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influenced the life of other generations in other
forms. How the question has come to be what it is,
and to have acquired such significance as it has,
only the history of industry and of the industrial
classes during the last hundred years can adequately
explain, and I cannot, of course, enter here upon
so vast a subject as that. I shall, therefore, simply
venture to express the opinion that for the clergy-


men of this country just now a study of the indus-
trial history of Britain during the last hundred
years will be found at least as instructive and
useful as the study of any hundred years of its
ecclesiastical history, and more so than the study
of any hundred years of its history of which wars,
or civil commotions, or political struggles were the
most representative features.

That the labour question should be the chief
question of the day is not to be regretted. What it
means is not, as some would have us believe, that
manual labourers were never so defrauded and
oppressed as at present, but that they were never
before so free, possessed of their rights to the same
extent, so fully conscious of the value of the services
which they render to society, so confident of their
power to obtain what is due to them, so full of hope,
aspiration, and ambition. And all this is well.
Every improvement which has taken place in the
condition of the labouring classes should be matter
for rejoicing. It is not only their right but their
duty to seek still further to better their lot. Every
step which they take of such a kind as will really
raise them to a higher level and happier state de-
serves only commendation and encouragement.

But it does not follow that there are no elements
of evil in the present situation, or, in other words,
in the circumstances and in the conditions of life
which now give to the labour question its absorbing
interest. On the contrary, it is obviously a situation
full of tendencies towards division and strife, and
even towards disorders and revolution ; one in which


many unreasonable claims are advanced, in which
much of the vaulting ambition which overleaps itself
and falls on the other side is prevalent, and in which
dangerous passions are widely diffused. It is a situa-
tion in which charlatans and fanatics, vain and violent
and selfish men, misleaders, naturally find no difii-
culty in obtaining believers and followers ; and in
which " double-minded men, unstable in all their
ways," are greatly multiplied, and very like indeed
to "waves of the sea driven with the wind and

When a stream of social tendency flows strongly
in any direction the Church is just as likely to go
too far with it as not far enouofh. It is told of
Leio-hton that when minister of Newbattle he was
publicly reprimanded at a meeting of Synod for not
" preaching up the times," and that, on asking who
did so, and being answered, " All the brethren," he
rejoined, " Then if all of you preach up the times,
you may surely allow one poor brother to preach
up Christ and eternity." Whether the story itself
be true or not, it conveys a great truth. Preaching
up Christ and eternity is needed in all times. No
teaching which does not will much profit any time.

The sort of preaching to the times in which
Leighton could not join passed away in Scotland
and was succeeded by a very diflerent style of
preaching, which he would have disliked still more,
inasmuch as it was still more occupied with time
and still less with Christ and eternit}". It aimed
chiefly at being judicious and practical, at promoting
refinement and enlightenment, good sense, good con-


duct, personal hajjpiness, and social contentment ;
and, doubtless, it was not altog'ether unprofitable,
but as certainly it failed on the whole even more
than the excess from which it was a reaction.

It is perfectly possible still to err in the same way.
It is even not unlikely, owing to the interest now so
widely and keenly felt in social questions, that many
of our clergymen may take to discoursing on them
to an extent which will do far more harm than good.
They may deem the discussion of such themes as
Socialism, Landlordism, Law Reform, the Duration
of the Labour Day, a Living Wage, the Wages
System, and the like, the preaching which our times
require. They may deal in their pulpit ministrations
with such social and economic questions much in the
same way as the rationalist preachers of Germany in
the latter part of the eighteenth century dealt with
moral and even agricultural questions. I trust,
however, that they will receive more wisdom,
and be guided to handle the Divine Word more

The clergyman who feels a call to propound his
views on social and industrial problems should find,
as he easily may, an opportunity of doing so simply
as a citizen, claiming and using the freedom to which
every citizen is entitled ; he ought not, in my opinion,
to do it as a minister of the Divine Word, and an
accredited representative of the Church. The Gospel
does not contain solutions of these problems. Those
who pretend that it does make claims on its behalf
which can only tend to discredit it. It reveals,
however, principles and spiritual motive forces.


Avhich are essential to social welfare and to the riirht
solution of social problems. And the preaching of
the Gospel which will have the most powerful and
beneficent influence on society will be that which
brings these principles most clearly into the view
of society and these forces most fully into action on
it; the preaching which so exhibits the Gospel
that it will shine full-orbed on all social relation-
si lips, and radiate from its own entire divine nature
the light and heat, the vigour and fruitfulness,
which the social world needs.

