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Title: A Wayfarer's Faith - Aspects of the common basis of religious life
Author: Harvey, T. Edmund
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Wayfarer's Faith - Aspects of the common basis of religious life" ***


    T. Edmund Harvey

London: Wells Gardner, Barton and Co., Ltd.
3 & 4, Paternoster Buildings, B.C. and 44, Victoria Street, S.W.


[Printed] Headley Brothers, Bishopsgate E.C.; and Ashford, Kent

of his fellow members in the Society of Friends. He is indebted to the
courtesy of the Editor of /The Nation/ for permission to make use of two
chapters which have appeared in its columns in a slightly different form.














THERE is a well known story of how a man of letters a century ago, when
questioned as to his religious views, answered that all sensible men
were of one religion, and to the further query as to what that religion
might be, made the curt response: "Sir, sensible men never say." The
story is characteristic of its age, and of the attitude towards religion
of some of its ablest men. Many of the greatest thinkers, whatever the
religious opinions of the circle in which they were educated may have
been, held themselves aloof from controversy on questions of creed and
church, looking upon such disputes with the kindly contempt of tolerant
beings who themselves had reached a larger and freer atmosphere than
that which surrounded those who struggled amid the dust of the plains
beneath their feet. Something of this spirit, which is so clearly
manifested in the world of politics and letters, can be seen too in many
of the prominent religious organisations of the day. Men were weary of
the hateful bitterness which had characterised the theological [p.2]
controversies of the seventeenth century, and the wider outlook which
came with the age of illumination showed itself even as late as the
beginning of the nineteenth century, when in Germany Catholic and
Protestant ecclesiastical authorities united in a common religious
celebration at Fulda of the anniversary of the mission of Saint
Boniface. But beneath the surface of this toleration, which seemed to be
increasing between Catholic, Protestant and Jew, we may perhaps feel
that the uniting influence lay not so much in a profound sense of the
underlying verities common to all their various forms of faith as in a
certain vagueness as to any form of dogmatic belief, a distrust of dogma
in itself, if not an indifference to the things which that dogma
attempted to represent. Men were willing to leave others free to have
their own religious beliefs, and distrusted the enthusiasm of the
fanatic, of the man who wished to convert others to view life as he
himself did. The profession of a recognition of good in all religions
went hand in hand with the recognition of their imperfection, and a
doubt as to how far they were not so much alike sharing in truth as
alike mingled with error. This attitude is illustrated by Lessing's
famous fable of the three rings, which is perhaps the most quoted
passage in "Nathan the Wise." None but the father can tell the true ring
from the counterfeits which he has had made; the sons must therefore
each treat the others as in the same position as himself. No one creed
can claim to [p.3] itself a pre-eminence over the others, none but God
can distinguish the true from the false. The lesson of tolerance which
Lessing taught in his drama was one of which our age, as well as his
own, has need, but if we are only to view all forms of faith with
respect because we are conscious of the difficulty of discerning the
true from the false, we have reached a position which may indeed promote
friendly relationships in the ordinary intercourse of life, but which
cannot in the end be satisfactory either to ourselves or to others.
Tolerance founded upon doubt can never be an inspiring virtue.

Is it not possible for us, however, since we realise this, to take a
further step? We need to feel, not the imperfections of all the varying
creeds, religions and irreligions, but the inherent strength of each,
and from a consciousness of this to rise to some dim realization of the
golden thread of truth which runs through all sincere faiths, however
degraded or erroneous they may at first sight appear to be.

In the eighteenth century there swept over Europe a wave of new thought,
which liberated men's minds from old superstitions and the narrowness of
former dogmatism, and produced a sort of freemasonry of new ideas
between men whose national religious and political upbringing had been
wholly different. But this wave of liberal thought failed to produce a
permanent sense of unity; in due time came a counter-movement when men
[p.4] turned from the generalisations and the vague optimism of these
syncretist philosophers. The attacks which the sceptical critics had
levelled on the older creeds were too negative in character: content to
find out the weakness of their opponents' position and to expose it to
contempt and ridicule, they had failed to realise the strength which lay
deeper than the intellectual interpretations of belief which they had

Thus the nineteenth century has witnessed in the political world an
extraordinary revival of national spirit, especially amongst smaller
peoples, and on the other hand a similar revival within the different
religious communities. The eighteenth century humanists would have
foreseen the one as little as the other. To them it seemed that beneath
the clear light of reason the old dogmas of the sects would each lose
their force, just as the ignorant patriotism of their day, which they
saw to be so largely built upon mistaken prejudice, would give away to
their wide cosmopolitan spirit which felt itself above these petty views.

The revival of national feeling among the little peoples of Europe, with
no wealth of capital or military force to give them aid, which we have
witnessed during the last century, is, however, hardly less remarkable
than the revival of life amongst the different Churches and religious
communities of the western world. There was surely something lacking in
the theory of life of these men of broad view of a former day who for
[p.5] all their breadth could not find room for enthusiasm such as this.

We are beginning to see that the truer cosmopolitan of the future will
not cease to be a citizen of his own country when he becomes a citizen
of the world, that the wider fellowship will lose its content and its
meaning if it is to involve a denial of patriotism and not rather to
subsume it as a necessary element in the true international spirit; and
so in the inner life of the soul we must seek to harmonize the various
contending creeds, not by destroying any particular creed, or attempting
to replace it by some, vague generalisation, devoid of life or of
attractive and inspiring force, but by attempting to appeal to the best
in each, realising that each must have some value of its own, just as
the poorest of peoples has its own peculiar traits and virtues; and thus
gradually draw the sympathies and thoughts of men nearer together by
reason of the common life from which must spring all that is good in the
religion of each one.

There is a beautiful saying of Penn's which sets forth what many good
men of very different creeds must have felt again and again before he
gave the thought expression: "The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious,
and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has
taken off the mask they will know one another, though the divers
liveries they wear here makes them strangers." May we not venture to
carry further the thought and say, that this religion includes [p.6]
every servant of truth, and every man who is recognizing in practice in
his own life the need of his fellows, by subordinating his own happiness
and interest to theirs? That there is in reality a religion which all
good men share we do, indeed, recognise in practice in everyday life;
how else can we explain the appeal to conscience, to the sense of duty,
to the unselfish desire to benefit others, which is constantly made to
men of the most divergent religious views, whose theories of life would
not be accepted by each other for a moment?

How is it then possible for us to make more clear to our eyes and to
others this common basis of religion, and to build more securely upon it
the structure of our lives?

We must not be disappointed if it is difficult to give intellectual
expression to this basis of life; at best such expression must be
imperfect, and we can only hope to arrive at it very slowly. Perhaps
some hint of the way in which one may look at the problem may be given
by that strange poem of W. B. Yeats "The Indian upon God." The poet
pictures the way in which the creatures of earth each frame their own
idea of the Divine Creator after their own image; some vast Brocken
spectre, perhaps, some may say, cast by the reflection of imagination
upon the clouds of the world without. And yet the poem has surely within
it another meaning. To each creature comes, coloured, it is true, by
different visions, [p.7] some dim picture of the Maker, some sense of
sustaining presence in the world and in their own lives:

/I passed along the water's edge, below the humid trees,/

/My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees,/

/My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moorfowl pace/

/All dripping on a grassy slope, and saw them cease to chase/

/Each other round in circles, and heard the eldest speak:/

/"Who holds the world between His bill and made us strong and weak,/

/Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky./

/The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from His eye."/

/I passed a little further on, and heard a lotus talk:/

/"Who made the world, and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,/

/For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide/

/Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide."/

/A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes/

/Brimful of starlight, and he said, "The stamper of the skies,/

/He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He/

/Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me? "/

/I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:/

/"Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,/

/He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night/

/His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light."/

One can readily understand that some readers might be shocked by what
would seem to them to be idolatrous images. Yet does not the whole poem
show something more than the fact that men worship images of God after
their own likeness? Beneath the grossest idolatry there [p.8] may be at
least some sense of contact with the Unseen. Though man, like his
fellow-creatures, cannot behold unveiled the vision of the Eternal,
somewhere under every imperfect picture which our dogmas have framed of
Him does not there lie at least some trait of faint resemblance? And,
however much we may endeavour to remove from our minds all
anthropomorphic conceptions we needs must think as men. Our most
abstract thoughts are but spiritualised metaphors, the ghosts and
shadows of the fully-coloured language of our earlier days or of a more
primitive people. The moment we think of the origin and meaning of
words, we realise that this is so; when we speak of conceiving a
thought, grasping an idea, abandoning an argument, we are using
metaphors which were once bold and vivid but are now scarcely perceived
as such at all. And so in all our formulated thoughts of the Unseen we
may be said to be in a sense idolaters. But only sinfully so, if we
wilfully cleave to the lower forms when we have had vision of a higher.
The fact that we express our thoughts on religion through the medium of
the terms of the material world does not mean that the religious truths
which they express are dependent upon, and are evolved out of, the
physical world, any more than the intellectual processes of conception
and perception are dependent on or derived from the physical processes
after which they are named. But it does surely mean that we must
recognise the necessary [p. 9] imperfection of our efforts to express
the unseen realities, whether in religious creed or philosophical dogma.
If we are convinced that there is a real unity underlying the religious
life of every sincere man, whether he call himself religious or no, how
can we best promote the growth of this sense of unity, so that in every
form of faith the best may be strengthened and drawn into a sense of
membership of a wider whole?

In the first place we must endeavour to be faithful to the best ideal of
our own party, of our own church or creed, to insist on the positive
side of what it teaches rather than its negations. The true protestant,
for instance, should be zealous to protest for a living ideal which he
feels to correspond to his needs, and not, as too often has been the
case in the past, merely to protest against evils and mistakes connected
with another ideal.

Then realizing the vastness of truth, and the limitations of our own
powers of apprehending it, we must be willing to recognize that there
must be other aspects of truth which we, as individuals or as a
religious community, have not yet apprehended, and that the whole truth
must needs be too great for any human mind or system to express. This
attitude of mind should surely be perfectly compatible with an
enthusiastic loyalty to that vision of the truth which has been given to
us or our community, and with a desire to share this vision with others.

To attempt to surrender our own expression of the Truth as we see it,
and replace it by an expression drawn from the vision of others is to
make in the inner life an error like that of the school of Bologna in
painting. The Caracci and their followers deliberately aimed at
acquiring the peculiar excellencies of each of the great masters who
preceded them, the harmonies of Raphael, the colour of Titian, the
vigour and the grandiose forms of Michael Angelo. They hoped to combine
all these and thus achieve a higher perfection than their masters, but
in so doing they failed to express themselves in their own way, for they
were always painting things as they imagined they ought to see them, and
not as they really saw them.

The great artist, like Rembrandt, will honour and admire a Raphael or a
Correggio without seeking to imitate them or to borrow their technique.
And so while we recognise the vision of truth that comes to men of
different views from our own, we must not abandon our own vision, or our
attempt to express it faithfully, because we know that we see a part and
not the whole.

Every great religious movement has been in its origin or at its highest
point universal in its aspiration, claiming to make appeal to all
mankind and to become at length the religion of the whole world. And it
is this very universal claim which seems to some dispassionate critics
so narrow- spirited and fanatical, which bears witness to the force and
reality of that deepest religious life [p.11] which underlies all
difference of dogma, and finds its expression in all these varying
faiths. At the moment of its budding forth, the tiny twig feels within
it the expanding life of the whole tree. "I am the true tree, and the
tree that is to be." it may be imagined as saying; though the great
boughs above it do not stir in the wind that shakes it to and fro. The
twig may have within it the possibility of growth to a size exceeding
the stem from which it now springs, or it may remain only a twig; but in
either case it is a part of the tree, and in a sense it is the tree; its
life is the tree's life. So every great religious movement, when at its
best and highest, looks forward to world-wide extension; it may be that
the flood of life takes new channels and only a tiny sect remains to
bear witness to what has been, but yet, when its members were filled
with their first enthusiasm, and went forth into the world to win others
to their views, they were strong because somehow or other they had come
into touch with the eternal; their creed and organisation may have
corresponded only to the need of the day, and of a limited number of
people, or it may have been of wider application and able to endure for
a longer time, but in spite of these limitations, the creed and
organisation represent an inner life through which their members came
into touch with the source of all life and strength.

Our task then must be to strive to be more conscious of this fact in our
own lives, and [p.12] in elaborating our own systems, as well as in
dealing with and considering the religious views of others. In
discarding the transient elements, the husks of dogma, we have to
respect the seed-corn of life within them. The recognition of this will
make us more reverent towards even the hoary errors of antiquity, and
the methods of thought and life which to us are outworn, but were once
living, and still may be living to some.

This surely is the lesson which we may draw from that touching story
related by John Cassian of the monk Serapion, which Auguste Sabatier
once told to his pupils. In his old age the good monk had suddenly been
brought to realise, by the preaching of two missioners, the error which
he had committed in thinking of the Eternal as a being like himself,
fashioned in human form. His friends gathered round him to thank God for
his deliverance from the grievous anthropomorphic heresy, when, in the
midst of their prayers, the old man fell in tears to the ground with the
pathetic cry: "Woe's me, wretched man that I am! they have taken away my
God and I have none to hold to or worship or pray to now."

In our work of thought or of practical endeavour we shall need above all
to realise the value of humble reverence for truth for its own sake, and
of the recognition that wherever goodness is, there is that which the
theist knows as the Divine, which others my speak of as the enduring
spiritual [p.13] ideal, but which, by whatever name we call it is the
inspiring and illuminating reality which shines through every unselfish
deed and thought, and makes our lives of worth.

We are sensible of this uniting force, however much our ethical ideals
may differ. We cannot explain the common principles which justify the
ideal of a Gordon and that of a Tolstoy, but we must surely feel that
those ideals are in some way branches from the same good tree; it may
well be that just as in the intellectual world different bents of genius
each have their place and justification, so too in the moral have
different types of the ethical ideal. The scientific mind, the
practical, executive talent of the businessman, the speculative powers
of the metaphysician and the creative gifts of the poet and artist, each
have their place, and no one human mind can combine them all. So, too,
it may be with the moral ideals realised here in our human lives.
Because one is good, another is not wholly wrong. There may be varieties
of goodness just as there are differences of shape and beauty between
flower and flower. But while we recognise this, we surely need too to
realise that there must ultimately be some vital connection between
these different ideals, although we ourselves may not be able to
perceive the unifying influence or principle. Is it not here that the
Union of Ethical Societies fails, in that after insisting upon "the
supreme importance of the knowledge, love and practice of the Right,"
[p.14] their manifesto goes on to disclaim "the acceptance of any one
ultimate criterion of right" as a condition of ethical fellowship? Yet
unless there be some such criterion, can we speak of "the Right" at all?
The capital "R" is an unconscious survival of the theistic expression of
thought, or rather the expression of the essentially religious spirit of
man, which in spite of a creed of intellectual agnosticism, recognises
the Divine in life and does obeisance to it under another name. The idea
of good and the thought of God are not connected together merely by a
similarity of sound; they have but one origin. Thus, if where goodness
is, there God is, we must be able to find evidence, even where there may
be no intellectual knowledge of God, of the recognition of a unique
worth in the good apart from all attempted explanations of its value.
And perhaps we cannot do better than take an example from the writings
of a master sceptic, to show how in spite even of an apparent intention
to make mock of the failure of the good and unselfish man, and of the
utterly impracticable nature of his ideal, a kind of homage is yet paid
to the ideal and to its votary, and through them to the source of their

Readers of Voltaire's "Candide" will recall the figure of the Anabaptist
Jacques, the upright and unselfish man who perishes in spite of all his
trust in overruling good. Voltaire in picturing his death would appear
to be casting scorn upon [p. 15] a complacent view of a universe where
such a thing might happen again and again, and as far as any practical
teaching goes he would seem merely to point out that righteousness and
faith may be not only unavailing to ward off calamity, but may actually
bring it upon those who make such a standard their sole guide. And yet,
even as you read, you feel how much nobler and better it is to perish
like Jacques, with the unswerving faith of a good man, than to live on
contentedly digging one's garden and enjoying its fruits in selfish
peace. And however much we may be conscious that in the moment of trial,
face to face with mortal peril, we ourselves might swerve aside, might
hesitate and fail, we yet know that if we could make our choice in a
cool hour, reviewing calmly what we ought to do, and what we would do if
we could be true to the best that is in us, we should choose the
honourable failure of the good man rather than the success of the bad.
In itself we know it to be better, apart from all thought of
consequence. And in practice we know how in the presence of the
loveliness of an unselfish act all lower thoughts of pleasure and of
profit fade away! Face to face with the enduring ideal that shines forth
from. the good deed, lower ideals shrivel and sink into nothingness.
Even truer is this of goodness made real to us in personality, and here
it is that those of us who call ourselves Christians may find the
keystone to the continual self-revelation of God to man, in that supreme
revelation of the Divine [p.16] nature in the unique personality of
Jesus, which for the Church is the centre of inspiration and the
explanation of the light which shines in all other lives.

If we can unite in reverencing the good and unselfish spirit, wherever
it manifests itself in human lives, so too, we need to reverence every-
where the search after truth, and the service of Truth for its own sake.
Surely one of the most helpful signs our age is found in this increasing
recognition of spiritual kinship between seekers after Truth of most
divergent creed; not the least of the benefits of the Higher Criticism
and the problems with which the minds of men have been confronted
through the advance of science has been that in the readjustment of
thought and life which is going on all about us, men have grown aware
that they are not fighting their battles alone, but that far and near
are kindred spirits going through a like struggle, and even that those
whom they had fancied foemen were really their allies. This is the
beginning of a movement wider and deeper than the so-called religious
controversies which embitter the surface of our political life, the
prelude to a new and wider Catholicism of the spirit, in which all the
servants of Truth and humanity may unite without sacrifice of conviction
in a sense of true brotherhood. Something of this underlying unity is
recognised both in the supreme moments of our individual lives and in
great times of national crisis, such as [p.17 ] come in the birthpangs
of a new movement or the brave endeavour to stem some rising tide of
evil. Thus it came about that in the great uprising of German democracy
of 1848, the colours which symbolised the new hopes of the people were
often consecrated by a public religious ceremony in which all faiths
united, and in the little Bavarian town of Furth, the Jewish Rabbi, as
representing the smallest denomination of the town, was by common
consent chosen to perform the ceremony. But we do not need to go so far
back or to such a distant place to find instances of the way in which
men of varying creed have found themselves uniting with those who are
opposed to all forms of religion in defence of some common cause,
inspired by some uniting ideal, though but dimly realized. Here, surely,
is the truest test of that which is Catholic, the /quod semper, quod
ubique, quod ab omnibus/, which the dogmas of theology can but
imperfectly explain, but which is realized even now by all who seek to
serve whole-heartedly the truth, and therefore, too, their fellowmen.

There remains a further practical question to be faced. If we recognise
that the good finds expression in various ways, that men in act and
thought alike may differ from each other, and yet the inner source of
their spiritual life may be the same, are we to abandon the endeavour to
find some intellectual synthesis of their divergent ideals? Must we
cease to attempt to express [p.18] in terms of thought that which we
recognize as transcending all human thought and much more our imperfect
terms? Surely this would be a mistake. Though not only for our own lives
but for the whole life of humanity upon the earth it should prove that
our processes of creed building and church making are necessarily
imperfect, we must still for ever strive to express in thought and in
act the life of the spirit, which grows and deepens as it is faithfully
expressed. Creed and deed alike, we feel, are but the raiment of the
life; they fade and are outgrown, yet they are not to be fiercely torn
to pieces or lightly thrown aside. Even though we may never hope to be
able to explain to ourselves or to others the common basis of our
ethical ideals and of our religious life, we must never cease to try to
find some explanation and to give what expression to it we can.

The vision of truth that we have now, our intellectual expression of our
relationship to the world, and of our duty in it, is we recognise,
imperfect; it is no key to the universe, to unlock every mystery for us,
still less for others; but it may prove a sufficient lamp, and one whose
rays grow ever brighter, to light our footsteps onward or (to change the
metaphor) it may be a clue to the great labyrinth about us which may be
of use to others besides ourselves, though some may come to the goal by
a very different way. Certainly the experience of all the great mystics
would [p.19] seem to show that as we ascend the Heavenly mountain, one
from one side, one from another, our paths draw nearer to each other,
and so across the night between, we may listen to our fellow pilgrims'
voices, and realize that some day we shall meet face to face.


IT is difficult for us, and some may even feel that it is impossible, to
make an impartial survey of an institution of which we ourselves form a
part; on the other hand, it is equally difficult, unless one can realize
something of its life from the inside, to appreciate the real nature of
that life. And thus it must ever be peculiarly hard for us to understand
the true relationship of the Christian churches to the world in which
they work and to the ideal which guides them. And yet as we seek to see
the difficulties others feel, and to enter into sympathy alike with the
critic without and the workers within, we may come near at least to
understanding some portion of the truth. It may remain true that "all we
have power to see is a straight staff bent in a pool," but as we
endeavour to clear our minds and hearts of prejudice and to use others'
eyes as well as our own, the pool grows clearer and the reflection
becomes less broken, and more nearly an image of the reality it represents.

