Charles Henry Brent.

The inspiration of responsibility, and other papers online

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By the Rt. Rev. CHARLES H. BRENT, D.D.






LIVING GOD. Small Svo.
PRESENCE. Small 12mo.







BY ^o.









1916 L


I Published December, igisl




THESE papers and addresses, with a few excep-
tions, have been printed separately or else in cur-
rent journals. I wish to express my appreciation for
permission accorded by these latter to republish such
as have appeared in their columns.

C. H. B.



I. The Inspiration op Responsibility .... 1

II. Concerning the Home 12

III. Human Brotherhood 24

rV. The Divided Kingdom 38

V. The World Missionary Conference — An Inter-
pretation 55

VI. The Edinburgh Conference and the Future . 69

VII. The Realization of Christian Unity ... 76

VIII. The Church of the Living God 94

IX. Prayer Ill

X. The Romance op Missions and their Lack op

Romance 117

XI. An Apportionment of Men 128

XII. Financial Missionaries 135

XIII. The Nation's Demand upon American Young

Men 141

XIV. A Vision of Manhood 148

XV. Progress and Problems in the Philippines . 153

XVI. Philippine Facts and Theories 166

XVII. National Awakening in the Philippines . . 173

XVIII. A Study of Alexander Hamilton .... 183

XIX. Abraham Lincoln 191

XX. Queen Victoria 206

XXI. William McKinley 215

XXII. The Coronation of George V 221

XXIII. Memorl^l Day Address 228


OF eespo:n^8ibility



EVERY self-respecting person craves an exacting
task, a task that strains human nature. We
need more than that degree of obligation which de-
mands the exercise only of those gifts and powers
that we know are ours. We must be under the
domination of a responsibility which calls for the
assertion of our latent and untried capacity, the
power that declares itself only in the using. No
one is so fully aware of this as those who are still
under the spell of life's morning. The distinguishing
characteristic of the activity of youth is its venture-
someness. It is always reaching beyond itself and
risking the charge of recklessness. When I was at col-
lege two of my companions lost their lives by sailing
out into a stormy sea against the advice of an old salt.
There were those who bemoaned their temerity as an
offence; but the voice that stirred me spoke of the

' From Time and Talents.


glory of their fearlessness which matched the magnifi-
cence of their youth against the elements with the ex-
pectation that they would be victorious. I knew
those lads, and when the engulfing wave curled over
their frail craft, their clean lives and unbroken wills
were not conquered but conquering.

It is essential that human life should run risks. It
is something less worthy of admiration than a brute
beast, if it does not. We are first introduced to hu-
manity in a garden of risk, for the Garden of Eden
held in its bosom lurking death. Consequently it is
impossible to think with satisfaction of that over-
mo therliness — I would call it grandmotherliness if I
had not too high an esteem for seniority! — which
tries to guard sons and daughters from the risks and
disciplines without which there can be no robustness
of character. Virility is too often mollycoddled out of
youth by the materialistic solicitude of parents, who
think that true safety may be had only by dwelling
within a circumscribed social set, doing the conven-
tional things in the conventional way, and keeping the
influence of the cushions and golden fetters of luxury.

Let it be said once for all that it is better for
both body and soul to be obliged to go hungry some-
times than to be full always; it is wholesomer to be
weary frequently from hard work than to keep on a


dead level of comfort, or to know weariness only from
the spinning dance and the daily pleasure; it is
cleaner to be dusty and bathed in the blood and
sweat of battle, than to be so sheltered as not to
know the meaning of a hand to hand conflict with a
real problem or fierce temptation; it is grander to
break the shackles of exclusiveness and walk free in
the dingy city of social unpopularity, than to be the
idol of men and women who do not count for, but
rather against, the progress of the race.

We are responsible beings! That is to say we are
so built that calls come to us which look for the
answer of our whole nature. Vocation introduces us
to responsibility. There is no one who is not called.
There is no one who does not count for good or for
bad. There is no one who has not an opportunity
and responsibility which is all his own. Of course
responsibility has a variety of aspects, but the
curious and satisfactory thing is that each man's —
I do not say "or woman's,'' because in this connec-
tion sex is negligible — each man's responsibility fits
him as a glove fits the hand. Do you object that
this is not always so, and that there are misfits.'^ I
do not deny it, but ordinarily the question is not
one of misfit, for the explanation is that the glove
has never been drawn wholly upon the hand. In


other words responsibility has not been translated
into terms of intimate personal experience.

Now here is a secret known only to those who
labor long and diligently over their responsibilities.
The most thrilling experience in life is found in
matching our wit, our courage, our capacity against
— or shall I say fitting it into? — our duty, that
which we owe to ourselves, without regard, for the
moment, to our duty toward others. It is as nor-
mal for human life to linger in the embrace of
responsibility as for the rose bush to strike its
roots into the moist soil. Out of it comes inspira-
tion for further responsibility. By doing we be-
come enabled to do. The response of the will to
the call of obhgation becomes the opportunity of
God to enlarge our capacity. He breathes into us
fresh wisdom, new courage, added strength. His
breath is life. And He can give us life only when
we choose to live.

