William Rainey Harper.

Religion and the higher life; talks to students online

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that Jesus Christ is the best representative of this
religious spirit, and, likewise, that he is within your
reach, within the reach of everyone who will stretch
his hands out after him. Accept him, if you have
not already done so, and try him. If when honest
and sincere effort has been made, you find him lack-


ing in the qualities of a good guide, you may recon-
sider your step; but first and foremost give him a
trial. You surely need guidance. To whom else
will you go ?

If, now, you have accepted him, study his life as
it is narrated to us, and his teachings concerning
God. The Christian world has been trying to be
Christian without a true or full conception of the
Christ himself. Indeed, Christianity had almost
forgotten that there was a Christ, or, perhaps more
accurately, had so changed him that he could no
longer be recognized as Christ. It has been the
glory of more recent thought that it has in some
measure restored the Christ who had been forgotten
or ignored. But, as a matter of fact, each indi-
vidual must perform for himself this work of restora-
tion; and it can be accomplished only by constant
and close study of his words and works.

And to this end you must study yourself. In
which of these three elements are you most deficient
worship, belief, or conduct? In your secular life
you have ascertained that your taste and talent lie
in a particular direction business, politics, perhaps
science or literature. When this tendency was
definitely discovered, you undertook to cultivate the
special line for which your ability seemed adapted.
This was right, but in the cultivation of the religious
spirit the opposite policy is to be adopted. We
want no specialists in the manifestation of the reli-


gious spirit. It is the all-round, the symmetrically
developed, religious character that you should work
for. The day of special priesthood is past every-
one must be his own priest ; the day of special proph-
etism is past everyone must be a prophet; the
day of specialism in morality has never existed and
will never come. If then you find yourself espe-
cially weak in one or another of the elements which
we have considered, cultivate that element in par-
ticular, remembering that the bigots of religious
history have been the specialists in the manifesta-
tion of the religious spirit; that the dark ages of
Christianity have been those in which the church
has emphasized one or two of these elements to the
neglect of others.

I desire to say a word, in conclusion, in regard
to the religious spirit as manifested in university life.
Here are special difficulties. By nature we each
represent different tendencies; this is true of any
group of individuals. In the university we come,
each from different communities and environments;
we represent many phases of belief and unbelief;
and, besides, we have a greater or less variety of
opinions, forms of worship, and religious activity.
And, in addition to all this, we are, for the most
part, so busily occupied in our daily work, in our
several occupations, that there seems to remain little
time for the cultivation of the religious spirit. Our
minds are engaged in adjusting themselves to new sur-


roundings, and there is a confusion of ideas and'
interests in connection with which, and as a result
of which, we suffer the religious life to be pushed

And just as there rests upon each of us as an in-
dividual the obligation to cultivate the religious
spirit, there rests also upon us as a university the
obligation to cultivate the religious spirit. This
may not be done in any such manner as to interfere
with our separate individualism; and it is extremely
difficult to find in such multiformity of belief and
unbelief, of practice and non-practice, any unity.
But unity must be found ; for an institution of learn-
ing which does not possess a strongly pronounced
religious spirit of some kind may do as much harm as
good. How shall this be cultivated? My answer
here must be still briefer than to the former questions.

As individuals, first of all, we must do our work.
The whole cannot be what the parts are not. Each
individual should, therefore, recognize his responsi-
bility for the whole, and for the sake of the university,
as well as for himself, make urgent effort. And
then we must assist each other, and in so doing
bring ourselves more closely together. Common
sympathy alone produces unity. We may surely
find, as the days and years pass on, a more and more
satisfactory way in which, with zest and profit, we
may express our feelings of gratitude and rever-
ence to the Power above and around us, to whom


we are indebted for all that we have and are. We
may surely agree, not only to permit, but indeed to
encourage, the widest possible divergence of thought
and belief within reasonable limits; and such diver-
gence should serve, not as a mark of separation, but
rather as the token of that freedom which alone is
found in Jesus the Christ. We may join in a com-
mon effort to elevate the life of the community, the
state, and the nation; the effort to establish right-
eousness and truth on every side. Such efforts serve
not merely as an expression of the religious spirit,
but they serve also to tie more closely the bonds of
those who thus work together, and to make that work
stronger and more lasting. As with individuals, so
with universities: the full religious spirit finds ex-
pression in maintaining a true worship, in cultivating
a reverence for truth, and in putting forth strong
effort for the upbuilding of humanity.



