Lyman Abbott.

Christianaity and social problems online

. (page 1 of 25)
Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 1 of 25)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

3Fr0m ll|? ffiltbrar^ of

^tf\\xtnti^^h h^ l|tm to

tilt iCibrarg af

T^vmtttan SIjMlngtral S^^mtnaro

BR 115 .S6 A2 1896 c.2
Abbott, Lyman, 1835-1922,
Christianaity and social

Copyright 1897 by Hollinger & Rocket
The Rev. Dr. Lyman Abbott

^ookfi bj) Ipman ^Ibbott, £)♦£).

gilt top, I1.25.

i6mo, gilt top, $1.25.

Boston and New York.











Copyright, 1896,

All rights reserved.

The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.
Electrotyped and Printed by 11. O. Hougliton & Co.


Christ's mission was twofold, — individual and
social ; to make men worthy to be called the chil-
dren of God, and also to make a state of society
on the earth worthy to be called the Kingdom of
God. This kingdom is a heavenly kingdom, be-
cause the source of its power is from above ; it is
an earthly kingdom, because the scene of its tri-
umph is on the earth. Jesus Christ's object was
not to save some — few or many — from a wrecked
and lost world ; it was to recover the world itself
and make it righteous. The Lamb of God whom
John the Baptist saw came, not to take away some
sin from some men, but the sin of the world.
Christ taught his disciples to pray that God's
name might be hallowed, his kingdom might come,
his will might be done, on earth as in heaven.
Protestant theology has put its chief emphasis on
the mission of Christ to individuals. There is a
reason, elucidated in the closing chapter of this
book, for the modern tendency to turn attention


toward Christ's mission to society. It is with
that aspect of his teachings that this volume exclu-
sively deals. Its object is to make some appli-
cation of them to the social problems of our time.
It is written in the faith that in them is to be
found {he secret of a true social order.

This volume is the outcome of long-continued
study of Christ's social teachings for the purpose
of applying them to present conditions. The re-
sults have been embodied from time to time in
lectures, in special contributions to " The Forum,"
the " North American Eeview," the " Century Mag-
azine," the *' Cosmopolitan," in sermons in Plym-
outh pulpit, and in editorial treatment of current
questions in " The Outlook." In the fall of 1895
I delivered a course of lectures on this subject
before the Meadville Theological School and the
citizens of Meadville, Pennsylvania, being the
course for that year on the Adin Ballou founda-
tion. About the same time I gave a course of
sermons on the same topics in Plymouth pulpit,
and a little later three of the lectures were re-
peated at Haverford College, Pennsylvania. Both
lectures and sermons were given extemporaneously.
In preparing this volume I have made use of these
lectures and sermons, and also at various times of
the previous periodical contributions.


My grateful acknowledgments are due to my
brother-in-law, the Rev. Cyrus Hamlin, 2d, D. D.,
for aid in collating, examining, and verifying au-
thorities ; and to my son, Mr. Herbert Vaughan
Abbott, for aid in carrying the book through the

Brooklyn, N. Y., September, 1896.



I. The Founder of Christianity .... 1

II. Christianity and Democracy .... 27

III. Christianity and Communism .... 66

IV. Christianity and Socialism .... 100
V. Christ's Law of the Family .... 138

VI. Christ's Law of Service 159

VII. Christ's Standard of Values .... 179
VIII. Christ's Law for the Settlement of Contro-
versies: Personal Controversies . . 225
IX. Christ's Law for the Settlement of Contro-
versies: International Controversies . 237
X. Christ's Law for the Settlement of Contro-
versies: Labor Controversies . . . 268
XI. Criminals ; the Enemies of the Social, Order 297

XII. The Social Evil 329

XIII. The Brotherhood of Man 351




Nineteen hundred years ago there lived in one
of the small provinces of Palestine a peculiar
people. They were reserved and exclusive, and
were regarded by their neighbors as proud and
haughty. In their religious ideas they were un-
compromising, and were popularly regarded as
intolerant. Their religion was unique. One
sacred temple they possessed, to which they made
pilgrimages from time to time, and here dwelt
a sacred priesthood, who conducted a ritual and
offered the sacrifices which the religion of the
people called for. But these sacrifices, as com-
pared with those of their heathen neighbors, were
simple and uncostly. They had a house for
religious gatherings in every village, where they
met weekly for worship and instruction. They
worshiped one God, but allowed no picture or
statue of Him either in temple or in home.
Their sacred books taught that He was a right-
eous God, that He demanded righteousness of


