Life's Working Creed (II.)
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VI.

WHAT IS RELIGION?


    Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.     JAS. i. 27.


WE commence by clearing the ground.  The word 'religion' does not refer to the kingdom of God in the human soul.  We are not to discuss here the inner life of the spirit—that, thank God, is still beyond the reach of the microscope and the scalpel.

    Coleridge says that—


Millions will reach heaven who never knew
Where lay the difference 'twixt false and true.


    It may be so: but they would have been all the better for knowing.  Religion, as the word is used in the New Testament, always means the outer part of the spiritual life, the external expression of it in our lives and actions.  The text is simply a reassertion of one of the Saviour's most frequent contentions, namely, that the essence of outward religion is not expressed in ceremonies, in rites and forms; but in deeds, in service, in brotherliness and charity, and in the perpetual resistance of that spirit of the world which is selfishness.  Creeds are important, rituals and ceremonies have their places, but it has been the curse of the world that in all ages these things have been lifted out of their rank and made to serve purposes utterly above and beyond their reach and value.

    It is well to remind ourselves here that St. James was the brother of Christ, brought up in the same home, imbibing the same teaching, breathing the same religious atmosphere.  Let us remind ourselves, also, that this is one of the very earliest of New Testament writings.  Dr. Moulton suggests in The Expositor that the Epistle was not written to Christians at all, but to pious Jews; and, though the weight of evidence is against him, the whole tone of the Epistle seems to imply that the writer was thinking, not only of recently converted Jews, but of all his pious countrymen, and especially, perhaps, those who felt themselves attracted towards Christianity, but had not yet crossed the line.  St. James is defining there the simple essentials, not of Judaism or of Christianity, but of all true religion.

    We all feel that these are difficult times in which to live.  The religious world has suddenly become a Babel, the political world is distracted with the same hubbub, and the newspapers are full of learnèd (!) talk which makes confusion worse confounded.  It is not possible for most of us to follow the scholars and the schools and the critics: what is the plain man, intent on eternal realities, to do?  What, at bottom and in essence, is religion?


Ye different sects who all declare
Lo! Christ is here and Christ is there,
Your stronger proofs divinely give,
And show me where the Christians live.


    We live in an age of confusing and confounding light.  The race has suddenly stepped out of its long tunnel and stands blinking and bewildered blinking in the dazzling daylight, and our startled eyes are fighting for their new focuses.  Meanwhile time is flying, destiny rushes on to us; and so there comes to us a sudden passion for the practical, the immediate.  We are insisting, with Whittier:


Ye restless spirits, wherefore strain
        Beyond your sphere;
Heaven and hell, their joy and pain,
        Are Now and HERE.


    What must I do to be saved?  What is religion?  Among all these clamouring things of which the air is so full, what is the thing essential?  Here is the answer: 'Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.'  Thank God for that!  If, in such days and amid such clamours as ours, there are simple souls who want the indispensable, they may find it here.  If, standing in the market-place of life, you are deafened and distracted by rival claims and cries, by creed and anti-creed, denomination and anti-denomination, church and chapel ritual and anti-ritual, all shouting their contradictory ipse dixits, you may take it on this high authority that you are at liberty to ignore them all.  We may get away from the dust and din, the stage artillery and mimic thunder, and sit down amid the celestial silences and KNOW.  Our ears ring with denominational thunder—but God is not in the thunder.  The Church heaves with internal disruption and earthquake—but God is not in the earthquake.  The soul that would save itself must get to the solitude where God dwells.  Spiritual meditation is a lost art in these times, but the true see-ers, now as ever, are the souls that wait upon God alone and watch for His coming as the watcher waits for the dawn.


If the chosen soul could never be alone
    In deep mid-silence open-doored to God,
No greatness ever had been dreamed or done
    The nurse of full-grown souls is solitude.


    Yes, in the text you have a definition not of the English or American, the Catholic or Protestant, the Calvinist or Methodist, but of the one essential universal religion, greater than all churches or creeds or formularies, greater than Eastern or Western, than Jew or Gentile, Christian or heathen; greater than the race, older than time, but simple as God Himself.  'Where dwells the religion?' asks Emerson.  'Tell me first where dwells electricity or motion or thought.  Yet, if the religion be the doing of all good and for its sake the suffering of all evil, that divine secret has existed in England from the days of Alfred the Great to those of Florence Nightingale.'

    Theology, overlooking the many-sided, inexhaustible varieties of our human nature, tells us what we must believe; the moralists and philosophers, with more practical sagacity and insight, tell us what we must do; this definition, cleaving its way through husk and shell and laying open the innermost kernel, tells us what we must be.  A man's creed is determined ultimately by what he is.  'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.'  A man's life is the outward expression of his nature: at bottom he does what he is.


For he whom Jesus loved hath truly spoken:
The holier worship which He deigns to bless
Restores the lost and binds the spirit broken,
And feeds the widow and the fatherless.
Oh, brother man! fold to thy heart thy brother;
Where pity dwells the peace of God is there;
To worship rightly is to love each other—
Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer.


    Yes, there is a church older than all the churches, a creed simpler yet profounder than all the creeds; a religion that was before all religions and that will be when all human systems have passed away; a Christianity that was before Christ, a religion that Adam knew and Moses loved, that Confucius preached and Buddha sought after; a religion whose Alpha and Omega is goodness, goodness in spirit producing always goodness and purity in life and conduct.


Unchanged in spirit, though its forms and codes
                        Wear many modes,
Contains all creeds within its mighty span:
The love of God displayed in love of man.


    Ruskin has said that 'There is a true church wherever one hand meets another helpfully, and that is the only helpful, or mother church, that ever was or will be.'

    'Know,' says Rossetti, 'that there is only one means whereby thou mayest serve God with man.  Set thy whole soul to serve man with God.'


To fill with patience the allotted sphere,
To rule the self within us, strong in faith
To answer smile with smile and tear with tear,
To perfect character and conquer death—
This is to win what angels call renown,
And bind round life's pale brow an amaranthine crown.


    'And keep himself unspotted from the world'—a part of a great passage too often omitted in quotation.  But the sting is in the tail.

    What an eloquent thing a Quaker meetinghouse is! the very sight of one sends your hand to your hat.  They are lowly buildings—plain, solid, old-fashioned; but to the modern mind they are veritable sermons in stones.  Contrast them with the cheap, gaudy architecture about them, and you realize how far and how fatally the world has travelled.  Looking round on modern movements, one is constrained to pray that the meek spirit of Quakerism might come back to the churches.  We exhaust ourselves and our resources in talk, in noisy, self-assertive discussion, in advertising and trumpet-blowing: we want the religion that holds its tongue and does something, that thinks and prays and works but never brags.  There is an edition of the twentieth-century gospel which is a very vulgar thing, a loud, cheap, shallow thing.  The first article of its working creed is up-to-date-ishness; we must believe in the brass band, and our trumpets must be blown, if even we have to blow them ourselves.  The big poster, the newspaper paragraph, the bounder advertisement, are as much parts of church life as they are of patent-pill making.  The modern hell is the hell of not being talked about.  The world is sighing for men who will disdain these things and refuse to cheapen themselves: men who—


Do good by stealth and blush to find it fame;


who, without parade or trumpet or swelling press plaudits, will go in and out amongst their fellow creatures loving them, serving them, fighting their battles, soothing their sorrows, and resisting their oppressions.  Can you imagine such men blowing trumpets—especially their own? or angling after newspaper paragraphs and spurious degrees?  'It is the empty pot that rings,' it is the common wood that needs to get itself veneered.  'Good wine needs no bush.'  'To men of oak and rock—no words,' says old Homer.  Reality does not need to praise itself.


Howe'er we babble, great deeds cannot die:
They with the sun and moon renew their light,
For ever blessing those that look on them.
Yea, let all things good await
Him who cares not to be great,
Save as he serves and saves the State.

