Again that sudden silence fell over those two men. It was no ordinary action they were deciding. They had both reached the same conclusion by the same reasoning, and they were too thoughtful, too well accustomed to the measuring of conduct, to underestimate the seriousness of their position.
“What is your plan?” The Bishop at last spoke gently, looking with the smile that always beautified his face. The Bishop’s face grew in glory now every day.
“My plan,” replied Dr. Bruce slowly, “is, in brief, the putting of myself into the centre of the greatest human need I can find in this city and living there. My wife is fully in accord with me. We have already decided to find a residence in that part of the city where we can make our personal lives count for the most.”
“Let me suggest a place.” The Bishop was on fire now. His fine face actually glowed with the enthusiasm of the movement in which he and his friend were inevitably embarked. He went on and unfolded a plan of such far-reaching power and possibility that Dr. Bruce, capable and experienced as he was, felt amazed at the vision of a greater soul than his own.
They sat up late, and were as eager and even glad as if they were planning for a trip together to some rare land of unexplored travel. Indeed, the Bishop said many times afterward that the moment his decision was reached to live the life of personal sacrifice he had chosen he suddenly felt an uplifting as if a great burden were taken from him. He was exultant. So was Dr. Bruce from the same cause.
Their plan as it finally grew into a workable fact was in reality nothing more than the renting of a large building formerly used as a warehouse for a brewery, reconstructing it and living in it themselves in the very heart of a territory where the saloon ruled with power, where the tenement was its filthiest, where vice and ignorance and shame and poverty were congested into hideous forms. It was not a new idea. It was an idea started by Jesus Christ when He left His Father’s House and forsook the riches that were His in order to get nearer humanity and, by becoming a part of its sin, helping to draw humanity apart from its sin. The University Settlement idea is not modern. It is as old as Bethlehem and Nazareth. And in this particular case it was the nearest approach to anything that would satisfy the hunger of these two men to suffer for Christ.
There had sprung up in them at the same time a longing that amounted to a passion, to get nearer the great physical poverty and spiritual destitution of the mighty city that throbbed around them. How could they do this except as they became a part of it as nearly as one man can become a part of another’s misery? Where was the suffering to come in unless there was an actual self-denial of some sort? And what was to make that self-denial apparent to themselves or any one else, unless it took this concrete, actual, personal form of trying to share the deepest suffering and sin of the city?