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Title: The Church and Modern Life
Author: Gladden, Washington, 1836-1918
Language: English
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The Church and Modern Life


Washington Gladden



"The time is come," said a New Testament prophet, "for judgment to begin
at the house of God." Perhaps that time ought never to pass, but if, in
any measure, the criticism of the church has of late been suspended, it
is certainly reopened now, in good earnest. Nor is this criticism
confined to outsiders; the church is forced to listen in these days to
caustic censures from those who speak from within the fold.

That such self-criticism is needed these chapters will not deny. That
the church is passing through a critical period must be conceded. But
the way of life is not obscure, and it seems almost absurd to indulge
the fear that the church, which has been providentially guided through
so many centuries, will fail to find it.

These pages have been written in the firm belief that the Christian
church has its great work still before it, and that it only needs to
free itself from its entanglements and gird itself for its testimony to
become the light of the world. Something of what it needs to do to make
ready for this great future, this little book tries to show.

Through all this study the thought has constantly returned to the young
men and women to whom the future of the church is committed; and while
the book is most likely first to fall into the hands of their pastors
and teachers, the author hopes that ways will be found of conveying its
message to those by whom, in the end, its truth will be made effective.

W. G.

First Congregational Church,
Columbus, Ohio, December 17, 1907.


   I. The Roots of Religion
  II. Our Religion and Other Religions
 III. The Social Side of Religion
  IV. The Business of the Church
   V. Is the Church Decadent?
  VI. The Coming Reformation
 VII. Social Redemption
VIII. The New Evangelism
  IX. The New Leadership

The Church and Modern Life


The Roots of Religion

The church with which we are to deal in the pages which follow is the
Christian church in the United States, comprising the entire body of
Christian disciples who are organized into religious societies, and are
engaged in Christian work and worship.

This church is not all included in one organization; it is made up of
many different sects and denominations, some of which have very little
fellowship with the rest. Among these groups are some who claim that
their particular organizations are the true and only churches; that the
others have no right to the name. Such is the claim of the Roman
Catholic church and of the High Church Episcopalians. Their use of the
word church would confine it to those of their own communions. Others
would apply the term more broadly to all who _profess and call_
themselves Christians, and who are united in promoting the teachings
and principles of the Christian religion.

The church, as thus defined, has no uniform and authoritative creed, and
no ruling officers or assemblies who have a right to speak for it; it is
difficult, therefore, to make any definite statements about it. It is
possible, nevertheless, to think of all these variously organized groups
of people as belonging to one body. In some very important matters they
are united. They all believe in one God, the Father Almighty; they all
bear the name of Christ; they all acknowledge him as Lord and Leader;
they all accept the Bible as containing the truth which they profess to
teach. The things in which they agree are, indeed, far more important
than the things in which they differ, and it is our custom often to
speak of this entire body of Christian disciples as "the church,"
forgetting their differences and emphasizing their essential unity. This
is the meaning which will be given to "the church" in these discussions.

The church is concerned with religion. As the interest of the state is
politics, of the bank finance, of the school education, so the interest
of the church is religion. Religion organizes the church, and the
church promotes religion.

Religion is a fact of the first magnitude. We sometimes hear ministers
complaining that the people do not give it so much attention as they
ought, but we shall find it true in all countries and in all the
centuries that it is one of the main interests of human life. There are
few subjects, probably there is no other subject, to which the human
race has given so much thought as to the subject of religion. The
greatest buildings which have been erected on this planet were for the
service of religion; more books have been written about it than about
any other theme; a large part of the world's art has had a religious
impulse; many, alas! of the most destructive wars of history have been
prompted by it; it has laid the foundations of great nations, our own
among them, and has given form and direction to every great civilization
under the sun.

It is not a churchman, or a theologian, it is Mr. John Fiske, one of the
foremost scientific investigators, who has said of religion: "None can
deny that it is the largest and most ubiquitous fact connected with the
existence of mankind upon the earth."[1]

About the size of the fact there is no disputing, but how shall we
explain it? Where did it come from?

The scientific people have puzzled their heads not a little over the
question where the life on this planet came from. They cannot make up
their minds to say that it came from non-living matter; and some of them
have ventured a guess that the first germs might have been brought by a
meteorite from some distant planet. That, however, only pushes the
mystery one step further back: how did it come to be on that distant

The origin of religion has furnished a similar puzzle to these
investigators. There are those among them who assume that religion is an
invention of crafty men who find it a means of obtaining ascendency over
their fellows. That it is all imposture--the product of priestcraft--is
the theory of some small philosophers. Such being the case, they expect
that the progress of knowledge will cause it to disappear.

To others it seems probable that religious ideas may have originated in
the phenomena of dreams. In the visions of the night those who have
passed out of life reappear; this gives room for the belief that they
are still in existence, and suggests that there may be another world
whose inhabitants exert an important influence over the affairs of this
world. According to this ghost theory, religion is all an illusion.

Such crude explanations are, however, not much credited in these days by
thoughtful men. It is easy to see that the foundations of religion are
deeply laid in human nature. Aristotle told a great truth, many
centuries ago, when he said that man is a political animal. That is to
say, there is a political instinct in him which causes him to organize
political societies and make laws; he is a state builder in the same way
that the beaver is a dam builder, or the oriole is a nest builder, or
the bee is a comb builder.

With equal truth we may say that man is a religious animal. The impulse
that causes him to worship, to trust, to pray, is as much a part of his
constitution as is the homing instinct of the pigeon. This natural
instinct is, however, reinforced by the operation of his reason. Feeling
is deeper than thought; we are moved by many impulses before we frame
any theories. But the normal human being sooner or later begins to try
to explain things; his reason begins to work upon the objects that he
sees and the feelings that he experiences. And it is not long before
something like what Charbonnel describes must take place in every human

"Every man has within him a sense of utter dependence. His mind is
irresistibly preoccupied by the idea of a Power, lost in the immensity
of time and space, which, from the depths of some dark mystery, governs
the world. This power, at first, seems to him to manifest itself in the
phenomena of nature, whose grandeur surpasses the power or even the
comprehension of mankind."[2]

Toward this unknown power, or powers, his thought reaches out, and he
begins to try to explain it or them. He forms all kinds of crude and
fantastic theories about these invisible forces. At first he is apt to
think that there are a great many of them; it is long before he clearly
understands that there can be but One Supreme. The moral quality of the
being or beings whom he thus conceives is not clearly discerned by him;
he is apt to think them fickle, jealous, revengeful, and cruel; most
often he ascribes to them his own frailties and passions.

In some such way as this, then, religion begins. It is the response of
the human nature to impressions made upon the mind and heart of man by
the universe in which he lives. These impressions are not illusions,
they are realities. All men experience them. Something is here in the
world about us which appeals to our feelings and awakens our intellects.
Being made as we are, we cannot escape this influence. It awes us, it
fills us with wonder and fear and desire.

Then we try to explain it to ourselves, and in the beginning we frame a
great many very imperfect explanations. Sometimes we imagine that this
power is located in some tree or rock or river; sometimes it is an
animal; sometimes it is supposed to exist in invisible spirits or
demons; sometimes the sky or the ocean represents it, or one of the
elements, like fire, is conceived to be its manifestation; sometimes the
greater planets are the objects of reverence; sometimes imaginary
deities are conceived and images of wood or stone are carved by which
their attributes are symbolized.

These religious conceptions of the primitive races seem to us, now, as
we look back upon them from the larger light of the present day, to be
grotesque and unworthy; we wonder that men could ever have entertained
such notions of deity, and we are sometimes inclined, because of these
crudities, to dismiss the whole subject of religion as but a farrago of
superstitions. But these imperfect conceptions do not discredit
religion; they are rather witnesses to its reality. You might as well
say that the speculations and experiments of the old alchemists prove
that there is no truth in chemistry; or that the guesses of the
astrologers throw doubt on the science of astronomy. The alchemists and
the astrologers were searching blindly for truth which they did not
find, but the truth was there; the fetish worshipers and the magicians
and the idolaters were also, as Paul said, seeking after the unknown
God. But they were not mistaken in the principal object of their search;
what they sought was there, and the pathetic story of the long quest for
God is a proof of the truth of Paul's saying, that God has made men and
placed them in the world "that they should seek God, if haply they might
feel after him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."
It was not a delusion, it was a tremendous reality that they were
dealing with. The fact that they but dimly conceived it does not lessen
the greatness of the reality.

Not many intelligent thinkers in these days doubt the reality and the
permanence of religion. Herbert Spencer did not profess to be a
Christian believer; by many persons he was supposed to be an enemy of
the Christian religion; yet no man has more strongly asserted the
permanency and indestructibility of religion. As to the notion that
religions are the product of human craft and selfishness, he says: "A
candid examination of the evidence quite negatives the doctrine
maintained by some that creeds are priestly inventions."[3] And again:
"An unbiased consideration of its general aspects forces us to conclude
that religion, everywhere present as a weft running through the warp of
human history, expresses some eternal fact."[4] And again: "In Religion
let us recognize the high merit that from the beginning it has dimly
discerned the ultimate verity and has never ceased to insist upon it....
For its essentially valid belief, Religion has constantly done battle.
Gross as were the disguises under which it at first espoused this
belief, and cherishing this belief, though it still is, under
disfiguring vestments, it has never ceased to maintain and defend it. It
has everywhere established and propagated one or other modification of
the doctrine that all things are manifestations of a power that
transcends our knowledge."[5]

That religion is, in John Fiske's strong phrase, an "everlasting
reality" is a fact which few respectable thinkers in these days would
venture to call in question. But, as we have seen, this reality takes
upon itself a great variety of forms. Looking over the world to-day, we
discover many kinds of religion. Religious ideas, religious rites and
ceremonies, religious customs and practices, as we gather them up and
compare them, constitute a variegated collection.

Professor William James has a thick volume entitled "The Varieties of
Religious Experience," in which he brings together a vast array of the
documents which describe the religious feelings and impulses of persons
in all lands and all ages. It is not a study of creeds or philosophies
of religion, it is a study of personal religious experiences; of the
fears, hopes, desires, contritions, joys, and aspirations of men and
women of all lands and ages, as they have been dealing with the fact of

Not only do we find many different kinds of religion existing side by
side upon this planet; we also find that each of these types has been
undergoing constant changes in the course of the centuries. To trace the
religious development of any people from the earliest period to the
present day is a most instructive study.

Take our own religion. Christianity is not an independent form of faith.
Its roots run down into the Hebrew religion, whose record is in the Old
Testament; and the Hebrew religion grew out of the old Semitic faiths,
and these again sprang from the ancient Babylonian religions or grew
alongside of them. So we are compelled to go far back for the origin of
many of our own religious ideas. Jesus did not claim to be the Founder
of a new religion; he claimed only to bring a better interpretation of
the religion of his people. He said that he came not to destroy but to
fulfill the law and the prophets. The New Testament religion is a
development of the Old Testament religion. It is a wonderful growth.
When we go hack to the old monuments and the old documents and trace the
progress of religious beliefs and practices from the earliest days to
our own, we learn many things which are well worth knowing.

The central fact of religious progress is improvement in the conception
of the character of God. As the ages go by, men gradually come to think
better thoughts about God. Little by little the old crude and savage
notions of deity drop out of their minds, and they learn to think of him
as just and faithful and kind.

The Bible shows us many signs of this progress. The earlier stories
about God give him a far different character from that which appears in
the later prophets. It was believed by the earlier Hebrews that God
desired to have them put to death all the inhabitants of the land of
Canaan when they took possession of it; and when they put to the sword
not only the armed men of the land, but the women and the little
children, they supposed that they were obeying the command of God. They
learned better than that, after a while.

When Abraham started with Isaac for Mount Moriah, he undoubtedly
thought that he should please God by putting to death his own
well-beloved son; but before he had done the dreadful deed the
revelation came to him that that was a terrible mistake; he saw that God
was not pleased by human sacrifices. That was a great day in the history
of religion. Because of that experience, Abraham was able to make his
descendants believe the truth that had been given to him, and from that
time onward human sacrifices probably ceased among the Hebrews. A long
step had been taken toward the purification of the idea of God of one of
its most degrading elements.

This superstition lingered long in other faiths; probably it survived
among our own ancestors after Abraham's day. Tennyson's poem, "The
Victim," is a vivid picture of human sacrifice among the Teutonic

    "A plague upon the people fell,
      A famine after laid them low;
    Then thorpe and byre arose in fire,
      For on them brake the sudden foe;
    So thick they died the people cried,
      'The Gods are moved against the land.'
    The priest in horror about his altar
      To Thor and Odin lifted a hand:
        'Help us from famine
        And plague and strife!
        What would you have of us?
        Human life?
        Were it our nearest,
        Were it our dearest,--Answer,
        O answer!--
        We give you his life.'"

