You are here

Chapter XII: Grace and Gratitude

§ 50

We have spoken of faith as our human response to God's approach, but now something more falls to be said both about the manner of the approach and about the manner of the response. God comes to us both in judgement and in mercy, and this double approach evokes in us the double response of fear and love. ‘There is’, we are told, ‘no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.… He that feareth is not made perfect in love.’1 Yet we being what we are, there cannot be love unless there has first been fear. As men who ‘have sinned and come short of the glory of God’,2 we cannot know him as mercy until we have first known him as judgement, nor as love until we have first known him as wrath. Yet this does not mean that God himself is first wrathful and then loving. Rather in the words of our Scottish paraphrase:

He lov'd us from the first of time,

He loves us to the last.3

The Bible can say ‘God is love’,4 but it could not say ‘God is wrath.’ For his wrath is but the shadow cast by his love when his love is rejected, and his judgement but the misery men make for themselves when his mercy is refused. Thus our Lord according to the Fourth Gospel could say ‘For judgement I am come into this world’,5 but at the same time ‘God sent not his Son to judge the world; but that the world through him might be saved’,6 and again, ‘I came not to judge the world but to save the world.’7 Furthermore he could say, ‘The Father judges no man but has committed all judgement to the Son’8; yet at the same time, ‘I judge no man.’9 We may ask whence then does judgement come? But we have the answer ‘This is the judgement, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.’10 There is a sense, then, in which men judge themselves. ‘He that believeth not is judged already’;11 and on this passage Archbishop William Temple comments, ‘They loved darkness rather than light. That is their choice; there is nothing worse that can be done to them after that.’12 Such is the solemn situation in which men have been placed by the love of God. He did not need to hate them in order that they should stand in fear before him; it was enough that he should love them, and so love them as to send his Son into their world to die for their sakes.

It would seem that fear of the gods is a universal element in all religions. Yet this is not because the gods were thought of either as evil or as ill-disposed towards men. As Lewis Farnell declared in his Gifford Lectures on The Attributes of God,

It is difficult to sum up the multifarious evidence concerning the savage mind; but generally it is near to the truth to say that for the most savage communities the belief is attested in a good or kindly God or spirit…

And further,

It is a fact of great significance that the history of religions nowhere presents us with the phenomena of a High God conceived as malevolent and definitely accepted by the worshipper as such.13

The ground of fear lay rather in men's consciousness of their own guilt by which they had offended their gods, who would therefore withhold the blessings at their disposal and visit men instead by fearful punishments. Thus in their worship there was less adoration and thanksgiving for benefits received than of petition accompanied by propitiatory offerings. The propitiation of the gods may indeed be said to be the Leitmotiv of world religion. That fine scholar and my former teacher, the late Professor A. W. Mair, has written that, if we leave out of account ‘some rare and sporadic utterances of the more enlightened thinkers and confine ourselves to the typical Greek conception of worship’, we find that

Man worships his god or gods not because he has any lively feeling of gratitude for blessings experienced, still less because he desires to live a better life, but because he has an overwhelming conviction of his dependence on his god or gods for all temporal blessings.14

Again, in another article,

It would not be true to say that the Greek prayer was never a prayer of thanksgiving.… But it is undoubtedly true that prayer in general, as we find it in the Greek authors, is essentially a petition for blessings of a utilitarian kind—health and wealth, children, success in business and in battle.15

When we pass to the religion of the Bible, we find that the Old Testament is full of petitions for these same temporal blessings, but by far the greater weight of supplication now falls upon the desire for spiritual blessings—upon prayers for divine forgiveness following upon confession of sin, prayers for the restoration of an affectionate relationship between God and man, prayers for moral renewal by God's cleansing of the heart. But above all Israelite worship, as we know it from the Book of Psalms, is dominated by the note of praise and thanksgiving. ‘O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.… Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!’16 The note of fear remains, as it must do while man himself remains a sinner in the presence of the all-holy God, but because the worshipper approaches God in penitence and knows that God is ready to forgive, not rewarding him according to his iniquities, such fear is transfigured by its never-failing accompaniment of love and praise. As one psalm has it, ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’, but ‘his praise endureth for ever’.17 And if this should seem to contradict the New Testament declaration that there is no fear in love, we need only remind ourselves that when the Old Testament speaks of the fear of the Lord, the emotion referred to is almost always awe or reverence rather than terror.

