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THEODORE ROOSEVELT,
A DOER OF THE WORD
“Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
Compiled by
Buddy Dano
Divine Viewpoint
Theodore Roosevelt: A Doer of the Word
One of Theodore Roosevelt’s closest friends Theodore Roosevelt believed that the most for years, was a man by the name of Jacob Riis, perfect machinery of government would not who worked with him while he was a Police keep us as a nation from destruction, if there Commissioner in New York. When Jacob Riis is not within us, a soul. He said, “No
was asked about Roosevelt’s creed, he said, abounding material prosperity will avail us,
“Mr. Roosevelt’s creed? You can find it in a if our spiritual senses atrophy. The foes of
speech he made to the Bible Society a year ago” our own household, shall surely prevail
and then he went on to quote part of the speech.
against us, unless there be in our own peo-
“If we read the Book aright,” he said, “we ple, an inner life which finds its outward
read a Book that teaches us to go forth and do expression in a morality, not very widely
the work of the Lord in the world as we find different from that preached by the seers
it, to try to make things better in the world, and the prophet of Judea when the grandeur
even if only a little better, because we lived in that was Greece and the glory that was
it. That kind of work cannot be done, except Rome, still lay in the future.”
In his farewell address to his countrymen, coward, by a man who, in the fullest sense of Washington said, “Morality is a necessary the word, is a true Christian, like Greatheart, with caution indulge the supposition that “Better faithful, than famous” used to be morality can be maintained without religion.
one of Roosevelt’s characteristic sayings, Whatever may be conceded to the influence wrote Jacob Riis, in his life with the former of refined education of minds of peculiar President, and he concluded, “It has been his structure, reason and experience, both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail across the seas, the New York Bible Society Roosevelt, meditated upon an important con- fession, and finally put the matter to Mr.
Roosevelt, he exclaimed, “Never indulge yourself on the sinner’s stool. If you did any “The teachings of the New Testament are harm, that won’t undo it, you will merely foreshadowed in Micah’s verse: ‘What more rake it up. The sinner’s stool is often the only doth the Lord require of thee than to do jus- available publicity spot for the otherwise tice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.’ He then made application of that verse by saying: ‘Do justice, and there- Mrs. Roosevelt, “If they treated Theodore as fore fight valiantly against the armies of they deal with certain composite substances Germany and Turkey, for these nations in this in chemistry, and put him in a crucible, and crisis stand for the reign of Mologh, and Beelzebub on this earth. Love mercy, treat remained at the bottom of the crucible but his prisoners well. Succor the wounded. Treat ultimate, central, indestructible stuff, it’s not a every woman as if she were your sister, care statesman that you would find, or a hunter, for little children, and be tender with the old or a historian, or a naturalist, they would find and helpless. Walk humbly, you will do so if a Preacher Militant.” Mrs. Roosevelt agreed.
Saviour. May the God of justice and mercy stretches of solitude had much to do with the tower of Siloam fell, misfortune has fallen thought deeply. His old guide, Bill Sewall, was sometimes upon the just as well as the unjust.
asked, not long after, about his opinion of We sometimes see the good man, the honest Roosevelt as a religious man. “I think he read man, the strong man, broken down by forces the Bible a great deal. I never saw him in for- over which he had no control. If the hand of mal prayer, but as prayer is the desire of the the Lord is heavy upon us, the strength and heart, I think he prayed without ceasing, for wisdom of man shall avail nothing, but as a the desire of his heart was always to do right.” rule, in the long run, each of us come pretty near to getting what he deserves, each of us words that are not translated into deeds, or can, as a rule, there are of course exceptions, speech that does not result in action. In other finally achieve the success worth having. The words, he believed in realizable ideals and in success of having played his part honestly realizing them; in preaching what would be and manfully, of having lived so as to feel at the end, he has done his duty, of having triedto make a better place to live in, rather than worse, because he lived, of having been ‘a ent words in a speech in that very campaign doer of the Word and not a hearer only,’ still less of 1916 when he said, “Of course, the vital thing for the nation to remember is, whiledreaming and talking both have their uses, these uses must chiefly exist in seeing the indeed hard upon him, to win out that mea- dream realized and the talking turned into sure of success, if he will honestly try. No action. Ideals that are so lofty as always to be people on earth have more cause to be thank- ful than ours, and this is said reverently; in exceedingly important place in the history of no spirit of boastfulness in our strength, but mankind, if the attempt at least partially, to with gratitude to the ‘Giver of Good,’ who realize them is made, but in the long run, what most helps forward the common run of have enabled us to achieve a large measure of humanity in this work-a-day world, is the well being and of happiness. To us, a people possession of realizable ideals and sincere it has been granted to lay the foundation of our national life in a new continent. We arethe heirs of the ages, and yet we have had to The supreme test of a Preacher is and al- pay few of the penalties which in old coun- ways will be, the power of the Gospel which tries are exacted by the dead hand of bygone he expounds, to guide his own actions. In civilization. We have not been obliged to fight other words, does he practice what he preach- for our existence against any alien race, and es? There is logically or illogically, justice in yet our life has called for the vigour and ef- the popular conviction that there is some- fort, without which the manlier and harder thing the matter with adjurations which total- virtues whither away. Under such conditions, ly fail to determine the acts of the man who it would be our own fault if we failed, and utters them.” Roosevelt revealed in his life the success which we confidently believe the how he himself practiced the strenuous, the future will bring, should cause in us no feel- virtuous, the patriotic life, in the pursuit of ing of vainglory, but rather a deep and abid- realizable ideals which he preached.