THE worlds we live in grow in number and in
size as life proceeds. Each stage onward reveals a
new world to us; and the strange thing is that as
from time to time we enter into these new worlds,
we still remain dwellers in those into which we had
before gained entrance, each being superadded to
another, until at last all are included in the world
beyond. Each stage onward also reveals to us in
these worlds heights and depths of which before we
had no idea heights and depths of pleasure and
pain, of love and hate, of faithfulness and unfaith-
fulness, experiences so varied and so vital as to excite
surprise that humanity can pass through even one
of them and live.

The worlds we live in grow in number and in size
as life proceeds:

First came that inner and most sacred world, the
family, into which we were ushered without re-
sponsibility of our own, and in which we found our-
selves the object of attention and love on every side.
In this world, with its almost infinite detail of rela-
tionship and with its utter lack of selfishness, we

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have gone on living, and with each year of life its mys-
teries have become more marked, its responsibilities
more heavy, its points of contact more numerous
and complex. In this world the tie that binds us
to our fellow-members is the tie of blood. This
bond, however, sometimes does not count for much,
for when time and space intervene, even the parent
may forget the child, or the child the parent. This
bond does grow stronger and stronger with the close
associations which the family life makes possible;
for it is a natural bond, and one which is strength-
ened by cultivation. Or it may be broken off at
will; family feuds are often the bitterest. But, after
all, even when the bond seems broken, it is there;
perhaps only a thread remains still connecting those
whom God and nature intended should be bound.
This world one enters without responsibility of his
own; and he may not really abandon it, even if he
will to do so.

Life does not go far before another world opens
its portals. It soon appears that fellowship is pos-
sible with those outside the family circle a fellow-
ship pure and simple, in which blood-kinship plays
no part; a fellowship in some cases restricted in the
number of those among whom it exists, in others
not so restricted; but in all cases maintained within
a limit hardly larger than that of the family. This
relationship we ordinarily call friendship. We are
accustomed to say that we choose our friends; that,


in other words, we enter this world upon our own
responsibility. This, if true at all, is only true in
part. We enter into the friendships of life, whether
in youth or in age, because of something in our
friend which appeals to us, something which we can-
not resist; because of an affinity which is as real,
though not as tangible perhaps, as the tie of blood.
The bond of friendship is a spiritual one; and so
close is it that men will sometimes do for friends
what they would not do for blood-brothers. In this
circle changes occur; friendships sometimes are 'out-
grown. Yet, as time goes on, it generally proves
true that the bond of fellowship once formed may
not be broken, and in the later days of life, as one's
mind goes back to the days of early family experi-
ences, these may not be separated from others in
which the friends of youth had part.

Most of us have enjoyed the fellowship of another
world the university. In entering this world each
individual assumes for himself responsibility; but
this world, like the others to which reference has
been made, is one from which no man withdraws
who has once entered it. The fellowship here pos-
sesses elements which would seem to have been
drawn, some from the family, some from the sphere
of friendship. The relationship of teacher and pupil,
when rightly apprehended, is only less sacred and
only less helpful than that of parent and child. In
some sense, indeed, it is a substitution for that rela-


tionship. The relationship between student and
student is at once that of brother and sister and
that of friend; the friendships formed in college life
are usually the warmest and the most lasting of all.
The associations of college life are often as hallowed
as any that man makes.

The college world and its significance cannot be
appreciatied by those who have not lived in it, and
those who have lived in it will never clearly know
how different their lives would have been if they
had never entered. The college world is a kind of
epitome of the great world. With its temptations
and struggles, with its successes and failures, with
its ambitions and despairs, its life is hardly to be
distinguished from the life of the great world. It
is the natural transition between the narrow life of
the family and the world at large. It exhibits the
world at large in its varied relationships, and shows
how and when entrance to it may be gained most

There is, however, another world, of which every
man is a member, and in which every man must
live. There may be a few who have not known
life in the world of family; there may be a few who
have not tasted the experience of that spiritual life
called friendship; the many do not know the college
world. But there is no man who, soon or late, does
not enter into the life of the great world the world
at large. What then, is the relationship between


the members of this world ? Are men of human-
kind all brothers? Is there, indeed, a kinship of
every man with every other man?

The Scripture statement as to the essential unity
of mankind appears to be corroborated by modern
science in every department in which the subject
has been investigated. The biologist tells us that
we are one in structure; the physiologist tells us
that we are one in functional arrangement; the phi-
lologist tells us that our languages may be carried
back to stems which themselves form families, and
between these families there is evidence of relation-
ship; the psychologist tells us that we are so con-
stituted that under the same circumstances and in
the same environment we will do in large measure the
same thing, whatever be the country of which we
are citizens. The fact of the relationship seems to
have been clearly established, and is the basis for
the changes which are now being made throughout
our social structure.

