Goethe tells us that Luther was the architect of modern German language and literature, and stamped himself into the whole national life. The Germany of the Kaiser is simply Martin Luther written large in fifty millions of men. But what made Luther? There was some hidden energy and spirit within him! What was this spirit in him? The spirit of beauty turned a lump of mud into that Grecian face about which Keats wrote his poem. The spirit of truth changes a little ink into a beautiful song. The spirit of strength and beauty in an architect changes a pile of bricks into a house or cathedral or gallery. And the thought of our unwearied God changed the collier's son into the great German emancipator. But over against this man, who never knew despondency, after his vision hour, stands another German. He, too, was a philosopher, clothed with ample power, and blest with opportunity. But he did evil in his life, and then the heart lost its faith, and hope utterly perished. The more he loved pleasure and pursued self, the more cynical and bitter he became. Pessimism set a cold, hard stamp upon his face, and marred his beauty. Cynicism lies like a black mark across his pages. At last, in his bitterness, the philosopher tells us the whole universe is a mirage, and that yonder summer-making sun is a bubble that repeats its iridescent tints in the colors of the rainbow. Despair ate out his heart. He became the most miserable of men, and knew no freedom from sorrow and pain. And lo, now the man's philosophy has perished like a bubble, his influence has utterly disappeared, for his books are unread, while only an occasional scholar chances upon his name, tho the great summer-making sun still shines on and Luther's eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary.
Are you weak, oh, patriot? Remember God is strong. Do your days of service seem short, until your life is scarcely longer than the flower that blooms to-day and is gone tomorrow? God is eternal, and He will take care of your work. Are you sick with hope long deferred? Hope thou in God; He shall yet send succor. Have troubles driven happiness from thee, as the hawk drives the young lark or nightingale from its nest? Return unto thy rest, troubled heart, for the Lord will deal bountifully with thee. Are you anxious for your children? God will bring the child back from the far country. For the child hath wandered far, the golden thread spun in a mother's heart is an unbroken thread that will draw him home! For things that distress you to-day, you shall thank God to-morrow. Nothing shall break the golden chain that binds you to God's throne. Are you hopeless and despondent because of your fainting strength? Remember that the antidote for despondency is the thought of the unwearied God who is doing the best He can for you, and whose ceaseless care neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Little wonder therefore that God became all and in all to this feeble band of captives, journeying across the desert back to their ruined life and land. God had taken away earthly things from them, that He might be their all and in all. When the earth is made poor for us, sometimes the heavens become rich. God closed the eyes of Milton to the beauty in land and sea and sky, that he might see the companies of angels marching and countermarching on the hills of God. He closed the ears of Beethoven, that he might hear the music of St. Cecilia falling over heaven's battlements. He gave Isaiah a slave's hut, that he might ponder the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. How is it that this prophet and poet has become companion of the great ones of the earth? At the time Isaiah rebelled against his bondage, but when it was all over, and the fitful fever had passed, and the fleshly fetters had fallen, he smiled at the things that once alarmed him, as he recalled his fainting strength and the unwearied God.
Gone—that ancient capital. Babylon is a heap. Jerusalem a ruin! But this epic of the unwearied Guide still lives! Isaiah, can never die! Can a chapter die that has cheered the exile in his loneliness, that has comforted the soldier upon his bivouac, that has braced the martyr for his execution, that has given songs at midnight to the prisoners in the dungeon? Out of suffering and captivity came this song of rest and hope. At last the poet praised the eternal God for his bonds and his imprisonment. Oh, it is darkness that makes the morning light so welcome to the weary watcher. It is hunger that makes bread sweet. It is pain and sickness that gives value to the physician and his medicine. It is business trouble that makes you honor your lawyer and counselor, and it is the sense of need that makes God near.
Are there any merchants here who are despondent? Remember the eternal God and make your appeal to the future. Are there any parents whose children have wandered far? When they are old, the children will return to the path of faith and obedience. Are there any in whom the immortal hope burns low? The smoking flax He will not quench, but will fan the flame into victory. Look up to-day; be comforted once more. Work henceforth in hope. Live like a prince. Scatter sunshine. Let your atmosphere be happiness. If troubles come, let them be the dark background that shall throw your hope and faith into bolder relief. God hath set His heart upon you to deliver you. Tho your hand faint, and the tool fall, the eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary. He will bring thy judgment unto victory, immortalize thy good deeds, and crown thy career with everlasting renown.
Charles Edward Jefferson was born at Cambridge, Ohio, in 1860. He came to public attention by the effectiveness of his preaching during a most successful pastorate in Chelsea, Mass., from which he was called to the Broadway Tabernacle, New York, in 1897. During his New York pastorate the Tabernacle at 34th Street has been sold and a unique structure, including an apartment tower ten stories high, has been built farther up-town. Dr. Jefferson has published several successful books. He has a mellow, sympathetic voice, of considerable range and flexibility, and he speaks in an easy, conversational style.
Born in 1860
[Footnote 1: Reprinted by permission from "Doctrine and Deed," Copyright, 1901, by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.]
Christ died for our sins.—1 Cor. xv., 3.
I want to think with you this morning about the doctrine of the Atonement. Having used that word atonement once, I now wish to drop it. It is not a New Testament word, and is apt to lead one into confusion. You will not find it in your New Testament at all, providing you use the Revised Version. It is found in the King James Version only once, and that is in the fifth chapter of Paul's letter to the Romans; but a few years ago, when the revisers went to work, they rubbed out the word and would allow it no place whatever in the entire New Testament. They substituted for it a better word—reconciliation—and that is the word that will probably be used in the future theology of the Church. It is my purpose, then, this morning, to think with you about the doctrine of the reconciliation, or, to put it in a way that will be intelligible to all the boys and girls, I want to think with you about the "making up" between God and man.
Christianity is distinctly a religion of redemption. Its fundamental purpose is to recover men from the guilt and power of sin. All of its history and its teachings must be studied in the light of that dominating purpose. We are told sometimes that Jesus was a great teacher, and so He was, but the apostles never gloried in that fact. We are constantly reminded that He was a great reformer, and so He was, but Peter and John and Paul seemed to be altogether unconscious of that fact. It is asserted that He was a great philanthropist, a man intensely interested in the bodies and the homes of men, and so of course He was, but the New Testament does not seem to care for that. It has often been declared that He was a great martyr, a man who laid down His life in devotion to the truth, and so He was and so He did, but the Bible never looks at Him from that standpoint or regards Him in that light. It refuses to enroll Him among the teachers or reformers or philanthropists or the martyrs of our race. According to the apostolic writers, Jesus is the world's Redeemer, He was manifested to take away sin. He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. The vast and awful fact that broke the apostles' hearts and sent them out into the world to baptize the nations into His name, was the fact which Paul was all the time asserting, "He died for our sins."
