A CHRISTIA WORLD-VIEW By R. J. CAMPBELL, D.D.

"I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God" ROM. vin, 18-19.

HOW difficult it seems to be to arrive at anything like a completely satisfying philosophy of history! that is, such an explanation of the world-process as can include all the facts within its sweep without doing violence to any of them, even if it is not prepared to give a full and perfect interpretation of their meaning. And yet the mind instinctively craves to be put in possession of such co-ordinating principles as will reduce the seeming chaos of human affairs on this planet to a reasoned and purposeful whole. Of course there are many, even of the ablest intellects in the world, who would tell us that it is hopeless to expect such a thing, because there is no discernible purpose in human history any more than in the arrangement of particles in a rubbish heap; generations come and go, races and nations rise up, play their brief part, produce their respective civilizations, and then are overwhelmed or flicker out to be succeeded by others; but as for looking for any design or coherent system in the general jumble thus presented, the idea is absurd. But is it absurd? [143]

A Christian World-View In company with all who believe that human life is ordered by divine providence I take a different view. To quote the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, employed in a different connection, I hold that human experience on earth "means intensely" and constitutes a rational whole. The problem is to find out, if it be possible, what that total meaning is in relation to its spiritual background. ow, from this standpoint of belief in God two opposing theories of human existence hold the field at the present moment. Perhaps we shall see that the opposition between them is not so radical as appears, but certain it is that the advocates of one of these theories, at any rate, would refuse to have anything to say to the other, although the same might not be true vice versa. By the first, of course, I mean the traditional ecclesiastical view of the development of things as they are. It is that, somehow, ruin has overtaken God's original plans for the benefit of mankind, and that the world as it has been for unnumbered ages is not what God intended it to be, but something quite different; it is the scene of corruption, violence, and bloodshed, hatred and rapine, suffering and death; it .is sin which has wrought this mischief and perverted what would otherwise have been the orderly and harmonious unfoldment of the divine idea expressed in human life; all that can now be done and is being done through Christ is to recover a [144]

A Christian World-View remnant of the race from the general wreck, and let this remnant become in the end the inheritor of the spiritual glory God had prepared for all. It may be denied that it is fair to describe this redeemed humanity as only a remnant, but looking at the facts with the ecclesiastical point of view in mind I do not see what else one can say; it is plain that, according to traditional doctrine in almost any church, no very large proportion of the human race has come within the category of the redeemed, Such is the first theory, and it has always seemed to me somewhat sad. If this be the true explanation of all that humanity has done and suffered during the centuries of which history has any knowledge it is a somber discovery. Its best achievements have been like the sand castles which children erect on the seashore only that they may be washed away by the incoming tide; and as for its sorrow, strife, and toil, what are they but part of the curse which has accompanied its fallen condition? God indeed may make use of both its achievements and its sufferings in order to further the great end of redemption, but neither of them can be regarded as intrinsically necessary. The whole human race, past, present, and to come, is like a family whose members have fallen victim to some dreadful disease from which only a few of them will recover; these few may pride themselves on the progress [145]

A Christian World-View they are making, the increasing distance they can walk day by day, the athletic exercises they can perform; their very pains at times may be useful as salutary warnings from which they can learn what to avoid or what to seek that is good for them. But their progress towards health is after all only a tardy re-attainment of a good they should never have lost, and would not have lost but for their disease; and all the benefit they get out of their infirmities is a benefit that would never have been needed if they had only taken care not to fall ill and lose the priceless gift of robust health. I say again that to affirm this of all mankind in the spiritual sense is a sad conclusion to have to come to. If it could be proved to be true the best we could say about it would be that it might have been better, and that we could only deplore the moral catastrophe which had necessitated it. But, happily this is not the only interpretation of history open to us. There is another which better fits the facts, and which I will now try to state briefly. It is that humanity as a whole, and every human being in particular, is a portion of the eternal divine essence, subjected to earthly conditions, that its latent spiritual qualities, the qualities which constitute the ideal good, whatever it is, may find opportunity to declare themselves. Or, to put it another way, the trayaiLjcdLearrth has been necessary that a glorious divine idea might be brought to the birth and live for ever in the [146]

