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Christ and the Truth

CHRIST AND THE TRUTH1

I Count it a high honor that I am permitted to be present on this occasion. I pay my tribute of respect to the noble history of this institution, to the piety of its founders, to the liberality of its benefactors, to the great work for Church and State which it has already accomplished. Yet my eyes turn by preference to the future to-day. I see in the new administration of the university a promise of even better things to come. The strength and culture of its new president are guarantees that Columbian, while true to the traditions of the past, will be in the van of progress, and will broaden its work with the ever-broadening knowledge of our time. Personally, and on behalf of the institution which I represent, I give to President Whitman not only my welcome and my congratulations, but my confident prediction of his great success.

I represent a theological seminary, and I interpret my invitation to address you as an intimation and acknowledgment that Columbian University is a Christian institution; an institution established and maintained for the purpose of discovering and propagating Christian truth. Others will doubtless speak of other aspects of university training You will not think it a violation of the proprieties of this occasion, but you

1 An address delivered at the inauguration of B. L. Whitman, D. D., as president of Columbian University, Washington, 1). C, Nov. 15, 1895.

will rather regard it as a bringing out of its essential meaning, if I speak of its religious aspect. I would set before you the relation between the truth and Christ. The proposition I would maintain is this: That Christ is the Truth, and the whole truth of God, and that apart from him no complete or perfect truth exists or is attainable.

Truth is not an abstraction, but a person. God is truth, and truth is God. Why do two and two make four? Why are all the radii of a circle equal to each other? Because these statements represent eternal facts in the nature of God. Why is moral law unchangeable? Why is vice condemnable? Because God is holy, and these propositions are reflections and revelations of his essential being. What we call separate truths are only partial manifestations of the God whose nature is truth. A separate truth can no more be comprehended in its isolation, apart from God, than one of the electric lights in the street to-night can be comprehended in its isolation, apart from the circuit of lights to which it belongs, and the electric force that pulsates through the connecting wires, and above all, the central dynamo from which that force proceeds. A given truth in mathematics or in morals is incompletely seen, and just so far is falsely seen, until it is seen as related to God, from whom it sprang. The scattered lights of truth are comprehensible only when they are regarded as parts of one whole, and as proceeding from one original and eternal source of truth and righteousness.

And here we see the relation of truth to Christ. As God the Father is the source of truth, so Christ the Son is the revealer of it. The great dynamo would be unseen and unfelt if it did not send its electric current through the wires. So no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. That electric current exactly measures the central power and perfectly manifests it: so Christ is equal with God and perfectly manifests God. Christ is the truth in manifestation, even as God is the truth manifested. Separate statements of truth are like the separate lights at the corners of the streets; they are but partial manifestations of Christ, the all-encircling current of truth. God himself is the dynamo, the truth that otherwise would be hid, but which now reveals itself through the omnipresent activity of Christ. Christ, then, is the truth, and the only truth, because he is the only revealer of God. In him the whole physical and mental and spiritual universe "consists," or holds together, even as he is the creative power through which it was fashioned, and the ultimate end for which it was made.

So we cannot limit the teachings of Christ to Christendom. He is "the Light that lighteth every man," Jew or Gentile, heathen or Christian. Even before Christ came in the flesh, every ray of conscience or aspiration that ever illuminated mankind proceeded from him, though "the Light shined in the midst of darkness and the darkness comprehended it not." Special revelation brings us in contact with the personal source of truth, and so opens our eyes to see the living es. sence of truth. In Christ's holy life, and in his sacrificial death, we see more clearly the meaning of the revelation in nature which went before. So too, theolWE MUST DISSEMINATE ALL TRUTH IO5

ogy is not the only truth which Christ has been teaching the world. All truth in physics, psychology, ethics, history, is a part of his revelation of God. When we say that separate truths cannot be comprehended except in their relation to God, we virtually say that no single truth is rightly understood except in its relation to Christ, who is the only God with whom we have to do—God unveiled and active in the universe. We have reached no real, essential truth in science or religion, until we have found "the truth as it is in Jesus." And since this truth is a person, and is inseparable from the Teacher, we must "take his yoke" upon us, in order that we may "learn of him." In the words of Robert Browning:

I say, the acknowledgment of God in Christ,
Accepted by thy reason, solves for thee
All questions in the world and out of it,
And hath so far advanced thee to be wise.