To see the failure of the Church does not mean that we ignore its
victories: but if we are to carry [p.21] those victories further, it
must be by noting our shortcomings, and all that we have not achieved.
Looking out upon the life of men to-day, we cannot forget how, bad as it
is, society has been again and again in large measure redeemed and kept
alive through lives that have been the light and strength of the Church
as well as of the world, but this need not prevent us from seeing how
far the Church as a whole has failed to act in the same way.

Organised Christianity to-day in England, as represented in the
churches, is very largely a middle class institution. Not only the very
rich, but the great mass of the poorer workers, stand aloof from it. It
has not given its strength to prophesy against the evils that attack our
social life; and to remedy above all that utter separation of the lives
of rich and poor, employer and employed, which is the terrible
characteristic of twentieth-century urban civilisation.

There is much religious "activity," of a limited kind, using old and
recognised channels of expression, and an earnestness in defence of
particular religious views or in attacking particular errors of doctrine
or forms of worship. But if we can for a moment forget our own
individual standpoint and endeavour to look from the point of view of an
outsider upon such religious enthusiasm as shows itself upon different
sides in , let us say the present education controversy. we shall surely
feel that if this represents the life of the churches, they [p.22] are
far indeed removed from the spirit of their Founder.

"I love to see these Christians fight," was the remark of one able
critic as he left a room where a public body had been engaged in
discussing some phase of the "religious difficulty" in education. It is
true that such a charge is no new one; as far back as the middle of the
second century the philosopher Celsus brought a like one against the
Christians of his day. [1] But since those early days too,
there has been continual protest within the Church against this very
spirit, and it has been in that series of protests that some, perhaps,
may trace the true apostolic succession of teachers and guides. Age
after age these leaders have found new help and inspiration as they
turned toward the source from which the strength of the Church first
sprang, and it is noteworthy that now, as often in the past many of the
men who are estranged from the Church have nothing but respect — nay,
often reverence — in their thought of Christ and of these followers of
His. They would have very different thoughts of Christianity if all who
profess and call themselves Christians had realised that ideal of the
meaning of the name by which they are [p.23 ] called which William Penn
once expressed in the words, "To be like Christ, then is to be a Christian."

If only we had all more clearly before us that vision, we could not but
be filled not merely with burning shame at our own failure, but with
longing to be more helpful to our fellows, and to draw nearer to them,
as we would grow nearer to our spirit. And this desire within us will
surely be strengthened as we turn towards that wonderful reflection of
His teaching gathered together for us in the closing chapters of the
Gospel of John. In that unique picture of the mind and heart of the
Master there are traits over which we some- times pause and wonder;
sayings which, when we can free our eyes from the scales with which
custom has covered them, seem to shine with a light brighter than we can
bear. And in that chapter, in which we listen as silent witnesses to the
great charter of futurity, the prayer of the Founder for His Church that
is to be, there are words which are so full of lofty purpose that we
hesitate to apply them to our lives; unconsciously, perhaps, we have
been wont to read them over and treat them as metaphor, meant to inspire
but not to be realized; and gradually we have lost hold of their true
significance, the inner life of thought beyond them. How truly can we
say that we have realized, as individuals or as a Church, this picture
which that prayer gives us of the Master's aim and desire for us? [p.24]

"And I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come
to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given me,
/that they may be one, even as we are/. . . . Neither for these only do
I pray, but for them also that believe on Me through their word; /that
they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee,/
that they also may be one in us: /that the/ /world may believe that Thou
didst send Me/."

So lofty is the thought that one may wonder whether, if these words had
not come down to us as they have done, and some later Christian mystic
had dared to utter this as his ideal, he would not have been treated as
a madman or a heretic. It is hard to think of what it means: a unity of
Christians one with another, even as there is unity between the Divine
Father and the unique Son.

In the bygone days of scholastic theology men might have gone on to
unfold the meaning of this by showing how unity of substance did not
remove the difference of person; But these thoughts do not live for us
to-day as for our forefathers. We must seek to find the meaning of
Christ's union with the Father, not by the road of medieval metaphysics,
but by some method which may appeal to our moral consciousness.

Is it not a fact that Christ is most truly revealed to us as in unity
with the Father in his identification of himself with suffering and
degraded humanity, as most truly Divine when he eats with publicans and
sinners, pours out his strength [p.25] for the sick and suffering, and
his life for those who have rejected him and at best have misunderstood him?

The Church, then, is most likely to attain to that inward unity for
which her Founder prayed by following the guidance of his life. She will
be most like him in laying upon herself and claiming as her own the
sufferings and evils that befall or should befall, men in the world
without; least like him and least likely to attain this Divine unity
when she claims rights and privileges for herself, when she insists on
her superiority, when she turns from her the publican and sinner, or
leaves them to meet the punishment which is their due.

The union of Christians with each other is to be witness to the world of
the Divine mission of Jesus. Men are to believe on him because they see
how his life and spirit hold together communities with differing
organisations and men of widely varying personality. The union is not to
destroy personality or variety of character, but to underlie all
difference. It is no external machinery to unite us in a single visible
organisation by which individuality would be stamped out or fettered in
growth. There is little trace of any such machinery in the earliest
history of the Church, and the ages and places where it has been most
perfect have not been those which we think of as nearest in spirit to
Christ, nor those men most like Him whose lives have been spent merely
in the development of such organisation. [p.26 ]

Perhaps the only one of the first group of disciples who possessed
powers of organisation was Judas Iscariot; and some critics may say that
he at least has had an apostolic succession of followers throughout the
history of the Church. One remembers the terrible saying of Renan [2]
<#_edn2>: L'histoire de l'Eglise sera le plus souvent désormais
l'histoire des trahisons que subira l'idée de Jesus; and though no
churches have been dedicated to SS. Ananias and Sapphira, they have
become in practice the patrons of too many Christian lives. But if we
cannot wish for an external unity such as that for which many good men
plead, we have, nevertheless, constantly to strive after a deeper union
of spirit in the service of our fellows, in the search after truth, in
love to our Lord.

First let us take our need of sincerity. Perhaps nothing so holds many
men of to-day from Christ as the sense of the insincerity of those who
call themselves Christians. Our worship, our hymns and prayers, are full
of unreality; we persuade ourselves, perhaps, that we still believe in
dogmas which have ceased to have any influence upon our lives. We shut
our eyes to new truths because we are really afraid to be free, and what
was the chalice of a new truth to our fathers becomes a poison-cup to us
and our children. If the Church is to regain and to retain the respect
of honest thinkers we must welcome fair-minded inquiry wherever it be
directed, and not fear to open our eyes to the sun. [p.27]

And it is not only intellectual sincerity in accepting new truths that
is needed; if the old truths are to be made real to our day, we must be
prepared to translate them into language which people can understand. It
is worse than useless often to attempt to hand them on in the garments
of old words by which they were clothed in former days, for as truth is
a living thing, and words fade and lose their meaning, the form in which
it is rightly expressed must change from age to age. It is not enough,
then, to repeat some passage of Scripture, some familiar verse of
religious poetry, or some words of a man of God of former days, to bring
help to men to-day, even though the words are full of meaning to us
because we have entered into the inward experience which they represent.
Some have heard the words so often that they are now almost meaningless;
others cannot be touched by a mode of thought which was the outcome of
another time. They need the truths that lie behind the old words and the
outworn methods of thinking, but they must be re-expressed if they are
to reach them.

The eternal realities of which the New Testament writers had hold, which
filled their souls and made them struggle with words and metaphors to
express some glimpse of what they felt, could never be completely
represented by any language. Yet we have taken the words of the
Scripture and treated them as though they were so many phials of truth
in solution. The exquisite flowers of love and [p.28] faith have been
crushed and bruised in the mortar of the theologians to produce the
infallible dogmas of our orthodoxy. But the inward life does not live
upon the abstractions of the theologian any more than our outward life
upon the compressed drugs of the chemist, however perfect the process of
their making may have been. Cannot we, then, honestly confess that our
dogmas are but imperfect human attempts to fathom the deep things of
God, symbols that stand for something which transcends them as much as
the mother's face surpasses the poor drawing which her child may make of
it? Such a drawing can only be understood by the eyes of love, and we
need the same spirit to make our dogmas full of meaning.

It is not only in intellectual matters that the Church has been
insincere. Many who are no thinkers feel that she has not honestly
attempted to carry out her own teachings. "Blessed are the gentle,"
"Blessed are the poor in spirit," are explained in many a commentary,
but illustrated by too few lives. Yet the only adequate commentary on
the beatitudes is the life of a real follower of Christ.

The fact is that many Christians think that by bowing down in worship
before Christ they are His followers, forgetting His own test for such:
"Why call ye Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" We
write of Him, it may be, as Our Lord with capital letters, when He is
not our lord at all, nor the master and controller of our lives. [p.29]
There is a great deal of false reverence about this lip-worship of
phrase and form that actually keeps us from getting as near as we might
to the true spirit of followers of Christ.

If we are lovers and followers of the truth as Jesus bids us be, we must
recognise our kinship and comradeship with all others who sincerely seek
the truth, even though they may attack us and fail for the moment to see
all the light which may shine in our eyes so clearly: in the mere search
after truth their souls are turned towards the light and unconsciously
fed and aided by the Source of all truth! Nor must we think of them our
blind brothers merely, for they may be fighting a far greater army of
foes than we, placed as out-posts of the hosts of God, surrounded by the
enemy and overborne themselves for a while, that afterwards the
victorious ranks of their comrades may press on over their bodies to
conquests of which we have not even dreamed.

And how far have we failed in unity with our Master and each other
through our not having learnt His lesson of the way of service, of our
true relationship to our fellows?

Yet here and there across the pages of history shines the light of a
good life pointing us the true way, and how by losing ourselves we find

The bearing of the Cross which Jesus enjoined upon His followers is far
other than that asceticism which monk and nun and Puritan have wasted
many a precious life to attain. We have not to give [p.30] up the
pleasant thing because it is pleasant, or because it gives only a
mundane and transitory joy. Joy is good, and not to be avoided, but
welcomed. We have to give up the pleasant thing ourselves, others may
take it in our stead; or give up a large measure of it that they may
share it with us. We do not lose the joy, or pretend that it is unreal
and transitory as the monk may. It is very real, and we feel it in a
sense we could not do before, because our fellows share it or have it in
place of us, and our life is their life. Gladness which they feel we
must feel too.

This is the difference between the monk of the desert and Francis of
Assisi, the apostle of the joy of Christ . The monk battles with himself
to maintain his vow of poverty; he is constantly giving up in not
possessing things for himself, or in renouncing pleasures which attract
him. St. Francis in possessing nothing has all things, for all are God's
and his fellows', and he is theirs. The wide world is his cloister, and
everything which he can do to gladden his brother gives joy to himself.
True Christianity like his is full of an infectious sense of the joy of
life. Whenever such men go there comes to others some touch of their
spirit, as crumbs drop from a full table.

This faith that joy in itself is good does not mean that there may not
be needful for us all some form of true asceticism, training in
withholding from things good in themselves and from pleasures we desire,
quite apart from the surrendering [p.31] of them to others. But needful
as this is, it is good only as training for an end beyond itself, and
not for the mere sake of abstinence. We refrain that we may be masters
of our wills, that we may keep control of habit, that our bodies may be
the instrument of our spirits; such fasting as this only fits us more
fully for the joy of service.

Deeper even than the sacrament of joy is that of sorrow, and we may
learn something of it from John Woolman, the Quaker apostle of Christ's
sufferings. Where men suffered he suffered too in spirit with them. When
he came on his last journey to England he could not travel in the
comfortable cabin because of the needless toil of the workmen that had
gone to adorn it, but must share with the poor sailors the foul air and
discomfort of the steerage. And when on the stormy passage across the
Atlantic he lay there sick and in pain, his heart went up in
thankfulness that he was permitted to share the experience which so many
of his fellow-men had to go through, and be united thus to suffering
humanity. "I was now desirous," he tells us, "to embrace every
opportunity of being inwardly acquainted with the hardships and
difficulties of my fellow-creatures, and to labour in His love for the
spreading of pure righteousness on the earth." Then we shall remember,
too, that beautiful passage near the close of his journal, where he
recalls the vision that came to him in time of sickness of that mass of
dull, gloomy colour, made up of [p.32] human beings in as great misery
as they could be and live, and how he was told that he was mixed with
them and henceforth might not consider himself a separate being. The
angel's song, "John Woolman is dead," sounded to him more pure and
lovely than any he had ever heard before, for in truth his old will was
dead, and in him the spirit of Christ was alive.

Is it not here that the Church will find the way to reconcile the world
of toilers and sufferers estranged from her to-day? — in that unity
between her members which goes deeper even than membership, in a love to
Christ which shows itself, as He calls for it, towards all who have need
of Him, which identifies the Christian with his brothers, the doers and
bearers of wrong?

As we look out upon a Christendom divided by sects and creeds into a
score of different bodies, we may be saddened by the lament which many a
devout lip has uttered over the schisms which rend the mystic robe of
the Master. But it was only His outer garments which the soldiers rent
asunder: the seamless robe is unsevered still. External separation does
not touch the spirit of love and true communion which beneath countless
outer differences unites together the lives of all who follow Him in
deed and in truth. And as we each draw nearer to Him, and His life flows
into our lives, we must draw nearer to each other and to all our fellow-men.


FOR the individual and the community alike the deepest influences are
expressed in life rather than words, yet it remains true that through
the symbols of spoken thought life must again and again come to
expression. In former days this was realised in the value set upon
prophecy, if we may use the word in its broadest and highest sense, as
the forth-telling, in the language of human thought, of the Divine will
present behind our lives and at work amid the world.

One of the changes that strike one most in organized Christianity
to-day, compared with the Church of earlier times, is the general
absence of prophecy in this sense, in all but very occasional crises.
The prophetic instinct is not dead indeed, but men find its highest
manifestations rather outside the Church of earlier times. The leaders
of the Church have been too often content to repeat the messages of the
prophets of a former day rather than to seek for a living voice within
their midst. Yet those who know anything of the life of the Church from
within, judged not merely by this incomplete [p.34 ]expression, but seen
as it affects the daily lives of countless men and women, must surely
agree that in spite of all the trammels of convention and tradition the
Church has still a life to pass on and a message to deliver for the
needs of to-day. Those who would have it become once more the school of
the prophets will surely be willing to look for a few moments at the
picture which has come down to us of what place prophecy filled in the
Church life of the earliest days, and how the prophet was supplanted,
not killed, as some have thought, by the priest, but rather silenced by
the iron grip of organization.

In the fourteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians is
preserved for us a picture the meetings of an early Christian Church,
full of interest to the historian.

It is clear from this description that an important part was usually
taken in these gatherings by men who gave to their fellow worshippers
what they believed to be God's message or revelation to them. This was
something quite distinct from the recitation of a hymn or a passage of
Scripture, or from the interpretation of scripture, or again from the
teaching of doctrine. It is regarded by the Apostle Paul as the highest
spiritual gift, one earnestly to be desired, although it was not given
to all, but only to some. Of the nature of this ministry we get a
glimpse in his description of the way in which an unbeliever who enters
the assembly is convinced by it. [p.35] The ministry goes to his inmost
self, reading the needs of his heart.

"If all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one
unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the
secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he
will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth.[3] <#_edn3>

The message of prophecy is one, as it seems, which reaches the
subconscious self of the incomer, who suddenly beholds the realities of
his own inner life in this flood of light that flows in upon him,
piercing through the veil that custom and convention had wrought about
him. But the prophetic word does not merely give this fuller knowledge
of his own nature to the stranger; it puts him also into touch with a
higher self. He sees in a flash of revelation not only the evil in his
own life, but the source of power to set it right, here in the midst of
this assembly, and bowing himself before it he confesses the Divine

If we ask how this prophetic ministry is conceived as coming to those
who exercise it, it would seem from the words of the Apostle that it is
not by exercise of the intellect that prophecy comes, though the
understanding is to be cultivated in connection with another highly
prized gift, that of teaching. But the Corinthians are urged to long
after the gift of prophecy most of all; they [p.36] are to prepare
themselves for it, then, by prayer, the door through which our life
opens out into the Divine life and is fed from it. The teacher thinks
over what he knows of the needs and difficulties of his fellows, ponders
over the truths that have been made clear to him in the past, searches
amongst the sayings of the Lord, the teachings of the Apostles, the
words of the Law or the prophets of old, for help for the present. Not
so the prophet. He may, indeed, go through all this preparation of
thought, but the essential preparation for his work is prayer; prayer in
which he must be willing to lay aside, if need be, all these thoughts of
this. The prophetic spirit reaches out to realize the condition of those
to whom it is to minister, and upward in search of light and strength
from its only source.

Sometimes it is not given to the prophet to reach conscious hold of Him
by whom we are all upheld, and then all his ministry may be but a cry
for help, with a deep sense of need. Sometimes he feels the presence
very near, and as he keeps close to the Father's hand, those about him
are given to feel it too.

Or, perhaps, some word of the Lord, or some thought of other days is
suddenly illumined by a fresh light, and his message is to hand on the
fire from the altar, that those about him may light their torches too.

The prophet is God's spokesman. He must lose thought of himself in his
message. He is [p.37] translating for others and to others in the
presence of the Giver of the message. He must keep in touch with those
to whom he is speaking. He must remember too how easy it is for
interpreters to expand and embroider upon the original, and thus to mar
it. And, therefore, the prophet should keep very close to the Giver of
the message, who may have given to others its fuller exposition.

One danger of the prophets of Corinth was very present to St. Paul's mind.

Some of them seem to have got so wrapt up in a sense of the Divine
communion that they did not keep that control of their whole nature,
which would lead them to find expression in the language of
intelligence. Carried away by their feelings they gave utterance to the
experience of their spirit in words broken and unintelligible, the
channels of word and thought over which their brains had control seemed
too small for the flood of emotion which swept out in overmastering
power, so that their tongues moved and they spoke without knowing what
they said. Paul knew better than any of them the hidden things of the
Spirit, the groanings that cannot be uttered, the thoughts that flash
upon us and cannot be caught up by our halting reason, following slowly
after, the striving of the soul that no words can compass, the God-given
intuitions which cannot be imprisoned in words.

But he knew too that language was given us not for the joy of expressing
what we feel but as [p.38] a means of sharing our experience with
others. To speak with an unknown tongue, to abandon oneself to the
ecstasy of the moment, may be right for our own life, he writes, but it
is useless for our fellows. We must not be content to soar up ourselves
into the world of life and light, we must try to bring back into our
world of sense some symbols of the truths of the world beyond,
imprisoning in words which men may understand fragments of the truths
which can never wholly be expressed in words.

At times the message burns so within the prophet's breast that he feels
he must speak, no matter what is happening about him. Thus it seems that
sometimes at Corinth two or three prophets would speak at once, and mar
each other's messages. But this was to lose sight of their true place,
to forget that the message was given them that others might receive it.

The prophet, he writes, is still master of his own spirit: he is not to
allow his reason to lose its right control. He has to use his
intelligence in deciding when he is to speak and when he must hold
silence. He has not to let his conscious self be submerged in the
sub-conscious, like an island beneath the waves of the surrounding sea;
rather is he to gather on to its dry land the goods the waves have
brought him, before he sends them forth again to other shores. In this
way may the Divine message not only bring help to him but comfort to all
to whom it is sent. [p.39] Thus the picture of the Church of Corinth and
St. Paul's advice for its needs is one to which men may look who are
seeking to-day for that true prophetic ministry which seemed to the
Apostle the most important of the gifts of the Spirit to the Christian

It may help us too to consider how far that gift has been present
throughout the succeeding ages, and how far it has been hindered by the
Church from finding its true exercise.

When next we get a glimpse of the Church at Corinth, more than a
generation has passed away, and probably few of those who were members
when St. Paul wrote are still alive. The majority of the church is in
disagreement with its Elders or Bishops, and has deposed them from their
positions; and the Bishop of Rome, Clement writes in the name of his
church, in reply to some letter from the Corinthians, to urge them to be
reconciled, and give once more the honour that is their due to these
worthy presbyters. The first epistle of Clement is a long and beautiful
letter, and enters with tact and deep concern into a discussion of the
dissension that is troubling the peace of the Corinthians, but it makes
no mention whatever of the place of prophecy in the Church. The word
prophet does occur twice in the epistle, but only in reference to the
Old Testament.

At the same time it is clear that Clement is very sensible of the
importance of the position of [p.40] the bishops or presbyters, though
it is not quite clear whether these are wholly distinct offices.
Apparently the Church at Corinth was trying, in the spirit of Greek
democracy, to dispense with its church officers. Clement tells them [4]
how the Apostles went about setting up bishops and deacons
amongst the first fruits of their converts in different cities; these
offices had even been foreseen ages before, he notes, by the prophet
Isaiah (Ix. 17). [5] <#_edn5>

It was not right, he urges, that men who had been appointed by the
apostles and afterwards by other men of renown, with the consent and
approval of the whole Church, who had fulfilled their duties without
blame, should now be cast out of their offices.

