The GOSPEL TRUTH
Sermons on the Resurrection:
THE CHURCH OF THE RESURRECTION
Thomas A. Gurney"Jesus therefore said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you." And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and *said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit "If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained." -- John 20:21-23
In the great Church of Sancta Sophia at Constantinople, once the glory of all Christendom, but now a Mohammedan mosque, after the eye has gazed with weariness upon the symbols on every 'hand of Moslem exclusiveness and Moslem superstition, and has 'yearned, apparently in vain, for some lingering reminder of the glorious Church as it once was in the long-ago, early summer days of its pristine beauty, an imperial witness to the world of devotion to Christ, you may ascend the southern gallery which looks into the great central apse, and, gazing from among the six colonnaded columns towards the vaulted ceiling above its five windows, gradually behold in the dim, hall-shadowed sweep of the beautiful roof above, the colossal Figure, wrought in mosaic, of the Glorified and Reigning Christ, with right hand outstretched, as of old, in blessing. The contrast is immediately significant. It is a prophecy which dominates with hope the desecrated Church. "The Central Figure, unseen save when earnestly sought for, gathers up into itself all the history of the past and all the promise of the yet more glorious future, and creates the sense in the heart that even still, in hidden but ever present might, the Lord of Glory careth for His own, watching with patience over the chequered life of His people.
This ruling thought of the glorified, reigning Christ, imprinted like that mosaic in His Church's heart, makes the contemplation of the future possible without despair, as it makes the story of the past intelligible, Too often that history of the past, as with Sancia Sophia, seems one long story of human failure to realise the highest and most splendid ideals. The sense of confusion and loss is all the more terrible because of the majesty of that ideal, as when we contemplate how much devotion and enthusiasm lie buried in that dishonoured church. The awful consequences of past unfaithfulness appall the soul with their manifest present results, and draw from us the cry, '0 Lord, how long?'
The story is indeed humiliating, with its weary record of priestly tyranny, of gross materialism and worldliness, of slavish superstition and spiritual lethargy. But in the upward glance lies the solution of all our difficulties. Around us, only too evident, are the marks of the world's scorn, and the Crescent of our foes seems to have overmastered the Cross. But the figure of the Reigning Christ still dominates all, hidden indeed save to the eye of faith. The Hand once pierced on Calvary is still uplifted to give its benediction to her fortunes. The exaltation of the Lord is the pledge of a magnificent future. It suggests hope in the midst of failure, and holds out the certainty of an ever-nearing victory.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the assurance of the final triumph of Christianity itself. It is the revelation to the world of a life which must overcome and subdue it. It is the unlocking to the nations of the secret" by which alone they can become strong. It is the undying bond of human brotherhood. It is the sole, unfailing inspiration of all true personal hope. 'Christ ill risen'; 'He is risen indeed.' Such is the Easter greeting of Greek with Greek on the resurrection morning. The assertion of the fact itself is answered by the reminder of the absolute certainty' of conviction which that fact has produced in the heart. And that twofold fact has been the key to all Christian history since. For it means, and must mean to the very end of time, the victory of the Risen Lord. It is the witness to a Life which in its social aspect, as well as its personal, 'overcometh the world'. Wrought into every brick which supports the airy dome of Sancta Sophia are the words in Greek, 'God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early.' It is only an earlier form of the Easter message, 'Lo, 1 am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age.'
The manifestation by which the Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself to His Church, though it actually occurred on the evening of Easter Day, yet is reserved by the order of Church teaching until the Gospel for the First Sunday after Easter. Nothing could be plainer than the idea which underlies this arrangement. The thought of the great festival-day itself is the application to the individual of the blessings and responsibilities which derive their reality and meaning from the Resurrection, and this, especially in ancient times, in special relation to the great Baptism of Easter Eve. For much of our Easter teaching has special relation to the newly baptized. It is, therefore, personal-- the Resurrection in its bearing upon individual character.