In the New Testament also we are encouraged to pray for temporal blessings. Jesus ‘spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to lose heart’.18 And St Paul wrote to the Philippians, ‘Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.’19 We must keep nothing back from God, but must share all our desires with him, and if we are troubled by the lack of food or drink or raiment, we must share these troubles with him too. But in the first place our Lord enjoins us not to be troubled about these things, but to set our minds rather upon our spiritual needs and the provision of spiritual blessings, and leave the rest to God.

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles ask:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.20

And in the second place, there is in the New Testament the constant implication that our desire for material well-being should always be in the service of our desire for spiritual well-being. This indeed is something on which Socrates had already strongly insisted. ‘For the sake of the soul’ (th/j yuch/j e[neka) was his constant watchword. In his speech of defence at his trial, as written up afterwards by Plato, he declares that his only offence was his habit of confronting everyone he met with the question whether, by caring so much for riches and honours and reputation and so little for wisdom and truth and the bettering of their souls, they were not in fact placing the higher value on what is of less account and lower value on the most important things of all. But, he goes on,

I am convinced that God has commissioned me to do this very thing, and I believe that no better piece of fortune has ever befallen you in Athens than this my enlistment in the service of God. I have indeed no other business in life than to go about persuading you all, young and old, to care less for your bodies and your possessions and to make the protection of your souls your chief concern; and telling you that goodness does not come from possessions, but that goodness alone makes possessions or anything else worth having, whether in public or in private life.21

And in the Republic Plato makes Socrates say that even the practice of gymnastics should be ultimately ‘for the sake of the soul’.22 All this is nobly spoken, but in the New Testament there is the further thought that God will provide for those who are called to serve him in the world just such lesser necessities as they require for the faithful fulfilment of their calling. He will care for our wants if we are intent on doing his will. ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’23

In the Bible the two concepts of worship and service are a single concept. The Greek words for service (latreia or leitourgia) are also the Greek words for worship. When we speak of worship nowadays we think first of going to church, and when we speak of service we think first of going out into action in God's world. But that this dichotomy is a modern one is still evidenced among us by the fact that we at the same time retain from the older tradition the habit of speaking of our acts of worship as ‘divine service’, ‘morning and evening service’, Gottesdienst and so on; as well as by the fact that we speak of the form of our worship as the liturgy (leitourgia). This word was originally applied to any form of public service or office in the State; St Paul himself speaks of the rulers of the State as ‘God's liturgists’ (leitourgoi. qeou/),24 and he uses the word also for works of Christian beneficence and charity.25 Hence, if we do persist in our differentiated modern usage, we must at the same time remind ourselves that our worship of God is part of his service and our service of his worship.

§ 51

I have felt these few explanations and reminders to be a necessary preamble to the point I am principally desirous of making, namely, that gratitude is not only the dominant note in Christian piety but equally the dominant motive of Christian action in the world. Such gratitude is for the grace that has been shown us by God, and again it is significant that gratitude and grace are hardly more than two forms of the same Latin word. Very often when I am present at a luncheon or dinner party, and especially when I am the only ordained minister of religion in the company, I am given a certain duty to perform, but in calling upon me my hosts do not always use the same words. Sometimes it is ‘Will you say grace?’, sometimes ‘Will you return thanks?’, and sometimes ‘Will you ask a blessing?’ This variation of phrase, usually with little or no variation of intended meaning, indicates the close relationship between the three concepts of thankfulness, grace and blessing.

In classical Latin there is of course no such word as gratitude, the simple gratia having to do duty for thankfulness as well as for grace; and in the Greek of the New Testament there is only the one word charis which in our English versions has to be rendered in some contexts as ‘grace’ and in others as ‘thanks’. This may seem confusing, and indeed our translators frequently disagree as to which word to use in a particular passage;26 but in fact it is illuminating as pointing to the close connexion between the two meanings—between the spring of God's action towards us and the spring of our response to him. Again our words ‘thank’ and ‘bless’ very often translate the same word in the Hebrew of the Old Testament (barak). And when Psalms 103 and 104 have ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul’, and the three following have ‘O give thanks unto the Lord’, the meaning is the same, though in the latter cases another word is used (yadah).

