It was Lincoln who gave us a wonderful summary when he said: "After all the one meaning of life is to be kind."
Love, sympathy, fellowship is the very foundation of all civilized, happy, ideal life. It is the very balance-wheel of life itself. It gives that genuineness and simplicity in voice, in look, in spirit that is so instinctively felt by all, and to which all so universally respond. It is like the fragrance of the flower—the emanation of its soul.
Interesting and containing a most vital truth is this little memoir by Christine Rossetti: "One whom I knew intimately, and whose memory I revere, once in my hearing remarked that, 'unless we love people, we cannot understand them.' This was a new light to me." It contains indeed a profound truth.
Love, sympathy, fellowship, is what makes human life truly human. Cooperation, mutual service, is its fruitage. A clear-cut realization of this and a resolute acting upon it would remove much of the cloudiness and the barrenness from many a life; and its mutual recognition—and action based upon it—would bring order and sweetness and mutual gain in vast numbers of instances in family, in business, in community life. It would solve many of the knotty problems in all lines of human relations and human endeavor, whose solution heretofore has seemed well-nigh impossible. It is the telling oil that will start to running smoothly and effectively many an otherwise clogged and grating system of human machinery.
When men on both sides are long-headed enough, are sensible enough to see its practical element and make it the fundamental basis of all relationships, of all negotiations, and all following activities in the relations between capital and labor, employer and employee, literally a new era in the industrial world will spring into being. Both sides will be the gainer—the dividends flowing to each will be even surprising.
There is really no labor problem outside of sympathy, mutuality, good-will, cooperation, brotherhood.
Injustice always has been and always will be the cause of all labor troubles. But we must not forget that it is sometimes on one side and sometimes on the other. Misunderstanding is not infrequently its accompaniment. Imagination, sympathy, mutuality, cooperation, brotherhood are the hand-maidens of justice. No man is intelligent enough, is big enough to be the representative or the manager of capital, who is not intelligent enough to realize this. No man is fit to be the representative of, or fit to have anything to do with the councils of labor who has not brains, intelligence enough to realize this. These qualities are not synonyms of or in any way related to sentimentality or any weak-kneed ethics. They underlie the soundest business sense. In this day and age they are synonyms of the word practical. There was a time and it was not so many years ago, when heads and executives of large enterprises did not realize this as fully as they realize it today. A great change has already taken place. A new era has already begun, and the greater the ability and the genius the more eager is its possessor to make these his guiding principles, and to hasten the time when they will be universally recognized and built upon. The same is true of the more intelligent in the rank and file of labor, as also of the more intelligent and those who are bringing the best results as leaders of labor. There is no intelligent man or woman today who does not believe in organized labor. There is no intelligent employer who does not believe in it and who does not welcome it.
The bane of organized labor in the past has too often been the unscrupulous, the self-seeking, or the bull-headed labor leader. Organized labor must be constantly diligent to purge itself of these its worst enemies. Labor is entitled to the very highest wage, or to the best returns in cooperative management that it can get, and that are consistent with sound business management, as also to the best labor conditions that a sympathetic and wise management can bring about. It must not, however, be unreasonable in its demands, neither bull-headed, nor seek to travel too fast—otherwise it may lose more than it will gain.
It must not allow itself to act as a shield for the ineffective worker, or the one without a sense of mutuality, whose aim is to get all he can get without any thought as to what he gives in return, or even with the deliberate purpose of giving the least that he can give and get away with it. Where there is a good and a full return, there should be not only the desire but an eagerness to give a full and honest service. Less than this is indicative of a lack of honest and staunch manhood or womanhood.
It is incumbent upon organized labor also to remember that it represents but eight percent of the actual working people of this nation. Whether one works with his brains, or his hands, or both, is immaterial. Nor does organized labor represent the great farming interests of the country—even more fundamentally the backbone of the nation.
The desirable citizen of any nation is he or she who does not seek to prosper at the expense of his fellows, who does not seek the advancement of his group to the detriment of all other groups—who realizes that none are independent, that all are interdependent.
He who is a teacher or a preacher of class-consciousness, is either consciously or unconsciously—generally consciously and intentionally—a preacher of class-hatred. There is no more undesirable citizen in any nation than he. "Do you know why money is so scarce, brothers?" the soap box orator demanded, and a fair-sized section of the backbone of the nation waited in leisurely patience for the answer. A tired-looking woman had paused for a moment on the edge of the crowd. She spoke shortly. "It's because so many of you men spend your time telling each other why, 'stead of hustling to see that it ain't!" He is a fair representative of the class-consciousness, class-hatred type. Again he is represented by the theorist constitutionally and chronically too lazy to do honest and constructive work either physically or mentally. Again by the one who has the big-head affliction. Or again by the one afflicted with a species of insanity or criminality manifesting of late under the name of Bolshevism—a self-seeking tyranny infinitely worse than Czarism itself.