When we come to the last day of the Great Octave we find ourselves confronted with other thoughts. It is no longer the individual, but the Church of which he is a member which forms now our subject. It is the resurrection-life, not in the form which it must take in the character of the individual, but as imparted to, and manifested by, the Christian community. It is the first revelation of Christ to the Christian society in the upper chamber, consequent upon the revelation to Mary, and to the disciples on the roadway to Emmaus. It is that revelation, not as St. Luke regards it, as confirming to the collective disciples the reality of the Lord's resurrection-nature, the correspondence of His resurrection with the prophecies which had gone before. It is, on the other hand, Christ's revelation to His Church as such, with the special accompaniments which convey to us, as they conveyed to Ute.1lI at the time, its absolute significance and uniqueness in relation to the whole of her after-life and history. It is the first 6estowment of the collective blessing. It is the first fulfillment of the promise to be hereafter again and again fulfilled, on many a dark evening in the Church's history, 'Where two or three are gathered together in My Name, there am I in the midst of them.' It is the realisation, which must be kept wholly distinct from the promise of the Comforter, not to be fulfilled till Pentecost, of the Saviour's restored presence which He had led them to expect. '1 will not leave you comfortless (or desolate); I come unto you.' It is the collective vision of a Risen Christ, which the world could not have, but which had been promised to them. 'Yet a little while and the world seeth Me no more, but ye sec Me.' But it is even more than all this, and the special promise of Life through the Living One which had been attached to that Vision as the property which was to belong to them as a community is the key to its supreme and solemn significance. It was to convey His risen life to His church, or at least to seal them with the pledge of its bestowal, that the manifestation of the Easter evening was granted. It was to reunite and to consolidate them into one collective whole, bound together by the sense of a common life, p0sscssed of one inspiration in common, sealed and set apart for one absorbing and victorious mission, charged with the credentials of one world-wide spiritual authority. He stood in their midst and led on their attention at once from the identity yet glory of His risen Being, as they gazed in surprise and awe upon it, to the purpose for which that glory was revealed. That purpose was to thrust forth into the world a living and abiding Representative of His own life, which should break in fragments and consume, overturn and restore, transform and change, yet itself stand for ever -- that Church of the Resurrection against which so often the gates of Hell have belched forth their fire and frenzy, yet have not prevailed to overthrow it.
For the Church of Christ is a Divine institution, and as such she needs a Divine origin and the enduement with a Divine power. Accordingly the day of Pentecost with its baptism from Heaven, is the commencement of her mission and its manifestation to the world. From that day the Holy Ghost has never ceased to dwell in the hearts of men. But the Church is also intensely human in the elements of which she is composed, and it is in the power of her true humanity that in all ages her true mission to men is accomplished. She is, as it were, the Sacrament of the Incarnation ever present to the eyes of men. Accordingly she needs for the human side of her mission the realisation of her unity with the Second Adam risen from the dead. She requires not only the enduemcnt with the Holy Ghost, but also the quickening of the Risen Lord. She needs not only diversities of spiritual gifts for varieties of spiritual function, but also the gift of life itself by which alone they can be received and exercised, and the sense of a mission whereby they can be fulfilled. She must .be one with her Lord in all the features of His true humanity, both in suffering and glory. It is here that so often, through the false and unscriptural notion of a priesthood in the Church different from her priesthood as a whole, not merely in degree but in quality, the Church Catholic has failed to realise her true mission. But this identity must be a real identity, and can only become so through the impartation of His life from Himself as source. He alone can be the Quickening Spirit to His Church. He alone, Who has passed through the death which we must share, can say across the grave, 'Because I live, ye shall live also.'
