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THE LIBERAL.

"The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand."-ISAIAH xxxii., 8.

THE liberal, it appears, is no novel product of modern times, but is as old as Isaiah. A grand old name it is, to be loved and honored.

Too often the word is regarded as equivalent to a spirit of license or indifference. The liberal is deemed an easygoing person, careless of right and truth, of low religious. tone, who counts it of small consequence what a man believes or does, and, having no convictions or no heroic loyalty to them, echoes the reckless think as you please and do as you please sentiments of a lax morality. Hence, in their devotion to truth, many worthy persons repudiate the epithet liberal as unworthy of a Christian. In chemistry and mathematics, they say, we want exact truth and no compromise with falsehood. How then can a Christian tolerate error? Let us not so misunderstand the noble word "liberal" as to pervert and degrade it into any loose concession to wrong thought or deed. Absolute truth and obedience to it is the one thing needful in politics and all social economy, in cultivating the land and sailing the sea. In every realm of prac tical affairs, it is success and salvation: it is health and life. No less essential is it in the domain of religion and spiritual destiny. The superiority of a cultivated Christian to a Hottentot is simply that of truth and its spiritual fruitage. If one's belief matters not, one might as well have been born a Buddhist as a Christian; and it was not worth while for Jesus to have lived. Indifference to belief is ignorance or disloy

alty. Truth is the thought of God, the bread of life. one values it more than does the genuine liberal.

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Who, then, is the true liberal? and where shall we find him? Primarily, the original root word means free; hence, also what is broad and large. It is the reverse of all that is narrow, small, mean, bigoted, and selfish. Liberal supply is abundant supply; liberal giving is generous giving; liberal thinking is large and wide thinking. Freed from crippling bonds and hindrance, the liberal is one who fills out the capacities of his being, and grows to be large-minded and large-hearted. Liberal culture indicates acquaintance with many subjects, range of many fields and broad outlook into the universe, with superiority to the technicalities of one's special trade or calling. The liberal in politics believes in ideas, in progress, and a better future, believes in principles. more than in precedents, cares more for party than for selfaggrandizement, and more for country than for party. So, in religion, the liberal is one who cares less for dogma and more for character, less for sect and more for the practical religion found at the heart of all sects, less for fences and more for the flowers and fruitage of the garden. His faith seizes the substance of all that is true and good; is not less, but larger than that of the creed that is popular, as it cherishes a generous trust in God's goodness and man's capability and promise, in the nobleness of this life and the blessedness of the

next.

Thus, Paul declares the spirit superior to the letter, urges us to prove all things and hold fast that which is good, advocates liberty as a divine law of life, bids us stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. We therefore account him a champion liberal. Jesus commends truthseeking; exclaims, Judge ye even of yourselves what is right; declares, The truth shall make you free; gives the practical test, By their fruits ye shall know them; forever sets righteous life and character above opinion; and so becomes the very chief of liberals.

Hence, we must discriminate between the ideal liberal who

has attained the large and fine spiritual fruitage that liberal principles ought to produce, and the actual liberal with his glib and easy-going professions, falling far short of the high demand. A liberal Christian ought to be the largest, noblest pattern of a Christian,-magnanimous, generous, earnest and devout, loyal and loving, sweet and true; in a word, a large-minded, large-hearted soul. The title, therefore, like that of scholar or saint, seems one not to be boastfully claimed, but to be reverently aspired to and faithfully sought, one not to be arrogantly assumed, but to be worthily won.

As we analyze the elements of Christian liberality, two central, cardinal principles dominate the realm of thought and life to produce the genuine liberal: namely, truth-seeking and character-building. His supreme aim is to find the truth and then to obey it, to know the word of God and do it.

1. Observe then these two principles, and their mutual bearings. Truth-seeking is to be put supreme over all opinion-holding. Not the assent to prescribed dogmas, but the spirit of search and of hospitality is the divine attitude of the soul. Not content with present knowledge, it reverently looks up in prayer for more. There has been much clamor for the right of private judgment; but are we faithful to the duty of it?

The liberal principle bids us trust our own eyes, and use them, to see all we can,—the more, the better; our creed not completed, but an open book wherein to write more as the days go on, and experience unfolds to deeper insight, broader outlook, and vaster range of vision. Stereotyped creed is too small and too dead. Should I go to your Technological School and ask for three dozen scientific statements on a sheet of note paper, to which I could sign my name and be accounted a scientist as accomplished as any other, my simplicity would excite a smile. The doors are flung open, and I am invited to come and study; glad if, after seventy years, I may rank with Agassiz and Darwin. Yet, if a boy or girl of fifteen seeks to join the church, it is expected that assent shall be made to a creed that settles, in a few dogmas, the

mysteries of life and death, of the soul, and of God. How preposterous thus to start a child at the same point of belief attained by the venerable student or saint! Should not the Church, like the University, fling open its doors, saying: The spirit of truth-seeking is supreme over all opinions. Come and study, and through your threescore years and ten learn ever more of the deep things of God?

This is not saying, "Think as you please," as though our thinking so could turn black into white or convert poison into good bread; but by all the solemn obligations of time and eternity find out what is true, and in doing so use your own eyes and see for yourself. No other can see for you. As well hope to see Europe by proxy as to see the kingdom of heaven by the statements that other men make for you. That truth only is yours which you see for yourself and vitalize by faithful living. If you fail to do this, as well expect to grow strong by asking another person to eat your bread for you.

During my early ministry at Chicago, Mr. Emerson made. his first lecturing tour in the West. To a friend who asked him what he believed, his reply was, “I am a seeker." In thus taking the attitude of a liberal, Mr. Emerson's loyalty to truth was no less than was that of the noted preacher, Dr. Storrs, of Brooklyn, who in a speech at Portland last winter repudiated the epithet "liberal" as unworthy of a Christian, to whom all error is hateful and intolerable. Surely, the doctor's zeal for truth is not to be condemned. But we may

well and fitly condemn any man's conceit of imagining that in questions under controversy, where honest and good men differ from him, he holds the essential truth of God under his own personal charge and patronage. The old-fashioned dogmatism treated truth as a fort to be held, to be walled and ditched and fortified, to move away from which is treason. That might be well, if God's word had no more light to break out of it and we had found the ultimatum. But the spirit of the new time, as represented by Mr. Emerson, treats truth rather as a forward moving army invading the enemy's

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