William Henry Fremantie.

Christian ordinances and social progress; being the William Belden Noble lectures for 1900 online

. (page 1 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"^ C JT"

Cl)e Boble Iccturcfii,

HOOD. Being the William Balden Noble
Lectures for 1898, by Alexander V. G.
Allen, Francis G. Peabody, Theodore
T. Hunger, William DeWitt Hvde,
Henry Van Dyke, and Henry C. Potter.
With a Portrait of William Belden Noble.
i2mo, $1.25.

PROGRESS. The Noble Lectures at Har-
vard University for 1900. By The Very
Reverend W. H. Fremantle, D. D., Dean
of Ripon. i2mo, $1.50.

Boston and New York.





fBttlxam 25etoctt i^oBle %tttntt^

FOR 1900












R 1901 L.



This Lectureship was constituted a perpetual foundation
in Harvard University in 1898, as a memorial to the late
William Belden Noble of Washington, D. C. (Harvard,
1885). The deed of gift provides that the lectures shall be
not less than six in number, that they shall be delivered
annually, and, if convenient, in the Phillips Brooks House,
during the season of Advent. Each lecturer shall have
ample notice of his appointment, and the publication of
each course of lectures is required. The purpose of the
Lectureship will be further seen in the following citation
from the deed of gift by which it was established : —

" The object of the founder of the Lectures is to continue
the mission of William Belden Noble, whose supreme de-
sire it was to extend the influence of Jesus as the way, the
truth, and the life ; to make known the meaning of the words
of Jesus, ' I am come that they might have life, and that
they might have it more abundantly.' In accordance with
the large interpretation of the Influence of Jesus by the
late Phillips Brooks, with whose religious teaching he in
whose memory the Lectures are established and also the
founder of the Lectures were in deep sympathy, it is in-
tended that the scope of the Lectures shall be as wide as
the highest interests of humanity. With this end in view,
— the perfection of the spiritual man and the consecration
by the spirit of Jesus of every department of human char-
acter, thought, and activity, — the Lectures may include
philosophy, literature, art, poetry, the natural sciences, poli-
tical economy, sociology, ethics, history both civil and ec-
clesiastical, as well as theology and the more direct interests
of the religious life. Beyond a sympathy with the purpose
of the Lectures, as thus defined, no restriction is placed
upon the lecturer."



The William Belden Noble Lectures were
founded, in memory of her husband, by the
widow of a young American clergyman of
that name, who died early. Their object is
best described in the extract from the deed
of gift printed on the foregoing page. Only
two courses have been previously given : the
first by six different lecturers; the second
by Professor Palmer, of Harvard University.
The course now published was given in No-
vember and December, 1900. Circumstances
have not allowed of so close a revision of them
as I should have desired, nor of the addition
of notes, or of what the French call " pieces
justificatives." The lectures are pubHshed
as they were delivered ; but I have, in this
composition, carefully reviewed the documents
on which I rely, and I trust that I have made
no misstatements of fact or quotation.


The lectures were delivered in the Phillips
Brooks House at Harvard. This house,
which was founded in memory of the great
Bishop, is in itself an emblem of the width of
his sympathy and his teaching. It forms a
centre for the religious life of the University.
On the ground floor are a library and rooms
for social intercourse ; above these are, on one
side, the rooms of the Young Men's Christian
Association, and, on the other, those of a simi-
lar society for the Episcopalians ; and on the
upper floor a library and reading-room for
the Roman Catholics, and the large hall in
which these lectures were delivered.

