CHRISTIAN MEDITATIONS by Dr W R Matthews. A Daily Telegraph Publication. First issued May 1974 © The Daily Telegraph. Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2018.


katapi logo | Walter Robert Matthews (1881—1973), educated at the Universary of London, was ordained to the ministry of the Church of England 1907. He was Dean of King's College London and Professor of the Philosophy of Religion 19218—32. Dean of Exeter 1931—34 and Dean of St Paul's 1934—67.


CONTENTS

Introduction | The Quiet Mind | Peace Within | No Utopia | Come Holy Ghost | That Forbidden Tree | Luck & Grace | The Creator God | Divine Companion | Duty to Self | Making Restitution | Loving & Knowing | What I Am | Inspired Prayer | True Religion | Works of Darkness | Really Rich | Fullness of God | Like the Wind | Thou Shalt Not | Approving the Excellent | For All Men | God's Secrets | No More Seen | Trust Providence | Hearing & Asking | The Coming of Christ | Moral Principals |

LENT, PASSIONTIDE, THE CROSS, THE RESURRECTION, EASTER FAITH: | Atonement | The Mediator | Divine Suffering | A Task for Lent | Precious Blood | Vicarious Punishment | Survival or Resurrection? | Risen with Christ | Eternal Life | The Easter Faith | Muted Joy | Easter Eve | Overcoming the World | The Passion | Life through Death | Sacrifice | Not too Comfortable | Palm Sunday | Names & Places | The Risen Life | Crowd & Cross | A Shocking Event | They Knew Him | Victory Shared | Immortal Spirits | Is it Nothing? | The Core of Faith | The Cross & Passion | Eternal Friendship | Holy Week | Triumphant Life | Those Things Above | Dialogue with Truth | A Clean Heart | What we Deserve | Evil Thoughts | Conscience | Not enough Truth | Authority | In the Silence | The Story that Shook the World (a christmas meditation) | Eternal Being | Meditation | Looking Forward |

THE LORD'S PRAYER: | Who Art in Heaven | The Hallowed Name | Thy Kingdom Come | Thy Will be Done | As it is in Heaven | Our Eternal Bread | Forgive us our Debts | ... as we Forgive | Into Temptation | Deliver us from Evil | The Power & the Glory |

Creator Spirit | Conscience | Moth & Rust | The First Coming | Dialogue in Harmony | Who is This? | The Second Coming | Blessing on Mourners | Spiritual Phenomena | Love & Humility | Taskmaster | Insight & Ecstasy | Blessed are the Meek | Dialogue with Doubt | Blessing on the Poor | Agnostic Believers | Doing away with Cant | The Right to Forgive | The Father's Business | Virtues & Beatitudes | Hunger for Righteousness | The Wise Men | A Time to Rejoice | A Certain Lawyer | Right & Good | Asleep in Church | The Peace-Makers | A Take-Over Bid | Sorrow for Sin | Angels Unawares | Wonderful Works | Great Demands | Agnostic Prayer | Ordinances of Man | Gospel Miracles | Business-Like Saints | Holy Indifference | Christians & Politics | Beyond Law | The Poor in Spirit | Judgement Deferred | Self Discipline | Beyond Justice | Charisma | Law & Spirit | Christian Anger | Old Men's Praises | This Natural Body | "In My Time" | Men of Principal | One Faith | Wages & Rewards | The Good Fight | Pilgrims & Pioneers | The Mounting Years | Birthday of the Man (a christmas meditation) | Joy & Peace | High Time | One & Many | Faith & Un-Faith | We shall Overcome | Lawlessness | Fire & Light | Work & Wages | Moral Variety | The End of all Things | The End-Time | Celestial Fire | Loving Justice | Flesh & Spirit | After this Manner | Fight for Truth | Counting the Days | Plain Words | Two Worlds | Love of Riches | Dialogue with God | May Calling | Fruits of the Spirit | What we Shall Be | Signs in the Sun |

 


INTRODUCTION

BY THE EDITOR OF THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

For a wide and devoted circle of readers the Saturday Sermons and Christmas Meditations of the late Dean Matthews, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph over 24 years, were a spiritual and intellectual sustenance on which they came to depend. It is especially with those readers in mind that this anthology has been compiled. Many or most of them, without doubt, are practising Christians for whom this book will be a welcome addition to their devotional libraries. Nevertheless, one of the Dean's special gifts was his ability to win the respect, affection and attention of those who could not bring themselves to accept the Christian faith, at least as systematised in any known body of theological doctrine. Indeed, many of other religions than Christianity have found help and inspiration in his writings.

The Dean was one of the most accomplished journalists of his long age. He was a formidable theological scholar, and his scholarship served not any sectarian controversy or display of learning but a perfect simplicity of language and thought. Absolute clarity, a rigorous avoidance of jargon—even the respectable jargon of the pulpit—and gentle persuasiveness' were the hallmarks of his style. All journalism is, in a sense, ephemeral, and those who read these pages will doubtless see in them evidence of the special preoccupations of the last two and a half decades. He was never a victim, however, of the shallow passion for topical "relevance" which disfigures so much religious writing today. He saw the trials, tribulations and achievements of his own time (and he gave due weight to all three) as illustrations of the abiding state of mankind. For him, they confirmed the central truths of the Christian faith, and only in the light of those truths could the events of contemporary history be made intelligible.

It is my earnest hope that this book will also fall into the hands of many who never sat at the Dean's feet. Quite apart from its solid philosophical value (and in this respect, of course, it is but a fragment in an impressive corpus of writing), it breathes the spirit of a particular brand of culture, at once liberal and Christian, of which today there are regrettably lew surviving representatives either in the Church or in the world. I aitli and reason, intelligent reverence for tradition and generous flexibility in its interpretation, a love of the past which never degenerated into sentimental escapism and a perception of the need for change which never deteriorated into mere trendiness—such were the qualities of this wise and holy man.

M.G.

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THE QUIET MIND

QUIETNESS is a scarce commodity in our civilisation, and many of us find that to purchase it is beyond our means. Though less expensive, quietness of mind is no less difficult to secure, so that, in addition to the din of cars, planes and other assailants of peace, we have to endure the mental disquiet of the political and social unrest of a world in rapid change.

Yet one of the aims and rewards of the life of the Spirit is that "quiet mind" for which we are taught to pray. In what is perhaps the first Christian letter ever written by St. Paul he urges his readers to "be ambitious" for another gift of the Spirit beyond the zeal and active charity which they have shown; let them strive for quietness of mind, which will enable them to look after their own business without distraction, (1 Thes. iv, 11.)

The quiet mind cannot be achieved by a policy of shutting one's eyes to facts. A man who refuses to take notice of the troubles of the world in which he lives is not only withdrawing his help when it is needed, he is trying to set up a private fools' paradise. He cannot really contract out of the responsibilities of his membership of a nation and of the human race. The quiet mind must be the outcome of victory over anxieties not of running away from them.

THE COLLECT, still in harmony with the New Testament, links quietness of mind with "pardon and peace" and "being cleansed from all our sins"; that is, it associates the calming of the mind with the solution of an inner conflict. But the conflict has not been won by the mind of the man. It has been won by God, and through faith in Him. The divided mind has handed its problem over to God and I has committed itself to Him as the loving Father who is both willing and able to pardon and cleanse. Reconciliation with God is, for the Christian believer, the core and essence of a mind at peace.

This quietness of mind is the opposite of the fools' paradise. It is not terrified into stagnation, but active and alert. And in its quietness is its strength. Anchored on the inward peace of the Spirit, such a man will not dither in the face of emergency or despair at disaster, for his trust is not in luck, or chance, or in some future turn of events—it is in the Eternal.

This restless age needs to acquire quietness of mind if il hopes to escape catastrophe, and its physical restlessness may be partly a symptom of its mental and spiritual rootlcssncss. Who knows whether those who speed so senselessly from place to place may not be looking unconsciously for somewhere where there is peace—and not finding it.

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PEACE WITHIN

HOW to have peace within while living in a noisy world is a question which religion claims to answer—and not only religion but every teaching which aims at spiritual development. The soul grows in quiet. As our civilisation becomes progressively more noisy and distracting the need for inner peace is more apparent. In a familiar phrase, St. Paul states this need in the form of a blessing. "The peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts" (Phil. iv. 7). There is a peace which does not "pass understanding" but consists of understanding. Philosophers, who in former times tried not only to define the Good but to help men to be good, thought that to understand the world and man's place in it, even imperfectly, was a way to achieve tranquillity. Spinoza, with his "intellectual love of God," which meant the understanding that all existence is part of a completely rational order, is the outstanding example of the gospel of peace through understanding; but there are many others who follow this Stoic tradition in their way through life. And who will deny that some peace can thus be gained ? One who truly believes that all things are ordered on rational and unalterable principles will not vex himself with vain regrets or futile rebellion, but will possess at least the peace of acceptance and resignation.

THE "PEACE OF GOD," according to St. Paul, "passes all understanding." He means, I think, that the peace of the Christian is not negative but positive, and not static but active. It is, moreover, not gained by human reasoning or self—discipline, but is the gift of God, a grace which may be granted to the earnest thinker, if he is humble enough to ask for it, and may equally well be granted to the obedient but ignorant child of God who has no tincture at all of philosophical understanding.

THE DIFFERENCE between the Christian's kind of peace within and that of the devout humanist or atheist seems to arise from the different beliefs about the source of peace. St. Paul assumes that he has to do with God, is personal and who loves him, so that it is natural to think of his soul, his inner man, as a city guarded by a friend, and to join together peace and joy as gifts of grace. The peace within which is not associated with belief in a personal God may lack the note of joy and triumph, but we must beware of underrating it. To be steadily rational in one's judgements, to be benevolent in one's conduct and to bear misfortune without self—pity is to serve God, even if a man thinks he is only serving his fellow man and his own peace.

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NO UTOPIA

THE word "Utopia" is coined from two Greek words meaning "no place" and thus aptly indicates that the imagined ideal city does not as yet exist. The authors of Utopian sketches differ in respect of their hopes for the future; some have the courage to believe that their ideals are practical politics, while others present their visions of perfect societies as incapable of being translated completely into actual existence, but nevertheless as guides to endeavour and as criteria by which existing societies may be estimated.

The New Testament conception of the Kingdom of God has been treated in modern times as a kind of Christian Utopia, chiefly by preachers who are accustomed to exhort their hearers to contribute, by their devotion to social service, to the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth. No doubt, in the main these exhortations are practically useful and, up to a point, justifiable, but it is necessary to keep in mind two features of the New Testament teaching on the Kingdom—that it cannot be brought in or established by human endeavour, and that it cannot come in its full power and reality in the present world or aeon.

The prevailing attitude of the New Testament writings on the expectation of the Kingdom is that Christians must wait for it with eager longing and must prepare themselves for the second coming of the Lord. The faith and teaching of St. Paul go further than this and hold that the "members of Christ" who compose the Church are already living in the "world to come," an heavenly enclave in an evil world.

IN WHAT SENSE THEN, we may ask, does our Christian faith entitle us to entertain hope for the future of secular society, or of the whole human race? This question really covers two quite distinct inquiries: first, do we have reason to hope that human society will continue to exist and make progress, and, secondly, does our faith provide us with any ideals for the city and nation of the scientific age? Is there such a thing as a Christian Sociology, or a Christian political philosophy? Or is perhaps the Christian hope not only primarily hope for individuals but exclusively that ?

Could it be that individual men may be saved, but not their cities or their nations? We arr accustomed to speak of some states and communities as more Christian than others, and we do not always mean that their official policy favours the (lliurch; we mean that, as a general rule, public opinion and government policy are affected by Christian principles. A curious phenomenon of our time is that some well—known Christian writers prefer a purely secular State to one which claims religious affiliations.

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"COME HOLY GHOST"

FOR the believer Whitsunday (Pentecost) is one of the three major festivals. It commemorates the coming of the Holy Spirit into the group of the disciples of Jesus, fulfilling, as the Gospels report, a promise of their Master. That the Church of Christ is guided and indwelt by the Spirit is held as true by almost all who "profess and call themselves Christians."

Reflection on the New Testament teaching about the Spirit leads to apparent contradictions in the accounts of His nature and activity. For example, the Spirit is preached as the giver of life, peace and wisdom on whom Christians depend in the trials of life. But the Spirit is symbolised by a "rushing, mighty wind"—power which seems to have no direction. And in St. John's Gospel Jesus takes up the symbol of wind and stresses the suggestion of unpredictability and even wilfulness which characterise the human beings who are filled with the Spirit.

In the Bible calm wisdom and reckless energy are both apparently possible gifts of the Spirit. It would seem that we are invited to recognise the possibility that the Holy Spirit may be on both sides of a spiritual conflict. Practical consequences follow from this apparent "ambivalence" of the Spirit in action. The rebel, the heretic, the reformer is often moved by the Spirit while the Spirit has not abandoned the conscientious conservatives who defend the old ways. We can believe that Martin Luther was inspired by the Spirit to nail his theses to the church door without believing that everyone who disagreed was devoid of inspiration.

TWO MORTAL sins haunt the sensitive conscience: one by which the old are tempted and the other a delusion of the young. To "quench the Spirit" comes in the form of "preserving the values of civilised existence" while too tired, or perhaps too self— satisfied, to consider new ideas. The young are tempted to confuse inspiration with youthful exuberance and natural personal ambition with zeal for the Kingdom of God.

The way of safety in spiritual life is not to shrink from adventure and to be deaf to new knowledge but the very opposite—to go forward in the way of life until the supreme gift of the Spirit dawns on our understanding—not worldly wisdom but that which St. Paul writes about as divine. The Pentecostal Collect prays that through the help of the Spirit we may "have a right judgment in all things."

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THAT FORBIDDEN TREE

IT is a misfortune that the story of the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden (Gen. iii) should have so often been taken as a revelation of the nature of sin. Only one element in it is really relevant to the question What is Sin? and that is Eve's disobedience. Here at least the teaching of the New Testament is in agreement; but no further. The transgression in Eden was the breaking of a taboo, an arbitrary restriction for which no reason is given and against which, as the serpent pointed out, plausible arguments could be found. Was it indeed a divine ordinance that men should be prohibited from knowing?

The harm which results from dwelling on this story as a guide to our thought on good and evil is that we may form a negative idea of goodness. We may come to believe that to be good means to observe all the taboos; to live in constant fear of violating them, while at the same time carefully avoiding any questioning or criticism. This morality of fear is very far from the spirit which breathes in the Gospels and Epistles, and is in fact explicitly condemned in them. "Bondage" and "fear" are, for St. Paul, the two marks of a life which is un—Christian. When the New Testament speaks of sin it uses expressions which imply positive endeavours, intelligent purposes and co—operation in acts of love. Sin is described as a missing of the mark, or a falling short of some possible splendour, or it may be as a deadness of spirit which needs to be awakened.

WE MIGHT say, in our modern terms, that the Christian understanding of goodness and sinfulness turns not on taboo but on values. The sinner is one who passes through life, which presents him with purposes worth serving and opportunities of enlightenment worth pursuing, but responds to none of them, remaining wrapped in unenterprising self—centredness; or he is one who, though not insensitive to values, serves them half—heartedly.

Perhaps the most general description of "faith" might be, "the disposition of mind which seeks values to serve and, when found, serves them with unfailing loyalty," and the faith of a Christian would be that of a man who believes that all these values are summed up in God revealed in Christ. This is a morality not of negation but of affirmation, not of fear but of hope.

If such is our understanding of goodness and in, will there still be "forbidden trees" in our lives:' Well, perhaps there will be, but we shall know why they are forbidden to us, and in our inmost spirits we shall consent and obey, not with the obedience of fear but "the obedience of faith."

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LUCK AND GRACE

WE pray thee that thy grace may always prevent and follow us: the words of the Collect may lead some who can look back over many years to ask themselves whether they can affirm that the grace of God has indeed been before and after in their experience. Any such retrospect must be coloured by the point of view from which it is made. We may recall what seem to be bits of luck, happy chances which turned to our advantage, offset by other occasions when as we say fortune was against us. We may dwell with satisfaction on our success in overcoming difficulties by clever management and with regret on our failures to cope with them. But these are not inquiries into the incidence of grace. To answer our question we have to ask: Can we discern in our experience a series of opportunities to serve our fellow men, to grow in spiritual understanding and in faith and love; and further, can we say from our experience that when hard decisions had to be made we were given the needed strength and courage? With this presupposition in mind our past lives take on a different aspect. Some of those strokes of luck do not look so admirable and perhaps too some of the misfortunes appear now to have been challenges to our manhood by meeting with which we were able to rise above ourselves and acquire, as it were, a new dimension. The days of struggle, no less than the days of calm, may be days of grace.

TO PONDER exclusively on the past is dangerous and unchristian. We are wrong to torment ourselves with recollections of sins which have been forgiven or to reproach ourselves with lost opportunities. Our concern is with the present and the future and the opportunities which remain. Yet to look back with a sincere desire to understand can itself be a means of grace. We can see now where we went wrong. No doubt we went wrong in many ways: through thoughtlessness, through selfishness, through fear, through ambition, through passion through all the many sources of temptation which are common to humanity—but the root cause was that we lost hold on our faith in the meaning and purpose of our lives and in the reality and power of the grace of God.

OUR CHRISTIAN forefathers spoke more often than we do about"being in a state of grace." Perhaps they often interpreted it too narrowly, but they had a grasp of an essential truth of religion. The sufficiency of grace was the anchor of St. Paul's spiritual life; the word which came to him, "My grace is sufficient for thee," carried him through all the tempests of his pilgrimage. So it should be for us. God's grace does "prevent and follow us" and we may judge whether we are living in grace by the test suggested in this same Collect—if we are "continually given to all good works."

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THE CREATOR GOD

"I BELIEVE in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible"; these opening words of the Nicene Creed in our prayer books lay down, in no uncertain words, the presupposition of all that follows.

Every word has solemn significance and we are taught that our religion is monotheistic and cannot stand if we abandon our faith in God the Creator.

If there ever was a time when this fundamental principle was universally accepted, it is not now. Even the most loyal believer seems to have moments of doubt when he asks himself: "Can it really be true that God the Father exists?" A curious difference in this question seems to follow if we make a slight change in its wording and, instead of asking, "Does God exist ?" we say, "Is God real ?" Is God real ? is the form in which many thinkers of the Christian tradition have grappled with great problems.

In development of this line of thought some philosophers have propounded the suggestion that there are degrees of reality and that some things are more real than others. To work out this concept of degrees of reality in detail is obviously very difficult, but it has proved to be illuminating, especially when it is linked with the concept of "values." It is not impossible to conceive that, in some respects, goodness and reality are closely connected. It is at least a thought which recurs constantly in literature that justice and truth have more staying power than their opposites, injustice and lying.

HOW DOES this kind of thinking help us with our search for the knowledge of God—not only knowledge about Him but some experience of His creative power in our lives ? The answer, in a word, is that we know God the Creator as the ultimate Reality and the supreme Value. Everything in our temporal experience vanishes at last, giving place to other things. All things good and evil which exist in our world have a beginning and an end and nothing is inherently eternal, but, with this vision of the Eternal Creator, we have,asit were, a share in eternity. All that was good in mistaken up and included in the ongoing creative activity of God.
How shall we speak of the Creator? As the "Unknowable" or "the ultimate Mystery." St. Paul uses a metaphor. We glimpse Him like looking at a face in a shadowed mirror. (1 Cor xiii 12).

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DIVINE COMPANION

THE Ascension of Christ is sometimes interpreted as His departure from this world of time into that of Eternity and consequently as involving the end of His companionship with His disciples. This seems not to have been the view of the Evangelists, for, according to St. Matthew, Christ's words at the scene which looked like a farewell implied the opposite. "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world" (Mat. xxviii, 20).
The literal translation of the Greek is "all the days," or "every day," emphasis being on the temporal experience of the succession of moments and days. Only One who is Eternal could promise to be with all of us all the days.

To ordinary people this image of the unfailing Divine Companionship is an important, and even an essential, part of the Christian faith, and one more easily envisaged than the more mystical doctrines of spiritual union with Christ. The fellow Traveller who will go with us all the way is an image rich in emotional suggestions. The serious defect in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is that his allegory compels him to suggest that, though Christ awaits the Pilgrim at the end, He is not his daily companion.

PROBABLY LITTLE children experience the meaning and the joy of divine companionship often better than adults. I knew a little girl who quite simply thought that prayer was talking to God and used to say spontaneously and unself—consciously, "I will talk to God". She never disclosed what God said to her, but it was evidently something which gave her joy. Such children are not rare, and those who have known one of them have felt sad that, as the years pass, this sense of divine companionship seems dimmed. Probably the process of growing up and becoming fully self—conscious and responsible calls for a temporary turning inward and concentration on the Self. Can we hope that, as we advance further along life's journey, the Divine Companion will make Himself known to us again?

Ought we to be critical of the child's "talking to God"? Ought we to say, for example, "Of course it's all in your imagination," with the underlying assumption that imagination must be delusive? Should we dismiss the whole subject as a waste of time from which a slight knowledge of psychology could save us? There is equally of course, another way of looking at the facts and "explaining" the phenomena. It is possible that children have some sense of the presence of God, of the Divine Companion, which is authentic though needing development, but too many of them are never helped by parents and teachers to recognise Him.

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DUTY TO SELF

CHRISTIAN MORALISTS have often drawn up a list of virtues and duties and have divided them into two classes— duties towards God and duties towards our neighbours. Generations of Anglican children have been brought up on the basis and, though of course criticism shows that the list of duties raises questions of meaning, we should be much worse men and women without their discipline.

A criticism of the list of duties which is seldom heard today is that another category of duties is called for by the facts of moral experience. In addition to duty towards God and duty towards neighbours should we not recognise a "duty towards self." In a sense, of course, for the Christian believer all duties are duties towards God and all failures to do our duty are sins against Him, but there are some failures which seem to be primarily neither conscious disobedience to God nor primarily defective love. When we encounter some types of moral failure do we not feel a kind of shame on behalf of the offender? We are ashamed of him because, in some indefinable manner, he has lowered our estimation of the human race. And do we not find ourselves sometimes repenting because we have, as it were, let the human side down?

IT IS true that, if we are Christians, we shall go on and refer all values and judgments of value to God—"against Thee only have I sinned"; but the primary impulse towards repentance was more complex. Perhaps imaginary "hard cases" are dangerous playthings when used to sharpen our wits, but they may help to bring a train of thought to a point. I once took part in that amusing and charming game on the BBC called "Desert Island Discs" which aims at getting some individual to choose what records he would take to a desert island. It occurred to me that if a man were actually in a situation where it was certain that he would never get back to human society, that until he died he would never have any neighbours, he would have to worry not about discs, but about whether he was going to stay human.

I MAINTAIN that in such circumstances he would have a duty to himself. Having been endowed with reason and imagination and having advanced some way in humane living, he was bound to be a loyal servant and defender of the values which wer e incarnate in him. When we encounter drug addicts or meths—soakers our reaction surely is compassion that they have not loved themselves enough; perhaps they were not warned that we can sin against ourselves.

And now they cannot forgive themselves or retrace their steps. The Christian hope that evil is never invincible is based on the faith that, in the last resort, all sins, those against our neighbours and those against ourselves as well as those against God are really against God. And He can forgive.

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MAKING RESTITUTION

IN debates on the subject of punishment we often hear much more about penalties for culprits than about restitution for their victims, but in fact most people feel that the administration of justice shows its imperfection precisely there.

The contemplation of retired criminals who, after serving a few years sentence, live prosperously on their ill-gotten gains while those unfortunate individuals who have been defrauded exist in poverty, causes the most law—abiding citizens to think tolerantly of exasperated demanders of restitution who take the law into their own hands. As private and sincere Christian individuals we are required to direct our own lives according to a higher standard of justice than that of the law of the land, and to harmonise in our thinking the ideal of justice with the principle of love. A searching question for some of us when we examine ourselves is, have I been unjust to anyone? And if the answer is that we have, our first reaction should be, I must put it right; I must make restitution.

IT IS EASY TO overlook the more subtle types of injustice which are words rather than deeds, but none the less injurious. We may be unjust in our spoken judgment of other persons, perhaps because we like to appear to be important and to have important friends. And, most subtle of all temptations, we can be unjust by our silence. It may be supposed that this kind of injustice, which consists in allowing false rumours of discreditable actions to be repeated in our presence without contradiction, is most tempting in democratic societies where power depends on popular votes.

To imagine a hotly contested election in which party proposals and party leaders are the subjects of emotional controversy but is conducted with scrupulous regard to the danger of unjust accusations by all concerned is certainly difficult, but reflection will persuade any intelligent Christian, or Humanist, that unless there is a "hard core" of just persons who are determined to be just in thought and word through all the excitement, the democracy is likely to be on the path to tyranny. For the Christian the prayer of the collect for Whitsunday is always in season—that in the power of the Holy Spirit he "may have a right judgment in all things".

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LOVING AND KNOWING

THE Epistle for the first Sunday after Trinity (1 Jno. iv, 7ff) is the classical statement of St. John's understanding of the "loving" and "knowing." Because love is from God, the Apostle claims, everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The English word "love" is an unsatisfactory translation of St. John's Greek, because it is too wide, covering states of mind and feeling which are very far from the New Testament sense of "agape." Thus some erotic passions, which have often been confused with the love of which St. John speaks are predominantly selfish, aiming at the possession and domination of the beloved.

THE APOSTLE means by love unselfish generosity, which gives without thought of reward. The love which God gives is displayed in the Incarnation, in which the Only Begotten Son of God gives Himself for the salvation of all men. "We love because He first loved us"; we should not know how to love if He had not revealed to us how He loves. The way of love to our brethren is, so St. John asserts, the way to a knowledge of God. We must distinguish between two kinds of knowing—"knowledge about" and "knowledge of." The difference is clear enough in our personal relations, for we may know much about another person, many facts, and yet know very little of what he is in himself; only when we love him, have a concern about him, and sincerely desire his welfare do we begin really to know him as a person. St. John's thought is that, in so far as we have the kind of love which God has for us, we know Him; we know Him in loving our fellow men.

There is often talk of "Christian Agnosticism." In a sense it might be said that St. John is not opposed to the idea, in that he recognises the limits of our knowledge about God. "No one has seen God at any time"; even the revelatory visions of inspired prophets have fallen short of clear and direct apprehension of the divine nature, but the agnosticism is not absolute, for "God himself dwells in us if we love one another."

IN THESE days, when many questions about religious truth are publicly debated, we may be disturbed and find no sure answers to doubts which arise in our minds. Perhaps the problems arc beyond our intellectual scope, or indeed of any human intelligence. We may turn in such a predicament to seek knowledge of God where St. John looked for it. It is not beyond our capacities to try to love our brethren more sincerely and generously, and prove in experience that "everyone who loves is a child of God and knows God."

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WHAT I AM

"By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor 15): fascinating words which invite many reflections. First let us clear up a possible mistaken meaning. I have to confess that I have taken them to be "humanistic" in purpose, one more voice in the chorus of praise for man as he is.

On reflection, however, we perceive that Paul is vindicating his apostolic authority while repudiating any personal merit. He was what he was not because he deserved to hold the office but solely by the grace of God. He could not regard his career as a steady progress in virtue and wisdom as a noble pagan like Marcus Aurelius might have done; in his estimation he had two careers, or perhaps one career abruptly severed into two parts, the first part the career of a "natural" man without insight with unruly passions and the persecutor of the followers of Christ, and the second part when he had been converted and filled with the grace of God. In the second part of his career he was in a sense still a humanist and could say "I am a man," but, owing to the transforming power of grace he was bound to say more than "I am a man"—he was a new man, one who had been born again.

AN OBVIOUS reflection which will occur to anyone who is concerned with the training of children in morals and good citizenship is that while public—spirited Christians and non—Christian humanists can go a long way together ("for example, they will find themselves agreeing on much in the sphere of social justice") in the last stages of the journey their paths lie apart. And when we push our search for understanding a little further it is plain that the one word "grace" is the point where the conflicts starts. Do I need grace in order to be a "proper man" or can I do what is necessary myself?

Perhaps if we are doubtful about ourselves we could try an experiment, or rather a special observation. When we are faced by some unexpected trial which taxes our strength what encouragement do we instinctively give ourselves—"Be a man" or "Be a new man by grace"? It was only recently that after many years of Christian ministry I found myself saying to a troubled person "Come, be a man." How much more relevant it would have been to say, "Come, remember that you are a new man by the grace of God."

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INSPIRED PRAYER

ST. PAUL was worried about prayer. Reading his letters we soon become aware that he was thrilled by the experiences of personal prayer which were breaking out in all his scattered congregations but concerned about their rationality. Ecstatic utterances, "speaking in tongues," claimed to be caused by the Holy Spirit but often they were unintelligible to hearers and one had to wait for an inspired interpreter to elucidate the original "spiritual" message.

One purpose in particular runs through all the recorded comments of the Apostle on the phenomenon of ecstatic prayer— to keep prayer in touch with human reason. In the letters to the Corinthians he reduces his attitude to epigrammatic terseness: "I will pray as I am inspired to pray, but I will also pray intelligently" (1 Cor. xiv, 15 N.E.B.). Of course it could be objected that prayer inspired by the Spirit might transcend the understanding of men. To this, I think, the Apostle would have replied that in such a situation the "speaker with tongues" should be silent.

HOW STRANGE it is that so many of the questions which challenged the Apostolic direction of the church in the First Century are very much alive today. Ecstatic utterances which come in the guise of "inspiration" are to be found in many Christian circles, not only in "fringe" congregations but in the historical Churches with traditions of worship and liturgy. And we may be thankful that this phenomenon has not been dismissed offhand as dangerous superstition while there is no fanatical rush to accept all the reports uncritically. Like St. Paul, we keep hold of the belief that God is wisdom and His revelations will not overthrow human understanding.

The "modern mind," however, may be inclined to differ from St. Paul's assumption that prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit and a "hearty desire to pray" is a gift of grace. The scientific "objective" approach to such an object as prayer may make the comprehension of its reality impossible. We are apt to think of spiritual experiences and mystical states of consciousness as things which can be contrived and deliberately brought into existence by psychological techniques.

Some plausible resemblance to prayer may be achieved but the real object of our search was lost from the beginning when we started out forgetting God. The way to reality in this field of inquiry has been called "Waiting upon God." The principal requirement in those who wait is to keep awake.

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TRUE RELIGION

THE nature of religion and the meaning of "true religion" are questions much debated, and in the Epistle of James (Jas. i, 22ff.) we may think we have found a biblical answer to them. "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world," we are told, is religion "pure and undefiled." From this some have deduced that conduct is the only important element in religion and everything else in it can safely be ignored. "For creeds and laws let fools and bigots fight: He can't be wrong whose life is in the right." The Greek word, however, translated "religion" seems to be used normally for a particular aspect of religion—its outward expression, especially in public worship, and if we follow St. James's argument it is clear that religion for him consists in "hearing the word," remembering it and doing what it enjoins. Right conduct flows from attending to a divine message, understanding it and believing it.

WE CANNOT quote St. James as authorising us to sweep away all doctrine and theology together with all study of liturgy and the modes of Christian worship. This does not imply that his dictum on pure religion has no relevance to Christian thought. We may take it as a warning that our thinking must never lose sight of the practical problems of Christian living in the world. Theology can be a fascinating study of questions which open out unlimited fields for speculation, controversy and research—enough to absorb the interest and energy of a lifetime. I cannot but think that too often theologians would have done better if they had constantly borne in mind that the beliefs which they analysed were the stay and inspiration of millions of simple persons who were trying to follow Christ by loving their neighbours and preserving their integrity against the lower standards of the world around them.

NOR CAN we dismiss as negligible the inquiry by learned men intd forms of Christian worship. The history of liturgies can help to bring us into contact with the experience and devotion of former generations, and it is no unworthy task to seek the words and acts which express most adequately the worship which we owe to God as revealed in Christ, but here most of all it can be fatal to forget the world which lives and struggles outside the Church. In this aspect of religion we can apply the test, "by their fruits." A technically perfect service may be deaf and dumb, if it has no power to move us to acts of love and purity of heart, while no doubt many a deplorable service, from the aesthetic and liturgical points of view, is blessed by God because it is understood by the hearts and minds of sinners who are endeavouring to be saints.

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WORKS OF DARKNESS

THE season of Advent speaks of opposites and contrasts. It turns our thoughts to the "Last Things," including the Day of Judgment, but also to the First Things, the Creation and the first coming of Christ. We are summoned to face the darkness of this world and to believe in the Light of the World. And these opposites appear most clearly in the day by day experience of the Christian disciple, for we are told that only the Light of the World can overcome the world, but in the same breath, as it were, we are awakened to take urgent measures in a terrible crisis.

St. Paul's clarion call rings out in the Advent Epistle to wake out of sleep and "to cast off the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light" (Rom. xiii, n, 12). The situation baffles logical analysis, which must seek to define the relation between "grace" and "free will," but every veteran Christian soldier knows that, in his victories over evil, his human will has been upheld by grace.

The symbols of light and darkness have been prominent in many religions and philosophies. Particularly are they appropriate when evil is seen to be allied to ignorance and stupidity while redemption, or salvation, can be understood as an "enlightenment," a perception of reality. The conflict of light and darkness comes home to sensitive minds with special force when the social order is threatened by violence and opportunities to "reason together" are limited by fanaticism. At such times deeds of darkness multiply and the light of reason and understanding is befogged by passion or fear.

THE PUBLIC-SPIRITED, but somewhat prosaic, Liberal reformers of the 19th century were on the right track when they strove to let the light of publicity in upon many hidden abuses of their time, and it is still true secrecy in public affairs can be a danger and public opinion, when adequately informed, can be a safeguard. But the only sure answer to deeds of darkness is to expose them to the Light of the World.

At this moment a man may be preparing a bomb which he intends to throw in a crowded town to further, as he thinks, some just cause. Some of the throwers of bombs are believers in God the father in Heaven and in His Son, the Light of the World. One minute's thought would show up the ugliness of his intention and instead of throwing a bomb he might "throw off the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light."

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REALLY RICH

ST PAUL'S correspondence with the church in Corinth became later stormy, but as the Epistle for tomorrow reminds us (1 Cor i 4ff) it began in quite a sunny spirit. The Apostle is eloquent on his causes for thankfulness when he thinks of Corinthian Christians. No doubt such language was tactful but it was also certainly sincere and we can accept his judgment that they were exceptionally fortunate being "in everything enriched" by the grace of God. He means by "enrichment" the enlargement and deepening of personalities.

It was evidently closely connected with the intellectual development of converts, for it is described as manifesting itself "in all utterance and in all knowledge." Later St. Paul had some criticisms to make on their attitude towards knowledge and utterance, but this does not annul our definite impression that the coming of Christianity to Corinth had been the occasion of intellectual and moral awakening in some quarters. Why this should have been is easy to understand. The Gospel as preached by Paul was a liberating message in many respects. The end of effete paganism appeared when the idols were overthrown and faith in One God who is holy and loving was proclaimed. When too the salvation, which so many longed for, was translated out of myth into the teaching and sacrifice of a divine Hero who had really walked the earth and suffered cruel injustice from the rulers of this evil world intelligent pagans were confronted by a challenge to their consciences and their understandings. The challenge was the moment of release from irrational hopes and fears and for some it was a way to experience of reality. They were enriched as persons.

SOMETHING LIKE THIS must have happened to many pagans who were converted by Paul and other propagandists and one wonders whether it can be seen at work in our churches today. Certainly there are many who can declare, with perfect truth, that they have been enriched by Christ in respect of communication and knowledge, but could one say that, in general, the conscious purpose of local churches is to stimulate sluggish intellects and encourage exchange of ideas? The "sacrifice of the intellect" in the past has been envisaged as entailing pious stupidity—the opposite of "enrichment." From the standpoint of St. Paul the offering of the mind to God means the full awakening of the intellect and its dedication to truth. Paul may have denounced quite fiercely what he believed were false ideas about God, but he never recommended anyone to cease thinking.

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FULLNESS OF GOD

CHRISTIAN teaching about God is under fire from two opposite sides. When we say, "I believe in God" we are met by the objection, "But you cannot define the word 'God' in that statement," and when we profess our belief in the Holy Trinity and all that it implies we are reproached with professing to have an impossible knowledge about Him.

We must admit that both these criticisms have some basis. It is true that we cannot define the incomprehensible being of God, and it is also true that we claim to have some profoundly important knowledge about Him. But there is no contradiction or absurdity in this position, nor in fact is it unique.

If the comparison may be allowed, we might refer to the case of the atom. There used to be a perfect logical definition of the atom; as its name indicated, it was conceived as a particle of matter that is indivisible.
As we all know, that definition has long ago been abandoned— but why? Not because we know less about the atom, but because we know much more. The definition was shattered by enlarged knowledge and experience.

I do not know whether there is now another accepted logical definition of the atom, but I am sure that, if there is, it will have to be revised again in the light of further knowledge. At any rate, no questions of definition will halt the progress of research, and, so far as I am aware, it has never been argued that because the atom cannot be precisely defined it, therefore, does not exist.

THE FACT is that definition plays a very small part in knowledge and, in the main, knowing consists in being able to describe more and more fully entities that we are unable to define.

To come down to the life of every day, when you come to know another person by living with him you do not find yourself in a better position to "define" him—if that is your aim, you would probably be well advised not to know too much about him—what you acquire by acquaintance is the ability to give an adequate description of him.

So it is with the divine nature. No human words or concepts can define the being of God. All the languages of revelation, and of doctrine, is descriptive, giving us image and thoughts which are approximate and imperfect, but which, at the same time, convey true knowledge in the form which our minds are able to apprehend.

MUCH MISUNDERSTANDING is caused when the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is treated as a logical puzzle or a theory of philosophy. Doubtless it has philosophical interest and can suggest interesting speculations, but its primary purpose is to provide us with a summary description of what Christian experience, starting with the revelation of Christ in the New Testament, has found God to be.

It is, first of all, a guide to worship that, so far as is possible, our devotion may be inspired by the fullness of God's revelation of Himself in Christ.

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LIKE THE WIND

IN St. John's Gospel we are told of a momentous conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus which turns upon the Holy Spirit (John iii, 3ff.). None can enter the Kingdom of God, Jesus declares, unless he has been "born again from water and spirit," and He proceeds td command the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit with the wind, which comes whence we know not, and goes whither we know not.

Force is given to the comparison by the fact that the Greek word for "wind" also means "spirit." We must note, too, that the new birth through the Spirit is connected with the water of baptism, indicating that the Church is to be the special sphere of the Spirit.

TO UNDERSTAND these words it is essential to read them in the context of the conversation. They are a reply to the question, "How can these things happen ?" Reason and commonsense would persuade us that rebirth is impossible, and the answer is that the Spirit trascends your reason and commonsense.

"There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy," and one of them is the reality of inspiration. Jesus, we may say, is affirming His own experience of the Spirit, which was not given to Mim "by measure" but fully and continuously, as against the dogmatism of Nicodemus.

We may sometimes feel that the Bible makes contradictory statements about the I loly Spirit. On the one hand He is symbolised by wind and fire, which suggests to one's mind burning zeal and overwhelming enthusiasm when translated into human terms, but on the other hand He is designated as the source of wisdom, true prudence and of inward peace.

IT IS certainly true that, in our experience, these two groups of qualities frequently prove to be incompatible with each other. The enthusiast is not commonly given to calm reflection, and the man of thought and mature judgment often laments that he has lost the eager devotion of his youth.

Yes, he laments, and that gives us the clue to our problem, for the enthusiast, too, if he stopped to think, would lament his lack of wisdom and understanding. Each can recognise the excellence of the other's virtue. The apparent contradiction is due to the limitation of our human nature and does not exist in the divine Spirit. The ideal towards which we should move is a wise zeal and a zealous wisdom. If we could perfectly grasp with our minds the truth of God and the nature of the supreme Good, we should be filled with inexhaustible enthusiasm.

