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The Church and Modern Life by Washington Gladden

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We may not be identified with any church. If we are not, then it is
clearly the part of wisdom for each one to find the church which seems
to him to understand its business best, and to give the strength of his
life to making its life vigorous and its work efficient.


Is the Church Decadent?

The assertion is often made that the church is an effete institution;
that its usefulness is past; that it is sinking into innocuous
desuetude. That assertion has been current for a thousand years--perhaps
longer; there have been many periods in which it was urged much more
confidently than it is to-day. This fact would suggest caution in
pressing such a judgment. Wise physicians do not hastily pronounce the
word of doom. They have seen too many patients return from the gates of
death. Men and women who, in their younger days, appear to have a
slender hold on life, often reach a vigorous old age. The same thing is
true of institutions. It is not prudent to assume that because they are
ailing they are moribund.

The Christian church, as we have seen, is far from being in perfect
spiritual condition. Some of her symptoms are disquieting. But even as
we often have good hope for our friends when their health is impaired,
and find that there are good reasons for our hope, so we need not
despair of the recovery of the church from the morbid conditions which
we acknowledge and deplore. That the patient has a good constitution and
surprising vitality is indicated by the experience of nineteen
centuries. More than once, through this long lifetime, she has been in a
worse way than she is to-day, but she has rallied, and returned to her
work with new vigor.

At the beginning of the sixteenth century her case seemed to be
desperate; but heroic remedies were used, and while the cure was far
from complete, and did not reach the root of the malady, there was at
least a partial recovery. In England at the beginning of the eighteenth
century, and in America at the end of the same century, the symptoms
were alarming; but she lived through those critical periods, and has
done better work since than ever before.

That the work of the church has been sadly misdirected; that she has
often put the emphasis in the wrong place; that while she has been doing
many things that were worth doing she has largely left undone the main
thing she was sent to do, was made plain by our study in the last
chapter. And there can be no doubt that this misdirection of her
energies, and this failure to exercise her strength in normal ways, have
resulted in many morbid conditions, some of which she has partly
overcome, but from some of which she is still suffering.

With the disorders from which the church has suffered in past
generations we need not now concern ourselves. But the weaknesses and
ailments of the present time demand our attention. We must know what
they are that we may help to cure them. That responsibility rests upon
us all. If the church is to be made whole, it must be by the intelligent
and normal action of the men and women who are members of the church. We
must know, to begin with, what health is, and what is disease; we must
have some clear idea of what would be the normal condition of Christian

Men sometimes mistake conditions of disease for conditions of health. In
cases of nervous breakdown, patients are often spurred on, by the malady
itself, to work when they ought to rest. The less able to work they are,
the harder they work. They do not know that this restless activity is a
sign of disease, they think it is proof of abounding vitality. And there
are many ways in which morbid conditions tend to propagate themselves.
The instinctive impulses of an invalid are not safe guides. Yet there
are many cases in which, even if the man is not his own medical adviser,
he must have an intelligent idea of what ails him, in order that he may
be able to follow medical advice, and adopt the regimen which leads to
health. His reason must be summoned to discern and resist his morbid
impulses, and keep himself in the ways of life.

Equally true is it that if the church, which is the body of Christ, is
out of health, the men and women who are the members of that body must
know what ails them, and how to supply the remedy. And when they summon
their reason and seek to have it divinely enlightened, they are likely
to discover that many of their worst disorders are conditions which they
have been cherishing; that some of the things they have been most proud
of are ills that they must pray and work to be rid of.

1. The first and the worst of the church's infirmities is unbelief. In
one of the moments of vision, when the long obscuration of his light in
the future centuries was revealed to him, Jesus sadly wondered whether,
when the Son of Man came, he would find faith on the earth. The pathetic
query has always been pertinent. Faith is the vital force of
Christianity, and the weakening of that vital force is the prime cause
of all its disorders.

The unbelief which brings enfeeblement and decay to the church of Christ
is not, however, the kind of unbelief which the church is most apt to

There is, doubtless, in the church of to-day some weakening of faith in
the historical facts of the Christian religion, and in the central
doctrines of the Christian creed. Science and criticism have rendered
incredible some statements which once were universally accepted.
Considerable revision of theological belief has been found necessary,
and it is probable that in this process the hold of some upon the
central verities has been relaxed.

It may even be that the theories of some Christian confessors respecting
the person of Christ have been modified, so that his humanity is more
strongly affirmed than once it was. To some persons this change of
emphasis may seem to be a serious form of unbelief.

Admitting all this, however, these intellectual changes are not the
principal cause of the enfeeblement of the church. These changes,
however we may regard them, have affected but a small minority of the
members of our churches; the great majority of them continue to hold
substantially the same theological opinions that they have always held.
The trouble with the church is not chiefly a lack of faith in the
creeds, it is a lack of faith in Christ. And it is not a lack of faith
in the metaphysical theories of Christ's person, but a lack of faith in
the truth of his teaching. It is an unbelief in which the most orthodox
people are quite as much involved as those who are considered heretics.

The central question is not, after all, what we think about the nature
of Christ. There is good reason to believe that none of the twelve
apostles held, during the life of our Lord, opinions which would be
regarded as orthodox concerning his person. They believed that he was a
great Prophet, a revealer of God; nay, they believed that he was the
Messiah, the long promised King, who was to set up his kingdom in this
world. Of this they had no doubt. This was the belief that Jesus himself
sought to fasten in their minds; and when he had drawn from Simon Peter
a confession of this faith he cried out, "Blessed art thou, Simon son of
John; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father
which is in heaven." It was this faith in him as Lord and Ruler of men,
as the Founder in this world of a kingdom of righteousness and peace, on
which, as he declared, his church should be builded. Such faith as this
these twelve men had. They would have found it difficult, probably, to
assent to the Nicene Creed or the Athanasian Creed; but they believed in
Jesus as Lord and King, and they believed every word of his Magna Charta
found in the Sermon on the Mount; and they were ready to do what they
could to establish that kingdom in this world. It is just here that the
faith of the church is lacking. It believes the Nicene Creed, but it
does not believe the Sermon on the Mount. It believes what men have said
about Christ; it does not believe what Christ himself said. It does not
accept the practical rule of life which he has laid down. It does not
believe that the Golden Rule is workable in modern life. It does not
believe that it is feasible to love our neighbors as ourselves. It does
not believe in the kingdom of heaven as a present possibility. It
expects that Christ will come, by and by, in person, with miraculous
power, to revolutionize society, and that after that it will be
practicable to follow the law of love, in all our human relations; but,
for the present, we must let the law of competition control all our
practical affairs.

Of course it is not often that the teachings of Christ are directly
controverted; they are generally ignored, or passed by, as "counsels of
perfection" which we are to admire rather than obey. But we sometimes
find arguments in which disbelief in the teachings of Jesus is
distinctly justified. In a late volume, one of the great leaders of the
German church elaborately contends that we cannot follow Jesus in his
social teachings. "Our attitude toward the world," says Herrmann,
"cannot be that of Jesus; even the purpose to will that it should be so
is stifled in the air that we breathe to-day. The state of affairs is
very clearly described by Naumann, who says with truth: 'Therefore we do
not seek Jesus' advice on points connected with the management of the
state and political economy.' But when he goes on to say: 'I give my
vote and I canvass for the fleet, not because I am a Christian, but
because I am a citizen, and because I have learned to renounce all hope
of finding fundamental questions of state determined in the Sermon on
the Mount,' we can detect a fallacy. He regards as painful renunciation
what ought, on the part of the Christian, to be a free, decisive, and
voluntary act."[19]

Naumann repudiates, rather regretfully, the counsels of Jesus about
economic and civil affairs, but Herrmann says that he does it
light-heartedly, because he has found out that these counsels are not
applicable to existing conditions.

It is evident that these counsels must be rationally applied,--the
spirit and not the letter of them is the essential thing; but what these
teachers mean is more than this. How far they have departed from the
spirit of the Sermon on the Mount is indicated by the words already
quoted. The reason why Naumann does not seek the advice of Jesus in
questions of public concern is that he is determined to give his vote
and influence for the German fleet; and Herrmann is following the same
impulse when he characterizes the call for the disarmament of the
nations as a "noble folly." It is evident that the reason why these
teachers feel that the way of Jesus is impracticable is that they are
fully committed to the ideas of German imperialism. To conceive that
nations could dispense with war is a "noble folly." And, for the same
reason, they conceive that any attempt to substitute cooeperation for
competition in the industrial world would be disastrous to modern
society. The morality of strife outranks, in their judgment, the
morality of service and sacrifice. The law of Jesus may be permitted to
hold some subordinate place; it will be found useful in mitigating the
savagery of strife; but as the regulative principle of the industrial
order it is not to be considered.

The attempt of these German theologians to frame a philosophical
refutation of the Sermon on the Mount gives us something of a shock;
but, practically, this has been the attitude of the church in all the
generations. The hopeful sign is that it does now give us a shock to
have the doctrine badly stated.

Through a large part of the Christian era the teaching of Jesus with
respect to strife has been flouted by the church. The bitterest and most
wasteful wars have been religious wars. The disciples of the Prince of
Peace saw no incongruity in the settlement by the sword of such
questions as whether Jesus Christ was of the same substance as the
Father or of a similar substance; and whether the cup should be
administered to the laity in the Eucharist or only the bread. The Thirty
Years' war in Europe was a religious war. Roman Catholic theories still
maintain the right of the church to enforce its teachings by the sword.

All these facts show how far, through all its history, the church has
departed from the teaching of Jesus. When our German theologians set
themselves to prove that the Sermon on the Mount is no sufficient guide
for public affairs, they have the whole history of the church behind

Nevertheless they might have noted that the drift, for the last few
centuries, has been in the direction of the teaching of Jesus. It is
hardly conceivable that Christian nations should go to war to-day for
the settlement of points of doctrine. Three hundred years ago the whole
church thought that necessary; to-day a very large part of the church
would think it horrible and monstrous. It is not very long ago that the
church believed in the settlement by force of disputes between
individuals. The wager of battle was supposed to be a proper and
Christian way of determining the guilt or innocence of an accused
person. To most of the great Christians of the fifteenth century the
proposition to dispense with that would have seemed a "noble folly,"
just as the proposition of general disarmament now seems to some
twentieth century Christians. But the church has learned that there are
better ways of settling personal quarrels than the wager of battle; and
it is likely to learn, after a while, that there are better ways of
settling international and industrial difficulties than the way of war.
The church is beginning to see that the way of Jesus is not, after all,
so impracticable as it has always been supposed to be; it is beginning
to discern the truth that the law of service is a stronger law than the
law of strife. One of these days we shall find the church of Jesus
taking its stand on the Golden Rule as the practical rule of everyday
life, and insisting upon the organization of the industrial and the
political order on the basis of good-will. When that day comes we shall
have a right to say that the church believes in Jesus Christ. When that
day comes it will be evident to all that the main cause of the church's
enfeeblement through all these centuries has been her unbelief. And we
shall marvel that it took her so long to find out what might there is in
meekness and what force in gentleness; and that it was so hard for her
to understand that the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the
weakness of God stronger than men.

2. The second of the church's chronic infirmities has been orthodoxism.
Perhaps it was the recoil of her unbelief in Christ that sent her over
into the intellectual prostration of orthodoxism.

