R2912-364 An Editor Lectures Churchianity

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REMARKABLE as it may appear, the editors of the secular press seem to grasp the religious situation much better than do the average ministers of the gospel or editors of religious journals. Perhaps this is because they are in a better position to see truthfully and point out tersely what they do see; they are bound neither by creedal obligations nor by “bonds of bread and butter” to abstain from seeing and narrating honestly, truthfully.

In evidence, note the following, clipped from the editorial columns of the Cleveland Press.


“That there is a great need of revival today is evident to all. The church has allowed politics, business and speculative thought to get beyond her influence as a spiritual impulse and ethical standard. Modern reforms which have as their end the betterment of men’s lot have sprung very largely from a diffused Christianity, and too often the bearing of the church toward them is cold and unfeeling, if not actually antagonistic.

“The churches are all blessed with a proportion of really Christian men and women, whose giving and prayers and unselfish service keep the world from falling into ruin. These are the church. But these are not satisfied. They feel a deep need of revival. It is only the dead and frivolous and indifferent that are satisfied. Modern scribes and pharisees, hypocrites, cleansing the outside of the platter, whited sepulchers, self-deceived, measuring themselves by themselves, in daily deadly danger of crucifying their Lord afresh and putting Him to an open shame—these are the satisfied ones.

“We need a revival of religion because of our lack of love. This is the center and core of Christianity. You love them that love you, your families, your friends, but what thank have ye? Do not the heathen the same? When you make a feast you invite persons agreeable to yourself, for your enjoyment and theirs. This is not a sin, but it is no better than the heathen, for they do the same. The Christian feast is for the poor and the homeless and friendless. The Christian love is for one’s enemies. The Christian service is for the disagreeable and weak and vicious and unclean. The Christian duty is to all the world. But Christian men live under rules and standards that are the incarnation of selfishness. There is no love in business, no love in war, no love in modern pleasure.

“Frivolous and selfish wives, deadening the religious life of husbands; worldly and godless husbands, making it difficult for their wives to live as Christians; parents a stumbling block to growing children and a byword to them that are without; professing Christians mad with lust of gold and place and power, silent and unfeeling in the face of social wrong, without compassion for the multitude, ambitious for social preferment, given over to vanity, envious, skilled in the hypocrisies and expedients of selfishness, denying daily in word and deed the power of godliness. Surely these need revival.

“How few Christians there are who can lead an inquiring soul to a knowledge of Jesus! They are without excuse. To say that they cannot do this is to hide behind a lie. There is not a housewife but can teach her maid to cook and clean and sew; not a mother but can teach her children the elements of etiquette; not an artisan but can talk intelligently about the trade he has mastered; not a scholar but can give some account of what he knows; not a political partisan who is not eager to explain his views; not a lawyer but stands ready to argue any case, pro or con; not a doctor who cannot give some reason for the cure he prescribes; not a business man but can train others for his business. But many of these say they cannot talk to another upon the subject of religion.

“For many a Christian employer to speak to his workmen of the love of Jesus would be to cause bitter mirth and deepen the conviction among them that he is a hypocrite. Those who do not confess Jesus with their lips because they consider their example sufficient, too often furnish an example of everything but Christianity. But it is the insistent, searching word of Jesus that every man is responsible for his neighbor, no matter how he may feel about the responsibility or how cleverly he may shirk it.

“The spiritual energies of the modern church are paralyzed and neutralized by a great and plain contradiction between what church members say and do.

“Christian gentlemen organizing great financial undertakings and incidentally corrupting governments, bribing the public, overriding the laws of the land; such believers would find it hard indeed to lead another to the Savior. Their proper method is to hire an evangelist, for it is very evident in this case that religion is religion and business is business.

“It would seem that the next great revival will be a revival within the church itself. It will consist in an improvement in quality, rather than increase in quantity of church members. It will turn away from machinery and artificiality and organization, and will depend upon personality and character. It will deal directly as between man and man. It will be a thing of life; of everyday life to be lived as the hours go, simply and honestly.

