Christianity's Leavening Life
THE Christian Church is not to be judged narrowly. Historically, as measured both by its vitality and fruit-fulness, it is the greatest institution known to man. Originating in the Orient, it is substantially Western in its development. Indeed, it may be measuredly said, it is largely the creator of the world's most enlightened and advanced civilizations. It is older by centuries than any existing government in the Western world. Born in a pagan environment, and under hostile skies, born under conditions which, humanly considered, would seem to preclude the possibility of its continued life, it has survived. When Christ was born Rome was called the "Eternal." Her scepter swayed the world from the forests of Lebanon to the Isles of Briton. But the dust of more than a millennium of years has gathered upon the ruins of Rome, and in all Europe there is hardly a vestige of a civilization that was in existence when Christ came.
The Christian Church has not only survived, but in one form or another it sways the life and thought of all Europe as no other force. America was unknown to the world until fifteen centuries after the birth of Christ. Today America, North and South, is the seat of great empires, of world-civilizations; but the most pervasive and dominant institution in all its vast territory, and among its one hundred and fifty million of people, is, in one form or another, the Christian Church. The Church is not only the oldest institution in both Europe and America, but in empire and republic alike it is the most dominating force in all Western civilization.
That an institution originating in apparent weakness, initially commanding but a few uninfluential supporters, beginning its mission in a remote and despised province of civilization, and a little later drawing to itself the sporadic and organized opposition of the most powerful and militant paganism of the world that such an institution should survive at all might well be a matter of much inquiry, and not a little wonder. The great historian of the Decline and Fall has devoted two chapters of his monumental work to this very question. These chapters have come to be considered among the weakest, the most sophistical, and the least creditable in a work which, on the whole, is justly accredited as one of the supreme products of literature. To-day the Christian Church represents the greatest census of history. Its enrollment includes more than five hundred and seventy million of the human race. The Church, considered alone in the light of its origin, its persistence, and its growth, is a most remarkable phenomenon.
But there are many features that add to the wonder of the persistence and flourishing life of the Church. Its pristine ideals have been obscured by the interblending of pagan corruptions, its lofty doctrines have been perverted by false interpretations, its membership has been invaded, and in some sections and times, inundated and overwhelmed by unregenerate hordes. Its unity has been seemingly hopelessly rent asunder by the cleavage of doctrinal controversies. From its central life there have been thrown off innumerable and rival sects. History has witnessed no more virulent hatreds, no more violent conflicts, than have been awakened in the Church when sect has warred against sect. No wars have been more stubborn or cruel than the wars of religion. The Church, while always challenging to itself the antagonisms of the world, has been more menaced by internal dissensions, by the evil lives of its professed adherents, by the false teachings of its accredited leaders, by the priestly prostitution of its high sanctities, by the ignorance and superstition which have flourished at her own altars, than by all outward foes combined. But still, the Church has continued to live and has waxed strong.
From the days of Celsus to the days of Robert Ingersoll there has been an unbroken succession of hostile critics, who have in most spectacular manner announced the near and utter destruction of the Church. These men have assumed to write the very epitaph of Christianity itself. But all of them, like meteors flashing in the night, have disappeared, and most of them are forgotten. But the Church has moved irresistibly, majestically forward, witnessing to the ages that they who take up arms against her cannot prosper, and they who witness against her are false prophets.
The secret of the quenchless and abounding vitality of the Church is the divine life resident within her. The Church on its human side is immeasurably far from perfect. In vast majorities it is made up of men, women, and children, greatly wanting in knowledge, with imperfect ideals, multitudes of them quite primally human, their native thought little cultivated, their natural impulses little restrained and yet in them all there is a profound consciousness of need, need social, moral, spiritual, to which the Church has ministered and does minister as not all other agencies.
In the course of its history the Church as a whole has been touched and influenced by many types of philosophy, types most of which are now obsolete. But in all its history the Church has clung to, and believed in, Jesus Christ as its Sovereign, its supreme Teacher, its Exemplar, its inspiring and sustaining Life. And Jesus Christ as its Sovereign, its inspiring and vital strength, has proven more powerful for the Church than all combinations of evil against it; has preserved the Church in irresistible vitality in spite of all the ignorance, superstition, weakness, and dissensions which have inhered in its membership. Of all human beliefs none have been more widespread or unyielding than the belief on the part of the Christian world that Jesus Christ is a living and divine Saviour of those who trust in him.
A belief well-nigh as universal as the Church itself is that Christ holds a living fellowship with men who seek to obey him, and that he attests the reproduction of himself in the lives of those who love him. The invincible thing which keeps the Church always and mightily alive is the abiding conviction that Christ dwells experimentally in the hearts of his people.
While outwardly nothing might seem more fixed and incurable than the cleavage between the Roman and the Protestant Churches, yet in their mutual relation to Jesus Christ there is revealed a real unity that is far deeper and more vital than any divisions which separate them. The testimony of Catholic and Protestant saints alike as to their fellowship with Jesus is just the same. Their testimony is keyed to the same note of experience; their songs of Christian gratitude are interchangeable, and they blend in perfect harmony.
The Church in this respect cannot be placed on a parity with any national life, nor with any philosophy or system of law or culture. The Church as represented by the body of believers is distinctively insouled and vitalized by an indwelling divinity. This is the real reason why it triumphantly survives tests and ordeals before which any merely human institution would go down in collapse.
Any attempt to account for the vitality of the Church would be inadequate which did not reckon with certain great facts and doctrines which it has been a distinctive function of the Church to emphasize. The Church as a whole has never uttered itself equivocally as to the character of sin. Sin is a violation of moral law, a departure from rectitude, a thing in essential antagonism to righteousness, a crime against the holiness and love of God. It is something so grave in itself as to jeopardize the soul's relation to God, something the consequences of which its victim cannot escape without the intervention of divine love and power. This teaching, be-hind which the Church has stood with great unanimity, a teaching which has had its largest confirmation in the universal moral sense of mankind, has been no small factor in its world-wide and age-long influence.
The Church has persistently and universally taught the priceless value of the human soul. This teaching is central to the very logic of the Christian faith. God is the Father of the human spirit. It must then follow, even though it be in some marvelous and indefinable sense, that man as God's offspring is also potentially divine. There can be no sense in which man is God's son which does not call for an exalted view of human nature. Man, as we often see him, may seem depraved, perverted, hopeless. But if there is any recuperative potency in the individual, if God has any interest in his fallen child, if his love will prompt to any ingenuity of effort to lift up and transform those whom ignorance and sin have cast down, then, we can set no bounds to the glorious possibilities of any soul however apparently worthless. Coupled with the potential worth of every human soul is the Christian conception of immortality. Given this conception, and God himself is the only conceivable limit of the soul's possibilities of growth. To be a son of God, and to be a deathless heir of eternity, suggest a destiny in comparison with which all earthly values shrink into insignificance. Yet the Church throughout its history has steadily and clearly announced this great teaching. It is a teaching worthy to challenge the supreme attention of mankind.
The Church has always stood as the mouthpiece of God's revelation to the world. It has been the supreme and unsubstituted expounder of God's will concerning man, the interpreter of man's relations and possibilities in God's plans. This is a sublime function which in all history has never been so undertaken by any agency as by the Church. It is a function so stupendous, so large in assumption, as, without direct ordination from heaven, to be regarded a thing of infinite impertinence, an infamous audacity.
It is due to emphasize the fact that in the discharge of this function the Church has always claimed the presence in its own life of a divine inspiration and guidance. But in discharge of this supreme mission it has never faltered, its spirit has never been touched with a sense of despair. Sublimely conscious of its heaven-given credentials, it has gone steadily forward preaching the gospel of its Founder to all men, urging upon all alike the uncompromising claims of God's will, always buoyant in the confidence that in its message is the charter of a divine redemption for all mankind. Thus it is easy to see that in the very foundations of the Church itself there are some distinctive factors adapted to give it a place of tremendous and transcendent influence in the world of human thought.
No review of the Church, however brief, should fail to note its transforming influence upon the institutions of society. We have noted the alienation toward the Church which unfortunately characterizes too widely the present-day labor world. But labor in all its history has never had a better friend than the Church of Christ. When Christianity took its origin the laboring man was among the most despised and friendless of men. This was the spirit of the pagan world. Toil in any form was a work for slaves. Cicero said: "All who live by mercenary labor do a degrading business. No noble sentiment can come from a workshop." Seneca, Rome's greatest philosopher, said : "The invention of the arts belongs to the vilest slaves. Wisdom dwells in loftier regions; she soils not her hands with labor."
