REV. S. R. CALTHROP
THE PREACHER OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Mark xi., 24: "Believe, and ye have."
We no longer use the sayings of Jesus as talismans to conjure by, or as finalities to rest in, or as edicts to accept unquestioned. We are beginning to use them as keys to unlock doors. The test of a great saying is the number of doors which it will unlock.
Let us apply this test to this great saying, "Believe, and ye have." It was addressed specially to preachers, and to preachers we are going specially to apply it. But first let us see how true it is everywhere, in all directions and in all callings.
Belief is the indispensable condition of performance in all directions. Belief in anything is the only way of coming into direct contact with the thing; into fruitful relations with the thing. All discoverers, either in art, science, invention, literature or religion, in the act of discovery, are, and must be, in a believing state of mind. For discovery is always preceded by a forefeeling of the thing to be discovered--that is, by faith in the thing, and faith in the power of the mind to discover the thing. All great discoveries are made by men or women who have an overmastering conviction of the absolute, the all-round integrity of the universe. Whether they are conscious of it or not, this is really a belief that eternal wisdom truth and right are the foundation of the universe.
All the discoveries of science have been made by faith in two mighty principles. 1. First, faith in the verdict or man's bodily senses; faith that that verdict, rightly interpreted, will give the material universe. 2. Second, faith in the verdict of man's mind; faith that the verdict of man's mind, rightly interpreted, will give the laws of the material universe. The one foundation of all scientific discovery is, in a word, faith in the integrity or the human faculties.
All the discoveries or religion have been made by faith in two mighty principles. 1. First, faith in the verdict or man's conscience; faith that that verdict, rightly interpreted, will reveal the moral law of the universe. 2. Second, faith in the verdict or man’s heart; faith that that verdict, rightly interpreted, will reveal the Infinite Heart of Love, whose pulses are the Life of Life to the universe. The one foundation or all religious discovery is, in a word, faith in the integrity of the human faculties.
On the other hand, no sceptic [var. of skeptic], as sceptic, ever discovered anything, or ever can discover anything. In all human history, no advance whatever has been made, or ever can he made, in any direction whatsoever, by the human mind in a sceptical mood. Belief has not only built all the cathedrals, sung all the hymns, and written all the Bibles; it has crossed all the oceans, scaled all the mountains, dug all the mines, bridged all the rivers, laid down all the railways, built all the steamships, made all the inventions, written all the poems, painted all the pictures, played all the music, thought out all the sciences, mapped out all the laws or nature, and constructed all the civilizations; for belief, and belief only, has the victorious tone without which no enduring achievement is possible. The Greek sceptics drew up a series of ten propositions, by which they demonstrated, to their own satisfaction, the impossibility of man's ever arriving at truth. When they drew them up they were in a believing state of mind--with regard to the ten propositions--but there they stopped. One was: "Man cannot possibly know the truth about the starry heavens, because he looks at them through a medium--the atmosphere." Strange! was it not? This proposition of theirs really set a great problem to science, and patient science set to work, and at last discovered the law of refraction, which enables an astronomer to correct his eye-observations for a star at any degree of altitude; and so place the star just where it really is, not where it seems to be. Another proposition was: "Man cannot discover the real truth of things because he observes all things through a medium--the medium of his senses," Science again set to work; and today each astronomer corrects his observations by his own personal equation. Corrections of this sort have to be applied, and are applied by every department of science in all directions. In a word, the ten sceptical propositions are turned into ten tests to be applied to each observation before it is finally accepted.
then, is forever ruled out as the corrective to the aberrations either of art,
literature, science or religion. For it we must substitute the spirit of true
criticism, which has as its one great object to point out, as Matthew Arnold
has well said, "the best that has been thought, and felt, and spoken and
done in the world." To do this, indeed, it has to puncture a great many
false reputations, to expose a thousand delusions, to dethrone innumerable
false gods; but its object is ever the same--to unveil the true, to remove the
rubbish that has gathered round the temple of truth, and so reveal it in all
its fair proportions. The higher criticism of the Bible,
which in its inmost spirit is both scientific and religious, is a noble
instance of what I mean. Scepticism holds that in
The main task of the higher criticism is to bring us into closest contact with those mighty Hebrew souls through whom the Eternal spoke to man, to inspire us to repeat in our own blest experience their divinest aspirations. This is the gold in the critics' mine; this the water of life flowing down the brooks and Jordans of Palestine; this the fair sunlight on Galilean hills!
