“Mr. Maxwell’s promise?”
“No, mine. You know what it was, do you not, mother?”
“I suppose I do. Of course all the church members mean to imitate Christ and follow Him, as far as is consistent with our present day surroundings. But what has that to do with your decision in the concert company matter?”
“It has everything to do with it. After asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and going to the source of authority for wisdom, I have been obliged to say that I do not believe He would, in my case, make that use of my voice.”
“Why? Is there anything wrong about such a career?”
“No, I don’t know that I can say there is.”
“Do you presume to sit in judgment on other people who go out to sing in this way? Do you presume to say they are doing what Christ would not do?”
“Mother, I wish you to understand me. I judge no one else; I condemn no other professional singer. I simply decide my own course. As I look at it, I have a conviction that Jesus would do something else.”
“What else?” Mrs. Winslow had not yet lost her temper. She did not understand the situation nor Rachel in the midst of it, but she was anxious that her daughter’s course should be as distinguished as her natural gifts promised. And she felt confident that when the present unusual religious excitement in the First Church had passed away Rachel would go on with her public life according to the wishes of the family. She was totally unprepared for Rachel’s next remark.
“What? Something that will serve mankind where it most needs the service of song. Mother, I have made up my mind to use my voice in some way so as to satisfy my own soul that I am doing something better than pleasing fashionable audiences, or making money, or even gratifying my own love of singing. I am going to do something that will satisfy me when I ask: ‘What would Jesus do?’ I am not satisfied, and cannot be, when I think of myself as singing myself into the career of a concert company performer.”
Rachel spoke with a vigor and earnestness that surprised her mother. But Mrs. Winslow was angry now; and she never tried to conceal her feelings.
“It is simply absurd! Rachel, you are a fanatic! What can you do?”
“The world has been served by men and women who have given it other things that were gifts. Why should I, because I am blessed with a natural gift, at once proceed to put a market price on it and make all the money I can out of it? You know, mother, that you have taught me to think of a musical career always in the light of financial and social success. I have been unable, since I made my promise two weeks ago, to imagine Jesus joining a concert company to do what I should do and live the life I should have to live if I joined it.”
Mrs. Winslow rose and then sat down again. With a great effort she composed herself.
“What do you intend to do then? You have not answered my question.”
“I shall continue to sing for the time being in the church. I am pledged to sing there through the spring. During the week I am going to sing at the White Cross meetings, down in the Rectangle.”
“What! Rachel Winslow! Do you know what you are saying? Do you know what sort of people those are down there?”
Rachel almost quailed before her mother. For a moment she shrank back and was silent. Then she spoke firmly: “I know very well. That is the reason I am going. Mr. and Mrs. Gray have been working there several weeks. I learned only this morning that they want singers from the churches to help them in their meetings. They use a tent. It is in a part of the city where Christian work is most needed. I shall offer them my help. Mother!” Rachel cried out with the first passionate utterance she had yet used, “I want to do something that will cost me something in the way of sacrifice. I know you will not understand me. But I am hungry to suffer for something. What have we done all our lives for the suffering, sinning side of Raymond? How much have we denied ourselves or given of our personal ease and pleasure to bless the place in which we live or imitate the life of the Savior of the world? Are we always to go on doing as society selfishly dictates, moving on its little narrow round of pleasures and entertainments, and never knowing the pain of things that cost?”
“Are you preaching at me?” asked Mrs. Winslow slowly. Rachel rose, and understood her mother’s words.
“No. I am preaching at myself,” she replied gently. She paused a moment as if she thought her mother would say something more, and then went out of the room. When she reached her own room she felt that so far as her own mother was concerned she could expect no sympathy, nor even a fair understanding from her.
She kneeled. It is safe to say that within the two weeks since Henry Maxwell’s church had faced that shabby figure with the faded hat more members of his parish had been driven to their knees in prayer than during all the previous term of his pastorate.
She rose, and her face was wet with tears. She sat thoughtfully a little while and then wrote a note to Virginia Page. She sent it to her by a messenger and then went downstairs and told her mother that she and Virginia were going down to the Rectangle that evening to see Mr. and Mrs. Gray, the evangelists.
“Virginia’s uncle, Dr. West, will go with us, if she goes. I have asked her to call him up by telephone and go with us. The Doctor is a friend of the Grays, and attended some of their meetings last winter.”
Mrs. Winslow did not say anything. Her manner showed her complete disapproval of Rachel’s course, and Rachel felt her unspoken bitterness.
About seven o’clock the Doctor and Virginia appeared, and together the three started for the scene of the White Cross meetings.
The Rectangle was the most notorious district in Raymond. It was on the territory close by the railroad shops and the packing houses. The great slum and tenement district of Raymond congested its worst and most wretched elements about the Rectangle. This was a barren field used in the summer by circus companies and wandering showmen. It was shut in by rows of saloons, gambling hells and cheap, dirty boarding and lodging houses.
The First Church of Raymond had never touched the Rectangle problem. It was too dirty, too coarse, too sinful, too awful for close contact. Let us be honest. There had been an attempt to cleanse this sore spot by sending down an occasional committee of singers or Sunday-school teachers or gospel visitors from various churches. But the First Church of Raymond, as an institution, had never really done anything to make the Rectangle any less a stronghold of the devil as the years went by.
Into this heart of the coarse part of the sin of Raymond the traveling evangelist and his brave little wife had pitched a good-sized tent and begun meetings. It was the spring of the year and the evenings were beginning to be pleasant. The evangelists had asked for the help of Christian people, and had received more than the usual amount of encouragement. But they felt a great need of more and better music. During the meetings on the Sunday just gone the assistant at the organ had been taken ill. The volunteers from the city were few and the voices were of ordinary quality.
“There will be a small meeting tonight, John,” said his wife, as they entered the tent a little after seven o’clock and began to arrange the chairs and light up.
“Yes, I fear so.” Mr. Gray was a small, energetic man, with a pleasant voice and the courage of a high-born fighter. He had already made friends in the neighborhood and one of his converts, a heavy-faced man who had just come in, began to help in the arranging of seats.
It was after eight o’clock when Alexander Powers opened the door of his office and started for home. He was going to take a car at the corner of the Rectangle. But he was roused by a voice coming from the tent.
It was the voice of Rachel Winslow. It struck through his consciousness of struggle over his own question that had sent him into the Divine Presence for an answer. He had not yet reached a conclusion. He was tortured with uncertainty. His whole previous course of action as a railroad man was the poorest possible preparation for anything sacrificial. And he could not yet say what he would do in the matter.
Hark! What was she singing? How did Rachel Winslow happen to be down here? Several windows near by went up. Some men quarreling near a saloon stopped and listened. Other figures were walking rapidly in the direction of the Rectangle and the tent. Surely Rachel Winslow had never sung like that in the First Church. It was a marvelous voice. What was it she was singing? Again Alexander Powers, Superintendent of the machine shops, paused and listened,
“Where He leads me I will follow,
Where He leads me I will follow, Where He leads me I will follow,
I’ll go with Him, with Him.
All the way!”
The brutal, coarse, impure life of the Rectangle stirred itself into new life as the song, as pure as the surroundings were vile, floated out and into saloon and den and foul lodging. Some one stumbled hastily by Alexander Powers and said in answer to a question: “De tent’s beginning to run over tonight. That’s what the talent calls music, eh?”
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
HENRY MAXWELL paced his study back and forth. It was Wednesday and he had started to think out the subject of his evening service which fell upon that night. Out of one of his study windows he could see the tall chimney of the railroad shops. The top of the evangelist’s tent just showed over the buildings around the Rectangle. He looked out of his window every time he turned in his walk. After a while he sat down at his desk and drew a large piece of paper toward him. After thinking several moments he wrote in large letters the following:
A NUMBER OF THINGS THAT JESUS WOULD PROBABLY DO IN THIS PARISH
Live in a simple, plain manner, without needless luxury on the one hand or undue asceticism on the other. Preach fearlessly to the hypocrites in the church, no matter what their social importance or wealth. Show in some practical form His sympathy and love for the common people as well as for the well-to-do, educated, refined people who make up the majority of the parish. Identify Himself with the great causes of humanity in some personal way that would call for self-denial and suffering. Preach against the saloon in Raymond. Become known as a friend and companion of the sinful people in the Rectangle. Give up the summer trip to Europe this year. (I have been abroad twice and cannot claim any special need of rest. I am well, and could forego this pleasure, using the money for some one who needs a vacation more than I do. There are probably plenty of such people in the city.)
He was conscious, with a humility that was once a stranger to him, that his outline of Jesus’ probable action was painfully lacking in depth and power, but he was seeking carefully for concrete shapes into which he might cast his thought of Jesus’ conduct. Nearly every point he had put down, meant, for him, a complete overturning of the custom and habit of years in the ministry. In spite of that, he still searched deeper for sources of the Christ-like spirit. He did not attempt to write any more, but sat at his desk absorbed in his effort to catch more and more the spirit of Jesus in his own life. He had forgotten the particular subject for his prayer meeting with which he had begun his morning study.
He was so absorbed over his thought that he did not hear the bell ring; he was roused by the servant who announced a caller. He had sent up his name, Mr. Gray.
Maxwell stepped to the head of the stairs and asked Gray to come up. So Gray came up and stated the reason for his call.
“I want your help, Mr. Maxwell. Of course you have heard what a wonderful meeting we had Monday night and last night. Miss Winslow has done more with her voice than I could do, and the tent won’t hold the people.”
“I’ve heard of that. It is the first time the people there have heard her. It is no wonder they are attracted.”
“It has been a wonderful revelation to us, and a most encouraging event in our work. But I came to ask if you could not come down tonight and preach. I am suffering from a severe cold. I do not dare trust my voice again. I know it is asking a good deal from such a busy man. But, if you can’t come, say so frankly, and I’ll try somewhere else.”