From the beginning of the Church to the present day the difficulties caused by the two aspects of the Spirit have been present and too often it has not been understood that they are not really contradictory. The Apostolic insight in this matter is always relevant. "Quench not the Spirit"—don't despise or discourage enthusiasm: "test the spirits"—with loving tolerance judge whether they are in harmony with the mind of Christ.

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THOU SHALT NOT

CAN we do without the peremptory prohibitions of the Ten Commandments? The advocates of the "new morality" naturally think we can, but it seems that some who would claim to be believers in Judaism or Christianity think so too. The main argument against them is that they are purely negative, and, in form at least, like irrational taboos. But neither Jews nor Christians hold that prohibitions are enough, or that moral goodness consists in observing them. What is maintained is that such a series of negative commandments is an indispensable aid to moral development and cannot safely be thrown aside even by persons of mature character. Nothing could be clearer than that both Jesus and Paul taught the positive nature of goodness and the sovereign ideal of love of God and love of the neighbour, but both emphasised the need for "the Law" as a preparation for the higher righteousness of the gospel. Love of God and neighbour is not the destruction of the Law, but its fulfilment.

IF WE remember how our own consciences began and grew, we shall agree that our first inkling of the difference between right and wrong came to us in the form of "Thou shall not." There were some things that we must not do, and some impulses that we had to restrain. If our parents were wise, they told lis some reasons for these irksome restrictions, but they could not tell us all the reasons and, to a large extent, we had to accept them on authority. Perhaps it may be said that we should have been better if we had not been restricted at all and had grown up perfectly "free." But this is absurd, for one of the chief necessities for development into a full person is to learn to control our impulses and not to indulge every desire that drifts into our minds. A man who completely failed to acquire this elementary self—control would not be exactly immoral—he would be an imbecile. "Thou shalt not" is not the last word in morals, but it is the first word.

NO DOUBT "a just man made perfect," a man filled to overflowing with love of God and man, would need no laws; as St. Augustine said "he could do what he liked." Few of us would dare to imagine that we had attained such a state of grace. Let us own that, so far as goodness is concerned, we are not yet far along the road but are trying to keep to it. We know whom and what we have believed, but we do not always remember, nor can we always work out the application of our first principles to particular cases in an emergency. Learning the multiplication tables is theoretically a waste of time, because any intelligent schoolboy could work them out for himself, but some of us at least are glad that we know twelve times nine without asking every time how we know. Rules of conduct which we believe we could justify by referring to our fundamental convictions are useful guides to wayfarers and inevitably some of them will be prohibitions—"thou shalt not." Thou shalt not slander, murder, commit adultery, steal, covet; they don't take us all the way, but they are a good beginning.

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APPROVING THE EXCELLENT

"THAT ye may approve the things that are excellent", writes St. Paul in the Epistle to the Philippians (i, 10, ff.). It is a part of his prayer for the Christians at Philippi.

He is addressing persons who had effectively embraced the gospel, so that he can say, "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" and express his confidence that the good work which God has begun in them He will complete. He is concerned with their progress towards completeness, and one of his hopes is that they will approve things that are excellent.

As the condition for reaching this ability he prays that the love they already possess "may abound in knowledge and judgment", or discrimination.

In every sphere of human activity the capacity and the will to approve things that are excellent is the safeguard against degeneration, and the more spiritual the activity is, the greater the need for this discriminating approval.

Unless there are some who can distinguish the truly excellent in art and literature from the spurious, the insincere and the imitative, both art and literature will steadily decline into merely commercial productions whose sole purpose is to entertain and make money.

So it is too in the realm of religion and morality. They will decline into convention and routine if there are not some among us who can appreciate and admire genuine goodness and worship in the Spirit.

THIS POWER of discrimination in art and literature is not gained in a day. It is not sufficient to say, "I know what I like"; we have to train ourselves to like what is really worthy of love and admiration.

And this we can do only by living with the works of great artists or great writers until we acquire a kind of instinct which guides us to a right judgment when new works of art or literature are brought to our notice.

In the same way we can acquire the spiritual discernment which recognises real holiness only if we live with the great exemplars of heroic virtue as they are known in history and pre—eminently in the life of Christ and His apostles.

But this is not all. One of the possible dangers of "having good taste" in art is that we may close our minds to new departures. Some artist or poet perhaps expresses himself in a fresh idiom which breaks some of the accepted rules and we are shocked and disturbed by what is strange. It may be that the innovator is really a foolish rebel who has nothing to say, but it may also be that he is a pioneer who is presenting to us a new form of excellence. We may disapprove too readily.

IN THE LIFE of religion and attempts after the good life there are similar situations. Holiness has many forms and it is possible to forget this if we have narrowed our company of saints too jealously.

So many of the real heroes of the Spirit have been dismissed as tiresome fellows, or even sinners, because they exhibited a different kind of goodness from that which was accepted and admitted at the time, and they suffered from the lack of those who could "approve things that are excellent" in the Church of their day. Saints are not labelled with haloes until after they are dead.

It is worth noting that St. Paul does not say, "Disapprove tilings that are not excellent", which is easy and gives us a sense of superiority; he says, "Approve the things that are excellent", which is difficult and demands the humility that is willing to learn.

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FOR ALL MEN

THE story of the Wise Men from the East who were led by a star to the cradle of the newborn King, beautiful as it is, raises questions about its historic accuracy and one question which is not precisely historical. The Magi were evidently astrologers; are we to understand that astrology has biblical authority? In a wider sense, however, the story has an undoubted historical basis. There was at the time of Jesus's birth an expectation of the coming of a personal Saviour or Messiah not only among the Jews but among many other races and nations. To those who first read the Gospel of St. Matthew it would not have seemed strange that wise men should have come from afar to worship him.

THE SIGNIFICANCE of the story for those for whom the Gospel was originally written was that in His infancy the Lord Jesus had been shown forth as the Saviour of all men; aliens came to do Him homage. In this respect the Epiphany links up with history, for it adumbrated the shape of things to come. It is a commonplace to all readers of the New Testament that the really crucial question which divided the nascent Church was whether all men, of whatever race or creed, were equally eligible for membership. A strong party held that the invitation to discipleship was primarily for Jews and others could be welcomed into the fellowship only if they undertook some of the obligations of the Jewish religion. Their idea was apparently that there could be first-and second-class Christians. In the Epistle for Epiphany (Eph. iii, I ff.) St. Paul sums up his own conviction, or rather his "revelation": "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs and of the same body and partakers of his promise in Christ, by the Gospel". The Epiphany, the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, was proceeding, and would proceed, so long as the world lasted. That St. Paul's revelation prevailed meant the acceptance of the world-wide mission of the Church and the irrevocable stamping of Christianity as a universal religion.

THE IMPLICATIONS of Epiphany are too numerous to mention here: they are indeed inexhaustible. There is one, however, which is peculiarly relevant to our present situation. In old times those who failed to grasp the gospel of the Epiphany thought that all Christians must resemble themselves in customs and habits of thought. We too are tempted to adopt a similar restrictive prejudice. When we preach the gospel to non-Europeans let us not confuse it with European culture, or English social customs. The Gentiles who came into the Church brought with them new gifts which enriched the Church and deepened its understanding of Christ. So it may be again.

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GOD'S SECRETS

FROM St. Paul's Epistles we might set out to collect some interesting information on his conception of the Christian ministry. Speaking for himself, and presumably for other ministers, he claims that they are "stewards"—housekeepers responsible for the stores in a house and their distribution. Of what, then, are they stewards? The answer is "mysteries" or secrets which they have to disclose or impart to their fellow-Christians.

This "secret" is characterised as "wisdom"—a wisdom quite different from the so-called wisdom of "the world" and its philosophies and which, being beyond the comprehension of "natural" men and women, can be grasped only by those who are "spiritual". The Apostle complains that the Corinthians are, for the most part, only "babes" in Christ and capable of assimilating only "milk"; their propensity to jealousy and strife and to setting up one Apostle against another is proof that they are immature and unfit to feed on solid food. The divine secret is connected with the purpose of including "Gentiles," all races without distinction, in the fellowship of the gospel, and probably the Epistle to the Romans represents St. Paul's most complete statement of the "mysteries" of which he was steward.

THE FIRST letter to the Corinthians is full of fascinating openings for reflection. Here it is possible only just to indicate two of them. The development of the spiritual life is analogous to the development of the natural life. It begins with a kind of infancy, but it grows towards adult fulfilment. Until that stage has been reached, the wisdom which is of God cannot be apprehended, and, it would seem, in St. Paul's view should not be presented to the unspiritual believer. This may be a point of difference from much Christian practice. Is it really the best plan to attempt to teach the whole Christian faith to minds which are as yet in the earliest stages of experience, to tell, for example, the whole doctrine of atonement and forgiveness to those who have no sense of sin?

Another subject for reflection is the place of the intellect in heavenly wisdom. The revealed mystery is evidently an enlightenment, answering questions which weigh on the awakened soul. It may be that the "natural" man does not feel the weight and is not anxious to answer the questions. The beginning of "wisdom" is often perplexity about the self and the universe in which we live.

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NO MORE SEEN

OUR English Psalter abounds in phrases which haunt our minds and meet our needs. What could be more poignant in days of affliction and bereavement than the words of a poet who wrote with a heavy heart, "O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength, before I go hence and am no more seen" ? (Ps.xxxixv. 13.) When a dear companion is taken from us the thought that pierces our hearts is that we shall see him or her no more nor hear the familiar voice. The fact of mortality glares in our face and demands to be considered. Stand in some great assembly, say a political conference, and ask yourself what is the real situation. All these animated persons, with their ambitions, their conflicts and plans, before very long will be no more seen; they will have ceased to be extant in this world. They will be forgotten. Are we not moved to cry: "What shadows we are and what shadows we pursue"? And if we do not believe in a personal God, we may have to leave it there.

BUT NOT IF we are Christians. We must indeed encounter the dreadful truth of mortality and not attempt to divert our eyes from it, but we dare not stop with it. We know that we who are alive are not shadows; our own existence is the one thing which we cannot doubt; and we believe that our existence is a derived existence which has always depended on God. We exist because God thinks of us and sees us—and loves us. "The very hairs of our head are numbered." We cannot believe that death means God has ceased to think of us, to see us and to love us. The dear companion whose loss we mourn is no more seen by us, but is perpetually seen by God. With this thought and faith, we may hope that we too may hereafter see the loved companion again. Speculation about how and where is of little profit, for our imaginations are earthbound. The essential truth is that we are not shadows and that we depend on a personal Creator who loves us.

WE ARE NOT shadows, but do we pursue shadows? We must own that many of the aims which direct our lives have one aspect in which they resemble shadows—they have an element of illusion. Some of them are due to an illusion about value. We seek a satisfaction in objects which cannot give us what we hoped for. The voluptuary assumes that happiness consists in an uninterrupted series of pleasures, but he is deceived; the aim is unattainable, and if adopted as a settled policy, leads to misery. But are ourmore rational and unselfish aims "shadows"? Up to a point perhaps they are, for even the most noble purposes for the welfare of mankind are subject to mortality and change, nor is our wisdom enough to be sure that there are no illusions in our hopes. But we may work for temporal aims in the power of an eternal life, and many dedicated men whose projects have, in the opinion of the multitude, come to naught have been part of the witness that the human spirit is "capable of divinity"—touched by the Eternal.

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TRUST PROVIDENCE

THE movement which calls loudly for action to ensure the survival of the human race in its earthly home has been met by several different personal reactions. One of them is the "It will last my time" response, hardly worthy of a Christian. A more spiritual reply—one whjch seems to be almost on the tip of the tongue of many believers is, "Well, I put my trust in Providence. God's will must be fulfilled."

I suppose there are no thoughtful Christian believers who would refuse to assent to the doctrine of the providential guidance and purpose in the events of history and of our individual lives, but that doctrine does not abolish our freedom of choice altogether and we misunderstand it if we make use of it to evade our responsibilities for future developments. In spite of the difficulty we may have in reconciling human free-will with divine Providence, the New Testament teaches that, while the will of God is always done, the will of individual human beings may be disobedient.

ST PAUL was writing, as he believed, in "evil times" in which Christian believers were called to redeem them, by themselves being wise, "understanding what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. v, 16, 17). Theologians have sometimes explained for our benefit that the Will of God must be viewed from at least two different aspects. The "sustaining" Will of God maintains the whole framework or system of the Universe, and, within that framework, the Creator is moving in the realm of personalities and families, of spiritual values and all that is connoted by the Kingdom of God. Not until we have assimilated this conception of the Will of God can we hope to have an answer to the question, from the Christian standpoint, "Is human life on this earth worth preserving?"

There will be some further questions to face, if some groups of of scientists are right. Who can foresee the measures which will seem to be expedient in dealing with the major menaces? Ethical problems will arise and perhaps the searching test will come when Christian believers will be asked to accept "mortal sins" as strategy for survival. Must the race survive at any cost?

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HEARING AND ASKING

ST. LUKE tells us that when Jesus was 12 years old he was found in the Temple with the Doctors of the Law "hearing them and asking them questions" (Luke ii, 41 ff). His development seems to have taken the course which we know from the records of many men of genius. At that age Mozart was composing music which is ranked as part of his "opus"; great artists have shown their quality and poets too have "lisped in numbers for the numbers came" while still children.

Luke's brief narrative tells us something about the child's attitude to the doctors. He heard what they had to say and asked questions. Any teacher knows the significance of these words. The first step is to persuade the child to listen, to give some attention. Much education never gets off the ground because the children are not interested. Every teacher knows too the importance of the child's questions and the thrill when one comes which indicates he is thinking for himself, trying to grasp and understand.

The story also indicates the nature of the gospel which came into His mind. It was not something absolutely new. He did not aim at founding a new religion. Jesus listened to the Doctors and asked them to explain. Through criticism, meditation and prayer He came, as He believed, to an understanding of the religion of the Hebrews and was able to fulfil and go beyond it.

IN THE HISTORY OF CHRIST'S CHURCH we may see reflected the mind of Jesus and His hearing and asking. There are times when hearing is the main business and there is not a pressing need to get answers to questions. But the Church may go on being satisfied with listening too long and may fall into the habit of repeating answers without really knowing what they mean. Then come epochs like the present when questions are in the very air we breathe; when they are shouted at us and we do not find an answer. That is because we, and perhaps our fathers too, were not alert and lulled ourselves with formulas and pious phrases which we had not criticised and tested.

In our personal religion we need to hear. We cannot make a religion for ourselves out of a lot of unanswered questions. Jesus did not refuse to listen to the Doctors. Nor shall we be wise if we pay no attention to what "our fathers have told us"; but we must not stifle our intelligence or disdain to notice the criticisms of thoughtful people. We may remember, in our mental struggle, that when Jesus was asking questions He said he was in 1 lis Father's service.

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THE COMING OF CHRIST

A CHRISTMAS MEDITATION

THE popular celebration of Christmas as a religious festival concentrates almost solely on the opening chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, which are the only descriptions in the New Testament of the birth of Jesus. This is a pity, because the whole New Testament is pervaded by the conviction that the coming of Christ is an event of momentous significance and the various writers have different conceptions of it which call for attention.

What better exercise on Christmas Eve than to look through the Gospels and Epistles with the purpose of getting a balanced view of the Biblical teaching on the Coming of Christ?

The earliest Christian writing which has come down to us is in the Epistles of St. Paul and in one of the first, if not the first, of his letters we have a brief but striking reference to the birth of Christ. "When the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal. iv 4, 5).

Though St. Paul does not refer to miracle at the birth, he asserts that it was both a human birth and a saving act of God. To St. Paul, the coming of Christ as man was the first step in the process of voluntary humiliation by the Son of God who for us emptied himself of his glory and took the "form of a servant," being "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil, ii 5ff).

The next scriptural document in order of antiquity is the Gospel of Mark, admitted by most authorities to be the oldest of the gospels. Matthew and Luke both incorporate most of Mark's material. Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Mark is that it has no reference at all to the birth and youth of Jesus.

Try to read Mark right through as if you had never seen or heard of a gospel; I think you will be surprised. It starts with defiant abruptness; "Here begins the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." Then without affording biographical information, it quotes some words of Isaiah about preparing the way of the Lord, briefly introduces John the Baptist and tells of the voice from Heaven while Jesus was being baptised, "Thou art my only Son," which it is evidently the chief concern of the writer to impress on the reader.

A curt note on the temptation of Christ by Satan in the wilderness completes the breathless account of the appearance of Christ on the scene and Mark passes on to the coming of the Kingdom of God, which is his real theme. "After John had been arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God: The time has come; the Kingdom of God is upon you; repent and believe the gospel."

If we could have asked St. Mark how he would distinguish between the coming of Christ and the coming of the Kingdom, I think he would have replied that there was no difference.

The gospels of Matthew and Luke, which are the sources of what is called the "mythology" of the birth stories, come from the believing community of the primitive Church which, as we have seen, had no doubt that the coming of Christ was a redemptive act of God. This belief did not rest upon the miracle stories because it is plain that many Christians, probably Paul among them, who staked their lives on the conviction that Christ was the Redeemer, either had not heard of, or did not believe, them.

Here, it seems, we have a guide to the way through a modern difficulty. Can a man who doubts the historicity of the narratives of Christ's birth claim that he holds the Christian faith and recite the creed with a clear conscience? Judging by what seems to have been the Apostolic attitude in the early years, it is enough if one believes that the coming of Christ into the world was an act of God and the revelation of his redeeming love.
The narratives in question, particularly that of Luke, have a peculiar beauty and possibly a peculiar truth. Legend, myth, superstition (as in the story of the Magi) cannot be excluded and yet none of these words is adequate. The birth stories are suffused with prophecy and poetry; they could be dream or vision, revealing truth which could not be otherwise conveyed. They do not measure up to the canons of historical evidence, but that does not inhibit a rational man from believing them to be veridical.

To accept them by an act of faith as a part of revealed truth is a perfectly defensible position. Not less defensible is the position of the man who accepts the story of the miraculous birth as significant symbol.
Does historical honesty compel us to give up the loved figure of the girl who was chosen to be the Mother of the Redeemer and accepted the burden, and the sword piercing her heart, with thanksgiving? Must we forget "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word"?

The Virgin Birth of Christ can never be proved by historical evidence, nor can it be disproved. The conclusion that we may reach must depend to a large extent on our presuppositions, which may be recognised by us or unrecognised. To examine them is a necessary step towards clear thinking on most subjects, but specially on religious problems.

Here it must suffice to say that the persons in the Apostolic age who put out the report on Christ's supernatural birth believed in the living God who acted in history and human affairs and only those who hold to that belief in the present age are likely to be persuaded by St. Luke.

The Gospel appointed for Christmas day is the opening passage of St. John's Gospel, which is a great theological statement on the Being of God and his relation with man.

Where the gospel of St. Luke presents the imagination with memorable pictures and images of the "new-born King," that of St. John lays down an eternal truth about the Godhead: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Greek expression means "thought" or "reason" as well as "word," and the "beginning" spoken of is not priority in time but in order of reality.

Though the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not explicitly stated in the New Testament, its foundation is laid here and elsewhere in this Gospel. The language of St. John's prologue connects his thought with both Hebrew and Greek religious teaching and some difference of opinion is possible on the question which is the predominant influence. The translation of John's Greek into English gives rise to paradoxical phrases which are due to the mystical doctrine being expounded.

Though Mark and John are far apart in some respects, they are close together in important matters relating to the Coming of Christ. Like Mark, John has no account of the Lord's birth, though he may well have known of miracle stories about it; and, again like Mark, he puts John the Baptist in the forefront of his opening.

The divine Word is life and the life is the light of men, so runs John's revelation, and the light, coming into the world, lights every man. This "coming" is an eternal coming. The Light of the world came to "his own"—to those who belonged to the sphere of light— but they rejected him. Some however, did not reject him and to them he gave power to become sons of God.

Did John believe that Jesus was born miraculously? He does not tell us, but he asserts that those to whom "the Word" gives power to become sons of God are born "not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God." The meaning and consequences of the central affirmation of John's Gospel, "The Word was made flesh," are inexhaustible and can suggest meditations of deep intellectual interest; but the mystical is also the practical. Because the Coming of Christ is not only an event but an eternal truth, it can never be unreal or out of date; and for the same reason, it can always be put to the test of experience.

According to John we do not have to travel to Bethlehem. Bccause we are "his own," we may receive him and he may be born in us and we may be born again in him.

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MORAL PRINCIPLES

ARE we better than our fathers? Or, to put the question impersonally, has there been moral progress ? Answer is difficult, largely because we have only vague ideas of what we mean by the terms. It might be a good start to note that "moral progress" has two aspects, a theoretical and a practical. The ideals which are accepted as reasonable, or the principles regarded as unquestionable, in any living community are subject to change and we may judge the change in our civilisation to be for the worse or for the better. A society may fail to adapt its moral ideal to accord with new opportunities and needs or it may meet the challenge.

In this respect, we may feel that in our civilisation there has been progress. Exclusive nationalist or racialist idealism has given way to a large care for the welfare of mankind. Youth's idealism has become unselfish, even though sometimes ill-informed. The i8th-century moralist, Bishop Butler, included "indignation against successful vice" among the virtues of the truly good man. One suspects that he might have approved the motives of some students' protests while deploring their violence.

Another aspect of moral progress concerns the individual and his character. All the great moralists have, in divers manners, taught that we must labour in the perfecting of ourselves. Self-control in the service of the Beautiful and the Good: discipline of the passions to subdue them to the rule of reason: bringing all thoughts and imaginations into obedience to Christ: these guiding maxims, though not identical, have one conviction in common, they agree that moral progress must include, as a major requirement, the remaking of the self and that there can be no satisfying moral progress which leaves out the thirst for perfection and harmony of the individual self. "Ye shall be perfect", said Christ.

IS IT NOT JUST HERE that our question about moral progress falters? What sad delects lie behind the drug-addiction which threatens even children at school? Why is this present generation of adolescent boys and girls, which has such generous enthusiasm for justice and such compassion for suffering, the generation which is tempted more than any previous one by the chemicals which sap the intelligence and the will? Why do they abandon the search for perfection when it has scarcely begun? Could it be that the permissive society and its negations have seeped into the homes and schools of our land ?

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LENT, PASSIONTIDE, THE CROSS, THE RESURRECTION, EASTER FAITH

ATONEMENT

ALL religious statements have an aura of mystery and there is no more certain way of misunderstanding them than assuming that they can be made clear by simple common sense. Of course the sceptics allege that, when thought out, religious doctrines are not mysterious but nonsensical. To an intelligent believer in God, however, the situation in which we find ourselves is what we might have expected, for it would be astonishing if finite and limited minds could grasp the whole truth about the purposes of the Eternal Creator, while it would be paradoxical to imagine that human intelligence is totally incapable of even the dimmest inkling of God.

This blending of knowledge and obscurity, of insight and mystery, is most obvious in the Christian teaching on the Cross and Passion of Jesus. When we contemplate the event which is recorded as happening long ago in Jerusalem it is, from one point of view, a deplorable judicial murder, the like of which occurred in every century. But the Christian assertion is that on the cross the Son of God suffered that He might be the Saviour of the world by taking away the sin and guilt of all mankind.

The attempt to explain and justify this belief, which was a part of the earliest Christian preaching and experience, has taken more than one form and it would hardly be an exaggeration to say that all the leading ideas and themes in the history of religion have some place in the chaplet of thoughts and imaginations which has been woven round the Crucified.

TWO THEMES are dominant—that of the anointed Servant of God and that of the sacrifice of propitiation and reconciliation. Both of these ideas have been powerful—and dangerous. What tyrannies and atrocities have been perpetrated by men who were deluded by the concept of a divine mission to rule and dictate, and what deep stains of blood there are in the record of sacrifice and particularly of human sacrifice! Yet these two ideas are central in the Christian doctrine of the Atonement.

Should we be dismayed by this ? Shall we repudiate the ancestry of our doctrine ? The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews would point to another way. These imperfect and crude thoughts were not just foolish errors or expressions of repressed impulses; they were shadows of the reality which was to be revealed in Christ, who was the real Anointed One and whose sacrifice was the true sacrifice of the spirit. Contemplating the Passion, let us try to interpret all the aspects and details as spiritual. It could be a profitable reflection to ask ourselves what we mean by "the precious blood of Christ."

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THE MEDIATOR

THE Epistle for Passion Sunday (Heb ix. 11 ff) brings before us one of the significant "names" of Christ which has special relevance to His death. He is "the Mediator of a New Covenant." The word is not very frequently used in the New Testament, but the idea pervades it. Mediation is closely connected verbally with "middle" and a possible translation would be "middle man." But "mediation" has none of the unpleasant meanings which can be attached to middle.

A mediator is someone who gets in the middle for a good purpose, and in Biblical language it denotes activity either in overcoming personal differences or in bringing about some desirable change. In the Epistle to the Hebrews Christ is the "Mediator of a new covenant," a new agreement between God and man, as a consequence of which men may have "the promise of eternal inheritance," which we may take to be what is called in St. John's Gospel "eternal" life.

ALL THIS is not difficult to understand. A man may doubt whether the statements are true but can hardly say that they convey no meaning to him. The full import of this passage is not disclosed, however, unless we give due emphasis to the "blood of Christ" which is, in the Apostle's view, the essential element. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through Eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." To us who have not lived in a civilisation in which animal sacrifice was a commonplace this language is perplexing and probably can never have the force which it had to the recipients of the Letter to the Hebrews, but we can understand the root meaning if we bear in mind that "covenants" were ratified by sacrifices and through sacrifice became binding, and that "the blood is the life." The author of this letter makes it plain that the sacrifice symbolised by the pouring out of blood was the offering of the life, Christ's offering of himself. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not: then said I, Lo, I am come to do Thy will, O God."

BUT WE do not need to stop our questions there. What is the meaning of the New Covenant? This wonderful letter answers that too in the words of Jeremiah, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days saith the Lord: I will put my laws on their heart and upon their mind also I will write them. And their sins and their iniquities I will remember them more."

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DIVINE SUFFERING

WHEN we contemplate Christ on the cross we are looking at a very good man being foully tortured to death. If that is all we can see it is still worth while, for our complacency needs constant shocks to remind us of all the unjust suffering which has been, and is being, inflicted on innocent persons; but if that is all that we can see there is no gospel in it, no good news, but rather very bad news, tending not to hope but despair. Only when, with the eye of faith, we see the Son of God dying for us men and our salvation do we have a gospel, and only when we include the Resurrection in our contemplation do we read a message of hope.

The idea that God could suffer and pass through the experience of death was shocking when it was first proclaimed both to Jews and Greeks and even to some early Christian believers who invented a theory that the Son of God only appeared to suffer and die. It seems to be shocking still, for we remember that Bernard Shaw fulminated against what he called "Crosstianity."

Does it shock us that suffering should enter into the life of God ? There is indeed a sense in which we ought to be shocked by the statement that God suffers. If we mean that suffering and defeat are the whole of the divine experience then we are committed to a belief worse than Atheism, for who could cry for help to a God who was always defeated ? But to say that suffering enters into the divine experience does not have this meaning. We are to think of the divine life as a continual overcoming of evil with good, of sin by holiness and of suffering by joy. The suffering is real and the conflict with it is real, but they are parts of the process which ends in their overcoming so that, if we may so speak, the dominant note of the divine experience is the joy of victory.

WE MAY wonder perhaps how a crucifixion which took place once for all so long ago could have cosmic significance and be a supreme revelation of the love of God. Part of the answer surely lies here, that the passion and resurrection of Christ can be seen as a kind of sacrament of the life of God. In terms of human existence and historical events, the nature of God is manifested, and the eternal activity of God shown forth in the life, death and victory of Jesus of Nazareth.

Lately we have heard discussions of the Immanence and Transcendence of God, and some confusion has arisen about the relation of the two in Christian belief. In the cross the transcendence and the immanence of God are displayed for our learning. God was never absent from the world or without witness: always He was present with men, but not until the coming of Christ was He fully revealed. In the fullness of time He revealed Himself in a life, a human life, in which He was immanent throughout.

But these matters are perhaps too profound for us who are engrossed with the trials and tensions of practical life. For us the plain good news is that we have to do with a God who, far from being aloof from our troubles, feels our suffering and forgives our sins, offering us the hope of sharing His victory and His joy.

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A TASK FOR LENT

THERE is no merit in making oneself miserable, and any self denial we may practise in matters of food during Lent is properly designed to help us to have a "time of refreshing from the Lord," spiritual release and joy.
It is a time to feed our souls. And how shall we do that better than by meditating on the Word of God ?

Though of course we must think of ourselves and of our sins of commission and omission, we are not to dwell over much on that depressing subject; rather we are to look away from ourselves to God revealed in Christ.
How many, even among convinced Christians, have read right through the New Testament as a single exercise and act of devotion ? It could easily be done before Easter, and is worth the effort, but to get the greatest benefit we ought to have a special theme or interest to guide our thoughts.

JUST TO read the New Testament through as it stands would be of inestimable advantage, but we should be wise to change the order in our reading so as to gain an impression of the continuity of the New Testament revelation.

Naturally we shall begin with the Gospels and first of all with the Gospel of Mark, which is the primary authority for the life of Jesus, and pass on to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, noting how they repeat Mark's story and add to the record of His teaching information of transcendent importance.

Then, if we take the advice of many commentators, we should read the Acts of the Apostles, not staying to study the many interesting historical questions which the book raises, but observing the growth of the Church and the deepening of its understanding of the Christ.

From then onwards we come to books which, as it were, present to us various aspects of Christ and interpretations of His Person and work; we can note the fundamental agreement of the writers and the differences of their individual experiences and presentations.

At the end, perhaps, we should read the Gospel of John and ask ourselves whether in it we have not the most profound interpretation of the Christ whom we had first met in the simple pages of Mark.
By the time that Easter had come we should be ready to embark on the mysterious and magnificent book of Revelation with its poetical and prophetic proclamation of the conquest of evil by Him who was dead and is alive for ever more.

LATER WE shall return to commentaries and scholarly helps to reading the Bible and be glad of their assistance, but it is salutary at times to let the Bible speak directly to us and to have the impact on our souls of the New Testament as a single book.

No one can predict what the effect of such a reading will be on another man. It is conceivable that he will reject the whole as legend and illusion, but it is more likely, I think, that he will feel at least that here is mystery and also deep and searching reality.

To the believer who makes this experiment it will bring a new sense of the manifold riches of Christ the Lord, and of his own failure to live up to his high calling.

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PRECIOUS BLOOD

"PASSION Sunday" begins to direct our thoughts to con-1 centrate on the event of the first Good Friday when, as Christians believe, the Lord Christ offered the sacrifice of Himself for the sins of all mankind. As a ritual the killing of animals in divine service is bizarre, and we must own that probably if we could be present at a sacrifice in the Temple of Solomon we should revolt against the proceedings. To us cutting animals' throats and sprinkling their blood is almost the last thing which would occur as pleasing to God. Yet the Christian liturgies and devotional literature abound in reference to the blood of Christ, and our hymns develop the theme. "There is a fountain with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins." To some this language and these images are repellent, but they do not stop to reflect that the repulsion they feel is largely due to the transformation of the idea of sacrifice in the later Hebrew Prophets and in the New Testament.

THE EPISTLE to the Hebrews is about Priesthood and Sacrifice as exemplified in Christ. Quoting the 40th Psalm, the author applies the words to the death of Christ (Heb. x, 5pp.) The poet declares that God has no desire for "sacrifice and offering" and goes on to indicate the kind of sacrifice in which He delights: "Then said I, lo, I come to do thy will, O God."

The offering of the person to do the will of God, the commitment of the whole personality and life to the service of God, is the acceptable sacrifice. This spiritual interpretation of sacrifice was perhaps connected with the mistaken belief that the blood is the life, which lies behind the more primitive sacrifices, but this is a matter of small importance. The supremely important fact is that this new insight was granted and the idea of sacrifice exalted from the level of error and superstition into that of spiritual and moral reality. The Epistle to the Hebrews still refers frequently to "blood," chiefly in connection with the "New Covenant," but we must always remember that the writer means not the material blood of a dying animal or a dying Man, but the dedicated life and personality.

THE AUTHOR of Hebrews then presents to us Christ as the perfect and sinless Priest and Victim, who offers Himself to the Father on behalf of the whole human race, reconciling it to God. But this is not to be understood as an action in which we have no part except to be passive recipients of its benefits: we are to follow Christ, and in union with Him to present ourselves as a living sacrifice.

The words "precious blood" can hardly now be replaced by others, but we must beware of falling back into an outworn and superstitious use of them. When we say them we should make sure that we have left magic behind and are thinking of life and personality. There is a hymn devoted to the Precious Blood which ends with the line, sung fortissimo, "Louder still and louder, praise the precious blood." Let us be careful that we do not make the precious blood an idol. We may sing the hymn without scruple if we can sing with all our hearts, "Praise the precious life."

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VICARIOUS PUNISHMENT

ONE aspect of the Atonement as understood by the Church is that Christ bore the due penalty of the sins of the whole world.

This conception of vicarious punishment is to be found in the New Testament and has entered deeply into Christian devotion, but to many today it seems both unreasonable and unjust.

What civilised judge would admit the possibility of a man undergoing a punishment for someone else's crime and allowing the culprit to go free. Stated baldly and in terms of ordinary human conditions the notion is preposterous. To get the idea, however, into proper focus we have to look at it in the light of two presuppositions which many of us do not make.

We have, first, to take seriously the belief that there is a divinely-established moral order which, owing to human sin, is realised only imperfectly. It follows from this principle that the purpose of punishment is not simply to protect society from criminals and, if possible, to reform them, but to vindicate the moral order.

Now it is contrary to that order that the wicked should prosper at the expense of the innocent, and one of the purposes of any system of law should be to see that, so far as human wisdom can effect it, honest men should live in peace while the unscrupulous and selfish individuals should suffer.

IF WE think, in our human way, of God as holy and just, we are committed to the belief that He is the moral governor of the universe and the sustainer of the moral law.

This does not conflict with the belief that He is love, nor does the lawful infliction of punishment where it is deserved contradict the command to love our neighbour because the collapse of the moral order would be the direst calamity which could befall mankind— including the criminals. Thus, to imagine that God must "let everyone off," because He is love, is to forget His holiness.

The second presupposition is that what the New Testament says about the possibility of identification of Christ with sinners, He being in them and they in Him, is not mystical metaphor but the description of a spiritual reality.

With these presuppositions in our mind, let us reconsider the doctrine of the atonement as the release from guilt and punishment. Christ the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, in sheer love and compassion for sinners, wills to identify Himself with them and to take them into Himself as a part of His experience.

HE IS not only the representative of sinful humanity; by His own will He includes them in Himself with all their evil deeds and foul imaginings. St. Paul boldly says that "He was made to be sin for us." Only one who was without sin himself could bear the penalty of all the sins of the world: He knew them. He experienced them in their full horror, while having no part in them.

This divine act of love is the atonement for the sins of the whole world. All are forgiven for Christ's sake. But we have to claim our forgiveness and respond to the self-giving of the Saviour with our own self-giving to Him. In so far as the identification of myself with Christ is real and I live in Him I can pray with confidence in the words of the hymn, "Look, Father, look on His anointed face, and only look on us as found in Him." Thus we may represent to ourselves this great matter but let us not think we have "explained" it; mystery remains—the mystery of love.

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SURVIVAL OR RESURRECTION?

AT Eastertide even the most frivolous pause for a moment to wonder whether there may not be some possibility of life after death. If we may hope, what precisely is it we may hope for? The two words "survival" and "resurrection" signify two different approaches to "immortality" which most of us try at different periods in our lives.

Our friends who pursue "scientific" enquiries concentrate on alleged evidence of "the survival of bodily death"; our New Testament says nothing about "survival" as a human possibility but a great deal about the "gift of eternal life."

A method of clearing our minds on this vital subject could be to ask ourselves what we would hope for in our most spiritual thinking. We might start by asking if we really believe that our survival of death is desirable from an unbiased point of view. Unless we are very optimistic our answer will be that our continued existence in the universe could be justified only on the assumption that we are likely to become more worthy than we are.
No doubt many Christian believers regard the question "Shall I survive death?" in this light and depend upon the grace of God for "the life of the world to come." It must be said, however, that the dominant note of the Christian hope is Resurrection. In St. Paul's preaching the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ was the pattern of the experience of salvation from death. The converted sinner, in St. Paul's understanding of the Gospel, had put on the Lord Jesus Christ and shared in His rising from the dead.

IT MUST be admitted that when Paul's ecstatic language is analysed for the purpose of making "doctrines" or "dogmas" all kinds of unanswerable questions arise. That Christ "came down from heaven" to die and rise again for every man is itself intelligible only to the imagination, but when these "images" are the vehicle of revelation and potent in turning weak sinners into sturdy saints we are wise to accept them and to look beyond survival to Resurrection.

Faith and hope exist only in individual minds, but there is some resemblance between persons and nations. Looking out over the clouded "comity of nations" what must we hope for civilisation ? Survival is not enough. We hope for resurrection.

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RISEN WITH CHRIST

ON Easter morning the first words of Scripture we hear in church are those which begin the Epistle: "If ye then be risen with Christ seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God" (Col. iii. i). For some reason the NEB translates this as a question, "Were you not raised to life with Christ?" I suppose to avoid the possible suggestion that there was some doubt in the matter. If so, the translators are right. St. Paul took for granted that the baptised Christian shared both in the death and resurrection of Christ. For him the Resurrection was not only a decisive event which happened in the past but a continuing fact to be observed in the lives of the converted. He proceeds to define the quality of the risen life. It is marked off from that of the unconverted by the things it seeks and desires; they are not "on the earth," but "above"—in Heaven.

We hear much about the super-natural and its difficulties for modern thinkers, but we have not had any clear definition of either the "natural" or the "super-natural." It is certain that, in one sense, St. Paul, and indeed all the New Testament writers, believed in the super-natural. They believed that the world of every day, the things that we know through our bodily senses and in the condition of space and time, were not the whole sum of being, and that "beyond," "above," "beneath" them (all these words are imperfect symbols) there is a realm of being, of spirit, which is eternal. It is also certain that they believed the present world would not last for ever, and that when it disappeared, the spiritual order would remain. The religion of the New Testament is, in this sense, "other-worldly," but not in t Ik- bad sense of caring nothing for this world. "Thy Kingdom come on earth ;is ii is in I leaven" is its prayer, and its aim. It would suggest to us that the really practical way of improving earthly existence is to bring into it the motives and principles of the spiritual world and that is the task of those who, being risen with Christ, "seek those things that are above."

ALWAYS TO seek things above does not mean to be always dreaming of the joys of Heaven; it means in all our activities to have purposes which are relevant to what we believe to be the mind of Christ and the will of God. How much of the lives of all of us are strangely inconsistent with this ideal! We fill them with the satisfaction of our appetites, with pleasant ways of passing the time, with the pursuit of ambitions which are largely selfish. How much of our attention is given to values which do not perish, to the service of truth and justice, or to the unselfish love which Christ has taught us? Many lives which to us appear to be full and rich in achievement are, in the sight of God, empty and poor, because they are not directed to the things that really matter. Easter day is the time to remind ourselves that we are risen with Christ and pledged to live the risen life.

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ETERNAL LIFE

EASTER is the Church's greatest holy day—the festival of life.

But it is not simply continued existence that we celebrate; it is the "risen life" revealed in the Christ. The words "eternal life" express the meaning of Easter more accurately than "everlasting life," for we need to keep clearly before us that just to go on without end is not our hope; we believe that the risen life which we are to partake of in Christ is new in quality, on a level of value which is divine.

