After President Mullins quietly passed off the scene, moving on to see the Christ Whom he so long loved and about which he faithfully taught, Isla May Mullins, widow of Dr. Mullins, offered to the former President's institution, a series of handwritten sermons for their consideration. Consequently, the Sunday School Board, in cooperation with Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, published in 1930 a collection of those sermons as a book entitled "Faith In The Modern World". Mrs. Mullins writes in the dedication:
"...the careful revision which he [Dr. Mullins] would have given each one before publication must be forever lacking. They are, therefore, presented largely as he prepared them for platform delivery."
Thus, these messages adequately represent the pulpit preaching of one of Southern Baptist's most influential theologians.
Among the many messages found in this little volume, Dr. Mullins considers the question "Are We Sitting At The Deathbed of Christianity?" (101-114). In many ways, this sermon stands a prophetic monument as the Church in general and Southern Baptists in particular rallies together in meeting the many challenges of the twenty first century. Below is a selected passage from Dr. Mullins' sermon.
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:18). The astounding statement was recently made in a Louisville public address that we are now sitting at the deathbed of Christianity. While such a statement startles, it must be remembered that it is not without precedent. Indeed it has occurred repeatedly in Christian history. Renan said several generations ago that "the world is living on the perfume of an empty vase." The vase was the empty system of Christian teaching, the perfume was a surviving influence of a lovely myth, the echo of a fable that has lost its spell.
Now, Christians should not hesitate to face any facts which seem to justify such statements. Indeed we should be ready humbly to confess our sins and shortcomings. We have come short of our high aims. We have often lived below the level of our high calling. But it is always unwise to draw a general conclusion from a narrow view of facts.
One cannot fairly judge Christianity by Christians alone. Christ must be taken into account as a living, creating, personal power. If we are sitting at the deathbed of Christianity, it is because Christ has failed or died. Id Christians vindicate the claims of Christianity, it is because Christ lives and works in them...
Are we sitting at the deathbed of Christianity? To answer that we must face the reality and power of the life of Christ, projected and multiplied in Christianity. Let us consider this question by giving a brief glance at the answer which is given by the past, by the present, and by the future.
...If you would understand the power of a great movement, do not interrogate the hours, or days, or weeks, or months, or years, or even the decades. Rather interrogate the generations and the centuries. Consider the long preparation for Christ. He is the undertone of all the Old Testament literature. He hovers in the imagination of the prophets and leaders, not always in clear or complete outline, but as a presence and longing...
Go back through the centuries and test the power of the life of Christ as it flows through the lives of Christians. Emperor Julian showed by his persecutions that he would if possible blot Christianity out of existence. And it looked very dark for Christianity. One of Julian's subjects taunted a quiet believer with a question. As he looked around he asked the believer this question, "What is Jesus your carpenter of Nazareth doing now?" The Christian believer with full assurance replied, "He is making a coffin for your emperor." Constantine, his father, had the vision of the fiery cross in the heavens with the words, "In this sign conquer," and the Roman Emperor surrendered to Christianity. Julian could not turn back the tide.
This story has been repeated in a thousand forms through the Christian centuries. However dark the hour, however deep the pessimism of men, Christianity has had the power of rebirth. This was true in the time of Savonarola, Wycliff, Huss, Luther, Wesley, Carey, and all the other great leaders. Always Christianity renews itself, always Christ arises from the dead when men have buried Him. Always after the agony and gloom of new cavalries comes the glory of the resurrection morning.
Don't ask the days or years then, but the centuries, and the answer is clear. What Christ desires comes to pass--slowly it may be, but surely...
With that, I am...