Religious Reality
by A.E.J. Rawlinson
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Student of Christ Church, Oxford; Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Lichfield; Priest-In-Charge of St. John The Evangelist, Wilton Road, S.W.; Formerly Tutor of Keble College and Late Chaplain to the Forces.








This is a book which is wanted. Thoughtful men, in every class, are not afraid of theology, i.e. of a reasoned account of their religion, but they want a theology which can be stated without conventions and technicalities; they do not at all care for a religion which pretends to do away with all mystery, but they are glad to be assured of the essential reasonableness of the Christian Faith; they do not expect a ready-made solution of the problem of evil, but they wish to see it honestly faced; above all, they want to know how Christian truth bears on the real problems of life; the best of them are not at all afraid of a religion which makes big demands on them, but they know well enough the difficulty of responding to those claims, and their greatest need of all is to find and to use that life and power, coming from a living Person, without which our best aspirations must fail and our highest ideals remain unrealized.

These needs seem to me to be satisfactorily and happily met in the following pages. My friend and chaplain, Mr. Rawlinson, has had good means of knowing what men are and what they want. He has had to do with the undergraduate, with officers and men in the Army, and with the ordinary civilian in parish life. He has been able to see the nature and needs of our British manhood at different angles, and he is the sort of man with whom men are not afraid to talk. He has had good opportunity of diagnosing the situation, and this book shows his skill in dealing with it.

I do not find myself in agreement with everything in these pages, but when I am conscious of difference of view, I am no less grateful for the stimulus to thought. I am specially thankful that the writer has been so courageous in tackling the most difficult subjects.

I know that the author's one desire is to help men to be more real in their religion. I share his hope, and I believe that this book will do much to accomplish it.


This book has grown out of the writer's experience in preparing men and officers in military hospitals for Confirmation. It represents, in a considerably expanded but—as it is hoped—still simple form, the kind of things which he would have wished to say to them, and to others with whom he was brought into contact, if he had had more time and opportunity than was usually afforded him. It seemed necessary to write the book, because there did not appear to be in existence any reasonably short book on similar lines which covered the ground of Christian faith and practice as a whole, and which approached the subject from the point of view which seems to the writer to be the most real.

The writer is consciously indebted in the first chapter to the discussion of our Lord's teaching and character in Dr. T. B. Glover's fascinating book, The Jesus of History. It is possible that there are other and unconscious obligations which have been overlooked. Here and there acknowledgment is made in footnotes, and an occasional phrase, "lifted" from some other writer, has been placed in inverted commas.

In Chapter VIII. of Part I. the author has echoed the thought, and to a certain extent the wording, of parts of his own essay on "The Principle of Authority" in Foundations.

For help in the correction of the proofs, and for criticisms and suggestions which have led to numerous modifications and improvements in matters of detail, the thanks of the writer are due to various friends, and more particularly to his brother, Lieutenant A. C. Rawlinson, of the Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars; to the Rev. Austin Thompson, Vicar of S. Peter's, Eaton Square; and to the Rev. Leonard Hodgson, Vice-Principal of S. Edmund Hall, Oxford.

November, 1917.








































Vital religion begins for a man when lie first discovers the reality of the living GOD. Most men indeed profess a belief in GOD, a vague acknowledgment of the existence of "One above": but the belief counts for little in their lives.

GOD, if He exists at all, must obviously be important: and it is conceivable that He prefers the dogmatic atheism of a man here and a man there, or the serious agnosticism of a slightly larger number, to the practical indifference of the majority. "There are two attitudes, and only two, which are worthy of a serious man: to serve GOD with his whole heart, because he knows Him; or to seek GOD with his whole heart, because he knows Him not."

The ordinary Englishman is in most cases nominally a Christian. As a rule he has been admitted in infancy by baptism into the Christian Church. But he is ignorant of the implications of his baptism, and indifferent to the claims of a religion which he fails to understand. These pages are written with the object of explaining what, in the writer's judgment, the faith and practice of the Christian Church really is.





It is best to begin with a study of the teaching and character of Christ. Scholars for about a hundred years have been studying the Gospels historically, "like any other books." It is now reasonably certain that the first three Gospels—those which we know as the Gospels according to S. Matthew, S. Mark, and S. Luke—though not, of course, infallible or accurate in their every detail, reflect nevertheless in a general way a trustworthy portrait of Jesus as He actually lived. The sayings ascribed to Christ in their pages bear the marks of originality. The outline of the events which they describe may be taken as being in rough correspondence with the facts. The Gospels as a whole represent pretty faithfully the impression made by the life and character of Jesus upon the minds and memories of those who knew Him best.

We are very apt to regard the Gospels conventionally. An inherited orthodoxy which has made peace with the world takes them for granted as "a tale of little meaning, though the words are strong." An impatient reaction from orthodoxy sets them aside as incomprehensible or unimportant. It is worth while making the effort to empty our minds of prejudice, and to allow the Gospels to tell their own tale. We shall find that they bring us face to face with a Portrait of surprising freshness and power.

It is the portrait of One who spent the first thirty years of His life in an obscure Galilaean village, and who in early manhood worked as a carpenter in a village shop. He first came forward in public in connexion with a religious revival initiated by John the Baptist. He was baptized in the Jordan. What His baptism meant to Him is symbolized by the account of a vision which He saw, and a Voice which designated Him as Son of GOD. He became conscious of a religious mission, and was at first tempted to interpret His mission in an unworthy way, to seek to promote spiritual ends by temporal compromises, or to impress men's minds by an appeal to mystery or miracle. He rejected the temptation, and proclaimed simply GOD and His Kingdom. He is said to have healed the sick and to have wrought other "signs and mighty works": but He set no great store by these things, and did not wish to be known primarily as a wonder-worker. He lived the life of an itinerating Teacher, declaring to any who cared to listen the things concerning the Kingdom of GOD. At times He was popular and attracted crowds: but He cared little for popularity, wrapped up His teaching in parables, and repelled by His "hard sayings" all but a minority of earnest souls. He gave offence to the conventionalists and the religiously orthodox by the freedom with which He criticized established beliefs and usages, by His championship of social outcasts, and by His association with persons of disreputable life. Unlike John the Baptist, He was neither a teetotaller nor a puritan. He was not a rigid Sabbatarian. He despised humbug, hypocrisy, and cant: and He hated meanness and cruelty. He could be stern with a terrible sternness. His gaze pierced through all disguises, and He understood the things that are in the heart of man. He saw things naked. He has been called "the great Son of Fact." He was never under any illusions.

He faced the hostility of public opinion with unflinching courage. He expected to be crucified, and crucified He was. He warned those who followed Him to expect a similar fate. He claimed from men an allegiance that should be absolute: the ties of home and kindred, of wealth or position in the world, were to be held of no account: anything which stood in the way of entire discipleship to Himself, however compelling its immediate claim, was to be sacrificed without hesitation for His sake. He saw nothing inconsistent between this concentration of men's allegiance upon His own person, and His insistence upon GOD as the one great Reality that mattered.

The motive of His whole life was consecration to the will of GOD. He was rich towards GOD, where other men are poor. The words were true of Him, as of no one else, "I have set GOD always before me." His mission among men He fulfilled as a work which His Father had given Him to do. "Lo, I come to do Thy will, O GOD." He loved men, and went about doing good, because He knew that GOD loved men, and meant well by them, and desired good for them, and not evil. He was pitiful, because GOD is pitiful. He hated evil, because GOD hates it. He loved purity, because GOD is pure.

He delighted in friendships both with men and women: but you could not imagine anything unclean in His friendships. He was not married, but He looked upon marriage as an utterly pure and holy thing, taught that a man should leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife so that they twain should be one flesh, and recognized no possibility of divorce except—and even this is not quite certain—on the ground of marital unfaithfulness. He had one and the same standard of purity for men and women.

He loved children, the birds and the flowers, the life of the open air: but He was equally at home in the life of the town. He went out to dinner with anybody who asked Him: He rejoiced in the simple hilarity of a wedding feast. He was a believer in fellowship, and in human brotherhood. He was everybody's friend, and looked upon no one as beyond the pale. He loved sinners and welcomed them, without in the least condoning what was wrong. He looked upon the open and acknowledged sinner as a more hopeful person from the religious point of view than the person who was self-satisfied and smug. He said that He came to seek and to save those who knew themselves to be lost.

He chose twelve men to be in an especial sense His disciples—learners in His school. To them He sought to reveal something of His deeper mind. He tried to make them understand that true royalty consists in service; that if a man would be spiritually great he should choose for himself the lowest room, and become the servant of all; that the privilege of sitting on His right hand and on His left in His Kingdom was reserved for those for whom it was prepared by His Father; the important thing was whether a man was prepared to drink His cup of suffering, and be baptized with His baptism of blood. But He did speak of Himself as King, He accepted the designation of Himself as the Christ of GOD, and spoke strange words about His coming upon the clouds of heaven to judgment. He held that by their relation to Himself and to His ideals the lives of all men should be tested, and the verdict passed upon their deeds. For making these and similar claims He was convicted of blasphemy and put to death.