In a world in which the toiler was universally despised, Christ began his work by surrounding himself with men of humble callings. Paul, greatest of the apostles, supported himself by the labor of his hands. From the first, Christianity put a dignity upon labor. It even received the slave into its fellowship and treated him as a brother beloved. Clement, in characterizing the Christian, said : "Among us, some are fishers, others artisans, others husbandmen. We are never idle." In the early Church not the rights of labor, but the duty of labor was emphasized. And the new moral citizen-ship which Christianity thus brought to the laborer, the new ideals and incitements which thus came to his life, resulted in a general prosperity among Christians which early drew to itself the attention of the Roman world. Christianity began and continued its mission by enfranchising the laboring classes and giving them all the privileges of its citizenship.
The Church, in its true spirit, has always been the open friend of poor and toiling men. One of the sublimest triumphs of its spirit and teaching is the obliteration of human slavery from all Christian civilizations. And if it be really true to-day that there is any widespread alienation of labor from the Christian Church, this in itself should awaken on the part of the Church anxious inquiry as concerning its own spirit. Nothing can be truer than that the great Founder and Exemplar of the Church was in the closest sympathy with, and was most conspicuously the friend of, those who labor and are heavy-laden.
The ennobling influence of Christianity upon the character and status of woman is a theme which has been much but most worthily dwelt upon. In antiquity, especially in the Greek and Roman worlds, woman was universally treated as man's inferior. The very status of inferiority thus assigned to her made impossible, even in these great and cultured civilizations, the creation of an ideal moral society or the most perfect standard of family life.
It is only with difficulty that we can reproduce to our thought the nameless immorality prevalent in the Roman empire at the time of and after the advent of Christ. Woman, as measured by our present Christian ideals, was well-nigh universally degraded. She was practically the vassal of man, the instrument of his caprice, the slave of his pleasure. One of the first influences of Christianity was to give an exalted place to womanhood. The divine Saviour of men was born of a woman. A pure and noble womanhood is beautifully exemplified in some of Christ's personal friend-ships as pictured in the Gospels. From the very beginning woman was treated as man's peer in the citizenship of the Kingdom. In Christ there was neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female. Men and women are "heirs together of the grace of life." Christ put the divine seal upon the sacredness of the family life by enjoining a lifelong marriage of one man with one woman. Only in a relation thus established and limited could there be guaranteed to children born into the home the rights of parental care, nurture, and training essential to their future. From its earliest organization the Church not only insisted upon the equality of woman, but it put around her life in all relations the highest sanctities of personal purity and virtue.
Wherever the Church has carried a dominant influence there womanhood has been honored, the definition of her rights has been widened, and the sphere of her influence and privilege in the family, in the social and educational world has been enlarged. The logic of this position of the Church in relation to woman has issued in the widest results. If woman is to be the peer and companion of man, then she should be the full sharer with him in the social, educational, moral, and spiritual opportunities of life. If she is to bear, as the Christian home calls for, a chief task in the mental, moral, and spiritual nurture of childhood, then she is entitled for her high function as mother and teacher to all the personal culture which the best conditions can furnish. These are the premises from which have arisen the high place accorded to woman in the activities of the Church itself, the costly provision for her education in common with her brothers at public expense, her coeducational status in the great universities, and the splendid list of colleges devoted exclusively to female education.
Civilization, just in the measure in which its vision becomes Christian, recognizes increasingly both the fitness and the justice of endowing woman, ordained to be the companion and peer of man, with every social, educational, and moral privilege which by right should be conferred upon her brothers. So true is all this that there is not a man who owes a debt to a cultured, Christian mother, there is not a woman who holds a high place of esteem in the social world, not one who because of the wealth of her mental attainments, or the beauty of her spiritual character, commands unusual influence, who is not placed under the bonds of gratitude for an inheritance received from the Christian Church.
The ameliorations which the Church has wrought in social conditions, the inspirations which it has furnished to human thought, form a long list of benefactions upon which I cannot here enlarge. Wealth, its dispositions, its uses, presents one of the greatest and most vexing questions to present-day thought. In the ancient world wealth was held by its possessor without sense of moral responsibility for its use. The spirit of paganism permitted a man to feel free in its selfish use. Christianity has always taught that wealth is a moral trust, that its holder is a steward held strictly responsible for the use he makes of even his money. The influence of this teaching may be somewhat measured by the costly charities, by hospitals, by homes for the aged and unfortunate, by asylums for the feeble-minded, by retreats for the blind, by orphanages, and by kindred benefactions, which stand numerously all along the pathway of Christian history. I shall have occasion elsewhere to note the marvelous spirit of benevolence which characterizes the modem world. Who is able intelligently to deny that the teaching of the Christian Church is, and has been, more than any other cause the source of all this munificence?
