Project Canterbury

Churchmanship and Labour
Sermons on Social Subjects Preached at S. Stephen's Church, Walbrook.

Compiled by the Rev. W. Henry Hunt.

London: Skeffington and Son, 1906.

"Marks of a Progressive Society"

Sermon XVII. Co-Ordination (continued).

By the Rev. P.N. Waggett, M.A., S.S.J.E.

"From Whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." Ephesians iv. 16.

QUESTION will occur to candid minds, I think, when we speak of progress as standing in an extension of fellowship, in the growth of the mass of human life, in an increase in the number of members. Many will say: This is what we constantly hear, but is it really true? Is Society really happier for being larger? Is a big college happier than a little college? or are the schools maintained by some great organization in provincial districts happier than the old private schools for gentlemen's daughters which they have innocently ruined? Is it true that the citizen of a great empire is a better man than the mountain peasant in his high green lawn hidden among the Alps, with his goats and his few acres, and his healthy, free, simple life, a life with no markets and no wages, no army and no rent? Surely the growth of masses in Society is a doubtful blessing.

We have to face that question; and the answer is only found in fact. The picture of the Swiss mountaineer is prettier than the picture of a London ratepayer; but the fact is that this idyllic life is of necessity an exceptional life which depends upon those granite barriers. It can only exist in velvet lawns hidden among the mountains; it cannot pass out into free competition without being either destroyed or entering into larger combinations. In point of fact, the poetic life in islands depends upon the islands; and as soon as the islands are connected with the rest of the world the particular sort of life there is destroyed. This means that the happiness which is found in very small communities, in a life of very few connections, is a happiness which cannot survive the advance of history itself, but is always being made impossible, moment by moment, wherever it is found, and must retreat to still more inaccessible recesses. But the form of progress and happiness which depends upon mutual co-operation flourishes in difficulty, and has an indefinite future before it.

The Divine revelations all speak of the future of mankind as the future of a State, of a citizenship, the union of many, with many interchanges of duty. They never speak of solitary blessedness in select spots, the survival of a bliss which everywhere else is becoming impossible. Scripture speaks of a happiness which is strong, not simply because it is of a hard texture like Carlyle's "French Revolution," of which its great author said that it was like a log of oak which might be cast into the roughest waters and suffer no change; but strong as life is strong, through the power of progressive adaptation to every fresh requirement.

We may now endeavour to add to our notion of the simple growth of human life the conception of greater specialization, a co-ordination growing in the production of larger systems. This is the one thing that can survive.

Mere size always finds its limit. In mechanics, if you bring together a certain amount of stuff of a particular density, there comes a point when the hardness and elasticity of the stuff is confronted by an amount of weight which it cannot bear, and the mass divides. An architect who should try to build a palace by magnifying a cottage would fail altogether. His masses must be thrown into new relations with one another when a certain size has been reached. It has been supposed that if an insect were magnified, one of those insects which have so wonderful a muscular strength in proportion to their size, it would be able in its new colossal stature to leap from continent to continent; and that the more the bodies of such organisms were enlarged the greater in the same proportion would their power of movement become. But this is not the truth. You would only have to make one of those insects, say, a hundred times larger, and its bones would break. There is a definite limit to its size, which is indicated by the character of the material of which it is made. You cannot build an elephant on the model of a grasshopper, because there is a limit to the toughness of the stuff to be employed. An elephant must be built with legs like the piers of Charing Cross Railway Bridge, so as to get enough strength from the available material.

Even in mechanics size soon reaches its limit, and in life this is still more the fact. This truth is of importance not only for secular growth, but for the growth of the Church. It concerns the organization of mankind for the worship of God.

The limit of size is soon reached in the simple aggregation of cells. (Living cells are not brought together from various quarters; they grow from one another. But when cell division is not accompanied by new complexity of arrangement, we may speak of the result as aggregation.) And why? On account of the fact that the solid contents of a sphere increase in a definite ratio with the increase of the surface; but this ratio is not a ratio of equality. In various low forms of life (generally spherical) the feeding is done through the surface, and presently as growth goes on, the feeding surface is unable to nourish the mass inside. There is very soon reached the limit of enlargement of the sphere, which is called in biology the morula (because it resembles a mulberry). Then follows the blastula, or blastosphere, where the mass has turned itself in so as to get two surfaces instead of one. This process is continued by repeated involutions, till you come to the sponge form, which is riddled with passages for the nourishment of the mass, and is in fact a sac of many pockets, and pockets within pockets. Mere size reaches its limit, and the mass must change its form.