On this supreme Christian festival it may cross our minds that our Easter joy is so definitely identified with Christ that we cannot imagine even the best men and women of other faiths having any experience really comparable to ours. Have we, as Christians, so to speak, a monopoly of eternal life ? Christian theology has often taught something very like that, and, of course, we must recognise that the way we are treading as followers of Christ is not the same as followers of the Buddha or the mystics of Islam. But every spiritual religion holds out before its adherents the prospect of fulfilment, not in death, but in a new and higher kind of living. The words "eternal life" can have a meaning for every awakened human soul.

IF WE know the significance of "eternal life," we shall be aware that to possess it is our highest good and worthy of all our efforts, but at the same time we learn that, ultimately, eternal life is a gift and not a reward. "The gift of God is eternal life." This important truth too can be misinterpreted so as to induce in us spiritual sloth; we say to ourselves, "we must wait for the gift, because all our striving for eternal life by itself must be in vain." But when we learn the lesson that eternal life must be a gift of God we learn, at the same time, that we are capable of receiving the gift and that capacity in us can be sharpened and kept sensitive by "waiting upon God" calmly but expectantly. For there is another thing we may learn in our waiting—that the Giver of the gift of eternal life is not separated from us by impassable barriers. He is not a prisoner in Heaven—he lives, hidden, in our deepest being.

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THE EASTER FAITH

ON Easter Day the churches celebrate the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Christ, singing in notes of triumph "Jesus Christ is risen to-day." Many people will be making holiday, careless of the fact that the holiday is the greatest of all holy days, either because they reject the belief in the Resurrection, or because it does not interest them. And we who will be there taking our part in the festival are children of this critical and uncertain age who, though we believe, have our moments of questioning.

Why, we ask, is the truth of the Resurrection not made so plain that even the most sceptical and indifferent must acknowledge it?

I have heard it said that the Resurrection is the most certain fact in history. This, however, is, in my opinion, the wrong way of presenting the gospel of the Resurrection, because it suggests that faith is not needed.

ONE OF the most certain facts in history is indeed that, very soon after the crucifixion, the disciples of Jesus were firmly convinced that He had overcome death and that their belief was the cause of the origin and spread of the Christian religion. With almost equal certainty, we may assert that the conviction of the disciples was due to experiences such as those recorded in St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians and in the Gospels.
So far we have data which are scarcely open to reasonable objection. But the next step takes us into the region of faith. Were these experiences veridical or could they be due to illusion ?

St. Paul has something to offer us here. How did he come to his faith in the Resurrection? Probably he had never seen Jesus in the flesh, but he had .1 spiritual conversion on the road to Damascus which indicates that, in spite of himself, he had already felt the attraction of the person of Christ. He did not, however, base his belief only on this personal experience.

He gives a careful list of the appearances of the Risen Lord, of which the appearance to himself is the last. He looked at the evidence. But the final stage of Paul's apprehension of the power of the Resurrection was the long period of his Apostolate when he lived day by day in (he faith of Christ crucified and risen. At the end, he could say not "I know that the Resurrection really happened," but something more profound, "I know whom I have believed."

WE ARE denied the kind of certainty in this life which, in our ignorance, we covet. There are no answers to the questions which most concern us that are so clear and conclusive that we are compelled to accept them. Always we are brought to a point where we must choose either to make the leap of faith, or to refuse.

But we are never required to exercise an unreasonable faith, or to stifle the questioning of our minds. Our faith, if it is strong, will never cease from seeking understanding, and we may discover that, as we go forward in trust, we shall grow in the knowledge of God and in certitude.

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MUTED JOY

TO be plunged suddenly from happiness into misery is no uncommon experience, but it always imposes an uncommon strain on faith. Sufferers may despair and follow the advice of Job's wife to "curse God and die," or they may stand up against misfortune in more than one way. A noble and austere way is that of the stoic who, by an effort of will, strives to keep a serene mind, unmoved by hope or fear. Pride, a pride which commands our respect, keeps the stoical humanist erect in life's storms. The Christian way, however, puts no such strain on the human self as it actually exists. Its gospel for the sufferer nearing despair is not that he has only to "pull himself together" to meet every adversity, but rather that, left to himself, he can do nothing of the kind; his only hope is that he can stretch out to the Power, not himself which can carry him through.

The source of strength in the Christian understanding of life is the Redeemer who has known all the griefs of human existence and invites his disciples to cast all their cares on Him. Looking at the cross of Christ the believer sees One who was tortured to death, who was betrayed by a friend, was execrated by his fellow men and cast out, one moreover who endured the experience of being cut off from God. We do not have to explain our agonies to Christ—He shares them.

ALL THIS we can say to others when they despair—and to ourselves. And how often has the saving power of this lifeline been proved! But Paul says that we are to rejoice, not only now and then, but always, including days of tribulation. This is a large claim. We would hardly dare to hint to anyone crushed by unexpected calamity or the treachery of friends to go singing through life. Enough, we think, that they should have courage and take up the business of living again with some show of cheerfulness; but some who have passed this way with more perseverance than most have reported that they rejoice all the time because they have been able to offer their suffering to God in union with Christ to be part of His atoning

sacrifice. Of these high things only a few can speak from experience. Let us come down to earth and observe that often the person overwhelmed by tragic events has not so much lost faith in God as faith in his fellow men. We can do something to restore that—and indirectly to restore faith in God, too.

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EASTER EVE

ON Easter Eve the Church waits, as it were with bated breath, for the Resurrection which transforms defeat into victory. Good Friday is the prelude to Easter Day. The death of Jesus on the Cross is an historical event not obviously different in nature from many other cruel executions.

The Resurrection is not an historical event, at least we must say it is not only an historical event; it is a supernatural event. We are not given any account or description of the Resurrection in the Gospels. What we are given is information about the way in which some of the disciples of Jesus became convinced that He had risen, and in the writings of St Paul we have first hand evidence of the experience which invigorated the company of converts, that they had "risen with Christ" and were called to be members of His body. The death of Christ was not on the same level as His rising again, because He died once for all but conquered death.

THE GOSPEL of Redemption, as presented to us in the Bible, is couched in language and images which belong to our lives in time and space. Only so could our limited minds and imaginations respond to the message. We say that Christ, the Son of God "came down from Heaven" at a certain date and offered the sacrifice to God which "takes away the sin of the whole world." But we cannot suppose that the divine mind is confined to the limits of our human nature. When we speak, as we must, of the death of Christ and His Resurrection in human terms we must be aware that we are thinking, as it were, in parables.

One meets thoughtful persons who are perplexed or repelled by some doctrines which centre upon the death of Christ. For example, the idea that Christ redeemed us by bearing the penalty of our sins in our place and so delivering us from the wrath of God, seems to us quite unjust. The attempt to express the love of God to sinful beings must be difficult and all the analogies fall short. Perhaps St Paul did not explain very clearly why the death of Jesus on the cross was necessary for our salvation but he knew why he belonged to Christ -"He loved me and gave himself up for me." (Gal. ii. 20.)

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OVERCOMING THE WORLD

EASTER is a celebration of victory when the Church hails its Lord as conqueror. In the Epistle this note resounds in the words: "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith," which are an echo of the declaration of Jesus, on the eve of His crucifixion, "I have overcome the world." The victory has been won by the Leader of the host; but, so far as we are concerned, the conflict still goes on, and we, too, through our faith, have to overcome the world.

The "world" in the New Testament has a two-fold aspect. On the one hand, it is the creation of God and the object of His love, but on the other hand, it is alienated from Him, and His enemy. "Everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" was the opinion of Leibniz, the great optimist, but according to the Bible this is far from the truth.

In the judgment of God the "world" is under condemnation. Thus the kingdom of God stands in antithesis to the world as light contrasted with darkness, life with death, and love with selfishness and hate. It was the "world," with its blindness to genuine goodness and its cynical, self-seeking policies, that crucified Christ who in His death and resurrection triumphed over it.

TO BE a Christian in any but a purely nominal sense means that a man is committed to one side in a conflict. In every war it is important to know where your enemies are and what you mean by victory.

With regard to the first: we must beware of over-simplification, for the enemy is more subtle and ubiquitous than we may imagine. Too often the Kingdom of God has been identified with the Church and the issue regarded as a struggle between the Church and the world. But unfortunately the values of the world can seep into the fellowship of Christ's disciples and blunt the instrument which exists for the advance of God's Kingdom.

The Church, too, is under the judgment of God. Nor, when we consider ourselves, can we be confident that the world's "fifth column" has not some lodgment in our souls. How tentative is our commitment to the cause of Christ!

AND WHAT is the victory? In human warfare it consists in destroying the enemy or rendering him impotent. In the spiritual warfare the aim is the opposite of this.

Christ died not to destroy the world, but to redeem it; not to deprive it of life, but to lead it to the true life; not to reduce it to impotence, but to concentrate its energies in creative and brotherly work.

Our faith, says the Apostle, overcomes the world after the pattern of Jesus, who has already won the decisive victory. Does not this imply that we too, in our measure, have some part in the redemption which Christ brought to the world ?

We too are to be ready to suffer that light, life and love may overcome ignorance, death and hate.

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THE PASSION

ON "Passion Sunday" we are invited to turn our thoughts toward the crucifixion of Jesus in preparation for Good Friday and Easter day. What do we make of it ? The possible answers are almost innumerable, but some are obvious and actual, in the sense that they are accepted by people alive today.

First, there is the commonplace attitude which was adopted by many at the date of Christ's execution—it was just one of the large number of crucifixions carried out by the Roman forces, some of the sufferers being criminals, some rebels and some, no doubt, persons who died because they were righteous. Reflections on the misery associated with power politics may occur to us. But more inspiring is the approach to the Passion with the assumption that the Gospels are telling the truth when they represent Jesus as a great teacher of morals who has left for our instruction many memorable sayings and an example of unselfish loving kindness. From this point of view we may pass easily to a comparison of Jesus with other Teachers, with Confucius, with the Buddha and, perhaps most relevant of all, with Socrates dying not on a cross but by a cup of poison.

Almost endless are the reflections which spring up on this path. And this mode of thought is not altogether alien to the New Testament, for St. Paul takes account of the moral ideas of pagan thinkers. But the central conviction of the Apostolic Church is not that Jesus was a cruelly persecuted sage; it is that He is the Redeemer who, in the Passion, offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice which sums up and completes all imperfect sacrifices and opens the way to spiritual victory in the personal experiences of those who are joined to Him by faith.

WE ARE to think of Jesus Christ, according to (he New Testament, certainly as the inspired moralist who gave the New Law of righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount; bill we are to think also of this same Teacher as "the lamb of God whi< li lakes away the sin of the world." The Church is right, it is at least in harmony with the spirit of the New Testament, when it makes us listen on Passion Sunday to the Epistle to the Hebrews which, writing of animal sacrifices, goes on to refer to the blood of Christ: "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit, offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Heb. ix, 14).

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LIFE THROUGH DEATH

IF IT could be proved to us beyond doubt that someone had risen from the dead we should feel that we had heard a shattering piece of news, but we should not necessarily assume that it was good news.

We might indeed think that our conception of human potentialities needed to be enlarged, but not that our whole outlook on life and idea of the universe must be radically changed.

The Christian belief in the Resurrection is not like this. It requires an act of faith, and it is a gospel.

Though we may justly consider the evidence for the Resurrection very strong, it does not exclude the possibility of doubt, and though the sceptical suggestions to "explain" the Christian belief (that the appearances were illusions, that Jesus was not really dead and so on) are unconvincing, we shall never be able to show that they are absolutely impossible. And, in fact, the spread of the belief in the Resurrection depended as much on the manifestation of the power of the belief in the lives of those who proclaimed it as on the factual testimony which they offered.

As St. Paul indicates, it was the power of the Resurrection in life that gave driving force to Apostolic evangelisation.

THE CHRISTIAN belief in the Resurrection is a gospel. It is not a belief that some anonymous individual has risen but that the Son of Man has overcome death and dies no more for ever.

It is the belief that the love which led Him to die for man's redemption and seemed to be finally frustrated and defeated on the cross was really triumphant and that the Man who claimed to be, in a unique sense, the Son of God truly revealed the divine nature as love and, therefrom, that, in spite of every disconcerting appearance to the contrary, the ultimate meaning of the universe is not blind chance, or destiny, or impersonal reign of law, but the love of the Father.

This indeed is good news, but how does it become a word of salvation for me ?

To answer this question we can turn to the books of the New Testament which show us the gospel of the Resurrection in action. We are risen with Christ says St. Paul, and the thought echoes through all the Christian centuries.

The Ressurection is not a work of wonder and power done apart from us at which we may marvel but in which we cannot share. By faith we may be incorporated into Christ and be partakers of His sacrifice and His victory. The experience of the Son of Man dying and rising again in new and nobler life is the pattern for our personal development.

ST. PAUL does not doubt that his converts are risen with Christ, but he goes on to urge them to "seek those things that are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God." (Col. iii, 1).

The sharing in the Resurrection of Christ does not make us perfect or deliver us from all temptation. We have still to "seek the things that are above." We are not promised automatic sanctifica-tion or untroubled progress.
We are offered something better, which does not diminish our freedom; we are assured that the resurrection pattern will be validated in us, if we have faith, and whatever the plight in which we find ourselves, perhaps due to our own sins, there is always the opportunity of the resurrection of the self. We rise "on stepping stones of our dead selves."

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SACRIFICE

ON Palm Sunday we contemplate the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem seated on a donkey and welcomed enthusiastically by a crowd of His adherents. On the following Friday He was crucified, and the sudden change of public opinion with regard to the prophet from Nazareth has puzzled commentators on the Gospels. The New Testament does not encourage us to stop with Good Friday; it seems to insist that we should never mention or think of the death of Jesus without thinking of His resurrection. Notice, for example, how St. Paul, when he has mentioned the death of Christ, immediately adds, "or rather was raised from the dead" (Rom. viii, 34). The Christian will try to observe this rule and will hope that those who represent the life and death of Christ in pictures and dramas will take note of it.

Of course, the Crucifixion can be the subject of a play and is open to treatment as though it were a human tragedy and nothing more. It will still make a noble story of the kind which we know in contemporary life. The brave and devoted lifeboatmen of Hoy had the Christ-like spirit of sacrifice for others, and who would doubt that they are not far from the Kingdom of God ? But the Christian belief about the death of Christ is that it was followed by the Resurrection and was, in a unique sense, the revelation of God. In Him and in His crucifixion the Church of the New Testament has seen the culmination and fulfilment of all the sacrifices: the end of superstitions and the sacrifice which can take away the sin of the world. A story or a drama which fails to bring out the mystery and the spiritual experience which inhere in the Sacrifice of Christ misrepresents the evidence in the New Testament—and there is no other source of knowledge about Him.

EASTER WILL no doubt be treated as an ordinary holiday by the majority of our fellow citizens and their careless pleasures may jar on us when we try to contemplate the crucified Redeemer, but let us not be censorious but seek our own joy without envy or malice. The Collect for Palm Sunday includes us all. We pray "that all mankind may follow the example of Christ's great humility" and that "we may both follow the example of His patience and also be made partakers of His resurrection."

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NOT TOO COMFORTABLE

THERE is an impression among some excellent Christians that one ought not to feel too comfortable during Lent and that this has something to do with repenting for sins. Some of them seem to leave out the repenting and just make themselves irritable by a slight change for a few weeks in their personal habits. A moment's thought, however, will convince any thoughtful believer that there are real and deep reasons why he must experience spiritual discomfort when he directs the search-light of conscience on his inner life.

The examination begins by asking the question by what standard am I to judge myself? Shall I pass muster if I am slightly better than the average? How much allowance may I claim for myself because of handicaps and disadvantages which were in no sense my own fault ? The answer to these questions comes from the Lord Christ in the Sermon on the Mount when He has stated the law of Love in it most uncompromising form, dwelling particularly on the duty to love our enemies. He states the demand, "Ye therefore shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mat. v, 48). NOTHING SHORT of perfection will be accepted—and this is the end of

"comfort" or at least of complacency. Herbert Spencer and other critics of the ethical teaching of Jesus have rejected it on this ground—that it sets before us in impossible ideal with the natural consequences that, confronted by inevitable failure, men become disheartened and give up trying. It would be better to adopt a less exalted ideal which is within the reach of real human beings. This objection is really important and relevant as we may infer from the fact that there never has been in history any community existing for a century which was Christian without compromise.

Here is the source of our necessary discomfort. In our Lenten meditation we contemplate the life of loving fellowship which Jesus brings before our imagination and which He exemplifies in His mission and His death; we contemplate too the civilised society in which we live and our own potentialities as civilised Christians. We are confounded by the contrast. We may shrug our shoulders and forget it, but when you do that we know that we are contemptible. We must be uncomfortable. To be uncomfortable is a sign of grace and in the people (old as well as young) who feel it is the promise of the future.

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PALM SUNDAY

THERE are many questions about the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem just before He was crucified which we should like to have answered. Was it planned by His followers, was the crowd which welcomed Him with hosannas the same as that which howled for His death and, if so, why did its mind change so soon? But the most vital question is: What was passing in the mind of the central figure ? Did Jesus in any degree share the hopes of His followers, or was He aware that the shouts of triumph were a bitter irony?

Unfortunately the Gospels do not help us much on this point. The Evangelists do not know, so not being romantic novelists they do not invent an appropriate train of thoughts and attribute them to Christ.

On the side of the view that Jesus was not deceived by the pop-ular manifestations we have to reckon the fact that He is reported to have predicted his own death, and that in Jerusalem at the hands of the religious authorities; and of course if we imagine that He knew beforehand all the events of His life the question is answered as soon as asked.

Probability seems to lie with the hypothesis that the knowledge of the Incarnate Son in His earthly life was subject to human limitations and we are at liberty to consider the possibility that Jesus, when 1 le entered Jerusalem, expected not death but victory.

FOR WHAT it is worth, I put forward for attention the words which, according to Luke, He spoke when some of the Pharisees asked Him to rebuke the disciples who were acclaiming Him: "I tell you, if these shall hold their peace the stones will cry out" (Lk. xix. 40). The natural interpretation of the Lord's words is surely that the Providence of God decrees the Kingship of the Son of Man and, if human agents do not suffice to carry out the divine will, it will be realised without them.

I think we might add to this the fact that Jesus in the night before His arrest prayed earnestly that "this cup might pass from Him"— the cup of death. Can we suppose that He did this while still convinced that His death was an essential element in the divine plan of salvation ?

Nothing of first importance turns upon the alternative which we choose; on either view, Jesus Christ suffered "for us men and for our salvation." On the view which we have been canvassing the sufferings were more terrible than we had perhaps imagined. Jesus in His passion was forsaken in rapid succession, by the followers who had acclaimed Him King, by His disciples who had called Him Master and Teacher, and He died crying "My God, why dids't thou forsake me?" It is also possible, and on the whole more likely, that the "cry of dereliction" is a quotation of the opening words of Psalm 22 on which the Lord Jesus was meditating in the hour of agony.

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NAME AND NAMES

AS the season of Lent proceeds, the Church tries to concentrate L our thoughts on the Cross and Passion, that we may be prepared for Holy Week and Good Friday. It is logically convenient that we should begin by asking what precisely we shall be commemorating.

In the prevailing climate of opinion, probably a majority of answers would be that we are commemorating an heroic martyrdom. And that, so far as it goes, is an accurate description. We account as martyrs those who suffer unto death as witnesses to some truth which has value for humanity or as a consequence of refusal to betray a noble cause, and Jesus certainly was crucified because He persisted in proclaiming His own version of the Kingdom of God.

So long as we stay at this level the comparison of Jesus with Socrates is not absurd and may even be illuminating. But the kind of thing which is said about Jesus by His Apostles is really not at all like what Socrates's friends said about him. The name of Jesus, writes St. Paul, "is above every name" and "in that name every knee must bow" (Phil, ii.9.10). Its power and dignity extends beyond this age into the world to come (Eph. i.21.22). Such language does not suggest that the person described is important most of all as a teacher of philosophy and ethics. It suggests that the Person is to be worshipped as well as listened to.

THE NEW Testament suggests that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the anointed one, has other names which represent aspects of his Person and His mission. He is the Son of God in a sense which is not true of any creature. He is the "Word" or "Reason" of God who has come into the world. He is, too, the Saviour of sinners both from sin and from condemnation, or He may be called the Redeemer. All these words are metaphors or symbols taken from human experiences, from the rescue of victims of violence, from the release of slaves and from the shepherd.

All these words, when used as names of Jesus Christ, presuppose another name—that of Mediator. In the experience of the men who gave us the New Testament the Person of Jesus came between the sinful and ignorant human being and the Creator-God—not as an obstacle, but as the open way to reconciliation with God. All these names have a touch of mystery and each of them has a meaning which can be food for meditation.

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THE RISEN LIFE

THE first words of Scripture that many of us hear on Easter day are those of the Epistle (Col. iii, 1 ff.) "If ye be risen with Christ," which remind us that we are celebrating not only an event in the past, the resurrection of Jesus, but the existence of a continuing risen life in which we share.

St. Paul does not doubt that his readers are risen with Christ, Ibr in theit baptism they committed themselves to Him; the Apostle is concerned that they should remember and reflect upon the new lilc that is theirs. We have in these few verses a succinct statement 11I fundamental idea in St. Paul's teaching, that in the Christian experience the death and rising again of Christ is reflected and reproduced. "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God"; the old self which conformed to "the world" is defunct— that the new man in Christ may live.

AS ALWAYS with St. Paul, this profound, and even mystical, insight is immediately given a practical application. The question, What shall we do about it? is never far away in his Epistles. And here, in brief but pregnant words, he sums up the Christian's hope and the Christian's duty. The hope could be described as "other-worldly," with qualifications. We are to "set our affections" or "aspire to" "things above" where Christ is "at the right-hand of God," and our expectation is not to be some earthly Utopia, but the "manifestation of Christ" and a share in His "glory."

But the risen life does not have to wait for a "far-off divine event"; it can be lived, and must be lived, in this earthly life, though not in accordance with earthly motives and standards. The Christian is to be a representative and an example here and now of the life of the world to come. The Apostle describes it as "hidden with Christ in God," by which he means, I think, that its ideals and values are incomprehensible to those who are wholly absorbed in the present world.

THE CHRISTIAN'S duty follows from this. It is first negative; a renunciation of the impulses in his own nature which "belong to the earth." But the purpose is positive. By bringing our animal impulses under control and liberating us from the "ruthless greed" which is a kind of idol worship the Risen Life makes room for itself to expand within us so that its positive and creative virtues may spring up bringing with them the peace of Christ. The end is not gloom but joy—"singing with grace in our hearts unto God."

Who would deny, looking at the world as it is, that the gospel of the Risen Life meets real and urgent needs; and who, looking at himself, would not confess that he would be more human, happier and more at peace if he could remember every day the hope set before him and the power offered to him in Christ ?

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CROWD AND CROSS

THE behaviour of the crowd at the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, as narrated in the Gospels, offers one puzzle which cannot be evaded: How did the crowd, which had welcomed Jesus when he entered the city with Hosannas, in a few days change its cry to "Crucify" ? Many moralisings on the fickleness of popular affection have been based on this incident, but we simply do not know the cause and we must bear in mind that the "Palm Sunday" crowd was not the same as the "Good Friday" one.

Recent study of the Gospel accounts has drawn attention to the tendency in the tradition, from Mark to Luke and John, which seems to illustrate the growing antagonism between the Church and the Jews while showing concern to play down the part of Pontius Pilate and the Roman authorities. Yet the certain facts are that the crucifixion of Jesus was the act of the occupying Power and that His alleged crime was claiming to be King of the Jews.

At the same time, however, it would be unduly sceptical to discard as erroneous all the passages in the Gospels which assert the existence of a section in Jerusalem which welcomed the overthrow of the new prophet. Probably the Jews who were hostile to Jesus, or at least some of them, objected to His criticism of the temple worship and some of the "customs of the elders." It may be that they too were offended by the claim made by His disciples that He was the divinely chosen King. They wanted a different kind of King—one who could put to flight the armies of the heathen.

THE PRIMITIVE tradition about the Crucifixion is probably to be found most clearly in Mark's Gospel. In his laconic sentences the grim desolation of the dying Saviour is revealed. He was alone. His disciples all forsook Him and fled (Mk xiv 50) He cries to God in the words of the 22nd Psalm, "Why dids't thou forsake me?" In the latest of the four Gospels we have the reversal and the fulfilment—"I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto myself" (Jn. xii 32). The repellent Cross, symbol of agony and loneliness, will become the spiritual magnet of souls.

Before long the crowd began to be attracted, and the remainder of the New Testament tells us something about the "laos," the "laymen," the "people" within the church and the multitude outside. Church history begins and we now partake in the adventure —at a time when faith falters and the task of "holding up" the Crucified that many may be drawn into His fellowship is uncommonly hard.

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A SHOCKING EVENT

ON Passion Sunday it may be good for a time to contemplate the Crucifixion in its stark superficial reality, ignoring the intci pictatinns which liiith has offered. When viewed in this way it taken its place with innumerable other instances of innocence tortured and slain, of cruelty in high places and in crowds, and of the fanaticism which can grow out of sincere religion. We have in this incident, .is it were, an epitome of many of the aspects of the world which make it hard to believe in the love of God. Where can we discern I lis presence in such a scene of suffering and triumphant infamy ?

The reply of faith to this question is a startling paradox. God is present in the victim who is defeated and killed, the object of almost unanimous execration. This paradox, if we can believe it, is in fact at least a partial answer to the problem of evil. It is an answer which will not satisfy the philosophers, for it presupposes a conception of Deity which looks like "dualism." We are led to think of God as involved in a cosmic conflict against evil in all its forms, and the idea is not far off, that the conflict is costly not only in human suffering but to God.

THAT SUFFERING can enter into the divine experience is a suggestion from which Christian thinkers have often shrunk, and not without reason, for from our human point of view it seems that suffering implies limitation, so that the Eternal and Perfect God cannot suffer. Yet the New Testament revelation of God in Christ surely means that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who is God, "suffered for us men and for our salvation," and that His conflict and His agony are truly real—not parables or symbols or imagination, but actually existing experiences which have a significance for the lives of all of us.

This is closely related to the central belief of Christians that God is love, which is far more vital for us than the belief that He is Infinite. If those attributes of God which A. N. Whitehead described as "metaphysical compliments" contradict the love of God, they must be swept away, for they are not "good news" but only interesting speculation.

But there is no need to sweep away these attributes hastily, for we have only an imperfect grasp of their meaning and implications, nor have we plumbed the depths of the statement "God is love." There is more to be learnt. What we need to guard is faith in the divine compassion against the desiccation of philosophical analysis, and for this purpose we must hold firmly the reality of the suffering of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God.

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THEY KNEW HIM

SOME of the manifestations of the Risen Christ as recounted in the Gospels are to individuals and differ from those to groups in one respect which is worth noting. The individuals do not immediately recognise Him, and the experience seems to resemble penetrating a disguise. Mary Magdalene thought at first that the risen Lord was the gardener (Jno. xx.15) and the two disciples who walked to Emmaus with a stranger talked with him a long time before they became aware that he was the Christ (Lk. xxiv. i3ff). We are told that their "eyes were opened" when they ate with him and received the broken bread from his hands.

If we could unravel all the implications of this short narrative, we should learn much about the origin and spread of the belief in Christ's resurrection and the kind of experience which attested it. Evidently, in some cases the conclusive experience of the Risen Christ came as the climax of anxious thought and discussion. The disciples' hearts "burn within them" while the Stranger explains the Old Testament. So, too, the statement that He was "known to them by the breaking of bread" suggests that disciples were led to recognise the presence and power of the living Christ in the fellowship of the common meal. Why, I wonder, is there no record in the New Testament of an experience in solitude which confirmed the Resurrection? We may not assume that no such experience was granted and perhaps the appearance of the Lord to Peter was an exception, but we are told only of those manifestations in which a fellow human being is involved.

PROBABLY WE may infer from the instances given in the Gospels that, though group experiences played a part in the rise and development of the Easter faith, an equally vital contribution was made by the individuals who became convinced that Jesus Christ was not dead but had overcome death. They were convinced partly by reflection on His teaching and partly by experiences which came to them with the force of reality and which they saw no reason to question. We must remember that, according to the Gospels, Jesus definitely foretold not only His death, but His resurrection.

It is true that the critics have been suspicious of the authenticity of these utterances and have often dismissed them as "prophecies after the event," but the fashion has recently changed and critics who allow that we know something definite about the teaching of Jesus are now inclined to believe that Jesus did predict His resurrection. If He did, memories of His words must have prepared the way for the Easter faith.

Can we bring all this into dircct relation with our own day and our own thinking? We might start on this by considering possible meanings of "moments of truth."

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VICTORY SHARED

THE Easter festival is the celebration of a victory. Christ has "overcome death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life." The victory is presented to our faith as having two characteristics: It is snatched out of utter defeat and is achieved through the endurance of that defeat. Christ on the cross was deserted and dead, deserted even by God, and it was because He encountered the utmost that defeat could mean in suffering that He overcame.

So too were the men and women who first accepted the gospel of the Crucified among the defeated of this world. As Paul notes, there were not many "wise" or "mighty" or "noble" individuals in his flock in Corinth (i Cor. i, 26). It was the "weak," the failures in society, those who knew something of the bitterness of defeat, who pressed into the fellowship of those who shared Christ's victory.

For the Resurrection victory is not, like so many recorded in history, of only temporary effect; it is a once for all victory, but the victorious life released, as it were, in the Easter event is marching on to new conquests, so that the Christian believer can hope for the progressive manifestation of the life of Christ in the Church and society of the future. The shared and enlarging victory of which Easter speaks to us can perhaps be better understood by us, who have adopted the idea of evolution into our familiar concepts, than by our forefathers.

THE EASTER faith is, in some respects, difficult to hold. The ultimate dissolution and death of everything that is lovely and great, as of all lovely and great persons, seems to .be an incontrovertible condition of our existence. And yet, in another respect, that faith seems to be a natural assumption in the minds of men whom we hold in reverence as benefactors of the human race. I do not mean that they all explicitly believed in the doctrine of the Resurrection, but that the inspiration of their lives was a profound hope, verging on conviction, that good, justice and love are indestructible and will come out of defeat and disaster stronger than ever, if we do not faint in their service.

Martin Luther King certainly believed in the Resurrection of Christ and drew strength from that belief. It happened that in the last moving words recorded he spoke of the widest conception of resurrection, of the indestructible nature of good and its certain victory, if we without fear or discouragement, do our "reasonable service."

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IMMORTAL SPIRITS

AT Eastertide many intelligent persons devote a little while to reflection on the fact that their religion teaches them to pray for immortal or eternal life and declares that death is not the end.

Perhaps they go further and realise that, according to this doctrine, all human beings are, in some sense of the word, immortal spirits, and, if they like thinking things out, they may wonder why this alleged fact about human beings so rarely plays any part in serious discussions. One may read many treatises on education, for example, without finding any reference to what, if true, must be the most important fact about children, that they are immortal spirits and, as such, need training for the life which will follow on death. Is it not remarkable, one thinks, that anyone who holds such views about children could agree to offer them education which ignores their souls?

Or again, does not the belief which we have about the nature of man profoundly affect our opinions about ethics and moral training ? Apparently, in fact, it does not, according to most of the learned writers on the subjects, but to common sense it must seem incredible that moral law and the idea of the good are the same for immortal spirits as for ephemeral beings who live for one brief space and are no more. The manner, again, in which moral problems are approached must depend, to a considerable degree, on the ideas about human personality which dominate the minds of leading authorities.

SOME OF us are disturbed by current developments relating to sex. One may agree that the old-fashioned primness about it and the ignorance which was its outcome was foolish and harmful, but harm of a different kind can be done if all sacredness and reverence is dispersed by matter-of-fact impersonal instructions. Danger lies ahead if the child is left with an outlook which cannot comprehend the virtue of purity and chastity or the meaning of St. Paul's symbolism when he writes of the body as a temple of the Holy Spirit.

The scope for the application of the principle of the immortality of human souls to problems of conduct is almost unlimited. It is a pity that believers do not take more pains in thinking what difference in standards of living ought to follow from the conviction that we arc not wholly animal. It is not only Christians who have this obligation. The Platonists among the Humanists are convinced too that they are more than animals and that deep within them is immortal life.

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IS IT NOTHING?

" IS it nothing to you who pass by?" (Lam i, 12). In the liturgies for Holy Week these words resound, challenging us to say what the Cross and Passion of Christ mean to us—if anything. Very many will not answer at all, because they will not even hear the question, and many others will dismiss it as irrelevant to their lives. So it was almost from the beginning. No doubt the Crucifixion was, when it happened, known only to a relatively small circle, and, even among them, did not stand out as specially significant. And today it can be argued that the Christian emphasis on this Individual and these particular few days is wildly disproportionate. One among the innumerable victims of Roman "justice" and of religious bigotry— to men who take wide views it is unnatural to concentrate attention on one particular instance. And indeed it is an astonishing fact that in a world history which is so full of tyranny and suffering the spotlight should rest on Jesus of Nazareth and what happened to Him somewhere about the year a.d. 30. How strange too that the very dating of the year depends on the event of His death. Of course, in a general way, we can give an explanation. The death of Jesus means something which concerns us all; so men have believed, and the conviction that He is alive, having overcome death, instead of fading out, as might have been expected, is renewed from one generation to another.

THE "SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTION" has not put an end to the belief, and the latest development of evolutionary philosophy by Teilhard de Chardin centres upon the Man who died on Calvary. Surely it is short-sighted to pass over these facts as irrelevant. Anyone whose mind is alive and is capable of asking questions about life must feel, at the least, some stirrings of curiosity and perhaps also some hope. To do more than "pass by" the Cross and Passion of Jesus we must think about Him and His sacrifice: we must attempt to make His sorrow real to ourselves and relevant to our condition as feeble and sinful individuals. Many who have ventured in that way have found that His sorrow is something to them, and some who have persevered have reported that to them Christ and His Passion is everything—the answer to life's riddles and life's tragedies. The Divine Comedy, one might say, is in three acts, each one an answer to the question. What do the Cross and Passion mean to you?: Nothing; something; everything.

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THE CORE OF FAITH

THE four Gospels are not biographies of Jesus, though we have to rely on them for information about His teaching and His circumstances. Biographers are concerned with the life of their hero and not with his death, but the Evangelists are concerned profoundly with Jesus's death. A quite disproportionate amount of space is devoted in each Gospel to the trial, crucifixion and dying speeches of the Lord and, moreover, throughout the Gospels the prospect and shadow of His sacrifice is present. Jesus himself speaks of His death as the culmination of His mission.

We have to recognise the fact that, in the minds of the writers of the New Testament, Jesus was not only a teacher of righteousness but the "Saviour of the World" and the fulfilment of prophecy by offering Himself as the perfect sacrifice for the sin of all mankind. When we try to meditate on the events of Holy Week we are apt to be confused by the complexity of the ideas which crowd upon us. And, perhaps more than most modern generations, we are vexed by doubts about the validity of the concept of responsibility and the feeling of guilt. Would not a visit to a competent psycho-analyst do us more good than trusting in the "Lamb of God"? We must face these questions if they present themselves in our experience, but let us be careful lest, in our quest for inner peace, we lose our sense of responsibility.

A CLOSELY related question which, I suppose, every intelligent believer has asked is the simple inquiry—Why was this sacrifice necessary ? Why was the agony and bloody sweat of the Lord Jesus Christ demanded to save us sinners? There are many answers to this question, perhaps none of which is fully satisfying and, in the end, we fall back on the certain fact that the appeal of Christ on the cross has moved many sinners to repent.
But let us remember that St John's Gospel has a word from the Lord on the subject of His death. "Verily I say unto you; Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit" (Jno xii, 24). "The economy of salvation is like the story of a grain of wheat," remarks a modern commentator, "there is no fruit apart from death and burial." The parable is completed in the Easter experience when the faithful who have tried to follow with loving adoration the Passion of Christ share in the joy of His Resurrection.

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THE CROSS AND PASSION

ON Passion Sunday we are concerned not primarily with the death of a hero, but with the death of a God, or to speak more prec isely with the sacrifice of the Son of God who is risen and alive for evermore. Thus the Epistle for the day (Heb. ix 1 iff) is full of the symbolism of sacrifice- and of the blood which can purge our souls from "dead works." Strange words in our modern ears which begin to make sense to us only when we make the identification which Hebrew ritual made. "The blood is the life." Christ's sacrifice is the offering of 1 lis life, of Himself, for our salvation. Part at least of this salvation is the purging of our conscience from "dead works" to serve the living God—to be caught up, as it were, in the eternal offering of Christ.

The word "conscience" in the New Testament is more positive than in our present-day usage. We tend to think of our conscience as that part of us which is always saying "no, don't you dare," or "absolutely disgraceful," but we are too one-sided. The positive aspect of conscience is the most important. By it we have intuitions of nobility, of generosity, of love and compassion. Conscience judges us because it is the seat of our apprehension of "truth in the inward parts." The New Testament regards conscience as an experience in our spirits of the will of the living God. It has been clouded and distorted by our self-centred choices and, we must add, by the pressures which we could not avoid owing to having to live in an immoral society. The "dead works" are, I suppose, the "good works" which were not good enough because we were not spiritually awakened; in the case of the first readers of this Epistle to the Hebrews observance of the law of Moses or of the rules of some philosophical sect.

PASSAGES LIKE this are a puzzle to readers who have not the essential clues to their meaning, but they are part of the core of the Christian faith, which is primarily a religion and only secondarily a philosophy, or social programme of reform, or rules for the preservation of mental health and, being a religion, is essentially directed towards the reconciliation of the individual self with God, with the true worship of God and eternal life. Some of the images and words which express the Christian religion need to be made significant to men of the 20th century, particularly those relating to the ritual of sacrifice. The author of "Hebrews" tried to do this for his fellow Christians in the first century. We need help today so that when we cry, "O Lamb of God who takest away the sin of the world, have mercy upon us" we have in our minds not only a picture but a meaning.

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ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP

HOW many of us who meditate on the message of Easter have put foremost among its implications the renewing of friendships which in this life have been broken off by death! Shall I meet these dear companions again; shall I know them; can we hope to start again where we left off? How can this be? If we try to imagine a solution to these difficulties, we are bewildered and perhaps led to dismiss our notion that our friends may meet us "on the other side" as just a comforting illusion. If we are wise we shall not hastily abandon hope and faith about our friends.

The difficulty that we cannot conceive how the "communion of saints" is organised is ridiculous, if we are thinking of "eternal life." How could we expect to understand personal lives which transcend conditions of time and space? And, on reflection, we must, I think, conclude that, if we accept the essential truth of the New Testament records, Jesus Christ whose resurrection is at their centre, claimed to overcome death and to procure eternal life for His followers. Furthermore, Jesus has some words about His relation with us which apply directly to our inquiry. Speaking of His disciples, He states that He calls them "friends" and that His relation with them is such that He calls them not only "pupils and followers" but "friends and brothers." The New Testament declares that the risen Christ does not change, but is "the same yesterday, today and for ever." Christianity is the faith of the friendship of God.

LOOKING BACK on our lives, we shall be fortunate if we have nothing to be sorry for, or to be ashamed of, in our dealing with friends. Sometimes, it may be, we were ungenerous, or malicious owing to jealousy and sometimes we were too lazy or too timid to give our friends our real opinion of their conduct. Conversely, as it were, when we consider what we might have learned from some whose hearts were open to us and compare it with what we gained, we convict ourselves of careless self-confidence.

One has known unfortunate individuals who have felt so deeply what they now think is their sin against dead friends that they are heavily burdened. It is right to be distressed by remembrances of former wrongdoing to injured friends, and it is right to lament that one cannot ask for pardon from dead friends, but it is wrong to think there is no relief. The Eternal Friend, the Saviour who died for His friends, has power to forgive and to reconcile.

