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Charles M. Sheldon
months had gone by since the Sunday morning when Dr. Bruce
came into his pulpit with the message of the new discipleship.
They were three months of great excitement in Nazareth Avenue
Church. Never before had Rev. Calvin Bruce realized how
deep the feeling of his members flowed. He humbly confessed
that the appeal he had made met with an unexpected response
from men and women who, like Felicia, were hungry for something
in their lives that the conventional type of church membership
and fellowship had failed to give them.
But Dr. Bruce was not yet satisfied for himself. He cannot
tell what his feeling was or what led to the movement he
finally made, to the great astonishment of all who knew
him, better than by relating a conversation between him
and the Bishop at this time in the history of the pledge
in Nazareth Avenue Church. The two friends were as before
in Dr. Bruce's house, seated in his study.
know what I have come in this evening for?" the Bishop was
saying after the friends had been talking some time about
the results of the pledge with the Nazareth Avenue people.
Dr. Bruce looked over at the Bishop and shook his head.
have come to confess that I have not yet kept my promise
to walk in His steps in the way that I believe I shall be
obliged to if I satisfy my thought of what it means to walk
in His steps."
Dr. Bruce had risen and was pacing his study. The Bishop
remained in the deep easy chair with his hands clasped,
but his eye burned with the blow that belonged to him before
he made some great resolve.
Dr. Bruce spoke abruptly, "I have not yet been able to satisfy
myself, either, in obeying my promise. But I have at last
decided on my course. In order to follow it I shall be obliged
to resign from Nazareth Avenue Church."
knew you would," replied the Bishop quietly. "And I came
in this evening to say that I shall be obliged to do the
same thing with my charge."
Dr. Bruce turned and walked up to his friend. They were
both laboring under a repressed excitement.
it necessary in your case?" asked Bruce.
Let me state my reasons. Probably they are the same as yours.
In fact, I am sure they are." The Bishop paused a moment,
then went on with increasing feeling:
you know how many years I have been doing the work of my
position, and you know something of the responsibility and
care of it. I do not mean to say that my life has been free
from burden-bearing or sorrow. But I have certainly led
what the poor and desperate of this sinful city would call
a very comfortable, yes, a very luxurious life. I have had
a beautiful house to live in, the most expensive food, clothing
and physical pleasures. I have been able to go abroad at
least a dozen times, and have enjoyed for years the beautiful
companionship of art and letters and music and all the rest,
of the very best. I have never known what it meant to be
without money or its equivalent. And I have been unable
to silence the question of late: 'What have I suffered for
the sake of Christ?' Paul was told what great things he
must suffer for the sake of his Lord. Maxwell's position
at Raymond is well taken when he insists that to walk in
the steps of Christ means to suffer. Where has my suffering
come in? The petty trials and annoyances of my clerical
life are not worth mentioning as sorrows or sufferings.
Compared with Paul or any of the Christian martyrs or early
disciples I have lived a luxurious, sinful life, full of
ease and pleasure. I cannot endure this any longer. I have
that within me which of late rises in overwhelming condemnation
of such a following of Jesus. I have not been walking in
His steps. Under the present system of church and social
life I see no escape from this condemnation except to give
the most of my life personally to the actual physical and
soul needs of the wretched people in the worst part of this
The Bishop had risen now and walked over to the window.
The street in front of the house was as light as day, and
he looked out at the crowds passing, then turned and with
a passionate utterance that showed how deep the volcanic
fire in him burned, he exclaimed:
this is a terrible city in which we live! Its misery, its
sin, its selfishness, appall my heart. And I have struggled
for years with the sickening dread of the time when I should
be forced to leave the pleasant luxury of my official position
to put my life into contact with the modern paganism of
this century. The awful condition of the girls in some great
business places, the brutal selfishness of the insolent
society fashion and wealth that ignores all the sorrow of
the city, the fearful curse of the drink and gambling hell,
the wail of the unemployed, the hatred of the church by
countless men who see in it only great piles of costly stone
and upholstered furniture and the minister as a luxurious
idler, all the vast tumult of this vast torrent of humanity
with its false and its true ideas, its exaggeration of evils
in the church and its bitterness and shame that are the
result of many complex causes, all this as a total fact
in its contrast with the easy, comfortable life I have lived,
fills me more and more with a sense of mingled terror and
self accusation. I have heard the words of Jesus many times
lately: 'Inasmuch as ye did it not unto one of these least
My brethren, ye did it not unto Me.' And when have I personally
visited the prisoner or the desperate or the sinful in any
way that has actually caused me suffering? Rather, I have
followed the conventional soft habits of my position and
have lived in the society of the rich, refined, aristocratic
members of my congregations. Where has the suffering come
in? What have I suffered for Jesus' sake? Do you know, Calvin,"
he turned abruptly toward his friend, "I have been tempted
of late to lash myself with a scourge. If I had lived in
Martin Luther's time I should have bared my back to a self-inflicted
Dr. Bruce was very pale. Never had he seen the Bishop or
heard him when under the influence of such a passion. There
was a sudden silence in the room. The Bishop sat down again
and bowed his head.
Dr. Bruce spoke at last: "Edward, I do not need to say that
you have expressed my feelings also. I have been in a similar
position for years. My life has been one of comparative
luxury. I do not, of course, mean to say that I have not
had trials and discouragements and burdens in my church
ministry. But I cannot say that I have suffered any for
Jesus. That verse in Peter constantly haunts me: 'Christ
also suffered for you, leaving you an example that ye should
follow His steps.' I have lived in luxury. I do not know
what it means to want. I also have had my leisure for travel
and beautiful companionship. I have been surrounded by the
soft, easy comforts of civilization. The sin and misery
of this great city have beaten like waves against the stone
walls of my church and of this house in which I live, and
I have hardly heeded them, the walls have been so thick.
I have reached a point where I cannot endure this any longer.
I am not condemning the Church. I love her. I am not forsaking
the Church. I believe in her mission and have no desire
to destroy. Least of all, in the step I am about to take
do I desire to be charged with abandoning the Christian
fellowship. But I feel that I must resign my place as pastor
of Nazareth Church in order to satisfy myself that I am
walking as I ought to walk in His steps. In this action
I judge no other minister and pass no criticism on others'
discipleship. But I feel as you do. Into a close contact
with the sin and shame and degradation of this great city
I must come personally. And I know that to do that I must
sever my immediate connection with Nazareth Avenue Church.
I do not see any other way for myself to suffer for His
sake as I feel that I ought to suffer."
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.
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.
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."
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
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
So they reasoned for themselves, not judging others. They
were simply keeping their own pledge to do as Jesus would
do, as they honestly judged He would do. That was what they
had promised. How could they quarrel with the result if
they were irresistibly compelled to do what they were planning
The Bishop had money of his own. Every one in Chicago knew
that he had a handsome fortune. Dr. Bruce had acquired and
saved by literary work carried on in connection with his
parish duties more than a comfortable competence. This money,
a large part of it, the two friends agreed to put at once
into the work, most of it into the furnishing of the Settlement