His disciples failed to understand Him. The Gospels are full of the contrast between their minds and His. Of the chosen Twelve who, as He said, had continued with Him in His trials and to whom He promised that they should eat and drink at His table in His Kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel, one betrayed and one denied Him when the time of crisis came, and the rest forsook Him and fled. The fact that their faith and loyalty were subsequently re- established—that the execution which took place on Calvary was not the complete and summary ending of the whole Christian movement—that, in the days that followed, the recreant disciples became the confident Apostles, requires for its explanation the assertion in some form of the truth of the Resurrection.

With regard to the precise form which the Resurrection took there may be room for differences of opinion: the accounts of the risen Jesus in the various Gospel records cannot be completely harmonized, and the story may here and there have been modified in the telling. The fact remains that apart from the assumption as a matter of historical truth that Jesus was veritably alive from the dead, and that He showed Himself alive to His disciples by evidences which were adequate to carry conviction to their incredulous minds, the origins of historical Christianity cannot really be explained.

In the Gospel according to S. John it is stated that the crowds said of Jesus, "This is of a truth that Prophet that should come into the world": and so much, at the least, the average Englishman is ready to admit: for to call Jesus Christ a Prophet—even to call Him the supreme Prophet—is to claim for Him no more than a good Mohammedan claims for Mohammed.

The word "prophet" in itself means one who speaks on behalf of another: and a prophet is defined to be a spokesman on behalf of GOD. He is essentially a man with a message. In so far as he is a true prophet he is one who by an imperious inner necessity is constrained to declare to his fellows a word which has come to him from the Lord. And the prophet's word is urgent: it brooks no delay. It is impatient of conventionalisms and shams. It breaks through the established order of things in matters both social and religious. It is dynamic, vivid, revolutionary. It goes to the root of things, with a startling directness, a kind of explosive force. It disturbs and shatters the customary placidities of men's lives. It forces them to face spiritual realities, to look the truth in the face.

All this is true in a pre-eminent degree of the words of Christ. There is a force and directness, an energy and intensity about His teaching, which is without parallel in the history of the world. It might have been thought impossible for His utterances, in any age or under any circumstances, to become conventionalized: but the miracle has been achieved. Christianity is to the average Englishman an established convention and nothing more.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit," said Jesus: but we say rather, "Blessed are the rich in substance."

"Blessed are they that mourn": but that is not the general opinion.

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth"—but who amongst us really believes it?

"Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."

"Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy": but to-day a more popular maxim is, "Be not merciful unto them that offend of malicious wickedness."

"Blessed are the pure in heart"—and how many of us are that?

"Blessed are the peace-makers": but in a time of war they are not very favourably regarded.

"Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness' sake"—is that your ambition, or mine?

"Ye are the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world"—then the earth, it is to be feared, is a somewhat insipid place, and its light comparable to darkness visible. "If any man will come after Me, let him take up his Cross, and follow Me": but most of us make it a tacit condition of our Christianity that we shall not be crucified.

Is it not true that we habitually refuse to take seriously His teaching about man; that we water down His paradoxes and conventionalize His sayings; that we blunt the sharpness of His precepts, and shirk the tremendous sternness of His demands?

And does His teaching about GOD fare any better? GOD was to Jesus Christ the one Reality that mattered; is that in any serious sense true of us? GOD, He taught, cares for the sparrows, numbers the hairs of our heads, sees in secret, and reads our inmost hearts. GOD knows all about us, loves us individually, thinks out our life in all its relations, and makes provision accordingly. There is nothing which He cannot or will not do for His children.

He is near and not far off: He is also on the throne of all things— the Universe is in our Father's hand, and His will directs it. "O ye of little faith, wherefore did ye doubt?" Fear, on the ground that things are stormy, is a thing Christ simply cannot understand.

GOD, moreover, is loving and generous, royal and bounteous: forgiving sinners: sending His rain with Divine impartiality upon the just and the unjust alike. "His flowers are just as beautiful in the bad man's garden." He loves even His enemies, for He is equally the Father of all.

And man is made for GOD, and belongs to GOD. GOD and man need one another: all that is requisite is that they should find one another: and that is the Good News. The discovery of GOD is the Pearl of great price, a Treasure worth the sacrifice of everything else: the experience of a life-time, and a life-time's acquisitions, apart from GOD, are not worth anything at all.

We who call ourselves Christians, do we seriously believe these things? Do we really share Christ's outlook upon GOD, or His hope for man? Is our view of life centred in GOD, as was His? Or do His words of reproach fit us, as they fitted S. Peter—"You think like a man, and not like GOD"?

"The way to faith in GOD, and to love for man," it has been said, "is to come nearer to the living Jesus." If we would learn Christ's great prophecy about man and GOD, we must read the Gospels over again, with awakened eyes. We must take seriously the man Christ Jesus. We must hear the words of His prophecy, and face honestly the challenge of His sayings. We must confront the central Figure of the Gospels in all its tremendous realism, watering down nothing, explaining nothing away; "wrestling with Jesus of Nazareth as Jacob wrestled with the angel, and refusing to let Him go except He bless us." In the end He does bless those who wrestle with Him, and we shall not in the end be able to stop short of confessing Him as GOD.

For the message of the Gospel story is ultimately not even the teaching of Christ: it is Christ Himself. He, alone among the world's teachers, perfectly practised what He preached, and embodied what He taught. And therefore the truth of GOD and the ideal for man in Him are one. In Him we see man as he ought to be, man as he is meant to be. And because we instinctively judge that the highest human nature is divine, and because also we feel that GOD Himself would be most divine and worshipful if we could conceive of Him as entering in and sharing our human experience and revealing Himself as man, those who have reflected most deeply about the matter have commonly been led to believe that so indeed it is. They have felt that in Jesus Christ man, as the mirror and the Son of GOD, reflects the Father's glory. They have felt that in Jesus Christ GOD, the Eternal Source of all things, has expressed and revealed Himself in a human life: that GOD has spoken a Word, a Word which is the expression of Himself: and that the Word is Christ. "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me, hath seen the Father." For there is, in truth, something in Jesus of Nazareth which compels our worship. And if we will take seriously the human Jesus we shall discover in the end Deity revealed in manhood, and we shall worship Him in whom we have believed.

But that, of course, is dogma: in other words, it is the deliberate judgment of Christian faith. It is the expression, as a truth for the mind, of the value which a soul which is spiritually awake comes to set upon Jesus because it cannot do otherwise. A judgment like that is the conclusion—it ought not to be taken as the starting-point—of faith. There are many, of course, who are willing to begin by assuming provisionally that it is true, upon the authority of others who bear witness to it: and that is not an unreasonable thing to do, provided a man afterwards verifies it in the experience of his own life. But belief in the divinity of Jesus is too tremendous a confession lightly to be taken for granted by mere half-believers of a casual creed. Convictions worth having must sooner or later be fought for: they must be won by the sweat of the brow. And if a man is not content permanently to defer to the authority of others, he ought not to begin by taking for granted the doctrine that Jesus is GOD. He ought to begin as the Apostles began, by taking seriously the Man Christ Jesus.



It was characteristic of the ancient Jews that they had a vital belief in the living GOD: and belief in GOD, and that of a far more real and definite kind than the modern Englishman's vague admission of the existence of a Supreme Being, was a thing which Jesus was able to take for granted in those to whom He spoke. GOD to the Jew was the GOD of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, holy and righteous, gracious and merciful: active and operative in the world, the Controller of events: having a purpose for Israel and for the world, which in the process of the world's history was being wrought out, and which would one day find complete and adequate fulfilment in the setting up of GOD'S Eternal Kingdom.

What Jesus did by His life and teaching was to deepen and intensify existing faith in GOD by the revelation of GOD as Father, and to revive and quicken the expectation of GOD'S Kingdom by the proclamation of its near approach. The application to GOD of the term "Father" was not new: but the revelation of what GOD'S Fatherhood meant in the personal life and faith of Jesus Himself as Son of God was something entirely new: while in Jesus' preaching of the Divine Kingdom there was a note of freshness and originality, and a spiritual assurance of certainty, which carried conviction of an entirely new kind to the minds and hearts of those who listened.

All the more overwhelming must have seemed to the disciples the disaster of their Master's crucifixion. It was not merely that the hopes which in their minds had gathered about His person were shattered: their very faith in GOD Himself, and in the goodness of GOD, was for the time being torn up by the roots. Nothing but an event as real and as objective as the Crucifixion itself could have reversed for them this impression of sheer catastrophe. The resurrection of Jesus, which was for them the wonder of wonders, not only restored to them their faith in Him as the Christ of GOD, now "declared to be the Son of GOD with power by the resurrection from the dead"; it also relaid for them the foundations of faith in GOD and in His goodness and love upon a basis of certainty henceforth never to be shaken. "This is the message which we have heard of Him and declare unto you, that GOD is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."

