A Personal Reflection on the Cost of Living


THE ever-mounting cost of living is to-day a cause of almost universal evil apprehension. Is it not possible that evil apprehension may be the cause of the high cost of living? The suggestion merits an inquiry. For apprehension may be sanely treated and wisely turned to good.

As I consider human life, both within and without myself, I find that I can trace most of its happenings which are to be regretted to just the spirit which is ruling man in our own times. And I realize, from books and conversation, that my experience is a very ordinary one, my conclusion one which the majority of thinking men and women reach before they die. I have myself wasted and ruined opportunities, I have left undone the things which I ought to have done and done the things which I ought not to have done, less from my passion or from my desire than because I tried to see too far ahead, and did or left undone things which prevented easy and natural solution of the problems which for a more trustful nature would never have arisen at all. I have spent what I had, less in enjoyment, licensed or unlicensed, than in the fear of losing it, and in precautions lest it should be lost. It is my nature so to do. As I watch other men it seems to me that human nature invariably causes men, as they grow older, to fear that which may come, and to take steps in order to avert it. And the steps taken from this fear are almost always wrong. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’; but it seems to me that every other fear incites man to unworthy action or inaction; and, in the end, brings on him what he fears.

This question has interested me superlatively in connection with the teaching of Christ, which emphasizes above all else the necessity for faith on the part of men. We think of Christ as urging men to love, but his demand for love is, I think, made but seldom in comparison with his demand for faith. And while I believe that faith in Christ must inevitably lead to wisely loving words and deeds (and I say this with full recollection of St. Paul to the Corinthians), it seems to me that love — ‘charity’ — without faith leads to the most intense unhappiness of which mankind is capable. Deeply as I have feared things which might come upon myself, I have feared with a greater terror that which might come upon others. Bitterly as I regret what I have done and left undone in order to avert anticipated evil from myself, I regret far more bitterly my interference in the lives of others. And yet the things I did for them were done in love, and a desire to serve, in a solicitude selfless except for pride in its supposed efficiency; only they were not done in either faith or understanding. And I consider these two qualities essential for a wise direction of love’s ways.

I have spent eighteen years in practical experiments as to the actual working out of Christ’s directions for human life on earth. It is not, of course, properly a subject for experiment; for the result promised to the faithful is not to be obtained by the investigator. But though no miracle is wrought by the experimental spirit, it is yet possible, in that spirit, to learn why promised miracles do not occur. And it was this which I desired to discover.

I had the sort, of faith in Christ which could impel me to investigate his claims. I believed in his own understanding of ultimate truth. He seemed to me the greatest intellect the world had ever seen, and spoke with an authority which I found nowhere else in history. He declared, apparently without misgiving, that if a man did certain things certain results would follow. When he himself had done these things, his action had been followed by the anticipated results. And he declared that any man who willed to do God’s will should know of the doctrine, whether it were of God or whether he spoke of himself. The truth of this assertion I desired to prove.

For it appeared to me that understanding— intellectual and practical grasp of the actual situation — was what men of the present day denied to Christ. Directions which, if hard to follow, were yet quite clear in meaning, they calmly set aside as impracticable — and for no reason that could be considered to have enduring weight. An excellent and spiritually minded clergyman told me, for example, when I asked him about a life which should take no thought for what one was to eat or drink, or wherewithal one should be clothed, that while it might have been possible to live in that way in Palestine and centuries ago, it was not possible in a cold climate, and under the conditions of modern life. He did not say, but I inferred, that since it was not possible to do this, a modern Christian was not called upon to do it.

Now to my mind, it is useless to accept as master in the art of life, or in any other art, any one whose directions for bringing that art to perfection we consider it ‘impracticable’ to follow. It seems more difficult, undoubtedly, to take no anxious thought for the morrow where life is complicated than where it is simple; but surely the principle involved is one which does not change. In mansion or in cottage the problem is the same — whether or not man may intrust his own future to God, leaving himself at liberty to care for better things. Christ declared that his Gospel was to save the world throughout the ages. There were no geographical and temporal exceptions. Surely it could not be that it had failed to ‘work ’ because men had ‘ progressed ’ to using furnace heat and modern plumbing! I read Christ’s sayings. I noted the fact that no man seemed to think it ‘right’ to follow them, when they involved questions of economics. And it seemed to me probable that the reason why it was considered impracticable to follow Christ’s direction fully was because men did not believe it to be practicable and therefore did not try to do it — that the difficulty in the way of perfect realization was merely lack of faith.