The Gods seemed to say that the victim must be either the king's wife or
the king's child; which it should be, was the terrible question that the
king had to answer. The choice seemed to have fallen on the child, but
the wife would not have it that he was the king's dearest, and she
rushed to her own immolation. The poem reflects the common notion of
those dark days, that the angry Gods could only be propitiated by the
slaughter of those whom men loved the best. From this horrible idea the
Jewish people were delivered by the insight of their great ancestor.

Dark notions about God still lingered among them, however, and the Old
Testament record shows us how they slowly disappeared. Moses and Samuel
were good men for their time, but the God whom they worshiped was a very
different being from the God of Hosea or of the later Isaiah.

This development of the idea of God has been going on in modern times.
It is not long since devout men were in the habit of saying that God's
displeasure with the wickedness of cities was exhibited in the scourges
of cholera and scarlet fever in which multitudes of little children were
the victims. Not two hundred years ago the great majority of our Puritan
ancestors were believing in a God who, for the sin of Adam, was sending
millions of infants, every year, to the regions of darkness and despair.
The God of Cotton Mather or of Edward Payson could hardly have lived in
the same heaven with the God of Dwight Moody or Phillips Brooks.

The changes which have been taking place in our ideas about God have
been mainly in the direction of a purified ethical conception of his
character. We have been learning to believe, more and more, in the
justice, the righteousness, the goodness of God. In the oldest times men
thought him cruel and revengeful; then they began to regard him as
willful and arbitrary--his justice was his determination to have his own
way; his sovereignty was his egoistic purpose to do everything for his
own glory. We have gradually grown away from all that, and are able now
to believe what Abraham believed, that the Judge of all the earth will
do right.

In the presence of a God who, I am assured, is a being of perfect
righteousness, who never blames any one for what he cannot help, who
never expects of any one more than he has the power to render, who means
that I shall know that his treatment of me is in perfect accord with my
own deepest intuition of truth and fairness and honor, I can stand up
and be a man. My faith will not be the cringing submission of a slave to
an absolute despot, but the willing and joyful acceptance by a free man
of righteous authority.

Now it is certain that the belief of the Christian church respecting the
character of God has been steadily changing, in this direction, through
the Christian centuries. Enlightened Christians have been coming to
believe, more and more, in a good God; and by a good God I mean not
merely a good-natured God, but a just God, a true God, a fair God, a
righteous God. The growth of this conviction has been purging theology
of many crude and revolting dogmas.

It is a great deliverance which is wrought out for us when we are set
free, in our religious thinking, from the bondage of unmoral
conceptions, and are encouraged to believe that God is good. It is a
great blessing to have a God to worship whom we can thoroughly respect.
A tremendous strain is put upon the moral nature when men are required,
by traditional influences, to pay adoration and homage to a being whose
conduct, as it is represented to them, is, in some important respects,
conduct which they cannot approve. All the religions, through the
imperfection of human thought, have put that burden on their worshipers.

Christianity has been struggling, through all the centuries, to free
itself from unworthy conceptions of the character of its Deity, and each
succeeding re-statement of its doctrines removes some stain which our
dim vision and halting logic had left upon his name.

What, now, has caused these changes to take place in men's thoughts
about God? What influences have been at work to clarify their ideas of
the unknown Reality?

From three principal sources have come the streams of light by which our
religious conceptions have been purified.

The first of these is the natural world round about us. We are immersed
in Nature; it touches us on every side; it addresses us through all our
senses; it speaks to us every day with a thousand voices. Nature is the
great teacher of the human race. She knows everything; she waits to
impart her love to all who will receive it; she is very patient; her
lessons are not forced upon unwilling pupils, but whosoever will may
come and take of her treasure. Longfellow said of the childhood of
Agassiz, that--

    "Nature, the old nurse, took
      The child upon her knee,
    Saying: 'Here is a story-book
      Thy Father has written for thee.

    "'Come, wander with me,' she said,
      'Into regions yet untrod;
    And read what is still unread
      In the manuscripts of God.'"

It is not the child Agassiz alone whom Nature thus invited; to the whole
human race, in its childhood, its adolescence, its maturity, she has
always been saying the same thing. She has been seeking, through all the
ages, to disclose to us all the mysteries of this marvelous universe. We
have been slow learners; it took her a great many centuries to get the
simplest truths lodged in the human mind. The cave-dweller, the savage
in his teepee, were able to receive but little of what she had to give.
Yet before their eyes, every day, she spread all her wonders; with
infinite patience she waited for the unfolding of their powers. All the
marvels of steam, of electricity, of the camera, of the telescope, the
microscope, the spectroscope, the Roentgen rays,--all the facts and
forces with which science deals were there, in the hand of Mother
Nature, waiting to be imparted to her child from the day when he first
stood upright and faced the stars.

Slowly he has been led on into a larger understanding of this wonderful
universe. And what has he learned under this tuition? What are some of
the great truths which have gradually impressed themselves upon his

He has been made sure, for one thing, that this is a universe; that all
its forces are coherent; that the same laws are in operation in every
part of it. The principles of mathematics are everywhere applicable;
gravitation controls all the worlds and every particle of matter in
every one of them, and the spectroscope assures us that the same
chemical elements which constitute our world are found in the farthest
star. "On every hand," says Walker, "we are assured that the guiding
principle of Science is that of the uniformity of nature."

It has also come to be understood that nature is all intelligible.
Everything can be explained. This is the fundamental assumption of
science. Many things have not yet been explained, but there is an
explanation for everything; of that every thinker feels perfectly sure.
"Fifty years ago," says Sir John Lubbock, "the Book of Nature was like
some richly illuminated missal, written in an unknown tongue; of the
true meaning little was known to us; indeed we scarcely realized that
there was a meaning to decipher. Now glimpses of the truth are gradually
revealing themselves; we perceive that there is a reason--and in many
cases we know what that reason is--for every difference in form, in
size, and in color, for every bone and feather, almost for every

This is the latest word of the latest philosophy; there is a reason for
everything. As Romanes says, Nature is instinct with reason; "tap her
where you will, reason oozes out at every pore."

If all things are rational and intelligible, then all things must be
the product of a rational Intelligence. That conclusion seems

But we can go further than this. It is not merely true that we can find
in the world about us the signs of an Intelligence like our own, it is
also true that our own intelligence has been developed by the revelation
to us of this Intelligence in the world about us. "If," says Walker,
"human reason is but 'the reflection in us of the universe outside of
us,' then, clearly, the Reason was there, expressed in the universe,
before it possibly could be reflected in us. It is _our relation to the
Universe that makes us rational_." And again, "Apart from the Reason
expressed in the Universe around him, man could never have become the
rational being that he is."[7]

This, then, is the first great reason why our religion has gradually
become more rational. The rationality of the universe constantly
presented to our thought has developed a rationality in our thoughts
about the universe. The mind, like the dyer's hand, is subdued to what
it works in. The response of primitive man to the pressure of Nature
upon him was a response of wonder and awe and fear; his religion was
instructive, emotional; but through the long tuition of the ages, the
old nurse has taught him how to use his reason; and he now finds unity
where he once found strife, and order and law where once confusion and
chaos reigned. His religion has become rational.

But what do we mean when we say that man's great teacher has been
Nature? Nature, as we have seen, is instinct with Reason, and the Reason
which is revealed in Nature is only another name for God. It is the
immanent God, the Eternal Reason, who has been patiently disclosing
himself to us in the world round about us, and thus cleansing our minds
from the crude and superstitious conceptions with which in our ignorance
and fear we had invested him.

The second of the sources from which the influences have come for the
purification of religion is humanity itself.

We are told, in the Book of Genesis, that man is made in the image of
God; and the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God, on which the entire
teaching of Jesus rests, is but a stronger statement of the same truth.
It is true that we find human nature, as yet, for the most part, in
very crude conditions; its divine qualities are not clearly seen. It
does not yet appear what we shall be. But we have learned, in our
evolutionary studies, that no living thing ought to be judged in the
earlier stages of its development; we must wait to see the perfected
type before we can make up our minds about it. The eaglet just hatched
does not give us the right idea of the eagle, nor does the infant in his
swaddling clothes reveal to us the man. So it is with species and races;
if they are undergoing a process of development, we must wait for the
later stages of the process before we judge. The apple is not the crab,
but the Northern Spy; the horse is not the mustang, but the Percheron or
the German roadster. In estimating any living thing, you take into
consideration its possibilities of development; the ideal to which it
may attain must always be in sight.

In the same way when we think of man, we do not take the Patagonian as
the type, but the best specimens of European or American manhood.

If, then, we are taught to believe that man is a child of God, we should
be compelled to believe that it is the most perfectly developed man who
most resembles God. We have some conception of the ideal man. Our
conceptions are not always correct, but they are constantly improved, as
we strive to realize them. And in the ideal man we see reflected the
character of God. We are sure that a perfect humanity would give us the
best revelation we could have of divinity. If we could see a perfect
man, we could learn from him more about God than from any other source.

Most of us believe that a perfect Man appeared in this world nineteen
hundred years ago; and the best that we know about God we have learned
from him. More has been done by his life and teachings to purify
religion of its crudities and superstitions than by all other agencies.
The worst of the crudities and superstitions that still linger in our
own religion are due to the fact that the people who bear his name only
in part accept his teachings and very imperfectly follow his example. If
we could all believe what he has told us and do what he has bidden us,
our religion would soon be cleansed from its worst defilements.

The manifestation of the life of God in Jesus Christ we call The
Incarnation; and it was a manifestation so much more perfect than any
other that the world has seen, that we do well to put the definite
article before the word. Yet it is a mistake to overlook the fact that
God dwells in every good man, and manifests himself through him. And
whenever, in any character, the great qualities of truth and justice and
purity and courage and honor and kindness are exhibited, we see some
reflection of the character of God.

In many a home the father and the mother, by their faithfulness and
kindness and self-sacrifice, make it easy for the children to believe in
a good God; and in every community brave and true and saintly men and
women are revealing to us high qualities which we cannot help
interpreting as divine. We cannot imagine that God is less just or fair
or kind than these men and women are; they lift up our ideals of
goodness, and they compel us to think better thoughts of him in whom all
our ideals are united.

Thus it is that our humanity, as glorified by the Word made flesh, and
as lifted up and sanctified by the lives of good men and women, has been
a great teacher of pure religion. We have learned what to think about
God and how to worship him aright by what he has shown us in the living
epistles of his goodness and grace which he has sent into the world,
and, above all, in that "strong Son of God" whom we call our Master.

The other source from which the influences have come by which religion
has been purified, is that divine Spirit who is always in the world, and
always waiting upon the threshold of every man's thought, and in the
sub-conscious depths of every man's feeling, to enlighten our
understanding and purify our desires. To every man he gives all that he
can receive of light and power. To many his gifts are but meagre,
because their capacities are small and their receptivity is limited; but
there are always in the world open minds and docile tempers, to whom he
imparts his larger gifts. Thus we have the order of prophets and
inspired men, whose words are full of light and leading. In the Bible we
have a record of the messages given by such men to the world. In that
teaching, rightly interpreted, there is great power to correct the
errors and cleanse away the delusions and superstitions which are apt to
gather about our religion. We cannot estimate too highly the work that
has been done by these sacred writings in purifying our conception of

It is possible, however, to treat this book in a manner so hard and
literalistic that it shall become a hindrance rather than a help to the
better knowledge of God. The one fact that it brings vividly before us
is that fact of progress in religious knowledge which we are now
considering. It shows us how men have gone steadily forward, under the
leadership of the divine Spirit, leaving old conceptions behind them,
and rising to larger and larger understanding of divine things. Any
treatment of the Book which fails to recognize this fact--which puts all
parts of the Bible on the same level of spiritual value and
authority--simply ignores the central truth of the Bible and perverts
its whole meaning.

The truth which we need to emphasize in our use of the Bible is the
truth that the same Spirit who gave the men of the olden time their
message is with us, to help us to the right understanding of it, and to
give us the message for our time. Nor is his illumination confined to
any guild or rank of believers; the day foretold by the prophet has
surely come, when the Spirit is poured upon all flesh, and the prophetic
gift may be received by all the pure in heart.

The one glorious fact of our religion--a fact but dimly realized as yet
by the church--is the constant presence in the world of the Spirit of
Truth. If there is anything at all in religion, this divine Spirit is
ready to be the Counselor, Comforter, and Guide of every human soul. And
we cannot doubt that the steadily enlarging conception of the character
of God is due to his gracious ministry.

