The evils of poverty are not barren, but procreative, and... the workers in poverty, are in spite of themselves, giving to the world a litter of miserables, whose degeneracy is so stubborn and fixed that reclamation is almost impossible, especially when the only process of reclamation must consist in trying to force the pauper, vagrant, and weakling back into that struggle with poverty which is all of the time defeating stronger and better natures than theirs.
Whatever knowledge of the question is manifested herein comes largely from my work in a variety of movements intended either to diminish the number of dependents or to ameliorate the conditions of poverty.
To live miserable we know not why, to have the dread of hunger, to work sore and yet gain nothing—this is the essence of poverty.
Those who are in poverty may be able to get a bare sustenance but they are not able to obtain those necessaries which will permit them to maintain a state of physical efficiency.
The fundamental thing in all this is that every workman who is expected by society to remain independent of public relief and capable of self-support must be guaranteed, in so far as that is possible, an opportunity for obtaining those necessaries essential to physical efficiency. Such a standard is the basis of almost everything; for, unless men can retain their physical efficiency, they must degenerate.
To continue in poverty for any long period means in the end the loss of the power of doing work, and to be unable to work means in the end pauperism.
To be above the poverty line, means no more than to have a sanitary dwelling and sufficient food and clothing to keep the body in working order. It is precisely the same standard that a man would demand for his horses or slaves. Treating man merely as the "repository of a certain sort of labor power," it makes possible the utilization of that power to the fullest extent. No one will fail to realize how low such a standard is. It does not necessarily include any of the intellectual, aesthetic, moral, or social necessities; it is a purely physical standard...
Serfs and slaves were always given at least enough to keep them physically well. But present-day society has ignored the wisdom of this fair provision.
All great men have universally deplored that nation wherein "wealth accumulates and men decay." They are, of course, right; but until society manifests some desire to know the extent of the misery in which men decay—not until then may we hope for anything more than a petty individual dealing with a question mainly social.
During the entire last century many of the best minds were engaged in the study of social and economic questions. At the beginning of this new century we are still asking "riddles about the starving." After many years of most elaborate investigations printed in thousands of volumes issued by federal and state governments we are almost as far from any definite knowledge concerning the extent of poverty as we have ever been.
Charles B. Spahr, Walter A. Wyckoff, Mrs. John Van Vorst and Miss Marie Van Vorst, I. K. Friedman and A. M. Simons have given us some idea of the conditions among the poorest class of laborers in various industrial centers over the country. Jacob A. Riis, Ernest Poole, and Mrs. Lillian Betts have given us most sympathetic descriptions of poverty among the people of the tenements. Flynt and others have given us impressionistic stories of tramps, vagrants, and mendicants. They bring before our very eyes, through books and magazines, stories of needless deaths from insanitary conditions, of long hours of work, of low pay, of overcrowded sweatshops, of child labor, of street waifs, of vile tenements, of the hungry and the wretched. All these books and articles are extremely valuable and useful, but if anything is to be done about the matter, we should begin as soon as possible to know the extent of these conditions and the causes which bring such terribly serious misery and wretchedness into the world.
It was not until Mr. Charles Booth published in 1891 the results of his exhaustive inquiries that the actual conditions of poverty in London became known. ...about 30 per cent of the entire population of London were found to be unable to obtain the necessaries for a sound livelihood. ...About ten years later Mr. B. S. Rountree incited by the work of Mr. Booth undertook a similar inquiry in his native town York. ...His comments are as follows: "...we are faced by the startling probability that from 25 to 30 per cent of the town populations of the United Kingdom are living in poverty."
Fragments of information, indicative of a widespread poverty, fall under the following heads: Pauperism, the general distress, the number of evictions, the pauper burials; the overcrowding and insanitation due to improper housing; the death rate from tuberculosis; the amount of unemployment; and the number of accidents in certain trades. By means of such data as we have concerning these conditions, a partial, but of course a most imperfect, comparison can be made between the poverty of England and that of the United States.