Its representatives have proved themselves moral perverts, determined to carry out their theories and gain their own ends by treachery, theft, coercion, murder, and every foul method that will aid them in reducing order to chaos—through the slogan of rule or ruin. Through brigandage, coercion, murder, it gets the funds to send its agents into those countries whose governments are fully in the hands of the people, and where if at any time injustice prevails it is solely the fault of the people in not using in an intelligent and determined manner the possessions they already have. Or putting it in another way, on account of shirking the duties it is morally incumbent upon them as citizens of free governments to perform.
In America, whose institutions have been built and maintained solely by the people, our duty is plain, for orderly procedure has been and ever must be our watch-word. Vigilance is moreover nowhere required more than in representative government. Whenever the red hand of anarchy, Bolshevism, terrorism raises itself it should be struck so instantly and so powerfully that it has not only no time to gain adherents, but has no time to make its escape. It should be the Federal prison for any American who allows himself to become so misguided as to seek to substitute terrorism and destruction for our orderly and lawful methods of procedure, or quick deportation for any foreigner who seeks our shores to carry out these purposes, or comes as an agent for those who would do the same.
Organized labor has never occupied so high a position as it occupies today. That the rank and file will for an instant have commerce with these agencies, whatever any designing leader here and there may seek to do, is inconceivable. That its organizations will be sought to be used by them is just as probable. Its duty as to vigilance and determination is pronounced. And unless vigilant and determined the set-backs it may get and the losses it may suffer are just as pronounced. The spirit and temper of the American people is such that it will not stand for coercion, lawlessness, or any unfair demands. Public opinion is after all the court of last resort. No strike or no lockout can succeed with us that hasn't that tremendous weapon, public opinion, behind it. The necessity therefore of being fair in all demands and orderly in all procedure, and in view of this it is also well to remember that organized labor represents but eight percent of the actual working people of this nation.
The gains of organized labor in the past have been very great. It is also true that the demands of organized labor even today are very great. In true candor it must also be said that not only the impulse but the sincere desire of the great bulk of employers is in a conciliatory way to grant all demands of labor that are at all consistent with sound economic management, even in many cases to a great lessening of their own profits, as well as to maintain working conditions as befits their workers as valuable and honored members of our body politic, as they naturally are and as they so richly deserve.
For their own welfare, however, to say nothing of the welfare of the nation, labor unions must purge themselves of all anarchistic and destructive elements. Force is a two-edged sword, and the force of this nation when once its sense of justice and right is outraged and its temper is aroused, will be found to be infinitely superior to any particular class, whether it be capital or whether it be labor. Organized labor stands in the way to gain much by intelligent and honest work and orderly procedure. And to a degree perhaps never before equaled, does it stand in a position to lose much if through self-deception on its own part or through unworthy leadership, it deceives itself in believing itself superior to the forces of law and order.
In a nation where the people through their chosen representatives and by established systems of procedure determine their own institutions, when agitators get beyond law and reason and lose sight too completely of the law of mutuality, there is a power backed by a force that it is mere madness to defy. The rights as well as the power of all the people will be found to be infinitely superior to those of any one particular group or class—clear-seeing men and women in any democratic form of government realize that the words mutuality and self-interest bear a very close relationship.
The greatest gains in the relations between capital and labor during the coming few years will undoubtedly be along the lines of profit-sharing. Some splendid beginnings are already in successful operation. There is the recognition that capital is entitled initially to a fair return; again that labor is entitled to a good and full living wage—when both these conditions are met then that there be an equal division of the profits that remain, between the capital and the skill and management back of the capital invested on the one hand, and labor on the other. Without the former labor would have no employment in the particular enterprise; without the workers the former could not carry on. Each is essential to the other.
Labor being not a commodity, as some material thing merely to be bought and sold, but the human element, is entitled to more than a living wage. It has human aspirations, and desires and needs. It has not only its present but its own and its children's future to safeguard. When it is thus made a partner in the business it becomes more earnest and reliable and effective in its work, less inclined to condone the shiftless, the incompetent, the slacker; more eager and resolute in withstanding the ill-founded, reckless or sinister suggestions or efforts of an ill-advised leadership.
Capital or employer is the gainer also, because it is insured that loyal and more intelligent cooperation in its enterprise that is as essential to its success as is the genius and skill of management.
