James Prentice Kelley.

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fiE Law of Service







Ppofessor \\^nvy von Dyke, D.O., IiLi.D.

BR 50 .K44 1894

Kelley, James Prentice, 1849

The law of service








27 West Twenty-third Street 24 Bedford Street, Strand

i;^e ^nukerbotkct ^rcss

Copyright, 1894



Electrotyped, Printed and Bound by

Ube Itnichcrboct^cr press, t\cw HJorfc
G. P. Putnam's Sons


Kindly do not assume, if I urge liberal giving of money,
that I think money will do everything, or can take the
place of that which is more precious. Do not assume, if
I speak from the standpoint of liberal orthodoxy, that I
consider that, in its present form, a finality. Do not
assume, if I refrain from expounding your favorite views
and anticipating your criticisms, that I have never heard
or thought of them. In this little work, the product of a
busy man's leisure, I have not aimed at completeness. I
have had neither time nor disposition to qualify and
amplify, and to minimize the effect of the rule by dwelling
on the exception.

In Christianity, as I understand it, I do so positively
and strongly believe as to think that if we take it seriously
it will work itself clear. Of course there will be blunder-
ing and waste ; but better so, a thousand times better,
than if we are too selfish or too critical or too canny to
make the experiment.

Confidently looking forward to the "New Era" of
Christian Altruism, I should be glad to contribute some-
what to the dissemination of altruistic views.

J. P. K.



I. Introductory i

II. The Main Thesis 4

III. Duty of the Individual ... 8

IV. Theoretical Teaching of the Church 13

V. Practical Teaching of the Church . 20

VI. Our Position Defined . . . -27

VII. The Felicity of Service . . .30

VIII. Religious Experience . . . .34

IX. Theology 38

X. The Church : Instruction . . 42
XL The Church : Inspiration and Aggres-
sion 48

XII. Clergy and Laity . . . -55

XIII. Home Training 61

XIV. Social Life ...... 68

XV. Human Brotherhood . . . -75

XVI. Our Dumb Neighbors . . . .81

XVII. Citizenship 88

XVIII. Business and Industry . . . .94

XIX. Art 104

XX. Literature . . . . . .111

XXL Education 124

XXIL The Difference 139




T^HIS is a radical book, setting forth uncur-
* rent views. It is written by one who be-
lieves that the unique Reformer from whose
birth we reckon our centuries was and is the
Saviour of the world ; that our only rational hope
is in the truth he taught, applied to human
affairs. It is written because the central truth
of Christianity is but dimly perceived as yet,
but feebly taught, but languidly and childishly
applied to life and institutions. It is written,
moreover, because of the heart-breaking misery
of man and beast, so widespread, so unjust, so
enormous in the aggregate that only by somehow
ignoring it can a sensitive person endure life
with equanimity; unpitied misery and unrelieved,
which cries to heaven against the barbarity of


XLbc Xaw of Service

what we are pleased to call Christian civiliza-
tion ; misery that can be remedied only by
strenuous and thoughtful exercise of the humane
spirit of Christianity. Finally it is written
because the author, however severe in judgment
of their conduct, yet believes that good men's
hearts are better than their heads, and that a
crying need of the time, with all its mental
energy and activity, is clear thinking about the
simple matters here discussed.

It were easy to praise the disciples of the
Great Reformer for their achievements thus
far and their activities to-day, for distinguished
heroism and obscure sainthood ; but these pages
are not for any whose Christianity is so invirile
that it must be propitiated before it can be
criticised. They are for those with faith
enough and honesty enough to welcome the
truth, however bluntly spoken and however
searching. They are for those, too, who stand
more or less aloof from Christianity as they see
it misrepresented, but are open-minded and
reasonable, ready to accept what commends
itself to their moral judgment.

