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The condition of a creature is necessarily a condition of dependence. Faith is the recognition of this dependence, and the confidence in the Creator which conscious dependence demands. It is the normal state of man, as a rational creature, to be a constant recipient from God, and therefore to trust constantly to God in conscious dependence; just as the rose is made to live in the light, and to lift its face to the sun. Without this, his growth must be abnormal, like that of a plant in darkness.
So inspiration teaches : “ Of God, and through him, and to him, are all things." And in this it only teaches what is a necessity in the relation of Creator and creature. All things are of him, as their source; through him, not only as the ever-acting efficiency, but because his character, ever unfolding in action, is both the energy that impels and the law that determines, the universal course of things; and to him, as their end, all things expressing and revealing him, and showing him to be glorious. Faith is the recognition of this necessary relation of the creature to the Creator. It is the principle which brings the life of man into conformity with his necessary condition as a creature. In making faith central, Christianity only requires, as the centre of the Christian life, that which is the necessary law of all created and rational life, and which normally, by virtue of the fact that man is a creature, is the germinating centre of all human development.
Every system that rejects faith from this central position, necessarily centres in self-sufficiency. There can be no alternation. It teaches man to recognize himself as the source, the law, and the end of his own development; and to say: “Of me, and through me, and to me, are all things; and to Me be glory forever.” Therefore every
life which is not a life of faith, is nécessarily abnormal and fatally wrong. Harmony in the relation of Creator and creature, is no more possible. It is man's repudiation, not merely of his condition as a sinner, but of his position as a creature. It is, necessarily, enmity against God, rebellion against him, and an assumption of his independ.
ence and throne. It necessarily throws the man out of harmony with God, with the course of the universe, and with himself. Therefore the Scriptures recognize that self-sufficiency, which is the contrary of faith, as the essence of all sin. The first sin on earth was in the purpose to realize the Satanic promise : “ Ye shall be as gods ;” and when the Scriptures describe its highest development, the very “man of sin and son of perdition,” they only unfold the same self-sufficiency: “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God."
When Christian teachers condemn acts of natural affection and honesty, as lacking the essential element of virtue, because they are not founded in faith, and evince no regard to God, they are thought to express an exceedingly nice and unimportant distinction. But it appears that faith in God and self-sufficiency are, respectively, the vital centres of two irreconcilable systems; that the life of faith, in the conscious dependence befitting a creature, is a life of harmony and communion with God, of harmony with the course of the universe, and harmony of man with himself. But the life without faith, being a life of self-sufficiency, is necessarily in antagonism to God, and to the course of the universe, and to the very nature and condition of man himself. Therefore every development of that life, being abnormal, is essentially defective and wrong.
This is precisely the point on which the conflict against Christianity centres. No religious or moral system ever lost favor with men on account of the strictness of its moral requirements. Stoicism found favor with its lofty demands. Pharisaism with its wearisome minutiae of service. Asceticism with its severity of self-mortification. Christianity is not prejudiced by its severe requirements of virtue, and selfdenial. Infidelity, while rejecting the essence of the Christian system, extols it as the purest and most advanced yet realized in the progress of man. Any system, however severe, finds favor so long as it is a system of self-sufficiency, and permits man to regard himself as the source, the law,
and the end of his own endeavors. Christianity is opposed because it is a system of redemption and of faith; because it casts men upon God, demands that they look to him as the source, the law, and the end of all their endeavors, and requires that as men, and much more as sinners, they trust him as the first condition of all development.