His people, and demanded nothing else ; that He
was best pleased, not by costly adoration paid to
Him, but by obedience to His laws — by doing
justice, loving mercy, and walking in humility
with Him.^ In this respect their religion differed
radically from that of the pagan nations about
them, the object of whose worship was either to
placate the anger of a wrathful deity, or to win by
bribes and flatteries the special favor of a cor-
ruptible one. Thus their religion had an ethical
character, not found in the other world-religions of
that age, and too little found in religion in its pro-
fessional forms in any age. Their sacred books,
which constituted their sole literature, required
them to live soberly, righteously, and godly in
this present life, as a necessary means of realiz-
ing the hope of a life to come. Drunkenness
and licentiousness, which were not uncommon in
pagan services, would have been as incongruous
in the worship of this peculiar people as irrever-
ence and blasphemy .2 Unchastity, greed, anger,
and all the evils which spring from these and
kindred sins, were prohibited by the laws which
every week were read in the people's hearing ;
the evils which these vices inflict upon the com-
munity, and the benefits which flow from the con-
trasted virtues, Avere illustrated by sacred histo-
ries, written unmistakably for this very purpose.
Of art for art's sake they knew nothing. The
great epic of their literature was written to illus-

i Micah vi. 8. ^ j^g^ ^ 9 . gzek. xliv. 21.


trate and recommend patience and resignation ;
the one drama which their sacred literature con-
tains was written to glorify the fidelity of woman's
love ; its one dramatic story, to glorify her cour-
age ; its one pastoral idyl, to glorify maidenly loy-
alty and maidenly reserve.

One of the most distinctive features of this
sacred literature was an ideal political constitu-
tion. The people had no doubt that this con-
stitution had an historical existence ; that it had
been driven to their ancestors fifteen centuries
before ; that those ancestors had really lived under
it ; and that the present distress of the nation was
a deserved penalty inflicted on the nation because
it had abandoned this divinely inspired constitu-
tion, and disregarded the laws connected with and
ofrowino^ out of it. Many, if not most, modern
scholars take a different view. It is now very
generally thought that only the very simplest
principles imbedded in this constitution date from
1400 B. c, and that the constitution and laws
themselves grew up gradually in the Hebraic
nation as constitution and laws have grown up
in other nations. It is not important for my
purpose in this volume to determine whether the
ancient or the modern view is correct ; it is enough
to say that the laws to be found in the first
five books of this peculiar people constituted
their ideal. The fundamental principle underly-
ing these laws was the supreme authority of their
God. " God spake all these words " was the


preamble to their fundamental code. Their king-
dom thus established was designated by them
as The Kingdom of God. The title by which
their commonwealth is known in history is The
Theocracy. Believed to be in its origin and
inspiration divine, it was in its nature and spirit
democratic. So radical was this democracy that
God Himself did not accept the kingship of
this people until by universal suffrage they had
accepted Him as their King. His royal authority
and their loyal obligation both rested upon a
covenant voluntarily entered into on their part
with Him ; and the collection of their sacred books
is from this circumstance known to-day in liter-
ature as the Old Covenant.^ The authority of
the rulers and of the laws in this ideal common-
wealth rested upon popular even if not universal
suffrage. There was no recognized aristocracy;
class and class distinctions were explicit^ pro-
hibited. In the earlier history the rulers were
chiefs providentially selected ; ^ when later a mon-
archy was established, the power of the monarch
was carefully defined, and the limitations of his
power were actual, not imaginar}^ When in the
later and corrupter period of their history the
unscrupulous Ahab desired to get possession of
a poor peasant's land, he could not do so without
corrupting the court, and securing the poor man's
conviction on false accusations.^ Though demo-

^ Exodus xix. 5-8. '^ 1 Kings xxi. 1-16.