“I’m sorry, but it’s my regular prayer meeting night,” began Henry Maxwell. Then he flushed and added, “I shall be able to arrange it in some way so as to come down. You can count on me.”
Gray thanked him earnestly and rose to go.
“Won’t you stay a minute, Gray, and let us have a prayer together?”
“Yes,” said Gray simply.
So the two men kneeled together in the study. Henry Maxwell prayed like a child. Gray was touched to tears as he knelt there. There was something almost pitiful in the way this man who had lived his ministerial life in such a narrow limit of exercise now begged for wisdom and strength to speak a message to the people in the Rectangle.
Gray rose and held out his hand. “God bless you, Mr. Maxwell. I’m sure the Spirit will give you power tonight.”
Henry Maxwell made no answer. He did not even trust himself to say that he hoped so. But he thought of his promise and it brought him a certain peace that was refreshing to his heart and mind alike.
So that is how it came about that when the First Church audience came into the lecture room that evening it met with another surprise. There was an unusually large number present. The prayer meetings ever since that remarkable Sunday morning had been attended as never before in the history of the First Church. Mr. Maxwell came at once to the point.
“I feel that I am called to go down to the Rectangle tonight, and I will leave it with you to say whether you will go on with this meeting here. I think perhaps the best plan would be for a few volunteers to go down to the Rectangle with me prepared to help in the after-meeting, if necessary, and the rest to remain here and pray that the Spirit power may go with us.”
So half a dozen of the men went with the pastor, and the rest of the audience stayed in the lecture room. Maxwell could not escape the thought as he left the room that probably in his entire church membership there might not be found a score of disciples who were capable of doing work that would successfully lead needy, sinful men into the knowledge of Christ. The thought did not linger in his mind to vex him as he went his way, but it was simply a part of his whole new conception of the meaning of Christian discipleship.
When he and his little company of volunteers reached the Rectangle, the tent was already crowded. They had difficulty in getting to the platform. Rachel was there with Virginia and Jasper Chase who had come instead of the Doctor tonight.
When the meeting began with a song in which Rachel sang the solo and the people were asked to join in the chorus, not a foot of standing room was left in the tent. The night was mild and the sides of the tent were up and a great border of faces stretched around, looking in and forming part of the audience. After the singing, and a prayer by one of the city pastors who was present, Gray stated the reason for his inability to speak, and in his simple manner turned the service over to “Brother Maxwell of the First Church.”
“Who’s de bloke?” asked a hoarse voice near the outside of the tent.
“De Fust Church parson. We’ve got de whole high-tone swell outfit tonight.”
“Did you say Fust Church? I know him. My landlord’s got a front pew up there,” said another voice, and there was a laugh, for the speaker was a saloon keeper.
“Trow out de life line ‘cross de dark wave!” began a drunken man near by, singing in such an unconscious imitation of a local traveling singer’s nasal tone that roars of laughter and jeers of approval rose around him. The people in the tent turned in the direction of the disturbance. There were shouts of “Put him out!” “Give the Fust Church a chance!” “Song! Song! Give us another song!”
Henry Maxwell stood up, and a great wave of actual terror went over him. This was not like preaching to the well-dressed, respectable, good-mannered people up on the boulevard. He began to speak, but the confusion increased. Gray went down into the crowd, but did not seem able to quiet it. Maxwell raised his arm and his voice. The crowd in the tent began to pay some attention, but the noise on the outside increased. In a few minutes the audience was beyond his control. He turned to Rachel with a sad smile.
“Sing something, Miss Winslow. They will listen to you,” he said, and then sat down and covered his face with his hands.
It was Rachel’s opportunity, and she was fully equal to it. Virginia was at the organ and Rachel asked her to play a few notes of the hymn.
“Savior, I follow on,
Guided by Thee,
Seeing not yet the hand
That leadeth me.
Hushed be my heart and still
Fear I no farther ill,
Only to meet Thy will,
My will shall be.”
Rachel had not sung the first line before the people in the tent were all turned toward her, hushed and reverent. Before she had finished the verse the Rectangle was subdued and tamed. It lay like some wild beast at her feet, and she sang it into harmlessness. Ah! What were the flippant, perfumed, critical audiences in concert halls compared with this dirty, drunken, impure, besotted mass of humanity that trembled and wept and grew strangely, sadly thoughtful under the touch of this divine ministry of this beautiful young woman! Mr. Maxwell, as he raised his head and saw the transformed mob, had a glimpse of something that Jesus would probably do with a voice like Rachel Winslow’s. Jasper Chase sat with his eyes on the singer, and his greatest longing as an ambitious author was swallowed up in his thought of what Rachel Winslow’s love might sometimes mean to him. And over in the shadow outside stood the last person any one might have expected to see at a gospel tent service–Rollin Page, who, jostled on every side by rough men and women who stared at the swell in fine clothes, seemed careless of his surroundings and at the same time evidently swayed by the power that Rachel possessed. He had just come over from the club. Neither Rachel nor Virginia saw him that night.
The song was over. Maxwell rose again. This time he felt calmer. What would Jesus do? He spoke as he thought once he never could speak. Who were these people? They were immortal souls. What was Christianity? A calling of sinners, not the righteous, to repentance. How would Jesus speak? What would He say? He could not tell all that His message would include, but he felt sure of a part of it. And in that certainty he spoke on. Never before had he felt “compassion for the multitude.” What had the multitude been to him during his ten years in the First Church but a vague, dangerous, dirty, troublesome factor in society, outside of the church and of his reach, an element that caused him occasionally an unpleasant twinge of conscience, a factor in Raymond that was talked about at associations as the “masses,” in papers written by the brethren in attempts to show why the “masses” were not being reached. But tonight as he faced the masses he asked himself whether, after all, this was not just about such a multitude as Jesus faced oftenest, and he felt the genuine emotion of love for a crowd which is one of the best indications a preacher ever has that he is living close to the heart of the world’s eternal Life. It is easy to love an individual sinner, especially if he is personally picturesque or interesting. To love a multitude of sinners is distinctively a Christ-like quality.
When the meeting closed, there was no special interest shown. No one stayed to the after-meeting. The people rapidly melted away from the tent, and the saloons, which had been experiencing a dull season while the meetings progressed, again drove a thriving trade. The Rectangle, as if to make up for lost time, started in with vigor on its usual night debauch. Maxwell and his little party, including Virginia, Rachel and Jasper Chase, walked down past the row of saloons and dens until they reached the corner where the cars passed.
“This is a terrible spot,” said the minister as he stood waiting for their car. “I never realized that Raymond had such a festering sore. It does not seem possible that this is a city full of Christian disciples.”
“Do you think any one can ever remove this great curse of drink?” asked Jasper Chase.
“I have thought lately as never before of what Christian people might do to remove the curse of the saloon. Why don’t we all act together against it? Why don’t the Christian pastors and the church members of Raymond move as one man against the traffic? What would Jesus do? Would He keep silent? Would He vote to license these causes of crime and death?”
He was talking to himself more than to the others. He remembered that he had always voted for license, and so had nearly all his church members. What would Jesus do? Could he answer that question? Would the Master preach and act against the saloon if He lived today? How would He preach and act? Suppose it was not popular to preach against license? Suppose the Christian people thought it was all that could be done to license the evil and so get revenue from the necessary sin? Or suppose the church members themselves owned the property where the saloons stood–what then? He knew that those were the facts in Raymond. What would Jesus do?
He went up into his study the next morning with that question only partly answered. He thought of it all day. He was still thinking of it and reaching certain real conclusions when the EVENING NEWS came. His wife brought it up and sat down a few minutes while he read to her.
The EVENING NEWS was at present the most sensational paper in Raymond. That is to say, it was being edited in such a remarkable fashion that its subscribers had never been so excited over a newspaper before. First they had noticed the absence of the prize fight, and gradually it began to dawn upon them that the NEWS no longer printed accounts of crime with detailed descriptions, or scandals in private life. Then they noticed that the advertisements of liquor and tobacco were dropped, together with certain others of a questionable character. The discontinuance of the Sunday paper caused the greatest comment of all, and now the character of the editorials was creating the greatest excitement. A quotation from the Monday paper of this week will show what Edward Norman was doing to keep his promise. The editorial was headed:
THE MORAL SIDE OF POLITICAL QUESTIONS
The editor of the News has always advocated the principles of the great political party at present in power, and has heretofore discussed all political questions from the standpoint of expediency, or of belief in the party as opposed to other political organizations. Hereafter, to be perfectly honest with all our readers, the editor will present and discuss all political questions from the standpoint of right and wrong. In other words, the first question asked in this office about any political question will not be, “Is it in the interests of our party?” or, “Is it according to the principles laid down by our party in its platform?” but the question first asked will be, “Is this measure in accordance with the spirit and teachings of Jesus as the author of the greatest standard of life known to men?” That is, to be perfectly plain, the moral side of every political question will be considered its most important side, and the ground will be distinctly taken that nations as well as individuals are under the same law to do all things to the glory of God as the first rule of action.
The same principle will be observed in this office toward candidates for places of responsibility and trust in the republic. Regardless of party politics the editor of the News will do all in his power to bring the best men into power, and will not knowingly help to support for office any candidate who is unworthy, no matter how much he may be endorsed by the party. The first question asked about the man and about the measures will be, “Is he the right man for the place?” “Is he a good man with ability?” “Is the measure right?”
There had been more of this, but we have quoted enough to show the character of the editorial. Hundreds of men in Raymond had read it and rubbed their eyes in amazement. A good many of them had promptly written to the NEWS, telling the editor to stop their paper. The paper still came out, however, and was eagerly read all over the city. At the end of a week Edward Norman knew very well that he was fast losing a large number of subscribers. He faced the conditions calmly, although Clark, the managing editor, grimly anticipated ultimate bankruptcy, especially since Monday’s editorial.
