The Invisible Church


Amongst the sources of insight which bring us into definite and practical relations with that spiritual world whose nature has now been again defined, one of the most effective is the life and the word of other men who are minded to be loyal to genuine causes, and who are already, through the service of their common causes, brought together in some form of spiritual brotherhood. The real unity of the life of such fellow-servants of the Spirit is itself an instance of a superhuman conscious reality; and its members are devoted to bringing themselves into harmony with the purposes of the universe. Any brotherhood of men who thus loyally live in the Spirit is, from my point of view, a brotherhood essentially religious in its nature, precisely in proportion as it is practically moved by an effort to serve — not merely the special cause to which its members, because of their training and their traditions, happen to be devoted, but also the common cause of al the loyal. Such a brotherhood, so far as it is indeed human, and, therefore narrow, may not very expressly define what this common cause of all the loyal is, for its members may not be thoughtfully reflective people. But if, while rejoicing in their own perfectly real fraternal unity, they are also practically guided by the love of furthering brotherhood amongst men in general; if they respect the loyalty of other men so far as they understand that loyalty; if they seek, not to sow discord amongst the brethren of our communities, but to be a city set on a hill, that not only cannot be hid, but is also a model for other cities — a centre for the spreading of the spirit of loyalty — then the members of such an essentially fruitful brotherhood are actually loyal to the cause of causes. They are a source of insight to all who know of their life, and who rightly appreciate its meaning. And of such is the kingdom of loyalty. And the communities which such men form and serve are essentially religious communities. Each one is an example of the unity of the Spirit. Each one stands for a reality that belongs to the superhuman world.


Since the variety of social forms which appear" under human conditions is an unpredictably vast variety, and since the motives which guide men are endlessly complex, different communities of loyal people may possess such a religious character and value in the most various degrees. For it results from the narrowness of the human form of consciousness that men, at any one moment, know not the whole of what they mean. No sharp line can be drawn sundering the brotherhoods and partnerships, and other social organisations which men devise, into those which for the men concerned are consciously religious, and those which, by virtue of their absence of interest in the larger and deeper loyalties are secular. The test whereby such a distinction should be made is in principle a definite test. But to apply the test to every possible case requires a searching of human hearts and a just estimate of deeds and motives whereto, in our ignorance, we are very generally inadequate.


A business firm would seem to be, in general, no model of a religious organisation. Yet it justly demands loyalty from its members and its servants. If it lives and acts merely for gain, it is secular indeed. But if its business is socially beneficent, if its cause is honourable, if its dealings are honest, if its treatment of its allies and rivals such as makes for the confidence, the cordiality, and the stability of the whole commercial life of its community and (when its influence extends so far) of the

world, if public spirit and true patriotism inspire its doings, if it is always ready on occasion to sacrifice gain for honour’s sake — then there is no reason why it may not become and be a genuinely and fervently religious brotherhood. Certainly a family can become a religious organisation; and some of the most ancient traditions of mankind have demanded that it should be one. There is also, and justly, a religion of patriotism, which regards the country as a divine institution. Such a religion serves the unity of the spirit in a perfectly genuine way. Some of the most momentous religious movements in the world’s history have grown out of such an idealised patriotism. Christianity, in transferring local names from Judea to a heavenly world, has borne witness to the sacredness that patriotism, upon its higher levels, acquires.


In brief, the question whether a given human brotherhood is a religious institution or not is a question for that brotherhood to decide for itself, subject only to the truth about its real motives. Has its cause the characters that mark a fitting cause of loyalty? Does it so serve its cause as thereby to further the expression of the divine unity of the spirit in the form of devoted human lives, not only within its own brotherhood, but as widely as its influence extends? Then it is an essentially religious organisation. Nor does the extent of its worldly influence enable you to decide how far it meets these requirements. Nor yet does the number of persons in its membership form any essential criterion. Wherever two or three are gathered together, and are living as they can in the Spirit that, the divine will (which wills the loyal union of all mankind) requires of them — there, indeed, the work of the Spirit is done; and the organisation in question is a religious brotherhood. It needs no human sanction to make it such. Though it dwells on a desert island, and though all its members soon die and are forgotten by men, its loyal deeds are irrevocable facts of the eternal world; and the universal life knows that here at least the divine will is expressed in human acts.


