[Article from the Hull Minister in 1913]

Whitaker evaluated back in 1909




“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: lest any man should boast.” - EPH. II: 8-9

No one can ponder long upon the universal unrests and perplexities that are now everywhere showing themselves in human society without seeing that they all resolve themselves into one all-pervading movement, and express one common impulse. There is now evident as perhaps there has never been for generations, in like volume and force, a longing and a serious concern about making life right, and achieving the human ideal. There is a vast preoccupation with the idea of securing for individuals, and for the whole of society, their true life. If it does not, as yet, rise to the height of a quest after personal goodness and holiness, still there is a tacit agreement, a shy consent, that personal goodness and holiness, if they did not seem so ridiculously out of the question, would be the finest windfalls that could come to the world of men. The growing eagerness to get at reality, and to simplify life down to its essentials, is unmistakably present and powerful in multitudes of minds that do not care to dwell upon far-off sublimities. And the motive of it all is that men’s thoughts are more and more set upon retaining rightness. Even if they do not think this can be attained, there is a hankering after it that makes a great part of the pathos of our modern situation.
(1) In what way, then, does our religion meet this mute, appealing, significant hunger of the present-day soul - a hunger as elemental and goading as the cry for salvation has ever been at any time of spiritual resurgence? Religion meets it by reinterpreting it. And to reinterpret it means to deepen it - make it more clamorous and disturbing. The medicine has to make the disease seem more hurtful before it can begin to cure. Before the reconciliation can take place the two sides of the estrangement have to be more bitterly emphasised. That is why so many people shrink from the way of saving faith; because it seems to bring peace and not a sword, and to drive the dissonance deeper.
(2) Yet it ought to be apparent to everybody, by this time of day, that there is no solution, and no salvation, by merely taking things as they are, and by taking men’s selves as they are, and imagining that we can get our ideal out of the given fact of the world as we now see it. The given, the datum, will not do, we must have the beyond. It is of no use to cry “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. There is something we have not yet got. There is a power we do not, and cannot, at present, wield. To pretend that we have all the elements of a complete success is superficial, and worse. The world in its wisdom thinks that it knows how to work out its own salvation. “But is the thing we see salvation?” We must dig the gulf deeper, and make our lack plainer.
(3) For one thing we come to see that power is not in ourselves. No, it is not! Let philosophy charm never so wisely. “Be yourself,” says philosophy. But that is what I am anxious not to be. “Be your true self” is the amended version of it; but, alas, my true self is never my actual self. “But is there not a higher self which you are always being impelled to be and to choose?” Yes; but who is to choose? Which self is it that chooses to be higher? Certainly not the lower? And the higher so often seems “powerless to be born.” But, thank God, sometimes, however rarely, the miracle does happen. The higher is brought to birth. The lower is put aside, and put under, and has its claim quashed. Which self is it that has brought this about? Is it not plain that the self has drawn power from somewhere, from someone, which it did not possess of itself -  which in fact it was utterly hopeless of ever possessing? Power is not in ourselves, if by “ourselves” we mean the bungling, wayward, rebellious centres of experience that go wrong more often than right. The Power is outside and above ourselves. It is only “in ourselves “ when it comes in from beyond. It is not a datum, not part of the given fact of life in ordinary experience. It is a Higher, and a Greater, and a Better than we generally know, than we ever completely are. It is not we, not the ordinary we, not the selves that we know, so troubled, limited, baffled. It is far other than we. You may say, if you like, for the sake of getting all your world into one picture, that all which happens to a man is in a man, and all that which comes to a man comes because it is already there. But that is, after all, only “a bravery of the Stoics,” an Emersonian flight. It is just because the world is not all one picture that there is hope for us. The Power that lifts me is above me. The Goodness that shames me is beyond me. The Transfiguring Love that can make all my world different is surely other than I am.
