Ps. 119:113.---' I hate those who are double-minded.'

Browning shocked many religious people by arguing at length that, if you have not got the stuff in you to dare to be good, then better be a frank and open sinner than a mere colorless nonentity, hesitating between the two, and never really anything at all. That sounds dangerous teaching! And indeed it is dangerous, if it be abused. And yet it is entirely Scriptural. For if people would only read it, they would discover that the Bible, which they assume to be a placid kind of book, is in reality a bomb frightfully dangerous, to be handled with extreme care if it is not to burst with devastating consequences among our tame and humdrum ways. Here, for example, is a man who has lived long, and had ample experience of men and things; and with a kind of fierce emphasis he says that, whatever allowances may have to be made for our frail and blundering human nature, there is one type of person whom he cannot stand---the flabby, reckless creature who tells neither for nor against anything at all, but drifts aimlessly with the tides. For the grossest sinner the Scripture has pity; for the clumsiest fumbler it has hope; even for Judas it has a strange self-restrained and determined silence, but for a nameless thing that is nothing at all it feels only a horrible sick nausea.

But what concerns us most is that there rings out another and authoritative voice---grave, calm, deliberate---passing the same horrified judgment on the same type of life. Towards whom are the most terrible words in Scripture used? And whom is Christ pictured as ranking absolutely last? Not even the insincere, although His own frank eyes could blaze at thought of them and their pitiful make-believes. But quite respectable people, against whom nobody can point a finger, keen for a chance of furthering their own interests, yet, on the other hand, not quite indifferent to religion. They have a pew in some church---and if it is not too fine, or, again, not too wet, they will be there. They mean to have a good time---that comes first, and is the essential in the planning of their lives; but, their own wants met, they are quite willing to give the small change lying about their pockets to Jesus Christ. No one can say they are against Him. But, not absorbed in His cause, not one-idealed about it, as many people are about football or art, or business, or whatever makes life for them. They are without enthusiasm, without much capacity for pity, without much room for faith, capable of seeing that two and two make four, but incapable of ever asking why in the world they should not make five or any other question that would thus open the gateway to the illimitable, the mysterious, the Divine. It is a common type, this type that never takes risks, never knows what a spiritual adventure is, never prays as if God could hear.

These are the people that fill our Lord with despair. He says, 'If they were openly hostile I could plead with them, could argue and could keep persistently breaking in upon them, and perhaps might convince and win them. But this wishy/washiness of theirs gives Me nothing with which to strive; this polite offering of a trifle, evidently without a doubt that I will accept it and be very grateful for it---to Me who claim a man's whole life and soul and being, all that he has, all that he is, all that time or in eternity he can become. If you can't give Me love and enthusiasm and the passion of your heart, I would that you were cold to me!'

A shiver passes through our souls as we think that what our Lord denounces as entirely inadequate is uncomfortably like what most are offering Him. Is it not a hesitating and half-hearted credence most give Christ, that makes large reservations, and that parts company with Him at once whenever He is violently in opposition to the world's conventional ways? Is not what is wrong with most just this, that certain of the principles on which He built life are pushed quietly aside, because, on the face of them, it is felt they are out of the question and impracticable in the world of today---very beautiful, no doubt, but not possible to live out in the real world? So it is sought to compromise. This is poetry or parable, or no longer literally possible in an age immensely different from Christ's, and after all it is a spirit that is given to us, for us to apply, and not a detailed code of rules to follow with slavish exactness. So they are apt to say whenever what Christ asks for would cost something.

Take our Lord's teaching about money, for instance. One thing is plain---that to be comfortable in material things is dangerous for the soul. Did He not warn us time and again that, in His experience, what makes men throw away their lives is not, as a rule, open sin, but far oftener simply the fact that they are getting on, or that in the pursuit of the good things of this life they have no time left for God, just forget about Him? 'You can't both serve God and give your life to getting rich and living for the world,' He said. Either the one or other must be sacrificed. Do we live on the same assumption that this is true?

