Charles Fiske.

The faith by which we live; a plain, practical exposition of the religion of the incarnate Lord online

. (page 1 of 20)
Online LibraryCharles FiskeThe faith by which we live; a plain, practical exposition of the religion of the incarnate Lord → online text (page 1 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


BX 5930 .F5 1919

Fiske, Charles, 1868-1942.

The faith by which we live

Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2009 with funding from

Princeton Theological Seminary Library


The Faith By Which

We Live


ri^^'^ ofTbS^

UN 17 19iq

By the Right Reverend


Bishop Coadjutor of Central New York

Author of "The Experiment of Faith", "Back to Christ'
"Sacrifice and Service", etc.


Morehouse Publishing Co.

Milwaukee, Wis.






a courteous Gentleman, a great Citizen, a distinguished Jurist, a
faithful Churchman, a devout, sincere, and consistent Christian

this volume, because his urgent suggestion {in a request made a fev

months before his death) led to its publication. May it train

others in the Faith, teach them to love the Church, and

help them to live the Truth, that so they may adorn

the doctrine of Cod our Saviour in all things.



THIS practical little book aims to present in pop-
ular form, free from technicalities, some of the
great foundation truths of Christianity as they are
related to life. It is a thorough revision and rear-
rangement, with some additions, of a work which I
published some years ago under the title. The Religion
of the Incarnation. The revision and rewriting have
made it practically a new book and I have given it,
therefore, a new name. In its earlier form the book
has been out of print for several years. I have de-
layed reissuing it, first, because of doubts as to the real
need of another edition, and second, because I was not
content to have it reprinted without the revision it
has now had.

Kepeated requests for its publication have con-
vinced me that it still has real usefulness. There
seems to be no other book which quite takes its place.
When the clergy of Porto Kico tried to find a popular
manual for translation into Spanish for use in Latin
America, they could discover nothing which better
met their need and it has lately been translated and
published and given a wider circulation as printed in
monthly installments in El Nuevo Siglo.


While the revision has made it a new book, I have
been surprised, nevertheless, to discover how little it
needed change in substance rather than form. The
old truths of our religion are ever new. New facts
but show the vital power of the old faith. The
terrible years of war through which the world has
passed would have driven one mad, were it not that
we had that faith to live by. A gospel that tells of a
God who entered into the tragedy of human life and
understands and sympathizes has been the only gospel
for years of trial and dark struggle. I wonder if
others of the clergy have been discovering, as I have,
not that they cannot preach the old faith, but that
they can preach nothing else. The things we used to
say have not lost their value; they have gained new
force. With but the change of a sentence or two in
their practical application, they bring new messages
for men and women of a new age.

I wonder, too, whether others have felt, almost
as a new revelation, the deep significance and prac-
tical power of the faith we have been preaching — ^but
possibly, until now, preaching somewhat academi-
cally. In a remarkable charge to his clergy, deliv-
ered during some of the darkest days of the war, the
Bishop of Oxford showed how the dominant ideas
which have been laying hold of men — the idea of
liberty for all and of the equal spiritual worth of
every individual ; the conception of brotherhood and
of sacrificial service; the larger ideal of the fellow-
ship of the nations in a world-wide human commu-

Gore: Dominant Ideas a/nd Corrective Principles.


nity — are really Christian ideas and are necessarily
involved in any honest interpretation of the Gospel.
In its great task of self-reformation and world-
redemption, the Bishop summons the Christian com-
munity to return with the old enthusiasm, to the old
religion of the Creed, the Bible, the Church, and the
Sacraments, but to interpret these in terms of what
is interesting everyone who has a heart to feel and a
brain to think and so "to make men feel afresh that
Jesus Christ is the true prophet of liberty, brother-
hood, and catholicity".

The purpose of this book is much simpler and
more elementary; but in its humbler way it points
out the same lesson — not so much by way of showing
the religious and moral changes which the great
world catastrophe has brought about and the Chris-
tian answer to the problems it presents (this has
been done by others in the years when we were in
the thick of the conflict), as by stating what the
Gospel revelation and the Gospel scheme of redemp-
tion really are and the grounds on which we accept
both — and stating this in the every-day language of
every-day people.

