Page images

talk pays; but in the greater issues of mankind—and to these we would limit our inquiry–in the march of the universe, does it count? In the roll of the centuries is man one whit the worse, one whit the better, for one word said or left unsaid? To go behind talk is another matter. Talk is the expression of thought; thought is the very man himself, and undoubtedly thought counts. His talk may be the man, or may not, but thought is our ego, our mind, our very self. Thought may be enshrined in a robust, magnificent temple, or prisoned in some sickly frame, but it is the man behind we love or hate. Undoubtedly the man behind counts, counts to the last farthing, just as the gold in the bank counts with notes issued against it. The gold there, and little matter whether the note be dirty or ugly, it commands its face value. And the gold not there, and no matter how beautiful the design how spotless the issue, it is but paper-still paper, nothing more. So with man. What of his talk? Is the gold behind, or is it not? So of his appearance. So of his manners : manners maketh the manthe surface man. Still all-important—is the gold behind? And in this, talk, manners, and appearance are one; they are the outward expression of man, and they repel or attract exactly so far as we believe them to be the true expression of the true man himself. But in the day of trial, in the day of stress alone, is this truth made manifest. Then the joy when friend is proved, or gold so unexpected is discovered; and it is, oh for the bitterness of disillusion when our once idols prove but potter's clay.

Yes, it is the gold behind the note, the gold and nothing else that counts, the gold that finds expression in acts. Tell me what a man has done, and I will tell you what he will do. Such the commonplace of the business world. 'You will tell me his talk !” “Something easier," the sneering rejoinder. And with this conclusion there is probably not the slightest disagreement, and yet pertinently you will ask, “But after all, is this more than shifting the causa causans one step backwards, and nothing else? Grant that thought is all-important : but whence thought? Is not talk parent of thought? Is not man himself child of talk? Thought finds expression in talk, but only itself to be begotten of talk. Hence the conundrum very much of the old order—the owl or the egg—which first ? the owl ! From what egg? The egg! From what owl? But the Bismarck school will have none of this conundrum. Thought may find expression in talk, or may not. The silent foe is the deadly foe, and in the begetting of thought, talk may be a factor but no very great one. Blood and iron determine the greater issues of mankind. Blood and iron are the genesis of thought. The clash of man with man makes man. Talk make man? they ask derisively. No, it is things done, things suffered, things burnt into a man's very being by a past makes man, makes thought.

In its enunciation the German philosophy of force was logical, practical, and complete, but onesided. It never grasped the true inwardness of the Christian inspiration. It only saw in Christianity a scramble after wealth, in which the professor was no mean proficient, and a refuge for the poltroon, the shirker, the weak, and the timid, who in its tenets would find justification for the shirking of duty. “That child is is too good to live ” is an observation founded on experience. Its virtue is often to be traced to want of energy to be naughty. So with youth. So with man and so with peoples. The world's history is full of coward nations who would substitute fine sentiments for hard blows, and in the end, in the progress of man, the world wants none of such. And thus the German saw us as it gibed at our Christianity-cult of the coward, cult of the talker too decadent to fight. And he was full of the nobility of sacrifice—the sacrifice that war entailed. Happily his diagnosis of the English race was wrong, and he failed to realize that in the Christian even there might be a devotion higher than the sacrifice of others—the sacrifice of self.

And SELF-SACRIFICE is the key-stone of the Christian arch. True-greatly true—the Bismarckian theory

-the clash of man with man makes man; but it is not all the truth. There is another power as potent-SELFSACRIFICE. It is self-sacrifice that illumines a dingy world; it is self-sacrifice that moves mankind; it is self-sacrifice that makes humanity one with God; and, above all, self-sacrifice is the gold that ensures that the talker's note shall never be dishonoured. The love of hearing ourselves talk is an instinct; the passion to hear ourselves talk is a disease; the hearing one's own voice is abundant reward for any effort made. But the silent worker, the faithful worker, the man who does and loves and suffers is the man who makes his world and leads his fellow man one step nearer heaven. Yes, these are the two great powers of the world-blood and iron and self-sacrifice.

