THE pamphlet suffers from the disadvantage of having been written in Japan. The writer has been out of England since the spring of this year, and necessarily he is some months behind with the National Mission publications.
Nevertheless, were he in England, I do not think that he would alter the substance of what he has written. He is no quietist, but he is profoundly convinced that for a long time, and not only in England, Christians have taken the heart out of true religion by substituting the importance of human personality for the importance of the personality of God; and that we have faith in our efforts, in our good intentions, in our influence, in our piety, in our prayers, indeed in anything that is ours, but that we have not faith in God.
The Christian creed declares that we believe in God. The sacraments are the power of God. But we frequently speak and write as though our belief were that of the Elohistic Semites, who thought that God was dependent upon them for the maintenance of His existence. To wage war to the knife against this was the first task of the Jewish prophets.
The decision to publish this pamphlet has been left to me. It is not put forth by the authority or consensus of the society to which the writer and myself belong, and no member of the society but myself is responsible for its publication. I could have wished that it had been possible to print it before August; one shrinks [3/4] from even the semblance of a discordant note at this moment. But two considerations have had weight with me.
There seem to be disappointing signs that in many places the National Mission is slipping into a series of short parochial missions of the conventional type, with personal resolutions and all the machinery with which we are familiar. If the Church is to give a message of repentance and hope to the nation it must be based upon a fresh conviction of the authority and power of God through which she herself is acquiring a renewed hope and a divine faith.
Secondly, I have a profound belief in the value of freedom of speech. If a man has something to say, which he believes strongly that God has given him to say, it can only do good that he should have opportunity to say it. This is a very commonplace remark; but it expresses a conviction which, while generally accepted as not needing to be discussed, is not always acted upon. In the interest of superficial unity differences are covered up, and the expression of them regarded as dangerous. Unity is not to be found in a light covering of uniformity in words hiding fundamental differences, but in agreement as to the foundations with a great variety of superstructure.
THE NATIONAL MISSION AND THE
The criticism of religious effort is an intensely unpleasant and unwelcome occupation. When good people are doing their best, it is a poor business to try to trip them up, especially if one can do nothing oneself. And it is mostly useless, for we religionists, secure in our well-meaningness, and only too accustomed to the sneers of those without, are peculiarly given to misunderstand the criticism of friends. Nevertheless, there are times when one must speak.
Personally, I have realised that the National Mission was an inevitable duty which the Church could not shirk, even while, with so many others, the very idea of it filled me with dread. In the Day of Judgment the thoughts of all hearts must be revealed. We must of necessity bring out what is in us. And yet, what is in us is so paltry, so confused, so off the real point. We, clergy, workers, Church folk, knew we were hopelessly unfit and unprepared for any mission, and this was our one hope, that we did know it. It was a Mission of Repentance, and National Repentance shall begin with the House of God.
We knew our unfitness; we admitted it. Yes, in general terms. But repentance to be real begins with self-examination, and for that we were specially unprepared. We have a certain accredited attitude in which the congregation is constantly led and exercised in the confession of sinfulness, while we strongly [5/6] deprecate any one being asked to make a confession of sins. In this Mission, however, being very much in earnest, we do urge all seriously to examine their way of life that they may repent of their sins in true sincerity. But we make an exception for religious people, who, so far as they are religious, need only examine other people's way of life, and repent of other people's sins. Thus the Mission becomes a Mission or Call of Religion, or of religious people, to the irreligious.
Of course we are not in the least conscious of doing, we shall entirely deny that we are doing, anything of the kind. But to make the point clear, let us take a very prominent instance. We go to the Commercialists and bid them—Repent. The best men in the business world are painfully conscious of the dishonesty, carelessness, idleness, love of relaxation, indifference among subordinates, the drink evil among workmen, by which this business world is disfigured. But Mr. Lansbury and others reply, "These are other people's sins. We want you yourself to reconsider your own way of life, that is, the whole system you are following. The sins you do confess are only personal faults, or consequences of the fundamental error of selfishness and competition on which the system is built."
Are we crying to the wind? The commercialists are very busy at this moment preparing for the reorganisation after the war of precisely this same commercialism. So far as one can gather, nothing whatever is being done to remedy its really serious defects.
That is very sad and disturbing. But what about ourselves? We religious readily admit our need of repentance on exactly the same terms. We are very conscious of the lack of earnestness and the lukewarm devotion among so many of us; above all, of the want of courage in pointing out the evils of Commercialism and the need of Social Service. There are reformers who come to us and say, "The sins you confess are the personal faults, mainly of other people, and they are [6/7] only the consequences of a radically false conception on which your own religious system is built. It is your religious way of life that you need to reconsider."
Are they crying to the wind? So far as one can see, the National Mission is an attempt to revive and reorganise on a more effective scale precisely this same religionism without any attempt at a reconsideration at all. And in this case there is a very special difficulty. We religionists can and do go to the commercialists, warning them of defects they are not inclined to face. We, however, have our religion entirely in our own hands.
I propose, therefore, to do four things—
(1) To examine the nature of this Religion which is being taught, and which constitutes the quasi-official Message of the Mission to the Nation.
(2) To consider the real meaning and effect of this Message upon those to whom it is being, and is to be, given.
(3) Since this is a Church Mission, to ask after the relation of this Message to the Church.
