life of other countries besides Germany. There are influential publicists in England to-day the principles of whose political thinking are really Prussian. It remains to be seen whether, when the time comes for peace to be made between the nations, the forces of international idealism will prove strong enough to carry the day, or whether we shall have a merely vindictive and "realist" peace which will contain within itself the seeds of future wars. There can be no question but that a Christian man is bound to stand both for the freedom of oppressed nationalities and for the right of all peoples freely to determine their own affairs, and also for the duty of nations as of individuals to love their neighbours as themselves, and to seek primarily not their own but each other's good. If these professions are to be more than nominal they must mean a readiness for national sacrifices and for national unselfishness in time of peace as in time of war.



Christianity is opposed to war, in the sense that if men and nations universally behaved as Christians, wars would cease. The ideal of the Kingdom of GOD involves the reign upon earth of universal peace. War is, therefore, in itself, an unchristian thing. It is, moreover, a barbarous and irrational method of determining disputes, since the factors which humanly speaking are decisive for success in war, viz. the organized and unflinching use of superior physical force, are in principle irrelevant to the rights or wrongs of the cause which may be at stake. The victories of might and right do not invariably coincide.

It is not surprising, therefore, that a certain proportion of Christians—the Quakers, for example, and many individuals who have either been influenced by the teaching of Tolstoy, or else, thinking the matter out for themselves, have arrived at similar conclusions to those of Tolstoy and the Quakers—should hold that in the event of war a man's loyalty to his earthly city must give way to his loyalty to his heavenly King in this matter. Experience shows that there are men who are prepared to suffer persecution, imprisonment, or death itself rather than violate their principles by service in the armed forces of the Crown.

There are obviously circumstances conceivable in which it would be the duty of all Christians to become "Conscientious Objectors." Such circumstances would arise in any case in which the state endeavoured to compel men's services in a war which their conscience disapproved. In the present European War it so happens that there are probably no Englishmen who regard the German cause as righteous and the Allies' cause as wrong. The problem of Conscientious Objection has, therefore, only arisen in the case of those Christians who hold the abstract doctrine of the absolute wrongness, in whatever circumstances, of all war as such.

There are those who, though personally rejecting this doctrine, consider that those who hold it are wrong only in that they are spiritually in advance of their time. The majority, however, of Christians have felt that the Pacifist or Quaker doctrine is not merely impracticable under present conditions, but that it rests upon a fallacious principle. For it appears to deny that physical force can ever be rightfully employed as the instrument of a moral purpose. In the last resort it is akin to the anti-sacramental doctrine which regards what is material as essentially opposed to what is spiritual.

The questions at issue are not really to be solved by the quotation of isolated texts or sayings of our Lord from the Gospels. What is really in dispute is the question of the form which, in the context of a given set of national and political circumstances, may rightfully be given to the application of the Christian principle of universal, righteous, and self-sacrificing Love. No one can dispute the fact that in certain circumstances Christianity may demand the readiness to die for others. Are there any circumstances in which Christianity may demand the readiness to slay for others, either personally, or mediately through service in a military machine which as a whole is the instrument of a national purpose only to be achieved through the slaughter of those in the ranks of the opposing armies?

The majority of Christians have answered this question in the affirmative. They have held that there are circumstances in which the claims of Love are more genuinely and adequately acknowledged by taking part in warfare than by abstaining from it. They have insisted that there are circumstances in which it is no true act of love, even towards the aggressor, or perhaps towards the aggressor least of all, to permit him to achieve an evil purpose unchecked: that resistance, even by force of arms, may be in the truest interests of the enemy himself. They have maintained that it is possible to fight in a Christian temper and spirit, without either personal malice or hatred of the foe: that not all killing is murder, and that to rob a man of physical life, as an incident in the assertion of the claims of righteousness, is not, from the point of view of those who believe in human immortality, to do him that ultimate and essential injury which it might otherwise be held to be.

No one, however, who has had anything to do with modern war can doubt that it is intrinsically beastly and devilish, or that it is apt to arouse passions, in all but the saintliest of men, which are of an extremely ugly kind. To affirm that it is possible, as a matter of theory, to fight in a wholly Christian spirit and temper, is not to assert that in actual practice more than a small minority of soldiers succeed in doing so. It is possible to be devoutly thankful that when the issue was posed by the conduct of the Germanic powers in the August of 1914 the British Empire replied by entering upon war, to hold that it was emphatically the right thing to do, and that it represented a course of conduct more intrinsically Christian than neutrality would have been. But it is not possible to maintain with truth that the British nation as a whole has been fighting either in a Christian temper or from Christian motives. It is undeniable that uglier motives and passions have crept in. Sermons in Christian pulpits upon such themes as the duty of forgiveness or the Christian ideal of love towards the enemy have been neither frequent nor popular. Undoubtedly the German Government in its general policy, and particular units of the German Army and Navy upon many occasions, have acted in such a way as to give provocation of the very strongest kind to the unregenerate human impulses of hatred and of revenge. It is not surprising, though it is regrettable, that under the influence of this provocation many persons, otherwise Christian, have either frankly abandoned the Christian doctrine of human brotherhood, or else have denied that the Germans are to be regarded as human beings. On the whole, and speaking very broadly, it may be said that the troops have shown themselves more Christian in these respects than have the civil population, though there are many exceptions upon both sides. It is to be feared that the Church, in so far as she has been represented by her clergy (though here, again, there are many exceptions), has been too anxious to be identified with a merely Jingo patriotism to exercise any very appreciable influence in restraint of unchristian passions. It is to be hoped and anticipated that there will be a strong reaction after the war both against militarism and the less desirable aspects of the military mind, and also against the belligerent temper and spirit—especially, perhaps, on the part of the men who have themselves served and suffered in the field.