Let us now proceed to apply the truths we have gained to the preachers of the twentieth century.
Great preachers have spoken for God in the past. Through them the words of eternal life have entered millions of willing ears, and found their way to millions of quickened hearts. In no age has God left Himself without witness. The uplift of great thoughts has been felt throughout the centuries. The apostolic succession of prophets and bards of the soul has never been broken. We can rekindle the fires of our devotion anew by the grand inspirations holy souls in the past have breathed out.
But under what fettering, disheartening conditions the preacher for many centuries had to fulfill his office! What mountains of unreality had he to climb! How sadly artificial was much of his supposed duty! What dreadful lies had he to hold up as truth! How his higher hopes were checked, thwarted, crushed down by his lower beliefs!
How far out of touch with the facts of the universe they were in how many things! It is not true that the earth was made in six days six thousand years ago. Anyone who believes this falsity at once comes into false relations to the earth, its past, its present and its future. He is shut in to a childishly narrow estimate of the origin and meaning of the world. And if, in addition to this, he devoutly believes that this shortlived earth is coming to an end in a few short years, his conception becomes so chaotic, so absurd, that it must inevitably make much of his thinking grotesquely false.
It is not true that God has predestined the vast majority of mankind to a hell of infinite torture. Anyone who devoutly believes anything so abominably false as this thinks and feels and lives in a lurid glare of perpetual fire and smoke. It is not true that in order to escape this everlasting burning you must believe a given set of dogmas of any kind whatever. False relations of any kind can only be escaped by setting up true relations. If today you are in a false relation to God and to your fellow men, the sole means of escape is to forthwith begin to put yourself into true relations with God and with your fellows.
What was the taproot of all this offending, this miserable travesty of the preacher's message and office? A profound distrust in human nature, a deep disbelief in the competence of the human faculties to give a true verdict upon things. This it was that stunted the growth and poisoned the very life of the preacher of yesterday. What then of the preacher of tomorrow? The preacher of tomorrow must be, as ever, the man of faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, or please man either--in the pulpit. If the preacher is not a man of faith, instantly let him step down and out, for he has no message to give. The ground where he is standing is holy, and he profanes it. How can he dare to speak of heart and hope, who has them not? How can he sing the song of the Blessed Life, who has neither lived nor loved it, nor even seen it from afar? This will be just as true in the twentieth century as in the nineteenth or the first. The new thing will be that the faith of the preacher and the faith of the thinker will for the first time be seen to be identical, and to rest upon one common foundation, the integrity of human nature. In what, then, is the preacher to have faith? Faith in the all-round integrity of human nature, in the all-round integrity of the divine universe from whose bosom human nature sprang, and of which human nature is alike interpreter, prophet, poet and executive arm. Today and tomorrow the preacher is to carry in his single breast all the glorious gains and glorious hopes of man; is to be himself the inheritor of all that poetry and art, industry and social life, philosophy and science, love and religion have "gathered in the cycled times." Above all, the prime necessity of today is that the man of God should unite all the splendid gains both of science and religion in a single consciousness--his own; and illustrate them in a single life--his own. These two are not enemies. They are brother and sister, born from the same mother, the soul of man; begotten of a common father, the infinite wisdom and love. And all the life and all the successful activity of both is grounded upon one and the same great principle--faith in the integrity of human nature.
