The condition of Christian humanity, with its prisons, hard labor, gallows, with its factories, accumulations of capital, with its taxes, churches, saloons, houses of ill fame, ever growing armaments, and millions of stupefied men, who are ready, like chained dogs, to thrust themselves upon those the masters may set them on, would be terrible if it were the product of violence, whereas it is above all the product of public opinion. But what is established by public opinion not only can be, but actually is, destroyed by it.

Hundreds of millions in money, tens of millions of disciplined men, implements of destruction of wonderful power, with an organization which of late has been carried to the highest degree of perfection, with a whole army of men whose calling it is to deceive and hypnotize the masses, and all this, by means of electricity, which annihilates space, subjected to men, who not only consider such a structure of society to be advantageous for them, but even such that without it they would inevitably perish, and who, therefore, use every effort of their minds in order to maintain it⁠—what an invincible force, one would think!

And yet, one needs but get a conception of what it all tends to and what no one can keep back⁠—that among men there will be established a Christian public opinion, with the same force and universality as the pagan public opinion, and that it will take the place of the pagan one, that the majority of men will be just as ashamed of all participation in violence and its exploitation as men are now ashamed of rascality, stealing, beggary, cowardice, and immediately this complex and apparently powerful structure of life falls of its own accord, without any struggle. It is not necessary for anything new to enter into the consciousness of men, but only for the mist to disappear, which conceals from men the true meaning of some acts of violence, in order that this may happen and the growing Christian public opinion should get the better of the obsolescent pagan public opinion, which admitted and justified acts of violence. All that is needed is that men should feel as much ashamed of doing acts of violence, of taking part in them, and exploiting them, as it is now a disgrace to pass for a rascal, a thief, a coward, a beggar. And it is precisely this that is beginning to happen. We do not notice it, just as men do not notice any motion, when they move together with everything surrounding them.

It is true, the structure of life in its main features remains as violent in nature as it was one hundred years ago, and not only the same, but in some relations, especially in the preparations for war and in the wars themselves, it appears to be even more cruel; but the germinating Christian public opinion, which at a certain stage of its development is to change the whole pagan structure of life, is beginning to be active. The dried-up tree stands apparently as firm as before⁠—it even looks firmer, because it is rougher⁠—but it is already weakened at the pith and is getting ready to fall. The same is true of the present structure of life, which is based on violence. The external condition of men is the same: some are the violators, as before, and others are the violated; but the view of the violators and the violated upon the meaning and worth of the position of either has changed.

The violating people, that is, those who take part in the government, and those who make use of the violence, that is, the rich, no longer represent, as formerly, the flower of society and the ideal of human well-being and grandeur, toward which all the violated used to strive. Now very frequently it is not so much the violated who strive after the position of the violators and try to imitate them, as the violators, who frequently of their own free will renounce the advantages of their position, choose the condition of the violated, and try in simplicity of life to emulate the violated.

To say nothing of the now openly despised occupations and offices, such as those of spies, agents of secret police, usurers, saloon-keepers, a large number of occupations of violators, which formerly used to be considered respectable, such as those of policemen, courtiers, members of courts, the administration, the clergy, the military, monopolists, bankers, not only are not considered by all to be desirable, but are even condemned by a certain most respectable circle of men. There are now men who voluntarily renounce these positions, which heretofore were considered to be above reproach, and who prefer less advantageous positions, which are not connected with violence.

It is not only men of the state, but also rich men, who, not from a religious feeling, as used to be the case, but only from a peculiar sensitiveness for the germinating public opinion, refuse to receive their inherited fortunes, considering it just to use only so much as they earn by their own labor.

The conditions of the participant in the government and of the rich man no longer present themselves, as they presented themselves formerly and even now present themselves among the non-Christian nations, as unquestionably honorable and worthy of respect and as divine blessings. Very sensitive, moral men (they are for the most part the most highly cultured) avoid these conditions and prefer more modest ones, which are independent of violence.