But so far as such communities both exist and are distinctly recognisable as religious in their life and intent, they form a source of religious insight to all who come under their influence. Such a source acts as a means whereby any or all of our previous sources may be opened to us, may become effective, may bear fruit. Hence, in this new source, we find the crowning source of religious insight

This last statement is one which is accepted by many who would nevertheless limit its application to certain religious communities, and to those only; or who, in some cases, would limit its application to some one religious community. There are, for instance, many who say, for various special reasons, that the crowning source of religious insight is the visible church. By this term those who use it in any of its traditional senses, mean one religious institution only, or at most only a certain group of religious organisations. The visible church is a religious organisation, or group of such organisations, which is characterised by certain? traditions, by a certain real or supposed history, by a more or less well defined creed, and by further assertions concerning the divine revelation to which it owes its origin and authority. With the doctrinal questions involved in the understanding of this definition, these lectures, as you now well know, have no direct concern. It is enough for our present purpose to say that the visible church thus defined is indeed, and explicitly, and in our present sense, a religious organisation. In all those historical forms which here concern us, the visible church has undertaken to show men the way to salvation. It has carried out its task by uniting its members in a spiritual brotherhood. It has in ideal extended its interest to all mankind. It has aimed at universal brotherhood. It has defined and called out loyalty. It has conceived this loyalty as a service of God and as a loyalty to the cause of all mankind. Its traditions, the lives of its servants, its services, its teachings, have been and are an inexhaustible source of religious insight to the vast multitudes whom it has influenced and, in its various forms and embodiments, still influences. Not unnaturally, therefore, those who accept its own doctrines regarding its origin and history view such a visible church not only as by far the most important source of religious insight, but also as a source occupying an entirely unique position


The deliberate limitations of the undertaking of these lectures forbid me, as I have just reminded you, to consider in any detail this supposed uniqueness of the position which so many of you will assign to some form of the historical Christian church. After what I have said as to the nature and the variety of the forms which the spiritual life has taken, and still takes, amongst men, you will nevertheless not be surprised if, without attempting to judge the correctness of the traditions of the visible church, I forthwith point out that, to the higher religious life of mankind the life of the visible church stands related as part to whole; and that very vast ranges of the higher religious life of mankind have grown and flourished outside of the influence of Christianity. And when the religious life of mankind is viewed in its historical connections, truth requires us to insist that Christianity itself has been dependent for its insight and its power upon many different sources, some of which assumed human form not only long before Christianity came into being, but in nations and in civilisations which were not dependent for their own spiritual wealth upon the Jewish religious traditions that Christianity itself undertook to transform and t q assimilate. Christianity is, in its origins, not only Jewish but Hellenic, both as to its doctrines and as to its type of spirituality. It is a synthesis of religious motives which had their sources widely spread throughout the pre-Christian world of Hellenism. Its own insight is partly due to the non-Christian world.


As a fact, then, the unity of the Spirit, the religious life which has been and is embodied in the form of human fraternities, is the peculiar possession of no one time, or nation, and belongs to no unique and visible church. Yet such unity is a source of religious insight. We have a right to use it wherever we find it and however it becomes accessible to us. As a fact, we all use such insight without following any one principle as to the selection of the historical sources. Socrates and Plato and Sophocles are religious teachers from whom we have all directly or indirectly learned, whether we know it or not. Our own Germanic ancestors, and the traditions of the Roman Empire, have influenced our type of loyalty and have taught us spiritual truth that we should not otherwise know.