I know, now, that my judgment on this point was an erroneous one. It was an outside and an ignorant point of view. To-day I know that it requires far more than the belief that what Christ said was true to enable any man to keep his saying; and that innumerable men and women try to keep it and to a great extent succeed where I must ignominiously fail. They succeed because they do, in simple kindliness, the simple human things. I fail because I aim at an ideal which for its realization demands qualities which I have not, and leave undone that to which I am equal. But nevertheless, to me the value of endeavoring to do anything springs from the conviction that the thing one tries to do is both possible and ‘right ’; and I found that I could not follow any part of Christ’s instruction with conviction of its worth, unless I could believe that it would be possible and ‘ right ' to follow it unto the end. Therefore I tried to do the things he said, in order to find out why men, today, considered it impracticable to do so. I failed in my attempts personally to keep the counsel of perfection, but I obtained the knowledge that I sought. It is a knowledge which now places me in intellectual opposition to the whole understanding on which modern institutions rest. For I believe, after my eighteen years of experimenting, that it is both possible and ‘right’ to live like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air; to sell all that one has and give to the poor, winning an unseen treasure; to lend without expecting a return; to allow all that one has to go from one unprotesting — I believe this to be possible and right to do, but I know that I, personally, cannot do it, partly because I am lazy, selfish, and heartless, but I think even more because I am weak and apprehensive, and because life-long habits of thought and action, now become instinctive, prevent my living by the truth I recognize.

The morality to which I am opposed is indorsed by people who, I know well, are infinitely better personally than I am myself; they are stronger, kinder, and less self-indulgent. But they do not believe it possible literally to obey these extreme teachings of the Master (in a cold climate, and under conditions of modern life); and what is more important, they think it would be ‘wrong ’ to do so if they could. They think it would be wrong because they assume that it is necessary, therefore ‘right,’ for every man to put aside material wealth to meet his own future necessities of bodily existence — to feed and clothe his body and its human fruit, while living, and to bury it when dead. The spirit of apprehension of one’s own future need, which my own experience teaches me to regard as fatal to true and generous living in the present, they take to be a spirit of good counsel, which it is wise and right to heed. It is in the hope of changing their ideas upon this point that I am writing now. For it is their ideas upon this point which are remoulding life to-day and which, in my opinion, are giving rise to the high cost of living, prohibitive of freedom, joy, and peace.


It is difficult to attack the spirit to which I refer, without being misunderstood. I do not for one moment advise a butterfly existence, which shall ignore the material necessities of human life. I think it is at man’s own peril that he leaves any portion of the earth unhusbanded, its resources undeveloped. But men may husband and develop their material from wholly different motives, out of a wholly different spirit, and with a wholly different effect on themselves and life. One man may plough, and sow, and reap his harvest because he sees the land and knows its possibilities, and that it holds food for the people in its bosom. Clearly the seed ought to be sown and reaped, and being there, it is his place to do these things. Therefore he sows and reaps and gathers into barns. A second man may do these things because he knows the people will want food, and thinks that if he himself possesses it and they do not, they will do what he wishes so that they may eat and live. A third may do it thinking that if he does not he himself will hereafter be in want and misery, and that to avoid this he must put aside sufficient for the wants which he anticipates. Each of these men shows foresight, and acts wisely according to his lights. But only the first man is animated by what I consider faith in life, and only he works in the spirit and the joy of God. And it seems to me that he alone will use his product in a large-hearted way, for the encouragement of life upon the earth.

The second man has faith in material things, and in the power he will gain by holding them. If he use his power well and wisely he may be very useful. I have no quarrel with him, or with what he thinks, though it seems to me that his trust must sometimes fail him, since it is placed in something which cannot endure. But it is the spirit of the third man of which I wish to speak, because it is a spirit I have known and suffered from in my own life. It is utterly ignoble, and leads to unworthy conduct. And it is this spirit which the understanding of the western world indorses; by which it almost forces man to live; and to which it is sacrificing the precious heritage of an heroic past.

