Зображення сторінки

the flower of Sharon? The teacher who, when asked of faith, speaks of belief, is vainly blowing a meaningless trumpet-blast into the ear of the prison-child. If he have faith himself, he knows that between faith and belief there is as much resemblance as there is between a martial sound and a martial colour,—no more. Belief is only a known something in one world corresponding to an unknown something in the other. When we say “Faith is belief,” we are giving a parable, not a definition : just as we are when we say, “Man is a flower.” And the symbol chosen is not perfect even as a symbol. Belief is an action of the intellect. Faith is an action neither of the intellect nor of the senses, but of the two it corresponds more truly with the latter than with the former. Faith is, in fact, the sensation of the soul. It is not belief, but sight. It is not comprehension, but apprehension. It is the faculty by which spiritual existences become as real to the soul as form and colour are to the eye; which presents God and divine things to us, not as hypotheses to be accepted, but as objects to be known; as dear and blessed realities, which the world of intellect and speculation cannot give, and which, we gratefully know, it cannot take away.

You prove to me by laborious, and to you convincing, arguments, that the existence of God is impossible ; but while you are speaking to my ear, He comes Himself and speaks to my heart, saying, “I am with thee;" and what avails argument after such a moment of communion ?

The belief which evidence creates, counter-evidence can destroy ; over the faith which comes of immediate vision it has no power.


says, “We know that Thou art a teacher come from God : for no màn can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with him." He was graciously pleased to consider Christ's credentials satisfactory; he had the honour of being the first convert to those "evidences of Christianity" which, in these latter days, are put before us as the very ark of God on which alone His presence can rest. And how was He received ? By an utter denial of any power in sense or intellect to give to man a divine vision. “You fancy,”—so Christ seems to say, “ that through the eyes


flesh and of your mind you have had a revelation of my divine

You have seen my miracles, you have drawn your conclusion, and you think that through that conclusion you have seen me.

You are mistaken. Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is bom of the Spirit is spirit. The conclusion that I am from God, because of my mighty works, is of the one; the knowledge of me, which is salvation, is of the other. You can trace the whole chain of evidence, you see it beginning in miracle, you think you see it ending in manifestation of the Christ. But this is not the method of my revelation. My kingdom is not something to which you can come; it is something which comes to you, and can only come when you are


ready to receive it. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

He that doeth righteousness is righteous. By their fruits ye shall know them. How true these sayings are, and how terrible is the mistake committed by any of us who are ever tempted to attribute to policy, love of fame, fear of hell, or other low motive, the holy living of those whose beliefs differ from our own. Is it not as plain as sunlight that in so doing we are betraying Christianity into the hands of its deadliest enemies, who will soon turn round triumphantly to ask what need there is for the grace of God if mere self-interest will produce such goodness? If ever the Holy Ghost is blasphemed with unpardonable blasphemy, it is when His manifestations in human lives are thus scorned and belied.

My friends, I am tired of this ceaseless babble against creeds. I am tired of hearing people exclaim against what they call the narrowness of assuming anything like finality in matters of religion. I am tired of the flippant accusation of presumption, hurled against the man who dares to keep a stock, however small, of closed questions. I am aware that taking this position places me in a miserable minority, for its untenable nature is generally assumed

as a thing beyond all question. An influential religious community has given to its newspaper organ the title of The Inquirer; and we all know scores of good and thoughtful men who practically regard a position of oscillation and suspense as the only one which, with regard to Divine things, we can legitimately occupy. It appears to me that such an attitude of mind brings theology down from the region of supreme realities into that of frivolous and wearisome playthings. In the domain of physics or of morals we should be ashamed to content ourselves with hypotheses which bring to us no feeling of certitude; how much more should we be ashamed of such mean content in the domain of religion. The law of gravitation is not to us a matter of doubt. The sin of lying, the duty of beneficence, the obligation to self-sacrifice for the welfare of others, are not, thank God, open questions with Christian Englishmen. It is not with regard to them that we deem it fitting and decorously humble to assume the attitude of inquirers; but rather with regard to those Divine truths upon which they are based, and in virtue of which alone even they become not hypotheses but certainties.

That gravitation will act to-morrow as it has acted for centuries of centuries, becomes a certitude of the highest character only when a living immutable Will is recognised as acting behind it. In like manner, if truth, beneficence, self-sacrifice, are accepted without question as duties of ours, how practically illogical it is on the part of a Christian


to make open questions of the doctrines in which alone they find their highest sanctions : such doctrines as those which proclaim that God's word cannot fail, that His tender mercies are over all His works, that He so loved the world as to become incarnate for its salvation. What is the use of shrieking against dogmas, of denouncing theology in order to uphold morals, when it is the very mission of theology to provide morals with a Divine basis by exhibiting the archetype of human morality existing for ever in the nature of God?

Where will you get a moral stimulant equal to the one which theology supplies ? Be ye perfect, as your Father who is in heaven is perfect. Only because a desired grace exists in Him, can I hope to have it existing with eternal vitality in me. Without dogma, anything but an empirical morality is impossible; and such a morality is powerless to control the passions of mankind when they rise in their might. We can never go astray in holding to dogmas so long as we remember the work they have to accomplish; though we must not forget in the ardour of our devotion that the grandest dogma can avail us nothing if it bring with it no interpretation of moral problems or no stimulation of spiritual energies; that then it becomes poison instead of food; then, instead of fruits of the tree of life, our creed produces for us only a Dead Sea harvest-apples of Sodom and grapes of Gomorrah.

“The thing that has been shall be," says the preacher

« НазадПродовжити »