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The Presbyterian of the South : [combining the] Southwestern Presbyterian, Central Presbyterian, Southern Presbyterian. [volume] (Atlanta, Ga.) 1909-1931, May 08, 1918, Image 2

Image and text provided by Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA

Persistent link: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/10021978/1918-05-08/ed-1/seq-2/

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As the casual observer looks out upon the
world today it seems to be overhung with dark
clouds of war. destruction, massacre, suffer
ing. sorrow and despair. And it is true in
deed that the clouds are dark and gloomy and
seem to portend it may be even a worse storm
than that which is raging. When we look at
the lands of Belgium and France and see
them all torn and de wasted by the hail of shells
that has fallen upon them, when we sec the
homes that have been laid waste, when we see
the lives that have been destroyed and the
hearts that have been crushed, when we see the
gloom that has settled down on many countries,
conditions are far from what we would like
to see them. Many are the hearts that are
longing and praying for the passing of the
Yet in these dark clouds there arc many rifts
through which glorious beams of sunshine are
streaming, and it is well to look at these that
our hearts may be cheered. Some of the en
couraging conditions of the world today have
been brought out by the war. "We can see
these, it may be, a little more clearly as they
affect our own country than we can where they
alVect other countries only.
One of the outcomes of the war is the world
wide vision it has given our people. We as a
nation are seeing, as we have never seen be
fore, that a nation, as well as an individual,
cannot live to itself; but that it bears a very
close relation to other nations. It is teaching
us that we must do our duty in supporting and
defending the cause of righteousness and jus
tice the world over.
The war is also bringing clearly to view the
great fact that nations that differ in many
particulars may yet agree in the great funda
mental principles upon which nations are built.
The war has done more to change selfish
ness into liberally among the people of this
country than any other event that has ever
transpired. Rich and poor have united in
pouring out their money in support of the Gov
ernment, the Red Cross, the Y. M. C. A., and
other war work in a way that has never been
known before. When the war is over, it can
scarcely be believed that the people who are
giving so liberally now will give up the habit.
The world and the Church will feel the effects
of this spirit of benevolence for many years
to come.
The people of different nationalities are
harning to know each other better. The
Americans have learned that the French are
not merely a frivolous, pleasure loving people,
but are brave and courageous and willing to
sacrifice everything save honor in defense of
their principles. The French are learning that
the Americans can not only make money, but
they can spend it liberally in the defense of
what is light, and that with their money they
are willing to give their lives also in fighting
for the maintenance of liberty and justice in
the world.
Another encouraging fact is that men are
getting nearer to God. More prayers and more
earnest prayers are being offered to God today
than ever went up from earth to the Throne
of Grace before, and sincere prayer always
brings man close to God.
We must not limit our outlook to the war
and to the countries most seriously affected by
it. WTe find that, in all countries where the
Christian religion is found, God's people are
being drawn more closely together. The bonds
of unity, which the world has not always seen,
are being manifested and strengthened as never
before. This has grown out of the united work
of different denominations in their support of
the various forms of work being done for sol
diers and sailors, and for others alTectcd by the
war. The meeting together of various
churches, often of different denominations,
brought about by war conditions, has had a
wonderful influence in bringing the congrega
tions closer together than they have ever been
God's people have not only given largely to
general causes, they have given more largely
than ever to all branches of the Church's work,
and this spirit of liberality will not die when
the war is over.
When we look out over the non-Christian
world we have reason for thankfulness and
hope. Certainly, so far as our mission fields
are concerned, conditions are most encourag
ing, and similar reports are coming from many
other parts of the world. More members were
received into our foreign mission churches last
year than in any previous year.
Instead of the war driving the heathen peo
ples from the Christian religion, it seems to
be drawing multitudes to it. In China we are
told that their are thousands of scholars and
civic leaders gathered in Bible study groups
"under the pledge that thev will follow the
light of the Word even if that light leads them
to Christ." In Foochow alone 5.000 meet
weekly under this plan. In Japan. Korea, the
Philippines and India similar Bible study
movements have become popular.