Orthodoxy is defined as correct belief. But when we ask what is correct
belief, orthodoxy answers: "That which is generally believed to be
correct." Its demand is, therefore, conformity to current opinion. It
assumes that essential truth has been sought out, registered and
certified once for all and finally: this you must believe, and you must
believe nothing other or more than this. Of course, then, belief must
be stereotyped and stationary. There can be no growth of doctrine; no
new light can break forth from God's holy word.

"Orthodoxy begins," says Phillips Brooks, "by setting a false standard
of life. It makes men aspire after soundness in the faith rather than
after richness in the truth.... It makes possible an easy transmission
of truth, but only by the deadening of truth, as a butcher freezes meat
in order to carry it across the sea. Orthodoxy discredits and
discourages inquiry, and has made the name of free thinker, which ought
to be a crown and glory, a stigma of disgrace. It puts men in the base
and demoralizing position in which they apologize for seeking new truth.
It is responsible for a large part of the defiant liberalism which not
merely disbelieves the orthodox dogma, but disbelieves it with a sense
of attempted wrong and of triumphant escape. It is orthodoxy and not
truth which has done the persecuting. The inquisitions and dungeons and
social ostracisms for opinion's sake belong to it."[20]

It is evident that when for loyalty to the truth is substituted loyalty
to a prescribed statement of truth, the entire moral order is
subverted. Truth for me is what justifies itself to my reason and
insight; to that my choices must conform; by that my conduct must be
guided. To accept statements to which my judgment does not assent, which
are repugnant to my reason, because others seek to impose them upon me,
is in the highest degree immoral. "Let every man be fully persuaded in
his own mind," is the apostolic maxim.

Every honest man wants to know what is true, and seeks to have his
character and his conduct conform to the truth. But orthodoxy insists
that he shall limit his acceptance to fixed and definite statements
prepared for him by others. Freedom of investigation is denied him. The
limits are set, beyond which his thought must not range. If there is
truth outside of the boundaries of orthodoxy, he must not reach out
after it; if he does, he shall suffer the consequences.

For there always is a penalty for heresy. Those who diverge from the
orthodox standards are always exposed to some measure of censure or
discredit. In former days the stake or the gallows was the penalty. John
Huss and Michael Servetus, Ridley, Latimer, and Cranmer were put to
death on the demand of orthodoxy. It was not because they were not
lovers and seekers of truth; it was because they declined to assent to
the statements which authority sought to impose on them. Orthodoxy has
found a great variety of methods of enforcing its demand; in recent
times it does not often resort to physical coercion, but it never fails
to use some kind of pressure. Those to whom orthodoxy is dearer than
truth have ways of their own, even now, of making uncomfortable those to
whom truth is dearer than orthodoxy. Thus it is that the progress of
truth has been greatly impeded. "Ye shall know the truth," said Jesus,
"and the truth shall make you free." "Ye shall know," says orthodoxism,
"only the truth that has been prescribed and ticketed by authority; ye
shall be taught what is orthodox, and orthodoxy shall keep you safe and
sound." The entire attitude of the mind is changed, under this demand.
It is no longer that of free inquiry, of open-minded search for truth;
it is that of passive assent, of unreasoned submission to authority.

Just to the extent to which orthodoxism succeeds in forcing its demand
is progress rendered impossible. There have always been brave men to
whom truth was dearer than orthodoxy, and to them we owe all the gains
the church has made. "The lower orders of the church's workers, the mere
runners of her machinery," says Bishop Brooks, "have always been strictly
and scrupulously orthodox; while all the church's noblest servants, they
who have opened to her new heavens of vision and new domains of
work,--Paul, Origen, Tertullian, Dante, Abelard, Luther, Milton,
Coleridge, Maurice, Swedenborg, Martineau,--have again and again been
persecuted for being what they truly were--unorthodox."[21]

The temper of coercion, physical or moral, which is an essential element
in orthodoxism, always produces, in those who do not submit to it, the
temper of resentment and rebellion, which largely characterizes what is
known as liberalism. Those who are thus flung off into opposition are in
no mood to examine fairly the truth that there is in orthodoxy. Their
mental attitude is apt to be quite as unfavorable to the discovery of
the truth as that of the other party. Between those who affirm, with
the threat of the withdrawal of fellowship, and those who deny, with the
sense of injury and oppression, the truth has a poor chance for itself
in this world. The enfeeblement of the church, in all the generations,
has been largely due to this cause.

What orthodoxism produces when it has free course and is glorified, may
be seen in the Greek church. More than any other branch of the Christian
church the Greek church has put the emphasis upon orthodoxy. The natural
and inevitable result has been that that church has destroyed itself and
the nation whose life it has dominated and blighted. It is the Greek
church that has led Russia to its doom. And it is orthodoxism that has
made the Greek church a blind leader of the blind, and has plunged
nation and church into the ditch together.

Truth, not orthodoxy, is the sovereign mistress of the human intellect.
What I must know, for my salvation, is not what everybody says, but what
is true. There is old truth--truth that has nourished the lives of men
in many generations; let me cling to that and feed my soul upon it.
There is new truth--some fuller outshining of the great revelation of
God, in nature or in human nature; let me hail that light and walk in

It is often useful for me to know what others have believed and now
believe. Not to be influenced by the consenting voices of the great and
good of the past would be childish egotism. But it is always needful
that my mind should be open to new truth and that I should be free to
seek it. Orthodoxism restricts this right and disparages this privilege,
and in doing this it has greatly weakened the Christian church.

Several other sources of weakness must be treated much more briefly.

3. Sectarianism is not the least among them. To a large degree it is the
product of orthodoxism. Men who venture to think for themselves are
driven forth from the fold of the faithful and compelled to organize in
separate groups. Sometimes they are not driven out, they go out and slam
the doors behind them. The seceders often claim a superior orthodoxy;
their separation from the fold is an act of judgment on those they leave
behind. The responsibility for these divisions sometimes rests more
heavily on those who go out, and sometimes on those who stay in. On the
one side or the other, often on both sides, pride of opinion is a main
procuring cause. Sometimes men go out because they desire to hold fast
in peace the truth which they have found, and sometimes they are thrust
out because they will not permit those who are within to hold fast in
peace the truth which is their inheritance.

The ambition of leadership also figures largely. Men who are not able to
control the church to which they belong are often tempted to lead away a
faction in which they may be more conspicuous. Satan, according to the
Miltonic mythology, was the founder of the first sect; and his
philosophy was that it was better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.
The leaders of many of the sects have had a similar inspiration.

It would not be true to say that all schisms have sprung from
selfishness: they have often originated in a larger vision of the truth,
and their testimony, which has cost them many sacrifices, has enlarged
the thought and enriched the life of the whole church.

It must, however, be admitted that selfishness, in the forms of ambition
and pride of opinion, has had more to do with the multiplication of
sects than love of the truth or loyalty to the Master. The existence of
such numbers of organizations, differing from one another only in the
most trivial particulars, cannot be reconciled with the plain principles
of Christian morality. There is no justification, in reason or
conscience, for the existence of so many sorts and kinds and classes of
Christian disciples. Even if we could admit the wisdom of the larger
divisions, what excuse can be offered for the endless subdivisions? What
possible need can there be for thirteen different kinds of Baptists, and
twelve kinds of Mennonites, and eleven kinds of Presbyterians, and
seventeen kinds of Methodists, and twenty-three kinds of Lutherans?
Could any rational man maintain that these multitudinous variations on a
single string represent distinctions that are useful?

The rivalries and competitions which these sectarian divisions promote
are the scandal and the curse of Christendom. The sectarian procedure
habitually and brazenly sets aside the Golden Rule and pushes partisan
interest, with very slight regard for fairness or equity. Churches are
all the while doing to other churches what they would not like to have
other churches do to them. "Every church for itself, and the angels
take the hindmost," is the sectarian motto. The competition which exists
in the ecclesiastical realm is almost always cutthroat competition; it
destroys property and crowds out rivals with merciless purpose.

No argument should he needed to show that the existence of such a spirit
and tendency in the church must cripple its power and impede its growth.
The sect spirit is the antithesis of the Christian spirit; the sectarian
propaganda is an attack upon the fundamental principle of Christianity,
which is unity through love. The superior loyalty of every true
Christian is due to the kingdom of God. "Seek first the kingdom of God
and his righteousness!" What makes a man a sectarian is the fact that he
loves his sect more than the kingdom of God, and is willing that the
kingdom of God should suffer loss in order that his sect may make a
gain. Sectarians are doing this very thing, all over the land, every

How great have been the injuries suffered by the Christian church
through the existence of this antichristian spirit of sect it would be
difficult to estimate. How alien it is to the spirit of Jesus Christ
one does not need to point out. It is simply amazing that the followers
of him who prayed, in his last prayer, that his disciples might all be
one, in order that the world might believe in his divine commission,
should imagine that they can be pleasing Christ while they persist in
these childish divisions.

Some sense of the shame and sin of sectarianism has, of late years, been
getting possession of the mind of the church, and the tendencies toward
unity are stronger now than the tendencies toward division. Splits and
secessions are rare in these times; movements toward unity are
multiplying. All this is hopeful, but many generations of toil and
sacrifice will be required to recover for the church the ground she has
lost by the ravages of sectarianism.

4. Only one more cause of the enfeeblement of the church can be
mentioned here; that is her too close reliance upon the principles and
forces of the material realm. She too often forgets whence her help must
come; she is too willing to go down to Egypt for her allies instead of
trusting in the Lord of Hosts. She cannot always understand that she is
safer and stronger when she puts her entire reliance on moral and
spiritual forces; when she refuses to sacrifice truth for the revenues
of the rich or the friendship of the strong.

The church is probably suffering more from this cause at this day than
she has ever suffered in any former period. She lives in the midst of
the abounding marvels of the materialistic civilization; she sees how
much is accomplished through the use of material forces; and the spirit
of the time gets into her brain and blood, and she begins to think that
money and the things that money can buy are the most essential
conditions of her growth and usefulness. Therefore she makes such
friendships and adopts such policies as will bring to her the revenues
she thinks she must have for the prosecution of her work. And thus her
vision is dimmed for the truth she needs to see, and her arm is weakened
for the work she has to do.

No influence so insidious as this, and none so fatal, has ever assailed
the Christian church. She is passing through her greatest temptation. It
is Mammon who has taken her up into an exceeding high mountain and
shown her the kingdoms she wants to conquer and the glory she hopes to
win, and is saying to her: "All these things will I give thee, if thou
wilt fall down and worship me!" May God grant her the grace to answer
"Get thee behind me, Satan; I hear the voice of one who said: Thou shall
worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve."

That the church has suffered serious injury and enfeeblement from the
causes we have considered,--from her lack of faith, from her subjection
to orthodoxism, from the ravages of sectarianism, from her entanglements
with Mammon, no one can deny. But that these evils are tending to
increase is not evident. There is reason rather to hope that they are
all on the wane, unless it be the last.

That the church is far from being in perfect spiritual condition we will
all admit. But that she is growing worse rather than better we need not
believe. Most of these maladies are of long standing, but they are less
acute now than once they were, and there is better hope of recovery.
Above all, we may say that the church knows to-day what ails her better
than she ever knew before, and that she may therefore more
intelligently proceed to apply the needful remedies.

