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THE UNEXPECTED.

“It is the- unexpected that happens.” That is a curious proverb. The whole tendency of modern life and thought seems to contradict it. Since tho discovery of the universality of the Reign of Law wo have come to believe in a fixed order of things. Given this or that, the rest will follow inevitably—certainly. Wo are ever arranging affairs so as to exclude the possibility of uncertainty, and yet wo ore ever failing to accomplish it. Human, Ufa—individual and national —refuse* to be reduced to a mechanical order. “The “arrival and the victory of tho unorgan- “ ised over the organised are constantly “ taking place.” It is no doubt a tendency of the mind to note exceptions rather than general rales and principles, A night’s toothache blots out years of painlessness. The memory of a lifetime’s good health is wiped out by one month of suffering. Still, when we make every abatement, tho tendency to note negatives rather than positives—exceptions instead of generalities —it remains true that the greatest revolutions in life and thought have been set in motion by utterly unknown forces arriving from a wholly unexpected quarter. “Talk as we may," says a reoent writer, “about fixed order, necee- “ sary sequence, tho law of averages, and “so forth, unknown factors are active on “ every side at this very moment, and “unexpected consequences will startle us “before many days or hours are over.” » *'*"■* * * * One has only to glance anywhere into the past for confirmation of what we have just written. Erasmus was quite sure that Luther was finished at Worms; so was Leo the Tenth. “The monk would “know better when he had slept off his “ wine.” Leo knows better now, and so do we- One of the keenest observers of ihe eighteenth century—Arthur Youngremarked that after the meeting of the French States-General the Revolution was all over. Bight up to the end -of July, 1870, Edgar Quinet, one of the sanest of Frenchmen, expressed his despair of ever seeing France delivered from the Napoleonic despotism. Yet a few months afterwards the Third Napoleon was a prisoner and France had become a republic. The great French historian and publicist. Guizot, declared that there was no future for universal suffrage on the very eve of the Revolution that sent him into exile and brought into law that which he said was impossible. In 1846 Justin M'Carthy, in his ‘History oi Our Own Times,’ asserted that “ there is no more “chance of a reaction against Freetrade “in England than there is against the “rule of three.” It was certainly difficult to believe that of all men tho late Joseph Chamberlain would prove to bo the protagonist of the great .fiscal reform. And the mention of his name recalls a singular illustration of what we are now writing about. Mr H. M. Hyndman, the English Socialist leader, in his recentlypublished ‘Reminiscences,’ tells that Morley, Chamberlain, and Greenwood were dining at the Reform Club one day in May, 1899. South Africa came up for discussion. Chamberlain declared that if ho were sure of public opinion he would have war there in a fortnight. Tho others demurred, urging that to fight the Boers would take much time and money, “ Not at all,” replied Chamberlain; “it would "only be a matter of three months, and “cost about twelve millions.” As a matter of fact the South African War lasted nearly as many vears, and cost fullv £240,000,0001 *******

Literary and social spheres supply abundant illustrations of unfulfilled prophecies. Oompte foretells the world-wide establishment of his new religion in a given and brief number of years. Charles Fourier actually names the separate dates on which his philanstery system will found itself successively in France, Europe, the Cast, and throughout the world. "Each M enthusiast is going to revolutionise the ’‘earth, and to do it quick. The old " earth smiles, gives them their six feet " of soil, and goes rolling on its way quite "unconcerned.” Lord Macaulay, writing to his father in 1836, predicted that in India there would soon not bo a single idolater, merely as the result of secular education. Warburton was one of the greatest theologians of his time. Ills biographer, writing of a certain discourse of his, declared: “It is the singular merit “of this discourse that it will bo read “ when the sect {the Methodists) that gave “occasion to it is forgotten, or, rather, “the sect will find in it a sort of 1m- “ mortality.” It is evidently going to ho the other way about, because the Methodists number thirty millions to-day; but who now reads Warburton? -bid mention of the Methodists recalls another illustration of the unexpected in their great founder. When the horrors of the Revolution of 1799 were filling the world with a terror greater than that which the savagery of the Germans is creating today, whoever supposed that England would ho saved from a similar state of things by the life and work of a despised and persecuted preacher? Yet historians now affirm that this was the achievement of John Wesley. Or, again, when half a century ago another street preacher was being pelted with mud and laughed at in ail the newspapers, whoever imagined that the Salvation Army of to-day was under the hat of that one man? *•»«**** The history of literature is full of the eruptions of the unexpected. We are reminded of the prophecy about Keats, and Lord Jeffrey's famous “this will never do ’’ regarding Wordsworth's poems. The ‘Quarterly Review’ predicted of Dickens at the time of his first fame “an ephemeral popularity will be followed by an early oblivion.” But to come bock' again to the political sphere. About a month before the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny a Bombay journal congratulated itself and everybody else on the fact that “ India is quiet throughout, and there is no danger.” Lord Hammond was for many years the permanent Undersecretary of Home Affairs, and was supposed to know more about Continental politics than any man living. In June, 1870, he told Lord Granville : “Never has “ the world been so profoundly at peace, “ or the diplomatic sphere so serene ” j yet in less than three weeks war was declared between Prussia and France. Dr Joseph Parker, the famous pastor of the City Temple, in London, said in the course of * sermon :

