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THE RELIGIOUS WORLD., Issue 15690, 2 January 1915
THE RELIGIOUS WORLD.
'THE ALLIES OF FAITH.'
Bv the Rev. Wu. Adams Brown, Ph.D., D.D.
Roosevelt Professor of Systematic Theology at New \ ork.
" And he answered, Fear not: for thev that are with us are more than thev that are with them."—ll. Kings
Fear not! These are the words of Elisha, to his servant in Dothan when they were surrounded by the Syrian army which had been sent by Ben-hadad to take the Prophet captive. They are a call to courage, and still more to that confidence which is the spring of all true courage. They are, therefore, peculiarly appropriate to times of difficulty and danger, such as those in which we iind ourselves to-day. I am not now thinking of the outward dangers which are the direct result of tho war. This is not the time or the place to speak of these, even if it were appropriate for me to do so. On this day of all days, and in this place of all places. we desire to turn our thoughts for the moment from the pathos and tragedy of war to recover again our consciousness of spiritual values; to be lifted above the clash of ambitious and fears and hates to the heights where faith and hope and charity have their home. But" there is one contest from which we cannot turn aside, if we would, least of all nu this dav and in this place; and that is the struggle which is being fought in the heart of man for faith in the triumph of the good. It is a contest which knows no truce, in which there can be no neutrals, nu the success of which all that we hold ilea rest depends. It is a contest for more than lite, for more even than our country. It is a contest for all that makes life worth living and country worth preserving; for faith in God and brotherhood and humanity and civilisation itself. It is to
voti. fellow warriors in this supreme "trugsle, that I would bring this morning this old word of confidence and cheer.
Consider the situation. Suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, millenniums of progress are cast into the melting pot, and we are back again in the clays of the cave man. The gigantic energies that science has harnessed to the tasks of civilisation are concentrated on destruction. A cathedral into which has been built the asoiratioti of an age is destroyed in a day. A" library into which lias been garnered the fruitage of generations of patient research vanishes in smoke; and those who are the priests of religion and the sworn knights of scholarship profess themselves helpless in the face of the grim necessity. To our horror and dismay we see_ the forces of civilisation divided, and friends who used to work side by side for humanity spending in attack upon one another "the energies which but yesterday were enlisted in the combat again:;t ignorance and sin. More terrible even than the trenches of the Aisne or desolated Louvain is this tragedy of the spirit: the parting of old ties, the growth of bitterness and distrust, the disposition to impute the worst instead of the best: above all, the momentary eclipse of the consciousness of our common humanity and of faith in the possibility of that free republic of the spirit, in the coming of which so many had dared to believe. What is all our boasted progress worth, we ask, if after 19 centuries of so-called Christian civilisation this is the result? How idle to go on talking about the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, when the veriest child can see that the facts give the lie to our words. Would it not be more honest to confess with Strauss that Christianity is an out-worn faith, and at any cost to square our belief with our experience? It is a mood through which we have all passed, and the better we are and the more completely we have beep giving ourselves to the service of our fellow-men, the deeper onr sense of dismay. We are like the young Hebrew in Dothan when he saw the "powerful forces by which he was threatened, and turned to Elisha with the despairing cry: "Alas'. Master, how shall we do?"
And yet for us, as for him, there is no real rea'son for despair. Dark though the outlook may seem, there are yet unseen forces lighting on our side, which warrant our confidence that in the end victory will be ours. Side by side with its discouragement, so staggering to faith, the war has brought us reinforcements for our spiritual struggle. It has roused us from our selfishness and indifference. It has brought us face to face again with the ultimate realities, sin and judgment, God and immortality. It has unlocked _ the hidden reserves which in quiet times slumber in the human breast, but from which in darkest hours faith draws new courage and new hope.
Let me remind you of some of these reserves which we have been rediscovering in the past few weeks. I will mention three. Iu the first place, the war has given us a new demonstration of the power of ideals; in the second place, it has given us a new revelation of man's capacity for sacrifice; in the third place, it has given us a new realisation of the essential unity of mankind. Here are powerful allies which are even now engaged on the side of faith.