If we turn to another group of letters, written some twelve years later
by Ignatius of Antioch, on his way to martyrdom at Rome, we find, again,
that the only references to prophets and prophecy deal with old
Testament days, but that the greatest importance is set by Ignatius upon
the relations of the Church to its Bishop: "Do all of you," he bids the
Church of Smyrna, [6] "follow the Bishop, as Jesus Christ the
Father, and follow the College of Presbyters as the Apostles, and give
heed to the deacons as God's commandment. Let no man do anything of
those things that appertain to the Church apart from the Bishop. Let
that Eucharist be accounted valid that is under the authority of the
Bishop or of him to whomsoever he himself entrusts it. Wheresoever the
Bishop appeareth there let the multitude be, even as wheresoever Christ
Jesus is there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful apart from the
Bishop either to baptise or to hold an Agape, but whatsoever he approves
that is also well pleasing to God; that all that is done may be safe and
valid." (According to present Catholic doctrine even a woman may validly

We see at once that it would not be easy to fit into such an ordered
Church as this prophets like those of the earliest Church in Corinth.

But while in most of the larger towns the churches had been developing
along lines like these it would seem that at the same time there were
out of the way places in which a much more primitive tradition was

We can get some idea of this from the passages in the Didache which
refer to prophets and travelling apostles.

Two whole chapters of this ancient book of teaching (xi. and xiii.) are
devoted to this subject, whereas only the briefest mention is made of
bishops and deacons, and in these words, "Elect then for yourselves
bishops and deacons, worthy of the Lord, men gentle and not money
loving, true and tested, for they too themselves offer to you the
service of the prophets and teachers; [p.42] "Despise them not then, for
these are they who are honoured of you along with the prophets and

Thus it would seem that the bishops and deacons are chosen by the Church
for its work, perhaps in default of sufficiency of prophets and
teachers, to do the work which these would do, and they seem at least to
need, in the writer's eyes, to be supported by an appeal which he would
not think of making on behalf of the prophet and teacher whose messages
carry within themselves their authority. That the true prophet stands,
in his eyes, above the human ordering of the church, seems clear too,
from the section which gives instructions as to the words (and very
beautiful words they are too) of the eucharistic prayer (ch. x.). At the
conclusion of this model prayer the writer adds: "but allow the prophets
to offer thanks as much as they choose."

Warning of almost naive simplicity is given against dangers from false
prophets. Apparently the temptation to emotional enthusiasm is not
before the writer's mind, as it was before Paul's in writing to Corinth.
The travelling evangelist, or apostle, as he is called, is to be
received "as the Lord," but if he stay for as long as three days he is
to be recognised as a false prophet. The readers are warned not to judge
the prophet who speaks in the spirit, this being treated as the sin
against the Holy Ghost.

"But not every man who speaks in the spirit [p.43] is a prophet," the
writer goes on," but only if he have the ways of the Lord," thus making
the character of Christ the objective standard by which prophets are judged.

"From their ways then shall the false prophet and the prophet be known,
and every prophet who appoints a feast in the spirit does not eat of it,
unless, indeed, he be a false prophet, and every prophet who teaches the
truth, if he does not do that which he teaches, is a false prophet." The
readers are warned against judging the prophet who does some strange
symbolic act for the edification of the Church without bidding others to
do as he does," for even thus also did the ancient prophets." "But whoso
saith in the spirit Give me money, or any other things, to him ye shall
not hearken; but if he speak concerning others who are in need, and bids
men give, let no man judge him" (ch. xi.). The true prophet who is
willing to settle amongst them is worthy of his keep, they are told, and
so is the true teacher; "and so," the writer continues, "ye shall take
every first- fruit of the produce of your wine-press and threshing
floor, of your oxen and of your flocks, and shall give to the prophets,
for they are your high priests.

"But if ye have not a prophet give to the poor; and so likewise with
bread, oil and wine, with

money, clothes and all other things" (ch. xiii.).

Here we have, perhaps, the hint of a transitional stage between the
early church of Corinth and the churches of Clement and Ignatius. The
prophet [p.44] has the first place of honour and next to him the teacher
but all churches have not their prophet, and in these bishops and
deacons must act in the place of prophets and teachers, and be honoured
as such, while in other churches the prophets and teachers were treated
as a sort of Christian priest, and one may see how their work came to be
regarded as a regular church office and gradually assimilated, in church
after church to the offices customary in the larger congregations like
Rome and Antioch. As time passes the place of the prophet is more and
more taken by the bishop, and by the end of the second century it would
seem, that, for such a bishop of the Church Catholic as Apollinaris of
Hierapolis, the prophet was a memory of the distant past.

The Montanist movement in Phrygia had owed its strength to the appeal
which it made to the prophetic tradition and the prophetic spirit. In
the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the Phrygian convert Montanus had gone
into prophetic ecstasies which shocked the more orderly members of the
church, and a separation ensued, in which Montanus was joined by two
prophetesses, Prisca and Maximilla; they continued for some time, it
would seem, to appeal to those within the greater church to recognise
them, for a fragment of Maximilla which is preserved to us, runs thus:

"I am chased like a wolf from the flock; I am wolf, I am utterance,
spirit and power." (Eusebius v.§ 16). [p. 45]

Some, like Tertullian, listened; but the Church, as a whole, was
frightened at the excesses of their enthusiasm and probably, as a
result, prophecy became more than ever suspect. Irenaeus, it is true,
mentions amongst the Divine gifts still given to Christians in his day,
that some have the knowledge of things to come, as also visions and
prophetic communications (Eus. v. § 7), but this certainly does not
imply any frequent and general gift like that in the early church of

His contemporary Alcibiades, indeed, writes a book to demonstrate the
impropriety of a prophet's speaking in ecstasy, which Apollinaris
abridged (Eus. v. § 17). The good bishop of Hierapolis was very earnest
in his attack against the Montanists: "They will never be able to show,"
he writes, "that any in the Old or New Testament were thus violently
agitated and carried away in spirit. Neither will they be able to boast
that Agabus or Judas or Silas or the daughters of Phillip or Ammia, in
Philadelphia, or Quadratus or others, that do not belong to them, ever
acted in this way." It is very significant that the latest examples of
eminent prophets in the Church here named, are Quadratus and Ammia.
Ammia appears to be unknown to Eusebius, who alludes to her in this
chapter as "one Ammia," but Quadratus he has mentioned in a previous
book as a prophet contemporary with Ignatius, in these words: "Of those
that flourished in these times Quadratus is said to have been
distinguished for his prophetical gifts. There [p.46] were many others
also noted in these times who held the first rank in the apostolic
succession." (iii. § 37); whether this Quadratus is to be identified
with the philosopher who wrote an apology for Christianity to Hadrian
(iv.§ 3) is uncertain.

It seems from the words of Apollinaris, which Eusebius goes on to quote
(v. § 17), that the Montanists claimed that their prophets and
prophetesses were the successors of Ammia and Quadratus, but Maximilla
had now been dead for some years, and the bishop challenges his
opponents to point to any living prophet who had succeeded her: "And if
you have no succession of prophets then," he urges, "you must give up
your claim to represent the Christian Church. (For the apostle shows
that the gift of prophecy shall be in all the church until the coming of
the Lord)." What would have been the bishop's answer if the Montanists
had turned on him with the demand that he, too, should produce his
living prophets within the pale of the great church? In view of what he
has told us, may we not believe that his answer would be somewhat on
this wise: "The gift of prophecy has never been removed from the church;
though it may be dormant as far as such prophecies as those of Quadratus
are concerned, it may be called forth again at any time by the Divine
will, and will be recognised at once by the bishops, who are the
divinely appointed authorities, without whose approval no true prophet
will act. And if there be no such prophets [p.47] now, in any church,
the bishop takes their place, expounding as is fit the will of the Lord
to the people, and guided himself by the Holy Spirit"? How are we to
explain this remarkable change that we have thus witnessed, and was it
the necessary and right development of the Church which led to it?

To those who know how, in the seventeenth century, another experiment
was begun, which after nearly nine generations, is not yet ended, in the
holding together of religious communities of which an essential feature
has always been the freedom of prophesying, it may, at first sight, seem
easy to reply that the change was no necessary one.

One would not say that they were wrong, for who can say what might not
have been, if men had only been faithful to their highest ideals, and
been willing always to take the rough and narrow way that leads straight
up to the heavenly city? But we shall, perhaps judge more fairly if we
think how very much greater were the difficulties that beset the
Christian organisms of the first and second centuries, than those, great
as they were, with which George Fox had to grapple. He had, it is true,
to deal with companies of men and women, amongst whom were enthusiasts
or individualistic quietists, who would brook no discipline, and many of
them were poor and very ignorant folk; but how different in many cases
was a church of the first century. Imagine a [p.48] community of varying
nationalities, containing a number of slaves, many of them illiterate
people, others degraded by their past life to the lowest depths; men and
women rescued from lives of terrible evil and still under constant
temptation to fall back; a number of Christian Jews with strange
oriental customs and traditions, half- familiar only with the language
and civilisation of their adopted town; a few men, possibly, of higher
social position and greater education, but the majority only able to
communicate with each other by a lingua franca of bad Greek, which was
the native tongue only of a small minority. One can see what a babel of
confusion might easily arise amongst such a community, especially when
we remember that many had but an imperfect knowledge of Christ and His
teaching, and very few churches possessed all the works which we have in
our New Testament.

Moreover, a great change had come from the days of Paul's letter to the
Corinthians. That little church was then still living in the days when
the Christians as such were tolerated by the law. Gallio's decision had
removed the church at Corinth from any need to observe secrecy.

But after two generations the position had wholly changed, and to be a
Christian was a penal offence which, if adhered to, was punishable with
death. This necessarily involved a need for greater precaution, for more
order and wise management in the assembling of the Church. [p.49] And in
the early days when the churches lived in constant expectation of the
immediate end of the age and the outward coming of Christ to set up His
Kingdom, they would naturally lay little stress on church order; the
struggle of the church militant was but to last a brief time more; there
was no need for much organisation, or for any other connection between
one church and another than the friendly ties of love. One church might
have its prophets and teachers, another only presbyters or a bishop and
deacons; others of larger size and needs might have ail these officers
together with deaconesses and widows. But no one was anxious about such
differences. Travelling apostles and evangelists formed living links of
love betwixt church and church, and occasionally, individuals and
churches sent letters to each other. No other bond was needed.

But when it became slowly more evident that the Church might yet have to
continue long years at work in the world before the consummation came,
and when it seemed to the leaders that they had to fight a life and
death struggle, on the one hand against the vast force of the world
empire of Rome, whenever a persecuting edict might be enforced, and on
the other against a growing crowd of strange errors, which seemed to
them to be sent by the Devil to delude the hearts of the faithful, and
draw them away from the Gospel of Christ; can we wonder that they did
their best to draw the scattered communities of [p.50] Christians to a
sense of unity under a like organization, adapted for a strenuous fight
to preserve the good order of the Church from being shattered by
persecutions from without or broken up and corrupted by false or
mistaken brethren from within. And often, too, especially under the fire
of persecution, something of the true prophetic spirit showed itself in
the bishops themselves, as they admonished their fellow believers to be
faithful even unto death, and beheld, amidst the shadow of death,
visions of the deep things of God. Very true is this of Ignatius, whose
letters breathe forth again and again the fiery faith and zeal of the
true prophet, with flashes now and then of great and Christlike thoughts
that still shine like gems amid the dust of pious exposition and
mistaken exegesis that even first century Christian literature shares as
a characteristic with our own. In the letter which he wrote to his
friend Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, one sees how intensely he felt the
importance of a bishop's work for the life of the Church, how great the
need was for gifted and holy men to fill such posts and what true help
such men were able to give to the struggling communities for whom they
lived and whom they served. Ignatius, for all his exaltation of the
bishop's office, is full of humanity, feeling his own unworthiness and
regarding himself as the servant of his church. As we hear him urging
upon Polycarp to do his best to save all his flock, to put up with them
all, even as Christ bears with [p.51] him, to love not just the good
disciples but rather more especially the worse, and to conquer them by
gentleness, to stand like a rock against false teaching, to care for the
widows and not to overlook the slaves, we feel indeed how high the task
of such a bishop was; and with both Ignatius and Polycarp, as with
countless of their less illustrious fellows, it was a task crowned by

But if history shows us how valuable was the work done under the system
of the catholic hierarchy to preserve a living Christianity across the
centuries, it also bears witness to the way in which in succeeding ages
the prophetic spirit re-asserted itself. A long series of heresies from
that of the Montanists in the second century to that of the Fraticelli
in the fourteenth, or of the Lollards and Hussites in the fifteenth, up
to the days of the Reformation and the Anabaptist prophets of Munster,
give us evidence of the way in which that spirit meets the profound need
of humanity and proves the outcome of deep stirring of soul. But inside
the Church itself we shall find again that the spirit of prophecy cannot
be banished, just because there always was true life there. Yet the
prophetic gift does not go along the orthodox channels of the hierarchy,
but is continually bursting out in new and unexpected quarters, so that
often the authorities of the Church are in a strait whether they are
dealing with a saint or a heretic. To those outside the Church, the
canon sometimes seems strange enough which [p.52] rules into one class
St. Theresa, into the other Madame Guyon, which, after burning
Savonarola was almost on the point of canonising him, which deposed and
exiled John of Parma, and then beatified him. The prophetic spirit
surely often found its outlet in the early ages amongst the monks of the
desert, witness for instance such a saint as Telemachus, who brought to
an end the gladiatorial shows at Rome; and in later times first in the
Benedictine and the subsequent monastic orders, and then, very notably,
in the Franciscan brotherhood, it found freer outlets than the church of
the day could provide, while the lives of countless saints bear witness
to some touches at least of the spirit of the prophet re-asserting
itself in spite of the trammels of the organization of the church. If
the gift of prophecy were to be connected with a divinely ordered
hierarchy we might naturally look for it most of all in the popes. Yet
in so many centuries comparatively few popes have been canonised as
saints, and few amongst these are conspicuous as showing forth this gift
in the way in which we see it in such a simple woman as Catherine of
Siena, or in plain men like Giles of Perugia.

In our own day, a devout catholic like Fogazzaro has pictured for us the
way in which a true prophet may arise within the bosom of the Church,
only to meet with obstacles from the authorities, and finally with
persecution ending almost in martyrdom. Yet that book, which, in spite
of [p.53] Papal prohibition, has found such warm support and awakened
such eager interest in Catholic Italy, bears witness to the profound
longing (which many in England surely share) that there is within the
orthodox Church for a deep spiritual ministry, which the recognised
authorities have not always supplied, for a revelation of new truth to
meet the needs of our day, for a fresh unfolding of the meaning of the
gospel of Christ, which shall appeal once more with apostolic power to
the hearts of men.

Two centuries ago the early Quakers felt that they had known such an
experience and tried to hand it on to others. Need we wonder if it
should appear that the Society of Friends to-day has inherited their
traditions but not their spirit? For, indeed, the prophetic spirit can
never be inherited, or passed on from man to man by any mechanical
arrangement. It must come anew from generation to generation, often
after the hardest travail of soul, through fresh strivings, as the
result of other needs; but we can, at least, see that our ordering,
whether of the Church's life or our own, is such as not to hinder its
coming but to prepare us for it.

And not the least of such a heritage has been a form of worship and a
view of life which may still give not only to a little community but to
a wider world a school of the prophets.

When we see the weak side of quietism, and mistakes of an earlier day of
mystics (as now we [p.54] are so apt to do), let us not forget that,
amidst the quietist Quakerism of the eighteenth century, there grew up
and flowered one of the most beautiful products not only of Quaker but
of Christian training; to many of us to-day, John Woolman speaks as do
few others with the power of a true prophet. Yet too often in the past
the Society of Friends has been content with a succession of minor
prophets, whose message was only to a little congregation. Without was a
multitude who had no priests or shepherds, and nations needing a guide.
To-day, if we cannot make teachers like Woolman, at least we can prepare
the way for their coming.

Prophecy is born of prayer, supported by it, not the prayer of words,
but that attitude of soul, of will, of which the most beautiful of our
collects are the momentary reflections. In this spirit then, feeling our
need and our fellows', let us long for more light to come into our
lives. Let us remember that we have not just to sit down contentedly in
the dark and wait for God's light.

If we try to listen to the voice of the prophet teachers of the past
whose message still comes home to us, and to picture the thoughts of
some disciple of theirs to-day, might we not frame them thus?

"If we cannot scatter the clouds, we can at least clean our windows and
open our doors. Every faculty of our nature is God's gift and to be used
in His service, and so we are not to think of prophecy [p.55] as coming
with the atrophy of the intellect; with every power of our minds we are
called to serve God and seek truth, which is His revelation. To pray, '
Thy will be done ' should be, as Fogazzaro has told us, no attitude of
passive submission, but a call to our whole nature to strive to the
utmost for the cause of God.

"Then we must remember that the more truly we are at one with Christ,
the more we shall feel ourselves fundamentally united with all our
fellows. We shall feel their wrongs and sins as ours, and their needs
too, and as we come to feel this, we shall realise more and more that in
every act and word and thought we are not our own.

"Every evil desire overcome is a victory for our brothers, and not
merely for ourselves. Our lives are intertwined one with another, and
constantly, unseen and unknown to ourselves and each other, we influence
one another for evil or for good. The prophet is nothing else than a
true priest, not to one or two, but to a multitude.

"We are all called to be priests, and, if God calls us to be prophets,
in learning to be truly priests, we shall unconsciously be learning too
in the prophets' school.

"The priest must have a two-fold vision, of the truth above him and of
the brother beside him who has need of the truth. The more he can see of
either, the more he can be brought into communication with his fellows,
and with the truth, the more priestly will his service be. [p.56] "Let
us be faithful in word and deed to the highest that we know, and higher
things shall be revealed unto us. Let us be patient with the worst and
those who naturally repel us. Far more repulsive has been the evil in
our own thoughts in the eyes of the holy angels. Let us not be uplifted
because others have been helped through us; Truth is not ours, but God's.

"Let us not be discouraged if our work seem fruitless; never despair of
the truth. Have faith in the truth that has been revealed to you, for
some day others too shall see it.

"Have faith in the Truth that is yet unknown; others perhaps have
already caught some glimpse of it.

"Blessed is the man in whose heart there is built an altar with the
inscription written: ' To the unknown Truth '; of such men are prophets

"Truth is beautiful in the mouth of a friend, but most divine when it is
seen in the heart of an opponent. The devil had delight to seek for
faults in Job; let us seek rather to see, with Christ, the good in the
heart of the publican."

Those of us who are striving after this ideal should be the greatest of
sacerdotalists; our faith and worship are built up upon belief in the
essential priesthood of every human soul. Let us not forget then, that
if all men have some vision of God, all may teach us something of Him.
And since heavenly truth comes to no man naked, but clad in changing
robes, let us strive in our [p.57] search for truth, alike in speaking
and in listening, to remember that the garment of words changes and may
mean one thing to us and another to our fellows. Let us get beneath
words and forms to the life-giving spirit, and as we are to be the
greatest sacerdotalists let us be the most thorough- going of ritualists
too, to whom there are symbols and lessons of the Divine Life, not only
in the beautiful liturgies of the altar, but in all the mysteries of
nature and the sacraments with which life is full.

For surely there are not merely two or seven sacraments, but seventy
times seven, for him whose heart seeks ever fellowship with his brothers
and with the Father above him, who would be loved in them, and served by
their service. The whole world is God's and full of His light; our lives
are His and they are our fellows. And since in every heart of man is
some well through which the God-given waters of life may flow, we may go
forth in faith to our work; as we serve our neighbours and search for
truth, in the spirit of followers of Christ Jesus, seeking that our own
wells may be made wider and deeper, and that their springs may be shared
more fully by others, God will make priests of all of us, and, if He
will it, prophets too. [p.58]


"THE Finger of God," wrote once Sir Thomas Browne, "hath left an
inscription upon all His works." We have little skill to read that
wondrous message, but from the very dawn of humanity men have tried to
trace the writing, have sought to spell out the words, and as they came
to perceive something of those spiritual forces that are at work in the
world, and to look beneath the surface of things to that which lies
deeper, they too have endeavoured to embody in outward forms for
themselves and for others the truths which they would apprehend.

The course of the ages changes the meaning of even the simplest words
which we use, for words, like men, are mortal; and so it has come about
that the thought which rises in our minds as we speak of a sacrament is
not that which came to those who used the word long ago.

In the ancient days a sacrament was simply a holy thing, something
consecrated and set apart; in very early times it was especially a sort
of judicial pledge deposited by the parties in a law [p.59] suit; then
it came to mean the solemn oath of a soldier, pledging his loyalty to
his commander on entering upon his military service. It was used by
early Christian Latin writers to render the thought of the Greek
mystery, /μυστήριον/, a word which we have failed to translate into
English, as so often we must fail in any translation from one tongue to
another to render thought for thought.

We think nowadays of a mystery as being something hidden, but to the
Greek it was rather a revelation; an unfolding through symbol of that
which could not be wholly expressed in any words. The mystery remained a
secret to him who was without, to the uninitiate; but the initiate
understood its meaning.

