But man can only be great, so Christ seems to say, in one way, and that is that in the process of becoming great he shall ennoble and bless his fellows; and though the great man in being great cannot help being minister to his time, it is, as Principal Caird once put it, “of the very essence of greatness that it is only obtainable by service.” (p. 169)

But what is greatness?  It is not enough that a man has original thought and clearness of mind above his fellows, but that by having these he makes other men think and other men see.  It is not enough that he is an enthusiast for great things, but that he infuses enthusiasm by his beneficent actions.  It is not enough that he is large-hearted and quickly sympathetic so that he is enabled to understand his fellows and realise the wants and needs of various classes of men, but that he is able to pass over to other men the magnificent attractiveness of this sympathy. (p. 169)

A man to be really great must have a great heart, be magnanimous as we call it; and because in virtue of this great heart he disdains lower motives and petty ambitions, he is rendered absolutely insensible to popular applause, is careless of what men say or think of him, and is so absorbed in the larger object before him as to be unmoved by the near present, or the influence of the world and society and fashion that sway other men.  And this power to be superior to criticism and to the lower motive of praise or blame in his greatness he passes on to other people….  The great man in all he does, or says, or thinks, looks beyond the present and works for his fellows not of his own generation, but for those who are yet for to come. He does not look for immediate results, and differs from the little man in this habit of mind….  And this brings me to the seal of human greatness.  The great man I say is endowed with a sense of his human spirit, being in immediate communion with God, he feels that he is really a fellow-labourer with God.  The truly great man will be found, in other words, to be a man of deep religious earnestness.  He does not profess saintliness but he is a saint.  He does not speak of his religion, but he is constantly aspiring after the eternal righteousness, and in all he does there is about it a sense of duty to the divine will. (p. 169)

And this sense of religious earnestness exerts a marvellous influence on other people.  They are conscious that these great men do really as “towards the silent tomb they go,” walk with a deathless spirit, and feel “that they are greater than they know.”  But I think it will be found that these great men add to their greatness humility.  “Whoever will be great among you, let him be your minister,” and “whoever will be chief among you let him be your servant.”  They have all entered into this saying of Christ, and in their humbleness of heart they are crowned and kings among men. (p. 169)

And what is the sign royal of this greatness when we find it amongst our fellows?  It is that always and everywhere they are thinking not of themselves but of their fellows.  They are planning in all they do for the lifting up of others and not for the crushing of others down.   The princes of the Gentiles counted their greatness and authority to lie in exercising dominion, by oppressing their fellow-men, by mastering their souls, by destroying their freedom.  “But,” said Christ, “it shall not be so with you.”  “Whosoever would be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever would be chief among you, let him be your servant.” (p. 169)

And if we could really begin to believe that the essence of true greatness lay in ennobling, in lifting up and in blessing mankind, and not in dominion and subjection of mankind to our power for our own selfish ends, I think we should find that true social reform would have begun, and the dawn of a better day would be at hand. (p. 169)

(Christian World Pulpit, 82 (11 September 1912), 168-71)