So much for the abstract. Now let us turn to
that which is more concrete. The call to responsi-
bility greets us in a number of different ways. First
there is the responsibility which is inherent in the
relations of human life, the home and the family.
These responsibilities are simple as a rule, and seem-
ingly insignificant when considered singly. But in


their multitude and variety they bulk large and
assume a place of first importance. To do little
things well is an approach to that ej05ciency which is
one of the watchwords of to-day. There is extraor-
dinary satisfaction — inspiration, if you like the word
better — in thinking or speaking or doing something
extraordinarily well, whether it be preparing for a
speech on a public platform or tying a parcel. The
first thirty years of every one's life should be devoted
to a mastery of detail, not to the exclusion but under
the domination of a universal or eternal motive.
The responsibility of loyalty to detail is of first rank.
The home is the natural place in which to begin this
course of training.

Then comes our responsibility to the social order
into which we are launched at an early date. Why
should we ever demean ourselves by inward accept-
ance of custom, whether it be of dress, or of speech,
or of occupation, or of pleasure, against which our
best instincts revolt? The work of reforming and
bettering social life is dependent upon your absolute
loyalty to your inner convictions. Do not be afraid
to speak out, even at the cost of ridicule or opposi-
tion. More often than not you will meet with ap-
probation and co-operation, for society is not so
unregenerate as to be deaf to the voice of a true and


honest leader. Years ago a leader of men had a hot
controversy with another, in which the former con-
tended for a matter of principle. There were a
number of bystanders who took no share in the
contest although desirous to share in the fruits of
victory should the champion of right win, which he
eventually did. After the battle was decided a
murmur of applause arose. The champion of right
turned on his companions with scorn as exemplifying
those who remained passive in the face of evil, and
lingered in their tents on the day of battle. There
are times when he that is not with good is against it.
It is truly pitiful to see how men and women are
bowled over by majorities. Their self-respect is not
strong enough to enable them to resist doubtful, or
even coarse and evil, social custom.

The most inspiring trust men can have is that of
high privilege. Privilege is a call to responsibility.
If the call be unheeded, privilege becomes a destroy-
ing angel; if heeded, a crown and a joy. The great
mass of men have responsibility laid upon them by
the rude hand of necessity. The mill hand must eat
his breakfast by gas-light before the dawn breaks,
and must be at his loom before the hour strikes. He
is hedged in by the regulations of his trade. It is
controlled by an imperative "must." You, however.


have no such stern master of your movements. You
are free to come and go, to walk and rest, to do and
desist, to produce and consume, at your will. You
have the responsibility of ordering your own time
and talents — time and talents that are no more
yours to trifle with than are those of the mill hand.
God has laid upon your superior culture and privi-
lege the extra responsibility, of ordering your time and
deploying your gifts — that is all the difference there
is between you and a shop girl. You are no more a
woman of leisure than your sister at the wash-tub.
The only question is how and what and when you
may will to wash. That is not for me to decide but
for you. What would be presumptuous for me to do
is your common, ordinary, every-day responsibility.
See that you do it.

The difficulty of the day for "women of leisure"
— I use the current phrase — ought not to be,
"What is there for me to do.^^" but "Out of all the
opportunities open to me which shall I take.'^"
There are valuable contributions to be made to the
whole social order by those who still abide under
the paternal roof, or who are themselves at the head
of a family. Philanthropies have reached a stage of
efficiency which call for proficient helpers, and shun
the dilettante. Never in history has it been more


important that those who undertake voluntary
church work, whether it be in choir or Sunday-
school or societies or parish visiting, should do it
with the same thoroughness and loyalty to responsi-
bility that moves the employe of a successful busi-
ness concern. It is just as reprehensible to abandon a
church engagement because of a dance or some other
pleasure, as it would be for your banker to neglect
the care of your funds for an automobile trip or a
game of golf.

As one looks over life as it is lived by the "leisure
classes," one is impressed by the unused talents and
vitality among the unmarried of both sexes. The
whole world of men aches for the lack of what they
alone can supply. The days are happily past when
it was thought contrary to propriety for young
women of means or '* blood" to launch out into
useful occupation. If there were as many donations
to great causes of talented lives as there are dona-
tions of money, humanity would not go limping the
way it does. Just think of the openings there are for
the expenditure of your best ! — college and church
settlements, education in its manifold branches, the
various forms of social service in its organized form,
mission work at home, mission work abroad, the
vocation of deaconess or sister, nursing, and so on.