The best young men, at an age when they are not yet corrupted by life and when they choose a career, prefer the activities of physicians, technologists, teachers, artists, writers, even simply of agriculturists, who live by their own labor, to positions in courts, in the administration, in the church, and in the army, which are paid by the government, or the positions of men who live on their own incomes.

The majority of monuments which are now erected are no longer in commemoration of men of state, of generals, and less certainly not of the rich, but of the learned, of artists, of inventors, of men who have not only had nothing in common with the governments, or with the authorities, but who frequently have struggled against them. It is not so much men of state and rich men, as learned men and artists, who are extolled in poetry, represented in plastic art, and honored with festive jubilees.

The best men of our time tend toward these most honored positions, and so the circle from which the men of state and the rich come is growing smaller and smaller, so that in intellect, culture, and especially in moral qualities, the men who now stand at the head of governments, and the rich no longer represent, as in olden times, the flower of society, but, on the contrary, stand below the average.

As in Russia and in Turkey, so in America and in France, no matter how much the governments may change their officials, the majority of them are selfish and venal men, who stand on so low a level of morality that they do not satisfy even those low demands of simple integrity which the governments make upon them. We now frequently get to hear the naive regrets of men of state, because the best men by some strange accident, as they think, are always in the hostile camp. It is as though men should complain that by a strange accident it is always men with little refinement, who are not particularly good, that become hangmen.

The majority of rich men, similarly, in our time are no longer composed of the most refined and cultured men of society, as used to be the case, but of coarse accumulators of wealth, who are interested only in their enrichment, for the most part by dishonest means, or of degenerating descendants of these accumulators, who not only do not play any prominent part in society, but in the majority of cases are subject to universal contempt.

Not only is the circle of men, from which the servants of the government and the rich men are chosen, growing all the time smaller and smaller, and more and more debased, but these men themselves no longer ascribe to the positions which they hold their former significance, and frequently, being ashamed of them, to the disadvantage of the cause which they serve, neglect to carry out what by their position they are called upon to do. Kings and emperors have the management of hardly anything, hardly ever have the courage to make internal changes and to enter into new external political conditions, but for the most part leave the solution of these questions to state institutions or to public opinion. All their duties reduce themselves to being the representatives of state unity and supremacy. But even this duty they are performing worse and worse. The majority of them not only do not keep themselves in their former inaccessible grandeur, but, on the contrary, are becoming more and more democratized, and even keep low company, throwing off their last external prestige, that is, violating precisely what they are called upon to maintain.

The same takes place among the military. The military men of the higher ranks, instead of encouraging the coarseness and cruelty of the soldiers, which are necessary for their business, themselves disseminate culture among the military, preach humanitarianism, and frequently themselves share the socialistic convictions of the masses, and reject war. In the late plots against the Russian government, many of those mixed up with them were army men. The number of these military plotters is growing larger and larger. Very frequently it happens, as was the case lately, that the soldiers, who are called upon to pacify the inhabitants, refuse to shoot at them. Military bravado is directly condemned by army men themselves, and frequently serves as a subject for ridicule.

The same is true of judges and prosecuting attorneys: judges, whose duty it is to judge and sentence criminals, manage the proceedings in such a way as to discharge them, so that the Russian government, to have men sentenced that it wants to have sentenced, never subjects them to common courts, but turns them over to so-called military courts, which represent but a semblance of courts. The same is true of prosecuting attorneys, who frequently refuse to prosecute, and, instead of prosecuting, circumvent the law, defending those whom they should prosecute. Learned jurists, who are obliged to justify the violence of power, more and more deny the right to punish, and in its place introduce theories of irresponsibility, and even not of the correction, but of the cure of those whom they call criminals.

