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Charles M. Sheldon
MARSH, President of Lincoln College, walked home with
have reached one conclusion, Maxwell," said Marsh, speaking
slowly. "I have found my cross and it is a heavy one,
but I shall never be satisfied until I take it up and
carry it." Maxwell was silent and the President went on.
sermon today made clear to me what I have long been feeling
I ought to do. 'What would Jesus do in my place?' I have
asked the question repeatedly since I made my promise.
I have tried to satisfy myself that He would simply go
on as I have done, attending to the duties of my college
work, teaching the classes in Ethics and Philosophy. But
I have not been able to avoid the feeling that He would
do something more. That something is what I do not want
to do. It will cause me genuine suffering to do it. I
dread it with all my soul. You may be able to guess what
I think I know. It is my cross too. I would almost rather
do any thing else."
Donald Marsh looked surprised, then relieved. Then he
spoke sadly but with great conviction: "Maxwell, you and
I belong to a class of professional men who have always
avoided the duties of citizenship. We have lived in a
little world of literature and scholarly seclusion, doing
work we have enjoyed and shrinking from the disagreeable
duties that belong to the life of the citizen. I confess
with shame that I have purposely avoided the responsibility
that I owe to this city personally. I understand that
our city officials are a corrupt, unprincipled set of
men, controlled in large part by the whiskey element and
thoroughly selfish so far as the affairs of city government
are concerned. Yet all these years I, with nearly every
teacher in the college, have been satisfied to let other
men run the municipality and have lived in a little world
of my own, out of touch and sympathy with the real world
of the people. 'What would Jesus do?' I have even tried
to avoid an honest answer. I can no longer do so. My plain
duty is to take a personal part in this coming election,
go to the primaries, throw the weight of my influence,
whatever it is, toward the nomination and election of
good men, and plunge into the very depths of the entire
horrible whirlpool of deceit, bribery, political trickery
and saloonism as it exists in Raymond today. I would sooner
walk up to the mouth of a cannon any time than do this.
I dread it because I hate the touch of the whole matter.
I would give almost any thing to be able to say, 'I do
not believe Jesus would do anything of the sort.' But
I am more and more persuaded that He would. This is where
the suffering comes for me. It would not hurt me half
so much to lose my position or my home. I loathe the contact
with this municipal problem. I would so much prefer to
remain quietly in my scholastic life with my classes in
Ethics and Philosophy. But the call has come to me so
plainly that I cannot escape. 'Donald Marsh, follow me.
Do your duty as a citizen of Raymond at the point where
your citizenship will cost you something. Help to cleanse
this municipal stable, even if you do have to soil your
aristocratic feelings a little.' Maxwell, this is my cross,
I must take it up or deny my Lord."
have spoken for me also," replied Maxwell with a sad smile.
"Why should I, simply because I am a minister, shelter
myself behind my refined, sensitive feelings, and like
a coward refuse to touch, except in a sermon possibly,
the duty of citizenship? I am unused to the ways of the
political life of the city. I have never taken an active
part in any nomination of good men. There are hundreds
of ministers like me. As a class we do not practice in
the municipal life the duties and privileges we preach
from the pulpit. 'What would Jesus do?' I am now at a
point where, like you, I am driven to answer the question
one way. My duty is plain. I must suffer. All my parish
work, all my little trials or self-sacrifices are as nothing
to me compared with the breaking into my scholarly, intellectual,
self-contained habits, of this open, coarse, public fight
for a clean city life. I could go and live at the Rectangle
the rest of my life and work in the slums for a bare living,
and I could enjoy it more than the thought of plunging
into a fight for the reform of this whiskey-ridden city.
It would cost me less. But, like you, I have been unable
to shake off my responsibility. The answer to the question
'What would Jesus do?' in this case leaves me no peace
except when I say, Jesus would have me act the part of
a Christian citizen. Marsh, as you say, we professional
men, ministers, professors, artists, literary men, scholars,
have almost invariably been political cowards. We have
avoided the sacred duties of citizenship either ignorantly
or selfishly. Certainly Jesus in our age would not do
that. We can do no less than take up this cross, and follow
The two men walked on in silence for a while. Finally
President Marsh said: "We do not need to act alone in
this matter. With all the men who have made the promise
we certainly can have companionship, and strength even,
of numbers. Let us organize the Christian forces of Raymond
for the battle against rum and corruption. We certainly
ought to enter the primaries with a force that will be
able to do more than enter a protest. It is a fact that
the saloon element is cowardly and easily frightened in
spite of its lawlessness and corruption. Let us plan a
campaign that will mean something because it is organized
righteousness. Jesus would use great wisdom in this matter.
