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on society a serious injury ; and it only can be done
away with by universal compulsion, an entire sub-
jection of individual wills to social authority, wholly
at variance with a Christian conception of the nature,
dignity, and duty of man. Yet Socialists have often
ample reason for representing competition as anarchi-
cal and excessive, as hatefully selfish and productive
of the most grievous wrongs ; and they are irrefutable
so long as they are content merely to maintain the
desirability of reducing it to order, keeping it within
moral limits, and restraining and counteracting the
evils of it. Co-operation, moreover, even of a free
or non-socialistic kind, although incapable of suppress-
ing competition, may thus organise it, modify its



46o SOCIALISM

character for the better, and lessen its abuses. And
so far as it does this, Christian men cannot fail to
welcome it as a practical manifestation of the love
and brotherhood which their Religion demands ; as a
confirmation through action of faith in the truth that
Christian society as well as the Christian Church
ought to be a body which God has so " tempered
together that there should be no schism in the body,
but that the members should have the same care one
for another, and whether one member suffereth, all
the members suflfer with it, or whether one member
is honoured, all the members rejoice with it."

I have now indicated some respects in which
Christianity and Socialism must be regarded as in
the main agreed, and must proceed to refer to some
respects in which they may be regarded as on the
whole opposed. The reference will be of the briefest
kind, as most of the points have already been more
or less under consideration in other relations.

First, then. Socialism is antagonistic to Christian-
ity in so far as it rests on, or allies itself with,
Atheism or Materialism. It does so to a very large
extent. The only formidably powerful species of
Socialism is that which claims to be scientific on the
assumption that modern science has proved the
truth of the materialistic view of the universe and
of history, and shown Christian and all other reli-
gious conceptions and beliefs to be delusions. Mani-
festly, however, to the extent that Socialism thus
identifies itself with an anti-relic^ious Materialism,
it comes into conflict with Christianity ; and the
struggle between them must be one of life and death.



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 461

Christianity assumes the truth of faith in God, the
Father Almighty, Creator and Kuler of heaven and
earth, infinite in power, wisdom, righteousness, and
love ; and although it does not despise matter, or
depreciate any of its beauties, excellences, or uses,
it certainly treats it as merely the work and mani-
festation of God, and as meant to be instrumental
and subordinate to the requirements of spiritual and
immortal beings.

Secondly, Socialism is antagonistic to Christianity,
Inasmuch as it assumes that man's chief end is
merely a happy social life on earth. The assumption
is a natural one in a system which regards matter
as primary in existence, and human nature as essen-
tially physical and animal. This almost all Socialism
does. Even when it does not expressly deny the
fundamental convictions on which Christianity rests
it ignores them. It leaves out of account God and
Divine Law, sees in morality simply a means to gene-
ral happiness, and recognises no properly spiritual
and eternal life. It conceives of the whole duty
of mankind as consisting in the pursuit and produc-
tion of social enjoyment. Hence its ideal of the
highest good, and consequently of human conduct,
is essentially difl:erent from the Christian ideal.
And thus it necessarily comes directly into conflict
with Christianity.

Socialism owes much of its success to the very
poorness of its ideal. Because superficial and un-
spiritual that ideal is all the more apt to captivate
those in whom thought is in its infancy, and the
spirit asleep. It is just the ideal of the common



462 SOCIALISM

worldly man boldly put forth with the pretentious
claim to be the ripe product of modern wisdom.
To be as rich as one's neighbours ; to have few hours
of work and abundance of leisure and amusement ;
to have always plenty to eat and to drink ; to have
every sense, appetite, and affection gratified ; to
have no call or need to cultivate poverty of spirit,
meekness, penitence, patience under affliction, equa-
nimity under oppression, or to suffer from the hunger
and thirst after righteousness which no acquisition
of rights will ever fill, has always been the ideal of
many men, but never, perhaps, of so many as in the
present day. And what else than this is the ideal
of *' a good time coming," of which Bebel and Stern,
Bax and Bellamy, and so many other socialist
writers have prophesied, and which so many so-
called Christian Socialists even ignorantly identify
with the coming of the kingdom of God on earth
foretold by Christ ? It is so little else that there is
no wonder that those who are already wholly out of
sympathy with the Christian ideal should gladly
accept an ideal which is virtually just their own
clearly and confidently expressed. The Gospel of
Socialism has, it must be admitted, one great advan-
tage over the Gospel of Christ. It needs no inner
ear to hear it, no spiritual vision to discern it, no
preparation of heart to receive it ; were it wholly
realised mere bodily sense and the most carnal mind
could not only apprehend but comprehend it.

