THE commencement exercises of the University of Nebraska were held June 13. The commencement oration was delivered by Prof. George Herron, an Iowa minister and educator. The following is a synopsis of his address, as published in the Nebraska State Journal:—
At the suggestion of the honored chancellor of the university, I am to speak to you to-day of a new political vision. I come to you conscious of the responsibility belonging to every word spoken upon such a subject, on this occasion and in these anxious days of social strain and political change. Because of my knowledge of how much greater are the hour and opportunity than the thoughts and powers of the speaker, what I shall say to you has been wrought out in deep trouble of spirit. But the sense of my own inadequacy has been lost in the faith that there would be present with us the Spirit of the reigning Christ, whose subject I am, in whose name I speak, and to whose political wisdom and authority I am here to bear witness. For my political vision is the Christian State.
The peoples are looking for a political order that shall associate men in justice. The old ways of political thinking and doing have exhausted themselves. The civilization of to-day is the camp of a vast unorganized and undisciplined army, without leaders and without method, yet perfectly conscious of some conflict near at hand which shall issue in a new beginning of history.
I do not fear to have our civilization full of trouble and complaint. I can conceive of nothing more fearful than to have the present order of things exist without discontent. The world is full of discontent, but it is the discontent of God with the degradation of men under the tyranny of material dominion. Society is moving quickly toward revolution, but it is revolution from anarchy to order; from industrial slavery to social freedom; from political atheism to the kingdom of God.
The revolution comes as the social creation of the world. It comes because men are learning at last through experience and suffering that the race is not an aggregation of individuals, but one body, one humanity, of which all individuals are members; that it is not natural, but violent, that these members should strive with each other for place and life in the body. The civilization that now builds upon the assumption that men are antagonists and not members of one social body is fundamentally anarchical.
The most significant fact of modern life is the political faith in Christ that is rising from the waking social consciousness of the world. With a divine instinctiveness, this consciousness is turning to the person of Jesus as the social ideal that can alone perfectly satisfy man’s social nature. The people believe, though they cannot define their belief, that the real Jesus is the one human life perfectly socialized.
There is not a school of religion or politics that will not to-day agree that the teachings of Jesus, if actually received and practiced as the spirit of human actions and institutions, would procure that perfect justice which would secure perfect peace. The one universal fact of human history is that humanity is conscious of a quality of right, potential within, which finds its perfect development and incarnation in the moral nature and person of Jesus.
MUST BECOME CHRISTIAN
The State must become Christian if it is to be the organ of the social unity which is the present search and determination of the peoples, and which it is the true mission of the State to accomplish.
I see nothing strange or unreasonable about the proposal to make the mind of Christ the mind of our legislation. If such a mind as Christ’s can inspire and direct the whole action of one man, it is not impossible or incomprehensible that such a man should inspire men collectively or politically. It does not seem mystical to me to believe that the mind of Christ shall become the creative spirit of political action and express itself in the statutes of the State. I believe that the kingdom of God is to be realized in the State rather than in the Church, and that it will be politically rather than ecclesiastically organized. I look for a movement that shall be a great political revival of the righteousness of Christ, a movement that shall have no other purpose than the translation of the mind of Christ into the Constitution and legislation of the nation, and the making of his mind the national political sense. Such a movement would not begin with a declaration of independence and would raise no cry for rights. It would begin with a confession of the mutual dependence of all men, and issue a sacred call for the fellowship of sacrifice. Association, not individual liberty, would be the movement’s watchword and hope of glory. It might be among the despised things of the world in its beginning, but it would fulfill the apostle’s vision of the mighty Michael and his host of warrior angels casting out the great dragon which symbolized the worship of material forces. With the inspired leadership of men who would love not their life unto death, it would conquer the nation and begin the Christian State which would be the political realization upon the earth of the divine government of the world which Jesus disclosed. For Jesus is the real King of America, though the religious Pharisees and political Sadducees say that we have no king, but the majority.
First, the Christian State will be the organized democracy of the people. Nothing can be more presumptuous than the literature which treats of the triumph or failure of democracy. As yet democracy can scarcely be said to be tried.
We Americans are not a democratic people. We do not select the representatives we elect; we do not make our own laws; we do not govern ourselves. Our political parties are controlled by private, close political corporations that exist as parasites upon the body politic and give us the most humiliating and degrading despotism in political history. Our legislation is determined by a vast system of lobby. We are anything but democratically governed. Our American Senate is seriously reminding us of the court of Louis XVI. The people of America to-day do not know how to utter their true political word and are no longer able to express their true political faith through their institutions.
