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[39]

Anniversary sermon: ‘the vitality of religion’

So mightily grew the word of the Lord, and prevailed. Acts XIX.: 20

In trying to measure the real progress of any particular period, the last and greatest question that may be asked will require that an exhibit be made of the growth of the age along the lines of the immaterial, the intellectual, the spiritual. The things of earth that the world holds most precious, lands, houses, inventions, machineries, gold, silver, and all the rest, must of course be taken into the account, but those possessions which moth and rust corrupt and destroy cannot rightly be regarded as the highest glory of the time, or as the surest and safest signs of the forward movement of humanity.

Looking, then, over this half-century of life that our church in this city has enjoyed, looking back over the larger history of our country and of the race during this wonderful period, the great questions to be asked are such as these: What has been the fortune of religion? To what extent has it prospered? Has faith advanced or receded? Have the noblest instincts of the heart widened and deepened? Do men believe more earnestly in the higher and finer ideals of society and of the spirit? Now, in seeking to pass judgment upon these years, according to these high standards, there is one fact that must be kept in mind, and that is that the value of any given gain in almost every field of human activity and experience depends in great part upon the number and strength of the obstacles and difficulties which have been met and overcome. An army may march a hundred miles through the enemy's country without a particle of opposition presenting itself; but that achievement is as nothing compared with a single mile that is won at some strategic point stubbornly defended and yielded only at

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