(4) Lastly, in some fashion, to summarise our critical challenge to the Church and to its Mission effort.
I. THE MESSAGE OF OUR MODERN RELIGION.
It is futile to criticise or to warn, unless men have a clear idea of what is being criticised, or of what they are being warned against. If any reformer should try to describe this modern religion as he sees it, everybody, especially the religionists, would quite naturally deny that they ever entertained such ideas, and to justify one's description from the swarming masses of modern religious statement would be an endless task, nor is there any one book which everybody knows and would accept as representative.
The National Mission has, of course, never put forth [7/8] any "Thirty-nine Articles" of teaching. I have, however, just received a packet of National Mission papers. Among them is a pamphlet of "Outlines for Study Circles on the Aim of the National Mission." It is written by two ladies, and edited by Mr. Carpenter of Cambridge. It has every appearance of having been drawn up by special request. It is as much authorised as anything can be. Probably—as usual in such matters—relatively few people will have read it. The quotations I give are as fair as I can make them, but in any case they are not given for the sake of criticising the book. I use them only for their own value as stating a general and practical religious attitude in the words of those who take it up. I give the pages that any who hold the book (S.P.C.K. 3d.) may see that I have not taken the words unfairly.
On p. 5 we start by setting the Old Testament right, "The early Hebrews did not consider the individual enough." I should have expected a Church writer to add, "just as our modern religion considers the individual a great deal too much," but it does not occur to us to criticise modern religion. On p. 5 we are invited to set Joshua right, our modern religion being here also the unquestioned standard and the fully competent judge.
On p. 13 we are told, "all great revivals have borne fruit, because people found in them a real Imitatio Christi." It would have struck me that the revivals of Calvin, Luther, and Wesley, bore fruit because they brought home to men the power and reality of God, faith in God, the salvation of God. The revival of St. Francis was very largely due to a human personality and an ethical "imitation." That is why it attracts us so much. I wonder if that was not also the reason for the very discouraging history of Franciscanism?
A more amazing passage is on p. 21, where, not content with suggesting amendments to the Old Testament, the author boldly amends the words of St. John the Baptist, [8/9] and our Lord. To a common reader, "the Kingdom of God is at hand," proclaimed the Incarnation, that is, the coming of God into a sinful and thoughtless world by His own act and choice. Our authors, quoting Mr. Hogg, will have none of this. "In the will of God the Kingdom always had been at hand—if only men would fulfil the conditions." What special conditions had men fulfilled about the Christian era that the Kingdom of God should have come among them then? St. Paul speaks of the Christian dispensation as fundamentally a gift of God, given to unworthiness, purely by His own choice. In the quotation here it is definitely asserted to be a mere consequence of human conditions, that is, of worthiness.
In the following quotation (p. 22), and the quotation from Professor Cairns (p. 23), the point is made quite plain. We must believe in Divine Grace certainly, but we may take all that for granted. "The supernatural powers (of the Kingdom) were already available. . . . The illimitable potencies of the Divine Spirit lay around, awaiting only the rise of a generation stronger in faith and love." The really determinative factor is simply our own state and activity. We, by our strenuous endeavour and prayer and faith and so on, set all these divine forces to work, and get the world straight.
It's all the customary pious exhortation one is always hearing. If I am very good, Divine Grace will operate to my salvation; and if we, collectively, are very good, then to England's salvation. It's quite obvious, but I want to ask two questions.
(1) Where does the Gospel come in? If we cease to be sinners, salvation will be "given." Yes—IF. And this leaves out the whole point of the Gospel. For sinners it is no Gospel. Technically, it is just Pelagianism, for Pelagius affirmed "grace" on exactly these "conditions." If we deserved it, salvation was "given," in the sense that more was given than we had strictly [9/10] earned. Salvation was sold, only it was sold under cost price.
(2) Let us leave Pelagianism. Where does God come in? The pious language about His assistance is edifying, but since the human conditions are the determinative part, what is gained by bringing in the Divine name at all? Mr. Hogg's view is that we must "let" the supernatural powers operate, and "permit" God to work. What then is meant by calling God the Ruler of the world and men? We do not call the Corporation the "ruler" of the factory or house, because it is always ready to lay on gas, water, and electricity when required. The ruler is the man who decides to have them laid on, and who sets them operating at such times and for such purposes as he chooses. Is this the view of Isaiah lxiii. 1-6? "I have trodden the wine-press alone, for I looked and there was none to help, therefore mine own arm . . ."
On p. 36, "we want our Lord to reign," Rev. xi. 15-17, is a vision of the future. What future? Apparently that far-off day when we shall permit Him to do so. But the actual words in Revelation are, "Because Thou hast taken Thy great power and hast reigned" (ver. 17). Apparently, He did not wait for our permission. But this is not our author's view. On p. 38 we are told flatly that "our Lord has left the Church to carry on His work." We need not italicise the awful words, "our Lord has left the Church." The sense is inevitable, however we accent it. God has given us an ideal and gone away. It is for us to make what we can of it.
But this is no mere slip of the pen. It is the centre of the whole teaching. On p. 32 we are asked to consider, "What would our Lord say if He came to England?" Is it really possible, even now in this our day, that religious people do not recognise that the Lord has come? Alas! we never think of things that way. On p. 37, a more elementary circle is discussing the prayer "Thy Kingdom come," and the members are urged to [10/11] "make sure that they are now quite clear about the meaning of 'comes.' It means 'be accepted, used, and shown forth by us.'" Please be quite sure about the "us."
