What is Christianity?

Eph. 1:3.---' All spiritual blessings [RV 'every spiritual blessing'] in the heavenly places in Christ.'

The blessing which God our Father gives us, and for which St. Paul is so ecstatically grateful, is a ' spiritual blessing.' Life involves capacity, capacity craves satisfaction, and that which satisfies is a ' blessing.' Human life is, roughly speaking, threefold---bodily, mental, and spiritual. We have bodily needs; we crave food, warmth, light, and rest. We have mental needs; we crave the true, and the beautiful. We have also spiritual needs; we crave peace of conscience, and the good. The satisfaction of our bodily needs gives us pleasure. The satisfaction of our mental needs gives us happiness. The satisfaction of our spiritual needs gives us bliss.

The fatal delusion of the grosser forms of modern Socialism is the notion that if men have plenty to eat and to drink, and ample time for mental and physical enjoyment, they need nothing more. Why, that is the ideal of a mere animal! When we demonstrate that these things are not the be-all and the end-all of existence we are in danger of being suspected of indifference to the legitimate aspirations of the poor. But is it not true that when we have done our utmost to create happy social environments, and to satisfy the physical and mental needs of men, the questions which Macbeth asked of his wife's physician, still remain:---Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, Raze out the written troubles of the brain, And with some sweet oblivious antidote Cleanse the stuff'd bosom of that perilous stuff Which weighs upon the heart?

The greatest need of the world today is adequate spiritual blessing. That is to say, that, beneath and beyond all external, visible social remedies, what the world is groaning and dying for is some adequate cleansing and rededication of its inmost moral and spiritual nature. What it requires is that the fountains of our life should be purified; that at the center there should be the working, not of selfishness, not of irreligion, but of harmonious love and obedience toward God and goodwill toward all men. Our social problems, the world's great maladies, would yield if our spiritual nature were transformed and rededicated.

The distinctive blessing of Christianity is neither health of body not culture of mind, but peace of conscience, a peace so peculiarly peaceful that it differentiates the Christian religion from every other. No Buddhist, no Hindu, no Confucianist, no Mohammedan, no Agnostic experiences ' the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.' That is the peculiar benediction of Christianity.

Every spiritual blessing is enjoyed ' in the heavenly places.' That is to say, our mental horizon constantly expands beyond the limits of time and space. We become citizens of heaven, fellow citizens with angels and the sainted dead, friends of Jesus, children of God. This life is no longer the be-all and the end-all of our existence.

There is, of course, a root of truth in that "other-worldliness" which Leigh Hunt and George Eliot properly condemned. The best religious teachers of our time are quite alive to the unbalanced teaching of the past. Many excellent Christians were, it is confessed, so preoccupied with another world that they neglected their present practical duties in this.

But the time has come for us to beware of the opposite extreme. This world is apt, as Wordsworth says, to be " too much with us." We are in constant danger of exaggerating the importance of " the things which are seen and temporal"; and of overlooking the immeasurably greater importance of the things which, although ' unseen,' exist and are ' eternal.' This leads us to exaggerate grossly the evil of pain and the importance of material circumstances. It is time to remind one another that ' it is appointed unto men once to die ' [Heb. 9:27], and that this life is only a chapter in our history, the present threshold of an endless existence.

When we regard the present and the future from the heavenly places we cease to worry about trifles and to clutch at baubles. We are patient, hopeful, confident. All things are ours, all things are working together for good. Christ never forgot the future. He never left heaven out of account. That larger view reduced the menacing forms of evil to their relative insignificance, and He was able to preserve the unruffled serenity of His soul. Man created in the image of God, and redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, is too great to be limited to this narrow sphere and this brief life.

But the most characteristic mark of Christianity is that every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is ours in Christ. We receive it, we enjoy it, only so far as we are united to Christ as the branch is united to the vine, as the arm is united to the body.

Sir Monier Williams, one of our greatest authorities on Oriental religions, declares that this is the doctrine of Christianity which differentiates it from every other religion. No Chinaman imagines for a moment that there is any vital union between himself and Confucius. No Buddhist dreams of such organic fellowship with Buddha. No Mohammedan would say, " I live; yet not I, but Mohammed liveth in me." But St. Paul does say, ' I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.' And when he says that he means it to be taken literally, as a psychological fact, and not as a mere metaphor or figure of speech.

Here we enter upon ' the deep things of God.' Here we stand face to face with what St. Paul truly calls the ' mystery of the gospel.' Yet this mystery, which the thoughtless and the superficial would regard as a metaphysical speculation, has had again and again a tremendous practical effect.

Take General Gordon. He was not a dreamy recluse, or a helpless metaphysician. Yet one of his three favorite books was " Christ Mystical, or the blessed Union of Christ and His Members," by Bishop Hall; and one who knew him intimately says that his view of the union between Christ and His members was the supreme influence in molding his character and conduct. General Gordon was the hero he was because he realized his living union with Christ.

The permanent and continually repeated sacrament of the Christian Faith is intended to emphasize and accentuate this central truth. We never eat the bread and drink the wine of the Holy Communion without being reminded that he who does not eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ has no life in him [John 6:53]; that as the bread and wine are incorporated with our bodies, so are we to feed upon Christ in our hearts by faith, in order that we may be incorporated with Him and He with us, and that we may continue to enjoy a vital union with Him.

In Christ. timothy. maranatha