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nificance, and entertains it, not as a dream, but as a working conception of Christianity. I do not say that the idea has passed as yet out of the intellectual stage. But it is a distinct advance to have reached this stage, for the very idea, as you see, mightily enhances the task laid upon Christianity, of which Christianity is assumed to be capable. And it must also be remembered that it is not possible to entertain an idea seriously without receiving an effect, whether we recognize the cause or not. For some cause we are building our substance as never before into institutions; for some cause we are advancing steadily from the evangelistic to educational work in missions; for some cause we are urging consecration to the State as well as to the church; for some cause we are allowing young men of most serious purpose to pass by the ministry on the way to the service of man and of God. Unconsciously, it may be, but actually, we are at work upon the world, and not simply upon the individual, as the only subject of redemption.
Hospitality is not the highest intellectual quality; it is not so high a quality as courage. The test of intellectual courage has been applied in a peculiar manner to the religious faith of our generation. Under the revolution of thought through which we have passed, the challenge to Christianity has been different from any which had ever been issued. It was a challenge which could not be answered by controversy. Argument was of no avail. Concessions were futile. All the old weapons of offence and defence were useless. The challenge of the new thought demanded one thing, to be accepted or denied, freedom to investigate. It asked to have the foundations of belief uncovered. It asked to have the sources of authority opened. It asked to have its own tests applied to everything which was capable of examination. To the honor of the church, a sign of its faith in Christianity, it accepted the challenge. It first allowed and then promoted investigation. Nothing was held back. And while the process went on Christian believers came out from their old defences and abode in the presence of Christ. One thing only they would not expose, because they could not, the source of their loyalty to him. That was not a matter of investigation. It was worth much to the church to pass this test of intellectual courage; it was worth much to get the result of it. The result is stability. We have witnessed the “removing of things that are shaken as of things that are made.” We have “the things which cannot be shaken,” the things which “remain.”
It does not seem probable that the church will ever be subjected to any intellectual tests of its faith more severe than those through which it has recently passed. One can hardly conceive of a philosophical theory, with which religion is concerned, more radical or more sweeping than the theory of evolution, or of a method of investigation more thorough and searching than the method of historical criticism. And on the other hand it does not seem as if any greater idea, grander in its proportions, or more exacting in its details, could ask for lodgment in the Christian mind than the idea of the redemption of the world, the purification of its laws, customs, and literatures, and the establishment of its governments and industries in righteousness and peace. Other intellectual qualities, quite different from courage and hospitality, may be called for in the future, but I doubt if the exhibition of these qualities will be surpassed. The courage which allows investigation without let or hindrance is cooler, more resolute, more confident than the courage which bristles with argument or declares itself in anathemas. And the hospitality which welcomes new tasks, weighty and severe, evinces a trust in Christianity as the great unspent moral force in the life of the world.
The intellectual attitude of a generation to Christianity is but a single, and by no means the most essential, test of its faith. We go deeper in our inquiry when we ask about the force of its moral passion. I use the term moral passion rather than moral power, because moral power is not available for the full use of Christianity until it has become passion. This, as we saw, was the difficulty with the righteousness which Christ found among men. It could not cross the line. It was a safe, careful, calculating righteousness. A righteous man after this type might have value among his own kind, in his own set. He was entirely valueless outside his set. “ The value of a truly great man,” it has been said, “ consists in his increasing the value of all mankind.” Such is the value of a truly good man. He increases the moral valuation of other men. I do not underestimate the worth of the ordinary man. I do not despise his attainments in goodness, or belittle his achievements. But he is not saving the world. It is not through him that the kingdom of heaven is brought in. His goodness is no match for the badness around him, organized or unorganized. He does not love goodness as other men love evil. His power is not power because it is not passion. I do not say that moral passion must take any one form. Cardinal Manning once spoke of the Salvation Army as "the only considerable body of Christians who had a passion for sinners as such.” That was high praise. But goodness is not shut up to any one object of devotion. There is a passion for truth as well as for men, a passion for justice as well as for mercy, a passion for resistance to evil as well as for the spread of righteousness. One thing only is required for the uses of Christianity, that a man shall come out of the easy commonplace, and satisfy, in some way, the plain terms of the Christian life, loyalty, service, consecration, sacrifice. Christ is very explicit on this point. The greatest unfaith toward Christianity is the unfaith of selfishness. “He that saveth his life
. shall lose it: he that loseth his life for my sake and the gospel's shall save it.”
