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THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

IN THE

MODERN WORLD



THE SIXTH SERIES OF JOHN CALVIN MCNAIR LECTURES
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA

IN 1913
EXPANDED AND REVISED



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO DALLAS
ATLANTA SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., LIMITED

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

IN THE

MODERN WORLD



BY

FRANCIS GREENWOOD PEABODY

PLUMMER PROFESSOR OF CHRISTMJf MORALS
(EMERITUS) IN HARVARD UNIVERSITY



THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1914

All rights reserved



COPYRIGHT, 1914,
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.



Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1914.



NoriuooB

J. 8. Gushing Co. Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.



TO G. W. P. 1

IN VIGILS PROSTRATE AND WITH FASTINGS FAINT,
HER VISIONS OF THE CHRIST SUSTAINED THE SAINT,
AND NO RUDE NOISE OF WORLDLY WANT OR CARE
DISTURBED THE STILLNESS OF THE CONVENT'S PRAYER.
" WHERE, LORD," ONE ASKED, " MAY THEY WHO LOVE

THEE MOST

BEHOLD THY COUNTENANCE ERE THEY DEPART ? "
" SEEK ME," THE SAVIOUR ANSWERED, " IN THE HOST
OR ON THE ALTAR OF SAINT GERTRUDE'S HEART."

NO MYSTIC VOICES FROM THE HEAVENS ABOVE
NOW SATISFY THE SOULS WHICH CHRIST CONFESS ;
THEIR HEAVENLY VISION IS IN WORKS OF LOVE,
A NEW AGE SUMMONS TO NEW SAINTLINESS.
BEFORE TH* UNCLOISTERED SHRINE OF HUMAN NEEDS
AND ALL UNCONSCIOUS OF THE WORTH OR PRICE,
THEY LAY THEIR FRAGRANT GIFTS OF GRACIOUS DEEDS
UPON THE ALTAR OF SELF-SACRIFICE.

1 Saint Gertrude of Eisleben (1256-1302) passed her entire
life from five years of age in a convent, where she was permitted
to see many visions of the Saviour. When another suppliant
asked where Christ might be found, the Saviour answered:
" Either on the altar or in the heart of Gertrude." (Man moge
ihn entweder im Tabernakel oder im Herzen Gertrud's suchen.)
The "Revelations" of Saint Gertrude (Insinuationum divina
pietatis exercitia) were published in many editions during the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I

PAGE

THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE . . i

CHAPTER II
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE MODERN FAMILY . 37

CHAPTER III

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE MODERN BUSINESS

WORLD 76

CHAPTER IV
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE MAKING OF MONEY . 106

CHAPTER V
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE USES OF MONEY . 135

CHAPTER VI
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE MODERN STATE . 161

CHAPTER VII
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH . 195

INDEX 229



vii



THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE

MODERN WORLD

i

THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

IN one of the most vigorous as well as the short-
est Letters of the New Testament, the Apostle,
writing to Titus, his "own son after the common
faith," reenforces his general doctrine of Christian
ethics by a special application to the circumstances
in which Titus finds himself at Crete. The Chris-
tian life, the Apostle says, is practicable even there.
The Cretans, among whom Titus had been left
"to set in order the things that are wanting,"
were, it was true, "liars, beasts, and gluttons."
"This witness," the writer agrees, "is true"; but
this truth is precisely what gives an opportunity
for Titus to teach the Cretans a "healthy" doc-
trine of chastity, discretion, and gravity. "The
grace of God that bringeth salvation hath ap-
peared to all men." Crete was a good place
for a Christian to "adorn the doctrine of God."
" For this cause left I thee in Crete." The problem
of the Christian life was not to run away from a bad
place, but to serve it and save it. The purpose of



2 THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD

God was to train one to live "soberly, righteously,
and godly," not in a world of his own choosing, but
"in this present world." l Soberly as concerns one's
self, righteously as concerns one's neighbor, piously
as concerns one's God, these three principles
made, according to the Apostle, a practicable rule
of conduct for a young man of the first century in
a vicious and pleasure-loving world. 2

