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seem to welcome sermons which deal definitely with the fundamental themes of religion. What is known as "doctrinal preaching" commonly regarded as distasteful to the average church goer is listened to with apparent interest. If in most quarters sermons dealing directly with the war are deprecated on the ground that this topic absorbs the attention of the readers of newspapers and periodicals almost to the exclusion of every other subject there is yet a disposition to grant a respectful hearing to the preacher who can draw an appropriate moral lesson from it or show its bearing upon the religious and spiritual life.
The fear expressed by many that the charitable and missionary work of the Church is liable to be hampered by the call for contributions coming from innumerable quarters connected with the necessities of the war seems to be unfounded. On the contrary there are signs that the financial needs of the Church will not be ignored, but rather be provided for in abounding measure. People are forming the habit of giving in these days and the Church will share in the benefit.
Above all it would appear that many to-day are learning as never before something of the power of prayer. The instinct to seek out God in times of trouble is almost universal. In the hurry of life and when all goes well with us, God is apt to be forgotten or at most approached in a purely conventional way. But when the need is pressing and man comes to realize his own helplessness in the presence of gigantic forces which he cannot control, he is prone to turn to God for comfort and reassurance., "In my prosperity I said I shall never be removed." That is the assertion of presumption, of one who deems he has a prescriptive right to benefits. "Thou didst turn Thy face from me and I was troubled." That is the acknowledgment of man's helplessness apart from God. "Then cried I unto my Lord and gat me to my God right humbly." That is a plea for succor made under the spur of dire necessity. Doubtless there are multitudes who in these days of distress anl uncertainty have been brought to their knees, who otherwise would have continued to go their heedless way unmindful of God and ungrateful for all the blessings they enjoy.
The purposes of God are fulfilled in many ways. He is ever seeking out the souls of men, ever contriving to draw them to Himself. Love reveals itself under many strange forms. The bitter as well as the sweet has its place in the divine plan. If out of the misery of this war shall emerge a world chastened by suffering, led into righteous ways by the stern rod of divine discipline, purified in the fierce fires of affliction, who will venure to reproach the Almighty for not preventing the catastrophe, which, though it has filled the earth with anguish unspeakable, will yet have been the occasion of a vast renewal of spiritual life? "The fierceness of man," exclaims the Psalmist, "shall turn to Thy praise." Yes, even out of this terrible war Christians believe ample compensation will come. Already some of the spiritual gains are apparent and as time goes on we shall doubtless recognize many more.
"Blessed are those that are perfect 1 in their way,
What is meant by a Christ is the ideal and
HE recurrence of Saints' Days turns our thoughts ever and anon to the ideal of saintliness. saint? What is it to be a saint? pattern of sainthood; He is our great High Priest who has established divine righteousness, and by His one sacrifice upon the cross has taken away sin. Our Lord says of Himself: "I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." The two letters of the Greek alphabet Alpha and Omega comprise all that comes between them. So there are two letters in the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph, the first, and Tau, the last; and they include all that comes between them. The first stands for the light of dawn; for the word light in Hebrew begins with the first
1 See Revised Version in loc.
letter in the alphabet. And the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet stands for the summing-up of all; it stands for completeness, perfection, which in the Hebrew begins with the letter Tau.
We remember that in the Old Testament times the high priest used to consult the will of Jehovah by means of the Urim and the Thummim. These were probably small cubical lots or counters, inscribed on opposite sides with the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet, so that in casting lots the answer was determined by seeing which letter came uppermost in the majority of the lots or counters. This would decide the question submitted either in the affirmative or the negative. These sacred lots were kept in the pouch or pocket of the high priest's breastplate; they were known as the Lights and the Perfections (Urim and Thummim), since these words were represented by the letters which were inscribed upon them. The Divine command to Moses was: " Thou shalt put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim,2 and they shall be upon Aaron's heart when he goeth in before the Lord; and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the sons of Israel upon his heart continually." (Exod. xxviii, 30.) The first and the last letters of the alphabet gave forth the sacred sentence, as interpreted by the high priest; they shewed what was the will of God for His people Israel.