But though the single word charis has to do duty not only for grace but also for thanks, there is another New Testament word formed from the same root but slightly different in meaning and usage, so that it appears in our English versions as ‘thanksgiving’ rather than ‘thanks’. This is the word eucharistia, so familiar to us as the name of the central act of Christian worship, the Eucharist. ‘The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: and when he had given thanks, he brake it…’27 Here the phrase ‘when he had given thanks’ represents only a single word in the Greek original, the word eucharistēsas. Thus the central rite of the Christian liturgy is a rite of gratitude. It is also a rite and liturgy of remembrance, for our Lord went on to say, ‘This do in remembrance of me.’28 But we remember in order to give thanks, as is already made plain in the Old Testament where it is in psalms of thanksgiving that we come upon such declarations as ‘I will remember the works of the Lord.’ And what is thus true of the Christian worship is also true of the whole Christian life. It is a life of remembrance which issues in thanksgiving. A true Christian is a man who never for a moment forgets what God has done for him in Christ, and whose whole comportment and whole activity have their root in the sentiment of gratitude.

There is nothing of which I am more firmly persuaded than that this is the right attitude to life. It is precisely in regard to such a conviction as this that I feel able to speak of certitude, and to do so without the least scruple or diffidence. Our natural tendency is to take the good things of life for granted, but to grumble when things do not fall out as we would wish. That is because we set out from a complacent view of our own worthiness, our own deserts. But the beginning of wisdom is to realize that such a view is without any foundation in reality. I am reminded of a conversation which I had many years ago with a certain excellent lady in America who came to see me to say that she had entirely lost the Christian faith in which she had been brought up. She could, she said, no longer accept any of the comforting beliefs on which Christians so confidently leaned; and then I remember the very words that followed: ‘It seems to me that we mortals have no claim on the universe. We have no right to expect anything. We cannot say that we deserve anything.’ Well, I thought how exactly right she was. To think like that is not yet to be a Christian but it is to have a mind open to Christian truth. To have surrendered our own claim to a good thing is to be ready to recognize it as a free gift if and when it comes.

If we did but keep steadily in mind what surely in the bottom of our hearts we all know to be true, that we deserve nothing at all, perhaps we should never grumble again but, as time went on, find more and more for which to be thankful. ‘If I look rightly into myself’, says Thomas à Kempis, ‘I cannot say that any creature hath ever done me wrong, and therefore I cannot justly complain before Thee.’29 Perhaps we would even find cause for gratitude in everything that happens to us, so obeying the apostolic injunction, ‘In everything give thanks (en, panti. euvcariatei/te): for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.’30 The perfection of Christian saintliness is that we should be enabled to thank God even for the worst troubles that come to us, including death, realizing that their ultimate purpose is to bring us closer to himself, and that without them we cannot be made perfect. ‘Praised be my Lord’, said St Francis, ‘for our sister, the death of the body.’ I believe that nothing more reveals our shortcoming in this matter than the fact that our prayers of petition always outnumber our prayers of thanksgiving: and here I am thinking not of the prayers we say in church, when the liturgy we use preserves the proper balance for us, but of all the unformulated impulses of petition that rise up in our minds in the course of daily life. If ever, for example, I have any serious fears for my health or for the health of someone dear to me, if I am confronted with some sudden danger, as of accident, or if some long-cherished plan looks like miscarrying, such an impulse always declares itself. Indeed a familiar rhyme goes so far as to say that

When the devil was ill, the devil a saint would be;

When the devil was well, the devil a saint was he.

