But in either case, we men and women of Christendom, to be a Christian is not only to be good, but to be good for something. According to the teachings of the Master true religion is not only personal salvation, but it is giving one's self through all of one's best efforts to actualise the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. The finding of the Kingdom is not only personal but social and world-affirming - and in the degree that it becomes fully and vitally personal will it become so.
A man who is not right with his fellow-men is not right and cannot be right with God. This is coming to be the clear-cut realisation of all progressive religious thought today. Since men are free from the trammels of an enervating dogma that through fear made them seek, or rather that made them contented with religion as primarily a system of rewards and punishments, they are now awakening to the fact that the logical carrying out of Jesus' teaching of the Kingdom is the establishing here on this earth of an order of life and hence of a society where greater love and cooperation and justice prevail. Our rapidly growing present-day conception of Christianity makes it not world-renouncing, but world-affirming.
This modern conception of the function of a true and vital Christianity makes it the task of the immediate future to apply Christianity to trade, to commerce, to labour relations, to all social relations, to international relations. " And, in the wider field of religious thought," says a writer in a great international religious paper, " what truer service can we render than to strip theology of all that is unreal or needlessly perplexing, and make it speak plainly and humanly to people who have their duty to do and their battle to fight?" It makes intelligent, sympathetic, and helpful living take the place of the tooth and the claw, the growl and the deadly hiss of the jungle - all right in their places, but with no place in human living.
The growing realisation of the interdependence of all life is giving a new standard of action and attainment, and a new standard of estimate. Jesus' criterion is coming into more universal appreciation: He that is greatest among you shall be as he who serves.
Through this fundamental law of life there are responsibilities that cannot be evaded or shirked - and of him to whom much is given much is required.
It was President Wilson who recently said: " It is to be hoped that these obvious truths will come to more general acceptance; that honest business will quit thinking that it is attacked when loaded-dice business is attacked ; that the mutuality of interest between employer and employee will receive ungrudging admission; and, finally, that men of affairs will lend themselves more patriotically to the work of making democracy an efficient instrument for the promotion of human welfare. It cannot be said that they have done so in the past. ... As a consequence, many necessary things have been done less perfectly without their assistance that could have been done more perfectly with their expert aid." He is by no means alone in recognising this fact. Nor is he at all blind to the great change that is already taking place.
In a recent public address in New York, the head of one of the largest plants in the world, and who starting with nothing has accumulated a fortune of many millions, said: " The only thing I am proud of - prouder of than that I have amassed a great fortune - is that I established the first manual training school in Pennsylvania. The greatest delight of my' life is to see the advancement of the young men who have come up about me."
This growing sense of personal responsibility, and still better, of personal interest, this giving of one's abilities and one's time, in addition to one's means, is the beginning of the fulfilment of what I have long thought: namely, the great gain that will accrue to numberless communities and to the nation, when men of great means, men of great business and executive ability, give of their time and their abilities for the accomplishment of those things for the public welfare that otherwise would remain undone, or that would remain unduly delayed. What a gain will result also to those who so do in the joy and satisfaction resulting from this higher type of accomplishment hallowed by the undying element of human service!
You keep silent too much. " Have great leaders, and the rest will follow," said Whitman. The gift of your abilities while you live would be of priceless worth for the establishing and the maintenance of a fairer, a healthier, and a sweeter life in your community, your city, your country. It were better to do this and to be contented with a smaller accumulation than to have it so large or even so excessive, and when the summons comes to leave it to two or three or to half a dozen who cannot possibly have good use for it all, and some of whom perchance would be far better off without it, or without so much. By so doing you would be leaving something still greater to them as well as to hundreds or thousands of others.
Significant in this connection are these words by a man of wealth and of great public service:
"On the whole, the individualistic age has not been a success, either for the individual, or the community in which he has lived, or the nation. We are, beyond question, entering on a period where the welfare of the community takes precedence over the interests of the individual and where the liberty of the individual will be more and more circumscribed for the benefit of the community as a whole. Man's activities will hereafter be required to be not only for himself but for his fellow-men. To my mind there is nothing in the signs of the times so certain as this.
"The man of exceptional ability, of more than ordinary talent, will hereafter look for his rewards, for his honours, not in one direction but in two - first, and foremost, in some public work accomplished, and, secondarily, in wealth acquired. In place of having it said of him at his death that he left so many hundred thousand dollars it will be said that he rendered a certain amount of public service, and, incidentally, left a certain amount of money. Such a goal will prove a far greater satisfaction to him, he will live a more rational, worthwhile life, and he will be doing his share to provide a better country in which to live. We face new conditions, and in order to survive and succeed we shall require a different spirit of public service."
*From a notable article in the New York " Times Magazine," Sunday, April 1, 1917, by George W. Perkins, chairman Mayor's Food Supply Commission.
I am well aware of the fact that the mere accumulation of wealth is not, except in very rare cases, the controlling motive in the lives of our wealthy men of affairs. It is rather the joy and the satisfaction of achievement. But nevertheless it is possible, as has so often proved, to get so much into a habit and thereby into a rut, that one becomes a victim of habit; and the life with all its superb possibilities of human service, and therefore of true greatness, becomes side-tracked and abortive.