Not once or twice in our rough island-story,
The path of duty was the way to glory.


    The two characteristics, then, of the one universal religion are unselfishness of life and unworldliness of spirit, and a moment's reflection reveals that the two are but reverse sides of one great truth.  Worldliness is humanity's favourite vice—protean, all shapes and colours, chameleon-like, with almost as many varieties as there are human creatures.  Its name is legion, its disguises innumerable, but its nature is always the same, and its real name is SELFISHNESS.  Not personal selfishness—that we are agreed to regard as vulgar; but selfishness constructed into a system, selfishness adorned and glorified by the sanctions of society, supported by maxims of prudence, specious arguments, and overwhelming masses of example; selfishness made respectable, even honourable, by venerable custom and many long successes; selfishness that comes in the blood, that saturates the social atmosphere, and is supported by honoured names and imposing authorities; selfishness sung by poets, praised in pulpit and press.  We call it policy, discretion, custom, reasonableness, common sense, respectability; but these are only the hard masks that hide the sinister features its real name is selfishness.

    Religion is the very antithesis of these things.  It is charity married to purity, love united to moral cleanness; the service of sacrifice, and the beauty of holiness.

    Only a man can hold by these things, only a man can stand up against the forces arrayed against righteousness.  It is here that life's real battle is fought and life's real heroism displayed.  The world needs more ministers and more workers, but above all she needs more individual, private Christianity; more men who live their creed, put their convictions into their lives, and press their beliefs into ceaseless service for their fellow creatures.  The world is waiting for a race of present-day human Christs, of pitying, loving, labouring, self-sacrificing men.  Of bigots and zealots she has had more than enough.


They toiled not, neither did they spin; their bias
Was toward the harder task of being pious.


We must have done with these things!  What do we know—the wisest and most learned of us—of the fathomless mysteries of the divine personality?  What is poor humanity's record of mistake and ignorance, prejudice, superstition, and crass delusion, that we should hector each other, domineer and dogmatize over each other?  How far can we go in understanding the mechanism of a bee's wing or the wondrous chemistry of a snowdrop, that we should be so cocksure of the Divine Providence and the ways of God with men?  The newspapers are full of talk about 'Undenominationalism,' of what they call a common Christianity.  They understand their own meaning little enough, but there is such a thing.  Let us welcome it if properly understood.  It is a sign of sanity, of the larger hope, and of the long-delayed dawn of real religious liberty.

    A 'common Christianity'! if men but understood there is no other; its commonness is the hall-mark of its genuineness.  It is common as the struggling race, common as the folly and blundering of mankind, common as our sorrows and sicknesses, common as sin, common as the love of God!  This is the common Christianity: 'To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.'

    Worldliness spells selfishness, and that is the disease of which this poor world has long been dying.  Whilst churches wrangle, sects argue, and amateur theologians split hairs—


Men die in darkness at your side,
Without a hope to cheer the tomb.


Crying wrongs, entrenched vested interests, tyrannical oppressions, flourish in our midst like green bay-trees.  The widow and the fatherless, the slave of drink and the bedraggled Magdalena of lust, wait for salvation, and we give them the stones of sectarian definitions and the serpents of respectability's smug maxims.  The Founder of Christianity expressed His religion by 'going about doing good.'  He was creed incarnate.  'The first true gentleman that ever breathed,' He defined His religion by His life, spelt out Christianity in syllables of pity, sympathy, forgiveness, and kindly succour.  This is how to live, this is what makes life life and death a burst of splendour.  This is how we shall wish we had lived when we come to die.  This is the 'Imitation of Christ.'  Inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these, ye did it unto Me.'


Take up your arms, come out with me,
    Let Heaven alone; humanity
Needs more, and Heaven less of thee
With pity on mankind look round,
Help them to rise—and Heaven is found.


 
VII.

RESPECT OF PERSONS


    My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons, &c.         JAS. ii. 1-12.


INTRODUCING a new topic, like a musician commencing a new piece, St. James strikes the chord again.  The keynote of this new chant is in the first words.  No wonder that he repeats it and dwells lovingly upon it, for it was a new note—new in history, in theology, and philosophy, new in the sad story of human struggles—MY BRETHREN!  Begin there: the whole scheme of the piece is built upon that.  Only when it has vibrated through us are we able to enter into the spirit of its matchless harmony.  The brotherhood of man!  Why, it is the 'Lost Chord'! that theme the first bright bars of which, sung to soothe the sorrows of our first father, but rudely checked and smothered under Abel's blood, had scarce ever been heard on earth until the angels brought it back at Bethlehem.  It is one of the solos of the great oratorio of Redemption, an anthem of that 'Jerusalem above, which is the mother of us all.'  Men are of one bone and one flesh: one Father, one great mother, one common sorrow, one Saviour, one immortal hope, and one great home at last.


For a' that, and a' that,
    It's coming yet, for a' that,
That man to man, the warld o'er,
    Shall brothers be for a' that.


    George Macdonald, poet, preacher, novelist, has written this: 'There is a bond between me and the most wretched man that ever died, closer, infinitely, than that which springs from only having the same father and mother.  That we are the sons and daughters of God, born of His heart, offspring of His love, is a bond closer than all other bonds in one.'

    And then he goes on to say that we are brothers and sisters in the flesh in order to learn the grand lesson of brotherhood.  Yes, the family of God on earth, east, west, north, and south, is one; its interests and hopes are the same, its unity our most precious and hopeful heritage, and its one great law, love.  As we have it in Sir Edwin Arnold's 'Light of Asia':


Pity and need make all flesh kin.
There is no caste in blood,
No caste in tears.


The first great law of human life is love, and its most natural expression is brotherhood.


And he that thrusts out love
In turn shall be shut out from love,
And on her threshold lie
Howling in outer darkness.


And not for this is common clay ta'en from the common
                 earth,
Moulded by God and tempered with the tears
Of angels, to the perfect shape of man.


    Lowell also sings of brotherhood:


He's true to God who's true to man.
    Wherever wrong is done
To the humblest and the weakest
    'Neath the all-beholding sun,
That wrong is done to us.
    And they are slaves most base
Whose love of right is for themselves
    And not for all their race.


Brotherhood is very much in men's mouths in these days—more in their mouths, alas! than in their hearts.  In the smothering, exhausted air of this poor world we get little whiffs, mouthfuls of the invigorating tonic, and the taste lingers and whets the appetite for more.  We sing of it, dream of it, pray for it, but do not take practical steps towards achieving it.


E'en now we hear, with inward strife,
    A motive toiling in the gloom:
The spirit of the years to come,
    Yearning to mix itself with life.


But it is still for the most part a sound, a distant rumble.  Wisdom would suggest that we do something to bring it nearer.  But perhaps there is a previous step; at any rate, we can try to understand it.  St. James tells us what it is by showing us what it is not.  What does the text mean? what is the faith of the Lord Jesus?  It is that doctrine of the origin, nature, needs, salvation, and destiny of man which found its adequate expression in the life, work, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and which has saved, is saving, and is to save, the race.  What is respect of persons?  It is deliberate self-deception; it is wilful preference of shams to realities, of shells to kernels, of clothes to men.  It is a blunt contradiction of the faith of the Lord Jesus, a denial of all its man-honouring, hope-creating implications.  The two terms are contradictories, mutual irreconcilables, impossibilities; where one is the other cannot be.

