ALL THINGS ARE YOURS.
All are yours; and ye are Christ's.
i Corinthians iii. 22, 23.
S. Michael's Church, Cambridge, April 23, 1872, at the Inauguration of the Cambridge Church Society.
I THINK that the words which I have just read will describe not inadequately the conception prominent in the minds of those who have taken the most active part in the formation of the society which we have met together to inaugurate by a solemn service this evening. Beyond the idea of co-operation which is involved in every society, beyond the idea of devotion and self-denial which is inherent in every religious society, I conceive the characteristic feature of this new association to be, S. S. I
that in its principles and its motives it seeks to unite a wide comprehension of men and ideas with concentration of purpose and unity of spirit . It desires at once to foster a diffusive charity which shall not degenerate into moral indifference, and to maintain a breadth of intellectual sympathy which shall not be inconsistent with intense religious devotion. In its limited sphere, it aims at a practical solution of the two most serious difficulties which beset not only this Church of England, but the Church of Christ generally, at the present moment. It seeks a remedy for divisions within, and it endeavours to reconcile antagonisms without. On the one hand, it will be the object of those who have joined this association, to overcome the strifes and antipathies which separate not only Christian from Christian but also Churchman from Churchman, to avoid harshness and exaggeration in stating the principles to which they cling themselves, to understand and absorb whatever is good and true in the exaggerated statements of others, to combine the manifold energies which now are dissipated, and thus to unite in the common service of Christ all the forces of religious zeal which at present spend themselves in neutralising each other. This will be your ruling principle within the sphere of Christian thought and action. And corresponding to it will be the attitude which you will
maintain towards other influences lying beyond its range, in the outer domain of intellectual and social life. As you have acknowledged no parties in the one case, so you will see no antagonists in the other. The gulf between faith and science, between religion and society, which others contemplate as widening day by day, will have no existence for you. Each ffesh accession of knowledge, each progressive development of social life, will come to you with the force of a special message from God in Christ, revealing to you more fully the purpose and the operation of His Eternal Word, putting some new instrument into your hands, giving some new direction to your energies, strengthening the foundations of your Christian faith, and enlarging the horizon of your Christian hopes.
Such I conceive to be the ideal which this association sets before its members. How far this ideal will ever be realised, I cannot venture even to hazard a conjecture. It augurs ill for ultimate success to indulge in exultant prophecies at the outset of any undertaking. As nothing has yet occurred which need prompt a passing misgiving, so nothing has yet been achieved which should excite more than a passing hope. Of all maxims it is the safest and wisest, that he who girdeth on his harness should not boast as he who putteth it off. Therefore I dare not say anything about future triumphs. If the principles on which this society is founded, and the organisation by which these principles are secured, seem to any one here to justify sanguine expectations, I would ask him to reflect that no principles however sound, and no organisation however complete, will save it from utter failure, if the animating spirit be wanting. It is not by its machinery'that this society will succeed, if it does succeed; but by the personal influence, the personal enthusiasm and love and self-devotion, of its individual members. This alone can be its motive power—the spirit of man acting under the guidance and in the strength of the Divine Spirit. So it has ever been. The greatest triumphs of humanity have been the triumphs of personal influence. Our Lord Himself is a signal instance of this. Christ left no writings; framed no regulations; organised no society. After a short ministry of three years He passed away. His life had been a failure: His death was the proper sequel to His life. When He was gone, nothing of His work remained—nothing at least which could be measured and calculated. Only He had stamped the impress of Himself on a few followers, neither learned nor wealthy nor powerful. Yet this impress, this presence, this life, proved the most potent influence which mankind had ever seen. It has gone through the world, conquering and to conquer, remoulding and regenerating society from age to age, bursting forth in fresh vigour in each successive generation, magnificent in its triumphs during the past, still more magnificent in its auguries for the future. And if it be said that no argument can be drawn from Christ's example, that the unique character of His Person necessarily produced exceptional results, and that therefore the parallel fails in the one essential point, then I would appeal to history, which teems with illustrations of what I have said. With hardly an exception it is true that the widest and deepest influences which have swayed mankind may be traced, not to systems or organisations, but primarily to the life, the spirit, the personality, of individual men. The most valuable legacy which they have left to after ages has not been so much what they have done, as what they were. And your own experience too will confirm the truth of this. The influence, which you have felt to be strongest with you in your friends or your instructors, has not been the abstract precept or the definite act, but the direct contact with a personal influence, the realisation of a living spirit, of which words and actions are at best inadequate expressions, and may even be partial disguises.
