R. A. (Robert Afton) Holland.

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ourselves to study and, as far as we may be able, to lead others to
study the Christian Ideal of our personal relations, of our class
relations, of our national relations ; and then to determine the next
step which we can take in each direction towards It. This is the
thought which I desire to master and enforce. The Church of
Christ has still the right, or rather the duty, of "binding and
loosing," of declaring with authority what must and what must not
be done. The commission given to the Apostles may have been
allowed to fall Into abeyance but It has never been revoked. It can
be exercised in other ways and more effectively than by the decrees
of Councils. That it should be exercised is a pressing need of an
age when all inen alike claim freedom of judgment and have equal
political power. That we in our measure may be enabled to
exercise it, we must seek anew the insight, the faith, the courage,
which a vital acceptance of the Incarnation will bring to us.


A modern w^riter commences a sombre essay on the prospects of
humanlt}'^ with these words: "A ruined temple, with its fallen
columns and broken arches, has often been taken as a suggestive
type of the transitory nature of all human handiwork. . . . Soon
the building follows the builder to an equal dust, and the universal
empire of Death alone survives over the tombs of departed glory
and greatness." In this view nothing is suggested beyond man's
effort and man's failure. The same Image Is used by one of the
greatest Puritans of the 17th century and made radiant with hope.
" The stately ruins," Howe writes of the soul of man, " are visible
to every eye, that bear In their front, yet extant, this doleful
Inscription : Here God once dwelt. Enough appears of the
admirable frame and structure to show the Divine presence did
sometime reside In it. . . . The lamps are extinct, the altar over-
turned : the light and love are now vanished, which did the one
shine with so heavenly brightness, the other burn with so pious

fervour." Perhaps we may think that even here the picture is too
darkly painted ; but, though it be so, How^e goes on to show how
God, Who had designed that first temple, completed through the
Incarnate Word the work which He had begun. Thus we are
raised above man both in the conception and in the consummation
of his powers.

The two passages bring out vividly the contrast between the non-
Christian and Christian idea of humanity. For the non-Christian
there can be no certainty of assurance in the prospect of the desola-
tions of the world. For the Christian, the Incarnation proclaims
that the Gospel of Creation has been fulfilled in fact and moves for-
ward to a complete accomplishment. The first words which the
Lord taught His disciples to use, "Father" (Lk. xi. 2), "Our
Father, which art in heaven" (Matt. vi. 9), express briefly what
the Incarnation has wrought for us as men. They invest us with a
privilege of divine sonship which finds no place in the Old Testa-
ment. The words are a prophecy, an interpretation, a promise.
They point to a personal relation between God and man which each
man is set to realize in life ; they show that we share this potentially
with all other men ; and the fact that Christ charges us to claim the
double fellowship, fellowship with God (" Father") and fellowship
with man in God ("cz^r Father"), is an assurance that through
His help we can obtain it. So then we face our work, sons of God,
brothers of men ; and this double master-thought — one thought in
two aspects — will help us in dealing with our personal duties in
regard to ourselves and in regard to others, as heirs of God's love
and called to fulfill a human ministry.

It is indeed impossible to draw a sharp line between these two
spheres of personal and social effort and action. It- is impossible for
anyone to confine the effects of what he does or leaves undone to
himself alone. If he withdraws himself into a desert and spends his
years in completest isolation, he defravids his fellow-men of the
fruits of the large heritage which he has received from the past. In
the stir of action every man at every moment influences others, con-
sciously or unconsciously, limiting and moulding them, scattering
seeds of thought and deed which will be fruitful of good or evil
while time lasts. If the solitary ascetic is to justify himself he must
show — and there are times perhaps when this would be possible —
that his impressive protest against the spirit of his age is worth the
cost at which it is made. If the man of affairs is to justify his life
of restless enterprise, he must not appeal to material results but to
the signs of character strengthened and purified. The responsibility
of living might well appal us by its immeasurable issues, but as
children we can rest gladly in our Father's will. This then is that
which we are consti'ained to seek for in our personal relations
through our faith in the Incarnation, a recognition of common