What kind of treatment is called for will be the subject of the next


The Coming Reformation

It would be instructive to study the attempts which the church has made,
in past generations, to escape from the evil conditions into which she
has fallen. For she has been convicted more than once of her sins of
omission, of the perversion of her powers, and the misuse of her
opportunities, and has bestirred herself to cast off the yokes that were
oppressing her, and the bands that were impeding her progress. It cannot
be said that she has ever yet become fully conscious of her radical
defect. She has never quite clearly discovered that her enfeeblement and
failure are primarily due to the fact that she has been neglecting her
real business in the world, or making it a secondary concern. When she
gets that truth fully before her mind, and that conviction upon her
conscience, we may hope for better things.

There was, however, one epoch in her history when she came very near
making this discovery. That was the period of the Reformation in the
sixteenth century. What happened then is full of interest for us in
these days; it throws a flood of light on the problems with which we are

We have been taught by the historians of the Reformation to think of
that event as mainly a theological crisis, as an intellectual revolt
against certain doctrines imposed by the church upon the faithful, or a
rebellion against the stringency of ecclesiastical discipline. That
issues of this nature were deeply involved in it is true; but these were
by no means the only causes of that uprising. It was largely a social
and economic movement. It was, in its inception, less a reaction against
bad theology than a revolt against unchristian social conditions. What
weighed most heavily on the people who started the uprising that we call
the Reformation was not theological error and confusion, it was their
poverty, their servitude, the miseries and wrongs of their daily life.
They knew something of the Christ of Nazareth, and they could not
believe that he meant to leave them in that condition, and therefore
they began to have a dim sense of the truth that the church which bore
his name was misrepresenting him, and needed to be reformed. This was
the source of the movement known as the Reformation. It was, therefore,
a sharp reminder to the church that she had wholly forgotten her main
business in the world.

One of the latest of the histories of the Reformation, that of Dr.
Thomas M. Lindsay, brings this truth into clear light. His chapter on
"Social Conditions" gives us a vivid sketch of the economic and social
forces which were operating at the end of the fifteenth and the
beginning of the sixteenth century.

It was the time of transition from the old system of home production and
home markets to the era of world-wide commerce. Under the old system,
industry had been largely regulated by guilds, and there was a fair
measure of equality; while trade, though not extensive, was regulated by
civic leagues.

But the end of the fifteenth century brought the great geographical
discoveries and the beginning of a world trade. "The possibilities of a
world commerce," says Dr. Lindsay, "led to the creation of trading
companies; for a larger capital was needed than individual merchants
possessed, and the formation of these companies overshadowed,
discredited, and finally destroyed the guild system of the mediaeval
trading cities. Trade and industry became capitalized to a degree
previously unknown.... This increase of wealth does not seem to have
been confined to a few favorites of fortune. It belonged to the mass of
the members of the great trading companies.... Merchant princes
confronted the princes of the state and those of the church, and their
presence and power dislocated the old social relations."[22]

This enormous increase of wealth manifested itself in every form of
senseless luxury. Of refinement there was little; pleasures were coarse,
indulgence was beastly. "Preachers, economists, and satirists," says Dr.
Lindsay, "denounce the luxury and immodesty of the dress both of men and
women, the gluttony and the drinking habits of the rich burghers and of
the nobility of Germany. We learn from Hans von Schweinichen that
noblemen prided themselves on having men among their retainers who could
drink all rivals beneath the table, and that noble personages seldom met
without such a drinking contest. The wealthy, learned, and artistic
city of Nuernberg possessed a public wagon which every night was led
through the streets, to pick up and convey to their homes drunken
burghers found lying in the filth of the streets."[23]

Such were the manners of the house of mirth at the beginning of the
sixteenth century. It might be supposed that when luxury was so riotous
the poor would have plenty, but that is never the case. Profusion at the
top of the social ladder means poverty at the bottom. The world has
never yet been so rich that waste did not work harm to the neediest.
Even if the poor had been actually no poorer in these flush days than
they had been when manners were simpler, the glaring contrasts would
have been maddening. But multitudes of them were, no doubt, not only
relatively but positively poorer; the destruction of the guilds of
labor, the displacements in industry, had left great numbers not only of
the peasantry and the artisans but also of the poorer nobles in
practical destitution. The organization of society was giving strength
to the strong and weakness to those of no might--thus exactly reversing
Mary's prophecy of what her royal Son should bring; and those who were
thus dispossessed and scattered felt, and had a right to feel, that the
social organization under which such things could be done was

"While," says Dr. Lindsay, "the social tumults and popular uprisings
against authority, which are a feature of the close of the Middle Ages,
are usually and rightly enough called peasant insurrections, the name
tends to obscure their real character. They were rather the revolts of
the poor against the rich, of debtors against creditors, of men who had
scantly legal rights or none at all, against those who had the
protection of the existing laws; and they were joined by the poor of the
towns as well as by the peasantry of the country districts. The peasants
generally began the revolt and the townsmen followed, but this was not
always the case. Sometimes the mob of the cities rose first and the
peasants joined afterwards. In many cases, too, the poorer nobles were
in secret or open sympathy with the insurrectionary movement. On more
than one occasion they led the insurgents and fought at their head."[24]

The uprising against the church was due to the fact that the church,
instead of being the friend of the poor, had become their social
oppressor. Through all these social mutterings runs the outcry against
the priests, and this was not because the priests were teaching a false
theology, but because they were grinding the faces of the poor. Not only
in Germany, but all over Europe this cry was heard. "The priests," says
an English reformer, "have their tenth part of all the corn, meadows,
pasture, grain, wood, colts, lambs, geese, and chickens. Over and
besides the tenth part of every servant's wages, wool, milk, honey, wax,
cheese, and butter; yea and they look so narrowly after these profits
that the poor wife must be accountable to them for every tenth egg, or
else she getteth not her rights at Easter, and shall be taken as a
heretic." "I see," said a Spaniard, "that we can scarcely get anything
from Christ's ministers but for money; at baptism money, at bishoping
money, at marriage money, for confession money,--no, not extreme unction
without money! They will ring no bells without money, no burial in the
church without money; so that it seemeth that Paradise is shut up from
them that hath no money. The rich is buried in the church, the poor in
the churchyard. The rich man may marry with his nearest kin, but the
poor not so, albeit he be ready to die for love of her. The rich may eat
flesh in Lent, but the poor may not, albeit fish perhaps be much dearer.
The rich man may readily get large indulgences, but the poor none
because he wanteth money to pay for them."[25]

This revolt against priestly oppression was by no means, however, an
irreligious uprising. It was characterized by intense religious feeling,
with which, as Dr. Lindsay says, "was blended some confused dream that
the kingdom of God might be set up on earth, if only the priests were
driven out of the land." Among a populace so ignorant it was, of course,
inevitable that the social revolt should take on fanatical forms. Wild
zealots arose, drawing the multitude after them, and inciting the people
to revolution. Hans Boehm, a wandering piper, had visions and went forth
as a preacher of righteousness, railing against priests and civil
potentates. True religion, he declared, consisted in worshiping the
Blessed Virgin, but the priests were thieves and robbers, the Emperor
was a miscreant, "who supported the whole vile crew of princes,
overlords, tax gatherers, and other oppressors of the poor." He
predicted the coming of a day when the Emperor himself would be forced,
like all poor folks, to work for days' wages. The people flocked by
thousands to hear him preach, but his day was brief.

They burnt him at the stake, but multitudes venerated him, and made
pilgrimages to the chapel which had been the scene of his triumph. The
"Bundschuh" revolts which broke out in Elsass and spread through
Switzerland and Germany were of a similar character. Then came years of
famine, which deepened the popular disquiet, and which help to explain
the fact that "on the eve of the Reformation the condition of Europe,
and of Germany in particular, was one of seething discontent and full of
bitter class hatreds--the trading companies and the great capitalists
against the guilds, the poorer classes against the wealthier, and the
nobles against the towns."

These were the social conditions in the midst of which Luther appeared.
It was on this turbulent flood of social unrest that the Reformation
was launched. When the great reformer's voice was heard, denouncing
priestly misrule and hierarchical tyranny, these were the people who
listened, and they interpreted his words by their own experience. If his
quarrel was largely with theological or ecclesiastical abuses, theirs
was mainly with industrial inequalities, but it seemed to them that he
was fighting their battle. Indeed, his brave words gave fit utterance to
their hopes. For, as the historian reminds us, Luther's message was
democratic. That must have been its character if it was, in any proper
sense, a return to "the simplicity that is in Christ." "It destroyed the
aristocracy of the saints, it leveled the barriers between the layman
and the priest, it taught the equality of all men before God, and the
right of every man of faith to stand in God's presence, whatever be his
rank and condition of life. He had not confined himself to preaching a
new theology. His message was eminently practical. In his 'Appeal to the
Nobility of the German Nation' Luther had voiced all the grievances of
Germany, had touched upon almost all the open sores of the time, and had
foretold disasters not very far off. Nor must it be forgotten that no
great leader ever flung about wild words in such a reckless way. Luther
had the gift of strong, smiting phrases, of words which seemed to cleave
to the very heart of things, of images which lit up a subject with the
vividness of a flash of lightning. He launched tracts and pamphlets from
the press about almost everything, written for the most part on the spur
of the moment, and when the fire burned. His words fell into souls full
of the fermenting passion of the times. They drank in with eagerness the
thoughts that all men were equal before God, and that there are divine
commands about the brotherhood of mankind of more importance than all
human legislation. They refused to believe that such golden ideas
belonged to the realm of spiritual life above."[26]

When, therefore, the religious reformation was fairly launched, a great
uprising of the poor people speedily followed. It seemed to them that
the return to Christ meant, for them, the breaking of yokes and the
enlargement of opportunity, and they proceeded to claim for themselves
some portion of the liberty that belonged to them. Their demands, as
voiced in their "Twelve Articles," were by no means extravagant, from
our point of view. The abuses of which they complained were flagrant,
the rights they claimed were far less than are now, even in despotic
Russia, fully granted to the humblest people. And they protested most
earnestly that they "wanted nothing contrary to the requirements of just
authority, whether civil or ecclesiastical, nor to the gospel of

It would, however, have been unreasonable to expect that such people
would confine their protest within the bounds of law and order. It was,
in fact, a revolution, and it discerned no way to its goal but the way
of violence. That, indeed, is the path that most of the seekers after
liberty have felt constrained to take.

What was Luther's relation to this uprising? It cannot be said that he
had kindled the flame, but he had fanned it to a conflagration. And yet
when it began to rage, he found himself unable to control it. It had
come to pass, in the exigencies of the warfare he was waging, that his
allies were the German princes. Only through them, as he believed, could
he hope to win the fight he was making against the Roman hierarchy. If
he put himself at the head of the peasants' movement he would alienate
the princes, and it seemed to him that the Protestant cause in Germany
would he stamped out in blood. And therefore, after vainly attempting to
quiet the insurrection, with whose principal aims he had confessed
himself in sympathy, he turned upon the peasants in almost savage wrath,
and in his tract "Against the Murdering, Thieving Hordes of Peasants,"
he urged the princes to crush the insurrection. "In the case of an
insurgent," he says, "every man is both judge and executioner.
Therefore, whoever can should knock down, strangle, and stab such
publicly or privately, and think nothing so venomous, pernicious, and
devilish as an insurgent.... Such wonderful times are these that a
prince can merit heaven better with bloodshed than another with prayer."