    One of the great books of the race is The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius.  Every thinking person, especially every young man, should read that work, if only to discover how far we have come since it was written.  Aurelius was the finest flower of pagan philosophy; whatever it had to teach he had learned, whatever good it could do, it did for him.  He was a great Roman emperor, pure, strong, high-minded, single-hearted, and brainy withal.  He was a student, a philosopher, and, for his times, a profoundly religious man.  He was the greatest living disciple of Socrates, Zeno, and the lame philosopher Epictetus.  In that famous list of the best hundred books in the world, Lord Avebury puts the Meditations third.  And yet it would be difficult to find in literature a more depressing book.  From beginning to end there is a total absence of hope, and, read in the light of modern ideals, it is the very epic of despair.  If that book be studied in the light of twentieth-century convictions and aspirations, it simply serves to give some notion of what Christianity has done, and is doing, for the race.  Ideas are the world's Chief hope; she depends on great thoughts and conceptions, which come like yeast into the dull meal of human life; but nobody born can guess what the world would have been without Christianity.  Think of all the things that depend on air and sunlight, and of what the world would have been without them, and then remember that some of the further-reaching fruits of our faith have been reaped where Christianity has not yet come.  The 'faith of the Lord Jesus' has turned the human beast, with a career of rapine and slavery to appetite, into a race of gods with heroic conquest, miraculous achievement, and a destiny of inconceivable grandeur before it.  It has filled our hands with wondrous skill, our heads with dazzling dreams, our hearts with new emotions, our lives with glittering opportunities, and our future with deathless hopes.  It has made poverty heroic, suffering infinite enrichment, and self-sacrifice a passionate delight.  It has given interest, fascination, and high inspiration to common life.  It has made toil delightful, struggle glorious, and death a great coronation.  That it has done for the individual, but what for the community?  It has righted time-old wrongs, destroyed age-long systems of tyranny, crushed the oppressions and bemusements of superstition, and filled the world with sweet philanthropies.  It has swept away abuses, dispelled ignorance, removed sanguinary customs, sheltered children, honoured woman, and freed the slave.  Think of its sweetening influence in politics, of the light it has shed upon dark abominations, of the great causes it has saved, and the still greater ones it has initiated.  It has brought a new spirit into the labour world, a higher standard into commerce, a breath of sanitary life into our social complications, and taught the world a new humanity.  Think of the enlarged sympathies, the amazing sacrifices, the blessèd martyrdoms it has inspired.  New philanthropies come every day into human society, like blessèd angels, a new sanctity into human relationships, and swarming activities and enterprises rich with promise of better things yet to be.

    What is respect of persons?  It is the making of baseless and offensive distinctions; it is meanness and snobbery!  It is human littleness at its lowest point; it is the vulgarest of all vulgar vices, and, according to the law of its kind, belittles—not its objects, not the ones on whom it is practised, but the one who practises it.  Distinctions among men belong to the fundamental necessities, and are parts of nature's plan, that will abide for ever; but respect of persons is distinction in the wrong place, distinction gone crazy.  'Respect of persons,' says old Trapp, the Puritan commentator, 'is sin against race, place, and grace or, to quote a much-too-forgotten poet, the author of Night Thoughts:


Fools drop the man, then count
And vote the mantle into majesty.


    Respect of persons is the denial of man's manhood, the abrogation of his first and greatest right.  It is breaking the rungs of the ladder of life as you go up lest any one else should climb after you; it is stopping a whole city's water supply, because our own little scullery tap leaks; it is pumping the air out of the world that our own little mouse of a soul should the more quickly dance itself to death.  The lady who used to sit against the wall in a certain church and requested her milliner to put an extra bow on the 'congregation side' of her bonnet, was practising respect of persons.

    What are we building our mighty human hopes upon?  What are the bases of our own ambitions and prospects?  Do they not rest, at bottom, on the great fact that our eternal Father is a real Father, that His family is a real family, and that His house is a real father's house?

    Are we going to tamper with the very laws that give us our place and secure us our rights in the world, and that guarantee us the fulfilment of our aspirations?  Respect of persons applies upward as well as downward; to those above us as well as those below.  The law we thus trifle with has given us our own position, and to abrogate it would be to take the ground from under our own feet.  We are proposing to abolish the atmosphere because our own little garret is draughty; blowing out the sun in order to get a dark-room in which to develop our own little snap-shot negatives; cutting the bell of the Inch-cape Rock in forgetfulness of the fact that our own little barque is at the mercy of the winds and waves.  The rights of man?—why, the King himself has more to gain than lose by these things.  Ordinary folk would have nothing, be nothing, without them.  And this is more, much more, than a question of human economics: it is a radical question, and involves a great root-principle of Christianity.  It is a law of the Sanctuary, one of the primary rules of the society of Jesus.  We ourselves, our honourable name, our imperishable hopes, our very earthly substance, are in a real sense the creations of Christianity.  God's house is so sweet to us because it is our Father's house—but it is our brother's Father's house as well.  Broadcloth, rings, rich gowns and jewellery are invisible to the eye that meets us here.  'He regardeth not the rich more than the poor, for they are all the work of His hand.'  The poor and his oppressor meet together: the Lord enlighteneth both their eyes.  'The rich and the poor meet together, and the Lord is the Maker of them all.'

    The faith of the Lord Jesus and respect of persons are therefore natural opposites, mutual exclusives, contradictions in terms.  The one is so precious that it must be preserved, strengthened, and extended at all costs; the other is so unworthy and dangerous to our best interests that at all costs it must be resisted.  Thank God, we have travelled some little way since St. James's time.  Most rich men to-day would feel themselves insulted, humiliated, and degraded by being treated as was the rich man in the text; but there is still much lee-way to make up.  We have grown more polite, more discriminating, and more subtle in our dishonouring distinctions, but they are still with us.  We have a proper scorn for the coarse and clumsy methods so sternly denounced by St. James; but we can still 'create an atmosphere' and make look and manner more forbidding than a barred door.  Nothing need be said about those ancient grievances, pew-rents, or pew-doors, or luxurious cushions, or frosty-faced stewards—these are but the trivial, contemptible symbols of a certain spirit, and it is the spirit of these things that concerns us.  Christianity is large-heartedness, fellow feeling, sympathy, and humility.  The church and family of God is a brotherhood and a sisterhood, a society not of perfects but of imperfects, not of ideal saints but of actual, everyday sinners; a body of men and women who each require and receive more forbearance and forgiveness than they ever give.  Respect of persons unchristianizes Christianity, subverts the very idea on which it rests.  Respect of persons strikes at the root of that very loyalty which is the cement of society and which alone can hold it together.  Respect of persons is disloyalty to the terms of the human covenant and to our fellow sharers.  It is fouling our own nest, betraying our own cause, the jeopardizing of a precious common interest to the pettiest and paltriest of personal whims.  We simply cannot afford it.  Enlightened self-interest, the genius of Christianity, and the great central principle and law of love forbid it.  It is doing violence to our history, our experience, to our better natures, violence to the new life that is in us, and to that Christ who, binding us together in a bundle of love and mutual helpfulness, cried to us from out the agonies of His crucifixion, 'This new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.'


Oh, is it worth while to labour to humble
    Some poor fellow soldier down into the dust?
God pity us all! time eftsoon will tumble
    All of us together like leaves in a gust,
    Humbled indeed down into the dust.


    We are Christians, followers of the Carpenter, believers in a creed whose soul and secret is PHILANTHROPY—a philanthropy that is magnetic, aggressive, and world-wide.  Shall the sweep of its great stream stop at our little back doors?  Shall our jarring notes spoil the music of its silver bells?


Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
    Ring out the narrowing lust of gold,
    Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
    The larger heart, the kindlier hand
    Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.


 
VIII.

DEAD FAITH *
So faith without works is dead.—JAS. ii. 26.


