Part 4 of 24 parts

During the week Edward Norman received numerous letters commenting on the absence from the News of the account of the prize fight. Two or three of these letters may be of interest.

            Editor of the News:

Dear Sir: I have been thinking for some time to change my paper. I want a journal that is up to the times, progressive and enterprising, supplying the public demand at all points. The recent freak of your paper in refusing to print the account of the famous contest at the Resort has decided me finally to change my paper. Please discontinue it.

                                    Very truly yours.

(Here followed the name of a businessman who had been a

subscriber for many years.)

                        Dear Ed: What is this sensation you have given the people of your burg? What new policy have you taken up? Hope you don’t intend to try the ‘reform business’ through the avenue of the press. It’s dangerous to experiment much along that line. Take my advice and stick to the enterprising modern methods you have made so successful for the News. The public wants prize fights and such. Give it what it wants and let someone else do the reforming.

(Here followed the name of one of Norman’s old friends, the editor of  a daily in an adjoining town.)

                        My dear Mr. Norman:

I hasten to write you a note of appreciation for the evident carrying out of your promise. It is a splendid beginning and no one feels the value of it better than I do. I know something of what it will cost you, but not all.

                        Your Pastor,

                    Henry Maxwell

            One letter that he opened immediately after reading this from Maxwell revealed to him something of the loss to his business that possibly awaited him.

                        Mr. Edward Norman,

                        Editor of the Daily News

Dear Sir: At the expiration of my advertising limit you will do me the favor not to continue as you have done heretofore. I enclose check for payment in full and shall consider my account with your paper closed after that date.

                                    Very truly yours,

(Here followed the name of one of the largest dealers in tobacco in the city. He had been in the habit of inserting a column of conspicuous advertising and paying a very large price for it.)

            Norman laid this letter down thoughtfully, and then after a moment he took up a copy of his paper and looked through the advertising columns. There was no connection implied in the tobacco merchant’s letter between the omission of the prize fight and the withdrawal of the advertisement. But he could not avoid putting the two together. In point of fact, he afterward learned that the tobacco dealer withdrew his advertisement because he had heard that the editor of the News was about to enter upon some queer reform policy that would be certain to reduce its subscription list.

            But the letter directed Norman’s attention to the advertising phase of his paper. He had not considered this before. As he glanced over the columns, he could not escape the conviction that his Master could not permit some of them in his paper. What would He do with the paper’s advertisements of choice liquors and cigars?

            As a member of a church and a respected citizen, he had incurred no special censure because the liquor interests advertised in his columns; no one thought anything about it. It was all legitimate business. Why not? Raymond enjoyed a system of easy licenses, and the saloon and the pool hall and the beer garden were a part of the city’s daily life. He was simply doing what every other businessman in Raymond did. And it was one of the best-paying sources of revenue. What would the paper do if he cut these out? Could it live? That was the question. But—was that the question after all?

            “What would Jesus do?” That was the question he was answering, or trying to answer, this week. Would Jesus advertise whisky and tobacco in His paper?

            Edward Norman asked it honestly, and after a prayer for help and wisdom he asked Clark to come into the office.

            Clark came in feeling that the paper was at a crisis and prepared for almost anything after his Monday morning experience. This was Thursday.

            “Clark,” said Norman, speaking slowly and carefully, “I have been looking at our advertisements and have decided to dispense with certain ones when the contracts run out. I wish you would notify the advertising agent not to solicit or renew the ads I have marked here.”

            He handed the paper with the marked places over to Clark, who took it and looked over the columns with a serious air.

            “This will mean a great loss to the News. How long do you think you can keep this sort of thing up?” Clark was astonished at the editor’s action and could not understand it.

            “Clark, do you think if Jesus were the editor and proprietor of a daily paper in Raymond he would print advertisements of whisky and tobacco in it?”

            “Well—no, I don’t suppose he would. But what has that to do with us? We can’t do as He would. Newspapers can’t be run on any such basis.”

            “Why not?” asked Norman quietly.

            “Why not! Because they will lose more money than they make, that’s all.” Clark spoke out with irritation. “We shall certainly bankrupt the paper with this sort of business policy.”