Moreover, that which I have called the cause of all the loyal, the real unity of the whole spiritual world, is not merely a moral ideal. It is a religious reality. Its servants and ministers are present wherever religious brotherhood finds sincere and hearty manifestation. In the sight of a perfectly real but superhuman knowledge of the real purposes and affective deeds of mankind, all the loyal, whether they individually know the fact or not, are, and in all times have been , one genuine and religious brotherhood. Human narrowness and the vicissitudes of the world of time have hidden, and still hide, the knowledge of this community of the loyal from human eyes. But indirectly it comes to light. Whenever the loyalty of one visible spiritual community comes, through any sort of tradition, or custom, or song or story, or wise word or noble deed to awaken new manifestations of the loyal life in faithful souls anywhere amongst men.


I call the community of all who have sought for salvation through loyalty the Invisible Church . What makes it invisible to us is our ignorance of the facts of human history and, still more, our narrowness in our appreciation of spiritual truth. And I merely report the genuine facts, human and superhuman, when I say that whatever any form of the visible church has done or will do for the religious life of mankind, the crowning source of religious insight is, for us all, the actual loyalty, service, devotion, suffering, accomplishment traditions, example, teaching, and triumphs of the invisible church of all the faithful. And by the invisible church I mean the brotherhood consisting of all who, in any clime or land, live in the Spirit.


Our terms have now been, so far as my time permits, sharply defined. I am here not appealing to vague sentiments about human brotherhood, or to merely moral ideals about what we merely hope that man may yet come to be. And I am not for a moment committing myself to any mere worship of humanity, so long as one conceives humanity as the mere collection of those who are subject to the natural laws that govern our present physical and mental existence. Humanity, viewed as a mere product of nature, is narrow-minded and degraded enough. Its life is full of uncomprehended evils and of mutual misunderstandings. It is not a fitting object of any religious reverence. But it needs salvation. It has been finding salvation through loyalty. And the true cause, the genuine community, the real the spiritual brotherhood of the loyal is a superhuman and not merely a human reality. It expresses itself in the lives of the loyal. Insofar as these expressions directly or indirectly inspire our own genuine loyalty, they give us insight. Of such insight, whatever you may learn from communion with any form of the visible church, is an instance — a special embodiment. The invisible church, then, is no merely human and secular institution. It is a real and superhuman organisation. It includes and transcends every form of the visible church. It is the actual subject to which belong all the spiritual gifts which we can hope to enjoy. If your spiritual eyes were open, no diversity of human tongues, no strangeness of rites or of customs or of other forms of service, no accidental quaintnesses of tradition or of symbols or of creeds, would hide from your vision its perfections. It believes everywhere in the unity of the Spirit, and aims to save men through winning them over to the conscious service of its own unity. And it grants you the free grace of whatever religious insight you can acquire from outside yourself.


If you are truly religious, you live in it and for it. You conceive of life in your own way and, no doubt, under the limitations of your own time and creed. But you cannot see from its presence. And your salvation lies in its reality, in your service, and in your communion with its endlessly varied complexity of those who suffer and who in the might of the spirit overcome.


Let me tell you something of this life of the invisible church. And first let me speak of its membership. We have now repeatedly defined the test of such membership. The invisible church is the spiritual brotherhood of the loyal. Only a searcher of hearts can quite certainly know who are the really loyal. We can be sure regarding the nature of loyalty. That loyalty itself should come to men’s consciousness in the most various forms and degrees, and clouded by the most tragic misunderstandings, the narrow form of human consciousness, and the blindness and variety of human passion, make necessary.


If one is loyal to a narrow and evil cause, as the robber or the pirate may be loyal to his band or to his ship, a conscious effort to serve the unity of the whole spiritual world may seem at first sight to be excluded by the nature of the loyalty in question. But what makes a cause evil, and unworthy of loyal service is the fact that its service is destructive of the causes of other men, so that the evil cause preys upon the loyalty of the spiritual brethren of those who serve it, and so that thereby the servants of this cause do actual wrong to mankind. But this very fact may not be understood by the individual robber or pirate. He may be devoted with all his heart and soul and mind and strength to the best cause that he knows. He may therefore sincerely conceive that* the master of life authorises his cause. In that case, and so far as this belief is sincere, the robber or pirate may be a genuinely religious man.