Our first reason for confidence is the new revelation which the war lias brought of the power of the ideal. I know that on the surface it does not seem so. Rather does it seem as though spirit had lost its grin and brute force" was at last in control ; but this is a superficial judgment. The ■ great conflict which is shaking the world is a conflict of ideals. Back of soldier and sailor are preacher and professor, and the power that has marshalled the millions that fight, and those other millions, no less directly concerned, who can only suffer and endure, is loyalty to a cause which they believe to be just. I am not speaking now of the motives of the leaders. We do not know yet (perhaps we shall never know) what part deliberate design had in the making of this war, and what part was due to the working of implicit causes—fear and mistrust and suspicion. I do not envy the man (whoever he may be and wherever placed) who before the bar of history and in the forum of his own conscience shall be proved guilty of any complicity in the planning of this crime against civilisation. If ever there was a man who deserved the title of '"Enemy of the Human Race" it is he. But whatever may be true of individuals, of this we may be sure, that no purely selfish motive can explain the response of the peoples of Europe to the call to arms. It is not selfishness that has made Ulster and Dublin postpone their strife. It is not selfishness that has rallied the Russian Poles to the defence of the Tsar. It is not selfishness that is making tho boys of Germany volunteer by the thousand; that is crowding the recruiting offices in England with the best blood of the nation, and bringing Canadians and Australians and New Zealanders across the sea to take part in the defence of the .Mother Country. No; it is.an ideal which inspires each of the contestants in this titanic struggle;—the ideal of nationality, of independence, of freedom, of peaca it-.df.
This do?s not mean, of course, that all ideals are of the same value. The ideal :.■: nationality is lower than the ideal of humanity, and in the realm of the ideal, as in every other phase of human experience, the lower in the foe of the higher. But it is better to have a low idea! than no ideal at all; for without the capacity to respond to the appeal of Spirit in some form, our hope for the ultimate triumph of the highest would be vain. Among the French soldiers at the front there are some poor fellows who have no friends or relations to write to them. To these a distinguished Frenchman has addressed a letter which has been published in the daily press. " What are you fighting for?" he asks, "you who have neither wife nor child nor home to defend; for whom no mother prays and no father waits? I will tell you. You are fighting for the future. The others are fighting for the pa3t and for the present. You are fighting for the French children who are just born, for those who will be borrij that they may be free." Ah, yes, it is this love of the future that is our hope—the future that we may never share, but in which we yet believe. We have seen it imperfectly, narrowly, from .angles which bring us into conflict with the vision of our neighbor; but we have seen it, .ami gome, .day we. shall jsee
it more clearly still. The little loves will give place to the greater; the false patriotisms will bo replaced by the true, and in the service of humanity,_ as a whole, all lesser aims and tasks will find their rightful and satisfying place. This then is the first gift which the war has brought us: this new demonstration of the power of the ideal—that man is not simply flesh and blood, but spirit. When we appeal to the ideal in him we are dealing with something that is really there; a fact as pregnant in its possibilities for good or evil as the electricity that lights our streets and draws our engines, or the dynamite by which we blast our wav through the solid rock. What dignity this gives to tho work for which this college stands! How it glorifies the function of the teacher and the preacher! When we contrast what wo are saying and doing in a place like this with what our brothers are doing and bearing at tho front, how little and futile it often seems. Co not let us be deecived. It is with the moulders of ideals that the fate of the future rests. When we give ourselves to the culture of the spirit, we are doing the most important and the most practical thing in the world : we are generating the forces that will inspire the armies of the future.- If we have failed in the past, it is here that our failure has been worse. We have not trusted man enough; we have not made ovir anneal big enough to capture his imagination. We have not made him see (as he must be made to see, as please God he will some day come to see) that the true Imperialism, the one permanent and satisfying Imperialism, is the Imperialism of Christ. A second reinforcement which tho war has brought us is the new revelation which it has given us of man's capacity for sacrifice. How often in years past we have been obliged to lament the loss of the heroic note in our Christian living. We have seen the Church conforming its standards to the world and making _ outward respectability and a decent tribute to charity a sufficient passport to the Kingdom of Heaven. We have read the great words about sacrifice of which our Scriptures are full, and to our easy, pleasuro-loving ears they have sounded strange and unreal, like a message wafted from some far-away world. And, behold ! in a moment the sense of strangeness has vanished, and we have learnt again the meaning and the glory of sacrifice. We who look on, participants by our sympathy only, can never forget what wo liave seen. We have seen nations giving of their best and dearest without a murmur: mothers their sons, wives their husbands, young men their lives, parents their home's. We have seen an entire people yield its country on the altar of freedom, and with the sight there has come to us a new realisation of the splendor of humanity and a new conviction of its immortal destiny. Life can never be to us again the shallow, easy thing it was. Always we shall carry with us the stern challenge of these great examples. Nevermore shall we rest satisfied, till, in the service of the Cause of Causes, we have enlisted those hidden stores of power and made Christianity again what it was in its beginnings—the religion of sacrifice.
