Francis Greenwood Peabody.

Jesus Christ and the social question : an examination of the teaching of Jesus in its relation to some of the problems of modern social life online

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JESUS CHRIST AND THE
SOCIAL QUESTION



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JESUS CHRIST AND THB
SOCIAL QUESTION



AN EXAMINATION OF THE TEACHING OF JESUS IN

ITS RELATION TO SOME OF THE PROBLEMS

OF MODERN SOCIAL LIFE



BY
FRANCIS GREENWOOD PEABODY

PLUMMER PROFESSOR OF CHRISTIAN MORALS
IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

LONDON : MACMILLAN & CO., Ltd.
1907



All rights -reserved



THENKW YORK|
PUBLIC LIBRARIf

415990

A8T0R, UEN©X ANO
TILDEN F0UNDATI0M8.



Copyright, 1900,
By the MACMILLAN COMPANY.



Set up and electrotypcd November, 1900. Reprinted March,
X901; April, 1901 ; August, October, 1901; August, 1902; February,
1903; March, 1904; June, 1905; February, April, August, 1906;
March, August, October, 1907.



NorincoU ^resa

J. 8. Gushing Sc Co. — Berwick k Smith
Norwood Mass. U.S.A.



THROUGH SUNNY DAYS AND ON THROUGH STORMY WEATHER,

YET EVER HAND IN HAND, BELOVED WIFE,
WE TWO HAVE WALKED OUR QUIET WAY TOGETHER

ALONG THE DUSTY ROAD OF COMMON LIFE.

BRIGHT WERE THE VISTAS ON OUR JOURNEY SEEN,
AND DARK THE VALLEYS OF THE SHADOW LAY,

BUT YOUR DEAR LOVE, LIKE ISRAEL'S GOD, HAS BEEN
MY LIGHT IN DARKNESS AND MY SHADE BY DAY.

I CANNOT GIVE YOU WHAT A SCHOLAR OUGHT,
LEARNING OR WIT OR INSIGHT FOR THE TRUE;

I BUT TRANSCRIBE WHAT YOU HAVE DAILY TAUGHT,—
THE SPIRIT OF THE MASTER SEEN IN YOU.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

PAGE

The Comprehensiveness of the Teaching of Jesus • i

CHAPTER n
The Social Principles of the Teaching of Jesus . 76

CHAPTER III
The Teaching of Jesus concerning the Family . .129

CHAPTER IV
The Teaching of Jesus concerning the Rich . .183

CHAPTER V

The Teaching of Jesus concerning the Care of the

Poor 226

CHAPTER VI

The Teaching of Jesus concerning the Industrial

Order 267

CHAPTER Vn

The Correlation of the Social Questions . , . 327

vii



JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL
QUESTION

CHAPTER I

THE COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING OF

JESUS

Cije life bias tfje Itgljt of men.

There are many periods in history which, as
one looks back on them, seem marked by distinct
and central problems or achievements, as if to
each such time there had been committed a
special work to do. Their characteristics stand
out clearly against the past, as a distant range
of mountains stands out against an evening sky.
We speak with confidence of the mission of
Greece to civilization, of the place of Rome in
history, of the vocation of the Hebrews, of the
per-iod of the Reformation, of the epoch of
Napoleon. By one lesson at a time, — through
types of beauty or strength or righteousness,
through instructions in intellectual liberty, or
warnings of the lust for power, — the Master of
the ages seems to have directed the education
of the human race. Sometimes this mission of
an age or race is recognized by those who are

B I



2 JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL QUESTION

fulfilling it; sometimes it is discerned when one
stands at a distance, where the crowded details
of life melt into a general view. The Hebrews,
on the one hand, were sustained throughout
their history by the conviction of their sacred
and special calling, and that conviction gave
to their career its sombre, strenuous, self-examin-
ing character ; in Greek life, on the other hand,
it was the very unconsciousness of a didactic
mission which made possible the prevailing
serenity and charm. If Greek art had stood
consciously before the glass of the future, it
might have been the teacher, but could not have
been the joy, of the world.