Does this statement seem to you an absurd quibble? Then look over the past history of mankind. Some at least of the Crusaders were genuinely religious. That we all readily admit. But they were obviously, for the most part, robbers and murderers, and sometimes pirates, of what we should now think the least religious type if they were to-day sailing the Mediterranean or devastating the lands. Bead in “Hakluyt’s Voyages” the accounts of the spirit in which the English explorers and warriors of the Elizabethan age accomplished their great work. In these accounts a genuinely religious type of patriotism and of Christianity often expresses itself side by side with a reckless hatred of the Spaniard and a ferocity which tolerates the most obvious expressions of mere natural greed. These heroes of the beginnings of the British Empire often hardly knew whether they were rather the adventurous merchants, or the loyal warriors for England or the defenders of the Christian faith, or simply pirates. In fact they were all these things at once. Consider the Scottish clans as they were up to the eighteenth century. The spirit that they foster has since found magnificent expression in the loyalty of the Scottish people and in its later and far reaching service of some of the noblest causes that men know. Yet these clans loved cattle-thieving and tortured their enemies. When did they begin to be really patriots and servants of mankind? When did they begin to be truly and heartily religious? Who of us can tell?


Greed and blindness are natural to man. His form of consciousness renders him unable, in many cases, to realise their unreasonableness, even when he has already come into sincerely spiritual relations with the cause of all the loyal. What we can know is that greed and blindness are never of themselves religious, and that the way of salvation is the way of loyalty. But I know not what degrees of greedy blindness are consistent with an actual membership in the invisible church, as I have just defined its membership. When I meet, however, with the manifestations of the spirit of universal loyalty, whether in clansman, or in crusader, or in Elizabethan and piratical English -defender of his country's faith, or in the Spaniard whom he hated, I hope that I may he able to use, not the greed or the passions of these people, but their religious prowess, their free surrender of themselves to their cause, as a source of insight.


Membership in the invisible church is therefore not to be determined by mere conventions, but by the inward spirit of the faithful, as expressed in their loyal life according to their lights. Yet of those who seem to us mast clearly to belong to the service of the spirit, it is easy to enumerate certain very potent groups, to whose devotion we all owe an unspeakably great debt. The sages, the poets, the prophets, whose insight we consulted in our opening lecture, and have used throughout these discourses, form such groups. It is indifferent to us to what clime or land or tongue or visible religious body they belonged to or to-day belong. They have sincerely served the cause of the spirit. They are to us constant sources of religious insight. Even the cynics and the rebels, whom we cited in our opening lecture, have been, in many individual cases, devoutly religious souls who simply could not see the light as they consciously needed to see it, and who loyally refused to lie for convention’s sake. Such have often served the cause of the spirit with a fervour that you will understand so long as their words merely shock you. They often seem as if they were hostile to the unity of the spirit. But, in many cases, it is the narrowness of our nature, the chaos of our unspiritual passions, the barren formalism of our conventions that they assail. And such assaults turn our eyes upward to the unity of the spirit from whence alone consolation "and escape may come. Indirectly, therefore, such souls are often the misunderstood prophets of new ways of salvation for men. When they are loyal, when their very hardness is due to their resolute truthfulness, they are often amongst the most effective friends of a deeper religious life.


