Here's freedom to him that wad read, Here's freedom to him that wad write;
There's nane ever feared that the truth should be heared But them that the truth wad indict.
It is essential to remember that we are in possession of knowledge, that we are face to face with conditions that are different from any in the previous history of Christendom. The Christian church must be sure that it moves fast enough so as not to alienate, but to draw into it that great body of intellectually alive, intellectually honest young men and women who have the Christ spirit of service and who are mastered by a great purpose of accomplishment. Remember that these young men and women are now merely standing where the entire church will stand in a few years. Remember that any man or woman who has the true spirit of service has the spirit of Christ - and more, has the religion of the Christ.
Remember that Jesus formulated no organisation. His message of the Kingdom was so far-reaching that no organisation could ever possibly encompass it, though an organisation may be, and has been, a great aid in actual-ising it here on earth. He never made any conditions as to through whom, or what, his truth should be spread, and he would condemn today any instrumentality that would abrogate to itself any monopoly of his truth, just as he condemned those ecclesiastical authorities of his day who presumed to do the same in connection with the truth of God's earlier prophets.
And so I would say to the Church - beware and be wise. Make your conditions so that you can gain the allegiance and gain the help of this splendid body of young men and young women. Many of them are made of the stock that Jesus would choose as his own apostles. Among the young men will be our greatest teachers, our great financiers, our best legislators, our most valuable workers and organisers in various fields of social service, our most widely read authors, eminent and influential editorial and magazine writers as well as managers.
Many of these young women will have high and responsible positions as educators. Some will be heads and others will be active workers in our widely extended and valuable women's clubs. Some will have a hand in political action, in lifting politics out of its many-times low condition into its rightful state in being an agent for the accomplishment of the people's best purposes and their highest good. Some will be editors of widely circulating and influential women's magazines. Some will be mothers, true mothers of the children of others, denied their rights and their privileges. Make it possible for them, nay, make it incumbent upon them to come in, to work within the great Church organisation.
It cannot afford that they stay out. It is suicidal to keep them out. Any other type of organisation that did not look constantly to commanding the services of the most capable and expert in its line would fall in a very few months into the ranks of the ineffectives. A business or a financial organisation that did not do the same would go into financial bankruptcy in even a shorter length of time. By attracting this class of men and women into its ranks it need fear neither moral nor financial bankruptcy.
But remember, many men and women of large calibre are so busy doing God's work in the world that they have no time and no inclination to be attracted by anything that does not claim their intellectual as well as their moral assent. The Church must speak fully and unequivocally in terms of present-day thought and present-day knowledge, to win the allegiance or even to attract the attention of this type of men and women.
And may I say here this word to those outside, and especially to this class of young men and young women outside of our churches? Changes, and therefore advances in matters of this kind come slowly. This is true from the very nature of human nature. Inherited beliefs, especially when it comes to matters of religion, take the deepest hold and are the slowest to change. Not in all cases, but this is the general rule.
Those who hold on to the old are earnest, honest. They believe that these things are too sacred to be meddled with, or even sometimes, to be questioned. The ordinary mind is slow to distinguish between tradition and truth - especially where the two have been so fully and so adroitly mixed. Many are not in possession of the newer, the more advanced knowledge in various fields that you are in possession of. But remember this - in even a dozen years a mighty change has taken place - except in a church whose very foundation and whose sole purpose is dogma.
In most of our churches, however, the great bulk of our ministers are just as forward-looking, just as earnest as you, and are deeply desirous of following and presenting the highest truth in so far as it lies within their power to do so. It is a splendid body of men, willing to welcome you on your own grounds, longing for your help. It is a mighty engine for good. Go into it. Work with it. Work through it.
The best men in the Church are longing for your help. They need it more than they need anything else. I can assure you of this - I have talked with many.
They feel their handicaps. They are moving as rapidly as they find it possible to move. On the whole, they are doing splendid work and with a big, fine spirit of which you know but little. You will find a wonderful spirit of self-sacrifice, also. You will find a stimulating and precious comradeship on the part of many. You will find that you will get great good, even as you are able to give great good.
The Church, as everything else, needs to keep its machinery in continual repair. Help take out the worn-out parts - but not too suddenly. The Church is not a depository, but an instrument and engine of truth and righteousness. Some of the older men do not realise this; but they will die off. Respect their beliefs. Honest men have honest respect for differences of opinion, for honest differences in thought. Sympathy is a great har-moniser. " Differences of opinion, intellectual distinctions, these must ever be - separation of mind, but unity of heart."
