R. A. (Robert Afton) Holland.

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are " the poor " ; the privileged are " the rich." But those privi-
leges are not of the economy that is to be, and their claim to
superiority and exclusiveness is doomed.

On the same principle, this prophetic master did not make
differences of property, rank, or station the ground of favor or of
standing in his new society. In the judgment immediately com-
ing, men would not be accounted of by anything outside of them.
The tribunal would be more awful than that, searching and in-
evitable. The rich are condemned, not in the least because
they are rich, but because of what they allow their riches to do
to them, or of the way these riches have been obtained or used ;
and there is no bitterness in the condemnation. The riches have
spoilt manhood, the only thing worth keeping ; and that is the


"woe." No more are tlie poor approved, praised, or blessed for
their poverty, for their destitution, or for its material incidents.
They are a Christian aristocracy, so far as their hardship has
nurtured in them traits which, in the rich, ease and luxury have
emasculated, making them frivolous, indolent, selfish, and cruel.
This is explained sufficiently in the Master's trenchant instruc-
tions. He qualified the sentence which seemed to shut out the
privileged from his kingdom, by letting the penalty fall, not on
them that have riches, but on them that trust in them, that is,
that put them in place of a divine magnanimity, justice, and

At the same time, there is no denying that this head of a new
earth and new heavens did see the two classes which the world
had sundered, and that he made his choice between them.
Deliberately, emphatically, uniformly, he stood on one side of
the dividing line, and placed there the moral foundations of his
empire of love. He lived there, sought his companionships and
lodgings there, was at home there, bestowed there his honors
and benedictions. There is no beatitude that reads, " Blessed are
the rich, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven "; no rule of selec-
tion proclaiming, " I have chosen the rich of this world." There
is no malediction or threat saying, " Woe unto you poor men,
hard-working men, ill-clad men, unlettered men; men that are
managed, bought, and sold; men at the mercy of capitalists
and corporations ; men dictated to, kept down, taken advantage
of, with small chance in a lawsuit or if accused of a theft,
forced into a ' class ' whether you like it or not." It is all the
other way — the whole Gospel, from the lowly yet triumphant
Magnificat of the virgin mother, to the unbounded and impartial
invitation to free waters of eternal life at the end of the Apoca-
lypse. We all know it would not be a Gospel if it were other-
wise, but an absurd mockery of a Gospel. No audacity can deny
it; no money king, no queen of fashion, no ingenious exegesis
can expunge it from the record, or alter or blur the handwriting.
There the letters of light shine, from generation to generation ;
hurry over them, put glosses on them, refer them to local circum-
stances and temporary peculiarities, forget them, shut the book,
as we will. No critical impatience can revise the translation in


favor of privilege ; none has dared to try it. Christ's men are to
be brothers, and in no twisted or hidden sense. His society is to
be a society of liberty, of justice, of equal rights (not faculties or
possessions), of out-and-out fairness, of thorough-going good-will.
Political economists may dispute this fact ; they must start from
some other point, move on other paths, appeal to other authority.
Out of this oracle, constitution, and personal life alone the
Church is to take its answers to the question as to what its duty
is respecting social problems.

At first, and for a long time, this original conviction lingered
as a divine instinct, and not less as an undoubted principle, in
the Christian household. It utters itself naturally and freely in
the voices of the early fathers. No characteristics of the primi-
tive Christian manners are more conspicuous than humanity,
simplicity, and fraternity. No contrast between the heathen and
Christian communities was sharper than that in the esteem shown
for those who live on other men's toil, and for those who do the
world's work and who bear the burden of its drudgeries. Sanc-
tuaries of Christian worship sheltered and protected the captive
till he could be dealt with lawfully. Just as last as the spirit
which Christ always declared to be antagonistic to his religion,
and which he called " the world," crept into the Church, usurped
the control of its affairs, and put a lock on the lips of its minis-
ters, this first law of equity was sacrificed — the second cruci-
fixion. Long before Phocas played into the hands of a secular
papacy, before Latin princes were substituted for servants of the
Nazarene, and before Adrian stamped a pope's name on Eoman
coin, the world had largely bought up the Church's title and
estate, and found profit in administering it for the world's en-