Do you tell me that the war has made it hard to believe in God? That the old picture of the loving Father who cares for his child and longs to do him good has grown dim and blurred? For the moment it may be so. But there are other features in the picture that stand out in clearer relief. God is Teacher as well as Father ; Artist of character, forming out of struggle and sacrifice in individuals and nations his great ideals of righteousness and peace. Yes, not Artist only, but Companion, Fellow-sufferer in our sufferings, Fellow-combatant in our contests; too kind to let sin go unpunished, too set on bringing his convoy safe to the heights, to shrink from any hardship that may have to be traversed in the upward climb. There is a sterner note in the Christian view of God, that we had lost for the time; a note of discipline and of judgment. We are winning it back to-day, and our vision of God's love when we regain it will be richer and more satisfying because of the new experience. One more gift the war has brought us, and that is a new realisation of the essential unity of mankind. I know that here again the surface facts seem to point the other way. In this hour of bitterness and distresss, when nation is set over against nation and the ties of civilisation and religion, painfully woven through the centuries, seem parted in a night, what a mockery it seems to speak of humanity as one. And yet I venture to think that the world has not yet seen a more august demonstration of this stupendous spiritual fact than we are witnessing to-day. I am not thinking simply of the outward proof of unity. This of itself is extraordinary enough. We are learning in a terrible text-book the truth of the old words that " God has made of one every nation of man." W r e have seen the consequences of the war reaching beyond the nations immediately engaged, and laying their ruthless and destroying hands upon peace-loving and inoffensive people. We have seen the processes of commerce interrupted, the springs of charity dried up at the source, the great' mission boards countermanding the commissions of their missionaries. There is not an island so remote but feels the electric shock. There is not a man or woman so humble but on their shoulders some new burden will be laid as a direct result of this war. The time has gone by when any nation can say that it is no concern but mine what I "do to my neighbor. For good or for evil (for evil certainly, if not for good) we are members one of another. We have been told it before, we know it now.
But I am not thinking of the fact simply. I am thinking of the new consciousness which has come to mankind of the meaning of the fact. A new spirit is abroad in the world, the spirit of democracy. We realise, as we have never realised it before, the sacredness of personality. We feel that human beings are not mere pawns to be used in the games of rival strategists— Kanonenfutter, "food for cannon," as the German phrase puts it. They are free personalities with a right to be consulted as to their wishes and to govern the destiny of their own lives. The little nations as well as the great have their place in the family of mankind, their contribution to make to tho common welfare. We cannot spare any one of them without being outselves impoverished. It is this which explains the sense of horror which has swept like a gigantic shudder over the whole world at the thought of this war. It is not simply the suffering and the sacrifice that trie war involvos that seem so terrible. ""There are worse things than suffering, and blessings worth purchase at the cost of life itself. It is the conviction that the means which are being taken to-secure the ideal ends sought, involve tho destruction of the very objects they were meant to secure. We see that we are destroying humanity in humanity's name. The old order has hopelessly broken down, and the time come for a new departure. Either we must find some way of living together in peace and brotherhood, settling our disputes by friendlv discussion and judicious counsel, or civilisation itself will perish utterlv and mankind relapse permanently into the barbarism from which we have so slowly and painfully emerged. There are some, to be sure, who have not yet realised this—prophets of the mailed-fist, glorifiers of might as the chief bulwark and ornament of nations, and just now their voices are so much in evidence that it seems as if they were to have their will without restraint. But underneath the surge and sweep of rival passions we may feel an undercunent that is full i-l promise. In every nation there are men and women who have seen a vision of a figure greater and more majestic than that of any nation, even the fairest and dearest; the vision of humanity new-born and glorified in the practice of justice and the consciousness of brotherhood. It has penetrated to the chambers of diplomacy. Sir Edward Grey voiced it in that memorable suggestion, coming alas! too late, of a concert of Europe which should replace the rival alliances' which had hitherto divided her into hostile camps. President Wilson has hinted at it in his letter to the German Emperor. It is symbolised by the Palace of Justice at the Hague. Some day wo shall all see it, "and wonder why we were so blind as not to see it before.
