Nineteen - centuries ago, so the record runs, near the TWO Christmas Times, city of Bethlehem, in Judea, a party of shepherds, who, as the carol says, “ watched their flocks by night,'’ were startled by the appearance from out the heavens of a multitude o? angels, singing “Glory to' God in thq highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.” It was a new doctrine, for the earth had known little of peace, and the land over which the angelic evangel was proclaimed had long been in tho grip of Rome, and was seething with restlessness and incipient revolt. Herod, strangely misnamed the Great, reigned in Judea, and his rule, now drawing to a close, had been a prolonged orgy of domestic and public crime. Both shepherds and tyrant were destined to live throughout the ages. 'The former were the first to whom was made known that Gospel whiehndtimately was to overthrow and supplant that of Herod. Nothing, humanly speaking, appeared more unlikely than that the message of the sword, as known and practised throughout the ages, was doomed to fall before that of the angels, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Cross. Yet to this goal mankind came. Tho history of tho nineteen centuries of the Christian era is one of struggle and conflict, and of the final triumphant emergence of the higher from the lower. Every century has marked the progress of that- evangel which Christendom believes was first given to men by tho angel hosts of Heaven, and every Christmas time, for many of them, it has been able to look abroad over the face of tho earth with conscious assurance that the faith it maintained had been for the upliftment and betterment of tho human race. It is among the ironic tragedies of life that it should have been reserved for our own day' when all that men mean by science has attained to heights undreamed of. when the great masses of our fellow-creatures have reached a stage of material comfort never previously known, and when in 'every civilised laud* tho chief portion of its people's time, wealth, and talent is devoted to beneficent and peaceful labors, rather than another to witness and participate in a conflict tho object of which is the overthrow and destruction of that Christian civilisation which came into being nineteen centuriessince. 4'he situation, as it presents itself at this Christmas time, is without parallel in historv. It is et> vaet, so comprehensive, and so transcendent in its possibilities that we are not able either clearly or adequately to grasp its meaning. We pursue our daily tasks and live out our own little round largely, if not wholly, unconscious of the stupendous nature of the transformation that is taking place around us.
The existing moral order of the universe has been challenged, the permanence of our common faith is threatened, the Gross on which that faith rests has been spat upon, the Iron Cross of the Kaiser of Germany has been exulted in Ua stead, once again the sword has been constituted the sole and supreme arbiter, and Herod once more rules in Judea. The comparison is not our own. It has been mode by the Mayor of shelled, battered, and cruelly-ravaged Scarborough. Seeking for words wherewith to express'his indignation, the Mayor liken* the Kaiser
to Herod/’ a monster, who in his jealous hate .massacred tho babee of Bethlehem-in. the vain hope that-among them there- might be tho Christ., • The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Bonar Law) echoes the spirit, if nut the words, of tho Mayor. We are fighting, he declares, riot against a superman, but against a wild beast and the murderer of women and children. . Such nt i his hour are tho cries that ascend to heaven in holy wrath. Of old it was the heavens that opened to speak glad tidings of joy to a sin-stricken world; to-day that portion of tho world which boasts itself tho most cultured flings the message hack with insolent scorn, and proclaims in turn its own doctrine of blood, and ever more blood, until might not right, hate not love, sit enthroned and crowned. Happily for the continued spiritual and intellectual sanity of mankind, tho attempt, though it darkens our Christmas, flaunts our dreams, and has brought death and despair to countless hearts and homes, is foredoomed to failure. Men everywhere are gathering their forces, material and moral, to crush this new enemy of humanity; men will not willingly let the faith and the hopes to which it gave birth perish from the earth. The heart is moved as we scan messages that tell of death and wounds and live shedding of blood. Tho names, the places, the conflict itself are so pathetically and strangely familiar. It almost seems, as w© watch and muse, that the life and tragedy which culminated at Calvary are being repeated. Even the possible battlegrounds are the same. We aro again in Palestine and Sinai and Egypt, and once more w© are brought very near to Those holy fields. Over whose acres walked tho Blessed Feet Which fourteen hundred years ago were nailed For our advantage on the bitter cross. The contrast between tho Christmas time of -Anno Domini 1 and of Anno Domini. 1914, may appear appalling to the superficial, but the thoughtful student will fix his attention rather upon the even more marvellous similarities; and noting these, he cannot doubt that wrong must be worsted, or that right will triumph. This is the one incontestable certainty that this Christmas time makes plain to all. And in, this certainty rest our consolation and our hope. Men who dabble in figures and who pit gnu against gun and strategy against strategy have found their conclusions sadly at fault during these lust weeks. The machine on which they relied has failed them; the instrument that was to bring forth victory has broken in their hands. And tho reason is not far to seek. No nation, either- past or recent, ever staked its existence on so frail a foundation ns Germany has. She not only wont to war destitute of moral justification, but she arrogantly denied its value and poured contempt upon those Powers who believed that Christianity and civilisation and tho soul of a people were of any material value when confronted with Kmpp howitzers. Yet it is these same despised forces that have brought the Kaiser and his Advisers to their knees, and that will yet, bring them.to their doom. Of tho final outcome of the war we have not, and never had, tho least shadow o? doubt given an Empire and a world loyal to the highest and best in them, and unflinchingly determined that the faith first proclaimed in the long ago to the shepherds of Bethlehem shall not be crushed by one whose claim to allegiance, reels solely on its power to transform prosperous cities into heaps of ruins and their men and women into myriad heaps of dead. Bo it long or short, the end is as certain as the Day of Judgment. God speaks in history, and Ho is nob mocked.
Careless seems the great avenger, history’s pages but record One death grapple ip the darkness ’twixt false systems and the word. Truth for ever on tho scatfold, wrong forever on the throne, Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.
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Evening Star, Evening Star, Issue 15684, 24 December 1914