            “Do you think so?” Norman asked the question not as if he expected an answer, but simply as if he were talking with himself. After a pause he said, “You may direct Marks to do as I said. I believe it is what Jesus would do, and as I told you, Clark, that is what I have promised to try to do for a year regardless of what the results may be to me. There are some other advertisements of a doubtful character I shall study, too. Meanwhile, I feel a conviction in regard to these that cannot be silenced.”

            Clark went back to his desk feeling enraged and alarmed. He was sure that the paper would be ruined as soon as it became generally known that the editor was trying to do everything by such an impractical moral standard. What would become of business if this standard were adopted? It would upset every custom and introduce endless confusion. It was simply foolishness. It was downright idiocy, so Clark said to himself; and when Marks was informed of the action, he seconded the managing editor with some very forcible exclamations. What was the matter with the chief? Was he insane? Was he going to bankrupt the whole business?

            But Edward Norman had not yet faced his most serious problem.

            When he came down to the office Friday morning, he was confronted with the usual plan for the Sunday morning edition. The News was one of the few evening papers to issue a Sunday edition, and it had always been remarkably successful financially. There was an average of one page of literary and religious items to thirty or forty pages of sports, theatre, gossip, fashion, society and political material. This made a very interesting magazine of all sorts of reading matter and it had always been welcomed by all his subscribers as a Sunday morning necessity.

            Edward Norman now put to himself the question, “What would Jesus do?” If He were editor of a paper, would He deliberately plan to put into the homes of all the church people of Raymond such a collection of reading matter on the one day of the week that ought to be given up to something better and holier? He was, of course, familiar with the regular argument for the Sunday paper: that the public needed it, especially the working men who would not go to church anyway, and who ought to have something entertaining and instructive on Sunday, their only day of rest. But suppose the Sunday morning paper did not pay? Suppose there was no money in it? How eager would the editor or the proprietor be then to supply this crying need of the working men?

            Edward Norman communed honestly with himself over the subject. Taking everything into account, would Jesus edit a Sunday morning paper whether it paid or not? That was not the question. As a matter of fact, the Sunday News paid so well that it would be a direct loss of thousands of dollars to discontinue it. Besides, the regular subscribers had paid for a seven-day paper. Had he any right now to give them anything less than what they had paid for?

            He was honestly perplexed by the question. So much was involved in the discontinuance of the Sunday edition that for the first time he almost declined to be guided by the standard of Jesus’ probable action. He was sole proprietor of the paper. It was his to shape as he chose. He had no board of directors to consult as to policy. But as he sat there surrounded by the usual quantity of material for the Sunday edition, he reached some definite conclusions. And among them was the determination to call in the force of the paper and frankly state his motive and purpose.

            He sent word to Clark for the clerical staff, reporters, plant foreman and those men already at work in the composing rooms, to come into the mailing room. This was a large room and the curious men came in and perched around on the tables and counters. It was a very unusual proceeding, and they all watched Mr. Norman intently as he spoke.

            “I called you in here to let you know my future plans for the News. I propose certain changes that I believe are necessary. I understand that some things I have already done are regarded by you men as very strange. I wish to state my motive in doing what I have done.” Then he told the men what he had already told Clark, and they stared as he had done and looked as painfully upset.

            “Now, in acting on this standard of conduct, I have reached a conclusion that will, no doubt, cause some surprise. I have decided that the Sunday morning edition of the News shall be discontinued after next Sunday’s issue. I shall state in that issue my reasons for discontinuing. In order to make up to the subscribers the amount of reading matter they may suppose themselves entitled to, we can issue a double number on Saturday, as is done by many evening papers that make no attempt at a Sunday edition.

            “I am convinced that, from a Christian point of view, more harm than good has been done by our Sunday morning paper. I do not believe that Jesus would be responsible for it if He were in my place today. It will occasion some trouble to arrange the details caused by this change with the advertisers and subscribers. That is for me to look after. The change itself is one that will take place. So far as I can see, the loss will fall on myself. Neither the reporters nor the pressmen need make any particular changes in their plans.”

