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the Roman Empire and the American Republic
are striking. Like imperial Rome, the Republic
extends from a northern to an almost tropical
zone ; includes a great variety of soils, climates,
and productions ; embraces a vast and hetero-
geneous population ; is composed of separate states,
each with its own peculiar political institutions
and social customs ; permits a great variety of
religious creeds and forms of worship to grow up
peacefully side by side ; it possesses a territory
considerably larger than that of ancient Rome, and
probably will possess, by the middle of the next
century, a population not inferior in numbers.
But here the parallel ends. In the three most
fundamental elements of national life, these two
empires are in strong contrast : in their religious
and educational institutions, in their political



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 31

organization, and in their industrial and social
life.

I. The object of the religion of Rome was not
to make men better or happier. Moralists there
were whose teachings embody noble ethical stand-
ards. But we look in vain for such a teacher
among either the priests or the prophets of the
pagan empire. Its religious institutions had no
relation to the moral life.^ Religion did not even
claim to be ethical in its spirit or its purpose.
That purpose was either to appease the wrath of
angry gods or to win the favor of corruptible gods.
Religion was, therefore, a special function fulfilled
by a special class. The religious services were
performed for the community by a priesthood.
Remnants of this pagan conception of religion
remain in religious doctrines and religious forms
to the ]3resent day. A few years ago I was spend-
ing a week in a quiet village in Northern England,
A daily service was held in the village church.
My companion went out one afternoon to attend
this service. She was a little late, and entered
very quietly, so as not to disturb the worshipers,
only to find the priest reading the service, " Dearly
beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sun-
dry places to acknowledge and confess our mani-
fold sins and wickedness, . . . yet ought we chiefly
so to do when we assemble and meet together,"
. . . and there was not a man, woman, or child in

1 Lecky's History of European Morals^ i. 176 ; Uhlhorn, Conflict
\>f Christianity and Heathenism, book i. ch. i. p. 55.



32 CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

the house. Yet it may be assumed that, to the
honest priest, there was no incongruity in this
circumstance : to him the priestly service was
rendered, not by but for the people ; not to them,
but on their behalf. Religious service was an
official function. Similar in sjiirit is the attempt
of certain modern ecclesiastics to do the thinking
for the people, frame the creeds for them, tell
them what they should believe, and encourage
their investigation of religious problems, only upon
the condition first exacted that they will arrive
at no other conclusions than those which have been
already formulated for them by their religious
teachers. Religious thinking in the one case, and
religious worship in the other, is an official func-
tion, to be jjerformed by a religious class.

Yet clearly this conception of religion is a sur-
vival of the past. Indeed, it is claimed so to be.
The priest desires to go back to tTerusalem for the
pattern of his service ; the theologian, to the six-
teenth century for the model of his creed. The
modern tendency is quite different, and is so re-
garded, alike by those who lament the difference
as an indication of degeneracy and those who re-
joice in it as an evidence of advance. The blood-
less sacrifice of the mass still remains the shadow
of an ancient sacrificial system ; and the imitation
of that mass in some Protestant churches, the
mere shadow of a shadow : but in the main the
effort of modern religion is not to appease an an-
gry God, nor to win the favor of a purchasable



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 33

one. Religion has become in its object philan-
thropic. Ruskin ^ rightly interprets the spirit of
the age, whether he rightly interprets the spirit of
the New Testament or not : " Do justice and judg-
ment ! that 's your Bible order ; that 's the ' Service
of God,' — not praying nor psalm-singing." Pray-
ing is seeking strength for service ; psalm-singing
is giving thanks for the privilege of serving : but
the service is in hospitals, mission schools, church
schools, college settlements, boys' clubs, girls' clubs,
political and social reforms, — a thousand philan-
thropies, some material, some intellectual, some
spiritual ; but all seeking one great end — the pro-
motion of human welfare and human happiness.
The modern conception of Christianity appears
to me more Christian than the one which it is
suj)planting. Turn again to that first sermon of
Christ's in the synagogue at Nazareth : " And
there was delivered unto him the book of the
prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the
book, he found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he
hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor ;
he hath sent me to heal the broken - hearted, to
preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering
of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that
are bruised. . . . And he began to say unto them,
This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
In all this there is no suggestion of appeasing the