But could a Christian teacher speak so confi-
dently now ? Is the Christian life practicable in
this present world? Is it possible to live in the
world as it now is, accepting its methods, partici-
pating in its business, involved in its social, eco-
nomic, and political machinery, and at the same
time to lead a sober, righteous, and godly life, fit
to adorn the doctrine of God? Under what con-
ditions can the ideals of the Christian religion sur-
vive? Amid the licentiousness and commercial-
ism of modern society can a domestic life be so
maintained that it may be with reasonable accuracy
described as a Christian family ? Amid the brutal
competitions of modem industry can trade be
administered and profit be made in ways which
are consistent with Christian discipleship ? Amid



1 Titus I, 4; II, 12; " irai8vov(ra ^/tas " (Zuchtigt uns;
Luther). " Die Gnade Gottes hat einen padagogischen Zweck,"
Heydenbach, in Meyer, " Kommentar iiber das N.T."; 1866,
ute Abth. s. 339.

1 Bernard, Serm. XI : " Sobrie erga nos, juste erga proximum,
pie erga Deum " ; cited in the detailed note of Alford, " The Greek
Testament," etc., 1865.



THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 3

the plottings of national politics and the colli-
sions of international interests can we fairly speak
of a Christian civilization ? And to ask an
even more searching question does the Chris-
tian Church itself, in its present condition of con-
ventional conformity and ecclesiastical limitation,
provide a congenial environment for the practice of
that simplicity which is " toward Christ " ? On
what terms is it possible to live a Christian life in
a modern world? Must not one take his choice
between the two ? Is the Christian religion a
practicable faith among the inevitable conditions
of modern efficiency and happiness; or is it the
survival of an idealism which, however beautiful
it may once have been, has become impracticable
to-day ?

These questions have created in many thoughtful
minds a profound sense of perplexity, and even of
alarm. The world which confronts a modern man
is very different from the provincial and primitive
environment of the New Testament teaching;
but even though this new world is less likely than
that of Crete to produce "liars, beasts, and glut-
tons," it seems quite as hard to adjust to the
maxims of the Christian Gospel. A modern man,
for example, finds himself compelled by circum-
stances to devote two -thirds of his waking hours
to the making of his living and the securing of a
margin of income, but when he turns, in some
hastily snatched interval, to the New Testament,



4 THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD

he reads the unqualified command of Jesus Christ,
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth."
Another man is trained in habits of economy and
thrift, and is met by the peremptory counsel:
"Sell that thou hast and give to the poor." A
student of modern methods in charity is taught to
distrust as a social menace the practice of indis-
criminate relief, and then finds his science con-
fronted by the saying, "Give to him that asketh
thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn
not thou away." An unjustified attack is made on
one's self or one's country, and resistance to it has
to meet the words, which to Tolstoi made the cen-
tral teaching of the Gospel, "Whosoever shall
smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other
also." Must one not choose between the idealism
of the Gospels and the utilitarianism of modern
life ? Must he not frankly confess that the Chris-
tian law of conduct and the demands of commer-
cial or political stability "in this present world"
are irreconcilably opposed to each other, and that
under the circumstances of modern civilization,
which one can neither escape nor for the present
transform, the Christian character has become an
impracticable dream ?

The issue differs from many that have been
regarded as serious in that it is irreparable and
absolute. Whether Church or State should be su-
preme, whether priest or preacher should direct,
whether liberty or conformity should prevail,



THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 5

these controversies of the past might be deter-
mined without a final catastrophe. But whether
contemporary life and historical Christianity are
incompatible with each other, whether the choice
must be made between the ancient faith and
the modern world, that is a fundamental ques-
tion. If that choice must be made, it would
be made, by the great majority of thoughtful
minds, without hesitation, though often with much
distress. It might be hard to live without the
comforts and consolations of Christianity, but it
would be impossible to live in a world that is gone.
One might sigh for a beautiful past, but he must
live and work in a real, even though it be an ugly,
present. The Christian life must be frankly sur-
rendered if one is forced to the conclusion that its
demands and ideals are impracticable in a modern
world.

