My aim has been to set forth God in Christ as the highest attainable good of the soul. I have taught, or tried to teach, the doctrine of a divine friendship made possible through the Incarnation of God’s Son. I have seemed to find in the simple Creed which tells of a Word made flesh and dwelling among us, not a key which readily unlocks all the closed doors of this mysterious house our souls inhabit, but one to which more bolts yield than yield to any other key that the busy, searching intellect of man has found. The warrant for this belief in “God-with-us” I have sought, and, at least to my own thinking, found, in Holy Scripture, in history and in human nature. The Christ of the Gospels has been the centre of all my theologizing and the authority for all my teachings. If I speak of history as one of the warrants of faith, it is because of the discernible presence in its pages of the Son of Man steadily at work, century by century, building up the walls of his fair City. If I speak of human nature as another one of these warrants, it is because I observe in human nature capacities and desires, sympathies and affections, such as only a humanized God, a God whose being is at some point tangent to our own, can meet and satisfy. In a word, to get away from metaphysical abstractions, and to stick close to personality, to use the filial and brotherly vocabulary in all my speech and to avoid, as far as possible, a philosophical phraseology, which, while it may overawe, can scarcely enlighten, has been my steadfast aim. For, after all, the most cultured congregations are human; and thoughts which cannot be expressed in the words our mothers taught us, may as well be held in reserve, so far as preaching is concerned. Prattle about the Infinite and the Absolute is an easy accomplishment for men who have been to college; but what people need to be persuaded of is that they have a Father in heaven, Who knows them and Who may, in some measure, by them be known; Who loves them and Who may, in some measure, by them be loved.
If to this doctrine of “God in Christ” I have not, in my teaching, linked as closely as some would have liked to see me do, a philosophy of sacramental grace, it has not been from any disposition to undervalue the place of sacraments in religion, but rather from a reluctance to narrow to one channel a stream which so very evidently flows through many.
These last twenty years, be it candidly confessed, have been a rather arduous time for preachers. Not only have they had to encounter far greater difficulty than of old in getting a hearing, because of the increased number of voices in the world, but, even when listened to, they have been almost as men under trial upon the charge of concealing their real beliefs….
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