But however that may be, I wonder whether something like this is not an almost universal experience among us humans, so that Arthur Hugh Clough was not going too far when he wrote that

… Almost every one when age,

Disease or sorrows strike him,

Inclines to think there is a God,

Or something very like Him.31

Yet I know that in my own case, if the imagined danger disappears, as it usually has done (or I would not be here today), I incline only to think how absurd were my fears and to banish the whole little episode from my mind with a shrug of relief. How often I forget to follow up my petition with thanksgiving! Nine times out of ten do I forget; thus justifying Christ's question, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?’32

In this as in other things our Lord himself has given us the perfect paradigm. His whole demeanour was one of thanksgiving to the Father, just as before partaking of the last meal he ate on earth, euvcaristh,sen—he gave thanks. Here he was following the invariable and prescribed custom of his own Jewish people, but at the same time foreshadowing the solemn Christian rite. The tract Berakoth (blessings) in The Talmud says, ‘It is forbidden to taste of this world without saying a blessing: only the unfaithful do so.’ No less full of thanksgiving are the letters of St Paul, who sometimes finds the most surprising occasions for it. Canon T. R. Milford, for instance, has drawn our attention to the fact that the Apostle can hardly begin a letter without thanking God for his correspondents The exceptions are Galatians and Second Corinthians, and ‘To receive a letter from St Paul which did not somewhere near the beginning thank God for your existence, your conversion and your faith was a sure sign that you were in disgrace.’33

When, following our Lord's example, we give thanks before the breaking of the bread at the Eucharist, we are in the first place giving thanks for the bread itself. Like him we are saying a grace before meat, for it is likely that the words he used were those on which he had been brought up. ‘Blessed be thou, Lord God, eternal King, who bringest forth bread from the earth.’ Here I am reminded, though quite incidentally, of having in my student days listened to a sermon by that prince of Scottish preachers who was then Principal of my own college, Dr Alexander Whyte, in which he declared that there was no more significant difference between a man and a brute beast than that, while dogs and pigs attacked the food presented to them with greedy and unreflecting taste, human beings will often be observed to bend their heads for a moment before setting to, and that in that little inhibition, that moment of pause, our sole human dignity resided.

But of course in the prayer of thanksgiving before the Fraction in our service of Holy Communion, we are expressing our gratitude not only for the food God provides for our bodily needs, but above all for the Bread of Life here symbolized and betokened, for the great salvation that has come to us all through the breaking of the Bread that was our Lord's Body. All other blessings are seen in the context of this supreme blessing, and all other thanksgivings are contained in this central eucharistic action; as in the words of our General Thanksgiving, ‘We bless Thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life: but above all, for Thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Nor must it be forgotten that our prayer is said in the full realization that Christ is there with us as we pray. It is an act of grateful recognition of his real and personal presence in our midst.

§ 52

I have now sufficiently insisted that gratitude is the dominant emotion in the heart of a right-minded man in measure as he realizes that grace has been shown him, as in our Lord's words, ‘To whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little’;34 and that this emotion is the dominant one in all true Christian worship. But now I wish to dwell on the further point that it is likewise the dominant emotion inspiring Christian action in the world. Emotion that exhausts itself in mere feeling and contains no impulse to overt doing is not only sterile but ultimately insincere. As we read in the First Epistle of John, ‘My dear children, let us put our agapē not into words or into talk but into deeds, and make it real.’35

Such deeds, however, must not for a moment be understood as an attempt to repay God for what we owe to him. Rather must we remember our Lord's words, ‘When ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.’36 Our best service is no more than a token, and even then it is not a token repayment, but only a token of gratitude. We must never try by anything we do to put ourselves right with God. ‘It is God who puts us right’,37 says St Paul—for I think that is the best current English for his qeo.j o` dikaiw/n. We are, he says, ‘put right gratis by his grace’;38 and it is out of the confidence that we are thus already right with him that our sense of gratitude is born. The Apostle has sometimes been misunderstood as disparaging ‘works’, but the truth is that he is continually urging us to their performance, while at the same time warning us against supposing that by performing them we can put ourselves right with God, justifying ourselves in his sight.