The princes followed Luther's counsel, and the peasants' uprising was
put down with relentless severity. Thus ended in blood the movement
which promised to make the church the champion of social freedom. It
seems, as we look back upon it, a tragical issue. What these poor people
asked for was really only a crumb or two from the table of the lords of
privilege; they thought that the brotherhood taught by Jesus warranted
them in expecting it, and they seemed to hope that the church of Jesus
Christ, when purified from formalism and superstition, would support
that expectation. It must have been a bitter disappointment to them. And
it is a sorrowful reflection that the great hero of the Reformation
fell, in this matter, so far below the Christian ideal.

Doubtless his strenuous repugnance to revolutionary methods was a good
trait in his character; but surely revolutions are sometimes
justifiable, and it looks, at this distance, as though this one was as
nearly so as most of those that have succeeded. If Luther had put his
great heart and mighty will at the head of this movement which he
confessed to be most righteous, it might have succeeded, and
Protestantism, in its beginnings, might have made a firm alliance with
those whom Jesus Christ recognizes as his representatives in the earth.
But it was hard for him to believe that the poor of this world, chosen
to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, were stronger allies than
the German nobles. He thought that he must have the support of the
princes, and he turned his back on Christ's poor.

It was a melancholy conclusion, not only for Luther but for the cause
which he represented. "It is probable," says Dr. Lindsay, "that he saved
the Reformation in Germany by cutting it free from the revolutionary
movement, but the wrench left marks on his own character as well as in
the movement he headed." One wonders whether success won at such cost is
worth having; and whether, if he had gone down with the peasants in
their struggle for freedom and opportunity, the sacrifice would not have
brought a larger and fairer Reformation.

It was the coming reformation to which your attention was called, and we
have kept our eyes for a long time upon the past. But this history has
been uttering, through the entire recital, its own prophetic word.
Conditions have greatly changed since the sixteenth century; but we are
still confronting the same issue which forced itself upon the church in
the days of Luther. Many of the disabilities and wrongs under which the
common people were suffering then have been removed, but the poor are
still with us, and the cries of millions of overworked, underfed,
pale-faced men and women and children have entered into the ears of the
Lord of Sabaoth. There ought not to be any poor people in this country;
if it were a thoroughly Christian country there would not be. If there
were those who because of mental or physical defect were unable to care
for themselves, we could easily provide for their wants, and in the
exercise of such compassion we should find an abundant reward. If there
were those who because of idleness and vice were indisposed to provide
for themselves, we should find a way of inspiring them with a better
mind. But, if this were a thoroughly Christian country, there would be
no willing workers dwelling anywhere near the borders of want. There are
resources here which are ample for the abundant supply of all human
needs; if ours were a completely Christianized society, the needs of
those who were able and willing to work would be abundantly supplied.

We are often told that this is already done; that there are no poor in
this country save those who are either incompetent or indolent or
vicious. If that could be proved, the question would still remain
whether the incompetency and the indolence and the viciousness may not,
to a considerable degree, be the effects of causes for which society is
responsible, and which, in a thoroughly Christianized society, would not
be permitted to exist. But it cannot be proved that poverty is wholly
the fault of the poor. The fact is that a very large number of those who
are doing the world's work to-day are receiving less than their fair
share of the wealth they produce.

It is true that there are many laborers who earn large wages. Compactly
organized labor unions have been able to secure a favorable distribution
of the product of their industry. But we are often reminded that but a
small percentage of the laborers of this country are organized; and the
wages of those thus unprotected are often lamentably small. Many
attempts have been made to find out what is the average wage of the
average workman; our census reports contain very carefully prepared
statistics. I have taken pains to go over some of these, and here are
the results.

In the textile trades, with 661,451 workers, the average weekly wage of
all workers is $6.07; of men over sixteen, $7.63; of women, $5.18; of
children under sixteen, $2.15.

In the iron workers' trades, with 222,607 workers, the average weekly
wage is $10.46.

In the boot and shoe trades, with 142,922 workers, the average for all
is $7.96; for men over sixteen, $9.11; for women, $6.13; for children
under sixteen, $3.40.

In the men's clothing trades, with 120,950 workers, the average for all
is $7.06; for men, $10.90; for women, $4.88; for children, $2.61.

These weekly wages are obtained by dividing the annual wage by 52. Often
the weekly rate is much higher, but for many weeks the workers are
unemployed; the only fair estimate is that which is based upon the
annual wage.

Have we any right to be content with conditions like these? Is the
average wage of the average worker, as it is here indicated, all that he
ought to ask? Should society wish him to be content with such an income?
Sit down yourself and figure out just what it would mean to be obliged
to maintain a family of four or five on such a stipend as is indicated
in any of these trades--even those best paid. Find out how much should
have to go for rent, and how much for food, and how much for the
plainest clothing, and how much for doctor's bills, and school books,
and street-car fare, and how much would be left, after that, for books
and church contributions and the wholesome pleasures which we ought to
count among the necessaries of life. Life can be maintained on such an
income, but is it the kind of life that we wish our fellow men to live?
And is there any need that life, for the humble laborer, should be
reduced in this rich land to its lowest terms? With the marvelous
productiveness of fields and mines and forests and waters, with the
immense development of machinery, by which the wealth of the nation is
multiplied, might we not have an organization of industry and a method
of distribution which would give to the army of manual toilers a much
larger average income?

That is the question they are asking, and it calls for a candid answer.
Their needs are not as dire as were those of the German peasants of the
sixteenth century, but they are real and serious needs. Now, as then, a
tremendous industrial revolution has dislocated industries and
demoralized and impoverished many; now, as then, the concentration of
capital in great companies has destroyed small enterprises and left
many who were once thrifty stranded and discouraged; now, as then,
glaring contrasts in condition excite the resentments of the needy; now,
as then, the propertiless are wondering whether this is the kind of
thing that the church has been looking for when she has prayed that the
kingdom of God may come. And there is a feeling now, as there was then,
among the millions of the toilers, that the church which assumes to
represent Jesus Christ needs to be reformed, in order that through its
testimony and its leadership the kingdom of God may come.

It is sadly true that there are many among these toiling millions who
are embittered against the church, who have no faith in it, and no
expectation that any good will come out of it; but the great majority
are not hostile to the church; at worst they are indifferent, and this
indifference is due to their belief that the church no longer represents
Jesus Christ. Toward him there is often a pathetic outreaching of hope;
if the church would come back to the simplicity that is in Christ and
would plant itself on the Sermon on the Mount, it would quickly win
their loyalty. And I cannot help feeling that now, as in the sixteenth
century, there is in the minds of the toiling millions "a confused dream
that the kingdom of God might be set up in the land," and that the time
is ripe for it. Nor can I deem it possible that this great expectation
of the multitude will now be disappointed. The church of this day must
be able to see that this call of the poor and the humble is the call of
its Master. It is with the weak and the needy that he is always
identified; service of them is loyalty to him; neglect of them is scorn
of him. It is his own word.

The coming reformation will be signalized by a great change in the
attitude of the church toward the toiling classes. It will not turn its
back on them, as it did in Luther's day; it will not maintain toward
them an attitude of kindly patronage, as it has done in our day; it will
recognize the fact that its welfare is bound up with them; that the
barriers which separate them from its sympathies and fellowships must be
broken down, at whatever cost; that it must make them believe that the
church of Jesus Christ is their church; that it needs them quite as much
as they need it; that it is a monstrous thing even to conceive that a
church of Jesus Christ could exist as a class institution, with the
largest social class in the community outside of it.

The coming reformation will consist in the awakening of the church to
its social responsibilities. It will see more clearly than it has ever
yet seen, that those who pray that the kingdom of God may come, and who
are responsible, as citizens of a republic are responsible, for the
answering of that prayer, must see to it that justice and liberty and
opportunity are established in the land. The church of Jesus Christ,
with a passion that is born of loyalty to its Master, must set itself to
the task of realizing, in the social order, the principles of his
teaching. That was what the peasants of the sixteenth century called
upon it to do; and for answer it turned and smote them to the earth. It
will not repeat that blunder, which was nothing short of a crime. It
hears the same call to-day, and when it obeys, as obey it must, it will
save its own life and that of the nation with whose destiny it is put in


Social Redemption

The New Reformation will be wrought out with weapons that are not
carnal. One of the lessons that the church has learned, in the nineteen
centuries of its history, is that it must keep itself free from all
suspicion of entanglement with physical force.

That statement needs qualification. It is not universally true. The
Greek church, as we have seen, is still fatally involved in political
complications; the Roman church, while forced to abstain from the use of
the temporal power, has maintained its right to use it; and other state
churches, as those of England and Germany, retain some hold upon the
political arm. But we are speaking of the church in our own country; and
of the American church it is true that it has ceased to rely upon the
power of the state. The entire divorce which our constitution decrees
between the government of the church and the government of the state has
become, with us, a settled policy, which we do not wish to disturb. It
is doubtful whether intelligent Roman Catholics in the United States
would be willing to have this condition changed, and no other Christians
would for one moment consent to it.

What the church does in the way of improving social conditions must,
therefore, be done by purely moral and spiritual agencies. Society is
not to be Christianized by any kind of coercion. The church cannot use
force in any way, nor can it enter into any coalition with governments
that rest on force. "It is not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,
saith the Lord," that the kingdoms of this world are to become the
kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. It is as irrational to try to
propagate Christianity by coercive measures of any description, as it
would be to try to make plants grow by applying to them mechanical

Nor can the church undertake to dictate or prescribe the forms of
industrial society. Its function is not the organization of industry. It
would not wisely attempt to decide between different methods of managing

It would not, for example, be expedient for the church, at the present
time, to take sides in the controversy between collectivism and private
enterprise. The Socialists declare that the wage system, based on
private capital, tends to injustice and oppression; the advocates of the
existing system contend that Socialism would destroy the foundations of
thrift and welfare. The church cannot be the umpire in this contest, nor
can it take sides with either party. Questions of economic method are
beyond its province. Its concern is not with the machinery of society,
but with the moral motive power. Or, it might be truer to say that it
seeks to invigorate the moral life of men, and trusts that reinforced
life to make its own economic forms. Its business is to fill men's minds
with the truth as it is in Jesus, and to make them see that that truth
applies to every human relation; and it ought to believe that when this
truth is thus received and thus applied, it will solve all social
problems. When employers and employed are all filled with the spirit of
Christ, the wage system will not be a system of exploitation, but a
means of social service.