The title of these lectures in the main ex-
plains their purpose ; and I hope that the dis-
cussion of it may meet some of the religious
needs of our time. The system of religious
ordinances, which is sometimes, though too
exclusively, identified with the Church, seems
to need a closer connection with the social
progress at which all Christian bodies are in
some way aiming. This connection I beHeve
to have been both helped and hindered by


the ideas which have been dominant in Anglo-
Saxon Christianity during the last half cen-
tury. The Oxford Movement, the effects of
which have been felt far beyond the bounds
of Anglicanism, was not a High Church
movement in the sense of exalting the Church,
but in the sense of exalting the system of pub-
lic worship and its ministers. It encouraged
the corporate and social idea of life, and so
far was a help to the object aimed at in these
lectures ; but it was a hindrance to that ob-
ject in that it restricted the social idea to the
fellowship of those bound together by ordi-
nances ; and it narrowed this fellowship still
further by practically imposing the condition
of adherence to the ordinances of the Episco-
palian church system. This was done on the
supposition that that system and its ministers
had a special and divine sanction.

It is true that there has been a strong re-
action against these ideas ; but the reaction
has often taken the form of setting up some
other ministry and some other set of ordi-
nances as having a similar sanction. " Old


Priest " has been " writ large/' not only in
presbytery, but in many systems of ordinances.
Wherever systems and ordinances are consid-
ered to hold an absolute position and to be of
primary importance, they become dangerous
to the Christian life ; for then a false stand-
ard is introduced : men judge themselves
and one another, not simply by the standard
of Christian righteousness, but, in part at
least, by the forms which they profess and
the modes of worship which they practice.
They do not take Christ and his divine na-
ture as their judge, but another standard, —
that of their church system. And thus the
church system, when it is not looked upon as
plastic, and adaptable to the needs of the time
and the promotion of Christian righteousness
in the widest sense, becomes a real danger to
both religious and social progress. It is ima-
gined to have been imposed at some past time
by authority, and men's thoughts about it
turn to an unreal and impractical antiquari-
anism. And since the genuine antiquity is
obscure, and the New Testament gives no au-


thoritative pronouncement on church forms,
" antiquity " is apt to mean mediaevahsm, and
especially the practices of the last two centu-
ries before the Eeformation. This, however,
is but an extreme case of that which happens
generally wherever church forms are regarded
as having some absolute authority. An eccle-
siastical conscience is a perverted conscience :
it is sure to come into conflict at some point
with straightforward morality. It is this,
probably, more than anything else, which is
accountable for the breach (so far as it exists)
between religious observances and the general
conscience. It is not too much to say that
men often find more satisfaction for the real
needs of their spirits in social circles, in secu-
lar pursuits, in the club or the theatre, than
in the place of worship.

The idea of a church system of any kind
having been imposed by authority appears to
be giving way before historical investigation ;
and there is, therefore, some danger that men
may go by reaction to the opposite extreme,
and may think that the whole apparatus of


religious ordinances is valueless for moral and
social purposes. And since they have been
accustomed almost to identify religion with
these ordinances, they may imagine that reli-
gion itself is, as is sometimes said, " played
out," and that we must turn away from reli-
gion if we would insure moral and social pro-
gress. This tendency is often observed in
young people, who, at the university, or
generally in opening life, are undergoing a
reaction from the religious instruction and
discipline of home or school. It is felt also
in the diminution of candidates for ordina-
tion, and in the number of those whom the
French call " pratiquants." It is almost a
commonplace, in certain quarters, that we
must have less of religion, and more of jus-
tice and love.

It has, therefore, seemed to me that it might
be well for one who, during a long life and
ministry, has worked upon the conviction that
no one form or system is binding upon Chris-
tian believers, and that, as St. Stephen and
St. Paul taught, following Christ himself, all


ordinances are essentially secondary and mu-
table, to show that ordinances have still a per-
fectly valid ground, and that they may be
made to serve powerfully the ends of social
righteousness. It is admitted that Christian-
ity, which is faith and righteousness, is in its
essence independent of ordinances. Christ
said but a few words about the Church and
the sacraments; nothing at all about pub-
lic worship. But, on the other hand, experi-
ence shows that, human nature being what it
is, both faith and righteousness are in a large
measure dependent for their support upon
worship and sacraments. While we admit,
therefore, that these are not to be placed on
the same level with moral and social goodness,
but as subservient and mutable, it is of the
utmost importance to show how they may be
adapted to the needs of our time, and espe-
cially to that social progress on which the
mind of all the more advanced sections of the
Christian Church is set.