Mr. Jacob A. Riis, a few years ago, used some figures which showed that about one-third of the people of New York City were dependent upon charity at some time during the eight years previous to 1890. The report of the United Hebrew Charities for 1901 shows very similar conditions existing among the Jewish population of New York. But even more astonishing than all other facts we have are those furnished by the State Board of Charities. ..The poverty of New York State is enormous. In actual figures as reduced, the persons in distress in 1897 number... about 19 per cent of the people of New York and in 1899 they number... about 18 per cent. ...If the figures are correct as published the persons in New York State in distress in 1897 and in Boston in 1903 would equal proportionately the number of those in poverty in London.
It would seem fair to estimate that certainly not less than 14 per cent of the people, in prosperous times (1903), and probably not less than 20 per cent in bad times (1897), are in distress. The estimate is a conservative one...
From the facts of distress, as given, and from opinions formed, both as a charity agent and as a Settlement worker, I should not be at all surprised if the number of those in poverty in New York, as well as in other large cities and industrial centers, rarely fell below 25 per cent of all the people.
Mr. Jack London, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, on "The Scab," refers to the United States as a scab nation, and to the working-men of this country as scab workmen, because the workers in this country work more intensely, longer hours, and more cheaply than those of other great industrial nations. In other words, we are underbidding the other nations by a lower standard of work, and underselling them as a result, not of fair, but of scab methods.
Without question, the causes, which produce on the one hand long hours and overemployment, result on the other hand in short periods of work, underemployment, or unemployment.
Already in this country, as a result of the recent controversy, it is written in the constitution of the socialist party that "any member of the party who opposes political action or advocates crime, sabotage, or other methods of violence as a weapon of the working class to aid in its emancipation shall be expelled from membership in the party." Adopted by the national convention of the party in 1911, this clause was ratified at a general referendum of all the membership of the party. It is clear, therefore, that the immense majority of socialists are determined to employ peaceable and legal methods of action.
No one sees more clearly than the socialist that nothing could prove more disastrous to the democratic cause than to have the present class conflict break into a civil war. If such a war becomes necessary, it will be in spite of the organized socialists, who, in every country of the world, not only seek to avoid, but actually condemn, riotous, tempestuous, and violent measures. Such measures do not fit into their philosophy, which sees, as the cause of our present intolerable social wrongs, not the malevolence of individuals or of classes, but the workings of certain economic laws. One can cut off the head of an individual, but it is not possible to cut off the head of an economic law. From the beginning of the modern socialist movement, this has been perfectly clear to the socialist, whose philosophy has taught him that appeals to violence tend, as Engels has pointed out, to obscure the understanding of the real development of things.
The dissensions over the use of force, that have been so continuous and passionate in the labor movement, arise from two diametrically opposed points of view. One is at bottom anarchistic, and looks upon all social evils as the result of individual wrong-doing. The other is at bottom socialistic, and looks upon all social evils as in the main the result of economic and social law.
To those... who see in certain underlying economic forces, the source of nearly all of our distressing social evils, individual hatred and malice can make in reality no appeal.
If one's point of view is that of the anarchist, he is led inevitably to make his war upon individuals. The more sensitive and sincere he is, the more bitter and implacable becomes that war. If one's point of view is based on what is now called the economic interpretation of history, one is emancipated, in so far as that is possible for emotional beings, from all hatred of individuals, and one sees before him only the necessity of readjusting the economic basis of our common life in order to achieve a more nearly perfect social order.
In contrasting the temperaments, the points of view, the philosophy, and the methods of these two antagonistic minds, I have been forced to take two extremes, the Bakouninist anarchist and the Marxian socialist. In the case of the former, it has been necessary to present the views of a particular school of anarchism, more or less regardless of certain other schools. Proudhon, Stirner, Warren, and Tucker do not advocate violent measures, and Tolstoi, Ibsen, Spencer, Thoreau, and Emerson—although having the anarchist point of view—can hardly be conceived of as advocating violent measures. ...I have not dealt with the philosophical anarchism, or whatever one may call it, of these last.
