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To Infidelity and Back By Henry F. Lutz Characters: 30655

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03

NOTE.-This chapter is an address that was delivered at the Centennial Convention of the movement for the restoration of primitive Christianity, held at Pittsburg, Pa., during October, 1909. It is here given because it deals with the same general subject as the rest of the book and shows why and how the reunion of the followers of Christ on the primitive gospel is the greatest issue before the Christian world to-day.

Ask the brotherhood what "Our Neglected Fields" are, and the answer will come in a multitude of voices speaking from diverse viewpoints according to each speaker's knowledge, experience and field of operation. This is natural and proper. If your wife is not the best woman in the world, you are not much of a husband. If your country is not the best country on earth, you are not much of a patriot. Love for everybody and everything in general is a good thing in its way, but the specialized affections are of still greater importance in the world's progress heavenward. But while this babel of appeals in behalf of different places, classes and kinds of work is natural and proper, it does not solve the problem as to what are really our neglected fields and as to the relative amount of work and money we should give to the various calls.

Standing on the banks of the Mississippi, it is impossible to determine the origin of the various color elements in the water; but if we go to the source, it is easy to discover that the red mud comes from the Arkansas, the black mud from the Missouri and the coal dust from the Ohio. So if we wish to discover the principles that will guide us in selecting fields of operation, we must go back to the fountain-head of the New Testament. If we are in the streets of a strange city, all is confusion as to the lay of the land; but if we climb to the hilltop in the rear of the city, we can readily get our bearings. So we must climb to the hilltop with Christ and the Apostles and from there get our bearings in our missionary operations. Let us then turn to the New Testament and see if we can discover where we should go first and the relative importance of the individual and society, the earthly and the heavenly, the temporal and eternal, the material and spiritual, and their relationship to each other.

In looking for the scope of gospel work, we discover that the salvation of the individual and his attainment unto eternal life is the supreme aim in view. From the multitude of Scriptures that teach this we select the following: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:15,16). "Who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life" (Rom. 2:7). The Scriptures are just as clear in placing the spiritual, eternal and heavenly infinitely above the material, temporal and earthly: "We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal" (2 Cor. 4:18). "Set your mind on the things which are above, not on the things which are upon the earth" (Col. 3:2). "Took joyfully the spoiling of your possessions, knowing that ye have for yourselves a better possession and an abiding one" (Heb. 10:34). "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven… for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21). "For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall fashion anew the body of our humiliation, that it may be conformed to the body of his glory" (Phil. 3:20, 21). At best a very small per cent of Christians can ever hope to attain unto wealth and worldly success; and to present these things as an incentive to godliness is but mockery, for "if we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable" (1 Cor. 15:19). We are constantly tempted to be deceived by the delusion that wealth, health and worldly success necessarily bring happiness, while the opposite is as often true, as these things are not an end in themselves.

While the Scriptures thus clearly teach that the supreme effort of Christianity is to prepare people for a glorious hereafter, good works in this life are demanded and are of vital importance. It is the nature of godliness to seek the well-being of others, in this life and the life to come, and no soul can remain saved without doing all in its power to minister unto others. "Ye tithe mint and anise and cummin and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone" (Matt. 23:23). "Created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God afore prepared that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:10). The promise of eternal life is to them who continue patiently in well-doing (Rom. 2:7). "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away" (John 15:2). In all his works and words God seeks to reveal his love to men with the purpose of wooing them back to himself, and good works of love have an important place in winning souls to Christ. Thus Jesus did many works of mercy through which he made manifest his and the Father's love for sinners. "Even so let your light shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). "Having your behavior seemly among the Gentiles, that wherein they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God" (I Pet. 2:12). "That even if any obey not the word, they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives" (I Pet. 3:1). Emerson says, "What you are speaks so loud, I cannot hear what you say." This is, alas! too true of our Christianity. Unless our love for people is incarnated in the good works of our lives, sinners will lose faith in us and in our religion. This does not mean that the church is to forsake prayer and the Word of God to serve tables, or forsake its spiritual ministries and mainly turn its energies to ministering to the physical, social and intellectual man. Chiefly, the church, through its spiritual ministries, is to inspire its members and others to good works of love in their daily walk and conversation. As the anchor of the buoy or the ballast of the ship holds it upright, so the good works of Christians hold the spiritual salvation aloft to be seen of men, and commend it to a dying world.

