In His Steps
by Charles M. Sheldon
HENRY MAXWELL finished reading and dropped the paper.
“I must go and see Powers. This is the result of his promise.”
He rose, and as he was going out, his wife said: “Do you think, Henry, that Jesus would have done that?”
Maxwell paused a moment. Then he answered slowly, “Yes, I think He would. At any rate, Powers has decided so and each one of us who made the promise understands that he is not deciding Jesus’ conduct for any one else, only for himself.”
“How about his family? How will Mrs. Powers and Celia be likely to take it?”
“Very hard, I’ve no doubt. That will be Powers’ cross in this matter. They will not understand his motive.”
Maxwell went out and walked over to the next block where Superintendent Powers lived. To his relief, Powers himself came to the door.
The two men shook hands silently. They instantly understood each other without words. There had never before been such a bond of union between the minister and his parishioner.
“What are you going to do?” Henry Maxwell asked after they had talked over the facts in the case.
“You mean another position? I have no plans yet. I can go back to my old work as a telegraph operator. My family will not suffer, except in a social way.”
Powers spoke calmly and sadly. Henry Maxwell did not need to ask him how the wife and daughter felt. He knew well enough that the superintendent had suffered deepest at that point.
“There is one matter I wish you would see to,” said Powers after awhile, “and that is, the work begun at the shops. So far as I know, the company will not object to that going on. It is one of the contradictions of the railroad world that Y. M. C. A.’s and other Christian influences are encouraged by the roads, while all the time the most un-Christian and lawless acts may be committed in the official management of the roads themselves. Of course it is well understood that it pays a railroad to have in its employ men who are temperate, honest and Christian. So I have no doubt the master mechanic will have the same courtesy shown him in the use of the room. But what I want you to do, Mr. Maxwell, is to see that my plan is carried out. Will you? You understand what it was in general. You made a very favorable impression on the men. Go down there as often as you can. Get Milton Wright interested to provide something for the furnishing and expense of the coffee plant and reading tables. Will you do it?”
“Yes,” replied Henry Maxwell. He stayed a little longer. Before he went away, he and the superintendent had a prayer together, and they parted with that silent hand grasp that seemed to them like a new token of their Christian discipleship and fellowship.
The pastor of the First Church went home stirred deeply by the events of the week. Gradually the truth was growing upon him that the pledge to do as Jesus would was working out a revolution in his parish and throughout the city. Every day added to the serious results of obedience to that pledge. Maxwell did not pretend to see the end. He was, in fact, only now at the very beginning of events that were destined to change the history of hundreds of families not only in Raymond but throughout the entire country. As he thought of Edward Norman and Rachel and Mr. Powers, and of the results that had already come from their actions, he could not help a feeling of intense interest in the probable effect if all the persons in the First Church who had made the pledge, faithfully kept it. Would they all keep it, or would some of them turn back when the cross became too heavy?
He was asking this question the next morning as he sat in his study when the President of the Endeavor Society of his church called to see him.
“I suppose I ought not to trouble you with my case,” said young Morris coming at once to his errand, “but I thought, Mr. Maxwell, that you might advise me a little.”
“I’m glad you came. Go on, Fred.” He had known the young man ever since his first year in the pastorate, and loved and honored him for his consistent, faithful service in the church.
“Well, the fact is, I am out of a job. You know I’ve been doing reporter work on the morning SENTINEL since I graduated last year. Well, last Saturday Mr. Burr asked me to go down the road Sunday morning and get the details of that train robbery at the Junction, and write the thing up for the extra edition that came out Monday morning, just to get the start of the NEWS. I refused to go, and Burr gave me my dismissal. He was in a bad temper, or I think perhaps he would not have done it. He has always treated me well before. Now, do you think Jesus would have done as I did? I ask because the other fellows say I was a fool not to do the work. I want to feel that a Christian acts from motives that may seem strange to others sometimes, but not foolish. What do you think?”
“I think you kept your promise, Fred. I cannot believe Jesus would do newspaper reporting on Sunday as you were asked to do it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Maxwell. I felt a little troubled over it, but the longer I think it over the better I feel.”
Morris rose to go, and his pastor rose and laid a loving hand on the young man’s shoulder. “What are you going to do, Fred?”
“I don’t know yet. I have thought some of going to Chicago or some large city .”
“Why don’t you try the NEWS?”
“They are all supplied. I have not thought of applying there.”
Maxwell thought a moment. “Come down to the NEWS office with me, and let us see Norman about it.”
So a few minutes later Edward Norman received into his room the minister and young Morris, and Maxwell briefly told the cause of the errand.
“I can give you a place on the NEWS,” said Norman with his keen look softened by a smile that made it winsome. “I want reporters who won’t work Sundays. And what is more, I am making plans for a special kind of reporting which I believe you can develop because you are in sympathy with what Jesus would do.”
He assigned Morris a definite task, and Maxwell started back to his study, feeling that kind of satisfaction (and it is a very deep kind) which a man feels when he has been even partly instrumental in finding an unemployed person a remunerative position.
He had intended to go right to his study, but on his way home he passed by one of Milton Wright’s stores. He thought he would simply step in and shake hands with his parishioner and bid him God-speed in what he had heard he was doing to put Christ into his business. But when he went into the office, Wright insisted on detaining him to talk over some of his new plans. Maxwell asked himself if this was the Milton Wright he used to know, eminently practical, business-like, according to the regular code of the business world, and viewing every thing first and foremost from the standpoint of, “Will it pay?”
“There is no use to disguise the fact, Mr. Maxwell, that I have been compelled to revolutionize the entire method of my business since I made that promise. I have been doing a great many things during the last twenty years in this store that I know Jesus would not do. But that is a small item compared with the number of things I begin to believe Jesus would do. My sins of commission have not been as many as those of omission in business relations.”
“What was the first change you made?” He felt as if his sermon could wait for him in his study. As the interview with Milton Wright continued, he was not so sure but that he had found material for a sermon without going back to his study.
“I think the first change I had to make was in my thought of my employees. I came down here Monday morning after that Sunday and asked myself, ‘What would Jesus do in His relation to these clerks, bookkeepers, office-boys, draymen, salesmen? Would He try to establish some sort of personal relation to them different from that which I have sustained all these years?’ I soon answered this by saying, ‘Yes.’ Then came the question of what that relation would be and what it would lead me to do. I did not see how I could answer it to my satisfaction without getting all my employees together and having a talk with them. So I sent invitations to all of them, and we had a meeting out there in the warehouse Tuesday night. A good many things came out of that meeting. I can’t tell you all. I tried to talk with the men as I imagined Jesus might. It was hard work, for I have not been in the habit of it, and must have made some mistakes. But I can hardly make you believe, Mr. Maxwell, the effect of that meeting on some of the men. Before it closed I saw more than a dozen of them with tears on their faces. I kept asking, ‘What would Jesus do?’ and the more I asked it the farther along it pushed me into the most intimate and loving relations with the men who have worked for me all these years. Every day something new is coming up and I am right now in the midst of a reconstruction of the entire business so far as its motive for being conducted is concerned. I am so practically ignorant of all plans for co-operation and its application to business that I am trying to get information from every possible source. I have lately made a special study of the life of Titus Salt, the great mill-owner of Bradford, England, who afterward built that model town on the banks of the Aire. There is a good deal in his plans that will help me. But I have not yet reached definite conclusions in regard to all the details. I am not enough used to Jesus’ methods. But see here.”
Wright eagerly reached up into one of the pigeon holes of his desk and took out a paper.
“I have sketched out what seems to me like a program such as Jesus might go by in a business like mine. I want you to tell me what you think of it:
MILTON WRIGHT’S PLACE AS A
He would engage in the, business first of all for the purpose of glorifying God, and not for the primary purpose of making money.
All money that might be made he would never regard as his own, but as trust funds to be used for the good of humanity.
His relations with all the persons in his employ would be the most loving and helpful. He could not help thinking of all of them in the light of souls to be saved. This thought would always be greater than his thought of making money in the business.
He would never do a single dishonest or questionable thing or try in any remotest way to get the advantage of any one else in the same business.
The principle of unselfishness and helpfulness in the business would direct all its details.
Upon this principle he would shape the entire plan of his relations to his employees, to the people who were his customers and to the general business world with which he was connected.
Henry Maxwell read this over slowly. It reminded him of his own attempts the day before to put into a concrete form his thought of Jesus’ probable action. He was very thoughtful as he looked up and met Wright’s eager gaze.
“Do you believe you can continue to make your business pay on these lines?”
“I do. Intelligent unselfishness ought to be wiser than intelligent selfishness, don’t you think? If the men who work as employees begin to feel a personal share in the profits of the business and, more than that, a personal love for themselves on the part of the firm, won’t the result be more care, less waste, more diligence, more faithfulness?”
“Yes, I think so. A good many other business men don’t, do they? I mean as a general thing. How about your relations to the selfish world that is not trying to make money on Christian principles?”
“That complicates my action, of course.”
“Does your plan contemplate what is coming to be known as co-operation?”
“Yes, as far as I have gone, it does. As I told you, I am studying out my details carefully. I am absolutely convinced that Jesus in my place would be absolutely unselfish. He would love all these men in His employ. He would consider the main purpose of all the business to be a mutual helpfulness, and would conduct it all so that God’s kingdom would be evidently the first object sought. On those general principles, as I say, I am working. I must have time to complete the details.”
When Maxwell finally left he was profoundly impressed with the revolution that was being wrought already in the business. As he passed out of the store he caught something of the new spirit of the place. There was no mistaking the fact that Milton Wright’s new relations to his employees were beginning even so soon, after less than two weeks, to transform the entire business. This was apparent in the conduct and faces of the clerks.
“If he keeps on he will be one of the most influential preachers in Raymond,” said Maxwell to himself when he reached his study. The question rose as to his continuance in this course when he began to lose money by it, as was possible. He prayed that the Holy Spirit, who had shown Himself with growing power in the company of First Church disciples, might abide long with them all. And with that prayer on his lips and in his heart he began the preparation of a sermon in which he was going to present to his people on Sunday the subject of the saloon in Raymond, as he now believed Jesus would do. He had never preached against the saloon in this way before. He knew that the things he should say would lead to serious results. Nevertheless, he went on with his work, and every sentence he wrote or shaped was preceded with the question, “Would Jesus say that?” Once in the course of his study, he went down on his knees. No one except himself could know what that meant to him. When had he done that in his preparation of sermons, before the change that had come into his thought of discipleship? As he viewed his ministry now, he did not dare preach without praying long for wisdom. He no longer thought of his dramatic delivery and its effect on his audience. The great question with him now was, “What would Jesus do?”
Saturday night at the Rectangle witnessed some of the most remarkable scenes that Mr. Gray and his wife had ever known. The meetings had intensified with each night of Rachel’s singing. A stranger passing through the Rectangle in the day-time might have heard a good deal about the meetings in one way and another. It cannot be said that up to that Saturday night there was any appreciable lack of oaths and impurity and heavy drinking. The Rectangle would not have acknowledged that it was growing any better or that even the singing had softened its outward manner. It had too much local pride in being “tough.” But in spite of itself there was a yielding to a power it had never measured and did not know we enough to resist beforehand.
Gray had recovered his voice so that by Saturday he was able to speak. The fact that he was obliged to use his voice carefully made it necessary for the people to be very quiet if they wanted to hear. Gradually they had come to understand that this man was talking these many weeks and giving his time and strength to give them a knowledge of a Savior, all out of a perfectly unselfish love for them. Tonight the great crowd was as quiet as Henry Maxwell’s decorous audience ever was. The fringe around the tent was deeper and the saloons were practically empty. The Holy Spirit had come at last, and Gray knew that one of the great prayers of his life was going to be answered.
And Rachel her singing was the best, most wonderful, that Virginia or Jasper Chase had ever known. They came together again tonight, this time with Dr. West, who had spent all his spare time that week in the Rectangle with some charity cases. Virginia was at the organ, Jasper sat on a front seat looking up at Rachel, and the Rectangle swayed as one man towards the platform as she sang:
“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
Gray hardly said a word. He stretched out his hand with a gesture of invitation. And down the two aisles of the tent, broken, sinful creatures, men and women, stumbled towards the platform. One woman out of the street was near the organ. Virginia caught the look of her face, and for the first time in the life of the rich girl the thought of what Jesus was to the sinful woman came with a suddenness and power that was like nothing but a new birth. Virginia left the organ, went to her, looked into her face and caught her hands in her own. The other girl trembled, then fell on her knees sobbing, with her head down upon the back of the rude bench in front of her, still clinging to Virginia. And Virginia, after a moment’s hesitation, kneeled down by her and the two heads were bowed close together.
But when the people had crowded in a double row all about the platform, most of them kneeling and crying, a man in evening dress, different from the others, pushed through the seats and came and kneeled down by the side of the drunken man who had disturbed the meeting when Maxwell spoke. He kneeled within a few feet of Rachel Winslow, who was still singing softly. And as she turned for a moment and looked in his direction, she was amazed to see the face of Rollin Page! For a moment her voice faltered. Then she went on:
“Just as I am, thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
Because Thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
The voice was as the voice of divine longing, and the Rectangle for the time being was swept into the harbor of redemptive grace.