| print this
Charles M. Sheldon
morning dawned again on Raymond, and Henry Maxwell's church
was again crowded. Before the service began Edward Norman
attracted great attention. He sat quietly in his usual place
about three seats from the pulpit. The Sunday morning issue
of the NEWS containing the statement of its discontinuance
had been expressed in such remarkable language that every
reader was struck by it. No such series of distinct sensations
had ever disturbed the usual business custom of Raymond.
The events connected with the NEWS were not all. People
were eagerly talking about strange things done during the
week by Alexander Powers at the railroad shops, and Milton
Wright in his stores on the avenue. The service progressed
upon a distinct wave of excitement in the pews. Henry Maxwell
faced it all with a calmness which indicated a strength
and purpose more than usual. His prayers were very helpful.
His sermon was not so easy to describe. How would a minister
be apt to preach to his people if he came before them after
an entire week of eager asking, "How would Jesus preach?
What would He probably say?" It is very certain that
he did not preach as he had done two Sundays before. Tuesday
of the past week he had stood by the grave of the dead stranger
and said the words, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes,
dust to dust," and still he was moved by the spirit
of a deeper impulse than he could measure as he thought
of his people and yearned for the Christ message when he
should be in his pulpit again.
Now that Sunday had come and the people were there to hear,
what would the Master tell them? He agonized over his preparation
for them, and yet he knew he had not been able to fit his
message into his ideal of the Christ. Nevertheless no one
in the First Church could remember ever hearing such a sermon
before. There was in it rebuke for sin, especially hypocrisy,
there was definite rebuke of the greed of wealth and the
selfishness of fashion, two things that First Church never
heard rebuked this way before, and there was a love of his
people that gathered new force as the sermon went on. When
it was finished there were those who were saying in their
hearts, "The Spirit moved that sermon." And they
Then Rachel Winslow rose to sing, this time after the sermon,
by Mr. Maxwell's request. Rachel's singing did not provoke
applause this time. What deeper feeling carried the people's
hearts into a reverent silence and tenderness of thought?
Rachel was beautiful. But her consciousness of her remarkable
loveliness had always marred her singing with those who
had the deepest spiritual feeling. It had also marred her
rendering of certain kinds of music with herself. Today
this was all gone. There was no lack of power in her grand
voice. But there was an actual added element of humility
and purity which the audience distinctly felt and bowed
Before service closed Mr. Maxwell asked those who had remained
the week before to stay again for a few moments of consultation,
and any others who were willing to make the pledge taken
at that time. When he was at liberty he went into the lecture-room.
To his astonishment it was almost filled. This time a large
proportion of young people had come, but among them were
a few business men and officers of the church.
As before, he, Maxwell, asked them to pray with him. And,
as before, a distinct answer came from the presence of the
divine Spirit. There was no doubt in the minds of any present
that what they purposed to do was so clearly in line with
the divine will, that a blessing rested upon it in a very
They remained some time to ask questions and consult together.
There was a feeling of fellowship such as they had never
known in their church membership. Mr. Norman's action was
well understood by them all, and he answered several questions.
will be the probable result of your discontinuance of the
Sunday paper?" asked Alexander Powers, who sat next
don't know yet. I presume it will result in the falling
off of subscriptions and advertisements. I anticipate that."
you have any doubts about your action. I mean, do you regret
it, or fear it is not what Jesus would do?" asked Mr.
in the least. But I would like to ask, for my own satisfaction,
if any of you here think Jesus would issue a Sunday morning
No one spoke for a minute. Then Jasper Chase said, "We
seem to think alike on that, but I have been puzzled several
times during the week to know just what He would do. It
is not always an easy question to answer."
find that trouble," said Virginia Page. She sat by
Rachel Winslow. Every one who knew Virginia Page was wondering
how she would succeed in keeping her promise. "I think
perhaps I find it specially difficult to answer that question
on account of my money. Our Lord never owned any property,
and there is nothing in His example to guide me in the use
of mine. I am studying and praying. I think I see clearly
a part of what He would do, but not all. What would He do
with a million dollars? is my question really. I confess
I am not yet able to answer it to my satisfaction.
could tell you what you could do with a part of it, said
Rachel, turning her face toward Virginia. "That does
not trouble me," replied Virginia with a slight smile.
"What I am trying to discover is a principle that will
enable me to come to the nearest possible to His action
as it ought to influence the entire course of my life so
far as my wealth and its use are concerned."
will take time," said the minister slowly. All the
rest of the room were thinking hard of the same thing. Milton
Wright told something of his experience. He was gradually
working out a plan for his business relations with his employees,
and it was opening up a new world to him and to them. A
few of the young men told of special attempts to answer
the question. There was almost general consent over the
fact that the application of the Christ spirit and practice
to the everyday life was the serious thing. It required
a knowledge of Him and an insight into His motives that
most of them did not yet possess.
When they finally adjourned after a silent prayer that marked
with growing power the Divine Presence, they went away discussing
earnestly their difficulties and seeking light from one
Rachel Winslow and Virginia Page went out together. Edward
Norman and Milton Wright became so interested in their mutual
conference that they walked on past Norman's house and came
back together. Jasper Chase and the president of the Endeavor
Society stood talking earnestly in one corner of the room.
Alexander Powers and Henry Maxwell remained, even after
the others had gone.
want you to come down to the shops tomorrow and see my plan
and talk to the men. Somehow I feel as if you could get
nearer to them than any one else just now."
don't know about that, but I will come," replied Mr.
Maxwell a little sadly. How was he fitted to stand before
two or three hundred working men and give them a message?
Yet in the moment of his weakness, as he asked the question,
he rebuked himself for it. What would Jesus do? That was
an end to the discussion.
He went down the next day and found Mr. Powers in his office.
It lacked a few minutes of twelve and the superintendent
said, "Come upstairs, and I'll show you what I've been
trying to do."
They went through the machine shop, climbed a long flight
of stairs and entered a very large, empty room. It had once
been used by the company for a store room.
making that promise a week ago I have had a good many things
to think of," said the superintendent, "and among
them is this: The company gives me the use of this room,
and I am going to fit it up with tables and a coffee plant
in the corner there where those steam pipes are. My plan
is to provide a good place where the men can come up and
eat their noon lunch, and give them, two or three times
a week, the privilege of a fifteen minutes' talk on some
subject that will be a real help to them in their lives."
Maxwell looked surprised and asked if the men would come
for any such purpose.
they'll come. After all, I know the men pretty well. They
are among the most intelligent working men in the country
today. But they are, as a whole, entirely removed from church
influence. I asked, 'What would Jesus do?' and among other
things it seemed to me He would begin to act in some way
to add to the lives of these men more physical and spiritual
comfort. It is a very little thing, this room and what it
represents, but I acted on the first impulse, to do the
first thing that appealed to my good sense, and I want to
work out this idea. I want you to speak to the men when
they come up at noon. I have asked them to come up and see
the place and I'll tell them something about it."
Maxwell was ashamed to say how uneasy he felt at being asked
to speak a few words to a company of working men. How could
he speak without notes, or to such a crowd? He was honestly
in a condition of genuine fright over the prospect. He actually
felt afraid of facing those men. He shrank from the ordeal
of confronting such a crowd, so different from the Sunday
audiences he was familiar with.
There were a dozen rude benches and tables in the room,
and when the noon whistle sounded the men poured upstairs
from the machine shops below and, seating themselves at
the tables, began to cat their lunch. There were present
about three hundred of them. They had read the superintendent's
notice which he had posted up in various places, and came
largely out of curiosity.
They were favorably impressed. The room was large and airy,
free from smoke and dust, and well warmed from the steam
pipes. At about twenty minutes to one Mr. Powers told the
men what he had in mind. He spoke very simply, like one
who understands thoroughly the character of his audience,
and then introduced the Rev. Henry Maxwell of the First
Church, his pastor, who had consented to speak a few minutes.
Maxwell will never forget the feeling with which for the
first time he stood before the grimy-faced audience of working
men. Like hundreds of other ministers, he had never spoken
to any gatherings except those made up of people of his
own class in the sense that they were familiar in their
dress and education and habits. This was a new world to
him, and nothing but his new rule of conduct could have
made possible his message and its effect. He spoke on the
subject of satisfaction with life; what caused it, what
its real sources were. He had the great good sense on this
his first appearance not to recognize the men as a class
distinct from himself. He did not use the term working man,
and did not say a word to suggest any difference between
their lives and his own.
The men were pleased. A good many of them shook hands with
him before going down to their work, and the minister telling
it all to his wife when he reached home, said that never
in all his life had he known the delight he then felt in
having the handshake from a man of physical labor. The day
marked an important one in his Christian experience, more
important than he knew. It was the beginning of a fellowship
between him and the working world. It was the first plank
laid down to help bridge the chasm between the church and
labor in Raymond.
Alexander Powers went back to his desk that afternoon much
pleased with his plan and seeing much help in it for the
men. He knew where he could get some good tables from an
abandoned eating house at one of the stations down the road,
and he saw how the coffee arrangement could be made a very
attractive feature. The men had responded even better than
he anticipated, and the whole thing could not help being
a great benefit to them.
He took up the routine of his work with a glow of satisfaction.
After all, he wanted to do as Jesus would, he said to himself.
It was nearly four o'clock when he opened one of the company's
long envelopes which he supposed contained orders for the
purchasing of stores. He ran over the first page of typewritten
matter in his usual quick, business-like manner, before
he saw that what he was reading was not intended for his
office but for the superintendent of the freight department.
He turned over a page mechanically, not meaning to read
what was not addressed to him, but before he knew it, he
was in possession of evidence which conclusively proved
that the company was engaged in a systematic violation of
the Interstate Commerce Laws of the United States. It was
as distinct and unequivocal a breaking of law as if a private
citizen should enter a house and rob the inmates. The discrimination
shown in rebates was in total contempt of all the statutes.
Under the laws of the state it was also a distinct violation
of certain provisions recently passed by the legislature
to prevent railroad trusts. There was no question that he
had in his hands evidence sufficient to convict the company
of willful, intelligent violation of the law of the commission
and the law of the state also.
He dropped the papers on his desk as if they were poison,
and instantly the question flashed across his mind, "What
would Jesus do?" He tried to shut the question out.
He tried to reason with himself by saying it was none of
his business. He had known in a more or less definite way,
as did nearly all the officers of the company, that this
had been going on right along on nearly all the roads. He
was not in a position, owing to his place in the shops,
to prove anything direct, and he had regarded it as a matter
which did not concern him at all. The papers now before
him revealed the entire affair. They had through some carelessness
been addressed to him. What business of his was it? If he
saw a man entering his neighbor's house to steal, would
it not be his duty to inform the officers of the law? Was
a railroad company such a different thing? Was it under
a different rule of conduct, so that it could rob the public
and defy law and be undisturbed because it was such a great
organization? What would Jesus do? Then there was his family.
Of course, if he took any steps to inform the commission
it would mean the loss of his position. His wife and daughter
had always enjoyed luxury and a good place in society. If
he came out against this lawlessness as a witness it would
drag him into courts, his motives would be misunderstood,
and the whole thing would end in his disgrace and the loss
of his position. Surely it was none of his business. He
could easily get the papers back to the freight department
and no one be the wiser. Let the iniquity go on. Let the
law be defied. What was it to him? He would work out his
plans for bettering the condition just before him. What
more could a man do in this railroad business when there
was so much going on anyway that made it impossible to live
by the Christian standard? But what would Jesus do if He
knew the facts? That was the question that confronted Alexander
Powers as the day wore into evening.
The lights in the office had been turned on. The whirr of
the great engine and the clash of the planers in the big
shop continued until six o'clock. Then the whistle blew,
the engine slowed up, the men dropped their tools and ran
for the block house.
Powers heard the familiar click, click, of the clocks as
the men filed past the window of the block house just outside.
He said to his clerks, "I'm not going just yet. I have
something extra tonight." He waited until he heard
the last man deposit his block. The men behind the block
case went out. The engineer and his assistants had work
for half an hour but they went out by another door.
At seven o'clock any one who had looked into the superintendent's
office would have seen an unusual sight. He was kneeling,
and his face was buried in his hands as he bowed his head
upon the papers on his desk.