But if the coming of the Kingdom is really identical with, and constituted by, the acceptance, etc., of its principles by us, the same equation will hold of the coming of Jesus Christ. That also is really the coming of the converted "us." This equation agrees consistently with the Pelagian view borrowed from Mr. Hogg and Professor Cairns. If God's action is simply dependent on ours, for all practical purposes God is simply a pious name for the ideal we follow. God is our ideal self, and our ideal self is God. If it comes to this for practical purposes, I do not see that we need hold out on metaphysical or theological grounds. If for "Thy Kingdom come" we are to substitute "We accept Thy Kingdom, and when we can persuade other people to accept it, it will have come," the words cease to be a prayer. If the Divine help in accepting really depends solely on our will to have it, let us look to ourselves. Prayer is a pious formality.
II. THE MEANING AND EFFECT OF OUR RELIGIOUS MESSAGE.
From a theological point of view the passages I have cited are sufficiently startling. Of course it can be said that such selections give an unfair view of the whole. I reply—
(1) Such passages ought not to have been allowed at all. That they could have been written by two very devout authors, passed by a very capable editor, and accepted by an authoritative committee of the National Mission, is ominously significant.
(2) I have chosen these passages solely because, in a perfectly direct, simple, unhesitating way—very suited to a Study Circle—they do express the attitude of our [11/12] modern Anglo-American religion as I meet it in England, America, and Japan.
(3) These are not isolated selections; they hang together in one consistent view. God and His Christ have gone away; everything is left to us. What we call His actions (i.e. Grace) are dependent on us (and are not really discernible from our own), for the coming of the Kingdom (and the coming of Christ Jesus) are identical with our acceptance, use, and showing. (They really consist in the coming of a converted and highly ethicised "us.") N.B.—The parts in brackets are my own inferences, but they only carry on the principles given.
(4) I shall have no difficulty in finding plenty more passages to back up those already quoted, and—which is our immediate object—to make the meaning of this somewhat curious attitude quite plain.
On p. 32, our authors formally set the question, "What are we to repent of?" Personally, my answer would be that we religious people need above all to repent of the Pelagian godlessness of our religion; of the self-centredness which concentrates all our attention upon our own doings, ideals, pieties, and personal character; of our entire ignoring of God and His doings; of our assumption that He is dependent upon us; of our no less easy assumption that His ideals, purposes, ways, must necessarily be such as we can approve. In other words, what we need most to repent of is that in regard to our religion, we see no need to repent.
Our authors' answer, however, looks in another direction. It is entirely, wholly, and exclusively ethical. The Study Circle is urged to consider homes, habits, business, shops, etc.; also Labour and Capital, father and son, etc.; the law of love and the Beatitudes (not as Theological virtues, i.e., in relation to God, but) as a description of character. Elsewhere the members of the Study Circle are urged frequently to consider whether our religion is sufficiently ethical, especially [12/13] regarding the necessity of Social Reform. There is no least hint that our religion itself needs any reconsideration, that it even has been, or could be, criticised. But it has been.
We are asked on p. 32, "What sins did our Lord denounce most severely?" So far as my memory serves, He denounced the sins of religion. So far as I can see, it is these which He is now bringing to judgment.
"Religion" is now-a-days in the mouth of all the elect. It is a heathen, a most vague and annoying, word, since it is so difficult to make out what people think they mean by it. But on any definition, the word ought to have some reference to God, and in that sense what has this teaching got to do with religion? Is ethics the same as religion? Are the two sufficiently identified by the assumption that our ethical standard has "Divine" authority, and that He would approve, "if He came," that is, if we accepted, used, and showed Him forth?
This pamphlet came with a batch of nine. Another, Studies in The Prophets, is by the same authors. Another, reprinted from the Round Table, deals with the purely moral problems of Nationalism and Humanitarianism. Mr. Lansbury deals with the moral need of Social Reform. The other five are small leaflets, containing practical suggestions for our own duty in regard to the Mission.
One and all, what has the whole group got to do with Christianity? For us, the Creed is the central expression of Christianity, and these papers, first and last, can barely in any way be said to touch on the Creed at any single point.
The Creed begins, "I believe in God." These papers have nothing to do with any such faith. The quotation from Mr. Hogg does lay great emphasis on "faith." "By faith and prayers to permit God to work the miracles He longs to work." But this fine confusion is not faith in God, but faith in our own faith. It is not we who believe in God, but God, longing in His well-meaning [13/14] way to do something, Who must believe in us. Somewhere recently a man writes, "And we were asking for whom we felt most sorry—King Albert? Miss Cavell? One said "the Kaiser." Another "But I feel most sorry for God." Years before the war, a quotation wandered back to me from Westralia, said to be from a sermon by the Bishop of Carlisle, "God must be nearly heartbroken at the way things are going." These remarks were quoted as profound. To me they seem blasphemous. What do people think God is—anyway? This heart-broken God is an object of pity. His Christ, sitting on the right hand of weakness, and keeping away in the clouds of heaven, may be an object of admiration and imitation. God, Who has run away and left us to ourselves, Who is now dependent on our permissions, in what possible sense is He an object of faith?