divine Sonship and " equal" spiritual brotherhood. It is a familiar
claim ; but perhaps it has lost much of its force because we have
ceased to reflect upon it ourselves and to press it upon others. We
assume that the claim is acknowledged, and we neglect to consider
the fact by vi^hich it is established. For when seen in this light, as
the application to men individually of the message that the Word
became Jlesh^ the assertion of the Divine sonship of each man, of
the human brotherhood of all men in Christ, is fitted to chasten, to
guide, to inspire us : to furnish at once a solid foundation and a
touchstone for our theories of social intercourse. Just so soon and
so far as we regard ourselves and others " in Christ," to use St.
Pavil's phrase, according to the Divine counsel, we shall strive to
secure for each man, as for ourselves, the opportunity of fulfilling
his part in a divine society, for developing a corresponding character,
for attaining in his measure to the Divine likeness. The apostolic
picture will be constantly before us as our charter and our law :
There is one Sody and one Sfirit^ even as ye were called in one
hope of your calling: one Lord, one Faith ^ one Baptisfn: one
God and Father of all^ Who is over all, and through all and in
all (Eph. iv. 4-6), ruling, uniting, sustaining.

The fundamental image of "the body" guards us from many
errors. The rich energy of the whole depends on the variety of the
parts. There can be no physical or intellectual or moral equality
among men as the members of the Body of Christ. Each man has
his own peculiar function. Each man is heir of one past and has
soine unique heritage to administer and to hallow. The opportunity
which we seek for him is not the opportunity of doing anything,
but of doing that one thing which answers to his individuality and
his place. As he does this he enters on the enjoyment of the full-
ness of the greater life to which he has contributed. Regarded
under this aspect — the aspect of our Christian Faith — life is an
opportunity for service. We are not our own. We were not only
redeemed by Christ : we were bought by Him and are His. The
essence of sin lies in selfishness, self-assertion {TrX^o-vs-ila). Brought
to this test the great questions of temperance and purity can be dealt
with effectually. The virtues are positive and not negative. They
are not personal but social. Any indulgence which lessens our own
efficiency, or brings injury on another, is sinful. St. Paul has laid
down the principles : If because of meat thy brother is grieved,
thou walkest no longer in love. Destroy not xvith thy meat him
for'who7n Christ died. . . . Overthrow 7tot for meat's sake the
work of God (Rom. xiv. 15, 20). And again : Know ye not that
your bodies are members of Christ P shall I then take away the
members of Christ and mo.ke them mejnbers of a harlot? (i Cor.
vi. 15). Our work will be permanently effective when we rest on
these fundamental thoughts. The most fai - reaching arguments,
the highest motives, are the most practical. No self-centered con-


siderations will shield a man in temptation. But the vision of
Christ will, for He will support the effort that is made in acknowl-
edgment of a duty which is owed to Him.

False-dealing in trade and gambling can, I believe, only be over-
come by the application of the same truth. They are offences
against our fellowship in Christ. We must present them in this
light. Nor will anyone think that such a view is exaggerated who
has reflected on the reason which St. Paul gives for truthfulness.
Speak ye truth^ he writes, each one with his Jieig'hbor, because
ive are ■me?nbers one of another (Eph. iv. 25).

I touch on these most obvious points for I think that we com-
monly shrink from bringing the great truths of our Faith to bear
on the trials and duties of every day. Yet commonplace events
make up the staple of our lives. Our ordinary occupations must
form nine-tenths of our service — our service to God and to man —
and if the power of our Faith is to be felt, we require not only
private devotion but open confession (i John iv. 3). The obliga-
tion lies on the layman no less than on the clergyman. Those who
believe must act as believing and because they believe. If they do
so, experience tells us that they will speedily influence public
opinion ; and at the same time they will themselves learn to trust
more resolutely to the efficacy of spiritual forces. Life, I have said,
is an opportunity for service. The way of the Master is the way of
the disciple, and for the most part we are in a position in which the
discipline and sense of service are natural. We have no difficulty
in looking to our day's work, as it is given to us day by day, as
something to be done for God's glory and man's welfare in our
Father's presence and through His help. So it is with the
bulk of our middle class. It is otherwise with the very rich
and with the very poor. In this respect extremes meet, and
it is hard to say whether superfluity or penury is more unfavor-
able to the realization of the true idea of life. On the one side the
pressure of conventional engagements and pleasures tends to crowd
out the thoughts of service : on the other side the conditions of labor
are such as to obscure the truth that this labor may be the service of
a son.

