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Spears and Pruning-hooks

Spears and Pruning-hooks

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"They shall beat their spears into pruning-hooks "

"They shall beat their spears into pruning-hooks "

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Feb 17, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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BY JOHN EDGAR M'FADYEN"They shall beat their spears into pruning-hooks "Spears and pruning-hooks ù what have they to dowith each other ? The one suggests cruelty ; theother peace. The one calls up visions of bloodybattlefields strewn with the corpses of men ; theother, of hills with terraced slopes of vines. Thesoldier and the vine-dresser, the vintage of thegrape and the awful vintage of blood ù do thesethings not lie at opposite poles of the world ?Perhaps; and yet they lie very close to each othertoo. The spear which slays the man is not so veryunlike the instrument which prunes the vine; andit shall come to pass in the latter days, says agreat prophet, that the one shall be turned into theother.It is a great vision this that the prophet sees ù of a world transformed by religion and common sense.The nations which are now ready to fly at eachother's throats, will one day, he sees, be willingto take their cases to Zion for arbitration; as weshould say to-day, they will submit them to Jesus,to have them decided by the principles of justice127128 THE CITY WITH FOUNDATIONSand humanity, which are identified with Him morethan with any other force in the world. And then,so reasonable and satisfactory will the decision be,that they will fling away their weapons of war, forwhich they have now no more use, and men will bebrothers the world over.Yet, that is not exactly what the prophet sees.The nations do not fling away their weapons, nordo they destroy them; they transform them ù bybeating them into pruning-hooks. For everyweapon of war there will be a use, even in theera of peace. The swords will not be shivered,they will be turned into ploughshares; the
spears will not be snapped, they will be fashionedinto pruning-hooks. The instruments which deso-lated the world, and filled it with blood andhorror, are not to disappear; they are to beturned into instruments which will make it fairand fruitful ù a very house of God and gate of heaven. It is not enough that men learn war nomore, they must go on to learn the higher arts of peace. The ideal life or society does not consistin negations; it deals with its material in a con-structive and transforming spirit. It delights tosee the pruning-hook in the spear, and it hastensto transform the one into the other."Their spears into pruning-hooks." Here is animmortal rebuke to the spirit of waste. There mayindeed be some things which it would be well toSPEARS AND PRUNING-HOOKS 129banish from the face of the earth ; but there are notmany. Most things are capable of transformation,and were meant in the new era to be transformed,not destroyed. The danger lies not so much inthe instrument as in the use to which it is put. Theworld is full of material which is morally neutral ;whether we forge of it a spear or a pruning-hook will depend upon the kind of men we are. If we aremen of war and strife, with no love for our fellowsin our hearts, men who prefer the battlefield to thesmiling countryside, then we shall forge of it aspear, with which we shall do cruel and deadlywork that will bring us the hatred and the cursesof the men whom we smite. But if we have in ourhearts the desire to be at peace with all men, andto learn war no more, then we shall turn the rawmaterial of life into instruments of blessing.Better a thousand times that the sword and thespear had never been fashioned at all : better thatthe metal which went to the making of them hadat once been turned into ploughshares and pruning-hooks. But now that the deadly weapons havebeen forged, they are not to be destroyed, buttransformed.A great and far-reaching principle this ! Nothingneed be lost; all things may be transformed. Thepowers and energies which were dedicated to thecause of evil, if only they be touched and conse-crated by a new sense of the meaning of life, will130 THE CITY WITH FOUNDATIONSbe equally mighty when thrown upon the side of 
God and good. Paul, the tireless persecutor of theChristians, becomes the great missionary to theGentiles.Instruments the most unpromising can be re-deemed. The thing which most of all needs to bedestroyed is the blind spirit of destruction, and oneof the gifts that most earnestly needs to be covetedis that of seeing the possibilities for good that liein instruments and agencies of evil. There is little,if anything, that was meant to be "cast as rubbishto the void." The rubbish has but to be reclaimedand transformed, and it will find its place in thenew and better world.One of life's greatest tasks is just to turn thespear into the pruning-hook. Everywhere, roundabout us and within us, are forces that threaten todestroy us. It is not always wise, or even possible,for us to destroy them. But we have to transformthem, and compel the deadly things to bless us.The passions and the appetites which too oftenplunge life into confusion, and sometimes intoruin, cannot be exterminated; in some form, wilderor more subdued, we shall carry them with us toour graves. They cannot be destroyed, for by them,in a measure, the world continues. But as we loveour lives, we shall have to take very good carethat we do not allow them to destrov us. It is asad day when we deliberately beat the pruning-hook SPEARS AND PRUNING-HOOKS 131into a spear. How hateful a thing, for example,is passion ! but how beautiful is love ! They mayseem to the cynic not to lie far apart; but like thespear and the pruning-hook, they belong to differ-ent worlds. The one carries waste and desolationin its train, and wraps the life in a horror of greatdarkness; the other floods it with gladness andpeace.All our gifts and capacities are as so manyweapons which may be deadly or beneficent ac-cording as we let them. What a cruel instrumentthe spoken or the written word has often been ùsharper than any two-edged sword. It has beenused to stab reputations, and it has torn many asensitive heart. It has been used to distort thetruth, and to poison the imagination. When wethink of all the gratuitous sorrow that has beencaused by flippant or caustic reviews, by coldand cynical estimates of men and things, it ishard to see how men could expect to further thecause of truth or good-will by such an exerciseof their powers. It is easy for an able man to

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