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The Vital Age

The Vital Age

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Published by glennpease



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Published by: glennpease on Apr 09, 2013
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THE VITAL AGEBY THE AUTHOR OF"PRO CHRISTO ET ECCLESIA"We know how joyful, how rapid, was the spreadof the influence of Jesus Christ in the first hundredyears after his death. In the teeth of cruel per-secution, in spite of slow travel and slow transcrip-tion, what Jesus called "the good news" liftedthe crippled civilisation of the Latin world, andsent it forward leaping and walking and praisingGod. There have been many explanations of thatfirst sudden growth and expansion of Christianityand of its subsequent checks and periods of stagna-tion. All these explanations have probably sometruth. It only concerns us here to observe that,as regards the authority on which our faith rests,we have much in common with the Christians of that most vital period. Because the problems of scholars have to-day escaped from the schools andgone abroad, the authority of our sacred writingshas become very much what that of the oral andwritten report was in that most ardent time. We,like the early heathen inquirers, find a tradition of the sayings and actions of "the Lord" which wewould fain believe to be historical. If historical,1 6 HIS THOUGHTS AD OURSwe know that its accuracy may be impugned, andwe must be as careful to compare one accountwith another as to probe each as far as may be tothe source. o other religious writings haveequal significance for us. We must pierce througheverything to the character and power of theactual "Lord" they present. Because it is bythat character and power that we must test thetruth of the record, we are not to be stopped inour longing look by the supposed sacredness of any letter or by the interpretation of any school — the one may be inaccurate, the other effete. Aboveall, we will not be impeded by any doctrines about
God which Jesus himself does not teach, for, likethe early heathen converts, we know not apartfrom him what God to believe in. ow, as atfirst, if we would seek any help stronger than self-help, if we feel any need for salvation, material orspiritual, we must, for dear life's sake, seek to findin the person of Jesus Christ a living and reliablepower, who can do for us something which wecannot do for ourselves.We turn to the Gospels and find that theirmain theme is a "kingdom," both present andeternal, to which Jesus calls all men, of which heis the king. This implies that he still lives in aninvisible world of spirit, very near, still calls to usto enter and enjoy the kingdom, to proclaim itspower and suffer for its sake. It is not enoughfor us now that the Church or the Book repeatsthe call. The edifice of the visible Church, agesold, marvellous and majestic, seemed to cant oversome while ago, some part of the foundationchap, ii THE VITAL AGE 17sinking below the ground, the door hanging loose.A better rock bottom may be touched; towersand walls may be righted, the door set firm, wehope, but in the meantime may not be sure.Many have trooped in without right of entrance,and have lived under the protection of the veilthat hangs before the inner presence-chamberexquisitely wrought of holy scripture. But nowthis veil has been rent in the midst by learningwhich we cannot impugn. The glory of theworkmanship may be enhanced by the rending of the poorer part, but we cannot now join the piecesperfectly. We who would not trifle with lifehave no choice but to run breathless into theHoly Place, each asking, "Who art thou, Lord ?"and "What wouldst thou have me to do?"The two questions are one, for personality isrevealed in the demand it makes upon otherpersons.This condition of things is full of hope. If,
in the unsettlement of the hour, we are no worseoff than the early Christians, we may hope to bewhat they were. If Jesus Christ was not hisown revelation, then the sacred canon of theBook or Holy Church could never have comerightly into being, built up as they were by menwho had no guide but his Spirit. If Jesus Christis his own revelation, now, as in the first Christianages before the first canon of Scripture was formedor the voice of the Church unified, each man mayweigh all reports concerning him, find that personalrevelation for himself, and follow only in obedienceto the heavenly vision. ow we may see faithc18 HIS THOUGHTS AD OURSin the Christ again glow and spread like living,leaping flame. Church and Scripture, in so far asthey represent him, will be reinstated.There is, indeed, already much evidence of thispurging and rapid fire of the living Christ in thefield of foreign missions. To one class of Christianmissionaries we would here draw particular atten-tion, because they are in the condition of theprimitive Christians. They have existed in allages, but they are now very numerous, and giveabundant testimony. We refer to certain nativeChristian teachers in heathen countries, who goforward with the practice of the presence of JesusChrist as their only learning, their only means of support, and their only reward. 1 These men bravethe worst persecution, they teach their converts tobrave it, thinking it well worth while for thebenefit that is theirs. Some heal the sick, castout devils, and buy their daily bread with coinsminted in the bank of faith. If they are deludedit is our duty to go and raise them above theirsuperstitions; if, on the other hand, they havefound a saner and more abundant life than weexperience, they have discovered its vital germs inthe small, uncommentaried translations of theGospels which they carry, on which they feed, asource to which we have access, which may produce

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