It follows, of course, that wherever relationship
is found, there will be found fellowship; and there
exists, therefore, a world-fellowship, as well as a
family fellowship, or the fellowship of friends.
This world-fellowship manifests itself in various
ways. With some we are brought into direct touch,
with others the contact is indirect. In the mass of
individuals each individual of the mass may touch
comparatively few. The relationship may be that


of business, or of religion, or of a civic or social char-
acter; but whatever the specific form it may assume,
it is of such a nature as to illustrate the common
sympathy of men the common fellowship which is
always possible and which expresses itself whenever
circumstances permit. Every man is of kin to every
other man, and the multiform fellowships of life are
but an exhibition of the fellowship which exists
between members of the human race a fellowship
which justifies the phrase "our common humanity."
This fellowship is, from one point of view, only the
extension of the family fellowship, for here as there
the bond is that of common blood. From another
point of view it is the enlargement of that fellowship
which is seen in the close association of a group of
friends, or an enlargement of that life of which so
perfect a type is seen in the university. The bond
is that of common interest or sympathy a bond
which may be stronger even than blood.

And into this great world, as I have said, every
man soon or late comes. It is here that, notwith-
standing family ties and bonds of friendship, a man
must form new relationships, and upon the char-
acter of these will depend his career. This world
includes many worlds besides those which I have
mentioned, each sufficient in itself to limit the life
and the influences of any individual. In taking
one's position in this world, he does not give up his
position in the other worlds to which reference has


been made, and sometimes membership in worlds
so different from each other and so much in conflict,
makes life and living all the more complex and
difficult. Do we hesitate sometimes to enter ? Yes,
but this counts for nothing; for, whether we will or
not, we find ourselves numbered with the great
throng and treated on every side as members. May
we then, having entered, withdraw quietly to one
side and give ourselves no concern over the affairs
of the world at large ? If we are cowards, we may
surely do this; but the training and the blood of
many men render cowardice for them impossible.
It only remains, therefore, to take up the burden of
this life and carry it as best we can. And the burden,
as we carry it, will grow heavier and heavier, until
perhaps we sink crushed by its overwhelming weight.
But this matters little, for we may interpret it as
perhaps the true glory granted by the world to its
favored children.

In this world-fellowship the college man has a
place. Others may be cowards and shirk responsi-
bility. Disturbed by the conflict which rages every-
where so continuously; distressed by the misery
which cries out to heaven from every quarter; con-
fused by the various sounds and noises which fill
the air on every side, many may selfishly shut out
the world, and live for and by themselves, with eye
and ear closed to all that goes on about them. And
many live thus. But of this many the college man


may not be one, unless, to be sure, his college life
is to count for nothing.

His position is like that of a man going through
the world the second time. As we look back over
life, we think in fact, we know that in many ways
we would have acted differently. We see now what
at the time of action was entirely obscure. We appre-
ciate the mistakes and blunders that were made, and
understand how they might have been avoided.
The experience of the college man in later life is
something like this. He has lived one life. When
he enters into the world at large, he is beginning life
a second time, and has before his eyes its probabili-
ties, or at all events its possibilities. Such a man
sustains a peculiar relation to the world and must
occupy a peculiar place in its fellowship. He it is
who must, in some measure, occupy the place of
the parent in the family, of the instructor in the

We may stop here to ask: Why is it that the
parent is fitted to guide and direct the life of the
child through its early periods? Because the par-
ent has passed through this period, and by experience
has learned the dangers and difficulties which beset
childhood. Why is it that the instructor is fitted to
guide and direct the work of the pupil through the
various stages of his educational development or
in special fields of research ? Because the instructor
has himself gone through this work and profited by


its experiences; has gone over the ground of the
special department. Just so, the college man, in
general has been fitted by the life which he has lived
(if it has been lived properly) to assist those about
him because, while they, for the most part, are
going through the world for the first time, he is
living through it a second time. This, then, is his
position and the relationship which he sustains.
Or, to use another analogy, he is an elder brother
in the family; not elder, perhaps, in years, but in
experience; for experience comes not merely with
days of life, but with days of thought and action.
Each year of preparatory and college life contains
five years of ordinary, routine life. The student of
twenty is, therefore, not a man of twelve plus eight,
but of twelve plus forty. I do not forget that occa-
sionally there are those who in life outside the college
find a discipline and a training which contains many,
if not all, of the elements of college training. These
are the exception. Nor do I forget that frequently
there are those who have passed through the college
without having lived the college life, and who, there-
fore, enter upon the life of the world as if living for
the first time. These, although many, are, I trust,
the exception.

