Cleland Boyd McAfee.

The growing church : a study for the times online

. (page 4 of 7)
Online LibraryCleland Boyd McAfeeThe growing church : a study for the times → online text (page 4 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


hypocrites. But they are honest as are we
who have no such realistic experiences. They
are simply different, that is all. The religious
life is so individual, so peculiar to each person,
that it is easy to mistake hypocrisy.

It is difficult to detect because of the depth
of the religious life. It lies in strata. You
may count the surface layer falsified by what
you find next below it, but are you sure there
is not another layer farther down? The King
of Israel wore his robes outwardly and seemed
almost indifferent to the suffering of his people,
but when he rent his clothes they saw he
was wearing sackcloth next his flesh. James
IV. of Scotland took up arms against his father
when only a lad, but he made his whole life
an unseen penance, for under his robes he wore
an iron belt, each year adding a link, that his
repentance might be heavier each year. Have

64



XTbe Discomfiture of Ibi^pocrttes

you seen the deeper life of the man whom you
count a hypocrite ? May he not be a weak man
struggling in his better self against the very
sin you see in him ?

Wherever you hear the opinion that the Howshaii

, , . .,, hypocrites'

church ought to cast out hypocrites, you will be punished?
find it fair to ask how it shall be done. You
may be morally certain that a member is a
hj^pocrite, but have you ever tried to get evi-
dence of it? It is told of one of our early Heroic
American evangelists that in the course of an
address he made the broad statement that all
infidels are fools and that he could prove it in
any given case in ten minutes. A man in the
audience asked if he might interrupt, and re-
marked that he must take exception to the
statement, since he was himself an infidel and
thought he was no fool. The preacher looked
him over rather curiously and said, ^^So you
are an infidel? Will you tell me just how
much of an infidel?" "Certainly, sir; I deny
that there is anything at all in religion."
"Nothing at all in religion? Are you willing
to go record as saying that ?" "Go on record?"
the infidel replied, "Why, I have been writing
and lecturing against religion for these twenty

E 6i



XTbe OrowtttG Cburcb



years." The evangelist glanced at his watch
and said, "Well, I said I could prove an infidel
a fool in ten minutes, and I have seven minutes
left, ril leave it to the audience if a man
isn't a fool to write and lecture for twenty
years against a thing that has nothing what-
ever in it!'' Now, that is heroic treatment of
hypocrisy that is proud of itself, that says
what it does not mean because what it does
mean would not sound so well. But I need
hardly ask if it is convincing treatment and
if it might not leave a bitterness in the heart
of a man who was honest in spite of his
peculiar notions. At any rate, you cannot trap
a hypocrite so easily in common life.

Some, mostly outsiders, would have the
church proceed to discipline all hypocrites,
exscinding them from its membership. It is
easy to say — the very nature of hypocrisy
makes it virtually impossible to do. A promi-
nent Presbyterian leader has recently declared
that the church is done with heresy trials.
Doubtless the wish is father to the thought,
and the wish is the prayer of many of us.
Heresy trials tear men's hearts and leave scars
whose pain is long in dying away. Their gains

66



Ubc Discomtiture ot t)^pocrites

are so hard to discover that we will all wel-
come the day of the last trial. If they should
ever become a sad necessity, God make His
church brave and wise and always loving, find-
ing the greatest heresy not in a wrong head
but in a wrong heart !

But you can find heresy; it gets out, there
it is in black and white; once you understand
it you know what to say of it. Not so with
hypocrisy. Always there are other words to
say than you have yet heard; you are moving in
the dark; you are judging; you are trusting
your opinions. No, you cannot discipline hypoc-
risy even if you ought to.

Indeed, the only safe way to bring hypo- Theseif-
crites to discomfiture is to let them betray of hypo-
themselves. No espionage is endurable. There
is but one way to bring it about — the church
can be made so honest and so deeply spiritual
that a hypocrite cannot endure it. There are
few more pitiable things than a man who has
caught the forms of godliness, who knows the
phrases of religion, who can talk religious talk,
but who ends there — such an one in the midst
of a company of earnest, eager, deep-souled
Christian men as they go down into the truth

67



cntes.