This conclusion, which shakes the very pillars
of Christian loyalty, and leaves of Christian ethics
nothing more than a picturesque ruin, overthrown
by the earthquakes of modern change, is practically
reached by two groups of inquirers, who in other
respects have nothing in common and stand at
opposite poles of opinion and sympathy, but who
agree in forcing this issue between Christian ideal-
ism and contemporary facts. On the one hand
are the critics of Christianity who condemn it as
incompatible with modern life ; on the other hand
are the apologists for Christianity who defend it as



6 THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD

an alternative to modern life. As to the first of
these conclusions, one has but to recall in the lit-
erature and philosophy of the present day the note
of disillusion, or even condescension, which may
be frequently heard concerning religion in general
and the Christian religion in particular. "None
of us are Christians," a distinguished Eng-
lish philosopher has affirmed, "and we all know,
no matter what we say, we ought not to be. ...
We have lived a long time now the professors of a
creed which no one can consistently practise and
which, if practised, would be as immoral as unreal." l
"We are," an Oxford tutor has written, "official
Christians and not real Christians. . . . Let us
have done with pretence. Let us cease to call our-
selves Christians when we do not follow Christ. . . .
The last sixty years have witnessed a kind of col-
lapse of Christianity." 2 " It must be plain," Profes-
sor Rauschenbusch remarks, "to any thoughtful
observer, that immense numbers of men are turning
away from traditional religion. . . . Many of its
defenders are querulously lamenting the growth
of unbelief. They stand on a narrowing island
amid a growing flood, saving what they can of the
wreckage of faith." 3

Thus, from many quarters, from friendly, in-

1 F. H. Bradley, International Journal of Ethics, October, 1894.
2 Garrod, "The Religion of All Good Men," 1906, pp. 154,
iS9, 65.

"Christianizing the Social Order," 1912, pp. 117-120.



THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 7

different, and hostile critics, comes this confession
of an imperilled or a defeated Christianity. " Even
the unprejudiced observer," Eucken concludes, "is
constrained to admit, that Christianity no longer
holds its old position. It has been driven from its
status of undisputed possession and forced into an
attitude of defense." 1 "The men in whom the
religious instinct is strongest," Mr. Lowes Dickin-
son affirms, "move farther and farther from the
Christian postulates." 2 Finally there is heard the
bitter protest of Nietzsche against the decadent
and anaemic ethics of Christian sentimentalism :
" Christianity is the one great curse, the one great
spiritual corruption." " It is our more strenuous
and instinctive piety which forbids us to continue
Christians." 3

When one passes from these conclusions of
academic minds to the utterances of social revo-
lutionists, he finds the same sense of impractica-
bility given an equally unmeasured expression.
A generation ago Marx wrote: "For a society
whose economic relations consist in the dealing
with its products as commodities and values . . .
Christianity, with its cult of the abstract man,
especially in its bourgeois development as Protes-
tantism, Deism, etc., is the most appropriate
form of religion. . . . This religious reflection

1 " Can We Still Be Christians?" tr. 1914, p. 48.

*" Religion: a Criticism and a Forecast," 1905, p. 67.

1 " Sammtliche Werke," 1895, VIII, 270; XIII, 317.



8 THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD

of the real world will only then finally vanish
when the conditions of practical work-a-day life
establish rational relations with man and with
nature," * and Bebel, with still firmer assurance,
taught: "Religion will not be abolished or God
dethroned. . . . Without attack of force or sup-
pression of opinion of any kind, religion will of itself
vanish. It is the transcendental reflection of the
existing social order." 2 To the same purport, in
answer to an inquiry lately made concerning the
prospects of the Christian religion, a leader of the
Social Democracy of Holland has frankly replied :
"The process of evolution involves the dissolution
of the religious sentiment," and a representative of
the same party in Russia has added, "The progress
of humanity is the death-sentence of religion." 3

If, on the other hand, one turns from these
critics of Christianity to those who conceive them-
selves to be its defenders, the same conclusion of
impracticability is not infrequently promoted by
the form of apologetics employed. To precipitate
an issue between religion and modern life, to set
religion in conflict with the principles of modern
research, may be a heroic enterprise ; but its effect
upon the modern mind cannot be anything but a
pathetic sense of impracticability. When, for ex-

1 "Das Kapital," ate Aufl., I, 1872, s. 56, 57.
* "Die Frau und der Sozialismus," xote Aufl., 1891, s. 313, 314.
3 Matthieu, "Das Christentum und die soziale Krise der
Gegenwart," 1913, s. 89, note.



THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 9

ample, an eloquent English priest maintains that
the "scientific temperament" is "opposed to any
such scheme as the Christian"; that over against
the scientific view of the universe stands the
"magical view," and that one must take his choice
which way to go, 1 what impression does his
brilliant dialectic make on the modern mind?
One hears the argument as from afar, as a visitor
to some cathedral hears the chanting of the monks
behind the choir-screen. To conclude, "I cannot
doubt that it is truer to say that Christianity runs
counter to our civilization than that it fulfils it,"
is to surrender the cause of Christianity. A
religion which runs counter to our civilization
will be run over by our civilization. If civilization
stands at the crossroads, where one way leads to
the "scientific temperament," and another to the
"Christian scheme," then there can be little doubt
which way the movement of serious thought will
go. Christianity and modern men will soon find
themselves so far apart that they cannot even hear
each other's voices; and Christian apologists will
be defending a position so remote from the interests
of modern life that it is not even attacked.

Or, when again, a distinguished philosopher, ap-
proaching "the problem of Christianity," conceives
that problem to have been hidden from the mind
of Jesus himself, and disclosed only to the later
Church, so that "the mind of Jesus did not make

1 Figgis, "Civilization at the Crossroads," 1912, pp. 3, 261.



10 THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD

explicit what proved to be precisely the most char-
acteristic feature of Christianity; and the core of
faith ... is not in the person or sayings of the
founder"; 1 no amount of metaphysical subtlety
or literary charm can obscure the fact that this is
an impracticable Christianity. It turns the New
Testament upside down. The Church, not its
Teacher, becomes the object of loyalty. A conse-
quence is mistaken for a cause. Japanese Shintoism,
with its reverence of ancestors and of the Imperial
Throne, is a more conspicuous expression than
Christianity of religion as loyalty to a Beloved
Community. Christianity, if it is to have any
practicability, cannot forfeit the relationship of
the individual soul with its personal Master or sub-
stitute devotion to the Church for discipleship of
Jesus Christ.

Something of the same impression of imprac-
ticability is made on many unsophisticated minds
by that interpretation of the New Testament, now
much in fashion, which finds its essential character
in what are called the eschatological or apocalyptic
teachings of the Gospels. It has been of late
pointed out, with a fulness never before attempted,
that much of the language of the Gospels, and much
of the literature which lies behind the Gospels, is
colored by the anticipation of an approaching
catastrophe, which was to make an end of the
existing social order and to usher in the Messiah's

1 Royce, "The Problem of Christianity," 1913, 1, pp. 415, 416.



THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 1 1

reign. This great expectation made, it is urged,
the central motive of the teaching of Jesus, and
preparation for this millennial revolution was to
the first disciples a supreme concern.

Many passages of the Gospels go far to confirm
this eschatological view. A millennial hope unques-
tionably burned in the hearts of the Hebrew people,
and the ministry of Jesus no doubt fanned this
hope into a flame. "The Son of man shall come
in his glory" ; "The time is at hand" ; "There be
some standing here which shall not taste of death
till they see the Son of man coming in his king-
dom " ; "Watch ye therefore " ; these, and many
similar prophecies of a world-judgment, repeat the
warnings of an impending catastrophe which
abound in the Apocalyptic writings. If, therefore,
as is confidently argued, the cardinal principle of
New Testament interpretation is to be found in
this feverish anticipation of the end of the existing
world, then the ethics of Christianity must be
shaped by this expectation and must be appropriate,
not to social conditions which are fixed or perma-
nent, but to a fleeting and perishing world. It
must be an interim ethics, acceptable to those only
whose minds are dominated by the millennial
dream. Christian ethics was a product of this early
expectation and must share its fate. Interim con-
duct, adapted to a world that is to pass away,
cannot be appropriate to a world that is perma-
nent. "Can any moralist," asks an English critic,



12 THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD

"firmly persuaded of the imminent dissolution of
the world and all things hi it, frame an ethical code
adequate for all time? . . . These precepts,
literally pursued, mean in any age the dissolution
of what is called society. . . . Jesus did not wish
to give men something to live by, but something
wherewith to face the day of the Son of man." l
When, therefore, the dreams of the early Christians
proved to be illusory, and the later followers of
Jesus were forced to adjust themselves to an un-
regenerated world, it became necessary either to
abandon the ethical teaching of the Gospels or to
transform it into principles which could be rationally
obeyed. Christian conduct could not be perma-
nently inspired by a manifest, even though a
magnificent, mistake.

