Thus then does History " set to her seal that God is true." And whence, my brethren, in the face of these glorious facts, and a thousand more on which it is impossible to dwell—whence then arises the strange antagonism to Christianity ? In reading works hostile to our faith, I find that, besides the disbelief in the Supernatural, and the consequent rejection of the Divinity of Christ—most of their criticisms may be summed up under the three broad calumnies, that Christianity is irreconcilable with Science, opposed to Liberty, and superseded by Civilisation. It would be an easy task, did time permit, to rend these charges to pieces, and fling them to the four winds. All that can now be said is this, that, as regards Science, it requires courage, honesty, and enthusiasm. To all true Religion, as to all true Science, the Universe is an open book of revelation, whose Divine hieroglyphics are decipherable by toil, and every fresh discovery is but a fresh fact to be recorded and co-ordinated with those which we already know. But Science and Faith must ever be united, they are the two wings whereby alone we can soar to the knowledge of God.
And who dares to say that our faith is an enemy to Liberty? To that liberty indeed which is but an ill-disguised name for brutal license—to that liberty which holds in her right hand a civic wreath, in her left a human head—to that liberty which has " for her lullaby the carmagnole, and for her toy the guillotine," she is an enemy. But not even in the men of Marathon, or of Thermopylae, did genuine Freedom find firmer or more unflinching friends than in the Church of Christ. Athens had her slaves, Sparta her Helots, Rome her proletariat, Hindostan her Pariahs, but to the Church all men were brothers, and in her language alone the greatest Queen is but " this woman," and the lordliest Emperor " this man ;" nor did she ever alter one single syllable of her funeral offices, whether they were read over the open grave of a Pauper or of a Prince. And did Harmodius or Timoleon, did a Scaevola or a Brutus ever face despots more bravely than her sons ? St. John before Herod, St. Paul before Nero; Lucifer of Cagliari telling Constantine that he could not respect his diadems, earrings, and bracelets when it was a question of duty towards God; St. Ambrose repulsing Theodosius from the cathedral gates of Milan, St. Columbanus rebuking King Thierry for his incontinence, St. Anselm braving the anger of the violent and haughty Rufus ; these scenes, and a hundred like them, are the grandest comment on the true and noble words of Melanchthon, Tyrannis est inimica Ecclesice.
And lastly, as to Christianity being superseded by Civilisation, the words are meaningless, or if not meaningless, are false. For Civilisation means either appliances of comfort, increase of knowledge, refinements of Art, discoveries of Science, diffusion of wealth, and all that may be summed up in the one word—material improvement;—and to these, except that she scorns comfort, frowns on luxury, and discourages the greed for gold— which things are the dangers of Civilisation, and not its blessings—the Church, as we have seen, is the loftiest aid: —or else Civilisation means purer happiness,greater nobleness, clearer and surer wisdom ; and if, indeed, it means these things, then to us it seems that Civilisation is but a secular phrase for Christianity itself. Look, my brethren, at your own hearts, their needs and yearnings, their sins and sorrows, their low impulses and heavenly aspirations, and ask whether material improvement would be anything better than a glistering misery, unless it were guided, interpreted, ennobled by the faith of Christ.
Surely then these were services which, even had their power been exhausted, would deserve our deepest gratitude, and we may exclaim in a very different sense from that of the French Philosopher, "Religion of Christ, behold thy consequences!" But, so far from being exhausted, the realisation of these principles is as yet but partial, their power as yet but inchoate. For, by the promise of Inspiration, all is ours: all the Universe, whether height or depth; all Science, whether she labour in the starry spaces or the microscopical abyss; all History, whether things present or things to come; all Humanity, whether Greek or barbarian, whether bond or free; all the wealth of past Wisdom, all the treasuries of future Hope : ours to study now, ours to possess hereafter; they have been prepared for us through the infinite past, entrusted to us for the brief present, promised to us, in their perfect restitution, for the illimitable future. Whatever Christianity may be, it is at least no narrow dogma, no evanescent influence. As we have seen, it dilates our whole being—corporal, mental, spiritual; it consecrates our whole influence—domestic, social, political; to our partial successes, if they be honourable, it promises future completion ; to our total failures, if they be undeserved, it is the pledge of undreamt success. It unites us to Nature, by whose conditions we are bounded, but whose forces we direct. It unites us to the Dead—all saints whom we reverence, all souls whom we commemorate ; it unites is to the Living, all whom we love and know not, all whom we love and know; it unites us to Posterity, for which, sustained by Faith, inspired by Hope, we labour with patient unselfishness and active love; above all, and more than all, it unites us to the Infinite by making us the children of God and joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with Him. Is this a limited horizon ? is this an inadequate consolation ? is this an unsatisfying hope? is there nothing here which assures us that we are greater than we know ? Is there anything, any religion or irreligion, any philosophy or any ignorance, which can in a greater degree than this "Give grandeur to the beatings of the heart " ?
And is this then a religion to be rejected as obsolete, or despised as immature ? May we all pray more and more earnestly from our inmost hearts that the Kingdom of that beloved Saviour may indeed come in all its fulness, in all its universality; and may it be given us, like " a deep peace in the heart of a mighty agitation, " to realise that, if we be true to ourselves and true to God, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ; that all things are ours, whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come—all are ours, and we are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
Witness of History, p. 179.