As operating through human agencies, the Church has an
ecclesiastical apparatus, policy, financial system, officers, and
honors. One of its primary duties in behalf of the unprivileged
class is to see that the array of this machinery allows no favorit-
ism, and that it concedes nothing to the ambition, arrogance,
pride, or fastidiousness of wealth. Scarcely less than formula-
ries of belief or decrees of councils, in moral impression, is this
ecclesiastical polity. To innumerable people who read little and


think less, it is the inarticulate but significant interpretation of
cliurcli Christianity. Either they accept it as the Christianity of
Christ, judging him by the system and supposing that in despis-
ing or hating the system they reject Christ; or else, with keener
intelligence, like the workingmen's assembly in New York, they
discriminate, hissing the Church and applauding the great Work-
ingman. More than half the religious organizations, large or
small, are at present practical contradictions of the sermon on the
mount. It does not need an ostentatious hierarchy to open the
door for the "prince of this world," letting him in where he does
tenfold the mischief he could do by persecutions, seductions, or
infidel arguments outside. He buys up the property, holds the
keys of pew doors, puts rich families in the foremost seats, hires
and pays the choir, raises funds by lotteries and theatricals,
tells the "lower classes " to stay out in the streets or patronizes
them with a mission chapel in the outskirts, makes a fashion plate
of the female worshipers, sees to it that parish offices and all
other marks of distinction are assigned to prosperous merchants,
politicians, and leaders of society — never to mechanics and day
laborers who have no qualifications except piety and good sense
— suits the preacher to the tastes of the ruling set, and " runs the
concern." What is all this parochial mammonism and snobbery
but a surrender of the kingdom of the crucified to his adversary ?
Where is the divine brotherhood ? Meantime, prudent care is
taken to keep the holy language and handsome ceremonial safe,
and not to put St. Dives into the calendar.

The Church will further do its duty by a generous, and if
need be a forbearing, sympathy with the movements and mea-
sures, not bearing its name, which are products of the " labor
problem." They are new to the Church and new to the world.
They are almost as unlike as possible to the guilds of the middle
ages. They are not political insurrections, and will not be if
this duty of the Church is done. They are not communistic
phantasies. They have an inherent vitality, a plausible reason,
numerical strength, and a spreading activity. They will not
be impressed by the intelligence or fairness of one who jumbles
them all together under a supercilious sneer — anarchy, social-
ism, nationalism, municij^alism, trades unions, knights of labor,


single-tax land-ownership — as if they were one malign or foolish
brood, instead of being quite as unlike one another as the Protes-
tant religious sects. Nor will they be either guided or subdued
by petulance. Their fatal inconsistency, their sad incapacity of
unification, their pathetic lack of leadership, the Church will
look on with pity, not with contempt, if it has the spirit of its
shepherd king whom the common people heard gladly. Why
does not the Church make itself their leader ? If a peer in the
House of Lords could say the other day that Christianity is the
most perfect system of democracy, why should not organized
Christianity prove itself to be that ? If the Archbishop of Can-
terbury could say in a speech, " Trust the people, give them their
rights as citizens, and they will not abuse them," why should not
the popular ministers say it to the mill-owners, and corporation
lawyers, and employers of shirt-makers and cigar-makers, in their
congregations, emphasizing and illustrating the second clause ?
Now and then a fearless voice is lifted up by a John Baptist,
John Chrysostom, Savonarola, Anselm, Latimer, Lacordaire, or
Ugo Bassi ; but how often the pulpit of Christendom has missed
its opportunity by its timidity ! Amiably, and after their manner
usefully no doubt, well-meaning, peace-loving shepherds have
led and comforted their flocks ; but not till long after the peal
of the trumpet which the sons of thunder put to their lips has
died away, and their cause has been gained, have messengers
of the modern Israel ventured to take up their cry. Time and
events have shown what harvests they might have reaped, what
names they might have transmitted, what inspiring memorials
they might have left behind.