In a pure democracy the people will be their own legislators and make their own laws directly without any intermediary legislative institution. There will be institutions to receive and enforce the legislation of the people. But representative legislation and representative government are as distinctly two forms of government as the absolute and the limited monarchy. There can be no true democracy with representative legislation. And representative legislation has accomplished the beginning of its own doom. There have been few important measures before our State or national legislature during the past decade which could not have been decided with intelligence and character, with thoroughness and promptness wholly beyond the moral or intellectual comprehension of the representatives chosen to legislate on the people’s behalf. Not the centralization but the diffusion of power is the lesson of history and the safety of the present.
COMPETITION MEANS SLAVERY
Second, the Christian State will be the organized economy of the people. Political freedom can realize itself only through industrial freedom. In the sphere of production and distribution is the common life fulfilled. The government of the future will be mainly concerned with the social being and industrial relations of the people. Unless democracy will retreat from the field it must take possession of the industrial world. Neither Christianity nor democracy can be fulfilled or make much further progress except through the association of men in economic commonwealth. Industrial freedom through economic association is the condition of the realization of both democracy and Christianity. The condition of competition is absolutely inconsistent with the Christian ethics. Either the principle of competition must come to an end or Christianity will come to an end. Competition can never give anything but tyranny and slavery. The Christian State alone can be the organ of a democracy of industrial peace and social justice; the organ of an economic conservation and development of the natural resources which the whole people have received as a gift and trust from God; the organ of an economic distribution and exchange of the productions of the people.
NO JUSTICE IN COURTS
Third, the Christian State will be the organized law of the people. I use the term law in its most comprehensive sense. Probably not since the Roman age into which Christ came has such attention been given to statute making and judicial decision as by our own nation at this time. The judgments of the law are not now the justice of the people, nor their education in life. Our courts do not impress the common spirit with the moral majesty and holy nature of the law. We know, and no legal sophistry can conceal, that one’s standing in legal judgment depends upon the material or political interests he represents and his ability to purchase technical skill. Somehow, whether we like to have it said or not, the enactments and decisions of law have become instruments in the hands of the cunning and powerful to exploit and oppress the ignorant and weak.
There is no likeness between the Christian ideal and that of the anarchist, as Christians sometimes foolishly  and unthinkingly admit. The Christian organization of a State would be its perfection, the anarchist philosophy would be destructive. Government is not transient nor a necessary evil, but eternal in the heart of God.
As progress ascends life will form itself in more and more perfect and more universal organizations and tend less and less to institutions. And the Christian State can have no other ideal of organization than Christ.
God created and sent this American nation to be an example and a witness of the power and wisdom of Christ unto the political salvation of the world. He appointed and anointed this nation to seek and fulfill the righteousness of his kingdom. We have failed. We have betrayed our trust and forsaken our mission. We are a fallen nation, an apostate people. Except this nation be born again and waken to a mighty national consciousness of God it cannot be delivered from that blind fatalism which is the optimism of apostates and hypocrites, nor will it see the salvation and glory of the Christian State. Only those who are able to bear the reproach of Christ and be disgraced before the politics and religion of this day can arouse and organize the Christian conscience of the nation and prepare the way of the Christian State that shall fulfill the kingdom of God. Are we ready to be offered?
The picture of the present political and economic condition of our country is not overdrawn: it is none too dark. “Judgment is turned away backward and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey.”
It is also true that in Jesus Christ alone is there help. But Christ does not reform men in the mass. Christianity is an individual matter, and for this reason it is vain to talk of the State becoming Christian. It is vain to talk of the State being born again. That can be true only of the individual. It is the work of the Spirit of God.
For the reasons just given the mind of Christ can never find expression through political parties, nor through the State. It is only as “Christ is formed within,” only as he reigns in the heart, that any man can either have or express the mind of Christ. But Christ dwells, not in political parties, not in the State, but in the individual. “Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” And again: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.” Christianity is altogether a personal matter.
From what has been said, it follows that it is foolishness to talk of Jesus as the real American King. Christ is not yet King of this world, and he is certainly not King of any one country. Satan is, by our Lord himself, three times called the prince of this world (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11). Satan’s, it is true, is a usurped dominion, which will erelong be wrested from him and restored to man through Christ, but not by political action. The Father himself has promised this and will perform it in his own good time and way. God the Father, addressing the Son, says: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
It is not until the judgment sits and the books are opened (Daniel 7:10), that the dominion and glory, and kingdom are given to the Son of man (Verse 14); and then follows in due course the destruction of all rival powers to make place for the everlasting, immortal kingdom of Christ, whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that shall not be destroyed.” “And the kingdom shall not be left to other people” (Daniel 2:44), for its subjects will all be immortal. Says our Lord of that kingdom: “They which are accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels.” Luke 20:35, 36.
There are too many in this day, who, like the Jews of old, would by force take Jesus and make him king for their own aggrandizement; but from such he still withdraws himself, for he dwelleth with him that is of a contrite heart, and that trembles at his word.