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HOLY WEEK

DURING the week before Easter Christians who take their religion seriously meditate on the Passion of Christ, and the Church sti iki s the note which should dominate their thinking in the Collect and opening sentence of the Epistle for Palm Sunday. "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," and, "all mankind should follow the example ofhis great humility."

In these few verses (Phil ii, 5-11). St. Paul states his understanding of the person and mission of Jesus in the course of his instruction on humility. The Cross, which had already become, when Paul wrote, a sign of victory to believers, was in origin the instrument of the uttermost humiliation and abasement voluntarily accepted by the Son of God. Humility after the pattern of Christ is the theme for Holy Week.

The opposite of humility is self-assertion, self-absorption and self-aggrandisement—all qualities which are almost fundamental in our way of life. No doubt excessive expressions of them are distasteful, but, slightly modified and softened, they are driving motives in daily existence. To get on, to be recognised as having got on, to have accepted status are ambitions which are generally approved.

Properly regulated and subordinated to higher values, they are not sinful, but it must be admitted that humility, which consists essentially in renouncing self-assertion, is a flower hard to cultivate even in the most civilised societies.

AND SOMETIMES the cultivation of humility is hindered by a misunderstanding. If humility is the opposite of self-assertion, it may be objected, it must mean the annihilation of the self, and the consummation of humility would be to cease to exist. Certainly Paul did not think so. For in his memorable words about the humiliation of Christ, our pattern, the climax is the exaltation of the risen Christ so that "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow." The humiliation of Christ was a necessary phase of the proceess by which his full glory has been revealed. The Christian life, in St. Paul's belief, was a life in Christ conforming to the same pattern, through humility to glory.

To describe the Christian ideal as the destruction of the self is most misleading unless the phrase is carefully explained. The lower self, which is organised round the limited "natural" purposes and desires, has to be superseded by the higher self, which in Christian terms is named the image of God and is called into being by the creative power of the Spirit.

Other religions and spiritual philosophies have similar teachings on the way of humility and the higher self, though none perhaps so clear and simple as this. But is there not some encouragement in the thought that when we are most sincerely trying to be humble like Christ we are akin in our spirit to holy persons of other faiths ?

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TRIUMPHANT LIFE

FROM one point of view all religion can be regarded as a protest against death and the question arises whether religion can be more than a protest and offer a way to triumphant life. A life which had really overcome death would rightly be called "eternal life." In our Western culture, which is either Christian or, as some would have it, "post-Christian," two different conceptions of eternal life have emerged. One, which has a most distinguished company of advocates, holds that eternal life consists in a detachment from the concerns of ordinary human existence and from entanglement in hopes, desires and fears while concentrating attention on the "One," the Infinite, or the unknowable divine Being.

A great man, who, though a pagan philosopher, influenced Christian thought considerably, coined a phrase which sums up the aspirations of some mystics—"the flight of the alone to the Alone." Plotinus, who held this opinion, was not a fanatic or a recluse; he seems to have been a trusted and competent adviser in financial affairs; but his heart was right out of this world and he longed for a divine solitude.

THE ETERNAL life of which the New Testament speaks has some points of contact with the mystic's quest and certainly is not represented as a restless and unthinking activity in good works. But eternal life, according to the New Testament, arises in a community and fellowship. In the Old Testament the life which triumphs over death is, for the most part, the life of the holy nation which is given new life by the grace of God. The Spirit of God in Ezekiel's vision of the "valley of dry bones" raised up a defeated nation (Ezek. xxxvii). In the New Testament Christ's resurrection is indeed a unique and redemptive act of God, but it is related to a community and the Risen Christ is described always in terms of His lordship over the Church.

One could pile up phrase after phrase which lights up the unity of the Risen Christ with the company of those who adhere to Him. "As in Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive." Christ is the first fruits of those who slept, the first born of many brethren. The fear of death, as Francis Bacon remarked, is like that of children who fear to go in the dark—and he might have added "alone," Alone into the dark; it is well if we can say alone into the light, and better still if we can say, "not alone but into the fellowship of the children of light."

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THOSE THINGS ABOVE

THE Easter services are full of magnificent and thrilling utterances such as the opening sentence of the Epistle: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God" (Col. iii, i). Magnificent— but what do they mean ?

Two phrases in this short sentence call for elucidation—"risen with Christ" and "the right hand of God." Of these two the first is plainly the more urgent so far as we are concerned. How do we judge whether we are risen with Christ ?

St. Paul is not the only writer in the New Testament who speaks to us of the risen life given to followers of Christ. He calls it "eternal" life. In English we have two words which are almost synonymous and are used to translate the Greek of the New Testament—"eternal" and "everlasting." Of these one may feel that "eternal" should be preferred, because it has richer significance.

"Everlasting" can mean simply "unending." But no one in his senses would want to be assured only that he would never know a day which was his last. The unending march of days and nights might be full of torture or simply empty and tedious so that we could cry: "I have no pleasure in them." The word "eternal," partly because we associate it with the idea of the Divine, is not so definitely concerned with time; it can be used to indicate a condition, or experience, which, in some degree and in some sense, transcends time.

WE SOMETIMES feel that "time stands still," even though the clock contradicts us, and some of our striving is after "things that are above" such as truth and justice. Moreover, in personal relations, it is possible to experience a love which we can assert, without being absurd, is "stronger than death." Though we are creatures of time, we have values which are not temporal and can, in our thinking and meditation, have openings of response to grace when we are aware of the presence of God. Imperfectly, but really, the risen life, the life eternal, can be lived in the present world like a gleam of light from the sun. The Kingdom of God is within you— that is, eternal life.

There have been Christian teachers who have adopted so gloomy a view of the utter corruption of "fallen" humanity that they consider all men are wholly devoid of any intuition of God or the Eternal, but we shall be in agreement with nearly all the Christian mystics if we believe that every soul has a "spark" of divinity, or at least a point of contact, with the Eternal.

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DIALOGUE WITH TRUTH

DIALOGUE is a certain kind of talking. I suppose it is different from "conversation" because we should hardly employ the word to describe aimless chatter. Dialogue, we might agree, must have some purpose, theme, or accepted convention. Characters in a play speak dialogue, even though they may be acting a scene of frivolous inanity; the apparently aimless talk on the stage has at least two purposes, for through it the playwright develops the dispositions and hopes of the "characters" in his play and explains the action or "plot" of his dramatic invention.

Dramatic dialogue can be interrupted by noises which are not speech, as by a clap of thunder or by a bomb, or it can be held up by violently irrelevant speech. If, for example, the speech on the stage were suddenly to pass over into "speaking with tongues," ecstatic utterance of words with no recognised meaning, these words would be a part of the dramatic action but would not be a part of the dialogue unless they became intelligible.

Dialogue means, then, conversation which has a certain coherence and, I think we must add, is engaged in with the assumption that each party has something of interest to contribute and is actuated by a desire to understand. When we have a dialogue on religion with adherents of other creeds than our own we may do so because we believe that they may have some truth which would enlighten us, but this is not necessarily the case. It is possible to have a dialogue with a man whose beliefs are, as you plainly see, quite nonsensical, if you have any love for him and are trying to discover the causes ofhis errors.

DIALOGUE, WHEN it takes place in the sphere of religion, is concerned with truth and reality, and when it is conducted "in spirit and in truth" is a co-operative effort directed towards more love as well as more truth. It differs, however, from another type of talking—controversy. It is claimed that in these days we have become so enlightened, and so tolerant, that dialogue has taken the place of controversy.

This is partly true. Certainly the history of Christian doctrine is full of bitter conflicts in which anathemas were the so called "spiritual" weapons with which Christians fought for what they held to be the truth in Christ Jesus. And with how much blood the battle was fought when the arm of the flesh was called in to reinforce the arm of the Spirit we must never forget. If dialogue could totally displace controversy, perhaps "sweet reasonableness" would prevail .iikI thcnloKH .il differences dissolve. That is very doubtful.

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A CLEAN HEART

HE Christian concept of sin is more complex than appears at first glance. The obvious definition that sin is disobedience to divine laws or commands by no means exhausts the biblical thinking on the subject, and it will be found that many of the themes of more primitive religion reappear in a new form in the New Testament.

Among the chief ideas of the nature of sin we must reckon that of defilement. "Make me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me" is the cry of the great penitential psalm (Ps. i.2) which has been echoed down the centuries by Jews and Christians— and many others too.

The dominant feeling here is not fear of an offended judge but the kind of disgust which a man might have when he had fallen into a drain and was covered with filth. And the salvation which this sinner asks for is not primarily forgiveness but cleansing. No one could doubt the psychological importance of this manner of speaking about sin, and probably few introspective persons would be able to claim that they had no experience of self-disgust and spiritual stain.

Shelley was no Christian believer, but consoling himself for the early death of Keats, he is glad that the dead poet had escaped "the world's slow stain." I do not quote these words to suggest that Shelley was a crypto Christian, but simply to show that to him the metaphor of washing off dirt was natural.

THE IDEA OF cleansing the soul from sin by a process symbolised by washing is more deeply seated in the New Testament than any other. The rite of initiation into the Christian Church is a ceremonial washing in water—"the laver of regeneration," the bath which renews the right spirit within the sinner, and the metaphor of the cleaning of the soul is extended to a point where, to some sensitive imaginations, it becomes almost repulsive.

The white robes of the redeemed in Heaven are "washed in the blood of the Lamb"—nay, even the redeemed themselves are made clean by the Precious Blood. Whether these expressions are aesthetically acceptable or not is of small importance: their very vigour tells us how profound was the experience of regeneration interpreted in the symbol of washing away stains.

We have no right to dwell exclusively on one of the types of sin in the Bible. The various images of sin and redemption are not mutually exclusive and the full understanding of the New Testament teaching on this central experience can only be reached by bringing all the modes of presentation together. There are, however, some particular insights which seem to arise from a serious consideration of sin as dirt, which must be kept in mind.

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WHAT WE DESERVE

THE Collect for the fourth Sunday in Lent puts into our mouths the true confession that "for our evil deeds we worthily deserve to be punished." One wonders how many of us have grasped its meaning and adopted it as our own. Do I really agree that I deserve to be punished? Is there not a "dated" flavour about these pious phrases?

It is indeed true that a change has come over our culture since our Collect was composed, largely due to the development of scientific method. We do not feel so certain as our forefathers about the ideas of guilt and of retributive punishment. Probably most of us would agree, in the abstract, that everyone ought to get what he deserves and when we are shocked by revolting atrocities we may even pray that the criminals will be hunted down and punished. But in these days the concept of "social justice" seems to be concerned mainly with "equality of opportunity" and of "consideration"; there is a wide-spread feeling of discontent that one's services to the general good are scandalously under valued!

The men who first prayed in the words of our Collect would have thought it blasphemy to doubt the justice of God. They feared Him and trembled at the thought of his judgment, praying that their worthily deserved punishment might be "relieved by the comfort of God's grace." Equality was in the background.

SO THESE words of an old prayer suggest questions of immense depth. Let us now only note two features of the Christian teaching which are important in practical daily living. We may be led to revise the doctrine in some respects in the light of modern knowledge, but let us not forget that the gospel of sin and its forgiveness is a foundation and safeguard of the dignity of man. He is a responsible being, able to choose good and reject evil; a potential child of God.

And, secondly, this gospel points towards the unity of the human race. "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. iii, 23). Human beings are all one in their need for forgiveness and reconciliation with God. There are no supermen, who can claim dominion by reason of their unique qualities; there is no room for pride, that root sin which corrupts the will and that fundamental fallacy which contradicts the dependence of every human mind on the divine Reason.

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EVIL THOUGHTS

THAT the Collect for the 2nd Sunday in Lent dwells upon the menace of "evil thoughts" is psychologically apt, for it is a common experience that when we start on a serious examination of our moral standing in the sight of God we can easily be diverted into critical thoughts about Christian doctrine and may even end by suspending judgement on the question whether He really exists. If that is our case we shall be well advised to bear in mind that "we walk by faith and not by sight," which implies that in questions of "ultimate concern," such as the possibility of "eternal life," absolute logical certainty is not available. We depend on rational faith.

"The will to believe," "the choice of the nobler hypothesis," the "courage to adventure"—all these phrases are recognitions of the place of will in religious faith. But we must add that certainty in the logical sense is absent from all human activity. If we waited until we were absolutely certain that our choice of action was the best possible we should never act at all, and if we admitted no one to our acquaintance unless we had rigorous proof of his integrity we should have no friends at all.

Our encounter with "evil thoughts" of a sceptical kind may be the means of deepening our understanding of our religion and by pondering on the mysteries which are associated with the idea of God we may be caught up into the vast flood of literature which the quest for clarity of thinking on religion has produced. Only those of high intelligence, patience and ample leisure are likely to add much to the age-long debate at the purely intellectual level, but all adult and sane individuals can come to the point of decision as persons who seek salvation. And indeed the persons who have really provided the material which the "intellectuals" try to analyse are men and women who have spoken out of a full experience in which they have known God in action—acting upon them and acting through them.

IN OUR fevered and highly-strung civilisation many of us are so busy with seeking money and seeking pleasure that we have forgotten how to meditate and so have dimmed our appreciation of the gleams of divinity which shine in this world and could remind us of our eternal home. St. Paul tells us of his strained and harassed life and of his anxieties. He tells us also of his inner thoughts, of the things he dwelt upon. The verses in the Ietter in the Philippians are familiar. They are a list of precious treasurers, things genuine, pure and lovely and personal qualities complete the tally "if there is any virtue or any praise, think on these things." These words open the quiet centre of a tumultuous life and disclose the secret of his unshakable belief in God. He recognised the signs of the divine background of existence.

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CONSCIENCE

SOME people think of conscience as an emotion, and when they say that anything offends their conscience, they mean that it gives them a feeling of distaste, or even disgust. Other people, and among them such notable authorities as Bishop Butler, who wrote "The Analogy," and Kant, have insisted that conscience is intellectual, a "faculty of judgement" or "the practical reason."

We might expect perhaps that the passionately emotional St. Paul would have been on the side of feeling in this controversy, but we should be mistaken. In his most carefully written Epistle, that to the Romans, he touches on the situation of the pagans who have no "law," like that of the Jews, to keep a pattern of goodness before them. Not all these pagans are devoid of morality. Some appear to have "the law written in their hearts"; their conscience is their guide. The words used to describe the action of conscience indicate that it resembles rational judgement, "accusing or else excusing" (Rom. ii, 15).

This passage in Romans is important, because it seems to support the view that there is such a thing as "natural religion" and "natural morality"—religion and ethics which do not depend on special revelation. However that may be, the picture which is left in our minds is that of an internal judge in the human soul whose voice is often ignored, but never completely silenced.

JUDGMENT INVOLVES two intellectual operations. First, it is necessary to decide as accurately as possible the facts of the case, and then to bring it under the appropriate law or principle. In the ordinary personal judgements of conscience these two distinct operations are often not clearly distinguished and the verdict seems almost automatic, but when we are challenged to defend a judgement of our conscience we soon find ourselves arguing on facts and principles.

A renovation of conscience must be a part of our aim, as we may probably all agree, but we may differ about the way to set about it. No one would deny that our emotional nature is deeply involved; we must love righteousness and truth, but it is not enough to sing paeans of praise to these ideals; we need to ensure that our conscience is a judge who seeks diligently to know the facts and brings them under the test of "the perfect law of liberty."

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NOT ENOUGH TRUTH

EVERY Christian who hopes for a civilisation in which Christian values are respected and defended must be anxious when he considers the present state of affairs in "the West." We look with dismay at the conflicts and disclosures which are reported from the U.S.A. and we are well aware that the forces which work in America exist also here and that Christian civilisation is at risk in every democratic country.

In my haste, when I began this essay, I called it "Too many lies," but I see now that the negative way of putting the idea is not adequate. Let us say there is "not enough truth," or perhaps, even better, there are not enough men and women who love truth and speak it all the time. We will add one other quality: we need citizens who will support others who are seeking truth. There is too much mystery in our affairs and who can feel serene when he reads of manoeuvres to "cover up" doubtful transactions ?

Some readers may ask what private individuals can do to promote the telling of truth: the answer is "almost everything." If we were citizens who were of the truth, sternly disciplining ourselves to speak truly and to avoid ambiguity, we should not lack leaders who would be trusted and followed. Arc we as sure as we would like that the men whom we elect to govern us are always telling us the truth ?

Students of the history of ideas will remember the somewhat extreme position taken by Immanuel Kant, who held that it is always wrong to tell a lie—even to prevent murder. Perhaps we disagree, but excessive feelings of guilt over "little fibs" are better than frivolous distortions of truth, and it is better to be scrupulous than treacherous.

IN THE TEACHING ofjesus, as recorded in the Gospel ofjohn, is a profound saying which links together knowing the truth and freedom. "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free," says He to His disciples, referring no doubt to wider experiences than political, but politics are not excluded.

The ignorant masses who cast votes without any rational consideration are not really free, nor can they be free unless their leaders help them to understand and to acquire accurate knowledge of the working of the social "machine," or rather of the living community. The subject is so large that we have not even touched upon one topic. What about the corrupting elfect on the souls of the liars? What did Plato mean by the lie in the soul?

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AUTHORITY

TO read through the Gospel of St. Matthew in a modern translation at a sitting is a rewarding exercise, particularly if one keeps in mind the question, "What picture of Jesus did the author intend to present?" One part of the answer is that Jesus was a remarkable teacher, differing from the "Scribes" because His teaching had the "note of authority" (Mat. vii, 29). The word is in contemporary discussions. We are asking about authority in morals and public opinion on birth control and on many other urgent personal concerns. There is relevance in the enquiry, "In what did the authority of Jesus consist and what validity can we assign to it now?"

The author of the Gospel certainly thought that Jesus's authority was demonstrated by His miracles, specially of healing. They were the "mighty works" which proclaimed Him to be the Messiah. It is not certain that this was Jesus's view. When He had finished the Parable of the Sower, which was evidently regarded by Him as a very important one, He said abruptly, "He that has ears, let him hear" (Mat. xiii, 9) and to His disciples He said, according to Matthew, that He spoke to the people only in parables on purpose, but explained them to the chosen band (Mat. xiii, ioff).

The explanations seem to have been far from convincing, judging by the Lord's complaints of the Disciples' lack of understanding and their desertion of Him at His arrest. The image which emerges from a perusal of this Gospel is that of a man who was conscious of a divine vocation which included teaching by words but had its significance chiefly in acts and in sacrifice.

JESUS CHRIST is rightly listed among the immortal moralists of the human race, but He is unlike most of the others in His method. He does not argue or reason like Socrates nor does He analyse the human personality and its status in the scheme of things like the Buddha, nor again does He draw out lessons from experience of social order like Confucius. He speaks in commands and challenges, and those who hear with their ears may either listen with the mind or let the words pass by like a breath of air. Those who hear may ponder and embrace the truth.

The basis of authority in the Gospel presentation of Jesus the teacher would seem to be, in the last analysis, the response of the human spirit to the words of Christ. We may infer from this that no one can do violence to his conscience without sin, though we must remember that, as Hegel said, we may have "the conscience of an ass." How to keep our consciences tender and also enlightened when the years have toughened our sensibility? One way is to keep our ears open.

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IN THE SILENCE

THERE is a gospel for society and there is a gospel for solitariness, or rather we should say the one Christian gospel has a message of salvation for all men, both as members of society and as individuals. The Lord Jesus spent the days of His mission in company and in crowds, but at times He withdrew from crowds and gave up nights to solitary prayer.

Indeed, a study of the experience of many spiritual heroes of different systems and beliefs shows that such intervals of quiet are found in nearly all. An eminent philosopher described religion as "what a man does with his solitariness." He was right in this respect, that persons who have no solitude are hindered in spiritual progress.

In our self-examination the sins which trouble us most are those which have injured our neighbours and the progress in goodness for which we must rejoice is, quite rightly, increase in the social or neighbourly service we have rendered. But we must not forget the sins which are against ourselves. That there can be such sins is clear when we consider the facility with which persons "go to pieces" in the sense of failing to exercise qualities and abilities. Supposing that we were hopelessly stranded on a desert island we should still feel that we had a duty to remain "human" and to be self-respecting individuals. This would be the case even if we had no belief in God, but in the power of faith we would face the trial of unbroken solitude with hope.

THE SPIRITUAL exercise of voluntary silence and solitude can be harmful rather than helpful unless we know what we are doing. In a general way, we can say that we are trying to "know God," which St. John tells us is the meaning of Eternal Life (Jno. xvii, 23). We may be disappointed with the results of our effort and even feel further off from Him than when we began. But one thing is almost certain if we really make the attempt to be solitary and silent for a few hours; we shall become better acquainted with ourselves. We shall be surprised by the random thoughts which drift through our minds, by the difficulty of concentrating attention on divine truth and by how hard it is to be in love and charity with all men. If we learn from the silence the need which we have of grace to "think those things that be good," we shall walk more humbly with our God. In the silence He may have found us.

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THE STORY THAT SHOOK THE WORLD

A CHRISTMAS MEDITATION

THE Christmas story, regarded simply as a story, has many intrinsic attractions and has in St. Luke an admirable narrator. The romantic tale of an infant born in humble and sordid circumstances, who is in fact of royal lineage and destined to greatness, in various forms, has fascinated men from the time when story-telling began.

Here, the pastoral setting and the supernatural hints of the real nature of the baby and his future glory enhance the story's appeal.

Just as a story it is better than Cinderella. Still keeping to the level of the art of the story teller, we may note, however, that in one respect it differs from most stories of the Cinderella kind—it is incomplete; it needs a sequel, it points beyond itself to the Good Friday story and the Easter story; it arouses our curiosity to ask what happened to the baby whose birth is described so remarkably, and what was his life.

But, of course, if we remain on the level of romantic fiction we miss the whole point. The story is presented to us not only as true, but as deeply significant.

Without looking further than indisputable facts, it is evident that the Birth Story of Christ is totally different from all other stories; it has really no significant resemblance to tales like Cinderella. It is a story which shook the world, and, because it was widely told and believed, the course of history was changed. To understand it at any deeper level we must look for its meaning.

FULLNESS OF TIME

When the question is one of meaning, it is always important to look at the context. This is true not only of words but of narratives, and often when we consider the context we discover that facts, or the reports of events, which had seemed to be of small import prove to be far more far-reaching in their consequences than we had imagined. The Birth of Christ demands to be put in some context.

The most obvious context is that of history in which endless subjects for reflection present themselves. The state of the western world at the coming of Christ suggests the thought that it happened in "the fullness of the time" according to the Providence of God.

We pass on to the rise and progress of the Church and of Christian civilisation, and so on to the Church of the present day and the civilisation in which it has to function. Where are they taking us? Tremendous issues are involved and the future is not clear; we may find ourselves deeply concerned in an inquiry which should engage the prayerful thought of every intelligent Christian— what is the will of God for the Church now and how can it best serve Christ its King ?

But the most fruitful context is that in which the New Testament proclaims the meaning of the Birth—that of revelation. The Bible contains much history and many documents which are of interest to the historian, but its chief and all-important witness is to the history of divine revelation. The birth of Christ, as the Bible represents it, is the end, the culmination, the fulfilment of a long process of revelation, which consists in the self-disclosure of God in and through human experience.

The idea of revelation is not, of course, confined to the Bible. Belief in deity which rises above the superstitions of mere barbarism always carries with it the belief that deity communicates with the worshippers, and when the conception of God is that of one personal Deity the inference is overwhelming that He will make Himself and His purpose known.

The idea that divine revelation is to be found only in the Bible is, one hopes, fading from the Christian consciousness and giving place to a recognition that other religions have not been without some revelatory experience of the Eternal. But the Bible is nevertheless unique in that nowhere else is there a record of revelation so continuous, so coherently deepening and enlarging and tending towards a culmination.

The Hebrew Prophets' oracles are concerned with declaring the will of God in relation to existing circumstances and crises; their utterances are "tracts for the times," many of which have become tracts for all times. They are moralists, but certainly not moral philosophers. They speak out of their experience and intuition with the conviction that their words are words given them by God. Their revelation of God as righteous, compassionate and holy is not the conclusion of a train of reasoning: it arises out of their inspired insight into what the will of God has been and is.

The culmination of the inspired words of prophecy is Christ, the Word of God; the "Word made flesh." The revelation, which had always been words expressing personal experience of inspired men, reaches its climax in a human life which is inspired in every act and moment.

REVEALER OF LIFE

When we think of revelation seriously, we can hardly avoid asking: What is revealed? What kind of illumination do we receive? The answer to this has often been too intellectual and detached. Men have supposed that revelation consists in the imparting of doctrines which we could not have discovered otherwise, that what we are given is supernaturally guaranteed statements about God.

This approach is too narrow and fails to do justice to the close connection between Christ and prophecy. The New Testament speaks of Him not as a teacher of truths, but as Himself the Truth; the revealer of the divine life.

The whole experience and life of the Christ are the revelation: contemplate His acts, His words, His love which leads to His sacrificial death, and His rising from death and His victory— there you have the divine life, the life of the Eternal God translated, as it were, into the terms of human existence, projected, mirrored, manifested (words fail us here) into the passing world of time and space.

Are there, then, no revealed truths, no inspired doctrines? In one sense there are. Our minds are stimulated to sum up the revelation in propositions and statements and, in so far as these are truly founded on it, they may be said to be revealed in a secondary or derivative sense; but, when they are formulas unvivified by the revelation, they lose their validity.

"God is love," writes St. John, and that is a doctrine very near to the heart of the revelation; one moreover which, apart from the revelation in Christ, is hard to believe.

Yet even this can be a dead formula or an ambiguous sentence. What do we mean by "love" ? The word may be a blank to be filled up in many different ways. It is true only when we make the abstract term "love" concrete by referring it to love incarnate in the Christ.

BORN IN ME

How is revelation attested and by what signs may we recognise it ? An answer which has often been given is, "by miracles." In our day, this answer has lost much of its force, but it is not wholly foolish, for we should expect one who was and is the supreme revelation of God to possess powers which go beyond those of normal human beings.

However that may be, it is true that miracles alone could never persuade a reasonable man to worship the miracle worker as the Son of God. Nor does Jesus rely on miracles. To those who demanded a "sign," a supernatural endorsement of His authority, He replied that the only sign they would have was the "sign of Jonah," which meant the repentance of the men of Nineveh at Jonah's preaching.

The sign that He offered was the response in the hearts of those whose lives were changed by His words and His friendship. In this connection, we should carefully note that the Gospels give no hint that Jesus ever referred to His miraculous birth.

"He came unto his own and his own received him not," writes St. John, implying that those to whom He came had the capacity to respond, though only a few actually did so. There was a kinship with the Word made flesh, because the Word enlightened all men. Revelation authenticates itself to us by the appeal that it makes to the deep needs and intuitions of our spirits.

There is then another context in which we must think of the birth of Christ—our own individual lives and experience. This is so obvious and so intimate that we may best pursue this inquiry in the silence of our inmost self-examination, each asking what relevance the birth of Christ has in that private context known only to himself and God.

What does it profit to know that Christ was born in Bethlehem if He be not born in me ?

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ETERNAL BEING

ANYONE who "takes religion seriously" will find that some words which he has heard and spoken with careless ease now seem to demand his attention. Quite simply, what do they mean ? And, particularly; what can they mean for me? One such word is "eternal." One sign of its importance is that sometimes we find it used as equivalent to "everlasting" and sometimes as a name for God. Men talk of "the Eternal" as the object of worship without implying a divine personality—without giving God a name.

A reader of the New Testament will probably agree that in many contexts there is no significant difference between "Eternal" and "everlasting" but there are times when everlasting sounds inadequate. Perhaps we might label "Eternal" as a worshipping word used when we are moved to cry to the Eternal for help or to bow down before the ultimate Being and the highest Good. We have in mind all the unchangeable values and purposes which are included in the living God who holds us in His hand. The glorious paradox of the presence of the Creator with and in His creatures is suggested by the word Eternal.

WHEN WE begin to think on these lines, it is, of course, only too easy to wander vaguely in random speculations and imaginations which have no special relation to our personal problems. There are, however, two lines of thought which can reward the pilgrims of Eternity. The first is to take some interest in the experiences of other pilgrims. The field of study is immense. In our own church and modern times there have been men and women who have walked with God and left us with instructive examples of "eternal life" in time. The second possible field of inquiry is to examine a theory and make up our minds about it. There is, so it may be claimed, an Eternal Life manifestation in the thinkers and students who serve tin-cause of truth. But we must avoid spiritual "elitism." The Eternal Life can flow into the humblest souls. We are human and if we are quiet enough and have our attention fastened on the Eternal it may be that just for a moment time stands still and He finds us.

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MEDITATION

THE most general meaning of "meditation" is "thought consciously directed towards some end" and in that sense it is common to all rational creatures who have got beyond the stage when their actions are governed by impulse and instinct. Thus meditation may be at many different levels according to the purpose of the meditator, ranging from the practical to the spiritual and from the selfish to the altruistic. A man may meditate on the probable behaviour of the stock market with respect to his investments, on a project for the public good and on the being of God. Not all meditation is religious nor is all of it good. Some atrociously cruel rulers have been meditative men and their meditations have made their cruelty more far-reaching and more efficient. Moreover it is by no means clear that meditations which are free from positive evil are necessarily beneficial, because the attention may be directed exclusively on the meditator's personality and reinforce a crippling tendency to self-centredness.

THE CHRISTIAN writers on the spiritual life have much to say about meditation which they regard as, along with prayer, an indispensable means of grace. The "mystical element in religion," to borrow Baron von Hugel's phrase, has drawn its nourishment from the practice of meditation. Without exception these authorities have insisted on the "way of purification" as the first stage in the progress of the human soul to the knowledge of God. The observations which we have made on the varieties of meditation support the demand, which is simply an application of the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."

The practice of meditation for some sensitive spirits often brings a speedy experience of inner peace and joy and some have thought that by one leap forward the work of grace has been completed and no setbacks will mar it. The greatest mystics have left on record that after their conversion they set forth on the way of purification and found it hard. Some have spoken of the "dark night of the soul" as a hazard of the pilgrimage which must be endured by those who seek the union with God which is the true end of the soul's adventure.

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LOOKING FORWARD

AT the New Year we can hardly help wondering what it will bring, or more correctly, what will happen in the next 12 months. The wonderers probably could be divided into two main classes, the optimists and the pessimists. Some people seem by nature to expect the best and others to expect the worst. Many of the pessimists, however, would claim that their dismal projections are based on bitter experience.

The claim is sometime made that Christianity is an optimistic creed, but this would be disputed violently by some Christians and by some anti-Christians. If we feel disposed to go further with this discussion, I think we shall soon come to the point where we have to analyse a little. It could be suggested that in one respect the Christian faith leads to expectation of death and destruction while in another, and equally important, aspect it promises progress and fuller life. The question of the ultimate fate of our world has recently received some drastic answers from scientific authorities. So far as I can judge, none of them would prophecy eternity for the world which is our present home. In this matter there is agreement. "The fashion of this world passeth away" wrote both St. Paul and St. John (i Cor vii, 31 and i Jno ii.17).

THE KINGDOM OF GOD, though a suburb (so to say) of it exists on earth, has its home and its base in Heaven, and when we pray that it may come on earth we are looking for the complete transformation of our earthly lives and societies. Though there is a call on all Christians to serve the Kingdom, it is quite out of place to boast that we are "bringing in" the Kingdom. According to the teaching of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is "given." It follows from all this that so far as the inhabitants of this world, persons with rational intelligence, are concerned the possible future is unlimited. Though the world is "passing away" and every year brings its dissolution nearer, the spiritual beings whose home it once was will go forward into the realm of light and fulfilment.

The Christian faith is realistic rather than pessimistic. It faces the facts of earthly life. It has at its centre the figure of Christ who came to bring the Kingdom of God. The strange reality is that Christ on the Cross and risen is the foundation of unconquerable optimism for us sinners.

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THE LORD'S PRAYER


CREATOR SPIRIT

WHERE shall we find the Creator Spirit at work? Not only in the sphere of organised religion or the worship of the Church; sometimes the Spirit is moving in the minds of men of many different faiths towards the same end or in quest of a solution of the same problem. One of the "signs" of recent times has been the almost sudden concern manifested about the future of the human race by thoughtful persons in most civilised countries.

This "concern" is often engendered by the population "explosion" and its consequences, but this is only a part of the problem for the future of the earth itself is brought in question. How long in present circumstances can our planet be our habitable home? There are still many careless individuals who say, "I don't worry; it will last my time," but they have diminished in number and, it seems, are now rather shamefaced when they speak so selfishly. One of the consequences of our increased knowledge is that our moral obligations have been extended to include persons who have not yet been born and, moreover, who are hypothetical persons who may never be born at all. The text books on Ethics and on Moral Theology do not help us very much when we ask, How can we love as our neighbours human beings of hypothetical reality, yet surely if I knowingly do anything which I know will harm someone not yet born or if I refrain from doing what I can to benefit future generations I am to blame.

IF WE may discern the influence of the Holy Spirit in the deep concern of good men about the future of the human race perhaps we are being led to give a wider scope to a principle which may be gathered from the Old Testament—man's responsibility for the world. Now man has, so to speak, acquired some of the power which was hitherto ascribed to Providence. Today, within limits, man can predict some events which, until the scientific age, were unpredictable and uncontrollable.

Our "time," the years during which we are on the earth, is a critical period and we have the opportunity to help or hinder the welfare of our successors. Any good we do them will be unselfish for, so far as we know, they cannot reciprocate our kindness. Yet we know that, as rational beings, we owe it to ourselves to wish those who come after us a noble and happy life and to leave the earth a better home than we received. So, I suggest, all good Humanists might agree. As Christian Humanists our responsibility, we believe, is to our Creator and our principle the gospel of love.

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IN CONSCIENCE

IN these days many ordinary persons find themselves confronted with moral problems not of the familiar kind, which consist of the question how to do what one knows to be right, but of the more fundamental question what is right to do? And we are assured even by teachers who lay great stress on authority that, in the last resort, we must obey our conscience. But what do we mean by "conscience?" Problems of conscience, in the full meaning of the term, are not everyday events. People may go through years without experiencing one. Most of us have standards of behaviour which we do not often question. We do not have to conduct an internal argument with ourselves, for example, when we have an opportunity of defrauding a neighbour with impunity. We may say that our conscience forbids us, but the dishonest action is simply "not on"; it was never among the possible actions.

Some persons, misled perhaps by such everyday experiences, regard conscience as an emotional state, or, as they would say, "simply a matter of having the right feelings, or the right instincts." And certainly emotion cannot be eliminated; an unloving conscience cannot be a Christian conscience. When we feel disgust, loathing, anger at evil deeds we are showing that we are moral beings, and when we speak of good lives as "beautiful" we are expressing the close relation which exists between the two values, the eternal beauty and the good. But the conscience differs profoundly from good taste and aesthetic sensitivity; it is in essence an activity of intellect. The conscience is the mind exercising judgment: Kant called it the Practical Reason—the reason at work in the affairs of daily life. We must get rid of the idea that "conscience" is a special faculty distinct from our reason; it is reason judging conduct.

THIS JUDGING ACTIVITY goes on all the time, and shows itself in two distinct spheres. We judge ourselves. It is our conscience which disturbs us when we have "let ourselves down" and moves us to repentance. An insensitive conscience is often associated with a sluggish mind. It is our conscience, too, which has to deal with the other moral problem, What is our duty, or, more urgently, What is my duty? In such grave matters we dare not rely on a snap judgment or on formulas which we do not understand.

In this kind of problem there is more than one opinion which is held by good and intelligent men and authority itself speaks with an uncertain, or confused, voice. No Christian can think of dealing with it unless he prays for "a right judgment in all things." Doubtless many Christian men and women do pray in this manner when faced with this challenge to their own conscience in times of decision.

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MOTH AND RUST

IN His teaching on the subject of the "inordinate love of riches" Jesus lays stress on their obvious tendency to perish. "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal," or possibly instead of "rust" we should read "rats." (Mat. vi.igff).

In the circumstances when Jesus spoke these words "riches" consisted of "possessions" which had to be stored much more than they do now and a man's wealth might consist, chiefly of gold, silver, costly raiment and jewels. But even then wealth was, to some extent, in the form of credit. The alteration of the value of currency was not unknown as a way of raising funds for Caesar. If the Sermon on the Mount were being preached now doubtless the erosion of the pound and other paper Money would have been included with moth and rust, though not perhaps with thieves, as a cause of the precariousness of worldly prosperity.

The main interest, however, in this passage is that it answers the question: Does the teaching of Jesus corroborate the hope of the righteous for any reward? It would seem that it does for he proceeds to advise a policy: "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth consume and thieves do not break through nor steal." Spiritual directors have sometimes condemned the hope of reward as a wrong motive for conduct and foolish persons, who have not seriously considered the problem of punishment, have jeered at "pie in the sky," which is their elegant synonym for Kingdom of Heaven.

A MYSTICAL SAINT, to pass abruptly to the other extreme, tells of a vision of an angel carrying two pails, one of water and the other of red hot coals. When questioned the angel in the vision replied that the water was to quench the flames of hell and the fire to burn up heaven. "So that Christian people might serve God neither from fear nor from hope but solely from pure disinterested love."

This teaching on disinterested love and on the place of reward in the Christian understanding of personal goodness has been debated by "doctors of the Church" and by many unlearned pilgrims who are fighting their way towards God. A study of the meaning of "treasure in heaven" may help to bring some light.

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THE FIRST COMING

HAS history any meaning? This is a question which the plain man finds both intelligible and important, though probably the majority of professional historians and philosophers to-day would tell him either that his question itself is unmeaning or that the answer is "No."

We must own that it is hard to state precisely what kind of meaning we might hope to discern in history, but that does not prevent us from feeling that history must have some "point," must "add up" to something must be "going somewhere." These are all vague and metaphorical expressions, but they convey the conviction that if we were forced to conclude that history is a mere succession of events without a vestige of plan or purpose, it would be exceedingly bad and depressing news.

For Christian faith, history has both a plan and a purpose. They are not, however, on the surface and cannot be deduced by a comprehensive survey of the data.

The clue to them is itself an event in history—the Advent of Christ, which to the secular historian is one birth among innumerable others, is for faith the decisive act of God. His supreme revelation of Himself in the Incarnate Word and His declaration that the world of human history is the object of His concern and love.

THE TRUTH of this cannot be proved by historical arguments, nor can it be disproved. It is at least not incompatible with the facts of history as we know them so far, and it does answer the question with which we began this essay.

There are other answers with which it can be compared, as for example the Marxist theory, but it seems to me that anyone who reviewed the possible answers would hope, even if he could not believe, that the Christain answer was the truth.

The Christian view of history, then, implies a division at the point of the First Coming of Christ. Before that event the most deeply significant aspect of the development of mankind is the preparation for the "fullness of time" of the Advent, which fulfils the spiritual aspirations not only of the Hebrews but of other races and religions; after the Advent the meaning of history is to be learnt only by a backward look at the Man Christ Jesus and a forward look at the Second Coming, which will consummate the whole process in the Kingdom of God.

THE PROBLEM of the meaning of history is not just a matter of academic interest. The really important answers have a practical application in directing the conduct of those who accept them. Thus, Marxism has the conception of the "historical line," which adherents are exhorted to follow. The Christian faith has its own very different historical line.

The division of history by the Advent of Christ is followed by a division of persons into those who are on His side and those who are against Him. This is a division which goes deeper than dogma and involves the whole personality.

It presents us with the question whether we are, in our actions and in our dominant thoughts and purposes, "children of light"; the question "Has history a meaning?" when answered in the Chrisitian sense, leads directly to the Advent prayer. "Give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which Thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility."

