Francis Greenwood Peabody.

The Message of the college to the church; a course of Sunday evening addresses in Lent, 1901, delivered in the Old south church, Boston online

. (page 1 of 7)
Online LibraryFrancis Greenwood PeabodyThe Message of the college to the church; a course of Sunday evening addresses in Lent, 1901, delivered in the Old south church, Boston → online text (page 1 of 7)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



i I I 1-^











LENT, 1901




Two Copita Received

OCT. 3 1901


CLASS (^ XXc. No.

o^O O S?_ O


Copyrighted, 1901
By J. H. Tewksbury



The Religion of a College Student 9

The Definition of a Good Man 39

The Development of a Public Conscience.... 67

The College and the Home 85

The Mutual Dependence of the College

AND the Church iiS

The College Graduate and the Church 145


The eminent names attached to the several
addresses which compose this book are suf-
ficient introduction to the reader, and abundant
assurance of the high quality of the work.
Nevertheless, it has seemed to the publishers
that a few words indicative of the purpose in
which these addresses originated might be of
some interest, and perhaps enable the general
reader to approach them in the right spirit.

For the last twelve years it has been the cus-
tom in the Old South Church in Boston to
give a course of Sunday evening lectures dur-
ing Lent. All save three of these courses
have been given by the pastor of the church.
Of the courses given by speakers other than
the pastor, the third and last is contained in
this volume.

In arranging this course of lectures the ob-
ject was to gain from the college its outlook
upon the faith and work of the Church. The
colleges and universities of New England are
the creation of the Congregational churches of
New England. In the first instance they were

6 Forewords

founded to provide a pious and learned minis-
try to the churches. In the Puritan concep-
tion of the essentialness of the college to the
Church there is a wisdom and a boldness
worthy of all admiration. These churches
have made and they have hitherto largely sus-
tained the colleges. The colleges are the chil-
dren of the churches. It is well, therefore,
diat the elder should learn from the younger;
the parent institution from the filial.

The sins of the college are not the subject of
this volume, nor its limitations, nor the wisdom
and adequacy of its ideals, nor the success or
failure attending their pursuit, nor the neces-
sary infallibility of its advice to the Church.
This book is a candid and manly response to
a serious question: What has the college to
say to the Church about its faith and work?
How do the Church's conception and adminis-
tration of Christianity appear to the college
world, and to the men who come from that
world into the great communion of citizenship ?
According to the college, as churchmen what
are our real and our unreal problems, our gen-
uine and our imaginary dangers, our solemn

Forewords 7

vocation and our mere play r.t religious living,
our deepest sources of strength and our para-
lyzing ignorance, our misplaced confidence and
our radical weakness? Has the college any
clear, brave, wise words to say to the Church
to help it out of its childish fears into the
power and hope of essential Christianity ? Is
anything gained when pastors and their people
seriously entertain the college man's perspec-
tive of life and faith ? What are the supreme
values as tested by intellectual competence,
candor and freedom?

Thus may be indicated the mood to which
the addresses in this volume are the response.
The interest in these addresses when given in
the Old South Church, during Lent of the pres-
ent year, was extraordinary ; and they are now
published to meet a wide and persistent de-
mand. The several authors have long been
known to the public as men to whom it is wise
and good to listen, and this book is issued in
the assurance that they will value it most who
are awake to the perils and the possibilities of
the Church to-day.

George A. Goiidon.
Old South Parsonage,
Boston, Mass.




We have heard many appeals to the college
student concerning his duty to the Christian
Church. He should be, it is urged, a more
constant attendant at its worship; he should
commit himself more openly to its cause ; he
should guard himself against the infidelity and
indecision which attack him with such strategy
under the conditions of college life. May it
not be of advantage, however, to consider this
relation from the opposite point of view?
May it not be instructive to inquire what the
Christian Church must provide in order to meet
the needs of an educated young man, and what
the college student demands that the Church
shall teach and illustrate? What has a young
man the right to demand as a condition of his
loyalty and devotion? What is there which
the Christian Church must learn concerning the
character and ideals of a normal, educated,
modern youth before it can hope to lead the


12 The College to the Church

heart of such a youth to an unconstrained
obedience? What is the rehgion of a college
student ?

