On the Fourth of July, 1826, America celebrated its Jubilee the Fiftieth Anniversary of Independence. John Adams, second President of the United States, died that day, aged ninety, while from Maine to Georgia bells rang and cannon boomed. And on that sameday, Thomas Jefferson died before sunset in Virginia. In their dying, in that swift, so aptly celebrated double departure, is something which shakes an American to the heart. It was not their great fame, their long lives or even the record of their work that made these two seem indestructible. It was their faith, their bounding, unquenchable faith in the future, their sure, immortal belief that mankind, if it so desired, could be free.
Doubt, rather than faith, is high among the causes of the religious boom. And the church's response to this current situation will reveal, better than anything else, our faith in God - or our faithlessness. If we churchmen interpret such pervasive doubt as a threat, then we will do as the church has done so often in the past: we will substitute the church for God, and make our church-centered activities into an ersatz kingdom of God. Our faithlessness will be evident in the easy paraphrase of the hard truth of the gospel, and in the lapse from the critical loyalty that God requires of us, into the vague and corrupting sentimentalism that has so marred American Protestantism. Or the church can interpret the present religious situation as a promise, as God's recall of His people to a new reformation. Our faithfulness to God-in-Christ will be manifest in the willingness to be honest with ourselves and with the gospel. Then we may view the church, not as an end in itself, but as the point of departure into the world for which the Son of God died. Which will it be?
PLATITUDE, n. The fundamental element and special glory of popular literature. A thought that snores in words that smoke. All that is mortal of a departed truth. A jelly-fish withering on the shore of the sea of thought. A desiccated epigram.
Orchards Smiling through departed leaves, Like diamond sapphires in evening sun Hang ripening fruit and from the eaves Grey sparrows make unending run, Oh happy land, Bless thy fertile soil, Oh happy people born to work and prayer, With God to guide and strength to toil, With heart and help goes will and power.