Tonight, as Maxwell read to his wife, he could see in almost every column evidences of Norman’s conscientious obedience to his promise. There was an absence of slangy, sensational scare heads. The reading matter under the head lines was in perfect keeping with them. He noticed in two columns that the reporters’ name appeared signed at the bottom. And there was a distinct advance in the dignity and style of their contributions.
“So Norman is beginning to get his reporters to sign their work. He has talked with me about that. It is a good thing. It fixes responsibility for items where it belongs and raises the standard of work done. A good thing all around for the public and the writers.”
Maxwell suddenly paused. His wife looked up from some work she was doing. He was reading something with the utmost interest. “Listen to this, Mary,” he said, after a moment while his lip trembled:
This morning Alexander Powers, Superintendent of the L. and T. R. R. shops in this city, handed in his resignation to the road, and gave as his reason the fact that certain proofs had fallen into his hands of the violation of the Interstate Commerce Law, and also of the state law which has recently been framed to prevent and punish railroad pooling for the benefit of certain favored shippers. Mr. Powers states in his resignation that he can no longer consistently withhold the information he possesses against the road. He will be a witness against it. He has placed his evidence against the company in the hands of the Commission and it is now for them to take action upon it.
The News wishes to express itself on this action of Mr. Powers. In the first place he has nothing to gain by it. He has lost a very valuable place voluntarily, when by keeping silent he might have retained it. In the second place, we believe his action ought to receive the approval of all thoughtful, honest citizens who believe in seeing law obeyed and lawbreakers brought to justice. In a case like this, where evidence against a railroad company is generally understood to be almost impossible to obtain, it is the general belief that the officers of the road are often in possession of criminating facts but do not consider it to be any of their business to inform the authorities that the law is being defied. The entire result of this evasion of responsibility on the part of those who are responsible is demoralizing to every young man connected with the road. The editor of the News recalls the statement made by a prominent railroad official in this city a little while ago, that nearly every clerk in a certain department of the road understood that large sums of money were made by shrewd violations of the Interstate Commerce Law, was ready to admire the shrewdness with which it was done, and declared that they would all do the same thing if they were high enough in railroad circles to attempt it.”
HENRY MAXWELL finished reading and dropped the paper.
“I must go and see Powers. This is the result of his promise.”
He rose, and as he was going out, his wife said: “Do you think, Henry, that Jesus would have done that?”
Maxwell paused a moment. Then he answered slowly, “Yes, I think He would. At any rate, Powers has decided so and each one of us who made the promise understands that he is not deciding Jesus’ conduct for any one else, only for himself.”
“How about his family? How will Mrs. Powers and Celia be likely to take it?”
“Very hard, I’ve no doubt. That will be Powers’ cross in this matter. They will not understand his motive.”
Maxwell went out and walked over to the next block where Superintendent Powers lived. To his relief, Powers himself came to the door.
The two men shook hands silently. They instantly understood each other without words. There had never before been such a bond of union between the minister and his parishioner.
“What are you going to do?” Henry Maxwell asked after they had talked over the facts in the case.
“You mean another position? I have no plans yet. I can go back to my old work as a telegraph operator. My family will not suffer, except in a social way.”
Powers spoke calmly and sadly. Henry Maxwell did not need to ask him how the wife and daughter felt. He knew well enough that the superintendent had suffered deepest at that point.
“There is one matter I wish you would see to,” said Powers after awhile, “and that is, the work begun at the shops. So far as I know, the company will not object to that going on. It is one of the contradictions of the railroad world that Y. M. C. A.’s and other Christian influences are encouraged by the roads, while all the time the most un-Christian and lawless acts may be committed in the official management of the roads themselves. Of course it is well understood that it pays a railroad to have in its employ men who are temperate, honest and Christian. So I have no doubt the master mechanic will have the same courtesy shown him in the use of the room. But what I want you to do, Mr. Maxwell, is to see that my plan is carried out. Will you? You understand what it was in general. You made a very favorable impression on the men. Go down there as often as you can. Get Milton Wright interested to provide something for the furnishing and expense of the coffee plant and reading tables. Will you do it?”
“Yes,” replied Henry Maxwell. He stayed a little longer. Before he went away, he and the superintendent had a prayer together, and they parted with that silent hand grasp that seemed to them like a new token of their Christian discipleship and fellowship.
The pastor of the First Church went home stirred deeply by the events of the week. Gradually the truth was growing upon him that the pledge to do as Jesus would was working out a revolution in his parish and throughout the city. Every day added to the serious results of obedience to that pledge. Maxwell did not pretend to see the end. He was, in fact, only now at the very beginning of events that were destined to change the history of hundreds of families not only in Raymond but throughout the entire country. As he thought of Edward Norman and Rachel and Mr. Powers, and of the results that had already come from their actions, he could not help a feeling of intense interest in the probable effect if all the persons in the First Church who had made the pledge, faithfully kept it. Would they all keep it, or would some of them turn back when the cross became too heavy?
He was asking this question the next morning as he sat in his study when the President of the Endeavor Society of his church called to see him.
“I suppose I ought not to trouble you with my case,” said young Morris coming at once to his errand, “but I thought, Mr. Maxwell, that you might advise me a little.”
“I’m glad you came. Go on, Fred.” He had known the young man ever since his first year in the pastorate, and loved and honored him for his consistent, faithful service in the church.
“Well, the fact is, I am out of a job. You know I’ve been doing reporter work on the morning SENTINEL since I graduated last year. Well, last Saturday Mr. Burr asked me to go down the road Sunday morning and get the details of that train robbery at the Junction, and write the thing up for the extra edition that came out Monday morning, just to get the start of the NEWS. I refused to go, and Burr gave me my dismissal. He was in a bad temper, or I think perhaps he would not have done it. He has always treated me well before. Now, do you think Jesus would have done as I did? I ask because the other fellows say I was a fool not to do the work. I want to feel that a Christian acts from motives that may seem strange to others sometimes, but not foolish. What do you think?”
“I think you kept your promise, Fred. I cannot believe Jesus would do newspaper reporting on Sunday as you were asked to do it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Maxwell. I felt a little troubled over it, but the longer I think it over the better I feel.”
Morris rose to go, and his pastor rose and laid a loving hand on the young man’s shoulder. “What are you going to do, Fred?”
“I don’t know yet. I have thought some of going to Chicago or some large city .”
“Why don’t you try the NEWS?”
“They are all supplied. I have not thought of applying there.”
Maxwell thought a moment. “Come down to the NEWS office with me, and let us see Norman about it.”
So a few minutes later Edward Norman received into his room the minister and young Morris, and Maxwell briefly told the cause of the errand.
“I can give you a place on the NEWS,” said Norman with his keen look softened by a smile that made it winsome. “I want reporters who won’t work Sundays. And what is more, I am making plans for a special kind of reporting which I believe you can develop because you are in sympathy with what Jesus would do.”
He assigned Morris a definite task, and Maxwell started back to his study, feeling that kind of satisfaction (and it is a very deep kind) which a man feels when he has been even partly instrumental in finding an unemployed person a remunerative position.
He had intended to go right to his study, but on his way home he passed by one of Milton Wright’s stores. He thought he would simply step in and shake hands with his parishioner and bid him God-speed in what he had heard he was doing to put Christ into his business. But when he went into the office, Wright insisted on detaining him to talk over some of his new plans. Maxwell asked himself if this was the Milton Wright he used to know, eminently practical, business-like, according to the regular code of the business world, and viewing every thing first and foremost from the standpoint of, “Will it pay?”
“There is no use to disguise the fact, Mr. Maxwell, that I have been compelled to revolutionize the entire method of my business since I made that promise. I have been doing a great many things during the last twenty years in this store that I know Jesus would not do. But that is a small item compared with the number of things I begin to believe Jesus would do. My sins of commission have not been as many as those of omission in business relations.”
“What was the first change you made?” He felt as if his sermon could wait for him in his study. As the interview with Milton Wright continued, he was not so sure but that he had found material for a sermon without going back to his study.
“I think the first change I had to make was in my thought of my employees. I came down here Monday morning after that Sunday and asked myself, ‘What would Jesus do in His relation to these clerks, bookkeepers, office-boys, draymen, salesmen? Would He try to establish some sort of personal relation to them different from that which I have sustained all these years?’ I soon answered this by saying, ‘Yes.’ Then came the question of what that relation would be and what it would lead me to do. I did not see how I could answer it to my satisfaction without getting all my employees together and having a talk with them. So I sent invitations to all of them, and we had a meeting out there in the warehouse Tuesday night. A good many things came out of that meeting. I can’t tell you all. I tried to talk with the men as I imagined Jesus might. It was hard work, for I have not been in the habit of it, and must have made some mistakes. But I can hardly make you believe, Mr. Maxwell, the effect of that meeting on some of the men. Before it closed I saw more than a dozen of them with tears on their faces. I kept asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and the more I asked it the farther along it pushed me into the most intimate and loving relations with the men who have worked for me all these years. Every day something new is coming up and I am right now in the midst of a reconstruction of the entire business so far as its motive for being conducted is concerned. I am so practically ignorant of all plans for co-operation and its application to business that I am trying to get information from every possible source. I have lately made a special study of the life of Titus Salt, the great mill-owner of Bradford, England, who afterward built that model town on the banks of the Aire. There is a good deal in his plans that will help me. But I have not yet reached definite conclusions in regard to all the details. I am not enough used to Jesus’ methods. But see here.”
Wright eagerly reached up into one of the pigeon holes of his desk and took out a paper.
“I have sketched out what seems to me like a program such as Jesus might go by in a business like mine. I want you to tell me what you think of it:
“WHAT JESUS WOULD PROBABLY DO IN MILTON WRIGHT’S PLACE AS A BUSINESS MAN”
He would engage in the, business first of all for the purpose of glorifying God, and not for the primary purpose of making money. All money that might be made he would never regard as his own, but as trust funds to be used for the good of humanity. His relations with all the persons in his employ would be the most loving and helpful. He could not help thinking of all of them in the light of souls to be saved. This thought would always be greater than his thought of making money in the business. He would never do a single dishonest or questionable thing or try in any remotest way to get the advantage of any one else in the same business. The principle of unselfishness and helpfulness in the business would direct all its details. Upon this principle he would shape the entire plan of his relations to his employees, to the people who were his customers and to the general business world with which he was connected.
