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marriage relation. Milton's labored attempt to prove that an
ineradicable incompatibility is fornication is a marvel of theolo-
gical special pleading.


Palestine, all that he had to do in dismissing her
was to give a writing stating why he did so.
Speaking to men who are under this state of law,
Christ says, " No man has a right to put away
his wife except for the one crime that does of
itself destroy the family." But it does not follow
that Christ would say that an independent and
impartial judge may never decree a separation
between husband and wife for any other cause.
That is quite a different matter. Christ says the
husband must not dismiss the wife save for the
one crime, but he does not say that an indepen-
dent and impartial tribunal may not decree a
separation save for the one crime. It might well
be that, under a system in which the husband is
judge and jury, deciding on his sole responsibility
whether the marriage should be dissolved, he
ought not to dissolve it except for the one cause ;
while under a system in which no dissolution is
possible, except by the decision of an impartial
tribunal, such dissolution might be decreed for
cruel and inhuman treatment, chronic intemper-
ance, or deliberate desertion.

But certainly it is not in accordance with the
spirit of these instructions that divorces should
be granted in the way in which, and for the
causes for which, they are granted in the United

1 The following statistics were published some years ago by
Dr. S. W. Dike. There has been no substantial improvement
since then : —


To-day it is a very simple thing for any couple
to procure a divorce. One or the other goes
across the continent to some Western State, and in
a period of four or six weeks the separation is com-
pleted. Sometimes some pseudo act of violence is
performed for the very j^urpose of securing the di-
vorce. The husband gives his wife a gentle slap,
or the wife gives her husband a gentle slap, in the
presence of some one summoned by the parties for
the purpose, and a divorce is then granted on the
ground of cruelty. Sometimes, the husband hav-
ing left his wife by previous agreement, or the wife
the husband, a decree is obtained on the ground
of desertion. Sometimes not even this is required
by the courts. The fault is less in the law than in
the administration of the law. In California, for
example, the law allows divorce for, among other

In Connecticut there is annually 1 divorce to every 10 marriages.

In Vermont " ''


1 "



In Massachusetts " "


1 '*



In N. Hampshire " "




In Rhode Island " "




In Maine *' "




In Chicago " "




In San Francisco " "




The proportion has been rapidly increasing in the last twenty
years. Statistics carefully gathered from every European state
show the same tendency and the same results. Dr. Dike says :
" Apparently the divorce rate has doubled in those parts of the
United States where we have the facts, and in most European
coimtries, within forty years at the farthest, and mostly within
half that period. The increase is found in Protestant and Cath-
olic populations, and even in Russia under the Greek Chiirch,
though more among Protestants than others."


causes, " extreme cruelty." Mr. Lee Merriwether,
in the Westminster Review for June, 1869,^ gives
several pages of extracts from the court records,
which contain a dismal showing of infidelity,
cruelty, intemperance, and desertion, but also a dis-
mal showing of the utter disregard by California
courts of the sj^irit of the law, and an utter pros-
titution of legal proceedings to facilitate the sep-
aration of couples who have simply grown tired of
each other. A few quotations will suffice as illus-
trations : —

" The witness testified that he had seen the
plaintiff with but one button on his vest, and that
he heard the defendant say that she would not al-
low the plaintiff, her husband, to go to fires at
night. The court decided that the wife was guilty
of cruel and inhuman treatment, and granted a de-
cree of divorce."

" Defendant treats plaintiff with great and un-
merited contempt, having said that he did not care
whether she left him or not. The foregoing remark
was adjudged to be cruel and inhuman treatment,
as it caused mental anguish ; a decree was accord-
ingly granted."

" My wife would not get up in the morning, nor
would slie call me in the morning ; she would not
do anything I requested her to do. All this has
caused me mental suffering and anguish." Divorce

" The defendant does not come home until ten
1 Vol. cxxxi., p. G7G ff.


o'clock at night, and when he does return he keeps
the phiintiff (wife) awake, talking sometimes until
midnight." Divorce granted.