The object of the chapters which follow is in
a simple and straightforward way to get at the
central teaching of Christ concerning conduct ;
to make, in the light of that teaching, some
brief examination and criticism of things as
they are ; to show by the same light something
of how they ought to be ; and to consider


various important applications and illustrations
of the law which gives the volume its title — all
this with more concern for sound thinking, sub-
stantial truth, and practical use than for logical
sequence of topics and formal unity of treat-
ment. The doctrine of the book is important if





I \A/H^ATEVER else may or may not be taught
* — ' ^ in the New Testament, the twofold Law
of Love is there given as the great command-
ment of the old dispensation, and enforced by
the obedience of Christ as of like rank in the
new ; as authoritative for him and for all his.
The obligation to love God is stated explicitly
enough. The command to love our neigh-
bor, like to the other in its binding force,
has for its interpretation the lifelong sacrifice
by which Christ gave for the world's welfare all
that he had to give. His whole business on
earth was to express that perfect love for God's
creatures which is the obverse of his perfect
love for God. ' As if to guard the duty of benefi-
cence against misapprehension or neglect, he
not only taught human kindness as in the par-
able of the Good Samaritan, but in a passage of
prophecy which might well be in the ritual of
every church he made the dread decisions of
the judgment to turn not on doctrine but on


tTbe /Iftaln Zbcsie

conduct, not on the moral law in general but on
the law of beneficence in particular. This is
the style of his teaching who went about doing
good. Well might Paul sing the psalm of
" Charity," and John declare that God is

If the Law of Love has such implications and
such tremendous sanctions, there seems to be
no escape from the proposition that every man
ought to do his absolute utmost for the well- I
being of his fellow-creatures. ~J ■

Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. We
have been taught who is our neighbor. Our
duty to him is not based upon vicinity, associa-
tion, artificial relations, but upon the Law of
Love. His need of help is his all-sufficient
appeal. To every sentient creature I stand
related in such wise that I ought to give him
my interest, my sympathy, my help if possible.
My obligation is measured by powers and op- !
portunities, by comparison of needs, by the ex- t
pediencies and economies of a generous, impar-
tial stewardship. The question is, not how
much of time, strength, money, and spiritual
force I must divert from the pursuit of my own
private ends to an outside work of beneficence ;
but how I shall so order my life and husband
my resources as to do all that is in my power
for the common goodJ Once for all, let us re-
pudiate the heresy, Tar more dangerous and per-
nicious than any alleged vagaries of " higher

^bc Xavv of Service

criticism " or " larger hope," that the individual
may to any least degree live for himself, in
competition with others. Waiving the question
whether under the new dispensation we are
taught to love others better than ourselves, let
us accept the old commandment. I must love
my neighbor A. as myself ; I must love B., C,
and I), as myself. Every man is my neighbor
— there is no drawing the line. Every sentient
creature is my neighbor, and makes its legiti-
mate appeal. Granted the claims of myself
upon myself ; I am but one among countless
millions, each with his divinely sanctioned
claim — millions not only of this age but of all
the ages to come ; for I am a maker of desti-
nies. Relatively, my private claim is a vanish-
ing point. Again, God claims my undivided
service. It will doubtless be admitted that
there is no limit here, save the limit of my
ability. But he that spared not his own son
but delivered him up for us all, will be content
with nothing short of our utmost devotion to
the common good. In comparison with his
claim for all, what is my claim for myself ? We
do not question here the inestimable importance
of the individual atom ; we but compare the
atom witli the mass. The whole question of
conflicting or competing claims, however, is
taken out of court by the simple consideration
that in doing his utmost for others one does ex-
actly the utmost for himself. The glorious

Zbc /IRaln Zbceis

paradox, He that loseth his life shall find it, is
an axiom of Christianity.

In the Republic of God there is no question
of conflicting rights ; Right is supreme. No
question of conflicting claims ; God is one. No
question of conflicting interests ; the interest of
all is the interest of each. The gospel of com-
petition is not the gospel of Christ. The Law
of Love is a Law of Utmost Service, and the Law
of Service is the working rule of life.