Henry Maxwell read this over slowly. It reminded him of his own attempts the day before to put into a concrete form his thought of Jesus’ probable action. He was very thoughtful as he looked up and met Wright’s eager gaze.
“Do you believe you can continue to make your business pay on these lines?”
“I do. Intelligent unselfishness ought to be wiser than intelligent selfishness, don’t you think? If the men who work as employees begin to feel a personal share in the profits of the business and, more than that, a personal love for themselves on the part of the firm, won’t the result be more care, less waste, more diligence, more faithfulness?”
“Yes, I think so. A good many other business men don’t, do they? I mean as a general thing. How about your relations to the selfish world that is not trying to make money on Christian principles?”
“That complicates my action, of course.”
“Does your plan contemplate what is coming to be known as co-operation?”
“Yes, as far as I have gone, it does. As I told you, I am studying out my details carefully. I am absolutely convinced that Jesus in my place would be absolutely unselfish. He would love all these men in His employ. He would consider the main purpose of all the business to be a mutual helpfulness, and would conduct it all so that God’s kingdom would be evidently the first object sought. On those general principles, as I say, I am working. I must have time to complete the details.”
When Maxwell finally left he was profoundly impressed with the revolution that was being wrought already in the business. As he passed out of the store he caught something of the new spirit of the place. There was no mistaking the fact that Milton Wright’s new relations to his employees were beginning even so soon, after less than two weeks, to transform the entire business. This was apparent in the conduct and faces of the clerks.
“If he keeps on he will be one of the most influential preachers in Raymond,” said Maxwell to himself when he reached his study. The question rose as to his continuance in this course when he began to lose money by it, as was possible. He prayed that the Holy Spirit, who had shown Himself with growing power in the company of First Church disciples, might abide long with them all. And with that prayer on his lips and in his heart he began the preparation of a sermon in which he was going to present to his people on Sunday the subject of the saloon in Raymond, as he now believed Jesus would do. He had never preached against the saloon in this way before. He knew that the things he should say would lead to serious results. Nevertheless, he went on with his work, and every sentence he wrote or shaped was preceded with the question, “Would Jesus say that?” Once in the course of his study, he went down on his knees. No one except himself could know what that meant to him. When had he done that in his preparation of sermons, before the change that had come into his thought of discipleship? As he viewed his ministry now, he did not dare preach without praying long for wisdom. He no longer thought of his dramatic delivery and its effect on his audience. The great question with him now was, “What would Jesus do?”
Saturday night at the Rectangle witnessed some of the most remarkable scenes that Mr. Gray and his wife had ever known. The meetings had intensified with each night of Rachel’s singing. A stranger passing through the Rectangle in the day-time might have heard a good deal about the meetings in one way and another. It cannot be said that up to that Saturday night there was any appreciable lack of oaths and impurity and heavy drinking. The Rectangle would not have acknowledged that it was growing any better or that even the singing had softened its outward manner. It had too much local pride in being “tough.” But in spite of itself there was a yielding to a power it had never measured and did not know we enough to resist beforehand.
Gray had recovered his voice so that by Saturday he was able to speak. The fact that he was obliged to use his voice carefully made it necessary for the people to be very quiet if they wanted to hear. Gradually they had come to understand that this man was talking these many weeks and giving his time and strength to give them a knowledge of a Savior, all out of a perfectly unselfish love for them. Tonight the great crowd was as quiet as Henry Maxwell’s decorous audience ever was. The fringe around the tent was deeper and the saloons were practically empty. The Holy Spirit had come at last, and Gray knew that one of the great prayers of his life was going to be answered.
And Rachel her singing was the best, most wonderful, that Virginia or Jasper Chase had ever known. They came together again tonight, this time with Dr. West, who had spent all his spare time that week in the Rectangle with some charity cases. Virginia was at the organ, Jasper sat on a front seat looking up at Rachel, and the Rectangle swayed as one man towards the platform as she sang:
“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me, And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Gray hardly said a word. He stretched out his hand with a gesture of invitation. And down the two aisles of the tent, broken, sinful creatures, men and women, stumbled towards the platform. One woman out of the street was near the organ. Virginia caught the look of her face, and for the first time in the life of the rich girl the thought of what Jesus was to the sinful woman came with a suddenness and power that was like nothing but a new birth. Virginia left the organ, went to her, looked into her face and caught her hands in her own. The other girl trembled, then fell on her knees sobbing, with her head down upon the back of the rude bench in front of her, still clinging to Virginia. And Virginia, after a moment’s hesitation, kneeled down by her and the two heads were bowed close together.
But when the people had crowded in a double row all about the platform, most of them kneeling and crying, a man in evening dress, different from the others, pushed through the seats and came and kneeled down by the side of the drunken man who had disturbed the meeting when Maxwell spoke. He kneeled within a few feet of Rachel Winslow, who was still singing softly. And as she turned for a moment and looked in his direction, she was amazed to see the face of Rollin Page! For a moment her voice faltered. Then she went on:
“Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve, Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
“If any man serve me, let him follow me.”
IT was nearly midnight before the services at the Rectangle closed. Gray stayed up long into Sunday morning, praying and talking with a little group of converts who in the great experiences of their new life, clung to the evangelist with a personal helplessness that made it as impossible for him to leave them as if they had been depending upon him to save them from physical death. Among these converts was Rollin Page.
Virginia and her uncle had gone home about eleven o’clock, and Rachel and Jasper Chase had gone with them as far as the avenue where Virginia lived. Dr. West had walked on a little way with them to his own home, and Rachel and Jasper had then gone on together to her mother’s.
That was a little after eleven. It was now striking midnight, and Jasper Chase sat in his room staring at the papers on his desk and going over the last half hour with painful persistence.
He had told Rachel Winslow of his love for her, and she had not given him her love in return. It would be difficult to know what was most powerful in the impulse that had moved him to speak to her tonight. He had yielded to his feelings without any special thought of results to himself, because he had felt so certain that Rachel would respond to his love. He tried to recall the impression she made on him when he first spoke to her.
Never had her beauty and her strength influenced him as tonight. While she was singing he saw and heard no one else. The tent swarmed with a confused crowd of faces and he knew he was sitting there hemmed in by a mob of people, but they had no meaning to him. He felt powerless to avoid speaking to her. He knew he should speak when they were alone.
Now that he had spoken, he felt that he had misjudged either Rachel or the opportunity. He knew, or thought he knew, that she had begun to care something for him. It was no secret between them that the heroine of Jasper’s first novel had been his own ideal of Rachel, and the hero in the story was himself and they had loved each other in the book, and Rachel had not objected. No one else knew. The names and characters had been drawn with a subtle skill that revealed to Rachel, when she received a copy of the book from Jasper, the fact of his love for her, and she had not been offended. That was nearly a year ago.
Tonight he recalled the scene between them with every inflection and movement unerased from his memory. He even recalled the fact that he began to speak just at that point on the avenue where, a few days before, he had met Rachel walking with Rollin Page. He had wondered at the time what Rollin was saying.
“Rachel,” Jasper had said, and it was the first time he had ever spoken her first name, “I never knew till tonight how much I loved you. Why should I try to conceal any longer what you have seen me look? You know I love you as my life. I can no longer hide it from you if I would.”
The first intimation he had of a repulse was the trembling of Rachel’s arm in his. She had allowed him to speak and had neither turned her face toward him nor away from him. She had looked straight on and her voice was sad but firm and quiet when she spoke.
“Why do you speak to me now? I cannot bear it–after what we have seen tonight.”
“Why–what–” he had stammered and then was silent.
Rachel withdrew her arm from his but still walked near him. Then he had cried out with the anguish of one who begins to see a great loss facing him where he expected a great joy.
“Rachel! Do you not love me? Is not my love for you as sacred as anything in all of life itself?”
She had walked silent for a few steps after that. They passed a street lamp. Her face was pale and beautiful. He had made a movement to clutch her arm and she had moved a little farther from him.
“No,” she had replied. “There was a time I–cannot answer for that you–should not have spoken to me–now.”
He had seen in these words his answer. He was extremely sensitive. Nothing short of a joyous response to his own love would ever have satisfied him. He could not think of pleading with her.
“Some time–when I am more worthy?” he had asked in a low voice, but she did not seem to hear, and they had parted at her home, and he recalled vividly the fact that no good-night had been said.
Now as he went over the brief but significant scene he lashed himself for his foolish precipitancy. He had not reckoned on Rachel’s tense, passionate absorption of all her feeling in the scenes at the tent which were so new in her mind. But he did not know her well enough even yet to understand the meaning of her refusal. When the clock in the First Church struck one he was still sitting at his desk staring at the last page of manuscript of his unfinished novel.