Jailers and superintendents of hard-labor convicts for the most part become defenders of those whom they are supposed to torture. Gendarmes and spies constantly save those whom they are supposed to ruin. Clerical persons preach toleration, often also the negation of violence, and the more cultured among them try in their sermons to avoid the lie which forms the whole meaning of their position and which they are called upon to preach. Executioners refuse to carry out their duties, so that in Russia capital punishment can frequently not be carried out for want of executioners, since, in spite of the advantages held out to make hard-labor convicts become executioners, there is an ever decreasing number of such as are willing to take up the duty. Governors, rural judges and officers, collectors of taxes, publicans, pitying the people, frequently try to find excuses for not collecting the taxes from them. Rich men cannot make up their minds to use their wealth for themselves alone, but distribute it for public purposes. Landowners erect on their lands hospitals and schools, and some of them even renounce the ownership of land and transfer it to the agriculturists, or establish communes on it. Manufacturers build hospitals, schools, houses for their workmen, and establish savings-banks and pensions; some establish companies, in which they take an equal share with other shareholders. Capitalists give part of their capital for public, educational, artistic, philanthropic institutions. Unable to part from their wealth during their lifetime, many of them will it away after their death in favor of public institutions.

All these phenomena might appear accidental, if they did not all reduce themselves to one common cause, just as it might seem accidental that the buds should swell on some of the trees in spring, if we did not know that the cause of it is the common spring, and that, if the buds have begun to swell on some of the trees, the same no doubt will happen with all of the trees.

The same is true in the manifestation of the Christian public opinion as regards the significance of violence and of what is based upon it. If this public opinion is already influencing some very sensitive men, and causes them, each in his own business, to renounce the privileges which violence grants, or not to use them, it will continue to act on others, and will act until it will change the whole activity of men and will bring them in agreement with that Christian consciousness which is already living among the leading men of humanity.

And if there now are rulers who do not have the courage to undertake anything in the name of their own power, and who try as much as possible to resemble, not monarchs, but the simplest mortals, and who show their readiness to renounce their prerogatives and to become the first citizens of their republics; and if there are now army men who understand all the evil and sinfulness of war and do not wish to shoot at men belonging to another nation, or to their own; and judges and prosecuting attorneys, who do not wish to prosecute and condemn criminals; and clergymen, who renounce their lie; and publicans, who try as little as possible to perform what they are called upon to perform; and rich men, who give up their wealth⁠—the same will inevitably happen with other governments, other army men, other members of the court, clergymen, publicans, and rich men. And when there shall be no men to hold these positions, there will be none of these positions and no violence.

But it is not by this road alone that public opinion leads men to the abolition of the existing order and the substitution of another for it. In proportion as the positions of violence become less and less attractive, and there are fewer and fewer men willing to occupy them, their uselessness becomes more and more apparent.

In the Christian world there are the same rulers and governments, the same courts, the same publicans, the same clergy, the same rich men, landowners, manufacturers, and capitalists, as before, but there is an entirely different relation of men toward men and of the men themselves toward their positions.

It is still the same rulers, the same meetings, and chases, and feasts, and balls, and uniforms, and the same diplomats, and talks about alliances and wars; the same parliaments, in which they still discuss Eastern and African questions, and alliances, and breaches of relations, and Home Rule, and an eight-hour day. And the ministries give way to one another in the same way, and there are the same speeches, the same incidents. But men who see how one article in a newspaper changes the state of affairs more than dozens of meetings of monarchs and sessions of parliaments, see more and more clearly that it is not the meetings and rendezvous and the discussions in the parliaments that guide the affairs of men, but something independent of all this, which is not centered anywhere.

There are the same generals, and officers, and soldiers, and guns, and fortresses, and parades, and maneuvers, but there has been no war for a year, ten, twenty years, and, besides, one can depend less on the military for the suppression of riots, and it is getting clearer and clearer that, therefore, generals, and officers, and soldiers are only members of festive processions⁠—objects of amusement for rulers, large, rather expensive corps-de-ballet.

There are the same prosecutors and judges, and the same proceedings, but it is getting clearer and clearer that, since civil cases are decided on the basis of all kinds of considerations except that of justice, and since criminal cases have no sense, because punishments attain no purpose admitted even by the judges, these institutions have no other significance than that of serving as a means for supporting men who are not fit for anything more useful.

There are the same clergymen, and bishops, and churches, and synods, but it is becoming clearer and clearer to all men that these men have long ago ceased to believe in what they preach, and that, therefore, they cannot convince anyone of the necessity of believing in what they themselves do not believe.

