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By Inge, William Ralph, 1860-1954
" His name shall be called, The Prince of Peace." — Isa. ix. 6. " I came not to send peace, but a sword." — Matt. x. 32.
THE contradiction between these two aspects of Christianity — or should we rather say between the spirit of the Christian revelation and the inevitable result of its appearance as a militant principle in a sinful world, must have been very often in our minds this week. The historian would, I am afraid, say that Christianity has caused a great many wars, and stopped very few. And we are not quite sure whether this is a thing to be ashamed of or not. If we consult our Bibles on the subject, we must do so in an intelligent and discriminating manner. We all now understand, I hope, that the Old Testament is the record of a gradual, progressive revelation — the story of the education of a noble but fierce little nation, who were set apart and disciplined to make them fit for a very wonderful privilege — the birth among them of the Son of God. We have in the Old Testament pictures of the Jewish people at various stages of their education ; and we are certainly not meant to consider that all conduct which the Israelites believed to be pleasing to Jehovah was necessarily right, or deserving of imitation. The Jews 87
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began, like all other fighting peoples, by worshipping the " Lord of hosts " — the God of their own armies ; that is, they believed that God would fight their battles, so long as they were faithful to Him. But in their conduct towards other races they recognised no moral duties whatever, unless they were settled within their own borders as privileged guests. They were not ashamed of " spoiling the Egyptians," nor of Jael's treachery to Sisera, nor of the horrible massacres under Joshua, nor of the torturing of Ammonite prisoners by David. These acts are not condemned in the Old Testament ; but it does not follow that they were right. Enlightened Christian teachers have often found these books a difficulty. Ulpbilas, who first translated the Bible into a Teutonic language, actually left out the Books of Samuel and Kings, because, as he said, " This nation (the Goths) is already very fond of war, and needs the bit rather than the spur so far as fighting is concerned." or, on the other hand, does it follow that the Israelites who did these things had no sense of right and wrong. Their feeling of duty may have been quite as strong as ours, but it was narrow. The change has come, not in the feeling that we have a duty to our neighbour, but in the practical answer to the question, " Who is my neighbour ? " The primitive man says, " My kinsman," or " My tribesman " ; the half-civilised man says, " My countryman " ; Christianity would have us say, " Any human being whom I can help." It was a great step when the prophets proclaimed
PEACE A D WAR 89 Jehovah to be " the Lord of the whole earth " ; and a still greater when Christianity proclaimed that in Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free. The abolition of tribal
morality was one of the greatest boons conferred by Christianity. But tribal morality was only abolished in the same sense in which various other errors were abolished by the Incarnation. Falsehood and evil can only be scotched, not killed, in this world ; they are constantly reappearing. And to this day we cannot help observing that international morality lags far behind not only what we profess, but what we practise in private affairs. Lying, vindictiveness, and the unscrupulous use of superior strength, are still common in the dealings of one nation with another. And if great wars are rarer than they used to be, I am afraid it is rather because they have become ruinously expensive, than because the nations love each other better or care more for justice. Still, the possession of a common religion and a common civilisation has done something to make men realise that there are sacred ties which bind them, wider than those of nationality, and there are good grounds for hope that these ties may be strengthened in many different ways, till a European war may be as unlikely as (let us say) one between this country and the United States. At the same time, I cannot agree with those who see a shocking inconsistency in our celebrating the birthday of the Prince of Peace while we are con-
go FAITH A D K OWLEDGE senting parties to the continuance of a war. Putting aside the answer, which might reasonably be made, that this war was none of our choosing, we may say boldly that war between nations is not the worst outrage against the Prince of Peace. War is a form of competition, and it is not the most ignoble form of competition. Historically, all human societies are
groups of men who have agreed not to carry rivalry with each other to the extreme point, but to stand together, both for offence and defence. The savage tribe, which is the germ of the nation, is held together by the same motives which form a pack of wolves or a herd of cattle. But as soon as association begins, self-sacrifice begins too. To make private war within the group is treason — it dissolves the society. That tribe or nation will be the strongest in which the members are most ready to surrender their private interests for the good of the society. ations which cannot learn, or which have forgotten this lesson, succumb in the struggle for existence. This is the law of nature, and the laws of nature are the laws of God. It is a law which is of grave importance for all of us, however humble our station. Por there are a great many persons in every country, besides those who are commonly called criminals, who are really waging private war against their countrymen. All grasping selfishness is war, and the most ignoble sort of war. It makes little difference, morally, whether a man knocks his rival on the head with a club, like the savage, or elbows him on one side, and tramples