At the same time there is a considerable amount
of truth in it. It exhibits the summum honum as
not merely individual but social ; inculcates, although



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 463

with questionable consistency, unselfishness and self-
sacrifice ; and assigns great importance to what is
undoubtedly most desirable — a general betterment
of the earthly lot of men.

Thirdly, Socialism comes into conflict with Christ-
ianity inasmuch as it attaches more importance to
the condition of men than to their character, whereas
Christianity lays the chief stress on character.
Socialists are not at fault in maintaining that
material conditions have a great influence on intel-
lectual and moral development, and that there is
a correspondence between the political, literary, and
religious history of humanity and its economic
history. Those who deny this reject a truth of
great scientific and practical importance, and one
which has been amply established by Economists of
the Historical School, by Positivists, and by Social-
ists. The Christian has no interest to serve by
disputing it ; on the contrary, it is his manifest
interest to accept it to the full, and to recognise as
obstacles to the realisation of Christianity not merely
purely spiritual evils, but also such things as bad
drainage, unwholesome food, inadequate ventilation,
uncleanly and intemperate habits ; and, in short,
all that tends to degrade and destroy the bodies, ,
and through these the souls of men. Human life is
a unity in which body and mind, the economic and
the spiritual, the secular and the religious, are in-
separable, and of which the whole is related to each
part or phase, and each part or phase to the whole.

Where the Socialist errs is in conceiving of what
is a relation of complex interdependence as one of



464 SOCIALISM

simple dependence ; is in taking account only
of the action of material and economic factors of
social development on intellectual and spiritual
conditions, and ignoring the action of its intellectual
and spiritual factors on material and economic con-
ditions. The whole historical philosophy on which
Social Democracy rests is vitiated by this one-
sidedness and superficiality of treatment. It is a
philosophy which explains history by one class of
causes, the physical and industrial, and which
assigns no properly causal value to intellectual
fliculties, to moral energies, to scientific and ethical
ideas, and to religious convictions. But so to
account for history is flagrantly to contradict history,
which clearly testifies that its economic, intellectual,
and spiritual development are, as Rossi says,
" although not unrelated yet not necessarily con-
joined or uniformly connected." Their relationship
is due to the fact that all history, economic, intel-
lectual, and spiritual, is essentially the work of man
himself, a being at once economic, intellectual, and
spiritual. It is in the main not what any conditions
or factors external to man make it, but what men
make it ; and its character depends in the main on
the character of the men who make it.

Where Socialism fails in its explanation of
history is just where it also comes into conflict
with Christianity. It overlooks or depreciates the
importance of the inward and spiritual, while
Christianity fully acknowledges it. "The king-
dom of God," which was so largely the burden of
Christ's preaching, and which the Christian believes



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 465

that history is evolving, is a Hfe which develops
from within. " The kingdom of God is within
you." The healing of society, according to the
Christian view, must come from God, commence
at the centre in the hearts of men, and work out-
wards. It is only through improvement of the
lives of individuals that there can be a real and
radical improvement of the constitution of society.
Without personal renovation there can be no effec-
tive social reformation.