I do not like to call this a manual of instruction.
It is that, but I hope it is more. It is a plain,
practical, common-sense exposition of the Christian
faith, written in language that the average, every-day
man can understand ; but it is not — or I hope it is not
— just a summary and explanation of a series of dry
doctrines. It is both creed and conduct, belief and
practice, dogma and devotion — a statement of faith.


but the statement of a faith by which men live. The
doctrines of Christianity are but the logical exponents
of its facts. We accept them, not as mere items of
information, but as interpretations of those facts
which are the springs and sources of the Christian
life — ^that life to which we would re-dedicate ourselves
in these days of splendid service.

Syracuse, New York. C. F.



I. — Cbeed and Conduct 1

II. — Why I Believe in God 15

III.— The Holy Trinity 25

rv. — The Divinity of Jesus Christ - - - - 33

V. — The Incarnation of Our Lord - - - - 40

VI. — The Incarnation and God's Lo\t: - - - 49

VII. — The Incarnation and God's Personality 56

VIII. — The Incarnation and God's Presence - 62

IX. — Sin and the Fall 68

X. — The Atonement 77

XI. — The Holy Spirit, the Life-Giver - - - 86

XII. — The Practice of Prayer 94

XIII. — Christ and His Church 108

XIV. — Choosing a Church 123

XV. — The Extension of the Incarnation - - 137

XVI. — The Incarnation Applied 147

XVII.— The Baptismal Gift 156

XVIII. — Infant Baptism 166

XIX. — The Eucharistic Sacrifice 175

XX. — The Holy Communion 185

XXI. — The Eucharistic Presence 192

XXII. — Preparation for Holy Communion - - 200

XXIII. — Confession and Absolution 209


XXIV. — The Christian Priesthood 220

XXV. — The Apostolic Succession 230

XXVI. — Confirmation and Other Sacraments - 243

XXVII. — The Bible and Its Inspiration - - - 249

XXVIII. — Some Bible Problems 258

XXIX. — The Certainty of a Future Life - - - 266

XXX. — The Proof of the Resurrection - - - 272

XXXI.— The Faithful Departed 281

XXXII. — The Intermediate State 292

XXXIII.— Heaven and Hell 301

XXXIV.— The Angelic World 313


The Faith By Which We Live



THOSE who have been engaged in religious work
in the home camps or abroad, during the years
of the Great War now happily ended, have had un-
usual opportunities to judge of the religious life of
America and of the general effectiveness of our Church
work. The tale they bring has not been altogether

The vast majority of the millions of Americans
enrolled as soldiers and sailors professed some relig-
ion. This profession was usually definite enough to
include preference for some particular religious body,
if not the claim of adherence to it. But of those who
stated that they were identified with some Christian
denomination large numbers admitted, in response to
questions, that they rarely if ever go to church.
Attendance at public worship is at best infrequent,
irregular, and spasmodic, often confined to a service
now and then on some special occasion for a sermon
to the lodge, or something of a similar sort. While


the mass of men are listed as giving some religious
preference, an appallingly large per cent, of them re-
port that they are not baptized. They do not know the
reasons for baptism and apparently have never heard
any explanation of its meaning or necessity. This is
particularly true of one of the great middle western
camps where a faithful canvass was made by the chap-
lains. In most cases investigation was not carried so
far, but there are indications that the facts are about
the same everywhere. Young fellows who have sung
in choirs, some who as boys have been members of
vested choirs for several years, have never seen a
baptism nor heard a word about that sacrament either
in sermon or instruction.

As to the men who state that they are Church
members fully fifty per cent, of those questioned ad-
mit that they have not received Communion in years ;
some have never received. They do not know how the
Holy Communion is administered or the reasons for
its celebration.

