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They shall not be shut by day nor by night ;
That men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles,
And that their kings may be brought." ^

This heterogeneous people occupy a land which
embraces every variety of climate, from that of
Northern Europe to that of Middle Asia ; and every
variety of wealth, from that of the wheat-fields of

^ Isa. Ix. 10, 11. The whole chapter applies in a remarkable
manner to the present condition of the United States.


Russia to that of the silver mines o£ Golconcla.
Its fertile soil gives every variety of production,
from the pine-trees of Maine to the orange groves
of Florida. It has for agriculture vast prairies
of exhaustless wealth ; for mines, mountains rich
in coal, iron, copper, silver, gold ; for mills, swift-
running rivers ; for carriage, slow and deep ones ;
and for commerce, a harbor-indented coast-line
lying open to two oceans, and inviting the com-
merce of two hemispheres. I do not dwell upon
the magnificence of this endowment, — that is a
familiar aspect, — but upon its diversity. The na-
tion which occupies such a land must be diverse in
industry as it is heterogeneous in population. The
simplicity of social and industrial organization has
long since passed away. There are few richer
men in the world than in America, and none who
have amassed such wealth in so short a time ; there
are no poorer men in the world, and nowhere men
whose poverty is so embittered by disappointed
hopes and shattered ambitions. In the Old World
men are born to poverty, and accept their pre-
destined lot with contentment, if not with cheer-
fulness. In America the ambitious youth sees a
possible preferment in the future, counts every
advance only a step towards further advancement,
and attributes every failure to injustice or ill-luck.
Society, thus made up of heterogeneous popula-
tions, subjected to the educational influence of
widely differing religions, engaged in industries
whose interests often seem to conflict if they actu-


ally do not, and separated into classes by continu-
ally shifting partition-walls, is kept in perpetual
ferment by the nature of its educational, political,
and social institutions. The boys of the rich and
the poor sit by each other's side in the same school-
room ; their fathers brush against each other in the
same conveyance. The hod-carrier and the million-
aire hang by the same strap and sway against each
other in the same street-car. Every election brings
rich and poor, cultivated and ignorant, into line to
deposit ballots of equal weight in the same ballot-
box, and makes it the interest of each to win the
suffrage of the other for his candidate and his
party. The caldron, political and economical, is
always seething and boiling ; the bottom thrown
to the top, the top sinking in turn to the bottom.
The canal-boat driver becomes President, the deck-
hand a railroad magnate. The son of the Presi-
dent mingles with the masses of the peoi)le in the
battle for position and i^referment, and the son of
yesterday's millionaire is to-morrow earning his
daily bread by the sweat of his brow. In the Old
World men live like monks in a monastery ; each
class, if not each individual, has its own cell. Here
all walls are down and all classes live in commons.
All this is familiar ; it is enough here to sketch
it in the barest outlines : for my only purpose in
recalling it is to ask the reader to consider what
is its. moral meaning. It can have but one. Into
this continent God has thrown this heterogeneous
people, in this effervescent and seething mass, that


in the struggle they may learn the laws of social
life. African, Malay, Anglo-Saxon, and Celt,
ignorant and cultivated, rich and poor, God flings
VIS together under institutions which inextricably
intermix us, that he may teach us by experience
the meaning of the brotherhood of man.

All our national problems are problems of hu-
man brotherhood. The question that lay before
this nation in 1784 was a question of human
brotherhood : How shall these colonies, with their
diverse interests, their petty jealousies, their ani-
mosities, live together in one free nation ? And
our fathers were wise enough to deal with it, and,
on the whole, wisely solved it. There came the
slavery question : What shall we do with these
four millions of slave population ? What does
brotherhood require of us ? And God gave us the
strength and wisdom to give the right answer to
that through terrible war. There came the ques-
tion : What does human brotherhood owe to the
ignorant ? The public school is our reply to that.
The community owes education to the children of
its poor. There came the question : What shall
be the religious institutions of such a community ?
The answer was, A free Church in a free State ; re-
ligion must be spontaneous, and the religious insti-
tutions must spring spontaneously from the needs
and the constitutions of the individuals who con-
stitute the community. The industrial question
and the temperance question are but other forms
of this one question : How shall a great, hetero-


geneous population, diverse in race, in religion, in
tradition, in history, in social condition, live peace-
fully and prosperously together in human brother-
hood ?

