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generation that undertakes the Obedience will be ridiculed and despised, but will hand down to the future a rich entail.
Is it not certain that it would be so ? Let a few,—even a few only, —set about doing the things which Christ tells Christians to do, -can anyone doubt how the spectacle of a little band fighting evil with good, slander with good temper, giving away their possessions without expectation of return, doing good without hope of reward, living the life of faith without thought for the morrow,can anyone doubt how that spectacle would work upon the world ? I cannot doubt. In the first place, it would supply the world with what it lacks,—with regret I feel compelled to say, almost entirely lacks to-day,– a body of personal witness to Christ. He is not seen to-day in flesh walking our highways, preaching and showing signs. His is an interesting story as it reads in the venerable records that purport to tell of Him. But what is to convince the world that He lived, and did as the story affirms ? Nothing will convince the world, except the testimony of men whom the truth of His story has so possessed that they devote themselves to the lifelong task of carrying out His words and making their lives like His. Nothing will convince the world that Christ was, except the evidence that He is. Nothing will do it but the evidence, plainly given in lives of self-effacement, that Christ dwells still on earth, visible in the devotion of His saints to the welfare of their fellowmen. The Bible won't convince the world; the study of nature won't; the statement that God once long ago set the seal of miracle upon His work won't convince the world that Jesus of Nazareth is its Saviour. The proof, -St. Athanasius saw it long ago, -must ever be the miracles which are still wrought in the lives of those who believe in Him. The ancient champion of the truth of the Incarnation had only to point to those, then living in every community, who counted the world and its treasures nothing and lived only to serve their Master, as triumphant evidence of a living Christ. We today should have a harder time than he of the earlier century to find men and women whose lives differ from the lives of the world
enough to be recognizable as those of men and women who know Christ and possess His spirit. That there are some such there can be no doubt. There has never been quite broken the line of men who bear the torch and hand it on, and now in the revolution of the centuries our turn has come to receive it, to suffer it to expire, or to relume it to its ancient splendour. A New Obedience, have I called it ? Rather, a return to the old obedience is what the times demand, -the obedience of the days of the Church's faith and triumph.
Yes, they must be put together :-the Church's Obedience and the Church's Triumph. It is idleness to pretend that the Church is to-day anything approaching the power it should be. We may felicitate ourselves that it is awakening to appreciation of its office, to realization of the trend of the great social movement that is passing before its eyes. But we must with shame confess that as yet it is miserably and pitiably impotent. We continue in our harmless and pleasant ways in a complacency like that of the giant who wist not that his strength was departed. The world's influence upon us is greater than our influence upon the world. We adopt its methods and represent its principles, when we ought to be persuading it to accept the principles and methods of Christ. We can never expect it to do that, until we act as if we ourselves believed in Christ's principles and had confidence in His methods. We can never do in the world the work Christ intended us to do, so long as we are a Church apostate and faithless to His injunctions. Nay, I do not believe the Church can much longer continue to exist, unless it arouses itself to its duty. The temper of the age is not tolerant of ornamental institutions. The world has no need for the Church as an association of congenial ladies and gentlemen who gratify themselves by the weekly use of certain formulas and indulgence in however seemly and beautiful a ceremonial. The Church is not needed as a purveyour of entertainment. It is not required as a manager of social functions which the world itself knows better how to manage. The world has no room for the Church except as a divine institution with authority to demand, and persuading charm to win, the submission of society to the Master to whom it has already given obedience. The Church will regain its power when it demonstrates its social efficiency; when it makes it plain that it has in keeping the law which society needs for its salvation. When the divided household of Christ is reassembled and absolved from its sin of division, redeemed from its present anarchy, which outrages every notion of the unity and love which it pretends to preach; when its people exhibit nothing so much as eagerness in sacrifice and unselfishness in devotion,-then will the Church be strong to wield again her ancient sway over the hearts of men.
The work of the obedient Church will not be to assume direction of every detail of social reform. Her work will be to train her members individually to loyalty to the King, and to make herself an institution more and more conforming to the laws of a world which is not this one. She will carry on with new zeal the corporate acts in which she chiefly witnesses to the reality of that other world. 25 She will seek out and bap