"God the Father, Almighty," or in Greek, All-Ruler. As I have shown above, I see here no suggestion of Omnipotence nor of Rule.
"And in Jesus Christ, our Lord." By a colloquialism or twist of language, we say we believe in Plato, Kant, or Eucken, when we really mean, "I believe, or believe in, their teaching or philosophy." But one cannot rightly say that one believes in Plato, seeing that personally he is a good deal deader than Queen Anne. The Creed does affirm belief in Jesus Christ. These papers refer exclusively to His teaching, the whole effective value of which depends on our following it.
To the Evangelical marrow of the Creed, that "for us men and for our salvation, He came down from heaven, and was Incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made Man, that He suffered, died, and the third day rose again from the dead," to all this there is not, so far as I have seen, one least allusion. Mrs. Creighton does quote the verse, "I, if I be lifted up"; but, lest we should imagine that there is a reference to the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice, offered for us, it is immediately added, "To His Church (which I suppose means us) He has left the work of lifting Him up before men."
 "And of His Kingdom there shall be no end," but, as our "Studies" warn us in almost so many words, it has not yet begun.
"And I believe in the Holy Ghost." Here, no doubt, our modern religion does apparently touch the Creed. God, as a Ruler of the world, we do not believe in, though we still hope to give Him reason to believe in us. Jesus Christ, His Incarnation, Crucifixion, and the power of His Resurrection, we might never have heard of, though we think very highly of His ethical teaching. But we do profess an ardent faith in the personal inspiration of the Holy Ghost. Taken in this purely personal sense, that faith seems to be meaningless. Here is an ethical ideal. You may call it "Christian," because you got it out of the Synoptics. I find in myself and others a number of cravings for a lower life, and a number of instincts which respond to the ideal. You can call the higher instincts "the Holy Spirit," or you may compromise on "Divine," or you may call them simply "my better self." When we have got rid of God and Christ, I do not see that the theological phrase has more value than the "God" of Eucken, or other gilded pietisms of Pantheism.
We religious people are, and ought to be, contemplating with dismay the utter failure of our religious work of the last twenty years. When we ask, "What have we to repent of?" our first step ought to be a searching examination of the causes of this failure. I am not here alluding to the ethical failure in our "homes, habits, business, shops, Capital and Labour," but to the religious facts I know. Among the men enlisted from our parishes there is barely one man per battalion who makes any profession of religion, or has the least idea what it means. Oddly enough, their whole notion of religion is just such as our own. They regard religion purely as a matter of moral observances, which they [15/16] visualise in somewhat crude and practical forms—"Thou shalt not drink, smoke, quarrel, swear, go to cinemas." Of Christianity as a Creed, of faith in God, of God as real enough to be an object of faith, of the Incarnation and Atonement, of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, they know just as much as they might be expected to know if they had been carefully instructed on the lines here set out. That is, they have never so much as heard of them. A group of soldiers, grousing about "religion," listened with amazement to the statement of credal Christianity put forward by a comrade, but decided that "it was too good to be true. Anyhow the parsons didn't believe it, for if they did, they would have told us." The religious-ethics idea, which they are familiar with, bores them to distraction. Why? I think I can find three suggestions.
(1) The soldier sees well enough in his rough way that this ethical-ideal preachment has no useful meaning at all. After the glistening foam and rolling thunder of its aspiration and promise, it leaves only this placid pool among the hard rocks—"If only everybody were very nice and good, how very nice everything would be!" Neither the soldiers nor I are concerned to deny the truth of so momentous a conclusion, but what are we supposed to do with it? They think that is all religion and Christianity have to offer, though I ask what has it got to do with either?
(2) Our authors themselves open the next suggestion. "When people say that business is business (and war is war), may we not answer that, on the other hand, Christianity is Christianity?" (p. 33). We do so answer. The business men and the soldiers (the insertion in brackets is mine) answer, "We are dealing with the world as it is. We know we have to carry on our business (and the war) as we best can—somehow. Your Christianity belongs to an unreal world of your own ideals, in which we are not interested." We are, in [16/17] short, trying to wean men from the materialism of nature-worship, by offering them the gilded idols of our idealism, "the noblest expression of the human spirit," constructed a good deal from selected passages of Scripture. The practical men are most irreverently contemptuous of our "noblest, etc."
(3) The real trouble is that all this is a class Christianity. There is an age-long conflict of temperaments, described by Prof. James, between the Idealists and the Materialists. On the one side are the douce, soft-handed, reflective, self-conscious, introspective, and gentle-spirited; on the other are the practical, rough-handed, outward-looking, gallant-souled. Kingsley called them Jacob and Esau. I fancy the Gospels call them Pharisees and Publicans. Our authors call them "people," and "we." It takes all sorts to make a world. Each has a great deal to give the other. Each is liable to its very hideous sins. Alas, while the rough people are very conscious of their sins though they don't see how to get clear of them, "we" are very little conscious of sin, since our temptation is to self-satisfaction.
The Bible, in fact, recognises both these characters, and appeals to both. We are rather perturbed thereat, but promptly rule out the parts of which "we" disapprove—Joshua, for instance, who was a most joyously rough-handed man. I am sure Mr. Rudyard Kipling will endorse my remark that he has said nothing the Bible has not said better. The Bible makes no attempt to reconcile the two, but it does show them as reconciled in God, to whom both belong.