And does talk count? Of talk divorced from both we emphatically say, No. Talk divorced from both is worthless as the wind that blows. Talk backed by force-well, such talk is little in evidence save of the camouflage order; well, such talk is the clash of man with man, and is only to be met by talk similarly so enforced. And talk not so backed, nor yet backed by the gold in the coffers of the bank, is not only worthless in the world's progress, but often defeats its own ends. Why to-day is Socialism so weak as a real force? I mean true Socialism. I do not mean the bastard movement which poses as such, and is but another phase of the eternal war between the “ Haves" and the “ Have nots,” but that Socialism which is full of many true and beautiful thoughts and conceptions. And why, as a power, is it dead as a mummy? Because its most ardent enthusiasts are all prepared to reduce it to practice—when? When others do the same. Well, no road Godward was ever built that way. And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me." Thus the mightiest movement of the ages. And this wanting, had there ever been a Christ religion? So Buddha! Mendicant and outcast, never such missionary but king and spoilt darling of fortune to the end, and I doubt Buddhism had ever swayed an Eastern world.

Thus we cursorily analyse talk, and is not here the key why so much talk goes for so little ? Largely a man who talks establishes his own standard of gold and dross, and by his own standard he is judged. Is he a lawyer? Well! full as he is of fine sentiments, he so obviously speaks to his brief that the world smiles, and let him but be a decent fellow along recognized lines and he will pass muster. So the philosopher. He is an inquirer into truth, and does not pose as an example of truth, and a like kindly indulgence is extended to him. With the politician the world begins to be more exigent : begins to demand some parity of life and talk; whilst in the sphere of religion it will admit of no compromise whatever. In this, above all, a man makes his own canon, and must live it or his talk be a power for evil and not for good. And the Church political deplores its waning influence. Well, how much of the gold of self-denial in its coffers? How of the Christ test, the Buddha test applied to its cult and propaganda ? The one craving of man to-day is for a religion that is lived, not talked. And so far as there are tens of thousands of hard-working, hard-living, self-sacrificing ministers and clergy who do live their talk, the Christ Church has not lost its influence. Yes, happily the Church is not its hierarchies, its champion bruisers, its theologians, but these humble workers who, by their simple faith and lives, keep the lamp of God still bright.

And yet agreeing all this, insistantly we demand, has talk, as talk, no mighty power? What of the talk that checks our heart, or makes it race? Is it not mostly thought playing on thought already there, and the talk is it more than the harpist striking the strings of passion already vibrating with a like emotion? At times talk does seem all-powerful and very dreadful when man sees red and is urged to plunder. But the predatory instinct is primeval and deepseated and this it is which is very dreadful, not the flaming demagogue who, after all, is only out to turn an honest penny for himself-honest, his purpose is so transparent. And here the safety-valve to prevent an explosion. His hearers weigh him to an ounce and know that in the whole of his composition there is not one grain of gold, not one grain of self-sacrifice, which alone would make him a prophet and a danger. No, the danger is not our talker, he is our security; but as already observed, our danger is the silent man who knows how to organize the forces of evil and whose first intimation of his deadly purpose were he untrammelled in his acts would be a dagger in our hearts. From him the talker delivers us.

But here, with dissension to the fore, obviously we are on the verge of those greater issues of mankind which are decided not by talk and majority divisions, but by blood and iron. When the gloves are off force alone decides.

All this, no doubt, is but the fringe of the subject, but at the same time this attitude to talk is essentially British, and it would seem is the right attitude. Certainly it is far more British than German or Bismarckian, for with all his expressed contempt for talk Bismarck never dare let it have free play. And I go further, for as a race I think we may be proud of this our attitude of fearlessness of talk. It is an attitude born not of weakness and fear but of magnanimity and conscious strength. We do not wish to suppress talk. The most precious heritage we possess is the rooted conviction that in the end right must prevail. It was this alone carried us through all the early years of our terrible war. We knew our motive was pure, our heart was true. We knew a perverse, unjust, cruel-aye, devilish—war had been forced upon us, and we could not believe it possible that in the end such wickedness could be allowed to prevail. And so, with rarest exceptions, the whole nation rang true. As for those on the broad seas and those at the front,

« PreviousContinue »