Fourthly, Socialism is antagonistic to Christianity
in so far as it does injustice to the rights of individ-
uality. There is no Socialism, properly so called,
where the freedom to which individuals are entitled
is not unduly sacrificed to the will of society. A
Socialism like that of Social Democracy, which
would refuse to men the right to possess private
property or capital, which would give them no
choice as to what work they are to do, or as to the
remuneration which they are to receive for their
work, would manifestly destroy individual liberty.
To pretend, as its advocates do, that it would
establish and enlarge liberty is as absurd as to
assert that things equal to the same thing are
unequal to each other, or any immediate self-
contradiction whatsoever. What such Socialism
directly demands is slavery in the strictest and
fullest sense of the term.

From all such slavery Christianity is meant to
free men, yet without rendering them lawless or
allowing them to disown any of their social obliga-
tions. By causing them to realise their direct

2 G



466 SOCIALISM

personal responsibility to God for all their actions,
and their infinite indebtedness to Christ, it makes
it impossible for them to accept any merely human
will, law, or authority as the absolute rule of their
lives. The Christian is a man with whom "it is a
very small thing that he should be judged of any
man's judgment," seeing that " He that judgeth
him is the Lord " ; who feels that " each one of us
shall give account of himself to God " ; who acknow-
ledges " but one Master, even Christ." Dependence
on God implies and requires independence towards
men. The service of Christ is true liberty. " If
the Son, therefore, shall make you free, ye shall be
free indeed." The liberty with which Christ makes
His people free, spiritual liberty, is as inherently
irreconcilable with the slavery which Collectivism
would introduce as with the slavery in the classical
world and the serfdom in the mediaeval world which
it has destroyed. All the religious reformations
and political revolutions through which human free-
dom has been gained and human rights secured
have been but the natural sequences and continua-
tions of the vast spiritual change in human life
effected by Christ, immeasurably the greatest
Reformer and Revolutionist who has ever appeared
on earth. What Socialism unconsciously aims at
as regards freedom, as regards the rights of indi-
viduality, is the reversal of His work in history ;
is the accomplishment of a vast anti-reformation or
counter-revolution. Is it likely that an attempt so
reactionary will succeed ? Is it desirable that it
should ?



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 467

I might proceed to mention other respects in
which genuine Sociahsm and genuine Christianity
are more or less opposed. But it seems unneces-
sary to do so, especially as some of the most impor-
tant of these respects have been virtually indicated
in the preceding chapter, seeing that wherever
Socialism contradicts moral truth it also contra-
venes Christian faith. And at several points
Socialism is, as we have seen, at variance with true
morality. At all such points it is also at variance
with Christianity.

For Christianity is ethically all-comprehensive, as
a religion which would "give to all men life, and
that always more abundantly," must be in order to
attain its end. It seeks the fulfilment and honour
of the whole moral law. It appropriates and
transmutes into its own substance all true morality,
but adds thereto nothing which is morally false or
perverse. Its Ethics is perfect both in spirit and
principles, although it has often been most imper-
fectly understood and applied, even by thoroughly
sincere Christians, and although from its very per-
fection it can never be perfectly either apprehended
or realised by beings so imperfect as men.

In the Ethics of Socialism there are no elements
of transcendency, infinity, spirituality ; all is
commonplace, definite, and easy of comprehension.
Its inspiration must, therefore, be exhaustible, its
power of raising man "above himself" compara-
tively small ; its successes indecisive and tem-
porary. But it is further, as has been previously
indicated, in many respects plainly false and of evil



468 SOCIALISM

tendency. Christianity is free from all its faults.
More than eighteen hundred years ago it was born
into a world in which they were universally pre-
valent. From the first it avoided and condemned
them. So far as the contents of socialistic Ethics
are exclusively its own and contrary to the precepts
or spirit of Christian Ethics, they are not new
discoveries or virtues, but old pagan delusions and
vices which have sprung up where Christianity has
ceased to exert its due influence.

