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difficult to follow at the present time than in former centuries? I think it is. Life itself is more complex than formerly; one's conduct touches a larger circle of neighbors than ever before; the final results of what one chooses to do are with greater difficulty ascertained than when society was local in character and simple in habit. Especially is this true when applied to business conduct, and on this account it seems peculiarly difficult for a man immersed in business to follow that simple rule which Jesus laid down as a test of the true life.
But what is the rule which the founder of the Christian religion accepted as the rule of right conduct and what is there peculiar in its application to the commercial spirit of our time?
The life of Jesus has always appeared to me to separate itself from the life of every other man with whom history has made us acquainted in that he appreciated most clearly the liberties and duties of his fellow-men He possessed in a degree which makes his character unique the ability to recognize the two personalities which must always be taken into account, when any question of right or wrong presents itself for decision. He was always conscious of his own individuality, but never lost sight of that existence external to himself which, for want of a better name, we call society Individual consciousness and social consciousness were to him equally real and equally potent, and all his judgments were such as to effect a perfect balance between the claims of egoism and altruism.
I remember to have once listened to an explanation by a student of Browning of the poem entitled, "Fra Lippo Lippi.' It is necessary, said he, in order to appreciate this writer, to understand in all its details the facts to which his poems refer, and to recognize that one side only of all conversations is presented in the text; and the explanation of the poem referred to
consisted in supplying the suppressed questions and replies of the persons with whom the hero of the poem conversed. To my mind, it is necessary to follow a mental process quite analogous to this, if we would understand the ethical teachings of Jesus. He always spoke as a judge who, before pronouncing judgment, or before laying down a rule of conduct, had listened to the special pleas of self-interest on the one hand, and of social interest on the other Jesus, it is true, never undertook to explain the rules he laid down. He was content to assert the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, and to say in simple language, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself;" for he well knew that what he said was to be accepted for all times and for all conditions. It is for us, whose decisions are confined to the age in which we live, to undertake the explanation of these rules of conduct; for, until we understand the principles upon which they rest, we cannot apply them to the practical problems which beset us, nor make Christianity a positive force in society
It would be interesting to follow out in greater detail an analysis of the political principles which underlie the teachings of Jesus, for they disclose in every significant utterance the sense of dual personality which I have suggested. An application of them to the past eighteen centuries of history would show that the world has thus far failed to realize the teachings of Jesus because it has failed to appreciate the necessity of a just balance between the rights and duties of man considered individually and of men considered collectively And of special interest would it be to consider the assertion sometimes made that the social philosophy of individualism, which has swayed the minds of men since the Reformation, is so far removed from the law of Jesus that it is impossible for
the truest and highest Christian qualities to flourish under its influence. From these considerations, however, I turn aside and confine myself to one or two suggestions respecting the personal conduct of those who desire to see the Kingdom of Peace established on earth.
The first thought which presents itself is the following: A true disciple of Jesus, by which I mean one who desires above all things else that Christianity should become a social force, positive, aggressive and directive in character, must assume the ethical teachings of Jesus as an unalterable premise in the discussion of every social, political, industrial, or personal question. He is at liberty, like any one else, to discuss expedients if he confine the discussion to the minor premises of his reasoning; but his major premise which embodies at once the ideal of Christian society and the principles of Christian conduct, is for him beyond discussion. As he is a Christian, he has that within him which responds to the teachings of Jesus; as he is a man, he believes there is a cord in the breast of every other man which will respond when touched by a clear vision of the purity and beauty of the Christian ideal. He is obliged, therefore, to start in every discussion with the statement of the ethical rules which he accepts and to refuse discussion on any platform which does not admit those rules,
The assertion of such a position is indeed far-reaching in its results. I once heard a course of lectures on free trade and protection. The speaker began by quoting from St. Paul: “If any provide not for his own, especially those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel," and proceeded to show that this precept was applicable to national policy and justified the United States in looking out for its own interests, even if in so doing it disregarded the interests of
other peoples. I have nothing to say respecting the conclusions of the argument which followed, but the moral character of this argument was certainly unchristian. Indeed, if we accept the old definition that, Blasphemy is to attribute to God what is contrary to his nature," the argument justifies a harsher name. Certainly Christianity is not a social force so far as this question is concerned, when the common arguments respecting it rest upon an unchristian premise. And yet this rule that every man shall confine his regard to his own interests rather than the rule of Christ, that each man should have an equal regard for his neighbor and for himself, is the one to which the social, political and commercial conduct of our day conforms. The infidelity of our century, and this is the only form of infidelity to be feared, is disbelief in the golden rule of conduct. If Christianity ever comes to exert a positive influence in the direction of the affairs of men, it will be through the persistent assertion on the part of the disciples of Jesus that this rule is paramount, that it is universal in its application, and that every interest opposed to it is an unchristian interest.
My second suggestion is one which unless carefully stated will surely lead to misapprehension. If you have followed me thus far in what I regard as simply the logical unfolding of the Christian principle of conduct, you will doubtless say to yourselves as the disciples of old once said to Jesus: "This is a hard saying." It is indeed a hard saying when taken in connection with the facts of modern life, because it calls for conduct wholly at variance with the conduct of the great majority of men, and for decisions which, strictly adhered to, would exclude the Christian from many forms of business which promise business. success. The same is true of political life and political meth
ods, although I do not think that departure from Christian teachings is as systematic in politics as in the business walks of life. In politics, at least so far as the acquirement of office is concerned, we hold to the theory of right conduct, any departure from which we call corruption; and it should be further noted that inasmuch as the principle of publicity is applied to political affairs, disregard of right conduct is more likely to be made known. This in large measure explains why corruption in political affairs impresses itself more strongly upon us. Occasionally a man comes to the front in political life who cares more for the method by which success is acquired than for success itself, and the fact that he is sure to find a constituency, although sometimes a small one, shows our political aims to be purer than our business motives. In business life a man never secures a constituency because he holds to moral rules in the management of his affairs, but rather because he can furnish cheaper goods than his rivals. If you look carefully into the matter you will, I think, admit that the principle underlying business conduct is unchristian in character. It has no regard to the justice of transactions but to the legality of transactions. It does not, as in political affairs, still hold to the ideal of purity, but owing probably to the greater complexity of business relations, it has fitted its ethical judgment to the requirements of existing law Business conduct, therefore, is never as a rule more perfect than the law which enforces technical honesty As De Quincey says, although his remark held in mind something different from the use I now make of it, "by daily use the ethics of a police office translate themselves insensibly into the ethics even of a religious people."
Under such circumstances what is the true rule of Christian conduct? I assume that the end held in view is not alone