Among all the men there is found a pathetic
ignorance of the Bible and of the simplest facts of
Christianity. Though brought up in so-called Bible
churches, whose chief boast is that they teach the
Word, large numbers of men have no knowledge of
Scripture beyond a vague remembrance of a few
scattered texts, some of the verses of the shepherd
psalm, an Old Testament story like that of David and
Goliath, one or two of the parables, perhaps an inci-
dent in the life of Christ. Few of them have any
clear idea of our Lord's life as a whole. They know


something of the Christmas story and (less clearly)
the story of Good Friday — ^that is all. No one has
ever taught them (at least not in such a way as to fix
it in their memory) who Christ was, when He was
born, where He lived, what He did, why He was put
to death, how He rose. Certainly they do not know
the tremendous claims He made or the traditional in-
terpretation of the meaning of His life. They do not
really understand the simplest statements of Christian
belief. The creeds are a sealed book. Often (so it
would seem) they have heard little of creeds, though
they have a rather definite prejudice against dogmas
or doctrines — "a plain man has no use for them" they

Finally, they do not pray. Pressed for reasons,
they say that it does no good or that nobody ever
taught them how. At any rate, many of them when
questioned admit that they do not say their prayers,
either on their knees or after they have tumbled into
bed, unless we except an occasional recital of the
Lord's prayer or some childish rhyming petition.

This is not, of course, a criticism of the soldier.
Assuredly not. The men whose religious convictions
and practices we have had an opportunity of observing
are a cross section of American society, representing
every class and type of American life. What they
are is what America is — if it is as good. What they
believe and do is about what the mass of the American
people believe and do. What they are ignorant of we
may fairly suppose are the things of which American
men generally, in about the same proportion, are


ignorant or to which they are indifferent. Of course
there are numbers of active Church members and
equally of course many of these are well-instructed
and consistent in the practice of their religion, but
the number of men who are not is a serious indictment
of American Christianity and to most people an unex-
pected revelation of the inefficiency of American
church organizations.

I repeat that this is not a criticism of the soldier.
Some of us who have taken the trouble to investigate
know what religious conditions are in rural America
and in villages and small towns — conditions that led
the late President Hyde to select as the title of a study
of rural conditions "Impending Paganism in New
England." I talk with all sorts of people as I travel
about the country and I know that even the most
startling figures of the weakness of Christianity in the
small towns do not tell half the story. If we could
get as thorough a survey of city life we should not
find it much better.^

Nor must it be supposed that this plain statement
of facts is an attack upon the soldier's morals. Grave
moral problems were revealed by the draft, it is true,
but never have these problems been faced as frankly
and fearlessly as now and never has there been so
thorough a campaign of education or so effective a
programme of protection. Young men in France and
in camp here were safer than young men at home.

The tremendously encouraging thing to which all

See my Sacrifice and Service, pages 3-6.


Christian warworkers testify is that our men have
shown a fine, sturdy moral earnestness and conviction.
With all their ignorance they are really religious at
heart. Were it not for the reticence and reserve
which is characteristic of most men when religion is
discussed, we should probably learn even more for our
encouragement, but there are indications in plenty
that the soul of the soldier is sound. An overseas test
made repeatedly among soldiers everywhere, from the
landing ports to the trenches, showed that an over-
whelming majority of the men have very clear ideas
as to what they consider to be cardinal virtues and
contemptible sins. Courage, unselfishness, generosity,
and modesty or humility make up their code of
morals. All these are ^^ed rock" virtues. A well-
known American evangelist, Mr. Fred B. Smith, who
has had unusual opportunities for observing the men
and talking with them frankly, declares that the more
one studies the set of standards which the young men
put before them the more one is amazed at the un-
erring way in which they have picked out the great
essentials of character. "I do not claim," he says,
''that all men have these standards. The draft was
a great net which drew together millions of men of
all classes, all degrees of education. They are not
angels! Some of them are far from it. But the
code here given does express the prevailing sentiment
of the mass of the men."

