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spreads its table on the Lord's Day, and offers food to the mind and heart in its prayers and hymns, its Scripture and its sermons. It spreads another table in its literature, its religious biographies, its journals, its sacred histories, its sacred poetry, its books of edification and instruction. It spreads a table for the young in its Sunday school. Its social meetings and conferences offer food in still another way, so that every mind and heart shall be satisfied. This table of the Church comprises all its means of edification. But here again let us distinguish between the technical church and the true church. If we go to church and hear - dogmas, or literary essays, or philosophical discussions, or severe attacks on other churches, or assaults on unbelievers, what does it profit? “The hungry sheep look up, and are not fed.” But the church which feeds the soul is one in which we are helped to feel the presence and love of God in the world; to know the grandeur of our human life, the nobleness of living for others, and the certain triumph of truth over error, right over wrong, good over evil. That is the food we need, — food for conscience, heart, and life, to make us strong for our work, to comfort us in our sorrow, to enable us to see heaven near while we walk on earth.
The Lord's Supper is the symbol of the food which Christ and Christianity supply to the human mind and heart. We eat a piece of bread and drink a little wine as an expression of our faith that Christ's life and death feed our souls with strength and joy. All should thus unite who have this faith. It is not for church members only, but for all Christians. It is not for the good and holy, for pious persons only, any more than prayer and public worship is for them only. Just as in a family all the members come together, old and young, to the breakfast-table, even to the little child sitting in his high chair, so to the table of the Lord all should come, even the youngest and humblest Christian who yet claims Jesus as his teacher, friend, and Saviour.
The third thing which characterizes every home is, that it is a sphere of activity and centre of communion, of which the parlor (or keeping-room, as it is called in the country) is the focus. From this the family go out, each to his work or pleasure; to this they all return, and communicate what they have gained. Every home is the centre of a circle, and these circles overlap each other, so that one circle catches into another, and thus society is made up of many little family circles, which are linked in and in with each other. So in the old coats of mail each ring of steel was interlinked with two or three others. Every child and man living in a home and family is thus introduced to surrounding homes and families, and brought into a communion of work, of study, of thought, of social sympathy and intercourse. And thus every church ought to be a circle interlinked with other surrounding churches, and
so tending to make a Christian society, a church universal.
The old town-life of New England was like one great family. Some of us have seen the memoir of a lady who lived in a town on the Connecticut River some fifty years ago, before railroads existed, and when a journey to Boston was a serious affair. That book shows how every one in the town knew every one else.
It was a matter of course that every one should visit everyone else. member suffered, all suffered ; if one rejoiced, all were happy.
The ideal school is also like a family. When a school is governed like an army, and discipline is the chief element, there is a low type of school. As it approaches to family life it rises. This was the ideal of Pestalozzi, to make a school like a family; and all educational reform since his time has been in that direction.
The ideal church is like a family. A church which is governed like an army, where discipline is the chief element, belongs to a low type. A church which approaches family life rises higher and higher. Such was the Church at first, when we read that “the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul; neither said any one that aught that he possessed was his own, but they had all things common." A true church ought to seem like a home, and all within it to be like brothers and sisters.
The great religious reform introduced by Jesus, and which has lifted all human society to a higher level, which saved Roman civilization from utter ruin, which tamed Northern barbarism, and united warring races into a new league of Christian States, had its root and its essence in this idea, that all mankind are one family. It consisted in the conviction that God is our Father, and therefore to be obeyed and loved; that Jesus is the Christ because he is “the Son, the best illustration of true filial love to God; and that humanity is a brotherhood. In this lies the essence of the great Christian faith and life, the conviction that there is one family in heaven and earth.
Therefore, the first and fundamental conviction in Christianity is, that God is our Father. We are his family, and he is the Father of the household. Jesus did not invent the term as applied to God, but he introduced the spirit of filial thought when he said, “Our Father who art in heaven;" "My Father worketh hitherto." He was thought irreverent by the people around him in being so familiar with the infinite and almighty God. But it was the familiarity born of trust and love, and it has made the world new.
I lately received a tract called “Hell,” published in Scotland, the object of which is to persuade us by the usual theological logic, based on a bald literalism, that God is-to punish forever those of his children who do noi pass through some experience
considered necessary by those who call themselves evangelical. The reply to such arguments is an answer taught by the Master. “What man is there among you, being a father,” who could do this? What father, unless insane with cruelty, would torture his child forever in a hell where he could get no good? What man of only a decent feeling of responsibility would wish to create a child who could plunge himself into such irreparable ruin? Many a man is called an atheist whose utterances are less irreligious than this. If any one said of you that you had constructed a furnace into which to put your children, and had invented a way of prolonging their lives and their sufferings forever, would you not be indignant at such an outrageous accusation? But this is exactly what believers in everlasting punishment teach concerning the Almighty, whom they profess to worship. I think I hear Jesus saying of such teachers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
I am not now making an appeal to human reason. I am using the argument that our Master has used before. When he wished to convince the disciples that God would give his spirit in answer to prayer, he did not assert it on his own authority; he did not demand their assent because of his supernatural character; he did not say, “Believe me, for I am inspired, and sent by God to teach you.” No; but he argued from the character of a human father to that of a divine father. He said, “What man is