Having considered the scope of gospel work as revealed in the New Testament, let us next inquire where we shall go first. As we cannot go everywhere at once, where shall we begin, and where shall we go next? Is this left to chance, or is an order of procedure revealed in the New Testament? We believe that there is, and that it is of the greatest importance that this order should be followed. Christ gave the order of march in Acts 1:8, "Ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." If we have any doubt as to the interpretation, the Apostles interpret it for us in their work under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Other things being equal, they went to the nearest territory first. Again, we notice that the Apostles were especially led to the cities, the great centers of population. This enabled them to reach most people in a given time. Beginning at Jerusalem, their missionary journeys were determined by the location of the leading cities. Furthermore, we learn from the teaching and practice of Christ and the Apostles, that they went to the ripest fields first. Christ came to the Jews, the best prepared people on earth, to gather a nucleus for his coming kingdom and to scatter preparatory light for the gospel message. The Apostles commenced their gospel work at Jerusalem on Pentecost because the most devout and enlightened saints on earth were gathered there. For this reason the order was first the Jews and then the Gentiles (Acts 13:46, 47). Paul passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica because a synagogue of the Jews was there (Acts 17:1). The Spirit forbade him to go to Asia and Bithynia and led him by Mysia into Macedonia because there were hearts there ready to receive the message (Acts 16:6-10). Christ commanded Paul to depart from Jerusalem because they would not receive his testimony there (Acts 22:17-21). Open doors were considered as guides by Paul in his missionary operations (I Cor. 16:8; 2 Cor. 2:12, 13; Acts 14:27; Col. 4:3).

Summing up, we find that the Apostles, in their effort to preach the gospel to every creature, were guided by nearness of territory, density of population and ripeness of field. That is, all things considered, they went along the line of least resistance. This is the way of mercy and common sense as well as of Scripture, as it is the quickest way to reach every creature. It enlarges the army of conquest as fast as possible and always meets the enemy at the point of least resistance.

It will help us to understand the matter if we keep in mind that it was not only the purpose of Christ to save individuals here and there, but also to organize a salvation society or church through which to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, provide a home for the new-born spiritual babes and to extend his reign on earth as far and as fast as possible.

The matter will become still plainer if we consider another principle taught and practised by Christ and the Apostles; viz., the necessity an absolute union of the forces of God under Christ for the accomplishment of his work. Christ said, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand," and he prayed for a perfect union among his followers in order that the world might believe in him (Matt. 12:25; John 17:20, 21). Paul says, "Whereas there is among you jealousy and strife, are ye not carnal? For when one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?" (I Cor. 3:3, 4). Again he says, "If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another" (Gal. 5:15). Divisions inevitably lead to weakness, waste and defeat. A small army united in the authority of a wise commander can defeat the largest army on earth if it be divided through every officer doing as he pleases or as he thinks best. Therefore Christ demanded absolute union in his authority, and the Apostles first of all worked for a union of Jews and Gentiles in one body or working force. If the purpose had only been to save individuals, the Jews might have been saved as Jews, but the object was to enlist the Jews with the Gentiles in God's new army of conquest. This new union under Christ, or re-alignment of religious forces, was so important that the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles was conditioned on their entering it, and, if necessary, all other unions and alliances had to be broken to maintain this. All race and class distinctions must succumb. "There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male nor female; for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28). Not even family ties were permitted to interfere with this union in the authority of Christ. "He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. For I came to set a man at variance with his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law: and a man's foes shall be they of his own household" (Matt. 10:35-37). The subjection of wives to their husbands and of children to their parents is limited "in the Lord" (Col. 3: 18, 20).

Summing up the New Testament principles that are to guide us in our gospel work, we may say that we are to go as a united force along the line of least resistance, making the eternal salvation of the individual our supreme aim.