Therefore it is no superfluous caution to warn you not to put your trust in organisation alone or chiefly. No machinery will supersede the necessity of intense and continuous personal effort. Machinery is only the conductor, it is not the creator, of power. The real work must be done in the agony of the individual spirit, in the consecration of the individual life. This association will give direction to your endeavours: but the mainspring of your energy must lie within yourselves. And you do not know—you young men—you will never know, till it is too late, and the inevitable years have fastened the yoke of convention upon you, and your highest faculties are drugged and stupefied with self-indulgence and neglect—you do not know what an enormous power lies latent in the heart of each one, even the weakest among you, if only he would resolve, while his spirit is free and his enthusiasm yet unblunted, to renounce at once and for ever the paltry ambitions and shadowy triumphs of the present, and to cultivate every faculty of his being—his intellect, his affections, his tastes—that he may consecrate them to the service of God in Christ. This latent power there is, because the human spirit is capable of unrestricted communion with the Divine Spirit, because the Divine Spirit is imparted freely to those that ask it, and thus the weakness of man is made strong with the strength of God.
And, if this society should only be instrumental in leading one or two of its members to realise the possibility which thus lies within them, it will not have been founded in vain. The contest is severe; but the prize is great. The struggle may be long; but the victory is certain. Even now the land of promise lies before you: the narrow stream of a stern resolve alone separates you from the scene of your triumphs and the haven of your rest: 'Only be thou strong and very courageous; turn not to the right hand or to the left. Have not I commanded thee? Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.'
The words of the text comprise two clauses. The one states the true principle of religious comprehension, ' All are yours;' the other gives the only secret of religious unity,'Ye are Christ's.' To realise these two complementary principles—each interpreting and justifying the other—and to direct them to some practical aim will be the object of this society. Comprehension without unity, breadth without intensity, are not difficult of attainment; but when attained they are useless, and may be worse than useless. It is only by the combination of the two, that the healthy action of the Christian body is maintained. I propose therefore to enquire, first in what sense S. Paul enjoins the Corinthians to secure comprehension; and secondly what safeguard he offers that it shall not be purchased at the expense of concentration and unity.
I. When we speak of comprehension, we recognise the fact that divers types of Christian thought and sentiment and action must exist side by side, and we accept the inference that each has its place and its function in the Church of Christ. If we ourselves had been charged with the reconstruction of Christian society according to our preconceived notions, we should probably have framed it otherwise. Our ideal would be that all should look at the Gospel exactly from the same point of view, should teach and hold the same things and in the same way, that there should be an absolute identity of feeling, of worship, of intellectual apprehension, in the whole body. This might have been our idea of unity: but it is plainly not the idea contemplated by S. Paul. And, if it had been possible, would the Christian society have gained or have lost by a reconstruction on this principle? Man is finite: truth is infinite. One human spirit, even the most comprehensive, can only grasp a small part of it. If therefore you only repeat the same man many thousand times over, you limit in the same degree the expression of the truth. A moment's reflection will show, that uniformity is impoverishment, and that diversity is absolutely necessary, if there is to be anything like fulness in the final result. And where diversity is recognised, there is comprehension.