They are two strong oxen. Yoked together, pulling together, they can draw the heavy load of the world, which neither can drag alone. They are two lovers, rather, each bent an giving love, bliss, help, companionship, nobleness to the other, and so by love's eternal law gaining, unaware, these blessings to themselves, blessings which neither can taste alone.
By its grand trust in the integrity of body and mind science has wan all its magnificent victories. The starry heavens are yielding up their secrets, hidden from ages and generations. The deep-buried farces of the earth are bared to man's view, and given into man's hand. Day by day, each scientific man submits, in all thoroughness and in all candor, his results to the world, and by inviting the criticism of those competent to review and correct and supplement them, keeps pushing an the wheels of discovery, and enlarging the area of human knowledge.
preacher of today, and of all coming days, must be thoroughly saturated with
the scientific method. He must make that method the guide to his own thinking.
Above all, he must take the great doctrine of evolution as the master-key in
his own studies. In a world that grows, religions also grow, and growing, obey
the laws of growth.
In the regions where science is rightly supreme, science and religion must move together, science ever in the lead, religion following as assessor and witness. The preacher of the new age thanks God for every triumph achieved, glories in the mental grasp which gained them all, marvels at the unguessed riches of the world so suddenly revealed, trusts joyfully to the guidance of those very insights which his forerunners so dreaded, and with thankful heart proceeds to discharge his special function, which is to fill each new discovery full of God. Not his to find some new star-glory in the heavens, but his to proclaim the glory of God which the heavens declare. Not his to find some new wonder on the earth, but his to thank God, who hath given such power to men!
But now we approach the preacher's own field, his eminent domain--the conscience and the heart; the conscience, which bows to the eternal right; the heart, which longs for the eternal love.
Look at the method of the Preacher of Preachers. Note the immense belief in human nature which is at the core of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. There Jesus makes His appeal directly to the conscience and heart. But more, Jesus insists that man can be made partaker of the divine nature; that man can be perfect as God; that man can help, forgive, love, as God forgives, helps, loves. Man can see God the moment man's heart is pure. Man can obtain God's mercy, as his very own, the moment man himself is merciful. It is the divine quality living in the man that saves him, blesses him, and makes him God-like.
The preacher of the twentieth century will take this estimate of human nature as his standpoint. In this he will be simply following the method of science, the method by which, in spite of a thousand difficulties, science has won all her wonderful victories.
last half of the nineteenth century saw a strange thing happen. The moment the
men of science began to cross the borders of the land where religion is rightly
supreme, fully half of the long procession halted and flatly refused to go one
step further. That meant that fully half of the votaries of science, notably in
the European continent, (far less in
Conscience is the faculty in man which recognizes the right in the universe. It is very imperfect as yet, just as the senses and the understanding are still very imperfect. But just as no scientific discovery would be possible unless the verdict of the senses and the understanding, constantly corrected and re-corrected, was trusted, as nearer and nearer approximation to the truth, so no discovery of the right on which the moral universe stands would be possible, unless the verdict of the human conscience, or consciousness of right, constantly corrected and re-corrected, was trusted as an ever nearer approximation to the absolute right.
It is really as absurd to say, as some of these men did, that conscience is made by social contact, as it is to say that the eye or the ear are made by social contact. The eye and the ear are largely trained, directed and developed by social contact, and so is the conscience. But all three are made by the Power that gives life to the universe. Conscience is the perception that right is eternal, that right bears rule in earth and heaven. Conscience, or the sense of right in man, is produced by direct contact with the infinite right that surrounds all finite creatures everywhere, just as the eye is produced by direct contact with light, the ear by direct contact with the vibrations of the air.
"Stern L'awgiver! yet Thou dost wear
The Godhead's own celestial grace,
Nor is there anything so fair
As is the smile upon Thy face!
Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
And the most ancient heavens, by Thee, are fresh and strong!"