Of none of these things am I thinking as a means of
livelihood, but as a privilege and a joy that would
fill the life of many a young woman whose misfor-
tune is her lack of a deliberately chosen responsibility.
Yes, there are those who would gladly embrace and
be embraced by vocation, were it not for opposition
at home. It may be that in some instances, many
probably, there are paramount obligations in the do-
mestic circle which forbid a daughter leaving home.
Where these exist, the pot of gold is not to be found
at the distant foot of the rainbow, but close at hand
beneath the homely soil of family cares. But some-
times it is not parental wisdom but parental selfish-
ness and tyranny which bar the door to young life's
true fulfilment. Parents ought to understand that
frequently there comes a moment when youth is
obliged, in loyalty to itself, to seek paths foreign to
parental taste and interest. When this happens,
blessed is the father or mother who speeds the child
on its way with benediction. If it is a command-
ment that a child should honor its parents, it is of
the essence of life that parents should honor their
child. To forbid a child to enter a sisterhood, to
become a nurse, to go to India as a teacher or a
missionary, simply because these vocations are unin-
telligible to the parent, distasteful to him, or inter-


fere with schemes of matrimony and dreams of
material prosperity, is — I do not hesitate to say —
the perversion of a parent's duty and an abuse of his
prerogatives. On the other hand, for a child to long
for untried responsibilities merely because those near
at hand are irksome, and so, probably, shirked and
slighted, is to court disappointment and failure for
himseK and others wherever he goes.

I have led you, my readers, to the shore of a vast
ocean, "sad at the edges but all right in the middle,"
and there I must leave you with the counsel that
you should not be afraid to launch out into the deep
of responsibility where, amid the billows and winds,
alone is safety for the human soul. The higher life
begins "only when your health and your strength
and your skill and your good cheer appear to you
merely as talents, few or many, which you propose
to devote, to surrender, to the Divine order, to
whatever ideal cause most inspires your loyalty, and
gives sense and dignity to your life — talents, I say,
that you intend to return to your Master with usury.
And the work of the higher life consists, not in
winning good fortune, but in transmuting all the
transient values of fortune into eternal values. This
you best do when you learn by experience how your
worst fortime may be glorified, through wise resolve,


and through the grace that comes from your con-
scious union with the Divine, into something far
better than any good fortune could give to you;
namely, into a knowledge of how God Himself en-
dures evil, and triumphs over it, and lifts it out of
itself, and wins it over to the service of good."



THERE is no substitute for the home. It is the
ultimate source of all the creative force in
human society. The stainless passion of procreative
love links groom to bride. Every child-bearing wife,
when her annunciation comes, utters a note of
ecstatic music more beautiful than ever trembled
from the throat of winged songster. There is no
mother but has her Magnificat. It is a renewal of
the hymn of creation which made the morning stars
sing together and the sons of God shout for joy.

The tiny, pink creation cradled in its mother's
bosom, each time the miracle of birth occurs, has
latent in it a new universe of power and beauty,
ready to be called into being by everything which
relates this latest seK to that which is not self —
God, mankind, nature, history, and all the rest —
until it becomes a character, a personality. The

^ No. 10 of the Patriot Series of the Duty and Disciplme Move-


foremost creative force which completes the miracle
of birth, by setting into operation the influences of
education, is the home. God's fiat, "Let there be!"
is in the voice of the parent. The school of the
home, where love and authority, privilege and duty,
discipline and responsibility, cross and intertwine
their glistening threads, has no peer in the organiza-
tions or institutions of time. The child goes to Eton
or to Groton, the youth to Oxford or to Harvard, the
statesman to his task, wearing on his brow the glory
of his home — or its shame. As a rule, men are ulti-
mately what they are by virtue of their homes.
That is to say, the strongest and most enduring
mark made on life is that of the home.

The disciplines of the boarding-school can never
be a substitute for the disciplines of the home. A
great schoolmaster once said to me that the boarding-
school was a "necessary evil." His words implied
something wrong with the average family life.
Under the artificial conditions of the boarding-
school — this, I think, is what he meant — children
received those disciplines, and were inducted into
those responsibilities which were weak or lacking in
their homes. In one sense, then, a boarding-school
might be described as a reformatory for the children
of ill-regulated families. Certain it is that there is


an accepted tradition that at a given moment it is
salutary, if not necessary, to get training for child
life in obedience, punctuality, economy, courtesy,
elsewhere than in the home. There are many in-
fluences at work at the present day which lead
parents of all classes, unconsciously to themselves, to
shift a large part of the responsibility for discipline
to the shoulders of the schoolmaster, who, poor man!
spends no small amount of his patience and energy
in correcting the enervating influences of his pupils'
homes. Johnnie would not come to school clean.
The teacher expostulated with the mother on the
ground that the child was so dirty as to be offensive
to the smell, whereupon the fond parent retorted:
"Johnnie ain't no rose. Don't smell him. Learn
him!" The trouble is that the schoolmaster cannot
"learn" Johnnie if the elementary disciplines and
duties of the home have been ignored or slurred over.
Boarding-schools, like the use of candles or in-
cense in religion, owe their origin to physical neces-
sity. There was a time when schools were few in
number, so that if a child was to have an oppor-
tunity of intellectual training, he would have to live
elsewhere than under the parental roof. That
character survived the evil conditions of life in the
earlier boarding-schools and seats of learning was


