What The Working Classes Owe To Christianity -- By: George Francis Greene

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 053:210 (Apr 1896)
Article: What The Working Classes Owe To Christianity
Author: George Francis Greene

What The Working Classes Owe To Christianity

Rev. George Francis Greene

The heart of the church of God is throbbing with interest in the Social Question. Never were the opposing forces of Christ and Belial working so zealously for the favor of the workingman. Is the battle to be won by the carpenter’s Son, or by the spirit of irreligion? Serious minds discover almost a crisis in the existing relation between the gospel and the labor problem. Concerning the subject a thoughtful writer remarks, “The future is pregnant with the gravest potentialities for religion. We are not far off the crossroads, one of which leads to a truly Christian haven and the other to practical atheism. Is the freethinker or the churchman to be the pilot?”1 The issue is, indeed, most momentous.

Clearly, Christianity cannot long survive without the faith of the common people. It was this class that gave kindliest welcome to Jesus, and heard his message most joyously. To the support of those about the base of the social pyramid— its strongest portion—early Christianity owed its life and triumph. The loyalty of a thousand serving-men was apparently more sought by apostolic teachers than the favor of one Herod or Augustus. And it is true in the nineteenth century, as it was in the first, that the bone and sinew of the church is found among the plain and lowly. The children of industry are to the church what granite blocks are to the bridge or monument.

If we are to believe Mr. Bryce, the American people excel the rest of the word in the matter of church attendance.2 Yet, if we inquire concerning the attitude of the so-called working classes of our country toward the church, the answer is alarming. The result of correspondence with two hundred labor leaders of Massachusetts points to the fact that the workingmen of that State are quite generally alienated from the church.3 Dr. Strong informs us that more than one-half of our farmers live apart from church life.4 After inquiry among the laboring people of a large number of manufacturing towns, Rev. A. H. Bradford, D. D., has declared,, that “church neglect among the poorer classes is rapidly increasing.”5 Washington Gladden, who has made special investigation of the subject, sums up his conclusion thus, “The proportion of wage workers in our churches is diminishing.”6 And finally, Mr. Moody, who has large opportunities of observ...

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