Rachel went up to her room and faced her evening’s experience with conflicting emotions. Had she ever loved Jasper Chase? Yes. No. One moment she felt that her life’s happiness was at stake over the result of her action. Another, she had a strange feeling of relief that she had spoken as she had. There was one great, overmastering feeling in her. The response of the wretched creatures in the tent to her singing, the swift, powerful, awesome presence of the Holy Spirit had affected her as never in all her life before. The moment Jasper had spoken her name and she realized that he was telling her of his love she had felt a sudden revulsion for him, as if he should have respected the supernatural events they had just witnessed. She felt as if it was not the time to be absorbed in anything less than the divine glory of those conversions. The thought that all the time she was singing, with the one passion of her soul to touch the conscience of that tent full of sin, Jasper Chase had been unmoved by it except to love her for herself, gave her a shock as of irreverence on her part as well as on his. She could not tell why she felt as she did, only she knew that if he had not told her tonight she would still have felt the same toward him as she always had. What was that feeling? What had he been to her? Had she made a mistake? She went to her book case and took out the novel which Jasper had given her. Her face deepened in color as she turned to certain passages which she had read often and which she knew Jasper had written for her. She read them again. Somehow they failed to touch her strongly. She closed the book and let it lie on the table. She gradually felt that her thought was busy with the sights she had witnessed in the tent. Those faces, men and women, touched for the first time with the Spirit’s glory–what a wonderful thing life was after all! The complete regeneration revealed in the sight of drunken, vile, debauched humanity kneeling down to give itself to a life of purity and Christlikeness–oh, it was surely a witness to the superhuman in the world! And the face of Rollin Page by the side of that miserable wreck out of the gutter! She could recall as if she now saw it, Virginia crying with her arms about her brother just before she left the tent, and Mr. Gray kneeling close by, and the girl Virginia had taken into her heart while she whispered something to her before she went out. All these pictures drawn by the Holy Spirit in the human tragedies brought to a climax there in the most abandoned spot in all Raymond, stood out in Rachel’s memory now, a memory so recent that her room seemed for the time being to contain all the actors and their movements.
“No! No!” she said aloud. “He had no right to speak after all that! He should have respected the place where our thoughts should have been. I am sure I do not love him–not enough to give him my life!”
And after she had thus spoken, the evening’s experience at the tent came crowding in again, thrusting out all other things. It is perhaps the most striking evidence of the tremendous spiritual factor which had now entered the Rectangle that Rachel felt, even when the great love of a strong man had come very near to her, that the spiritual manifestation moved her with an agitation far greater than anything Jasper had felt for her personally or she for him.
The people of Raymond awoke Sunday morning to a growing knowledge of events which were beginning to revolutionize many of the regular, customary habits of the town. Alexander Powers’ action in the matter of the railroad frauds had created a sensation not only in Raymond but throughout the country. Edward Norman’s daily changes of policy in the conduct of his paper had startled the community and caused more comment than any recent political event. Rachel Winslow’s singing at the Rectangle meetings had made a stir in society and excited the wonder of all her friends.
Virginia’s conduct, her presence every night with Rachel, her absence from the usual circle of her wealthy, fashionable acquaintances, had furnished a great deal of material for gossip and question. In addition to these events which centered about these persons who were so well known, there had been all through the city in very many homes and in business and social circles strange happenings. Nearly one hundred persons in Henry Maxwell’s church had made the pledge to do everything after asking: “What would Jesus do?” and the result had been, in many cases, unheard-of actions. The city was stirred as it had never been before. As a climax to the week’s events had come the spiritual manifestation at the Rectangle, and the announcement which came to most people before church time of the actual conversion at the tent of nearly fifty of the worst characters in that neighborhood, together with the con version of Rollin Page, the well-known society and club man.
It is no wonder that under the pressure of all this the First Church of Raymond came to the morning service in a condition that made it quickly sensitive to any large truth. Perhaps nothing had astonished the people more than the great change that had come over the minister, since he had proposed to them the imitation of Jesus in conduct. The dramatic delivery of his sermons no longer impressed them. The self-satisfied, contented, easy attitude of the fine figure and refined face in the pulpit had been displaced by a manner that could not be compared with the old style of his delivery. The sermon had become a message. It was no longer delivered. It was brought to them with a love, an earnestness, a passion, a desire, a humility that poured its enthusiasm about the truth and made the speaker no more prominent than he had to be as the living voice of God. His prayers were unlike any the people had heard before. They were often broken, even once or twice they had been actually ungrammatical in a phrase or two. When had Henry Maxwell so far forgotten himself in a prayer as to make a mistake of that sort? He knew that he had often taken as much pride in the diction and delivery of his prayers as of his sermons. Was it possible he now so abhorred the elegant refinement of a formal public petition that he purposely chose to rebuke himself for his previous precise manner of prayer? It is more likely that he had no thought of all that. His great longing to voice the needs and wants of his people made him unmindful of an occasional mistake. It is certain that he had never prayed so effectively as he did now.
There are times when a sermon has a value and power due to conditions in the audience rather than to anything new or startling or eloquent in the words said or arguments presented. Such conditions faced Henry Maxwell this morning as he preached against the saloon, according to his purpose determined on the week before. He had no new statements to make about the evil influence of the saloon in Raymond. What new facts were there? He had no startling illustrations of the power of the saloon in business or politics. What could he say that had not been said by temperance orators a great many times? The effect of his message this morning owed its power to the unusual fact of his preaching about the saloon at all, together with the events that had stirred the people. He had never in the course of his ten years’ pastorate mentioned the saloon as something to be regarded in the light of an enemy, not only to the poor and tempted, but to the business life of the place and the church itself. He spoke now with a freedom that seemed to measure his complete sense of conviction that Jesus would speak so. At the close he pleaded with the people to remember the new life that had begun at the Rectangle. The regular election of city officers was near at hand. The question of license would be an issue in the election. What of the poor creatures surrounded by the hell of drink while just beginning to feel the joy of deliverance from sin? Who could tell what depended on their environment? Was there one word to be said by the Christian disciple, business man, citizen, in favor of continuing the license to crime and shame-producing institutions? Was not the most Christian thing they could do to act as citizens in the matter, fight the saloon at the polls, elect good men to the city offices, and clean the municipality? How much had prayers helped to make Raymond better while votes and actions had really been on the side of the enemies of Jesus? Would not Jesus do this? What disciple could imagine Him refusing to suffer or to take up His cross in this matter? How much had the members of the First Church ever suffered in an attempt to imitate Jesus? Was Christian discipleship a thing of conscience simply, of custom, of tradition? Where did the suffering come in? Was it necessary in order to follow Jesus’ steps to go up Calvary as well as the Mount of Transfiguration?
His appeal was stronger at this point than he knew. It is not too much to say that the spiritual tension of the people reached its highest point right there. The imitation of Jesus which had begun with the volunteers in the church was working like leaven in the organization, and Henry Maxwell would even thus early in his life have been amazed if he could have measured the extent of desire on the part of his people to take up the cross. While he was speaking this morning, before he closed with a loving appeal to the discipleship of two thousand years’ knowledge of the Master, many a man and woman in the church was saying as Rachel had said so passionately to her mother: “I want to do something that will cost me something in the way of sacrifice.” “I am hungry to suffer something.” Truly, Mazzini was right when he said that no appeal is quite so powerful in the end as the call: “Come and suffer.”
The service was over, the great audience had gone, and Maxwell again faced the company gathered in the lecture room as on the two previous Sundays. He had asked all to remain who had made the pledge of discipleship, and any others who wished to be included. The after service seemed now to be a necessity. As he went in and faced the people there his heart trembled. There were at least one hundred present. The Holy Spirit was never before so manifest. He missed Jasper Chase. But all the others were present. He asked Milton Wright to pray. The very air was charged with divine possibilities. What could resist such a baptism of power? How had they lived all these years without it?
DONALD MARSH, President of Lincoln College, walked home with Mr. Maxwell.
“I have reached one conclusion, Maxwell,” said Marsh, speaking slowly. “I have found my cross and it is a heavy one, but I shall never be satisfied until I take it up and carry it.” Maxwell was silent and the President went on.
“Your sermon today made clear to me what I have long been feeling I ought to do. ‘What would Jesus do in my place?’ I have asked the question repeatedly since I made my promise. I have tried to satisfy myself that He would simply go on as I have done, attending to the duties of my college work, teaching the classes in Ethics and Philosophy. But I have not been able to avoid the feeling that He would do something more. That something is what I do not want to do. It will cause me genuine suffering to do it. I dread it with all my soul. You may be able to guess what it is.”
“Yes, I think I know. It is my cross too. I would almost rather do any thing else.”
Donald Marsh looked surprised, then relieved. Then he spoke sadly but with great conviction: “Maxwell, you and I belong to a class of professional men who have always avoided the duties of citizenship. We have lived in a little world of literature and scholarly seclusion, doing work we have enjoyed and shrinking from the disagreeable duties that belong to the life of the citizen. I confess with shame that I have purposely avoided the responsibility that I owe to this city personally. I understand that our city officials are a corrupt, unprincipled set of men, controlled in large part by the whiskey element and thoroughly selfish so far as the affairs of city government are concerned. Yet all these years I, with nearly every teacher in the college, have been satisfied to let other men run the municipality and have lived in a little world of my own, out of touch and sympathy with the real world of the people. ‘What would Jesus do?’ I have even tried to avoid an honest answer. I can no longer do so. My plain duty is to take a personal part in this coming election, go to the primaries, throw the weight of my influence, whatever it is, toward the nomination and election of good men, and plunge into the very depths of the entire horrible whirlpool of deceit, bribery, political trickery and saloonism as it exists in Raymond today. I would sooner walk up to the mouth of a cannon any time than do this. I dread it because I hate the touch of the whole matter. I would give almost any thing to be able to say, ‘I do not believe Jesus would do anything of the sort.’ But I am more and more persuaded that He would. This is where the suffering comes for me. It would not hurt me half so much to lose my position or my home. I loathe the contact with this municipal problem. I would so much prefer to remain quietly in my scholastic life with my classes in Ethics and Philosophy. But the call has come to me so plainly that I cannot escape. ‘Donald Marsh, follow me. Do your duty as a citizen of Raymond at the point where your citizenship will cost you something. Help to cleanse this municipal stable, even if you do have to soil your aristocratic feelings a little.’ Maxwell, this is my cross, I must take it up or deny my Lord.”