       *       *       *       *       *

Such, then, are the sources from which have come that better knowledge
of God which makes the religion of our time to differ from the religion
of past generations. And it will be seen that these three sources are
but one. It is the divine Reason and Love himself who has been revealing
himself to us in the unity and order of nature, in the enlarging life of
humanity, in the inspired insights and convictions of devout believers.
What we are looking upon is that continuing revelation of God to the
world which has been in progress from the beginning, and which will
never cease until the world is full of the knowledge of God as the sea
is full of water.

With this great and growing revelation the church is intrusted. Its
business in the world is to take this truth about God, this new truth,
this larger and fairer truth, which God himself, in the creation and
through the incarnation and by the Indwelling Spirit, has been clearing
up and lifting into the light, and fill modern life full of it. This is
the truth which modern life needs. Religion is a permanent fact, but its
forms change with advancing knowledge. There are forms of truth which
are suited to the needs of modern life. God himself is always at work
preparing the truth for present needs. It is the function of the church
to understand this truth, and make it known in every generation.


Our Religion and Other Religions

Our religion is the Christian religion. This is the form of faith which
the church in our country is organized to promote. Ours is a Christian

This is not by virtue of any legal establishment of Christianity, for
one of the glories of our civilization is that first amendment to our
national constitution, which declares that "Congress shall make no law
respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise
thereof." Buddhists, Hindus, Mohammedans, Parsees, Jews, are just as
free to exercise their respective forms of religion in this country as
are the Christians. The government neither forbids nor fosters any kind
of faith.

Ours is a Christian country because nearly all the people of the country
are, by birth and by choice, identified with the Christian faith.

Still it is true that the freedom extended by our constitution to other
forms of faith has been claimed by some of their adherents, and we have
in the United States a goodly number of groups representing
non-Christian creeds. Of these the Jews constitute much the largest
number, there being, perhaps, six or seven hundred Jewish congregations
in all parts of the country. There are also sixty or seventy Chinese
temples, a few groups of Parsees and Mohammedans, a few hundred
companies of Spiritualists, and a few scores of societies of Ethical
Culture and Free Religion. All told there are not, probably, among the
eighty millions of our people, more than a million and a half who are
not either traditionally or nominally Christians.

Our contact with the Orient, on our western frontier, is likely,
however, to bring us into close relations, in the near future, with
other ancient forms of faith. The Christian church in modern life will
be compelled to meet questions raised by the presence of Buddhists and
Confucians and Mohammedans, and to prove its superiority to these
religions. The study of comparative religion has had hitherto purely an
academic interest for most of us; in the present century it is likely to
become for millions a practical question. Many a young man and young
woman will be forced to ask: "Why is the religion of my fathers a better
religion than that of my Hindu associate or my Japanese classmate?" The
answer, if wisely given, may be entirely satisfactory, but the question
must not be treated as absurd or irrelevant. In the face of the great
competitions into which it must enter, our religion must be ready to
give an intelligent account of itself.

One of the first questions to be asked when we take up this inquiry is,
What is the attitude of our religion toward the other religions? Perhaps
it is better to put the question in a concrete form and ask, What is the
attitude of the Christian people toward the people of other religions?

The answer to this question may not be as prompt and confident as we
could wish. Many, people who profess and call themselves Christians are
not so broad-minded or so generous hearted as they ought to be, and they
are inclined to be partisans in religion as well as in art or politics;
they think that all the truth and all the goodness are in the
institutions with which they are allied, and that all the rest are of
the evil one. But such people are not good representatives of
Christianity. They never learned any such judgment from him whom they
call their Master. And we may safely claim that those who have the mind
of Christ are tolerant and generous toward those whose opinions or whose
religious practices differ from their own. They do not forget that their
Master treated with the greatest sympathy men and women whose faiths
greatly differed from his own; that some of those who received his
strongest testimonies to the greatness of their faith, like the Roman
centurion and the Canaanitish woman, were pagans; that one of his most
intimate and gracious conversations on the deep things of the Spirit was
with a Samaritan woman, and that his representative hero of practical
religion was a Samaritan man whose genuine goodness he placed in sharp
contrast with the heathen selfishness of the priest and the Levite of
his own faith. No Christian ever learned to be a bigot by sitting at the
feet of Jesus Christ. And I think we may justly claim that those who
have entered into the spirit of the Christian religion are always
generous in their attitude toward those who worship by other forms of

They cannot forget that all these people whose creeds and rites differ
so greatly from their own are children of our Father, and that they can
be no less dear to him than we are; and it is therefore hardly possible
for them to imagine that he can have left them without some revelation
of saving truth. They approach, therefore, the religious beliefs of
other peoples with open minds, expecting to find in them elements of
truth, and desiring to put themselves into sympathetic and cordial
relations with those whose opinions differ from their own.

As has been said, not all those who are known as Christians have this
tolerant temper, because there are many who are known as Christians who
have but dim notions of what it means to be a Christian. It was once the
prevailing assumption that all religions were divided into two classes,
the true and the false; that ours was the true religion and all the
others were false religions. That the heathen were the enemies of God
was the common belief, and it was a grave heresy to insinuate that any
of them could be saved without renouncing their false religions and
accepting the true religion. This was the basis upon which the work of
foreign missions was long conducted, and there are still many who bear
the Christian name who have not yet reached any other conception.

But the church in modern life is learning to see this whole matter in a
different light. Our best modern missionaries decline to take this
attitude in dealing with men of other religions. They do not regard the
heathen as outside the pale of the divine compassion; they seek for
points of sympathy between their own beliefs and those of the people to
whom they are sent. From no other sources have come stronger testimonies
to the sympathy of religions. We must not, these veteran missionaries
insist, assume that our religion is the only true religion, while all
the others are false religions. We may well assume that all human forms
of faith are more or less imperfect--our own as well as theirs, and
invite them to a candid comparison of the differing systems. If our own
is really superior, if it meets universal human needs more perfectly, we
ought not to fear such a candid comparison. But we must be ready to see
and approve the good that is theirs, if we wish them to accept the good
that is ours.

This is not admitting that there is no difference--that one religion is
as good as another; we should stultify ourselves by making any such
admission. But it is a willingness to recognize truth and goodness
everywhere, and to rejoice in them. And we must show that we are not
afraid to take from the many truth which has been revealed to them more
clearly than to us. If we believe in the universal fatherhood and the
omnipresence of the Holy Spirit, we must expect to find, in every form
of faith, some elements that our Christianity needs. In fact
Christianity, through all its history, has been appropriating truth
which it has found in the systems with which it has come in contact, and
it is one of the glories of Christianity that it has the power to do

A great Christian scholar has just published a book entitled "The Growth
of Christianity," in which he shows how this has been done. He finds
that "just as Jewish morality was ennobled and beautified by the
teaching of Christ and yet made an essential element of that teaching,
so the philosophy of Greece, the mysticism of Asia, and the civic
virtues of Rome were taken up by the Christian religion, which, while
remaining Christian, was modified by their influence. This process
cannot fairly be called degeneration, but growth, such growth and
development as is the privilege of every truly living institution."[8]

It is true, as one critic suggests, that in taking in these foreign
elements Christianity not only made some important gains, but also
suffered some serious losses. Greek philosophy and Asian mysticism and
Roman legalism are responsible for certain perversions of Christianity,
as well as for enlargement of its content. We have great need to be
careful in these assimilations; some kinds of food are rich but not
easily digested. But it is, as I have said, a chief glory of
Christianity that it possesses this assimilative power. It is the
natural fruit of faith in the divine fatherhood. We ought to be able to
believe that God has some revelations to make to us through our brethren
in other lands, as well as to them through us. It is the possession of
this power which fits Christianity to be the universal religion.

It has already given some striking proofs of the possession of this
power. We have had, once, upon this planet, a great Parliament of
Religions, in which the representatives of all the great faiths now
existing in the world were gathered together for comparison of beliefs
and experiences. It was, perhaps, the most important religious gathering
which has ever assembled. The presiding officer, in his opening address,
thus described its import:--

"If this congress shall faithfully execute the duties with which it has
been charged, it will become a joy of the whole earth and stand in human
history like a new Mount Zion crowned with glory and making the actual
beginning of a new epoch of brotherhood and peace.

"In this congress the word 'religion' means the love and worship of God
and the love and service of man. We believe the Scripture 'Of a truth
God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation he that feareth God
and worketh righteousness is accepted of him.' We come together in
mutual confidence and respect, without the least surrender or compromise
of anything which we respectively believe to be truth or duty, with the
hope that mutual acquaintance and a free and sincere interchange of
views on the great questions of eternal life and human conduct will be
mutually beneficial.

"The religious faiths of the world have most seriously misunderstood
and misjudged each other, from the use of words in meanings radically
different from those which they were intended to bear, and from a
disregard of the distinctions between appearances and facts, between
signs and symbols and the things signified and represented. Such errors
it is hoped that this congress will do much to correct and to render
hereafter impossible."

Such was the purpose of this parliament, such the spirit which prompted
the calling of it, and found utterance in its conferences. It was surely
a notable and beautiful thing for, the adherents of these dissimilar
faiths, whose ordinary attitude toward one another has always been
suspicious and oppugnant, to come together in this friendly way, seeking
a better understanding, and emphasizing the things that make for unity.
And whose was this parliament? Which religion was it that conceived of
it, and made provision for it, and set in motion the influences that
drew these hostile bands into harmony? It was the Christian religion
which gave us this great endeavor after unity. And it is highly
improbable that such a movement would have originated in any other than
a Christian country, or among the followers of any other Leader than the
Man of Nazareth. It was the natural thing for the disciples of Jesus to
do; and while many men of the other faiths yielded to this gracious
influence, and were thus brought under the power of the bond that unites
our common humanity, it is not likely that any of them would have taken
the initiative in such an undertaking.

We may hope that this is not the last parliament of religions; that in
the days before us such manifestations of the unity of the race will not
be uncommon. And we are sure that the leaders of all such endeavors will
be found among the followers of the Prince of Peace.

Here, then, we find one clear answer to the question with which we
started. The Christian confessor who is confronted with the question
"What reason have you for thinking that the religion of your fathers is
better than any other form of faith?" may answer, first, "It is better
because it cares more for the unity of the race than any other religion
cares; because it believes more strongly in the essential brotherhood of
all worshipers; because it teaches a larger charity for men of
differing beliefs, and more perfectly realizes the sympathy of
religions. It is far from being all that it ought to be, on this side of
its development; many of its adherents are still full of bigotry and
intolerance and Pharisaic conceit; but these are contrary to its
plainest teachings, and all its progress is in the direction of larger
charity for men of all religions. Already, in spite of its failures, it
has shown far more of this temper than any other religion has exhibited;
and when it gets rid of its own sects and schisms, and comes closer to
the heart of its own Master, it will have a power of drawing the peoples
together which no other religion has ever thought of exercising."

I have spoken of the fact that Christianity claims to be a universal
religion. That was the expectation with which its first messengers were
sent forth. They were bidden to go into all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature. There has never been any other thought among
the loyal followers of Jesus than that the day is coming when every knee
shall bow to him and every tongue confess him.

This expectation of universality is not shared by all the religions of
the earth. Many of them are purely ethnic faiths; they grow out of the
lives of the peoples who adhere to them; it does not seem to be supposed
that any other peoples would care for them or know what to do with them.
The old Romans had a saying, "_Cujus regio, ejus religio_"--which means,
Every country has its own religion. The earlier Hebrews had the same
idea; they thought that every people had a god of its own. Jehovah was
their God; Baal was the god of the Phoenicians, and Chemosh was the god
of Moab. They believed that Jehovah was a stronger God than any of these
other deities, but they did not seem to doubt their existence or their
potency. Even the prophet Micah says: "For all the peoples will walk
every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of
Jehovah our God for ever and ever."[9] The later prophets gained the
larger conception of universality; they believed that there was but one
supreme God, and therefore but one religion, to the acceptance of which
all mankind would at last be brought. The narrower conception of
religion as a national or racial interest has, however, prevailed and
still prevails among many peoples. The Hindu religion, which numbers
many millions of votaries, has no expectation of becoming a world
religion. Indeed, it could not well entertain any such expectation; the
system of caste, on which it rests, makes it necessarily exclusive. It
has no missionary impulse; its adherents are content with a good which
they do not seek to share with other peoples. The same thing is true of
many of the minor faiths.

Now it is manifest that religions which do not expect to be universal
are not likely to exceed their own expectations. "According to your
faith be it unto you" is as true of systems as of men. And none of us is
likely to be strongly drawn to a faith which has really no invitation
for us, no matter how stoutly it may maintain its own superiority. No
religion which has only a tribal or racial significance can make any
effective appeal to our credence. The note of universality must be
struck by any religion which claims our suffrages.