The world cannot utterly ignore men who lay down their lives for any cause. Men may write and agitate, they may scream never so shrilly about the wrongs of the world, but when they go forth to fight single-handed and to die for what they preach, they have at least earned the right to demand of society an inquiry.
If it be true that doctrines have naught to do with the spread of terrorism, why is it that among many million socialists there are almost no terrorists, while among a few thousand anarchists there are many terrorists?
Throughout Bakounin's writings there appears again and again the plea for "terrible, total, inexorable, and universal destruction.
Both socialists and anarchists preach their gospel to the weary and heavy-laden, to the despondent and the outraged, who may readily be led to commit acts of despair. They have, after all, little to lose, and their life, at present unbearable, can be made little worse by punishment. Yet millions of the miserable have come into the socialist movement to hear the fiercest of indictments against capitalism, and it is but rare that one becomes a terrorist. What else than the teachings of anarchism and of socialism can explain this difference?
Unquestionably socialism and anarchism attract distinctly different types, who are in many ways alien to each other. Their mental processes differ.
About the kindest criticism that the socialist makes of the anarchist is that he is a child, while the anarchist is convinced that the socialist is a Philistine and an inbred conservative who, should he ever get power, would immediately hang the anarchists. They are traditional enemies, who seem utterly incapable of understanding each other. Intellectually, they fail to grasp the meaning of each other's philosophy. It is but rare that a socialist, no matter how conscientious a student, will confess he fully understands anarchism. On the other hand, no one understands the doctrines of socialism so little as the anarchist.
Shall we admit that there is a duel between society and these souls deranged by the wrongs of society?
We seek to terrorize them, as they seek to terrorize us. As the anarchist believes that oppression may be ended by the murder of the oppressor, so society cherishes the thought that anarchism may be ended by the murder of the anarchist. Are not our methods in truth the same, and can any man doubt that both are equally futile and senseless? Both the anarchy of the powerful and the anarchy of the weak are stupid and abortive, in that they lead to results diametrically opposed to the ends sought.
One of the signs that enable us to recognize the few great men who have lived in the world is this: they are nearly always able to state in clear, simple and concise language what they want to convey to the world.
As we look into a clear pool and discern every detail of its sandy bottom, so may we often look into the minds of really great men.
No one who reads the gospels thoughtfully and sympathetically will maintain that Jesus—whether God or man—was incapable of making himself completely understood. We must therefore seek for a better explanation of the confusion that exists among the avowed believers in the divinity of Christ, as well as among those who deny the divinity of Christ.
Whatever in the gospel will not interfere with what we like to do, or feel we must do, we gladly believe; and to the rest we close our eyes. Most of us do this half-unconsciously, perhaps, but in our innermost selves we can hardly help knowing that we are not Christians, and that there is in the gospel something fundamental—a vital message, an essence—which we do not wish to understand.
While seeking his true relation to the infinite, Tolstoy was also seeking his true relation to mankind.
It is especially easy in our time to forget others, largely because of the conditions in modern society.
In seeking what to do, Tolstoy was materially helped by a remarkable workingman, Basil Soutaieff, who was actually following as perfectly as he knew how, the example of Jesus. ...When asked, "What is truth?" he answered with conviction, "Truth is love in a common life." When his devotion to the unfortunate, the hungry, and the needy became known to Tolstoy, it had a profound influence upon his thought and eventually worked an entire transformation in his manner of living.
Another workingman named Bóndaref, was also of immense practical help to Tolstoy, chiefly through his remarkable book "Industry and Idleness." ..Bóndaref insists that the "chief, primary, and most immutable" law for humanity is that every man must earn his own bread with his own hands. "Bread labor," as thus understood, includes all heavy rough work necessary to save man from death by hunger and cold and this bread includes, of course, food, drink, clothes, shelter, and fuel. ...As the world has rarely heard such teachings since the days of the Apostles and the early Christian Fathers, Tolstoy seemed to consider Bóndaref as the discoverer of a new truth which he eagerly accepted as fundamental to a just life. ...he emphasized the point that children must he taught above all things to do hard productive labor. They must be taught to be ashamed from the very beginning to use, and profit by, the labor of others.