In the most famous mysteries of Greece, those which were celebrated at
Eleusis, it would seem that along with the idea of revelation of truth
went also the sense of upbuilding of the inward life, the purification
of the soul and the assimilation of the Divine things imparted beneath
the symbol. For revelation, the unveiling of truth, is no one-sided act;
it involves response in the mind that receives; if the truth is
apprehended, it must in part at least, be also assimilated. And so every
mystery is something more than the unfolding of a hidden reality; it
also implies the imparting of new life.[7] [p.60 ]

In the earlier Christian literature sacraments still bear this wide
meaning. Tertullian often uses the word thus. In one passage he speaks
of a woman known to him who was accustomed to go into ecstasies during
the weekly service of the Church; "she converses with angels, sometimes
even with the Lord, and both sees and hears sacraments" [8] He
speaks of "the sacrament of allegory,"[9] "sacraments of
metaphors," [10] in both cases alluding to Old Testament
types, and again, he explains the wood by which Moses made the waters of
Mara sweet (Exodus xv.), as a sacrament symbolizing the cross [11] <#_edn11>

According to Prudentius, the early Christian poet, the Evangelist tells
us that Christ gave these [p.61] commands to His disciples: "Seek not
carefully for words when ye shall have to descant of my sacrament," [12]
"my Sacrament," being evidently here equivalent to "the Gospel."

But, as time passed by, the word sacrament became more and more used for
certain mysteries of the Church alone, although far down into the middle
ages even in this sense the word had a wider use than that of the seven
sacraments of the Council of Trent.

Thus in 393 A.D. the synod of Hippo made a decree as to the use of the
sacrament of salt at Easter by the catechumens, and in later times the
ringing of bells and the use of the sign of the cross were regarded as
sacraments. By the time of Augustine, however, the word sacrament was
frequently used in its narrower signification, and already emphasis is
laid on the saving power of the sacrament rather than on its
significance as a revelation. Yet Augustine, though holding that the
sacrament of baptism was necessary to salvation, once wrote thus: "For
what else are each of the bodily sacraments, but, so to speak, certain
visible words; most holy words it is true, but yet mutable and temporal
ones?" [13] <#_edn13>

It is this wider sense of the word which we must [p.62 ]be careful not
to lose, the use in which a sacrament means the unfolding and imparting
of the spiritual and eternal through that which we see and hear and feel.

Because in times past the Church has tended to narrow the use of the
word, and, by confining the Divine operations to certain channels, to
misread the great sacrament of life, so lessening the mystery of the
world, there is all the more reason that we should not rest content with
seeing how inadequate such views have proved. It is true that over the
doctrine of sacraments men have fought and wrangled, forgetting the name
by which they were called. But it is true, too, that to countless souls
it has seemed that through the sacraments the Church has offered them
help which has come as in no other way to their lives. And surely this
has not been all delusion. The error of the sacramentalist in the past
has often rather been that he has confined the Divine presence and the
Divine working to certain fixed channels and unchanging visible signs.
Those of us who hold that these good men have narrowed down the freedom
of the inner life need to meet them not by denying the Divine presence
where they see it, but by trying to see and to realize that presence
ourselves more fully throughout all our lives. We are called to the
worship and the knowledge of the transcendent and immanent God, who is
here in the midst of our lives, in the midst of His world and His works,
yet is far more than all these. [p.63] When the stern old Tertullian
looked out upon the pagan world around him and noted in its religious
rites strange mimicry and rivalry of the Christian mysteries, he could
perceive no good in what he saw. In the worship of Mithras he found a
baptism for the remission of sins, and a sign made on the forehead of
the soldier in this pagan army of salvation; a crown purchased by the
sword, and the ritual offering of bread. But all this, like the ancient
Roman rites of Numa, or the mysteries of Eleusis and of Samothrace,
seemed to him but the work of the Evil One. It was the devil's part, he
wrote, to invert the truth and make of it his own counterparts, as he
seemed to do in much of the ritual of the heathen temple.[14] <#_edn14>

In like manner, in more modern times the early missionaries in the far
east learned with amazement of the way in which, in the mountains of
Thibet, the devil had made his imitation of the ceremonies and offices
of the Catholic Church, and wondered as they heard of the Buddhist
monasteries with their abbots and hierarchy of clergy, and the
celebration there of mysterious offices strangely resembling their own
mass, to the sound of bells and amid the smoke of incense.

In our own day an even wider area opens before [p.64 ]the historian's
vision, and across five continents men trace, under various forms, rites
whose origin seems the same. It is not now the devil who is credited
with inspiring these myriad devices, but perhaps not a few of the
students who return with Dr. Frazer from the survey of this vast field
are inclined to feel that they have reduced all alike to one origin, in
primitive savage superstition at work in the presence of life, birth and
death. But if Tertullian and his school lack charity in their judgment
on the sacraments of the heathen, there is surely danger too that our
modern men of science may lead us to believe that in tracing a custom to
its primitive origin they have found its cause or explained its nature.
We can under- stand a thing best, not merely by knowing its beginning,
but by also viewing it in its full development, judged not only by what
it is at its lowest, or when it is most degraded, but at its highest and

The world-wide use points surely to a world-wide need, expressing itself
in different ways, but in essentials the same. Unconsciously, indeed, in
all our lives we make use of sacraments whenever we apprehend the
invisible and the higher through the medium of the visible and lower.
And, in our very thoughts, metaphors and symbols are nothing else than
sacraments expressing truth in pictorial form. Even when men
deliberately attempt to explain all life on a basis of atheistic
materialism they still feel the need of what might [p.65] truly be
called a kind of sacrament. It is very significant from this point of
view to find that some French secularists have found it desirable to
publish a ritual of civil ceremonies, [15] in which model
liturgies are provided for a secular baptism, a secular confirmation
service, as well as secular marriage and burial services. A conscious
recognition of this same need led Auguste Comte and his Positivist
followers to devise an elaborate ritual which might make their worship
of Humanity more real.

The Society of Friends itself, which is popularly supposed to represent
a protest against all forms of sacraments, can illustrate in its history
the value of the true sacrament, and the danger there is of doing
worship to the form of the sacrament, rather than to the life which
makes it of worth.

No other Christian community has proved so strikingly the value in
worship of the beautiful sacrament of silence, that universal liturgy in
which all nations can unite; where ignorant and learned men come
together on a like basis. Yet the very fact that in speaking of this we
need to emphasize the worth of "Living silence," shows that too often,
even here, men have but honoured a dead silence, making an idol of the
sacrament which was only a means to an end, not an end in itself.

We may see even more clearly how easy it is for the form to become a
bondage in the history of [p.66] another strange Quaker sacrament, that
of the "Plain dress" of the middle nineteenth century. There is no need
to tell how, in the case of this custom, the protest against changing
fashions became itself the most tyrannous of fashions. What is
especially interesting to us now, is to note that the dress which was an
outward sign of inward grace became to be considered as, in a sense,
holy itself. A young man or woman would wear the ordinary dress of the
day, and suddenly some time of decision would come, a crisis in the
inner life, and perfectly naturally the change would be marked by the
adoption in the plain dress of the older generation. And it even became
customary to associate the length of the hat brim with the holiness of
the wearer's life; the truer to Quaker principles he was, the longer was
the brim. It has been said that you may find in a journal written
seventy years ago such an entry as this: "I think I can honestly, yet in
all humility, say that in the past year there has been a growth in
grace, and I have ventured to add a quarter of an inch to the brim of my
hat." We smile; yet for some of us at least that ancient costume is so
redolent of beautiful memories that we can scarce bear to laugh at its
vagaries; we know too well the sacramental efficacy of the old Friend's
bonnet, which forever recalls the goodness and love of the face beneath it.

It is strange that in the ancient Church of Rome men should have come to
think in much the same [p.67] way of the peculiar habits of the
religious orders, regarding the monk's dress itself as something sacred,
which an unworthy man dishonoured, and which actually helped its wearer
to be holier in his life just as the old Quaker dress was felt by many
to help them to be more consistent in all their ways with the ideal
which they strove to realize. So strong was this feeling that men who
were not members of an Order sometimes obtained as a privilege to wear
for a time the cord, to die in the habit, or even to be buried in it,
the dress itself being felt to be sacramental.

If these minor sacraments came to be so misunderstood, how natural it is
that similar misunderstandings should arise as to sacraments in common
use throughout the whole Church, and associated with the very deepest
truths of the inner life. Yet if we go back to their origin we shall see
that the two chief sacraments of the Church were most simple acts
expressing in visible language the life of the spirit, acts perfectly
natural and full of significance to those who first took part in them,
but which in later days have too often lost their meaning because the
mere form was held to have some magical efficacy in itself.

To understand these sacraments aright do we not need to enter into the
spirit of the Teacher in whose name they are celebrated, and who is
believed to have instituted them? As we read the evangelists' record of
the life and words of Jesus, [p.68] we must surely feel that to him all
life was a sacrament, a continual unfolding of the Divine through the
visible world and through human life. In his eyes the sunshine falling
alike upon good and evil men is a constant revelation of the Divine
love, compassing just and unjust, overcoming evil with good. The
beautiful flowers of the field, blooming for a moment and then
destroyed, bring to him no thoughts of gloom, as they did to the Greek
poet, but the certainty that the Power which gives such loveliness to
the creatures of an hour will provide for His higher creation too. The
sparrows chirruping under the eaves, humblest of birds, fill him with a
sense of the Father's care for these, and much more for man. As Christ
walks across the fields, he sees messages for men in all the life about
him: the parable of the seed, summing up the whole mystery of our nature
in its life and growth; the sower at his work, the fishermen at their
task, all are parables for him. And so it is with the relationships of
our human life, which Christ takes up in his teaching and makes
sacramental. Because he is in unbroken communion with the Father unseen,
he constantly brings all the little things of daily life into
relationship with Him.

Christ found the religious folk of his day intent on fulfilling certain
duties; eager to guard the letter of the scriptures, the sacredness of
the sabbath, and to fulfil the various acts which the law prescribed. He
did not destroy the sacredness of [p.69] the one day by his treatment of
the sabbath, but he raised the other days to its level: he did not
secularize life by his attitude to the law, but rather recognised all
life as holy. Religion was no longer to be something confined to certain
acts and to special offices and places, but rather the attitude of the
soul toward God and one's fellows, a spirit pervading the whole life and
not concerned merely with the externals of duty or with certain special
seasons of prayer.

Was it not natural, and even necessary, that One who looked thus upon
the world, seeing every- thing in relation to God as the Author and the
end of life, should make of the commonest acts a means to the Source of
all strength? The water of purification, without which men could not
live a clean and healthy life, the daily bread without which they could
not live at all, the wine which stood for the inspiring fellowship which
makes life worth living, were symbols ready to hand and full of
spiritual meaning.

We have a perfect instance, in the account given in the fourth Gospel of
the washing of the disciples' feet, of the true nature of the sacrament,
and we are able perhaps to see it more clearly because the actual form
of this sacrament has never been in general use in the Church, and men
have almost ceased to think of it as a sacrament at all. "Except I wash
thee thou hast no part in me," the Master says to Peter; so necessary
was the sacrament. Yet the mere form meant nothing, when the thought
[p.70] and life beneath it was not entered into, for Judas too,
submitted to the ordinance, and went out to betray his Lord. We are told
how, when Christ had ended this visible parable, the disciples were
bidden even so to wash each other's feet. Often possibly in after years
one or another may have done a like act for his friend, and recalled the
Master's words in doing it. But this sacrament never became fixed into a
form, and so even now we can clearly see its meaning. Indeed, had it
become a custom of the Church, Christians would have needed to have been
very simple and humble if the ordinance were not to lose its
significance. In the few instances where the rite of feet-washing is
still observed, we see how far removed to-day the ceremony may be from
the thought which once inspired it. The selected poor, who have first
been carefully washed before the ceremony, are marshalled in stately
order, attendant dignitaries are ready at hand with ewers of scented
water and basins of precious metal; and so, yearly, do Pope and Emperor
commemorate the scene in the upper chamber where in very different wise
one whose kingdom was not of this world taught his followers the way
they should serve him by serving one another.

The sacrament of baptism would seem to be one which comes naturally to
the Eastern peoples: it has been in use for ages among the Hindus of
India, and it was apparently in general vogue in Palestine in Christ's
time. It would appear [p.71] to have been not so familiar to the Western
world, for the evangelist Mark has to explain to his Gentile reader how
it was the custom of the Pharisees to baptize pots and vessels, and even
beds. Apparently, even in that day the symbol of purification had come
to have a magical significance. The washing or purification as a symbol
of initiation is common to many religions, and it was a natural
pictorial language for the prophet John the Baptist to employ, to
express the change of life that was to follow the repentance which he
preached. Christ's disciples had, many of them, first been followers of
John, and would readily continue to use this sign in their ministry. But
though Baptism was to the early Church the natural expression of
entrance into the new life of Christianity (as we see in the case of
Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch), yet it is hard to imagine that if it
were held to possess in itself the importance which in later time was
attached to it, the Apostle Paul would actually rejoice in the fact that
he had hardly baptized any converts at all himself. [16] <#_edn16>
Already, however, the ceremony had a meaning deeper than the simple act
of purification severing the old life from the new, which was probably
that of the first baptisms of the disciples during the lifetime of
Christ. We gather from Paul's words that in baptism the believer made
real to himself, and to those about him, his [p.72] going down with
Christ into the waters of death and his rising again with him into a new
life, by the power of the resurrection. Some inherent virtue was soon
thought to attach to the outward act itself, or else one can scarcely
explain the origin of that strange custom of baptism for the dead,
alluded to in the same epistle. [17] <#_edn17>

This thought of the inherent worth of baptism continued to grow until by
the beginning of the fifth century it became generally held that without
it salvation was impossible. The Christian con- science, however,
discovered a way to remove what would have been the hardest application
of such a belief by what was spoken of as the baptism of blood. If an
unbaptized convert was martyred for the name of Christ (as often might
happen), the martyr's death was held to be itself a baptism, and this
idea was extended to what was called the baptism of desire, or the
baptism of faith, whenever death occurred before it was possible for a
convert to be baptized. The classical instance of this, discussed by St.
Augustine and frequently cited by subsequent writers, is that of the
penitent thief upon the cross, [18] And Tertullian, who called
baptism the "seal of faith," goes so far as to say "we do not receive
the washing of purification [p.73] in order to cease from sinning, since
we had already been washed in our hearts." [19] The seal of
baptism was in his view the legal and visible completion of the act, not
the act itself. Still, he holds baptism to be the needful "vesture of
faith," as he calls it in another passage, and accordingly discusses the
difficulty raised by some heretics of his own time, that Paul being the
only baptized apostle, the other apostles could none of them be saved;
though he does not feel it needful to adopt the explanation of certain
orthodox ritualists of his day, who held, he tells us, that the apostles
were possibly baptized on the occasion when the waves beat in upon them
in the little ship on the sea of Galilee.

It was not to be wondered at that, with such a view of baptism current
in the Church, the Catholic missionaries of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries should have laid stress rather on the numbers whom
they could baptize than any other result. It is indeed at once pathetic
and amusing to turn over the leaves of the letters from the missions
which the good Jesuit fathers wrote two centuries and more ago,
describing the progress of their work among the American Indians. You
may read there the words of a missionary spending laborious days amid
all manner of hardships, baptizing the sick and aged when very near to
death and therefore removed from the danger of possible relapse into
infidelity, and especially [p.74] rejoicing in the number of souls won
by the baptism of dying infants, who could not possibly fall away from

To such almost ludicrous notions do men come through materialising the
pictorial language of the primitive sacrament, and imagining that its
visible words have magical efficacy in themselves. Yet the thought of
the scene in the upper room on the night of the last supper makes us
feel how much that visible language might mean in its first simplicity.

As simple and as natural was that other sacrament, when Christ took the
bread from the supper table, and the cup of fellowship, and gave them to
those friends of his as his body and very life, which he was giving for
them and for their fellows. What could be more fitting than that they
should henceforth remember this farewell supper, this supreme gift of
himself, when their master was taken from their sight, whenever they
partook again of the Passover, nay, whenever they met together as
disciples to share in a common meal in the name of him they loved? The
more fully they lived in his spirit the more simply would each meal they
took with one another be hallowed by the thought of his love and his

Thus did the disciples in the early days take together the Eucharist
meal from house to house in Jerusalem: and so, in the midst of the
storm, Paul took it, before wondering fellow-passengers and crew,
mingling the prayer of joyful thanks-[p.75]giving with the remembrance
of the Lord for whose name he was suffering hardship.

Already in the time of Paul the communion service was beginning to lose
its first simple spontaneity, as we may note in his directions to the
Church at Corinth, but for long afterwards the Eucharist was in a much
wider sense sacramental, than when its meaning was defined and
imprisoned in the formulae of theologians. How full of beauty must the
eucharist have been in those little churches of Asia Minor, [20]
for which perhaps the Didache, "The Teaching of the Twelve
Apostles," was written, towards the beginning of the second century. The
eucharist prayer of the Didache is a true prayer of thanks: "We thank
Thee, our Father, for the life and knowledge which Thou didst make known
to us through Thy servant Jesus; Unto Thee the glory evermore !" "For as
this broken piece of bread was scattered over the mountains and brought
together and became one, so may Thy church be brought together from the
ends of the earth into Thy Kingdom, for Thine is the glory and the power
through Christ Jesus evermore."

Thus was the eucharist meal to early Christians a symbol of the unity of
the Church, and a means of drawing them nearer in thought to each other.

It is sad to think that what in those days was a bond of union should
have become in later times a source of bitter contention and
misunderstanding; may we not resolve that for our part, however we may
differ from each other, or from the majority of Christians, in our views
about this observance, we will not let this hinder us from realizing
that others may be helped by means which do not aid us, and that it is
infinitely better to draw near to God through outward forms than to be
without them and not to draw near to Him: that what we need is to
realize and to claim the liberty by which a hundred forms may become
sacramental, and not to deny the reality of the life which may underlie
the fixed forms which others use.

Luther once said that God might have made a sacrament of a bit of stick,
had He chosen; Pusey repeated the saying to a friend with a shudder,
telling him that it showed an irreverent mind. [21] Yet surely
Luther's words convey the very key to our comprehending the truth of the
Real Presence, which may be revealed without outward form, or under
innumerable forms, just because God is so much nearer than we think,
ever at work in His world, still disclosing Himself to those who seek
with humble heart, even though they call Him not by His name. What we
need above all is the spirit which will fill our lives with such
sacraments, revelations of God to us and to our fellows. Sometimes we
may be helped by an [p.77] ancient usage of the Church, at others by
some new symbol: what matter the shape of the chalice if the wine be there?

John Henry Newman, in his early Protestant days, was wont to make use of
the sign of the cross and to find it helpful. It is a sacrament which
loses its meaning the moment one thinks of it as having any magical
effect in itself, but if it be used to remind oneself of that which it
stands for, as the symbol of the perfect deed of self-sacrifice, it may
well help many learners in the school of Christ.

In like manner to-day, the wearing of a badge of membership in some
society, or adult school (as twenty years ago a piece of blue ribbon),
may doubtless prove an effectual sacrament to many men, aiding them to
be faithful to a resolution made, as well as showing forth their belief
to others. The sign is in itself useless, yet may mean much to the men
who make it their symbol of comradeship.

The more worth living our lives prove, the fuller they will be of true
sacraments, in little things and in great. The immense sacrament of
nature is ever about us, and our human intercourse is made up, in all
that makes it of worth, of count- less lesser sacraments. What meaning
there may be in a simple handshake, and how much help and strength it
may pass on to another! The mere physical act is as nothing in itself,
yet it may avail to alter a whole life. Nevertheless, [p.78] we must see
even here how easily mere custom may diminish or destroy the use of such
a thing. In the studied greeting of formal civility the sacramental
character disappears. Or worse still, that which was intended to be a
medium of friendship becomes a means of undoing friendship's work. For
so long as wrong exists in our lives we must beware of the sacraments of
evil by which the ties which bind us to each other and to the world
about us become the Devil's bonds instead of God's leading-strings.

The act, or the thing which forms the sacrament, may be in itself used
either for good or ill. To one man even it may be good, while to another
it may be a means of harm. The greater need, therefore, have we neither
to judge our neighbour, nor ourselves to do lightly things which may be
a means of good for him, but for us a sacrament of ill.

To take a single instance: Wandering in his father's library, a boy
comes upon a book which he begins to read; and suddenly the conviction
comes to him that he ought not to go on. The book is full of interest;
perhaps in later years he may return to it and find its thoughts most
helpful. And yet it may be that this book, which at a later time might
prove a sacrament of good, may be for him now nothing but a sacrament of
evil, since his mind is not ready to understand its teaching.

In the world without us there are some things so constantly associated
with thoughts of goodness [p.79] and beauty that they seem almost
naturally God's sacraments. Such are the flowers, which constantly call
to our minds thoughts of joy and kindness; the sunlight, which cheers
and invigorates; and drives away the disease that is the symbol of
wrongdoing; the light, whose essence is so pure that it has become an
image of the Divine nature. These are among nature's sacraments, and in
the life of man we have, above all, the sacrament of the family, which
at its best is an image of the love of the All-highest, and a foretaste
of His Kingdom among men, of the city which is to be, in which all are
members of one another, living to serve each other.