The Restoration movement became necessary because one of the fundamental principles of the gospel had been violated; viz.: that of Christian union. The success of this movement for Christian union on the primitive gospel has been phenomenal. In eighty years its adherents have increased from ten thousand to one and a third millions. But what are these among so many? The work has but fairly begun, and the field is just beginning to ripen for the larger harvest. Sectarianism is still present in all of its hideousness, but the people are beginning to see the desolation and sinfulness of divisions and are groping in the dark in various efforts at solution. However, a careful investigation will reveal the fact that the great drift towards denominational union is more due to a dying faith in sectarian doctrines than to a growing faith in the doctrines "once for all delivered to the saints." About a year ago it was declared in a large meeting of clergymen that "Protestantism is decaying and will be displaced by some sort of a new Catholicism." The statement was vigorously applauded. This simply means that sectarian Protestantism is decaying. It should be remembered that every large religious body in America, except that represented here to-day, originated in Europe under the shadow of Roman Catholicism and under political, social and religious conditions entirely different from those that now prevail in America. These sectarian systems brought to America have been thawed out by our free American religious atmosphere so that there is not a large sectarian body that would dare to promulgate seriously and persistently the basic principles that gave birth to it in Europe. The consequence is that sects are hastening to revise their creeds so as to get rid of their out-of-date features as gracefully as possible. One of the leading arguments for union with other denominations used at the recent Canadian General Assembly was that "it would give the church an opportunity to revise its creeds, and to remove the barnacles and cobwebs that had gathered around them." The leading speaker declared that "not a single minister present would dare to enforce his own interpretation of the Confession of Faith." The ministers hesitate to enforce these hereditary traditions, and the members neither know nor care what the creeds teach, and, therefore, we hear on every hand, "One church is just as good as another."

We thank God for this relaxing of sectarianism and for the trend toward Christian union. But the movement involves a grave danger. Having lost faith in their distinctive sectarian doctrines, which they considered synonymous with New Testament teaching, many sectarian people are rapidly drifting into indifference, worldliness and unbelief. Forsaking human leaders and their doctrines, they are in danger of also forsaking the Apostles as religious leaders and their doctrines once for all delivered to the saints. Sectarianism is bad, but sectarian life and strife is better than

a lifeless, conviction-less, graveyard, sentimental union that is the result of a dying faith. In a union revival in an Eastern city practically all the Protestant churches worked together for a month, and we could not count five definite committals to Christ. Any small sectarian church alone could have accomplished greater definite results. After reducing their doctrines so as to avoid all that would give offense to any, they become so thin that there is but little to contend for.

The indifference to the doctrines of the creeds and the New Testament which is hastening the disintegration of sectarianism, is partly due to infidelity in the churches. Discerning critics cannot fail to see that much of the drift toward denominational union is due to the leadership of preachers who, through rationalism, have lost faith in the inspiration of the Bible and consequently in evangelical Christianity. As I was a student for three years at a Unitarian theological school and have gone through the process myself, I am able to speak on this subject as perhaps few of our brethren can. Misguided by rationalism, I thought it my conscientious duty to accept, step by step, the dictates of destructive criticism until the Bible was only inspired to me in religion as Kant in philosophy, Milton in poetry and Beethoven in music. But when I came to the end of the business I discovered that my conscience, that had urged me along, was gone also. For I was gravely taught that conscience is simply a creation of experience and education and that it is right to lie or do anything else so long as you do it out of love. Doubtless you have all heard of the farmer and his wife at the World's Fair, who went to see the "Exit." There was nothing in it and of course they had to pay to get in again. This was my bitter experience with rationalism. I thought I was following a great light, but I discovered there was nothing in it, that I was following an ignis fatuus. Rationalism has indeed proven the "Exit" to multitudes, from the peace, joy and moral security that accompany faith in evangelical Christianity into the desert of doubt, darkness and despair. To those preachers who, through rationalism, have lost faith in the inspiration of the Bible, doctrines are no longer a hindrance to union, for they have lost faith in all evangelical doctrines and therefore selfishness and utility draw them toward union.

If this is the religious condition to-day, you can see that we are in danger of religious anarchy and spiritual death. We are told that the splendid civilizations of Greece and Rome were made possible through the moral integrity and manhood inspired by their heathen religious systems. When unbelief in these systems originated among the philosophers and through them permeated the mass of the people, morality and sincerity were displaced by policy, distrust and deception, which brought utter ruin to the social and civil fabric. How much greater must the calamity be if the faith, integrity and morality underlying our splendid Christian civilization should be destroyed by the antichristian doctrines already taught in the classroom at some of the leading schools. The only hope lies in a return to "the faith once for all delivered to the saints." I believe we have been raised up for this hour. Our past work and opportunities are but a drop in the bucket compared with our present opportunities for work. As never before, it behooves us to raise the banner of New Testament Christianity as a standard to rally and reorganize the divided, confused and retreating hosts of Christ. It is not a question of staying at Jerusalem until each individual is converted, but the question is whether we will ever go to the Jerusalem of teeming millions in our land who have never even heard the plea for Christian union on the primitive gospel. Just as the Apostles went to saints (pious Jews) and sinners and demanded upon pain of their eternal condemnation that they unite under King Jesus, so we must go to the saints of the sects and sinners of the world and insist that they unite under the non-sectarian banner of Christ, in order that the whole world may believe in him as God's Son. As in the days of the Apostles, so now we need a re-alignment of religious forces in order to conquer the world for Christ.