There are the same collectors of taxes, but they are becoming less and less capable of taking away by force people’s property, and it is becoming clearer and clearer that people can without collectors of taxes collect all that is necessary by subscribing it voluntarily.

There are the same rich men, but it is becoming clearer and clearer that they can be useful only in proportion as they cease to be personal managers of their wealth and give to society all, or at least a part, of their fortunes.

When all this shall become completely clear to all, it will be natural for men to ask themselves, “But why should we feed and maintain all these kings, emperors, presidents, and members of all kinds of Chambers and ministries, if nothing results from all their meetings and discussions? Would it not be better, as some jester said, to make a queen out of rubber?”

“And what good to us are the armies, with their generals, and music, and cavalry, and drums? What good are they when there is no war and no one wants to conquer anyone, and when, even if there is a war, the other nations do not let us profit from it, and the troops refuse to shoot at their own people?”

“And what good are judges and prosecutors who in civil cases do not decide according to justice and in criminal cases know themselves that all punishments are useless?”

“And of what use are collectors of taxes who unwillingly collect the taxes, while what is needed is collected without them?”

“And of what use is the clergy, which has long ago ceased to believe in what it preaches?”

“And of what use is capital in private hands, when it can be of use only by becoming the common possession?”

And having once asked themselves this, people cannot help but come to the conclusion that they ought not to support all these useless institutions.

But not only will the men who support these institutions arrive at the necessity of abolishing them⁠—the men themselves who occupy these positions will simultaneously or even earlier be brought to the necessity of giving up their positions.

Public opinion more and more condemns violence, and so men, more and more submitting to public opinion, are less and less desirous of holding their positions, which are maintained by violence, and those who hold these positions are less and less able to make use of violence.

But by not using violence, and yet remaining in positions which are conditioned by violence, the men who occupy these positions become more and more useless. And this uselessness, which is more and more felt by those who maintain these positions and by those who hold them, will finally be such that there will be found no men to maintain them and none who would be willing to hold them.

Once I was present in Moscow at some discussions about faith, which, as usual, took place during Quasimodo week near a church in Okhotny Ryad. About twenty men were gathered on the sidewalk, and a serious discussion on religion was going on. At the same time there was some kind of a concert in the adjoining building of the Assembly of Noblemen, and an officer of police, noticing a crowd of people gathered near the church, sent a mounted gendarme to order them to disperse. The officer had personally no desire that they should disperse. The crowd of twenty men were in nobody’s way, but the officer had been standing there the whole morning, and he had to do something. The gendarme, a young lad, with his right arm jauntily akimbo and clattering sword, rode up to us and shouted commandingly, “Scatter! What are you doing there?” Everybody looked at the gendarme, and one of the speakers, a modest man in a long coat, said calmly and kindly: “We are talking about something important, and there is no reason why we should scatter. Young man, you had better get down and listen to what we are talking about⁠—it will do you good,” and turning away, he continued his discourse. The gendarme made no reply, wheeled his horse around, and rode off.

The same thing must happen in all matters of violence. The officer feels ennui, he has nothing to do; the poor fellow is placed in a position where he must command. He is deprived of all human life, and all he can do is to look and command, to command and look, though his commands and his watching are of no earthly use. In such a condition all those unfortunate rulers, ministers, members of parliaments, governors, generals, officers, bishops, clergymen, even rich men are now partly and soon will be completely. They can do nothing else but command, and they command and send their messengers, as the officer sends his gendarme, to be in people’s way, and since the people whom they trouble turn to them with the request that they be left alone, they imagine that they are indispensable.

But the time is coming, and will soon be here, when it shall be quite clear for all men that they are not any good and are only in the way of people, and the people whom they bother will say to them kindly and meekly, as that man in the long overcoat, “Please, do not bother us.” And all the messengers and senders will have to follow that good advice, that is, stop riding with arms akimbo among the people, bothering them, and get down from their hobbies, take off their attire, listen to what people have to say, and, joining them, take hold with them of the true human work.