For this reason the manifestation of the first Easter evening is of such supreme importance. It is the gift to the Church of an Overcoming Life. All views of it which regard it as a mere promise of a gift hereafter to follow, and not actually bestowed for fifty days, or as their endowment with a special kind of spiritual charisma consecrated to some special and peculiar purpose, surely miss the evident significance of an act and words so singular in connection with an occasion so unique. The Risen Lord had come back, according to His promise, from the grave. His wore was seen to be fulfilled: 'I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice.' He shows them the reality of His resurrection by offering them proofs of it in His action. At the same time, the very manner of His coming leaves no doubt in their minds as to the reality of the change which His Being has undergone. And immediately, as though He confirmed the thought in their hearts, He proceeds to demonstrate to them by word and action His power to convey that life to them. He gives them a commission which arises in its majesty and dignity far above any words which they had heard from Him before. 'As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I' (or, am I sending) 'you.' Their hearts would at once question, How could any parallel be established between such a mission as belonged to Him and theirs? How could any such sending be even possible when in their case all those symbols of the Father's special presence, of the unity of nature and of life between the Father and the Son, were wanting? But they were not kept in suspense long. 'And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost' (or, a gift of the Holy Ghost). 'Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins we retain, they are retained.' With the mission, the power to fulfill that mission is given. And that power of fulfilment lies in the unity established now once for all between their life and His. The resurrection-life is given that the Church of Christ may be for all time the witness of the Resurrection endowed with the gift of llie Incarnation.
What is this intimate connection between the first moment of the Lord's return after His resurrection and the enduement of His Church with life from above? The answer to the question lies in the fact, so often lost sight of, that Christ rose not merely to manifest but also to convey that life. It is true that by His appearance to His disciples He placed the fact of His resurrection beyond dispute. But the purpose of His return goes far beyond that. His manifestation L~ the revelation of a new and resurrection-life, and we have seen how much that involves in relation to our Lord's person. But we have now to see how much it involves in relation to His Body, the Church,' 'begotten again,' according to His mercy, 'unto a lively hope' by His resurrection from the dead.'
Let us try to realise what had been the earthly result of the presence of the Divine Life among men up to this moment. There had been, as the outcome of the witness of word and work, a discrimination made between the hearts of men. A revelation of unwillingness and hostility and unbelief had accompanied the revelation of a growing and deepening faith and love. St. John seems to set this before himself as the great underlying purpose of his gospel; to mark how hostility and devotion deepened side by side, and to point out the inner necessity of things to which this was due. His gospel has been described as the 'vital analysis of faith and unbelief.' A 'judgment' was going on all the time, and that judgment lay in the fact that the coming of the True Light into the world involved a necessary separation between those who 'loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil,' and those who, 'doing the truth,' 'came to the light that their deeds might be made manifest that they were wrought in God.' The more fully that light shone as it reached the meridian of its earthly day, the more it drew forth out of the winter of the world's sin the heavy clouds of prejudice against which it strove. The gospel is thus a revelation of character brought swiftly to its complete issue. We see the result by a comparison of Pilate and Nicodemus, of Judas and Thomas, of Caiaphas and Peter, of the Pharisees and Mary Magdalene. The potent crucible of Jesus Christ's holy presence resolved character into its true constituents with a swiftness and certainty which were unerring. Up till the present moment, therefore, the creation and disciplining of faith in Himself as their Messiah had been the whole result of His dwelling amongst His own. The fuller revelation of life through His Name which lay beyond was a mystery only as yet dimly foreshadowed and not yet understood. The earlier chapters of the gospel, the questionings of Nicodemus about the New Birth as an absurdity, the scene between Martha and Jesus on His arrival at the home of sorrow, the despairing exclamation of Thomas, all confirm this impression.
We see, therefore, a faith created in Jesus as the Anointed Son of God, which bears in itself the capacity for fuller revelations. We mark a group of disciples gathered in the upper chamber, restored by contact with Him to the true comprehension of the Promised Messiah up to a certain point. We behold in them the lineal descendants and representatives of the whole Old Testament witness which prepared the way for Christ. They are a twofold product, standing, as it were, between the ages, in the midst of all time, the product of the witness of the Church of Israel under the training of that Prophecy which 'takes off its crown and lays it at the feet of One who is to be' and the product of the witness of the Incarnate Life. But they are not yet the Christian Church, though the elements and units of that Church are there already. They have as yet no common and corporate life. They are not yet 'His Body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.' The teaching and influence of Jesus has made them disciples, learners, but there is no apostleship, no realised collective mission.