What does Christianity really offer? The reality of God and the fear of God must be our salvation from the damnation of self-satisfaction, as well as the salvation of practical men from the violence of their self-will. The Cross of Christ is the reconciliation between God and man. We can only preach it shame-facedly, for these rough-handed men are sharing His Cross and [17/18] laying down their lives for the salvation of the world in a sense we are not doing. Christianity was never meant as a rival world of theory. Christianity is but the Redemption of God's world, if by this faith we had given to business and war the honours of a divine vocation according to God's purpose, we might have broken the tyranny which turns the cleverness and force of business and war into the two gods, Mammon and Molech, before whom men bow, loathing even while they worship.
Unfortunately we, the religious idealists, are not in the least conscious of needing any salvation at all—the contemplation of ourselves, provided it be our higher selves, the contemplation of our own insides under the name of religious experiences, the contemplation of ethical ideals, especially in regard to other folks' business, represent all the necessities. We identify Christianity with our own Idealism, which we seize the opportunity to preach. The practical men accept the identification on our authority, and reject Christianity accordingly. They have rejected it before, and they are far less likely to listen to it now.
III. THE CHURCH MESSAGE
The entire failure of our religion, I do not mean its failure to prevent war or strikes, but its failure to touch or even interest the hearts of our own people, is only too evident. The insufficient attention we have given to social reform seems an inadequate explanation, but none of these papers shows any desire to look further. I have given my view already. I believe the soldiers are right. Our religion has been, not insufficiently ethical, but exclusively ethical. It has nothing seriously to do with God or Christ. One of the ablest and best-known priests in England gave what seems a rather different reason in a letter, which at the moment I can only summarise—"the real failure of the Church is the [18/19] failure of Protestantism, and it is hopeless to get the Church to admit it."
I am extremely reluctant to say it, solely because the word Protestant opens up such endless party quarrels and confusions. If one points out the weakness of Protestantism, it is at once assumed that one is an admirer of Romanism. Even well-informed professors, as well as many ill-informed dignitaries, newspapers, and leading laymen, rush to a counter attack as if Rome was the only known alternative. Nothing is of any use to us except repentance. Once this strife is on, neither repentance nor honest self-examination nor any serious thought is even possible. The Roman Churches have their own weaknesses. Their greatest weakness is their belief in the infallibility of their system. We reject the theory of infallibility, but in practice we have the same belief, the same unwillingness to listen to criticism, and the same inability to learn. To-day all our idols save one have fallen. Towards the Bible, the Thirty-Nine Articles, "orthodoxy," and the Ecumenical Councils, we are allowed or even expected to temper a general and formal approbation with an enlightened and superior criticism. But from the Cam—as from the Spree—from all the Cathedral cities of England, and from the Anglican Churches beyond the seas, there will be instant resentment if any one speaks disrespectfully of "Protestantism."
Nevertheless, criticism has got to be faced, since this attitude is for Anglicans quite unreasonable in two plain ways: (1) No one can deny that while the Anglican Church is formally committed to Scripture, the Articles (in general), the Councils, and even to the Credal meaning of "Catholic," she has never formally committed herself to the term "Protestant." (2) No one is at all clear what the word Protestant means. Many of us use it only in the vaguely negative sense of non-Roman, without any attempt to determine what is specifically Roman. On the other hand, we must be aware that to most people Protestantism has a quite positive meaning. [19/20] Even though they are not agreed what that meaning is, at least it denotes an ideal or method opposed to the ideal or method they call Catholic.
This very uncertainty makes the word a convenient weapon for offensive controversy, and an extremely dangerous and confusing word for serious purposes. The primitive and dogmatic Protestantism of Luther and Calvin, represented by the Evangelical Protestantism of the small chapels and held in some fashion by many people in the Church, seems an entirely different thing from our modern enlightened Protestantism, undogmatic and undenominational in a fashion which would leave the old Reformers aghast. Yet this modern Protestantism claims to be protestant in the purest and fullest way. It has arisen from primitive Protestantism historically. Even to-day individuals and bodies pass over from the primitive to the modern attitude automatically, only an old-fashioned minority standing out against the process.
What Protestantism really is I need not discuss further. How the change takes place I may suggest presently. Just now I only want to make plain that the authors of our "Outlines of Mission Studies" are describing and setting out for us simply the stock ethicism of modern undenominational Protestant humanism, suffused with its customary language of religious piety and feeling. I have yawned and sighed over it for years in the big tent at Swanwick; listened and gazed with admiration at its comically frank personality worship in America. It constitutes very nearly all the Christianity we ever hear of in Japan, at least in enlightened circles.
Anyone familiar with the real drift of things was well aware that modern Protestantism, while in some cases nominally retaining the Creed, had in effect become purely humanist. That this same Humanism should be put forward nakedly as our preparation for a Church mission fills one with a kind of despair. What [20/21] the Church Message is, there is no doubt. Through her Creeds, Articles, and Councils, she is committed to faith in God. Is the Church prepared or going to preach it?
At a very early stage, it was proposed that the National Mission of the Church should join hands with the Laymen's Christian Crusade and other undenominational Movements. The Council definitely refused. The Church has her own Message—contribution, if you will. We must consider how to give it. I have tried to show that our Message is in marked accord with the heart of Evangelical Protestantism, and in marked disaccord with modern undenominational Protestantism. But our Creed goes on to speak of the Catholic Church, and here our message is to some extent in disaccord with both forms of Protestantism.