Here is an employer of many hundreds of men, at the head of a very large
business, which is rapidly increasing. This is not an imaginary case.
This employer is a man of flesh and blood, and he is in the very thick
of the competitive melee; he is using the machinery of the wage system,
but he is governing all his business by the principles of Christianity,
and the business is thriving in a marvelous way. This does not mean that
the manager is piling up money for himself, for he is not: he is living
very frugally, and is adding nothing to his own accumulation; but the
business is growing by leaps and bounds. The increasing profits, every
year, are distributed in the form of stock among the laborers who do the
work, and the customers who purchase the goods. The men who do the work
are buying for themselves beautiful homes in the vicinity of the
factory; in a few more years they will own a large part of the stock of
the concern. This manager is not getting rich; but he has the
satisfaction of seeing his business prospering in his hands; he is
helping a great many men to find the ways of comfort and independence,
and he insists that he has himself found the secret of a happy life. It
is evident that if all employers were governed by the same motives, the
wage system would be an instrument of philanthropy. Whether this man is
a church member or not does not appear, but he is certainly a Christian;
he has learned the way of Jesus, and is walking in it. If the church
could inspire all its members with this kind of social passion, all
social questions would be solved. And this is the church's business--to
inspire its members with this kind of social passion. Without this
spirit in their hearts, no matter what the social machinery might be,
the outcome would be envying and strife and endless unhappiness.

We have had the inside history of some of the many communistic
enterprises that have come to grief, and all of them have been wrecked
by the selfishness of their members, most of whom were seeking for soft
places, and shirking their duties,--each trying to get as much as he
could out of the commonwealth and to give in return for it as little
service as possible. These contrasted cases show that the machinery of
the wage system cannot prevent the exercise of brotherliness, and that
the machinery of communism will not secure it. No kind of social
machinery will produce happiness or welfare when selfish men are running
it; and no kind of social machinery will keep brotherly men from
behaving brotherly.

We are often told by Socialists that the present regime of individual
initiative and private capital tends to make men selfish and
unbrotherly, while the tendency of Socialism would be to make men
unselfish and fraternal. If the church were sure that this is the truth,
she would be inclined to throw her influence on the side of Socialism.
But, on the other hand, it is urged that Socialism tends to merge the
individual in the mass, to destroy the virtues of self-respect and
self-reliance, and to weaken the fibre of manhood. If the church were
sure that this is true, she would be constrained to pause before
committing herself to the socialistic programme.

She knows, in fact, that there is truth in both these contentions. That
the individualistic regime has bred a fearful amount of heartlessness
and rapacity is painfully evident; that such socialistic experiments as
have been tried have weakened human virtue appears to be true. Under
which regime the greater damage would be done is not yet quite clear.
Therefore the church cannot commit herself to either of these methods.
The best work she can do, at the present time, is to inspire men with a
love of justice and a spirit of service. She must rear up a generation
of men who hate robbery in all its disguises; who are determined never
to prosper at the expense of their neighbors, and who know how to find
their highest pleasure in helping their fellow men. If the Christian
morality means anything, it means all this. A church which represents
Jesus Christ on the earth must set before herself no lower aim than
this. And a generation of men whose hearts are on fire with this purpose
may be trusted to fill the earth with righteousness and peace, whether
they work with the machinery of the wage system or with the machinery of

There are many good men, outside the church as well as within it, who
believe that the existing social order can never be Christianized; that
it must be replaced by a new social system. But most of us are still
clinging to the belief that the existing social order can be
Christianized, so that justice may be established in it, and good-will
find expression through it. That it has been sadly perverted we all
confess; we acknowledge with shame that it has become, in large measure,
the instrument of injustice and oppression. But we believe that it may
be reformed, so that it shall represent, in some fair degree, the
kingdom of God.

The redemption of the social order is, then, the problem now before us.
Can it be accomplished? President Roosevelt thinks that it can, and
those who stand with him and support him assume that the existing
competitive regime can be moralized and made to represent the interests
of equity and fair dealing. If this can be done, nothing more is needed.
If it cannot be done, the existing regime must make way for something
better. The conviction that it can be done is finding expression just
now in the vigorous efforts that are being made to amend and strengthen
the laws which restrain plunderers and oppressors, so that opportunities
may be equalized and the paths to success be kept open for men of all
ranks and capacities. This is simple justice, and for this the church of
God must stand with all the might of her influence.

That she has been derelict in the discharge of this duty must be
confessed. If she had kept the charge committed to her, the inequalities
and spoliations now burdening society would not be in existence. For
although it is not the business of the church to furnish to the world an
economic programme, it is her business to see that no economic programme
is permitted to exist under which injustice and oppression find shelter.
The right to reprove and denounce all social arrangements by which the
few prosper at the expense of the many is one of her chartered rights as
the institute of prophecy. A church which fails to exercise this
function is faithless to her primary obligation.

That the church has incurred heavy blame because of the feebleness of
her testimony against such wrongs must now be confessed, and the least
she can do to make amends for this infidelity is to speak now and
henceforth, with commanding voice, against all the corporate wrongs that
infest society. It may be that by her testimony the magistrates will be
strengthened so to enforce the laws that aggressors shall be restrained,
and freedom and opportunity secured to all; and that thus the existing
industrial order may become, so far as law can make it, the servant of
justice and good-will.

This is the first step toward social redemption. The reenthronement of
justice is the primary obligation. John the Baptist must speak first.
The conviction of social sin is the beginning of social righteousness.
The church has a great work to do in awakening the public conscience to
forms of injustice which are so involved and concealed that our
attention is not fixed upon them. Professor Ross has just announced a
volume with the title "Sin and Society." It is an illuminating word. The
deadliest of the evils which are oppressing the community to-day come
under this category. They are hidden from the public view. They assail
you from ambush and you are helpless. The deadly missiles smite you on
every side, but there is no revealing flash by which you can locate your
foe. The social order is so complex that wrongs of this nature are
easily perpetrated. Many of the transactions by which we are wont to
profit are veiled injustices. They are of a nature so subtle and
indirect that the law has not yet defined and forbidden them. Those who
suffer these injustices are at a distance from us, and there is a
network of legal and commercial relations between ourselves and them; we
know that they will never confront us and call us to account; it is
safe for us to do wrong, and we keep on doing it until our consciences
are dulled, and we are not able to see that any wrong has been done.

The fact is, that such a complex social system as ours needs for its
safe administration a kind of conscientiousness far higher and finer
than that which men needed for honest living fifty years ago. Unless our
minds are trained to see the right and wrong of very intricate
transactions; unless our ethical imagination is sensitive enough to
discern the nature of far-reaching and wide-spreading social relations,
we shall constantly be profiting by the injury of our neighbors.

It is the business of the church to train the consciences of men for the
moral problems that confront them, and this work has been but
indifferently done. The first step in the redemption of the social order
is the education of the Christian conscience to discern the smokeless
sins. It is with evils of this character that the nation is now in a
life and death grapple; the church ought to be able, by its testimony,
to lend effective aid in this conflict.

The nature of the testimony needed may be indicated by a typical

Not many years ago a very prosperous manufacturing company was doing
business in a thriving American village, giving employment to fifteen
hundred men and women, many of whom had purchased homes, in the
expectation of having permanent occupation and livelihood. It was known
to be a well-paying business; its stock, which was in few hands, was not
in the market.

Suddenly a project of reorganization was announced, and stock amounting
to five times the value of the property was placed upon the market. It
was eagerly taken, for the reputation of the company was very high. With
the proceeds of this sale of securities the managers made themselves
very rich men. It was not necessary for them to do business any longer.
Indeed, they could not have continued to pay dividends on the amount of
stock which they had sold; they had never expected to do any such thing.
What they did was promptly to close the business. The price of the stock
dropped immediately to the neighborhood of zero, millions of values were
canceled, and thousands of investors were made to suffer loss. But the
direct consequences were seen in the village whose prosperity was
suddenly destroyed. Fifteen hundred men and women were deprived, at a
stroke, of employment and livelihood. In many homes there was
destitution and hunger; hundreds of men were compelled to seek
employment elsewhere, sacrificing the homes whose value had been greatly
reduced; businesses that depended on the patronage of the mill hands
were ruined; churches were paralyzed; families were scattered;
discouraged men fell into ways of dissipation; young women were led into
the paths of shame.

All this was done under the forms of law, and yet it would be hard to
find in the annals of crime an instance more flagitious. And the men who
did this thing were church members--members in good standing, leading
members of an evangelical church. Nor does it appear that they suffered
any discredit in the church to which they belonged, and to whose
revenues they continued to contribute out of the plunder by which they
had impoverished and ruined so many. The church had not sufficient moral
sense to reprove and denounce this iniquity. What is worse, the church
had not had enough moral sense to make these men see beforehand that
such an act was infamous.

Undoubtedly they would have promptly justified themselves. "Such
transactions," they would have said, "are occurring every day; what the
law does not forbid, and what everybody else does, cannot be wrong. The
property was ours, and we had a right to put our own price on it, and
sell it for what it would bring. The business was ours, and we had a
right to do what we pleased with it, to keep it running or shut it down
when we got ready: it is a free country: do you think you can compel a
man to go on doing business when he prefers to quit? We never guaranteed
permanent employment to these people: we paid them their wages while
they worked for us, and that is the end of our obligation to them."

Some such answer they would, no doubt, have made to any one who called
in question their conduct; and by such an answer they would have
revealed the failure of the church to which they belonged to bring home
to them their social obligations.

The existing social order can never be redeemed unless a fire can be
kindled on the earth in whose clear shining light such deeds as these
can be seen in all their deformity, and in whose purifying flame such
excuses as these will be utterly consumed. We must have laws to make
such wrongs impossible; but behind the laws must be the moral insight
and the social passion which shall make them effective, and it is the
business of the church to furnish these. When this is done we shall have
made a good beginning in the work of social redemption.

But it will be only a beginning. The work of John the Baptist comes
first, but one mightier than he must follow. The voice of one crying in
the wilderness is but the prelude of that larger revelation which is
made upon the mountain top. To bring home to men the obligations of the
law, and to show them wherein they are failing to obey it, is the first
duty of the church in the present crisis; but it is the gospel with
which she is primarily put in charge.

Clearer teaching about social morality is fundamental, but the great
need, after all, is the vitalization of morality. The moral code, no
matter how accurate may be its precepts, tends to become a dead letter,
unless it is constantly revivified by the spirit of religion.

The Sermon on the Mount is often conceived of as purely ethical
teaching, but the heart of it all is religion. The revelation of the
Fatherhood of God is the light which shines through all these words and
furnishes the motive of all this morality. If we do the things here
commanded, in the way that Jesus expects us to do them, it is because we
know ourselves to be the children of our Father in heaven, living in his
presence, rejoicing in the great love wherewith he has loved us,
trusting in his care, seeking his kingdom, doing his will. The church
which represents Jesus Christ in the world will never forget that its
business is the leavening of society with the life of Christ; but
neither can it forget that the life of Christ can only be maintained by
constant communion with the Father. That the spiritual life of Jesus
himself was thus maintained, the record makes clear. The central fact of
his experience was his living union with the Father. We talk of "the
practice of the presence of God;" Jesus was the only man who has ever
perfectly realized it. And no one who knew him ever failed to see that
it was the Father's kindness and compassion and grace and truth that
were being manifested in his life. It was because he was filled with
all the fullness of God that he imparted to those who received him the
spirit of good-will, the passion for social service.

The church which represents him in the world will need, for its social
service, the same inspiration. Unless its life is fed from this
fountain, its stream will soon run dry. There are those who seem to
think that sociology can solve all the problems of our modern life. If
sociology be sufficiently expanded, this may be true; for a truly
scientific sociology would have to explain how men came to be social
beings, and what is the bond that unites them. If it finds that their
relation to a common Father is the fundamental fact of their existence,
then it would know that religion is at the heart of it, and that right
relations with God are the spring and source of right relations with
men. But a sociology which ignores this primary fact has in it no
redemptive power.

