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BY Alexander Gardiner Mercer
Lift up your heads ^ O ye gates ; and be ye lifted up^ ye everlasting doors ; and the King of glory shall come in. — Ps. xxiv. 7.
I TAKE the spirit of Christ to be the perfect rule, -¦- not only of individual life, but of society, of business, of government, and of all law; for the spirit of Christ is the ideal of humanity. It is the perfect soul in all its relations public and private, full of justice, fairness, wisdom, and self-sacrifice. But that full spirit of Christ is kept out, defeated, or at least limited by various necessities, but chiefly by human selfishness and ignorance, so that it is the great duty of man, in all the departments of life, to give that spirit fuller and fuller entrance. '' Lift up your heads."
Christ is kept out of our lives, not only in our practice, but as a rule of living. The men of this age are not living under even a rule of absolute perfection, — far from it, — but under a rule allowed to be more or less loose and accommodated. The rule set up is not only an adaptation, but a compromise ; not only an adapta1
tion to the necessary, but an unnecessary compromise with the world. For example, the considerations of
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rank in aristocratic communities, while it is right they should modify the rule of Christian brotherhood, do in fact so much compromise and lower the rule towards the mean and poor as to make it not a little unchristian.
But this non-admission of the pure Christian rule is prominently and painfully evident in international and civil law, in business and society. International law has yet to lift the head of its gates much higher for the full entrance of the King of glory; for hitherto and until lately it has been contracted down to self and the rule of mere power. Even civil law, the boast of the reason and justice of men, must yet lift the roof of its temple, if it would let in the full soul of Christ. And as to society and business, they need not be spoken of. The law of the lady and gentleman, the rule of the man of honor and of the woman of fashion, the usage of the
merchant, are evidently not illumined by the full presence of the King of glory.
The reminder, then, to-day is to admit a purer Christian usage into all the great departments of life ; but specially, let me say, in the great relations of rich and poor, the employer and the laborer. Before us appears an insurrection of labor, amounting almost to a revolution. We ask why? Whatever else may be also true, it is clear that the spirit of Christ is not in our business, — ¦ at least not in the workshop side of it, — for it is an insurrection with less cause, less justification, than in any case ever heard of in the history of man. If such are the acts of our people under little, perhaps no oppres-
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slon, under little suffering, what ought to be the outbreak of the poor English laborer, and what ought the French Revolution to have been, under the cruel, indescribable wrongs of that people? Some self-sacrifice, of course, was necessary to our workmen; but to bear
nothing to help the country and brotherhood, groaning as it now is under its many burdens, and at the first touch of wrongs (chiefly imaginary) to break from law and destroy, may show at least how much labor is pampered and spoiled in America. To many despondent people it seems to show more. They see in the wild outbreak along the avenues of commerce in many States, in the long lines of burning property, in mobs commanding that trade shall stop, — in the horror and glare of all this they see the very face of French communism. Yet to tamper with it will, in my judgment, make it a much more serious business ; to speak soft words to it, to fraternize with malefactors, — I mean the real malefactors, for I know that the workman was often innocent or half innocent, — I say for the sake of interest or false pity to be recreant to law on the part of the responsible classes, will show that the real spirit of the law of Christ is not only not in the workshop, but not in the parlor of the president and the director, or the homes of stockholders. Of course, give to the worthy workman full justice. If the times are hard, the Christian will give better wages and sweeten them with kindness; but the spirit of Christianity is not weak, is not a silly mercy. It will, to the misguided.
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give correction, with pity; but to the thieving incendiary, the wanton insurrectionist, it gives the cold hand of law, — it gives reluctant but unflinching force. Shall we let such as you ruin the Ark of God?
I speak in view of great interests injured; but far beyond that, in view of law violated under a free government of the people. And my view is that if the wrong be as great and uncalled for as it seems to be, so great and decided and exemplary should be the settlement. To be settled fitly, it must be settled, if not by an eminence of penalty as great as the crime, yet the settlement should be exemplary; and if settled otherwise, the spirit of good government is deserting both sides of our business. Law, — law is the only king of a free people ; to withstand it with violence is next to treason, and is, as the apostle says, *' to bring to ourselves damnation." " When I go into a country," Montesquieu once remarked, '' I do not inquire
whether they have good laws (for these they have everywhere), but I ask whether these laws are executed." If we Americans lose the honor of executed laws, we lose the common honor of Christian civilization.
After great sacrifices this outbreak will of course be mastered, and the country awake from this hideous dream. But the sign and proof will remain of a deep vice in society, the first great sign among us of the reversal of the evils of old society; that is, tyranny and outrage at the top of society beginning to be
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changed to tyranny and outrage from the bottom. And the question is, Has this vice shown itself too late for remedy? Ah! we stood still and allowed the government of our fathers (itself a perilous but most benign experiment), we stood still and allowed the politician to change it into a new experiment, — the experiment of a government of mere numbers. We
gave the vote to ignorance and barbarism from abroad and to ignorance and barbarism at home, and are now surprised that power seems to be passing downwards, and begins to assert itself as King at the bottom. It is a call to deep thought. We have allowed to pass from our hands one of our very greatest securities.