This is a thing well worth remembering. It is often thought that you may grow indefinitely by simple increase of size. But in no material, and least of all in that wonderful material which is human life joined together in societies, can size increase beyond a certain point. The limit of possible growth of size without change of form is quite definite in every case, although we may not know where it is. We seem to see a living example of that fact in the growth of London, which has long passed the limit of healthy expansion by mere growth, and is now at last happily beginning to send out buds, fresh communities, which shall not be less truly part of its life because they no longer belong to it by mere apposition.

And change of form will not merely be a change to greater complexity. It will be a change which results in the coordination of partly independent members. This is true in the advance of mankind, in the advance of an empire, or in the advance of the Church. The error which lies at the root of Christian dissension (in so far as that dissension is not due to the invasion of false doctrine), is the notion that the Church, in order to be one, must be continuous in external discipline, and managed from one centre on earth.

The growth of the Christian community must lead to an increasing variety in the members, and to increasing freedom of operation between parts which for certain purposes must be relatively independent. But with this independence there will be a growth of genuine co-operation by love; and the way in which that co-operation grows in widening circles can perhaps be arrived at better by starting with the individual.

The individual enters into combination in the simplest way by marriage so as to form a member of a family. He enters also into combinations of trade; he then recognises his unity in a nation, and each of these systems of which he sees himself to .be a unit, becomes in turn the unit of a larger order.

The man is the unit of the family; the family is in turn the unit of a nation; the nation is the unit of an empire; the empire ought to be a unit of a civilisation or race of progress. The race itself is a unit in something higher.

There you have a simple outline of progress by widening co-operation, made not simply by the extension of one circle, but by each circle reaching to a kind of completeness and becoming in its turn a unit in a higher orbit. In the heavens you have the earth which is itself a system, cohering round its own centre, so closely packed a system that we think of it at once as a unit; it is really a mass of bodies joined together closely round one centre. Well, this is a unit which circles round the sun, and the, sun with its attendant planets circles round another centre, and probably far beyond the greatest system which we know in the heavens there are further and further centres of orbits which to us appear like straight lines or incalculable curves of direction. So far there is a growing co-ordination, wheel within wheel.

But this growing co-ordination may take place on various principles.

It may be a growing complexity of arrangements for securing selfish ends.

A vigorous man kept a small draper's shop in the Mile End Road. Very soon branches sprang up, and he became the head of a system having departments in Commercial Road, and as far as Bow. Presently he entered into a syndicate with various other successful tradesmen, and the affair became one of the great Metropolitan Associations, which has its East End System as one member of a great whole, sweeping round an orbit, which has Newington on one side, and Hammersmith on the other. Presently this huge affair, which is controlled by the combined efforts of many great men, will probably enter into a treaty with other concerns in Africa and Australia, and there will be one vast world system of this particular kind of shop which will regulate the supply of the world, and fix the prices everywhere for the particular commodities in which they deal. This is a growing combination. It may be good, and it may be bad, but it is simply a growing combination motived by self-interest, though this interest coincides with the interest of purchasers.

But the growing association which I believe to be progressive, has for its produce mutual love, confidence, and trust; and has for its motive the desire to do what is due to others.

So a man starting, say, with nothing, without his rights, wants first his rights. When he has obtained his rights, he looks abroad to see what are his duties. Then he perceives his duty to the circle to which he belongs. A workman having secured his rights, perceives his duty to his trade. The trade if it secures its rights by the willing rendering by its members of their several duties to its interest, will then be in a position to look abroad and find out its duties. It will find its duty, say, to its class. The duty of the several trades being rendered faithfully accomplishes the right of the class, and the class having thus reached its rights by the co-operation in dutiful service of the trades, will look abroad in turn for its duty, and will then, let us hope, see with greater and greater clearness of apprehension its duty to the country. Thus the country will secure its rights by the intelligent rendering of the duty of the various component interests within it.