But perhaps the most extraordinary of all the
cases was this : " During our whole married life
my husband has never offered to take me out
ridino-. This has been a source of great mental
suffering and injury." Divorce granted.

This is worse than the old paganism, because it
is paganism i^lus hypocrisy. We pretend to allow
a divorce only for cruel and inhuman treatment,
but we allow divorce for failing to sew buttons on,
and for talking until midnight. It is not my pur-
pose here to propose specific legal reforms. The
evil is far deeper than the law. It lies in a semi-
pagan sentiment which has crept unrecognized into
the American community. So long as complaisant
judges decree such actions as these to be cruel
and inhuman treatment, no statute which the legis-
lature can pass will prevent the evil. We must
recognize these fundamental truths : that marriage
is a divine ordinance wrought into human society
in the very creation of man ; that the family is an
autocracy, — that the husband and wife are not
two separate individualities, joining hands for cer-
tain special purposes, but are one flesh, a new per-
son ; and we must recognize this, at least, that
nothing but the most serious cause can justify sep-
aration after marriage once made. We must re-
member that the vow is not only '' for sickness
and health," not only " for richer and poorer," but
also " for better, for worse."


The remedy for connubial infelicities is not fly-
ing from them. The remedy for any ill is not
flying from it. The remedy for infelicities in the
pastorate is not short pastorates. It is more j)a-
tience by the pastor toward the church, and more
patience by the church to Avar d the pastor. The
remedy for the friction which enters into our
households is not separation ; it is closer union. I
have sometimes heard the wife say after a funeral,
" He never spoke a cross word," and have blessed
the widow's short memory. A life without a cross
word would be a miracle of self-restraint. There
are very few married couples in which each does
not have to exercise patience with the other. The
spirit which produces separation is the spirit that
suffers and is cross, that seeketh its own, — the
spirit of suspicion, not trust ; of discouragement,
not hope, — the spirit that seeks to escape from
life's burdens, not that beareth all things. The
remedy for connubial infelicity is not sej^aration,
it is closer union ; it is the love which beareth
all things, trusteth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things ; ^ the love which counts an-
other's fault as his burden, and bears it for him ;
the love which is never suspicious, but trusting and
confiding, and, when confidence is wronged and
trust is no longer possible, still hopes : and, when
hope long deferred makes the heart sick, still en-
dures ; a love like the love of Christ, who, having
loved his own, loved them unto the end.

^ 1 Cor. xiii. 7.

Christ's law of service.

In the preceding chapters we have considered
the relation of Christianity to democracy, that is, to
the development and reign of the common people ;
to communism, or, more accurately, to property
rights and relations ; to socialism, or, more prop-
erly, to the general social order ; and to the family.
In this and the succeeding clmpter, I purpose to
consider more specifically the teachings of Jesus
Christ, and the relation of Christianity, histori-
cally considered, to certain aspects of the labor

What is the labor question ?

Originally, the capitalist owned the laborer.
That was slavery. This ownership, in its earlier
and cruder forms, was absolute. The slave was
simply a chattel, and had no rights which the
owner was bound to respect. He was not as well
protected from cruelty as the domestic animal is
by modern legislation. He was barely tenant at
will of his own body, of which his master was free
to dispossess him at any time by inflicting death.^

When slavery, by gradual influences proceeding

1 See Lecky's History of European Morals, i. p. 318 ff., where
also the favorable side of ancient slavery is given.


from Christianity, was abolished in Europe, feu-
dalism took its . place. The capitalist owned the
land ; the laborer was attached to the land. The
capitalist owed the laborer protection from his
enemies ; the laborer owed the lord of the land
his service. "From the king down to the lowest
landowner," says Professor Stubbs, " all were
bound together by obligation of service and de-
fense, — the lord to protect his vassal, the vassal
to do service to his lord ; the defense and service
being based on and regulated by the nature and
extent of the land held by one of the other."
This was an improvement in the condition of the
laborer, but it certainly left much to be desired.
He had no political rights ; held his cottage and
garden at the will of his master, or subject to his
oppression, and without means of defense against
it. He possessed no title-deeds to his property,
nor were there any adequate courts to which he
could appeal if he were wronged.^