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DIALOGUE IN HARMONY

THE word "dialogue" has become familiar in connection with political, social and religious differences; we often hear that, somewhat to our surprise, we are involved as members of a church or a movement in a "dialogue" and wonder what is happening. A dialogue, we may suppose, is intended to be different to an "encounter," an argument, a controversy, or a dispute in this respect— that it is conceived as a step to reconciliation.

When we profess to be conducting a "dialogue" rather than a controversy we must mean that our aim is first of all to explain to those taking part in the dialogue our own point of view and to learn from it a fuller understanding and appreciation of theirs. But "point of view" is not all. In dialogue novelists and playwrights develop the characters of the persons in their story, and in real life we come to know our friends and companions by talking with them, nor can we be satisfied with mere talk, words which express the superficial aspects of our minds and theirs; the true fruits of dialogue can be reaped only when all engaged speak freely and sincerely out of their best thought and most significant experience. Dialogue should lead not to argumentative victory, and not only to intellectual synthesis but to personal harmony of feeling and aspiration.

THAT "DIALOGUE" should be coming into favour in many fields ofdisagreement and controversy is a hopeful sign of the times and there is plenty of good will available, but perhaps the difficulty of sustaining fruitful dialogue is not sufficiently recognised. It is not easy to explore sympathetically views and sentiments which are quite contrary to those we hold sacred, nor to recognise that others when they enter into dialogue with us have similar feelings of repulsion.

At first sight, it is odd that "dialogue" has originated as a conciliatory technique in religion and has had its chief success there. One might have thought that the tradition in Christianity of dogmatic orthodoxy, fortified by anathema, would have been too tough, but on reflection it is not really surprising, for all Christians believe in God and in revelation through Christ. They share at least two major presuppositions. And this may suggest to us a further question. For the believer all dialogue is in the presence of God, and in dialogues on Christian fellowship that presence is a consciously accepted and proclaimed fact; is there any sense in which we can reverently think of God as one of the interlocuters?

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WHO IS THIS?

ADVENT is the season in the Christian year when we are preparing to celebrate the coming of Christ into the world as a new-born baby, and it may seem strange that on the first Sunday in Advent the Church should read, as the Gospel for the week, St. Matthew's account of the entry of Christ into Jerusalem which marked the beginning of the end of His earthly life. One might hazard a guess that one sentence in the narrative seemed to be a direct hit on the inner meaning of the coming of Christ. When Jesus and His disciples from Galilee entered Jerusalem, we are told, "all the city was moved saying Who is this?" and the multitudes said, "This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee." (Mat xxi. I O.I I.)

A careful reading of the New Testament leads one to grasp the fact that throughout it is concerned with the question, Who is this? Would it be an irreverent suggestion that the same question was in the mind of the Master. "But who say ye that I am?" and that Peter's answer, "Thou art the Messiah" (Mat xvi. 16) was welcomed as a confirmation of a belief which had taken shape in the questioner's mind ? Not every reader will accept this interpretation, and no one can be sure, but at least it is conceivable that the human Jesus came, by degrees, to a full comprehension of His own nature and of His mission.

NOT ONLY WAS THE QUESTION Who is this ? fundamental in the thinking of the writers of the New Testament, it is the fundamental question which Christian theology over the centuries has been grappling with and is doing so at this day. More vital still for us all is the fact that no one can read the New Testament seriously without discovering that he has a problem which is personal and practical. More urgent than deciding on a truly orthodox doctrine of the Person of Christ is the question of my attitude to Him. Is He my "prophet," the speaker of moral truths which penetrate my conscience? Is He perhaps, as the Church proclaims, much more than this? Could it be that the word "Immanuel," God with us, is applicable, in a special sense, to Him ?

The late Albert Schweitzer, whose critical views on the New Testament disturbed many orthodox believers because they could not reconcile his life of Christian service with his scepticism about our knowledge of the Jesus of history, may take comfort from a well-known passage in his "Quest of the Historical Jesus" in which, while insisting on the "strangeness" of the "Man of the First Century." he claims that by taking His yoke upon us in devoted service we learn, in experience, Who He is.

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THE SECOND COMING

SIR JULIAN HUXLEY is reported to have said "All religions are doomed," Properly understood, this is a perfectly orthodox Christian statement, for the New Testament teaches that the doctrines of our faith, though true, are not the whole truth about God.

It teaches that here we see "through a glass darkly." and further that the Church, with its organisation, though the appointed instrument of the Kingdom of God, is not identical with it.

The second coming of Christ represents the vanishing away of the present order, not into nothingness, but into the full reality of the Kingdom and the full light of the knowledge of God.

Sir Julian Huxley's meaning, however, is not that of the New Testament. He believes that religions are doomed because men will soon be convinced that there is no supernatural, no Deity and no revelation and will soon also understand that their fate is in their own hands and the future in their control.

Unless he has been misreported, he seems to think that this is a new gospel, even a new religion.

I don't understand this. I can see that a thinker might come to the conclusion that there is no Supernatural, though it would be necessary to discover what precisely he means by this word, for if it is taken as equivalent to "irrational," the statement could be accepted by any intelligent Christian. God is not irrational, but the supreme Reason and Wisdom.

If, however, "supernatural" means superior to human reason and understanding, and Huxley intends simply to deny that there is any creative and directing Mind other than human minds, the proposition seems both difficult to accept and the very opposite of good news.

IT IS DIFFICULT to accept for many reasons, among which we might adduce here the inconceivability of the idea that an intelligence such as that of Huxley himself, with its wonderful powers of penetration, synthesis and widely ranging speculation, should have been produced by a process of evolution which is directionless, mindless and devoid of purpose. And it seems to me ominous in its probable consequences.

We have heated controversies about the best constitution of our societies and states; they will be negligible compared with those that would arise about the best kind of human being and the type that should be permitted to breed. The troublesome problem of values, cannot be by-passed.

A. N. Whitehead remarked that the Christian knows, or ought to know, what he means by progress, differing therein from most of those who talk about it. He means approximation to the Kingdom of God as Jesus conceived it.

Whitehead might have added that the Christian has a rational ground for believing in the possibility of progress.

FOR HIM it does not depend on the fluctuating and blind wills of men, but on the overruling providence of God, who is working His purposes out in what seem to be the changes and chances of the world. He has his part to play, but it is not that of a controller of destiny.

It is his privilege to be a "fellow-worker with God." and he is only safe from the nemesis which waits on pride when he humbly seeks to gain some light on the divine purpose and to serve it, preparing for the "glory that shall be revealed, given but not achieved.

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BLESSING ON MOURNERS

"BLESSED are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."

Who are these mourners pronounced happy or blessed? We should, I think, read this in connection with the previous Beatitude on "the poor" and regard it as first of all addressed to the same persons.
All these blessings are given in the first place to those who are preparing for the Kingdom of God by repentance and have accepted the message "Repent for the Kingdom is at hand." If this is so, the primary meaning of mourning is sorrow for sin. But not only for the sins of the individuals; those who are eagerly looking for the Kingdom grieve over the apostacy and disobedience of their people which delay the fulfilment of God's purpose.

We are thus introduced to the difficult but suggestive idea that, in some sense, it is possible to repent for others and that mourning for sins that others have done may have saving power. This conception has been worked out in a famous treatise on the Atonement and applied to the understanding of Christ's offering of Himself for the sin of the world.

THERE IS NO difficulty in transferring the reference to our own times. One does not have to be a puritan or a prophet to be disturbed by many aspects of our nominally Christian civilisation. There are sins and offences enough among us to cause dismay.

Perhaps we denounce them and despise or condemn offenders who come to our notice, but do we mourn over them and try to repent on behalf of a society which is not inclined to repent for itself? If we are really members one of another we cannot contract out of the collective responsibility for collective evils.

Since the Beatitude was uttered it has been taken by countless sufferers as a general promise to "all who labour and are heavy laden." This interpretation is warranted by other words of Christ.

There are definite indications that in the mind of Jesus one of the glorious promises of the life of the world to come was that it would right the apparent wrongs of this world. In the parable of Dives and Lazarus this theme comes clearly to the fore. It is not suggested in the story that Lazarus had been specially pious or righteous—he had been specially miserable.

The idea of compensation is not absent from the New Testament, though it is lifted above all materialistic associations. The sufferings of the present time, says St. Paul are not to be compared with the glory of the world to come.

BISHOP BUTLER, in the "Analogy of Religion," argued that we have evidence enough to show that in this world partial justice obtains and we may justly hope and believe that, when the whole scheme of things is revealed to us, we shall see that perfect justice is done. The argument is not perhaps so powerful as we might wish and we may feel more assurance when, by an act of faith, we accept the Speaker, of this Beatitude as the supreme revelation of God.

The Father of the Lord Jesus, who speaks to us through Him, must be a just and merciful God who loves those who mourn and is the God of comfort Who will wipe away all tears from their eyes.

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SPIRITUAL PHENOMENA

IN writing to the Christians in Greek cities St. Paul remembered that they had recently been pagans, and therefore religious persons. They had not been converted from atheism, but from one faith to another. Some of the outward expressions of religion in the Church resembled superficially some heathen religious phenomena.

We have ample evidence in the New Testament that in Apostolic times ecstatic utterances, "speaking with tongues," perhaps hysterical behaviour, certainly enthusiasm which broke through normal inhibitions, were regarded as evidence of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Now these psychological phenomena were present in some pagan worship, and therefore St. Paul is most concerned to make it clear that the content of the revelations and utterances was the test of their authenticity, and not the form in which they came. Bearing this in mind, we can understand what at first sight seems queer—his definite statement that "no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed." (i Cor., xii,3). How could anyone in a Christian assembly say any such thing? Quite easily. An emotionally unstable person carried away by group enthusiasm might find a sentiment which in his conscious mind he steadfastly repressed and repudiated welling up from the unconscious. He seemed to be uttering something that he did not will to utter; surely it was some power not himself that was speaking in him. From that realisation it was not surprising that he proceeded to conclude that the Spirit was the author; in short, that he had been inspired.

ST. PAUL, of course, could not analyse the situation psychologically, but he grasped the essential truth and the practical need. He did not deny the resemblance in form of the two spiritual experiences, one issuing in the declaration that Jesus was anathema, and the other in the cry "Jesus is Lord," but, with inspired commonsense, he held fast to the conviction that, by virtue of their meanings, they were poles apart. Was it not, too, inspired commonsense that led him to refrain from condemning all expressions of ecstatic devotion ? He did not dare to quench the Spirit; he put forward a method by which these spiritual experiences could be tested whether they were of God.

This inspired commonsense is never out of date. To-day we may be tempted to allow ourselves to be swept away on a tide of enthusiastic emotion in ourselves, or be uncritically affected by a manifestation of powerful feeling in others. The criterion, however, is not strength of emotion, but whether it is tending towards a deeper understanding and commitment to the Lord Christ. Nor must we, in an excessive revulsion from the errors of enthusiasm aim at eliminating it. A religion of uncriticised emotion is fanatical, but one devoid of enthusiasm is dead.

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LOVE AND HUMILITY

WE find it difficult to think that God could be humble, but if we think critically we do not find it easy to believe that God is love. And, I suggest, there is a close connection between these two attributes; in fact that humility not inspired by love is a spurious virtue. St. Paul, in the famous passage about "the mind of Christ Jesus" (Phil, ii), definitely links humility with love, and after praying that the Philippians might be "of the same mind, having the same love" goes on to speak of "lowliness of mind, each counting other better than himself, not looking each of you to his own things but each of you also to the things of others."

Except in the context of love, humility may be a vice. What value could one assign to an erroneous estimate of one's ability or character? The aim of self-examination from a detached and unbiased point of view must surely be the truth. Humility for its own sake is hard to justify, and a tendency to devalue ourselves is no less dangerous than to overvalue. Masochism and sadism are perversions which are below the surface, it seems, of all our personalities and lie in wait for our ruin. The context of love makes all the difference. In the fellowship which St. Paul envisaged as the norm of the Church, humility would be the logical and almost instinctive response of the individual to the spiritual environment. If I loved all my neighbours as myself a policy of self-assertion or selfishness would be pointless. We ought perhaps to note that the Apostle does not in this passage at least touch on the relation of Christians to those outside the fellowship.

HAVE WE NOT MERE an answer to the question. How can God be humble? God is love. The outflowing good-will of the Creator goes out to all His creatures: the joy in His creation which is presupposed in the Bible culminates in rational creatures who are "made in God's image." The joy of the Creator is renewed in every person who responds to His love and feels and knows that he is a child of God by nature and by grace. In some such images and parables we may express our faith and hope about the mysterious universe in which we live and the unknown future towards which we move. Humble before the mystery of existence we must be, and overwhelmed by it, unless we believe that its Creator has the humility of love.

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TASKMASTER

THE young John Milton prayed that he might live his life "as ever in his great taskmaster's eye." He thought of God as the eternal Lawgiver and Judge. Was he wrong ? Shall we say he had the misfortune to be a Puritan and did not understand that the gospel of love has superseded the Old Testament's stern idea of God? No one who reads the New Testament intelligently could entertain such an opinion.

The new revelation of the divine nature which Christians believe we have in Christ reaffirms the being of the eternal taskmaster and judge. The life and teaching of Jesus actually presuppose the concepts. According to the Gospels the guiding conviction of Christ was that He had a task laid upon Him by the Heavenly Father, and He died fulfilling it. He won salvation for us by His perfect obedience.

Only quite recently have many Christians relaxed their belief. The writers of theological works in the 19th century, and specially during the controversies of the Oxford Movement, all would reecho the prayer of Milton and all trembled before the Great Taskmaster. Something of great value has been lost, or placed in jeopardy, by this change of emphasis. It may be that the fear of God, in some cases, obscured the faith in His love, but it stamped the lives of believers with a dignity and a seriousness which we lack. We are only too ready to condemn the faults of our fellow citizens without asking for their cause.

A NOTORIOUS AND CRYING EVIL is the prevalence among us of every kind of dishonesty. Robbery with violence, pilfering, fraud, lying for gain, misrepresentation are rife and no conceivable expansion of police activity will turn the tide back. If we could rely on the honesty of all our fellow citizens—and of ourselves—we could pay off the national debt in a few years. Another social evil is the frustration and resentment of many who have no joy or satisfaction in their work. A community in which the majority of the members were consciously living in their great Taskmaster's eye would not be paradise, but it would have moved nearer to it than present day Britain.

One wonders, too, what welcome change would be produced if our leaders and public men were all more concerned with the eye of the Great Taskmaster than with the image which they had in the view of the public. Milton himself and his political friends can be criticised, and we must admit that men may be grievously mistaken about the tasks which God has assigned to them, but in the long run it surely must be better to follow earnest and dedicated men than careless hedonists.

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INSIGHT AND ECSTASY

THE festival of the Holy Spirit confronts us with good news which is not always easy to understand. One reason, for this is that the gifts of the Spirit as disclosed in the New Testament are so rich and various that we wonder how they can all come from the same source.

In our Collect we pray that the Spirit will give us a "right judgment" and in the Acts we are told of the gift of "speaking with tongues," which does not seem to be an intellectual activity. I suggest that the two words "insight" and "ecstasy" sum up the New Testament teaching on the personal experience of the Apostles and their disciples in the primitive Church.

We learn something from Paul's correspondence of his opinion on the "speaking with tongues." The idea that the phenomenon of "tongues" was a miraculous utterance of divine truth in foreign languages is not the phenomenon as Paul knew it. It was words expressing ecstasy. We shall be quite wrong if we dismiss the New Testament evidence as records of phenomena which were confined to the early years of church history; in many periods they have reappeared: they perplexed John Wesley in the 18th century, and they are perplexing some of us now. Even in our staid Church of England the Pentecostal fire has broken out into incomprehensible utterance.

WHAT IS the Christian answer to the people who ask us to pass judgment on the contemporary speakers with tongues? Surely heir we are provided by St. Paul with sensible guidance. He did not pass in hasty judgment by trying to repress an innovation in the Church's worship. He asked if anyone could interpret the utterances, he repudiated utterances which appeared to be blasphemous and he insisted that, though he himself sometimes "spoke with tongues," it was far better and more useful to talk in the native speech. The ecstasy of insight might be shared with other believers.

Obviously we are in some important respects in a different situation from St. Paul's. We have at our command much scientific knowledge of the human mind. The psychologists can give us valuable facts about the human mind and its working—but they will not deprive us of the life of the spirit in our struggle for insight and the ecstasy of the union with God.

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BLESSED ARE THE MEEK

HE Beatitude on the "meek" is not easily distinguished from that on "the poor in spirit" and it may be that we have two versions of the same saying. The word translated "meek" could be rendered "humble-minded" and this gives a shade of difference perhaps from "poor in spirit."

The persons whom Jesus had in mind were those who were looking for the Kingdom of God and waiting for a revelation of His will. They were, therefore, sharply divided from the numerous persons and parties who were sure that they knew what the divine purpose was and, with destructive fanaticism, were preparing to put their plans into force.

The Kingdom, as Jesus understood it, was not "of this world" and could not be brought into existence by the methods of this world. The "meek", the humble-minded, were the children of the Kingdom and when it came they would inherit the new world.

HAS THIS BEATITUDE any application to our present situation? I think it has. Along with a widespread feeling of apprehension there is, strangely enough, much unwarranted intellectual self-confidence. We are told that man is on the point of becoming master of his own destiny and we do not lack eminent guides who are prepared to explain what that destiny is and how we must set about to achieve it.

It is perhaps disconcerting that the guides are not wholly agreed, but that does not diminish their self-confidence. Such men are dangerous.

Anyone who is quite certain of the goal towards which the human race is, or ought to be, tending is necessarily tempted to believe that any means are justified which help on his ideal consummation and for the sake of a supposed future good to countenance atrocious evils. And this holds good if he is not mistaken in his ultimate aim, which is at least possible.

The rhetorical statement "Man is becoming master of his destiny," when examined, seems to be a gross exaggeration. Certainly we have knowledge and techniques which enable us to exercise a limited control in limited spheres, and probably these powers will increase, but the idea that man can become like God and be his own Providence is as fantastic as the ambition of the builders of the tower of Babel.

THE HUMBLE-MINDED man is not necessarily intellectually lazy. His mind may range as far as that of the boldest speculations about the future. He need not dismiss as valueless the theories of the most dogmatic scientific prophets. He will differ from them in this one respect, that he remembers the infinite depth of the universe and the infinite Mind of its Creator.

Jesus was humble-minded. The Gospels indicate that He learned of the nature of the Kingdom of God by seeking at every step to know the will of His Father for that occasion, and even on the eve of His crucifixion agonised in prayer to know how His work must be fulfilled. To do the will of God at each stage without illusions about the predictability of the future is the pattern of progress for the individual and the race.

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DIALOGUE WITH DOUBT

WE may have dialogues with other men about God and in consciousness of the presence of God, but can we without irreverance imagine a dialogue with God, one in which He is an interlocutor? Our children, when very young, do not shrink from telling us what they said to God and what He said to them, but we, in our adult "spirituality," have left such childish imaginations behind.

The idea, however, has a place in the Bible and not only in passages which reflect primitive and crudely anthropomorphic images of deity. It occurs in places which are recognised as among the most "spiritual" and "inspired" in the Old Testament. These references to a dialogue with God fall into two classes—those which complain that dialogue has not been possible and those which give some account of interchange of thoughts with Deity.

The salient example of the first kind is the book of Job. The audacity of this poem is often overlooked because its main purport is hidden from the reader by much rhetoric. Job has a grievance against God. He is convinced that no sins of his have deserved the misfortunes which he suffers and that his demand for justice meets with no reply from God. "O that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would answer me and understand what he would say unto me." (Job. xxiii, 3ff).

THE END of The Book of Job consists of a reply which is not an answer—the Lord's rejoinder "out of the whirlwind." It is important to notice that there is no attempt to meet the case which Job wanted to submit, no hint of any vindication of the justice of the distribution of pleasure and pain and good or evil fortune. The Lord's reply is an "argumentum ad hominem," one which is based on the circumstances of an adversary. "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?" (Job. xxxviii, 2).

Then follows a magnificent poem on the wonders and mysteries of the creation intended to awaken the awe of the reader and to persuade him that the only thing to say about the problem which troubled Job is that the human mind cannot understand these questions and must bow in submission before the inscrutable majesty of God. When we turn to other instances of dialogue between God and man we shall find a more encouraging suggestion.

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BLESSING ON THE POOR

THE Beatitudes begin with a resounding paradox. "Blessed are ye poor," is the form in which St. Luke gives the first sentence, and this is thought by most scholars to be the original version, though St. Matthew's "Blessed are the poor in spirit" is generally recognised as an accurate elucidation of the meaning.

We must note the paradoxical characters of all the Beatitudes, because it is what we are specially meant to observe. Paradox, so to speak, is the essence of the teaching which aims at presenting forcibly the contrast between the values of the children of the world and those of the children of God's kingdom.

The word translated "blessed" can equally well be rendered "happy" and is frequently used by Plato as equivalent to "the wealthy." The poor are happy: the words were startling when Jesus uttered them and they have continued to be so until the present day.

There never was a time when they seemed simple and obvious, and certainly they do not strike us as self-evident to-day when one of the chief anxieties of the majority of vigorous persons is either to ward off the danger of poverty or to rise out of it.

They are not "comfortable words" in the accepted sense of "comfort." Nor are they words that challenge only selfish criticism.

PUTTING ASIDE all personal considerations, we may wonder whether it is good that any of our fellow citizens should be in a condition of destitution.

Bernard Shaw declared that he hated the poor and would like to abolish them. Is there not kindness as well as sense in that? Do we really want to keep any of our brothers in the state of dependence and frustration which being poor involves ?

And is it really true that to be poverty-stricken normally promotes nobility of character or deep religious faith ? One would have to be bold and somewhat callous to advocate the continuance of a social order in which a proportion of the population was indigent in order to foster the spiritual welfare of some individuals.

I think we must conclude that this Beatitude, literally understood, could not possibly be accepted as the guiding principle for social reformation. It breaks down when we attempt to use it as a maxim of political or collective action.

And this is important, because much confusion and perplexity has been caused by the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is a kind of handbook of directions for the conduct of every kind of business, national and political and international as well as individual and private. The first sentence in it demonstrates that it is nothing of the kind.

WE MUST ADD that this blessing of the poor was originally pronounced in circumstances very different from those of a modern State.

In a relatively simple agricultural community, united by a common faith, there was none of that degradation and loss of dignity which accompanies destitution—even in the most civilised nations. There were poor and rich in Galilee in the time of our Lord, but there was little grinding poverty in a land which had been described as "flowing with milk and honey."

What, then, is the relevance of this Beatitude to us? We may gain some light on this when later (p. 147) we proceed to consider St. Matthew's phrase "poor in spirit."

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AGNOSTIC BELIEVERS

AGNOSTIC and believer are generally assumed to be opposites, but wrongly, for there is no reason why a man should not be both at the same time and with respect to the same object: when the being of God is the object it seems that belief implies a degree of agnosticism. I believe that God exists and that He is revealed in Christ; that is a different assertion from "I know that He exists"; as a believer I may be subjectively certain but, if I use words carefully, I should not describe a certain belief as "knowledge" nor should I claim that the revelation of God in Christ is so complete, and so clear to my intellect, that I could dare to imagine I had a perfect knowledge of Him.

And if I was so foolish as to do this, I should be contradicting the plain teaching of the New Testament. For example, St. Paul compares our apprehension of divine being to blurred reflections in a mirror of polished metal and adds that here, in this state of existence, we know in part and prophesy in part (I Cor., xiii).

Our knowledge of divine things is limited and defective, both with regard to its nature and also to its extent: according to St. Paul it would seem that one of the blessed fulfilments for the believer in the life of the world to come is the enlargemen t of the scope of knowledge —even up to the point that we "shall know even as we are known."

SOME CHRISTIAN THINKERS have carried agnosticism to dangerous extremes in order to exalt the function of revelation, arguing that the human reason is quite incapable of arriving at any truth about divine things, or indeed of any sphere beyond the bounds of time and space, and therefore, we ought to rely absolutely and solely on the truth of revelation. Thus there came about the strange paradox that the devout Dean Mansel provided the philosophical arguments by which Herbert Spencer defended his agnostic's God—"the unknowable."

A suggestion which may be worth attention by those who are genuinely concerned about this kind of problem is that a research into the extent of belief, as distinct from demonstrable knowledge, will disclose some startling logical uncertainties which we perforce treat as practical certainties. It may seem, perhaps, a waste of time to ask what proof we can give of the existence of other selves and of the assumption that their experience resembles out own, but it is not a bad introduction to the question: How can the reliance of religious persons on faith, and on beliefs which cannot be claimed as beyond the possibility of doubt, be justified? Must we not, as rational creatures, suspend our judgment on any question until we have conclusive grounds ?

Alas, it is only too evident that the world is not constructed to enable us to be as rational as all that and to continue to live in it.

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DOING AWAY WITH CANT

"CLEAR your mind of cant." This saying of Dr. Johnson's was not spoken, we may note, with explicit reference to religion, but to politics. And we must also observe that the emphasis is on mind; Boswell, who called forth the maxim by a reference to the insincerities of politicians, was enjoined, however much he used the current language of political controversy, to see to it that his mind was not deceived by jargon.

No doubt, however, Thomas Carlyle was right when he signalised this utterance as a part of Johnson's "gospel," expressing his attitude to life and his feeling about religion.

We all agree that "cant" is to be despised, but perhaps we do not have any clear idea of what it means. We speak of a "canting hypocrite", and there is clearly a close connection between cant and hypocrisy, but they are not identical. A man may be no hypocrite and yet fall into a canting habit.

I SUPPOSE that the essence of cant in religion is the use of pious phrases to which we attach no meaning, and which represent no real endeavour or aspiration of our souls. It is possible to find some satisfaction in the repetition of hallowed words which exercise a kind of hypnotic influence on us.

Johnson's remark is a warning against self-deception rather than against conscious hypocrisy. And, when we understand "cant" in this way, we may easily discover that even in our most sincere prayers an element of cant has intruded; that we are using words which have no real connection with our experience.

Certainly it is important that we should clear our minds of cant when we are speaking to God; we dare not offer to Him empty words or meaningless phrases. But, when once we begin to examine ourselves in this matter, we encounter a difficulty.

We agree that our prayers and our worship must, so far as they are embodied in words, have meaning for us, but all the words that we use are imperfectly understood. In the end, we have to admit that we cannot "explain" them; they signify a mystery of which only a small part can be grasped by our intellects.

We pray to God, but who can define Him?, we pray for grace to live according to His will, but who can make clear the nature of grace and its mode of operation ?

I HAVE KNOWN scrupulous persons who were so much afraid of cant that they cut out of their prayers all words which they could not clearly define with the result that they ceased almost to pray at all.

This is a disastrous mistake. We do not cant when we pray in words which we only vaguely understand, so long as we are trying to advance in understanding. Progress in religious reality often comes through the sincere effort to grasp the meaning of formulas and phrases which we have accepted on the authority of the Bible and the Church.

We cannot understand them, and in this life we never shall fully understand them, but if we live with them and grapple with them they will cease to be mere formulas and become means by which the grace of God comes into our lives. They will still speak of mystery—but also of reality.

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THE RIGHT TO FORGIVE

IN this generation there are many who have bitter memories of atrocious wrongs done not to themselves, but to fathers, mothers, children or friends.

The violence and cruelty of oppressors, the forced transfer of populations, the labour camps and the murder camps have left deep scars in many minds. And even when the organised tortures have abated, even in the most peaceful and orderly social conditions, we can find persons whose hearts have been pierced through the hearts of those who were dear to them as their own lives.

There is a problem here which, as I know, vexes the conscience of some Christians. They say, by the grace of God I might to able to forgive someone who had grievously injured me, but I cannot forgive the wrong done to my friend. I should feel disloyal if I tried; and have I even the right to forgive a sin against another?

THE ANSWER to this question turns on the meaning of forgiveness. If we are thinking in terms of penalty and restitution it would seem that no one has the right to forgive except the injured person. Only he can claim the privilege of forgiving the just amendment for the injury, and though he may have the right to do this, it is open to doubt whether he ought to do it.

If thy brother sin against thee and say I repent, Jesus teaches, forgive him, and do so even if the offence and the repentance are repeated. But it would be ridiculous to interpret this as implying that the mere utterance of the words, "I am sorry," is enough.

The condition is a real and not a merely verbal repentance. And what reality can there be in an expression of sorrow for wrong done, if there is no attempt to atone for it by restitution or some other means of mitigating the consequences of the evil deed ? If by forgiveness we mean reconciliation with the wrongdoer, that can be only when both parties concerned are willing to be reconciled.

WE ARE HOWEVER, bidden to love our enemies and to do good to those that hate us and despitefully use us. That no doubt implies a readiness to forgive which goes beyond the impulse to exact penalties for injuries. We are to put aside hatred and revenge and to wish for the good of all men, including those who have wronged either ourselves or our friends.

But this does not necessarily imply that we should desire to free them from the just reward of their deeds. If they are still the same persons who did the wrong, without compunction or shame, our love for our fellow men, including the culprits, may reasonably lead us to hope that they will be punished, that they may be halted in their course of selfish aggression and that others may be deterred.

So far as I can see, these considerations which apply to injuries done to ourselves are equally applicable to those done to our friends. A man who had truly repented of a grievous wrong done to his fellow man would not want to be relieved of the burden of restitution.

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THE FATHER'S BUSINESS

THE Gospel of St. Luke is the only one which gives a glimpse of the boyhood of Jesus, and it tells us something of significance. He was found in the Temple among the teachers of the Law, "hearing them and asking them questions."
Some pictures give a false impression of the incident, because they represent the boy in a seat of authority instructing his elders. St. Luke suggests nothing of the kind, but rather the eager child of 12 seeking to learn and understand. To His parents, when they found Him, He said, "I must be about my Father's business." He was trying to discover what that business was.

The men to whom He listened were, as they believed, about their Father's business. They were not hypocrites, though they may have been fanatics, and the note of tragedy creeps into the story when we reflect that probably some of them were among the members of the Sanhedrin who helped, 20 years later, to crucify the child who had heard them with such earnest attention—and thought still that they were about their Father's business.

The true tragedy is not when sincerity is in conflict with self-seeking and pretence, but when sincerity clashes with sincerity and in the party which deserves to be defeated there is some good with which we can sympathise.

JESUS THEN, we may suppose, was certain that He must be about His Father's business, but He did not accept without question the answer concerning the nature of that business which the authorities in the Temple would give. He did not assume that all was summed up in the formula, "Be a docile son of the Jewish Church."

He continued to think, not in the mood of a rebel but as one who craved for understanding. "He was subject," we read, to Mary and Joseph, and in the peace of the home at Nazareth He pursued those reflections which prepared Him for the revelation of that tremendous business that His Father laid on Him to accomplish.

When we can say with full conviction, "I must be about my Father's business," we have made a great stride towards perfection. We have separated ourselves from the crowd of the careless who have no guiding star but their own vacillating purposes and we have enlisted in a superhuman cause.

But we have not finished. We have still to ask, What is the Lord's business so far as we are concerned ?

THERE CAN BE tragic errors in the answer that we give. Many atrocious deeds have been done by men who thought that they were doing the Lord service, and many lives have been partly wasted because men have failed to see where their duty really lay.

We cannot wholly divest ourselves of the responsibility of choice or accept without criticism the voice of authority. No doubt we shall be wise if we "hear the Church" and heed its advice but in the end we have to decide and it may be that our particular business is something that the Church has not yet thought of.

"He was hearing them and asking them questions"; let us hear, but let us try also to ask all the relevant questions.

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VIRTUES AND BEATITUDES

THE ideas of Western man on the subject of moral virtues have been profoundly affected by two teachers—Socrates as interpreted by his followers and Jesus as He is recorded in the Gospels.

It would be false to say that these two streams cannot mingle or that the two representations of the good life are in contradiction with one another, but it is obvious that there are important differences between them. One is the form in which the teaching is given.

The Greek conception of the good man centres on the qualities which he will possess and particularly on the traditional four Cardinal Virtues, Courage, Temperance, Prudence and Justice, so that moral discussion is largely concerned with the meaning of these terms.

In Socrates' opinion, to be truly courageous we must attain, if possible, a clear and reasonable conception of wherein true courage consists and be able, for example, to distinguish the virtuous courage of the good man from the spurious courage of the pirate.

WE FIND NOTHING in the gospel which corresponds to the list of Cardinal Virtues, and nothing approaching a logical analysis of moral goodness, but we have a picture of the good man which we can build up from the words and deeds of Jesus. Though the Sermon on the Mount is not by itself the complete statement of the principles of Christian morals, it is certainly a primary source, and in the Sermon the nine Beatitudes, which form its opening, are the nearest approximation to a concise impression of the elements of the good life.

No one who reads the Gospels attentively will doubt that Jesus had a definite idea of what He meant by a good man—or that, when we grasp His meaning, it is deeply disturbing.

We note a remarkable difference between Socrates and Jesus when we consider the Beatitudes. Instead of a series of praiseworthy qualities, or habits of acting, we are presented with blessings on certain interior states of mind. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," "Blessed are they that mourn"; we seem to be far removed when these pronouncements ring in our ears from the calm consideration of such desirable qualities as courage and temperance.

WE REACH a little deeper into the cause of this difference between the two types of teaching when we observe that all the Cardinal Virtues are civic virtues. They presuppose citizens living in a settled community which is in this world, but is regarded as permanent. It is true that in the thought of Plato moral goodness acquired a transcendent and eternal significance, but its roots are always in the ideal city.

The Sermon on the Mount, too, has a community in mind, but it is not of this world. It legislates for the Kingdom of God and for those who are already prepared for its appearance. Its civic virtues are those of the "city eternal in the heavens."

Obviously there is much food for thought on the relevance of the Beatitudes to our lives to-day which the Christian must take to heart in shaping his daily conduct.

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HUNGER FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS

"BLESSED are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled"; the last word in the Greek is a strong one and seems to imply that they want no more.

This word of the Lord was addressed to those in His audience who were earnestly striving to do the will of God by obedience to what they believed were His commandments—the Law of Moses; and the righteousness of which He speaks must not be taken as exactly equivalent to moral goodness as we understand it.

We are accustomed to distinguish between religion and ethics and even to contrast goodness with piety. Neither His hearers nor Jesus Himself recognised this distinction; they regarded righteousness and the service of God as one and the same thing.

Thus in this beatitude Jesus is not offering to show how men's characters can be improved by well-directed effort; He is promising that those who hunger for righteousness will have their part in the Kingdom in which the divine will is done and will find the satisfaction of their desire in communion with God.

NO DOUBT the idea of what constituted righteous conduct which these loyal Jews entertained would seem to us in many respects narrow and imperfect. Such indeed was Jesus's own view, for in the Sermon on the Mount He gives a new interpretation of the Law which, by concentrating on inner motive rather than outward act and by discriminating between the permanent and the transitory elements in the Law, introduced what was, in effect, a liberal and universally valid conception of the meaning of righteousness.

But it is important to notice that He does not for a moment suggest that the only need is enlightenment, or that if we clear up our notions of the nature of goodness we have done all that is necessary; on the contrary the blessing is on those who hunger for righteousness, even though their ideas are confused, and it is to them that the promise is made.

We have no lack of analyses of moral conceptions and probably, on the whole, we should be grateful to those who try to enlighten us, but abstract discussions tend to leave out of account the reality of moral experience in its highest expressions. After all, if there were no persons who hungered and thirsted after righteousness there would be no ethics to write about.

THE ENTHUSIASM of the moral hero is little regarded to-day. That it should be so is a measure of our decadence and our danger.

We describe wicked persons indulgently as "a-moral" rather than immoral, as if they were suffering from a physical defect. What could be more contemptuous and degrading than to suggest that a person is sub-human, lacking in one of the qualities that differentiate men from beasts? Rather than being called a-moral I would gladly accept the description "miserable sinner," for that epithet at least implies that I am a sane and responsible human being.

The Christian year at Passiontide which reminds us that He who spoke the blessing on those who hungered after righteousness Himself is their supreme example and pattern when, "thirsting for our salvation," He endured the Cross that we might have our part in the Kingdom of God.

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THE WISE MEN

WHAT meaning did the story of the visit of the Wise Men to the cradle of Jesus have for the first generation of Christians? Probably it was to them a symbol of the lordship of Christ in the sphere of learning as in that of ordinary life, and, if so, we may be in agreement with them when we apply it to our present situation.

In the story the Wise Men are quite definite—they were professional wise men, astrologers who believed that from the stars they could read the future of nations and individuals. But have we any "wise men" to-day? At least professional wise men are lacking and no one is likely to put up a brass plate announcing that he is wise: if any one did, we should almost certainly regard him as a charlatan.

But we have plenty of "experts" and each, in his limited field, is wiser than we are. It used to be thought that philosophers cultivated wisdom and, by their reflection on the meaning of life, could give us guidance for living. Most philosophers in Britain and America now renounce this function, though what precisely they are doing is a matter of controversy.

SCIENTIFIC EXPERTS now tend to take the place of the older "wise men." It is they who furnish us with data for judging what the future may hold and with advice on how to meet it. Their tentative predictions are more confident about large-scale phenomena than the more minute. They can tell for example, more about the possible developments of the human race and the measures required to avoid disaster 500 years hence than they can about individuals.

This is natural enough and gives absolutely no ground for disregarding their warnings. So far as it goes, their wisdom is of the utmost value and, if applied, could lead the troubled human race to conditions of security and harmonious living unheard of until now. They promise not only better conditions but a more vigorous and intelligent population to live in them. These are the modern "wise men" who see more clearly into the possible future than others.

BUT DO THEY NEED to seek out the cradle of Christ? To many that may seem a preposterous idea. Yet they would agree that, in so far as it is possible to plan the future of the human race, we must have some conception of the kind of man and the kind of life which are to be desired. A race of high intellectual power but devoid of compassion is a nightmare, and hardly less terrible is one which, having so much, has lost the capacity to aspire, and with it the life of the spirit. Can a wise man hope for a world in which Jesus of Nazareth has no place ?

"To gather the Wise Men round the cradle in Bethlehem" is a symbolic statement of the most fundamental need of our time, which is to link the insight and power of science with Jesus himself.

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A TIME TO REJOICE

APPROPRIATELY the first word of the Epistle for the Sunday before Christmas Day is "Rejoice" (Phil. iv. 4). It ushers in a week when all in their different ways will seek to rejoice.

The writer of the book Ecclesiastes was of the opinion that "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the sun," and consequently that "there is a time to weep and a time to laugh." So too we normally think there are occasions for joy and occasions for sorrow.

Not so St. Paul. "Rejoice in the Lord alway," he writes, "and again I say rejoice." He writes, it seems, a kind of joy that did not depend on the changing circumstances of life, so that it was possible, as he writes elsewhere, even to "rejoice in tribulation."

Let us note the quality and character of the joy of which he speaks. It is associated with an habitual state of mind. "Let your moderation be known unto all men," the English version has it, but probably Matthew Arnold's phrase "sweet reasonableness" is nearer the meaning.
This joy is not an irrational excitement which causes us to forget for a while the ugly facts of life; it is one which accepts, but is not dismayed by them. And it depends upon a belief and an act of faith —"the Lord is near"—and on the practical expression of that faith in the banishing of anxiety and in making our requests known to God, who is revealed in the Christ who is "at hand."

This prayer and thanksgiving is the gateway to inner peace; "the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." The joy is tranquil, not an emotional and transitory self-forgetfulness, but a quiet self-posses-sion which rests on God.

ALL THIS, one might imagine, would be written by a calm and passionless philosopher who was sheltered from the storms of life. It is, in fact, the advice of St. Paul, who was certainly neither passionless nor sheltered.

This man of tireless energy and ardent temperament, who lived in almost constant crisis, is giving us here a glimpse of the source of his patience and his power. At the centre of this harassed and indefatigable personality there was an inexpugnable joy.