Now, it is a remarkable fact that our Lord claims for Himself these same two letters of the alphabet, which in Greek are represented by the Alpha and the Omega; that is, our Lord, as our High Priest, possesses the Lights and the Perfections. These are the two attributes of sanctity or holiness; the holiness which is in Christ first of all, and which Christ imparts to his people. First, light; then perfection.' Not perfection first of all; it would be discouraging if we were expected to be perfect all at once; but first, we have our eyes opened, we are illumined, light is given to us. Perfection, full growth, maturity, comes later. "The path of the just is as the light of dawn, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day." (Prov. iv:18.) There is, indeed, a sense in which we are made perfect at the beginning of the Christian life. We are made perfect in Christ, by His
2 See the R. V. marginal note.
See the Hebrew, 2nd note R. V. marg. in loc.
finished work on our behalf. "By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." Nothing is lacking even now to our perfection, so far as we are in Christ, so far as God looks upon us as in Him. But oh! how very far we are from actual, realized perfection in ourselves! It is fitting that we should have to strive. I think it is the German poet Lessing who says: "If Almighty God had in His one hand Truth, and in His other hand the Search after Truth, and were to offer me the choice between the two, I would say to Him: 'Almighty One, truth belongs to Thee alone! grant to me the search after truth.'" That is, grant to me truth by the way of striving, of gradual attainment, which belongs to my condition as a creature. So our Lord holds in His hand perfection as His gift for us, but it is perfection which we ourselves are to win. "Be ye therefore perfect," is His command to us. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."
First, Light; afterward Perfection; is not that what all life means? The infant on its entrance into the world first opens its eyes to the light of day; this event marks the beginning of his individual life. He is illuminated, he has emerged from darkness into light. This is why baptism was called in the early Church by the name, illumination. Perfection, on the other hand, means fullness and maturity of growth; the expansion of all our powers; their development through use and exercise to the standard of the fullest effectiveness of which we are capable. Perfection for one need not mean necessarily just what it means for another. Our endowments are different; the measure of our capacities is not the same. Some will have a greater work assigned to them than others, even in the world to come. To one our Lord will say: "Be thou over ten cities," to another," Be thou over five." We shall not all be on a dead level of equality in heaven; there will be ranks and grades in heaven as well as on earth. But the point is, that each and all of those who inherit that world shall be perfect, each according to the measure of his own capacity; just as each and all have in the first instance been enlightened.
"Blessed are those that are perfect in their way,
Who walk in the law of the Lord."
To walk in God's law, to seek to do His will no matter though we stumble from time to time, no matter though we now may be very imperfect. The saints are not only those who have already reached the goal; they are all those who have even started. Complete perfection is not reached in this life; you and I have known saints; but we have never known a man or a woman who was absolutely perfect. Perfection is not reached in this life. here on earth; perchance it is not reached even at death. "Being confident that he which hath begun a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ." (Phil. i:6.) Those who are in the Intermediate State, are they not receiving the finishing touches of perfection even now, until the Day of the Resurrection, the day of the Lord's appearing?
How is this great work of our perfecting this work which is being carried on all the time-how is this work to be continued to its completion? Only by patience. "Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing." (St. Jas. i:4.) No great work was ever carried through without patience. One of the first trials of the child's patience is to learn its letters, to master the whole alphabet from A to Z. This is a type of the great work of life in acquiring Christian character. We are all children in God's school; learning our letters. When we have mastered the entire alphabet from A to Z, then and not till then our Master and Teacher will say to us:
Friend, come up higher."
William S. Bishop.
The law of growth for the individual is this: That he should learn more and more to live as a part of a great whole; that he should consciously realize the life of membership, and contribute his appropriate share towards the completeness of the corporate unity; and that thus his expanding faculties should find their full play in the large and ever enlarging life of the One Man.