THE stalest statement in Holy Writ!  I suppose I could not have chosen a more threadbare text.  These two words, 'faith' and 'works,' have been so much used that, like a defaced coin, all significance has been rubbed off, and it is high time they went back to the mint to be re-coined.  They have not even antiquarian value.  Our jaded theological noses are not tickled even by their mustiness.  But even that fact is worth reflecting upon.  They were not always so.  They were once the most terrible dynamics in theological controversy; quiet-looking cartridges that could not be touched without terrific explosions.  Their history is simply the history of Christianity, and if you ring them they vibrate with all the battle-cries of a thousand years of sectarian controversy.  Little children playing at the sea-side hold shells to their ears, and hear the rolling of distant seas; and so these old dead words, held to our ears, hum and buzz with a thousand battles, and we hear the yell of the victor and the groan of the vanquished, the clamour of a thousand debates, the creak of the machinery of the torture-chamber, the clash of idol-breaking iconoclasts, and the dying sobs of martyrs.  If you will pardon such a reference, these two words have been the 'Kilkenny cats' of religious controversy, each existing for the destruction of the other.  Every great religious controversy has, sooner or later, run into them.  These eternal opposites have been at once the causes of the Church's highest triumphs and her most terrible defeats, her highest instruments of progress and her most obstinate clogs of hindrance; each of the two, in turn, has been again and again the redeemer and the destroyer of society.

    And these old words, stale and dreary as they seem, are not dead.  The terrible forces that have disintegrated society and reddened a thousand battle-fields still slumber in these simple vocables.  Every race of man, every great religion, every solitary human breast, is still the distracted battlefield where these implacable opposites rage their interminable conflicts; and it must be so, and will be so, until human nature gets more sense and comes to a better mind.

    As Hosea Biglow [Ed.—"Biglow Papers," by James Russell Lowell] puts it:


The moral question's allis plain enough,
It's just the human nature side that's tough;
Wut's best to think may puzzle me and you,
The pinch comes in decidin' what to do.


    The fact is, these two old adversaries are not furies, not demons; each is a beautiful angel, the messenger and minister of God.  It is man that has made the mischief by his miserable and selfish favouritism.  God intended 'faith' and 'works ' to be consorts, and we have made them rivals.

    God sent them there for their wedding, and we have turned the marriage ceremony into divorce proceedings.  They came for their honeymoon, and we set them at loggerheads; they came to make this earth their happy home, and we have made it their battle-field.  They are not furies, they are fairies; not mutual enemies, but lovers; they are not to be goaded to battle, but sweetly married in love.  They are one, they are husband and wife, they were made for unity and to breed unity on earth.  It is not, with them, which of them shall be first, but which shall yield most to the other.  'What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.'

    There is nothing in the text that needs explanation—all the mischief has come in with the explanations.  St. James was no metaphysician, no subtle-brained hair-splitter, no reveller in fanciful distinctions between 'tweedledum' and 'tweedledee'; he was a plain, honest man, too much in earnest to be rhetorical.  He deals in this epistle with solemn, simple truths—too serious, too important for flowery verbiage; and so he uses plain, common words in their simplest and most natural sense.

    What do we mean by 'faith'—not in the class-room or the theological compendium, but in common market-place phraseology?  What do we mean by 'works,' as used by us every day?  That is what St. James means, and that is what we are to discuss here.  The passage from which the text is taken, the whole of the second chapter in fact, is but amplification of his definition of religion which we discussed in a previous discourse.  'Faith' refers us back to the fuller phrase, 'The faith of the Lord Jesus,' and it means belief in the Fatherhood of God the brotherhood of man, salvation by sacrifice for us and by us, and the great immortal hope.  But faith—any faith—is always a living thing.  'To have faith is to create,' says the 'Roadmender,' and the faith that holds these great truths and does nothing is dead faith, is not faith at all.  That is the meaning of the text, and that is the whole of it.

    'The Epistle of St. James,' says The Spectator, cannot be ignored.  It speaks to the condemnation of those who put creed before conduct, and to the comfort of all plain men to whom the intricacies of theological theory and research are sealed books; who see the narrow way before them without daring to assert that they always discern the goal, but who wait for the time when faith is made perfect by works in the patient practice of the "true religion" which was preached by James the Just.'

    In the commercial world the first consequence of success is imitation.  When an article supplies a felt want, becomes popular and in great demand, it is immediately counterfeited.  Your beautiful silver is rivalled by German, nickel, Britannia metal, and what not, at one-third the cost.  It is just the same in the market of life.  And just as your pinchbeck silver has something of the genuine in it—one part silver to seven parts common metal—so human nature, with its radical love of shams and its inveterate craze for cheapness, has never been willing to pay the price for the pure faith of the Lord Jesus, but has always been labouring to make a part do duty for the whole.  Some men have chosen to interpret the faith of the Lord Jesus as correct living, and in that particular have done well; but they have been making a part do duty for the whole, and so their faith has been dead faith.  Some have understood faith to mean correct thinking; but, as their believing began and ended there it was dead faith.  Some have taken the real silver of scrupulous and ceremonious worship, and in strict adherence to details and dependence on rites and genuflexions have made that little bit of silver into silver-wash which has produced an article that is only silver plate.  Such faith is dead faith.  It has not life enough to live.

    These are somewhat ancient forms of counterfeiting.  This strenuous world has rubbed the gilt off them and exposed the baser metal.  We have not put them out of use yet, by any means; but we have applied the tell-tale acid to them and labelled them by their proper names.  But this twentieth century has discovered another invention—cleverer, subtler, more specious than these others.  It is so polished, so gleaming, so beautiful, and looks so like the solid reality that it is deceiving the very elect.  We call it Altruism, Philanthropy, Christian Socialism; we call it the faith of feeling, and its watchword is sympathy.  The faith of the Lord Jesus is not practice, duty, labour, sacrifice, but sentiment.  We read the Cry of Darkest London, and No. 5 John Street, and The Parable of the Bottom Dog, but we begin and end with reading.  We delight to hear sermons on Christian sympathy, and love of our fellows; but we begin and end with hearing.  We are fashionable enough to be interested in all the tales that are told of the social evils and oppressions of the times, and luxuriate in maudlin tears about the sufferings of our fellows; but we begin and end in the luxuriating.

    We have tears of tender sympathy for the harlot, and the drunkard, the outcast, and the neglected children, but not tears of passionate indignation against the giant wrongs that are making these people what they are.  Oh, yes! the faith of the Lord Jesus is the faith of Him who came to seek and to save that which was lost, and we have that faith in our brains, in our sentiments, in our opinions, in our professions, but all the time these evils flaunt themselves and we do nothing.  This poor world is little the better for our Altruism, and the City of God, where all tears shall be wiped away, is as far off as ever.  We have not escaped the delusions of our fathers; we have changed their form.  Sympathetic feelings are commoner and deeper than ever, but most of us stop with the feeling.  Jesus Christ did not feel that He ought to help, He came and suffered for us; and the faith of the Lord Jesus that begins and ends in feelings and opinions is dead faith.  The favourite parable of the twentieth century is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Oh, if only we would really begin to understand it!  We are all in love with the poor fellow who goes down to the modern Jericho and falls among the brigands.  We don't play the shocked, scornful priest towards him.  In these times we do not serve him as the Levite did, and pass by on the other side.  We are concerned about him, distressed about him, we come to him and count his wounds, and listen with luxurious thrills to his groans.  We weep over him, we look down upon him, and cry out over him.  We stand over him, as St. James says, and cry gushingly, 'Be thou warmed, be thou filled, be thou relieved, and rescued, and healed and happy.'  But we do not fill him ourselves, we do not take him in our own arms and carry him to the inn.  We do not fork out our own twopenny-pieces, and, above all, we do not insist that the band of brigands that maimed and robbed him shall be exterminated and the way to Jericho made safe for all.

    'Be filled! be filled!' we cry to the beggar, and the orphan, and the widow, and the hungry, but we still let the hunger-making drink-shop stand, and the sweater grow rich, and the leper slum poison its victims.  Our sentiments, our sermons, our newspaper articles, our literary society essays, are means; but what of the ends? for they will not come of themselves.  They are words, mere words, and the weary world is waiting for deeds.  We say these things ought to be done, we hope they will be done; we love to sit and listen whilst they cry to heaven for vengeance; but we do not do them.  'What shall it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith and hath not works?  Shall faith save him?'  Shall faith save his poor neighbour?  For faith without works is dead.