A notable criterion whereby, quite apart from mere conventions, you may try the spirits that pretend or appear to be religious, and may discern the members of the invisible church from those who are not members, is the criterion of the prophet Amos: “Woe unto them that are at ease in Zion.” This, as I said earlier, is one of the favourite tests applied by moralists for distinguishing those who serve from those who merely enjoy. That it is also a religious test, and why it is a religious test, our acquaintance with the spirit of loyalty has shown us. Religion, when triumphant, includes, indeed, the experience of inward peace; but the peace which is not won through strenuous loyal service is deceitful and corrupting. It is the conquest over and through tribulation which saves. Whoever conceives religion merely as a comfortable release from sorrows, as an agreeable banishment of cares, as a simple escape from pain, knows not what evil is, or what our human nature is, or what our need of salvation means, or what the will of the master of life demands. Therefore, a visible church that appears simply in the form of a cure for worry, or a preventive of trouble, seems to me to be lacking in a full sense of what loyalty is. Worry is indeed, in itself, not a religious exercise. But it is often an effective preliminary, and is sometimes, according to the vicissitudes of natural temper, a relatively harmless accompaniment to a deeply religious life. Certainly the mere absence of worry, the mere attainment of a sensuous tranquility, is no criterion of membership in the invisible church. Better a cynic or a rebel against conventional religious forms, or pessimist, or a worrying soul, if only such a being is strenuously loyal according to his lights, than one whom religion means simply a tranquil adoration without loyalty. But, of course, many of the tranquil are also loyal. When this is true we can only rejoice in their attainments.


If we look for other examples still of types of spirituality which seem to imply membership in the invisible church, I myself know of few better instances of the genuinely religious spirit than those which are presented to us, in recent times, by the store devoted servants of the cause of any one of the advancing natural sciences. And such instances are peculiarly instructive, because many great men of science, as a result of their personal temperament and training, are little interested in the forms of the visible church, and very frequently are loath to admit that their calling has religious bearings. But when the matter is rightly viewed, one sees that the great scientific investigator is not only profoundly loyal, but serves a cause which, at the present time probably does more to unify every sort of wholesome human activity, to bind in one all the higher interests of humanity, to bring men of various lands and races close together in spirit than does any other one special cause that modern men serve. The cause of any serious scientific investigator is, from my point of view, a superhuman cause, for precisely the reasons which I have already explained to you.


The individual scientific worker, "uninterested as he usually is in metaphysics, and unconcerned as he often is about the relation of his task to the interests of the visible church, knows indeed that with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength he serves a cause that he conceives to be worthy. He knows, also, that this cause is beneficent, and that it plays a great part in the directing of human activities, whether because his science already has practical applications, or because the knowledge of nature is in itself an elevating and enlarging influence for mankind. The scientific investigator knows also that, while his individual experience is the source to which he personally looks for new observations of facts, his private observations contribute to science only insofar as other investigators can verify his results. Hence his whole scientific life consists in submitting all his most prized discoveries to the rigid test of an estimate that belongs to no individual human experience, but that is, or that through loyal efforts tend to become the common possession of the Organised experience of all the workers in his field. So far the devoted investigator goes in his own consciousness as to his work.


Beyond this point, in estimating his ideals and his value, he sometimes seems not to wish to go, either because he is unreflective or because he is modest. But when we remember that the unity of human experience, in the light of which scientific results are tested, and to whose growth and enrichment the scientific worker is devoted, is indeed a superhuman reality of the type that we have now discussed; when we also recall the profound values which the scientific ideal has for all departments of human life in our day; when, further, we see how resolutely the true investigator gives his all to contribute to what is really the unity of the spirit, we may well wonder who is in essence more heartily religious than the completely devoted scientific investigator — such a man, for instance, as was Faraday.


When I have the fortune to hear of really great scientific workers who are as ready to die for their science (if an experiment or an observation requires risk) as to live for it through years of worldly privation and of rigid surrender of private interests to truth, and when I then by chance also hear that some of them were called, or perhaps even called themselves, irreligious men, I confess that I think of the little girl who walked by Wordsworth’s side on the beach at Calais. The poet estimated her variety of religious experience in words theft I feel moved to apply to the ardently loyal hero of science: “Thou dwellest in Abraham's bosom all the year, And worships at the temple’s inmost shrine, God being with thee when we know it not.”


There also exists a somewhat threadbare verse of the poet Young which tells us how “the undevout astronomer is mad.” I should prefer to say that the really loyal scientific man who imagines himself undevout is not indeed mad at all, but, like Wordsworth’s young companion at Calais, unobservant of himself and of the wondrous and beautiful love that inspires him. For he is, indeed, inspired by a love for something much more divine than is that august assemblage of mechanical and physical phenomena called the starry heavens. The soul of his work is the service of the unity of the spirit in one of its most exalted forms.