There are certain great living religions which make this claim of
universality. Judaism and Parseeism have both entertained this
expectation, but the fewness of their adherents at the present time
indicates that the expectation is but feebly held. The three living
faiths which aspire to universal dominion are Buddhism, Mohammedanism,
and Christianity.[10] Each of these hopes to possess the earth. Each of
these is strong enough to enforce its claim with some measure of

Recent estimates give to Buddhism 148,000,000 of followers, to
Mohammedanism 177,000,000, and to Christianity 477,000,000.
Mohammedanism has been rapidly extending its sway in Africa during
recent years; Buddhism is not, probably, making great gains at the
present time.

If any form of religion is to become universal in the earth it would
appear that it must be one of these three. If any of us wishes to
exchange the religion of his fathers for another faith, his choice will
be apt to lie between Buddhism and Mohammedanism. What claims to our
credence and allegiance could either of them set up?

It would not, for most of us, be an easy thing to turn from the faith of
our fathers to any other form of faith. The ideas and usages to which
we have been accustomed all our lives are not readily exchanged for
those which are wholly unfamiliar. Rites and ceremonies and customs of
other religions, which may be intrinsically as reasonable and reverent
as our own, strike upon our minds unpleasantly because they are
unwonted. It would, therefore, be somewhat difficult for us to put
ourselves into a mental attitude before either of these great religions,
in which we should be able to do full justice to its claims upon our

Yet if we could gain the breadth of view to which the disciples of
Christ ought to attain, we should be compelled to admit that each of
these great religions has rendered some important service to mankind.

What those services have been can only be hinted at in this chapter. Of
Islamism, Bishop Boyd Carpenter testifies that it "has been, and still
is, a great power in the world. There is much in it that is calculated
to purify and elevate mankind at a certain stage of history. It has the
power of redeeming the slaves of a degraded polytheism from their low
groveling conception of God to conceptions which are higher; it has set
an example of sobriety to the world and has shielded its followers from
the drink plague which destroys the strength of nations. And, in so far
as it has done this, it has performed a work which entitles it to the
attention of man and no doubt has been a factor in God's education of
the world."[11]

Of Buddhism even more could be said. In the words of Mr. Brace:--

"Sometime in the sixth century before Christ there appeared in Northern
India one of those great personalities who in a measure draw their
inspiration directly from above.... When he says, 'As a mother at the
risk of her life watcheth over the life of her child, her only child, so
also let every one cultivate a boundless good-will towards all beings,
... above and below and across, unobstructed, without hatred, without
enmity, standing, walking, sitting, or lying, as long as he be awake let
him devote himself to this state of mind; this way of living, they say,
is the best in this world'--when these words come to our ears we hear
something of a like voice to that which said, 'Come unto me, all ye that
are weary and heavy-laden.' From a thousand legends and narratives we
may gather that to Gotama the Enlightened (the Buddha) the barriers of
human selfishness fell away. To him the miseries of the poor, the slave,
the outcast, were his own; the tears which men had shed from the
beginning, 'enough to fill oceans,' were as if falling from his eyes.
The great pang of sorrow, piercing the heart of the race, inconsolable,
unspeakable, struck to his own heart. For him the sin of the world, the
unsatisfied desire, the fierce passion and hatred and lust, poisoned
life, and he cared for nothing except for what would change the heart
and remove this fearful mass of evil."[12]

The character of Gotama as it emerges from the reek of tradition is one
of the noblest in history, and while the religion of which he was the
leader has been defiled by all manner of corruptions and superstitions,
it has borne much good fruit in the life of many peoples.

It would be easy to point out the radical defects in both these
religions; let me rather call attention to some of the distinguishing
peculiarities of our own faith.

1. The God whom Jesus has taught us to believe in, is a far nobler
object of affection and trust than is ever presented to the thought of
the followers of Mohammed or of Gotama. He is our Heavenly Father,
infinite in his purity, his truth, his kindness, his compassion, his
care for all his children.

Now it is true that the central and fundamental difference in religions
is that which concerns the character of the deity. The best religion is
that which worships the best god. And when we compare the Christian
conception of God with the Buddhist conception or the Mohammedan
conception, we cannot fail to see which is the highest and the purest.

A brilliant Japanese scholar, discussing this subject of the relative
values of religions, was asked if, in any respect, the Christian
religion was better than the Oriental religions, and he promptly
answered: "Yes; the Christian conception of God as the Heavenly Father
is higher and better than that of any Oriental religion." If that is
true it settles the whole question.

It is, perhaps, inaccurate to speak of Buddhism as having any conception
of God. "The very idea of a god as creating or in any way ruling the
world," says one authority, "is utterly absent in the Buddhist system.
God is not so much as denied, he is simply not known." Buddha taught
men to be compassionate to one another, but he did not teach them to
look above themselves for any divine compassion. It is true that they
now venerate him, and even pray to him; for the human soul will
pray,--its instinct of dependence, its craving for fellowship with
something higher than itself will prevail over all theories; but this
prayer must be somewhat incoherent, for the worshiper believes that
Buddha has no longer any conscious or personal existence. And there is
certainly no conception in his mind of any such fatherly relation with
any Power above himself, who loves him and cares for him and knows how
to help him, as that which Jesus has revealed to us.

The Mohammedan Deity is indeed a person, but he is a relentless,
omnipotent Will. The worst phases of the old Calvinism--those which have
disappeared from Christian thought--are the central ideas of the
Mohammedan creed. God is represented in the Koran as fitful and
revengeful, as arbitrary and despotic; he is a very different being from
the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. The religion of Jesus emphasizes, as no other religion has done,
"the redemptive principle in its idea of God." It does not hide the fact
of moral evil as the source of all our woes, but it shows an eternal
purpose in the heart of God to save man from sin, even at the cost of
suffering to himself. This is the meaning of redemption; it is the
salvation of men through a divine self-sacrifice. No such revelation of
the love of God as this has ever been made to the world, except through
the life and teachings and death of Jesus Christ. No wonder that when it
is simply and clearly presented to men it wins their hearts. A Chinese
woman, listening to a recital of this redemptive work of God, turned
suddenly to her neighbor and said, "Didn't I tell you that there ought
to be a God like that?"

We shall look in vain through the scriptures of the other religions for
any such conception of the relation of God to men. Men must save
themselves by their own endeavors; they must obey or they will suffer;
perchance by their own suffering they may be purified: but that God
should stoop to earth and stand by the side of sinning and suffering
man, and save him by suffering with him, is a truth to which none of
them has risen.

3. Christianity, above all other faiths, is the religion of hope. It
not only kindles in our hearts the hope of overcoming the sin which is
our worst enemy, but it conquers in our hearts the fear of death and
opens up to us the prospect of unending and glorious future life, in the
society of those most dear to us.

Mohammedanism also permits us to hope for future blessedness, albeit its
representations of the life to come are not always such as to purify and
elevate our thoughts. Buddhism, on the contrary, though it tells us that
we may be reborn many times, assures us that each reappearance in this
world will be attended with suffering and struggle; from which, if we
continue to walk in the true path, striving more and more to conquer our
desires, we may at length hope to be delivered; but the blessedness
which comes at the end of all this struggle is simply forgetfulness: we
shall lose our identity and be remerged in that fount of Being from
which at first we came. Existence is the primal evil: to get rid of
ourselves is what we are to strive for; salvation is our disappearance
out of life, our absorption in the ocean of unconsciousness. This is the
best that Buddhism has to offer us. Not many of us, I dare say, will
wish to exchange for this the Christian hope.

There are many other characteristics of the Christian faith on which it
would be interesting to reflect, but these three great elements are
sufficient to enable us to form our judgment as to its comparative
value. No religion which in these particulars is inferior can ever draw
the world away from the leadership of Jesus Christ. And it ought to be
clear to all who can comprehend the needs of human nature that while
these other faiths, in view of the great services they have rendered to
mankind, are not to be despised; and while it is probable that the
world, until the end of it, will be indebted to them for contributions
which they have made to our knowledge of the highest things; yet there
is no good reason why any one who has been walking in the light that
shines from the life and teachings of Jesus Christ should wish to turn
from his way into the ways of Mohammed or Gotama.

It is not by any happy accident that Christianity is growing far more
rapidly than any other form of faith, and now vastly outnumbers every
other; it is not a strange thing that the lands in which it prevails
are far more prosperous and far more powerful than the lands in which
other religions prevail. It is winning the world. It is winning the
world because its interpretation of life is a truer interpretation than
any other religion has offered; because it meets and supplies the
deepest wants of men more perfectly than any other religion meets and
supplies them.

The great evolutionary law is at work here, as everywhere. There is a
struggle for existence among religions, as among all other forms of
life. The law of variation has had full play in all this realm; human
nature has produced a great variety of religious ideas and forms, and
natural selection is doing its work upon them. The fittest will survive.
And the fittest religion will be the religion that ministers most
perfectly to human needs; that makes the best and strongest men and
women; that rears up the most fruitful and the most enduring

Everything visible within the horizon of our thought to-day indicates
that the religion which will survive--the permanent religion, the
universal religion--will be the Christian religion.

It will gather into itself the best elements out of every other form of
faith, but the constructive ideas will be those which have found most
perfect expression in the teachings of Jesus Christ.


The Social Side of Religion

We have found in our previous studies that religion is a central and
permanent element in human nature, and that Christianity bids fair to be
the permanent form of religion.

But the readers of these pages are constantly meeting with those who
would admit both these statements, yet who are disposed to deny or
ignore the value of the church in modern society. They believe in
religion, they say; they even believe in the principles of Christianity;
they may go so far as to say that they believe in Christ; but they do
not believe in the church. What they seem to object to is organized
religion. They appear to think that it ought to be diffused, somehow,
like an atmosphere, through the community. We hear Christians talk,
sometimes, about "the invisible church;" that is the only kind of church
which these objectors are disposed to tolerate. _Institutional_ religion
is the special object of their distrust.

Some of the more radical among them oppose religious organizations, not
because these organizations are religious, but because they have an
antipathy for all forms of social organization. It does not take an
open-eyed onlooker long to discover that social organizations of all
kinds are infested with many evils. Social machinery is never perfect in
its construction or operation. It is always getting out of gear; there
is endless friction and clatter and confusion; it takes a great deal of
trouble to keep it moving, and its product is often of poor quality.
When men get together and try to coöperate for any purpose, by orderly
methods, they are always sure, because of the imperfection of human
nature, to do a certain amount of mischief. Often their organization
tends to tyranny; freedom is unduly restricted; selfish men get
possession of the power accumulated in the organization, and use it for
their own aggrandizement; it becomes, to a greater or less extent, an
instrument of oppression. Thus government, which is normally the
organization of political society for the protection of liberty and the
promotion of the general welfare, sometimes becomes, as in Russia, a
grinding despotism despoiling the many for the enrichment of the few.
Thus, in our American politics, we have the machine, which is simply the
perversion of party organization, and which in many instances has
become, under the manipulation of greedy and conscienceless men, an evil
of vast proportions.

Looking upon these abuses with which political organizations of all
kinds are always encumbered, some men propose to abolish all forms of
political organization. This is anarchism, of which there are two
varieties,--the anarchism of violence, and the anarchism of
non-resistance. Czolgosz represents one type and Tolstoy the other. For
the anarchism of violence we can have only detestation and horror; to
the anarchism which expects to abolish laws by ignoring them and
suffering the consequences, we must extend a respectful toleration.
Nevertheless the anarchism of Tolstoy offers us a programme which is
hardly thinkable. For we are made to live and work together; and if we
work together effectively we must have rules and working agreements,
methods of coöperation, and these, whatever name we may give them, will
have the force of constitutions and laws. The great coöperations, on
which the welfare of society depends, involve social organization. Even
if the form which this takes should be largely economic, it would have
political force and significance. Man is a political animal; it is his
nature to live politically; and, as Horace says, you may drive out
nature with a pitchfork, but she is sure to come back. And the same
weaknesses of human nature which infested the old forms of organization
would be found in the new ones, unless human nature itself were

Those who would destroy political society on account of its abuses are,
therefore, guilty of the same foolishness as that of the man who burned
his house to get rid of the rats. Doubtless the rats all escaped and
were ready to enter, with reinforcements, into the new house as soon as
it was builded.

The same reasoning applies to ecclesiastical anarchism. Those who,
because of the defects of church organizations, would abolish the
churches, are equally unpractical. For it is not only true, as we saw in
our first chapter, that religion is a primal fact of human nature, it is
equally true that religion everywhere has a social manifestation. The
same impulse which moves men to worship, draws them together in their

Any deep or strong emotion makes human beings congregate. Just as a
flock of sheep huddle together when they are frightened, so men, when
deeply moved for any cause, seek one another. As the impulse of religion
is one of those by which men are most deeply moved, it always brings
them together.

