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An Appeal to the Outsider; Or, The Claims of Christianity

By Henry Drummond


      I am asked to talk specially to what we call in Scotland "the outsider" --the man who has not seen his way to throw in his lot with Christian men. We have made a specialty of the outsider in our university work in the old country. We have laid all our plans to interest him. He is generally the best man in the university; and for some years we have arranged all our Christian work and worship with a view to that type of man. We have laid down one or two principles. The first one is that none of us in any shape or form shall encourage cant. By that I mean sanctimoniousness, anything that is falsetto, any unreal expression of emotion or exaggeration of feeling. A second principle we have had to lay down is that no religious man shall interfere in any shape or form with the university amusements. Time after time I have seen at our religious meetings twelve out of the fifteen university football team; and we have always had amongst our foremost men the best athletes in the university. We have also laid it down as a principle that we shall not interfere with any university work. We have tried to get hold of the busiest men and interest them in whatever is going on, believing that a man may do his university work thoroughly and yet do something in the way of helping on the Christian life of his fellow students. In the Medical Faculty, where we have from 1,800 to 2,000 students, and which is our largest faculty in Edinburgh University, at the end of the four years' course we have the "Blue Ribbon Medical Course" scholarship. It is given to the man who has stood first all along the line for four years. Now the man who for the last four years has taken this scholarship has been not only one of the most active workers in the Christian community, but actually the secretary of the movement. I do not mean that one man has done that for four years; but the last four men have been not only the leading men in the scientific and professional studies, but the leading men in the Christian life of the place. With such a record as that you can understand that Christianity is, at all events, respected.

      We never have any religious meetings on week days. We do not want the professors to say we are taking up the time the men ought to give other things. We believe a man's business at a college, and his religion, too, is to do his work. The meetings we have had, therefore, were on Sundays.

      Another rule that we have had to make is never to interfere with a man's views. We want a man's life. We do not want his opinion. We do not start a man with a creed. We believe that the man arrives at a creed; and we take into our ranks any man who has any desire to seek the Kingdom of God. That, of course, had widened the door to a very large number of men who would have kept out, if we had been exclusive. But while we do not underrate a creed, while we believe that theological doctrines are just as scientific doctrines; yet religion is an art, and we can get men to practice the art who will arrive, we hope, in their future life, at something of the scientific principles which underlie it; but we make it a barrier to no man at the start that he knows little. In fact, a man enters the school of Christ as he enters a university. That is to say, he enters, not as a professor, but as a student. He comes to learn; and we believe the best way to learn is to let the man matriculate and begin.

      If you ask me what obstacles we find specially in the way, I think the chief obstacle we meet is the revolt in thinking men's minds against popular and spurious and weak forms of Christianity. Men come to the institution who have been very strictly brought up, and they are not able, after a few months' college discipline, to believe the things they used to believe. A gentleman in Boston said to me a few days ago that he had a son at Harvard and that the young man had the audacity to come to him not long ago and tell him that he didn't believe so and so. I said to him: "Sir, what a splendid fellow your son must be." He preferred truth to comfort. A man is to be encouraged to think about religious matters. If Christianity cannot bear thinking about, it is not worth going in for.

      One other thing that one finds is the idea many men have that it is a dull thing to go in for Christianity. Now, of course, that is simply not true. It is not true in fact, and it is not true in theory. It has, doubtless, more concern for a man's temperament and body than his creed; but if there is anything that can put sunniness or brightness into a man's life, it is Christianity. Christianity professes to cure dullness. Some of the greatest words in the Bible are "joy," " rest," " comfort." Christianity cures depression and gloom by removing the causes of it. What makes men depressed? Self-concentration, as a rule. When a man is wrapped up in himself, seeking only his own, he finds he is seeking a very shallow object, and very soon gets to the end of it; hence all the springs of life have nothing to act upon, and depression follows. Now, Christianity cures that by trying to take a man out of himself, and by showing him that his true life is in living out of himself.

      Another source of dullness is the thwarting of the ambitions that we have. We get down in spirits because we do not get the recognition we think we deserve, because we are snubbed and slighted, because we are not at the top. Christianity cures that by a single sentence. It says: "The meek shall inherit the earth." There is no connection between Christianity and a dull life. It is the want of Christianity that makes any life dull. Christianity offers a young man, or an old man, or any man, a more abundant life than the life he is living--more life as life goes, more happiness in life, more intensity in life, more worthiness in life.