Taking a different form but proving most valuable alike for management and capital on the one hand, and its workers on the other, is the case of one of our great industrial plants, the largest of its kind in the world and employing many thousands of workers, where already a trifle over forty percent of its stock is in the hands of the workers. Their thrift and their good judgment have enabled them to take advantage of attractive prices and easy methods of payment made them by the company's management. There are already many other concerns where this is true in greater or less proportion.
These are facts that certain types of labor agitators or even leaders as well as special pleaders for labor, find it convenient to forget, or at least not to mention. The same is true also of the millions that are every year being paid out to make all working conditions and surroundings cheerful, healthful, safe; in various forms of insurance, in retiring pensions. Through the initiative of this larger type of employer, or manager of capital, many hundreds of thousands both men and women and in continually increasing numbers, are being thus benefited—outside and above their yearly wage or salary.
A new era in connection with capital and labor has for some time been coming into being; the era of democracy in industry has arrived. The day of the autocratic sway on the part of capital has passed; nor will we as a nation take kindly to the autocratic sway of labor. It is obtaining a continually fuller recognition; and cooperation leading in many lines to profit-sharing is the new era we are now passing into.
Though there are very large numbers of men of great wealth, employers and heads of industrial enterprises, who have caught the spirit of the new industrial age upon which we have already begun to enter, and who are glad to see labor getting its fairer share of the profits of industry and a larger recognition as partners in industry, there are those who, lacking both imagination and vision, attempt to resist the tide that, already turned, is running in volume. They are our American Bourbons, our American Junkers. They are, considering the ominous undercurrents of change, unrest and discontent that are so apparent in the entire industrial and economic world today, our worst breeders and feeders of Bolshevism and lawlessness.
If they had their way and their numbers were sufficiently large, the flames of Bolshevism and anarchy would be so fed that even in America we would have little hope of escaping a great conflagration. They are the ones who are determined to see that their immense profits are uncurtailled, whose homes must have ten bathrooms each; while great numbers of their workers without whom they would have to close up the industry—hence their essential partners in the industry though not in name—haven't even a single bath-room and with families as large and in many cases larger.
They are they who must have three or four homes each, aggregating in the millions to build and to maintain. They are they who cannot see why workmen should discuss such things among themselves, or even question them, though in many cases they are scarcely able to make ends meet in the face of continually advancing or even soaring prices, who never enjoy a holiday, and are unable to lay up for the years to come, when they will no longer be "required" in industry. They are they therefore who have but little if any interest or care for even the physical well-being of their workers, say nothing of their mental and spiritual well-being and enjoyments—beyond the fact that they are well enough fed and housed for the next day's work.
They are they who when it is suggested that, recognizing the change and the run of the tide, they be keen-minded enough to anticipate changing conditions and organize their business so that their workers have some joint share in its conditions and conduct, and some share in its profits beyond a mere living wage, reply—"I'll be damned if I do." It doesn't require much of a prophetic sense now however, to be able to tell them—they'll be damned if they don't.
There is reason to rejoice also that for the welfare of American institutions, the number of this class is continually decreasing. Did they predominate, with the unmistakable undercurrents of unrest, born of a sense of injustice, there would be in time, and in a shorter time than we perhaps realize, but one outcome. Steeped in selfishness, making themselves impervious to all the higher leadings and impulses of the soul—less than men—they are not only enemies of their own better selves, but enemies of the nation itself.
Bolshevism in Russia was born, or rather was able to get its hold, only through the long generations of Czarism and the almost universal state of ignorance in which its people were held, that preceded it. The great preponderance and the continually growing numbers of men with imagination, with a sense of care, mutuality, cooperation, brotherhood, in our various large enterprises is a force that will save this and other nations from a similar experience.
I have great confidence in the Russian people. Its soul is sound; and after the forces of treachery, incompetence and terrorism have spent themselves, and the better elements are able to organize in sufficient force to drive the beasts from its borders, it will arise and assert itself. There will be builded a new Russia that will be one of the great and commanding nations of the world. In the meantime it affords a most concrete and valuable lesson to us and to all other nations—to strike on the one hand, the forces of treachery and lawlessness the moment they show themselves, and on the other hand, to see that the soil is made fertile for neither their entrance nor growth.
The strong nation is that in which under the leadership of universal free education and equal opportunities, a due watch is maintained to see that the rights of all individuals and all classes are nurtured and carefully guarded. In such a government the nation and its interests is and must be supreme. Then if built upon high ethical and moral standards where mutuality is the watch-word and the governing principle of its life, its motto might through right, power through justice, it becomes a fit and effective member of the Society of Nations.