My own experience, once more, has taught me to
be an optimist about the average man everywhere.
He has very simple ideas of religion but he always


gets down to essentials. To him religion means un-
selfishness, generosity, sincerity, cleanliness of soul, a
genuineness and straightforward honesty that despises
cant and therefore is chary of religious professions,
an abiding faith in goodness, a very real humility be-
cause of his own defects (or, as we should say, sins)
and a readiness, for that reason, to forgive defects or
sins in others. He has only a vague consciousness of
God and yet somehow, whether he prays or not, we
feel that he is conscious of Him — as the child is con-
scious of the mother in another part of the house and
would miss her if he knew she had gone away/

All this gives us courage, but it is the courage of
brave endeavor to make the most of the essential
virtues, not the audacity which leads us to deny
unpleasant facts. Camp and field and hospital have
given wonderful testimony to the splendid possibili-
ties of humanity. Only, as Hankey reminds us, men
fail to connect these things with Jesus Christ, much
less do they connect them with His Church. They
do not see that the virtues they admire come to frui-
tion in Christian soil. The pity of it is that, because
men have not really known Christianity, we have been
missing all this fine service and men have failed to
develop their latent possibilities. What splendid
things we might have done, with such material to
work on!

The fundamental moral ideas are instinctive.
Under the generous impulse of service and sacrifice

' See The Experiment of Faith, chapter iii.


in stirring times they are manifested in a splendid
way. But — they are so easily forgotten. Men's
morals fall so quickly when the props and supports
are gone. At the high call they rise to splendid
heights, but in humdrum days ideals are dulled all too
soon. The man who has the courage of the crisis
often fails in the courage of the commonplace and the
moral instincts are less clear when it is only ordinary
duty that calls them out.

Once more: Even if the heart of America is
right, as we really believe it is, it is right in spite of
our religious incompetence. There is still a lot of
"diffused Christianity in the world. Men are living
by the impulses and motives of a former faith. Ideals
of religious and god-fearing ancestors are not rooted
up in a generation. Many a man who gives no time
to prayer or public worship and little thought to
religion and morals has an instinctive "faith of in-

But what about the next generation? We were
drifting far and fast, here in America, were we not?
We had got a long way off from the old moral moor-
ings. Our spiritual consciousness was sadly dulled,
our religious instincts sadly weakened, our moral
restraints sadly relaxed, our standards sadly lowered.
Fortunately for us, the war came before it was too late
— war which stripped us of some of our creature com-
forts and made the things of the spirit loom larger,
war which summoned us to fight for an ideal, war
against enemies who had made sin so hideously ugly
that it has to some extent shamed it out of our own


hearts. We were preserved from utter surrender to
love of luxury, selfish ease, materialism, moral in-
difference, money-madness. And we have discovered
that at the core American life is still sound. It is not
too late to save us.

An ofiBcer overseas puts it clearly in a letter sent
to me recently: "Now that the brutality, bestiality,
and crimes against women have shown me here in
devastated France how horrible sin can become, I
have asked myself often why I am as decent a man
as I am, for I frankly acknowledge that I have not
been very keen on religion. I have come to the con-
clusion that most of my goodness is inherited good-
ness. I have made up my mind that if I get back I
shall do more to pass on to my children what I got
from devout, religious parents. I shall try to create
in my home more of the Christian atmosphere in
which I was brought up. I don't want my boy to
start handicapped/'

I honestly believe that only in Jesus Christ shall
we find sure salvation. I want to make men under-
stand that all the ideals of goodness they ever had are
found in Christ — and found there to perfection. I
want them to recognize their unacknowledged debt to
Christ. I want them to see, also, that everything
Christ was God is. I want them to have moral
strength and permanence and I believe that in Him
is the only source of moral power which is sure and
unfailing. I do not believe that Christian morals will
last long apart from Christian faith and I think.


therefore, that it is important for the churches to in-
augurate a campaign of instruction — not merely a
preaching crusade or mission but a campaign of care-
ful, regular, systematic, practical instruction. We
must have "a reason for the hope that is in us".
Unless our moral life is deep rooted, it will soon

