Unto the Saints

[Jude 3]---'The faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.'

A text for heroes. Indeed it is that. There is the true heroic ring about it. It sounds the note of challenge and appeal. Unfortunately, by some extraordinary act of inappropriately, it has become the watchword of a reactionary type of orthodoxy. It is difficult to see how ' the faith delivered to the saints ' has ever come to mean the faith contained in the creeds. The words give clear and vivid expression to the truth that "the Church...the pillar and ground of the Truth" is the fellowship of saints.

The faith lives in the lives of the saints. Where the saints are there is Christ. What could be farther from this than the idea that the faith is something which can be embodied in a set of dogmas, expressed once for all in a creed, and handed down from age to age carefully guarded by ecclesiastical authority?

There is indeed a proper use for creeds. A scholar need not be a saint, but a saint may be a scholar. We need scholars and theologians to express from time to time the intellectual implications of Christianity. But they are bound to think and to speak in terms of the categories and vocabularies of their age. There is one thing that never changes. It is the same in a little child, in old age, and in middle life ; it is the same in the first century and in the twenty-first---to be a Christian, to be an adoring and obedient disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ. The very genius of the Christian religion is involved in this. The Christian faith, and all that it implies of guidance in this life and hope for that which is to come, is inseparably bond up with a certain way of life. 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.'

It is quite true that the word 'saint' in the New Testament does not mean exactly what the word suggests to us. But it means more an not less. The word is commonly used today in the two senses. If a man is described today as being a saint, what is meant is either that he is rather ultra pious, or else that he is of a fine moral character. Thus it is sometimes said of a very religious person of a not very robust character, " He's quite a saint in his way," It is also said of a man who is not religious in any real sense of the word but who lives a very good life, " That man is a saint, whatever his religion may be. " Neither of these uses of the word is in accordance with the New Testament.

The root idea of the word 'saint' is separation. A saint is a person set apart, consecrated to the service of God. But this comes inevitably to mean also separation from the world. So that we may say that a saint is one who possesses a certain relation to God. The religious and moral implications of the word are inseparable. There is a certain type of character which is the result of a certain relationship to God, and which can result in no other way.

I suppose this unwritten code of personal honor is the finest tradition of our aristocracy, and woe be unto us if we lose it! It is something which can never be expressed in any code : it is an unwritten law, almost an instinct of second nature. It has about it the air of God's presence ; it is accustomed to the ways of His court. Yes ; it is accustomed to the ways of His court. Here is the beauty of holiness ; this is the glory of the saint. It is a character, it is morality, but it is something more. It has dwelt among the sublime scenery of redemption.

That is the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.

In Christ, Timothy