And precisely this is the distinguishing characteristic of infidelity. It is the gospel of human sufficiency and virtue. Every system, even if it calls itself Christian, and proposes to receive the Bible as in some sense God's word, every system is essentially infidel which founds itself on man's sufficiency for himself, unfolds itself only as a system of morality, and repudiates the Redemption, which man needs as a sinner, the faith which is the recognition of his dependence as a creature, and the personal fellowship with God which these doctrines imply. Every such system legitimately tends to the rejection of a supernatural revelation, for which it recognizes no necessity, and ultimately to Atheism, the final development of the self-sufficiency of man. There are but two systems on this point, the Christian system of redemption and faith, and the infidel system of human sufficiency and morality. Whoever, for the sake of a religion more perfectly human, abandons faith in the Redeemer, as the first element of development, abandons Christianity itself, and seeks a development of man abnormal, and therefore fatal. Every such system necessarily gravitates towards naturalism.
Christianity, therefore, is adequate to be the religion of humanity, because it is founded on the recognition, both of man's actual state as a sinner, and his normal state as a creature; because it bases his development on that trust in God, and communion with him in which is found, even in his normal state, the primal element and germ of all spiritual life and growth, and of all human excellence. Thus it opens his soul to the quickening of a divine power, invigorates his virtue by the loftiest motives, and ennobles the pettiest acts of life by the consciousness of communion with God, and of service rendered to him.
In may be, that the human side of Christianity has not been appreciated. Coming to a world absorbed in its worldliness, and more insensible to God than the ox and the ass are to their owners, the endeavor of Christians has been to awaken men to think of God, and to feel their spiritual necessities; to this end it has poured on the human mind all the most exciting motives that eternity affords. In its struggle, too often ineffectual, to awaken the spiritual sensibility, it may too little have urged on its own disciples, the beauty of a complete human perfection. But this perfection it proposes as its end, and is adequate to secure. This it must do in vindication of itself. It must consecrate the shop, not less than the church; the parlor and kitchen, not less than the closet. It must teach men to recognize God's presence, to feel the restraining of his authority, and the cheering of his love in all human affairs. It must ennoble every act by consecrating it to God. It must unfold magnanimity, generosity, gentleness, courage, integrity, honor, and all the beauty of Christian charity. As the sun's power is not demonstrated far from the earth in the cold of the
upo per air, but by its reflection from the earth and the objects that deversify its surface; just so Christianity is chill and dark when separated from the practical concerns of humanity, and proves its power to warm and vivify all, only as its light and warmth are reflected from the affairs of daily life.
And because Christianity secures the vital germ of all human growth, it has come to pass that, however imperfect its presentation has been, it has realized the nearest approach to human perfection. While in secular history, heroes who have sacrificed fortune and life for principle, or for the good of others, are few; such heroism fills whole ages of the history of Christianity, and its heroes, both men, women, and children, are numerous, and bright as the stars of evening. And unnoticed, in every Christian hamlet may be found exemplars of Christian virtue, whose beauty makes them the ornaments of their humble sphere in this life, as it Vol. XIII. No. 50.
will fit them to be among the Lord's jewels, in the life that is to come.
III. As Christianity must prove itself adequate to the development of the individual man, so it is rightfully demanded that it prove itself adequate to secure the true progress and healthy development of society. Modern infidelity largely arises from the mistake that Christianity is inadequate, and even hostile, to this. Of popular infidelity, of infidelity out of the schools, this is probably, at the present moment, the most prolific source.
But Christianity is the religion of human progress; right
1 No Christian people have been reproached with failing to exhibit the human side of religion more than the Puritans of New England. The homely lines addressed from prison to his children by John Rogers, just before his martyrdom, ought to refute this:
“Give honor to your mother dear;
Remember well her pain;
With the like love again.
Be always ready for her help,
And let her not decay ;
Who would have been your stay.
Impart your portion to the poor
In money and in mcat;
Of that which you do eat.
Defraud not him the hired is
Your labor to sustain,
His wages for his pains.
And as ye would that other men
Towards you should proceed,
When they do stand in need."
The religion, which led its martyrs to occupy their last hours in recording their dying advice in these and similar lines, and which led to their insertion in the New England Primer for the instruction of childhood, could not have been essentially defective either in its estimate or its requirement of virtue in human relations.