ing realization of all which life has offered us; “Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers a full acknowledgement of the responsibility only,” was his favorite text. He could afford to which is ours, and a fixed determination to show that under a free government a mighty “Success,” he said, “does not lie entirely in people can thrive best, alike as regards the the hands of any one of us. From the day the things of the body and the things of the soul.” who demands from another, a service which rightfully be expected of us. We have duties to others and duties to ourselves, and we himself would esteem it dishonorable or un- shirk neither. We have become a great nation, becoming to render, is to that extent, a true forced by the fact of its greatness into rela- democrat. No man has a right to demand a
tions with other nations of the earth, and we service which he does not regard as honor-
must behave as beseems a people with such able to render, nor has he a right to demand
responsibilities. Toward all nations, large and it unless he pays for it some way. The pay-
small, our attitude must be one of cordial and ment to include respect for the man who
sincere friendship. We must show not only in renders it. Democracy must mean mutuality
words, but in our deeds, that we are earnestly of service rendered and of respect for the
desirous of securing their good will by acting service rendered.
toward them in a spirit of just and generous recognition of all their rights, but justice and opponent of the Bolshevik, came to this coun- generosity in a nation, as in an individual, Siberian railway. The porter on his train refused to get him hot water, or to black his “While ever careful to refrain ourselves boots, stating with the true Bolshevistic logic, from wronging others, we must be no less in- that ‘democracy meant that nobody must do sistent that we are not wronged ourselves. We anything for any one else and that somehow wish it because we think it is right and not his union would turn him out if he rendered because we are afraid. No weak nation that such service.’ Now, this Bolshevik porter was acts manfully and justly, should ever have foolish with a folly that can only be induced cause to fear us, and no strong power should ever be able to single us out as a subject of Bolshevism, or some American analogue, but insolent aggression. Our relations among our- the root trouble in producing this folly, was selves are more important than our relations the fact that under the old system, the men with other powers of the world. Such growth whose boots the porter blacked, looked down in wealth, in population, and in power as this “Now, are we entirely free from this atti- quarter of its national life, is inevitably accom- tude in America? Until we are, we may well panied by a like growth in problems which are make up our minds, that to just that extent, ever before every nation that rises to greatness.” “Upon the success of our experiment much Bolshevism here. No man has a right to ask depends. Not only as regards our own wel- or accept any service, unless under changed fare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If conditions, he would feel he could keep his we fail, the cause of free government, free self entire self respect, while rendering it. Service government throughout the world will rock which carries with it the slightest implication to its foundations, and therefore our responsi- of social abasement, should not be rendered.” bility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is today, and to the generations yet unborn.
velt lived on a ranch in the old time cattle Unless democracy is based on the principle of country. He also visited at the house of a back- service by everybody who claims the enjoy- woods, lumberjack friend, from time to time.
ment of any right, it is not true democracy at In both places, he lived under the old-style American conditions. All of them worked and their social distinctions were based entirely ashamed to render the necessary service, is on individual worth, but they accepted as a not fit to live in a democracy; and the man matter of course, the difference in degree of service rendered ought to at least roughly correspond to the difference in reward. Each based on mutuality of respect and considera- tion. Arrogance met by insolence, or an alter- things for himself, but no one thought of any nation of arrogance and insolence, offers but necessary work as degrading. Roosevelt re- calls once, when there was a lull in the outdoor “Isaiah, the seer, the man of vision, con- around the house. He fed the pigs, and on an conduct, when he thundered,” said Theodore idle morning, he blackened all the boots.