There are, of course, certain limitations to
such an inquiry. We must assume on both
sides open-mindedness, teachableness, serious-
ness and good faith. We cannot take into
account either a foolish student or a foolish
Church. There are, on the one hand, some
youths of the college age whom no conceivable
adaptation of religious teaching can hope to
reach. They are self-absorbed, self-conscious,
self-satisfied, self-conceited. There is little
that the Church can do for them but to pray
that, as they grow older, they may grow more
humble, and, therefore, more teachable. On
the other hand, there are some methods of re-
ligious activity which cannot reasonably an-
ticipate the cooperation of educated men.
Here and there an imaginative young person
may be won by emotional appeals or ecclesias-
tical picturesqueness ; but the normal type of
thoughtful youth demands of the Church so-
berness, intellectual satisfaction and verifiable
claims. We must dismiss from consideration

Religion of a College Student 13

both the unreasoning youth and the unrea-
sonable Church. We set before ourselves, on
the one hand, an alert, open-minded, well-
trained youth, looking out with eager eyes in-
to the mystery of the universe; and, on the
other hand, a thoughtful, candid, sensible
Church, resting its claim not on tradition or
passion, but on its perception and mainte-
nance of verifiable truth. How shall these
two factors of modern life — the chief factors
of its future stability — the life of thoughtful
youth and the truth of the Christian religion
come to know and help each other? and what
are the traits of Christian teaching which
must be unmistakably recognized before it
can commend itself to the young student of
the modern world?

To these questions it must be answered,
that the religion of a collgee student is
marked, first of all, by a passion for reality.
No efifort of the Church is more mistaken than
the attempt to win the loyalty of intelligent
young people by multiplying the accessories
or incidentals of the religious life — its ec-
clesiastical forms, its emotional ecstasies, its

14 The College to the Church

elaborateness of organization, its opportuni-
ties of sociability. The modern college stu-
dent, while in many respects very immature,
is extraordinarily alert in his discernment of
anything which seems to him of the nature of
indirectness or unreality. He has a passion
for reality. The first demand he makes of
his companions or his teachers is the demand
for sincerity, straightforwardness and sim-
plicity. He is not likely to be won to the
Christian life by any external persuasion, la-
boriously planned "to draw in young people,"
and to make religion seem companionable and
pleasant. These incidental activities of the
Church have their unquestionable usefulness
as expressions of Christian sentiment and
service, but they are misapplied when con-
verted into decoys. They are corollaries of
religious experience, not preliminaries of it;
they are what one wants to do when he is a
Christian, but not what makes a thoughtful
man believe in Christ. The modern young
man sees these things just as they are. In-
deed, he is inclined to be on his guard against
their strategy. He will nibble at the bait,

Religion of a College Student 15

but he will not take the hook. He will con-
sume the refreshments of the church, he will
serve on its committees, he will enjoy its
esthetic effects, but he still withholds him-
self from the personal consecration which
these were designed to induce. He will ac-
cept no substitute for reality. He wants the
best. He is not old enough to be diffident or
circuitous in his desires ; he does not linger in
the outer courts of truth ; he marches straight
into the Holy of holies, and lifts the veil from
the central mystery. Thus the Church often
fails of its mission to the student, because it
imagines him to be frivolous and indifferent,
when in reality he is tremendously in earnest
and passionately sincere.