A Christian World-View eternal world an idea in whose fulfilment the highest welfare, the fullest self-realization, of every being taking any part in the work will be included. Let me see if I can give you an illustration of what I mean. Last year I went over the Worcester Porcelain Works and was shown every detail of the process by which those beautiful works of art are produced. I remember that the very first thing brought to one's notice was a collection of specimens of the rock or stone from which the clay was made, which was afterwards worked up into thousands of beautiful objects; the kinds of clay varied according to the nature of the rock used in their composition. The lumps of hard substance were ground to powder and treated with moisture until they were of the right consistency for molding into shape at the hands of the potter. Then followed the first burning, then the painting of designs on the vessels by artists whose specialty it was to do this work; then came more burning, until the picture became part of the fabric, then polishing and final touching up before the finished article was ready for the purchaser. In all this we have an analogy for the divine process of which I have just been speaking. God is the eternal substance within which lie hidden, waiting for expression, every conceivable form or mode of the ideal good. It is a portion of this infinite divine substance which has been ground into the clay of our earthly human life. And just as the supply of clay[147]

A Christian World-View forming rock in the physical world is practically inexhaustible, and contains innumerable varieties wherefrom works of beauty may be produced, so the infinitude of God contains within itself more potencies of good than the universe of universes can ever exhaust to all eternity. But we, children of his heart, are here that we may utter some of them to his glory and our own. Every saint and sage, every warrior of truth, every way-maker for mankind, all the sweet flowers of innocence, fidelity, and self-sacrifice, are rays of the eternal light, individual notes in the grand harmony of heaven. Surely this is a better view, a more inspiring and satisfying view, of the great mystery of life and death than the melancholy one we were considering together a few moments ago. Which of the two is the nearer in spirit to Christianity as it first came into the world? Upon that point my text speaks with some authority. The whole of this eighth of Romans is a veritable triumph-song in which the dominant tone is the one I have just been endeavoring to strike. Here, plainly enough, is the declaration that suffering, struggle, limitation, illusion, are the means whereby God is bringing his glory into manifestation. Here is the explicit statement that it is God himself, and not man, or some external evil force alien to God, that has subjected the creation to these conditions. And here, too, is the confident [148]

A Christian World-View affirmation that this divine experiment will not be allowed to issue in failure but will be carried to a height of spiritual success beyond anything that even the wisest of us has yet dreamed. "For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God." I admit that there are other writings attributed to the apostle Paul, and even other portions of this same epistle, in which opinions are advanced not wholly consistent with this position at least in appearance. Such, for example, are the well-known passages, many in number, in which the havoc wrought by sin is described with an intensity of conviction which has never been surpassed. It is to Paul more than anyone else, that we owe the conception of this world being the ruin or perversion of something greater that might have been. And it is in this that I find the link of connection, of mutual consistency, to which I adverted at the beginning of the sermon, between the two contrasted methods of interpreting human history which have been occupying our minds this morning. You remember that I said we might discover that the opposition between them was not so radical as seemed at first sight. There is a great truth in the doctrine that this is a world in which sin is the chief factor of disorder. " All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." [1491

A Christian World-View For what is sin? Permit me a word or two upon this point, if only that we may better understand the one with which we set out. Is it a kind of blight, a leprosy, which has fallen upon human nature, we know not when or how, or is it a poisonous by-product of the cosmic process we have just been examining? Again it is the latter view which best fits the facts of experience. To say that sin is a foul intruder in what would otherwise be a perfect world, and that all our spiritual endeavors, in conjunction with the redeeming grace of God, are to be directed towards getting rid of it, is a poor explanation of things compared with the realization that we are here for a great end, the manifestation of a glorious divine idea, the struggle towards which has necessitated certain risks which result in sin when we fail to overcome them. There is a considerable difference, you see, in the two points of view, but not so much in the experience involved. Sin is sin, however you may account for it, a corruption of our nature, and of our relations to one another and to God, which requires to be cleansed away ere we can fulfil the true end of our being. I am told that in the process of sugar-refining care has to be taken lest, at certain points, the syrup should produce chemical combinations of a poisonous and injurious character. It is not that some foreign body is introduced into something that would otherwise be sweet and pure, but that in the developments which have to [150]

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be gone through in the production of what is sweet and pure there is a constant risk of some other results appearing, unless a careful watch is kept, and when they do appear they must be thoroughly eliminated or else the whole process will prove a failure. This is what has been taking place in human history. In the crucible of earthly life God has, from generation to generation, been working out a glorious fact whose completion will be seen in the eternal world the evolution of a divine humanity, the express image of himself, the unfoldment of his own potentialities of truth and beauty; and the risk he has had to take in so doing is that at every stage of the age-long effort poison and foulness have been liable to appear instead of health and purity; but without the risk there could have been neither one nor the other. What could rightly be termed holiness that, while yet in the making, might not have soured into sin? What Christlikeness would be worthy of the name which had never known anything of the temptation to become something utterly different? Does not triumph imply danger of defeat? Is not the very essence of goodness does it not acquire its name from the fact that it might have become badness and did not? I gladly grant that some day it will be different; the goal of all our strivings is a state in which there will be no more battling for right and no more risk of wrong; but, remember, such a [151]

