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Sunday services. This of course does .rfot constitute them Christians. On the other hand it is rather a testimony on their part against Christianity, that is, in its vital form; for if they really believe in the Gospel and regard Christianity as being of God, why do they refuse to identify themselves with the life and cause of Christ by profession? That they attend church and listen to Gospel year after year without accepting personally the divine offer of reconciliation and life is a stronger testimony against Christ than that made by those who have abandoned the public worship of God altogether.
These and other kindred facts force us to the conclusion that for some reason the Church is not strengthening its hold upon our young men, and so far forth the Gospel is failing in its power over their hearts and consciences. This certainly ought to cause the liveliest alarm and set us at work at once and vigorously to inquire into the causes of this holding aloof from Christianity on the part of the young and middle-aged male portion of our communities. When a long period of business depression occurs the various business interests start an examination into the causes of the decline and set themselves vigorously to the task of remedying the evil. In some cases even the Government appoints a commission to inquire into such a state of affairs, and, if possible by legislatiou and otherwise, seek to turn the tide back toward prosperity. Ought the Church of Christ and especially those of the Church who are particularly put in trust with the Gospel to be less concerned?
We do not for a moment admit or believe that there is any loss of power in the Gospel itself, or any withdrawal of the efficient presence of the Holy Spirit from the churches. We must look to some other cause. In our judgment the explanation of the lack of interest on the part of the young men in Christianity is to be found in defective methods of preaching the Gospel and conducting church worship and work, and in defective practical organization.
How absurd to say that these facts do not indicate "any withdrawal of the efficient presence of the Holy Spirit from the churches!" At the first preaching of the gospel its power over men was conspicuous. The audiences at Pentecost from which the first converts were made were not made up mostly of women. The church is weak and nerveless now because the unity of the body is virtually denied. The Holy Spirit was the ascended Christ's gift to the whole body of His disciples. If they choose to split up into factions, and undertake to do His work on the theory that "Christ is divided," His Spirit will refuse to act in power among the dissevered members. A fragmentary church can possess but a fragmentary life.
What we desire, however, to call special attention to in the above article is the remark about
Defective Methods Of Preaching The Gospel.
There is no doubt that a broken church must be just as incapable of receiving the truth of Christ in its fullness as it is of receiving His Life. Hence of course the gospel must be defectively preached.
What are some of these defects?
We observe in general that the current evangelical preaching differs widely from the recorded discourses of Jesus and His apostles. If the first founders of Christianity were on the earth to-day, their preaching would sound strangely in even those pulpits of modern Christendom which are supposed to adhere most closely to the gospel. The congregation in the City Temple of London, and in the Metropolitan Tabernacle, would be alike surprised. The people in the Brooklyn Tabernacle would be neither amused nor entertained. Even the promiscuous crowds who come together under revival impulse to hear Moody and Dr. Pentecost would perceive the altered tone. The two respects in which modern preaching has most narrowed the gospel are, first, in its contraction of the horizon of human hopes, and, second, in its depreciation of what it calls "human righteousness." And these two are closely related.
The gospel, as first announced, flung out the light of a great hope into the world's darkness. It was to be " glad tidings of great joy to all people " (Luke n. 10), " to give light to them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death " (i. 79), "A light to lighten the nations" (ii. 32). It was a message to the poor and the broken hearted, the captive, the blind, and the prisoner (iv. 18). It told of One who came to seek and to save the lost. It proclaimed God's love to the world, sending His Son, not to condemn but to save it, giving His life for its life (John vi. 51). Christ lifted up was to draw all men unto Him (xii. 32). After His death and resurrection the apostles were enlightened to perceive that, by these great events, salvation had been secured for all in so far that all were to be raised from the dead. They did not hesitate to teach that He gave Himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. ii. 6), that He is the Saviour of all men (iv. 10), that the grace of God had brought salvation to all men (Titus ii. 11). They did not mean by these expressions that all had been made partakers of eternal life, or that there was escape for any from the loss of the soul in death, except through faith in Christ; but that beyond the pit of death and hell
into which the race had fallen, life would be restored to all (Rom. v. 18, I Cor. xv. 22, Acts xxiv, 15). They never viewed this provision for a general resurrection as fixing these masses of mankind in endless despair, but as opening, even to the dead, a door of hope out of their captivity, and bringing them under the administration of Him who was raised to be Lord both of the dead and the living. There was therefore the glow of this hope toward God over all their preaching. Men mocked indeed and rejected. But even upon those who were shut up in unbelief by reason of their hardness of heart, this mercy of God should fall (Rom. xi. 25-36). The apostles therefore drew no such sharp distinction between a class destined to endless joy and another to endless despair, as do our modern preachers. From one point of view all men had been saved, although most of them had not yet come to the knowledge of the truth, and hence His grace was still rejected and ineffectual in their case. And certainly they never admitted that any could enter into eternal life except through the way of complete identification with Christ in His death unto sin, and perfect self-surrender to God. But then they did not shut up all mankind to the brief and narrow opportunity afforded in this world of finding this way of life. The mass of mankind had been saved from death for this very end, that the opportunity denied them here might be extended, and the disadvantages under which they had come into being as under the common curse might be annulled, through God's more abounding grace (Rom. v. 12-20).
Now it is manifest that the gospel is not preached as if the redemption which is in Christ had brought any great boon to the race, apart from the opportunity of salvation given to a portion who hear of it. Or if it is, such preaching is strangely called unevangelical. As if the more the gospel is curtailed, the more truly does it become evangelical. But where is the "glad tidings of great joy to all people" in the ordinary message which consigns all but the few who embrace it to endless misery? And what hopes and consolations and tender sympathy for humanity in its privations and struggles can such a message contain? No wonder that the masses are alienated from it, and that the professors of this faith find it difficult to come into a practical brotherhood with their fellow men on the road to such a perdition. Here lies the main secret of the inability of the church to win the confidence of the toiling masses, or to cope successfully with untoward social conditions which degrade and pauperize them. They do not feel that the church understands them or gives them proper sympathy. How can she when she views all her unconverted fellowmen as outside of the family of God? How can they view God as their Father and Christ as their friend, when the only offset to the hard features of their lot in this life is the miserable prospect of a life to come, which has nothing in store for most of them but endless torment?
Such narrow views have they formed of their best Friend, because the church has concealed from them the star of hope that has arisen upon their night. She has taught them that there is no blessing couched in the gift to them of another life beyond the grave—only the tremendous hazard of an eternity of woe. In brief the masses have become alienated from the church becausej