Still, I am not one of those who take too gloomy a view of the future, and who think that in the midst of our rich country we are sitting as Belshazzar at the Feast, while the fingers of a man's hand are writing doom upon the wall. I do not feel in this way. We have a main security left, I think. It is not in the rich, it is not in the poor, but in that enormous class of moderate and small capitalists which makes the real body of the American people, whose interests and sympathies are with order, and whose mass is so great that it can never be shaken by outbreak. Were the nation divided into the few rich and the many poor, there would be no security for one hour; but now in any question between labor and capital that great intermediate class, which is in effect a mediating class, must declare for order; for they have come up by
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acquiring even a little property, they have come up into the class of order. They have undergone the magic process by which the radical becomes a conservative as if in a moment. They have entered upon civilization. There may be sudden outbreaks of the laborers or the idle, but they can never become vital so long as the interests and feelings of this wide middle mass are against them. So that though there may be, and probably will be, gradual but orderly encroachments on the rights of great wealth, — that is much to be feared, for we have some proof of it already, — yet that will not be great while the permanent existence of society and of a government administered in the interests of the body of the people are, I think, sure.
So much I am happy to say. With all our shocks and fears, this I believe to be a government as permanent as any. But to make society something better than this, to make it worthy of the hope with
which it began, that is a different thing; for that we have much to do. The spirit of Christ must come in, the heads of the gates, the everlasting doors of the heart, must be lifted, that the King of glory may enter. A nation, I repeat, we shall continue to be, — a nation great in material interests, guarded by the instincts of a thriving people; but nothing beyond this is feasible without patriotism towards the State and a Christian heart in our business and society, and specially a Christian heart in that great relation of the
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poor and the rich. Education, as it is called, will do something; but character, far more Christ, or at least some shadow of Christ, must enter into all departments, — specially, as I have said, into the workshop and the palace, — and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and of the children to the fathers, and in the spirit of grateful love from below, and of generous love from above, bind together the mighty opposites of society.
So far I have spoken as if bearing more against the poor than the rich ; but I have done so simply because here and at the present moment it seems to be just, for power here sways to the side of the poor (after long centuries of injustice and sorrow), and I rejoice at it; and only because it begins to be abused do I denounce the abuse. I speak in the interests not merely of the rich but of the poor man, whom I would save from himself to keep our noble Christian law for his children. Were this England, I hope I should be ashamed to do as the English Established pulpit did, or many of its clergy, for three centuries, and nearly until to-day. I should be ashamed to stand up on the side of place and power, flattering them, and treading into lower submission the brotherhood already so far down. But here and now the case is much changed. England Is growing glorioush' right, and we, in the other direction, are growing wrong.
I have said enough on the one side, and must turn
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before I close for a moment to the other, and exhort the rich to let the beautiful spirit of the King of glory appear in them more and more. And whom do I mean by the rich? I mean not four or five of eminent wealth, — I mean almost all the people before me, nay, those much below the class before me. And I say to all, Let Christ appear in us. There is much 'demand for his presence, I assure you. You will not find your duty easy; for the temper of the poor and rich is, if not naturally opposed, easily made so, hide the fact as we may. The interests of labor and capital look to be different. And so the proud rich and the proud poor make a dreadful jar together. Christ's gracious sweetness is the only secret of cure on the part of the rich, and yet it is very hard for them to acquire and keep it. It is easy to be sentimental about brotherhood, to talk about it in church, but hard facts try it. For the poor and our dependents often require of us as much forbearance as children, without the interest of children; and that we should in the face of all our distastes '' consider " the
poor, — his bad birth, his bad education, which have shaped his soul badly, — " consider him and forbear him," that is not easy. For the self-sacrifice of the rich is hard while it is so pleasant and easy to use power indolently and contemptuously. Even with a little of Christ's spirit, there is still no such beautiful brotherhood as might easily be made between poor and rich. Even in this country, where many of the
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poor are half spoiled, and many of the rich half spoiled, still the heart of the poor man is easily touched by the consideration of the rich man, and the rich man's heart responds quickly to right feeling in the poor. Ah ! if but the shadow of Christ's kindness were to fall into either class, it would make life beautiful. Hear then, my high brother, my high sister, and suffer this word of exhortation : " Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal, remembering that you also have a master in heaven." Are you already liberal of your gifts and kindness
for the good of the poor and for the public good? God be praised ! And is your kindness well considered and wise and graciously given ? God be praised ! And is there no blame for lack of sympathy, for proud and unfeeling distance from ** the brotherhood of low degree " ? Then God be praised ! And do you persist in your goodness though ingratitude and mean criticism surround you? Then God be most praised ! Well done ! Your heart remembers him. You have fulfilled the sweet charge of the divine apostle : " Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God ; . . . that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for themselves treasures in heaven ; . . . who being rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich."
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