The present age belongs, without question, to
the former class. There is not only given to it
a mission, but there is added a distinct conscious-
ness of that mission. We do not have to wait
for the philosophical historian of some remote
future to discern the characteristic problem of
the present time. Behind all the extraordinary
achievements of modern civilization, its transfor-
mations of business methods, its miracles of scien-
tific discovery, its mighty combinations of political
forces, there lies at the heart of the present
time a burdening sense of social mal-adjustment
which creates what we call the social ques-
tion. "The social question," remarks Professor
Wagner, '* comes of the consciousness of a con-
tradiction between economic development and
the social ideal of liberty and equahty which is



COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING 3

being realized in political life." ^ This is what
gives its fundamental character to the present age.
The consciousness of contradiction between eco-
nomic progress and spiritual ideals may use the
language of social philosophy, or may take the
form of social service, or may be organized in
social legislation, or may simply utter itself in the
passionate cry of indignation or hate which comes
from the hungry or despairing, or from those who
sympathize with them. In all these varied, and
often unreasonable or extravagant, ways the char-
acteristic emotion of the time expresses itself. It
is the age of the social question. Never were so
many people, learned and ignorant, rich and poor,
philosophers and agitators, men and women, so
stirred by this recognition of inequality in social
opportunity, by the call to social service, by dreams
of a better social world.

There is, of course, a huge, inert mass of unob-
servant humanity, with no perception of this new
region of hope and faith into which the present
generation is entering. These persons live their
lives of business or of pleasure, as Jesus, with
splendid satire, said of such persons in his own
age, with just enough power of observation to tell
the signs of to-morrow's weather, but without the

^A. Wagner, " Lehrbuch der politischen Oekonomie," 2. Aufl.,
1876, s. 36. So also Bebel, "Die Frau und der Sozialismus," 10.
Aufl., 1891, s. 240: "Society, in its form of wealth, has grown far
more aristocratic than in any earlier age, ... in its ideals and its
legislation it has grown far more democratic."



4 JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL QUESTION

capacity to discern the signs of their own times.^
No one, however, who lifts his eyes from his own
private life can mistake these signs of the times.
The literature of the present age is saturated with
the desire for social amelioration or social revo-
lution ; workmen with grimy hands and women
with eager eyes are turning the pages of the
economists in search of practical guidance ; social
panaceas are confidently offered on every hand ;
organization on an unprecedented scale is con-
solidating the fighting force of the hand-working
class ; legislation is freely advocated which prac-
tically revolutionizes the earlier conception of the
function of government ; and, finally, the party of
revolution, with its millions of voters in European
countries, officially announces that all other issues
are to be subordinated to the social question, and
that all other parties are to be regarded as "a
mere reactionary mass."^ It is the age of the
social question; and to pretend that social life is
undisturbed, or is but superficially agitated, is sim-
ply to confess that one has been caught in an
eddy of the age and does not feel the sweep of its
main current.

It is, however, not enough to say that among
human interests the social question is just now

^Matt. xvi. 2, 3; Luke xii. 54-56.

2 " Die Befreiung der Arbeit muss das Werk der Arbeiterklasse
sein, der gegenuber alle anderen Klassen nur eine reaktionare Masse
sind," Programm der sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands,
Gotha, 1878.



COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING 5

central and commanding. There are, it must be
added, two characteristics of the modern temper
which make of the social question of the present
time something quite different from the economic
and social agitations of the past. In the first
place, we are now confronted by a degree of
radicalism and a scope of reconstructive purpose
which practically create a new situation. Social
and industrial reforms in the past have been for
the most part ameliorative or philanthropic meas-
ures, accepting the existing order of things, and
mitigating its harsher effects. Now and then a
sudden wave of indignation has risen out of the
depths of human nature and has swept away some
special abuse like American slavery, or some spe^
cial form of social relationship like the micien
regime of France; but for the most part the
desire to relieve the unfortunate and improve
the condition of the hand-worker has satisfied
itself with deeds of charity and with industrial
expedients which calm the surface of social life.
A wholly different state of mind prevails to-day.
Beneath all the tranquillizing arrangements of
philanthropy or industry which are being applied
to social disorder, there is a vast and rising
tide of discontent, stirring to its very bottom
the stream of social life. The social question
of the present age is not a question of mitigating
the evils of the existing order, but a question
whether the existing order itself shall last. It is
not so much a problem of social amelioration