No element in Christian practice has been more widely challenged in modern times than the Christian ideal of marriage. Our Lord's standard in these matters was simple and austere. "Whoso looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery already in his heart." "Whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication" (the exceptive clause is of disputed authenticity) "causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery."

The State in certain cases gives legal sanction to "adultery" in this latter sense, and there is a vocal and probably increasing demand that legal facilities for divorce upon various pretexts, with liberty of remarriage, shall be further extended. The Divorce Law Reform Union has announced its intention to promote in Parliament a Bill which, if carried, would have the effect of reducing legal marriage to a contract terminable after three years' voluntary separation by the will of either party. Doubtless a robust opposition will be offered by Christian people to the adoption of so lax a conception of marriage even by the State. Experience in other countries seems to show that unlimited facilities for divorce do not tend to the promotion either of happiness or of morals. But it needs to be recognized that the State, as such, is concerned only with the legal aspect of marriage as a civil contract, and that it has to legislate for citizens not all of whom profess Christian standards even in theory. The law of the State may well diverge from that of the Church with regard to this matter, though it does not follow that so lax a standard as that which is now proposed would be in the best interests even of the State.

The Church regards Christian marriage as indissoluble. In cases of adultery she counsels reconciliation, wherever possible, upon the basis of repentance on the part of the guilty and forgiveness on the part of the injured partner. If this is not possible the Church sanctions, if need so require, separation, but not remarriage. There are also unfortunately other cases in which the married relationship proves so intolerable as to render a temporary or permanent separation admissible as a last resort. The remarriage of either party during the lifetime of the other is nevertheless held to be unchristian. With the practical difficulties which beset the Church in the attempt to maintain within the circle of her own membership a stricter standard than that which is recognized by the Civil Law and by society at large we are not here concerned. Our concern is with the Christian standard as a positive ideal, on the effective maintenance of which, as Christians believe, depends the stability of the home and the Christian family, and the redemption of sex-relations from mere animalism and grossness.

A Christian husband takes his wife in matrimony "for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death them do part, according to GOD'S holy ordinance." The step is irrevocable. The union is intended to be life-long. It has, moreover, in view not only "the mutual society, help, and comfort that the one ought to have of the other," but also "the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of His holy Name." A few words may usefully be said under these heads.

(i) Marriage ought to be based upon love; and love, though naturally and normally involving the element of sexual attraction, ought to include also other and deeper elements. A Christian man who has lived a clean and disciplined life ought to be sufficiently master of his passions to avoid mistaking a merely temporary infatuation for such a genuine spiritual affinity as will survive the satisfaction of immediate desires and prove the stable basis of a life-companionship. Hasty marriages are a common and avoidable cause of subsequent unhappiness. It is obviously undesirable that couples should enter upon matrimony until there has been a sufficiently prolonged and intimate acquaintance to enable them to become reasonably sure both of themselves and of one another. In many cases there is much to be said for regarding betrothals in the first instance as provisional. It is better to break them off at the last moment than to marry the wrong person.

The Victorian conventions with regard to all these matters were thoroughly bad. Girls were brought up in carefully-guarded ignorance of the implications of matrimony and shielded by perpetual chaperonage from anything approaching comradeship with the opposite sex. Eventually they were in many cases stampeded into a marriage which had its origin either in a clandestine flirtation or in the designing operations of some match-making relative, who made it her business first to "throw the young people together" and then to suggest that they were virtually committed to one another by the mere fact of having met.

The reaction which has taken place against all this is upon the whole salutary. The new social tradition which is growing up makes it possible for the unmarried of both sexes to meet one another with comparative freedom, and to establish relations of friendship, which may subsequently ripen into love, unhampered by any such morbidly exciting atmosphere of intrigue and suggestion on the part of relatives and friends. But the new freedom of social intercourse, if it is not in its turn to prove disastrous, demands on the part of the young of both sexes a higher standard both of responsibility and self- control, and of knowledge of what is implied in the fact of sex. The experience of married life is, moreover, not likely to prove a success, save in rare instances, unless there is between the parties a real community of interests and tastes, unanimity, so far as may be, of ideals and of religious convictions, and at least no very great disparity of educational and intellectual equipment.

(ii) A Christian marriage includes among its purposes the procreation of children. It is here most of all that unanimity of ideal and of conviction between husband and wife is essential. A man and a woman ought not to take one another in marriage without first being assured of each other's mind upon this subject. "If marriage is to be a success each must learn respect for the other's personality, real give and take, and the horror of treating the other just as a means to his own pleasure, whether spiritual, intellectual, or physical: and both must think seriously of the responsibilities of parenthood. Husband and wife must work out their ideals together, in perfect frankness and sincerity, and it is impossible to have true and sacred ideals of their joint physical life unless there is the same openness and understanding and sympathy on this point as on all others." [Footnote: Ideals of Home, by Gemma Bailey (National Mission Paper, No. 43).] There must be mutual consideration and self-control: the need for self-restraint and continence does not disappear with the entry upon marital relations: it is if anything intensified.

There is a real problem here which needs to be thought out. To the practice of "race-suicide," by which is meant the artificial restriction of parentage by the use of mechanical or other "preventives," Christian morality is violently opposed. On the other hand, it may reasonably be held that people ought not to bring children into the world in numbers which are wholly out of relation to their capacity to feed, clothe, educate, and train them. "The enormous families of which we hear in early Victorian times were not quite ideal for the mother or the children, nor for the father if he were not well off." [Footnote: Ibid] It may be found necessary in practice to limit the size of the family either upon economic grounds or (in particular instances) in the interest of the mother's health.