So long as religion keeps the form of fear it produces this result; when
fear is succeeded by more grateful emotions, and men begin to have some
sense of the goodness of the Power they have been blindly worshiping,
then their gladness and gratitude bring them together. Religion,
therefore, in all lands and ages, has been a social interest; indeed, it
has been the strongest of the bonds uniting human beings. To demand a
religion which should have no social expression is to fly in the face of
nature, and forbid causes to bring forth their normal effects. Wherever
there is religion men will be associated, and their worship and their
work will be carried on under forms of social organization. Anarchism is
no more thinkable or workable in religion than in politics.

If this is true of religion in general, it is eminently true of the
Christian religion. The characteristic note of Christianity is its
emphasis on the social relations. In this it simply exhibits what we may
call its scientific temper, its tendency to keep close to the facts of
life, to give the right interpretation to nature and to human nature.

A modern sociologist[13] tells us that "the sole point of view, aim and
goal of Jesus, in all his teaching and by implication of all his acts,
was social. The divine Father whom he proclaimed was social--a Being
whose one attribute was love." When we say that "God is love," this is
what we mean. He delights in Companionship, and finds his happiness in
the relations which unite him with his creatures. Since his own supreme
good is in these reciprocal affections and services, we cannot imagine
that he could expect us to find our good in any different way. If we
share our Father's nature, we must seek our happiness where he finds
his. The blessedness of life must therefore be in our social relations.
Such is the teaching of Jesus. Such is the essence of Christianity.

While, therefore, every religion by its very nature tends to bring men
together, Christianity lifts the social impulse into the light and
sanctifies and transfigures it, making it not merely a concomitant of
religion but the heart of religion. The effect of this revelation was
seen in all the ministry of Jesus. Whereever he went the people flocked
together. "Great multitudes followed him." Into the wildernesses, up to
the mountain tops, across the stormy lake, they made their way; it was a
day of great congregations. It was because they wanted to be with him,
of course; but when they came to him they came together, and one of the
things he sought for them was that they should like to be together. That
was surely a lesson that they learned of him; for as soon as he had gone
they began to gravitate together. Every day they met, sometimes in the
temple courts, sometimes in their own homes, for praise and prayer;
every evening they partook together, in little groups, of a simple meal,
in memory of him. Their religion, from the start, manifested a marked
social tendency. Indeed, we might give it a stronger word, and say that,
in the beginning, it was socialistic; it seemed to threaten a complete
reconstruction of the industrial order. For "all that believed were
together, and had all things common; and they sold their possessions
and goods, and parted them to all, as every man had need."[14]

Just how far this communistic experiment was carried it is difficult to
say, but it is evident that the disciples felt that their religion ought
to permeate and control their entire social life. And there has never
since been a day when the social side of religion has not been
recognized and provided for. The very impulse which is kindled in their
hearts when they are brought into association with Christ, brings men
together. Communion, fellowship, these are the first words they learn.
It has been so from the beginning. One of the great Christians of the
apostolic age admonished his converts against "forsaking the assembling
of themselves together," and that admonition has always been heeded. No
other religion has brought people together so constantly and in so many
ways as Christianity has done. Christian people are always getting
together, to pray together, to sing together, to partake together of the
sacraments, to listen together to the teaching of the pulpit, to study
the Bible together, to take counsel together about their work, to unite
their efforts, in manifold coöperations, for the upbuilding of the
Kingdom. They have even come to believe--and they are profoundly right
about it--that it is a good thing for people to come together just for
the sake of being together, even when no distinctly religious business
assembles them. To establish and promote pleasant and amicable social
relations between human beings is a Christian thing to do. It is a sign
of the progress of the Kingdom, and a preparation for it, when men and
women enjoy meeting one another for no other reason than that they like
to be together. It is a condition of the manifestation of the love which
is the fulfilling of all law. The stranger, as many languages testify,
is apt to be the enemy. The chief reason why he is dreaded and hated is
that he is not known. Acquaintance allays suspicion and promotes
sympathy and kindness.

Not the least of the services which Christianity has rendered to the
world may be seen in what it has accomplished in bringing human beings
together socially. Setting aside its purely religious function, it has
done, in Europe and America, more than all other agencies put together
to promote acquaintances and neighborly relations among men. It has
done, as we shall see by and by, far less than it ought to have done in
this direction; its failures in this department of its work have been
manifold and grievous; but after all this is admitted, it must still be
affirmed that it has done most of what has been done to socialize
mankind, and no other institution or agency is entitled to throw stones
at it because of its deficiencies.

When, therefore, those who read these chapters hear the criticisms and
cavils to which I referred at the beginning, they will know how to reply
to them.

When they hear an argument which assumes that the church is worse than
useless because all social institutions are worse than useless, they may
answer that the reasoning is unsound, because it repudiates the deepest
facts of human nature; that social institutions, the church among them,
are natural growths as truly as the cornfields and the forests.

When they hear any one maintaining that he believes in the principles of
Christianity but not in the social organizations which embody these
principles, they may well reply that the principles of Christianity
naturally and inevitably embody themselves in forms of social
organization; that you could no more prevent it than you could prevent
light from breaking into color or spring from coming in May; that, as a
matter of history, the growth of Christianity has been signalized by a
marvelous development of the social sentiments and habitudes which must
find expression in some kind of social coöperation; and that, as a
matter of fact, after all necessary deductions have been made, the
church has been a powerful agency in developing that temper of
likemindedness which makes civilized society possible.

There is still another cavil to which it may be needful to refer. It is
based on the notion that religion, after all, is a purely individual
affair; that it concerns only the relations between the soul and its
God; that therefore public worship is not only needless but unseemly.
Prayer is sometimes described as "the flight of one alone to the only
One;" and it is sometimes contended that any other than private prayer
is a violation of all the higher sanctities. If this were true, of
course the church would be an anomaly or an imposition. And while there
are not many who would urge this argument unfalteringly, some such
notion as this may be found lying at the bottom of a good many minds.

The words of Jesus, in the sixth chapter of Matthew, are sometimes
quoted in support of this criticism upon public worship: "And when ye
pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray
in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be
seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou,
when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut thy
door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth
in secret shall recompense thee."[15]

But we must learn to interpret the words of Jesus as meeting the
occasion on which they were spoken; and before we base any
generalizations or rules of conduct upon them, we must bring together
all that he said and did which bears upon the case in hand, and try to
arrive at some meaning which shall include and explain it all. When we
treat the utterances and acts of Jesus after this manner, we shall find
that no such deduction as that which we are considering can be drawn
from them.

We discover, in the first place, that he himself did not always pray in
secret; for several of his prayers made in public places are reported
for us. Moreover, he told his disciples that when even two or three of
them were gathered together in his name, he would be in the midst of
them. The implication is that they would be in the habit of gathering
together in his name, and that there would generally be many more than
two or three of them.

The only form of prayer which he has left us is manifestly intended
primarily, not for secret worship, but for social worship. The pronouns
of the "Lord's Prayer" are all in the plural number: "_Our_ father who
art in heaven;" "Give _us_ this day our daily bread." For solitary
prayer these phrases are not suitable.

When he went away from his disciples he left them a great promise of the
manifestation to them of that Spirit which had been given without
measure to him; and he bade them tarry in Jerusalem until that promise
should be fulfilled. Accordingly they assembled, about one hundred and
twenty of them, in an upper room in Jerusalem, and "continued
steadfastly" in prayer together for many days. The response to this
prayer was that outpouring of the Spirit by which the apostolic church
was inspired, and equipped for its work. Saint Peter told the disciples
that this was the gift of the ascended Christ,--the fulfillment of his
promise to them. If this was true, it can hardly be conceived that he
disapproved of the common prayer in answer to which this gift had come.

Nor can any reasonable interpreter of his words and deeds imagine that
he intended his admonition in the sixth chapter of Matthew to be taken
as a prohibition of public worship or of social prayer. Those words were
simply a reproof of ostentation in worship. The Pharisees, whose conduct
he is castigating, "loved to pray standing in the synagogues and in the
corners of the streets, that they might be seen of men." It was a
private and personal prayer, offered in a public place, to advertise the
devotion of the worshiper. With our private and personal prayers the
public has no concern; it is a manifest indelicacy to thrust them before
the public; the place for them is the secret chamber. Individual sins
and sorrows and needs we all have, and when we talk with our Father
about them we ought to be alone with him; but we have also common sins
and sorrows and needs, and it is well for us to be together when we talk
with him about them. It is therefore a gross perversion of these words
of Jesus to quote them in condemnation of acts of public worship. His
entire life and the example of all those who were nearest to him, as
well as the testimony of the best Christians in all the ages, unite to
render such a notion incredible.

If I have succeeded in answering the cavils which seek to discredit the
church as a social organization, and especially as an agency for the
maintenance of social worship, let me go on to suggest some positive
reasons for the existence of such an agency.

Such an opportunity as the church offers for social worship is essential
to the maintenance of religion. Religious feeling the expression of
which was confined to the relations between the individual and his God,
would become self-centred, egoistic, and morbid. If there were no
praying but secret praying, if the social element were eliminated from
prayer and praise, faith would take on ascetic forms, devotion would
become rancid, sympathy would be smothered, and the character of the
worshiper would be hardened and belittled. There is a place and a time,
as we have seen, for private devotion; probably many of us make far less
use of it than would be good for us; but any attempt to shut our
religion into the closet would be suicidal. It would mould there. To
keep it fresh and wholesome it must be taken out into the light and air;
the winds of heaven must blow through it; our desires must mingle with
the desires of others; our voices must join with their voices; we must
learn to think of the needs, the struggles, the sorrows, the hopes that
are common to us all, to put ourselves in other people's places when we
pray, to feel that our religion is a bond that binds us to our kind.

There is a kind of prayer which we could only use in the
closet,--intimate, personal, dealing with matters of which no one else
has any right to know. But there is another kind of prayer for which
there is no other place than the great congregation; a prayer in which
many pleading hearts unite; in which the sympathies and hopes and
aspirations of a thousand worshipers are blended. Such a prayer, if some
one can give it voice, is something far higher and diviner than ever
ascended from any secret shrine.

It is true that the prayer of the great assembly does not always find a
fitting voice. It is sometimes arid and formal; it is sometimes palpably
insincere and perfunctory, alas for our human disabilities and
infirmities! The power of the leader to forget himself, to gather up
into his heart the common needs of those who are listening, and pour
them out before God, is sometimes wanting. Not seldom we may find
ourselves wishing for those forms of prayer, sanctified by centuries of
use, in which the Christian church, in all the lands of earth, has made
known its requests to God. These are always dignified and reverent;
every truly devout heart may find utterance for some of its deepest
needs in the petitions of the Book of Common Prayer. But most of us have
heard prayers in the sanctuary which lifted and kindled us as no written
prayers could ever do. If the leader of the devotions could be "in the
Spirit on the Lord's day;" if he could forget himself; if the simplicity
which is in Christ could take possession of his thought, if he could
look over the company round about him before he closed his eyes, and
with a swift glance could glean out of that field of human experience
some inkling of the trials, the perplexities, the griefs, the struggles,
the tragedies of the lives there before him, and with a great, fervent,
energizing[16] prayer could carry them all up to God, there would be
something in that which would convince all who were listening that the
highest form of prayer is not secret prayer, but social prayer. Nor is
it an uncommon thing to hear, even in humble pulpits, prayer which
effectually meets this great demand.

It goes without saying that, for the highest forms of praise, we must
have the conspiring voices of the great congregation. We cannot let
loose the hallelujahs in the closet; that would be almost as unseemly as
to pray on the street corner. If the Bible is any guide as to the forms
which our worship should take, praise must constitute a large part of
it. And praise is mainly a social act.

Even the preaching gathers much of its impressiveness from the
congregation. The message which stirs the hearts of five hundred
worshipers would make much less impression upon any one of them if he
heard it alone. It could not be given to him alone, as it is given to
the five hundred; that is a psychological impossibility. There is
something in it when the five hundred hear it that is not in it when the
single auditor hears it, and that something is, far and away, the best
thing that it contains.

All these considerations show that public worship is essential to the
vigorous maintenance of true religion. The elements which it supplies to
religion are vital elements. Let no man imagine that by reading the
Bible and good books at home, and by worshiping in his closet, or, as
some are fond of saying, "in God's first temples," the life of religion
can be successfully maintained. It never has been maintained in that
way, and it never will be. When men forsake the assembling of themselves
together for worship, there is no more reading the Bible and good books
at home, and no more praying in the closet, much less in the woods.
Single individuals might, if the religious atmosphere of the community
were kept vital round about them, continue to enjoy religion. Invalids
are often forced to deprive themselves of social worship; but if they
are there in spirit, something of the benefit finds them. But a
community which deliberately abandoned social worship would be a
community in which no private worship would long be maintained.