But when Christ rose from the dead He came back the Bearer of a Life which He could impart to others. He came back 'the Prince of Life, Who had life in Himself,' and would quicken whom He would. He came back, subject no longer to the old limitations of the flesh, but with a Spiritual Body to become a Quickening Spirit. The Holy Ghost was not to be bestowed independently of the Saviour's previous action, and He would not come to dwell in His fulness in hearts which had not been made ready for His presence. Jesus must first quicken the hearts in which the Comforter was hereafter to dwell. He must first create that which it was the office of the Spirit to sustain. The Life of the Word made flesh must first be bestowed upon His Church. Then the filling up of that life, out of the infinite fullness of God the Holy Ghost, would assuredly follow.
Upon that chosen band of faith this grace of life was bestowed by the Living One on the first Easter evening. Suddenly their eyes beheld Him in the hour of need and perplexity and danger, when the doors were closed for fear of the Jews, and Thomas was absent, and the stories of the apostles and of the women from the sepulchre and the travellers from Emmaus made them astonished. The questions which must 'have already confronted those who had seen Him would be: How could they remove and overcome the prejudices and hostility of their countrymen? How could they convince those who, like Thomas, had not seen the Risen Lord? The Lord of Life stood in the midst, and all became plain. The words of peace were spoken; the affrighted hearts were reassured; the proofs of the reality of a bodily presence were given. Then the great purpose of the coming was unfolded, and the object which lay behind it. The words of age-long meaning were spoken: 'As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you; receive ye the Holy Ghost.' The Mission and the Church are one, and spring from the same great moment. The society of the Risen Lord arises with the gift of a resurrection-life and with a mission which is to embrace the whole world. And with that mission and gift goes also the authority which makes both effective and real in the world, before God and before men. 'Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.'
Thus the resurrection ushers in a New Era in Human History. From the moment of that revelation in the upper chamber the relationships of God and man have undergone an abiding change. Spiritual life is no longer the special and unusual endowment of a privileged few, but the property of a permanent society. The greatness of the change can only be realized by a steady contemplation of the greatness of the results which have followed from it. The history of a large portion of mankind has been marked from that first Easter evening onwards by a new and strengthening current which has been the secret of all its progress and all its life. The Christian society in the midst of the world bas leavened that world with the influences of its own victorious life. From depths of degradation, the full measure of which we do never now know, against forces which were tremendous and unparalleled in the power of their common cohesion and common interest, it has uplifted earthly society to the level at which we behold it today. It has achieved this in spite of the fact that it has been grossly untrue to its own ideals and for whole periods has neglected or ignored its true mission. 'For more than a century,' writes Professor Bryce, 'the chief priest of Christendom was no more than a tool of some ferocious faction among the nobles. Criminal means had raised him to the throne; violence, sometimes going the length of mutilation or murder, deprived him of it. The marvel is a marvel in which Papal historians have not unnaturally discovered a miracle, that, after sinking so low, the Papacy should ever have risen again.' The confession is indeed a terrible one. But it only shows to what lengths a wrong and quasi-heathen conception of the Church can carry us. Yet, though its members have too often been the victims of false hierarchical theories, or dupes of worldly policy and worldly ambition, or the prey, as Christ foretold, of hirelings who cared not for the sheep, such as John Twelfth, Caesar Borgia, or other Popes of the tenth or even later centuries, the Christian society, though human in all its terrible defects, has been also the witness to a Divine Life within. Never has the light been wholly extinguished, though often the windows have been darkened. Never has the Life been wholly lost, though its energies have been paralysed by sin. Never has the Holy Ghost, grieved beyond measure with man's willfulness and waywardness, withdrawn from the Body which He had filled and returned to the Heaven whence He came down. The record of human unfaithfulness is wonderful when we consider the fact from which we start, but the story of Divine Patience is still more wonderful. The salt has never lost its savour completely; the leaven, however checked in its effects, has carried still some germ of life within. The history of the Church of Christ has been one of progress, though the progress has had many drawbacks. The history of human society as affected by it has been one of gradual but permanent advance. The Risen Christ has confirmed to His Church, by a charter which even Hell cannot annul, the gift of His own victorious life. 'He breathed on them and said unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.' From that moment His continual presence becomes an assured, unalterable fact. The endowment of His own immortal life is made over unto men. The power of His resurrection is given to His Church. The indwelling Spirit of the Risen Christ becomes from that moment her true keynote, and that gift for its fulness only now awaited His return to where He was before.
