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Mornings In The College Chapel by Francis Greenwood Peabody

XVIII THE PATIENCE OF FAITH

Mark iv.28.

Jesus here falls back, as he so often does, on the gradualness of nature. Life, he says, is not abrupt and revolutionary in its method; it is gradual and evolutionary: the seed is sown and slowly comes to fruitage; the leaven silently penetrates the lump; the grain grows, first the blade, then the ear, finally the full corn. The best things in the world do not come with a rush. Some things have to be waited for. Faith is patient. And this he says, not only against the nervous hurry of life, which is, as we all know, cursing the American world to-day, but also against the spiritual impatience which is to be observed in every age. The most marked illustration of it to-day is in our dealings with the social movements of the time. It is the impatience of the reformer. He wants to redeem the world all at once. As Theodore Parker said of the anti-slavery cause: |The trouble seems to be that God {50} is not in a hurry, and I am.| Thus we are beset by panaceas which are to regenerate society in some wholesale, external, mechanical way. When such a reformer not long ago presented some quick solution of the social question, and it was criticised, he answered: |Well, if you do not accept my solution, what is yours?| as though every one must have some immediate cure for the evils of civilization. But the fact is, that the world is not likely to be saved in any wholesale way. A much wiser observer of the social situation has lately said: |When any one brings forward a complete solution of the Social Question, I move to adjourn.| Jesus, let us remember, saved men one at a time. The patience of nature taught him the patience of faith; first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn.

Or, again, we are afflicted in our day by the impatience of the theologian. He wants to know all about God. It seems somehow a depreciation of theology to admit that there is anything which is not revealed. But the fact is that the wisest feel most the sense of mystery. The only theology which is likely to last is one which admits a large degree of {51} Christian agnosticism. As one of our University preachers once said: |We do not know anything about God unless we first know that we cannot know Him perfectly.| How superb, as against all this impatience of spirit, are the reserve and patience of Christ. Accept doubts, he says. Bear with incompleteness. Give faith its chance to grow. First the blade, then the ear, and then the harvest. There are some things which youth can prove, and some which only the experience of maturity can teach, and then there are some mysteries which are perhaps to be made plain to us only in the clearer light of another world.

Henry van Dyke, D. D., Straight Sermons, p.216, Scribners, 1893.

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