There are really only two alternatives. Either man is part of nature, or he is not. He cannot possibly be half-and-half. Either you must trust the whole of human nature, as fairly representing and corresponding to the whole of man's environment; or you must trust no single part of it, as the old divines very logically refused to do. The queer dilemma in which so many scientific men of the nineteenth century were placed was just this. They had gained all their wonderful triumphs by trusting one half of human nature, and now they not only refused to trust the other half themselves, but seemed resolved that nobody else should. They did their best to inoculate everyone they could with the virus of their own disease. Nobody objects to your having the measles, if you prefer to have them. But some persons, not unnaturally, object to your taking considerable pains to give them also the measles. The really comic part was that the people that caught the measles from the scientific men were generally quite proud of the fact, and seemed to consider that it constituted them members of an intellectual aristocracy, privileged to be sole possessors of the luxury of despair! Witness a host of clever novelists, clever reviewers, clever poets, like several that could be named.
The epidemic of mental sickness of this sort is not a matter of which the nineteenth century need be very proud. What mental sanity, what breadth of perception can there be in a person who refuses to take in one bit of the glory, wonder and mystery of the spring, when all nature is manifestly rejoicing, because he sees a dunghill here and a decaying vegetable there? I honor those who grieve over human sorrow and suffering, and, grieving, instantly stretch out hands of help. But I have little patience with the army of dilettante sufferers, who luxuriously enjoy the doleful pictures their own fancy has created and do all they can to impart said enjoyment to others. If you have nothing whatever helpful to tell, why open your mouth at all?
Coming to far higher ground, among the really great men of the century, we cannot but grieve that such a man as Huxley, who worked all his days, like the splendid and lovable giant he was, to convince all men that not only the human body, as a whole, but all its organs, including the brain, the organ of the mind, were slowly built up by life out of life in one unbroken series from generation to generation;--were the answer of organism, to the stimulus of environment;--were the ever clearer and completer answer of organism to the stimulus of environment;--even Huxley was still so dominated in part of his nature by old conceptions--that is, lived so entirely in two different worlds--that he constantly declared, with characteristic energy and emphasis, that nature was immoral! But surely Huxley was a part of nature, and a very vigorous part, and Huxley was moral. You and I are integral parts of nature, and I have good hope that we also are moral!
In the domain of conscience religion is incessantly in need of the aid of science. Conscience, indeed, forever urges, "Do right!" but in how many cases must science discover what is right to be done! Religion says, "Care for the poor," but science must build the houses, drain the streets in which the poor live, teach them the laws of healthful life, and must so inform religion that it may not hurt, just where it tries to help. Scientific charity must take the place of indiscriminate giving, and scientific investigation of the fundamental laws which govern all society must forever direct the sacred impulses of the conscience and the heart.
Not long ago, it was my privilege to hear a true poet of the poor witness for the poor he loved. I followed him teachably and lovingly until he told his remedies, one of which was that we, the tyrants, must cease to take interest for money from our 60,000,000 slaves. Then I knew that he insisted upon overturning the fundamental laws of the commercial world before he began to help; and actually upon pulling down every savings bank where the poor man deposits his money! Religion without science, sympathy without science, will hurt more than it helps. Only science and religion working loyally together can ever greatly and gloriously help!
The heart is the very center of the preacher's eminent domain, the supreme source of his power. "Out of the heart are the issues of life." His great text is, "God is love, and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him." Love in the heart of man is the child of the divine love, is the response of man's heart to the call of the divine love. "Thou art my beloved son" is ever the voice heard in the depths of the awakened heart of man. All men see that love is good. Some few men begin to see that love is all, is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient; that love is the cause of all life, the sustainer of all life, the developer of all life, of more abundant life; that love is God, and God is love. When the heart of man knows this it is at peace. It rests in God, trusts Him completely in all things, trusts Him in all life, trusts Him for all things that the heart loves, trusts Him forever and ever! This is that key that unlocks the doors of death, and shows the life eternal beyond those doors.