The preacher who lacks faith in such preaching,
and whose ambition is not satisfied by it, shows an
inadequate appreciation of the Gospel and of his own
office ; and when he betakes himself to the direct
discussion of social problems, and thus thrusts him-
self into competition with the professional politician,
the economic specialist, the newspaper editor, and
others, whose experience and knowledge in relation
to them are likely to be greater than his, he disjilays
much unwisdom. He comes down from a position
of advantage on which he is strong, and from which
he can, without competing wdth any man, co-operate
with all classes of men who are workins" towards the
true amelioration of society, and takes his stand on
lower and less solid ground, where all around him
is contention, and where he is very apt to be weaker
and less useful than other men. There must on the
whole be loss in that. The power of the pulpit for
good to society will certainly not be increased but
decreased by ministers of the Gospel forsaking their
own special work of preacliing the Gospel for that of


mere lectures on social themes, or of social agitators,
or of politicians, or of journalists, of all of whom
there is no scarcity in this country at the present
time, and who are discussing social questions during
six days of every week throughout the year as
actively as there is any necessity for.

I do not say that the preacher may not treat of
social questions at all. I fully admit that he may
have good reason to refer to them occasionally, or
even frequently, and very plainly. What I hold is
that he ought always in doing so to keep the great
facts and truths of tlie Gospel bearing on them
clearly in his own view and before the view of his
hearers ; that he should never follow applications
so far that the Christian principles which underlie
them are in danger of being lost sight of ; and never
forget that it is only in so far as things and ques-
tions can be looked at in relation to Christ, and
through the medium of the light which shines from
Christ, that he as a Christian preacher has any
special call or right to deal with them.

Maurice and Kingsley set, I think, in this respect
an admirable example. While perfectly faithful
and fearless in rebukino^ the evils and indicating- the
requirements of their time, they anxiously sought to
do so from the Christian standpoint; and even, we may
say, from the very centre and heart of the Gospel.
It seemed to them that the deepest and most dis-
tinctive truths of Christianity were so wonderfully
adapted to the constitution of the human spirit and
to the wants of human society that if properly pre-
sented they could not fail to receive from the evidence


of that adaptness afforded by their effects a most
powerful confirmation. They were convinced that
faith in the Tri-unity of God, or in the Incarnation,
could certify itself to be true by its power to redeem
humanity and sanctify life. They believed that
all history was meant to be made a magnificent
and conclusive apologetic of Christianity.

While the Christian minister ouo^ht to exercise
prudence and self-restraint in the respect indicated,
there is no phase or question of social life, or, indeed,
of human life, on which he may not be warranted
or even called to speak words of exhortation, com-
mendation, or rebuke ; none as to which it can
reasonably be said that it lies wholly beyond the
sphere within which he as the preacher of Gospel
truth may rightly intervene. The principles of the
Gospel are designed to pervade, embrace, and direct
the whole life of man, and the minister of the
Gospel is bound to endeavour to apply its principles
to the whole of that life. If he would be loyal to
Christ he must refuse to conform to any human
authority or human prejudice which would assign a
merely external conventional limit to the fulfilment
of his duty, or to the freedom of his office ; which
would say to him, for example, " This is business,
or this is politics, and therefore it is not within your
province." To all such dictation his reply should
be : " My province is as wide as my Master's, and
includes all things in so far as they are either moral
or the reverse, either Christian or unchristian."
He should recognise no arbitrary outward restraint.
What he must not cast aside are simply the reason-


able and external restraints of the Christian spirit
itself — those of Christian wisdom, justice, and love.
Reverencing these, he will learn when to speak and
when to be silent, how far to go and when to-

The Church ought to aim at fulfilling her social
mission wholly in the spirit of her Lord and from
a sincere, unselfish sense of duty to Him. She
should acknowledge allegiance to Him alone ;
beware of every unholy alliance with the powers-
of the world ; flatter no class of men ; and allow
no class of men to patronise her, or to use her
for their own purposes. She should impartially and
disinterestedly seek the good of all men, and deliver
to all her God-given message with boldness and
honesty, with simplicity and earnestness, with com-
passion and love.

Her duty in this respect, while very plain, is-
certainly far from easy. She has few, if any, entirely
disinterested friends. All political parties aim more
or less at making political capital out of either
supporting or assailing her. Rich and poor,
capitalists and labourers alike, so far as they
have class interests, wish her to promote their
own, and so far as they have prejudices will resent
her disturbing them. She cannot too strongly
realise that her strength is in the name of the Lord
alone ; and that truly to benefit any class of men,
rich or poor, she must not be the Church of that
or of any class alone, but the Church of the Living
God, with whom there is no respect of persons, and
who seeks the highest good of all men. It is

2 H


especially desirable that the clergy should be fully
imbued with this consciousness as the}'" are especially
called to win all men to the cause of Christ and to a
comprehensive practical recognition of the obliga-
tions of duty. Obviously while they cannot succeed
in this work without zeal, they cannot in many
cases even attempt it without doing mischief if their
zeal is of a partisan character. As regards labour
difficulties especially, whether they are to do good
or harm by even referring to them nuist depend
chiefly on whether or not they do so with fairness,
with full knowledge, and an obvious desire for the
true good of all concerned.

A. considerable number of working men are
alienated from the Church because they deem
that her influence has been exerted on the side of
the wealthier classes. Thev look upon her as an allv
of capitalism ; and they justify on this ground their
neglect of religion. And it must be admitted that
the Church has often shown a deference to rank and
wealth altogether at variance with Christian prin-
ciple. The worship of Mammon is too common in
the house of God. The competitive and mercantile
spirit of the age has entered to a deplorable extent
into our ecclesiastical denominations. There are far
too many congregations in our large cities drawn
almost entirely from the capitalist class.

The Church should endeavour to remove such
causes of disaflection. It is foolish of those who
desire her welfare to try to increase or universalise
competition and mercantilism within her borders
instead of labourino; to diminish and counteract


them. The ministers of the Church should do their
utmost to bring rich and poor together on the
footing of Christian equahty and brotherhood, and
so to act towards them that no man can justly sus-
pect that he is less esteemed than another merely
because he is poorer. It is no part, however, of
their duty to working men to spare any unworthy
feeling or to confirm them in any error which they
may entertain. It is no part of their duty to take
the side even of working men in any merely class
struggle ; in any struggle where they have not also
clearly on their side reason, justice, and religion. It
is, on the contrary, their duty to rise above all party
prejudices, passions, and interests ; and to speak to
all parties the truth in love. They have to endeavour
to bring home to workmen an adequate sense of the
sacredness of the duties of labour ; a conviction that
the relations between employers and employed are
moral on both sides ; and a consciousness of their
indebtedness to society as well as of the indebted-
ness of society to them. Our age is democratic. The
ordinary run of politicians are sure, therefore, to
flatter those whom they call the people. If clergy-
men do so also, enormous mischief will be done to
the commonwealth and great injustice to divine

It does not in. any way follow from the foregoing
remarks that the labouring and poorer classes of the
community are to be regarded as having no special
claims on the sympathy and help of the Church and
of the clergy. They have such claims. Poverty
and aU the hardships and disadvantages of their lot


of themselves constitute claims which the Church
and its ministers ought fully and practically to
acknowledge. They ought to manifest towards the
poor the same spirit of compassion and love which
was conspicuous in Christ. They ought to favour
all ettbrts wisely directed to relieve suftering, to
diminish misery, and to make the lives of the
struggling masses of mankind more hopeful, brighter,
happier. They ought always to have the courage to
protest against any social injustice or political ini-
quity perpetrated by the strong on the weak. The
clergy are never more clearly in their proper places
as citizens than when they are showing their interest
in, and lending their aid to, measures which tend to
elevate and improve the condition of working men.
They ought never to be among those who thought-
lessly or selfishly tell us that " we have heard quite
enough of the working man." Those who say so can
surely have imbibed little of the spirit of Christ, or
must know little of the hard and bitter lot of vast
numbers of workings men and working" women.

There is, perhaps, less hostility to the Church
among the rich than among the poor, but the
friendship of the rich to the Church may be far
from commendable in itself or complimentary to her.
It is much to be feared that among the wealthier
and more educated classes there are not a few who
deem themselves so very superior to their fellow-
mortals as to feel that they can themselves quite
well dispense with the teaching and ordinances of
tlie Church, but who believe that it is highly de-
sirable for the sake, of social order, for the protection


of property, and for the comfort of those who are
well provided with the means of enjoyment that
her teaching should be accepted and its ordinances
reverenced by what they call " the lower orders."

There can be no portion of mankind more desti-
tute of religion, farther away from the kingdom of
God, or in a more lapsed, more helpless, or more
hopeless condition, than those who thus value the
Church chiefly as a fellow-worker with the police
force, and religion chiefly as a safeguard to their
own self or class interests. The wildest Socialist
who has enthusiasm for an unselfish ideal and is
willing to sacrifice his own happiness or life for
its realisation has in him far more that is akin to
the spirit of Christ than such a patroniser of
Christ's Gospel, such a friend of Christ's Church.
But that does not release the Church from duty
towards such a man. He too has a soul to be
saved, and is all the more to be pitied because it
is as yet so utterly lost. Such a Dives is a far
fitter object of compassion than any Lazarus.

Those who are rich in the world's goods must
be taught that only those who are poor in spirit can
belong to the kingdom of heaven. They need to
realise the responsibilities, the duties, the tempta-
tions, and the dangers of wealth. They require
to feel that they are not " their own," and that all
that they possess is but a loan entrusted to them by
their Master for the benefit of His great household.
It is essential both to their spiritual welfare and to
their social usefulness that they should have im-
pressed on them the conviction that it is a question


of life or death for them to decide whether they will
serve God or Mammon. " No man can serve two
masters : for either he will hate the one, and love
the other ; or else he will hold to the one, and
despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mam-
mon." These are amontr the truths of which the
Church has to remind the rich man. They are of a
kind hard enough for him to learn without beino^
made harder by uncharitable abuse of the rich
simply as such. If he learn them, the richer he is
the better will it be for society.

There can be no doubt that the Church should do
more than she is at present doing for the solution of
social and labour problems, in the sense that she
Ought to do her duty better, present the Gospel
with greater fulness and power, push on her home-
mission work with increased zeal, give her sympathy
and co-operation more heartily to all measures
clearly tending to the economic and moral advance-
ment of the community, strive more earnestly to
diffuse among all classes the spirit of Christian love
and brotherhood, of righteousness and peace, and
exemplif}' in herself more perfectly the beauty of
that spirit. As I have already indicated, however,
it is not the office of the Church to furnish definite
solutions of these problems. Hence her official
representatives should be very cautious both as to
the extent and as to the temper in which they
intervene in disputes regarding them.

Especially is such caution necessary in regard to
those deplorable conflicts between labour and capital
which are so prominent a feature in the present age.


Of course, if the clergy see any reasonable likeli-
hood of being able to aid in bringing about a
compromise between employers and employed which
will either preserve or restore peace, either prevent
or bring to a close a " strike," they would be neither
good citizens nor consistent ministers of the Gospel
of peace if they did not gladly embrace the oppor-
tunity. But as a general rule they should be very
chary of intervention, and particularly when once
fighting has begun. They have no authority
inherent in their office for laying down the law tO'
either of the contending parties. It is often very
difficult, or even impossible, for them, as for all
other outsiders, to get at a sufficiently full and
accurate knowledge of the facts in dispute. They
run great risk of raising false hopes by their inter-
vention, and thus of prolonging strife and misery,
and in the end deepening the disappointment of
those who are defeated.

Neutrality, then, will be in most cases the only
course open to them in the circumstances referred
to. But it should be a neutrality which springs not
from want of interest or sympathy but from Chris-
tian prudence and benevolence. And that it does
so should be made manifest bv the ministers of
the Church both in their teaching and in their
intercourse with their parishioners. They should
make it their aim to get rich and poor, employers
and employed, to meet together as much as possible
on equal and friendly terms, as becometh brethren
in Christ. They should do their best to get both
classes to realise that while they have each their


rights they have also each their duties ; that money
given and received is not the only tie between
them ; that they are connected by moral bonds, by
spiritual relations ; that employers should show all
•due esteem and a humane, generous, and Christian
spirit towards those who are in their service, and
the employed all due consideration for the interest
of their ma.sters, and all due fidelity in the work
w^hich they have undertaken to do.

Then, the ministers of the Church might, I
believe, make their intercourse witli the working
men under their pastoral care more interesting,
instructive, and useful than it could otherwise be,
were they themselves to make a careful study of
the social and labour questions debated around
til em, and to master the leading principles of eco-
nomic science as expounded by such truly scientific
•specialists as Sidgwick, Marshall, and Shield Nichol-
son. So prepared, they might even at times, in
parishes where fit audiences could be found, spread a
good deal of beneficial light and help to dispel some
mischievous errors by week-day evening lectures
on social or economic themes — lectures which mig-ht
even easily be of an expository, not a controversial
or polemic character.

The clergy might also, perhaps, exert a useful
influence in the way of encoui-aging workmen to
help themselves. Self-help is the most efiectual of
all. The working classes have now a power whicli,
if rightly directed and fully utilised, might do an
immense amount of good. The most striking exhi-
bition of that power is to be witnessed in their


enormous trades unions and world-wide confedera-
tions. At present, however, it is power largely
wasted, because applied too exclusively to organisa-
tion for war, and too often expended in war which
only leads to disaster because it is war against
natural law, war which ignores the difierence between
the possible and the impossible. Were it to a
greater extent applied to organisation not merely
for the increase of wages but for the general better-
ment, of the condition of workmen, it would be far
less wasteful and far more fruitful. It would not be
so often expended in war, but it would be much
stronger for all just and necessary war. Were the
unions and confederations created by it more
educative, and more truly democratic in the sense of
more really self-governing and less dependent on
the advice and guidance of a few leaders ; were
they in closer and more amicable relations with the
associations and alliances of their employers ; and
were they more occupied in seeking the general
economic, intellectual, and moral improvement of
their members, they would be highly beneficent
agencies. Although there are certainly few signs
just now of their purposing to move on these lines,
we should not despair that good counsel, reflection,
and the teaching of experience will in time bring
them to perceive that such are the only safe

No absolute distinction can be drawn between
political and social questions. Political questions

Online LibraryRobert FlintSocialism → online text (page 35 of 38)