BE it said at the outset that the title of this paper is not of my choosing. I should have left out the word "alleged."
The failure of the Church seems patent to-day when one looks at the spectacle of the world. Over in Europe, they say, many crosses have been spared in the general devastation,--so strangely spared that whispers of miracle pass about. On the roads over which move grim processions marching to kill, sad processions retreating to suffer, the Christ looks down:
"His sad face on the Cross sees only this,
After the passion of two thousand years."
Sometimes the figure stands unscathed when the Church that sheltered it is a ruin. Here is such a picture:
"All that is left of the building is a few white arches. Leaning forward from what remains of the wall at one end is a pale Figure, with arms widely extended, a wreath of thorns on its head. Shells have smashed away from it the wooden cross to which the arms were nailed; they seem now opened wide in a gesture of entreaty. . . . One must admit the ironic contrast of a Christ unscathed in a shattered Church. The persistence of the Figure, the dissolution of the fabric! The Church is man's interpretation of Christianity: but the Church has disappeared in this war of Christians; the Christ remains."
So the onlooker, expressing a widely spread attitude. And what can those say to whom the Church is infinitely more than "man's interpretation of Christianity"? To them also, are not these Calvaries looking down on battle-fields a tragic symbol, not of war only but of the civilized world?
If these years teach anything new, it is that civilization per se has little especially admirable about it. Civilization is no end in itself, as men have assumed it to be; it is merely an instrument, to be turned to use either by the forces of evil or by the forces of good. Have the forces of good, led by the churches, yet captured it? The answer, No, rises confused but unmistakable; the war has brought into terrible relief the persistent fact, that the Church, divided, hesitant, backward, has apparently no contribution to make, as an official body, either toward the healing of the nations or toward the healing of social disorders.
In Europe, churches are in use as observation-posts; they serve as shelter to the wounded or the homeless; from time to time the One Sacrifice is pleaded piteously from their ruined altars. But in collective effort to prevent the horror or to end it, the Church has been helpless. In effort to de-Paganize industrial and social life, is she not equally helpless the world over? Despite the frequent facile assumption that Christianity has undergone a great social revival, the reply must be, Yes. Religion has consoled the bereaved, it has strengthened the dying, it has established vast works of philanthropy; but for any statesmanlike attempt to evolve justice between nations or classes by the application of the law of Christ, men have looked to it in vain.
Last December I saw a strange Christmas tree. It was in the home of a German friend, whose tree is usually lovely with the radiant symbols of the Christ-Child. This year, no star, no angel, graced the summit; there was no manger at the base, with adoring shepherds and sweet Mother-Maid. The traditional eagle of Odin spread his wings on the topmost twig, and the snake, whom our Northern forefathers saw at the roots of the world-tree Ygdrasil, coiled with red tongue poisonously stuck out, high among the branches. "The tree has always belonged to the snake; it was a mistake to suppose that the Christ-Child had killed him," said my friend bitterly.
No, let us not say "alleged." "Alleged" has a defiant note. It calls for an apologia, a rebuttal. But in this year of grace,--and sin--excuse is no attitude for the Church or her children. Corporate penitence behooves us rather. We belong on our knees confessing our wrong-doing, not on our feet defending ourselves.
The normal tissue of our national life has obviously not been woven by Christianity. Our economic and industrial order is the natural outgrowth of forces with which religion has had nothing whatever to do. Many of these forces are to-day generally regarded as obsolescent; and the indictment against the Church is that she does nothing in particular to hasten their disappearance.
It is an indictment hard to disprove, but not particularly hard to explain. Though Christians be penitent, they must also regard the situation with common sense, and recognize the fallacy that mingles with truth in radical attacks on the Church.
These attacks habitually speak of the Church as if she were a separate body, responsible for converting State and society. The truth is more subtle. The Church is not a separate body, it is an interpenetrating force. The baptized individuals who compose it are to a large degree the same who compose State and society, and the Church in her corporate action can never take a stand which her members in their other capacities would repudiate.