PEACE A D WAR 91 him underfoot, like the " pushing," " successful " man of Western civilisation. A great many of our modern financiers and company promoters are the moral descendants of the robber barons of the Middle Ages ; they live by plunder quite as much as if they looted houses and blackmailed travellers. And, further, some of the industrial combinations, whether of employers or employed, though they may be necessary in the present state of things, seem often to act as if they were conspiracies against the public. We have heard a great deal lately about the " Trusts " in America, and about a few of our Trade Unions in England ;
and some of their methods seem to show an utter indifference to the interests of the nation at large. As compared with these private, self-seeking, unpatriotic wars, the trade of the soldier seems grand and heroic. He stakes all that he has, — his life and his limbs, — and not for himself. We are not often called upon to make any such sacrifices as this — it would probably be much better for us if we were. The presence of danger — danger to be incurred at duty's call — has a wonderful effect in ennobling commonplace characters. The testimony of eye-witnesses during this war has been unanimous on this point. The private soldier as we see him at home is not always a very admirable person ; but on active service he has shown qualities not only of courage, but of sympathy, humanity, and cheerful patience which, as we all know, drew from the Commander-in-Chief the memorable words that the troops under him had behaved
ga FAITH A D K OWLEDGE like heroes in the field and like gentlemen at all other times. We ought to think of this sometimes, not only in justice to our brave soldiers, but because it shows that the call to self-sacrifice is nearly always a blessing in disguise, waking into activity the sleeping nobility which underlies many an unpleasing exterior, and enabling a man's true character to appear in a way which may be a surprise even to himself. It is impossible to regard war as an unmixed evil, when it has such effects as this. It is indeed easy to see how war became idealised, and how the fierce, selfsacrificing patriotism of the military type of civilisation came to be regarded as the highest virtue. We cannot, however, give it quite such a high place as this. ations organised only for fighting are like carnivorous animals ; they can only live by devouring their weaker
neighbours. And history has proved that national wealth gained by violence and oppression is an unmitigated curse. It is not only barren and shortlived ; it acts like a moral poison. Injustice always comes home to roost. The lesson must at last be learnt, that the only way for national life to remain healthy and vigorous is to apply the same principles of justice to our dealings with foreign nations which we recognise to be our duty in private affairs. It is, of course, very difficult to do this when we are dealing with rivals who acknowledge no such duty themselves; but the principle is the only sound one. And if it were acted upon, wars would be few indeed. For us, however, who cannot exercise much
PEACE A D WAR 93 influence upon international politics, the angels' song, " Peace on earth, goodwill to men," must have chiefly a more private application. Let us ask ourselves whether we are really and truly at peace with all our neighbours, or whether we have been carrying on any little private wars on our own account. That man is making private war upon his neighbour who wishes him ill and tries to injure him by word or deed ; who defrauds his employer by dishonesty or idleness; who is unjust, grasping, and inconsiderate to those who work for him ; or who in any way- — and there are countless ways — seeks his own advantage to the detriment of others. This private warfare injures and weakens a nation more than any military disaster — this is the kind of war which Jesus Christ came down from heaven to abolish, and which is always and everywhere hateful to Him. We have had a rather severe lesson as a nation during the last two years; and though I believe that our shortcomings have been chiefly intellectual, not moral, yet I am sure that the present
crisis ought to appeal to us all, both as Englishmen and as Christians, to put away all petty private animosities, all selfish scheming to help ourselves at some one else's expense, and to make an earnest effort that within our own borders we will live together as a Christian nation should, minding not only our own things, but also the things of others — forbearing one another and forgiving one another, forgetting all old grievances, all family and neighbourly quarrels — and, in a word, behaving as we would wish to behave if the
94 FAITH A D K OWLEDGE holy child Jesus were actually an inmate of our houses. I trust that before next Christmas we may be again at peace, and that this national trouble may have so bound us together as a united Christian nation that we may then bow our knees before the manger of Bethlehem with more love and thankfulness in our hearts than ever before. But we need not wait till then to make room in our hearts for the Holy Child to rest. Cannot we at least make our hearts a possible place for Him to come, not allowing the ox and the ass to occupy all the room ? In a day or two from now we shall be thinking about the ew Year, and remembering the good resolutions which we made twelve months ago, and have probably broken often enough since. It is a humiliating and depressing thing to recall these resolutions, but it may help us to remember that there is one kind of warfare which can never cease while we live here — a warfare in which, as servants of the Prince of Peace, we are bound to engage — the warfare against the devil and all his works, against evil within us and without. Our real enemies are the mysterious forces of evil which resist the work of God within and about us, and only when
they are subdued can we know the Peace of God, which passeth all understanding. So we can understand what our Lord meant when He said, " I came not to bring peace, but a sword " ; and again, " Peace I leave with you ; My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth give I unto you." o, not as
PEACE A D WAR 95 the world giveth ; — our peace must be won by war, our life by death. But just in proportion as we realise that sin is our real enemy, we shall become aware that we have and can have no other irreconcilable enmities.
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