Our Perils, Our Duties, Our Hopes
(The following is a summary of M. Monod’s address furnished in English by himself)
Evangelical Christendom, at the present time, might be compared to a ship in the midst of a storm. The main questions are these-
A. Where does the chief danger lie?
B. What is to be done to save the ship?
C. What reason is there to believe that the efforts made will be successful?
A. Our Perils
It has been well said that the waves outside of the boat can do it no harm; it is when they get inside that the danger begins. The flood itself, outside of the ark, can only float it. Even so the world outside of the Church may assault but cannot harm it; the world inside of the Church is what causes the ship to sink.
The present danger is that we are being invaded by the world, and the world is perverted to an appalling degree, The level not only of morality but of common decency is being perceptibly lowered from year to year; nor are the most shameful theories wanting in justiﬁcation of the vilest practices. Spiritual things are ridiculed, and physiological laws are held to rule supreme over body and mind, heart and soul. Sin is quietly ignored or openly desired. I suppress sin,” said M. Renan, a few days ago, in an after-dinner speech, where he recommended the philosophy of “good humour.”
What then is the danger for the Church? It is to suffer herself to be stealthily poisoned by sensualism, fatalism, and the spirit of levity that tends to minimize sin. It is to play into the hands of the enemy, if not by open complicity, at least by silence and inertia.
Shall we be told that there is also a danger from an excessive reaction against formalism, leading to eccentricity? a danger lest the ﬂesh should be pressed into the service of the Spirit? We grant it, although the chief peril at present lies on the side of congestion, not of effervescence. Christian churches, while praying to be ﬁlled with the Holy Ghost, are afraid of the Holy Ghost, afraid of boldness, afraid of anything that recalls the gifts and the powers of the apostolic age.
B. Our Duties
Our duty is to protest and ﬁght against a religion of mere forms and ceremonies; of mere formula and notions; of mere ideas (as though the idea of bread could be a substitute for bread, or the idea of Christ a substitute for Christ); of mere poetry and mythology. Our duty is to hold fast and to hold forth a religion of fact, of redemption, of grace, of faith, of strength Divine; a religion at once real and supernatural all the way through.
In order to do this effectually, we must cultivate retirement, prayer, fellowship with our Lord Jesus Christ Himself” (2 These. ii. 16), familiarity with the Scriptures, submission to their teaching, love to man as well as love to God.
We must become apostolic in doctrine, holding fast “the form of sound words;” apostolic in life, i.e., “slaves of Jesus Christ “ (Romans. i. 1). It is not enough that we should possess a religion, however correct, we must have a religion that possesses us. Divine life must be the very staple of our life, not merely it’s seasoning. Sin, as such, the least taint of sin, must be viewed with horror, and cast away as we do a rotten egg.
We must learn, teach, and practice the doctrine of Christ’s death as our death to sin as well as of Christ’s life as our life to God (Romans. vi 10, 11). We must be men, strangers to no legitimate interest and pursuit. We must create an atmosphere in which the beautiful as well as the good and the true will ﬁnd their healthy growth, in and for God. But, as had been well said, “the natural man must be changed into a spiritual man, before the spiritual man can afford to be natural.” A Christianity of that type, self-renouncing, loving, pure, bold, and beautiful, will not be without its attraction and inﬂuence upon the world, especially upon the young. Shall men now-a-days be devoted, prompt, sacriﬁcing, audacious, daring, doing, dying for every cause except for the cause of God?
We must keep the ﬂag high and follow it. If we fail to go forward-
(1) We shall accomplish nothing; (2) We shall repel the most generous and enthusiastic hearts; (8) We shall strengthen the enemies of Christianity; (4) We shall lose even that which we have.