It is to be feared, however, that the modern tendency in both respects is to shirk the responsibilities of parenthood on grounds which are thoroughly selfish. The Victorian doctrine that "when GOD sends mouths He sends food to fill them" may have been unduly happy-go-lucky. The recent remark of an officer in a certain British regiment, that since he and his wife had only L8000 a year between them, he felt that he could not afford to have more than one child, was entirely shameless. It would seem, moreover, that the comparative childlessness of modern marriages is sometimes due not to the husband's reluctance, upon economic grounds, to beget children, but to the wife's reluctance to bear them, a reluctance which in some cases arises either from such shrinking from the physical pain and sacrifice of motherhood as goes beyond what is really justified, or from mere self-indulgent absorption in social pursuits and pleasures. There ought to be in a Christian marriage more of the true spirit of adventure and romance, a greater readiness for sacrifice, a more willing acceptance of parental responsibilities, and of the obligation of self-denial for the children's sake. There can be no question but that modern families— with the paradoxical exception of the families of the very poor—have been tending to be smaller than they either need be or ought to be.

At the same time it is generally conceded that some measure of limitation is in most cases reasonable and necessary. The vitally important thing is that such necessary and reasonable limitation should be secured not by artificial evasion of the consequences of intercourse, but by self-control and deliberate temporary abstinence at certain periods from the intercourse of sex. [Footnote: It may be suggested that in cases of genuine perplexity it is advisable to consult, as occasion may require, either a medical man who is also a Christian, or a wise—and preferably a married—spiritual guide.]

For the union of the sexes in marriage is according to the mind of the Christian Church an essentially pure and holy thing. It is a sacrament of the fusion of two personalities, whereby they are at once individually and mutually enriched, and at the same time mystically and spiritually knit together in such a way as to become in the sight of GOD indissolubly one: the unity of husband and wife being comparable, according to a famous saying of S. Paul, to the unity which exists between Christ and His Church. Now, although, from this point of view, the significance of married life is to a great extent impoverished and frustrated, if intercourse is so regulated as to render the marriage childless not in fact merely, but in intention, yet it does not follow that procreation must be directly in view on every individual occasion, since the mystical value of intercourse as a spiritual sacrament of love may still exist in independence of such intention. It is nevertheless, surely, clear that a Christian man and his wife are morally precluded from coming together except with a deep sense of the sacredness of what they do and of its intimate connexion with the mysteries of life and birth, and a corresponding readiness, in the event of conception taking place, to accept the ensuing responsibility for the child as a sacred trust from GOD, "the Father from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named." With the use of "preventives" and other devices, which degrade into a mere means of carnal satisfaction an act which is meant to bear a deeply spiritual and religious meaning, the Christian interpretation of marriage seems plainly and obviously incompatible.

A few words may be added with regard to the upbringing and education of children. Here, again, there has been a reaction—which upon the whole is good—from the unduly rigorous disciplinary methods of the past. It may be doubted, however, whether the reaction has not in some cases been carried too far. Children ought to be controlled and disciplined by their parents, and no expenditure of care and thought and tact is too great to devote to the rightful training of their characters. But experience seems to show that parents sometimes fail to recognize that their children grow up. It is important that in proportion as they grow towards maturity of character and independence of personality the strictness of parental discipline should be gradually relaxed. At a certain stage the real influence of parents upon their children will depend upon their refusal to assert direct authority. Not a few of the minor tragedies of home life arise from the ill-judged action of parents who treat as children sons and daughters who are virtually grown up.

The problem of the religious education of children cannot here be discussed in detail, but three or four leading principles may be suggested.

(1) It ought not to be necessary to say that children should not be taught to regard as true statements or doctrines which their parents believe to be in fact false. This applies in particular to certain views of the Bible. The ideal should be so to teach the child that in later life he may have nothing to unlearn.

(2) When children are old enough to read they should be encouraged to read the Gospels. They ought not, however, to read the Old Testament, with the exception of certain Psalms and other specially selected passages, until they are of an age to distinguish what is Christian from what is Jewish, and to recognize the principle of religious development.

(3) Children should be taught in the first instance the practice rather than the theory of religion: devotions in which doctrine is implicit, rather than doctrine as such. As their minds expand they will ask the reasons for what they do and the meaning of the worship in which they engage, and they will need to have suggested to them an elementary, but not a stereotyped, theology. They should from the beginning be encouraged to think and question freely on religious subjects.

(4) They should occasionally accompany their parents to Church, and in particular should from time to time be present when the latter receive Holy Communion. They should have the service explained to them in a simple fashion, and should be encouraged to look forward to the time when they will be confirmed, and become communicants themselves.





The practice of Christianity depends for its possibility upon the existence and maintenance within the soul of an inward principle of spiritual life towards GOD. The reason why so many nominal Christians fail conspicuously to manifest the fruits of Christianity in their lives is simply that they have no vital personal experience of the power and efficacy of the life in Christ. They have never been effectually gripped by the religion which they nominally profess. They are not transformed, or in process of being transformed, by the Holy Spirit's power.

The plain man, confronted by the Christian ideal, if he does not at once dismiss it as impracticable, is apt to ask, or at least to wonder, how he is to begin. It is a question to which no cut-and-dried answer can be given. But at least no beginning is likely to lead to very much in the way of fulfilment which does not sooner or later involve something like personal "conversion" of heart. Conversions may be sudden, or they may be gradual: but religion, if it is to be a reality, means in the end the establishment of vital personal relations with the living Christ. It means the acceptance of His challenge, self-surrender to His appeal, the combination of an acknowledged desire to serve Him with acknowledged impotence and bankruptcy before GOD.

Sooner or later the Spirit convinces men of sin. Either a man, essaying light-heartedly to follow Christ, discovers in the very attempt his inability to do so, and is found traitor to his Master's cause in the first encounter: or else, it may be, at the very outset, the consciousness of what has been wrong in conduct and character and motive in the past stands as a damning record between his soul and GOD, and forbids him without repentance to take service in the campaign of Christ at all. The consciousness of sin as a "horrid impediment" in the soul is not, of course, true penitence until a man has been brought to realize in the light of the Cross that the difference between what he is and what he might have been is treachery to Him whose man (in virtue of his baptism) he was meant to be, and that by being what he is, and acting as he has acted, he has consciously or unconsciously contributed to the wounds wherewith Eternal Love is wounded in the house of His friends.

