This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
We have briefly noted the development of stewardship in the eighteenth century, both in England and on the continent of Europe. In America there was rich promise for future years, but little, as yet, of actual fulfillment. In very truth, the building of the American state was the largest act of human stewardship that could possibly have been rendered. For fully a generation after the close of the American Revolution organized Christianity in the United States did little more than maintain itself. Perhaps, under all the circumstances, this was a noble and sufficient task. Nevertheless, "there is that scattereth and yet increaseth," and vigorous youth is the time or bearing burdens. In the preceding chapter we have marked how a significant segment of American Christianity failed to meet its first great opportunity of stewardship. Not for a moment are we saying that other churches showed greater zeal for the kingdom of God than did the Methodists; in all fairness, the very reverse was true. What we are saying is this: The stewardship of possessions is a teaching of ethics and a habit of life, and Methodist people had not learned to interpret vital piety in terms of property. They knew the first token of Pentecostal Christianity, but were untrained in the second. This failure of Methodist leaders retarded the advance of Christian stewardship in other churches. Their burden of responsibility is heavy, for their spiritual illumination was great. We dare not blame; we can only ponder the strength and the weakness of an heroic generation.
We come now to a most instructive period, no less in the history of the American churches than of modern Christianity. After the first decade of the nineteenth century there was a slow improvement in the standards of stewardship among the churches. The country was becoming more populous and Christian people were growing more and more prosperous; yet the churches, though sharing in the general increase of prosperity, lagged unhappily behind in their stewardship of material possessions. The opportunity was abundant, but there was no vision. Then came the beginnings of increase. As in the Pentecostal church, and as among the Moravians and the earlier Methodists, it was the missionary motive that again opened up the streams of Christian stewardship. In 1806 was founded the first missionary society in America, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions. This was followed, in 1814, by the organization of the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society, and, in 1819, by the founding of the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Enlargement came. The challenge of faith, as always, began to create a sense of stewardship among the people. During the earlier years of this missionary movement there was much prejudice and ignorance to be overcome. But men of faith held aloft the standards, and the people moved up toward them. By the end of the fourth decade of the last century the American churches had fairly entered upon their high purpose of worldwide missions. The Baptist and Methodist Churches were each contributing about $ 100,000 annually to their missionary boards. The Presbyterian Board, though organized later than either of these, had reached a total income in 1850 of $126,000, while the American Board, uniting at that time several Protestant bodies, reached in that same year the splendid total of nearly $252,000. The support of the home churches and a genuine Christian interest in human betterment had meantime proportionately increased.
Thus the second generation of organized Christianity in America was beginning to learn what the first generation had almost wholly failed to recognize—the relation of a man to his property. Then occurred a unique development which thrilled the churches with their first real understanding of stewardship, and furnished the compelling motive of a world-program for Christianity. But we must pause to consider the tremendous issues of the decade from 1840 to 1850, in order that we may recognize their driving impact upon the minds of Christian people.
For twenty-five years after Waterloo Europe could scarce shake off the nightmare of the Napoleonic wars. When, in 1840, the remains of the bold Corsican were brought back from Saint Helena, and laid with vast ceremony under the dome of the Invalides, it marked a fitting end of autocracy and the beginning of actual government by the people. The years that immediately followed were marked years. Democracy flamed like a torch. Without organized cooperation, yet as by a common impulse, the year 1848 is marked by revolution in every European state. In England it was an industrial revolution, and the demand was for universal franchise. Radicals and Socialists united together in the "Chartist" movement. The colossal public meetings of that year so alarmed the government that the Duke of Wellington was called upon to preserve the peace. The aged general stationed British troops, as though London were prepared for pitched battle, and London citizens to the number of 170,000 were enrolled as special constables. The Chartist movement itself proved abortive, but England was moved to the very center, and the wide-reaching democracy of to-day was assured.
In France the Revolution of 1848, at one stroke, extended political rights to all Frenchmen. Property owners were no longer able to dictate the policy of government. The people, and all the people, were henceforth to be the rulers.
The sleepy Netherlands awoke with the rest of Europe, and the constitution of 1848 curtailed the power of an unwilling king, and recognized the rights of the provinces and communes. In Switzerland 130,000 men and 246 cannons, drawn up for battle, meant bitter war among the mountains. But swift strategy prevented bloodshed, and the Federal constitution of 1848 saw the reorganization of the Swiss republic on lines laid down by the victorious Radicals.
The writings of Mazzini had been firing the heart and mind of young Italy since 1831, and the dream of Italian unity was fast shaping into form. The revolution of 1848 brought out the full strength of the movement, and made possible the later triumphs of Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel.