Meanwhile what of Jesus Himself—this Christ, through their relationship to whom they had come by this new experience of the reality of GOD? In symbolical vision they saw Him ascend up into the heavens and vanish from bodily sight: in pictorial language they spoke of Him as seated at GOD'S right hand. They were assured nevertheless— and multitudes in many generations have echoed their conviction—that He was still in their midst unseen, their living Master and Lord. Instinctively they prayed to Him. Through Him they made their approach to the Father. He had transformed for them their world. He was the light of their lives. In Him was truth. He was their way to GOD.

All the great movement of Christian thought in the New Testament is concerned in one way or another with the working out of this experienced significance of Jesus. The maturest expression of what He meant to them is contained in the great reflective Gospel—an interpretation rather than a simple portrait of the historical Jesus— which is ascribed by tradition to S. John. The Christ of the Fourth Gospel is man, with all the attributes of most real and genuine manhood: but He is also more than man. He is the self-utterance—the Word—of GOD. He came forth from GOD, and went to GOD. He is the revelation of the Father, the expression of GOD'S nature and being "in the intelligible terms of a human life." To have seen Him is to have seen the Father, because He and the Father are one. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life: the Bread that came down from heaven: the Fountain of living water: the Lamb of GOD, that taketh away the sin of the world.

Later Christian orthodoxy never got farther than this. All that the formal doctrine of the Incarnation—as expressed, for example, in such a formulary as the Athanasian Creed—can truly be said to amount to is just the double insistence that Christ is at once truly and completely man, and also truly and completely GOD. The paradox is left unreconciled—"yet He is not two, but one Christ." The Godhead is expressed in manhood: in the manhood we see GOD.

What does it mean to confess the Deity of Christ? It means just this: that we take the character of Christ as our clue to the character of GOD: that we interpret the life of Christ as an expression of the life of GOD: that we affirm the conviction, based upon deep and unshakable personal experience, that "GOD was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself."

What is the real question, the most fundamental of questions, which arises when we seek to interpret the world we live in? Is it not just the question: What is the nature or character of the ultimate Power or Principle or Person upon which or upon whom the world depends? Is not every religion, every imagined deity, in one sense an altar to the unknown GOD? The venture of Christian faith consists in staking all upon the assumption, the hypothesis abundantly verified in the life's experience of such as make it, that the character of the unknown GOD is revealed in Christ: that the love of Christ is the expression of the love of GOD, the sufferings of Christ an expression of the suffering of GOD, the triumph of Christ an expression of the eternal victory of GOD over all the evil and wickedness which mars the wonder of His creation. If we were to look primarily at the life of Nature, we might be tempted to say that GOD was cruel. If we considered certain of the works of man, we might be tempted to conclude that GOD was devilish. Looking at Jesus we gain the assurance that GOD is Love. We behold "the light of the knowledge of the glory of GOD in the face of Jesus Christ," and we are satisfied.

And so we come to Jesus—the Prophet that is come into the world: and what we shall find, if we will suffer Him to work His work in us, is this. He will change our world for us, and will transform it. He will redeem our souls, so that there shall be in us a new birth, a new creation. He will show us the Father, and it shall suffice us. He will set our feet on the road to Calvary, and we shall rejoice to be crucified with Him. He will convert us—He will turn our lives inside out, so that they shall have their centre in GOD, and no longer in ourselves. He will bestow on us the Spirit without measure, so that we shall be sons and daughters of the Highest. And we shall know that we are of GOD, even though the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we shall know that the Son of GOD is come, and that He hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true, and that we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ.



To know GOD and to find Him revealed in Jesus Christ is not enough. To have set before one in the human life of Jesus an ideal of character, a pattern of perfect manhood for imitation, if the message of the Gospel were regarded as stopping short at that point, could only be discouraging to men conscious of moral weakness, of spiritual impotence and incapacity. It is probable that one of the reasons why the plain man to-day is so very apt to regard Christianity as consisting in the profession of a standard of ideal morality to which he knows himself to be personally incapable of attaining, and which those who do profess it fail conspicuously to practise, is to be found in the entire absence from his mind and outlook of any conception of the Holy Spirit, or any belief in the availability of the Spirit as a source of transforming energy and power in the lives of men.

As a matter of fact, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is of absolutely vital importance in the Christian scheme: and like all the great Christian doctrines, it has its basis in the realities of living experience. The opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles set before us the picture of the earliest disciples, assured and no longer doubtful of the reality of the Resurrection, waiting in Jerusalem for a promised endowment of "power from on high." And the story of Pentecost is the record of the fulfilment of "the promise of the Father."

We are making a mistake if we fix our attention primarily upon the outward symbols of wind and fire, or confuse our minds with the perplexities which are suggested by the references to "speaking with tongues." These things—however wonderful to the men of the Apostolic generation—are in themselves only examples of the psychological abnormalities which not infrequently accompany religious revivals. They are, as it were, the foam on the crest of the wave: evidences upon the surface of profounder forces astir in the deeper levels of personality. The disciples felt themselves taken hold of and transformed. Henceforth they were new men. "GOD had sent into their hearts through Jesus Christ a Power not of this world: only such a power could achieve what history assures us was achieved by those early Christians. By its compelling influence they found themselves welded together into a religious and social community, a fellowship of faith and hope and love, the true Israel, the Church of the living GOD. Enabled to become daily more and more like Jesus, they developed an ever fuller comprehension of His unique significance: and so they went about carrying on the work and teaching which He had begun on earth, certain that He was with them and energizing in them. They healed the sick in mind and body, they convinced Jewish and Pagan consciences of sin and its forgiveness, they created a new morality, and established a new hope: life and immortality were brought to light. And then, as need arose, they were inspired to write those books of the New Testament, in which their wonderful experience of GOD at work in them remains enshrined, the norm and standard of Christian faith and practice for all time. The Power which enabled them to do all this they called the Holy Spirit." [Footnote: The Holy Spirit, by R. G. Parsons, in The Meaning of the Creed. (S.P.C.K., 1917)]

To be "filled with the Spirit," to be "endued with power from on high," to be made free by the Spirit, so as to be free indeed— released from the tyranny of a dead past, from bondage to law and literalism, from the power of sin and of evil habit—and to be brought forth into the glorious liberty of the sons of GOD: this was a very vital and essential part of what Christianity meant in the experience of those first disciples. The new morality of the Gospel, the new righteousness which was to exceed the righteousness of Pharisees and Scribes, was a thing as widely removed as possible from painful conformity to the letter of an external code: it was a fruit—a spontaneous outcome—of the Spirit. S. Paul has described for us the fruits of the Spirit as he had seen them manifested in the lives of men—"love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control": they are the essential lineaments of the character of Christ: they are summed up in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians in S. Paul's great hymn to Charity or Love, which itself reads like yet another portrait of the Christ. A Christianity which through the Spirit brought forth such fruits was true to type. The Spirit, in short, reproduced in men the life of filial relationship towards GOD: He is described as the Spirit of adoption, whereby men are enabled to cry Abba, Father.

The Holy Spirit, moreover, is a Spirit of insight and interpretation, quickening men's faculties, enlightening their minds, enabling them to see, and to understand. He brings to remembrance the things of Christ and unfolds their significance: under His inspiration Christian preaching was developed, and a Christian doctrine about Christ and about GOD. In confident reliance upon His advocacy and His support the Apostles were made bold to confront in the name of Jesus a hostile world. Is it any wonder that in the eyes of their contemporaries they appeared as men possessed, as men made drunk with the new wine of some strange ecstasy, or mad with the fervour of some inexplicable exaltation? Yet the Spirit did not normally issue in ecstasy. It is not the way of GOD to over-ride men's reason, or to place their individual personalities in abeyance. The operation of the Spirit is to be seen rather—apart from His work in the gradual purification and deepening of character and motive, the bringing to birth and development in men's souls of the "new man" who is "Christ in them, the hope of glory"—in the intensification of men's normal faculties and gifts, and the direction of their exercise into channels profitable to the well-being of the community. For the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of brotherhood: and His gifts are bestowed "for the fitting of GOD'S people for the work of mutual service": they are for the upbuilding of the Body of Christ. The real miracle of the Christian life is simply the Christian life itself: and that a man should love his neighbour as himself is at least as wonderful as that he should speak with tongues.

Reflecting upon the experience which had come to them, Christian men came to see that the Holy Spirit, who was the Spirit of the Father and the Son, was Divine, even as Jesus was Divine. In this strange Power which had transformed their lives they discovered GOD, energizing and operative in their hearts. Instinctively they worshipped and glorified the Spirit as the Lord, the Giver of Life. Those who have entered upon any genuine measure of Christian experience are not prepared to say that they were wrong.