Contrary to every tendency which, in modern society, leads to the separation of men and classes, Tolstoy beseeches us to go to those in hunger and distress, to share their manual labor and even the greatest extreme of their poverty.
In recent centuries the only near spiritual relative of Tolstoy is the English poet, who in the fourteenth century, in the form of Piers Plowman, preached religious ideas so strikingly like those of Tolstoy. They are both individualists and they seek individual, not social, regeneration. ...Both point to the simple toiling God-fearing peasant as one expressing the ideal of the Christian life and service.
Tolstoy was occupied by a continuous pilgrimage to all fountains of knowledge, to all systems of religions, and to all manner of men in pursuit of Truth. He could not find it in the Church, nor in Science, nor in Art, nor among the rich, nor among the learned. But he did find it in the lives of the lowly and the suffering—in the Doukhobors, in Soutaieff, in Bóndaref, and in Jesus the carpenter.
Hard manual labor revealed many things to Tolstoy. As soon as he began to do regular physical work the greater part of his luxurious habits and wants, which were so numerous when he had been physically idle, disappeared.
St. Paul earned his living most of the time by hard labor and constantly reminded his converts that they must not defraud each other, but love one another and work with their own hands. The same rule of life is applied by the laws governing the early monastic orders.
He [Tolstoy] tried to persuade his wife to permit him to give away every penny of his possessions, to leave their large house, and to live in a peasant's cottage, where together they could share the manual labor of a small farm. The Countess was a most devoted wife but in this she could not follow her husband. ...The Countess had to suffer all the trials which it is said the wife of every artist and genius must suffer and, in addition, some of those that must come to the wife of any man who tries to follow literally in modern society the teachings of Jesus. ...He felt so keenly the opposition of his wife and children that he was led to believe what he said repeatedly—that the institution of the family was one of the greatest obstacles to a truly Christian life.
In many of his biographical writings Tolstoy makes clear that, in pursuit of a virtuous life, he had to struggle hard with his own nature, habits, and animal passions, and had to overcome early training and education; but in this drama he shows that, in attempting to be a Christian, he had to battle constantly, often bitterly, with his own family, with the Church, and with all the social, economic, and political conditions and institutions that surrounded him.
Curiously enough, and this is what his family could not understand, the more religious he became the less he could tolerate the churches.
Description of Nicholas in Tolstoy's "The Light Shines in Darkness."
There is a world of difference between the one who would imitate the conduct of the successful merchant, who sits in the front pew of his church, and him who would follow literally the teachings of Jesus Christ. To attain perfectly the one ideal—if it be an ideal—is a comparatively simple task. To attain the other, is perhaps an impossibility.
Tolstoy set for himself the highest ideal that has ever been given to the world, and Tolstoy failed. He has had pointed at him fingers of scorn, and very unworthy fingers they were, but who has the right to judge Tolstoy for failure to live perfectly a life that has for two thousand years been an unattainable ideal to millions of earnest souls?
The greatest obstacle that confronted Tolstoy lies rooted deep in the soul of man. It is the fear of poverty and the dread of want which ages of struggle with man and beast and with all the adverse elements of nature has bred in us. Surely history teaches us too well the nature and character of man for us to believe readily that there are many fathers and mothers who would ever consent to become Christians on the conditions set forth by Tolstoy. ...who to day would fail to condemn unreservedly any father who would take his babies from a comfortable home to live hungry and shelterless in the forests and fields. From the dawn of the world the chief duty of a parent has been to keep his family secure from want.
Thrift and foresight are among the chief teachings of all missionaries to the poor and the present day world has little sympathy for any parent—whether a Harold Skimpole, a Mrs. Jellyby, a Jean Jacques Rousseau, or a Leo Tolstoy—who for any cause whatsoever feels that he should give no thought for the morrow and that his children may live like the fowls of the air.