Z\)C Gtowtna Cburcb



of the Gospel. Bring such a man into the
atmosphere of real devotion, and he must be-
tray himself. Sometimes, thank God, he is
nobly dissatisfied with himself and becomes
honestly a Christian. In any case, he is
revealed. Such a man needs to be set to
some of the work of the kingdom of God,
needs to be sent to cast out some of the
devils of the present day, to find how little
such devils recognize sham godliness. One
reason hypocrisy is so possible in the church of
to-day is that its enterprises do not put heavy
and long strain on the godliness of its mem-
bers, revealing falsity. Emerson thinks there
is no cave in all the world to hide a rogue.
But a lifeless, inactive, undemanding church is
a great refuge for sham Christians. Whenever
the church or any of its members finds that
the evils which it combats do not disappear,
that the devils whom it calls out do not come
forth, the question at once arises whether the
church has not more of the form of godliness
than of godliness itself. When the experts are
testing opium for commerce, they pour a cer-
tain liquid into the specimen, a liquid against
which the drug will at once set to work. If

6S



Z\)c Discomfiture of Ibi^pocrites



it is pure, it will win against it ; if it is adulter-
ated, it will disintegrate and go to pieces in
presence of it. Let the church get down to
solid, straining, spiritual effort, let it test its
members on some thoroughly Christian work,
and its hypocrites will be revealed and their
revelation will be their correction. I remember
a striking paragraph in Professor Seth's Ethi-
cal Principles in which he declares that the
lesson of the book of Ecclesiastes is the lesson
of work, the lesson that in activity, in deeds,
lies man^s real hope. He calls it Carlyle's
lesson and illustrates it with the cases of Esau,
of Tito in George Eliot's Eomola, of Steven-
son's Markheim, of Calibar in The Tempest.
But is it not the lesson of the whole book
of God and the whole book of life ? Surely it
is the deeper meaning of the word of Jesus:
"If any man willeth to do His will, he shall John 7:7.
know of the doctrine, whether it be of God.''
Let us watch any man set to do the work
which calls for spiritual power, not for mere
shrewdness and energy and ingenuity, but for
real spiritual power, and we shall know him
for honest or hypocrite.

The discomfiture of hypocrites will come

69



Zbc Growing Cburcb



about through no process of discipline, the
condition is too subtle for that; it will come
about through the creation of an atmosphere
in the church which will make the dishonest
man wretched and will lead him to expose him-
self. It will come about through the under-
taking of tasks worthy of the strength which
the church claims. It is in presence of the
tasks of the church that hypocrisy reveals its
feebleness. If all the people of the church
undertook its work, and tried to cast out the
demons that are in the world, it would soon be
known who have the power of religion and who
have only its form. An aggressive, spiritual
church, busy with souls, is no refuge for
hypocrites.



70



Ube Cbanget) %ivcs ot tbe Converts



VI. THE CHANGED LIVES OF THE
CONVERTS.

WE HAVE already noted the fact of the
separation of the church from the
world as an essential in its growth. Beside it
we must now place another fact of the Ephe-
sian church which helps to explain its growth,
namely, the effect which the gospel had on the
converts. They became different not only
from the world, but also from their former
selves. The account says they came in large Actsi9:i8.
numbers and confessed and showed their deeds.
Some who had practiced sorcery and witch-
craft came and told the charms which they
had used and in presence of the people burned
their books and their charms. When the gospel
took hold on them, it made a difference with
them. You knew they were different by two
facts: they were ready to come out publicly
for the new faith, and they were willing to
give up a great deal in its behalf. There is
always reason to question the entire loyalty of
a believer when you find him wanting to re-

71



Ube Growing Cbiircb



A cheap
loyalty.



A man made
new.



ceive his salvation at as little cost as possible.
A few months ago a young woman talked to
me about coming into my church, saying, "I
wouldn^t join such-and-such a church; it's too
strict; but your church lets people dance,
doesn't it?" I doubt if I made it clear to her
that the great question is not what the Chris-
tian can still do for the world, but what he
can do for his cross-bearing Master. Her heart
was set on a following which should cost her
nothing. There is room, also, to question the
heartiness of the faith of a believer who talks
very much about the possibility of being a
Christian outside the church. Of course it is
possible, but is it fair ? Was the Master secret-
ly crucified? Did He slip through life with
no public bearing of the sin load? If the
saved soul had a passion for its Savior, it would
cry out for chance to declare its allegiance.