The Church has inspired radical reforms against the barbarism of prison management; has, by its humane teaching and Red Cross nurses, mitigated the atrocities of war and the horrors of the battlefield; has done much to humanize the criminal codes, and to lessen the lists of inhuman punishments for minor misdemeanors. It has taken a long time for the Christian spirit to eliminate the primitive barbarisms which have persisted even into Christian civilizations. As late as the beginning of the nineteenth century there were more than two hundred offenses on the statute books of England punishable by death. Men and women were hanged for sheep-stealing, for forgery, for passing spurious coin. Yet at the same time men might buy and sell slaves and flog them to death without even breaking the law.
Benjamin Kidd luminously and convincingly shows us that the steady trend of legislation of the entire Western civilizations for the last century has been in the direction of humane ameliorations, of enlarged recognition of human rights, and for the betterment of general social and moral conditions. And no one than he will be more prompt to credit the influence of Christian teaching as an underlying cause of this humane trend in Western legislation.
In touching upon these familiar claims on behalf of the Christian Church as having created many of the most valuable features of our modern civilization, I am not unaware of the claim made by some that if Christianity had not existed, civilization would still have developed much of the same valuable qualities as now. There are those who go so far as to declare that Christianity has been a detriment rather than a benefit to the world's advancement.
Such statements are far more easily made than proven. There is hardly a land to-day in which there has not entered some measure of Christian enlightenment. But one thing is certain, the more deeply we bury ourselves in climes and atmospheres purely heathen, the more conspicuously absent are the better qualities characteristic of Christian civilization. Science, education, and the sanitary city do not flourish in heathendom. On the other hand, degraded womanhood, neglected child-hood, despotic castes, abject slavery, gross superstitions, ignorance, poverty, and despair all combine to put a pall of habitual hopelessness upon the vision of heathen civilizations. In Christian communities there may be individuals just as superstitious, just as wicked and depraved, as any to be found in heathendom. But the lives of such in Christian communities always appear in marked contrast to lives which Christianity has made beautiful. No so in heathendom. In the heathen world the common vision is monotonously darkened. There is in all the great human mass little to inspire hope, gladness, purity, or heroism.
A pertinent question would seem to be, If a perfect civilization can be developed in the absence of Christianity, why do not some fine specimens of such a civilization appear at the centers of the world's heathenism?
If it should be assumed that a high intellectual culture is a sufficient source of a superior civilization, then no better examples could be asked than are furnished in Greece and Rome. Grecian thought was in itself the most brilliant, Grecian art the most perfect, which the ages have furnished. But the moral perfections of Greece in its best age will bear no comparison to the better type of the Christian community. In Rome law, philosophy, oratory, literature, and art flourished in a phenomenal degree. But when Rome clothed herself in purple, and was the most lavish patron of art, her morals were namelessly corrupt, her faith most darkened, her ideals most depraved, the common lot most largely one of hopelessness and despair.
Religiously, the most classic paganisms of the world have proven the most despairing failures. At the height of Roman culture, Seneca said, "The aim of all philosophy is to despise life." Suicide was the last consolation of his philosophy. Paganism at its best has never been able to satisfy the deeper spiritual instincts of the human soul, the longing of the soul for God. The highest satisfactions that can come to the life of man have come most certainly, most fully, most abidingly, in the faith of Jesus Christ. It is false to history to declare that there can be a perfect civilization without Christianity.
We have frankly admitted the weaknesses and limitations which have characterized the life of the historic Church. But the man, with all history as his teacher, in search for a new religion, has sought in vain for any improvement upon that Christianity which has been taught by the Church. And those who now seek for institutions whose teachings furnish better ideals of character, or higher hopes for life, whose fellowships are more lofty, more pure, or more helpful than those furnished by the Christian Church, will continue to search in vain. Such institutions do not exist. It is in the irreversible logic of Christianity that such institutions will never appear.