That all who, belonging to any body of the visible church, are seriously loyal to the divine according to their lights, are members also of the invisible church, needs, after what I have said, no further explanation.


But if, surveying this multitude that no man can number from every kindred, and tribe, and nation, and tongue, you say that entrance to The invisible church is guarded by barriers that seem to you not high enough or strong enough, I reply that this membership is indeed tested by the severest of rules.


Do you serve with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength a cause that is superhuman and that is indeed divine? This is the question which all have to answer who are to enter this the most? spiritual of all human brotherhoods.


The invisible church is to be to us a source of insight. This means that we must enter into some sort of communion with the faithful if we are to enjoy the fruits of their insight. And, apart from one’s own life of loyal service itself, the principal means of grace — that is, the principal means of attaining instruction in the spirit of loyalty, encouragement in its toils, solace in its sorrows, and power to endure and to triumph — the principal means of grace, I say, which is open to any man lies in such communion with the faithful and with the unity of the spirit which they express in their lives. It is natural that we should begin this process of communion through direct personal relations with the fellow-servants of our own special cause. Hence whatever is usually said by those who belong to any section of the visible church regarding the spiritual advantages which follow from entering the communion of their own body may be accepted, from our present point of view, as having whatever truth the devotion and the religious life of any one body of faithful servants of the unity of the spirit may give to such statements when applied precisely to their own members. But to us all alike the voice of the invisible church speaks — it sustains us? all alike by its counsels, not merely in so far as our own personal cause and our brethren of that service are known to us, but in so far as we are ready to understand the loyal life, and to be inspired by it, even when those who Exemplify its intents and its values are far from us in their type of experience and in the manner of their service.


You remember the rule of loyalty: “So serve your cause that if possible through your service everybody whom you influence shall be rendered a more devoted servant of his own cause, and thereby of the cause of causes — the unity of all the loyal.” Now the rule for using the invisible church as a source of insight is this: “So be prepared to interpret, and sympathetically to comprehend, the causes and the service of other men, that whoever serves the cause of causes, the unity of all the loyal, may even thereby tend to help you in your personal service of your own special cause.” To cultivate the comprehension and the reverence for loyalty, however, and wherever loyalty may be found, is to prepare yourself for a fitting communion with the invisible church.


And in such communion I find the crowning source of religious insight. What I say is wholly consistent then with the recognition of the preciousness of the visible church to its members. Once more, however, I point out the fact that the visible church is as precious as it is because it is indeed devoted to the unity of the spirit, that is, because it is a part and an organ of the invisible church.


I cannot close this extremely imperfect sketch of our crowning source of insight without applying to our present doctrine of the invisible church, the eternally true teaching of St. Paul regarding spiritual gifts.


As Paul’s Corinthians, in their little community, faced the problem of the diversity of the gifts and powers whereby their various members undertook to serve the common cause — as this diversity of gifts tended from the outset to doctrinal differences of opinion, as the differences threatened to confuse loyalty by bringing brethren into conflict — even so, but with immeasurably vaster complications, the whole religious world, the invisible community of the loyal, has always faced, and still faces, a diversity of powers and of forms of insight, a diversity due to the endlessly various temperaments, capacities and sorts and conditions of men. The Corinthian church, as Paul sketched its situation, was a miniature of religious humanity. All the ways that the loyal follow lead upward to the realm of the spirit, where reason is at once the overarching heaven and the all-vitalising devotion which binds every loyal individual to the master of life. But in our universe the one demands the many. The infinite becomes incarnate through the finite. The paths that lead the loyal to the knowledge of the eternal pass for our ..vision, with manifold crossings and with perplexing wanderings, through the wilderness of this present work?. The divine life is won through suffering. And religious history is a tale of suffering — of mutual misunderstanding amongst brethren who have from moment to moment been able to remember God only by narrowly misreading the hearts of their brethren. The diversity of spiritual gifts has developed, in religious history, an endless war of factions. The invisible church has frequently come to consciousness in the form of sects that say: “Ours alone is the true spiritual gift. Through our triumph alone is the world to be saved. Man will reach salvation only when our own Jerusalem is the universally recognised holy city.”