There is nothing ethically valuable in Socialism
which is not also contained in Christianity. All its
moral truths are Christian truths. It is only
praiseworthy when it insists on the significance and
application of principles and precepts which have
always been inculcated by Christianity. In other
words. Christian Ethics is sufficient if Christians
understand it aright and follow its guidance faith-
fully. As regards moral doctrine there is need
of Socialism only when and where Christians are
unintelligent or unfaithful. All that is morally good
in Socialism, all that is elevating and generous in
its aspirations, can find satisfaction in Christianity,
and will even only find it there. Were it not
so it might admit of doubt whether in so far as they
come into conflict Christianity or Socialism will
triumph. As it is so there can be no room for
doubt on the subject. In virtue of all that is
excellent in itself, Socialism must reconcile itself
with Christianity, which has all that excellence, and
more. Will it persist in assailing it merely on the
strength of what is evil in itself? It may; but



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 469

when a war comes to be reduced to one between
good and evil, truth and error, only the veriest
pessimist can entertain any doubt as to which cause
will conquer and which will suffer defeat.

Christianity and Socialism are very differently
related to Economics and Ethics. Christianity has
spoken with authority on all moral principles : it has
propounded no economic views. Socialism rests on,
and centres in, economic hypotheses and proposals.
Hence Christianity cannot come into direct conflict
with Socialism in the sphere of Economics as it may
in that of Ethics. It is concerned with the econo-
mic doctrines of Socialism only in so far as they
bear an ethical character and involve ethical con-
sequences. Unfortunately Socialism has put forth
economic proposals tainted with injustice and likely
to lead to social ruin. As to these doctrines it is
only necessary to say that genuine Christianity
stands wholly uncommitted to any of them. It can-
not with the slightest plausibility be maintained to
have taught the wrongfulness of private property
or to have recommended the abolition of differences
of wealth. It supplies no warrant for representing
individual capital as essentially hostile to labour or
for exhibiting the payment of labour by wages in
an odious light. It suggests no wild or fraudulent
views regarding currency or credit. It encourages
no one to confiscate the o^oods of his neicrhbour
under cover of promoting his good. It is in its
whole spirit opposed to the delusion that riches
are in themselves an end, or an honour, or a
blessing. It is not fairly chargeable with any



470 SOCIALISM

socialistic aberration. It is wholly free from asso-
ciation with either economic or moral falsehood.
This is a mighty advantage for Christianity even
regarded merely as a social power. For society can
only prosper permanently through conforming to
truth. No error will in the end fail to injure it.

But of all truth, none is so capable of benefiting
society as the truth in which Christianity itself
consists. Were all men but sincerely convinced of
the Fatherhood of God, of the love of Christ, of the
helpfulness of the Holy Spirit, of the sacredness of
the obliofations of human brotherhood, of the un-
speakable importance of the dispositions and virtues
which the Gospel demands for the present as well as
for the future life, society would soon be wondrously
and gloriously transformed. As regards social as
w^ell as individual regeneration and salvation, Christ
is " the Way, the Truth, and the Life."

II.

The Christian spirit is divine, but not disembodied.
It has had appointed for it a body through which it
has to operate on society somewhat as the indivi-
dual soul does on the world through its corporeal
organism. The Church is the body of Christ ; in
Him it is one and indivisible, alive and powerful ;
by Him it is quickened, enlightened, inspired and
ruled. It comprehends all those in whose life is His
life, and who are the obedient organs of His will ;
all those who, however otherwise different and
divided, are of " one heart and one soul " through



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 471

having " the same mmd which was in Christ." It
exists to manifest the spirit, to apply the wisdom,
and to continue the work of Christ, in order that
the name of the Father may be universally hallowed.
His kingdom fully established, and His will perfectly
done even here on earth ; and this it can only do
through self-denial, self-sacrifice, and continually
doing good, or, in a word, only in so far as it lives
and works as Christ did.

The Church is not identical or coextensive with
the kingdom of God. It lies within the sphere of
the kingdom which it has been specially instituted
to establish and extend. The sphere of this kingdom
naturally embraces all human thought and life, every
form of human existence and every kind of human
activity, and not merely what is distinctly religious or
ecclesiastical. It is rightfully inclusive of philosophy,
science, art, literature, politics, industry, commerce,
and all social intercourse. The kingdom of God can
only have fully come when entire humanity is filled
with the spirit, and obedient to the law, of Christ.
And the Church, the whole body of believers, the vast
host of Christian men and women in the world, has
assigned to it the task of humbly and faithfully
labouring to bring about the full coming of the
kinofdom of God.

