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world, but to those within its own pale. Now it knows that it is in the world to save the world; that while God loves the saint, he also loves the sinner; that while he has “more graces for the good," he has messages of love for the bad. It considers itself as commissioned to carry these messages to every heathen land, to every destitute community, to every godless home, and to every unconverted person. Evangelical churches are like bustling camps of spiritual soldiers, who are being told off to go to this country and that, to this destitute section and that, with the gospel of peace, to conquer the whole world for Christ. So thoroughly has this missionary spirit possessed the body of evangelical Christians, that the smallest and most obscure divisions feel constrained not only to evangelize home communities, but to have their representatives abroad.
This dominant purpose has made agencies and organizations and financial methods necessary. The business of saving the world requires organization, complete and extensive; it requires administrators, agents, means, machinery, enterprise. All these the church has provided, and a great system has been worked out, rivaling in its universal operations and the volume of its transactions that of any coinmercial project of which we have knowledge. Any kingdom, country, province, island, settlement, with hardly an exception, can be reached directly and quickly through the numerous channels of communication established by gospel enterprise. If a devoted man or woman wants to enter a field of work abroad, the widest range of choice is presented. Any country between Greenland and New Zealand, in the western or eastern circuit of the globe, may be selected, and there is a gospel society to commission him and send and support him. If any one has a sum of money to be applied to the proclamation of the gospel, he may have it expended in any presidency in India, in any division in Japan, in any kingdom in Africa, or in any island of the sea. The machinery exists to place it wherever he wants it to go.
We have the same appliances for work at home. Here are Indians, Chinese, and negroes; ignorant and vicious populations; groups of foreigners; the frontiers of civilization and the centers of cities; the prairies and the slums; the jails, asylums, and workhouses. Here is book and Bible work, evangelistic work, reformatory work, educational work, missionary work, and many other forms of gospel benevolence, with abundance of machinery for all the exigencies of service. Places are ready for the men and women, and societies exist to commission and direct them, and to collect and administer the necessary funds.
Organization is, indeed, one of the characteristics of the church of to-day. The idea of organization was in the first church ever formed. Where two or more believers are, there is a call for fellowship, for association, and for coöperation. The church of the present is but working out more fully the central idea of Christian fellowship. This fellowship is now understood to be for mutual helpfulness and for service. We are saved to serve, and we can serve best if we serve according to some system. Hence we organize. Every church has come to have its committees for regular and special work. The women are organized for those parish duties which they can best perform; for missionary work for which they have special aptitude. They are given a much larger share of the Lord's business than our forefathers dreamed of allotting to them. We have organized our young people. This is one of the most remarkable movements of the century in religious work. The mighty development has come almost within a decade. The young people of both sexes have been banded together into Endeavor Societies, Epworth Leagues, Christian Unions, and the like, and their members are numbered by the million. By organization for prayer, praise, and Christian work, and particularly training in public service, a great body of young believers have been made a positive, aggressive force in all our churches. Who can measure the influence which these young people thus organized will exert in the immediate future? Not many years ago the cry was raised: “We are losing our hold on the young people. They are not coming into the church. They are growing up indifferent to religion.” To-day we have no more devoted and enthusiastic and helpful workers in the church than the young people.
The evangelical Christianity of to-day is not polemic. It is intensely practical. It emphasizes more than it used to the importance of Christian character and of Christian work. It is less theological in its preaching, making more, indeed, of biblical exposition, but less of doctrinal forms and definitions. And yet it would be wrong to say that it makes little or no account of belief.
All that it says, all that it does, is based upon profound and unshakable belief. It is the gospel it declares and is trying to work out in a practical way. The church of to-day is a gospel church. It has the fullest confidence in the power of the gospel, and believes it was given for all men, is adapted to all conditions, and is to become supreme in the world. Christ, the center of this gospel, is the divine Lord and Master of the church. Belief in him as a human manifestation of the divine love and a divine manifestation of a perfect humanity was never more clear and strong. It is upon him, as the cornerstone, his atonement, and his teachings that the evangelical church builds its system of religion; and while this is the age of the higher biblical criticism, the most critical and careful study of the Bible has confirmed no conclusions which shake belief in its character as the Word of God, or in its moral and spiritual teachings. On the contrary, this criticism may be said to have established the genuineness of the Gospel of John.
I do not wish to convey the impression that there are no dangerous tendencies in the church, nothing that needs to be guarded against. There are enough evidences of weak places in belief and practice to awaken the solicitude of every devoted believer. I am not undertaking an exhaustive description, but only a brief characterization of evangelical Christianity as it is manifested in the United States. It was never more prosperous and powerful.
HOW THE CHURCH AFFECTS SOCIETY.
It is to be remembered that all the houses of worship have been built by voluntary contributions. They have been provided by private gifts, but are offered to the public for free use. The government has not given a dollar to provide them, nor does it appropriate a dollar for their support. And yet the church is the mightiest, most pervasive, most persistent, and most beneficent force in our civilization. It affects, directly or indirectly, all human activities and interests.
It is a large property-holder, and influences the market for real estate.
It is a corporation, and administers large trusts.
It is a public institution, and is therefore the subject of protective legislation.
It is a capitalist, and gathers and distributes large wealth.
It is an employer, and furnishes means of support to ministers, organists, singers, janitors, and others.
It is a relief organization, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and assisting the destitute.
It is a university, training children and instructing old and young, by public lectures on religion, morals, industry, thrift, and the duties of citizenship.
It is a reformatory influence, recovering the vicious, immoral, and dangerous elements of society and making them exemplary citizens.
It is a philanthropic association, sending missionaries to the remotest countries to Christianize savage and degraded
It is organized beneficence, founding hospitals for the sick, asylums for orphans, refuges for the homeless, and schools, colleges, and universities for the ignorant.
It prepares the way for commerce, and creates and stimulates industries. Architects, carpenters, painters, and other artisans are called to build its houses of worship; mines, quarries, and forests are worked to provide the materials, and railroads and ships are employed in transporting them. It requires tapestries and furnishings, and the looms that weave them are busy day and night. It buys millions of Bibles, prayer-books, hymn-books, and papers, and the presses which supply them never stop.
Who that considers these moral and material aspects of the church can deny that it is beneficent in its aims, unselfish in its plans, and impartial in the distribution of its blessings? It is devoted to the temporal and eternal interests of mankind.
Every cornerstone it lays, it lays for humanity; every temple it opens, it opens to the world; every altar it establishes, it establishes for the salvation of souls. Its spires are fingers pointing heavenward; its ministers are messengers of good tidings, ambassadors of hope, and angels of mercy.
What is there among men to compare with the church in its power to educate, elevate, and civilize mankind ?