Page images
PDF
EPUB

in Williston Church which has become a great tree, in whose branches the birds of all skies do lodge, whose leaves are for the healing of the nations.

I recall a scene when the city of Gloucester was celebrating the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of its settlement. The brooding peace of a summer evening rested on the quaint harbor, the towers and spires of the city, on the homes and villas Desting on green and embroidered slopes. In the outer harbor, between the red flash light of Eastern Point and the reef of Norman's Woe, lay the battleships of the white squadron, fair and still as the isles of the blest. Over opposite them floated like a swan the famous yacht American, which fifty years ago brought to our land the Queen's cup. All around and between swung the feet of matchless fishing schooners, graceful as the brilliant yachts that crowded around, the butterflies of the sea, with here and there the bulk of some foreign three-master. Across the water streamed the countless lights on mast and rigging. From the forecastle of a salt barque from Trapena came the strumming of strings and the liquid notes of the flageolet as soft Italian voices sang their melodious songs. It was a witchery of beauty that Venice herself might have envied. Then into the midst of it all stole another strain which set the heart throbbing with a new ecstasy and dashed the moisture across the eye. It was sweeter than the songs of Italy; it stirred more profoundly than songs of nation or of home; it gathered in the abundance of these and added yet more. Just the Christian Endeavor sailors of the United States despatch boat Dolphin, about the windlass, singing the old gospel hymns! It may be impossible to make you feel the awed charm of it all, but to some who heard that chorus of the sons of the sea, pledged defenders of our glorious country, pledged followers of the Lord of land and ocean, of storm and calm, that song is singing itself still in echoes that will not faint or die. It is the society with this insistent spiritual aim which has roused a response that testifies to the spiritual longings of man's soul in every condition.

This aim of the society is backed by a pledge to use the well proved means of spiritual growth; the study of God's word, prayer, public worship, Christian service, public testimony. Whatever else the society may offer, these it requires. Of course we can find objections to a pledge, especially to one so strict. But the fact that twenty years' experience shows that the society flourishes or fails with loyalty to the pledge would seem to indicate a spiritual trend, and also a spiritual truth : that the religious life of the young at least may be strengthened by a definite statement of its duties and a covenant to perform these faithfully. In his “Life of the Master," Dr. John Watson says, speaking of the years at Nazareth : “ In the awakening of youth the chief factor is a master. There may be inspirations which shall be the strength of after years;. but the best discipline is obedience, and only he who shall learn to wait and submit shall be able to achieve.” If the pledge be a yoke, “ it is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth”; and the Saviour has a way of making that yoke easy. Is not one reason why Christians, old and young, lose their earnestness and cease to grow, often a vage conception of just what they are to do, or a falling off in the regular performing of understood duties, especially those of the inner life? To describe these duties and watch that they are performed, but with the inspiration of fellowship rather than the dictation of a priesthood, seems to be a method of developing the Christian life in its beginnings thoroughly approved by results.

Very remarkable, also, in this connection, is the appearance of special movements within the body. They are like beautiful chapels built into the walls of a great cathedral, - enhancing, not marring, the massive plan, — their separate altars not dividing, but enriching, the worship of the central shrine. The order of their appearance is a striking comment on the spiritual trend of the great movement. Good citizenship came forward early with efforts, often brilliantly successful, for the Sabbath, temperance, an honest vote, and the like; sharing the financial support of the local church, broadened into aid to its missions at home and abroad, with careful study of mission fields. Then followed systematic giving, one of the finest tests of genuine Christianity. For the last few years the emphasis has been laid on the quiet hour, a time to be alone with God every day, with the open Bible, contemplative mind, and bended knee. The most characteristic word of recent conventions, whether with fifty or fifty thousand present, has been the old phrase of Jeremy Taylor, “ The practice of the presence of God.” I heard a clergyman, who has been one of the most popular speakers at such conventions from the beginning, say in a recent address before a local union, that when he began making Christian Endeavor speeches he thought he must have a plenty of good jokes and stories. Now he finds that to get the best response he must appeal to the deepest spiritual emotions. Dr. Clark, who attends conventions almost continually, reports that the most marked advance is found in the absorbed interest in the highest spiritual themes and exercises.

Which leads to another fact: This society is the most remarkable instance in the Protestant Church for many centuries of a movement extending over the world and growing rapidly for two decades, receiving its guidance and inspiration from a single centre. Thousands of able leaders have appeared, but the rooms in Boston' with the little circle of officials, and the trustees meeting with them, are the power house of this work. You do not want nor need that I should mention names; they would not suffer it; but any one who has sat in one of those Pentecostal gatherings in their upper chamber must testify that, beyond the notable business efficiency, above the rare sagacity, as marked in escaping innumerable snares as in leading steady advance, rises the solemn, joyous, growing fulness of personal religious experience. The society is spiritual, because its leaders themselves are led of the Holy Spirit. Not their effort and planning alone, but their prayer and consecration, have been divinely honored in the gathering of what is the largest company of Christians of any age, loyally testifying their allegiance to Christ by living and working for him, by systematic giving of their money, and systematic taking of their time for daily personal communion with God.

