The One Page Sermon:
“Is Christianity Passing?”
By the Rev. I. Sturger Shultz
Minister of the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Philadelphia, Pa.
“Watchman, What of the Night?” (Isaiah 21:11).
Rome was not built in a day, nor was Rome destroyed in a day. Nero fiddled while Rome burned, but there had been many years of iniquitous fiddling long before that final conflagration. Rome had been burning for years; the fires of idolatry, of greed, of lust, of hate, of inhuman persecution, had been consuming Rome for many years. Aye, Rome was burned one fateful night, but the truth is, she was destroyed gradually, destroyed unconsciously so far as the majority of her people was concerned. Rome was powerful, advanced, rich, self-satisfied and comfortable, but her ignoble end came. Wicked Rome was a suicide.
Christianity has been a long time in the world. She boasts of centuries of noble and inspiring history. She has been the forerunner of the world’s greatest civilization. She has held the torch of truth high. Her Cross, “On which the Prince of Glory Died,” has been a refuge for all mankind. Today the Church is great, in wealth, in charity, in influence, in educational equipment, and in its opportunity to keep step with the Infinite in His purpose to redeem a lost and ruined world. The greatness of any institution, however, does not necessarily insure its permanence; nor does the goodness of an institution; nor does its noble history; or its splendid purpose; or even its Divine origin, mean that institution will abide. In fact men and women, thinking men and women, are talking about the new religion; the new faith; the new Church, the new “gospel of Brotherhood and progress.” Are we witnessing now the passing of Christianity?
I am not a pessimist, nor am I an alarmist, but with eyes wide open I cannot fail to discern the face of the open sky. That Christianity is waning is a fact that is irrefutable; by any definite, tangible test this sad fact is revealed. Her sacrificial service is decreasing; her family altars are passing; her prayer meetings are passing; the family pews are passing. The world no longer respects the Church as it once respected it. The minister is no longer the divinely commissioned representative of God. The follower of Jesus is not now one who lives a separated and surrendered life. We say the times have changed. The people have changed also; are we witnessing the passing of Christianity?
Sunday is a divinely established day set apart for an important purpose. It is a day established for the protection of spiritual life. All life must be protected. The color of the animals of the forest; they were designed to protect life. The same is true of mineral and vegetable life. God protects all life; He protects spiritual life by establishing His holy day. That protection is gradually being destroyed; Sunday is going; every year determined attempts are made to take it from us. Individuals are rapidly surrendering the day for worldly enjoyment. Can Christianity survive without a Christian Sunday? If the Lord’s Day goes, will the Lord’s Church go, too?
The Christian Home is a Divine institution. Marriage is ordained of God, and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Yet the home is being viciously assaulted. Divorce is no longer a disgrace; indeed it is become a popular thing today. Immorality has become more general, and is judged very tolerantly. Where are the Christian Homes in which the Father is the Priest and the Mother is the Priestess? There are some, thank God, but their number is decreasing rapidly. Can Christianity survive the passing of the Christian Home?
The Christian Church is a Divine institution. It was instituted by our Lord through His apostles. He is its head; we his disciples are its body. It is the agency for the promulgation of Christianity. What is the general attitude toward the Christian Church today; the attitude of the world; what is the attitude of the nations; what is the attitude of the press toward the Church and her ministers; what is the attitude of Church members toward the Church? I need not answer these questions for you. Any informed person knows that the attitude of these ranges from self-complacent indifference to that of ugly enmity or even open hostility. If the Church passes will Christianity abide?
The Bible is our Divine revelation; it is the word of God. It contains God’s message of salvation. It is the source sof authority in our religion. Is the Bible revered as it once was? Is it read as faithfully as it used to be? I know it is the greatest seller, but the majority of its volumes are freely distributed in mission fields. Where are our Bibles? Do we read them as we once read them? The chief attack upon Christianity is directed against our Bible; its credibility; its authority; its Divine inspiration; its age; its authorship; its miracles; its prophecy; its Divine Saviour. Can Christianity survive the passing of the Bible? The Bible is passing; what a shame. The world’s greatest book; God’s only book. God has made many worlds, but only one book.
My friends, can it be that we are helping to destroy the church and the influence of Christ in our day? The church of Christ can not, of course, be destroyed permanently. The Kingdom of God is sure; the gates of hell shall not prevail ultimately against the church. Our apathy and unbelief hurt chiefly our souls and our day. Despite our smug complacency and indifference the true church will live. God forbid that the visible church, with its work of charity and redemption, should be made ineffectual in our time. We pray that active, genuine, effectual Christianity may live. May real Christianity live. May it live amid the galaxy of our noblest institutions; may it live expressing itself in deeds of beneficence, in the prayers of the faithful, in the esteem of the righteous; may it live in minds that are cultured, in hearts that are sanctified, in spirits that are perfected, in lives that are glorified. May it live long, honored, triumphant and beloved. May it live forever blessing and forever blessed!
The years seem long, the tears grow strong,
Faith falters and is dumb.
But God’s time is a certain time,
And this will surely come.
[excerpted from Christianity Today 3.9 (Mid-January 1933): 9, 11.]