If, then, the college man's position in the world
is that of one about to live a second life or that of
an elder brother, what is his responsibility, his obli-
gation? There is, of course, the responsibility


which attaches to membership in the human family,
the responsibility of fellowship, of man to man, of
brother to brother the responsibility which rests on
every man, which all men bear in common. I shall
not here attempt to define this.

But there is also the responsibility which rests
upon the elder brother, or the leader; there are also
the responsibility and obligation which rest upon
those who have been permitted to receive special
gifts and to enjoy special advantages. And just
here, as it seems to me, lies the solution of the prob-
lem which today is disturbing the minds of so many.
Granting that the world's affairs are under the general
guidance of an all-wise and omnipotent God a
God who is at the same time just and impartial
why is it that upon some men greater gifts are be-
stowed than upon others? Why is it that to this
man wealth is given, and to that man high position ?
Why is it that you have been permitted to enjoy the
advantages of college life ? Why are men of wealth
placed in a class by themselves, and not infrequently
looked upon with reproach simply because they are
wealthy ? Men who have had college training are
sometimes in similar fashion regarded with sus-
picion merely because they have something which
the mass of men do not possess. Why, I ask, do
a certain few have gifts which the masses do not
have ? Before answering the question, let me make
this suggestion :


Life for these few is no easier, on the whole, than
for the many. In fact, it is more difficult and
more hazardous. In the majority of cases, the men
and women who occupy high positions, and who
have had the advantage of education, are carrying
burdens to which the men of lower rank are utter
strangers; burdens heavier and more grievous even
than those brought by poverty and sickness. Pain
of body is not so great as pain of heart and mind.
With every increase of knowledge there is an increase
of the capacity for sorrow. To the unthinking mind
the man of wealth, living in his mansion, is an object
of envy. If the real facts were known, the life of
such a one would be found, in most cases, to be a
life of care and responsibility, for which the satisfac-
tion of physical life is no fair remuneration. To the
unthinking mind the man who occupies a high posi-
tion in the affairs of government, or in affairs of
business, is an object of congratulation and some-
times of envy. If the real facts were known, in
almost every case it would be found that such a man
is being crushed literally crushed by the weight
of the burdens which he is compelled to carry. He
may find satisfaction in the prominence which is
accredited him, but such satisfaction is not a sufficient
reward for the anguish of mind and heart he is
called upon to suffer.

Again, therefore, the question comes: Why is it
that to some are given what seem to be special gifts


and special advantages? Because they deserve
them ? No ! In order that, having them, they may
secure a greater measure of enjoyment in life ? This
may sometimes be the result, it is not the purpose;
and even when such enjoyment comes, there come
also with it a burden and responsibility which in
large measure often counterbalance the enjoyment.
Is it because these men have greater energy and
ability? This answer merely begs the question.
Why is it then, that they have been given the ability
to acquire wealth or to secure an education ? The
answer is that every such gift or opportunity placed
within the reach of an individual is his, not for per-
sonal advantage, but to be used by him for the ad-
vantage of others. Every individual to whom has
been given such gift or opportunity, if he is true to
himself and true to the world-fellowship of which
he is a part, will use the gift or the opportunity, not
for himself, but for those with whom he is associated ;
and in every such case the burdens which he assumes
and the weight of responsibilities which he carries,
the suffering of mind and heart which is imposed
upon him, will counterbalance all satisfaction that
comes to him from the enjoyment of these privi-
leges; and the God who has thus distributed his
gifts will in the end be found to have been just and
impartial. For if he has given to this man a special
gift, it has not been for that man's pleasure or ad-
vantage. It has been given that he might help his


brother that humanity might be lifted higher; and
if the man has been equal to the trust committed,
his life will have been no less hard and difficult
than that of the men whom he has helped. Do
you say that many who have received these gifts are
faithless to the trust committed, and receive the
benefits without incurring the responsibilities and
the pains? Well, this is in accordance with the
nature of things. In order that man may be good,
there must be an opportunity to sin. In order that
there may be men who will accept this trust, and
the obligations which it imposes, there must be the
opportunity to prove recreant to the trust. Vice is
permitted to exist for the sake of virtue for without
one the other could not be.

The obligation which rests upon the college man
is, therefore, one of service service to his fellow-
men. The man of wealth who does not use the
wealth given to him for the benefit of humanity is
a curse to the world of which he is a member. The
college man who does not use the advantages gained
by a college experience for the help of those about
him is a curse to humanity. To help humanity is
to serve humanity to be a servant to enter service.
An obligation which rests upon you, my friends, in
part because you may not deny your relationship to
every member of the human family with whom you
come in contact; in part because of the very consti-
tution of your mind and body which brings you into

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Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperReligion and the higher life; talks to students → online text (page 3 of 11)