2 Judges ii. 16, 18; iii. 9; vi. 11, etc.


cratic in its nature, this ideal commonwealth was
republican in its form ; that is, the power of the
people was exercised through representative assem-
blies, — a popular chamber known as the Great
Conoreo'ation, and a smaller chamber known as
the Elders.^ The latter also exercised supreme
judicial functions. The laws of this ideal com-
monwealth were singularly humane, and for that
age progressive. Slavery and polygamy were in-
deed permitted, but surrounded with such restric-
tions that at the beginning of the Christian era
they had disappeared. Attainder was forbidden ;
capital punishment permitted for only twelve
crimes ; life, liberty, property, was guarded ; and a
judiciary created for the purpose of securing to
every man an impartial trial. Popular education
was provided for, partly by obligations laid upon
the parents in the home, partly by the creation
of a special class of teachers scattered through-
out the country, and partly by the recognition of
the rights of free speech and free discussion.^ In

1 The first body reflected the popular will. It voted not to
attempt the subjugation of Canaan (Num. xiv. 1-5, 10), inducted
Joshua into office (Num. xxvii. 18-23), ratified the selecting- of
Saul as King-, voted to bring- up the Ark of God from Kirjath-
jearim (1 Chron. xiii. 1-5). The second body constituted Moses'
Privy Council (Num. xi. 16-17), made treaties (Josh. ix. 18-21),
tried certain cases (Jer. xxvi. 10-16). It was Cabinet, Senate,
and Supreme Court.

- The punishment for blasphemy is rather an apparent than a
real exception ; for under a theocracy blasphemy was in the
nature of treason : it was an attempt to weaken the loyalty of
the people to their king.


time of war the commonwealth depended wholly
on militia ; there was no standing army, and
the employment of cavalry for offensive warfare
was prohibited.^ On the other hand, agriculture,
which political economy shows us to be the basis
of permanent national prosperity, was encouraged
and promoted.^ There was a priesthood, but on
the one hand it was deprived of all share in the
land, and was made dependent upon the voluntary
contributions of the people ; ^ and on the other the
people were not made dependent upon the priest-
hood for their acceptable access to God.* That
danger of land monopoly, which history has proved
to be so great and so common a peril, was guarded
against by the declaration that all the land be-
longed to God, and a provision that at the end
of every fifty years it should revert to God again. ^
In other words, the owner was only a tenant. It
is very doubtful whether this provision was ever
actually put in operation, but it was a part of the
ideal commonwealth.^

Whether or not this theocracy ever existed
except upon paper, it was the ideal which was
ever kept before the hope of this peculiar peo-

1 Num. i. ; xxvi. 2-4 ; Judges v. 23.

2 Wines, Law of The Ancient Hebrews, 414-417, and Scripture
authorities there cited.

3 Num. xviii. 20-24 ; xxvi. 02 ; Deut. x. 8, 9 ; xviii. 2.

4 Ps. li. 16, 17 ; 1 Kings viii. 27, 28 ; Is. Ix^d. 1, 2.

5 Lev. XXV. 23-28.

° For a fuller statement of the features of the Hebrew com-
monwealth, see my Jesus of Nazareth, chap. ii.


pie, in their earlier history by the voices of the
prophets, in their later history by the reading of
the sacred books at the weekly services in the
synagogues. These prophets foretold the reestab-
lishment of the theocracy on a grander scale and
in greater splendor. They told of One who would
come to bring again this Kingdom of God upon
the earth ; then men would beat their spears into
plowshares and their swords into pruning-hooks.
Then law would need no army to enforce it, for
it would issue from Zion ; that is, it would be
enforced by the sanctions of religion.^ Then re-
lioious education would be so universal that no
man would need to say to his neighbor. Know the
Lord, for every one in childhood would have been
taught concerning him. Palestine would become
the mistress of the world, Jerusalem the Holy
City of all nations ; for then the message of jus-
tice, liberty, and religion, with which the Jewish
nation was intrusted, would be proclaimed to all
mankind, and all the nations of the earth would
come to enjoy the brightness of Israel's illumina-
tion. Even the very animals would feel the effect
of the change : ^ the poison of the asp would be
gone ; the lion and the lamb would lie down to-
gether, and a little child would lead them. These
messages, based on this ancient ideal, had sunk
deep into the heart of the people, and made them
a forelooking, a progressive people. To this day