If it is impossible to induce fathers to abandon their families, how much more impossible would it be to induce mothers? When Tolstoy sought to live the truly Christian life, the immediate obstacle he found in his path was his own wife. ...The next world had to take care of itself. She was burdened with dependents in this world, and like nearly every other mother-animal in creation, she insisted, in so far as she was able, upon feeding and protecting her young. She was as impervious as a tigress, concealing the lair of her young, to the teaching that a Christian must be willing to sacrifice everything and everybody in pursuit of truth.
Few fathers or mothers could be induced even to listen to Tolstoy without irritation, and therefore most of his admirers, followers, and hero worshipers were young men and women, some of whom were of a type that must have been a disappointment to him.
Both inside and outside their colonies, the Tolstoyans proved rather a source of amusement to others than an inspiration and a light, and those who scoffed at Tolstoy's followers greatly enjoyed relating stories of their inconsistencies. ..."I remember," writes Maude, "how much amusement was caused by the conduct of one of his closest followers... who ceased to use money, but allowed his wife to sign his cheques and his secretary to accompany him to the station to buy him railway tickets."
When principles will not work out in practice and the obstructions confronting men are too great, even the most faithful give way. And this, so far as we know, is what happened to every Tolstoyan.
Although Tolstoy in his protest recognized the fact that he was bound up with all others, neither this nor the knowledge of his individual helplessness induced him to work with others in order to change any part of the infamous governmental system of Russia.
His [Tolstoy's] interpretation of the Christian teaching is very similar to that which prevailed in nearly every peasant community in western Europe in the Middle Ages. Like doctrines gave rise to a peasant movement in Armenia in the ninth century, and in the fourteenth; a revolt of the peasants in England resulted from the teaching of the Lollards. The Anabaptists, the Hussites, and many other sects of Christian communists arose in the following centuries. There is a peculiar soil in which these doctrines take root. Wherever the chief economic problem is the unjust distribution of land, Christian communism seems to appeal to the masses.
In the time of Jesus almost everybody worked in small shops or on the land and then sold or bartered their own products in the towns. There were no vast industrial centers, no great factories, no steam power or electricity. Everyone knew his neighbor by name. There was no highly developed division of labor, nor were there great extremes of wealth and poverty. Such economic conditions are ideal—or at least as nearly ideal as they can ever be—for the spread of Christian communism. And so they are still in many parts of Russia.
Russia has always been several centuries behind western civilization. The Church, intrusted with secular power, is joined with the State. It prohibits any change of faith and even possesses the power to deprive a heretic of his property. Moreover, anyone proved to be a heretic or a nonconformist may be sent to a penal colony.
The peasants [of Russia], only a short time free from serfdom, are wretchedly poor. ...The people in that country are about three-fourths illiterate, and the vast majority of the laboring people are peasants. Floggings are of daily occurrence, and the fatalism common to all backward peoples is widespread in Russia.
Among them exists an immense opportunity for the spread of views such as Tolstoy held, but instead of espousing their cause or seeking in any manner to organize the peasants for cooperative action, he [Tolstoy] invariably taught them submission, nonresistance to evil, loyalty to their masters, and the most extreme form of Christian humility and service.
The poor did not hear such doctrines gladly and they were not at all disposed to follow the teaching of Tolstoy. ...such teaching was no more acceptable to the peasants than some of Tolstoy's other views were to his wife and to the Government. ...The more enlightened of their leaders looked upon him as a reactionary, standing in the way of the people's progress.
He [Tolstoy] saw and deplored the beginning of a class struggle which has ended as we now know in Bolshevism. Class hatred and strife appeared to Tolstoy as frightfully immoral and unchristian and he pled fervently with the rich to change their manner of living.
Tolstoy, while sympathizing with the industrial workers, believed that they ought not to organize in trade unions and he opposed strenuously nearly every form of action advocated by working-class organizations.