This conclusion, though it be defended as con-
tributory to orthodoxy, leaves, in fact, little of
Christianity as the religion of Jesus Christ. The
foundation of faith becomes, not the simple teaching
of the Synoptic Gospels, but the mystical visions re-
ported after the Master's death. "The final ten-
dency of advanced theology," an English theologian
does not hesitate to affirm, 2 "is backward . . . and
its great act of violence is the driving of a wedge
between the Synoptics and the Epistles, between
the message of Jesus and the Gospel of his apostles."

1 Garrod, op. cit., pp. 60, 65, 71.

*Forsyth, "The Person and Place of Jesus Christ," 1909, pp.
133, 168, 169.



THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 13

The Synoptics exhibit, under this interpretation,
"an incomplete situation, a raw audience, and an
inchoate context of evidence." "It is in the
Epistles that we have the essence of Christianity."
" The apostolic inspiration . . . takes as much pre-
cedence of his earthly and (partly) interim teaching
as the finished work is more luminous than the work
in progress." As another English writer has said:
" Christ must be looked at in two ways ; as the his-
torical Jesus, who lived in Palestine, . . . and as
the Eternal Christ. . . . When a man discards the
claims of the historical Jesus he is guilty of the
'minor rejection' ; but when he pushes away from
him all desire or acceptance of the Ideal Christ
that involves what I may call the 'major excom-
munication.'" l

The first impression made by this new defence
of the faith is one of sheer bewilderment. Paul,
not Jesus, becomes the founder of the Christian
religion. The Epistles, not the Gospels, are its
most precious documents. Jesus was not under-
stood until he was gone. Indeed, he did not under-
stand himself. Orthodoxy may thus become saved
at the expense of historicity. The Sermon on the
Mount and the Parables are subordinated to the
mysticism of Christian tradition. ' ' Non tali auxilio
necdefensoribusististempuseget." ' Christian faith is
not likely to find itself strengthened by this under-
mining of its foundations. The creeds are but ill-de-

1 Lloyd, "Studies of Buddhism in Japan," 1908, p. 29.



14 THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IN THE MODERN WORLD

fended when they are setin contrast with the Gospels.
" Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid,
which is Jesus Christ." Such subversive criticism
tempts one to the cynicism of the evil spirit in his
answer to the sons of Sceva: "Jesus I know, and
Paul I know ; but who are ye ? " l

Even more obvious, however, is the fact that
Christian ethics on these terms becomes for plain
people, whose faith rests on the Gospel records
of the teaching of Jesus, impracticable. Their
simple discipleship of practical obedience is sup-
planted by a rapt communion of the spirit which
is possible to the elect alone. Phrases like
"The imitation of Christ" and "Follow me," lose
their meaning in this rarefied theological atmos-
phere. "In the Christianity that is to be," it is
taught, "we shall hear still, I hope, of the imitation,
but more also of the limitation of Christ." 2 Escha-
tology thus hi large degree eliminates ethics.
"The price demanded," we must conclude with
Dean Inge, "is ruinous. . . . To cut off the tree
of Christianity from its roots, to accept the cynical
conclusion that a great world-religion arose out of
the crazy visions of a mistaken enthusiast, all
this is to bring desolation, not peace, to the mind
of the troubled believer." 3

Serious, however, as may be the effects of these

1 Acts, XLX, 15.

1 Garrod, op. tit., p. 60.

8 Constructive Quarterly, June, 1913, pp. 319, 304.



THE PRACTICABILITY OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE 15

tendencies in criticism and apologetics, it is not
through them that the sense of impracticability
for the Christian life is chiefly conveyed. Much
more convincing to the great mass of plain people
than these discussions of the critics is the evidence
of their own observation of contemporary con-
duct. What is the practical effect of Christian
motives, they ask themselves, on those who pro-
fess Christianity? Do their lives testify to the
practicability of their faith? Is the Christian
religion actually moulding the habits of Chris-
tian believers; or are the ideals of Christianity
revered much more than they are realized ? Here
is the point where the authority of the Chris-
tian life seems most difficult to maintain. Its
position is undermined by the un-Christian con-
duct of Christians. Its defence is more imperilled
by treachery than by attack. The reaction from
Christianity is not so much intellectual as it is
moral. The most threatening enemy of religion is
not infidelity but inconsistency. "To a large ex-
tent," said John Bright in 1880, "the working
people of this country do not care any more for
the doctrines of Christianity than the upper classes
care for the practice of that religion." * Might not
a similar indictment be made to-day? What
shall one say of a condition of society where
the creeds of the Church are often devoutly


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