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state would be impossible the good as the good could never be manifest but for the stern experience through which we are passing now. One thing more needs to be mentioned in this connection. It is that sin can take as many forms as there are experiences to be lived through. Whatever moral consciousness the cave-dwellers of antiquity may have possessed it certainly was not exactly like yours and mine, but what it achieved, the spiritual experience it hammered out, the heights it reached and the depths it plumbed, have become our inheritance and will be included in the grand result of the travail of mankind as estimated in eternity, "that he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together." ow have any two of us, even now, exactly the same task to face or the same problems to solve in relation to the world-process? This is a point which is usually overlooked. We speak of sin as we might of tuberculosis, as though it were a disease which affects every one more or less, in the same way, and produces much the same symptoms in every case. But that is not quite true. A better figure wherewith to describe it would be as follows. A company of settlers undertake to establish a community in a new land and bring the surrounding district under cultivation. The first thing they do is to divide the available territory among themselves, each man having his own homestead. There is a great deal that they must do in common; they must [1521

A Christian World-View help each other to build, and perhaps to sow and

reap also; and if in these respects they do not do their best for each other the life of the community will suffer. But there are other respects in which every individual must rely mainly on himself, though to a great extent the whole community will reap the benefit of what he does, Every piece of wild land has to be cleared and broken up by spade and plough, fenced from marauding beasts, properly watered, and provided with all needful storehouses and barns. All this will mean hard and unremitting toil, and observe no two persons will have exactly the same difficulties to meet, close though the general resemblance may be, for no two of the apportioned tracts of land will present exactly the same features; they will vary according to the amount of wood and stream, hill and hollow, and even in the quality of soil, they respectively contain. Every farmer knows this, and knows that farms differ in their peculiarities as much as human beings. But that is just the point of the illustration. The undeveloped spiritual territory which God has divided among his children, from the beginning of human history until today, contains as many unique moral problems as there are individuals to solve them. Every one of us is a farmer and our farm is our own soul; we are farming, not merely for our own sake, but for that of all mankind; we have to develop the potentialities of our spir[153]

A Christian World-View itual soil, and in doing that we find that none of us has ever lived whose natural disposition is

in every point the same as that of any other. Do you not see what this means? It means that the moral task divinely assigned to every separate unit of the human race differs in some degree from that of every other, though the gain accruing therefrom belongs to all. Your battle is not quite mine, closely though it may resemble it, but the result of your victory will be mine and mine yours, for "we are members one of another." And, conversely, if you fail you have injured me, if I fail I injure you, and both of us injure the total life of the race and hinder the good purpose of God. Can you not see this to be true? one of us liveth, or dieth, to himself alone. What we are, or do, or leave undone is affecting for good or ill the corporate life of mankind, and furthering or delaying the grand consummation of God's mighty plan, which through countless ages has been moving towards fulfilment in that world in which sin and sorrow are known no more. Time fails me to say what I would like to say as to the remedy for those failures of ours which we designate sin, but I can sum it up in one word Christ. The world-view that we have been taking necessitates the thought of one who "is before all things and in whom all things consist." We fall back on him in our consciousness of need as the baffled waters of the incoming tide, repelled by rocks they cannot [154]

A Christian World-View scale, roll back upon the silent resistless deep which lifts them again and bears them onward to their goal.

"For while the tired waves, vainly breaking Seem here no painful inch to gain, Far back, through creek and inlet making, Comes silent, flooding in, the main." Yes, Christ is the main behind all our puny spiritual efforts, the deliverer into whose hands we fall when evil has broken us and driven us in rout from the spiritual eminence we should have won. Or, to change the figure, his is the heart eternal upon which we can fling the noisome effects of our grievous sins, and have them transmuted once more into the material of holiness, just as we town-dwellers have to fling our disease-breeding corruptions upon the broad heart of mother earth, there to be rendered innocuous and turned from the ministers of death into the sweet and wholesome food of life. "This hath he done and shall we not adore him? This shall he do and can we still despair? Come let us quickly fling ourselves before him, Cast at his feet the burthen of our care." May God give us grace to discern clearly the spiritual beauty and majesty of life, and grant us to be more than conquerors therein through him that loved us and with whom we shall reign in glory world without end.

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