He [Tolstoy] did not believe in the political action advocated by the socialist party. He thought it futile to change the personnel of the Government, and it appeared to him that the making of new laws is an absurdity which could effect no change in conditions.
There was one form of concerted action that Tolstoy believed advisable and he asked the workers to refrain religiously, firstly, from working for capitalists, if they could possibly get on without it; secondly, from offering their work at a lower rate than that current; thirdly, from improving their position by passing over to the side of the capitalists and serving their interests; and fourthly and chiefly, from participating in governmental coercion, be it police, customhouse, or military service. Only by such "a religious attitude toward the form of their activity" can the workmen liberate themselves from oppression. ...a bloodless revolution that would be carried into effect through passive resistance. The workers are simply to refrain from doing anything that will add to the wealth or power of those who now dominate their lives. ...All the people cannot be shot down or imprisoned and if all the people were willing to do as Thoreau did—go to jail rather than pay taxes, government itself would disappear.
Tolstoy's suggestions created no enthusiasm among the people. All.. seemed to be more than eager for Russia to hasten along the path already traversed by western civilization
He [Tolstoy] seems to have felt somehow that social evolution was standing in his way. He did not like the division of labor. He hated all forms of commerce and trade. The State was an abomination in his eyes. He wanted it abolished and with it, indeed, all of modern society based upon machine industry. With Rousseau, he would go back to the primitive state.
Associated production would be rendered impossible. Profit, rent, and interest would be no more. There would be no diversified division of labor. Cities and industrial communities would dwindle and disappear. Society as a whole would return... to the actual poverty of an agricultural and handicraft age. A community of Indians in America before the invasion of the whites had as much social organization as Tolstoy seems to have felt necessary for mankind. "The Anarchists are right in everything..." he writes, except "only in thinking that Anarchy can be instituted by a revolution." The entire world would be broken into atoms—each an individualist standing alone.
Tolstoy, after all his search for truth, came to the conclusion that individual perfection is the thing to strive for. One must save one's own soul. Struggling apparently to annihilate self, Tolstoy pursued the circle of his philosophy until he came back to the point of deifying Self. In placing such emphasis upon individual regeneration, Tolstoy departed from the teaching of the gospels.
Individualism is certainly not a dominant note in the teachings of Jesus. ...He was seeking the kingdom of God on earth, not merely the salvation of isolated souls each struggling alone for individual perfection.
Other causes contributed to Tolstoy's failure, but the most important of all the causes was this unmitigated individualism, which not only rendered impossible cooperation with other men, but even made the evolution of human society an obstacle which had to be overcome. ...western progress is in nearly every manner socializing life; and in general the social and economic tendencies in the West seemed to Tolstoy to be fighting against his most cherished ideals. ...He was living in a transitional age and watching Russia change from a peasant and handicraft society into an industrial regime based upon steam power and electricity About him multitudes of peasants were leaving the land to crowd into the factories.
He [Tolstoy] denounced science and all the products of the mechanical era, including "steam-engines, and telegraphs, photographs, telephones, sewing-machines, phonographs, electricity, telescopes, spectroscopes, microscopes, chloroform, Lister bandages, carbolic acid... All this progress is very striking indeed;" he writes, "but owing to some unlucky chance... this progress has not as yet ameliorated, but it has rather deteriorated the condition of the working man... [It is] these very... machines which have deprived him of his wages, and brought him to a state of entire slavery to the manufacturer." He denounced the motives of those who engineer this progress.
In science he could see nothing useful to mankind. ...He advised the scientist the surgeon the teacher and the artist to go and live as the poor live and try to minister to their actual wants instead of counting up insects chemically analyzing the contents of the Milky Way painting water nymphs and historical pictures writing novels and composing symphonies.
He [Tolstoy] could see little good in the clergy, while he utterly condemned the military, the rulers of the earth, the judges, the capitalists, the landlords, the merchants, the jailers, the functionaries. He assailed modern art and classed artists with scientists and ministers as the lackeys of a degenerate and parasitic class of wealthy men. Political economists he considered as retainers of the same class and their product as the throwing of dust in the eyes of those who seek for a way out of our unhappy social conditions.
