This section of the book is from the "A Man and His Money" book, by Harvey Reeves Calkins , published in 1915.
When the Civil War and the troubled years that followed it crowded the stewardship revival of the last century out of the thought of the people, the least harm that came from it was the failure of the churches to provide adequate revenue for their work. The bitter tragedy was this: the social body was robbed of Christian teaching at the very hour of its vast industrial and financial reconstruction. The revival of stewardship did not come merely that church organization itself might be strengthened. The church is, or certainly should be, the bearer of the divine word to society. How perfectly the gospel of stewardship, if it could have been preached in its largeness, would have saved men from the social confusion that has attended the agitation of the last forty years concerning property, income, and wealth! A new social order was inevitable, for it was time that feudalism should finally and forever pass away. Pagan ownership had proved its insufficiency as a human creed; the day of stewardship had dawned. It was fitting that the church should send forth the forces of reconstruction, and the revival came at the appointed time. Alas that it should have been so short-lived!
It will be remembered that the European revolutions of 1848 were social rather than political, and that, during this period, Socialism, both as a philosophy and as a program of economics, received its first profound impulse. The rise of Socialism and the revival of stewardship bear a marked relation. To men of spiritual insight this will be instantly apparent. The history of Christianity abounds in illustrations of what can be none other than the divine watchcare over the kingdom of righteousness. As it were, there is prepared a spiritual leadership for every social movement among the people, even as it is written by Amos of Tekoa: "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets." The prophets may fail to instruct the people, or the people themselves may turn from their appointed leaders and follow after fables; nevertheless, in every moral crisis of our race there have been the vision and the voice of prophecy.
No thoughtful man can feel the throb of modern Socialism without an inward conviction that, somehow, the churches failed at an opportune moment to gear themselves to a changing social order. Stewardship was the wheaten loaf, which, sixty years ago, the Master placed in the hands of his church, saying, "Give ye them to eat." Socialism is the cake half-baked which the restless, hungry people have received in its place. We err when we regard Socialism as merely a scheme of economic reorganization. The program of Socialism, as commonly defined, is the appropriation by society of the means of production; but no single or inclusive definition can cover the full program of Socialism, as outlined by its larger exponents, any more than one lone affirmation can cover the wide realm of religion. Indeed, for thousands, Socialism has become a religion.
In its higher ranges of development, Socialism is a passion of thought, is a philosophy of life, is an aspiration of soul. And here is the bitterness of it, for Socialism dwells in a Utopia of half-truths. It preaches noble ideals of equality, fraternity, and justice, but in actual social experiment it has again and again fallen helpless before the grim fact that men themselves are selfish and suspicious and covetous, with no power of self-regeneration. Bellamy, in his literary Utopia, Looking Backward, has the wit to recognize this, and introduces into his story of the new social order that old-fashioned cure of human ills, a revival of religion. He brings men under the power of religious emotion until they become "incapable of standing out against the contagion of the enthusiasm of humanity, the passion of pity, and the compulsion of humane tenderness which the Great Revival had aroused." Such a revival, in a literary Utopia, is easily accomplished, but modern Socialists do not promise a "change of heart" in their program of actual reorganization. Neither does Socialism offer any cure for that fatal defect of nearly every communistic experiment, the inefficient man.
To thoughtful, if not profound, students of the somewhat confused social propaganda of our generation, it is passing strange that, among social economists, no voice of authority is lifted to declare again the basal fact of God's ownership. Theories of collectivism abound, the doctrine of brotherhood is widely proclaimed, but what voice demands recognition of God over all, and what communal theory provides a program of economic administration which shall acknowledge the divine sovereignty? No one who is acquainted with the best socialistic leadership would affirm that Socialism is itself atheistic, but one is compelled to recognize that the vital truth of God's sovereignty and the majesty of a man's free volition have small place in the socialistic theory. Concerning atheistic or agnostic Socialism, as such, we have nothing to remark. But there is a name, much spoken, and in fair repute; it is Christian Socialism. If this shall not presently rise to its own commanding stature, and speak forth its own commanding message— its own message, not a borrowed one—clear-thinking men will cease looking in that direction for a saving evangel in our generation. Perhaps it shall be, as one discerning leader has written, that "Socialism will be the political and economic program of a community that has learnt stewardship." Even so, and hail the day!
Stewardship acknowledges God as the sovereign owner of property and income, and affirms that possession, under him, is the pledge of faithful administration. Stewardship claims no rights of ownership, but it cannot honorably alienate the duty of trusteeship by transferring its administration to the collective body of society; the man himself, and no other, is responsible to God.
Stewardship does not "give alms," nor does it patronize the poor; but it speaks thus, with the frank fellowship of a man: "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." There is nothing maudlin about this. The human fact is that some men are strong and some are weak, and no social theory has yet been devised that can change the human fact. Stewardship is bound to bear patiently with the inefficient man, but cannot, in honor, reward him. The prodigal, returning home from waste and wantonness, found forgiveness and a fatted calf, but it is not written that he was placed in charge of the farm. Stewardship has gentleness in its heart but there is iron in its blood. It sees things as they are, and would patiently fashion them into what they should be, and, thank God, shall yet become.
Socialism has brought to our generation a message of notable worth. It is therefore discerning leadership that seeks to lift the socialistic movement out of a mere protest against decadent feudalism, and give to it a large and satisfying conception of human brotherhood. The church did not deliver her social message of stewardship when the time had come to speak; she may not, therefore, be captious; neither should she be nervous, if other men with a partial message have caught the ear of the people. It is certainly true that the widespread teaching of Socialism recalls to us the neglected message of the Church of Christ. In many a socialistic gathering, though it be avowedly irreligious, that message comes back to us, as Emerson said of genius, "with a certain alienated majesty." For this service, if there were none other, Socialism deserves the sincere recognition of all right-thinking men. Nevertheless, it is not the winning message for our day, nor for any day. It is not great enough for a man, for it leaves out of its program the immediate sovereignty of God.
Isaac and Ishmael were blood brothers, even if but half brothers; "but he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh, but he of the free woman was by promise." It is folly to decry Socialism, the blood brother, though the half brother, of Stewardship; but it is unmeasured folly to dream that Socialism can ever inherit the promise of a redeemed social order. Stewardship is the commanding social message that shall reach and shape the coming generation. That message, recognized and acknowledged, shall itself name a social program that will be inevitably Christian.