Remnants of feudalism are still to be found in
England, but it has gradually given way to the
capitalistic or wages system. Under this system,
one class of men own the tools and implements of
industry ; another class work with these tools. The
former are called capitalists, the latter laborers.
A great deal of current political discussion is
based on the assumption that this is a permanent
and necessary condition. In point of fact, it has

1 Wm. Stubbs, Const. Hist, of England^ vol. i. ch. ix. § 1>3, pp.
252, 436.


grown up almost wholly within a century. I can
myself remember when, in the remoter parts of
New England, there were still the spinning-wheel
and the hand-loom in the farmer's house ; when
the sheep were sheared and the wool was sent to
the carding-mill, and then brought back and woven
and spun into garments. Now the spinning-wheel
is banished from the family, the hand-loom is gone,
and the spinning-wheel and the loom are under the
roof of the great factories, operated by a thousand
men, who own no share whatever in the machin-
ery which they are using. In my boyhood, going
home from school, I sat on the box of the stage
with the driver, who owned, at least in part, the
stage and four-horse team ; and it was my ambition
as a boy to be some time a stage-driver myself and
own four splendid horses. Now the locomotive
engineer stands in the cab, and carries many more
passengers, a great deal more comfortably and at
a far greater rate of speed ; but he does not own
the locomotive. The locomotive and the railroad
track are owned by one set of men, and operated
by quite another. Practically, all the tools and
implements of industry, except in agriculture, are
owned by one class, while they are employed in
productive labor by another class.

It is under this capitalistic system that we have
seen one half of the wealth of the United States
pass into the possession and under the control
of one per cent, of the poimlation. A compara-
tively small number of persons control the imple-


ments of industry and possess the great bulk of its
products. The many carry on the industries, sub-
ject to the will and under the control and direction
of the few. The labor question is, What is the
relation between these two classes, — the working-
man who uses the tools, and the capitalist who
owns them?

It is customary, and for purposes of philosophi-
cal discussion it is necessary, to draw sharply the
line between these two classes, capitalists and
laborers. But, in fact, no such sharp division
exists. It is true that, under the wages system,
a comparatively small number of men control the
tools ; but, at least in democratic America, a very
considerable and probably increasing number par-
ticipate in the ownership. The total deposits in
banks and institutions for savings in 1890-91 ag-
gregated 12,661,752,961. The total number of
depositors in the savings banks alone, for the year
1890, was 4,297,723, with an average deposit of
§354.80 for each depositor. As many of these de-
positors represent families, the proportion of wealth-
owners to the population is seen to be large.


No. of














Loan Trust Companies . .
Savings Banks — Mutual.
Savings Banks — Stock . .

355,331 »,0S()







$2,G61,752,9ul i

1 Harper's Book of Facts for 1890-91.




Number of

Amount of


for each







354.80 1

The money thus deposited is not lying idle ; it is
all invested, in one form or another, in tools and
implements of industry. It becomes itself a tool,
but the owner of the tool rarely uses it. We hire
one another's tools with which to do our work. In
considering the labor question, we must classify
men into laborers and capitalists, though the same
man may be capitalist in one aspect and laborer in

The general effect of Christ's teaching, and of
human development under its inspiration, is to
abolish the class distinction between capitalist and
laborer, as other class distinctions have been abol-
ished. The tendency of civilization is to add to
the wealth and the power of the common people.^
And as their wealth and power are increased they
become capitalists, either by direct ownership in
private industry, or by corporate industry through
state action. The democracy of virtue and re-
ligion, of education and intelligence, and of politi-
cal power, is certain to be followed eventually by a
democracy of wealth, in which the present con-
ditions will, by successive modifications, be revo-
lutionized. The laborers will become themselves