Internationalism is higher than nationalism, humanity is above the nation. The stronger however the individual nation, the stronger necessarily will be the Society of Nations.
Love, sympathy, fellowship, is not inconsistent with the use of force to restrain malignant evil, in the case of nations as in the case of individuals. Where goodness is weak it is exploited and becomes a victim of the stronger, when, devoid of a sense of mutuality, it is conscienceless. Strength without conscience, goodness, ungoverned by the law of mutuality, becomes tyranny. In seeking its own ends it violates every law of God and man.
For the safety therefore of the better life of the world, for the very safety and welfare of the Society of Nations, those nations that combine strength with goodness, strength with good-will, strength with an ever-growing sense of mutuality, which is the only law of a happy, orderly, and advancing human life, must combine to check the power of any people or nation still devoid of the knowledge of this law, lest goodness, truth and all the higher instincts and potentialities of life, even freedom itself perish from the earth. This can be done and must be done not through malice or hatred, but through a sense of right and duty.
There is no more diabolical, no more damnable ambition on the part of individuals, organizations or nations than to rule, to gain domination over the minds and the lives of others either for the sake of power and domination or for the material gain that can be made to flow therefrom. As a rule, however, it is both. There is nothing more destructive to the higher moral and ethical life of the individual or the organization controlled by this desire, nothing so destructive to the life of the one or ones so dominated, and as a consequence to the life of society itself as this evil and prostituting desire and purpose.
Where this has become the clearly controlling motive, malignant and deep-seated, if in the case of a nation, then it is the duty of those nations that combine strength with character, strength with goodness, to combine to check the evil wrought by such a nation. If by persuasion and good-will, well and good. If not, then through the exercise of a restraining force. This is not contrary to the law of love, for the love of the good is the controlling motive. It is only thus that the higher moral law which for its growth and consummation is dependent upon individuals, can grow and gain supremacy in the world.
Intellectual independence and acumen, combined with a love of truth, goodness, righteousness, love and service for others, is the greatest aid there can be in carrying out the Divine plan and purpose in the world. The sword of love therefore becomes the sword of righteousness that cuts out the cancerous growth that is given from to by malignant ill will; the sword of righteousness that strikes down slavery and oppression; the sword of righteousness therefore that becomes the sword of civilization.
It is a weapon that does not have to be always used however; for when its power is once clearly understood it is feared. Its deterrent power becomes therefore infinitely more effective than in its actual use. So in any new world settlement, any nation or group that is not up to this moral world standard, that would seek to impose its will and its institutions upon any other nations for the sake of domination, or to rob them of their goods, must be restrained through the federated power of the other nations, not by forcing their own beliefs or codes or institutions upon it, but by restraining it and making ineffective any ambitions or purposes that it may plan, or until its people whatever its leadership may be, are brought clearly and concretely to see that such methods do not pay.
That Jesus to whom we ultimately go for our moral leadership, not only sanctioned, but used and advocated the use of righteous force, when malignant evil in the form of self-seeking sought domination, either intellectual or physical, for its own selfish gain and aggrandizement, is clearly evidenced by many of his own sayings and his own acts.
So within the nation during this great reconstruction period, these are times that call for heroic men and women. In a Democracy or in any representative form of government an alert citizenship is its only safety. With a vastly increased voting population, in that many millions of women citizens are now admitted to full citizenship, the need for intelligent action and attention to matters of government was never so great. Great numbers will be herded and voted by organizations as well as by machines. As these will comprise the most ignorant and therefore the herdable ones, it is especially incumbent upon the great rank and file of intelligent women to see that they take and maintain an active interest in public affairs.
Politics is something that we cannot evade except to the detriment of our country and thereby to our own detriment. Politics is but another word for government. And in a sense we the individual voter are the government and unless we make matters of government our own concern, there are organizations and there are groups of designing men who will steal in and get possession for their own selfish aggrandizement and gain. This takes sometimes the form of power, to be traded for other power, or concessions; but always if you will trace far enough, eventual money gain. Or again it takes the form of graft and even direct loot. The losses that are sustained through a lowered citizenship, through inefficient service, through a general debauchery of public institutions, through increased taxation to make up for the amounts that are drawn off in graft and loot are well-nigh incalculable—and for the sole reason that you and I, average citizens, do not take the active personal interest in our own matters of government that we should take.
Clericalism, Tammanyism, Bolshevism, Syndicalism—and all in the guise of interest in the people—get their holds and their profits in this way. It is essential that we be locally wise and history wise. Any class or section or organization that is less than the nation itself must be watched and be made to keep its own place, or it becomes a menace to the free and larger life of the nation. Even in the case of a great national crisis a superior patriotism is affected and paraded in order that it may camouflage its other and real activities.
