« PreviousContinue »
among the sheep old Aunt Lena rising. Old Aunt Lena is a Christian peasant woman who has lived in that ward six
She is not pretty, she looks like a meal bag tied in the middle and smells of garlic all the time. But Aunt Lena has been at more beds of pain, she has helped to bring more children into the world, she has been present at more weddings with a kindly word for people who were making the great adventure in poverty and need, than anybody know of in that ward. Honest she is, on the square; she gets up and says, “Master, I don't belong here. I would love to be here,"• and you can see the old woman's tears flowing down her cheeks, "but I don't belong here, I never saw you. I did what I could, I worshipped you, but I never found you hungry, I never found you thirsty. I did what I could for the Wops and the Hungarians and the Jews and the Poles and the others, but I never did anything for you." Jesus said, "Aunt Lena, inasmuch as ye did it for the least of these, ye did it for me." Lest you and I forget it, lest We should take the letter that kills for the spirit that giveth life, lest we should take the form for the deed, the Master turns it over on the other side, and over here among the goats rises a man, thoroughly respectable and lofty in his personal life, very much outraged. He is Mr. Jim Jones of the 'Steenth National Bank of Chicago. He rises up and says angrily, "Master, there is a great injustice being done here. You know who I am, I am Jim Jones, president of the 'Steenth National Bank of Chicago. I was long on prophets; if a well-accredited prophet came to town I met him at the station with my automobile, took him home with me, and took him down to the Auditorium and gave him a banquet. ; Of course, it may be true that I did not do as much as I could for those foreigners that were in those shacks that I got blood-money rent from. It is true I was a bit hard when it came to that factory where I was interested, and they were working women for less than a living wage. It is true I always stood in with the crooked gang in my town, they looked after my assessments. But I did my part in my family, I did my part by my church, I did my part in an individual way." Now can you hear Jesus through nineteen hundred years say, "Jim Jones, inasmuch as ye did it not unto the little Italians in your tenements, inasmuch as ye did it not to the Polish girls in your factory, inasmuch as ye did it not to the daughters of the poor through your political control, ye did it not for me." Jesus put the absolute issue of the judgment day upon a man's recognition of his fellow man in terms of ordinary, common human sacrifice, and not those men whom you can expect help from, but the poor, the needy, and those from whom you can expect nothing.
Can you escape this struggle? What does it mean? Does it mean you have got to turn yourself into a charity organization society? It does not mean anything of the sort. But it does mean we have got to project our Christianity out of our homes and out of our churches and out of the market place into the ballot box. We have got to be Christians seven days in the week. We have got to be Christians where we have got power and responsibility. It does not mean that any one of us is going to commit business suicide; but it does mean that we are going to work honestly to get as many fair-minded men as possible around us and stand for a decent political and industrial and social order wherever we may be at work. You cannot transform water into wine; but you can so control the power of the people that the water power of the people shall not be monopolized by a few but shall become the common inheritance of the many. You can't make bread out of a few loaves and fishes to feed a multitude; but you can so control the government that industrial opportunity and the natural resources of the nation shall be open to the people of the nation, instead of being monopolized for the benefit of a few. You can so use your power in politics that you will not stand for crooked political conditions that at the base of life betray the childhood and the womanhood of the poor. We can all do that; and you can
I will prove that and then I will sit down. A little while ago I was one of the men under pressure. I went out in '97 to Alaska. You remember those years, you older men, the years between '93 and '97; they were lean years.
