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wedded to the ways of peace. She would but half believe the tales of German intrigue and terror. Time and again came the query, “Shall we go up and fight against the Philistines?” Her chosen political leaders and most of her spiritual leaders answered, “No."
No.” But at length, when Germany revoked her promise to abstain from ruthless submarine murderings at sea, and announced that American ships and American freemen must go and come on the free waters of the high seas, only at the German tyrant's dictum, the American soul found itself, and said, “We must be free, we shall be free, we will make all the world free, even if we give our choicest sons, by the million, and our possessions without measure."
When the cry came to the church, “Shall we go up to war? ” what answer did the church make ?
A recent Atlantic Monthly had an article entitled, “ Peter Sat by the Fire Warming Himself," wherein the church in America, since the outbreak of the European war, is likened unto the cowardly Peter, at the High Priest's fire, warming himself while the Master was on His way to crucifixion. The author quotes from a letter, written near the middle of the third century A. D., by Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, to his friend Donatus.
“This is a cheerful world as I see it from my fair garden, under the shadow of my vines. But if I could ascend some high mountain, and look out over the wide lands you know very well what I should see: brigands on the highways, pirates on
the seas, armies fighting, cities burning, in the amphitheatres men murdered to please applauding crowds, selfishness and cruelty and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christiansand I am one of them."
The author of the Atlantic article instances this picture as a portrayal of the other worldly spirit of the church even amidst the terrors of the world today. He says, “Cyprian's letter might have been written by any one of thousands of American prelates, bishops, dignitaries, and eminent clergymen, between August 1914 and April 1917, and its reproduction in any one of a hundred ecclesiastical periodicals would have called forth no comment." He continues, “Thoughtful men and women are asking what became of the spiritual leaders of America during those two and thirty months, when Europe and parts of Asia were passing through Gehenna. What prelate or bishop, or ecclesiastical dignitary essayed the work of spiritual interpretation?” He does not know into what wilderness or Arctic zone we might have wandered without the leadership of unmitred and unordained leaders like Maeterlinck, Arnold Toynbee, Lord Bryce, Alfred Noyes, Raemackers, Owen Wister, Donald Hankey, H. G. Wells, and Ian Hay Beith. So does he proceed to scourge the ecclesiastical representatives of America and the world.
One cannot but admire the passionate conviction with which he makes his attack. As a representative of the church, I would make no special plea for mercy. The church, as evidenced by some of its representatives, has been, in this question as in many other questions of social leadership, dormant rather than active, laggard rather than leading; nevertheless, we cheerfully enter the lists, on behalf of the defendant as being, not guilty.
In the first place, a distinction must be made between the autocratic Roman Church and the democratic free churches of America. With the exception of a few magnificent personalities like Cardinal Mercier, the Roman Church has apparently been satisfied to secure any peace though it be a German peace.
With reference to the leaders of the churches in America, the accuser must remember that his hot indignation against all those in America, who did not immediately favour our intervention in the war, at the first invasion of Belgium, would find many besides the church against which to vent itself. Even Mr. Roosevelt, in the Outlook at that time, maintained that we should make no move in that direction. Slowly as we have moved, we are able with much better conscience and with a far more united front, to give ourselves to the task today, than would have been possible had we gone in in more hot-headed fashion. Had the American church leaders unanimously cried for war in 1914, they would have been open to the same charge of sycophancy, which is made against German preachers of “Hurrah and Hallelujah.”
Christian leaders in the church have been far from warming idly by the fire during this period. If there has been a warming by the fire, it has been after the fashion of the studious Lincoln, rather than that of Peter. It is a splendid index to the vital idealism of the church in America, that she had been so concerned on the question of putting the teachings of Jesus into actual practice, in the world here and now, rather than possessing her soul
in quietness and ease,” at the thought of heavenly bliss. The church in 1914, as interpreted by many of her greatest leaders, was bending every effort to the bringing of the Golden Age, by urging that international affairs should be settled, not by the use of force, but by the use of reason.
It is altogether to the church's credit, that she did ponder long and hard, and debate with cogent argument the question, as to whether or not warfare was Christian. And if it ever was justifiable, when was it?
Reverend Doctors Holmes, Merrill, Jefferson, Frederick Lynch, Cadman, Hillis, and Van Dyke, and the vigorous author of “ Peter Warming Himself," and numbers of church leaders in centres
less close to the spotlight, have spoken with prophetic fire, on one or other side of this question. These are all ordained even if unmitred.
There were some able exponents of non-resistance, as being the universal Christian principle. But as Germany showed herself more and more impervious, either to reason or humanity, the spirit of the Christ, who loved little children and who came as the great proclaimer of freedom through the truth, so illuminated into the hearts of His most earnest followers, that they could not but feel that they must repel those who would heartlessly slay little children and enslave the world.
The Reverend Professor B. W. Bacon of Yale, in a recent article in the Yale Review, maintains that the doctrine of loyalty, as inherent in Christianity, makes not for pacifism, but for heroic struggle. “We shall find in it,” says he,“ no doctrine of nonresistance, no surrender of the chief aim of all the commonwealth of humanity, no anarchic rejection of rightful control, no substitution of lesser loyalties for justice, truth, and equal rights. We shall find rather, as its climax, a call to arms. There is to be battle, but without hatred for human foe. There is to be real bloodshed and real sacrifice of life. There is to be participation in the age-long bitter struggle of the world against an unseen foe, that makes his stronghold in the minds of men, inciting them to war and conquesı, and lust of selfish power."
The Reverend Abraham Ribhany, who with his