The relation of the Church, in this its primary
and chief acceptation, to what are called social
questions is very obvious ; but it is not on that account
to be inattentively regarded. It is just the Church
in this sense of the term which it is of supreme im-
portance should be got to interest herself adequately



472 SOCIALISM

and aright in these questions — the Church as consist-
ing of not the clergy only, but of all who desire to
live and work in the spirit of Christ. The power of
the clergy to act beneficially on society, however
unitedly and strenuously it may be exerted, cannot
but be slight indeed compared with the power which
the Church miofht exert. I believe that there is no
social power in the world equal to that which the
Church possesses ; and that no social evil or anti-
social force could long resist that power were it
wisely and fully put forth. The Church can only
do her duty towards society through all Christian
men and women doing their duty towards it.

The social mission of the Church can only be
accomplished by the Church as a whole — by the
Church in its most comprehensive, and at the same
time most distinctly Christian, acceptation. Nothing
can be more incumbent on the clergy than to bear
this constantly in mind, and continually to stir
up the laity, who are just as apt to forget
it, to a due sense of what their Church mem-
bership implies, or, in other words, what partici-
pation in the life and work of Christ implies, so
that when the Church in its holy warfare against
the evils in society moves into action it may always
be with the consciousness that its every member is
expected to do his duty.

It is chiefly by acting on and through the Church,
and by exciting the Church to faithfulness in the
fulfilment of its social mission, that the clergy can
promote the good of society. The Church has a
social mission. It is one which is included in its



SOCIALISM AND RELIGION 473

general mission as the Church of Christ ; one which
it cannot neglect without unfaithfulness to Christ ;
one which it can only discharge by following the
example, teaching the doctrine, and acting in the
spirit of Christ. The mission of the Church is
essentially the complement and continuation of that
of Christ. It is to heal and sanctify both individuals
and society ; not only to present every man perfect
in Christ Jesus, but to transform humanity itself
into a wholly new creature in Christ Jesus.

That the Church has such a mission is so plainly
tauofht in the New Testament that it has been
always more or less acknowledged both by profession
and practice. The Church has in every generation
felt in some measure the necessity of dealing with
questions which were the social questions of that
generation ; in every age it has so far sought to
adapt both its teaching and its action to the ten-
dencies and wants of society in that age.

One often hears it said at the present time that the
Church has hitherto dwelt too much on individual
aspects of the Christian faith, and comparatively
disregarded public life ; that the claims of personal
religion have been too exclusively insisted on and
the claims of social religion too much forgotten.
And certainly a considerable amount of evidence
might easily be adduced in support of the state-
ment. Yet it is very doubtful if it be really true
as a general proposition. I believe that if we look
closely at the history of the Church from its
foundation to the present time we shall rather con-
clude that she has on the whole erred more in the



474 SOCIALISM

contrary direction ; and that she would have done
more good both to individuals and to society if she
had thrown itself with less absorbinir ardour into
the questions of the day. The questions which have
most violently agitated the Church in the past have
for tlie most part been, or at least seemed at the
time to be, questions vitally affecting the welfare or
even the very existence of society.

The mission of the Church in relation to social
questions is at present special only in so far as the
social questions themselves are special. They are so
obviously and to a large extent. Wherein ? There
can be little hesitation as to the answer. It is that
they are now to an extent unknown in any other
age labour questions ; that they centre in and are
dependent on what may be called in a general way
the Ictbour question far more than they have ever
done before in the whole history of the world. This
labour question itself, it is true, is only a form of a
question as old as history, the question of the un-
equal distribution of material goods among men, but
it is a new and extraordinarily developed form of it,
and it is influencing the life of the present genera-
tion far more widely, subtly, and powerfully than it



Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 34 of 38)