“You have spoken for me also,” replied Maxwell with a sad smile. “Why should I, simply because I am a minister, shelter myself behind my refined, sensitive feelings, and like a coward refuse to touch, except in a sermon possibly, the duty of citizenship? I am unused to the ways of the political life of the city. I have never taken an active part in any nomination of good men. There are hundreds of ministers like me. As a class we do not practice in the municipal life the duties and privileges we preach from the pulpit. ‘What would Jesus do?’ I am now at a point where, like you, I am driven to answer the question one way. My duty is plain. I must suffer. All my parish work, all my little trials or self-sacrifices are as nothing to me compared with the breaking into my scholarly, intellectual, self-contained habits, of this open, coarse, public fight for a clean city life. I could go and live at the Rectangle the rest of my life and work in the slums for a bare living, and I could enjoy it more than the thought of plunging into a fight for the reform of this whiskey-ridden city. It would cost me less. But, like you, I have been unable to shake off my responsibility. The answer to the question ‘What would Jesus do?’ in this case leaves me no peace except when I say, Jesus would have me act the part of a Christian citizen. Marsh, as you say, we professional men, ministers, professors, artists, literary men, scholars, have almost invariably been political cowards. We have avoided the sacred duties of citizenship either ignorantly or selfishly. Certainly Jesus in our age would not do that. We can do no less than take up this cross, and follow Him.”
The two men walked on in silence for a while. Finally President Marsh said: “We do not need to act alone in this matter. With all the men who have made the promise we certainly can have companionship, and strength even, of numbers. Let us organize the Christian forces of Raymond for the battle against rum and corruption. We certainly ought to enter the primaries with a force that will be able to do more than enter a protest. It is a fact that the saloon element is cowardly and easily frightened in spite of its lawlessness and corruption. Let us plan a campaign that will mean something because it is organized righteousness. Jesus would use great wisdom in this matter. He would employ means. He would make large plans. Let us do so. If we bear this cross let us do it bravely, like men.”
They talked over the matter a long time and met again the next day in Maxwell’s study to develop plans. The city primaries were called for Friday. Rumors of strange and unknown events to the average citizen were current that week in political circles throughout Raymond. The Crawford system of balloting for nominations was not in use in the state, and the primary was called for a public meeting at the court house.
The citizens of Raymond will never forget that meeting. It was so unlike any political meeting ever held in Raymond before, that there was no attempt at comparison. The special officers to be nominated were mayor, city council, chief of police, city clerk and city treasurer.
The evening NEWS in its Saturday edition gave a full account of the primaries, and in the editorial columns Edward Norman spoke with a directness and conviction that the Christian people of Raymond were learning to respect deeply, because it was so evidently sincere and unselfish. A part of that editorial is also a part of this history. We quote the following:
“It is safe to say that never before in the history of Raymond was there a primary like the one in the court house last night. It was, first of all, a complete surprise to the city politicians who have been in the habit of carrying on the affairs of the city as if they owned them, and every one else was simply a tool or a cipher. The overwhelming surprise of the wire pullers last night consisted in the fact that a large number of the citizens of Raymond who have heretofore taken no part in the city’s affairs, entered the primary and controlled it, nominating some of the best men for all the offices to be filled at the coming election.
“It was a tremendous lesson in good citizenship. President Marsh of Lincoln College, who never before entered a city primary, and whose face was not even known to the ward politicians, made one of the best speeches ever made in Raymond. It was almost ludicrous to see the faces of the men who for years have done as they pleased, when President Marsh rose to speak. Many of them asked, ‘Who is he?’ The consternation deepened as the primary proceeded and it became evident that the oldtime ring of city rulers was outnumbered. Rev. Henry Maxwell of the First Church, Milton Wright, Alexander Powers, Professors Brown, Willard and Park of Lincoln College, Dr. West, Rev. George Main of the Pilgrim Church, Dean Ward of the Holy Trinity, and scores of well-known business men and professional men, most of them church members, were present, and it did not take long to see that they had all come with the one direct and definite purpose of nominating the best men possible. Most of those men had never before been seen in a primary. They were complete strangers to the politicians. But they had evidently profited by the politician’s methods and were able by organized and united effort to nominate the entire ticket.
“As soon as it became plain that the primary was out of their control the regular ring withdrew in disgust and nominated another ticket. The NEWS simply calls the attention of all decent citizens to the fact that this last ticket contains the names of whiskey men, and the line is sharply and distinctly drawn between the saloon and corrupt management such as we have known for years, and a clean, honest, capable, business-like city administration, such as every good citizen ought to want. It is not necessary to remind the people of Raymond that the question of local option comes up at the election. That will be the most important question on the ticket. The crisis of our city affairs has been reached. The issue is squarely before us. Shall we continue the rule of rum and boodle and shameless incompetency, or shall we, as President Marsh said in his noble speech, rise as good citizens and begin a new order of things, cleansing our city of the worst enemy known to municipal honesty, and doing what lies in our power to do with the ballot to purify our civic life?
“The NEWS is positively and without reservation on the side of the new movement. We shall henceforth do all in our power to drive out the saloon and destroy its political strength. We shall advocate the election of the men nominated by the majority of citizens met in the first primary and we call upon all Christians, church members, lovers of right, purity, temperance, and the home, to stand by President Marsh and the rest of the citizens who have thus begun a long-needed reform in our city.”
President Marsh read this editorial and thanked God for Edward Norman. At the same time he understood well enough that every other paper in Raymond was on the other side. He did not underestimate the importance and seriousness of the fight which was only just begun. It was no secret that the NEWS had lost enormously since it had been governed by the standard of “What would Jesus do?” And the question was, Would the Christian people of Raymond stand by it? Would they make it possible for Norman to conduct a daily Christian paper? Or would the desire for what is called news in the way of crime, scandal, political partisanship of the regular sort, and a dislike to champion so remarkable a reform in journalism, influence them to drop the paper and refuse to give it their financial support? That was, in fact, the question Edward Norman was asking even while he wrote that Saturday editorial. He knew well enough that his actions expressed in that editorial would cost him very heavily from the hands of many business men in Raymond. And still, as he drove his pen over the paper, he asked another question, “What would Jesus do?” That question had become a part of this whole life now. It was greater than any other.
But for the first time in its history Raymond had seen the professional men, the teachers, the college professors, the doctors, the ministers, take political action and put themselves definitely and sharply in public antagonism to the evil forces that had so long controlled the machine of municipal government. The fact itself was astounding. President Marsh acknowledged to himself with a feeling of humiliation, that never before had he known what civic righteousness could accomplish. From that Friday night’s work he dated for himself and his college a new definition of the worn phrase “the scholar in politics.” Education for him and those who were under his influence ever after meant some element of suffering. Sacrifice must now enter into the factor of development.
At the Rectangle that week the tide of spiritual life rose high, and as yet showed no signs of flowing back. Rachel and Virginia went every night. Virginia was rapidly reaching a conclusion with respect to a large part of her money. She had talked it over with Rachel and they had been able to agree that if Jesus had a vast amount of money at His disposal He might do with some of it as Virginia planned. At any rate they felt that whatever He might do in such case would have as large an element of variety in it as the differences in persons and circumstances. There could be no one fixed Christian way of using money. The rule that regulated its use was unselfish utility.
But meanwhile the glory of the Spirit’s power possessed all their best thought. Night after night that week witnessed miracles as great as walking on the sea or feeding the multitude with a few loaves and fishes. For what greater miracle is there than a regenerate humanity? The transformation of these coarse, brutal, sottish lives into praying, rapturous lovers of Christ, struck Rachel and Virginia every time with the feeling that people may have had when they saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb. It was an experience full of profound excitement for them.
Rollin Page came to all the meetings. There was no doubt of the change that had come over him. Rachel had not yet spoken much with him. He was wonderfully quiet. It seemed as if he was thinking all the time. Certainly he was not the same person. He talked more with Gray than with any one else. He did not avoid Rachel, but he seemed to shrink from any appearance of seeming to renew the acquaintance with her. Rachel found it even difficult to express to him her pleasure at the new life he had begun to know. He seemed to be waiting to adjust himself to his previous relations before this new life began. He had not forgotten those relations. But he was not yet able to fit his consciousness into new ones.
The end of the week found the Rectangle struggling hard between two mighty opposing forces. The Holy Spirit was battling with all His supernatural strength against the saloon devil which had so long held a jealous grasp on its slaves. If the Christian people of Raymond once could realize what the contest meant to the souls newly awakened to a purer life it did not seem possible that the election could result in the old system of license. But that remained yet to be seen. The horror of the daily surroundings of many of the converts was slowly burning its way into the knowledge of Virginia and Rachel, and every night as they went uptown to their luxurious homes they carried heavy hearts.
“A good many of these poor creatures will go back again,” Gray would say with sadness too deep for tears. “The environment does have a good deal to do with the character. It does not stand to reason that these people can always resist the sight and smell of the devilish drink about them. O Lord, how long shall Christian people continue to support by their silence and their ballots the greatest form of slavery known in America?”
He asked the question, and did not have much hope of an immediate answer. There was a ray of hope in the action of Friday night’s primary, but what the result would be he did not dare to anticipate. The whiskey forces were organized, alert, aggressive, roused into unusual hatred by the events of the last week at the tent and in the city. Would the Christian forces act as a unit against the saloon? Or would they be divided on account of their business interests or because they were not in the habit of acting all together as the whiskey power always did? That remained to be seen. Meanwhile the saloon reared itself about the Rectangle like some deadly viper hissing and coiling, ready to strike its poison into any unguarded part.
Saturday afternoon as Virginia was just stepping out of her house to go and see Rachel to talk over her new plans, a carriage drove up containing three of her fashionable friends. Virginia went out to the drive-way and stood there talking with them. They had not come to make a formal call but wanted Virginia to go driving with them up on the boulevard. There was a band concert in the park. The day was too pleasant to be spent indoors.
“Where have you been all this time, Virginia?” asked one of the girls, tapping her playfully on the shoulder with a red silk parasol. “We hear that you have gone into the show business. Tell us about it.”
Virginia colored, but after a moment’s hesitation she frankly told something of her experience at the Rectangle. The girls in the carriage began to be really interested.