6 JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL QUESTION

which occupies the modern mind, as a problem
of social transformation and reconstruction. The
new social interest is concerned not so much with
effects as causes ; not with social therapeutics, but
with social bacteriology and social hygiene. In-
deed, in this frame of mind there is often to be
discerned a violent reaction from traditional ways
of charity and from moderate measures of re-
form. The time is wasted, it is urged, which is
given to lopping off occasional branches of social
wrong, when the real social question cuts at the
root from which these branches grow. Instead of
inquiring what ways of charity are wise, let us
rather, it is urged, inquire why charity is neces-
sary and why poverty exists. Instead of reform-
ing the adjustments of industry, let us rather ask
why the effects of industry are so cruel, debasing,
and unjust Not a merciful use of things as they
are, but a state of things where mercy will not be
necessary; not patronage, but justice; not the gen-
erous distribution of superfluous wealth, but the
righteous restitution of wealth to those who have
created it, — such are the demands to which our
ears have of late become accustomed, and which
indicate the character of the modern social ques-
tion. " The number of relief- and charity-panaceas
for poverty," said an English agitator, " are of na
more value than a poultice to a wooden leg. What
we want is economic revolution, and not pious and
heroic resolutions." ^

1 Ben Tillett, in London TinteSy January l^ 1895.



COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING J

This unflinching radicalism proceeds to examine
the very pillars of social life, and to consider
whether they are worth what it costs to buttress
and maintain them. Three such social institutions
appear to support the fabric of modern civiliza-
tion — the family, private property, and the State;
and there is not one of these institutions whose
continued existence in its present form is not now
a matter of active discussion, or whose abolition is
not confidently prophesied. Is not the institution
of the family to be regarded as a passing incident
in the course of social evolution, the end of whose
social service has nearly arrived } Is not the insti-
tution of private property a mere symbol of social
oppression, so that, as the earlier revolutionists
cried, "Property is robbery," their modern fol-
lowers may now add, " It is right to rob the rob-
bers '' } Is not the institution of the State, in its
present form, a mere instrument of the privileged
class, and must it not be supplanted by a coopera-
tive commonwealth of collective ownership } Ques-
tions like these, freely agitated in our day by all
sorts and conditions of people, indicate how funda-
mental and thoroughgoing the social problem of
which they are a part must be. They propose a
revolution, not only in the outward conditions of
social life, but in the very instincts and habits of
mind which adjust themselves to the present social
order.

Such possibilities of social change are viewed by
many persons with grave apprehension, and by



8 JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL QUESTION

many with jubilant hope. To one class of observ-
ers, we appear to be threatened by social disaster,
industrial chaos, a new slavery ; to the opposite
class, we appear to be at the dawn of a happy
era of brotherhood and justice, and Mr. William
Morris sings: —

" Come hither, lads, and hearken, for there is a tale to tell.
Of the wonderful days a-coming when all shall be better
than well." ^

From either point of view, however, the social
question is seen to have a quality of comprehen-
siveness and radicalism which makes it practically
a new issue, and it is important at the outset of
the present inquiry to recognize how large a ques-
tion it is with which we have to do. A generation
ago Mr. Lowell touched the note of the social
question of his time in his " Vision of Sir Launf al."
Social duty seemed then fulfilled in deeds of benev-
olence and self-sacrificing love; and a whole gen-
eration learned to repeat his lines as the summari?
of social service : —

" Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare.
Who giveth himself with his alms feeds three> —
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and Me."

The temper of the present age is no longer com-
prehended by such a statement of the social ques-
tion. Instead of generosity, men ask for justice ;
instead of alms, they demand work. Thus the le-

1" Chants for Socialists," London, 1885.



COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING 9

gend of the search for holiness, if written for
present-day readers, must be translated from the
language of charity into the language of industrial
life, and the new Sir Launfal finds his Holy Grail
through productive labor rather than through pity-
ing love.

*' They who tread the path of labor, follow where Christ's feet

have trod,
They who work without complaining, do the holy will of God.
Where the weary toil together, there am I among my own,
Where the tired workman sleepeth, there am I with him

alone.