And suppose, on the other hand, that the
Church meets this candid creature just where
he is, and, instead of offering him accessories
and incidentals as adapted to his frivolous
mind, presents to him, with unadorned and
sober reasonableness, the realities of religion.
What discovery is the Church then likely to
make? It may discover, to its own surprise,
and often to the surprise of the youth himself.

i6 The College to the Church

an unanticipated susceptibility in him to re-
ligious reality, and a singular freshness and
vitality of religious experience. A great

many people imagine that the years from
seventeen to twenty-two are not likely to be
years of natural piety. The world, it is
urged, is just making its appeal to the flesh
and to the mind with overmastering power,
while the experience of life has not yet
created for itself a stable religion. Fifteen
years ago it was determined in Harvard Uni-
versity that religion should be no longer re-
garded as a part of academic discipline but
should be offered to youth as a privilege and
an opportunity. It was then argued by at
least one learned person that the system was
sure to fail because, by the very conditions of
their growth, young men were unsusceptible
to religion. They had outgrown, he urged,
the religion of their childhood, and had not
yet grown into the religion of their maturity ;
so that a plan which rested on faith in the in-
herent religiousness of young men was doomed
to disappointment. If, however, the vol-
untary system of religion applied to univer-

Religion of a College Student ly

sity life has proved anything in these fifteen
years, it has proved the essentially religious
nature of the normal educated young man of
America. To offer religion not as an obliga-
tion of college life, but as its supreme privi-
lege, was an act of faith in young men. It
assumed that when religion was honestly and
intelligently presented to the mind of youth it
would receive a reverent and responsive

The issue of this undertaking has serious
lessons for the Christian Church. It disposes
altogether of the meager expectation with
which the life of youth is frequently regarded.
I have heard a preacher, addressing a college
audience, announce that just as childhood was
so assailed by infantile diseases and mishaps
that it was surprising to see any child grow
up, so youth was assailed by so many sins that
it was surprising to see any young man grow
up unstained. There is no rational basis for
this enervating skepticism. The fact is that
it is natural for a young man to be good, just
as it is natural for a child to grow up. A
much wiser word was spoken by one of my

i8 The College to the Church

colleagues, who, having been asked to ad-
dress an audience on the temptations of the
college life, said that he should devote him-
self chiefly to its temptations to excellence.
A college boy, that is to say, is not, as many
suppose, a peculiarly misguided and essential-
ly light-minded person. He is, on the con-
trary, set in conditions which tempt to excel-
lence and is peculiarly responsive to every sin-
cere appeal to his higher life. Behind the
mask of light-mmdedness or self-assertion
which he assumes, his interior life is wrestling
with fundamental problems, as Jacob wrestled
with the angel and would not let it go until
it blessed him. "Your young men," said the
prophet, with deep insight into the nature of
youth, "shall see visions." They are our
natural idealists. The shades of the prison-
house of common life have not yet closed
about their sense of the romantic, the heroic,
the noble.

To this susceptibility of youth the Church,
if it be wise, must address its teaching. It
must believe in a young man, even when he
does not believe in himself. It must attempt

Religion of a College Student 19

no adaptation of truth to immaturity or in-
difference. It must assume that a young
man, even though he disguises the fact by
every subterfuge of modesty or mock de-
fiance, is a creature of spiritual vision, and
that his secret desire is to have that vision in-
terpreted and prolonged. When Jesus met
the young men whom he wanted for his dis-
ciples, his first relation with them was one
of absolute, and apparently unjustified, con-
fidence. He believed in them and in their
spiritual responsiveness. He disclosed to

them the secrets of their own hearts. He dis-
missed accessories and revealed realities. He
did not cheapen religion or make small de-
mands. He bade these men leave all and
follow him. He took for granted that their
nature called for the religion he had to offer,
and he gave it to them without qualification
or fear. The young men, for whom the ac-
cidental aspects of religion were thus stripped
away and its heart laid bare, leaped to meet
this revelation of reality. "We have found
the Messiah," they told each other. They
had been believed in even before they believed

20 The College to the Church

in themselves, and that which the new sense
of reahty disclosed to them as real, they at
last in reality became.