In attempting to show this, I have made no
distinction between the various sections into


which Christians are divided. The question
I have raised affects them all ahke, if not
equally ; and I am not without hope that the
consideration of it may tend to draw us all
together, since all have the same needs. Our
differences have arisen mainly from the idea
that Christian ordinances have an absolute,
not a relative position, and that consequently
any deviation from the absolute standard, as
we conceive and adopt it, must cause separa-
tion. When we come to the behef that they
are of secondary, not primary importance,
and that their value consists mainly in their
power to build up the Christian life of the
community in faith and righteousness, we
cannot but feel that the matters which divide
us are far less than the great objects of the
Christian life. And when we engage in the
attempt to adapt our ordinances freely to
the needs of a new time, this attempt, being
common to us all, must draw out our sym-
pathies towards one another ; for there is
nothing so unifying as a common work. It
is not so important that we should worship


together as that we should feel and work
together. Our forms may remain as diverse
as before, and yet we may feel our object
to be identical, and may interpret our ordi-
nances — both to ourselves and to each other
— in a sense congenial to our great and com-
mon purpose of building up a righteous so-

It may be well to summarize very shortly
the teaching of these lectures.

1. The Church is the body of faithful
men banded together for the establishment of
Christ's righteousness in the world, and freely
organizing themselves in societies for that
purpose. It is distinguished, on the one
hand, from the Kingdom of God, which is
the dominion of God and his righteousness
generally in the development of mankind ;
and, on the other hand, from the church sys-
tem, the system of ordinances, which is the
special subject of these lectures.

2. The Bible is the history of the divine
society growing up amongst men, and must
be used in the system of church ordinances


in such a way as to promote and strengthen
Christian and social righteousness.

3. The Sacraments are federal acts, in-
tended to bind the members of the society
together in loving and just relations to God
and to one another ; and they should be used
so as to streno^then all these relations and
hallow all the bonds by which men are united
together in society.

4. The Creeds, confessions, doctrinal forms,
and other means by which expression is given
to our common faith, are symbols or rallying
points to make us understand each other, and
should be framed or accepted, changed or
interpreted, with a view to the furtherance of
a brotherhood of Christian righteousness.

5. Our Public Worship and Preaching
must have in them the element of universal-
ity, and must be so conducted as to build up
Christian relations, not in the congregation
only, but also in the general community.

6. The Pastorate should not be that of
the individual minister alone. He should be
the leader in a pastoral energy pervading the


community. The pastorate should be under-
stood to include : first, all members of the
worshiping body, who are not to be passive,
but active workers; secondly, all who have
the care of the young, the ignorant, and the
poor ; thirdly, all who, as rulers or men of
influence, are, in the Biblical sense, shepherds
of the people.

I cannot conclude this Preface without a
word of thanks to those who honored me
with the invitation to give these lectures, and
for the kind hospitality with which they wel-
comed me in my short visit to America.
They have given me the assurance that a j)re-
vious work of mine, on " The World as the
Subject of Redemption," into which the
thought and experience of a life were concen-
trated, but which has had little effect in Eng-
land, has been a help to many in America,
who in their turn are teachers of others ; and
the hope that it may not be without influence
in the life of the greatest Christian commu-
nity the world has yet seen. May the great


commonwealth become more and more con-
scious of its mission to the world, and capable
of doing, with ever clearer purpose, the work
of a Christian Church in furtherance of the
Kingdom of God.