Men, whether in camp or at home, are wonderfully
responsive to straight, definite Christian teaching.
They are sick unto death of the second and third rate
lecturettes on ethics which we have substituted for
Christian preaching. They are weary beyond ex-
pression of pulpit appeals to patriotism, denunciations
of "booze'' and attacks upon evils everybody recog-
nizes and nobody fears to condemn. (They want
religion linked up to life, but if evils are to be as-
sailed there are crying social and economic evils
which it takes courage to mention!) They want
something strong and definite, instead of the weak,
watery, colorless stream of platitudinous moralizing
with which they have been deluged from Sunday
school days on. Their happy-go-lucky acquiescence
in an indefinite religion is not their fault. Says one
chaplain,* whose opportunities for observation have
been unusually wide :

'^ith most of the men, one meets not merely
with no resentment but with a positive interest in
religion from the beginning. Vital Christianity Tiits
them where they live'. Simple, virile preaching of

» The Rev. Bernard Iddings Bell.


God, of His importance, His reality. His friendship,
His power. His sternness. His love, of the need for
repentance, of the need for that help which is some-
times, but not in the camp, called 'grace', of the grim
viciousness of that animal selfishness which is called
'sin', of the strength and manliness of the God-Man
Jesus Christ, of the heroism of Calvary, of the possi-
bility of our becoming, with His help, like Him, real
men and not mere 'beasts that walk on our hind legs',
of the Church as the blessed company of His friends,
of the sacraments as human touches from a present
Lord — ^they love it ! I have heard them applaud and
cheer it. I have seen them pour out after sermons
and thank the preacher for it — not the sentimental
goody-goodys, but big, strong, husky fellows with
grips of steel."

This book has been written to supply the need of
instruction. It gives practical if solid teaching, on
which mbre popular courses of instruction may be

What is written here is grounded in the assump-
tion that what a man believes is as important as what
he does, just because as a rule what he does will de-
pend on what he believes. One cannot divorce creed
and character. The Christian character is really the
outcome of the Christian creed. If we surrender the
creed, with its insistence upon the facts of our Lord's
life, in time we shall lose the character which sprang
out of it. Never again will it be possible to say, with
casual and careless finality, that it makes no difference


what a man believes. Prussianism has stamped the
lie forever on that plausible untruth.

After all, what are dogmas? It is always well to
define terms: what, then, are Christian dogmas?
Simply the logical statement of Christian facts.
Many of those who object to doctrinal teaching are
sincere believers in Jesus Christ. Let us start there.
Who was He? What was He? Where are we to
learn about Him? How does He bring us the life
eternal ? How are we to keep it ? How does He save
us and how and where are we to receive the benefit of
the work He has done for us ? These and a hundred
other questions spring up at once and Christian dog-
mas are nothing more nor less than the answers to
such questions. It is quite evident that the im-
portant thing is to follow Christ, even though we can-
not adequately define Him, but the kind of obedience
we render and the faithfulness of our following in
His steps will depend on our answers to questions
like these. One who is alive to the meaning of
Christ's life for his own soul will not rest satisfied
until he has learned all that can be known about the
Master — what were His relations to the Father whom
He came to reveal, on what His authority rests,
whether or not He is an infallible guide, why He may
demand our allegiance and our love.

If we were to teach doctrine as a mere shibboleth,
excluding all who cannot frame to pronounce some
test word aright, men could not condemn us too
strongly. Dogma divorced from life would be useless
— worse than useless. But if the doctrines of Chris-


tianity are simply the logical expression of its facts,
we cannot be rid of creeds even if we would.

Every doctrine of the creed has its influence on
conduct. Our whole thought of the purpose of life
depends on our grasp of these spiritual realities. The
conception of God as a moral governor is that which
gives us a moral standard of action. The concep-
tion of a Future Life gives us support in all our per-
plexities; by it we are led to believe that we see only
a fragment of a vast scheme and that injustice and
oppression, pain and sorrow, will be remedied in the

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryCharles FiskeThe faith by which we live; a plain, practical exposition of the religion of the incarnate Lord → online text (page 1 of 20)