* m * * * m *

This is the Gospel of labor — ring it, ye bells of the kirk,
The Lord of Love came down from above to live with the
men who work." ^

A second characteristic of the modern social
question is quite as unmistakable and significant.
Whatever aspect of it we approach, we find the
discussion and agitation of the present time turn-
ing in a quite unprecedented degree to moral
issues, and using the language and weapons of
a moral reform. The social question of the pres-
ent time is an ethical question. Selfishness enough
exists, it is true, among advocates of social change;
class hatred is also there, and the lust for power,
and the primitive instincts which, as Hobbes said,
make each man a wolf to his neighbor; but the
power and the pathos of the modern social move-
ment reside in the passionate demand, now heard

1 Henry Van Dyke, "The Toiling of Felix," 1898.



10 JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL QUESTION

on every hand, for justice, brotherhood, liberty,
the chance for a human way of life. In his
"Progress and Poverty" Mr. Henry George re-
marks, " If our inquiry into the cause which makes
low wages and pauperism the accompaniments of
material progress has any value, it will bear trans-
lation from the language of economics into that
of ethics, and, as the source of social evils, show a
wrong." ^ That is the note of the present situation.
The social question, which on its surface is an eco-
nomic question, issues in reality from a sense of
wrong. This ethical note is struck by the new
philanthropy, in its unprecedented sense of social
obligation, its call for personal devotion, its demand
for self -discipline and wisdom ; and the same note
is heard in the harsher tone of the labor agitation,
declaring against the iniquity of the employer and
the inconsistency of private ownership with the
brotherhood of man. Behind many an economic
fallacy which would seem to have no right to per-
manent influence lies this force of moral feeling,
which supports the irrational creed, as a building
supports the scaffolding v/hich leans against it.

Here is a quality of the modern social question
which one immediately perceives to be a sign of
promise. Misdirected, passionate, inarticulate, the
cry for social righteousness may be; but after all

1" Progress and Poverty," Book VII, Ch. I. See also, Pref-
ace to fourth edition : " The inquiry passes into the field of ethics.
... It also identifies the law of social life with the great moral
law of justice."



COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING II

it is an unmistakable sign of social progress, when
millions of people, in all lands and of all conditions,
are trying, however blindly, to discover what is
right and what is wrong in social conduct, and to
reach some consistency between their social condi-
tion and their social ideals. " The real solution of
this problem," said Professor Ingram to a Trades-
Union Congress in Dublin, " can be effected only
by such reorganization of ideas and renovation of
sentiment as will rise to the dimensions of an
intellectual and moral reform." ^ It is not by
accident, then, that the social question is most
conspicuous in the most prosperous and best
educated countries. It is one expression of pros-
perity and education. There is no social question
in Turkey or Egypt. The problem of social jus-
tice does not grow out of the worst social condi-
tions, but out of the best. It is not a mark of
social decadence, but of social vitality. It is one
expression of popular education, intellectual lib-
erty, and quickened sentiments of sympathy and
love, and there can be nothing but good in the end
to come of an agitation which fundamentally repre-
sents a renaissance of moral responsibility.

It is its ethical quality, moreover, which gives
to the social question of the present day its
commanding interest for generous minds. Great
numbers of men and women are lavishing their
time and thought on social service, without pre-
cisely defining to themselves why such occupations

^Kaufmann, *' Christian Socialism," 1888, p. 12.



12 JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL QUESTION

open, as they are pursued, into a peculiar peace
and joy. There is nothing intrinsically picturesque
or noble about the poor or degraded ; there is
little romance in the administration of details in
industrial or social life. Why is it, then, that time,
ability, money, and sympathy are in such abun-
dance offered for such service } It is because,
through these channels of activity, the moral life
of the time finds its natural outlet. It is a great
source of happiness to be associated with people
who are trying, however imperfectly, to make a
better world. Many a life emerges through such
association from an experience of narrowness and
emptiness into one of breadth, fulness, and satis-
faction. It is like a journey from one's own
village to a foreign land, from which one returns
with a new sense of human kinship, a more com-
prehensive sympathy, and a profounder gratitude
for his own blessings. The advent of the social
question in its present form has brought with it a
great and happy revival of ethical confidence.
The older ethics was individual, introspective,
self-examining, and its stream grew narrow and
uninviting and dry; but into its bed there has
broken this new flood of social interests, like a
spring freshet filling the channel to its banks ; and
now a score of outlets can hardly contain the
stream of philanthropic service which sweeps on to
the refreshing of the world,^

1 The ethical character of the social question is observed not by
the social reformers only, but by the philosophers of history : Th,



COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING 1 3

In the light, then, of these two characteristics of
the modern social question, its radical intention and
its ethical passion, a further quality which one
observes in the present situation may appear at
first sight surprising. It would seem as if there
were an obvious kinship between the spirit of this

