But whatever may come out of twentieth-century or thirtieth-century combats, one thing remains clear: A Church is an organization, a social body, with a certain doctrine to proclaim, a certain faith to hand down to men. The doctrine is not in all details final—each phase of faith may change. But the organization, to protect its own purity and integrity—however generous in allowing individual research, and the expression of individual ideas—must exert authority over the teachers in her midst, those who are called by her name, who have her children in their charge, and for whose teaching the Church, as a whole, is responsible. There is doubtless a time when the man who is really in advance of his times intellectually must be misunderstood, must be disagreed with, must be cast out. But all truth may await the verdict of time. If he has discovered something new, something true, the centuries will make it plain. There remains a chance—and the Church dare not risk too great a chance—that he is mistaken, impious, presumptuous, or self-deceived. We dare not rush to a new doctrine or spiritual conception, merely because one man, who knows more of a certain kind of learning than we do, has said so. One must be bolstered up by a generation of convinced and believing men, before he can draw a Church after him. No other process is intellectually legitimate. In any other event ecclesiastical anarchy would reign. To maintain the historic position of the Church is a necessity, until that position is proven untrue. So to maintain it is not bigotry, it is not lack of charity; it is merely common-sense.
The question, Where is the line between ecclesiastical integrity and individual freedom? is therefore one which the common-sense of Christendom is left to solve—not to-day, not to-morrow, but gradually, generously, and conscientiously, as the centuries go on.
It is said that a minister is greatly handicapped to-day in all his efforts for two reasons: First, that the times are spiritually lethargic, that men are so engrossed by material aims, indifference, or sin that a pastor can get no hold upon their hearts. Second, that he is bound hand and foot by conditions existing in the organization and personnel of his church, and hence is not free to act.
What would we think of an electrician who would complain that a storm had cast down his network of wires? Of a civil engineer who would lament that the mountain over which he was asked to project a road was steep? Of a doctor who would grieve that hosts of people about him were very ill? Of a statesman who would cry out that horrid folks opposed him? It is the work of the specialist to meet emergencies, and it is his professional pride to triumph over difficult conditions. The harder his task, the more he exults in his power of success.