When the returning pilgrims from the Peace Conference at Constance met the German officers' who had been commissioned by the Kaiser to conduct them to the frontier, the' offix.cts v cai4d Hot retrain
their laughter when they learned the business that had brought the travellers to Germany. But he laughs beat who laughs last. In spite of Bernhardi there i.s something greater than the State, and that is Man. Man is not simply German or English or Belgian, but human, born of woman, child of God, brother of Jesus Christ, and war may teach this lesson no less than peace. It is teaching it to-day. In many a hospital, on many a battlefield, the love of kind overleaps the boundaries of race, and the ministry of Christ makes akin those who but now were locked in the death struggle. Some day this loving service will bear its fruit, and the " conflict of ideals " be resolved in tiie ' harmony o£ sacrifice." These, then, are the reinforcements which the war has brought us in our struggle for faith —a new demonstration of the power of the ideal, a new levelation of man s capacity for sacrifice, a new realisation oMhe essential unity of mankind. It is for us to see that we use them aright. We read that when the Syrians from Dothan had been brought captive into the city of Samaria, the King of Israel asked Elfsha's advice as to what he should do with his prisoners: " And he said, My Father, shall I smite them? Shall I smite them? And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them. Wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy how? Set bread and water before them that they may eat and drink and go to their Master. And he prepared a great provision for them, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away. And they went to their Master, .and the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel."
The point of the quotation lies in the last sentence. It is not simply that they went away, but that they did not return. What we want is not simply peace, but a permanent and lasting peace, and this is impossible to secure by force of arms alone. Only Spirit can conquer Spirit. When hate gives place to love, ■ distrust to confidence, the pride of race to the consciousness of kind, then (and then only) can there be lasting security for any nation.
It has been inspiring to see how splendidly England has been learning this lesson. The nation has resolved (so far as it is humanly possible) so to make war as to leave no bitter memories behind. We see this in Lord Kitchener's letter to the soldiers on the field. We see it in King George's visit to the wounded Germans and his solicitude for their welfare. We have an example of it here in Oxford, where in your hospital the German wounded are cared for as tenderly as your own soldiers and loaded with every kindness. Some day this seed will bear fruit, not for England only, but for humanity. Will you pardon an example taken from the history of another country? I come from a nation that has known in its own experience the tragedy of Civil War, but a nation which, thank God! has learned that it is possible to leave the bitterness of war behind, and, out of the mutual respect due to courage and sincere conviction even when opposed, to build the foundations of a just and lasting peace. Fifty-one years ago, in the greatest battle of the Civil War, Pickett's men, after their gallant charge, were broken by the shot and shell of their opponents in the field of Gettysburg. Last summer, the survivors of that bloody contest met onthe same field to resume their old positions and to re-enact the ancient drama. Again the Union forces crouched behind tho stone wall. Again the Confederates shouted the rebel yell. Again the long grey line started down the slope. Once more they met in the shock of battle, but this time to fall on each others' necks and to exchange the pledge of brotherhood. Is it too much to hope that the time may come, not in our clay perhaps, but in our children's, when some such transformation may take place in the moral attitude of the nations who are now engaged in this gigantic contest? It seems incrediblo now, but not more incredible than what has happened to us would have seemed to Americans then.
Let us have faith, then, in the future, and let us begin to prepare for that future no v.-—the future which belongs to no one nation only, but to mankind. It is not in France or Poland only that the great battle is being fought, but in the hearts of men. What will it avail to disperse the armies on the field, if the forces that inspire them remain unsubdued? Our most dangerous foes are within—selfishness and pride and fear, which have dogged man's footsteps in all his upward struggle from the brute, and which are even now trying to drag us from the vantage ground of faith. We must meet these enemies in our own hearts, and conquer them there first of all, if we are to have any hope of conquering them elsewhere. We must close our ears to the voices that would persuade us that goodwill and confidence are impossible between the peoples of mankind, and that the final law of nations must remain in the future, as in the past, the law of the jungle. We must win from the very tragedy of the time one more proof of the lesson which Christ taught so many centuries ago, that love is fulfilled through sacrifice, and that God, man's great follow-sufferer and unconquerable ally, is never nearer than in those inner crises of the soul which make supreme demand upon faith and love. Shadow by shadow, stripped for fight, The lean black cruisers search the sea; Nightly their level shafts of light Revolve, and find no enemy ;
Only they know each leaping wave May hide the lightning and their grave. And in the land they guard, so well, Is there no silent watch to keep! An age is dying, and the bell Rings midnight on a vaster deep; But over all its waves once more
The search-lights move from shore to shore. And captains that we thought were dead, And dreamers that we thought were dumb, And voices that we thought were fled Arise and call us, and we come, And " Search in thine own soul " they cry, " For there too lurks the enemy."
" Search in thine soul." It is the call that comes to everyone of us to-day—the call to watchfulness and fidelity and courage. Here in quiet Oxford, so far as it seems from the far-flung battle-line, in the silence of your heart and mine, we are fighting humanity's battles against its deadliest foes. Be of good cheer, for they that are with us are more than they that are with them. Therefore quit you like men. Be strong.
THE RELIGIOUS WORLD., Issue 15690, 2 January 1915
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