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Charles M. Sheldon
had planned when he came to the city to return to Raymond
and be in his own pulpit on Sunday. But Friday morning he
had received at the Settlement a call from the pastor of
one of the largest churches in Chicago, and had been invited
to fill the pulpit for both morning and evening service.
At first he hesitated, but finally accepted, seeing in it
the hand of the Spirit's guiding power. He would test his
own question. He would prove the truth or falsity of the
charge made against the church at the Settlement meeting.
How far would it go in its self-denial for Jesus' sake?
How closely would it walk in His steps? Was the church willing
to suffer for its Master?
Saturday night he spent in prayer, nearly the whole night.
There had never been so great a wrestling in his soul, not
even during his strongest experiences in Raymond. He had
in fact entered upon another new experience. The definition
of his own discipleship was receiving an added test at this
time, and he was being led into a larger truth of the Lord.
Sunday morning the great church was filled to its utmost.
Henry Maxwell, coming into the pulpit from that all- night
vigil, felt the pressure of a great curiosity on the part
of the people. They had heard of the Raymond movement, as
all the churches had, and the recent action of Dr. Bruce
had added to the general interest in the pledge. With this
curiosity was something deeper, more serious. Mr. Maxwell
felt that also. And in the knowledge that the Spirit's presence
was his living strength, he brought his message and gave
it to that church that day.
He had never been what would be called a great preacher.
He had not the force nor the quality that makes remarkable
preachers. But ever since he had promised to do as Jesus
would do, he had grown in a certain quality of persuasiveness
that had all the essentials of true eloquence. This morning
the people felt the complete sincerity and humility of a
man who had gone deep into the heart of a great truth.
After telling briefly of some results in his own church
in Raymond since the pledge was taken, he went on to ask
the question he had been asking since the Settlement meeting.
He had taken for his theme the story of the young man who
came to Jesus asking what he must do to obtain eternal life.
Jesus had tested him. "Sell all that thou hast and give
to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and
come follow me." But the young man was not willing to suffer
to that extent. If following Jesus meant suffering in that
way, he was not willing. He would like to follow Jesus,
but not if he had to give so much.
it true," continued Henry Maxwell, and his fine, thoughtful
face glowed with a passion of appeal that stirred the people
as they had seldom been stirred, "is it true that the church
of today, the church that is called after Christ's own name,
would refuse to follow Him at the expense of suffering,
of physical loss, of temporary gain? The statement was made
at a large gathering in the Settlement last week by a leader
of workingmen that it was hopeless to look to the church
for any reform or redemption of society. On what was that
statement based? Plainly on the assumption that the church
contains for the most part men and women who think more
'of their own ease and luxury' than of the sufferings and
needs and sins of humanity. How far is that true? Are the
Christians of America ready to have their discipleship tested?
How about the men who possess large wealth? Are they ready
to take that wealth and use it as Jesus would? How about
the men and women of great talent? Are they ready to consecrate
that talent to humanity as Jesus undoubtedly would do?
it not true that the call has come in this age for a new
exhibition of Christian discipleship? You who live in this
great sinful city must know that better than I do. Is it
possible you can go your ways careless or thoughtless of
the awful condition of men and women and children who are
dying, body and soul, for need of Christian help? Is it
not a matter of concern to you personally that the saloon
kills its thousands more surely than war? Is it not a matter
of personal suffering in some form for you that thousands
of able-bodied, willing men tramp the streets of this city
and all cities, crying for work and drifting into crime
and suicide because they cannot find it? Can you say that
this is none of your business? Let each man look after himself?
