« PreviousContinue »
has won victories in Africa and China. It has often failed; it is often denied in practice, as it is suffering its greatest historic betrayal now. Yet it is supreme truth for a warring world; and, in the saner moments of every monarch and of each private soldier, the truth is recognized. There is only one form in which the unity and brotherhood of man can ever be completely realized, that is, in a common allegiance to Christ. When his motives rule human action and when his spirit guides the state the form of the highest brotherhood is realized.
There is one clear voice above the storm of these awful days. It is the evangel of Christ. Our missionaries have been driven from their fields; our institutions have been broken up; our teachers and people have been slain. Our pulpits are forced to the defensive and our Christian testimony seems in vain. This is the hour in which we wait for our Pentecost. Right thinking is not enough. To change the forms of our institutions will not furnish us the power we need. We must return to the conscious experience of the Christ who still lives, and renew the faith that fused a group of strangers into a brotherhood of service on the day when the church was born. To meet our exigency we must be strong in the Spirit that is from above. Then we shall believe and achieve with the apostolic energy. The highest brotherhood will issue from a renewal of the supreme faith in Christ the Master.
THE CHALLENGE OF FAITH To affirm the altruism of Jesus, the Christian equivalent of war and the brotherhood of men in Jesus Christ is the test of the vision and the faith of the Christian Church in this time of war. There come great moments in the history of the race when its leaders hear again the old command to go forth into a land that they know not and to make the great adventure. Ahead of them are weary marches and scant rest on their pilgrim way. They must face the unknown without fear and suffer the weariness of hope deferred. Only in the good, full time of God are they rewarded, and that may be after their yearning hearts are still in death. Of that they will make no account. It was enough for them to have seen the vision and to have followed its high behest. Many voices are telling us that Christianity has failed; but the Christianity of Jesus has not yet been tried. Our institutions have not been adequate to represent our Christ. But we have not lost hope.
We gather in this Council, we meet for this anniversary of the American Board, solemnized but not dismayed, suffering but not discouraged. We throw ourselves into the struggle for the life of others with profounder passion, we devote ourselves to the service of men in the name of Christ with deeper consecration, and we affirm the unity and brotherhood of men with more resolute confidence as we meet the challenge of a world at war in the faith of Jesus Christ, our Master and our Lord.
AN INTERNATIONAL CONSCIENCE
REV. CHARLES F. AKED
A POPULAR novelist whom you and I know very well has written what she is pleased to call “An Intimate History of California." It is a good book not to read, if one wants to know anything at all about California, or about Connecticut. Writers of fiction should not attempt history; the history is likely to prove fictitious. It opens with the statement that something or other happened at a time when New England was burning witches on the green. I need not come to New Haven to tell you that New England never burned a witch nor anybody suspected of being a witch, either on the village green or anywhere else. No man or woman suspected witchcraft has ever been burned by Americans on American soil since the Mayflower dropped anchor in the waters of Cape Cod. Nineteen persons all told died by hanging -- not burning — in New England under the laws of Old England. A real historian says that the record of the Salem witch hunts constitutes some of the darkest pages in American history. It may be so; and yet those same dark pages are amongst the brightest in all the history of mankind upon this earth. Nineteen persons died by hanging in those days in New England; but in Europe more than one hundred thousand persons were done to death by hanging, by drowning, by roasting, amid pitiless and nameless outrages, and the more helpless and abject the victims the fouler were the indignities heaped upon them. Clergymen denounced witchcraft with all the emphasis of authority. Astute judges, whose days were spent in sifting testimony, investigated the matter on numerous occasions and condemned the accused. The legislatures of almost every nation enacted laws for the suppression and punishment of witchcraft. Nations the most widely separated by position, by interest, by character, in this one matter were united. The most sanguinary laws against witchcraft ever passed by England were proposed by a cabinet in which Coke was Attorney General, and enacted by a parliament of which Bacon was a member. The great men of the church whom we delight to honor fanned the flames of hatred. Calvin, when remodeling the laws of Geneva, left those on witchcraft untouched. Luther said he would have no compassion upon them. Said he, “I would burn them all." John Wesley said that to give up belief in witchcraft was to give up the Bible. We have not given up the Bible, but we do not believe in witches, and what is more to the point, we are not capable of believing in witches. There is no one amongst us from the wisest to the simplest who is capable of believing - I do not say who does not believe, but there is not one amongst us from the wisest to the simplest who is capable of believing that an old woman can at will change herself into a black cat, or mount astride a broomstick and soar through the air, call up a storm, rock a ship at sea, and fling insanity and death from the sky above upon the earth below. We do not believe these things because we are not capable of believing them. And even if one of us could be picked to pieces and put together upon a different pattern, that pattern interwoven with all of the thought stuff of five hundred or a thousand years ago, still it would not be possible for that one, here in our twentieth century civilization, to believe in witches. Something there is in the air we breathe, something which no individual has created but to which all individuals contribute, something which has neither reason nor emotion, any more than it has oxygen or hydrogen; something there is in the air we breathe which has made the old beliefs unbelievable and the old thoughts unthinkable. In Wordsworth's phrase,
“We breathe a holier ether, a diviner air.” And this is the continuing miracle of redemption, and this is our testimony to the blessed and holy dead who encompass' us as a cloud of witnesses, “You have changed for us the atmosphere."
Do great men produce great ages, or do great ages produce great men? This is a question which we have argued in our literary and debating societies. Emerson would answer you that an institution is only the lengthened shadow of one man, - Protestantism of Martin Luther, Quakerism of George Fox, Methodism of John Wesley. Perhaps an institution; but you would hardly call the atmosphere an institution, not even in this day of filing cabinets and scientific management. The atmosphere is subtle, pervasive, whether tingling with electricity and threatening storm, or sweetly diffusing the rosy dawn of May. Individuals have indeed written their names across the centuries, but a multitude which no man can number and nobody name have breathed their death-defying thoughts into the atmosphere which one day all mankind must breathe.
Everybody has quoted Alexander Pope's line, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Not everybody is so familiar with Macmillan's addition to it, "And then the angels are glad to follow where the fools did not fear to tread." What does he mean? He means that the wealthy darling of society, lapped in luxury and cradled in content, whitehanded and feeble-hearted, aristocratic and superfine, lacks the nerve to do and dare and fears to tread the rugged way; but poor men, rough men, brave men, iconoclasts and pioneers have rushed in, careless of life and reckless of death. And then, when they have made a success of it, the angels are very glad to follow in the footsteps of the men they once despised as fools.
Statesmen are not omnipotent; statesmen are obedient to the living forces that surge and play about them. Those forces have been created by the fruitful thought and unhonored toil of the obscure, the silent and the dead. They were fools for Christ's sake.
In the 14th century it was the fool called Alullah, one of Wycliffe's poor preachers, who brought in the Golden Age of Labor of the 15th. In the 16th century it was the fool called the Protestant; in the 17th century, the fool called the Puritan; in the 18th century the fool called the Methodist; in the 19th century the fool called the Abolitionist; in the 20th century the fool called the Prohibitionist and the Pacificist, who makes and molds the great force which has given bias to and finally dominated the councils and policies and destinies of mankind. So, and in no other way, an international conscience will be obeyed. And the