THE VITAL AGE BY THE AUTHOR OF "PRO CHRISTO ET ECCLESIA

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We know how joyful, how rapid, was the spread of the influence of Jesus Christ in the first hundred years after his death. In the teeth of cruel persecution, in spite of slow travel and slow transcription, what Jesus called "the good news" lifted the crippled civilisation of the Latin world, and sent it forward leaping and walking and praising God. There have been many explanations of that first sudden growth and expansion of Christianity and of its subsequent checks and periods of stagnation. All these explanations have probably some truth. 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 and gone abroad, the authority of our sacred writings has become very much what that of the oral and written 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 we would fain believe to be historical. If historical,

1 6 HIS THOUGHTS A D OURS we know that its accuracy may be impugned, and we must be as careful to compare one account with another as to probe each as far as may be to the source. o other religious writings have equal significance for us. We must pierce through everything to the character and power of the actual "Lord" they present. Because it is by that character and power that we must test the truth of the record, we are not to be stopped in our longing look by the supposed sacredness of any letter or by the interpretation of any school — the one may be inaccurate, the other effete. Above all, we will not be impeded by any doctrines about

God which Jesus himself does not teach, for, like the early heathen converts, we know not apart from him what God to believe in. ow, as at first, if we would seek any help stronger than selfhelp, if we feel any need for salvation, material or spiritual, we must, for dear life's sake, seek to find in the person of Jesus Christ a living and reliable power, who can do for us something which we cannot do for ourselves. We turn to the Gospels and find that their main theme is a "kingdom," both present and eternal, to which Jesus calls all men, of which he is the king. This implies that he still lives in an invisible world of spirit, very near, still calls to us to enter and enjoy the kingdom, to proclaim its power and suffer for its sake. It is not enough for us now that the Church or the Book repeats the call. The edifice of the visible Church, ages old, marvellous and majestic, seemed to cant over some while ago, some part of the foundation

chap, ii THE VITAL AGE 17 sinking below the ground, the door hanging loose. A better rock bottom may be touched; towers and walls may be righted, the door set firm, we hope, but in the meantime may not be sure. Many have trooped in without right of entrance, and have lived under the protection of the veil that hangs before the inner presence-chamber exquisitely wrought of holy scripture. But now this veil has been rent in the midst by learning which we cannot impugn. The glory of the workmanship may be enhanced by the rending of the poorer part, but we cannot now join the pieces perfectly. We who would not trifle with life have no choice but to run breathless into the Holy Place, each asking, "Who art thou, Lord ?" and "What wouldst thou have me to do?" The two questions are one, for personality is revealed in the demand it makes upon other persons. This condition of things is full of hope. If,

in the unsettlement of the hour, we are no worse off than the early Christians, we may hope to be what they were. If Jesus Christ was not his own revelation, then the sacred canon of the Book or Holy Church could never have come rightly into being, built up as they were by men who had no guide but his Spirit. If Jesus Christ is his own revelation, now, as in the first Christian ages before the first canon of Scripture was formed or the voice of the Church unified, each man may weigh all reports concerning him, find that personal revelation for himself, and follow only in obedience to the heavenly vision. ow we may see faith c

18 HIS THOUGHTS A D OURS in the Christ again glow and spread like living, leaping flame. Church and Scripture, in so far as they represent him, will be reinstated. There is, indeed, already much evidence of this purging and rapid fire of the living Christ in the field of foreign missions. To one class of Christian missionaries we would here draw particular attention, because they are in the condition of the primitive Christians. They have existed in all ages, but they are now very numerous, and give abundant testimony. We refer to certain native Christian teachers in heathen countries, who go forward with the practice of the presence of Jesus Christ as their only learning, their only means of support, and their only reward. 1 These men brave the worst persecution, they teach their converts to brave it, thinking it well worth while for the benefit that is theirs. Some heal the sick, cast out devils, and buy their daily bread with coins minted in the bank of faith. If they are deluded it is our duty to go and raise them above their superstitions; if, on the other hand, they have found a saner and more abundant life than we experience, they have discovered its vital germs in the small, uncommentaried translations of the Gospels which they carry, on which they feed, a source to which we have access, which may produce

as much for us if we come with a like simplicity. 1 See The Holy Spirit in Missions, by Dr. A. J. Gordon, chap. iv. ; Story of the L.M.S., by C. S. Home, especially end of chap. viii. ; the biography of Pastor Hsi, of the China Inland Mission; also missionary reports of the "Christian Alliance for Divine Healing and Foreign Missions," ew York.

chap, ii THE VITAL AGE

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Is simplicity here a cant phrase ? We should do well to be rid of all such ; but it is worth while to observe that the attitude of mind to which alone the truth of any department of life yields itself is exactly the same in the disciplined intellect of the greatest scholar and in the honest, earnest child or ignorant learner. It is at once the earliest gift of nature to the normal mind in its unfolding and the highest result of the mental discipline of the schools. We discount the evidence and theories of a scientist or critic when we say, "He has a theory to prove," "He can't get rid of a presupposition," "He sees what he wants to see." Such comments are a slur on scholarship in any department of learning, and by them we mean to suggest just what is meant by the words, "Except ye become as little children ye shall not enter." It is not ignorance, or the subordination of the reason, that is required for faith. It is the highest exercise of reason to seek truth with that reverence which makes no forecast of the finding. It is the result of the widest knowledge to believe that unknown truth is, and is the rewarder of them that seek it. This is the temper of all true faith.

1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books

2. ALL WRITI GS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=970

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