The man who works and stores his product in the belief that, if he does not do so, he himself will be in want and misery, works in an apprehension which is not, indeed, too great for him to bear so long as he is sure that he can meet its claims, so long as he feels confident that he can lay up, in the summer, a sufficiency to meet his winter’s needs. If he feels sure of this his frame of mind while he is doing so is not unhappy. I cannot say so much for him as he grows old, as every summer he becomes more aware that his strength fails to raise sufficient food to keep him in the comforts which are now more necessary to his age than they were to his youth. The natural way to meet this inevitable development of the situation is through his children, who naturally assume the care of his declining years. If he has none, his old age must bring terror with it. But long before his strength declines he is confronted with a moral situation which no one can escape who is not living on a desert island. What shall he say to his needy neighbors who have laid up nothing to meet their winter’s need, who for one reason or another are already in the want and misery to escape which he has, himself, sowed, reaped, and gathered into barns?

He will undoubtedly reflect that he deprives himself of what he gives away. By some means or other it must be made good, if he bestows it on another’s need. He may be full of kindliness, he may look with an eye of pity on the old man who has not been able to provide for his old age, on the widow who has no one to supply her wants, on the orphans who cannot live without assistance. But if he has no knowledge of a source whence his own foreseen need may be in its turn filled, — his foreseen need, to feed which he has labored all his summer, — he almost certainly will say to those who ask his aid that he cannot, himself, afford to help them; that if he does he will become a beggar in his turn. The first few he may try to aid; but soon he will begin to consider that there are very many needy people; that if they find him willing to supply their wants, they will one and all come down on him for food; and that in one day he will join their ranks, a beggar among beggars, unable to take part in the world’s work. He will refuse to give what he has because, to his mental outlook, it seems to be of no use among so many. And then, if his own lack of generosity makes him feel uncomfortable, I think that almost certainly he will (being a clever and hard-working and successful man) begin to create a moral situation for his own comfort and self-justification, and for what he calls the moral good of all those people he has failed to help. He will point out how very bad it certainly would be if the improvident could feel that all their wants would be supplied out of the fruits of other people’s industry; how nobody would work at all, and all the world would perish in its idleness and foolish trust. ‘He who will not work shall not eat’; therefore no one ‘ought’ to give him anything. Find him work if you can. That will preserve his self-respect and keep a wholesome fear of idleness alive in the community.

Now he who says this has no understanding of any spirit higher than his own. He does not know that men will always work, because it is their nature to work that they may be like God. Men enjoy work, creative and regenerative work especially, more than they enjoy anything else — unless they work in the fear of what will happen to them if they do not do it.

True is it that men must sow and reap if they would live on earth. But they would infinitely rather sow their seed and watch it come to glory than live in idleness. They prove this by the flower gardens which they will cultivate for no useful end, but just that they may see the beauty of the flowers. And they prove something deeper yet by the temples which they raise, not for the preservation of their crops, but that the Spirit of the Lord may have some place where it may dwell on earth. There is no danger that men will ever pass their time in idleness simply because they have ceased to fear that they will starve unless they toil. So we dispose of the self-justification of the man who keeps back what he has from needy persons, saying that it is for their moral good to suffer as the result of their improvidence, when his real reason for not giving is fear of what may happen to himself if he should do so.

I am not saying that it is not distinctly for man’s moral good that he should suffer as the result of an improvidence either spiritual or physical. He must inevitably suffer until he learns to make a truly wise provision for his future, to do unceasingly the things which are to make the future beautiful as well as safe. I am attacking merely the position of the individual man who, knowing there are things which he himself might give or do to help his neighbor in distress, refuses to give or do these things on the ground that it is ‘right’ for the improvident to suffer, as the fit punishment of idleness, ignorance, and sin. If he can be sure that this is his reason for not helping them, well and good. Some men may possibly be sure enough of their own merit to feel quite confident that God intended them to keep the wealth that they have, while others starve. But in Christian thought the presumption has been from the first that if a man saw a neighbor in distress he was to look upon himself as the provided agent for the extension of God’s mercy. No Christian thought will justify his failure to extend it on the score that he has at heart the sufferer’s moral good.

To do us justice, I think the modern world has fathomed and discredited the hypocrisy of this position, which was so well received not very long ago. We realize that we refuse to give because we are afraid that we ourselves will suffer if we do so. But in the realization we have lost self-respect and power of calm continuance in our old ways. We cannot respect ourselves while we perceive that every day we let our neighbors suffer for fear that if we help them we shall suffer too. Naked and ashamed we look on our own inhumanity and cry for any light on what we ought to do, in a world where the life of those who have can apparently be preserved only by hanging on to their possessions in spite of the dire need of those around them. And it is not lack of self-respect alone from which we suffer. We suffer from the terror which is seizing us for our own life and the life of every one we care for. How soon shall we and they sink down a little lower in the struggling mass of human beings upon the ruin of whose physical and mental powers the social order rests? How can we possibly earn enough money to-day to make ourselves secure against to-morrow? Happy is the man who has no children to inherit life in such a world as this, and no old superstition to keep him from removing his own inefficiency by self-destruction, and lightening his fellows of the burden of supporting him in his old age. Wretched that we are, who or what can deliver us from the body of this death?


It was to men who felt as we are feeling now that Christ declared the way of personal salvation which Christian thought supported up to a few years ago, and which it does not advocate today. He told them to give and it would be given unto them; to lend, hoping for no return, and find themselves repaid by God; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, tend the sick, and pardon sinners. And he said that as they did these things for others needing help, they would themselves be cared for in their turn by other men, who would act toward them in their own time of need, as they themselves were called upon to act to-day toward their fellows. Christ told men not to keep the things they had as a defense against anticipated evils, but to use them every moment for the relief of misery and evil that they saw around them. They were to let their sun shine on the just and on the unjust equally, to give and to forgive, not questioning who was ‘deserving’ and who was not a worthy object of their care. The moral situation was one with which man was not called upon to deal. Judgment belonged to God; man’s part was just to do to others as he would have those others do to him, to personify on earth the mercy of the God in whom he trusted his own sins might find forgiveness.

Christ was enabled to proclaim this way of salvation from the spiritual death which threatens every man, because he had conceived a God able as well as willing to support the man who would obey and trust Him. Christ’s church no longer advocates it because it has lost faith in the existence of this God. And the proof of what I say lies in the fact that clergymen believe, as you and I believe, that it is ‘necessary’ for every man to keep back part of what he has to meet his own future material need. The church can show noway and make no promise of salvation. Instead of that the clergy tremble in the night with the same terror of the future which we feel ourselves, and vestries are exerting all their efforts to get together now a sum of money upon the interest of which their praise of God may be supported in the years to come.

Christ set the individual at liberty to use all that he seemed to have in human service, without the slightest reservation for his own future need. The understanding of to-day makes it imperative, makes it man’s ‘duty’ to himself, his family, his fellow citizens, that he should be provided with ‘visible means of support,’ not only for the present but for future time. The man who cannot show these means is viewed with an intense suspicion as being a menace to the whole community. If he have children and a wife, who is to look after them in case he dies? And if he have no children, who is to take care of him when he grows old, and pay his funeral expenses? To-day the widow whom Christ praised would be condemned for casting into the treasury of the poor ‘all the living that she had.’ Such charity would merely signify to the onlookers that she herself was now to be supported by her fellow men.

Just where we lost faith in the God of Moses and the prophets, the God who cared for fatherless and widows, who never had forsaken righteous men or let their seed beg bread, I do not know. I only know I never yet have met any one who believed in Him sufficiently to advocate complete relinquishment of a material provision for the future. One and all, we are clinging hard to what we have, because we do not see how we can live without it. And as it is called from us by the daily cost of living, we feel the terror clutching at our hearts. Whereas if we all did our best to use and spend everything that we had in the development of the world’s possibilities, in the nourishment of life, and in the saving of all that is perishing for want of care, we should find that our wealth increased beyond our utmost power to employ it.

That is supposing every one should do this. What are the chances for the man who starts to do it in a world where no one else is doing it, where everything is coming to be ‘organized’ on the assumption that provision for the future is the one thing a man must not neglect? Will the God of Christ support him in his folly if he despises the warnings of life-insurance agents, and spends his money to save other people’s lives instead of spending his own life in saving money?

My answer is that the God of Christ will support him just so long as he himself can do without misgiving what Christ told him to do. And this answer I make from personal experience. No man can walk on water under the weight of his own fear of drowning. The moment that he hesitates to render human service because he is afraid it will involve him in material disaster, that moment he has lost his faith in God, and the treasure of God’s kingdom is no longer his to draw upon. And any man will hesitate, and therefore fail, as long as he cares more for his own ease and comfort than for the ease and comfort of his fellow men.


So it has been with me. When I first had my vision of life’s possibilities I was quite confident that I could just walk out into the world and mend its wrongs. I meant to feed the hungry and to tend the sick, to bind up all the broken hearts and tell the sinners that their errors were forgiven and that they might go in peace. I thought how all the world would bless me, and how I should restore to it the secret of salvation it had lost. And for a little while I acted in the exaltation of this great idea, and what I did succeeded just sufficiently to confirm me in my faith that what Christ said was true. But very soon I found I did not want to feed the hungry enough to go and find them, and that I positively hated tending sickness and disease. So long as my own heart was comfortable and happy I felt that other people’s sorrows were something that I had better keep away from; and as to telling sinners that they were forgiven, I should have had to change my whole habit of mind, which led me constantly to criticize the lives of other people, to point out where they were in error and how their troubles came from their own mistakes. I could not show the world how God intended men to live because I was not good enough to do it. The way of life was not for me to walk in, my light could not illumine any path for other men. There was no reason to suppose God would work miracles with loaves and fishes to gratify my own desire to shine, even if this desire were strongly mixed with honest longing to find the true salvation He had promised to mankind. Seeing myself for what I really was, I lost my confidence that God was on my side, and would support my actions.

And having lost this confidence, I again became involved in the common struggle for existence, from which I had found respite for a moment, through my belief that I was chosen to dispense a divine charity to other men. I was no longer living positively, doing with joy a thing I knew God meant to have me do, but found myself involved in sordid effort not to spend so much money as it seemed postively necessary to spend. I tried to live as cheaply as I could, thinking I should have more to give away; but the effort to live cheaply absorbed my energy to the exclusion of all better interest. And then I asked myself why life — just simple, wholesome life — cost so much money to support. And I discovered that I had to pay, not only for the selfishness and laziness of myself and others, but for the great belief which we all held in common, that every man must lay up money enough for his own future needs. Each article I used, each thing I did, involved the services of other men, who, every one of them, thought that he must make sufficient profit on his work today to keep him in his coming time of economic uselessness. I could not possibly command enough to pay them for their services on such an understanding and have anything left over to give away. I could not even exercise an ordinary hospitality, because it took so much to pay the bills. And I myself had not outgrown the notion that ‘duty’ called on us to put aside material for our own needs. How on earth could I lead the charitable life which I had come to think essential for my soul’s salvation? What had I got that I could give my fellow men?

For when I questioned them to learn what they required of me, I found they wanted help and reassurance, not for the present, but for future time. They were all ‘self-respecting’ men and women, and what they asked was not for charity, but for a ‘job’ that would enable them to make enough to live on, and to put a little by. Unless I could provide them with that job, a job enabling them to save some money, their misery was past my power to help, and keeping them alive another day meant only that I should prolong it. It existed partly in their own imagination of the position they would occupy without material means wherewith they might defray the cost of their existence; but this could not be treated as a mere delusion which destroyed their joy and peace without a cause. It was an imagination justified by the facts of life, as these appear to-day, because they lived in a community where they had to pay for daily bread, just as I paid myself, the price of all the fear involved in its production. They lived in a community where, if they had no money, they might easily be allowed to suffer, even unto death — not because there was not enough of all that they needed to supply their needs, but simply because every other man believed it was his ‘duty’ to keep back from their immediate necessity part of the wealth which he himself controlled, to feed and clothe himself in the lean years to come. How could I help these people, when I myself was wondering if I could not get along without a servant, because her board and wages were beyond the sum on which I felt that we ‘ought’ to live? Was I not acting on the same principle that they acted on themselves ?

There was just one thing that I might have given them for their salvation — a knowledge of the truth which my experiments convinced me was a truth that ‘worked’ for any man who could believe and act upon it in a discerning faith. I might have said, ‘Give, and it will be given unto you. Lend, and God will repay your trust. Your fear of what may come upon you creates the very situation that, in its turn augments the deadly fear. You will not want so long as you can be content freely to serve the wants of other men, without anticipation of your own. The world is full of jobs. What are you waiting for? Go out and do the things that should be done, without this sordid bargaining for pay from men, and your own need will be supplied by God, from day to day.’ I knew that these things which I might have said were true. I could not say them with sufficient force for any one’s conviction, because I evidently did not live by them myself.

No one can advocate the life of trust who does not live it, unless he chooses to expose, to his own shame, the reasons why he does not do, himself, the thing he advocates. It is absurd to sit in a warm house, clothed with abundant garments, eating the best food that we think we can afford, secure of our own job and what it brings us, and tell those poorer than ourselves to trust in the Lord and do good. So long as we ourselves arc evidently holding back from the distress of other men anything that we have that would relieve them, because we are afraid lest we ourselves should suffer bodily discomfort from its loss, we have no faith which will support us in the hour of trial, and surely none which can convince our neighbors of the truth of our belief. I live the life to which I was born and am accustomed. And I am, by nature, so distrustful and so mean that I cannot use the things I have with generosity and freedom, either for myself or others.

I believe in the Truth which my own life has proved to me, more firmly than in any fact of physical existence. It is a Truth which would have made me free if I had had the courage and the character to act upon it. All around me I see people who do act upon it, who do, from instinct or from principle, the simple, kindly things, and are, in consequence, more or less unconscious of the aspect of the world which I am trying, for a purpose of my own, to emphasize. Because they do not think about themselves with apprehension, because they have warm hearts and ready sympathy, they do not come into the state of mind which I am able to expose because it has been so thoroughly my own. The good that they have done protects them from the fear of being wronged; and being kind themselves, they do not dream that others can be unkind. But I have seldom done the simple kindnesses, partly because I am not naturally kind, partly from laziness and selfishness, partly because I really thought that I could not afford to do them — though I imagine, now, that I used this thought chiefly to justify myself for what I failed to do.

There was one other, and, I think, more worthy reason, why doing simple kindnesses did not appear to me to be worth while. They did not seem to me really to help the trouble, any more than applications of cold cream would help a cancer. Such applications might make the man who put on the cold cream feel happier and less futile, but the disease would continue just the same. I was not even sure that it was well to have the ease of conscience which these personal ministrations were able to produce. I wanted to find out the reason for the trouble, the cause of the disease. I spent my thought and energy in doing things which I had any ground for thinking would teach me what was really wrong and what really right; and for that reason I undertook to do the things that Jesus told us to do, believing that thus I could learn whether his doctrine were of God or of himself. Being what I was, I failed. And then I sought a consolation for my failure in what seemed to me the wonderful idea that, since human nature was the same in each man that it was in all, I might, by understanding my own failure, understand in epitome the failure of the world — might know, as God knew, what was meant by human sin.


What I am writing now is nothing more than the result of self-analysis, pursued in the belief that if I could endure it to the very end I should obtain the knowledge that I sought. To me it seems entirely satisfactory, both as explaining all the suffering and as offering a solution of the problem which the modern world presents. I thought that I was fairly typical of its condition — having been brought up in the old traditions of generosity and honor, without having been told of any way in which these old traditions could find an adequate support for the nobility they asked of men. I thought that through this analysis of my own mind, and actual (not pretended) motives, I should uncover the real Truth behind the world’s defense of its great faithlessness, and consequent dishonor. The old traditions rested on some ground of common thought, which somehow seemed to have undergone a change. What was it that men used to think which made it possible for them to do, quite simply, the things nobility required? What was it we believed today which let us stand excused in our own eyes for failure to act nobly, and look on the demand of Christ as one we could not be expected to fulfill?

My self-analysis revealed the change of understanding which perplexed me. Men used to think that each man’s chief concern was the salvation of his soul. By some sublimely sentimental thinkers this had been stigmatized as selfish preoccupation. We were almost ashamed to be preoccupied in such a way. Men used to think they saved their souls by freely giving what they had to give, and serving faithfully wherever they could serve. Many of us have not discarded this idea to-day, but we have limited both our giving and our service by what we think, ourselves, is economically possible for us to give and do. Men used to think free giving and free service had a divine support,— that God would really give to those who gave to others, — and this belief enabled them to disregard or overcome their natural solicitude about the future. We have lost our belief in this divine support, so that we are without defense against our apprehension. Men brought up in the old ideas dared not deny a human claim upon their charity, lest they should be denying God Himself. The background of their thought was filled with divine possibilities, which robbed them of excuse for inhumanity. The poor man at their door was the Son of Man disguised, and in supplying any want of his they had no fear of bringing want on their own households. The men of our own time dare not neglect to take out life insurance for the protection of their families. And when this step is taken, they dare not fail to pay the premium, no matter who may call upon their charity. The generation which has been persuaded that it is selfish for a man to be concerned for the salvation of his soul, has been, at the same time, persuaded that it is his ‘duty’ to concern himself about what he shall eat and drink, and wherewithal he shall be clothed, in time to come. And every one is doing it.