And now from this great fact that Christ is the truth, and the only truth of God, I think we may draw two inferences. The first is that, as Christians, we are bound to do our part in proclaiming and disseminating all truth, as a means of setting forth the greatness and glory of our Redeemer. If all truth is a revelation of Christ, and there is no truth without him, then it follows, with the certainty of mathematical demonstration, that, other things being equal, only Christians can be the best teachers of the world in science, literature, philosophy, and art, as well as in religion. Not the moral law alone, but the laws of nature as well, can receive proper exposition only from those who see in them the habits of God and the methods of Christ. The natural and the spiritual are only parts of the one kingdom over which Christ reigns. We must set forth not only Christ's relations to the church, but his relations to the universe; must show that he "upholds all things by the word of his power," and "fills all in all" —the universe in all its parts, with all that it contains of reality and truth and life. It is the mission of Christianity then to educate the world—to influence and control all the springs and channels of human thought. And the church, the exponent of Christianity, must make all truth her subject of instruction, simply in order that she may set forth the greatness and glory of Christ, the Lord of the universe, and the living Head of the church herself.

Here is the secret which so many have sought but have not found—how to combine Christianity and culture, education and spirituality. Christianity must take possession of all the culture of the world, or she must utterly give up claim to be divine. She must appropriate and disseminate all knowledge, or she must confess that she is the child of ignorance and fanaticism. She must conquer all good learning, or she must herself be conquered. How shall we have the highest knowledge and the highest spirituality together? Ah! this problem, like all other problems, is solved in Christ. He, the personal truth, binds the two things together. When the church fully recognizes that in order to bear witness to Christ it must bear witness to all truth, and that in order to bear witness to all truth it must bear witness to Christ, all danger will cease, either of an ignorant Christianity or of an unspiritual education. The church can be delivered from ignorance only by THE CHURCH SUPPORTS EDUCATION IOJ

remembering that Christ is the truth, and the church can be delivered from unspirituality only by remembering that the truth is Christ.

It is because of this conviction of the identity of the cause of Christ and the cause of truth, that the Christian Church from the beginning has been the great advocate and sustainer of education. The university has been the outgrowth of the church, and though the university in these modern days so often forgets her true mother and disowns her parentage, she will never be true to her mission, except as she recognizes her relation to the same Christ whom the church owns as her Lord and Master. And the church, on the other hand, sees it to be her clear duty not to let go her hold of the university, because without her supervision the tendency of university research and teaching is to unscientific narrowness and irrational antipathy to religion. The church maintains that "the undevout astronomer is mad," and that science without Christ is incomplete, because it rests upon a partial induction of facts. She would conduct investigation and impart instruction in a Christian spirit, with the integral reason at work—not simply the powers of sense-perception and logical reasoning, but also the sympathies and affections that belong to a Christian heart. For reason is nothing less than the soul's whole power of knowing; the attainment of knowledge is dependent upon right states of sensibility; we can know beauty only as we have a love for beauty, and the morally right only as we have a love for the morally right; and only a heart of love toward God can ever give eyes to the mind. Thus the church is bound to found and to sustain the university, because only under tne fostering care and oversight of the church can human reason do its complete and normal work, and the world be taught the whole truth of God.

From this great fact, that Christ is the truth and that all knowledge is his province, I draw a second and final inference. It is this: We are bound to recognize in the progress of truth everywhere the work and triumph of Christ our Lord. You perceive at once that this is an optimistic and encouraging conclusion. We are too ready to be pessimists, and to fancy that the enemy of truth and righteousness is having his way unhindered in the world. The progress of science and philosophy has by many Christian thinkers been regarded as diverting attention from the affairs of the soul, even if it did not directly antagonize the gospel. Sociology and reform in politics have been sometimes frowned upon by Christian preachers because they were considered rivals of Christianity in the thoughts of men. If what I have said is true, then the error and harmfulness of such estimates are apparent. The dark and threatening form that has loomed up in the distance, and has filled our hearts with fear as we have sailed over the stormy sea, may be only the form of Christ coming to us over the waves to rescue us. Christ and his truth are larger and more comprehensive than we have imagined, and the movements of human thought which agitate the world may be ways in which he goes forth, conquering and to conquer.