            He looked around the room and no one spoke. He was struck for the first time in his life with the fact that in all the years of his newspaper life he had never had the workforce of the paper together in this way. “Would Jesus do that?” he thought to himself. “That is, would He run a newspaper on some basis where editors, reporters, pressmen and all could meet to discuss and devise and plan for the making of a paper that should have in view–“

            He caught himself drawing away from the facts of typographical unions and office rules and reporters’ enterprise, and all the cold, businesslike methods that make a great daily successful. But still, the vague picture that came up in the mailing room would not fade away when Norman had gone back into his office and the men had returned to their places with wonder in their looks and questions of all sorts on their tongues.

            Clark came in and had a long serious talk with his chief. He was thoroughly roused, and his protest almost reached the point of resigning his position. Norman guarded himself carefully. Every minute of the interview was painful to him, but he felt more than ever the necessity of doing the Christlike thing. Clark was a valuable man. It would be difficult to fill his place. But he was not able to give any reasons for continuing the Sunday paper that answered the question “What would Jesus do?”

            “It comes to this, then,” said Clark finally. “You will bankrupt the paper in thirty days. We might as well face that future fact.”

            “I don’t think we shall. Will you stay by the News until it is bankrupt?” asked Norman with a strange smile.

            “Mr. Norman, I don’t understand you. You are not the same man this week that I knew before.”

            “I don’t know myself either, Clark. Something remarkable has caught me up and borne me on. But I was never more convinced of final success and power for the paper. You have not answered my question. Will you stay with me?”

            Clark hesitated a moment and finally said yes. Norman shook hands with him and turned to his desk. Clark went back into his room stirred by a number of conflicting emotions. He had never before known such an exciting and mentally disturbing week, but he felt now as if he were connected with an enterprise that might at any moment collapse and ruin him and all connected with it.

Sunday morning dawned again on Raymond, and Henry Maxwell’s church was again crowded. Before the service began, Edward Norman drew the curious and thoughtful eyes of most of the congregation. He sat quietly in his usual place about three seats from the pulpit. The Sunday morning issue of the News containing the statement of its discontinuance had been expressed in such remarkable language that every reader was struck by it.

            The events connected with the News were not all. People were eagerly talking about the strange things done during the week by Alexander Powers at the railroad yards, and Milton Wright in his stores on the avenue. As the service began, there was an undercurrent of excitement in the pews.

            Henry Maxwell faced it all calmly. His prayers were filled with hope. His sermon was not so easy to describe. How would a minister preach to his people if he came before them after an entire week of asking himself, How would Jesus preach?

            It is certain that he did not preach as he had done two Sundays before. Tuesday of the past week he had stood by the grave of the dead stranger and said the words, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust,” and still he was moved by the spirit of a deeper impulse than he could measure as he thought of his people and yearned for the power to preach adequately Christ’s message when he was in his pulpit again.

            Now that Sunday had come and the people were there to hear, what would the Master tell them? He agonized over his preparation for them and yet he knew he had not been able to fit his message into his ideal of the Christ. Nevertheless, no one in the First Church could remember ever having heard such a sermon before. There was definite rebuke of the greed of wealth and the selfishness of fashion, two things that First Church had never heard rebuked. Yet there was also a love of his people that gathered new force as the sermon went on. When it was finished there were those who were saying in their hearts, “The Spirit moved that sermon.”

            Then Rachel Winslow rose to sing: this time after the sermon, at Henry Maxwell’s request. Rachel’s singing did not provoke a rustle of applause this morning. What deeper feeling carried the people’s hearts into a reverent silence and tenderness of thought? Rachel was subtly different. Her consciousness of her own loveliness had always marred her singing for those who had the deepest spiritual feeling. It also prevented her from rendering certain kinds of music effectively. Today this vanity was all gone. There was no lack of power in her fine voice. The added elements were of humility and purity distinctly felt by the audience.

            Before the service closed, Mr. Maxwell asked those who had remained the week before to stay again for a few moments of consultation, and he also invited any others who were willing to make the pledge. When he was at liberty, he went into the lecture room. To his astonishment it was almost filled. This time a large proportion of young people had come. But among them were a few businessmen and officers of the church.

            As before, he asked them to pray with him. And, as before, a distinct answer came from the presence of the Holy Spirit. The parishioners remained some time to ask questions and consult together. There was a feeling of fellowship such as they had never known in their church membership. Mr. Norman’s action was well understood by them all, and he answered several questions.

            “What will be the probable result of your discontinuance of the Sunday paper?” asked Alexander Powers, who sat next to him.