    I am going to read you an extract from a modern minister in London.  Listen!


    'We are getting to know, more and more, what are the real causes of our social misery, but if we do not set to work to remedy it, we are only building up an elaborate system of faith without works.  We amass statistics about poverty and crime, we discover the causes of disease and sweating, but we still buy cheap clothes, we are still content to herd our poor in slums.  It is not enough to say, "Let them have fresh air, let them have shorter hours, let the employers look after their people better, or let the consumers be more careful in their purchases."  Still less is it enough to study Sociology, and profess Christian Socialism, to believe in equality and brotherhood, and to read and write novels about the slums, if we are not prepared to do something as a result.'


    Yes! when a man reads and talks but never lifts his hand to help a brother, or his voice to condemn a public wrong, it is faith without works, it is dead.  When a man says he believes in the brotherhood of man but clings to snobbish distinction and artificial isolation, his faith is dead.  When a man believes the great law of love but bears a grudge, indulges in petty spites, and excuses bad temper, his faith is dead.  When a man believes in equality and fraternity but tolerates political and social institutions which are a scandal to civilization and a satire of Christianity, his faith is dead.  When a man believes in peace, but for a mere political advantage sanctions the horrors of war, his faith is dead.  When a man boasts that Socialism is the outcome of Christianity, but never lifts a hand to bring those blessed theories to the test of practice, and even finds it too much trouble to vote for them, his faith is dead.  When a man waxes eloquent on Temperance Sunday on the colossal and wide-spread evils of Intemperance, but never supports a Temperance Society, visits a drunkard's home, or encourages the modest little Band of Hope, his faith is dead.  We believe in the preciousness of human life, we know the disgraceful details of infant mortality, the high death-rate in slums, the lack of commonest necessities amongst our fellows.  We cry over descriptions of them in the papers, we revel in luxurious pity under appeals at public meetings; but, for all our tears and all our sighs, if our faith carries us no further than that, it is dead faith.  We delight in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, as literature; but when we demand that the man who fell among thieves shall have a skin that is black or yellow, and live at least four thousand miles away, and have no thought for the white heathen dying on our own doorsteps, our faith is dead.  We believe in Sunday schools, but when we know how important the work is, and how badly it is of necessity being done, and will not give up as much as a sacred Sabbath nap for it, our faith is dead.  Yes! this is the modern interpretation of this stale old passage; this is how St. James would have put it to this generation.  We see that correct conduct is not enough, that correct articles of creed and correct modes of worship are not enough; but we think there is moral excellence in the mere holding of right opinions, assent to the statements of truth and the possession of right feelings.  And how many of us bemuse ourselves with the notion that to feel sorry for misfortune, to be sympathetic towards suffering, to weep at tales of misery and sigh over staring wrongs, is the same thing as altering them, or at least is a pious and worthy thing.  On the authority of St. James, I have to tell you that it is not so; that faith that stops short of works is dead faith.  I have to tell you that common sense and the wisdom of the ages say the same thing, and I have to quote to you, last and surest of all, the words of Him who cried more than once, 'Many shall say unto Me in that day, Lord! have we not prophesied in Thy name?'   'Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord! Lord! shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doeth the will of My Father who is in heaven.'

    Brothers, these are days when, above all things, we cry out for reality, for consistency, for truth.  Let us not hear for each other, let us not distribute the ridicule and shame of this charge from pew to pew.  Dead faith, alas! is the commonest faith there is, and some of it is in all our breasts.  The individual, the community, the race, is to be saved by our faith, and the weary world to-day is where it is because much of our faith is dead.

    We want to get away from obscure religious emotions, get away from the cowardly tricks we play on our consciences; we want to be honest, we want to be true, we want to get ourselves and all the great movements that appeal so much to our sympathies in the presence of the Cross, drink into the meaning, and catch the spirit, and emulate the glory of the Cross.  And then, sparing ourselves the luxury of tearful and useless sentiments, go where need and sorrow and labour are:


Where faith made whole with deed
Breathes its awakening breath
Into our lifeless creed.


* From the Central Hall Magazine, by kind permission of Rev. S. F. Collier.


 
IX.

THE TONGUE


    Be not many teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgement. . . . But the tongue can no man tame, &c.     JAS. iii. 1-12.


THERE are parts of the passage indicated above which can scarcely be taken literally; they are the language of excusable, perhaps necessary, hyperbole.  By us sins of the tongue are placed amongst the minor vices; but the Bible and the philosophers make no such mistake.  Job, Moses, the authors of the Psalms and Proverbs, Jesus Christ, St. Paul, and St. John—all speak strongly on the question, but the strongest language is left to James, the Lord's brother.  Twice already in this Epistle this topic has obtruded itself, but now that its turn fairly comes the writer lets himself go, and this passage is the strongest in the whole Bible against sins of speech.  If we turn to the passage we see that there is a marked rise of tone as the writer proceeds: there is heat, intense conviction; there is emphatic, almost fierce finality about it.

    We have seen, in a former discourse, how preaching services are conducted in Eastern countries.  It is a commonplace also that the Jew is naturally eloquent and has a genius for religion.  Theological argumentation is as the breath of life to him, and every self-respecting Hebrew is an embryo Professor of Divinity.

    In Lowell's Oriental Apologue we have perhaps as good a picture of this Eastern idiosyncrasy as is to be found in modern literature:


One half the time of each was spent in praying
For blessings on his own unworthy head,
The other half in fearfully portraying
'Where certain folks would go when they were dead.'


    Remembering these characteristics, therefore, it is easy to see that the message of the Day of Pentecost, with its peculiar symbol of the tongue of fire, had a significance for these Jews which we miss.  The average man interpreted it in a free and literal way, and very soon, especially where the restraining prestige of the Apostles was absent, embarrassing and disorderly results were produced.  The dogmatic and loquacious converts all wanted to teach, and where there was no one to say them nay the meetings often became more noisy than decent.  And so St. James, the soul of seemliness and a very martinet in discipline, here makes his protest—a remonstrance which St. Paul had frequently to repeat to the Gentile converts afterwards.  Having dealt in this earnest, yet withal affectionate way, with the peculiar and temporary abuse of the gift of speech (verses 1-3), he passes on to the general question, joins his protest to those of the wise in all ages, and out-Herods Herod in his denunciation of the tongue as the instrument of temptation and sin.

    The local and temporary difficulty which suggested St. James's observations need not detain us, but the general evil with which he deals at greater length is as old as human nature, and surely as shamefully prevalent as it ever was in human history.

    In all ages our instructors have kept their sternest rebukes and their most biting satires for abuses of this gift, and the justification for our writer's action is found in the fact that sins of speech are at least as common as they ever were.  The subject was a familiar one with the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers, as witness Pythagoras's maxim, 'We ought either to be silent or speak things that are better than silence,' and Socrates' dictum that 'Nature has given us two eyes, two ears, and but one tongue, to the end that we should hear and see more than we speak.'  Disorderly and superabundant speech was one of the evils from which the mediaeval Christians sought refuge when they resorted to vows of silence and the rigours of monasticism.  The Puritan movement was in part a protest against it, and Quakerism made a special point of reformation in this respect.

    The persecutions, heresy hunts, and sanguinary controversies of Christianity, which have stained the Church's history with its ugliest blots, have for the most part been 'strifes about words to no profit, but the subverting of the hearers,' and grim illustrations of the criminal abuse of language.  Pulpit and Press, themselves conspicuous transgressors, have always cried it down, and yet it is difficult to think that the mischief was ever more prevalent than it is to-day.