Having learned the New Testament principles that should guide us in our missionary operations, and through these discovered our chief sphere of work in view of the present situation, let us turn to special missionary problems that constantly suggest themselves to us and consider our duty towards them and their relationship to the great mission that rests upon us as a distinctive people. I refer to the Indians, Mormons, Jews, immigrants, the lower and slum districts of our cities, the mountaineers of the Appalachian system, the millions of unevangelized negroes in the South, etc.

Concerning these problems I wish to call your attention to the following considerations:

First, these problems are largely educational, legal, social and philanthropic, and as such should be solved by the united effort of all the good citizens of the land. Keeping in mind the New Testament principles that are to guide us, we can readily see that Christians should do many things that the church was not ordained to do. The church, as a church, should not go into politics and business. On the other hand, the church, through its spiritual ministries, should inspire its members to enter business, politics, philanthropic associations, etc., in order, as far as possible, to incarnate Christian principles in their life in the world. We may differ as to the finer distinctions, but none of us would advocate a union of church and state or of church and business. As this is a nation in which Christians can control the laws, they can do much through good citizenship to solve these questions and bring these classes within the reach of the spiritual gospel. One of the great duties of the church in behalf of these people is, through their spiritual ministries, to constrain their members to make and enforce proper laws for their education, protection and improvement. Christianity is the religion of a book, and the first thing needful to bring these classes to an intelligent Christian faith is at least a common-school English education. Those of us who have lived in cities that are largely foreign know that the public schools are doing more to bring these classes within gospel reach than all other agencies combined.

Second, I wish to throw out a warning against engendering or encouraging the class spirit which we find so severely condemned in the New Testament. In the New Testament we read nothing about churches for different classes or about different classes as separate missionary problems, but the effort is to reach all classes through the local churches along the line of least resistance. The best thing on earth for these various classes is that they might be brought into vital touch with the best Christian people in our local churches. Some have even gone so far as to claim that we cannot reach the slum element, but must leave that to the Salvation Army, etc. If that is true, so much the worse for our Christianity. A truly New Testament church is the incarnation of the wisdom and love of God for reaching any and all classes of people. The class spirit is the outgrowth of ignorance, prejudice and selfishness and is always sinful among Christians. Our experience with tuberculosis and with the modern complicated industrial and political systems, is thrusting upon us anew Christ's teaching about the brotherhood of man or the solidarity of the race. On the whole, it is true that the race suffers or rejoices, rises or falls, together. We condemn the segregation of foreign races in different sections of our large cities. But the segregation of the better, or at least more fortunate, classes, is just as bad and more disastrous to the welfare of the city. Social settlements and institutional churches are manifestations of the Christ spirit, but they are only proxies and excuses for the mass of Christians and but samples and crumbs in place of the square meal that a square deal would supply. What these institutions are doing in a comparatively unnatural and artificial way is simply a hint of what could and would be done if all church-members would practise the Christ spirit in all their daily walk and conversation. To give a few dollars to help pay a few mission workers to live Christ in the slum districts is all right, but is no adequate substitute for all Christians giving all their life to uplift and save their country and the whole world. The best institutional church is the one that through its spiritual ministries inspires its members to live Christ in politics, in business, in society, in the home and everywhere else. So far as possible, let us minimize and discourage the class spirit in every way, shape and form. It is marvelous what the true Christ spirit will do along this line. A church of Christ was recently organized at Romney, W. Va., with two-thirds of the members foreign born. With a few days' effort nineteen Italians recently joined the Christian Church at Uhrichsville, O. Similar results have followed faithful efforts in New York City and at many other places. If in love and faith we would make a serious effort to reach these classes through the local churches, we would do ten times more to reach and help them than by seeking to reach them as classes.