The more earnestly, therefore, we contend that the business of the
church is the Christianization of the social order, the more strenuously
we must maintain that she is powerless to do this work except as her
life is fed by faith and prayer. The redemption of the social order is
the greatest task she has undertaken, and she needs for it a strength
that can only come from conscious fellowship with God. If she ever
needed inspiration, she needs it now. If there ever was a time when she
could dispense with the divine guidance and grace, that time is not now.
The churches which desert the places of prayer, and think to substitute
the wisdom of men for the power of God, are not going to give much aid
in this struggle.

"It must be claimed," says one, "on behalf of the passion for God, that
where it exists it will--automatically, as has been said--set charity,
love, all sweet graces of philanthropic activity, into quick and
ceaseless play.... If the emphasis of religious thought be made to fall
upon the idea of life, this cannot fail to be; for to have the divine
life is to be possessed of and to give out the divine love.... The
regeneration of human society is found to come from the dominance of
spiritual passion, even though it be not the first thing on which
spiritual passion is set; the saint will be--just because he is a
saint--a philanthropist too, since a true sainthood must number love
among the graces of character it brings. It is a fact--one has to make
the sad admission--that religious people, professedly spiritual men and
women, have been and still are in some cases eaten through and through
by selfishness; these are those who, so that they can declare heaven to
be their own, have no care for the present hell in which so many of
their fellows spend their days and years. But that is not because they
are too deeply immersed in the passion for God,--it is because they have
not really immersed themselves in its flood. And in claiming for a
Godward passion the regulative and supreme place among the elements of
life, we do but secure a fuller tenancy among those elements of a
manward love; for the nature which sets itself to receive the whole of
God will, ere it knows it, and as an automatic effect of the new life it
wins, give itself to its brethren in their need. For God is love, and he
must dwell in love who dwells in God."[27]

We may hesitate to say that when the passion for God is the only thing
aimed at it is bound to result in social regeneration; there are too
many facts which prove the contrary. The aim must always include both
the Godward and the manward obligations; the first and the second great
commandments are of equal rank; what needs to be insisted on is the
impossibility of divorcing them.

The church which seeks the redemption of society cannot, then, dispense
with its religion. Nothing has been made plainer, during the recent
exposures of social decay, than the fact that our social morality must
have a religious foundation. Even the man on the street is ready to
concede that no righteousness is adequate for the present emergency but
that which springs from faith in a righteous God. And nothing is more
needed, at this hour, than the deepening of men's faith in the great
religious verities.

It is often said that the only cure for existing social ills is a great
revival of religion, and this is true. But the revival of religion which
is needed is not the kind which the churches are most apt to seek. The
religion which needs to be revived is not that which puts the sole
emphasis on the safety and welfare of the individual, but that which
equally exalts the social welfare; which identifies the interests of
each with the interests of all; which makes men see and feel that no
salvation is worth anything to any man that does not put that man into
Christian relations with his neighbors. Nothing but religion will do
this for any man, and the religion which fails to do this is a spurious

A great revival we shall see, one of these days, which will have this
character. It will bind together the two great commandments of the law,
and make men feel the weight of both of them. It will compel them to
recognize the truth that, while the root of their religion is faith in
God, the fruit of their religion is love for men. It will drive home the
fact that the religion which does not hinder a man from being a boodler
or a grafter; which permits a man to enjoy religion while fleecing his
neighbors by crafty schemes of finance or artful legalized robberies;
which allows the love of gain to triumph over truth and honor and
brotherly kindness; which sits serene and complacent while social
classes make war on each other, and children's lives are consumed by
grinding toil, and women are forced by want into the ways of shame, and
the enemies of society are set free to make gain by the ruin of human
souls, is a religion which is not worth having. It will insist that a
religion which is rightly described as the life of God in the souls of
men, would begin in the house of God itself, and kindle there a
consuming flame before which such iniquities could not stand. Perhaps it
would set men to saying--they might not feel like singing--Thomas
Hughes's great hymn:--

"O God of truth, whose living word
Upholds whate'er hath breath,
Look down on thy creation, Lord,
Enslaved by sin and death.

"Set up thy standard, Lord, that we
Who claim a heavenly birth
May march with thee to smite the lies
That vex thy groaning earth.

"_We_ fight for truth, _we_ fight for God,
Poor slaves of lies and sin!
He who would fight for thee on earth
Must first be true within.

"Thou God of truth, for whom we long,
Thou who wilt hear our prayer,
Do thine own battle in our hearts,
And slay the falsehood there.

"Still smite! still burn! till naught is left
But God's own truth and love;
Then, Lord, as morning dew come down,
Rest on us from above.

"Yea, come! thus tried as in the fire,
From every lie set free,
Thy perfect truth shall dwell in us
And we shall live in thee."

It is hardly needful to say that the redemption of the social order will
not be wrought out without sacrifice. "The redemption of the soul is
costly," says the Psalmist. No man is rescued from moral degradation and
death without suffering and sacrifice. Those who are saved are more
often saved by the suffering of others in their behalf than by their own
suffering. But the price of a soul is apt to be high, and love is
sometimes able to pay it.

The redemption of society from the welter of selfishness and brutishness
and cruelty into which it is now plunged will be a costly undertaking.
The church is here, as Christ's representative, to take up this work;
and it must not expect to accomplish it without suffering. "It is enough
for the disciple that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord."
If the Church is Christ's servant, she must not expect to find any
better way than his way of saving the world.

It is true, as we have seen, that the present deplorable conditions are
due to the failure of the church to enforce the Christian morality. The
price that she must pay for the redemption of society is heavy because
of her own neglect. But it must be paid. There is no other way of

Thus it appears that the church which bears the name of Jesus Christ has
come to its testing time. It finds itself in the midst of a society
whose tendencies are downward. Mammon is on the throne; the greed of
gain is eating the heart out of commercial honor; reputations are
crumbling; confidence is rudely shaken; the most cynical schemes for
plundering the multitudes are daily brought to light; social classes
stand over against each other distrustful and defiant; the house of
mirth resounds with the mad revelry of the wasters, while the purlieus
are noisome with poverty and vice.

Can this society be redeemed? Can this all-ruling commercialism be held
in check, and this reign of plunder be overthrown, and all this seething
selfishness and heartlessness and suspicion be made to give place to
good-will and kindness, to trust and truth, to faith and honor? It will
never be done without a vast expenditure of sacrificial love. "This kind
goeth not forth but by prayer and fasting." Is the church ready for
this struggle? Is she willing to put forth the effort and pay the cost
which is required for the redemption of society?


The New Evangelism

Those who have followed these discussions from the beginning will not be
inclined to hesitate in answering the question with which the last
chapter closed. That society can be redeemed, and that the church can
and will purge herself from the things that defile her beauty and
corrupt her powers, and gird herself for the redemptive work assigned
her, is the faith of every loyal Christian. The grievous failures of the
church we cannot deny and must not palliate; it is of the utmost
importance that she be brought face to face with them, and be made to
see how far short she has come of her high calling. Such criticism she
has received from the beginning. The seven churches of Asia were sharply
called to account by the beloved disciple; their faithlessness and
neglect were unflinchingly brought home to them. The churches at Ephesus
and Sardis and Laodicea had as hard things said about them as have been
said in these chapters of the churches of this generation, and probably
deserved them no less. We cannot doubt that that clear-eyed witness, if
he were confronting the church of the twentieth century, would be
constrained to say: "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou
livest, and art dead.... Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased in
goods and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the
wretched one, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel
thee to buy of me gold refined by fire, that thou mayest become rich;
and white garments, that thou mayest clothe thyself, and that the shame
of thy nakedness be not made manifest; and eye-salve to anoint thine
eyes, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I reprove and chasten; be
zealous therefore, and repent." In every generation such chastisement
has been needed; the need is no greater to-day than in past generations,
and the chastening love no less. What Lowell says of this country, many
a Christian believer has been constrained to say of the church:--

"I loved her old renown, her stainless fame;
What better proof than that I loathed her shame."

But this keen sense of her shortcomings is not inconsistent with an
unfaltering faith in the recovery of her integrity and in her final
triumph. And those who have read the history of the Christian church
with sympathetic vision can hardly doubt that her brightest days are
still before her.

For while it must be admitted that she has neglected, hitherto, her
great work of social redemption, it cannot be said that she is more
neglectful of it now than she has been in past years; the truth is that
she is nearer to the recognition of it to-day than she has ever been.
Derelict as she is to her primary obligation, it must yet be said that a
consciousness of that dereliction is beginning to make her uneasy, and
that has never before been true of any large portion of her membership.
Since the earliest centuries the possibility of transforming the social
order by purely spiritual influences has scarcely dawned upon her. So
long as society was feudalistic or aristocratic, the problem seemed to
be beyond her reach; she might hope to improve society, by inculcating
kindness and charity, but hardly to reconstruct it upon new foundations.

The advent of democracy has brought home to her her social
responsibilities. Here in America, more than anywhere else, the nature
of her social obligation has been revealed. Here the fact cannot be
disguised that the people are the sovereigns, and that social as well as
political relations are under their direct control. The sovereign people
have pledged themselves one to another, in their constitution, to
refrain from establishing, by law, any form of religion; but they have
also covenanted together to promote the common welfare. This puts the
responsibility for social conditions upon the whole people, and the
Christian people are among them. They cannot avoid the obligation to
apply Christian principles to social conditions. Power is theirs to be
used in Christ's name and for the promotion of his kingdom. To see that
society is furnished with right ruling ideas, and organized on Christian
principles, is their main business. And while there are many by whom
this obligation is still but feebly felt, yet there is a goodly number
of those in whose minds the leaven is working, and to whom the nature of
the kingdom that Jesus came to establish is being clearly revealed. That
this number is destined to grow very rapidly we may reasonably hope.

The present situation is so clearly outlined by a recent writer that we
may welcome a liberal quotation:--

"The first apostolate of Christianity was born from a deep
fellow-feeling for social misery, and from the consciousness of a great
historical opportunity. Jesus saw the peasantry of Galilee following him
about with their poverty and their diseases, like shepherdless sheep
that have been scattered and harried by beasts of prey, and his heart
had compassion on them. He felt that the harvest was ripe but there were
few to reap it. Past history had come to its culmination, but there were
few who understood the situation and were prepared to cope with it. He
bade his disciples to pray for laborers for the harvest, and then made
them answer their own prayers by sending them out two by two to proclaim
the kingdom of God. That was the beginning of the world-wide mission of

"The situation is repeated on a vaster scale to-day. If Jesus stood
to-day amid our modern life, with that outlook on the condition of all
humanity which observation and travel and the press would spread before
him, and with the same heart of humanity beating in him, he would
create a new apostolate to meet the new needs in a new harvest time of

"To any one who knows the sluggishness of humanity to good, the
impregnable intrenchments of vested wrongs, and the long reaches of time
needed from one milestone of progress to the next, the task of setting
up a Christian social order in this modern world of ours seems like a
fair and futile dream. Yet, in fact, it is not one tithe as hopeless as
when Jesus set out to do it. When he told his disciples, 'Ye are the
salt of the earth; ye are the light of the world,' he expressed the
consciousness of a great historic mission to the whole of humanity. Yet
it was a Nazarene carpenter speaking to a group of Nazarene peasants and
fishermen. Under the circumstances at that time it was an utterance of
the most daring faith,--faith in himself, faith in them, faith in what
he was putting into them, faith in faith. Jesus failed and was
crucified, first his body by his enemies and then his spirit by his
friends; but that failure was such an amazing success that to-day it
takes an effort on our part to realize that it required any faith on his
part to inaugurate the kingdom of God and to send out his apostolate.