1 Zech. ix. 9, 10; Jer. xxxi. 31, 32 ; Is. liv. 11-15 ; ii. 1-4.

2 Is. xi. 6-9.


they constantly look forward. This restoration
and the Coming One who was to bring it about
were the theme of their public and private dis-
course. Great omens in nature, great events
among the nations, would precede and prepare for
it.^ Elijah, the great prophet of one of their
national reformations, would rise from the dead
to initiate this greater reformation.^ The hostile
powers would gather ; the powers of Israel, led by
the Messiah, would meet and conquer and crush
them.^ Jerusalem would be renovated ; the Israel-
ites, dispersed throughout the world, would be
brought back again to their home ; strife, quarrels,
and war would cease ; ^ and the world itself would
become a new world wherein should dwell ritjht-

Of a peasant woman living in this province,
belonging to this people and sharing its faith and
life, there was born a son. His peculiar birth was
accompanied with promises which later history
interpreted to mean that in him should be ful-
filled the promises of prophecy and the hopes of
Israel. In accordance with the Jewish law, which
required every father to teach his son a trade, this
boy, brought up in his peasant home, learned the
trade of a carpenter.^ His boyhood was spent in

1 Joel ii. 31-33 ; iii. 2, 15-21.

2 Mai. iv. 5. 3 Zech. xiv. 1-3.

* Mieah ii. 12, 13 ; Jer. xxxi. 7-14 ; Is. xi. 10-12 ; xlix. 14-23.
6 Is. Ix. 1(3-22; Ixv. 17-25.

^ Stapfer's Palestine in the Time of Christ, p. 145 ; Edersheim,
Jesus of Nazareth, i. 252.


poverty. His home probably contained but a
single room : the walls were of sun-dried brick ;
the roof was of straw. This single room was
kitchen, parlor, bedroom, sitting-room, and work-
shop. It had neither window of glass nor chim-
ney ; a narrow slit in the wall, too narrow to
admit the rain, admitted the light. The mother
generally cooked without, on a sort of camjj-fire.
But the climate was mild ; the resources con-
tracted ; the cooking slight. The mother ground
a little wheat between two stones in a hand-mill,
and baked a thin cake upon a hot stone : this
was their bread. Fruits were plenty and cheap,
and an occasional fish served as an article of
luxury. Often at night the father would wrap a
shawl about him and sleep in the open air. As
the son grew up toward manhood, he would do
the same.

It is probable that there were in this peasant
home some fragments of the Old Testament, and
it is certain that the son heard it read every Sab-
bath-day in the synagogue, and was taught from it
every day in the parish school. For the village
synagogue had attached to it a school in which
were taught reading, possibly a little arithmetic,
and, together with the Old Testament, more or
less of current theological interpretations ; but
nothing more. The children of the peasants were
not taught to write. A scribe could always be
found in the street, with pen, ink, and parchment,
to write a letter. Science was not yet born.


The only geography taught was that of the pro-
vince of Palestine ; the world without was left an
unknown world. Only once did the boy from
whose birth all history dates get even a glimpse
of any higher education. When he w^as twelve
years old he went up with his father and mother
to eTerusalem ; strayed away from the party ; was
quite indifferent to the pageantry of the great
processions, and the splendor of architecture and
music which made the temple not only the glory
of Palestine, but a scenic wonder of the world ;
and was found, two or three days after, in the
school of the rabbis, whose courts surrounded
the temple, and constituted the university of the
Jewish people. His naive wonder that his mother
did not know where to look for him ^ is a striking
illustration of that love for the higher thoughts
which even at this early age was characteristic
of him.

There are certain atmospheric influences which
are sometimes more potent in affecting character
than those which are organized and directed for
that purpose. Of the home influence of this boy
we know very little. If he had any near relatives,
they were not of a kind to inspire him. Of the
father we know scarcely anything ; apparently he
died before the boy came to maturity. He early
disappears entirely from the scene, and Jesus,
at his death, would hardly have committed his
mother to the keeping of a friend, as he did, if
1 Luke ii. 41-51.


the father were still living. Of the mother the
biographers of the son give us only glimpses, but
they are such as to justify the church and the
world in regarding her as an almost ideal type of
womanhood and motherhood. She was a woman
of rare force of character, — shown in that journey
which she took, unattended, from Galilee to Judea
to visit Elizabeth, — a dangerous expedition for a
woman in those days of rough roads, lawless ban-
ditti, and scant respect for woman. She was a
heart-student of the Scriptures, — shown in the
one psalm of which she is the author,^ and which
has remained in the ritual of the church as
an expression of devotion. And she had that
patience of love which is the highest attribute of
woman, — shown in her standing at the cross, the
helpless companion of her suffering son, until he
breathed his last.