It may comfort us to think that the devil's sacraments are not so
all-pervading; for night, which we think of as the cloak of evil, may
itself be to the devout soul a symbol of the mysterious peace of God.
One thinks of those wonderful lines of Vaughan:

/Dear Night! the world's defeat;/

/The stop to busy fools; care's check and curb;/

/The day of spirits; my soul's calm retreat/

/Which none disturb!/

/Christ's progress, and His prayer-time;/

/The hours to which high Heaven doth climb./

/God's silent, searching flight;/

/When my Lord's head is fill'd with dew, and all/

/His locks are wet with the clear drops of night;/

/His still, soft call;/

/His knocking time; the soul's dumb watch,/

/When spirits their fair kindred catch. [p.80]/

/Were all my loud, evil days/

/Calm and unhaunted, as is thy dark tent,/

/Whose peace but by some angel's wing or voice/

/Is seldom rent;/

/Then I in Heaven all the long year/

/Would keep, and never wander here./

/* * * */

/There is in God — some say —/

/A deep, but dazzling darkness; as men here/

/Say it is late and dusky, because they/

/See not all clear./

/O for that Night ! Where I in Him/

/Might live invisible and dim!/

or we may remember the "Hymns to Night" of Novalis, and that experience
known to so many saints, which St. John of the Cross speaks of as "the
obscure night of the soul," the darkness which we needs must traverse
before we come to know the greater light beyond. The stern angel of pain
seems to many a fiend; but some have found him to be a friend at the
last, and certainly there is something in the heart of sorrow that no
other experience brings to us, unless it be great joy, and as we feel
it, we seem to understand that the spirit of joy and the spirit of
sorrow are angels near akin.

In the world that man has made there is one thing above all others
through which the influences of evil seem to work, the devil's sacrament
of money. When one thinks of the hatreds and lusts springing to birth
around it, and the curse it so often seems to bring alike to "him that
gives and him that takes," when one sees wealth, [p.81] remorseless in
its pride of power, worshipped and cringed to by its recipients and its
courtiers, it is easy to understand how a simple Christlike man like St.
Francis would have no dealings with money, and shunned to touch it as we
might some plague-infected garment. And yet how often has this hateful
thing been redeemed from its base use to be the minister of right. Even
money is not hopelessly lost for good. The sacramental efficacy of the
widow's mite has not ceased through all the centuries since she cast it,
in her humility, into God's treasury. The sand hides the gold of
Pharaoh, and the imperial treasures of Augustus are vanished and
forgotten, but that poor woman's gift still goes on: she gave to God, to
the best and highest that she knew, and in giving, little thought that
through the word of the Master of Masters, her tiny coin could become
for ever a sacrament to humanity.

So may a little thing and a base thing be made a symbol of good; most of
all then should we find a channel of revelation in the highest thing we
know; not only in the sacrament of nature, but in the sacrament of man.

Surely to us the most wonderful thing in life is personality, and it is
human personality which may be the highest sacrament of good, or the
most terrible sacrament of ill. Our deeds are often at their best poor
clumsy acts that stray in the dark; our thoughts are all imperfect, and
our words fail to express them fully. But in spite of all [p.82] this
failure, soul acts upon soul, we know not how, and the influence of one
life upon another goes out continually like the myriad rays of a lamp.
Silently men are changed and transformed by this influence. And there is
no man but is doing his part for good or ill in this transforming work,
whatever he may be, wherever he may go. Is it not thus that God's
self-revelation in Christ becomes real to the Christian? God speaks to
us in Jesus through human personality. We draw near to him as a man, we
see his life and listen to his words, and as we gaze and listen, we feel
that God has taken hold of us.

We are very near now to the greatest of sacraments. Did not the apostle
speak of the union of the Church with Christ as μέγα μυστήριου, /magnum
sacramentum/? The follower must bear, in some measure, in his life, the
likeness of his master; the nearer we draw to him, the more his presence
will mould our lives with the impress of his character.

In the ideal marriage, even as we know it realised sometimes now,
husband and wife live in such close communion, so share their thoughts,
and feelings, so enter into each other's lives, that each character,
reacting on the other, grows ever more like to it. May not this thought
help us to understand something of what is meant by Christ's union with
his Church? The Church is humanity in its ideal form, humanity as a
whole striving after its true goal, and the human race comes to [p.83]
understand and realize its aim by union with Christ, thus gradually
growing to be more like him and to share his nature. The end and the
means to it are no mere rapture of holy emotion, no selfish joy of idle
contemplation. The relation- ship is much deeper; it must affect our
whole character. It is not a rush of sentiment but a union of will.

After years of discipleship, and when he had gone through many things
that he might draw nearer to the spirit of Christ, there came to St.
Francis that wonderful crowning vision of the Saviour crucified, and
amidst the joy of the vision there was pain. From that hour to the day
of his death, the record tells us, did Francis bear in secret upon his
body the marks of the passion. It does not matter how his frail frame
came to respond to the thoughts that so dominated his mind: the
important thing for us is not the accidental consequence to the body,
but the attitude of mind and spirit, the union of will with a Christ
suffering for humanity, bearing the sins of the world. He who has come
to be made thus, in the humblest way, the comrade of Christ, must be the
comrade too of all his fellow-men. Church and individual alike must show
in character and life the meaning of this fellowship — fellowship in joy
and in sorrow, too, willingness to learn, to give and to serve. Sharing
the burdens of rich and poor, feeling the bonds that bind their lives,
accepting ourselves responsibility and blame [p.84] for all ignorance
and failure and wrongdoing, we may realize that the spirit of Christ is
still at work in the world, that closer than our thoughts is the
infinite love, and beneath our weakness the infinite strength of the
Father's arms.


THE life of words is like in some ways to the life of men; the soul
changes within them, though the form remains the same. Yet while
language is still living it may regain something of its old power
beneath the poet's healing fingers, and now and again a master of words
will recall for us some dying form of speech. A writer of power is
needed, surely to win us back the older and wiser use of the word
sacrament as a spiritual symbol, the revelation of the unseen through
the visible, the unfolding of the unknown through the known. "The image
of the world," wrote Bacon, [22] "is a message of the Divine
wisdom and power"; to many a mystic it has been more even than this, and
nature has been full of sacraments bringing life from things not seen.

The story is told of the old Calabrian Abbot, Joachim da Fiore, that as
he was saying vespers in some little church among the mountains, the
glory of the setting sun caught his eye through the open [p.86 ] door of
the nave. Suddenly realizing how much more beautiful was the great
temple of the sunlit sky than the painted stone walls of his little
building made with hands, he led his congregation out into the open air,
and with nature's ritual around them they went on praying, gazing upon
the picture of that evening landscape and the wonder of the sunset
above. Though he was the adopted father of many admirable heretics, and
for long a suspect himself, Blessed Joachim did not offend thus more
than once, as far as we know, against the laws of ritual. But many
another saint must have been tempted to do as he did. It is, indeed,
easy for us to understand how in the old days every high place had its
altar, and how again and again in later times solitude upon a mountain
has seemed to give the most congenial atmosphere for prayer.
Unconsciously, and quite apart from our beliefs, we instinctively turn
in physical weariness, and often in other troubles, to the calm rest of
nature. However much at times we may ponder her sterner side, and search
in vain to explain to ourselves the mysteries of death and pain with
which she confronts us constantly, it is not these things of which she
speaks to man, when he goes to her sad and weary, like a tired child to
his nurse. A feeling of quietness, beneath which lies strength, the dim
apprehension of law, inexplicable indeed, but majestic and even
beautiful, and above all that indefinable sense of peace which comes to
us sometimes when we [p.87] are in the presence of that which is
immeasurably greater than ourselves, all this may nature bring to us,
when we go to her alone with our troubles. The old stoics must have
sometimes felt this, though to the Roman mind at least wild nature did
not usually possess the attractive power it has for us. One cannot but
feel that when Marcus Aurelius cries to the Universe "that which is
harmonious to thee, is to me too," he is conscious of something of this
feeling in which our petty cares and troubles sink into nothingness amid
the waters of the great ocean of universal life; though he arrived at
the sense of this rather by inward meditation than by the contemplation
of nature without him. And whatever the philosophers may have felt, one
has no doubt of the poets. Propertius, alone in the Umbrian highlands by
the sources of the Tiber, and Catullus, listening to the ripple of the
waves of Garda, were able for a moment to rise above the pain and fire
of passion into a calmer air; and yet the Roman poets have no such sense
of the overwhelming majesty and order of nature as came to the Hebrew

The Roman had still in dim recesses of his consciousness the feelings of
an earlier age, for which every wild wood was peopled with mysterious
powers; nature was full of unknown agencies whose workings man could but
dimly perceive, and the ancient rites of his religion were the charms by
which he held at bay the strange potencies of evil that surrounded him.
The [p.88] Hebrew poet looked on nature even in her sterner aspects with
the eyes of faith; hailstorm and thunder, and the very sea his people
thought of with such dread, brought revelations to him of the Divine
power controlling all; and because of this sense of unity, the mystery
and wonder of the starry sky seemed to his inward ear vocal with
harmonies. In some ways there has come to us in the last two centuries
fuller knowledge of that reign of law which formed a part of the
religious consciousness of the poets of ancient Israel. Science speaks
to us of the insignificance of man beside the illimitable greatness of
the universe of which he is ever striving to gain some knowledge, and
trains us to revere the majesty of laws which he can only imperfectly
apprehend. Yet it is well known how sadly one great leader of modern
science regretted that in his old age he was no longer able to know the
feeling of the beauty and majesty of the Alpine landscape which had so
often helped him in the past, because, as it seemed to him, the habit of
scientific analysis had taken from him that simpler sense of the earlier
years, the direct consciousness of a beauty he could not explain. So
true it is that the child's eyes and the childlike spirit only find the
entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, which is hid to the wise. One must
not suppose, indeed, that the closing of this one door into the unseen
means that others, too, are shut, or else the lot of the city-dweller
would be even worse than it is. Dr. Johnson, kindliest and best [p.89]
of townsmen, though he said that to see one green field was to see all
green fields, was yet keenly sensitive to many of the lesser sacraments
of man's social life; and those who read his prayers and meditations
know that the invisible realities were to him no mere object of
intellectual belief, but the atmosphere of his inmost thought. Yet it is
a thing to be regretted that the habit of scientific research and the
ordinary course of town life do too often so mould our faculties as to
impede that vision which the contemplation of Nature still brings to the
simple heart. The student's loss has its compensations, and may even
involve in it an element of the noblest sacrifice; but this cannot be
said of the man whose whole life is wrapped up in the making of money
and in the pleasures and concerns of conventional urban society. Such
men are robbing not only themselves and their families of the things
which make life worth living, but a far wider circle; for they are
helping to keep in being a civilization which deprives thousands of city
children of ever knowing what the sacraments of nature mean. The
majority of Londoners have never seen the sun rise, save over smoking
chimneys; they have never been able to watch the full moon sailing
across the clear blue of a cloudless night; never known a morning filled
with the joyous exhilaration of sunlight only dimmed by the mist of the
vanishing dew. Still less do such town-dwellers understand of the lonely
silence of the night in the [p.90] open country, in which men may feel
themselves back again amid the childhood of the race. True, the amber
haze of day in London and the flicker of the gas lamps in the streets at
night have a beauty of their own; but it is dearly bought if the price
must be, at least for the greater part of our poorer men and women, and
for almost all the children, so heavy a one as this. The civilization
which shuts out from its gaze the vision of the stars may well grow
blind to greater mysteries; if men will not listen to the music of the
spheres, how should they hear the angel's song?


ONE of the strangest and sometimes perhaps one of the saddest things
that the student of history comes to realize must surely be that law
which seems to doom every great ideal and every great movement to give
birth to organizations which, while created to promote it, end by
destroying it or diverting it to different channels. The cynics laugh at
the contrast between present-day Christianity, as manifested in the
dignity of the great historic churches and the rude simplicity of the
Galilean fishers; in a narrower field the most sympathetic of French
historians has traced for us the tragic way in which the great spiritual
forces that made the early Franciscan movement what it was, were
trammelled, if not extinguished, by the growth of the very society which
they had called into being.

The mystic laments the fall from the unrealized ideal; the statesman
makes rejoinder that the change is a needful one, and a necessary means
of progress. So across the centuries contend with one another the men of
method and of discipline [p.92] and the men of vision. Iscariot still
follows in the steps of Christ, bearing his money bags, planning his
arrangements of finance, ignoring his ideal.

Most of us must sympathize with Iscariot; we have so often been in his
place, sometimes in spite of ourselves, perhaps. Or if we cannot
sympathize with him, at least we must with Brother Elias, that born
master of organization, the practical man who saw the beauty of the
character of St. Francis, recognised the power of his attractive nature,
and wished to turn all to visible use, to build up around him a great
society which should be a guide to kings and prelates, a divine strong-
hold into which the beauty and the riches of the world should be
brought. Elias doubtless felt that St. Francis was too good for this
world; he himself dealt with men as men, understanding the worth of
compromise, seeing the strength of institutions. The Elias whom most of
us know well enough always tends to think of an ideal merely in its
relation to institutions actual or possible, while the Francis, for whom
we look too often in vain, thinks of the institution only as at best the
imperfect embodiment of, or the means to, the ideal, and more often as
the hindrance to be overcome on the way, "my brother the ass," who can
only be guided with difficulty.

It is very easy for us to recognise in a far off time the failure of
institutions to realize the ideal that inspired their origin, and we
readily admit, in the abstract, the need for the ideal to dominate
[p.93] the institution and the danger of the institution running away
with the ideal. It is harder to see in our own lives how far we are
allowing the machinery to take us from its object, how far that
machinery is out of date or out of gear, since we are in the thick of it
all, our ears dulled by the roar of the wheels. Assuming that we admit
that Iscariot has his right and helpful place, how are we to find it and
keep him there?

It may help us to understand the danger that follows upon organization,
if we make even a partial survey of a group of existing institutions and
try to trace the history of some one of them.

How great is the failure of our countless institutions intended to
promote social welfare, we to some extent realize as we take up such a
work as the "Annual Charities Register and Digest," of the Charity
Organization Society, and turn over those 700 pages describing the
various societies, with all their staffs and offices at work in the city
which is still the London that we know. Life appears almost to become at
times to some men one long committee, but, little, after all, seems
done. And this failure may be seen, to some extent at least, even in
recent movements which were originally a protest against the narrowness
and superficiality of earlier methods of dealing with the problems of
modern society. The first thought of the men who conceived the idea of
the university settlement was surely not to found a new institution, so
much as to bring life into touch [p.94] with life, to make centres in
which knowledge and experience might be collected, and from which men
and ideas might be put at the service of all who had most need of them.
Yet, in spite of themselves, they have almost become institutions;
indeed, some settlements have frankly made it their aim to be such, and
as one reads reports from across the water of all that our American
friends are doing, one must admit that they have been most successful in
achieving their object. If the settlement movement (as it is called) had
not begun as it did twenty odd years ago, perhaps these wonderful
centres of activity would not have come into being, or would have been
very different from what they are. Yet would the founders of the first
settlement have recognised as their spiritual descendants these men,
unselfish as they are, whose methods are so different? Did there ever
come before their vision the picture of a great building raised by some
millionaire, maintained by like gifts, manned by a staff of salaried
workers, and providing at the expense of far-seeing or enlightened
manufacturers, healthy amusement and duly certified religious teaching
and secular instruction to the workmen of these subscribers, as well as
dispensing, on behalf of Dives, basketfuls of crumbs, both of plain and
fancy bread, to Lazarus and his fellows at the door?

This is, after all, an instance of a world-wide process. We are face to
face once again with the fact that men are constantly attempting to do
their [p.95] duty by deputy; to subscribe to what they see to be a good
work rather than to set about to do it themselves, to give of their
money rather than of their lives. It is the danger that has beset the
church from almost the earliest days, that the men who should be
inspiring and setting others to work have too often simply done their
work for them, or tried to do it. Doubtless the old robber baron
returning from some murderous fray felt his heart uplifted as, rounding
a comer of the road on the way to his castle on the hill, he came in
sight, in the valley below, of the monastery he had founded, and thought
of the holy lives of the monks, and of their prayers put up daily for
him, who had such need of them. Doubtless, too, the good monks' hearts
warmed towards the old freebooter who yet had so much good in him as to
be their founder and protector. But it was small consolation to the men
he robbed and put to death to know that some part at least of their
possessions would go to Holy Church and to make possible the cloistered
self-denial of these men of God. The baron's keep has vanished, and the
abbey is in ruins, but is there not evidence that the same process is
going on to-day? It is not always pleasant to think of the ultimate
source of some of the contributions which are to be found in the
subscription lists of churches and charities. The man who realizes this
may well hesitate to appeal to the wealthy for money to aid his plans,
for he sees the effect of such methods in making [p.96] religious and
social agencies distrusted by many among the very classes which they aim
at helping. He will rather honour the spirit in which such a social
worker as Jane Addams of Chicago refuses to receive gifts of "tainted
gold," as she feels the conscience money of some unscrupulous men of
business to be. Yet here again he may be in danger of deceiving himself.
He needs, it is true, to beware of accepting, still more of asking for,
gifts which would merely be given to promote the vanity or to further
the selfish interests of the giver, but can a man so easily wash his
hands of the stain of the mammon of unrighteousness? Does he not rather
need to recognise that, indirectly at least, the fruits of injustice
enter into all the money that comes to him, since selfishness plays the
part it does in our social life, and since our lives are so bound up
with each other that no man can set himself apart from his fellows? Only
let him see that the gifts he asks for will quicken in the givers the
sense of social responsibility and increase the desire to do and to give
more themselves.

The payment of subscriptions, if this principle be disregarded, becomes
a soul-destroying process, alike to him that gives and him that takes.
The pious Henry III. turned once at bay, after listening to the pleading
of Friar William of Abingdon, one of the most eloquent of the early
Dominican preachers, and cried to him, "Brother William, there was a
time when thou couldst speak of spiritual things; now all thou canst say
is, [p.97] ' Give, give, give ! ' One may compare the disgust with which
a modern public schoolboy often turns from the familiar appeal of the
clergy- man who year by year comes to the school to preach on behalf of
the school mission, and to carry back with him the usual collection, but
nothing better. For the only thing worth giving or asking is life; and
such a missioner too often fails to ask for it. Here surely we may find
a hint of the explanation of all successful social work, which is the
passing on of life from life, the result of the contact of personality
with personality. In so far as organization promotes this and makes it
possible does it stand justified, and only by this test.

One does not wish to undervalue the associations, the reflexes of life,
which institutions so often pass on, or the wealth of a great past which
they keep in store for us. But death is perhaps as needful and as
inevitable for the body corporate as for the individual; for both it is
often true that whom the gods love die young. It is surely better to
spend and be spent in a short life rich in ideas, than to carry on a
long existence by the aid of a comfortable endowment, which may prevent
men from realizing how far out of touch they are with the actual needs
of those about them. It is not known whether any council of bishops has
decided if there be humour in Heaven, but one is inclined to think that
the solemn way in which men shake their heads and lament the impending
decease of an outworn institution must sometimes be greeted elsewhere by
a peal of celestial laughter.


SOME day we may hope to see among our great national museums one made to
illustrate the religions of the world, from the rudest rites of the
savage to the highest developments of Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Judaism
and Christianity. This museum of comparative religions does already
exist to some extent in embryo in every great collection of antiquities,
and the students of ethnology and folklore have been long at work in
preparing materials for its catalogues. A partial glimpse of what it
would contain is given in such a world-wide missionary exhibition as
that organised in connection with the work of the London Missionary
Society at the Agricultural Hall in the early summer of 1908.

The survey of such a great collection cannot but be stimulating to every
thoughtful student. Some of its visitors may see in the hideous idols of
the South Seas and in the pictures of the medicine man at work at his
craft only a further incentive to aid the spreading of their own faith,
which they feel more strongly than ever to be immeasurably [p.99] raised
above the rites and thoughts of the savage. Others may look with sad
eyes at the long series of pictures that is spread out before them, for
they see everywhere only the same superstition, the primitive fears of
unknown forces, developing with the growth of civilization into
religions which expand with man's own needs and conceptions,
intermingling with his hopes and aspirations and refined by his thought
into the creeds and theologies of the higher faiths. Through all they
trace the same instincts, and feel that the savage kneeling before a
blood-smeared stone explains to them the Nicene Creed, that the
hierarchy of the Church has its origin in the spirit-doctors and
fetish-men of a simpler age.

Yet to some at least there may come far other thoughts than these, as
they ponder over what they have seen. Everywhere they behold men
stretching out their hands towards something above them, beyond them,
struggling with fears, oppressed by dim consciousness of wrong, hoping
for some way of peace. The priest himself is a witness to this innate
need of the soul, since his very presence speaks of man's dependence on
the higher than himself, while it also shows men's interdependence upon
each other. For the priest's position is impossible, unless he is in
some way regarded as a means of communication between man and God, and a
centre of fellowship among men. With this thought in his heart a man may
look back, not without hope, upon the melancholy pageant of [p.100] the
centuries, and watch the strange part that the priest has ever played in
it. The modern sceptic joining in the sad cry of the old Roman poet —
"So many are the ills that superstition has had power to urge men to" —
has had, after all, like the rest of us, but an imperfect vision of the
confused drama of history. He sees priesthood as a selfish influence
playing upon human ignorance and baseness; he does not perceive the
wider priesthood at work of which this is only a perversion, nor realize
that priesthood and prayer underlie all that is highest and best in
human life. For priesthood is the highest expression of man's social
nature, by which he enters into communion with his fellows and with God.
It is only because we narrow the use of the name of priest that we do
not honour it aright, for in its essence priesthood is not a profession,
but a high duty to which all are called.

