“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the necessities of life) shall be added unto you.” This week—a dark week for England, with death on our shore and deadly strife at our pits’ mouths—one would wish ten thousand angel voices could sound this message in the ears of all the people. For on the one side stand the coalowners with their quite legitimate demand of 17¾ per cent reduction of wage. On the other hand is ranged the great army of starving colliers and hauliers, sullenly and slowly giving ground from a position of quite legitimate protest against the reduction to which they have been led by ignorance of the laws of supply and demand, and by leaders who, however much in earnest, are bad generals and tacticians, who do not appear to have counted the cost. Whilst the fires of burning coal wagons serve but as watch-fires for our soldiers, who, in the name of the Queen, must, with aching hearts, demand with bullet and musket smoke that riot shall cease and law abide supreme. And all the while, above the quarrel of the Federation and the sliding scale of the no-arbitration-at-any-price and the no-return-to-work-at-the-old-wage; above the degenerate ruffianism of the coalmen and the dogged determination of the coal masters, I see a fiery scroll written over of lamentation and woe—
Mourning of hearts that must long be sore,
And woe for the love that shall be no more.
And should not men’s hearts tremble when they find that the whole of our 19th century civilisation in England is checkmated, that civil war is at our gates, and our commerce throughout the land paralysed, over a question of 2s and 6d a week wage, more or less. Friends, the worst is to tell. This thoughtless rioting and mischievous lawlessness alienates sympathy with the poor and oppressed, of which they really stand in need. And this banding together of men in great impersonal federations, or of masters into great impersonal caucuses for action, makes it impossible for love as a human personal thing to make its local and personal appeal to heart and to home. Oh for a Moses to come among us and to strive to set the two contending forces of work and wage, of capital and labour, of master and men at one, crying, “Sirs, ye are brethren, why do ye wrong one to another?”….
But though we know Him not, yet there in the midst of the uproar, there at that sorrowful house-wreck, One is standing, and shows us His hands and His feet wounded afresh for our transgressions. He the silent sufferer, and there He shall stand until this tyranny be overpast, a silent pleader for the right. And that One, whom we know not, is the Christ, the Saviour of working men till the world’s work be done….
Yes, friends, if we could indeed begin to believe that there were better things than carrying on commerce at the price of blood, nobler things than trying to restrict output and forcing prices in the market, a more excellent way than refusing to acknowledge the law of supply and demand, and determining to sit idle till the mere animal in man must have its bone cast to it by exasperated hands, a more Christian course than an attitude of war to the knife between employers and employed, a time might come when England’s prospects of sunset for her commercial life and sundown for her civic and religious life would not seem to be so near the doors. And that time in my humble judgment, can best come if masters and men begin to believe less in “the almighty dollar” and more in the Almighty Love, when master and men shall realise the brotherhood of labour and the brotherhood in the fruits of their toil…. When all from the greatest to least shall understand that the kingdom of God, which is within us and not outside of us, consisteth not in the making of fortunes, nor in 2s 6d more or less of weekly wage; not in eating or drinking, but in the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, brotherly sympathy, and self-sacrifice, in doing unto others, no matter of what class or condition, as they would be done by, and so fulfilling the law and the prophets; in the bearing of one another’s burdens for the good of the community, and so fulfilling the law of Christ; in living principles of honour and justice in all relations between man and man; in kindliness of heart and reasonableness of mind; in a word, in “seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” with a sure belief that all other things that make for order and peace, for health and prosperity and happiness and good shall be added thereunto.
(West Cumberland Times, 16 September 1893, p. 2)