“I tell you, girls, let’s go ‘slumming’ with Virginia this afternoon instead of going to the band concert. I’ve never been down to the Rectangle. I’ve heard it’s an awful wicked place and lots to see. Virginia will act as guide, and it would be”–“real fun” she was going to say, but Virginia’s look made her substitute the word “interesting.”
Virginia was angry. At first thought she said to herself she would never go under such circumstances. The other girls seemed to be of the same mind with the speaker. They chimed in with earnestness and asked Virginia to take them down there.
Suddenly she saw in the idle curiosity of the girls an opportunity. They had never seen the sin and misery of Raymond. Why should they not see it, even if their motive in going down there was simply to pass away an afternoon.
“For I come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”
“Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you.”
“HADN’T we better take a policeman along?” said one of the girls with a nervous laugh. “It really isn’t safe down there, you know.”
“There’s no danger,” said Virginia briefly.
“Is it true that your brother Rollin has been converted?” asked the first speaker, looking at Virginia curiously. It impressed her during the drive to the Rectangle that all three of her friends were regarding her with close attention as if she were peculiar.
“Yes, he certainly is.”
“I understand he is going around to the clubs talking with his old friends there, trying to preach to them. Doesn’t that seem funny?” said the girl with the red silk parasol.
Virginia did not answer, and the other girls were beginning to feel sober as the carriage turned into a street leading to the Rectangle. As they neared the district they grew more and more nervous. The sights and smells and sounds which had become familiar to Virginia struck the senses of these refined, delicate society girls as something horrible. As they entered farther into the district, the Rectangle seemed to stare as with one great, bleary, beer-soaked countenance at this fine carriage with its load of fashionably dressed young women. “Slumming” had never been a fad with Raymond society, and this was perhaps the first time that the two had come together in this way. The girls felt that instead of seeing the Rectangle they were being made the objects of curiosity. They were frightened and disgusted.
“Let’s go back. I’ve seen enough,” said the girl who was sitting with Virginia.
They were at that moment just opposite a notorious saloon and gambling house. The street was narrow and the sidewalk crowded. Suddenly, out of the door of this saloon a young woman reeled. She was singing in a broken, drunken sob that seemed to indicate that she partly realized her awful condition, “Just as I am, without one plea”–and as the carriage rolled past she leered at it, raising her face so that Virginia saw it very close to her own. It was the face of the girl who had kneeled sobbing, that night with Virginia kneeling beside her and praying for her.
“Stop!” cried Virginia, motioning to the driver who was looking around. The carriage stopped, and in a moment she was out and had gone up to the girl and taken her by the arm. “Loreen!” she said, and that was all. The girl looked into her face, and her own changed into a look of utter horror. The girls in the carriage were smitten into helpless astonishment. The saloon-keeper had come to the door of the saloon and was standing there looking on with his hands on his hips. And the Rectangle from its windows, its saloon steps, its filthy sidewalk, gutter and roadway, paused, and with undisguised wonder stared at the two girls. Over the scene the warm sun of spring poured its mellow light. A faint breath of music from the band-stand in the park floated into the Rectangle. The concert had begun, and the fashion and wealth of Raymond were displaying themselves up town on the boulevard.
When Virginia left the carriage and went up to Loreen she had no definite idea as to what she would do or what the result of her action would be. She simply saw a soul that had tasted of the joy of a better life slipping back again into its old hell of shame and death. And before she had touched the drunken girl’s arm she had asked only one question, “What would Jesus do?” That question was becoming with her, as with many others, a habit of life.
She looked around now as she stood close by Loreen, and the whole scene was cruelly vivid to her. She thought first of the girls in the carriage.
“Drive on; don’t wait for me. I am going to see my friend home,” she said calmly enough.
The girl with the red parasol seemed to gasp at the word “friend,” when Virginia spoke it. She did not say anything.
The other girls seemed speechless.
“Go on. I cannot go back with you,” said Virginia. The driver started the horses slowly. One of the girls leaned a little out of the carriage.
“Can’t we–that is–do you want our help? Couldn’t you–“
“No, no!” exclaimed Virginia. “You cannot be of any help to me.”
The carriage moved on and Virginia was alone with her charge. She looked up and around. Many faces in the crowd were sympathetic. They were not all cruel or brutal. The Holy Spirit had softened a good deal of the Rectangle.
“Where does she live?” asked Virginia.
No one answered. It occurred to Virginia afterward when she had time to think it over, that the Rectangle showed a delicacy in its sad silence that would have done credit to the boulevard. For the first time it flashed across her that the immortal being who was flung like wreckage upon the shore of this early hell called the saloon, had no place that could be called home. The girl suddenly wrenched her arm from Virginia’s grasp. In doing so she nearly threw Virginia down.
“You shall not touch me! Leave me! Let me go to hell! That’s where I belong! The devil is waiting for me. See him!” she exclaimed hoarsely. She turned and pointed with a shaking finger at the saloon-keeper. The crowd laughed. Virginia stepped up to her and put her arm about her.
“Loreen,” she said firmly, “come with me. You do not belong to hell. You belong to Jesus and He will save you. Come.”
The girl suddenly burst into tears. She was only partly sobered by the shock of meeting Virginia.
Virginia looked around again. “Where does Mr. Gray live?” she asked. She knew that the evangelist boarded somewhere near the tent. A number of voices gave the direction.
“Come, Loreen, I want you to go with me to Mr. Gray’s,” she said, still keeping her hold of the swaying, trembling creature who moaned and sobbed and now clung to her as firmly as before she had repulsed her.
So the two moved on through the Rectangle toward the evangelist’s lodging place. The sight seemed to impress the Rectangle seriously. It never took itself seriously when it was drunk, but this was different. The fact that one of the richest, most beautifully-dressed girls in all Raymond was taking care of one of the Rectangle’s most noted characters, who reeled along under the influence of liquor, was a fact astounding enough to throw more or less dignity and importance about Loreen herself. The event of Loreen’s stumbling through the gutter dead-drunk always made the Rectangle laugh and jest. But Loreen staggering along with a young lady from the society circles uptown supporting her, was another thing. The Rectangle viewed it with soberness and more or less wondering admiration.
When they finally reached Mr. Gray’s lodging place the woman who answered Virginia’s knock said that both Mr. and Mrs. Gray were out somewhere and would not be back until six o’clock.
Virginia had not planned anything farther than a possible appeal to the Grays, either to take charge of Loreen for a while or find some safe place for her until she was sober. She stood now at the door after the woman had spoken, and she was really at a loss to know what to do. Loreen sank down stupidly on the steps and buried her face in her arms. Virginia eyed the miserable figure of the girl with a feeling that she was afraid would grow into disgust.
Finally a thought possessed her that she could not escape. What was to hinder her from taking Loreen home with her? Why should not this homeless, wretched creature, reeking with the fumes of liquor, be cared for in Virginia’s own home instead of being consigned to strangers in some hospital or house of charity? Virginia really knew very little about any such places of refuge. As a matter of fact, there were two or three such institutions in Raymond, but it is doubtful if any of them would have taken a person like Loreen in her present condition. But that was not the question with Virginia just now. “What would Jesus do with Loreen?” That was what Virginia faced, and she finally answered it by touching the girl again.
“Loreen, come. You are going home with me. We will take the car here at the corner.”
Loreen staggered to her feet and, to Virginia’s surprise, made no trouble. She had expected resistance or a stubborn refusal to move. When they reached the corner and took the car it was nearly full of people going uptown. Virginia was painfully conscious of the stare that greeted her and her companion as they entered. But her thought was directed more and more to the approaching scene with her grandmother. What would Madam Page say?
Loreen was nearly sober now. But she was lapsing into a state of stupor. Virginia was obliged to hold fast to her arm. Several times the girl lurched heavily against her, and as the two went up the avenue a curious crowd of so-called civilized people turned and gazed at them. When she mounted the steps of her handsome house Virginia breathed a sigh of relief, even in the face of the interview with the grandmother, and when the door shut and she was in the wide hall with her homeless outcast, she felt equal to anything that might now come.
Madam Page was in the library. Hearing Virginia come in, she came into the hall. Virginia stood there supporting Loreen, who stared stupidly at the rich magnificence of the furnishings around her.
“Grandmother,” Virginia spoke without hesitation and very clearly, “I have brought one of my friends from the Rectangle. She is in trouble and has no home. I am going to care for her here a little while.”
Madam Page glanced from her granddaughter to Loreen in astonishment.
“Did you say she is one of your friends?” she asked in a cold, sneering voice that hurt Virginia more than anything she had yet felt.
“Yes, I said so.” Virginia’s face flushed, but she seemed to recall a verse that Mr. Gray had used for one of his recent sermons, “A friend of publicans and sinners.” Surely, Jesus would do this that she was doing.
“Do you know what this girl is?” asked Madam Page, in an angry whisper, stepping near Virginia.
“I know very well. She is an outcast. You need not tell me, grandmother. I know it even better than you do. She is drunk at this minute. But she is also a child of God. I have seen her on her knees, repentant. And I have seen hell reach out its horrible fingers after her again. And by the grace of Christ I feel that the least that I can do is to rescue her from such peril. Grandmother, we call ourselves Christians. Here is a poor, lost human creature without a home, slipping back into a life of misery and possibly eternal loss, and we have more than enough. I have brought her here, and I shall keep her.”
Madam Page glared at Virginia and clenched her hands. All this was contrary to her social code of conduct. How could society excuse familiarity with the scum of the streets? What would Virginia’s action cost the family in the way of criticism and loss of standing, and all that long list of necessary relations which people of wealth and position must sustain to the leaders of society? To Madam Page society represented more than the church or any other institution. It was a power to be feared and obeyed. The loss of its good-will was a loss more to be dreaded than anything except the loss of wealth itself.
She stood erect and stern and confronted Virginia, fully roused and determined. Virginia placed her arm about Loreen and calmly looked her grandmother in the face.