A State which has thus acquired its rights looks abroad in turn for its duty; recognises the claims of sister nations in an empire; recognises the claims further afield in the whole organisation of civilised and uncivilised life, and enters, therefore, into a larger whole. Thus the right of the empire, or the right of civilisation, will be established by the willing rendering of the several duties by the nations which go to build up that new system.

Each member in turn exchanges the word "right" for the word "duty." So Mazzini taught us.

It is the perpetual transcendence of the word "right," it is climbing from that to the term "duty" that makes advance.

I think a man is progressing who, whenever he has acquired a right, looks abroad for a duty. I think a class is progressing which, in proportion as it acquires its right, looks for the accomplishment of its duty. Briefly, their duty gives to me my right, and their right is my duty.

Progress lies in this continual enlarging of the scene, not in the simple expansion of your circle. The Progressive man docs not say: I want my class to be bigger and bigger, but I must see my class as a unit in something greater, and I desire to see it rendering its duty to that larger right. I wish to see my nation as strong as it ought to be, as big as it can safely be, but I do not want it to grow up into a mere overgrown elephant England. I want it to find its true completeness of form in correspondence with other units, and to find the extension of its vital influence, not merely by enlarging the area of its own private possessions, but by finding connections which reach further into the great societies of the whole world. It grows thus by extension, not of size, but of mutual help.

Now see what an immense gain there is in this.

Yesterday I spoke to you in warning against some superstitions which belonged to the kind of politicians for whom you do not care; to-day I am going to warn you against the superstitions of those whom you like best!

There are a great many people who are very jealous of this expansion, and do not like to see these ramifying connections; who do not like to see the extension of rule under one symbol, under, for example, the Crown of England. But do not they see, cannot they see (they would see if they had been there, if they had been outside) that what is really taking place is not a selfish extension of the private influence of ihis island, but it is the abolition of the possibilities of conflict over larger and larger spaces of human life.

At one time even this island was not one realm any more than the world is now. There was a king at either end, a chief in every parish in Scotland; there were squires in Kent as strong as kings, and at any moment one of these dignitaries might be cutting the throat of his neighbour. The abolition of these local powers, the extension of one rule throughout the whole country, means--what? It means the abolition of private war. It means that things which used to be matters of high politics are now matters for the village police. Is not that a gain? It means that when one man differs from another there is a law to which they can both appeal. Well, that is what the extension of the Empire means.

When I was first out in South Africa we had a reproduction on a very small scale of all the interests of Europe. We had our own Bismarck, our own Louis Napoleon, our own neutral States, and we did at last get to war. That fever of international intrigue, that collapse of diplomacy and explosion of war, can never be repeated there unless you undo the work so painfully accomplished.

Things which were once matters of international strife are matters for the police. That is a gain; an extension of peace, extension of love, extension of freedom.

This process may not seem at first sight of vitally Christian interest. But the movement I speak of is a movement on the Christian plan; it is a fulfilment in some measure of the very work which Christ proposed, the making of a great Kingdom with freedom within it, and peace between one member and another. And this growth, both in fact and in knowledge, which takes place when people see more and more clearly the rights of others, is a real part of human progress.

To-morrow, and finally, I hope to show how this growing complexity, these widening combinations, do not carry with them any reduction of the life of the component parts; that so far from doing this, they increase the life of the smallest part, and increase it both in importance and also in distinction or speciality, so that it must be both more real and also more precisely itself.

The other things which I have been saying are things which nobody disputes; this thing is one which many doubt. For it is still thought that Collectivism is the enemy of Individual-ism, because it is the enemy of Individual-s. It is thought that Individual-ism is the culture of the Self. Individualism is selfishness, and selfishness is the ruin of the self. And just as selfishness is the ruin of the self, so Socialism, in its true and widest sense, is the fortune of the self.

To-morrow we shall see how this widening inter-communication in religion, and in all other things, is the condition of the freest and fullest individual growth of the smallest component parts, and gives to them both greater vitality, and also vitality which in each is more distinctly specialised and separated in form from the vitality of others. It becomes more personal, not less. "In Christ shall all be made alive"--every man in his own order, and every soul shall find its own truest, fullest life because it is most fully delivered over and submitted to the interests of that great Body, which has Christ for its Head.

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