“A witness is useful only in so far as he knows. He is not permitted to testify upon what he has heard, or upon what he imagines, or guesses, or hopes. What he has seen and knows, this is his only testimony of any power. To what great realities does the average modern Christian testify? A man eager, almost frantic, in his striving for wealth; the frivolous, shallow member of some Christian church, intriguing and degrading herself for the sake of social preferment among worldlings; to what do these testify? Church ‘service,’ misnamed, wherein indolent believers luxuriate in enjoyment of observing with critical eye the intellectual gymnastics of their minister; to what do these testify? Cold and formal prayer meetings, sepulchral and oppressive, to what do these testify?


“The brightest glory of the new century’s dawn springs from a hope, deep and widespread, of coming religious revival. In the last few years a great change in the matter of worldliness has swept over Christian people everywhere, chilling into deadly torpor

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their spiritual energies. Worldliness has come to characterize those who profess to be citizens of heaven.

“Earnest Christian parents are everywhere perplexed and saddened because church membership is of little aid in keeping the children unspotted from the world. Cash, like charity, covers a multitude of sins, and failure to make money is about the only hell believed in and feared.

“The great contradiction between what Christians say and do threatens to destroy the churches. It is now commonly, if not universally, held that financial success is proof positive that a church is prosperous.

“It was inevitable that the masses should find in the Sermon on the Mount just that moral ideal and standard which best expressed their unspoken aspirations and desires. Turning to the church, they expected to meet a powerful and sympathetic ally, for the church professed to base its life upon these very teachings of Jesus. But alas! stupefied with worldliness and prostrate under the sturdy blows of an unspiritual rationalism, the church had no answer for the masses. Mutual antagonism, suspicion, misunderstanding, and, on the part of the workingmen, very often hatred, was the result. The church preached and professed to believe the moral ideas which formed the only hope for the masses and did not practice what it preached. The church stood for religion, the masses for morals; and both were wrong inasmuch as a half truth is not the truth. Now, these alienated forces are coming together. Religion has got as far as it can without an adequate morality; and social ethics has got as far as it can without religion.

“A first feature of the coming revival will be its emphasis upon the teachings of Jesus. In the transaction of business, in the giving and taking of the exchanges, in the close touch and stress of politics, in the lighter and happier amenities of social intercourse, Christian men and women will endeavor to set forth Jesus. The new revival will powerfully affect the daily lives of Christians. It will make a distinction in the way a Christian man works and enjoys himself and the way an unconverted man does these things. It will be marked by a return to the morality of the golden rule.”

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We fear that in the above description of “The Church Expectant” the writer has described what he hopes for rather than what he sees evidences of as approaching. There is already such a “Church of the living God, whose names are written in heaven” (and some of these are probably to be found in all the denominations of Christendom, and some of them outside of all); but they are, as a rule, poor in this world’s goods and not very highly esteemed among men, and often are spoken evil of, falsely, for their fidelity’s sake.

Whoever expects nominal Churchianity to reform and become a household of saints will be grievously disappointed. On the contrary the Scriptures clearly show us that all denominations are, and will increasingly be, merely moral clubs “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof,”—”drawing nigh unto God with their lips while their hearts are far from him.”

But, let it come;—it is a part of the “harvest” work of separating the “wheat” from the “tares.” As the worldly spirit of formalism more and more gains control of all sects, it will wean and separate more and more the Lord’s true people, who alone have ever been the true Church in our Lord’s estimation. These must realize their lean and starved condition, and that Babylon has no substantial food for their nourishment and upbuilding,—only the husks and chaff of formalistic piety. They must realize that the doctrinal tables spread by Babylon are unreasonable and nauseating—musty and putrid “traditions of men” (Isa. 28:8), before they will look beyond Babylon’s bondage of sectarianism and creedal fences, and leap the barriers to freedom and the feast of fat things spread for them now by our present Shepherd.


— November 15, 1901 —