I like these words of Lyman Abbott. You will like them. They are spoken out of a full life of rich experience and splendid service. They have, moreover, a sort of unifying effect.
They are more than a tonic: " Of all characters in history none so gathers into himself and reflects from himself all the varied virtues of a complete manhood as does Jesus of Nazareth. And the world is recognising it. . . . If you go back to the olden time and the old conflicts, the question was, ' What is the relation of Jesus Christ to the Eternal ?' Wars have been fought over the question, ' Was he of one substance with the Father?' I do not know; I do not know of what substance the Father is; I do not know of what substance Jesus Christ is. What I do know is this - that when I look into the actual life that I know about, the men and women that are about me, the men and women in all the history of the past, of all the living beings that ever lived and walked the earth, there is no one that so fills my heart with reverence, with affection, with loyal love, with sincere desire to follow, as doth Jesus Christ. . . .
" I do not need to decide whether he was born of a virgin. I do not need to decide whether he rose from the dead. I do not need to decide whether he made water into wine, or fed five thousand with two loaves and five small fishes. Take all that away, and still he stands the one transcendent figure toward whom the world has been steadily growing, and whom the world has not yet overtaken even in his teachings. ... I do not need to know what is his metaphysical relation to the Infinite. I say it reverently - I do not care. I know for me he is the great Teacher; I know for me he is the great Leader whose work I want to do; and I know for me he is the great Personality, whom I want to be like. That I know. Theology did not give that to me, and theology cannot get it away from me.
And what a basis as a test of character is this twofold injunction - this great fundamental of Jesus! All religion that is genuine flowers in character. It was Benjamin Jowett who said, and most truly: " The value of a religion is in the ethical dividend that it pays." When the heart is right towards God we have the basis, the essence of religion - the consciousness of God in the soul of man. We have truth in the inward parts. When the heart is right towards the fellow-man we have the essential basis of ethics; for again we have truth in the inward parts.
Out of the heart are the issues of life. When the heart is right all outward acts and relations are right. Love draws one to the very heart of God; and love attunes one to all the highest and most valued relationships in our human life.
Fear can never be a basis of either religion or ethics. The one who is moved by fear makes his chief concern the avoidance of detection on the one hand, or the escape of punishment on the other. Men of large calibre have an unusual sagacity in sifting the unessential from the essential as also the false from the true. Lincoln, when replying to the question as to why he did not unite himself with some church organisation, said: " When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification of membership, the Saviour's condensed statement of the substance of both law and gospel: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thyself, that church shall I join with all my heart and soul."
He was looked upon by many in his day as a non-Christian - by some as an infidel. His whole life had a profound religious basis, so deep and so all-absorbing that it gave him those wonderful elements of personality that were instantly and instinctively noticed by, and that moved all men who came in touch with him; and that sustained him so wonderfully, according to his own confession, through those long, dark periods of the great crisis. The fact that in yesterday's New York paper - Sunday paper - I saw the notice of a sermon in one of our Presbyterian pulpits - Lincoln, the Christian - shows that we have moved up a round and are approaching more and more to an essential Christianity.
Similar to this statement or rather belief was that of Emerson, Jefferson, Franklin, and a host of other men among us whose lives have been lives of accomplishment and service for their fellow-men. Emerson, who said: " A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognise our own rejected thoughts. They come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." Emerson, who also said: " I believe in the still, small voice, and that voice is the Christ within me." It was he of whom the famous Father Taylor in Boston said: " It may be that Emerson is going to hell, but of one thing I am certain: he will change the climate there and emigration will set that way."
So thought Jefferson, who said: " I have sworn eternal hostility to every form of tyranny over the minds of men." And as he, great prophet, with his own hand penned that immortal document - the Declaration of American Independence - one can almost imagine the Galilean prophet standing at his shoulder and saying: Thomas, I think it well to write it so. Both had a burning indignation for that species of self-seeking either on the part of an individual or an organisation that would seek to enchain the minds and thereby the lives of men and women, and even lay claim to their children. Yet Jefferson in his time was frequently called an atheist - and merely because men in those days did not distinguish as clearly as we do today between ecclesiasticism and religion, between formulated and essential Christianity.
So we are brought back each time to Jesus' two fundamentals - and these come out every time foursquare with the best thought of our time. The religion of Jesus is thereby prevented from being a mere tribal religion. It is prevented from being merely an organisation that could possibly have his sanction as such - that is, an organisation that would be able to say: This is his, and this only. It makes it have a world-wide and eternal content. The Kingdom that Jesus taught is infinitely broader in its scope and its inclusive-ness than any organisation can be, or that all organisations combined can be.