In the face of these three so different forces, what we have to do is to maintain Christian earnestness and liberty as presented in the Gospel. Theology alone is unavailing; what is wanted is firmness of Christian character. The evangelical Churches will be pushed into the background if they do not make a stand. It was out of such free creations as the Pauline communities were that the Catholic Church once arose. Who can guarantee that those Churches, too, will not become “Catholic” which had their origin in “the liberty of a Christian man”?
That, however, would not involve the destruction of the Gospel: so much, at least, history proves. It would be still traceable like a red thread in the centre of the web, and somewhere or other it would emerge afresh, and free itself from its entangling connexions. Even in the outwardly decorated but inwardly decayed temples of the Greek and Roman Church it has not been effaced. “Venture onwards! deep down in a vault you will still find the altar and its sacred, ever-burning lamp!” This Gospel, associated as it was with the speculative ideas and the mystery-worship of the Greeks, yet did not perish in them; united with the Roman Empire, it held its own even in this fusion, nay, out of it gave birth to the Reformation. Its dogmatic doctrines, its ordinances of public worship, have changed; nay, what is much more, it has been embraced by the simplest and purest minds and by the greatest thinkers; it endeared itself to a St. Francis and to a Newton. It has outlived all the changing philosophies of the world; it has cast off like a garment forms and ideas which were once sacred; it has participated in the entire progress of civilisation; it has become spiritualised, and in the course of history it has learnt how to make a surer application of its ethical principles. In its original earnestness and in the consolation which it offers, it has come home to thousands in all ages; and in all ages, too, it has thrown off all its encumbrances, and broken down all barriers. If we were right in saying that the Gospel is the knowledge and recognition of God as the Father, the certainty of redemption, humility and joy in God, energy and brotherly love; if it is essential to this religion that the founder must not be forgotten over his message, nor the message over the founder, history shows us that the Gospel has, in point of fact, remained in force, struggling again and again to the surface.