The creeping paralysis in the Church

In the last years of his life Lockhart became concerned at the "creeping paralysis which seemed to be gaining ground in the Church of God generally. It was, he said, a kind of Christian infidelity, which dimmed the eye, unnerved the arm, and made the whole work undertaken for God comparatively resultless and inoperative. People no longer believed as they did, and therefore they did not speak as they ought. He ventured to think that it was not in methods of machinery – not in the adoption of this plan or that, but in being more firmly rooted in God, and more persistent in prayer, so that they might be more fruitful in testimony, that the true and lasting success of the Church of God would be achieved.

His concern at ‘The Social Gospel.’

At this time Lockhart also regarded with grave misgiving the movement known as ‘the Social Gospel’ and looked on any scheme that aimed at change of circumstance rather than change of heart as a futile attempt to ‘take men back to the other side of the fall.’ It was his fear of men turning aside to remedies which do not reach the disease from which human ills proceed that led him, when attending the Baptist Union Conference held in 1891, to speak up. After a paper on ‘The Christian Conception of Society’ had been read by Dr Clifford, he rose to point out that the position of the Church of Christ and her conception of society was briefly this: a company of regenerated men and women surrounded by unregenerate men and women, whose regeneration it was their duty to seek. The masses, he said, could never be raised by securing them eight hours’ work and a full day’s pay, or by providing them with better houses, but rather by bringing them to Christ, that they might be made new creatures in Him. Lockhart spoke of his own experience during 30 years in seeing thousands of working men, many of them among the poorest, renewed by the Spirit of God, and how they had in consequence risen in the social scale. He held that though the Church of Christ will touch men at every point, will be ready to do justice to the oppressed and to raise the degraded, her great mission was to win individual men and women to our Lord and Saviour. He expressed the fear that if the Church of Christ constituted herself the Church of the future, and not the Church of the present, and turned aside to the ‘Social Gospel’ from the gospel of individual redemption through personal faith in their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, she would miss her way and fail in her work.

The old Gospel

In a letter to a colleague that he wrote at that time he remarked as follows:-

"The ‘old gospel’ as you call it, is rather at a discount just now, and many are the difficulties on every hand. We are surrounded with them here. What with social gospel, and rubbish about land and wages, and pleasant Sunday afternoons, with solo-singers applauded and encored, bands, and historical lectures – all these at Sunday services – the young people are being enticed away from everything solid and helpful. Then also there is an undercurrent of doubt about everything which is dangerously insidious. Still, there have been always these things, or their first cousins, more or less. We must just cast ourselves more and more upon God, and seek His strength. The most painful feature is that these things are affecting the life of God’s own children. We must not, however, despair. I keep on at the old thing. Delivered fifteen Sunday morning lectures lately on the Epistle of Jude, and our people licked their lips over them showing that love for the truth has not disappeared. It is a testing time, as if God were watching to see who among His children will stand fast. The Lord keep us. There will be revival of old Puritan doctrine before long, of that I am sure, though you and I may not live to see it. God is alive, and will yet stretch out His hand and vindicate His own Truth.

The need for men in whom the fire burns

In his book "The Gospel Wall or Lessons from Nehemiah" he referred to the valiant builders of the walls of Jerusalem who "had a mind to work." Such workers, he said, were needed in his day. Men who ‘believe and therefore speak,’ men in whom the fire burns and who ‘cannot but speak the things they have seen and heard;’ men who will declare God’s truth, not in mincing tones and with hesitating utterance, talking in bated breath about ‘open questions,’ but with the accent of conviction, proving to all around that they are themselves thoroughly persuaded of the truths they utter. The timid, who love compromise and seek to face both ways, were unfortunately not rare among Christian workers. They know little of opposition from the world. ‘Peace at any price’ is their motto; and they secure it, but at immense cost, for in the end they fail. Half-measures do not satisfy even those whom they are designed to propitiate, and men who adopt them generally end by losing the confidence both of the Church and the world. (How familiar this sounds today!)