It is very difficult to estimate the moral attitude of a generation toward Christianity as compared with its intellectual attitude, for the reckoning here must be in the terms of personal service or of sacrifice. What are men doing at cost or risk for the world? What are they giving up for the common good? Is the spirit of sacrifice prevalent? Do the high claims of Christianity find a generous response? The reckoning is not easy in the absence of great exciting causes. The generations which heard the first cry of modern liberty, the generation which heard the first appeal of heathen lands, the generation which heard the groans of the slave, had the mighty advantage. After great conflicts the world grows still. We miss the outward call. Duty becomes less attractive as it becomes less imperative.
Perhaps it was in anticipation of these long periods of the commonplace that Jesus indicates the possible lapses of faith in Christianity. It is not difficult to believe that Christianity can do great things, convert great sinners, change bad customs, conquer evil, when it is very evil. It is not difficult to take part in the crusades and campaigns of Christianity. The strain upon faith falls upon that steady, patient, enduring work which calls equally for that excess of righteousness without which there is no progress. We have felt the strain upon our faith at this point. I am not prepared to say that we have altogether kept the faith. I think that we are all conscious of a certain loss of available moral power. The fact that the social well-being, which must rest on the moralities, is on the increase is not decisive. I am more concerned to know where the really strenuous life of the time is to be found, and toward what ends it is set. Does Christianity, in its specific work and for its direct ends, absorb a proper amount of the energy and enthusiasm and sacrifice of our generation? I make due account of the widening of Christian influences and of Christian activities, but I cannot satisfy myself in regard to the result.
For a time it seemed as if the material development of the age would prove a stimulus to moral effort and not a diversion from it. Gradually it has proved more and more absorbing. The present danger from materialism does not seem to me to lie in financial prosperity, even with its attendant evils of social inequality, luxury, and gilded vice, but rather in the disproportionate absorption of the force, the thought, the ambition, the mind, heart, and will of the better life of our generation. Material prosperity has given us a splendid equipment for moral service, but it is putting the men we want most and need most more and more out of our reach. We are gaining in all the agencies and means of educational and religious development, but we are not gaining in the number of adequate men for influential and commanding positions. We cannot afford to accept the substitution of means for men. It is my firm conviction that the church, at lest of our order, can find no equivalent for the pulpit. We must maintain the places which stand for the expression of moral passion. We must keep open the channels which lead from the one man to the many. We must see to it that personal power is utilized to the last degree in the interest of truth and righteousness.
The next revival of religion will stand, I have no doubt, for the recovery of personality.
Religion will call men back to its service, and will accept nothing in place of themselves. One cannot give money or anything else with the same passion with which he gives himself. All other forms of consecration are secondary — valuable, but secondary. No generation, therefore, can show its full faith in Christianity which does not offer its best gifts. Our generation has not been as generous of men as it has been of means, for the direct and indirect uses of Christianity. Lacking in this regard, I do not dare to affirm its full confidence in Christianity as measured by the depth of its moral passion.
The final test of the faith of a generation in Christianity, to which I referred, is concerned with the timeliness of its action. Does it apply Christianity to its own problems and opportunities, promptly and effectively? This is a much graver test than it may at first appear to be. It is a very serious business for a generation to pass its obligations and burdens on to those which follow, or even to leave its opportunies for belated improvement. The path from neglect and delay leads straight to impatience, doubt, and unfaith. The parable which precedes my text rests upon those experiences which grow out of the delays of righteousness. It is these delays which have always wakened the taunt of unbelief: “Where is now thy God?” It is these same delays which have wakened the cry of faith : “How long, O Lord, how long?"
O, why these years of waiting here,
Whatever may have been the significance of this cry of faith in past times, there have been times when it must have been terribly significant, we must regard it more and more as the utterance of an uneducated faith ; the faith which discerns more clearly the counsel of the Most High, learns that the great interferences of God in the affairs of this world are not made through wrath, but through mercy. His mightiest interference was at Calvary. The vengeance for which the saints call in their faith or unfaith comes, but not often as they expect. The cry of the martyrs is heard and answered, but the answer is not in the gift of destroyers of men and of nations, but in the gift of reformers and saviours. God seldom intrusts his work of interference to other souls than those finely tempered to this work. They are the Luthers, the Wesleys, the Lincolns. They know how to execute the wrath of God in the salvation of nations and of races. When once we understand God's method of interference in the affairs of men, then we see how great is the stress which must be laid upon the timeliness of the action of each Christian generation. Accumulations of wrong are not to be wiped off by one stroke of vengeance, but accumulations of wrong are to be prevented by the prompt initiative of faith. That the church of the twentieth century finds itself so largely in arrears in the work of righteousness, argues unfaith, at many critical times, in the power of Christianity.
In subjecting our generation to this test of the timeliness of action, we ought not to overlook the variety or the urgency of the tasks which have fallen to its lot. I recall the remark of Dr. Roswell D. Hitchcock, that the problem before Christianity is always a threefold problem — “to gain, to keep, to recover.” This threefold