Take the horrible inhumanities of land-ownership in the
evictions of the peasants of Ireland after the famine of '47,
almost matched by those of Scotland, and more than matching
those of the sixteenth century, exposed in the trenchant works
of Mackenzie, Godkin, and Wallace. Take the indescribable
barbarities and debaucheries in most districts of outdoor labor in
England, detailed in the reports of royal agricultural commis-
sions. Take the facts that two thousand men own half of the
land of England and that thirty millions own none, while a sim-
ilar proportion is fast growing up in the United States ; or the


fact that only about one fourth of the entire income of English
labor is paid to the productive wage-workers who produce and
distribute the wealth. Take the authenticated statement that,
less than sixty years ago, at a time when Doyle's report ,proved
that in most of the English counties the weekly wages of work-
men were insufficient to command a supply of the reasonable
comforts of life, clergymen of the Church dismissed the evidence
by attributing the destitution to want of thrift, or to intemper-
ance, forgetting that misery, bad air, overcrowding, and unwhole-
some and insufficient food drive men to drink as often as drink
drives its votaries to pauperism.

Recent certified revelations have laid bare the multiplied
horrors and depravities of the tenement population in great cities,
where forty-one out of every hundred families live each in a
single room, where the poorest working class are actually made
to pay a higher rent in proportion to income than those in any
other part of the community, and where the poorest pay more
rent than the richest for each cubic foot of space and air. These
facts put it beyond question that, in the name of a common hu-
manity, and as sure as there is an ethical element in Christianity
at all, there are social sins and human equities which have a more
urgent and imperative claim on the consideration of ecclesiastical
councils and of weekly sermons than any questions of discipline,
ritual, hymnology, or predestination. It is not necessary to call
out the names of real-estate tyrants or of savage sweaters in New
York and Philadelphia, any more than it is necessary in Great
Britain to arraign personally the Dukes of Portland, Westmin-
ster, Bedford, and others, for the oppressions and sufferings of
great sections of British cities of which they hold the titles.
There is a sense of right, after all, which can be reached and
stirred without personal vituperation, by men called and set
apart to holy offices, if they are sincere and candid, and if their
lives agree with their preaching. Is it said that this would foster
violence and provoke insurrectionary clamor ? Telling the truth
has generally been safe in the long run, and it was never safer
than it is now, when the truth is likely to be told at any rate.
An earnest and patient treatment of social wrongs by a wide and
large-hearted Church, is as likely as Congress or the courts to


heal discontent and to forestall insurrection. Even Mr. Hynd-
man says: "However successful a revolution might be, it is
certain that mankind cannot change its whole nature at once.
Break the old shell certainly, but never forget that the new
forms must grow out of the old."

Suppose the churchmen and the dissenters had seen their
duty, and had discharged it with clearsightedness and courage ;
who can doubt that English statesmen. Parliament, and people
would have found out in less than three generations that, through
monstrous manufacturing interests and their incalculable profits,
England, since the factory system came in, has made itself in-
famous by the most hideous and brutal form of slavery ever
known to the civilized world — the white slavery which, on a vast
scale, has tasked, tortured, and slaughtered children under ten
years of age, exterminated chastity and decency in the dwellings
of factory workers, turned men into brutes, and made society
into a hell ? Would Lord John Russell's remark still be true,
that ' it takes England forty years to accomplish a reform ad-
mitted to be necessary "?

The Church does not discharge its duty by silencing the
voices of its prophets. Prophets are not creatures of institutions,
nor are they made to uphold the existing order of things or to
apologize for it. Shame for their portion have monarchies or
republics that do not know their great men ! Woe to the nation
that stones its children because they are children of light ! Ac-
cursed is the people that kills " them which are sent " to be its
saviours ! The prophets are not all of Judea. There was one
not bom of Abraham and ignorant of Moses who could say to an
offer of royal bribes and to the seduction of royal flattery, " If
Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot
go beyond the commandment of the Lord to do either good or
bad of mine own mind, but what the Lord saith that will I
speak." There have been others of that lineage. If prophets
were only foretellers of the future, the present could dispense
with them, as for the most part it has for some time past. They
are seers who report their vision, seeing far before, because 15j a
special light they see far in ; not only predicting events to come,
but preparing for them, bringing them on or warding them off-,


knowing wliat is to be because tbey know tbe nature of man, the
laws of God, and the tendencies of bidden forces. A people puts
out its eyes by suppressing them. It could better afford to re-
duce its revenues or to leave its gold mines closed.