If we were to try to define this true priesthood, might we not say that
a priest is one who, reaching out after the higher and better than
himself, helps others onward too, bringing to them something to which
they could not of themselves have attained, who shares his good with his
fellows and takes upon himself their ill, making communion possible for
them, because he has entered into communion with them himself. But it is
not easy thus to summarise in a sentence a work which is in truth as
wide as human life; wherever a man interprets [p.101] in the terms of
his own day the unseen and enduring realities, and helps those about him
to view things in their true relations, he is performing a priestly
function; whenever he takes up their disadvantages as his own, in
fellowship with suffering, and shares with others willingly the result
of their own wrong-doing, then is he doing a part of the priest's
divinest work.

The germ of such an ideal of priesthood may be seen in far-off days. The
family priesthood of the Hebrew patriarchs, and of the early ages of
Israel, contains, unconsciously at least, the promise of it, and in a
wider form it formed the subject of the noblest prophetic appeal: Israel
was called to be a nation of priests, revealing to other peoples the
message of God.[23] It may be said, too, that the later
history of the Jewish nation has shown in practice the value of the
simple family priesthood of the parent, in keeping alive a faith which
from the destruction of the temple down into the late Middle Ages was
cherished and maintained entirely without the help of a professional
ministry. Even when after the time of Maimonides, the rabbis began to be
paid for the time which they took from other work to devote to the
exposition of the Law for the benefit of others, there was still no
arbitrary division between clergy and laity. The human centre of Jewish
religious life is not the rabbinic ministry, but the lay priesthood of
the family. [p.102]

It was natural that the ideal of a universal priesthood should find
expression in the earliest literature of the Christian Church, reviving
and enlarging beyond the boundaries of race the appeal of the earlier
Hebrew prophets: twice in one writing of the Apostolic Age [24]
are Christian folk spoken of as a holy priesthood or a royal
priest- hood, while in the vision of the Apocalypse the same ideal is
held up for the Church that now is and for the Church that is to be, in
the millennial reign upon earth of the faithful disciples of Christ.
[25] In the Pauline epistles the disciples are not actually
called priests, but both the individual Christians and the Church as a
whole are spoken of as Temples of the Holy Spirit, and appeal is made to
the Romans "that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God,
which is your reasonable temple-service."[26] Moreover, the
body in such a passage does not mean so much the flesh and blood, as the
whole visible personality of a man; in like manner in that triumphant
paean which seems to have been written by the apostle in the conscious-
ness of the nearness of impending martyrdom, the thought in the words "I
am already being poured out as a libation" [27] is that his
whole personality is being poured out and offered up as [p.103] a final
priestly act of cheerful giving: for the libation was the glad offering
made not merely by an official clergy, but by the head of the household
as its family priest, or by the individual as sharing in the universal
priesthood of humanity.

Priesthood was regarded, it would seem, in the earliest days of the
Church as a function to which all its members were called, but even in
the apostolic age certain officials were appointed to fulfil particular
duties in the Church on behalf of their fellow members. Yet several
generations appear to have passed before priest and presbyter were
regarded as fully equivalent terms.[28] As Church organization
developed, the gifts of the Spirit were conceived less and less as
widespread throughout all the parts of the body, and more and more as
confined to certain classes, while in course of time these classes
became more official and professional in character. Yet if we remember
how repeatedly institutions tend to fetter and destroy the ideal that
has created them, we shall find cause to wonder not in the growth of
clericalism in the Christian Church, but rather in the fact that all
down the ages of her continuous life men and women both within and
without the ranks of her officials have realized, in part at least, the
higher ideals of true priesthood. [p.104]

It is easy for us to see the harm done by the official spirit, and the
hypocrisy which is so often its shadow; still we must not forget that
noble army of men who have looked with far other eyes upon their office,
feeling themselves the representatives for the sake of order of the
Church as a whole, and realizing more or less consciously that their
duty is not to be the delegates and deputies of the layman in
discharging his priestly functions for him, but to be a means to help
him to realize them more fully, aiding him to think more, to do more and
to pray more for himself. Especially true is this of prayer, which the
true priest must ever aid in others as well as in himself, whether the
prayer find utterance in words, or remain unformed even into the mental
words of thought. For is not prayer, in this widest sense, the life
breath of the Church and of the individual alike? Prayer is indeed too
often spoken of as though it implied words: whereas it may exist even
without conscious thought, going on whenever the soul's hand stretches
out after God, whenever man seeks after goodness, in every act of will
by which he is brought into touch with that Spirit from whom all right
thoughts, "all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do

The aim of conscious prayer, in its highest form, must be communion, and
a communion of will which may continue when the conscious prayer itself
ceases, underlying the work and thought of everyday life. To this
communion the true priest [p.105] will ever direct his fellows, knowing
that as he and they come to share in it more fully they will be the
better able to help those about them towards their goal. He knows too,
by experience, that there is a law of spiritual magnetism, by which just
as in the physical world a weak magnet is strengthened by contact with a
strong one, so in the spiritual world the will to do the good and to
live aright may be strengthened by coming into the presence of a
stronger will, and most of all by contact with the Divine will.

To the Christian, Christ expresses in human form what this will stands
for, and so for daily life he is still felt to be the High Priest of
man- kind, the touch of whose spirit polarises and renews our wills, as
they come into contact with his life. The one early Christian writer who
has developed for his readers the thought of Christ's priesthood, the
author of the epistle to the Hebrews, sees in the earlier Jewish
priesthood with which he was familiar only a somewhat imperfect type of
his ideal: with thoughts turned upon the pontifical acts of Christ,
which he realizes to be the keystone and crown of human history, he does
not stay to consider how the priestly function may, in some measure,
though imperfectly, be shared by the humblest disciple, too. Yet this
thought of participation in the highest priestly work of the Master
seems to have been present with the Apostle Paul when he spoke of
"filling up that which is lacking of the sufferings of Christ," and the
same ancient [p.106] Catholic view which sees in the good deeds of the
saints the continuance of Christ's work, the endless treasure flowing
out from his life, would lead us also to see in their sorrows and
hardships, where these have been willingly borne for the sake of God and
man, a continuance of the redemptive love of the Cross. The thought of
the High Priesthood of Christ is not lowered by the fact that
priesthood, even in its highest mediatorial side, is to some extent
shared, however faultily, by every good human life, but it is rather
made intelligible to us, because it ceases to be something wholly alien
from us. The life of Christ is not utterly isolated from the rest of the
human race, for it could not be this and remain human; it is rather the
key for the Christian to all other goodness, explaining the meaning of
sacrifice, and the possibility of sorrow and pain being made steps by
which men may be raised upwards towards God. And just as the supreme
sacrifice of Christ cannot rightly be separated from the rest of his
ministry, but rather is understood as its consummation, concentrating
upon Calvary the work which was the aim of all his life, so is his High
Priesthood not something foreign and separate from the life of man, but
the manifestation of a principle which is at work wherever good men live
and die. Yet the more truly his followers have become priests
themselves, the more have they realized how imperfect their priesthood
is, how deep their need to find it constantly renewed by contact with
the [p.107] unique and perfect high-priesthood which they find in Christ.

The close vital connection between the disciples' work and that of their
Master is one of the thoughts most prominent in the last great discourse
of Christ to his disciples as pictured in the Fourth Gospel, and it is
emphasized in what commentators have called the great priestly prayer.
The disciples' lives are to be in close union with their Master's as the
vine branches with the parent stem, and beneath all their deeds must
flow his living spirit. They must be in union with each other as he is
one with the Divine Father, so making real to others the continuance of
his life. Their whole lives are to be one great act of priesthood
realizing itself through fellowship. For without fellowship priesthood
cannot be, and Christianity could not exist. The Church is a society in
which men are linked to each other and to God through Christ; there is
no place in it for the selfishness of isolated individualism, or the
centring of thought upon personal salvation alone. Its members belong to
each other in belonging to their head. The metaphors used in the
apostolic writings to describe the Church are all social; it is a body,
a building, a city, a kingdom, in which every part is in relation to
others, and only thus can join to make the whole. The more the children
of the Church realize this, the more truly will they become a fellowship
of friends, and show themselves such in daily life; theirs will be
[p.108] no exclusive friendship, but one which overflows to all, in
honest sincerity, because they cannot but work for all men's good.

When Christ went about in Galilee and told men. that the Kingdom of
Heaven was at hand, was he mistaken? Or is the fellowship which he
founded not itself a part of that kingdom, the seed which is already
growing and spreading throughout the whole earth? Many strange fowls,
perhaps, we may think, have lodged in its branches already; but if the
fellowship be strong and true they cannot do it great harm, and under
its shelter may live not only these but a host of singing birds. The
great thing that all have to remember is that members of the fellowship
must needs hand on to others the life that has been given to them. That
great title by which the Pope is known as Vicar of Christ upon earth is
not an idle one: every good Christian Pope has been that to some extent,
and so, too, has every Christian disciple, in so far as he lives in the
Master's spirit. For language grows old so quickly, that we forget that
the vicar is one who acts instead of another, in his place, just as
vicarious suffering is suffering borne by one on behalf and instead of
another. But we need to explain and translate the appellation "Vicar of
Christ" into daily life by means of that other noble title which shines
like a jewel at the head of every Papal bull and rescript "servus
servorum Dei," servant of the servants of God. The Vicar of Christ will
show himself such by serving his [p.109] fellow-men with his whole life,
ungrudgingly and gladly, knowing that every act and thought given to
their welfare is given to God, and that the Father would have men seek
Him not afar from human life and labour, but amidst the toil and sorrow
of that sinful humanity for whom Christ died.

When we seek to find how far this ideal is being carried out within the
Christian Church, we may well be saddened by our own failure, and by the
way in which organizations intended for the common service have come to
be treated as an end in themselves. Yet we must remember that in the
ancient liturgies, which seem sometimes hard for the democratic modern
mind to under- stand, the priest does not speak or act for himself, but
as a representative of the whole fellowship of the Church; the cries and
prayers and strivings of long generations of human lives are joined in
the words of the prayers that he uses, and the beautiful ritual of the
altar is intended to be a living picture of spiritual symbols, full of
meaning not only for himself, but for all who worship with him.

This view of prayer finds fitting expression in a sonnet of Hartley
Coleridge on The Liturgy, which deserves to be better known.

/Oft as I hear the Apostolic voice/

/Speaking to God, I blame my heart so cold,/

/That with those words, so good, so pure and old,/

/Cannot repent, nor hope, far less rejoice./ [p.110]

/Yet am I glad, that not the vagrant choice,/

/Chance child of impulse, timid or too bold,/

/The volume of my heart may dare unfold/

/With figured rhetoric or unmeaning noise/

/Praying for all in those appointed phrases,/

/Like a vast river, from a thousand fountains/

/Swoll'n with the waters of the lakes and mountains,/

/The pastor bears along the prayers and praises/

/Of many souls in channel well defined,/

/Yet leaves no drop of prayer or praise behind./

We cannot but sympathize with the poet: so powerful and attractive are
the ancient words that have come to us down the ages fraught with the
memories of man's need and spiritual striving, so unworthy often do we
feel the language of extempore prayer. Yet if we have only once or twice
experienced what unpremeditated prayer may be, when it is offered in the
true priestly spirit, in deep sympathy with the needs and longings of
those present, diverse though they be, and in close harmony with the
peculiar demands of the time and place, we know how such prayer can, as
nothing else, gather up our hidden desires and bring our whole souls
with it into the sense of communion with the source of the strength and
help that we need, towards which our arms stretch out as we listen, and
are not stretched in vain.

It is easy for us to see how often priesthood in worship has come short
of its ideal; still sadder surely has been our failure to make real the
priest- hood of daily life. A family priesthood of the simplest kind has
been for centuries characteristic of Hebrew religious life, and this
household priest- [p.111] hood of the father, or of both father and
mother, is a very real thing in Christendom, especially where the
influence of the Reformation is strongest. But we need not only this
intimate and beautiful priesthood, but one which shall extend to the
wider families of the city, the nation and mankind. We have to remember
that our lives are not our own, that we are each representatives, and
that every act of ours must have pontifical significance for others;
more than that our very thoughts and desires go out far beyond our own
lives and help to weave cords which shall pull others upwards or drag
them down to our level. The words of Christ's prayer in the Gospel "For
their sakes I sanctify myself" are full of significance. If the Master
thus consecrates his life and overcomes the evil, thrusting aside the
temptation to take the lower and easier path and dedicating his whole
will and nature to the Divine will, in order that his disciples may be
helped to reach unity with each other and with him, then must the
disciples too understand that their own efforts after a better and
cleaner and more unselfish life are not made for themselves alone. There
is no man that fights in the secret of his own life against evils and
temptations, of which others can know nothing, but may feel cheered to
remember that his is, after all, no lonely battle. He is an outpost,
hidden from his fellow combatants perhaps, but his welfare concerns the
whole company, his victory is not for one life, but for all. In this
spirit surely [p.112] in every act and thought of life a man may be made
a priest.

How beautiful an idea that was which in ancient Rome made of
bridge-building a religious deed, so that the chief bridge-builder, the
Pontifex Maximus, was also the chief priest. Nor was the thought that
bridge-building was a sacred act wholly lost with Paganism, for in the
middle ages amongst the many religious societies which existed to
promote human welfare and to lessen by sharing them the burdens of life,
was the Order of Pontiff Brothers or bridge-builders. Perhaps such
societies as this came into being more especially to make easier the
perilous pilgrims' roads along which men must pass to visit the holy
places and shrines of the Saints. Sometimes a pilgrim who had made the
journey would join himself with others who had realized its hardships to
make the way lighter for those who should follow in their steps.
Sometimes, it may be, men who had not the time or money and perhaps
lacked even the courage to make the perilous voyage themselves, yet
gladly gave of their labour to help to build the bridge. They could
never make use of it, but they hoped that others, better men and more
fortunate than they, would pass over it to behold the holy sights which
they themselves might never see, and long after they were dead their
work would thus stand fast. Thus the great bridge of Avignon still rests
on the piers built seven hundred years ago by the Pontiff Brothers, and
the feet of [p.113] the little children dance over the arches which the
pilgrims used to tread.

To many of the early bridges there still cling memories which tell of
some noble founder, but there is a peculiar beauty in the story of the
building of the Bridge of Avignon by Saint Benezet. Of this Saint
Benezet, or Little St. Benedict, for the friendly pet name can but
imperfectly be rendered into English, we know only a little; but across
the mists of tradition we catch a glimpse of him, a boy tending the
sheep upon the distant hillside and there receiving a strange heavenly
call, bidding him go build a bridge where none had yet been, across the
broad river at Avignon, where hitherto men had crossed the Rhone often
with peril, and always with toil. Shepherd's staff in hand, the lad came
to Avignon and entered the church; there he spoke his message to bishop
and people, and pleaded with them to help build the bridge. Bishop and
people were incredulous, and so too was the mayor when appeal was made
to him, but Benezet persisted, and little by little men began to help
him. They tell of how he was in some way able to raise the big stones
and to lift weights which others failed to move. The first piers began
to rise; Benezet and others joined the Order of Pontiff Brothers and
under his guidance the work went on. It was the labour of years, and of
immense effort, and before the bridge was completed its boy builder died
and they buried him in a little chapel above one of the great piers. But
[p.114] the building went on, the spirit that Benezet had brought to it
did not die with him, and in due time the bridge was built, where men
would have toiled and struggled still with the waters, but for the
faithfulness of a shepherd boy.

In the old Pagan days, at least in many lands, the priestly act of
bridge-building had its darker side. Here and there a curious tradition
still survives to show that once the making of a bridge was accompanied
by the sacrifice of a life. The victim was offered to propitiate the
jealous powers which otherwise might wreak their vengeance upon a larger
number, destroying the bridge and the passengers upon it by some sudden
storm or earthquake.

We have ceased to think the gloomy thoughts which made men build their
bridges thus in the ancient ages. But still, if the bridge of life is to
be well and truly laid, there must be sacrifice at its foundations. The
thought of the architect, the beauty of the curving arch, all may
crumble and fall in the time of stress when the floods are out and the
river rushes in boisterous strength against the piers, if the
bridge-builder has not done his priestly duty. It is good that man's
life should be well ordered, clean and happy, useful to others and
harmonious in itself, but deep down in it, if the life is to stand the
strain of evil days and to do its full service, there must surely be the
strength of willing sacrifice. The ideal of such Christian sacrifice is
no sullen, grudging surrender [p.115] of desire, no mutilation of man's
true nature, but the glad gift of life to life, which mingles vicarious
sorrow with vicarious joy. And as this spirit spreads with the growth of
that Kingdom of God which Christ proclaimed to men, the human race will
realize more and more fully all that is meant by the priesthood of humanity.



CENTURIES ago, in a far-off Eastern land, a philosopher poet set to
verse the sad music of his heart's doubts and longings, and the cry that
rings again and again through his poems finds an echo in men's hearts
to-day. The mystery of life and death over which Omar Khayam pondered
has never ceased to attract the thoughts of men. Returning spring brings
the old hopes back to our lives, sometimes with the same sadder echoes
that troubled Moschus and Horace, and still thinkers and poets bow
before the terror and the majesty of death which they are powerless to

What use then is it to trouble ourselves with a problem which is as old
as the life of man and which the greater intellects have failed to
solve? Think about it we must, again and again, unless we deliberately
stifle our thoughts when they turn to the things which matter most to
us. And since we are social beings, born dependent on each other and
made to help one another, it is natural that we should wish to share our
thoughts. [p.117]

Whence? and whither? and why? is a triad of questions over which men
have broken their hearts; in a sense they must always remain un
answered, or at least incompletely answered; and yet as long as men have
made them, one response at least has brought with it peace.

The problem of life and death was stated long ages before Omar's day by
another Eastern thinker, and with a poignancy greater at times than his.
Nowhere in Hebrew literature do we get a deeper sense of the gloomy
mystery of life than in the book of Ecclesiastes, where again and again
the writer makes lament over triumphant injustice, and the end that
comes alike to good and bad. There passes before his eyes the melancholy
pageant of the children of men, journeying along through the ages to the
common goal of endless oblivion. "All things come alike to all," he
cries; "there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to the
good and to the clean and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth and to
him that sacrificeth not; as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that
sweareth as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil that is done under
the sun, that there is one event unto all; yea, also, the heart of the
sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they
live, and after that they go to the dead." And so too, he goes on to
speak of death as annihilation which puts the noblest of dead creatures
below the basest of the living. Probably most men have known some
[p.118] dark hour at least in which the tragedy of life comes home to
them, and they have wondered whether after all the old thinker was not
right. We take up as our own the refrain of Omar:

/I came like water, and like wind I go,/

/Into this Universe and why not knowing,/

/Nor whence, like water willy-nilly flowing,/

/And out of it as wind along the waste,/

/I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing./

Again there echo about us out of the past those ancient questions to
which the mind of man is ever framing answers, ever finding unsatisfying
those which others have made. How then can religion help, if even with
its presence those answers still remain incomplete?

When faith comes into our hearts, the mystics may tell us, uncertainty
does not go out of them. We are still facing an unknown future, and have
no more knowledge of the past than have our fellows. But a new factor
has come into our consciousness. We are able to go back and face the old
questions, and lo, they no longer seem to cut, as once they did, at the
roots of our being. We have hold of something which goes deeper than
doubt can reach, or fear can fall to. And strangely enough, the very
same metaphor which Omar uses to express his despair comes from the lips
of faith, but with how different a meaning:

"The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou nearest the sound thereof,
and canst not tell [p.119] whence it cometh and whither it goeth. So is
everyone that is born of the spirit."

Beneath the unanswered question now, there is the abiding sense of the
reality that endures, a conviction that, though we do not understand its
purpose, life is not purposeless, and that though we cannot lift the
veil of death it is only a covering which hides from our eyes a wider
and greater world than ours.

It may be that some will feel that all such talk of faith is meaningless
to them. Religion and faith convey no such notions to their minds as
they seem to imply to others. What they want is the clear demonstration,
which a physicist might give us. If life goes on after death there must
surely be some proof of it.

If we try and look at life merely from the stand-point of the
physiologist, we do indeed perceive that we only observe it in
connection with certain structures of organic matter, and that, as far
as we are able to see, every act of human conscious ness is accompanied
by certain processes and changes in the grey tissues of the brain. When
those tissues are injured, the expression of this consciousness is
interfered with, and when a certain condition of the brain material
comes about life ceases, as far as our observation goes. So far as we
can observe, indeed, every act of life is accompanied by and connected
with some material condition, or at least some material concomitant. But
this is as far as the physi- [p.120] ologist can take us. What life is
he is still unable to say. To speak of life as energy, and to say that
energy is a potential property of matter, is only to hide from ourselves
with words the fact that life can only be explained to us in terms of
life: the physicists cannot tell us what life is.