This is certainly a question which the Church
must help to answer. It is emphatically a reli-
gious question. 1 If the Church does not interest
itself in what concerns humanity, it cannot hope
that humanity will interest itself in what concerns
the Church. Why, indeed, should it? If the
Church shelters itself under the plea that religion
is a matter between the individual soul and God,
it adopts a very much narrower definition of
religion than that of the Bible. The Hebrew
prophet who asked, " What doth the Lord require
of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and
to walk humbly with thy God ? " had a conception
of religion two parts of which have to do with
our relations to our fellov/-men, and one part with
our relations to God. Christ's summary of the
law and the prophets puts as much emphasis on
the brotherhood of man as on the fatherhood
of God. Indeed, it could not be otherwise. A
religion which did not teach us how to live on
earth would have small claims upon our respect
when it claimed to teach us how to prepare for
heaven. A teacher who cannot tell his boys how to
get along with each other in their school is not the
man to prepare them to get along with each other

^ " Every political question is rapidly beeoniin_<;' a social ques-
tion, and every social question a religious question." — Mazzini.


as men. Christianity is not merely individual ; it
is organic. The teacher of Christianity who does
not discover laws of social life in the Bible has
studied it to very little purpose. The teacher who
does not teach those laws does not follow the ex-
ample of either the Old Testament prophets, the
New Testament apostles, or the divine Master of

To whom else shall the people look for instruc-
tion in the moral principles of a true social order
if not to the ministry ? Shall they look to the
politicians? Their function in a democracy is not
to inculcate, still less to discover, great principles.
They are executive officers, not teachers. They
are appointed to formulate in law and so set in
motion the principles which, under the instruction
of others, the people have adopted. This is what
more or less effectively they are doing ; and this
is what they ought to do. The politician is not
a motive-power ; he is a belting, and connects the
motive-power with the machinery. He gets things
done when the people have determined what they
want done. Shall we, then, look to the editors for
moral instruction in sociology ? The editors ought
to be public teachers, but with few exceptions they
have abdicated. The secular press is devoted to
secular news-gathering and to party service ; the
religious press to ecclesiastical news-gathering and
denominational service. There are some notable
exceptions, but they do but prove the rule. Not
long since, I heard the editor of one of the wealth-


iest and most successful, thougli not most influen-
tial, of American journals say in a public debate
that the daily paper was organized to make money,
and that was what it ought to be organized for.
So long as this is deemed true by the editors, the
newspaper cannot be a teacher. The world has
never paid for leadership — until the leader was
dead. Such a press can only crystallize the public
sentiment which others have created, and so make
efficacious a feeling which otherwise would effer-
vesce in emotion. This it does, and for this ser-
vice we are duly grateful. But it cannot — at
least it generally does not — do the work of an
investigator. It does not discover laws of life.
It does not create ; it only represents. It is a
reservoir, without which the mill could not be
driven ; but the reservoir must itself be fed by the
springs among the hills. The real formers of
public opinion are the teachers and the preachers,
the schools and the churches. The former are
necessarily empirical ; they deduce the laws of life
from a study of past experience. The latter ought
to be prophets. Their sympathy with all classes
of men, their common contact with rich and poor,
their opportunities for reflection and meditation,
their supposed consecration to a work wholly un-
selfish and disinterested, ought to combine with
their piety to give them that insight into life which
has always been characteristic of a prophetic
order. I do not mean to demand of the ministry
the impossible ; but if this is not their function, it