1 Carne^e, Triumphant Democracy, rev. ed. 1898, p. 504.

2 See eh. \\. passim.


the capitalists, that is, the owners of the tools and
implements of industry : they will control the tools
with which they work, and the industries which
they carry on ; no longer will capital hire labor in
the cheapest market ; labor wdll hire capital ; the
man will control, not the money. Meanwhile,
however, the specific labor question of our time
is. What is the relation between these two classes,
the tool-owners and the tool-users, the capitalists
and the laborers ? So far as this is a moral ques-
tion, I believe that it is answered by two funda-
mental principles, — Christ's law of service and
Christ's standard of values. His law of service is
the subject of our consideration in this chapter.

Paganism has always discredited labor. Slavery
of itself discredited labor and honored idleness.
Thus paganism, born of savage selfishness and
love of ease, has corrupted public opinion almost
to the present time ; indeed, the relics of it are
still to be found even in industrious America. In
England, until a very recent period, a man might
walk the deck of a man-of-war as a midshipman
and be an honored gentleman ; but if he drove a
bolt into its place to make the man-of-war, he was
a dishonored mechanic. He might ride his horse
over a farmer's field and destroy the harvest, hunt-
ing a fox, and belong to the aristocracy ; but if he
rode his horse from field to field, to superintend
the sowing of the seed or the gathering of the
harvest, he was nothing but a farmer. There
were three vocations open to a gentleman's son :


he could be a soldier, a preacher, or a politician.
But if he added to his nation's material wealth by
productive industry, he could not be a gentleman.
This spirit crossed the ocean to America with the
Cavaliers. The immigrants to New England and
New York, sons of the English yeoman and sons
of the industrious Hollander, brought with them
to the Northern States respect for productive toil ;
but the immigrants to Virginia and the South,
sons of the Cavalier, looked down upon industry
as their fathers had done before them. Thus the
South inherited its scorn for free labor ; slavery
fitted well with that spirit and intensified it.

But there is one people in the world which,
throughout all its history, has honored industry, —
the Jewish nation.^ Its ancient laws discourag-ed
slavery and war, encouraged and honored honest
toil. Men have imagined that the Hebrew Scrip-
tures affirm that God imposed labor on man as
penalty for sin. This is a mistake. On the con-
trary, it is said that when God made Adam he
put him into a garden to dress it and to keep it.
It was not toil — it was thorns and thistles, that is,
needless obstacles, and the care and worry which
they beget — which sin brought into the world.
Throughout Israel's history labor is honored.
Abraham is a farmer, Moses a herdsman, David
a shepherd boy. In the glowing picture of the
future golden age which awaits the world, the
spears are not laid aside, but beaten into pruning-
1 See ch. i. p. 6.


hooks; nor the swords hung uj) ingloriously to
rust away, but converted into plowshares. The
benediction of God is bestowed on the laborer.
The Hebrew painter takes his brush to paint a
picture of ideal womanhood. This is what he
puts upon his canvas : ^ —

"• She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh wilHngly
with her hands. She is Hke the merchant's shijDS : she
bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it
is yet night, and giveth meat to her household and a
portion to her maidens. She considereth a field and
buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a
vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength and
strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her mer-
chandise is good : her candle goeth not out by night.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold
the distaff."