due chiefly to the integrity of the homes from which
pupils came. To-day the boarding-school justifies its
existence by courageously endeavoring to supply
the robust and orderly influences in which the homes
of people of wealth or "comfortable circumstances'*
— what a suggestive phrase ! — are commonly de-
void. The modern educational ideal, sadly crippled
though it be because of the divided Christendom
which secularizes it, is sound at the core. It aims to
put facilities for learning within daily reach of every
home, and is more productive of good results in well-
ordered families than any other system that could be
devised. But in homes where luxury, indulgence and
ease form the key-note, the sooner the children go to
boarding-school, the stiffer the discipline there, and
the longer they stay, the better for themselves and
their posterity. Whatever there is or may be in
heredity, that much befogged supervisor of character,
there is an enormous force in environment. If it is
impossible to get the warmth of a mother's bosom
to hatch our eggs, let us secure the best incubator in
the market. Good art is somewhat preferable to
perverted nature.

One of the best schools I have ever known — I
speak as an erstwhile schoolmaster — has for its sole
watchword "Obey." Authority, if the mature fruit


of experience, is childhood's benediction. It is the
kind guardian of innocence, reUeving child-life of
the wear and tear of experiment not yet due. It is
not untrue to say that, at a certain stage in develop-
ment, experience is the teacher of fools, and author-
ity the teacher of the wise. There is no greater
stimulus to the cultivation of a right and ripe judg-
ment, than for a parent to recognize his own obli-
gation of authority and his child's obligation of
obedience. This authority must be enforced, even
if resort have to be made to corporal punishment
should moral suasion prove to be ineffective. Parents
live but to convert their experience into a rational
authority, which, in turn, is used as a force creative
of a habit of self -obedience in the new generation.
Obedience is the voluntary absorption of the expe-
rience of the wise. Submission is not obedience.
Let a father once clearly realize this, and he will
never become despotic, or his children restive and
rebellious under the smooth surface of their external
acquiescence. It were a crime to condone that inter-
ference with the sacredness of personality, as sacred
in child as in man, which persistently and as a
habit imposes self-will upon another's will. Never-
theless, this I can say from a long and large experi-
ence of life: whatever other defects men may have


who are the product of austere homes and even
tyrannical parents, they do not lack fibre and tough-
ness. However far they may have strayed, I find a
solid bottom to them, and a capacity for self-obedi-
ence. By self-obedience I mean the opposite of
self-indulgence. Self-obedience is doing what you
resolve to do, be it easy or hard; self-indulgence is
doing what you want to do, under the prompting of
taste or passion. On the other hand, those who as
children have had a history of indulgence and pam-
pering, no matter how artistically gilded by so-called
culture, are of all men the least likely to have any
grit or stamina. If they go wrong, they afford
as little secure ground for character-building as a
quagmire or quicksand. Frequently they are not
bad; they have not enough character to enable them
to be bad.

The home, if it is to be an adequate preparation
for life in the outside world, must have all the ingre-
dients of the future represented, and in due propor-
tion — privilege and duty, hardship and pleasure,
discipline and reward. It may not be a great play-
house with every day a holiday and every dish a
dainty. Short-sighted love desires child-life to be
given every joy and sheltered from every pang.
That home has probably the healthiest influence in


which this is impossible, because a wholesome type
of poverty obtrudes its kindly discipline upon the
notice of every member of the family. A boy with
daily "chores'* has a better chance of becoming a
personality than his little neighbor, who accepts
without question the luscious fruits of service, with-
out being compelled by ever recurrent necessity, laid
upon him by circumstances, to render reciprocal
service at the cost of genuine effort.

It is an indulgent, crippling love that removes
difficulties from a life that should be taught to sur-
mount them, which snatches a child out of the reach
of normal temptations and normal risks (and in so
doing intensifies its perils), which by too solicitous
and exclusive a consideration of the weakness of
youth becomes blinded to any practical recognition
of its strength. I once knew a mother who rigidly
guarded her little girl's happiness by never letting
her come into full view of poverty. Another parent
kept his children from the knowledge of death until
its grim reality suddenly struck them with staggering
force. Still another is in the habit of anticipating
any unpleasantness that threatens, by yielding to

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Online LibraryCharles Henry BrentThe inspiration of responsibility, and other papers → online text (page 1 of 13)