If anyone should say: "All this is too high for me. I suppose, then, that I am still afflicted with that nineteenth century scepticism you speak of. Seriously, however, I am willing--nay, anxious,--to study all the phenomena of love, to see how far it is manifested in human nature, and how far it is essential to human welfare. As for me, I must begin low down, among phenomena easily verified. Cannot you give me some assistance in my attempt slowly to climb from fact to fact, in the direction, at least, of your lofty conclusions? If the ladder proves long enough, I may even reach the heaven of your thought by and by."
Such an appeal is manifestly fair, and calls for a sympathetic and helpful answer. There is only one kind of love. There is no difference, in kind, between true love in God and true love in man. The second is begotten by the first. The difference is only one of degree.
If you are in doubt whether love rules the world, whether love is omnipotent and omnipresent, begin at once to test the hypothesis, to experiment upon your surroundings, upon the surroundings of the people you know. Here are two young lovers, friends of yours, just happily married, and you yourself find your hopes and sympathies going out toward them. If they are wise at all, they keep watch and ward against every thought, feeling, word, act, aye, over every tone or gesture, which may in the smallest degree injure their perfect accord, which is their joy, their bliss, their light of life. Their love has opened their eyes to see the wonder and glory of the world. Every sunset cloud has a warmer hue, every valley, every hillside, every babbling brook, has a new charm for them, because now they see it together. The wonder and the glory were ail there before, but love has opened their eyes to the secret that day utters to day, and night whispers to night. The moon on the waters, the rising and setting sun, the midnight heaven with its rank beyond rank of stars, all fill them with a joy before unguessed. What makes the bliss? The keeping of the love-law. What mars the bliss? The breaking of the love-law. Where does the love-law act upon them? Inside of their constitutions. Their constitutions are built upon the plan of the love-law; and they cannot violate that plan without suffering. But what made their constitutions? The Creative Force of the universe, which has originated all earth-life, which has been acting for uncounted ages on living beings, impressing its law more and more completely upon living beings, and which has finally succeeded in producing living beings more or less conscious of the law in which, by which, through which they have their being; who can therefore begin to direct their consciousness upon the methods of the working of the law, and upon the wisdom of understanding and keeping it. The Creative Force is still acting on them, is still increasing their capacity to understand the love-law and to keep it. This is the never-ending genesis of love on earth.
I take this instance of a single loving pair largely because there is an immense amount of divine wisdom already incarnated in the minds of simply average men and women in this regard. When they read a noble novel, most men and women are abundantly capable of fixing the blame for severed ties and wounded hearts just where the blame belongs. The selfish lover instantly receives their abhorrence. The lover true, tender, forbearing, forgiving instantly obtains their hearty sympathy. True, alas! that most of them, when their time comes in actual life, are tried in love's balances, and found wanting; and so have to prove the omnipotence of the love-law by the impotent misery which comes to them from the breaking of it. But, thank God, the love-ideal has already got into the minds of men and women, and will continue its blessed working there, until love shall be supreme, and God be all in all; until all relations of life, the home, the school, the church, the street, acknowledge and obey the one law.
The sum and substance then, the heart, pith and core of the whole matter is this: The preacher, par excellence, is the man of Faith:--Faith in the all-round integrity of the human faculties:--Faith that man has trustworthy senses; that to the verdict of those senses, rightly interpreted, the material universe trustworthily corresponds:--Faith that man has a trustworthy mind, and that to the verdict of that mind, rightly interpreted, the laws of the material universe trustworthily correspond:--Faith that man has a trustworthy conscience, and to the verdict of that conscience, rightly interpreted, the moral law of the universe trustworthily corresponds:--Faith that man has a trustworthy heart, and to the verdict of that heart, rightly interpreted, the heart of the Infinite Goodness trustworthily corresponds.
