Upon this subject the views of the ordinary laymen of the country are these: Whenever a civic evil is to be eliminated it is not only appropriate, but it is the office of the minister to help eliminate it. Whenever the cause of light is struggling with the powers of darkness the place of the Christian minister is in the ranks.
But as a general proposition he can do most good by merely preaching individual righteousness day after day without definitely interfering with things political. For there is always the danger that if he takes part in many political agitations he will become so monotonous that all his power for good will be dissipated.
But after all is said and done the millions want from the modern pulpit the fruitful teaching of the Christian religion. They want the fundamentals. They want decision and certainty. Their minds are to be convinced, yes, but even more their hearts.
This is the task that awaits you, young man, who, from that spiritual tribune called the Pulpit, are soon to speak to us who sit beneath you that Word which is for “the healing of the nations.” How exalted beyond understanding is this high place to which you are going. What a hearing you will have if only you will utter words of power and light. Believe me, the world with eagerness awaits your message. But be sure it is a message in very truth—no, not a message but THE message.
GREAT THINGS YET TO BE DONE
Some four years ago a young man of uncommon ability, but lacking the imagination of hope, said to me that it seemed to him as if everything great had already been done.
“Great battles,” said he, “have been fought; there will be no more wars of magnitude. The great principles of the law have all been announced and applied to every conceivable form of human rights and controversy. For example, in our own country there will be no more new and great constitutional arguments. Everything, from now on, will be only an application of what has already been said and decided.
“In invention, there may be some improvements on old and present devices, but there will be no more Edisons, no more Marconis. In medicine, we are about at the top of the mountain. In literature, the creative and fundamental things have all been done. There will be no more Shakespeares, no Miltons, no Dantes, no Goethes. Even Hugo is dead. From now on books will be mere second-hand talk.
“In statesmanship, nothing is left except that common housekeeping which we call administering government. In diplomacy, the same old lies will continue to be told, and so on.”
This young man’s profoundly melancholy view of life is that which I have found crushing the elan out of many young men; and particularly college students. In their hearts they feel that progress is finished, so far as individual effort by them is concerned. They feel that for them there is nothing but to eat, sleep, laugh, grieve and go to their graves. They feel that for them there is no such thing as leaving behind them a monument of their own constructive effort. Talk to most young men in college or school, and you will find this feeling, like a pathetic minor chord, running through their highest and most daring boasts.