If, then, we agree that religion is an essential element in the life of
mankind, we must see that it is necessary that some institution should
exist which shall make provision for social and public worship. The
Christian church undertakes primarily to fulfill this function. It has
other large and important relations to society, of which we shall speak
further on. But this is its first concern. I hope that it has been made
evident in this discussion that it is a very important function. I hope
that those who read these pages may be able to see that if we are to
have any religion in our land, the kind of work which the church
undertakes to do cannot be neglected. That the church is not doing this
work as well as it ought to be done is true enough; we shall have all
that before us presently; but the vital necessity of the work is not
therefore disproved. The work would be better done if those who now hold
aloof, because they see its defects, would put their lives into the
business of mending them.

There are very few men and women, after all, in our modern society, who
do not say, without hesitation, that we must have churches; that it
would not do to let them die; that they are essential to the social
welfare; that, imperfect as they are, they supply a need which every one
can recognize. They have no hesitation, either, in admitting that if
there are to be churches, somebody must belong to them, and share the
responsibility for their maintenance. But when the question is asked,
"If somebody must, why must not you?" a good many of them are not able
to give a very clear answer. Very often the excuse that is set up is
some form of theological dissent. But that is not, in many cases, a
serious barrier. It might shut some men out of some churches; but there
are great varieties of creeds, and the conditions of membership in some
churches are so simple that no really earnest man is likely to feel
himself excluded. If it is essential that the work of the church be
done, and if the reader of these pages has not convinced himself that he
is exempt from the common human obligations, then he can find, if he is
in earnest, some church with which he can conscientiously ally himself,
and in whose work he can bear a part.


The Business of the Church

We have seen that religion is a social fact; that religious feeling
creates social organizations, and is preserved and promoted by them. God
is love, and love is social attraction; the children of God, who are
made in his image, must find in their hearts a tendency to get together
and worship and work together.

We find here a reciprocating action. An apple seed produces a tree which
in its turn produces apples with seeds. So the religious impulse
organizes the church, and the church cultivates and propagates religious
impulses. The point to be emphasized is that religion, and especially
the Christian religion, is inseparable from social forms; that its
natural result is to bring human beings together in coöperative groups.

It is the business of life to organize matter; there is no life without
organization; the inorganic is the lifeless. These are facts which
should be borne in mind by those who approve of the religious life but
object to religious organizations. If religion is life, it will create
organic forms.

In our last chapter we showed how worship, in its highest expression, is
essentially social, and how impossible it would be to maintain it
without the aid of institutions having the same essential purpose as the
Christian church. Let us turn our thought now to the other great
function of the church, the regeneration of human society.

Religion cannot be kept alive without alliance with the social forces;
the social forces cannot be kept in healthful operation without the aid
of religion. Neither blade of a pair of shears will cut without the
other. You cannot raise corn without seed, and you can only get seed
from corn.

Religion is not an ultimate fact. When men are religious just for the
sake of being religious, their religion is good for nothing. Religion is
for character. Its end is gained when it has made us good men and women.
Religion is for service. It finds its justification in the work that it
can do in making a better world of this. Jesus gave us the truth about
it when he said, "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the
Sabbath." And he carried the truth forward to a larger application when
he said, "I came not to judge the world, but to save the world."

"_To save the world._" That was the errand of the Christ; that is the
business of his church. It is not merely to save a certain number of
people out of the world, and to get them safely away to another world;
it is to save the world.

There is no danger of giving to this phrase too wide an application. We
are entitled to the expectation that this salvation is to have a large
scope; that it is to include the earth and all its tribes of life. When
we speak of making a better world of this, we ought to mean the physical
world as well as the social world and the moral world. It is a true
insight of faith which makes the poet say:--

    "The world we live in wholly is redeemed;
    Not man alone, but all that man holds dear:
    His orchards and his maize: forget me not
    And heartsease in his garden, and the wild
    Aerial blossoms of the untamed wood,
    That make its savagery so homelike; all
    Have felt Christ's sweet love watering their roots:
    His sacrifice has won both earth and heaven.
    Nature in all its fullness is the Lord's.
    There are no Gentile oaks, no Pagan pines;
    The grass beneath oar feet is Christian grass;
    The wayside weed is sacred unto him.
    Have we not groaned together, herbs and men,
    Struggling through stifling earth-weights unto light,
    Earnestly longing to be clothed upon
    With one high possibility of bloom?
    And He, He is the Light, He is the Sun
    That draws us out of darkness, and transmits
    The noisome earth-damp into Heaven's own breath,
    And shapes our matted roots, we know not how,
    Into fresh leaves, and strong, fruit-bearing stems;
    Yea, makes us stand, on some consummate day,
    Abloom in white transfiguration robes."

This vital sympathy between man and his environment is never lost sight
of by the great prophets. The redemption of man must mean, as they
clearly see, the redemption of the world in which man lives. When the
drunkard is reformed, the house which he inhabits puts on a new face and
there are flowers instead of weeds in his garden. Isaiah knew that when
his people were redeemed from their captivity, the wilderness and the
parched land would be glad and the desert would rejoice and blossom as
the rose.

That wonderful passage in the eighth chapter of the Romans shows how
strongly Paul had grasped the old prophetic idea; he beholds the whole
creation humiliated and disfigured by its share in man's degeneration,
and waiting to be delivered with man from the bondage of corruption
into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. That expectation
is yet to be realized. It is an essential part of the Christian
expectation. It is part of what redemption means.

True, it is that by the selfishness and thoughtlessness of man large
portions of the earth's surface have been despoiled; mountains have been
denuded of their forests; fertile lands have been worn out, and fruitful
fields have become wildernesses. But we are beginning to reverse this
tendency, and now many a wilderness is being reclaimed, arid plains are
green with corn, and the forests are creeping back upon the hillsides.
As men become socialized, as they learn to coöperate for the common
good, as some sense of their social responsibility gets possession of
their minds, we shall see this process extending; the waste of the
common resources of the earth will cease; deserts will be visited by the
life-giving water; swamps and jungles will be subdued; the earth, in
many regions now uninhabited and desolate, will be made to bring forth
and bud that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater.

All this is the natural result of the quickening in human hearts of the
social sentiments, by which they are drawn into closer coöperation for
the common good; and this quickening of the social sentiments is the
work that Christ came to do, and the work that his church will be doing,
with all her might, as soon as she fully understands what is her
business in the world.

The redemption of the physical order will be the result of the
socialization of mankind. It is an integral part of the work that Christ
came into the world to do. It is part of what he meant when he said that
he came to save the world. When we realize this, we get some idea of the
scope of the redemption which he proclaims. It is not a superficial or a
sentimental thing that he proposes; it takes hold of life with the most
comprehensive grasp; it proposes to redeem not only man but his

It is not, however, the redemption of the physical order to which Christ
primarily addresses himself. He begins in the spiritual realm. He begins
with the individual. His first concern is to reveal to every child of
God the great fact of the divine Fatherhood, and to bring him into
filial relations. His whole programme for humanity rests on this simple
possibility of realizing the Fatherhood of God. If this can be realized,
everything else will follow. If any man is in the right filial relations
with his Father in heaven, he cannot be in wrong social relations with
his brother on the earth. If he is in harmony with God in thought and
feeling, he must think God's thoughts about his neighbor, and the law of
love will be the law of all his conduct. No man can love the God and
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ with heart and soul and mind without
loving his neighbor as himself. Heartily to believe what Jesus has told
us about the Father, and fully to enter into fellowship with him, is to
put ourselves into such relations with our fellow men that every duty we
owe them will be spontaneously performed. In a society composed of men
who were thus in harmony with God the only social question for each man
would be, "How can I best befriend and serve my neighbor?"

That the religion of Jesus begins here, in the heart of the individual,
cannot be questioned. And it must never be forgotten that there can be
no sound social construction which does not build on this foundation.
But it is well to remember also that here, as everywhere, a foundation
calls for a building, and is useless and unsightly and obstructive
without it. The foundation of Christianity is the reconciliation of
individual souls to God, and the establishment of friendship between
these individual souls and God; but what is the structure for which this
foundation is laid? It is the establishment of the same divine
friendship among men. That is the building for which the foundation
calls. If the building does not go up, the foundation is worthless. If
the building does not go up, the foundation itself will crumble and
decay. The only way to save a foundation is to cover it with a building.

Fault might be found with the figure, but the fact which it imperfectly
illustrates is beyond gainsaying. The right relation to God, which Jesus
always makes fundamental, cannot be maintained except as it issues in
right relations with men. Here is the apostle John's blunt way of
putting it: "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a
liar; for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love
God whom he hath not seen. And this commandment have we from him, that
he who loveth God love his brother also."

The commandment is, in fact, only the statement of a logical necessity.
How could any human being enter into a loving communion with that great
Friend whose love is always brooding over our race, who is seeking to do
us good and not evil all the days of our lives, who is kind even to the
unthankful and the evil,--and not be a lover of his fellow men and a
servant of all their needs?

It is evident, therefore, that a religion which has no room in it for
social questions cannot be the Christian religion. The social question
is the one question which Christianity--genuine Christianity--never
ceases to ask. The first thing it wishes to know about your religious
experience is, how it affects your relations with your fellow men. It
insists that your relations must first be right with God, but in the
same breath it declares that there is no way of knowing whether or not
your relations are right with God except by observing how you behave
among your fellow men. Faith is the root, but faith without works is
dead, being alone; and works concern your human relations.

These principles enable us to determine what is the business of the
church. Its business is to foster and propagate Christianity, and
Christianity exists to establish in this world the kingdom of heaven.
The church is not, therefore, an end in itself; it is an instrument; it
is a means employed by God for the promotion, in the world, of the
kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not an ecclesiastical
establishment; it includes the whole of life,--business, politics, art,
education, philanthropy, society in the narrow sense, the family: when
all these shall be pervaded and controlled by the law of love, then the
kingdom of heaven will have fully come. And the business of the church
in the world is to bring all these departments of life under Christ's
law of love. If it seeks to convert men, it is that they may be filled
with the spirit of Christ and may govern their conduct among men by
Christ's law. If it gathers them together for instruction or for
inspiration, it is that they may be taught Christ's way of life and sent
out into the world to live as he lived among their fellow men. Its
function is to fill the world with the knowledge of Christ, the love of
Christ, the life of Christ. That is what Christ meant by saving the
world. The world is saved when this is true of it, and it is never saved
till then. The work of the church is successful just to the extent to
which it succeeds in Christianizing the social order in the midst of
which it stands.

If by means of its ministrations, the community round about the church
is steadily becoming more Christian; if kindness, sympathy, purity,
justice, good-will, are increasing in their power over the lives of men;
if business methods are becoming less rapacious; if employers and
employed are more and more inclined to be friends rather than foes; if
politicians are growing conscientious and unselfish; if the enemies of
society are in retreat before the forces of decency and order; if
amusements are becoming purer and more rational; if polite society is
getting to be simpler in its tastes and less ostentatious in its manners
and less extravagant in its expenditures; if poverty and crime are
diminishing; if parents are becoming more wise and firm in the
administration of their sacred trust, and children more loyal and
affectionate to their parents,--if such fruits as these are visible on
every side, then there is reason to believe that the church knows its
business and is prosecuting it with efficiency. If none of these effects
are seen in the life of the community, the evidence is clear that the
church is neglecting its business, and that failure must be written
across its record.

Even though it be true that large numbers are added to its membership,
that its congregations are crowded, its revenues abundant, its
missionary contributions liberal, and its social prestige high; yet if
the standards of social morality in its neighborhood are sinking rather
than rising, and the general social drift and tendency is toward
animalism and greed and luxury and strife, the church must be pronounced
a failure: nay, even if it be believed that the church is succeeding in
getting a great many people safely to heaven when they die; yet if the
social tendencies in the world about it are all downward, its work, on
the whole, must be regarded as a failure. Its main business is not
saving people out of the world, it is saving the world. When it is
evident that the world, under its ministration, is growing no better but
rather worse, no matter what other good things it may have the credit of
doing, the verdict is against it.

This judgment rests, of course, against the collective church of the
community or the nation, rather than against any local congregation. It
may be that there are a hundred churches in a city, and that ten of them
are working efficiently to leaven society with Christian ideas and
principles, while the other ninety are content to fill up their
membership lists and furnish the consolations of religion to the people
who make up their congregations. The church of that city would probably
be a failure, but the ten congregations which had accepted Christ's idea
of the church and were striving to realize it could not be charged with
the failure. They would have done what they could to prevent it. If the
rest had been working in the same way, the results would have been

The point on which attention must be fixed is simply this, that the test
of the efficiency of the church must be found in the social conditions
of the community to which it ministers. Its business is to Christianize
that community. There is no question but that the resources are placed
within its reach by which this business may be done. If it is done, the
church may hope to hear the commendation, "Well done, good and faithful
servant!" If it is not done, no matter how many other gains are made,
the church must expect the condemnation of its Master.