NjONE but a perfect intelligence could so
' ^ grasp the conditions and reason upon the
facts of a given life as to point out in detail the
way of its greatest possible usefulness. We may
not hope to attain the ideal in the economy of
service. If we would be loyal servants we
must, according to our intelligence and capacity,
apply the principles of business, the art of bring-
ing things to pass, to our one all-inclusive busi-
ness of service. The mediaeval saint, in theory,
gave up all. He denied himself, abased him-
self, afflicted himself, isolated himself. The
modern prelate inhabits an episcopal palace,
and is conversant with the luxuries and festivi-
ties of Vanity Fair. The early disciple wor-
shipped in an upper chamber, or sought refuge
in caves of the earth ; the modern pewholder
listens to the service in a temple almost too fine
for a jjoor man to enter. John the Baptist
wore a leathern girdle about his loins, and his
meat was locusts and wild honey ; the modern


2)ut^ of tbe irnMvi&ual

reformer fares sumptuously every day, and may j
consume the labor of a hundred men to keep
up the splendor of his private establishment.
We may not justly say that a man's usefulness
is proportioned to his poverty, his self-neglect,
his ignorance, his misery. Not even because
the chief of all servants had not where to lay
his head and died a martyr may we affirm that
the mediaeval way was wholly right and the
modern wholly wrong. Such conclusions are
easily reached, but they are worthless.

Could the monk do the most good in squalor
and loneliness ? Can the rich philanthropist,
absorbing into himself the strength of a hundred
men, get a better sum-total of results by his own
efforts than by directly utilizing their power
along with his in productive and helpful activi-
ties ? These are the important questions, and
they may not be dismissed with a one-sided
generalization. Questions generically the same
must press upon every thoughtful and earnest
lover of mankind, demanding for their right
answer not only sincerity, spirituality, and de-
votion, but a clear head and an active brain.

How shall I order my life ? I must first under-
stand and accept the Law of Utmost Service.
Then to every question of giving or withhold-
ing, of ambition or renunciation, ease or hard-
ship, work or play, war or peace, contemplation
or action, of beauty or ugliness, poetry or prose,
knowledge or ignorance, of art, literature.

to tlbe Xaw of Service

society, politics, commerce — to every question I
must bring that law. If by withholding I may
do more good than by giving, no sentiment must
prevent my saying no. If by giving I may serve
more effectively, I must give at whatever cost.
If my greatest usefulness, if the greatest ulti-
mate advancement of well-being demands that
the four quarters cf the globe be laid under con-
tribution for my culture, my comfort, my amuse-
ment even, I must needs enforce the claim at
whatever cost to the productive power of man-
kind. A man may believe that the issues of life
are too serious to admit of his enjoying its
luxuries, or even its comforts ; that literature is
demoralizing, art is frivolous, and beauty a
snare ; that to gratify the natural appetites and
desires is a profanation. The mediaeval ideal is
the ideal for him. Let him give up all — he can
do no other. Another man may say, " What
fools these mortals be ! " He may believe that
the kingdom of heaven is to come largely
through " the influence of Jesus upon the intel-
lect " of mankind ; through the application to
the problems of life of the enlarged common
, sense, the trained reason, the clear intelligence
I of the scholar. He may believe himself a
chosen instrument to inform the intellect
through literary production or scholarly research.
He may feel divinely called to a work which
cannot be done without books, travel, society,
aesthetic culture, immunity from ugly annoy-

2)ut^ of tbc flnDiviDual n

ances, wholesome conditions of living, all those
costly accessories which seem essential to his
highest intellectual activity. He must needs be
trained and cared for like a race-horse or a
prima donna. For such an one there is no
choice. Cost what they will, the conditions of
his highest usefulness must be provided.
Another believes in civilization and material
progress as best opening the way for dissemina-
tion of truth and promotion of the spiritual wel-
fare of men. In his view, progress in civiliza-
tion requires that culture which comes from the
concentration of wealth, and material advance-
ment is best secured by the vast organization of
business which goes with individual control of
enormous means. He feels himself a born cap-
tain of industry, a born aristocrat ; and he verily
believes that by the methods of monopoly on the
one hand and social exclusiveness on the other,
he may best do his duty to the masses. Such an
one, also, has no choice. If his theory is right,
wealth and magnificence are his duty. Another
believes in "plain living and, high thinking."
To him private magnificence is vulgar, social
display foolish and empty, luxury enervating.
He bethinks him of the poverty of Socrates, the
blithe homeliness of Emerson. He is convinced
that with temperance and serenity he may do the
best that is in him at small cost and with small
ceremony. It is his happy privilege, then, to
live and to give like a philosopher.

