Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 1931.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The pressing problems of the day are concerned with social ills. But the social ills are only surface symptoms. Back of the symptoms and far down underneath lurk the spiritual diseases of which the symptoms are signals. We must read the signs rightly if we would treat the diseases intelligently. Something more than a tidy bandage is needed for an infected hand.
Human readjustments must be made and made quickly. But such readjustments will be neither satisfactory nor permanent unless something more is accomplished. As a matter of fact human readjustments can only be a secondary product of the fundamental readjustment of mankind with God. The pressing problem is at root not a material but a spiritual one.
The radio exhortations to remember and to emulate the conquering courage of our pioneer forefathers do not go beyond the merely rhetorical until and unless we are exhorted to remember the spiritual vision and the religious motives which generated that courage. The cheering reminders of present rich material resources are misleading if we fail to remember that our forefathers achieved heroic adventures and accomplished impressive results through hardships. They knew how to abound and how to suffer need, because they knew that they could do all things through Christ who strengthened them. I do not idealize them all, but the ones who mattered were like that. The average may have been about the same as it is today among us. But there is no getting away from the fact that their religion made them what they were.
The spiritual giants in those days were the men and women who knew that they were engaged in war against spiritual wickedness. This was their first and chief concern. There are too many moral spendthrifts today who, having squandered the income, are living on the capital of the religious heritage of their ancestors. The result of that sort of thing is moral and social bankruptcy.
From countless Altars today the inspired words of Saint Paul will be read. Only the faithful will be there to hear. But it will be the faithful who in the long run will save the world from its present predicament. It always has been so. And it always will be so. It is a thousand pities that the whole world has not ears to hear. However that may be, the Church is confident. We have heard. We shall remember. We shall yield neither to despondency nor panic.
“My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For ye wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God.” Truth. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. The word of God. Prayer. We shall need them all in this business of quenching the fiery darts of wickedness which kindle our social conflagrations.
We need a religious reformation. There can be no hope of a social reformation until we have it. The attempts at social reformation are leaving religion out of the reckoning. They are either violently anti-religious or designedly non-religious. Religion is regarded as being an active menace or a passive impracticability. Now it cannot be both. By this time the world ought to have learned that it is neither. But history will repeat itself. The reaction will follow. Religion will be re-discovered as being the only foundation of human happiness.
Affectionately in Our Lord,