Suppose five people constitute the Church in a certain village. Henry is a mill-owner, Patrick a hand in his factory, Mary is Patrick's wife, John a clerk in the bank, Kate is John's daughter, married to a stockholder in Henry's mill. Problem: to gain from these people a corporate mind concerning the wage-scale in that mill. One other person must be added: Peter, the parson. Now there is much to be said in favor of an old custom by which the Church in that community meant just Peter and nobody else. That custom, however, is obsolete among us; and regret is less, because it was partly based on the assumption that Peter was a perfectly disinterested person as well as a specialist in morals. Unfortunately, Peter's social relations are mainly with Henry and his family; moreover, he derives his subsistence from Henry. I believe this fact does not always prejudice him, but it does make his situation difficult, especially as he uses most of his salary to educate some heathen in the far Black Country.
And the community expects the Church to solve the labor-problem!
Now of course a large share of responsibility, though not the whole, does devolve on Peter. The clergy must guide us. But the point is that the business of the Church, as represented by Peter and his flock, is not to work from outside on a recalcitrant world, but to accomplish the far more difficult task of converting itself,--a task so difficult that it would never be accomplished save by the aid of supernatural grace.
In this interpenetration of Church and world, the reason is found for that lagging timidity which keeps the Church as an institution in the rear rather than in the van of social progress. We shall never again see a Church dictating terms to the secular world, unless we return to the discarded method of trusting her decisions to a hierarchy instead of to the whole body of the faithful; and that was not a particularly successful method, for ever since the Gift of Constantine, clergy as well as laity have remained a part of the very order which they would transform. It would therefore seem hopeless to expect from the Church a standard immeasurably ahead of her time. The positions she takes can hardly be quite out of reach of the common mind, for the common mind has dictated them.
How disparate the elements are which compose this mind is evident as soon as any common action is sought. To prove the slow growth of the social sense it is only necessary to try praying together without falling back on liturgies. Union in prayer must surely precede union in action; but in any praying group concerned with the social situation, each member will try to press his own specific, and the formulae may tend ludicrously to neutralize each other. Here is a petition that the socialist party may gain votes, here one for the suppression of socialism; here pleads a suffragist, here an anti. And preparedness! What a Babel of voices, all perfectly good Christian voices, has been buzzing of late around the Throne! That they all may be One, prayed Our Blessed Lord; but He never meant one in opinion.
Yet when the very utmost is allowed for contradictions in Christian thought, when inclusiveness is pushed to the limit, it will be found that there is a region below opinion, deeper than dissent. In certain basic social principles unity must obtain, otherwise the Church must simply cease to be. These principles are so plain that, once stated, Christians have no option. They are indissolubly related to the peculiar treasures which the Church exists to guard. Who, nurtured on the Sacrament of Brotherhood, can stay contented with our present social order when once eyes have been opened? Who can really read the Gospels and fail to find them a disturbing force? In the intimacies of Christian experience, in the very sanctuary of faith, men seeking to learn the mind of Christ discover over and over the revolutionary nature of true discipleship:
"Where'er His chariot takes its way
The gates of death let in the day."
This has always been the case. However conservative the Church has been in her corporate and official capacity, radicals in all ages have been nursed at her breasts. But it is more the case to-day than at any previous time since the first century; for modern Christendom has awakened with a start of recognition to the historic purpose of her Master,--the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. This means the moralizing of life in its ultimate practical relations. Through the roar of battle and of factory, the Master's summoning Voice sounds stern.
Moreover, while the Church has lagged behind, great lay movements of unrest and of reconstruction have arisen and clamor for allegiance. She has not originated these movements; we must accept the fact that her official spirit cannot be adventurous. But when other adventurers have blazed the trail, she will be eternally disgraced if she does not follow.