Such contrasts, such hindrances to the Christian life, demand
consideration. They raise problems which we are called to face.
They involve perils against which we are bound to provide. They
furnish tests of the sincerity and power of our faith. Has the
parable of the manna no application here ?

It is true that there can be no " equal" participation in wealth or
in any concrete "good" consistent with due regard to the various
capacities of men : true that the highest good of society as a whole,
taking account of the future, depends on some measure of inequality
in opportunities and means, corresponding to inequalities of power ;
true that wealth accumulated in private hands has unique power for


conferring common benefits : true that a certain outward magnificence
befits great offices : true that the adequate fulfillment of some duties
requires exceptional provisions. But while we admit this to the
full, there is a wide agreement that the present distribution of wealth
in England is unfavorable to the highest general well-being of the
country : that it is as perilous to the moral excellence of those who
have in excess as to that of those who have not what they need : that
it is unfavorable to healthy consumption by developing fictitious
wants : that it establishes material wealth as the standard of success ;
that it tends to destroy the practical sense of the divine sonship and
the spiritual brotherhood of men. Such a judgment demands
anxious consideration. It may not be possible to secure at present
a better distribution of wealth among us. Violent changes, we
have learnt from the past, would work no lasting good. But at
least we can endeavor to determine the causes which have produced
and are continuing to produce a dangerous inequality, and to ascer-
tain how they can be modified.

In the meantime there is abundant scope for private efforts on our
part to secure a simpler type of living. We can habitually ask our-
selves whether this or that exceptional indulgence is required for
the efficiency of our service, and press the question upon others.
We can at the same time endeavor to raise the standard of life
among the poor. We can, using the lessons of our own experience,
strive to bring back employers to live among their own people.
We can multiply opportunities for sympathetic intercourse. We
can perhaps do something to check the wastefulness of fashion
which stimulates vanity and provokes imitation. We can help
those who look only on the surface of things to undei'stand something
of the burden of great possessions. We can show that we wish to
use all whereby God has made us to differ from others not for the
assertion of our superiority but for better service, not saying that
aught of the things which we possess is our own.

Such duties lie upon us first. The clergy have exceptional
knowledge of the circumstances of the poor, and, through that
knowledge, exceptional motives for endeavoring to secure them a
stable and honorable position. They have at the same time natural
opportunities for meeting the wealthy. These opportunities they
are bound to use for the accomplishment of their ministry. At the
same time they are under no obligation which is not equally binding
on the laity, and they need at every point lay counsel and co-opera-
tion. Such sympathy and help they must claim in the interest of
all alike.

It is a commonplace that Christianity has recognized the dignity
of manual labor, as true service of chikh^en of God. But can we
show that we have carried the conviction into life? Can we show
— I do not say that the influence of our Faith in drawing Christians
ogether is stronger, with a simple and natural dominance, than the


influences of class and education and taste in separating them, but
— ^that the acknowledgment of brotherhood in Christ leads the
mass of our countrymen to inquire into the conditions under which
the majority of those whom they call brethren actually live ? How
few, for example, realize the moral and physical dangers of different
kinds of employments. How few take account of the cost at which
their necessary wants are satisfied, or their amusements provided.
How few pause to estimate the loss of life in many occupations
which might be prevented if only attention were fixed upon the
facts, and the resources of science patiently brought to bear upon the
problems which they suggest. An American writer ventured to
say that railways are laid on men for sleepers. Even this exaggera-
tion will repay reflection.