Into this nation, educated in and centred around
the honorableness of toil, Christ was born. And
he was born into a peasant family. He is known
in history as the " Son of the Carpenter ; " he
worked at his father's bench ; he called men of
toil and labor about him to be his disciples. The
church was, in the inception of it, a church of
hard-working men. Its first apostles were fish-
ermen ; its greatest apostle was a tent-maker.
Through all the early primitive Christianity, it
was built up out of hard-working men. It was a
peasant church. It might also be called, without
exaggeration, a workingtnan's organization. In his

^ Proverbs xxxi. 10-31.


teaching, Christ emphasized the honorableness of
labor. He declared that men were to serve one
another, and he was greatest who served best.
Not by destruction is honor won, nor by idleness
while some one else works for us, but by produc-
tive labor. Even the Messiah, he said, the Son
of Man, who has come to set the world free, — even
he has come to be the world's servant ; not to be
ministered unto, but to minister.^

This is very alphabetic, very simple, yet very
radical. It is not a mere moral apothegm, it is a
scientific principle, that labor alone is honorable,
and idleness unenforced always dishonorable. We
brought nothing into this world,^ say the Scrip-
tures, — how can we get anything ? We cannot
live unless we have clothes, shelter, food. Only
in one of four ways can we get these things : first,
we may receive them as a willing gift from the
producer ; second, we may appropriate them for
ourselves directly from nature ; third, we may
take them from the possession of the producer,
without giving an equivalent ; fourth, we may
produce them by our own industry. These are
the four ways of getting anything, and there is
no other.

The community is full — the communities of
Europe fuller than America — of men who are
living on other men's industry. They are living
by gifts. Some of them are poor and some of

1 Matthew xx. 28.

2 Job i. 21 ; Eccles. v. 15 ; 1 Tim. vi. 7.


them are rich, but they are doing nothing. The
man of full age, good body, and fair capacity, who
is not producing as much as he is spending, — the
best thing we can say of him is that he is living
on charity. The man or woman able to add to
the world's wealth and . adding nothing to it, mate-
rially, intellectually, or morally, must be counted
among the beggars, however housed and clothed
by the labors of others.

" There are worse things," says Mr. Gladstone, " than
heavy labor, and I will tell you what is worse than
heavy labor, and that is idle wealth. In vain a man
escapes from the destiny of hard work, even hard work
with some degree of poverty, to attain to wealth, if that
wealth is to bring vith it the curse, the unmitigated
curse, of idleness and self-indulgence. The laborer
has his legitimate, his necessary, his honorable and
honored place in God's creation ; but in all God's
creation there is no place appointed for the idle wealthy
man. Wealth can only be redeemed from danger by
one law and one course, and that is by associating it
with active duty to the honor of God and benefit of
mankind." ^

Give heed, you who think you have no need
to work because your rich fathers worked before
you ; who imagine that a life is honorable which
is spent in using what other men have produced ;
who go through school, academy, and college, com-
ing out with the ripened fruits of culture and all

1 W. E. Gladstone, Speech on Labor at Cheshire, England,
Nov. 28, 1891, reported in London Times, Nov. 30, 1891.


the advantages which wealth and society give, but
never imagine that you are called upon to give
back to the world, in some form or other, what
God has given to you. Every man is bound, by
the gifts of health, intelligence, capacity, and op-
portunity which God has given him, to put into
the world at least as much as he takes out of it.
Every man should be inspired by a noble ambi-
tion to leave the world richer, better, and nobler
for his having lived in it ; we are not to forget
that even the invalid should by his suffering so
teach the world patience, as to be a produce^ of
wealth of spirit.

The second man takes out of the common stock,
that is, out of the coal ot oil or lumber or produc-
tive juices with which God has stored the earth.^
Whether the earth and its contents ought to be
owned and managed by the entire community,
whether it is a proper subject for personal prop-
erty, or should be treated as common property,
is a question not necessary here to consider. Nor
that other question, whether the community should
by law put some limitations upon the powers of
men into whose possession and under whose con-
trol this common stock has fallen. It is certain
on the one hand that men who discover, unearth,
and render available this reservoired wealth of
the land, do so by some form of industry, intel-
lectual or muscular, or both combined; and it is

^ For some estimate of the value of this species of property, see
ch. iii. p. 82 ff.


equally certain that no one of them is living in

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Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 11 of 25)