Two things the New Testament says with equal emphasis The first is that men are not made saints (or, as we would say, Christians) by anything they themselves do. But the second is that it is nevertheless by what they do that Christians are recognized. ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits’, said Jesus with impressive reiteration, ‘… every sound tree bringeth forth good fruit: but a rotten tree bringeth forth bad fruit. A sound tree cannot bring forth bad fruit, neither can a rotten tree bring forth good fruit… Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.’39 ‘By this’, writes St John, ‘it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor he who does not love his brother… We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.’40 On the other hand, the good fruit by which the children of God are known, and which St John here identifies with agapē, extends to the motive as well as to the intention. It includes, as agapē always does in the New Testament, not only the overt action, but also the emotive impulse behind it. So St Paul says, ‘If I distribute all that I possess, if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not agapē, it profits me not at all.’41 The loveless deed has in it no healing power but rather increases the soul's sickness. Men can by their own efforts produce what overt actions they please, they may be led by a great variety of motives to imitate the deeds of love, but they cannot by their own efforts produce love in themselves; for, as St John again says, ‘love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God’.42

Thus we are led back to the first of the two emphases we distinguished in the New Testament, namely that we are saved, not by anything we ourselves can do, but only by the grace of God. ‘By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship.…’43 Salvation, we have said, means healing; and how often has the sick soul tried to heal itself by a feverish resort to action! To what desperate extremes have men gone, in all ages and in all parts of the world, to cure their spiritual sickness by deeds of self-denial, self-immolation, self-flagellation, as well as by almsgiving and deeds of munificence. Yet, psychologically regarded, no procedure could be more futile, since as our clinical psychologists so well understand, it leads not to healing but to a dangerous masking of the symptoms of the disease. It tackles the problem from the wrong end. The only authentic altruism is one that flows spontaneously from the heart that is already at peace with itself, and then only in the profounder sense in which being at peace with oneself is to be at peace with God. Acts of askēsis or of beneficence which spring from spiritual unease or (what is the same thing) from spiritual dis-ease, and which are performed with a view to self-relief and self-release, are necessarily tainted with that egocentricity—that state of being, in Martin Luther's oft-repeated phrase, incurvatus in se—which lies at the root of the very trouble from which we need to be delivered. Professor Tillich expresses this in his own more abstract way:

The principle that being precedes acting implies a basic criticism of the history of religion, as far as it is the history of man's attempts and failures to save himself… (Such religion) distorts what it has received and fails in what it tries to achieve.… Man, seeing what he ought to be, driven by the anxiety of losing himself, believing in his strength to actualize his essential being, disregarding the bondage of the will, tries to regain again what he has lost. But this situation of estrangement, in which the law becomes commandment, is just the situation in which the law cannot be fulfilled.…

As an element in the processes of life, asceticism is necessary; as an attempt at self-salvation, asceticism is a dangerous distortion and a failure.44

§ 53

Not only, however, does gratitude impel the Christian to act, but it at the same time provides guidance as to the particular course of action to be followed. What can we do for God in acknowledgement, still less in return, for what he has done for us? He stands in need of nothing that we can give. Nothing we can do can enhance his glory or add anything to his fulness, just as nothing we fail to do can diminish these. ‘God doth not need, either man's work or His own gifts… His state is kingly. ‘45 They were therefore natural enough questions that were put to the King by those on his right hand in Jesus’ parable:

Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you? Or thirsty and gave you drink? When did we see you a stranger and give you hospitality? Or naked and clothed you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?46

The answer expected by a flat common sense could only be ‘Never’, but the King's answer was ‘Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’47 No more beautiful words have ever been spoken, nor have any others given us clearer direction as to what we are to do with ourselves in our passage through the world. They tell us that only in our service of our needy human brethren can our loving gratitude to God find outlet in action. God has, as it were, nominated these as his proxy, and what I would fain have given to him had he needed it, I must now give to them. It will be remembered that when in 1925 George Bernard Shaw was offered the Nobel Prize of some £8,000 in recognition of his literary eminence, he replied at once that while gratefully accepting the compliment he had no need of the money and would like it to be applied rather for the encouragement of other and younger writers who had not yet made their name and did need the money badly. It was as if he had said, ‘Inasmuch as you give it to the least of these my literary brethren, you give it to me.’ He nominated a definite class as his proxy, and Jesus did no less; but his nominations were (a) those who lack food or drink (b) those who are insufficiently clad, (c) strangers (or, as we might say today, displaced persons and refugees), (d) those who are sick (and there is no more authentically and originally Christian way of employing our time than going to see people when they are sick), (e) those who are in prison (and for us that would include the inmates of concentration camps). Elsewhere he adds (f) little children—‘Whosoever receives one such little child in my name, receives me.’48 Nor does he allow any distinction between what is thus done to him the Son and what is done to God the Father: ‘He who receives me receives him who sent me.’49