The measure of a man's penitence, whether early or late developed in him, is very apt to be the measure of his spiritual insight and of his spiritual sincerity. The familiar words of the hymn—

"They who fain would serve Thee best Are conscious most of wrong within,"

are profoundly true to Christian experience. But repentance—which is sorrow for sin in the light of the Cross—is abortive and merely results in spiritual paralysis unless it issues in confession—that is, frank and open acknowledgment before GOD, and if need be also before His Church—and the seeking and finding of reconciliation and forgiveness as the unmerited gift of GOD in Christ.

There are those in whose case the inward conviction of sin and the realization of the need for pardon are the first impulses of awakening spiritual life. There are others with whom it is not so. They are conscious of the attractiveness of the Man Christ Jesus. They would desire to be on His side and to be of the number of His disciples. They are dimly aware, or at least they more than half suspect, that in Him is to be found the satisfaction of a need for which their soul cries out. With S. Peter they find themselves saying to Christ, "Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life," But they cannot as yet with any inward reality profess themselves conscience- stricken with regard to the past. They are not aware of themselves as conspicuous sinners, or indeed, it may be, as sinners at all. The experience of penitence and of Divine forgiveness must come to them, if it is to come at all, at a later stage. It is not by that postern that they enter upon the Way of the Spirit.

But the Way is in either case the way of fellowship, and the Spirit is the spirit of discipline. The newly found spiritual life, however awakened, needs to be maintained and fostered by fellowship in the Church, by regular habits of Christian devotion, by faithful communion in the Sacrament of Life. Plainly, if a man is not already confirmed, his first step must be to be prepared for confirmation: if he has been confirmed, but has lapsed from communion, he must resume the communicant life. He needs to claim the status and privilege of effective membership in the Body of Christ, and to form for himself a rule of inward life and discipline. Rules of devotional life must necessarily vary in accordance with a man's surroundings and opportunities, and perhaps in some of their details in accordance with a man's temperament. But at least there ought to be a rule of regular private prayer, a rule of regular communion, a rule of Bible-reading or "meditation," and a rule of self-denial and orderliness in daily personal life.



Prayer is a difficult matter, both in theory and in practice. But it is essential to learn to pray.

It is important to recognize that the scope of Christian prayer is much wider than mere intercession or petition. It is the communion of the soul with GOD, and its purpose is union with the life of GOD in identity of purpose with His will. The beginning of prayer is a sursum corda, a lifting up of the heart to GOD. It is well to remember that true prayer is never a solitary act, even when a man prays in solitude. We pray not as individuals but as members of a Family, and our prayer is spiritually united and knit together with the common prayer-life of the universal Church, of which it forms a part. We pray, moreover, not to wrest to our private ends the purposes of GOD, not to induce Him, so to speak, to do our wills instead of His, but to unite our wills with His will, as children who have confidence in their Father. True prayer is offered in the Name of Christ—that is, it is prayed in His Spirit, according to His mind and will. It can never, therefore, be selfish or self-centred. The Lord's Prayer is its model and its type. A few words may be said in explanation of this prayer.

It begins with a recognition of the common Fatherhood of GOD. It is only as members of His Family that we can approach Him: He is in no sense our personal or private GOD, but the common Father of us all.

And our Father is "in heaven"—that is, supreme, eternal, the Lord and Ruler of all things. His Name is holy, and to be hallowed: it is in reverence and deepest worship that we bow before Him. He is King, and we pray that His Kingship may be realized, in earth as it is in heaven: and that His will may be done—that is the supreme desire of our hearts, and the highest object of our petitions.

And therefore we are vowed to His service: and because we are sure that He will supply whatever we really need to that end, we pray in confidence for daily needs both spiritual and bodily—"Give us this day our daily bread." And remembering that we are unprofitable and faithless and disloyal servants we ask forgiveness for our sins, well knowing that we can only be forgiven as we ourselves are ready to forgive. And so looking to the future and mindful of our frailty we pray that GOD will not lead us into "temptation" or trial, without at the same time providing a way of deliverance from the assaults of evil. The prayer customarily ends with an ascription of praise and glory to GOD.

That is the type and model of Christian prayer: and prayer is truly Christian just in so far as the spirit and temper of the Lord's Prayer inspires it. We can only pray rightly in the Holy Spirit. "We know not what to pray for as we ought: but the Spirit helpeth our infirmities."

As for the technique of prayer, a man, on kneeling or standing to pray, will do well to spend a short time first in silence and recollection, waiting in stillness upon GOD, remembering His presence, His holiness, His love, and His responsiveness to His children's cry. Let him next make an act of adoration, spoken or unspoken, and invoke GOD the Holy Spirit to enable him to pray aright. Then let him pour out before GOD all that is in his heart, his troubles, his anxieties, his perplexities, his sins: let him ask for forgiveness: let him give thanks: let him pray for the coming of GOD'S Kingdom, in its various aspects: commending to GOD'S guidance and protection all right causes and aspirations in the world, in things both social and political and international, in things ecclesiastical, in things moral and religious and missionary: let him add personal and private intercessions for those near and dear to him and for those whom he meets in the daily intercourse of life: and let him end as he began, in a few moments of quiet waiting upon GOD.

That is the general scheme of a Christian's private prayers. They should include in due proportion the several elements of adoration, thanksgiving, penitence, petition, and intercession. They need not be lengthy. "Use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." It is quality and not quantity of prayer that counts. And the prayers of a busy man must necessarily be short.