In all these and in many other countries
Sundav-sehools are growing at a phenominal
rate. So rapidly have they grown in Japan that
the Buddhist priests are becoming alarmed, and
to counteract their influence they are establish
ing Buddhist Sunday-schools, imitating almost
exactly the plans of the Christians.
These are but a few of the conditions which
show that even in the midst of the fearful con
flict with evil in which so large a part of the
world is engaged, the cause of our Cod is gain
ing ground. As we look to the future, and
realize that God reigns in heaven and rules
on earth, we may well lift up our hearts in
thanksgiving to Him and say that "the pros
pects are as bright as the promises of God."
There may be some to answer this question,
by saying, it has not failed.
The Presbyterian Church was one of the
first to plant itself on the soil of the new world.
It was by far the most vigorous of the eccle
siastical shoots. It had three splendid elements,
the Hugenots the Scotch and the Scotch-Irish.
These blended strains were spread over the
whole Atlantic seaboard. It was filled with an
undying love of liberty, and wrote the first
Declaration of Independence in Mecklenburg
Co., N. C. It won the admiration and love of
the whole country by winning the war of the
Revolution. It received a mighty impetus from
the successful termination of this war, which
put the State Churches on the losing side.
The Methodist Church was hardly born. The
Baptist Church was just beginning to catch the
missionary spirit which has spread it abroad.
The percentage of population in the Presby
terian Church was by far the largest in the
country, and it held points of advantage over
the whole country.
What is the state of affairs now after 150
years of national life?
In all branches of the Presbyterian faith
there are about 2,500,000 communicants, about
4'per cent of the population ? or about ten per
cent of the Church membership of America
counting only Protestants.
The Baptists and Methodists both have
double our membership and several other de
nominations are pushing us fast. In our South
land where immigration has affected the condi
tion of the people but little the state of affairs
is no better. We have 33,000,000 people in
these States, and a Presbyterian membership
of 700,000 at the outside.
In many parts of our Anglo-Saxon Southland
a Presbyterian is a curiosity, and Presbyter
ian churches are unheard of. It may be said
by way of comfort that "we make np in quality
what we lack in quantity." But if a soul
saved is a soul saved, quality will not take the
place of quantity.
If with the tremendous start we had in the
beginning we have been so badly distanced
what would the outcome have been if we had
had the poor start other denominations had?
Would it not be better to say, that for at
least a century Presbyterianism has not been
tried ?
Why have we fallen behind so far?
It may be we missed the main purpose of the
We sat down to cultivate individuals. It
lias been an intensely individualistic century.
The Churches were individualistic to an ex
treme. And they grew not by going out to the
unchurched and unsaved, but by immigration
into the community from acror.s the ocean or
from other Presbyterian communities in
The Church turned aside to education, and
laid its stress 011 this. The people must be edu
cated, and the ministry must be even more
highly educated. Schools and Colleges were
The Church forgot that the Divine stress is
011 the missionary element. The pastors be
came school-teachers tar ho taught a few, and
not missionaries who reached the many.
We honor the few missionaries who went out.
Their praise cannot be sung too loudly, and
they saved our faces, but the whole Church
was not missionary, either home or foreign,
1 hough we may try to think so.
Otherwise the fruits would appear.
We are thoroughly convinced that Presby
terianism is the truth. That it is adapted to
all conditions of intellectual development. It
has an appeal to the basic thoughts of the un
lettered and that it only needs half a chance
to sweep a country. But it cannot be looked
up in colleges, nor fettered with theological
nomenclature. It must speak in the language
of the common people, and they will welcome it
as they did its Lord and Master and great
Teacher, Jesus.
Presbyterianism failed because it did not '
learn to act together. Its faults were the faults
of the Allies, its attack where attack was made,
was in separate units and not in concentrated
form. It has not learned to act thus. The
$3,000,000 drive has gone far toward teaching
us the power of united effort.
With the closest knit system of Church gov
ernment we have allowed Congregationalism
and individualism to cut the sinews of our ef
fort. It seems almost impossible to get the
whole Church to aet in any united way. The
history of the Presbyterian Church in America
has been the story of division after division
with a sickening reiteration, while the king
dom of God has stooifl still as far as we are
We are thoroughly convinced that for these
reasons and perhaps others of a minor charac
ter, we have failed to make America as Presby
terian as Scotland.
But it is not too late. If we see our faults

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