The Christian life depends upon the Spirit, now as then. Only in the power of the Holy Spirit is Christianity possible, and no one ever yet made any real advance in personal religion except in dependence upon an enabling energy of which the source was not in himself. "It is the Spirit that maketh alive." "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities." "I know that in myself, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing." "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him." It is because of our lack of any living or effectual belief in the Holy Spirit, and because of our consequent failure to seek His inspiration and to submit ourselves to His influence, that the Christianity of men to-day is often so barren and so poor a thing; and the corporate life of Christendom languishes for the same reason. The Church is meant to be a fellowship, a brotherhood: the most real and living brotherhood on earth. Men find to-day the realization of brotherhood in a regiment: they find it in a school or in a club: in a Trade Union: or in such an organization as the Workers' Educational Association. They fail to find it in the Church of Christ.

The Church can never be a brotherhood save in the Holy Spirit: for Christianity is essentially and before all things a religion of the Spirit, and the external organization and institutions of the Church, apart from "His vivifying breath, are a mere empty shell. Where there is no vision the people perish: and it is only under the inspiration of the Spirit that men see visions and dream dreams. Come from the four winds, O Breath, and breathe upon these dry bones of our modern churchmanship, that we may live: and so at last shall we stand upright on our feet, an exceeding great army, and go forth conquering and to conquer in the train of the victorious Christ."



God, as Christianity reveals Him, is no cold or remote Being, no abstract Principle-of-All-Things, reposing aloof and impersonal in the stillness of an eternal calm. He is rather the boundless energy of an eternal Life—"no motionless eternity of perfection, but an overflowing vitality, an inexhaustible fecundity, the everlasting well-spring of all existence." He is the eternal Creator of all things; not indeed in any sense which commits us to a literal acceptance of the mythology of Genesis, but in the sense that the created universe has its origin in His holy and righteous will, and that upon Him all things depend. "In affirming that the world was made by GOD, we do not affirm that it was ready-made from the beginning." The work of creation is still going on. GOD is eternally making all things new.

The nature of GOD, in so far as the mind and affections of man are capable of knowing Him and entering into relationships with Him, is revealed in Jesus Christ His Son, and the revelation is completed and made intelligible by the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. S. Paul expressed the practical content of GOD'S self-disclosure in his phrase "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of GOD, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost." Later Christian thinkers worked it out into the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the conception of GOD as at once Three in One, and One in Three.

To the plain man the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is something of a puzzle—on the face of it an arithmetical paradox; suggestive, moreover, of the abstract subtleties of speculation rather than of the concrete realities of religious life. But the doctrine did not have its origin, as a matter of historical fact, in any perverse love of subtlety or speculation. It certainly arose out of living realities of spiritual experience. It arose as the result of an attempt, on the part of the earliest Christian believers, to think out the meaning of what had happened in their religious lives, and to express it in speech and thought. What was this thing that had come to them, this thing which had changed their whole outlook upon the world, which had transformed their very inmost souls and made them new men, full of a new vision and a new hope? Something tremendous had happened in their lives. They were confident that it held the secret of all life, for them and for others. It was a new, an overwhelming, a conclusive revelation of GOD. They proclaimed it: they were constrained also to think about it. They had to find ways of expressing it. They had to think out what it meant.

There was Jesus Christ. Who was He? What did He mean? What was His relation to man, and to GOD? Certainly He had shed light upon GOD, and upon GOD'S nature. Through His teaching, His character, His life and death, the conception of GOD was filled with a new meaning. In Him GOD was revealed with a fulness that had never been before. He disclosed more of GOD'S inmost character, and more of the relation which He bears to men. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father"—the disciples felt that this witness was true. By admitting to their thought of GOD all that the life of Jesus brought, they filled with fresh glory Christ's favourite word for GOD—"your Father which is in Heaven."

In Jesus, they felt, GOD was expressed: His relationship to GOD was unique. They found the Divine in Him as in no other. They knew that GOD was in that life because He had spoken and acted there. "Through the eyes of Jesus" GOD looked out upon the world, and in Jesus' love and purity and yearning for the sinful and the heavy-laden, GOD Himself became visible. They knew now what GOD was like. GOD was like Christ. It was His glory that shone in Jesus' face. It was a new vision of Him when "Jesus of Nazareth passed by." In the grace—that is, the beauty, the glory and attractiveness—of the Lord Jesus Christ they saw a revelation of the love of GOD, a love that yearned over the fallen and the sorrowful, a love that suffered, and through suffering brought redemption.

But there was something more. It was not simply that in Jesus Christ GOD had been brought near, so that they felt they knew GOD as never before. There was in the experience which had come to them more than simply a Revealer and a Revealed. There was the Spirit which took possession of them, a transforming inward Power: a Power able to reproduce in them, by a process of growth from more to more, that character of Christ in whose lineaments they had discerned the nature of the eternal GOD Himself. There was a Presence abiding in their midst, dwelling within them, a Breath of the Divine Life which every Christian knew: a Presence which brought strength and comfort, power and love and discipline, and bore fruits of love and joy and peace. Who or what was it? An influence from on high? Yes: but it seemed more intimate, more personal than any mere "influence," more indissolubly one with them, knitting them into a fellowship in which they were united with the Father and the Son. "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." The Spirit which bore such fruits in them, which brought them into so intimate a fellowship with GOD in Christ, they recognized as the Spirit of GOD, as the Presence in them of very GOD Himself. GOD, they felt, was not a Being far off, an Influence telling upon men from a distance. He was the very secret of life, "closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet," so that each soul was meant to be a sacred "temple of GOD," "GOD abiding in him and he in GOD." GOD came in the Son, GOD had come also and equally in the Spirit. The Eternal Source of all things, who was known and worshipped as the Living One even before Christ came, was made more fully known in Christ, and now He was still more intimately made known in the inmost spiritual life of every day.

That was Christian experience. That was the experience out of which the doctrine of the Trinity arose. It arose out of an attempt to think the thing out. If we to-day find the doctrine difficult, at least the experience was and is both simple and profound. And we cannot help thinking about it.

It may be that sometimes we think we would rather be content to say simply with S. John that "GOD is Love." And that is truly the simplest of Christian creeds. If we were able fully to understand it, it would be sufficient. "Holy Trinity, whatever else it may signify, is a mode of saying 'Holy Love.'" But as a matter of fact it is only through the revelation of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit that we can ever come to understand the love of GOD. In the Christian Gospel GOD is revealed first as Father, secondly as Sufferer, thirdly as the Spirit of eternally victorious Life: and it takes the whole threefold revelation to express with any fulness the rich wonder of what is meant by saying that GOD is Love. Our minds cannot help passing from the contemplation of the threefold character of GOD'S self-revelation to the thought of a certain threefoldness in GOD Himself. We have to find room and place for such a thought—the thought that GOD is eternally Love, that He is eternally Father, Son, and Spirit—and yet at the same time not depart from the fundamental Christian conviction that GOD is One.

It is to be feared that many Christian people do sometimes come dangerously near to believing in three separate Gods, and what we call Unitarianism is a one-sided protest against such a tendency. GOD is indeed a unity: and so far Unitarianism is right. But Unitarianism is less than the full Christian faith in GOD, because it fails to do justice to the full riches of Christian experience, the many-sided wonder of GOD revealed in Christ, and made real to us here and now by the operation of the Spirit in our hearts. We are driven to say that GOD is not only One, but Three in One.

Nevertheless, if any one finds the theory of the Holy Trinity difficult let him not be overmuch dismayed. Let him learn to know GOD as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour: let him learn to know the Holy Spirit as an energy of eternal life and inspiration in his heart. He will then be in effect a Trinitarian believer, even though the theologians seem to him to talk a language which he does not understand: even though—to tell the truth—he is not greatly interested by what they say.

At the same time, there is need that people should think out the meaning of the Christian revelation of GOD: perhaps that they should think it out afresh. It is possible to be technically orthodox and correct in doctrine and yet to miss the true reality of what GOD means. The conception of GOD as Father implies that GOD has eternally a Son: the life of Jesus Christ as Son of God reveals to us the quality of that Divine Fatherhood to which His Sonship corresponds. The Spirit, as the Divine Energy proceeding from the Father and the Son, is the assurance that the life of GOD can never be self-contained or aloof, but is for ever going forth from Himself, so as to be eternally operative and active, alike in the processes of Nature and in the lives of men. For "the Spirit of the Lord filleth the world," and the Divine Wisdom "reacheth from one end to the other mightily, and sweetly ordereth all things."

It follows that Christianity, the religion of the Spirit, can never stand still. Not stagnation, but life, is its characteristic note, even "that Eternal Life which was with the Father, and hath been manifested unto us." The Church which is truly alive unto GOD, and aflame with the spirit of allegiance to Him who for the joy that was set before Him endured the Cross, the Church which is truly quickened and inspired by the Spirit of Truth and Love and Power, will always be ready to "live dangerously" in the world, not shrinking timorously from needed change or experiment, not holding aloof from conflict and adventure and movement, but facing courageously all new situations and new phases whether of life or of thought as they arise, shirking no issues, welcoming all new-found truth, bringing things both new and old out of her treasure-house, so that she may both "prove all things" and also "hold fast that which is good."