Ziegler, "Die soziale Frage eine sittliche Frage," 1891, a stirring
attempt " to examine critically the conditions which exist, and to
consider how they may be brought to an issue in which our highest
good shall not be lost," s. 8. See also : Jodl, " Volkswirtschafts-
lehre und Ethik, Deutsche Zeit- und Streitfragen," 1886; F.
Hasler (from the Roman Catholic standpoint), "Ueber das Ver-
haltniss der Volkswirtschaft und Moral," 1887; Bonar, " Philosophy
and Political Economy in some of their Relations," 1893, ^k* ^>
International Journal of Ethics, January, 1897, p. 191, C. S. Devas,
" The Restoration of Economics to Ethics," " All [these sciences]
move in an ethical atmosphere; ... all have principally to do
with what is right and wrong " ; L. Ragaz, " Evangelium und
Moderne Moral," 1898; and for the history of this " socialization
of ideals," Stein, " Die soziale Frage im Lichte der Philosophic,"
1897, especially s. 660 ff., "Die Sozialisierung der Religion."
Compare also the evidence of the economists : A. T. Hadley,
"Economics," p. 23, "The modern economist . . . would say that
nothing was economically beneficent which was ethically bad ; he
would insist with equal force that nothing could be ethically good
which was economically disastrous"; C. D. Wright, " The Relation
of Political Economy to the Labor Question," 1882 ; F. A. Lange,
" Die Arbeiterfrage," 1879. Note also the remarkable expansion of
systematic ethics into the sphere of the social question: Wundt,
"Ethik," 1886, ss. 159 ff., 498 ff., 529 ff.; Paulsen, "System der
Ethik," 1889, s. 698 ff.; and his paper before the loter Evang.-soz.
Kongress, 1899, s. 95, " W^andlungen des Bildungsideals in ihrem
Zusammenhang mit der sozialen Entwickelung"; Runze, " Prak-
tische Ethik," 1891, s. 65 ff., with much bibliographical material;
H. S. Nash, " Genesis of the Social Conscience," 1897, p. 223 ff.;
Newman Smyth, "Christian Ethics," Ch. IV; "The Social Prob-
lem and Christian Duties."



14 JESUS CHRIST AND THE SOCIAL QUESTION

new philanthropy and the spirit of the Christian
religion. In both there is the same sense of value
in the humblest human soul, the same desire for a
spiritual democracy, the same call for self-sacrifice,
the same readiness to overthrow existing traditions
and institutions for the sake of righteousness.
The social question, one might anticipate, would
be at heart not only an ethical question but a
religious question also. " The religious element,"
said Mazzini, " is universal, immortal. . . . Every
great revolution has borne its stamp and revealed
it in its origin or in its aim. . . . The instinctive
philosophy of the people is faith in God." ^
"Socialism," it has been remarked, "in its most
explicit and absolute form, has a great attraction
for the masses, by reason of that quality which it
possesses in common with the gospels. ... It is
this factor which has lent to those who profess
and propagate it the illusion of an apostolate, and
has inspired in those who are its objects an enthu-
'^iasm extending to fanaticism, to crime devoid of
personal motive, to the scaffold itself." ^ Yet,
nothing is in fact more conspicuous than the lack
of practical cooperation, and in many instances
the distrust and hostility, which prevail between
these two ways of social service. Sometimes
there is a candid dread of theological complica-
tions, as when scientific charity lays down the

1 " Faith and the Future," 1835.

2*«Nuova Anthologia," 16 November, 1898, p. 269. F. Nobili*
Vitelleschi, " II Socialismo di Stato."



COMPREHENSIVENESS OF THE TEACHING 1 5

principle of abstinence from proselytizing. Some
times there is a sheer disappointment with tho
social effectiveness of the Christian Church, such
as forced one of the most judicious labor leaders in
England to say that he saw no place for religion in
the working-man's programme. Sometimes, again,
there is a genuine reproduction of Christian prin-
ciples of conduct without formal recognition of the
Christian Church, as in the extraordinary growth
of the cooperative system in Great Britain. In
many such ways of social activity the instincts
which in other centuries would have drawn
people toward religion are finding their satisfaction
without religion ; or, rather, are finding in philan-
thropy or labor unions or cooperative societies or
kindred social interests practical equivalents for



Online LibraryFrancis Greenwood PeabodyJesus Christ and the social question : an examination of the teaching of Jesus in its relation to some of the problems of modern social life → online text (page 1 of 25)