Discrimination is necessary. There are phases in these movements on which she can have no convictions. To measures like suffrage or anti-suffrage, to theories like socialism or syndicalism or single-tax, the Church cannot commit herself, though her members will naturally use their Christian ideals as a touchstone for all such propositions. There are other phases where her inaction would be a scandal and a crime. Perhaps the type of social reforms which Christianity must endorse, or perish, might be described by the phrase, "preliminaries to sanctification." It is an awkward phrase; but it obviously covers all measures aiming directly at the preservation of personality; it would apply to movements, legislative or private, demanding social sacrifice and self-control. It would include every statement in the admirable program of the Federation of Churches.
Many points in this program deal with industrial conditions, and with these, sanctification may at first sight appear to have little to do. But a moment's thought shows that it has a great deal. The Church, like her Master, is in a way more concerned over the spiritual state of the prosperous than over that of the poor, and her anxiety about social justice springs largely from the fact that so long as the rich and fortunate countenance unbrotherly things, sanctification is impossible for them. It may be good for the soul of Patrick to subsist on a starvation wage, but it is very bad for the soul of Henry the mill-owner to pay him that wage. It is spiritual suicide for the possessors of privileges to rest, until such privileges become the common lot. This truth is what the Church should hold relentlessly before men's eyes; it is what makes indifference to social readjustments impossible to her shepherding love.
One does not see the sanctified man, for instance, defending his property rights with passion. A proposal has been made in a report of the Industrial Relations Commission that private bequests be limited to a million dollars. This is a reasonable and moderate proposal. It does not attack private property, but merely limits it at a point far above what most people reach, and no Christian mind would surely stoop to the meanness of claiming that it would unduly lessen incentive. It would deliver many men from fearful temptations,--a result for which we are told to pray. Incidentally, non-Christian moralists are pleading for self-limitation in wealth as the next step in the higher ethics. Now in view of Christ's persistent feeling that it is dangerous to be rich,--a feeling that no subtle exegesis has ever succeeded in explaining away,--one might have expected to see His disciples, His Church, eagerly welcome the plan and press it with enthusiasm. Did one see this spectacle? One did not.
Again, no Christian can remain indifferent or non-partisan toward movements for the protection of the weak. If the Church really possessed that homely family sense so touch-ingly expressed in the collect for Good Friday, most social problems would be solved. It may be materialistic to object to external poverty and sordidness; but no one has a right to say so unless he is prepared to welcome such conditions for his own relatives. It may be superficial to look to legislation as a cure for social evils; but the people who think so must be prepared with other cures. They must not be permitted to fall back on charity, whether "scrimped and iced" or warm and efficient; that solution is far outgrown. Neither may they dismiss the subject with the sententious remark that the one thing necessary is a change of heart. Necessary? Certainly! Change of heart is the beginning, it is not the end. Changed hearts all around, by hundreds and by thousands, are trying to express their conversion in social action. Has the Church no guidance to give to hearts when they have been changed?
If such matters as those indicated have nothing to do with the Church, then the Church has nothing to do with righteousness. The hour has come for Christian thought to give definite sanction to the new social ethic that has been developing for the last half century. The check by common will on private greed, the care for public health, the protection of childhood and manhood, the securing of fair leisure from the monotonies of modern labor, form a program hardly to be called radical any longer. It is accredited by all the progressive forces of the community, it forms the background of respectable modern thinking. But it has not yet emerged into respectable doing. That is another matter; involving effort and sacrifice. Is not this just where the Church might come in? She has missed the chance at initiative; the chance of performance remains with her.
Let us not for a moment tolerate the contemptuous excuse for her too frequent silence, proffered by the radicals,--that her resources come from the sinners. Perhaps there are no sinners; perhaps there are only good men, blind. But assuredly they are very blind. Is the Church habitually giving them help to see? Is Church membership a guarantee that in time of stress a man will act on a higher level than mere business honor? A group of manufacturers fights organized labor, only to acknowledge, when the strike is won, that a rise was well warranted by the profits. Confronted by this disgraceful sight, does any one think to enquire how many of these employers were Church-members?