1 Riiskin, Works (Crowell & Co.), The Crown of Wild Olive,
p. 48,



34 CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

wrath or winning the favor of God. It is not for
this he came into the world : it is to bring into the
world the life of God, — the life that really is, the
eternal life. The spirit of this sermon has entered
the church, and has gradually changed the avowed
function of religion from the selfish one of seeking
the personal salvation of the worshiper to the unsel-
fish one of inspiring him to become a savior of others.
With this change in the conception of religion
has come a change in the organization of the
church. Autocracy dies hard, but it is surely
though slowly dying. The Roman Catholic
Church succeeds in maintaining an autocratic or-
ganization in a democratic age, because its hier-
archy is wise enough to allow great flexibility of
local administration. The laity do not vote, but
there are other methods of influence than a ballot.
The recent history of land-owning in Ireland and
of the public school question in the United States
indicates the extent to which the Roman Catholic
hierarchy are influenced by the people whose eccle-
siastical rulers they are. The statesmanship of
Leo XIII. has been shown in nothing more strik-
ingly than in his wise and efficient endeavor to
adapt the church to a democratic age and demo-
cratic needs. Outside of Romanism, even the
forms of autocracy are not successfully maintained.
The Salvation Army is, indeed, constructed on the
principles of an imperial despotism. But, since
this volume was begun, that army has broken

i John X. 10 ; xvii. 1-3 ; 1 Tim. vi. 19 : '' life indeed," Rev. Ver.



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 35

asunder in the United States, and the indications
are unmistakable that its autocratic methods will
not, even in England, long- survive the general
who has adopted them. In all other ecclesiastical
organizations government varies from that of a rep-
resentative republic to that of a pure democracy.

Closely connected with this change in the spirit
of religion, and in the nature of its ecclesiastical
institutions, is the growth of religious organizations
dissociated from all hierarchical control, and the
employment of means of moral cultivation wholly
outside the church. As illustrations of such or-
ganizations, may be mentioned such religious but
unecclesiastical societies as the Young Men's Chris-
tian Association, the Young Women's Christian
Association, the Societies of Christian Endeavor
and the Sons and Daughters of the King. It is
not strange that these and other purely democratic
organizations are looked upon with some suspicion
by professional ecclesiastics ; and it must be con-
fessed by their warmest friends that they exhibit
some of the defects which appear to be inherent in
democracies of every type : but it can hardly be
questioned by their severest critics, that they are
likely to prove permanent additions to the religious
force of the country. As illustrations of uneccle-
siastical instruments of moral culture, may be men-
tioned the religious newspapers, some of which are
under church control, but others of which are
wholly untrammeled ; and contributions to the
discussion of religious problems by writers as ab-



S6 CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

solutely independent of all church influence as
Matthew Arnold and Professor Huxley. Systems
of examination and ordination still put certain per-
haps quite legitimate restrictions upon the pulpit,
but there is no similar censorship of the press ;
and Renan and Strauss are quite as free to write
their interpretation of the life and teachings of
Jesus Christ as are Hanna or Farrar. Whittier's
" Eternal Goodness " has probably preached to a
greater audience than any modern sermon, and
each reader is left to judge for himself of its
orthodoxy. Balfour discusses the " Foimdations of
Belief " and Drummond the '' Ascent of Man," and
there is no recognized authority to decide whether
either volume should be put in an Index Expur-
gatorius. When a feeble attempt is made by
ecclesiastical critics, or a stronger attempt by an
ecclesiastical association, to place a dangerous book
under ban, the only result is to increase the num-
ber of its readers. It was the denunciation of
" Robert Elsmere " which gave to it its phenomenal
circulation. It is easy to see whither all this
leads, — to a freedom of thought, of teaching, of
service both within and without the church, tran-
scending anything known in the past. The eyes of
the blind are opened and tlie limbs of the paralyzed
unloosed ; and the one can never be blinded, nor
the other put into chains again.