In sober and measured utterance it may be declared that the Christian Church has been the inspirer and creator of the finest educational ideals, the most humane movements and institutions, the most advanced ethical legislation, which are the assured possessions of modern civilization. All this may be said without the slightest detraction from the great and continuous contributions of Roman and Greek literature and art, or from the splendid deposit of Arabic science, to the enrichment of civilization. It would be both ungainful and fatuous to deny that civilization is the resultant of many forces. But in the most careful classification of contributing factors, it can hardly fail to appear that the best civilization which we know is more largely the product of Christian ideals than of any other creative forces.
It is to be admitted that the Church, while largely the creator of, has ceased to be at first hand the director of, many of the most valuable movements of the modern world. She has so far imbued the state and private organizations with her benevolent and humane ideals, that these have taken up and multiplied her mission to humanity. In the spheres of education, of humane charities, in legislation, and in innumerable ways, helpful ideals which first found embodiment in church life are now greatly amplified and reinforced by agencies outside of the organized Church. All these agencies, however fruitful their usefulness, may look back to the Church as their mother. The most beneficent institutions of our times are nearly all of them children of the Church, and together with her, are among the pro-motive forces of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.' Indeed, the influences of Christianity have so permeated the intellectual and social atmospheres of the world, have so touched and shaped the processes of human thought and conduct, as to make it utterly impossible to assess its values to the present life of the world. As in a great and costly fabric, the golden threads of Christianity are richly interwoven into all the structure of modern civilization. And, so far from being a lessening force, the spirit of Christianity, like a leaven, is more and more working itself into and through the great body of world-thought.
Making all due allowance, then, for the fact that the Church, as the ecclesiastical investiture of Christianity, has been characterized by grievous faults, inconsistencies, and weaknesses ; that in these very times it is failing sadly to show itself the fit and adequate vehicle for giving expression to the mission of Christianity to the world, yet I can have no doubt that the Church will remain indefinitely the foremost agency of inspiration, instruction, and propagation in the up-building of Christ's kingdom among men.
Life creates its own organisms, its own agencies of propagation. Christianity is life supreme. It will always voice itself more potently through the Church than by any other agency. Whatever the tendency of historical ecclesiasticism to harden itself into fixed forms, whatever the tendency of its doctrines to dogmatic fossilization, the inherent creative life of the Spirit will nevertheless so shape Christian thinking and method as to produce a type of church life flexible, adaptive, and effectively responsive to the Spirit's processes in the redemption of the world.
But, whatever our confidence in the stability and perpetuity of the Church, it would be in the highest degree fatuous not to take into most serious reckoning the exceptionally critical and prodigiously difficult situation which confronts the mission of the present-day Church. This situation is so real, so obvious, as to seem to some of its observers tantamount to nothing less than an arrest of Christianity itself. To this view no hospitality is to be given. But nevertheless the Church has come to face one of the gravest critical periods in its history. Its life-and-death conflict with early Roman persecutions did not furnish a severer test of its vitality and capacity than that which now confronts its life.
If the Church is to prove itself equal to Christianizing the world, it will need to adapt itself as never before to what may be characterized as largely new and universal age-conditions.
1. Providence, in a marvelous way, has signalized this very day as one of the world-wide preparation for the advent of the gospel to all nations. Is the Church, in equipment, in purpose, in zeal, ready to enter upon the supreme program which God is now thrusting upon its vision?'
2. The conditions of the industrial and social world force upon the Church to-day for its solution some of the most fateful and difficult problems which have ever arisen in Christian history. The really alarming elements in the situation are, as I must believe, only beginning to take their rightful place in the consideration of Christian thought. There are, for instance, in Christendom today three quite well-defined zones of social life. The distinctive term which may be applied to one is "capitalism." As early as 1890 Mr. Charles B. Spahr, by careful processes, reached the conclusion that one per cent of the families of the United States control more than one half of the aggregate wealth of the country. If this estimate was correct then, it is probably not less true to-day. The same authority asserts that seven eighths of the families control only one eighth of the national wealth. These figures, however, do not best represent the real social stratification of our present-day life. Between the two extremes of capitalism and poverty, there is a wide middle zone. The people in this zone represent conditions of average comfort. Many. of them own their homes. They command a fair living income. They provide their children with the conditions of a liberal education. This zone embraces nearly all the industrious and prosperous merchants, tradesmen, farmers, and professional classes. Its people largely represent intelligence, virtue, and wholesome qualities of character. In this class the Church has its greatest numerical and moral strength. This class as such has never broken with the Church. Its people are those upon whom the Church may most rely, and from which it may expect most for the reinforcement of its work. This class, on the whole, represents the best product of our civilization.
