If one asks, now, what is involved in these statements, and attempts to characterize the Christian way to communion with God, he will be obliged to say that, for the fully modern man, the way must be ethical, Christian, social, biblical, practical, and, in all these points alike, rational.
It must be ethical, for no religious experience can justify itself to a man who has come to moral self-consciousness, which does not offer, in the sphere of the moral, a deepening of the moral life. Mere emotions, therefore, however entrancing, will not answer. Here lies the far reaching significance of the Reformers' insistence that God's presence is to be found in the daily calling, and the sense of his nearness to be won just there, in the doing of the daily duty.
It must be Christian, in building, as we have seen, directly on the fact of Christ as the one fact sufficiently great and significant to open a certain way to God for the modern man.
It must be social, because in the sphere of religion, as in all other spheres of value, we are almost inevitably introduced through the witness of those who already share in the value. And, doubtless, for some the religious experience remains to the end in much larger degree indirect, than for others. And for all of us some of our best visions of the spiritual come through others. The social trend of the Christian's communion with God is seen, too, in the indispensable fellowship with the Church and with the great prophetic seers of history, as well as in the inevitable way in which the kingdom of God must go forward by the witness, given from heart to heart, of what men have found Christ to be to them.
It must be biblical, not as building on a book, but in just so far as the Bible is regarded not as a record of doctrines or history to be authoritatively accepted, but as a book of honest testimony to experience. Its supreme value lies just here. For the testimony of another is our chief road to enlargement of life. Most of all, it is through such simple, honest witness that the New Testament puts us face to face with the redeeming personality of Christ. Whatever our theories about the Bible, it is not as compelling authority, but as simple, honest witness that the New Testament brings us emancipating power.
In another's words, "The inner life of Jesus is stamped, on the testimony of men who have been set free by him. In this way has it become a force in history, and in no other way was that possible. Hence we can lay hold on it and make it ours only when we let the witness of his disciples lay hold on us." And that witness the Christian "finds in Scripture as nowhere else."
Treated as a book throbbing thus with personal life-as a book of honest testimony to experience broad and deep, in the moral and spiritual life-and approached through a true historical method, I have no doubt that the Bible will increasingly prove what the free critic, Edmond Scherer, claimed: "The Bible will ever be the book of power, the marvellous book, the book above all others. It will ever be the light of the mind and the bread of the soul. Neither the superstitions of some, nor the irreligious negations of others have been able to do it harm. If there is anything certain in the world, it is that the destinies of the Bible are linked with the destinies of holiness on earth."
The modern emphasis, again, must be practical, as wrought out in experience, and submitting not only gladly, but of deliberate purpose, to the test of experiment in life. The experiment here is the endeavor to find whether the deepest laws and trends of our being do unmistakably point to God. And it is in this practical way that we must apply, each for himself, the psychological and sociological tests which have already been considered. Do the Christian conception of the spiritual life and the honest response to the inner life of Christ give opportunity for the highest and fullest personal self-expression and personal association, justifying themselves, thus, rationally and ethically? If the individual finds himself compelled, as I certainly do, to return an unhesitating affirmative to this question, then he will simply be saying that the deepest laws and trends of human nature reach their fullest justification and growth only upon the Christian assumption.