This transformation in the conception of reli-
gion from a special function to a universal life,
of religious institutions from an autocratic to a



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 37

deiiiociatic form, and of religious ministry from a
priestly administration to a universal philanthropy,
has been accompanied by a similar transformation
in education. The schools of imperial Rome prac-
tically confined their curriculum to rhetoric and
athletics ; in ancient Greece, music and art were
added. Later, philosophy was taught, but only to
insignificant numbers. There was no provision
for public education ; pupils were relatively few ;
education was for special classes.^ The theatre
and the forum rendered to these ancient peoples a
service somewhat analogous to that rendered in
our time by the press, but inefficiently and not
extensively. Christianity borrowed the synagogue
school from Judaism and extended it. The mon-
asteries preserved the literature of the ancients
from destruction ; the monks were the printing-
presses of Europe before the printing-press was
invented; parish schools were established in con-
nection with the churches, and higher seminaries
and universities in connection with the convents
and monasteries.^ Gradually, as the state became

1 See Oscar Browning-, Hist, of Ed. Theories., eh. ii. ; on " Roman
Education." " The whole education of a Greek youth was divided
into three parts, — g-ramraar, music, and gymnastics, to which
Aristotle adds a fourth, the art of drawing- or painting-. Gymnas-
tics, however, was thought by the ancients a matter of such im-
portance that this part of education alone occupied as much time
and attention as all the others put tog-ether." Smith's Diet, of
Greek and Roman Antiq.., art. " Gymnasium." Comp. ibid., art.
" Psedagogus ; " The Life of the Greeks and Romans, by Guhl and
Koner, 212 ff.

2 See Milman, Latin Christianity, bk. iii. eh. xi. ; bk. iv= eh.
iii. ; Mrs. Jameson, Legends of the Monastic Orders., pp. 3-5.



38 CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

inspired by the humane spirit of Christianity, it
preferred to assume the education of the young ;
gradually, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes will-
ingly, the church relinquished that function to the
state, or shared it with the state. Thus out of the
synagogue schools in Palestine have grown the
magnificent school systems of France, Germany,
England, and the United States. With all their
defects, they equip the children of the poor for
life, and, by teaching them to think, prepare them
for a sturdy and intelligent independence. In
these respects this movement for universal educa-
tion has made great strides during the present
century. In England, by the board school sys-
tem, the people have undertaken to provide ade-
quate education for all the children of school age
who are not provided for by parochial schools. In
the United States the public school system has
been extended throughout the Southern States,
where previous to the Civil War there was no
free school system for the whites, and where the
education of the blacks was a penal offense. Froe-
bel's introduction of the kindergarten has done
more than merely provide education for little chil-
dren, who before his day had been allowed to grow
up untrained, and whose earlier school discipline
was always unnatural and irksome and often cruel ;
it is bringing with it into higher grades the natural
method, transforming education from a mechanical
and manufacturing process into one of normal and
healthful development. Within the century, both



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 39

in this country and in England, higher schools and
seminaries have been opened to women, whose
education was before confined to the art of house-
keeping and certain social accomplishments. The
effect in the future of having the children in the
home grow up in the companionship and under
the inspiration of mothers who have not only
learned the art of study, but have acquired the
outlook and equipment of scholarship, cannot as
yet be foreseen by the most optimistic prophet.
Mechanical training of hand and eye are gradu-
ally — too gradually for impatient reformers —
being introduced into the public school curriculum.
The agitation for some better ethical influences is
beginning to find a response in public thought,
and the reaction against the excessive dread of
ecclesiastical influences has unmistakably begun.
We may reasonably hope by the middle of the
next century to see the kindergarten in every vil-
lage ; the higher education as freely provided for
women as for men ; the highest education made
available, either by state universities or by scholar-
ships, for the poorest who have proved their appe-
tite and their capacity for it ; and education so
broadened in public conception as to include the
training of the body on the one hand and that of
the conscience and the moral nature on the other.