No one can read the New Testament without seeing that its central and most conspicuous fact is the death of Jesus. Take, for instance, the gospels, and you will find that over one-quarter of their pages are devoted to the story of His death. Very strange is this indeed, if Jesus was nothing but an illustrious teacher. A thousand interesting events of His career are passed over, a thousand discourses are never mentioned, in order that there may be abundant room for the telling of His death. Or take the letters which make up the last half of the New Testament; in these letters there is scarcely a quotation from the lips of Jesus. Strange indeed is this if Jesus is only the world's greatest teacher. The letters seem to ignore that He was a teacher or reformer, but every letter is soaked in the pathos of His death. There must be a deep and providential reason for all this. The character of the gospels and the letters must have been due to something that Jesus said or that the Holy Spirit inbreathed. A study of the New Testament will convince us that Jesus had trained His disciples to see in His sufferings and death the climax of God's crowning revelation to the world. The key-note of the whole gospel story is struck by John the Baptist in his bold declaration, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." In that declaration there was a reference to His death, for the "lamb" in Palestine lived only to be slain. As soon as Jesus began His public career He began to refer in enigmatic phrases to His death. He did not declare His death openly, but the thought of it was wrapt up inside of all He said. Nicodemus comes to Him at night to have a talk with Him about His work, and among other things, Jesus says, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so shall the Son of man be lifted up." Nicodemus did not know what He meant—we know. He goes into the temple and drives out the men who have made it a den of thieves, and when an angry mob surrounds Him He calmly says, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." They did not know what He meant—we know. He goes into the city of Capernaum, and is surrounded by a great crowd who seem to be eager to know the way of life. He begins to talk to them about the bread that comes down from heaven, and among other things He says, "The bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." They did not understand what He said—we understand it now. One day in the city of Jerusalem He utters a great discourse upon the good shepherd. "I am the good shepherd," He says; "the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." They did not understand Him—we do. In the last week of His earthly life it was reported that a company of Greeks had come to see Him. He falls at once into a thoughtful mood, and when at last He speaks it is to say that "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." The men standing by did not understand what He said—we understand. All along His journey, from the Jordan to the cross, He dropt such expressions as this: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." Men did not know what He was saying—it is all clear now.
But while He did not talk openly to the world about His death, He did not hesitate to speak about it to His nearest friends. As soon as He found a man willing to confess that He was indeed the world's Messiah, the Son of the living God, He began to initiate His disciples into the deeper mysteries of His mission. "From that time," Matthew says, "he began to show, to unfold, to set forth the fact that he must suffer many things and be killed." Peter tried to check Him in this disclosure, but Jesus could not be checked. It is surprising how many times it is stated in the gospels that Jesus told His disciples He must be killed. Matthew says that while they were traveling in Galilee, on a certain day when the disciples were much elated over the marvelous things which He was doing, He took them aside and said "Let these words sink into your ears: I am going to Jerusalem to be killed." Later on, when they were going through Perea, Jesus took them aside and said, "The Son of man must suffer many things, and at last be put to death." On nearing Jerusalem His disciples became impatient for a disclosure of His power and glory. He began to tell them about the grace of humility. "The Son of man," He said, "is come, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." On the last Tuesday of His earthly life He sat with His disciples on the slope of the Mount of Olives, and in the midst of His high and solemn teaching He said, "It is only two days now until I shall be crucified." And on the last Thursday of His life, on the evening of His betrayal, He took His disciples into an upper room, and taking the bread and blessing it, He gave it to these men, saying, "This is my body which is given for you." Likewise after supper He took the cup, and when He had blest it gave it to them, saying, "This is my blood of the covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me." It would seem from this that the one thing which Jesus was desirous that all His followers should remember was the fact that He had laid down His life for them. One can not read the gospels without feeling that he is being borne steadily and irresistibly toward the cross.
When we get out of the gospels into the epistles we find ourselves face to face with the same tragic and glorious fact. Peter's first letter is not a theological treatise. He is not writing a dissertation on the person of Christ, or attempting to give any interpretation of the death of Jesus; he is dealing with very practical matters. He exhorts the Christians who are discouraged and downhearted to hold up their heads and to be brave. It is interesting to see how again and again he puts the cross behind them in order to keep them from slipping back. "Endure," he says, "because Christ suffered for us. Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree." The Christians of that day had been overtaken by furious persecution. They were suffering all sorts of hardships and disappointments. But "suffer," he says, "because Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." Certainly the gospel, according to St. Peter, was: Christ died for our sins.
Read the first letter of St. John, and everywhere it breathes the same spirit which we have found in the gospels and in St. Peter. John punctuates almost every paragraph with some reference to the cross. In the first chapter he is talking about sin. "The blood of Jesus Christ," he says, "cleanses us from all sins." In the second chapter he is talking about forgiveness, and this leads him to think at once of Jesus Christ, the righteous, "who is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world." In the third chapter he is talking about brotherly love. He is urging the members of the Church to lay down their lives, one for another, "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us." In the fourth chapter he tells of the great mystery of Christ's love: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." To the beloved disciple evidently the great fact of the Christian revelation is that Christ died for our sins.
But it is in the letters of Paul that we find the fullest and most emphatic assertion of this transcendent fact. It will not be possible for me to quote to you even a half of what he said on the subject. If you should cut out of his letters all the references to the cross, you would leave his letters in tatters. Listen to him as he talks to his converts in Corinth: "First of all I delivered unto you that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins." That was the foremost fact, to be stated in every letter and to be unfolded in every sermon. To Saul of Tarsus, Jesus is not an illustrious Rabbi whose sentences are to be treasured up and repeated to listening congregations; He is everywhere and always the world's Redeemer. And throughout all of Paul's epistles one hears the same jubilant, triumphant declaration, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
Let us now turn to the last book of the New Testament, the Book of the Revelation. What does this prophet on the Isle of Patmos see and hear, as he looks out into future ages and coming worlds? The book begins with a doxology: "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever." John looks, and beholds a great company of the redeemed. He asks who these are, and the reply comes back, "These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." He listens, and the song that goes up from the throats of the redeemed is, "Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain and didst purchase us for God with thy blood." At the center of the great vision which bursts upon the soul of the exiled apostle, there is a Lamb that was slain. Whatever we may think of Jesus of Nazareth, there is no question concerning what the men who wrote the New Testament thought. To the men who wrote the book, Jesus was not a Socrates or a Seneca, a Martin Luther or an Abraham Lincoln. His life was not an incident in the process of evolution, His death was not an episode in the dark and dreadful tragedy of human history. His life is God's. greatest gift to men, His death is the climax and the crowning revelation of the heart of the eternal. You can not open the New Testament anywhere without the idea flying into your face, "Christ died for our sins."
How different all this is from the atmosphere of the modern Church. When you go into the average church to-day, what great idea meets you? Do you find yourselves face to face with the fact that Christ died for our sins? I do not think you will often hear that great truth preached. In all probability you will hear a sermon dealing with the domestic graces, or with business obligations, or with political duties and complications. You may hear a sermon on city missions, or on foreign missions; you may hear a man dealing with some great evil, or pointing out some alarming danger, or discussing some interesting social problem, or urging upon men's consciences the performance of some duty. It is not often in these modern days that you will hear a sermon dealing with the thought that set the apostles blazing and turned the world upside down. And right there, I think, lies one of the causes of the weaknesses of the modern Church. We have been so busy attending to the things that ought to be done, we have had no time to feed the springs that keep alive these mighty hopes which make us Christian men. What is the secret of the strength of the Roman Catholic Church? How is it that she pursues her conquering way, in spite of stupidities and blunders that would have killed any other institution? I know the explanations that are usually offered, but it seems to me they are far from adequate. Somebody says, But the Roman Catholic Church does not hold any but the ignorant. That is not true. It may be true of certain localities in America, but it is not true of the nations across the sea. In Europe she holds entire nations in the hollow of her hand; not only the ignorant, but the learned; not only the low, but the high; not only the rude, but the cultured, the noble, and the mighty. It will not do to say that the Roman Catholic Church holds nobody but the ignorant. But even if it were true, it would still be interesting to ascertain how she exercises such an influence over the minds and hearts of ignorant people—for ignorant people are the hardest of all to hold. When you say that the Church can hold ignorant men, you are giving her the very highest compliment, for you are acknowledging that she is in the possession of a power which demands an explanation. The very fact that she is able to bring out such hosts of wage-earning men and women in the early hours of Sunday morning, men and women who have worked hard through the week, and many of them far into the night, but who are willing on the Lord's Day to wend their way to the house of God and engage in religious worship, is a phenomenon which is worth thinking about. How does the Roman Catholic Church do it? Somebody says she does it all by appealing to men's fears, she scares men into penitence and devotion. Do you think that that is a fair explanation? I do not think so. I can conceive how she might frighten people for one generation, or for two, but I can not conceive how she could frighten a dozen generations. One would suppose that the spell would wear off by and by. There is a deeper explanation than that The explanation is to be found in the spiritual nature of man. The Roman Catholic leaders, notwithstanding their blunders and their awful sins, have always seen that the central fact of the Christian revelation is the death of Jesus, and around that fact they have organized all their worship. Roman Catholics go to mass; what is the mass? It is the celebration of the Lord's Supper. What is the Lord's Supper? It is the ceremony that proclaims our Lord's death until He comes. The hosts of worshipers that fill our streets in the early Sunday morning hours are not going to church to hear some man discuss an interesting problem, nor are they going to listen to a few singers sing; they are going to celebrate once more the death of the Savior of the world. In all her cathedrals Catholicism places the stations of the cross, that they may tell to the eye the story of the stages of His dying. On all her altars she keeps the crucifix. Before the eyes of every faithful Catholic that crucifix is held until his eyes close in death. A Catholic goes out of the world thinking of Jesus crucified. So long as a Church holds on to that great fact, she will have a grip on human minds and hearts that can not be broken. The cross, as St. Paul said, a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. The Catholic Church has picked up the fact of Jesus' death and held it aloft like a burning torch. Around the torch she has thrown all sorts of dark philosophies, but through the philosophies the light has streamed into the hearts and homes of millions of God's children.