There are conceptions of GOD proclaimed from Christian pulpits which are less than the full Christian conception of GOD. The GOD who is eternal Energy and Life and Love, the GOD who is revealed in Christ, and whose Spirit is the Spirit of Freedom and Brotherhood and Truth, is neither the tyrant God of the Calvinist, nor the dead-alive God of the traditionalist, nor the obscurantist God of those who would decry knowledge and quench the Spirit. Neither, again, is GOD the God of militarists, a God who delights in carnage—even though it should be the carnage of Germans; or the God who is thought of by His worshippers as being mainly the God of the sacristy, a kind of "supreme Guardian of the clerical interest in Europe." Least of all is GOD the commonplace deity of commonplace people, a sort of placid personification of respectability, the GOD whose religion is the religion of "the Conservative Party at prayer."

He is a consuming Energy of Life and Fire. His eyes are "eyes of Flame," and His inmost essence a white-hot passion of sacrifice and of self-giving. At the heart of His self-revelation there is a Cross, the eternal symbol of the almightiness of Love: the Cross which is the source and the secret of all true victory, and newness of life, and peace.

This, and none other, is the GOD whom truly to know is everlasting life, and whom to serve is liberty. For He it is who has made us unto Himself, with hearts that are restless until they rest in Him. To do His will is to realize the object of our existence as human beings: for it is to fulfil the purpose for which we have our being, the end for which we were created; even to glorify GOD, and to enjoy Him for ever.



But are not the evil and misery of the world, is not all that which we know as "sin" and pain, in manifest contradiction to this Christian conception of a GOD of Love? Most certainly they are: and it has been the strength of Christianity from the beginning that—unlike many rival systems and philosophies, including the "Christian Science" movement of modern times—it has always faced facts, and in particular has never regarded pain and sin, disease and sorrow and death, as anything but the stubborn realities which in point of fact they are. If we ask, indeed, how and why it was that evil, whether physical or moral, originally came into the world, the Gospel returns no answer, or an answer which, at best, merely echoes the ancient mythology of Jewish traditional belief—"By the envy of the Devil sin entered into the world, and death by sin": an answer which indeed denies emphatically that evil had its origin in GOD, and declares its essential root to lie in opposition to His will, but without attempting any explanation of the difficulty of conceiving how opposition to the will of GOD is possible.

The Gospel is concerned with issues that are practical rather than strictly theoretical: and the really practical problem with regard to evil is not how it is to be explained but how it is to be overcome. If we ask how evil first arose, the only honest answer is that we do not know: though we can see how the possibility, at least, of moral evil (as distinct from mere physical pain) is implicit of necessity in the existence of moral freedom. The question is sometimes asked, "If GOD is omnipotent, why does He permit evil?" But the doctrine of Divine omnipotence is misconceived when it is interpreted to mean that GOD is able to accomplish things inherently self-contradictory. GOD is omnipotent only in the sense that He is supreme over all things, and able to do all possible things. He is not able to do impossible things: and to make man free, and yet to prevent him from doing evil if he so chooses, is a thing impossible even to GOD. Man is left free to crucify his Maker, and he has availed himself of his freedom by crucifying both his Maker and his fellow-man.

If we ask, "Why does not GOD prevent war? Why does He permit murder and cruelty and rapine?" the answer is that He could only prevent these things by dint of over-riding the will of man by force: and moreover that it is not the method of GOD to do for man what man is perfectly well able to do for himself. For wars would cease if men universally desired not to fight.

We are really raising a much more difficult question if we ask, "Why does GOD allow cancer?" And to this, it may be, there is no completely satisfactory answer to be given: though it is possible to see that cancer and other diseases have a biological function, and also to recognize that the endurance of pain in some cases (though not in all) ennobles and deepens character. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews does not hesitate to say of Christ Himself that He "learned obedience by the things which He suffered."

In general it must be said that Christianity does not afford any complete theoretical solution of the problem of evil: what it does is to provide a point of view which sets evil in a new light, and which is adequate for the purposes of practical life. It teaches us that physical suffering, so far as it is inevitable, is to be endured and turned to spiritual profit, as a thing which is capable of bearing fruit in the deepening and discipline of character: and that moral evil is to be overcome, by the power of the grace of GOD in Christ.

If we ask, "Why should the innocent suffer?" the Christian answer is contained in the Cross. "Christ also suffered, being guiltless": and although, if Christ were regarded simply as a man and nothing more, this fact would merely intensify the problem, the matter assumes a different complexion if Christ be regarded as the revelation of GOD. For if so, then suffering enters into the experience of GOD Himself, and so far from GOD being indifferent to the sorrow and misery of the world, He shares it, and is victorious through it. "In all their affliction, He was afflicted." GOD is Himself a Sufferer, the supreme Sufferer of all, and finds through suffering the instrument of His triumph. But if this be true, then all suffering everywhere is set in a new and a transfiguring light, for it assumes the character of a challenge to become partaker in the sufferings and triumph of the Christ. "Can ye drink of the Cup that I drink of?"

So interpreted, suffering ceases to be a ground of petulance or of complaint. It is discovered to have a value. It is judged to be worth while. And it is possible to find in such a faith the grounds of a conviction that behind and beneath all suffering is the love which redeems it and the purpose which shall one day justify it, and that in very truth no sparrow falls to the ground without the Heavenly Father's knowledge and care.



The Gospel affirms that men are called to be sons of GOD; to be perfect, as the heavenly Father is perfect. The correlative of this ideal view of man as he is meant to be is a sombre view of man as he actually is. "If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of GOD."

Sin is essentially a falling short, a missing of the mark, a failure to correspond with the purpose and the will of GOD. It need not necessarily involve—though of course it does in many instances involve—the deliberate transgression of a moral law which the conscience of the individual sinner recognizes as such. There are sins of omission as well as of commission, sins of ignorance as well as of deliberate intent. The fact that the conscience of a given individual does not accuse him, that he is not aware of himself as a sinner before GOD, is no evidence of his moral perfection, but rather the reverse. Jesus Christ, who possessed the surest as well as the sanest moral judgment the world has ever known, held deliberately that the open and acknowledged sinner, just because he was aware of his condition, was in a more hopeful spiritual state than the man who through ignorance of his own shortcomings believed himself to be righteous. The Pharisee, who compared himself with others to his own advantage, was condemned in the sight of GOD. The Publican, who would not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but judging himself and his deeds by the standard of GOD'S holiness acknowledged himself a sinner, went away justified rather than the other. It is probably true that the ordinary man to-day is not worrying about his sins: but if so, the fact proves nothing except the secularity of his ideals and the shallowness of his sense of spiritual issues. It means, in short, that he has not taken seriously the standard of Christ. For the measure of a man's sin is simply the measure of the contrast between his character and the character of Christ.

It is likely enough that many of us will never discover that we are sinners until we have deliberately tried and failed to follow Christ. The moment we do try seriously to follow Him, we become conscious of the presence within ourselves of "that horrid impediment which the Churches call sin." We discover that we are spiritually impotent: that there is that in us which is both selfish and self-complacent: that there is a "law of sin in our members" which is in conflict with the "law of the Spirit of life": and that "we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves." We are at the mercy of our own character, which has been wrongly moulded and formed amiss by the sins and follies, the self-indulgences and the moral slackness of our own past behaviour. We are, indeed, "tied and bound by the chain of our sins."

To have realized so much is to have reached the necessary starting- point of any fruitful consideration of the Christian Gospel of redemption. The appeal of the Cross of Christ is to the human consciousness of sin; and the first effect of a true appreciation of the meaning of the Cross is to deepen in us the realization of what sin really is. The crucifixion of Christ was not the result of any peculiarly unexampled wickedness on the part of individuals. It was simply the natural and inevitable result of the moral collision between His ideals and those of society at large. The chief actors in the drama were men of like passions with ourselves, who were actuated by very ordinary human motives. It is indeed easy for men to say, "If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets": but in so saying they are merely being witnesses unto themselves that they are the children of them which killed the prophets. Are we indeed so far removed beyond the reach of the moral weakness which yields against its own better judgment to the clamorous demands of public opinion, as to be in a position to cast stones at Pilate? Are we so exempt from the temptation to turn a dishonest penny, or to throw over a friend who has disappointed us, as to recognize no echo of ourselves in Judas? Have we never with the Sanhedrin allowed vested interests to warp our judgment, or resented a too searching criticism of our own character and proceedings, or sophisticated our consciences into a belief that we were offering GOD service when as a matter of fact we were merely giving expression to the religious and social prejudices of our class? Have we never, like the crowds who joined in the hue- and-cry, followed a multitude to do evil? There appears in the midst of a society of ordinary, average men—men such as ourselves—a Man ideally good: and He is put to death as a blasphemer. That is the awful tragedy of the Crucifixion. What does it mean? It means that a new and lurid light is thrown upon the ordinary impulses of our mind. It means that we see sin to be exceeding sinful. That is the first salutary fruit of a resolute contemplation of the Cross.