Three generations ago a young Jew named
Mendel was living in Germany. He became a
Christian, and the truth of Christ came to
him with such transforming effect that he took
a new name at his baptism and called him-
self Neander, which means, "a new man," and
by this name he is known as the great churcH



73



Zbc Cbange^ Xiv>e6 ot tbe Converts

historian. Such an effect the gospel is meant
to have on all who accept it; it claims the
power to make new men of them. If it does
not do so, then it loses its best argument, and
the church loses its best evidence. A church
not separated from the world is weak argu-
ment; a Christian not changed from his old
self is poor testimony to Christ.

This effect of the srospel on its believers is Theexpiana-

° ^ tion of

the great explanation of its growth in all the growth,
centuries. You have doubtless seen Charles
Loring Bracers book, "Gesta Christi,^' the
Triumphs of Christ, in which he has made a
study of the contacts of the gospel with early
paganism, or Uhlhorn's heavier work on "The
Conflict of Christianity with Heathenism.''^ Or
you will recall the fuller and more interesting
work of Dr. Storrs, "The Divine Origin of
Christianity as Indicated by Its Historical
Effects.^^ Its eight strong chapters almost
cover the field. He points out these eight
effects of Christianity: It brought first, a
new conception of God; second, a new con-
ception of man; third, a new principle of the
duty of man to God; fourth, a new principle
of the duty of man to man, with fifth, a new

73



XTbe Growing Cburcb



teaching of the duty of nations to each other;
it has had a constantly inspiring effect, sixth,
on the mental culture of mankind; seventh,
on the moral culture of mankind and eighth,
on the world's hope of progress. It is a safe
and strong argument; there is no answer to it.
The very men who tend to minimize the power
of Christ are products of the influences which
He has inspired.

There are grave defects yet in the result;
it is the weakness of the present argument
that we are so far from a completed civiliza-
tion. But it is fairer to compare the world
that was with the world that is than to com-
pare the world that is with the world that
ought to be. By that fairer standard, the gospel
will stand the test. Ask how far the race has
"been brought on, rather than how far it has
yet to go.
The first The incident at Ephesus suggests three great

change. changes that have been made in the broad do-

main of human thought. First, As with those
sooth-sayers, so with men since, the faith of
Christ has given men a sense of mastery of the
world, rather than of truculence to it. There
are no powers in the world about us that need

74



Zbc Cban^eD %ivc5 ot tbe Converts

to be placated, there are no influences which
we must fend off with some charm. The super-
stitions of the day are our shame and we know
it; none of us who feels their influence who
is not ashamed of it. From all that bondage
to fear the gospel of Christ has come to free
us. We realize that not all people know that.
The mediums and witches and soothsayers of
the present day live and thrive. Otherwise in-
telligent people speak with hushed tone of
some strange foretelling and declare they do
not know what to make of it. Frequently a
new medium appears and our superstitious men
and women run to sit at her feet and wait her
word. It is large sport for the medium and
it is amusing to others. Thus we reveal that
we have not yet outgrown our heathenism, that
we have not yet come to trust the presence of
a Father with whom the future is safe without
our seeing it. But all that is against the spirit
of Christ. It is His hope that we will out-
grow all of it and come into the life of courage
and freedom.

Secondly, The story suggests that the gospel The second
magnifies the open life rather than the secretive
one. There are no inner secrets of life which

75



Ube Growing Cburcb



a few may know but which most may not know.
The truth of God lies open to us all. There
were times when Jesus took His disciples aside
and told them great truths of the Kingdom,
Matt. 10:27. ]-,^|. jjg g^l^ j-Q them, "What ye hear in the

ear, proclaim upon the housetops." He had
it in mind that His disciples should know the
secret place that they might lead all men to it.
There is one scene in George Ebers' TJarda
which comes to mind when one speaks of this.
It is that wherein the young priest is taken
severely to task for having told to a common,
uninitiated audience some of the things that
belonged only to the inner circle of priests.
It is a typical scene of the times. There
were some large truths which the mass of
people might hope to know. There were other
truths which the new and untrained priest
might learn, but the inner secrets of religion
and of life were left for the initiated and could
not be revealed to the mass of men. Over
against such teaching Jesus sets His hope that
men ever3'where should seek to know the
deepest secrets of His truth. There is no
aristocracy in religion, save the aristocracy of
humility. Every man may know and be all