Roosevelt, “Hear the Word of the Lord, to what Ordinarily, the boots did not need blackening, purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? I delight not in the blood of bullocks, your occasion he started and with an enthusiasm appointed feasts, My soul hateth. Cease to do evil, that outran his judgment, he blackened the learn to do well, seek justice, relieve the oppressed, dress boots of everyone, of both sexes. He judge not the fatherless, plead the widows.” coated them with a thick, dull paste, and onlya few of them were shiny, with the paste com- “Amos, no son of a prophet,” said Roose- ing off freely, on whatever it touched. As a velt, “but a laboring man, a herdsman and a result he lost, temporarily, not merely the gatherer of sycamore fruit said: ‘Hear ye the respect, but even the affection of all the other Word, I despise your feast days, I will not accept inmates of the house. However, he did not your burnt offerings, but let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream, boots, He lost caste because he had blackened hate the evil, and love the good, and establish them badly; but he was allowed to continue feeding the pigs, and he quoted: “The pigs “What is this,” Roosevelt continued, “but were not so particular, as the humans.” the instance on the great law of service. In “Now there is no more reason for refusing to bring hot water, blacken boots, serve a din- spent. In the endless battle for right against ner, make up a bed, or wash clothes,” Roose- wrong, deeds not words alone, shall save us.” velt stated he had cooked and washed clothes “By their fruits ye shall know them, is a often, but “neither wisely, nor well,” than for teaching,” Roosevelt said, “of the Sermon on refusing to shoe a horse, run a motor, brake a the Mount, and James,” he continued, “spur- train, sell carpets, manage a bank, or run a farm.” ing the unctuous professions of righteousness A few centuries back, men of good lineage felt they “lost caste,” if they were not in trade preach; by those who profess a faith which is or finance. In some countries they feel so to- dead, which was never alive, because it bears day. In most civilized lands, however, the feel- ing has disappeared and it never occurs to any insisting, we must be doers and not hearers one to look down on any one else because he only, because ‘pure religion and undefiled before sells things. The same feeling, we should God and the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless obtain, and as we grow more civilized, we and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself will feel that way about other kinds of service.
This applies to domestic service. “It is as “The test,” he said, “of our worth is the entirely right to employ house maids, cooks, service we render. Sacrifice, yes, as an incident and gardeners, as to employ lawyers, bankers, of service, but let us think only of the service, not of the sacrifice. There never yet was a ser- stenographers; but only on condition that we vice worth rendering that did not entail sacri- show the same respect to the individuals, in fice, and no man renders the highest service, one case, as in these other cases. All relations if he thinks overmuch of sacrifice. Let us pay with our bodies, for our soul’s desire.” they would to any other form of entertainment, then it is not worth while for him to have cern at that time, was practically the same spoken, and it is not worth while for them to concern that Amos, Micah, and Isaiah had for Jerusalem, nearly three thousand years ago.
“In those days,” he said, “a prophet was very there being effort made with measurable suc- apt to get himself stoned. Nowadays, he mere- cess to translate the words into deeds. Of ly excites the ire of the persons who would otherwise read the magazine or newspapers straight dealing, occupies a peculiarly con- in which his prophecies appear, but he has temptible position if he does not try, himself, not any business to damage his newspaper or magazine. I am not sure the prophet business other hand, the men who listen to him, you can be combined with keeping up circulation, here, should realize that if they treat listening to a lecture about their duties, as a substitute strong feelings and intense convictions, reach- for performing their duties, they would better es a certain age, he is apt to get a cat corner- have stayed at home. The value of what is said, arises solely from the effort measured to “I am quite prepared to feel, now that I am “We are fellow countrymen of Washington sixty years of age, it would be to the interest and Lincoln, of Lighthorse Harry Lee and his of everybody that I should cease being a pro- great son, of Paul Revere. These men were of phet, and became the far pleasanter, and more diverse ancestry. Their forefathers came from innocuous person, a sage. But, as long as I am England, or Ireland, or Scotland, or Holland, in the prophet business, I wish to prophesy.” or France, or Spain, but they were Americans Now his conclusion, Roosevelt illustrated and only Americans, in the face of any, and what he meant by “being a doer of the Word and “We are also, and just as much, the fellow “Now friends, this is rather elementary.
countrymen of Muhlenberg and Custer. There The word of command, you understand, is a is no more typically American figure in the platitude. Every adjuration to man in a great Revolutionary War, than that of Muhlenberg, crisis to bear themselves well, is such a plati- the American of pure German blood and the tude, but it is a mighty useful platitude to Pastor of a Lutheran Church at the outbreak translate into action. It is rather elementary, but after all it gives the exact analogue to On the Sunday after the call of arms came, what I mean should be our attitude in civil life. The Preacher, whether he is in the pulpit, flock that there was a time for prayer and a or whether he is a lay preacher, whether he is time for battle, and the time for battle had a professor, an adviser, or a lecturer, the come. Casting aside his frock, he appeared in preacher is really trying to give the Word of the uniform of a Colonel of the Continental command, the Word of direction and encour- agement to the men whom he is addressing.
If he gives the Word simply to get for himself, “He proved his Americanism by his deeds.
a sense of intellectual satisfaction at having His undivided loyalty was given to one flag, given it, and if his hearers listen to it, only as

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