Such is the first aspect of the religion of the
student — its demand for reality. To reach
the heart of an educated young man the mes-
sage of the Church must be unequivocal, un-
complicated, genuine, masculine, direct, real.
This, however, is but a part of a second qual-
ity in the religion of educated youth. The
teaching of the Church to which such a mind
will listen must be, still further, consistent
with truth as discerned elsewhere. It must
involve no partition of life between thinking
and believing. It must be, that is to say, a
rational religion. The religion of a college
student is one expression of his rational life.
To say this is not to say that religion must
be stripped of its mystery or reduced to the
level of a natural science in order to commend
itself to educated youth. On the contrary,
the tendencies of the higher education lead in
precisely the opposite direction. They lead
to the conviction that all truth, whether ap-
proached by the way of science, philosophy,

Religion of a College Student 21

art or religion, opens before a serious student
into a world of mystery, a sense of the unat-
tained, a spacious region of idealism, where
one enters with reverence and awe. Instead
of demanding that religion shall be reduced to
the level of other knowledge, it will appear
to such a student more reasonable to demand
that all forms of knowledge shall be lifted
into the realm of faith, mystery and idealism.
It is, however, quite another matter to dis-
cover in the teaching of religion any funda-
mental inconsistency with the spirit of re-
search and the method of proof which the stu-
dent elsewhere candidly accepts ; and we may
be sure that it is this sense of inconsistency
which is the chief source of any reaction from
religious influence now to be observed among
educated young men.

Under the voluntary system of religion at
Harvard University we have established a
meeting-place, known as "The Preacher's
Room," where the minister conducting morn-
ing prayers spends some hours each day in
free and unconstrained intimacy with such
students as may seek him. This room has

22 The College to the Church

witnessed many frank confessions of religious
difficulty and denial, and as each member of
our staflf of preachers recalls his experiences
at the University he testifies that the most
fruitful hours of his service have been those
of confidential conference in the privacy of
the Preacher's Room. But if one were
further called to describe those instances
of religious bewilderment and helplessness
which have seemed to him in his official duty
most pathetic and most superfluous, he would
not hesitate to admit that they were the by
no means infrequent cases of young men who
have been brought up in a conception of re-
ligion which becomes untenable under the
conditions of university life. A restricted
denominationalism, a backward-looking ec-
clesiasticism, an ignorant defiance of Biblical
criticism, and, no less emphatically, an in-
tolerant and supercilious liberalism — these
habits of mind become simply impossible
when a young man finds himself thrown into
a world of wide learning, religious liberty,
and intellectual hospitality. Then ensues,
for many a young mind, a pathetic and even

Religion of a College Student 23

tragic period of spiritual hesitation and recon-
struction. The young man wanders through
dry places, seeking rest and finding none ; and
it i^ quite impossible for his mind to say : "I
will return into my house from whence I
came out." Meantime his loving parents
and his anxious pastor observe with trembling
his defection from the old ways, deplore the
influence of the university upon religious
faith, and pray for a restoration of belief
which is as contrary to nature as the restora-
tion of the oak to the acorn from which it

Now, in all this touching experience, where
is the gravest blame to be laid? It must, no
doubt, be confessed that among the condi-
tions of college life there are some which tend
to encourage in a young man a certain pert-
ness and priggishness of mind which make
the old ways of faith seem old-fashioned and
primitive. Indeed, it seems to some young
men that any way of faith is superfluous to
a thorough man of the world, such as the
average sophomore ought to be. But these
cheerful young persons, for whom the past

24 The College to the Church

has no lessons and the future no visions, and
for whom the new ideal of self-culture has for
the moment suppressed the earlier ideals
of self-sacrifice or service, are not a
type of student life which need be
taken seriously. They are the lookers-on of
the academic world, the dilettante and
amateur minds in a community of scholars.
The strenuous game of real learning goes on;
and these patrons of the strife sit, as it were,
along the side lines and wear the college col-
ors, but do not participate in the training or
the conflict or the victory. We are thinking
of that much more significant body of youth
who are in deadly earnest with their thought,
and who find it an essential of their intel-
lectual peace to attain some sense of unity in
their conception of the world. For this type
of college youth — the most conscientious,
most thoughtful, most precious — the blame
for inconsistency between the new learning
and the inherited faith lies, for the most part,
not with the college, but with the Church.
There was once a time when these young
minds could be secluded by solicitous parents

Religion of a College Student 25

and anxious pastors from most of the signs
of change in modern thought. They could
be prohibited from approaching great tracts
of literature ; they could be hidden in the
cloistered life of a strictly guarded college;
their learning could be ensured to be in safe
conformity with a predetermined creed.
There is now no corner of the intellectual
world where this seclusion is possible. Out
of the most unexpected sources — a novel, a
poem, a newspaper — issues the contagion of
modern thought ; and, in an instant, the life
that has been shut in and has seemed secure
is hopelessly affected.