12 tlbe ILaw ot Service

That the writer's attitude towards these vari-
ous theories is by no means one of indifference,
the sequel will show. Just now we are con-
cerned with the principle to which every decision
should be referred. Our mission in the world,
then, is to do the utmost possible good. In de-
ciding for or against any given course of action,
we must take into account all its bearings, direct
and indirect, near and remote, upon the gen-
eral welfare and work out the problem as best
we may. Personal preference, in itself alone
considered, has as much to do with the decision
as with determining the orbit of a satellite of
Mars. " Even Christ pleased not himself."









1 T may be said that an ideal of complete devo-
^ tion to the salvation of men is nothing new ;
that such an ideal has been held up from Christ's
day to this ; that every intelligent Christian accepts
it and tries to square his life by it. Certainly we are
not announcing a new discovery. Exactly what
is claimed for the thesis here advanced is that it
belongs to the old and open truth, and is the
plain teaching of Christ. All through the Chris-
tian centuries, doubtless, complete devotion has
been preached ; but we must be excused from
accepting as our standard a devotion which is
merely the equivalent of religiousness, and is
consistent with bigotry, with cruelty, with defi-
ance of the wholesome laws of nature and rea-
son. The completer the devotion of Philip the
Second, the worse for the Christian who dared
think for himself. Devotion to what ? To the
name of Christ, or to his work ? An ideal of
complete devotion, moreover, is doubtless ac-
cepted by intelligent Christians to-day. Never-


14 ^bc Xaw ot Service

theless, before we can grant that no more need
be said, we must find out what that ideal means
to those who accept it, and what their accept-
ance of it means for them and for the world.
Language serves so effectually not only to
" conceal thought " but to conceal the want of
it or the perversion of it that we have no right
to be satisfied with a phrase. We must go be-
hind phrases to facts. We inquire first, then,
into the popular teaching of Christianity. The
writer's observation and impressions will have
weight with the reader if confirmed by his own.
Exceptions and qualifications must often be left
to the reader's intelligence ; it is enough if what
we affirm is substantially true.

Public prayer, though it may not be didactic
in purpose, is an effective means of teaching,
and should reflect the views of the teacher. In-
deed if he is very much in earnest, prayer may
express his real beliefs more truly than any
formal statements he is capable of making.
\\'hcre a ritual is not used it is interesting to
notice the preponderance of the pronouns of the
first person plural. To one accustomed to
think of Christianity as generous and public-
spirited, it is not only interesting, but painfully
so, this assumption of the minister to represent
and express the corporate egotism of the church.
Often and often he seems to have forgotten the
largeness of the world and to be quite unmoved
by the powerful appeal of its need. The thought

^beoretical XLcacbim ot tbe Cburcb 15

of fairness in letting the public services of the
church express the breadth of its doctrine seems
as foreign to his mind as any scruple of good
taste about this reiterated " We." Quite har-
monious with the narrow thought and sympathy
thus advertised is the conspicuous infrequency
in many pulpits of allusion to civil rulers and
lawmakers, or even to " our " country and com-
monwealth. The pronoun is not vindicated by
relating it to any large substantive. The prayer-
book, with its noble and fitting recognition of
the State, is a refreshment by contrast. The
language of public prayer abounds in religious
sentiment, even where it does not too broadly
suggest the sentimental. It might abound in
poetry, without being therefore Christian or
philanthropic. Poetry is good, but it is not
Christianity. Religious sentiment is good, but
neither is it Christianity.