Protestantism has prospered just in proportion as she has kept the cross at the forefront of all her preaching. The missionaries bring back the same report from every field, that it is the story of Jesus' death that opens the hearts of the pagan world. Every now and then a denomination has started, determined to get rid of the cross of Jesus, or at least to pay scant attention to it, and in every case these denominations have been at the end of the third or fourth generation either decaying or dead. There is no interpretation of the Christian religion that has in it redeeming power which ignores or belittles the death of Christ.
If Protestantism to-day is not doing what it ought to do, and is manifesting symptoms which are alarming to Christian leaders, it is because she has in these recent years been engaged so largely in practical duties as to forget to drink inspiration from the great doctrines which must forever furnish life and strength and hope. If you will allow me to prophesy this morning, I predict that the preaching of the next fifty years will be far more doctrinal than the preaching of the last fifty years has been. I imagine some of you will shudder at that. You say you do not like doctrinal preaching, you want preaching that is practical. Well, pray, what is practical preaching? Practical preaching is preaching that accomplishes the object for which preaching is done, and the primary object of all Christian preaching is to reconcile men to God. The experience of 1900 years proves that it is only doctrinal preaching that reconciles the heart to God. If, then, you really want practical preaching, the only preaching that is deserving the name is preaching that deals with the great Christian doctrines. But somebody says, I do not like doctrinal preaching. A great many people have said that within recent years. I do not believe they mean what they say. They are not expressing with accuracy what is in their mind. They do like doctrinal preaching if they are intelligent, faithful Christians, for doctrinal preaching is bread to hearts that have been born again. When people say they do not like doctrinal preaching, they often mean that they do not like preaching which belongs to the eighteenth or seventeenth or sixteenth centuries. They are not to be blamed for this. There is nothing that gets stale so soon as preaching. We can not live upon the preaching of a bygone age. If preachers bring out the interpretations and phraseology which were current a hundred years ago, people must of necessity say, "Oh, please do not give us that, we do not like such doctrinal preaching." But doctrinal preaching need not be antiquated or belated, it may be fresh, it may be couched in the language in which men were born, it may use for its illustrations the images and figures and analogies which are uppermost in men's imagination. And whenever it does this there is no preaching which is so thrilling and uplifting and mighty as the preaching which deals with the great fundamental doctrines.
In one sense, the Christian religion never changes, in another sense it is changing all the time. The facts of Christianity never change, the interpretations of those facts alter from age to age. It is with religion as it is with, the stars, the stars never change. They move in their orbits in our night sky as they moved in the night sky of Abraham when he left his old Chaldean home. The constellations were the same at the opening of our century as they were when David watched his flocks on the old Judean hills. But the interpretations of the stars have always changed, must always change. Pick up the old charts which the astrologers made and compare them with the charts of astronomers of our day. How vast the difference! Listen to our astronomers talk about the magnitudes and disunites and composition of the stars, and compare with their story that which was written in the astronomy of a few centuries ago. The stellar universe has not changed, but men's conceptions have changed amazingly. The facts of the human body do not change. Our heart beats as the heart of Homer beat, our blood flows as the blood of Julius Caesar flowed, our muscles and nerves live and die as the nerves and muscles have lived and died in the bodies of men in all the generations—and yet, how the theories of medicine have been altered from time to time. A doctor does not want to hear a medical lecturer speak who persists in using the phraseology and conceptions which were accepted by the medical science of fifty years ago. Conceptions become too narrow to fit the growing mind of the world, and when once outgrown they must be thrown aside. As it is in science, so it is in religion. The facts of Christianity never change, they are fixt stars in the firmament of moral truth. Forever and forever it will be true that Christ died for our sins, but the interpretations of this fact must be determined by the intelligence of the age. Men will never be content with simple facts, they must go behind them to find out an explanation of them. Man is a rational being, he must think, he will not sit down calmly in front of a fact and be content with looking it in the face, he will go behind it and ask how came it to be and what are its relations to other facts. That is what man has always been doing with the facts of the Christian revelation, he has been going behind them and bringing out interpretations which will account for them. The interpretations are good for a little while, and then they are outgrown and cast aside.
A good illustration of the progressive nature of theology is found in the doctrine of the atonement. All of the apostles taught distinctly that Christ died for our sins. The early Christians did not attempt to go behind that fact, but by and by men began to attempt explanations. In the second century a man by the name of Irenaeus seized upon the word "ransom" in the sentence, "The Son of man is come to give his life a ransom for many," and found in that word "ransom" the key-word of the whole problem. The explanation of Irenaeus was taken up in the third century by a distinguished preacher, Origen. And in the fourth century the teaching of Origen was elaborated by Gregory of Nyssa.
According to the interpretation of these men, Jesus was the price paid for the redemption of men. Paul frequently used the word redemption, and the word had definite meanings to people who lived in the first four centuries of the Christian era. If Christ was indeed a ransom, the question naturally arose, who paid the price? The answer was, God. A ransom must be paid to somebody—to whom was this ransom paid? The answer was, the devil. According to Origen and to Gregory, God paid the devil the life of Jesus in order that the devil might let humanity go free. The devil, by deceit, had tricked man, and man had become his slave—God now plays a trick upon the devil, and by offering him the life of Jesus, secures the release of man. That was the interpretation held by many theologians for almost a thousand years, but in the eleventh century there arose a man who was not satisfied with the old interpretation. The world had outgrown it. To many it seemed ridiculous, to some it seemed blasphemous. There was an Italian by the name of Anselm who was an earnest student of the Scriptures, and he seized upon the word "debt" as the key-word of the problem. He wrote a book, one of the epoch-making books of Christendom, which he called "Cur Deus Homo." In this book Anselm elaborated his interpretation of the reconciliation. "Sin," he said, "is debt, and sin against an infinite being is an infinite debt. A finite being can not pay an infinite debt, hence an infinite being must become man in order that the debt may be paid. The Son of God, therefore, assumes the form of man, and by his sufferings on the cross pays the debt which allows humanity to go free." The interpretation was an advance upon that of Origen and Gregory, but it was not final. It was repudiated by men of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and finally, in the day of the Reformation, it was either modified or cast away altogether.