Arguments being feeble and temper unmanageable, indiscreet
disputants resort to calling bad names. The bad name for a
Christian reformer, who naturally begins by pointing out that
there is something to be reformed, is "pessimist." The value
of a bad name depends, first, upon its power to disturb those to
whom it is applied, and then upon the accuracy of its applica-
tion. This opprobrious term is not very effective in either par-
ticular. In lexicography it is a misnomer ; pessimism has been
known in the history of speculations, ancient and modern. It is
the theory that the plan of the universe is bad in itself, and that
its on-goings are hopelessly bad, in fact, the worst possible. It
is avowed or unavowed atheism. There is no God, or a Mephis-
tophelian God, or else a God that blunders. The world is to be
taken and endured stoically, or to be trifled with and laughed at
with Epicurean gayety. Eeformers have no place in it ; philan-
thropists no opportunity; religion no foothold; suffering no
hope. The attitude of the Christian prophet, on the other hand,
who sees the wrongs and iniquities of society, exposes them in
order that they may be remedied, denounces them in the name of
Christ, conceals none of them, excuses none, apologizes for none,
condones none for the sake of a political or religious party, for
secular profit, for a salary or an ofhce — this is the attitude, not
of the pessimist, but of the real optimist. He does not say that
things are well enough as they are, and are to be let alone ; that
is the real pessimism. He says that things are mixed, two forces
contending ; and he takes them as they are, to try with all his
might, and with the help of as many as he can rally, to make
them better. Laissez fairs is pessimism. Indiscriminate, stolid
conservatism is pessimism. We all know the posture, the
calling, the cry, of the Hebrew prophets ; how they looked at the
national life, how they treated the administration or party in
power, what their grandeur was and their glory, and why they
were the heroic figures of ancient time. Were they pessimists ?
Was John Baptist a pessimist ? We are not obliged to choose


between the soft theodicy of Leibnitz and the godless despair of
Schopenhauer and Hartmann, but we are obliged to choose
between a cowardly indifference on one side and a brave contest
with wrong on the other. Metaphysical eudsemonism will not
help us much ; Buddhism will not help us at all. The Church
at least is nothing if it is not a witness for him who put himself
at the head of all reformers by confronting the self-satisfied, and
by convincing the world that it must be set right because it is
wrong. Better the truth-teller who uncovers what is bad to
turn it into good, than the flatterer who calls evil good and lets
it go from bad to worse.

It needs no very profound interpretation of history to see
that the world's welfare in most times and places has been
indebted to an order of men whose business has not been that of
meddlesome disturbers or of wanton destructionists, but who
have had singularly clear visions of moral distinctions and a
strong hold on the throne of everlasting justice and judgment —
men who have not undertaken to turn the world upside down,
but who, finding it wrong side up, have done a great deal to
tarn it right side up; men who have called wrong things by
their right names. On the whole, they have contributed as
much toward the betterment of societ}^ as the capitalists and the
"leaders of industry," the master manufacturers and the mul-
tipliers of money. American self-satisfaction has accumulated
a vast literature of self -congratulation in a hundred years, and
takes a juvenile pride in it. If a critic points out that growing
abuses of wealth are as dangerous to the Eepublic as they are
disgraceful to humanity, we are treated to a new picture of the
prosperity of the country, with the sombre scenes left out.