It must not be gathered from this argument that the church in modern
life is a failure. There may be discouraging signs, reasons for
solicitude; but it may appear, after all, that the signs are on the
whole encouraging. We are not maintaining that the social tendencies in
modern society are all downward; far from it. We are simply pointing out
that it is only by observing these tendencies that we can judge whether
or not the church is fulfilling its mission.

It is greatly to be feared, however, that many of the churches of the
present day fail to apply this test to themselves. Their social
responsibility is by no means so clear to them as it ought to be.
Indeed, there are not a few among them that spurn it altogether,
declaring that their business is to save souls; that the condition of
the social order is no concern of theirs.

There is some reason to believe that phrases of this kind are often used
without due consideration of their meaning. What is meant by the saving
of a soul? Is not the one sin from which souls need to be saved the sin
of selfishness? Is not the death that threatens the souls of men, from
which we seek to rescue them, simply the result of the violation of
Christ's law of love? What is salvation but bringing them back to
obedience of this law? And this law finds expression in the social
order--can find expression nowhere else. It is the law of our social
relations. What possible evidence can you have that a soul is saved
until you see it entering into social relations and behaving properly in

It is to be feared that these very simple truths are not always so well
understood as they should be. There is a notion that salvation is
something metaphysical, or legal, or sentimental; that it consists in
the belief of certain propositions or the experience of certain
emotions. But all this is delusive and puerile. If it is with the heart
that man believeth, he "believeth _unto righteousness_;" that is the
destination of his faith; and unless his faith goes that way and reaches
that goal, there is no salvation in it. Righteousness is the result of
saving faith; and "he that _doeth_ righteousness is righteous"--none
else. Righteousness is right relations--first with God, and then with
men. And no man can have any evidence that he is in right relations with
God except as he finds himself in right relations with men.

The message of Christianity, we often hear it said, is to the
individual. Yes, it is; and what is the message of Christianity to the
individual? The first thing that it tells him is that he is not, in
strictness, an individual, any more than a hand or a foot or an eye or
an ear is an individual; that he is a member of a body; that he derives
all that is highest and most essential in his life from the life of
humanity, to which he is vitally and organically related; that no man
liveth to himself; that his good is not, and can never be, an exclusive
personal good,--that it is in what he shares with all the rest. The doom
from which Christianity seeks to save the individual is the doom of
moral individualism; the blessedness into which it seeks to lead him is
the blessedness of love.

Thus it appears that even these cant phrases by which the church
sometimes tries to fence itself off from the world into a pietistic
religiousness that has little or nothing to do with life, all point,
when you get their real significance, to a relation between the church
and the social order so close and vital that any attempt to sever the
bond must be fatal to the life of both. The church is in the world to
save the world; that is its business; and it can never know whether it
is succeeding in its business unless it keeps a vigilant eye on all that
is going on in the world, and shapes its activities to secure in the
world right social relations among men.

In what manner the church is to carry forward this work of
Christianizing society is a practical question calling for great wisdom.
It may not be needful that the church should undertake to organize the
industrial or political or domestic or philanthropic machinery of
society. Its business is not, ordinarily, to construct social machinery;
its business is to furnish social motive power. It is the dynamic of
society for which it is responsible. But the dynamic which it furnishes
must be a _dynamic which will create the machinery_. Life makes its own
forms. And the church must fill society with a kind of life which will
produce such forms of coöperation as shall secure the prevalence of
justice and friendship, of peace and good-will among men. It may not be
required to look after details, but it must make sure of the results. If
the results are secured, if society is Christianized, if the social
order is producing a better breed of men, if the business of the world
goes on more and more smoothly, and all things are working together to
increase the sum of human welfare, then the church may be sure that the
life which she is contributing to the vitalization of society is the
life that is life indeed. But if the social tendencies are all in the
other direction, then she should awaken to the fact that the light that
is in her must be darkness, and that the responsibility for this failure
lies at her doors.

It is the recognition and acceptance of this responsibility for which we
are pleading. That the church, in all the ages, has very imperfectly
comprehended this responsibility is a lamentable fact. What the social
aims of Jesus himself were, most of us can fairly understand. The Sermon
on the Mount indicates to us the kind of society which he expected to
see established on the earth. He never defined the kingdom of heaven,
which he bade us seek first, but he described it in so many ways that we
know very well what manner of society it would be. But the church which
has called itself by his name has but feebly grasped the truth he
taught. As a late writer has said: "As soon as the thoughts of a great
spiritual leader pass to others and form the animating principle of a
party, or school, or sect, there is an inevitable drop. The disciples
cannot keep pace with the sweep of the Master. They flutter where he
soared. They coarsen and materialize his dreams.... This is the tragedy
of all who lead. The farther they are in advance of their times, the
more they will be misunderstood and misrepresented by the very men who
swear by their name and strive to enforce their ideas and aims. If the
followers of Jesus had preserved his thought and spirit without leakage,
evaporation, or adulteration, it would be a fact unique in history."[17]

That his disciples held fast so many of the ideas and impulses he
imparted to them, and that they have been turned to so large account in
the reconstruction of the social order, is matter for profound
thankfulness. But much of this has been indirectly wrought; the
Christian elements which appear in the industrial order of to-day are
largely of the nature of by-products. It can hardly be said that the
church of Jesus Christ has ever, in any age, consciously and clearly set
before herself the business which he committed to her hands. She has
always been putting the emphasis somewhere else than where he put it;
she has always been doing something else instead of the great task which
he began and left her to finish. It is the great failure of history--the
turning aside of the Christian church from the work of Christianizing
the social order, and the expenditure of her energies, for nineteen
centuries, on other pursuits.

The writer from whom I quoted devotes a very interesting chapter to the
reasons why the church has never attempted the work of social
reconstruction. He shows that it would have been almost impossible in
the early Christian centuries for the Christians to have undertaken any
work of social reform; if, under the rigors of the Roman despotism, they
had meddled with politics, they would have lost their heads. Then they
began to look for a miraculous return of Jesus to set up his kingdom in
the world, and they waited for him to reconstruct the social order. That
expectation held them for a thousand years. When it failed, they turned
their thoughts to heaven, and "as the eternal life came to the front in
Christian hope the kingdom of God receded to the background, and with it
went much of the social potency of Christianity. The kingdom of God was
a social and collective hope, and it was for this earth. The eternal
life was an individualistic hope, and it was not for this earth. The
kingdom of God involved the social transformation of humanity. The hope
of eternal life, as it was then held, was the desire to escape from this
world and be done with it." And this led to the ascetic tendency, which
made men think this world not worth mending. Then came in the paganizing
influences of the Middle Ages, which made ritual the supreme thing and
paralyzed the ethical motive; and then followed the controversies about
dogma, which deadened the life of the church, until finally the great
ecclesiasticism was developed, and the church, instead of being the
instrument for the Christianization of the world, became an empire in
itself, separate from the world, arrogating to itself all the honors and
powers of the kingdom of God. "By that substitution," says Professor
Rauschenbusch, "the church could claim all service and absorb all
social energies. It has often been said that the church interposed
between man and God. It also interposed between man and humanity. It
magnified what he did for the church and belittled what he did for
humanity. It made its own organization the chief object of social

This is only a hint of the process by which the church has been
deflected from its course, and hindered from undertaking, with conscious
purpose and consecrated power, her own proper work. She has done many
other things, some beautiful and excellent things, but the one thing she
was sent to do she has not done.

It is only in our own time that she has begun to get hold of the true
conception of her business in the world. That the church is here to seek
first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, to concentrate her
energies upon realizing the kingdom of God in the world, now begins to
be evident to men of insight; and there is a loud call upon her to
bestir herself and take up this work so long neglected, and give to it
all her energies. That is the meaning of the cry, "Back to Christ,"
which we are hearing in this generation. It means that the church needs
to get into sympathy with its Leader and Lord, to try to understand his
social aims, and to understand what he meant when he bade us seek first
the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Two or three practical suggestions may be ventured here to those who
have followed this argument.

We have seen that, since religion is a permanent need of human nature,
and since the church is indispensable to the maintenance of religion, it
becomes the duty of good men and women to ally themselves with the
church and help to make it efficient. But there are churches and
churches. We cannot help noting, as we look over the community, some
churches which at least dimly understand their business, and some which
obviously do not.

Some of us may be connected by birth or confession with churches that do
comprehend their true function. If so, let us rejoice in that fact, and
give our strength to the support of such churches in their work. It is,
far and away, the most important work that is being done in the world at
the present day. If we can have part in it, we ought to rejoice in that

We may be connected with churches which do not understand their
business. Possibly we may think that the best thing for us to do is to
come out of them, and seek fellowship with churches more enlightened.
Let us think two or three times before we decide upon this. Perhaps the
best thing we can do is to stay where we are and use our best endeavors,
modestly and patiently, to bring our own church to a realization of its

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


Is the Church Decadent?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Coming Reformation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Social Redemption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The New Evangelism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    "Things are in the saddle
    And ride mankind."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The New Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this great appeal ought most strongly to lay hold upon the hearts of
the young men and women of this generation. The enterprise is mainly
theirs. If the new reformation comes, they will lead it on. If society
is redeemed, it will be by their toil and sacrifice. If the church ever
learns its business, it will be under their tuition. And it must be by
their voices, chiefly, that the new evangel will be proclaimed.

The young men and women who have had the patience to read these
chapters have been invited to consider some large and serious themes. It
has been assumed that they did not care for kindergarten talk, nor even
for the ethical platitudes to which youth are apt to be treated. There
has been no talking down to them; they have been asked to sit where
Jesus sat, among the doctors in the temple, to hear and answer
questions, and to consider, with the rest of us, our Father's business.

All this tremendous work of social reconstruction about which we are
talking must be done, and most of it must be done by them. It is to be
hoped that they will be able to see the urgency of it, and to feel that
it is something worth their while.

Those of us who have been permitted to come in contact with the more
thoughtful young men and women of this generation, especially those in
the colleges and the professional schools, have been made aware of a
deepening conviction among the best of them that the kind of prizes for
which the multitude are contending are not of the highest value. Great
revisions have been taking place, during the past few years, in the
estimates of success. Many careers which, but a little while ago,
seemed enviable, now appear much less alluring. And while this change of
attitude is far from being universal, there is a goodly number of young
men and women scattered through all our communities whose souls are
kindled with social passion, and who are asking not so eagerly how they
may succeed as how they may serve. To these we have a right to look for
leadership in the work of social redemption.

Many phases of this work will appeal to them. In education, in
philanthropy, in journalism, in literature, in art, they will be called
to serve; many philanthropies will invite them; the organization of
industry upon coöperative lines will offer some of them a vocation, and
the government will be upon their shoulders.

But what they are asked to consider here is the claim of the church upon
them. That claim need not conflict with any of these other vocations,
unless, indeed, the work of the Christian ministry should offer itself
to their choice. That possibility, by the way, is well worth thinking
of. Some of them, let us trust, will keep it in mind for further
consideration. If the business of the church is what we have found it
to be, and the new evangelism is such as we have outlined, the Christian
ministry must offer to any man whose heart is on fire with social
passion a great opportunity. But for the present let us note the fact
that upon those who are not to give their whole lives to the work of the
church, the church has a claim, which they ought seriously to consider.
Whatever their callings may be, in whatever fields they may be laboring,
the church will need their loyal service, and they will need its goodly
fellowships and its inspiring coöperation.

The church which ought to be, and must be, is not for some of us, but
for all of us. Even as the state is the political commonwealth to which
all citizens belong, so the church is the spiritual commonwealth in
which all souls should be included. The interests for which the church
provides are the common human interests; it never can be what it ought
to be, or do what it is called to do, until it gathers all the people
into its fellowship. And therefore these young men and women to whom the
future is intrusted must find their places in the church. The church
needs them; it cannot fulfill its function without them; and we have
seen that its function is a vital function; that it furnishes the bond
by which society is held together.

The church is God's agency for leavening society with Christian
influences; and these young men and women by whom the social order is to
be reconstructed will be in the church. Its leadership will be committed
to them. They will have the shaping of its life. Its life will need much
reshaping, and that will be their work. What will they make of it?

1. They will make it, what it has always been, a place of worship; the
shrine of the spirit; the home of Christian nurture; a school of
instruction; a fount of inspiration; a seminary of religion; the
meeting-place of man and God.