The Church of the resurrection springs from the first Easter evening. Certain features were then impressed upon the Christian society, which that society must retain to the very end of time.
One such feature is that (I). It is a visible society. The words of our Risen Lord imply this. 'As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.' Jesus Christ came in the flesh to men in the flesh, as He preached in the spirit on the first Easter Eve to men in the spirit. He came, therefore, with signs which appealed to human nature as it is and were intelligible by laws of natural reason. His manifestation of Himself to men was not wholly and entirely supernatural. As man, mingling with men, He showed forth the perfect portraiture of the ideal obedience of man to God. As man He drew human nature by the force of human character and human sympathy into fellowship with the Divine. But He 'is gone into Heaven' and has left His Church behind. The Church of the resurrection is, therefore, a Church of visible witness. This is not the transubstantiation of the spiritual into the visible and material, but the continuance of Christ's own plan. Through human channels flow the influences of Heavenly grace. Holy men of God spoke in the Old Testament, 'as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' Through a life and death set forth before men Christ drew men unto Him. 'As, My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.' The Church is, now that He is 'withdrawn,' the sacrament of Christ's continued presence in the world and the visible witness to the Incarnate and Risen Life. By human agencies and human testimony, the Mission of Christ is to be carried forward into the ages yet to come. The appeal for God in the world is couched in language all may understand, and is made by signs which reason herself can test, and rests on facts which form a true historic order. So the society which embraces those who share Christ's Risen Life and have received His commission and authority is a Visible Society, and her work is accomplished by visible members.
A second feature of this society is that (11.) it is a missionary society. The Church and the Mission are indeed two aspects of one and the same thing. We speak of 'the Church.' We mean thereby to emphasize unity of Christians in their head and their 'calling out' from the world according to the election of grace into the fellowship of the gospel. Now the 'Mission' is simply the 'Church' in her attitude towards the fulfilment of the Lord's revealed Will, the needs of mankind, and the realization of His world-wide kingdom. The calling out and the sending, the 'Church' and the 'Mission' were born at one and the same moment. They both alike sprang Athene-like from the same Living Head in the upper chamber on the first Easter evening. One fact is as important as the other, and both facts alike need to be emphasised again and again. 'The Church' failing to realise herself as 'the Mission' is an absurdity, a monstrosity, almost a contradiction in terms. The very gift of life itself was bestowed upon her as the means of fulfilment of a mission already made known. On the other hand, 'the Mission' can only be truly and adequately realised when we realise it not merely as a personal mission, or as 'missions' in which we are specially interested, but also as the Mission of the Church as a whole in her corporate capacity.
We are beginning to realise this aspect of the Church more truly today. But we are only beginning to realise it. The utterances of the last Lambeth Conference go far beyond previous pronouncements on the subject, and in comparison with the attitude of other Churches on Foreign Missions they leave little to be desired. Yet they have to confess that in this they go beyond. rather than voice, the actual opinion prevalent in that Church, which at the present moment, is the most Missionary Church in the world. The duty has not been quite forgotten, but it has been remembered only by individuals and societies; the body as a whole has taken no part. The Book of Common Prayer contains very few prayers for missionary work. It hardly seems to have been present to the minds of our great authorities and leaders in compiling that Book that the matter should be in the thoughts of every one who calls himself a Christian, and that no ordinary service should be considered complete which did not plead 'amongst other things for the spread of the Gospel. We are beginning, though only beginning, to see what the Lord would have us do. He is opening the whole world to our easy access, and as He opens the way He is opening our eyes to see it, and to see His beckoning hand.'