"To-day, as Jesus looks out upon humanity, his spirit must leap to see
the souls responsive to his call. They are sown broadcast through
humanity, legions of them. The harvest field is no longer deserted. All
about us we hear the clang of the whetstone and the rush of the blades
through the grain and the shout of the reapers. With all our faults and
our slothfulness, we modern men in many ways are more on a level with
the mind of Jesus than any generation that has gone before. If that
first apostolate was able to remove mountains by faith, such an
apostolate as Christ could now summon might change the face of the

The time is ripe for such an apostolate. The old type of evangelism has
plainly had its day. Strenuous efforts are put forth to revive it, but
their success is meagre. It is easy by expending much money in
advertising, by organizing a great choir, and employing the services of
gifted and earnest men, to draw large congregations; but the great mass
of those who attend these services are church members,--the outside
multitude is scarcely, touched by them. Those who are gathered into the
church in these meetings are mainly children from the Sunday schools.
There may be evangelists who, by an extravagant and grotesque
sensationalism, contrive to get the attention of the non-churchgoers,
and who are able to report considerable additions to the churches; but
the permanence of these gains is not yet shown, and we have no means of
enumerating the thousands who, by such clownish exhibitions, are driven
in disgust from the churches.

The failure of the modern evangelism is not conjectural: the year-books
show it. The growth of membership in several of our leading
denominations has either ceased or is greatly retarded; the Sunday
schools and the young people's societies report decreasing numbers; the
benevolent contributions are either waning, or increasing at a rate far
less than that of the growth of wealth in the membership. It is idle to
blink these conditions; we must face them and find out what they mean.
This slackening and shrinkage is not a fact of long standing; it
represents only the tendencies of the past twenty years.

We hear rather frantic demands for a return to the old methods of
evangelism, but that is a foolish cry:--

"The mill will never grind
With the water that is past."

The old appeal, which fixed attention upon the interest of the
individual, has lost its power. It is not possible to stir the average
human being of this generation, as the average human being of fifty
years ago was stirred, by pictures of the terrors of hell and the
felicities of heaven. These conceptions have far less influence over
human lives than once they had,--less, doubtless, than they ought to
have; for there are realities under these symbols which we cannot afford
to ignore. But the fundamental defect of that old appeal was the
emphasis which it placed upon self-interest. "Look out for yourself!"
was its constant admonition. "Think of the perils that threaten, of the
blisses that invite! Do not risk the pain; do not miss the blessedness!"
To-day this does not seem a wholly worthy motive. At any rate, it is
below the highest. Men feel that the religion of Christ has a larger
meaning than this. A presentation of the gospel which makes the welfare
of the individual central does not grip the conscience and arouse the
emotions as once it did. For the conception of human welfare as social
rather than individual has become common; that "great fund of altruistic
feeling," which, as Mr. Benjamin Kidd tells us, is the motive power of
all our social reforms, is constantly stirring in human hearts; and
although there are few whose lives are wholly ruled by this motive,
there are fewer still who do not recognize it as the commanding motive;
and a religious appeal which is based upon considerations essentially
egoistic does not, therefore, awaken any large response in human hearts.

If the church wishes to regain her hold upon the people, she must learn
to speak to the highest that is in them. A man's religion must
consecrate his ideals. A religion which invites him to live on a lower
plane than the highest on which his thought travels cannot win his
respect. And therefore the new evangelism must learn to find its motive
not in self-love, no matter how refined, but in the love that identifies
the self with the neighbor. It must bring home to the individual the
truth which he already dimly knows, that his personal redemption is
bound up with the redemption of the society to which he belongs; that he
cannot be saved except as he becomes a savior of others; nay, that the
one central sin from which he needs to be saved is indifference to the
welfare of others, and a willingness to prosper at their expense.

The time has come for the church to take an entirely new attitude in
offering men the gospel. It has been too well content with pressing the
personal advantages of religion, with trying to lure them into
discipleship with baits addressed to their selfishness. It has been
inventing attractions of all sorts,--fine buildings, sumptuous
upholstery and decorations, artistic music, brilliant oratory; it has
thought it possible to enlist men by pleasing their tastes and
gratifying their sensibilities. So far has this gone that the average
churchgoer consciously justifies his presence in church or his absence
from it on the ground of pleasure. If it pleases him enough, he goes; if
not, he reads the Sunday paper or goes out with his automobile. It is a
simple question of enjoyment.

The response of those invited shows the nature of the invitation. It
indicates that the church has been putting a great deal of emphasis on
the attractions which it has to offer. We can hardly imagine such
replies to be made by those who were invited to listen to the preaching
of Jesus or his apostles. They did not suppose that it was a question of
entertainment that they were considering. They knew that it was a
summons to service and sacrifice. That, beyond all doubt, was the nature
of the appeal of the church in those earliest centuries, when it was
marching over Asia and Europe, conquering and to conquer. It was not
baiting men with soft cushions and pictured windows, with coddlings and
comfits; it was calling them to hardship and warfare, to ignominy and
ostracism; the words of the Master to which it gave emphasis were not
mere metaphors: "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and
take up his cross and follow me."

The call of the cross has never failed. The power of God and the wisdom
of God are in it. And it is time for the church to take up this heroic
note and sound it forth with new power. This is the new evangelism for
which the world is waiting. It is not a call to be "carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease;" it is not an invitation to the sentimental
soul to "sit and sing herself away to everlasting bliss;" it is the
clarion of battle; it is the challenge to an enterprise which means
struggle and suffering and self-denial.

The redemption of society is the objective of the new evangelism. How
vast an undertaking this is was indicated in the last chapter. Let us
look at it a little more in detail. How much does it signify, here and
now, in the United States of America?

It means, first, the reconciliation of races. One thing that must be
done is to take this chaotic mass of dissimilar, discordant, suspicious,
antipathetic racial elements and blend them into unity and brotherhood.
The first Christians had a task of this nature on their hands; they had
to bring together in one fellowship Jews and Gentiles. But that was a
pastime compared with the herculean labor intrusted to us,--the bringing
together of whites and blacks, of Caucasians and Mongolians, of scores
of groups divided by the barriers of language, of religion, of custom,
and fusing them into one nationality. No task of the same dimensions was
ever undertaken by any people; but this is ours, and we must perform it.
It is the task of the nation; but the church of Jesus Christ is charged
with the business of furnishing the sentiments and ideas by which alone
it may be accomplished.

It means, secondly, the pacification of industry. The contending hosts
of capital and labor must be brought together, and constrained to cease
from their warfare and become friends and cooeperators. It is absurd to
suppose that the war of the industrial classes can continue to be waged,
as at present, each seeking to overpower the other. Such a condition of
things is simply irrational. All warfare is illogical and unnatural.
Human beings are not made to live together on any such terms. They are
made to be friends and helpers of one another. The elimination of war is
the next step in industrial evolution. And it is the business of the
church of Jesus Christ to speak the reconciling word. She has the word
to speak, and when she utters it with authority it will be heard.

It means, thirdly, the moralization of business. The trouble with
business is simply covetousness. The insatiable greed of gain is the
source of all the dishonesties, the oppressions, the spoliations, the
trickeries, the frauds, the adulterations, the cutthroat competitions,
the financial piracies, the swindling schemes,--all the abuses and
mischiefs which infest the world of commerce and finance. Against all
these forms of evil the church must bear her testimony; but the root
from which they all grow is the love of money, and it is this central
and seminal sin of modern civilization that the church must assail with
all the weapons of the spiritual warfare. "Covetousness is idolatry"--so
St. Paul testifies; and a grosser or more debasing idolatry has never
appeared on earth than the worship of material gain. Unless the bonds of
that superstition can be broken, the race must sink into degradation. It
is the one deadly enemy of mankind. And the church of Jesus Christ is
called to lead in the battle with this foe. Against no other social evil
was the testimony of Jesus so trenchant and uncompromising. Nothing more
clearly evinces his unerring vision of moral realities than his judgment
upon this encroaching passion. In his day it was an evil almost
negligible compared with what it is to-day. It was because he foresaw
the conditions which prevail to-day that his words were so hot against
the rule of Mammon. The church is face to face with the danger which he
discerned, and she must meet it in his spirit and with the energy of
his passion. To make men see the hatefulness and loathsomeness of this
greed of gain is the first duty of the church. When that is accomplished
the worst evils of the business realm will disappear.

It means, fourthly, the extirpation of social vice. When covetousness is
conquered, the procuring cause of much of this kind of evil will be cut
up by the roots. The greed of gain is the motive which breeds and
propagates social vice. But there are animal propensities to which these
incitements make their appeal; and some way must be found of quickening
the nobler affections, so that the spirit shall rule the flesh and not
be in bondage to it. To fill the thoughts and wishes of men with
something better worth while than the joys of animalism is the radical
remedy for these degradations. And the church ought to be able to supply
this remedy.

The redemption of society means, in the fifth place, the purification of
politics. The dethronement of Mammon will go a long way toward this
also; most of the corruptions of our political life spring from the love
of money. Graft is the first-born of covetousness. But the love of
power also plays a part in the debauchery of citizenship; and the
central sin of using men as means to our ends is exhibited here on a
stupendous scale. This is the vocation of the boss and the briber and
the political machinist; and a deadlier way of destroying manhood it
would be hard to find. It is not only the interest of other individuals,
but the interest of the whole community that the corrupt politician
sacrifices upon the altar of cupidity or ambition; and when a man has
learned to turn the one great privilege of service and sacrifice which
citizenship offers into an opportunity of private gain, he has sunk
about as low as man can go. What more urgent task has the church upon
her hands than that of making men see the treachery and infamy of this
kind of conduct? And unless men can be made to see it and feel it, what
hope is there for free government? Can anybody imagine that democracy
can long endure if the ruling motive of the citizen in his relation to
the commonwealth is a purpose to get as much out of it as he can and
give it as little as he can? All political reforms which leave the
citizen in this state of mind are futile. There is no salvation for a
democracy which does not change the direction of the motive in the
heart of the individual citizen. And this is the business of the church.
Without this, social redemption is impossible, and there is no other
agency which even proposes to accomplish this.

And, finally, the redemption of society means the simplification of
life. Here, perhaps, we strike more nearly than anywhere else at the
heart of the whole problem. The bottom trouble of the world in which we
live is the enormous over-multiplication of our wants. In the multitude
of ministrations to our senses, the life of the spirit is overlaid and
smothered. Jesus said that a man's life consists not in the abundance of
the things which he possesses; it is this elementary truth which the
world has ceased to believe. For the most part our life is in our
things; our happiness depends on them; our desires do not often rise
above them.