Martin Luther, Calvin, and the other reformers seized upon the word "propitiation," and made that the starting-point of their interpretation. According to these men, God is a great governor and man has broken the divine law—transgressors must be punished—if the man who breaks the law is not punished, somebody else must be punished in his stead. The Son of God, therefore, comes to earth to suffer in His person the punishment that rightly belongs to sinners. He is not guilty, but the sins of humanity are imputed to Him, and God wreaks upon Him the penalty which rightfully should have fallen on the heads of sinners. That is known as "the penal substitution theory."
It was not altogether satisfactory, many men revolted from it, and in the seventeenth century a Dutchman, Hugo Grotius, a lawyer, brought forth another interpretation, which is known in theology as "the governmental theory." He would not admit that Christ was punished. His sufferings were not penal, but illustrative. "God is the moral governor," said Grotius, "his government must be maintained, law can not be broken with impunity. Unless sin is punished the dignity of God's government would be destroyed. Therefore, that man may see how hot is God's displeasure against sin, Christ comes into the world and suffers the consequences of the transgressions of the race. The cross is an exhibition of what God thinks of sin." That governmental theory was carried into England and became the established doctrine of the English Church for almost three hundred years. It was carried across the ocean and became the dominant theory in the New Haven school of theologians, as represented by Jonathan Edwards, Dwight, and Taylor. The Princeton school of theology still clung to the penal substitution theory, and it was the clashing of the New Haven school and the Princeton school which caused such a commotion in the Presbyterian Church of sixty years ago. They are antiquated. They are too little. They seem mechanical, artificial, trivial. We can say of the governmental theory what Dr. Hodge said, "It degrades the work of Christ to the level of a governmental contrivance." If I should attempt to preach to you the governmental theory as it was preached by theologians fifty years ago, you would not be interested in it There is nothing in you that would respond to it. You would simply say, "I do not like doctrinal preaching." Or if I should go back and take up the penal substitution theory in all its nakedness and hideousness, and attempt to give it to you as the correct interpretation of the gospel, you would rise up in open rebellion and say, "We will not listen to such preaching." If I should go back and take up the Anselmic theory and attempt to show how an infinite debt must be paid by infinite suffering, you would say: "Stop, you are converting God into a Shylock, who is demanding His pound of flesh. We prefer to think of Him as our heavenly Father." If I should go further back and take up the old ransom theory of Origen and Gregory, I suspect that some of you would want to laugh. You could not accept an interpretation which represents God as playing a trick upon Satan in order to get humanity out of his grasp. No, those theories have all been outgrown. We have come out into larger and grander times. We have higher conceptions of the Almighty than the ancients ever had. We see far deeper into the Christian revelation than Martin Luther or John Calvin ever saw. These old interpretations are simply husks, and men and women will not listen to the preaching of them. If, now and then, a belated preacher attempts to preach them, the people say, "If that is doctrinal preaching, please give us something practical."
And so the Church is to-day slowly working out a new interpretation of the great fact that Christ died for our sins. The interpretation has not yet been completed, and will not be for many years. I should like this morning simply to outline in a general way some of the more prominent features of the new interpretation. The Holy Ghost is at work. He is taking the things of Christ and showing them unto us. The interpretation of the reconciliation of the future will be superior in every point to any of the interpretations of the past.
The new interpretation is going to be simple, straightforward, and natural. The death of Christ is not going to be made something artificial, mechanical, or theatrical. It is going to be the natural conception of the outflowing life of God.
The new interpretation is going to start from the Fatherhood of God. The old theories were all born in the counting-room, or the court-house. Jesus went into the house to find His illustrations for the conduct of the heavenly Father. He never went into the court-house, nor can we go there for analogies with which to image forth His dealings with our race. It was His custom to say, "If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him."
The new interpretation is going to be comprehensive. It is going to be built, not on a single metaphor, but on everything that Jesus and the apostles said. Right there is where the old interpretations went astray. They seized upon one figure of speech and made that the determining factor in the entire interpretation. Jesus said many things, and so did His apostles, and all of them must contribute to the final interpretation.
Two things are to be hereafter made very clear: The first is that God reveals Himself in Jesus Christ. The old views were always losing sight of that great fact. There was always a dualism between God and Christ. I remember what my conception was when I was a boy. I thought that God was a strict and solemn and awful king, who was very angry because men had broken His law. He was just, and His justice had no mercy in it. Christ, His Son, was much better-natured and more compassionate, and He came forth into our world to suffer upon the cross that God's justice might relax a little, and His heart be opened to forgive our race. I supposed that that was the teaching of the New Testament, it certainly was the teaching of the hymns in the hymn-book, if not of the preachers. And when I became a young man, I supposed that that was the teaching of the Christian religion. My heart rebelled against it. I would not accept it. I became an infidel. A man can not accept an interpretation of God that does not appeal to the best that is in him. No man can accept a doctrine that darkens his moral sense, or that confuses the distinction between right and wrong. I would not accept the old interpretation because my soul rose in revolt against it. I shall never forget how, one evening in his study, a minister, who had outgrown the old traditions, explained to me the meaning of the reconciliation. He assured me that God is love, invisible, eternal. Christ, His Son, is also love. In becoming at one with the Son we become at one with the Father. This is the at-one-ment. And when that truth broke upon me my heart began to sing:
Just as I am—Thy love unknown Hath broken every barrier down; Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come!
I wonder in telling this if I have not spoken the experience of many of you this morning. It is impossible to love God if we feel that He is stern and despotic, and must be appeased by the sufferings of an innocent man. The New Testament nowhere lends any support to that idea. Everywhere the New Testament assures us that God is the lover of men, that He initiates the movement for man's redemption. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son...." "Herein is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us." "God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." "The Father spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all." "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." "I and my Father are one." These are only a few of the passages in which we are told that God is our Savior. When an old Scotchman once heard the text announced, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," he exclaimed, "Oh, that was love indeed! I could have given myself, but I never could have given my boy." This, then, is the very highest love of which it is possible for the human mind to think: the love of a father that surrenders his son to sufferings and death.
And this brings us to the second great truth which is outgrowing increasingly clear in the consciousness of the Church. The death of Jesus is the revelation of an experience in the heart of God. God is the sin-bearer of the world. He bears our sins on His mind and heart. There are three conceptions of God: the savage, the pagan, and the Christian. God, according to the savage conception, is vengeful, and capricious, and vindictive. He is a great savage hidden in the sky. We have all outgrown that. According to the pagan idea, He is indifferent to the wants and woes of men. He does not care for men. He is not interested in them. He does not sympathize with them. He does not suffer over their griefs. He does not feel pain or sorrow. I am afraid that many of us have never gotten beyond the pagan conception of the Almighty. But according to the Christian conception, God suffers. He feels, and because He feels, He sympathizes, and because He sympathizes, He suffers. He feels both pain and grief. He carries a wound in His heart. We men and women sometimes feel burdened because of the sin we see around us; shall not the heavenly Father be as sensitive and responsive as we men? But somebody says that God can not be happy then. Of course he can not be happy. Happiness is not an adjective to apply to God. Happy is a word that belongs to children. Children are happy, grown people never are. One can be happy when the birds are singing and the dew is on the grass, and there is no cloud in all the sky, and the crape has not yet hung at the door. But after we have passed over the days of childhood, there is happiness no longer. Some of us have lived too long and borne too much ever to be happy any more. But it is possible for us to be blest. We may pass into the very blessedness of God. The highest form of blessedness is suffering for those we love, and shall not the Father of all men have in His own eternal heart that experience which we confess to be the highest form of blessedness? This is the truth which is dawning like a new revelation on the Church: the humanity of God. It is revealed in the New Testament, but as yet we have only begun to take it in. God is like us men. We are like Him. We are made in His image. We are His children, and He is our Father. If we are His children, then we are His heirs, and joint heirs with Christ. Not only our joys, but our sorrows also, are intimations and suggestions of experiences in the infinite heart of the Eternal.
