Religious Reality
By A.E.J. Rawlinson

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Public Domain Books

Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin

The practice of Christianity depends for its possibility upon the existence and maintenance within the soul of an inward principle of spiritual life towards GOD. The reason why so many nominal Christians fail conspicuously to manifest the fruits of Christianity in their lives is simply that they have no vital personal experience of the power and efficacy of the life in Christ. They have never been effectually gripped by the religion which they nominally profess. They are not transformed, or in process of being transformed, by the Holy Spirit’s power.

The plain man, confronted by the Christian ideal, if he does not at once dismiss it as impracticable, is apt to ask, or at least to wonder, how he is to begin. It is a question to which no cut-and-dried answer can be given. But at least no beginning is likely to lead to very much in the way of fulfilment which does not sooner or later involve something like personal “conversion” of heart. Conversions may be sudden, or they may be gradual: but religion, if it is to be a reality, means in the end the establishment of vital personal relations with the living Christ. It means the acceptance of His challenge, self-surrender to His appeal, the combination of an acknowledged desire to serve Him with acknowledged impotence and bankruptcy before GOD.

Sooner or later the Spirit convinces men of sin. Either a man, essaying light-heartedly to follow Christ, discovers in the very attempt his inability to do so, and is found traitor to his Master’s cause in the first encounter: or else, it may be, at the very outset, the consciousness of what has been wrong in conduct and character and motive in the past stands as a damning record between his soul and GOD, and forbids him without repentance to take service in the campaign of Christ at all. The consciousness of sin as a “horrid impediment” in the soul is not, of course, true penitence until a man has been brought to realize in the light of the Cross that the difference between what he is and what he might have been is treachery to Him whose man (in virtue of his baptism) he was meant to be, and that by being what he is, and acting as he has acted, he has consciously or unconsciously contributed to the wounds wherewith Eternal Love is wounded in the house of His friends.

The measure of a man’s penitence, whether early or late developed in him, is very apt to be the measure of his spiritual insight and of his spiritual sincerity. The familiar words of the hymn–

    “They who fain would serve Thee best
     Are conscious most of wrong within,”

are profoundly true to Christian experience. But repentance–which is sorrow for sin in the light of the Cross–is abortive and merely results in spiritual paralysis unless it issues in confession–that is, frank and open acknowledgment before GOD, and if need be also before His Church–and the seeking and finding of reconciliation and forgiveness as the unmerited gift of GOD in Christ.

There are those in whose case the inward conviction of sin and the realization of the need for pardon are the first impulses of awakening spiritual life. There are others with whom it is not so. They are conscious of the attractiveness of the Man Christ Jesus. They would desire to be on His side and to be of the number of His disciples. They are dimly aware, or at least they more than half suspect, that in Him is to be found the satisfaction of a need for which their soul cries out. With S. Peter they find themselves saying to Christ, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life,” But they cannot as yet with any inward reality profess themselves conscience- stricken with regard to the past. They are not aware of themselves as conspicuous sinners, or indeed, it may be, as sinners at all. The experience of penitence and of Divine forgiveness must come to them, if it is to come at all, at a later stage. It is not by that postern that they enter upon the Way of the Spirit.

But the Way is in either case the way of fellowship, and the Spirit is the spirit of discipline. The newly found spiritual life, however awakened, needs to be maintained and fostered by fellowship in the Church, by regular habits of Christian devotion, by faithful communion in the Sacrament of Life. Plainly, if a man is not already confirmed, his first step must be to be prepared for confirmation: if he has been confirmed, but has lapsed from communion, he must resume the communicant life. He needs to claim the status and privilege of effective membership in the Body of Christ, and to form for himself a rule of inward life and discipline. Rules of devotional life must necessarily vary in accordance with a man’s surroundings and opportunities, and perhaps in some of their details in accordance with a man’s temperament. But at least there ought to be a rule of regular private prayer, a rule of regular communion, a rule of Bible-reading or “meditation,” and a rule of self-denial and orderliness in daily personal life.


Preface  •  Author’s Preface  •  Introduction  •  Part I - The Theory of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - the Man Christ Jesus  •  Chapter II - The Revelation of the Father  •  Chapter III - The Fellowship of the Spirit  •  Chapter IV - The Holy Trinity  •  Chapter V - The Problem of Evil  •  Chapter VI - Sin and Redemption  •  Chapter VII - The Church and Her Mission in the World  •  Chapter VIII - Protestant and Catholic  •  Chapter IX - Sacraments  •  Chapter X - The Last Things  •  Chapter XI - Clergy and Laity  •  Chapter XII - The Bible  •  Part II - The Practice of the Christian Religion: Chapter I - The Christian Aim  •  Chapter II - The Way of the World  •  Chapter III - The Spirit and the Flesh  •  Chapter IV - The Works of the Devil  •  Chapter V - The Kingdom of God  •  Chapter VI - Christianity and Commerce  •  Chapter VII - Christianity and Industry  •  Chapter VIII - Christianity and Politics  •  Chapter IX - Christianity and War  •  Chapter X - Love, Courtship, and Marriage  •  Part III - The Maintenance of the Christian Life: Chapter I - How to Begin  •  Chapter II - Prayer  •  Chapter III - Self-Examination and Repentance  •  Chapter IV - Corporate Worship and Communion  •  Chapter V - The Devotional Use of the Bible  •  Chapter VI - Almsgiving and Fasting

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Religious Reality
By A. E. J. Rawlinson
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