76



Ube Cbanaeb %ivcB ot tbe ContJerts

that any other man may know or be. God
has no favorite friends except those who make
Him their favorite friend. I may not look
upon my brother and sa}^, "It is granted to
him to enter into the holies and commune with
God, but it is not for me.'^ The truth of
Christ is not hid, to be learned from a chosen
few. Claims of power to read the future in
any way that is not open to every Christian
are not only untrue, they are un-Christian, We
are in no case reduced to the necessity of ex-
plaining them on any such grounds as superior
revelations and occult powers. It is one of
the marvels of the day that when we are so
proud of our science, we should still be in the
heyday of superstition and the reign of the
occult. The teaching of Christ builds a fire
for all dream books and secret symbols. It
sets a premium on the open life, the life that is
for all.

Thirdly, The story suggests a more familiar f^^^^^^
change in thought, magnifying the life of serv- change.
ice over the life of gain. It has brought us
to feel that our fellows do not exist for our
sakes, but that we exist for their sakes. That
is a revolution not yet completed. The con-

77



Zbc Growing Cburcb



verts at Ephesus learned that if they did know
something that others did not know, they had
been taught it for the sake of those others.
David Harum was right in saying that it is a
principle of much present life to find out what
the other fellow means to do to yon and to
do it to him first. The change wrought by
the teaching of Jesus is that we become serv-
ants of the need of others. We have no
powers that we may treasure and use for our
own benefit^ exploiting others. In the case of
Service vs. Self-seeking, Jesus appears for the
plaintiff.
Such It is such changes as these that the gospel

necess?ryf^ of Christ accomplishes in the large way. They
are changes which it seeks to accomplish in
personal life. A growing church will be one
whose members are thus changed. They will
be turned from dishonest practices, from
frauds however piously perpetrated, from
practices which bring the cause of religion into
disrepute. If Christ cannot change the lives
of His followers, if He cannot give them new
and better principles of living, then His church
cannot hope to grow. A little while ago I
heard Dr. Chapman tell of a visit to St. Mark's

78



XTbe CbarxQc^ %ivc5 of tbe Converts

in Venice, where he noticed the alabaster
pillars beside the great altar. They were dull
and lifeless — strange they should be there.
The guide took a lighted taper and held it
before one of the pillars. Then its beauty ap-
peared, color radiated from it and filled a
great circle with light. All that happened was
that light had fallen on its dullness and it had
answered with light. No less thing than that
is planned by Jesus Christ for His followers.
No less thing, a vastly greater thing. The
change He works is not upon them, but within
them. He would make the King's daughters Psaim 45-13.
and sons all glorious within. He would not
shine on us as the taper ray falls on alabaster;
He would be a blaze of glory in our lives that
shall transform them throughout. Some one
tells of a countryman going into the capital at
Albany and hearing it said that certain columns
were Scotch granite. He tapped them thought-
fully. "Scotch granite,'' he said, "is it polished
that way clean through?" A Christian ought
to be changed clean through ; in the secret life,
in the open life, in the whole life.

It is common to find the name of Jesus Christ's
linked with those of ereat reformers as though changing

" men.
79



Zhc Growing Cburcb



He were one among tliem. Emerson names
Him so sometimes. But He claims and has
gained a higher place. He does not lead men
from without. He makes them new from
within. This He seeks to do with all the people
who profess His name. He would make a
strong church out of them hy using their-
changed lives. There is an old legend that an
innocent life must be walled up in the founda-
tion of any building that is meant to endure.
Professor Paulsen thinks the innocent life of
Christ in the very foundation of the church is
its hope for permanence. Well, it is the lives
of its members changed toward holiness that
are the mark of its growth to-day. Let the
preaching be eloquence and earnestness itself,
let the church be separated from the world,
let the hypocrites all be disclosed, if there be
not constantly more men and women coming
into it, changed by the power of God, then
the church cannot grow. If men come into
the church, and are not changed from vv hat they
would be without the power of Christ, then
the church cannot prove its right to be. The
changes are not reserved for the ministry or
for peculiarly constituted people. There is

80



Ubc Cbanoeb %ivcB of tbe


1 2 4 6 7

Online LibraryCleland Boyd McAfeeThe growing church : a study for the times → online text (page 4 of 7)