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tatters among vilest human wrecks, teaching
them, praying with them, feeding them, in peril
for them, willing to die to save them? One
who learned her lesson from Him who died
for harlots and thieves. Can hallucinations
inspire such enthusiasms? Who shall explain
the marvel of it? Why does it need to be
explained ? Do we seek to untwist the sunbeams
before basking in their warmth ? Shall we try
to analyse the south wind before breathing the



Christ and the Creeds. 2-17

fragrance of the springtime, or listening to the
singing of the birds? Can motherhood, with
its heart of love and arms of steel, be explained ?
Can love be separated into parts P

The creeds tell us what fallible men have
thought about Jesus the Christ. The}' are
worthy of study. They are honest attempts to
answer ever-recurring questions. All men have
creeds. He who has no creed never thinks.
They exist in the history of the Church like
milestones on a pathway which has been
traversed, like records of ages long gone, which
reveal great lessons concerning what has been ;
they are invaluable as testimonies ; but it is
criminal to use them so that the thinking of one
time is made a standard for all time. Wisdom
was not born yesterday, and will not die to-
morrow. Nothing infallible can be taught
through fallible speech. Progress depends not on
loyalty to what has been, but on union with some
one who never ceases to grow, or with some one
who can be for ever approached but never reached.
The Life which is the light of men is eternally
progressive ; it is never one day what it was the
day before. Thoughts of men about it must
change with its growth ; that which is true of
it to-day may be inadequate to-morrow. Death
alone never changes. The creeds are the results
of the honest efforts of earnest men to express
their thought on eternal mysteries. Let them
never be denounced. The work of earnest and



248 Christ axd the Creeds.

good men, even if they are not wise, always has
some lesson worth studying. Those symbols
have holy memories twined around them. They
have grown into the thought of the Church ;
been chanted in its liturgies, taught to child-
hood, studied by manhood, and held aloft like
banners in front of the advancing Christian
host ; but they give very little idea of Christ.
He must be found — as He always was found when
in the flesh — in the midst of the want and woe,
the vice and crime, the sickness and misery, the
desolation and death of humanity, comforting
the sorrowing, blessing the children, healing the
sick, saving the sinning, preaching the Gospel
to the poor, and telling all men of the Father's
house and the Father's love.

The true creed never has been written and
never will be. Only Christ Himself could
compose that. " Now we see through a glass
darkly." Eternity and infinity have not all
been revealed. They are an endless study.
Even the Son of God could not communicate
them to finite intelligence. Mysteries that
angels desire to look into men will not quickly
exhaust. The time attitude before high themes
is one of humility. Dogmatism is hostile to
the Spirit of Truth. The pure in heart shall
see God. No man knoweth the Son save the
Father. His followers were called disciples —
that was the best of names. Christians are the
eternal disciples of the Great Teacher. Truth



Christ and the Creeds. 240

is important, but life is not dependent on truth.
Men are like what they believe, but life is not
the product of truth. Truth is the fruit of life.
Truth and life do not always go hand in hand.
Devils may have as much truth as angels.
Where the Christ-life goes the truth always
follows. Spiritual life is imparted by contact
with Christ in the spirit, just as physical life is
the product of physical life. Jesus Christ is the
source and fountain of spiritual life, therefore
the essential thing is to get in touch with Him.
As one torch lights another without itself being
dimmed, so He lights the minds and thrills the
hearts of all who will to do His will. It is not
necessary to know truth in order to be right.
That would be imperative if Christianity were
a mechanism. He who would make a watch
must know all about watches ; but He wli« i
would be a Christian must know Christ. If wo
manufacture our Christianity then perfect rules
are essential, but the life of God in the soul
grows according to its own nature, and so the
essential thing is not what we know, but whether
the hindrances to the growth of that life have
been removed. If a man had never seen a
carnation pink or an Easter lily, and were to
ask what they were like, would he be given a
botany ? He must see the wealth of their
colouring and breathe the richness of their per-
fume to know what they are like. If one born
blind were to inquire about the stars, would he



250 Christ and the Creeds.

be offered an astronomy? His eyes must be
opened, before the constellations and the upper
deep will have any meaning for him. Such a
desire to be right as turns from evil, and reaches
toward holiness, must precede knowledge of
Christ. That desire is met by the Divine love,
and from that union, with no greater mystery
than always surrounds the beginning of life, the
Christ is reproduced. The process has been
going on for centuries. Many have vainly
imagined that they were spiritual because they
accepted the confession ; and many have refused
the confession and proved by indisputable
evidence that they had the life. This shows
what the Church really is — the society of those
who are possessed by the Divine life. The true
Church is a communion of potential Christs — a
society of Saviours.

The steps which we have taken through this
chapter are as follows :

In the beginning Christianity was only a man.

Its growth has been the growth of the life in
that man.

At first acceptance of the life was the sole
confession.

As a result of the contact of the truth of the
Christian revelation, and the natural tendency
to philosophise, creeds have been formulated.

Creeds are the records of attempts to har-
monise Divine realities with one another, and to
adjust them to human thinking.



Christ and the Creeds. 251

Creeds at first were confessions of loyalty to
the person of Christ ; later, bodies of specula-
tions concerning Him and His work.

The Scriptures always present Christ in terms
of life.

The progress of the Christ-life cannot be
learned from creeds, but can be seen in the
changes which it has wrought in men and
institutions.

The truth about Christ is the fruit of the
growth of the Christ-life.

Life must manifest itself. " By their fruits
ye shall know them." Wherever there is
growth in likeness to the historic Christ there is
the Christ-life, whatever the philosophy of the
Master or the universe; and wherever that
growth is absent the Christ-life is lacking, even
though there be confession, prayer, bread and
wine-crowned communion table, baptismal font,
hymns, and sacred liturgies.

To do Thy will is more than praise,

As words are less than deeds,
And simple trust can find Thy ways

We miss with chart of creeds.

Our Friend, our Brother, and our Lord,

What may Thy service be ? —
Nor Name, nor form, nor ritual word,

But simply following Thee.



EPILOGUE.

The growing* revelation makes clearer the
vision of God — the Father.

It makes more vivid the Eternal Evangel —
the message of hope to those who suffer; of
salvation to those who sin ; and of immortal
life to those who face the mystery of death.

It makes more conspicuous the essential
meaning of the cross.

It shows that the mission of the individual
Christian, and of the Christian Church is to
continue Christ's work of personal salvation and
of social redemption.

This revelation begins with conscious life, is
continued through the media of many experi-
ences, and will grow fuller and brighter so long
as man is spiritually receptive.

This revelation is dimly shadowed in the
Creeds of Christendom ; is clearer in the theo-
logy of the people ; still clearer in the ameliora-
tion of society ; equally clear in the exaltation
of political ideals; and is slowly but surely
working toward its perfect expression in the
spiritual development of the world.

In its fulness this revelation will be the
realisation in humanity of the life, the teach-
ings, and the sacrifice of the Christ, who is the



254 Epilogue.



perfect revelation of God to man, and of man to
himself.

A sweeter song shall then be heard —
The music of the world's accord
Confessing Christ, the Inward Word.

That song shall swell from shore to shore,
One faith, one hope, one love restore
The seamless robe which Jesus wore.



LOMDOM :
STRAIGHT AMD SOMB, PBIWYKM,
VFTTTH LAVS.



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Online LibraryAmory Howe BradfordThe growing revelation → online text (page 13 of 13)