THE PERFECT IDEAL OF LIFE
George Campbell Morgan, Congregational divine and preacher, was born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England, in 1863, and was educated at the Douglas School, Cheltenham. He worked as a lay-mission preacher for the two years ending 1888, and was ordained to the ministry in the following year, when he took charge of the Congregational Church at Stones, Staffordshire. After occupying the pulpit in several pastorates, in 1904 he became pastor of the Westminster Congregational Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London, a position which he still occupies. Besides being highly successful as a pulpit orator, Dr. Morgan has published many works of a religious character, among which may be enumerated: "Discipleship"; "The Hidden Years of Nazareth"; "Life's Problems"; "The Ten Commandments." His last work, "The Christ of To-day," has passed through several editions.
Born in 1863
THE PERFECT IDEAL OF LIFE
Jesus therefore said, When ye have lifted up the son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him. As he spake these things, many believed on him.—John viii., 28-30.
The Master, you will see, in this verse lays before us three things. First of all, He gives us the perfect ideal of human life in a short phrase, and that comes at the end, "the things that please him." Those are the things that create perfect human life, living in the realm of which man realizes perfectly all the possibilities of his wondrous being—"the things that please him." So I say, in this phrase, the Master reveals to us the perfect ideal of our lives. Then, in the second place, the Master lays claim—one of the most stupendous claims that He ever made—that He utterly, absolutely, realizes that ideal. He says, "I do always the things that please him." And then, thirdly, we have the revelation of the secret by which He has been able to realize the ideal, to make the abstract concrete, to bring down the fair vision of divine purpose to the level of actual human life and experience, and the secret is declared in the opening words: "He that sent me is with me; my Father hath not left me alone."
The perfect ideal for my life, then, is that I live always in the realm of the things that please God; and the secret by which I may do so is here unfolded—by living in perpetual, unbroken communion with God: communion with which I do not permit anything to interfere. Then it shall be possible for me to pass into this high realm of actual realization.
It is important that we should remind ourselves in a few sentences that the Lord has indeed stated the highest possible ideal for human life in these words: "The things that please him." Oh, the godlessness of men! The godlessness that is to be found on every hand! The godlessness of the men and women that are called by the name of God! How tragic, how sad, how awful it is! because godlessness is always not merely an act of rebellion against God, but a falling-short in our own lives of their highest and most glorious possibilities.
Here is my life. Now, the highest realm for me is the realm where all my thoughts, and all my deeds, and all my methods, and everything in my life please God. That is the highest realm, because God only knows what I am; only perfectly understands the possibilities of my nature, and all the great reaches of my being. You remember those lines that Tennyson sang—very beautifully, I always think:
Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies;— Hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little Flower—but if I could understand What you art, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is.
Beautiful confession! Absolutely true. I hold that flower in my hand, and I look at it, flower and leaves and stem and root. I can botanize it, and then I tear it to pieces—that is what the botanist mostly does—and you put some part of it there, and some part of it there, and some part of it there. There is the root, there the stem, and there are the leaves, and there is everything; but where is the flower? Gone. How did it go? When did it go? Why, when you ruthlessly tore it to bits. But how did you destroy it? You interfered with the principle that made it what it was—you interfered with the principle of life. What is life? No man can tell you. "If I could but know what you are, little flower, root and all, and all in all," I would know what life is, what God is, what man is. I can not.
Now, if you lift that little parable of the flower into the highest realm of animal life, and speak of yourself—we don't know ourselves; down in my nature there are reaches that I have not fathomed yet. They are coming up every day. What a blest thing it is to have the Master at hand, to hand them over to Him as they come up, and say, "Lord, here is another piece of Thy territory; govern it; I don't know anything about it." But there is the business. I don't know myself, but God knows me, understands all the complex relationships of my life, knows how matter affects mind, and physical and mental and spiritual are blended in one in the high ideal of humanity. Oh, remember, man is the crowning and most glorious work of God of which we know anything as yet. And God only knows man.
But here is a Man that stands amid His enemies, and He looks out upon His enemies, and He says, "I do the things that please him"—not "I teach them," not "I dream them," not "I have seen them in a fair vision," but "I do them." There never was a bigger claim from the lips of the Master than that: "I do always the things that please him."
You would not thank me to insult your Christian experience, upon whatever level you live it, by attempting to define that statement of Christ. History has vindicated it. We believe it with all our hearts—that He always did the things that pleased God. But I have got on to a level that I can touch now. The great ideal has come from the air to the earth. The fair vision has become concrete in a Man. Now, I want to see that Man; and if I see that Man I shall see in Him a revelation of what God's purpose is for men, and I shall see, therefore, a revelation of what the highest possibility of life is. Now this is a tempting theme. It is a temptation to begin to contrast Him with popular ideals of life. I want to see Him; I want, if I can, to catch the notes of the music that make up the perfect harmony which was the dropping of a song out of God's heaven upon man's earth, that man might catch the key-note of it and make music in his own life. What are the things in this Man's life? He says: "I have realized the ideal—I do." There are four things that I want to say about Him, four notes in the music of His life.
First, spirituality. That is one of the words that needs redeeming from abuse. He was the embodiment of the spiritual ideal in life. He was spiritual in the high, true, full, broad, blest sense of that word.
It may be well for a moment to note what spirituality did not mean in the life of Jesus Christ. It did not mean asceticism. During all the years of His ministry, during all the years of His teaching, you never find a single instance in which Jesus Christ made a whip of cords to scourge Himself. And all that business of scourging oneself—an attempt to elevate the spirit by the ruin of the actual flesh—is absolutely opposed to His view of life. Jesus Christ did not deny Himself. The fact of His life was this—that He touched everything familiarly. He went into all the relationship of life. He went to the widow. He took up the children and held them in His arms, and looked into their eyes till heaven was poured in as He looked. He didn't go and get behind walls somewhere. He didn't get away and say: "Now, if I am going to get pure I shall do it by shutting men out." You remember what the Pharisees said of Him once. They said: "This man receiveth sinners." You know how they said it. They meant to say: "We did hope that we should make something out of this new man, but we are quite disappointed. He receives sinners."
And what did they mean? They meant what you have so often said: "You can't touch pitch without being defiled." But this Man sat down with the publican and He didn't take on any defilement from the publican. On the other hand, He gave the publican His purity in the life of Jesus Christ. Things worked the other way. He was the great negative of God to the very law of evil that you have—evil contaminates good. If you will put on a plate one apple that is getting bad among twelve others that are pure, the bad one will influence the others. Christ came to drive back every force of disease and every force of evil by this strong purity of His own person, and He said: "I will go among the bad and make them good." That is what He was doing the whole way through. So His spirituality was not asceticism. And if you are going to be so spiritual that you see no beauty in the flowers and hear no music in the song of the birds; if the life which you pass into when you consent to the crucifixion of self does not open to you the very gates of God, and make the singing of the birds and the blossoming of the flowers infinitely more beautiful, you have never seen Jesus yet.
What was His spirituality? The spirituality of Jesus Christ was a concrete realization of a great truth which He laid down in His own beatitudes. What was that? "Blest are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Now, the trouble is we have been lifting all the good things of God and putting them in heaven. And I don't wonder that you sing:
My willing soul would stay In such a frame as this, And sit and sing itself away To everlasting bliss.