      That, however, is perhaps not so great an obstacle, comparatively a trifling one, as the thought many men have that it is an unscientific thing in these days to endorse Christianity. Now it may be unscientific to endorse some forms in which Christianity is presented, but Christianity itself is a thoroughly scientific thing. There is nothing the least narrow about anything that Christ ever said. On the contrary, Christ said the broadest things that have ever been said; and he never rebuked breadth, but constantly rebuked narrowness. In His day there were three great philosophical, theological schools. There were the Pharisees, who were so narrow that they could not see spirit for form. There were the Sadducees, who were so narrow that they could not see spirit for matter. And there were the Essenes, who could not see matter for spirit. Christ was always rebuking these sects simply on account of their narrowness. His own view of life was as broad as the heavens. He took in every man and every part of every man. His religion was not kept back by any geographical or ethnographical limits. It was the religion of humanity.

      You say, "But it is well known that many scientific men are opposed to Christianity." I ask you to give me their names. If you run over the names of the large figures in science at this moment, you will find that the majority are not only in favor of Christianity, but have expressed themselves in favor of it.

      Mr. Huxley has never said anything against Christianity. He has defined the position of science. He says, "Science is not Christianity, nor is it anti-Christianity. It is extra-Christianity." He has thrown an arrow, with a little poison on it, perhaps, at some of the outworks of Christianity; but he has never said one word against Christ or the words or spirit of Christ. And it matters little what a man does to the outworks so long as he respects and is compelled to respect Christ; and Christianity is always respected, however humbly it is lived, by the wisest men.

      The other day I came upon a statement by a Fellow of the Royal Society with regard to this subject, a sentence of which I should like to read to you. The Royal Society of London, as you know, is probably one of the first scientific bodies in the world. This man says: "I have known the British Association for the Advancement of Science under forty-one different presidents--all leading men of science. On looking over these forty-one names, I count twenty, who, judged by their public utterances or private communications, are men of Christian belief and character; while, judged by the same test, only four disbelieve in direct divine revelation."

      You point to Mr. Darwin. Mr. Darwin never had, and never gave himself, a chance. He was brought up on Paley's Natural Theology--a great book in its day, but a book which Darwin himself made it impossible to read to-day; and he was bombarded with that book, and with religion along that line; and we have no evidence that he ever studied Christianity in any other form. But wherever he saw it, he respected it. When he was on the Island of Terra del Fuego, he saw the lowest subjects in the world. He told the missionaries they might go home. It was an impossibility, from the point of view of science, that these men could ever be elevated. A very few years after, Mr. Darwin wrote a letter to the secretary of that missionary society saying that he had found out what a great change had come over these islands--a certain amount of civilization had been introduced, and morality had been established; and he would like to withdraw what he had said. He enclosed a check for twenty five dollars for the work of the society; and he continued sending in his annual contribution to the end of his life.

      Perhaps the greatest name known to you in the old country is that of Sir William Thompson, now Lord Kelvin, Professor of Physics in Glasgow University. If you go into his class room any day you like, you will hear him open his lecture with prayer.

      It is not true that the scientific men have given up Christianity. Many of them have given up imitations of Christianity, spurious forms of it; but the thing itself stands untouched.

      You ask me, "What, then, do you retain? Do you dilute Christianity until it means little or nothing--so little that anybody can call himself a Christian?" On the contrary, we make it the most severe thing, the most definite thing, that a man could choose for his object in life. We make it a necessity that a man shall be turning, that he shall seek first the Kingdom of God. He may choose his own way of doing it; but he must put that before him as an ambition and as his career to seek first the Kingdom of God. We say nothing to those men about saving their souls. We say to them: "Gentlemen, save your lives. Do something with your life. Let that energy, that talent, go out to some purpose. The world needs the knowledge you have, the impulses you can give; aye, and the criticisms that you can offer upon the religious forms round about. It needs all these things. Save your lives. Do something with them." The Kingdom of God, according to Christ's own definition, is leaven; it is salt; it is light. Can you tell me what is going to raise this country, for instance, if it is not to be Christianity? If you take the Christianity out of Boston, weak as some of it may be, and inconsistent as some of it may be, in fifty years it will be uninhabitable by a respectable man or woman. Was it Mr. Lowell who said: "Show me ten square miles in any part of the world, outside of Christianity, where the life of man and the purity of woman are safe, and I will give up Christianity" ? There are no such ten square miles in any part of the world. Many things can lift society a little; but, as a matter of fact and history, the thing that has lifted the nations of the world to their present level has been, in some form or other, direct or diffused, the Christianity of Christ. Christian men are to be not only the leaven of the world, but they are to be the salt of the earth. The world is not only sunken, needing to be raised, but it is rotten, and needing to be purified. Salt is that which saves from corruption. Christianity is the salt of the earth. It is the great antiseptic of society. Christian men are the light of the world. The light of Christ was the light of men; and other men are to catch that light and radiate it upon the world.

