(1851 – 1897)
(from The Programme of Christianity, 1882)
‘What does God do all day?’ asked a little boy. One could wish that more grown-up people would ask so very real a question. Unfortunately most of us are not even boys in religious intelligence, but only very unthinking babes. It no more occurs to us that God is engaged in any particular work in the world than it occurs to a little child that its father does anything except be its father. Its father may be a cabinet minister absorbed in the nation’s work, or an inventor deep in schemes for the world’s good; but to this master-egoist he is father and nothing more. Childhood, whether in the physical or in the moral world, is the great self-centred period of life; and a personal God who satisfies personal ends is all that for a long time many a Christian understands.
But as clearly as there comes to the growing child a knowledge of his father’s part in the world, and a sense of what real life means, there must come to every Christian, whose growth is true, some richer sense of the meaning of Christianity and a larger view of Christ’s purpose for humankind. To miss this is to miss the whole splendour and glory of Christ’s religion. Next to losing the sense of a personal Christ, the worst evil that can befall a Christian is to have no sense of anything else. To grow up in a complacent belief that God has no business in this great groaning world of human beings except to attend to a few saved souls is the negation of all religion. The first great epoch in a Christian’s life, after the awe and wonder of its dawn, is when there breaks into his mind some sense that Christ has a purpose for humankind, a purpose beyond him and his needs, beyond the Churches and their creeds, beyond heaven and it saints – a purpose which embraces every man and woman born, every kindred and nation formed, which regards not their spiritual good alone, but their welfare in every part, their progress, their health, their work, their wages, their happiness in this present world.