Body, mind, conscience, heart,--these are the four mighty powers of human nature. These four together united can rule the world, can reveal all mysteries and all knowledge, can solve all problems, can conquer all the foes of man's beauty and power; can put all things under man's feet at last; can even destroy that last enemy, death. Millions of corrections, it is true, have to be applied to the verdict of body and mind before their conclusions can be accepted even as a first approximation to a true picture of the material universe; and millions of corrections will have to be applied to the verdict of conscience and heart before their conclusions can be accepted even as a first approximation to the law that keeps the stars from wrong, and the infinite love that fills the universe with the warm glow of life. But every sane man will expect this, will allow for it, will predict it.
The vision is for many days! Still the divided halves of human nature have not yet melted into one. Still joy and sanctity have not yet met together. Still reason and righteousness have not yet kissed each other! and still, therefore, God's earth is defrauded of the total manhood, total science, and total religion. Still, therefore, there is deep need--need, indeed, as never before,--of the preacher in the pulpit as the man of faith in the all-round integrity of the human faculties.
It is our blest privilege, brothers in the faith, to teach the man of religion to see, with a glad surprise, that his body was given to him for joy and health and happy use; that through his bodily organs and senses he is to take hold of the world, to come into touch with all its wonders of love and knowledge, to teach him that on this earth of God's "Flesh helps soul, as much as soul helps flesh."
No longer, then, will he try to serve God by thwarting or mutilating the body; but by consecrating every limb, organ and sense to the finest uses of life, and the finest service of truth. We are to teach him also to see, with a glad surprise, that his mind was given him to use freely, not to bind miserably; that thought can never rise too high, or fly too far, "so long as it continues to be thought and to obey the laws of thought"; that it is his glorious duty to serve God and man with all his mind.
It is our blest privilege, also, to teach the man of science to see, with a glad surprise, that his own justice-loving conscience and his own yearning heart are instruments of precision, which he has too long neglected to use; are telescopes to reveal the wonders of things far; are microscopes to unlock the hidden glories of things near. We are to invite him, a new Columbus, to sail over seas unknown, bidding him hope on and go forward ever, for he is destined to discover a whole new world.
The twentieth century, the century of great discoveries and grand fulfillments; of gigantic struggles and splendid victories; the century that is to complete what the nineteenth began,--to correct its errors, enlarge its hopes, confirm its insights, deepen its trusts, dispel its fears, gather in its harvests, distil into choicest wine its grapes that hang ripening in a thousand vineyards--the great revealing, reconciling century is here at our very doors. How our hearts should beat high with hope, as we see its rising dawn, that will grow brighter and brighter to the perfect day!
Already I hear, in the great cathedral of immensity, the white-robed choirs of science and religion singing, in glad antiphony, their psalm of worship to the ear of God. First science opens the solemn chant: "Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations."
And religion answers: "The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and lifteth up all those that are bowed down."
Then science: "Of old Thou hast laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure, and they all shall wax old, as doth a garment, and as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, the same forever and ever."
Then religion: "Deep peace art Thou to all the souls that know Thee; the melody of heaven art Thou whispered soft and low in the chambers of bereaved souls; succor art Thou to the tempted, help to the bruised and the fallen; deliverance art Thou to the captives, and opener of the prison to them that are bound."
Then amid a sacred silence arises a single voice, divinely sweet, wooing the very air to worship:
"Love your enemies!
Bless them that curse you!
That ye may be the sons of your Father in heaven;
For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
And sends His rain on the just and on the unjust.
Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect!"
Then the full choir joins with the vast congregation in one rapturous outburst of love and praise:
"Thou, Lord! art in Thy holy temple. Space is the fullness of Thy presence, and time the ordered sequence of Thy will. Father! Thy kingdom hath come! For now Thou reignest supreme within the minds and hearts of all Thy children, and there Thou shalt reign forever and ever. Thou art one. Thy name is one, and we Thy children are one in Thee! Alleluia!"
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