But does the sermon, as might perhaps be ex-
pected, take a broader and more generous view
of things ? The preaching of to-day is hardly
doctrinal ; it would doubtless claim to be prac-
tical. It is, in fact, far too largely, perfunctory
and sentimental. In need of spiritual enlarge-
ment through the truth, we are given the old,
familiar " sermonizing." Introduction, " which
may be skipt "; body of the discourse, " words,
words, words," in the air ; conclusion, " lame
and impotent " or respectably commonplace, it
matters little. Craving the speech of a living

i6 Zbc Xaw of Service

man, we have been given the function of a
functionary ; of something other than a man,
be it more or less. If the preacher, imitating
the popular lecture in its decadence, merely
strings together a series of anecdotes and illus-
trations, he may be more entertaining, but less
respectable. If he be fervid, the chances are
large that his fervor is that of the narrow-
minded prayer, or else dwells on the one topic
of conversion, neglecting the question what we
are to be converted to, what we are to do in the
world while awaiting our reward in heaven.
The exhorter's converts, but scantily furnished
in doctrine, soon fail in emotion. They fall
into conventional ways, and expect things to go
on pretty much as they have done. Expressly
or by implication, the preacher recognizes some
high standard of attainment. What that stand-
ard is, or, if it be perfection, perfection in what,
it might puzzle the average layman to tell. Is
it perfect goodness ? But in what does perfect
goodness consist ? Perfect morality, perhaps,
and perfect religiousness combined. Perfect
morality is understood to imply certain absten-
tions. The scope of its obligation, just what
acts are immoral and what, if any, are indiffer-
ent or non-moral, our layman may not know ;
and he gets all too little help from his public
teacher. The result is that many actions which
may be of vital importance in tlicir relation to
character and welfare are treated as if they were

^beoretical (Teacbiitcj ot tbc Cbiircb 17

non-moral or indifferent. Persons of middle
age can recall how preachers of the old school
used to demolish the citadel of the "Moralist,"
as of a dangerous enemy to the faith. Doubt-
less in many cases they were fighting a real
antagonist. Some of their less virile and logical
successors deal so little with the general conduct
of life as to suggest the fear of being taken for
moralists themselves. It is clear to the student
of history and the observer of human life that
great religious zeal may co-exist not only with
neglect of fraternal duty, but with cruel injus-
tice. Religiousness needs to be mixed with a
large ingredient of usefulness to keep it whole-
some. The scripture statement about " pure
religion and undefiled " deserves a great deal
more attention than the clergy give it. A high
degree of religious emotion, again, is so remote
from the ordinary experience of many well-dis-
posed church-goers, if not from their ordinary
capacity, that its phraseology is to them a kind
of unknown tongue. With a " genius for re-
ligion " one may luxuriate in religious experi-
ence as such. So with a genius for poetry one
may spend his days and nights with the great
singers. But as most of us must pluck the
rarest flowers of poesy in the rare moments of
quickened imagination, so we must live our re-
ligion in humble ways, and rise to its conscious
exaltations according as our life has developed
the capacity, and monotonous hard work ad-

i8 Q:bc Uaw Of Service

mils of favorable occasions. Genuine filial love
is not ordinarily rapture. To be filled with the
Spirit, we may believe, is not always to be con-
sciously inspired. To begin with trying to be
rapturous, and let the theory and practice of
righteousness wait, would seem to be a disastrous

What has been said of official prayer and of
preaching applies, perhaps more forcibly, to
the less public exercises of the church. The
feebleness and inconsequence of the average
prayer-meeting need only be mentioned. The
inefficiency of the secular school is bad
enough ; but that of the Sunday-school is
monumental. Of the little which is effectually
taught there it is to be feared that only a little
fraction is the doctrine of usefulness in the

The results of the various church " services "
are probably more than merely conservative, but
only by a small annual percentage. The fact of
chief significance for our purpose is that the
church and those who assemble with it are not
definitely and effectively taught the duty of
entire self-giving, of utmost service to men.
Some effort to urge that duty and the views of
life which it logically involves has raised the
suspicion that people do not understand what
such teaching means. So far from being
familiar with the Law of Service by having

tTbcorcticnl ^cacblno of tbe Cburcb 19

thought it out, they do not seem to give it
serious consideration when presented. Our
Christian thinking is not well accustomed to
radical views of duty. It is not adjusted to
the simplicity of the truth, nor prepared to
accept its implications.



T^HE agitation in church circles over recent
* phases of the old controversy between
conservatives and liberals has been significant
in bringing out bold affirmation of the old
severe doctrines, and showing how widespread
among religious leaders is a theoretical ad-

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Online LibraryJames Prentice KelleyThe law of service : a study in Christian altruism → online text (page 1 of 8)