Would it not be true, think you, that if every Christian
in America did as Jesus would do, society itself, the business
world, yes, the very political system under which our commercial
and governmental activity is carried on, would be so changed
that human suffering would be reduced to a minimum?
would be the result if all the church members of this city
tried to do as Jesus would do? It is not possible to say
in detail what the effect would be. But it is easy to say,
and it is true, that instantly the human problem would begin
to find an adequate answer.
is the test of Christian discipleship? Is it not the same
as in Christ's own time? Have our surroundings modified
or changed the test? If Jesus were here today would He not
call some of the members of this very church to do just
what He commanded the young man, and ask them to give up
their wealth and literally follow Him? I believe He would
do that if He felt certain that any church member thought
more of his possessions than of the Savior. The test would
be the same today as then. I believe Jesus would demand
He does demand now -- as close a following, as much suffering,
as great self-denial as when He lived in person on the earth
and said, 'Except a man renounce all that he hath he cannot
be my disciple.' That is, unless he is willing to do it
for my sake, he cannot be my disciple.
would be the result if in this city every church member
should begin to do as Jesus would do? It is not easy to
go into details of the result. But we all know that certain
things would be impossible that are now practiced by church
would Jesus do in the matter of wealth? How would He spend
it? What principle would regulate His use of money? Would
He be likely to live in great luxury and spend ten times
as much on personal adornment and entertainment as He spent
to relieve the needs of suffering humanity? How would Jesus
be governed in the making of money? Would He take rentals
from saloons and other disreputable property, or even from
tenement property that was so constructed that the inmates
had no such things as a home and no such possibility as
privacy or cleanliness?
would Jesus do about the great army of unemployed and desperate
who tramp the streets and curse the church, or are indifferent
to it, lost in the bitter struggle for the bread that tastes
bitter when it is earned on account of the desperate conflict
to get it? Would Jesus care nothing for them? Would He go
His way in comparative ease and comfort? Would He say that
it was none of His business? Would He excuse Himself from
all responsibility to remove the causes of such a condition?
would Jesus do in the center of a civilization that hurries
so fast after money that the very girls employed in great
business houses are not paid enough to keep soul and body
together without fearful temptations so great that scores
of them fall and are swept over the great boiling abyss;
where the demands of trade sacrifice hundreds of lads in
a business that ignores all Christian duties toward them
in the way of education and moral training and personal
affection? Would Jesus, if He were here today as a part
of our age and commercial industry, feel nothing, do nothing,
say nothing, in the face of these facts which every business
would Jesus do? Is not that what the disciple ought to do?
Is he not commanded to follow in His steps? How much is
the Christianity of the age suffering for Him? Is it denying
itself at the cost of ease, comfort, luxury, elegance of
living? What does the age need more than personal sacrifice?
Does the church do its duty in following Jesus when it gives
a little money to establish missions or relieve extreme
cases of want? Is it any sacrifice for a man who is worth
ten million dollars simply to give ten thousand dollars
for some benevolent work? Is he not giving something that
cost him practically nothing so far as any personal suffering
goes? Is it true that the Christian disciples today in most
of our churches are living soft, easy, selfish lives, very
far from any sacrifice that can be called sacrifice? What
would Jesus do?
is the personal element that Christian discipleship needs
to emphasize. 'The gift without the giver is bare.' The
Christianity that attempts to suffer by proxy is not the
Christianity of Christ. Each individual Christian business
man, citizen, needs to follow in His steps along the path
of personal sacrifice to Him. There is not a different path
today from that of Jesus' own times. It is the same path.
The call of this dying century and of the new one soon to
be, is a call for a new discipleship, a new following of
Jesus, more like the early, simple, apostolic Christianity,
when the disciples left all and literally followed the Master.
Nothing but a discipleship of this kind can face the destructive
selfishness of the age with any hope of overcoming it. There
is a great quantity of nominal Christianity today. There
is need of more of the real kind. We need revival of the
Christianity of Christ. We have, unconsciously, lazily,
selfishly, formally grown into a discipleship that Jesus
himself would not acknowledge. He would say to many of us
when we cry, 'Lord, Lord,' 'I never knew you!' Are we ready
to take up the cross? Is it possible for this church to
sing with exact truth,
'Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee?'
If we can sing that truly, then we may claim discipleship.