Attempts have been made in recent years to organize churches--or, at
least, associations which should take the place of churches--in which
religion should be dispensed with; in which there should be more or less
of ethical instruction and of charitable coöperation, but no recognition
of any connection between this world and any other. That is simply a
reform against nature, and it will never prosper. For, as Professor
William James has taught us, in a great inductive study, the sum of all
that is known about religion warrants us in saying:--

"(a) That the visible world is part of a more spiritual universe, from
which it draws its chief significance;

"(b) That union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our
true end;

"(c) That prayer or inner communion with the spirit thereof ... is a
process wherein work is really done, and spiritual energy flows in and
produces effects, psychological or material, within the phenomenal

These are the indubitable conclusions of modern science; and the
proposition to ignore the deepest fact of human experience will not be
entertained by the young men and women of the present day. The church,
under their leadership, will be a worshiping church, a praying church.
It will keep itself in close relations with that unseen universe from
which its help must come. It will be a channel through which the divine
grace will flow into the lives of men. And it will also be, what it has
always been, a school as well as a shrine, a place where the teacher
searches out and unfolds the truth and the prophet proclaims the message
that has been given him.

2. Under its new leadership the church will continue to be a minister to
human want and suffering. The charitable work which has always been
emphasized in its administration will not be neglected, but it will take
on a new character. There will be less almsgiving, and more of the kind
of help which saves manhood and womanhood. The young men and women who
are called to this leadership will understand the worth of souls--that
is, of men and women; and they will be careful lest, in their relief of
want, they undermine the character. Above all, they will feel that while
it is the business of the church to care for the poor, its first
business is to cure the conditions which breed poverty.

3. They will thoroughly democratize the life of the church, making it
the rallying place of a genuine Christian fraternity, in which men of
all ranks and stations meet on a common level, ignoring the distinctions
of rich and poor, cultured and ignorant, and emphasizing the fact of
Christian brotherhood. We have churches which profess democracy, but
there is reason to fear that many of them are little better than
oligarchies; that some of them come near to being monarchies. The new
leadership will discern the importance of making every member of the
brotherhood, no matter how humble, a partaker of its responsibilities,
and a helper in its services. They will know that the problem of church
administration is to make every man feel that he is needed. They will
grasp the significance of Paul's figure of the body and its members, and
will see that "those members of the body which seem to be more feeble
are necessary," and that "those parts of the body which are less
honorable" ought to receive "more abundant honor." They will have
workingmen in their vestries and their sessions and their boards of
trustees. They will show to all the world that they have accepted the
word of Jesus: "One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are

4. This means that the life of the church will not only be thoroughly
democratized, but greatly simplified. All its administration will take
on plainer and less luxurious forms. The splendors of architecture and
art, of upholstery and decoration, of ecclesiastical millinery and
music, with which we now so often seek to attract men to the house of
God, will be put aside; and the followers of Jesus Christ will get near
enough to him to have some sense of the fitness of things in the
ordering of the houses of worship where the Carpenter is the social
leader and where rich and poor meet as one brotherhood.

Instead, therefore, of permitting the church to be invaded and
vulgarized by the luxury and extravagance of the world, they will turn
the current in the other direction. The church, under the new
leadership, will not take its cue from the world; it will enforce its
own standards upon the world. "Out of Zion will go forth the law."

Bitter words were those spoken at a recent meeting of the Congregational
Union in England by one of the greatest of English preachers.[30] "The
common life of the home," he said, "is often a mere vulgar exhibition of
the means of living. We try to persuade ourselves that showy living is
essential life. In tens of thousands of English homes the mere show of
things is the goal of a restless and feverish ambition. Everywhere we
seem to be loitering and pottering about in the implement yard. Even in
our universities we must have showy buildings, though we starve the
chairs. All this peril becomes the more insidious when we pass into the
realm of the church of God. Why, the 'means of grace' are often
misinterpreted as grace itself. We are obtruding our badges and ribbons,
our soldier's dress without the soldier's spirit, our music, our
ministers even,--how they look, what they wear, what they do--they are
all part of the wretched vulgarity of the modern spirit."

The two things are rightly put together. The ostentation of the home,
the tawdry luxury and profusion of fashionable society, creep into the
church and set up their standards there, and the religion of Christ puts
on a costume in which its Founder would never recognize it.

We are dealing here with the very heart of the trouble in our national
life, and the problem is one which must be solved by the present
generation of our young men and women. The social conditions which are
depicted for us by close students of the life of our luxurious classes
are ominous in the extreme. The cynical dishonesties and the brutal
spoliations which have come to light in the realm of high finance and
big business are the natural fruit of such a manner of life as many of
our recent novelists have vividly portrayed. And the wanton extravagance
of the House of Mirth would not exist if the majority of the people did
not admire it. The outcry against it is oftener the voice of envy than
of moral revulsion. The cure for this evil, as of most others, is found
in public opinion; and the church must educate public opinion to reprove
it, and the leadership of the church will be in the hands of the young
men and women of this generation.

It will be evident to them that the place to begin is in the church
itself. The heartless luxury of the world will not be chastened into
simplicity by a church that surrounds itself with splendor and spends
money lavishly upon its pleasures. They will know that a church which
wishes to reprove the vanity and ostentation of the outside world must
order its own life in such a way that its word shall be with power.

5. Finally and chiefly the young men and women who are to be called to
the leadership of the church will feel that their main business is the
work of church extension. But they will give to this phrase a little
different meaning from that which it has generally carried. The church
extension to which the boards and societies in the church have been
devoted is the work of building new churches in promising fields. It is
properly denominational extension. Something of this kind will remain to
be done in the new day now before us, and our new leaders will doubtless
have some part in it. But the church extension which is most loudly
called for just now is the extension of the life of the church into
every department of human life. It is more analogous to what we call
university extension work. The business of university extension is not
the planting of new universities; it is the projection of the university
into the community; it is the attempt to carry the light and the
knowledge and the truth and the beauty for which the university stands
down among the people; to popularize the higher culture and the finer
art. That is a most praiseworthy enterprise, a most Christian
undertaking. And something very much like this will be the church
extension for which the new leadership will stand. Its aim will be to
make a vital connection between the Christian church and every
institution or agency by which the work of the world is done, so that
the influence of the church shall be directly felt in every part of our
social life. It will consider the church as the nursery or conservatory,
whose growths are to be planted out all over the field of the world. It
will make the church the central dynamo of the community, connected by a
live wire with every home, school, factory, bank, shop, store, office,
legislative chamber, employers' association, labor federation,--with
every organ of the whole social organism, so that the light and power
which are in Jesus Christ shall be the guiding influence and the motive
force of our civilization.

This is the work which remains to be done, and for which this present
world is loudly calling. It is the work that Jesus Christ came into this
world to do, and he will not see of the travail of his soul and be
satisfied until it is done. The opportunity of realizing the social aims
of Jesus, of organizing society upon the principles which he laid down,
is offered to the young men and women of this generation. It will be
open to them so to order the life of the church that in its democracy
and its simplicity it shall represent Jesus Christ, and then to extend
this life into industry and commerce and politics and art and social
diversion, thus bringing all the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom
of the Christ. It will be their principal task to translate the sermons
and the prayers and the songs of Sunday into the life of the shop and
the factory and the office on Monday and the other days of the week.
That would mean, of course, a tremendous overturning in the business of
the world; a radical revision of the ideals and standards of the great
majority; a new point of view and a new aim in life for the most of us.
But such a peaceful revolution in our ways of life would be far less
painful and disastrous than the revolution which our present habits are
sure to bring, and it is the only thing which will prevent it. And if
the young men and women of to-day will but discern this truth, they may
have the honor of leading in the new Saturnian reign.

We hear in these days from earnest men many anxious questions why the
message of the gospel fails to reach and convince the outside multitude.
"Why is it," good preachers say, "that there are so many people in all
our communities--some of them very good people--who are not at all
touched by our appeal? They do not seem to be interested in what we have
to offer them. They do not appear to feel their need of it."

To this question more than one answer could be given, but there is one
answer which needs to be well considered. One reason is that these men
and women fail to discern, in the life round about them, the reality of
the thing which we offer them. For Christianity is, as we have seen in
these studies, not only an individual experience, but a social fact. And
while we might not be qualified to judge whether the individual
experience, in any given case, is genuine, we could see the social fact,
if it were in sight. That social fact would be profoundly interesting to
us, and it would be convincing. Nothing else is likely to convince us.
In truth, we cannot understand Christianity at all until we see it in
operation in society. One man alone cannot give any idea of what it is.
As some one has said, one man and God will give us all that is essential
in any other religion, but Christianity requires for Its operation at
least two men and God. In fact, it takes a good many men and women and
children, living together in all sorts of relations, to give any
adequate exhibition of it. What we need, then, first of all, to convince
men of its reality, is a good sample of it, in active operation--a great
variety of good samples, indeed. When we have these to show, we can get
people interested.

It would be difficult, if a very homely illustration may be permitted,
to enlist the interest of any boy in baseball if you made it with him an
individual matter. You might try to train him for any given position on
the field, but if he undertook to study it out alone it would not be
easy for him to understand it. In fact, it would be impossible. No one
could learn the game all alone. The team work is the whole of it. And it
would be absurd to expect any one to become interested in the game
unless he could see it played.

To take a similar illustration from a somewhat higher form of art, you
would not be likely to succeed in awakening enthusiasm in any one for
orchestral music by giving him his individual part of the score to study
and play over by himself. No matter what his instrument might be, the
solitary performance of the part assigned to it would be the dryest
possible business. You could not convert any man to the love of
orchestral music by any such process. But if he could hear all the
instruments played together, and, better still, if he could play in with
all the rest, that might be inspiring.

So you need not expect to convert any man to Christianity unless you can
show him Christianity at work in human society. In considering only the
individual application of it, its whole meaning and significance would
be hidden from him. The team work is all there is of it. Let him see it
in active operation, and it will awaken his enthusiasm.

This is, in fact, the essence of the new evangelism to which the young
men and women of this day are called. Their business will be to take
Christianity out into the field of the world and set it at work. It is
for this that the leadership is intrusted to them. The church has been a
long time coming to this, but it seems at last to be arriving, and the
young people of this generation will be summoned to the great
undertaking. Surely they may feel that a high honor and a heavy
responsibility are thus put upon them. It is the most heroic enterprise
to which the sons of men have ever been called.

Not all of them will respond to the call. But we may hope that there
will be found among them a goodly minority to whom the appeal will come
with commanding voice, and whom we may hear answering: "Yea and amen!
The work is ours, and we will not shirk it. It is work worth doing, and
it can be done. To make a better world of this is the best thing a man
can think of; and we believe that Christ's way is the right way. It has
never yet had a fair trial, and we are bound that it shall be tried. We
know that we shall not make ourselves rich or famous in this
undertaking; but we shall see the load lifted from many shoulders, and
the light of hope shining in many eyes; we shall hear the din of strife
changing to the songs of cheerful labor; we shall share our simple joys
with those who know that we have always tried to make their lives
happier, and who cannot choose but love us; we shall find life worth
living, and we shall die content."


[1] _Through Nature to God_, p. 189.

[2] _The Victory of the Will_, p. 213.

[3] _First Principles_, p. 14.

[4] _Ibid._ p. 20.

[5] _First Principles_, pp. 99, 100.

[6] Quoted by Walker in _Christian Theism_, p. 47.

[7] _Christian Theism_, pp. 40, 42.

[8] New York _Independent_, September 12, 1907.

[9] Micah iv, 5.

[10] I do not include Confucianism, because it is, primarily, a system
of ethics or sociology rather than a religion; and also because it seems
to have no missionary impulse, and no expectation of universality.

[11] _Permanent Elements in Religion_, p. 143.

[12] _The Unknown God_, p. 228.

[13] Professor D. M. Fisk.

[14] Acts ii, 44, 45.

[15] Matt. vi. 5, 6.

[16] James v, 16.

[17] Rauschenbusch: _Christianity and the Social Crisis_, pp. 93, 94.

[18] Page 182.

[19] _The Social Gospel_, Harnack and Herrmann, pp. 216, 217.

[20] _Essays and Addresses_, p. 194.

[21] _Essays and Addresses_, p. 189.

[22] _A History of the Reformation_, vol. i, pp. 85,86.

[23] _Ibid._ pp. 87, 88.

[24] _Op. cit._ p. 96.

[25] Seebohm, _The Era of the Protestant Revolution_, pp. 57,58.

[26] _Op. cit._ pp. 327, 328.

[27] _The Philosophy of Religious Experience_, by Henry W. Clark, pp.

[28] Rauschenbusch, _Christianity and the Social Crisis_, pp. 414-416.
The volume is one that no intelligent student of present-day
Christianity can afford to neglect.

[29] _The Varieties of Religious Experience_, p. 485.

[30] Dr. J. H. Jowett.

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