I have always thought that Hitler hit upon a wonderful watchword when he spoke of "Strength through Joy." As we know, he wanted strength for evil ends, and the joy which he provided was a shoddy imitation of the real thing, but, properly understood, his formula expressed an essential aspect of New Testament religion.

The men and women of the Apostolic age of the Church were strong because they rejoiced in the Lord.

THESE REFLECTIONS have some bearing on the joyous festival of the birth of Christ. It is indeed a "time to laugh," and let us laugh with all our hearts.

Could we perhaps avoid that aftermath of reaction which dogs us when the feast is over and the workaday world reasserts its claims? Shall we be able to rejoice when the bills come in and the taxes have to be paid and all the worries that beset us are surging back?

We should be fortunate indeed if, having really rejoiced in the Lord on Christmas Day, we were able by His grace to rejoice in all the days that followed.

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A CERTAIN LAWYER

" A CERTAIN lawyer stood up and tempted him," we read in Luke x, 25 ff, which contains the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Greek word means "tested" and we need not suppose that the lawyer was hostile to Jesus or wished to discredit Him: he probably wished to bring out the meaning of the Lord's teaching. His question may well have been the outcome of a genuine personal concern.

We may note, too, that the Greek verbs suggest a subtle difference between the question and the answer which it received. The lawyer was asking if there was any one thing, any drastic and decisive act by doing which he could secure for himself eternal life.

In reply Jesus refers him to the law of Moses and inquires how he understands that. Having elicited the memorable answer that the essence of the Law is love of God and love of the neighbour, Jesus concludes this part of the conversation with words which imply not a single act but a continuous course of action: "Go on doing this, loving God and the neighbour, and thou shalt live."

The question which follows, Who is my neighbour? is again not a captious one but probably intended to clarify our Lord's teaching on a real problem in the lawyer's mind.

THE PASSAGE in the Old Testament (Lev. xix, 18), "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself," which the lawyer quoted, certainly implies that the neighbours "were the children of thy own people," fellow Hebrews, and in the time of our Lord the usual idea among the Jews was that Gentiles were not included in the divine command.

Some, however, had a wider view and, therefore, the lawyer's second question was of quite fundamental importance: in effect, it raises the question whether the principle of neighbourly love is of restricted scope or universal, without regard to race or creed.

We may be grateful to the lawyer with his professional liking for clear definitions, because he called forth from Jesus what is perhaps the clearest statement of the universal range of His message. The "neighbour", the parable proclaims, is simply anyone who needs our sympathy and help, any individual, without regard to the distinctions which divide us from one another. Jesus pierces beneath them all and bases the law on our common humanity.

I AM ATTRACTED by this lawyer. He seems to be a favourable specimen of his class and calling. In addition to his admirable persistence in seeking for clear and practical guidance, he has the great merit of being able to rise above the merely legal standpoint and to look for the spirit of the law.
He is not content to have a code of laws which covers most of the affairs of human existence and to apply them. He has asked, what principles lie behind the laws and give the clue to their purpose and interpretation ? And he has found the right answer.
This incident in the life of Jesus leads our minds to reflect upon the nature of law and its relation to the life of the spirit—a large question which the Christian must be ready to face.

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RIGHT AND GOOD

WHAT are we doing when we try to behave as morally responsible beings? Two answers to this question have dominated human thinking and are still at the centre of discussion: Put roughly they are "We are trying to do what is right," and "We are aiming at what is good." Few, if any, thinkers have denied the validity of either of these maxims, but there is continuing disagreement about which of the two is the more fundamental. Each can claim one of the world's intellectual giants: Plato stands for the quest of the Good and Kant for obedience to the Moral Law.

Without going more deeply into the theoretical problem, we may note that these two maxims, and their possible conflict, play a part in our practical moral decisions. They touched St. Paul. He protests against a "slander" that he teaches "let us do evil that good may come" (Rom. iii, 8). No doubt the accusation was based on the Apostle's attitude to "the Law" and on such sayings as "love is the fulfilling of the law." The ideal and hope of the Kingdom of God and the reign of Christ were the motive forces of his morality and, in this respect, he must be reckoned as a thinker whose moral teaching centred upon a conception of the good.

FOR JEWS BROUGHT UP IN THE RELIGION of their fathers the teaching both of Jesus Christ and Paul in some of its aspects must have been hard to take, and to make it harder, some readers of St. Paul's letters developed "Anti-nomian" ideas—a complete rejection of all moral laws. Thus the indignant words in which St. Paul rejects the slander are important, showing, as they do, that he agreed with Jesus in looking not for the destruction of the Law, but for its fulfilment by intelligent love.

The linking and the divergence of "Right" and "Good" is a reality which affects every rational person who has a conscience. The child who is born into a family where there is no order and no law is ill-equipped for adult life unless he takes himself in hand, but the child who grows up where there is law but no love is worse off by far. And we who are responsible moral beings need to blend the Right and the Good in our self-direction. It is good to have tried principles on which to act, and it is good also to examine them from time to time, testing them by the judgment of love. I suppose that is what St. James had in mind when he wrote of the Christian life as "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas. i, 25).

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ASLEEP IN CHURCH

STRANGELY enough we know the name of only one boy who was a member of the primitive church and he has achieved a certain immortality by falling asleep in church. He was called Eutychus, which means "lucky," but he had the misfortune of falling two storeys and appearing to be dead.

When we notice that St. Paul, who was preaching, "prolonged his speech until midnight," we may feel that Eutychus could be excused for his somnolence and be glad that the Apostle was able to revive him. (Acts xx, 7 ff.)

So far as I know, it has never been suggested that Eutychus should be canonised; if he had been, he might be the patron saint of that numerous company who, if they do not physically fall asleep in church, are "sleeping partners" in its worship.

The complaint that services are "boring" is due, to a large extent, to the mental attitude of those who make it. So much of our lesiure is occupied with passive entertainment.

Television and the cinema are outstanding examples, for when we enjoy them we do so as spectators looking at something which is done for us and in which we have no active part to play. If we are not interested we can do nothing about it except switch off.

I suspect that a considerable proportion of most congregations come to church in somewhat the same mood. They say, as it were, "See if you can interest me and keep me awake."

THIS IS a total misunderstanding of the public worship of the the Church. Christian worship is the offering of the whole fellowship of the Body of Christ; it is a corporate act in which every member has a share.

We are not to regard ourselves as spectators, but as participators, not as detached observers of something being done and said in our presence, but as active partakers in a communal expression of devotion. The minister acts and speaks as a servant of the Church— as representing us.

I agree that services are open to criticism and one of the ways in which they could be improved would be by giving the congregation more opportunity to take a visible and audible part in worship, but the most urgent reform is not a change in the order, but a change of heart in many churchgoers.

WE SHOULD FEEL no inclination to slumber if we were fully aware of what we were doing. Sermons, it might seem, are a part of the service where this conception of worship breaks down, for after all preaching is not a communal activity and no amount of fellowship will make a dull man eloquent. But are we so sure of that ?

The state of mind of the hearers reacts upon the speaker. A man who falters when confronted by a collection of persons who are simply wondering whether he has anything sensible to say may be inspired when he knows that the people are eagerly expecting a word of God.

We can co-operate even in the sermon if we earnestly hope that it will be effective, and perhaps the best method of improving the sermons which we sometimes criticise would be that every member of the congregation should pray that the preacher may have a message for the souls of his hearers and words that will lodge it in their minds.

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THE PEACE-MAKERS

WHEN Jesus declared that peace-makers were blessed He was not thinking of statesmen or potentates or nations, but of the individuals who would be members of the Kingdom of God. As in all the other beatitudes, He is dealing with the question what kind of person will be admitted to that fellowship. We may note that He does not utter the platitude that peace is a blessing; He asserts that those who make it are blessed. And we may note further that it has to be made. Peace is not something that just happens or can be had for the asking; it requires peace-makers. It would seem, then, that the normal and natural state of things is not peace.

And this is in accord with our experience. The inherent egoism and self-assertiveness of human beings create rivalries, tensions, differences and resentments which may come to violent expression, but are often concealed under a tranquil surface appearance of amity. Our modern dramatists have sufficiently illuminated this theme to make us aware that the peace-maker need never be unemployed.

Competent practitioners of this art are rare, for it is a difficult one. It demands exceptional psychological insight into motive and character which may be really very different from what they appear to be. A subtle tact in word and action is indispensable when the matter in hand is personal reconciliation. Only a very perceptive peace-maker can judge correctly when a tension has become so acute that the best plan is to bring it into the open and hope that it will be resolved by a painful "moment of truth." All these, and many more, are the skills required for peace-making.

BUT THERE is another quality needed which no art can procure for us. To make peace we must be at peace ourselves. This is the point where we are most likely to fail. We cannot stand outside the tensions which we aim at relieving because we ourselves are involved in them. We too have our egoism, our amour propre and our half-recognised private ends, and they cry out to us, "Physician, heal thyself."

One may sometimes observe this in action. Have we not seen a clever organiser or leader at work on a dispute which threatens his enterprise? With what skill he approaches the task; what wonderful tact and insight he displays! And often he partly succeeds, enough perhaps for his purpose, but never completely, because he has his own ambitions and purposes to serve, and the antagonists are dimly aware of this. After all, peace-making is not primarily an art, and success depends chiefly on the state of the mind and spirit so that the pure in heart, inspired by unselfish love, may find the way which the most delicate psychological analysis will miss.

To be a peace-maker is very difficult, but that is no reason why we should not try it. Perseverance in peace-making can help our own progress and we may find that, in striving to bring peace to others, we have gained it for ourselves.

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A TAKE-OVER BID

"REDEEMING the time, because the days are evil": these familiar words from the Epistle to the Ephesians (v. 15 ff.) evidently express a thought often in the mind of St. Paul, for he uses them twice, both in the letter to the Ephesians and in that to the Colossians. They are a succinct statement of the duty of the Christian in this world.

The words are interesting, because they carry implications which are not on the surface. First, let us consider the word "time".

In Greek there are two words which are translated by "time" in our versions and they have slightly different meanings which cannot be brought out by single words in our language.

Chronos is the ordinary word for "time" and is almost equivalent to "duration," so that it signifies time in general whether long or short.

Kairos, on the other hand, generally means a specific time which is important for some reason or other. Thus when the occasion of some decisive choice or some critical event is in view, the word kairos is employed. So the phrase "redeeming the time" might be rendered, "buying up the opportunity."

THAT BRINGS us to the second word, "redeeming." The Greek word here has commercial and financial overtones. It is not the word normally used to convey the idea of redemption in the New Testament.

The Apostle seems to have the picture of a market before him and the transactions by which property passes from one owner to another; and let us not forget that in those days "property" included human beings—slaves. The word means "buying away from", a take-over bid, it might be by a Christian who "redeemed" a slave by buying him away from his owner and giving him freedom.

This discussion of words is not a waste of time if it helps us to understand what St. Paul was driving at. He thinks of "the time" as being under the power of evil and the vocation of the Christian as an attempt at rescue. The attempt is, no doubt, the concern of the whole Church, but it is to be carried out by each individual taking advantage of his own kairos or opportunity. The great "takeover bid" for time in the name of Christ includes a number of individual take-overs in which particular instances of evil are overcome by particular acts of love.

THIS IS SALUTARY DOCTRINE for every generation, for, in different degrees and manners, all generations face evil times.

Men of goodwill and tender hearts must feel distress and react in some way. They may note the fact that the times are evil and wring their hands in impotent despair—thus adding to the evil. They may seek to understand the root causes of the evil they deplore and this can be a service to us all.

But the one thing that everyone can do, and that everyone ought to do, is to make use of the kairos, the opportunities that come his way, to "buy away" some part of life from the domination of evil.

There is one further thought suggested by St. Paul's words which is so obvious that it needs no exposition. You cannot make a takeover bid unless you are prepared to offer something; it is useless to go to market with nothing in your hands. And, I suppose, the disturbing question which we all have to answer is: "What am I prepared to give, how much of myself, to aid the great take-over of human life in the name of Christ ?"

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SORROW FOR SIN

THE words "sorrow for sin" sound old-fashioned in these days when we all have so many alibis and the being of God is held by so many to be an open question. But though the phrase is not on the lips of agnostic humanists something like what it means is well known in their experience. They would agree with Plato that "an unexamined life is not worth living" and when they pass their thoughts and acts in review there are passages which cause them regret—possibly even a sense of shame. They wish they were different from what their conduct indicates that they are.

Such experiences, though similar to a sense of sin, are not identical with it. Often what appears to be sorrow for sin is not moral revulsion but aesthetic distaste. The agnostic who resolutely eliminates God from his thoughts may easily come to regard some elements in his make-up and some motives of his activity with regret, reprehension and even with disgust. He feels that he has let himself down as well as others whom he may have injured; he "cannot forgive himself" because the ideal picture which he cherishes of himself has been sullied and shown up as unreal.

It is very difficult to distinguish the moral judgment from the aesthetic because they have much in common, but they are really different.

WHEN WE CARRY out a real spring-cleaning of our inward nature and list the episodes which give us shame how many of them are evidently moral? Are there not some which make us "go hot all over" when we recall them but are definitely not sins. That social gaffe which was due to ignorance of the tribal customs of my social environment; that perfectly innocent slip of the tongue which seemed to show that I was an insensitive boor; that time when I talked too loud and too long in an argument with persons who were senior to me and knew much more than I about the subject; or even that time when I wore the wrong clothes; all these are mistakes rather than sins, and yet—God help us—we remember them long after we have forgotten the unkind words, the lack of compassion and love which are real sins.

SORROW FOR SIN is the preparation for repentance, but not identical with it. St. Paul distinguishes two kinds of sorrow for sin: "Godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, but the sorrow of the world worketh death", (ii Cor. vii, 10.)

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ANGELS UNAWARES

THE Epistle to the Hebrews is full of angels. One of its principal themes is the difference between them and the Incarnate Son of God, who took upon Him human nature and human personality, being "made a little lower than the angels" to be "crowned with glory and honour." The angels are represented as majestic beings, manifested in powers of nature, as wind and fire, or as resembling administrators of the divine sovereignty. When the unknown author draws near to the conclusion of his letter, he recurs to the subject and tells his readers in what circumstances they may expect to meet angels. The advice is surprising; it brings us from the sublime, not indeed to the ridiculous, but to the homely, to the normal life of a Christian family. "Let love of the brethren continue"; that is the essence of the Christian ethos; but hospitality should reach beyond the circle of fellow believers, for the writer adds, "Forget not to show love unto strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Heb. xiii, I, a). The angel may be the stranger whom we have welcomed to our home, for "angel", means "messenger of God".

EVERYONE WOULD AGREE that the primitive Christian Church survived largely because it was a brotherhood united in mutual love. "How these Christians love one another!" was a comment of truth. But wc may suspect, perhaps, that this closely knit fellowship involved an exclusive attitude towards those without and a fear of encountering other beliefs. It would seem, however, that the author of Hebrews had a wider and more confident outlook. The outsider might have something to impart of spiritual value which was a message from God.

IN THESE DAYS, when the conflict of opinions is acute and there are so many critics of the Christian faith, we may feel that the path of safety lies through a resolute refusal to listen to any views which might disturb our peace of mind, and certainly it is right that we should cultivate with all our might the fellowship of believers; but we must not turn the household of God into an intellectual prison. We are called to live and witness in this present age, and we shall hardly be effective if we do not try to understand the situation and the kind of thoughts and questions in the minds of our contemporaries. Let us then listen, with the possibility before us that the "stranger", whose ideas appear to be so foreign to our convictions, may have something to say which deserves our attention. He may be an "angel" in a heavy disguise.

When we review our own experience it is quite likely that we shall be able to remember very few of such "angels", but there is one kind which we may have overlooked. It is the kind that has no idea of being an angel and would laugh at the suggestion. I mean, when we meet a man who, without having our Christian faith, shows in action more of the Christian qualities than we; is he not a messenger of God to call us to self-knowledge and sincerity—an angel with a sword to pierce our hearts with shame?

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WONDERFUL WORKS

MIRACLES are traditionally evidences of revelation and "signs and wonders" are thought to attest the word of God. Simple-minded persons even now may accept this without question, but one does not have to be very sophisticated to ask questions about the connection between wonders and divine truth. Matthew Arnold put one difficulty in a concrete way when he pointed out that, if he by a word changed the pen with which he was writing into a penwiper, the miracle would be no proof that what he had written with the pen was true. So, it may be argued, the report that Jesus walked on the water, even if true, is quite irrelevant to the question whether His teaching about God is true.

The two cases, however, are not really analogous. The walking on the water is not related as an isolated incident in an anonymous man's life, but as a significant action in the life of one who claimed to have a divine mission to bring in the Kingdom of God.

THE STORY of the miracles in the Gospels is a part of the whole story of the earthly career of the Son of Man. We should not expect that a man who had such claims, and was able to draw many who knew Him to acknowledge them, would be an ordinary individual possessing no gifts beyond those common to every man. The evidence suggests that those who encountered Him, whether friends or foes, were conscious of a numinous quality in His personality and of hidden powers. The men who wrote the Gospels, and their readers, believed that Jesus was in a unique sense the Son of God and to them it seemed congruous and natural that He should do wondrous works. This gives rise to two possible interpretations. It may be said, believers wrote the Gospels and the narratives are coloured by their beliefs, or on the contrary it may be said Jesus did wonderful works and they formed a part of the evidence which persuaded the Evangelists that He was the Son of Man who represented the Kingdom of God.

THE ULTIMATE CHOICE is an act of faith or of counter-faith. Either choice rests on unprovable presuppositions. In a somewhat narrower sphere we meet the same situation almost every day—spiritual healing. There are cases where there is formidable prima facie evidence that a cure was due to spiritual treatment and prayer, but there is always the counter-suggestion of "chance". Some unknown natural cause could have been at work. A really stout, materialistic faith can withstand many miracles.

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GREAT DEMANDS

ONE of the consequences of modern translations of the Bible is to shock some readers who had become accustomed to the dignified prose of the Authorised Version, and the shock is partly due to the fact that modern English does not cushion the impact of uncomfortable and even outrageous demands. Consider, for example, the report in St. Luke's Gospel of a saying of Jesus addressed to great crowds of persons who were accompanying him; it is plain speaking: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine" (Luke xiv, 25, 26). It is true that the version of this utterance in St. Matthew is couched in softer terms, but the general effect is the same because it is associated with the assertion that Jesus did not come to "cast peace on the earth but a sword" and that "a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Mat. x, 34 If).

If we take these sayings quite literally and without regard to their context, the inference seems unavoidable that |rsus demanded from those who would follow him conduct which is in monstrous conflict
with natural affections and destructive of the family. It is, of course, inconceivable that he intended anything of the kind, he who taught his disciples the Our Father and told the story of the Prodigal Son. A meditation on this hard saying may not only help to clear up the difficulty but enlighten us on the manner and content of Christ's teaching.

THE MOST INCONTROVERTIBLE inference is that Jesus used hyperbole to express his meaning. He made extravagant, onesided and provocative assertions at times and, as is common with hyperbolic language, they were often difficult to reconcile with other statements and with the general trend of his thinking. An image of Jesus the teacher of religion which is fostered by much Christian art may need to be revised. We have pictured, perhaps, the Lord Jesus when he moved among men as always, calm, unperturbed and serene, uttering wisdom with passionless authority. So indeed some passages in the Gospels may lead us to believe that he often appeared, but not always. To his enemies he seemed a fanatic and to those who followed him an enthusiast, an inspired and prophetic leader—and more than a leader. Most of the notable religious persons in history have spoken in this manner, using startling manners of communication. In this respect Jesus is not unique. But this is not the whole story. There is much more and we still have to face the question, who does he think that he is— this man who makes such imperious demands?

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AGNOSTIC PRAYER

WE ought not to be surprised that in the mental confusion of this generation many men and women have become agnostics, feeling unable honestly to assert to any positive assertions about the being and nature of God. Some of them find they have to answer a definite practical question; they have been accustomed to pray, but now surely, if there is no God to hear their prayers, they must come to an end. Many who have lost their faith in God are conscious that prayer was a valuable influence in their lives and they wonder whether an agnostic can keep some part of that value without self-deception or insincerity.

To answer this question will take up more than one little essay, but we can begin with a simple statement on one aspect of it. For the Agnostic, it seems, one fundamental element in prayer must be ruled out, or radically altered—worship. It is the essence of agnosticism to disclaim any knowledge or definite belief with respect to God. All the addresses by which believers have approached God in prayer must be discarded as inapplicable to the unknown. "Our Father," the "Creator," the "Eternal" and all titles which touch on the ultimate Reality are empty. In place of the heavenly Father the Agnostic has put a question mark—-and no one can worship that.

NOT LONG AGO, when Idealist philosophy was in the ascendent and Plato was almost a sacred text, Agnostics were not at a loss for objects of devotion and subjects for meditation. "Eternal Values" filled the gap, and Humanists contemplated Truth, Goodness and Beauty which together formed a kind of secular Trinity. But now the Agnostic acid has spread to the Eternal Values. The word "beauty" rarely appears in discussions of art and music; "truth" has become a technical term as "truth function" in "Atomic Logic"; and it would require much research to sum up the latest "with it" views on goodness—-its meaning and the reasons, if any, for trying to be good.

BUT, AFTER all, I doubt whether many people really believe, or understand, these devastating analyses. They don't cast aside the values. They still admire integrity and courage; they seek and speak the truth, and they thirst for beauty in art and music. They have not been argued out of values—eternal values. If so, though, being Agnostics they cannot worship God, they can adore what Christians believe are His attributes. Strangely that very positive believer, St. Paul, has provided the model for an Agnostic's meditation:— "And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and gracious, whatever is excellent and admirable—fill your thoughts with these things" (Phil. iv. 8.).

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ORDINANCES OF MAN

IN the beginning all law was divine. This is at least historically true and, as we may think with some of the older philosophers, also true in a deeper sense.

When men passed beyond the regulation of conduct by custom and habit and began to obey codes of law they made a great stride forward, both intellectually and morally.

A law, unlike a custom, lays down a general principle which can be understood and reasoned about and opens up the way to the conception of what ought to be done as distinguished from what the individual wants to do, or does without thinking.

It is not surprising then that the early "lawgivers" who are credited with the making of the first systems of law are often regarded as demi-gods, or as divinely inspired.

Nor is this belief necessarily superstitious or absurd, for when we consider the enormous benefit which law brings and the importance of some rational order in society, we may well believe that great lawgivers were instruments of divine Providence.

THE NEW TESTAMENT understanding of law, however, is more complex than the primitive idea that all law is directly given by God.

It would indeed have been difficult to hold the view that the Roman law of the first century possessed divine authority. Both St. Peter and St. Paul have stated their judgments on this matter, urged no doubt by the need to give guidance to converts to the faith, some of whom probably argued that the freedom which Christ had given them entitled them to disregard and disobey the laws of the State.

The Apostolic policy seems to have been to discourage any tendency to political criticism and opposition, while at the same time never relaxing the conviction that the State and its laws were under the judgment of God.

St. Peter in his Epistle (i Pet. ii, i ff.) describes the laws of the State as "ordinances", or "creations", of man, thus explicitly distinguishing them from the laws of God.

He insists on the duty of being subject to them "for the Lord's sake", which means apparently that the work of Christ in the Church should not be hindered by scandals and suspicions.

He holds that government and law are necessary for the welfare of mankind and have divine sanction, but the laws that are made and the particular administration in power are ordinances of man and affected by the fallibility and sinfulness of the human agents.

ONE QUESTION which has often been of burning urgency the Apostles do not touch upon; What, if any, are the limits of Christian obedience to the law of the State? In what circumstances does it become a Christian duty to defy the ordinances of Man?

Soon the question did arise, and the martyrs found the answer. When they were required to worship the State, personified in the Emperor, they died rather than obey. It was an answer which has eternal validity. When the issue is clear between the law of God and the ordinances of men we must obey God.

There is another question, however: Does it ever become the duty of a Christian to overthrow a godless and tyrannical State and its laws by force? On that question, I suppose even the martyrs would have been divided.

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GOSPEL MIRACLES

THAT revelation is attested by miracles is an opinion which is expressed in the New Testament, and throughout Christian history until recently has been generally accepted. Today the emphasis on miracle is not found in apologists for the Christian faith, who seem often to be embarrassed by the subject. Put in the abstract way which Matthew Arnold adopted it does seem ridiculous to suggest that the performance of some physical feat outside the bounds of normal possibility, such as walking on the sea, should attest the holiness of the performer or the truth of what he says. But the real question to be answered is not the abstract general proposition but the concrete, particular one which is posed by the Gospels; do the miracle stories in them on the whole corroborate the claim made that Christ is the supreme Revealer of God and make it easier to believe it ?

IN ANSWER TO THAT we may ask another question: if the claim made by the Gospels on behalf of Christ is true would we not expect that so unique a Person would have powers of mind and spirit beyond normal human experience? If the picture of the earthly life of Jesus and His personality was that of a commonplace individual that would constitute a powerful objection to the whole Christian faith.

Of course, if you like, you can prefer to imagine that the Gospels were written by believers who wanted to impress converts and therefore either invented or credulously passed on stories which seemed to substantiate what they believed about Christ. Either hypothesis is possible—that the stories were made up because of the belief or that the belief arose because the stories were true. But these sweeping "either-or" statements are probably misleading and we cannot rule out altogether the possibility that some of the miracle stories are legendary; what appears to me to be most unlikely is that the miraculous element in the Gospels had no foundation in fact.

THOSE WHO ENCOUNTERED Jesus were aware that He was a wonder-worker: a numinous and creative Person, and partly through the accounts of miracles their experience has been passed on to us. In the history of revelation "miracles" and "signs" have served one purpose which was important—they have drawn attention and posed a question arresting those who might have passed by unnoticing. Some remarkable spiritual activity appeared to be taking place and, like Moses when he saw the burning bush, many have turned aside to look at this great thing.

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BUSINESS-LIKE SAINTS

AMONG Laurence Housman's voluminous writings is a fantastic novel about a Free Church minister who suddenly developed a halo, to his own considerable embarrassment and the astonishment of not a few of his friends. This pleasing fancy is capable of development along several different lines.

As I remember the novel, the favoured minister did not seem to deserve this supernatural decoration, but let us imagine that suddenly all those who really were saints appeared with haloes; I think we should be astonished both by some who had them and by some who were without.

And it occurs to me that we might well be surprised at the proportion of different types of persons among the saints, particularly perhaps at the relative fewness of "the saints of the sacristy" and the large number of what I may call "the saints of the marketplace"

By the latter I mean those who, possessing gifts for organisation and the transaction of business, have made themselves expert in the techniques of industry, commerce or finance and have devoted themselves to the service of Christ.

TOO OFTEN the Church has seemed to suggest that holiness can be a grace manifested only by those who are "unworldly" in the sense of being ignorant and incompetent in worldly affairs, forgetting that holiness consists in offering ourselves to God and employing our gifts and skills, whatever they may be, in His service.

Such "saints of the market-place" existed in the Church of the Apostolic age. Can we imagine that the journeys of St. Paul needed no organising, or that finance was no problem in those days? Did the local churches, when established, need no day-to-day organisation ?

The apostle himself was competent enough to deal with people and with business, but he had the assistance of men, most of whom are unknown to us by name, who were quite at home in many market-places and, by their practical skill and intelligence, helped to build up the Church of Christ. There are many men of this kind today. I have known some of them who could have made a fortune by their abilities, but have chosen rather to use them for the benefit of the Church, or of some cause which is relevant to the Kingdom of God on earth. Surely such unspectacular sacrifices are the work of grace.

EVERY KIND of potential saint has its own peculiar temptation. The Christian who withdraws from the world, whether in body and mind or only in mind, may become a spiritual introvert, careless of the calls for loving help which surround him, while the "saint of the market-place" may develop into a spiritual extrovert and neglect the inner life of devotion which would keep the flame of love alive.

We need both kinds. Each way is a way towards holiness, but best of all, as it seems to me, is the kind where both are united in one person and the glow of faith in the "sanctuary of the soul" is the motive force of acts of love.
Among all the heroes of the Christian life let us remember the innumerable and nameless "saints of the market-place" with thanksgiving.

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HOLY INDIFFERENCE

TO be indifferent to our neighbours or to the tasks which our times impose on men of goodwill is to be in direct conflict with the mind of Christ, but there is a special attitude which resembles indifference and is a recognisable part of full religious experience. I mean that appearance of aloofness and detachment which has often been noted in the conduct of saints. When St. Bernard drank oil without noticing that it was not water men thought that this was due not to imbecility but to absorption in meditation upon God. In the gospel, when Mary lent no hand to Martha in preparing a meal for Jesus because she was absorbed in hearing from him words of eternal life, she was commended.

There is such a thing as holy indifference which means a turning away from the concerns of daily life, its conflicts and its pleasures, to restore or reinforce the inward peace which consists in resting upon God. In religious experience as known in all the spiritual religions a tension can be observed which takes diverse forms according to the theological beliefs. It is perhaps most marked in the Christian faith, which calls upon us to fight the good fight, to endure hardships as good soldiers, to bear the burdens of others and to seek no rest, and at the same time offers us the peace of God and the life eternal which consists in "knowing" him.

THERE CAN BE no disguising the fact that these two elements in the Christian life, struggle and rest, are hard to reconcile with one another both in theory and practice. The valiant fighter for good causes which have the mark of the cross upon them may be caught up into the movement so completely that any time devoted to prayer and contemplation seems to him an evasion of unpleasant duties; the contemplative Christian knows that his happiness and fulfilment depend upon his never taking the inward eyes of his spirit away from God and even the most useful services to his fellow men must not disturb his peace.

The dilemma is a real one, because both the struggle and the peace must be real; we cannot be satisfied with a sham fight which is nothing but make believe, but equally a sham peace which is a kind of doping will not meet the demand or the promise of religious commitment. Could it be that Jesus was aware of this tension? From time to time he withdrew from the crowds and the war against the kingdom of this world to some hill-top where he renewed his inner peace in communion with his Father.

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CHRISTIANS AND POLITICS

SPEAKING anachronistically, one might say that the aim of the Apostles was "to keep the Church out of politics." There were no "politics" in our sense of the word in the Roman Empire of the first century, but it was possible to take up an attitude of antagonism and revolt against the State, which was then a kind of veiled dictatorship.

Both Peter and Paul urgently recommended that Christians should co-operate and obey, probably because some of their converts were tempted to suppose that the acceptance of Christ the King freed them from any obligation towards the secular unchristian authorities.

There was obvious practical wisdom in this apostolic advice, for the peaceful development of the Church would have been impossible if the suspicion of the government had been aroused, and the Roman Empire had a short way with malcontents.

BUT BOTH THE APOSTLES appeal in this matter to principle rather than expediency. St. Paul, in a famous phrase, declared that "the powers that be are ordained of God." St. Peter, in the Epistle of his name (i Pet., ii, 13 ff) writes, "Submit yourselves to every ordinance (foundation or institution) of man for the Lord's sake" and proceeds to sketch the functions of government.

There is some difference between the points of view of the two apostles, but in effect they agree that the State as such has a divine sanction. Nor is there any reason to think that in this they were departing from the teaching of their Master, for Jesus appears to have taken care to dissociate Himself from all movements which aimed at the overthrow of the government.

We encounter difficulty when we try to apply these principles to-day. The advice "to keep out of politics" would scarcely meet the situation in the free countries of the world. In the first century the Christian congregations were powerless to exert any influence on the State, but where representative government is established the situation is radically altered and the private citizen has some limited powers to affect the policy of government; and power always means responsibility.

We may reasonably believe that, in these circumstances, the Apostles would have spoken more positively about the Christian and the State and would have urged the duty of bringing Christian principles to bear on political action.

IN OUR TIMES we have witnessed the return of dictatorship, often in forms more formidable than that of the early Roman Empire. To many Christians the question has presented itself: "At what point does it become my duty to seek the overthrow of the State as it is?" To them the words of St. Peter must seem relevant indeed.

Almost any State is better than none, for anarchy is a limitless evil, but is there not a point where the State has become so patently wicked and devoid of justice that it has ceased altogether to fulfil its function and thereby forfeited every divine sanction ? We must beware of judging our fellow Christians who are faced with this dilemma from the standpoint of our own security.

St. Peter in this Epistle has a word for all politicians; a word of warning not to exaggerate the importance of the State. However good and just it may be it cannot fulfil our deepest needs, for we are "strangers and pilgrims" in this world and look for a City which is not an "institution of men" but of God.

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BEYOND LAW

IN his letter to the Galatians (v) St. Paul writes: "If ye be led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law".

This was a challenging statement when it was first made, and it is hardly less so now. The Jewish conception of the meaning of righteousness was, and still is, that of obedience. The good man was he who perfectly fulfilled all the commandments of the law which, as he believed, had divine authority.

This law of holiness had two parts which in the Jewish understanding were intimately connected. The ceremonial law directed the worship of the chosen people and the moral law their conduct.

The challenging character of St. Paul's declaration consists in the fact that he announced there were some persons, himself among them, who were not subject to this law even though he admitted its divine origin.
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The Apostle's words, however, are not in such direct opposition to the religion of the Old Testament as might appear on a superficial view, for there is in the Old Testament itself a strain of thought and experience which may be said to go beyond law in the generally accepted sense of that word.

THE MOST MEMORABLE expression of this is found in Jeremiah (xxxi, 33), where the prophet, describing the New Covenant which the Lord will make with His people, utters as the word of the Lord, "I will put my law in their inward parts and in their heart will I write it".

The promise means that in the coming age the law of God will no longer be external to the faithful Hebrews, written on tablets of stone or inscribed in books, but will be within the minds and consciences of men. They will know without being told what the law of God demands, and, with spontaneous obedience, they will carry it out.

Evidently what St. Paul is saying is not far removed from what Jeremiah had said long before; the difference between them is that the Apostle does not think of the transcending of law as in the future; he proclaims that it is a present fact. Those who have through faith become members of Christ are now led by the Spirit and partakers of the New Covenant, and, therefore, no longer under the law.

WHEN WE REFLECT upon the nature of righteousness and try to conceive what a perfectly good man would be we do not hesitate to agree that obedience to an external law, even if that law is dictated by God, is not enough. We can imagine a more excellent form of goodness.

In our pictures of Paradise, imperfect though they are, we should feel it incongruous to suppose that the "just men made perfect" are under a code of laws. When St. Paul writes of being led by the Spirit as a higher form of existence than being under the law he is not being "mystical"; he is saying what is plainly true.

But, like some other plain truths, it is dangerous; in the minds of unbalanced persons it can foster disastrous illusions. St. Paul himself found that this was the case, and in the history of the Church misunderstanding of the message of deliverance from the law has worked like a recurrent fever. The name of this spiritual disease is "Antinomianism" on which we may reflect on another occasion.

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THE POOR IN SPIRIT

"BLESSED are the poor in spirit," the first Beatitude according to St. Matthew may easily be misunderstood.

In colloquial English "poor spirited" means a person without courage or convictions for which he is prepared to suffer, but the men and women on whom Jesus pronounced this blessing were almost the opposite of this; they were poor because they stood fast in their faith under oppression.

The words "in spirit" are intended to indicate that those who are declared to be happy are thus singled out not because they are in a state of poverty, but because of their character and their genuine piety. "The poor" had become a name for a certain type of religious person.

The cause of this can be seen at work in the Old Testament: the prophets denounce the greed and selfishness of the rich and the Psalms include cries of the godly poor to God for help against the ungodly wealthy.
"Arise, O Lord God, and lift up thine head; forget not the poor."

So it was in the time of our Lord. Then too there were those who stood aloof from the struggle for power and wealth, who took no part in the movements of revolt but remained "quiet in the land," waiting for the Kingdom of God and trusting in Him.

To them, Jesus declared, belonged the Kingdom; they were already its children and would receive the reward of their faithfulness when it came in power.

IT IS OBVIOUS that we cannot apply this Beatitude to our own situation without modification. We who are citizens of a free country have a duty to take our part in its life and to bring Christian principles to bear upon its politics. To withdraw from these responsibilities would not be a virtue but a sin.

But, at the same time, we must recognise that the Beatitude is not superseded. Though we have to interpret it to make it relevant to modern life, it still represents the mind of Christ.

There is no doubt that He thought riches were a source of temptation. "How hardly," He exclaimed, "shall a rich man enter the Kingdom of God!"

This Beatitude, when we have removed all exaggerations and misunderstandings, remains a challenge to us which, if we take it seriously, must be deeply disturbing.

If follows that a society in which wealth is regarded as a title to honour and to acquire a fortune can be accepted as a worthy motive for a life-work is contrary to His spirit.

It follows too that a church that adopts the standard of "the world" in this matter and flatters those who are able to contribute largely to its funds is in danger of the same condemnation. But, as always, the point of the searching words is felt most acutely when we take it to ourselves.

A MAN'S SINCERITY in his Christian profession is most plainly manifested in his dealings with his property, with what he owns.

When we have provided for our subsistence and for those who are dependent on us, we must become poor in spirit about all that is left over. If we use it to nourish our pride, or to extend our power over others for selfish ends, our wealth has become a menace to our souls.

Only if in sincerity and truth we treat it as a trust to be used in the service of God and of our brothers in Christ can we face the challenge of this Beatitude.

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JUDGMENT DEFERRED

WE see that when Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, "Judge not that ye be not judged" (Matt, vii, i) it is unlikely that He intended to prohibit all estimations of other persons' characters and conduct or that when St. Paul wrote, "Judge nothing before the time" (I Cor. iv, 5) he meant to postpone all criticism until the day of judgment. The judging which is referred to in these passages must be. something narrower than the general activity which would include forming opinions and valuations of others for practical purposes. Clearly such a restriction would be impossible if normal human existence in society is to be carried on.

The significance of the word becomes clear and reasonable if we take it to apply to the attempt to weigh the degree of guilt involved in acts which are regarded as wrong. Popular usage makes no clear distinction between judging acts to be wrong and judging the actor to be guilty, and yet it is obvious enough, and all civilised criminal law admits, that deeds may be done which are objectively wrong and criminal while the doer, owing to causes which minimise his sense of responsibility or his capacity of judgment, may be subjectively guiltless.

The laudable attempts of law to curb the attribution of guilt without regard to the miiigating circumstances are very far, of course, from ensuring perfect justice, and no reform of the law can ever meet the complexity of human motives and will. Si. Paul was well aware of this and also of the difficulty of estimating one's own guilt or innocence. He knows nothing against himself, he says, yet he does not take his ignorance to be a certain guarantee of the absence of guilt. How ridiculous of a man, who cannot determine whether he himself is guilty or not, to set up as a judge of others and to condemn them.

WHEN ST. PAUL called for deferred judgment on himself and all others he was thinking of the judgment of God at the end of the age. In the realistic imagination of the Apostolic Church the divine judgment doubtless had something of the aspect of a "Great Assize" in which the judge read off the secrets of all hearts and the end of every man's tale of years was complete and known.

To us the divine judgment is hard to picture in the realism of apocalyptic literature, but we shall lose a valuable part of the teaching of the Gospel and a restraint on reckless condemnation of others unless we hold to the essential belief in God as the just and merciful Judge who sees the whole. Belief in God is the bulwark against unlimited relativity. There is absolute justice and absolute truth, and our striving towards them is not a reaching after emptiness.

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SELF DISCIPLINE

THE view that some of our fellow citizens, particularly younger citizens, would be all the better for a little discipline is widely held, and also that it would be most convenient if they disciplined themselves. If we think thus we shall, unless we are hypocrites, infer that self-discipline is probably good medicine for ourselves. We may be content to follow the maxims and prescriptions laid down in some manual of devotion, but lively minds are apt to put questions which go beyond the little books—and why not?

