When Henry Maxwell began to speak to the souls crowded into the Settlement Hall that night it is doubtful if he ever faced such an audience in his life. It is quite certain that the city of Raymond did not contain such a variety of humanity. Not even the Rectangle at its worst could furnish so many men and women who had fallen entirely out of the reach of the church and of all religious and even Christian influences.
What did he talk about? He had already decided that point. He told in the simplest language he could command some of the results of obedience to the pledge as it had been taken in Raymond. Every man and woman in that audience knew something about Jesus Christ. They all had some idea of His character, and however much they had grown bitter toward the forms of Christian ecclesiasticism or the social system, they preserved some standard of right and truth, and what little some of them still retained was taken from the person of the Peasant of Galilee.
So they were interested in what Maxwell said. “What would Jesus do?” He began to apply the question to the social problem in general, after finishing the story of Raymond. The audience was respectfully attentive. It was more than that. It was genuinely interested. As Mr. Maxwell went on, faces all over the hall leaned forward in a way seldom seen in church audiences or anywhere except among workingmen or the people of the street when once they are thoroughly aroused. “What would Jesus do?” Suppose that were the motto not only of the churches but of the business men, the politicians, the newspapers, the workingmen, the society people—how long would it take under such a standard of conduct to revolutionize the world? What was the trouble with the world? It was suffering from selfishness. No one ever lived who had succeeded in overcoming selfishness like Jesus. If men followed Him regardless of results the world would at once begin to enjoy a new life.
Maxwell never knew how much it meant to hold the respectful attention of that hall full of diseased and sinful humanity. The Bishop and Dr. Bruce, sitting there, looking on, seeing many faces that represented scorn of creeds, hatred of the social order, desperate narrowness and selfishness, marveled that even so soon under the influence of the Settlement life, the softening process had begun already to lessen the bitterness of hearts, many of which had grown bitter from neglect and indifference.
And still, in spite of the outward show of respect to the speaker, no one, not even the Bishop, had any true conception of the feeling pent up in that room that night. Among those who had heard of the meeting and had responded to the invitation were twenty or thirty men out of work who had strolled past the Settlement that afternoon, read the notice of the meeting, and had come in out of curiosity and to escape the chill east wind. It was a bitter night and the saloons were full. But in that whole district of over thirty thousand souls, with the exception of the saloons, there was not a door open except the clean, pure Christian door of the Settlement. Where would a man without a home or without work or without friends naturally go unless to the saloon?