In the third place, we must avoid the materializing tendency of the age in our gospel work. The constant tendency is to lose sight of the spiritual, invisible and eternal, to be blinded by the things of this world and to be conformed to them. In reading popular books on Home Missions we cannot but be grieved at the flings and thrusts at the old evangelism and the laudations of the new evangelism. For the context shows that the teaching is away from the spiritual and eternal salvation of the individual, which the New Testament makes the chief and ultimate thing, to the material and temporal things of this earth, which the New Testament makes a means to a higher end. To prove that the old evangelism is defunct, attention is called to the fact that seven thousand sectarian congregations did not have a single convert in an entire year. But can that be said of true New Testament evangelism? How prone we are to forget that only a comparatively few can attain unto worldly success according to the standard of public opinion and none so as to be satisfied with the effort. For the more we get the more we want in wealth and fame and pleasure, and none of these things in themselves bring happiness or well-being, which is the real thing the soul hungers for. Who can estimate the eternal good B. F. Mills did while he pointed individuals to the Lamb of God and thus filled their souls with new life, hope and courage to do and to dare for self and others because "of the joy that was set before them"? But in an evil day he became spiritually near-sighted and spoke about saving society rather than the individual, and now he is reputed to be a hotel-keeper, ministering to the material comforts of his fellow-men. Oh, what a fall was there! But only an example of multitudes who have become near-sighted and unfruitful through a so-called new evangelism that is not new. While giving good works their proper and important place, let us never forget that to save the individual soul for eternity through the gospel is the chief work of the church, and that it must ever subordinate the temporal and material to the spiritual and eternal.

Furthermore, it is well to remember that our sectarian neighbors, having largely lost faith in what they once considered their distinctive mission, are naturally turning much of their energy to general educational, philanthropic and civilizing work. Under the circumstances it is natural and proper that they should give relatively more of their energies to this kind of work than we, as we have a distinctive mission that demands our chief effort.

The classes enumerated above present indeed great missionary problems. We should keep in mind the entire field and never plan for anything short of reaching, as soon as possible, every creature with the gospel. But accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, revealed in the New Testament, we must go to the ends of the earth as a body united in Christ and his truth, along the line of least resistance, ever keeping in mind the spiritual and eternal salvation of the individual as the ultimate aim.

These things being true, I still believe, as we have always taught, that the reunion of God's people on the primitive gospel is at present the overshadowing issue before us and that in working for its accomplishment we are doing the utmost in our power to solve all missionary problems. Christ can never conquer with a hopelessly divided army. Sectarianism ties up three-fourths of the men and money and kills three-fourths of the spiritual power that could otherwise be used to solve all missionary problems. Unite all saints in Christ and set free these forces, and within this generation the world will believe and know that Jesus is the Christ whom God sent into the world (John 17:20, 21, 23). I believe that God has providentially prepared both us and the field, and unless we perform the mission set before us he will raise up another people through whom to bring about Christian union on the primitive gospel, to our eternal shame, but to their eternal glory. Thus it seems that, pre-eminently, our neglected fields lie among the teeming millions of America, ripe unto the harvest for our plea, but who, through our negligence, have not even heard that there is such a plea.

Grapes of Eshcol have been gathered from every corner of our land, proving that it is a land flowing with milk and honey for primitive Christianity. Look at the wonders done in Oklahoma. Go to Southern California and see the recent record. Go to the great Northwest, both in Canada and the United States, and see the ripeness of the field. If we turn to the southeast we gather just as large clusters of grapes in Florida and along the coast. See the marvels accomplished in Washington, our capital. Two churches offered to us because we are non-sectarian. Turn to Baltimore and see the marvelous growth. Two fields offered to us because we stand for Christian union. Look at the recent and abundant fruit in conservative Pennsylvania, or pass on to New York and see the wonders at East Orange and in Brooklyn among the Russians. Wherever we turn, the field is riper than ever and we must haste to garner it in or the abundant crop will perish. The heart of the country is already largely ours. Let us go forward with enlarged numbers and renewed vigor, knowing that the God of the harvest is with us and we are well able to possess the land. While greatly increasing all our other activities, let us push the Home Society to the front where it belongs according to every principle of Scripture, mercy, economy, efficiency and common sense. If we will renew among us the zeal and self-denial of the pioneers of this movement, we will soon gloriously triumph to His honor and praise.

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