Of the really significant activities in the College, none make less outward show than the religious, yet there are none which play a more important part in the student life. How important a part they do now play, very few of the undergraduates themselves realize. Statements on the subject cannot properly take the statistical form which is most forcible. Religion must lose its true character if it is dragged into the light as a matter of how many men attend chapel daily, or how many engage in organized charitable work. True devotion or true charity shrinks from the attempt to publish it abroad as ground for self-laudation, and there could be little other reason for trying to gather statistics of religious life among Harvard students.
It is on this account that the college authorities have never attempted to keep any exact record of the attendance at chapel; on this account it is too, that the efforts to tabulate philanthropic and charitable work of students could not be successful, if it could be undertaken at all.
Yet it is not well to ignore the religious feeling which finds expression in the lives of many Harvard men. For outward evidence of it there are the various religious societies and the regular daily attendance at chapel. But these do not measure its full extent. A very valuable part of the charitable work in the College is done by men who have no connection with any of the religious societies. Their number is fortunately large. While the organization of philanthropic work is important, the most truly philanthropic work is that which appears in the individual's contribution of direct personal service. It is pleasing to know that this is not lacking at Harvard; to realize that the religious activity in the college is not dependent wholly upon the efforts of a few enthusiasts, but has a deeper foundation in the prominent religious tendencies of a considerable body of the students. Because this tendency works itself out in quiet, and escapes the notice of the unobservant, it is often assumed to be lacking, but the assumption does injustice to Harvard.