This the Corinthians could not see. Cephas did not present the Gospel in quite the same aspect as Paul, nor Paul as Apollos. There was a place for all in the Church of Christ, as there was need for all in the expression of the truth. But the Corinthians would have one only, each making his selection according to his particular liking. Their fundamental error was a narrowness of vision, a desire to repeat their own type, an inability to see that true unity consists not in uniformity, that if all the members were the same member the body would cease to exist, that there may be, nay there must be, diversities of gifts, of administrations, of works, while yet there is the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God, Who worketh all in all.
The forms of human society change; but the tendencies of the human heart are constant. Parties die out, but party feeling survives. The Church of Corinth has passed away; but the spirit of the Church of Corinth remains. Paul, Cephas, Apollos, are gone; but there are still those who say,' I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas.'
There are those with whom the voice of antiquity is all-powerful, who cling with devotion to the grand historical traditions of the Church, who build on the rock of the past. The chain of external connexion which links them ultimately with Christ Himself is to them of infinite moment. The continuance of timehonoured usages is highly important in their eyes. Authority is their leading principle. This element is most necessary for the stability of the Church and for the maintenance of the faith. Only in its exaggeration it is made to minister to a narrow party spirit. Then it is that men say 'I am of Cephas.' They look on Paul as an unauthorised adventurer, and on the teaching of Paul as a shifting sandbank.
And again: there are others, with whom the claims of the individual soul are brought into prominence, and the claims of the collective Church recede into the background, who regard personal religion as the one paramount consideration, to whom the liberty and the spirituality of the Gospel are especially dear. It is well, nay it is necessary, that this aspect of the truth should be emphasized. But exaggeration creeps in. A true principle is perverted into a party cry. Men begin to say ' I am of Paul,' and to denounce the teaching of Cephas as a souldestroying superstition.
And lastly; there are others, who like the learned Alexandrian have by the accident of their position or the bent of their mind contracted an alliance with external systems of philosophy, and are largely imbued with the literary and scientific culture of their day. They are eager to establish relations between revealed religion and secular knowledge. They would take a comprehensive view of the Gospel; would define its attitude towards whatever is true in scientific research, and whatever is good in social life. They apply to its interpretations the more critical methods and the freer language which they have been taught in the world without. Who shall say that in God's wise providence these also have not an important office in building up His Church? And yet here too the danger of exaggeration is great. The distinctness of the revelation may be obliterated, and the intensity of the Gospel diluted in the license of unrestrained speculation. Thus it is that men are led on to say 'I am of Apollos.' They ignore the teaching.of Cephas as a baseless antiquarian dogmatism; and they despise the teaching of Paul as an unintellectual narrowness, whose wisdom is foolishness and whose forms of speech are contemptible; while they themselves are regarded by the party of Paul and that of Cephas alike, as the apostles of a thinly disguised infidelity.
And so Christ is divided. Paul and Cephas and Apollos, despite themselves, are made leaders of parties. Yet the Church has need of all—of the traditional reverence and the concentrated zeal of Cephas—of the spirituality and the freedom, the personal religion, of Paul—of the eloquence and culture, the enlarged conceptions, of Apollos. She has need of all; for she is entrusted with the whole message of God. She has need of all; for, if she consents to forego any one, she will risk the inadequate expression of the truth on that side.
And on every individual member of the Church it is incumbent not to addict himself to this party or that, but to endeavour to learn of all. He will reject the exaggerations of each; but he will seek to appropriate the truths of each. Thus, and thus only, will he arrive at a knowledge which soars above that which is called high, and pierces deeper than that which is called low, and spreads wider than that which is called broad. Thus, and thus only, will he be 'able to comprehend what is the breadth and length and depth and height...that he may be fulfilled with all the fulness of God.'
Such is S. Paul's teaching in the text. To the watchwords of the Corinthian parties his reply seems to be this. 'You divide, where you ought to combine. You take a part, where you should claim the whole. You make yourselves the slaves of one, when you should be the masters of all. You are not Paul's, but Paul and Cephas and Apollos all are yours. Nay rather, gather up and piece together all the component elements of God's message that are offered to you, that you may have a more complete mirror of the truth. So you will get fulness instead of fragmentariness, and harmony instead of disorder.'