But it is worth while taking time and trouble over the ordering of one's prayers. A man's intercessions, in particular, are not likely in practice to have the width, the range, and the variety which are desirable, unless they are planned and ordered in accordance with a coherent scheme which is thought out in advance. It is the part of wisdom to keep a note-book, in which names and subjects for intercessory prayer may be jotted down and distributed over the days of the week for use in due rotation. Such schemes, however, if drawn up and used, should be revised from time to time, and not suffered to become a mechanical burden or a legal bondage. There should be freedom and spontaneity in a Christian's prayers. It is well to have rules, and to try not to be prevented by mere slackness from keeping them. But it is important to see to it that the self-imposed rule is so framed as to prove genuinely conducive to reality in prayer, and suitably adapted to opportunity and circumstance: and it is very often a good thing from time to time, in the interests of freedom, quite deliberately to break one's rules.

With regard to forms and methods of prayer, it is desirable that men should learn to pray freely in their own words, or even in no words at all. Provided a man remembers reverence, he need not stand on ceremony with GOD. But it is advisable also to use books and manuals of prayer —at any rate in the first instance: to use them, but not to be tied to them. Many such manuals have been compiled and published within recent years: the majority of them are unsatisfactory in varying degrees. A few, however, can confidently be recommended: especially Prayers for the City of God, compiled by G. C. Binyon (Longmans); Prayers for Common Use (Universities Mission to Central Africa, Dartmouth St., Westminster); and Sursum Corda, a Handbook of Intercession and Thanksgiving , arranged by W. H. Frere and A. L. Illingworth (A. E. Mowbray and Co., Ltd.).

Prayer need not be confined to stated hours and times. Interpreting prayer at its widest, the ideal should be to "pray without ceasing." It was said of an early Christian writer that his life was "one continuous prayer": and it is well to form the habit of inwardly lifting up the heart to GOD from time to time in the midst of daily cares and business. Where Churches are kept open it is often possible in passing to spare time to enter and kneel for two or three minutes in quiet and recollection before GOD: but it is perfectly possible to pray inwardly at any time and in any environment. Fixed times of prayer, nevertheless, there must also be: and a man should at least pray in the morning upon rising and in the evening before going to bed. If a time can also be secured for midday prayer, so much the better: but this is more difficult. To have formed a really fixed and stable habit of daily prayer is an enormous step forwards in Christian life. Much depends upon learning to rise regularly at a fixed hour before breakfast: and this in turn depends upon a regularity in going to bed, which under modern conditions of life it is not always easy to achieve. If a man is obliged to be up so late at night that it is morally certain that he will be too tired to pray with much reality before turning in, he should endeavour, if it is at all possible, to secure some time for prayer at an earlier stage in the evening.

Difficulties in the life of prayer beset everybody. Thoughts have a way of wandering, the "saying" of prayers tends to become mechanical, moods vary, and there are times in most men's lives when they feel it almost impossible to pray with any sense of reality. A man should not lightly be discouraged. He may be recommended to remind himself that GOD knows all about it, and that the resolute offering of his will to GOD at such times, in defiance of distraction and difficulty, has special value. It is well to take God into one's confidence. "If GOD bores you, tell Him that He does." He is no exacting tyrant, but a Father caring for His sons. Those who care to do so may find Prayer and some of its Difficulties, by the Rev. W. J. Carey (Mowbray & Co.), a helpful book to read in this connexion.

A final word may be said with regard to a theoretical difficulty which many people feel in connexion with the intercessory and petitionary sides of prayer. Since GOD'S will, it may be argued, is presumably going to be done in any case, and since He knows the real needs both of ourselves and of our friends better than we do, what is the point of praying for them? To many people it may be a sufficient practical answer to refer to the example and precept of Christ, who both taught and practised intercessory prayer. But it is possible to go a little further, and to point out that it appears to be GOD'S will, not merely that such and such a thing should be done, but that it should be done in response to our human prayers. True it is that "your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him": but our Lord emphasized this truth, not as a round for regarding prayer as futile or unnecessary, but as a reason for praying. For prayer is an expression of the filial spirit towards our Father, and the more simply and naturally we approach GOD as children, making our petitions before Him with childlike hearts, the more truly will our prayers be in accordance with that spirit of sonship which is the mind of Christ. At the same time, the knowledge that our Father is wiser as well as greater than we will forbid us to clamour for what in wisdom is denied us, and will in general govern the spirit and scope of our petitions. Just as our Lord points out that an earthly father, if asked for bread, will not give his child a stone, so conversely in the experience of every Christian it often happens that in his blindness he asks a stone, and is given bread. But no Christian will ask deliberately and knowingly for stones.



"The unexamined life," said Plato, "is not worth living." Similar advice was given by Marcus Aurelius. The practice of self-examination, therefore, is not distinctive of Christianity: it is an obvious dictate of wisdom, wherever life and conduct are regarded seriously, that a man should from time to time take stock of himself in the light of his ideals and learn to know and recognize in detail where and how he has fallen short, and what are the besetting sins and weaknesses against which he must contend.

The Christian man will judge and try his life by the standards of Christ, with growing sensitiveness of conscience as spiritual experience deepens: not shrinking from the confession of sin and failure, desiring not to be self-deceived, but to know and to acknowledge the truth. There is nothing in this of priggishness or unreality. It is a necessary discipline. The Christian life is meant to bear the fruit of a character developing in growing likeness to the character of Christ: but none is suddenly made perfect: the old Adam dies hard: and the Christian by confession of repeated failure may at least learn the lesson of humility and self-distrust.