            “I don’t know yet. I presume it will result in a falling off of subscriptions and advertisements. I anticipate that.”

            “Do you have any doubts about your action? I mean, do you regret it or fear it is not what Jesus would do?” asked Mr. Maxwell.

            “Not in the least. But I would like to ask for my own satisfaction, if anyone of you here thinks Jesus would issue a Sunday morning paper?”

            No one spoke for a minute. Then Jasper Chase said: “We seem to think alike on that, but I have been puzzled several times during the week to know just what He would do.”

            “I have that trouble,” said Virginia Page. Everyone who knew Virginia Page was wondering how she would succeed in keeping her promise in regard to her money. “Our Lord never owned any property nor had much money. There is nothing in His example to guide me in the use of mine. I am studying and praying. I think I see clearly a part of what He would do, but not all.”

            “I could tell you what to do with part of it,” said Rachel, turning her face toward Virginia.

            “That does not trouble me,” replied Virginia with a slight smile. “What I am trying to discover is a principle that will enable me to come the nearest possible to his action as it ought to influence the entire course of my life so far as my wealth and its use are concerned.”

            “That will take time,” said the minister slowly. All the rest in the room were thinking hard about the same thing.

            Then Milton Wright told something of his experience. He was gradually working out a plan for his business relations with his employees and it was opening up a new world to him and to them.       

            A few of the young men told of special attempts to answer the question. There was also general agreement over the fact that the application of the Christ-Spirit and practice to everyday life was a serious step. It required a knowledge of Him and an insight into His motives that most of them did not yet possess.

            When they finally adjourned after a silent prayer, they went away discussing earnestly their difficulties and seeking light from one another.

            Rachel Winslow and Virginia Page went out together. Edward Norman and Milton Wright became so interested in their mutual conference that they walked on past Norman’s home and came back together. Jasper Chase and the president of the Endeavor Society stood talking earnestly in one corner of the room. Alexander Powers and Henry Maxwell remained even after the others had gone.

            “I want you to come down to the railroad yards tomorrow and talk to the men,” the superintendent said to his pastor. “Somehow I feel as if you could get nearer to them than anyone else just now.”

            “I don’t know about that, but I will come,” replied Mr. Maxwell a little sadly. How was he fitted to stand before two or three hundred working men and give them a message? Yet in the moment of his weakness, as he asked the question, he rebuked himself for it. What would Jesus do? That was the end to the discussion.

            The next morning Henry Maxwell arrived at Mr. Powers’ office a few minutes before twelve. The superintendent said, “Come upstairs and I’ll show you what I’ve been trying to do.”

            They went through the machine shops, climbing a long flight of stairs, and entered a large, empty room. It had once been used by the company for a storeroom.

            “Since making that promise a week ago, I have had a good many thoughts,” said the superintendent. “And among them is this: The company gives me the use of this room, and I am going to furnish it with tables and a coffee-maker in the corner there where those steam pipes are. My plan is to provide a good place where the men can come up and eat their noon lunch and give them, two or three times a week, the privilege of a fifteen minutes’ talk on some subject that will be a real help to them in their lives.”

            Maxwell looked surprised and asked if the men would come for any such purpose.

            “Yes, they’ll come. After all, I know the men pretty well. They are intelligent working men. But they are, as a whole, entirely removed from all church influence. I asked, ‘What would Jesus do?’, and among other things it seemed to me He would begin to act in some way to add more physical and spiritual comfort to the lives of these men. It is a very little thing, this room and what it represents, but I acted on the first impulse to do the first thing that appealed to my good sense, and I want to work out this idea. I want you to speak to the men when they arrive in a few minutes. I have asked them to come up and see this place and I’ll tell them something about it.”

            Maxwell was ashamed to say how uneasy he felt at being asked to speak a few words to a group of machinists. How could he speak without notes? He shrank from the ordeal of confronting such a crowd, so different from the Sunday audiences with which he was familiar.

            There were a dozen long, crude benches and tables in the room. When the noon whistle sounded, the men poured upstairs from the machine shop below and seated themselves at the tables and began to eat their lunches. There were 300 of them. They had read the superintendent’s notice, which he had posted up in various places, and came largely out of curiosity.