But if our definition of being a Christian is simply to
enjoy the privileges of worship, be generous at no expense
to ourselves, have a good, easy time surrounded by pleasant
friends and by comfortable things, live respectably and
at the same time avoid the world's great stress of sin and
trouble because it is too much pain to bear it -- if this
is our definition of Christianity, surely we are a long
way from following the steps of Him who trod the way with
groans and tears and sobs of anguish for a lost humanity;
who sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, who cried out
on the upreared cross, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken
we ready to make and live a new discipleship? Are we ready
to reconsider our definition of a Christian? What is it
to be a Christian? It is to imitate Jesus. It is to do as
He would do. It is to walk in His steps."
When Henry Maxwell finished his sermon, he paused and looked
at the people with a look they never forgot and, at the
moment, did not understand. Crowded into that fashionable
church that day were hundreds of men and women who had for
years lived the easy, satisfied life of a nominal Christianity.
A great silence fell over the congregation. Through the
silence there came to the consciousness of all the souls
there present a knowledge, stranger to them now for years,
of a Divine Power. Every one expected the preacher to call
for volunteers who would do as Jesus would do. But Maxwell
had been led by the Spirit to deliver his message this time
and wait for results to come.
He closed the service with a tender prayer that kept the
Divine Presence lingering very near every hearer, and the
people slowly rose to go out. Then followed a scene that
would have been impossible if any mere man had been alone
in his striving for results.
Men and women in great numbers crowded around the platform
to see Mr. Maxwell and to bring him the promise of their
consecration to the pledge to do as Jesus would do. It was
a voluntary, spontaneous movement that broke upon his soul
with a result he could not measure. But had he not been
praying for is very thing? It was an answer that more than
met his desires.
There followed this movement a prayer service that in its
impressions repeated the Raymond experience. In the evening,
to Mr. Maxwell's joy, the Endeavor Society almost to a member
came forward, as so many of the church members had done
in the morning, and seriously, solemnly, tenderly, took
the pledge to do as Jesus would do. A deep wave of spiritual
baptism broke over the meeting near its close that was indescribable
in its tender, joyful, sympathetic results.
That was a remarkable day in the history of that church,
but even more so in the history of Henry Maxwell. He left
the meeting very late. He went to his room at the Settlement
where he was still stopping, and after an hour with the
Bishop and Dr. Bruce, spent in a joyful rehearsal of the
wonderful events of the day, he sat down to think over again
by himself all the experience he was having as a Christian
He had kneeled to pray, as he always did before going to
sleep, and it was while he was on his knees that he had
a waking vision of what might be in the world when once
the new discipleship had made its way into the conscience
and conscientiousness of Christendom. He was fully conscious
of being awake, but no less certainly did it seem to him
that he saw certain results with great distinctiveness,
partly as realities of the future, partly great longings
that they might be realities. And this is what Henry Maxwell
saw in this waking vision:
He saw himself, first, going back to the First Church in
Raymond, living there in a simpler, more self-denying fashion
than he had yet been willing to live, because he saw ways
in which he could help others who were really dependent
on him for help. He also saw, more dimly, that the time
would come when his position as pastor of the church would
cause him to suffer more on account of growing opposition
to his interpretation of Jesus and His conduct. But this
was vaguely outlined. Through it all he heard the words
"My grace is sufficient for thee."
He saw Rachel Winslow and Virginia Page going on with their
work of service at the Rectangle, and reaching out loving
hands of helpfulness far beyond the limits of Raymond. Rachel
he saw married to Rollin Page, both fully consecrated to
the Master's use, both following His steps with an eagerness
intensified and purified by their love for each other. And
Rachel's voice sang on, in slums and dark places of despair
and sin, and drew lost souls back to God and heaven once
He saw President Marsh of the college using his great learning
and his great influence to purify the city, to ennoble its
patriotism, to inspire the young men and women who loved
as well as admired him to lives of Christian service, always
teaching them that education means great responsibility
for the weak and the ignorant.
He saw Alexander Powers meeting with sore trials in his
family life, with a constant sorrow in the estrangement
of wife and friends, but still going his way in all honor,
serving in all his strength the Master whom he had obeyed,
even unto the loss of social distinction and wealth.
He saw Milton Wright, the merchant, meeting with great reverses.
Thrown upon the future by a combination of circumstances,
with vast business interests involved in ruin through no
fault of his own, but coming out of his reverses with clean
Christian honor, to begin again and work up to a position
where he could again be to hundreds of young men an example
of what Jesus would do in business.
He saw Edward Norman, editor of the NEWS, by means of the
money given by Virginia, creating a force in journalism
that in time came to be recognized as one of the real factors
of the nation to mold its principles and actually shape
its policy, a daily illustration of the might of a Christian
press, and the first of a series of such papers begun and
carried on by other disciples who had also taken the pledge.
He saw Jasper Chase, who had denied his Master, growing
into a cold, cynical, formal life, writing novels that were
social successes, but each one with a sting in it, the reminder
of his denial, the bitter remorse that, do what he would,
no social success could remove.
He saw Rose Sterling, dependent for some years upon her
aunt and Felicia, finally married to a man far older than
herself, accepting the burden of a relation that had no
love in it on her part, because of her desire to be the
wife of a rich man and enjoy the physical luxuries that
were all of life to her. Over this life also the vision
cast certain dark and awful shadows but they were not shown
He saw Felicia and Stephen Clyde happily married, living
a beautiful life together, enthusiastic, joyful in suffering,
pouring out their great, strong, fragrant service into the
dull, dark, terrible places of the great city, and redeeming
souls through the personal touch of their home, dedicated
to the Human Homesickness all about them.
He saw Dr. Bruce and the Bishop going on with the Settlement
work. He seemed to see the great blazing motto over the
door enlarged, "What would Jesus do?" and by this motto
every one who entered the Settlement walked in the steps
of the Master.
He saw Burns and his companion and a great company of men
like them, redeemed and giving in turn to others, conquering
their passions by the divine grace, and proving by their
daily lives the reality of the new birth even in the lowest
and most abandoned.
And now the vision was troubled. It seemed to him that as
he kneeled he began to pray, and the vision was more of
a longing for a future than a reality in the future. The
church of Jesus in the city and throughout the country!
Would it follow Jesus? Was the movement begun in Raymond
to spend itself in a few churches like Nazareth Avenue and
the one where he had preached today, and then die away as
a local movement, a stirring on the surface but not to extend
deep and far? He felt with agony after the vision again.
He thought he saw the church of Jesus in America open its
heart to the moving of the Spirit and rise to the sacrifice
of its ease and self-satisfaction in the name of Jesus.
He thought he saw the motto, "What would Jesus do?" inscribed
over every church door, and written on every church member's
The vision vanished. It came back clearer than before, and
he saw the Endeavor Societies all over the world carrying
in their great processions at some mighty convention a banner
on which was written, "What would Jesus do?" And he thought
in the faces of the young men and women he saw future joy
of suffering, loss, self-denial, martyrdom. And when this
part of the vision slowly faded, he saw the figure of the
Son of God beckoning to him and to all the other actors
in his life history. An Angel Choir somewhere was singing.
There was a sound as of many voices and a shout as of a
great victory. And the figure of Jesus grew more and more
splendid. He stood at the end of a long flight of steps.
"Yes! Yes! O my Master, has not the time come for this dawn
of the millennium of Christian history? Oh, break upon the
Christendom of this age with the light and the truth! Help
us to follow Thee all the way!"
He rose at last with the awe of one who has looked at heavenly
things. He felt the human forces and the human sins of the
world as never before. And with a hope that walks hand in
hand with faith and love Henry Maxwell, disciple of Jesus,
laid him down to sleep and dreamed of the regeneration of
Christendom, and saw in his dream a church of Jesus without
spot or wrinkle or any such thing, following him all the
way, walking obediently in His steps.