In the beginning, the Church took Christ's teaching on this matter very seriously. "But I must live," said some of the weaker brethren to Tertullian, reluctant to renounce lucrative things that jarred the Christian conscience. "Why?" he asks, with a staggering simplicity. To attempt to serve God "upon conditions" is hopeless. The early Christians felt their lives were Christ's, and for themselves they used only such odds and ends of them as were left over. 'Having food and clothes,' says St. Paul, 'let us therewith be content.' But nowadays have not most reversed all that? We plan and think about ourselves. Is it not still persistent in judging a man's success largely by the material standards which our Lord dismissed as very nearly negligible? Do we not still covet the comforts against which He warned us, and mean to have such of them as lie within our reach stretched to the uttermost?

To be of the same mind with another is to see all things in the same perspective; it is not to agree in a few indifferent matters near at hand and not much debated; it is to follow Him in His farthest flights, to see the force of His character . . . . You do not belong to the school of any philosopher because you agree with him that theft is, on the whole, objectionable, or that the sun is overhead at noon. It is by the hard sayings that discipleship is tested.

Is not a large proportion of the energy of Christ's own Church thrown these days into what is called its social gospel? We say, Thank God for it, as we remember the Judgment Parable. Are not the only questions to be put to us at the last uncomfortably searching ones as to what we did for the unfortunate around us? They are. And is not Scripture very scornful of a love that talks, and is touched, and then sinks back upon its own soft comforts and does nothing? The first law, indeed, of the Master we profess to serve is that nobody is holy, or can be, unless he spends himself whole-heartedly for others and for God.

And yet do we not feel that somehow there is something wrong somewhere; that, central though all this business about us looks, there is something yet more central which we are forgetting: that the emphasis is steadily slipping down from where Christ placed it? Does it not look as if the Church were shirking its plain duty, which is, surely, to look its fellows in the eyes and tell them that the hurt is deeper than they think, and that their remedies are merely palliatives at the best, and that, whatever a change in environment and in the social system and in the standard of living may effect, something sorer and far more awkwardly personal than that must come if there is to be real reform, that it is we and they who must be changed, that there is such a thing as sin, and that, till it goes, this world can't be righted?

Even when we have determined for Him, how listless and uninterested most are. Christ's was an ardent nature. When there was any duty to be done, He flung himself into it: faced by some need, he met it with His whole being, not considering the cost, not reckoning up the sacrifice it meant to Him. And He assumes others will act so too. He was not at all surprised when men rose up, left all, and followed Him, nor that many would have none of Him and turned flatly away. Why do you call Me Lord! Lord! and yet do not the things that I say?---that was the real puzzle of life to Christ. It DID astonish Him that some should make a compromise that satisfied themselves between Him and self, His Kingdom and the world; that they should follow Him at all, and yet not be whole-hearted. Dante places those of Laodicean temper in the mouth and vestible of the inferno. He denies them the moral dignity of a place even in hell itself, lest the wicked, looking at them, should be able to feel that there were souls worse than themselves.

According to Dante, in the world of realities which God beholds these people are not fit even for a place amongst the sinners of hell. They had spent their lives watching which way the wind was likely to blow. In this present world, the very purpose of which is that our soul may acquire some moral habit and disposition in obedience to which one may face life and death, these had committed themselves to nothing. They had been for neither one side nor the other, but only for themselves. There is nothing central or personal about them, such as might be subjected to a discipline. They are nothing, for they have done nothing. They are only the shells of men inhabited by a great cowardice.

This Psalmist tells us he, too, was once such a man, till one day somehow it came home to him how all creation spends itself whole-heartedly for God, lives and exists only to fulfil His will. Day by day the sun rises at His call, night after night the stars appear, the tides come at his beckoning, the seasons move in punctual procession, everywhere order, law, obedience, reverence. And in this mighty mass of things obeying their Creator, only I, he felt, am self-willed, disobedient, out of the vast plan. And the horrible loneliness of sin rushed over him---he the one rebel, he alone with no place in that large and intricate design. And with that he cried desperately to God, 'Cast me not out! For me, too, find some use!' As he puts it in another place, 'I also bring to Thee an undivided mind; am all Thine now, and all Thine always, while I have any being.'

We are moving forward from a long period of trench warfare out into an open war of movement. Christianity and Secularism stand face to face. The battle is being joined all along the line, even in placid, respectable, academics of Divinity. There is no room for compromise. The only vital people in the world today are those who are out for God or right out against Him.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha