I have never seen any finer statement of the essential reasonableness, therefore, of the essential truth of the value and the practice of the Golden Rule than that given by a modern disciple of Jesus who left us but a few years ago. A poor boy, a successful business man, straight, square, considerate in all his dealings, - a power among his fellows, a lamp indeed to the feet of many - was Samuel Milton Jones, thrice mayor of Toledo. Simple, unassuming, friend of all, rich as well as poor, poor as well as rich, friend of the outcast, the thief, the criminal, looking beyond the exterior, he saw as did Jesus, the human soul always intact, though it erred in its judgment - as we all err in our judgments, each in his own peculiar way - and that by forbearance, consideration, and love, it could be touched and the life redeemed - redeemed to happiness, to usefulness, to service. Notwithstanding his many duties, business and political, he thought much and he loved to talk of the things we are considering.
His brief statement of the fundamental reasons and the comprehensive results of the actual practice of the Golden Rule are shot through with such fine insight, such abounding comprehension, that they deserve to become immortal. He was my friend and I would not see them die. I reproduce them here: " As I view it, the Golden Rule is the supreme law of life. It may be paraphrased this way: As you do unto others, others will do unto you. What I give, I get. If I love you, really and truly and actively love you, you are as sure to love me in return as the earth is sure to be warmed by the rays of the midsummer sun. If I hate you, ill-treat you and abuse you, I am equally certain to arouse the same kind of antagonism towards me, unless the Divine nature is so developed that it is dominant in you, and you have learned to love your enemies. What can be plainer? The Golden Rule is the law of action and reaction in the field of morals, just as definite, just as certain here as the law is definite and certain in the domain of physics.
" I think the confusion with respect to the Golden Rule arises from the different conceptions that we have of the word love. I use the word love as synonymous with reason, and when I speak of doing the loving thing, I mean the reasonable thing. When I speak of dealing with my fellow-men in an unreasonable way, I mean an unloving way. The terms are interchangeable, absolutely. The reason why we know so little about the Golden Rule is because we have not practised it."
Was Mayor Jones a Christian? you ask. He was a follower of the Christ - for it was he who said: " By this shall all men know ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." Was he a member of a religious organisation? I don't know - it never occurred to me to ask him. Thinking men the world over are making a sharp distinction in these days between organised Christianity and essential Christianity.
The element of fear has lost its hold on the part of thinking men and women. It never opened up, it never can open up the springs of righteousness in the human heart. He believed and he acted upon the belief that it was the spirit that the Master taught - that God is a God of love and that He reveals Himself in terms of love to those who really know Him. He believed that there is joy to the human soul in following this inner guide and translating its impulses into deeds of love and service for one's fellow-men. If we could, if we would thus translate religion into terms of life, it would become a source of perennial joy.
It is not with observation, said Jesus, that the supreme thing that he taught - the seeking and finding of the Kingdom of God - will come. Do not seek it at some other place, some other time. It is within, and if within it will show forth. Make no mistake about that, - it will show forth. It touches and it sensitises the inner springs of action in a man's or a woman's life. When a man realises his Divine sonship that Jesus taught, he will act as a son of God. Out of the heart spring either good or evil actions. Self-love, me, mine; let me get all I can for myself, or, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself - the Divine law of service, of mutuality - the highest source of ethics.
You can trust any man whose heart is right. He will be straight, clean, reliable. His word will be as good as his bond. Personally you can't trust a man who is brought into any line of action, or into any institution through fear. The sore is there, liable to break out in corruption at any time. This opening up of the springs of the inner life frees him also from the letter of the law, which after all consists of the traditions of men, and makes him subject to that higher moral guide within. How clearly Jesus illustrated this in his conversations regarding the observance of the Sabbath - how the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath, and how it was always right to do good on the Sabbath.
I remember some years ago a friend in my native state telling me the following interesting incident in connection with his grandmother. It was in northern Illinois - it might have been in New England. " As a boy," said he, "I used to visit her on the farm. She loved her cup of coffee for breakfast. Ordinarily she would grind it fresh each morning in the kitchen; but when Sunday morning came she would take her coffee-grinder down into the far end of the cellar, where no one could see and no one could hear her grind it." He could never quite tell, he said, whether it was to ease her own conscience, or in order to give no offence to her neighbours.
Now, I can imagine Jesus passing by and stopping at that home - it was a home known for its native kindly hospitality - and meeting her just as she was coming out of the cellar with her coffee-grinder - his quick and unerring perception enabling him to take in the whole situation at once, and saying: " In the name of the Father, Aunt Susan, what were you doing with your coffee-grinder down in the cellar on this beautiful Sabbath morning?
You like your cup of coffee, and I also like the coffee that you make; thank God that you have it, and thank God that you have the good health to enjoy it. We can give praise to the Father through eating and drinking, if, as in everything else, these are done in moderation and we give value received for all the things that we use. So don't take your grinder down into the cellar on the Sabbath morning; but grind your coffee up here in God's sunshine, with a thankful heart that you have it to grind."
And I can imagine him, as he passes out of the little front gate, turning and waving another good-bye and saying: " When I come again, Aunt Susan, be it week-day or Sabbath, remember God's sunshine and keep out of the cellar." And turning again in a half-joking manner: " And when you take those baskets of eggs to town, Aunt Susan, don't pick out too many of the large ones to keep for yourself, but take them just as the hens lay them. And, Aunt Susan, give good weight in your butter. This will do your soul infinitely more good than the few extra coins you would gain by too carefully calculating " - Aunt Susan with all her lovable qualities, had a little tendency to close dealing.
I think we do incalculable harm by separating Jesus so completely from the more homely, commonplace affairs of our daily lives. If we had a more adequate account of his discourses with the people and his associations with the people, we would perhaps find that he was not, after all, so busy in saving the world that he didn't have time for the simple, homely enjoyments and affairs of the every-day life. The little glimpses that we have of him along these lines indicate to me that he had. Unless we get his truths right into this phase of our lives, the chances are that we will miss them entirely.
And I think that with all his earnestness, Jesus must have had an unusually keen sense of humour. With his unusual perceptions and his unusual powers in reading and in understanding human nature, it could not be otherwise. That he had a keen sense for beauty; that he saw it, that he valued it, that he loved it, especially beauty in all nature, many of his discourses so abundantly prove. Religion with him was not divorced from life. It was the power that permeated every thought and every act of the daily life.