would be difficult to say what function tliey have.
They cannot formulate public opinion in laws as
well as the politicians ; they cannot represent that
public opinion which is already formed as well as
the journalists ; they cannot extract the truth from
a scientific study of life as well as the teacher and
the scholar. But so far as natural selection, aided
by special studies and a generally quiet life, can
equip any class of men for a prophetic function,
and so fit them to discern the great moral laws of
the social order, the ministry are so equipped. If
they will leave the professional teachers to expound
the secular, that is, the empirical side of social
science, the newspapers to reflect such conclusions
respecting this science as are formed, and the poli-
ticians to embody those opinions and principles
in law, and will devote themselves to the spiritual
study of the Bible and of life, — that book which
is always being written and is never finished, —
they can be leaders of the leaders. They can lay
the foundations on which other men shall rear the
superstructure. They speak, or can speak, to all
classes in the community, for they belong to none.
They address audiences of personal friends, whom
they have counseled and aided in the hours when
friendship is the most full of sweet significance.
They speak to these friends at a time when baser
passions are allayed and moral sentiments are
awakened. The very smallness of their auditory,
as compared with that of the journalist, adds force
to their counsels and affords protection from mis-


apprehension. The Church and ministry, then,
must be competent to give instruction in the moral
laws which govern social and industrial life, — the
organized life of humanity. The age requires this
instruction ; the people desire it ; the religious
teachers should give it.

It is in this conviction that this volume has been
written ; in this conviction I endeavor to summa-
rize very briefly here in a few paragraphs the prin-
ciples elucidated in the preceding chapters.

Man is God's child, and therefore has suprem-
acy over himself. This is the divine foundation
of liberty, in State, in Church, in Society, — the
doctrine that in man himself is dormant a power
to control himself. If he uses his liberty to do me
a wrong, I may protect myself ; if he uses it to do
society a wrong, society may protect itself. There
its right to control ceases. It may persuade, argue,
entreat ; but man is God's son, and sonship gives
him liberty. He is to be controlled by the dictates
of his own judgment. He may blunder even unto
death, but it is better to die a free man than to
live a slave. Our goddess of liberty ought not to
be a pagan goddess. It should be the figure of
Christ; he holds the torch which illumines the

As a part of this supremacy over himself is the
right of every man, as against his fellow-men, to
own and control his own labor, and therefore the
product of his own labors. With the Communism
which denies the right of private property Chris-


tianity has nothing in common, unless this can be
thought to be in common, that it teaches, as does
economic science also, that all wealth is in a moral
sense common wealth, the product of a common
endeavor, very imperfectly divided by our current
methods of division, or by any other conceivable.
Science and Christianity combine to teach that
every man receives his wealth — be it little or
much — from One higher than himself, and holds
it therefore in trust for him from whom he has
received it, who bids him administer that trust in
and for the public welfare.

Nevertheless, Christianity is not individualism,
in State, Church, or social organization. Liberty
is not independence. The Socialism which means
"giving to the hands, not so large a share as to
the brain, but a larger share than hitherto, in the
wealth they must combine to produce," means also,
as James Russell Lowell has well said, '' the prac-
tical application of Christianity to life, and has
in it the secret of an orderly and beneficent recon-
struction." ^ Christianity agrees with Socialism
in recognizing the mutual dependence of men,
and classes of men, on each other, and in seeking
a larger diffusion of virtue, intelligence, political
power, and wealth ; but it differs from Socialism
in putting first, both as an end in itself and as a
means to social reconstruction, the reconstruction
of the individual.

In the social order, Christianity insists on the
^ James Russell Lowell, Democracy^ and Other Addresses, p. 40.


maintenance of the home unbroken ; for the home
is the foundation of the social order: the State,
the Church, industrial civilization, are all built
upon the home. When we begin to suppose that
love requires no patience, no forbearance, no long-
suffering ; that love may simply seek its own, and
not another's welfare ; that when any friction
comes into the household, the remedy is to take
the machine to pieces and make a new machine
in the place of it, — we are going back to the old
paganism in Rome, which declared that marriage
is simply a partnership made at pleasure, and to
be dissolved at pleasure. The fundamental teach-
ing of Christ on this subject is that marriage is
not a partnershij), and cannot be dissolved as are
other partnerships ; that it is a divine order, and
on its permanence the permanence of society de-
pends. Whatever threatens the family, threatens
society at the foundation.

