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Defects of Modern Christianity.
WANT OF DEVOTION TO CHRIST.
'' Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you."—John vi. 53.
npHE Saviour intended that affection, passionate -*- affection for Himself, should be the motive power in His followers' lives. He knew that no other influence would be strong enough to conform them to His own perfection. He repeatedly insisted upon it as being absolutely essential to the true disciple. And yet in the present day personal devotion to Christ is conspicuous, in the majority of professing Christians, either by its absence, or at any rate by its extreme feebleness. There are many who pride themselves on their orthodoxy, who talk glibly about the divinity of Christ, who worship Him at stated intervals with their lips, but who in their hearts are utterly indifferent to Him. Notwithstanding all they say, they have never felt for Him the slightest gratitude, or sympathy, or affection.
And even of His genuine followers, there are but few nowadays who love Him as did the first disciples or their immediate successors. "The prevalent feeling towards Him among religious men is an awful fear of His supernatural greatness, and a disposition to obey His commands, arising partly from dread of future punishment and hope of reward for doing right, and partly from a nobler feeling of loyalty, which, however, is inspired rather by His office than by His person. Beyond this we may discern in them an unceasing conviction that He requires more personal devotion, which leads them to spasmodic efforts to kindle the feeling by means of violent raptures of panegyric, and by repeating over and getting by rote the ardent expressions of those who really had it. That is wanting for the most part which Christ held to be all in all, — spontaneous, free, genuine devotion."
Now, why is it that men love Christ less in the nineteenth century than they did in the first One, perhaps the chief reason, is the undue influence which has been exerted by theology, and the undue importance which has been attributed to it. In a previous sermon, I pointed out to you that there was no necessary connection between theology and religion—that the former was of comparatively small, the latter of the greatest possible moment, and that enthusiasm was wasted when bestowed upon theology to an extent which religion alone deserved. In no case may the bad effects of such misspent energy be seen more strikingly than in the personal relation which too frequently subsists between Christ and His professed disciples. They have substituted belief for affection, dogma for devotion. I will not say that those who are strongest in theology are, as a rule, weakest in religion. But whatever may have been the result of their labours upon the theologians themselves, there can be little doubt that the effect of these labours upon the world in general has been to obscure, rather than elucidate, the real Christ. Homoousianists and Homoiousianists, Arians and Athanasians, Docetae and Apthardocetae, Sabellians and Socinians, Ebionites, Monarchians, Patripassians, Theopaschites, Manicheans, Nestorians, Monophysites, Agnoetae and Aktistetae, Ktistolatrae and Phthartolatrae, Monothelites and Dyothelites, Nominalists and Realists, and a host of others, orthodox, heterodox, and doubtful, have all been hotly engaged in metaphysical discussions as to Christ's nature and essence; but the chief effect of their cloudy logomachies has been to conceal the beauty of His character and the charm of His life. Had there been less theology in the world, there would have been more religion. It was not for profound and diversified knowledge that Christ asked, but for love. His chief strength lay, as He Himself knew full well, in His power of winning men's hearts. But the multiplication of theological discussions and controversies has diminished this power, and made Him less attractive than of yore. He is too frequently regarded as a subject for curious speculation, rather than as a Being to be loved. He has been transformed from a man into a dogma. And however much hatred dogma is capable of inspiring, it is quite incapable of exciting any love. This leads me to suggest a second reason . why Christ is less loved now than He once was. Various causes have tended to throw
His humanity into the background, whereas He Himself always brought it into prominence. Strongly as He insisted upon His divinity, the title by which He most frequently called Himself was the Son of man. But how difficult we find it now to feel that He really was bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, in all things made like unto His brethren !" Many calling themselves Christians," says Dr Abbott, "and being in a certain sense Christians, have passed through life worshipping Christ as God, but have never even for an instant realised the fact that He actually sorrowed, pitied, was tempted—much less that He grew in wisdom and learned obedience by the things which He suffered. How few believed, at least in their hearts as well as with their lips, that He was a perfect man, endowed with human motives as well as human flesh! Are there not some of us who might confess, if we searched our hearts, that we have been more touched by the story of the death of Socrates, more thrilled by the familiar and fictitious miseries of King Lear, than by the narrative of the sorrows of Jesus of Nazareth? And why? Why, but because our hearts have not yet realised that He, being man, endured for us the mental and spiritual sufferings of human