No wonder you want to sing yourself away to everlasting bliss, because everything that is worth having you have put up there. But Jesus said: "Blest are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." If you are pure you will see Him everywhere—in the flower that blooms, in the march of history, in the sorrows of men, above the darkness of the darkest cloud; and you will know that God is in the field when He is most invisible.
Second, subjection. The next note in the music of His life is His absolute subjection to God. You can very often tell the great philosophies which are governing human lives by the little catchwords that slip off men's tongues: "Well, I thank God I am my own master." That is your trouble, man. It is because you are your own master that you are in danger of hell. A man says: "Can't I do as I like with my own?" You have got no "own" to do what you like with. It is because men have forgotten the covenant of God, the kingship of God, that we have all the wreckage and ruin that blights this poor earth of ours. Here is the Man who never forgot it.
Did you notice those wonderful words: "I do nothing of myself, but as my Father taught me, I speak." He neither did nor spoke anything of Himself. It was a wonderful life. He stood forevermore between the next moment and heaven. And the Father's voice said, "Do this," and He said "Amen, I came to do thy will," and did it. And the Father's voice said, "Speak these words to men," and He, "Amen," and He spoke.
You say: "That is just what I do not want to do." I know that. We want to be independent; have our own way. "The things that please God—this Man was subject to the divine will." You know the two words—if you can learn to say them, not like a parrot, not glibly, but out of your heart—the two words that will help you "Halleluiah" and "Amen." You can say them in Welsh or any language you like; they are always the same. When the next dispensation of God's dealings faces you look at it and say: "Halleluiah! Praise God! Amen!" That means, "I agree."
Third, sympathy. Now, you have this Man turned toward other men. We have seen something of Him as He faced God: Spirituality, a sense of God; subjection, a perpetual amen to the divine volition. Now, He faces the crowd. Sympathy! Why? Because He is right with God, He is right with men; because He feels God near, and knows Him, and responds to the divine will; therefore, when He faces men He is right toward men. The settlement of every social problem you have in this country and in my own land, the settlement of the whole business, will be found in the return of man to God. When man gets back to God he gets back to men. What is behind it? Sympathy is the power of putting my spirit outside my personality, into the circumstances of another man, and feeling as that man feels.
I take one picture as an illustration of this. I see the Master approaching the city of Nain, and around Him His disciples. He is coming up. And I see outside the city of Nain, coming toward the gate a man carried by others, dead, and walking by that bier a mother. Now, all I want you to look at is that woman's face, and, looking into her face, see all the anguish of those circumstances. She is a widow, and that is her boy, her only boy, and he is dead. Man can not talk about this. You have got to be in the house to know what that means. But look at her face—there it is. All the sorrow is on her face. You can see it.
Now, turn from her quickly and look into the face of Christ. Why, I look into His face—there is her face. He is feeling all she is feeling; He is down in her sorrow with her; He has got underneath the burden, and He is feeling all the agony that that woman feels because her boy is dead. He is moved with compassion whenever human sorrow crosses His vision and human need approaches Him. And now I see Him moving toward the bier. I see Him as He touches it. And He takes the boy back and gives him to his mother. Do you see in yon mountain a cloud, so somber and sad, and suddenly the sun comes from behind the cloud, and all the mountain-side laughs with gladness? That is that woman's face. The agony is gone. The tear that remains there is gilded with a smile, and joy is on her face. Look at Him. There it is. He is in her joy now. He is having as good a time as the woman. He has carried her grief and her sorrow. He has given her joy. And it is His joy that He has given to her. He is with her in her joy.
Wonderful sympathy! He went about gathering human sorrow into His own heart, scattering His joy, and having fellowship in agony and in deliverance, in tears and in their wiping away. Great, sympathetic soul! Why? Because He always lived with God, and, living with God, the divine love moved Him with compassion. Ah, believe me, our sorrows are more felt in heaven than on earth. And we had that glimpse of that eternal love in this Man, who did the things that pleased God, and manifested such wondrous sympathy.
Fourth, strength. The last note is that of strength. You talk about the weakness of Jesus, the frailty of Jesus. I tell you, there never was any one so strong as He. And if you will take the pains of reading His life with that in mind you will find it was one tremendous march of triumph against all opposing forces. About His dying—how did He die? "At last, at last," says the man in his study that does not know anything about Jesus; "At last His enemies became too much for Him, and they killed Him." Nothing of the sort. That is a very superficial reading. What is the truth? Hear it from His own lips: "No man taketh my life from me. I lay it down of myself. And if I lay it down I have authority to take it again." What do you think of that? How does that touch you as a revelation of magnificence in strength? And then, look at Him, when He comes back from the tomb, having fulfilled that which was either an empty boast or a great fact—thank God, we believe it was a great fact! Now He stands upon the mountain, with this handful of men around Him, His disciples, and He is going away from them. "All authority," He says, "is given unto me. I am king not merely by an office conferred, but by a triumph won. I am king, for I have faced the enemies of the race—sin and sorrow and ignorance and death—and my foot is upon the neck of every one. All authority is given to me."
Oh, the strength of this Man! Where did He get it? "My Father hath not left me alone. I have lived with God. I have walked with God. I always knew him near. I always responded to his will. And my heart went out in sympathy to others, and I mastered the enemies of those with whom I sympathized. And I come to the end and I say, All authority is given to me." Oh, my brother, that is the pattern for you and for me! Ah, that is life! That is the ideal! Oh, how can I fulfil it? I am not going to talk about that. Let me only give you this sentence to finish with, "Christ in you, the hope of glory." If Christ be in me by the power of the Spirit, He will keep me conscious of God's nearness to me. If Christ be in me by the consciousness of the spirit reigning and governing, He will take my will from day to day, blend it with His, and take away all that makes it hard to say, "God's will be done."
A NEW DAY FOR MISSIONS
S. Parkes Cadman is one of the many immigrant clergymen who have attained to fame in American pulpits. He was born in Shropshire, England, December 18, 1864, and graduated from Richmond College, London University, in 1889. Coming to this country about 1895 he was appointed pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Metropolitan Tabernacle, New York. From this post he was called to Central Congregational Church, Brooklyn, with but one exception the largest Congregational Church in the United States. He has received the degree of D.D. from Wesleyan University and the University of Syracuse. The sermon here given, somewhat abridged, was delivered before the National Council of Congregational Churches, in Cleveland, Ohio, and is from Dr. Cadman's manuscript.
Born in 1864
A NEW DAY FOR MISSIONS
God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.—Gal. vi., 14.
The pivotal conception of missionary enterprise is the conception of Christ as the eternal priest of humanity. If any need of the world's heart is before us now, it is the need of the Cross. There is a deep and anxious desire in men for the saving forces of sacrificial Christianity. The ideals of the New Testament concerning Gethsemane and Calvary are being thrust upon our attention by the upward strugglings of the people. They, at any rate, have not forgotten the forsaken Man in the night of awful silence in the garden, nor His exceeding bitter agony, nor the perfect ending that made His death His victory. The wastes of eccentricity, whether orthodox or heterodox, and the over curious speculations of theologies remote from the habitations of men, have had little influence upon the multitudes we seek to serve. And if I had to choose a sphere where one could rediscover the central forces of Christian life and of Christian practise, I would lean toward the enlightened democracies which to-day are vibrant with the plea that the shepherdless multitudes shall have social ameliorations and new incentives and selfless leaders.
We are all very jealous for the honor and success of the propagandism we sustain at home and abroad, and I hold that its honor and success alike depend upon the priesthood and redemptive efficacies of Jesus. These sovereign forces are correlated with His victories for the twenty past centuries, and they constitute the distinctive genius of the faith.
We shall gain nothing for the rule or for the ethics of Jesus by derogating that peculiar office of the divine Victim which is, to me, at any rate, the most sublime reason for the Incarnation and the ineffable height and depth and mystery of all love and all strength blessedly operative in every ruined condition by means of sacrifice. The missionary fields confessedly can not be conquered by the unaided teacher; he must have more than a system of truth, more than a program, more than a reasoned discourse. Their vast inert mass demands vitalization; and the life which is given for the life of men, the divinest gift of all, is alone sufficient for this regeneration.
Moreover, can we rest the absolutism and finality of Jesus upon anything less than the last complete outpouring of His soul unto voluntary death for men's salvation? I do not think we can, and it is a requisite that we place larger emphasis upon this holy mystery of our life through Christ's death, the substantial soul and secret of all missionary progress in all ages of the Church.
Before we can see the miracle of nations entering the kingdom of God, before we can dismiss the black death of apathy which rests on so many professedly Christian communities, before we can dominate the social structure in righteousness and justice, the Church must be raised nearer to the standards of New Testament efficiency. And New Testament efficiency rested upon the perfect divinity and all-persuasive mediatorship of "Christ and him crucified." The personality of Christ involves for many of us the entire relation of God to His universe; He is "the central figure in all history," and Pie is "the central figure of our personal experience," creative in us, by His inaugural experience, of all we are in Him and for our fellows. Thus we make great claims for the Lord of the harvest, and we make them soberly, and we know them true for our spiritual consciousness, and we are prepared to defend them.
Yet I, for one, do not hesitate to admit that the theological necessities of missionary work are many, and that they must be recognized and met before it can fully accomplish its infinite design. Indeed, the rule of Jesus in all these aspects of His mission clarifies and simplifies the gospel. It is plain that such a gospel, wherein the living personality of the Christ deals with the living man to whom we minister, is not to be beset by complications and abstractions. Its spiritual topography embraces the height of good, the depth of love, the breadth of sympathy, and the width of catholicity. It was meant for the race and for the far-reaching reciprocities and inexpressible necessities of the race. It is attuned to the cry of the common heart. Its interpretations have the sanctions of an authoritative human experience which has never failed in its witness. Sometimes I have challenged these honored servants of the evangel who have come back to us from quarters where they were busy on the errands of the cross. Almost pathetically, with the painful interest of one inquiring for a long absent friend of whom no news has been received, I have solicited the missionaries. They came from the south of our own dear land, where they administered to the negro; from the arctic zone, from the farther East. Their wider vision, their more imperial instinct, were plain to me, and my usual question was, "What do you teach the impulsive colored man and the stolid Eskimo and the pensive Hindu and the inscrutable Asiatic?" And they replied, "We teach them, that God is a personal spirit and Father, whose character is holiness and whose heart is love; that Jesus Christ is the designed and supreme Son of God, who lived in sinlessness and died in perfect willing sacrifice for the eternal life of all men, that by the will of God and in the power of His spirit men may have everlasting life and, better still, everlasting goodness, if they will accept and trust in Jesus Christ for all."
And this gospel obtains the day of overcoming for which we plead and pray. For tho an angel from heaven had any other, men do not respond; the charisma rests on no other message. Possest of it, and possessing it, under the covenant of heaven and led by the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, we shall go forth determined to give it place in us and in our presentations as never before. May nothing mar the solemn splendor of such a message from God unto men. Let us subordinate our undue intellectualism and place our boasted freedom under restraints, so that the evangel may be preached without reserve and with abandon. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all."
Such in one grand passage is the creed that breathes the very life and spirit of the most significant and overwhelming missionary period in the history of the Christian Church.
There is a new day due in missions because of the immense superiority in missionary methods. The personnel of our administrations has been superb, and of nearly all the honored servants of God who have labored in domestic and foreign departments it could be said, "Thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity." But I presume these seasoned veterans would be the first to show us how the whole conception of propagandism has been readapted, and its vehicles of communication multiplied in various directions. The onfall and sally of the earler evangelistic campaigns are now aided by the investment and siege of educational and medical work.
The trackways of a policy embedded in the wider interpretation of the gospel are laid and the new era takes shape before our comprehension. Travel, exploration, and commerce have demanded and obtained the Lusitania on the sea; the railroad from the Cape to Cairo on the land, and they have left no spot of earth untrodden, no map obscure, no mart unvisited. Keeping step with this stately and unprecedented development, and often anticipating it, the widening frontiers of our missionary kingdom have demonstrated again and again how the Church can make a bridal of the earth and sky, linking the lowliest needs to the loftiest truths. And best of all in respect of methods is the dispersal of our native egotism. We have come to see that the types of Christianity in Europe and America are perhaps aboriginal for us, but can not be transplanted to other shores. "Manifest destiny" is a phrase that sits down when Japan and China wake up. Not thus can Jesus be robbed of the fruits of His passion in any branch of the human family. We are to plant and water, labor in faith, and die in hope, scattering the seed of the gospel in the hearts of these brothers of regions outside. But God will ordain their harvests as it pleaseth Him. What will be the joy of that harvest? Throw your imagination across this new century, and as it dies and gives place to its successor, review the race whose devotion has then fastened on the divine ruler and the federal Man, Christ Jesus. For nearly a hundred years the barriers that segregated us will have been a memory. The Church will have discovered not only fields of labor, but forces for her replenishing. Then will our posterity rejoice in the larger Christ who is to be. The virtuous elements of all other faiths will be placed under the purification and control of the priesthood and authority of Jesus. And tho in these ancient religions that await the Bridegroom, the mortal stains the immortal and the human mars the beauty of the divine, in the light of His appearing they will assume new attitudes and receive His quickening and thrill with His pulse. When I conceive of this reward for our Daysman I protest that all other triumphs seem as tinsel and sham. The Desire of all nations shall then see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied. The subtle patience of China, the fierce resistance of Japan, the brooding soul that haunts the Ganges valley, the tumult of emotion of the Ethiopian breast, all are for His appearing; they must be saved unto noble ends by His sanctification. For that time there will be a Church whose canonization of the infinite is beyond our dreams, enriched on every side, with common allegiance and diversity of gifts, and every gift the boon of all, and Christ's dower in His bride increased beyond compare.
This is the ideal of the new day; may it become our personal ideal. Then shall we fight with new courage for the right, and abhor the imperfect, the unjust, and the mean. Our leaders will care nothing for flattery and praise or odium and abuse. Enthusiasm can not be soured, nor courage diminished. The Almighty has placed our hand on the greatest of His plows, in whose furrow the nations I have named are germinating religiously. And to drive forward the blade if but a little, and to plant any seed of justice and of joy, any sense of manliness or moral worth, to aid in any way the gospel which is the friend of liberty, the companion of the conscience and the parent of the intellectual enlightenment—is not that enough? Is it not a complete justification of our plea?
We shall do well to remember that no evangel can prosper without the evangelical temper. The parsing of grammarians is of little avail here, and to have all critical knowledge of the prophets and apostles of the faith without their fervor and consecration is profitable merely for study, and useless mainly for the larger life. Our culture must be the passion-flower of Christ Jesus. To be more anxious about intellectual pre-eminence or ecclesiastical origins than about "the trial of the immigrant" and the condition of the colored races is not helpful. "There is a sort of orthodoxy that revels in the visions of apocalypses and refuses to fight the beast," says Dr. Nurgan. Such barren indulgence is excluded from any glory to follow. Technicalities, niceties, knowledge remote and knowledge general must be appropriated and made dynamic in this life-and-death conflict; any that can not be thus used can be sent to the rear for a further debate.
