Accordingly nothing is so lightly and even apologetically treated by liberal Christian critics and teachers as this primitive and always, at least, professed Christian belief. Yet it is no accident, no bit of Oriental coloring, however much of this there may be in filling out the details of the final scene, but the climax and consummation of the Christian view of the world, — an answer to that deep question of man's heart, which is not merely what are the just and the good, but how are they to be accomplished ; how is an actual end to be made of injustice and wrong. Religion will dawn anew on the world when the old problem again mightily engages us, and another and equally wide-reaching answer is won. The problem is justice, — the bringing to every one the means and opportunity for the highest and best things. To every one, — this is the very meaning of justice. The highest and best things are not for you or for me, or for any sort or class of men, but for all: they are the end, the right, the ideal destiny of every human being. But if this is the problem, Jesus' method of solving it is no longer capable of belief. In simple honesty, it must be said to belong to the category of humanity's blighted hopes. The " Son of Man," who was to come so soon, has not come in all these centuries to bring the promised redemption : the very idea of his coming belongs to a way of thinking now outgrown.
Since Jesus believed in the impossible, he outlined for us no really practicable way of reaching the desired end. He was not concerned with the State, indicating neither ideal nor practical course for it to follow. A similar indifference to and unbelief in what is to us practicable is shown in the writings of the Christian Fathers. Tertullian, early in the third century, says that " nothing is more remote from his interests than public affairs."1 Lecky remarks of Saint Cyprian (who belongs a little later in the same century) that "the conception of a converted empire never appears to have flashed across the mind of the saint: the only triumph he predicted for the Church was that of another world." 1 Saint Augustine, a century later, pathetically asks, " What difference can it make to a man who is about to die whose government he lives under, if only there is no compulsion to impiety and injustice ? " 2 His great work, from which this quotation is made, was intended to show, according to Lecky,3 that the "city of God" was not to be on earth, and that the downfall of the empire, under barbarian invasions, need not trouble his fellow Christians. If we wish a worthy conception of the mission of the State, we shall find it in the old heathen philosophers and emperors and lawyers rather than in Jesus or his followers. Marcus Aurelius, says Lecky, "made it his aim to realize the conception of a free State in which all citizens are equal, and of a royalty which makes it its first duty to respect the liberty of the citizens."4 "Slavery," says the Roman lawyer Florentinus, is " a custom of the law of nations, by which one man, contrary to the law of Nature, is subjected to the dominion of another." " As far as natural law is concerned," said another (Ulpian), " all men are equal." "By natural law," again, "all men are born free".
1 Nec ulla res aliena magis quam publica. — Apology, chap, xxxviii.
1 History of Morals, i. 485.
2 De Civitate Dei, v. 17, — "Quid interest sub cujus imperio vivat homo moriturus, si illi qui imperant, ad impia et iniquia non cogent".
3 Morals, i. 435.
4 Morals, i. 264. Cf. M. Aurelius's Meditations, i. 14.
These conceptions, with all that they imply, were never taken up by the Church ; and the work of giving them effect through the State is a far more difficult one than that of trusting and praying for the " kingdom of God," as the Church has done. We are now coining to feel that if justice is to be done in this world (and perhaps equally in any other), it is we (that is, rational beings) who must do it, that praying for its accomplishment is but wasted energy; that its very sacredness commands that we cease all such trifling with it as prayer has now come to be, and give it a seat in our own hearts and an execution in our laws and institutions. Man is to inherit the sanctity and the glory that were to invest the " Son of Man," sitting on his judgment-seat. For, I take it, the doing of justice is a sacred thing. There is a divinity hedging about every king or judge or magistrate or private citizen who takes this task into his hands. For though justice as a reality in human conduct and government is a poor shifting thing, the demand for it is eternal, and issues not from man, nor from the earth, nor from the stars, but from somewhat older than they ; and he who executes it acts in that moment as the delegate of God.
A new reverence for the State we want, then, — not the blind submission, not the passive obedience which has so often been the attitude enjoined upon Christians, but a reverence for the mission of the State, for its idea; a reverence which shall recognize the dignity of the servants of the State, which shall demand that all legislation and administration shall in increasing measure fulfil the demands of the idea; a reverence which shall thus be the source of progress, and not the support of unreasoning conservatism. A new patriotism we want, not as an appendage, but as a part of ethics and religion. Here is not merely where we eat and sleep and work and travel, but this land is a field of duty; here we are stationed, here we have a task. We are linked to a larger whole than our family or the circle of our business interests. For public ends we are to live. The public service must come to have a dignity and honor in our eyes such as no work on private account can have; and we shall enter it, if to this we are called, as priests might enter a temple, and with thoughts as religious as theirs. The more do we need a new patriotism, since as men are now so largely studying the past, considering what has been rather than what may and ought to be, and learning that free institutions have so often failed, a kind of scholarly scepticism is arising as to the future of this land, if not, indeed, a distrust of our fundamental doctrine of the rights of man. It is a great experiment, viewed from the standpoint of history,— this giving of the sovereign power equally into the hands of all citizens; and those who will have certain proof of success before they act must halt and tremble, if not sigh for other times. But those who have it in their blood to believe in the experiment will, by their very belief, help to carry it on to triumph. American patriotism is more than attachment to this land of ours: it is attachment to an idea, it is belief in a cause, — the cause of liberty and human rights; and for the issue every one of us has a measure of responsibility.