Now it is useless to reduce the many to the one merely by wiping out the many. It is useless to make some new sect whose creed shall be that there are to be no sects. The unity of the visible church, under any one creed, or with any one settled system of religious practices, is an unattainable and undesirable ideal. The varieties of religious experience in James’s sense of that term are endless. The diversity of gifts is as great as is the diversity of strong and loyal personalities. What St. Paul saw, in, the miniature case presented to him by the Corinthian church, was that all the real gifts, and all the consequently inevitable differences of approach to the religious problems, and all the differences of individual religious insight were necessary for a wealthy religious life, and might serve the unity of the spirit, if only they were conceived and used subject to the spiritual gift which he defined as Charity.


Now the Pauline Charity is simply that form of loyalty which should characterise a company of brethren who already have recognised their brotherhood, who consciously know that their cause is one and that the spirit which they serve is one. For such brethren, loyalty naturally takes the form of a self-surrender that need not seek its own, or assert itself vehemently, because the visible unity of the community in question is already acknowledged by all the faithful present, so that each intends to edify, not himself alone, but his brethren, and also intends not to convert his brother to a new faith, but to establish him in a faith already recognised by the community. Yet since the Corinthians, warring over their diversity of gifts, had come to lose sight of the common spirit, Paul simply recalls them to their flag, by his poem of charity, which is also a technically true statement of how the principle of loyalty applies to brotherhood fully conscious of its common aim. But the very intimacy of the Pauline picture of charity makes it hard to apply this account of the loyalty that should reign within a religious family to the problems of a world where faith does not understand faith, where the contrasts of opinion seem to the men in question to exclude community of the spirit, where the fighting blood even of saintly souls is stirred by persecutions or heated by a hatred of seemingly false creeds. And Paul himself could not speak in the language of charity, either when he referred to those whom he called “false brethren” or characterised the Hellenic-Roman spiritual world to whose thought and spirit he owed so much. As the Corinthians, warring over the spiritual gifts, were a miniature representation of the motives that have led to religious wars, so St. Paul’s own failure to speak with charity as soon as certain matters of controversy arose in his mind, shows in miniature the difficulty that the visible church, in all its forms, has had to unite loyal strenuousness of devotion to the truth that one sees with tolerance for the faiths whose meaning one cannot understand.


And yet, what Paul said about charity must be universalised if it is true. When we universalise the Pauline Charity, it becomes once more the loyalty that, as a fact, is now justified in seeking her loyal own; but that still, like charity, rejoices in the truth. Such loyalty loves loyalty, even when race or creed distinctions make it hard or impossible for us to feel fond of the persons and practices and opinions whereby our more distant brethren embody their spiritual gifts. Such loyalty is tolerant. Tolerance is what charity becomes when we have to deal with those whose special cause we just now cannot understand, loyalty is tolerant, not as if truth were indifferent, or as if there were no contrast between worldliness and spirituality, but tolerant precisely in so far as the best service of loyalty and of religion and of the affinity of the spirit consists in helping our brethren not to our own, but to their own. Such loyalty implies genuine faith in the abiding and supreme unity of the spirit .


Only by thus universalising the doctrine which Paul preached to the Corinthians can we be prepared to use to the full this crowning source of insight — the doctrine, the example, the life, the inspiration, which is embodied in the countless forms and expressions of the invisible church.


The work of the invisible church — it is just that work to which all these lectures have been directing your attention. The sources of insight are themselves, the working of its spirit in our spirits.

If I have done anything (however unworthy) to open the minds of any of you to these workings, my fragmentary efforts will not have been in vain. I have no authority to determine your own insight.


Seek insight where it is to be found.


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