Concerning the great capitalist, little need here be said except that he commands an inordinate fortune and wields a very great, and quite possibly dangerous, power. Measured from any Christian standpoint, it is a grave thing for a man to be a multimillionaire. But nevertheless the Church has an ethical message for this capitalist which without fear or favor it should urge upon him. It is not enough that he is benevolently disposed, that he is willing to do good with his surplus income. The question is, what is the real attitude of his heart toward God, toward humanity, toward his own paramount spiritual interests? How is he really discharging his own moral stewardship? One may be far removed from any grievance toward capital, he may recognize clearly both the legitimacy and necessity of capital for the larger interests of human society. But may there not still be room for the judgment that there is something unideal, something Christianly abnormal, in the overgrown private fortune? It is not enough that the owner ranks princely in philanthropy, that he endows universities, hospitals, benevolent foundations in a way that is at once most signal and most useful. There is an irreversible moral judgment abroad which says that, even so, he is not justly balancing his books with the world. He may do all this, and yet experience nothing of the sacrifice of the cross. And, after all, back of all the processes by which his fortune is secured, back of all legal titles of ownership, there is, as weighed in the sensitive scale of the common judgment, a serious question as to the moral fitness of any one man monopolizing wealth which runs inordinately beyond his personal needs.
Certainly, no man ever acquires such wealth by his own unaided exertion. He may have been able to subsidize many forces, but among these forces there was a productive power meriting little, if any, less recognition than his own. To build a given fortune requires the services of a thousand men. One man has the power to keep in his own hands the great bulk of the production, and we call him rich. Nine hundred and ninety-nine other men have received no equitable di-vision of the product, and the margin between them, their families, and poverty is always so narrow as to be a source of dread. The ethical teachings of the Old Testament are not far from making it clear that the offerings of one whose fortune has been gained at such expense are a mockery at the Lord's altars. Such a man is at least in the category of those of whom Christ said, "It is not easy for such to enter into the kingdom of heaven." There can be no doubt, I think, that in the ideal Christian state inordinate private fortunes will have no place. They cannot coexist with an ideal and fully developed Christian conscience. And so, one of the supreme problems of Christianity today is to Christianize capitalism, is, in the spirit of the Hebrew prophets, to deal honestly, courageously, with the rich until they shall be made to feel that the one purpose to which they should dedicate their wealth is the building up of God's kingdom in the earth.
The tragic question of all, however, relates to the decapitalized classes. The three classes which I have named are socially quite apart from each other. But the class at present most hopelessly divorced from the Church is that of the wage-earning laborer. This situation, viewed from the standpoint of Christ's own example and teaching, is in all respects abnormal and unfortunate. If in the gospel of Jesus Christ there is anything which ministers to human needs, that brings strength to weakness, comfort to the sorrowing, hope to the buffeted, then, of all classes, the poor have constant need of such a ministry. But for reasons which need not here be specialized there probably never was a time when the laboring and the heavy-laden, living at the very doors of the Church, were more separated from it than now.
There never was a time when such separation would be so significant as now. The laboring world is organized. It is learning to know the power, without altogether appreciating the necessary restraints, of organization. It is militant in its spirit. It is discontented. It cherishes the belief that it is being defrauded from its fair share of the benefits of its own industry. It is lending itself bitterly to the view that capitalism is largely robbery. It is menacing and defiant. It pro-poses incessant warfare until what it conceives as its own rights shall be conceded. It is under a cult especially its own. It is reading newspapers, magazines, and books created and published from its own ranks.
The misfortune in this relation is that the literature on which it feeds and fortifies itself takes little account of spiritual ideals or of man's spiritual needs. Labor is systematically being educated away from the spiritual ideals of the Church. It is traducing itself into the belief that it has no need for the Church. Its gospel is materialistic, its hopes are of this world. Its vision is confined to an earthly paradise. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the gravity of the situation. Whole populous provinces of our civilization are migrating into a gross materialism and are educating their children away from Christian ideals. The chasm which is thus being created between the Church and the laboring world is one which is hardly yet begun to be measured, but it is implicit with consequences of immeasurable disaster both to the Church and to the future moral status of labor.