For it is to the simplest and the broadest aspects of the life of the
poor and not to accessories that attention ought to be directed, to
the hours of work rather than to the hours of recreation.

A man's daily labor is the chief element in determining his
character. It is by this he serves, and by this he grows. It is
substantially his life, to be begun and ended, day by day, in the
name of God. Thus the labor question is in the fullest sense a
religious question. The workman is commonly said to offer his
work in the market as a commodity. In fact he offers himself. If
then the conditions of labor are not such as to make a true
human life possible for the laborer, if he receives as the price of his
toil a mutilated and impoverished manhood, there can be no lasting
peace ; there can be no prevailing Christian Faith. For a true
human life the essential external I'equisites are adequate food, shelter,
leisure, and provision for incapacity or old age. Are we English
Churchmen — clergy and laity alike — satisfied that, speaking gener-
ally, these are found among our poorer artisans ? Nay rather, is it
not too plain that they are not found ? It is stated on good
authority that only one-third of our population are able to live in
decent comfort. It is certain that great numbers have no reserve of
means, and are unable to make adequate provision for incapacity or
old age.

I have no wish to exaggerate the shadows of modern life.
" There are two ways," it has been most wisely said, " of looking
even at mere figures. . . ." It may "with some show of reason
be regarded as not so very bad that a tenth of the population should
be reckoned as very poor in a district so confessedly poverty-stricken
■as East London ; but when we count up the 100,000 individuals, the
20,000 families, who lead so pinched a life among the population
described, and remember that there are in addition double that
number, who if not actually pressed by want, yet have nothing to
spare, we shrink aghast from the picture." Still we must calmly
face it ; and we have yet to learn how far it represents the condition
of our own great towns, of Sunderland and Gateshead, of Shields


and Hartlepool, of Darlington and Stockton. To contemplate such
a state of things even afar off is surely to be constrained to leave
nothing undone to amend it, relying on God's will for His people,
and the unexhausted and untried resources of the Gospel.

There was a time when Economists would have said that such an
effort was hopeless. Wider experience has taught us another
lesson. The institutions of society and the motives of men which
determine the facts summarily described as " economic laws " are
liable to alteration. Forms of inheritance, of land-tenure, of culti-
vation, of industrial processes and remuneration, influence the
distribution of wealth. These have been changed in the past, and
are still liable to change. On the other hand men are stirred to
energetic action by other impulses than the hope of gain. And
these may be called hereafter into wider play. The power of love,
the power of the Incarnation, has hitherto hardly been invoked as
the sovereign principle of Christian action.

We are bound, as teachers, to consider social problems in their
largest range, but our own peculiar duties lie within a definite
region. And however widespread the evils may be with which we
have to contend, our part can best be done by dealing with them
locally as they are found among us, by patient personal intercourse,
guided by intelligent sympathy. At present our strength and the
strength of our fellow-workers is dissipated in fragmentary and
spasmodic and ill-proportioned efforts. The first requisite for
steady and continuous work is full knowledge of the facts'; and I
trust that some combined endeavor will be made, with as little
delay as possible, to ascertain in detail the facts as to the housing
of the poor in the Diocese of Durham — and in this I would include
the provisions on shipboard for our seafaring people — their
methods of purchase, their hours of labor, their provision for old
age : how far existing laws are known or enforced : how far existing
helps are used. I do not ask the clergy to undertake these wide
enquiries. They are already overburdened. But I ask that they
invite the laity to undertake them. Every parish can help. Many
who ai^e not of our own communion will, I believe, heartily co-
operate in a work in which all Englishmen are alike interested.
And when the facts are known, I believe that those who differ on
many points will find ways opened for hearty fellowship in solving
the problems which they suggest.