The time is coming, and will inevitably come, when all the institutions of violence of our time will be destroyed in consequence of their too obvious uselessness, silliness, and even indecency.

The time must come, when with the men of our world, who hold positions that are given by violence, will happen what happened with the king in Andersen’s fable, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” when a small child, seeing the naked king, naively called out, “Behold, he is naked!” and all those who had seen it before, but had not expressed it, could no longer conceal it.

The point of the fable is this, that to the king, a lover of new garments, there come some tailors who promise to make him an extraordinary garment. The king hires the tailors, and they begin to sew, having informed him that the peculiarity of their garment is this, that he who is useless in his office cannot see the garments.

The courtiers come to see the work of the tailors, but they see nothing, as the tailors stick their needles into empty space. But, mindful of the condition, all the courtiers say that they see the garment, and they praise it. The king does the same. The time arrives for the procession, when the king is to appear in his new garment. The king undresses himself and puts on his new garments, that is, he remains naked, and goes naked through the city. But, mindful of the condition, no one dares to say that there are no garments, until a small child calls out, “Behold, he is naked!”

The same thing must happen with all those who from inertia hold offices which have long ago become useless, when the first man who is not interested (as the proverb has it, “One hand washes the other”), in concealing the uselessness of these institutions, will point out their uselessness and will naively call out, “But, good people, they have long ago ceased to be good for anything.”

The condition of Christian humanity, with its fortresses, guns, dynamite, cannon, torpedoes, prisons, gallows, churches, factories, customhouses, palaces, is indeed terrible; but neither fortresses, nor cannon, nor guns shoot themselves at anyone, prisons do not themselves lock anyone up, the gallows does not hang anyone, the churches do not of themselves deceive anyone, the customhouses hold no one back, palaces and factories do not erect and maintain themselves, but everything is done by men. But when men understand that this ought not to be done, there will be none of these things.

Men are already beginning to understand this. If not all men understand it as yet, the leaders among men do, those after whom follow all other men. And what the leaders have once come to understand, they can never stop understanding, and what the leaders have come to understand, all other men not only can, but inevitably must understand.

Thus the prediction that the time will come when all men shall be instructed by God, shall stop warring, shall forge the swords into plowshares and the spears into pruning-hooks, that is, translating into our language, when all the prisons, fortresses, barracks, palaces, churches, shall remain empty, and all the gallows, guns, cannon, shall remain unused, is no longer a dream, but a definite, new form of life, toward which humanity is moving with ever increasing rapidity.

But when shall this be?

Eighteen hundred years ago Christ answered this question by saying that the end of the present world, that is, of the pagan structure of the world, would come when the calamities of men should be increased to their farthest limit and at the same time the gospel of the kingdom of God, that is, the possibility of a new, violenceless structure of the world, should be preached in all the world (Matthew 24:3⁠–⁠28).

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36), is what Christ says, for it may come any time, at any moment, even when we do not expect it.

In reply to the question when this hour shall arrive, Christ says that we cannot know it; but for the very reason that we do not know the time of its coming, we should not only be at all times prepared to meet it, as must be the goodman watching the house, and the virgins with their lamps going forth to meet the bridegroom, but also we should work with all our strength for the coming of that hour, as the servants had to work for the talents given to them (Matthew 24:43; 25:1⁠–⁠30). In reply to the question when this hour should come, Christ admonished all men to work with all their strength for its quicker coming.

There can be no other answer. People can nowise know when the day and the hour of the kingdom of God shall arrive, because the coming of that hour depends on no one but the men themselves.

The answer is the same as that of the sage, who in reply to the question of a passerby, how far it was to the city, answered, “Go.”

How can we know how far it is to the goal toward which humanity is moving, since we do not know how humanity, on whom it depends whether to go or not, to stop, to temper the motion, or to accelerate it, will move toward that goal?

All we can know is, what we, who compose humanity, must do, and what not, in order that the kingdom of God may come. That we all know. And everyone need but begin to do what we must do, and stop doing what we must not do; every one of us need only live by all that light which is within us, in order that the promised kingdom of God, toward which the heart of every man is drawn, may come at once.