« PreviousContinue »
out imagination or heart, have muddled and mussed and plundered and blundered their way into hopeless ineptitude, then the only way out of the muddle and muss and plunder and blunder is for millions of men to murder one another by machinery. The world still believes this. A majority of persons living on the earth at the present time believe it, as fifty years ago their ancestors believed in witches. And you you still believe it. You read, “Blessed are the peacemakers," not the passively peaceable, but the actively alive peacemakers. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” they shall be called the children of God one day, their family likeness to their Father in Heaven shall be seen of all the earth. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” you read; and you look up from your New Testaments to reprove mildly the man whom you call an ultra pacificist, and to talk about the folly of peace-atany-price doctrines. You kneel down to pray for peace, and you get up to prepare for war.
In one single word, there is war in the world today because you, and men and women like you, and men and women not so wise and good as you, believe that war has to be; and war will cease in the world when you, and men and women like you, and men and women not as good as you, believe that war need not be. We have to change the atmosphere, until some day it shall be no more possible to practise war than to persecute witches, until war shall seem to our children as disgusting as cannibalism seems to us, until men will no more be prepared to organize to kill men than we are ready to organize to cook men, and until the apostle of the big stick and the prophet of preparation are pilloried alongside the witch-finder of the most brutal ages of the past.
We have to change the atmosphere; and some thing more than a beginning of these things we have seen. church are men and women who are ready to follow Him they love to call the Prince of Peace; and outside of the churches are those who, as men of old pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause of the newborn nation, are now ready to pledge all of these to something greater than any nation, -- the cause of international brotherhood.
The mighty hopes that were glowing red only a few short years ago seem to be burned up in rage and hate and madness; but they will be kindled again. Men will not always be ready to be cannon-food for king or kaiser. When next the madmen in high 'places bid them kill and be killed, they will be ready with their international organization which will make these things forever impossible upon the face of the earth; for even now, within the last month, Bernard Shaw has said thåt if the fighting men were sensible they would shoot their officers and then go home and mind their own business. He does not believe that they are sensible enough to do it. I may not live to see, it but I shall go to my grave cherishing the belief that some day, upon one of these historic battle fields, Frenchman will say to German and German to Briton, "Brother across the border, I have no quarrel with you nor you with me. Kings and priests are our hereditary foes. If fight we must - which God forbid - let us turn our weapons against them, and then beat our swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks and learn war no more.” And the follower of Christ will be ready to follow Him indeed. We shall yield a more complete devotion to his claims as Lord and Master, lord of the emotions and king of the will.
The Christianity of the churches we are told has failed; the Christianity of Christ has yet to be tried. When it is tried it will prove the world's sure hope. The international conscience will be the incarnation of the mind that was in Christ. If the last enemy that is to be destroyed is death, the first enemy that shall be destroyed is war. And the sign under which humanity will cast out the war spirit will be the Cross on which the Saviour died.
OUR CONFLICT AND OUR RESOURCES
REV. GEORGE A. GORDON
SOMEHOW the faith has taken firm hold of the Christian mind of this age that in the courses of time, in this world, good shall defeat evil. Our faith today is faith in the ultimate sovereignty of truth over falsehood, right over wrong, good over evil. What justification in the experience and capacity of mankind there is for this belief we seldom pause to consider. We take the ground that the highest interests of man ought to triumph and we declare that what should be all-triumphant shall be. An imperious and splendid instinct is thus at the heart of the best faith of our time. It advances upon all the continents of wickedness as the tide advances, joyous, multitudinous, irresistible in its sense of the Infinite within and behind it.
The tide itself has limits and there are doubtless limits to our mightiest faith. Instincts are feelings that have been installed in the individual mind by the operation of collective reason; they must be refreshed and renewed from this collective reason. Otherwise like cut flowers they will wither and die. We are not called upon to surrender our great faith when we consult the wisest minds of the world; we are, I think, chastened and elevated in our belief. From even the briefest remembrance of ancient wisdom we return to clear our moral outlook for man of inherent impossibilities.
The two greatest among Greek philosophers divided the universe into things perishable and things imperishable. Man they classed with both orders of existence; his human world was in part temporal and in part eternal. Perfection for man or for the society of men in time was no part of their vision. Indeed time seemed to them insignificant when set in the presence of eternity. There are few passages in the literature of mankind more impressive than those words
in the second chapter of the sixth book of the Republic in which Plato unfolds his idea of the human soul as the child of eternity. The words in which he exalts man throw into littleness man's earthly environment; the Infinite that Plato claims as the field and home of man's spirit almost cancels the importance of the entire world of time. What was supposed to be the whole range of reality is shown to be only a meagre, arbitrary circle in the infinite expanses of spiritual being.
The Hebrew prophets are the exponents of an inspiring social and political ideal. Yet their sense of the tragedy of existence is so deep, their openness to the facts of life is so constant that they are compelled again and again to readjust their glowing vision of the future of their race to the moral breakdown and disaster of, their age. Their general attitude of mind is like an April day, - sun-bursts of splendor and hope quenched in universal gloom; again the gloom is broken into fragments by the victorious light.
What was the attitude of Jesus here? I believe that he looked forward to a long development of his kingdom in time, and to a substantial triumph of good over evil. So I understand the Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven. The Parable of the Leaven might be pressed into teaching the complete victory of good over evil, - "till the whole is leavened," till society as a whole is penetrated, changed, transformed; so long must the Christian work. But we must not forget that the last vision that Jesus leaves with us is of a world in time divided, and standing thus at the judgment of eternity. Universal righteousness in time is no clear and sure prediction of Jesus; his kingdom if it is ever to be completed, if it is ever to rule over all, must have a program in the world beyond time.
We must not forget the teachings of common reason. There was a time when this planet did not exist; there will come a time when it will have ceased to exist. Our world is divisible into things perishable and things imperishable; our paign against moral evil and woe is for time and eternity. We do not expect complete victory here; nor do we believe that this earth is the cradle and the grave of mankind. We hold our faith in a great future for our race chastened and exalted by the august sense of eternity.
John Bunyan understood life deeply because he was a great human being. He knew that in himself there was represented the moral conflict of the ages. He knew that for every serious individual soul there is, at some point of its progress, a Doubting Castle kept by Giant Despair, and he knew that for society in its struggle and faith there is the same castle and the same keeper.
The sense of moral bankruptcy overwhelms at times every great soul. Paul with his despairing cry "O wretched man that I am” represents many; Augustine in his idealism and slavery is the type of multitudes; Luther at his task with his conscious incompetence is another representative nature. In the moral despair of the individual there is suggested an immeasurable social collapse. Generations of human beings surrender the social hope of a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness, because they see no force in existence equal to the realization of this moral dream. This Inferno in which all high hope of better things for poor suffering souls is abandoned is the home of uncounted millions of our race. Mankind has to this extent suffered a moral breakdown; the root of this despair is the fact that there seem to be no resources equal to our social and racial need.
When we look closely at the subject the sources of this despair seem to be mainly two. The first source would seem to be trust in ideas without action. When we imagine that the dream is enough, the vision sufficient in itself, the ideal of a new humanity irresistible, Christian faith alltriumphant apart from the agony and bloody sweat of the moral process, we are doomed to disappointment. Here is the aboriginal d'fficulty, -- the substitution of idea for action, the assignment of the whole task of life to the intellect, the profound and disastrous elimination of will. Already in idea the forest is broken into a thousand lovely clearings; already in vision homesteads are built and the wheat in every field ripens under the benign sunlight; already in dream untold wealth and comfort are here, but in point of fact not an axe has been lifted, not an effort been made, not