[Rev. Rufus P. Johnston, D.D., in Christian Work and Evangelist.]

There has never been a time when the church could have safely dispensed with criticism. And be it swiftly added, the critics have never failed her. Being, on the one side at least, an expression of human life, the church has always shared in the defects and excellences common to man. Never has she been free from shortcomings in vision and method. In no era has she attained her ideals or completely measured up to her tasks and possibilities. The golden age of perfection is yet to dawn out of her East. Thus far she has needed constantly to pray, "God be merciful to me the sinner." Like other human movements she has shown, too often, a predilection for ruts, a tendency to exalt custom to the authority of Holy Writ, and to regard herself as the end rather than the instrument of the divine purpose. She has not always been free from strains of worldly ambition, from symptoms of self-centered egotism, and from efforts to set herself up as an infallible and unimpeachable judge. Sometimes she has seemed to exalt the creedal, formal elements above the vital, has not shown herself a friend of scientific, political, and social progress, has lost touch with and anathematized the spirit of the age, and has sought to enforce a monotonous uniformity rather than to cultivate the varied fruits of a living spirituality. She has too often conceived herself to be a changeless organization rather than a living organism ceaselessly adjusting itself to its environment. Her leaders have not always been gifted with insight, they have not always been free from the taint of selfish aims, and they have sometimes carried the virtue of conservatism to such an extreme that it became a vice. Some of them have in so far as possible committed the church to policies which plainly spelled suicide, and have attempted to array her against movements which carried in their hearts the hope of the race. From many mistakes her critics have delivered her. Long ago she would have become an unbearable despot but for the spirit of freedom which dared to express itself in criticism.

[Christian World.]

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December 30, 1911

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