Thus nothing could be clearer than the intimate nature of the interconnexion between the two great injunctions in which our Lord summed up the whole duty of man—to love God with all our heart and mind and strength and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Without this interconnexion the Christian's love of God would be an exceedingly abstract and elusive thing. Many honest souls have been greatly troubled by asking themselves, ‘Can I really say that I love God?’ Spiritual counsellors are very familiar with this kind of distress, and the best of them will be found to say the same two things about it. We must, they say, tell ourselves first that it is not upon our feeling for God that our salvation depends but—and we may allow ourselves the expression—upon his feeling for us. I shall quote only one such counsellor, but a good one, the Abbe Henri de Tourville, who writes in one of his Letters of Direction:

You want to compete with His affection before you have understood it; that is your mistake.… Come then! show a little more deference to our Lord and allow Him to go first. Let Him love you a great deal before you have succeeded in loving Him even a little as you would wish to love Him. That is all I ask of you, and all that our Lord asks of you.50

But they say, second, that if we love our needy human brethren, we are thereby already loving God, even if, like those on the King's right hand, we do not know that we are doing so. Are the two things then the same thing? Had St Paul in mind to reduce the two great commandments to a single commandment when he wrote, ‘Through love be servants to one another; for the whole law is fulfilled in one word—thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’51 I can perhaps, if I so desire, escape from so surprising a conclusion by contending that here he is thinking only of the law that governs interhuman relationships. Yet the writer of the article on agapē in Kittel's Word Book of the Mew Testament, than which it would be difficult to mention a more nearly unbiassed scholarly work of our time, says without hesitation that for St Paul ‘the purpose of divine love is not that we should return love to God;… it is that he who is called should put himself in love and freedom at the service of his neighbour.… His main interest is in brotherly love’; and of St John he declares that in his mind, ‘love to God or Christ takes second place after love to the brethren.’ But no! I cannot allow the phrase ‘takes second place after’; but would rather say that love to God and Christ means in practice love to the brethren, that only there can its reality and sincerity be tested; and this at least is much emphasized by the Johannine writings. The Gospel of John reports Jesus as having said:

By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.52

It is the same Gospel that gives us the incident in which Peter three times protested to Jesus, ‘Lord, you know I love you’, and three times Jesus would return no answer but ‘Feed my lambs’, ‘Tend my sheep’, ‘Feed my sheep’.53 The First Epistle of John makes the point with impressive reiteration:

If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for how can he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, love God whom he has not seen?54

Beloved, let us love one another… he that does not love does not know God.55

Nobody has ever seen God (but) if we love one another, God dwells within us, and his love is perfected in us.56

To these references we may add the declaration of the First Epistle to Timothy:

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.57

And as to this last, perhaps there has never been a period in which there have been more Christians than there are now who show more love and considerateness for those who are far away than for those nearest to them—more, as we might say, to their far-boors than to their closest nigh-boors or neighbours.

‘By this shall all men know that you are my disciples.’ But likewise by this shall we ourselves know. Assurance of salvation, certainty of being right with God (of being dikaiwqe,ij) has been the object of much distressful heart-searching throughout Christian history—a fact as well known to clinical psychologists as to pastoral counsellors. Many different things have been said about it. There has been wide variation in the doctrines of assurance current in the various Christian communions and theological schools. But St John has his own clear word about it:

He who loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to stumble at: but he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in the dark.58

And we may complete a quotation already given in part, using in this case Moffatt's excellent rendering:

But whoever possesses this world's goods, and notices his brother in need, and shuts his heart against him, how can love to God remain in him? My dear children, let us put our love not into words or talk but into deeds and make it real. Thus it is that we may be sure we belong to the truth and reassure ourselves whenever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than the heart, and he knows all.59

One final point: The direction given by our sense of gratitude towards the particular source of action which the Christian is to follow is in one respect even more profoundly based than this. For it instructs and compels him to take God's conduct towards him as the specific paradigm of his own conduct towards his fellow men. And this not only in principle but also in detail, the grace he has received reproducing itself in the grace he bestows.