And yet it seems clear that the son did not get
his conception of his mission from his mother ; for
it was she who, on the one hand, was impatient
for him to inaugurate his ministry by a miracle,^
and who, on the other hand, when that min-
istry brought him into conflict with the Pharisees,
feared lest his enthusiasm was running into fa-
naticism, and would have called him away from
danger to safety and repose.^ In the wider in-
fluence of Palestine there is little or nothing to
account for the character of this " Son of the
Carpenter." The preaching in the synagogue was

1 Luke i. 46-55. 2 joj^ ii. 3. 3 Mark iii. 21, 31.


much like preaching in our clay, — some of it good,
some of it indifferent, some of it very bad. He
might have heard in his boyhood a scribe of the
school of Hillel, who told him that to love God
and his fellow-men was better than whole burnt-
offerings ; or he might have heard a scribe of the
school of Shammai discussing the question whether
it were right to eat an Qgg laid on the first day of
the week, which presumptively had been prepared
by the hen on the Sabbath day. Probably he
heard some j^reaching of both descriptions; but,
on the whole, in neither of the three great schools

of thought was there much to instruct or inspire,

neither in the cynical and superstitious Sadducees,
who denied both a personal God and a personal
immortality; nor in the Essenes, the ascetics of
the first century, who believed the world was
hopelessly going wrong, and withdrew from it to
the wilderness in despair of bettering it; nor in
the Pharisees, who knew no road to righteousness
but that of compulsion, and so no law of righteous-
ness but that of external statutes.

Educated under such influences as I have here
briefly described, the ^' Son of the Carpenter"
came forth at the age of thirty to be a teacher
of his people. He was without the influence that
comes from either family, official position, or learn-
ing. " Only the lower natures," says Henry Ward
Beecher, "are formed by external circumstances.
Great natures are fully developed by forces from
within." This force from within we sometimes


call genius, sometimes inspiration, but in either
case a " gift ; " thus we unconsciously recognize
that it is a direct bestowal from God which trans-
cends our analysis and eludes our explanation.
By what secret hours of prayer and meditation the
spirit of Jesus had been fed we do not know. We
only know that he was accustomed to say to his
disciples that it was fed by unseen sources, and
that on at least three occasions he gave them a
glimpse of that celestial but secret inspiration
which accounted for the strength and the serenity
that characterized him.^ A hirsute, courageous,
but ascetic reformer had raised his voice in protest
against the corruption and formalism of the times.
Jesus, at the outset of his public ministry, identi-
fied himself with this reformer, though afterwards
criticising his methods, — a striking illustration of
the principle that in moral reform the end sought
always transcends the means employed, and that
moral earnestness will not stop to quarrel with the
methods, — if they are not immoral, — provided
the true end is sincerely and steadily kept in view.
And the ends which Jesus and his cousin, John
the Baptizer, had in view were the same, — the de-
liverance of the nation by the reformation of its
individual members.

The nation was in need of a deliverance. She
was bound hand and foot, and lay at the mercy of
her Roman conqueror. The system of taxation
was the worst which the iniquity of man has ever

1 Matt. iv. 11 ; xvii. 1-5 ; Luke xxii. 4:i ; John iv. 82 ; xiv. 10.


devised, and it has devised some very bad ones.
Rome farmed each province out, and the tax-
gatherers, paying a fixed sum to the central gov-
ernment, took from the wretched inhabitants all
that could be extorted from them.^ The priests
were largely Sadducees, who practiced the ritual of
the religion while openly disavowing belief in its
doctrines. The religious teachers — with some
notable exceptions — preached formalism and prac-
ticed covetousness. The houses of the peasantry
were little better than hovels. If a man were for-
tunate enough to earn a little more than he spent,
there was no undertaking in which he could invest

1 The revenues which Rome derived from conquered countries
were let out, or, as the Romans expressed it, were sold by the
censors in Rome itself to the highest bidder. The successful

Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 1 of 25)