Diplomacies in church government and adjustments in church creeds can wait on this consecration, this baptism of unction. I never heard that the statesman who formulated the peace at Paris in 1815 got in the way of the Household Brigades and the Highlanders at Waterloo and Hougomont. They played their commendable game, but they could not have swept that awful slope of flame in which Ney and the Old Guard staggered on at Mont St. Jean.
Let us redeem our creeds at the front, and prove the welding of our weapons and their tempered blades upon every evil way and darkness and superstition that afflict humankind.
And have you not seen with moistened eyes and beating hearts the pathetic surgings of harassed and broken sons and daughters of God toward His son Jesus Christ? I have watched them until I felt constrained to cry aloud and spare not; and while viewing them here and yonder, and refusing to be localized in our love toward them, have not our spirits been rebuked, have they not known fear for ourselves, have they not pensively echoed the charge of some that we have no real roots in democracy, but are as plants in pots, and not as oaks in the soil of earth? If independency is a barrier to the essence of which it is supposedly a form, if superiority shuts us off from assimilation with popular movements and delivers us over to cliques, then these churches of ours will end in a record of shame and confusion. While we are busy in trivial things, our energy and our might will be deflected, and the living God will hand over the crusade to those who have proven worthier and who knew the day when it did come, even the day of their visitation.
[Footnote 1: The special reference is to the Congregational churches.]
We must arise with courage undismayed, and join in the cry of the ages:
When wilt thou save the people, O God of mercy, when? The people! Lord, the people! Not crowns, nor thrones, but men.
Flower of thy heart, O Lord, are they, Their heritage a sunless day. Let them like weeds not fade away; Lord, save the people.
If our hearts are thus enlarged, we shall run in the way of His commandments; fatherhood and brotherhood and sonship will not be symbols, shibboleths of pious intercourse, but ways of God's reaching out through us for the total brotherhood. We shall silence the caviler against missions; we shall raise the negro in the face of those who say he can not be raised; we shall see the latter-day miracles, and the lame man healed and rejoicing at the Temple gate. Thus may the breath of God sweep across our pastorates and dismiss timidity, provincialism, ease, and narrowness of outlook. And thus may the power be demonstrated as of heaven because it is the power unto salvation. Let us fear not men who shall die, nor be content to fill our peaceful lot and occupy a respectable grave. The new world needs the renewed baptism, and the "modernism" of which medievalists complain is the robe of honor for the Christ of this epoch. So that there shall come unto the Church the flame of sacred love, and, kindling on every heart and altar, there shall it burn for the glory of Christ, the High Priest, with inextinguishable blaze. We can rest content, for, behold! the day cometh and in its light. Let us go hence.
John Henry Jowett, Congregational divine, was born at Barnard Castle, Durham, in 1864, and educated at Edinburgh and Oxford universities. In 1889 he was ordained to St. James's Congregational Church, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and in 1895 was called to his present pastorate of Carr's Lane Congregational Church, Birmingham, where he has taken rank among the leading preachers of Great Britain. He is the author of several important books.
Born in 1864
[Footnote 1: Reprinted by permission of A.C. Armstrong & Son.]
Rejoicing in hope.—Romans xii., 12.
That is a characteristic expression of the fine, genial optimism of the Apostle Paul. His eyes are always illumined. The cheery tone is never absent from his speech. The buoyant and springy movement of his life is never changed. The light never dies out of his sky. Even the gray firmament reveals more hopeful tints, and becomes significant of evolving glory. The apostle is an optimist, "rejoicing in hope," a child of light wearing the "armor of light," "walking in the light" even as Christ is in the light.
This apostolic optimism was not a thin and fleeting sentiment begotten of a cloudless summer day. It was not the creation of a season; it was the permanent pose of the spirit. Even when beset with circumstances which to the world would spell defeat, the apostle moved with the mien of a conqueror. He never lost the kingly posture. He was disturbed by no timidity about ultimate issues. He fought and labored in the spirit of certain triumph. "We are always confident." "We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
This apostolic optimism was not born of sluggish thinking, or of idle and shallow observation. I am very grateful that the counsel of my text lifts its chaste and cheery flame in the twelfth chapter of an epistle of which the first chapter contains as dark and searching an indictment of our nature as the mind of man has ever drawn. Let me rehearse the appalling catalog that the radiance of the apostle's optimism may appear the more abounding: "Senseless hearts," "fools," "uncleanness," "vile passions," "reprobate minds," "unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful." With fearless severity the apostle leads us through the black realms of midnight and eclipse. And yet in the subsequent reaches of the great argument, of which these dark regions form the preface, there emerges the clear, calm, steady light of my optimistic text. I say it is not the buoyancy of ignorance. It is not the flippant, light-hearted expectancy of a man who knows nothing about the secret places of the night. The counselor is a man who has steadily gazed at light at its worst, who has digged through the outer walls of convention and respectability, who has pushed his way into the secret chambers and closets of life, who has dragged out the slimy sins which were lurking in their holes, and named them after their kind—it is this man who when he has surveyed the dimensions of evil and misery and contempt, merges his dark indictment in a cheery and expansive dawn, in an optimistic evangel, in which he counsels his fellow-disciples to maintain the confident attitude of a rejoicing hope.
Now, what are the secrets of this courageous and energetic optimism? Perhaps, if we explore the life of this great apostle, and seek to discover its springs, we may find the clue to his abounding hope. Roaming then through the entire records of his life and teachings, do we discover any significant emphasis? Preeminent above all other suggestions, I am imprest with his vivid sense of the reality of the redemptive work of Christ. Turn where I will, the redemptive work of the Christ evidences itself as the base and groundwork of his life. It is not only that here and there are solid statements of doctrine, wherein some massive argument is constructed for the partial unveiling of redemptive glory. Even in those parts of his epistles where formal argument has ceased, and where solid doctrine is absent, the doctrine flows as a fluid element into the practical convictions of life, and determines the shape and quality of the judgments. Nay, one might legitimately use the figure of a finer medium still, and say that in all the spacious reaches of the apostle's life the redemptive work of his Master is present as an atmosphere in which all his thoughts and purposes and labors find their sustaining and enriching breath. Take this epistle to the Romans in which my text is found. The earlier stages of the great epistle are devoted to a massive and stately presentation of the doctrines of redemption. But when I turn over the pages where the majestic argument is concluded, I find the doctrine persisting in a diffused and rarefied form, and appearing as the determining factor in the solution of practical problems. If he is dealing with the question of the "eating of meats," the great doctrine reappears and interposes its solemn and yet elevating principle: "destroy not him with thy meat for whom Christ died." If he is called upon to administer rebuke to the passionate and unclean, the shadow of the cross rests upon his judgment. "Ye are not your own; ye are bought with a price." If he is portraying the ideal relationship of husband and wife, he sets it in the light of redemptive glory: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it." If he is seeking to cultivate the grace of liberality, he brings the heavenly air around about the spirit. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that tho he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor." It interweaves itself with all his salutations. It exhales in all his benedictions like a hallowing fragrance. You can not get away from it. In the light of the glory of redemption all relationships are assorted and arranged. Redemption was not degraded into a fine abstract argument, to which the apostle had appended his own approval, and then, with sober satisfaction, had laid it aside, as a practical irrelevancy, in the stout chests of orthodoxy. It became the very spirit of his life. It was, if I may be allowed the violent figure, the warm blood in all his judgment. It filled the veins of all his thinking. It beat like a pulse in all his purposes. It determined and vitalized his decisions in the crisis, as well as in the lesser trifles of the common day. His conception of redemption was regulative of all his thought.