This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
Property, what is it? and wealth, what does it include? Who shall control it? Who shall administer it? On what terms shall it be possessed and enjoyed? These questions pulse with human interest, and the average man is wholly absorbed by them. And so he ought to be. In the very beginning it was ordained that man should have dominion over the material world. He was to "replenish the earth and subdue it." Such a task requires, and ought to require, the whole masterful strength of his mind. The wild goat can find food and shelter, but the subjugation of the earth, the sky, and the sea—this is the task of a man. It is therefore undiscerning zeal—one had almost written unconscionable cant—which exhorts a man to think less of riches and more of religion. There is confusion here in our elemental thinking. Such exhortation does not get to the root of things at all, and it will not pierce through the pride of life that cankers at the heart of our generation. Rather must riches and religion be aligned together in common terms of one spiritual law.
There is no salvation in slenderness, but only in fullness. Our civilization has need of many things if it shall be truly Christian, but in nothing has it greater need than this—that the average man shall recognize the spiritual content of money, and maintain an attitude of stewardship to that with which money is so closely related; that is, to property, income, and wealth.
The volume opens with the discussion of a pagan institution. Now some good people have the notion that to be a "pagan" is quite the same as to be a barbarian, if not an actual savage! Of course nothing could be more untrue. Pagan Greece is still our teacher in some of the high reaches of human thought. Pagan Rome still rules in all our courts of law. Among the great world-leaders, pagan names stand high in honor. Socrates and Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius—these names shall endure upon the earth. Professor James Harvey Robinson, of Columbia University, in The New History, insists that the Greeks and the Romans are our own contemporaries; they are in no sense to be included among "the ancients"; they are identically our own kind of folks. Think of a morning visit at the studio of Praxiteles, or an afternoon at the Woman's Club with Sappho (we will not say Xanthippe!). Cicero in the Senate—it would not impress men as "heathenish" at all! Yet these are pagan names. Nor could the world-leaders of our own generation be polled without including strong personalities from Japan and China and India—pagan, all of them.
We are indebted to the pagan nations for very much that is excellent in our civilization. But we have taken the evil and the good together. We have not discerned between them. And we have paid the penalty. The genius of Christianity has been loaded down with pagan ethics. The pagan law of property, like an Old Man of the Sea, has harassed and thwarted Christian civilization. For a thousand years the Christian instinct has sought to break away from it. During the feudal centuries there was vague human disquiet, and nothing more. Wars came. Christian ideas conquered. They are still conquering. Paganism in Europe and America yields but slowly, nevertheless it is yielding. It would yield quickly if men would discern that it is paganism. Our own generation, more than any that has preceded it, is looking with level eyes. It will not accept the name "Christian," but will examine to the core, that it may determine if the thing named is indeed Christian. To pose is useless. No appeal to tradition will avail. The church may no longer teach ex cathedra. The constitution is no longer glorified by a halo of ancient sanctity. The very foundations of belief must be bared for new and often impudent inspection, and the pitiless searchlight is turning everywhere. It is a time for grave counsel and for sober thought. Nevertheless, it is a time for faith and great rejoicing, for Reality, the Things that Are, never had so good a chance in all the generations.
The social and economic values implied in stewardship are insistent. The logical development of the doctrine, as well as the personal desire of the author, would require that these values shall be studiously, if not elaborately, treated. They have not been so treated. By some this will be regarded as a serious limitation of the book. One has written me (his name is widely known on both sides the Atlantic as a strong leader in the field of Christian ethics, and I am honored that he has so carefully considered and criticized the manuscript of this volume), "You touch too lightly on the really great present difficulty of all possession, big and little; it is stained by our unbrotherly social order"; and again, in the same letter, "I have read the book with much inward assent, but I would like to see it go deeper and take a wider range." Another, whose constructive leadership in social economics is genuinely Christian and widely effective, remarked thus, after reading: "The structure is not large enough to fit the great foundation which is laid in the opening chapters." If the volume is to be judged as a completed message, my critics are unquestionably right. In the preparation of these chapters I myself have constantly recognized the wide fields into which the argument invited me. Extended notes and "blue-penciled" manuscripts, prepared and then rejected, would show how earnestly the author has endeavored to present a balanced treatment, giving to the social implications of stewardship their full development. But, in the face of friendly counsel and my own inclinations, I have deliberately concluded to restrain my preference for a finished production, and to say one thing alone. Let that central thesis work itself into the minds of thoughtful men, and the implications will develop of themselves. If our generation can be helped to know the ethical compulsion of stewardship as an attitude toward possession, even in the midst of "our unbrotherly social order," and though men hold tenaciously to the old (and very human!) individualistic doctrine of property, the larger meanings of brotherhood will certainly be evoked, and a Christian social order will inevitably emerge. And I have been helped to this conclusion by the reflection that other men are strongly proclaiming the social message of Christianity, which is winning—must win. The pressure of a world-brotherhood is with us more and more; shall not the primary truth of God's sovereignty stand forth in strength, unattended and alone?
Moreover, it is the marvel of primary truth, that, however it may be isolated in our thinking, yet it cannot really stand alone. God is God only in relation. He is eternally Father. God immanent is the wonder of the world. Nor does he indwell nature and mind alone. He is present in the world of trade and industry. The tragedy of commerce is the violence that is done to his indwelling Presence, for property and wealth, wages and income, are marks of his peculiar grace.
What, then, do we mean by those enticing words, so easily written and so quickly skimmed —property and wealth, wages and income? And in what manner does a man measure them when he knows their meaning? It is a fascinating study. Every material possession is shot through with fine spiritual forces. This is indeed the very lure of money, as this also is its inseparable power. How men of honor are entitled to possess money, and to administer it, and how money rightfully becomes the center of rational living— these are the considerations which now await us.
I could wish to enter at once upon my theme, with no single word of comment on pagan institutions, but paganism obstinately persists in the midst of us. It must be dealt with in America as faithfully as the missionary seeks to deal with it in Asia, for this it is that frustrates and withstands the Christian law of stewardship. But men are discerning more clearly than in other days. Inevitably the pagan doctrine both of men and things shall be lifted from Christian civilization, and, please God, from the world.
Harvey Reeves Calkins.
Evanston, Illinois, Easter, 1914.