            It was easy to tell from the looks on their faces that they were favorably impressed. The room was large and airy, free from smoke and dust, and well warmed from the steam pipes.

            At twenty minutes to one Mr. Powers spoke to them simply, like one who understands thoroughly the character of his audience. Then he introduced the Reverend Henry Maxwell of the First Church, his pastor.

            Maxwell never forgot his feelings as he confronted that craggy-faced audience of working men. Like hundreds of other ministers, he had never spoken to any gathering except those made up of people in his own class. This was a strange world to him, and nothing but his new way of life could have given any impact to his message. He spoke on the subject of satisfaction with life, what caused it, what its real sources were. He had the great good sense on this, his first appearance, not to recognize the men as a class distinct from himself. He did not use the term “working men,” and did not say a word to suggest any difference between their lives and his own.

            The men were pleased. A good many of them shook hands with him before going back to their work, and the minister, telling it all to his wife when he reached home, said that he was surprised how much he enjoyed mingling with these earthy men. The day marked an important one in his Christian experience, more important than he knew. It was the beginning of a fellowship between him and the working world. It was the first plank laid down to help bridge the chasm between the church and labor in Raymond.       

            Alexander Powers went back to his desk that afternoon much pleased with his plan and seeing much help in it for the men. He knew where he could get some good tables from an abandoned eating house at one of the stations down the road, and he saw how the coffee arrangement could be made a very attractive feature. The men had responded even better than he anticipated, and the whole thing could not help being of great benefit to them.

            He took up the routine of his work with a glow of satisfaction. After all, he said to himself, he wanted to do as Jesus would.

            It was nearly four o’clock when he opened one f the company’s long envelopes, which he supposed contained orders for the purchasing of stores. He ran over the first page of typewritten matter in his usual quick, businesslike manner before he saw that what he was reading was not intended for his office, but for the head of the freight department.

            He turned over a page mechanically, not meaning to read what was not addressed to him, but before he knew it, he was in possession of evidence that proved conclusively that the company was engaged in a systematic violation of the interstate commerce laws of the United States. It was as distinct and unequivocal a breaking of law as if a private citizen should enter a house and rob the inmates.

            The discrimination shown in rebates was in total contempt of all the statute. Under the laws of the state it was also a distinct violation of certain provisions recently passed by the legislature to prevent railroad trusts. There was no question that he had in his hand evidence sufficient to convict the company of willful, intelligent violation of the law of the Commission and the law of the state also.

            He dropped the papers on his desk as if they were poison, and instantly the question flashed across his mind, “What would Jesus do?” He tried to shut the question out. He tried to reason with himself by saying it was none of his business. He had known in a more or less definite way that such violations had been going on with nearly all the railroads. Indeed, such was known to most officers of the company. Owing to his place in the plant, however, he was not in a position to come in contact with the freight operation and had regarded it as a matter that did not concern him. The papers now before him revealed the entire affair. Through carelessness they had been addressed to him. What business was it of his?

            Yet if he saw a man entering his neighbor’s house to steal, would it not be his duty to inform the officers of the law? Was a railroad company such a different situation? Was it under a different rule of conduct so that it could rob the public and defy law and be undisturbed because it was such a big organization? What would Jesus do?

            Then there was his family. Of course if he took any steps to inform the Commission, it would mean the loss of his position. His wife and daughter had always enjoyed luxury and a good place in society. If he came out against this lawlessness as a witness, it would drag him into courts. His motives would be misunderstood. The whole thing would end in his disgrace and the loss of his position.

            Surely it was none of his business. He could easily get the papers back to the freight department and no one be the wiser. Let the inquiry go on. Let the law be defied. What was it to him? He would work out his plans for bettering the conditions just before him. What more could a man do in this railroad business when there was so much going on anyway that made it impossible to live by the Christian standard? But what would Jesus do if he knew the facts? That was the question that confronted Alexander Powers as the day wore into evening.

            The lights in the office had been turned on. The whirr of the machines in the big shop continued until six o’clock.

            Then the whistle blew. The men dropped their tools, hurried to wash up, change their clothes and head for home. Powers said to his clerks, “I’m no going just yet. I have some extra work tonight.”

            At seven o’clock anyone who had looked into the superintendent’s office would have seen an unusual sight. He was kneeling by his desk, his face buried in his hands.



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