      You point me to other teachers, many of them very great, many of them with great messages for the world--Socrates, Plato--a long list of names; but, allowing all their goodness, can one of them be put beside Christ as a mere teacher? Socrates went about the world asking questions. Christ went about the world answering questions. That was the difference. Socrates was looking for truth. Christ said truth is in living. I am the truth; and the man who lives like Me will live true, and all the wrong in the mind will be corrected. You cannot help seeing truth.

      Now, gentlemen, what do you think of that for a life, for a career? You do not know what to do with yourself. What do you think of being a crystal of salt in a community such as this city, or a little cell of leaven which cannot help, by the mere contagion of its presence, passing on influence and life to things round about it, or being a light to the dark people, perhaps the dark Christians, if you like, round about, too?

      Do the workingmen of this country not need light? What is to alter the critical condition of the working classes in this country, if it is not to be the teaching of Christianity in some form? What is to guide these labor movements and to work upon the minds in all directions, to make this country continuously prosperous? Men who have looked deepest into these problems have either given them up or seen only one solution, and that is in the teaching of Christ and the application of His principles to common life. These principles are not in the air. They are justified by every fact and law of nature.

      I believe in Christianity, first of all, not because I believe in this book. I believe in this book because I believe in Christianity. Religion does not come out of the Bible. The Bible comes out of religion. I believe in Christianity because I believe in evolution. Christianity is to me further evolution. I know no better definition of it than that. The forces of nature carry a man up to a certain point and there they stop. Then the psychic forces carry him up another point to the evolution of mind. Then the moral forces come in and carry him up a little further. Then the vis a tergo, the struggle for life that pushes him on, is reinforced by a vis a fronto; and he sees ideals before him, and is drawn up higher and higher, from strength to strength, until he reaches the fullness of the stature of the perfect man. That is pure evolution, the evolution of the man toward the ideal, toward the perfect man Jesus Christ. This principle of which I have been speaking, of a man giving his life to other people, to help on his country, is in the very, heart of nature. There are two great principles in nature by which all things work and by which all things are moved. The one is the struggle for life. Every plant and animal starts out to nourish itself. That struggle goes on along the line of the function of nutrition. There is the struggle for the life of others--the function of reproduction. These two functions make up life. Now, most of us live along the line of the first. All our lives, nearly, are centered in that; but that is only one half of the life appointed by nature. There is the struggle for the life of others, the function of reproduction, and in its higher forms everything that is high lies. All the happiness in life, in reality, has come along the second of these two lines, and not along the first. All the life of the world, in reality, lies on the side of reproduction. A plant takes a little bit of itself and gives it away. It lives by death. It dies; the life goes on. This chapel is built upon death. That book is death. Those pillars are the death of men. Those clothes are the death of animals. Every part of life and everything in life is kept alive by death. The animal gives off a part of itself and dies. Its life goes on--has passed on; and I say all the comfort and happiness and beauty and luxury of life come along that line. Three-fourths of the world at this moment live upon rice. What is rice? It is a seed --a fruit, therefore, of reproduction. The world lives upon this altruistic principle. All the fruits of the world are the gifts of reproduction. All the drinks of the world are the fruits of reproduction --the milk of the cow, the sprouting grain, the malted liquor, the withered hop, the fruit of the vine, wine itself. All the beauty of the world comes along the line of reproduction--the feathers of the bird, the fire of the glow-worm, the face of a woman. All the music of the world is love music--the chorus of the insect, the song of the nightingale, the serenade of the lover. We live by what the function of reproduction has done for us; and the man who gives his life for what is going on in that line is living for the highest end in nature.

      The struggle for life is waning every century, and by and by it will give place entirely to this other. Therefore, when Christ said, "Seek first the Kingdom of God," he propounded a perfectly scientific doctrine. He was offering man a life which would include all other lives, to which all other things would be heir.