A church is not merely an audience, an infirmary, a school, a household; it is a holy band of warriors enlisted under the banner of Christ, and going forth in His name, conquering and to conquer.” If we are not doing this, the very doctrines of grace will make us the feeblest and most despicable of men, taking from us the resources of our natural strength, and not replacing them by the mighty energies of the Spirit. Two things we chieﬂy lack: personality and cohesion; that is to say, the Christian is not often to be found who is truly himself (not the imitator of some other man); and yet we are sadly wanting in the spirit of solidarity, we hardly know how to give “a long pull and a strong pull and a pull all together.” Now, if we truly and practically place ourselves in the hands of the Lord as our Commander-in-Chief, we shall at once ﬁnd the remedy for these two apparently opposite evils; for He will at once place each soldier at the post for which he is peculiarly ﬁtted, and He will thus combine the efforts of each and all in one united action. The result will be power, oneness, mutual respect, aye, brotherly love throughout the ranks of regulars and irregulars. Nor let us forget to add to our faith knowledge. Moses and Paul were fully educated men, so were the Reformers. So should our leaders be. So should a host of our youth become. God is not gloriﬁed by “science falsely so called,” nor yet by ignorance truly so called, when it ventures to pronounce upon matters with which it is not sufficiently acquainted.
The Rev. Joseph Cook, who is doing such good service as a man of faith and of knowledge, has said that the Church of the future should be “scientiﬁc, biblical, and practical.” The Religious Tract Society lately observed that our young men are calling for books “not beneath the intellectual standard of the age.” Let them have such books, by all means. “When we consider the average talent now to be found in every range of literature and within the reach of the million, we may feel assured that the days of success and efﬁciency for pious platitudes are numbered. Let us be bold in exposing the errors and assumptions so conﬁdently put forth by many of the most popular anti-Christian writers. Let us show forth in their true light the heartlessness of many of their theories, their worship of force, their contempt not of God only, but of man. In such controversies there is often a degree of exceeding courteousness on our part that borders closely upon treason. Against the dictum of the secular friars, seeking to lay upon men a heavier yoke than any clergy ever did, let us be the true laymen, and true protestants, the true free-thinkers; a noble ideal this for the loftiest ambition of our young men. Let us speak to the men of our generation in their own tongue, or they will not care to listen. Let us give to the material world and to the human body their proper and important place. There has been a mistake made on those points, which is neither rational nor biblical.
Let us be ready to examine every fact and try every spirit. This is not the time to pronounce anything “impossible” a priori. Let us be interested in whatever relates to the welfare of our fellows. If we stand aloof from great social questions, many a noble heart will lay it to the account not of our spirituality but of our selfishness, and will be careful to stand aloof from us and our religion.
Let us ascertain whether there may not be some readjustment of our social habits that will create among Christians, as such, some visible bond of union other than what is found in our formal meetings for worship, so that the sense of fellowship may be strengthened, and the young, the lonely, the new convert, find a warm, happy, congenial, spiritual home.
It is high time we should be ready, and every man at his post, for the barometer is falling, the clouds are gathering, the sky is darkening, and who knows how soon the storm in full force may be bursting upon us?
C. Our Hopes
(1) First of all the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope” (1 Tim. i. 1); His person, His work, His presence, His promise, His coming.
(2) The fact that all earnest Christians are longing for and reaching after a better life, more humble, more holy, more scriptural, more apostolic, more emptied of self, more filled with the spirit, more passive towards God, more active towards man.
(3) The groaning of mankind, sick at heart, weary, affrighted, despairing, in spite of the increase of knowledge and material comfort. The most far-seeing thinkers are the most despondent. It begins to be perceived that the choice will have to be made between Divine life and a life not worth living; between God’s fullness and a vacuum; between holiness and loathsome corruption; between the reign of force and the kingdom of love; between the Christian’s hope and blank despair; between salvation and perdition. The darkest hour is before the dawn. It is for us to speed the day, and to manifest, by its own shining, the world of light, the presence of the Lord; a Christianity which the world may hate, but will be constrained to recognize and to respect, or, better still, by the grace of God, to desire and to adopt.
(4) The success of every single-hearted effort made in the name and in the strength of Christ (Note George Müller, Moody, William Booth in this regard).
Let us then take courage and press forward, shoulder to shoulder, not inquiring of one another whence we hail and how we are called, but rather what we desire and whither we are tending; is it towards God, His righteousness, His Christ, His kingdom? On our banner let there be no name of man, no symbol of high science or fascination, but only a cross that stands and shines by the side of an empty grave-Hoc signo vinces. “Thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ?”