For the object for which the Life became incarnate was this. 'The Father SENT the Son to be the Saviour of the world: 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' 'Thou gavest Him authority over all flesh, that whatsoever Thou hast given Him, to them He should give eternal life.' 'As Thou didst send Me into the world, even so sent 1 them into the world,' The Life in the flesh of the Son of Man was a life held in trust to fulfill a certain mission. In the great sending of the Easter evening our Lord renews this fact in our case and theirs. Upon the fulfilment of that mission to the world not merely the healthfulness, the expansion, the vigor of the Church will depend. It is a deeper fact even than this. The mission realised is not a Bene Esse, but the Esse of the Church. It is an essential feature, without which you cannot have Christ's conception of the Church at all. When Leonhard Dober, one of the early Moravians, had it laid upon his heart that he must go as first missionary to the negroes of the West Indies in 1732, even though it might involve his selling himself as a slave in order to reach them, it caused him much distress and uncertainty of mind, so entire was the sacrifice, yet so imperious seemed the call. In the course of a sleepless night, he resolved, after true Moravian fashion, to arise and open his Bible and see what message of light it brought him. The "Book fell open at Deuteronomy, and the first page which his eye lighted upon was in the thirty-second chapter, the forty-seventh verse: 'It is not a vain thing for you, because it is your life.' He saw in it the call of God, and became the first missionary sent by Christian Europe to the slaves. He was right. The 'life,' whether of the Church or of the individual, depends on the fulfilment of the mission.
(Ill.) Another feature of the Christian society is that it is an Organic Society. The gift of newness of life is to be realised as the property of the society as a whole, and not merely of one portion of the members who compose it. The gift is not personal merely, but collective, as the authority conveyed' with the "gift is not an authority conferred upon an order of the Church but upon the whole Christian society, 'The body is one, and hath many members.' The gift of the life is one, and it energises in every part. The organism possesses a life which transcends the life of the members, though the life of the members strengthens and nourishes it, and though each has his all-important function in relation to the health of the body as a whole. Kant affirmed that 'the organised being is one in which all is reciprocally means and ends.' He might have said it of the Church in a higher sense. The harmonious co-ordination of all individual and personal life to one great principle of life which governs the whole is one true keynote of the Church. The whole Body draws its fulness from 'the Head, even Christ,' and is, as His body, 'the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.' The growth of each several part is dependent upon the realisation of this law of correspondence. The purpose which underlies all personal gifts is 'the edifying of the body of Christ.' 'The effectual working in the measure of every part' is to make increase of the body as a whole. The very nature of a Body carries with it variety of organs, differentiation of functions, exercise of control from within, and these ideas imply a Ministry of Clergy and Laity in their several orders. But the life is imparted to the whole body, and the Holy Ghost dwells directly in every member. There are gifts correspondent to the functions, but to all the mission has been given, upon all the gilt of life is bestowed, and all alike are sharers in the Church's imperial, authoritative character. It is not the power of fulminate excommunications, or to grant official indulgence for sin, or to reign as lords over Christ's heritage, which the Great Head of the Church granted on that Easter evening. The gathering was general and representative of the whole Christian society. The Church in her various elements had drawn together with one accord in one place. Neither then nor later at Pentecost is there any limitation of the blessing. It fell on all alike, though the apostles were the exponents of its results in the second case. Upon the Church as a whole He breathed then His risen life and sealed it later from on high. Even the mission of women, which the Church is beginning in these days to realise tentatively and hesitatingly, regarding it indeed rather from the utilitarian than the Divine standpoint, springs as directly from the upper chamber as the mission of the apostles themselves. The vital feature thus impressed upon the Church is one in sympathy with the better thought of our time: her essentially DEMOCRATIC character. No order of sacerdotal privilege creates a barrier between the humblest member of the society and his direct contact with his glorious Head. There are diversities of gifts indeed, but it is the same Lord over all, rich to all alike.