When astronomers are making delicate observations of stellar phenomena, they find it necessary to allow for the personal equation, that is, an involuntary tendency in the observer to exaggerate or diminish what he sees. This is corrected by comparing a large number of observations by different individuals. I can hardly hope to have escaped this liability; so let the appeal be made to a wider range of testimony. You must have noticed the reports gathered from eighteen hundred pastors, selected at random in forty-five States and Territories, of thirty-nine denominations, in answer to questions concerning the Christian Endeavor Society, as they have tested it in their own churches. Taking specific points, ninety-one per cent believe in the pledge; ninety-two per cent find the members as faithful to the pledge as older Christians to their church vow; ninety-three per cent declare the meetings well attended and spiritual ; the same proportion find here valuable training in church activities; ninety-four per cent assert that the society increases loyalty to the church ; ninety-four per cent, again, that the effect of the pledge on the spiritual life is helpful; ninety-six per cent find the members as faithful in church attendance as other Christians; and on the main question, “Do you believe that the Christian Endeavor movement marks an advance in Christian work for young people?” out of 1795 pastors, 1779 answer yes,

more than ninety-nine per cent. Discount what you please for the letters not answered and the probability that the most enthusiastic would be most apt to reply, and we still must believe that the spiritual trend is real and powerful.

Here, then, we have a movement of twenty years' standing (running, flying, would better describe its advance), spiritual in its origin and aim, spiritual in its requirements, becoming more spiritual from year to year, in both its active duties and the inmost life of the soul. Facts justify the subject as worded by your committee : "There is a spiritual trend in our young people's societies." Facts demand a nobler assertion. The spiritual trend is the characteristic thing in our Christian Endeavor Societies; the one large body which offers itself for thorough investigation. And this further declaration, that the most daring challenge to the spiritual life of young people is the one to which they respond most widely, enthusiastically and persistently.

I can imagine no truer service to the kingdom of our risen and reigning Lord than for a man to give the best that is in him to hold these societies to their lofty ideal. It is grand for the aged prophet to discern the divine protection around him; but it is the grandest thing in the world to open the eyes of the young to see the mountains full of the chariots and horsemen of Jehovah. If I were a pastor with a young people's organization losing its first love and zeal, instead of seeking other plans for making them more faithful and growing in Christian life, I would take the chosen remnant whose spirit and practice were nearest the divine ideal, and begin with them again, not lessening but emphasizing the spiritual demands. And if, holding personal fellowship with God, the great good of existence, but finding the young hearts drawn toward lower things, I longed to lead them nearer the source of all spiritual life, having before me such proof that they will respond to the highest appeal their leader can make, I would turn to myself and say, “ If you want your young people to be better, be a better man yourself!

CO-OPERATION OF THE HOME AND THE CHURCH IN

THE SPIRITUAL NURTURE OF CHILDREN.'

REV. CHARLES H. RICHARDS, PHILADELPHIA, PA. Our age has awakened to a new realization of the value of the child. He is not a plaything to be petted and admired; he is a mystery to be solved, a seedling to be developed. He is made the subject of minute and scientific investigation by philosophers. He is analyzed and measured, every inch of his physical growth watched and recorded, and every token of his mental development noted with eager attention. Psychologists study the laws of his spiritual evolution, and point out the methods of training which best accord with those laws and which will result in producing a complete and symmetrical manhood. Dr. Harris, in his report for 1898 as U.S. Commissioner of Education, catalogues a thousand publications in Child Study.

This new interest arises partly from the fascination of childhood in itself. There is a peculiar charm and value in the young life just at that stage, not to be found later. The purity, freshness, genuineness and seriousness of the unspoiled nature seemed to Wordsworth to hint that the child came from a higher world.

Dr. G. Stanley Hall has recently said : “Childhood is the very best period of human life; then all human faculties are at their best; it is the paradise from which growth is more or less of a fall.

Childhood at its best is the most truly and really divine thing in the world. It is the most complete and whole thing we have." Emerson declares "the puny struggler is strong in his weakness, his little arms more irresistible than the soldiers, his lips touched with persuasion which Chatham and Pericles in manhood had not. ... The small enchanter nothing can withstand.”

But a deeper reason for the new enthusiasm in child study lies in the genetic relation of childhood to the future. The boy of to-day is the citizen of to-morrow. “ The childhood shows the man, as morning shows the day,” said Milton. The most startling thing about child nature, fraught with both promise and peril, is that it is an undeveloped germ, waiting to unfold its possibilities of measureless good or evil. The child is not a little angel nor a little devil,

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »