In His Steps
He 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.
“Is 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?
“Is 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?
“What 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.
“What 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.
“What 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 members.
“What 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?
“What 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?