The Cross shows us, in a word, what we are doing when we sin: consciously or unconsciously, we are crucifying that which is good. If we are able to go further, and by faith to discover in the character and bearing of the Son, crucified upon the Cross, the revelation of the heart of the Eternal Father, there dawns upon our minds a still more startling truth: consciously or unconsciously, we are crucifying GOD. Assuming, that is to say, that GOD is such as Christianity declares Him to be, holy, righteous, ideal and perfect Love, caring intensely for every one of His creatures and having a plan and a purpose for each one, then every failure of ours to correspond with the purpose of His love, every falling short of His ideal for us, every acknowledged slackness and moral failure in our lives, much more every wilful and deliberate transgression of the moral law, is simply the addition of yet a further stab to the wounds wherewith Love is wounded in the house of His friends. "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do"—the words of the Crucified are the revelation of what is in fact the eternal attitude of GOD: they are the expression of a love that is wounded, cut to the heart and crucified, by the lovelessness, the ingratitude, the tragedy of human sin, but which nevertheless, in spite of the pain, is willing to forgive.

But the Cross is no mere passivity. It is more than simply a revelation of Divine suffering, of the eternal patience of the love of GOD. It is the expression of GOD in action: a deed of Divine self- sacrifice: a voluntary taking upon Himself by man's Eternal Lover of the burden of man's misery and sin. There is a profound truth in the saying of S. Paul, that the Son of GOD "loved me, and gave Himself for me": as also in S. Peter's words about the Christ "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the Tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness." There is no need to import into the phrases of the New Testament writers the crude transactional notions of later theology, no need to drag in ideas about penalties and punishments. The sole and sufficient penalty of sin is simply the state of being a sinner [Footnote: Sin, of course, may involve consequences, and the consequences may be both irrevocable and bitter; nor is it denied that fear of consequences may operate as a deterrent from certain kinds of sin. What is denied is that such consequences are rightly to be described as "punishment."]: and the conception of vicarious "punishment" is not merely immoral, but unintelligible. Vicarious suffering, indeed, there is: an enormous proportion of the sufferings of mankind—and the sufferings of Christ are a conspicuous case in point—arise directly as the result of others' sin and may be willingly borne for others' sake. And Christ died because of His love for men, and as the expression of the love of GOD for men. He who "wholly like to us was made" sounded the ultimate depths of the bitterest experience to which sin can lead, even the experience of being forsaken of GOD. "So GOD loved the world."

Regarded thus, the Cross is at once a potent instrument for bringing men to repentance, and also the proclamation of the free and royal forgiveness of men's sins by the heavenly Father. "What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, GOD sending His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

Forgiveness must be received on the basis of repentance and confession as the free and unmerited gift of GOD in Christ: but the redemption which Christ came to bring to men does not stop short at the bare gift of initial forgiveness. The Cross cannot rightly be separated from the Resurrection, nor the Resurrection from the bestowal of the Spirit. The forgiveness of past transgressions carries with it also the gift of a new life in Christ and the power of the indwelling Spirit to transform and purify the heart. And this is a life-long process—a process, indeed, which extends beyond the limits of this present life. The old Adam dies hard, and the victory of the spirit over the flesh is not lightly won. In the life-story of every Christian there are repeated falls: there is need of a fresh gift of forgiveness ever renewed. It is only over stepping-stones of their dead selves that men are enabled to rise to higher things. But already in principle the victory is won. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us." We see in Christ the first-fruits of redeemed humanity, the one perfect response on the side of man to the love of GOD. And through Christ, our Representative, self-offered to the Father on our behalf, we are bold to have access with confidence unto the throne of GOD and in Him to offer ourselves, that so we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.



The GOD and Father of Jesus Christ loves every human being individually, cares for each and has a specific vocation for each one to fulfil. This doctrine of the equal preciousness in the sight of GOD of all human souls is for Christianity fundamental. But the correlative of Divine fatherhood is human brotherhood: just because GOD is love, and fellowship is life and heaven, and the lack of it is hell, GOD does not redeem men individually, but as members of a brotherhood, a Church.

The Church is simply the people of GOD. It is the fellowship of redeemed mankind, the community of all faithful people throughout this present world and in the sphere of the world beyond—one, holy, apostolic (i.e. missionary), and catholic, that is, universal. Death is no interruption in that Society, race is no barrier, and rank conveys no privilege. "There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all": over the Church the gates of Death prevail not: and "ye are all one Man in Christ Jesus."

Furthermore, the Church is described as the Body, that is, the embodiment, of Christ: the instrument or organ whereby the Spirit of Christ works in the world. Her several members are individually limbs or members in that Body, and their individual gifts and capacities, whatever they may be, are to be dedicated and directed to the service of the Body as a whole, and not to any sectional or selfish ends or purposes. In practical churchmanship, rightly understood, is to be discovered the clue to the meaning and purpose of human life.

Again, the Church is by definition international. The several races and nationalities of mankind have each their specific and individual contribution to make to the Church's common life, in accordance with their specific national temperaments and genius. All of them together are needed to give adequate expression in human life to the many-sided riches of GOD in Christ. The Church is incomplete so long as a single one remains outside. The idea, therefore, of a so-called "National" Church, as a thing isolated and self-contained, is intrinsically absurd.

Therefore also the Church is missionary. She exists in order to proclaim to all the world the Good News of the love of GOD. She exists to bring all men everywhere under the scope of Christ's redemption, and to claim for the Spirit of Christ the effectual lordship over all human thought and life and activity. It is her threefold task at once to develop and make real within her own borders the life of brotherhood in Christ, to evangelize the heathen by declaring to them the satisfaction of their instinctive search for GOD in the answering search of GOD for them, and to labour for the discovery and application of Christian solutions to the problems of industry and commerce, of politics and social life and international affairs.

In so far as the Church has been true to the Spirit of Christ she has succeeded; in so far as she has made compromises with the world, and in every generation has in greater or less degree been disloyal to the standards of her Master, she has failed. In every generation there has been partial and obvious failure, side by side with real, if partial and in some ways less immediately obvious, success. But the Church can never wholly fail and must one day wholly succeed, for the reason that behind her is the omnipotence of the love of GOD.



The last chapter sketched the ideal of the Church and her essential mission. The realization of that ideal in the existing Church, visibly embodied here in earth is extremely fragmentary and imperfect. The Church that is one, and holy, and apostolic, and catholic, the brotherhood in Christ of all mankind, knit into unity by the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, remains a vision of the future, though a vision which, once seen, mankind will never relinquish until it be accomplished. "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," it has been said, "but I regret that she does not as yet exist."

What does exist is a bewildering multiplicity of competing "denominations," whose points of difference are to the plain man obscure, but whose mutual separation is in his eyes an obvious scandal and an offence both against charity and against common sense. Why cannot they agree to sink their differences, and to unite upon the broad basis of a common loyalty to Christ? To what purpose is this overlapping and conflict? The reluctant tribute of the ancient sceptic—"See how these Christians love one another"—has become the modern worldling's cynical and familiar jibe; and when to the spectacle of Christian disunion is added the observation that professing Christians of all denominations appear to differ from other men, for the most part, "solely in their opinions" and not in their lives, the impulse to cry "A plague upon all your Churches" may seem all but irresistible.

Yet the problem is not susceptible of any cheap or hasty solution. Unity is the Church's goal; but the Church cannot arrive at unity by mere elimination of differences. Agreement to differ is not unity: an agreement to pretend that the differences were not there would not even be honest. What is needed is a sympathetic study of the divergent traditions and principles which lie behind existing differences, with a view to discovering which are really differences of principle, and which rest merely upon prejudice. Unity, when it comes, can only be based upon mutual understanding and synthesis. The task will not be easy, and the time is not yet.

Meanwhile the individual's first duty is to be loyal in the first instance [Footnote: Of course in the last resort no loyalty is due to any lesser authority than that of truth, wheresoever it is found and whatsoever it turns out to be.] to the spiritual tradition and discipline of the "denomination" to which he in fact belongs, unless and until he is led to conclude that some other embodies a fuller and more synthetic presentation of religious truth. It is a mistake for a man to be content either to remain in ignorance of his own immediate spiritual heritage or to refuse to try to understand what is distinctive and vital in the religious heritage of others. Most fatal of all is the attempt to combine personal loyalty to Christ with the repudiation of organized Christianity as a whole. True loyalty to Christ most certainly involves common religious fellowship upon the basis of common membership in the people of GOD.

As a matter of fact, so soon as the various sects and denominations into which modern Western Christianity is divided are seriously examined, they are seen to fall into three main types or groups. Standing by herself is the Church of Rome, venerable, august, impressive in virtue of her unanimity, her coherence, her ordered discipline, and her international position, representing exclusively the ancient Catholic tradition, and making for herself exclusive claims. At the opposite end of the scale there are the multitudinous sects of Protestantism, differing mutually among themselves but tending (as some observers think) to set less and less store by their divergences and to develop towards some kind of loosely-knit federation—a more or less united Evangelical Church upon an exclusively Protestant basis. Between the two stands the Church of England, reaching out a hand in both directions, presenting to the superficial observer the appearance of a house divided against itself; representing nevertheless, according to her true ideal, a real attempt to synthesize the essentials of Catholicism with what is both true and positive in the Protestant tradition.