In Germany the year 1848 was the culmination of fierce plot and counterplot. Here the doctrines of Socialism were pressed by notable intellectual leaders. For a time the Liberals were supreme, and compelled the governments of Berlin and Vienna to accept liberal and democratic constitutions. The iron hand of militarism soon swept these popular constitutions from the political arena; nevertheless, the united German Empire of to-day, a compromise between the liberal constitution of 1848 and the absolute monarchy of old Prussia, is the living monument of those momentous days of reconstruction.
Meantime, while the nations of Europe were abolishing worn-out autocracies, and, at one swift stride, were entering the complex life of the modern world, events were hastening on the continent of Asia, more vast in their ultimate destiny than any we have yet named. First of all, as bearing upon the intricate "Eastern Question," came the demand of Russia that she must be recognized as the protector of all Orthodox Christians under Turkish dominion. The Russian demand was cordially resented by Napoleon III and the French people, among whom the Latin Church was again in the ascendancy. The Czar was in dead earnest and pressed the issue, relying upon the cooperation of the other powers, as against France. His main reliance was upon England.
But, unhappily, England distrusted Russian motives, and believed that the demand of the Czar was a cloak for sinister designs upon the empire of the Turks, including ultimate intentions to reach Egypt, and control the pathway to the Far East. Such a program of Russian expansion could not be tolerated, and England's diplomatic skill was joined to France. But diplomacy failed, and Russia found herself pitted against the powers of Europe in the tragic war of the Crimea. After months of cruel suffering, which the English people in particular have never forgotten, the unnecessary war came to an end. The haunting Eastern Question continued to baffle European statesmanship; for it was intuitively recognized that the humiliating defeat of Russia had only temporarily checked the southward flow of the Russian tide.
The Crimean War brought about one conspicuous result, which no art of diplomacy could withstand—a remarkable awakening of popular interest in the countries and peoples of Asia. The Far East had been for centuries a terra incognita, but now India, China, and Japan were lifted out of the haze of fable and story, and their vast influence on ultimate world-movements began to be recognized. The old East India Company had passed into history, and the complex government of India was administered from Westminster, within full view of an onlooking public. China had been shot open by British guns, and, while all the world was watching this bloody drama Commodore Perry entered one of the ports of Japan on an errand of peace, and, in the name of the American government, induced that puissant people to emerge from two centuries of practical isolation.
It is impossible to exaggerate the effect upon the popular mind of these tremendous events. Not only was patriotic fervor awakened by the European triumphs of democracy, but a real consciousness of the essential unity of the human race began to grip the public mind. To people of spiritual discernment, and to Christian leaders generally, this popular awakening came as a compelling call. Now seemed the one complete opportunity, for which the churches had been waiting, to press the gospel of Christ unto the ends of the earth.
Dr. Abel Stevens, the masterly church historian, then at the zenith of his strength, sent out this clarion call: "Everywhere does the Macedonian vision stand out on the boundaries of the nations, and beckon us. Not even in the age chosen by God for the introduction of the Christian religion, because of the general sway and peace of the Roman empire, was the whole world more amply thrown open for the march of the church. There is now passing over her a day of opportunity such as the history of our fallen race has never before seen. Apostles themselves, it may be soberly said, saw no such day. What is the providential meaning of these facts? What but that the church is summoned to labors and liberality and victories such as her history has not before recorded?"
To but one other generation has there come such massing of the human appeal, and that was sixty years after. The decade from 1840 to 1850 and the decade from 1900 to 1910 are marvelously alike. Both were characterized by sweeping insurgency in world-politics and by swift and unexpected developments among the Oriental nations, and both were followed by the same overwhelming appeal to the enlarged vision and quickened loyalty of the churches. It is not difficult to understand how these twin decades have been set apart for the bringing in of Christ's kingdom in the earth.1
As if to answer the divine call for the poured-out gifts of the people, the very period of which we are writing, sixty years ago, became a period of unprecedented material prosperity. Gold was discovered in California in 1848, and, during the next seven years, $400,000,000 was taken from the mines and poured, a yellow stream, into the brimming channels of trade. Every hamlet felt the quickening flow, and, for a time, it appeared that every one was on the way to wealth. The newspapers of the period spoke of their day as the "golden age." Then it was that Christian leaders realized to the full the calamity of that earlier generation which had set an unworthy standard of stewardship among the people. The opportunity of the centuries had come to them, but the people had not been taught the ethics of stewardship, and the churches were not ready! And then came the remarkable enlargement for which that generation had been prepared.
1 Note: It is August, 1914. Again Europe is plunged in bitter war, more tragic and apparently more useless than the war of the Crimea. Then it was Europe against Russia, now it is Europe against Germany. Six months ago, when the above paragraph was written, who would have been bold enough to prophesy that the swelling panorama of Sixty Years Ago would continue to unfold before our wondering eyes? But the panorama will continue to unfold, and our faith is big for days to comet
—H. R. C.