For the maintenance of industrial order Christ
enunciates two fundamental principles, — the law
of service and the standard of values. Industrial
peace is to be brought about, not by a well-bal-
anced conflict of self-interest, by capital buying
labor in the cheapest market, and labor selling
itself in the highest market, and each trying to
outwit the other, but by a frank recognition of
partnership between the power of the brain and
the power of the muscle, which should be united
in the community as they are united in the indi-
vidual, and should work together for the largest


service to humanity ; not the greatest acquisition
of wealth, but the greatest development of man-
kind. Brotherhood certainly does not mean that
all men are equal : Christ says, " He that is great-
est among you shall be your servant." It does not
mean that all men shall render the same service
or receive the same rewards. Christ, in the Par-
able of the Talents, says : " He gave to one man
five talents, to another two, and to another one ; to
every man according to his several ability." ^
Christ does not accept the pseudo principle that
all men are to be paid alike, irrespective of their
service. Christ has sometimes been called a great
leveler. That is a mistake ; he was not a great
leveler, but a great elevator. His purpose was to
develop the highest, noblest, divinest quality in
each individual, and therefore the highest and
noblest quality in the aggregate of individuals.
For character is the end of life, and all that we
live for is manhood and womanhood. We are to
live, not that we may have things, but that he may
make us better men and women ; not that we may
have liberty, but that out of our liberty there may
come a better growth ; not that we may have edu-
cation, if by education we mean schools and books,
but that out of schools and books there may emerge
a nobler manhood ; not even that we may have re-
ligion, if by religion we mean creeds and rituals
and churches and preachers ; these are of use only
as they make men more worthy to be called sons

^ Matthew xxv. 15.


of God. Service is the universal duty ; character
is the sole standard of values.

There are enemies of the social order : in deal-
ing with them we are to be inspired by love, not
by wrath ; and are to adjust penalties solely for
the purpose of reform, never for the purpose of
retribution. When men raise their hands against
society and trample law under foot, we are not to
revenge ourselves on them ; we are not to shut
them up and forget them: our attitude of mind
toward them is to be precisely the attitude of mind
of Jesus Christ toward sinners. The Christian
problem is. How shall we cure these men of their
disease? how shall we redeem these men from
their sin? how shall we reform these enemies of
the social order?

There are controversies which threaten to dis-
rupt the brotherhood. There are two ways of set-
tling such controversies. The pagan way is wager
of battle. This gives victory to strength, not to
justice. Christ's method is. Submit the question
to reason, first in the parties ; if that fail, then in
some impartial tribunal. We have measurably
accepted this as the method for settling controver-
sies between man and man ; we are to accept it as
the method for settling controversies between class
and class, and between nation and nation.

The problem of our American commonwealth is
to teach men the meaning of the words which run
so glibly from our tongues, — justice and liberty ;
to teach what are the laws under which men and


women should live ; to sweep away the cant that
obscures the word "brotherhood," and give it a
clear and definite meaning, not by words chiefly,
but by our lives and our national character.

I do not imagine that this volume offers a solu-
tion of this problem or these problems, but I hope
that it may serve to indicate the lines of investiga-
tion to which the needs of the nineteenth century
invite the religious teacher. If he will go to his
Bible for this purpose, he will find it quite as rich
in sociological as in theological instruction ; quite
as fertile in its suggestions respecting the duty of
man to man as in its suggestions respecting the
nature and government of God. He will find his
New Testament telling him that the brotherhood
of man is an integral part of Christianity no less
than the fatherhood of God, and that to deny the
one is no less infidel than to deny the other; he
will find in it no light upon scientific details of
political or industrial organization, but he will find
the great moral laws of the social order, if not
clearly revealed, at least definitely indicated. Sir
Henry Maine has shown very clearly that demo-
cracy is not yet " triumphant democracy ; " it is still
an experiment. The American Revolution deter-
mined our right to try it on this continent without
fear of foreign intervention. The Civil War deter-
mined our right to try it without fear of domestic
disruption. We have still to work out the prob-
lem. Whether a people diverse in race, religion,
and industry can live happily and prosperously


together, with no other law over them than the
invisible law of right and wrong, and no other
authority over them than the unarmed authority
of conscience, is the question which America has
to solve for the world.

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Lyman Abbott.

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Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 24 of 25)