Protestantism stands for the liberty of the individual, for freedom of thought and of inquiry, for emphasis upon the importance of vital personal religion, for the warning that "forms and ceremonies" are of no value in themselves, but only in so far as they are the expression and vehicle of the spirit. Protestantism proclaims the liberty of Christian prophesying, the free and unimpeded access of every human soul to the heavenly Father, the spiritual equality of all men in the sight of GOD. The Protestant tradition is jealous for the evangelical simplicity of the Gospel, and in general may be said to represent the principle of democracy in religion.

Catholicism, on the other hand, bears witness to the glory of Churchmanship, to the importance of corporate loyalty to the Christian Society, to the value of sacramentalism, and the rich heritage of ancient devotional traditions, of liturgical worship and ordered ecclesiastical life. For Catholicism rites and sacraments are not anomalies, strange "material" excrescences upon a religion otherwise "spiritual." They are themselves channels and media of the Spirit's operation, vehicles of life and power.

Catholicism is more inclusive than Protestantism, including, indeed, some things which Protestants are apt to insist should be excluded. The future would seem to lie neither with the negations of pure Protestantism nor with a Catholicism wholly unreformed; but rather with a liberalized Catholicism which shall do justice to the truth of the Protestant witness. For the present the best opportunity for the working out of such a liberalized Catholicism is to be found within the Church of England: and it is from the point of view of an English Churchman that the remainder of this book will be written.



It is sometimes asked whether the sacraments of the Christian Church are two or more than two in number. The answer depends in part upon how the term "sacrament" is defined. But the wisest teaching is that which recognizes in particular sacraments—such as Baptism and the Supper of the Lord—the operation of a general principle which runs throughout all human experience, in things both sacred and profane. "I have no soul," remarked a well-known preacher on a famous occasion, "I have no soul, because I am a soul: I have a body." It would be difficult to express more aptly the principle of sacraments, or—what comes to the same thing—the true relationship of the material to the spiritual order.

We are accustomed, in the world as we know it, to distinguish "spirit" from "matter": and we are tempted, by the mere fact that we draw a distinction between them, to think and speak at times as though spirit and matter were necessarily opposed. This is a great mistake. Matter, so far from being the opposite or the contradiction of spirit, is the medium of its expression, the vehicle of its manifestation. Spirit and matter are correlatives, but the ultimate reality of the world is spiritual. It is the whole purpose and function of matter to express, to embody, to incarnate, the Spirit. The preacher, therefore, was quite right. "I am a soul": that is, I am a personality, a spirit: and to say that is to give expression to the fundamental truth of my existence: I am a soul, and I am not a body. But "I have a body": that is, my personality is embodied or incarnate: I have a body which serves as the vehicle or instrument of my life as a man here upon earth: a body which is the organ of my spirit's self-expression and the medium both of my life's experience and of my intercourse with other men. I think, and my thoughts are mediated by movements of the brain. I speak, and the movements of my vocal chords set up vibrations and sound-waves which, impinging upon the nerves of another's ear, affect in turn another's brain: and the process, regarded from the point of view of the physiologist or the scientific observer, is a physical process through and through: yet it mediates from my mind to the mind of him who hears me a meaning which is wholly spiritual.

This principle of the mediation of the spiritual by the material is the principle of sacramentalism. It is the principle of incarnation, which runs throughout the world. The body is in this sense the sacrament of the spirit, sound is the sacrament of speech, and language the sacrament of thought. So in like manner water is the sacrament of cleansing, hands laid upon a man's head are the sacrament of authority or of benediction, food and drink are the sacrament of life. All life and all experience are in a true sense sacramental, the inward ever seeking to reveal itself in and through the outward, the outward deriving its whole significance from the fact that it expresses and mediates the spirit: so it is that a gesture—a bow or a salute—may be a sacrament of politeness, a handshake the sacrament of greeting and of friendship, the beauty of nature a sacrament of the celestial beauty, the world a sacrament of GOD.

It is in the light of this general principle of sacraments that the specific sacraments of Christianity are to be understood. In Baptism the water of an outward washing is the sacrament both of initiation into a spiritual society, and also of the cleansing and regenerating power of GOD. In Confirmation the Church's outward benediction, of which the Bishop is the minister, is the sacrament of an inward gift of spiritual strength. In Absolution words outwardly pronounced by human lips are a sacrament of Divine forgiveness and a pledge to assure us thereof. In the Eucharist the outward elements of food and drink are the sacramental embodiment of Christ and the vehicles of His outpoured life. Other sacraments, or rites commonly reckoned sacramental, we need not here particularly consider. [Footnote: Matrimony and Holy Orders are discussed in different connexions elsewhere in this book. The sacrament of Unction, by which is meant the Anointing of the Sick with oil in the name of the Lord with a view to their recovery (to be distinguished from the mediaeval and modern Roman use of "Extreme Unction" as a preparation for death), has been revived sporadically within the Church of England in recent times, but is not usually for the plain man of more than academic importance or interest.]

Baptism and Confirmation

Baptism is the sacrament of Christian initiation, whereby a man is made visibly a member of the Christian fellowship. Converts were originally baptized in adult life, as they are to-day in the mission field. The candidate publicly renounced his heathen past and made a profession of his faith in Christ and his desire to be loyal to His Church. As a sinner in need of redemption he went down into the water, and was three times immersed in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The rite conveyed an assurance of the forgiveness of sins. The going down into the water symbolized the burial of the dead past. The coming up out of the water expressed the idea of resurrection to newness of life in Christ. The new-made Christian was said to be born again of water and of the Spirit: the "old Adam" was slain, the "new man" raised up. The candidate was henceforward a "member of Christ," a "child of GOD," an "inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven." He was admitted both to the privileges and to the responsibilities of Church membership. It remained only that he should walk worthily of his Christian profession, and to this end hands were laid upon his head in benediction, with prayer that he might be made strong by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Confirmation was thus the complement of Baptism, and the two things normally went together. The same order is still commonly observed to- day in the case of persons baptized in adult life, and has the advantage of making the significance of both rites, and their mutual relation, at once more vivid and more intelligible.

But the question arose, in the second Christian generation, of the status of children in relation to the Church. Might children be admitted to membership in infancy, or must they wait until they were adult? The Church decided that they were admissible, provided there were reasonable assurance that they would be Christianly brought up. Why should a child grow up in heathenism? Had not the Lord said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not"? There seemed no reason why children should not be brought at once within the sphere of Christian regeneration.

But if children were baptized in infancy, it was plainly essential that they should at a later stage receive systematic instruction in Christian faith and practice; and the Western Church (though not the Eastern) adopted the practice of separating Confirmation from Baptism, and deferring the former until such instruction had been received. The plan has obvious advantages, though it tends to obscure in some respects the essential meaning of Confirmation and its original close relation to the sacrament of Baptism.

In modern usage Baptism is normally administered by a priest, Confirmation always by a Bishop. Candidates are received by the latter upon the assurance of one of his subordinate clergy that they are adequately instructed and rightly disposed by faith and penitence to receive the gifts of the Holy Ghost—"the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." As an immediate preliminary to the actual rite the candidate solemnly and deliberately declares his acceptance of the obligations and implications of his baptism. The laying on of hands which follows is in one aspect the recognition by the Bishop, as chief pastor of the flock of Christ in his own diocese, that the candidate is henceforward of communicant status. In another aspect it is the bestowal through prayer of a fuller gift of the Holy Ghost, whereby the candidate is "confirmed" (i.e. made strong). It should be noted that the Bishop's prayer for each candidate is not that he may be made magically perfect there and then, but that he may "daily increase" in GOD'S Holy Spirit "more and more," until he come to GOD'S "everlasting Kingdom."

The Sacrament of Repentance

It must be admitted that very large numbers of those who are confirmed lapse at an early stage in their lives from the communion of the Church and never return. The causes of this are various, and there is no one sovereign or universal remedy. Sometimes it is to be feared that there has been either lack of intelligence or lack of thoroughness in the candidates' preparation. In not a few cases what has really happened is that the young communicant has been led into the commission of some sin of a kind which his own conscience recognizes as grave, so that he feels that he has spoilt his record and failed to "live up to" his profession. To go back to communion, he thinks, would in these circumstances be a kind of mockery. Unfortunately he does not know—since too often he has not been taught—any effectual method of spiritual recovery and renewal.