“You shall not do this, Virginia! You can send her to the asylum for helpless women. We can pay all the expenses. We cannot afford for the sake of our reputations to shelter such a person.”
“Grandmother, I do not wish to do anything that is displeasing to you, but I must keep Loreen here tonight, and longer if it seems best.”
“Then you can answer for the consequences! I do not stay in the same house with a miserable–” Madam Page lost her self-control. Virginia stopped her before she could speak the next word.
“Grandmother, this house is mine. It is your home with me as long as you choose to remain. But in this matter I must act as I fully believe Jesus would in my place. I am willing to bear all that society may say or do. Society is not my God. By the side of this poor soul I do not count the verdict of society as of any value.”
“I shall not stay here, then!” said Madam Page. She turned suddenly and walked to the end of the hall. She then came back, and going up to Virginia said, with an emphasis that revealed her intensive excitement of passion: “You can always remember that you have driven your grandmother out of your house in favor of a drunken woman;” then, without waiting for Virginia to reply, she turned again and went upstairs. Virginia called a servant and soon had Loreen cared for. She was fast lapsing into a wretched condition. During the brief scene in the hall she had clung to Virginia so hard that her arm was sore from the clutch of the girl’s fingers.
WHEN the bell rang for tea she went down and her grandmother did not appear. She sent a servant to her room who brought back word that Madam Page was not there. A few minutes later Rollin came in. He brought word that his grandmother had taken the evening train for the South. He had been at the station to see some friends off, and had by chance met his grandmother as he was coming out. She had told him her reason for going.
Virginia and Rollin comforted each other at the tea table, looking at each other with earnest, sad faces.
“Rollin,” said Virginia, and for the first time, almost, since his conversion she realized what a wonderful thing her brother’s changed life meant to her, “do you blame me? Am I wrong?”
“No, dear, I cannot believe you are. This is very painful for us. But if you think this poor creature owes her safety and salvation to your personal care, it was the only thing for you to do. O Virginia, to think that we have all these years enjoyed our beautiful home and all these luxuries selfishly, forgetful of the multitudes like this woman! Surely Jesus in our places would do what you have done.”
And so Rollin comforted Virginia and counseled with her that evening. And of all the wonderful changes that she henceforth was to know on account of her great pledge, nothing affected her so powerfully as the thought of Rollin’s change of life. Truly, this man in Christ was a new creature. Old things were passed away. Behold, all things in him had become new.
Dr. West came that evening at Virginia’s summons and did everything necessary for the outcast. She had drunk herself almost into delirium. The best that could be done for her now was quiet nursing and careful watching and personal love. So, in a beautiful room, with a picture of Christ walking by the sea hanging on the wall, where her bewildered eyes caught daily something more of its hidden meaning, Loreen lay, tossed she hardly knew how into this haven, and Virginia crept nearer the Master than she had ever been, as her heart went out towards this wreck which had thus been flung torn and beaten at her feet.
Meanwhile the Rectangle awaited the issue of the election with more than usual interest; and Mr. Gray and his wife wept over the poor, pitiful creatures who, after a struggle with surroundings that daily tempted them, too often wearied of the struggle and, like Loreen, threw up their arms and went whirling over the cataract into the boiling abyss of their previous condition.
The after-meeting at the First Church was now eagerly established. Henry Maxwell went into the lecture-room on the Sunday succeeding the week of the primary, and was greeted with an enthusiasm that made him tremble at first for its reality. He noted again the absence of Jasper Chase, but all the others were present, and they seemed drawn very close together by a bond of common fellowship that demanded and enjoyed mutual confidences. It was the general feeling that the spirit of Jesus was the spirit of very open, frank confession of experience. It seemed the most natural thing in the world, therefore, for Edward Norman to be telling all the rest of the company about the details of his newspaper.
“The fact is, I have lost a great deal of money during the last three weeks. I cannot tell just how much. I am losing a great many subscribers every day.”
“What do the subscribers give as their reason for dropping the paper?” asked Mr. Maxwell. All the rest were listening eagerly.
“There are a good many different reasons. Some say they want a paper that prints all the news; meaning, by that, the crime details, sensations like prize fights, scandals and horrors of various kinds. Others object to the discontinuance of the Sunday edition. I have lost hundreds of subscribers by that action, although I have made satisfactory arrangements with many of the old subscribers by giving them even more in the extra Saturday edition than they formerly had in the Sunday issue. My greatest loss has come from a falling off in advertisements, and from the attitude I have felt obliged to take on political questions. The last action has really cost me more than any other. The bulk of my subscribers are intensely partisan. I may as well tell you all frankly that if I continue to pursue the plan which I honestly believe Jesus would pursue in the matter of political issues and their treatment from a non-partisan and moral standpoint, the NEWS will not be able to pay its operating expenses unless one factor in Raymond can be depended on.”
He paused a moment and the room was very quiet. Virginia seemed specially interested. Her face glowed with interest. It was like the interest of a person who had been thinking hard of the same thing which Norman went on to mention.
“That one factor is the Christian element in Raymond. Say the NEWS has lost heavily from the dropping off of people who do not care for a Christian daily, and from others who simply look upon a newspaper as a purveyor of all sorts of material to amuse or interest them, are there enough genuine Christian people in Raymond who will rally to the support of a paper such as Jesus would probably edit? or are the habits of the church people so firmly established in their demand for the regular type of journalism that they will not take a paper unless it is stripped largely of the Christian and moral purpose? I may say in this fellowship gathering that owing to recent complications in my business affairs outside of my paper I have been obliged to lose a large part of my fortune. I had to apply the same rule of Jesus’ probable conduct to certain transactions with other men who did not apply it to their conduct, and the result has been the loss of a great deal of money. As I understand the promise we made, we were not to ask any question about ‘Will it pay?’ but all our action was to be based on the one question, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Acting on that rule of conduct, I have been obliged to lose nearly all the money I have accumulated in my paper. It is not necessary for me to go into details. There is no question with me now, after the three weeks’ experience I have had, that a great many men would lose vast sums of money under the present system of business if this rule of Jesus was honestly applied. I mention my loss here because I have the fullest faith in the final success of a daily paper conducted on the lines I have recently laid down, and I had planned to put into it my entire fortune in order to win final success. As it is now, unless, as I said, the Christian people of Raymond, the church members and professing disciples, will support the paper with subscriptions and advertisements, I cannot continue its publication on the present basis.”
Virginia asked a question. She had followed Mr. Norman’s confession with the most intense eagerness.
“Do you mean that a Christian daily ought to be endowed with a large sum like a Christian college in order to make it pay?”
“That is exactly what I mean. I had laid out plans for putting into the NEWS such a variety of material in such a strong and truly interesting way that it would more than make up for whatever was absent from its columns in the way of un-Christian matter. But my plans called for a very large output of money. I am very confident that a Christian daily such as Jesus would approve, containing only what He would print, can be made to succeed financially if it is planned on the right lines. But it will take a large sum of money to work out the plans.”
“How much, do you think?” asked Virginia quietly.
Edward Norman looked at her keenly, and his face flushed a moment as an idea of her purpose crossed his mind. He had known her when she was a little girl in the Sunday-school, and he had been on intimate business relations with her father.
“I should say half a million dollars in a town like Raymond could be well spent in the establishment of a paper such as we have in mind,” he answered. His voice trembled a little. The keen look on his grizzled face flashed out with a stern but thoroughly Christian anticipation of great achievements in the world of newspaper life, as it had opened up to him within the last few seconds.
“Then,” said Virginia, speaking as if the thought was fully considered, “I am ready to put that amount of money into the paper on the one condition, of course, that it be carried on as it has been begun.”
“Thank God!” exclaimed Mr. Maxwell softly. Norman was pale. The rest were looking at Virginia. She had more to say.
“Dear friends,” she went on, and there was a sadness in her voice that made an impression on the rest that deepened when they thought it over afterwards, “I do not want any of you to credit me with an act of great generosity. I have come to know lately that the money which I have called my own is not mine, but God’s. If I, as steward of His, see some wise way to invest His money, it is not an occasion for vainglory or thanks from any one simply because I have proved in my administration of the funds He has asked me to use for His glory. I have been thinking of this very plan for some time. The fact is, dear friends, that in our coming fight with the whiskey power in Raymond–and it has only just begun–we shall need the NEWS to champion the Christian side. You all know that all the other papers are for the saloon. As long as the saloon exists, the work of rescuing dying souls at the Rectangle is carried on at a terrible disadvantage. What can Mr. Gray do with his gospel meetings when half his converts are drinking people, daily tempted and enticed by the saloon on every corner? It would be giving up to the enemy to allow the NEWS to fail. I have great confidence in Mr. Norman’s ability. I have not seen his plans, but I have the same confidence that he has in making the paper succeed if it is carried forward on a large enough scale. I cannot believe that Christian intelligence in journalism will be inferior to un-Christian intelligence, even when it comes to making the paper pay financially. So that is my reason for putting this money–God’s, not mine–into this powerful agent for doing as Jesus would do. If we can keep such a paper going for one year, I shall be willing to see that amount of money used in that experiment. Do not thank me. Do not consider my doing it a wonderful thing. What have I done with God’s money all these years but gratify my own selfish personal desires? What can I do with the rest of it but try to make some reparation for what I have stolen from God? That is the way I look at it now. I believe it is what Jesus would do.”
Over the lecture-room swept that unseen yet distinctly felt wave of Divine Presence. No one spoke for a while. Mr. Maxwell standing there, where the faces lifted their intense gaze into his, felt what he had already felt–a strange setting back out of the nineteenth century into the first, when the disciples had all things in common, and a spirit of fellowship must have flowed freely between them such as the First Church of Raymond had never before known. How much had his church membership known of this fellowship in daily interests before this little company had begun to do as they believed Jesus would do? It was with difficulty that he thought of his present age and surroundings. The same thought was present with all the rest, also. There was an unspoken comradeship such as they had never