If we admit that we cannot explain what it is in its ultimate nature, we
are yet all of us conscious enough of what we mean ourselves by life.
The word has a real significance to us, although we cannot define it or
explain it in any way.

Can we then find any answer from physical science as to whether or no
our life continues when the bodily change which we call death happens?
Since life is always connected, as far as we are able to observe it,
with certain physical conditions of the body, can it continue when those
conditions are no longer present?

There have been many thinkers impressed by the sense of a universe
governed by necessary and unchanging laws, who have felt that they could
only answer that since life is in our experience always accompanied by
certain material conditions, it must cease to exist when those
conditions have been removed.

There is one great assumption, however, which consciously or
unconsciously underlies this position, that the only universe which
exists is one that is intelligible to our thought, and that something
[p.121] which we cannot possibly understand, necessarily cannot possibly

But there is yet another thought which seems to have escaped such a
thinker: the possibility of the co-existence of more than one world and
of life passing from one world to another. Mathematicians have already
shown the possibility of this by discussing the existence of a fourth
dimension, and even working out problems involving the assumption of the
existence of this fourth dimension. The suggestion has been made
especially easy to grasp in the remarkable anonymous romance "Flatland,"
published some thirty years ago, which pictures the world of two
dimensions, wherein one person gets the notion of the existence of a
third dimension, and the extraordinary results that follow his heresy,
or madness, as it seems to his less enlightened fellows.

If the theory of the existence of another, or other dimensions be a
tenable one, we can conceive of the existence of a number of worlds
around us, co-existing with our own and including it, of which we are
either wholly unconscious or only very dimly conscious, and that not by
the faculties by means of which we have knowledge of our own world.

Now if we suppose that somewhere within us, at the centre of our lives,
is some meeting-point, some door through which we may have contact with
these other worlds and pass out into them, [p.122] we can also conceive
of a development growing out from this point of contact into that larger
life of which we should necessarily remain unconscious here, or even if
our whole nature were suddenly to be filled by a consciousness of how
its life extended beyond this universe into those other worlds, we
should yet be unable to express in terms of our own world this wider
life, or could only express it by symbols. The incapacity of our friends
to understand our experience would be no proof that it was not true, nor
would our own inability to express it in any way lessen the reality of
that experience to us. If such a hypothesis be correct, what may happen
at death may be that we pass out of the narrower world of three
dimensions into the wider world, which includes this and much more.

Another way of looking at the problem has been to conceive of our
various senses as channels through which we have entered into
communication with the world without us. At present we most of us are
only conscious of five such channels. We may conceive of the possibility
of many other channels of which we have no experience (and indeed
observation of certain living creatures has already led to the
hypothesis of a sixth sense, different from any of our own), and we can
also think of the channels as being one by one closed. So that at death
we may conceive of all our existing lines of communication with the
outer world being removed, and wholly new channels, with [p.123] what
may seem like an entirely different world, being opened up.[29] <#_edn29>

Such an explanation of the working of our universe is but a hypothesis.
Yet after all, it may to some extent help us to understand phenomena
otherwise very difficult to explain. Are not the mystics and seers, the
inspired poets and prophets, just those whose lives are more in touch
than ours with a world we cannot see, often able only imperfectly to
express themselves, but yet conscious of vast realities beyond our ken?
And may we not to some extent look upon faith as such a faculty, or
sixth sense, taking hold of the unseen and translating it into our own life?

But all have not this faith, it may be urged; it is strongest often when
the intellectual powers are weak enough, and men of the greatest genius
tell us they are wholly without it. Yet cannot we conceive of a
community of people almost wholly devoid of one of our own five senses,
say that of hearing? How difficult it would be for one of them whose
ears were suddenly opened to explain to his friends the new world about
him. Imagine these people watching a skylark, and looking on with
astonishment at the joy of the one man who heard it singing. A dull
brown bird flying aimlessly up into the air: why should he look on it
[p.124] with such wonder? They see all that he sees, and if he should
try to explain his feelings as he listens to its song, will they not one
and all be convinced that he is mad, or that he is at best only
recounting some subjective illusion? If he would convince them, let him
translate into terms of sight these curious sensations. He cannot do it,
and they can only pity his condition.

This may help us to realize how narrow a view that is of life which
conceives of this world of our consciousness as the only one which
exists. It may even help us to frame a physical hypothesis of another
life; but this is not enough for our need. If we are to go to the centre
of the problem we must turn not to physical difficulties, but to the
moral and spiritual ones. It is above all in its failure to solve the
problems of our inward life that the materialistic explanation of the
world breaks down.

All the explanations thus suggested have been too much akin to the
physical one to touch the heart of the problem. It is when we realize
the meaning of faith in our own lives here and now, that we cease to
trouble about the future. In the realization of the supreme value of
goodness, and the infinite meaning of it, we begin to understand that it
must endure, in a sense far deeper than mere extension in time or space.

Faith is the organ of spiritual apprehension, and comes into play
whenever we recognise in practice the claim of the ethical ideal as
opposed [p.125] to the materialistic, when the will to do the good
triumphs over the desire to get the good for our selves. In every act of
the inward life by which being is set above having, and by which our own
visible happiness is subordinated to that of our fellows, there comes
into play this activity of the soul which we call faith, by which we
come into contact with that which underlies our hopes, and put to test
the things we do not see. [30] <#_edn30>

As this faith comes to dominate and control our lives we are able to
reach a point at which the old doubts cease to pain us. We may still
repeat to ourselves the riddle of life, and seek for an answer; but
though we may continue to puzzle to find an explanation, we are
conscious that we have known something in the presence of which the
ancient questionings cease to trouble. We feel that somehow we have come
into touch with a presence which brings with it the solution of the
greatest of all problems. In the depths of our lives we listen to the
answer of faith.

Thus it is that the very words which ring with such a sense of awful
despair in the poem of Omar may express nothing but peace to one who has
gone through this experience: "He knows about it all, He knows, He
knows." The difference lies in this, that to Omar there is as he writes
no sense of contact with the Unseen, the Omniscient, in whose power he
lies; but to him who [p.126] has heard the answer of Faith that sense of
contact has come. He knows that in this deepest experience God has come
into touch with him, and henceforth life to him both came and goes, out
of God's hand into God's hand.

When Christ was confronted by the sceptical Sadducees with the problem
of human life enduring beyond the grave, he pointed to their faith that
the heroes of old time, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had had knowledge of
God, and told them that this knowledge of God meant life. A being that
has come to have communion with the Eternal cannot be conceived of as
passing away with the changing husk of things, the accidents of the body
and the outer world. Eternal life does not consist in the duration for
ever of an accidental process. If we could conceive of a jelly-fish
continuing thus an indefinite existence, which should involve neither
inward development nor the possession of higher powers than such a
creature is commonly believed to be capable of, we should still surely
be unable to speak of such existence as eternal life. For what we mean
by this is not the mere continuity of existence from a present of
transient accidents into a like future, but something which goes beyond
death because it goes beyond life too, as life is ordinarily pictured.

But can we hope to tread ourselves this way of the Divine life? There
are times when, the spiritual end which is ever present in our lives
makes itself evident to us, and now and again [p.127] across the
centuries come periods when the latent desires of men seem to come to
the surface. Such was that epoch of spiritual unrest and stirring which
came to England in the seventeenth century, in which the Quaker and
Quietest movements had their birth, and it may be that we are not far
away from the dawn of such another age to-day. Now, as then, men turn
from orthodoxy in search of something deeper and wider than its mere
creeds can give. The works of the old mystics are reissued from the
press, and in the by-ways of literature men are seeking for paths that
may lead them to inward peace. It is still twilight time. No prophet's
voice is clearly heard calling us towards the full light of the day, but
our eyes turn towards the horizon and watch for the signs of dawn.

We share a common life, and our need to-day is the same, though we may
express it in different ways. We are conscious of something lacking in
our lives, sensible at least at times of the evil there. We feel the
darkness about us, and long for light and for a power that shall take us
out of our lower natures, upward and onward. At such moments we may
earnestly desire to come ourselves into communion with God, that his
life may flow into ours and transform it. But how, after all, are we to
attain to some dim realization of this knowledge of God which illumines
the lives of the great mystics and brings peace to-day to many a life
which otherwise would be full of painful failure? [p.128] Perhaps
another saying from the book of Ecclesiastes may put us upon the path to
find the answer. It is one of those words which come sometimes to poet
and thinker, bearing within them fuller depth of meaning than was clear
to the writer who first framed them, groping as he may have been at the
edge of some great truth which he has never consciously apprehended.
"Also He hath set Eternity in their heart." [31] The words
were written in sadness, but there is within them the promise of hope.
There lies at once the key to the mystery of human unrest and the hope
for some deeper peace than the world without can give. Somewhere in the
depths of his own life every man is in touch with the Eternal. Sometimes
we are conscious of this higher reality surrounding us, as pervading all
about us; on some glorious day alone with Nature the wonder of the world
flashes upon us, and all things become radiant with a new light which
fills both us and them. Or silently in the quiet of the night, before
the mystery of the starry sky, a great peace comes over us in which our
own tiny life seems to take its place amidst the ordered harmony of all
the spheres.

But we come, too, to a vision of the Infinite in other ways; whenever we
see a good deed done, and behold its goodness, we are touching the hem
of the robe of the Eternal. In the inward recognition of the supreme
beauty of unselfish love we are directly conscious of a flash of
intuition [p.129] which illumines not the intellect alone, but our whole
nature. We are brought into touch with God at the very centre of our
lives. Nature is indeed the priest of the Eternal, and every high place
has still its altar, where we may worship in spirit and in truth. But in
an even deeper sense is the priesthood given to man. There is no man but
is called to that true temple service wherein every good act is filled
with meaning, not for himself only, but for his fellows. Every pure and
unselfish deed is sacramental, bringing the soul of him who beholds it
into touch with the God who inspired the act. And this contact with the
Divine through goodness in another may come to us in spite of all
intellectual barriers. If with our whole heart we honour a good deed
done our nature does obeisance to the God who is working within it, who
makes the deed of worth. Unknown to ourselves, we are drawn nearer to
Him, and His life touches our lives, and transforms them a little nearer
to His likeness. For every pure and lovely act that men do is not only a
revelation but an inspiration and an influence drawing others upward. We
have never had trust enough in the infectious power of a good deed.

Thus as we are faithful to the highest it has been given us to see, our
sight will be strengthened to see further: at the moment of vision we
are conscious that in the presence of the good thought, the good
personality, we are in contact with the source of strength that we need.
We must keep [p.130] close to the same source when the darkness is about us.

It is surely this truth that has helped to make the worship of the
Saints the power for good which it has been in the lives of devout souls
within the Catholic Church of Rome and of the East. They have done
reverence to that in the Saints which was of God, and in drawing near to
them they have been drawn near to Him also. The worship of the Saints
has done harm, not only in the case of the false reverence of the market
place, but whenever it has led men to turn from the source of the
saint's power to the accidentals of his life and character, and to
imitate the man, rather than to get into touch with his spirit. But the
words of the old Creed, "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," express
a great reality. We can get the greatest help from this belief in the
dark hours of the soul, and in all times of transition to fuller
knowledge of the truth, if by belief in the Church we mean belief in the
whole body of those who have come into touch with God through Christ,
and through his spirit, and who can be recognised as his disciples
because they bear in their lives his likeness. As we believe in the
Church in this sense, we shall strive to feel the inner bond of union
that connects together the good and holy of all creeds and nations, and
to bring our lives into harmony with the same spirit of unity.

Men who have shown singular devotion to some [p.131] hero saint whom
they love may have erred in the past in trying to reproduce his life
under altered conditions; and such imitation has sometimes led them all
too far from the spirit of the one whom they have sought to follow. St.
Francis of Assisi, and in later days John Wycliffe, and George Fox, have
each had followers such as these. But there is at least one to whom we
may look for this guidance without any of the narrowing influence that
other hero worship so often brings. We cannot read about our heroes,
look up to them and think of them, without coming under the influence of
their personality and without our character growing unconsciously to
bear in it some faint trace at least of theirs. Let us then turn thus in
the dark hour to Jesus Christ. No matter if for the moment we cannot
regard him as we have been taught the Church does. Let us put aside all
theories as to his birth; the miracles which puzzle us, even the fact of
the Resurrection, and the speculations of theology as to his Divine
nature. Not because these are not important matters, and not because we
may not have to go on thinking about them, and seeking more light about
them; but because for the guidance which most of all we need we can go
deeper than all these doubts and speculations. Let us make Christ our
teacher as his earliest disciples did, who knew nothing about his birth,
and only followed him at first just because they felt he was far better
than they and they had need of him and loved him. [p.132] As we do this,
and simply endeavour to keep near to his thoughts, to think over the
meaning of his words and to act as men who are seeking to follow him, we
shall begin to realize that there is in Christ himself a greater miracle
than anything recorded of him in the Gospels, and that whatever the
correct theory of the Resurrection may be, He is still a living
influence working upon our hearts and inspiring us onward to good. When
we doubt of God because of the world's evil, we can hear his voice speak
of the love which watches even over the fall of the sparrow, and some
sense of that love comes to us too, in the midst of our darkness. And
when the sense of our own wrong-doing is heavy upon us, we may feel
cheered to think that our Teacher never turned from the men of the world
and the profligate when they sought his help in honest sorrow, but
rather sought them first, and for the disciple who denied him had
nothing but a look of love. He knew what it was himself to be
discouraged, to spend long hours in prayer, to be misunderstood and to
fail. And sometimes there may come to us a glimpse of even deeper depths
into which he went for his fellow- men. As we feel all this we may not
be able to explain it, but we know ourselves the stronger for it, the
better able to face misfortune and temptation and suffering, and to hold
manfully to the best that we know, in the midst of doubt. And thus,
little by little, we come to feel we have found one who not only makes
us realize what failures [p.133] we have been, but is ever calling out
the best that is in us, drawing us on to a higher ground and clearer
air, where our vision carries further, until at length there may come to
us some glimpse of the Divine Love at work in the world and within us,
and some sense that Christ has brought to us God's expression of Himself
in the terms of humanity, so that we begin to understand a little of the
meaning of the words: "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee,
the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent."

And meanwhile, let us have faith too for those who cannot yet feel this
attractive power as we, perhaps, have known it. In the Fourth Gospel the
Master tells his disciples that he has other sheep who are not of this
fold; we may picture his thought as going out to far-off lands where men
were striving to do their duty or to find the truth without any
knowledge of him, without any intellectual knowledge of God perhaps;
some legionary guarding the peace of the empire at the gates of the
North, some Roman government official upholding the dignity and justice
of the law amongst jealous robber tribes and unscrupulous traders, some
Greek philosopher seeking to know a yet higher law, and simple men and
women practising it unknown to themselves; or, further away in the
far-off East, the Buddhist missionary teaching the worth of gentleness
and mercy, or the disciple of Confucius learning to reverence the great
moral truths he knew, and to apply them [p.134] in all life's relations.
Some day all these should hear his voice; already they were his sheep.
And so to-day, wherever the lonely thinker spends his hours in seeking,
and the servant of science unselfishly gives up all thought of personal
advancement and delight in the pursuit of truth, wherever in the
politics of towns or peoples men seek to work out a higher form of
public life, or in business as in leisure to be faithful not merely to
their own interests, but to a wider ideal, we must see the seekers and
servants of good, who are God's servants too. Sooner or later for these
too will be fulfilled the words: "Blessed are they that have not seen
and yet have believed."


THE sense of ancient peace, the quiet beauty of the ruined abbeys which
Turner and many a lesser artist loved to paint, must often have come
home to many who visit them, who have no knowledge of architecture and
little thought for history. But, even with these passers by, something
of their interest in the old ruin is perhaps due to the thought of the
life which was lived there in the days gone by. Less worthy traditions
have marred the glory of the earlier days, and dimmed the recollection
of the long struggle with nature, the hardships of a simple,
self-denying life, the toil of the scholar and the conflicts of the
saint, but as we look at the broken pillars and the silent aisles and
arches where once the music of men's chanting rose and fell, we feel
that it is not only the thought of the vanished greatness that moves us,
but the sense that this was a place where prayer was wont to be made. We
try to picture to our selves sometimes the life of mediaeval England,
and how these ruins were once places living and vibrating with thought
and spiritual effort, centres [p.136] from which pulsed out many a good
influence to uplift the lives of men.

It is true that the monastic ideal was in some respects narrow and
one-sided, that its social and religious life was marred and maimed by
an artificial celibacy being put in the place of the natural family
life; but granting all this, had not the monastery at its best a noble
place in the nation, which is too often lacking to-day, or but
imperfectly supplied by other things?

The rule of St. Benedict prescribed that seven hours daily should be
given by each disciple to manual labour; it was a far-seeing provision,
in which there seems to have been realized the thought that study and
prayer alone without active work could not provide a complete and
healthy life. The Benedictine and Cistercian Abbeys were, at their best,
never self-centred institutions whose members pursued their own
spiritual welfare without regard to the needs of the world outside.
Their scholars copied manuscripts and wrote books for the instruction of
men, they were schoolmasters to rich and poor; their lay brothers
laboured in the fields, making waste places smooth. Their intercessions
went up for others than themselves. Every now and then guests from the
great world came to stay within the abbey walls for rest and refreshment
of soul, and now and then to end their days in an atmosphere of prayer
and peace. In some ways, as we know, the coming of the Friars marked a
stage of higher development, in that they [p.137] shared more fully the
life of the people, at least in the simplicity and poverty of the early
days of the Franciscan movement. Yet another development again is seen
in the communities of Brethren of the common life, and in the béguinages
of the Low Countries, which combined something of the possibility of
individual home life with a common union for prayer.

It is interesting to be able to see at Ghent and Bruges to-day these
quaint communities, where each inmate has her own house, with perfect
liberty to come and go, to mix with the outer world, or even to return
to it altogether; but with a common chapel, and a common religious bond
visibly uniting the whole sisterhood. Is it not possible, if the
Reformation of Henry VIII. had not been so largely political in its
origin, that the monastic system might have been in some measure adapted
to the needs of the world of to-day without those acts of spoliation
which gave the new Tudor aristocracy its wealth and left us these piles
of ruined buildings?

A famous French novelist who had lived and written as a materialist,
turned in his closing years back to the ancient Catholic Church, finding
peace and refreshment as a lay guest within the walls of a monastery.
Much of his later work may seem exaggerated, and even morbid, in its
mysticism, but it was sincere because based upon his own inward
experience. In one of these later religious novels he speaks of
cloistered convents [p.138] as being "the spiritual lightning conductors
of Europe." To him the lives of these poor women, shut off in perpetuity
from their fellows, were not wasted, but provided a sacrifice of
spiritual struggle on behalf of the erring world outside.

Perhaps Huysmans was not right in thinking that the self-inflicted
loneliness of the Poor Clares and Benedictine nuns stood in so high a
relation of service to humanity as he pictures; certainly the life of
practical prayer lived out by a faithful sister of St. Vincent de Paul
amongst the sick poor whom she tends, seems far higher and more
Christlike than that of the cloistered ascetic; but still the fact
remains that if we are not materialists, but have faith in the effectual
working of all true prayer we must hold that the intercessions of the
cloister, in so far as they spring from true hearts of faith, are not
wasted, but, in some way we cannot understand, flow out for the
uplifting of the world.

As we look out at the life of to-day must we not feel that in its rush
and hurry, with the thoughtless materialism of its outlook, there is
more than ever need for the essential message of the monastery,
fellowship in self-surrender and self-control, comradeship in study,
work and above all in prayer? Is it not possible for us even now to have
in our midst here and there little colonies which will do for our age
the work which the best monasteries did for the Middle Ages, and perhaps
[p.139] something more even than this, in that we need no longer have
their limitations?

What would such a monastery be, if we can picture it in its main features?

The first monks were always anxious to have their cells built in some
out of the way spot, and sometimes moved the site of their abbeys to
avoid the dangers to their inward life which seemed to them to come with
the invasions of sounds and sights, which the approach of "the world"
brought with it. We do not now believe in the separation of the life of
the Church from that of men outside it, and there was at times, perhaps,
some thing selfish in the monkish love of quiet isolation, but for
certain high purposes of the monastery there was a sound instinct in it
too. If the community remains in living touch with those without,
sending its members out from it and receiving guests on visits long or
short, it will, in many cases, do its work best if its situation
provides it with a natural atmosphere and background of peace and quiet,
corresponding to that inward atmosphere which is to play around the life
of its members.

Our monastery then will be placed in some little frequented spot, if
possible close to one of those natural bridges over which we may most
easily pass into communion with the life of nature unmarred by man's
civilization; at the edge of some rolling heather moorland, where for
miles you may walk and see no sign of house or road, under a ridge
[p.140] of the limestone fells, or beneath the shadow of a great chalk
down, where the sheep wander freely, or if mountain and moor be too far
away, within reach of some solitary beach where the sea and wind sing to
each other; or with an outlook over some wide plain, with broad horizons
giving some sense of openness and freedom.