The standards of the Church in this matter of social morality should be no niggling minimum. They should be bold and explicit. She should make every Christian woman ashamed of herself so long as she neglects to secure a cleaner conscience by buying Consumer's League goods. She should make every Christian man ashamed of himself, so long as he is unable or unwilling to pay a living wage to his least employee. She should bid dividend holders be prepared to suffer rather than to profit by the exploitation of the laborer. Shrunken dividends can cause much distress, but as a class, by and large, the dividend holders are better off than the wage-earners. Poorest first is Christian law. Just wages should be the first consideration, reasonable dividends the second, personal profits for the directors the last. To reverse the order is usual nowadays; but it is Pagan.
And is it too much to hope that where a moral issue is plain, the Church might even occasionally get a little ahead of the community conscience, instead of always lagging a little in the rear?
Concerning that matter of dividends, for example. There is a growing healthy touchiness everywhere about the sources of wealth. In England feeble protests even arise,--oh, the shame of it!--against bishops' holding shares in breweries. As social imagination quickens, it becomes harder to accept income without knowing what that income connotes. Some radicals, to be sure, do not believe in the principles of interest at all; and it does no harm to dream of a day when the complex system involving it will be replaced by a more direct relation between services and rewards, class distinctions vanishing in consequence. But in the meantime many people must continue to live on the proceeds from stocks and bonds; and it is reasonable to wish to be sure that the money has not been gathered at the cost of cruelty or graft.
To profit by conditions which leave one uneasy is demoralizing and dangerous. A quarter century ago, much uneasiness concentrated itself among women upon the morale of buying; to meet it arose the Consumers' League. To-day the Christian stockholders of the United States begin to demand a White List of investments. Such a list if heeded would introduce a new principle into investing, quite apart from the size or security of the dividend. It would be a terrible nuisance. It would call for real sacrifice. Dozens of cogent reasons prove it impossible. In famous words, I am not concerned with the possibility of it,--only with the necessity. Perhaps it cannot be done, but that is a serious conclusion to reach. For the only Christian alternative to moralizing the present order is to abolish it, and if the Church cannot accomplish the first alternative, she must address herself with all speed to the second--which spells revolution.
Obviously, the Church is not herself competent to draw up such a white list of investments. Only trained experts could carry through so delicate, so intensely difficult a task. But I submit that it is for her to crystallize and encourage the new demand in the name of the torn consciences of her children. Through pulpits, forums, Sunday-schools, guilds, conferences, she can hold it clear before the public eye. Organized groups of Christian stockholders, studying the problem, feeling their way toward concerted action, rise before the fancy. And why could not the Church appoint her own commission of experts? She raises great funds: funds for philanthropy, for missions, for the relief of her aged clergy. Why not a fund to render her more fortunate children secure that their income is not drawn from Sunday labor, child-labor, or any unfair exploitation of the workers? The mere existence of such a commission would give her new status among reformers and among those alienated from her. It would serve as a visible witness that organized Christianity was in earnest. It would moreover tend automatically to establish the standard it approved, for it would offer strong moral support to the many in the younger generation of employers and financiers whose hearts are set on the improvement of industrial conditions.
Schemes are easy to propose. This one calls for limitless wisdom, intelligence, tact, and pluck. And all the while the smooth voices of the world proclaim the status quo so pleasant,--and insinuate so plausibly that questions of this sort are irrelevant to religion!
The world has always taken the same line. The Church used to solve the problem of standards more easily in some ways than she can now. Formerly as always she worked in two fashions,--by permeating the ideals of society, and by contradicting them. A level of conduct slightly higher than if there had been no Church at all was accepted without qualms for the majority; but severe Counsels of Perfection shone aloft, luring the valiant to follow. And follow they did in throngs,--Regulars, Third Orders, Confraternities,--the chivalry of Christ, aiming at literal obedience to Him, vowed to conduct that contradicted at vital points the standards around them. We are all for permeation nowadays, and perhaps,--though the claim is timid,--religion really permeates a little more than it did. But there would be difficulty in reasserting the counsels. Mixing up mediocrity with democracy in our usual way, we have grown insensibly to such feeling for the common man that we distrust demands which he is not likely to approve. Also, the asceticism which held that holiness must repudiate life has yielded to enthusiasm for life in its fullness. These instincts are in their way creditable enough; but they result in a slackening of Christian ethics. As the Bishop of Oxford said years ago, religion suffers from diffusion at the cost of intensity.