The authors of our Mission Studies have the Church constantly in mind. In this respect they diverge somewhat from old-fashioned Protestantism which thought of the Church very little; but they are not only in agreement with the modern Protestant habit of speaking, they also agree with its view of the Church. To both alike, the Church, like the Nation, is only a phrase for a number of individuals of a certain kind. Thus (p. 9) "I am one forty-millionth part of the population. I help to create public opinion (which is the thing that really governs the country). Without me England (or on p. 39, the cause of the Lord) is one short." On p. 38, "the Church is not the clergy, but every baptised person is a witness." These are only incidental expressions, harmless in themselves, suggestive in view of the general argument.
On p. 25, we have a quite frank and extremely curious passage: "A modern writer remarks that many of the great reforms brought about by Christianity have not been 'the work of the Church, but of a few quiet, Christian people.' But (our authors reply) does not the Church consist of just such quiet, Christian people?
 The quotation seems to me amazing in itself. All the reforms I ever heard of—Christian or other—were the work of extremely noisy and obstreperous people. I only refer to this as an instance of our modem habit of using words, e.g. "quiet," which have a pious sound, but no available meaning. Our concern is not with the quotation, but with the question—which is much more amazing. Did our authors ever hear of a something called Novatianism? As with "Pelagianism," I am quite conscious of the futility of any appeal to Church History, but the thing which amazes me most is not the line taken up, but the total absence of any conception that there is another line, and that one has to be rejected before the other can be taken. I put the two side by side.
(1) One may regard the Church (or the nation) as an expression for a number of individuals co-operating for a certain end. The strength and effectiveness of the whole is the sum of its parts. "Without ME, there is one short." This is not Evangelical Protestantism, which is interested mainly in God's work on the individual, and very little interested in objects of co-operation, e.g. Social Reform. But this co-operative individualism is the modern Protestant view.
Thus it follows that, while there may be an actual organisation, or several organisations, for co-operation, the individuals who are really and effectively co-operating do not necessarily belong to any organisation. "The co-operators" are known—so far as they are known at all—rather by their works and their spirit than by a perhaps nominal membership. "The quiet, Christian people" constitute the true "Invisible Church."
(2) On the other hand, one may regard the Church (or the nation) as a spiritual system or organisation existing in itself. Perhaps it must have some members in order to be an actuality, but even that is not certain. One can imagine such a system utterly wiped out, and yet the idea re-actualising itself. In any case, the [22/23] system is far more than the sum of its members. It is possible to conceive of a Church continuing to exist without a single genuine Christian in it, just as one may conceive of a nation without a single patriotic soul. England in the early summer of 1914 seemed wholly given over to class, party, and racial strife, but she was just as much a nation as she is now.
On the first view, the number of genuinely like-minded people "constitute," create, maintain, and direct the Society, which is true of a Joint Stock Company. On the second, the Society creates, maintains, and directs, those who are within it, which is true of a spiritual society, such as a Church or nation.
The first seems obvious and simple, but is unfortunately meaningless. If we say "God is the sum total of things-in-relation," the name, God, is meaningless, since it adds nothing. If the Church is constituted by, and consists of, "quiet Christian people," the word "Church" adds nothing. "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," means really, "I believe in quiet Christian people."
"It has been said, 'The cause of the marvellous growth of the early Church lay not in her Apostles, apologists, or martyrs, but in the faithful daily life of the average common Christian.' Let the members (of the Study Circles) discuss whether this is true to-day" (p. 25). I am not going to discuss, but I do assert (a) that the saying is a heathen falsehood, whether spoken of early or any other days; (b) that the cause of the Church's growth in any day lies in the power of the Gospel of God; (c) that the terrible absence of growth to-day is due to our throwing away the Gospel in order to put our faith in the faithfulness of our own lives. "What is the most striking contrast of all between the Church of England and the Church of the Apostles?" (p. 13). The Church of the Apostles was taught and was learning to believe in God; the Church of England is being taught and is learning to believe in the consistent [23/24] lives and quiet influence, together with the Social Reform efforts, of men. The Church of the Apostles believed itself to be the family of God, which He bought with His Blood and fed with His Body; the Church of England is being taught to believe herself to be a number of piously nice people—but she doesn't believe it—not yet.
So far, these views on the Church only carry on what we have found throughout. But the critics whose views I am now following, put forward "Protestantism" specifically as the cause of our religious failure, and we are looking for a cause. How is it that England and our soldiers have ceased to feel any interest in religion? That I have tried to explain. If we talked a little more about God, and a little less about ourselves our religion and religiousness, maybe they would listen. But how is it that this modern Protestantism has drifted and does drift so easily away from its Evangelicalism? Even in the protestantism of my own boyhood we did believe in God and in salvation by Jesus Christ, and we should have been horrified at this humanism. How can devout writers be so unconscious of the godlessness of what they are saying, and in all probability remain unconscious of it even when it has been pointed out?
A great deal must be ascribed to the numbing effect of customary phraseology. Crowds of people are taken in by the pious sarcasm of Gibbon, the religious terminology of Eucken, and the poetry of Pantheism. But the failure is more than intellectual. The habit of men's minds is determined mainly by what they practise. Early Protestantism failed to retain its Evangelicalism because it threw away the sacramental system of the Church. This explanation may be followed on two sides.