(IV.) From this feature of the Church as a Democratic Society arises her social mission. The Church being herself not an order but a society, or rather, the society thrust forth into the world, her task is to leaven all human society. She must, therefore, deal with men in their social aspect. Her mission is to empires, to nations, to communities, to man in every aspect of social intercourse, Her splendid task is the 'stewardship of the fulness of times,' the gathering up of all things into one supreme unity in Christ as Head. All which concerns the race and its humblest toilers and breadwinners is her concern. There is certainly ample scope for the fuller realisation of this idea at the present day. For it is an age of social revolution and of social progress full of hope and encouragement to one who regards the social well-being of mankind as one great aim of the Church. The powers governed by altruistic ideas through the direct teachings of the Christian faith hold the next age of the world in their hands. The forces working for human improvement are unparalleled in their strength and cohesion.
The actual field of operations is rapidly embracing all mankind. Within the past few yean we have seen huge regions hitherto inaccessible in Central and Southern Africa pass within the control of the progressive Christian races, and now we have in addition the Soudan, both east and west. the released Colonies of a decaying power, and probably with them in the near future, the opening out to the same influences of the whole of South America. Besides, we mark the vast upheaval in China, with its inevitable establishment of European and American influence upon a firmer and broader basis. At home, social questions are being dealt with in a spirit of thoroughness and fairness which inspires confidence in the future. The limitations of the scope of the intellect in such matters, unaided by revelation and by conscience, are more and more realised. And the Church herself is beginning to awake to her true responsibility in such questions. Though 'numberless Christians have as yet never thought of applying Christian principles' in such a field, yet of late there has been 'no little improvement in this respect,' and the last pronouncement of the Church through her bishops is that 'Character is influenced at every point by social conditions, and active conscience, in an industrial society, will look for moral guidance on industrial matters.' Great Christian principles are there set forth (in the recognition, inculcation, and application of which Christian social duty will operate), the principle of brotherhood in Christ, the principle of labour, as 'the honourable task and privilege of all,' the principle of justice, recognising that God is no respecter of persons, and the principle of public responsibility, that 'a Christian community is morally responsible for its own economic and social order.'
(V.) One other feature of the Church of the Resurrection yet remains, derived from the Easter evening manifestation. It is her character as an Imperial Society. 'Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained.' The power to bind and loose in a certain sense is given with the first moment of her bestowed life. The Church is a spiritual Kingdom, and as such exercises authority over all those who come within her pale or within reach of her witness. That authority is not, indeed, the exclusive authority of a spiritual hierarchy; we have marked already how essentially democratic the Church is. It is the authority of the whole organism, an authority in which each humblest member shares. It is not exercised by violent or arbitrary acts, but by faithful, believing, witnessing in the power of the Holy Ghost. That mediaeval picture of the proudest of earthly monarchs, Henry IV., 'in the yard of Countess Matilda's castle, an imperial penitent, standing barefoot and woollen-frocked on the snow three days and nights, till the priest who sat within should admit and absolve him: may appeal to our imagination as a witness to the growing absolution of the mediaeval papacy, but that very absolution ruined it, and this is not the spirit of the society of Christ, nor docs it increase our respect for human nature. The view of the Church of Rome is familiar still, but it is not supported by Holy Scripture, and is at variance now as then with all the essential features of the Church. Yet, nevertheless, there is an Authority above kings and nations and the passing opinions of men. Such authority is ratified in Heaven. The gospel of the Church is the offer of salvation upon certain conditions in the name of the Risen and Exalted Christ. And the simplest way to form a clear idea of what was intended to be bestowed here is to follow out to their logical and practical conclusions the features of the Church upon which we have already dwelt, especially her missionary aspect. It is, indeed, in the awful responsibility arising from this fact that she realises her mission and its tremendous significance to the souls of men. For we see not yet all things put under Christ. But the Imperialism of a world-wide hope brightens her outlook into the future.
THOMAS ALFRED GURNEYThe author of this sermon was for many years the Vicar of Emmanuel, Clifton, and had a wide reputation for messages of rich devotional content as well as a scholarly undertone. Among his writings are Nunc Dimittis, 1906; The Living Lord and the Open Grave, 1901; the volume on First Timothy in the Devotional Commentary series, 1905; and Alive for Evermore; Studies in Manifestations of the Risen Lord, 1928.
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