The rightful complement of self-distrust is trust in GOD: the rightful issue of self-examination and confession is the realization of divine forgiveness, fresh courage, and a new start. The very core of the Gospel is here. He who has bidden men forgive those who trespass against them "unto seventy times seven" is not to be outdone in generosity by man. But in order that sin may be forgiven it must be acknowledged as sin against GOD and treachery to Christ, and repented of with true sorrow of heart. Repentance is not mere self-contempt, self-pity, or remorse. It is sorrow for sin, which has for its motive the love of GOD and the realization that human sin meant and means in the experience of GOD the Cross.

Nothing so deepens the religious life as true repentance, nor is there anything so fatal to true religion as self-righteousness. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." "To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little." But the first prerequisite of repentance is self-knowledge—a difficult matter. Gross carnal offences, strong and flagrant sins, if such there be, are obvious and upon the surface. The subtler sins of the spirit— thoughtlessness, for example, or snobbishness or priggishness and pride—though we are quick to remark upon them in others, are apt in our own case to pass undetected. It is the Spirit who convinces men of sin. Only as we are resolute to enter into "the mind of the Spirit" can we hope to know ourselves as in the sight of GOD we really are.

The matter is complicated by the fact that those who, as things are, most systematically practise self-examination and confession of sin too often view the matter in a somewhat narrowly ecclesiastical spirit, and make use of forms of self-examination which mix up real and serious moral offences with "sins" which are merely ceremonial, trivial, or imaginary, as though the two stood precisely upon the same level. "One must abstain from sexual sin and not go to dissenting places of worship; one must not steal and must be sure to abstain from meat on Fridays." A man's own sense of reality should enable him to guard against this sort of thing, and if fixed forms of self- examination are used, to use them with discretion.

The forms most commonly suggested in manuals of devotion are based upon the Ten Commandments. This is in accordance with the teaching of the compilers of the English Prayer-book, who, after bidding intending communicants to "search and examine" their "own consciences (and that not lightly, and after the manner of dissemblers with GOD)," proceed to lay down that "the way and means thereto is: First, to examine your lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments: and whereinsoever ye shall perceive yourselves to have offended, either by will, word or deed, there to bewail your own sinfulness, and to confess yourselves to Almighty GOD, with full purpose of amendment of life."

The Commandments are, however, as they stand, both negative in form and Judaistic in character, and if used in this way as a "rule" of Christian conduct must be spiritualized and reinterpreted in the light of the Gospel. The second and fourth Commandments, in particular, are in their literal significance obsolete for Christians: it is a false Puritanism which would forbid sculpture and religious symbolism in the adornment of a Christian church, nor is any one in the modern world likely to confuse the symbol with the thing symbolized: while the observance of the Sabbath is part of that older ceremonial "law" from which S. Paul insisted that Christian converts should be free (Coloss. ii. 16). There is, however, a spiritual idolatry which consists in allowing any other object than the glory of GOD and the doing of His will to have the primary place in the determination of conduct—there are men who worship money, or comfort, or ambition, or their own domestic happiness, or even themselves. And the Commandment about the Sabbath, though it has no literal value to-day (and certainly no direct bearing upon the sanction or significance of Sunday) may serve to suggest the important principle that a man is responsible before GOD for the use he makes of his time, and that it is a religious duty (not confined to any particular day of the week) to distribute it in due proportion, according to circumstance and opportunity, with proper regard to the rightful claims of work, of worship, and of recreation and rest. The remaining Commandments are capable of being similarly interpreted as suggesting broad positive principles rather than as merely prohibiting wrong actions of a particular and definite kind: and so treated they form as convenient a framework as any other for a scheme of questions for self-examination.

It is possible, however, that some men may prefer to use as their basis some standard more distinctively Christian than the ancient law of Judaism—for example, the Beatitudes (Matt. v. 1-12) or the "fruits of the Spirit" (Gal. v. 22). A man will in any case do well either to frame or to adapt his own scheme for self-examination, with special regard paid to whatever he may discover by experience to be a besetting sin or weakness, or a temptation to which he is particularly exposed. It should be remembered that the measure of what is wrong in a man's life is the measure of the contrast between his character and that of Christ, and that the chief flaws in Christian character and achievement (which are also those most likely to pass undetected) are not uncommonly such as fall under the head of "sins of omission" rather than of commission—the leaving undone of what ought to have been done, the failure to exhibit positively in relation to GOD and man the qualities of faith and hope and love. A man should ask himself wherein he has chiefly failed, and come short of the glory of GOD: whether he is loyally observing any self-imposed rule of life and discipline, and fulfilling any resolutions which may have been made, or any obligations which have been undertaken. Having made in this manner an honest attempt to discover his own shortcomings and failures before GOD, let him with equal honesty confess them, seek forgiveness, and in the spirit of repentance and restored sonship start again.

The late Lieutenant Donald Hankey, better known as "A Student in Arms," criticizes Churchmen of a certain type as being unwholesomely preoccupied with the thought of their sins, and allowing their consciences to become a burden to them. They should, he says, 'think less of themselves, and trust the Holy Spirit more. The advice is excellent: but morbid scrupulosity is not a common fault of English laymen. The habit, as Mr. Chesterton expresses it, of "chopping up life into small sins with a hatchet" is, of course, to be avoided: but the purpose of self-examination and self-knowledge is not to encourage morbid introspection, but by frank acknowledgment and repentance to get rid of the past and with recovered hope and serenity to reach forward towards the future. A man cannot "walk in the Spirit" unless he is inwardly "right with GOD."

With regard to sacramental confession, the rule of the Church of England is sane and clear. It may be expressed by saying that "none must, but all may, and some should" make use of it. In the case of a conscience seriously burdened in such a way that a man hesitates to present himself for Holy Communion unabsolved, to go to confession is obviously the right remedy. There are other cases in which men find by experience that it helps them to be more honest and candid with themselves, with GOD, and with the Church, if they go to confession from time to time as a piece of self-discipline and a needed spiritual tonic. Yet others discover that they flounder less in spiritual things, and that their religious life is deepened and made stronger, if they place themselves for a time under wise direction. Systematic direction, of course, has obvious dangers. It may tend to destroy independence of character. It may cause a man to become "priest- ridden." But the dangers are not inevitable, and there are without doubt cases in which it is of value. Much obviously depends upon the wisdom and common sense of the director. The Prayer-book refers penitents to a "discreet and learned" minister of GOD'S Word. If a man proposes to practise habitual confession he will do well to assure himself of the discretion and learning of the priest whose help he seeks.