II. If, from this rapid survey of the contrast
between the Roman Empire and the American
Republic in religious and educational aspects, we
turn to a comparison of the political spirit and



40 CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

institutions of the two, the contrast, if not greater,
is certainly more apparent. The Roman empire
under the Caesars was an absolute despotism. Its
organization was essentially military, its emperof
the commander-in-chief of an armed and encamped
nation. The fate not only of the Roman world,
but of every individual in it, depended on the will
of a single autocrat. " The system of the imperial
government," says Gibbon, " as it was instituted
by Augustus and maintained by those princes who
understood their own interest and that of the
people, may be defined an absolute monarchy dis-
guised by the forms of a commonwealth." ^ The
authority of the emperor, nominally derived from
the Senate, which was composed of his creatures,
was really dependent upon the army, which was
obedient to his will. It is not necessary here
to recite the practical results of this autocratic
system ; they may all be summed up in four preg-
nant sentences of Gibbon : " It is almost super-
fluous to enumerate the unworthy successors of
Augustus. Their unparalleled vices, and the splen-
did theatre on which they have acted, have saved
them from oblivion. The dark, unrelenting Tibe-
rius, the furious Caligula, the feeble Claudius, the
profligate and cruel Nero, the beastly Vitellius,
and the inhuman Domitian are condemned to
everlasting infamy. During fourscore years (ex-
cepting only the short and doubtful respite of
Vespasian's reign), Rome groaned beneath an

1 Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. iii. p. 302.



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 41

unrelenting tyranny which exterminated the an-
cient forms of the republic, and was fatal to almost
every virtue and every talent that arose in that
unhappy period." ^

It was in a province of this empire, and under
this imperial form of government, that Jesus Christ
presented a very different ideal. " But be not ye
called Rabbi : for one is your Master, even Christ ;
and all ye are brethren. And call no man your
father upon the earth; for one is your Father,
which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters ;
for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that
is greatest among you shall be your servant." ^
No wonder that the Roman Empire endeavored by
fire and sword to destroy the nascent Christianity,
as Herod had attempted to destroy the infant
Christ. The birth at Bethlehem sounded the knell
of imperial prerogatives and privileged classes
throughout the world. The privileged classes
rightly interpreted the meaning of the new move-
ment, and set themselves in vain to destroy it.
The words of Jesus Christ proved to be the proto-
plasm of democracy, and nothing has been able to
suppress this divine life and its resultant growth.
The most enthusiastic believer in triumphant de-
mocracy cannot claim for the United States that it
has realized the purpose and prophecy of the prophet
of Nazareth, but the dullest and most pessimistic
disbeliever can hardly fail to see in the spirit and

1 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. iii. p. 317.

2 Matt, xxiii. 8-11.



42 CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

constitution of the American republic, as con-
trasted with that of the ancient empire, the serious
though but half-conscious attempt to realize that
prophecy. In so doing it is furnishing, not a new
definition, scarcely even a new object-lesson, in
liberty, but an object-lesson of vaster proportions
and with promise of grander results than the world
has ever seen.

What is liberty ? " The true liberty of a man,"
says Carlyle, ^ "you would say consisted in his
finding out, or being forced to find out, the right
path and to walk therein ; to learn or be taught
what work he was actually able to do, and then, by
permission, persuasion, or even compulsion, to be
set about doing of the same. Oh, if thou really art
my senior, seigneur, my elder, presbyter, or priest
— if thou art in any way my wiser — may a bene-
ficent instinct lead and impel thee to conquer and
command me ! If thou do know better than I what
is good and right, I conjure you, in the name of
God, force me to do it ; were it by never such brass
collars, whips, and handcuffs, leave me not to walk
over precipices ! " No, this is not liberty : it is
servitude. Servitude may be better than walking-
over precipices ; it may be in every way justifiable
if the man be a lunatic, and is bent upon pushing
men weaker than himself over precipices. But it
is not liberty. " Liberty is ability to do as one
pleases." "Freedom is the exemption from the
power and control of another." ^ Whether liberty