A question which presents itself from the start is: What attitude are we to adopt towards ourselves when planning our discipline? Searching the Scriptures for enlightenment on this matter we come across a saying of Jesus which, taken at its face value, is most disturbing. He said that if a man did not hate his own life he could not be a disciple (Luke xiv, 26) but we note that, in the same breath, Jesus said that a disciple must hate his father and mother and all his family. Evidently the saying is a drastic statement of one phase in discipleship; the recognition that there must be no rival object of devotion.

APPROACHING THE question from another angle of New Testament insight, we may reflect on the attitude which, on Christian principles, we must adopt towards others whom we may be called upon to discipline. As we have seen, beyond question to be Christian it must be loving and therefore directed by a firm desire for the good of all concerned and devoid of every vestige of hatred, revenge, self-satisfaction or anger. If we are to love our neighbours as ourselves, it follows that we are to love ourselves as our neighbours and, therefore, that the kind of discipline which love of our neighbours indicates for them is the kind which we should desire for ourselves. How then can we account for, and give a Christian meaning to, some utterances and experiences of saints and apostles?

WHEN ST. PAUL cries, "O wretched man that I am who will deliver me out of the body of this death?" is he not hating himself? No; he is hating some aspect of himself which threatens to become the whole self, but threatens in vain, because it is the true self which finds the spurious self hateful and the true self in Paul, or as he would say the Christ in him, which protests against the restrictions of the body. We may hate the things in ourselves which are not yet redeemed, but it is a mortal sin to hate ourselves in the true and full meaning of the words, for we are made in the image of God and the divine spark has not been extinguished in us. How then can we despair?

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BEYOND JUSTICE

THE Septuagesima collect prays that "we who are justly punished for our offences may be mercifully delivered by God's goodness".

In these days the words have an old-fashioned flavour, for the prevailing attitude towards "offences" is to seek for excuses for the offender rather than to recognise that he deserves to be punished, especially if we ourselves happen to be the offenders.

By a coincidence, the Gospel too (Mat. xx) has an old-fashioned expression connected with justice. The owner of the vineyard in the parable pays the workers who did not come on until the eleventh hour the same wage as those who had started early in the morning and justifies his generosity by the question, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own ?"

In both cases the claim of justice is admitted, but the possibility of some appeal beyond it is allowed. In the collect we implore the mercy of God; in the parable the employer, moved by compassion, goes beyond what justice would demand.

In our human thoughts about God we have to distinguish between His justice and His mercy, though we must always remember that His being is not divided into attributes which may conflict with one another. For our imperfect intellects, however, it is important that we should keep firm hold of the idea of divine justice and not dissolve it away by a sentimental conception of the divine love.

THE JUSTICE OF GOD is the foundation of the moral order of the universe, and the refutation of all imaginations that He is complacent towards sin. Unless we have a clear understanding of the divine justice we shall have a wrong idea of the Atonement of Christ.

But there is a gospel of forgiveness, because justice is not the last word. The revelation of the love of God in Christ enables us to appeal beyond the divine justice to the everlasting Mercy.

All this has a bearing on the problem of punishment in our human societies. To a believer in God society and the State have a purpose wider than mere convenience or expediency. They have a moral aim.

It is the primary duty of the State to administer justice so far as that is possible and by so doing to maintain some approximation to an ideal of human conduct and existence. Thus the punishment of criminals is a part of its business, and it fails if this function is not fulfilled. Punishment of wickedness is a good in itself, quite apart from any practical advantages it may have, because it is a vindication of the moral law.

But here too there is an appeal beyond justice. It should be the concern of the State, and of all those who have the power and duty of punishing their fellow men, to see that, while not relaxing the rule of justice, they do all they can to reform the criminal and restore him to a place in society where he can live usefully and prosperously.

BUT WHAT IF the State is itself unjust? What if the laws condemn acts which are neither wrong nor harmful and enjoin conduct which is immoral?

In that case the Christian man must attempt to reform it or to overthrow it, for a State which was plainly contrary to right and justice would have no authority over us except that of force.

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CHARISMA

THE word "charisma" seems to be on the way to establishing itself in the English language, so often does one hear it used in connection with leadership in the political world. The word was a favourite of St. Paul's and no doubt its currency in secular discussion is due to its theological meaning. It is closely connected with "Charis," grace, and in the Apostle's writings denotes some special gift of the Holy Spirit to an individual for service to God in the Church of Christ.

The "charisma" of teaching, of healing and of direction or "government" is mentioned, (i Cor. xii, 28). A "charismatic" ministry would be one which justified itself by being obviously blessed by God. St. Paul's own ministry was, so to say, the classical example of the charismatic.

IT IS a legitimate extension of the word's meaning to transplant it from religion to politics and we can find no fault with the observation that some men have exceptional gifts for governing their fellows and exceptional ambition to do so. There is a danger, however, in secularising the idea of vocation. In Paul's understanding of the situation everything depended on the direction of the charisma. To rejoice in the gift and to forget the Giver could be suicidal. The feeling of being "inspired," or of being a "man of destiny," or a "superman" is intoxicating, and in a sense is a "spiritual" experience, and, moreover, a man who has begun in a spirit of obedience may be corrupted by the thirst for power-power for its own sake.

RECENT HISTORY is full of examples and of warnings that charisma perverted and misdirected by pride becomes demonic and destructive. And who can look steadily at the civilised world today without qualms? Surely it is plain enough that we need leaders and governors intellectually competent to grapple with the menacing problems which face the whole human race and resolute enough to carry through far reaching plans, a strategy for the globe.

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LAW AND SPIRIT

THE word "antinomian" means "against law". In this wide sense the epithet would apply to the criminal classes, but it has come to be restricted in common usage to persons who, far from being criminal in intention, believe that they have a virtue superior to the ordinary law-abiding conduct of most good citizens, because they have left all law behind and, as many of them would say, do everything in the power of the Spirit which dwells in them As I remarked in a previous essay, St. Paul has many passages in his letters which assert that the true righteousness does not consist in diligent obedience to the law, even to divine law, but in a righteousness of faith, by which the believer is given the inspiration of the Spirit; "if ye are led by the Spirit ye are not under the law".

We must admit then that, up to a point, the Antinomian has the New Testament on his side; a merely "legal" goodness is not good enough.

YET THE EXTRAVAGANCES of antinomianism form one of the most astonishing and repulsive chapters in the history of religion. Men have convinced themselves that, because they have the Holy Spirit and are spiritual persons, they have no obligation to observe the normal decencies and standards of conduct and, having been set free from the yoke of the law and become "free", they cannot sin.

St. Peter puts his finger on the centre of the trouble when he writes of the good Christian "as free but not using your liberty as a cloak for wickedness, but as bond-servants of God". But it is not only those fanatics who have been guilty of atrocious deeds that we have to consider, for even great saints have mistaken their own strong desires and prejudices for the leading of the Spirit.

I think that anyone who believes in the guidance of the Holy Spirit in his life must at some time become aware of the difficulty of distinguishing between his personal wishes and the motion of the Spirit in his mind and conscience. It is terribly easy to assume that what we want must be what God wants.

How can we avoid the dangers of antinomianism without betraying the fundamental Christian truth that we are led by the Spirit ? The answer is not simple, but the basis of any solution must be the teaching of Christ in the Gospels.

Quite clearly, He pointed to a righteousness which was not "legal" for He said that except our righteousness exceeded that of the Scribes and Pharisees we could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But He did not abrogate the moral commandments of the law of Moses; He brought them into the inner life of motive and aim, freeing them from accumulated encumbrances and obscurities.

St. Paul too does not say that "charity" abrogates the moral law; he says that in charity the law is fulfilled.

IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE we are indeed to transcend law, but that does not mean we are to leave it behind as an outworn thing. We need the commandments as a check upon our propensity to self deception. We must at least refer to one other principle though space forbids any development here.

The grace of God does not take the place of our natural endowments, our reason, our will, or our common sense. Grace uses them and directs them, from reason bringing practical wisdom and from will resolute service of the Kingdom of God.

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CHRISTIAN ANGER

HE world of the first century, like that of any other century, was full of antagonisms, grudges and resentments, but St. Paul was determined that his Christian communities should be different from the world in this respect. He recognises that anger is an instinctive reaction which cannot be wholly repressed. "Be ye angry and sin not", he writes, and goes on to explain how that can be done. "Don't let the sun go down on your wrath"—let it be a passing emotion; do not dwell on your wrongs or nurse your anger (Eph. iv, 26).

We read in St. Mark that Jesus was angry, and at first sight there seems to be a contradiction between St. Paul's advice and his Master's example. Jesus "looked round with anger" on his critics in the Synagogue who were watching to see whether he would heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath day (Mark iii).

He was angry at the stupid fanaticism which would prevent him from doing a work of mercy on the Lord's Day. Certainly the sun went down on his anger, for it was his constant attitude. The scribes and Pharisees who condemned his Sabbath-breaking may well have thought of him as an "angry young man".

But we must note the cause of his anger. It was not any insult or injury to himself which called it forth; it was the wrong done to his Father's name by the false idea of the divine nature which lay behind the opposition and the lack of sympathy with suffering and poor fellow men.

THERE IS NO REAL contradiction between the Apostle and the Lord Jesus. The former was dealing with private and personal resentments, the latter with public and far-reaching injustice, which would go on long after the day's end and be a burden for many tomorrows.

We need to discriminate between different kinds of anger. The kind of which St. Paul writes, the smouldering grudge on which our memory lingers, is slow poison in the soul which, for our own spiritual and mental health, we must overcome by the will to forgive. The anger of Jesus, in so far as we can share it, must not be dismissed. Indignation at injustice and oppression is a mark of a sound and lively conscience. We may be deficient in this unselfish anger, too indifferent to the wrongs which others endure, too easily persuaded that nothing can be done, or persuaded by specious excuses.

There is, however, a word in the account of Christ's anger which cannot be overlooked. He was "grieved at the hardening of their heart". His anger did not lead to hate. He sorrowed not only for the wrong that was done, but for the misguided and perverted spirit of those who did it. If our anger is Christian, we must follow Christ in this; he loved and prayed for those with whom he was justly angry.

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OLD MEN'S PRAISES

WHEN this essay appears in print I shall have passed my 90th birthday. This is not so exceptional as it was, so perhaps I may be allowed to preach a little sermon to myself in the hope that it may interest some readers. To many men and women old age comes almost unobserved and they wake up one day to the truth. To adjust oneself is not always easy. Is old age in itself a boon or a burden ? Can we whole-heartedly echo the words of the Psalmist "Old men and children, praise the Lord" ?

There can be no doubt that fundamentally the Christian faith is optimistic in the sense that it holds human life to be valuable and precious and rejects Byron's pessimistic judgment, "Tis something better not to be". In our Anglican Book of Common Prayer we have a wonderful prayer of "General Thanksgiving" which suggests the grounds for the praises of old men and women. We are taught, first, to bless God for "our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life". We rejoice that we have been, and still are, human beings able to understand and to love. That we have lived so long with these gifts and opportunities is due to the protecting providence of our Creator who has led us to the enriching experience of human love and friendship.

We cherish the hope that we may meet again some of these dear companions in the world to come, and even now their love in our memory cheers our way. But we shall fall below our Christian ideal if we forget those old people who seem to have little reason to bless God—those who linger in pain praying for death, those who are bitter and friendless and those whose conscience bears the weight of unforgiven sin.

THE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING passes from this present world to the life of the world to come with the words "the means of grace and the hope of glory" which illuminate the prospect of death. Many old men and women and even many good Christians falter in their belief in Eternal Life. Who does not feel at times the burden of doubt with regard to the gospel of Life ? We who know by experience the need for a constant renewal of the faith that overcomes the world should pray for other old men what we pray for ourselves—"Grant us Thy Peace".

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THIS NATURAL BODY

MY body can be regarded as a machine and my heart in its midst as a pump but to a Christian believer they are much more. My body is an aspect of my personal existence and a part of my responsibility. I am to think of it as a "temple of the Holy Spirit". The question, What is man? comes up again when we think of the implications of recent surgical triumphs, or it will come up when we face their probable developments. Are there any moral limits ?

The Christian belief on the nature of man has taken two forms, which both represent the supernatural, or divine, aspect of man, but are not easily reconciled with each other. In a crude way, they might be called the Greek and the Hebrew traditions.

Plato and his followers have contributed much to Christian thought and have maintained the immortality of the soul. Man, for them, is a deathless mind or spirit imprisoned in a body, and death for the wise man is liberation from the prison. Even in popular hymns we hear echoes of this idea: "here in the body pent absent from Thee I roam". Nor is this mode of thought without traces in the Bible.

Plotinus, the mystical philosopher of Plato's school, refused to permit any portrait to be made of himself because he was ashamed of having a body.

BUT QUITE DEFINITELY the prevailing mode of thought in the New Testament is of the Hebrew type and more "materialistic". The body, on this view, is not a prison of the soul but a divine creation which is capable of being redeemed, and the true destiny of man is to be raised from death as a complete and glorified person, body, mind and spirit.

To St. Paul the idea of a disembodied, or "naked", spirit was repellent and in his famous chapter on Resurrection (i Cor. xiii) he produces the paradoxical concept of the "spiritual body", which differs from the "natural body" but is in line with it—"it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body".

It is plain that this kind of doctrine about the body and the spirit, if adopted as a fundamental principle, would be relevant to the problem of limiting the scope of transplanting organs from one body to another, though some considerable work on definition would be required before any clear guidance could be formulated.

I do not see that the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, as such, can help us very much because, in its undiluted form, it has no interest in the body. So far, the moral issues of the transplanting surgery have, on the whole, been dealt with by common sense and common human good will, but no one knows when far-reaching problems of conduct will arise on which guidance for Christians will be needed. Will it be forthcoming?

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"IN MY TIME"

WHEN we are seeking a Christian understanding of time as it affects us in daily life we may note some common phrases which express various ways of looking at "life". Among them "in my time" is very frequently heard on the lips of senior persons who look back on a career and compare it witli either the ideal which they started with, or with the achievements of some younger individuals who have succeeded them.

There is one all-embracing doctrine about "time" which runs through the Old Testament as well as the New, namely that God is the Lord of Time and assigns to men their periods of life and that this belief is the foundation of human confidence. The Hebrew poet exclaims, "I trusted, O Lord, I said Thou art my God. My times are in Thy hand" (Ps. xxxi, 14, 15). My time is a gift from God, and I am responsible for the use which I make of my portion of the divine gift of life in time.

THE LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES of this belief can be shattering unless it is always held along with the faith that God is love and knows the weakness of human wills. Some good Christians who have come to the end of a busy life do not look back on their achievements with thankful peace—they look with disappointment and guilty feelings on the failure of much of what they tried to do—as they thought, the will of God. There can be bitter grief in the minds of children of God who read "failure" as the summary of their faithful work or courageous enterprise for Christ's cause. How bitter an end to a life that it should fail utterly in its purpose— to know that "my time" which I wanted to give to God has been thrown away.

The Christian understanding of time does not permit us to reckon that any "time" which is sincerely given to God can be thrown away. The good news about God which the Gospel proclaims is that all sacrifice and loving service to the unhappy and suffering, all activity in the spirit of Jesus Christ is blessed by God. We have no difficulty perhaps in following the example of St. Paul in reprehending all "boasting" but surely we ought to be glad when we meet triumphs of grace in human lives.

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MEN OF PRINCIPLE

THERE are almost as many ways of describing good men as there are of describing bad men and each seems to indicate a particular kind of character. Among laudatory epithets two stand out as in general use and as, in some degree, contrasting with each other. A "man of principle" and an "idealist" are labels which we attach to men whom we respect and would like to be able to attach to ourselves.

No one would question that a truly good man would deserve both titles, but are we not conscious of the fact that some idealists tend to give principles and moral laws a definitely inferior status? The notion of "justice", as they would say, was put finally in its place when St. Paul wrote: "Love is the fulfilling of the law". Some estimable and sincere persons deprecate reasoning on ethical problems on the ground that, if we love Christ and our neighbours, our hearts will tell us how to act.

Recent experience must have opened many eyes to the need for principles and for the concept of justice. One does not have to be very sensitive to feel uncomfortable when the word "abortion" is bandied about, or to be a fanatic to have a sense of shame that his country seems to be developing as a European centre for the operation. But why do we feel shame, and on what basis do we form any judgment? We cannot solve each individual case on its merits; it would be futile to rely on our emotional reaction to pathetic stories. Love itself demands that we should support a policy which will have the good of all—the present generation and the next—as its aim.

THE PRINCIPLES OK RIGHT CONDUCT have, for historical reasons, been stated in negative terms: "Thou shalt not"; but they imply positive values. A moral principle which directly applies to abortion is the sixth commandment, "thou shalt do no murder", which is the negative lorm of the principle of the sacredness and value of human life. 1'he practical consequences to be drawn from this principle are open to question. At what point in its development does the human embryo become a human being? One would think that this problem was not beyond the capacity of reason; the literally, vital concern must be that the principle of the sacredness of human life shall be maintained.

The right and the good, the man of principle and the idealist, have their contributions to make. Jesus Christ was partly an opponent and critic of the men of principle of His day, but He did not relax the demand of moral Tightness. As Matthew's Gospel reminds us: "Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt, v, 20).

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ONE FAITH

MANY excellent Christians object to services in which leaders of different religions join in conducting public worship. One such objector remarks that St. Paul would have died rather than join with the crowd in shouting "Great is Diana of the Ephesians," by the "space of two hours" (Ac. xix.34). He was out to destroy the cult of heathen gods in the name of Christ and for a large part of its existence the Church has been fighting against belief in "false gods."

The leaders of the Christian mission did not disdain to learn from paganism, but it was from its philosophy rather than its religion. Today we face somewhat altered conditions. We are confronted still by false religions, but more formidable are the numbers of those who have no religion at all—and want none.

We have learnt much about the great religions of the world and have discovered that in them, as represented by their best and most articulate teachers, is what we can only describe as "faith" and "spirituality." It has profound differences which are hard to appreciate and its theologies are not like ours. It may have nothing which corresponds to our creeds. And yet its religious experience resembles ours in many respects. We find the needs for divine forgiveness and grace, the peace which is the reward of faith, the law of love in human relations and the impulse of devotion to the Eternal with many names but one Being. Under the real and irreducible differences about the Being of God there is a unity.

THE WAY FORWARD in the development of religion may well be a growth of understanding concerning the beliefs and the worship of the world's great religions. This does not mean that we should cease to propagate our Christian faith. It means that we should present it more intelligently and with obvious sincerity. It means that we should keep superstitions in their place and not mistake them for eternal verities. We must be eager to recognise reality in forms strange to us and see faith in what seem eccentric individuals.

These services in which worshippers of differing faiths join must be arranged with caution and with charity. There will be many who doubt still whether they can be justified from the teaching of Jesus. Two utterances attributed to Him in the Gospels may guide our thoughts: "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Mat. vii. 16) and "God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (Jno. iv. 24).

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WAGES AND REWARDS

HE parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard is found only in Matthew (Mat. xx). Its meaning does not lie on the surface and difficulties in interpretation may be the reason for its omission by the other Gospels. We are rightly warned against treating parables as allegories and specially against imagining that one character in the story (in this case the owner of the vineyard) stands for God. But these parables are "parables of the Kingdom," intended to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven and, by implication, the nature of God.

From the modern point of view the action of the owner is unreasonable. He earns our approval by his zeal in enlisting unemployed workers and by his generous payment of a day's wages for an hour's work, but the expectation of those who had borne the burden and heat of the day that the generosity of their employer would extend to them has a kind of justice, and no sensible man would have been surprised at their "murmuring."

We notice that the parable follows on a conversation between Jesus and Peter on the subject of reward (Mat. xix.27f). Jesus has startled the disciples by emphatically asserting that it is hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Peter points out that he and his fellows had left all to follow Jesus and quite bluntly adds. "What shall we have?" Jesus replies that there will be a reward and describes its nature, which is so magnificent and supernatural that it cannot be wages, it must be a divine bounty.

WITH THIS CLUE we can understand the purpose of the parable. The main idea is that any conception of the relation of God and man as analogous with the payment of wages is very far from the mark. No one can make a bargain with God or claim that God owes him anything. This does not mean, however, that there are no good things laid up for those who love God, but they are not laid up like a balance in a bank on which we have a right to draw, they are laid up in the loving memory and will of the Heavenly Father.

Echoes of the teaching of this parable are to be plainly heard in St. Paul when he is dilating on the righteousness of faith as distinguished from that of the works of the law and on the closely related subject of "grace." According to him, "boasting" self-complacency, self-righteousness are all absurdities when exhibited by human creatures. Look carefully into your virtues and excellencies. "What hast thou that thou didst not receive?" What did you create, and what did you earn? Is not the most you can claim that you did not always receive God's grace in vain—and is not that enough ?

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THE GOOD FIGHT

IN these days many thoughtful people are staggered by the catastrophes and conllicts all around and say, "How difficult it is to believe in a God of love or a heavenly Father!" One must admit that a superficial survey of the creation and its history does not compel belief. Even the author of the "Analogy of Religion", Joseph Butler, had to reduce his optimism to the dimension of probable conjecture, arguing that there are grounds in human experience to support the belief that if we knew the whole truth about the universe we would see that it was permeated by wisdom, justice and love; in other words, he held that the love of God for us is a truth of revelation to be accepted by faith.

But also, in these days many thoughtful people find it difficult not to believe in the justice and love of God. To them the manifestation of divine power and love shines in disaster and in situations of despair through the sacrifice and concern of individuals and nations. Not all who react with compassion to misery do so in conscious obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ, but all are inlluenced to some extent by the Cross and Passion of the Son of Man. II divinity is present at all among men it was in the Man who suffered because He loved and not in the officials and mobsters who killed Him. It was He who described the Judgment of the Son of Man (Mat. xxv, 3iff) on the nations and placed on His right hand those who showed loving kindness. And surely today one of the brightest stars of hope is the response of so many kindreds and peoples through their governments to calls for help.

HOW STRANGE IT IS that, so far as we know, Jesus said nothing about the theoretical Problem of Evil or how to reconcile suffering with the divine compassion ! He is, we may say, a "realist", or at least one who spoke the common language of the day. He did not attribute all illness and misfortune to the will of God. He came to inaugurate the Kingdom of God which, as He pictured the matter, was in conflict with that of Satan, and His miracles of healing, the "casting out of demons", were victories for the Kingdom of God. The Church of Christ, so long as it is true to Him, in this present world is in conflict and has to fight a good fight (i Tim. vi, 12) against false teaching about God indeed and, as a part of that struggle, against cruelty, selfishness and injustice. 1'he fundamental heresy is to deny either by word or deed that God is love.

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PILGRIMS AND PIONEERS

HAT the Christian life is a pilgrimage has the authority of the New Testament; which discloses too that, like all pilgrimages, it is directed towards a fixed goal and moves along a settled path; the goal is the City of God and the "way" is Christ himself (John xiv, 6)

The image of the pilgrimage by itself might suggest that for the Christian all is laid down in advance and no initiative is required or encouraged; pilgrims are not expected to explore. But though the word does not occur the idea that pioneering and adventure are needed in the service of God is plainly implied. In the very same passage in which Christ is denominated as "the way" He is reported as promising the gift of the Holy Spirit who will inspire believers to do "greater works" than Christ Himself and help them to gain new knowledge and insight by guiding them "into all the truth". And though Paul certainly believed that the Christian life was a pilgrimage towards a divinely revealed end, his acts and his words leave no doubt that, both in practical affairs and in the realm of thought, he was constantly seeking new means of proclaiming the gospel to the world and fresh understanding of his own faith.

TO BE A PILGRIM and a pioneer at the same time is not easy, but to attempt both is a duty which in varying degrees lies on all believers, particularly on those who hold any position of leadership or influence. We know well enough the defects of either the unmixed pilgrim or the pioneering spirit. The pilgrim who is nothing else but solely concentrated on the way will become more and more a conscientious enactor of routine, he will pass by beautiful visions and human encounters, which would have enriched his life, unnoticed because his attention was too exclusively fixed on the heavenly city. He tends to be the wrong kind of ascetic or the less attractive type of Puritan.

But the Christian exclusively dominated by the pioneering impulse can be, in his own way, equally wrong. Some most stimulating and lovable persons who abound in intelligence and good will belong to this class. Their quick minds and lively imaginations cause them to be interested in every good work which asks for help and to pursue every line of thought that seems promising so that, whenever one meets them, the first question is, what enthusiasm has captivated them now? such persons are the salt of the earth and the world would be dimmer and duller without them, but we sometimes wonder if they remember to be pilgrims and reflect that they lack one great virtue—that of concentration on the supreme Good. The Holy Spirit, we may suppose, sanctifies the human spirit by bringing its natural strivings towards truth and justice into focus.

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THE MOUNTING YEARS

IF we are doubtful about the form which our prayers on our birthday ought to take we might find guidance in the Book of Common Prayer. The familiar words of the General Thanksgiving suggest that the predominant note should be not petition but praise. We are taught to give thanks for our "creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life". The assumption is that our lives are gifts which we ought to value, that life itself is precious; we owe gratitude to our maker for including us in His universe.

The Christian faith is inherently optimist. Not everyone agrees. The life-rejecters, the pessimists, have some eloquent critics on their side and, strangely, many poets who have helped us to appreciate the beauty of the world and human life are among them. "Tis something better not to be", says Byron bluntly and, among poets of this century, A. E. Housman's melancholy "Shropshire Lad" harmoniously slanders life in the "Epitaph" on soldiers who fell in the First World War when he ends his dirge, "Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose, but young men think it is—and we were young".

THE REFUTA TION of pessimism and the defence of the value of file cannot be victorious by the process of logical argument or analysis alone. We know that, in our own experience, even when we have only bad toothache we falter quickly enough in our conviction that life in itself is good and precious. Though the pessimists can never prove their case, they can cause us to have moments of doubt and to realise that our optimism depends, like so much which gives nobility to human existence, on our faith in the Living God.

I wonder sometimes how so many wise and compassionate men are able to maintain their optimistic outlook and devotion to the service of humanity without believing in life beyond death. Must we admit that the years of our earthly lives are all we shall have? The Christian faith has a different vision of the end of the years of our mortal life. Various are the images which believers have employed to symbolise their faith. One which may appeal to some is the picture of a company marching to a hoped for city. Our birthdays are, as it were, marks by the wayside. As a homely but encouraging hymn has put it, at every halting place we rest "a day's march nearer home".

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BIRTHDAY OF THE MAN – A CHRISTMAS MEDITATION

THE New Testament has many titles for the Lord Jesus, among them two which have been central in Christian thought and devotion the Son of God and the Incarnate Word.

What title, however, did Jesus adopt for Himself? The answer to this question must be, I think, "the Son of Man".

We must own that this would not be accepted without reservation by all New Testament scholars, but at least it is clear that, unless the Gospels are completely at fault, He taught that there was a close connection between Himself and the Son of Man who would come in glory.

I believe that anyone reading the story of the Passion in St. Mark would naturally conclude that Jesus identified Himself with the Son of Man and that He understood the title to mean that He was God's anointed the Christ.

"Son of Man" is the literal translation of an Aramaic expression. By a peculiar idiom of that language, it seems that "son of man" would normally mean simply "man". Thus, in Ezekiel's vision, the prophet heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Son of man stand upon thy feet and I will speak with thee".

It may be, therefore, that when the crowds heard Jesus spoken of as "the Son of Man" they understood it as merely "the man". The phrase, however, had a deeper significance for some. In the book of Daniel we read of "one like unto a son of man" coming in the clouds, and in later writings "the Son of Man" was apparently a name of the Lord's Anointed, the Messiah.

PATTERN FOR ALL

SO in the New Testament we find that two tendencies of thought, Jewish and Greek, flowed together to form the conception of "the Heavenly Man", the archetypal man, the divine idea of man. No doubt some such thought as this was in St. Paul's mind when he wrote of Jesus, "The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven". On Christmas day then we celebrate not only the birth ol the Son of God, but also that of the ideal man.

What kind of human being should we regard as perfect, as a pattern for all others? This is not an academic question or simply an interesting subject for discussion; it is of practical importance.

So it was during the earthly life of Jesus. When Pilate, speaking more profoundly than he knew, said to the Jerusalem crowd: "Ecce Homo" ("Behold the man"), the crowd cried, "Not this man but Barabbas", indicating that Jesus was definitely not their idea of the perfect man.

The same question may well become central in a very urgent way before many years have passed. We are told that men have now the opportunity of directing their destiny; they can plan not only the world, but future generations of mankind, and even determine what types of human beings shall be born. Doubtless there is exaggeration in these enthusiastic claims, but probably it would be possible, by concerted measures rigorously applied, to change seriously the course of evolution.

Very soon, if any project of this nature is contemplated as practical politics, the question must be raised "What kind of human beings do we want?"; and in that is implied the further question "What is our ideal man ?" The answer may well be the same as it was in Jerusalem—not this man, but some kind of Barabbas.

We may hope indeed that the choice would not be some romantic gangster, but I suggest it would turn towards some "powerful" type of personality; probably intellectual power would be the predominant quality aimed at in any controlled breeding of men. If we were asked to give our vote on this question, how many of us would spontaneously decide that the aim must be to produce human beings who will be more like Christ than we are ?

Control means power over other persons, and it is time we tried to get a realistic conception of the exercise of power in modern conditions, in view of the proposals to guide or direct the development of the human species. We have to distinguish between the source of power and the exercise of power.

In a democratic State, in theory and to some extent in reality, the people are the source of power, but they do not exercise power. The actual conduct of affairs must be carried on by relatively few individuals, and as the techniques of industry and of social action become more complex, it seems inevitable that, while powers multiply, those who exercise them will remain few.

WHOM TO TRUST?

WE have an example in the control of nuclear weapons. No doubt that is an extreme case, but it indicates the tendency which is at work in a scientific civilisation and which, it seems, must grow in force if planning the future of the human race is pursued in earnest.

The old question "Who will control the controllers?" becomes ever more relevant and difficult. How is it possible to limit the activities of those who necessarily have to make executive decisions?

Why does the contemplation of uncontrolled power in the hands of a few fill us with alarm ? Plainly, because we immediately ask ourselves, "Whom could we trust to exercise such power?"

It is not that we assume that all men in power are necessarily self-seeking or tyrannical. We know that this is not true, though experience shows that they may quite easily be both ruthless and demented. Nor is it that we subscribe to Lord Acton's dogma, "All power tends to corrupt", but rather, I think, our fear comes from our self-knowledge.

We can scarcely imagine a more appalling situation than to be thrust into a position of unlimited power which not only enabled, but actually compelled, us to initiate action affecting the lives of multitudes of our fellow creatures. We may have good reason to believe that we are not, by nature, tyrannical or egoistic; we may be sure that our intentions would be good; but we know very well that we could not trust ourselves.

We wonder, would the good intentions stand the strain of unremitting responsibility and the demands for continued decisions? Do we know certainly what is good even in the restricted scope of our private affairs ? How much less can we be certain of what is good for all men and for the as yet unborn generations!

In short, creatures as we are, we should rightly shrink with horror from the prospect of stepping into the place of God.

BEST OF NEWS

THERE was one man who did not shrink, though He was meek and lowly of heart. In the faith of Christians Jesus proclaimed at His resurrection that all authority was given to Him in heaven and earth. The perfect man did not hesitate to assume the divine prerogative because, in fact, He was the heavenly man, the only begotten Son of God, the incarnate Word and Wisdom of the Eternal.

Nothing can minimise the startling challenge of this assertion— nor should we seek to minimise it. This, however, may be said with some hope of agreement from those who do not make the act of faith that Jesus is indeed Lord in the full meaning of the word. We might agree that there is no man whom we have known, or of whom we have heard, to whom we would give absolute authority without apprehension and dismay, and that there is no man whose accepted claim to unlimited obedience would be good news— except perhaps Jesus. Would not the assurance that He was in charge of events and that He ordered the future of mankind and our own lives here and hereafter be the best of news?

Yet still we walk by faith and not by sight. The absolute authority of Jesus Christ is an eternal truth, but not yet in this world a manifest and recognised fact.

But in Christ we have some criterion by which to judge between real progress and specious progress that covers spiritual regression.

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JOY AND PEACE

ON the Sunday before Christmas the Church provides us with an Epistle which meets the need of those numerous fathers, mothers, aunts and uncles who are anxious about their family parties (Phil, iv 4ff). The passage begins with joy and ends with peace, the two things that we most hope for and which, alas, so many miss. "Rejoice in the Lord always," cries St. Paul. "He is at hand." And "the peace of God shall guard your hearts and minds." We fall into a confusion about joy, because we do not think enough about it and mix it up with pleasure.

There have even been influential philosophers who have supposed that joy is simply a constant succession of pleasures. They are to be pitied; they can never have experienced joy or they would know better. Intelligent voluptuaries have frequently succeeded for a time in piling up pleasures, but few of them would claim that they were really happy; while we may know men and women whose pleasures are scanty but who are evidently joyful.

To define joy is impossible; we can only point to joyful persons and ask what they have in common which other persons have not. I would suggest a fundamental quality of joyousness—gladness to be alive; the joyful person can thank God for his own creation. Such joy may spring, or appear to spring, from more than one source, but I think St. Paul would say that all real rejoicing is rejoicing in the Lord. And certainly those who believe with tenacity and understanding often seem to have the secret of joy. However this may be, joy is a quality of the spirit and only spiritual persons, be they Christians or Humanists, know what it is.

THE JOY which comes from rejoicing in the Lord is a release: the haunting weight of self-disgust is dissipated by the Redeemer; the lurking fear that this strange world in the end makes no sense and that our life is an inevitable "absurdity" is corrected by the Revealer who helps us to apprehend the purpose of God. The man who rejoices in the Lord can be glad to be alive because he has business, divine business, to do in the world.

You notice that Paul begins with joy and goes on to peace, whereas we might have thought the alternative order was more natural; peace leading to joy. There is a subtle point here—a Christian point and not a Humanist one—we must encounter sin and despair in the power of the Lord and know the joy of victory before we can be calm enough and wise enough to possess the peace that passes all our understanding.

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HIGH TIME

ST. PAUL strikes the note of the Advent season in his Roman letter with the words "It is high time to awake out of sleep" (Rom. xiii. 11) .The thought in his mind is no doubt that of the second coming of Christ and the dawn of the day of judgment. That the event to end all events was near seemed certain to the Church of the Apostles. Rightly or wrongly, Christians of these later years have allowed this belief to fade into the background and do not easily conceive the end of all things as an event in time. Perhaps we have become so conditioned by scientific and historical modes of thought that we are almost unable to entertain the notions of a final culmination of history or of an order of reality not tractable by scientific method. We have no right, however, to dismiss the call to awake as baseless.

The mystical type of Christian devotion has tended to stress the day of the Lord coming as a thief in the night less than most other believers but still has kept the note of wakefulness. To the mystical believer the need is not so much to be alert for some coming miracle as to be aware of the reality of the human situation and of the nature of the human soul. Our great Anglican mystic, William Law, opens his treatise on "the Spirit of Prayer" with the call to awake. "The greatest part of Mankind, nay of Christians may be said to be asleep; and that particular way of life which take up each man's Mind, Thoughts and Actions may be very well called his particular Dreams." Shelley has a similar idea when he writes of the dead poet Keats, "He hath awakened from the dream of life."

YET IT IS NOT the same idea, for the mystical believer places the awakening not at the moment of death but at the time when the conventional Christian wakes up to reality, and understands that the aims and occupations which had filled his days were of less than secondary importance and trivial compared with his nature and his situation.

He is a being who "has an eternity within him" and is born to become "an eternal partaker of a divine life." He must keep awake; must constantly arouse himself, hearing every day the Advent call, for he may lose his birthright and fall short of his true destiny if he allows himself to be once again bemused by dreams. "Lo, He comes with clouds descending:" do we thrill less than of old to the Advent hymn and regard it as a relic of a simpler and more childish faith? We need not; never mind the clouds; it is as important as ever that we should awake.

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ONE AND MANY

VERY young children seem to like playing with their toys by themselves, but they do so in two contrasting moods; at one time a child dotes on a single toy but at another time he will have all his toys around him as though he could play with them all at once. Thus early in life we are introduced to an idea which will play many parts in our mental and spiritual development—the One and the Many, unity and multiplicity. We could indeed consider all attempts to understand as essays in unifying many data which are rarely completely successful, because we either fail to reach convincing unity or leave some data outside our construction.

Religious experience and religious thinking perhaps more than any other phase of human life, show the tension and the necessary connection between the One and the Many, and, as we might have expected, the Bible give examples of both types of religion—that which lays stress on the multiplicity of the tasks presented to the believer, and the multiplicity of grace to fulfil them, contrasted with that which seeks above all the peace of inward unity.

The brief episode, narrated by St. Luke, of Jesus being the guest of Martha and Mary (Lk. x 38f.) is meant to illustrate the difference between the religion of contemplation and that of good works, and it is to Mary who listened to His words rather than to Martha who did the cooking that He declares she has chosen the better part.

But the New Testament has among its authors a representative of the active, out-going, hard-working kind of religion. The Epistle of James is the charter of devoted and practical common sense which mistrusts faith and pious feeling if they do not show themselves in acts of justice and mercy. "My brothers, what use is it for a man to say he has faith when he does nothing to show it? (Jas. ii. 14, N.E.B.).

THE THEORETICAL answer to the problem of the One or the Many in personal religion is, of course, that concern for the world, its needs and our responsibilities must be an element in every genuinely Christian life and for some, by reason of their temperaments and their circumstances, religion will mean works of love done in the spirit of Christ, while for others a more mystical and comtemplative mode of worship will be the centre of their spiritual experience; yet there can be no truly Christian life which does not, in some measure, include both contemplation and active service of the Kingdom of God.

The Englishman, so it is alleged, is more prone to the piety of St. James than to that of St. John and St. Paul. The Feast of the Ascension reminds us to pray with heart as well as mind.

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FAITH AND UN-FAITH

IT is the experience of some well-intentioned persons that self-examination is apt to break the bounds which we would like to impose and to encroach on the territory of faith. We have perhaps thought carefully about the state of our souls and not "cloaked" our sins, as the Prayer Book has it but disconcertingly our critical interest, once aroused, insists on turning to the criterion which we have been applying to ourselves and on raising the question of its validity. So it comes about that at Easter, when the triumphant climax of our faith summons us to rejoice, we find ourselves driven to ask, "Do I really believe?" Or if it is clear that I am not an unbeliever, how much do I really and effectively believe? No one can tell how widely this kind of reaction to the Easter festival is distributed, but I am sure that it is sufficiently common to be worth examining.

THE FIRST POINT to consider is that we shall make a mistake if we suppose that our questioning is necessarily evil and therefore ought to be suppressed by a violent act of will. By attempting to do that we should probably injure our spiritual life and lay up for ourselves psychological trouble. The world in which we have been called to live is a questioning world in which faith and un-faith are in unceasing conflict; so much is this the case that a man who has no experience of doubt is hardly equipped to meet the demands of others for help. I wonder whether it is an idibsyncrasy of mine to have a slight shrinking from some earnest and confident preachers who appear never to have suffered the anxieties of doubt and never to have had to admit to themselves that there are many questions unanswered and even that it is not self-evident that only a fool can say "There is no God".

I SUGGEST that faith itself really implies the possibility of doubt. Our religious knowledge is not the same in nature, for example, as our knowledge of mathematics. I don't believe that two and two make four; I know it, and if I understand it I cannot conceive it to be false. It is not difficult to conceive the non-existence of God, but if I became convinced that it was true the whole tone and colour of the world, and of my life in it, would have changed. I believe and hope that the Christian faith is true: if that is my position, it is incumbent on me to understand the position of those whose hope and belief is different, and I can do that because my faith is a constant tension with agnosticism and atheism. No one has ever agonised in prayer for faith to believe that 2+2=4, but how many in all ages have prayed that they could believe that God is love!