The method of making a sacramental confession is simple. Self- examination is made beforehand, the results being, if need be, written down, either in full, or in the form of notes to assist the memory. A first confession should cover the whole life so far as remembered, from childhood upwards: subsequent confessions the period since the last was made. The confession should aim at completeness, an effort being made to remember not only specific acts of wrongdoing, but slight failings and weaknesses of character and the general lines and tendencies of faulty spiritual development. Symptoms should, if possible, be distinguished from causes, habits and tendencies and besetting sins from isolated acts. Cases in which a sin has been deliberate should be noted as such: but there should be no dwelling upon extenuating circumstances or intermingling of claims to virtues or graces of character with the admission of defects. No names may be mentioned, nor may third persons be incriminated by any form of words which would enable the confessor to recognize their identity. The priest hears the confession sitting in a chair. The penitent kneels beside him and confesses as follows:—"I confess to GOD Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, before the whole company of heaven, and before you, that I have sinned in thought, word, and deed, by my own fault. Especially I accuse myself that (since my last confession, which was...ago) I have committed the following sins.... [Here follows the confession in detail: after which]. ... For these and all my other sins which I cannot now remember, I humbly ask pardon of GOD, and of you, father, penance, counsel and absolution. Wherefore I ask GOD to have mercy upon me, and you to pray for me to the Lord our GOD. Amen."

The confessor then gives advice and counsel according to his wisdom, commonly imposes a penance, and if assured of the sincerity of the penitent, pronounces absolution according to the form prescribed in the Prayer-book Office for the Visitation of the Sick.



The really essential thing is the Communion. There may be minor outward differences as to the manner of its celebration: you shall find in one parish a tradition of Puritan bareness, in another a full and rich ceremonial symbolism, with lights and vestments. A man may have his personal preferences, but it is a mistake to attach undue importance either to the presence or to the absence of the external adjuncts of worship. What matters is the Body and Blood of Christ.

A man must have his own regular rule with regard to Communion. To communicate spasmodically or upon impulse at irregular intervals is not the way to build up a stable Christian character. Where circumstances make possible the leading of a fairly regular life and give adequate opportunity for preparation beforehand, weekly communion is the best rule. Where this is not possible, a fortnightly or even a monthly rule may in particular cases be the best.

Preparation for Communion should be real, but need not be elaborate. It should be made overnight, and should include a review of the period since the last Communion was made, prayers for pardon and new resolves, if possible a short meditation on the essential meaning of the Sacrament, and the selection of some particular theme to be the focus of intercession at the service itself.

At the actual service it is well to arrive early, with a few moments to spare for quiet and recollected prayer before the Liturgy begins. The first part of the service is preparatory. Any pauses or intervals should be filled up by private prayers.[Footnote: Forms and suggestions which, may be used by those who find them helpful are provided for this purpose in any manual of devotion.] From the moment of consecration until the end of the service the mind should be concentrated as far as possible upon the thought of Christ's realized Presence. A man should go up to the altar to receive Communion as one desiring to meet his Lord and to be renewed in Him, returning subsequently to his place to render thanks for so great a Gift. When the service is over it is best not to hurry out of church, but to linger for further thanksgiving and prayer as occasion serves.

It is an ancient rule or custom of the Church to receive Holy Communion fasting, giving precedence to the food of the soul over that of the body. To insist rigidly upon such a rule in any and every set of circumstances is a piece of unintelligent and unchristian legalism: but many persons are of opinion that to observe it wherever it is reasonably possible to do so makes for reality. There is a real value in the element of asceticism and self-discipline involved in the effort to rise early and come fasting to church: and the fast may be interpreted as a kind of outward sacrament of the inward reality of spiritual preparation—a preparation of the body corresponding to the preparation of the soul, It is, moreover, an advantage of the early morning hour that the mind is undistracted by the occupations and diversions of the day. For all these reasons the early morning Communion is to be preferred to Communion at a later hour.

Whether a man is a weekly communicant or not, he should in any case be present as a worshipper at Holy Communion Sunday by Sunday, and should regard attendance at the weekly Eucharist as the most essential part of church-going. No one who makes it a rule of his life to be present on Sundays and other festivals of the Church at Holy Communion ever has cause to regret having done so.

A man who for any reason (e.g. by the nature of his employment) is debarred from attending regularly on Sundays should, if possible, secure an opportunity of regular attendance at Holy Communion on a week-day. There are usually churches to be found, at least in the towns, which have an early morning Eucharist daily throughout the week: and advantage can also be taken of this if on any particular occasion the regular Sunday Communion has been missed. If neither Sunday nor week-day opportunities are available, the need should be met by what is known as "spiritual communion": that is to say, a man should read over the Liturgy in private, unite himself in spirit with the Eucharist as celebrated in the particular church with which he happens to be most familiar (as representing for him the worship of the Church Universal), and pray that he may receive the spiritual benefits of Communion though deprived for the time being of the actual Sacrament. Apart from the "early service," which is now almost universal, schemes of worship upon Sunday mornings vary in different parishes. In some churches Matins and Litany are sung and a sermon preached, a late Eucharist without music being commonly celebrated about noon: in other parishes Matins is said quietly without music at a comparatively early hour, and the Eucharist is solemnly sung, with a sermon, as the principal service of the forenoon, usually without more than a very limited number of communicants, partly because if the bulk of the congregation communicate at a sung Eucharist the service becomes intolerably long, and partly because the majority of those desiring to receive Communion have done so fasting at an earlier hour.