And how does the young man, touched with
the modern spirit, come to regard the faith
which he is thus forced to reject? Some-
times he regards it with a sense of pathos, as
an early love soon lost; sometimes with a
deep indignation, as the source of skepticism
and denial. For one educated youth who is
alienated from religion by the persuasions of
science, philosophy or art, ten, v/e may be
sure, are thus affected by the irrational or
impractical teaching of religion. It is not an

26 The College to the Church

inherent issue between learning and faith
which forces them out of the Church in which
they were born ; it is an unscientific and re-
actionary theory of faith. It is not the col-
lege which must renew its conformity to the
Church ; it is the Church which must open its
eyes to the marvelous expansion of intellect-
ual horizon which lies before the mind of
every college student to-day.

There is another aspect of the same ex-
perience. This process of intellectual growth
is often accompanied, not by a reaction from
religion, but by a new appreciation of its
reasonableness. In a degree which few who
represent the Church have as yet realized, the
expansion of the sphere -of truth is at the same
time an enlargement and enrichment of re-
ligious confidence. There is going on, with-
in the college, often without the knowledge of
the Church, a restoration of religious faith
through the influence of intellectual liberty.
I have seen more than one student come to
college in a mood of complete antagonism to
his earlier faith, and then I have seen that
same youth in four years graduate from col-

Religion of a College Student 27

lege, and with a passionate consecration give
himself to the calling of the Christian minis-
try which he had so lately thought superfluous
and outgrown. It was the simple conse-
quence of his discovery that the religious life
is not in conflict with the interests and aims of
a university, but is precisely that ideal of con-
duct and service toward which the spirit of
a university logically leads. "I beseech you,
therefore, brethren," says the apostle who
knew most about the relation of philosophy to
faith, "that ye present ... a reasonable
service." It is a charge which the Christian
Church still needs to hear. The service of the
Church which is to meet the religion of a col-
lege student must be a reasonable service, con-
sistent with all reverent truth-seeking, open to
the light, hospitable to progress, rational,
teachable, free. The church which sets itself
against the currents of reasonable thought,
and has for great words like Evolution,
Higher Criticism, Morality, Beauty, Law,
only an undiscerning sneer, is in reality not
the defender of the faith, but a positive con-
tributor to the infidelity of the present age.

28 The College to the Church

The church which asks no loyalty that is not
rational, no service of the heart that is not an
offering of the mind, comes with its refresh-
ing message to many a bewildered young
mind, and is met by a renewed dedication to a
reasonable service.

So far, however, I have described the re-
ligion of a college student as it appears in
every thoughtful age. There remains one
aspect of the religious life which is peculiarly
characteristic of a college student in our own
generation, and of which the Church in its re-
lation to the young must take fresh account.
Protestant teaching, from the time of Luther,
has laid special emphasis on the Pauline dis-
tinction between faith and works. It is not
a man's performance, either of moral obliga-
tions or ritual observances, that justifies him
in the sight of God. He must offer that total
consecration of the heart, that conversion of
the nature, which makes him find his life in
God. This teaching was a necessary protest
against the externalism and ecclesiastical
practices which had been for centuries re-
garded by many as of the essence of the re-

Religion of a College Student 2g

Hgious life. "We are justified by faith;"
"the just shall live by faith" — these great
words give to religion a profounder, more

1 3 4 5 6 7

Online LibraryFrancis Greenwood PeabodyThe Message of the college to the church; a course of Sunday evening addresses in Lent, 1901, delivered in the Old south church, Boston → online text (page 1 of 7)