    Robertson of Brighton, speaking on the topic, called attention to the abuse as he saw it in the newspaper of his day—especially the religious newspaper, and as one reads his words to-day it seems impossible to believe that he was not describing the shameless partisanship, the gross misrepresentation, the glaring begging of the question, and the wholesale exaggeration so characteristic of much modern journalism, to say nothing of the moral looseness which tolerates all the brazen mendacity of a twentieth-century Americanized Yellow Press.

    Recent religious controversies about education, now for the time mercifully intermitted, have by common consent done incalculable injury to the gospel of peace by laying bare the dishonourable twistings of truth, the unscrupulous distortion of facts, the heathen intolerance, and the shameless uncharitableness of many so-called Christians.  The recent controversy about the New Theology has been significant, perhaps most of all, for its revelation of the wonderful but highly dangerous power of clever men over words, and the alarming extent to which, in the name of holiest truth, it has been abused.  After nineteen hundred years of the preaching of the gospel of charity, after the shedding of incredible quantities of human blood to purchase toleration, it is scarcely possible, even to-day, for the plain man to get an honest statement of facts, and an uncoloured judgement on the commonest subjects of life.  As Tennyson so sadly laments:


Ah, yet we cannot be kind to each other here for an hour;
We whisper and hint and chuckle, and grin at a brother's
        shame.
However we brave it out, we men are a little breed.


And then he prays to be delivered—


From the long-necked geese of the world that are ever
        hissing dispraise
Because their natures are little, and whether we heed it
        or not;
Where each man walks with his head in a cloud of
        poisonous lies.


    Shortly, this brother of our Lord carries all decent people with him in his vigorous attack.  Meanwhile we must not overlook the fact that he is protesting all this time against unreality, against the deplorable fact that, though we agree in our condemnation of these things, it makes no practical difference.

    We say and say, but we do not do, and this exposure of a great sin is only another illustration of the apostle's general argument.

    But there is another side.  It would be possible to say just as strong things and quote just as many high authorities on the advantage, the luxury, the blessedness, of speech.  The fact is we are discussing, not a thing that is bad in itself—there are few such things in God's good world—but one of those most common and characteristic things, a good thing spoilt.  The law is, the greater the blessing the greater the possibility of abuse, and we require to look deeper into this question.  Bad as things are, we may at any rate congratulate ourselves on some improvement.  There is no need to warn respectable people against such gross sins as lying, blasphemy, slander, or filthy conversation; in these things we have practically won our battle.  (Although, if godly men would be a little less tolerant of the vulgar vice of swearing, society might owe them another debt.)  It is in ordinary, respectable conversation that the chief danger lies, and the vice is so frightfully common that we have almost lost sight of its sinfulness.  Man is a sociable animal; life is altogether social; the happiest lives are the lives of those who have most social advantages.  But the medium of our cherished mutual intercourse is conversation, and talk takes up so much of our time and fills so important a place in our lives that we can only agree to restrain it on very substantial grounds.  It may be as well to say that most of us restrain ourselves too much already.  We dignified males gird much and often at the garrulousness of women, but there are none of us who would like to stop the entertaining music.  We English are a dumb lot, have much ado to find words at all, and enjoy a world-wide and very unenviable reputation for taciturnity.  We have a sneaking suspicion that somehow words mean weakness, and are particularly careful on the point.  And yet we are the greatest home-birds in the world, and have set the race a notable example in that respect.  But still we are not content.  If we are zealous and emphatic on one thing more than another it is that our homes shall be brighter, sweeter, and more beguiling than they are.  When we repeat the old tag 'What is home without a mother?' we are thinking of their talk—bless them! their precious, innocent heart-healing chatter.  Home is the very temple of conversation; talk is the salt of our social life, and the greatest social gift is the art, the fine art, of talking.  We like concerts, lectures, political meetings, debates; but if we could be sure of a real, close-hearted chat with a truly congenial spirit we would forgo any one of them.  Nothing shortens a journey, eases pain, or relieves the tedium of life, like conversation.  We buy draught-boards, chess, billiard-tables for our houses, because chiefly we cannot rely on our own gifts of conversation.  But we abandon these without hesitation for interesting talk.

    Why do we arrange games and guessing competitions for our social parties?—because of that most dreadful of all fears, that conversation might lag.  We gibe at women and their blessed art of talking by the hour together, but the gentle, sunny creature who can sit in her drawing-room in all the sweet amiability of her best dress and prattle pleasantly to dull, self-conscious people, and by her talk make them talk, and thus recover their own self-respect, is a veritable angel and deserves well of her race.  What we need most of all in our hours of leisure is to be brought out of ourselves, and nothing does this so perfectly as interesting conversation.  The man, or, best of all, the woman, who can make a man forget himself, wile his cares out of him, and make his melancholy fly as on swallows' wings, is a wizard, a miracle-worker; such people increase our interest in and love for our kind—a blessed service, by no means to be discouraged.  They strengthen our attachments, increase our knowledge of ourselves, each other, and human nature; they sharpen our wits, broaden our sympathies, widen our interests, enrich our natures, and increase our self-respect.  They vitalize, socialize, humanize us, and put us on better terms with self, life, our circumstances, and our neighbours.  Thank God for the talkers, both men and women; we want, not less talking, but more; not less interchange of thought and feeling and sympathy, but more.  We should lose our dullness, our cynicism, and pessimism, if we would talk; we should get over our difficulties, forget our sorrows, recover our relish of life, and fill again with love of our kind if only we would talk.  If you are grumpy, dyspeptic, misanthropical, satirical—talk; talk to your neighbour, your friend, above all to some gracious wholesome-minded woman, and the years will roll from your shoulders, the puckers fade from your face, the deadness will stir to life again in your heart, and youthfulness and hope and kindly interest in your fellow creatures will come back to you, and life be worth living again.


Though time will wear us and we must grow old,
Such men are not forgot as soon as cold:
Their fragrant memory will outlast the tomb,
Embalmed for ever in its own perfume.


    But somebody objects that we are not touching the real difficulty: we are forgetting what social intercourse in these days really is.  One of the most fixed and inexorable laws of society is that conversation must be kept going, and if it lags we blame ourselves.

    A man in the social circle feels that he must say something, but it is no use talking to people about that in which they are not interested; and there are many people who have so few interests that conversation gets stranded in no time.  When in this position, what is there we can do except fall back on the one topic everybody, the world over, likes to hear about—other people and their ways?

    Well, why not?  There seems to be an impression abroad that it is wicked to talk about personal things.  Why?  The God who made the Bible made us, and so made us that our interest in our fellows is deeper than in any other subject.  That means that God intended us to be so interested.  The supreme interest, humanly, of man is man—and woman.  Man's life, deeds, likes and dislikes, aspirations, opinions, dangers, weaknesses, must always be supremely interesting to his fellow man; not only interesting, but instructive and helpful.  Why else are we made brothers, and what is brotherhood for?  There is no knowledge so useful and valuable as knowledge of man.  'The proper study of mankind is man,' and to say that conversation on the most absorbing of all human subjects is forbidden to us is to shut us off from one of the greatest concerns of life.  Nothing is more injurious than unreasonable interpretation of Scripture.  The chief subject of human knowledge (the knowledge of God always excepted, of course), the chief topic of human literature, the main subject of the Bible, is man.  The Scripture is the history and philosophy of man, and to tell us that we are not to discuss each other is to close one of the books of life.  By the knowledge of men I come to know myself, my race, my God, and the manner in which I have to live my life; and that study is not forbidden by God, nor by our consciences or the Bible.

