Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thoughts for the Day

"To what an extent doctrines intrinsically fitted to make the deepest impression upon the mind may remain in it as dead beliefs, without being ever realized in the imagination, the feelings, or the understanding, is exemplified by the manner in which the majority of believers hold the doctrines of Christianity. By Christianity I here mean what is accounted such by all churches and sects - the maxims and precepts contained in the New Testament. These are considered sacred, and accepted as law, by all professing Christians. Yet is is scarecely too much to say that not one Christian in a thousand guides or tests his individual contduct by reference to those laws. The standard to which he does refer it, is the custom of his nation, his class, or his religious profession. He has thus, on the one hand, a collection of ethical maxims, which he believes to have been vouchasafed to him by infallible wisdom as rules for his government; and on the other hand, a set of everyday judgments and practices, which go a certain length with some of those maxims, not so great a length with others, stand in direct opposition to some, and are, on the whole, a compromise between the Christian creed and the interests and suggestions of wordly life. To the first of these standards he gives his homage; to the other his real allegiance. All Christians believe that blessed are the poor and humble, and those who are ill-used by this world, that is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven; that they should judge not, lest they be judged; that they should swear not at all; that they should love their neighbor as themselves; that if one take their cloak, they should give him their coat also, that they should take no thought for the morrow; that if they would be perfect, they should sell all that they have and give it to the poor. They are not insincere when they say that they believe these things. They do believe them, as people believe what they have always heard lauded and never discussed . . .

The doctrimes have no hold on ordinary believers - are not a power in their minds. They have a habitual respect for the sounds of them, but no feeling which spreads from the words to the things signified, and forces the mind to take them in, and make them conform to the formula. Whenever conduct is concerned, they look round for Mr. A and B. to direct them how far to go in obeying Christ.

Now we may be well assured that the case was not thus, but far otherwise, with the early Christians. Had it been thus, Christianity never would have expanded for an obscure set of the despised Hebrews into the religion of the Roman empire. When their enemies said, 'See how these Christians love one another' (a remark not likely to be made by anybody now), they assuredly had a much livelier feeling of the meaning of their creed than they have ever had since." - On Liberty of Thought and Discussion by John Stuart Mill, 19th century sociologist

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And so it is yet today. What a sad commentary on the condition of those generations removed from the earliest church.

But there are places where that Christian love and life are still in evidence...in the hearts of those who love Christ, know Him intimately, and have humbly invited Him to shape them into His image, living lives not perfect, but committed to Him.