What accredited type of piety did the United States inherit from the last century? Suave-mannered, pleasant-voiced; endangering nothing in particular, an ornament to the Sunday pews; devoted to good causes in proportion to their remoteness, intent on promoting safe philanthropies and foreign missions, but, so far as home affairs are concerned, ignorant alike of the ardors of the mystic and the heroisms of the reformer. A queer type of Christianity if one thinks of it,--cheerfully assuming that what is innocently agreeable is religious. Agonies of the social conscience deprecated in the name of spirituality, agonies of the inward life yet more deprecated in the name of sanity. No agonies at all, if you please: careless dependence rather on an affectionate God, confusedly mixed with a sentimental love of scenery. Parents more concerned with hygiene than with salvation for their offspring; sacrifice relegated to the foreign field, or to underpaid social workers. A domestic religion, mid-Victorian in effect, calculated to make life pleasant in the family circle,--but curiously at ease in Zion.
That was about what Christianity meant in many a home three years ago.
Then came the war, with its appeal for devotion to the uttermost; and the peoples of Europe responded with a sort of sacred joy. They obey the call of governments to destroy fellow-men at any personal cost in the name of patriotism; and their readiness puts to shame the failure of the Church to enlist them for the protection of manhood, in the holier Name of Christ.
The excuse for the contrast is of course that men will always be ready to defend ancient sanctities; it requires imagination as well as courage to break new ways for Love to enter. Yet how tempting to picture a new crusade, that should win for Christ the whole sphere of social and industrial relations! Here is the Adventure of the waiting world; and the Church should call men to it with a trumpet.
In the great strange years to come, will she call them; will she guide them? On the answer lies the salvation of civilized life. Battle-smoke overhangs those years: it drifts across the narrow seas, so blinding that we in America cannot discern our future. But this is sure, that after the war old evils will be fiercer than ever, while aspirations toward righteousness also will be fired with a new intensity. Realities become masked with the advance of civilization. Many masks have fallen now, many conventions are destroyed. The social order is seen stark naked: it is not a lovely sight. In passing, one may notice that the convulsion which has stripped humanity, was not caused by the radical forces once so dreaded, but, one is almost tempted to say, by the Devil himself, masquerading as gentleman, patriot, and diplomatist. In the hideous glare of the firing, it is possible to see Mars and Mammon, twin supporters of the old Capitalistic order, rushing on their own destruction.
This is the hour of opportunity; this is the hour of the Church. In the last fifty years she has accomplished a great preparation, by her rediscovery of the purpose of Jesus. Few and hesitant, however, have been her attempts to realize that purpose, to strive boldly, through profound labors of readjustment and reconstruction, to establish the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of love, on earth. Perhaps one cause of her semi-paralysis has been her failure to recognize that the central incident in the process of establishing the kingdom must always be a Cross.
If civilization, with its science, its culture, its thousand graces of heart and mind, is not to be abandoned to the powers of evil, the revolutionary principle of love must be accepted as the practical basis for all human relations, industrial and national.
But, for the Christian, what a tremendous IF!
The central question will not down: Has religion anything to do with civilization? Perhaps the age is sweeping to catastrophic end,--and in that case the true aim of the Christian is not to transform the social order, but to transcend it. So thought the Early Church: her Christianity was largely uninterested in secular affairs, and her disciples, adopting an ad interim policy toward the evil world from which they had been saved, awaited, patient, humble, the coming of the Son of Man. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!" That last prayer of the Scripture canon is still the final prayer on Christian lips; and still the echo of the Lord's own question stings the heart: When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?