Whoever claims to dwell in him should himself walk just as he walked.60

Freely ye have received, freely give.61

If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you should wash one another's feet; for I have given you this example, so that you should do just as I have done to you.62

Should you not show compassion to your fellow servants, just as I have had pity on you?63

Walk in love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself for us.64

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.65

Such is the imitatio Christi.

§ 54

I have already said that the sentiment of gratitude towards deity is not a leading motive in world religion as a whole, its place being taken rather by efforts at propitiation; but it has certainly not been absent. I quoted A. W. Mair as saying that while ancient Greek worship betrayed little ‘lively feeling of gratitude for blessings experienced’, yet ‘it would not be true to say that the Greek prayer was never a prayer of thanksgiving’. We remember also Dr Barth's appreciation of Amida-Buddhism as a religion of grace which dispenses with all attempts to propitiate the deity by good works or ritual observances, so that, as he says, ‘calling on Amida loses the last remnant of the character of an achievement or a magical act. It becomes simply a sign of our thankfulness.’66 In his book on Religions of Mankind the Roman Catholic Dr Otto Karrer quotes the following prayer from the circle of the Shantung monastery:

My heart is full of thanksgiving that it has been given me to learn the way of deliverance which Buddha has taught us.… ‘Vouchsafe that my understanding may awake under thine enlightenment, that I may grow in spiritual insight and knowledge… that I may shew myself thankful for all the mercy shewn me.…’67

He quotes also the following from the confession of faith of one of the Japanese sects of Amida worshippers:

All other methods and works and every thought that I am able to help myself I reject, and with my entire heart I place my trust in this alone, that Amida Nyorai will vouchsafe me his aid for the life to come.… Convinced that even the first stirring of this confidence is a guarantee of his help in my daily needs I rejoice in the thought that henceforward my prayer will be rather a thanksgiving for his loving kindness.… Therefore will I also observe the commandments which he hath ordained all my life long.68

Dr Barth, as we saw, welcomes such sporadic professions of belief in divine grace and resultant human gratitude, but only as a warning to Christians that it is not these things as such that matter, but only the grace of God in Christ and our gratitude for that as manifest in the Christian's use of the name of Christ. I have sufficiently indicated that I cannot for a moment accept so strange and so grudging a view, preferring to believe that wherever men have been grateful for divine grace received, it is the fruit of the hidden working in their hearts and lives of the Holy Spirit of God in Christ, whose name they do not know.

Similarly, I should say that many of our own contemporaries in the Western lands who believe themselves to have wholly surrendered all their former or ancestral Christian convictions, are nevertheless left with some impulse or feeling of gratitude for the blessings they have enjoyed, though they are now without any means of making this articulate; and this is not the least of the vestigial forms of faith of which I have already spoken. More than twenty years ago I offered two examples of this: Katherine Mansfield's exclamation, when speaking of her delight in a lovely spot in the Alps, ‘If only one could make some small grasshoppery sound of praise to some one, of thanks to some one—but to who?’; and a ‘prayer’ I once heard offered by a humanist preacher in America who claimed not to believe in God, and who, instead of beginning each phrase with the words ‘We thank thee’, satisfied some inward urge by saying simply ‘We are thankful.’69 But of course we cannot be thankful except to a person. If the preacher had said ‘We rejoice’, he would indeed be leaving God out; but by saying what he did he was unwittingly acknowledging God's presence (though instead of reproaching him for inconsistency and wishing he had the courage of his humanist convictions, I confess I was glad that, if I may so put it, he had the conviction of his courage, in however unconscious and repressed a form). So much at least Katherine Mansfield clearly understood. There afterwards came to my attention another virtually identical remark made by Sir Leslie Stephen on the occasion of the death of his first wife in 1871 in a letter to James Russell Lowell—and indeed it is the most apt of the three cases since I have always regarded John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx and Leslie Stephen as in one sense the farthest from belief of all unbelievers in that their chief point was not that religion was nonsense (though that they certainly believed) but that it was the most harmful of all nonsenses; ‘I thank—something—that I loved her as heartily as I know how to love, that I would have died for her with pleasure, and that (still more) I scarcely ever saw a cloud upon her bright face.’70