Imagens da página
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

development of the kingdom of God. But it does not do this at the expense of the individual. The Gospel promotes society by promoting the welfare of the individual, and the welfare of the individual by promoting that of society. Thus, instead of being

. antagonistic, their interests are mutual, and they mutually benefit each other.

Individualism says that society is but a boat, and the individual is the passenger. The boat exists for the passenger, and has value only for his sake. Socialism says that society is the sea ; individuals are the waves that rise and fall on its surface. The waves appear and disappear, but the sea remains. Individuals come and go, but society continues, and in it the individual is lost. Christian Sociology regards these figures as defective, and says that society is a body, of which the individuals are the members. The members are as essential to the perfection of the body, as the body is essential to the health and vigour and efficiency of the members. There is no body without members; there are no members without a body.

The above reasons, and similar ones which will occur to the thoughtful, make the need of a Christian Sociology and the importance of its study evident. System in the arrangement of sociological truth is necessary to satisfy the mind; but it is still more important to enable the Christian to understand his mission in society and to use his social power to the best advantage. A properly developed social science may become an auxiliary of inestimable value to the earnest Christian minister and layman.

Sceptics feel that the time has come for the development of sociology on purely natural principles, and

a

numerous works on the subject have appeared in France, England, and Germany, some of which have been reproduced in America. It is incumbent on Christian theologians to put Christian Sociology by the side of the sceptical, and make evident, from the striking contrast, the superiority of the former over the latter, of the spiritual over the physical sociology. As far as the Evangelical churches are concerned, the time seems favourable for the development of our subject. The various denominations understand one another better than formerly. There is a tendency to bring Christians of different names into more intimate fraternal relations, even if it does not unite them into one denomination. Many believers now appreciate the fact that there is inore to unite them to brethren in Christ than to separate them from them simply because they are in other denominations. And whereas formerly the stress was laid on that which separates the denominations, now the stress is also laid on that which unites them. This fraternal spirit not only makes a Christian social science desirable, but also possible. At a period when the different churches repel one another, the attempt to form such a science would, probably, result in forming a denominational sociology. But even if a Christian Sociology could be formed at such a time, the sectarian spirit would fail to appreciate it, and thus it would fail to accomplish its aim. But now there seem to be the most favourable conditions for its construction, as well as for its appreciation.

Since, then, the demands for Christian Sociology are so pressing, and since the conditions for its production and appreciation are so favourable, we are justified

a

[blocks in formation]

in cherishing the belief that the time for it has fully come. And the tendencies indicate that, at no very distant day, all that God has said, and all that is great and imperishable of what man has written, will be concentrated on human society, to reveal the nature of that society and the laws for its government.

The era for the rights of individuals has come, and has already made some progress.

It has taken ages of agony and struggle to push the individual up to his present nearness to the summit for which he was made. Even while writhing under the heel of oppression, his instinct was a prophecy of the sublime height for which he was destined. From the summit already attained God will not hurl the individual, and no tyrant can. The work to be done now is, to bring every individual on this summit. A grand mission ! But in connection with this there is another work which is no less important, is yet more difficult, and is now more neglected. That work is, the proper organization of free individuals into society; the adjustment of rights, so that the freedom of the individual may not interfere with the freedom and progress of society, but may promote them. The co-ordination of individuals must go hand in hand with their personal development. The summits which individuals attain must not be isolated, but they must form a solid chain of mountains which cannot be broken-each summit being distinct and individual, and yet connected with all the rest; each necessary to complete and strengthen the range, and the whole range in turn strengthening each summit.

But it must not be supposed that Christian Sociology can at once spring into being in all the symmetry and beauty and perfection of which it is capable. It may take ages to give it even tolerable completeness. First of all, it will be necessary to direct attention to the subject and awaken an interest in it. Perhaps nothing more can be done now than to put up the scaffolding, on which future labourers shall stand in erecting a far more perfect structure than can now be reared. When that more perfect structure is erected, then the scaffolding may be removed as useless. But for the erection of the building it is indispensable. If not permitted to work on the building itself, the author will regard it a great privilege to be permitted to help in putting up the scaffolding.

CHAPTER I.

DEFINITION OF CHRISTIAN SOCIOLOGY.--RELATION TO OTHER DEPARTMENTS OF THEOLOGY.-METHOD.

Definition.

The proper development of a subject is its best definition. Indeed, every definition which comes short of such a development is imperfect and unsatisfactory. To say that theology is "the science of God

“ and divine things," may pass for a definition. But God and divine things are to be explained by this science; and until that is done, these very terms are a mystery ; if, however, they are already understood and need no further explanation, then a science of them is no longer necessary. So the Gospel may be defined as the account of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. But who can understand this definition, unless he already knows what is meant by that life and those teachings? The Gospel itself is, in fact, the only full and satisfactory answer to the question, What is the Gospel ?

The same is true of Christian Sociology. The development of the subject, the entire system, is its best definition. And only when the system has been fully constructed can the term Christian Sociology be fully understood. The aim of the entire discussion which

« AnteriorContinuar »