I do not deny that there is an evil spirit, a spirit of falsehood and deception, abroad in the world also, and I know that against that evil spirit it is our duty strenuously to contend. I do not deny that there is danger THINGS NEW AS WELL AS OLD IO9

lest this spirit take possession of the educational institutions of our time, and make the gifts of past benefactors the means of propagating error. But let us not forget that these very institutions are also instruments of Christian discovery, fountains of knowledge, means of opening the unexplored mines of nature and of Scripture. Let us expect that Christ will make use of them to bring forth things new as well as old for the instruction of the world. Through all our modern literature and life Christ is working, gradually making all things new. The manifold societies and organizations that are formed within the church are only means of drawing out unused resources and of inaugurating new aggressions upon the kingdom of evil. And the great efforts outside the church to improve government, to right social wrongs, to diffuse the spirit of kindness between employers and employed, are many of them efforts in which Christ himself is the moving power, even though those moved by him are unconscious of his influence. All power in heaven and earth is even now given to Christ, and in view of these great civil and social movements, we are bound to lift up our hearts, because the day of our redemption draweth nigh.

This larger view of Christ, as comprehending all truth, is greatly needed in order to prevent us from becoming illiberal in our estimates of work done by Christians of other names, and even by those who have no connection with any Christian organization. All Christian denominations, just so far as they preach Christ, are helping the cause of truth, and we rejoice in their work. Our public schools are a great instrument of Christ for popular enlightenment, a great means of training for self-government, while at the same time their instruction needs to be supplemented by our Sunday-schools and by special teaching of religion. I deny that the public school is godless simply because it does not teach Christian doctrines. All knowledge belongs to Christ, and a part of Christ's work is unconsciously and unintentionally done, even in the inculcation of the rudiments of arithmetic and grammar, by teachers who have no specifically Christian purpose.

The church of Christ should see to it that all truth is taught, but it does not follow that the church should make all education ecclesiastical. The church can do indirectly much that she cannot do directly. I regard all modern education as substantially the product of Christianity. Our universities and colleges are the fruit of Christian liberality, and our common schools are the result of Christian effort to lift up the masses of the people. It is the church of Christ that really supports all these institutions, either by endowing them or by teaching the need of them to make true men and true citizens. What the church is already doing indirectly she does not need to take in hand directly. We need no system of parochial schools to make our children Christians. We shall only make them narrow and un-American thereby. Let us trust that the Spirit of Christ is abroad; that Christ is working in all great efforts to advance human intelligence, even though they be efforts to teach the alphabet or to teach the higher mathematics.

Let us not be too critical, moreover, in our judgment

upon the universities that do the higher sorts of work. One of the conditions of progress is freedom. Discussion elicits truth. Imperfect and even erroneous statement is often the germ from which truth is sifted and evolved. And though now and then we may hear that new and strange doctrine has been taught, let us not on that account alone condemn the institution; this is better than that Christian liberty should be unduly curtailed. Such things right themselves in time. And this is only to say that Christ reigns, that colleges and universities are his agencies for the discovery and propagation of the truth, that he who is the Truth will see to it that the wrath of man shall praise him and that the remainder of wrath shall be put under due restraint. The kings of science shall be made to serve him, and all the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ.

It is a mere question of expediency and of relative importance how much and what parts of education we shall directly conduct. It is my judgment that the Christian church does not need directly to conduct the lower education, but that it does need to conduct the higher, at least, so far as not to give even the control of all our universities into the hands of the government, or of those who have no sympathy with religion. Paradoxical as it may seem, the higher education does not rest upon the lower, but rather the lower rests upon the higher. The relation between the two is not that between the apex and the base of the pyramid, but rather that between the reservoir and the distributing pipes. If we make the fountain of the higher education pure, the streams of the lower education which flow from it will be pure also. It was with this view that the founders of Columbian University planned in the center of national life a great institution which should be as broad as it was Christian and as Christian as it was broad. I believe that this university has before it a glorious history, because it represents the noblest ideal of education, because it recognizes that truth is inseparable from Christ, and because it has chosen for its head and leader so able and stalwart a believer in these principles as President Whitman.