As I came along through your city I saw on your walls this beautiful spring morning such words as “ Grave situation in the Transvaal.” “ Grave disturbance ” here and there. Grave situations, indeed! Menacing attitudes ! . . . I am ashamed of such so-called Christian faith. The Lord reigneth. There will be no war. Reason is against it, and civilisation and the righteousness of God and all things beautiful and true and kind. Bnt we know the result. And who would not have said much the same things three months ago relative to the present war? * Surely civilisation and the righteousness of God and all things beautiful and true and kind were against it. But the unlikely happened. And no mortal mail . . jyq. ioreeee-tfaq.end.

But what then? Is there no true prophecy? Cannot we he sure of anything? Are we like wayfarers in the blank darkness of an unknown land, where we know not what may spring out of tho mirk at anv moment, or where our next step will carry us? No; we are not in altogether so hopeless a plight as that. If there have been things bursting in suddenly upon the supposedly fixed and certain things of this world, these things have not arrived by chance. These, too, have their law and order, had we but gone deep enough to find them. In a book published not long ago, entitled ‘ The Conflict of Religious in the Early Roman Empire,’ its author (Professor Glover) pointed out how blind were oven the most educated to the significance of the beginning of Christianity. No one deemed it possible that anything was to emerge from the death of a criminal upon a cross. It seems to us inconceivable now that it should have been so, but thus it was. Everybody believed that the Christians would shortly share the end of their Founder, and bo exterminated. The whole business was vulgar, unpatriotic, irrational, pud absurd. “There poor creatures,” wrote a philosopher of tho time, “ have persuaded themselves that they are immortal,” and he spoke with contempt of them and “their Sophist who was crucified.” »»*#**» This gives another illustration that it is the unexpected which happens. But it does more : it gives us the clue by which we get hold of what explains the unexpected. Our prophecies about the future are falsified, not because tho future cannot be foretold, or because the movements of tho world are lawless and unordered, but because we have not gone deep enough to find the cause. It is the moral and spiritual that determine the progress of the world. Wc have been too much concerned with the material or the physical. Our secular prophets have taken their inspiration from these. This i« to mistake means for ends. It is to suppose that the body is tho ruler and not tho servant of tho soul. It is to act as if the visible and not tho invisible were the master of the situation. To the secular eye the- Cros.<» seems stupid and silly. And wo need liardly wonder that to those of the time tho whole business looked irrational and absurd. But tho Cross stood for certain -great moral and spiritual principles, and so it has survived the wreck of matter and the crush of worlds. To-day it appears as if Christian civilisation—the low product of the centuries—has all fallen to pieces. As a matter of fact, it is just the other way. Our civilisation was not Christian. Tho German Empire, in spite of the Kaiser's profane pieties, is the negation of the. Cross—tho negation of every idea for which Christ lived and died. Carlyle once said that he would not have known what to make of this world had it not been for tho French Revolution. And if the principles of men like Haeckel, Bernhardi, Nietzsche, and company could have permeated the masses of the German people without producing as their fruitage a- world-wide conflagration, one would indeed have found it hard to believe in tho supremacy of a moral order in this universe. ******* This war, horrible as it is, is not the overthrow, hut tho vindication, of tho Christian civilisation. It is because of this that we have faith in our future victory. We humbly but firmly believe that the Allies are fighting for great moral and spiritual ends. They are not in this contest for “ booty,” as the German Chancellor uublushingly and cynically said of his empire. They are in it for honor and truth, and for the sacred ness of international promises —in short, for a defiance of the satanic principle that “ Might is Right.” There may come dark days—there certainly will be such—dark as they were for the Puritans at Marstou Moor and for Washington at. Valley Forge. But “ unto the upright light arisetb ” shoots out unexpectedly, as the old Hebrew poet put it long ago. And so wo may expect the unexpected. We may look for surprises, since we are, we humbly believe, on the side of the spiritual Power Who calls nations into existence, and dismisses them again to oblivion when they have ceased to serve His ends, and because they are the foes of His eternal purposes.

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD19141107.2.4

Bibliographic details

THE UNEXPECTED., Issue 15644, 7 November 1914

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1,917

THE UNEXPECTED. Issue 15644, 7 November 1914

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