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WE SHALL OVERCOME

RELIGION in the New Testament is not represented as a quiescent state of mind but rather as conflict and victory; the peace of God is that of victorious warriors who may at any time be summoned to fight again. The victory which brings peace, so the message runs, is Christ's in which through faith we may share. "Every child of God is victor over the godless world. The victory that defeats the world is our faith" (i John v, 3, 4, N.E.B.). In the writings of John the "world" does not always have the same relation with God. It is the object of God's saving love: it is not to be the object of our love, however, for "the whole world lieth in the evil one" (1 John v, 19). In such passages as these the "world" is conceived as predominantly at enmity with God; as a system of human cohabitation and culture without God and, therefore, to be overcome by those who believe in Him. It is useless to pretend that this is not in contradiction v\ ith the dominant humanistic point of view. The question, for example, which sociologists are apt to ask: "What is the function of the Church in modern civilisation?" would seem to St. John misconceived. He would prefer to ask what is the justification of modern civilisation in God's world ?

"WE SHALL OVERCOME" is a watchword made famous by Dr. Martin Luther King in his crusade for equitable conditions for negroes. It is an echo of St. John's Epistle. He was asking, what justification is there for a civilisation which refuses justice in God's world ? In the long run, the reformers and protectors who base themselves on their faith in God are the most formidable. To move the world it is well to have a fulcrum outside the world and the believers who are sure that they are in harmony with the will of the Creator are least of all likely to give up.

In our individual experience the conflict persists and we can have no real peace within except through victory. We shall overcome; and, in a sense which can be turned from metaphor into experienced reality, we have overcome, because we are "in Christ" by faith. In the Gospel of John we read that Jesus said to His disciples just before His crucifixion: "These things have I spoken unto you that in me ye may have peace. In the world ye have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."

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LAWLESSNESS

DISCUSSIONS about Christian morals as compared with Humanist raise once again the question of moral laws particularly as they bear on sexual behaviour. The more extreme views on one side would represent Christian morals as a system of rules and regulations which it is our duty to remember and obey without asking why. In these days this view is not widely held. More popular today is the opposite extreme which would hold that to lay stress on moral laws is contrary to the teaching of Christ and St. Paul and that the answer to all moral problems, according to the Christian gospel, is to be found in a deeper understanding of the meaning of love {agape) and a more consistent application of it in all our affairs.

Those who adhere to this opinion seem to think that when St. Paul wrote "love is the fulfilling of the law" he implied that the need for law was abolished by love. However this may be, no one could deny that Jesus was critical of the legalistic morality of the Jewish authorities of his time on the ground that it imposed useless burdens on the mass of people which obscured their spiritual vision of the Kingdom of God.

That St. Paul proclaimed the glorious liberty of the children of God through the Gospel as contrasted with the doleful lot of those who were still under the Law is perhaps the salient feature both of his own experience and of his message to others. Certainly a legalistic morality can claim no support from the New Testament. But it does not follow from this that loyalty to the teaching of Christ and his Apostles would constrain us to reject the whole idea of law, moral law, from our thinking.

THE CONCEPT OF sin is quite central in the New Testament and, however distasteful it may be to "sophisticated" intellectuals, it is necessary for any understanding of what Gospels and Epistles are all about. Of all the writers in the New Testament the author of the Gospel and Epistles of John is most emphatic on the supreme value of love. It is the nature of God himself and he who does not love cannot know God. Sin, one might think, could be described by St. John as failure to love. But he has a different definition; "Sin", he writes, "is lawlessness" (i John iii, 4); and the word covers both the man who knows the law and breaks it and the man who simply knows no law to break. Love and Law are not identical, but, according to the New Testament, they are not incompatible; there must be some intelligible relation between Love and Law. Many practical issues depend on what that relation is.

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FIRE AND LIGHT

"/^iOME Holy Ghost our souls inspire and lighten with celestial fire;" the ancient hymn brings together in one line the two symbols of the Holy Spirit, fire and light. They are pregnant symbols, but not direct statements of the reality. Holy Spirit is like fire and light, but it is truth and reality and its most accurate name is Spirit of Truth.

Light is obviously an appropriate symbol; it needs no interpretation, for the simile is common form and everyone understands the "light of truth;" and when he understands anything says quite naturally that he "sees" it. Fire is not so apt to our way of thinking. Our experience of knowing the truth, or seeking for it, has little resemblance to flames or the feeling of warmth. Indeed some of our expressions seem to imply that truth and fire are in some sense opposed to one another. Thus, when we are arguing against some proposition which seems to us sentimental or due to wishful thinking, any one of us might say, "Let us look at this problem in the cold light of reason," and we should mean, let us put aside all emotion.

No doubt this advice is often useful, but if it is carried to the extreme of holding that truth can be found only by the reason purged of all emotion the New Testament is flatly against it; and so I believe is common sense. No one denies that some kinds of truth are discovered and dealt with best by completely detached and "objective" thinking, but this does not hold when we are concerned with truth about the nature of the universe and of human existence; when, in short, we are asking, what must I do to be saved, and what meaning anyway can I attach to the expression ?

THE DESICCATED and detached thinker who abstracts from all human emotions and all judgments of value has got the thing wrong from the start because he has left out the most decisive factor, the human beings, like himself. The fact that he and others scorn delights and live laborious days in the pursuit of truth, and indeed the whole life of the mind in every aspect of it, are significant parts of the universe. The fire symbol indicates that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Love and in this respect is still the Spirit of Truth, because without imagination and the passion of love a whole realm of reality is opaque.

The Holy Spirit of Truth is, of course, the inspirer of all aspirations towards knowledge and the divine Patron of the intellectual life, but not of the sect of "Intellectuals" who, in the pride of their mental attainments often despise simple human beings.

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WORK AND WAGES

THE Collect (Sunday next before Advent) employs "down to earth" language. It speaks of "stirring up" the wills of "faithful people," an expression more appropriate to puddings than souls, and proceeds to pray that we may "plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works and be plenteously rewarded."

We seem to be talking like men involved in wage bargains and on the verge of strikes and bonuses. One may wonder how to reconcile such images and symbols with the Gospel. On reflection, it may appear that the crux of the question lies in the word "reward." It is implied in the Gospel that to pray for and expect every kind of "reward" is right, or is the incongruity which we feel due to the kind of reward which unregenerate individuals look for ?

Perhaps we could narrow down the question by eliminating some "rewards" as "out of bounds" for Christians. Thus a "reward" which consists in a cash gain obtained by chance or by a study of "form" combined with "luck" may be a reward for pertinacity and is not always sinful, but it cannot be regarded as a reward for good works.

There is, however, one kind of reward which every individual spirit can understand and hope for—the fulfilment of the person. For each of us there is a prize which can be won by no one else and a misfortune and failure which no one else can suffer—frustration. We are to conceive God not as a task-master or a trainer but as a heavenly Father who has a prize to give, that we should grow up in mind and spirit—that we should be fulfilled.

SOME OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD begin to enjoy their reward while still living in this present imperfect world. When men come to old age sometimes they review in memory the experiences of the years. Not always do they put aside the conflicts and angers of their active lives and they can interest us by their stories of half-forgotten quarrels. They are happy when they can recall the past triumphs. Probably very rich men when they grow old still comfort themselves by thinking of their wealth and, if they are Christian, they are glad that they have remembered in their prosperity the words of the poor Man from Nazareth who said. "How hard it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

And others can think of contributions made by themselves to knowledge, literature and civilised living. They are beginning to enjoy their reward. A letter from a dedicated hospital nurse strikes a clearer note. She remembers past patients and thanks God that she can still help others; she has "the wages of going on."

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MORAL VARIETY

THEY say that there are many ways of doing wrong but only one way of doing right, but though eminent moralists have made this assertion, it is possible to doubt its truth. Any considerable acquaintance with "good" persons, whether in actual experience or by reading, will lead to the conclusion that, so far from there being a monotonous sameness in good actions, there is a remarkable variety, that in fact the differences between one individual and another are nowhere more obvious than when they are acting with love and good will. No doubt the impression of sameness in virtuous conduct is due to the fact that moral principles are usually stated in the form of laws and rules, and those most often in negative form. There is only one way of abstaining from action, and though stealing can have almost infinite variety, not stealing is incapable of any.

IT IS, however, a well-recognised fact that the formulation of moral principles as negative rules is unsatisfactory and misleading and needs to be developed into positive statements and definite ideals. When this is done, we find that the negative rules are special cases of, or deductions from, positive principles and ideals. Whether these higher principles are many or one is a disputed point. St. Paul seems to hold that love is the supreme and sufficient principle and indeed, fulfilling all "the law", but it can be argued that there are some virtues and duties, recognised as "such by all good men, which cannot be regarded as special cases of love and must be brought under the heading of "Justice".

I FIND IT DIFFICULT to dispense with justice as a principle distinct from love, because it seems to me that occasions often arise when we have to choose between trying to be just and trying to act lovingly. Those who tell us that to be just is really to be loving, or contrarywise that to be loving is to be just, may be right, but the formula, though probably orthodoxly Christian, is not helpful in practice. For our immediate point this question does not much matter. The important thing is that right actions are not negative but positive, actions aimed at an ideal—that of love or of justice The response then, if this is the real situation, may be determined to a large extent by the personal make up and the circumstances of each individual. The loving act, for example, of a plain, blunt man will not be the same as that of a sensitive and imaginative woman, nor that of a millionaire as that of an old age pensioner. Variety of good may offer us an object of worth.

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THE END OF ALL THINGS

W HEN St. Peter wrote "The end of all things is at hand" he was reiterating what was a commonplace in the primitive Church (i Pet. iv, 7) which lived in the expectation of the return of Christ. The words suggest an idea which, on inspection, turns out to be unthinkable. Though we can understand the words, their meaning is unacceptable. They may signify the ceasing to exist of everything, including the space in which they seem to be set and the time in which events happen. "Time must have a stop", perhaps, but we cannot conceive a last moment to which there is no succeeding moment.

The Apostle, of course, meant no such thing. He had in mind the end of the present age or aeon, doubtless in a catastrophic manner, to give place not to blackness, nothingness, le tieant or non-being, but to the Kingdom of God and eternal life. He does not represent the new age as the fulfilment or development of the old; as he understood it, kingdom and life are the gift of the grace of God. Without questioning the divine origin of the Kingdom, we may believe that it has a development; beginning in the present age it reaches a fullness in the age to come.

"The end of all things" can be given a different interpretation. An "end" may be either a mere stop or it may be a goal striven for, a purpose achieved, a value made real. Here again our minds, creatures in time and space, are incompetent to grasp the significance of these words in human experience. Can we imagine every wish of our hearts granted, all our longings stilled, all hopes and fears wiped out, a peace which indeed passes all our understanding ? If we could even vaguely imagine such a condition, we should refuse to recognise it as even possibly our own. So conditioned are we by the limitations of our mortal existence that we cannot conceive what existence liberated from time's bounds would be.

ETERNAL LIFE must be a life which is liberated and is not "in time" as we are in time. Thus it seems to follow that so long as we are in this mortal life we can have no direct or clear experience of eternal life. Our pilgrimage through time must last a little longer before we can know the fullness of life. But here on the pilgrim way we may have some gleams of immortality. They come to most of us when we devote ourselves to something which is more permanent than the events and purposes of this earthly existence.

The Hebrew poet exclaimed, "I see that all things come to an end, but thy commandment is exceeding broad"—broad-based and enduring is the Law of God. The Christian's pilgrimage is with Christ and in the power of the Spirit: Christ, "the same yesterday, today and for ever" is for us the contact with the eternal world.

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THE END-TIME

WHEN reading the New Testament we ought always to remember that all the authors whose writings compose it believed that the Return of Christ and the Last Day were imminent and that tomorrow might see the End. This conviction coloured their imaginations and their thinking; they felt they were living in the End-Time.

IT follows from this that we can look for "sociological" principles and political directives in it only with due caution, for plainly what may be good advice for a society, or a polity, which can last only a few weeks longer will need qualification and adaptation when the society is expected to continue indefinitely. Naturally, the situation is different when we are considering individuals and not societies—or societies as collections of individuals. So far as you and I are in question, there is no doubt that our time is short and that the next hour may be our last in this world. The old Psalmist spoke for all men when he prayed, "Lord, let me know mine end and the number of my days; thou hast made my days as it were a span long and mine age is even as nothing in respect of thee" (Ps. xxxix, 4, 5). The Lord did not tell him, neither will he tell us, and if we stay to reflect, we are aware that we are as uncertain of our end as all our forefathers were.

"LET ME KNOW mine end"—the word "end" can have a meaning which is not equivalent to "stop". The prayer could have reference to the values and purposes of life; "let me know what end I have in view, whither my striving and aspiration tend". To that question we can give some answer. Being rational creatures, we have the capacity for introspection and self-criticism. By the grace of God these gifts may be the means of lifting our minds and hearts out of torpor or confusion and into hopeful activity. The Psalm ends with a prayer for more time. "O spare me a little, that I may recover my strength before I go hence and be no more seen" (v. 13). How to recover strength for the next, perhaps the last, stage of the journey ? By having clearly before my mind the "end" which gives my life what unity and coherence it has had and so to purify and simplify this ideal end that it may be a reflection, or rather a spark, of the eternal life which has no end.

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CELESTIAL FIRE

"COME Holy Ghost our souls inspire and lighten with celestial fire" so runs Bishop Cosin's version of the ancient hymn "Veni Creator," and every reader of the New Testament will admit that the conjunction of light with fire in our invocation of the Holy Spirit is amply justified.

It is indeed significant. From the Spirit we expect to receive "light," in the sense of wisdom and understanding, but we need and ask for more. Light may be cold and impersonal, and so may intellectual penetration. The Holy Spirit's light is not clear and dry; it is warm and mysterious with the fire of Pentecost.

As individual believers concerned with our own souls, what word could we choose to denote the benefit we hope to receive from the Spirit? Perhaps "fulfilment" is the word. The Spirit of God can awaken and sustain our human spirits and help them to flower and bring forth their finest fruits.

AMONG THE men and women many have agreed to call "saints" one could, in a rough way, distinguish two groups. One group consists of holy persons who have been inspired to entertain and exemplify thoughts about God which have helped fellow pilgrims; the other group is made up of those who have been experts in loving God. The word, I think, may be allowed even though they would insist that their expertise is a gift of the Spirit.

The first and great commandment is to love God. To the ordinary believer this command is very difficult and a large proportion of them do not know how to begin. The lovers of God who have recorded their ideas and experiences appear to have an exceptional generosity of feeling and sensitiveness to nobility, beauty and to the sufferings of the weak. They thirst for a love which is absolute and an Object of worship which will fulfil all their desires.

When we read some of the writings of these lovers of God we are startled by the erotic symbolism of their language. Such phrases as "the Bridegroom of the soul" give us pause, and we shrink from Richard Crashaw's address to St. Teresa of Avila: "O thou undaunted daughter of desires." But no one who has studied the saintly lovers of God and their poetry of devotion would dare to react to them with a Stoic dread of ecstatic passion.

Those of us who are by nature more akin to the intellectual type of saint ought perhaps to test themselves, to see if they are becoming cold and dry, by singing a fervent hymn. Can we share the emotion, for example, of, "O come to my heart, Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for thee" ?

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LOVING JUSTICE

THAT we ought to forgive our enemies is a Christian postulate and generally admitted to be difficult; there are some of tender conscience who find it equally hard to forgive their friends' enemies. Some of the difficulty often arises from a mistaken notion of what forgiveness means. It does not mean feeling no resentment at injuries done to ourselves or our friends and certainly not indifference to the demands of justice. Everyone would admit that I did wrong if I slid out of giving evidence against a motorist who had killed a child by careless driving, even if my motive was pity for the culprit.

Forgiveness in the New Testament denotes a transaction between two persons, the injurer and the injured; the result of the transaction is the restoration of fellowship and both parties play an essential part—the injurer changes his mind and the injured is eager to resume the former harmonious relation, seeking no revenge. When Jesus speaks of the unlimited forgiveness which His disciples are called upon to exercise He has in mind a situation where the wrongdoer "turns again saying 'I repent'" (Lk xvii. Iff.). The forgiveness of the Christian is to resemble that of God who is always ready to forgive the repentant sinner but never the unrepentant. The Christian, however, has the complementary obligation—that of being aware of his own faults and always repentant.

FORGIVENESS, BOTH HUMAN and divine, does not necessarily involve the remission of punishment or penalty. We must hope and believe that love and justice in the final reckoning will be found to be one, but we do not see this now and sometimes it will appear that the choice lies between following the dictates of justice and those of love. Such decisions are among the most agonising that have to be made and, so far as I know, no principle avails to cover every case.

One mitigating fact must be observed—justice can be done lovingly and works of love with some regard to equity. Are we convinced that "letting off" a culprit is the best that could happen to him ? Are we sure that "forget it" is always the answer to differences ? Looking back over the years, I suspect many older individuals would confess that we owed much to friends who spoke their minds when they disapproved of our conduct and cared so much for us that they were on occasion our severest critics.

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FLESH AND SPIRIT

TO be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace" (Rom. viii.6). When we need a guide for self-examination we might well choose this statement of St. Paul's in the trenchant words of the Authorised Version. Perhaps it would not be accurate to describe it as the basic principle of St. Paul's ethics, but it is most significant for understanding his conception of the human person as a moral being.
Briefly, it is that there are two elements, or aspects, of man, the spirit and the flesh and that this duality gives rise to inner conflict— "the flesh lusting against the spirit." This does not mean, however, that the flesh is inherently evil; being created by God it is, in its proper order, good and necessary; but the flesh is the source of temptation and, if it is permitted to gain the mastery over the spirit, it leads to the death of the self—deprived of its principle of unity and order, it disintegrates. The human spirit has one resource in this conflict in that the Spirit of God through Christ may respond to the creature's cry for help and bring life and peace to the distracted soul.

THIS ACCOUNT is not "scientific." It has the quality, perhaps, of "parable" and "myth" and yet it is true to experience and, moreover, so-called "scientific" psychology is not free from myth. We remember that a thinker who wrote long before Paul had his own parable of the disintegrating "permissive" personality. Plato compared the confusion and conflict of lusts and appetites with a "democratic" city, which was, in his opinion, only slightly better than a ruthless dictatorship. The good city was, he thought, far from being one dominated by mobs and demagogues; it was one where the best men governed, where wise men were kings and were revered by the citizens. St. Paul, too, had his ideal picture of the City of God, human and divine.

At first glance, it may seem that the Greek philosopher and the missionary Apostle are poles apart and that any resemblance between their conceptions of the good self is superficial. But consider the thought behind the so different words. To the Greek the answer was wisdom, the control of the animal inheritance, of the instinctive drives and appetites, by reason. To the Apostle the answer was, give to the risen Christ and His Spirit the dominant place in the self and there will be life and peace within. And then remember that the Christ is also the Word and the Wisdom of God. Each is saying in his own way, "to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."

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AFTER THIS MANNER

MATTHEW and Luke agree that the Lord Jesus gave his disciples a model prayer, though they give slightly different versions of it and place it in different contexts.

According to Luke it is a reply to the request "Lord teach us to pray," while Matthew includes it in a discourse on prayer in which Jesus condemns "vain repetitions" and those who think that they will be heard "for their much speaking." "Your Father knoweth," He says, "what things ye have need of."

It is important to note that, in a sense, the Lord's Prayer is not a specifically Christian prayer, for no doctrine peculiar to Christianity is referred to. It could, in fact, be used by a Jew, and close parallels to it can be cited from Jewish sources.

This confirms the belief that the prayer belongs to the most primitive tradition in the Gospels, because, if it had been composed by the Church, it is inconceivable that no traces of its faith in Christ as the Redeemer should be found in it.

How then has this prayer, which is Jewish in inspiration, gained the dominant place that it holds in all Christian worship? Doubtless because it is believed to come from the Lord himself; but it becomes a Christian prayer by reason of the interpretation which Christians have given to its phrases.

ALL THE thoughts in it can be understood within the circle of Jewish religion—the Heavenly Father, our dependence upon Him, His Kingdom and His forgiveness of the sinner are all to be found in the Old Testament and were familiar ideas to pious Jews of the time of our Lord.

They have, however, a richer significance in the light of the teaching and the work of Christ. The Heavenly Father is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the Kingdom of God is that pictured by Him in His parables; the divine love and forgiveness are manifested in the Son who dies for our salvation.

Thus the Lord's Prayer, when closely considered, is a kind of epitome of the origin and nature of the Christian faith. It springs out of the rich soil of Hebrew religion and gathers its noblest fruits, for it is a new understanding and revelation, not only a growth from the ancient Hebrew roots but a fulfilment.

In His prayer Jesus exemplifies the meaning of His assertion that He had come not to destroy, but to fulfil.

SOME WHO experience difficulty in praying are accustomed, when their hearts do not seem to be able to lift themselves up to God, to say very slowly the Lord's Prayer with pauses after each petition for reflection upon it.

This well-tried method can be even more fruitful if we direct our minds towards the light which Christ has thrown upon the thoughts expressed and, as it were, pray Christ's prayer along with Him.

"After this manner pray ye"; that is "on this model," with the same balance of worship, petition and aspiration, with the same sober reverence, remembering that our Heavenly Father knows our needs before we ask and requires from us not vain repetition, but the trust of a child in his father's love.

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FIGHT FOR TRUTH

SOME words in the Gospel of John are the beginning of Jesus's teaching on truth and freedom; He proclaims to His true disciples that they "shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free" (Jno. viii, 32).
This is the prelude to profound thoughts on eternal life which reach far beyond comment on contemporary events but are actually being illustrated by our newspapers every day. For one thing is plain enough—that there is a shortage of truth and another thing is equally plain, that not everyone wants the truth to be known.

And a further fact emerges when we consider the consequences of this: a large number of people are concerned not with free and honest seeking for truth and justice but with "covering up" and evasive discussions. One wonders how many acute and original minds will be wasting their genius on concocting stories which will "stand up" for long enough to get through a crisis or at least hinder a full and detailed disclosure.

NO CAREFUL STUDENT of the New Testament will doubt that its central message is put before us as the absolute truth and that lying or deceit is condemned as evil. There have been terrible scandals and failures in the Christian Church but it has never deserted or compromised the basic faith that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Perhaps it has seemed to us that the Gospel of Truth might be expressed in a more aggressive tone when we are in conflict with pagan and atheistic thinkers. We have now ready to our hand the Apocrypha translated in the New English Bible. We need not perhaps trouble our minds with questions about the degree of inspiration of these books of Jewish piety. Let us read them before we pronounce upon them.

In the book "Ecclesiasticus" we shall find some "wisdom" attributed to another Jesus, the son of Sirach, who has much poetical comment to make on "truth." He writes: "Do not let yourself be a doormat to a fool or curry favour with the powerful. Fight to the death for truth and the Lord God will fight on your side." (Ecclus. iv27, 28.)

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COUNTING THE DAYS

IN THE REALM of religion, spiritual concern seems to be directed more on days than on years. "Lord let me know the number of my days" is the prayer of the Psalmist. And this is because religion is, in its higher development, primarily a matter of individual experience. The Christian gospel is good news for persons; its salvation is for individuals one by one primarily, though, of course, indirectly it has regenerating power in national and political institutions.

I must count my days one by one; every day that I live is open to criticism and may call for forgiveness, and there are few days which do not offer grounds for thanksgiving. Only by counting my days can I be a realist about myself. Today I have to love God and to love my neighbour. The noblest ideals with respect to the future will not be a substitute for love of my neighbour who is here today and may be gone tomorrow.

AND YET WHEN I HAVE COUNTED the days as they pass, the years do have a claim upon my critical attention. A commercial enterprise may be admirably conducted in every respect except general direction, and something of the same disaster may overtake the spiritual life of an individual; a kindly, disciplined and unselfish life may be spoiled by mistaken enthusiasm or rendered to all appearance futile by others' treachery or incompetence. We cannot in the end evade the question: What end am I making for? And here of course we come upon the parting of the ways. Is my "end" wholly of this present world or do I look beyond for "the life of the world to come" ?

We note that, though the difference is fundamental, we cannot assume that the two types of good men differ of necessity in their values. As we know, many of the Old Testament saints had no belief in personal immortality but were supported by the hope that their memories would be held in honour by future generations. We cannot doubt that many "humanists" today are of much the same opinion. We may honour their loyalty to spiritual values while wishing that they had a better hope.

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PLAIN WORDS

WHEN Cranmer composed the collect for the second Sunday in Advent he had in mind the idea that men reading the Bible in good faith would find in it the simple gospel and the way of their own salvation. The Scriptures were "written for our learning" and, now when he wrote, were open free for all to hear and study. The expectation was not altogether realised, for differences of meaning seemed to multiply, but beyond doubt the quest for the simple gospel which all can understand and accept was an important element in the religion of our people. It is so still.

The Christian gospel can be presented at almost every level of human understanding. It can be presented as a wonderful story, and children who have been taught their religion "at their mother's knee" are likely to remember it all their lives. That may be a very good thing, if they grow up to understand Tennyson's words "truth embodied in a tale"; it may be bad, if they never grow up. The story of God who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son to save it, and of the Son who suffered and rose from death to open the way for us to heaven, to live with him always, is comprehensible to a child—perhaps more comprehensible than to adults. Anyone who has experience of the difficult art of story-telling to children will know that there is development in audience-response. At first the child likes to hear his favourite story over and over again, protesting vehemently against any change. There comes an evening when the words Why? and How? make their disturbing appearance. How did Cinderella's pumpkin change into a coach, and why were her slippers made of glass ? The stage of criticism has come, and if the questions are not plausibly answered the story will be deleted from the nursery canon.

THIS HAPPENED with the simple gospel and the child hearer. If we have told the story well, the questions will come. Why did Jesus have to die for us ? What do we need to be saved from ? Does God punish Jesus for our sins ? Where is Heaven ? And so indefinitely. I have come across hard-headed businessmen who dismiss the New Testament as "a collection of fairy-tales". They are probably men who, when they were children, had asked questions and been told to hold their tongues, or fobbed off by some evasion. The "simple gospel" is the vehicle of profound, and indeed inexhaustible truth, and only by asking questions do we progress in understanding. And, of course, one of the first questions can only be answered day by day; it is the practical question arising out of the simple gospel, Lord, what must I do?

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TWO WORLDS

"T WO worlds are ours," wrote John Keble in his well-known 1 hymn, and there can be no dispute with his statement from the standpoint of the New Testament. Throughout, in differing forms, it propounds the idea that "the world" of common experience and every day is not the only one. The Kingdom of God, according to the Gospels, is to come on the earth in the future, but it exists now "in heaven" and has come already in the spirits of those who follow Christ. In like manner, the Apostolic interpretation implies two worlds which are distinct from one another yet interpenetrate one another. In St. Paul's famous metaphor, the passage from the imperfect knowledge of this world to that of the other world is like turning from misty reflection in a mirror to direct confrontation.

Some of our modern Christian theologians and interpreters are convinced that the "two worlds" idea is now untenable and, while they would not deny that it is found in the teaching of Jesus, urge us to adapt the Christian message to fit the current opinion. These Christian thinkers are, I believe, at once too optimistic and too defeatist. Too optimistic, when they imagine that the Gospel can survive the excision of a vital member, and too defeatist when they suppose that the "two worlds" theory cannot be defended.

THE MISTAKE arises from a misunderstanding of the intellectual situation. It is often said, and quite truly, that modern scientific philosophy is "empirical", by which is meant that it is based on experience, starting from the sense-experience which is common to human beings. In this it differs from any philosophy which starts from alleged intuitive and self-evident principles. The conclusions of empirical investigations need not be empirical and in fact research such as that now proceeding on the atom issues in results that cannot be expressed in terms of human experience. To make a model of the structure of an atom, it appears, is not only impossible now but must remain so.

Two worlds are ours; and this dualism appears throughout the life of the human spirit. Behind and within the passing and the commonplace is the eternal and the supremely good. "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever"; Keats was right though in this world all things sooner or later perish. Truth once known will always be true even though every human knower is dead, and the just and loving deeds of righteous men have the tincture of eternity when they themselves are forgotten. "Two worlds are ours"; the precondition of all that is noble in human existence.

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LOVE OF RICHES

BEFORE St. Matthew was converted he was an agent of the oppressors of his people, collecting impositions from the subject Jews. Presumably his motive for adopting his disreputable and sordid calling was financial—the pay and such exaction as he was able to add "on the side." The Collect for St. Matthew's day prays appropriately that we, like him, may be delivered from the "inordinate love of riches." The prayer does not suggest that riches are evil in themselves, but that they become evil when regarded as intrinsically good and the dominant object of ambition.

Quite certainly, the New Testament definitely asserts that it is dangerous to be rich and the height of spiritual folly to trust in riches. From this admitted fact, some Christian teachers have concluded that our religion condemns "the profit motive" altogether and that any economy which depends on it is ipso facto un-Christian. If this were the case, It would follow that Chrisitians would be bound to contract out of civilised society as it exists or is likely to exist, for it is difficult to imagine any form of economy in which profit and loss would not be important. There is, however, no passage in the Gospels which suggests that our Lord disapproved of the traffic of merchants and of buying and selling. Riches may be a curse and condemnation if they are acquired corruptly or cruelly, but to men of integrity and wisdom they may be a blessing.

ONE COULD THINK of many instances when neglect to make a legitimate profit would be a dereliction of duty. When the Church Commissioners after the war revised their investment policy some critics blamed them for departing from precedent in order to preserve their capital from erosion and to increase their resources to meet the rising cost of living. Very few now would be prepared to say that they ought to have disregarded the "profit motive."

Yet the warning against love of riches remains in our Gospels and was never more worthy of attention than in our would-be "Affluent Society." What do we want riches for—as a nation and as individuals ? If we want them to give us more power over our fellows, more inflation of our egos, more selfish luxury, they will corrupt us until we degenerate into salient examples of the truth of Jesus' words, "How hardly shall a rich man enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." If, however, we want them that we may be more effective workers for that Kingdom, for truth and justice and for the welfare of future generations, we may have the blessing which Christ pronounces on "faithful stewards."

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DIALOGUE WITH GOD

ACCORDING to Hebrew tradition Moses entered into dialogue with God. "The Lord spoke unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh to his friend" (Exod. xxxiii, 11). To critical readers this text may appear good evidence of ancient Hebrew belief, but doubtful evidence for an actual human experience. Another narrative in the Old Testament, however, strikes us as almost certainly an authentic account of dialogue between God and man—the case of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. i). The "word of the Lord" opened the conversation with the statement that God had predestined and consecrated Jeremiah to be a prophet. Jeremiah was appalled at the announcement. "Then said I, ah Lord God, behold I cannot speak, for I am a child"; to which the Lord replied: "Don't say that, because I shall send you all the same, and you will deliver my message."

The Lord touched his mouth, so the Prophet thought, to signify that He had put His words into Jeremiah's mouth. The narrative proceeds to describe the two enigmatic "signs" and their meaning. This passage, as it seems to me, gives us the best clue we have for a sympathetic understanding of what being a prophet involved. No doubt prophets varied in their experiences and no two were precisely alike, but the dialogue form was evidently a constant feature in the call and work of the prophets. It is not wide of the mark to imagine that, at the height of the prophet's obedience and response to the divine vocation, he felt that God spoke to him "as a man speaks to his friend."

JOB PROVIDES an instance of a dialogue with God—a study of a man whose aspiration was some such encounter in which a revealing word would be spoken, but who received only overwhelming proof of the power and majesty of the Creator. Job was not a prophet, and it is surely significant that he differed from the prophet in his aspiration and obedience. Job hoped for an experience which would solve his personal problems, vindicate his integrity, remove the sense of injustice under which he laboured and make him happy once more in his personal relation with God. A prophet like Jeremiah had another kind of aspiration, concern and obedience. He was anxious about the people of God, he thought of himself as one who was involved in the misfortunes, sins and hopes of his brethren. It was Jeremiah who had the intelligible answer, because the question he asked was not how can I understand, but what can I do for my brethren and companions?

Perhaps another question suggests itself to us: all this talk about "dialogue": who knows whether Job and Jeremiah and others were not just talking to themselves?

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MY CALLING

WHEN Paul, on his way to Damascus, was struck to the ground and had a vision of the risen Christ who asked, "Why do you persecute me?" according to the A.V. English Bible he said, while still "trembling and astonished, 'Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?'" The Revised Versions, following other manuscripts, omit these words, but they make it clear that the sudden conversion of the apostle was not only a change of mind but a calling to commitment for life. The calling was definitely not to comfort, leisure and peace, but in it Paul found his fulfilment. He at least was a man who had no price, for there was nothing that compared, in his estimation of values, with the service of Christ. The place of "calling" in the good life was prominent in his teaching. In the Epistle to the Romans(6ff) insists on the various "gifts" which members of the Church had by the grace of God and on their vocation to develop and use them.

It may seem to us that the apostle assumed too readily that everyone has a definite calling, whereas too often the answer to the question, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" is far from clear and the line of life which we follow is not so much chosen and accepted by us as imposed by the force of circumstances or mere chance. One of the contributions of the Protestant Reformation to Christian ethics was to emphasise the idea of vocation throughout human life. To Luther and many other Reformation leaders a divine calling might be claimed by the godfearing peasant or tradesman or craftsman just as well as by those who were monks or ministers. All honest labour which contributed to the common good was divine.

THIS IS a noble doctrine and forms a religious basis and sanction for human dignity and personal liberty. But it is not always recognised that the same doctrine of vocation can be the principle by which a society may be judged. Can we, for example, call a socicty or civilisation "Christian" if large numbers of its members have no calling in which they can take pride and find satisfaction? It may be that the technical structure of our society requires that there should be human beings whose daily work is so mechanised and monotonous that no sane person could find fulfilment in it. Or again, can a society be called Christian in which numbers of young people are caught up into careers which may bring in high wages but are useless, or worse than useless, to the community? The questions which cluster round the idea of "calling" are inexhaustible.

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FRUITS OF SPIRIT

NOT all spirit is Holy Spirit, and not all spiritual persons are holy persons. These are facts worth remembering, for neglect of them has often led to disastrous mistakes when experiences, which are undoubtedly spiritual in one sense, have been taken without criticism as inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The cause of this confusion is plain enough; God is Spirit, and, we, too, are spiritual beings, having, in this respect, a certain kinship with the divine. The Spirit of God can move us and enlighten us because we are spiritual beings by nature.

But spiritual experience and spiritual activities are not necessarily good. It is much too simple to imagine that all sins are sins of the flesh and arise because the bodily appetites are not controlled by the spirit, for there are atrocious sinners who have their animal nature well subordinated to their spiritual purposes. Satan, if he exists, must be a spirit without physical lusts, and yet at the same time the supremely evil individual. St. Paul certainly believed that the conflict of Christians was against "spiritual wickedness in high places," that is against powers which are both spiritual and evil.

WE DIFFER from sub-human animals in that our spiritual nature affects all aspects of our life, and thus there are no sins which are exclusively sins of the flesh, though some are the outcome of reckless indulgence of animal impulses. An example of a sin which is evidently both of the flesh and of the spirit is covetousness. In its origin, and when it is on a small scale, it has a close connection with appetite. The covetous man strives to get as much as he can in order to secure pleasure by satisfying appetites, and pursues this object without due regard to justice and charity.

But this is hardly an adequate description of large-scale covetousness. The man who spends his life and his energies in building up ever larger resources of money and property does not live laborious days just to be able to dine more sumptuously, or have more and larger motor cars. His motive is more spiritual than that—and more sinful; it is pride and the love of power which drive him on—the assertion and enlargement of his ego. We dare not say that all successful makers of large fortunes are covetous persons, but we can understand why Jesus said: "How hardly shall a rich man enter the Kingdom of Heaven."

HOW SHALL we recognise the inspirations of the Holy Spirit in our spirits? St. Paul has a short answer, which echoes the teaching of Jesus, "by their fruits." The fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control." (Gal. v, 22). Where these are found, there is the Spirit of God.

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WHAT WE SHALL BE

INVESTIGATIONS and speculations about the future life normally concentrate on two questions: Is there life for the individual beyond death ? What are the conditions of that life if it exists ?

It is worthy of note that St. John, when dealing with the subject, does not raise either of these questions (1 John iii, iff). The continued existence of the Christian soul is for him a settled truth, and he either is not interested in the details of that existence, or he has nothing to impart about them.

He asks another question, not how shall we be, but what shall we be ? And he does not profess to know any final and comprehensive answer to it. Yet he knows the answer in principle: "Beloved, now are we children of God, and it is not yet manifested what we shall be. We know that if He shall be manifested, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is."

AMONG THE MANY implications of this passage perhaps the most fundamental is that the life of the world to come is to be regarded as a development. There is no break in continuity. The Christian believers, to whom the author is writing, are already children of God not in the formal sense of having by their status certain rights, but in the real sense of having been born again by the Spirit and having thus become "partakers of the divine nature".

Following on that, we may note the character of the development. St. John is not talking of "progress" in die vague modern way which is the source of so much muddled thinking. The fulfilment of the child of God in the world to come is the expansion of the eternal life already infused into his soul, the working out of a process which began in this life.

We cannot know now what we shall be, because we cannot conceive the possibilities of our redeemed personalities when the restrictions and limitations of our present state of existence are removed, but we may be sure that the end towards which our development moves is that of becoming more and more like Christ until we are able to apprehend Him "as He is", in the full glory of His divinity.

Nor is the question of the reward of the faithful unilluminated by this passage. It consists in the "vision" of God, which is equivalent to direct knowledge of His being.

Some Christian Fathers have ventured to say that the end towards which we are drawn by the Spirit is that we should become divine. I do not find that in St. John; he speaks, I think, always of "likeness" and never of "identity"; the idea of "absorption" into God and the loss of personal identity is foreign to his thought.

SUCH, IN OUTLINE, is the belief about the future life held by an Apostolic writer who was both a thinker and a mystic. I do not say that its truth is obvious, or that it can be demonstrated to those who approach it without faith in God, but it is not open to the objections often levelled against Christian belief, based on pictures of Heaven and other symbolic imagery by which something of the truth was conveyed to simple persons.

St. John knew these pictures and imagery and he used them, but he knew that they were only parables of a deeper truth, which he could grasp and communicate only in part and yet sufficiently for our enlightenment and encouragement.

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SIGNS IN THE SUN

This, the last of his Saturday sermons, was completed by Dr Matthews shortly before he died at the age of 92.

THERE is one definite impression to be gained by a careful reading of the New Testament, namely that the original preachers of Christ's Gospel of salvation believed that the time was short and that the "day of salvation" was nearly over. Any day the present sinful era might be brought into judgment. Men looked for "signs" of the impending divine winding up of the world. They feared God.

We still use the word "godfearing" to indicate religious persons, or those who pretend to be religious. But the experience of fearing God has been modified by the development of religious understanding. There are, however, still many men and women who in their youth were brought up by parents and teachers who strove to plant the fear of God in the minds of their children. It is a question whether we owe gratitude to the loving and well-meaning persons who tried so hard to lead us into the fold of the Good Shepherd who was also the inexorable task-master. I wonder if there are any children in England now who tremble in their beds at the thought of the signs in the heavens, such as comets and in the changes observable in the sun. And I wonder if there are many children who envisage as clearly as we did the work of the Redeemer as the rescuer of our souls from the wrath of God.

HOW ARE WE to take some of the pictorial and dramatic elements in the Gospels ? To take an obvious example which Advent emphasises for our edification, do we really expect and look for, with earnest devotion, the coming of the Lord Christ "on the clouds" to judge the world and to inaugurate a totally new world ? Do we really expect a series of supernatural astronomical events leading up to the reign of Christ as a world-governor? The answer to such questions is to be found in the New Testament itself. In the Gospel of John the words and the doings of Jesus are interpreted as experiences of the spiritual life in the company of Jesus. The signs in the sun are the symbols of the spirit of man when awakened by the Spirit of God.

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