When at times we forget ourselves and speak of rights rather than duties in connection with our country, it were well to recall and to repeat the words of Franklin: "The sun never repents of the good he does nor does he ever demand a recompense."
Not only is constant vigilance incumbent upon us, but realizing the fact that the boys and the girls of today are the citizens of tomorrow—the nation's voters and law-makers—it is incumbent upon us to see that American free education through American free public schools, is advanced to and maintained at its highest possibilities, and kept free from any agencies that will make for a divided or anything less than a whole-hearted and intelligent citizenship. The motto on the Shakespeare statue at Leicester Square in London: "There is no darkness but ignorance," might well be reproduced in every city and every hamlet in the nation.
Late revelations have shown how even education can be manipulated and prostituted for ulterior purposes. Parochial schools whether Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, or Oriental, have no place in American institutions—and whether their work is carried on in English or in a foreign language. They are absolutely foreign to the spirit of our institutions. They are purely for the sake of something less than the nation itself. Blind indeed are we if we are not history-wise. Criminal indeed are we to allow any boys or girls to be diverted to them and to be deprived of the advantages of a better schooling and being brought under the influences of agencies that are thoroughly and wholly American.
American education must be made for American institutions and for nothing less than this. The nation's children should be shielded from any power that seeks to get possession of them in order at an early and unaccountable age to fasten authority upon them, and to drive a wedge between them and all others of the nation.
The nation has a duty to every child within its borders. To fail to recognize or to shirk that duty, will call for a price to be paid sometime as great as that that has been paid by every other nation that did not see until too late. Sectarianism in education stultifies and robs the child and nullifies the finest national instincts in education. It is for but one purpose—the use and the power of the organization that plans and that fosters it.
Our government profiting by the long weary struggles of other countries, is founded upon the absolute separation of church and state. This does not mean the separation of religion in its true sense from the state; but keeping it free from every type of sectarian influence and domination. It is ours to see that no silent subtle influences are at work, that will eventually make the same trouble here as in other countries, or that will thrust out the same stifling hand to undermine and to throttle universal free public education, and the inalienable right that every child has to it. Our children are the wards of and accountable to the state—they are not the property of any organization, group or groups, less than the state.
We need the creation of a strong Federal Department of Education of cabinet rank, with ample means and strong powers to be the guiding genius of all our state and local departments of education, with greater attention paid to a more thorough and concrete training in civics, in moral and ethical education, in addition to the other well recognized branches in public school education. It should have such powers also as will enable it to see that every child is in school up to a certain age, or until all the fundamentals of a prescribed standard of American education are acquired.
A recent tabulation made public by a Federal Deputy Commissioner of Naturalization has shown that a little over one tenth, in round numbers, 11,000,000, of our population is composed of unnaturalized aliens. Even this however tells but a part of the story; for vast numbers of even those who have become naturalized, have in no sense become Americanized.
Speaking of this class an able editorial in a recent number of one of our leading New York dailies has said:
"Of the millions of aliens who have gone through the legal forms of naturalization a very large proportion have not in any sense been Americanized, and, though citizens, they are still alien in habits of thought, in speech and in their general attitude toward the community.
"There are industrial centers not far from New York City that are wholly foreign. There are sections of this city that—except as the children through the schools and association with others of their own age yield to change—are intensely alien.
"To penetrate these barriers and open new avenues of communication with the people who live within them is no longer a task to be performed by individual effort. Americanization is a work that must be undertaken and directed on a scale so extensive that only through the cooperation of the States and the Federal Government can it be successfully carried out. It cannot longer be neglected without serious harm to the life and welfare of the Nation."
Some even more startling facts are given out in figures by the Department of the interior, figures supplied to it by the Surgeon General's Office of the Army. The War Department records show that 24.9 percent of the draft army examined by that department's agents were unable to read and understand a newspaper, or to write letters home. In one draft in New York State in May, 1918, 16.6 percent were classed as illiterate. In one draft in connection with South Carolina troops in July, 1918, 49.5 percent where classed as illiterate. In one draft in connection with Minnesota troops in July of the same year, 14.2 percent were classed as illiterate. In other words it means for example that in New York State we have in round numbers 700,000 men between 21 and 31 years of age who are illiterate. The same source reveals the fact that in the nation in round numbers over 10,000,000 are either illiterate or without a knowledge of our language. The South is the home of most of the wholly uneducated, the North of those of foreign speech. And in speaking of this class a recent editorial in another representative New York daily, after making mention of one industrial center but a few miles out of New York City, in New Jersey, where nearly 16 out of every 100 cannot read English, has said:
"Such people may enjoy the advantages America offers. Of its spirit and institutions they can comprehend nothing. They are the easy dupes of foreign agitators, unassimilable, an element of weakness in the social body that might easily be converted into an element of strength. Many of them have the vote, controlled by leaders interested only in designs alien to America's welfare.