      Let me give you an illustration of what I mean. You are here at the university. You can't yet begin to do anything for your country, as you might. What you can do now is to leaven this university. What you can do is to get hold of some one man, whose life is of no account, and which is apparently not going to be of any account, and save that man, not for his own sake only, but because that is a piece of energy which has gone off but can be brought in and reclaimed and utilized for the good of man.

      There was a medical student in Edinburgh University in his second year (our course is four years), who saw that he had been living there eighteen months entirely for himself. He had never done a hand's turn to be of any good or use to any one, and it hurt him. One day he determined that he would do something to help another man, and he remembered another undergraduate, who had come from the same country town as himself, and who had gone to pieces. He hunted him up. He found him half drunk in a very poor and shabby lodging. He told him that he would like him to come and live in his rooms; that he had nice rooms, and it was snugger than where he was. The other man stated he was in debt and could not leave. No. 1 went out of the room, paid the man's bill, sent for a carriage, bundled up his friend's things--and a newspaper held them all--and took him off to his own lodgings. The next morning he said: "Now, you and I are going to live together. Let us make a contract and both sign it."

      There were four articles in it.

      "First, neither one of us is to go out alone, unless absolutely necessary.

      "Second, twenty minutes to be allowed to go from room to college for recitations. Overtime to be accounted for.

      "Third, one hour to be given every night to recreation.

      "Fourth, bygones to be bygones."

      They both signed it. Everything went on well. They had lived together for six weeks when one night No. 2 sprang up, shut his book with a bang and said: "I can't stand this slow life. I must have a bust." "Very well," said No. 1, "you shall bust here. What do you want?" "I want some drink." "Well, you shall have it," said No. 1, and he got him something to drink and brought it to the room. No. 2 took it. Do you say it was a risk? His thirst was allayed and the wild beast was calmed. He settled down to his books for six weeks again, when the wild beast once more asserted itself. No. 1 gave it a meal to satisfy it, as before. No. 2 worked faithfully this time for three months before another outbreak. And so the thing went on. A year afterward No. 2 said to No. 1: "You never tell me what you are reading at the recreation hour. I think I see you read the Bible sometimes. You never talked to me on that subject." Talked to him about it! What was the use of talking to a man about Christianity when he was living it every hour of his life? He had done his work without ever having said a word. No. 2 was dying to learn his secret. I need not detail the rest. These two men passed out of the University at the end of their course. No. 1 passed a fairly good examination. No. 2, the man who was lost, graduated with honors and took the medal for his thesis. The last time I heard of No. 1 he was filling an important appointment in London, and No. 2 is known as "the Christian Doctor" of a village in Wales. Now that seems to me to be a thing worth living for; something to look back upon after one's college life is over.

      No one knew anything about this. No. 1 was never known as a specially religious man, and yet, in his quiet way, he was living Christ in every direction; and he left more fragrance behind him when he was gone than a dozen of the noisier men.

      I ask you, gentlemen, to save your lives, to save your college days, and I appeal to the generous side of you and ask you to remember your fellow men. Remember the man who is going to pieces; remember the man who is down, the man who is tempted. Perhaps if you would stand by him you could help him through. You need not make any great profession of religion. But, if you do that, you will make a great practice of it. It will amount to little, after the college course is over, that you have merely done your work and passed. What is the use of your passing, what is the use of your getting any degree, unless it is going to be of some use to somebody else? There is no particular reason why nine-tenths of us should be alive at all; but the man who begins to live for the Kingdom of God, who sees a chance to do a good turn here and a little one there, and shed a little light here and a little sunniness there, has something to live for. That man's life will never be lost. He lives a more abundant life. There is no other joy or light in the world except that.

      And if you gentlemen are going to seek the Kingdom of God, I want to ask you to seek it first. Do not touch it unless you promise to seek it first. I promise you a miserable life and influence and a poor, broken, lost career, if you seek it second. Seek it first, or let it alone. Do not be an amphibian; no man can serve two masters, and, if you only knew it, it is a thousand times easier to seek first the Kingdom of God than to seek it second. I have not the slightest doubt there are many men who are seeking second the Kingdom of God, and their religion is a nuisance to them. It is hard to keep up, and they would get rid of it if they could. The cure is to seek it first, to make it the helm of life. Then only can a man's life go straight, and then only can he fulfill the destiny for which God has put him into the world.

      Delivered to students of Harvard University, in April, 1893.

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