1 Carlyle, Past and Present, ch. xiii. p. 182, Chapman & Hall's ed.

2 Webster's Dictionary.



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 43

is wise, safe, or even possible, may be open to discus-
sion, but it is not " brass collars, whips, and hand-
cuffs." Aristotle classifies governments as govern-
ment by the one, government by the few, government
by the many. We have added in America a fourth
class, — self-government. This is liberty. It as-
sumes, not that every man can safely govern him-
self, but first that it is safer to leave every man to
govern himself than to put any man under the
government of another man, or any class of men
under the government of another class ; and, sec-
ondly, that there is such potentiality of self-
governing power in every man, such capacity in
him to learn by his own blunders, that he will
acquire a wisdom and a self-restraint through the
very perils of self-government which he never will
acquire under the protecting government of others
wiser or better than himself. Thus liberty is the
diffusion of political power, as despotism is its con-
centration. Paternalism calls one man — Roman
Imperator or Russian Czar — Father ; Democracy,
like Christianity, repudiates paternalism and calls
no man Father. Imperialism makes one man —
Roman Emperor or Russian Czar — Master; De-
mocracy, like Christianity, calls no man Master,
and regards the greatest in the state as the servants
of the people, appointed not only to minister to
their welfare, but also to be obedient to their
bidding.

Democracy begins self-government with the in-
dividual, leaves him free to do what he will, to



44 CHRISTIANITY AND SOCIAL PROBLEMS.

perpetrate what blunders and inflict what self-
injuries he chooses, so long as he does not directly
or indirectly wrong his neighbor by his blunder or
his self -in jury. It extends this privilege so as to
allow to the local community — village, town, or
county — the administration of its own affairs, the
levying and expending of its local taxes, the con-
struction of its roads, the administration of its
schools. It permits the State to exercise authority
only in the domain in which the interests of all the
citizens of the State are directly concerned, and it
delegates authority to the nation only in those mat-
ters in which no State can act without inflicting
injury on its sister State. Thus under imperialism
or paternalism the government is derived from the
top, and is distributed downward through agents
and sub-agents, who in a great empire necessarily
constitute a great bureaucracy. Under democracy
the government is derived from the bottom, and is
delegated by successive commissions to a hierarchy,
not of masters, but of servants. Under the one
system, the higher the official the wider the range
of his authority; under the other system, the
higher the official the less numerous are the powers
delegated to him. Augustus appointed lieutenants
who executed his will in the various provinces of
the Empire, and who held their office only during
his pleasure. Whenever he was present, the juris-
diction of the governor was superseded by that of
his master. Judicial as well as imperial powers
were centred in him and devolved upon his sub-



CHRISTIANITY AND DEMOCRACY. 45

ordinates. With them were combined those of
pontiff and of censor ; " by the former he acquired
the management of the religion, and by the latter a
legal inspection over the manners and fortunes, of
the Roman people." ^ The President and Congress
of the United States, on the contrary, while possess-
ing very great powers, possess them only in a very
limited domain. They cannot directly enter the
family or regulate the industry of the poorest citi-
zen of the United States. They cannot make or
mar the country roads, and can interfere with the
great highways only for the purpose of protecting
or promoting commerce between the States. They
are powerless to interfere with either religious
beliefs or religious rituals, and can exercise no
authority whatever over the systems of popular
education. They cannot even interfere to enforce
law or quell riots and insurrections, except in cases
in which the local authorities are incapable of ful-
filling this duty. Though the greatest concerns
are not exempt from their authority, the greatest
number of concerns are so exempt. The dangers
threatened on the one hand, and the prosperities
promised on the other, as the result of a Presidential
election, are never fulfilled, for the public peril and
the public prosperity depend in the main on na-
tional forces wholly beyond the Presidential control
and largely beyond that of Congress.

Nor can it be doubted by the student of current

1 See Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, eh. iii.



Online LibraryLyman AbbottChristianaity and social problems → online text (page 3 of 25)