In large towns a man can usually find churches of either type according to his preference. In "single-church areas" he ought for the sake of fellowship and good example to conform, as a rule, to what is customary. It is desirable, in a general way, to be identified with the corporate worship of the parish: but it is worth remarking that, apart from the weight due to this general consideration, there is no particular sacredness about the hour of eleven o'clock, and a man who has communicated before breakfast, and perhaps contemplates attendance, later on, at Evensong, may not unreasonably feel justified in devoting the forenoon of Sunday (which is usually his solitary morning's leisure in the week) to other purposes than those of worship. If the preacher is worth listening to (which is not invariably the case) it is a good thing to go and hear him: and it is well, therefore, to attend one or other of the services (morning or evening) at which a sermon is preached. But it is not essential to attend both: and the question may be raised whether one sermon a Sunday is not as much as most men can profitably digest. A sermon is in any case (except at the Eucharist) a detachable appendix to a Church service; and it is both possible and legitimate either to attend the service and leave the church before the sermon, or to avoid the service and come in time to hear the sermon, according to preference or opportunity.

As regards external details of observance, kneeling, and not squatting, should be the attitude adopted for prayer. It is customary to turn eastwards for the Creed, and in some churches, though not in others, to kneel at the reference to the Incarnation in the course of the Nicene Creed. It is also a common practice in some churches to genuflect (i.e. to drop for a moment upon one knee) on rising from one's place to go up to the altar to communicate, in reverence for the Blessed Sacrament. A man should adapt his personal usage in these minor details to whatever appears to be customary in the particular church in which he is worshipping.

It is often extremely difficult for the clergy to know personally the men of their congregations, since it is rare in most neighbourhoods for the men to be at home during the hours when it is possible for the clergy to visit. In these circumstances a man ought to be willing to take the initiative in making himself known to the clergy of his parish, and to co-operate as far as possible in any effort which may be made, through parochial Church Councils or otherwise, to develop the spirit of fellowship in a congregation. There is very often about Anglican Church worship a stiffness and frigidity which badly needs to be broken down. Appropriated seats, where they exist, are a particular curse, and anything which can be done in the way of abandoning chosen seats, even if "bought and paid for," to strangers in the interests of charity is a real piece of Christian service. A stranger ought not to be made to feel uncomfortable, but to be welcomed in every possible way. The ideal is that every church, in every part of it, should be free and open at all times to all comers.



It is to be feared that the habit of reading the Bible in private for purposes of devotion has largely dropped out of modern usage, partly by reason of the general stress and urgency of modern life, and partly because men do not quite know what to make of the Bible when they read it. They are aware of the existence of what are called "critical questions," but they do not know precisely the kind of differences which criticism has made. It is a pity to acquiesce in an attitude of this kind, and it is greatly to be desired that the habit of reading the Bible regularly and becoming familiar with its contents should be revived.

There are two distinct methods of reading the Bible which are of value. One is to take a particular book and to read it straight through like a novel, in order to get the impression of the writer's message as a whole. Advantage may be taken of occasional opportunities of Sunday or week-day leisure for this purpose. If the book is studied with the help of a good commentary, so much the better. A man who would be ashamed to be wholly unfamiliar with modern or classical literature ought to be equally ashamed to be wholly unfamiliar with the literature of the Hebrews.

The second method of reading the Bible consists in the devotional study of particular passages, sometimes called by the formidable name of "meditation." The parts of the Bible best adapted for this purpose are the Gospels, certain portions of the Epistles, many of the Psalms, and portions of the greater Prophets. The essence of the method is to read over a short passage quietly after prayer for spiritual guidance, to browse over it for a few minutes and follow out any train of thought which may be suggested by it, to apply its message in whatever way may seem most real and practical to the spiritual problems of immediate daily life, and to conclude with prayer and resolution for the future. It is not practicable for the majority of men to make such a "meditation" a matter of daily habit, though this may easily be possible for people of leisure. But it may be suggested that it is both practicable and abundantly worth while for ordinary people to allot at least half an hour a week for such a purpose. Our fathers unquestionably fed and nurtured their souls to an extraordinary degree by spiritual reading. It ought to be possible for modern people, in spite of modern distractions, to acquire and maintain the capacity to do the same.



The two things were originally closely connected. Men fasted in order to give to others the savings which resulted from a reduced expenditure on personal needs. "Lent savings" represent a modern revival of this idea. The essence of Christian almsgiving is that it should be the expression of Christian charity or love: and love means the willingness to serve others, at cost to self. Gifts and subscriptions which represent merely the largess of a man's superfluity and cost nothing in the way of personal self-denial are not really in this sense almsgiving. The Gospel prefers the widow's mite to the rich man's large but not really generous contribution, in cases where the larger sum represents the lesser personal cost.

It was the rule of the ancient Jewish Law that a man should give away a tenth part of what he possessed, but this ought not to be adopted under modern conditions as a literal precept. The poor cannot afford to spare so large a fraction of their incomes. The wealthy can in many cases give away a much larger proportion without feeling particularly stinted. It is the duty of every man whose income is above the line of actual poverty (i.e. exceeds what is necessary for the literal subsistence in food, shelter, and clothing of himself and those dependent upon him for support) to consider with his own conscience before GOD what proportion should be set aside for educational and other purposes, and what proportion should be directly given away in charity. Anonymous subscriptions are the best, and the amount available for distribution should be carefully allocated as between rival claims. Details, of course, must vary: but a certain proportion should in any case be given for the purposes of directly religious work at home and abroad. A man who really believes in the universality of the Gospel will in particular subscribe to the full extent of his capacity to foreign missions.


Previous Part     1  2  3
Home - Random Browse