It is impressed on every man to-day, from very birth, that he must put aside as much as possible of what he has, so as to live, in evil days to come, upon the money which the men who want it then will pay him for the use of what he can reserve in face of present need. Following Christ, for any one who has accepted this idea, involves a ceaseless calculation as to just how much will be required for this inspiring purpose. Until that needful sum has been safely ‘invested’ he cannot feel that he is really justified in helping any one at all. He helps because he cannot stand the sight of misery, — most of us get away from that as soon as we can move to better neighborhoods, — or because he is persuaded that it is cheaper to give to Fresh-Air funds and trade schools in the present than to support hospitals and prisons later on. As the appeals for charity affectingly remark: ‘A boy at large costs less than one in jail.'

A world composed of individuals conducting life upon this understanding must necessarily develop and display just the phenomena we deprecate in modern life. Where these phenomena are less apparent we shall find people who refuse to act upon this understanding. The world is in the condition which I know well in my own consciousness — it does not dare use and enjoy the things that God has given it to-day, for fear lest it be destitute to-morrow. And in its fear it lets life perish for the lack of food. It is bad enough when a man ruins merely his own life and joy from such unworthy thought, for it means that he has no faith in the continuance toward himself of the love and mercy which have hitherto sustained him. But it is infinitely worse when he allows his neighbor to suffer and to die, simply because he thinks that he himself cannot afford to help him. The moment he does this he is himself an active agent of the evil which destroys him — he is helping to make other men believe the lie that ruins his own life. He becomes one of those who make our world a place where men are dying in the midst of plenty, simply because no other man believes that he himself can freely give the money, strength, and time required to save them.

We go to-day, not to the priests of God but to the agents of insurance companies, to learn what we should do. And we do this because the agent is quite certain what we ought to do, and has the way marked out for us to walk in — a way which he says will preserve our self-respect, and save our wives and children from the hardships we anticipate. The priest can tell us a great many things, and some of them are very pitiful, and some are very pretty. But he cannot tell us we must not believe what the insurance agent says, because he thinks, himself, that it is true. So, in the absence of alternative, every one gives what he himself can save into the hands of men he does not trust, that they may ‘make,’by using it, money enough for him to live on in a future wherein he fears that life will cost him even more than it seems to cost today. He gives them all he can keep back, in face of present need — and what they do with it the devil only knows, till the poor fools who let them have it start a commission of inquiry to learn where it has gone.

The alternative for which we long exists to-day, just as it always has existed. It is as possible to live without a sordid care in a cold climate as it was in Palestine. But it is only possible to him who can content himself to live, as a child lives, for one day at a time, doing that day what comes to him to do as well as he is qualified to do it, and trusting that the next day will bring forth new work, as well as wages, for itself. This is a mental attitude. It may be that of a rich man as well as of a poor one. But it cannot be the attitude of any man who thinks that he himself will stand excused, in sight of God, for keeping back from the relief of human suffering around him the things that he himself might give or do to help it, merely that he himself may live upon the profits of such reservations in the years to come. The Babel of industrial development is towering high to-day on the assumption, utterly unwarranted by either reason or experience, that it is necessary, therefore ‘right,’ for every man to do this very thing. All our well-meant endeavors to reform it are undertaken in the same idea. And this is why I say I am in intellectual and moral opposition to the understanding on which modern institutions rest.

I have committed or omitted many acts from willfulnesss or laziness, from vanity or passion. But my repentance for those sins has not the bitterness of my repentance for the things I did or did not do in the belief to which the world is sacrificing now the fairest of its possibilities. I want to save it from selfcondemnation — from such a hell as I have made of my own consciousness.

Free, fearless, and abundant living is the result of free and fearless and abundant labor. We shall have both when we convince the individual, as Christ convinced him centuries ago, that it is necessary, and possible, and therefore ‘right,’ for him freely to give, in human service, all that he seems to have, trusting to God for the provision of his own necessities. And he can be convinced of this only by men who live in the large-mindedness of gods themselves — who act, under all circumstances, as if it were the Truth. I have not found myself at all able to do this. It requires a full development of Christian virtues which I possess in very scanty measure. If I could do the thing I advocate, I should not need to write about it. But none the less, I know it is the Truth I advocate — the Truth to which the life of Christ is witness, and which, when men believe and act upon it, is bound to make them free.