He [Tolstoy] turned upon those who are produced by its [the modern world's] wrongs and condemned socialists, revolutionists, trade unionists, feminists, coöperators, and all reformers and menders of the present order, including charity organizationists and almoners. The most hopeless one of all in the present day world is "the good man," who lives in comfort, helps the needy, attends service, and is utterly impervious to any real religion.
Tolstoy deplored all the modern tendencies toward immense congregations of people in limited areas, on the ground that they were making more and more impossible the truly Christian life. In cities the rich find little restraint to their lusts, while the lusts of the poor are greater there than in the country, and they satisfy them up to the limit of their means. In the country, Tolstoy could still see the possibility of men living a Christian life; in the cities he saw no such possibility. Cities had therefore to be uprooted and destroyed. The people had to get back to the soil.
Even as late as the time of Carlyle, Ruskin, and Morris, lamentations arose over the injurious development which had changed the world from a wholesome rural and village life to a spotted fever of great cities and industrial hells.
All mankind—rich and poor, men, women, and children, stood like a rock against any spread of Tolstoy's theories. He was really alone, and although he seemed universally admired and much that he said wielded great influence, his practical program for the spread of Christianity was, curiously enough, inacceptable to every class and condition of society, not only in Russia, but everywhere.
Can no way be found by which every man may be assured of what, let us remember, Tolstoy always had, a wife and children, a good bed, a safe and warm sheltering roof, proper clothes, some leisure and peace for the improvement of the mind, a few books and pictures, a little music, and best of all, no fear for his old age and no dread of want for himself or his loved ones? ...Such a way was found in the communism of the early Christians.
Isaiah prophesied the coming of a revolution which would make men more precious than gold, and that a new nation would arise, wherein everyone should help his neighbor.
One would have to look long and without success, I think, to find in the writings of Tolstoy, or even in the literature of modern socialism, anything approaching in passionate bitterness the words used by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah to condemn the oppressors of the poor...
There existed democratic aspirations, if not indeed a strong under-current of revolt, among the Jewish masses; and when it was said that the poor heard Jesus gladly, it was no doubt partly because he shared the views of these Old Testament prophets upon the iniquity of riches.
It was this spirit of the masses and the revolt of the poor which so often found voice in the words of Jesus. But these condemnations are not solely expressive of the intense heat that so often burns in the heart of great agitators and reformers, they are also expressions of the conviction of Jesus that material possessions corrupt and destroy the souls of men. ...censure for the rich and love for the poor both in spirit and in worldly goods helped him to drive home a great truth that you cannot love God and mammon.
The Pharisees were orthodox Jews, deeply concerned with the affairs of the Church and conscientious observers of all its ceremonies. They held its chief offices, occupied the chief places at the feasts, and sat in the chief seats in the synagogues. ...Who then could have been more astonished than they when, like a thunderbolt from the sky, came the simplest, clearest, most concise and yet complete statement of fundamental religious truth that has ever been uttered? In twenty-eight words Jesus stated for all time and in a manner that may be understood by everybody, the fundamental basis of Christianity—"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all mind... And Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
Simple, direct, and clear as they [these words] are, Jesus later in the day undertook to make them more vivid. ...that no one should doubt them or lack in fully understanding them, Jesus, after leaving the Temple, went to the Mount of Olives, and there explained the meaning of his words by a picture of the Day of Judgment. ...He says that when the Son of Man shall come in his glory to the judgment seat, all the nations shall be gathered before him, "and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me." …And Jesus answers them "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" …Surely it is worthy of note that Jesus does not indicate that the sheep will be questioned as to their sect or creed. ...Moreover, the sheep are not even spoken of as the faithful or as the believers; they are simply those who love their fellow-men and therefore they are unconsciously righteous. Turning to the goats, he does not ask them either as to their faith, but as they had not fed the hungry, nor given drink to the thirsty, nor taken any stranger in, they are condemned to "everlasting fire."