Thus the companions of the House of Peace will have constantly near them
the opportunity of silent intercourse with nature; they can go out, wet
or fine, sometimes alone and sometimes in company, to let the fresh
winds and the sunlight and the spirit of the great open spaces play
about them, making them stronger and fitter for joy and labour, for
study, work and prayer.

For the House of Peace will be a dwelling place where work is done. It
will have its garden, with flowers and fruit trees to be tended, kitchen
herbs to be raised; there will be beehives and poultry, and it may be
the cares of a small farm; but beast and bird will be treated as
friendly companions, objects of the Divine care and therefore, too, of
the good will and reverence of the dwellers in the House.

There will be books: especially such as will help most the inner life of
man, the /Acta sanctorum/, and all stories of the saints of God; the
records of other religions than ours, the works of philosophers, poets
and thinkers; and such a general library as would befit a home whose
windows look out on to many sides of life.


But it will not be enough for the House to be supplied with opportunity
for fruitful study, quiet cells for work and meditation, and with manual
labour in garden, field and orchard for all who are fitted for it. Side
by side with all this, lest the life of the place grow self-centred,
there must be some redemptive work going on, for those who would not
themselves have been helped by all this storehouse of good things, apart
from the mediation and ministry of its inmates.

This might be found in the education of back ward or delicate children
from poor homes, physically or mentally in need of special care and
protection, or in the care of convalescents; it might be found in the
training upon the adjoining farm or in the carpenter's workshop, as well
as in special classes held within the House itself, of a small group of
lads from some reformatory, or juvenile offenders to whom our present
prison system offers only imperfect means of succour. In helping in
their training, in joining in their games the companions of the House of
Peace would find a noble part of their own work and joy; they would hope
too to share with these younger brothers not a little of the deeper
inspiration of common worship.

There might be as a part of the House rooms for married companions,
while single men and single women could be lodged in separate wings or
in hostels of their own. Grouped near there might be cottages with homes
linked to the House [p.142] by ties more or less close, whose inmates
would share in much of the work of the community and in the privilege of
common worship. The centre of all would be the place of prayer, the
hearth where each companion would come to rekindle his own torch of love
and aspiration; a place always open, used in common at certain times and
by all companions who were able to come there, used also frequently
throughout the day for silent prayer and meditation, whether by the
companions and their guests, or the passing stranger who might care to
enter in.

At least at one meal during the day the ancient practice would be
maintained of one companion reading aloud from some helpful book while
the rest kept silence. During certain hours of the day silence would
also be observed, though with no slavish bond.

The Buddhist monasteries of Burmah fulfil in the life of that people a
place which might, to some small extent, be taken for us by a group of
such Houses of Rest. It is the duty of every Burmese Buddhist who
desires to fulfil the whole ideal of manhood to pass some portion of his
life, it may be months or years, it may even be only weeks or days, as a
monk in a Buddhist monastery, learning its lessons and drinking in its
peace. So, too, into our House of Rest might come, at different stages
of their lives, the eager seeker after truth, the strong man in the
midst of the battle of his work, the weary, [p.143] tired and
disheartened by their failure; all would find a welcome, a home of
refreshment, where in the atmosphere of prayer, with the daily round of
simple work, of study, of open air life and common worship, they might
find guidance and renewal of strength. Some might only stay for a short
while, others for longer periods; yet others might find in the House of
Rest their central home, returning there at intervals after periods of
labour as social ministers in the crowded towns, in which, perhaps, a
number of different branches of work might be affiliated in some way to
the central House of Rest, which would be a storehouse to supply help to
these branches far away.

One of the rocks upon which the old monastic system made shipwreck was
the corporate selfishness which came to the monks through their
possessions. They had renounced individual wealth, but they were too
zealous to secure for their abbeys the property which might enhance
their usefulness and assure their future growth. Believing as we do that
institutions like men must die to give place to new life, we must not
try to secure an earthly immortality for a good institution, any more
than for a good individual. It would probably be best then that our
House of Rest should not be a legal corporation, able to own and receive
property. Its companions should be tenants on God's earth; their House
should be lent them in trust, but not be owned by them. It might still,
however, be possible for those who [p.144] desired for a longer period
to have the privilege of holy poverty, to renounce for the time being
their own income, without taking any vow or handing over to the
community possessions which they might rightly resume at a later date,
in trust for the world they would serve.

Paul Sabatier has finely said that one of the great claims which
distinguishes still the ancient Catholic Church is the unlimited
opportunity for self-sacrifice which she holds forth to her children. We
cannot get the utmost except for the highest. Our house of prayer and of
work, where self-denial might be found to the full united with the joy
of service, would give this opportunity of self-surrender, of
self-discipline untainted by false asceticism, of comradeship in
sacrifice and in the purest joys and highest aspirations of the heart,
which in the depths of our soul we need and long for. May it not even
yet be built, this House of Peace and Prayer?


A GREAT patristic scholar who, though a lover of theology, is also a
lover of his fellow-men, has related how, journeying across the lonely
desert of Arabia the Rocky towards the holy monastery of Sinai, he came
upon a band of peasant pilgrims; he did not know their language nor they
his, but each made the sign of the Cross as they drew near one another,
and as they did so they seemed at once to be friends. He was greeted
with welcoming smiles, and the way through the wilderness was lightened
by the sense of Christian fellowship. It cheered him to feel how that
ancient sacred symbol had surmounted the barriers of race and speech,
making these strangers feel that they were comrades and fellow pilgrims
travelling to a common goal. And yet he could not but recall with a
sense of sorrowful irony the thought that, had he made the sign of the
Cross not in the Greek, but in the Latin way, he would have been met
with sullen indifference and distrust, if not with anger. These simple
Russian peasants were the spiritual descendants of the [p.146] brave men
who centuries ago went to death at the stake rather than place their
fingers and thumb in the new-fangled way, which, to their mind,
symbolised some error in the conception of the doctrine of the Trinity,
a departure from the one orthodox fashion by which the Church should be
guided in making the holy sign.

It is difficult for us to realise that so small a change should make so
great a difference to the welcome given to a stranger; and, yet, perhaps
some of the differences which separate Western Christians to-day may be
almost as foolish in the sight of the angels.

An English parson once sadly told how, when travelling in France in his
cassock, he had been delighted by a number of ecclesiastics coming to
call upon their foreign confrere, and how, to his dismay, they all
incontinently fled, as from contagion of plague, when they realised that
he was only an Anglican; he doubtless felt acutely the blindness of the
worthy Romans who failed to recognise the apostolic nature of his
orders. As acutely, perhaps, some Nonconformist minister at home may
have regretted a similar attitude on the part of the good parson to the
unhallowed ministrations of the dissenter.

When we look back over the long centuries that separate us from the
early Apostolic Church, there are few things which make us sadder than
this spirit of distrust and hostility, showing itself between men who
alike believe themselves to be Christians. [p.147] It is no new thing;
what is new to-day as a wide spread spirit is the desire to transcend
our differences, not by despising or ignoring the things which separate
us, nor yet by the victory of one church or sect over another, or the
absorption of the lesser by the greater community, but by the better
understanding of each other and of ourselves, the closer co-operation
where co-operation is possible, and, it may be, the gradual realisation
of a unity deeper than all that keeps us apart.

We remember how the mocking scorn of Celsus made sport of the divisions
between Catholic and heretic Christians of his day, while both alike
were a persecuted minority struggling against the edicts of pagan Rome.
Montanists and orthodox suffered sometimes side by side, and yet, while
awaiting death in the same prisons, they would hold no communion with
each other.

This tragic mutual intolerance between Arian and Athanasian, Iconodule
and Iconoclast, goes on down the ages; was it not, in part at least, one
wonders, due to the fact that each party considered that they alone had
the monopoly of truth; that their own doctrine contained the whole truth
and nothing but the truth? Free trade in thought, if it be right to use
the metaphor of commerce for the life-giving intercourse of mind with
mind, is late in coming in the world's history, but it has surely come
to stay. As we look back over the great divisions of the past, we feel
now that there was some right at least on both sides: in some [p.148]
cases we find it hard to understand how men could have fought so
bitterly over what seems now so small. The shape of the tonsure of the
clergy, the date of the celebration of Easter, and such grounds of
difference, caused almost as much bitterness in their day as did
profound dissensions on the nature of the Godhead or the meaning of the
Incarnation. Even when no theological difference separated men, within
the Church itself and within a single religious order, there has been
the bitterest disagreement and separation of spirit over things we now
hold trifling; such a matter, for instance, as the shape of the hood to
be worn by Observant Franciscans, at the time of the rise of the
Capuchin Friars.

We have come at length to understand that the human spirit expresses
itself in various ways in its upward striving, that the language of
worship may vary for different races, for different men within the same
race, for the individual himself with his changing needs, and that in
differing we need not always condemn each other. So, too, it seems that
men are ceasing to feel that uniformity in Church government is possible
or even desirable. The work of the Free Church Council with all its
limitations has enabled the members of the larger Nonconformist bodies
to co-operate together and understand each other better, to feel a
common unity of membership while retaining their loyalty to their own
denomination. This drawing together has been realised, not by discussion
of [p.149] denominational differences, but by common work and common
worship, by sharing in the same efforts, listening to the same messages
of guidance, following as co-disciples along the same road.

Still more remarkable as an expression of the vital forces at work in
English society is the growth of inter-denominational fellowship shown
in the Student Christian movement, and the conferences which it has
promoted, characterised by joint study of social and missionary
problems, and by union in worship, in which denominational barriers have
not indeed disappeared, but have sunk on to a lower level, for many at
least of those who have been thus drawn together to behold the vision of
the vast work still unaccomplished at home and abroad, with the
knowledge that all alike are coming for strength to one source, striving
to serve one Master.

While a friendlier understanding has been helping men to cross by
sympathy the ancient chasms which have separated church from church for
so long, there has been visible too in recent years a marked tendency
towards greater organic unity between religious communities closely
allied to each other. Locally this has occasionally found expression in
the springing up of "union churches," whose members originally belonged
to different Nonconformist denominations, but such union sometimes has
come about for convenience rather than from conviction, and has not
always been permanent in character. It is different with the [p.150]
union of the three Methodist Societies now combined in the United
Methodist Church, or with the great movement which brought about the
United Free Church of Scotland. We may look forward in the near future
to still further developments of this spirit, and already a leader of
Free Church thought, Dr. J. H. Shakespeare, the Secretary of the Baptist
Union, has outlined proposals for the incorporation of the great
Nonconformist denominations in one national communion, a Free Church of
England, which would retain within its compass the different rites and
systems of Church government of its various constituent churches. This
would still leave unsolved the greater problem of the separation between
the Free Churches and the Church of England, but it would be in itself
an immense step forward as a practical recognition of common
discipleship, and as such would be welcomed warmly by many of us who,
almost certainly, would be left outside the ecclesiastical membership of
this great Free Church. The Free Church Council has already done
something to make such a union possible; and even if no formal
connection between various churches whose members are associated with
its work should be achieved, yet, in point of fact, a common member ship
is being realised by them. The great leaders of Free Church thought and
action are recognised not merely as belonging to one denomination, but
as prophets and teachers for all. The worth of their ministry is felt
even by those who cannot [p.151] recognise the validity of their orders,
because of its non-episcopal origin.[32] <#_edn32>

And yet all such plans for the promotion of visible ecclesiastical
reunion do not touch the heart of things. In earlier ages men have
sought reunion through ecclesiastical organisation and through fuller
realisation of doctrinal unity, and [p.152] have failed repeatedly in
the attempt. Can we hope to achieve union now by some ingenious scheme
of comprehensive Church Government or by the formulation of a new creed
where all the old creeds have failed to unite men?

Would not even the widest Church leave outside its membership multitudes
now drawing together in Adult Schools and Brotherhoods and kindred
Societies, under the inspiration of Christian influence, but without any
formal connection with the Church, and beyond them an unknown number of
men and women whose lives turn for their inspiration to the Master whose
name they reverence, but do not venture to take?

Yet such men, whose life-creed is better than their thought-creed, are a
proof that discipleship is a vital relationship, involving more than a
mere emotional surrender or intellectual submission. It will surely be
in the more faithful working out of this conception of discipleship,
that Christian folk will be able to achieve that spirit of unity which
is of more value than external Reunion.

Wherever wrong ideals of life exist, we are coming to feel there is a
loss, not merely to the individuals immediately concerned, but to an
ever widening circle about them. We cannot acquiesce in moral failure or
divest ourselves of responsibility for it, because we ourselves adopt a
different standpoint. Much less can we consent to make a truce with what
we see is wrong in the Church to which we belong. [p.153]

A sixteenth century Cardinal who was engaged in controversy with his
Protestant colleague, Odet de Coligny, found a curious consolation for
the practical failure of the Church of his day by his exposition of a
text in the Song of Solomon: "I am black but comely," was, he held, a
prophetic saying applied to the Church, black in point of morals, comely
in point of doctrine.

To-day, however much we may differ in doctrine, we are coming to feel
that in every failure to realise the Christian ideal of character, the
loss of each religious community is the loss of all; wherever a Church
rises to higher levels of sacrifice, or raises the standard of its
members' lives, the benefit is felt far beyond its own borders.

The saints, whether canonised or uncanonised by authority, are the
common heritage of all who are striving to find their lives dominated by
the same purpose; they are a constant unifying influence throughout the
world, even though their messages differ as greatly as they often have
done in the past.

As the different Christian communities frankly face the unconquered
evils in the world about them, as their individual members set
themselves to wrestle against the selfish instincts in their own lives,
and to become more effective agents of peace and goodwill amongst their
neighbours and worthier citizens of the state, they will find themselves
working side by side with allies they had not hitherto known; in
extending the bounds of [p.154] knowledge and the rule of a kindlier
law, sharing the same spirit of sacrifice, facing the same difficulties,
they will be united by more than a common hope, they will feel within
them the inspiration of the same spirit.

If then the new spirit making for co-operation and truer understanding
of each other which is already at work amongst the different churches is
to have fuller influence, do we not need to set out with a new
enthusiasm upon the common task which awaits us at home and abroad, and
to work out together new applications of the social teaching of the
Christian Church? For many, this will come along the lines of political
and municipal action, in using what powers and duties the law already
gives us, as well as in making better laws or claiming extended
facilities for communal action.

But however much the powers and functions of the state may be altered
and extended, there are vast regions which must for ever lie outside its
domain: evils which laws and bye-laws cannot control, where the
mysterious forces of personality have play, and the healing spiritual
influences may work, which come with the direct contact of goodness and
unselfishness, upon the broken and bruised failures of humanity. The
state may punish wrong-doing, it may prevent particular acts of crime,
it may confine its hardened criminals within the walls of a prison. It
cannot convert them from themselves, it cannot redeem them. The state
may give pensions to old age, and make [p.155] provision for the sick,
the blind and the maimed, the epileptic, the lunatic, the idiot and the
feeble-minded. It cannot bring to these darkened lives what most they
need, the sunlight of human love and comradeship, the healing influence
of an atmosphere of prayer and of unselfish service in which they may
come themselves into touch with the Centre and Source of this pure and
cleansing stream of good.

This must be once again the task of the Church, as it was in the best
days of the monasteries, the guilds and confraternities of the middle
ages. We need to have a fresh Crusade, not to conquer any far-off enemy,
but against our apathy towards the social evils in our midst. Can we not
hope to see a network of new guilds and brotherhoods, settlements,
houses of peace and healing, covering the length and breadth of the
land, where men and women will sacrifice some portion at least of their
lives, giving of their work and leisure to this task? Some will afford a
shelter to the outcasts of society, who are driven now from prison to
casual ward, and from workhouse to jail, for whom the commercial world
has no use, to whom the law offers nothing but threats and penalties:
others will provide training for boys or girls who have been committed
to industrial schools, or will offer a fresh start to those who have
fallen into serious crime: there will be some which will try to provide
a home and work for the weaklings, or those who are prevented by mental
or physical defect from [p.156] holding their own in the ordinary
streams of life. Others again will offer an asylum to sickness,
helplessness and old age. Centres of prayer, as well as centres of work,
they will be the schools of saints, where men in serving the needy in
many different ways, will all the while be brought nearer to the
ultimate reunion of Christendom and of humanity.


[1] The words of Celsus ring strangely in our ears after
these seventeen centuries and more: "You may hear all those who differ
so widely, and who assail each other in their disputes with the most
shameless language, uttering the words, 'The world is crucified unto me,
and I unto the world'" (Origen, "Contra Celsum," v. § 64; and cf. iii § 12).

[2] "Les Apotres," p. 56.

[3] i Cor. xiv. 24, 25

[4] xlii. 4, 5.

[5] [Greek: I will appoint their bishops in righteousness
and their deacons in faith]

[6] ad Smyrn. viii. i, 2.

[7] The earliest Latin versions of the Bible seem often to
have used the word sacramentum to translate the Greek μυστήριον, thus in
St. Matthew xiii. 11, in reply to the disciples' query "Why speakest
thou unto them in parables?" is given the response "To you is given to
know the sacraments of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not
given" (Cod. Bobbiensis). Even the Vulgate retains this rendering in a
number of passages (Eph. i. 9; iii. 3; v. 32; Revelation i. 20), and one
cannot help wishing that our English version might have retained so
beautiful a rendering as "the sacrament of His will," or the reference
to the mystical union of Christ and His church as "the great sacrament."
Similarly, it is interesting to hear the Vulgate speak of "the sacrament
of the seven stars," in the Apocalypse, and to read in i Tim. iii. 16,
"great is the sacrament of godliness."

[8] De Anima, ix.

[9] Adv. Marcion, v. 4.

[10] Adv. Marcion, v. i.

[11] "/Hoc enim lignum tunc in sacramento erat/" (Adv.
Judaeos, xii.).

[12] "/Nolite verba, cum sacramentum meum erit
canendum,providenter quaerere/ ."

[13] "/Quid enim sunt aliud quaeque corporalia sacramenta
nisi quaedam quasi verba visibilia sacrosancta quidem, veruntamen
mutabilia at temporalia/ ?" (Contra Faustum Manichaeum., Lib. xix. Cap.

[14] ("De Praescriptione Haereticorum" xl.) At his best,
however, Tertullian, at least in one of his works, did seem to go
farther than this, and to recognise in the instinctive strivings of
natural religion the witness of the soul to the truths revealed in
Christ ("De Testimonio Animae").

[15] The "Guide des ceremonies civiles" (Par Lux, Paris, 1902).

[16] See i Cor. i. 14-15. "For Christ sent me not to
baptize but to preach the Gospel."

[17] i Cor. xv.

[18] Aug. de Baptismo Lib. iv. Cyprian had instanced this
as a case of baptism of blood, but Augustine pointed out that the
penitent thief suffered not as a Christian, but in punishment for a crime.

[19] De Poen, C. vi.; cf. xii. and xiii.

[20] It is more generally held at present by scholars that
the Didache was written in Egypt; but would not this prayer rather befit
the hilly country of Phrygia, where afterwards Montanus taught?

[21] Rev. W. Tuckwell: "Reminiscences of Oxford."

[22] "Mundi imago divinae sapientise et potentiae praeconium."

[23] Exodus xix. 6.; Isaiah Ixi. 6.

[24] I Peter ii. 5, 9.

[25] Rev. v. 10; xx. 6.

[26] Romans xii. i.

[27] Tim. iv. 6. Cf. Phil. iii. 17: "If I be poured forth
as a libation upon the sacrifice and service (Liturgy) of your faith;"

[28] Irenaeus is apparently the first to use the term
ιερεύς (sacrificing priest) instead of the earlier title of πρεσβύτερος

[29] This suggestion, and several of the preceding ones,
are set forth with much greater fulness and clearness by Mr. St. George
Stock in the Hibbert Journal for January, 1906.

[30] Ѐστι [Ѐστιν]δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις πραγμάτων
ἔλεγχοςou οὐ βλεπομένων Heb 11:1.

[31] Ecclesiastes iii. 11.

[32] It is possible that some day this difficulty might be
surmounted by the willingness of a small group of such Free Church
leaders to receive conditional episcopal consecration at the hands of
some friendly Gregorian or Nestorian Bishops. They could then preach
from the pulpit in Church or Cathedral at the invitation of the
authorities of the Church of England, and, by receiving their episcopal
orders conditionally, they would place no stigma on their Nonconformist
colleagues. The Free Churches would then be somewhat in the position of
the old Celtic Churches before the conquest of Britain by Latin
Christianity, when Bishops did not rule by monarchial methods over fixed
dioceses, but exercised a more personal influence from their monastic
homes, where sometimes several Bishops resided together at once. We
should thus have a Free Church College of Bishops exercising authority
by reason of their personal and spiritual qualifications and seeking no
other sanction than the weight which such an influence would give.

There may be difficulties in the way of such a proposal, but many
Nonconformists who could not agree to accept the diocesan method of
Church government would have little or no objection to such overseers of
the Free Churches, who, holding an unpaid office, carrying no legal
privileges, would have no right to rule, but rather be recognised as
teaching, advising or pleading, with the authority of an elder brother
in the spiritual family of which they would be members. Such a simple
apostolic episcopate, strengthened from time to time by the addition of
new members called to accept their office by the voice of their Church,
might afford for those who have need of it a sign of visible communion
between the Protestant Churches and the older episcopal churches of East
and West.

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