Trust in progress has received a shock of late. But even before the war, a strong current in the religious world was considering it an illusion, and setting toward those Apocalyptic hopes always accompanied with otherworldly fatalism. Books like Hugh Benson's Lord of the World, and the Russian Solovyof's brilliant War Progress and the End of History, expressed the curious idea that the modern humanitarian movement, if it were not Anti-Christ himself, was at least a preparation for Anti-Christ; talk concerning the Second Advent was revived in unexpected quarters, and mysticism, with its stress on the interior life as the only matter of importance, entered its ancient claim in new and lovely forms.
Perhaps few people hold explicitly the belief in an apocalyptic as opposed to a social type of Christianity. But this is the extreme of an instinctive reaction. While social Christianity, weak and young, reaches out pleading arms for help, suspicion of it has set in. Growing opposition threatens between two Christian schools, one humanitarian, philanthropic, even socialistic, stressing the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth; the other mystic, individualistic, intent exclusively on the development of spiritual faculty, on the release of eternity in Time. This last school, I suppose, would not oppose temporal works of mercy when they clamored to be done; but it would take slight interest in attacking those hidden wrongs basic to the present social order. No white list of investments needed for its followers!
Something in most of us shares the distaste for social Christianity. And no wonder. Cant about social service fills the air. The complacent young make it an excuse for the neglect of penitence and devotion. The hungry sheep leave Church, swollen less often with theological wind than in Milton's day, but with sociological chaff, which is no more nourishing. Earnest people go to Church very wistful, and what they crave from Christian preaching is not instruction about reforms. They want release for the frozen springs of will and feeling, power imparted to open the soul to the inflowing Grace of God. Too often, the modern pulpit evades their need. Too often, the modern Church seems like a great machine for the cheery promotion of social welfare, and it is natural enough if the charge is made that social service, and care for social justice, is simply that clever old enemy materialism, invading the sanctities in new disguise.
Personally, I believe that there is one way only of avoiding the menacing division between spiritual and social Christianity. I believe that the reproach of unspirituality, so often and so justly cast on social religion, is mainly due to the frequent divorce between social enthusiasm and Christian dogma; and that the special power of the Church to meet the social emergency depends on the presence within her of a large group to whom the two aspects of her heritage are alike precious and essential, and who draw their social radicalism from the Catholic faith in its wholeness.
The great movement of social reform and revolution will go on, as it began, quite independently of Christian people. But if the Christian will has a distinctive contribution to make, such a contribution must spring from the distinctive Christian convictions. Reform, revolution, have for the Christian one supreme aim,--the general release of human power, so that men may more truly know God and enjoy Him forever. This is the end of all our "preliminaries to sanctification." Unless a man know within himself this supreme aim, how can he rightly further it for others? And what is the Catholic faith, except the ultimate means for attaining the knowledge of God verified by the Christian experience of the ages?
This attitude is unpopular, and it is currently assumed that revolt from dogma and zeal for social reform are mysteriously connected. Significant books' illustrate this thesis; brilliant men defend it. It is a plausible thesis, for the alliance is natural and common. All instincts of revolt sympathize while they are immature, and reaction against the accredited in religion and in society is likely to make a simultaneous appeal to the mind. Yet treacherous accidents of time or origin can bring into temporary alliance movements either unrelated or opposed. Communism, for instance, to many among its disciples and its critics alike, implies hostility to marriage. But the basis of sex relations and property relations is quite diverse, and there is no earthly reason why community in goods should imply community in wives. Nor is there any reason either earthly or heavenly, why disbelief in the Virgin-Birth or the Trinity should predispose a man to oppose vested interests or sweatshops.
The modern churches are full of people who find dogma a clog to the free spirit, and who concern themselves with it as little as may be. Let them stay, and work for righteousness. But let them recognize the value of the other school, who apprehend Christianity less as ethical program than as spiritual power, and whose firm faith in Catholic doctrine is the well-spring of revolutionary conviction. There is intimate union, known to many who shrink from speaking of these arcana, between the Catholic faith at its fullest and social radicalism at its boldest. Strength comes to these, not from such generalized religious ideals as can be shared by Buddhist or Jew, but from the definite Gospel as interpreted by the historic Church. They leave the religion of Humanity to those without the churches, for they know a better thing,--the religion of Christ.