"The problem is national in scope. The best way to keep Bolshevism out of America is to reduce ignorance of our speech and everything else to a minimum. However alert our immigration officers may be, foreign agents of social disorder are sure to pass through our doors, and as long as we allow children to grow up among us who have no means of finding out the meaning of our laws and forms of government the seeds of discontent will be sown in congenial soil."
Profoundly true also are the following words from an editorial in still another New York daily in dealing with that great army of 700,000 illiterates within the State, or rather that portion of them who are adults of foreign birth:
"The first thing to do is to teach them, and make them realize that a knowledge of the English language is a prerequisite of first class American citizenship. * * * The wiping out of illiteracy is a foundation stone in building up a strong population, able and worthy to hold its own in the world. With the disappearance of illiteracy and of the ignorance of the language of the country will also disappear many of the trouble-breeding problems which have held back immigrants in gaining their fair share of real prosperity, the intelligence and self-respect which are vital ingredients in any good citizenship. Real freedom of life and character cannot be enjoyed by the man or woman whose whole life is passed upon the inferior plane of ignorance and prejudice. Teach them all how to deserve the benefits of life in America, and they will soon learn how to gain and protect them."
It is primarily among the ignorant and illiterate that Bolshevism, anarchy, political rings, and every agency that attempts through self-seeking to sow the seeds of discontent, treachery, and disloyalty, works to exploit them and to herd them for political ends. No man can have that respect for himself, or feel that he has the respect due him from others as an honest and diligent worker, whatever his line of work, who is handicapped by the lack of an ordinary education. The heart of the American nation is sound. Through universal free public education it must be on the alert and be able to see through Bourbonism and understand its methods on the one hand, and Bolshevism on the other; and be determined through intelligent action to see that American soil is made uncongenial to both.
Our chief problem is to see that Democracy is made safe for and made of real service to the world. Our American education must be made continually more keenly alive to the great moral, ethical and social needs of the time. Thereby it will be made religious without having any sectarian slant or bias; it will be made safe for and the hand-maid of Democracy and not a menace to it.
Vast multitudes today are seeing as never before that the moral and ethical foundations of the nation's and the world's life is a matter of primal concern to all.
We are finding more and more that the simple fundamentals of life and conduct as portrayed by the Christ of Nazareth not only constitutes a great idealism, but the only practical way of life. Compared to this and to the need that it come more speedily and more universally into operation in the life of the world today, truly "sectarian peculiarities are obsolete impertinences."
Our time needs again more the prophet and less the priest. It needs the God-impelled life and voice of the prophet with his face to the future, both God-ward and man-ward, burning with an undivided devotion to truth and righteousness. It needs less the priest, too often with his back to the future and too often the pliant tool of the organization whose chief concern is, and ever has been, the preservation of itself under the ostensible purpose of the preservation of the truth once delivered, the same that Jesus with his keen powers of penetration saw killed the Spirit as a high moral guide and as an inspirer to high and unself-centered endeavor, and that he characterized with such scathing scorn. There are splendid exceptions; but this is the rule now even as it was in his day.
The prophet is concerned with truth, not a system; with righteousness, not custom; with justice, not expediency. Is there a man who would dare say that if Christianity—the Christianity of the Christ—had been actually in vogue, in practice in all the countries of Christendom during the last fifty years, during the last twenty-five years, that this colossal and gruesome war would ever have come about? No clear-thinking and honest man would or could say that it would. We need again the voice of the prophet, clear-seeing, high-purposed, and unafraid. We need again the touch of the prophet's hand to lead us back to those simple fundamental teachings of the Christ of Nazareth, that are life-giving to the individual, and that are world-saving.
We speak of our Christian civilization, and the common man, especially in times like these, asks what it is, where it is—and God knows that we have been for many hundred years wandering in the wilderness. He is thinking that the Kingdom of God on earth that the true teachings of Jesus predicated, and that he labored so hard to actualize, needs some speeding up. There is a world-wide yearning for spiritual peace and righteousness on the part of the common man. He is finding it occasionally in established religion, but often, perhaps more often, independently of it. He is finding it more often through his own contact and relations with the Man of Nazareth—for him the God-man. There is no greater fact in our time, and there is no greater hope for the future than is to be found in this fact.