(1) As to the system of the Church. Rightly or wrongly men had believed for centuries that there was a system of organisation and worship given by God. The early Protestants shared that belief, but as they [24/25] could not agree what the system was, Modern Protestantism has fallen back on the idea that all systems exist merely according to the convenience of the individual. The early Protestants grew up, therefore, under this belief that they belonged to God's Church and were following His order in fear and reverence. Modern Protestants are habituated to the belief that they have themselves constituted a Church, the order of which depends solely on their own experience, opinion, and judgment.
Now it is with the Church, as it is with God, at least this far—if, beginning from ourselves, we make God or the Church according to our judgment, we cannot at the same time believe ourselves to be made or judged by them. If we make the Church as we like to have it, it ceases to be a witness to God, or rather, it becomes a witness that God is as we think Him. In practice our likings and thinkings are the really determinative factor. Finally, God and His Church are only names for our higher ideals and collective activities. Certainly this self-beginning is the road up which we not only seem, but proclaim our right to walk, and the conclusion is the conclusion at which we both seem and proclaim ourselves to have arrived.
(2) The ancient Church system was fundamentally sacramental. The ministry itself was sacramental, ordained on behalf of God to be the agency of His gifts. The Reformers meant to keep the sacramental faith, but for certain reasons rejected the sacramental ministry. They maintained a ministry only as a pastorate for edification—to lead in prayer, but primarily for exhortation. Prayer, however, is an effort of our own. Exhortation is an effort to create certain states in us of mind or feeling. Thus, our Christian efforts and Christian states occupied far more attention than the gifts of God.
The Church of England system is still sacramental, with a sacramental ministry ordained on behalf of God, [25/26] but our Anglican mind is quite otherwise. Thus, in our "Mission Studies" there is no allusion at all to a Divine Order of the Church, which indeed would be inconsistent with the idea that the Church is "constituted by quiet Christian people." On p. 29, there is some allusion to the sacraments. First, to the results if people would remember their baptismal promises, none to the results of baptism itself. Then, after a vague reference to Confirmation, we are, lastly, invited to believe the two meanings of the Eucharist, viz. "Jesus only," and the fellowship of saints. I am not sure what exactly is intended by "Jesus only." It might mean that He alone has power. I think it means that we should work either for Him or in accordance with His teaching. The latter meanings are most in harmony with the pamphlet as a whole. The second meaning, "fellowship of saints," reminds one only of a very common Protestant view that the Eucharist is a communion primarily with one another.
The sacramental faith is vital to the Christian faith, just because it is vital to any faith that it should be consistently practised. How and why it is vital, one has only to study this Modern Protestantism in order to see. It seems amazing that any Christian could write those awful words, "our Lord has left His Church," but it is not at all amazing that Christians should have unconsciously got into the habit of thinking He has, when, instead of making the ordained sacrament of His supernatural Presence the key of their spiritual life, they have in fact shoved it on one side as an occasional devout exercise. When prayers and sermons, efforts and states of our own, are habitually regarded as the essential part of religion; when the Presence and operation of God are being treated as dependent, not upon His own act in the way, place, and means He appointed and chose, but upon the conditions which we maintain in ourselves; it is not at all amazing that we begin to regard these same efforts, states, and conditions as the [26/27] determinative factors of all life, and God as wholly dependent on us. Of course we do not admit that God has become to us an unreal name for the higher or nicer parts of our own internal experiences, ideals, contemplations, but it is so, and it would be amazing if it were not so, when losing the habit of eucharistic worship, we have nothing left to worship except the aforesaid parts of our own insides.
IV. THE CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH.
I began by admitting that the National Mission was a necessity. In this day, when God has come to judgment, it is impossible to keep silence; we must of necessity bring out that which is in us. And that being admitted, is it worth while to weaken men's hands at this stage by merely negative criticism? It would be possible to make a personal explanation, but it is not worth it. The true answer is—if the autumn Mission were the climax of our effort, it is far too late to speak now. But it is the saving feature of the Mission —which alone justifies the shortness and haste of its preparation—that the autumn Mission is not a climax but a beginning. The criticism I have put forward is not a mere criticism of effort, but a contribution, towards a National Repentance.
We all know that to ask for National Repentance is to ask a very big thing indeed. We ask Tom, Dick and Harry to repent of getting drunk, stealing, neglecting their children, and other recognised offences; but to ask Messrs. Respectable & Co. to repent of a deal in shares, to ask the Carlton and the Reform Clubs to repent of thinking about votes, is quite another matter. To ask Church-goers to repent of buying their frocks too cheap, or playing golf on Sundays, is one thing; to ask our Church leaders to repent is also another.
The political and social condition of England before the war and her condition now, is amply sufficient to [27/28] prove the need of a National Repentance, for nobody can deny that somehow or other the whole political and social system is wrong. We are not justified in demanding that people shall accept our diagnosis off-hand, but we are justified in demanding that every one, leaders and all, shall seriously face the challenge and find out what is wrong. The religious condition of England is amply sufficient to prove the need of religious repentance. Nobody can deny that our religion has failed. We are not justified in demanding that our particular criticisms shall be accepted off-hand, but we are justified in demanding that the Church, leaders and all, shall seriously face the challenge of facts.