I. The Church System 1

II. The Bible 43

III. The Sacraments 89

IV. Creeds and Confessions of Faith . . 137
V. Common Prayer and Preaching . . . 185

VI. Pastoral Work 229



One of the greatest changes which Chris-
tianity has been undergoing in the century
which is now closing in is the perception that
it is concerned not merely with individual
souls, but with the general and especially the
social welfare of mankind. This change is
coincident with the greater interest in social
questions which has grown up in the political
sphere ; indeed, the phenomena are identical,
for we cannot separate the church from the
general progress of the race. The statesman
sees that he can no longer deal with the
people, after the fashion of the old political
economy, as a number of separate individuals,
each of them fully capable of managing his
whole life in all its range and relations, but


that he has to be something of a philanthro-
pist, dealing with the masses as needing aid,
refusing to allow great aggregates of popula-
tion to spring up without security for sanita-
tion, for decent dwellings, for immunity from
fire, for education, and perhaps some provi-
sion for the higher intellectual and moral
culture, for recreation, and even for amuse-
ment ; and how far this aid towards social well-
being may come under the domain of public
law is a question to be determined by future
experience. The religionist approaches the
same class of questions from a different side.
We have been accustomed, especially as par-
takers of the Protestant and evangelical move-
ment, to think almost wholly of the indi-
vidual, his redemption from spiritual death,
his personal training in holiness ; and of the
Christian society, by whatever name we call
it, or whatever scope we assign to it, as
mainly of value as giving expansion to indi-
vidual piety by means of fellowship and in-
struction ; as a temporary scaffolding which
will pass away, leaving the perfected indi-
vidual as alone the ultimate result. But the
wave of Christian opinion which has passed
over the whole community of the English-


speaking race, and of which the so-called
Oxford movement was only one conspicuous
and one-sided embodiment, has led us to
realize that the body of believers has its
rights ; that the individual cannot be per-
fected alone ; that the redemption of Christ is
applicable to developed societies as well as to
individual souls ; and that, as Plato said that
righteousness was to be best studied when
written in large letters on the structure of
the commonwealth, so Christian principle is to
be found in its fullness in the organized life
of the Christian community. This principle,
which is recognized fully in the later epistles
of St. Paul, may be taken as now admitted.
But the extension to be given to it has not
been made clear ; and it will be one of the
main objects of the present course of lectures
to elucidate it. We all admit that we are
bound to look beyond the immediate circle of
those with whom we are united in Christian
worship ; that the principles of religion must
be applied to the whole range of social life.
We all pray for our rulers and the welfare of
the nation to which we belong, and for public
righteousness, for the mutual well-being of
all classes and orders in the community, and


especially for the welfare of the poor. But
we have been somewhat slow to confess that
all these objects, in their full extent, belong
to the domain of Christianity ; and, by con-
fining the word " church " to the society of
Christians only so far as they are engaged
in acts of common worship and the limited
range of beneficence which a body of worship-
ers can reach, we have been in danger of
cutting off the general life of mankind, even
in a Christian country, from the blessed influ-
ences which our worship is meant to foster.
It is the object of the present lectures to
point out the bearing of the Christian institu-
tions connected with our worshiping bodies
on the life and progress of the whole society
around us.

There are three terms, the meaning of
which it may be well to make clear before
we enter into the subject more particularly.
These are (1) The Kingdom of God; (2) The
Church ; (3) The Church-system of Ordi-

The kingdom of God is the dominion of
God, — that is, of God as we know Him in


Christ — over the hearts and lives of men.
Since God is love, and since his manifesta-
tion is preeminently in the Cross of Christ,
this implies the dominion of self-sacrificing
love. Wherever God as revealed in Christ,
and the divine principle of love, which is the
name or nature of God, is acknowledged as su-
preme in men's conscience and conduct, there
is the kingdom of God. It is to be seen in
the individual heart and mind. The king-
dom of God is within you. But it is to be
seen also in the progress of the divine princi-
ple in the world, which grows like the mus-
tard seed, or like the " corn of wheat," often
unnoticed " while men sleep and rise night and
day ; " and the assurance, of which the resur-
rection of Christ, his ascension and his session
at the right hand of God, are the typical
representation, is that this process will go on
till everything is subject to Him. He must
reign till He hath put all enemies under his
feet. He must put down all rule and author-
ity and power, that is, all that is contrariant
to Him. Thrones, dominions, powers, are all
created by Him, — they claim in their true
essence to represent the perfect righteousness,
of which He is the full embodiment, and