In seeking your help, your help as ministers of Christ, for obtain-
ing the exact knowledge of the material condition of those who are
committed to your charge, as the basis for necessary reforms, I do
not confound the external conditions of good with good. I do not
suppose that material improvements can regenerate men or that out-
ward well-being can satisfy them. But I do say that we cannot
realize what our Faith is, or teach others to realize it, unless we
strive according to our opportunities to secure for those whom we


acknowledge to be children of God and members of Christ opportu-
nities of self -development and service corresponding to our own. I
do say that it is the office of those to whom the message of the
Gospel is entrusted to make it known in its apostolic breadth and
power. I do say that certain outward conditions must be satisfied
before a true life can be enjoyed : that our life is one and that each
part affects the whole : that, if the conditions of labor for the young
are such as to tend necessarily to destroy the effects of a brief and
crowded education, if the energies of men are exhausted by a
precarious struggle for food and shelter, if there is no quiet leisure
for thought, if the near future is clouded, as often as thought is
turned to it, it is vain to look for a vital welcome of the Faith which
deals with the future through the present, and claims the life that
now is as well as that which is to come. The teaching of the Lord
on spiritual reformation, like the teaching of the prophets, was
accompanied by active solicitude for the external bettering of the
multitudes distressed and scattered as sheep not having a shepard
(Matt. ix. 36), At the same time the Gospel must be preached in
its spiritual simplicity and directness and power. Sin must be shown
to be the spring of sorrows and the sting of death. He to whom
we appeal as a child of God, must be led to his Father, he whom
we claim as a brother, must be taught to look to Christ, through
Whose Life and Death and Resurrection validity has been given to
the title. The power to which we appeal is a Divine kinship. Till
this is acknowledged with its corresponding duties our work is not

So far I have spoken only of single workers — of the relation of
man to man, as sons of God and brethren, but the family and not
the man is the unit of humanity ; and it is a significant fact that the
first converts in Europe were families " Lydia and her household,"
and " the jailor and all his." In our schemes of reform the family
has too often been forgotten ; tbough we need, I think above all
things to labor for the restoration or development of simple family
life. Legislative changes have tended to weaken the sense of home
responsibility. Many popular institutions break up the fellowship
of the hearth. If it be said that such fellowship is impossible, I can
only answer that if it be so, our state is condemned. It is in the
family that the future of a people is shaped. Each true home is a
kingdom, a school, a sanctuary. The thirty years of silent unnoticed
labor at Nazareth teach us, if we ponder over the meaning, what
the home may be and in God's counsel is.

The lessons and the duties of the family belong to the rich in some
sense even more than to the poor. But indeed every thought on
which I have touched concerns, if it be in different ways jrich and
poor alike. Every question which I have raised claims an answer
from every Christian first in the silence of the soul and then in the
market-place and in the council chamber. The equal dignity, the


equal destiny of man as man is a thought due to the Gospel which
each generation has to master in dealing with its own problems.
Differences of culture or place or wealth are opportunities for
characteristic service. They exist only for the welfare of the body,
for the fullness of the life in which every member shares. Among
Christians there can be^ St. Paul tells us in comprehensive language
which covers the great types of distinction among us, race, social
condition, sex, neithe}' Jew nor Greek^ there can be neither bond
nor free ^ there can be no male and female : for ye are all one man
in Christ feszts (Gal. iii. 28).


Hitherto I have considered only our personal relations one to
another under the necessary conditions of life. We are at our birth
severally members of a family. We are to the end citizens of a
state. No seclusion can free us from the responsibility of influence.
Our life is from first to last social. As Christians we are "one
man in Christ Jesus," and in this fellowship we gain the unity which
is prepared for all.

Recognizing this larger life I have endeavored to show that our
Faith constrains us to strive after the realization of our brotherhood
with our fellow^s and to secure our own highest good by using our
special endowments for the general ^velf are : to seek for others as for
ourselves the opportunity of most effective service : to endeavor to
understand truly the circumstances and feelings of those who depend
on us and on whom we depend : to recognize that we are ' ' our

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Online LibraryR. A. (Robert Afton) HollandThe church of the world → online text (page 6 of 19)