I make one last quotation, not this time from our "Mission Studies," but from "Studies in the Prophets," by the same authors. "Is there any fear that, if a great Prophet were raised up in the Church of England, he would be driven out of it, as Amos was out of the sanctuary at Bethel?
This is an extraordinarily pregnant and important question, but I doubt if even our authors realise its significance. First, let us note three points:—
(1) No one ever yet rejected a great Prophet, admitting that he was a great Prophet. People have always rejected Prophets on the ground that they were not prophets at all, but interlopers, shoving in where they had no business.
(2) Whether men do reject a prophetic claim depends on whether they like the message or not. If people find themselves in a difficulty, they often recognise very strange prophets who profess to be able to show them a way out. If people are self-contented, or sure they know their own way, they are very little inclined to listen to any one who warns them against it.
(3) Let us note who makes the rejection. There were no doubt some who were deeply impressed by Amos' message, otherwise his prophecies would hardly have been preserved. Probably there were many more [28/29] who were inclined to be impressed, but the leaders of the Bethel religion took a decisive stand: They were not going to listen to any criticism. The result showed that the Church as a body followed its leaders.
We have not yet, however, quite exhausted the significance of the instance given us. Bethel seems a rather unfortunate parallel to use for the Church of England. According to the Scriptural view, Bethel was the rival religious centre to Jerusalem, set up for political reasons by a schismatic king "who made Israel to sin." For his new worship he provided a priesthood of his own. I wonder if our authors remembered the use which had been made of this Bethel parallel, I believe, by Newman.
Suppose then that a man like Newman should stand forth and say—"Thus saith the Lord—Seek ye Me, but seek not Bethel (C. of E.), for Bethel shall come to nought (Amos v. 5). I hate your services. Take away the noise of your Cathedral music (21, 23). I will raise up the Tabernacle of David (from which you split off, ix. II)." Certainly we could not recognise him as a prophet unless we were prepared to deny the priesthood of our own Church.
But we might consider the Bethel principle in regard to England generally. For England and the Church we have a closer parallel in Jeremiah. Jerusalem had a true priesthood and sacrifice of Divine appointment. Jeremiah accuses the city of moral offences, but of this centrally, that having received a covenant of God; the people had turned aside to worship after fashions of their own. "They deceive every one his neighbour," because "through deceit they refuse to know Me" (ix. 5, 6).
Supposing a prophet should arise and accuse England (a) of having forgotten the Maker of heaven and earth (Jeremiah x.), to trust in the characters and plans of men (xvii. 5), and to worship the ideals and experiences of men's hearts, which are deceitful above all things [29/30] (xvii. 9) (b) of having scoffed at any Divine order in a contemptuous assertion of men's right to worship, as and where they please, thus forsaking God's law to walk in the stubbornness of their own hearts (xi. 6, 8; ii. 20; vi. i6; ix. 13; etc.); (c) of having therefore forsaken the sacramental ordinances of living water to hew out cisterns of their own pious and moral contemplation (ii. 13). "The prophet that hath a dream (a theory or patent Christianity), let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully" (xxiii. 28).
Suppose the prophet next turned to the Church, as knowing the way and the covenant of the Lord (v. 5), and accused us, (d) of having neglected and hidden the supernatural grace of the covenant sacraments under our formal Anglican services for fear of lay unbelief and the times; (e) of throwing away the souls of our children for the sake of a smug respectability, because we had neither faith nor courage enough to face facts, to teach or make confessions, and to give the benefit of absolution which we were ordained and commanded to give; (f) that we had left the Gospel for the smooth complacencies of an Interdenominational but Pelagian Protestantism, thus doing with the Gospel faith what we had done with the covenant order which embodied the faith.
Should we drive such a prophet out, as Amos was driven out of Bethel? It is a very momentous and difficult question. Let us remember our Lord's words about building the tombs of the prophets, and that other warning: "As your fathers did, so do ye." As some contribution towards an answer, we might ask who are the people whom the authorities of the Church of England, in deference to politicians, popular sentiment, and the Times, have been industriously doing their best to drive out at intervals for a good many years past, as teachers of pestilent superstition, or sometimes merely in the name of broad-mindedness. We might even ask [30/31] what sort of teaching and what warnings the Council of the National Mission—a very representative body—is willing and is not willing to listen to and to put before the Church for its earnest consideration in the day of repentance, of heart-searching, and self-examination, for, here, as at Bethel, the mass of the Church is much swayed by its representative leaders.
Warnings so extraordinarily like those of Jeremiah that they can be expressed almost identically in his words, have been given to the Church. We cannot expect the right speaker to go about with "Great Prophet" on his back in gilt letters. We have every reason for not listening, and especially these two reasons—(1) that we do not like his message, (2) the Times strongly disapproves of it. Yet they are hardly convincing. Why ever should Amos go to Bethel except to speak of sins and errors, which people did not realise and were very unwilling to admit? Confession of sins is always difficult, especially for those in a leading position. Perhaps the most we can hope for just now is the humility which acknowledges the need and duty of looking for what may have gone astray in us or in our ideas. At present I do not see any definite signs of any such readiness on the part of our religion. I see no confession of religious failure, nor any search for its causes. I can only see a readiness to insist that other people should repent.
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