therefore they emanate from Him, the Lord
of righteousness and love, — and by Him all
things consist or stand fast ; for righteousness
is the only bond of society. And the purpose
of God disclosed by St. Paul is that God will
gather together all things in Christ in the
fullness of time. This is the true apocalyp-
tic vision, as practical as it is true, which is
found in the Book of Daniel and in the vis-
ion of John at Patmos, the real " fifth mon-
archy," as sane and free from fanaticism as
was the Christ Himself.

For what is imported by these apocalyptic
symbols ? Simply the progress, the discovery,
the practice, of true relations among men ; and
this I take to be the goal of all progress. The
human side of God's nature is love ; where
righteousness and love reign among men,
there is the kingdom of God. This king-
dom is in its essence as wide as the human
race : that is, it claims to rule over all men
and all systems of life. And the various
religious and political systems which have
existed or exist now among men are in some
sense attempts to realize it. We cannot
speak of any of them, now that they have
been so fully brought to light, as if they were


merely evil. The Satjawta, which we are apt
to translate as " devils/' are really spirits of
various degrees of good or evil ; and it was a
part of the great service rendered by Origen
in the third century to have brought this out.
There are, no doubt, the unclean or violent
spirits which we read of in the Gospels, which
need to be cast out: but there are spirits,
which are of a higher kind, which can be
and shall be made servants of Christ. No one
could think of the Pythian Apollo, the lord
of light and intellect, as wholly bad: only
when Paul met with the devotee of this
Sai/xonoj/, debased as it was to a mean and
money-getting soothsaying, and confronted
it with the pure truth and hoUness of Christ,
the light that had been in it became darkness,
like the lurid flame of a torch in the daylight,
and it had to be cast out.

Has, then, the kingdom of God, which both
Christ and his forerunner preached, into
which they called men to enter, which they
urged their followers to proclaim, which was
to be the object of Christian endeavors
(" Seek first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness "), no outward form of existence
among men? Is it no real society, but a


kind of metaphor, in the sense in which we
speak of the animal or vegetable kingdom,
or in which we say that a man is under the
doyninion of some fixed idea ? To maintain
this would be a contradiction to the laws of
the human spirit ; for its nature is to work
from within outwardly : the idea must have
its realization. The sense of social righteous-
ness and love must incessantly strive to em-
body itself in institutions, in laws, in arrange-
ments, in organized societies. When Christ
said that his kingdom was not of this world.
He did not mean that it was not to have any
realization on the surface of this globe, but
that its spirit was not a worldly spirit : it was
not compacted by fraud or violence. Nor
again did He imply that force should never
be used, for force and violence are not the
same. Every society, of whatever kind, must
enforce its rules, and enforcement means, ulti-
mately, an appeal to force ; and justice, how-
ever patient, must, even for the sake of pro-
tection to the weak, and for the maintenance
of the life of society, in the last resort flame
forth and strike home. But the progress of
the Christian principle among men can be
traced by the constant diminution of the use


of force, and the increased reliance on per-
suasion. This is the very root of democracy
and poHtical freedom — what Thucydides
called the trustful spirit of liberty. And the
ideal at which we aim is a state in which the
moral sanctions will be suf&cient, and the use
of force will cease entirely.

Meanwhile, every society of men must aim
at this state, however feebly. There is no
true social principle but that of justice and
love. From the days of Thrasymachus, the
interlocutor of Socrates in Plato's Republic,
to those of Nietzsche or of IngersoU, the idea
that will and force can be the basis of society
has only to show itself in order to be re-

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15