The complexity, the artificiality, the profusion of our belongings
absorbs the larger part of our interest. The energies of invention are
mainly directed to the creation of new wants. As the resources of the
earth are developed, life takes on an accumulating burden of cares and
conventions and superfluities. We read, with a wonder which is a thinly
disguised admiration, the stories of the extravagances of the people of
the whirlpool, but most of us are jogging along after them, wishing that
we could get into the swim ourselves. Our houses are cluttered with
adornments; our social functions are spending matches; our feasts invite
to satiation; our funerals are exhibitions of extravagance. This thing
has been growing by leaps and bounds, and the time has come when we are
fairly swamped by the abundance of the things which we possess. Nay, it
can hardly be said that we possess this abundance; it possesses us:--

"Things are in the saddle
And ride mankind."

In recent years the cry has been rising for a simpler life. It is a
voice in the wilderness; in the din and clatter of our complex
civilization it seems faint and far off, but it is making itself heard;
it begins to be evident to all thoughtful people that we must somehow
manage to get away from these entanglements of sense and live a freer
life. In these artificialities and extravagances the soul is enfeebled
and belittled, and the national vigor is lost. If we want to save our
nation from decay we must learn to live a simpler life. And this change
will not be wrought out by evolutionary processes; it means revolution
rather; not by violence, we may trust, but certainly by choice, by
effort, by struggle and resistance we shall turn back these tides of
materialism, and lead the current of our national life into safer

We are not going to strip our lives bare of beauty, or to consign
ourselves to the meagreness of the anchoretic regimen; we shall have
beautiful homes and abundant pleasures; but we must learn to make our
spiritual interests supreme, and not suffer our thought to be blurred
and our faith enfeebled and our love stifled in the atmosphere of modern

Such, then, are some of the phases of that great work of social
redemption which now confronts us. Other aspects of the work, not less
serious, might be presented, but these are some of the outstanding needs
of modern society. Certainly it is a tremendous work. To reconcile
hostile and suspicious races; to pacify industrial classes; to moralize
business; to extirpate social vice; to purify politics; to simplify
life;--all this is an enterprise so vast that we may well be appalled by
the thought of undertaking it. But this, and nothing less than this, is
the business which the church has in hand. For which of these tasks is
she not responsible? From which of them would she dare ask to be
excused? To what other agency can she think of intrusting any of them?
Nay, this is her proper and peculiar work. For this is she sent into the

In truth, the one thing that the church needs to-day is to envisage this
task,--to take in its tremendous dimensions; to comprehend the
overpowering magnitude of the work that is expected of her. It is this
revelation that will rouse her. Never before, in all her history, has
such a disclosure of her responsibility been made to her. And the
enormity of the obligation will set her thinking. It will dawn upon her
after a little, that it is for just such tasks that she is called and
commissioned; that the achievement of the impossible is the very thing
that she is always expected to do; that the strength on which she leans
is omnipotence; that she can do all things through Christ who
strengthened her. She will see and understand that her progress is not
made by seeking the line of least resistance: some such worldly wisdom
as this has been her undoing. She will learn that it is only when she
undertakes the greatest things that she finds her resources equal to her

This is the heroic note of the new evangelism. The work of making a
better world of this is a tremendous work, but it can be done. It can be
done, because it is commanded. If there is a God in heaven, what ought
to be done can be done. To doubt that is to deny him. And there is one
way of doing it, and that is Christ's way. For all this manifold,
herculean labor on which we have been looking, there is no wisdom
comparable with his. He said that he came to save the world, and he is
going to save it. He has waited long, but he knows how to wait. The day
of his triumph is drawing near. This world is going to be redeemed. This
social order, so full of strife and confusion, of cruelty and
oppression, of misery and sorrow, is going to be transformed, and the
love of Christ shed abroad in the hearts of men will transform it. We
are not going to wait another thousand years for our millennium; we are
going to have it here and now. This is the gospel of the new evangelism
which it has taken the church a long time to learn, but which she is now
getting ready to proclaim with demonstration of the spirit and with

We must not hide from ourselves the fact that some great changes will
need to take place in her own life before she can give effect to this
great evangel. She must heal her divisions, and fling away her
encumbering traditions, and greatly deepen her faith in her Lord and
Leader. Above all, she must simplify her own life. She cannot bear
witness, as she must, against the deadly influences of our modern
materialism, until she utterly clears herself of all complicity with it.
This means, in many quarters, a radical change in her administration.

When the church has thus envisaged her task, and comprehended its
magnitude, and when, with her heart on fire with the greatness and glory
of it, she has laid aside every weight and the sins that so easily beset
her, and has girded herself with the truth as it is in Jesus, and has
set the silver trumpet to her lips, she will have a gospel to proclaim,
to which the world will listen.

It will tell the world, as it has always told the world, of forgiveness
and hope, of comfort and peace, of the help and guidance that comes to
the troubled soul in believing in Jesus. It will speak, as it has always
spoken, of the rest that remaineth, and of the great joys and
companionships of the eternal future. But it will have something more
than this to tell.

The kingdoms of this world--this will be its message--are becoming the
kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. It is not an event to be
awaited, but to be realized, here and now. Nothing is needed but that
men should believe the word of Jesus Christ and live by it. We do
believe it, and we mean to show our faith by our works. We believe that
by simply living together as Jesus has taught us to live, we can make
this world so much better than it now is, that men shall think heaven
has come down to earth. We believe that the race question and the labor
question and the trust question and the liquor question and the graft
question and all the other questions will find a speedy solution when
men have learned to walk in the way of Jesus. And we call you to come
and walk with us in that way.

It is not a smooth and thornless way. It is a toilsome and painful way.
It is the way of the cross. It means hardship and struggle and
suffering. Such intrenched and ingrained iniquities as now infest our
society will not be overcome without conflict. We are not calling you to
a pastime. We are not offering you riches or honors or sensual joys. We
are calling you to service and to sacrifice. But we are going to build
here in this world the kingdom of heaven. We know that it can be done:
we know how to do it, and the glorious thing we have to tell you is that
you can have a share in it. Look forward with us to the day when--

"Nation with nation, land with land,
Unarmed shall live as comrades free,
In every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity;

"New arts shall bloom, of loftier mould,
And mightier music thrill the skies,
And every life shall be a song
When all the earth is paradise,"--

and come and help us to bring that glad time. The Leader whom we follow
knows the way, and the future belongs to Him.

That is the message of the new evangelism, and when the church learns
to speak it with conviction, and to make it good in her life, she will
find that the gospel has a power that she has never even imagined it to


The New Leadership

These discussions have failed of their purpose if they have not made a
few things clear. Let us restate them:--

1. The roots of religion are in human nature. It is a fact as central
and all-pervasive in the social realm as gravitation is in the physical
realm. It is no more likely to become antiquated or obsolete than oxygen
or sunshine. It is an interest which no intelligent person can afford to

2. Like every other living thing, religion grows. It is not outside the
sphere of operation of Him who said, "Behold! I make all things new!" It
is subject, continually, to his wise economy of renewal.

3. Our religion is Christianity. With the other religions of the race it
is destined to be brought into closer and closer comparison and
competition, and that religion will survive and become universal which
most perfectly explains the universe and provides for the wants of the
human soul. All the indications are that the religion which survives
will include the essential elements of Christianity.

4. All religions are rooted in the social nature of man, but
Christianity, more than any other, is a social religion. It depends for
its culture and propagation upon the social forces. Some form of social
organization, like the church, is necessary to the life of religion.
Worship, to be sane and salutary, must be social; and the life of
Christianity can find expression only in such cooeperations as those for
which the church provides.

5. As the life of religion is nurtured in social worship and service, so
its fruit is gathered in the transformation of society. The primary
function of the church is the Christianization of the social order. The
business of the church is to save the world by establishing here the
kingdom of heaven.

6. The church has very imperfectly performed this function. It has but
dimly discerned and but feebly grasped the social aims of Jesus. It has
tried to do a great many other things, some of them good things; but the
one thing it was sent to do it has largely left undone.

7. A new reformation is therefore called for, and that reformation must
accomplish what the reformation of the sixteenth century failed to
accomplish,--the restoration of the social teachings of Jesus to their
proper rank and dignity. As the reformation of the sixteenth century
brought the individual to Christ as a personal Saviour, so the
reformation of the twentieth century must bring society to Christ as a
social Saviour, and must make men see that there is no way of living
together but his way.

8. The church is therefore called to the redemption of society. But the
work of redemption to which it is called is not a reconstruction of
economic or political machinery; it is the quickening of the social
conscience, and the reenthronement of justice and love in the place of
selfishness and strife as the ruling principles of human society.

9. For the redemption of society a new evangelism is needed. The new
evangelism will not emphasize the interest of the individual; it will
rather emphasize the truth that the individual can only be saved when he
identifies his own welfare with the welfare of his fellow men. And it
will not try to win men by offering them ease and safety and comfort,
but rather by showing them how tremendous are the tasks before them;
what a mighty work there is to do in delivering this world from the
bondage of corruption and selfishness; what hardship and toil and
sacrifice are needed; but how sure the victory is for those who are able
to believe the word of Jesus Christ and follow, whole-heartedly, his

Such are the characters and conditions under which the church of Jesus
Christ presents herself in this new day to modern men. Her record is far
from flawless; it is the necessities of logic, not the facts of history,
which make her infallible. She has blundered along through the
centuries, missing much of the work she was sent to do, and staining her
garments not seldom with the soilure of greed and the blood of the
innocent; but through all these generations the patient love of her Lord
has been chastening her, and through many wanderings and stumblings she
has come down to this hour. The light upon her candlestick has often
grown dim, but it has never been wholly extinguished; the fire upon her
altars has burned low, but it is still burning. She has not done all
that she ought to have done, but she has done a large part of all that
has been done to enlighten, to comfort, and to uplift humanity. And the
discipline through which she has passed gives some indication of the
work she has yet to do. It is not credible that a wise Providence should
have kept her alive so many centuries, and should have made so much use
of her in the establishment upon the earth of the kingdom of heaven, and
should have led her into a constantly increasing knowledge of Himself,
if he had not meant to make her his servant in the great work now
waiting to be done.

Her hour has come, and her task lies before her. It might be urged that
she ought to have been better fitted for her work before she was called
to undertake it; but that is not God's way. We get our preparation for
great work in the work itself. We are called from the sheepfolds to lead
the armies of Israel. We are sent out with a few loaves and fishes to
feed the multitude. Our powers are developed and our resources are
multiplied by using them. And though the church is far from having the
equipment she needs for the redemption of society, the power and the
wisdom will come when the work is bravely undertaken.

To whom, now, does this great enterprise of social redemption make its
strongest appeal? It ought to appeal to all good men and women. It ought
to enlist the powers of those who are in the meridian of their strength.
The men whose vision has been widened and whose wills have been
invigorated in the great undertakings of industry and commerce ought to
find in this proposition something worthy of their powers. It ought,
also, to stir the hearts of those who have labored hard and waited long
for the coming of the kingdom to hear a great voice saying, "Now is the
accepted time: behold! now is the day of salvation!" To many of those
who have not much longer to live life never seemed a thing so fair as it
is to-day.

But this great appeal ought most strongly to lay hold upon the hearts of
the young men and women of this generation. The enterprise is mainly
theirs. If the new reformation comes, they will lead it on. If society
is redeemed, it will be by their toil and sacrifice. If the church ever

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