Religion And Wealth -- By: Washington Gladden

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 052:205 (Jan 1895)
Article: Religion And Wealth
Author: Washington Gladden


Religion And Wealth

Rev. Washington Gladden

RELIGION and Wealth are two great interests of human life. Are they hostile or friendly? Are they mutually exclusive, or can they dwell together in unity? In a perfect social state what would be their relations?

What is Religion? Essentially it is the devout recognition of a Supreme Power. It is belief in a Creator, a Sovereign, a Father of men, with some sense of dependence upon him and obligation to him. Such a belief and such a sense of dependence are elements of human nature. “Religious ideas of one kind or other,” says Mr. Herbert Spencer, “are almost universal… . The universality of religious ideas, their independent evolution among different primitive races, and their great vitality, unite in showing that their source must be deep seated instead of superficial.”1 “Of Religion, then, we must always remember, that amid its many errors and corruptions it has asserted and diffused a supreme verity. From the first, the recognition of this supreme verity, in however imperfect a manner, has been its vital element; and its various defects, once extreme but gradually diminishing, have been so many failures to recognize in full that which it recognizes in part. The truly religious element of Religion has always been good; that which has proved untenable in doctrine and vicious in practice has been its irreligious element; and from this it has been ever undergoing purification.”2

This testimony of the chief of the agnostics to the uni-

versality of religious ideas and sentiments will not need confirmation. These ideas have found many grotesque expressions, with which we need not concern ourselves at this time; it is with their most perfect expression that we have to deal. In its most perfect expression Religion conceives of the Supreme Being as infinite in power and wisdom and perfect in goodness, and represents him as holding communication with his children and seeking to make them partakers of his perfection and his blessedness. The religious life is the life according to God, the life whose key-note is harmony with the divine nature, and conformity to the divine will.

What will the man who is living this kind of life think about wealth? How will his religion affect his thoughts about wealth? If all men were, in this highest sense of the word, religious, should we have wealth among us?

To answer this question intelligently we must first define wealth. The economists have had much disputation over the word, but for our purposes we may safely define wealth as consisting in ...

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