The Church of the twentieth century will make no signal advance until it bridges this chasm and recaptures these alienated territories. In order to do this it will have to be itself fully awakened to the magnitude and peril of the situation. It will need to have a full appreciation and sympathetic understanding of all the problems and difficulties involved. It will need to discover for itself new and large adaptations for one of the supreme tasks of Christian history. It will need to enter upon this work from the very focus of highest spiritual inspirations, inspirations which will beget at its heart high hopes, a Christlike love of man, a quenchless zeal. Will the Church adapt itself for this supreme work? Will it gird and inspire itself for this superlative requirement? I believe it will.
3. The Church of the twentieth century must acquire far more perfectly than now the secret and power of a working unity. Happily, this is one of the great conceptions, which is working itself mightily into the convictions of the present-day Church. Christians of the different denominations are awaking to the vision of the great and common tasks of Christianity. They are perceiving more than ever that the things which have separated them are not vital, and that the truths in which they agree are really the great truths of the Christian faith. And, more than ever, our common Christianity is coming to be inspired and unified in the overwhelming conception of what it means to Christianize the world. To say nothing for the moment of Christianizing the entire human race the ultimate achievement for which the Church exists to enter the doors of opportunity and necessity now wide open for Christian advancement would require the united and harmonized effort of the entire Christian Church.
I think of a mission field like that now existing in the Greater New York city. Let us confine our thought to the east side of Manhattan Island, though this is only typical of many other sections of the city which might almost equally serve the purpose. This whole section is now congested with populations which have come from the ends of the earth. It is a section which was once well colonized with Christian churches. But with the incoming of foreign populations these churches have, one after another, retreated, until to-day the great thronging "East Side" is pretty much given over to alien peoples. But this field is one of the most important, strategic, and difficult for Christian missionary work existing on the face of the earth.
The question seems well asked, "If we cannot success-fully carry out a Christian missionary scheme in our own country, why should we be so careful to establish missions in pagan lands?" I would not lessen by a feather's weight our interests in foreign missions. Those interests need to be mightily reenforced. But I reassert the conviction that New York city presents intrinsically the most strategic and important mission field of the world. If the Church could establish great and effective evangelistic centers on the east side of New York, then, from this very ground would be raised up the most efficient foreign missionary agencies which the Church has yet known. But this is the field in which the Protestant denominations, working single-handed, have lost out. I do not underestimate I am far from a desire so to do the useful work now being done on this "East Side" by various single organizations. But measured by the kind of judgment which is required for successful business, it might deliberately be said that all that is now attempted is but a mere byplay conducted on the shores of an infinite need. All that is now being accomplished hardly touches the edges of an indescribable mass of unchristianized populations.
To recover this ground, and to Christianize the peoples, will require such a massing of Christian strength and movement as has never been known in history. It is a work for which no single denomination, nor all denominations together working separately, is equal. Success, of the kind needed and merited in this field, would re-quire vast sums of consecrated wealth, great unity and harmony of counsel, apostolic leadership, workers in sufficient number, who, in the spirit of their Master, would invade the last retreats in search of men apparently lost and hopeless.
I have used the city to illustrate the need of federated Christian action. There are innumerable fields which call for this attitude on the part of the churches. Happily beyond expression, the Christian atmosphere is full of prophecy. The birth-throes of mighty moral movements are in the age. The Church will emerge to the needs of the day. Its inspired ingenuity will not only make it adaptive, but will arm it with adequate resources for the fulfillment of its divine mission.
Christianity is a life, an inspiring divine force. There may be periods in its history when this life seems quiescent, inactive; but as the gathering of pent-up waters, it will at some time break forth and assert its own resistless might. Each new age takes on environment quite distinctly its own. In this environment new problems, new needs, develop. These problems and needs summon knowledge to the task of new solutions, to the invention of distinctive and adaptive methods of treatment. Nothing is more prophetically certain than that the Divine Spirit will quicken the vision of the Church, inspire it with purpose, and gird it with a strength equal to its momentous and difficult tasks. To the supreme needs of the world and to all divine requirements the Church of the future will surely respond. Rejecting useless methods of thought, and casting off worn-out traditions, it will gird itself with knowledge as with light, and, new-panoplied in the life of the Spirit, it will go forth to the greatest achievements of its history.
( Originally Published 1914 )
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