A contributor to the Forum, who has taught scholars and
thinkers to expect of him a large treatment of grave subjects,
in the course of a clever criticism of a popular fiction drops into
this laissez-faire method. The beauties and blessings of life in
these lively days are displayed quite in the manner of an old-
fashioned thanksgiving sermon. Then there is a fresh presenta-
tion of the tiresome and transparent fallacy, that because creation
exhibits countless differences and inequalities in things beyond
human control, therefore society is bound to admit and admire


inequalities of the most unrighteous kind in things which are
within its control. " One man is born in an age of barbarism,
another in an age of civilization." But what we are dealing with
now is an age, not of barbarism, but of 23rofessed civilization ;
why then should this truism be brought to rebuke an honest
novel-writer who is trying to persuade his neighbors to clear out
of our civilization, such as it is, a considerable mass of barbarous
iniquity incidental to competitive conditions? "Why," it is
asked, " is one animal the beast of prey, another the victim ? "
Nobody can tell, perhaps; but if this striking illustration has
any logical pertinency to the argument, it must mean that our
social "beasts of prey," in speculation and monopoly, are to be
let alone and tolerated by their victims and by the lookers-on.
" Why should one sentient creature be a worm and another a
man ? " This is not the question ; but whether, being a man and
not a worm, I may treat poorer men of fewer opportunities like
worms, and make myself a hawk or a snake, instead of doing my
best to get these unprivileged fellow creatures out of the worm
condition. " Health, strength, beauty, intellect, offspring, length
of days, are distributed with no more regard for justice than are
the powers of making and saving wealth." Does this mean that
no more responsibility attaches to the power of making and sav-
ing wealth than to the six preceding advantages ? Does it mean
that because some men and women are at a disadvantage in
respect to those six natural things which they can do little or
nothing to change, therefore there are no outrageous wrongs per-
taining to the " powers of making and saving wealth " which
conscience and law and society can check, and ought to check, by
important measures tending to lessen inequality and to promote
justice? "After all, there is more co-operation than competi-
tion in the industrial world as it now exists." Possibly; but
suppose that competition and co-operation come into conflict, as
they sometimes do, which will generally go to the wall ? Will
it be competition ? There is a common maxim that " competi-
tion is the life of business." We understand that; but is that
" business " of the kind that justice and humanity, honor and
magnanimity, are most anxious to encourage ? " Neither equal
justice nor perfection of any kind is the law of the world, as the


world is at present, toward whatever goal we may be moving."
Exactly ; but can it not be seen that " the world, as the world is
at present," is precisely what Christianity and Christ, the Church
and the prophet, are on the earth to bring to judgment, righting
its wrongs radically if need be, and making it over into a world
that shall be in some sense or other the "kingdom of God" ?
" The advantages of combining Mr. Stewart's dry-goods es-
tablishment with Mr. Carnegie's iron works are not obvious at
all." Agreed; yet if these establishments should produce their
fine industrial and money=making results by a system of labor
and wages which should subject a great number of men or
women to physical exhaustion, mental starvation, social slavery,
or political disability, yielding them less pay than their work is
worth, then it must be obvious that they would be out of har-
mony with the divine order and with the highest interests of

One would suppose that by this time it might be tolerably
plain that two opposite accounts of the existing social condition
— order or disorder — neither of which is in itself so one-sided as
to be really false, can be given, according as the purpose of the
writer may be. We hold it to be self-evident that certain legiti-
mate moral effects may be produced by a veracious exposure of
the manifold mischiefs of class separation, such as inordinate
wealth, luxury, indulgence, tyranny, and political corruption,
damaging the very roots and sources of the government, on one
side, with needless hardship, want, unwholesome living, physical,
mental and moral deprivation, cruelty to women and children,
intemperance, prostitution, ruin of self-respect, and a dwarfed in-
tellectual development, on the other side. How sanguine writers
expect to make confessed evils less prevalent or less destructive
than they are, by insisting on our modern improvements, gains,
and comparative comfort, on the beauties of competition, and on
the magnificence of corporate enterprise, is not so clear. Surely

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Online LibraryR. A. (Robert Afton) HollandThe church of the world → online text (page 4 of 19)