There was the tramp of the unemployed in every city in the land. Closed down mines made able-bodied men tramps. If you want to know how to breed anarchists and socialists and people who hate God, let them be six weeks ready to work and no chance to work. You will make more of them in six weeks then you will in six years of soap-box oratory. We met that issue and we went north. Some of us reached Dawson, and from there we fought on over the trackless wastes of the north, and in March, 1898, I stood on a cliff looking out over Behring Sea, with Siberia only ninety miles away. Great submerged ice mountains come down from the north and range along that shore, like those masses that met the Titanic and sunk it. Caught in the ice floe I stood there. The sea was frozen out three miles. The cold in the north does the same magic that the heat does in the desert. You know the story of the mirage, how a tired person in a caravan who sees in the distance water and palm leaves, if he leaves the caravan searching for the oasis will die in the burning sands. I stood there that morning and saw on the whole horizon of the west, over those icy mountains over that frozen sea, the cliffs of Siberia painted on the western light. I have been in Siberia since, and I saw those same cliffs as they looked that morning ninety miles away. I turned away from it as a great wonder; I did not know what it meant then, but I know what it meant now. It meant the end of the frontier line of the human race. It meant the end of the escape from social, religious, political and economic pressure. I was looking into the Old East, into that ancient hive of Asia from which our fathers swarmed four thousand years ago. They went west, to western Asia, to the British Isles, and from there our fathers came across the Atlantic to these New England shores. All the time the great frontier in front of the human race, and the pressure sent men out to try themselves against new conditions. Then their sons picked up the line and carried it over the Blue Ridge, over the Alleghanies; their sons picked it up and carried it over the Western Reserve, across the Illinois and the Mississippi; their sons carried it to the foot-hills of the Rockies; their sons took it up and carried it over the Rockies until the feet of the pioneers met the waves of the Pacific. There it stopped until we again took up that frontier line and carried it north and west over the trackless wastes of Alaska, and when we finished we were looking into the Arctic Ocean on the north and the Behring Sea on the West. It has gone forever, it will be known no more in this world. I am one of the men on the last frontier of human history. And as you sit here in that seat tonight, the eager hearted lad, the adventurous person, with the old quest in his mind and heart which is the sign of power and adventure of soul, - what are they thinking about in the villages and on the farms? Are they thinking about the frontier? It has ceased to exist. They are thinking about New Haven and Bridgeport and Chicago and Boston and New York and St. Louis and Pittsburg and the mill towns, and they are coming thousands strong as you sit here. Coming how? To meet the strain of life as we met it on the frontier, where men, fighting side by side to overcome nature, to bridge rivers, to cut paths through forests, to scale mountain passes, learned a great comradeship and a great loyalty? No. They come to a lodging house, to a rooming house with four bare walls. They have hope for a while, then the pressure beats in, the temptation of the Great White Way is there, and many are led to forget the Christianity of their youth and to accept a cheap and miserable existence; not because they are worse men than we are, but because they meet a strain we never knew. And that is not all. From the old lands, a million a year, until this war broke out, they came, as good people as you will find anywhere. Where have they gone? To lay new Germanys in new Wisconsins? No, they pile up in our tenement districts, they pile up in the mill towns; they beat against the standard of wages and hours and conditions for American labor; they beat against the moral standards of political life; not because they are wicked or vicious, but because they are ignorant and poor and needy and do not know what to do. You cannot escape that struggle, the struggle is at the door.
I am one of the men who possibly knows the worst that life can teach among the perishing people in a great city. I believe absolutely in the triumph of the best. I believe this nation under God is to have a youth nobler than its childhood, and a maturity diviner than its youth. But it will not come out of cold storage Christianity, cold storage politics and individualism and selfish economics. It will only come out of projecting the gospel of Jesus, which was given not only for the saving of men but for the saving of society, the saving of the cities of the world, out into the market places in terms of power, in terms of living faith, in terms of willingness, if need be, to suffer for the soul of the world.
The dream of this nation was the dream of a great people. The men that dared the dangers of the Atlantic to lay here on this New England shore a new hope for the human race, dared to believe in a great people, sound and strong and free from the bottom to the top, from the man who digs a ditch and digs it honestly, entitled to a decent wage and fair working conditions, and a home and wife and children and a place in the republic, because his labor is at the base of the economic pyramid, - from that man up through every other, the mechanic, the farmer, the business man, the professional man, the teacher, to the highest expression of genius; one people, sound and strong and true, daring to meet the issues of our generation as our fathers met the issues of theirs, knowing that no man can win anything of intellectual fibre or moral muscle except as he spends himself in the great struggle of his own time for Jesus, for righteousness, for the kingdom of God among men.
That is the belief of America; that is the purpose of this church, that was founded in the need of human life. And as one of the heroic saints of old said, “More truth shall break out of this book than men yet have known,' so I say tonight, there is more dynamite to blow to pieces social, industrial and political injustice in the real application of the gospel of Jesus than all the nitro-glycerine that was ever gathered in the dark cellars of the world. But we are hungry for men and women to pay the price of the new discipleship in the new way. There is sitting here on this platform a man, Washington Gladden, who has fought the fight. There are other men in this audience who have paid the price of the struggle to make the religion of Jesus real in this present life of the world. It has got to meet that life. I believe that in the gospel of Jesus there is an allconvincing and all-sufficient power; but it has got to be on the job. It is useless until we put it at the place of strain, and try to live the truth we speak.