He would employ means. He would make large plans. Let
us do so. If we bear this cross let us do it bravely,
They talked over the matter a long time and met again
the next day in Maxwell's study to develop plans. The
city primaries were called for Friday. Rumors of strange
and unknown events to the average citizen were current
that week in political circles throughout Raymond. The
Crawford system of balloting for nominations was not in
use in the state, and the primary was called for a public
meeting at the court house.
The citizens of Raymond will never forget that meeting.
It was so unlike any political meeting ever held in Raymond
before, that there was no attempt at comparison. The special
officers to be nominated were mayor, city council, chief
of police, city clerk and city treasurer.
The evening NEWS in its Saturday edition gave a full account
of the primaries, and in the editorial columns Edward
Norman spoke with a directness and conviction that the
Christian people of Raymond were learning to respect deeply,
because it was so evidently sincere and unselfish. A part
of that editorial is also a part of this history. We quote
is safe to say that never before in the history of Raymond
was there a primary like the one in the court house last
night. It was, first of all, a complete surprise to the
city politicians who have been in the habit of carrying
on the affairs of the city as if they owned them, and
every one else was simply a tool or a cipher. The overwhelming
surprise of the wire pullers last night consisted in the
fact that a large number of the citizens of Raymond who
have heretofore taken no part in the city's affairs, entered
the primary and controlled it, nominating some of the
best men for all the offices to be filled at the coming
was a tremendous lesson in good citizenship. President
Marsh of Lincoln College, who never before entered a city
primary, and whose face was not even known to the ward
politicians, made one of the best speeches ever made in
Raymond. It was almost ludicrous to see the faces of the
men who for years have done as they pleased, when President
Marsh rose to speak. Many of them asked, 'Who is he?'
The consternation deepened as the primary proceeded and
it became evident that the oldtime ring of city rulers
was outnumbered. Rev. Henry Maxwell of the First Church,
Milton Wright, Alexander Powers, Professors Brown, Willard
and Park of Lincoln College, Dr. West, Rev. George Main
of the Pilgrim Church, Dean Ward of the Holy Trinity,
and scores of well-known business men and professional
men, most of them church members, were present, and it
did not take long to see that they had all come with the
one direct and definite purpose of nominating the best
men possible. Most of those men had never before been
seen in a primary. They were complete strangers to the
politicians. But they had evidently profited by the politician's
methods and were able by organized and united effort to
nominate the entire ticket.
soon as it became plain that the primary was out of their
control the regular ring withdrew in disgust and nominated
another ticket. The NEWS simply calls the attention of
all decent citizens to the fact that this last ticket
contains the names of whiskey men, and the line is sharply
and distinctly drawn between the saloon and corrupt management
such as we have known for years, and a clean, honest,
capable, business-like city administration, such as every
good citizen ought to want. It is not necessary to remind
the people of Raymond that the question of local option
comes up at the election. That will be the most important
question on the ticket. The crisis of our city affairs
has been reached. The issue is squarely before us. Shall
we continue the rule of rum and boodle and shameless incompetency,
or shall we, as President Marsh said in his noble speech,
rise as good citizens and begin a new order of things,
cleansing our city of the worst enemy known to municipal
honesty, and doing what lies in our power to do with the
ballot to purify our civic life?
NEWS is positively and without reservation on the side
of the new movement. We shall henceforth do all in our
power to drive out the saloon and destroy its political
strength. We shall advocate the election of the men nominated
by the majority of citizens met in the first primary and
we call upon all Christians, church members, lovers of
right, purity, temperance, and the home, to stand by President
Marsh and the rest of the citizens who have thus begun
a long-needed reform in our city."
President Marsh read this editorial and thanked God for
Edward Norman. At the same time he understood well enough
that every other paper in Raymond was on the other side.
He did not underestimate the importance and seriousness
of the fight which was only just begun. It was no secret
that the NEWS had lost enormously since it had been governed
by the standard of "What would Jesus do?" And the question
was, Would the Christian people of Raymond stand by it?
Would they make it possible for Norman to conduct a daily
Christian paper? Or would the desire for what is called
news in the way of crime, scandal, political partisanship
of the regular sort, and a dislike to champion so remarkable
a reform in journalism, influence them to drop the paper
and refuse to give it their financial support? That was,
in fact, the question Edward Norman was asking even while
he wrote that Saturday editorial. He knew well enough
that his actions expressed in that editorial would cost
him very heavily from the hands of many business men in
Raymond. And still, as he drove his pen over the paper,
he asked another question, "What would Jesus do?" That
question had become a part of this whole life now. It
was greater than any other.
But for the first time in its history Raymond had seen
the professional men, the teachers, the college professors,
the doctors, the ministers, take political action and
put themselves definitely and sharply in public antagonism
to the evil forces that had so long controlled the machine
of municipal government. The fact itself was astounding.