Jesus gave the great principles, the animating spirit of life, not minute details of conduct. The real Church of Christ is not a hierarchy, an institution, it is a brotherhood—the actual establishing of the Kingdom of God in moral, ethical and social terms in the world.
Among the last words penned by Dr. John Watson—Ian Maclaren—good churchman, splendid writer, but above all independent thinker and splendid man, were the following: "Was it not the chief mistake and also the hopeless futility of Pharisaism to meddle with the minute affairs of life, and to lay down what a man should do at every turn? It was not therefore an education of conscience, but a bondage of conscience; it did not bring men to their full stature by teaching them to face their own problems of duty and to settle them, it kept them in a state of childhood, by forbidding and commanding in every particular of daily life. Pharisaism, therefore, whether Jewish or Gentile, ancient or modern, which replaces the moral law by casuistry, and the enlightened judgment of the individual by the confessional, creates a narrow character and mechanical morals. Freedom is the birthright of the soul, and it is by the discipline of life the soul finds itself. It were a poor business to be towed across the pathless ocean of this world to the next; by the will of God and for our good we must sail the ship ourselves, and steer our own course. It is the work of the Bible to show us the stars and instruct us how to take our reckoning.
"Jesus did not tell us what to do, for that were impossible, as every man has his own calling, and is set in by his own circumstances, but Jesus has told us how to carry ourselves in the things we have to do, and He has put the heart in us to live becomingly, not by pedantic rules, but by an instinct of nobility. Jesus is the supreme teacher of the Bible and He came not to forbid or to command, but to place the Kingdom of God as a living force, and perpetual inspiration within the soul of man, and then, to leave him in freedom and in grace to fulfil himself."
We no longer admit that Christ is present and at work only when a minister is expounding the gospel or some theological precept or conducting some ordained observance in the pulpit; or that religion is only when it is labelled as such and is within the walls of a church. That belonged to the chapter in Christianity that is now rapidly closing, a chapter of good works and results—but so pitiably below its possibilities. So pitiably below because men had been taught and without sufficient thought accepted the teaching that to be a Christian was to hold certain beliefs about the Christ that had been formulated by early groups of men and that had come down through the centuries.
The chapter that is now opening upon the world is the one that puts Christ's own teachings in the simple, frank, and direct manner in which he gave them, to the front. It makes life, character, conduct, human concern and human service of greater importance than mere matters of opinion. It makes eager and unremitting work for the establishing of the Kingdom of God, the kingdom of right relations between men, here on this earth, the essential thing. It insists that the telling test as to whether a man is a Christian is how much of the Christ spirit is in evidence in his life—and in every phase of his life. Gripped by this idea which for a long time the forward-looking and therefore the big men in them have been striving for, our churches in the main are moving forward with a new, a dauntless, and a powerful appeal.
Differences that have sometimes separated them on account of differences of opinion, whether in thought or interpretation, are now found to be so insignificant when compared to the actual simple fundamentals that the Master taught, and when compared to the work to be done, that a great Interallied Church Movement is now taking concrete and strong working form, that is equipping the church for a mighty and far-reaching Christian work. A new and great future lies immediately ahead. The good it is equipping itself to accomplish is beyond calculation—a work in which minister and layman will have equal voice and equal share.
It will receive also great inspiration and it will eagerly strike hands with all allied movements that are following the same leader, but along different roads.
Britain's apostle of brotherhood and leader of the Brotherhood Movement there, Rev. Tom Sykes, who has caught so clearly the Master's own basis of Christianity—love for and union with God, love for and union with the brother—has recently put so much stimulating truth into a single paragraph that I reproduce it here:
"The emergence of the feeling of kinship with the Unseen is the most arresting and revealing fact of human history. The union with God is not through the display of ritual, but the affiliation and conjunction of life. We do not believe we are in a universe that has screens and folds, where the spiritual commerce of man has to be conducted on the principle of secret diplomacy. The universe is frank and open, and God is straightforward and honorable. In making the spirit and practice of brotherliness the test of religious value, we are at one with Him who said: 'Inasmuch as ye do it unto one of the least—ye do it unto me.' We touch the Father when we help His child. Jesus taught us not to come to God asking, art Thou this or that? but to call Him Father and live upon it. Do not admit that many of our Brotherhood meetings are in 'neutral' or 'secular' halls and buildings! 'Where two or three gather in My name, there am I.' Where He is, there is hallowed ground."
We need a stock-taking and a mobilization of our spiritual forces. But what, after all, does this mean? Search as we may we are brought back every time to this same Man of Nazareth, the God-man—Son of Man and Son of God. And gathering it into a few brief sentences it is this: Jesus' great revelation was this consciousness of God in the individual life, and to this he witnessed in a supreme and masterly way, because this he supremely realized and lived. Faith in him and following him does not mean acquiring some particular notion of God or some particular belief about him himself. It is the living in one's own life of this same consciousness of God as one's source and Father, and a living in these same filial relations with him of love and guidance and care that Jesus entered into and continuously lived.