Religious fervor, as the past proves, is attended by a vicious danger of spiritual egotism, unless it lead to social action. But plain Christians generally know to-day, as they have always known, that for them social action is in the long run unmotived and perilous unless it draw from deep wells of religious faith.
And if any say, as they will, that dogma is a dead thing, irrelevant to these reflections and to the love of God, let them remember that most Christian doctrines are simply experience taken at white heat and crystallized. Because experience is concerned with relationships, the richest social implications may be drawn from all the great theological concepts of the Church. For instance: to casual surface thinking, nothing seems more remote from daily life or more repellent than the more recondite phases of the doctrine of the Atonement. Yet nowhere can heroism be more truly quickened, nowhere can modern ethic be more severely rebuked, than in contemplating the amazing depths of love which the Church stumblingly tries to describe in that doctrine. Jealousy for the welfare of one's children is a central point in this ethic of ours: to protect them is a cardinal duty, and a far stronger deterrent from radical change than personal ambition or fear; many and many a man would risk all for himself who will risk nothing for his child. Yet the Beloved Son, begotten before all worlds, is sent forth by the Father to suffer even unto death for the world's salvation; thus are our timidities put to shame; and the worshiper, contemplating the Atonement from the point of view not of man but of the Fount of Godhead, learns readiness to sacrifice not only himself, which is easy, but his children, which is hard.
Only by cherishing the tremendous impetus to bold social action to be found in the mystical depths of dogma can the modern social movement be rescued from the half-deserved reproach of putting the body above the soul, and losing sight of the eternal in the things of time. And many believe that only by drawing from this source can the movement gain permanent force to withstand the fierce passions of the lower nature, and to create the new era in which the impossible paradox shall be realized, righteousness and peace kissing each other, and mercy and truth meeting as lovers at last.
And in proportion as we draw from such source of strength, perhaps the question concerning the reality of human progress will cease so actively to distress us,--though we may be no more able to give a categorical answer to it than our Master was. It is clear that in the mind of Jesus, as in history, two principles were recognized about the Coming of the Kingdom: growth and catastrophe. When His Church loses thought of catastrophe, and devotes herself comfortably--and half-heartedly--to furthering growth, omens of future judgment are likely to gather, as they are gathering now. We shall do well if, obeying Christ's indubitable teachings, we join to our steadfast efforts to promote the cause of the Kingdom on earth, the awestruck readiness for sudden judgment. Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, and the kingdom cometh not with observation; but it is sure to come. And we are to remember that in the New Testament judgment is the goal of hope, the beginning and not the end; since it ushers in that millennium which is no heavenly mirage, but the Christian Utopia, the destined heritage of fleshly men.
Meantime let us not soothe our slothful wills because Our Lord delayeth His Coming. Nothing is clearer than that Christ condemns inactivity. We must increase our talents, we must tend our lamps, we must work in the vineyard as if the harvest time were sure. To the prayer, Thy Kingdom come on earth, which carries with it so certain a promise of fulfilment, must be joined that other last prayer without which the heart would fail indeed: Even so come, Lord Jesus. It is the supreme test of faith to live in uncertainty, and to that test our age is called. This means that in a peculiar sense, inward and mystic as well as practical, it must embrace the heroic aspects of the Cross.
The world has never been so conscious of Christ as in these days of horror. Cartoons show Him everywhere. The hand of the dead soldier rests on His wounded Feet; the sorrowing wife feels His consoling Presence. Kaiser and King turn their backs on Him or pierce Him with the bayonet. To His gray figure on the Cross, touched with dawn in the mists that rise from the profounds of mountain chasms, climb, bowed processions of phantom mourners, chanting in all the tongues of the warring nations to Him Who is their Peace. Meantime, those actual Calvaries that stand so grave and still, watching the battle-fields, bring a message of hope rather than despair. Though the walls of the Church seem shattered, and though no rest be found for the seeking soul in its ruins, it cannot perish so long as Christ abides. For His presence creates it, and that presence, manifest on its Altars, shall never leave the world He died to save.