And is not this an end which might well satisfy the noblest ambition of any one in this congregation? Have we not here a work which it would be worth any sacrifice to attempt, an aim which you might hold yourselves happy to labour for, to learn for, to think for, to pray for, to live for? To reconcile differences, to allay animosities, to draw parties together by mutual forbearance, to exhibit the fulness of truth instead of the partial exaggeration of truth, and out of a divided Church to produce a united Church; for this—whether you succeed or not—you may count it a privilege to spend and be spent. In such a task failure will be no failure for you; for the blessing of the peacemaker will rest upon you; and what could you desire more than this? A united Christendom is the prayer of many, the dream of many more. What, if we begin by setting our own house in order? If we could but exhibit to foreign communions a spectacle of harmonious and brotherly love in ourselves, then we might hope to draw them towards us by our example, and become the centre round which all the Churches of the earth should gather. Pray constantly, pray earnestly, for the union of Christendom; but then only expect your prayer to be heard, when in your own limited sphere you have done all that in you lies by forbearance, by sympathy, by a large-hearted charity, to allay animosities, to disarm parties, and to spread the principles of harmony and peace.
2. From the principle of comprehension, I pass on to the second point, the principle of cohesion.
For comprehension, properly understood, involves the idea of cohesion. In some sense different atoms may be said to be comprehended in one whole, when they are simply piled together, like the grains in a heap of sand. But more strictly interpreted, the word implies a binding power. And certainly for our purpose comprehension would have no value at all, unless it involved this conception. Merely to gather together a number of names in one list, or a number of men in one room, may not be a difficult task: but unless there is such fundamental unity that they can work together for some common end, the aggregation means nothing at all.
S. Paul earnestly pressed upon his Corinthian converts the importance of comprehension, but he was equally urgent that they should recognise the necessity of cohesion. There must be some centre about which the different elements may gather, some heart whose pulsations shall be felt throughout the body, some head which shall guide the motions of all the limbs. 'All are yours, and ye are Christ's.' The two statements are not independent. The validity of the former is conditional on the realisation of the latter. All things are yours, because ye are Christ's. The intensity, with which you realise Christ within yourselves, will be the measure of the extent to which you can claim this wide dominion thus offered to you.
For Christ is the bond of union. You have no interest in that with which you have no connexion. You receive no advantage from it; you exercise no control over it. The living eye and the living hand are nothing to the severed foot. They cannot stimulate it into motion; cannot save it from decomposition and decay. Paul and Cephas and Apollos are only yours, because you are part of the same organism with them, and draw your energy from the same principle of life. Thus, and thus only, their divers functions in the economy of the body minister to your vitality and health.
Attempting to tread in the footsteps of the Apostle, I 'transferred in the figure' the different tendencies of our own age and country to Paul and Apollos and Cephas, and I endeavoured to show how the lesson might be translated into the language of this nineteenth century. But indeed S. Paul himself encourages us to give even a wider range to the application than this. Not only Paul and Cephas and Apollos, but all things are yours. Christ is not of one age, or of one communion only. He is the Head of the Universal Church through all time. You are the heirs of eighteen Christian centuries. The long roll of history is unfolded before you. The achievements of your spiritual ancestry are the heirloom of you, the latest sons of the Church. Not in vain have martyrs suffered, and fathers taught, and saints prayed, and philanthropists laboured, and reformers preached. All these too are yours. It is yours to note the martyr Ignatius weighed down with years but undaunted in heart, with a spirit soaring higher than the courage of a hero and bowing lower than the humility of a child, not daring yet to count himself a disciple, but setting his face stedfastly towards the Roman amphitheatre, thirsting to become 'food for the wild beasts, that haply while finding them he might also find Christ. It is yours to observe the kingly spirit of Athanasius, who through nearly half a century, resolute and unswerving, defied obloquy and persecution, maintaining with no less clearness of vision than stedfastness of purpose the faith of Christ alone against the world, and (what is rarer still) so maintaining it, that in him 'nothing,' as one has nobly said, 'was observed throughout the course of that long tragedy, other than such as very well became a wise man to do and a righteous to suffer1.' It is yours also to take to heart the example of Francis of Assisi, the most gentle and loving of saints, who delighted to claim kindred with all the works of creation and all the dispensations of providence, as the sons and daughters of the one beneficent Father, greeting even fire as a brother and death as a sister; who preached to a literal age in the only language which that age could understand, by a literal obedience to the precept of Christ, and went out into the world taking with him absolutely nothing, casting in his lot with the poor whom men despised and the leper whom they abhorred! So you may go on through all the ages, feeding the fires that are within you with the fuel of these bright examples of Christian faith and heroism and love. And you will do this without fear. You will use these examples without abusing them. You will not say, I am of Martin Luther, or I am of Francis Xavier, or I am of John Wesley; for Luther and Xavier and Wesley all are yours. In Christ you have a spirit of discernment; in Christ you will choose the good, and will reject the bad. There
1 Hooker Ecc. Pol, v. xlii. 6.
S. S. 2
will be some marring imperfection in all, an impatience of authority in one, a savour of pride in another, a taint of superstition in a third; but as these defects will not blind you to what is noble, so neither will they mislead you into what is false. Brilliant though their lives may have been, they are after all only broken lights of Him Who is the full and perfect light.
But S. Paul's language goes even further than this. He promises to his Corinthian converts the 'world,' as well as the Church; not only, I venture to think, the world regarded as the scene of human corruption, and therefore of human probation and victory, but the world, the Cosmos, the divine order of the created universe, with all its intricate harmonies and all its manifold glories. In the language of S. Paul and S. John our Lord is not only the Head of the Church, the spiritual creation; but He is also the Centre of the Universe, the material creation. This He is, as the Eternal Word of God by Whom all things came into being, in Whom they are sustained, through Whom they are governed. In our modern theology we almost wholly lose sight of this aspect of Christ's Person; and the loss to ourselves is inestimable. Science and religion in the Apostle's teaching have their meeting-point in Christ. There is no antagonism between them; they are the twofold expression of the same divine energy. And therefore science, not less than theology, is the inheritance of the Christian. It is yours to roam through the boundless realms of space with the astronomer, and to plunge into the countless ages of the past with the geologist: yours to enter into the vast laboratory of nature, and to analyse her subtle processes and record her manifold results. It will be no intrusion into an alien sphere. It is a right which you can claim as Christians. It is yours, because you are Christ's.
Thus then the text sets before us both aspects of that comprehension which it is the object of this society to foster—the comprehension of different religious types within, and the comprehension of varied intellectual sympathies without. And it puts them forward too with that safeguard which this society also recognises, and without which comprehension would be ineffective, even if it were not dangerous. All these are yours; and this because 'you are Christ's;' and this because 'Christ is God's.'
'You are Christ's, and Christ is God's.'. Here is the main article of your charter. If you lose sight of this, you will sink to the level of a mere debating society, only less pleasant than others, because it is restricted in its topics, and less efficient than others, because diverted from its proper use. But this you will not do. Christ, you are aware, must be the principle of your corporate existence. To draw near to God in Christ, to study the will of God in Christ, to do the work of God in Christ—to this you feel that you have pledged yourselves in this undertaking. Whatever may be your future profession, whatever influences may surround you, it will be your aim to live distinctly Christian lives. With this determination you enrolled yourselves members of this society: in this spirit you will gather round God's table tomorrow, at once giving a pledge of your fellowship one with another in Christ, and seeking strength from His heavenly food to sustain you in your high resolve.