    Then what is St. James protesting against? and why have the wise in all ages so sternly denounced talking?  Because, as we well know, there is talking and talking.  There is conversation that is interesting, stimulating, helpful, and instructive; and there is conversation that is malicious, venomous, hateful.  'As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.'  The tongue is the tap of the heart: when we talk for interest, for helpfulness, our talk is blessed; when we talk for tattling, for mean, unmanly mud-throwing, it is an abuse of a great gift of God, and advertises at once the emptiness of our heads and the meanness of our little souls.  But somebody would like to put a common case.  You go into company with the best of motives, and you hate scandalmongering as much as St. James himself; but when you get there you discover that the people you meet have nothing to say, but leave it all to you! If you introduce a decent subject they look as dull as ditch-water.  Common politeness makes you desire to interest them, you are expected to amuse and entertain; but when you find out that nothing you can say seems of any concern to them, you know that there is always one topic upon which the dullest are interested and interesting, and so you are driven back to that.  Much could be said as to that, and it is an admonition to us, remembering what we have suffered in such circumstances, never to try others by this shallowness and narrowness of interest in things.  Many of us drift into talk we are afterwards ashamed of because the company we are in can discuss nothing else.  But many a man excuses himself that way with small reason.  Is it the people we have to talk to who are so limited, or ourselves?  Is it they who are pumped dry in a quarter of an hour, or we?  The danger is real enough, and frightfully common.  Most of us drift into this miserable tittle-tattling under such conditions; but nothing is to be gained by avoiding the real issue.  The truth is, with too many, that there are so few topics upon which we can converse intelligently, that we are driven to talk our consciences condemn by the poverty of our own minds and the limited nature of our interests.  The interest of life consists in the interests of life, and if men would avoid the snare exposed in the text there is no way but to widen our interests, enrich our minds, or else set a guard upon our lips.

    One thing more.  It would be impossible to exaggerate the evil that has been caused in this world and that is still being caused every day we live, by idle, unintentional tattle, innuendo and small talk.  There is not space left to enumerate all the consequences of such misguided action, but there is something else to be said.  This particular sin, like most others, is of the boomerang order: it returns, surely and inevitably, upon the sinner.  Its worst effects are upon those who indulge in it.  Think seriously of all the evil, suffering, needless shame, and heart-breaking that is produced every day by this frivolous vice, and then let us recollect that all this is as nothing in comparison to the evil it inflicts upon those who commit it.  'When he that is a fool walketh in the way his wisdom faileth him, and he saith to every one that he is a fool.'  Or, as Jesus Christ put it, 'There is nothing from without the man, that going into him can defile him: but the things which proceed out of the man are those that defile the man.'

    Every stab a man gives his neighbour's character, every grain of mud he casts on his reputation, every idle disparagement, bad as it is for the sufferer, is a poisonous canker in his own soul, and injures him more than it can possibly injure his friend.  Or, to put it as Leucippus puts it in Beaumont and Fletcher's old play:


                                                                    Never let
The most officious falsehood 'scape thy tongue.
For they above, that are entirely truth,
Will make the seed which thou hast sown of lies
Yield miseries a thousand-fold
Upon thine head, as they have done on mine.


 
X.

THE TRUE ART OF CONTROVERSY


    But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, and without hypocrisy, &c.     JAS. iii. 13-18.


THE world belongs to the thinkers: nobody else counts.  The pursuit of truth is the only pursuit that really pays, and the man who gets but a grain of that can never be poor again.  But thinking is expensive; it is laborious, painful, and intensely disturbing.  The man who wishes to be comfortable should let his brain run to seed, take his opinions as he takes his clothes, ready-made.  Add just a little to the quantity or quality of grey matter under your skull, and there is no more peace for you in this world.  Henceforth such a man is a Wandering Jew, scouring the face of the earth, seeking he knows not what.  Most of those who frequent houses of prayer are like that—their very presence is the sign of it.  With every other aspiration satisfied, there is still that within them which drives them on and that grows by what it feeds upon. As Tennyson's friend, Arthur Hallam, expresses it:


Dark, dark is the soul's eye,
Yet how it strives and battles,
Through impenetrable gloom, to fix
The master light, the secret truth of things!


    Once open the mind to light, to knowledge and truth, and man becomes for evermore its bondsman; henceforth he is one of the spellbound children that dance after the Pied Piper, and, wherever he goes, and whatever he does or gets, he will be for ever the victim of that insatiable hunger which makes him cry in the market-places of life: 'Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?'

    This is the hall-mark of humanity, at once its surest sign and its severest penalty.  Some of it is in us all, many of us have much of it; but to the truest and best, the soundest and richest-natured, the more we acquire the more we seek.  Wherever there is a living soul, a true, honest aspiring spirit, that soul is sure, sooner or later, to be seized with the divine intoxication, and, rising out of the common herd, like Abraham in old Ur of the Chaldees, will start in search of his promised land, or as another Eastern seer will follow the Star of Bethlehem.  And that is what makes the New Theology and the Higher Criticism movements so serious.  To some, the bombshells turn out to be only damp squibs; to some, the claim of newness applied to such ancient arguments gives offence, and closes the mind.  Some are so deeply entrenched behind the strong bulwarks of personal experience that they can only smile at the mimic thunder, and some have been so long asleep that they have not even heard the fearful explosion.  But these are not all.  There are those amongst us—high-minded, intrepid souls—to whom these new lights have come like rival pillars of light might have done to the Israelites in the wilderness.  Young souls for the most part, bright, clean, manly and womanly spirits, with unconquerable honesty, virgin love of truth, and an overmastering instinct for honesty—these, too, have a claim on the Christian teacher.

    The first and most natural admonition to all such is that at all costs they must be true to themselves.  The uncompromising spirit of truth in such is not a sign of the Fall, but of greatness.  No array of authority, no sanctions of time-honoured dogmas, no ancient creeds or ecclesiastical institutions, no preacher, no subtle books, must for one moment move such from their inborn, God-given passion for truth.  The only claim that religion has upon us is that it is the truth, and we must never palter, never compromise, never give up the quest, for—


Truth, crushed to earth, shall rise again
    The eternal years of God are hers
But Error, wounded, writhes in pain,
    And dies among her worshippers.


    We have come to troublesome times, unsettling, severely sifting times; and the living soul, the earnest thinker and seeker after truth, must prepare himself for a shaking.


The times demand new measures and new men.
The world advances, and in time outgrows
The laws that in our fathers' days were best.


The very root ideas and main buttresses of our social system are being shaken; the first principles upon which our educational system is founded are called in question, and even the bases of our religious beliefs and hopes are being undermined.  The yeast of change has got into all our meal-barrels, and we scarce know where we are, or what we may call our own.  However we talk, great changes are coming in religious thought; thought about the Bible, about what we dreamed were the solid stones of religious belief, cherished, time-old positions, are being assailed, and some of them will have to go.  Readjustments and restatements are being suggested that will have to be carefully considered.  We are neither hastening nor intensifying the coming controversies by recognizing either the certainty of their advent or the seriousness of their nature.  They are with us already, and things will probably be worse before they are better.  Controversy is before us, whether we like it or not, readjustment and disintegration await us, and already many high-minded young souls are in the throes of serious conflict.  It is the teacher's first function to read the 'signs of the times' and deal honestly with the spirit of the age.  But these questions are not going to be raised here, for the fact is there is a previous one, an earlier duty, and our business is first with that.

    These controversies will touch us all.  Some of us they will leave unscathed, some they will turn into violent partisans, and some, the best and truest of us, they may shake to the very foundations.  What are we to do?  How are we to prepare ourselves for this coming evil day?  By what preliminary precautions are we so to anticipate the trial as not merely to come out of it unhurt, but to get out of it the undoubted good there is in it?  That is our question at present.  There is nothing, remember, necessarily to fear.  Strife is good for us, natural to us, indispensable if we are intent on high personal development.


Though the cause of evil prosper, yet 'tis Truth alone is strong;
And albeit she wander outcast, now I see around her throng
Troops of beautiful tall angels to enshield her from all wrong.