When this is done there is no problem and no condition in the individual life that it will not clarify, mold, and therefore take care of; for "[Greek transliteration: me merimnate te psyche hymon]"—do not worry about your life—was the Master's clear-cut command. Are we ready for this high type of spiritual adventure? Not only are we assured of this great and mighty truth that the Master revealed and going ahead of us lived, that under this supreme guidance we need not worry about the things of the life, but that under this Divine guidance we need not think even of the life itself, if for any reason it becomes our duty or our privilege to lay it down. Witnessing for truth and standing for truth he again preceded us in this.
But this, this love for God or rather this state that becomes the natural and the normal life when we seek the Kingdom, and the Divine rule becomes dominant and operative in mind and heart, leads us directly back to his other fundamental: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. For if God is my Father and if he cares for me in this way—and every other man in the world is my brother and He cares for him in exactly the same way—then by the sanction of God his Father I haven't anything on my brother; and by the love of God my Father my brother hasn't anything on me. It is but the most rudimentary commonsense then, that we be considerate one of another, that we be square and decent one with another. We will do well as children of the same Father to sit down and talk matters over; and arise with the conclusion that the advice of Jesus, our elder brother, is sound: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
He gave it no label, but it has subsequently become known as the Golden Rule. There is no higher rule and no greater developer of the highest there is in the individual human life, and no greater adjuster and beautifier of the problems of our common human life. And when it becomes sufficiently strong in its action in this, the world awaits its projection into its international life. This is the truth that he revealed—the twofold truth of love to God and love for the neighbor, that shall make men free. The truth of the Man of Nazareth still holds and shall hold, and we must realize this adequately before we ask or can expect any other revelation.
We are in a time of great changes. The discovery of new laws and therefore of new truth necessitates changes and necessitates advances. But whatever changes or advances may come, the Divine reality still survives, independent of Jesus it is true, but as the world knows him still better, it will give to him its supreme gratitude and praise, in that he was the most perfect revealer of God to man, of God in man, and the most concrete in that he embodied and lived this truth in his own matchless human-divine life; and stands as the God-man to which the world is gradually approaching. For as Goethe has said—"We can never get beyond the spirit of Jesus."
Love it is, he taught, that brings order out of chaos, that becomes the solvent of the riddle of life, and however cynical, skeptical, or practical we may think at times we may be, a little quiet clear-cut thought will bring us each time back to the truth that it is the essential force that leads away from the tooth and the claw of the jungle, that lifts life up from and above the clod. Love is the world's balance-wheel; and as the warming and ennobling element of sympathy, care and consideration radiates from it, increasing one's sense of mutuality, which in turn leads to fellowship, cooperation, brotherhood, a holy and diviner conception and purpose of life is born, that makes human life more as it should be, as it must be—as it will be.
I love to feel that when one makes glad the heart of any man, woman, child, or animal, he makes glad the heart of God—and I somehow feel that it is true.
As our household fires radiate their genial warmth, and make more joyous and more livable the lot of all within the household walls, so life in its larger scope and in all its human relations, becomes more genial and more livable and reveals more abundantly the deeper riches of its diviner nature, as it is made more open and more obedient to the higher powers of mind and spirit.
Do you know that incident in connection with the little Scottish girl? She was trudging along, carrying as best she could a boy younger, but it seemed almost as big as she herself, when one remarked to her how heavy he must be for her to carry, when instantly came the reply: "He's na heavy. He's mi brither." Simple is the incident; but there is in it a truth so fundamental that pondering upon it, it is enough to make many a man, to whom dogma or creed make no appeal, a Christian—and a mighty engine for good in the world. And more—there is in it a truth so fundamental and so fraught with potency and with power, that its wider recognition and projection into all human relations would reconstruct a world.
I saw the mountains stand
Silent, wonderful, and grand,
Looking out across the land
When the golden light was falling
On distant dome and spire;
And I heard a low voice calling,
"Come up higher, come up higher,
From the lowland and the mire,
From the mist of earth desire,
From the vain pursuit of pelf.
From the attitude of self:
Come up higher, come up higher."
—James G. Clark
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More from Ralph Waldo Trine
- Lived from September 6th, 1866 to February, 22nd 1958
- Born in Mt. Morris, Illinois
- Most popular book is In Tune With the Infinite
- Was an early leader in the New Thought movement.