What is needed in such cases is a real doctrine and practice of Christian repentance. It is the universal teaching of the Christian Church that forgiveness is freely available for all those who truly repent. A man who, laying aside self-justification, will freely acknowledge his offences and shortcomings before GOD, and that in a spirit not of self-pity, self-loathing or self-contempt, but of sorrow at having brought discredit upon the Christian name and done what in him lies to crucify the Son of GOD afresh, may freely claim and find in Christ forgiveness and inward peace.

This Gospel or message of the forgiveness of sins it is part of the mission of the Christian Church to set forth. It is her mission to set it forth not merely as a piece of good news proclaimed in general terms to the world at large, but as a healing assurance brought home in detail, as need may require, to the individual consciences of sinners. "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." The words may have been uttered by the historical Jesus of Nazareth, or they may not— they are ascribed to the risen Christ in the Fourth Gospel. In any event they represent the Church's conviction of her authority to exercise a reconciling ministry, to remit sins and to retain them.

In early times such grave offenders as by their deeds had brought scandal upon the Christian name were excluded from Christian fellowship until reconciled by penance; and many whose sins, being secret, might otherwise have escaped detection, preferred to make open confession of them in the Christian assembly. "Confess your faults one to another," writes S. James, "and pray one for another, that ye may be healed." The ancient system of public "penance" (i.e. penitence) was for a time at least revived in a modern form by Wesley.[Footnote: The "class-meeting" of strict Wesleyanism is said to have originally involved mutual confession of sins among the members of the "class."] Its application to notorious offenders is described in the English Prayer-book as a "godly discipline," the restoration of which is "much to be wished." But it is hardly practicable under the conditions of modern Church life, and it has disadvantages as well as advantages. Its working in the early days of the Church was not found to be wholly for good.

Burdened consciences nevertheless require relief: and sin is not merely a private affair between the soul and GOD; it is also an offence against the Brotherhood. A system grew up under which the need was met by the substitution, in the majority of cases, of private for public penance. Confession was made, no longer before the whole assembly, but privately before the Bishop, whose office it was, both as pastor of the flock and as representative of the Church, to declare forgiveness or "absolution," and to restore penitents to communion. At a later date presbyters or priests were also authorized, as delegates of the Bishop for this and other purposes, to receive confessions and to absolve penitents.

In this way arose in the Church what came to be known as the sacrament of Penance, or the practice of sacramental confession. It was ranked as a sacrament for the reason that the inward assurance of GOD'S pardon is in this connexion outwardly mediated by words of Absolution audibly pronounced. In medieval times there grew up a regular system of the confessional and an elaborate science of the guidance and direction of souls. Recourse to sacramental confession was made obligatory for all Christians at least once in the year. [Footnote: This is still the formal rule of the Church of Rome.] The system came to be attended by many superstitions and abuses, frequently it was exploited in the interests of a corrupt sacerdotalism, sometimes it was associated with a degrading casuistry.

But the confessional met and meets a real human need; and while Protestantism, as a whole, broke away at the time of the Reformation in a violent reaction from the whole theory and practice of sacramental confession, the Church of England quite deliberately retained it. It was abolished as a compulsory obligation. It was made less prominent in the Church's system. But as a means of spiritual reconciliation and spiritual guidance, freely open to such as for any reason desire to make use of it, it was retained; and in the case of persons who for reasons of conscience hesitate to present themselves for Holy Communion it is specifically urged in the Book of Common Prayer as the needed remedy. [Footnote: See the closing paragraph of the first of the three lengthy exhortations to Holy Communion, printed immediately after the "Prayer for the Church Militant" in the Prayer- book.]The words of S. John xx. 23 are quoted in the Anglican formula of ordination to the priesthood; and a form of words to be used by the priest in the private absolution of penitents is prescribed in the Office for the Visitation of the Sick.

As regards the theory of the confessional it is important to bear certain things in mind. The confession is made primarily to GOD, secondarily to His Church. The priest is the Church's accredited delegate and representative. He acts not in virtue of any magical powers inherent in himself, either as an individual or as a member of any so-called sacerdotal caste. If he declares the penitent absolved it is as pastor of the flock, and as one officially authorized by the Church to be her mouthpiece for these purposes. The ultimate absolving authority, under GOD, is the Christian Society as a whole. It is a confessor's duty to assure himself of the reality of the penitent's contrition, and to enjoin that restitution or amends shall be made for any wrong which has been done, in all cases in which amends or restitution is possible. He may also give advice and counsel for the guidance of the spiritual life; and it is customary to enjoin the performance of a "penance," which in modern practice usually takes the form of some minor spiritual exercise of a more or less remedial kind. The acceptance of the penance is regarded as an enacted symbol of submission to the Church's judgment. (The mediaeval theory that the penance is of the nature of a punishment or penalty imposed by the Church upon her erring members ought, I think, to be repudiated. It is perhaps permissible to differ from the moral theology of Borne in holding that it is not essential to impose a penance at all, while recognizing the value in most cases of suggesting some definite act of self-discipline or observance, of a kind adapted to the penitent's circumstances and needs). The confessor is, of course, bound in the strictest way not to reveal anything said to him in confession, or to broach the subject again to the penitent without the latter's express permission, or to allow his subsequent manner or behaviour to be influenced in any the least degree by what has been confessed.

It is highly unfortunate that the practice of sacramental confession should have been made the subject of controversy, and as a consequence of this that the Church's teaching with regard to it should have been either unhealthily suppressed or obtruded out of season. There are without doubt numerous cases in which such a spiritual remedy is badly needed. There are burdened souls needing absolution and there are perplexed souls needing guidance. What is desirable is that the actual teaching of the Church of England on this subject should be plainly and frankly set before her members, and that opportunities should be afforded them of making their confessions if they desire or need to do so. It is the plain duty of a parish priest to provide such opportunities for his people. He is as plainly going beyond his duty if he tries to enforce the practice of sacramental confession as a necessary obligation. There are differences of opinion as to how widespread is the spiritual need to which confession ministers. There are reasons for thinking that it is more widespread than is commonly recognized. But it is of vital importance that no one should be pressed or brow-beaten into going to confession, or should do so, in any circumstances, otherwise than by his own voluntary act.

The Sacrament of Holy Communion

Throughout Christian history and in all parts of Christendom the central and highest focus of Christian worship and devotion, and the great normal vivifying channel of spiritual renewal and power, has been the sacrament of Holy Communion. It has been celebrated amid great diversities of liturgy and ritual and circumstance, and has been known by many different names and titles—mass, eucharist, communion, sacrifice: essentially it is one thing—the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.

The Gospels record that at the Last Supper on the night of His betrayal the Lord Jesus took bread and blessed and broke it, saying, "Take, eat: this is My Body, which is for you: do this in remembrance of Me": and that in like manner He took a Cup of mingled wine and water, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, saying, "This Cup is the New Covenant in My Blood, which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins: do this, as often as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of Me."

With the exceptions of the Society of Friends and the Salvation Army, every existing "denomination" of Christians has continued in one form or another the observance of this Mystical Meal. In the Roman Church, and in many parishes of the Church of England, it is celebrated daily; and it is evident from the provisions of her Prayer-book that the Church of England intends that there shall be a celebration of the Communion in all normal parishes at least on all Sundays and Holy Days.

Historically the institution of the weekly Eucharist is deeply rooted in the tradition of the Church, and is the origin of the Christian Sunday, The Christians met together week by week to keep on the day of the Lord's rising that memorial of the crucified yet risen Christ which is also Christ's gift of Himself to men. It would have seemed unthinkable in the early days of Christianity for any baptized Christian, who was not prevented by unavoidable circumstances from being present, to be absent on the Lord's Day from the Lord's Table. It ought to be equally unthinkable to-day.

With regard to the significance of the Sacrament, a man's view is necessarily coloured partly by his own experience as a communicant, and partly by the extent to which he is disposed to attach weight to the devotional traditions of Christendom as a whole; and it is worth remembering that forms of teaching about Holy Communion which are intellectually crude may represent a real, though an infelicitous, attempt to express in thought certain elements in eucharistic experience which are deep and real, and to which more attenuated types of doctrine fail to do justice.

The celebration of the Eucharist is from one point of view an enacted drama, a doing over again in the name and in the person of Christ of that which Christ did in His own person on the night of the Last Supper. Bread is taken and blessed and broken and offered to GOD in thanksgiving: Wine in like manner is poured out and blessed and offered together with the Bread. And the Bread and the Wine symbolize the Body and the Blood of Christ—the Body that was broken and the Blood that was shed—the life that was freely given for the life of the world.

The whole drama of the Eucharist is thus deeply symbolical; but the Bread and the Wine are more than mere symbols in the modern sense of that word. They are a sacrament of Christ Himself, who by means of them manifests His presence in the midst of His worshipping disciples to be the Bread of life and the Food of souls. "This is My Body"—that is, "This embodies Me: where this is, I am: receiving this, you receive Me." "This is My Blood"—that is, "This is My life: My life which is given for you: My life which in death I laid down and in rising again from the dead I resumed: My life which is to be the principle of spiritual life in you." "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, hath eternal life.... He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, dwelleth in Me and I in him."

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