The conflict may bring us incalculable enrichment, if we are prepared for it; what is the preparation needed, and how are we to get it?  Psychologists tell us that intellectual conflict is never purely intellectual.  The human brain is a machine; put certain things into it, work it impartially, and certain things will come out as surely as the plant comes from its seed.  But human thinking is never done like that.  Man is more than brain: he is heart, conscience, will, and several other things.  One or other of these comes into every act of the mind; so that, do as we will, be as honest as we may, King Charles's head comes into all our arguments.  It is not the brain merely that thinks, but the whole man; and every conclusion we arrive at is of mixed origin and composite character.  Whenever we argue, even with ourselves, motive, self-interest, prejudice, pride, lust of victory, and twenty other things come in, and the original purpose of the argument is lost sight of, whilst the result is hopelessly vitiated.  The futility of ordinary argument has passed into a proverb amongst us.  'The clearing of a cause is lessened by the arguing,' says old Montaigne, and Omar Khayyam confesses:


Myself when young did eagerly requent
Doctors and saints, and heard great argument
    About it and about; but evermore,
Came out by the same door where in I went.


    Every day we live arguments are apparently won by the wit, rhetorical agility, or brilliant word-jugglery with which they are presented rather than by the intrinsic truth of the contentions themselves.  Read a modern newspaper about any subject upon which you know the actual facts, and you are shocked to discover with what fatal ease men can make 'the worse appear the better reason,' and how much stronger secondary motives are than simple love of truth.  The wise of the earth, on the principle, perhaps, that experience—


Makes us rather bear the ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of—


have come to loathe the very name of controversy, and to plead that—


The happiest heart that ever beat
Was in some quiet breast
That found the common daylight sweet,
And left to God the rest.


But as in these matters we cannot do that, what are we to do?  The pursuit of truth is our first duty: it is also our most intense and imperious instinct.

    The text is the answer.  St. James, writing nearly nineteen hundred years ago, had just such a difficulty as we have described.  Throughout this Epistle we hear underground rumblings of incessant religious controversy, and here and there we see the laying bare of just such unrealities and hypocrisies as we have to encounter every day.  But in the passage we are considering he drives the spade deeper, and exposes at once the real cause of all heresy and useless thinking, the motive of all persecutions, and the ultimate secret of all healthy, fruitful inquiry after truth.  The Spirit is the Thing!  The determining factor in all search for truth is not the quality or quantity of brain-cells, not the extent or definiteness of information, not any difference in the command of language—these are but the tools.  The whole issue depends on the spirit that is behind the machine and which is the life-impulse, motive power, of the whole.  The search for truth in argument, in speaking, in writing, and the like has been so futile because it has been conducted in the wrong spirit and with the wrong motive.  The whole question is a question of spirit.  There is a spirit that is from below, that is earthly, sensual, devilish; this, alas! has been the common spirit in which we have gone after truth.  But there is another, something better, something adequate, something blessed.  'There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth him understanding.'  'The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.'

    What, then, is the inference, the generalization that lies behind all this and that is so clear that St. James does not stop to state it?  It is this: a man's natural outfit for life, his equipment for the search for truth, is never complete until he is converted; until all the wondrous machinery of his personality—brain, heart, will, conscience—have been taken over and subordinated to the control of a new spirit.  There is nothing novel in it; it is only the Saviour's great doctrine of the New Birth extended to its natural boundaries.  It is one of the most inveterate and deeply rooted prejudices that conversion is a change that is confined to the soul and that exclusively.  St. James evidently knows nothing of any such limitation, and in fact quietly assumes a position which, when we put it into words, is somewhat startling.  It is that clear, impartial thinking on the highest subjects is only possible to those who have a new nature and the new indwelling Spirit of God.

    If this should be deemed an extreme putting of the point, then take a modern psychologist.  'Purify the heart, regenerate the will, and the recovery of the intellect will follow in due course.'  The teaching of Christ on this point is explicit enough.  One of the main planks of His new philosophy of life was that the shortest cut to the highest knowledge was a new nature.  'If any man will do His will he shall know of the doctrine.'  Of His own wonderful insight He explained: 'My judgement is just because I seek not My own, but the Father's who sent Me.'  In fewest words, His doctrine means that the new birth brings added faculties, improved facilities and privileges and increased power for the acquisition and discrimination of truth.

    What a miserable story is the history of religious controversy!  To read it is to realize that almost everything has been sought after but the one object of all inquiry—truth. Dr. Johnson, when he got angry in religious disputation, excused himself by the importance of the subject—the one reason that ought to have made it impossible.  Cardinal Newman had to remind Dr. Pusey that he need not shoot his olive-branches out of catapults.  A lecturer on Christian apologetics recently replied to a working man's question by criticizing his spelling, and not a few of us conduct our disputations on the principle of the head master of a great school, who, when preaching to the scholars, cried, 'Be perfect!  Be perfect!  If you don't be perfect I'll thrash you!'

    All serious search after truth must begin at the beginning.  If this quest of the Holy Grail is to be with brains and arguments and human eloquence only, it will bring us nowhere, for it is 'the spirit that is from below.'  If we would reach ultimate truth we must get that Spirit who is the Truth, and He will guide us into all truth for that Spirit is from above.

    But the Higher Criticism and the New Theology are not the only difficulties that beset the earnest soul in these times.  The modern Evangel is intensely aggressive, the Christian imperative is strong upon us, and we hear everywhere the Master's mandate, 'Go ye into all the world,' and the pathetic cry from Macedonia, 'Come over and help us.'  But difficulties are cropping up there; it is all very well to talk, but the modern sinner talks back!  He asks questions, raises difficulties, argues, turns the tables upon us, carries the war into our own camp!  The modern worker finds that he is not dealing with trees or stones or clouds, but with flesh and blood men, who think, and read, and feel, form opinions and want to air them in argument.  'Ah! that is where the modern Christian wants wisdom!'  That is where we need to listen to St. James.

    Christianity was born for battle; controversy is her very life; when she ceases to fight she will cease to be.  But we must have no dealings with the old 'Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth' principle.  The weapons of our warfare are not carnal; 'we must not give jibe for jibe, sneer for sneer, joke for joke, and dogmatism for dogmatism.'  'The wisdom of man is foolishness to God'; it is also 'earthly, sensual, and devilish.'  The modern message-carrier must have the 'spirit that is from above,' that is pure, peaceable, merciful, impartial, and wholly sincere.  To sum up: The business of life is the search for the truth.  But the search is a difficult one both to the individual and the society.  The chosen instrument is human reason, argument, persuasion.  But the instrument is damaged, clogged, choked up and impeded by meddlesome tempers, perverse wills, prejudice, education, or the lack of it, by heredity, environment and the like; and the testimony of history shows that the damaged machine produces any result but the proper one.  It gives us success in argument, but not what we are seeking—knowledge of the truth.  Here comes our religion.  It repairs the old machine, raises its working efficiency, and sets it going in the right direction.  But it does more.  Just as the ancient pagans regarded every extraordinary thing they found in each other as a gift from the gods, so religion and the new life is not only a power which restores lost efficiency, but it introduces another, a separate and special thing—'the wisdom that is from above.'  And if in our thinking, our inquiry after truth, our contentions with ourselves or with others, we receive that spirit, we shall not only avoid the blunders and follies to which the ordinary course exposes us, but we shall have purity, peace, sweet reasonableness, and impartiality of judgement, and these will give us, either for ourselves or others, the success which the other spirit puts further away.

    Christian polemics have so often been hindrances rather than helps because they have not been infused with the right spirit.  It may be freely questioned whether the temper of Christian apologetics has not done more harm than its arguments have done good.  'The great religious problem of the time,' says Sir John Seeley, 'is to purge the taint of barbarism from Christianity.'  In the world of thought, in the kingdom of science, in the sphere of controversy, in all religious advocacy, the secret of successful contention is contained in the Saviour's sublime aphorism, 'The meek shall inherit the earth.'



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