From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. xvii-xx
Christian and Catholic
THIS book is not controversial. In these days of unbelief we are only too glad to recognize believers in Christ, whatever degree of faith they may have attained. By whatever name unconformists and sectarians call themselves, we recognize all baptized and faithful followers of Christ as Christians. The sins of former generations which rent us apart will not make us guilty of schisms if we do not refuse enlightenment and seek for reunion. We recognize, on the other hand, the Orthodox Churches of the East and the Roman Catholic as portions of the Church of Christ and their members as our fellow churchmen. They are most potent agencies in the preservation of the Christian religion. In the devotion of their members we recognize a zeal we might well emulate. We gladly welcome all acts of Christian recognition on their pat and are ready to reciprocate them. Our Church accepts their orders and places no barriers in the way of intercommunion.
Our purpose in writing is to offer some help, if by Gods grace we can do so, to any who, as they say, wish to believe but cannot; or, believing in God and Christianity, are for any cause in doubt as to their duty respecting church membership. There are, we know, many such. Yet we would sincerely say that our chief desire is not to make them converts, much as we love it, to that special portion of Christs Body the Church to which we belong.
The reason of this is that our religious experience has developed in us a strong antagonism to proselytism. There is apt to be so much of what is merely selfish and sectarian in it. Men want to get others to join their side, their party, their church, by way of triumph over some other body, or party, or church. They want their side to win, their congregation, parish, or sect to grow. They want to enlarge their tale of converts, after the manner of a Roman triumph, that ll the world may see how successful they are. This spirit leads in almost every town to jealousies and rivalries between sects and churches. It undermines, however, their spiritual life.
The professional proselytizer, as we know the class, is a repulsive character. He studies the art of injecting doubts into devout minds, of playing on the weaknesses and vanities of his proposed converts. He exaggerates the discords within their church, the contrariant opinions, the lack of discipline. Sometimes he cajoles, sometimes he seeks to terrify, sometimes he tries to influence by social advantages, sometimes he seeks to take souls captive by subtle sophisms. He is apt to be self-deceived as well as a deceiver, while asserting that he is working for the "greater glory of God." In reality he is doing what our Lord condemned in the Pharisees. They compassed heaven and earth to make proselytes, but failed grievously in making them true children of God. For themselves and their converts the result was just the opposite.
It is right to try to help our brothers who are in honest doubt, just in the same spirit as we would be glad for them to help us in need. It is right if out motive is to aid any Christian soul to come into closer union with Christ. Even should any one believe that his church was the only true one, yet to work for it in the same spirit one works for the success of an earthly project is to belie its character. We must work, not for any personal gain but as Christ did. Our guiding pole-star must be the good of others souls. If our own words are found of help to any, enabling them to know better Gods Will, in whatever way He leads them, may they have grace to follow it.
Our purpose will be also accomplished if in these days of absorbing secular interests we can aid in arousing religious inquiry. With the baubles of ambition clinking on the ear and cheating the eye, with the engrossing dream of splendid luxury captivating the heart, many impatiently push aside any suggestion of religion. Others give a slight but superficial consideration to it. By the law of association of ideas, thoughts idly come and as idly go through our minds. We cannot stop this any more than the circulation of our blood. But it is not painstaking thinking. No wonder the air is laden with murmurings and complaints of the disappointed, when so many never seriously face the problems, what are we, why are we here, what will our future be, in what does our real happiness consist, and what will bring man peace at the last?
Some deliberately refuse to entertain these questions. Religion is not like a philosophy or literature or science. She stands over against our conscience,a stern censor,and demands something. Steep and craggy is the ascent to the eternal heights, and it calls for exertion. She calls us to a life which has not self-interest for its governing principle, but to one based on the higher motive of service. The consequence is that whether a man believes or not depends largely on his predispositions and will. With the self-indulgent or self-satisfied Christianity has but little chance. God may have seemingly exhausted the resources of His entreaties, but His children stop their ears and harden their hearts.
Yet there are those who do wish help and are glad to receive it. They care not by whose hands the Lamp of Truth is help up to them; it is the light they want. They are alive to the folly of neglecting investigation and longer postponing decision. Opportunity has been likened to an Angel that presents herself with bandaged eyes and winged feet. Her eyes are bandaged, for men so often fail to discern her presence; her feet are winged, for she so quickly takes her flight. The Voice of God speaking within the souls says "To-day is the accepted time, to-day is the day of Salvation." The call is a loving and an imperative one, and our prayerful response should be, "O God, make me willing in this day of Thy power."
C. C. FOND DU LAC.
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