President Marsh acknowledged to himself with a feeling
of humiliation, that never before had he known what civic
righteousness could accomplish. From that Friday night's
work he dated for himself and his college a new definition
of the worn phrase "the scholar in politics." Education
for him and those who were under his influence ever after
meant some element of suffering. Sacrifice must now enter
into the factor of development.
At the Rectangle that week the tide of spiritual life
rose high, and as yet showed no signs of flowing back.
Rachel and Virginia went every night. Virginia was rapidly
reaching a conclusion with respect to a large part of
her money. She had talked it over with Rachel and they
had been able to agree that if Jesus had a vast amount
of money at His disposal He might do with some of it as
Virginia planned. At any rate they felt that whatever
He might do in such case would have as large an element
of variety in it as the differences in persons and circumstances.
There could be no one fixed Christian way of using money.
The rule that regulated its use was unselfish utility.
But meanwhile the glory of the Spirit's power possessed
all their best thought. Night after night that week witnessed
miracles as great as walking on the sea or feeding the
multitude with a few loaves and fishes. For what greater
miracle is there than a regenerate humanity? The transformation
of these coarse, brutal, sottish lives into praying, rapturous
lovers of Christ, struck Rachel and Virginia every time
with the feeling that people may have had when they saw
Lazarus walk out of the tomb. It was an experience full
of profound excitement for them.
Rollin Page came to all the meetings. There was no doubt
of the change that had come over him. Rachel had not yet
spoken much with him. He was wonderfully quiet. It seemed
as if he was thinking all the time. Certainly he was not
the same person. He talked more with Gray than with any
one else. He did not avoid Rachel, but he seemed to shrink
from any appearance of seeming to renew the acquaintance
with her. Rachel found it even difficult to express to
him her pleasure at the new life he had begun to know.
He seemed to be waiting to adjust himself to his previous
relations before this new life began. He had not forgotten
those relations. But he was not yet able to fit his consciousness
into new ones.
The end of the week found the Rectangle struggling hard
between two mighty opposing forces. The Holy Spirit was
battling with all His supernatural strength against the
saloon devil which had so long held a jealous grasp on
its slaves. If the Christian people of Raymond once could
realize what the contest meant to the souls newly awakened
to a purer life it did not seem possible that the election
could result in the old system of license. But that remained
yet to be seen. The horror of the daily surroundings of
many of the converts was slowly burning its way into the
knowledge of Virginia and Rachel, and every night as they
went uptown to their luxurious homes they carried heavy
good many of these poor creatures will go back again,"
Gray would say with sadness too deep for tears. "The environment
does have a good deal to do with the character. It does
not stand to reason that these people can always resist
the sight and smell of the devilish drink about them.
O Lord, how long shall Christian people continue to support
by their silence and their ballots the greatest form of
slavery known in America?"
He asked the question, and did not have much hope of an
immediate answer. There was a ray of hope in the action
of Friday night's primary, but what the result would be
he did not dare to anticipate. The whiskey forces were
organized, alert, aggressive, roused into unusual hatred
by the events of the last week at the tent and in the
city. Would the Christian forces act as a unit against
the saloon? Or would they be divided on account of their
business interests or because they were not in the habit
of acting all together as the whiskey power always did?
That remained to be seen. Meanwhile the saloon reared
itself about the Rectangle like some deadly viper hissing
and coiling, ready to strike its poison into any unguarded
Saturday afternoon as Virginia was just stepping out of
her house to go and see Rachel to talk over her new plans,
a carriage drove up containing three of her fashionable
friends. Virginia went out to the drive-way and stood
there talking with them. They had not come to make a formal
call but wanted Virginia to go driving with them up on
the boulevard. There was a band concert in the park. The
day was too pleasant to be spent indoors.
have you been all this time, Virginia?" asked one of the
girls, tapping her playfully on the shoulder with a red
silk parasol. "We hear that you have gone into the show
business. Tell us about it."
Virginia colored, but after a moment's hesitation she
frankly told something of her experience at the Rectangle.
The girls in the carriage began to be really interested.
tell you, girls, let's go 'slumming' with Virginia this
afternoon instead of going to the band concert. I've never
been down to the Rectangle. I've heard it's an awful wicked
place and lots to see. Virginia will act as guide, and
it would be" -- "real fun" she was going to say, but Virginia's
look made her substitute the word "interesting."
Virginia was angry. At first thought she said to herself
she would never go under such circumstances. The other
girls seemed to be of the same mind with the speaker.
They chimed in with earnestness and asked Virginia to
take them down there.
Suddenly she saw in the idle curiosity of the girls an
opportunity. They had never seen the sin and misery of
Raymond. Why should they not see it, even if their motive
in going down there was simply to pass away an afternoon.
well, I'll go with you. You must obey my orders and let
me take you where you can see the most," she said, as
she entered the carriage and took the seat beside the
girl who had first suggested the trip to the Rectangle.