(4) And if this is so, then Salvation must be by Faith. It must come by submssion to, and by a downright acceptance of, that Higher and Better and Stronger and Lovelier, who is even now waiting to save us. We must bring our soul into the presence of this God. We must surrender ourselves to the will of this Power. If we want rightness, if we would achieve soundness, the first step is to acknowledge with our whole being the working of that Law which has us in its hold and will not let us go. This is a self-committal that is repugnant to many minds. All faith seems to them an abjectness, a laying down of the proud prerogatives of the intellect, a loss of independence. Yet it is a fact that the call of Faith has an urgency that is felt through the deepest chambers of the heart. If it is hard to have Faith, it is still harder not to have it. If we do not possess within ourselves the power we so sorely need, yet we do possess the hunger that tells us we need it. If our Reason does not tell us what to believe, it tells us that belief is altogether reasonable. The most reasonable thing we can do at this moment is to turn passionately to God and throw ourselves upon His power to save us. The question of questions for us must continue to be, until we get an answer to it, Have found that Other of the soul, that Higher than the self, that Better than our best? On the finding of it, and the acknowledgment of it, depends all that we mean by Salvation.
(5) I say this is what the modern, consciousness finds to be reasonable. And mainly because Faith does meet one special difficulty of the situation, The diffculty is this. We see now more than ever before that the moral ideal is infinite, and the goal recedes further and further the more we advance towards it. Therefore the more we desire to attain rightness and achieve goodness, the less able we seem to be to satisfy its unsatiated demand. We find that goodness is not an external commandment. It is not a measured-out rule of life. It is exceedingly spiritual - and we are not. One way of meeting the difficulty is to cut down the moral requirement to the level of man’s ordinary practice. That has often been tried. It has always failed. Now the way of Faith is this. It accepts the infinite obligation, but instead of falling back from it aghast and despairing it interprets the command as a request for Love. It is not God saying “Do this or perish.” It is God saying “Love Me, for how can you reject My love for you?” The law had said “Obey,” and we had replied “We cannot.” The Gospel says that if we love enough we can. If we love, on the one hand, the moral obligation will always seem greater and greater. But if we love, on the other hand, we shall perfectly fulfil the obligation. Now, is not that just our modern need? Is it not what all the world wants ? And that is what Faith brings about. For it is no longer I that do it. It is no longer I who even try to do it. It is God and I. It is God dwelling in me by Faith. How can I not do it, if I believe that He loved me and gave Himself for me - that He loves me and gives himself for me every minute that I live and think?
(6) “Well,” comes the final objection, “it is an impossibility; a fine dream, a desirable dream, but a dream for all that; for if there were no other difficulty in the matter there is this insuperable difficullty, that a man cannot alter his past: we are all in the grip of the men we have been; and even love cannot alter that.” This is, indeed, the “last wave” of the modern resistance to Faith, but it is just here that the answer of the Gospel is most crushingly triumphant and final, For there is one sense, and only one, in which the past can be altered. It can be altered by being made the raw material out of which to manufacture the future. Our past can be taken by Infinite Mercy and made the occasion of Infinite Forgiveness. The Gospel says that God’s love was given to us not in spite of our past but because of it. The fact of redemption rests on the fact of sin. So the Faith that brings Salvation is a repenting Faith. Repentance towards God is already the beginning of a new life, for it is the beginning of Faith. We become new men because of the old we have been and are ashamed of. On our dead selves we rise. This is not mere theory, but proved and realised experience. It is the great contribution to history of the Christian centuries. We are saved through faith, for faith undoes the past.
(7) The deepest problems of our time are often all personal problems. And three of the gravest of these are the Problem of the Self, the Problem of the Moral Dilemma, and the Problem of the Past, but our religion puts into our hands the key to them all. A present experience of salvation is the need of our time, and every man may have it. Let us go and preach it to the whole world.

'The Liberal Christian Pulpit: Salvation By Faith' (1913) in The Inquirer: A Journal of Liberal Religion, Literature and Social Progress, No. 3717, New Series, no. 812, Saturday September 20, 1913, 597-598.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful